Text & Photos by Hannah
This is not your typical Mamma Anthology...this one is about reflection, and for once, myself. Written on the morning our newborn turned two weeks old:
Today is a day of Twos for me.
Two weeks ago I had my second Cesarean surgery in two years and brought into our family a second son. Two weeks. Only and already?
Two nights ago we made an emergency run to the doctor late in the night seeking treatment for my second round with a mastitis infection. I am eternally grateful to my sister and her dear friend for coming at a moment's notice to watch our boys so we could leave without worrying over them, and for my parents for driving an hour to relieve them and stay overnight so that when we got home we could rest.
Two nights ago I also hung in the aching chasm between wanting to continue breastfeeding my son and wanting to stop. It was a gut-wrenching and soul-searching thing for me to contemplate. Breastfeeding - that most expected duty of new mothers. But what a physically painful thing in reality. Such a lonely endeavor. Such a feeling of helplessness when you live in a small, rural area that offers no professional support.
Two days ago I was reminded to be gentle with myself. To grieve what I had wanted - with all my heart - and to acknowledge what I needed to do instead. To show guilt and expectation the door and to be grateful for choices. To allow myself to continue to heal physically, mentally, and emotionally. How I needed that reminder.
There are, it seems, endless and noisy research avenues for pregnancy and preparing for baby splashed all over the internet. There are even some for the first days after bringing baby home. But there are not nearly enough of the honest, down to the roots information sources for what really happens - to a woman, specifically - after having a child and beginning the slow and slippery climb back to some form of normalcy. (I say women specifically because, let's be completely blunt in our truth-telling here, men just don't experience babies the way we do.) The only information I find readily available is steeped in technical medical terms and possible horrific death scenarios that require immediate calls to your doctor rather than actual accounts of what constitutes "normal" day-to-day and night-to-night when you bring a new baby home. So if you want honest and real experiences, here are mine:
Pregnancy is hard. Search and watch Life Before Birth by Curiosity/Discovery Channel for a comprehensive look at what happens to your body when you endeavor to grow a human; it is truly humbling to see what our bodies go through. But. My dears. I believe the first weeks after your baby's arrival are the hardest weeks you will endure in your life. Here is why. You are expected to be joyous, soft, giving, tireless, nurturing, and immediately, glowingly in love. In reality your body just performed a deeply traumatic task - albeit a natural one - whether you gave birth naturally or via Cesarean. Having only experienced C-sections, I know that particular route also includes a slow healing process for a serious abdominal surgery. Your hormones, those powerful sinister things, go on a mind and body controlling rampage that you are helpless to direct. You fight exhaustion and body-fluid re-balancing and the emotional toll of coping with the look and feel of your body post-baby. You have to deal head-on with your preconceived notions and hopes of what you wanted to happen versus what actually does happen (like breastfeeding). And to top it all off you have to find a way to help everyone around you understand what you need from them, even if it's not what they initially want to give.
In short - and remember I am aiming to be truly transparent here - it is a hellish ordeal. Do not misunderstand me. It's breathtakingly beautiful. I fell in love much faster this time. I watched through dewy eyes as my precious gift was welcomed with open arms into my "tribe." I see my two year old struggle to take it all in and balance it in his mind and I am sent tumbling to my knees in gratitude at what a giving and earnest soul he is. The very bend of my husband's hand, softly cradling our newborn's delicate neck, is a work of art beyond expression. Therein lies the difficulty, I suppose. It is unspeakably moving. It is unspeakably hard. It is a fragile spider's thread, spanning the impossible distance between all that is, all that you wish, and all that will never be. It is a single vein of a web which connects the human, the spiritual, and the unreachable in this Universe. And you, Mamma, you are asked to walk that thread. Whether you walk it with your eyes closed and crying, with your breasts aching, with your body fighting chills and sweats, with your heart split open wide and bleeding, or with your partner gently leading you part of the way, you walk it. You walk it because the Universe designed you, Mamma, to be the only one who can. And when you emerge on the other side of that thread and you toe solid ground again - I cannot tell you how long that will be - you will turn around and take a deep breath while you survey what you left behind, you will grapple with mistakes you made and pick up the little shards of beautiful, and then you will walk on.
Be gentle with yourself on this journey. Balancing on the trembling web that connects us all is no easy task. But it is your task. My task, too. Cultivate with me a frame of mind that is flexible and kind and mindful of ourselves during this time of healing, adjusting, and growing. Remind yourself every morning, as I do, that you are worth gentleness.
Sites I Dig
The Road is Home
The Seed & Plate
Sharon Covert Photography
The Define School
The Noisy Plume
Sarah Gee Photography
Fox & Owl Studio
The Stork and The Beanstalk
Mellow Yellow Photography
A Simple Little Journal
What I've Been Reading
The Girls by Emma Cline
A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash
Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
Never Broken by Jewel
Hold Still by Sally Mann