Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Mommy Marks

Perhaps the greatest "physical" trial I've ever been through happened shortly after Branson's birth.

As many mothers know, the effects of pregnancy and child birth on a woman's body can be harsh, painful, and not pretty! I had been told over and over by several women to prepare myself mentally for the pain associated with breast feeding, the months of still feeling and looking a little pregnant, and they also warned me that I would need to learn how to accept my "new" body, as it would never be the same again after giving birth to a child. I was even given a special cream that I applied every day to prevent stretch marks.

Branson was scheduled to come by way of a C-section due to a large uterine fibroid that was obstructing the birth canal. My doctor and other mothers who had given birth this way also tried to prepare me and educate me about the lengthy, and somewhat painful recovery process of having such major surgery.

I knew these women and my doctor were right. However, the physical hurdles I knew I would face seemed a small price to pay so I could become a mother and have Branson here with me. After all, I'd prayed for this blessing for over 5 years...I didn't feel like complaining much about the physical side affects that came as part of my answer...my miracle!

As the heartbreaking news came that Branson's heart had stopped beating, it's almost as if my body automatically went into survival mode. All I could think about was that I would only have my son here with me for a few hours, and I wanted those few hours to be special...memorable. I wanted to capture and burn an image of every moment and every little one of his features in my mind forever. The rest didn't matter.

The morning of his birth seemed so unreal. As they prepped me for surgery, I just laid there with tears streaming down my face. No nerves about the surgery itself, just anxious feelings about meeting our son in a very different way than we had dreamed. As the anesthesiologist came in, and I hunched up in a ball for my spinal block, I wasn't even scared (previous to this point, it was the thing I was most worried about for Branson's delivery). My C-section went well and I shortly found myself in the recovery room with the two most important men in my life...Rob and Branson.

That day was the best day of our lives thus far.

In the days following Branson's birth, I just lied in the hospital...mostly consumed by shock and unbelief. My mind in a state of fog, life passing by in blurry, slow-motion. I let the nurses and Rob take care of me physically, as I just tried to survive emotionally.

It wasn't until I arrived home that I fully began to realize that although my heart and mind knew that Branson was gone, my body did not. The day I came home from the hospital my milk began to come in. My breasts became rock hard with milk, as that is what they're supposed to do. I sat in pain, with my breasts covered in cabbage leaves (a remedy to help dry up the milk), and just sobbed that there was no Branson there to feed, to make the pain seem fair. There I sat in the recliner, unable to go anywhere, or do anything on my own. I reeked of cabbage, and I had to completely rely on my husband and mother-in-law for everything. They brought me food, they transported me to the bathroom, they helped me shower, and dressed me. All I could ask was, "where is the justice in this?"

I remember the first time I got out of the shower and looked at my body in the mirror...again, the tears just flowed. I looked like I had been through Hell and back, and emotionally speaking I had, but now I looked the part too. I remember looking and feeling about four months pregnant still. This made me very apprehensive to leave the house. I knew the "are you pregnant" question from strangers would be inevitable, for that's what I looked like...pregnant. I had a nice little pouch, with no baby by my side to suggest that, no I wasn't pregnant, I had in fact just given birth to a beautiful little boy.

I'll never forget the first person who asked me if I was pregnant after Branson's birth. I wanted to drop kick them and let them have an ear full...instead I just smiled and said that I had actually recently given birth to a little boy who was spending some time at home...for isn't that where he truly is...home?

I felt so angry...cheated, that I still had to deal with the physical pains, the healing, and the unfamiliar...not pregnant, but not normal, body. It just seemed like someone should have taken that all away, it wasn't fair that I still had to go through all of it without a baby to remind me that it was worth it. It just wasn't fair.

Slowly, I began to heal...my milk dried up and went away...and my body began to shrink just a little (still working on that one :). I still struggle to accept my body the way it is, yet I find myself not wanting to "let go" of the pouch completely because it's physical proof that Branson was here. Despite the prevention cream, I also acquired some pretty intense stretch marks the last three weeks of my pregnancy...carrying an eight pound baby and a fibroid the size of a small basketball can stretch you to limits never before imagined!

Anyway, the other night Rob and I were lying in bed just chatting and the biggest smile came across Rob's face. I said, "What? What are you smiling about?"

And, he said, "You are just perfect for me in every way."

Sorta jokingly I responded, "I am? Even with my little pouch and the stretch marks that adorn it?"

He said, "Are you kidding? That's the best part! Those aren't stretch marks...they're mommy marks! They remind me everyday of the awesome mother you are, and all that you sacrificed to bring Branson into the world. They are a visual reminder that I am the father of an incredible little boy, and the luckiest man in the world!"

So today, I am grateful for my "mommy marks". Grateful that they came. Grateful for my darling little boy who has left an everlasting mark not only on my body, but on my heart. Grateful that I have an adorable husband who loves me, every part, for who I am. Grateful that together, the three of us, make one cute little family!


The Perry Family said...

I know what you mean. I have an angel baby. I was in Hallmark getting a few things for his memorial 2 days after his birth, the lady asked me is this going to be for your baby. And she continued to ask how far along I was and I told her I had just had him. Luckily she didn't continue to go on. With my first son I didn't get any stretch marks with Kooper I got plenty! But knowing I don't have him here with me on earth I love them. He left his mark on me, visibly and on my heart. I love Mommy marks now!

