Start at part one.
Life with a newborn was exactly as wonderful as I had expected…
… and absolutely nothing like I had expected.
I had dreamed of being a mother for so long. For many nights, as I lay falling asleep, I would imagine the process of getting pregnant, enjoying my pregnancy, birthing my child, and then raising him. I would imagine the immense joy and love and fulfillment. I would flesh out all of the details that I could draw from the depth of my heart, and it was beautiful.
It wasn’t, however, accurate.
I never imagined how lonely it would be. I never imagined how boring it would be. Truly, I never imagined how sad I would be, and how disconnected I would feel. I was simultaneously destroyed with immeasurable amounts of love that I didn’t know what to do with, and crippled with unshakeable fear for thing I didn’t know how to name. I adored holding my boy, and feeding him. I loved changing his diapers and dressing him. I found purpose in bathing him and rubbing on lotion, cuddling him and putting him to sleep. But I didn’t yet know how to just be. I didn’t know how to sit in the moment of nothingness and allow myself to feel. So, I struggled.
The first months of Ronan’s life were marked with deep levels of post partum depression that I did not recognize. Many hours a day spent simply meeting the immediate physical needs of my child, and nothing else. Nothing else. I felt so out of my depth. Unable to cope. Unsure how to proceed. And, just like that, the days turned into weeks, turned into months and somehow I managed to keep going. When I look back at the pictures… they are so beautiful. So full of joy and promise and love. But I know the real truth of them, and that taints their glow.
In the United States of America, we are guaranteed no (ZERO) paid maternity leave, and if we qualify, we can have up to 12 weeks of UNPAID leave, which protects us from being fired while out with a baby. Twelve weeks. That’s three months – and on the front side of having a baby, it seems like a considerable amount of time. But when faced with your three month old baby who has never known a moment without you, it feels abominable to believe that you are expected to remove yourself from the equation and hand your infant off to someone else to stand-in for you while you work. Emotionally, it was the hardest thing ever asked of me, and I couldn’t do it. I simply couldn’t.
I requested that my High Risk clinic allow me to work part-time; anything part time would do. Mornings only, or alternating days? Perhaps a job-share where another person and I split the shift equally? I was willing to be flexible if they were willing to work with me. They were not.
I had twelve weeks of maternity leave, and I spent it looking for a new job. I found one in May, and was hired the week before I was slated to return to work at MFM. I called immediately and told them that I wouldn’t be returning – up until that point, up until I had been hired at my new job, I HAD been planning to return. I had no other choice. We were researching daycares and nannies. But when a new choice, a new avenue opened up, I turned onto it and went forward, full speed.
The new job was a hospital position, working weekend nights. It felt ideal to me. I could be home with my baby ALL WEEK, and work night shifts on the weekends. I could leave the baby with Brock, who could have some wonderful time with his son, and I would be gone mostly while they were sleeping. I could grab a few hours of sleep during the day, and even see my fellas on the weekend. The shift-differential was a sort of “pay reward” for working what is traditionally considered an awful shift (think graveyard) and it more than made up for the drastically reduced amount of hours. No daycare, home with my baby, equal pay. Win, win, win.
I could not pass that up.
I started work the same week that I would have ended up going back to MFM, and needed to get a nanny anyways. My shift required me to ‘train’ for my position for nearly a full six months before the hospital felt that I was ready to be alone on the night shift. It was a kind of cruel twist of fate – for me to end up having to leave Ronan in the way I hadn’t wanted to – but the hours were drastically reduced, and my manager did everything in her power to move me onto my proper shift as soon as was feasible. The women I worked with at this particular hospital were almost all mothers. They were welcoming, and kind, considerate and understanding (even of my need to pump during work hours!). It was a welcome change from the environment that I had left.
Ronan was vaccinated on schedule. I would not hesitate to say, at that point in my life, that I was incredibly pro-vax. I was adamantly pro-vaccine. I believed whole heartedly that I was doing my service to society by promptly and dutifully vaccinating my baby, and I thoroughly ignored any of the red flag warnings and alarms that my brain and heart were sending me. “This is the right thing,” I would tell myself over and over. Loudly. Loudly enough to drown out the ‘what ifs’ that were spinning through my head.
Ronan experienced his first memorable vaccine reaction when he was five months old. He was given five different immunizations (DTap, HIB, Polio, PCV, RV). The reaction was immediate and uncomfortable, and we were assured that it was normal. He was lethargic and hot. I remember being told that babies were sleepy after vaccines, so I expected it. I nursed him and wore him skin to skin in my “sleepy wrap” – I had found it online in a mommy group when he was two months old and was THRILLED to find that I could be hands-free and also hold my baby at the same time. Despite all my efforts, my concern started growing. He was getting hotter and hotter, and began crying uncontrollably; he was getting more agitated, wouldn’t nurse and hadn’t slept. I thought they were supposed to be sleepy. I kept calling the nurses line to explain to them what was going on, and was assured over and over that his behavior was NORMAL. Give him some Tylenol. He will be fine.
Two days later, his fever was still 103, and he was still agitated, unable to sleep restfully, and inconsolable. I continued to call. He maintained this routine (worry, call, be brushed off) for well over a week, nearly into two. Dose after dose of Tylenol, nursing, bouncing, screaming, crying… both of us. It was explained to me, beyond my belief that something was probably wrong, that this was a normal reaction to vaccines, and there was nothing to be worried about. I felt like I was going crazy. I wasn’t sure if I should ignore the nurses and take him to the ER? Would anyone believe me? I wasn’t holding the same baby that I had the day before his vaccines. When we hit day 10, I got a different nurse on the line. Her reaction was completely different to had I had experienced up until that point. The polar opposite. I remember being shouted at. I remember feeling so ashamed. I remember her yelling, “What do you MEAN, he’s had a FEVER for TEN DAYS?” “OF COURSE there is something WRONG, you need to bring him in IMMEDIATELY!”
OF COURSE, I packed him up and brought him in to the clinic where we saw our pediatrician who affirmed, yet again, that there was nothing wrong. He was just fine. He must have been sick with a virus when we vaccinated, so his body was fighting off more than normal. Proceed as directed.
I, unfortunately, did not learn from this incident, I continued to trust his doctor and Ronan continued to be vaccinated on schedule.
To be continued.