Unfolding.

Prescription in hand – at a complete standstill. My feet felt like they were moving but my reflexes were absent. My daughter had already begun to cry and we hadn’t even approached the exit yet. I crumbled the piece of paper within the palm of my hand, hardly able to see the fancy letters that spelled out a future – specifically for me. Unable to make up my mind, I shoved the prescription into my diaper bag – mixing it amongst the other garbage I always forgot to clear from the pockets. The eyes of other patients were silently judging me, unfolding the layers of innocence streaming from my body. They knew why I was so washed up, torn. “She’s a new mom.” I carried that sign around my neck – it felt like a ton of bricks. My balance was slowly being swept from me and it was completely noticeable. There was no hiding from it – not anymore.

I sat in the parking lot of the pharmacy, watching tons of customers – mostly moms – enter and depart from the store. They moved so casually, as if everything I had ever second guessed was for nothing. It wasn’t hard for them… to be a mom. Why? Why were they walking into the store with a smile on their face, while I sobbed in the back seat nursing my daughter? It was an unknown detail, one that little had knowledge of. Her big eyes gave off a reflection I wasn’t prepared to see. Messy hair, oily skin, a reject of a mom who was breaking into pieces that wouldn’t ever fit back together. Regardless of that – of the clear truth – my daughter looked at me like I was the strongest, most beautiful being she had ever seen. That’s what I wanted to be… for her, for ME. I just didn’t realize how much effort, or how long the process actually was. I was ready to make the change, but I was fearful of the facts blatantly dancing infront of my face. Acknowledging the worst meant I was up for battle – one I would be so willing to hand over a loss.

I hadn’t even made it to the pharmacy. I hopped back into the drivers seat and headed home. The last thing I wanted was to be forced into a conversation… so I quietly opened the door, ignored the dogs, and collapsed onto my bed. My daughter had fallen asleep within the minutes it took to get home – I prayed that she would stay quiet for ten, even five minutes, so that I could enjoy the silence. My eyes were closed but my mind was well aware of the anxities trying to intensify its grip, complete control. I was watching a full debate – live, inside of my head – anxious to know who would win. The positives were matched with negatives… it was a tie, leaving me to make the final call.

C h a n g e –

Such a short, yet fierce word. I knew I needed a change… I craved it, even. But I was terrified that my behaviors would negatively impact my daughter and her sweet soul. I didn’t want to turn into this person who… yes, she looked and seemed happy but – was she really? Would my mood change only because my medication helped alter it? Or would it truly help me see past the storm clouds and allow me to enjoy life as a new mom? There were so many considerations, so many bullet points waiting to be reviewed. I wanted to check them off all at once… to just free up space in my mind. But by thoroughly examining all of the possibilities, would push me toward a promising outcome. That was my only option – to be happy, to love my life, to be the best version of me… because who wouldn’t want that?

After talking it over with the man who held my backbone in place, a decision was made. It took me days to find just enough energy to leave the house again. I couldn’t remember the last time I brushed my hair, or felt the want to dig through my clothes for something I hadn’t worn in a while. My reflection frowned right back at me, the usual. I slipped on a pair of flip flops, awaiting Spring to make its round. The prescription was still in the same pocket of my diaper bag, except when I flattened it out, crumbs came flying off… stains were uncovered. This felt like one of the biggest decisions I had ever made for myself. Coming from relationships that never accessed me control, never felt like it was normal to think for myself… this had suddenly became a big deal to me. I just wanted to do what was best for my family… but for some odd reason, I wasn’t always sure what that was –

Until now.

The short trip to the pharmacy left me no time to rethink other options. I parked near the carts, wiped one completely down… watched the germs splatter against the black road beneath my feet… lifted the car seat into the back, and we were on our way. My heart was knocking inside of my chest, waiting for a response – a reason – why I had taken so long to figure out what my next step was. Babies within the store were crying, signaling my body to react. Milk was spraying inside of my shirt, the sweat made its return as well. I was the only customer in the pharmacy – it was time for change… now, only now.

I approached the counter and was greeted by a friendly face – judging me. I could almost see the wheels turning inside of her mind, the statements being written about me… probably true. My throat was dry but I swallowed vigorously.

“Have you ever been here before?”

walk away

walk away

walk away

“No. No I haven’t.”

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Bite the bullet.

