Mama Said There'd Be Days Like This
Um actually no… I don’t think my mama ever clearly explained to me what “days like these” meant!! Sure, there were moments when she would comment while I was pregnant that she couldn’t wait to see how my daughter behaved as a teenager. Or she’d say “oh you’ll have a couple gray hairs in no time!” But in no way did she ever sit me down, look me in the eye, and say: “You are about to experience the hardest thing you’ve ever done in your entire life.” All kidding aside: I was overwhelmed with excitement and joy in the weeks leading up to my baby being born. Flash-forward eight months and I often think: how in the world will I survive with more children? How do people handle multiples? What the hell was I thinking? Being a stay-at-home mom isn’t just trips to Target, play dates, and Starbucks lattes. It’s nasty, dirty, exhausting, insanely hard, and the most wonderful thing that has ever happened to me!
When I had my little one last summer I knew that my life was in for some major changes. But I had no idea that that really meant that my whole existence would change. Motherhood is hard, it’s amazing, it’s lonely (even though you are never alone, like ever), it makes you feel super human, and it makes you feel like a total failure at the same time. Being a mama brings on all sorts of new feelings and crazy experiences.
You name it, I feel like we’ve been through it, and it’s only the first year. The first thing to hit was the baby blues. It started in the car on the way home from the hospital. I cried the entire way home, as did my poor child. I don't remember who started crying first but I'm sure my husband wanted to put the car in park and run! My mom, sister, and dad all met us at the house so I immediately put on the "I got this shit" face and pretended I wasn't scared shitless. After all, everyone said I was made to be a mom, that I was definitely mom material. My first mistake was not letting my mom stay with us. I'm not sure if I was trying to prove something or if I just wanted to "figure it out for myself". But that was mistake numero uno. Second mistake, we had a freaking party at our house the night we got home from the hospital, what the hell were we thinking. I am certain it wasn't my idea but I should have said NO to the idea as soon as it was proposed. While the intention was lovely, to get both of our families together to celebrate my mother-in-law's birthday and the arrival of the first grandchild on both sides of the family, the outcome was far from lovely. The thought was if it was at our house then everyone else could wait on us, they would bring the food, do the dishes, help with the baby, etc. HA! Instead what was going on in my head was great, more people to tell me how to do things, or silently criticize how I was doing. The only good thing that came of that night was one sweet little comment from my dad that I will never ever forget, he simply said "thank you, you have made my life complete" Cue the waterworks! He isn't a terribly emotional guy but he sure is one with words! So everyone left, including my mom, and I immediately started to sob. (they may not have made it out of the driveway).
My poor husband wanted to call her and have her come back but I refused. He gave me a sweet little pep talk; something about being a family and that we can do this together. Even though the poor guy can't breastfeed, and surely can't understand what I'm going through at all, he was trying to help. Meanwhile, my boobs were killing me, my body was doing who knows what, and I was wearing mesh freaking underwear. Ah, motherhood, just what I had been dreaming about my whole life.
The next nine days were basically Goundhogs Day. Everyday was the exact same, the only thing that changed, which isn't minor I might add, was that my milk came in the second day we were home. My boobs felt like rocks that might explode. I did my best to feed my baby every time she cried, which was every two hours, and I tried to do so without crying out in pain because my boobs were bleeding. Despite the physical pain and hassle of dealing with what was happening to my body in my nether regions, I was reasonably okay. Except...every night, some time between five and six I'd start crying. Not just tearing up, full on sobbing, can't catch your breath, "here you hold the baby so I don't drop her", SOBBING. Usually my family had just left and I think I just lost it. It's incredible how much you just "need your mom" (and dad and sister) after having a child. In hindsight, I feel so incredibly blessed that my parents are both alive and that they were here. I felt like I had an army that was just lingering out there, protecting me
I tried my best to hide my crying from my husband, but it was probably the second or third night that I let him in on my dirty secret. Before then I would just go to the bathroom and cry and then quickly pull it together for a bit and then back to the bathroom again for more crying. I told myself that he would think that it made sense that I was scared and cried the first night home, but not a few days in. He said I seemed so confident and comfortable with her all day long, he didn't know what I was I afraid of? And the truth is, I didn't either. I said I was afraid but I'm not sure that I was really "afraid". I was just overwhelmed, exhausted, uncomfortable, and unsure. I questioned myself constantly. I was so busy questioning if I was doing everything "right" that I wasn't just enjoying this little human I had brought into the world (no small feat). I started to question if I loved her enough, I wasn't sure that I felt as connected as I "should". This was probably the beginning of the mom guilt. How could I actually question if I loved my child enough? What the hell was wrong with me? But I specifically remember those thoughts crossing my mind. I never felt like I was going to hurt her, or not take care of her, I just didn't feel that amazing "bliss" I thought I should be feeling. But what bliss? According to who? Who says that all moms come home from the hospital and are instantly super mom? I probably created these expectations in my head, and because I was failing to meet these expectations I was a wreck. By the fourth night my husband convinced me that I needed to tell my mom. Telling her created an insight relief. It was like a tiny bit of the burden of shame had been lifted. And as soon as I told her I had the confidence to reach out to someone else (who I had heard in passing may have gone through the same thing). She was a huge help and recommended I take a few supplements and be sure to exercise and that I should see a change in a few more days. But why did I find out that she had struggled with the baby blues through a friend of her mother's? Why are we afraid to share with other women that the first few weeks of motherhood can be down right terrifying?
