On Becoming a Mother

This will be my first “written” post since the birth, but it’s still not the “birth story”…hopefully I will have the time and energy for that later today, because already God is working his mommy magic on the brain. In other words, I am already starting to forget certain things. That’s pretty much the only way women are willing to do this, in my opinion. In order to ensure the procreation of the species, the female brain feeds on any memories pertaining to the 3rd trimester and labor experience.

What I wanted to do was give a quick update about how the last few days have been. All I can say is that they’ve been the most trying, yet most rewarding and special days of my life thus far. Hands down.

Physically, I am healing super super well. The stitches from the episiotomy (again, birth story later) are almost gone and don’t hurt. The postpartum bleeding has all but stopped. Almost all of my 3rd trimester annoyances have gone away, leaving me feeling healthier than I have in months (I can actually write again!).

But emotionally, I’ve come to a few realizations that are completely changing who I am as a person, deep-down on the core level, and I thought I’d share them with you.

1. Our childbirth classes were worth their weight in gold, and not necessarily in the way that you’d think. We learned lots of positions and comfort measures for the trials of labor and, while they were helpful, I didn’t have a “textbook labor” by a long shot, so some of it wasn’t relevant.

Instead, what I find really valuable is the way it gave Jesse and I the confidence to work as a team. The Bradley method focuses on the husband or partner as the one in charge of directing the woman. It opens and establishes lines of communication, teaching him how to minister to her when she’s hurting, direct her when the pain makes her unresponsive or unclear, and see clearly when everything seems whacky. We practiced all sorts of things during the class, along with being given “homework” for certain conversations I’m sure we wouldn’t have otherwise had.

In the process, we discovered a lot about ourselves and the ways that we work together. And, as a result, it spilled over into the rest of our lives. I’ve been a lot better at accepting direction from Jesse in tough situations these past few days.

For example, there has been at least one “Come to Jesus” moment every night over the trials of breastfeeding (no one ever told me it’d be THIS hard!) combined with sleeplessness. One night in particular, when I was too tired to care anymore that Gregory wasn’t “latching properly”, Jesse brought him in for the 3rd time and said, “Listen, Kelly. Our son is hungry, and it’s because he’s not eating right. I went out and found the paperwork Linda gave us on breastfeeding. I know it’s hard and you’re tired, but I’m going to help you. We’re not going to sleep until we get this. We can do it.”

And he followed through. Stayed up with me, through the tears and emotions, and worked it out. I didn’t even think about whether or not to trust his direction, it just happened automatically. I could’ve been prideful and stubborn, insisting that the way I was doing things was fine and/or the best I could do, but that didn’t even occur to me. He was the leader, calling the shots, and it was nice to be able to fall back and trust him on it.

We also learned that I am very bad at sincerely asking for help. Sure, I can be “bossy” and jokingly order him around at times, but when I truly need it, I get afraid and wait for him to offer. We realized this during one of the classes where Jesse was practicing different massage techniques meant for active labor on me. Afterwards as we debriefed, I said that the only hard part about it all was I felt afraid to tell him what felt good and what didn’t. I was afraid that I was dragging him to these classes and that he would rather be doing something else and would resent all the attention being paid to me. He immediately responded with, “Wow! The only frustrating part for me was that I felt useless and ineffective because you weren’t communicating and I had to keep guessing!” It was good to talk about how this happens more often than we’d like to admit– I wait for him to volunteer help because I’m afraid of “taking advantage of him”. He’s usually wanting to help, but can’t since he isn’t being given all the information needed! Since then, we’ve established a way for Jesse to say, not in a bossy way, “Don’t play games. Tell me exactly what it is you want. Trust that I will do it if I can, and that I will only say no if there is a good reason.”

And let me be clear, because all of you know how independent and stubborn I can be. This automatic lead-follow hasn’t taken away any of my style or identity. Instead, it’s given me all the best strengths of his personality to mold with mine. When there is trust and love, there is no “over-running” or “superiority”. There are just strengths amplifying strengths. The midwives noticed this during the birth. One of the midwives was asking me to do something, and since it was painful, I guess I was resisting (I don’t remember things all too clearly). Finally, the other midwife said, “Get Jesse to ask her. That girl would do anything for her coach.”

2. I’ve blogged many times about my fears over becoming a mother, and what that’s going to mean for my life. I’ve fretted and worried about what it’s going to be like to stay home, changing diapers all day, taking time away from things that I like to read and study, getting in the way of me making money, etc. In the end a few weeks ago, I came to the conclusion that I was just going to have to grin and bear it– one of the necessary negatives to bringing a beautiful human being into the world. I had decided that although I wouldn’t necessarily “enjoy” being a stay at home mom for most of the day, it was a type of surrender and martyrdom.

