The first thing my daughter did when she was born was shit on me. That’s not a metaphor. After 30+ minutes of pushing with no epidural, she came into the world, was placed on my left boob and launched black, sticky meconium all over my torso. Needless to say, a belly button full of baby shit wasn’t how I thought motherhood would begin and the destruction of expectations didn’t stop there.
I was two days shy of being 42 weeks pregnant with our first child, a girl. The doctor, after checking me at our last appointment, scheduled us for induction the next morning. We went home, knowing that in the next two days, we would finally be parents. I had a pretty good feeling I wouldn’t go into labor before or on my due date but I had figured I would before 42 weeks. I was nervous about being induced. “We’re basically making your body do something it’s not really ready or prepared to do,” our doctor had said at our appointment. Neither me or my husband slept that night.
We arrived at the hospital around 9:15 a.m. for my 9:30 induction. After getting me checked in, gowned up and settled, they administered the first round of the induction gel: a lovely and intimate experience. If you haven’t been privy, you should be jealous.
I had mild contractions start shortly thereafter and I spent the next several hours walking the halls, bouncing and straddling the stupid birth peanut and in the tub trying to move things along. My contractions got closer and more painful but they didn’t make me dilate further. I took the nurse up on her offer of Nubane to take the edge off which delivered on its promise. The doctor came to check me only to find I hadn’t progressed at all and decided to give me another round of the induction gel at 4:30 p.m.
Then, my contractions really got intense. With them being about 2-3 minutes apart almost immediately, I opted for another round of the Nubane to get me through until delivery except this dose didn’t help with the contractions at all. It made me very sleepy and loopy. It felt like I was going in and out of consciousness between contractions. I got into the jet tub and immediately started sweating and was in too much pain to relax. My husband helped me get out and I began shivering and shaking uncontrollably.
I remember feeling the urge to push and every time the doctor came to check on me, I wasn’t dilated enough yet. It felt like a million times I had them come back to check on me and I was only at an eight.
After what felt like forever of
sleeping passing out for a few seconds, intense contraction pain, and then unconscious again, feeling the need to push, the doctor finally came in and let me start to push.
After a half an hour of constant straining with the blood blisters all over my body to prove it, we arrive at the above-mentioned baby shit moment.
I looked into her eyes, so dark they were almost black, as they were cleaning the meconium off me and she raised her head and looked around the room and laid her head down and looked at me. She wasn’t crying and didn’t seem distressed. Needless to say, that isn’t what medical professionals want from a fresh-out-the-womb babe.
There was no “holy shit, I’m a mommy” moment, there were no tears, there was just relief she was here and then confusion and anger.
What seemed like seconds later, they were putting her on the warmer and, as I was having some stitches done, I could see the attending nurses bagging my baby to assist her respirations.
When I was going through EMT training, I remember learning about giving respirations via bagging and all I could think about was the tiny mouth and nose piece they were using on her and wondering how much she was breathing on her own, if at all.
I found out later that the cord was wrapped around her neck when her head was born, quickly slipped back over her neck by the doctor and no further complications arose during her birth. Whether that was the culprit for her breathing issues or not, our baby was whisked up to the NICU for care.
When the doctors got me taken care of and cleaned up, and everyone left the room, I remember looking over to my husband. I was wondering what he was thinking, whether he blamed me, and whether he was as frightened by the silence in our room as I was. I was supposed to be counting my baby’s fingers and toes, listening to her cry and grunt, getting used to her latching onto me and sleeping next to my heart.
Instead, my stomach as empty and so was our room. Instead, our day and my healing was structured around trying to muster the might to leave my recovery bed, haul my tender ass in a wheel chair up to the next floor, perform a three-minute hand scrub to see our baby during each scheduled feeding time.
Obviously, breastfeeding, which I wanted so badly, was delayed and difficult. Even when she would latch from me in the NICU, the nurses were giving her formula during feedings and I was supposed to befriend this strange pumping contraction that I barely understood how to use.
