Friday, November 27, 2015

a thank you note to my husband. [part three of three]

In the spirit of Thanksgiving this week, I am posting a three part series of thank you notes to some important people who have done so much to support me as I become a parent. 

To my husband, 

In all those months of pregnancy, we daydreamed and imagined what our daughter would be like and what our lives would be like with her. I'm not sure any more what we imagined, what we thought a newborn would be like, because it seems like nothing could have prepared me for what it has been like, And nothing could have prepared me for what it would be like to watch you become a father.

After more than a decade together, I thought I knew your every move. I thought I had seen every side of you and I am watching in wonder as a new side of you is revealed. When they first wheeled me into the recovery room, you played our song while you walked around the room holding our daughter, not even hours old, and I was amazed at how natural you looked and how full my heart was to see you with her. The way you hold our daughter gingerly and stare at her, softly saying her name over and over. The way she quiets when you hold her even when she fusses for me. Your willingness to get up at the worst hours just to soothe her so that I can finally lay down and rest. Thank you for letting fatherhood come to you naturally and tenderly. 

And thank you for loving me through what feels like my crash landing into motherhood. You have cared for me gently and generously in the last few weeks. You have tended to me physically, making sure I'm not lifting or straining, making sure I'm drinking enough water and eating enough vegetables and even making sure I relax with much needed beer. You've held me when I am reduced to tears. You have not shied away when I have discussed at length my terribly un-glamorous postpartum body issues. You've encouraged me in every difficult moment of nursing, even when I am at my wits end and snapping at you in my frustration. And you are my biggest supporter every time the anxiety sweeps over me and I'm sure I can't hack it at this whole mother thing. 

Mostly though, you have given me the space to feel every feeling, even the ones that have come hard and fast and left me raw and vulnerable. You have created a safe space for me to say out loud everything that I am struggling with and every terrifying realization of how much I love this little person without offering solutions or getting overwhelmed by the magnitude of my emotions. Eva and I are both so needy right now and you are soothing us both in that stoic and quiet way that only you can. 

This is a precious and difficult season and I would not want anyone else by my side. 

Thank you. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

a thank you note to my mom. [part 2 of 3]

In the spirit of Thanksgiving this week, I am posting a three part series of thank you notes to some important people who have done so much to support me as I become a parent. Check back this week for the third note in my series. 

To my mom, 

Thank you for being here when I became a mother. Thank you for the months of phone calls about everything from cloth diapers to name choices while I was pregnant. Thank you for flying down to Florida, for taking a month out of your life to help me navigate mine. Thank you for the support you offered in labor, the back rubs and the pep talks, the knowing glances when a contraction would build and I feared I wouldn't make it through. Thank you for being there the moment my daughter was born, for holding my hand on the operating table and witnessing the moment I was born a mother. 

And thank you for the long hours spent on my couch in the weeks that have followed, in the afternoon and at three in the morning. Hours you have spent letting me wade through every feeling, every emotion that has crashed over me like endless waves in this terrifying new endeavor. You have sat without judgement and let me cry and name every fear and every frustration in that first overwhelming week. 

You listened and nodded when I held my fussing newborn to my bare breasts for what seemed like the hundredth time in the still of the early morning and wept about how I didn't want to be a mom, that I didn't know it would be this hard and now I wanted out. (Thank you for not laughing at my emotional ridiculousness in thinking I could just opt out of parenthood now. I guess it doesn't work that way.) You never told me to suck it up, you never rolled your eyes, you never trivialized my tantrums. I feel as though I've come crashing into motherhood and you've assured me that everything I'm experiencing is completely normal and will, in fact, get better. 

And thank you for celebrating the little milestones in the days and weeks that have followed; the first time I nursed in public without flashing everyone in the restaurant; the first time I didn't freak out when Eva started crying in public; the first time I felt rested after only a few measly hours of sleep. You have recognized and validated my deep need to maintain some sense of my old normal while embracing my new normal and I am deeply grateful for your encouragement. 

You are the best example I have of how to mother and I am so thankful you're on this journey with me. 

Thank you. 

