I generally avoid negative talk here, and like to keep things happy and upbeat. My personal life doesn’t really grace the blog anymore because one) there’s not much to say about staying at home with a baby all day and two) sometimes it absolutely sucks and I just don’t want to talk about. But today, I’m gonna get real.
Before I was even a mom, pregnancy threw me for a loop and knocked me literally on my butt. I felt useless through pregnancy, despite being in what I thought was the best shape of my life before getting pregnant. Some of the crappiness that was pregnancy was slightly made up for by the fact that I achieved the natural childbirth that I hoped for. But I labored on my back and tore a lot (didn’t mention that one in my still-in-the-honeymoon-phase birth story!), had diastatis recti, and have had debilitating back pain ever since delivery. Sure, I had a “natural” childbirth but that didn’t make it suck any less.
Then things got real with basically not sleeping for the past 8 months of my life and having some serious breastfeeding woes. At first, breastfeeding, despite being really demanding with a newborn, was going well. Sleep with a newborn is what it is, but as Claire got older, she seemed to sleep great until she was about three months old.
Sleep regression is real, people. The “4 month sleep regression” is titled so not because it happens at four months but because it has lasted four months. At least for us. Claire is just now sleeping better, but also just cut her first two teeth so we’ll see how long this lasts.
As soon as her sleep regressed, we were not staying in our own home but were en route to Texas moving. I thought we would get to enjoy a vacation at my in-laws but instead I was up as many as seven times one night, so basically every hour with a screaming banshee of a child. I had no idea what to do other than just nurse her to sleep. Everything in every book that tells you not to (which, I hadn’t been up until that point) went out the window. I wanted sleep. She needed sleep. Nursing was my weapon of choice that quickly became a sleep crutch and still is.
This alone has made me feel like I’m “doing it wrong.” But I’ve done it so long that I’m to the point that I don’t freaking care. I’ve felt so defeated that I don’t have a child that sleeps well, that I feel judged for nursing to sleep (even though that might be in my head), that I feel too weak to go through with cry it out or any other sleep training method. But I know my child and I know with all my heart that the decisions I’ve made are the best for her. It’s too easy for people to walk around and make judgments on one piece of information without the whole story. No one will know Claire like I do, and I assure you that nursing her to sleep is the best possible choice for her and me. We’ve tried cry it out with zero success, one time letting her cry for over two hours with no avail. I nursed her to sleep in three minutes. What do you think I’m going to keep doing?
I never realized that becoming a mom would suddenly make me the most insecure person in the world, that every decision I made I would feel like 10,000 eyes were on me making sure I feel shameful for not doing things better, quicker, or more appropriately.
And back to breastfeeding. Oh how I have loved breastfeeding. It was super crazy in the beginning, but it definitely got better. Things were going along okay, but my supply has completely sucked. I have tried ev-er-y-thing.
I was pumping three times a day at one point just so I could have ONE bottle of milk in the fridge. I have had serious issues producing for a pump. I had the most stressful summer between not sleeping and a really chaotic move with a baby, and I think all the stress and travel didn’t help me out any. I have drank all the tea, tried Fenugreek, Fennel, lactation cookies, oatmeal (that one does seem to work but – gag – I can only take so much oatmeal). I tried to diet to finally lose some baby weight four months postpartum and IMMEDIATELY saw a huge affect in my supply. So instead of trying to “get my body back” (bahahaha that’s never happening anyway), I have stayed fat just so I can not screw up nursing even more.
Claire seems happy and healthy and meets milestones, but her weight has been a crapshoot. Her percentiles change every appointment. She has bounced all around, not even being on the chart at one point. She never loses weight, so I guess things could be worse. But she always seems to lose percentiles. I know these charts are mostly crap, but as a new mom, it does not feel good to watch your kid not do what the doctors want to see, however superficial that may be. I want her to at least maintain a healthy weight. At her last appointment, she had gained less than a quarter pound in a month. A pound a month is ideal. I felt like things were finally to the point where I wanted to start supplementing. My pediatrician didn’t push it at all. She was supportive and said it would be perfectly fine to try, but wasn’t like “do this or else.”
