I have always wanted a baby. Ever since I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a mom—so much so that in college my roommate got me a “Happy Mother’s Day to this mother-to-be” card because she knew I would become one eventually. The same roommate gave a speech at my wedding reminding me of this moment, and I think it might have scared JB a little after our fast courtship. Everyone joked that we got married so fast because we were pregnant, but there was no baby until almost five years of marriage!
I’m so glad that we waited. We really got to know each other, to hang out just the two of us, go to school and try new careers. We went on spontaneous trips and dinners out in Oxford and late nights with friends. We binge-watched shows on Netflix and ignored household chores and fought about who would do the dishes next.
But now all that is different.
When we got pregnant, all I could think about was making it through the pregnancy. I’ve had so many friends with miscarriages and stillbirths, and in my job, I see complications every day from normally healthy people. Even when working in the High-Risk side of my job, the goal at the end of the day is to have a baby. And once you have that baby, you move to the complete other side of the hospital for post-partum care. So maybe I had a disconnect as to what happens “after.” I mean, I’m an educated person. I know that once you have a baby you have to parent it and look after it and raise it to be a decent human. BUT all I saw every day was the post-birth euphoria, the wave of hormones and overwhelming love that happens in the few hours after delivery. We would help moms latch, and it wouldn’t be a big deal if they actually breastfed or not. We would clean them up to move to postpartum, but they weren’t in a lot of pain because their epidurals hadn’t worn off yet or we gave them some good pain meds post-delivery.
But there’s something that happens after you have a baby. There’s a reason why well-meaning people say that “everything changes”.
You’re in pain. You just pushed a watermelon out of your vagina and it does not fully recover from it for quite some time.
You’re trying to feed your baby but feel like a blubbering idiot shoving your boob in a tiny mouth and hoping something is coming out.
Your nipples are sore and cracked because they have never had to do this before. What were boobs for before this? How are they sexy? And why do I keep leaking? The fact that I now have to wear a bra 24/7 or risk waking up in a pile of breastmilk is disheartening and feels anti-feminist.
You’re crying, and you’re not even sure why. You haven’t gotten more than two hours of consecutive sleep since you delivered, but you want to be awake to stare at your baby and make sure it’s still alive.
Speaking of keeping your kid alive, how do you fall asleep without knowing your kid is breathing the entire time? Apparently, everything can cause SIDS and you keep imagining waking up to a gray baby, so you can’t close your eyes.
So they send you home and you spend your first night crazed and scared that you will mess up and you google how to take care of a newborn because you feel inept and uneducated and HOW DO TEENAGERS DO THIS??
I spent the first two weeks mostly topless, red-eyed from no sleep, crying, and having mini panic attacks daily. How I was supposed to take care of this tiny baby? Even when we went to the pediatrician for our checkup, and he passed with flying colors, I wanted to yell, “BUT HOW DO YOU KNOW?? HE COULD HAVE A SECRET DISEASE. HOW DO YOU KNOW I WILL TAKE CARE OF HIM CORRECTLY?” But I refrained because I want to be able to take my kid there for more appointments.
As we celebrate 3 weeks of life with our tiny Shepherd, I am so, so thankful for all the help we received during this fog. We’ve had people bring us food every other day consistently. My mom stayed with us for the first two weeks and kept me sane. JB’s mom just left after spending half a week with us—taking me shopping for nursing-friendly clothes and lunch at Chick-Fil-A (this seems like such a big deal). And I have had so many friends call, text, or show up to make sure I was okay—to make sure that I knew I was doing a good job, to tell me they know how hard it is, and that whatever decision I make will be the right one for our family. I don’t have to share exactly how we are raising our kid, whether it be attachment parenting or cry it out or baby wise or WHATEVER.
We will try things, fail at some and succeed at others—that’s the method we will use.
I used to lightly judge parents for doing things like giving their kids screens or sugar or putting them on a leash, but no more! I will no longer judge parents for how they raise their kid. Unless it’s making them unsafe, like driving without a carseat or a seatbelt. Then I will say something. But now I know everyone is just trying to survive, and we’re all just doing the best we can with what we have.