Friday, April 4, 2014

Breathe and Bare Down

That crazy weekend that I ran the half marathon, I also auditioned for Listen To Your Mother. March was a crazy month. My dear friend Jill had been in LTYM last year and had inspired me to write my own personal essay. I wanted my essay to be funny, but that wasn't the story that came out on paper. I didn't put as much time into my essay as I should have, but I sent it off. I was tickled when I was asked to audition. I auditioned on Saturday, March 16, which was Opening Day for the kids baseball. I knew as soon as I had read it, that I wouldn't be chosen. It was in the way she told me, "Please don't take it personally if we don't choose your essay, we have to make hard choices amongst those auditioning to build a diverse show."

When I've auditioned for a play or musical, or even when I've had job interviews, I just seem to know when it's a definite No. So I wasn't surprised when I got the nice rejection letter. 

I'm glad I took the time to write my essay because it was good to get some feelings all out on paper. It was good to read out loud. 

March was a great month to complete a few hard things. Looking forward to tackling a few more hard things this year!

Breathe and Bare Down
By Nora Bruce

I always knew I wanted to be a Mom. When I was little, I would even pretend to give birth. I saw a Carol Burnett episode where she was having a baby so I knew how it was done. You just needed to puff out your cheeks and bare down and, you know, 30 seconds later you’d have a baby. 

Fast forward a few years. I’ve married my college sweetheart and we’re expecting a baby. I decide to skip the 8-week birthing class. I just take the one-day, eight hour class. I also decide to skip the cesarean section video, because I KNOW that I am not having one of those. I’ll be pushing my baby out in about 30 seconds, because you know, I’ve seen it done on TV. 

So, I finally go into labor. Get to the hospital, get to 10, get an epidural, start pushing, baby’s head is up, not down, swelling cervix, etc. 13 hours later, I’m rushed into a c-section. I am strapped to the table like Jesus, shaking like a leaf, my husband looks terrified and everything he says is muffled from his damn surgical mask. 

The surgery starts and I smell burning. I ask, “What’s that burning smell?” The doctor says, “It’s a Nora BBQ.” All I know is that they are cutting me open to get my baby out.  I really should have watched that c-section video. I had no idea what was happening to me.  
I didn’t factor in that something could go wrong, because I just always thought I would be able to do it. 
My healthy eight-pound son is surgically removed from my womb. He is healthy. I am happy, but numb. I have all kinds of crazy thoughts and feelings, but mainly I just hurt. I feel like I failed. I just can’t stop thinking, “Why can some women birth a baby and I couldn’t? If having a baby is the most natural thing a woman can do, what kind of mother am I going to be?” 

I just got started and I feel like I’m failing already.

I fake a smile for the first few days and muscle in learning how to be a Mom to a very fussy baby.  I start crying at sundown every night. I beg my husband to get home from work as fast as he can. Being a Mom is nothing like I thought it would be. I was always so good with kids, it came so naturally to me. I feel so lost and alone.  

I couldn’t understand why it was so hard. I was supposed to have a cooing baby like my friends had.  I was supposed to be able to get out of the house and enjoy my maternity leave. Instead I have a tomato head, fussy face, screamer of a baby that barely sleeps for 40 minutes and spits up everything I feed him.

A few family and friends start to notice that I am not myself. I am sad. I am anxious. I am not bonding with my fussy baby. I have postpartum depression. 

I have a lot of family and friends that live near me, but no one wants to hold my screaming baby. The minute he starts to cry, they give him back to me. I don’t have the answers. I want someone to fix him so I can rest and be happy. I feel so terribly alone. I never knew that Motherhood was so lonely. No one talks about the hours you spend alone.

No one can fix this for me. I am a Mom now. I need to take care of him. I need to find a routine that works for us. I need to find my smile. I take many deep breaths, say many prayers.  I pray to my dead Grandmothers who had seven children each. ”How the HELL did you do this,” I beg them? “Why can’t I do this??”

Those first 12-weeks with my son were very hard. The sun started to shine on my heart around 8 weeks, but then I had to go back to work. I handed him off to a daycare provider, so scared she would call and tell me he was too fussy to care for. I knew I would not be able to have many children because my heart could not handle the pain of daycare drop off. 

Three years later, we were pregnant again. I was scared. I didn’t want another c-section and I dreaded another fussy infant experience. 

I knew that I might not be able to avoid a c-section, but I was going to try.  I needed to see if I could heal the part of me that felt like I had failed. I had to tell my doctors that I was not going to have a c-section.  I had to listen to them tell me that I was putting my baby and my health at risk. 

I canceled my surgery. I hired a doula. I did everything I could to prepare. The day finally came. I stayed away from the hospital as long as I could. I didn’t have an epidural or any drugs. It was just me, puffing my cheeks and baring down. It was Hard. But after being a Mom for four years, I knew how to do hard.  After 90 minutes of huffing and puffing, I reached down, felt his tiny armpits and pulled him out of me. 

In that beautiful healing moment I realized that it didn’t matter how I became a Mom. I was a Mom and whether you grow a baby, adopt or foster, every child needs the same thing, unconditional love. 

I need unconditional love and support too. I need to not be so hard on myself. I shouldn’t compare. I need to accept the unexpected and forgive myself when things go sideways.  

I am so lucky to grow into motherhood as my babies grow into children, teenagers and adults. I don’t have to know everything just out of the gate. When times get tough, I will do what women have been doing since the very beginning, I will take a deep breath, puff out my cheeks and bare down.

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