July 25, 2012

Lessons I'm Learning, Four Weeks In...

I apologize for dropping off the face of the planet a bit over this past month. As you might imagine, I've had my hands a little bit full :) Other than being exhausted and just getting used to having our little bird here, I've also honestly been having a bit of a hard time. Although I haven't really had the time on my hands to write, I also was really afraid to put it out there that my first steps into motherhood have been really rocky. I know that when I read other blogs, I sometimes shy away from overly negative bloggers and am drawn instead towards those who are able to find the positive, beautiful things in their every day life (hence, my commitment to the 'Simple Things' blogposts every Saturday). However, I have some really amazing close friends that have encouraged me to share my recent struggles on this blog, and I know that there are some really beautiful things that can come out of personal trials, honesty and vulnerability with others in the hard times we face. So thank you for letting me be real today :)

We welcomed little Emmett into the world 4 weeks ago today, and I could not be happier with how the whole labor and delivery process went (maybe one day I'll write more on that). However, the day we came home from the hospital, a major wind/thunderstorm hit our area that knocked our power out for four days. So there we were, brand new parents who had no clue what we were doing, and we had no A.C. in the late June heat, no hot water for showers or sterilizing things or laundry, and we were changing diapers and sitting up with E by candlelight and flashlights. Fun! Honestly, the first night it really was fun, but the novelty wore off a bit by the end of that first weekend. We luckily had some really generous and giving friends who took great care of us those first few days with letting us come over for showers/air conditioning/the offer for a longer stay that week if we needed it (the Thompson's and Foutz's saved the day that week majorly!). We finally gave in on day #4 to the offer of leaving our power-less house and staying overnight, and we made our way over for a fun pizza dinner with all of our bags and laundry in tow (you have no idea how much stuff you end up hauling with you when you have a baby haha). After we'd eaten dinner and started to settle down for the evening we got the call that the power had come back on. So back we went, thinking that things would just get better from there.

Much to our surprise, we started to realize that our sweet little boy couldn't really make it through the day or night without being held by someone 24/7. We thought this was kind of normal for the first few days, but as the days and weeks went on, we were picking up on some greater cues of fussiness (aka screaming in pain) and colic (crying for hours on end every day/night) that weren't easily being cured by just being held. We've spent the past few weeks in and out of the doctors and on the phone with nurses trying to figure out how to assuage his stomach issues and colic. Additionally, it's typical for a new mama to experience the 'baby blues' for the first few days after bringing baby home as her body's hormones go back to their normal balance and she adjusts to being a new mother. However, if the sadness, tears, anxiety, and other symptoms persist for more than two weeks, the new mama might be experiencing some post-partum depression. Knowing that I've struggled with depression for the past few years, and even experienced a little bit during pregnancy, I knew that I needed to be on watch for this (and I also had my husband and mother-in-law keeping an eye on it for me). Amidst the other symptoms, I've had an especially hard time feeling connected and bonding with Emmett, partially due to the lack of sleep and his colic, but I also knew that this was one of the major symptoms of P.P.D. While Neil and his mom weren't quite sure if it was mostly just exhaustion, I started to realize over the past few days that I needed to seek some help.

Finally, on Sunday of this past weekend I spoke with a wonderful nurse/lactation consultant at our pediatricians office who called me from her home, and spent about a half an hour talking with me and listening to me. She gave some great suggestions and also called in a prescription for Emmett for Zantac, a medicine for acid reflux. Between the Zantac and a few of the other tactics we've tried in the past few days (switching to a non-dairy formula for when we supplement feedings, taking dairy out of my diet entirely, using a new rocking crib and a white noise machine to help him sleep-- thanks Aunt Diane!, and taking him for drives or giving him baths at night right before bed), we are finally finally starting to get a little more sleep and see some positive results with the baby. She also gave me some great encouragement about reaching out to my doctor to talk about the feelings I was having regarding the possibility of P.P.D. So, I had an appointment this morning with my obstetrician that provided an even greater light at the end of the tunnel. She gave me some wonderful suggestions for how to be taking better care of myself, put me on a low dosage of some medicine that will be safe with nursing, and gave me great assurance that I'm not alone.

