It’s been three months, actually closer to four months by the time this is posted, since I gave birth. Giving birth via c-section was an experience to say the least. It was my third turning point on the ride that is the idea and reality of having children. (My first turning point was knowing I want children one day. The second was finding out I was pregnant). What came after were the first days of the rest of my life raising another human being.
My baby didn’t open her eyes for the first couple of weeks because the light was too bright. She was used to the darkness of the womb. For I don’t know how long, she’d eat and poop and pee and sleep. Then she’d wake up and cry because she’s hungry and drift off back to sleep, only to wake up and cry because she fell asleep too soon and was still hungry. Then, one day, she opened her eyes and it’s become a daily thing every time she is awake.
The thing I didn’t know until this experience is that parents lack sleep because babies need to eat every 2-4 hours, including during the middle of the night and early in the morning. If the baby doesn’t wake up by the 3-4 hour mark, you’re supposed to wake them up, and try to get them to eat. Call it efficient, or anxiety-fueled, or the steps a new mom would take, but for the first couple of weeks I set timers to ensure she was eating as often as recommended, especially at night, to make sure she was gaining weight. I don’t set timers anymore, mainly because she’s good at waking herself up when she’s hungry.
In the beginning, she would wake up anytime she was put down. She constantly wanted to be in someone’s arm and could tell when she wasn’t. As time goes on she gets more comfortable not being held all the time, though she prefers it. She still sleeps longer when she’s close to someone. You can tell when she’s knocked out cause her mouth will be open as she sleeps.
Week by week she stays awake a little longer and sleeps a little less. One day she smiled at me for the first time for no particular reason. Another day she laughed while she was awake, versus in her sleep, which was the only time I’d heard her laugh before. She tries to climb up me when we’re sitting down and bawls her eyes out when I clear out the mucus and boogers from her nose.
She’s developed different cries when she needs different things. She whines when she’s tired and is fighting sleep. She smiles when she sees a ceiling fan and the artwork on the walls. She’s curious when she’s in a new environment. She gets excited when she sees me or the friendly and familiar faces of our immediate family. She’s starting to babble more often and in response to us talking to her. She laughs when she’s amused and likes to stick her tongue out at us when she’s feeling playful. She chews on everything, especially her hands. She’s even trying to hold her own bottle.
In three months my baby has grown so much. She’s gained weight and gotten longer. Her eyebrows and eyelashes have grown in. Her umbilical cord fell off and her belly button, which was protruding, is slowly getting smaller and going in. She’s getting more hair on top of her head, which changes texture week by week. She’s gone up in diaper sizes. It’s surreal seeing her grow and noticing the changes in her physicality, personality, and development. She’s growing so fast it’s unreal. It makes my heart melt and ache.
I can talk about her all day. She’s allowed me to experience a different type of love. She’s allowed me to look at other children and other parents with more awe, respect, and understanding than I have in the past. Knowing she came from me is still surreal. She means more to me than I can put into words.
The c-section recovery was hard for me. My incision didn’t fully heal until 10 weeks, 2 1/2 months, after my delivery. It took 10 weeks, 2 1/2 months, for me to be cleared to exercise and go back to work.
Those were hard weeks because I couldn’t be self-sufficient. In the first couple of weeks it hurt to move, sleep, and laugh. It felt impossible to get comfortable. My autoimmune disease was also being a nuisance and I wasn’t cleared to breastfeed with the medication I needed to be on. That being said, I had to make the transition from breastfeeding to formula, which was something I wasn’t originally planning to do so soon.
Breastfeeding in itself is hard work. Breasts get engorged with milk which hurts, so you pump to store, which only stimulates more milk production. I had to ride out the engorging when I made the decision to stop breastfeeding because I was trying to lessen my supply. With breastfeeding it can be hard to get the baby to latch. Though my daughter didn’t have too much trouble with that, with the pain I was in, finding a comfortable position for the both of us was challenging. Also, being woken up every 2 hours, which was how often my daughter woke up to eat at first, was exhausting. It also hurt my nipples when she latched; nipple cream comes in handy with chafing.
