At Last

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A woman breastfeeding a baby while standing. It was day four of my postpartum journey after delivering my first daughter via c-section. I was sitting at my dining room table. It should have been like any other dinner with my husband, but it wasn’t. This time, I had my week-old daughter sitting on my lap as I was trying to nurse her. Was she latching? Was she getting enough milk? Why was she crying?

My husband set the table, lit some candles to set the mood, and put on some music. He may not have known what I felt, but he could tell I needed a few minutes of normalcy, whatever that meant in our new normal. The first few beats of “At Last” by Etta James came on, our wedding song, and I burst into sobs. It was hard for us to know exactly why I was crying, but it will forever be etched in my mind as I first realized that my old life of just my husband and I was no longer. 

As a maternal mental health therapist and a mom to three daughters, I’m often asked what number child was the biggest transition. For me, hands down, going from no children to one was the most difficult.

Of course, I had responsibilities before my first was born; we had two dogs, I had a full-time job, and we had bills to pay and money to save. However, I only had myself to look after.
 
Before kids, if I didn’t feel like waking up until 10 a.m. on the weekend; no problem! I wanted to grab a quick dinner with my husband at 8:30 p.m. on a random Wednesday night; go for it! I wanted to take a girls’ trip, go to the gym, and listen to music that didn’t include Frozen or Encanto; done. Now, taking a solo trip to the bathroom or a ten-minute shower without being interrupted is a dream. 

I often think back to that pivotal moment in my dining room with a clearer, more well-rested mind. Although I was elated that I finally had this healthy and perfect baby girl on my lap, I was also grieving a life I didn’t realize I was losing.

I remember wanting to stand up and dance with my husband, something we did (and still do!) whenever we heard our wedding song come on. However, at that moment, I had my daughter latched to my boob, and the burning sensation from my c-section incision radiated throughout my stomach. I physically felt as though I couldn’t stand up, let alone dance with my groom.

I felt stuck, literally and figuratively. I was grieving our relationship. What was once just about him and I was now about another human being, and this being was taking up all of our time and sucking all of our energy, leaving little to no time for us to connect.

No matter how often a friend, family member, or even a passing stranger reminded us to ‘enjoy our free time’ or bask in the beauty of our simple life before kids, we thought we did. How many more dinners could we have gone on, quiet walks, or trips sans baby? We thought we took advantage of all those moments, but how do you take advantage of a moment when you don’t know what life on the other side will look like? 
 
Whether it was the baby blues or the realization that my life had changed in so many ways, I felt sad but recognized it as a turning point. It’s difficult to explain how you can be so elated and grateful while also being overwhelmed, exhausted, and emotional at the same time.

I now realize that those feelings don’t have to be mutually exclusive. You are allowed to feel grateful that you have a healthy child while also being resentful that you aren’t able to sleep through the night. You can be proud of your child for building a Lego tower while also being angry that they spilled out all of the contents of your playroom on the floor. You can feel like you’re rocking this motherhood thing while feeling like a complete failure. 

Being a mom is a journey that no one can truly prepare you for, and whether you are adding a new baby to the family, or your fourth, it will always be a transition. So if you are a new mom who is feeling a little down or you are a mom just having a day, give yourself a little room to grieve. You will get through whatever stage you are in and look back and laugh (or cry!) at what it took to get there, at last.

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