August really is a huge birth month for me.
On August 15, 2005 I became a mother for the very first time. We welcomed a tiny, 4 pound 11 ounce, baby girl, Lauren Eby, into our lives at exactly 6pm.
From the very beginning, she’s broken me in for motherhood starting with the complications of her pregnancy with her stubborn growth delay and the jack-knife frank breech position she chose, despite hours of headstands to convince her otherwise.
Most people assume her low birth weight was due to being premature, but Lauren was practically full term at 37 weeks. Her environment was toxic. The placenta had torn and split into a thin barbell shape instead of the healthy robust placenta most babies have to pull from. The placenta wasn’t ideal, but with regular monitoring it didn’t seem dire. Yet, her growth continued to slow and a c-section was quickly planned.
Upon delivery, the doctors discovered the remaining placenta was ¾ clotted, virtually dead and of no use. My baby had been trying desperately to grow with no help from me. Motherhood guilt set in early.
Once born, my tiny baby, who looked like she was wearing a coat 2 sizes too big with her skin all wrinkly and saggy on her long limbs, waited to be fattened up by the all-you-can-eat-breastmilk-buffet. On the day Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, four days after her birth, we were sent home with a shrunken 4 pound 4 ounce baby and wished luck with our bundle who was lighter than her carseat.
I had one main job – feed the baby. Catch this baby up.
And feed I did, with a non-stop passion that she responded to with a non-stop appetite. For the first 6 weeks of her life, Lauren ate around the clock, 40 minute nursing sessions were divided by 20 minute naps and then repeated. Twenty-four hours a day.
It was utterly exhausting. Every time she weighed in (frequently!) if the scale moved up I felt like a good mother. If it didn’t move up enough, I felt like a failure. I sat for hours breastfeeding and watching the CNN Hurricane coverage while I felt like I was in my own private hurricane, scrambling to do everything I could, but still feeling lost in the storm.
I finally cheered with delight on Lauren’s 5 week birthday that she was a full 5 pounds. I celebrated every single ¼ ounce she gained. Visitors were frightened and hesitant to hold her because she was so tiny and gaunt. Friends looked at me oddly when I announced the baby’s gain in tiny ounce increments. But that was my life, my sole purpose was to care for, and feed, my sweet tiny baby.
When Lauren was 7 weeks old, I stumbled accidently into a public health run mother’s group at a local centre. After weeks of caesarean recovery and no more than 20 minutes of sleep in a row, I was elated to find other mothers. I lay my 7 week baby down next to what seemed to be giant older babies and quickly lost my excitement as I realised the other babies were all younger. Meanwhile Lauren was still dressed in preemie clothes. At home she looked chubby, in a group she looked wrong. My perfect baby didn’t seem right. I went home and nursed straight through the night, desperate to increase my milk supply and make my baby grow.
Religiously I returned to that weekly group with the giant babies. Thank God for that group because as I focused on catching Lauren up to her peers, I found my own peers in the neighbourhood mothers in that group. I felt gratitude, very close to true love, to the public health nurses who offered to hold my baby while pushing me towards the free snacks and other moms. The lactation consultant visited bi-weekly and I came armed with questions about if I was feeding her “too much” like my in-laws claimed.
Mostly, I came to see the other exhausted moms and hear about their week. That Wednesday group was an oasis in the fog of early motherhood. I lived for Wednesdays.
Then we moved. August 2006, one week before we celebrated Lauren’s 1st Birthday, we moved from our cosy city neighbourhood with my tight-knit mom group friends to a larger house in the suburbs where we knew no one. Happy Birthday August was the birthday of our move and a new start in a new place.
By then, my scrawny infant was an average size 12 month old, energetic, funny and still perfect. Being alone in motherhood, in the suburbs, was not fun. All the old insecurities came back as I wandered the empty neighbourhood streets with my stroller, searching for someone like me.
Six months later the idea of momstown was born and 6 months after that, one week shy of Lauren’s 2nd Birthday, another August baby was born. This baby was called momstown.
On August 7, 2007 the very first momstown website and group, what is now momstown Burlington, went live. All the firsts – the first tradeshow, the first print run of postcards, the first momstown event – it was like a baby’s first food or first step – well noted and jubilant.
This August is momstown’s 4th Birthday. Every year when we celebrate momstown’s birthday it co-incides with planning my own little girl’s birthday party and that’s a bittersweet mixture. I nursed my baby around the clock when she was young and I have nursed momstown around the clock too. I celebrate my daughter’s milestones and momstown’s. Owning one’s own business is so similar to having a child, there are painful moments but the love and pride make any hardship worthwhile.
The little momstown idea, was much like Lauren, a petite concept at first but after 4 years of consistent and constant nursing and attention, fuelling it with ideas and strategy, momstown is starting to plump up and fill out. With 18 regional locations, we’ve caught up and gone beyond. I am beyond proud of momstown and do consider it my other child.
August births will always have a special spot in my heart.