Pre-Order So God Made a Mother

Blood began to pour across the cutting board. I yelled a choice swear word and looked down to where the tip of my thumb used to reside. My husband immediately ran over and wrapped a towel around my thumb. He scampered around telling me to raise my hand and scolded our daughter to return to the playroom. I wavered between hyperventilating and trying to talk normally to my daughters (our son, thankfully, continued to sleep blissfully unaware behind us). I couldn’t believe we were having another medical issue.

It had been a long 14 days since our son was born but I was convinced I was doing OK. We had survived a traumatic birth and a 10-day NICU stay. We had made it through intubations and C-Pap machines and feeding tubes. We had managed everyone asking, “Where’s the baby!?” and then the awkwardness when we said he was in the NICU. We had finally arrived home with our beautiful baby boy. 

On our fifth day home, I felt practically giddy from all being home together. I was finally able to care for my baby boy beyond supplying breastmilk for his feeding tube. I stood at the kitchen table cutting onions with our baby asleep behind me, our twin daughters chatting in the playroom, and my husband bustling around the kitchen. I was feeling downright superior. 

Then, as I watched the blood continue to ooze out through gauze and tape and smears of ointment, I began to cry. Really, really cry. Outrageously, ridiculously cry. The kind of cries you see on Oscar reels and Grey’s Anatomy episodes where snot is pouring down and you can barely stand from the might of it. My husband went on caring for me and telling me it wouldn’t hurt long when I suddenly looked up at him and wailed, “WHY was he in the NICU? WHY did this happen to us? I just wanted my son home with us! This wasn’t supposed to happen!” And on, and on, and on. 

The next day I would chuckle and be slightly embarrassed by this excessive demonstration but there was no room for embarrassment yet. There was simply an utter feeling of time and experiences lost that “should have” been ours. 

Our twins spent over three weeks in the NICU four years before. We look back mostly fondly on this time of learning how to parent premature babies. But they were twins. They were six weeks early and NICU time was expected. This baby, healthy and strong at 37 weeks with steroid shots, was “supposed to” come directly home with us. He wasn’t “supposed to” need extra help. I had anxiously awaited experiencing the immediate skin-to-skin contact other moms talked about. Instead, when I shared our story, other moms felt simultaneously grateful and guilty that their babies weren’t taken away within minutes of being born. I felt responsible for reassuring them it wouldn’t happen to them. This time was supposed to be easier, not harder.

I couldn’t stop thinking about what could have been and what should have been. I had told almost no one the seriousness of our son’s situation. I couldn’t share how I feared he would die either in the operating room or later in the NICU. That I feared our lives were heading toward a distinct “Before and After” scenario. When people asked how the labor was, I buried the lede, saying he was doing great. Then I added, almost nonchalantly, that he had been a NICU baby.

I let people believe the stay was due to low weight, a simple, easy fix. I couldn’t bring myself to share that he first refused to breathe and then refused to breathe at less than 140-160 breaths per minute. How we watched his naked, probe-covered chest rise and fall with the speed of a dragonfly’s wings. I couldn’t share that the doctors were perplexed by his presentation and the utter helplessness you can feel.

But suddenly, with blood and tears spilling onto my husband’s shirt, it all came out. How utterly sad and heartbroken I felt. I had not realized that I had been expecting this baby to be a corrective experience, one that mended old wounds. That even experiences we looked back on positively could leave deep cuts over our hearts. I decided then to stop smiling over the story and to stop focusing on reassuring others so they felt comfortable. I decided then to leave the cuts open and share them truthfully. I decided then to feel utterly grateful for cuts that leave us stronger and heal overtime and for new stories of what was, rather than what should have been

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our new book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available for pre-order now!

Pre-Order Now

Kristen Tenini

Kristen is a mom of twin girls and a new baby boy who lives near Charlotte, NC. She is a licensed social worker, an occasional writer, and an exercise enthusiast. 

Please Don’t Ask When I’m Having Another Baby

In: Baby, Motherhood
Pregnant woman standing lakeside, color photo

We’ve all been asked it. Maybe once, maybe more times than we can count. Maybe we’ve even asked it ourselves, “When are you trying for baby #2?” It seems harmless, and most of the time it probably is. Pre-baby me never even stopped to consider that it was anything other than a curious, sometimes nosey, question to ask. The mom version of me today feels a completely different way. It’s now deeper and more complicated than it seemed in the past. The mom in me struggles every single time I’m asked this. Struggles to come up with an answer. Struggles...

Keep Reading

3 Ways to Help Your Firstborn Embrace Becoming a Big Brother

In: Baby, Kids, Motherhood, Toddler
Pregnant woman holding toddler son, color photo

My oldest son turned four right after his first brother was born. Four years of alone time with his parents. Four years of extra mommy time during the week. Four years of having toys to himself, extra attention from family members, and more. I didn’t plan a four-year age gap; it took our family a lot longer and a lot more help than we expected to have our second son, but age gaps aren’t everything. When my second son was finally on the way, I heard a lot of opinions about how our oldest son would feel once he finally...

