Wednesday, January 8, 2020

I Didn't Know. My Birth and Postpartum Journey

This was written at 7 weeks postpartum. 

I guess I didn’t realize that I was running straight into motherhood with a list of carved out expectations. Those expectations kind of subtly lived in the back of my mind, just waiting to broadcast themselves when the time arrived. Without consciously trying to, I built a portrait of what I thought birth and the newborn days were supposed to look like.

I didn’t know I’d be in prodromal labor for almost four days.

I didn’t know I’d need pitocin to start dilating.

I didn’t know the birthing tub wouldn’t be available on while I was at the hospital.

I didn’t know I’d experience entirely back labor.

I didn’t know I’d push for three hours and my son’s head would get stuck.

I didn’t know I’d be rushed into an emergency c section.

I didn’t know they’d have to do a double incision because of the position he was wedged in.

I didn’t know I wouldn’t get to hold him immediately after birth because he was having trouble breathing.

I didn’t know that everything would be fuzzy, hazy, and confusing in the first moments after birth.

I didn’t know I’d be so sleep deprived from the prolonged labor that I’d be hallucinating and not able to remember certain moments.

I didn’t know my baby boy would be separated from me as they examined and cared for him while I was wheeled to recovery all alone.

I didn’t know we wouldn’t have a golden hour and skin-to-skin right after birth.

I didn’t know I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed for 16 hours, making it very difficult to care for my new baby.

I didn’t know about the post c section pain I’d be feeling- that it would be painful to get up and down and carry him around.

I didn’t know I’d have to take pain medication afterwards just to feel coherent and somewhat alive and that I’d be stressed about it entering my breast milk

I didn’t know my nipples would get blisters and bleed into my baby’s mouth; that I’d wince in pain every time I nursed and not look forward to feeding him in those early days.

I didn’t know I’d have to use a nipple shield to even continue nursing him.

I didn’t know that my baby would lose 10% of his weight before we left the hospital.

I didn’t know that in his first week of life I would nurse him round-the-clock with seemingly no break, not even able to get up off the couch, then to find out at his one-week appointment that he hadn’t gained any of his weight back. Not even one ounce.

I didn’t know we’d be told that we’d have to supplement with formula.

I didn’t know I’d cry in the store parking lot- hot, messy tears as I researched different formulas on my phone, feeling like a failure of a mom.

I didn’t know my baby would almost never seem satisfied after nursing (despite a perfect latch, decent supply, and on-demand feeding) and almost always have to be given formula following nursing.

I didn’t know he’d still be slow to gain despite supplementing.

I didn’t know he’d struggle intensely with gas and reflux and that I’d be awake in the groggy, stale morning hours holding our son for hours just so he could sleep comfortably.

I didn’t know I’d develop post-partum anxiety.

I didn’t know I’d feel paralyzed to my core with terror as I reminisced on the trauma we experienced.

I didn’t know I’d be haunted with hollow lies about my mothering.

I didn’t know panic attacks would be lurking in the shadows.

I didn’t know the shame I’d feel. For everything.

I didn’t know I’d begin to push away community, craving isolation, yet despising loneliness at the same time.

I didn’t know I’d irrationally fear anyone touching or holding my baby.

I didn’t know my son would contract a random, fluke virus at 6 weeks old and have to be re-hospitalized for almost a week, despite my meticulousness of a hands-off policy.

I didn’t know my husband and I would have to helplessly look on as our tiny baby cried violently as the doctors and nurses drained his little body with endless testing.

I didn’t know I could hate needles more than I already did. I would have taken them all for my baby.

I didn’t know his fevers would unexplainably stay elevated for days and giving my 6 week old tylenol would become a lifeline for him to remain comfortable.

I didn’t know an IV plastered to my baby’s arm would intrude on our rocking and cuddles.

I didn’t know his fingers would swell an aching red from being contained inside of a mold so the IV couldn’t move.

I didn’t know he would lose interest/ability to nurse efficiently because of his sickness.

I didn’t know his flawless body would be speckled with bruises, scabs, and scars from the testing.

I didn’t know I’d blame his sickness on myself. “If only I had been able to exclusively breastfeed him like a “normal” mom his immunity would have been better”

I didn’t know that even after his fever broke (praise God), he still wouldn’t eat or sleep like he used to when we got home from the hospital.

But you know what else I didn’t know?

I didn’t know I’d cry uncontrollably as I watched our baby boy sleep; that I’d count his slow, rhythmic breaths.

I didn’t know I’d pray long, monologue prayers over him, my heart bursting as he nestled his tiny body into mine.

I didn’t know I’d love the smell of his soft brown hair.

I didn’t know I’d love the way the afternoon sun danced through the window of his nursery as he cooed on his playmat.

I didn’t know I’d obsess over his exact stretch when he woke up from a nap, all curled up in a perfect little ball.

I didn’t know I’d stare into his eyes and thank God for the gift of being his mama.

I didn’t know his smile would cause my heart to overflow and change the trajectory of my whole day. 

I didn’t know I’d want to drink-in all of his facial expressions and new discoveries; that I’d feel honored to be by his side as he experienced the world.

I didn’t know he’d bring so, so much joy to our family. 

I didn’t know I’d need to take motherhood, not one day at a time, but one minute at a time.

I didn’t know that sometimes I’d pause and ponder on our tattered and broken journey and take a deep breath as I saw beauty.

I didn’t know that our story would be beautiful. It is beautiful. And I wouldn’t change it.

I didn’t know that despite all of my burned expectations and messy circumstances, that I’d embrace our story and feel stronger than I’ve ever been. Strong for my baby.

I didn’t know he would cause me to experience the love of the savior in the deepest way I’d ever known.

I didn’t know my heart could ever be this broken, yet also this full.