Approximately one month ago, I become a mom. I had been waiting 40 weeks for it to happen. I knew what the end game of being pregnant was, you come home with a little, warm “bundle of joy” that now shares DNA with you and your husband. What I didn’t know or expect was the emotional roller coaster I have been on since 1:53 PM on Friday, July 17th. Let me share with you all of the challenges I have faced in one short month (well technically almost six weeks):
No one prepared me for the aftermath of birth. Maybe my mom tried to with conversations beforehand, and maybe I was too stubborn to be open to listen, or just maybe there is no way to mentally prepare for what happens after you give birth. I had been so blessed during my pregnancy. I felt great! Besides the additional weight that I gained, I felt like one of those freaks you hear about that love being pregnant. It was a great experience, so why was the reality of bringing home my baby so horrible?
I had our son E (I will refrain from using his name for his safety in the future) on Friday and we were released from the hospital on Sunday afternoon. Little E did a lot of crying. A LOT of crying! When he wasn’t crying he was eating. And when he wasn’t eating he was pooping a ton of black tar (which I was prepared for, but he pooped black for like 2 days!) So this all sounds standard, right? Okay, it was, but what I wasn’t prepared for was the feeling of disconnect.
Jacob and I are incredibly blessed with strong relationships with our friends and family. The only bad thing was that in the first 72 hours of E’s life, we had so many people walking through our hospital door Jacob and I didn’t really hold our own son. By the end of week one I felt like I wasn’t anything more to my son than the cow that fed him. I found myself crying as I fed him, partially from the incredible pain from breastfeeding, and from the distance I felt from my own child. I would look at this little baby in my arms and think, okay, who gets to hold you next? I didn’t feel like he was mine. I didn’t feel anything toward him.
I am sure most of you reading this are thinking “WARNING! WARNING! You are clearly exhibiting signs of postpartum,” but postpartum was not on my radar. I kept telling myself that this had to be normal. All new moms go through this, right?
There finally came a day where I couldn’t stop crying. Jacob would ask me what was wrong and I would just be crying. After what felt like my 100th outburst of the day, I turned to Jacob and said “I don’t feel like E’s mom, I just feel like a cow. Is he mine? I feel like he belongs to everyone else but me!” It was at this point we both decided to take a break and close our doors to the public and spend some time bonding as a family.
I can say that it did help me a lot to develop some sort of bond with him. I do feel like more of his mom, but I still go through moments where I look at him and wonder if he even knows who I am. Am I anyone to him besides the person who feeds him? I worry that with all of these incredible people in our lives, he won’t know me from the rest of the crowd. I mean, I should by default be the most important person in life besides Jacob, but am I?
I have been voicing these concerns and not letting them fester. The women in my life are doing everything to rally me and let me know that the voices aren’t right, and that E does know who I am, so I just keep telling myself that he does. But each day is a different battle, and some days are easier than others and I don’t expect to be 100% overnight. I just know that I need to not give in to the negative that keeps creeping in. I also know that this isn’t something that is going to fix itself.
I will still have moments of doubt. I will still start crying from the pain I feel. I will still cry from the exhaustion and feeling like I am alone in this battle. And I will just have to remind myself that these feelings will pass, and that I am not alone. I am so not alone.
Okay, why didn’t anyone tell me how HORRIBLE breastfeeding feels? I read the blogs, the books, went to the classes, watched youtube videos, but never, ever did they truly explain the pain that is breastfeeding. The wonderful woman who taught my breastfeeding class said that there was an adjustment period, and that your nipples feel sore, but that was a LIE. Breastfeeding feels like your nipples are being ripped off with sandpaper. The most frustrating part was when I looked for answers online I kept reading “poor latching” on E’s part was the reason for my pain, but let me tell you that wasn’t the case!
There were several days where I was screaming as E latched to eat followed by more tears on my part (tears have been a major reoccurring theme and will be for this post). Jacob would say it sounded like there was a dinosaur in our house, I joked that the noises used for Jurassic World were my own sounds and we should be getting royalties. I was texting, calling, emailing, and googling everything I could about breastfeeding. Why hadn’t I heard that there would be so much pain associated with feeding? After reaching out to the amazing women in my life, I learned that this is all a part of the process and that most likely the pain wouldn’t go away until 6-8 weeks after. Oiy Vey! I wish I had been mentally prepared for that!
Not only was I dealing with the pain and adjustment of breastfeeding, but around week two I started to notice some changes with E when he was eating. He would become very aggravated in the evening while eating. Again I took to google and the La Leche League website to seek answers. What I gleaned was that E wasn’t getting enough food. He was aggressively attacking my breasts hoping to get more milk to come out and nothing was there.
