March 13, 2013

Stinkin Hard turns into Super Cool: My First Year as a Mom

By Amy

My son Hayden, was born March 25, 2012, and I was scared. I had never really spent much time around babies growing up; I was always nervous I would do something wrong. I LOVED kids and babysat often, just not newborns.

I had little confidence about my baby abilities, but in a leap of faith, my husband and I decided the time was right for us to start a family.  Soon I was pregnant, and 9 months later, here came our little baber. (Click here for his silly birth story and to catch a glimpse of his poor little alien head.)

I loved my little son with all of my heart, but we definitely had a rocky first couple weeks. (Well, actually, his whole first 2 months were hard for both of us.)

But first, I need to tell you I have put off this post for a while, wondering how to tell it without shoving your face into a big fat piece of negative pie.  But, this story is the reason I decided to start a blog in the first place.  I desperately needed support as a new mom; now I want to offer support and friendship to others!  And though we talk about much more than becoming moms here on S.O.M., that was my inspiration.  So, though it isn't cheery-sweet, don't worry, this story has a happy ending!  Ok, back to the story:

Like I said, we struggled.  I probably deserved it, since my pregnancy and delivery were pretty easy...for me the trouble wasn't getting my baby here, oh no--it started once he arrived!  My baber screamed his whole first week home from the hospital and...and I cried almost as much as him.  Luckily, my mom was in town helping me.  Looking back, that time is just a blur of worry and exhaustion.  I remember trying to get him to nurse over and over, but usually it just ended in him screaming and refusing, and me crying in frustration.  My husband (who was in the middle of a brutal finals week along with working full-time), my mom, and I took shifts all through the night holding Hayden, who only stopped screaming when he was bounced.  (I spent many hours on our exercise ball.)  Plus, he was bright orange with jaundice, and I had to keep him on special lights and have him tested at the hospital every day.  I kept praying, pleading over and over with Heavenly Father to help me know what to do for my son so he would stop screaming.

Jaundice treatment.  Checkout his "tan"!  Now he's just as white as me.
The felt like I should call my friend and ask to borrow her breast pump.  She kindly let me, and after pumping I found that I was still only making colostrum, even though my baby was almost a week old.  Though he seemed to be nursing, he wasn't pulling much out of me--and my body wasn't supplying since there was no demand. (If only we had gauges on the side of us, that read "empty" or "full"!)  I already knew from the hospital that he had a weak suck and that it was nearly impossible for him to latch on. Many nurses and the lactation specialist had helped me time and time again, but nursing never went great for us. I had just hoped it would improve with time.

But, a week later, after pumping, I knew that he was bawling from hunger.  Though I wanted to nurse exclusively, out of desperation I gave him a little sample bottle of formula we got from the hospital and he DOWNED it.  Guzzled.  And then...he was calm.  I sent a grateful prayer heavenward.

I started pumping and bottle-feeding full time.  This was time consuming and uncomfortable (It felt like that thing was sucking out my soul...I even made Patrick try it out so he could sympathize with me).  It took me 45 minutes to pump about three ounces (and I pumped several times a night, too) and it took Hayden 45 minutes of sputtering and crying to finish a two ounce bottle.  But, at least I knew exactly how much he was getting!  Our pediatrician referred us to an Occupational Therapist for his weak suck, which helped.

I expected that having a baby would be hard, but I was not prepared for how I would be tired to my bones.  My every waking minute (along with every sleeping minute) was commanded by this tiny, red-faced person who was always hollerin' at me. I wanted to reason with him, "Give me a break, child!  I'm new at this, and I'm trying my best!"  I loved him so much, and worried constantly, because despite the fact that I knew he was eating, he still screamed a lot.  We later found out that he had reflux and he was crying from pain, but it took another month to figure that out and get him on the right medication.

Ok, before you all you single girls run off to join the nearest convent, or you married ladies with no kids swear off babies forever, hear me out.  I'm not trying to scare you away from having a baby.  Really.  I just want to be real, for all you moms who can identify because you had a hard time with your first, and for those who are going through it right now.  Because I often felt alone; like I was the only mom who struggled.  I don't want you to feel that way.  (Read to the end, single girls!  You really don't have to become a nun.)

