Follow Up

Last night, after submitting the previous post, I couldn’t get it out of my head. I finally had the breakdown that had been building up for a few days. Poor Tom had to stay awake with me and try to calm me down til I finally went to sleep. Then this morning, Charlotte woke up for her 7am feeding an hour early, as always. I got her out of her cradle and brought her into the bed with me and cuddled with her. She went right to sleep. When she wouldn’t sleep anymore, I took her with me into the kitchen to prepare her bottle. She was resting her head on my shoulder as I got the bottle into the warmer. When I changed her diaper, she looked up at me with those big blue eyes and didn’t cry or scream like she normally does. She wiggled around like she does when she’s awake but happy. When I burped her, she bobbed her head and looked up at me with those gorgeous eyes again. Then when I tried to put her down, she began crying loudly.

That’s when I realized that I am not missing out on bonding with my daughter. She knows who I am and she likes cuddling with me. She finds my presence comforting. She likes to be fed by me and to burp on me. I don’t want to say she loves me because she’s just over a month old and I find it a bit silly when people assign traits and feelings to a being who cannot express an emotion other than “I have needs which need tending to.” But I feel loved by her. Maybe I’m missing out on an important bonding experience. And maybe I’m not the best mother I could be. But Charlotte recognizes me and responds to me when I try to comfort her. I’ve spent hours in the rocking chair, singing to her to help her go to sleep. I’ve snuggled with her so she wouldn’t cry when I put her in her swing or cradle. I’ve gotten to know her and I love her to pieces. And that makes me feel like I’m doing something right.

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Struggles with Motherhood

Due to latching issues and milk supply not being enough, I have given up on breastfeeding. Sometimes I don’t care, but other times, like right now, I feel like a failure as a mother. I mean, this is supposed to be a natural thing. People talk about it like it’s no big deal. But I just couldn’t get my supply high enough and Charlotte and I couldn’t seem to work it out. I was pumping to get her some breast milk, but no matter how often I pumped or how long I pumped for, it was only enough for one or two feedings. We were having to give her formula for so many of them. And pumping was painful and took so long. Plus, it’s hard to get it done when you also have to beware of the baby starting to cry and needing something. I’m struggling with the decision I made to give up on it completely. Charlotte is doing just fine, but I feel like I’m missing out on a very important experience with my daughter and that I’m depriving her of her best chance in life. (There’s just so much research that says that babies who were exclusively breastfed for six months have higher IQs, function better as adults, etc. And the medical field pushes this information at you so much to convince you to breastfeed.) I can’t shake the sadness I feel about it.

Charlotte is developing baby acne. It makes me sad because, even though she’s still a beautiful baby, it looks painful and is spreading. It lightens up and then spreads in intervals. She doesn’t seem bothered by it, but I guess my own insecurities are affecting how I react to it. I still tell her how beautiful she is. Because she is still very beautiful. I know she’s a baby and doesn’t understand what I’m saying, but to criticize her or say something that would make her feel bad about herself as a child or teenager, just seems like an awful thing to do. I want my little girl to know her Daddy and I think she’s gorgeous and that we love and support her. I hope to never say anything that puts her down.

I’m also struggling with my body. I gained a bunch of extra weight while pregnant because I pretty much ate what I wanted when I wanted to. I haven’t lost all that weight yet. My wedding band and engagement ring still don’t fit. I can’t wear my old clothes yet. My stomach used to be small with just a tiny pooch. It was cute. I used to feel self-conscious about it. But now I’m longing for the pre-pregnancy days. I still have hundreds of stretch marks all over my body that are taking their time to lighten (although they have started to do so.) And to top it all off, I’m going through a second puberty with terrible acne. I just do not feel attractive.

Tom has tried to comfort me on all these fronts. He assures me I’m not a bad mom, that Charlotte’s acne will heal up soon, and that I’m still attractive to him. But, as we all know, compliments from our loved ones basically go in one ear and out the other. They have to feel that way. Or at least they have to say they feel that way.

