My sister warned me. She told me this would happen.
A few days before I gave birth to Ellie, my sister called me, sounding slightly frantic that she hadn’t mentioned two VERY important facts earlier on in my pregnancy (and hers, given that our due dates were 3 days apart).
“Car, two things…one, you need to start taking stool softeners now so when you have the c-section, you aren’t crying in pain a few days later when you have to go to the bathroom. Seriously, go buy some and take them, because I have heard of women crying in pain when they try to go to the bathroom after a c-section…and after a vaginal delivery too, but…just go buy some and take them…” she said.
“Okay, I didn’t even worry about that, but…that sounds…awesome,” I said.
“Yea, and don’t tell your doctor you are taking them cause they will get all weird, but just take them. Also, you won’t love her immediately. I mean, you will love her, but you won’t be in love with her. It’s not like the movies, and I didn’t want you to think that there was something wrong with you, because this wasn’t planned or because you are single – it’s all instinct in the beginning,” she said, using her experience 13 months earlier, when she and her husband had my nephew.
“Really? You don’t just…love them?” I asked.
“Nope. Well, nothing compared to how you will feel in 6 months, and then at a year, and I can only imagine that is just keeps growing…just you wait…” she said.
Flash forward to a few days later, a rough c-section, a 9lb 6oz child that looked NOTHING like me being pulled from my abdomen, and a really bad head cold and just like my sister said, I was running on instinct. Nurse, burp, change, rock, repeat. Nurse, burp, change, rock, repeat. And then during the cluster feeding windows – nurse, burp, nurse, burp, nurse, burp. Repeat. And cry.
I mean, those first few weeks are not what I would call, a walk in the park. And because of this, the piece of advice I always give to soon-to-be parents is “you won’t love them right away…but just wait…it will happen and it will blow your mind.”
And just like my sister said, month by month, I fall more and more in love with my daughter. Most falls are tiny, incremental growths in love. And you only realize how much it has grown in hindsight…but every once in a while, I can actually feel my heart grow.
And this past weekend, when I took my almost 3-year-old on a quick trip to Disney World, was one of those times.
Somewhere in the days leading up to our trip, I decided I would not check my email for a whole 84 hours. I wanted to be all in for Ellie, and for myself. Just the two of us, in a sea of humanity, called Disney World. A very large, very energetic, very packed, sea of humanity. (To be clear, MY definition of an ideal vacation is being alone, in a cabana, on a deserted island with no access to nothing, other than food, tequila and indoor plumbing…but this trip wasn’t intended for me.)
You see, as much as I am looking forward to settling down with a… romantic partner?…a man? a gentleman friend?…(I feel like I am getting too old to call people boyfriend – right?)…anyway, you get the point…I realized sometime this summer, that when that happens, and my life goes from Ellie and me, to us three – I will miss my time alone with Ellie.
As isolating as single motherhood is, there are aspects of our regular 0ne-on-one time that I truly enjoy – until it is constantly interrupted by my urge to check, and respond to, my email. And that 3 or 4 minute task, is only part of the problem…then the wheels in my head start turning about work, and there I am, having a distracted dinner with my daughter, or half paying attention at bath-time or book-time, and it just isn’t really the way I want to be parenting or living my life.
So this trip to Disney was a way for me to recalibrate (again) and give Ellie all of me, so I could soak up all of her.
We had a great plane ride, and then a fun bus trip to our hotel, and a late night ice cream cone (her) and veggie burger (me) – and then we hit the pillows hard in preparation for our next day to the Magic Kingdom.
And all was going according to plan until I woke up at 1am in a cold sweat, with the room spinning, a terrible stomach ache and the feeling that the veggie burger was sitting in my chest.
“Am I drunk? Did I accidentally get drunk because I feel like I am going to puke? And that is just weird…because…”
And then…I was up…with my head in the toilet, every 30 minutes, for the next 6 hours.
For a second (okay fine, more than a second) I got really, really pissed at the universe for shitting all over my special time with my daughter. Then I recalled that the universe owes me nothing (although wouldn’t it be fabulous if it did owe me a perfect existence?), and that Ellie had been throwing up 4 days earlier, so this stomach bug should really come as no surprise.
Around 6:30am, with Ellie still asleep, I did what anyone in my situation would do – I sent a text to my sister and my Mom telling them that I was sick. Because the only thing worse than being alone in the most magical place on earth, with your toddler and the stomach bug – is having no one to whine to.
I brought along Pedia-lyte (basically kids Gatorade) and some strong anti-nausea medicine that had been prescribed to Ellie the last time she was violently sick. This stuff works well, but it makes you really, really tired – so I was hesitant to take it, trading one issue for another.
My mom (who has also shared great parenting insights such as, “You’ll understand when you are a Mom…”) called 20 minutes later and I could hear how sad she was for me in her voice, and all I could say was, “Mommy…I don’t feel good at all.” She said, “Oh my heart breaks for you…just take the medicine and take small sips of the GingerAle and you’ll feel better, I promise. If not, I will come down there.”
To Florida. A 3-hour plane ride away. Because, that is what Moms do. My sister also sent me a text telling me she would fly down to Disney and take Ellie on all the rides if I couldn’t (side note, I am fairly confident she did not run this generous offer by her husband, who would be left alone with her 3 children, 4 and under – but it was very kind nonetheless)
After I hung up with my Mom, Ellie woke up, and I threw up one more time, while she rubbed my back and told me it was okay. That is when I decided taking the medicine was the best of the bad options. I explained to Ellie I had the belly ache she had last week, and I just needed some time to feel better. Within an hour, I was able to take a shower, and get moving to the park, with more anti-nausea medicine, Pedialyte, and some spare plastic bags in tow.
I reminded myself that I went a full 14 weeks of my pregnancy feeling exactly the way I felt at this time, while getting up to go to work at 3am – which was a whole lot less fun than a vacation with your child…so this was at least better than that. And if I puked in the park, well, I puked in the park.
(Thankfully, I did not)
Instead, we did what you do in Disney World, and Ellie enjoyed every, single, second of it. While avoiding food and alcohol. Or anything that smelled like those two things.
And right here, in this moment, while Mickey sang Happy Birthday to my almost 3-year-old (who is showing off her Happy Birthday pin – in case you were wondering what the hell she is doing), I felt my heart grow. Yep. Totally felt it expand. Just like my sister said. And it just kept doing so for the rest of our trip.
Which made her waking up at 5:30am this morning to ask me…wait for it…if I remembered to buy M&Ms at the grocery store…a little less irritating. (In all fairness to my sister, she ALSO warned me things like 5:30am wake up calls to ask about candy would happen too. And so it goes.