After 34 long hours of labor, Jill placed you on my chest. In that 34 hours my dream of a simple birth center delivery, with only you, me, Dad and Jill present, was shattered. I was hoping to deliver you in a calm environment, on a comfortable bed, with music playing and lights turned down. Instead, you entered this world with strangers looking on, me strapped to an awkward hospital bed, monitors beeping and a harsh spotlight on my nether regions. I was exhausted both mentally and physically. That instant bond I expected to have with you just didn’t happen. I planned on peaceful bonding time where you gently learned to nurse while your Dad and I looked on in amazement. I didn’t plan on having 5 different people with their hands on me, giving me conflicting advice nursing positions. Nor did I plan on a having a nurse step on my IV, ripping it out of my hand and requiring someone to violently stab pitocin in my thigh. I also didn’t plan on the cranky nursery nurse whisking you away from me while I received stitches. I was too overwhelmed to fight her. Nothing about the environment was conducive to that “magical bond” all the baby books talked about.
The start of our time together didn’t go as planned. The next 6 weeks that followed were pretty rough too. I’m writing this letter to apologize for not being a very good Mom during the first few weeks of you life. I would ask for your forgiveness but your daily smiles and giggles tell me I already have it. Still, I feel the need to compose this letter.
I know the events of your labor and delivery weren’t anyone’s fault. I never blamed you but I definitely blamed myself. The first 3 weeks of your life I obsessed over every detail. I made your Dad go over the entire 34 hours, stage by stage, hoping at some point I could pin-point where I could have changed things. “Oh, here I could have told that Nursery Nurse to go away” “Maybe if I never tried to relax in the shower my contractions wouldn’t have slowed down” “I wish I told that tech to leave. She even said the only reason she was there was because she never had a patient who didn’t know the baby’s gender.” “Maybe I should have waited a few more hours before letting my midwife know I was in labor”.
All of those scenarios repeated in my head. Instead of obsessing over you, I obsessed over them. I was so upset, tired and drained I just didn’t know what to do with you. I was relieved when other family members picked you up when you cried. This made me feel guilty which made me more upset. It was vicious cycle that lead me down a very scary path.
There’s a video from when you were about two weeks old. Your Papa and I are on the front porch while your Dad is filming. Papa is holding you, cooing, smiling, rubbing your back and looking over the moon holding his new grandson. I, on the other hand, look completely detached. I barely turn to you and my lips are in a thin hard line. I almost look angry. That video haunts me.
I spent most of your first weeks curled up in bed crying, wondering if starting family was a huge mistake. I just wanted to disappear into the bed and never come out. It kills me to say this now but I wanted nothing to do with you. My behavior was scary for both me and your dad. Finally with your dad’s amazing strength and the unending support from a few amazing friends, I got help. I talked with a doctor and started to work through the guilt and sadness. I took a tiny amount of medicine to help me get “over the hump” and I started to see the beauty in your big eyes and tiny toes.
Then your dad had to leave the country for work. It was just you and me and I was terrified. But during those 3 days something clicked. There was a very real and powerful moment where I realized how much I loved you. For the first time, I cried tears of joy, not tears of hopelessness.
So, Max, I am so sorry for those first few weeks of your life where I wasn’t much of a Mom. I’m so sorry I spent those first few weeks handing you off to other people so I could go back to bed and be alone. I’m sorry I didn’t want anything to do with you. Things now are different. I can’t imagine life without you. Your tiny smile and belly laugh brings a joy I didn’t know existed. When you and Daddy play, I watch and realize that I am the luckiest person in the world to have the two of you in my life.
I know you don’t remember any of those weeks but I still hope that you can forgive me.