Infertility, Pregnancy, Postpartum Depression, and Motherhood: Things I've Learned From My Miracle Baby
I remember delivering her in the hospital 8 years ago. She was pink, delicate, with a shock of jet-black hair on her head. When she came out, she was taking a nap. How does that even happen? I don't know. She decided to arrive 2 weeks early and nearly 8 humongous pounds. Babies aren’t so teeny tiny when you realize they come out of areas where openings are typically the size of a mustard seed---it doesn’t matter how much they weigh at birth. She didn’t give me a ton of trouble while she hibernated in my uterus for 8 months---but the last 30 days? WOW. Let’s just say she has dislocated a few of my ribs and bruised my pelvic bone from all her kicking…day after day, night after night. If I reclined sitting down, you could see a big bulge gracefully move from one side of my stomach to the other, strange and alien-like, like it had been taken over by some form of extra-terrestrial being. I guess in some ways, it was. However, it came to a point where I couldn’t feel her move around anymore because there was simply no room for her to. Prior to pregnancy, I was approximately 105 pounds, a size double-zero, and my obstetrician feared that if I gained more than 25 pounds during my pregnancy, I wouldn’t be able to give birth to her vaginally, which is what we preferred I do based on health factors we had previously discussed. Well, shoot me in the foot because I gained almost 65 pounds in over 8 months, and guess what? I gave birth to her vaginally anyway. My body tore all kinds of ways to accommodate the exit of this angelic creature I named Sophia Grace. This month is her birth month and she turns 8. The days are long, but the years are short, aren’t they? It seems like only yesterday she was attached to my hip because she couldn’t walk, yet. Time flies so quickly and I refuse to miss out on any of her moments. Unbeknownst to her, she has taught me the most about life…
…like the fact that miracles can and do happen. From a western medical standpoint, I should have been in the thick of infertility because I had a condition called Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, PCOS, which is exactly how it sounds: multiple cysts on my ovaries. These cysts prevented me from conceiving naturally. To remedy my symptoms (which included cystic acne, hair loss, and weight gain despite working out, amongst others) I was sentenced to a life of ingesting birth control pills to “balance my hormones.” However, somewhere between my diagnosis, treatment, getting pregnant (yes, while I was on birth control pills, which is where the other half of this miracle lies), and the reading materials I pored over during late nights, I realized that reversing my symptoms of PCOS was possible just by cutting sugar from my diet. It was as simple as that! It was also as difficult as that----but that’s a blog for another time.
Sophie taught me that as long as I did my best, everything would be okay. The months that followed her birth were rough on me, physically and emotionally, as it is with most women, though no one likes to talk about it. My milk ducts wouldn’t open, so I had no clue that she wasn’t getting any nutrients from me. Guilt consumed me when I didn’t find out about this until a few days later when, at her weigh-in, she had lost weight (and I’m not talking about the weight that infants naturally lose after they come out of the womb). I also felt guilty that breastfeeding wasn’t enjoyable…at all. It hurt, I chafed, I bled, I cried---and I felt guilty about that, too. I felt guilty when I made the decision to feed her formula, and felt guiltier when she would break out with puss-filled lesions all over her face and body from the formula, which I found out was an allergic reaction to the dairy in it. So, I switched to soy. Welp, she was allergic to that, too. You know what came to the rescue? Goat’s milk. Good ‘ole goat’s milk, sold in cans from Mother’s Market, where a 2-day supply cost $24.99.
Lord, help me.
JUST HELP ME.
Then, came the postpartum depression. Every night was a long night that turned into mornings-that-felt-like-night. I was running and giving on empty, unable to live up to the expectations I made for myself because of what I had seen in magazines or on TV, what I read in a mommy-blog, or thinking about how my own mother did it: she gave birth to 7 children, didn’t acquire one stretch mark, healed naturally from the rips and tears that ravaged her sexual organs by taking advantage of time and warm guava leaves. Six of her 7 deliveries were all done at home, led by midwives, and she still managed to cook, clean, and run her businesses (yes, that is plural). Yeah…nope. Not me. My struggle was still very real to me and looked just as insurmountable. As my body was healing, as my mental health was mending, and as my emotions were under repair, I didn’t feel like I was fixing myself fast enough for the demands of the duty. Motherhood can be a very isolating journey, especially in those early years. But, Sophia is well worth it. If those really rough days meant I could go back to Sophia being 1 week old, or 18 months, or 3 years old so that I could start over and do it better the second time around, I would go back in a heartbeat.
