The ability to reflect on the grace, beauty and love the journey as a mother has provided has been a gift. Up until now I have shared beautiful reflections from my entrance into motherhood. The story, however, cannot be complete without the realities of my journey, some devastating and painful. They say time heals all wounds. I truly believe it does not only heal, but it captures the blessings we are unable to see in the present, wraps them in security and reveals them when the mind is able to embrace those blessings with gratitude and purpose.
I was not prepared for a Cesarean. If it was not for the Epidural and the fact that I was experiencing something new I would have gone into shock. By the 23rd hour of my water breaking I had to be wheeled into surgery. I remember watching the ceiling tiles whizz by as if I was watching a rerun of Grey’s Anatomy. At this point I began to cry hysterically. I could not breathe as the congestion clouded every part of my face. When my daughter arrived I was unable to hold her as she was rushed to the ICU. The remaining 24 hours were a blur of drugs, visitors and infant care instructions that I could barely recognize, let alone remember. I focused the small amount of energy I had into my new baby. Breastfeeding was awkward and painful and would soon become the most devastating disappointment as a mother of an infant.
For the first three weeks I felt a lot of physical pain. The healing incision coupled with breastfeeding and mental anguish had me in a zombie like state. How was it possible, I kept thinking, that this world had a population of over 1 billion human beings? How did women go through this multiple times? The pain I felt, emotional and physical expanded my already growing doubt that I was doing this ALL WRONG.
A few days after her arrival I called the lactation consultant. After ten minutes I felt three things 1) If I gave my baby formula she would die 2) I was purposefully compromising my ability to produce milk 3) the pain would never end. I could not feed my child. I never made enough milk, and the small amount I could produce over six weeks was wreaking havoc in my baby’s body. No matter the change of diet the acidity from my milk was tearing up her stomach, causing her tiny body painful reflux and burning the skin on her bottom enough to send us to the ER. Every feeding I cried. Every diaper change I was plagued with guilt knowing I caused her pain.
I could not see the light at the end of the tunnel. I was slowly crumbling from the exhaustion and mental anguish created from my doubts. I wanted at times to walk to a window and jump, but I was too exhausted to get there. I was in a puddle of over looked post-partum and overwhelming responsibility. I felt alone. I felt shame. What was wrong with me? Why didn’t I know how to do this? Why did my body not work the way it was supposed to? I felt trapped, alone.
Slowly I have healed, but I vowed never to forget the pain, guilt and loneliness of those first three months. I have carefully stored these reflections in hopes that my honesty will help a new mother, and she will help another and then, another. It gets better. There’s a beautiful light at the end of the tunnel. If you feel alone, know there is at least one mother who understands your pain. You will heal. As the saying goes, “What doesn’t break you, makes you stronger”.