With each scheduled appointment, I felt like my anxiety was at an all time high. I refused to admit that along with the little scenarios I was sorting out in my head, a trail of depression was also trying to make up for missed time. There I was again, shuffling between the tight rows of stained chairs – trying to pretend like I had my shit together. My fingers created an uncontrollable sweat, making it that much harder to conceal my agitation. In the short time it took to make my way into her office, my armpits had already discolored my shirt and made it extremely noticeable that yes… I very well was floundering about into the shallow hallways, but NO – I did not want any help.

Our session began at 11:00 – sharp – every other day. “What’s on your mind today?” An awkward silence thrusted into my chest and put a stop to the words that were pouring out of my mind. There was so much that needed to be expressed but I feared the opinions she was beginning to form, even when she swore that she understood why I was struggling. The effort she made to compare our situations was an uncontrollable clutter of distraction. With every concern I communicated, she backed it up using a story of her own. I KNEW that what I was going through was normal. I KNOW you’ve been through the same things. But what she DIDN’T know was what I craved the most – for her to just listen to what I had to say. Just once I wanted someone to allow me to cry, scream, laugh – sometimes all at once – without feeling the need to interrupt me with their own knowledge of the situation. I was allowing myself to be selfish… something that was way past due yet well-deserved. I wasn’t going to put a stop it to – not this time.

I could almost hear the ticking of the clock become louder, as a reminder that our time was almost up. My daughter sat in my lap during the entire session, otherwise she would’ve cried and heightened the intensity of my sweat. Putting her back in the car seat was another strike at my anxieties – one day she loved the calmness of the car ride, another day she’ll flip a switch and scream the whole way home. I begged her, internally, to allow me to drive in the silence of my own breathe. It became routine for me to meditate… something I truly wanted to know more about. But by focusing on the sounds and strength of my breathing, the availability to concentrate on something else was nonexistent. I gathered my things, ready to charge out of that scorching office, until she held me back wanting to shed some light on another topic.

M e d i c a t i o n.

I glanced over my shoulder as if she were talking to someone else – not a soul. I was disappointed in myself. All of the progress I thought I made had quickly vanished without a trace. I couldn’t help but listen to that voice in my head, the one who was an expert in convincing me that I was always wrong. How could I allow myself to settle for something as simple as taking a pill? What did this mean – was I just truly going insane? A list was being made right there in my head, you could see the tension in my eyes. I was officially an unfit mother, at least that’s what I convinced myself of… one that needed an extra push to finish the mile. I felt weak in my knees – so I allowed that wave of heat to push me over to that seat… once again. Within seconds it went from a seat holding a bright future for me, to one that left me feeling lost at sea. I was drowning – again – not sure if I wanted any help.

My therapist shared her concerns with an honest tongue. She became intensely vocal – for she just wanted me to understand the reason for her offers. It was up to me, of course, whether or not I wanted to bite the bait. Majority of me wanted to feel better… wanted to get through one day without crying or forcefully telling myself that I was a failure at this whole motherhood craze. In order for me to achieve that, I needed to learn a new type of convincing – one that would convey the normal ness of this new path.

Eventually I would get there, but it took a lot more convincing than I thought.

Face to face with a new journey – pencil in hand, awaiting to reveal the process at large.

Do I bite the bullet? Should I?

Another chance to…

I was face to face with square one. All of the progress I had made went down the drain and stuck to the bottom of the pipes. I trusted myself to fall into the arms of someone who understood why I was so depressed as a new mama… but the only arms available were those of the chair that already knew my scent – spoiled breastmilk. Every other day I was grabbing the same pen that was touched by hundreds of other individuals… signing my name onto a sheet stating that I was next in line for another therapy visit. The wipes I used for my daughter were lying at the top of my diaper bag at all times. Knowing that they were within reach kept my breathing under control. It was almost like I could see the germs bouncing around her – teasing their way into the folds of her soft hands.

“Courtney, you can come on back.” I knew her voice. She stood in the same corner, clip board in hand. Again, I struggled trying to maneuver my way between the seats with a car seat that weighed more than I did (or what felt like). She politely asked me if I needed help, to which I always declined. The only help I truly needed was getting my mind to plug itself back in. It was lost, confused. Even the slightest light in the distance would help me find my way. That’s all I needed, that’s all I ever asked for.

I positioned myself in the chair knowing I would be there for a while. I gently placed my daughter and rocked her with ease… only to startle her small body into an uproar. I could feel my skin turning red as my heart tried escaping from my chest. I feared that judgement that everyone talked about – She must be a new mom. Poor girl. It was like I forgot how to be a mom when people were watching me. Every technique I’ve ever used to comfort my daughter slipped away with the sweat of my fingers. I decided to do what I knew best… pull out my boob and allow her to nurse however long she needed. The little feeling I had left was quickly ignored when our voices filled the room. I had to stop myself from watching the clock… an hour seemed like an eternity, a time that I just could not sway.

