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One day before my first Mother’s Day
I want to be extremely candid about my experience, because I believe that sharing our authentic, unfiltered experiences opens the doors for conversations with others who may have walked the same path or may in the future.
Aug 3 2023 changed my life forever, and not in the way you’d expect. A positive pregnancy test, when I fully expected and hoped for a negative, brought a flood of emotions. Most of my life I’ve longed for a relationship, and in Russell I’ve found more than I ever hoped for. Our life together has filled me completely. I never dreamt of being a mom, and while I thought maybe someday I would want that, I also have always felt in the present moment I knew I did not want, nor was I ready for children. Candid conversations over the years between us were open – I wasn’t sure I would ever want kids, even though Russell has always wanted them so deeply.
A positive test was unexpected and frankly devastating. The first three days after were filled with words like despair, grief and deep sorrow. I never thought if “it happened” I would be sad. I thought I would be a person who would find joy in the unexpected and feel an immediate love. I felt anything but that.
I wish so hard I could have given that moment off sharing the news to Russell in a way he deserved. Instead I was so overwhelmed I showed him the test and sobbed. Weeks and months of coming to terms with reality had me questioning myself and how to move forward in my life with this.
How could I accept this change when I was so content with my life? Would I be able to love this baby? Would I be ok living a life I did not want for myself? How would Russell and I’s relationship work? How would I still feel like myself? Was this fair to a tiny human to have a mom who did not want parenthood?
As we wrestled for weeks and months over this (Russell giving me an open space to process while supporting my feelings, despite his desire for kids), each day felt just as complex as the last. Doctor visits led to ultrasounds where it looked like we might miscarry. In truth, I was relieved. A miscarriage would explain why I didn’t feel connected to this pregnancy. It made sense that this would be something to learn and grow from and I could return to my old life. The final ultrasound to confirm miscarriage turned into a confirmation of a heartbeat, and an explanation of the pregnancy and due date being off by 2 weeks. There was a healthy baby.
I had a choice: to move forward despite my feelings and hope my heart would change in the process or to stay where I was emotionally, maybe forever. The emptiness I felt from the situation was only filled by the unconditional love Russell has for me and the foundational relationship we have built. I know despair, emptiness and sorrow are not small words, and I don’t use them lightly.
At the end of the day, I had to decide how I was going to move forward. No one could help me, and I hoped the weeks would bring me clarity and a building desire. Nothing ever came. As much as most of my life I have a feeling, a gut response, or spiritual guidance in how to move forward, this time there was nothing. The only thing I clung to was “maybe what God wants for me is better than what I want for myself.”
I wanted to go back to the life I had been given and been thankful for everyday. A career I was thriving in, traveling, sports, a body I was proud of, and a marriage better than words could ever say. A life I never took for granted and was wholly content in.
The life that now faced me seemed full of hard things like “you’ll never sleep again”, loss of freedom, a life ruled by a baby instead of myself, my body forever changed. Yet at the root of it all, none of those things were what deeply worried me. Doing something as monumental, selfless and important as raising a child when you never really wanted it couldn’t be good for me or my baby could it? I couldn’t stand the thought of living my life reluctantly for someone else,
and them having a parent who was there physically but maybe never fully emotionally.
How could I do this with that great fear in the back of my mind? With no joyful emotions to guide my heart? With no clarity or guarantee that I would ever feel differently? The singular thing that I leaned into was my faith, even though more complicated than years past, it was the only thing I could lean on. To be honest it didnt feel “good”. To hope that if I gave this to God with nothing else in me but that trust, that He would supply the rest. That He would not give me back the life I loved so much, but at least I might be ok. Maybe someday it would be better than ok, and even though it’s not what I wanted, He would know what’s best for me and give me better than what I wanted.
I can’t say that after I made the decision to give my pregnancy to God I felt good, lighter, happier, clarity or any other feeling. I sobbed over that choice and told Russell it might take me some time to come around to being excited, if ever.
Telling other people when we were ready was a mix of emotions. Everyone has been so excited and congratulated us, asked how excited we were. Our truth was too complicated for words, so our responses were simpler to say what people wanted to hear. Russell hiding his true joy in respect for the process I was going through, me trying to muster excitement through others reactions. Acting excited when I was still coming to terms with my feelings (and a small amount of actual excitement too). Not out of a desire to cover up the truth, but because the whole story would be too complicated to tell.
Finding out the gender of our baby girl was the first special moment we shared together that wasn’t clouded by sorrow. We both hoped for a girl, even though a boy would have been great too. We shared many tears and smiles that day. Maybe there was a spark of hope.
Telling our families, especially as the first on both sides to have a baby was also emotional. Seeing others joy helped me to feel a bit more excited. Our families had waited patiently hoping someday they might have a little one to spoil. Their support has been immensely important to us during this journey.
My physical pregnancy journey was easier than most. I truly believe the Lord blessed me with an easy pregnancy out of my trust in Him. Some days I was amazed at what my body was capable of doing – working, exercising, and more while creating a life. I never struggled with nausea, hormones, pain, swelling. Towards the end it got more taxing, but my height made carrying easier on me. I believe I was given an easy pregnancy out of my faithfulness.