There are several reasons why this time gets so emotionally crappy.  Right after having a baby, your hormones are out of whack, making you a crazy person.  Plus, from all the time you are awake at night, you're not just tired, you're stupid-tired.  Everything seems twice as bad as it really is, because you're so frazzled.  I cried over super lame things.  The weird thing is, you know you're being ridiculous and dramatic but you can't figure out how to stop it!

The first few weeks, my goal was to get through a day without crying.  But, over and over, I wouldn't make it.  My baby's cries sounded in my ears, "You're a failure." "You're no good at this." and worst of all, "You can't even make your own baby happy.  So much for having a motherly instinct."

It was also difficult because suddenly I was in the house more than ever.  Walking at the gym abruptly ended, and it was too windy and cold (hello, Rexburg, ID!) for taking my babe out for walks; I missed those natural "working out" endorphins.  I was no longer teaching Jr. High and high school art.  I missed my interaction with students and teachers, along with the feelings of accomplishment and recognition that my job had brought me.  I went from feeling successful, to feeling like a big-time failure at my new job of momma.  Also, I was lonely.  Patrick was a great support and helped with Hayden, but he was very busy with work (he was managing a restaurant) and had to be gone a lot.

And last of all, I had a heavy cloud of guilt hanging above me, for not "loving every minute" and for the times when I had thoughts like, "This sucks." or when I thought swear words when my baby woke for the 6th time in one night.  I hated feeling that way, especially since I knew couples who would give anything to be able to have a child of their own.  To top off my guilt, I heard other moms say things like, "Oh my baby is just growing up too fast!" while I was frequently reassuring myself, "In 5 months he will be half a year old.  And things will be better then.  And when he's one, he'll walk and jabber and play patty-cake...I can make it.  We will survive."  After these thoughts, that familiar guilt would wash over me again for wishing this time away. 

Thank goodness, amidst all this, there were the wonderful moments, like holding my baber on my chest while he slept.  And, when he first smiled; oh I was in heaven!

Things slowly improved.  Hayden's medicine helped his pain and at six months, his reflux subsided and we took him off the meds.  He continued having sleep problems (would wake up crying up to 15 times a night).  As my mom told me, "He is not an easy baby."  That really made me feel better to hear her say that.  If even a veteran mom knew he wasn't easy, maybe it wasn't just me!

I was SO grateful during that time for my mom and Patrick's mom who each stayed with me for a week right after Hayden was born.  Also, my angelic momma friends who offered encouragement and told me their own hilarious stories about their initial struggle.  These stories were like gold to me; they meant that I wasn't the only one who sucked at this!  Ha!  Also, my old friends and roomies who weren't moms...they came and gushed about the cuteness of my son, (how can any mom help but love that?) we told stories about old times, laughed and laughed.  I loved these visits too!  This may sound weird, but it was good to know that the old me was the same person as the new "mom" version of me. I thanked Heavenly Father for my all sweet friends and family who were there when I needed them most.  Most of all, my Savior lifted me through everything and I clung to prayer like a lifeline.  I figured, this child was God's before he became mine, so if anyone knew what my son needed, it was Him!

Ok. That's enough baby drama.  (Keep in mind, it's not always this hard. It totally depends on your baby...some babies are temperamentally much more chill, and others...well, not so much!)  Now I want to reassure you new and future mommas and address some common misconceptions.  

Contrary to the popular belief of those afraid to have kids (like I was), your life is not over when you have a baby-- though for the first couple months, it feels that way.  But, I am so happy to report that being Hayden's momma just keeps getting better and better.

I'm crazy about him!  I smooch him all day, and I am strangely obsessed with his skinny neck.  I can't stop taking pictures!  And as if he wasn't already hilarious enough, now he is walking around, stiff-legged, bouncing off of walls, arms in the air, grinning his head off.