The worries that boggled my mind were waiting to be acknowledged at the tip of my tongue. Single filed, back straight – they were aware of how much they were about to be broken down. My therapist asked to see the palm of my hand, I complied. She put a drop of lotion there and told me to focus on only that. Was it cold, wet? Color? Use? Scent? Questions that I answered with a smirk on my face. I told myself, she has to be kidding me right now. What does this have anything to do with what is driving my insanity? My abrupt criticism left me to scoot lower in my chair. As much as I hated for her to be right, she schooled me in a lesson that I wasn’t even conscious of.

“Now tell me, what did you walk in worried about? Can you remember?” And just like that… I had trained my mind to overlook the silliness creating a web in the center of my brain. The time I spent focusing on that damn lotion was also time used to shut out every little detail of my anxieties. Brilliance was placed directly into my hands – a method I planned to use every time I felt like I was losing a battle I so badly wanted to prevent.

This was a first of many appointments to come… the only time I’ve ever felt bad about wishing for the minutes to rapidly disappear. I walked out as confident as I could be as a new mother of one. The sun that I so desperately tried to avoid had finally felt comfortable on my pale skin. Instead of pulling away from the office as if I were evading a crime scene, I sat in the back seat with my daughter… staring at the rainbow that turned a couple into a family. I promised myself that no matter how difficult it felt to roll out of bed, I would try my absolute hardest to be the best mama to this sweet babygirl. She deserved to witness my mental health expand into a beautiful being – she deserved to have a mama who was happy with herself , even through the rain and storm clouds.

What felt like the very end of a tragic story turned out to be quite the opposite. I was fully prepared to make changes that would be served on a silver platter. My family and I would ALL feel the effects… and that’s what drove me to become a better me.

The cold, white, fruity hand lotion is what drove me to write another chapter…

… a chapter I was more than willing to reveal.

Cushion.

When I looked at my reflection in our dirty bathroom mirror, one that I said I would clean weeks ago, I was staring at someone I didn’t recognize. Damaged hair, raccoon eyes, oily skin… I had never swam this far into the ocean before I became a mom. When my feet relied on the very tip of my toes to find its way back to shore, the struggle was quickly washed away with the current and seashells. It was much different this time – I drifted off into sea, far enough that I had no choice but to ask for help. Admitting that I needed a shoulder to lean on was the most difficult part in getting it started. I feared the judgement stemming from my daughters eyes. If nearing perfect was the outcome of all this pandemonium, my daughter would know that I did this all for her.

The morning of my appointment made its way around, but I still wasn’t feeling positive about pushing myself to speak up. I was embarrassed to talk about my ways of parenting. I knew that I was alone in this ugly battle… one that I wanted to face by myself… one that I thought I could handle by myself. The pressure to fight against my inner demon was becoming a priority over my daughters needs. I cuddled her during each nursing session, every nap. But I wasn’t truly there as her mom. I wasn’t giving her my all, and I wasn’t showing her the strength I gathered in preparation of becoming a mother. Everything I had worked so hard to become had vanished before my very own eyes. It was within reach, I could almost touch it. But the strain against my chest impacted not only me, but on my family as a whole.

In a waiting room full of patients, I managed to find a chair secluded from the rest. My daughter was wiggling her body in a motion to break free from her straps. I silently begged her to stay put, because the fear of judgement was making another round. Not only was I afraid to be a mom in general, but being out in public made my skin crawl. I could almost see the germs marching their way to my daughters hands. My usual anxieties attacked me right there in that office, except they became much worse from the day my daughter was placed in my arms for the very first time. I started sweating in places I wasn’t used to and my stomach ached with disgust. I was terrified of the impressions being made against me, but there I sat… judging every soul in that room like it was my job. Sickness was in the air, personalities were acting out. Anything that just didn’t seemΒ normal made me worry that my daughter was being exposed to something I couldn’t erase from her little mind. I didn’t have that right – making assumptions about people I didn’t even know.

So why was I so afraid of the same thing, when I was guilty of that very offense?

