*All these images can be found on my Instagram feed at @thisdreamergirl
If I had to come up with ONE word about what it’s like being a mama as a Highly Sensitive Person it would be.
I have been wanting to write this post since BEFORE my beloved Leonardo Salvatore Russo (happily we call him Leo) joined us on October 30th at 10:13 pm via Cesarean, almost ACHING to get this out of me (almost a cry for acknowledgement and support) but I didn’t feel I had enough experience with how I’m feeling, what it takes to be a mama under my belt to even say anything with assurance. Now that two months have gone by… I can keep this in no longer, and I have to get this out of me.
Side Note: I’m about to share my vulnerability, my insecurities, my “I have NO idea what I’m doing” that I would appreciate your compassion when writing your comments. Parenting is, I am finding an OPEN TARGET to criticism, even with those closest to us… so many different philosophies that how I choose to take care of my son might not be how you would, I would ask you please honor my decisions and not comment your suggestions. What I could use is your ACKNOWLEDGEMENT that you see me and hear me. Being a mama (or a papa) is a life altering experience and NO ONE prepares you for what you experience… even if you do read every book written. (which I admittedly didn’t)
SO many feelings, so many changes in who I am as a person, what I now need in order to feel “normal”… so many mind blowing HIGHS as well as close to being sucked into a BLACK HOLE LOWS that I almost feel like a crazy person still. Add to that that I am officially a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) my sensitivity to almost everything has become SO heightened that I don’t think I’ll EVER be the same. *okay yea.. lets not forget those pregnancy hormones too.
Let’s start with his birth…
While I will tell you that I had only one goal for his arrival… TO BE CALM, I absolutely had a vision for how I saw my labor and delivery. I was looking forward to ‘doing the work’ through each contraction and reach down to pull my child from my body as he takes his first breath. I wanted no drug interventions… a quiet room so I could focus, and the ability to move freely to help me push through the surges.
Yea… that didn’t happen. My blood pressure started rising a few weeks before (NEVER had blood pressure issues before this) and as my OB said… was on the threshold of having Pre Eclampsia so after some discussions with my husband, my doula and a few close friends… I decided to maintain calm and follow the direction of my OB and be admitted to the hospital where I begin the process of being enduced.
Long story short but after 12 hours and the highest dose of Pitocin… I was still not any more than 1cm dilated and add to that, my babys heart rate would dip after a chemically enduced contraction. I am convinced MY BODY WAS NOT READY TO GO INTO LABOR. It was like I was watching the worst case scenario shared in the movie of “The Business of Being Born“. I did my best to honor my preferences but in the end… I found myself walking to the operating room and what seemed like 15 minutes later… while I was violently shivering from either the epidural, etc… the doctors delivered my son via cesarean.
Yes… most people tell me that I should just be grateful he was delivered safely and that he’s healthy… of course I wanted him to be here safely and in good health… I just had NO idea how I would playback this experience and with such melancholy and sadness. From not being able to stop shivering while on the table… to looking over and seeing him get shots within a few minutes of birth without making us aware what they were and finally putting that goop on his eyes that I thought was ONLY for the purposes of keeping infection out of them from coming out of the birth canal which is NOT where he came from. I sadly think I will always have a black cloud over that day. I cannot tell you how sad I am about this.
I feel like my body failed me… blood pressure issues? What? Never in my life has this topic come up. My body didn’t dilate at ALL? I know about post partum depression and agree that around this topic… I definitely am feeling the symptoms. Then again… being sensitive, feeling so much… is it normal to be sad about this? I think any woman would feel sadness about how they welcome their first born not going as expected to feel a pang of sadness. Add to that that I feel strongly about my feelings… that that sadness would be a bit more intensified. Since 2 months have passed, I can say it doesn’t affect me like it did at the beginning but I’ll always look back on this moment, like I am now and feel sadness and most likely shed a tear.
From the minute he arrived… I think my being sensitive kicked into high gear and I’m pretty sure I will never return to my pre- Leo level again. Honestly I hope it never does. I feel SO much more empathetic than I ever have.. my heart has opened SO much more… to my son, what I need, to my repeated failed attempt to give my husband (who is not as sensitive and who needs completely different things than I do) what he needs. (More on relationships in Part Three)
Those first few days in the hospital were SO HIGHLY overwhelming. From all the visitors (I had NO quiet alone time with Leo the whole time I was in the hospital… something a sensitive woman DESPERATELY needs, I think it almost was a detriment to how I even feel now. I never got that initial spiritual/emotional connection that only being quiet and introducing myself to him would bring). The fact that 24 hours post my cesarean, I could not move my legs, eventually I could not get out of bed without lots of help…. not being able to get up to change Leo… rock him…etc… that Peter or someone else had to do everything, triggered me. The 2nd night was SO bad… he cried and cried… nothing Peter did (because he was mobile) would work and the only way Leo would be quiet and sleep was at my breast which I loved and also hated because I thought there was something wrong with that. *Come to find out about the SECOND DAY SYNDROME – If you have a mama to be in your life… send her this post… TRUST ME. I wish I knew about this. Finally, upon us getting ready to leave the hospital (packed bags, etc), finding out that my blood pressure was still high that the Dr was pushing that we stay in the hospital another day… I was doing my best to just keep it together…for myself and my husbands sake… STAY CALM. *Thankfully after taking some meds (which I was quite against) my blood pressure stabilized enough that I could go home a few hours later.)
The hospital staff was wonderful, my experience in the hospital will always be a pleasant one…definitely would recommend Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, DC to others, but what was happening within me was a totally different story. I was desperate to for a moment to reflect.. to soak it in.. but there wasn’t ONE minute. It was like the minute we agreed to be enduced… it is a marathon that besides stopping at a water station… I have not stopped. *or slept.
So now my heart is WIDE open…. I visualize my body on a dissecting table like that poor frog in biology class with those long pins keeping the guts exposed. I don’t see my heart NOT being on the outside again, anytime soon.
Honestly… I could not be happier. I love this new part of me…I feel like I feel SO much more, everything is just so raw. Tough part is how do I blend this new joyous and unsure part of me with the rest of the world who either doesn’t understand or like that I now need more quiet… I cry more at the little things that move me (like my sons beautiful smile or watching him sleep), that I am very conscious about how my son is feeling (hence I do not believe in letting him “cry it out”. Yes, a good cry is definitely therapeutic.. but not as a newborn! Duh!) and finally the fact that I am now a MAMA… (seriously if you see me…give me a hug on this, look me in the eyes and say… “Yes Kerilyn.. YOU are a mama.” because I take this role so so seriously in my heart.) I’m not sure how I’ll heal the hurt in my heart from his birth not going as I envisioned it or how I can give myself permission to shed a tear when I think of it when the rest of the world tells me to just “get over it”. I feel both stronger in my resolve about who I am as a woman… and more unsure than I ever have been.
Whatever happens… I am SO grateful for understand that I am sensitive (Thanks to Elaine Aron)… that I know about vulnerability.. shame (thanks to Brene Brown) and as I learn how to blend this part of me with the rest of the world.
Finally… It now blows my mind that the child celebrates his or her birthday on the day of their birth when I honestly think it should be the mama that needs to celebrate. This is THE day your mother did all she could to make sure that you were welcomed with open arms… THAT is truly a mothers birth-day. I think I’m going to start a ritual come next October 30th.. that part of my sons 1st birthday will be a moment that I can celebrate in this experience myself.
Welcome to this crazy dream, my dear Leo. I am so excited for the many MANY opportunities that we will have together to learn forgiveness. Mama loves you. Thank you for being my teacher.