Mature Mom – the baby arrives… and boy, do I need help..

Once I had given birth, I realized two things – my baby was born! and do you think I could sleep that first night? I was amazed at how she was breathing on her own but I kept looking at her to make sure everything was still okay, time and time again. 

The nurses came around to check on me and the baby which was both interruptive and appreciated because I also realized that I HAD NO IDEA how to look after a baby.

I had grown up with no babies around me! I missed out on my friends having babies as I had moved away. 

I couldn’t wait to get home with her and be a family but then I found myself extremely nervous to leave that round the clock support system at the hospital. There was no buzzer beside my bed at home that would summon a nurse to assist with the baby or me when I needed help.

My parents were only visiting and my mom had come down with a vicious flu while waiting that week for the baby to come. She was originally meant to be in the delivery room with us but once she fell ill of course it was out of the question. This was an additional factor in my difficult time leading up to the active labour and delivery. After the birth, my mom said that she needed to get back home to recuperate fully and then she’d be back to help me look after the baby for a couple of weeks.

My husband was taking the first two weeks off work to be with me and the baby. At that point I was running off pure adrenaline and excitement but I was scared and felt vulnerable too, that I suddenly had this massive responsibility and, for the first time, I felt so far from home, homesick beyond belief for my parents, my mom. Having relocated to my husband’s home state 4 months prior, my relatively new living situation didn’t feel like home yet. I didn’t feel like I could call on my in-laws for help because it just wasn’t comfortable that way for me. I was just so tired and needed a lot of help and I also needed to heal. I had suffered a 2nd degree tear and I was still dealing with my dreadful cold and then there are the usual other processes that happen to the body post partum. My husband and I could have used some sound teaching lessons now that we had the baby, to show how to deal with everything the baby was throwing our way because I did not know how to manage the little bundle of exuberant life. I fear failure and I didn’t sense that I had a safety net, that I was going to mess this poor kid up!

Oddly enough, when my parents left I felt relieved in a way, because I didn’t know how to divide my attention on the baby, my husband and then my parents as well. I was exhausted and I felt like I had to look after everyone, just my nature. What I needed was someone who was on my side who was going to show me how to do everything related to baby care in a gentle way and give me an opportunity to rest.

I couldn’t stand anything but a soft touch for my baby, I was very sensitive about her. I felt her so frail for some reason, even though she was big and strong and had impressive lungs.

Those first two weeks were very special…hard but special. Hard but not impossible. Special to be bonding with my husband on this new level and experiencing these early days together. Hard because our baby wasn’t even near to sleeping the 14-16 hours that we were expecting. Hard for all the crying. Hard for me because I needed someone who understood exactly what I was going through. My husband couldn’t possibly understand. And I didn’t have anyone I felt close to in those days who could sit with me and chat about all the things that were worrying me. My husband was thinking that I was worrying too much and driving myself crazy looking for answers.

My baby was crying a LOT. 

Because the meconium had spilled during labour, she wasn’t pooping anything for a couple of days and this made me nervous. My milk wasn’t coming through yet so I was worried that she wasn’t able to eat anything and I worried that maybe my milk wouldn’t ever come through and there the poor thing was starving in the meantime. 

My milk came through as promised on the third day and then about a week later the paediatrician noticed that her poop had mucous and trace amounts of blood, indicating an allergy. 

And I noticed that she had acid reflux. 

All of this within 10 days of life. 

I was defensive about my baby, I didn’t know how to explain why she wouldn’t sleep and had bad poops and screamed non-stop from 5-10pm most nights. Because I had never done this before I was certain I was doing things wrong.

She was so very alert too with those big blue eyes of hers. 

She was also glorious. 

Mornings were filled with optimism that today I’ll get things right and she’ll sleep and be happy.

By the time the evening arrived I was wiped out and feeling very low because I was tired and hadn’t met my own expectations.

But wow did I sleep soundly during those few hours of sleep. I thank my baby for sleeping at night. Not all the way through, but enough to keep me going. I was definitely not a depressed person with that amazing sleep. Such a relief from my sleepless nights when I was pregnant.

I didn’t want to admit how hard it was, I wanted to be strong, I wanted to be able to do it on my own. But I wanted to be able to talk about it, without complaining. Unfortunately I didn’t find this relief just yet, people didn’t volunteer their stories or say “hey, let me look after her and go sleep right now.” I would have loved that.

With the paediatricians guidance, I eventually chipped away at my diet to take away dairy, soy, eggs, all nuts, eggs, fish and shellfish. To make it easier on me, I simply went on a chicken and rice and vegetable diet. I lost weight dramatically and was tired all the time, more than I should have been. I really needed to make sure I was eating enough chicken and rice and select vegetables (ones that wouldn’t cause gas). Once I ate more, my energy returned.

We went to a Children’s GI specialist who put her on baby Zantac for 1 month to help with the reflux. 

The other components were getting the baby to sleep and getting myself to relax and enjoy the baby even if she was having issues. 

I cannot tell you how defensive I was because I didn’t want people to criticize my baby. In those days I needed someone to tell me that it is tough but not unheard of to have a baby who fights sleep and has gut issues that makes her miserable…that the baby and her parents will survive it and the kid will grow up just fine, so to please relax and not take it upon your shoulders…it had nothing to do with what mom ate during pregnancy etc. 

