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Bad Parenting Moments: Birth

Monday, March 4, 2013


In the early morning hours of February 11, 2006, a woman I had grown to know and love died. We had a tumultuous relationship. At times, unhealthy. Often complex. There were great successes and disappointments, but, after 26 years, we had reached an awareness of being that I had confused for readiness. Ten months earlier, I convinced myself that it was time.

On February 11th, at a time of night when blurry-eyed patrons were leaving bar stools and dance floors for the comforts of home, my first daughter was born.

She was born and, in that moment, 26 years of who I thought I was; who I had been, died. In that moment, I was reborn.

I looked at her small face in the sterile, plastic bassinet to my left. Beautiful. Small and helpless. What had we done? I looked at my husband. "I have NO idea what I'm doing!" He smiled and said, "I know."

26 years of living toward and for this moment. She was here. Who was I? A newborn in my role standing guard over my newborn daughter. We were as one in the fresh wonder and wound of birth. Her as a daughter. Me as a mother. We would figure this out together.

She would not nurse. In the hospital bed, in a new body I had never worn, my breasts tender and heavy with milk she could not drink, we would both cry in unison.

I was sharing a room with a veteran. She was calm. She slept. She laughed uproariously with her guests. Her son nursed effortlessly. This simple act bringing me my first taste of maternal jealousy by the hands of the wicked comparison. On my first night, after finally dragging my husband out of the room with the gentle reminders from staff that turned stern, I placed my daughter on my chest to breathe in the intoxicating smell of new life, pure and unlike anything else. Otherworldly. As I would, in my later veteran days call it, Maternal Crack.

As I sat, alone, with my sweet smelling and crying newborn, my roommate pulled back her curtain, breaking our imagined barrier and said, "Is this your first?" I nodded and smiled. She smiled back and said, "You are going to be great. It's going to be wonderful. She is beautiful." This simple act bringing me my first taste of the bond of love that exists in its rawest form between mothers.

The next morning, in the maternity ward shower, my heart pounded loudly and without interruption in my ears. The fear of being away from my daughter so profound. Yet, the feeling of the water against my worn body, so luxurious. I couldn't help but enjoy the feeling of lightness of my newly empty womb, the silence of the bathroom and the escape from the hospital gown. The push-pull of my need of her and need of a shower bringing me my first taste of maternal guilt.

I convinced the nurses that I needed to stay for an additional day. She had a mild case of kidney reflux. Breastfeeding was still not going well. She was slightly jaundiced. They were gracious and kind. I was terrified.

For our last night, we paid for a private room out of pocket so my husband could spend the night with his new family. A luxury we could not afford but could not find a way to turn down. My husband ran to the billing department, credit card in hand. He came back with the receipt, our ticket to familial solitude, and the private room service menu. "I knew they gave better food to the private roomers!" I whispered. My husband smirked as we pushed our tiny daughter in her same plastic bassinet to our new room, chuckling nurse chaperon by our side.

The next day, it was time to go home. Time to become her mother, unassisted. No more of the nurses I had grown to love. No call buttons or simulated nursing systems. No doctors to check her vitals and reassure me of her health and vitality. It was just us. Newborn baby girl. Newborn mom. We would figure this out together.

When my husband came to pick us up, nervous and with unused car seat in hand, he found me sitting on the hospital bed in ill fitting post-maternity clothing, crying. Our daughter in my arms and a cardboard box of paperwork, flowers and hospital issued newborn trinkets by my side. The box the only sign of my great transition. I gave birth, died, was reborn, and all of the proof of my great pilgrimage to Motherhood fit inside a cardboard box.

I looked up, shoulders shaking and managed to sputter out, "I love her so much. I have no idea what I'm doing." He smiled though his own tears and said, "I know."


At March 4, 2013 at 1:28 PM , Blogger Robyn Welling said...

You got me again - crying. Such a touching piece, both intensely personal and universal. Love remembering the feeling of the "newly empty womb," love the pilgrimage fitting in a box, love you.

At March 4, 2013 at 1:33 PM , Anonymous Amy said...

