This was written as part of the workshop “Writing into Motherhood” taught by Tanya Taylor Rubinstein in the MotheringDotCommunity earlier this year. I am reposting it here for your enjoyment. You can read all nine of the pieces written by our workshop moms here.
Sitting there in the birth tub I remembered the disbelief when my husband suggested the nausea I was feeling was probably because I was pregnant. I remembered the sinking feeling I had when it began to dawn on me that he wasn’t so far off base. I remembered swearing when the pregnancy test that I took in the middle of the afternoon didn’t take long to come back positive. I remembered crying for a long time about it all. I remembered the sound of the deep, long sobs that were so hard to keep down, almost as if it were coming from someone else. I remembered being annoyed when my husband told other people and desperately wishing that he had kept it between us. I remembered being annoyed at all the reassurances from others that everything was going to turn out all right. I remembered hating all the discussions and the excitement and wishing everyone would stop talking about it.
I remembered wanting to avoid people because it was all so much easier if I just didn’t think about it. I wanted to ignore everything going on around me. If I could pretend that it wasn’t happening then I could smile with the rest of the world. When in private all I could do was cry. I cried for myself and my dreams. I cried for my family and our future. I cried for the loss of what seemed so perfect and complete.
I remembered feeling badly because I felt like I was asking too much of Lilly. She was only 15 months old. I remembered mourning the loss of our breastfeeding relationship. I had plans to do so for as long as she was interested. I remembered feeling guilty when it all got to be too much. She wasn’t sleeping through the night and nursed as often as she did when she was a little baby. I remembered feeling so guilty over her frustration when my milk supply diminished. I remembered moving her out of our bed and into her own not because she was necessarily ready but because I couldn’t take it any more. I remembered thinking that if I was going to have to do this all over then I needed some space to myself.
I remembered being disappointed when my husband asked me several months in when it was that I was going to get excited about the new baby that would join our family. I remembered wishing on the one hand that he understood and on the other that I could just get on board with everyone else.
I remembered mostly being hurt when my family declared their excitement. They didn’t understand and they wouldn’t have to live it. They would come into our lives as a visitor and go home shortly there after. They wouldn’t have to give birth, or breastfeed, or take care of the baby. They wouldn’t be home alone with the baby, Lilly and Josiah for hours on end. They wouldn’t ever have to face the decisions I would about the future.
It wasn’t too long and I found myself needing every ounce of concentration for the task at hand and let my doubts fade from view. With Lilly I labored and birthed in a stock tank in the kitchen while the January sunlight streamed through the window on an unseasonably warm day. I was filled with anticipation over what seemed to me to be my “do over.” Josiah’s birthday was another sunny winter day, though my memories are far colder. We piled into the car and headed to the hospital in caravan with my parents and sister. I was filled with a sense of anxiety and fear as I wondered what surgery would be like. The sense of anticipation that lives in my memories of Lilly and Josiah always seemed to fit well in my mind with what birth and parenthood is supposed to be. This time around it all seemed a bit off kilter. I wasn’t really excited about birth or joyful about parenting a new baby. I was mostly relieved that my last pregnancy was almost over.
It was pitch black outside, cold and windy. A physical representation of my inward experience. The only lights on were the ones in the soffit above the kitchen cabinets. The midwife and her assistant sat in the living room. I could hear their soft conversation from my spot in the pool while my husband sat in a kitchen chair next to me.
Not much for conversation with all the thoughts swirling through my head. Instead of being filled with nervous anticipation over the journey ahead I was mostly filled with a sense of urgency to get it over with, so very glad that this was the last time. When Lilly was born I relished in the experience. It was so very healing to have my midwife believe in me. It was a triumph to give birth when the Obstetrician from my son’s pregnancy told me I couldn’t – that he was too big to birth before I ever went into labor. Vindicating when she was only a couple of ounces lighter than her brother.
This time around it seemed like everything was progressing quicker. I guess all the on and off again contractions had taken care of the vast majority of it. All that was left was transition and pushing. I remember when the midwife came in to check things and we joked about the vasectomy my husband had after finding out I was pregnant for a third time. It was a bit of a relief to know that there would be no more surprise pregnancies. Maybe things wouldn’t be as bad as I feared.
