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Learning A New Kind of Love


by Meg Keene, Editor-In-Chief

Learning A New Kind of Love | A Practical Wedding

Two hours after our baby was born, he stopped breathing. Or his breathing slowed dangerously. On that point we may never be sure, as the information seems to have been lost in the whirlwind of emergency alarms that followed. My own recollection of it is blurred by morphine, along with the residual cocktail of drugs from my c-section. Blessedly blurred, according to the attending nurse, who does not have the luxury of reliving that moment through a medicated haze. I’m leaving out further details because David and I have decided to retire the story beyond the broadest of strokes. Suffice to say, after some oxygen and observation in NICU, it turned out that he was fine. Staggeringly healthy even.

But in that moment, I totally and definitively became his mother.

During my pregnancy, longtime APW contributor Morgan suggested I read Love Works Like This by Lauren Slater. It chronicles pregnancy while coping with severe partum depression (something perhaps I’ll write about one day), and it saved my sanity in the worst of the second trimester. My pregnancy started looking up in the end days, and I even had a birth I would describe as wonderful (emergency c-section included). And from the second they pulled the baby out (excepting a few hours around the emergency) the sun truly came out. I was not pregnant, my hormones were singing again, and I had a baby. An exceptional baby. A baby way beyond our expectations and dreams.

The way I would explain it all is this: In Love Works Like This, Slater makes a list of the pros and cons of having a child. The cons: many. The single pro: “learning a new kind of love.” And that is the place David found me the morning after I gave birth. I was still unable to walk after surgery, but I was frantic to get out of bed and get down to the NICU and see my baby, afraid he’d forgotten me. And when the NICU nurses found me sobbing in my wheelchair over his tiny little bassinet, they frantically told me to “pick him up for goodness sake!” and the moment I did, this teeny tiny new person opened his eyes and sighed with the most profound kind of relief. “He didn’t forget me!” I sniffled. “Of course not,” the nurse said, “you two are the only people he knows.” It turns out there is nothing like having your heartbeat meet a tiny new person’s heartbeat, and to have that somehow make everything okay.

The one thing I can generalize about motherhood is that I can’t generalize it. Every parenthood journey is different. Every road has its desperate lows, and its profound highs. Some of our journeys run through pregnancy, some of ours don’t, but regardless, no two are the same. For me, pregnancy was something I’d looked forward to most of my life. I’d spent years thinking about how wonderful it would be, how cute I would look, and how exciting the beginning of motherhood would feel. It turned out for me that my journey did indeed run through pregnancy, but thanks to my particular hormonal makeup, it was awful. People told me that having a baby would “make it all worth it,” like somehow the slate could be wiped clean, and that wasn’t true. If your journey is particularly painful, the joy does not erase the pain. Joy and pain are different things, and they can each exist without diminishing the other. But for me, it turned out there was some semblance of balance. The lows of the journey made the hard parts the post-partum healing and newborn period infinitely more manageable, if only because my point of comparison had set the bar so low. This freed me up to savor all of the great parts.

And I loved the newborn period—the haze of sleeplessness and the baby screaming in my face at one a.m. while I cried, and all. Because I still woke up (every two hours) and saw a tiny little bundle, our tiny little bundle in the bassinet, and would wake David up saying, “We get to keep him! We get to keep him! We get to be his parents forever!” The intensity of meeting a brand-new person was overwhelming to me, in the best of ways. At three in the morning I would rock him a little longer than I needed to, knowing that he’d never be that small again (I may do that for a long time).

None of this is to say that motherhood makes you a new person (I’m shocked how exactly the same I still am), or that motherhood gives you some superhero power that no non-parent will ever understand (no). And I certainly don’t know all the kinds of love now (each of you knows kinds of love I’ll never even be able to imagine).

But instead, I simply mean, seven and a half weeks ago, I learned a new kind of love.

It was terrifying, but I would never go back.

Photo by Maddie, from Meg’s personal collection

Meg Keene

Meg is the Founder and EIC of APW. Her first book, A Practical Wedding: Creative Solutions for Planning a Beautiful, Affordable, and Meaningful Celebration, was published in January 2012, and has been a top three bestseller on the wedding bookshelf ever since. Meg has her BFA in Drama from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She lives in Oakland, CA with her husband and son. For more than you ever wanted to know about Meg, you can visit MegKeene.com.

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  • Manya

    Sigh. This is a beautiful piece. Glad you are choosing to write a bit about this part of your journey.

    • Kaitlyn

      I agree… I know you’re adamant that this isn’t going to morph into a parenting blog as you become a parent, but for those of us who have followed you along your journey (perhaps even looking to you as a cool older cousin, making each new leap a couple years ahead of us), it’s wonderful to catch up with how you are and what’s going on in your life.

