Courtesy of Simone Scully

How Loving My Son Unconditionally Taught Me To Love Myself, Too

Barely 24 hours after giving birth to my son, I was pretty sure I’d never walk again. The on-call doctor had ordered me to take multiple laps around the maternity ward, but after just one, I was nauseous, dizzy and my C-section incision was throbbing. Fighting back tears, I’d crawled back into my hospital bed and decided I didn’t care what he said. I was not getting up again today.

But then — while my husband was down in the cafeteria grabbing coffee and the nurse was tending to another patient down the hall — my newborn awoke from his nap and started to cry, alerting me to a dirty diaper. I couldn’t let him cry or be uncomfortable until someone was free to help bring him to me. Without thinking twice about the pain, I dragged myself out of bed, grabbed a Pampers Swaddlers diaper from the stack that the hospital gave us (turns out, they're the #1 choice of hospitals*, which is why we kept buying them after we went home), and I rushed over to him.

By the time my husband, Steven, was back with his coffee, I had not only changed my son’s diaper, but I had also made my way over to the chair in our room to rock him.

“I have this,” I told Steven with a smile.

Photo: Courtesy of Simone Scully. Design: Allison Gore/Romper.

This wasn’t the first or the last time that I’d put my son's needs first — but it was the first time that I realized that I was healing myself simply by caring for him. Tending to him that day kept me on my feet, helping my physical recovery far more than lying in bed ever would have. It was also the first step of many in helping me learn to love myself in my new role as his mom.

Alone in front of the mirror, it was easy to be critical of my new postpartum body. My son gave me a reason not to dwell on the negative self-image. I was eager to show him off to our friends at our local coffee shop, so I found the strength to walk in there with him, and to my surprise, while I was there, how I looked was the last thought on my mind. When he needed more Pampers and wipes, I didn’t think twice about going on a shopping run — or extending our stroller walk around the lake. I wanted to be my best self for my son, so I pushed myself more than I might have otherwise because I had a cute, cuddly baby as my cheerleader.

My newborn was also a constant reminder to be patient with myself. Breastfeeding didn’t come easy to either of us. Born almost four weeks early, he struggled to latch, and even when he did, he often fell asleep before he’d had enough milk. This had me worried, so I started pumping and tracking his wet diapers to make sure he was getting enough until we figured out this whole breastfeeding thing. Still, I felt kind of bad about myself for having to bottle feed. Slowly, though, that started to change, too. Each time I saw the blue wetness indicator on his Pampers diaper, it reminded me that we were doing things right — even if we had to figure out our own way.

And before long, I stopped feeling guilty: We had this.

Photo: Courtesy of Simone Scully. Design: Allison Gore/Romper.

When my son was a month old, we hired a photographer to take a few photos of us as a family. I spent days deciding on an outfit for the occasion, then changed my clothes again three times in the hour leading up to her arrival at our home, uncomfortable with how everything fit my still-recovering body. Once she got there, I struggled to relax in front of her camera. About half an hour into the shoot on that sunny July day, I tripped on some uneven ground in our yard. I caught myself, but the stumble sent a spasm of pain from my incision scar up my body, a vivid reminder that my body wasn’t yet healed. The photographer must have noticed me wince because she asked if I had had a C-section.

“I remember how that feels,” she said encouragingly. “You’re doing great though. You’ve got this.”

I’d be lying if I said that was enough to make all my insecurities melt away, but hearing someone else say that I was doing OK did help. I felt seen and it reminded me why we were taking these photos in the first place. Of course, when the image gallery arrived, my first impulse was to immediately zoom in on how I looked, but scrolling through the images, I couldn’t help but notice something else instead: how happy and content my son looked in my arms. In fact, we all looked happy. I loved our little family and I was proud of my role as mom in it.

*Based on hospital sales data.

This post is sponsored by Pampers.