Behind the Curtain of Motherhood

After having my second baby girl, I expected to love her immediately, just as I had with my first. I knew in my head that love would multiply as our family grew from three to four, but I was both surprised and disappointed that it didn’t happen that quickly.  When my brand new baby #2 was placed in my arms, she was a total stranger to me. Only her hands and toes were familiar, resembling those of her older sister’s.  I had just one ultrasound picture of her at 19 weeks, and even then, she looked nothing like that grainy black and white glossy print I kept on my dresser.  For the first week, she slept beautifully all day, but at 11pm, she would become frantic, wide-eyed, and her rapid breathing sounded like a dog sniffing out a scent.  She only would be consoled in my arms attached to my breast.  As soon as I laid her back down into her bassinet, she would let out these ear-piercing screeches that neither my husband nor I could ignore.  Finally, she would sleep at 2am.  At times, I wanted to cry because I was so beyond tired, and knew I had to be awake and alive for my older daughter, which made me cry harder thinking that I would be anything less than 100% present.  I even became resentful of this helpless baby, who was only trying to obtain comfort from me.  As her mother, I was her only source of familiarity in this world, yet she was unfamiliar to me.  In those fitful hours, I prayed desperate prayers for strength, wisdom, peace, joy, and love for my baby.

Those first few weeks after having baby #2 were not the golden-lit, rainbow-shimmering days I’d dreamed of.  Although I was so thankful we were able to bring home a healthy baby, there was even more going on emotionally and physically than I could have imagined.  I had a vacant belly that squished like a whoopee cushion, a sore tailbone that made sitting or standing painfully uncomfortable for six weeks, and for the first two weeks, I woke up drenched in sweat, sometimes more than once a night. My hormones were violently crashing inside my brain like swarming bees after their nest got knocked down.  Those hormones that kept my baby inside me for forty weeks were now frantically trying to escape, and they would come out in the form of spontaneously erupting sweat and tears.  And oh, the tears.

My mom had come to stay with us for two weeks, and my baby girl was born halfway through her visit. My dad, brother, and sister all drove out together for that last weekend of her stay, so that all four of them could leave together.  Instead of enjoying having my whole family here that Saturday, I was close to tears and sobbing all day, as if Hope Floats and The Notebook had been on 24-hour repeat. I was a weepy mess, homesick for them even while we were all still together in my family room. I was so sad on behalf of my two-year-old girl, that her GranPam would be gone.  Even though we both could tell that by the end of the second week my mom was with us, we each needed some “alone time,” I missed her reassuring presence and her wisdom.  On top of that, my oldest was going to be getting less than half of me while I would be adjusting to having another baby.   My husband thankfully would start his paternity leave for two weeks, so I wouldn’t be parenting alone, but I missed my mom something fierce. That first week my husband was home, I was in such a funk that Mike probably wished he could have gone back to work.   I remember that on the first Monday we were alone, he tried to make me laugh, and I just couldn’t.  “Why don’t you laugh, Meekah?” he cajoled, calling me by my nickname. “If I open my mouth to say anything, I’m going to cry,” I blurted, as tears threatened and burned the corners of my eyes.  I can’t remember ever being so detached and flat as I was that week.

Over two months have passed since my second baby was born.  I can now look back and thank God for bringing me through those tough first few weeks.  I’m so thankful for my mom friends who encouraged me in person, over the phone, and in writing.  I no longer get blurry eyed when asked how I’m doing.  My hormones have reached their equilibrium, my hollow belly is starting to resemble my pre-baby body, I’m having no more night sweats, and I don’t think about my tailbone sitting or standing.  My baby is consistently giving me eight hours of sleep at night in a stretch, which does wonders for my mood and overall state of being.   My two-year-old has also adjusted.  She still gets to spend quality time with her mama, just not as much as she used to. But it’s okay.  She loves her baby sister.  And while I didn’t bond immediately with my baby girl as I did with my firstborn, my love has surely multiplied.  Like a forest fire that started with a single spark, that is how my love grew for my baby girl.  I can’t imagine our family without her.  I look at her and now see the one dimple on her left cheek that comes from my own mother. Her hair is going to be my color. She smiles and interacts with us, and I know her now.  She’s no longer alien, but part of me.  Part of us.