I love my little girl. That’s why I feel so guilty about the breastfeeding. My struggle with that is deeply personal, and I feel incredibly vulnerable admitting to it. But I also felt it was important to talk about it. So many women and so much in the media and medical field make it seem like it’s such an easy thing to do. They tell moms not to feel like failures for not being able to breastfeed, but I don’t know that I would have felt guilty if they hadn’t suggested I might. They also tell moms prior to trying to breastfeed that it’s what is best for the baby, making you feel like you’re hurting your baby when you can’t do it. I want to hide the fact that I wasn’t able to do it. I want to let people believe I’m succeeding at it so they won’t think I’m a bad mom and so I won’t have to admit that I didn’t excel at something I so desperately wanted to be able to do. And with the other things on top of it, I just feel hopeless sometimes.

I want to support other women who are going through similar things. I want to reach out and find other women who were forced by their situations to formula-feed and know that their children turned out well. I want someone to stand up and say “Breastfeeding is hard. It doesn’t come naturally to every woman.” I want other women to read this post and know that it’s tough. It’s not as simple as everyone makes it seem. And I want so badly to not be judged, to not be seen as a failure or someone who didn’t try hard enough.

I guess it’s part of our generation, with all the blogs and information so readily available, to vent about things and search for support online. It’s created something I’ve seen referred to as the “Mommy Wars”, where we all convene on the internet to bash each others’ parenting decisions and dismiss their struggles. Sometimes you find support and sometimes you just open yourself up to a bunch of people who feel superior to you and let you know it. I am so jealous of moms who can breastfeed. I read posts on my birth board about moms who love doing it, who do it for 18 months or more, who bond with their babies and connect in a way that I just can’t connect with my child. It’s still so raw for me that I’m tearing up as I write this. Apart from talking to Tom about it, this blog is actually the first time I’ve admitted to anyone else that I just can’t do it. I am so scared of people knowing, but if every woman tries to hide it like I instinctively wanted to do, then no other women like me would have the support they may want or even need.

So, maybe it sounds a bit egocentric to think that this post may reach out and help other women, but maybe it will. And if it does, then I’ve done something good. I have stepped so far outside of my comfort zone in writing this. I hope that other women don’t have to feel uncomfortable admitting to this struggle in the future and that, maybe one day, there will be at least one less battleground to fight in the Mommy Wars.


I JUST Realized…

I was looking at pictures of Charlotte and JUST realized that, oh my god, I gave birth! I have a baby! And she’s beautiful and sweet and amazing and I love her so much.

Yesterday was Tom’s first day back to work since she was born. Charlotte and I were all alone for a little over 12 hours. I was struggling at first to get her to stop crying. Then, in a last-ditch effort of desperation, I took her to the rocking chair. I rocked her and sang to her. I teared up during the verse of “Hallelujah” about pregnancy (“remember when I moved in you, and the Holy Dove was moving too, and every breath we drew was Hallelujah”). I openly cried during “Amazing Grace” because it was my Granddaddy’s favorite song. And I got to thinking about him looking down on me and being proud of me. I also thought about how my baby sleeps every night in a beautiful cradle Granddaddy bought for me to sleep in when my parents first had me.

My singing, despite my crying fits, put Charlotte to sleep. And then she wouldn’t sleep anywhere but in my arms or in my lap, til I sang to her while she was in the swing. (I also discovered, when I ran out of songs to sing to her, that just talking to her in a singing voice makes her fall asleep. I was singing “Charlotte, go to sleep. Mommy wants to take a nap. Go to sleep, little one.” And other stuff like that until she passed out.) I feel so loved. I feel like a realMommy, not just someone taking care of a baby.

I feel like I’m starting to really know her personality. I can’t articulate what she’s like, but I know her and I love her so much. And I love watching Tom with her. Especially after I have done 6 of the 8 daily feedings, changed about 10 diapers, dealt with about 8 crying fits, and missed out on about 2 hours of sleep in the morning. But she sleeps on his chest, makes adorable faces at him, wiggles, and generally feels completely at ease with him.

