13 May I Was Enough – Becoming A Mother
In September 2018, I had my first positive pregnancy test. A few short weeks later I saw a tiny heartbeat on a screen and knew with every fiber of my being that I was now a mother. I spent my pregnancy eagerly awaiting the birth of my son. The nursery was set up by 24 weeks and my hospital bags packed by 30. I had a folder storing every handout from our antenatal classes, my birth plan, hospital checklist, and anything else I felt was necessary. I send the final weeks eagerly preparing for labour. I went for walks 3 times a day, practiced my breathing, only sat on a swiss ball, and crawled around the floor to ensure my baby was in an optimal position. I did everything humanely possible to ensure a nice, straight forward birth.
It was not enough.
My son came into the world in the wee hours of a Wednesday morning following a 100-hour labour. Despite my best intentions my son was posterior. We managed to turn him partially during labour, but he was struggling to come down the birth canal. Because the labour had been so long my midwife suggested I have an epidural which meant I was not able to move around to help him get in a better position. I started pushing just after midnight and pushed for 1 hour and 25 minutes. Everything felt the opposite of natural. I was on my back in a bed, waiting for someone to tell me to push. I remember a doctor in the room started yelling at me frantically to push harder. I was crying, saying ‘I can’t! I can’t do this anymore!’ My midwife was amazing and reassured me that I could. I heard my midwife say my son’s heartrate was not coming up fast enough between contractions and my immediate thought was ‘I am killing my son.’
I was not enough.
His head eventually crowned but his shoulders were stuck. After an episiotomy, my midwife and doctor were able to grip him and pull to release his shoulder. My beautiful baby boy was placed on my chest briefly before being whisked away to the resus table. The room filled with doctors and nurses. The next few hours were a blur until finally I was able to hold and feed my son. After a short stay at hospital, we came home, and I was overjoyed to leave the hospital behind. I did not feel like his mother there. I changed him only when there was no one else there. I held him only when he needed feeding. I was in awe of this beautiful baby boy and loved him with every fiber of my being. But every time he cried, every time he needed something, a voice in my head told me I could not help him. One day we had visitors who were holding our wee boy when he started to cry. ‘He needs his Mummy’ the said with a smile before passing him to me. I received him awkwardly and in one swift movement passed him to my husband. He did not need me. He did not want me. He did not like me.
At 20 days old, my son had his last feed of breast milk. Much like the rest of my introduction to motherhood, breastfeeding was hard. My son would feed for over an hour and come off the breast screaming for more food. Our days revolved around breastfeeding for an hour, followed by a formula top up, and then a nap before starting it all again. I only held my son while breastfeeding him and I realised I resented him for it. How could I hold him and feed him for an hour only to have him still be hungry and upset?
I was not enough.
Switching to formula was a life saver for our family. I started to feel like maybe my son did not always hate me. Maybe I was able to fool him into thinking I was enough. 2 months after he was born, I was diagnosed with postnatal depression and my medication was increased. I started to feel more like myself and started to find my rhythm as parent. Whenever we had vaccinations or went out, I insisted on my husband being there. He had some sort of magical quality that I was lacking. If my husband could not make it then my Mum would come. She also had that magical quality.
I was not enough.
In January, just before my son turned 8 months old, he was admitted to hospital for a day surgery. We arrived at 6am with bags filled with things to entertain him while we waited. At 9am we were taken into a small waiting room filled with toys. My son was all ready for his surgery and a doctor came in with a gown, cap, and booties. “Who would like to carry him in?” My husband and I looked at each other. We had discussed this plenty of times but had not settled on a decision. “I will.” The words slipped out of my mouth without a second thought. I put everything on and played with my son until we were asked to follow the doctor. I carried my son down a hallway and into the operating theatre. The room was so white and sterile. I could hear doctors and nurses talking, making plans for the surgery ahead. My son cried as I placed him on the table, but I held his hand and sung to him. As the mask came down over his face, he looked up at me and smiled. “I know I am safe Mummy” his eyes whispered. He fell asleep and I was asked to leave. I looked down at my little boy, so tiny on that table, and knew with every fiber of my being that he was ok.
I was enough.