Wednesday, July 25

Pestilence and other tales of motherhood

Today that little bird is exactly one year old.  In some ways it feels as though she's been with us all along (I often have dreams in which I relive a moment from my past but inexplicably Wren is inserted in the memory and suddenly I am chasing a toddler while simultaneously traveling throughout Korea, for example).  But in other ways I can't fathom that the moment that my body delivered her into this world was any more than a few weeks ago.   But it was in fact, an entire year ago.

Honestly, I haven't really had the wherewithal to explain the first few weeks of Wren's time with us here in this space.  Luke and I often joke that we can't wait to tell her all about the 'pestilence' she brought along with her out of the womb.  Upon her birth we felt like we were the victims of Moses' biblical plagues.  But with (give or take) a year of distance and relative calm, we can laugh and shake our heads in wonder at:

1.  After a very healthy and normal pregnancy Wren was born with the Strep B infection which landed her in the NICU for a week and a half.  I could write pages upon pages (and in my journal I already have) about what this meant, the things we watched poked into her, how she lay wearing nothing but a diaper under a heat lamp for days, how they were too afraid to bathe her until the middle of the week because of how the temperature change might have affected her, how we were told we were making her more sick whenever we held her, how we sobbed and clung to one another the first night we had to leave the hospital while she stayed behind.  All this and so much more.

2.  During and following her NICU stay it became apparent that breastfeeding would not happen easily for Wren and I.  Some other time I plan to share all the details of our breastfeeding journey because I hope that it will bring comfort and hope to other moms with similar issues.  But for now I will simply say that it took 5 months for Wren and I to stop fighting and ease into a nurturing nursing relationship.  And the hardest and most heart-wrenching period was her first few weeks of life.

3.  The night that Wren finally came home to be in her room, in her crib, in our arms as much as we darn-well pleased, we discovered that our bedroom was infested with bed bugs.  Words cannot describe how awful and stressful and gross it is to have bed bugs.  For 2 nights we slept on our living room floor, with Wren on a diaper changing pad between us, and finally on her 4th night in her home we packed up everything and moved in with Luke's sister's family so that we could begin the assault on those awful little creatures.  We slept on their floor for nearly a week while Luke took off work to eradicate bed bugs full time.

I feel like I should add that it wasn't all awful though, because living with Luke's sister was actually so helpful as a new mom with a newborn that wasn't nursing well.  She delivered oatmeal and tea, listened to all my woes, washed my laundry and fed me cookie dough by request.  In fact, even amid that stress and anxiety we were so very loved and cared for by our friends and family who fed us, grocery shopped for us, and called to check up on us constantly.  It was an overwhelming muddle of awe, newness, sadness, anger and great compassion during those weeks.

4.  Three weeks after Wren was born we were finally settled back into our (essentially) bug-free home, though we had to keep all of our stuff (seriously, ALL of our stuff) in bug-proof plastic bags for another month while we finished treatments.  Obviously this was very annoying, but it also made packing up and leaving our home all the more easy when 3 weeks later we had to evacuate our river-side home yet again, this time for a historic flood.

Oh. My. Word.  I'm so glad those events are now a thing in our past.  I'm so grateful for our healthy, happy, sweet girl, who is still breastfeeding at one year, who sleeps in her own dry, bug-free crib every night, and who has rocked my world and claimed my very soul.

On one of my favorite blogs, another mom wrote about birthdays and how they might be as much about mothers as they are about their children:   Before having children, I saw my birthday as being about me and the anniversary of the day I first breathed air. Now, I understand my birthday is hugely about my mom and the anniversary of the day she heaved my body out of hers.

I know that it's cliche, but honestly, on the day Wren was born, I also was born.  And as I watch her learn something new every single day, I am aware that I, too, am learning daily.  The woman who grunted and cursed on that birthing table did not grasp the reality of her own powerlessness.  Wren's introduction to this world happened so differently than I had planned or hoped.  For so many reasons beyond my control her first year has been a constant letting go and coming to terms.  And I'm learning that the life best-lived is a life that is un-clenched.

Oh, and I made Wren a name-sake birthday dress.
Happy Birthday to our Sweet Baby Wren!


  1. Joy,

    Thank you so much for sharing the story of Wren's birth and first few weeks. I never knew that it was such a trying time for you and Luke. When every instinct in your bones is trying to protect that little baby, I cannot believe how difficult it must have been to leave her in the hospital and NOT hold her, and then to be forced from your home (not once, but TWICE) afterwards... what a crazy story.

    I think there is a certain chasm of understanding that we cross when we become parents. No one could have ever prepared me for all the emotion and heart longing that goes into being a mother (on ALL levels). I know what you mean about being born on the same day as your daughter... there really is no better picture of a human metamorphosis in my mind.

    I am so glad to hear that she is a happy, healthy baby now... she looks so cute in her little handmade dress! Happy birthday, little dear!

  2. Incredible. Thanks for sharing!