On a snowy Friday in late March, I officially became a mom to a beautiful 8 pound, 14 ounce baby girl. She has a proper name, of course, but we’ve taken to calling her Miss Squish because she has the most delightfully squishy cheeks. She also has blue eyes and coppery red hair and a generally happy disposition. We think she’s just the bees knees and every day we marvel in wonder at her. Honestly, we’re still surprised we even got pregnant, let alone that we have a real, live baby to snuggle.
Also? The last few weeks of my pregnancy until now is all sort of a blur. Some of that is due to lack of sleep, of course, and some of it is that I’m still processing a lot of stuff. For one thing, I miss being pregnant! Although the last few weeks I grew increasingly uncomfortable, I mostly loved being pregnant (I do NOT miss the heartburn though; I seriously thought I was dying.) As glad as I am to have her out in the world, I miss having her in my belly. Also, I never really expected to be pregnant so there was a surreal quality to the whole experience; even after the ultrasounds and feeling her move inside me, it was hard to believe it was actually happening.
I’m also still processing our birth experience. While I wouldn’t label it traumatic, it was not the magical experience I had anticipated: the several failed induction attempts and the persistent throwing up from the medication; the unbelievable pain of them trying to break my water (4 times…); the birth plan that I knew not to expect to go perfectly, but did not expect that NOT ONE PART OF THE PLAN would actually happen; the c-section I didn’t want but in retrospect was probably inevitable; the sheer terror I felt before and during the surgery; how seriously awful the maternity nurses were (sorry, but it’s true…I believe every word of this article); how I don’t remember holding her for the first time because of all the drugs in my system (there are pictures though, thank goodness); how I had a uterine clot burst two days after she was born; how I blew up like a balloon for almost 3 weeks afterwards from all the excess fluids they gave me, to the point where most of my MATERNITY clothes didn’t even fit; how two lactation consultants and two pediatricians at a designated breast feeding friendly hospital (that has a tongue tie clinic!) could fail to diagnose a tongue tie; how incredibly HARD breastfeeding is; how what I expected to be this massively empowering experience just left me in tears, wanting to sneak out of the hospital with my baby and go home. (In fact, I was contemplating just that when the uterine clot burst and I suddenly found myself covered in blood. When the nurse came in and told me not to panic, even though it was quite clear SHE was panicking, I really wanted to run).
And then, how much I wished my dad were here, not only because he would have loved being a grandfather again but because he would have made me focus on the positives…like we got a really great, healthy baby and let’s just move on, rather than seethe with rage.
Alas, I still have moments of seething.
Recently I overheard my husband tell someone that the baby arrived at just the right time, as she has been a bright shining spot after my father’s death. He’s not wrong, but at the same time as happy as the baby’s arrival has been it has not made the loss of my father any less significant. In fact, there have been moments when it felt like the bandaid holding my heart together was ripped off, because Dad should be here. He should have been there in the hospital when my family came to meet the baby, he should be there when we visit Maine, he should be there to make her laugh just like he did with his other grandkids. When I get upset I ask myself what he would say to me if he were here, and I always think he would say, “Don’t worry, I’m right here”. I can only hope that’s true.
Before he died, Dad’s wonderful oncology nurse asked him what his favorite song was and it took some careful consideration on his part before deciding what that song was. It was seemingly an unlikely choice for my Johnny Cash loving father, but he said his favorite was “Today” by the Christy Minstrels. It was played practically on repeat up until he died. (I just remembered I wrote about this here.)
Today while the blossoms still cling to the vine
I’ll taste your strawberries, I’ll drink your sweet wine
A million tomorrows shall all pass away
‘Ere I forget all the joy that is mine today
All those failed gratitude journals, all those attempts at finding some good every day? Well, it turns out that it took my father dying and this song being stuck in my head for me to really get it. I sung this to the baby while I was pregnant, it was the first song I sang her after she was born, and I’ve sung it to her every. single. day since. At first I did it because my dad couldn’t; it was the best tribute to him that I could think of and I wanted to be able to tell her when she got older that this was her Grampa’s song. As it turns out though, no matter how terrible a day I’ve had, no matter how exhausted I am (and oh lord I am exhausted), one smile from that baby and it’s like Christmas and singing this song is a great way to stop and appreciate it. (I mean, seriously.) And nine times out of ten, she smiles when I sing it. While he was sick Dad tried to find some joy in every day, and whether he knew what he was doing or not by choosing this song, he managed to get me to do the same.
Oddly enough, the last thing my dad said to me in person was “you need to write a book, and you need to sing“. He’d spent the last twenty years telling me to write so that wasn’t anything new, but I thought the part about singing was an odd thing to say – not the least of which being that while I sing a lot, I don’t exactly sing well. At the time I had no idea those would be his parting words to me, although in retrospect I think he knew. I’m not sure what sort of singing he really had in mind, but I hope that in those dark early mornings, when I am singing to a sleepy, soft-haired baby, that he hears me too.