      • Emily

        Manya and Kaitlyn have mostly said it already, so: thank you, again. I cried a little and laughed a little and picked up a new mantra, too. “Joy and pain are different things, and they can each exist without diminishing the other.”
        Wishing you and yours all the joy.

  • Bethany

    Wonderful. I feel similarly about our five month old twins.

  • Lauren

    This is beautiful. Thank you for sharing Meg, you brought tears and a smile to my face. Also, can I just say, that teeny tiny fist in the picture is too adorable!

  • http://unexpected-moments.blogspot.ca/ Sheryl

    Thank you for sharing this with us. You’ve started my morning by making my heart smile.

  • LIZ (SINCE 1982)

    “If your journey is particularly painful, the joy does not erase the pain. Joy and pain are different things, and they can each exist without diminishing the other.”

    Oof! Gut-punch! This is such a powerful reminder to keep in mind for any challenging life circumstance. Often I suspect that people who respond to difficult times with variations of “it will all be worth it” are just trying to help the best they know how by saying what they hope will be true for you, and in a sense can be true if you look at it sideways and squint – that is, if someone were to ask you if you’d do it all over again, I imagine you’d say yes. But “worth it” is such a weird phrase to sum up the messiness of life, as if it’s even possible to tally up every experience in columns of +1 / -1 and decide if you’ve succeeded according to whether the running total is over 0. And it seems to imply that you should be happy if your total is over 0, and sad if it’s under, when really there’s plenty of room for sorrow and joy (and pain, and fear, and gratitude, and humor, and the whole breadth of human experience) on both sides of that imaginary line.

    • Sarah E

      Wow. Well said.

    • rys

      “Joy and pain are different things, and they can each exist without diminishing the other.” This was the line that stuck out to me as well. It applies to, well, pretty much all of life. And it’s so critical to remember in one’s own life and when talking to others.

    • http://youlovelucy.tumblr.com youlovelucy

      This new pull quote is probably in my top five of ones from APW now. It also reminds me of a Doctor Who quote, because I am a nerd.

      “The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice-versa, the bad things don’t necessarily spoil the good things and make them unimportant.”

      • Kess

        I wondered if anyone would bring that up! I’m definitely planning on working that into our wedding somewhere because I love that quote.

        That’s definitely one of my favorite episodes, and not a horrible introduction to the series, so if you want to start watching Doctor Who, consider “Vincent and The Doctor”

        • LIZ (SINCE 1982)

          Bless both of you for tying in Dr. Who!

  • http://poppiesandicecream.blogspot.nl/ Amanda

    A new kind of love. Thanks for sharing this. I am glad you and your baby are doing well.
    It makes me wish this will happen to us soon.
    Hugs to you 3.

  • Hils

    I’ll just say I totally understand. Our son (born Dec. 31) decided to start “grunting” and deflate both his lungs five minutes after he was born. I held him for a minute… and then he was whisked away to the NICU.

    I am healing physically pretty well, but I’m still having to make peace with losing four days of holding him nonstop because of his time in the NICU. Yes, he’s now (mostly) healthy. Yes, he’s home with us. And yes, we love him. But oh how I wish I’d had those early hours and days back to be a proper family sooner. (And what is proper?)

    It’s all a battle of expectations. Labor, delivery, love, relationshops, parenthood. In some ways, this is all much easier than I expected. In others, it’s painfully, profoundly harder. (Oh, breastfeeding – WOE.)

    But yes, we get to keep him. I am slowly letting go of the terror that he’ll be taken from us again. And in the meantime, I keep catching hints of a smile… Can’t wait until he looks as happy to see us as we are to see him.

    • LM

      The fear of having your baby taken away… I know exactly what this means. I had a surprise pre-term delivery Christmas weekend, and my son was taken away after birth to the NICU. Nothing prepared me for that. Then the day after we were discharged, we went to the clinic for follow up and he was admitted immediately for jaundice, and we spent the night at the hospital. Two days later I got a phone call telling me I had to bring him back immediately for labs, and I think I will always remember sobbing to my husband, “We have to bring him back.” He was diagnosed with a rare, incurable genetic disorder, and we’ve had one automatic ER trip already. I think I will always live in fear of having him taken away by doctors.

      I never prepared for any of this.

      I hated being pregnant the entire third trimester, and then I had a seriously ill baby… I wonder if I had any business being pregnant at all. I know now that I will never be pregnant again. It hurts to hear about perfect pregnancies, perfect births, and perfect babies. Does anyone know of an intelligent forum somewhere for parents with sick or disabled kids?

      • http://www.piercedwonderings.com Lynn

        I have no advice for you, but my heart breaks for you. I hope that there is comfort and a sense of peace making its way to you. Blessings to you.

      • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com Morgan

        I know that Rob Rummel-Hudson of http://www.schuylersmonsterblog.com/ writes about his daughter, who has an incredibly rare genetic disorder, and also cross posts at http://supportforspecialneeds.com. It may be a place to start…

      • http://shellynn.wordpress.org Michelle

        LM,
        I’m sorry to hear about your baby’s health challenges. I work for a nonprofit, http://www.CaringBridge.org, where you can journal and chronicle his health journey to give you a therapeutic place to share and for others to stay updated. It isn’t necessarily a place to connect with other families in similar situations, but those connections often happen. Another resource might be Casey Cares (http://www.caseycaresfoundation.org). Most health support groups are based on a specific condition. I wish you lots of support!

        • LIZ (SINCE 1982)

          I second the rec for CaringBridge! It was a godsend for my family when my little half-brother was born with a hole in his heart. It kept us all updated about progress, setbacks, and let my dad and stepmom connect with other families going through the same thing. And, finally, it became a forum for my dad to write about his grief when his little boy passed away before his third birthday. We all continued to visit CaringBridge for at least a year afterward, and there are others my dad still checks in on to this day. Life would have been a lot harder and lonelier for my family without it.

      • KC

        I don’t know if this is helpful or not, but anyone who gets pregnant (or lives life) has very little idea what sort of outcome they’re going to have (I mean, yes, there are ways of *influencing* the outcome [like you can increase the likelihood of getting fired, in most jobs, by flinging rancid coffee in the face of an important client], but not of *determining* it). So the “I wonder if I had any business being pregnant at all.” – this outcome is not your fault, not your choice, and not something you could have definitely known would happen. We don’t have default, cheap, and faultless genetic testing for everything, and even if we did, that would not predict all of your experience.

        I suppose, all of that to say, be kind to yourself. If you would not blame a friend for something, don’t blame yourself, either? Squash any of those “if only”s you can.

        Hope all goes well for you.

      • meg

        Heart breaking for you. We had some of that, so the rest of it seems all the more painful and real to me. Wishing you strength and company on the journey. (And I do think perfection is a myth… what you see when you don’t know the whole story. That fixes nothing, but, yes. And I understand. That’s how I felt about other people’s happy seeming pregnancies.)

      • Ashley

        I’m Canadian so maybe this won’t be that helpful to you but the Bloom Blog, (http://bloom-parentingkidswithdisabilities.blogspot.com/) has some really great articles and also might put you in touch with other parent’s of children with disabilities. I work as a Recreation Therapist with kids with all kinds of disabilities and I just want to say, it’s possible to see perfection where no one else does. I don’t want to diminish the grief you’re experiencing right now and I know I can’t possibly feel what you feel. I just to say that there is hope and from my experience, I believe you’ll find a community that will empower you as a parent, rather than take your power away by making you feel your experience was less than.

        big HUGE hugs to you. xxoo

    • Sweetgb

      That feeling when your baby smiles at you – indescribable. Our 7 month old chuckles and waves both hands and both legs up and down when he sees me or his dad. My heart melts every time.

  • Shiri

    Meg, thank you so much for writing about this. I’m in tears at my desk – it was so beautiful.

    I’m somehow so relieved to hear about what your pregnancy was like in more detail and how you’re feeling now. I know it’s strange, but I don’t think I speak just for myself when I say that we readers really care about you, as little or as much as we know/don’t know you really. Thank you for sharing, and I’m so glad to hear of the joy, and the pain.

  • KB

    My heart stopped when I read that first line, so glad he ended up ok! And now after reading the whole post, I’m crying at the desk two mornings in a row, but today it’s happy tears! So happy for you guys and thank you so much for sharing the wisdom of this intimate experience.

  • Rose

    Meg, I’m interested to hear what you and David decided about the baby’s surname and how you came to that decision.

    I think for many of us, trying to figure how we will feel about our future children’s last names makes the ‘name change debate’ so much more complex. I’m so keen to see some examples of how these abstract questions end up playing out in practice after the wedding.

    • Caroline

      Yes please please please. Because in making the decision to both keep our names, there is a certain amount of putting the decision of names off. There is no choice that isn’t combining or choosing a name for the munchkins. (Although I have a friend whose parents did what we’re considering: give the boys his and the girls mine. Except, what if you only have one gender? And is that more confusing than having all the kids have the same name but not the same as mom? I love that my sister and I have the same last name (and the fact that I would be a little devastated if she changed hers was influential in deciding not to change mine). Then again, I don’t feel less like family because mom doesn’t.)

