The first, but not last, surprise of motherhood

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I’m a planner. Not a day goes by where I haven’t scheduled the day at least mentally. When things stray from my laid out path I tend to get antsy. My pregnancy was no exception to this rule, I prepared and organized the entire 38 weeks. I read every book and scoured every website. The nursery was ready, baby clothes washed and hanging in the closet and names picked out. I was ready.

Then my son was born.

My first indication that something was wrong was that he didn’t cry right away. Then, as if on cue, just as I really started to worry, he let out this mew that was nothing like what I imagined. I pictured a red-faced baby screaming desperately and furiously demanding to be put back inside where it was safe and warm. Instead he let out a sound so soft and quiet, more mouse than man, a plea to his mother to make things right.

Within 24 hours he was diagnosed with a medical condition known as TEF. Before he was even 3 days old he was having life-saving surgery at Sick Kids.

I was not prepared for this.

I wandered the halls of the hospital for 6 entire weeks in a daze. I waddled slowly, my body still recovering from childbirth, my eyes stinging from the tears that never seemed to end. My mind was clouded as I tried to understand the doctor’s explanations and reassurances. Although it would take some time, they explained, he would overcome this. Seeing my beautiful baby boy bruised and battered made it hard to believe. Still, my instincts tried to take over. I woke up every morning telling myself today was the day we would come home and my need to control the outcome took over. Until we spoke with the doctors on first rounds and realized we wouldn’t be coming home today or the next day.

My first and biggest surprise in this beautiful journey is that motherhood cannot be planned.

9 months of preparation went out the window. My dreams of nursing? Not going to happen. The cradle sat empty beside my bed as my newborn son slept in an incubator instead. The story of motherhood that I had written in my mind was torn to shreds and was replaced by a life that started out in an operating room and included medications, MRI’s and doctor appointments. Even the best laid plans fall apart some times.

No amount of anticipation can prepare you for the first time your child is sick regardless of how serious an illness or how old they are when it happens. You can try to ready yourself mentally but it doesn’t make that first fever, first asthma attack, first surgery any easier. I wasn’t prepared for this, yet I survived. We survived. It made us stronger both individually and as a family.

What surprised me most about motherhood was that it couldn’t be scheduled and that life wouldn’t fall apart if it didn’t go exactly according to my mental plan. The second surprise to me was just how much I could endure and still come out strong but that’s a story for another day.

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