I knew motherhood would change me but I didn’t realize how much and how soon

Over at Postcards from the Mothership, Dani mentioned that MotherTalk’s Blog Bonanza had organized a “Fearless Friday”, to support the paperback launch of Arianna Huffington’s book On Becoming Fearless.

At first I was stumped. I am a conflict-avoider and being fearless seems to mean that sometimes one must confront conflict head-on. And then I thought of the days following Reid’s birth, the days when I was a brand-new mother arguing with experienced nurses for what I believed was right. Reid’s birth had been induced and I had an epidural, neither was on the birth plan (thinking I had one makes me smile) and I was feeling like I’d lost control right from the beginning. She had passed meconium and so there was the possibility of an infection. She nursed like a champ right after she was born but instead of going with me to my room, Reid was taken to the NICU for monitoring. At first, we were called to her when she was crying and I nursed in the parents room or we hung about and I nursed when she woke up. Within six hours, the nurses were telling me that Reid needed to be supplemented. I refused and said that I’d been told that babies don’t need to eat for the first 24 hours and since she was suckling, we would continue as we had been doing. The next morning another nurse was again pressuring me and I told them I wouldn’t allow it until I’d seen a lactation consultant. The lactation consultant checked us out and said we were fine. “Mean Jean”, the worst nurse, and others still suggested supplementing whenever they saw us, though. It was hard to say “no” to the experts, to be denying my daughter food that she might need. I was afraid I was wrong but also sure I was right. By the time Reid had been cleared to leave the hospital, she *was* having some trouble nursing but I was intent on leaving to get to know my baby and how to take care of her without the negative influence of the nurses.

The first night at home, Reid wouldn’t nurse though she did cry very loudly. We had to give her a bottle but each time she was hungry, I tried to nurse and then cried as she took the bottle. The next morning, I called another lactation consultant to arrange to rent a breast pump. If I couldn’t nurse, I wanted her to have my milk in her bottles. The consultant showed me how to pump and also gave me tips for nursing, with someone with me, Reid nursed fine. Alone once more, we had trouble but kept trying and at least I was pumping.

I was fearless in the face of authority and when we had problems at home, but really I was scared and feeling like a failure. My husband tried so hard to help, offered what comfort he could, and was as helpless as one can be when it is their loved one struggling. My sister, Karin, who I would say is fearless was on vacation but agreed to stop in Ottawa on her way home. She took one look at me and my engorged breasts, and sent me to the tub to relax. When I was done in the tub, she made a nest of pillows on my bed and told me to feed my baby. She sat beside me and watched as Reid nursed. I was, and am, so grateful that Karin was able to come and be confident and fearless while I just absorbed her fearlessness to recharge my own supply.

I have been fearless since but I don’t think I am as proud of myself as in those tired, scared days. I can and will stand up for my daughter. I learned that about myself.

2 Responses to “I knew motherhood would change me but I didn’t realize how much and how soon”

  1. I really enjoyed reading your blog. Thanks so much for sharing.