      • Jen

        My mom didn’t change her name when my parents got married, and I was given my dad’s name. When my dad died when I was in the 4th grade the fact that my mom and I didn’t have the same family name didn’t make us any less of a family (I have no siblings, so it was just the two of us). When I got married in September I too decided to keep my last name (one of the reasons being that I’m the last one in my line carrying my last name), but we still haven’t decided what we’re going to do when we have kids.

        I have a friend whose parents did exactly as you’re considering – she was given her mother’s name, and her two brothers were given their father’s name. They didn’t seem to have any issues with it, and everyone at school knew that they were siblings and didn’t seem to be bothered by the name difference. I guess for me, the one thing here that used to throw me for a loop is that if the daughter changes her name at marriage, or if when she has kids she decides to give the kids their father’s name, then the mother’s family name dies anyway.

        Maybe I’m a little too wrapped up in having my family name somehow carry on (although I’m not really sure where that comes from)…and I have a feeling that when we do have kids we might decide to give them my husband’s name (among other reasons it’s easier to spell and to pronounce, and our kids would have cousins and extended family with the same name…unlike my name)…but it’s still up in the air!!

        all that to say YES, it’s really helpful to hear about what others have decided and how they came to that decision :)

    • meg

      Ah, I could write about that. We’re not sharing the baby’s name with the world (because the little thing should be able to grow up and decide what he wants to make of that name), but I can definitely write about the decision we came to. I’ll put it this way: we know no one else who’s come to the same decision, and I’m thrilled.

      • A Single Sarah for certain values of single

        That last line makes me curious. Excited to hear about your decision.

        • Claire

          Me too!

  • http://emiliajanephotography.com Emilia

    Thank you for sharing this Meg! It helps future baby(ies?) seem less scary somehow.

  • http://ladybrettashley.wordpress.com lady brett

    i so thoroughly appreciate your honesty. i feel like there is very little of that in this subject – not maliciously, but because the cultural expectations are so high that people are afraid to feel what they feel, or certainly to talk about it. i appreciate that on all sides of this, it feels extraordinarily true, which is far more reassuring than the part about joy (though i am glad for you that the joy part is there).

    • meg

      I personally find writing on the subject terrifying.

      • KC

        I deeply, deeply appreciate it when you do the terrifying things. You always have the right not to, obviously (duh! just because something would be useful to other people does not mean you have to do it/share it/whatever it), but seriously. So helpful.

        (I say this as a chicken who does not do this sort of terrifying thing. But it’s inspiration – and maybe someday the value will outweigh the terror/consequences.)

      • Manya

        You know, Meg, I agree, because I feel like people really become unhinged around this topic. It’s scary enough making decisions about parenting. Putting those decisions out there seems to lead to some pretty incredible vitriol. Maybe some people have a great sense of inner conviction and ease in determining what is the “right” way for them, but I have found that parenting poses impossible conundrums, over and over, with increasingly serious consequences as they get older.

        I had a rather traumatic birth experience and start to breastfeeding, and I was always so annoyed when people said both during and after: “You’ll forget all of this and want to have another one. The joy will wipe away all the hardness.” Well. It’s been 7 years and I haven’t forgotten anything. And yes, the joy has been overwhelming at times. But overall the conundrums of parenting are mind-f*cking. And the “right” answers, at least for me, have always seemed too elusive to beat up other people about the choices they have made.

      • http://dylanandsarah.com Sarah T

        Thank you for writing despite the terror. I’m sure you write for yourself privately, but thank you for writing for all of us too, especially on these difficult topics.

      • http://www.foreveryoungadult.com Erin

        If I can tell you anything, I’d say it gets easier with time. I had an extremely bad (think homelessness and suicide watch) case of depression when I was pregnant with my (now 9 year old) daughter, to the point where I didn’t understand what was happening with my body or my mind. (And how I wish I’d had that book to read!) And I couldn’t, and didn’t, talk about it for years, because I’d internalized a lot of it and thought everything I was feeling and doing was rational (the hallmark of someone who is ’round the bend). It wasn’t until MUCH later – honestly, until I was sure I hadn’t somehow screwed up my child – that I could face it and talk about it openly.

        That said, it’s never going to be easy. We all want the narrative where pregnancy is wonderful and we glow and nothing goes wrong and we don’t become a victim to our own bodies, but that isn’t always the case for some of us. Actually, it’s probably not the case for most of us. It isn’t until we all start talking that we’ll be able to change the narrative . . . which you know better than anyone.

  • http://www.ruthvincent.com Ruth

    Thank you so much for sharing this story – the courage and vulnerability of posts like this are why I read this blog and recommend it to all my friends. I think it is so vitaly important on a wedding blog to hear stories like this – I know, personaly, my biggest fear about getting married is the looming unknown of my partner and I being parents someday. Stories like this give me courage and hope, that someday we can do this too, and we don’t have to become superhumans. So thank you! I hope, if you and your husband feel comfortable, you’ll continue to share stories of the journey of parenting, because they are a real inspiration for those of us just beginning our journeys.

