Chapter One: The Beginning
Everyone told me it was normal to be nervous. More than nervous—freaked out. Insecure. You’re going to let us take her home now? By ourselves? they remembered thinking before leaving the hospital. Are you sure that’s such a good idea?
And actually, it was pretty weird. The nurses taught me how to latch the baby, how to change a diaper, how to adjust the straps on the car seat. They helped Matt and I get the swaddle neat and tight. But they didn’t say a word about, well, parenting. Crib or bed? Feeding schedule or no? Go back to work or stay at home? All of the hard decisions were saved for another day, not this day, the day Poppy was born.
I labored at the hospital, Matthew there and gone again, making trips between the delivery room, various eating establishments and home. While he distracted himself with errands, I distracted myself with an audiobook, trying not to wish he was nearby. Thing was, I didn’t want him there. I really didn’t. I didn’t want to have to have a conversation. But if he would have held me–just that, and nothing more–that might have been all right.
It took two hours for the Pitocin to kick in, and in late afternoon the real labor came. For this, Matthew did hold me, both my head and my hand, offering his body as leverage. When the midwife told me to curl, Matthew pushed my legs to my head, and laughed at how hard I pushed back. Lots of pushes. Lots. So many. So many. Then the head was visible, and the midwife asked if I wanted a mirror.
“Yes!” I said.
“No,” said Matt at the same time. Then: “You do, Hon? Are you sure?”
“Yes,” I said. “Of course I do. Don’t you?”
The midwife positioned it for me, and I saw my baby for the first time.
It didn’t look like a baby.
Three more pushes. Hard pushes. Long ones. Then: relief. The head was out, and with a last push for the body, Matthew and I became parents.
Matthew looked at the baby, then at me. “It’s a girl,” he announced.
“We know that already,” I said, laughing.
“She’s beautiful,” he said.
“But we knew that, too.”
“Of course we did. She is perfect.”
The midwife put Poppy, now crying heavily, on my chest. As I smooshed my breast against her mouth, Matthew put his hand on her soft hair.
“There she is.”
“There she is. She is ours.”
Late that night. Matthew gone again. He didn’t want to sleep on the pull-out. And as I soon learned, it was just as well. No, not just as well; it was better.
I got to spend the whole night with just her.
No sharing. No small talk. No deciding. No details. No normal life stuff. Just life. Just the room, the dark, except the street lamps below the half-drawn blinds, and a simple light behind the bed dimmed to almost nothing.
So this is motherhood, I thought as I stared at Poppy’s face. This is who I am now. Strange that I’m not scared. Everyone says you’ll be scared. But I feel good. I feel confident. It feels simple.
Here’s this little alive thing, sort of like a plant, except that I am her air and sunlight, her photosynthesis. She needs me completely, and I accept the challenge. That is the way this thing works.
It’s the most straightforward relationship I’ve ever had.
Honestly, that was it. That was my conclusion. I would be the giver, she’d be the taker—and I was fine with that. It was when I expected something, when I needed someone to behave a certain way—that was the situation I worried about.
Which is why lying in bed that night, there was only one thing I was worried about, and it had nothing to do with the baby.
It was Matthew.
What’s he going to be like, now that we have a kid? I wondered. Will he be the same person? For that matter, will I? Will being parents affect the way we treat each other? How we are together?
How will our relationship change?
And as it turned out, I was right to be nervous. Because while that first year with Poppy was one of the best of my life, it was the worst for me and Matt.
Read the rest of the series at Fights You’ll Have After Having a Baby: A Self-Help Novel.