Mom guilt. Yikes.

For anyone else out there with what seems like a difficult baby be it from colic or allergies or whatever – please take solace in knowing that your baby needs a bit more attention to some details and extra effort and this is perfectly fine. Do not be disappointed or feel like it will never get better. It will always get better because you will learn, the baby will grow and issues will resolve either on their own or with the help of health practitioners. A key component is learning your baby’s cues about when he or she is hungry or tired and building familiarity and trust…basically, building a relationship with your baby.

Don’t forget to smile at, sing to and talk with your baby!!! The baby can feel your tension and once you learn to go with the flow and lighten up, the baby will ease up too. 

And all moms understand how difficult it is to have a baby. So many people have had to deal with colic and projectile vomiting and worse. For as long as 6 months. This is not even looking at children born with major health issues and end up in the NICU for weeks.

The stories will come out from people about their kids eventually, but for some reason for us, people didn’t readily share at the beginning. So I can’t tell you how alone I felt as a mom who didn’t know how to keep her baby happy and I was completely sleep deprived and my husband went back to work including business travel that took him away for multiple days.

But I will tell you something – my baby was gaining weight and looking healthy otherwise. And every day something cool would happen, maybe she would smile, suddenly follow me with her eyes as I walked across the room, and so forth. Something that showed a deeper connection. 

Eventually, I think with the diet change, our girl improved a lot over the course of one month. At 6 weeks old we took her off the medication and haven’t looked back. At 3.5 months now it’s getting better. HOWEVER I did have some blips in there with some outrightly bloody mucous when I deviated from the diet. We still have to wait and see if she has permanent allergies or if this was a passing thing.

My paediatrician told us that we really did have a hard case on our hands with the reflux and such and when she sees me worried about a cough, she comments that I likely suffer PTSD from those first few weeks.

Now, I’m holding back on one major piece of advice – around day 12 we met with a post partum doula. Just seeing her handle our girl and seeing our baby calm down right away with her, I knew I had found what I needed – someone on my side who was going to show me how to look after my baby. Not in all things, but definitely a lot of things. She showed how I could help my baby aside from the diet change…mainly with a soft touch in everything she did. 

To this day I credit her with making me the mom I am today..confident, relaxed and fully enjoying my little one. 

Certainly, we are only at 3 months and I still get surprised and baffled by my baby sometimes and we are working through sleep issues at the moment which are very tough! But that was the first important lesson from the doula…you go one step backwards to get two steps ahead, and everyday is a new day and most probably will be different from the previous day.

Being a parent is hard and this really is only the beginning! But it’s not impossible and the greatest thing is that we get to engage with our children to learn their personalities and help them to develop. Seeing their personalities emerge is breathtaking.

I now know the feeling of inadequacy as a parent. I will never be a perfect parent and  I have to be okay with this. I can only be the best parent that I can be right now and this is going to be the root of the hard work ahead of me. I have to always be conscious of my options and make sound choices. But there are people to help when needed and truly, people understand even though they may not share their own stories of hardships as a parent. They might just smile as they remember what it was like and want to leave you to figure it out, which can feel like you are out in the cold. But you’re not…keep asking for help but also know that you just need to do what you know is your best at the time. 

And as for people who like to tell you what to do from a less than kind intention, they have their stories too so just be patient and kind with mom-shamers.

I find that having a kid keeps me honest and humble like never before and calls me to be resilient.

So, for those moms who had lots of baby experience before your own arrived, I think you were so smart to learn all of it. 

I remember the one day that my doula came over for an overnight session (so that I could get some sleep in between feedings) and she was just smiling at me. She said that I looked so much more relaxed and confident with the baby and that this was what made her love her job so much. To see the mom thriving as much as the baby. 

Right now having a doula is a luxury but I hope one day it becomes a normal expense because it really made such a different in my life and I’m sure it would help so many others out there; moms dads and babies would benefit from this kind of caring support especially in today’s world when we are so distanced from family and each other in general.

And yes, I have a mind to become a doula myself in the future, to help others!

The main impact this has had on me is how vulnerable these little creatures are…it kind of terrifies me! How I long to look after all babies! Or at least help to look after all babies.

The timing of my baby arriving into this world coincided with the legislation passed in New York State allowing third trimester abortions. This news (and not post partum depression) sent me in a very low time of my life that at the same time was exhilarating. 

It was at this point that I knew I had to do my part to promote life and try to help as much as possible. And to urge one another to help each other.

I wanted to learn about all possible sides of why people would want an abortion to know if that is really the only option. I’m just starting to delve into this world. But if, I thought, if we could just band together in society to honour women as the givers of life, help them and their pregnancies, encourage the nuclear family unit and for fathers to engage and help moms and kids, then we can only be better for it as a civilization. If we allow ourselves and each other to take away life, even if by simply remaining silent on the issue when we know it’s not the right choice when faced with the opportunity to say something, then we are guilty of not having faith, hope and love. Including love for the mom who can suffer terrible emotional damage after having an abortion. 

I am interested in the authentic experiences of parenthood in all forms…the realities that we each face, because by facing the glories and the hardships we can offer celebration and help and friendship, and witness each other’s journeys through parenthood so that we don’t feel so alone.

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