Breathe: Insights and Reflections as a First time Mom
Going back to the early days
As I navigate year three of motherhood, and prepare for the arrival of my second child, I reflect on the early days. I look back on the early writings I completed as I was navigating this thing called motherhood. Of course, I could not have predicted how a pandemic would have impacted my journey, but the initial weeks were a roller-coaster ride. It’s amazing how mindfulness has transcended all aspects of my life. I share an early journal entry in the hopes of supporting other moms out there.
Back in 2019
So today I say “Happy 2 months” to my little Spanakopita Henry. I am completely new at this parenting thing! And while only at this for 2 months, I have learned many invaluable lessons. Lessons that I had to experience on a one-time basis. And lessons that will be the foundation for future parenting experiences. As I reflected on what I have learned, the one word that keeps coming to mind is the word “BREATHE”. Now you would think that something that we do automatically without even thinking about would require a reminder but telling myself this one thing has been the biggest lesson I have learned. Allow me to demonstrate how this one simple word has been applied over the past two months:
Breathe….when, during a routine checkup, you are being told that you have to be induced because there is no amniotic fluid
Breathe….when the contractions start coming on strong
Breathe….when they bring in the big frigging epidural needle that could paralyze you if you don’t sit still. Oh and don’t forget to breathe when they insert the catheter that has to go in.
Breathe….when your cervix isn’t dilating after 24 hours and the doctors tell you that your baby is under duress. Now they have to go in via C-section.
Breathe….when you’re lying in the operating room hopped up on drugs and listening to the operating doctors talk about what they’re doing for the weekend.
Breathe….when they pull your baby out of you and you’re waiting to hear your baby’s cries for the first time
Breathe….when they present you with a white baby and you wonder how the hell that happened. You’ll breathe a sigh of relief when they tell you that said white child will gain color over the coming months.
Breathe….when your baby is handed to you for the first time. It feels awkward. Confusion and relief are combined along with being hopped up on drugs. Yet you’re in love with this alien baby that you have been carrying around inside that is now outside.
Breathe….when they attempt to latch your baby on to your breast for the first time. You (and the baby) have no idea what the hell is going on. You’re both screaming bloody murder from the pain. The pain from his unsuccessful efforts to get milk from your breast and your lack of preparedness for your child to chomp down on your breast looking for milk.
Allow me to rant for a minute about breastfeeding. It is highly recommended, yet very minimally was I mentally, physically, and emotionally prepared for the experience. Yes, your breasts fill up like melons and may be ready to go but your nipples aren’t always ready.
Pictures showing the loving gaze of mother and child bonding over your offering of the breast may come in time. But in reality (at least for me) it was painful and awkward. There is fidgeting as you try to stick your ginormous boob, with your highly sensitive inverted nipples into this child’s mouth while you’re sticky and sweaty and in pain from having had a baby. Oh and the crying that you hear as you realize that your child is hungry. Yet you cannot feed this child because your milk hasn’t come in yet. Or you too late realize that one breast (the one you offered to your baby of course) doesn’t produce any milk yet.
It took nurses explaining the “practice” needed by both mother and baby to connect so that nursing can be successful. Apparently, latching classes are available and lactation consultants exist. Their primary purpose is teaching mother and child how to come together to feed. I did not know that. Two months in, it is still a work in progress. But EVERY SINGLE TIME, I have to remind myself to breathe when he comes near my breasts and chomps down.
Let’s get back to breathing
Breathe….when every part of your body hurts from giving birth. Everything is swollen, your incision site hurts, you are itchy all over from the epidural. But you can’t scratch because you are bed bound. Your back hurts from not being able to sleep in your own bed and instead are contained to your bed because the catheter is still in you.
Breathe….when you are sobbing uncontrollably because everything hurts. Your breasts get engorged because milk is not being released, via nursing or pumping. An infection occurs and you develop a fever. Breathe or you will choke on your tears and you become at risk of passing out.
Breathe….when those first cries awaken you. You have NO IDEA what that cry means and everything you seem to have tried isn’t working
Breathing.. when dealing with external forces
Breathe….when your husband tries to make you feel better but makes things worse. He recommends that you get out and get some fresh air. Or do things around the house to make yourself feel better (i.e. clean up, fix something for dinner, or any derivative of this). And your first instinct is to want to punch him in the face and/or say something that might lead to divorce. Breathing in deeply and slowly allows you to calm down before you come up with an appropriate response. Namely explaining that your body is in recovery and it literally cannot get out of bed other than to feed and change your baby. *This is a lifelong lesson.
Breathe….when you watch your senior cat take a dump on your rug but you cant do anything about it because you have baby in hand.
Breathe….when your house is a hot mess and you have no energy to tackle it. The sight of your house is overwhelming, and you feel like a housekeeping failure. But all you can do is breathe, maybe have a cry and go take care of your baby (and the turd left behind by your 18 year old cat).
Breathing…when fear shows up
Breathe….when your baby chirps non-stop at night and you don’t sleep because you don’t know if they need something. I refer to chirps as those mini “eh” “oh” and “pfft” sounds that babies make. I now know that babies chirp but at first, it was like “What is that…did you hear that? What does that mean? Should we do something?” And of course, moms seem to hear all the chirps and dads sleep right through it.
Breathe….when you don’t hear your baby chirping during the night or a nap and you freak out that something may have happened to your baby in the middle of the night. Breathe before you get out of bed to check and make sure they are alive and they themselves are breathing.
Breathe….when you go to the store and complete strangers come up to your cart when they hear his chirping. I have this immediate thought that these people are trying to kidnap my baby and I play out in my head that I have 30 seconds to run after them and judo chop them in the face before they get out of the store with my baby. Crazy I know, but I now think of all kinds of ways that harm may come to my child and I think about how I can protect him.
I now understand the mama bear reference and the feeling that I would literally kill someone before I let them hurt my baby. In reality, most people, usually old ladies, are drawn to Henry’s cooing and ahhing sounds. They just want to look at him and give mom advice. They remind me that I should enjoy him because it goes by too fast. Thanks for the advice, now step away from my baby.
Breathe….when they are freaking out for no good reason and you are holding them trying to console them. When my heartbeat is low and slow and I just breathe deeply Henry tends to calm down more quickly. It is definitely more effective than when I am tense and irritated.
Breathing…to take it all in
Breathe….when taking in his scent and feeling his breath on my chest.
Breathe….when realizing that he is mine and that I love him. Watching him sleep sometimes takes my breath away. I have to remind myself that I am lucky and eternally grateful that I get to be his mama.
As I prepare for the second birth, these insights remain. Along with the lessons my 3 year old has taught me, I feel better prepared to navigate motherhood for the second time.
My name is Eddie and I am a mindfulness-based therapist in Bordentown, NJ who specializes in trauma, anxiety and Mom stress.