My therapist advised me it would be best to try leaving my daughter at home while I came for my appointment. But when she greeted me at the door, she didn’t seem as pleased. Limping my way over with the car seat in one hand, diaper bag in the other, was my way of showing her that where I went… my daughter went too. I was a mom, wearing these shoes for the first time. I was still getting used to the scabs behind my ankles and toes being squished together. My body was still leaking to the sound of a child’s cry – baby, toddler, it didn’t matter. There was no solid reason for me to leave my daughters side… not one that I wanted to hear, anyway. The separation anxiety was thriving to its fullest… but also turning into something I would not be able to control in the future. That was the main reason why I sat myself into the deep, round chair. But the only thing I saw was another person trying to tell me that what I was doing was wrong. The support was most definitely there, but the curtains were shading it enough to hide from the light. Again, alone.

I was asked a series of questions to find the core of my issues. Why didn’t I want to leave my daughter? Why was I feeling like I failed, only a couple of months in? I was in her presence, watching her take notes and occasionally check her phone. But all of her information was pouring out ofΒ  my ears, because I just didn’t want to hear it. Whether it was walking to the mailbox, or pre-heating my car… I couldn’t do it unless my daughter was in my sight – At All Times. Suddenly, the opinions formed against me shrunk into tiny pieces of dust resting against the office floor. I didn’t care what others thought about me. If I was that crazy, psycho mom who brought her child everywhere… then so be it. I wasn’t a fan of going to therapy in the first place, so I surely wasn’t going to let her tell me what would be in my best interests. My mental health could wait – I just wanted to snuggle my daughter at home, without the germs, without the fear of not making it back safely disrrupting my smooth drive. Β 

My initial thought of putting my mental health on hold proved to be a wrong action on my part. The tears in the middle of the night were not just from my daughter… they came from the silhouette hiding in the bathroom shower, trying to stay quiet enough so that she wouldn’t wake up for the tenth time that night. I was thrilled to have my daughter here, but the joy was so easily underlined with a weight in my stomach.

I wasn’t unhappy, but I wasn’t happy either.

The only people whom I thought would understand, were those who were moms themselves. But even then… my echoes were bouncing from wall to wall, and I was alone in the middle of the room –

accompanied by a chair that waited for my cushion.

Battle Wounds.

My tears were falling off of my face, one by one, soaking through my daughters outfit that I so carefully picked. I placed my thumb in the palm of her fragile hand and waited for that instant clasp of trust. The voice inside my head was responding back to her squeals, but it was no where near comparable to the whispers that I wanted to hear. How could I love someone so much… this little human being that came from me, but feel so hurt by her reactions to my ways of comforting her? Something wasn’t clicking. The connection I thought we had, hours before being discharged from our poorly lit hospital room, was no longer there. My own daughter didn’t know who I was and wanted nothing to do with the love I was so willing to share.

My milk had barely introduced itself and the anxiety had a head start in corrupting my mind. My nipples were cracked and on the verge of bleeding… but I knew that the more I nursed my daughter, the quicker I’d see results. She was speaking to my body through her own suction, letting it know exactly how much milk she needed to get by. Only at this point, we were both frazzled by a process we were equally new to. Discussions were arising and words were cemented into my brain. I was just not providing enough nutrition for my daughter, my newborn baby whom I thought I had already failed. For some reason, my tribe felt no worry in letting me know so. I was hearing “formula chants” and other suggestions that I truly wanted no part of. But each time I thought I was at my breaking point, I kept pushing to not only prove them wrong… but my anxiety wrong too. It was so easy to say that my situation was normal, and that eventually my daughter would settle comfortably into my welcoming arms. But I wasn’t sure how eager I was to wait for this moment… a moment that every new mother wants to feel.

With each latch, I felt a sharp pain. I bit my bottom lip with anger, even though this was a journey I was so strongly dedicated to take. I allowed my daughter to nurse longer than I thought I could handle… hours at a time with no room to breathe, no fresh air to heal my battle wounds. I was so stuck on the thought of becoming a disappointment, even though she wouldn’t realize the severity of the situation. My body was shutting down and I could feel the tension rising. The uninterrupted cries were draining me as a whole – causing me to lose hair, sleep, and the want to do better. I was deteriorating as the seconds passed… but I wouldn’t let anyone care for her but me. Even though I wasn’t giving her my best, I didn’t trust that anyone else would either. It was me and her versus the world, the very cloudy world of motherhood that I wasn’t ready to be the driver of.

