A couple of days ago I took my first bath since laboring in the hot tub at the hospital, which was a surreal experience. As I dipped my toes into the warm water, a flood of emotions and anxiety came rushing back to me. I had to consciously remind myself that I wasn’t pregnant anymore and certainly wasn’t in labor. The association of the tub put me right back into the physical fear of labor pains, subconsciously preparing me to breathe through the next contraction. As I laid down to relax, I took a deep breath and exhaled into the present moment. I looked down at my shrinking belly, and my still visible linea nigra felt like a proud reminder of the battle I had been through. I took a picture of it as if it were a trophy to prove I had won the final war. It’s incredible what a woman’s body is capable of doing, and let’s not discredit the unbelievable mental stamina required too. We truly are the superior species.
I have to admit that it has taken me three weeks to fall in love with my baby boy. I loved him the moment I found out I was pregnant with him, and our relationship started to develop once I felt his first kick, but it has taken me some time to fall deeply in love with him. When he was born, my husband pulled him out from me, the nurses wiped him down and immediately placed him on my chest. I remember being in a state of shock. It all happened so fast, and I couldn’t believe I was already holding my baby. I only pushed for 14 minutes!! With my daughter, I pushed for almost three hours. My son looked so foreign to me. For so long I had this image in my mind of his sister and what she looked like when she was born, puffy and swollen, almost purple, and as beat up as me after enduring more than 30 hours of labor. My son was so tiny and petite, perfectly peaceful as if he had floated down a lazy river to meet me. My eyes welled up as I held him, but I don’t think tears actually came out. I was overwhelmed with a feeling of confusion, alongside the happiness.
He has grown on me. I can confidently say that I’m so in love with him now, but it did take me some time. It’s truly a different experience when you already have a child, a firstborn, a connection with a being that gave you the title of “mother.” Your second can’t give you that, nor can you expect them to. I found myself staring at him day after day with wonder, almost to convince myself that he was actually mine. Did he look like me? He didn’t look like my daughter, so who did he look like? A lot of people say he reminds them of my dad. I can’t quite see it, but they may be right. Either way, he doesn’t have anything to live up to. He doesn’t have to be anything like my daughter or look like anyone in particular for that matter. He’s his own person, and I’ve finally begun the feel that spark within my heart that I so instantly had at the sound of my daughter’s first cry. It makes me feel guilty that it has taken me this long, but I know for some mothers that it can take even longer. Most of all I'm excited because I can feel my heart expanding inside my chest, making room for my two bear cubs and ready to guard them fiercely at all costs.
My son ended up catching the virus that my daughter and I had, so that has been fun. Worrying about tiny little lungs coughing, sneezing, and gasping for air is enough to make any mother crazy. Thankfully, he never had a fever like we did and seems to be on the tail end of it now. The fact that I’m breastfeeding provides him with some natural immunity and protection because of the antibodies passed through my milk, so I’m lucky that he took to the art of nursing so well. He has already gained a pound and a half since leaving the hospital!
So overall things are getting better. Postpartum hormones are sneaky though – they take you on an unassuming roller coaster ride of ups and downs. On most days lately I’ve felt steady, but every now and then something will trigger me and down the big drop and upside-down loop we go! At least I have a name for it this time (Baby Blues) and don’t have to feel like I’m just going mad. It’s easier to navigate these types of things the second time around...But I’m not going to pretend like my world is now filled with rainbows and roses, as I frolic through fields of new baby coos and cuddles. This is real life, and shit can be hard.