Curious Paradoxes of New Motherhood

The arrival of a new life is a little like a hurricane has come through shaking everything up to the point where you don’t recognize the landscape any more. I had a reader comment on one of my recent poems that the adjustment to motherhood appears to be agreeing with me. Becoming a first time mother is exhausting, scary, joyous, frustrating, and can feel like you are going a little nuts. In some ways I have enjoyed the transition that I am adjusting to as a new mother. In other respects I find the change to be very overwhelming. 

My son, Dylan, is now two weeks old. He has no qualms about making himself known when he needs something, or even just wants to be held. As a new mom, I usually start with basics. Does he need to be changed? Is he hungry? Is he too hot or too cold? Is he overstimulated or overtired? Does he just want to be held? Is he gassy (big source of discomfort for babies)? Sometimes though a baby will just fuss, and there isn’t too much you can do about it. This last one is frustrating when you’ve had very little sleep, and your son or daughter seems uncomfortable. 

Once you have a child you will find yourself laughing at, or saying things you never thought that you would. A few days ago I was getting ready to give my son a bath when he peed all over the towel, so I had to get my husband to fetch me a clean one. Baby boys require very fast diaper changes by the way. If you have had a little baby boy and been peed on enough times you know exactly what I am talking about. Once the cold hits his little penis it is like dealing with a fire hose. A few minutes after the pee incident, I was laughing, because my son was making bubbles in the bath water from his farts. Bathroom humour normally doesn’t make me laugh yet now it appears to. 

As a new mother, you worry about things that you never cared about before or that prior to having a child weren’t a concern. For example, if I want to take a shower or even go to the bathroom then I have to make sure if I am home alone that he is either in his crib, or another safe place. I normally leave my bathroom door open so I can hear him if he starts to cry. 

Self care is an important part of me staying well myself, and bare minimum for me is eating 3 meals per day, a shower, and brushing my teeth. Emotionally I speak regularly on the phone or have coffee with those friends of mine who have had young children. With a newborn sleep is probably the most challenging basic need for me to meet. My husband during the weekends takes the night shift to care for Dylan so I can get some rest, and during the week my mother will take him for a few hours so I can get sleep or a sanity break. I love my son, but appreciate him even more when I get short periods of time away from him. At first I felt a bit guilty about taking the time away from him, and I think most new mothers do feel like they are being selfish if they are away from their children.

Labour, delivery and the adjustment to becoming a new mother have not been easy on me emotionally or physically. Physically I am still recovering from a c-section. My staples that held the incision together came out shortly after Dylan was a week old. I am still in some pain from my surgery, and have another two weeks that I am restricted in what I can and cannot do physically. I have been lucky to receive help from family members, so cleaning, dishes and laundry are kept up. I have had to relax my standards quite a bit as I am trying to find the balance between what needs to be done, and what isn’t that important. My body also underwent a huge change physically as I dropped down 28 pounds when I gave birth from the loss of fluid, no longer carrying my son, or the placenta.

Emotionally, hormones have had some fun playing mind games with me and sleep deprivation probably doesn’t help matters either. My anxiety has been a big challenge recently as I have had a hard time trying to relax, or rest. I also find that I do not tolerate large amounts of visitors very well. It has been important to set some strict boundaries to limit how many people come to my house at once. I have been making it a point to get out of the house every second day for a walk, or even for just a coffee as I know that isolating myself will make things much worse. The first week that I was home from the hospital I was very weepy, and this is getting a little better over time. What I was wondering at the time was why am I crying when I have this beautiful little life in my care? Some of the tears came from the knowledge that his care is largely all on me. I just learned how to take care of myself not too long ago and now I am responsible for a little soul. 

New mothers don’t talk very often about the fact that it can take a while to feel a bond with your offspring. I loved my son when he was in the womb as the connection felt so very intimate. I did not finish labour and delivery with Dylan as he would not have made it through my pelvis. His entry into the world felt very surreal to me. Day by day though I am slowly getting to know this little soul who appears to have a strong personality already. My favourite moments with him are when he is snuggling with me after a feeding, taking him out in the stroller, or he is watching TV with me on the couch. It’s in those quiet times when it is just him and I that I can feel love slowly growing. 

Amanda

 

My Body as a Map

remembering lover nestled along

feminine curves; arch of my back

roundness of hips and buttocks

a battle scar: numbed area above mons

where they cut through muscle and nerve

arrival of little beloved that 100 years before…

could have killed us both if the scar wasn’t there

intimate sites knowing pain and pleasure’s stores

where my body traveled…

even in the scars, brokenness and pain…

it is still a beautiful map.