Zach informed our family that the baby was on the way and they all were surprised as it hadn’t been that long ago that we last talked with no sign of baby’s impending birth. There were still a few hours left, would she be born on my Mom’s birthday? I struggled to find a comfortable place in the tub. It was too short for me to be comfortable sitting as I couldn’t get my legs stretched out enough. The water? Not warm enough. Half of the water is pumped out and then more came in. Some from pots boiling on the stove and the rest from the faucet when the water heater finally recovered. Fine time to find out that the water heater is probably on its last legs.
Out of the tub and to the bathroom to empty my bladder. I chose to do so in between contractions only to be hit with one in the middle of trying to get out of the tub. I made it back into the tub after the short walk to the bathroom and back. From there it’s all a blur, but it isn’t long. The first urges of needing to push made themselves known. I was on my knees and leaning against the edge of the tub hating that it wasn’t solid like the stock tank last time. Hating that it didn’t feel like it came up high enough. It felt like I was on a runaway train. Everything felt like it was out of control. When would it be over? Our other children awoke with my cries. In less than 10 minutes she was out. With Lilly things were much slower. Out and in and out again as she eased into the world. With Maya it’s just out. Head first and face covered in the amniotic sac. Born in the caul. The shoulders and then she slipped out into the water of the tub covered in vernix just like her sister. “Yuck,” I thought.
I looked at her and began to cry. She looked like a stranger to me, but I found myself filling with love for her scrunchy face. It’s a girl and I was a little bit disappointed as I was hoping for another boy. Text messages went out and our children joined us in the kitchen. “You were yelling,” Josiah told me, ” and you woke me up.” They sat on the kitchen chair once occupied by my husband. He was somewhere near me taking pictures. There weren’t enough pictures last time and my mom, who was supposed to take pictures, is out of town. It was after midnight so they don’t share the same birthday.
Now there are five of us. I lay on the bed with the exhaustion of a labor that came fast and furious and from having passed out after losing quite a bit of blood. The other three members of our family sat beside me and watched with adoring excitement as the newest member got a once over by our midwife. I was just plain exhausted and basking in that oxytocin induced glow. All of my worries and sorrows were far from my mind for awhile.
It wasn’t until one month later when my husband returned to work after his paid leave that any of those thoughts came back. Sometimes the tears flow again with the remembrance of a surprise pregnancy, a third child. I have laid awake at night sometimes in spite of my exhaustion and worried over what I would do and if I’d ever get past how I felt. The pain has faded some as the months go by, but I worry that I’ll never be able to look upon her sleeping face, this child who wants only me and barely tolerates anyone else, and just love her without the shadow of what was.
Mornings lately seem to come too soon. We used to be greeted in the morning with bouncing. “I bounce on Daddy,” Lilly would proudly proclaim. I’d encourage her to continue and her face would light up with glee. My husband would groan with that slowly creeping realization that the time for sleep is ending. Lilly would begin to pull his covers off. “Get up, Daddy,” she’d cry with wild abandon. Our five year old, Josiah, seemed to prefer the direct route. He’d grasp onto his father’s arm and try to pull him out of bed unsuccessfully. There would be a brief moment where I would consider sending the kids out of the room. I would feel guilty because I knew I should protect his sleep as he often gets so little of it. On the other hand, they got such a kick out of it. Our volume would increase with laughter and many giggles. Josiah and Lilly would ask me to help them and I’d focus doubly on helping the kids extricate their Dad from his cozy, warm nest. We’d have him just about out of bed and the giggles would multiply like crazy. It was so much fun to watch their love for their father spill out all over.
We do less of this now because there’s another child in the mix. She’s too small to help and I’m afraid she’ll be kicked or hurt in some way. “Shhhh,” we say now when the children come in, “You’ll wake your sister.” The kids head off to play after stopping for a brief cuddle. As I look over on the sleeping baby next to me my heart fills with love for her. It’s at that moment that it dawns on me how much I miss those rambunctious days and it reminds me of how much having a baby changes your life.
Melanie Mayo-Laakso is the Content Manager for Mothering.com. Mothering is the birthplace of natural family living and attachment parenting. We celebrate the experience of parenthood as worthy of one's best efforts and are at once fierce advocates for children and gentle supporters of parents.