The ding-dings of cheerful chimes filled my ears, infiltrating my foggy head. I struggled to make sense of why my alarm was pulling me out of sleep at 2:00 in the morning and why my body felt as though it had been hit by a truck.
I forced my eyes open, letting them adjust to the darkness, and I noticed my daughter’s bassinet just a few feet away from my bed. My swirling thoughts converged: it was our first night home from the hospital, and it was time for another feeding. I wondered how long ago my husband had been able to lay the baby down without her eyes popping open and her newborn wails starting all over again.
Placing a hand on Dan’s shoulder, I shook him awake and asked him to change Selah’s diaper, my voice unrecognizable to me, as if gravel were caught in my throat. I gingerly rolled myself out of bed, taking care not to drag my lady parts across the mattress; the doctor had warned me this could pop my stitches. My limbs felt shaky and my mind was disoriented—for the last three nights, I’d slept for no longer than two hours at a time, and that sleep was light, at best. I woke up constantly, frantic that I’d missed a feeding or that my daughter wasn’t breathing or that I was still in labor.
I stumbled into the bathroom, flipped on the light, and grabbed hold of the cold, granite countertop as the nausea overtook me. The tears began to fall hot and fast down my cheeks as I gasped for air and lowered my hurting body onto the toilet. I dreaded the process of applying fresh Tucks pads and lifting my sore legs into a new set of Depends. I dreaded trying to get my daughter to latch and stay awake for her feeding. I dreaded rocking her back to sleep when every part of my body was screaming for sleep.
Dread became fear, and fear became panic that snaked its way through my body, curled its fingers around my heart, and pulled it into my stomach.
One thought echoed in my mind: I’ve made a horrible mistake.
My stomach lurched with shame, a toxic addition to the panic and anxiety that had settled there. Soon other thoughts invaded my mind, storming in so swiftly that I couldn’t stop them:
Is this motherhood? Will it always be this exhausting? This isn’t what I thought it would be! IcannotdothisIcannotdothisIcannotdothisIcannotdothis.
I got through that feeding, barely, because Dan brought me some cold applesauce to ease the nausea, stayed awake with me while I sobbed through the pain of breastfeeding, and rocked Selah to sleep (even though he’d already taken his turn on the previous shift) so I could get the longest possible stretch of rest. But I don’t remember specifically how I made it through the feeding after that, or the night after that, or the week after that. I often gazed at my daughter in wonder during the warm light of day, marveling over her cupid’s bow top lip, my heart bursting with joy over the fact that she was mine. But terror was always lurking in the lengthening shadows as the sun dipped each evening.
In the most painful moments of Selah’s first few months of life, I would think to myself, Would I do this all again to get my precious little girl? For a long time, I couldn’t answer that question honestly. I knew that a good mom—one who has what it takes to love sacrificially—would say, “Of course! She’s worth every bit of pain and every lost minute of sleep!” But I truly wasn’t sure, knowing what I knew now, that I’d willingly do it again. I tried to tell myself that obviously I wouldn’t give her back, that I’d never let anyone take her away from me, that I’d be shattered if anything happened to her. But deep down I knew that if I were given the chance to go back to my pre-kid life, without any memory of the love I felt for her, I would do it.