Many moons ago, I wrote this little piece while in a sleep deprived delirium. I needed to write it, needed an outlet for all of the emotions swirling around inside. Recently, a good friend had a baby, and I sent her a copy of this. I just wanted her to know that despite all of the glowing reports, fun times and cheery blog posts, I was waging an internal battle as I learned to be a mom. I wrote this almost a year ago…18 teeth ago, many illnesses ago, cross-country travel ago, and yet when I read this I remember that time fondly.
This is for all the new MoMs out there!
Musings of a New Mother
by Kristina E.
Numb from the neck down, disoriented and exhausted, the maternity nurses asked if I wanted to hold my babies, while I was on a moving gurney! “No! I can’t hold them yet!” I exclaimed, amazed that they would ask someone who just had major surgery and who was barely aware of her lower half to be responsible for a combined 14 and a half pounds of brand new life! And thus, my journey of motherhood began.
I had an exceptionally good pregnancy, without complications, and carried my babies to my scheduled c-section date of 39 weeks. Jonathan James and Faith Marie were born weighing 7.12 and 6.12, full term and in perfect health.
Being a mother has been a profound experience, as I am sure it has been for every new mother that has gone before me. From the first day I knew life was growing inside of me, my battle against myself began. Pregnancy forced me to become less selfish, and I didn’t like it one little bit! I was comfortable the way I was, but suddenly, everything going into my mouth directly affected the health of my babies. Headaches and body aches became something to endure, as my body no longer belonged to me. Speeding while driving was no longer an option with the realization that I was putting three lives in jeopardy. And then one day it hit me…”This is it…from here on out I will always be someone’s mom.” There was no going back to the way things were when it was just me.
And on May 15th, 2007, the heavy mantle of responsibility came crashing down upon my shoulders. Shoulders, which, I might add, were still numb from the needle that had been in my spine! As soon as the nurses asked me if I was ready to try breastfeeding, I had another moment where I realized it was up to me to keep these creatures alive! “For crying out loud!” I thought to myself. “I just carried these babies for nine months, had major surgery and major blood loss and now they want ME to take care of them? Can’t somebody else take a turn? Someone without an IV in each hand, a catheter, a fresh incision and whose arms aren’t lead weights? Glad to see you little ones, but SERIOUSLY!”
This wonderful thing called “motherhood” was just beginning. My hospital stay contained very little sleep, a lot of pain, and false cheerfulness. Yes, I was ever so thankful to have delivered healthy little ones, but did the resident doctor really need to check on me at 5am? Did I have to be asked to sign my twins up for so many studies? Did the entire hospital have to see my breasts as I attempted to feed my screaming offspring? Was it normal to not feel gushy toward my new little bundles? Was it okay that my son’s cry annoyed me? And that I was secretly dismayed at the shape of my daughter’s head?
We journeyed home, having no idea what to expect. Granted, every onesie was washed and placed in the appropriate drawer. I had three dozen burp clothes ready to go. The nursery was in pristine condition and the car seats were installed. We knew the sleep deprivation would be bad, but there is simply no way to prepare for how hideous it really was. It peeked around three weeks, when I found myself sobbing in the bathtub, praying that my c-section incision would suddenly become infected so that I could go back to the hospital, so that someone would take care of me. I was also struck with a strong case of the “baby blues,” in which I though, “surely I am going crazy. How could I possibly feel resentment toward these miracles?” My husband and I received help for our infertility issues. How could I possibly want a break from being their mother? Other women would kill for the chance to do what I was doing!
Gradually, things began to look up. The tennis-ball sized knot in my shoulder started decreasing in size. I had my first cup of hot tea in a month. I stopped crying. Dark chocolate and vicodin were no longer necessary tools to get through the day, as my incision healed and my stress decreased. The kiddo’s started sleeping better. My milk supply was established, and I quit beating myself up for giving them more expressed milk than nursing.
I have now been a mother for exactly 87 days. It has been a serious crash course in Motherhood 101, but I am loving it! Sure, there are the daily melt downs, the nine loads of laundry a week, the 5am pumping session, the spit-up crusted in my formally clean hair. But I’ve managed to keep these two tiny people alive for three months, and that’s a beautiful thing. And once they started purposefully smiling at me, recognizing me as their mother, they took up ownership of my heart.
For the moment, I am very fortunate to have a bedtime routine that works so well. I am up only once a night with them. I find myself rocking my little ones, long after they are done eating, breathing in their scent, savoring these moments, nuzzling their little necks. Sometimes our quiet time in the middle of the night is my favorite part of the day. Now that I am getting good sleep, I recognize how fleeting time really is. I celebrate each achievement and developmental milestone, but part of me aches just a little, knowing that they will never be as small as they are today, this desiring of my closeness.
Sometimes I think I would like my husband to get up and do a feeding or two, but then again, I don’t. I don’t want to share my night cuddles, as they too will be gone sooner than I like. I spend our time together marveling at their features, praying for their future and rejoicing in the goodness of Our God, who would bless us with these creatures.
Of course, I am not always rejoicing when they both go kamikaze in the store at the same time and both pacifiers have gone AWOL, and everyone is staring!
I am a realist. I know that my job as their mom will change, ebb and flow. Motherhood is fluid. I don’t always have good days. I feel guilty when I give more attention to one than the other. I feel badly that I sometimes long for the simplicity of life before children. It bothers me that when they cry incessantly in the close confines of our van, my brain feels like it is melting, and I contemplate parking the car and getting out and walking. And we haven’t even yet hit teething, our first illness, separation anxiety or tantrums. And that only covers the first year! Yet I am trying desperately to capture and record this time, because I know it won’t happen again.
Honestly, the first few weeks are a blur of exhaustion and pain medication. But now I routinely blog about the kids, which helps. I keep a little video diary, capturing Faith’s feminine little coo’s and Jonathan’s gasp of joy and delight when his mobile is turned on. We take many, many pictures. I write in their baby books. But somehow, it just doesn’t feel like enough. There simply is no way to freeze time, to convey exactly how much my heart has expanded to hold the love I feel for my babies. I hardly think I have enough capacity in my chest.
Today I was wishing that I could take a mold of them so that I could always remember how they felt all warm and snuggly in their footed pajamas, nestled into the curve of my neck. Then I thought about how it is my responsibility to shape these little beings, to mold them into little people, to train them in compassion, integrity and putting others before yourself. And I think this responsibility is molding me in the process.
I drive slower now. I am more tolerant of bratty kids acting up in public. I exchange sympathetic looks with pregnant women. My world has expanded exponentially. I am overwhelmed.
Yes, I loved the babies when they were inside, closer to my heart. I studied their movements, pondered, speculated, and assigned personality traits. And when I first met them I was glad to see them. But motherhood took hold of me slowly, completely. This journey can not be halted or stopped, and it will be through joy and sadness that I guide my little ones through life. And it will be my life’s greatest work, to mother these two well and to be their Mama.