That being said, I have a lot of friends who are currently expecting, or will one day welcome their own little ones into the world, so I wanted to share some of the lessons I've been learning that may provide some light if you struggle in the beginning of motherhood too. :)

Use your resources. Even if you're like me and you HATE to ask for help, now is the one time in your life you should totally let yourself ask for it. I don't know how I would have gotten through the past month without my daily check-ins with my own mother who has been a great encouragement and support from afar. Since we live with my in-laws, we have had the amazing blessing of my mother-in-law's help (with laundry, cooking, and watching E in the mornings so that my husband and I can get at least a few hours of sleep). My aunt had a colicky first born, and struggled herself a bit with P.P.D., so she has been great with advice, getting me plugged in to support in this area, and bringing food/helpful baby supplies on a visit this past weekend. I'm thankful for my mommy friends who have done all of this recently and are there for me if I have any questions. If you have access to a lactation consultant, use her, use her, use her. Mine is my new best friend. And, you are usually scheduled for a 6-week post-partum check up with your OBGYN. Please do not be afraid to go in sooner (trust your gut!) if you're feeling down and need to talk to someone who worked with you throughout your pregnancy and whose JOB it is to make sure you're feeling okay after you give birth.

Every baby is different. What works for other moms may or may not work for you. While it's great to ask for help and advice (see previous lesson learned), your close friends, family, and even strangers in the parking lot or on online articles do not know your baby the way that you do. I always used to roll my eyes at my mom growing up when she said, 'There's no rulebook or formula for parenting, you know. We're doing this the best we know how.' I finallyyyy get it. It really is about trying your best to do what's best for your child, and a lot of trial and error. I've learned that my sweet boy LOVES to cuddle and be held. He enjoys being taken outside and will quiet down the second he hears the birds singing (and also loves listening to clips of birds singing on YouTube or our white noise machine). He hates being laid down on his back, and feels a lot more comfortable when we burp him laying over our knees. He loves being bathed, and will close his eyes and just listen quietly when you sing 'Come Thou Fount' to him (I love that). It has taken us time to figure these things out, and they're all things that are unique to Emmett. It just takes a lot of patience, but eventually you do start to understand the difference between their cries and you learn what's best to respond to their needs. :)

Give yourself a break. Literally. There have been so many times in these past weeks when I thought I would never know real sleep again. I have also at times felt myself losing sight of who I am outside of feeding and caring for my child. You NEED rest time and 'me' time in order to keep your sanity, and to be a better mom to your child. My doctor even said so today-- she asked me how often I've been leaving the house and when I told her once or twice a week she immediately said that this is not enough. She 'prescribed' for me 20-30 minutes to get out of the house every single day to give my mind a rest, and if I'm able to take this time alone, it's even better. She said that I'd come back to my baby feeling more refreshed and ready to take on the next several hours of care ahead of me. I've so enjoyed the few occasions I've had over this past month to read, bake, chat with a friend on the phone, watch 'Big Bang Theory' while cuddling with my hubby, or sitting in the nursery late at night watching 'How I Met Your Mother' (just finished season 4) to give myself a few mindless minutes. I'm making a commitment to even more of these fun activities, and much more social time whenever possible, over the course of the next few weeks/months.

Stop freaking out about your body. Seriously. I left the hospital weighing more than when I came in and had a baby inside of me. This was perplexing. Even more upsetting was a run-in at a restaurant 5 days later (during the power outage) when we were out to dinner with Neil's family. A man they knew came over to chat and congratulated me on my child. He also wished me luck 'with the one on the way' (he was serious). I was later reassured by my husband's family that this man wasn't the sharpest person you'd ever meet (I mean, obviously he had a little trouble with math since my baby was only 5 days old), but it still stung a little to hear that I still looked very pregnant. With the stress of E's colic and my struggle with being down these past few weeks, I haven't had too much of an appetite. I was feeling really proud of myself (though it wasn't intentional) when I realized yesterday that I've already lost all of my pregnancy weight and then some. However, this is NOT the time to be worrying about getting my figure back. The first few weeks (especially if nursing) are crucial for an increased calorie intake (an extra 500 per day!) to make sure that you are making enough milk for your baby. I'm kicking myself now for skimping on meals, as it has greatly affected my ability to nurse Emmett exclusively. I'm committing to getting back on track with eating more frequently and heartily and drinking even more water than I already am in order to provide better for my baby. I can worry about my body later.