Monday, November 23, 2015

a thank you note to our friends and family. [part 1 of 3]

In the spirit of Thanksgiving this week, I am posting a three part series of thank you notes to some important people who have done so much to support me as I become a parent. Check back this week for parts two and three. 

Eva says "Hooray for family and friends!"
To our friends and family,

Thank you for being our tribe and loving our daughter as much as we love her. Eva is joining a family that is rich in love and being welcomed by friends all over the country that adore her. She is so lucky. 

And we are so lucky to have you all. Your well wishes and phone calls and text messages in the hours after she was born felt like love was pouring into our hospital room from every corner of our lives. 

And the encouragement that I have received personally from friends and family near and far telling me that it's okay and it get easier has been a lifeline. I am beginning to think there is no better thing you can tell a brand new mom besides, "It gets easier. Hang in there." (Followed closely by, "You just had a baby? You look great!" This might be a complete lie, but every time someone says it, I want to hug them, even in the middle of the cereal aisle.) 

And the icing on the cake is that my closest friends and our families have been infinitely patient with my terrible lack of communication. They have a new niece that they are dying to see and I can hardly remember to brush my teeth, much less take and send pictures of the new little lady. I feel terrible for not keeping grandparents and aunts and uncles in the loop, but I haven't heard a single complaint and that means a lot to me. 

We've received meals and outfits and texts and so much love and support in the last three weeks, my heart is overflowing with gratitude. Every tough moment of this new season of our lives has been eclipsed by how much our little family is loved by our people. 

Thank you. 

Friday, November 13, 2015

the best laid plans.

My daughter's birth did not go to plan. 

This may not seem too significant, especially if you've given birth before. Babies tend to come when they're ready and they come however they are meant to come. This isn't news. Maybe what is significant is how important plans are for me. And this plan felt like the most important of them all. 

I've talked before about how the unknowns make me feel. When I face unknowns, I tend to do lots of research and come up with a game plan so that I feel somewhat in control of whatever lies ahead. My birth experience was the ultimate example of this. I spent almost every free moment of my pregnancy researching birthing methods and coming up with my birth plan. Every decision represented hours of time spent reading and asking questions to other moms and getting feedback from doula friends and nurse friends and poring over pregnancy forums. 

My birth plan specifics were simple; I wanted to be free to labor for however long it took my body and my baby without the staff suggesting augmentations or pain relief. I didn't want interventions. I didn't want pain relief. I wanted to be able to move around and choose positions that felt natural and be able to breathe my baby down. And I wanted her to be born into a calming atmosphere free of harsh lighting and loud voices. I wanted a sacred birth experience. 

And then I went into actual labor. And one by one my plans fell through. 

I was allowed to birth for however long it took, unfortunately she was taking far too long. She spent hours and hours making her way slowly and facing the wrong way, so every contraction brought intense back pain with it. Then the contractions were so powerful that her heart rate started dropping and I had to be given a medication that stopped my contractions in order to give her a break. Mine was not a gentle labor, it was intense and powerful and sometimes terribly frightening. We went several rounds of heart rate dropping then stabilizing, then a few hours and many powerful contractions later and I would get checked to see how far along I was and almost no progress would have been made.

I finally, reluctantly, requested an epidural that provided sweet relief, but limited my movement and my urge to push, so then I requested that it be turned off. Once it wore off, the contractions were so intense and her heart rate dipped so low that, somewhere in the fog of pain, I realized there were tubes and wires and a room full of people in scrubs staring at a heart rate monitor as nurses turned me and pulled me to find a position she could tolerate. The epidural went back on to give us both a break and finally, at the doctors gentle suggestion, we decided to deliver via cesarean. 

And just like that, my birth plan was over. And now, she would not be born into my gentle, quiet arms; she would be removed from me under the harsh light of an operating table by masked surgeons while I waited behind a curtain. My heart broke for all the plans that were crumbling around me and I wept for the unknown of a surgery and recovery that I had never even considered. I laid in that hospital bed with my Mom on one side and my husband on the other and wept. I cried because nothing had gone the way I had carefully planned. I cried because I felt like a failure, unable to push through the pain and birth my daughter like the warrior woman I had envisioned myself to be. I cried because I thought I was cheating my husband out of witnessing his first child's birth the way it was meant to be. I cried because I was exhausted and worn down and scared and even though I knew that it was the right thing to do for our daughter, it still felt so defeating. I cried because I thought her birth was no longer sacred. 

