You’ve heard me say it before: I love being a mom. But that wasn’t always the case. Per my previous post, the labor went well. Who am I kidding, labor was pretty much as awesome as labor can be. I enjoyed the whole process. It was beautiful. Just the fact that Pat and I created this person was unbelievable enough, let alone seeing how handsome he was, even at the first glance. He was perfect. Labor went perfect. Our hospital stay was perfect. And then we went home…
The first night home was a nightmare. Ridley’s whole body started shaking shortly after bringing him home. It was the kind of shake you would do if someone scared you…except Ridley wasn’t scared. Well, I say that, but he did just experience a pretty traumatic experience two days prior, so maybe he was? Anyway… it happened enough that we brought him to the ER (the same day we left the hospital). We found out that he just had an underdeveloped central nervous system and needed some time to adjust. Everything was fine. Of course it was. THANK GOD it was, but I felt like an idiot for worrying. Little did I know, worrying is all I would do for several weeks.
We brought him home once again. He slept great in the car, but the moment he got home, he decided sleep really wasn’t his thing. Our first night home, neither Ridley nor I slept at all. We were adjusting to one another. Although we were “one” we didn’t know each other at all. It was like taking a stranger into your home (only much much cuter) and attempting to figure out what they want but you have no idea what they’re trying to tell you. It was horrible.
Almost instantly, the depression set in. Being sleep deprived is one thing, but being depressed is another. By day 2, I started to doubt if I had made the right decision in having a baby. I felt trapped and alone. No one would understand me, how could they? Everyone expected me to be overjoyed with my new bundle but I wasn’t. I was terrified. He scared me the hell out of me. But I hid it, or at least I tried to.
I didn’t eat the first week he was home. I had no appetite. I tried to stay hydrated, because I was breastfeeding, but even water seemed senseless to me. I’m a horrible mother, I decided. How could a mother not like her child? I loved him, don’t get me wrong, but I did not like him. Let me correct myself… it wasn’t him I didn’t like, it was being a mom that I didn’t like. Poor babe had no choice. I actually felt bad for him that he had me as a mom. I was certain that anyone else in the world would have been a better mother to that baby than me. Every time he cried, a fearful sensation would signal through my body. I had no idea what to do with him…and neither him with I.
Friends would call, text, or email to come visit but I told them no… I didn’t want anyone to see me in this condition. I didn’t want anyone to see me not loving my baby. I knew they’d be able to tell.
On the other side of the coin, friends I expected to hear from completely vanished from my life, which was when the depression got even worse. What had I done? My life was over. I knew when I got pregnant that things would change. I would change. Friendships would change. But I had no idea just how much. I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t leave the room without my kid (I quickly learned its okay to leave your baby in a separate room for a short period of time). At one point, I was trying to fix myself something to eat and the baby started crying uncontrollably. I tried to finish, but he wouldn’t stop. I threw my food away angrily and just left the room. While my baby screamed in the other room, I just cried with my face in my pillow. I couldn’t even get 2 minutes to do what I needed to do. It was then that I realized that life as I knew it was over.
I couldn’t leave the house without anxiety taking over. When he was three weeks old, Pat and I met a group of friends for Pat’s birthday. I was out for all of one hour before I called my mom in tears. All the times I had complained about not having any time to myself and the first moment I get a break away, I have separation anxiety. Go figure.
Within the first several weeks, not a day went by that I didn’t cry at least once. Sometimes, I’d just cry for no reason. Poor Pat. I know I was irritating, but I honestly could not control myself.
Although I felt horrible… I do not want you to think I neglected my baby. I cared for him, bathed, changed, fed, soothed, played… I did it all… just sometimes I did it sadly as I mourned the loss of my former life.
Ridley is 10 weeks old now and I can safely say that my depression has lifted. When did it happen? I have no clue. Things just started to slowly fall into place. Ridley and I started to get to know each other. We started sleeping more and established a routine, which made life seem slightly more real. Just as his personality started to develop, mine changed as well. My priorities changed. I no longer felt left out or jealous when I’d facebook creep the crap out of my friends. Ridley became my best friend and there was no one in the world I’d rather spend my time with (and still isn’t).
