I am so often stuck by the courage and bravery of first time mothers. Becoming a mother is a leap of faith and an absolute shift in identity. We have no idea how we will feel, how our baby will be, and what it’s all going to be like. Our relationship with our friends change, our partners, but most importantly, I believe after we become a mother, we are changed forever within ourselves.
I am fascinated by the level of intuition that we can tap into as we step into the power of motherhood. We know things as women, as mothers, that not even at times our partners can pick up. Can we learn to trust this innate part of ourselves? Can our culture support new mothers more deeply, helping them trust what they so know to be true?
I also feel that our stories start to define us. Sometimes, we need to process and let go of some of them, and other times, integration is called for. In telling our stories as a new mother, what do we remember? How do we remember it? As a psychotherapist, I am fascinated by how our stories hold us back, move us forward, make us fearful, or make us more powerful.
After the baby delivery goes ok (I use that word loosely-nobody dies-but things weren’t great), we come home. Then what? Can coming home be as traumatic as giving birth?
Here is a story by a very brave woman who is willing to publicly share her story. Jamie Lux Crowe shares what happens when she arrived home as a new mother. Her story is moving and brave.
A traumatic bringing home baby story
I live in a little health conscience world of yoga moms who constantly strive for everything natural. In this world, we believe that while a healthy baby is the most important thing, it is certainly not all that matters. When all doesn’t go according to our birth plan, we often deem the experience as traumatic.
Under this definition of childbirth, I experienced a traumatic labor and delivery. After over thirty hours of contractions I reluctantly agreed to an epidural and ultimately to pitocin and having my water unnaturally broken. Even after all this medical intervention to speed the labor along and make it more comfortable, I continued contracting for six more hours and ended up pushing for three hours without the epidural! The medicine was not worth it and I regret not staying true to what I wanted, I regret giving up control.
This story is not uncommon, but now, as I plan my daughter’s second birthday party I wonder if it was the beginning of lifetime of striving for control.
After the birth, everything was wonderful. I finally had my baby in my arms and she was all mine. Unfortunately, I was wrong. She was all mine until we brought her home and I discovered the real struggle was only beginning, the struggle between a mother’s protective instinct and what others consider to be socially acceptable behavior.
CC’s first day home started as perfect and ended rather traumatically for an emotional first time mom. My husband’s parents visited and demanded I hand them my two day old, tiny, fragile baby. My instincts told me to refuse, it just didn’t feel right. It’s a mother’s job to protect her young, aside from CC’s father, how could this task be trusted to anyone else?
After a few moments of uncomfortable looks and a few “you have to” lectures, I gave in. Again, my control lost. At five days old, the rest of my husband’s family planned a visit, his siblings, their spouses, and young children. Prior to their arrival I confided in my husband about how uncomfortable it was for others to be holding CC. It even made me uneasy to let him take her away from me. I explained that it physically hurt, that I couldn’t stand it, that she was mine and I wasn’t ready to share what I had worked so hard to make. It is as if a chain connected from my heart to hers, one that they were attempting to break.
Maybe I’m just selfish, maybe overprotective, and maybe simply dramatic. Perhaps I was only attempting to regain control over my situation, control over my life as a new mom.
I shared these feelings with my mother in law when she first arrived. Surely, as a mother, she would understand and show some compassion for my fragile new mom feelings. However that is not what happened. I left the safety of that nursing session in the privacy of the nursery to find my husband whispering with his mother. He then came and took CC from me and started a horrifying game of pass the baby. I sat there watching and crying, ignored by those that claim to be family. This family of mine left with the suggestion I receive help for my post partum depression.
As a new mother, my emotions were plenty. I was ecstatic and so full of love, but also very fearful for her safety. Also betrayed by my husband who failed to take my side.
His family soon left town but my feelings did not. When other moms were throwing their little’s at anyone to hold, I was guarding CC. Even at 8 months at a neighborhood dinner, I frantically left after wrestling CC from a well-intentioned lady that missed her grandkids.
The next few months passed without incident, CC and I kept to ourselves. I would have been happy to stay in our bubble but a family funeral required our attendance. I was panicked, I overcame this by wearing Lucy so nobody could try and hold her. So many family members of my husband that I had never met, so much stress! My father in law asked to hold her, I agreed since I had already reluctantly accepted that grandparents had to be allowed to hold her, but I clearly told him not to let anyone else hold her. What happened next was not pretty.
Worry – I couldn’t see her.
Panic – There he was…without her.
Rage – A woman I had never met, a stranger, had my baby.
Momma bear made her appearance in the form of a stream of vulgarities shouted across a funeral viewing. Not my proudest moment, but also not something I totally regret. I believe I was justified in my feelings whether I handled the situation appropriately or not.
Recently these feelings have intensified as our nursing journey came to a close. A huge way in which I held control over what CC was able to do has vanished. I’m now constantly worried about my husband suggesting a visits to his parents with just CC, taking her from my arms once more. This makes me question myself, no other mom I know panics like this when someone reaches towards their toddlers for a hug. When will this pass?
As CC’s second birthday approaches I feel increasingly that I shouldn’t still be worrying about this. But also I notice that at this point it’s only certain people who strike this panic, namely my husband’s family. It’s the people who stole my ability to make choices for CC, the ones who took my control. The people who undermined my feelings and decisions about my baby are the ones who cause me to dread their visits. The intruders who tried to take her from me.
Because these feelings seem to be isolated I find myself wondering if my birth experience gave birth to these controlling feelings and tendencies. Did the loss of control at the hospital heighten my inability to accept the lack of control I had involving my husbands family? Did this then result in an eternal journey to regain control? Again, maybe I’m being dramatic, but I still often want her all to myself, I still feel like she’s more mine than even my husbands. I still get offended when her grandparents claim her as “theirs”. This makes me wonder if CC will always struggle a bit more to make me let go than most kids.
Now I patiently wait to see if, when, the feelings will evaporate. Perhaps when she goes to college I’ll be able to let go a little because I’ll have to for her own good. Maybe I’ll only be able to accept her passing from being only mine to being her own person.