Lessons from my Leave
I’ll admit it – I’m a control freak. I like organization, predictability and routine. I was planning on using my maternity leave to tackle projects in my house that needed attention and recuperate and rest a bit after birth. After having my beautiful baby boy 10 weeks ago, however, I learned that we can’t always plan for things to go our way.
It all started in my last trimester. I was determined to have a calm and relaxing birth experience. I enlisted in a birth hypnosis class that teaches women how to mentally put themselves in a deeply relaxed state so their bodies don’t fight contractions, but rather work with them. It was supposed to be amazing! At first it was difficult for me because I’d never tried any mental “mind over matter” techniques, but as I slowly mastered the skill I found it helped me relax in other times of tension and stress as well.
Once my labor started I stayed at home practicing all of the new skills that I had learned. When I finally decided it was time to go to the hospital I was shocked to learn that I was 10 centimeters dilated! (I thought I was maybe 5 or 6 centimeters). To my delight, I told the midwife I was ready to push and finish it all off. G-d, however, had other plans. I had gotten an ultrasound the week before and the baby’s head was down, but he had apparently flipped and was now feet down, a position that is labeled as a “footling” It’s apparently very dangerous to deliver a baby feet first so the hospital staff prepared to do an emergency C-section. That alone would have been traumatizing enough, but the midwife on staff at the hospital treated me very roughly and in my vulnerable state, I was completely overwhelmed. I had no time to prepare myself emotionally for the surgery that was about to take place.
I had a very difficult recovery after the surgery and as I compared myself to the other C-section moms in the hospital, I wondered what was wrong with me. They were able to walk, albeit with difficulty, while I could barely get out of bed. Once home, a neighbor of mine (who is a doctor) arranged for me to take a blood test. He discovered that I had an infection and that was what was causing me incredible pain. Finally, after two weeks of being on an antibiotic, I was able to walk around with minimal pain. I knew that it would only be a matter of time for “normal” to return to our family. However, it wasn’t until 5 weeks after birth that I began to feel more like myself.
At 6 weeks of age my newborn developed a sever cough and began wheezing, while his breathing became very labored. Although a local doctor told me that he was fine, but my motherly intuition told me otherwise. He was lethargic, his coloring very pale and he would barely wake up to eat. I immediately took him to the hospital emergency room where he was put on oxygen and hooked up to an IV.
For me to watch my baby in this state was heart-breaking and terrifying at the same time. They discovered that he had an infection in his lungs and that his oxygen levels were dangerously low. After being hospitalized for a week I was able to take him home, as long as I promised to give him a nebulizer every 4 hours around the clock and return to the hospital if I noticed any irregularities in his breathing.
We got home from the hospital and literally 1 hour later I developed an infection from nursing (which happens when a nursing mom is sleep deprived and not taking care of herself!). There I was: sick with a high fever, with a post-infection-hospitalized newborn, and post C-section myself with a scar that was still healing and causing discomfort, especially when I needed to pick up one of my other young children.
That’s when I finally realized that all of my planning and preparation was still being orchestrated by The Higher Power Above. I tried to plan my “perfect birth” but that clearly didn’t happen. Before having the baby I had a long list of things to tackle during my maternity leave – those never got done. And then just as I thought I could plan to return to work, my baby got sick!
And now I sit here 2 weeks later, finally returning back to normal life with the house, family and work but with a completely new outlook. Am I still a control freak? Yes – but now I realize that I was just trying to control the wrong things in my life. I still value schedules and organization, but now, instead of trying to control things that happen in my life, I am simply going to focus on controlling my reaction to life.