I Became a Mom Slowly, and Then All At Once- Amy
I vividly remember experiencing a profound aha moment while reading the tearjerker novel, The Fault in Our Stars, in the summer of 2014. One exceptional line in the book blew me away- “I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.”
The Fault in Our Stars was my beach book that year on our annual trip to Indian Shores, FL. It was a busy vacation. I’d started and stopped the bestseller several times, but I never got around to reading it. Once we returned home, I started from the beginning again and made a commitment to finish.
I promise- this backstory is important.
I was at our neighborhood pool with my tween daughters a couple of days after getting home from vacation. It was late in July. I’d kept the promise I made to knock out the book and I was quickly plowing through it. There I was, sitting by the pool while my girls were swimming with their friend, when it happened.
“I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.”
What happened next in the book made it clear that John Green’s perfectly crafted wording was meant for a romantic relationship. But for me, when I read those words flawlessly strung together, I was instantly transported back to my first pregnancy and my journey into motherhood.
This time, 20 years ago, I was pregnant with my first baby and my only boy. HOW IS HE TURNING TWENTY THIS FALL??? Time is a thief, my friends.
I was due in October 1999. My husband and I did all the normal things expecting parents do, but we did so with caution. Our son was going to be the first grandchild on both sides of our family, so it’s safe to say they were over the moon with excitement. My MIL literally performed a vertical jump most athletes only dream of when she found out I was pregnant! I was excited too, but mindfully so. I couldn’t put my finger on it in the early months, so I lived in the space of putting a smile on my face around everyone eager for my baby boy’s arrival, all while feeling uneasy…and terrified.
It was in July 1999 when I learned an important life lesson to never ignore my intuition. Something was off. I knew deep down that I didn’t feel right. My boy was active, kicking and behaving like he always did, but I still felt like something was wrong.
An hour later, my back started hurting.
I waited until late afternoon, hoping to shake off the intense back pains that were coming and going every 10-15 minutes before I finally gave in and called my doctor. That phone call set into motion a visit to the hospital, which led to a lengthy hospital stay, followed by months of bedrest. There were two horrific times during my hospitalization when my husband and I were told to prepare for the worst. You see, 26 weekers didn’t have the best chance of survival back in 1999.
A couple of days after being admitted, the night that changed me, happened.
It was July 24th. I was rapidly declining, and they didn’t know why. My husband was told there was a chance he could lose both of us. I won’t go into all the details right now. Maybe someday.
Up until that night, I’d been trying to distance myself from my unborn baby. Don't get me wrong! I was beyond excited to meet him! But until that night, I hadn’t fully bought into the idea of this whole motherhood thing. On July 24th, even though I was very sick and disoriented, I started falling in love with this baby of mine and the reality of becoming his mom…slowly.
The next couple of months were tough but I’m thankful for them. It’s fascinating how the edges of those painful and sharp memories soften as time passes. Now, almost 20 years later, I mostly think about the good, and my husband and I count our blessings for all three of our children.
October finally arrived, and it was baby time! Labor was typical, and after three breezy hours of pushing (HA!), he was here. I couldn’t hold him or even see his face right away. I only caught a glimpse of his little chicken legs dangling down as a nurse carried him over to the other side of the room to work on him.
I kept trying to see around the circle of scrubs surrounding him, without success. My poor OB was trying to do her thing down in my lady bits, but I was making her job very difficult by moving around so much trying to see my son. I heard her whisper to the nurse, “Let’s push” blah blah blah (can’t recall the medication name but I knew then it was for anxiety, it would knock me out, and I DID NOT WANT IT). So, I snapped out of it, collected myself, and stopped like I was playing freeze tag. In true Amy fashion, I even apologized to her. She looked up at me with the kindest, softest eyes and told me she understood, and she was sorry I couldn’t hold him right away. She would’ve made a fabulous doula if the whole OB/GYN thing hadn't worked out for her. Also, the crazy fun Halloween sweater she was wearing is seared in my memory bank for life.
