Meeting my children after giving birth to them have been the highlights of motherhood. After performing the physical miracle of pushing an infant out of my body, unscathed, I was a mess of feelings when I held my baby the first time. Yes, there was love, but there also so many other things I felt, too, and not all of them where what one would describe as "warm and fuzzy."
Even if there wasn’t a surge of hormones ricocheting around my system during childbirth, holding my newborn would have still elicited a variety of emotions from me. It’s a jarring experience: one minute you’re pregnant, and the next minute you’re somebody’s mother and that somebody is naked and crying and needs all the things. In those first few seconds of motherhood, I was overjoyed and overwhelmed.
Luckily, the stun of being in the outside world sort of put my firstborn in a trance, as she was placed in my arms, gave her such a look of curiosity — one I wanted to satisfy instantly. Her expression cemented the reason my husband and I wanted to become parents: we couldn’t wait to show her the world and watch her be amazed with us as her guides.
There was no greater reward for the fear and pain I suffered through in childbirth than having a healthy newborn placed in my arms. I loved her instantly, but I also experienced a lot of other feelings that nobody had warned me about:
I did this? I f*cking did this? First, this little balled up human was inside my body, and now that same ball of humanity is out? In the world? All, you know, human-like?
I was a gym rat, which I think helped facilitate the ease of my labor. But even being in pretty good shape didn’t safeguard me from the sheer doggedness of giving birth. I mean, I employed every fiber of my being to get that child out of me. There was no part of me that wasn’t working during a push. So there I was, spent and wanting sleep, but now I had a baby so that wasn’t going to happen until, um, never.
In that moment, holding my newborn, I realized that nothing had truly prepared me for motherhood. Planning for a baby, and having that baby are vastly different mindsets. With that baby in my arms, slick with my own bodily fluids and looking like she’d rather be literally anywhere else, I started to panic. What do I do now? What does she need? Am I always going to be able to give it to her?
Fear quickly devolved into anxiety, as a thousand horrible scenarios started flooding my brain. I only thought of the things that could go wrong with a tiny baby. I never once considered that I may actually be capable of doing most parenting things, in those first few weeks, right. The anxiety was short-lived since, with every movement of my first child, there was something new to learn. I had never done this before, but I was hell bent on becoming an expert on anything that had to do with this little creature as soon as I could.
When my anxiety was on hiatus, I started feeling pretty good about myself. Like, real good about my amazing ability to have birthed a child. This was truly the most fantastic feat I had performed in my 35 years of life. So, yeah, I was pretty high on myself. My self-confidence peaked in the wake of giving birth and sometimes I feel like having another kid just to get that rush of haughtiness, so foreign to an introverted people-pleaser like myself.
A False Surge Of Stamina That Made Me Want To Do The Whole Thing Again Immediately
Resentment Towards My Spouse
My first child was born in the evening and, since I wasn’t in a private recovery room, my husband couldn’t stay with me. He had to leave as soon as they moved me in there. Not only was I nervous about my first night, alone, as a mom, but I was rather annoyed that he got to go home, shower, and sleep in our queen-sized bed all by himself. My daughter was brought to me every couple of hours to nurse, which is what I wanted, but when she wouldn’t stop crying the whole night as I tried to feed her, it just dialed up the resentment I felt towards my husband.
Everyone in that delivery room knew what they were doing. Well, everyone except me. At least that’s what it felt like. The doctor and nurses and staff deliver babies for a living, so they see many first-time moms like me every day. This first-time mom felt a little clueless.
It didn’t matter how much I read up on giving birth, or that we attended a birthing class and toured the hospital beforehand. Everything was brand new, and I felt, well, kind of dumb. I know I wasn’t expected to do more than try to feed this new baby, and hold her, and count all her fingers and toes. But I had never done any of that before, and it’s not like it all came naturally right away.
Did this hospital gown make me look naked? I never knew when that thing was flying open. I wish they made breastfeeding-friendly gowns. I had to wear the garment backwards to get access to my boobs, or slip it off my shoulders and down to my waist to feed my newborn. I see why many women choose to have home births: you can wear whatever you damn want to. For those two days I was in the hospital, I felt so exposed, even with my robe over me.
As several minutes passed with my baby in my arms, it all began to feel familiar and right. She belonged to me. I was her mother, and I wasn’t going to mess this up. I couldn’t stop looking at her little, smushed face. Her big eyes wandered around the room, unfocused, turning to the sound of my voice. Her shrimpy fingers curled over mine and I felt the warmth of her bundled body in my IV-threaded arms. Motherhood was possible. It was in my grasp. My baby was here, and she was fine, and I was fine, and what was I so worried about?