Sure, he still fusses and throws a fit when he doesn't get what he wants (like any baby) but now, his happy times far outweigh his crying times.  It's exciting to see the little person he is becoming.  Oh, helps that he now sleeps from 8 to 7 every night...BOOYAH!  It makes me wanna hug strangers!

He's grown and changed so much, and he's not constantly cranky!  In fact, people we meet often tell me, "Oh, he's such a happy baby!"  When I hear this, I smile and thank them, but on the inside, I'm wearing a choir robe, clapping and singing, "Oh Happy Day!".  He's a stinker too, racing to the toilet every time we leave the bathroom door open, he's forever getting into garbages, pulling on cords, and dropping his food on the floor just to see our reaction.  Haha...little stink!

Another huge help: now that he's older and on a good schedule, I can plan around his naptimes; there's a daily rhythm:

Awake, sleep (morning nap), awake, sleep (afternoon nap), awake, sleep (bedtime).

During awake times we do lots of stuff.  We go for walks (outside at the park when it's nice and at the mall with the old people when it's cold), read books, wash and sort the laundry, dance in our living room, clean up, do the dishes, go to the grocery store, hit up the library, peruse D.I. for amazing finds, etc.  We go all over town...he's my cool little sidekick!

Mesmerized by a goat at the fair.
During his first naptime, I make sure I get in my essentials: I shower, get ready, and read my scriptures.  His afternoon nap (Oh, what a Glorious Time!), is when I get to work on my projects, write, blog, read, sort photos (I'm trying to get caught up on 5 years! Oy.) and plan/set up for art lessons.  I'm trying to do as much as I can now, since I'm sure I will have much less time when I have a second baby!

His favorite song: on Sesame Street "What I Am." It's pretty catchy!
When Hayden's awake we do lots of things together, but...we also do our own thing!  And, it was quite a process to get to this point.  We had a ROUGH couple months and we finally had to initiate a few days of operation "attention detox", but now he is pretty good at playing on his own for 5-15 minutes at a time. (Insert happy dance!)  I feel it's important for him to grow in independence and not expect ALL of momma's attention ALL of the time (otherwise, he'll have a rude awakening when a sibling comes!  Ha!)

So, now, I can actually do stuff while he's awake, like wash the dishes, clean, work on my laptop, or cook dinner (more like burn dinner...I am a crappy cook.)  While I work, I talk and sing to him, and he plays with toys, looks at books, or gets into stuff.  It can be a challenge to balance giving him enough attention and helping him be independent/getting stuff done.  I'm definitely not perfect at this.  Also, I have to be careful not to get too distracted.  (Like Facebook--I love it because I can still talk to people during the day since I don't get much social interaction at home, but it can also become a time-waster that SUCKS ME IN.  Pinterest does this, too!...check out this interesting article about moms and their screen time).  I just try to always remember that my son wants, needs, and deserves my attention.  So, when I know I have been busy doing other things for a while, I stop for a 15 minute one-on-one of reading stories, tickling, singing, and dancing (This kid has already got some SICK moves!).

Playing with PhotoBooth on my laptop
In the evenings when Patrick gets home from school, we have dinner, then play with Hayden, give him a bath (his favorite time of the day! Seriously, he goes nutso in there. I need a rain slicker!).  Then family prayers, bottle, and bedtime.  After 8, it's just Patrick and I.  And, it's wildly romantic: we eat chocolate covered strawberries by candlelight and whisper sweet nothings in each others ears.

Um, yeah right.

It's a lot less romantic than that...though we DO sit next to each other.  Patrick works on his mounds of homework (or PRETENDS like he is, while actually playing Angry Birds) while I work on projects, cruise Facebook, blog, or read.  Sometimes, when we're feeling a little reckless and irresponsible, he throws the homework aside, and we cuddle while watching a movie and eating icecream...I know, we're wild!

So, we're parents and life goes on, both for us as a couple, and as individuals.

