I remember being a new mom. Not in a sharp focused kind of way but in a hazy overwhelmed kind of way. It was the scariest thing that ever happened to me. This tiny, tiny, tiny person I had been growing in my belly was now one hundred percent dependent on me to live. I mean, it had been that way from the get go, but all I had to do was eat and sleep and, let’s face it, take care of myself and she grew and did all the development things she was supposed to do. Then she came out and the tide shifted. Her entire existence was dependent on me being able to figure things out: how to get her to take nourishment from my body; how to wake her up to take nourishment, and how to keep stuffed animals out of her crib (because they would surely suffocate her). I had no idea what I was doing, but I felt the importance of figuring it out every moment.
Not only did I have no idea what I was doing, but upon the birth of my baby, no one cared about me anymore. The metaphor for this was the doctor appointments. At the end of my pregnancy I went to the doctor every week. They’d weigh me and make me pee in a cup and listen to the baby’s heart and tell me how dilated I was and how well baby was growing. Then she was born and it was “we’ll see you in 8 weeks,” but the baby, oh the baby had to go to the doctor all the time. She wasn’t growing. She was failing to thrive. We went to lactation clinics at the hospital. She got a birthmark at four weeks: a horrible raised blood red blotch that I thought I caused and knew would make “them” take her away from me. (I still don’t know who “they” are, these baby-taker-awayers.) At my 8 week appointment I was told I could have sex again, how to check my IUD, and “See you in a year!” I did not want sex. I wanted a shower and a hug and a daily recognition of the amazing work I was doing because my daughter was still alive.
I remember walking into my in-laws house and having my mother-in-law swoop up my baby girl to adore her and not even say hello to me. I remember my dad, my dad who loves me more than anything, turning to my daughter first when he visited. Thank goodness for my mom who loved my baby girl, but I know loved me more in those early days. Without her adoration and attention my loss of self and my daughter’s birthmark would have driven me over the edge. I was so inexperienced and so ignored.
Now when a new baby comes into my world I head straight to the hospital. I bring a gift bag filled with “People” magazine, chocolate, Skittles, the new mom’s favorite beverage (yes, I have brought wine and beer) and maybe a little something for the baby. I walk in and go right to the dazed woman in the bed, who is desperately checking to make sure her pained and engorged breasts aren’t showing, and I ask her, “How are you?” I don’t even bother to look at the baby. Besides, the infant is surrounded by a phalanx of grandparents, friends and relatives, because everyone wants to see the baby that’s been born. Me? I want to see the mom that’s been born, because that is a miracle too and she should be celebrated.