And you know what? I am. I am so much in love with Everly it almost hurts. I cannot stop kissing her little face or staring at her while she sleeps. Even when I should be sleeping in the night, I get up to make sure she's breathing, and just to stare at her in wonderment. I cannot believe that only 2 short weeks ago, she was that faceless body that shook my belly all night long and made me have to pee every 15 mins. I cannot believe that she came from me and the hubs, that I grew that person from 2 pieces of DNA to a whole human, that she is part of us. I love her and I cannot get enough out of every single moment we spend together. She changes a bit every day and I feel as though time is already moving too fast. It really does happen, this instant love and I could not be more proud of my little girl. The love I feel for this child has shown me a kind of love I did not know existed, and my heart feels bigger and my life fuller just for having known her.
All of that said, there is a dark side to the first few weeks of motherhood that I am sure everyone experiences. And maybe I've ignored the warnings, maybe I didn't think they would happen to me, maybe I thought people over exaggerated. Or maybe, most new mothers out there experience what I have just gone through and the guilt and shame of the situation keeps them from speaking out or being honest.
It sounds like I going to confess a bunch of crazy thoughts full or rage and anxiety that I need to be medicated for. And I'm not. I have not felt the least bit angry this entire time, and at no point have I worried about my mental health or the safety of my child in my care. I have however sat, alone in the dark, while the hubs sleeps soundly, the baby fights me for a piece of the boob and I sob uncontrollably over her, tears streaking down and staining her precious new little head.
It's new mommy guilt and it hurts. I am sure this is equal parts sleep deprivation and hormonal imbalance, but as you're living it, you cannot rationalize. It's amazing how different 3pm can feel versus 3am. At 3pm, I am confident, I am with it, I am changing my daughter, she is eating like a champ and we're totally in a groove. At 3pm I am happy. I am beyond delighted with my new life and I can't wait to take my daughter out to experience the world. But at 3am, it is dark. I am alone and things are infinitely harder. It is at this time that the sleep deprivation has killed my ability to be rational. It's this time of the night, where my darling is crying out of hunger, but will not WILL NOT just latch on and eat, even though she's done it 15 times (literally) before that very same day. It's around this time where the pain in my back rivals the pain in my breasts and I wonder how people do this. It's around this time I'm on Twitter, screaming profanities and thankfully being talked down from the ledge by a collection of other mommy's doing the same thing.
This new mommy routine causes my chest to fill with tension and anxiety at 3am, to feel like I could scream, to look at my daughter and BEG her to just EAT like she's done so many times before. And this kicks in the guilt, which causes the tears, which exacerbates the guilt even further. How can I honestly expect my baby to do what I want, what I need? Life is about her now, and she deserves a kind mother, a patient mother, a mother who understands that she does not understand. And at 3pm, I am so that mother. We joke, I call her silly names and tell her she's being a goof when she's so busy cramming her hands in her mouth and screaming that I cannot get the boob in there. But the 3am mother, that's the one who feels like she failed. Who wonders what is wrong with her for being frustrated with a baby who is so perfectly innocent, who cries as her child eats and her husband sleeps.
The days spent in the hospital were completely sleepless. The hubs and I traded off 2 hours at a time through the night, but between the uncomfortable beds, my surgery, hospital staff coming in every hour to check us and tell us not to sleep with the baby in our beds, the heat in that place and the fear our daughter might just forget to breathe, we did not sleep. For 55 hours I laid trapped in that room, no window to the outside, not sleeping, not knowing what to do with this life form I was now responsible for. This does not set anyone up for having a good time when you get home.
And coming home from the hospital is the biggest shock I've ever had. Suddenly I am in my home, in a familiar place with an unfamiliar face. I'd done all the reading about the pregnancy, I was obsessive about my stats and literature. I read and studied up on labour and delivery for so long I bet I'd make a kick ass doula. I even researched enough on c-sections to be prepared to do the incision on my own, but I did not prepare myself to arrive home from the hospital. It was both terrifying and exhilarating. When we got home, I simply looked at my husband and said "now what?" And neither of us knew. And then the first night happened, where we couldn't sleep, where the baby wouldn't stop crying because she was hungry and where I could not get her to latch or eat. And so began the tears.
