What Shaped Me as a Mother

Sometimes I think it is society’s expectation that pregnant women MUST complain. While one stereotype of pregnancy is the maternal glow, I think the other, more expected stereotype is the giant, tired, hot, cranky, pregnant lady mess.

I often get asked how I’m feeling during this pregnancy and I sense that I often let people down with my response of “good” or “great.” While my pregnancy has been relatively easy, there are a few health concerns about the baby and there have certainly been things to complain about but most days, I can’t bring myself to do it. Pregnancy is hard. Really hard. No doubt. And there are things I lament to my husband about on occasion or I wish in my head were easier, but then I stop myself. There are plenty of women who would relish this opportunity and I don’t want to waste it complaining or wishing it away. I only have this moment. And sometimes, unbeknownst to all of us, this moment is all we get.

Babies are not supposed to die. It goes against the natural order. When women become pregnant, I think the idea that the death of a child is a possibility is considered, but normally, optimistically, most women are able to push it from their minds.

I have not lost a child.

Like everyone, I hope to never lose a child. But shortly after the birth of my first daughter, my best friend lost her baby three days before she was due. While I was not the mother suffering an agonizing loss, and I don’t want to suggest I knew how she felt, I was a friend whose heart broke, a new mother who worried, and a helpless human being to the reality of life and death.

I write this not as an unequivocally sobering post, or to try to tell my friend’s story (it is her story to tell), but to explain how a darling baby girl I devastatingly never got to hold or watch grow up, shaped me as a mother forever.

When her baby died, I felt so much guilt. I felt guilty that my baby lived. I didn’t deserve a baby more than my friend did. I was a less knowledgeable mother than she was and I was racked with the guilt of laughing with, smiling at, and overwhelmingly loving my healthy, living baby girl.

Those feelings of guilt took a long time to subside and sometimes, they still resurface. They especially resurface when I realize that her heartbreaking death taught me so much about being a mother. The little girl I had planned on spoiling and giving so much love ended up giving me so much more in return.

After her death, in those undeniably hard newborn, new mom, bleary-eyed hormonal first months of motherhood, instead of complaining, I’d hold my daughter tighter, bounce her longer, and let her sleep on my chest more often. I would think of my friend, who would give anything to have a baby wake her up every half-hour in the night or nurse endlessly during the day. It made me realize I only had that moment. Today was hard, yes, that moment was hard, undoubtedly, but somewhere, there were plenty of people wanting that moment I was wishing away. Her daughter gave me the life-changing gift of perspective.

Please understand that I agree wholeheartedly that pregnancy is difficult. I hear unimaginable stories of the hardships women endure during pregnancy; perpetual nausea, varicose veins, hemorrhoids, insomnia, and bed-rest. Each mother bears some stripes of pregnancy. No one is unscathed. Pregnancy is really hard. It’s okay to say that. To express that. To vent that. But I refuse to willingly and overwhelmingly complain about pregnancy. I refuse to wish nine months, a sliver in actuality, away.

It is easy to complain, I’m definitely guilty of it, but it makes me uncomfortable and regretful. The cliché is true that “the days are long but the years are short.” While I imagine it will be easy to recollect all the adorable and funny things my daughter did and easy to forget her unpleasantness and the tears I cried in frustration, I also want to remember me as a mom who loved her the best I could in whatever hard, ugly, long, painful, moment we were in. I don’t want to wish any of them away.

I want to do the same with this pregnancy. I want to love it for whatever brings, good and hard. I want to be grateful for all the moments I do get.

Thank you to the sweet, little red-headed girl l I miss and am indebted to forever for helping me try to be a more grateful, present mom.

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  1. by Meredith

    On October 3, 2012 at 9:19 pm

    Thank you for posting this. My son was born a month early and spent his first 10 days in the NICU. I got to hold him for a few minutes right after he was born but didn’t get to hold him again for until after I was discharged from the hospital, I’m not sure exactly how long it was the days blurred together into being at the hospital and not. My husband waited almost a week to hold our son because he had a little cold and he didn’t want to risk passing it on. It was horribly painful, far far worse than delivery.

