I agonized over needing my son with me for five days. I yelled and cried and prayed. And then he got to come home. I smiled with my whole body. I cannot explain the joy that filled me when they said I could take my baby home. Then reality hit. I was home with this little man and I had no idea what I was doing. I was supposed to have 3 days in the hospital with him and a staff of nurses teaching me how the hell to care for this delicate larva. I didn’t have that. I had one hazy night and a rushed consultation with a lactation consultant to make sure that someone showed me how to hold him and breastfeed before he was released into my care. How was I supposed to give him everything he needed without breaking him?
We arrived home and he fell asleep on my shoulder as I dozed off on the sofa. My body felt like it had been split in half, but all was right in the world. I loved the weight of his little body on my shoulder, his soft breathing on my neck. My euphoria lasted hours. I didn’t want to put him down. I powered through several breastfeeding sessions with poise and patience. And then it was 2 am and he was screaming. In all reality, he was probably just crying like a 5 day old baby does, but to my heart, he was screaming. And I couldn’t.make.it.stop. I was failing already. His father finally made a bottle of formula and it gave my son what he needed. I felt worse. My sons arrival and first days in this world were not how I planned them. I needed to be able to breastfeed him. I needed that to work. And my milk wasn’t in yet, not enough to fully sustain a 10 lb 4 oz baby. I felt broken in all new ways. It was my first night as a mother and I had already used all of my patience and had a meltdown. How was I going to survive 18 more years? Was he going to remember me as the parent that yelled all the time? The one that always got frustrated? I spiraled. . .
The days that followed that first night were a blur of feeding this little person every hour, diapers, sleeping, and crying- for both of us. What had I done? I had created a life with such arrogance-I hadn’t even considered that taking care of his basic needs may be beyond my abilities. And this was forever. You can’t give a baby back. You can’t pretend that you aren’t a mother once life smacks you in the face. You can’t wipe your hands clean when you realize that you aren’t the mother this person deserves.
They call the emotions I cycled through the Baby Blues. It is a cute name that covers the crazy hormonal shift happening within your body coupled with the overwhelming new task of taking care of an angry sack of potatoes that cannot even hold up their own head. I cried. I worried that this meant that the warrior that emerged for my kid at the hospital was a flash in the pan. Was this how I was always going to feel? Was this my life now? Maybe all those happy, smiling photos everyone else posted was just a reality I wasn’t going to have.
Luckily, I have some pretty amazing women and a tremendous dad to talk me off the ledge of despair. A few days after Moose came home, we started to settle into a little bit of a routine. The entire routine required me to hold him, but I loved the feel of him sleeping on me. But he still cried so much and feeding him was a constant struggle. He cried and constantly unlatched at every feeding session. Once he would finish eating, I may have 30 minutes of rest before the next session started. I become a 24 hour eatery. I think I smelled like one too. I got used to sitting in my living room half naked because after a while I stopped fighting to put my shirt back on. It was not a sexy look. I didn’t care.
The crying didn’t stop. His father went back to work and it was just me and him all day. I never left the sofa. Some days I wouldn’t get up to pee. My body ached as it healed from his eviction and the inability to put him down did not cease. Feeding continued to be a near constant fight. The crying only stopped when he fell asleep nursing. I was told that this was normal. That colic was the culprit. I thought I might lose my mind. I didn’t have the patience for this. As my frustration mounted, so did my guilt. This was supposed to be a beautiful time. Everyone said this was the easy part. If I couldn’t get this down pat, how the hell was I going to handle the next phases??
I was desperate, so I did what any sleep deprived, frenzied person would do. I googled. I googled for hope. I googled for solidarity. I googled just to read that someone, somewhere felt the same way that I did and I wasn’t losing my mind. What I found was silent reflux- and my mom instinct. I called the pediatrician and scheduled their next available appointment. I had to know. Was there hope that I wouldn’t have to survive three more moths of this- that this was more than regular colic?
My pediatrician is wonderful. He is very knowledgeable and super great with Moose. He also handles me in the most impressive way. He never tires of my questions and never makes me feel crazy, even when I preface that I know I am. On this fateful day, I warned him that I had been googling and I may be grasping at straws. He asked me questions and I nervously explained why I was convinced my child was suffering. He assured me that he always wanted me to come to him with anything, but to trust my gut. I was right. The screaming and fighting eating wasn’t normal. The fact that he could only sleep on me was because laying down hurt the little guy even more. I cried with relief. I had an answer. And I wasn’t doing as bad as I thought with this mom thing!
Those first weeks were isolating. I felt trapped in my house with a child that didn’t seem to like me. I worried endlessly. I felt guilty every time I got frustrated. I worried that my fears – the reasons I used for most of my life to not procreate- were correct. No one talks about the loss of self. No one talks about the fear or the overwhelming responsibility of a newborn. Your entire life changed overnight. It is something I had never experienced- and won’t ever experience again. Not to that degree. How I felt isn’t something all women go through. It isn’t a right of passage. But I learned that I wasn’t alone. I learned that I wasn’t broken. I also learned that it passed. After a month, we started to venture out on our own. We navigated nursing in the car and getting diaper changes in public restrooms. I got my sea legs and his personality began to blossom. Everyone says the first few weeks are the easiest. That wasn’t my experience. But I am so glad it wasn’t. It has gotten more fun, more fulfilling, and more loving as each day passes. My angry sack of potatoes has graduated to a giggly, curious, smart, headstrong toddler. He has become my favorite person in the world. I just had to learn that the mother I am, is the one he chose and he could’ve done worse.