I was 6 days past my due date and was well ready to meet my daughter. 9 months is a long time to be pregnant. While it seemingly went quickly and mostly smooth, I didn’t want to be pregnant anymore.
Our nursery (in our bedroom) was ready, our hospital bags backed and the baby books read. I stretched out my freedom as much as possible, by going to my work Christmas party on my due date and to the gym the day before I went into Labour. Some might say that’s crazy, but I knew getting around with my baby inside my belly would be easier than when she’s out and boy was I right!
There is nothing particularity easy about pregnancy, delivery and especially what comes after. For me, becoming a Mother has been challenging and yet rewarding, monotonous and yet fulfilling. Since my contractions started on the eve of Dec 7th, 21, I have felt a whole new spectrum of emotions – some good and some bad.
Giving birth is the most intense thing I’ve ever done (Ayahuasca coming in for a close 2nd). In my opinion, no book, class or expert can fully prepare you for such an experience. It’s so raw, so vulnerable and so unpredictable. There are no frills, no BS. It’s you and only you that can push that baby out. It requires an immense amount of mental and physical strength. While I had support from Jack, the Midwives and Doctors, no one was going to do it for me. That is part of why birthing a child is such an empowering experience for a woman – it’s her own.
When Ava was born at 1:44 pm on Dec 8th, I felt a combination of relief, joy and love. I felt like this little being was mine and I would protect her at all costs, even with my own life. That was something new to me. She was and is a part of me, quite literally. Ultimately prompting a depth of love that I’ve never known before.
Without going into too much detail, I went to hospital at 2cm dilated because my contractions were getting quite intense. For those who aren’t aware, most hospitals usually only accept women at 4cm dilated. However, I refused to be sent home given the intensity of my contractions. Thankfully, the nurse who took my blood found me a room in the birth center until I was far enough along to be sent up to the labour ward for an epidural.
While in the birthing center, my water broke and I went from 3 cm to 9 cm very quickly, so getting to the labour ward was quite loud and dramatic. Let’s just say, my vocal cords reached new heights. Once I got to the labour ward and was given pain relief, it got much easier.
After a couple hours of pushing and working with the contractions, Ava was born nat. They had to take her for a few minutes to make sure she was healthy. Soon after, I got to hold this tiny baby in my arms. It was a beautiful moment, not just for me, but Jack as well (my bedside support). I knew then, it would sit as one of the most important moments of my life. I just did this big thing. I was proud of myself and now she’s finally here. Then we had our first of many naps together, just the three of us.
The first 6 weeks after giving birth was hard. Everyone tells you it gets easier and it does, but I’m certainly glad that period is over with. Of course, I had splashes of wonderful times with Ava. She was so small and I absolutely adored her from day one. However, with recovery, hormonal changes, sleep deprivation and breast-feeding, I began to crack under pressure. We had this huge responsibility of keeping a vulnerable little person alive, with little to no experience doing it. That felt overwhelming to me.
Additionally, Ava had reflux issues and digestive problems for a while, which only added to my stress. I often felt anxious and cried nearly everyday for about a month. My parents came to London for the birth and stayed for 3 weeks. Then Jack’s Mom and sister came for 2 weeks shortly after they left. This was extremely important to us, not only for my mental health and confidence, but also for the extra help around the house. I learned quite quickly that having family support in trying times is invaluable. After a decade of travel and expat living, I consider myself pretty independent, but I will wholeheartedly admit that after having a baby, I needed my Mom.
It took me 6 weeks to build true confidence as a Mother. Ava and I needed to get to know each other and I needed to learn what her cries /cues meant. Crying is the only way a baby can communicate, which if left unattended, can become loud and distressing for everyone in the room, but especially for the Mother. We are biologically programed to respond quickly. I read a book recommended by my sister Meghan, which helped me a great deal during this time called ‘Secrets of the Baby Whisperer’ by Tracy Hogg.
I think that the transition from Maiden to Mother deserves some kind of Right of Passage – something more profound than a party with baby gifts. It really is a huge transition for a woman. For me, it felt like I took the word easy out of my vocabulary overnight. It was no longer ‘easy’ for me to socialize, travel, commute, dine, host, party or exercise, at least for a while. Everyday is devoted to my baby, with little room for self-care. Sometimes a hot shower, hearty lunch or walk outside feels like a luxury. Yet, I wouldn’t change any of it. I’m 34. I’ve had an adventurous and vibrant life and was time. The way Ava looks at me, smiles at me, giggles, sighs, feeds, coos, and snuggles into me, makes all of the self-sacrifice well worth it.
Ava is now 4 months. She is teaching me a lot of things, like patience and how to enjoy my own company. When Jack went back to work, I had some tough, lonely days on my own. There’s a reason why people say, ‘it takes a village to raise a child.’ We weren’t meant to be doing this alone behind 4 walls and closed doors. Luckily, I joined a baby group before Ava was born, which has been a good support. While we have some amazing friends in London – people are busy. Now my challenge (or rather project) is to figure out who I am and how my life looks now, with a family of three. My priorities have changed, I have changed and I’m excited to see what our future holds, even if I can’t imagine it yet.
I’ll end with part of a poem that my friend sent to me at just the right time:
‘ When you feel as if you have nothing left to give, when I see your hands outstretched at me, pleading. When we’re both crying. I wish I could talk, but I can’t.
If I could, I would tell you, there’s a reason I chose you.
I can’t see past you right now Mama, because you are my world. It will get bigger soon enough. But for now – All I see is you.’