Breastfeeding is by far one of the most challenging things I've done in my life. It hurts, it's difficult to hold her properly or to get her to latch on and stay on. I don't know if she's getting enough, if she's in the right position, if she's enjoying the bonding we're supposed to be having. It makes your mind swim with thoughts of failure. Am I doing this right? They say this shouldn't hurt? Aren't I supposed to enjoy this? How much longer is she going to feed for? What kind of mother rushes her child? At no point in my childbirth class did they touch on the stress and fatigue that comes from breastfeeding, or the innumerable ways you can fail at it. At no point did they tell me that being unable to properly nourish my child would feel like a ton of bricks crushing my chest, would make me want to scream out loud, would make me feel like less of a woman. And do you want to know what's scary? I'm not even really having that hard of a time in the grand scheme of things. I mean, it SEEMS hard to me, but I've got milk, my baby can latch 98% of the time and she is gaining weight like a champ. So if I feel this way, I cannot imagine what the women with real challenges feel like. Those like my sister, whose milk refused to come in, who spent hours pumping or trying to feed with no success. I think about her often when it's late and I cannot calm the stress I have over it. And I don't envy the decision she had to make to move onto formula, though I respect it more now that I ever could before. Sometimes you've got to do what's best for you and your child, and that includes feeding them without going completely crazy in the process.
And this is not the only challenge. When my daughter cries my heart breaks. I must have cried uncontrollably in the hospital at least 3 times when they came in to check her vitals, prick her heel or otherwise harass her and she cried. It hurts so much when I know she's hurting, and my eyes leak just as much as my nipples when she cries (yes, this really DOES happen). The helplessness that I felt the first few times she really cried is beyond anything I've ever felt. I wanted to comfort her, to make it all better, to stop the crying so I knew she felt safe, but you know what? In those first few days, your baby is still a stranger. You've carried her for 9 months, but it's been on your terms and you never had to hear her cry. In all the time she was in the womb, I assumed she was a happy little girl, and never felt the pain of knowing she wasn't. Thankfully, this is getting easier. She still cries, but she does it every time I change her, or she wakes up, or she decides she is bored and I'm getting much better at scooping her up and solving the problem than I used to be. I'm learning as much about her as she is about me, and our relationship is starting to work. But this is only in the last 2 days, before that it was still so overwhelming and still had me wondering what I was going to do.
Another thing I didn't anticipate was having a super zen husband, who could keep it together when I was losing it. This is a blessing beyond blessings. Partly it's because he sleeps more than I do, so his sleep deprivation isn't causing him to go as crazy. And partly he's not fighting the breastfeeding fight so the patience he has is better saved for other things, like those DAMN sleeper snaps you just CANNOT get done up properly when your eyes are burning and your kid is screaming and squirming. I never thought I'd have a moment in my life where I sat, crying helplessly as my husband soothed the child I once carried for 9 months. And this is another mommy guilt instigator.
Over the last 2 weeks things have gotten infinitely easier. We've all started to get to know each other. My husband is no longer a husband, but a father. I am no longer a wife, but a mother and our baby is no longer an internal human but a real live person, with a personality all her own.
I am enjoying the journey, it's rewarding and now that I am getting some confidence in my skills, it's getting better. Parts of it are harder than I thought, and parts of it are so much more wonderful than I could have imagined. But this is 3pm mom speaking. When 3am mom comes out, things get difficult and sometimes the tears flow. I am getting used to it though, and trying not to be so hard on myself. My friends, both real life and online, have helped me through this time. I am slowly trying to move past the guilt feelings and realize this is normal, that everyone must go through this, and that most of all, my daughter will never remember that I cried over her sweet little head over these first few days.
So to all mothers, new or old, give yourself a break. We're truly doing the best we can, and the pressure to be a stepford wife and the guilt you feel for needing a break doesn't help. I am telling this to myself as much as anyone else.
Now back to my silly baby who is cramming her fists into her mouth with such voracity, you'd never know she's already eaten a total of 15 times since midnight, for an astounding 4 hours and 27 minutes (thank-you iPhone app for your tracking awesomeness!)