We (like everyone and their Grandma waiting for Baby Cambridge) are awaiting the arrival of our own little Prince…..and waiting….and …. you get it.
We’ve spent 9 months talking about prenatal vitamins, breastfeeding pumps, debating diaper brands, dreaming of dark wavy hair and a dimpled chin. And we’ve spent 9 months worrying about Pediatricians, birth plans, daycare, crunching budgets, and wondering if this world will be a better place for our children (cuz recently, it’s been a bit – heartbreaking). All these ruminations and plans are supposed to prepare us to be parents.
But nothing, I mean nothing, has prepared me to be a Mom like the last two weeks. Hear me out.
I consider myself a tough cookie (learned it from my Grandma and the women before me whom I have admired my whole life). Not that my life has been difficult – comparatively speaking, it’s been idyllic (I’ll own that! It’s a blessing I’m grateful for). But in my own way I’ve overcome challenges, disappointments, physical feats, and achieved goals that took willpower to reach. In my own way, I’m one tough broad!
Until my son taught me a humbling lesson – before he was born. Thanks Little Man.
About a month ago, I started to feel like my legs weighed – a bazillion pounds. Walking up stairs at work was – not fun. But still I managed just fine. No biggie. It could be worse – really!
Then a dull back ache kicked in – along with leg pain – sometimes sharp and occurring at really bad times – like when I had to run from my office to the MICU. A short distance really – but one that made me think, “Oof, can I do this?” Pish-posh! Of course!
Wellllllll the back ache grew – and persisted to a point that I could not find a comfortable way to sleep (even with about 5 pillows). I’d wake up – no joke – 6 times a night. The pain, in my lower back, grew to stretch the length of my back, pelvis, and slowly down my legs. And yet, I still thought, “This is what I bargained for. This is part of the deal. I can do this. Only a few more weeks. Just keep swimming. Right?”
And then I realized that not only do I have physical limits, but that sometimes pushing yourself as a Mom doesn’t help you – or your child. Stress is cumulative and corrosive. Yes, I’m a social worker. Yes, I see how stress is physically corrosive everyday. Yes, my job is often about managing medical crises….aka stress’ big bad bro. Yes, I’m a hypocrite for writing all this and yet still thinking I was untouchable by stress (I’ll own up to that too).
Yet, I kept pushing myself. I’d go to work with little sleep. I’d shuffle (literally) myself through the halls. I’d smile and laugh (usually because I work with really awesome people hehe). I’d try to focus on my cases – even mid-conversation with a patient while breathing through the pain. I’d keep working because I didn’t want to let my team – or patient’s down (but wasn’t working at my prime – even forgetting things over and above “Pregnancy brain”). And Id’s say, “I’m fine. I can do this.” Until I had to own up to the fact that I really couldn’t. I couldn’t for my own well-being and that of my son.
Last week, I had my weekly appointment and was told: A) I’m dilated WAY more than I thought I should be at 37 weeks, B) I lost my mucus plug (sorry TMI, but it’s a step towards labor), and C) Little Man’s skull is slowly dropping through my pelvis – pushing against my tailbone and nerves (ooooooh so that is why I hurt so badly). He was halfway “sunny-side up” (aka – pointed the wrong way). I was thrilled to know that things were happening! This baby was actually going to be here – soon! On the pain scale I answered I was a 5 out of 10. Nothing big yet. I can do this!
Thursday night, at 2am, I found myself wide awake, in pain (and not contraction pain), and crying….I had hit my wall. I was an 8 out of 10 on the pain scale and a 10 out of 10 on the, “Can I handle this s*#$?” scale. The previous day was like a daze to me. I am sorry to say, but I couldn’t even remember what I did, who I talked to, or what was on the agenda for that Friday (which are SUPER busy in hospitals by the way – everyone wants to go home – patients and staff). Yet after being up from 2am until 5:30am. I actually said to myself, “I can do this. I’ll just go in early….” My husband, through my tears, asked me if I really thought I could and if it was for the best – for both of us. Yes. I had to. I needed all the maternity leave so I could be home with Little Man. I didn’t want to let him down (yes, we will get back to this comment soon). So I got ready – moving like molasses in winter. I got in my car.
And 5 minutes down the road, pulled off to the side. And called my Mommy. Wise woman.
My back hurt so bad even sitting was a pain. I just wanted to curl into a ball. But what upset me the most was that I’d have to “manage” this pain while giving my patients the focus they deserved while coping with their own losses of independence and physical abilities (all WAY bigger than my own experience at that moment). I knew that I couldn’t be there for them – and for my son.
What had my insistence on pushing myself physically done to my son? Was I progressing towards labor far earlier than was best for Little Man? What impact would the stress of my pain – and coping with it at a high stress job – do to Little Man? Was it fair to me, my son, and my patients? What would my decisions at that moment mean for my own health? I flashed back to my Human Development class in grad school – when we learned the fascinating impact stress has on us in-vitro. Seriously, Time Magazine had a whole issue on the life of a fetus in-vitro. The Doctor had told me that only I knew my own limits and that I had to listen to my body.
Well my body was screaming. I knew in that moment that IF I was progressing towards labor, I was in NO SHAPE to physically and mentally handle it. I’d be exhausted before it even started.
So I tapped out. I accepted that I couldn’t, and didn’t, want to let my son down before he even arrived. I am his Mother. I am his shelter. I am designed by nature and God to bring him into this world. And for that, I had to be humble. My strength is in being his best opportunity for a healthy beginning. That meant owning up to my own physical needs.
I started my maternity leave early. It was not what I wanted. In fact, I felt like I was a failure. However, it is what is best for me – and for my son – and probably for my patients (I mean, how helpful am I if I can’t emotionally provide strength under stress – mine or theirs). In accepting my limit, I found my strength.
Thank you Little Man for teaching me to be humble. A Mother’s love is always strong.
Little Man’s Momma