Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Labor of Love

By Chana (Gutnick) Herzog
For Chana, the challenges of motherhood were worse than she expected. But somehow, she finds that it's all worth it. If you're a new (or not so new) mom, you'll relate her account of "The Labor of Love."
Once I became pregnant, I preferred to dream about whether I would be having 
a girl or boy,  what it would look like, and how sweet it would be to hold it 
in my arms…rather then how exactly it was going to come out.


Soon after I gave birth to my son, a fellow pregnant friend anxiously asked me, "Is it as bad as they say?" I should have been more considerate of her feelings - being that at this point she had no way out - but I couldn't control myself. I simply told her, "It's worse."

Now, looking back, had I myself been warned what I was in for? No one wants to freak out a pregnant lady, and I had heard some gory labor stories as a girl, but they kind of went in one ear and out the other. I guess you could say that I was in denial. I never paid much attention to the details, because I never imagined the day would come, that I would be the one pushing and pushing, attached to drips and lying on a hospital bed in a white cotton nighty. Then, once I became pregnant, I preferred to dream about whether I would be having a girl or boy, what it would look like, and how sweet it would be to hold it in my arms…rather then how exactly it was going to come out.

I think that no matter how much you hear about it, or even if you witness a delivery, you will never truly understand what it is to have a baby until you do it yourself. With all good intentions, one of my single friends asked me when she called to wish mazel tov, "So do you have stretch-marks now?" How could I tell her that a whole week after the birth, I still barely had time to look? And although a legitimate question, stretch marks were by far the last physical problem on my mind! I was still trying to figure out how to sit down without a layer of three pillows, how to feed my baby without squirming in pain and how to keep my eyes open on literally no sleep. It's funny, but a few weeks later, I was actually disappointed when my stretch marks started to fade. They were like my scars from battle; a reminder that I was like a soldier who had been at the front lines. I was a hero.

Since becoming a mother, I've experienced a new-found sorority with mothers all over the world, strangers and friends alike. At my son's bris, I even felt like I was on the same wave length as my old school teachers! They were once the women I ran away from, nervous that maybe I had an assignment due. And now, with no inhibitions, we openly shared the most intimate details about motherhood and recovery from birth. In fact, recently shopping in a department store, I found myself deep in conversation with a random woman I had never met. We were ranting about strollers, bottles, schedules and stretchies. We were both new moms, and there was just so much to say! There's like this unique connection that we mothers share - whether we have ten kids or two, we've been there...and we understand.

A few women have told me that they keep having babies because they forget the pain. The pregnancy nausea and constant aching, the trauma of labor, and the utter exhaustion in the weeks following become a blur in their minds. My sister says it's kind of like the trip all the way to Australia with her six kids. When she's on the plane with another twenty hours to go, she swears she's never doing it again. And then she forgets the ordeal of the flight, she has a great time with the family, and she keeps coming back home. It's like the human race has to continue, so G-d creates this mental blockage, so that we become crazy enough to put ourselves through childbearing all over again. 

But honestly, I don’t think I'll ever forget. I just think it's totally and completely worth it...

It's worth it for the way he buries his head in my neck when I pick him up from his nap. It's worth it for the way his face becomes this radiant light bulb when he smiles up at me, and for those two little dimples on his cheeks. It's worth it for the smell of Johnson's baby shampoo in his hair after a bath and for the look on his face when he's drunk on milk and falling asleep. It's worth it for the feel of his tiny hands discovering my face and skin, for the sound of his voice giggling and gooing and, my G-d, it's worth it for those soft rolls of fat on his adorable legs.

In the short time little Shneur Chaim has been in my life, he has taught me what it means to be selfless (no more dairy food for me, it gives him stomach pains), strong (carry that stroller up the stairs), giving (feed, feed, feed and feed again), organized (scheduled baby = happy baby) and patient (rocking and singing at 4am). He has taught me to truly and deeply believe in G-d (how can a mixture of two human beings just come to life? So perfectly detailed, pure, and amazingly cute?). And he has taught me to love so much, my insides literally hurt.

Being my baby's mother is honestly the happiest, most rewarding, enjoyable and beautiful thing that has ever happened to me. Without a doubt in my mind, and with G-d's help, I'd do it all over again.

5 LadyMama voices:

Dini V said... [Reply to comment]

Oh Chana!! So beautiful!!I can relate on all levels and your writing is just oh so beautiful!

Rina said... [Reply to comment]

If only MORE mothers were as open about how its actually harder than you expect. But also not afraid to be a little sappy about what totally makes it all worth it... :)

chanale said... [Reply to comment]


Chana said... [Reply to comment]

A wonderful description of something we ALL experience. THANK YOU!

chaya Hoch said... [Reply to comment]

well done sista! beautifully written, honest and candid!