We thankfully had our next appointment with E’s pediatrician and I told her what was going on. She told me that I shouldn’t worry and to start supplementing with formula so E can get the nourishment he needs. Simple, right? No!
I then began to feel immediate shame and guilt. What was wrong with me? Why wasn’t I able to provide what my child needed? All of the women around me where breastfeeding machines and here I am, not able to produce even 3 oz of milk from my breast to satisfy my son.
I felt like a failure.
I told my mom how I was feeling and she tried to calm me. She told me that maybe it was a blessing in disguise, that I shouldn’t worry about it. But I couldn’t stop those evil postpartum voices. They crept in and told me I wasn’t a good mother. I mean, I was already frustrated at my high-demand child, so this was punishment. This was my body’s way of punishing me for all the frustration and disconnect I was feeling.
Then recently a good friend of mine texted me. She asked me how I was and I was honest. I told her I felt guilty. I felt ashamed. She shared with me that she too had to supplement, and it wasn’t the worse thing in the world. In fact she is raising a vivacious, active, intelligent little girl. Those words helped comfort me in ways she may never realize.
I am still trying to breastfeed, but I am less ashamed that I need to supplement my son’s feedings with formula at night. I still feel guilt, but I refuse to let this aspect of motherhood get me down. I mean, I am already beating myself up over everything else.
The dreaded “C” word. I honestly refused to think that MY baby would have it. There is no way that our little guy could have colic. I mean, I was already depressed and crying. I already had cracked and sore nipples. I already had to start supplementing my child’s feeding. I was already exhausted, but add colic and I damn near lost my mind.
All of a sudden E started crying for hours straight. There was nothing wrong with him. He was fed, he was dry, he just woke up from a nap. Yet here he was. This little bundle of emotion. SCREAMING at the top of his lungs. Beating me with his tiny fists on my chest. Making the most primal sounds. His face turning a bright, vivid shade of tomato red. It was both amazing and frustrating. WHAT THE HELL WAS WRONG WITH HIM?
Again, when we went to the pediatricians we asked about it. The doctor confirmed it. Yes, he has colic. She poked his belly and said, yep, lots of gas built up in there.
Great. Just keep adding it on the the things that are slowly making me crack.
OKAY. OKAY. Again, this seems like a DUH topic, right? Oh no, no, no. This is a whole new level of sleep deprivation. One I could have never imagined. Sure, I expected some of it, but again I wasn’t fully prepared.
E is a kid that does not like to sleep. We seem to be slowly getting past the colic stage (Thank the Lord) but we have now moved on to the “Mom, I don’t want to take a nap or go to bed” stage. I could have sworn that this wasn’t supposed to happen until the terrible twos?
I can visibly see that E is exhausted. He has been up for hours. And yet here he is, once again screaming with puffy, swollen eyes. His eyes may be swollen from the tears, but they are also swollen from being awake for 6 hours straight. Sure, he may drift off for 30 minute stretches, but that is only if he is in someone’s arms or laying peacefully on a chest. The moment you transfer him to a bassinet or bed, the screaming commences.
My husband and I have gotten so desperate we started co-sleeping, something I am totally against. I fear suffocating my child due to being in a deep sleep for once. What’s worse, the screaming newborn from lack of sleep or waking up finding out you killed your baby? I know that is way harsh, but its the truth of co-sleeping. I don’t want to be that statistic, but I also want an hour of rest! I feel like we are between a rock and a hard place on this subject.
My mom even printed me some articles on infant sleep. They were great reads, but once again E seems to be the anomaly in this. One article says wait 20 minutes after your child has fallen asleep to move them, because then they are in “deep” sleep. This doesn’t work on E. It is like he has a censor to indicate he is being put down. One article says put them in bed when they are partially asleep to help them learn to go to sleep on their own. This just results in more screaming and tomato face. One article says let your baby nurse themselves to sleep. This causes more pain on my breast and once I try and move E in any way he is awake and alert. One article says make sure not to drink coffee or have chocolate. There is literally NO difference when I don’t have either of these substances.
So we battle. E and I battle for nap time during the day and once Jacob is home at night, Jacob battles with him at night.
I never realized what a selfish person I was until I had a baby. I mean, I knew I was pretty selfish deep down, but having a baby really made me realize that.
