I had always heard that a mother could tell by her baby’s cry exactly what was wrong. When my first child was born, I felt very inadequate because I couldn’t seem to tell the difference. I believed I was not that mother.
The pregnancy had been fairly easy, but the birth…not so much. I had to have a C-section. It was really scary because it was the first time I ever had surgery, and it hurt. A lot. The nurse told me I needed to get up and move, but I told her she was crazy. It hurt too much to move, so I didn’t, and she didn’t press the issue.
That incision was raw and painful for almost a year. I remember standing in the shower crying so no one would see me.
On top of that, I was frantic because it seemed as though my new baby cried all the time except when I held her and walked around the room. I was told to put her down and let her cry. My stomach hurt from the pain of listening to her cry.
Finally, the doctor determined that she had colic, and I spent many hours trying to find ways to relieve her pain. This was back in ’79BI (before the Internet), so I read books, I talked to other mothers, and I talked to the pharmacist. The pharmacist suggested I put her on formula, that maybe my milk was bad because while I was in the hospital I had gotten an infection. I had been in isolation from my baby and everyone else, but I kept my breast milk by pumping, even though she couldn’t have it while I had the infection. So I stopped nursing and tried various formulas instead. She was sensitive to most of them, but I finally found one that worked.
When she was better and I could finally take a breath and get some sleep, I remember thinking how much easier it would have been if she had been born with an instruction manual attached to the cord.
When my second child was born, I was less afraid about having the C-section, but I didn’t want to have another year of pain. I remembered what the nurse suggested after my first surgery, so this time I decided to move.
As I lay in bed, I reached over to the left guard rail with my right hand and pulled myself over onto my left side. It hurt really bad, but I was determined to keep doing it. I rested on my back for a moment, and then used my left hand and the right guard rail to pull myself onto my right side. I did this all night, back and forth from one side to the other, until I fell asleep, exhausted.
When I woke up I had to go to the bathroom. Memories of my first C-section flooded me with fear because I remembered I couldn’t get out of bed without holding my stomach and couldn’t even stand up straight.
Gritting my teeth, I sat up to get out of bed, expecting it to hurt…except that it didn’t Other than the incision being a bit sore, the pain was completely gone! I stood up straight and walked to the bathroom, needing no assistance. Apparently the nurse was right. I probably would have taken her advice the first time if she had explained that moving would help ease the pain, not make it worse like I had anticipated.
Going home pain free helped to make caring for my second child easier than my first.
She didn’t get colic so I wasn’t frantic and exhausted. I started being able to recognize her needs by her cries. I was becoming that mother.
By the time I had my third child, I had it down pat. I had worked through the pain of the surgery again, and I could tell by his cries if he was hungry or tired or just needed to be held. I had finally become that mother.
We may not be born with instruction manuals, but there is one just the same.
Life’s instruction manual is…Life.
It comes to us through our experiences, the experiences of those who physically cross our paths, and through the music and literature inspired by the experiences of people we will never meet face to face. Just remember that reading an instruction manual doesn’t do any good unless you actually apply the instructions.
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My name is Laura Mozer Davis, and I was born over half a century ago. My life’s journey has included raising three children as a single parent while caring for my parents who both became disabled during the last 10 years of their lives. Now that my children are grown and my parents have passed into the next part of their journey, I finally have time for me to grow as a person, not as just a care-giver. What I am learning, however, is that my destiny is to always be a care-giver. When I started writing for The Daily Sisterhood blog, I realized that I was to continue my care-giving through my writing. If my words help even just one person find either solace or joy, I know my life continues to have meaning.