I never expected to be shamed by the hospital nurse for putting my baby in the nursery. But it was a lesson that taught me how to really stick to what you believe in as a new mother.
I had a plan.
My plan when I went into labor was to have the anesthesiologist meet me at the front doors of the hospital, lift up the back of my shirt and give me the epidural so by the time I got off the elevator, all my pain would cease.
However, what really happened was that I labored for 12 hours, contractions every two minutes, without an epidural because I couldn’t dilate past two centimeters and ended up needing an emergency C-section.
I now joke that birth plans are really just a form of amusement for doctors. I was exhausted. Completely and utterly exhausted.
When a nurse came in and offered to take my beautiful newborn daughter to the nursery to sleep for the night, my husband and I graciously said yes. We both hadn’t slept in over 36 hours and could barely keep our eyes open.
We passed out before the door even closed.
However, at exactly 5 a.m. the next morning, a different nurse came into the room, smacked on the lights and handed me my screaming child. She looked at me with a smirk and said, “Time to be a mother now.”
Her words instantly stung.
She went on to tell me that it was time to wake up and give my baby a bottle so I could bond with her. I had already fed the baby numerous times before she went into the nursery and felt an instant bond with my child. I wasn’t breastfeeding, so the nurses gave her a bottle during the night. I didn’t feel like I wasn’t bonding with my child because of it. I was actually happy she would learn to take a bottle from different people. I didn’t want her to be solely reliable on me for a source of food.
However, in just five minutes the nurse found a way to shame me into feeling bad for putting my daughter in the nursery. I had been a mother for less than 24 hours, but I was already failing at it.
When the nurse finally left the room, I cried with my baby in my arms.
And for the first time, she opened her eyes and looked straight at me. And that was all I needed. I had no doubt she knew who I was. No doubt that she knew immediately that I was her mother. Her caretaker. That it didn’t matter who watched her for a few hours or who gave her a bottle. That no one could ever make me feel like I wasn’t a mother.
I tell friends now who are pregnant to give themselves a break. Take the offer of the nursery without any feelings of guilt. The truth is, we do need help. All parents, whether new or experienced, every once in a while need to say, “I need help.” It’s not only important for us, but for our children.
When I did get that night of sleep, I was ready to face the challenges of my first day of parenting. I was ready to be everything I could be.
And after seeing her eyes look into mine, I did it without any shame or guilt.
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