Next week my sweet boy turns one year old. In some ways this fact makes sense to me but in other ways I find it nearly impossible to believe a year has gone by already. I feel like I have known Braxton for so long-like he is (and always has been) such an integral part of me. Yet in other ways I look back at life a year ago and realize how true the cliché is that time goes “in the blink of an eye”. This past year has been one of the most challenging and rewarding years in my life. Braxton has enriched and blessed our lives in countless ways. He has caused me to love in ways I never had before. Even though I had “done it all before” with Hayleigh, my experience with Braxton has been incredibly different in almost every way. God taught me a lot this past year. One of the main things I learned was how much I have left to learn.
When Hayleigh was born I didn’t really have any first hand experience as to what to expect. They handed me my bundle, wheeled me out of the hospital and sent us home. As first time parents Peter and I had prepared ourselves, as best we could, for the on slat. But I was pleasantly surprised. Other than having some allergy/digestive issues Hayleigh was an “easy baby” (for lack of a better term). She slept through the night from about 5 or 6 weeks old, followed a predictable schedule but was flexible to go with the flow if she had to, was hardly ever fussy, and never had separation anxiety. I did not feel an instantaneous connection to Hayleigh when she was born but very quickly after that I felt a bond to her that was indescribable. I felt, and still do, that we are connected in a unique way that I can share only with her. There was a guttural attachment to her, a kind of which I had never experienced before. When she lays on my chest I feel a sense of peace and rightness that I cannot fully express. It is like we are connected and all is right with the world when I can listen to her gentle breathing.
When Braxton came I felt a deep and instantaneous love for him, differently than I had for Hayleigh. I think this may have been because I had Hayleigh ay home and knew what wondrous connection was in store for us. I remember saying when he was only days old how I just wanted to hold him and never put him down and how I loved him so instantly in a way I didn’t experience with his sister when she was first born. I had a c-section with Braxton. My recovery was different the second time around. (I had Hayleigh naturally.) Actually the physical pain was less severe, but hormonally I was a mess from the beginning. I think one of the reasons was the c-section. When I was in labor for nearly a day with Hayleigh my body had time to adjust to the idea that she was making an exit. But with Braxton literally one second I was pregnant, not in labor, and the next-there he was! My body was a wreck. I ended up returning to the hospital 3 days after we left with stroke like symptoms. It was one of the scariest moments of my life. I was reading a book to Hayleigh and suddenly I could not speak. I could visually see the words on the page but I could not make out what they said, as in my brain would not translate them into words. I looked at the calendar and saw names of family members' and friends' birthdays or events and did not know who the people were. I didn’t even know my own kids’ names. It was one of the scariest moments of my life. Initially we thought that maybe I had gotten a blood clot in my leg from surgery and it has traveled to my brain. I literally thought I might die. I hugged and kissed my parents and babies goodbye like I might never see them again and went to the hospital. I ended up staying over night for observation and was told I had a Complex Migraine as a result of hormones.
In the weeks and months that followed I continued to have hormone related issues. I also struggled to bond with Braxton. He was a horrible sleeper and was very fussy and needy. I always knew I loved him, but the bond that I had felt initially had nearly vanished. It was hard to explain and painful to think about even now. I had to decide to love him. I thought I was a terrible mother. What kind of mother has to make herself love her child? Isn’t that supposed to be the most natural, unconditional love a human can experience? I had times where I resented him for “ruining” my mental health, sanity and time with Hayleigh. It makes me cringe to write these things, and even at the time I knew I was not myself thinking this way. Then I ended up beating myself up even more because I swore I would never be the parent who favored one child over another. I made up my mind to try my best to not act in ways that reflected my emotions of favor versus resentment. Knowing my history with Depression, I had expected to have post-partum with Hayleigh, but I never did. I had more clarity and mental health than ever in my life after she was born. This time around post-partum hit me like a ton of bricks, and it nearly buried me. I fought the idea for a long time, hoping that my hormones would regulate and I would be okay soon. As time went on, I grew in love for Braxton. It became less of a choice and more natural, as it “should” be. My Depression didn’t go away though. It worsened and turned into severe anxiety as well. So, recently I went on some anti-depressants. I have not been on them since I found out I was pregnant with Hayleigh. It was a bit tough for me to go down that road again, but I know its right.
As Braxton turns one next week I feel as if I am reaching a bit of a milestone as well. When we celebrated Hayleigh’s first birthday, someone said to me something along the lines of “don’t you just feel such a sense of accomplishment?! Like, we made it!” I smiled and nodded but honestly I didn’t completely relate to what the person was saying at the time. I was happy to see Hayleigh turn one but I didn’t really feel this sense of accomplishment for myself. As Braxton turns one I can relate to this so much more. I don’t want to pull any punches; this year has been tough. As his first year of life wraps up, I do feel a bit of what that lady was talking about.
I think one of the areas I feel that the most is what I have learned about love. I said before that Braxton opened my heart to love in new ways, and he did. I have always been a person who is too controlled by emotions. That is a struggle of mine. When it came to Braxton there were many times I had to fight against how I was feeling and choose to love. I still hate the sound of choosing to love your baby, but that is part of Braxton’s and my love story. And I have to say that the love I feel for him, while as deep as what I feel for Hayleigh, is very different. There are some sweat and tears there. I feel myself swell with joy now as I can naturally spill over with love for my boy. That is something I don’t take for granted. Our story is beautiful in its own rugged way. I often say that Hayleigh fixed me, and in many ways she did. But my Braxton-Boy did too. The process was not as pretty to see, but he changed me for the better. He expanded my heart and stretched my being in ways I didn’t know a person could. Every single day I grow in love for Braxton. Most days it comes easily and naturally now, but some days, as with any relationship, it is hard. I am still working through a lot of emotional issues related to my Depression, but as I face Braxton’s birthday next week, I look on it was new clarity and a sense of pride. Instead of hiding how we struggled this past year, I want to celebrate how God worked in my life to teach me a lot about myself and about love. I am more of a fighter now. I choose daily to battle my emotions, to battle the lies I tend to buy into and to put on love even when it doesn’t seem to fit comfortably (although sometimes I fall flat on my face). God used Braxton to teach me that. I hope that someday if he reads this he won’t be insulted by my struggles in our relationship, but rather be validated that through the battle God helped me fight to love him and God fought on Braxton’s behalf to win a special place in my heart. And now as Braxton lays his head on my chest or puts his cheek next to mine I feel a sense of peace and rightness that I cannot fully express. It is like we are connected…one.