One year ago today I was being taken to an operating room, my face red from crying. I felt defeated and exhausted. I remember apologizing to my doctors, to the nurses, to anyone who would listen because my body couldn’t perform the basic function I was told it could. I remember hating myself. I remember not feeling confident enough to even look at John. I remember praying that this was really the best decision. And I remember her cry and her tiny nose. Out of everything, for some reason, I remember her nose. The first time I saw it, it crinkled, as if to wave to me via nose. And as soon as I saw that crinkle, the anxiety, the failure, and the exhaustion just vanished. And I just counted the minutes until my arms were no longer paralyzed so I could hold that beautiful baby and kiss that beautiful nose.
It’s strange. The first time I held Abby, once the anesthesia wore off, I don’t remember being scared, or anxious, or worried. I just felt…peace, as if this was the exact place I was supposed to be. I stared at those eyes as they fluttered and kissed the beautiful nose, and I took in that sweet smell of my newborn baby girl. It took a long time for us to finalize her name. Abigail came almost suddenly to John, but we didn’t decide on her middle name until I was breathing through contractions. But I remember looking at that beautiful face and thinking, how could you be called anything else. You are Abigail Lynn and no one else.
I can’t believe it has been a year since that terrifying and exhilarating day. Abby has been with us for 365 days and I can’t even remember life without her. We’ve been through sickness and smiles, outdoor strolls and snow days, first real food and first real spit ups. And now that a year has passed, I can honestly say, with every being of myself, this has been the hardest year of my life. Becoming a mother felt difficult, but no where has hard as actually being one. Nothing will ever be the same, not my mindset, not my marriage, and certainly not my body (especially not my body). John and I have had to redefine our relationship and continue to do so as the time passes. We’ve been together more than a decade. We know almost all of each other’s stories. I can read him like a book. But everything changed when I saw her placed in his arms for the first time. Watching John become a father. Watching him with his little sidekick has been breathtaking. While she has my eyes and my hair, she has his faces and his sense of humor.
Every day this year has been different than the last. She’s learning new things every day. Any day now, she’ll take an independent step. Followed by her first word. And before we know it, 18 years will have flown by. I’m looking forward to the adventures of every day. Abby changed my life. She showed me what it is to love a new kind of love. She showed me what it is to truly worry about someone on a new level. Abigail made a mom and I’ll never be the same.
Dear Perfect Mother,
I wanted to apologize. You probably haven’t realized how much I envy your life – every aspect seems perfect and unattainable. Since the moment you announced your pregnancy, I’ve been comparing our lives and striving to match you in every way. You see, when you announced your pregnancy, I was still hiding mine. Our children are one month apart – and since you entered motherhood a month before me, it makes it easy to get trapped in the comparison battle. And each month your daughter reached a milestone and Abby didn’t, I assumed it was my fault. And each month when you thrived through motherhood and I barely survived, I assumed I was doing it all wrong.
You beam with pride at being able to nurse for 10 months and your plans to keep going to that year mark, each time expressing how surprised you were by how much you loved this special bond you’ve been able to grow through nursing. I spent the first three weeks of Abby’s life crying over thoughts of breastfeeding and never enjoying time with her before making the switch to formula. And while I am very proud of you, as I am of all parents who happily feed their child, and while I know that formula feeding was the best decision for me, I still envy your joy from nursing. When your doctor told you that your only choice in delivery was to have to get a C-section, you pushed the envelope and delivered your child in the way you’ve always dreamed. And while I know you don’t realize that my mind floods with these thoughts, I felt as though I’ve failed because I couldn’t and you could.