Her crib was within clear range at all hours of the day, yet I couldn’t work up enough courage to leave her in there while I regained my energy. I feared the worst at all times. The sleep I had many opportunities to take advantage of was ignored… mainly because I couldn’t keep my eyes closed. My mind was playing back scenarios that (literally) left me crying in the dark of the night, unable to believe that nothing would happen to her if I looked away for just a second. I squeezed my eye lids so tight together, in hopes that they would fasten themselves shut for the duration of her nap. But within seconds I was creating sounds that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up – sounds that weren’t even really there. The night was still, but my heart was beating loud enough to disturb her dreams. I was losing the ability to give her everything I could offer, all because I was too nervous to sleep.

My daughter, A, cluster fed her way into the break of dawn. I could feel the bags under my eyes weighing me down to the floor. My bra was unclipped, my clothes smelled like the milk that leaked all over me throughout the night… this was something I couldn’t have prepared for. I waited 9 months to shower my daughter with the love I felt since the day I found out about her. 9 months to finally say that I was a mother to a beautiful babygirl. 9 months of waiting to just feel… empty.

We succeeded through milestones that I worked hard to pass, yet I felt myself becoming less happy and more anxious to watch her every move. I knew I was going to be over-protective, but nobody warned me about the depression that hid behind the shadows. I needed to make a change, one that would allow me to take a shower without an extra set of eyes. But was I willing to take the first step? How dedicated was I to become a better mama to my child? Not only better, but happy…

Making the call wasn’t the hard part, it was trying to explain why I felt alone – why I bulldozed my way into a corner of gloom. The words were at the tip of my tongue, but my mind was scattered into pieces that didn’t fit together.

A puzzle that just didn’t make sense.

Defeat

No tearing, no stitches… not even the slightest concern of how many hands were currently between my legs. There was a mirror just ahead of where my bed sat and my initial thought was to look away. But the desire to glance at the beauty of where my baby came from was more than captivating. My body was in control, regardless of the medication that reduced the tension… it was my body that told me it was time to push. Breathing through the contractions was more calming than difficult. I allowed the silence to build up, and that’s when I knew that my body had stretched just enough to allow my daughter to free herself from. A moment I’ll never forget – the strength I’ll never let go of.

I felt the warmth of my body cradle my daughter when she was placed on my chest. I looked into her eyes and could barely fight back the tears. “Do you plan to breastfeed?” I wasn’t even certain what that meant, or how it worked. But it only felt right to give it a try and see where the road led us. As my daughter latched on for the very first time, I felt a bomb of pure love detonate over and over again. The pain was mute – something I fought to completely ignore. Nurses were showing me how her lips were supposed to enclose what was meant to provide her food, her comfort. When her latch no longer needed assistance, I felt like I had been doing this for years. That natural instinct shot up my spine and gave me a dose of true motherhood. I was pleased with this new person, a girl turned woman. Each time I’ve ever entailed to prove my bravery but found to be unsuccessful… it was all worth it. This moment was all I needed to convince myself of how much power I really held within my own two hands. I was desperate to hit pause and soak up each breath, and every yawn of my newborn. I couldn’t let time pass too quickly.

Nurses by the ton were introducing themselves in the middle of the night. I could hear their voices but my eyes were almost sewn shut. When my daughter was wheeled out of our room, a piece of me stayed right by her side. I didn’t understand why I felt this weight on my chest, a force that only vanished when I heard the screetching approach my door once again. Every tear she shed was another one added to my flushed cheeks and swollen eyes. Even though I had only been a mother for a few hours, I was certain that I was headed straight for failure. Her vigorous cry filled the air and I could clearly imagine the big question mark above my head. When I thought it was obvious what I was meant to do, my confidence came crashing down and I was back to square one.

The fight I had in me was mainly supported by the staff that walked the halls during my stay. Each time I felt a doubt, a nurse was there to redirect my decision to give up. Being a mom had suddenly become easy… the help was accessible 24 hours a day and I hardly had to leave my bed. The button to my right was closely kept by my side, so that when the storm clouds swayed over me… an answer was immediately sent my way. The reality of being discharged hadn’t come to light (just yet), so the impulse to disconnect all wires and machines was still very much alive.

What could possibly go wrong? I can handle it, I’m a mom. We’ll be fine. I’m ready to go home.

I was itching to shower and wear my clothes that would hang over my new postpartum bump. The scent of the hospital gown carried a apprehension that I was trying to flee from. I was working to strengthen a courage that seemed out of reach… always at a time that I needed it the most. I was soon aware that as I stepped further away from the hospital, the nurses would not follow. Being a mom on my own… is this something I could actually handle? I wouldn’t know until the lock was turned and the door closed behind us.