Tom said it best when he said we’ve made an irreversible decision. He was a bit shocked by all the changes in our lives (I tried to warn him, he didn’t believe me) but we’re just so happy. Sleep-deprived, cranky, and moving a little slower (except when we hear Charlotte crying), but happy.

Right now I’m watching her spit out her pacifier, wave her arms in the air, yawn, and toss her head around like the little spaz she is. Oh, and listening to the toots. Oh, the toots. I’m of course awaiting the inevitable crying fit… and there it goes. Gotta run!


Baby Effects

Me to Tom regarding naive hope: That’s a unicorn. Kill that unicorn. It’s not a mockingbird, it’s not a sin to kill it… you don’t believe in that Harry Potter s#^% anyway!

While watching Return of the King last night…
Tom: I wonder what goes on in the Dead City.
Me: I heard it’s kind of a ghost town.
Tom: -__-
(later)
Tom: They’re not a very lively bunch.
Me: Whatever, my joke was better.

Charlotte gets this face like a sleepy little old man when we’re trying to burp her. Tom and I have begun to call her “little Norman” when she makes that face. Get it? Because Norman is an old man’s name? Ok, we’re not that funny.

Last night we got some pretty consistent sleep. Our brains are almost to normal again. We’re finally figuring out how to interpret Charlotte’s cries and how to calm her down. She has a favorite blanket, a favorite pacifier, doesn’t mind dirty diapers, prefers to have a pillow under her head to sleep, and sometimes likes to sleep in our bed next to us first thing in the morning. We’ve got her on a 3-hour feeding schedule. She hates baths and diaper changes. She makes the cutest faces when she’s pooping her diaper.

I spent a few hours writing in her baby book the other day. I spent an hour cleaning out and reorganizing my closet earlier today. We have all this time because we work together as a team. I enjoy the amount of help Tom provides. But he goes back to work next week and I’ll have three whole 12-hour days without any help all in a row. And I’ve agreed to do all the 4am feedings the mornings he has to work. That is a feeding at 4am, 7am, 10am, 1pm, 4pm, and 7pm all by myself. All the diaper changes in between. And trying to calm her down all by myself. I’m particularly talented at calming her down, except when my beloved husband is trying to sleep in at 7am.

Next Monday and Tuesday, for that week and the week after, I go back to work. I have the rest of the week off to take care of the baby while Tom works. We’re looking into daycare centers (found a few affordable ones!) and it breaks my heart to think of someone else taking care of my sweet baby girl. A pain every working mother feels when she leaves her child for someone else to take care of. But my income is higher than the cost of daycare and we need it to pay our bills. I love her so much, it hurts physically to think of someone else cuddling her and calming her down. Thankfully, as Tom reminds me, it’s only two or three days per week and I’ll get to be with her during every lunch when he’s not at work.

I love this little girl so much more than I can explain. And I love Tom just as much. We’re getting a chance to play like we used to before we had to be careful of my tummy. We’re getting time to bond with our little girl and give our own relationship time to adjust to the changes a newborn brings. And while it hasn’t been an entirely smooth road, I’m sitting here listening to him singing to our daughter. He alternates between singing “Sober” by Tool, “Black” by Pearl Jam, “Real World” by Matchbox 20, and various Disney songs. Sigh. He’s ridiculous and I love him. Plus, Charlotte is sleeping in his arms, which is most important for our sanity.


One Week Old

You just don’t know funny until you hear your husband arguing with your newborn about feeding. I’m sitting over here devouring my birth board, minding my own business, and I hear “open your mouth. Damn it, OPEN. YOUR. MOUTH.” I look over and he says “she’s pretending to sleep!” Then he says to her “I’m going to change your diaper JUST TO PISS YOU OFF.” She’s currently wearing a Zelda onesie that I purchased as a nod to my husband’s nerd obsession. She’s just too cute.

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He’s also sitting there scheming with her about movies they’ll watch to piss me off. Like that stupid ninja movie. But these frustrations are easily forgotten.

