5:54 a.m. These numbers had greeted the sunrise many times, but not like this.
As the oxygen mask covered most of my face, my body melted into that last push, and my son came into the world. I could immediately tell that something wasn’t quite right with his breathing–a squeaky sort of cry. After a short embrace, nurses rushed him to the NICU.
Although I am grateful my son’s breathing issues were nothing serious, the ripple effect of that moment—my child taken away from me in his first breaths–left me feeling disoriented and disconnected throughout much of my first year as a mama. I felt dropped into a pool’s deep end—one full of freezing water.
As I reflect on my son’s first year, which recently came to an end, I’m taken aback by many small moments, strung together, that connected me to my own, unique confidence as a new mom. Moments that helped to warm the “new waters” of what is the first year of motherhood. Etched like snapshots into my memory, these images illustrate my process of embracing motherhood.
In the Beginning
Sifting through images, my mind lands on one of those first afternoons home from the hospital. Though the sun pierced through the nursery curtains, it felt like 3:00 a.m. I don’t know a mom who can’t relate.
My tiny one’s cries and grunts echoed on for another, long nursing session. Frustrated and exhausted with little reserve, I maneuvered my son around his oxygen cord for what seemed like the millionth time. Deep down, I feared that there was something wrong with my baby—some hidden ailment I couldn’t see. And if I couldn’t do everything perfectly (what’s that?), then this hidden “thing” would rear its ugly head, and I’d again be disconnected from my son. I struggled to find my intuition.
A few days and many tears later, a post-labor doula and lactation consultant came to our home. Her presence anchored me to reality amidst my crazy postpartum hormones and lack of experience. Her solid understanding, sense of humor and sensitivity lifted such a heavy weight from my shoulders.
“Your baby is a normal baby. He’s OK. You can treat him like it.”
Without my saying anything about my hidden fears, she knew. And I started to open my heart up to my son.
Fast forward a few months and another snapshot comes to mind.
My 12-week-old and I are navigating airport security en route to my sister’s wedding. I remember balancing a crying infant strapped to my chest with luggage in tow, trying to get him to take a pacifier. Together we made it through security, onto the plane and to the Pacific Northwest. For this new mom, it felt like winning a marathon!
A week full of delicious food, my baby’s first sights of the ocean and last-minute wedding preparations culminated in my first dance with my son. As we swayed to the music on the wedding dance floor, I thought, “We’re doing this!”
My connection to my new mama confidence grew stronger.
Returning to Work
Yet another image comes to mind.
My maternity leave has ended, and I’m extremely fortunate to work primarily from home. At first, finding a workable routine took some trial and error. My child often slept in the swing next to my desk as I wrote, created, communicated.
Life seemed to normalize a bit more as I started dancing again (a passion of mine), engaged with community and went out more. As I fleshed out my mama-identity by embracing the things that feed my heart, I realized that I’m still “me.”
As simple as that sounds, my identity as a faith-filled, creative person was only enhanced and deepened by my adventure into motherhood. I reconnected to my identity and my tie to my mama confidence began to soar.
Remembering First Year Milestones
And then my mind lands on one of the most powerful moments from the first year. I’m sitting in my counselor’s office, eyes wet, nose runny and voice crackly as I recall that first moment, the one where I felt so uprooted just after labor and delivery.
We processed through the depression and anxiety tied to that moment. Her words pointed me beyond myself. “You aren’t alone in the experience of being separated from your child… ” she said.
She pointed me to healing empathy and something greater than myself. I retraced my steps back to that moment of separation and knew that it was being restored as my relationship with my new son grew.
And as I continue to connect with something greater than myself in this adventure called parenthood, my confidence grows and deepens. Reflecting on these “snapshots,” these moments, widens my perspective, reminding me to embrace confidence in both the here-and-now moments and those in the years to come.