This guest post is part of our Month of Mothering. We’re featuring the words of women (and a few men!) from a variety of walks of life. In recognition that all mothers want what’s best for their baby, and knowing we all have different ways of achieving that, we welcome commentaries and experiences from mothers of all different philosophies and practices. Please note that the opinions expressed and baby care techniques used are reflective of the individual posters only, and do not imply endorsement or recommendation of the Other Baby Book.
1) Every mom is different
2) Every pregnancy is different
3) Every baby is different
4) Your mileage may vary!
Weeks 1-4: Pregnancy feels like PMS, the “syndrome” responsible for fueling millions of freak-outs world-wide every single month. On the fifth try, my breasts were huge, my period was late, and I eventually got my two lines. Pregnant!
Weeks 4-12: Who signed me up for this? I eat ricecakes, mac and cheese, and popcorn. (Also pickles and pepperoncini and anchovies) I’m not throwing up, but upon waking, I promptly regret my very existence. *WHAM* – it hits me. I am on my queasy boat, rolling over high seas for the rest of the day. I gag on food and choke at smell. I miss so much work it is embarrassing. I can’t think straight. How do women keep their jobs? How do moms do this with a baby to look after?
The exhaustion! The mood swings! When I wasn’t curled up on the floor, (who has the energy to crawl to the couch for a nap?) I was hurling things across the room in rage. I am proud that I never threw anything directly at my husband. Small victory for love in the face of killer hormones.
Weeks 12-39: Peace! Tranquility! Health! Happiness! Pregnancy is WONDERFUL! I’ve never been so content and calm in my entire life. Can’t you see the glow? Somehow, I grow a baby. No big deal.
Weeks 39-41: I’m still happy and peaceful, but the OBs are not. I research interventions on a daily basis. I consent to fetal monitoring, reluctantly attend too many ultrasounds, but refuse induction. My OB is supportive. Others are clearly surprised, even annoyed. Next time, I want a midwife.
Quite the adventure, challenging, but never scary. To me, labor is a yogic experience. At home, it was peaceful and spiritual. In the hospital, it was harder. There were distractions: vomiting, shaking, exhaustion. I diverged from my labor plan (it’s okay! Good practice for what’s to come). I chose my props: first an IV for fluids and anti-nausea meds to stop the incessant vomiting, eventually an epidural. “It’s not the pain,” I tell my friends. “It’s the exhaustion that gets you.” They nod politely. I wouldn’t have understood it either.
Incredible. I wake to push my sweet baby girl into this world. To see her pruney little head for the first time was breathtaking.
The Hospital and everything after
Mayhem! Suction for the baby, stitches for me, how many doctors? How many nurses? How many tests? I don’t remember. I bleed shockingly. Childbirth was nothing compared to the treatment for hemorrhage. Expectations and plans fly out the window. It’s okay. The baby gets to breast eventually. I survive my bleeding and Elsie (who barely has a name) is safe in the nursery. She gets a couple of milliliters of sugar water and a pacifier, and I manage to go with the flow. She never has a single moment of trouble nursing.
But I do!
Life with baby
0-2 Months: “These are the best days of your life,” old women assure me, as I walk with my newborn. They’re wrong. For me, the first two months are survival. Survival from my pain, exhaustion, mental fog, and baby blues. “It’ll be alright!” I tell my friends, going through it now. “It gets better. So much better! I promise!”
2+ mo: From here, it’s all a mad dash to the present – 17 months. Last night, I asked my mom, “When did Elsie roll over? When did she sit up?” I don’t even remember when she took her first steps.
Here, the neat divisions of pregnancy and developmental literature break down. I no longer measure by the week or trimester. To be a mom is not to worry so much about the why or the when or how this differs from the plan. Now I measure in what Elsie can do today.
Today, Elsie can talk in phrases. “Read this!” She says, toddling up to me with a favorite book. Today, Elsie can tell me “I love you!” and run up to give me a hug and a kiss. Today, she is getting another tooth and drooling all over her pretty shirt. Today, she is ticklish and giggly. Today, to be Elsie’s mom is to quit worrying so much about the next and quit dwelling so much on the past. Elsie pulls me to the “now” and roots me here, solidly. Why would I ever want to remember everything so perfectly if it means missing out on a single moment of this joyous time? Perhaps THESE days with Elsie are the best days of my life. But I can’t be sure. I’m far too busy enjoying my daughter to keep track!
Kate Carson lives in the Boston area with her husband, Evan, and daughter, Elsie (17 mo). She studies chemical engineering at Tufts University and aims to wrap up a masters degree soon so that she can concentrate more on her lovely family and vegetable garden. Kate writes a blog, Kate’s Makin’ Babies, about the ups and downs of pregnancy and motherhood.