How are you doing? You have been through so much in the recent weeks. You thought you were going in to labour at 36 weeks and you panicked. You still had a week left of work, you hadn’t organised the sibling gift from the new baby to give your two year old, you hadn’t spent enough one on one time and had those final mother daughter dates with her. It wasn’t time. You cried tears filled with a mixture of fear for the health of your new baby and sadness that you weren’t ready as you lay on the hospital bed hooked up to heart monitors. Things settled down and you were sent home. The crash in adrenaline hit you hard and you were exhausted. Thankfully baby number two was okay and would stay put a while longer. You were terrified of going in to labour because you had booked a planned c-section. You don’t want to risk having another emergency, risk losing your baby or your own life. It just isn’t worth it, no matter what the doctors tried to tell you is best.
In the end, after a few more false alarms, she arrived without drama. The birth was strange and the smells from the operating room will stay with you forever, but still, that moment when she was born and you were told it’s a girl(!) were amazing and unforgettable. This little one was very different to your first born. She came out grumpy and hungry. You catch yourself about to call a midwife to ask if it’s okay to feed her. You realise this is your baby and you have done this before, of course you can feed her. She latches on beautifully and everything settles down. Your baby girl.
When this photo was taken you were at a level of exhaustion you didn’t think possible. You had been awake all night sitting in a hard plastic chair feeding, settling, holding her in your arms. You had a c-section in a public hospital, so while the level of care during the birth was fantastic, after care had a lot of room for improvement. The beds weren’t automatic, so if you wanted to get up or down you had to turn the crank at the end. Impossible after major abdominal surgery. Your baby girl is a chucky baby so often she spits up in her bassinet and coughs but you cant move by yourself to pick her up out of the bassinet and calling a midwife in the middle of the night is generally met with a cranky nurse who is over it and snapping at you. Last time you called, a midwife came 15 minutes after you rang the bell, walked in and said crankily “what?”. You cried, of course. You should have said “my baby is lying in a pool of her own vomit and this piece of shit hospital bed has me immobile so could you please just help me”.
But you are tired and emotional so, to avoid asking for help again you plan to hold baby in your arms all night in the bed but you are so terrified of dropping her or smothering her that you cant sleep, so you somehow haul yourself out of bed, praying you don’t burst your stitches, and sit upright in a plastic chair and silently cry all night because you are so tired and missing home and your husband and your toddler.
Finally, morning comes and the nice, new nurse asks how your night was. You tell her and she looks horrified “Why didn’t you call the midwife?”. You tell her that you did call the midwife and she made you cry. This lovely midwife tells you that she has just spoken to the woman in the bed next to you and she was awake all night too. We were both there, mothers of newborns crying silently and bearing the incredible burden of new motherhood alone. You ask if you can go home. You had major surgery only two days earlier but realised quickly that you would have better care there, with your husband to help that you would in hospital. You have a visit from family, your sister has four kids and has always been good at making your feelings seem normal and understanding the difficulty. Your mum takes this photo and soon after, the laxatives to combat the constipation caused by your pain killers kick in. Not an enjoyable experience.
In this photo I have always seen sadness and exhaustion. Looking back now with the benefit of almost six years distance, I see a warrior. A woman who delivered a baby through major surgery and then immediately cared for her baby 24/7 with no recovery time (while also battling major toilet dramas) This woman had been awake all night and was at her absolute rock bottom and yet she nurtures and snuggles her baby girl. She is strong. She is powerful. I am so proud of her.