This morning, Miss Charlotte decided that she needed to eat an hour earlier than normal, and the 60ml that she normally drinks was just not enough. This meant that Tom and I could not sleep because she would fuss every few minutes. This was at about 3am. Then again at 5am. Then at 7am. We managed to get some sleep between 8-9am, which is unheard of for me. (I’m an “up-by-7am” kind of person.) And her fussing turned to tearless crying, which turned to screaming to where her whole little body was bright red. I mean, talk about over-reacting!!! This is one of the downsides of bottle-feeding: it takes time to heat the bottle up. But feeding directly from the breast isn’t really in the cards for us, so we just have to put up with the blood-curdling screams of a week-old infant. I gotta say, it doesn’t hurt my heart as much as it hurts my ears.

But when Charlotte just wants to be held, the second her head is on my chest and my arms are around her, she calms right down. She has a tendency to roll her head around and throw it at things. Like my chest or chin or the couch behind me or back behind her. It’s funny and really cute. She also opens her mouth in an “O” shape and her eyes get really wide. She purses her lips. She opens one eye ever-so-slightly and looks up at you like she’s suspicious. She also gives the best “WTF” look I have ever seen. And, of course, she grins when she poops. It’s impossible to be more than slightly frustrated with her when she’s just so dang adorable. I know that getting frustrated myself can upset the baby. Something about babies sensing the emotions of their parents. So I make sure to keep myself calm and “shhhh” her and sing to her. She seems to like “Kiss the Girl” from The Little Mermaid. Which is funny because Tom will do the “whoa whoa” and “yah yah yah” parts in the background as obnoxiously as possible. And we laugh when Charlotte appropriately pulls a “WTF” face on us.

Another one of my joys is putting adorable clothing on her. Not the actual process because, my God the lungs on this child. But taking pictures of her in little dresses and such? Yeah, that is one of my favorite things.

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My baby is so cute! We haven’t even cracked half of the outfits we have for her. We received a lot of them at our baby shower and over the months after we found out she was a little girl. She may grow up to be a tomboy, which would be totally fine, but I am taking full advantage of putting girly clothes on her while I can. And NO ONE CAN STOP ME, MWAHAHAHAHA.

She’s currently sleeping in her swing. Her Daddy and I are both on our laptops, taking some time to breathe for ourselves. We just finished my homemade jambalaya (Paul Prudhomme’s recepie. My dad always used this particular one.) I cooked a meal only one week after labor. Yes, I feel like Superwoman. Tom took pity on me and chopped the onions, celery, and cut up the chicken pieces for me. He also cleaned the pot after I boiled the chicken. I did all the rest myself. It was about a 2 hour process, including prep. Much easier than gumbo, which requires a roux. Jambalaya does not. It tastes especially wonderful with chocolate milk. I highly recommend it. :) People tell you to sleep when the baby sleeps. I must have heard that piece of advice dozens of times. I saw a meme on my birth board yesterday that said “Oh yeah? Am I supposed to clean when the baby cleans and cook when the baby cooks, too?” After a tough early morning, Tom and I both kicked into high gear today and tidied up the house a bit. I cleaned her bedroom and organized it a bit more (it looked like the baby tornado tore through it) and Tom did the laundry. Tom also did dishes and I cleaned the area around my spot on the couch. It doesn’t sound like much, but this was pre-coffee. I think that says something, haha.

So, at a week old, I still love her. Even though she’s having her moments of driving us CRAZY.


Parenthood: Day 4

I am so in love with my daughter. My entire pregnancy, I was very cynical and whined a lot about how miserable the whole thing was. I was told by many a lady on my birth board that it was fine. I just wasn’t a magical, glitter-pooping pregnancy unicorn. I was just being honest and realistic about pregnancy. I didn’t have to enjoy it. Well, I finally became a unicorn.

That first night in the hospital after Charlotte was born, I wanted to scream. I hated that she wouldn’t sleep in the weird plastic tub they gave me, felt guilty for wanting them to take her to the nursery (they don’t do that at our hospital anyway), was upset because I wasn’t able to breastfeed, frustrated that every nurse had an opinion and was super pushy and no one’s opinion was the same, and exhausted from days without sleep. I was in horrible pain every time I tried to use the bathroom, had to do so many things to treat the issues and the pain, and was terrified of infections and such. I thought I was going to have Postpartum Depression big time.