I worried, as I know other couples do, that a baby would bring a lot of stress into our marriage.  Actually, I feel our marriage is better.  We have this huge common interest and goal; the welfare of our little babe.  Also, dates seem more special.  Most of all, I love to see Patrick with Hayden.  Seeing him as a dad and taking care of Hayden as a team has deepened my love, respect, and admiration for him.   And...Hayden adores his dad. (Which is great for me, cause when daddy gets home, Hayden's GLUED to him, meaning a break for me! Woo!)

Hayden's first swim!  (Don't mind the hairy background...)

I've also heard people say that when you have a kid, you lose all your friends.  Not true!  It just takes a bit more effort to keep in touch--so it's YOUR choice whether this happens or not.  We love to take our babe to see our old friends (though we wish we could see all of them more often) and we've made friends with lots of new families who also have young kids.

You can still do things like eating out and going on trips, both just take more planning; you just have to be smart be smart in where you go and be very prepared!

As for myself, I am accomplishing goals and doing things that I love, though I am no longer teaching in a school district.  This year so far, I've started teaching art lessons from my home, reached my goal weight (ha, for a couple's a work in progress!), and started a blog. (Yay, Swag on, Momma!  Thank YOU for contributing and supporting!  It's a dream come true and it's been SO fun to talk with all of you!)  I've decorated our new apartment (I'm a little obsessed)...and I'm in a fabulous book club!  It feels SO good to get out more, and I am a happier and better momma when I take the time to enjoy friends and hobbies.  Now, I don't struggle with resentment like I did in the beginning when I didn't do much of anything.

Though life as a mom is different, it is still fun and good! I must admit, I am quite terrified to have another baby. (I just hope that I get an easy baby next...Oh please, please, please!)  And I know when he or she comes, it will be hard.  But when the dust settles and the bleary-eyed shock of caring for a newborn passes, then we'll figure out a new norm, a new daily rhythm, and I'll learn how to be a momma to TWO adorable stinkers.

Well, there you have it.  That was my first year as a momma.  And in conclusion, my friends-- it's worth it.  I have found my momma groove and I don't cry anymore! :)  Yay!  (Wait till I have more kids, right!? HA!)  Some days are rough, like when he's sick or I'm sick or when he's cranky and I want to pull my hair out (Read Sarah's awesome post about one of these moments...I TOTALLY relate).  But I feel so much joy when I am cuddling with my husband and my son, or when Hayden sees me walk into the room and he beams his freakin' adorable two-teeffer smile at me.  It makes my heart so full I kinda wonder why it doesn't burst.

First time moms, it gets better.  I promise.  It gets awesome.  Your baby will chill out, you'll get adjusted, and life will be happy.  Not perfect, but happy.

And, please, if you are struggling, reach out to others. Don't just wear a mask of "happy", when you need more friendship and support.  Especially if it continues for longer than a month.   I wouldn't classify my struggle as true postpartum depression (a few weeks is just considered the "baby blues") and I don't know completely how that feels, but it IS NOT something to stay quiet about.  Talk to someone.

New momma, you and your baby will make it!  Just keep trying every day.  Do your best and stop guilting yourself--your best is enough!

All of us mommas are cheering for YOU! 
-Love, Amy 

P.S. Please comment! I want to hear from you, friend! If you've had a baby, did you experience the baby blues?  If you haven't had any babies yet, are you nervous?  What makes you nervous?  Also, if you know of any new momma, please share this post with her.

P.S.S. Mommas of more than one babe: Do you still struggle with inadequacy and guilt with each baby?  Or is it better after the first?  I would love to hear your experience.


  1. What a great post Amy! I can totally relate, especially about the breastfeeding part. I had a rough start with breastfeeding. I had nurses and WIC nutritionists always tell me how I'm not feeding my baby enough and how she was too skinny. Having them say that made me feel like a worthless mom. Eventually I just got angry. I think I kept up with breastfeeding just to prove them wrong. Ha! And Miranda is doing just fine too. But you are right, nursing was SO time consuming at first. I would spend half the day trying to feed her. But things worked out. Thanks so much for writing this post, and thank you for the link back to my blog. I really appreciate it.

