"If he starts to choke, or his breath seems ragged just use the suction bulb to clear his nose and mouth. It's up here in this cabinet." She points to an overhead cupboard that may as well have been located in Milwakee. "Oh, and while you have some time, you need to watch the warning video about Shaken Baby Syndrome and sign this waiver."
It is 1 a.m. and having spent the past 24 hours in labor and delivery giving birth to the largest child EVER, I have just now arrived to the "Maternity" floor. Just moments before this woman arrived at my door with my baby in tow, I sent my husband home to get some sleep insisting that I would be "fine."
"They are going to keep him in the nursery. I am just going to sleep. Go home."
He reluctantly left, and would tell you to this day that leaving is one of his great regrets, regardless, I am alone and I am far from fine.
She pushes the little cart with the plastic bassinet towards the bed and says, "Are you breastfeeding?"
"I - I - I don't know, I want to....I mean...but...I-I-I don't know how."
I am still sputtering, trying to remember how to form words when the nurse says, "Well, he's hungry, and MOST new mothers want to bond with their babies." She lets the "most new mothers" bit hang in the air for a moment.
In the six years that have passed since this particular night I have learned many things - not the least of which is that most SMART mothers gleefully send their infants to the nursery and relish a few hours of precious sleep.
However, with the current situation unfolding as it was I possessed none of this knowledge and therefore, terrified of being a "bad mom," and fearful that some error of mine would "ruin" this perfect little person, I accepted the plastic bassinet and watched in horror as the nurse turned to leave.
My son looks up at me, pensively. He too is worried, as I clearly do not seem qualified to be caring for a newborn. He is only six hours old but he is sure that mothers are not supposed to be so frightened of their children.
Where is that big guy, he wonders? Now that guy had his act together.
The kid was right. I was a mess and it took me a good seven months to get my "sea legs" under me. Thank God my husband was a natural parent, never batting an eye.
I did eventually get the hang of it, the whole "mommy thing." With each subsequent child I have given birth to, I have become a progressively more confident parent but when it comes to Riley Henry, my first born, there are a lot of times when I still feel like that frightened girl. Stuttering, stammering, trying desperately to do the right thing but clueless as to what that might be.
Even after six years I am still staring at this fabulous kid, wise beyond his years, complex, mutli-faceted, and creative, wondering, "Am I doing this right?"