Birth Trauma Survivor and Maternal Health Advocate

“I remember leaving the hospital – thinking, 'Wait, are they going to let me just walk off with him? I don't know beans about babies! I don't have a license to do this.' We're just amateurs.” Anne Tyler

You have to have an absurd amount of schooling and experience to be considered for most jobs. You have to fill out an application, go for an interview (sometimes several), and then you wait to hear the outcome.

When you want to have a baby, there are no requirements at all. There is no age minimum (although there should be!) and neither formal education nor prior experience is necessary; although we did take a childbirth education class two months before Miss J was born. Yup! A two day class was all we needed to learn how to care for a helpless newborn.

The ten-minute drive from the hospital to our house took almost a half an hour. I sat in the backseat next to Miss J as I watched the speedometer like a hawk. Bobby drove very slowly (probably around ten miles per hour) and when I thought he was driving too fast (twenty miles per hour), I would scold him in a whisper from my perch (the backseat).

Slow down! The baby!

When we got home we put Miss J in her bassinet in the living room and stared down at her.

“What should we do now?” Bobby asked.

“I think we are supposed to change her diaper.” I replied, reflecting on the baby class.

Miss J  looked at us as if to say “Oh, great. I must be the first kid for these two idiots.”

We desperately tried to recall everything we learned in childbirth education class. We had an awesome teacher, Mary, who was very thorough and patient. We spent several hours over two weekends with four other couples practicing essentials like changing, burping, feeding and CPR on human baby replicas. We watched videos on safety, hygiene and relationships. Now, the reality was here. We had a live person who was dependent on us.  Our brains were fried and we were exhausted from several sleepness nights in the hospital.

“Yeah, lets change her diaper. If there’s poop in there it should be mustard yellow colored, right?” Bobby, the baby pro, had a print out of the baby poop color chart from our class on hand to refer to.

“Yeah, I think so.”  I replied.

There was a tiny bit of bright yellow liquid poop in her diaper. We analyzed the color and texture of it like two scientists in a lab and compared it to the baby poop color chart.

“Okay, she is six days old so yup this looks about right, her poop matches the color on the chart. Bright mustard yellow.” Bobby replied proudly.

We continued to change her diaper every hour, even when it was dry because that was what we thought we were taught to do in childbirth education class.  Miss J must have been so annoyed.

Next, we put her on our bed and took turns swaddling her in all the beautiful and newly gifted baby blankets we had received.  Bobby was much better at swaddling than I was. I was afraid to make it too tight! The blankets always unraveled when I did it, but he had no problem securing our baby like a baby burrito.

Soon Miss J started to turn red and scrunch her face up–it was feeding time. I was so happy to be able to finally breastfeed her in the privacy of my own home.  I sat on the bed, propped up by no less than eight pillows and began to feed her. Ha! Take that Bobby. He was the king of swaddling, but I had mastered the most important job, feeding.

After she was finished eating I took a long, hot shower. The water in the hospital never got above luke warm. I like my showers very hot–the temperature should be barely tolerable. It had been months since I had been able to take a very hot bath or shower because it is not good to do so while pregnant.

As soon as I stepped into the shower, tears begun to stream down my face and pooled together with the water from the showerhead. It felt good to finally have a release. I was tired, in pain and overwhelmed.  I stared down at the floor of the tub. The water was swirling around in a dark pink tainted circle as blood still flowed from my body. Dr. B said this was normal and I would see this for a few weeks. I was so tired of seeing blood.

When I was finished, I put on some clean and comfortable pajamas and got into bed. My legs were swollen with fluid to at least two times their normal size. It felt good to prop them up on some pillows. It was getting late, around nine o’clock and Miss J was hungry again. I fed her and we put her in her mini-crib, the only crib that would fit into our walk-in closet turned nursery.

Bobby and I stared down at her for a few minutes, she was swaddled up and we thought she was just about drifting off to sleep. We turned off the light.  We had barely made it back to our bedroom when she started wailing at the top of her lungs. Bobby picked her up and she immediately stopped crying.  Her eyes closed after a few minutes and then he put her back in her crib. It wasn’t long before she started crying again. Bobby picked her up and she stopped crying. We were told that babies only cry when they are hungry, need to be changed or when they are sick.  Miss J had been fed and her diaper had been changed. She wasn’t sick. Miss J was demanding to be held. We took turns holding her for several hours. Bobby caved in to the need to sleep. I hadn’t slept in days. I was used to staying up all night since the surgery and having to breastfeed every hour.

So there we were, the three of us, in bed together. I looked down at Bobby. He was already snoring. Must be nice, I thought to myself.  I held Miss J in my arms. With a look, she dared me to put her back into the crib.

“Don’t worry I won’t even try”, I said out loud to her. I held her close in my arms all night. I felt her warm, soft cheeks next to mine, I smelled her. I did everything but attempt to put her in her crib.

It was fine by me. I couldn’t sleep anyway.

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