I knew in my heart I always wanted a family and to be a mother. I actually wanted to have a large family because I grew up as an only child with a single mom, so I spent a lot of time feeling lonely. I got married pretty young, by today’s standards. Considering I am still married to the same person, I sometimes wish we got married even sooner so I had even more time to explore. I was 25 when I got married and about a year later my husband and I bought our first home. Most of our friends enjoyed renting apartments in Manhattan or Hoboken with nothing to worry about but living in the moment. I, however, was a homeowner with real bills and plenty of grown-up responsibilities. But at that point, having a baby wasn’t a priority. I knew it would happen one day -- it just wasn’t on the immediate agenda. I had big fashion plans and dreams. I was a career-driven, ambitious woman. I thought I would work hard, establish myself, save a sizable amount and then commit to mommyhood. Ha, it makes me laugh now. Is it ever that easy?
About three years into my marriage I decided to entertain the thought of starting a family. Mostly because everyone was scaring me with comments like, “It may take a long time to get pregnant” or “You really shouldn’t test fate” or “You are married now, what are you waiting for?” Not to mention the whispers of “She probably can’t get pregnant.” It felt endless! In the fall of 2003, I decided I would throw caution to the wind and see what happened. I didn’t tell anyone my plan -- including my husband. Two weeks later, early on a Saturday morning while my husband enjoyed sleeping in, alone in my bathroom I was peeing on a stick from a home pregnancy kit I had bought the night before on my way home from work. As I sat reading the directions for the test, two lines appeared almost immediately. I’ll never forget the overwhelming feeling that took over my body when I realized that two lines meant pregnant. I began trembling and dropped to the floor because I was the only one who knew my plan and now I was (actually) going to have a baby. I started playing the last 2-3 weeks back in my head. Did I have too much alcohol to drink? Did I eat something or do anything damaging that could compromise this little fetus? I felt hot flashes as I was experiencing so many emotions: excitement, fear, anxiety.
I made a conscious decision that I wasn’t going to read any books about pregnancy, especially not “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.” I was just going to go with the flow, listen to the doctors and stay away from Google. I continued working hard at my high fashion job and in my downtime I spent a lot of time eating everything I deprived myself of for years: McDonalds, pizza, chips, BREAD, pasta and my ultimate favorite, chunky monkey ice cream -- about a pint a night. I managed to balloon well into the 200’s right before the birth of my daughter. I was so enormous that my then-boss actually asked me to work from home for fear I would go into labor in the office. I hated going into work because I was pretty convinced that the floor shook with each step I took. My feet were so swollen all I could wear were flip flops. I could hardly bear the sight of myself. I wore baggy shirts and maternity pants that came right under my bra line. My boobs were beyond anything I ever dreamed they could grow to. In my desperate attempts at trying to look somewhat presentable, I bought several massive pashminas and just draped them over me to help hide my size. As luck would have it, there was another woman in my department that was pregnant and due about two weeks before I was. She was picture-perfect pregnant. While I gained 10 to 12 pounds between every monthly doctor’s visit, she had only gained 12 pounds total at seven months pregnant and still managed to fit into Gucci clothes with minor tweaking.
At my 20-week visit, I found out I was having a girl. Right before this appointment, I was certain I was going to have a boy. Being that I didn’t love being pregnant, my new master plan was, have a son and be done. My husband would have a little athlete and I would go back to my career and dieting! I love my husband with all of my heart and knew that he had dreams of having a son one day. So once we found out I was having a girl, I immediately committed to the idea of going through pregnancy again. In preparation for having my daughter, I did what some of my trusted friends advised -- I got my hair blown out and my nails done, bought some nice PJ’s for my hospital stay and I tried to look as cute as possible to go and have my baby.
