Having a baby comes with a lot of varying emotions. There is elation and amazement that first moment you see your little child, and you fall immediately in love. There is uncertainty about your ability to be a good parent. What will they think of my parenting abilities, later in life? What will they say about me?
When they let you go home, there is apprehension and nervousness of being solely responsible for this little child. I knew our life was never going to be the same, and there was a part of me that just wanted to stay in the hospital with midwifes who made me feel not so helpless. Bringing Nicholas home was one of the most nerve-wracking moments of my life. So much so that I had to stop myself from tearing up as we walked out of the hospital.
Throughout my recovery at hospital I also felt a little traumatised by the birth — a feeling I totally didn't expect, nor one other people will tell you about. During the pregnancy, I had not thought about birth a huge amount. I knew it was going to be hard work and painful, but I didn't fully appreciate how much. I had decided before the birth not to have a set 'birth plan'. I wanted to be flexible, as it is difficult to know how things will progress before it begins. The only things I knew for sure were that I couldn't have an epidural because of the Harrington rods in my back, and if I had to have a caesarian, it would be with a full general anesthetic.
What I appreciate now is that labour in the real world is nothing like it is portrayed on the TV (I suppose neither is sex, or crime-scene investigation). I had read hippie books where women described their birth experiences as 'fun', and each contraction as a 'surging wave', but if labour turns out less 'empowering' then you thought it was going to be, it just leads to disappointment. While the final stage was an ordeal, the midwives and obstetrician made me feel safe, and I'm thankful to have avoided emergency C-section. It's also reassuring to know that over time these feelings start to fade as they are outweighed by feelings of love for your child, which is I guess why women go back for more :)
The one feeling I didn't expect at all, in this otherwise joyous time, was grief. Not the grief of having a child, but rather the grief of losing a friend. From the afternoon when we checked into the hospital, we spent 21 hours cut off from the outside world. When I turned my phone back on, there was a message saying that a young women from our church passed away overnight. Death is always a difficult emotion to deal with. It leaves you feeling heartbroken and the despair it makes you feel takes over your whole body.
To know that while I was in the hospital rejoicing in the birth of my son, the people in our church I attended were in mourning over the loss of a friend was extremely conflicting. Compounding this was also the feeling of survivor guilt. I felt guilty for being given a beautiful gift while our Church friends were mourning the loss of a different gift. This was when I was reminded of the verse ''Rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn" Romans 12:15. This verse reminded me that I could legitimately feel genuinely joyful and sorrowful simultaneously, without guilt and without taking away from the validity of other. It allowed for peaceful resolution of two initially conflicting emotions.
But what has amazed me the most, and left me humbled and so thankful, is the love the people in our church have shown us despite such loss and grief. A food roster for two weeks was filled, meaning Daniel and I didn't have to worry about cooking dinner while we were settling into being a family. This practical form of love has been such a blessing these past two weeks and I couldn't be more grateful.
Giving birth and being a parent, I have learned, is a roller-coaster ride of emotions in those first few days. It still is, three weeks later, but I am slowly feeling a little less helpless and a little less worried about things as the days go by. I am just so thankful for all our family, friends and our church for all the support they have given us during this change in our life.