Every time I turn around, you’ve mastered another skill. Your daughter’s hair is always beautiful and neat, while Abby regularly attends daycare with hair that matches a troll doll. You run a business, keep an orderly home, and do it all with poise and a smile. I work a traditional 9-5, am the mom who picks up last, and is always rushing from one spot to the next. Not to mention laundry has been sitting in my dryer for about a week at this point, and I’m constantly dropping Abby off at daycare wearing only one sock – I swear I put one on her before we left the house. Your baby girl has been sleeping through the night since month one. Abby woke up at 1:30 am this morning just because she wanted to be held. You lost the baby weight in no time. I’ve eaten peanut butter from the jar as dinner on more than one occasion. You flew to another country with your baby and never once expressed obstacles or fear. We took an eight hour road trip to Virginia to visit John’s family over Thanksgiving that ended up in a screaming match and a child covered in poop. You volunteer locally, host large gatherings, and keep up with every hobby you had during your pre-mother stage. I barely can keep up with this personal blog (as is quite evident from the lack of posts since October). And recently, you announced with not one ounce of fear that you are expecting baby number two. And while I’m so incredibly happy for you and your family, my mind is haunted by thoughts that I would never survive. I can barely keep my head (and finances) above water with just one, and while we dream of growing our family even more, I know we are no where ready for that leap. And I feel shame admitting that I’m lost, and scared, and have no clue what I’m doing.
I have spent countless nights examining every action, every decision, every moment, trying to solve the puzzle as to why the world would allow some to excel at motherhood while some are struggling. And then further debating if it was actually just me. Perhaps I am the only one who is struggling and the rest of the world has figured it out. And I envied you and loathed me and wished to have your expertise and felt completely lost.
And then, the week before Christmas, on an after-hours business call, while attempting to keep a teething Abby from screaming by cuddling her close in one arm, and organizing paperwork in the other, and apologizing for the noise, the woman on the other line was in awe of my ability to keep my life running. She called me supermom. She probably doesn’t realize it, but her admission of not being able to juggle managing my growing portfolio and a baby changed me. It made a deep impact in me that day. Being on the phone, she in no way noticed the bags under my eyes from spending the early hours soothing a baby, or the hour-old spit up on my shoulder, or the toys scattered around the room, but she noticed (and commented on) my professionalism, my ability to remember countless details about multiple programs, and finalizing plans for new events without missing a beat. To her, it appeared I was keeping it together, or more so, I was thriving. I was Supermom.
So, perfect mother, I wanted to apologize. Through this journey, I did the one thing I promised I would never do – compared my own journey to someone else’s. I tried to fit my piece into a puzzle that was not mine to play. And I realize now, that perhaps you do not have it completely together – and if you do, I truly am proud of you and your journey. But, it is your journey, not mine. I have to keep that in mind. My house will never be spotless. My sink will be filled with at least two dirty bottles at all times. I’ll end up at work wearing two different shoes. I’ll remember to put socks on Abby, but they will also probably not match. I’ll continue to try to learn how to give Abby perfect pigtails, but then easily give up and put on a headband that she’ll immediately thrash onto the floor.
Perfect mother, who I have envied constantly, I’m sorry. You truly are an amazing woman. And I do honestly wish I had your secrets, your composure, and your stamina on some days, but I’m learning to understand that I may not need it as much as I thought I did. Congratulations on being an incredible person and mom, and to your newest adventure. Just because our paths are different from one another, it doesn’t mean that either is better. Thank you for letting me live in your shadow, because it has taught me to stand alone.
To my readers, I apologize for the delays in posting. Since Halloween, life has gotten a bit hectic and complicated. It appears the dust has settled and I’m jumping back. I promise to post updates regarding all the things you my have missed and hope you’ll stick with me.
So this past weekend, I did something I never thought I could do. Something that has been terrifying me for some time now. And something that I pretended wouldn’t bother me one bit. I watched Abby all by myself for an entire weekend.
Let me back up for a minute. The last time I was completely alone with Abby for an extended period of time was maternity leave. While I did love my time with her, I also loved the moment when John would walk in the door to give me a much needed break. A break that did not involve being the sole person in charge of feeding, diapers, and rocking a newborn to sleep. So, when John found out about a bachelor party that would be a weekend away, I panicked inside. I almost begged him not to go. But another part of me kept telling me it wasn’t a big deal. And that I was being irrational. And the constant battle between the two was just too exhausting.