Brittanie said...

I remember people asking me with horror "They made you go through labor??? Why didn't you just have a csection?" I really thought it was a stupid question, since how can major surgery on top of losing a child make anything better? And the milk coming in...oh man. How's that for a betrayal? Your body is reminding you of what you don't have too...

Something that I wish I had known was that decongestants dry up your milk faster than cabbage does. (I now share this tidbit with the new girls on the stillbirth support forum I'm on).

Anyway, I had a really hard time with my stretch marks, but my wonderful husband kept reminding me of what your husband did: That they are proof that I am Cora's mommy. It's a wonderful thing! We've been touched by angels, and have physical proof!

Loretta Valenta said...

Another beautiful post, Natalie! What a wonderful mom and wife you are and what a wonderful dad and husband Rob is! I loved his response about "mommy marks" -- you married a pretty terrific guy...but you already knew that! :)And I think he married a pretty terrific girl! :)

Memmott Family said...

What a beautiful post, and well said. I am sure those mommy marks don't look bad. Plus I think you look great. Definitely always something to remind you of Branson every day. We love you guys and take care in the ice!

The Hammonds said...

You are so right on the "mommy marks." I tried so hard aswell to keep from getting them but with peyton there was just know preventing. Although situations are totaly different my dad "the marine" always calls them battel scars. With Peyton it was a battel the entite 9 months so I guess thats why he left me with so many haha.
Branson is a verry lucky guy to have you as a mommy and to of had such a sweet and wonderful person to provide his home while he was with us here on earth. Just think of your stretch marks as the way Randy's mom (Tha last Lecture) let him draw on the walls. Those marks were just Branson doing his decorating!

Mariah said...

As I was reading this last post, Peighton came into the office and sat down beside me. Like me, she too was very quiet as I scrolled down the page. When we finished reading, I looked at her and with tears coming down her face, she said, "Mommie she is amazing!" Natalie, you have touched so many with your testimony and amazing words. I am so grateful that my teenage daughter has been blessed to have such a wonderful example to learn from. She will always remember our experiences together as we mourned for Branson and now as we continue to read your beautiful words, and remember him and the perfect little boy that he is. Thanks my dear and eternal friend! ~Mariah

Glad you are having fun "mushing"! I had a little sample of the bread to give you on Monday, however, my little Nolan is a big fan of it and it didn't quite make it to your house!

Amber Schmidt said...

What an amazing team the two of you are! I just wanted to stop by and let you know what an honor it was to get to share a few minutes of hospital time with your family. I will never forget Branson and I wear his bracelet each time I photograph another NILMDTS session. I still think of and pray for you and your family. I hope your house sells soon!!!

Hugs to you!
Amber Schmidt

Ashley said...

You said it so perfectly. I love that you call them mommy marks. I call my stretch marks and my scar from having a "classic" c-section (like an upsidedown T) my "Miles marks". Natalie, I love your blog and how much reading it has helped me. Thank you for your friendship!!

Lindsay said...

You are amazing and beautiful.

Kara said...

You have a good husband with a clear perspective. What a wonderful name for these marks that are left behind. I am always hearing women complain about them and giving them the name mommy marks doesn't make them seem so bad. I have been quite discouraged latley about all the marks on my stomach. They are a bit different than mommy marks but as my mom made clear to me the other day... they show my journey in trying to become a mother. I have a 4" scar going verticle down my abdomen (when they removed my fallopian tube), a scar from where skin cancer was removed, and three new ones from my recent surgery. One right below my belly button and two more on the right and left side of my abdomen. I was feeling pretty pitiful when I told my mom... if I ever get pregnant I will never have one of those cute belly pictures because mine is just all scared up. She comforted me by explaining that it simply shows the road I have traveled. I can't wait for some mommy marks to add to my others. Thanks...

Kim Call said...

Someday maybe I'll find the quote I read from Pres. John Taylor where he said our bodies record every thought and action we ever have and when we present ourselves to our Saviour he will be able to "read" us just by looking at us. Your body is a perfect example of just that, Natalie, and I am proud of Robert for recognizing it. I know with every experience you have you are receiving His image in your countenances and what beautiful parents Branson will greet when you will all meet again someday! All my love, mom

Tevita and Jodi said...

I found your blog on my sister-in-law's (Jamie V.) page. I want to tell you how sorry I am for your loss. I also have angel babies. I have 3 little boys waiting for us. I know what you are going through and I think it is great that you are able to do this blog for your family. If you don't mind I would like to add you to my blog list. Your words are inspiring to me. I try to talk to people about how I feel but not many of my friends/family know what I am going through. Thanks so much, Jodi

Michelle said...

Beautiful. I like what your mom said in her comment, too.
It makes me think of how the Resurrected Savior has chosen to retain His scars, and two of my favorite verses in all of scripture:
"For can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee, O house of Israel. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me." (1 Nephi 21:15-16)

Rylie said...

When I started to first get stretch marks I was so angry! Now I am so grateful that I am able to have a permanant tatto from my baby Preslie. Thank you so much for sharing all of your thoughts. I visit your blog often.