Pretty early on in my pregnancy, my husband and I came to the decision that barring any divine intervention, this baby would be our only. He and I are both on the older side (I was 35 and he was 43 when our son was born) and we have two older kids from his first marriage. But having a baby together was something we knew we wanted to complete our family. And before we got pregnant, the option of having two was still in play. But it was hard for me to get pregnant and once I did, pregnancy and I did not get along so we quickly knew that this baby would be our only. And with that came a flood of emotions with having a first and last baby at the same time.
I really wanted a “natural” delivery with no interventions. I ended up getting induced, requesting an epidural due to my water breaking immediately and the contractions becoming overwhelming, pushing for five hours and then having a c-section because our son decided he wanted to stay put. And then I had to handle all of the emotions that came with knowing I wouldn’t get a second chance to do it the way I wanted. It was hard for me to let go of my birth experience being traumatic because I knew this would be my only birth experience.
My son ended up in the NICU for a week, and we didn’t get to have those first few days together. I didn’t hold him until he was 18 hours old. My first night at home after being in the hospital was without him. I came home on a Monday and he didn’t arrive home until Friday evening.
I started pumping almost immediately. I have friends who talk about their hospital experiences and first few days at home and I feel pangs of jealously wishing we had a more peaceful journey since there would be no future babies. My husband’s entire paternity leave (all of a week’s vacation) was spent in the NICU. We never got to be all three home together before he had to go back to work.
Fortunately, breastfeeding came pretty naturally to both of us. I had an ample supply, and my little man liked to eat. And then I went back to work. At first, pumping was easy and my supply held up. But it was taxing and made me dread working some days because it hurt my back. I was tired of cleaning pump parts. My employer was incredibly flexible and let me pump as often and as I needed; if that hadn’t been the case, I doubt I could have continued on as long as I did. But then I got the stomach bug not just once, but three times during the first right months of his life. And that last time just wrecked me. I could barely pump an ounce those first few days back at work.
Had I known I would have this chance again, I might have switched to formula sooner knowing that I wasn’t quitting breastfeeding for good. But the emotions of knowing this would be my only experience (and that the actual breastfeeding part was something we both enjoyed), I had a really hard time letting go. We made it 10 months before I ended up switching him to formula full time. And I cried. But it also made both of us happier.
Currently I’m trying to savor all the experiences. The first and the lasts at the same time. It’s bittersweet and amazing all at the same time. I love watching him grow and change and become a little person. Knowing that this is the last time I will ever experience all these firsts makes me stop and try to savor them a little more. I’m really trying to just take it in and not rush time by. My emotions sometimes get the best of me and I try to just look at the blessing I have in front of me instead of crying over what is changing out of my control.
I’d love to find a little tribe of similar “first and last” moms out there . . . anyone else have these feelings and experiences? How do you handle all the conflicting emotions?