I had a very similar experience. You know you'll love your child. You know it. You have no idea the power of that love until you are holding him/her in your arms for the first time. And everything you ever knew to be true about you, your life, the world goes right out the window. And there is no looking back.

At March 4, 2013 at 1:35 PM , Blogger Amy FunnyIsFamily said...

So lovely. I remember feeling so uneasy those first few day, and it wasn't until hearing your story do I know why. So many transitions happen in those 36 hours that there is no way to gain sure footing. Today my tears are sweet. What an amazing journey!

At March 4, 2013 at 1:36 PM , Anonymous Starlett said...

This made me tear up. And I know it's not just the pregnancy hormones. You are an enormously talented writer!!

At March 4, 2013 at 1:38 PM , Blogger HouseTalkN Rossow said...

This is so beautiful! That first motherhood experience is unforgettable!

At March 4, 2013 at 1:41 PM , Blogger According to Mags... said...

What an amazing experience. You expressed it in your writing with such beauty and grace. :)

At March 4, 2013 at 1:42 PM , Blogger fishducky said...

You made me cry!!

At March 4, 2013 at 2:20 PM , Blogger Domestic Diva said...

Beautiful piece - sorry you didn't make the LTYM show, but I'm glad you were able to share this here.

At March 4, 2013 at 6:33 PM , Blogger Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms said...

I love the story you crafted here, the emotions you evoked in me. Lovely storytelling. Ellen

At March 4, 2013 at 7:06 PM , Blogger Gigi said...

I remember that feeling. I remember thinking "How in the world are they letting ME leave here with a newborn. I have NO idea what I'm doing."

At March 4, 2013 at 8:47 PM , Blogger Kathy at kissing the frog said...

This is probably the most beautiful birth story I have ever read - so tender and raw. I love how it started with a death and being reborn. Beautiful storytelling. Thank you for sharing.

At March 4, 2013 at 8:48 PM , Blogger Kathy at kissing the frog said...

This is probably the most beautiful birth story I have ever read - so tender and raw. I love how it started with a death and being reborn. Beautiful storytelling. Thank you for sharing.

At March 4, 2013 at 11:27 PM , Blogger hilljean said...

I'm with Kathy. This was the most beautiful account of birth I have ever read. I can so relate!! That labor of love really is the death of self and the creation of a new woman. This made me long for another baby so bad!

At March 5, 2013 at 12:31 AM , Blogger The Girl Next Door Drinks and Swears said...

Beautiful, as usual. Nothing scarier than leaving the hospital with your new precious miracle. My husband and I were so clueless. As a matter of fact, 12 years in, we still are.

At March 5, 2013 at 5:04 AM , Blogger TNMom said...

So beautiful!! I am crying as I remember it all very well, it was July 8, 2006 for us. I told my husband a couple of weeks in that our house seemed like a totally different house. It IS! Love this, love you momma! <3 Devan

At March 5, 2013 at 8:58 AM , Blogger YKIHAYHT said...

You know how much I love you. This right here is amazing. This just made me remember what that first time was like. As those days get farther and farther away, it was nice to bring it back this morning. Thank you. xoxo

At March 6, 2013 at 10:17 AM , Anonymous Suburban Snapshots said...

I'm crying in a coffee shop, you huge douche.

At March 6, 2013 at 10:12 PM , Anonymous JD Bailey @ Honest Mom said...

Oh my GOSH. Bethany. You took my breath away. What a beautiful, clear, true piece of writing. Just truly lovely.

At March 6, 2013 at 10:40 PM , Blogger Kristin said...

Are you getting soft on me? Kidding. Really beautiful post - I loved it!

At March 7, 2013 at 7:06 AM , Blogger Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms said...

Yep. It was just like that. Every emotion perfectly wrought. Beautiful. Honest. Real. Erin

At March 7, 2013 at 6:05 PM , Blogger Wendy said...

This was beautiful. Brought back my own memories! xo

At March 10, 2013 at 2:14 PM , Blogger Jessica Watson said...

Oh this is so gorgeous, brought back so many memories.


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