For about 36 hours, our daughter battled breathing on her own, blood sugar issues and not feeling her daddy’s touch until she was almost a day old. When he finally got to hold her, he had to wear a gown and he got just as many wires and tubes as he did baby girl in his hands.
On the second day, we made it up to the NICU for the doctors’ rounds. Our baby’s warmer was the first they stopped at. The NICU nurses ran down her stats for the doc, her blood sugar, O2 saturation, ml of formula and colostrum and I watched as the doc wrote them all down. We sat, helpless and totally at this man’s mercy and experience. He was tall, had dark skin and kind eyes – something I’ve always looked for in people that work with children.
“Well,” he said as he looked to his team, “should we do it?” He nodded and gave our tiny world the go-ahead to be moved to a crib down in our room. It was the first time I remember crying since she was born and I hope the tears streaming down my face were enough thanks for him.
Having her in our room didn’t make things easier but it sure made them more bearable. Husband came down with the flu the day before we left and, bless his heart, was essentially rendered useless. I couldn’t get in or out of bed quickly and without a great deal of pain and, if you’ve ever been in a hospital, you know you cannot get very much interrupted sleep. Nurses and doctors were constantly in and out, pushing on my still gigantic and tender uterus, drawing blood, checking on baby, etc.
Thankfully, her stint in the NICU was the only health issue we had while we were there, other than her daddy’s upchucking, diarrheal, pale and achey pyrotechnics. He was sick for another couple days after we were discharged.
As a parent, it is difficult to admit things that make you seem like you do anything but love your baby unconditionally and you make them the thing around which your life revolves. And, don’t mistake me, I love my child more than I knew I could love something.
For several weeks after we brought her home though, I felt we made a huge mistake. We weren’t ready for a baby, what the hell are we doing, I’m not ready to be a mom, etc. She was (and is) beautiful and precious and sweet but there wasn’t this maternal gush of love I had for her all the time. She was colicky and I became frustrated. There were times she went on nursing strikes, making me feel so useless and hopeless. When I did feel this overwhelming affection for her, it usually came with a side order of ugly crying and guilt over all the things I wasn’t doing right.
We struggled through people giving us their home remedies for everything, telling us what they did back in their day and how their children “turned out just fine” and not being very supportive of our breastfeeding journey.
It took several weeks for me to get used to her (and probably her to me), get used to her needing me constantly and without the feeling of fulfillment of being a mom. I struggled with being frustrated, avoiding her during the day, being scared of her at night. Scared? Yes. Scared of my infant. Scared to be alone with her. Scared when she fussed or cried.
Fast forwarding through several weeks of learning and growing with her, I absolutely adore being with her. I quit my job because we needed immediate care for her and I now have no plans to not stay home with her. Honestly, I can’t imagine being away from her for 40 hours a week, anymore. I’m fortunate to have a discipline with which I can earn some income to help my hard-working husband support our little family.
So, parents. Parents-to-be. Listen to me when I tell you that parenting isn’t always (probably not even usually) second nature. Sometimes when you meet your squirming, wrinkled, mewling little person, you don’t fall in love, right away. Often times, the way your birth story was supposed to be never happens. You might, like me, think you done fucked up.
And if there’s one thing I’ve learned over my whole not-even-six-months of being a parent is that it doesn’t get easier – it just turns into a different kind of difficult. It was never meant to be easy and if you were under that impression, I pity you. But if you only see parenting as a burden, I pity you more.
Right now, she kicks her socks off. Everything goes in her mouth. She rolls, inevitably, toward cords and dog toys. But she doesn’t talk back (yet). She can’t run toward danger (yet). She can’t pull dog tails or ears (yet). Do you see where I’m going?
Every day, all I can do, is revel in her little eyes wrinkling when she smiles, breathe deeply when she sighs in my ear after I feed her and she’s sleeping on my chest, smother my giggles when she rolls over and belches like a man or rips a huge, smelly fart during naps, and nudge my husband so he can sleepily reach over and pop her goddamned bink back into her mouth when she wakes up nine bajillion times a night.
Good luck. Surely none of us parents will get out of this unscathed and I’ve learned to be completely fine with that.