My niece just had her first baby and sent me the photos of my great-niece’s sweet little face—such bright eyes!—peeking out from under her hospital hat.
Since I can’t jump in the car and drive like a bat out of hell to the hospital where she’s at, I’m writing instead, reminiscing about the intense experience of having my own two babies. The first was nearly eight years ago and the second will be two years at the end of September.
With my daughter, since it was that long ago I only remember bits and pieces. The feeling when I took the pregnancy test and got a positive almost immediately. It was like being on a roller coaster, the part where you feel weightless and terrified that the bottom has dropped out of the world, but also euphoric. I wasn’t just me anymore. I was carrying somebody. Growing a little person! The feeling intensified when I found out she was a she, and when I first felt her move. That little flutter—is it real or is it gas? Then by the end there was a giant lump of baby rolling around in there, unmistakable.
Toward the end I had this uptick in anxiety, uncertainty of the world, that it would be good enough for her. She was safe inside me and unknowing of anything but my heartbeat. I wasn’t ready for her to come into the world quite yet. She wasn’t either, judging by the nearly two weeks she went overdue. But once she did come I was just overwhelmed by joy to meet her, and in awe of her beauty.
Since I had a c-section after a failed induction, on Christmas night during a snowstorm in the south, my hospital experience wasn’t the best. After her birth they took her away for too long. It was probably an hour and a half but it felt like an eternity. I kept sending Dan and the doula to check on her and I got increasingly frustrated—the way I’ve seen mother cats pace when I’ve held their kittens and they weren’t sure about me—only I couldn’t pace. Every time the nurses tried to ask if I needed anything I would say “My baby!” until they finally brought her to me.
There were late night screaming (her) and crying (me) sessions when she tried to nurse and had trouble. She had a lip tie that no one saw, and would turn purple trying to latch until I succeeded or some kind nurse came in and helped me. One night we were exhausted and sent her to the respite nursery so we could sleep. Then she developed jaundice and had to go to the special care nursery. We felt so guilty that we’d willingly sent her away and now she was stuck away from us under the UV lights.
We were so happy when we got to bring her home. There were still rough nights but we figured it out. Those early days were a blur of trying to do everything right and keep the baby happy. We didn’t let her out of our sight again until she went to preschool.
With my son, we were much more relaxed about labor, but the pregnancy was more stressful since I was in a difficult job situation. I remember being angry a lot. Well, that was probably true for both kids. Pregnancy hormones really brought out the Aries in me. When both my kids were babies, we’d be driving around, and when I started complaining about work they’d fall asleep in their car seats. Mom bitching about work was soothing to them since they’d heard it in the womb.
I waited so long to have my son (almost six years after my daughter) that I waffled back and forth between being sad that it was my last pregnancy, and impatient for my last pregnancy to be over. I also had an unspoken concern that there was no way I could love another kid as much as I loved my daughter, and I was doing her a disservice by having a second child. What would she do with so much less attention? Sure, she had been hounding us about having a little brother or sister for years by then, but she was a kid and I wasn’t sure the reality would live up to her expectations.
The second time around, when the baby was late, I scheduled a c-section. I was advised against induction because the first one had failed, and to be honest I had no desire to repeat that whole mess. So I picked a convenient date for when my daughter was in school and off I went to have surgery. It was very low-stress. When the nurses showed me my son, he looked like the same baby in a different gender. It was like having Isa as a baby again.
I remember the moment he seriously melted my heart in the hospital. He came out screaming. The nurses put him on my chest and he pulled himself over to nurse. Then he nursed again in the recovery room. When we got moved to a hospital room, he nursed more, until he finally passed out and slept for hours. Then he woke up and forgot how to nurse. Dan had gone home, I was holding him, and he was hungry. He couldn’t figure out how to latch. I was trying to help him but he got so upset, I had to cuddle him and get him to calm down. He looked up at me and frowned with his entire face. It just melted into a troubled frown and he started crying. I felt like we were in it together. Me and this little eight-pound ball of sad against the whole world.
The first time his sister visited, I knew we’d done the right thing having a second child. Her face just beamed with love for the little guy. She was so excited to have a baby brother! Also, she thought that her and her dad got to take the baby home and only I had to stay in the hospital. Poor kid. She was mad when she found out I got to keep the baby. There have been times when she was jealous of Rory, or when she gets frustrated that Rory breaks her things – but she loves her little brother more than anything and she never gets upset with him for long. She’s a wonderful big sister.
I would have had more kids if I’d started earlier. I wasn’t ready until I was older, though.
So now my youngest is nearly two, the time is flying by too fast, and my niece has given birth to my first great-niece. I was an old mother. She is a young mother. I didn’t plan on having my last so late, and she didn’t plan on having her first so soon. But when she texted me to say how she had never seen anything so beautiful as her baby, and she is totally in love with her new daughter, I knew exactly how she felt. I told her “Welcome to motherhood.”
And welcome to the world, Baby A. We have so much love to share with you and can’t wait to meet you.