It’s been six weeks. We’re settling in to a new normal and beginning to figure this whole parenting thing out. Some days it feels like it was only yesterday that we were bringing her home. Other days it feels like we’ve been doing this all our lives.
The whole time I was pregnant I heard the same thing over and over again: “Your life is going to change.” Ironically, our life hasn’t changed much. Or maybe I just don’t really remember life before baby.
As I sit down and think about the last six weeks, I do know that there were several things that I never anticipated. No matter how many books I read, conversations I had, or prayers I prayed … nothing could have prepared me for these five things:
I knew breastfeeding would be hard. It’s not something that comes naturally – even though our bodies are made to do it. And I had prepared myself for that. But I had planned to be with my baby girl right away. I had a plan to let her find my b@@b and latch on without much help just like the book I read suggested. It would happen during that first hour of our life together.
But then we were separated for 3 hours. When I met her, I was hooked up to an IV and barely had the use of my left arm. When she met me, she had already been through so much. When I asked the nurse if she would help me, her response was “You want to try now? It’s 2:30am.” I simply said, “Yes. I don’t care what time it is.” Needless to say, she wasn’t incredibly helpful. But baby girl and I tried it.
I don’t remember much about that first attempt, but I do remember the lactation consultant coming to see me later that morning. She didn’t educate me at all, but instead shoved baby girl on my b@@b. Neither baby girl nor I liked that very much …
It wasn’t until we got home three days later that we really began to get the hang of breastfeeding. Maybe baby girl sensed my relaxation. Maybe it was spending so much time skin-to-skin in my own bed. Who knows what it was, but by the end of week 2, we had pretty much gotten the hang of it. Now, we nurse anywhere and everywhere. We still have hang-ups every once in a while, but I am thankful that, for the most part, we are doing well in this area.
Woah boy. This is another area that I had read about. Heard about. Knew about. But I had also planned on encapsulating my placenta. [That's another post for another day...]
I was convinced that would help me through the weepy days. I knew my emotions would be crazy, so I was going to be proactive. But because of my fever and the meconium, the placenta was deemed medically unacceptable for encapsulation.
I blame that for a good chunk of my afterbirth breakdowns. There were several times when I was bawling on the couch or my favorite chair when all I would think was “I can’t handle these emotions. I was supposed to have help through this. I didn’t prepare for this after-birth experience.”
And over the last six weeks, that’s what I’ve struggled with the most. I had prepared for any birth experience. Even though my birth experience was not what I had hoped for, I had prepared myself for it. I had prayed through it. I was okay with it. But I had not prepared myself for what would happen after. For the initial separation, for not being able to use my placenta, for the lack of hospital support for breastfeeding.
I’ve come to terms with it now … at least for the most part. I’ve accepted what we’ve gone through as our unique experience. And it has made me cherish that precious baby girl more than I could ever imagine. But woah boy … those emotions are something else!
I have tried a lot of things in the last ten years. Lots of schooling, lots of different jobs, lots of broken relationships, lots of attempts at figuring out how I could best make a difference in this world. Just last year, I thought I had it all figured out. Until now.
Last week, as I was sitting in my favorite chair nursing baby girl, it hit me like a lightning bolt. This being a mother thing … THIS is what I had been searching for. I feel more complete than I ever have, my entire life.
She has defined my purpose here on earth. To love her, cherish her, help her grow. But even more than that … to show all children just how loved they are, no matter what their circumstances.
I had no idea how strong I was. Or how strong D was. Before baby girl came, we knew there would be times when we’d have to tell people no. Times when we’d have to hurt people’s feelings. Times when we wouldn’t live up to other people’s expectations of us. Not because we wanted to be mean, but simply because we had to do what was best for the three of us.
And sure enough, there have been those times over the last six weeks. But it has been much easier to let people down than I originally thought it would be. You see, I am a people pleaser. I hate for people to be upset with me. But when it comes to this precious baby girl, I’ll do it. If it means what’s best for her, then I’ll push through my own desire for people to like me and say no.
It’s true – you never know how strong you are … until being strong is the only choice you have.
No one could have told me how being a mother would change my prayer life. I was never a pray-er before. I would pray … but I had to be real intentional about it. And it didn’t happen every day. To be real honest – it usually only happened when I needed something.
But now, I find myself praying all the time. When I’m breastfeeding, when I’m holding a sleeping baby, when I’m lying next to D in bed at night, when I’m cleaning … I find myself talking to, and listening for, God.
And I’m beginning to understand just how much God loves us. I mean, I thought I knew God loved us before … but it was nothing like this. The incredible love I feel for this precious one is tiny compared to God’s love for us … and that realization makes me want to spend my whole life in prayer.
This should be an obvious one, you know? But I was totally unprepared how much this tiny baby girl would make me love her father. I thought I was truly, madly, deeply in love with him before … that was nothing compared to the love I feel for him now. Watching him with her makes my heart melt. Catching his glaze and knowing that we did this together – that we are doing this together – it just makes my heart overflow with joy and love.
So there you have it … our epilogue. The first six weeks have been it all. Emotional, exhausting, exhilarating. Simply amazing. And we can’t wait for what’s left to come…
And if you missed our birth story, you can check it out here.