And finally, it takes time to get used to being a mother. This may seem like a given, but I didn't realize how hard I was being on myself until I had a really candid conversation with one of our best friends who was visiting last week (Zakk, or Emmett's 'Uncle Gibby'). I was beating myself up for not feeling head-over-heels, over-the-moon in love with Emmett yet and I thought that that made me an awful mother. I was also being super hard on myself for not knowing how to respond to all of his needs instinctively, and I thought that that made me an awful mother too. Uncle Gibby reminded me that I've just experienced one of the hugest transitions of my entire life (even greater than being away from home in your first few weeks of college, or living in New York City after attending a small private Christian liberal arts school, or being married and living with someone of the opposite sex and being forced to work through all of your conflicts rather than sweeping them under the rug the way you can with other friends or roommates at times). Duh! It's totally okay that this transition, like every other major transition I've ever faced, is taking some (or a lot of) getting used to. And while I would lay my own life down for my beautiful son, it takes time to get to know each other. Emmett and I are BOTH dealing with some major changes, and we're still learning how to do this together. I am encouraged that as I have come into this place of less exhaustion, learning how to better respond to my baby, taking better care of myself, and having grace for myself as a parent, I fall more and more in love with Emmett each day. My heart swells as I see his first smiles, and I cannot begin to express the indescribable fulfillment and joy I experience when he stops crying or whimpering as soon as he is placed in my arms (sometimes he just wants his mama!).

So, here's to a lot more grace, patience, and asking tons of questions as I keep learning how to be a mama to our little bird. Thanks for listening :)

5 comments:

  1. Heather, thank you for being so honest! As a new mom myself I know it's so helpful to hear other people's stories and know that I'm not alone in this. I definitely had the baby blues and freaked out the whole time my husband was home with us (2 weeks) about how I was never going to be able to do it alone when he went back to work. You get used to it, I promise. And it does get easier as they get older. My son Henry is now 4 months and while it's far from easy, I look back and see the progress that we've made. Enjoy those smiles and cuddles! I can't believe how fast it's going by and I want to soak it up as much as possible. Emmett is such a cutie, congratulations!!

    Erin (Goddard) Cacace

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  2. I am so thankful for your honesty, Heather! This is really beautiful, and your ability to be real is showing just how much you love your baby, your family, and yourself. The more we talk about the reality of motherhood, the better it will be - bless you, sweet friend!

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  3. Great post, Heather! I had to be on a really strict diet while nursing, it was hard, but worth it! You can totally do it!! Becoming a mother is THE HARDEST thing I've ever done, but it gets better and better! You just have to learn to take it one day at a time during the newborn stage (even though that can be super hard to do!)

    And go you having the time to write this post! I think it would have taken me 3 months, not 4 weeks ; )

    You're doing amazing!!

    xoxo Amy

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  4. Heather! I had so many thoughts as I read through this post; I wished we were having an in-person conversation about this because even though I'm not a mom, I can relate to so much of what you're experiencing. Thank you for being honest and sharing your heart - the light and dark - with us. I am here if you need anything (maybe a phone call during your "mom time"?) and know that I am lifting you up in prayer. I am so proud of you!

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  5. Heather, i am on the way to work, but I am so glad your blog loaded on my phone before the subway went underground. You have learned so much in the past 4 weeks and I think it would have been more jarring for me to hear that you did NOT experience all of these new mama woes! Uncle Gibby is right, (i knew i liked him :) ), you are in the midst of probably the most challenging transition you will ever experience. But also the most rewarding! You have a beautiful heart and an incredibly generous and loving spirit that will continue to guide you along the sometimes bumpy road of parenthood. So give yourself a break, give your hubby a hug and enjoy each lesson learned and victory acheived as you give emmett the wonderful life that I know only you will be able to provide for him. All my love for you. Your courage and honesty in this blog, and probably in many phone calls ahead, will certainly be a strong source of encouragement and comfort when I too am one day faced with the challenges of motherhood. Lylat ;)
    Claire

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