It started a lot like it would always be. A lot of work, some fear, feeling really tired, unsure if I could do it, and so much love. They placed him on me, and he was crying. Actually, we were both crying. He was so small, but at the same time so much bigger than I had imagined. It was unbelievable to me that I had pushed something that size into the world. His hair was creamy and matted down. There was a small red mark on his eyelid, a reminder to me that it was not only me who had worked so hard to get here. We had done it, together. The love that washed over me was something I can only express as Godly. I knew it was a gift from heaven to feel that much love in one moment.
And then, all at once, I remembered how tired I was. Sleep does not come easy for me after babies, this is something I would soon learn. I kept that little baby with me through both nights at the hospital. I needed to watch him, be there for him.
That first night at home was night three of no sleep for me. Every noise, every cough, every squirm had me jumping up to check on him. He coughed a few times, and in the wee hours of the night I became convinced he had croup. I didn’t know what croup was, but I was sure he had it and a good mother would know exactly how to take care of him. I laid with him on the bathroom floor with the shower on hot to fill the room with moist air. I googled croup and read that would surely help. The tears had started coming again. This time it was just me. I laid there staring at my perfectly content newborn baby crying like I was a baby.
It was finally 6:30 AM my time and 5:30 AM her time. I sat on the rocking chair barely dressed holding him. I called her. It rang once, and then she answered. “I have been waiting for this call,” she says in a sweet and worried voice. I immediately started to cry, “Mom…I really need you. I think he has croup, and I am worried he is going to die.” (Again, let me just say I haven’t slept in three days, so logic has gone out the window.) “Sweetheart, he doesn’t have croup. Tell me what happened. I have been thinking of you all night. I wish I was there, and I will be soon.”
Her stage of mothering looked a lot different than mine, but she had also had a long night worried about her baby. I lived far enough away from her that she had to fly to me and couldn’t get there for that first night. She had laid in her bed checking the phone every little bit, praying for her baby girl who had just had a baby boy. She knew those first nights can feel scary. She talked me through my fears, assured me he was fine, and told me I had to sleep.
I felt more exhausted, overwhelmed, and scared over the next few days than I had in my whole life. I also felt more love, pride, and awe than I knew possible. Motherhood is unique that way. It pushes you all in before you even know what all in is.
She arrived on Day 5. She took care of me, she held me, she fed me, she cleaned for me, she encouraged me. When she left I was a lot less tired and a little more sure I could do it alone. During those first five days of her grandson’s life my mom had been mothering the exact way I had in those first few hours of my baby’s life: working hard to care for me even while being away from me, feeling really tired from fearful and worried nights, unsure if she could wait those long hours before coming to me, and loving me so much.
It is always that way with motherhood. You are always all in. Women seem to bring up those first days, first nights, first moments often in converstaion because it is what marks us, changes us. From the moment that little warm body was first laid on our hearts, our hearts simply beat differently.
On the first night my mom had come she asked me if I was ok to go to sleep. I told her I was. I explained my plan for the night to get more sleep. She told me she was right downstairs whenever I needed her. Not long after I found myself abandoning my plan and laying on the floor next to my little baby, who was surely freezing to death this time. We were close to the heater. My eyes were on him, sleepy but I had to watch him. I heard footsteps behind me and felt my mom lay down right beside me. “Do you want me to watch him for a while? I will lay right here with him and make sure he sleeps. You sleep, honey.” I hadn’t called her, but she knew. She was a mother and always all in, so at last, with my mom watching and loving, I closed my eyes and slept.