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.|
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.
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, and...it 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.|
|His favorite song: Will.I.am on Sesame Street "What I Am." It's pretty catchy!|
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|
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 days...it'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.
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!
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.