(c) Amanda Wilson 2013

Motherhood: Brave New World

Image
Dylan Thomas and I cuddling at the hospital.

Sometimes we are given the opportunity to learn a great deal about who we really are or to see new depths of ourselves that can be very eye-opening. On the night of July 29th, I began a physical and mental journey  that ended differently from what I expected to happen at the end of my pregnancy. I felt physically ill with what appeared to be the stomach flu, and tried to go to bed. I could not sleep that night at all as I felt sick. Very early in the morning I went up to the hospital where the doctor told me that I was 2 cm dilated.

He said that I had already been in labour most of the night. He also called the closest hospital with a maternity unit, and my husband and I left right away so they could admit me. The drive to the hospital was a long one as my contractions were getting much stronger along the way. I was in labour until the wee hours of July 30th when I was no longer progressing at 7 cm dilated. My ob/gyn ordered an emergency caesarean section.

Now a c-section is performed with your lower half-frozen with an epidural done through the spine, but you are still awake. It is a very surreal feeling when you know that they are performing abdominal surgery, you cannot feel anything, and are talking to your doctors at the same time. I gave birth to a son, Dylan Thomas, at 2:30 am on July 30th who weighs 9 pounds 10 ounces. When I was being operated on I quoted the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, who wrote “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” when I heard my son cry for the first time. I said one line and the doctor finished the next line. You could say that Dylan chose his own name by virtue of his lungs. He is starting off his life by making his presence known, and I hope that through raising him I can help him find his own way in this world.

The past 48 hours have been a very steep learning curve for me. One of the things I am learning from this is I am capable of more physically and mentally than I thought that I was before. The long labour, healing process from surgery and adjusting to motherhood are all a lot for one person to deal with all at once. Patience and love towards myself are an important part of nourishing my soul, so I can care best for my son. Also, that no matter how prepared one is for a situation that life will be full of surprises that will teach you a great deal about yourself. It is wonderful to be a beautiful soul who is in the process of learning to live in the imperfect world that is our temporary home.

Wishing all of you the best that life and love have to offer.

Amanda

Still in the Oven

It appears that my child is enjoying the Jacuzzi tub and free buffet meals in my womb. This is wonderful that he or she finds it comfortable in there, but it will be nice to finally meet the new arrival. Today is July 26th, which is now two days past my due date. I am feeling an odd mixture of amusement, anxiety, and frustration as I haven’t given birth yet. The last couple of week of pregnancy can be trying for most women at the best of times as we feel uncomfortable and anxious.

Well meaning family and friends keep asking so when is the baby arriving? My most common answer is either when the child decides he or she is ready to come out, or when my doctor will induce me on July 31st. Inducing labour is normally only done when the mother and baby are both about a week past the due date, or there is a risk to both the mother and child. Thankfully, I am blessed that both myself and the gummy bear are healthy.

Not having control over my body is a very new situation for me that lately has tested my patience. No first time mother knows how labour will go, so my anxiety has been a little higher than usual. This anxiety combined with pregnancy hormones at their height is making life interesting at the moment. I am not feeling like myself at the moment when I swing between frustration and feeling so emotional.

The lesson I am learning from this experience is how in most situations it is important to surrender control to a higher power over the potential outcome, and to be patient as well as compassionate with myself. Laughing at myself when hormones cause me to feel out of sorts is one way to cope with their wackiness. Sometimes you learn the most about yourself when you don’t feel like who you are normally. My life experiences have caused me to be self-aware of who I am, as well as, what most of my quirks are. By this I mean that you learn what your limits are, and how you cope when they are pushed.

Once you start to heal from the aftermath of trauma there are aspects of the experience that can be blessings. Wisdom can come from experiencing brokenness. One thing I realized recently is that I need to be physically rested to self regulate my mood. In the third trimester it can become much harder to find a comfortable sleeping position as the baby bump and various pregnancy symptoms make it much harder to sleep well. Making time for a nap during the day, and keeping a perspective that the sleep deprivation during the night is temporary help to cope with this. I have had to deal with insomnia before, so I am prepared for the sleep deprivation that comes with having a newborn.

Well, I hope that all of you have a wonderful day. If you are in your last trimester of pregnancy then you most certainly have my empathy. It can be trying towards the end when you are anticipating your new arrival.

