It wasn’t until we were placing him in the car seat to go home that I realized how tiny Jack was. Matt’s fingers looked so jumbo securing the straps around him. I slipped on my lime green flip flops and maternity maxi dress. I smoothed back some wild hair. Whatever. Transport had arrived to escort us out of the hospital. I was pushed out in a wheelchair, and Matt carried our precious cargo. But I had this nagging feeling I had lost something.
We had been through a lot. An unwanted C-section and overworked nurses on Saturday hospital time. I felt like a zombie who had been run over by a bus. “At least you have a healthy baby.” That’s what everyone said. And God knows I was grateful. Enamored. Where did this boy come from? He was the most beautiful baby in the world. And hungry. Holy crap was he hungry.
Home was a bit of a circus. My extended family was staying with me. We welcomed what felt like an unending procession of visitors. The gift bags of onesies and light blue tissue paper began to pile up. I wasn’t resting. I was excited and happy to show off my baby and to spend time with him. Until I wasn’t.
We had a bad night. Jack was crying relentlessly. I kept giving him the boob but it wasn’t helping. I kept handing him to my mom. She pulled out all the tricks — the rocking, the shushing, the singing, the patting. She kept giving him back to me, “I think he wants to eat.”
I would put him to my breast, and he would wail and arch his back. “Mom, help!”
And she took him and rocked and walked and sang, and a few minutes later, “Brook, try again, I think he wants milk.”
It was a bad night. The next morning we had to take him for that weight-check doctor visit when they are just a few days old. I wasn’t too happy to have to leave the house.
My hair was basically a giant knot wrapped in a web of tangles. My skin was incredibly dry, chapped and peeling in places. My feet and legs were swollen. All of me was swollen. My incision was sore, and I felt I should probably check out the scar in the mirror, but I was afraid. And I still had that weird feeling like I had forgotten something.
The doctor’s visit went great, and I was pleased to hear that Jack was just perfect. Walking through the parking lot we spotted our friends who coincidentally had had a baby girl the day after Jack was born. These were good friends who I love so I was happy to see them, especially their sweet baby girl. The only problem was, I didn’t want them to see me. For a few brief moments we exchanged niceties. Then I got in the back seat of the car next to Jack.
“Wow, ” Matt drove out of the parking lot. “Jes looks great!”
I put my head down. Tears flowed from my eyes, but I didn’t say a word. I had noticed.
I had noticed that my friend looked like nothing had happened to her at all.
When we got home, I had collected myself, but I could feel the tears at the back of my throat. I plopped down on the couch to nurse Jack. My mom and my sister, Bonnie, joined me, eager to hear what the doctor had said.
I gave them a full report and told them that the pediatrician said that it’s normal for babies to have a bad night when they are adjusting to coming home from the hospital.
“Honestly, Brook, I think you were the problem, not Jack.”My mom smiled at her sweet grandson.
I took a deep breath. “What was I doing wrong?”
“You were so tense. Babies can feel that, and then they get tense.”
“Okay great, I am horrible at this!” My voice, both the volume and pitch, scared me. “I can’t comfort my baby! I couldn’t even give birth to him right.” Tears were pouring down my face fast. The big fat warm ones.
“What? No!” My mom put her hands on my legs to stop them from shaking. I looked to Bonnie, and her face looked horrified.
“Look what they did to me.” I yelled. “I’m a monster! I’m Frankenstein.”
“You look beautiful!” Bonnie said, and she started to cry. Something in her tears calmed me.
I shook my head and wiped the tears away. “Everything has been fucked up.”
“What has been fucked up?” Mom caressed the top of Jack’s head while he nursed. “Look what a beautiful baby you have.”
“He’s perfect. I’m the one who’s fucked up.” I looked down at my Jack, his soft beautiful skin against my cracked dry skin.
“Why? Because you had a Cesarean? He’s the one who did that. The little tyrant! He was upside down!”
I let out a little laugh.
“You did everything right, Brook.” Mom petted Jack. “I am so proud of you. Look at your baby. Look how he loves you.”
Jack was falling asleep at my breast, a tiny bit of milk running from his mouth.
Brook is a work at home mom of two boys, a writer, and a pain in the butt to her loving husband. A small business owner, alum of Fordham Law, Princeton University and Phillips Exeter Academy, Brook’s passions are motherhood feminism and supporting other moms. Brook lives in Long Island, NY, but she still represents her hometown of Queens. Find her on her blog, Strong as as Mother, and on Facebook.
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