 

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Baby #2 Birth Day

My baby girl is nearly six weeks old, and I can hardly believe that much time has passed.  The first three weeks after she was born felt like one of the longest days ever, a slow-motion yawn.  Now that I’m getting at least four hours of sleep in a row for the past week, I’m back to feeling human and my days are distinct entities again.

At my last OB appointment on March 12th, it was a Monday and two days past my due date.  My belly was round and swollen, I was so pregnant I was truly waddling, and completely uncomfortable.  At that appointment, I was 4.5 cm dilated but no signs of real labor.  Given that my 40th birthday was looming at the end of May, my OB didn’t want me to carry past 40 weeks.  He insisted we schedule an induction by Friday of that week, and I reluctantly agreed.  My mom was with me and she knew I was bummed.  She and my dad had been visiting all weekend, and my mom was planning to stay for two weeks so that she could be with me in the delivery room and then help with both girls afterwards.  My dad had come so that he could stay with our 21-month-old while we were at the hospital, but since no baby came over the weekend, he went back home a few hours away.  I was hoping for no medical interventions at all for this baby, but it didn’t seem like that was how it was going to go.  I hoped that I’d spontaneously start contracting well before the induction Friday morning, even trying a “labor inducing” pizza and other spicy foods each night, with no result.

My dad drove back to our house late Thursday night so he could stay with our oldest while we were at the hospital.  This time at least, his trip would be fruitful.  I woke up on Friday morning nauseous with anxiety about how the day would go.  Would the induction take all day?  Would it be longer than that?  How would our oldest handle sharing me?  How would I handle having two babies under two years old?

My mom and I checked in at the front desk as my husband Mike parked the car.  I requested a room with a jacuzzi tub, so we were escorted to a nice big, bright room that opened to a perfect view of the construction on the hospital.  My nurse came in and introduced herself, and immediately, she calmed my fears.  I was set up with an IV drip, and the contraction and baby heart monitors were strapped around my belly.  Surprisingly, I was already contracting before the labor-inducing pitocin was hooked up around 9am.  My body was already preparing for labor, which made me relieved we weren’t going to oust this baby before she was ready.  Much to the nurses’ surprise, my OB allowed me to order food all day since I hadn’t agreed yet to the epidural.  As the pitocin dripped slowly into my system, the clock ticked away, and I paced the same hall back and forth in front of the nurses’station with my mom, Mike, and my IV pole all dutifully by my side.  Periodically, the OB would come in and check my progress.  Although my contractions were becoming regular, they were not strong.  I hadn’t dilated much more by 6pm, but the pitocin and my body had done much work.  Mike joked that it would be fun to have a baby on St. Patrick’s Day (the next day), but I sure as heck didn’t want to be in labor that long.  I was allowed to order dinner, and at 6:30 my meal tray was placed on the cart next to me.  I was rocking in the rocking chair in my room, when the strongest contraction yet hit me.  My baby kicked or punched me so hard in retaliation to that contraction, that I felt it in the cushion of the rocking chair and I jumped.  A minute later, I felt a POP! and a gush of warm fluid like a dam opening up released from me.  My water had broken!  As hungry as they were, Mike and my mom were pumped.  Not only was my baby going to come soon, they were going to be able to eat my dinner.  After my water broke, my contractions exponentially intensified and were coming faster and lasting longer.  As I pushed the air out through a contraction, I could barely stand upright, and the pain was causing me to double over.  My nurse said, “If you want your epidural, you should get it now.”  Given that my epidural didn’t work until my first baby girl literally was coming out of me, I was still on the fence about even asking for an epidural this time.  However, my idea of a “natural birth” was pretty much thwarted already by getting induced, so I was not adamantly opposed.  Also knowing that an experienced anesthesiologist was going to place it, rather than someone in training (like last time) set my mind at ease and made up my mind.  No jacuzzi tub for me.  Give me the drugs.

