Many women describe the first interaction with their new baby as a distinctive, life changing moment of unconditional love at first sight. I did not have that moment. My four hour labor story was so fast and furious that I was simply trying to process what had just happened.
All stitched up after a grade two tear from childbirth, I carefully headed to the bathroom leaving a trail of blood behind me for Catrina to stare at with concern. “Is there supposed to be that much bleeding?” she later confessed she was thinking as I was delivering our daughter. The doctor and nurse reassured us that this was totally normal for a first baby and not to worry. I put on the mesh underwear and a pad the size of a life raft they provided and thought, “isn’t it ironic that I’ll be changing my baby’s diapers while I change my own, too?!”
I was already warned that breast feeding is not as easy as one might think, and I’m glad I was mentally prepared for that because it’s true. There is a learning curve for just about all moms and babies where things get awkward, frustrating, and often unsuccessful. Unfortunately, my first feeding experience was a nerve-racking one, too. While still in the delivery room, the nurse suggested I try to feed her for the first time. After a crash course, I thought things were going well at first – Oakley had latched on and seemed to be doing what she was supposed to be doing. But after a while, I noticed she was turning purple. I pulled her away as I realized she had lost consciousness – her body went limp and she was unresponsive. I said to the nurse in a panic, “she’s not breathing!” Even the nurse seemed frazzled, and pulled the emergency cord for a team to come help. I held my breath as the next 30 seconds felt like forever as I laid helplessly in the hospital bed. The nurse had taken Oakley and was rubbing and patting her back, trying to stimulate her to wake up. As the team of doctors rushed in, she regained consciousness as the color in her face started to return to normal. Surprisingly one of the doctors commended me on my quick reaction to the situation, but all I could think was, “I nearly suffocated our one day old baby with my boob, this is not a good start to motherhood.”
We were transferred from our delivery room to a private room shortly after 6:00am, about an hour and a half after delivery. We got settled in our room and immediately reminisced about how intense the last few hours of our lives were as we stared at our daughter in disbelief. We were parents! But the combination of sleep deprivation and emotions running on high left us both in a state of delirium, and I was looking forward to getting some rest. But before I could I attempted feeding again, paying extra attention to her breathing after the last ordeal. Another strong start ended in catastrophe – this time Oakley started choking. Luckily we had taken an online infant choking and CPR course just days before, so Catrina flipped her and patted her back as I pulled the emergency cord for assistance. The nurses grabbed Oakley and continued to pat her back to get her to breathe, which she did within seconds. They concluded she had some excess amniotic fluid from being in the womb, and gave her saline drops to try to clear things up. Again, we were reassured that we did the right thing in calling for help right away, but I couldn’t help feeling a mix of relief, fear, and failure as I silently sobbed.
After a coffee and some food, we appreciated a little down time to recover from the series of unfortunate events that had just occurred. We hadn’t yet slept but were feeling a bit better, and Catrina left at around 11:00am to pick up a few things and get our house in order for our arrival the next day. Now remember when I said I didn’t have the magical moment many women speak of when Oakley was placed in my arms for the first time? Well, it turns out that moment indeed happened for me, it was just a little delayed.
I was enjoying some heartwarming newborn cuddles while it was just me and her, when all of a sudden she opened her eyes and looked right at me. As she gazed up at me our eyes locked, and it was then that I was overcome with that feeling everyone was talking about. That feeling like your heart is about to explode with unconditional love, knowing deep down you would do absolutely anything to protect and care for this incredible being. I stared back at her and cried as we quietly bonded, except this time these were tears of pure joy. It was a beautiful moment I’ll never forget.
We were released from the hospital about 30 hours after we had arrived. Having a baby during a pandemic prevented us from having any visitors at the hospital, but I didn’t mind – it gave us the chance to get comfortable with accomplishing the basics with our fragile little human like feeding, burping, changing, swaddling, and bathing. Catrina packed our bags, we snapped a few photos, and got her into her car seat for the first time. Like any new mom, I insisted on sitting in the backseat with Oakley and was a literal back seat driver the entire way home.
The first night at home was a bit of a blur – we were still still running off of adrenaline and sleep deprivation. But as we settled into our new life with our new addition to the family, we already knew that the many sacrifices and difficult moments would be a small price to pay compared to the joy our little Oakley would bring us now, and forever.