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It's like this, and like that....

I started this blog in an effort to track my experiences with pregnancy and beyond. Writing is therapeutic. Kind of like talking to myself without the people in WalMart thinking I'm crazy. If you find some entertainment in this along the way, then even better!

This is one woman's journey through unfathomable hunger, vivid sex dreams and a bulging belly...from conception to birth in 9 months or less...

The 3pm Mother vs. The 3am Mother

Tuesday, April 6, 2010
My darling daughter is 2 weeks today, and I feel the fog starting to lift. I know I am supposed to post a big long poetic piece about how in love I am with her. I know I'm supposed to talk about the sparkle in her eye, how warm and fuzzy she is and how totally in love I am. I know I'm supposed to be beaming with new mother pride, viewing the world through rose tinted glasses and reveling in every poop that comes rocketing out of my daughters soft little cutesy bum.

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!)

17 comments to The 3pm Mother vs. The 3am Mother:

Krista @ Not Mommy of the Year said...

Oh, darling. I loved this post. Six months ago I could have written it myself if I wasn't too busy crying in a hot bath any time that someone I half trusted with my kid walked into my house. I remember like it was yesterday, not knowing how to soothe her, wanting her to eat & she wouldn't (and I was formula feeding, so it wasn't half of what you're going through.)

As you see, it does get better. Maybe that's why people don't talk about it. Because by the time you have a moment to write it all down, the memories are already fading.

For what it's worth this weekend I found myself talking to my 6 month old like she was 14. I was all 'Don't start crying now, if you would have taken a nap like I wanted you too, you wouldn't be fussy." and then I caught myself & felt terrible and relieved knowing that it's a moment I will laugh about and she will never remember.

You are doing great, mama! Give your beautiful baby a kiss from this stranger on the internet who thinks you're amazing.

jss said...

Thank you so much for this post. I've always been a fan of the realistic view on things, and hearing the truth about what life is like with a new baby is so helpful to me.

In just over 2 months, I'm going to have a baby in my house. This blows my mind and I have NO idea what to expect. I haven't read any books, haven't done any research, and am basically going into this blind, except the the limited newborn experience I had several years ago when I nannied.

I've always known that I won't be pooping rainbows and roses when this little dude arrives, and that there will be struggles, but so many people only talk (or write) about the beauty of it all. The magic of it all. At 3am I can't imagine it's feeling real beautiful or magical, though.

I know you love Everly and are so grateful for every moment with her, but I SO APPRECIATE your realistic perspective. It better enables me to prepare for my new life in 2 months.

jmacrae said...

LOVED this post BBB! Totally helped me to know what I am getting into in a mere 2.5 weeks!!

Anonymous said...

*HUGS* It's hard in the beginning. Hell, it's ALWAYS hard. But the nursing thing will get better. I promise. Get some soothing ice packs. Those help. And Tylenol.

Emily said...

Oh, mama. You are doing AMAZING. That part does get easier. Eventually you will sleep- then she will be a teenager and you REALLY won't sleep! :) The boobs will feel better and everything will come together. I know it's hard. I'm only two weeks ahead of you here- so, I'm pretty fresh on how much some of this stuff sucks. But in no time at all you'll be doing it again.
Emmie Bee

Anonymous said...

Amen, sister, amen. My little one is 5 weeks old and those early days (and weeks) were ROUGH. I teared up every time she latched on because of the pain in the first two weeks and my saving grace were hydro-gel pads. They will be a huge relief for you! And it does get better. I never expected things to get as easy as they have with how much I struggled with my little girl in the beginning but now, we have those overnight feedings down to a science. If it would help, wake your hubby up to rub your shoulders and calm YOU down while you're trying to feed her or try a different position - maybe the football hold? Hang in there!!! I'm totally empathizing with you over here ...

Anonymous said...

The Super Zen husbands are indeed amazing blessings. (Mine had to go 2,200 miles away for 2 months after sophie was 5 days old and at that point I thought I'd die.) I hold it together so much better when he's around.

But when it's just baby and mommy at 3am and you're exhausted and it seems like that little girl is taking FOREVER to finish a bottle... there doesn't feel like there is any holding it together.

But the very fact that you are analyzing this and writing everything down to get it out shows that you are in fact holding it together and venting it in a healthy manner.

I totally wish I had been blogging when Sophia was born. Being able to write my new-mommy stress away and hearing feedback from new moms would've helped so much in the long run.

You are of a family of blogging mommies dear, and we'll help you keep it together. Hugs & well wishes love,


Sarah and Aaron said...

My baby is now 1 month old today, and I swear your post could've been written from my thoughts. You describe it perfectly!

KarmaPearl said...

Yeah. This was me 2 weeks PP. No one tells you about this aspect of having a baby. It's supposed to be instant, pure, blissful love. And it is, but you hit the nail on the head about the whole 3 AM thing. About 3 days PP my husband got a new work schedule - 12 hour overnight shifts from 7 PM to 7 AM. That meant that I, in all of my sleep deprived glory, was on baby duty. Alone. It was terrifying and I spent hours sitting in my baby's glider, holding her and SOBBING.

I will get better. I promise, I promise, I promise. I know it doesn't seem like it will but it will. Nellie and I finally started to understand each other around 3-4 weeks. I figured out how to get her to sleep and things started to fall into place. I PROMISE you. It will get better. You are doing a FANTASTIC job.

The Mommyologist said...