John left Friday morning and didn’t return until Sunday evening. The first night, I barely slept. Basically, the world decided that my first night should include every possible obstacle as, I assume, a cruel joke. You see, on top of it being my first weekend alone with Abby, she also got her very first tooth as well as a cold and diaper rash. To say she was miserable was an understatement. She had trouble falling and staying asleep. She wasn’t interested in eating food (just wanted her bottle). And she was able to find so many random objects to stick in her mouth – tissues, dog toys, the remote. And screamed louder and louder each time I pried them away from her little (but crazy strong) hands. Friday night, she finally fell asleep at 9:30 pm, after cries and bottles and diaper changes. Then at 10 pm, I dropped an ENTIRE mug of hot chocolate all over the kitchen floor and hallway. I’m a hot chocolate junkie, so I was pretty upset by the sight of my perfect mug of chocolatey goodness all over the floor and cabinets. After an hour of scrubbing and holding the dog back from “attempting to help clean”, I gave up on relaxing and went to bed. At midnight, someone’s diaper exploded. (No, not mine) There I was, cleaning a crib, a child, and clothes all by nightlight, in hopes that she would not enter her “fully awake stage.” Finally, I sat down and attempted to rock her to sleep. And just as she was falling asleep and I was so close to my fantasy of my own bed, my animals had to crush every hope. Apparently, my pup decided it was time to run upstairs and chase the kitty – in the hallway, in Abby’s room, in the bathroom, everywhere. And, of course this was followed by nonsense barking at the empty closet as she insisted the kitty was hiding in there. No, she was hiding next to the chair I was sitting in, on the other side of the room. After all of this, Abby finally went back down at 2:30 am. And then woke up screaming just two hours later. I’m pretty sure I only survived Saturday due to the intense amount of caffeine I ingested.
Night two was a bit better – while Abby woke every 2-3 hours just wanting cuddles, it lacked poop explosions and animals trying to kill one-another. So, I call that a win. And Sunday, John was delayed getting back and Abby was cranky. I finally gave in to not accomplishing anything. Laundry laid half-folded in the living room, dishes were piling in the sink, our pantry was empty, and the kitchen floor was still slightly sticky from that missed hot chocolate. But, I gave in, and sat outside with Abby and avoided doing anything else. She was in much better spirits once I gave up going to the grocery store or running a single errand. And, smiled wide once John arrived home.
I’m actually incredibly proud of myself for surviving. It was a very difficult weekend for me. And I was terrified going into it. I assumed everything would go wrong, nothing would get accomplished, and I end up crying in a corner (or packing a bag and skipping town). For the most part, everything did go wrong. Abby was sick and cranky. I accomplished zero tasks (including washing necessary items for daycare – sorry daycare!). But, I survived. And just knowing that I CAN do it, makes me feel more like a mom. I’m ready and able to survive nights and weekends completely alone. Though, I’m so happy John is home, if only so I can have a spare moment to pour myself a glass of wine.
Since getting pregnant, I joined way more online mommy groups than I probably should have and I’ve left a majority of them just as quickly. The ones I’m still in consist of three groups – those that provide interesting and scientific research; those that I’m a member of just because of sheer laziness to leave; and the very few that I’m completely in love with. Seriously, the moms and moms to be in that last subgroup are filled with some of the most amazing women I know. It really is a lifesaver knowing you are in a close group with people who are going through the same things as you. They are there when you have a question about bottle types, need some advice on poop color, amount, time-between, etc. (yes we talk about poop consistently), or when you just want to complain about the fact that your two week old will only stop crying if you are standing and swaying non-stop, even after five hours and when it’s 2 am and all you want to do is pee or just eat a banana. That’s when real bonding happens.
Anyway, recently a few of the moms-to-be in my groups have been opening up about being harassed about bullied about their birthing decisions – specifically, having a c-section. Once again, why do people feel the need to judge? And, more importantly, how do moms even have the energy. Right now, I’m bouncing a baby old on my left knee, petting a pup with my right foot, and attempting to drink my coffee before it gets cold (while blogging). And, if I had any more mental capacity, it would be used to figure out how to warm my coffee in a microwave so it tastes fresh and not like a layer of burnt espresso on top of day-old cold coffee. Seriously moms, how do you have the energy for anything else?
So, as someone who was berated before, during and following Abby’s delivery, I thought I’d share some insights about C-section judgments.
