June 25, 2019
I’ve sat down to write this blog post more times than I can count. Or remember really. Thoughts fire throughout my brain so fast it’s hard to keep up with texts, emails, a blog, or life in general. How is he up from his nap already? Annnnnnd I’m leaking. Wait, did he just poop through his onesie AGAIN?
What did I expect when I was expecting? I wouldn’t say I was expecting to go about my new day to day life with efficiency and grace, living out a perfectly curated mommy blogger instagram feed. But I will say this; I didn’t expect life with a newborn to be this hard. How many times had I heard from other moms and dads the following sentiment about parenting before I became a parent myself:
It’s the best thing but the hardest thing you will ever do.
Well, let me tell you something. THEY. WERE. ALL. RIGHT. In less than two months I’ve learned more than I ever thought possible. About babies, about the female body, about my marriage, and most of all, about me.
Prepare to be completely unprepared – So many of my mama friends helped try to prepare me for what was to come. I asked all of the questions, took the classes, did my homework like the good student I am. But NOTHING could prepare me for what came. At least not really. Charlie’s heart rate dropped rapidly when I started pushing and we were told by our doctor that he had to come out fast, so if I couldn’t push him out quickly, we were facing an emergency c-section. Mike and I joked with our family and friends afterward that Charlie’s delivery was like the 4th quarter of the Big East Lacrosse Championship, the score tied and the pressure on. I’m pretty sure at one point the phrase “LET’S F**KING GO!!” came out of my mouth between the oxygen mask version of water breaks. 50 minutes later with Tom Petty’s “Wildflowers” streaming in the background, Charlie entered the world. It was euphoric, a high like I’d never felt. I will remember that moment for the rest of my life. But my best friend couldn’t really explain to me the pain I’d be experiencing after birthing an almost 10lb child. How my face could apparently become freckled with popped blood vessels from pushing so hard and so fast. How it’d feel as if my vag was somehow going to drop to the floor when I attempted walking out of the hospital for the first time. And don’t even get me started on getting back on the toilet during those first few times. I’m pretty sure I experienced some form of PTSD every time I headed to the bathroom, squirt bottle in hand, afraid of the experience I was about to face. And still three weeks later, holding on to Mike in our bathroom while Charlie cried downstairs, asking him if I’d ever feel “normal” again, because in that moment, it was hard to even remember what that was.
I wasn’t prepared to not enjoy breastfeeding as much as I did. The engorgement, the latching, or the geyser that apparently somehow existed in my previously itsy bitsy sized boobies. I was told at least 10 times by at least 10 different people that there is a reason sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture. No college all-nighters matched what a night of consoling an inconsolable tiny human could do to your physical and mental state. So if you’re expecting, should you still read all of the books, or like me, have 34 running tabs on your Google Chrome app researching every question that crosses your mind? Sure. Just know that nothing will truly prepare you completely until you experience the chaos that is the newborn phase yourself.
Find your tribe, love them hard – Ok, so I’ve always hated this quote. The inner tomboy in me cringes whenever I see it on glitter encrusted picture frames and water bottles (you know the ones I’m talking about, ladies). But truthfully this quote is the only way to really express how I feel about the other mamas in my life. I honestly don’t think I could have gotten through those first weeks without the support of these women. They answered all my calls. They hugged me when I broke down (which was a lot). They truly kept me sane. There are still times where I screenshot and save a text from a friend to look back on when I’m experiencing a difficult moment. Repeating to myself “The first few weeks are the toughest, but it WILL get better” over and over again until I force myself to somehow believe it. Because they are right. It does. And it continues to be tough, like right now as Charlie enters his next developmental stage. A phase of rapid progression that looks and feels like regression. The endless photos of his daytime smiles in my camera roll are the last thing I look at before I fall asleep partially because I am obsessed with my son, but mostly so I can remember them at 1:00, 3:30, and 5:00am when buddy boy decides he wants to party instead of sleep.
Mike: “He just wants to hang with his cool parents, babe.”
I’ll tell you who’s about to lose their COOL in about 5 seconds if you try late night bedroom humor again. K?
But you somehow figure out a way to manage it. And you try, and try, and try again, everyday.
The Baby Blues are real. And scary AF – I’ve been very open about living with an anxiety disorder so when I found out I was pregnant, I knew I had to get a leg up on preparing myself for what things could look like for me in the months to come. My therapy sessions started to include more discussions on the so-called “Baby Blues” and how it differs from post-partum depression. The warning signs Mike and I should look out for in the weeks following birth. I was told that because of my anxiety disorder, I had a higher chance of experiencing PPD and I’d be lying if I said that thought didn’t scare the shit out of me. Like how I’ve approached much of my life, I hoped for the best but expected the worst – classic optimistic outlook of the anxiety ridden! After giving birth to Charlie, the blues did hit. And they hit hard. It’s difficult to explain just how intensely sad and overwhelmed I felt. I stood in the shower and would just cry. I swear I cried more tears those days than the actual water that came out of the shower head. Mike would attempt to comfort me, asking me how he could help, reassuring me everything would be okay, and also just let me BE.
Let me hate how badly I felt.
Let me go into a complete panic, unannounced and unaware of when or if it would ever end.
Let me be distant from Charlie at times when I thought I’d feel so much more connected and close to him.
In time, things started to subside, with moments of intense sadness occurring less and less frequently. And that connection I yearned for with my son has only grown. My favorite times with him now are after his feeds, the “awake” period for newborns. The times he laughs at me, silently spits up on my shoulder and then smirks at me like he’s aware I haven’t noticed yet, and how he always wins every staring contest we have right before he drifts off to sleep. The room can be crowded with people but it feels like its just me and him in our own little world. But it took time to get there, and those first two to three weeks are a time I really don’t like to think about and a place I really would not care to revisit, but an important one to acknowledge just the same.
Learn to Lean In – Beyond all of this, there is one thing I finally realized was at the root of my early frustrations with adjusting to motherhood. It is something I struggle with still today on a daily basis. I had a really difficult time putting my finger on it until one day when I got really upset during a disastrous nursing session with Charlie. I felt like I had been living my days feed to feed, already anxious about the next session to come with him. Somewhere in the midst of the super-soaking and the tears of discomfort (from both of us), it hit me in that moment what I had been feeling all along. A complete lack of control. The only thing I could do for our situation to improve was to simply wait. Wait for my supply to regulate. Wait for my hormones to level out. Wait for some type of sleeping pattern to magically reveal itself. Wait to just feel like ME again. But something else dawned on me then too. I wasn’t alone in my frustrations. Someone else lacked even more control than I did – Charlie. Waiting for his tummy to grow so he could handle his feedings. Wait to grow out of his hard to watch gas pains. Wait for his brand new nervous system to develop enough so that he could get the interrupted rest his little body needed to thrive. As adults, we thrive on schedules, routines, and ultimately a sense of control in our day to day lives. Life with a newborn in a lot of ways is the complete opposite of that. Yes, there are methods to implement, and many proven to be helpful and effective, but so much of this time I have realized is just getting by and letting yourself lean in to the situation you are in. It’s a difficult concept to grasp when you’re so used to dictating how you want things to go, and when this tiny human being reminds you (on the reg) that he is the one running the show. At least, for now. By leaning in more, I’ve begun to allow myself to experience this wild ride of parenting for what it actually is – insane.
And I couldn’t have imagined it any other way. I mean, and how could I? All I know is that in those rare quiet moments, the ones where it’s just me and my two boys, I can’t believe there was ever a time where this wasn’t my life. Because this was exactly where I was supposed to be all along.