When I first found out I was pregnant I was thrilled. The pink line on the test stick was faint, but it was a line. My husband was cautiously excited, the idea of actually having a baby was a bit more frightening to him than me. Anyway, I was over the moon. I couldn’t wait for the time to tell family and friends, and of course I could not wait to start showing! Once I was far along enough to talk about my pregnancy, I found I was opened up to a wide variety of advice, thoughts, and unsolicited opinions. What got me the most was story after story from women talking about how the love was immediate for their baby as soon as she or he was born. They would tell me how the moment the baby was laid on their chest they were overwhelmed with emotions of love, joy, and happiness. (Can you hear the bells ringing right about now?) These stories of immediate love gave me visions of doves flying over head, cupid wings, and pure ecstasy!
Well….it wasn’t quite like that. The moment my baby girl was placed on my chest my first thought was that she looked just like my mother-in-law. Don’t get me wrong, my mother-in-law is a lovely woman but my baby girl was supposed to look like me! I was exhausted. My labor lasted sixteen hours only about twelve of which my epidural actually worked. I threw up several times and once I hit transition all I could do was cry and ask to go home. I was a mess. So when she was born I didn’t feel ready – I didn’t feel ready to mother. I felt ready to nap! Of course I nursed her and she was a champ. At one hour old she latched on and never looked back. Cluster fed every ten minutes for the first twelve hours and never let me so much as blink. If she wasn’t nursing she was crying. I lost any ability to think, therefore I neglected to check her diaper. I couldn’t figure out why she was crying until I opened up a poop diaper! What was I thinking? Obviously I wasn’t thinking that newborns do actually poop and pee. Wasn’t I paying attention in my newborn class?? I wasn’t feeling that connection or bond that I was told should happen immediately. In a loving attempt to gently place her back in the bassinet, I basically dropped her in. I was mortified! That did me in. What kind of mother am I going to be? I was not enjoying this at all. There were no doves, no music, and no ecstasy at all.
I had few people to talk to about it. Who was I going to tell this to and what would I tell them? That I’m not enjoying this mothering gig? I was only one day into it! My mother was there but could barely get past the idea that the hospital we were in did not have a well baby nursery. “You mean you can’t send her away for a break?” She was horrified. While Mom was supportive but there was still a distance in her ability to relate. When my mother had her first child 38 years ago things were very different. She recalls having a terrible labor – back labor, vomiting, you name it. Since she was not progressing, her doctor sent her for an x-ray. Yes, an x-ray. They actually conducted an x-ray on a pregnant woman, on purpose! Needless to say, they found my brother to be breach so a c-section was ordered. When my mother woke up the next day, my brother was brought to her wrapped tightly in a blanket. Swaddled, as we say today. A baby burrito. For the next five days, my brother was brought to my mom only when she was ready to have him, to feed him or just to visit. But, if she was napping, bathing, etc. he stayed in the nursery. She recalls the fact that not once single time during her stay in the hospital did she ever unwrap my brother! She never had to change his diaper! She laughs at how she never looked to see if he had all ten fingers and toes! What’s even funnier is that other women her age have the exact same experience! No one wanted to undo their baby and run the risk of upsetting the nurses! How times have changed….For her it was a wonderful experience…mothering on her time. So for her to empathize with me was a challenge. It was also impossible for me to share what I was feeling because of the shame I was feeling for not being blissfully happy! I was supposed to be in baby bliss but I wasn’t.
Of course, over the next few days the fog of exhaustion and delirium wore off and I felt more and more ready to mother. As I began to gain confidence and strength, I took the risk and actually shared some of my experiences with others. I was honest and said that I wasn’t exactly over the moon in love when she was first born. I admitted how I wanted to roll her bassinet right into the bathroom and close the door. Instead of negative reactions, people actually laughed and responded in a positive way. Some even hinted at a “me, too” response.
I have since made it a point to share with my pregnant friends the things that most people don’t share. I tell them the truth that it may not be as blissful as we think and want it to be. I think in many ways I set myself up assuming that it would be heaven-like. Well, it’s not. Child birth is hard, exhausting, emotionally draining to say the least. You have to make this gigantic leap from woman to mother and accept the extraordinary responsibilities that come with it all in the time it takes for the baby’s head to crown. That’s really hard to do after labor and all of the fun things you get to experience after the baby is born!
So, maybe it’s just me but for those whose child birth experiences were picture perfect, good for them. Is it just me? I can’t possibly be the only one whose journey into motherhood was filled with trepidation and stumbles. I just want to tell others that it is okay! It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be your experience. Wanting to roll her into the bathroom hasn’t in any way impacted the connection with my daughter. In fact, I will certainly tell her my story when she is ready to have a baby. It happens! My love for my daughter has grown each day and of course today there is a love like no other.