Sophia taught me that someone is always watching. In my case, she is always watching me. As a mother, I realize that I am my daughter’s first role model. I am surprised she still thinks I’m cool and wants to be like me. As she grows, I quickly realize that I am competing with the Ariana Grande’s and Taylor Swifts of her world---bare midriffs overshadowing any substance of character or talent. It puts things into perspective when I realize that my mom was 50 years old when Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera came on to my scene. How does a 50-year old mother’s influence compete with them? Only until I became a mother myself do I realize that my mom won that competition. My only hope is that when Sophia becomes a mother one day, she will think I won, too…but hopefully, way before then.
Sophia taught me what it means to live up to a name. Sophia is greek for “wisdom” and grace is the unmerited favor given to someone undeserving. We all can agree that this world needs a heavy dose of some sophia grace lately. It would do us a lot of good. And I would love it if Sophia lives up to that good---but I can only teach that to her if she watches me do the same. But it’s soooo haaaaaard, I can hear you say. Of course it’s hard, because it isn’t natural. If someone flicks you off, a natural response would be to flick back. If someone cuts you off on the freeway, a natural response would be to have road rage and cut them off back. We all have a universal appeal to institute “an eye for an eye”----except when we are on the other side of the equation, right? Trying to live life on the other side of that equation is a constant struggle for me because…she’s watching me. Sophia is my reminder that I must live on the other side of that equation---and on the days that I don’t, she is the reason why I have to try.
Sophia now looks through my closet and takes inventory of what she will claim as soon as she can fit in to them. She is now talking about a boy in her class that likes her, and discusses with me whether or not she decides she will like him back. Apparently, there is more than one. I just don’t remember if it ever went like that for me at that age. Maybe because I’m trying to keep her at 4 years old and I'm choosing to be oblivious to her growing up? She loves watching Friends with Ross and I (he and I dictate which episodes are okay for her to watch), loves dancing jazz, Wendy’s ice cream, In-N-Out, and Chick-Fil-A. She’s outgrown her gluten, soy, and dairy allergies not too long ago and just milks it: she’ll say things like, “Mom, can I have a donut? I mean, I’ve never had one for almost all my life!” She’s sensitive and intuitive, and according to her teachers and friends, she is kind, a natural leader, and always ready to help. She loves reading comics, treats her stuffed animals as if they were people (Bear is her “son” and Moose is her “baby brother”), and loves taking walks. She broke her arm one winter while ice skating----but it never stopped her from ice skating ever again---she is fearless in this way. She loves me, she loves Ross, and Lola and Lolo (my parents), and “Orbbe-Orbbe-Orbbe” and Joyce (Ross’ parents), and her aunties, uncles, and cousins (all 12 of them. When you have 6 siblings, you’re relegated to a life of what seems like an unlimited amount of nieces and nephews).
What I love most about Sophie is that she’s a worshiper. On the Sundays I have to sing at church, she comes with me to my 7am call-time and listens to the band sound-check and rehearse for two hours before she gets to go to her Sunday School class. I don’t allow her electronics, so she listens to the songs as we sing them, and after a few minutes she memorizes the words. By the time I can look over, she’s jamming out. There’s a song she loves to sing in the car by Christy Nockels that goes, “Great God, wrap your arms around this world tonight, and when you hear our cries, sing through the night so we can join in your song…and sing along.” And one day, after belting the song from the depths of her lungs, she says, “Mom! Every time I sing that song, I feel a fire in my belly!”
That’s my girl. She taught me what unashamed worship looks like----she takes what she feels and sings her heart out, and dances her legs off because of that fire in her belly. She is my inspiration.
Sophia has done far more for me, in my opinion, than anything I’ve done for her. I hope to be just like her when I grow up.