The Student-Mama

I know.  Equal parts ridiculous and adorable.

I know. Equal parts ridiculous and adorable.

As a new mama I’ve been placed back in to the role as a learner.  I am a “student-mama”, if you will, and nothing made this more glaringly apparent than the eleven days Joel and I spent learning from and about Charlee while she was in the special care nursery at the hospital in Vancouver.

First things first, the nurses in the special care nursery are a seriously incredible type of nurse.  During my recent hospitalizations I’ve come to learn more about the nursing profession; don’t get me wrong, all nurses are amazing, but special care/NICU nurses are just that extra touch of exceptional.  We saw a large turnover of nurses during our eleven days, and of course we had our “favourites”, but each and every single nurse taught us something new about taking care of our premature baby and we couldn’t be more grateful for the knowledge they imparted on us.

I mentioned in our family blog how amazing Joel has been since Charlee was born (the man has always been amazing, but he’s taken it to the next level in the last few weeks!)  Because of my c-section and high blood pressure I was somewhat out of commission for a few days, so Joel learned all that he could right away from the nurses and then passed those new skills on to me as soon as I was able to move around post-op.  I thought that I’d have a decent understanding of how to feed a baby her bottle because, you know, I grew up playing with dolls!  Turns out, dolls don’t move around and squirm quite as much a real, live baby.  Dolls also don’t spit up or choke on their milk (at least the toy dolls of my generation didn’t…)  Needless to say, a session of serious hands on training was in dire need.

Here’s a check list of a few essential things we learned during Charlee’s stay in special care:

-how to feed her (both breastfeeding and bottle feeding)
-how to burp her
-how to change diapers/deal with crazy diaper rash
-how to swaddle her
-how to bathe her (not an easy task!)

Baby boot camp is paying off in spades and we've only been released for five days!  Here is Charlee and me, doing some 3.30am hot laps around the kitchen/living room while stopping to refuel along the way.

Baby boot camp is paying off in spades and we’ve only been released for two weeks! Here is Charlee and me, doing some 3.30am hot laps around the kitchen/living room while stopping at the fridge to refuel along the way.

We practiced these few things continually while the nurses were constantly by our side making suggestions, adjustments and assessments to and of our practice.  Keep in mind, these nurses were also tending to five other babies and their parents as well.  I must admit that I cried a decent amount of tears during this rigorous baby boot camp (if any of my students from last year are reading this, I KNOW…the crying).   I recall thinking this THIS must be what it’s like to be the new and quiet student in the rambunctious, fully functioning classroom – all things running smoothly around you while you silently melt down and curse the fact that you’re so out of the loop.

Being a student-mama in the special care nursery is very much comparable to being a student-teacher in a classroom.  The student-mama is guided and taught by skilled professionals, like the student-teacher.  The student-mama is given a whole whack of strategies, tools and opinions to “help cope”, like the student-teacher.  The student-mama is completely, 100% overwhelmed from the start, like the student-teacher.  All I can say for sure is that I am entirely grateful for my practicum experiences AND my yoga practice because both those trainings kept me (mostly) calm and focused while chaos in the form of screaming babies and wailing heart monitors swirled around us.  The student-mama (and papa) is also given gradual release of responsibility when it comes to care for their baby, like the student-teacher, except the “baby” becomes the students in this case.  Every day in special care Joel and I took an increasing amount of ownership over Charlee’s care.  For example, we were merely an audience for her first bath, but the second and third baths we did on our own.

Our baby girl is over one month old now; therefore, I have had ample time to think about how this little human has taken full charge of becoming my teacher in a mere matter of weeks. Charlee has reset the scale on what it looks, feels and sounds like when maintaining one’s patience.  I thought my class from last year had taught me enough about patience, but it turns out I was wrong!  Nothing requires more patience than dealing with a screaming, hungry baby at 3am who will not eat despite the fact that she’s ravenous.  When these situations occur I notice my jaw gets really tense and I clench my teeth, my shoulders rise and my back starts to hurt and I get really snippy and rude.  It’s in those moments that (most times) I’m learning to take a deep breath and change my actions and attitude toward the screaming hungry monster.

This is her best hungry monster face.  I'm so glad we caught it on camera!

This is her best hungry monster face. I’m so glad we caught it on camera!

Charlee has also taught me how to slow down and appreciate the tiniest of accomplishments.  I’m noticing that while I adore being at home, I tend to go a little crazy if I don’t make it outside at least once a day.  Charlee and I have started to venture out a little bit in the form of attending doctor’s appointments,  Christmas shopping and forest walks behind our house.  The other day I finished off “thank you” cards for people who generously gave us gifts, did some laundry AND made the bed.  One month ago those tasks would have taken about twenty minutes to complete, but now they take me all day to attend to.  These days I definitely celebrate the fact that I get some little things done.  Charlee constantly reminds me that it is all about perspective.


I’m thinking this year of maternity leave with Charlee will become a fantastic learning experience for me.  I am confident I will head back in to the classroom next fall with a whole new view on this teaching profession and I have my tiny, five week old daughter to thank for it.

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