    1. Ha, the same thing happened to me at WIC! Some babies are just smaller...what's the big deal? And see, Miranda lived, Hayden lived...things work out. :) And, thanks for letting me link to your post! I laughed so hard when I read it...that is SO my life too! HA!

  2. LOVE IT!! I think all mommy's have a tough start!! ;)
    You are such a great mommy!! :)

    1. Thanks Lauren, I try to be! Congrats on your #2 on the way! :)

  3. This made me cry because it was exactly like my experience as a new mom. We had just moved to Utah three months before she came so we were in a new state, new house, Brandon had a new job and was starting school, I was adjusting to having no job and finishing school, we had no friends or family within three hours of us, and Brandon developed PPD from all the stress. Ellie was a very difficult baby. She had jaundice so we had to do the lights and the daily tests and all then. Then she got colic and REALLY bad reflux. It took a long time to get her medicine figured out. We spent a very large majority of the first six months in the rocking chair crying together. Every night we wondered if we needed to take her to the ER because we just knew something had to be really wrong with her. It was hard and it sucked. But like you said it does get better! And then you hit the terrible two's...
    Now that we're pregnant again I am praying that this baby is nothing like his sister was. I really wish I'd known what you were going through I would have figured out some way to help you! I wouldn't wish my first few months as a mom anyone. But I also wouldn't change anything about the awesome little girl that I have (except maybe get her to poo in the toilet already).

    1. Whitney, thank you SO much for your comment! Wow, you had it ROUGH!!!! Seriously, that sounds SO hard. OH. I have SO much compassion for new moms, now. I had NO idea before. I was lucky to at least have my parents 45 min away and my mom came up every other week for a couple hours to help. I bet you were so lonely. :( I'm glad you made it through! I remember always wondering if we whould take Hayden in. We did go to the pediatrician's office A TON cause we had NO idea why he was screaming! I felt like an idiot, especially when I would get all shaky voiced explaining what was going on to the doctor, and a couple times I started crying in front of them!
      You are so sweet! I know what you mean though, when I hear a a new mom who is struggling, I want to do anything I can! Cause, like you said, it is hard and it sucks! :) But, I LOVE my son, and that's what we had to go through to get be it! :)
      Haha..good luck with baby #2 (hopefully he or she is one of those angel babies who "just LOVE sleeping!") and with the pooing in the toilet!

    2. I tell the baby everyday that he needs to be an angel baby or we're sending him back! Ha ha!

  4. I love every word I just read. Seriously, I felt like you were telling my story with this post. I felt the exact same way with our little guy during the first few months. I thought I was a bad mom for getting frustrated about pretty much everything because all I ever saw was pictures of my friends with their babies with captions like, "I love my new job as a mom!" "Being a mom is the best thing in the world!" "I am so incredibly in love with my baby!".... and I just didn't feel the same way. I still have moments when I feel a little trapped but now that our baby is 7 months old and we have a schedule down everything is SO much more do-able. It also helps a ton that he has grown and learned a ton allowing him to entertain himself.

    Anyway-- thanks for helping me feel a little less like a crazy person. (:

    1. Thank you SO much Katelyn for your comment. (and for following the blog! Hooray and Welcome!) It's nice to know I'm not the only one who struggled! HA...I TOTALLY know what you mean about the pictures and facebook posts. I was such a brat, sometimes I would roll my eyes when I read those gushy comments--and I am normally a nice person! Actually, I have to admit, I saw a picture of your baby that your husband posted where your son's looking up at his mobile all sweet (he's a freakin cute baby, by the way) and I thought, "See their baby is all sweet and chill. They are so lucky." How ironic that you were looking at other pics feeling discouraged too! Ha! Just goes to show, everybody's got their own stuff to deal with.

      Yep, I think it's only natural to feel a little trapped at times. It's a good thing I know God wants us to have families, otherwise, I'd probably live a carefree and selfish life, backpacking through Europe and painting the Alps! Ha! But, that would end up lonely and sad after a while.

      Haha, I am always happy to help someone else feel less crazy! :) At one point when Hayden was tiny, I remember imagining how awesome it would be if I fell down some stairs and broke both of my legs. I would get to stay in bed and sleep, and someone else would have to come to my house and take care of my baby for me, while I rested. How's THAT for crazy!? Pure exhaustion will do it to ya!

