A lot of women talk about that magic moment when they see their baby for the first time. I have a theory about it.
You see, I didn’t have that magic fall-in-love feeling when I first saw Owl. I was just like, “hey, look, a baby.”
Some people claim that a heavily medicated birth, such as Owl’s, interferes with natural bonding hormones and prevent that awesome gush of love that some mothers feel on the birth of their child.
But I don’t think that’s it.
You see, I have friends who have felt that rush of love despite an incredibly traumatic/heavy intervention birth, and I know people who didn’t feel it despite a completely natural birth.
Here’s my theory:
It has nothing to do with the kind of birth.
It has to do with the kind of person you are.
I believe that if you are the sort of person who believes in or has experienced love-at-first-sight (in the romantic sense), you will be the kind of person who experiences love-at-first-sight on the birth of their child.
On the other hand, if you are a more practical, slow-to-warm-up kind of person, like me, you’re less likely to fall head over heels in love the moment a squalling newborn is dumped on you.
It’s a shame, because I would love to have that rush of mother love.
Still, when I watch videos about natural birth, people always talk about that rush of endorphins that comes with it, and it made me wonder if maybe that really would help. Maybe my theory is wrong.
So when I was told that I wouldn’t be getting an epidural, the part of my brain that was still ME and separate from my body was actually pleased because this way I might get to experience the big endorphin rush.
Yeah, I didn’t feel any kind of rush when I was giving birth.
I don’t know if I ever have endorphin rushes. Maybe I don’t have endorphins. Maybe there were endorphins but I didn’t notice them. Maybe if there weren’t I would have hurt even more. I don’t know. But I definitely felt no elation, no rush. Just some anxiety because I still hadn’t seen my baby.
Finally they brought her over to me and laid her on my chest.
I was pleased to meet my baby, but there was no gush of love for her.
Instead, it was more like inspecting merchandise.
Received: one reasonably cute newborn baby.
“She has some fluid in her lungs,” said the nurse. “That should clear out soon but we’ll keep an eye on it.”
I don’t know if it was aftershock from the birth or what, but I was freezing cold and shivering uncontrollably. The baby’s temperature was a little low, too and so they kept putting on blankets fresh from the dryer or something – it was that same soothing warmth.
But the fact that the baby and I were both covered in warm blankets meant that I couldn’t see a lot of her. I could sort of see the side of her face and a hand and that was about it.
She was more active than Owl, that was for sure. Maybe because the birth went quicker (he must have been worn out after 52 hours of squeezing) or because there was no morphine/epidural involved this time. While Owl had been content to sit and stare at me and had shown no interest in the breast, my new baby was very actively rooting. When she found the nipple she latched on right away, no problem.
And it didn’t hurt at all – a perfect latch, so easy.
They say that if babies nurse in the first hour after birth that latching goes easier. I had a lot of latch issues with Owl, who didn’t nurse right away.
This was a very welcome change.
She stayed on my chest for maybe twenty or thirty minutes while the nurse fussed around cleaning up the room and PH teased me about my lack of stoicism.
“Remember that woman we overheard last time, who came in at 10 centimetres?” he said, “that was you this time.”
“THAT woman was screaming like she was being murdered,” I said. “I didn’t scream, did I?”
“No, you were pretty good, actually,” said the nurse.
They probably say that to every patient.
About an hour after the birth it was time to kick me out of labour and delivery and take me down to maternity. They put the giant sanitary pad and stretchy cotton boy shorts on me and helped me up off of the bed. I found it much easier to transfer to a wheelchair this time, since I actually had the use of my legs this time, even though I was very sore and had warm blood gushing out of me whenever I moved.
Like last time, PH and I sprang for a private room. And by “PH and I” I really mean that I unilaterally pre-registered for a private room months in advance and PH didn’t argue. His insurance pays 80% and it was worth the money to me to have actual privacy with my new baby while I sat around half naked in a bed with flopping breasts and bloody gauze boy shorts.
My room this time was way down at the end of the maternity ward in a weird corner near a bunch of storage closets. You couldn’t ask for more privacy. I didn’t see another mother or baby the whole time I was there.
The nurse helped me get into the bed, gestured to my bathroom and asked me to call her for help the first time I felt the urge to go. Then she asked me to check my blood sugar, and it was fine.
“Okay, well, we’ll check your blood sugar again in the morning, but usually when the placenta is gone, the problem is gone, so you can eat whatever you like now,” she said.
I COULD EAT WHATEVER I LIKED.
At that moment, I may have been more excited about the prospect of sugar than about the baby.
