Today, I went to see my lovely midwife. She checked on our 4th baby before I fly home on Wednesday. While I was there, I decided it was the perfect day to take my Gestational Diabetes test.
For those that are unfamiliar with this test, it takes about an hour of your life. You drink a nasty drink, then wait around for an hour so they can take your blood.
Well, during this hour I walked about the hospital grounds some. In a secluded little walk path hidden by some bushes I heard a baby crying. A new baby. You can always tell because their cries are so soft and small.
Nosy me, with three kids three and under and a fourth due in May, it’s clear I love babies, I walked toward the sound. The bushes cleared a bit and there I saw a new mom, holding a screaming baby. She was sobbing. Big shoulder shifting tears.
I suppose some people would have turned around and given her privacy. But if I was her, I would only hope that someone would come to me.
“Do you want me to try and hold the baby for you?”
She looked up at me, a bit shocked as she didn’t hear me coming I assume.
“She won’t stop crying. I can’t get her to eat and her diaper is dry and she won’t stop crying.”
“That’s okay, I have 3 at home. I don’t mind a fussy baby. I’ll sit right next to you and when you feel up to trying with her again I’ll see if I can help?”
She nodded with her lip a little quivering.
We got to talking. The baby, Kate, was born ten days ago. The mom had delivered her here at this hospital. I asked how her delivery was, to which she replied, “complicated.”
Not wanting to press the issue, I swayed a bit with little Kate who was starting to quiet down.
“She hasn’t met her dad.”
I met the mother’s eyes and never have I ever seen that sadness. You see, at a civilian hospital, you would assume this to be a single mother, a dad not in the picture. Because I go to an Army hospital, the reason the father would not be here, well, the possibilities are endless.
“He’s at sea. They were supposed to be back. She came early. He’s coming late.”
I sat down next to her. “I’m so sorry. I cannot imagine what you’re going through right now.”
“It’s normal, right? That’s what everyone keeps telling me.”
I sat for a minute and looked at this poor young mother. Completely alone. Here, on an island, far away from any family, if she has any. And others’ advice to her is to tell her what she is going through is normal.
“No. No it’s not normal. How is that supposed to make you feel when you see other new babies with both parents? When other mothers tell you their husbands were at all of their children’s births. Why you? I don’t think it’s fair to say that anything about our lives is normal. How you’re feeling right now is how you should be feeling. What you’ve been through isn’t right and wasn’t expected. Life doesn’t go as planned for anyone, but telling you your circumstance is normal is never going to help you cope with the traumatic situation you’ve been through.”
When you see someone struggling, hear them. Don’t tell them to suck it up and get used to it. This lifestyle is hard. We don’t get to make plans and have them work out very often, but we try our hardest to get whole families at births of babies.
She started to cry again, and I squeezed her hand while I bounced her baby with the other arm.
She doesn’t know me. We didn’t exchange names. When she calmed down, I helped her settle the baby and make sure she got her latched.
I stood up to leave and she thanked me. I replied, “thank you. I love holding new babies. I’m sure your husband can’t wait to see her. Just remember when you’re feeling overwhelmed that babies can feel these feelings in us and it overwhelms them too. Try to calm your nerves when you’re trying to get her to sleep or eat. I know that sounds impossible, but if you ever need help, I know there are a lot of people in this world who can help you. They’ll find you.”
I told her about a Facebook group we have on island, Breastfeeders of Oahu. She smiled and said she’d look for it today. So hopefully I see her again, although I don’t have to.
She taught me a lot about carefully choosing words today. Truly listening to someone’s struggles. Not comparing or writing them off.
You can’t always see a person’s battle. All the more reason to assume it is far more dire than they make it out to be.
Military spouses have a hard cut in particular. Have compassion on them and realize the sacrifices they have to go through. We don’t always “know what we signed up for” so don’t try using that line to make it better. Just like you can have bad days, so can we. I know it’s a hard life for those who haven’t experienced it to comprehend, but I don’t know that I’ve ever really *needed* someone to understand how hard it is. I just don’t want to hear that it’s normal.
There is no such thing as normal.