|Max's First Day of Pre K|
Yesterday as I sent Max off for his first day of Pre-kindergarten I was filled with emotion. I was missing him before he was even out of the driveway with Ray. I love his little charming presence, Max is the ultimate side kick in life. My feelings surprised me a bit, not the depth of them, I am used to that now. But the stark difference from what I had felt in the not so distant past. Things are very different now. Wonderfully different.
I have often wondered if having C-sections effected the way I initially bonded with my children. I didn't have to fight for them through the pain of labor, they just arrived. I have always said they could have been pulled out of Fed Ex boxes for all I knew. Caroline was a planned C-section, she was breech. She was folded in half, with her head and her feet together, the perfect V shape. A C-section was our only option, despite the fact I had refused to watch that portion of the video in the child birth class. I was SO sure I would never have to have surgery. In fact Caroline's C-section was the very first surgery of my life.
As any good neurotic first time mother, I had lots of plans for how the birth would go. I eventually embraced the idea of surgery and made even more plans. I told Ray he must not leave the baby's side, AT ALL, from the moment she was born. I don't know what my fear was in a closed surgery room, it was not like she could have been mixed up with another baby or anything like that, but those were my orders for Ray. Don't leave her.
After the surgery I was moved from the operating table to a bed. The second my body was laid on the bed I knew something was very wrong. It was a unique feeling, but I instantly recognized it. I felt like I was dying. It was if my life was slowly draining away. I called out to Ray. I remember saying, "get over here, get over here." As soon as those words were out of my mouth some alarms started to go off and the staff was clued into what was happening. My temperature was plumating and my body was going into some sort of shock. I could hear lots of concerned voices and a nurse saying, "oh she is one of the fragile ones..." It didn't take them long to turn the situation around, thankfully. But it left me very shaken physically and emotionally. Something primal had clicked over in me, it was now about me surviving and I had little interest in Caroline. I had read about postpartum depression and I didn't want anyone to think I had it. The remaining days I was in the hospital I would hold Caroline and smile when anyone was looking. When we were alone, I would hand her off to Ray and read a book. Everyone talks about instantly falling in love with their babies. Very few mention the other road, the long slow road of love. Mine was that slow road. My body needed to heal before I had anything to give to another person. It was not a lack of love, just a time limited release of it.
Although halting at first, the bond I forged with Caroline was and continues to be like STEEL. The night before Max was born I clung to her crying. I was sure I was going to break her heart by having another baby. I felt I was betraying my sweet girl. I was also scared, extremely scared of the surgery. My hospital did not allow VBAC births. I was scheduled for another C-section. I could not voice my deepest fear, but I knew Ray felt it too. What if it happened again? What if it was worse? What IF...? Instead of being joyful and excited to have a second child, I was frightened and again the focus was only on myself and getting through the experience.
The surgery went much better than before, since the staff knew what they were facing with me. A glucose drip was all I needed. The nurse who had called me "a fragile one" was there again and she remembered me. One of the benefits of living in a smaller town, I suppose. Again, it was as if Fed Ex had delivered another package, but this time there was not the crash. However, the bonding was still slow. I had a two year old and an infant. I felt too tired to bond, but I tried with all my might. I didn't have to put on the show I did before, it was easier, but still it was not an instant love affair. I wanted that. I felt a bit cheated.
The first year and a half of Max's life was more of blur than anything. Getting little sleep does that to you. I watch videos Ray took of us during that time and have no memory of them. There was also the gnawing suspicion that something was not quite right with Max's development. Those years were not easy at all. As Max grew and his issues became more pronounced, I found myself spending more and more time with Caroline. I advocated for him, I scheduled all the tests, but I began to keep him at arms length. It is hard to admit that, but I really struggled. It was a darkness I can't remember with out sadness. Right before we got Max's diagnosis I had a life changing shift occur. I hit myself in the head with a car door by accident. Many of you know the story, it is also listed above in the Max and Me section. It changed everything and that is when Max's STEEL arrived. As I healed and got help for myself, I bonded with Max in an almost shocking way. It was as if God said "Thanks for showing up Rebecca, here are all the feelings your fear kept from you, here they are in one huge pile." I had new eyes and a new heart for him. The bond that was created in those months I am sure must be like what those mothers describe at birth, that immense rush of love. However, I think I may be the lucky one, I think what I got was even stronger.
We are STEEL.