Of course, pregnancy was only half the story of my new “mom” body. My delivery and post-delivery have dramatically shaped how I view my physical self, though this is a bit more emotional than my experience while pregnant.
I was a bit hesitant to go into this. In some ways I feel like I can’t properly express all the emotions that went into those first ten days of Jackson’s life. The joy at him being there and okay despite what happened, the tears of missing out on so many of those first moments of his life, the fear of the wires in and around his body. The fullness of that can’t be put in to words. In the end though, he is here and healthy, and we are so grateful for that. We are so lucky when so many aren’t. But the experience still remains in the back of my mind, and it has changed me in so many ways.
I labored for over 30 hours before the nurses called in for an emergency cesarean. I had assumed that this was coming, and actually asked that they just do the cesarean before it became an emergency, but they seemed to think a natural birth could still happened for a while. Eventually though, my labor became too hard on the baby and it was time for plan b. By the time it finally came I had long made peace with the new plan and was more than ready both physically and mentally.
The surgery itself seemed to go by stunningly fast. Jackson was born and emitted by far the angriest cry I’ve ever heard from a child. But something was wrong. He was sent to NICU with Glenn following closely behind. After some time in recovery, I was allowed to visit him for a few minutes. I stared at him, touched him gently, and apologized over and over. This was not the birth I expected, I couldn’t even hold him.
After twenty minutes, the nurse told me I had to go rest, and they wheeled me back to my room until I could “prove myself” the next day (they want to make sure you can walk and won’t faint or bleed, I’m assuming). The prospect of being able to see Jackson again gave me the will to stand up the minute they put me in my room, but unfortunately that didn’t mean they thought I was ready.
Ten hours and a hundred requests later, a nurse came in and asked if I felt up to it. I was standing by the time she finished her sentence.
This act, my body literally standing up to a challenge, is what I leaned on in the following months when I began to blame it for putting Jackson through that experience in the first place. Maybe if my body had gone into labor on its own, maybe if I had been able to deliver him naturally, he wouldn’t have had the pneumothorax. Perhaps the act of being birthed would have spread the mucus coating on the inside of his lungs over the spot left unguarded and he wouldn’t have pierced his lung with that first strong cry. I know it’s incredibly unlikely, but I still question myself and my body now.
At least I know that I saw him as soon as my body was given the opportunity. Moreover, from then on my body continued to function as high as it could. I sat in a hard chair that first day for hours, not even a full day after my body had been cut open and a baby taken out. I sat in many chairs over the next 10 days, spending as much time with my little boy as I could. My body woke in the middle of the night, just two hours after I finally got into bed, to answer the call of his nurse telling me it was time to feed him. It allowed me to walk carefully down the hall to a hungry baby again and again. When I was discharged, but Jackson wasn’t, my body let me wake up at 5am and not go back home until 11 that night. It was the trooper I needed, and it let me do what I had to do. For that, I am so grateful.
Talking with friends later on, long after Jackson came home and he was adorable and chubby, the question would often be what I thought about my post pregnancy body. This is a popular topic at the moment, and it’s amazing to see women come to grips with how their bodies have changed after having children. It is, after all, the physical point of your being, right? I would respond that I thought it was doing magnificently given how poorly I was treating it.
Honestly, once Jackson arrived my body became an afterthought for over a year. At times I think I even purposefully treated it poorly, eating too many things I knew weren’t good for it and not moving it enough. After I emerged from the fog though, I knew I had let it go too long. I began to eat healthier, exercise, and take better care of it in general. It’s rewarded me without grudge, letting go of the weight I had been told it would hold tightly on to.
My body is not the same as it was before Jackson, in some ways it is better and in others it’s a bit squishier. I still have my scar, I don’t know if I will ever lose my pouch, and I’m not always a fan of how it looks visually; but I can say with absolute honesty that I am so grateful for what it has given me. It grew my son, it pushed through when it needed to, and it has been gentle with me even when I didn’t deserve it.
This is the view of myself that I hope to keep for the rest of my life. A body that is more than what it looks like, a body that is strong and up for the challenge.