Here we are in Hudson’s 3rd month in this world and I am grateful to have a moment to sit down and reflect. These months have been some of the most joyous and most challenging of my life. Hudson has brought me happiness that I didn’t understand before having a child. My husband and I can literally watch him smile, coo and wiggle for hours on end. I am so in love with our little baby boy.
However, our early days were not filled with as much elation. I can very honestly say that my bond with him did not form overnight or immediately following his birth, largely because my labour and delivery were challenging. My pregnancy was full of hiccups and because of this, I strived to “go with the flow”. As I should have expected, my labour and delivery put this mindset to the test. Circumstances led me to an emergency C-section due to the development of infection in labour which put the baby at significant risk. He was also unexpectedly malpositioned which made it difficult to deliver normally, especially since the doctors were in a hurry to get him out due to the infection and his erratic vitals. After he was born, he spent 5 days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit on antibiotics. Because of this, he was also extremely difficult to feed and it took weeks of pumping, syringe, cup and bottle feeding before he finally got the hang of breastfeeding.
In those early days, I spent time thinking about the events that brought Hudson into this world and whether I could have done anything differently. I found myself feeling like I was cheated out of some rite of passage of a vaginal birth. This left me feeling less of a woman and mother. (So not true by the way! See #5 below). HOWEVER, despite achieving very few of my short-term labour and delivery goals, I shifted my focus to the fact that I have a healthy baby boy. I don’t like to even think about what could have happened if we did not have access to life saving modern medical procedures. I am very thankful to the midwives, doctors and nurses who took care of us in the hospital. (And I’m pretty sure they all saw me cry multiple times). I may not have had my ideal birth experience but it was my experience nonetheless and it has helped me to be more empathetic to my friends and patients who go through challenging labours and deliveries.
I’d like to share with you a few things that helped me cope with an unexpected delivery and the trials and tribulations of early motherhood. Those early weeks are challenging and I hope that you find a snippet of comfort in the following small pieces of advice.
- Take time to grieve, cry, talk about your pregnancy or birth experience until you are blue in the face. I had the opportunity to do this with my husband, mom, midwives and friends. But then let it go. You have to let it go in order to move forward and be the best mama you can be for your baby. Babies change and grow so quickly and if you only live in the past, you will miss all the good stuff right now!
- Write down your pregnancy and birth story. This is therapeutic in that you can take the time to recall every little detail of your experience and the act of writing it down helps you to release it from being so prominent in your mind. Share your story with others, file it away in your baby book, or keep it all to yourself. Just get it off your chest.
- Reach out to your mama support system. Like an ol’ fashioned telephone tree, word travels fast in the mama network. I reached out to all the mama bears I know during those early weeks and the support and love that came my way was incredible (you know who you amazing women are!). I had no idea so many of them had gone through challenging experiences with their babies and I took comfort in knowing they came out the other side.
- Babies are not fixed. Everything can seem so permanent in those early weeks but your baby will change quickly. I went from pumping breastmilk 8 times per day and thinking I was going to have to do this until Hudson started kindergarten (irrational, I know) to now only pumping once per day…Hallelujah! A good lesson here is to enjoy every single precious moment of the TLB stage (ie: tiny little baby) because in the blink of an eye they are off to college. Okay maybe I’m getting ahead of myself but seriously, they do grow up quickly.
- Being a mother is not defined by pushing a baby out of your yoo-hoo. Being a mother is in nurturing and creating space for this new little being in your life. It is embracing the unexpected events of your birth and giving love to your child as you get to know one another and merge your lives together. It is in how you nurture and foster your child into their own little person. Motherhood is NOT just the act of childbirth. A mother and baby’s bond evolves and grows over time. So if it doesn’t go as planned, go with the flow until you get the opportunity to truly impact your baby’s life.
- Take control of the things you can. You may not have had control over the way your baby entered this world but you do have control over their health now. It’s never too early to seek support for your baby’s health. During the first 2 months of Hudson’s life, we saw lactation consultants, midwives, our family doctor, a pediatrician, and a tongue tie specialist. And of course, seek out the advice of a naturopath to find out which probiotics are best for your baby’s developing immune system 😉 Research shows that antibiotic use in the first year of life significantly increases the risk of food allergy, eczema and asthma.1,2,3,4 And the use of probiotics in pregnancy and the first year of life can help lessen this risk.5 , 6 As does regular exposure to bacteria on your skin and in our environment. Which is why you will never see me excessively sterilizing Hudson’s soother.
- Take care of YOU! If you find yourself dwelling on the nitty gritty of your labour and delivery and it’s deeply affecting your moods or ability to care for your baby, I encourage you to speak with your doctor or midwife about the type of support that YOU need. This could mean seeing a counsellor, starting a gentle exercise regime or a yoga class, enlisting extra help at home so you can get more sleep, starting B12 injections or a specialized medication or supplement, etc. The list is endless! Self care goes hand in hand with baby care. If you are uncared for, then it will be harder to care for your baby. Don’t ever hesitate to reach out.
- Don’t forget to laugh. There was a moment in the middle of the night a few weeks ago when Hudson projectile vomited onto me while poo exploded across the change table. My initial reaction was disgust and exacerbation. My second reaction was laughter. These days won’t last long. And I’m so lucky to have this little light in my life.