She paused, got up, and walked over to the warmer to peek at him for me (my husband wasn’t allowed over there). She stopped dead in her tracks, which made my heart drop. Then she quickly and excitedly exclaimed, “Amy! He looks NOTHING like you!” Gee thanks. It’s not like I didn’t do anything to get him here. She turned to my husband and sweetly said, “He’s your twin.”
Once my newborn son was cleared by what felt like every single doctor in the freaking hospital and their brother, my husband carried him over to me. For the record, my OB was right. He was (and still is) 100% my husband’s mini-me.
Since that scary night in July, when my pregnancy took an unexpected turn, I’d been getting used to the idea of being someone’s mom…very slowly. As I held my husband’s little carbon copy in my arms, who was also part of me, it happened.
I fell in love...all at once.
My story of being ushered into motherhood isn’t all rainbows and unicorns. I don’t want to give the false impression that every single parent falls in love the second they hold their newborn for the first time. Sometimes it happens right away. Other times, it doesn’t. Every story is different, and this is mine. I also want to make it clear that I didn't effortlessly adapt to caring for a newborn. At times, I hated going through the daily motions and I felt defeated as a mom. That doesn't mean I didn't love my baby. I learned every feeling I was having was valid, and that positive and negative feelings can absolutely coexist together, chaotically intertwined.
Sidebar- I have a little quirk I’d need to share that's relevant to this story. You see, I’m able to recall important dates at the drop of a hat. If you tell me your birthday or anniversary just one time, I’ll remember it forever and I'll spit it out on demand when quizzed. It’s been somewhat of a useless talent over the years- until I became a doula. Now, I never miss a monthly check-in or forget due dates and birthdays. It comes in handy in this line of work.
So, what does this date recollection oddity have to do with my first pregnancy and birth???
Think back to the beginning when I shared how I became a sloppy mess while reading The Fault in Our Stars at the pool. My aha moment happened when I finally found words that conveyed how I felt about my journey into motherhood. They were right in front of me in black and white-
“I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.”
I felt the air escape my lungs and water on my cheeks because a split second before, I remembered what day it was- like I do all important dates:
It was July 24th.
It was on the same date I thought I was going to lose my son, and possibly my life, 15 years earlier.
It was the same date that marked the first time I felt like I was a mom.
It was this same date when I slowly started falling in love with my baby.
If I had read that book while on vacation, I’m confident I wouldn’t have had the same visceral reaction I had on July 24th. I was meant to read it on THIS date.
The months leading up to my son’s birth changed me on a cellular level. It propelled my venture into mothering my three amazing kids, and if I’m being completely honest with myself, it’s a big piece of the puzzle that led me to opening Indiana Birth & Parenting with Jordan.
Motherhood isn’t all Hallmark moments for me...far from it. But it’s been the best part of me and it’s what I’m most proud of. I’m not perfect, and I’m constantly evolving into what my children need from their mom as they grow into adults.
One thing’s for sure- What happened on July 24, 1999 gave me confidence I needed for the most important role of my life. When I doubted myself in the early days with my newborn babies- and FELT like I was failing- I KNEW I wasn’t. I can do hard things! Sure, I was “failing” on that particular day or stumbling during different seasons of parenthood, but I wasn’t failing as a mother or as a person.
Motherhood is a roller coaster ride friends. It's filled with time spent waiting in line, planning, and keeping your nerves in check. Sometimes the wait is comfortable. Other times it's miserable. Yet you power through and continue on because it’s all you can do. When it's finally your turn, and you're strapped into your seat, you think you know everything that lies ahead because you've watched other people ride the coaster repeatedly while waiting in line. But like every good ride...you have no idea what’s in store for you or how all the twist & turns and ups & downs will feel until YOU experience it.
On that night back in July 1999, I became a mom. Even though I thought at the time that the roller coaster I was riding was going to derail and crash, I refused to get off. I was all in, 100%.
I’ve been buckled into the same seat and long ride called Motherhood for almost 20 years now, and nobody will ever be able to pull me off.