Letting go is something that I have been practicing from Day 1, and it never gets any easier.
I spent my entire pregnancy in the dark about my baby’s gender. As much as I love and respect science and the ability to know almost right away I still wanted that surprise in the end. I can’t believe I held out for it.
Though I had planned for a natural birth, Baby had been lying on her side for what was probably weeks, and it felt like there was a foot in my ribs, which made it difficult to ever lie on my left side. When I went into preterm labor the weekend before Thanksgiving at around 35 weeks we were able to stop the contractions safely and go home.
At the follow up appointment with our doctor, we decided to schedule a cesarean rather than try aversion (flipping the baby into the head down position). There are a couple of ways to attempt this, and none of them were appealing to me. Not to mention that there is a 50% chance that Baby will go back to her comfy spot anyway. Being a person who had been afraid of labor and delivery her whole life, this was almost a relief to me.
In the delivery room after feeling more pain than I should have, the doctor held the baby up for my husband to see, and he announced that she was a girl. I couldn’t believe it. I was so out of it that I couldn’t express my emotions, but it was complete and utter euphoria…and no more pain. Gavin held her head against my cheek, and though I couldn’t see her face, I could feel her energy and calmness. I loved her more than I ever imagined. Then I had to let her go…
It was only 15 minutes later, but it felt like an entire night. When I was wheeled into recovery to meet my daughter face-to-face, Gavin’s shirt was open from holding her against his skin – which was the plan if I couldn’t have skin-to-skin contact – a very important part of our birth plan. A veteran pediatrician was examining her and moving her legs and told me she was perfect. That was all I needed to hear, and then she gave her to me. I held her close and kissed the top of her head. I often think of that moment when I hold her now.
The next time I let her go was during a trip to the dentist. I left Sophie at home with my husband for 2-3 hours. While it was a welcome relief to be in a car alone and then in the dentist’s chair (if you can believe that) and then the car again, I was more nervous about her missing me and me missing her than reason I went out. My dentist was pregnant and about to go through just what I had done, so we bonded for a little longer than usual. To say the least, my husband was a bit stressed when I got home, and I think it traumatized us all. She needed to be fed, and I hadn’t pumped enough to leave behind, so she was hungry and let the neighborhood know about it.
Then came a day when she was a month old and I decided to go to my company’s annual conference so I wouldn’t miss any important messages. I only stayed for six hours, but I raced home to be with her. Of course I made sure she wouldn’t go hungry in my absence, and Gavin had the help of his own mother that day. I didn’t even take off my coat before lifting her into my arms when I got home. I continued to go to the office once a week for about 6 hours until my maternity leave was over.
Then came my first real day back to work. Oy. I knew it would be difficult, but I’ll never get that image out of my head. Both caregivers were rocking and feeding other babies and we were told we could leave her “anywhere”. What did that mean? Well, the swing, the Boppy or the play mat on the floor. I was devastated. My husband had come with me and already put her diapers and wipes and extra clothes in the bin underneath her crib, as well as all of her breastmilk in the special refrigerator. Then he waited outside for me. I held her tighter than I ever had, kissed her head and fake-smiled so she would be ok, then I laid her down on the colorful mat, put my hand over my mouth and left. Gavin held me outside while I cried and other parents looked on the familiar scene.
That was a tough day. I must’ve called the day care 4 times. Three times the next day, two times the next three days and once a day for the next several weeks. If I didn’t still get email updates with photos several times a day I would go mad.
By the time she goes off to kindergarten, I’ll be a pro. While Sophie skips off to the front door of the school, I’ll hang back with the sniffling moms thinking, “Amatuers.” Not.