A half hour later, my epidural was placed and I couldn’t believe how easy labor was once the epidural worked.  I felt like I was cheating.  At 8pm, my nurse checked my progress and had me do a practice push.  She realized that I could deliver the baby right then, so she told me that we were done practicing, and let the OB doc know via a page.  We all joked that my pediatrician husband might have to deliver our baby if the OB didn’t arrive soon.  Nearly an hour later, the doctor strode in and she had me push four times, and that was all it took.  At 9:07pm, the doc allowed Mike to bring our baby out into the world, which made his night.  This wet, wax-covered chubby baby with thick dark hair was placed on my bare chest.  She smelled like a penny and I held her wonderingly as she wriggled wide-eyed and tested out her lungs and vocal cords.

During the downtime that afternoon, we’d all placed our bets how much this baby would weigh.  Given that my belly was considerably bigger this time, I knew this baby was going to be heavier than our 7lb 11oz first baby.  Sure enough, the scale read 9lb 3.5oz!  She was a whopper!  So many things were different at this delivery, but in both events, we brought home a healthy, beautiful baby girl.  I am a blessed mama indeed.

 

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RELEASE Fear, Embrace Joy

Today, I’m writing with the Five Minute Friday community writing group, and this week’s word is RELEASE.  If you’d like to join in, the linkup is here.

I admit, I am a bit of a control freak.  Since becoming a mother, that compulsive need for control has only gotten stronger.  As a parent, it is our job to provide for our children, making sure they are safe, dry, fed, and warm.  The needs of being dry, fed, and warm I can swallow.  But the safe part is where I start panicking.  Fear of the future can paralyze me, and literally squeeze my chest so that I can’t breathe.  I know I won’t always be there to protect my girls.  I can’t be their shield against mean words, cold actions, or physical harm when they aren’t with me, and if I let that fear take over, I’ll never let them leave my side.  But these girls weren’t given to me solely for my pleasure.  I know they have a purpose and a plan for their lives that God himself has planted in their hearts.  Their purposes reach far out from me, and will touch countless lives.  I must release these precious girls into the hands of God my Father.  My girls are his gifts to me, but my God-given role is to make sure the gifts He has given my girls are encouraged to grow and be used to show the world His love.  The Bible verse that has been repeatedly appearing to me since last summer is Proverbs 31:25.

She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.

So, I release my fears to the Lord and will laugh with joy, trusting that my family and the future are in His hands.

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Adjusting to life after Baby #2

Our newest baby girl is now 18 days old and life has been radically changed. For the first two weeks, my head was in a haze, a dark thick fog in which I was not quite present. We were up well past midnight with a baby trying to figure out day from night. She’s slowly learning that we all prefer her awake time to be during the day. While pregnant, she kicked and rocked inside my belly all through the night, which was perfectly fine with me then, since those movements confirmed to me she was healthy and growing. Now that she’s outside the womb, those kicks and pterodactyl squawks between 11pm and 2am are not so eagerly anticipated or welcome. The hardest challenge for me has not been the lack of sleep; it’s been that I have a now 22-month-old daughter who is used to having 100% of me 100% of the time. Since coming home from the hospital, she’s gotten about 45% of me, which breaks my heart. I can tell her little face falls when she comes downstairs all warm and squishy from sleep, and I’m holding her baby sister instead of being the one reaching my arms out to hold her, or being the one to get her out of bed in the first place. Most of the time, she does kiss her baby sister on the head or will press her face against her sister’s in a leaning hug. Every once in a while, however, I see this flash of something wild in her eyes and she either lunges at her little sister’s head with her fingernails or whatever object she has in her hands. It rips my heart out of my chest to think that she’s feeling left out or less loved. My husband and I always wanted to have two children, either biological or through adoption. Our intention was to have a built-in playmate and best friend for our kids, not to raise a spoiled only child. Eventually, I know our girls will be best friends, but I had no idea how hard this transition period would be emotionally. The night before going in to the hospital, I held my daughter tight, while I cried openly just thinking about how our relationship would never be the same once our new baby came home. Her sweet big blue eyes looked at me, and said, “Shut the sad off, Momma.” She had no idea why I was crying, or why her daddy and I would be gone at the hospital for two days. She had no idea that when we would return home, we would have a new baby that would forever change our family dynamic. Yes, she knew in theory that “Baby Sister” was in Momma’s belly and that her heartbeat sounded like a swish-swish underwater (she had attended every OB appointment with me and observed the ultrasound heartbeat checks while sitting on my lap), but I think that was the extent of her understanding at 20 months old. Nearly every day for two weeks after having our baby, I’d cry hugging my oldest girl tight, overcome with emotion. Any time I laughed, she would look watchfully at me, and say, “Momma not crying,” so I could assure her I was indeed laughing and not crying. Now that I’m in post-partum week three, the mind fog is dissipating, the tears are shutting off, and my hormones are finding their equilibrium.   Our family of now four is still in transition, figuring out our new schedule, our new dynamic, and how we all fit together. A wild, untamed, and uncharted future is ahead of us, but with lots of prayer, love, and laughter, and with some sleep, we will move forward. Both of our girls will know how much they are loved and wanted, and we will all look back and wonder how we ever lived without the other.

