Reflections on Motherhood

While I have a few cleft updates (nothing major, just general updates), it felt only fitting to focus on motherhood on Mother's Day today.

Those first few weeks of pregnancy were so abstract. I knew I had a little being growing in me, but I wasn't showing, I didn't feel anything (except for morning/all-day sickness), and I there was the always-lingering worry that something could go wrong. Essentially, I didn't feel like a mother yet. The abstract feeling of parenthood is the reason Cory and I decided to find out the gender of our baby (well, the gender he's born with at least). We thought it would give us a better sense of who he was and could develop a feeling of belonging to the ever-growing mass of cells in my uterus.

At that fateful ultrasound, we almost immediately learned Finch was a boy. It was from that moment on he had his name as well. Cory and I had already picked out a couple, but we knew that was the one. But then after the tech went through every part of his anatomy, she came to his face and got a bit silent. Cory and I sat in worried silence when she left to get the perinatal OB who would tell us that Finch had a cleft lip (you can read all about that experience in one of my first posts--UPDATE).

While we thought learning the gender would make it real for us, it was the moment that we learned about Finch's cleft that actually brought parenthood home to us. We are parents now. We now have the joy and the burden of caring for and loving this little being.

While I had been pregnant for 19 weeks at that time -- and we already had to make decisions and I had to stop drinking alcohol and take vitamins and whatnot -- it felt different until that ultrasound. We had come too far. So much can happen in the first early weeks of pregnancy that while you do get attached to the baby, you mentally try not to get too attached. But at that moment, this is a fully-formed human being with a kidney, and a heart, and a brain, and a face (cleft and all!). And there he was.

The three to four weeks following that ultrasound were the hardest and scariest weeks of the pregnancy. Because a cleft lip and palate can be related to other chromosomal abnormalities, there were other considerations we had to make outside the cleft. We had to do multiple tests like an echo cardiogram to see if Finch's heart was functioning well. We had to decide whether to do an amniocentesis and then we had to wait three weeks to find out the results. 

Throughout that time and even after as we tried to picture our little guy, I would wonder whether I would love him as much if he didn't have the cleft (or potentially other issues). It sounds harsh, but it's a thought that flits in your mind. I had moments of worry that I'd be resentful that I wouldn't have the typical first-parent experience that I saw my friends have. While every mother and father has their own personal challenges and worries throughout pregnancy (and later as they raise their child), you do focus on your singular situation and wonder "why me? why us?" And I was really lucky to hear from other cleft moms who had the same thoughts. 

What they also told me and what I couldn't have known until Finch arrived was that all those worries wash away immediately. All those unknowns and all those expectations of hardship just go away. The only thing there is love. Well, love and a healthy amount of disbelief that you're charged with keeping this little nugget alive and healthy. 

I felt like I became a mother when I saw that ultrasound. But I understood a mother's love almost two months ago when Finch arrived. It is like nothing else. Everyone tells you so, but you don't know until you're in it. I can't say there haven't been moments when I was freaked out of my mind (um, like that first night in the hospital when Cory and I - strung out on absolutely no sleep for 48 hours - could not figure out how to settle down our newborn) or moment where I've been exhausted beyond belief (in those first three weeks when Finch still hadn't gotten his nights and days worked out). But what always outweighed all of it was that instinctual love that I felt for my baby.

Finch and Mama.jpg

From the moment of Finch's birth, I hardly saw the cleft. It was merely a beautiful part of him. While many parents don't have to put a NAM in their child's mouth and tape up their face or anticipate a several-hour craniofacial surgery, they are dealing with their own day-to-day things. And none of it seems like a burden when it's for your little person.

I discovered what I imagine all moms learn is that caring for your child is all instinct. Sure there are days where I don't know what the hell I'm doing and can definitely see that it shows. But then there are days where I wonder "how the Eff did I know how to do that?" Evolution, I tell ya, it's a real thing. And love is pretty cool part of that evolution story.

Our First Mother's Day.jpg

So on this Mother's Day, a shout out to all the moms. Because there really is nothing like a mother's love.

And because I can't end a post without Finch photos, here you go. Our little dude has been the smiliest little guy - makes a mama's heart burst every time.

Elizabeth Doerr