As new parents, our exhaustion was high in demand and our patience for eachother was hanging by a thread. Just when I thought my hormones were raging less, they spiraled out of control and swiped me off of my feet. I felt nervous, scared and alone… even though I had an army marching behind my every move. My role as a mother felt like it was coming to an end, faster than I could keep up with. My daughter deserved the absolute best care and I hesitated to know whether I could give that to her.

Her cries sprang through my body and hers. She arched her back and clenched her fists. In a moment of utter weakness, I bawled my eyes out right there with her. I didn’t know what to say, I didn’t know what to do…

There were no nurses, no call button. My heart pounded with uncertainty, but I was certain that what I felt was defeat.

One Last Push

Being that it had only been a couple hours since returning from the hospital, I was trying not to make a fool out of myself in such short time. The contractions were ranging anywhere from five to ten minutes, still not close enough to make the next move. My bags were barely packed and I was indecisive on which outfit I wanted my daughter to wear first. With each uproar of pain, I became less interested in the pile of newborn clothes… and more concentrated on making it through the next interval. The discomfort within my belly was only building up my nerves, for I knew I’d be meeting someone special very soon. It was just a matter of pushing her out that signaled my panic mode to refresh itself. I had refused to give it even the slightest thought within the last few weeks, but there was no turning back from here… my body was beautifully progressing and proving to be stronger than I had ever thought.

I couldn’t decide which position helped ease the pain as it spiraled through my belly and beyond. Within seconds I went from standing, to hunched over, and then lying on my bedroom floor. I started to feel like my body was failing me. I pictured myself handling the contractions gracefully… breathing in and out as if I had practiced the technique hundreds of times before. Instead, I was nearly in tears and speaking a language that I wasn’t even sure was real. The rest time was becoming shorter so I made the bold decision to give my doctor another call. “As soon as they are three minutes apart, make your way over to Labor and Delivery.” Time was winding down… not much longer to go.

When realizing that I was going to be away for a few days, I jumped in the shower in hopes that I would find a release. The warm beads bounced off of my round belly, and I was soon in search for something to grip while another wave came through. My nails were digging into my forehead as I decided it would be best to sit on the shower floor. I called out for my boyfriend and told him to start the car… the contractions gave me an unsettled feeling and I was sure we had no more time to play with. I slid into the clothes I had laid out on the bed and glimpsed at a room that was undergoing a unique transition. It would soon be filled with an abundance of love and newborn cries… something I hadn’t imagined to hear for years to come.

I was almost immediately greeted by the same doctor I had seen earlier, as we made our way through the hospital doors. “I told you not to be back so soon. It’s not baby time yet.” I wasn’t going to question my knowledge now. I knew that I had done most of my laboring at home and the rest was in my doctors hands. His gloves intimately fit around his fingers and another exam was conducted. “Admit her. She’s 5cm.” Apologizes were shared around the room for doubting my reason in returning as a patient. My boyfriend and I could hardly contain our excitement as calls were made and preparations were following through. The gown I wore was now meant to be mine for my entire stay, and I would soon welcome our babygirl.

I could barely grasp the entire concept of birthing a child… and I was about to do just that. The epidural had arrived just in time of needing a breathe of fresh air. I was nauseous from not eating, but throwing up in front of tons of nurses was the least of my worries. My body was advancing quicker than anyone had anticipated. With each exam, I had dilated even more and it was suggested to start my practice pushes. Tears and sweat rolled down my puffy cheeks because I knew I was about to be a mom… for the first time ever. I had never been so close to contentment, and this time it was delivered directly to me with no return address. Here goes nothing….

One push, breathe.

Another push, hold it longer, breathe.

One last long push…

I let out a scream that I didn’t think I had in me, with the energy I lacked over the last few weeks. Our baby girls first cries echoed the room and was welcomed into the heated light. The moment my eyes met hers was a getaway to a life I’ve been desperately dreaming of. Every single one of my worries were locked away along with the key. I was a mother, a mother to a gorgeous baby girl…

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

My Alina-Grace.

Ready? Or not.

I wasn’t worried about the bump on my head, not one bit. All I cared about was how strong of a heartbeat I would hear from the monitor before me. Such a simple confirmation turned my worries into smiles, and I became frantic with excitement. The weeks were winding down and my prenatal appointments were scheduled weekly. While I planned to be ready by this point of pregnancy, my doubts settled in and stuck around for the show. I had so many tasks at hand that required my full attention, but the want to sit down and prepare for her arrival was fully out of reach. I spent hours lying in bed wondering what my life would’ve been like had I not been pregnant… which lead to the guilt and frustration that wrapped around me like a cord.

