My introduction into motherhood was pretty easy. Eli was the ‘perfect’ textbook baby, sleeping when I put him down in his cot and happily achieving each milestone when expected. He was interactive, had a contagious smile and could be carted along anywhere without much fuss.
Then Hudson came along. With the labour from hell, the week in special care, the silent reflux, groin hernia, hip dysplasia, constant crying, sleep resistance and general aversion to playing with any sort of toy or baby item, to say that I was in shock would have been putting it mildly. That whole year is a blur to me, but I know that I wasn’t in a good place emotionally.
I went from relishing motherhood and embracing it as a significant part of my identity, to wondering if I was even a passable mother as I numbed my soul to the sound of crying, because to acknowledge the constant distress would be to allow my fragile framework to be destroyed from within. Trying to smile at and coax a constantly crying baby to be happy is a mission doomed to failure, from my experience. I eventually just stopped trying.
Looking back, I realise that Hudson was in a constant state of agony and I can see it so clearly in those fogged eyes haunting me from the photos. After the hernia operation it really was like we were meeting ‘Hudson’ for the first time, as he became the cheeky, happy, funny kid that we know today. But the damage was already done.
Thankfully for Hudson, Dave was an incredible parent during that first year and the bond that he has with his son is a testament to that. Hudson is unashamedly ‘Daddy’s boy’ and would happily follow him around doing whatever Dave is doing at that moment. Sure, it drives Dave crazy at times, but I’m just so grateful that my emotional lack hasn’t seemed to have stunted his ability to connect with people.
A lot of the baggage from this experience has become more clear as I engage with the day to day realities of having a baby again. Ivy has been incredibly easy (apart from a month long resistance to naps of any decent length) and it has been a mostly enjoyable experience, but there are moments when her cry will put me right back into that dark room with the creaky floorboards in which I spent hours pleading with and hissing at Hudson to go back to sleep. My stress levels will suddenly shoot up and it will take every ounce of self control not to respond in anger to an innocent cry.
I’ve also noticed it in my level of comfort in holding and embracing a baby. Initially, I found myself reacting out of pure utility- feed, burp, put down to sleep. Now, six months in, I’m really enjoying just holding Ivy and experiencing the closeness of her company, holding her smooth, chubby cheek against mine and drinking in her scent.
Actually, the whole process of having Ivy has been incredibly redemptive with my relationship with Hudson. Because my brain in the area of affection and bonding is being positively rewired, I find myself reaching out for Hudson more and he is responding more positively to me as a result.
The labour experience with Ivy was the polar opposite to my struggles in the previous birth and this time I felt heard, acknowledged and taken seriously in relation to my concerns about neverending ‘false labour’ and the risk to the baby in terms of infection.
I’m so thankful for this redemptive experience with Ivy and the healing that has taken place in my psyche as a result. The triggers of emotional dysfunction provide a meaningful way for me to address the root causes and work through the issues and bad habits I’ve wired my brain into.
Stacey Kramer, a TED speaker, gave a moving 3 minute talk entitled ‘The Best Gift I ever Survived‘ in which she described all the positive and life changing consequences that came as a result of a golf ball sized brain tumour. Her final line was so poignant: “the next time you’re facedwith something that’s unexpected,unwanted and uncertain,considerthat it just may be a gift”.
Sickness, trauma, pain… it certainly isn’t something you would seek out in life, yet often it can have the most profound impact and catapult your emotional growth tenfold…and increase your empathy for others in similar situations. Despite the shattering experiences we went through in that first year with Hudson, I can truly say that I do not regret going through any of it.