This Monday's cafe' topic is on "Accepting Your Birth: It's Only the Beginning". Jenna shares the story of her first year of motherhood with us here, and while the first few days weren't at all what she had hoped for, it's beautiful to see the healing, joy and confidence she now experiences as a mother.
Let’s just start with the obvious. The older ladies in your life that tell you “Savor these days, they go by so fast”, well, they’re right. It is mind blowing to me how fast my son's first year went. Although, it is true that parenthood is just about the strangest time warp you could ever experience. To quote our dear blog editor Alisha from a blog that she wrote, (can’t remember which one), “a day feels like a year, a month feels like a week and a year feels like a day”. That is highly paraphrased but the concept has stuck with me. But like any good fairy tale, let’s start with Once Upon a Time, also known as when Ezra was born.
Once upon a time, Ezra was born after the best labor experience I could have imagined and then WHAM! The mother-baby unit happened. I could not have asked for a better midwife or labor team, and I know some people have phenomenal hospital stays, but ours was just the worst. I had Ezra on Sunday morning at 1:26am and we were discharged Tuesday night at 7pm but that might as well have been a month.
Between the almost hourly checks on either me or Ezra, (which never felt like they were for both of us at the same time, so double the interruptions), or some of the staff that made us feel like horrible parents for not wanting Ezra to be given the glucose test because we didn’t see a reason to (it came back just fine!), to the panic attack-inducing visit from a nurse in the pitch black at 2am telling me that they had checked Ezra’s weight and he had lost too much weight since his birth. Because of this, they were going to keep in the nursery for a couple more HOURS, while I had just woken up from a few minute nap that hadn’t happened pretty much since he was born. The cherry on top of the worst sundae ever was when someone told us that because of Ezra’s jaundice he might have to stay at the hospital but we’d have to be discharged (which ended up being misinformation that was corrected!). Between being so sleep deprived and not having contemplated having to go home without Ezra, I burst into tears as soon as she left the room.
Looking back, these were the longest days of my life and I look back on them with such sadness for how I wanted it to be and how it really could have been. Having come off of such a high from an amazing birth experience to having the furthest from ideal hospital stay was like being hit by a truck heading into Ezra’s first few weeks of life.
At long last we were discharged on Tuesday night, came home and after some encouragement from my awesome husband, I went to lay down on our bed. The only way I could describe how I felt was like when you were little and you’d spin around and around on a swing to tighten the chains or rope and then let go and spin fast in a circle, I felt like that when laying on the bed like I was just spinning and spinning and I just cried and cried to let the emotions flow out of me. Looking back I cannot overemphasize the benefit of a good cathartic cry after birth. If your body or your mind feels like it needs to cry, no matter if there is a reason or not, let the tears flow. More harm was done by trying to hold everything in than if I had just let the tears flow. I cried more in the first two weeks of Ezra’s life than I ever had in my life. Most times the tears didn’t have a reason or I cried over stuff that normally would have rolled right off my back, but in the joyous rollercoaster that is hormones and the stress-inducing situation that is being entrusted with another completely helpless little person’s life, the tears were just part of the package deal.
My husband and I looking back can say that those first two weeks were the hardest two weeks of our marriage. We had to rediscover who we were as individuals, who we were as parents, and how we had to communicate when a baby was in the mix, to make sure that our needs were expressed and met by the other person as best as possible.
After those first two weeks, the clouds really did start to clear. Even though Ezra would still only sleep on or near us, I was willing to hear my husband’s wise counsel to do sleeping in shifts. He would stay up until 1-2 in the morning after I went to bed at 10 so that Ezra could sleep on him and then I would let Ezra sleep on me from 2-6 and then we would start our daytime routine. This let us both get solid sleep being completely off of baby duty so that we could both function, as well as helping Ezra sleep at night as much as possible. We did that until Ezra was about 6 weeks old. At times it felt like we’d never sleep in our bed at the same time again because the days felt so long in those first few weeks. But when 6 weeks rolled around, Ezra would sleep in his crib for longer stretches, and we could sleep in the same bed again. I feel like that happens a lot in life; the seasons that are toughest feel like an eternity until you are on the other side and can see how you were able to work through it and figure out how to do life again and find your footing.
From 6 weeks on, our lives really started to settle in to our new normal. I was on maternity leave until Ezra was 12 weeks old and I am thankful that I took all of that time. Working from home started at 12 weeks with having Ezra at a sitter a total of 10 hours a week for me to do my required hours in the office. The biggest hurdle to that arrangement was pumping. Pumping is something that my body never really got the hang of and it would take me two or three pumping sessions to make one feeding's-worth for Ezra. For me, breastfeeding was always more efficient and enjoyable than pumping. When Ezra was around 10 months old he could go long enough between feedings to not need a bottle at the babysitter's, and, just like crying was in the first few weeks of postpartum, packing up the pumping equipment and storing it in the basement (to hopefully never be used again) was a very cathartic activity for me.
Every few months our schedule changes slightly as Ezra pares down on the amount of naps he’s taking or as he’s slowly self-weaning from breastfeeding, but I truly feel like this whole parenting thing just keeps getting better and better. Ezra is getting more and more independent and can communicate with us now through sign language along with some words, and he makes us laugh every day. When Ezra was just a few weeks old and a friend was meeting him for the first time, they told me that his needs were so simple when he was that little. It seemed like crazy-talk to a sleep deprived, nursing machine, but those words had so much wisdom in them as I look back now to when he slept so much of the time and really only wanted to nurse, be held, and sleep.
Each season is uniquely hard and uniquely wonderful. I look back on those cuddly early days with fond memories now, and Ezra currently sleeping 12 hours a night is the bee’s knees. Although I don’t think I’m ready to sign on again to the sleepless nights quite yet, the further I get away from it, the more doable it seems. The transition from zero kids to one kid broke me in a lot of ways, most of them good. Even though I know transitioning to having two kids, whenever that may happen, will be its own kind of uniquely hard, it will also bring with it its uniquely wonderful parts too. Having been through all of the stages once now, I am a far more confident mom and feel like I have found my voice.
I am becoming the mother I was meant to be.