We got home from the hospital and everything changed. Charlotte sleeps in her swing. She sleeps in her cradle. She sleeps in our arms. She sleeps almost all day. I have plenty of time to get things done. Tom was so helpful in bringing the baby to me for feeding her. I got over the fact that we were having to feed her formula instead of breast milk. We were sleeping. We had time to eat and shower. She didn’t cry for an extended amount of time or have any issues whatsoever.

The day after we got home, she had a doctor’s appointment that went incredibly well. My OB, who wasn’t my favorite person while I was pregnant, was super helpful and patient and answered our questions without judgment. Who could be mean to that sweet little face? Anyways, her Daddy and I were beaming with pride and joy. I loved her. I enjoyed her. I found taking care of her to be fun and come naturally.

Today, she is 4 days old. Almost 5, given her time of birth. We had a lazy day of lying around, eating, sleeping, going to the bathroom, bathing, diaper changing, and spitting up everywhere. Her face is becoming much more expressive. She grins at us when she poops her diapers, like a little troll baby. Like “You mad, Mommy?” She squirms and wiggles and is starting to make little noises. We found out she likes to have her hair brushed. And I had a terrible nightmare that I left her in the car in a parking lot for hours and someone broke into my car and kidnapped her. I woke up hyperventilating and Tom brought her over to me, when I grabbed her and bawled my eyes out, so relieved she was ok and I hadn’t been such a terrible parent that some stranger kidnapped her for her own good.

I don’t feel like a bad parent. In fact, I feel like Tom and I are actually pretty good at this. We’ve been able to take our time to adjust and figure things out on our own. We’ve had resources to go to when we had questions and have taken time to get to know our little girl. We’d done a lot of research prior to her birth which has come in handy. We weren’t “prepared” exactly, but we weren’t completely clueless coming in, either.

I’m healing very nicely. My body is bouncing back pretty quickly. I’m currently wearing pre-pregnancy jammies. They don’t fit exactly how they used to, but with some diet and exercise, time will tell. My milk came in and I’m able to feed my baby myself now. We’re still struggling with some physical obstacles, but I am so elated to be able to provide my child with healthy, all-natural, antibody-fortified food. Today was a good day. I have found my unicorn and I’m proud of it. She’s my perfect little angel and I love being her Mommy.

I know a lot of women struggle with Postpartum Depression. As someone who has struggled with Depression as part of my Bipolar Disorder, I empathize. I can’t relate entirely because I never had the added sense of guilt that society places on a new mother if she isn’t all sunshine, rainbows, and glitter-pooping unicorns about her newfound motherhood. I do not write this post to make anyone feel bad. My experience is individual to me. I’m incredibly lucky to not be struggling with depression right now. For any and all mothers who are suffering/did suffer PPD, I don’t believe myself to be a better parent or more naturally suited for it than you. Lord knows I have faults. Depression is not a failure, simply a chemical imbalance. I wasn’t happy with pregnancy. I’m so blessed to be so happy so easily now that Charlotte has been born. If it weren’t for my easy healing and Charlotte’s easy temperament, I might not be all sunshine and rainbows right now.

Parenthood Day 4 is Heaven on Earth.


The Birth Story

I went into early labor late on Saturday evening, March 8, 2014. I was having slightly painful contractions every 20-30 minutes. I managed to go to sleep that night, but was awoken a few times by the pain. Sunday the 9th, the contractions were getting pretty painful, so Tom and I went to the hospital. I was checked out and it was determined (after three frustrating hours) that I was not far enough along to be admitted. So we went home. I went to work on Monday the 10th and worked 7 of my 8 hour day with horrible back labor and contractions coming 8-10 minutes apart in the morning, then 5-7 minutes apart in the afternoon. My bosses sent me home. The pain was getting to be unbearable.

