The birth of my firstborn son was, in many ways, a fairly easy experience. I mean, I’m not going to lie: it freaking hurt like hell. But it was only five hours from that first contraction until the moment I held my brand new baby in my arms.
He slid out like a grape from these ample birthing hips, with the most perfectly round, C-section-looking head (even though I hadn’t had a C-section).
I didn’t even get hemorrhoids. Seriously! (The hubs did discourage me from bragging about this feat. He felt it didn’t place me in the purest light. But whatevs! This body’s made for making babies!)
Those last few weeks before I “bingoed” weren’t the easiest for this high strung, first-time momma, dealing with pregnancy-induced high blood pressure. In my 36th week, my long-term OB/GYN (I’d gone to him for more than 10 years!) had a debilitating stroke, landing him in a nursing home. Which meant, in case you’re unlike me and actually made the connection: he wouldn’t be delivering my baby.
Labor & Delivery
Fast forward a week, and I’m in Labor & Delivery waiting for some random dude on call to come in and get to third base (or, as they call it, “checking your progress.”) Even though the full-on labor was only five hours long, the contractions were (1) super-stressful because they’d make my baby’s heart rate plummet dangerously low, and (2) extremely painful. Of course.
I remember grabbing my mother’s shirt by the collar, as she leaned in close – (to tell me something? To ask me how I was doing? I don’t know) – and, through gritted teeth and crazy eyes, I told her how badly it hurt. My description included the f-bomb. To my mother.
That was 16 years ago.
From the very beginning, I turned to my mom when I had any questions or fears (oh my gosh, the fears!), and she would calmly explain how to safely warm a bottle (after I’d given up on nursing) so the temperature was just right, or how to safely pin a diaper (I dabbled with cloth diapering for a minute) to make sure I didn’t nick the baby.
The fears I had in the beginning paralyzed me. I was so racked with fear that he might die in his sleep, I wouldn’t allow myself to sleep, unless my husband promised to hold him while I stole little naps. That way, I could relax knowing he’d feel it if our son stopped breathing.
For days, my exhausted mind was on high alert, threatening my equally exhausted body that this terrible, awful thing would happen to the baby if I fell asleep. Sleep deprivation on top of my crazy-lady hormones made me edgy, to put it very kindly (my husband used different terminology).
Not coincidentally, my baby wasn’t nursing well.
At the first few pediatrician visits that happen within a few days of giving birth, he lost weight, which is normal. I continued trying to nurse, but he continued to lose weight, and I continued to allow myself only catnaps.
Still terrified I’d lose my baby to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), I wasn’t allowing myself the sleep I desperately needed, and my tiny baby was getting smaller and smaller, adding this new worry that I was malnourishing my child (not to mention guilt and shame and disgust that my body couldn’t do what nature designed it to do).
Thank goodness for an amazing pediatrician, who gave me “permission” to stop nursing. Breastfeeding was huge in the late 90’s, and there was a lot of guilt put onto moms who chose to bottle-feed.
Once I started bottle-feeding, my son began to thrive. What a relief! I’d also slowly begun to sleep more and more, allowing my frazzled new-mommy nerves to calm a bit.
Then the colic started.
Let me use this opportunity to tell you about a huge pet peeve of mine: when people say their baby is colicky. If your baby has not endured a battery of tests to make sure there’s not another explanation for the incessant crying, then your baby probably does not have colic. You might just have a baby that cries a lot.
And, while that does suck for you, saying your baby’s colicky without being sure, minimizes the effects of this condition on the moms and dads whose babies really do have colic. I can’t even express in human words how stressful this period was for our family.
By making parents’ hearts race at the sound of their infant screaming, Mother Nature makes sure you’ll pay attention and take care of your baby’s needs. When you aren’t able to “fix the problem” or just freakin’ make the baby stop crying, for the love of all that’s holy, it shrouds the entire home with a highly stressful energy (which, by the way, stresses the baby out. And guess what that does? Yup: makes for more crying.)
If you’re keeping a chart, you’ll have me down for three major worries at this point: SIDS, starvation, and now colic.
It was around this time that I remember calling my mom, telling her all of these worries, and crying my eyes out about how desperate I was for my baby to grow out of this infant stage. I told her I couldn’t stop worrying about every single thing, and what a relief it would be when he became a toddler, so I'd have this burden of worry off my shoulders.
She told me that these worries would definitely melt away as he grew older.
Then hesitantly she said, “They’ll just be replaced with new worries. You’ll always worry about him. I still worry about you, even though you’re a grown woman! You’re still my child and I worry about you.”
She went on to tell me that as my son left infancy and became a toddler, I’d worry about him choking, then about being abducted, or being hit by a car, and then as a teenager, I’d worry about him getting in with the wrong friends, or getting into a car crash when he starts driving.
“The thing people don’t know about being a mom is that labor is the easy part,” she said.
I had THIS paralyzing thought:Oh my God, she’s right.
I was so terrified about the act of giving birth, I didn’t realize that once my baby was born, I’d have a lifetime of worry ahead of me.
Throughout the last 16 years, my son has made motherhood fairly easy on me. He’s becoming a great young man. I don’t worry about as much as I thought I would that day I cried about my worries and fears to my mom.
But when I do find myself thinking, “I cannot wait until he’s out of this stage so I can stop worrying about _____,” I catch myself and realize that in the blink of an eye, he’ll be out of that stage and right into the next one that’ll bring its own set of worries.
Sorry to tell you new moms out there this, but even if you had a gruelling labor, I'm here to tell you THAT was the easy part.
Kristan, a writer, speaker, and marketing consultant based in Austin, TX, writes about parenting, health, and small business.
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