Some things I learned, being a new mom:
Breastfeeding is WAY harder than it looks. Newborns feed on average 8-12 times a day. When you are breastfeeding, that means that the only one that can feed him is you. And if your child is an extremely slow eater, like Ridley, that may mean spending approximately half your day feeding. HALF OF YOUR DAY/NIGHT sitting on the couch/chair/bed with a baby stuck to your boob. Talk about exhausting. And if you don’t make enough milk at first, you have a SCREAMING hungry irritable baby for several days while your milk supply comes up to meet your baby’s needs. I wish someone had told me how challenging it would be. Actually… I don’t. Because if I had known, I never would have done it. But flash forward to 10 weeks later and I actually enjoy it. It’s not awkward or uncomfortable any more. I don’t find it inconvenient at all either. I actually love it. I love Ridley’s face when he’s eating. I love how excited he gets when he knows he’s gonna get some “booby time” as we like to call it. I’m so so so SO glad we stuck with it… but it definitely is tough work, so new/expecting mamas be warned.
It gets better. One of the best things anyone ever said to me those first weeks were those words. And its true. The first 6 weeks are by far the hardest. It’s almost unexplainable. This is due largely to the baby’s stomach being so tiny that frequent feedings are necessary when they are first born. But as they get bigger, so do their stomachs and the feeding times grow further apart, minute by minute. Each minute is valuable. That means time for a hot shower, or intimate moments spent with your partner. It may seem so far away in the beginning, but it does get better… if you let it.
They grow up fast. You don’t realize it, because its so gradual, but they grow up so fast. You won’t remember the day, but you’ll realize later on that they no longer need neck support, they aren’t afraid of bathtime anymore, they outgrow the onesie you brought them home in. One day, you’re bringing them home from the hospital and the next, they’re crawling. I haven’t gotten to that stage yet, but I know it’s coming and I’m already sad about it.
The hormones don’t go away once the baby is born. Your body is literally torn inside out… it needs time to heal.
It’s okay to have postpartum depression. No one talks about it. It’s like everyone feels like they should be instantly bonded with their child and know exactly what they want. But that’s not always the case. It’s normal to feel sad, isolated, and scared. It’s natural. It’s a MAJOR change in your life… it’s not like moving to a new city or changing jobs… this is another human being. A child. Your child. They need you. So, if you are experiencing PPD, seek a professional if it gets to the point where you are unable to care for your child. Have no shame in seeking guidance of some sort, whether it’s a counselor, doctor, minister, or even a friend who has experienced it before you… talking about it often makes you feel less alone, which helps to jump-start the healing process. Just like your body needs several weeks to heal, so do your emotions. But know that as normal as PPD is, it is not normal to neglect your baby. Even if you don’t like being a mother at first (like me), learn to love them unconditionally. There will come a time when you look into their eyes and you cannot imagine your life any other way. The motherly instinct that is often spoken of does come about…eventually… but it may take some time.
Your support system will change you. My sister gave birth to my beautiful niece 4 and a half months prior to my having Ridley. Before I knew I was pregnant, my sister and I were at odds. We had experienced a rough couple of years where neither of us understood one another. We loved each other but we did not like each other very much. When Sarah got pregnant, she moved back to Maine from California, where she had been living for almost a year. Although she was only an hour and a half away, we didn’t really rekindle our sisterly bond until I found out I was pregnant. With the impending birth of our children, all other senseless drama melted away. We grew up and grew together. Honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way. She was a MAJOR support for me. She helped me overcome my PPD and helped me realize that being sad is okay. Without her, I know things would have gone much differently. But she wasn’t the only support system I had. Pat, my fiancé was incredible. He dealt with so much in such a short period of time, I feel so blessed that he even wanted to stay with me. My mother was another huge help. Always coming to visit, even when I didn’t want anyone around. She helped out with things around the house when I couldn’t and made me feel beautiful when I know I was a mess. My mama friends, Kristine, Sarah, Ashley, Heather, Vanessa, Denise, and my facebook mama mafia… always offering advice and guidance. Cassandra and Monica: two wonderful women who love Ridley and visit as often as possible. There are more, but I’m too crazy to remember at the moment. I apologize. Not to mention Pat’s family who travel hundreds of miles just to spend time with our little family and friends who haven’t given up on us. All of these people have made a tremendous difference in my life and as crazy as I am, I try to thank them as often as possible so they know just how much I appreciate their efforts. The old saying is true…you find out who your friends are.
As always… this post is as scattered as my thoughts. I can’t even apologize for it…that’s my personality, I suppose. But thanks for reading! I’m hoping my future posts will be more candid, as they used to be now that most of the heavy stuff is out of the way.
Happy Monday amigos! One week left of maternity leave then you can hear me bitch about going back to work…. Ughhhhh.
In the meantime, meet my handsome, happy little man: Ridley Joseph Lord.