So far, however, even though the “newborn stage” is said to be the most trying, I don’t think I could’ve been more wrong about my conclusions. Last night, after I got done feeding Gregory, I was all of a sudden mesmerized by him. I couldn’t stop looking at his toes, legs, soft cheeks and lips, and, probably due to the hormones, I started crying. Jesse finished his shower, came out, saw the tears, and immediately asked what was wrong. I explained that I couldn’t believe how wrong I was about devoting my life to raising this baby. It wasn’t a necessary evil, full of tribulations to shoulder, hoping to make it to the other side. It was a privilege, something I’m not even worthy to be granted. How could I ever possibly think for even a second that the things I care about– grad school, building my business– should take precedence or even come close to the same level of importance as having a baby and raising it? It’s almost as though I said, “God, I want to make things with my mind!” and God said, “I’m going to give you something even better and make you a human being.”

Not to get too theological, because hormones + extreme sleep deprivation= recipe for heretical statements, but it reminds me a lot of the incarnation and why we need Jesus in the first place. The Pharisees wanted their ambitions and dreams, their promised “theoretical” Messiah. Instead, God chose to give them the real person of Jesus Christ, flesh and body and so much more than they could’ve asked for. In fact, it was so much more, that they failed to recognize it.

I’m so glad that God put the desire for being a mother into my heart, because otherwise I might have done exactly what the Jews did, desperately clinging to my mud pies when God was trying to give me a feast.

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5 thoughts on “On Becoming a Mother

  1. Kelly,

    I loved this post. I really, really, really related to it (and cannot WAIT for the birth story).

    I had a massive struggle with breastfeeding too. I would cry when Sean would hand the baby over to me some nights for me to feed her. I really hope it gets better for you. It did for me after a few weeks. It would really help me when Sean would stay up with me and put his arm around me and be there for me through the frustration and pain. It brought a few tears to my eyes to read through that part of your post.

    Your stories of you becoming parents together are just so sweet. I’m really happy for you.

  2. Hey Kelly,
    I couldn’t read this and not comment. I wrote about breastfeeding issues here: http://stephbrownthinks.blogspot.com/2010/05/breastfeeding.html
    and here: http://stephbrownthinks.blogspot.com/2010/06/my-lady-lumps.html

    We had a horrid time. I too was getting too frustrated to get my son latching correctly. It would literally take 10 times to get something that somewhat resembled a correct latch and by then both him and my were so frustrated and I was still in pain that it wasn’t worth it. The pain was so bad I would cry. We tried looking things up online, speaking to our doula and midwife and after 5 weeks FINALLY went and saw an IBCLC. I waited too long. I ended up with nipples bleeding so bad that blood would pour our my son’s mouth, mastitis TWICE, 2 breast abscesses that I had to have an emergency surgery to have drained (after having a homebirth because I wanted to AVOID the hospital), then we both got thrush from the antibiotics. All of that could have been avoided id I’d went to the LC sooner.

    If I could change one thing about my pregnancy, childbirth, postpartum experience it would be going to the Lactation Consultant right away. Me procrastinating and trying to handle the breastfeeding stuff myself caused me a ton of problems, cost thousands of dollars in medical bills, and really tarnished that early bonding time.

    Most insurance companies will cover seeing a LC, and if not the cash price isn’t bad and is SO much cheaper than the ramifications of not going. Anyways, even if things are getting better now it is still so worthwhile to schedule a visit. If you do, make sure its an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) and not just the first LC you find in the hospital.

    Also I wanted to throw out there that we made it and are now at 6 months of exclusively nursing. I’m glad I stuck with it and it is “easy” now, but those first few months were ROUGH. Everyone says that after 3 or 4 months is gets easier and its true. At the beginning 4 *months* sounds unbearable and like forever but believe me, it will fly by.

    Good luck and adorable baby!

  3. Thanks stephanie! An LC was the only thing that helped my mom with her fourth (Janelle). Luckily, our birth class instructor/doula is also a certified LC by day. I might schedule a visit soon, depending on what my insurance provider says.

    It’s always nice to know you’re not the only one struggling with something!

  4. This is a great narrative and since I’ve always been a stay at home mom I can say there are many great and wonderful things ahead.
    I’m so pleased and proud at how you’ve both worked so hard to learn how to work together, baby or no baby, and to see how you’ve grown in the Lord. I’m very pleased to be your mom and mom-in-law.
    Oh, by the way, I don’t agree that the newborn stage is the hardest AND I’ll leave you guessing on what stage I think it is.
    Don’t be afraid to ask for a lactation specialist if you need one!
    Lots and lots of love,
    Mama Cone

  5. Pingback: Mastering Fear « Remember the Alamo!

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