Wednesday, February 27, 2013

My Early Bird

Warning: potentially upsetting photos below - proceed with caution. Also, discussion of things like birth, breastfeeding, and medical stuff.

I started writing this post last Friday, on Max's birthday. It's an emotional day for parents, and naturally invites looking back to the day they were born. You may have seen me post a happy birthday picture on our Facebook page. Here it is again:
On the left, we have Max at about 2 months; on the right Max shortly before turning 5. What prompted me to write this post was my selection of the picture on the left. Most of the parents I've seen do this use a tiny-baby photo, usually only a few days old. But I didn't. Here's one of the photos I could have chosen:
You see, Max was born 5 weeks early, so spent his first several weeks in the NICU. I had a normal pregnancy, was healthy, didn't do anything weird or dangerous or risky. He just showed up early. I actually went into labor the day before my scheduled baby shower, so we like to joke that he was just trying to crash the party.

My labor was fine too and I managed a natural childbirth, but my little kiddo needed help right away. I got to give him a quick hug before he was whisked off for care, but that was it. Dad followed Max to make sure he was ok (and keep me from freaking out). He had to be intubated that night. He was a big boy for how early he was, but at only 35 weeks his lungs couldn't operate on their own.

He also had IVs, monitors, and a feeding tube. We couldn't hold him right away. I had to use a breast pump to try to get things going. Eventually we got to give him a bottle, and that's how he ate when he came home. We didn't get the hang of breastfeeding until he was about 3 months old. Needless to say we didn't have the smoothest first months possible.
So why am I talking about this? Or why didn't I just use one of these pictures for his birthday pic? Because there's almost this sense of shame when something goes wonky having a baby. Whether it's an early baby, a C-section, problems breastfeeding, whatever it is, I think we as moms have a tendency to want to hide it. As if we'd done something wrong. People even asked me that.

"What happened?"            "I went into labor."
"Why was he early?"         "I don't know; he hasn't told me."
"Is he ok?"                        "Yes."    I hope I hope I hope...

I know we as humans get uncomfortable and just want to talk to show interest, but a lot of this talk made me want to go hide in a corner. I felt horrible; like I'd done something wrong. Like the whole thing was my fault. It was impossible to talk about it with almost anyone. Matt, of course. My very closest friends and family, a little. Mostly I just couldn't talk about it at all. I lived on this knife edge between panic and joy. I had this beautiful baby boy who I loved so much and I just wanted to celebrate and cuddle and be happy. On the other hand, the doctors wouldn't even say he would definitely live, and he looked so tiny all covered with tubes in his incubator. It was the most tortuous time of my life.

So what's the take-home message? For one, just to encourage those going through something like this to reach out. There are probably friends and family that could have eased my burden if I had opened up to them. And if someone in your life is going through something like this, maybe just think hard before you speak.

Max is fine now. But irrational as I know it is, I still feel guilty in some way that I couldn't hold him and take him home that first night. So the other message is this; don't feel bad. There's no perfect birth; no perfect childhood. There's not a bonding checklist that you have to hit all of to have an amazing relationship with your child. The love is the important thing. Can't ever have enough of that.



  1. The is funny , cute, and shows your appreciation of your family life. :)

  2. This is funny, cute, and shows your appreciation of family life.

    1. :) Thanks, it's always kind of nerve-wracking talking about real life instead of crafts.

  3. Replies
    1. Thanks! It was a pretty great one. :)

  4. I know a little about how you feel, Cady. I was determined to have a regular, natural labour with Ciaran, and it ended up being an emergency c-section after many, many hours of labour. I never pictured myself having a c-section, ever. It was a horrible experience for me - perhaps partially because I was so dead-set against it. Also, exhaustion and the fact that it occurred at midnight after no sleep the night or day before. Anyway, sometimes I feel like I have PTSD from the experience. In the end, my baby was fine, I was fine, we didn't have to experience the NICU like you did, etc. etc. I need to move past it. I appreciate you putting this out there. It's nice to know I'm not alone.

    1. That's it exactly; when things don't go quite as planned we have a tendency to feel like we did something wrong when that's far from the truth. You shouldn't feel bad about having a c-section; I shouldn't feel guilty about Max spending time in the NICU. Talking about it more is probably one of the only ways to make progress, so I'm trying to do that even though it makes me uncomfortable.
      You're not alone! <3