This photo was taken on a Tuesday morning, ten minutes after my husband left me at home with our new baby to go back to work (taken after I dried my tears and wiped my snot-covered face). I didn’t prepare myself for that seemingly insignificant moment— always focusing on my impending return to work. But now here I was in a quiet house just me, my baby, and the revelation that I had zero idea what I was doing.
The few days he was able to stay home with me and the baby were, in fact, blissful as everyone told me they’d be. We spent most of our time on our self-made “couch bed” and had really settled into our “only leave the couch for food or diapers” vibe. Every cry, smile, giggle, yawn, and yes — even poop — that came from our sweet boy was a total production.
That morning, my hubby helped me down the stairs to my couch fort, set me up with a smoothie and snacks—even pre-made my lunch and put detailed instructions for heating on it. I think he was as nervous as I was—thinking maybe I’d burn the house down in my sleep deprived stupor.
He kissed my forehead, kissed the baby, and was on his way. As soon as I heard the garage door close, I burst in tears.
I don’t know why I was so upset; I think I had been so “blissed out” for a few days that I never gave myself a second to actually feel what I was feeling. Giving birth is a scary, wild, beautiful thing. But I hadn’t yet given myself a chance to just be with my thoughts, and now here I was on my couch, Kathie Lee and Hoda in the background, feeling all the feels, good and bad — and I just had to let it go.
I was still accepting the fact that I didn’t have the birth I had planned. I had gone to my last ultrasound appointment only to learn that my sweet babe was all wrapped up in the umbilical cord, and I was to come in at 8 a.m. the next day for a C-section. I cried when my doctor told me. I didn’t even have the time to process it fully. I was focused on my baby’s safety, rightfully so, but I hadn’t taken the time to check in with me. I went home, organized my hospital bag for the 47th time, and read all the chapters about C-sections I had skipped over in my baby books.
We left for the hospital at 4:30 the next morning. I was nervous, but ready. Ready to meet my boy, and ready to just be through with it. I still hadn’t processed the fear of major surgery. My husband was sweet, making light of silly things to ease my nerves, but I could tell he was nervous too.
It started to sink in when they took me into the OR by myself for the spinal tap. I remember that moment so clearly, down to everyone’s faces. Multiple doctors and nurses in the room, the anesthesiologist, and Adele on repeat: “Hello, it’s me…"
I remember thinking that was so funny, but had no one in the room I could share the laugh with. I felt alone. I took slow, deep breaths as they prepped me for surgery. I held the image in my mind of my baby on my chest, and I worked hard to block out the negative talk. This was birth. This was still the real deal. And I was still brave.
After they had me all set up for surgery, they let my husband in, and my fear settled a bit. The next moments are a bit of a blur, but all I know is that as soon as they held my baby’s face next to mine, I kissed it and breathed in the sweetest smell. Here he was, and it didn’t matter how he got here.
The days of recovery in the hospital had their ups and downs. The pain came in waves, and I struggled with it. I was determined to get up and walk as soon as I could. I knew if I could do that, my recovery would be faster and I could get back to the comforts of home. What I didn’t realize is that I would miss the “comforts” of the hospital. I would miss having a nurse down the hall for my questions, someone reminding me to take my medicine every four hours, and a lactation consultant to help me through frustrating feeds. Hell, I would even miss the weird little cups of apple juice that tasted so good after not eating all day.
I powered through my recovery like a champ, and they let us go home one day early. Arriving at home was a comfort for sure, but in the whirlwind of postpartum life, I didn’t get the chance I needed to process everything I had just been through.
When my husband left for work that Tuesday morning, after my mini meltdown, I cuddled my babe close, pulled myself together, and snapped that photo. I’m so thankful I have it, dark circles and all. It’s a reminder to ground yourself, even in the whirlwind of birth and postpartum life. Take a second to check in with you, and I promise it brightens those happy moments even more.
My mom always says “you have to put your own oxygen mask on first before helping others.” Motherhood is the truest expression of this. You can’t pour from an empty cup, and the madness and beauty of the fourth trimester can very quickly empty that cup.
My advice? Find simple joys in those weeks and months after birth: joys that don’t just come from the baby. Maybe it’s watching trash TV in your bathrobe, maybe it’s filling up your Amazon cart during that 3 a.m. feeding sesh, and maybe it’s just washing your dang hair! All I can say is, us moms are out there killin’ it, and we owe it to ourselves to get that oxygen mask in place.