This little boy saved my life…many times. When I think about the road this kid and I have traveled together, it feels like we’ve lived three different lifetimes.
I was alone most of my pregnancy, so I talked to this little nugget a lot, at times asking for his forgiveness and his help when external stress landed us in the hospital twice before he was set to arrive (one of those times being my 31st birthday). When he was determined to show up four weeks early, but wasn’t progressing quickly enough, I whispered to my belly “if you just have to come now, let’s work together”…and I felt like he understood. Thirteen hours of laboring and waiting and rocking and moaning to finally get to the pushing place.
For 36 weeks my belly (and the baby inside) was the focus of external attention, animosity, embarrassment, wonder, excitement, concern and care. The pushing place became the penacle of all this attention combined; all eyes, minds and focus on me (by default). A war-cry like sound escaped from my mouth, I grit my teeth, squeezed my eyes shut, pushed like his life depended on it…and he was born. Then, as though completely choreographed, every bit of attention that was on me for 36 weeks and 13 hours shifted to my sweet boy. I felt the change in temperature in the room go from a cocoon of warmth from all the bodies surrounding me, to a chill and breeze from the sudden movement of those same bodies to the opposite side of the room–some spilling into the hallway to announce the birth. This chill stayed as the excitement of labor died down and I, along with this new baby, remained in the hospital. I remember wondering why I wasn’t excited, why I felt like I was in a daze, overwhelmed, and clueless. I felt like I had been thrust into a unique type of sunken place reserved for new mothers, but as that first night fell over the hospital, I could still hear the televisions and laughter of loved ones from neighboring new mothers and felt like this unique brand of isolation must have been reserved only for me. I cried myself to sleep that first night as my new little bean slept in the clear hospital basinette next to my bed. I hadn’t known what to expect of becoming a mother for the first time, but media and culture had me believing that I would never have to be alone…ever. I assumed my partner wouldn’t leave my side as we wrapped our heads around being parents. I assumed one of the maternal forces in my life would be waiting to spend the first few weeks with me at home while I figured this out. And I assumed that I would just “know” what to do, what to eat, and would spend all my time staring blissfully at this new life and marveling at how beautiful he was. While I did stare at him a lot and marveled at how perfect he was, I was not blissful. I was scared.
However, one fact that I couldn’t ignore after he arrived, was that it felt like we had met before. Strange, I know. But I’m a dreamer, so maybe we met there once. But, not long after he arrived I knew something was off in my body. I had gained a solid 35 pounds during pregnancy, but lost over 50 pounds in the first 8 weeks. My 98lb frame was weak and tired and I cried a lot. I didn’t know what I needed, and I certainly didn’t know how to ask for help. I had been told how every other woman in my family had to figure it out without any help; as though to struggle was a rite of passage…so I tried. And failed. Well-meaning visitors commented at how great I looked because the baby weight had fallen so quickly, but I didn’t feel great or believe I looked great as every curve I had melted off my body. Was I eating? Yes…but it wasn’t nearly enough, or the right things. I honestly didn’t know what my postpartum and nursing body needed in order to thrive, or that while my baby would get what he needed, I would be left with nothing. I considered myself wise and intelligent in so many other aspects of my life, and had even thought about what kind of mother I’d want to be once my child was old enough to need the kind of mothering style I was most attracted to. But the new baby part? I had no idea what to expect or what to do. The only advice I had received was to beware of the tiny penis that will pee in your face while changing his diaper if you aren’t careful. So i was ready with pee-pee teepees…but never used them. Bean never peed in my face. Ever. I was only prepared for the one thing that never happened, and had no idea that there was so…much…more.
There was a lot more that colored my experiences as a brand new mother: struggles with nursing, with my job at the time, and with my partner. But to sum it all up, I spent my fourth trimester (which I didn’t even know was a thing) and nearly two years beyond that physically and emotionally malnourished. I had been given the gift of being a mother, but didn’t know that to care for myself well was essential to caring for my baby. Before I had received visits from friends bearing food, I didn’t know how truly hungry I was–for both connection and the contents on those containers. What I also didn’t know was that this chapter would inspire me to seek ways to serve women just like me. Not long after my sweet boy’s first birthday and the implosion of my relationship, I lost my job. Within a matter of weeks I had become a single, unemployed mother…and somehow I felt like something incredible had been planted. I had been heartbroken that my plan to be a stay at home mother wasn’t happening, so when the layoff came I felt like God had finally heard me. I happily left my office, immediately withdrew my baby from daycare and got to work researching what working for myself could look like. To this day I will never forget my little Bean’s face when I picked him up from school early. And as I walked out of that school, with him in my arms, for the last time, i whispered “we’re in this together.”
Now, three years after that moment, an entirely new chapter of our lives is evolving. My work as a yoga teacher and business coach to a team of incredible women fills me up everyday. My new health coaching practice is underway and my dedication to relieving the chill of isolation from new mothers has led me to work as a postpartum doula in my community. And that imploded relationship? Restored and breathing new life everyday; which could never have happened had God and mothering not shown me how strong and capable I am. So, today, as I stood holding my boy’s hand in front of our brand new home I realized that the darkest and most painful moments of being birthed into motherhood were the most defining moments of my entire life…and I wouldn’t have it any other way.