|At the Market, acrylic, 16" x 20"|
In early May 1997, it was still a month until my due date. However, on May 9, our son decided that the time was ready for him to meet us. Even though he was four weeks premature, he had a healthy weight of 6 pounds 6 ounces so that we were released two days after his birth, which was Mother’s Day, my first Mother’s Day ever.
However, after the first night at home, Dominic had a blue crust on his lips and looked yellow. We made an appointment with a pediatrician who assured us that everything was normal. I should continue breastfeeding and put Dominic in front of a window so that he would get some sunshine. A horrible mistake that almost cost Dominic’s life!
Four days later, we called the hospital when Dominic started to refuse feedings and was gasping for air. A nurse suggested to get some nose drops and to keep observing him. We waited another couple of hours before we took him to the hospital. At this point, he was already in critical condition. He was hypothermic, and the sodium content in his body was extremely high. While we waited in the waiting room, he collapsed and was immediately put under a heating lamp and received infusions.
I felt so guilty. I felt that my failure to breastfeed Dominic correctly had threatened his life. I collapsed at the hospital in shock. The nurses tried their best to comfort me but with no success. The doctors warned us of seizures, possible permanent urinary tract and brain damage.
It was upsetting to see my little son attached to so many wires and tubes. I spent the next ten days with him, holding him in my arm and reading him stories. I was sitting on a hard rocking-chair among sick and crying children and their worried parents. Some of the stories I heard were heartbreaking. We were lucky: Dominic did not suffer any permanent damage. After ten days, we were able to bring him back home.
Having a baby in the house was extremely exhausting. While I had been complaining about not feeling well enough to do much while I was pregnant, I still had spent some time creating bears until the end of the pregnancy. With a newborn, I did not have any time to myself. Without any outside help, it did not take long until I experienced the first signs of burnout. In the beginning, Dominic still was only able to drink small amounts at a time (beginning with 60ml). I had to feed him all the time. However, after four weeks, he was thriving. Nevertheless, he kept crying due to colics. We had a tough time ahead of us.
I still looked for opportunities to be creative or at least to surround myself with art. I joined the “Stitch & Chat” group of the Orleans Newcomers Club and occasionally managed to sew bears. I enjoyed visits to the National Gallery of Canada, where I enjoyed the fantastic art of the old masters. I also made sure to visit other cultural events like shows at the Ottawa Little Theatre.
Reading my journal entries from my early motherhood, I can see that I had no idea about the sacrifices and hardships of caring for a baby. I had been seeing things through rose-coloured glasses, imagining that I would be able to pick up my creative activities after a period of adjustments. I neglected to cave out regular times for nurturing my creativity. At least, I was still determined to make bears, but it took about two years before I started painting again.
All my life, I have had the urge to create things, whether I was painting or designing clothes. As a result of the guilt after Dominic almost lost his life, I wanted to be the perfect mother. I neglected my own needs. In two weeks, I will tell what happened before I slowly regained a little bit of creativity in my life.
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