 

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Five Minute Friday: New Baby, New Routine

Today, I’m writing with the Five Minute Friday community writing group, and this week’s word is ROUTINE.  If you’d like to join in, the linkup is here.

Foggy head

blurry eyes

sharp pain with every move.

Hearing beeps and alarms at all hours

blood pressure cuff squeezing my arm

needles poking my hands to check my blood.

A new baby laying next to me

helpless and utterly dependent on me for life.

Time for me to pee

please don’t hurt, I silently pray.

My movements are sluggish and I think in slow motion.

Time to go home and introduce baby girl to big sister,

be a mother of two.

I’m still not all here emotionally or physically

But life will fall into a new routine

and this fog will lift.

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Five Minute Friday: Pregnant Momma TIRED

Today, I’m writing with the Five Minute Friday community writing group, and this week’s word is TIRED.  If you’d like to join in, the linkup is here.

I was due with Baby Girl #2 on Saturday, March 10, and today is Wednesday.  Four days late (so far).  I’m so ready to meet my baby, and I’m fully aware that once she arrives, a whole new kind of tired will be washing over me.  That will be the tired from feedings every two hours, and from having two little girls under two years old.  Regardless, I will be so excited to not have to pull my ankles up onto my knees in order to wrestle socks over my feet, to not feel constricted by my pants or underwear simply because they sit around my waist, to not be so off balance when trying to one-handedly get on my shoes, and to finally be able to get up off the floor without grunting.  As a back sleeper, I can’t wait to ditch the body pillow and the prop pillow behind me keeping me on my left side every night.  I’m sure my husband is looking forward to that day, too, so he can claim his half of the bed again.  I feel exhausted as soon as I wake up, sore, uncomfortable, and only two shirts I own actually cover my entire belly.  I don’t believe I’ve ever been so tired in my life- except maybe at the end of a three-day, 75 mile-a-day bike ride through the mountains.   Actually, no, that still doesn’t compare.

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Five Minute Friday: REGRET no more

Today, I’m writing with the Five Minute Friday community writing group, and this week’s word is Regret.  If you’d like to join in, the linkup is here.

As humans, we all probably have borne our share of regret.  Regret that we weren’t able to spend more time with the people who meant something to us, regret that we allowed that horrible relationship to continue for as long as it did, regret that we held on to that grudge when it only hurt us and not the person we resented, regret that we didn’t start sooner on pursuing a dream.  The list could go on.  But what good is regret?  None!  Beating ourselves up over something we now have clarity on only shrouds us in shame.  God’s mercy and forgiveness is new every morning, like the sunrise.  Let’s believe it, accept it into our hearts, pick ourselves up, and simply start over.  Send that Thank you card.  Pick up the phone.  Start that hustle.  Say good-bye to that person for good.  Believe that while we are all fallible, you are loved unconditionally by the One who made you.

 

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