I’m not writing this to discourage you. I’m writing it to encourage you, to let you know that if this is what your experience is like, you’re not alone.
Motherhood is hard. People talk about how hard it is, but not really. I’ve had SO many friends have babies over the last 6 1/2 years, so I’ve been around all the new moms and heard their stories. I’ve seen some of the struggles. But every one of them held something back when they told their story. I think there’s something about becoming a mom that makes us as women need to be strong, and part of that strength is how we’re perceived by others as mothers. If we show too much of our struggle, we must not be a strong enough mother. I would argue that our strength comes from actually sharing those struggles and giving hope as encouragement to those moms who come after us.
My days in the hospital were easy. I almost didn’t want to leave! There was a nursery I could send my baby to if I needed to rest; people brought me meals and snacks; I didn’t have to do much. Then it was time to pack up the baby and head home, on our own. That’s when it gets hard. Labor and delivery are nothing compared to life with a newborn.
First up are the hormones and emotional roller coaster rides you go on. There were moments when I needed a break and didn’t want to be the one taking care of the baby in that moment, so I would go in the bedroom and Hubby would take the baby. Almost immediately I would be overcome with the need to have my baby in my arms again, and the conflicting emotions were almost too much to handle. Cue sobbing. It’s okay to want a break from baby and miss baby at the same time! You’re his/her sole caregiver, their whole world (especially if you’re breastfeeding), so don’t be hard on yourself if you feel like you need a moment to yourself. Take that moment and allow yourself to feel the emotions that come with it, with no guilt.
Breastfeeding. It’s tough. Ava wasn’t a great latcher at the beginning, partially because she was 2 weeks early and partially because she had a minor case of tongue tie. So, at the hospital they gave me a nipple shield to use when nursing, which is a silicone contraption that goes over your actual nipple to give baby a little more to grab onto when they latch. Fantastic, super helpful, off we went a-nursing. Then I got home and realized how annoying it was. I had to keep it out of reach of the dogs, wash it after every feeding; if she flailed around and knocked it off (which happened quite often), then milk got everywhere; and nursing in public was virtually impossible with that. So, I went to the lactation consultant to learn how to wean her off of it, and we got her tongue tie fixed. 7 weeks. It took me 7 weeks to wean her off the nipple shield, and then both she and I had to basically learn how to breastfeed all over again. On top of the logistics of nursing and trying to get the hang of that, it’s emotionally draining to be the only person who can feed your baby. Especially at night. And especially if you have a slow eater like I do. She would eat every 1 1/2-2 hours, and it would take her an hour to eat sometimes. That would leave me with only 30-60 minutes until the next feeding. If you’ve decided to breastfeed, it’s important to get support. Find a lactation consultant, either through the hospital or another reputable organization, and get some help with the logistics. Find some other moms, either on a mommy chat board or moms you know, who can help support and encourage you. Most importantly, when you feel like giving up, remember why you decided to breastfeed in the first place. It’s the best food for baby, it’s always there and ready when baby’s hungry, it’s free, and at some point you’ll finally feel like it really is that special bonding time everybody talks about it being (for me, that didn’t happen until I went back to work and wasn’t able to nurse her during the day). On the flip side, if you decide breastfeeding isn’t for you and you choose to exclusively pump and bottle feed or formula feed, don’t let anyone convince you that you made the wrong decision. The right decision is the decision that’s right for your family. Period. If your baby is healthy, all is good.
Sleep deprivation is no joke! Ava slept pretty much all the time until she was about 6 weeks old. She woke up at night to eat, but she was sleeping so much during the day, I was able to catch a nap and feel fine. Suddenly, she was awake during the day. Now there’s no time for a mommy nap, AND I have to figure out how to entertain a tiny baby?! And did you know you actually have to teach a baby how to sleep? I’m not kidding! Once their Circadian rhythms set in, you have to teach them about naps and bedtime, and it’s tough. Every time we find something that works for Ava, she switches things up on us and we have to start over again. There are nights when I get so frustrated at her for waking up and not going back to sleep easily, telling her to stop crying because nothing is wrong, begging her to just sleep. It’s easy to forget that she doesn’t understand. She doesn’t understand what it means for Mommy to be tired and have to go to work the next day. She doesn’t understand why sleeping in her crib is better than sleeping in Mommy’s arms. She doesn’t understand why she can’t sleep, only that something isn’t right and the only thing that could possibly make it better is Mommy. It’s easy to forget that she doesn’t cry out of spite or to irritate me. She cries because it’s the only voice she has, and she uses it to cry out to her Mommy for comfort. It’s easy to forget these things. And it’s okay to forget these things. I promise you will quickly remember them, feel guilty for thinking them, and apologize to your baby. The wonderful thing about babies is their ability to forgive and forget. No matter how terrible I am in the nighttime waking hours, I am greeted in the morning by a big smile.
I can promise you that you will get over each hurdle and it will get a little better every day. You will learn to navigate today’s problems, and new problems will arise tomorrow. I don’t know that it gets easier, but maybe it gets less hard?
Motherhood is tough. Is it the best and most rewarding job I will ever have? Absolutely. Is it easy? No. Is it worth it? The moms that went before me tell me it is, and I believe it. I see a glimmer of better in there every day and I guess that makes it worth it.
Continuously Sleep Deprived Mommy of a Beautiful 5 Month Old Baby Girl
(PS – playing Candy Crush is an excellent way to pass the time during those endless nighttime feedings. Getting stuck on level 86 for weeks totally takes your mind off the fact that you’re up yet again.)