I needed to have a cesarean because my baby was breech. And the morning of, I was terrified. Suddenly, looking cute was far from my thoughts and trying to escape the hospital was all I could think about. The doctors and nurses told me to try and remain calm and soon I would have a beautiful baby. I was far too scared to think of that beautiful baby, though. I cried from the moment I got to the hospital, through the IV, and I even tried to buy time before walking into the operating room by saying I had to go to the bathroom. I thought about how I could escape with an IV in my arm. I went into the OR and as soon as I saw the bed, I cried harder because I thought I was too big to climb into it. I cried that ugly cry when the anesthesiologist came in to tell me, ”First you will feel a bee sting, then I will do the spinal and the baby will be out in 15 minutes.” I cried louder saying, “I do not like beeeeeeeeees!” I couldn’t escape -- I was trapped in this freezing cold room where I was going to get bee stings. Within minutes, they were laying me down and the room filled with more hospital staff. The curtain was going up in front of me and I could hear the medical instruments they were about to use. It was July 6th and my OBGYN was talking to the team about the amazing ribs her father barbecued on the 4th of July. I shouted, “Are you all paying attention to me???!!” My husband walked in wearing scrubs and sat near my head wiping my tears. I kept repeating in a loud cry, “I don’t want to feel anything!!!” Until finally my doctor said, “What if I tell you we already started?” I still cried but now I was a bit more curious. I could feel my body rocking and the doctor warned I might feel tugging, which I did, but I then managed to keep my cries to a small whimper. Suddenly, what seemed out of nowhere a loud scream came out which made me cry more. The doctor held my baby high above the curtain and said, “Here she is!”
She was screaming and crying so loudly, as if to say, “HERE I AM, MOMMY!” All I could do was cry too. My husband took as many pictures as he could while the baby cried and cried. The next thing I knew, a nurse handed me the baby swaddled super tight. Not too long after, the whole family both my husband's side and mine, were in my hospital room passing around my baby. I wish this part of the story was about how excited I was, but I was more focused on the morphine drip handle they gave me to press every 5 minutes for a release if I felt pain. In trying to beat the pain, I just continuously pressed the button. Soon, a nurse came in and asked if I wanted to breastfeed. With my room full with visitors while trying to avoid the pain and regain sensation in my legs, I just looked at her and said, “I don’t know. Is she hungry?” The nurse took the baby from whoever was holding her like she was a football and pulled the curtain around so no one could see. She completely removed the top of my hospital gown (no modesty here) and my breasts were massive. I thought for sure this little thing would never be able to fit these watermelons in her tiny mouth. But with aggressive force, the nurse made sure she did. It was like an out of body experience. At once, this little baby sucked with such conviction. I was truly amazed how we were latched together as one. And I already thought my baby was so smart, since she knew exactly what to do.
The next morning after a rough night I woke up at 5 a.m. I called for the nurse and asked if I could get out of bed. The response was no, not until they removed the catheter the following day. I then asked if they would bring me my baby, to which they responded that they bring the babies to the mommies at 7 a.m. I asked for an exception because the day before I was so afraid and overwhelmed and focused on the morphine drip and why my stomach still looked like there was another baby in it that I couldn’t see who she looked like. They brought her to me tightly wrapped, sleeping peacefully. I didn’t think she looked like anyone except a squished baby. I wanted to look at her in full and absorb every part. She had such little toes and fingers with tiny little nails, skinny legs and arms. She didn’t like being unwrapped and started making sounds. Everything on her was so tiny and dainty. I was feeling things I had never felt before -- a love that didn’t compare to anything I had ever experienced.
Your friends and family and books (so I hear) tell you so much when you’re expecting. But they don’t tell you that having a baby is like extracting your heart from your body and putting limbs on it. My life has never ever resembled the life I led 17 years ago. Starting that day, I leapt out of bed at every sound she made to make sure she was safe, peaceful and comfortable. I’m not sure if anyone will tell you when you do have a baby, you also sign up for a lifetime of endless worry. You worry about EVERYTHING -- their well-being, health, happiness, wisdom, development, knowledge, influences, behavior, appearance, pain physical, emotional and so much more. But with that worry also comes incredible joy. Suddenly their happiness becomes your happiness. When they laugh, you laugh. When they are excited, you are excited. When they win, you win.
Even though I didn’t love the experience of being pregnant and the thought of having more C-sections still makes me feel sick, I knew I needed to have more babies. I wanted my daughter to have siblings as her constant playmates and confidants. I never wanted her to feel lonely or isolated. I wanted her to always know she is loved, and the greatest gift I could give her was more of her. I went on to have two more children. Each pregnancy is a story of its own and each baby individual miracles. Without a doubt, I could never accurately put into words the love I have experienced by becoming a mother. I have the most unconditional love for my three cherubs that nothing they ever do could change that. The three of them have made me feel powerful and proud, triumphant and capable of more than I thought possible. Most of all, they have made me feel complete by creating the family I was once thought was a distant dream.
Always, Dream BIG! Dreams do come true...