I called my doctor’s office to ask if we should go to the hospital, not wanting to be sent home again. They gave me the go-ahead. When the nurses checked me out in triage, they told me I hadn’t made any progress over the day. They told me to walk around the hospital for 2 hours. I was a bit livid and in WAY too much pain. It felt like my back was being burned from the inside out. Tom and I walked the halls downstairs for about an hour, taking breaks to go to the bathroom and stop when it hurt too much. We then snuck back into my triage room where we tried applying counter-pressure to alleviate the pain. It worked a couple times, and then just made everything worse. The nurse finally came in and checked me. I had progressed just a LITTLE bit, so she (without warning) swept my membranes and stretched me. Then she called my doctor and BOOM I was admitted. We had been at the hospital for about 3 hours at this point.

Once in my room, they put me in a lukewarm bath with jets. The jets made my back feel better but I couldn’t brace myself enough against the contractions. Then the nurse put me on a yoga ball, which made the pain even worse. I was a little difficult to deal with at this point. Not that I’d been a joy in the last few hours, but I was snapping at the nurses. I was checked again at about midnight on March 11th, her due date, to see if I could have an epidural. Thank goodness, I had made enough progress. I got it at about 1am and became the sweetest, happiest woman on Earth. I tried to sleep, but it wasn’t going well because the nurse had to do her job and check on me. By 5am, we were fully dilated and I pushed a couple of times. My water hadn’t broken, so the doctor came in and did that for me about 5:15. They determined that there was meconium in the water, meaning that the baby had had her first bowel movement. At that point, they were worried that she might have aspirated some of it, which could cause complications. Having done a LOT of reading, I knew that most of the time, this resolved just fine. They called in the pediatrician to stand by and warned us she might not cry for a few minutes. They told us not to worry. I was feeling a lot of pressure and they were nagging me to push, so I was more irritated than worried.

By 5:56am, she was born screaming. No complications. She was 6 pounds and 15.5 oz, so they rounded up to 7 pounds even. She was 18.25 inches long. Tom cut the cord, took some pictures, and brought her over to me to hold for the first time. I was still in shock. One minute I was in excruciating pain and the next there was a baby in this world and she was mine and Tom’s. We attempted to feed her for the first time and both broke down in tears. She was so beautiful and sweet and we couldn’t believe she was finally here or that she was the same little creature who’d been kicking me and giving me heartburn for the last few months.

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The first night at the hospital was really tough. She wouldn’t sleep and I was struggling with my milk having not yet come in. I didn’t want to have to formula-feed her, but until my milk comes in, that’s exactly what I have to do. I was also in a great deal of pain and not feeling up to doing much. Tom was wonderful, getting up to hold the baby and giving her to me when I asked, taking her from me when I was getting overwhelmed, asking me if he could help me and not badgering me with “ARE YOU OK???” constantly. (He asked, just not too much.) We waited around til about 11am on the 12th, then they finally let us go home.

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Once we got home, everything changed. We were relaxing, we were comfortable, baby girl was sleeping, she was eating well, and we were just happier in general. We took long naps ourselves, having gotten almost no sleep since Saturday night. Thursday the 13th, we had an early doctor’s appointment for the baby. We were feeling rested and happy. The nurses and doctors cooed all over her and the outfit we had her in. She had already grown 3/4 of an inch and had gained back her birth weight. (Babies typically lose 10% of their initial birth weight in the first two weeks.) She got a perfect bill of health.

Last night was a bit harder. I was in a good amount of pain still. She was hungrier, less amenable to her pacifier, and a little cranky. We finally got a decent amount of sleep between 1 and 4 am. And even when she’s crying her little eyes out, she is the cutest, sweetest thing I have ever seen in my whole life. Tom is such a good daddy. He’s been doing a LOT of the work because I haven’t been able to move around a whole lot. He does it with a smile and an appreciative chuckle at our daughter’s little mannerisms. He helps me with everything I ask without complaint. He takes time to kiss me and tell me he thinks I’m beautiful, that I did such a good job giving birth to her, that he loves me, that he’s so happy, to express concern over how I feel, etc. I have a perfect little family and I honestly could not be happier. All the apprehension and worry I had the first night at the hospital has dissipated. And she is everything I could have hoped for and more.

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