Here is my raw, unfiltered account of the moment I became a Mother.
I think it is important to write this. Not because I think I’m special, but because most of what we see via social media around birth isn’t always what happens. Insert an angelic photo of a new mom, happy tears steaming down her face as she holds her new baby. Maybe she looks down adoringly at her child and her child peers back up at her in awe (as they should because we are freakin superheroes and grew them from a single cell into a tiny little being with 10 perfect fingers and toes) and she is is alert, happy and overflowing with love. That’s what birth is like, right?
For some of you, yes. You had that magic moment when everything in the world clicked and something in the most primal area of your brain changed. It is an absolutely beautiful moment. I once had the honor to witness it in person myself.
For me, that’s not exactly how it happened.
Labor & Delivery || Porter came into the world after 29 hours of labor. Yes, 29 hours. It could have been worse. I’ve heard of worse. It wasn’t traumatic or particularly eventful but I was freakin’ exhausted y’all. I didn’t realize how much my body was working to get him out and when I should have been resting, I wasn’t. I was too excited to sleep, despite not sleeping the night before because my contractions started before I went to bed. My baby was coming! I couldn’t wait to meet him and have our first moment together; to look into his eyes and have the world stop around us. I was waiting for that magical moment.
After a really rough intake where they concluded they could not admit me because my water didn’t break and I was only 3 cm, I was trying to walk around the hospital to get my groove back. I felt really connected to my body when I was at home but after getting stuck in traffic for over an hour then strapped to a gurney and interrogated about my water breaking, I had lost that connection. I thought that getting some organic movement back into my body would bring me back to that place. Unfortunately I was never able to get it back and after the um-teenth random hospital worker stopped out of concern to ask if they could get me a doctor – I knew it was time to go back to intake. When I was taken back and examined, I was 5 almost 6 cm dilated and had only been gone 45 minutes. He was coming, and I thought coming fast.
I went back to the birthing suite and met the head of anesthesiology (who I had met before) and the anesthesiologist on call. I had a meeting with the head of anesthesiology in my third trimester to talk about my hip and spine injuries and our plan going forward. Since we didn’t know how my body was going to respond to pushing out a baby he was concerned about the higher risk of emergency cesarean, therefore we agreed to get an epidural for safety. I would much rather be alert and awake if my baby had to be delivered that way rather than be put under. But once I got the epidural, everything started to slow down. Hours later I was barely dilating past 7.5 cm and my water still didn’t break so around 10pm we agreed to break my water to get things going. When it broke a little bit of meconium came out indicating Porter was in a bit of distress and we would need the NICU team to be present at the time of delivery. After getting that news I definitely couldn’t sleep, I was focusing on hearing Porter’s heartbeat on the monitor and I was talking to him. I was groggy and exhausted but wired at the same time. I just wanted him to be okay.
Finally, it was time to start pushing. The nurse had me do a practice push with just her and I. She was so sweet encouraging me that she does this for a living and it still took her 2 hours to actively push her baby out. Well… after my first practice push she told me to stop and that we needed to get all of the doctors in here NOW. All of a sudden my room was a party (that is what happens when you give birth at a teaching hospital) and all the nurses and doctors were preoccupied getting things set up for his arrival. [Chris told me later he heard them all talking about how much they loved the smell of my oil diffuser and how it set the mood up for a very calm, lovely delivery – highly recommend.] It was nearly two in the morning and the Doctor told me to push again, so I did, and then she put my baby on top of me.
All I remember thinking was: one, that was a freaking ginormous baby and two, he had a lot of hair. Yes, both things were true but I felt like I was more overflowing with shock than overflowing with love. He was placed facing away from me and I didn’t have the energy to pick him up and bring him closer, so I wrapped my arms around him and said “Shhh – it’s ok” to the back of his head. I couldn’t even see my baby’s face, let alone his adoring eyes.
After his exam, taking his foot prints, the stitching (he came out with his arm in the air and gave me a strange tear), the cleaning, and all of the congratulating we moved to the recovery room. I held Porter in my arms, saw his face, stared into his oddly alert and serious eyes but was still in a fog of disbelief and delirium. I kept thinking once I slept I would feel different, it would be a new day filled with bonding and all the stuff that’s supposed to happen. Well, sleep didn’t come for either of us. The next few days were the hardest of my life. Later during the day my husband was holding Porter, trying to get my fresh, new baby to stop screaming, and he said so softly and patiently “I love you”. I immediately began sobbing uncontrollably because I realized I hadn’t yet told my newborn I loved him. Did I? Yes. Was I completely overwhelmed by the labor experience, delivery experience and my own expectations? Also, yes. I felt like the worst mother in the entire universe.
Going Home || Everything that I thought would happen, didn’t. I didn’t feel like being a mother was innate, I was second guessing myself and my confidence was tanking. I didn’t know how to comfort my baby and I cried leaving the hospital because it also meant leaving behind all the amazing, knowledgeable nurses. I felt they were better at being a mom than I was. How was I going to comfort him when it was just me? I didn’t know when he was crying because he was cold versus hungry. I had no idea what I was supposed to do and my mind kept racing and thinking about all the things that could go wrong. I remember being so anxious bringing my baby home that I made Chris stop the car because I didn’t know if it was okay for his head to be jiggling in his carseat.
Becoming a Family of Three || Once home, I began to listen to my instincts and trust my gut. Porter and I grew together as a team (yes, there was a learning curve for us both) and my love for him transpired. I began to understand him, talk to him and I figured out the little things he liked; a particular bounce or a rub on the nose. He was a whole little world inside of that tiny body and there was so much going on behind his eyes, I just needed to learn how to interpret and speak his language. My extreme anxiety (I had crazy PPA that I will tell you about another time) was starting to fade with every forced outing we went on. Sometimes it was just a walk up and down the street, other times it was a trip to the farmers market. The more time we spent one-on-one the more I began to relax which allowed me to open up and gain confidence.
My love for my son continues to grow to immeasurable depths. It’s okay that his birth wasn’t this great love at first sight moment – we were just introduced! It’s okay that I was petrified, unsure, and flat out exhausted. Feeling these things didn’t make me less than or unworthy. Having that great moment right off the bat doesn’t make you a better mother. We are allowed to experience whatever emotions come up for us during birth and afterwards; these are times of extreme vulnerability not to mention extreme hormonal fluctuations. Every day is a new day, we will all have moments of triumph and moments that are, well, not our best. Don’t hold on to the past or what happened. I am lucky enough to have an amazing support system at my side and a tribe of amazing women I could reach out to. Don’t be afraid reach out, to tell someone when you’re struggling – I can guarantee you every one of us have had one of those moments!
Just because most women say “it was love at first sight” doesn’t mean your experience is invalid if yours wasn’t. We all have different experiences and react differently to life events. You shouldn’t hold on to a single ounce of “mom-guilt” for it- I sure don’t! Enjoy the journey, trust yourself, embrace the process.
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