Motherhood. Since October 17th, 2015, I have entered into a world that I thought I understood, but in consideration, I truly had no knowledge of.
First, there was the birth. No wait, first there was what seemed to be an interminable wait between going off on maternity leave at 38 weeks and waiting for him to arrive... It could be 40 weeks, it could even stretch to 41 weeks. Every day seemed almost like a ticking time bomb. At times I felt nervous, at times I felt like, "Get this baby out of me", and at times I cried...mourning already the pregnancy period being over. I watched a lot of Netlix. A LOT. Even with just sitting and eating and watching Netflix, I felt high strung. Probably the nervous tension of waiting and the incessant messages from people asking if anything had happened yet. No dammit, NOTHING HAS HAPPENED YET. Yes, random person I rarely speak to, you will definitely be the first person to know.
By the time I DID end up going into labour, I didn't go into labour. I went in because I didn't feel well and they did a quick assessment. Here's how it went:
Them: Your blood pressure is stable, his blood pressure is stable, but he's been in there long enough and we think there might be something going on so we want to induce you,
Me: Okay, when?
Them: In an hour.
Matt: Can we leave and go eat first?
At that point I called my doula. A doula, for anyone who doesn't know and wants to know, is a support person for you, the preggo, as you labour. They stay with you, assist you with whatever you need and ultimately offer you the emotional support you might require during those moments. Doulas are traditionally women who have themselves been through labour and witnessed other labours. I was fortunate to have someone I know personally as a doula.
She said she'd be on her way in a few hours which worked out well as they had other things to do first... IVs, etc. Matt and I went for a walk to savour our last minutes of babyless freedom. When we got back they hooked me up and the whole process began. Skipping through all the details, my charming little fella tried to hang himself on his own cord and we went to the OR for an emergency C-section. Again, as a current health care worker, I was sort of surprised by how it all transpired.
Them: We're not going to rush to the C-section, just sign these papers here..
Me: Scribble scribble
Fastest "non rush" to the OR ever.
In the end, it worked out for the best. As I lay on the OR table waiting, I saw out of the corner of my eye, this little creature being carried over to the lamps.
For nine months I had carried him. but honestly had not felt a huge emotional connection. I didn't gush over kicks. I felt very pragmatic and stoic being pregnant. I was actually worried that my reaction during my pregnancy was abnormal. But as I looked over and didn't hear anything, I felt the words tumbling out of me,
"I don't hear him, I CAN'T HEAR HIM CRYING, WHY ISN'T HE CRYING??? Why isn't he crying?? What's happening?"
Panic panic panic.
The anesthesiologist was beyond amazing. He stood beside me the entire time talking to me. He leaned and said, "Listen, listen, can you hear that? That's your baby. Can you hear it?" I paused and could hear faint cries (they had taken him into the next room) and felt a rush of relief come over.
Matt was hovering around and I called out to him "Matt, DOES HE HAVE HAIR?" Second only to concern over breathing was concern over having a bald baby.
And that was that. Suddenly at 03:57 on October 17th, our lives completely changed. During the birthing process, nothing occurred that I had expected. I didn't push, I didn't feel debilitating pain..although my amazing doula intervened for me to have an epidural when I didn't feel like I could advocate for myself. The entire event was not what I had imagined over and over.
And since then, it was a four day stay in the NICU for little Desmond. He needed extra help with his sugars. At one point I felt so overwhelmed and desperate to just go home and be in my own bed...The second last night we spent in the hospital, I'll never forget. It had been four days of being confined to the ward. I was signed out as a patient but staying in a room there to be with Desmond. I was crying non-stop, so emotionally overwhelmed by everything that happened. Nothing had gone as planned. I missed my shower. I missed my bed. I missed my dogs.
Matt went home to walk the dogs and I sat on the bed crying. My phone chirped and I had a text. "Look out the window."
There, across the street, stood Matt with the two dogs waving at me. My dogs. Normalcy. I had missed it.
Less than two days later we walked home. It was a walk of triumph.
We put him in his swing when we got home and took a long long shower.
It has been four months since Desmond burst into our lives. It's been one year since I found out I was pregnant. To break into cliche for a minute... Life is a miracle. One minute it was Matt and I... The next it was Matt, myself...and this tiny person who is a composite of both us.
Each day is a challenge. It isn't easy. Every mother will tell you that, but really listen. Some days you'll miss your life before you had your baby. Even now, I feel so intensely guilty wishing I was alone. The thought loops through my head... If I was a good mother, I wouldn't feel this way. When he fusses the entire day and just wants to be held, when I don't get to eat once because he screams non-stop when he's put down (fortunately those days are over!), when I just want to be the person who I was before I had Desmond...
...I have to remember that being a mother isn't a JOB. It's who you are. I am a mother. I am a mother. One minute I was just me, now I am also a mother. I am doing the best I can in this moment. If I feel sad that my life has changed so irrevocably, I am allowed to feel that way for a bit. If I miss hanging out with my pre-baby friends, it's okay...I can experience all these emotions without being a terrible mother.
I had a chat with my own mother about this recently. I told her that I had these thoughts of very occasionally wishing for my life pre-baby. It's so hard, I lamented to her. She laughed and said, Well, I did tell you being a mother is a big sacrifice. But, I retorted, I didn't know I would have these specific feelings.
From four months ago to now, my greatest help mate has been my husband. Without him, none of this would have been possible. from beginning to finish. Desmond and I are so blessed to have him as a daddy and partner.
Teething is just around the corner, so I'm sure I will be posting again about my experience during that time. Since coming into the world of strollers, bottles, pumping, baby toys, diapers, intrusive strangers, emotions...I have learned so much about myself, Desmond, my friends and my husband.
All my preconceptions and plans were smashed. I was 100% adamantly against bed sharing. Guess what? Post C-section, it's physically impossible to go from laying down to sitting up. I perfected a burrito roll off the side of my bed and could not physically sustain getting up multiple times throughout the night to feed him. Bed sharing it is. I swore I would only breast feed. Guess who wouldn't latch? I tried again and again to breast feed, achieved latching for a short period of time, but he began refusing that as well.
If you're out there and you're a mom who is struggling like I have been, guess what? I have two things to say to you:
You are not alone.
You will feel this way again and again and again.
The gift of being a mother seems to be so bittersweet. One minute I just want him to stay asleep in his crib, the next I lift him out and rock him up against my face so I can sneak sniffs of his baby smell.
We're in this together.
Happy 4 months, Desmond.