After spending hours with this little sack of crying fury, I look forward to 10 minutes of peace. I know people say “sleep when the baby sleeps,” but that is really hard. It is hard because I want to take that time and mentally recharge.
I feel like there is a small part of me that has died. I have been living in house arrest for the first four weeks of E’s life and now that I can take him out and about, I don’t want to. I don’t want to take him out and listen to him scream the entire time we are at Target. I don’t want to listen to him scream while I try and walk around the mall. Not to mention the fact that he eats every hour and fifteen minutes religiously! How the heck can I walk around breastfeeding for 30 minutes!?!?!
I feel trapped.
It is not a feeling I like. I am not too sure how to fix this. Yesterday I braved Target. Sure enough E started crying as soon as we got into the store. He was hungry. Shocker. So I put him in his baby sling hoping that the contact with me would soothe him. NOPE. What I was then forced to do was to slide him down in the sling, then cover myself with my nursing wrap, attempt to release my breast for him, help him find said breast, get him to latch, and then navigate Target with a stroller full of crap I needed to buy.
It was one of the most interesting trips to Target I have ever taken. At the end of it I felt both proud and frustrated. Proud at my ability to complete my shopping with a nursing baby while maneuvering a heavy stroller and frustrated because why couldn’t it have just been a pleasant trip?
Six Weeks Lessons
So given everything I said, what is my end point? I guess what my point is in writing this blog is sharing my experience. I don’t think that this is everyone’s experience. I am sure there are moms out there with much more harrowing stories to share. This is MY truth however. This is my journey so far.
I don’t share it to scare new moms. I don’t share it for pity. I just share it because I wish I knew more at the beginning. I wish I had been a little better prepared (OKAY, OKAY, I know that no one is every truly prepared to become a parent). And I am sharing this in case some other new mom is surfing the internet at 3 AM, after having just done a feeding an hour ago, having not been able to put your child down to sleep because they just woke up as you set them down, after watching your husband slumber peacefully because you don’t want to wake him because he has to go to work tomorrow, and you are sitting in the dark silently crying wondering what you did wrong to bring this upon yourself.
Have faith. You are not alone. The things that have gotten me through these last six weeks of E’s life are the following:
Friends – without the countless women in my life who take 10 minutes out of their day to text me I would be adrift. These women keep me in their prayers and their thoughts. I personally believe that even if you aren’t “religious,” keeping someone in your daily positive thoughts is a way of lifting us up to the Lord for prayer and intercession. I respect and love these women for their belief that I can make it through this trying time and that I am doing just fine.
Your Partner – I hope that every woman who is going through the trying time of new motherhood has a partner they can turn to. Sure for me my partner is my husband, but for you it may be a mom, sister, best friend, but you need to have a partner that can tag team you out. If you don’t have a partner, reach out and find someone. Allow yourself the opportunity to hand off that screaming newborn and walk away for 10 minutes. I have done it a ton and it has helped me keep what is left of my sanity.
Prayer – Before E was born, I was lucky if I prayed once a week. It was something I meant to do, but never seemed to get around to it. Now I find that prayer is the only thing getting me through. One night when E was refusing to sleep and I was up with him for four hours alone, I found myself pacing my dining area repeating the Hail Mary. Ever since then I take comfort in that prayer. When I feel myself slipping into frustration, anger, and discontent at night, I start saying the Hail Mary. When I started I was just saying it as my plea to God to please just get me through another night, now I lift up the prayers to not only get me through the night, but get any other mother out there through her night. I pray that the Holy Mother intercedes and gives strength and healing to any mother who feels like she can’t make it through, because I know sometimes I can’t.
Keep this quote from Saint Bernard of Clairvaux the Father and Doctor of the Church in your mind when you are praying:
“In dangers, in doubts, in difficulties, think of Mary, call upon Mary. Let not her name depart from your lips, never suffer it to leave your heart. And that you may obtain the assistance of her prayer, neglect not to walk in her footsteps. With her for guide, you shall never go astray; while invoking her, you shall never lose heart; so long as she is in your mind, you are safe from deception; while she holds your hand, you cannot fall; under her protection you have nothing to fear; if she walks before you, you shall not grow weary; if she shows you favor, you shall reach the goal.”
So I hope this helps you, you new mom out there suffering through the night. Know that you aren’t alone. There are others like you, crying, suffering through colic, the inability to breastfeed.
And to my friends who read this: thank you for your thoughts and prayers, they have been a comfort in more ways than you know. I hope you are all ready for my blog posts about my unfiltered parenting experience, because I plan on sharing the good, the bad, and the explosive diaper truth of the matter.