AWARD-WINNING POST: SOUTH AFRICAN PARENTING BLOG AWARDS – WINNER BEST TEARJERKER 2020
I watch you lying on the floor learning to co-ordinate your movements to grasp the toys dangling above your head. When I leave the room and come back, you leave your trance, catch my eye and your face bursts into a sunny smile. On the odd occasion that I kneel down next to you and talk to you, you radiate joy and pump your limbs in excitement.
And it’s in those moments, that my heart bleeds.
Your smile has caused heartache. Your innocent joy and unconditional love have welled up unexpected tears. And my heart breaks and bleeds.
Because life with you has not been easy. And the difficult times in your little life span, far outweigh the times of true happiness.
And I am gutted! I am gutted that your precious time in this world has resulted in the hardest blow I have yet been dealt.
Seeing the two blue indicator lines, injected both joy and anxiety simultaneously. I wanted you so badly but wave upon wave of worry washed over the shores of my heart as I tried to figure out how we would care for you when finances were already so uncertain.
As your heart started to beat and your tiny little body began to take shape, I lay sprawled on the floor of your sister’s room trying to power nap and recharge or slumped in a couch, devouring Marie biscuits to curb the nausea that lingered all day.
And then came the scares and the illnesses. The time when I had possibly been exposed to German measles and had virtually no resistance to protect you. I’ll never forget the call. We were about to give your sister supper and, when your daddy ended the call, I felt myself go cold with fear. Trying not to think the worst, I phoned a doctor friend who resuscitated the fear and told me to go to the hospital and get an injection right away. What ensued was her making calls to the gynae when she could grab a moment while at work in the ER. The drug wasn’t available, but even if it were, we were later advised against the injection. And only by God’s grace, you were fine.
Weeks later, I contracted one of the longest lasting gastro bugs I’ve ever had. Normally, I soldier through illnesses. This time I saw a doctor. If I had seen her the day before when I felt the worst and your movements lulled, I would have been hooked up to an IV to keep me hydrated so that you were okay. Again, by the grace of God, that wasn’t necessary.
Two weeks after recovering, I contracted the same gastro again. And the awful thing is that no one who doesn’t want to risk germs could help because even your sister carried the bug. Although she never displayed symptoms, she passed it on to others because I had been in contact with her. So we lived in quarantine.
I later developed a flu that I could not function through. Pre-school teaching toughens up the immune system through repeated illness and, many times, I watched children play through watery eyes while blowing my nose. Not this time. I lay in my mom’s bed and slept while she watched your sister because I just couldn’t “mom” through this bout.
And throughout the months you grew, I was consumed with guilt. Guilt that I wasn’t enjoying carrying you because of all the external anxieties. Guilt that your sister was still a baby. Guilt that I seldom had a free thought to enjoy you because your big sister kept me on my toes.
You, despite me, thrived throughout until we hit the 36 week scan. I expected an early arrival but not a planned one. I had begged the gynae to let me go into labour so I knew you were ready, but, it was not to be. Your little body inside my womb was not growing optimally and the amniotic fluid was low. So we decided to bring you into the world earlier. I was scared for your birth because I battled to recover with your sister.
But, although this time the physical recovery was easier, the emotional recovery was and still is a long road to walk. I remember hearing the paed exclaim when she saw your full head of hair. I remember Daddy telling me that we had a girl. I remember raising my arm to touch you. I remember falling asleep while being stitched back together. I remember drifting in and out in recovery. And, my darling, that is all I remember!
I don’t remember seeing your face. I don’t remember holding you. I don’t remember drinking in my first moments with you. I don’t remember hearing you cry as they checked you. I don’t remember you lying on my chest and feeding for the first time. And no matter how many times I’ve tried to jog my memory, I cannot remember. The drugs that pumped through me made me sleep and now the moments a mommy treasures in her heart are gone and I cannot get them back.
In the days of hospital stay, I bonded with you. It was just you and I. With your sister, Daddy did everything because I was unable to do most things, even walk. But this time, it was just you and I. Praise God I remember those few days. I loved cuddling your little red body on my chest. I savoured the sweet moments of you sleeping with me in the hospital bed. But at the same time, I grieved for you that Daddy didn’t have the time to bond with you. He couldn’t come often and his arms often held your unsettled sister.
Going home again left me with guilt – guilt that I couldn’t and shouldn’t do anything; guilt that I couldn’t help your sister; just guilt…
It became more apparent as the days went on that something wasn’t quite right with your feeding. It took us a while to realise that you had a lip tie. I thought this was the reason for all our latching problems and tears. The colic you had developed would end. After seeing the paed, we went to see a dentist and scheduled to get it lasered. A week later, I walked into the dentist’s room cradling your six-week old body in my arms. I felt ready to hold you through the procedure but suddenly being in the room made me change my mind. Vaccines were no problem even though Daddy struggled with those. But this time, I couldn’t do it. The thought made a lump form in my throat. Daddy had to hold you. Despite thinking that this would make a huge change to your life and ours because the lip tie was so pronounced, it didn’t.