I was sad about not being able to breastfeed for as long as I wanted, and held it off for as long as I could. On the upside, once I switched I didn’t have to deal with those challenges of breastfeeding anymore. Also, I have full autonomy of my body back. I can eat and drink anything without worrying if it is safe for the baby. I feel mobile again. I said bye bye to the nausea and the vomiting almost immediately after giving birth.
2 1/2 months later, about a month ago, I started working again. It was the first time I was away from my baby since giving birth. (And I started working sooner than I could have. I could have gone back in May). I mistakenly came back earlier than I was ready for and felt lost. Covid plays a role in all this too. I was on leave and social distancing for so long, it was hard to get into the rhythm of being around strangers and acquaintances. I got annoyed easier, especially when dealing with rude people. I would see children and think of my own baby. My hormones felt all over the place. I mean, I was still and still am producing milk. My breasts leak a little every once and a while and my period has yet to make an appearance. Needless to say, going back to work was a lot.
I rode it out though and am getting used to spending time away from my baby. Still, being a new mom and having a kid who is only a couple months old came with some baggage. I had some guilt about leaving her for work and not being home when she wakes up in the morning. I have trips planned without her to support my individuality but am worried about leaving and missing her. I constantly want to be around her. Sometimes, I need a break and am given one, only to miss her and want her back.
I also experienced anxiety specific to being a new mom. It gets better as time goes on. In the beginning I had a lot of anxiety throughout the day when I wasn’t with her, even if she was just a room away. I had/have anxiety about dropping her. Sometimes, the anxiety has affected my sleep; I wake up instantly thinking about her and go to check on her.
When people say it takes a village, they really aren’t lying. Raising another human being is a 24 hour gig. There’s no days or time off. And even though I go to work and have vacations planned without her, she was, is, and will always be there in the back of my mind. I’m so grateful for my parents and my brother who are always down to babysit when I’m working and watch her when I’m running an errand or sleeping. I can tell they love her as much as I do and that she feels the same about them. I know this experience would be ten times harder and more draining if I didn’t have their help and support.
I will say it is a little weird to call her my daughter still, mainly because of social distancing and the fact that I moved back to my hometown. And although I love speaking about her and my experience and sharing pictures, I don’t talk about her much to others daily, besides mentioning her existence, unless they bring her up first and ask questions. Most people I know don’t have kids and are in the “fuck them kids” stage of their life. Plus, I know it could get a little annoying. It’s also wild that I’m meeting people who will never know me when I wasn’t a mom. Like, every person I meet from now on will always know and see me as a mom among my other identities and qualities versus the person I was before I was pregnant. It’s wild and it just reaffirms that I’m in a new stage of my life. Because, let’s be real; having kids changes you. It’s changed me and given me a new outlook on life.
Society also has a weird thing against moms, especially single moms, especially black single moms. I don’t know exactly how to describe this disdain. I’m sure it’s rooted in misogyny and misogynoir. But there’s this pressure to be a “good” mom whatever that means. There’s pressure to give birth a certain way and to breastfeed. There’s pressure to go back to work quickly. There’s pressure to spend all of your time with your baby without any breaks or time without them. There’s pressure to endure a nine month pregnancy, birth a child, and raise a kid for the rest of your and their life while working and to make it appear as if all those things are done flawlessly, without breaking a sweat. There’s pressure to act a certain way because you’re a mother now. There’s pressure to raise your kids a certain way, especially by people who don’t even have children. There’s pressure to lose all of the baby weight and to lose it all quickly. Regardless, I have to remind myself that I am more than a mom and more than a single black mom. They are parts of me, but not all of me. My life encompasses my daughter’s, but they are still two separate lives. I don’t have to live up to the imaginary standards society places onto motherhood.
The hardest parts about being a mom so far has been the change in sleeping habits, accepting the change in my weight and my body, and the new mom anxiety. The best parts about being a mom are watching her grow before my eyes, experiencing this type of love, and honestly just her entire existence. These three/ four months have been a whirlwind. They’ve also been life changing and worthwhile. I wouldn’t trade it in for anything and it’s exciting to see where life will take us from here.