If things had gone to plan, Cameron would only have been making his appearance sometime around today. It’s quite strange for me to consider this alternative – another month of pregnancy, possibly a natural birth as opposed to the C-section I had, only now starting with the daunting task of caring for a newborn. These post-post-partum reflections have been simmering in my mind over the last weeks, but this auspicious date has brought them all to the fore and now they are demanding some serious attention.
An abrupt ending
I have had moments over the last month when I’ve missed being pregnant. There are two reasons for this: firstly I never got to the really uncomfortable stage so was still enjoying it; and secondly, my pregnancy ended so abruptly that at times I’ve felt a bit short changed. But in those moments I remind myself that there wasn’t much awaiting me in that last month except a deeper understanding of what it feels like to be a beached whale. That quite effectively shatters those rose-tinted glasses.
An unplanned route of arrival
Having my stitches taken out 10 days after Cameron was born acted as some sort of trigger and I started having these flashbacks to the C-section. My plan had been to have a natural birth, but I remained open to the idea of a caesarean if necessary. When crunch time came, it was really a very simple decision to go under the knife, but once it was all over I realised that during all my preparation I never actually thought it would become necessary for me to go that route. This left me in the very odd position of trying to mentally prepare myself for something that had already happened.
Then of course there was dealing with the actual op. At the time there was so much going on that I zoned out and just did what needed to be done. But it’s a stressful procedure and at some point that suppressed emotion had to be dealt with. I remember sitting in the theatre waiting for the spinal block with my legs shaking like the last leaves of autumn. Once that had been administered it was utterly bizarre not being able to feel more than half of my body and at times I had to fight down a sense of panic. While the op was actually taking place, I couldn’t feel specific things, but I could feel general tugging and pulling. I tried not to think about what they were doing, but when the bed bounced around beneath me it was hard not to imagine what was happening. And then that magical moment arrived when Cameron was born. But after that brief island of relief and joy, all attention switched to him and I was left feeling like a slab of redundant meat.
Dealing with all of these feelings after the event resulted in me reacting very negatively towards my scar for the first few days after the stitches were removed. Combined with my flabby tum, leaky breasts and general state of tiredness, I had never felt more unattractive in my entire life. (Reassuringly, my books all state that most women feel this way and that patience is the order of the day during recovery.)
I am sure that the natural birth process brings with it a myriad of other factors that play havoc with one’s state of mind post-delivery, so it’s hard to know which of these feelings I would have had to deal with anyway. I must also confess that when I look at the size of Cameron now (small as he still is), I am immensely relieved that he made his entrance when he did. Whichever way one does it – birthing a baby is no walk in the park. So in juxtaposition to my feelings on pregnancy, I am so grateful that the birth is behind me and this last month has left me feeling a lot more at peace with all that it entailed.
A head start
Last night Col and I had a braai while Cameron slept upstairs. When we look back on the last month it seems both incredibly short and unbelievably long. Caring for a newborn is a fairly routine and mundane process and provides ample opportunity for getting up to speed. (As an example, Cameron needs roughly eight nappy changes a day, which means we’ve already changed at least 176 nappies. One’s proficiency improves pretty quickly with that kind of repetition!) Having said that we are still experiencing new things every day, and the last month has had its own special brand of stress to deal with. As with the birth, we are glad that it’s behind us!
Having discussed all of this though, our overwhelming sense at the moment is one of gratitude. Arriving a month ahead of schedule seems to have done Cameron no harm. Despite its trauma, the caesarean went as well as it could have and we are actually a lot more positive about that route than we were before. I’ve recovered quickly from the op, the breastfeeding is going well and our boy is growing beautifully. Our family and friends have provided incredible support. We are privileged to have so many friends, that three weeks in there are still people waiting to meet our little man (and we’ve had visitors as often as we can manage). There is much to be thankful for. Yes there is indeed!
‘You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand!’
Psalm 139:5-6 (NLT)