Amanda

Contradictory Skin

I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of my first child with me being at 39 weeks and still counting. Pregnancy does some interesting things to your worldview, to your mind and even to your body. Nine months doesn’t seem like a very long period of time. A lot can happen over the course of nine months. In some ways, I am more comfortable being myself than I was before I am facing the prospect of motherhood. In other aspects, I am starting to realize that I still have some healing to do when it comes to coping with my past.

On Monday, I had a prenatal appointment with my OB/Gyn who is monitoring my pregnancy. Sleep towards the end of pregnancy can be elusive at best. As a mother to be it can be hard to get physically comfortable, your bladder may need to be emptied multiple times in one night, and your brain becomes overactive with the fears surrounding motherhood. The night before my appointment I slept maybe a total of four hours. My doctor had to conduct an internal exam, which most of the time would be unpleasant yet something I could easily cope with. This time I didn’t find it so easy to cope with someone having to enter my intimate personal space. I managed to soothe myself afterwards, but being triggered is not something that happens too often these days. Point is that no matter how much healing I have done; being a survivor is always going to have an impact on my life whether I like it or not. The desire for a healthy baby has helped a great deal in coping with my discomfort.

Handling a trigger can be a mysterious thing at times. What may set me off can also be surprising. I have personal issues with being touched by someone who I don’t know that well even if the reason is a good one. Now a nurse or a doctor when I go into labour will check how much I am dilated to decide what interventions if any are necessary. Most health care providers have been good enough to tell me before they do an examination, or initiate a medical procedure to tell me what they are doing. This communication helps me to mentally prepare myself to stop my anxiety from escalating. Truthfully, I am a little scared about what may happen when I go into labour, but I also know that I am a strong woman and women have been giving birth to healthy babies for thousands of years.

Earlier today reflected one way in, which my comfort being in my own skin has changed. I have times when I feel pretty good about my body even though I have a large baby bump. My sister and I decided to go swimming at a local pool to try to beat the heat and humidity. The only swimsuit that fits me at the moment was my bikini. The bikini is blue with black tiger stripes, and not what I normally would wear. It’s strange when you realize that your body is healthy and strong enough to carry life then you develop a greater love for it. I NEVER would have worn a bikini at a public pool or beach in my twenties. Reason for this is I didn’t feel confident in my own skin back then.

In my process of growing I feel like I can accept certain aspects of myself very easily, while others still need a little bit more love and acceptance. I suppose that is the contradictory nature of being in my own skin. It is a continual growth process that I am enjoying even when I bump up against those moments of discomfort. Life is about growth and change. It would be boring if we did not learn.

 

Home Stretch

new understanding why birds gather twigs

or fluff lilting on the air

expectant mothers not so different instincts

purge, organize and clean

will everything be ready in time?

~

silly words for practice contractions:

Braxton Hicks

irregular, uncomfortable inflate then deflate

~

ten thousand stray thoughts and fears

big transition looming

one precious being relying on me for its survival

overwhelmed.

~

months race by into weeks

weeks grow closer to a date

Little One, when will you arrive?

a mother waits at the home stretch

 

(c) Amanda Wilson 2013

Zen Cat

Zen Cat

Life can be chaotic. Friday morning was one of those days where life got a little nuts. The hydro went out in the middle of the night. This meant that my alarm clock did not go off at the time that I needed to get up for my prenatal appointment. I actually was awake an hour later than I had planned.

Now potential lateness is one of those things that can trigger my anxiety. Normally, I arrive at least 15 minutes to half an hour early for my appointments or prior to starting a day at work. I very quickly took a fast shower and brushed my teeth then my husband and I left on the 45 minute commute to see my ob/gyn.

Before I go any further I should mention that my doctor works out of two clinics in the same community. We hit traffic on the way there, so we were already running late by about 10 to 15 minutes. We reached the medical clinic that my doctor works out of and she was not there. The office was undergoing renovations, so the receptionist and I were communicating via shouting.

We got the address for the other clinic and I was about half an hour late for my appointment. Now please bear in mind that I felt hormonal, hot (it was very humid here), and irritated by this point. When a pregnant woman reaches 31 weeks, and has an anxiety disorder it can make for an interesting combination.

Once I reached home the cat pictured, Teddy, climbed up onto my lap. He gave me his calm expression then began to purr very loudly once he settled down. It was like he was reminding me that after all the chaos there will be a moment of calm. I am hoping as I become a mother that things will start to ruffle my feathers much less and that I will be able to embrace the chaos more easily.

Amanda