I saw God’s face. And it is magnificent. My life was ever changed during child birth. But the birth of the mother took much longer. The midwife called it a textbook delivery. But for me, it was a trauma filled time when I confronted my own mortality. When she was born, I was filled with anxiety and fear. I had months to prepare for the birth.
I attended pregnancy yoga classes. I practised my breathing. I even practised pushing, with the help of a birth coach. But I was totally out of my depth in that delivery room. It was a mammoth battle with myself. I was convinced that it was not humanly possible to push a baby out of my body. I was certain that I would die if I didn’t fight the contractions. So I tired myself out, trying to reverse a natural process. But it was too late.
Eventually I gave up. I said “God, I know I can’t do this. I commit this into your hands.” And then I heard the midwife ask my mom if she’d like to catch the baby. And the next thing, baby just popped out and flopped on to the bed. And then the true battle, rather journey, began. They placed this slimy human being on my chest and all I felt was overwhelmed. The weight of it hit me. In the darkest moment of that labour, I chose myself over my baby. It has taken months for me to forgive myself.
I knew then, that I was not ready to have a child. I still needed my own mother. I could barely care for myself. And now I had someone’s life in my hands. She was totally helpless. She must have been exhausted after the long labour. And now she was stuck with me. They say that your baby chooses you. Immediately I questioned why this baby, who I’ll refer to as baby sesame, chose me! Surely she had made the wrong choice?! I was not ready.
I call the next phase, going through the motions. I followed instructions, painful as it was, and we eventually figured out the breast feeding game. Together. But I felt so disconnected. So anxious that I was doing it all wrong. When she was one week old, I celebrated the fact that I had managed to keep her alive for that long. Despite myself. It was the start of the stinking thinking that landed me in treatment months later for post natal depression.
I started baby wearing to complement my breast feeding. I felt like it was the only connection I had with baby sesame. I became obsessive about it. At that stage, I couldn’t even consider weaning her off the breast. Because, I thought, she wouldn’t need me anymore. And, everyone would know that I was a bad mother. I craved that loving feeling that washes over some moms. It’s everywhere. Birthing blogs, facebook posts. These stories of gushing love at meeting one’s baby for the first time.
But it never happened like that for me. I was subsequently diagnosed with mild bipolar disorder. I am still on medication for this. It’s because of these tablets that I was forced to wean baby sesame when she was only ten months old. She handled it so well. She took right to the bottle without much fuss. But at least I still had baby wearing to get me through. Today, I congratulate myself for taking these practical steps towards bonding.
There’s no doubt that it had an impact on her emotional and intellectual wellbeing. She was in constant contact with her primary caregiver. All her needs were being met all of the time. I am grateful for this experience. Baby Sesame is such a well adjusted little girl. She was not affected too adversely by my post natal depression. At one point all I could do was love her. And that’s all I did. Until I was to find out, much much later, that that is enough!
I track my progress by my choice in nanny. I returned to work when she was six months old. Undiagnosed, my mental health challenges were wreaking havoc in my work environment. I was moody. I easily swung into a rage over the tiniest provocation. Thankfully, I realised the symptoms and was able to seek help. Baby Sesame’s first nanny was Aunty Fiona. She is my sister’s mother in law. A true maternal figure, Aunty Fiona did all the scary things like bath time/nappy changes. Even a simple task like applying nasal drops, would be pawed off on Aunty Fiona.
And she was a willing participant. I am so grateful to her. Some say she shouldn’t have taken over, and that she should have rather facilitated me to do these tasks myself. I didn’t believe I was capable. I had this constant fear that I would do something wrong. So all I did was breastfeed and soothe her. The baby wearing became a challenge for Aunty Fiona when she took on the care full time. But she handled it with true aplomb!
Baby sesame loves Aunty Fiona, who she lovingly calls “nana”. Nana was there for my baby in ways that I couldn’t have been. She also helped me to see what a delight baby sesame truly is. She really doted on her. The next nanny was again someone who was an older mother. She had teenage and adult children. She had alot of experience with children. But baby sesame would often clash with the new nanny. And ultimately, things didn’t work out.
And then the point when I realised that the mother in me had finally been born. Baby sesame’s new nanny is 25 years old. She is bright and more than capable. And I don’t need her to play nanny to me as well. I know now: I am enough. I am even comfortable with the way baby sesame calls me “mama”. To me that is a title for a true matriarch…someone like own mother or grandmother. But she’s always called me mama, and I didn’t like it at first. Now I’m proud to be someone’s mama!