When I was pregnant I approached motherhood analytically.
I remember telling myself and other people that I doubted a whole lot would change after I gave birth. I took a child-birthing class, scheduled my maternity leave in advance, purchased all the right and popular accessories, and read a lot of books. I was totally prepared whether I would have a C-section or vaginal birth. I packed my birthing bag a month ahead of schedule complete with reading material, relaxation music, pre-made packaged jello and two baby outfits—one blue and one pink just in case. I was completely prepared.
And then my due date came…and went. I was already off work because I had scheduled my maternity leave to start exactly on my due date. So, I wasn’t fazed because I had read all about this too. Most first pregnancies go past the due date so even though I was a little frustrated I also expected this. I took walks every day and immersed myself in crafty projects to keep busy.
Finally after two weeks past my scheduled due date, my midwife suggested induction. I showed up at the hospital feeling way too pregnant and ready to “do this thing.” Except the first induction didn’t take. So they tried again and finally my water broke. Ok, I thought, progress. This would be the beginning of everything that could go wrong did go wrong.
I tried getting in the water for labor, I tried a birthing ball, I tried walking and rocking but dealing with pain was incredibly difficult and every time they checked me I wasn’t making much progress. After eight hours I relented to an epidural—that didn’t take. I felt all of the pain on one side of my body and the other side was completely numb which meant I could no longer get out of bed. This was a new kind of hell.
And then the real scary stuff started to happen. The baby’s heartbeat began to drop and a group of nurses and doctors rushed in. They kept turning me from side to side, had me attempt to get on my hands and knees (tough to do when you are partially numb) and inserted a scalp monitor on the baby’s head to better monitor his heartbeat. All of this culminated in an emergency C-section after a placenta abruption.
I am happy to say that everything turned out alright and I did have a healthy baby boy, but this was the beginning of not being able to plan anything ever again.
This thought occurred to me yesterday morning as I was getting ready for work and trying desperately to find a matching sock to wear. I finally gave in a wore one with a hole in it since I was already running behind for the morning. Time is something I can never seem to have enough of anymore and my life has become full of unexpected occurrences and “making do” with whatever I can at the moment—whether that be a hole in one of my socks or waking up early on the weekend do get work done.
This overdue, complication-filled, harrowing labor and delivery was my initiation to what motherhood is really like. The good thing is, you learn to make the best out of any situation and deal with everything as it comes. On the flip side, sometimes I lose myself in that process.
In the beginning it may be breastfeeding around the clock and sleep deprivation. Sometimes it’s taking a lower part-time position to free up more time for family, or quitting a job altogether. Learning to stretch a dollar on a dwindling income becomes a quickly learned skill for some, and so is growing eyes in the back of our heads to look after wandering toddlers.
Some days I no longer remember the person I was before I embarked on that harrowing journey in the delivery room. A vague memory of a young woman comes to mind, that slept in on the weekends and never had holes in her socks.
As I peek down at my un-pedicured feet in yoga class and attempt to let my hamstrings release at least a little, I realize that self-neglect is inevitable. We are expected to put ourselves last.
While sometimes I hear of women that are mothers and still find time for pedicures and yoga retreats, I’m not sure I have ever actually met one of these people. Sure, I try to stuff in just a bit of time here and there for myself to stay sane, but as a whole I spend a bulk of my time doing mom stuff, and the other part trying to hang on to something that resembles a career. I know that some may read this and say that isn’t true or this is a fast route to burn-out, I’m sure many can also relate.
Nothing—not books, DVDs, accounts from other mothers—can prepare us for this. So what is the pay-off for it? What is the point if we are no longer the person we once were?
I was talking with a friend yesterday who is also a mom. We both agreed that we had no idea how hard being a mom would be before this. Never in my life have I ever had such extreme feelings of joy, heartbreak, fear, worry, passion, and elatedness than I have since I have had children. The feelings I have experienced—first smile, first scrape, first report card, first dance, first date—are unmatched with anything.
As I finally pull the covers over my head at the end of the night and retreat into a quick dream-filled slumber I think fondly of that naive girl that thought she could be prepared for motherhood. What a silly girl she was.
As for what lies ahead tomorrow, bring it on.
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Ed: Sara Crolick
Photo Credit: Pixoto