I was stupid.
I did things myself, without help.
Now I cringe at the mere thought of the words rolling off my tongue.
“We want to spend the first week alone to bond as a family, Mom. You can visit a week after he’s born.”
But I didn’t know… so many things.
Then I discovered:
- The only time my son actually slept for more than three hours straight was immediately following birth.
- He stayed asleep if held and instantly awakened when laid down.
- Nursing hurt. Bad.
- My son retracted his tongue, eliminating the cushion of his lower jaw enabling him to chomp on me with full biting power.
- My feet swelled with fluid so it hurt to stand.
- How uncomfortable stitches were.
- I had a fever for twenty-four hours when my milk came in coupled with violent shivers.
- How much it hurt to have milk come in.
- The pain of simple breathing when full of milk.
- The itchy irritation of adhesive stuck on my back where I couldn’t scrape it off.
- The meaning of true exhaustion.
I took nights, so my husband could sleep. I had days too, because I was the milk wagon.
My son cluster fed, nursing ten hours a day, biting me raw until I cried at the thought of experiencing this supposed perfect moment.
I had ten or twenty minute power naps, nodding off while nursing, accumulating in five hours of total sleep over the last three days.
I wondered why I ever wanted to be a mother.
Friends stayed away, any calls brushed aside. I ran around the house topless, in button down shirts never re-buttoned – always in demand.
Too tired to care, but figured I’d spare everyone else.
On day four my friend Heather called.
“Hey, how’s it going?”
I smiled. “Fine… I’m a little tired and…”
My words continued, but the faked cheeriness vanished, transforming into tears as I broke down and confessed my misery, until my entire body wrenched with sobs.
“Would you like me to come over tonight?”
I hesitated. I was a mother now. I wasn’t supposed to need help. I only had a single baby. She had two children.
But I couldn’t go on like this.
“Yes. Please. Thank you.”
She arrived several hours later, a glowing halo sparkling over her head.
“Here, I’ll show you how to give him a bath.” We filled the baby tub just a bit, using it to splash water on my son, avoiding future belly button, as he screamed.
“Go. Shower. We’re fine.” She cradled my still crying son, wrapped in a towel, as I fought to snatch him from her, knowing I could quiet him.
“GO!” She waved me upstairs.
My husband and I climbed into the shower together – our first time alone. Not for intimacy or sex, but to scrape the evil adhesive off my back.
It was heaven.
For two hours I relinquished control. I didn’t have to be strong or pretend to know what I was doing.
I asked questions.
It marked the turning point and I will never forget what Heather did for me – carving time to help even with a three year old and a five month old at home.
I called my mother shortly after I had my second positive pregnancy test.
“How soon can you get here before your second grandchild is born and how long can you stay? Forever?”
My lesson learned.
I filled it in with:
The first time I admitted I needed help after coming home from the hospital with my first child.