Eli's Birth Story, Part II

*** If you missed it, here's part I of Eli's birth story. 

He looked like an angry alien lying on me. Because he had a short umbilical cord, the doctor could only lay Eli on my lower stomach, his back turned toward me. I remember looking at his body and wondering, "Were you worth it?"

He was far from me, and I had only seen his shiny purple back - I hadn't seen his face yet. I could hear his cries but they didn't stir up any emotion in me. It was an odd feeling. I had expected love. Joy. Happiness. Instead I felt disconnected. Wary. Suspicious of this stranger. He wasn't familiar to me as I had thought he would be.

I wanted to get to know him, to see his face and have him closer, but at the same time I felt cautious and guarded. He was foreign to me and at that moment he equated pain in my mind. Finally, Mike cut the cord and someone pulled him closer to my face. I finally saw his big eyes, his small nose, wide open mouth and dark hair.

I stroked him and wrapped my arms around him, trying to find a connection. Somewhere far back in my mind I knew this was a big moment, but I felt tired and awkward.

I looked up to find Mike next to me, smiling down at the two of us. He dropped to his knees and began to pray. He dedicated our baby to the Lord, right there, not more than ten minutes after birth. I didn't know he was going to do that. It was much like getting proposed to - I can't remember what he said, but in that moment I found some of the happiness I was looking for. Yes, I still felt a bit uncomfortable with my child, but it was starting to register in my mind that my baby was not pain, he was love.

I don't remember much more from the next two hours. An attempt at breastfeeding. Getting lots of stitches. Mike ordering me a BLT and a chocolate chip cookie from the cafeteria. Eli being taken away to get cleaned up, weighed and measured. Mike holding Eli for the first time. His love for our son spread clearly across his face. Getting unhooked from all the machines.

Eventually they moved us to a postpartum recovery room. Fresh sheets, a different view and our new baby. Mike and I were no longer a couple - with Eli, we were a family. We stayed two days in the hospital, a constant flow of extended family visiting. It was a blast to show him off and hear everyone's adoration of him. He met his cousins, aunts, uncles, grandpas and grandmas. They were in love.
I was in love too, but I can't say I felt like I was bursting at the seams. I was still getting to know this new person in my life and much of me was still reeling from the difficult labor. I could barely walk because my leg had not regained full feeling. It hurt to move, stand, sit and laugh. By the time I finally got a nap late Friday, I had been awake 40 hours straight, and had not showered and barely eaten in the same amount of time. I was tired, unable to think straight and there was no end in sight to get a full nights rest - that was hard to come to terms with. I wanted to feel an all-consuming love, I really did. I knew logically I loved him, and that he was worth every single sliver of pain, but I can't say that "the joy of meeting my son made me forget" as so many women have said. In fact, right after Eli was delivered, I said to Mike, "This may be the only child we have by birth," and I was dead serious.
Today, a few weeks out, Eli and I are in a full blown love affair. I know I love Eli with ever fiber of my being, and I feel that love. I look at him and can say deep down, "You. Were. Worth. It." So much has changed since I gave birth six weeks ago. The baby that was a stranger is now as familiar to me as the back of my hand. While I still look back on labor and delivery as the hardest thing I've ever done, I also view it as the most rewarding thing I've ever done - because that was how I met my son.

Eli now watches me as I walk in and out of view, kicks his legs in happiness when he's naked on the changing table, and coos and grunts when we play on the floor. He's easygoing and easily content, although he can be a bit dramatic when it comes to eating, pooping and waking up. (You should see him wake up; takes him a solid 10 minutes to become fully awake and complete his stretching routine.) He started showing us his first gummy smiles last week and every day we're learning new things about his personality.

Today I still remember the feelings, the questions and the pain from labor and delivery, but it's distant and vague. I think part of me is trying to hold on to the memory, attempting to remind myself how terrible it was so I won't want to do it again, but slowly, inch by inch, the part of me that has forgotten the pain because of the love is taking over, clouding the memory to only remember the end result.

Childbirth is everything they say it is and more. It's such a unique and unparalleled experience - something one will never understand until they go through it. Going into it, I thought I understood - I really did. I read all the books, talked to all the moms I knew, took a class and thought I was mentally prepared for the experience. But coming home from the hospital, I thought to myself, "I had no idea it was going to be like that."
While I had hoped to feel an all-consuming love as soon as I met Eli in the delivery room, I can't say that I'm surprised I didn't. Looking back I'm not sure my heart could have handled the intensity of the love I feel for Eli today. Each morning I feel like I might burst with pride, love and thankfulness for his life. What a gift that the feelings grew rapidly, uncontrollably, deeply.

While on the surface it's easy for me to define Eli's labor and delivery as "difficult," "hard," or "brutal," when I truly take time to reflect on it, I begin to see it as only the first chapter of his birth story, one that opens in a messy, difficult way, but ends in beauty and easy love. Someone once told me pregnancy is the first of many sacrifices you'll make for your child, and I suppose labor and delivery is the second. But I can honestly say the sacrifices are worth it.

Eli is my unexpected joy, my unforeseen miracle, my surprise blessing.

He was worth it.

1 comments:

  1. I loved hearing Eli's birth story, Laura! You told it so beautifully, and did not hold back any emotions or details. It was totally raw and I loved that. It's interesting to hear that you didn't love him instantly like so many mothers say they do... I have often wondered if other mothers feel that way because I feel like no one talks about NOT feeling instantly in love. I love how you talk about your love for Eli growing rapidly and intensely, later, after you brought him home. Thank you for sharing your story!

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