I had reason this past week to talk to several patients about becoming a mom. Of course I had to pull out a few humorous stories of that event . It’s Super Bowl Sunday and what better than to wax a little eloquent about motherhood. Lots of moms carted all those boys to lots of football practices. By the way, I don’t envy Jackie Harbaugh any today. For those of you non-football fans, she is the mom of both teams’ coaches playing each other, the Ravens and the 49ers. Good luck to you.
After two days of labor that hot July, I had a C-section. Had to get pregnant through IVF and although I was going through labor the old-fashioned way, I wasn’t dilating either. I was very disappointed, but the baby was in distress and there was no more thinking about it. What happened next was pretty awful. I had what I was told were “hot spots” when the epidural didn’t completely “take”. I could feel some of what was going on as my OB-Gyn operated. Ouch. I accused the anesthesiologist of trying to kill me at one point because I could only feel my head. Or my head and the hot spots. One of my prouder moments. Then the doc discovered undiagnosed placenta accreta. When he saw that, he sort of gasped, “Oh no” where I could hear, not exactly what you want at the precise moment when your firstborn is being lifted out of your uterus! I didn’t know what he was talking about and panicked a bit. I had to be quickly reassured as I recall. Luckily we all forget these things.
Then there was the the day after Rob was born. A nurse walked in as I was pulling up some kind of stretchy girdle-ish thing I was wearing due to the infamous C-section. Out of her mouth popped the question, “When are you due?”. Excuse me? I didn’t know whether to more question the quality of my care or to be personally mortified. I ended feeling very sorry for her as I watched her face redden at my response. She apologized profusely but the damage to my ego was done.
I must admit I was also quite the indignant psychologist the hours right after Rob was born. His body temperature was a little low and they were keeping him under the lights to warm him up. Well, I was determined to “attach”. Here I had all these things hanging out of me from the section and I was, okay I admit it, I was requesting strongly (I really do remember trying not to be demanding…), saying things like, “It’s been two hours and attachment is very significant in the bonding experience”. They must have been laughing their you-know-whats off at me and with good reason. New mom… attachment… shrink…if we don’t warm that kid up… attachment my eye… I calmed down after a bit. They probably laced my jello with a little benzodiazepine. Maybe the nurse’s comment the next day was a little payback…
I had been in the hospital a couple of days and of course, they had wheeled the baby in and out of the room, giving me a chance to learn how to breast feed, which went swimmingly, at least at first. Now I am the youngest of my family, had never baby-sat anyone’s kids. So the nurse rolled Rob in for the last time, turned to me and my husband and said crisply, “You can take all the diapers you haven’t used home with you”. She then left. I look at Dick. Dick looked at me. What diapers? We haven’t changed any diapers. Isn’t that what the nurses are for? Yikes, I didn’t know how to change a diaper! We both started laughing… I mean I had checked out Rob’s “parts” to make sure they were all there, but change his diaper? I was resting for heaven’t sake!
Like all parents, they let us take him home, which was a miracle in and of itself. And that’s when everything that I had tried to control just went to hell in a handbasket. I had had the entire house sprayed for spiders which were a bad problem. What did I find the first time I tried to put the baby in his crib? A huge black spider. Three or four days into being home, I didn’t think he was urinating. There was just not anything wet in his diaper. After fussing a bit with my mother-in-law who thought I was being ridiculous, off we went to the emergency room fairly late at night. The doctor showed up in his tux, also a little miffed. I watched while my little infant was being poked with needles and whaling at the top of his lungs Sure enough, he was dehydrated. Of course, I felt defeated as a breast-feeder but okay, score one for maternal instinct. Later those initial days, I was also still stinging a bit from the nurse’s comment. You just can’t hold in your stomach very well after a C-section. So I got out and walked earlier than I was supposed to. A return to some element of control.
Being a 39 year old mother helped a bit really. I had to laugh and get some perspective. I killed the spider. Family went home and things settled down. My milk came in and breast feeding went better, although not perfectly. Our ancient cat did not seem to want the baby dead as I had been told. Rob just laid there so I really didn’t have to worry that he would start sticking his fingers into the electrical sockets just quite yet. And I was still me. Sort of but not really. I was different.
For when I had first laid eyes on Robinson Philip Rutherford, I remembered thinking quietly to myself, “What have I done?”. I meant it in a hypothetical way really, like, “I have now given birth to someone who just because he exists has the power to give me great joy, but also has the power to wound me like no other being in the world”. It was incredible that in that one moment, I was aware of all that. Just in that one first moment. I had become a mom.
I had been a pregnant woman. I had cared for him for nine months. But now I had looked into the eyes of my son and was changed forever. What a gift.
Back off spiders. It was mama love.