I can’t say my fears and concerns about parenthood went away during pregnancy. I still worried I wouldn’t feel connected after she was born. Moments like finding out the gender, giving her a name, and feeling her kick the first time at the movies helped me build a bit of a connection, but I still felt that this baby was so foreign. I didn’t feel that I loved her in my womb, though I worried about her when health risks came up, and I felt happy when she would move around in my belly.
Even leading up to her birth, I still struggled. I spent many days crying about how much I didn’t want our relationship as the two of us to end. Everyone asked if I couldn’t wait for her to be born, but I never wanted that day to come. I wanted to be pregnant forever, to freeze time and keep my life how it was. Birth, postpartum, the infant years all scared me. I was never a “baby person”, and I always liked kids most when they were 5-10 years old more than babies and toddlers. What scared me most was losing my life and the responsibility of this new life I didn’t really know.
Heading out the door the be induced was hard. A spontaneous labor would have been easier for me to process emotionally than a scheduled induction, and the certainty and anticipation that comes with it. Despite my tears, fears, and feeling like I would never be ready, Russell and I shared some incredibly sweet moments on the way to the hospital. Seeing his joy and excitement for meeting our daughter didn’t make me feel any less. I was happy for him that this moment that meant so much to him was finally happening.
I took each step of labor one part at a time. That’s a story for another time but I had a really positive birth experience overall. My favorite part of labor was when we got to the pushing process, there were 4 or 5 people all telling me to push this way, breathe like this, etc., but Russell’s voice was the anchor that kept me focused. Every word I clung to and could hear the excitement from him as we got closer to meeting her. His voice kept me grounded.
When Scottie was out and put on my chest, a dark haired little chunk, she looked like someone else’s baby, and yet felt like mine at the same time. When they took her to check her vitals, Russell and I shared a moment together that’s more than I could put into words. Meeting her the first time wasn’t this instant “the heavens opened up” moment everyone describes. It felt very ordinary in a sense, in the way that home feels both ordinary and extraordinary at the same time. Both comfortable, like it’s always there, yet nothing else quite describes that feeling completely.
What I can say about having a baby, is that my life is definitely not what it was before. Pregnancy, birth, postpartum, the newborn phase are all very different than how others described it to me. Maybe some of the experiences are the same, but the feelings are not for me. They have honestly been better.
I do still miss how easy life is without a baby. It’s easier to be selfish and do what you want when you want. I’ll always treasure and make time for moments of just Russell and I. But I also treasure moments the three of us, or just Scottie and I when she looks at me like I’m the only person in the world.
I don’t miss my old life as much as I thought I would. Part of that has been many conversations of the things I need as a mom to make sure I am still me, like sports, working out, time with my friends, my career. I also need time just Russell and I, like regular date nights, international trips just the two of us, and video games together while Scottie naps. Now I have a new space on my goals category for the year for family, like trips with all of us to the pool, or the traveling we want to do as a family and things we want to teach her.
In the past 3 weeks we’ve laughed so hard I peed my pants 3 times in a row, we’ve shed tears of joy and love, I’ve gotten to know my daughter more each day and how my love for her increases one small step at a time.
Parenthood has been easier that I thought. Partially thanks to a husband who is selfless, desired this so much that any task brings him joy, a strong foundation (and a 4 week paternity leave). A longer hospital stay was a blessing so we felt so prepared to come home and take care of her on our own. Scottie is also the cutest thing I’ve ever seen, which is such a mom thing to say, but I never expected to like her as much as I do already. To give myself a little credit I’m capable of much more that I remember, and middle of the night feedings aren’t as hard for me as I thought even though I love sleeping in.
My journey into motherhood has nothing to do with who Scottie is or how worthy is she is of being loved. It has everything to do with my heart over time changing and processing. Meeting her has opened my heart up, and already changed how I feel about being a mother. I hope she never questions our love for her, and knows that my feelings before meeting and knowing her are completely separate from what I feel for her now. I’m still new to being her mama, but being her mom has honestly been better than I imagined.
My heart hasn’t changed overnight. No one thing has drastically changed my desire for motherhood. Over time little moments have added up and brought me closer to living a new life that I’m content with. Having the faith to step into something the rest of me rejected was hard, and the Lord providing for us in countless ways, and Russell’s unconditional love are the only things that brought me here. I won’t feel overnight like this is a life I would choose over the life I loved before, but I think slowly over time it will become the life I would choose for myself.
If you ever struggle in your pregnancy with joy, clarity processing, past, present or future, please know I will always be a space for you. Pregnancy planned or unplanned, miscarriage, infertility, birth, parenting, faith any of it I’m an open book. Whether it’s sharing my experience more in depth or being an open space to process your feeling openly, no matter how ugly or complicated your feelings are I would be honored to be that space for you, no judgement. Feel free to email me Courtneyawinter@gmail.com
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