We have been using about two extra bottles of formula a day for about a month now. At first, I was like this will be great! I’m off the hook! I no longer had to try to pump my brains out just to have one freaking bottle in the fridge. The milk was already there and I could buy more. Amazing. But then I got incredibly emotional. I had no idea how much seeing her enjoy milk that I didn’t and couldn’t make would make me feel so inadequate. Why couldn’t I just make what she needed?
But I’ve gotten over that mostly and now really enjoy knowing that she’s getting more calories. I can see a difference in her already. She seems happier and chunkier. Let’s hope her next weigh in is at least on the chart this time.
But there’s that voice in my head that thinks the old lady in the supermarket is judging me for buying a can of formula. Poor girl, doesn’t know the value of breastfeeding. But if only every judging person knew the struggle I have gone through to make breastfeeding work. And it is working. But now it’s just working in conjunction with formula. And I am totally okay with that.
Then there’s days that she is so fussy and cranky and I’ve got next to no patience these days between being hyped up on caffeine and not sleeping much that I lose it. I zone out on my phone reading Scary Mommy for an hour while I let her play on the floor and eat tissue paper. Yup, that really happens. There is only so much I can take of being clawed at by tiny sharp finger nails I can’t ever seem to clip, my hair being pulled, needing to hold her 24/7, and not being able to eat a meal in peace. By the end of the day, I am counting the seconds until my husband gets home. Not just so he can take the baby, but so I can not feel like I am so alone, the only person on the planet who is lost in this thing called parenthood. I know I’m not, but some days it feels like it.
You guys. Motherhood is hard.
I don’t tell you this because I want to be “that mom” who scares you so badly you go buy all the birth control you can get your hands on. I tell you this because as a writer and mom – I need to write this out. It makes me feel normal again, to put into words my daily struggle. I don’t say all this to paint an ugly picture of motherhood but to be as down to earth as I can be.
And yes, I will go ahead and end on that trite note that despite all this crap, “it’s worth it,” I will keep doing this, I will have more kids, and I love Claire more than the entire world. There is absolutely no way to explain just how much I love her except that it’s like a small glimpse of what God’s love for us is like. It’s like standing in front of the most beautiful ocean view you’ve ever seen, but then being knocked down by its powerful waves.
Imagine the most powerful, explosive feelings of love you’ve ever had and multiply them by 10 and then cover it with spit up, relentless screaming, and not ever wearing real pants. That’s motherhood.
I was a worrier before motherhood, but the worry never stops when you’re a mom. I worry we’re not spending our days right, that she isn’t stimulated enough, that we don’t read enough, that I already say no too much, that I’m setting a bad example for an 8 month old. I feel bad that all her food isn’t organic or that I don’t make all of it myself. I worry, worry, worry out of love because for my sweet, innocent baby – the world can be hers. Her future is full of options at this point. She is limited by nothing – except what I might – and will – screw up.
Our hard days are so hard, but our good days are so good. Sometimes I feel like motherhood is one giant, manic roller coaster of ups and downs. Most days, I am positively in love with my daughter and so incredibly thankful that I get to do this mom thing mixed in with wondering how I can possibly go another day doing this SAHM crap, pretending that playgroup is fun, and that I do more than just go to Target to get of the house.
But I know it will go by so fast, that a year from now I’ll come back and read this and wish I had these struggles instead of new ones (terrible twos, yo!). I know I will get through this by the glances from other Starbucks drinking moms in Target that just say I feel you… We’re doing the same thing, sista, the Facebook messages from friends about how to get your baby to sleep, the ooing and ahing over Claire in the grocery store, and from the support of this community as well.
Motherhood is hard, but that’s because it’s supposed to be. I won’t just struggle through motherhood – I’ll shine. This process is just one of the many forms of polishing, humbling, and sanctification. I hope that motherhood refines me to be the kind of woman I’ve always hoped to be. And then, when my daughter has her own children she can come to me with the hard things and I can say I know.