I knew it would be hard work. I knew he would cry. I knew my husband and I wouldn’t get to go out as often.
That never surprised me.
What did surprise me about motherhood is the capacity for love that started while my son was still forming inside me and then permanently took root soon as he came into the world. It’s a love that goes so far beyond words. It’s both universal and unique at the same time.
I had loved before. I loved my husband, of course. This love for my son was truly all-consuming, as though he had been a part of my life forever. It was fierce, protective, admiring, adoring. He was more handsome than I had ever imagined. Even though I knew he would not be perfect, for no human is, seeing my son, all I could think was, “He is perfect.” I had developed “mom eyes” for my son. He was all I wanted to see.
Part of this probably came from my struggle to bring him into this world. I delivered him five weeks early – on the day my husband and I were supposed to take our first birthing class, ironically – because I had developed severe preeclampsia.
I had been reading lots of books about pregnancy, making sure I ate all the right things. I became more health-conscious than I had ever been because I felt like I wanted to give my best right from the beginning. Although I gave my best, so many things are just out of human control. My preeclampsia was one of those things.
Laying in the hospital bed, having magnesium sulfate pumped into me until I felt like I was on fire, being transported from one hospital to another, not knowing what would happen next, knowing I couldn’t have an epidural because I have rods in my back, facing an unknown pain, I was scared. I prayed continually. God, please protect me. God, please let our son be OK.
I knew others were praying for me, and my husband was by my side. My protein levels were very high and then went down. On a Tuesday, I told my mom and husband to go to work. That morning, by myself, a nurse told me that my protein levels were so high that the doctor needed to get things started.
I was given some medicine, and 24 hours went by with me having contractions but not dilating past 1 centimeter. Finally, it became clear that I needed a C-section. Since I couldn’t have an epidural, I had to be put to sleep, but at least my husband could see our baby for a few minutes when he was first born.
Carson came into the world around 11 a.m., but I didn’t get to see him until 7 p.m. that night because I had to be stabilized enough to be wheeled to the NICU. When I look back at a picture of our first meeting, I cry almost every time because I don’t recognize that frail baby or that frail mom anymore. We both came through something so scary and made it out OK, even though it still took about two months for me to feel better, and it took two weeks for him to come out of the NICU.
Like a magnet, I was drawn to his room in the NICU to watch him under the lights where he was encased. When it came time for kangaroo care, placing the baby skin-to-skin, I could have just burst from the love and peace that I felt having him there and feeling him breathe.
He was the most precious gift God could have given me in this world. I knew I would love him, but I was still surprised at how my world view suddenly shifted to being all about the comfort and well-being of this new little guy – and it was a pure pleasure to make sacrifices.
It brought me joy watch him go from a feeding tube to drinking on his own. It was such a triumph.
Since he was born so early, I never got to read the baby books that I had planned on reading, but the other thing that surprised me was how I often just knew what to do. He had a certain cry that I understood. When I met his different needs, usually a bottle, a diaper change, or just attention, he would immediately stop crying.
As someone who had never been around many babies, this was a revelation. I had thought we would be going through a whole lot of crying that we wouldn’t understand, but this was not the case at all. His crying was communication, and it made sense almost 100 percent of the time. I know it’s not like this for all moms, so I am thankful that this is how it went for us.
We didn’t get a lot of sleep at first, but it was still something that we didn’t mind too much. Yes, sometimes it was very hard, but our pride and love for our little guy definitely added sweetness to even the tough times.
What surprised me about motherhood: how little control I had over the process of bringing Carson into the world, how early I needed to give birth, how God brought us both through so amazingly, how perfectly healthy Carson is a year later, how much fun we’ve had together, how much I don’t mind the sacrifices.
I waited a long time to have a baby because I wanted to focus on my career. When good job opportunities fell through after a decade of hard work in my field, even though that was so hard to go through at the time, I think it opened a door for me to be a full time mom. It was a door that I think was a blessing.
While I’m staying at home with Carson, I am also working on a master’s degree so that I can have a good job when that opportunity comes again. I am in absolutely no hurry, though, because I am having so much fun watching my son grow up. I want to be by his side for a few more years at least before I return to a job.
For me, this is one of the coolest parts: it’s as though I am seeing the developmental part of my own life that I don’t remember. Carson won’t remember being a year old when he’s an adult, either, but someday I hope he will get to experience this stage through his own children.
Something that I immensely enjoy about motherhood is following the developmental journey of my son. I read updates every two weeks on what stage he might be at; even if he isn’t at that point quite yet, I know what to be ready for. It is so neat to watch him play and know that he is learning so much about the world through simple acts like dropping a toy over and over. His development is part of the human experience itself that is unfolding before my eyes.
Lately, I am surprised my toddler’s literal strength and ingenuity to get into stuff so quickly. I am constantly on the move. Yes, some days are tough, but for the most part, this mommy role is wonderful. I think maybe waiting until I was in my 30s to have a child made me appreciate it more. It made me a little more patient because I’ve already had the chance to go out into the world and experience some things. I don’t mind our routine.
I was also surprised at how often my husband and I can still go out. We can’t afford a baby-sitter that often, but we do try to go out about once a month as a couple. Meanwhile, Carson does surprisingly well in family-style restaurants. We also have made the retro drive-in theater our friend. Almost every weekend in the warmer months, we bring our chairs and a blanket and spend our Saturday evening that way. If Carson cries, we just get into the car, feed him, or change him with no problem.
We are carrying a lot more stuff with us than we used to, and leaving the house does take more planning, but I’m thankful for all of it.
Thanks for reading, my friend!