Everyone always talks about how motherhood is one of the hardest and most rewarding jobs. Having only spent two weeks as a mom, I have already experienced both challenges and joys of parenthood. Here are my five most traumatic motherhood moments so far (in order of their occurrence, not necessarily how upsetting they were):
(1) ER visit
When Henry was 6 days old we had to make an ER visit. He had been pretty lethargic all day and then when daddy got home from work, and I went to nap, daddy tried to wake him up. Derek felt like Henry was definitely acting out of character so he called the after hours number for our pediatrician. His call was returned in five minutes and we were told to go to the ER. Derek woke me up and my heart was racing and my emotions were spinning. I was trying to remain calm, but the idea of my baby being in danger was terrifying.
When we got to the check in at the ER, I started to tell them that my baby was somewhat unresponsive. They could see the shaking in my body and quivering in my voice. Immediately she got on the phone, and Derek clarified that Henry wasn't "unresponsive." She said it didn't matter and seconds later a group of people rushed out of the ER and a red headed nurse hollered "where's the baby?" Derek pointed her toward me (I think it was Derek--it all felt like a whirlwind in this moment). She was so kind and held my arm firmly, talked in a soothing and controlled voice, and looked at Henry while she asked what was going on. Then she walked with me through the ER doors and we got Henry on a table within five minutes of us arriving. It was incredible. I love that nurse.
Our poor little baby had to go through so many tests. He had an x-ray, blood drawn, an IV, blood taken through a foot prick, they took a sample from his stools, I think that is it. I had to hold him down while he had blood taken and the IV. That was terrible. Watching them try to prick his little veins, while I held him down, and he cried. I hated it, but the whole time I talked to him and didn't let him sense any distress on my part. That is one of the hardest parts about being a mom. Feeling distress, anxiety, sadness, fear, and not letting them feel it or know that you are feeling it. Making them feel like everything is just fine even when you aren't sure it is.
The blood work resulted in a special moment between the two of us. I talked to him and we managed to make eye contact. He just stared into my eyes and stayed calm and with me the whole time. It was like the two of us were just there, I knew he saw me and was completely comforted by me. It was such a beautiful moment and one that I'm glad we had, though I could have definitely done without the circumstances around it.
Eventually we were released after all the tests came back in acceptable range. His jaundice level was higher than it had previously been (it was at 14 and 20 is the concerning level) which they said was probably causing his lethargy. He wasn't dehydrated and he didn't have the illness they screened for.
When I left the hospital I started physically shaking. It was cold outside, but I think the level of shaking I had was largely adrenaline rushing through my veins. I had held myself together the whole time we were there, for Henry, and finally I could breathe a sigh of relief and it all came rushing out.
(2) Umbilical cord
Henry's umbilical cord "fell" off relatively early. On day 9, we noticed some yellow puss oozing out of it and that it was holding on my a very thin string. Derek called the pediatrician and they said as long as it wasn't bleeding it was okay and that we could try and gently brush it off. Writing about it doesn't even capture how horrible it felt. Of course mommy had to do it (moms have to be a little tougher than dads it seems). I used my nails to gently pinch it off, but man was it gross and boy was I scared of hurting him or causing an infection. As I write this, it is healing nicely and it looks more and more like a belly button each day. It feels like each "traumatic" moment I write about passes. It's helpful to remember that as they happen--"This too will pass," I must tell myself.
(3) First drive
This one was not so much traumatic as it was nerveracking. Up until yesterday (his two week birthday) I had only driven once at all and never with Henry. Normally Derek drives and I sit in the back seat. Yesterday was a huge and not fun day for us. I drove him to the pediatrician for his circumcision (trauma number 4) and then we had to go to the Radiology department at the hospital for an ultrasound for me (trauma number 5). We did great and I felt more comfortable with each drive yesterday (though the idea of getting too comfortable makes me nervous). Getting on the freeway was probably the worst part. Having to merge into a lane left me terrified that a car would hit me and it would be on Henry's side (he's behind the front seat). The responsibility I feel for this little life and the fear I have that something (especially something that I do or is my fault) will harm him is immense.
