Thursday, May 31, 2007

May I introduce to you the Haitian Highlander: Ruben MacDonald Shearer

At 11:42 a.m. May 3rd, 2007 I delivered by planned cesearean, my liitle boy, Ruben: 6 pounds and 12 oz. He is named for my older brother who died 10 years ago and his middle name is Andy's mother's maiden name.

I could be wrong, but I believe that my baby bear is the first of his kind here: half Haitian/half Scottish.

Ruben came out very pink and screaming--obviously pissed at being stripped away from his dark, warm, wet home of 38 weeks. He cried for a solid 10 mins. And thank God--not one red hair strand in sight!

Although I was pretty out of it due to the spinal injection, I did cry a little when I thought that my mom wasn't there to experience the impossible: me becoming a mother.

As you all know, I had many fears about becoming a mother...and although I did mention a few in my last post, trust me, there were plenty more. Many of you have sent me support through the blog comments and through private email correspondence and I thank you for them all. They all have kept me strong and provided more confidence.

But I will tell you that one of biggest concerns was my fear that I might not feel a connection with him.
I do. He is the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. I can't believe he came from me.
He's healthy, if often grumpy with a continual frown, and very hairy.

Now, Andy and I set about to do our best with parenting and raising another human being to hopefully, be a happy, contributing member of society.

Everything is new and everything is a learning process. Even bathing him was a lesson.
One of the wonderful things about giving birth in the UK is that you depend more on midwives than the OB/GYN. Even better, after we left Dundee, I checked into our local hospital in Perth where I could recover and slowly get my head around motherhood and how to take care of a newborn. I was allowed to stay for several days and had the midwives at call at any moment, day or night.

In particular, the midwives were very much on hand for helping new mothers learn how to breastfeed.

Ok, let me tell you...breastfeeding is nothing like those bogus pictures you see--with the mother looking down at her child in her arms, smiling happily as the baby suckles and gazes at his/her mother.
My lord, the amount of pain was unbearable in the beginning. Every time I had to put my darling boy to my breast, it felt like razorblades. I sobbed and shook all over struggling to hold on so he could eat. I started thinking maybe it was just best to do formula feeding but I inevitably felt guilty--esp. with the pressure to breastfeed coming from books, doctors, midwives, websites.
So I was flooded with guilty feelings that I was being too selfish and not thinking in the best interest of my child.

I stuck it out. I'm still sticking it out. It's not like razorblades but it's far from enjoyable. Breastfeeding has me starving much of the time and all of a sudden I have a sweet tooth! But they do say that breastfeeding does help you lose weight and by the third week after Ruben's delivery, I was back in my old jeans.

Now that I have a baby and all these ovewhelming responsibilities for another human being--I completely understand how women slip into post-partum depression. Everyone makes the arrival of your first baby the most amazing, joyous experience. And it is...however, there's a lot more to it than that. It's all so overwhelming: the confusion; the fears; the secret feelings of guilt--all that married physical exhaustion while recovering from delivery.
With a baby attached to my breast so many times a day every day--my sexuality wanes quickly. Personally, I can't imagine my breasts as anything but a milk factory these days. I hope this changes soon.
While we have been beseiged with lovely gifts, cards, and calls of congratulations, some of my friends have noted, after seeing Ruben's first pics, that he was extraordinarily "fair". To be honest, he did look quite white.
But he is half black and Haitian at my boy is getting darker with every passing day!

So, it's been a month since my baby bear has arrived. He's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. I can stare at him for hours. He's very serious much of the time--studying everything within 8 inches of his brown eyes and constantly frowning. And damn, if he isn't an active baby! We're in serious trouble,here. I wish my boy would sleep more.

While the feeding and the changes are constant, day and night, with little sleep in between, every day with Ruben is always a new experience. Much of the time, I'm damn near in a panic about something because I know NOTHING because none of it is instinctual--except the drive to have him survive and be happy.

Honestly, the only reason I could possibly keep going without ending up depressed or in a soft cell, restrained, is that I luckily have Andy with me much of the time helping me 50/50.
If only he could breastfeed too...

Ok...gotta run! His majesty calls and I have no idea what he wants. But I'll hold him, soothe him, talk to him, feed him, change him, rock him until one of those choices puts him to sleep.
He's just damn lucky he's the most precious thing in the world to me.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

My Last Day before Motherhood

(Deep breath) In one day, I will ship off to Nine Wells Hospital in Dundee for my elective cesearan surgery.
Let me take a deep breath again. Actually, it's in a matter of hours now.

This is my last day on this planet of being solely responsible for myself. And I'm absolutely terrified.

The last month has been hectic and stressful while Andy and I try and tie up all the loose ends and get the apt. and ourselves ready for the new member of our family to arrive. It's been interesting to see how people friends and strangers react to us as well as seeing my reaction to others.
I've been learning so much about myself. For example, I hate leaving the house because I feel that everyone stares at my belly as we walk down the street. It feels like there's this big spotlight on me belly in a town where I already stand out racially. I don't like that attention. And so, I just want to hide.

I'm also learning that people (particularly family members) have very different reactions to the coming birth. Some members are more concerned with keeping their daily work routine rather than actually being present for the child's first day on this planet. Some members haven't even bothered to send a gift, much less a card. (This is a truly pathetic display of parental love considering I have friends who have spent literally hundreds of dollars on essential baby needs and my family has done nothing).
At this point, there's no telling if they will even make the journey from America to see the child...possibly one of the only chances before they die.

I wish I could say I had that close-knit family that would drive me crazy with attention and love. But that's not the case. That has never been the case. It will never be the case. I accept that now.

My true family have always been supportive and joyful for me. They are not blood related but their dedication and loyalty to me, Andy and our baby is thicker than blood.

My entire pregnancy has been difficult physically, emotionally, and mentally. I can't say I've enjoyed it. I've been sick every single day since I found out I was knocked up. There has been nothing that anyone can do. It's just what some "lucky" women experience.
Sometimes, I feel down because I'm just worn out from being sick all the time and I am not enjoying the pregnancy. I feel selfish for wishing I had my body to myself again and I was in control of what shape and size I am. I wish I only felt only excitement instead of fear and worry.

The propagation of our species is the most innately natural aspect of life and yet, none of this feels remotely "natural" to me.
There's always that voice in my head (sometimes quietly, sometimes blaringly loud) saying: what the hell did you get yourself into?!

Becoming a mother was never something I imagined for myself. But now that that role is immiment, I've oscillated between terrifying feelings, others of excitement and slight depression.
I am a worrier. I don't want to be the kind of parent my parents were. Andy and all my friends try and reassure me that I will be a great parent. But despite that, I wish I had my mom here for support.

This is the first time in my life I find that I actually need her and she's gone.

For whatever reasons, my friends and husband are 100% sure that I will make an excellent mother. I can only trust that my friends are right--that I am instinctually maternal and will be a great mother. I keep repeating to myself that I must, that I will love my child and show them that I accept them completely. And then I have the image of them ending up on Jerry Springer 15 years from now, as the newest "video-ho" or explaining that going through life lazy, fat, and stupid with a string of kids from multiple partners is the best thing.

I swear, I'll kill that child!

But I am a person of logic, an observer of patterns, and most importantly, "evidence". I have nothing here to guide me that would make me believe what my friends and husband seem to just "know".

For the first time in my life, I will have to go simply on FAITH that I will be a good mother.