Wednesday, May 20, 2015

If you missed part I of the birth story, click here.
If you missed part II, click here.

When people would talk about 'just knowing' something, I was never able to relate to them until I became a mother. I had never really experienced having an intuition until I was put in this emotional role of Mama. It started as a timid, small voice when your sister became mine, and has grown into this roaring, confident voice that I now feel privileged to carry around with me as I care for you. The first time I ever had this 'knowing' feeling as a mother was when I brought your sister up to my breast to nurse right after her birth. As soon as she latched on, it was like the future flashed through my mind and I knew. I knew her latch wasn't right. I knew the battle to breastfeed would be fierce, but my determination I had carried around with me all these years would serve me well.

Each nursing session started with screams and ended with tears from everyone involved. She would move her head back and forth while frustrated little snorts escaped, but she would never latch. Her patience wore thin and pretty soon her frustrated snorts were replaced with back-arching, clawing, and screaming. Your Papa would have to hold her hands while I tried my best to maneuver her onto the breast. There were weeks of this. I came to dread sleep because the nights were the hardest, the loneliest. I would become anxious as the clock neared seven. Her escalating frustration made my attempts at helping her futile. Eventually she learned how to latch on, but it wasn't without toe-curling, jaw-clenching pain. We spent hours each night fighting with each other. I would try to correct her latch. She would yell out in frustration and become too worked up to latch on again. Crying would eventually exhaust her and she would fall asleep only to wake an hour or less later to do it all over again.

We went through weeks of this (ten or so), but it felt like months. I can remember sitting on the side of the bed with your Papa and saying, through sobs, 'It's going to hurt forever.' I couldn't see a way out. I felt trapped. I didn't want to eat. I didn't want to write. I didn't want to get out of bed. I didn't want to do anything. We tried everything we could think of. A nipple shield allowed me to heal, but didn't allow your sister to get enough milk. For a few weeks we tried using a supplemental nursing system. I pumped while she slept, then fed her with a small tube attached to my finger. We were afraid to give her bottles for fear that she would deny the breast altogether and I would be stuck pumping or using formula. We kept going to appointments for weight checks and kept coming back disappointed. When I was around other mothers, I would go home feeling bitter, defeated. They seemed joyful. Their babies seemed happy. Feeding them was as easy as shaking up a bottle of formula.

What was supposed to be a beautiful bonding experience became a depression-inducing nightmare. I had never dealt with depression in any form beyond the occasional bluesy day until now. It was like being sucked into a black hole, and it took me a long time to come out of it. I was determined to see it through though. I told myself I had to keep trying until I was sure it just wasn't possible. Eventually we met with an ENT specialist who told us she definitely was not tongue tied, which was a little bit devastating for me. I had held onto that as the solution. I didn't want anything to be wrong with her, but at the same time, I wanted an answer. I wanted to know it wasn't me. It wasn't my fault. Then we found a pediatrician who listened to her nurse and simply said, 'She can't breathe. Clear her nose with saline before each feed.' It was like magic. I felt a little dumb for not having thought of such a simple solution, but after a few days of fighting with her about latching on, she finally did and she nursed. On top of the breastfeeding troubles, we thought she was also colicky, but once her latch improved and she started gaining weight, all of those symptoms went away. She started smiling more than screaming and falling asleep content. I found that breastfeeding is a funny thing - some days you cry over the limits it places on you and some days you cry at the possibility of it being over.

After your birth, we sat in the cool morning light admiring you as the sun made its way up over the horizon. A friend offered to watch Ev for the day, so it was just you and I and Papa. We would wake and pass you back and forth in disbelief, rest a few hours, and happily wake to gaze at you again. A few hours before we were scheduled to go home, I felt like getting outside so we walked through the garden around the birth center. Your Papa climbed up and changed the sign on the bell tower. We rang the bell together to announce your arrival. It was like the honeymoon after a marriage. I will always cherish those quiet hours the three of us got to spend together, the hours I fell in love with you. Much like the first year of marriage, I've spent these first weeks waiting for it get to hard, waiting for the depression to creep in, but it hasn't. I wouldn't have loved you any less had you been difficult, but I'm relieved to find you at peace most of our days. You're full of smiles and simply desire milk and love. Luckily, I have plenty of both. Your eyes are knowing. When you look at me, it seems as if you're full of wisdom, but held back by physical limitations.

I share all of this with you to say that you have been redemptive for me. I had carried around the mistakes I made with your sister, allowing them to serve as proof that we shouldn't have more babies, that I wasn't good at this 'mothering thing.' With each hurdle we cross together, your trust in me is comforting. It assures me that I can mother two. It assures me that though her life got off to a rough start, I don't have to keep those memories alive with my guilt. It doesn't have to define me as a person or mother. You have taught me so much in your short time here. You've made me open to the idea of more babies. What once was a monotonous job of washing, wiping, sorting, shushing and cooking is now just a necessary part of the story. I no longer define myself by what I'm able to do or not do. I've accepted that the newborn pace is slow and I'm determined not to fight it like I did in the past. You're almost six weeks old and while time has gone fast, I don't feel like I've missed out on a lot like I did with Ev. I've purposely savored you and this time. I was prepared to launch myself into this world of sacrifice and raised my white flag early on, surrendering the last bits of my free time. These bits are no longer mine, but yours and you're so worth it.

A few weeks after you were born, I got rid of my iPhone. I had spent the majority of my time nursing or holding Evie with a phone in my hand. I didn't want to make that same mistake again. I didn't want your gaze to fall on an Apple icon instead of my face. You have taught me to savor the moment, that every milestone and special moment doesn't have to be documented. Some moments are best kept solely in my memory. You have made me more fierce in protecting my time, more daring in the dreams I dream, more confident in my mothering, and more joyful every day. You are a perfect gift - simpler than I imagined, yet large enough to change my life. I did nothing to deserve you, but I will spend my entire life giving thanks for you. You are a definition of grace. We love you, Noble Alexander. I'm so happy you chose us.



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