Here are a few things you may hear if you are scheduled for or had a C-section:
“You took the easy way out.”
Oh yes! Having a C-section is 100% the “easy way out.” Being numb from your neck down while someone slices through you is completely “easy.” Climbing out of a bed while your abs are still healing to feed your newborn is an incredibly easy way out.
“It’s unhealthy for the baby / You should know better.”
Yes, we were meant to birth children through our vaginas. I get that. But guess what – that doesn’t happen in every case. Apparently, in many cases, a c-section is necessary for a variety of factors (such as the baby being breech, low heart rate during delivery, etc.). And Abby was perfectly healthy at birth and is perfectly healthy now.
“You poor thing, forced to have a c-section.”
I want to set the record straight. I was not forced to have a c-section. I actually didn’t want one. I wanted to have Abby the “traditional” way, but that didn’t happy. And guess what, I tried very hard to push out my 9 pound + baby, but I couldn’t. And at the end, a c-section was the only way to get her out. So I made the decision to do what was best for her. No one forced me to do anything.
“You’re not a real mom if you don’t have your baby natural” (aka vaginally).
So what does that say about people who adopt? I guess they aren’t real parents. Nope. I guess being there for your child whenever they need, holding them when they are sick, and soothing them when they are sad does not make you a real parent unless you birthed that kiddo through your vagina.
This last comment actually is the worst one I heard. And it was the one that actually resulted in most of my tears leading up to Abby’s birth and even after. You see, when you have a c-section, you don’t get to hold your baby right away. Your arms are frozen to the operating table and your baby will be brought to you. If you deliver vaginally, and everything is on par with your child, he or she is typically handed to you or laid on your chest. In my case, John got to see Abby as they cleaned and checked her. I heard her crying from across the room but couldn’t see her. Finally, he brought her to my face and all I could do was turn my head. And then, she and John left as I was sewed back up. I didn’t get to hold my baby for more than an hour. And during that time on the table, hearing the surgeons laugh and nurses tell me how adorable my baby girl looked, “you aren’t a real mom” kept replaying in my head. And in recovery, I couldn’t move my arms for what seemed like an eternity. I kept hearing nurses and doctors tell me how beautiful my baby girl looked, but she wasn’t with me. I finally was reunited with Abby in my postpartum room – hours after her birth. While other moms may have held their baby moments after birth, attempted breastfeeding, and smiled at their newest treasure, I waited with those voices replaying in my head. You’re not a real mom.
When I finally got to hold her, I didn’t let her go for a solid two hours. I soaked in as much of her as I could in this moment I wanted. And in an instant, I remember she moved slightly in my arms, opened her eyes briefly, and I cried. That was the moment I knew I was a real mom.
So, to all of my fellow moms and moms to be – you are a real mom, no matter how your child comes into the world.
- Real moms birth babies vaginally
- Real moms have c-sections
- Real moms adopt
- Real moms are the moms who are there for their child for the rest of their lives
- Judgmental moms are not worth your time!
Don’t let anyone ever tell you differently. And, for anyone who decides to share their “enlightened” look on the world in which you are not a real mom because of XYZ, you have my full permission to flood their inbox until it’s filled to capacity and no one can ever email them again with selfies of you with your baby. That is the sweetest revenge.
Do you ever feel like you aren’t “adult enough” to have a kid?
Growing up, I never remember a time when I didn’t see my parents as people who had it all figured out– whatever “it” is anyway. I never remember them worrying about paying the bills on time, that they were spending too much or too little time with us, or that we weren’t hitting milestones. Now, many of this could be because I’m the last of three children and by the third, you just completely throw the guidebook out the window – hell, you probably just give it to the first to use as a coloring book because coloring books can be way too expensive considering kids simply scratch over the page in three seconds with one color and are bored with it.
More likely, however, it was that they did worry but I was just too young to notice. They must have worried, right? Sometimes I just stare at my beautiful baby and think “wow, I really hope I don’t screw you up that much.” I mean, it’s inevitable that we are going to mess up our children to some degree. I’m a fairly adjusted member of society with a house, job, and some savings, but I will never get the hang of parallel parking, have zero idea how taxes work, and I’ll never fully remember how to spell “restaurant” (even with spellcheck, I’m doubting that this is the correct spelling). And I’m pretty terrible with dates – I almost forgot my first wedding anniversary. John is equally bad with dates, so at least neither one of us were too hurt by that (since he also almost forgot) – I really hope we don’t forget Abby’s birthday. I should probably set a reminder in my phone now.