I'm sure that there are plenty of mamas out there who don't experience the baby blues, but I am confident that there are more out there than we are all led to believe. Why not make it public knowledge. This shit is hard!!! And it's scary. I didn't want to leave my house or see my friends or, or, or...I was depressed. As the days went on and I followed the advice of my friend, husband, and mother, things got better. And I became more confident in myself and less "baby bluesy". But it took a good month before I felt "like myself again". As "like myself" as I could feel now that I was a totally different person. I don't think the worrying will ever end, at least my mother says she still worries about me and I'm 32. But I do know that I am questioning myself less and becoming happier and happier as I settle into the role that everyone said I was made for: Happy Mama.
Other than the supplements, exercise, and just plain time I think the thing that actually helped me the most was just being honest with myself. I knew that I questioned myself more if I had visitors over because they inevitably gave parenting advice. So I had to nicely reject their offers to bring food. I had to create boundaries that I knew allowed me to have a "normal day". Meaning, I didn't need my in-laws to check in every night. Don't get me wrong they are amazing people; they were just too much at the time. Now we see them all the time and they are our go-to babysitters. And finally, I had to keep telling myself that "I just had to get through the first couple months" and it would all be a blur in no time. Just like everyone told us!
Now eight months later that first month really does seem like a blur. The hardest part was adjusting to my new life. The getting up four times a night, and the crazy body changes were merely routine by week three. It was the uncertainty, fear, and self-doubt that really rocked my world. If every mama out there who experienced the baby blues or some sort of postpartum sadness could share her story with just one other mama I think we would all start to be a little more confident in ourselves and be more prepared for all the changes.
The next major change came a few months later when she hit a sleep regression at three months old. We went from a great routine of only waking up twice a night to waking six to ten times a night. I was exhausted and scared, again! I had no idea why she was waking up so much and all I wanted to do was get her back to sleep so I did the only thing I knew would comfort her, I breastfed her and she would promptly fall back asleep. This went on for at least a week and then I decided it was time to change things up so I tried to let her “cry-it-out”. My husband couldn’t handle her crying for more than two minutes so I was back to trying to soothe her. Sometimes I’d feed her, sometimes I’d give her a pacifier, or I’d give her gas drops. I tried dancing, singing, and bouncing. I was so incredibly inconsistent, its no wonder she woke up all the time and I couldn’t get her back down. The poor kid was confused. in hindsight, after going through sleep training with a professional, I can say with confidence that the key to dealing with night waking is consistency. The other reason she was waking up was because she had “reflux” which turned out to not be reflux at all but that took dealing with her projectile vomiting up her meds for a week for me to discover that she had a dairy intolerance. Mama change number two hundred and one, cut out all dairy. While I know this sounds easy it isn’t. There is dairy or whey hidden in more food than you would think. After just five or six days of me not eating dairy my little one was back to only waking up once to feed. Thank God for Google at 2 am. Sometimes what you read online is actually right!
After cutting out dairy she seemed to feed much better but for some reason she wasn’t emptying the breast completely (I know this now, I didn’t at the time). And because she wasn’t completely empting the breast I got mastitis terribly in one breast. When I went to my OB I was put on meds, which seemed to help with the pain but there was still a large mass in my boob after a week. I went back to the OB who promptly sent me to the Cancer Center down the road to have my breast checked out. She was concerned about the lump! Holy hell, I think I was more scared at that moment than I was when my husband and I were driving to the hospital to deliver my baby. Thoughts ran through my head of my husband dealing with a wife going through chemo and a four-month-old baby. I was a wreck. As the nice tech scanned my breast I was sobbing as my husband sat next to me holding my hand and moving the stroller back and forth to soothe our crabby baby. I felt like someone was testing me, but hadn’t I been through enough?
I could go on and on but I think it is clear that it’s normal to have little bumps in the road. Some are little speed bumps and others are giant obstacles that seem insurmountable. But somehow, with the help of loved ones and lots of patience we continually make it work!
Instagram has become my best friend and my worst enemy. I see constant posts encouraging moms and making light of the fact that moms run off caffeine or that we are all “mombies” some days and we are all just winging it. All the while I also see posts of super cute moms in their skinny jeans, cute sneakers, and topknots with a latte in one hand and a child that looks like a Baby Gap model in the other. Who are these women? Not once in my short eight months as a mom have I looked that cute leaving the house in the morning with my child. NOT ONCE and I’m okay with that. At the end of the day I know that even though I have no idea how I’m going to do it, I magically some how get it done.
Did you have a similar experience to Lindsay's? How has motherhood impacted your life - give us the good, the bad and the ugly! And were you prepared? Share in the comments below!