I feel kinda bad for the firstborn. I was a firstborn. There is pressure on the firstborn that is non-existent on every child born after that. I was nearly twenty-one years old when I had David Scott—so I was still a selfish person back then. And inexperienced. Those two words, selfish and inexperienced, are horrible combinations.
The birth was a long one. It was a natural birth, and though it was obviously the hardest thing I had ever done, it was empowering at the same time. I amazed myself at what was accomplished when all was said and done and the most beautiful baby that EVER existed was laying in my arms. I found new strength within that was incomparable to anything previous or since. I became a Mother.
Before I gave birth, I thought I was ready. I was naive. I thought by reading all I could, going to my puff-puff-blow-he-he-ha-ha-hoooo Lamaze classes, looking way cute in my stylin’ maternity clothes, taking prenatal vitamins the size of hot dog buns, and spending every extra dime I had on baby clothes, baby accessories, making baby clothes with matching bibs, and you name it, that those things prepared me for motherhood. Oh, I wish.
Sleep. I remember it. I do. It’s a vague memory. I haven’t slept in since 1983. Nineteen Eighty Three. Even writing it differently, still seems a long time ago. No wonder I have a set of three-piece luggage under my eyes.
When we brought that beautiful sleeping child home from the birth center, twenty-four hours later, I thought, “Wow, I need some rest after having this child. Just a couple of days’ rest and I will be ready to go.” WHY didn’t someone warn me in no uncertain terms—that that was NOT going to happen? Why were the moms around me smiling those vague, half-cooked smiles and slowly shaking their heads?
The sleeping angel that we brought home became a devilish screaming Mimi! He had enough lungs for two babies! He ate every hour to hour and a half. For twenty years. Nah, but seriously, I wanted to breastfeed—I think it is written somewhere that if you decide to have a natural birth, you will be breastfeeding that child. So I gave it a go. I do have to say, my husband at the time, was highly encouraging of this ... and kinda pushy.
Breastfeeding is ouch ouch ouch at first. (Raise your hand if you know what I’m sayin’!) By the third day, my eyes teared up when I heard a little whimper that I knew was only going to be curbed if I put my child to my breast. I gritted my teeth. Took a big breath, and tried my best to relax. RELAX. No, that didn’t happen. This third day into motherhood found me on the edge of the bed, baby to breast, sobbing. My husband came home from school to check on me, and what he found evoked a gasp.
The first thing he said was, “What’s wrong?!” I could only blubber. How could I tell him all that I needed? I hadn’t showered in two days, my bottom was still in shock after delivering an eight-pound, two-ounce watermelon through it, delirium had settled in from lack of sleep, my boobs hurt, and I’m not altogether sure this is the same sleeping angel that lay in my arms at delivery just thirty-six hours previous! He eats like he is starving and poops like the creature from the Black Lagoon!
My inability to speak anything coherently prompted him to go and retrieve a formula sample the hospital had sent home with us. He took the baby from my arms and pointed me towards the shower. At first I protested, however weakly, “No, no, we don’t want the baby to have formula. It’s not good for him.” I felt like a failure! But he just shooed me off, and reassured me that the baby would live through the next hour without me. I melted in the shower. The hot water pouring down my neck, back, soaking into my hair felt so good, so healing.
I soaped, I shampooed, I lathered. I did not however, linger. I was worried that my call of duty would be short-lived, so I hurried. When I came out of the bathroom, the first thing I noticed was the silence. No crying. I peeked over to the crib which was right next to our bed and saw a sleeping angel. Oh there he is again. He was fine. I was encouraged to rest. Ahh, rest. REST. My body craved sleep. I lay down and was out before my feet were warm.
That day I learned something. Well, a lot of things. I learned that being a Mother was all about sacrifice, and not about matching onesies and bibs. I learned to sleep when baby sleeps. I learned that it’s okay to supplement formula at first, even though a thousand LaLeche league Moms will tell you otherwise. Sometimes, some feedings, you just need a break. There is empowerment in motherhood. It ain’t for sissies.