When I think back to years ago – maybe not even that long ago –I remember imagining what my life would be like. I’d imagine that by the time I had a child, I’d be fully emerged into a career I loved, travel to exotic places every weekend, live in the coolest city in the entire world, and not once, ever worry about responsibilities or money. And I would tell myself by the time I have my own child, I will have everything figured out. Well, I don’t. I literally am just making it up as I go along. Case in point, this week we found out Abby’s fascination with laundry baskets. She can sit in one for almost an hour with no qualms. It’s amazing how much you can get done when a five-month old is entertaining herself. John thought perhaps this may be construed as “bad-parenting” so I threw some toys in there. That makes it a playpen, right? (On a side note – I mentioned this to my mother and apparently I spent a good amount of time in a laundry basket as well.)
I guess, I just want to be the best mom I can for Abby. I want her to grow up to not see us worry about finances or milestones, but to also learn the importance of responsibility. And when she does make mistakes, which she will because we all do, I want her to know she can overcome them and to learn from them. I want to help her grown and learn and be an incredible person, but I want it to also be okay if she stumbles at points, or takes a wrong turn, or never learns to parallel park. And if she doesn’t have “it” all figured out by the time she thought she would, or her plan doesn’t work out exactly as she imagined, I hope she’ll be strong enough to adjust her plan and learn to love her new path.
I apologize for being MIA for the past week. It’s been a tough week on me emotionally. This is my last week of Maternity Leave, which means on Monday morning, Abby heads off to daycare and I go back to my office after spending 20 weeks with just my baby girl.
First off, let me say how lucky I am that I was able to take so much time to spend with Abby. Secondly, how dare it make me feel “lucky” to get such a small amount of time with her. And thus, the constant battle of Maternity Leave in this Country.
So the end to Maternity Leave. I’m honestly heartbroken that it’s over. I spent most of the week soaking in as much time with Abby as I could, breaking into tears at random moments, and telling myself that it was all for the best. And every time I soothed her during hysterical cries, I would battle visions of her at daycare, unable to be calmed by teachers. How could they understand that her long cries indicated hunger but her short cries just needed cuddles? Would they cuddle her, or would they be too distracted? And in the next instance, I’d remember that they are professionals, and her teachers handle this situation everyday. And immediately, while she would still be crying in my arms as I rocked her, I’d feel defeat believing that her teachers would be able to sooth her better than I could, thus making me feel like a failure as her mom. I hate that I can’t stay with her longer, especially as she has just entered this incredible exploration stage. Her gaze follows our pup around the room, she reaches for everything possible, and she’s trying with all of her might to transition to crawling. It’s going to happen before we know it. And of course now I’m terrified that I’m going to miss that moment when she finally pulls her self up and coordinates her limbs to move across the floor.
I know it is for the best. We talked about the benefits of her going to daycare and the importance of me continuing to work – electricity, food, and a roof over our head is important. But, I just didn’t expect it to be this hard. Everyone tells me she’ll be fine, she won’t even notice, and that makes me feel even worse. I hate that she won’t even notice that I’m gone. If she doesn’t notice that I’m gone, will she even notice when I return? I’m going to miss her so much. Just the thought of leaving her is breaking my heart, and she won’t even notice that I’m not there to comfort her when she wakes up in a foreign crib, or when she is fed by a complete stranger, or when her pup isn’t there to lick her feet as she attempts to crawl.
Baby girl, you’re growing so fast. I’m sorry I have to leave you when you’re not even five months, but I’m leaving you in amazing hands. Three days a week, you’ll be at daycare with teachers and other children. Two days a week, you’ll be spoiled by Grandma. And every night, I’ll rush home to see you smile, give you diner, and read you a story before bed. Please do not worry that I won’t be there during the day. But please do not forget me either. Mommy loves you baby girl.