Motherhood is full of clichés. We often hear these beautiful sentences of hope from our elders, friends, or even co-workers. You will often hear that motherhood is the most rewarding experience you will ever have. Some will even say being a mother is the most fulfilling experience you will ever have. Although both can be true, these words can set an unrealistically high expectation that some mothers will just never meet. Personally, I do agree that motherhood has been extremely rewarding and fulfilling, but I can at least recognize that motherhood isn’t always rainbows and butterflies. One of the clichés I have a hard time agreeing with is when women say the birth of your child will reign as the best day of your life.
When I first became pregnant with my son, I was absolutely certain this cliché would prove true. I never once considered the possibility of a traumatic birth experience overshadowing the fact that I had just birthed another human being. However, we have to recognize that this is the reality for many women. Nearly every woman goes into pregnancy expecting, if not hoping for, a beautiful birth experience. We are taught by countless parenting sites to create a detailed, specific birth plan and to pack our hospital bag months in advance. But when mother nature has plans of her own, our perfectly curated birth plan stands no chance against the need for life-saving interventions.
For me, my son’s birth was not the best day of my life. I can’t even say that my wedding day was the best day of my life. We set such high expectations for life events, which I believe in turn can negatively affect how we perceive these events. My wedding day was full of nerves, stress, and family drama. At the end of the day, I was beyond happy to have married the love of my life, but I can’t say that this day was the best day of my life. A piece of paper and an elaborate, ceremonial display of affection doesn’t always equate to complete happiness. When looking at the many days my partner and I have shared together, there are plenty of other days that top my wedding day because they were candid, spontaneous, and free of all expectations. The same can be said for the days spent with our son.
I cannot even say the birth of my son was in the top 3 best days of my life. It’s not necessarily because the day was set with unrealistic expectations or standards. The truth of the matter is that April 14, 2018, was a very traumatizing day for our family. After hours of not noticing substantial movement in my belly, I started to become concerned. I immediately called the nurse hotline on this cloudy Saturday afternoon. I was assured that because I was 37 weeks along, it would be hard to notice movement due to the size of my son. But of course, my motherly instincts knew better. After calling my mom and speaking with my husband, we decided to head to the hospital despite the reassurance we received from the on-call nurse.
After being hooked up to the fetal monitor, it became evident that our son was in some type of distress. Inducing labor would only further the stress our son was experiencing, so we knew an emergency c-section was necessary to save the life of our son. I was quickly prepped for surgery by changing into a blue gown and getting started on an IV. Both our families were over 2 hours away and wouldn’t make it in time for the delivery. After being rushed in for my C-section, my son was quickly removed and placed on my chest for a quick glance and photo. He was immediately rushed away to be assessed by the medical staff. I remember the doctor commenting on the meconium in the womb which validated their belief that my son was struggling. At first, they thought his pale complexion was merely genetic and something he took after me. However, it soon became clear that his pale complexion was evidence of something more serious.
The rest of that evening was a blur. I do not remember my son being whisked away to the NICU. I do not remember being wheeled away to the recovery room alone while my husband followed after our son. All I remember is waking up, alone and confused, in the recovery room hidden behind a closed curtain. I felt so isolated and lonely without my husband or any family members.
When I reunited with my husband, he tried to assure me that our son was fine but based on all the extensive measures that were being taken, I knew he was struggling. Because of my C-section, I couldn’t visit him our first night in the hospital. I was instead scheduled for a FaceTime call with our newborn son at a random time in the middle of the night. I’m not sure why they decided on such a late-night call, but I didn’t question it. Seeing my son for the second time only through an iPad screen was awkward and strange. This was nothing like I had hoped for in my original birth plan. It wouldn’t be until the next day that I could finally visit our son in the NICU.
The first time I visited my son in the NICU was shortly after they decided to intubate him due to low oxygen levels. Because intubation restricts an infant’s vocal cords, I didn’t even get to hear him cry during our visit. My son would need five blood transfusions before graduating from the NICU after his 9-day stay. It was later determined that he had suffered from fetal-maternal hemorrhage, a rare disorder where the blood fails to recirculate back into the placenta.
Even after bringing home my son to enjoy the comforts of our home, life was not blissfully perfect. I was hit head-on by postpartum depression and would face a three-day stay alone at a behavioral hospital a few nights after my son was brought home. Life did not become beautiful, or even bearable, until a few weeks after the birth of my son once I began treatment for my intense PPD.
I could sit here and lie and say that even through all the pain and suffering, my son’s birth is still the best day of my life, but I won’t. So many things went wrong. Even though we are beyond grateful for the survival of our son that day, there have been many more beautiful days than that fateful day on April 14, 2018. I will always remember the day he tried solid foods for the first time. I will always remember his first Christmas and birthday party. And I will especially remember the day he finally got potty trained and was so proud to be a “big boy” now.
Looking back, if I had to pick the best day ever, I would say it was the day our son was conceived, rather than born. I will always remember the day I returned home from Scotland to meet my then boyfriend, now husband. It was the greatest feeling in the world to return home to someone who I missed so dearly and yearned to hug. The conception of our son that day makes this date even more special because it unites all 3 of us and was the date our family officially was created. I cannot think of a better date to cherish.
Motherhood is hard and doesn’t need to be our biggest reward or greatest accomplishment. It’s a beautiful experience but each mother’s journey is unique and full of challenges. So whether the best day of your life is your wedding day, the day your child was born, or the day you won a pair of concert tickets, cherish the moments that make you most happy!