Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mama Day: PART TWO

I can't tell you what today means to me. I always knew I wanted to be a parent. I hadn't thought much about one child, two children - I just knew I wanted to be a mother. Losing my own Mom only made that feeling stronger. I'd try to protect myself though, as I had a secret worry that I might not be able to get pregnant. I think a lot of this circles back to the death of my own mother. Losing someone close to you is a lesson in the precious gift of life. I knew that finding out I was expecting was no guarantee for a healthy pregnancy or baby. Week 11, I heard the baby's heartbeat. Oh, what a glorious sound - I was overjoyed! Week 19, I found out our "Baby D" was a girl! I had completely convinced myself our little one was a boy and this completely caught me off guard. I was ecstatic and for the first time a small part of my heart began to heal. The thought of having a daughter of my own and regaining that mother/daughter relationship I'd lost three years prior was just an overwhelming gift.

Pregnancy wasn't easy. I had horrible morning sickness that lasted well beyond the first twelve weeks and even reared it's ugly head unexpectedly during the second and third trimesters. Week 31, I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes. Week 34, swelling began and I sat near my shoe rack wanting to cry because I had not one pair of shoes to wear to work the next day. Changes in the workplace were pushing me to seek new employment, so I was lugging myself to informational interviews trying to market my leadership skills and downplay the big belly loudly announcing my need for some upcoming time off. The last two months brought such discomfort from ligament pain that working long days (and nights) didn't help to improve. My doctor suggested walking and in time it did help, but at first just getting around the block was so uncomfortable it didn't feel like my own body.

But, guess what? Diabetes went away immediately after my daughter's birth. The swelling diminished after a couple of weeks (and I can still wear all of my shoes) and I even got a new job! Labor wasn't easy and even scary at times, but Elyse and I were both fine postpartum. I was elated that she was healthy. I felt so fortunate.

It is hard to even attempt to describe the love I have for my daughter. I'd like to say we fell in love the moment she was laid on my chest. Believe me, that was amazing and unforgettable, but that wasn't exactly it. Elyse was born at 2:49 a.m. on Sunday. We were in our postpartum room before 6 a.m. and the first thing the nurses urged is to, "Get some sleep." Yeah right. We had visitors all day long. It wasn't that I minded. It was exciting and I wanted everyone to meet our sweet girl. I was so proud and happy.

That night, everyone was gone. Bill curled up on his creaky, uncomfortable bed and Elyse was swaddled in her bassinet. Lights were out in the room, but I was still hooked up to monitors that cast a green glow in the room and buzzers would chime through from other nursing calls. Sleep? Are you kidding me? I would close my eyes and think about sleeping, but know I'd need to wake soon anyway to feed baby once again. I could hear Bill snoozing away and I'd just lay there. And then I'd HEAR HER. She was making little noises. Squeaking. Moving. Getting a little louder. Fussing. Just a bit. This baby - MY BABY. I couldn't handle it. We weren't supposed to hold our babies in bed with us if we thought we might fall asleep. The hospital had a horrible experience just months earlier when a father accidentally dropped his baby after they'd both fallen asleep. Baby fell on the hard tile and experienced a serious head injury (but thankfully survived). The nurses were ADAMANT about this and if they came in at night and saw one of us cuddled with baby we'd have to quickly announce, "We're awake! We're awake!" I risked scolding from the nurse and reached toward the foot of my bed to scoop my my tightly, swaddled baby out of her bassinet. I laid down on my side and put her down right next to me. She instantly quieted. I was astonished by this, but it was apparent she was quickly comforted. She was used to being close to me as we'd been together for so many months. She knew the sound of my heartbeat and the feeling of my warm body. I realized that I was comforted too - having her next to me again as we'd been all these months. Every job interview, every work discussion, every moment - this baby had been with me at all times. Yet, I felt as if Elyse knew me better than I knew her. She knew my voice, my smell. I thought about how that morning when she was born, from the moment she was laid on my chest her eyes had locked on mine. It was one of the most unforgettable moments of my life. These huge eyes taking me in as if to say, "So that's what you look like, Mama!" We laid there together for minutes to hours in the dim light of the hospital room with me rubbing her belly, kissing her cheeks and whispering in her ear. I told her how I loved her. She was my sweet baby girl and how I would always be her Mama. There were many tears - gloriously happy tears. This was our first time together to quietly bond as mother and daughter. There was no going back - I had fallen in love with this sweet little child.

To this day, I love my time with Elyse as she is going to sleep. I love that transition where she starts to get tired and wants to be comforted and snuggled. I softly sing in her ear and stroke her hair and cheeks. We don't nurse anymore and honestly, I do miss that - particularly at night. But, we still get time for closeness. She varies between wiggling to get just that right comfortable spot and looking up at me to touch my cheek or hair. I breathe in her hair and her skin and pepper her with kisses. I know she won't be my baby forever and I treasure these tender moments together.

Don't worry - it isn't real. Just a little fun with Picnik to play a joke on Daddy!

My baby girl - thank you for making this our most special Mother's Day. I love you, dear daughter. Thanks for making our family complete.

Courtesy Amanda May Portrait Art - April 2011.

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