November 19, 2013
I almost can't believe that this time last year, I was days away from meeting my daughter! It feels at once incredibly recent and impossibly distant. As her first birthday approaches a flurry of mixed emotions circulate in my head. I obviously continue to struggle with processing my fear and sadness surrounding her birth. I actually never finished recording her birth story because of it. It's telling, though perhaps unsurprising that I wrote everything that occurred up until I was in triage at the hospital, where my blood pressure results indicated to the midwife (following recommendations from my cardiologist and the risk OB in maternal fetal medicine) that I would need an epidural immediately. It marked the turning point in my agency and control. But I accept that I cannot change the past and parenting has offered many lessons in relinquishing my desire for (and ability to) control.
Frankly, the process of writing my birth story always felt more about me than her. And although I still believe that I matter and will honor that idea by refusing to erase the hard feelings from my memories of her birth, at this point in time, I also relish in focusing on her. Of course I wish my hazy recollection of her birthday (and the time I spent laboring over the course of the days prior) wasn't clouded with pain, confusion, and sadness. But as we come upon one year of time together, I am trying my best to cling to the few bits I recall and am told about her earliest hours. After all, from that day forward it really no longer got to be just about me.
Although I don't remember, I am told that I was wheeled from the post-op area back to my labor and delivery room holding her in my arms. Although I don't have memories of the logistics of getting her positioned in a way that allowed all my wires and monitors to stay in place, I have a photo of her latched onto me as we breastfed for the first time. I see all the wires attached in the photo so I know they were still on me. I remember thinking while breastfeeding her that we got this and that her latch was strong and that breastfeeding felt weird but right. I don't remember doing skin to skin contact and that remains one of my bigger regrets but I felt like an alien in my post-surgical body so I am going to cut myself some slack. As our families cycled through to meet her, I remember being too out of it and too focused on breastfeeding to stop and let my parents and sister hold her. Although I was oblivious, my mom told me that my dad felt awkward about my breastfeeding because I was uncovered while feeding her. At that point I don't think all the riches in the world would have motivated me to feel an ounce of modesty or concern about anyone seeing any part of my body. The only thing that mattered was her.
I remember that my parents came through first, followed by Chris's parents. Although I forget their order of visits I think his mom and stepdad may have been next, followed by his dad, stepmom, and sister. I remember that I held her as we were wheeled into the postpartum recovery area and I remember feeling hungry but was not permitted or able to eat anything. I think at some point Chris left Emilia and me to find something to eat for himself as everything in the hospital was closed. I remember wanting to be awake to hold and nurse her but feeling too exhausted to keep her in bed with me without falling asleep (sleeping while bed-sharing was not permitted in the hospital but even if it wasn't, it would have been unsafe for me to do so with all the medication that remained in my system). I pulled her little bassinet as close to my bed as possible because I was unable to get out of bed at that point. I tried my best to soothe her with my voice. I remember thinking in amazement that she was easily soothed by this which made me realize she recognized my voice from hearing it in the womb. In retrospect this was also a good glimpse into her easy going personality.
Eventually I was able to get out of bed and practiced swaddling her. She would cry during diaper changes because she was cold. She would fall asleep fairly quickly while feeding. She seemed so small and so sweet. She smelled so good. She hated her sponge bath. She rooted at everything and I recognized it from one of our ultrasounds where it appeared as though she was shaking her head "no" furiously.
I remembered thinking vividly that even though she didn't come into the world in the way I had hoped or anticipated, she clearly knew that I was her mom. I remember feeling overwhelmed with love and concern for her. And now my baby is about to turn 1!!!