I know this is a sensitive subject, but we did make the decision to get Henry circumcised. Gosh it was horrible. I know it was much worse for me and he won't remember it, and will hopefully be grateful for it, but I hope our second child is a girl just so I never have to do it again.
It happened at our pediatrician's office. When we got there he was starving and not happy (I couldn't feed him for two hours before the surgery, and, like his mama, this baby likes to eat). He cried and cried while we waited for the anesthesia, and he cried and cried during the application of this topical agent. Silly mommy thought we were done after this when they told me they would be back in five minutes and that I could pick him up. The second he was in my arms his tears stopped, and he did the precious thing where he looks at my face for reassurance and comfort (I love that!)
When they came back, I quickly learned that the worst part was yet to come. I was in the room and could clearly see the procedure, but was required to sit down (I think they want to limit fainting). I talked to him the whole time, again, like in the ER, trying to mask the upsetness I was feeling by presenting a calm and "everything is just fine, my love" voice. (I call him "my love" quite often). I hated that I couldn't look into his eyes or let him see my face, but I made sure my voice was constant, telling him what a big boy he was and how proud of him I was.
After the circumcision I was shocked by what his boy parts looked like. Wow, I did not expect that. And the idea of having to do so much for after care, especially when we would have to go to my appointment shortly after freaked me out. I still don't like it, but it looks better every time I see it. I'm getting in the routine of setting up his bath, pulling out a clean diaper, changing his old diaper, holding him in the lukewarm water for five minutes (I don't think I usually last this long, but I figure it's close enough), toweling him off without touching the area, putting on his clean diaper, and then quickly wrapping him in a blanket to warm him up, and usually following it immediately with some breastfeeding.
(5) Vaginal ultrasound
The last traumatic experience from yesterday was at my appointment and doesn't involve Henry other than the whole reason for the visit is as a result of his birth. On Friday night, I had some terrible bleeding (today is Wednesday and it is pretty much completely gone. Yesterday was the first day I wore underwear and a pad rather than Depends). It happened after I was slightly more active and then was emotional after writing a sensitive email. I was bleeding way more than normal, it was bright red, and I was passing clots. I left a voicemail at my doctor's office and got a call from them on Monday morning. They said they wanted me to get into the Radiology office at the hospital for the first available ultrasound appointment (which happened to be yesterday afternoon).
After waiting for forever in a room with people coughing (making me nervous about getting sick and passing it on to Henry. A friend was with me and she stayed in the lobby away from people with him covered in his carseat and stroller. He was sound asleep the whole time.), they took me back and did a regular on the tummy ultrasound. This was very weird as it was my first ultrasound without my baby in my belly. It made me miss him. Then she told me that the doctor had also ordered a vaginal ultrasound. Here was when I started to panic. She left me to empty my bladder and get undressed. I started crying as I lay on the table, terrified of anything being inserted into such a sensitive area (especially after I was told not to insert anything for 6 weeks, and knowing that I have stitches down there from tearing in a couple places), and being worried about my baby because I had been away from him for so long.
I ended up having to lay on the table for a long time while the tech talked to the radiologist and called my doctor when I told her that I had been told not to insert anything and that I had stitches. Laying there I felt helpless. I wanted my baby and I didn't want to do the ultrasound. Eventually the decision was made that I would insert the probe myself. That was horrible. How would that be better!? I didn't want it in there and I didn't want to do it. After it was in, she took over, moving it around and taking pictures. It was painful and I was scared. Finally it ended and I was able to leave and get to my perfectly sound asleep baby boy.
I hated having to do the test in the first place, because the idea of spending money when everything is probably fine upsets me, but I figure I have a responsibility to protect Henry, and part of that means protecting myself. My baby boy needs me, and I must make decisions that ensure I am here for both him and my husband.
I know there will be a lot more "trauma" for this mama as I raise my son, but I also know motherhood will be filled with joy. I made it through each of these experiences even when they felt incredibly daunting at the time. My boys are my world and it is because I care this much that these experiences are difficult. I must remind myself that, although caring this much can lead to fear and anxiety, it is beyond worth it to love so fully.