When I found out that I was pregnant, there was one thought that pervaded all others, and it was this: My best friend was getting married two weeks after my due date. The thought was all consuming and I was deeply concerned with taking the correct course of action, both as it pertained to my closest friend and to my unborn child. So when I had my new patient consultation with a potential OBGYN and she asked me if I had any questions, the first thing out of my mouth was, “My best friend is getting married 2 weeks after my due date. Tell me I can still go?” The doctor was rather amused and asked if there weren’t any other pressing questions I’d like addressed first. I must have looked at her as if she had 3 heads. This WAS the most pressing question I had in my arsenal. And so I simply looked at her quizzically, until she reassured me that all would be well and that we’d discuss my options in depth and formulate a plan. Hired.
A few weeks passed and I began to cycle through my options, realizing that new questions arose with each alternative. Was it preferable to take my newborn on a flight with me or to leave her behind? And if I were to leave her behind, how much would I have to pump? Would I be able to supplement with formula if I weren’t able to pump enough? I needed answers. So I turned to the pregnancy message boards I had begun to frequent and ventured on over to the “Babies: 0-3 Months” forum in order to present my query.
Never could I have predicted the response that followed. These women acted as though I had asked for their thoughts on infant waterboarding. The amount of vitriol spewed in my general direction made me double-check my license to make sure I wasn’t, in fact, Casey Anthony. I half expected Child Protective Services to show up at my door and put a lien on my unborn child. It was incredible. I was called a bad mom, cursed at, and generally treated with a remarkable amount of disdain. According to them, if I took my baby on a plane, she’d most assuredly come down with a case of the West Nile virus, and were I to leave her at home, it’d inevitably disrupt the bonding process, causing her to grow up to be a serial killer. In the end, I was told in no uncertain terms that this was impossible and that I needed to get my priorities in order.
The thing is, my priorities were exactly where they always had been. My best friend and I had been inseparable for as long as I could remember and neither the passage of time nor the large number of miles between us could act to weaken our bond. She was the first person who knew of my pregnancy, and I was texting conspiratorially with her mere moments before she got engaged. She was the Cristina to my Meredith…or possibly the Meredith to my Cristina. Either way, she was my person, and there was nowhere I would rather be on her wedding day than standing right beside her. Sure, it’d be difficult to leave my baby behind, but it’d be just as difficult to know that I had missed out on one of the most monumental moments in my best friend’s life. And so I resolved to attend the wedding, provided my plan received the approval of both my OBGYN and pediatrician.
As it turned out, I went into labor 2 weeks before my scheduled due date, bumping my C-section up a week. This gave me 4 weeks before I was to leave baby Brooke for the weekend. The plan had been hatched. I would let my supply regulate the first two weeks and then pump once a day thereafter, which would hopefully serve to provide my mom with enough milk to last Brooke through the weekend. It would. By the time I left, I had 80 oz. earmarked in my freezer. I was quite proud of myself/my supply and had a newfound respect for cows. So after getting my dress altered, packing my bags, and having one minor meltdown, we boarded the plane to New Jersey.
The experience was nothing like the disaster stories that NaziMom666 and NoFunPolice101 predicted, but there were some challenges.
1) Maintaining my supply. I had to pump every 2-3 hours to stay on Brooke’s schedule and that meant pumping any and everywhere. Thought you’d never see the day where a trucker turned away at the sight of a boob? Well, pull up alongside him in your rental car, with a shield attached to your nipple vigorously sucking bodily fluids out of you, and watch your worlds change.
2) My tolerance. I had been sober for 9 months and my body wasn’t prepared for the number of toasts the rehearsal dinner would bring. After playing a game of pool with the groomsmen, my husband came up to our room to find me like this:
Needless to say, I refrained from indulging in alcohol prior to my speech the next day.
3) The swelling. I knew that flights could bring about edema during pregnancy, but I didn’t know that that extended to the postpartum period as well. Little did my best friend know, choosing me as MOH also meant getting a celebrity appearance in the Pillsbury Doughboy. I’m surprised people didn’t come up to me throughout the night trying to tickle my belly.
4) My mom. I love that woman to death and I’m so grateful that she volunteered to watch Brooke for the entire weekend, but ma, maybe next time you could avoid texting me to tell me that Brooke choked on her bottle and that she was refusing to eat anymore…AND THEN HAVING YOUR PHONE DIE. I’ve killed for less.
In the end, challenges notwithstanding, I wouldn’t change my choice for the world. After switching up the nipples on the bottle, my mom had no further problems with Brooke, and I came home to a happy, healthy baby. And even though I wasn’t feeling my best, this weekend was never about me to begin with. It was about my best friend and ensuring that she had the weekend she had always dreamed of. Because you see, her joy is my joy; her sadness, my sadness; her family, my family. And in that way, she’s much, much more than a best friend. Maybe if I had couched the situation in different terms for those women on that message board and told them what this woman really was to me, my sister, they would have understood better.
Either way, I walked away having learned an important lesson. Everybody is going to have an opinion and they’re always going to think theirs is more valid than yours, but only you are equipped to make the best decisions for your family. I cannot tell you how many posters told me that the whole conversation was moot, because once I saw the deep-seeded, unconditional love I had for my baby, I wouldn’t even consider leaving her. Only problem? They apparently didn’t understand that I already had deep-seeded, unconditional love for someone — my best friend — and that I had for the last 17 years. In that vein, be open to advice, as there is always something we can learn, but do not be afraid to deviate from the norm if that’s what you feel is best in your heart. Only you know how to best serve the needs of your family and those needs aren’t at the exclusion of your own. Having a baby does not mean that you’re forced to abandon your former life and all of its values and priorities. Sure, it takes a bit more planning and a lot of help, but with a strong support system and a bit of will, you’ll still be able to do those things that are important to you. For a strong family unit doesn’t just feature a happy baby, but happy parents as well, so as long as everyone is being adequately cared and provided for, what you’re doing IS right.
And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.