  • anonymous

    As someone who has always been on the fence about whether or not to have children, this perspective helps.

    The cons of having children have always been so obvious to me, and while I know that children can be adorable and fun, I’ve spent enough time around enough kids throwing tantrums, etc., that I sometimes wonder what it is that parents get out of the experience. I have a complicated, difficult relationship with my own parents that’s only gotten worse as I’ve gotten older. I’ve never craved a child or really pictured myself with one. And yet I wonder if I would be missing something if I don’t ever take that plunge.

    I’m sure like everything, it’s a trade off. We lose and gain in all kinds of ways and there’s no right answer for everyone. But I’ll be intrigued to hear what you’re willing to share. Thanks.

  • http://embracerelease.com Aly Windsor

    It was hard for me to articulate how motherhood changed my life for the better without somehow sounding like my pre-parenthood life was inferior, or erasing how HARD motherhood was/is at least for me. But “I learned a new kind of love” goes a long way toward that goal. Thanks.

    • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com Morgan

      YES.

  • http://ahobbitatheart.blogspot.com/ rachel

    “It turns out there is nothing like having your heartbeat meet a tiny new person’s heartbeat, and to have that somehow make everything okay.”

    THIS SO MUCH.

    I was very hesitant about becoming a parent, whether I would be a good parent, etc etc. And then I found out that thanks to some crummy health issues, I actually had a very small window of fertility. I became a mom at the tender (at least it felt that way to me) age of 24. It was a rough pregnancy, a rough time of post-partum depression, but man, there is nothing like looking at my little goober and just knowing that I love him and he loves me. When he is tired or hungry or sick, he wants me. He trusts me, despite those tear-filled dark days, and still wants me to be his mom. Now he is big enough to throw his little arms around me and give me slobbery toddler kisses, and there isn’t a more precious thing in this world.

    Oh tears everywhere. Such a beautiful piece, Meg, that we are all grateful to you for sharing.

  • Genevieve

    The timing for this is perfect — my sister gave birth to her second son last night. Thanks Meg, and best wishes for this part of your journey!

  • kyley

    Sobbing. at. my. desk.

    I’ve long been somewhat ambivalent about having children, perhaps because I am very aware that childhood can be painful and being a mother will not be easy. The honesty in this piece, more than anything I have ever read, spoke to the part of me that is very excited to, someday, be a parent. Thank you, with all my heart, for sharing.

  • Anon

    I had a difficult pregnancy, and now someone close to me is going through an entirely different difficult pregnancy. It helps so much to read this and see that the arcs may be different but the essential stuff is the same. Thank you!!

  • Daynya

    I just want to repeat what’s already been said here. Thank you for sharing your experience. I spent a long time on the fence about whether or not to pursue motherhood. I love kids, I just wasn’t sure it was right for me and my marriage. My husband is still on the fence. But, I am figuring out what I want, and this, THIS is what I want. Well, not THIS exact experience, that would be weird, but this perspective, this richness. So thank you. For the honesty, and not just either sugar coating it to make it seem like it’s been nothing but rainbows and butterflies, but also, not demonizing the whole thing into nothing but misery and poop. I’m so glad your little family is blossoming, and I really appreciate you sharing all of this.

  • http://mamarunsmiles.com Anna

    This is beautifully written and resonates deeply. I still spend a few extra minutes cuddling my 20-month-old daughter in the middle of the night after she’s done nursing.

    • http://www.twitter.com/babyinabar Shotgun Shirley

      Me too. :)

  • chelsea

    I’ve been thinking about you and David a lot lately — a few friends brought new wee ones into the world around the same time your peanut joined your family. And I’ve been really happy to see, via Twitter and Instagram, that you seem to be enjoying motherhood so much. I loved reading this post and knowing that you all seem deliriously happy!

  • Ashlie

    What a beautiful piece. I like to think I understand what you mean about appreciating the infant stage, even the sleepless nights, so much more because of the unusually deep pain you experienced leading up to that. My husband and I are navigating infertility, and when we do finally have a baby, whether that journey runs through pregnancy or not, what gets me through this extremely painful time is thinking of how sweet it will be once we have the baby in arms. I think the sorrow we have now will just enhance the joy. Bless you and your new family!

  • SarahT

    I love that phrase. I just put my 19-year-old on a plane back to college and it is another step in that new kind of love, where it feels like my whole job is to train her to leave. When she was a baby I savored those 3 am times, when the whole house was asleep except us. Now I get to relive them from the other side, when she comes in from being out with her friends, excited and wanting to talk. Now I’m the one who can’t keep my eyes open, and she’s the one that kisses me goodnight, making sure the door is locked and the lights are off as she goes up to bed. A sweet reversal.

  • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com Morgan

    As I’ve said before, it took me months to feel any kind of love towards my baby. But now? Man, I love that child in such an uncomplicated, joyful way.

    I’m glad the book recommendation resonated so well for you!

    • http://www.foreveryoungadult.com Erin

      I hit exactly so many times I accidentally reported this comment.

  • KateM

    Pregnant with our first baby. Read this at work and crying at my desk again…I definitely have been wondering how you were doing ad am really happy to read this piece. I have always known I wanted kids, but never was excited about the pregnancy part and am even less so now, although I have had a fairly easy time of it. But it is so hard when people are constantly excitedly asking you if you are excited. It is like being engaged all over again. It is impossible to maintain a level of excitement for 9 months, especially when you feel foreign to yourself.
    Thanks for writing this. I really needed to read it.

    • meg

      I was not excited, so that question was really painful for me. But it turned out that had zero impact on motherhood, so suck it, societal pressures!

    • Kat

      “It is impossible to maintain a feeling of excitement for 9 months…”

      This part of your comment really resonated me, so thank you for posting it! I’m engaged right now, and honestly, the excitement has really started to wear off. People keep asking how the wedding planning is going and I honestly want to say, “I just want to be married already!” (even though I STILL have a ton of things on my to-do list to get done!). I’m sure I’ll feel similarly when pregnant…but it’s great to know that despite that, I can still have an awesome marriage/parenting experience, even if I don’t feel a “normal” level of excitement.

  • http://buffalowrites.com Laura

    This is the only thing I’ve ever read that seemed (to me) a valid “pro” for having kids.

    Absolutely beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

  • http://www.twitter.com/babyinabar Shotgun Shirley

    “Joy and pain are different things, and they can each exist without diminishing the other. ”

    That was beautiful Meg. After a really hard evening with H (followed by actual sleep, so yay), this hits home… We’re actually in a really tough last few months. She keeps getting sick, we keep having to miss work and stay home with a cranky, sniffling, Cough-Cough (new nickname – plus?), and then she got some stomach bug.

    The other weekend I ended up changing H on the floor of the “family” bathroom at church (“family” yet no changing table?!?)… after having my husband run over to rescue me with the diaper bag I usually never bring anymore since (1) the church is 2 blocks away and (2) the Mass takes an hour and (3) H has already pooped by then. Well, after removing every(!) article of clothing she was wearing (and not with her full cooperation, either), using all the wipes I had, bagging up the mess, dabbing at the mess on my own pants… I still looked at her and had the thought that “I love spending time with this child.” Then I packed up and returned to my by-then-much-calmer husband and shared how crazy I have become. Crazy in love with this little creature who hugs and hits, and loves us so much. That love doesn’t make the poops “worth it” but it does definitely make it more balanced.

  • http://www.karaschultz.com Kara S

    Oh Meg. I’ve been there. So have been there. It’s terrifying to have your baby in the NICU and you feel so helpless. When Aiden was born he ended up having a fever so we had to stay for 48 hours with him in the NICU. I sobbed for hours. I sobbed when I got home. I still feel like I failed him somehow and that’s a horrible feeling and I may just be starting to get over it over a year later. There is so much that they say is normal and how it should be but in reality it’s all wonderful but definitely not the same for everyone. Giant hugs.

  • http://www.theplannery.com Katie

    “Every parenthood journey is different. Every road has its desperate lows, and its profound highs. Some of our journeys run through pregnancy, some of ours don’t, but regardless, no two are the same.”

    Really appreciate the shout-out to people who may not arrive at parenthood via pregnancy. I think remembering that everyone’s journey is different is so important – didn’t expect anything less from APW, but happy to read this nonetheless. Thank you for sharing your wise words and your experience. So very happy for you!

  • CC

    Thank you for this post. I am pregnant and having a really rough time so far. It is a bit of a shock to have this experience you’ve yearned for since you were 18 pick you up, throw you around, and plop you down unceremoniously in some place you would never have imagined yourself being in, feeling and thinking things you never thought you would.

    I really wish people would stop telling me that once this baby arrives “it will all be worth it”. Maybe it will. But right now, it SUCKS, and I have never felt so utterly alone and less like myself. I don’t know what the rest of my pregnancy journey is going to look like, but it helps so much to read about others journeys, no matter how different, because it reminds me that there is no “right way” to be pregnant.

    But most importantly, this post makes me excited to experience this new kind of love, however that is going to feel for me.

    • meg

      Yeah. It just feels profoundly lonely when people tell you “it will all be worth it,” mostly because they are dismissing, or not really listening to, just how hard it is in that particular moment.

      • Amy

        Yup. Pregnancy sucked for me. I had hyper-emesis gravidum and an emergency c-section which required me to endure general anesthesia. Do I love my baby? Yes, totally, but that doesn’t erase the very difficult and possibly life-threatening journey that got him here.
        Which is also why the ‘so when are you going to have another’ questions infuriate me. Um, maybe when my doctors can tell me if having another may or may not require abdominal surgery with major risks, thanks for asking!

      • KC

        Obviously, this situation is not like being a teenager, but… do you remember when, as a teenager, people told you with their “wealth of experience” that whatever you were super-upset about (embarrassment in front of crush; discovering a friend had gossiped about you; realizing you had gone out with mismatching socks; whatever) would be completely unimportant in the long run? (I assume I was not the only one here!)

        There are lots of things that are often going to eventually be mostly true or technically true and that are *still totally unhelpful and dismissive to hear at the time*. I wish those statement-options were greyed out or something when they’re not appropriate or helpful; sometimes it *is* good to remember that something will not last forever, or that it will be worth it even though it sucks now. Sometimes it’s worth far more when people just agree that it sucks now and hold off on the rainbows-and-sunshine.

        • ItsyBitsy

          Oh, YES to the teenager reference.

          I remember my aunt once telling me a story when I was a teenager (and complaining about this very phenomenon) about two men in the same hospital room. One of them keeps moaning and crying out because he’s been shot in the foot and the pain is becoming unbearable.

          The man next to him says, “Oh stop moaning, already! At least you have a foot; mine was amputated last week!”

          And the first man says back, “Yeah? Well mine still f*cking hurts!

          Anyway, it always made me laugh because that aunt totally *got* it: Someone else’s different experience, or even how things will look to you later on, doesn’t change what the validity of you’re going through in that moment.

    • http://www.foreveryoungadult.com Erin

      Honestly? It’s not worth it, not like how it sounds. As Meg says, joy does not cancel out sorrow. I love my daughter and she is a bright spot in my world, but if someone asked me to do it all over again, I’d punch them in the throat. Being pregnant was the worst time in my life. Having a wonderful child doesn’t negate that.

  • http://koruwedding.blogspot.com Koru Kate {Koru Wedding}

    Oh, just beautiful. Best wishes on your parenthood journey~

  • Sarah T

    Thank you, for sharing Meg. As I begin my own pregnancy period and am mostly experiencing the horrible parts (extreme fear, substantial nausea, general depression and anxiety), I need to hear stories about how some joy creeps in. I’m also ordering that book right now.

    • meg

      Hugs and get good care!! Doctors are versed in post-partum depression and anxiety, but it turns out partum depression and anxiety are equally common, and rarely diagnosed and treated. Sometimes you can power through (though no one should ever have to). Mine was so bad that I couldn’t, so I figured out that the treatment is out there, and GOOD. And then I was terrifically sad that so few people were getting the care they needed.

  • http://babypicturethis.co.uk Laura

    This is beautiful Meg. The joy/pain quote will stay with me for a long time.

    When I was pregnant I really suffered (emotionally and with sickness) but was so lost, I didn’t confide in anyone and felt odd for not enjoying what is commonly thought of as a wonderful time. I think it’s actually only now, almost 4 years later, that I can really see how hard it was. Reading this made me think “I’m not alone!”, so thank you.

    And the “He’s ours, we can keep him?!” feeling is still the BEST.

  • Jessica

    What a touching post. I’m so glad the baby is ok & that you are finding such joy in loving him. It is also so refreshing to hear the message about being the same even after having a baby.

  • http://www.mereader.wordpress.com Mary Jo

    Thanks for this, Meg! I’m 22 weeks pregnant with my first child, also a boy. And I’m halfway through reading Love Works Like This, I think I heard about it here. I’ve had some ambivalent feelings about this (wanted and planned) pregnancy, and Slater’s pro/con list resonated so deeply with me. I’m so glad you’re a step ahead of me in these big life transitions so that I can read about someone who’s smarter, wiser, and more graceful than I am going through what I’m about to face. I’m glad you’re not making APW into a mommy blog, but I am also glad to read about your baby and your experience of motherhood so far!

  • Cassandra

    “Because I still woke up (every two hours) and saw a tiny little bundle, our tiny little bundle in the bassinet, and would wake David up saying, “We get to keep him! We get to keep him! We get to be his parents forever!””

    A secret of mine – I regularly stop in my (now nine year old) daughter’s bedroom at night and think this *exact* same thing. I’ve never stopped being excited about the forever part of this whole parenting gig.