That what if was always brewing in the back of my mind. I challenged my own competence and worried that my daughter would be placed in the wrong hands. My anxieties often led me to a place that took days to dodge from. During a moment of weakness, I wished that she would just stop kicking so that I could sleep without interruption. I was mentally exhausted from adjusting my pillow all night, just to get up and go to the bathroom again. I had nightmares about what my birthing experience would be like… usually ending with the worst possible outcomes. My Braxton Hicks often played mind games with me – it was time, and then it wasn’t. The emotions I battled were setting me up for a failure with clear motives. I was in for a ride… it was called motherhood.

A Wednesday morning, I (literally) rolled out of bed to begin my usual routine. My boyfriend left for work and I was left to continue the arrangements in welcoming our daughter. My bladder was speaking obscenities and begged to be noticed… for the fifth time that morning. When I looked down and saw blood, I was sent into a full panic. My due date was only a couple days away so it was only a matter of time before the waiting was over. I was advised to check into Labor & Delivery at our local hospital. Calls were made and texts were sent out – it was possibly time to birth my baby.

My boyfriend swerved in and around traffic with no time to waste. Upon arrival, I was frightened. Becoming a mother was now in clear view, but I wasn’t convinced that I was fit for the job. I kept a smile on my face for the visitors of the hospital. With one look at my belly, questions were thrown around in an elevator full of families. “Is it time?” … I wanted it to be, but then fear struck a nerve and I was back to wishing I were home instead. When describing my symptoms, the nurses thought it was best to call a doctor and perform an exam. This was always the part I dreaded when arriving to all of my appointments, but I knew it had to be done. I was barely three centimeters dilated, no contractions… you could tell it was my first time at the rodeo. My doctor advised me that he would most likely see my face within 24 hours. “By this time tomorrow, you should be checked in and waiting for your daughter to be born.” That was all I had… 24 hours to get ready, whether I felt ready or not.

I stripped the hospital gown from my over sized body and felt a sense of relief. Just a little more time, that’s all I needed. But as I struggled to put on my clothes, I felt a huge wave of pain. All I wanted to do was go home and snuggle in bed, so I told myself it was probably normal being that I just had an exam. Every few steps I took lead to a forceful demand to take a break. I squeezed my boyfriends hand and sat on the nearest bench. I wasn’t even sure if I was experiencing contractions, but they were increasingly painful… not like what I felt from the Braxton Hicks. While he went to find the car, I felt it was best to stay where I was and ride out the pain. I hadn’t even left the hospital parking lot before feeling like I shouldn’t have checked out of my room just yet. These last few weeks have been overrun by waiting. I wasn’t sure I could wait another hour more…

My boyfriend dropped me off at home. “False alarm!” He was asked to return back to work, and I assured that with anymore pain I’d give him a call. With each contraction, I felt my daughter moving around… only making the pain of them even worse. I needed one thing from those who scattered around me – silence. I tried to focus on one particular tile on the kitchen floor, while I held my breath through the long seconds. As much as I wanted to make my big return to the hospital, I knew I had to wait it out… more waiting until the contractions grew closer together.

In the midst of conversation… “hold on, I’m having a contraction sooner than expected.” I clenched my face with my sweaty palm in search of a release.

Start the timer… another one is coming.

In 3…

2…

and 1.

Limit

I was in and out of consciousness, but the fear that enclosed my body was strikingly loud. The voice inside my head was spitting words directly toward the attention it needed. Of course I was listening… it was in my nature to agree with whatever I was being told. I kept my eyes closed and prayed that regardless of what my mind was trying to convince me of, that my baby was still safe inside my belly. I hadn’t felt her move since collapsing, but I couldn’t find the might I needed to get up. Without that strength, I couldn’t play with the different techniques I knew to help her wiggle around. I heard voices passing the door that held together the walls around me. My name was repeatedly called out, more so because they needed help around the building. All it took was one more breathe… one more sigh of hopelessness.

And finally, the creaks of the door filled the room with vibration. An ear-splitting scream called for immediate assistance. My supervisor gently placed her hand on my belly and told me that everything was going to be okay. I was finally able to keep my eyes opened long enough to be aware of my surroundings. Tender hands flipped me over to my back and worried that if I tried to move on my own, I wouldn’t be stable enough to hold in position. I was half way through my pregnancy, but no where near a safe delivery. My baby had to be okay, that was the only outcome to this crazy dream… one that I stressed to be a dream, anyway.

