I vividly remember the freezing night my husband took me to the hospital via the well rehearsed route, all packed up. Like most first time parents, we had all the time in the world to be over-prepared. The next day, little before noon, our first child was born. It’s interesting how the memory and pain of childbirth doesn’t linger on. I was given the baby immediately and as I held it for the very first time warm tears welled into my eyes. I glanced over to hubby standing by the bedside, and he smiled, his eyes moist. That moment is etched in my memory as truly the happiest and the most unforgettable one in my entire life. I was very tired and in a half-asleep state for most part of the day. But whenever I would wake up, I could see my baby in the hospital bassinet beside me, bundled and secured, yet lonely and all by himself. I wished it was by my side, but I didn’t say anything as I was not even fully awake, slightly disoriented and quite unsure if that would even make for a reasonable request. Our hospital offered a service to take care of the baby at night so the mother gets to take some rest. I was asked to go for it (a ‘wise’ thing to do without getting ’emotional’ for my own ‘good’). That separation tore me deep down. I had neither the experience nor conviction to choose the right thing, as I can see it now.
Once we got home, it was such a hostile sight for me to see the tiny bundle in this large oversized crib. I was told not to cosleep with the baby as a new sleep-deprived mom could accidentally smother the baby. Trying to abide by these “do’s and don’ts”, while my instinct rebelling subtly but surely inside of me, created a distressing inner conflict. Finally, I confided in hubby and we got this big rectangular plastic box (with sides short enough to let me see the inside, lying down), put in a soft cloth padding, and started having it by my side with the baby in it.
FORMULA OR MOTHERS MILK:
Before his birth, when asked if I’d be giving formula or breastfeed the baby, I remember writing “both”, having no idea whatsoever of how important that question was. It’s only with my second baby did I realize the difference it made! During the postpartum weeks that followed, I felt something was amiss, and I’d feel very low and disinterested. On top of it, I was struggling with latching (as the baby was also given a bottle since birth) and lactation issues like most first time mothers, which was not helping my situation either. It is only a few years later that I would know how interrelated it all was. My mother would often try to talk me out of my misery by telling me that I had a healthy baby, a loving husband, my parents around and so there was really no reason not to be happy. She was right, but I couldn’t help it much. I was grieving for something that I couldn’t put a finger on, yet it was very much there, lurking somewhere.
BACK TO WORK and THE MOVE
I resumed work after the 3-month maternity leave. Needless to say, it was tough leaving the baby, although he would be home and not in a daycare, under the the loving care of my mother in law. The separation felt unnatural to me. But the whole world around me seemed to follow this norm, so it must be a ‘reasonably right’ thing to do, I would tell myself trying to assuage the trauma. It might appear strange when I say this, but I would not call home very often from work to check on the baby. I couldn’t. I was in denial…
Thankfully, it was not for long that I had to go through the ordeal. Hubby switched jobs and we had to move out of town, a few driving hours away. I quit after working for a few months. In hindsight, this was one of the best things that could have happened to me after I became a mother. I can’t be thankful enough as I would not have quit of my own volition, primarily because I was unsure if it was a even ‘rational’ option I had the luxury to exercise. I loved being not having to be away from my son, but there still was an undertone of something I was missing or perhaps was angry about. I was irritable and would have an angry outburst here and there, until I finally got over it a year or so later.
Our second child was born after a gap of two years. To my pleasant surprise, everything was so much easier and better, as it usually is for the mother second time around. This was also the time when we moved again, this time from the Midwest to the Southwest (a bigger move) when the baby was but 5 weeks old! We moved into a couple of temporary corporate houses before we settled for the permanent one. In spite of all these changes and activity around us, everything seemed to work out just fine, the baby was content and I was cheerful, with no issues with lactation or latching. So much so that I donated about two and a half gallons of excess expressed milk (immensely satisfying to be able to help premature babies in need ones own little way, also a grateful reminder to all of one’s blessings!)
THE CONTINUUM CONCEPT- a book that put it all into perspective.
I read The Continuum Concept 6-8 months after my second child was born. It answered why the two pregnancies were so different. As soon as Baby#2 was born, I had him with me for over an hour before they took him away to bathe etc. I didn’t put him in the bassinet but for a few times, but had him by me almost all the time (and yes, I didn’t smother him a even a little!). I didn’t care if I was going against the ‘norm’. I was so sure, so confident. He was with me all of the time, or his father/grandmother/uncle at some other times. I had no postpartum depression and the baby had nothing to complain or cry. This time everything was in line with the ‘continuum’, the way it should be. Both are good kids, I still see a lot of difference between my two boys in their disposition and demeanor.
If only I had known about the continuum concept before, I would have had the courage to follow the feeble voice within me. There is a lot of literature available on parenting, especially for first time parents. But there’s only some that is very crucial, and this book is one such. If I was to go back in time and change one thing, I would make my decisions differently moments after the birth of my first child, the continuum way!
This excerpt is written with a sincere hope that some future mothers stumble upon this post and explore Continuum philosophy, which is nothing but parenting by instinct, the natural way.
Suggested reading and resources
The website: http://www.continuum-concept.org/index.html
The super excellent forum the wealth of wisdom from Continuum mothers/parents: http://www.continuum-concept.org/forum/index.html