2015 was a big year for me. It was the year I learned how to be a mother. It feels funny writing that because I never expected to have to “learn.” I’ve always wanted children and at some point in my life, I thought I wanted as many as six. I always thought motherhood would come naturally to me. What’s there to learn right? So when I had Emmett, I was in for quite a shocker.
Emmett was born 2 weeks past his due date and by that time, I was so ready to give birth. I had a detailed birth plan, I was practicing my birth yoga religiously, the nursery was ready, I was ingesting red leaf tea and primrose oil to encourage labor, I had my hospital bag packed, and Robert and I had even picked out what we wanted Emmett’s first song to be. Ha! Was I naïve. Emmett refused to come and I had to be induced. I was in labor for 25 hours, 5 of which I pushed with everything I had, but Emmett was completely stuck and at 5:45 p.m. on November 25th, 2014, our son was born via C-section. My birth plan had failed and I felt I had failed. While I lay on the operating table with my insides exposed, Robert, who had promised me he would not leave our son alone for even a second and would try to do skin to skin as best as he could, left with Emmett to the nursery. In the nursery was where Emmett would hear his first song, All About The Bass. UGH. That wasn’t what we’d picked for him! How could his first song be so out of our control?!? As it turned out, we should’ve realized at that point that Emmett’s first song would be similar to many of our parenting experiences- out of our control no matter what we did.
Ten days after Emmett was born, my family was at our home to meet our newest member and I wasn’t feeling too hot. While everyone was sitting at the dining table enjoying lunch, I was upstairs in my bathroom watching pus & blood pour from my C-section incision. I took a deep breath, tried not to pass out, and grabbed my phone to call my doctor. Minutes later, half my family left while my parents, Robert & Emmett piled into our car and headed to the hospital. Once again, I felt like I was letting my son down. Not only wasn’t I able to give him the birth I so desperately wanted, at 10 days old I’d now be subjecting him to all the gross germs of a hospital emergency room. Why did we bring him? Because I was breastfeeding and he couldn’t be away from me for more than two hours at a time. Hours, tests, an MRI and an ultrasound later, my doctor confirmed that I had an infection and at 2 a.m. I was rushed to surgery.
It turns out that when an old incision is opened, it can’t be closed. After surgery I was left with an open wound that would have to be closed with a special portable vacuum. I was put on strong antibiotics to continue fighting the infection and so I wasn’t allowed to breastfeed. I had to pump and dump. My parents rushed to the store to buy Emmett 5 different kinds of bottles and formula for sensitive stomachs to be safe. Again, I felt like I failure. I couldn’t breastfeed my son and because I had an open wound, I wasn’t allowed to even lift him. Robert and my parents took turns sleeping at the hospital so that I could keep Emmett there with me. I remember Robert sleeping on the floor of my hospital room, waking up and going to his first day back at work after paternity leave. He didn’t tell anyone what was going on because we wanted our privacy and sometimes having lots of people asking questions just makes it all more difficult. After work that day, he came right back and I remember thinking he looked so tired and sad that Emmett and I had to be there. My heart hurt.
Five days later I was allowed to go home, attached to a vacuum, with instructions not to climb stairs, clean, lift my son, shower or leave my home. A nurse would come to my home every other day to change my bandages and clean out my vacuum. Publicly I was a happy new mother, juggling my new responsibilities with keeping my business going strong through the holiday season. In private, I was a mess. I was in pain, sleeping tons and unable to move around my own home, this wasn’t how it was supposed to be. I went off the antibiotics and struggled to transition Emmett back to breastfeeding. My Love Note necklace was featured in Better Home & Gardens and I had orders to fill, customers to make happy, a business to run. I have no idea what I was thinking when I decided I didn’t need to take maternity leave. Next time, I’m taking leave for sure. Thankfully, I have an amazing mother who took an additional month off of work to stay and take care of us. I don’t know what we would’ve done had she not been there and I know I’m so lucky that Emmett got to spend that time with his grandma. But part of me is still so sad that I didn’t get to be his mother 100% of that time. I’ve spent so much of my energy since then trying to make it up to him, making sure he knows how much I love him.
It may seem weird that I’m writing all of this now, almost 15 months after Emmett was born. But without putting it out there, it feels that a piece of me is missing in this puzzle and it’s hard to move forward with writing my story. Every time I sit down to write, I feel tangled in this story and don’t know where to start. So maybe now that I’ve shared it, I can move forward. Once my wound closed, I was able to take on mothering full time and holy sh*t it’s been a wild ride. Like I wrote in the beginning of this post, 2015 has been the year of learning how to be a mother. Learning how to read my son, to understand why he won’t sleep through the night, why he won’t eat this or will eat that. How to handle his temper tantrums, to teach him new words or how to express himself. And I’m learning who I am now. Before we had Emmett, I was Erica the runner, designer, business owner, artist, music lover, dance party starter, shower singing wife to Robert. But since Emmett, I am a mom first and there have been moments when that’s been difficult to navigate. There are times when being a mom has felt second nature but so often it’s been a struggle. I used to wake in the morning, grab a cup of coffee, and start my day by answering ESD emails. But I can’t do that when Emmett wakes me at 4 a.m. and demands my attention. Now my dance parties are with my son and to be honest, they’re amazing. Watching him clap, stomp his feet and try to raise the roof is often the best part of my day. And watching my son grow is helping me accept that I haven’t been a failure, I just don’t have the control I once had and that’s normal.
So I spent 2015 learning how to be mother and I’m going to spend 2016 finding me again, in my new context, my new world. I’m trying to teach myself how to do it all, but I find that I no longer believe in balance. Instead, I’m learning to let each part of my life take over fully when it demands my attention. When Emmett is with me, I’m 100% mom. When he’s with Robert, or at daycare where he spends two days a week, napping or sleeping, I get to be a business owner and part time mom (let’s be honest, moms never really turn that part of them off). That means I may not get to add that new style to my website the moment I think of it, or email that customer back five seconds after I get their message, but it lets me divide my time so I feel more in control. Like I said, I’m still figuring it all out. I don’t have all the answers yet.