You took in wind and screamed in pain. You were inconsolable as you writhed and I tried to wind you and ease the hardness in your tummy to no avail. I tried to train you to lift your lip and break your habit of bad latching but it made no difference. We co-slept (something I didn’t believe in) because we all just needed some sleep! We had to call in a lactation consultant. Again, we thought this would change your feeds. It didn’t. And I started to give up. I pulled you off to relatch you properly with no success. Tears made permanent tracks down my cheeks and welled up each time I fed you. My limp arms would hold you loosely in despair. Or I would adjust you roughly and shout at you in frustrated anger. This was supposed to be a special time of bonding with you but it was a time I absolutely dreaded. One night, I nearly stopped our breastfeeding journey completely and defeatedly spoke through switching to bottles after another day of dry nappies.
And, my darling, I felt like I had failed you! I was about to give it up because I couldn’t carry on. Yes, I thought it would help you too but I couldn’t do it anymore! There was so much milk it was spraying down your throat like an open fire hydrant. But it gutted me that I was about to give up something that would benefit you for life just because I wasn’t in the right head space. I knew it wouldn’t hurt you to put you on the bottle. But if I was able to give you something more, it felt selfish to give it up. We persevered. We soldiered through. But, baby, we nearly didn’t.
You had a colic that rivaled your sister. It was unpredictable and medicine didn’t touch sides. Even if it did, I wouldn’t have been able to guess when to give it to you. Your crying made me cry; it made me scream. I would press you to myself, telling myself not to hurt you in sheer desperation. I walked away from the numbing noise you made without feeling. I dreaded the night. I dreaded the daylight. I felt as if I was slowly going mad. I threw things across the room. I sobbed; I screamed; I hid behind a closed door; I shut you behind a closed door – nothing helped. And all the while, I wished your baby days were over. Life ebbed away.
And then, one day, I opened a box of clothes and saw amongst the folded piles, were shirts and pants, jackets and dresses and not just babygrows and vests. I looked at you through blurry eyes and your face broke into a smile.
You loved me. Your unconditional joy shone through your eyes when I met yours.
And all I had done was wish the first months of your life away. Now you were smiling. You were reaching for my face. You had grown up enough to wear little clothes. You weren’t a newborn even though you were still one in my eyes. You were still my tiny baby, not ready to start solids.
I wasn’t ready for you to grow up. I hadn’t enjoyed you yet.
Baby, I am sorry! I am so, so sorry! I don’t want to remember your babyhood as the hardest months of my life. I wish they weren’t but they were. It hurts to see you love me when I didn’t show you the love a mother should. It pains me to know that I didn’t care anymore when your tiny body was in so much pain. It breaks me to know that I wanted to hurt you to make you stop. I am so sorry, my little baby girl!
When I was diagnosed with a bit of postnatal depression, I couldn’t help but wonder that if I had been on treatment earlier, would things have been different? Would I have smiled more than cried? Would the dark days in a bottomless pit of despair have been more bearable and less dark? Would I have breathed through your screams instead of losing my mind? Would I…have been a better mother?
There are unexpected moments that make me catch my breath and, for a moment, I am overcome with emotion. Walking through the doors of the hospital that I brought you out of; smelling the antiseptic scrub I used before the caesar; cradling you and kissing the dark swirl of hair on your head as you fall asleep in my arms; dismantling your crib – all these bring back the memories of your early days without the pain. And, in those moments, my precious girl, I realise how sweet life could have been without the discolouration of colic and postnatal depression. Your big, beautiful eyes melt me when they laugh back at me and I realise how beautiful you are and how much I really do love you!
In those moments, I want to weep for what I missed and for what you never knew and did not have. I feel like I need to grieve for what we both lost – time we can never get back and change.
You never knew the joy of your mommy; you never knew the cuddles and countless kisses; you never knew undivided attention. You knew countless occasions of being left to cry in your cot; you knew pacing across the room while I pressed your tummy to bring up a wind; you knew your mommy’s anger, despair and frustration.
Yet, you loved me. You loved me when I was unlovely.
I don’t wish for those months back. But, I wish that I could have enjoyed you! I wish that your baby months was a time I treasured not despaired over.
But, my precious baby girl, I want you to know that I love you! I will always love you! I never stopped loving you even when I didn’t know what to do anymore.
We can’t go back, we can’t change anything. But we can go forward from here and do life differently. I linger a little more when you fall asleep in my arms. I stare deep into your eyes when yours lock on mine. I nuzzle your tummy after a bath until you can do nothing but chuckle in delight. I try to make up for lost kisses.
And I am grateful you won’t remember the times when I didn’t show you love. My darling, I’m sorry that it took me so long to enjoy you!
I am not a perfect mom. I never will be. Much as I try, I never can be. We will have more moments of despair on our journey together. You may not feel like I love you but I want you to know…
You were never not loved And I hope you will always believe that and never doubt my love for you!
The clouds have lifted. Your colic is over. I am medicated and a little more sane. We are enjoying each other now. But, may the love God has ingrained in us for each other and by His grace, for Him too, carry us through the times of tension and bring us laughter in the moments of happiness.
I love you, dear baby girl! I always will!
Tags: apologise, baby, baby girl, birth, colic, emotions, feelings, girl, girls, guilt, I' sorry, joy, lip tie, love, mom guilt, mommyhood, motherhood, newborn, sister, sorry, tears