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April 5, 3 years A.B. (after-baby)
Today you baked Emily some banana bread. You needed to use the bananas anyway (after all, they were the sticker-less kind, so you knew Emerson wouldn’t be eating them). But, really you wanted to thank her in some way for allowing you to cry on her shoulder when Paul was away.
The bread was still nice and warm when you knocked on her door. When she answered, her hair was pulled back in a ponytail and this time she was wearing glasses. You realized that knocking unannounced on the door of a mother with small children probably wasn’t the best idea.
“I made you some bread,” you said, hoping your gesture would make up for your intrusion.
“Really? Wow. You didn’t have to do that.”
“Well, I meant to do it when you first moved in. But, I also wanted to say thanks for the other day.” She looked at you like she had no idea what you were talking about. “For letting me cry on your shoulder at the playground.”
“Oh, please. You don’t need to thank me for that.”
Then she invited you in. The house was a mess. Well, the house was in order all except for the toys that nearly threatened to trip you at every step. But she didn’t apologize. She didn’t say, “excuse the mess.” She wasn’t embarrassed. She totally owned it.
“I was just getting ready to feed the baby,” she said.
You followed her into the living room. She grabbed the baby from under the floor gym and sat down with him in the recliner. She lifted her shirt and began to breastfeed. The thing is, you thought absolutely nothing about this. It was totally normal. It wasn’t until later that you realized how much your life has changed. How you freely walked into a stranger’s house after baking that stranger a loaf of bread and you sat on that stranger’s couch as she (sort of) exposed herself, while your oldest child ran into the other room to play with a strange kid. Somehow this scene seemed the complete opposite of anything your mother had ever taught you.
But, you sat and talked and laughed. And, eventually the topic came around to the one it usually does when young moms are given a few minutes together. Emily started talking about her birth stories. As you listened, you felt that familiar feeling of jealousy. Here was this woman who knew what she wanted and she got it. The whole thing went according to plan. It was beautiful and even empowering. That is a word you never would’ve used to describe birth, at least not Emerson’s.
She asked about yours. You hesitated. How could you tell her about it? You did your best to try not to remember it, the pain and the fear, and the forceful doctor who thought he knew better than your own body did. Sure, you had never experienced birth before, but still you knew your body. You knew better than he did. But he was the doctor. He was supposed to be the expert.
With fear you gave your consent for something you didn’t think was necessary, but you were too afraid to say otherwise. You remember how cold the operating room was, how scared you were of what was happening on the other side of the privacy curtain. You remember hearing Emerson’s cries, but not being able to touch him or hold him for a few hours. You don’t remember much more of that day as you slept off the drugs. But you remember the pain and the healing, the difficulties getting out of bed, and how exhausting it was to just hold him and attempt to breastfeed him. You remember being told to not lift anything heavier than the baby, and not being able to drive for weeks, of starting this new season of life where you were supposed to be the parent, the caretaker, but all you wanted was to curl up into a ball and cry, while your mother rubbed your back and told you everything would be okay.
That wasn’t how it was all supposed to go. It wasn’t fair. You know that now. And you know now that it didn’t have to be that way, shouldn’t have been that way. But it was. And now it’s your story; it’s his story, too. You’re just glad it wasn’t Lyla’s story also.
So you told Emily some of the story. You told her more than you meant to, more than you usually do. You realized how you are still healing. Three years hasn’t been enough time, but you’ve come a long ways. After all, you made it through without crying on her shoulder again, which is a good thing because you really didn’t want to have to bake another loaf of thank-you bread.
Stay tuned for the next diary entry of one mom’s attempt to chronicle what she has been told are the days she shouldn’t forget…spit-up, tantrums, milestones and all. Be sure to subscribe today, so you don’t miss a single installment: