Last Sunday, Charlotte got hungry during church. I strolled down the hall and someone showed me to the empty nursery that is used during the week by infants enrolled in the church daycare. After changing her diaper, I looked up and saw it. Callie's rocking chair.
We had donated it to the church after cleaning out her nursery. Painfully deciding what would stay and what would go, we felt that the dreams that the rocker symbolized- now dashed- were just too painful. So we gave it to our church, where we planted Callie's garden, feeling that it was the right place for something so meaningful to us.
I had forgotten. Blocked it out?
And now, looking up with my little rainbow in my arms, I came face to face with it.
A dream lost and a dream realized.
So, I sat and rocked and nursed and rocked some more in the dark and peaceful room where my babies could kind of, sort of be together.
As I rocked, I thought back on the past two months since Charlotte was born. All of the emotions and the ups and downs.
Yes, there were downs! Big time.
I'm sure that most of you who are mothers probably are thinking, Of course there were! That's only natural. But it has taken me a while to allow myself to understand that too.
For the first three weeks of Charlotte's life, I was running on sheer adrenaline, joy, and excitement. There were parts that were hard, parts that were easy, and parts in between. I was full of love and overwhelmed by the surreal fact that we actually got to take a baby home. Pinch me! Is this real??
And then the blues hit. Between 3 and 6 weeks, I was an emotional wreck. And I didn't want anyone to know. I was so ashamed. After all, I was supposed to appreciate this precious gift more than anyone else in the world, right? I could remember that awful time right after we lost Callie when I would have traded anything, ANYTHING, to have a baby in my arms. Even if it was hard. I swore that I would remember that with Charlotte.
And I did. There wasn't a moment where it didn't cross my mind. I let it torment me. I let it fill me with shame and guilt. It ate away at me until there wasn't much left.
After the first three week honeymoon where Charlotte was so so so good....well, she gave us a run for our money. I read every page of the What to Expect the First Year chapters that related to her age. I googled the definition of colic (which she didn't have, but I wanted her to so that I could have a reason for the crying). I spent many hours in the bathtub soaking my boobs trying to heal the blisters that kept popping up. I took many trips to my favorite lactation consultant, sure that I was doing something wrong for it to be hurting for so long. She reassured me that I was doing a good job, the latch was perfect...I just had a barricuda on my hands, with such a strong suck that the sheer Dyson-strength vacuum of it all caused me to get blisters. I had enough milk to feed a village. And it shot out so fast that it choked Charlotte and came out her nose! At one point, I was having to nurse her with her little body resting upright (instead of cradled) while I reclined almost all the way back just to try and slow it down. She looked hilarious and so did I...but the humor was lost on me.
I cried a lot. When Charlotte cried, I did too. I felt overwhelmed by so many emotions. Love. Frustration. A desire for her to be a perfect angel baby that never cried so that I could tell everyone how good she was. A loss of confidence in my ability to be a good mother. I always thought I would be a natural who knew exactly what to do, all the time. I felt trapped sometimes. I snapped at John several times when he asked me a question about the baby because I just couldn't take one more person needing me. I got so frustrated that I could no longer have the complete independence I once had, even though I had sworn I would sacrifice anything just to have a baby. Can't I just pee, or shower, or eat like I used to?? There were several times that I seriously contemplated ordering shock collars for the dogs if they barked one more time. I can vividly remember seeing John hand Charlotte to me to nurse one night and as her mouth opened up I thought she looked like a little leech coming to suck my soul away. A little dramatic, but that's what I thought. And that was when I realized I had the blues.
On top of having all of these emotions, I served them up with a big heaping serving of guilt on the side. She would cry, I would get frustrated, then feel guilty about it. Remember how much you wanted to hear that cry? Remember how Callie never had that chance? Remember. Remember. Remember. I would have flashbacks of the terrible moment of when they took Callie off of life support and how I cried, My baby, my baby, my baby. All of this, while holding my beautiful rainbow gift from God. I beat myself up for being human. For being just like everyone else, despite feeling so different. For being a real mom, instead of a perfect mom.
Thank God she started smiling during this time period. Every morning, when I would pick her up out of her bassinet, Charlotte would grin at me and flash those adorable dimples and I could feel my heart melt. It was like a reset button was pressed at the onset of every day. Also, it didn't hurt that she started sleeping for 5-6 hours at a time and I was able to start sleeping too. In fact, there were many wonderful moments, smiles, and episodes of laughter. Thank the Lord! But, the past few posts I've written have shown the highlights and not the whole story and it just doesn't feel right to leave it like that.
After she turned 6 weeks old, the dark cloud and swirling storm of emotions started to lift and I felt like myself again. I didn't need the reset button anymore, although it is still the perfect way to start the day. I looked back at the mess that was myself and I gave myself permission. Permission to have faults. Permission to not know all the answers. Permission to have hormones! I had to remind myself once again that there wasn't this magical destination called Perfect Happyland at the end of the hard road I'd traveled. Nope, it's a never-ending journey, with no end in sight.
I learned that being a rainbow mom is a whole heck of a lot like being any other kind of mom. Sure, I have a different perspective...but we all do, because we all have had different journeys. Before having Charlotte, I sentenced myself to a life of "enjoying every moment". That was an impossible goal. After all, is there really anything enjoyable about nipple blisters? Looking back at my old blog posts, here is what I wrote at the end of Callie's birth story:
"Because at the end of the day, love is all that matters. Love like you’ve never loved before and never look back. And do not take one single moment for granted…even the crappy ones… because even the ugly parts of life are so incredibly beautiful."
I had it right back then, but sometime between then and now I had twisted it all up inside of me. I mistakenly had led myself to believe that this meant I had to love every minute of life. Some things are ugly. And you don't have to enjoy them. "Not taking life for granted" doesn't always mean that you love every single moment. I've learned the true meaning of this sentiment lately and have decided to let go of this heavy guilt once and for all. Yes, I, Kristin Cornely, rainbow mother, sworn silver lining believer and eternal optimist, had the baby blues. And it's okay. It feels good to say it out loud and let go of the last bit of pride I had that was preventing me from being "real" about my experiences. Not to make this a "happy ending" kind of post, but I have to share that lately, I feel happier than I ever have in my whole life. Charlotte is so fun right now and my breastfeeding issues are (hopefully!) behind me. I'm so happy, I almost get paranoid that something bad will happen...but that's a topic for another day and another hour with my therapist haha. The point is, motherhood with Charlotte has been an adventure in highs and lows.
Losing Callie taught me to appreciate life and not take it for granted, not to love every single moment of it...even though that would be nice, it's not real. Appreciation is gratitude and gratitude is thankfulness. And that's what I am. I'm thankful. Thankful for the sunshine and thankful for the rain.
After all, that's how rainbows are made.
I'm WAY behind on this...so sorry!
~From my dad: Today Steve, Tony, Freddie, Eddie, Julie, Katy and myself together purchased tickets for our cleaning service people to share in a fundraiser lunch for the tornado victims in Oklahoma. They do not get invited to functions like this so we thought they deserved to be included.
-From my family: sponsoring a meal at our church's CommUnity Table as a kindness we provide for the community of Radford. Our church is launching this meal outreach program to the community on June 29th. Teams of 8-10 people will serve a meal to members of the community who come to our church on Saturday evenings from 4-5pm. The meal is free and open to the public. It is the aim of the program to provide meals to those in need financially, as well as those who need companionship, but all are welcome.
Thank you SO much for spreading Kindness in Callie's memory. If you have sent me an act of kindness in the past 3 months since Charlotte was born and I did not include it on the Kindness for Callie, please let me know so that I can write it down. Things got a little crazy there for a while ;-)