Keep Reading

This is 40 and Pregnant

In: Baby, Motherhood
Black and white selfie of pregnant woman

I didn’t expect to be 40 and pregnant. But here I am, turning 40 this month with a baby growing inside me. Sometimes I think I have no business having a baby at this age. Then I wonder, why the heck shouldn’t I have a baby at 40? What’s so bad about it? Is it because I’m tired? Because I have more wrinkles dancing around my eyes when I laugh or smile? Is the truth that I don’t have enough energy for my children, that they deserve more, and that more is a younger mother? I see us everywhere—older moms...

Keep Reading

She’s My Rainbow Baby, but I Wasn’t Ready

In: Baby, Grief, Loss, Motherhood
Mother holding baby girl in front of Christmas tree, color photo

On January 30, 2021 we lost our baby boy. I’d carried him for nearly 15 weeks when my water unexpectedly broke one night, and we miscarried. Just over a year later on February 10, 2022, I found out I was pregnant with our rainbow baby.  But I wasn’t ready.  I recall feeling out of sorts, thinking the last time I felt this way was during my first pregnancy, but there was no way we could be pregnant again. I anxiously awaited the results of a pregnancy test, and there it was: two pink lines.  But I wasn’t ready.   RELATED: Sometimes...

Keep Reading

This Little Life Changed Everything

In: Baby, Motherhood
Newborn photo of baby's hand, color photo

I get to run today. Yes, you read that correctly—I get to, not have to—and that’s a big and powerful difference. To say the past few months have been a whirlwind would be an understatement: a move to a new house . . . during the final days of pregnancy . . . with an earlier-than-expected labor that was wild, crazy, terrifying, complicated, and beautiful, perfect because of what it culminated in–new life and new perspective . . . followed by the Dreft-scented, snuggle-heavy, sleep-deprived days of life with a newborn. After all of this, I can honestly say life will...

Keep Reading

Why Is It So Hard To Admit Our Own Postpartum Struggles?

In: Baby, Motherhood
Mother holding newborn close up

I recently attended physical therapy in an attempt to put my parts back together after having my second child. My physical therapist was also a young mom so we began talking about the various stages our children have passed through. At one point, she asked me if I had experienced any postpartum depression or anxiety. Without hesitation, I said no and then quickly backtracked and said, “Well, some difficult thoughts so yeah, I guess that would be postpartum anxiety.” After fumbling through my explanation, I immediately felt slightly ashamed for dismissing the notion so quickly and also a sudden urge...

Keep Reading

Worrying Is Part of the Job

In: Baby, Motherhood
Woman's hands holding baby head

My baby girl is four. How did four years go so fast? It blows my mind how much children develop in a short amount of time. One day they can’t lift their heads and then suddenly they’re shouting, “Go away, Mommy!” Lucy is my rainbow baby. She was born on a Wednesday evening in October. Our first day with her, we rested and gazed at our little creation. At midnight on Friday, we sent Lucy to the nursery so I could rest. At 2 a.m. a doctor rushed in. He flicked on the lights. Our tired eyes were blinded. “Lucy...

Keep Reading

I’m Sorry It Didn’t Come Naturally

In: Baby, Motherhood
Mother holding newborn in hospital, color photo

I should have spent every waking moment with you. I should have been right there by your side through every difficult and challenging moment you faced. I should have moved hell and high water to make sure I was there. But I didn’t. And I should have. I’m sorry the first days of your precious little life were filled with strangers and wires and loud noises. I’m sorry you were being poked and prodded from the moment you finally opened those little eyes. I’m sorry that the angel nurses of the NICU were there for you when your mommy should...

Keep Reading

Dear Sophia’s Mama

In: Baby, Motherhood
Baby in isolette inside NICU

I think about you often. I noticed you on our second day in the NICU. I was in the hallway in front of your daughters’ room speaking with our nurse. You looked up from your chair and tried to smile. As I walked away, I looked at the nameplate on the door. Sophia. From where the rocking chair was in our room, I could see out our door to Sophia’s room. Over the next few days, I noticed your daughter’s door proudly displayed several milestones. “Off ventilator” and “first-time mommy held you” made me realize you were seasoned here. Your...

Keep Reading

The End of Maternity Leave Makes a Mother’s Heart Ache

In: Baby, Motherhood
Mother holding infant on shoulder

As my last week of maternity leave begins, my heart feels heavier and heavier in my chest. I can’t fall asleep at night for fear that I haven’t fully appreciated this time with my sweet baby girl. I know plenty of moms who find joy in returning to their old routines. Mamas who feel peace in knowing they can unlock a part of themselves they haven’t used in 12 weeks.  As for me, I’m filled with an anxiety I’ve never felt before. I’ve waited my whole life to be someone’s mama. I’m doing it for the first time, and while...

Keep Reading