c-section

The Phrase I Repeat When Motherhood Feels Impossibly Hard

Close up, beautiful young mother kissing her newborn baby son in sling at home

I’m lying in the recovery room, hours after my C-section. My baby is far away, in a different ward altogether, and I want him.

“But your hemoglobin-”

“But your dizziness-”

They won’t let me go, these doctors in their hospital suits and these efficient nurses bustling by. They won’t let me go to my baby, and I want him, and it hurts.

But I’ve done this before, so I know: This too shall pass.

I will hold my baby, sooner or later. Even if I have to wait a few more hours, I will hold him in my arms before the sun sets.

“Fine,” I tell the nurses, and close my eyes.

“This, too, shall pass,” I whisper, and find the patience to wait longer.

*

Hours pass, and I’m in the maternity ward, and my baby is with me, but he refuses to latch to my breast. He’s hungry. He’s crying. And every little wail tears through me, sharper, even, than the pain that started seeping through the fading influence of anesthetics.

“Let us give him a bottle,” the nurse begs me, and I panic. What if he will refuse to nurse later, what if he will get too used to bottles, what if I’ll never get him to latch on, what if he never will?

But I’ve done this before, so I know: This too shall pass.

My milk will come in, I will be stronger, my baby will adjust. Everything will change, and change again, and this moment’s worries will be replaced with new challenges and breakthroughs.

This too shall pass, I think, and there’s no need to borrow troubles that might never come to pass.

“Yes, let’s give him a bottle,” I say.

“And I need painkillers, please.”

*

The milk comes in, and I’m sitting in the hospital bed in the middle of the night, pained and drained and so very tired, after nursing for hours on end.

I want to fall asleep. I want to lie back and sleep my pain and exhaustion away. But I can’t, not when I’m engorged and aching and uncomfortable. Not when the very state I wish to escape from through slumber, keeps me anchored to this wretched wakefulness.

There is no escape, I think, there is no escape, I’ll never feel normal again.

I force the flare of panic away. Like the little boy in the old story, who saw a hole in the dam and blocked it with his finger, I feel like I’m stopping a flood with inadequate tools.

All I have are four words, but they still bring me comfort. They speak to the place within me that went through two previous births and knows, truly knows, that healing will come. They are with me, underneath the aches and the sleeplessness, and they’re solid and soft like a mother’s caress.

This, too, I remind myself. This too shall pass.

I hold on to these words, and breathe through the pain.

*

Days morph into nights and back again. I’m home now, but our routine from the hospital continues: One nursing session chases another, and dirty diapers come and go and come. I hold my baby in my arms through it all, and find myself thinking of Ecclesiastes.

Everything is transient, as in Ecclesiastes. The sun rises and sets and rises again, and the wind “goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits.” Nothing sticks. Nothing is permanent.

Ecclesiastes’ words drip bitterness. But I am more ambivalent. At times, the transience of these days keeps me going. At other times my heart is broken by the impermanence.

It’s my first day home and I can’t find the painkillers and I’m hungry and my baby is hungry and who should I feed first? But I know: This too shall pass. I take a deep breath. I feel better.

It’s my first night at home and my baby breathes in and out against the curve of my neck, and I know that he will never be so close to me, so enmeshed with me, as he is now. Because this too shall pass and he will grow up and away from this symbiotic embrace, and I will miss him, terribly, when he does.

I feel broken.

But happy or sad, comforted or broken, one truth stands out above my inner ebb and flow: Ecclesiastes was wrong when he said there is nothing new under the sun. Everything might be transient. I certainly am, these days are, and my son is, too.

But transient or not, my son is a new human being. None shall ever be exactly like him. None shall ever smell exactly like him, cuddle exactly like him, grow into the exact person he will one day grow up to be.

And my son makes me new, too. For being his mother will never be exactly like being other people’s mother. Through him, through my love for him, I am reborn as well.

And so I let myself experience it all: the bad days and the good days and the exhaustion and the sweetness. And I know: This, all of it, shall pass.

But it’s here now, and it’s wonderful, and so I tell myself to live it to the full.

The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

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