Becoming a first time mom is one of the most exhilarating, life-altering experiences, and I am in the throes of it. My son, Ben, finally arrived at 41 weeks after 17 hours of labor. Still with much shock and amazement I can utter the words, I am someone’s mother.
Along with this comes so many feelings, in fact, I’m finding it comes with all of them and it doesn’t matter how many books I read on preparing for a newborn, nothing could have prepared me for the onslaught of fear, uncertainty, delight, and beauty of it all.
- Labor and delivery is not an insurance commercial.
When I was pregnant, I thought as soon as I delivered my son I would be flooded with a love so enormous and bright I would outshine the Grinch at the end of his journey when his heart grew three times its size. And that also I would hear motivational music pumping through the delivery room and I would cry and understand just what those insurance companies were talking about in their commercials.
This did not happen. I’m sure it happens to some lucky ladies, but after the relief of passing an eight pound human through my 10 centimeter-dilated body, I felt exhaustion first, then shock, and then finally, more shock. Without going into deep detail, I will tell you that giving birth is the absolute most difficult event that I have ever experienced in my life.
So I did it, and I heard my son cry, which was the most wonderful sound, and my husband and mother told me he was put on my chest moments after they cleaned him up, but I can’t remember too much of it. I do remember saying “he’s so beautiful” in a sort of dream like state, but beyond that, I was mostly in shock. And that’s what’s real. I did not explode into a million smiles or start crying from the beauty of it all (although my mom did and I really loved that).
This doesn’t mean I am not happy, or that I don’t love my son. It means I was in labor for 17 hours. It means I became a mother in just one second. It means insurance companies just want you to buy their packages, so stop watching those commercials thinking that’s how life is.
It’s taken me a few weeks to realize that feeling this way is okay.
- Time has no meaning here.
A few people have asked me what I do at home now with my son, and I find it really hard to articulate just how fast the hours go and how seconds, minutes, and hours slip through my fingers like the grains of rice I used to make for dinner when I had time to cook.
Briefly, I will try to explain: I get up to use the bathroom at 10am, but on the way there I pick up two bottles lying around the house and before I realize it, it’s three hours later and I still haven’t used the bathroom and am watching a Netflix original show with Ben on my chest, coaxing him to go to sleep, and somehow there are two more bottles in front of me as well as a fun size chocolate bar wrapper, a cold cup of coffee from God knows what hour, and eight burp cloths, none of which are clean, even though I just did the laundry.
Hm? I’m sorry, I’m not familiar with this word any longer.
If you plan on breast feeding, which I did, you need to understand that your life is no longer about you, or even your baby. It is about your breasts now. Direct breast feeding, pumping, or whatever other method that enables you to give your baby breast milk will speedily consume every free moment you have to yourself. Also your entire house will be covered in tiny droplets of breast milk, from the couch, to the floor, to the kitchen counter.
This happens mostly at night. I’ll lie down after feeding and bathing Ben, and my brain starts to wander.
Not in the same way it did before Ben, but a new, more panicked way. I worry if he’s breathing, if I will pump enough milk for his next feeding, if he’s too cold, too hot.
There is an overwhelming amount of everything when I finally stop to think. The love, the worry, the change.
It’s not a dislike, it’s more of a dislocation. Where have I gone? Who is this small stranger in my home? All of a sudden my life has turned into someone else’s.
I am still myself but not at the same time. What an enormous transformation from pregnancy – where every moment was about me – to being a mom – where every moment is about him. And within a moment.
My body is exhausted. I am still recovering from delivery. I get up throughout the night and I see his face – his beautiful, small face – and we look at each other in the dimly lit bedroom and even though I would love to crawl back into bed and sleep uninterrupted for another six hours, or even two, my heart aches for this moment to last just a little bit longer. I understand in my soul that he will grow with uncomfortable speed and I will wish for these nights back when it was just he and I staring into each other’s eyes, his hair fresh from his bath and his skin softer than velvet. It’s so much feeling I can hardly contain it. I feel time so acutely now. It’s the longest hours, the shortest days, and the most unbelievably fast moments. I want to see him grow up and become who he will become, but I also want to stay right here, in this moment, where sweetness lives.