A day of reconciliation about my staggered entry into motherhood

Today, South Africa marks its Day of Reconciliation. It’s all about reconciling differences and working towards national unity. However, for me, I’ve been more consumed with trying to reconcile different aspects of myself, of what I’ve gone through, and of what this all means for the future. I knew that parenthood would mean that nothing goes according to plan, but it feels like something more than that at the moment.

Thus far, being a good mother has meant different things than I thought it would. At this point, I should still be pregnant, with being a good mom pretty much meaning that I would be taking care of myself, maybe playing music for Harley or talking to her, and getting all my things in order to prepare for her arrival – stuff like buying a cot and a car seat and all the rest. Instead, she is already out of my body but not in my home, and my role as her mother is a bit different than I’d planned.

I have been pumping a ton of breast milk. That part is going well and I’ll go into that journey in more detail soon. At least by creating and pumping her food, I feel like I am doing something active to help sustain her life. She is already exclusively breast fed, even though she hasn’t yet been able to suck on my boob, and it makes me happy and proud to see her fed my milk ever day, even if it is poured through a tube down her nose.

Also, even though I can’t drive yet post-surgery, I have been to see her every day. Mostly, I have Kelly, my amazingly thoughtful and generous sister-in-law to thank – she has been driving me to the hospital in the mornings and waiting for me to finish my visits with Harley each day to take me home again. It has made a world of difference for me, particularly because of the timing of the NICU and what I’m allowed to do. You see, they feed the infants every three hours, around the clock. For an hour after feeding, no one is allowed to touch the little ones – they are meant to just relax and digest. What with the feeding timings, rest time and other open and closing times, my best bet is to be with Harley at 11 am because that’s when I get my favorite thing – Kangaroo Care Time.

Kangaroo time is when the nurses help me get Harley comfortable against my chest. That’s right, we get some skin to skin cuddle time that is oh so important for bonding, keeping her warm, and even helping her gain weight. Nothing feels better than cuddling with my tiny kangaroo princess, holding her close and reading her the Odyssey. It is such a wonderful part of my day, one I build my schedule (and wardrobe choices) around.

But, that’s pretty much all I get to do. I can pump milk, I can visit her in NICU and get all the updates and ask all the questions about how she’s doing and what kind of care she’s receiving, and I can hold her. And then, I go home and nap because that’s usually enough to take it out of me for the day. I’m still not really feeling like myself, although I’m doing a whole lot better than I was.

I miss my little princess Harley, and I want her to come home as soon as possible. At the same time, I am sort of grateful that she’s in the NICU. Not only do I know she’s getting incredible care and attention there, I’m so grateful for this time to sleep, heal and prepare myself more for motherhood, especially seeing as I missed out on the last two months of being pregnant. I wish I could steal my little baby – just kangaroo with her out of the NICU. But at the same time, I know she really needs the care that she’s receiving there, just as I really need the time I’m getting to take care of myself.

Neither of us are ready for her to be home and for our family to be together, as much as that’s what I want so much. It’s a hard fact to reconcile, and one that makes me feel incredibly guilty, especially when I wake up after a solid 7-8 hours of sleep that no new mother could ever expect to get. And yet, I’m doing everything I can to look after Harley and be a good mom to her, including accepting that she and I are both where we need to be. In a way, I look forward to the sleep deprivation that is to come, and I also know that I really need my rest at the moment so that my body is healed and ready when she comes home.


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