Two years ago to this day, I was in my first 24 hours of motherhood. By no means did I expect to be a mom in the early morning hours of July 18, 2015. But nature has a crazy way of working when babies arrive.
Also, babies sometimes come out feet first.
In that first day of being a first-time mom, I admit I was slightly in a foggy haze. The pain meds had me feeling loopy. I was also on the emotional roller coaster of hostile hormones that hijack a post-partum, post-surgery mommy’s body. I was feeling happy, sad, mad, fearful, tired, apprehensive, excited, and about 20 gazillion other emotions moms with premature babies in the NICU feel on that first scary and promising day.
Also, I was expected to pump milk like a pro, so there was that.
I was certainly in shock that at 1:59 a.m. on July 18, 2015, we welcomed our baby Will into the world. He was two months early. I hadn’t even taken a birthing class where I learned how to do goofy breathing techniques. Or practiced changing a tiny newborn’s diaper on a plastic baby doll. There hadn’t even been a baby shower with lady games where you make the guests play awkward team-building exercises while snacking on BBQ wienies and cheese ball. I definitely hadn’t frustratingly put together a baby crib or carefully placed a stack of newborn diapers and baby wipes on the shelves of a changing table.
I was about as unprepared to be a mom as they come.
All I knew was that I had to learn this breastfeeding thing fast because baby boy needed that colostrum. But I wouldn’t be able to hold my new guy for another whole day. Brutal, to sum it up in one easy, overused word. The wait to immediately bond with my little baby was excruciating. He only weighed 3 pounds, 3 ounces, and I could feel him needing his mama to thrive like some kind of telepathic “Twilight Zone” character. The experience of losing a lot of blood during the emergency c-section, so much so that I needed a transfusion, also did not help matters. That added to the loopiness. I’ve never been hypnotized, but I could see stars when I closed my eyes while sitting upright. I swore I heard a soothing voice repeating, “You’re getting sleepy, very, very sleepy.”
Great, now I’m sleepy again.
There’s a photo of me during kangaroo time with Will, which is the skin-to-skin therapy for preemies, snapped right before my transfusion where I appear green. As in Kermit the Frog-esque. No fancy Instagram filter. No joke. My mom says I was a lovely shade of chartreuse. I was just relieved to finally be holding my baby boy while fearing the idea that I could fall asleep at any moment with him tucked so preciously in my shirt. When I try to remember exactly how I felt, I can only say it was like an out-of-body experience. Where I’m floating in the air above my green-hued mom self like that creepy vampire in “Salem’s Lot,” watching me doing the best I can with the most limited knowledge of motherhood a woman can have. I didn’t think about what I didn’t know.
Only what I had to do.
Quite simply, it was to be present. My little baby Will needed my gentle touch, and the sound of my heartbeat and soothing voice. I promise that’s not me bragging about how important I think I was to his fight in the NICU. It’s nature, plain and simple. Babies need their mothers. Children need their mothers.
Heck, adults need their mothers, too.
Motherhood is not defined just by the act of giving birth. Although I do know what I experienced in those early morning hours of July 18, 2015, and the subsequent days that followed, changed me as a woman forever. My abdominal region may never recover. I do have extra-strength intuition I never knew existed until I became a mom, and the power is strong with this one.
I’ve gained a whole new respect for Yoda lately.
Even as I celebrate Will’s second birthday, I realize every day I’m a newbie at all things motherhood. I definitely had no idea what I was doing in the beginning. I still feel that way when I’m dumbfounded on how to fix a toddler tantrum. I know being present is what makes all the difference at being a mom. The tired-baby meltdowns will pass – one can only hope – and the throwing of food when he’s done eating should soon subside.
Unless I’m raising a Bluto from “Animal House.”
He needs me there to guide him, just as my mom did back in the day. Who am I kidding, she still does now. I’ll take the advice of all those tired, loopy mothers who came before me. Read a few self-help books about what to expect along the way. This will guide me through the rough patches. Hopefully keep me from self-destructive stress behavior like eating four fudge-covered Twinkies in one sitting because I think they are the most wonderful culinary invention in the world. Maybe help me understand how exactly I make it through these formidable years. Who knows how I’ll do it, but hey, I figured out breast feeding and pumping when duty called. I’ll probably just take the route Will did on July 18, 2015, with no one stopping me.
Go all in fast, feet first.
April E. Allford has no funny pics in her backless hospital gown during her mandatory hospital bed rest. She can be reached by commenting here.