Perhaps it’s because I was raised by a single mother, or perhaps it’s because I’m an only child which led to a deep confidence in my own abilities. Who knows. But when I was pregnant with Elizabeth, I knew exactly what kind of mother I was going to be and the choices I would make. I was one of those terrible, awful first time pregnant women who think that because they have meticulously researched something, they can handle things they have never experienced. Sometimes I wish I could go back in time and give myself a good smack in the face.
I planned on birthing our baby au-natural, using the hypno-birthing method and then solely breastfeeding afterwards. I accepted that other people filled their baby’s birth with all types of drugs and what not- but I would do it without. I was a marathon runner and if I could run 26.2 miles, I could therefore pop this baby out no problem. Completely sound logic, right?
My dreams were smashed into oblivion when I was labelled a High Risk Pregnancy at week 36. I was diagnosed with extreme gestational hypertension (my BP was 190/110 at my check up and rising) and my constant headache/blurred vision, and weight gain of 6lbs in 4 days indicated that I was highly likely to develop toxemia and have a stroke and or organ failure within the next few hours/days if they didn’t get my baby out of me ASAP.
There was my first slice of humble pie.
Well, the following course of events unfolded in such a dramatic drawn out way, you could have made a movie out of them.
Thankfully, baby girl was born healthy and strong 3 days later. (I’ll spare you the details.)
Then came Breastfeeding.
The experience of breastfeeding is special for so many reasons – the joyful bonding with your baby, the cost savings, and the health benefits. But I was one of the lucky few who HYPER lactated, that means I made TOO MUCH MILK. Have you any idea how much like a cow you feel when constantly attached to an electric breastpump? I had to pump or feed every 45 mins to an hour. Our freezer was overflowing with my milk, which I intended to donate but before I had the chance, my blood pressure was dangerously high again and I was whisked in and out of the emergency room week after week. My brilliant husband used it for our baby, plus some formula; and then I had to pump and dump for a while because I was on so many drugs I couldn’t nurse. (Within the first 12 weeks I also had to have a surgery on abnormal scar tissue in my uterus, and had a kidney infection which was perhaps caused my blood pressure and was in the emergency room 6 times.) I was really at the mercy of God and modern medicine.
Second (BIG) slice of humble pie.
Then I was diagnosed with postpartum depression. Slice three. Was I surprised? No. Did I feel super embarassed going to a therapist? Yes. But I got the help I needed and eventually my mind and body healed. I also became a Breastfeeding Ninja- aka I could breastfeed standing up, laying down, roaming Chinatown, stood up on the bus… it was amazing.
All of this taught me to never give up and never – NEVER ever ever – to judge another person whose shoes you have not walked in.
Dear pregnant or new mother, do not roll your eyes at the lady who swears by epidurals. Don’t feel guilty if physically or mentally you cannot breastfeed your child. If you think you have pre or post natal depression, tell your spouse and doctor. And, always be gentle with yourself.
All I know is that when the next time comes around, I’m going to be a lot more forgiving about what my body is and isn’t capable of. I hope you always treat yourself with love and forgiveness too. Motherhood is a miracle. Let’s allow it to enrich and empower us, rather than demean or belittle our choices and capabilities.
You’ve got this, mama. You’ve got this.