    I’m glad you shared this little bit of your life (and also… that itty bitty hand!)

  • http://www.missgiggles.com/blog Giggles

    The lows make the highs that much harder. They change your perspective.

    As painful as the lows have been, I wold not trade them. They have changed who I am at such a deep level. And often they have allowed me to open my heart even more than I would have without them. I celebrate more because I know there is more to celebrate.

    Thank you for your words.

  • Mmouse

    My husband and I keep saying “Can you believe he’s ours?” It’s hard to wrap your mind around! I hold my little sugar booger just a little longer than I “need” to at night, just because I can. He’s 4 months now and I regularly tear up with how amazing I find him & how much I love him. I’m so glad to hear this type of love continues for the rest of my life! And I’m so glad to hear your sweet boy is healthy! Thank you, as always, for sharing this part of your life.

  • http://newcomfortfood.wordpress.com JenMcC

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I often feel like all the arguments for not having children are so rational that it seems strange sometimes that I still want them. So this line particularly resonated with me:
    “In Love Works Like This, Slater makes a list of the pros and cons of having a child. The cons: many. The single pro: ‘learning a new kind of love.'”

    I appreciate you writing about this subject in all of its challenges and treating it with so much honesty and care. For me, pregnancy and parenthood are big (sometimes scary) life changes to contemplate, and hearing truthful, unvarnished stories about why it’s hard and why it’s joyful (and how the pain and the joy coexist) makes it seem so much more possible to me.

  • Jaime

    Thank you so much for this beautiful post. It resonated in a totally different way for me — I’m a pediatric cardiac ICU nurse and I routinely care for new parents who did not expect their newborn to end up in my unit. I’m all sorts of prepared to provide their baby’s nursing care but I can’t tell you how helpful it is to get some insight into their experience and perceptions of neonatal intensive care. Also so glad to hear that your baby is doing well!

  • Joselle

    I will not be able to fully express how meaningful this post is to me, how much I needed it at this very moment because I am sobbing. I am 37 weeks pregnant with my first child. I’ve had a relatively easy go at pregnancy, barring the usual physical discomforts and a few bad, sad, mad days. I, too, have looked forward to pregnancy, childbirth, and motherhood for years. So much so that I switched careers to become a midwife (though pregnancy and nursing school have cast that in a new light but that’s another comment for another day). I’ve envisioned what this time would be like and even though I knew to expect the unexpected, I didn’t really know that until I found out the baby is breech. Now a csection seems possible, even likely and I am so scared, sad, disappointed, feeling-as I have many times before- that my body isn’t good enough. I KNOW that’s not true, that i would never think that about someone else, but that’s what this feels like. Mostly, I am scared of not living up to some shitty standard I’ve set up for myself. And I’m terrified my baby won’t love me, will forget me. When you wrote , “He didn’t forget me!” I lost it. So healing to hear. I don’t know what will happen (I never did know) but I can’t thank you enough for your words. You made me feel a little less scared and a little more hope today. Thank you.

  • cait

    Thank you for sharing Meg. I think Kaitlyn said it best when you’re like an “older cousin” to me. I feel like sometimes you’re the ONLY ONE I “know” being honest about your perspective on the babies stage of life.

    Your honesty about how hard it was somehow makes it much less terrifying for me to entertain the thought of pregnancy and motherhood. I would read, love, and appreciate anything more you choose to share about the subject. I respect any privacy you want, but please do know when you choose to open up like this post it makes an amazing, refreshing impact to those of us peering over the fence.

  • Jane

    Thank you so much for posting this. I too suffered severe antenatal depression, to the point I nearly packed it up several times. I’ve never experienced anything as difficult as those 9 months, and the memory of them still smarts, some 7 months on. But, like you, the moment I gave birth I was fine again, and, on the other side of the fence, the world is a better place. The love is so profound, something I couldn’t imagine previously. I think, sometimes, my journey into motherhood was actually made easier by the difficulties of pregnancy. It’s just so nice to hear someone else had a similar experience. Thank you!

  • Judit

    Thank you so much for this and articles like it – you and the rest of the writing staff at APW help open my eyes daily about pregnancy and child rearing, let alone wedding prep. Thank you for sharing!

  • Athena

    OMG, MEG! YOU HAD A BABY?! CONGRATS!

    I’ve been away from the APW community for far too long…I’ve missed you guys.

    And…I am finally writing that wedding grad post.

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  • kellilu

    So, it turns out I was (just barely) pregnant when I first read this, but had no idea. I’m now eleven weeks in and feeling slightly terrified and wondering where the reset button is… but this was enormously encouraging. Fighting back hormonal tears at work now…but (whew) glad I re-read this today. Thanks, Meg.

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