Wednesday, June 3, 2015

To Myself, 365 Days Ago (The Birth of a Mother)

This IS real labor, by the way.

mid-contraction before heading to the hospital June 4
You think Ross is taking the day off to set up the nursery tomorrow, but shit is about to get a lot more real than that. Spoiler alert: the nursery crib will not be assembled, nor will the kitchen countertops be installed before you become a mother. You might POSSIBLY know that somewhere deep down, because you sure did freak out about Ross needing to take a random Wednesday off of work.

But holy crap... denial is the best labor tool ever (although your doula is a close second).  But seriously. From the first painful contraction that came during shift report this morning, to 4:29pm tomorrow when you meet the little one who has been in there all this time, will stretch 33.5 hours of contractions. But you will really only feel like you're in labor for 4 hours, because that's the amount of time you officially had to wrap your head around the idea.

Four hours from the moment your Midwife said, "we're going to do a direct admit to L and D right now," to the moment it was suddenly all over. Just like that. And of course, "just like that" foreshadows the entire year to follow, as well.  

during our brief stay in L and D
Just like that, contractions give way to a chubby-cheeked cherub. Just like that, he goes from being a sleepy newborn to a colicky baby. Just like that, he goes from being a talkative wiggle-worm to a baby who can crawl and pull up and get into everything. Just like that, he grows from one size to the next, breaking your heart a little each time you have to change out the clothes. Just like that, 11 months in, occasionally starts to sleep through the night at last, and on those days you already start to forget the mind-numbing fatigue you felt from months 5-6 when he wouldn't sleep for more than 90 minutes at a time.

Let me just give you a hug right now. For 38.5 weeks, you thought labor was the end. But really, it's the very beginning. Not only was a baby born that sunny day in June that dawned after a stormy night, but two clueless parents were born as well. You and Ross didn't know it, but you were about to embark upon an anxious, overwhelming, wonderful, blessed, sleepless, tear-stained, hilarious, frustrating, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful year. It won't take you long to realize that your work experience is useless, and everything is new again when the baby under your care is your own, 24/7/365.

Welcome to the hardest and best year of your life. A year in which you will learn that all those annoying mom cliches are there for a reason. Time flies. They're not little for long. The days are long, but the years are short. You'll realize all of this fairly quickly, and you'll FEEL it all. The highs will be higher, the lows will be lower. Your heart IS walking around outside of your body, and it takes your breath away when you feel the weight of that. Sometimes the weight will be golden and awe-some, in a let's-have-5,000-more-babies sort of way. Other times it will feel impossibly heavy, like you are doomed to failure and no mere mortal should ever be given so much responsibility as to be the caretaker of a little soul.

You will start panicking that "he's already a year old" around 9 months and you will keep reminding yourself, we had only just bought our house this time last year... I was still hanging drywall this time last year... he flipped breech this time last year and I started swimming laps to encourage him to flip back...

Post-partum will kick your butt. You will go to physical therapy for muscles you neeever knew existed. Due to that pain, the first 6 weeks of newborn-ness will crawl by like one long, anxious, tightly-wound day. And when the haze ends suddenly, and time starts traveling at warp speed? You'll want those sweet, snuggly, blurry first 6 weeks back.

Just when you start to feel comfortable with one aspect of Noah's babyhood, everything changes. For better and for worse. Arching, crying, and screaming finally give way to a more comfortable baby when he starts Prilosec. Painful thrush and a poor latch give way to an awesome breastfeeding relationship. Post-partum pain gives way to extreme gratitude for body parts you used to take for granted. But also... exclusive breastfeeding, gives way to introducing solids. Happy wiggles give way to mobility. Two naps (which you fought for tooth and nail) will soon give way to one nap.

And the first year gives way to the second. You made it! Cue the waterworks.


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