Have you ever wondered what you’d do differently if you could go back in time?
I don’t think I’d do anything differently, because if I did anything differently, things today might have ended up differently, and I wouldn’t change anything in my present life. Things may not always be perfect, and things may go woefully wrong some days, but on the overall, I have a great life. I have awesome, healthy, happy kids, a great husband, and an amazing support system. I really couldn’t ask for more, because I have everything I need and most of what I want. I realize I’m very lucky in that regard.
However, some days, I wish I could go back in time, and visit the 22 year old pregnant girl I was, the jittery and nervous first time mom-to-be. I wish I could go back and give her a great big hug, and tell her that everything is going to be okay.
I look back on how high strung and scared I was during my first pregnancy, and the struggles I dealt with during and immediately afterwards, and I feel sorry for that girl. I had such high hopes for things to go exactly how I planned. After having my heart set on a completely natural birth, I was informed by my doctor that I’d have to go through with a C-section. I was devastated, and I felt like I’d been robbed of an experience. C-sections seemed so impersonal and sterile. Laid back on the table, covered in IVs, tubes, and a drape to block you from the entire experience. I remember shaking uncontrollably while being wheeled into the operating room, crying the second I felt the prick from the needle in my spine, suddenly feeling like my legs weighed a thousand pounds, totally numb from the chest down. The anesthesiologist said, “this is happy! Don’t cry!”, and I couldn’t control the tears, pouring from my eyes, and pooling in my ears. This wasn’t my plan. This wasn’t what I wanted.
When the surgery was over, I was in recovery, scratching my skin raw. They said that itchiness was a common side effect of the anesthetic, and that only made me resent it more. I couldn’t stop the itchiness. All I wanted to see was my baby, and I was being held hostage in a recovery room until I could move my toes. All I could do was cry and scratch. I felt like an animal in captivity, only I was being held captive in my newly empty, itchy, numb body.
When I was finally reunited with my baby, I was so looking forward to breastfeed. I had been researching the benefits of breastfeeding my entire pregnancy, and couldn’t wait to get that skin to skin contact, and start forming the bond I’d read came with breastfeeding your baby. However, no matter how long I held him to my chest, he wouldn’t latch. Nurses and lactation consultants came in with breast pumps and strange contraptions I’d never heard of to latch onto my boobs. I was confused, exhausted, and my baby was starving and screaming hysterically. Finally, hours later, a nurse said, “maybe we should give him some formula until the breastfeeding is sorted out.”
Looking down at my brand new, hungry baby, with tears in my eyes, I accepted. I unpacked the tiny bottle from the small box, and watched him drain it almost completely. He was so hungry. I couldn’t fulfill the most basic requirement of being a mother. I was no good at any part of this motherhood thing, it seemed. He fell asleep, belly full, and I cried for all of my well laid plans. I cried for all of the uncertainty that laid ahead of me, for having to take this tiny, helpless baby home with me and care for him full-time, when nothing seemed to be going right. I cried for the ugly wound in my abdomen, and the even larger wound in my heart.
I wish I could go back to that hospital room and hug that girl, and tell her that motherhood is a learning curve. I wish I could walk in there and tell her that there will be something new to learn every month, every week, every day, sometimes even every hour, about our children. That no one is perfect, and that there are no instructions. That we all wake up, do our very best all day, and go to sleep feeling like we could’ve done better. I wish I could hug her so very tight, so tight that she felt that every single piece she felt was broken inside of her that day were put back together. I wish I could tell her that motherhood is capable of eliciting the greatest feelings of triumph and joy and the lowest feelings of depression and frustration. I wish I could tell her that even though that day she felt like an absolute failure, there would be days where her kid’s smiles would let her know she wasn’t. She was good enough, and she deserved this baby.
I wish I could tell this to all new moms who feel scared, tired, frustrated, and overwhelmed. I’d tell them that the journey that lies ahead is fraught with so many emotions, and that if she just believed in herself long enough, she’d find that her child thinks she hangs the moon. If only I could go back and ease that young girl’s mind, wipe her tears, and tell her that in five years, she’ll be a mom of three, juggling everything and writing a blog about it. She would’ve never believed me.