PH went down to the cafeteria to get breakfast as soon as I was settled in and I asked him to bring me an apple fritter from Tim Horton’s.
IT WAS SO GOOD.
In fact, I enjoyed it so much that it got as much attention as the baby in my first social media posts after the birth.
My parents showed up at the hospital at around the same time and while they were all like, “isn’t she just the most precious thing?”
I was all like, “I HAD FORGOTTEN HOW GOOD THIS GLAZE TASTES. CAN I HAVE SIX MORE.”
But my party pooper family wouldn’t let me have six because they were still worried that I’d go into some kind of hyperglycemic shock or something.
The next best thing that happened was a nap. My parents left after a while, planning to come back around dinner time with Owl when he got out of daycare. PH collapsed on the fold out love seat and I collapsed with the baby in the bed and we all took a nap.
That’s pretty much how we spent the next 24 hours, with minor interruptions like nurses checking on the baby’s lungs (the fluid got sneezed and coughed out), asking repeated questions about the baby’s latch, checking her blood sugar, and so on.
It’s funny. Last time I felt like the nurses weren’t around enough. This time I felt like I saw them plenty, even though for the most part they just left us alone to get on with things and let us go home the very next day.
When Owl was born I kept having nurses asking me “is this your first?” and then congratulating me when I said yes. I remember thinking at the time how much of a let down it must be to say no to that question, because people get so excited about that first baby. A second baby seems anticlimactic, and people don’t treat you like a special snowflake.
But now that my time was come to be a second timer, I found I actually liked it. The thing is, because it was my second, I didn’t feel like I needed the fuss made over me. It was all old hat to me.
I wasn’t shocked and horrified by the amount of blood coming out of me, or by the amount of damage in my nether regions (although I was unnerved by the intense after pains, which kept bringing back memories of blowing a baby out of my butt so I popped ibuprofen and tylenol like candy).
I knew how to nurse my baby, I knew how to change a diaper, and I didn’t need nurses hovering over me and twittering about how exciting it all was. I just wanted to be left alone to get on with it and enjoy my baby.
Every time a nurse asked “how’s she nursing?” I’d wave them away with a “fine”, even when her constant nursing began to cause me nipple pain despite a perfect latch. I just wanted to get home.
I nodded impatiently when they repeatedly reminded me to get vitamin D drops, to let people know if I soaked a pad with blood in less than an hour, or if I was passing giant clots, and to call someone if the baby’s poop ever looked gray or white.
Not only did I know all that already, but there were certain recommendations I planned to ignore.
For example, like last time they advised to nurse her every three hours. Last time, I took that literally and only offered the breast every three hours. This time I kept her with me, right up against the boob, and let her suck whenever she wanted, which seemed to me to be every 15 minutes.
Last time I left the baby swaddled in the bassinet whenever he wasn’t being nursed or having a diaper change or admired by a visitor. This time I kept her naked in bed with me, skin on skin.
Last time I kept trying to get the baby to fall asleep and then put him in the bassinet. This time I knew better than to try to ask a brand new baby to sleep away from my heart beat and slept with her in the bed from the first. This was technically not allowed but when a nurse came in I would just pretend to have just been nursing her.
So we weren’t sure if she was a much calmer baby than Owl or if we were just doing a better job.
I’m pretty sure we shared an obsession with trying to figure out the baby’s temperament.
You see, Owl was a challenging baby, and PH and I both knew with firm certainty that PH’s mental health can not handle a baby like that.
So when she slept for two hours in a row we would think “OH, THANK GOD, SHE SLEEPS.”
Then, when she hit a fussy patch in the night, we thought “OH MY GOD, IT STARTS.”
When you meet someone new, you never know if anything they say or do is typical of them or a behavioural aberration. We wanted to know who she was, and we didn’t know how to interpret anything she did.
Who was this person? Was she going to scream and cry and drive my husband to suicide? Was she going to be a joy and a delight? Both?
I studied her and studied her. Mostly I studied the side of her face and the back of her head because that’s what I saw the most of. She either had her face buried in my breast nursing or drooped against my boob, fast asleep.
I studied how red her skin got when she fussed, which reminded me of Owl. I studied her nose, which seemed very different from Owl’s nose. I studied the tiny fingers, the shape of her ears, and the curl of her mouth. I was trying to find someone I recognized, someone I could think of as a person I knew.
Shortly before they discharged us, the day after she was born, she had a brief period of awake alertness and she looked up at me with her blue eyes.
…By the way, PH thinks her blog nickname should be “Fritter”.