    But we constantly reminded ourselves that we were much better off than many of the other parents with babies in the NICU. One woman I met there had been told her son would be like your friends daughter. But he came and he was fighting. Another woman whose daughter was across from our son had been there for months and her daughter was still so tiny. She said it was hard because she had seen so many babies come and go. We ran into her in the hall the day we got to bring our son home and I felt a bit guilty that we got to bring our baby home while hers was staying.

    Last night was the first night in the month my baby’s been home that I felt truly frustrated with the late night feeding. Your post reminded me of those mothers and their babies, and of how grateful I need to remember to be that the only sign left that my son didn’t get to come home right away is hair that hasn’t grown back from the iv they had to put in his head. That sounds bad but it was just because he pulled it out of his hand.

    Thank you for reminding me to continue to be grateful for my now healthy baby!

  2. by Bekka Besich

    On October 4, 2012 at 11:56 am

    Thank you for sharing and I’m so glad your son is home and healthy.

  3. by Kristine

    On October 4, 2012 at 12:49 pm

    Thank you for posting this!

    I am so grateful for a healthy and happy baby, also. I am now getting ready to go back to work after 6 very short months with my girl. When you mentioned pregnant ladies complaining, it reminded me of my similar but different situation. A lot of moms I know are fortunate enough to stay home with their babies. Unfortunately, with a heavy heart I am returning back to work tomorrow. My entire time off, I was forever grateful that I had these few precious months to bond and love my baby. My other mom friends would complain that they were going stir crazy, needed more alone time, and couldn’t wait for their babies to get bigger and be more independent.

    I was just amazed at these comments and complaints. I have loved every minute being with my baby and would gladly trade-in my job to be a stay at home mom to tend to my home and baby. I will not ever take my baby for granted as others do and will delight in every baby stage, no matter how frustrating it might be.

  4. by Bekka Besich

    On October 4, 2012 at 2:16 pm

    Kristine,
    Aw, good luck with the transition back to work. It is a tough one. I went back after 3 months. Those babies are hard to leave. Now that I stay home full-time I find it easier to complain like you mentioned some of your friends do. I try really hard not to because even though staying at home is hard as well, there really isn’t a reason to complain.

  5. by Melodee

    On October 5, 2012 at 10:25 pm

    I love this post so much! My son was a NICU baby as well. He was full term, but his umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck and my doctor tore it when he was trying to release it from my son’s neck. He was in the NICU for 7 days because of the blood he lost. That experience,even though terrifying and by far the hardest thing I’ve been through, made me appreciate my baby even more than I already did. I didn’t get to see him for hours after he was born and I didn’t get to hold him until the next day. That was excruciating! So, I cherish every single moment that I get to hold him, cuddle him, and kiss on him now!
    I’m so sorry for the loss of your friend’s baby. I can’t imagine how hard that must have been.

  6. by Heidi

    On October 10, 2012 at 12:48 am

    What a sweet post. Thanks for sharing. By the way, you are such a babe in your photos! :) Hope you are doing well. Your potty training post was right on too. ;)

  7. by Nichelle

    On October 19, 2012 at 3:44 pm

    What a wonderful reminder of perspective for us all! Thank you, Bekka!

  8. by Allison Anderson

    On October 22, 2012 at 2:01 pm

    I will try to keep this short. I have thought about writing a post like this for a few weeks…the three weeks since my healthy, thriving fetus became a “loss” in our lives. I remember feeling the same feelings of guilt and pure helplessness when we lost Lemon. I say “we” because it was not just those two heartbroken parents that lost her, it was the world…and so many of us that anticipated her arrival. I was heartbroken and helpless and I vowed to appreciate my daughter even more from that day forward.

    And then it happened to me. I’m now on “their side” of heartbreak. And during my pregnancy, against better judgement, I complained. I complained a lot. It just was not an easy pregnancy, but every single day I told him and the world that he was SO worth it and I couldn’t wait to meet him. Even without being able to bring him home, those nine months were still SO worth it! And now, because of Beckett, my son, I love and appreciate my daughter, Harper, even more…and I didn’t know that was even possible. Because of Beckett, I am a better mom. I appreciate each day a little more, but every single day I look forward to finding out I’m pregnant again and holding a healthy baby. I’m sure, against my better judgement, there will be just a bit of complaining. Blessings to you and this new little life you are growing…so happy for you :) xoxo