I lifted myself, with guidance, onto the stretcher. My apron was still hugging my waist, my pens dangling from the pockets. As I was wheeled out of the building, the looks on my students faces presented nothing but concern. All I could do was share a smile through the glass and just hope… I hoped they could feel my positivity through the energy of my grin, just as I always contributed during our lessons. My boyfriend escorted the front of the bed through the doors that lead to sunshine. He quickly wiped his tears and reassured me that we’d meet again at the hospital. The ambulance lights remained to be seen, and we were on our way.

The tiny window shed light onto the end of my bed. I was able to see my boyfriends work truck following behind, almost racing to stay within reach. The speed limit seemed to have gone below zero, as it slowed down time and allowed my anxiety to outstretch it’s limit. The ambulance was shaky and continued to drive off the side of the road. I could feel the urgency from where the driver was sitting, to the gurney that I so easily filled. The man sitting beside me assured that we would pull up to the hospital in no time. All of my vitals were clear, and it was now just a question as to why I blacked out in the first place.

The traffic was far behind us now as my bed was rolled into a private area. The wires made a trail to the discolored floor, and the machines made noises you could hear down the hallway. I usually didn’t watch the nurses take my blood, but I couldn’t unsee the brightness fill up the the tubes, nicely organized on the metal pan. My boyfriend made his appearance and locked his fingers with mine. I couldn’t imagine my love for him to grow any deeper, but as he whispered to my babygirl… our babygirl, he instantly proved that my heart could hold even more affection.

Test after test was monitored in the lab, awaiting results that would hopefully send us home with a piece of mind. There was one last machine that needed to be hooked up, one that I always looked forward to. The straps were tightly pulled around my widened waist, and the cold gel once again found its way to my growing bump. I squeezed my boyfriends hand with a slight doubt, one that I for sure knew would ruin my perfect dream once again. The nurse directed the wand to where she thought the baby would be…

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“You hear that lovely sound? That’s your babygirl, going strong.”

And all of my doubts, one by one, were washed away.

Cold skin

Happy tears flooded my eyes when the ultrasound confirmed we were having a girl. Even though I could only see her through the screen, I felt like our connection was already unbreakable. I had a powerful urge to run out of the room to announce that our babygirl was strong and healthy… but I remained cuddled in her fathers arms, the only place that made me feel like I had it all together.

Within the next few weeks, we planned a separate reveal for my parents and extended family. As much as I wanted to keep it a secret until the day of my delivery, the excitement I felt was far too much to handle on my own. I cracked a smile every time someone guessed that we were having a girl. Based off of the glow of my face and the position in which my stomach sat, they were right. With one pop of a ballon and a little slither of cake, the pink of my dreams came to surface. The word was out, and it was only a matter of time before the entire world knew. My babygirl was doused in a bucket of love… all while she stayed snug in my belly of warmth and security.

As I wrapped my apron around my belly, it became more apparent to my coworkers why I was so being so cautious. My anxiety was heavily pressing against my chest making it difficult to breath. There were tons of kids gathered into a closed area, one that I was required to work in until night fall. Sticky hands, runny noses, drool and dirty diapers… all things I would soon encounter with my own child. Sure, I had babysat before and became acquainted with kids of all ages. But the thought of caring for a child whom referred to ME as mom… that was something I had no choice but to prepare for. I had always imagined myself chasing after a little one with less than an hour to lock the door behind me. But every time I told myself I could manage, even with the pressures of being a good mom, the doubt would come back and take over the wheel.

I checked the time on my phone every couple of seconds in hopes that somehow the day would fast forward to the end of my shift. I remember leaving my house feeling lightheaded, but calling out of work wasn’t an option. I sat in the break room listening to the sounds of little voices surround the building. Water. Maybe I just need some water. I started my breathing exercises to soothe my raging nerves. My babygirl was still moving… I felt her wiggling ontop of my bladder. But something wasn’t adding up. I hesitated to text my boyfriend because I didn’t want to stir up a worry when it wasn’t needed. But a huge chunk of my mind told the contrary.

Over the intercom…

Ms. Courtney, please report to room 1. You’re needed in room 1.

The voices were faint. Everyone in the building was in search for me, and while I wanted to shout that I was in the kitchen… my voice remained unheard and persisted to speak in my own mind.

The floor below me was cold against my skin. I knew I must’ve hit my head first being that the pain started from there.

Has anyone seen Courtney? I just saw her walk in almost ten minutes ago. Maybe she’s in the….

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Kitchen. I’m in the kitchen.