But there was one thing I could not have planned for: the moment I heard our daughter cry. 

In one singular moment, when I heard the sound I'd been waiting those long nine months to hear, every plan that fell through, every feeling of defeat and failure, every ounce of energy I had poured out that day, every aching muscle and my aching heart fell into a deep peace and suddenly none of it mattered. The sound of that robust cry coming from the other side of that blue curtain was my first sweet taste of motherhood and I drank it in with so much joy. Under the bright lights of an operating table, hooked to tubes and wires and in a room full of people in scrubs, I experienced the sacred birth I had hoped for and so much more.  

My daughter's birth did not go to plan. It was my crash course in my new life as a mother. It was the very beginning of balancing my plans for my daughter and for our life as parents with the harsh reality that sometimes, despite my best efforts, things just don't go as planned.  

But sometimes when the plans fall through and life happens the way it was meant to happen, it is more sacred and more beautiful than I could have imagined. 

Friday, November 6, 2015

seven days later.

A week ago today I was in labor. I'd been laboring gently for a full day and I knew it was finally going to be the day I met out daughter. I was anxious and nervous and wholly unprepared for the shifts my life would take in the week that lie ahead. 

That week and that girl feel like a lifetime ago. 

For me, this first week with a newborn is like wrapping up every single solitary emotion I've ever had and cracking them open one by one, over and over, and letting them drip raw over my heart. 

There is joy. Immeasurable, soul renewing joy. When I first heard the sound of my daughter's cry after hours of long and sometimes frightening labor. When I touch the downy soft hair on her head and breathe in that intoxicating newborn scent and I breathe in the knowledge that she's all mine. When people comment on how beautiful and how strong she is. When I sit with her in the still hours of the night while the rest of the world sleeps and I hear her little breaths, in and out, and I feel my heart swelling to the point of bursting to have this little person in my life. 

There is exhaustion. Emotional and physical exhaustion like I've never known before. In the mere hour or two after delivery when she cried out for food and I realized there would be no one else but me to feed her, even though I desperately wanted rest. In the moments after I've finally gotten her fed and I think of all the things I could get done in the two or three hours I have to myself; the shower I need and the friends I wish I could call and talk to, and all I want is those hours to be spent in deep restful sleep, a concept that seems foreign to me even as I write this. 

There is awe. I am awestruck at what my body did to nurture her for those nine months and then birth her, using every ounce of strength I had to bring her life into the world. When we look at her features, so much like her Daddy, and I marvel at how we created this little tiny human that is pieces of both of us and yet someone entirely new. When I feed her and I think of how my body is continuing to grow her, even noticing after this week her little belly growing rounder and fuller. 

There is fear. So much fear. Sheer terror at the thought that we are responsible for this person's every basic need and she looks to us implicitly for everything. Fear that clouds my reason and makes every decision, from how to swaddle her and the best way to ensure a good latch, feel like a life or death decision with dire consequences if we get it wrong. Fear that I am not equipped for this, for any of it, and there's been a mistake and her real, prepared mother should come and get her before I screw it all up. 

There is gratitude. Overflowing gratitude that she is healthy and I am healthy and that despite my long labor, she was born with no complications. Gratitude for my husband and my Mom, who are not only nurturing me and giving me all the space to let these raw emotions I'm feeling ebb and flow hour by hour, but who are doing all the things that still need to be done despite the presence of such a new, needy little life. 

Last week I was me and this week I am a mother. The weight of that felt crushing this week and there were moments and hours when I thought I might not be able to stand under it. But almost as intense is the incredible overwhelming joy I feel when I think of how lucky I am to get to be Eva's mother and that somehow God trusted me with her little life. So I'm taking the weeks one day at a time and letting the emotions come when they may and crack over me and having grace with myself in the meantime. 

The prevailing emotion today is relief that I made it through the first week of motherhood!