*The following was written in September 2016, two weeks after giving birth. Whereas I am currently past the emotional turmoil described, I still felt these are words that need to be heard in honor of World Prematurity Day and for others who may be battling the ‘unexpecteds’ right now.
I unexpectedly had a baby. Don’t get me wrong: I knew I was pregnant, and I knew I would eventually give birth. But there was never an inclination or speck of thought in my mind that it would have happened the way it did.
I never expected my water to break at church at 34 weeks gestation.
I never expected my husband to be deployed when I went into labor six weeks early.
I never expected to leave my toddler at church with the nursery director, waiting for my dad to make the four-hour trip to where we were stationed.
I never expected to drive myself to the hospital in labor.
I never expected I was actually in labor.
I never expected to be admitted to the hospital for spontaneous premature rupture of membranes.
I never expected to spend 10 days on hospital bedrest and on so many meds trying NOT to have a baby.
I never expected to be away from my toddler for two weeks while in the hospital. And I never expected him to grow so much in that time that he’d be a stranger when I eventually came home.
I never expected for my unborn baby to have such consistent and healthy stats that the doctor would allow me to remain pregnant for as long as she did.
I never expected for my husband to be able to come home for the birth.
I never expected that my labor would not progress past the point of where it was initially stopped.
I never expected to be induced.
I never expected to have such an adverse reaction to the induction medication that two hours into the process they would have to slow down labor.
I never expected I’d still be allowed to labor naturally and pain med-free.
I never expected to have such a furiously intense labor, where my contractions were 3 minutes apart (or less) for the entire 10-hour process.
I never expected to give birth at 8cm dilated because my baby was so small.
I never expected to have to hold my baby in and NOT push him out for 20 minutes while we waited for the high-risk birth team to get to my room. I never expected the nurse wouldn’t believe me when I told her the baby was coming.
I never expected to be completely alone an hour after giving birth.
I never expected to have a preemie baby who would NOT have to be admitted to the full NICU, just the transitional NICU.
I never expected that my baby’s first meal would be formula through a feeding tube to expedite the regulation of his blood sugar.
I never expected to have a baby who was too long for preemie clothes but too skinny for newborn clothes.
I never expected to feel so distant from my baby and the entire situation as I stared down at my tiny 5 lb boy.
I never expected to bring my preemie baby home on his third day of life.
I never expected my preemie baby would breastfeed so well or thrive better than my first son who was born at 41 weeks.
I never expected to have a baby so little that my husband’s palm was twice as large as my son’s head.
I never expected for my body to heal so quickly and seamlessly postpartum.
I never expected to send my husband away on another deployment, leaving me alone with an 18 month old and an 8 day old.
I never expected to go through the sleepless newborn nights alone … again.
I never expected to experience such joy juxtaposed by such frustration, watching my toddler love on and throw things at his teensy baby brother.
I never expected to receive such great support from both our squadron and church communities.
I never expected to feel so utterly alone despite our community support.
I never expected to feel so emotionally monotonous, my head reeling and unable to process everything from the previous three weeks.
Yes, my baby is healthy. Yes, I am healthy. Yes, I’ve had so many quiet moments where I could have begun to process the events of the past three weeks. But I feel weary and beat up. The whole situation has required so much fluidity that I feel I can barely keep my head above water.
So often our best vision is in hindsight, looking at the storm completely through the rearview mirror. But I’m still caught in the middle, unable to see clearly through the emotional chaos. And because we’re all doing exceedingly well physically, everyone around me has moved on emotionally, and expects me to be the same.
But I still feel broken, bruised, and barely holding it together. I’ve found that it’s a lot easier to roll with life’s punches when they’re all coming from the same direction; at least you’re able to prepare your defense better if you’re only facing ‘the good’ or ‘the bad.’ But when you’re getting punched from all sides, it’s hard to protect yourself.
I feel like I have whiplash from the constant back and forth between trauma and praise. The optimist in me wants to focus on all the miracles and provisions, because it all could have been so much worse, but wasn’t. And the realist in me wants to focus on the hurt and hardships because I can’t move on until I process and let go. But the reality is that I need to balance the two; I need to process the pain in light of the praises. They go hand-in-hand because I was dealt both from one hand, or punch rather.
How do I process and move on when I have a tiny human and a slightly less tiny human needing and demanding every ounce of time, energy, and mental capacity I have left, and then some? How do I balance caring for my boys well and still caring for myself when I am all they have right now? At the end of the day (which never seems to end with a newborn) what is even left of me to process and reflect?
So, no. I never expected any of these things. But here I am, caught in the back-and-forth of the highs and lows, trying to deal with life’s punches as they come.
So for now, I’ll just snuggle my super tiny human in this quiet, reflective moment and ride the waves of fluidity, hoping the brief oxytocin highs are enough to keep me afloat until this storm passes.
***Do YOU need help processing birth or any other difficult situation? You can speak with someone from Postpartum Support International here, and Military One Source offers free online or face-to-face counseling for military dependents here.
If you feel you also had a traumatic birth experience, this resource is here to help you.
Do you want more information on premature birth and World Prematurity Day? Check this out from the March of Dimes.