Everything that you said in this post is the whole reason I started my blog! This is why I love you...because you are REAL and HONEST!! If more new moms were as honest as you, then there would be a lot less women out there feeling like complete failures. The truth is that EVERYONE goes through this with a new baby, and if they say that they don't, then they are either lying or extremely bored. Take comfort in the fact that we have all been there, and we've all had more than our share of 3am sobbing.

Hang in there though, because it does get better. The first couple of months are such an adjustment, but before you know it, the baby will be sleeping better and you will be more rested and that makes all the difference in the world.

I am tweeting this post because I think it is SO important for other new moms to read something like this and feel less alone.


Amber Page Writes said...

Oh sweetie, I've so been there. Tell that 3 a.m. momma to come back and look at the comments here, because you ARE doing everything right. It will get easier...eventually, but during these first few weeks, you've got to try and give yourself a break.

sending you hugs.

Becky said...

It will get better. I swear. Not just the eleventy billion feedings and the no sleep and the what-the-hell-am-I-supposed-to-do-nows, but the tears and the insecurity and the need to research everything to death.

I have a lot of advice, in weird little tidbits. Take it or ignore it :)

Trust your instincts. The books and the doctors and those weird people on the internet don't know you or your baby as well as you do. That means if she wants to eat more than every 3 hours or sleep for a 6 hour stretch and you can't think of a good reason why she shouldn't, let her.

It's not ALL about her. If you don't take care of you, you can't take care of her. My dad gave me this advice, and I was REALLY bad about following it.

From what I've seen on twitter, your daughter is using you as a pacifier as much as for food. (I KNOW! I don't know you or her, I'm just going by what you post.) I had two kids who did that, and refused regular pacifiers. I tended to let them (see that part about not following my dad's advice) until it got to the point that enough was enough. They may be her food, but they're YOUR boobs, and if you don't want them in her mouth 17 times a day, you have rights. If it seems like she can't possibly be hungry again already, she probably isn't. (This is when it's a good time to wake up the husband and make him walk her around in another room :)

EVERY TIME you wonder if your baby is getting enough to eat, look at that giant pile of diapers. It can't come out if it didn't go in. She's gaining really well, too, although that's not as easy a visual a clue to hold on to.

It really does get better. It can't be said enough :) I made short goals in the beginning. I swore I would nurse her until she was four months old, because I felt that was the most important time. At four months it was so much better, I knew I could make it to six. At six months, I stopped needing goals.

You can do it!

Raine @ Mama Rants said...

Thank you for this post, sounds a lot like me at this point (my son is 2 weeks old today, I'm still crying once or twice a day, but not most of the day like I was in the first week). The whole guilt/tears thing was a total surprise here - I guess I ignored the warnings, or figured it'd be like a "normal" depression if it did affect me, but it helped a lot to find other women online and have an awesome midwife & her staff who all reassured me that it was a pretty common reaction and I wasn't totally losing it or a bad mom for not being totally bubbly with joy (yes, lack of sleep & hormones were pointed out as well).

For me, it was the combo of guilt/disappointment over a necessary c-section when I'd had my heart set on a natural birth (I did get to labor naturally for almost 2 days, and most of my birth plan & wishes were still followed and respected as much as possible, which helped make it not so bad), and having breastfeeding issues now (weight loss, having to supplement, very low supply - feeling guilty because he was hungry & not getting enough, then more guilt over giving formula supplements because I can't make or pump enough to feed him yet).

One thing I'm learning is that, in a way, the tears and guilt are a good sign. They both come from totally loving this new little baby, and wanting to do the best for them in everything, which means you'll probably be an awesome mom. For me, 3am is pretty easy, it's the middle of the day when the hubby's and the rest of the world are at work that I feel alone, but I am learning to reach out and find support, even if it's on twitter or facebook, and also that it's ok to just let the tears fall and let things go, as long as I also remember to take time to enjoy my baby as well.

Jessica said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jessica said...

Nothing can ever prepare you for how challenging, how exhausting, how utterly insanity-inducing those first few weeks are. Every new parent experiences it -- there's no escaping it. The good news is, it gets better. I promise. The sleeplessness, the frustration and tears... it all gets somehow better. Easier. Believe it or not, you'll reach a point where the guilt fades and you actually feel like you know what you're doing. Breastfeeding is TOUGH at first -- it hurts like a bitch and you're forever wondering if your baby is getting enough milk -- but it does stop hurting and even becomes enjoyable with a little time. Ice those boobies and use a nipple ointment to ease the irritation!

Hang in there, sister, and know you're not alone...

Sarcastica said...

Alright; addicted to your blog and I JUST found you! LOVED this post; you wrote everything perfectly, I remember feeling JUST LIKE THAT.

It will get better, it won't get easier but you'll both get into more of a routine. You're doing AMAZING from the sounds of it.

Sheila said...

You should have seen me yesterday, bawling my eyes out because the baby was bawling HIS eyes out, when he had a stuffy nose and maybe a gas bubble, and I had a fever of 101 and insane sleep deprivation. And no one around to help, either -- not that it matters that much, because when you're nursing, baby needs YOU so much of the time, and nobody else will do.

Take comfort: most everyone I've talked to says they hardly remember this part (I guess that's why they didn't warn me?) because they were so tired, but also because it passed so quickly.

Good luck -- hope things get better soon.

P.S. Do you have a nice, bright nightlight in the bedroom? It really helps baby figure out what direction to go to latch on.

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