  5. You are a great writer and a wonderful person for sharing this!! I am pregnant with my fourth (that's right 4th) and my oldest is five. I consider newborns easy! I laughed when you said it gets easier! Wait until they are nearly smarter than you. (Like my genius 5- year-old!) but really. All those things you said- are still true! It helps to make and keep friends, to get out even when it's a circus!
    Anyway. I wish you an easy baby for your next one! They're the best!

    1. Christina! Thank you so much! (Sidenote: are you related to my cousin, Mellisa's, husband, Frank?) Ha, you are awesome and brave to have your babes so close! :) Yeah, Hayden is getting a little cheeky already, like dumping his food on the floor and watching me the whole time, then LAUGHING. The NERVE! Well, I figure cheeky is better than screaming day and night! :) Thanks, I hope my next LOVES to sleep! :) Good luck with yours on the way!

  6. Ah Amy. Loved what you wrote and your willingness to put it out there and sorry I wasn't a better support. My hardest time came with my fourth - I was stressed out with a newborn who cried A LOT, a big church calling, plus my three other kids to take care of. I wasn't making enough milk, so getting him on formula helped, but he was cranky/stubborn/generally unhappy for 2 1/2 years. He would insist on the stupidest things - worst was when he wanted me to take him out of the bath with my RIGHT hand, NOT my left hand!! Who does that?? Don't know where his crazy control streak came from, but it it made his life AND my life so frustrating. I hated not really "liking" my child... I LOVED him, but didn't really like him. After many prayers, tears, and a boatload of patience I didn't have before, I figured out how to work with him on his behavior and now at 3 1/2, he's helpful, happy, and when I ask him to put his shoes away, it just melts my heart when he say, "Yeah, sure mom!" That is such a reward from a little boy who used to fight against everything and everyone.

    This child-rearing thing is dang hard - and it's fine to admit that. It's also dang-awesome.

    1. You were a good support! You couldn't really do much being so far away! :) It blows my mind to imagine what I went through with Hayden WITH three other kids. YIKES! You are my hero for persevering. And hey, now Ian loves you! I'm sure he doesn't really mean it when he tells you he wants to "snice" your neck with his pirate sword...haha! I still can't believe the right/left hand thing...Baha! You're awesome, snister!

  7. Thanks for the post and encouraging for us without kids yet :). I'm scared to death about having a kid, but it is still a long while off. I really appreciated the reality and honesty of your post :).

    1. Yay! I'm SO glad I didn't scare you off from having kids! Ha...when the time feels right to you and you have a babe, you'll do fine. Even if it sucks, it will get better and you'll figure it out! :) Thanks for your comment, Alicia!

  8. Yes, I think that first baby is hard! I asked my Mom to come stay with me the first evening Frank went back to work. Somehow I was afraid to be by myself with my baby. Eeek! What was I to do? Things worked out. Looking back on my first baby, I was way too stressed. I think I settled down a lot with my next too because I was more comfortable. Let me tell ya though, baby #3 was a challenge. I came home and didn't have my Mom to help out. Frank was on a graveyard shift for two weeks. Usually, while I was nursing or tending the baby my other two were destroying the house and getting into mischief. After a couple months things settled down.
    Thanks for sharing your experience! That would be so difficult with the reflux and such! What a "welcome" to motherhood! You will probably have easy babies now!

    1. Oh how I hope you are right! I would LOVE an easy baby next! :) But we'll take our next babe how ever they come! Yeah, that will be nice about the next baby, I will be over the anxiety and shock of the first-time experience. Haha...Yeah, what are you supposed to do with the other two when you nurse? Tie them to some furniture? Ha...thanks for the comment, Melissa! I think you are such a great momma.


Share your questions, comments, and compliments...we like 'em all! :) Don't be shy: we want to hear from YOU! Plus, you can let this lady know her story was heard--I promise your comment means a lot to her!

Thanks, friends! :)