Where to begin? I can’t believe it’s been over two months since my little Evangeline came into Eric’s and my life.
Before her birth, I had planned on doing a weekly update about life with a newborn. I figured I could do all things while she was sleeping. Little did I know how naive I was. I’m not sure if all new parents go through it, I’m sure most do, but the first month is basically survival mode and I got by only with the help of Eric and my familia.
I think now I am actually getting the hang of being a care giver and mother to an infant. There are days where I wonder if this is really my life and I wouldn’t trade all her smiles and coos for the world. Bu there are days where I want to run away, screaming, to be free of the heavy darkness that I felt entrapping me and not look back. But I don’t do that. Because I can’t do that to my husband and and I can’t do that to my baby. And I can’t do that to myself. Yes, I felt like running away. Many times during the first month of my baby’s life. I admit it. I feel guilty over it, but it’s just a fact of the turmoil of emotions I went through. Giving birth is easy in comparison to caring for the baby. Running a marathon, the mental, physical and emotional aspects of it, all seem to be a piece of cake when faced off against the wild emotions of the first month with a newborn.
It’s not easy. That’s for sure.
But it’s so much better than the first month. People are right when they say it gets better. Most say 6 weeks is when things turn a corner. For me it was about 8 weeks.
It’s true when they say hormones are flying wild after giving birth. I barely recognized myself. I felt an enormous intensity of love for the little being that entered my world but I also felt an equally, if not stronger sense of fear and unrelenting worry. I was scared. So damn scared of accidentally hurting her. Every time I held her or tried to get her to nurse I worried I was holding her incorrectly, twisted something out of place, not feeding her enough. Why aren’t my boobs working? Why can’t she latch correctly? Is that a fever? What is so damn wrong with me that I can’t figure out the needs of my baby? Why do I feel so trapped?
All those questions and so much more whirled through and I did not expect the intensity of it all.
It didn’t help that once we left the hospital, I started feeling a bad cramp in my left leg. It started small but got progressively worse. Massaging it wouldn’t help, heat packs did little and I began to worry I didn’t walk around enough in the hospital. What was to be our first night home as a family was spent several frustrating hours at urgent care then the ER to get an ultrasound to make sure it wasn’t a blood clot, which runs in my family. My doctors office was closed to we had to go elsewhere to get it checked out. Evie was barely 3 days old and she’s pent a lot of time in the car seat while my parents watched her in the car as my husband drove us around to get answers. I got non because urgent care didn’t have an ultrasound tech available (closed for the night) and the ER I went to was just horrible.
Eventually we went to my parents house where I pretty much just collapsed from the pain, stress, worry, and over all exhaustion of my lack of sleep while in the maternity unit. I kept apologizing over and over again to my family. To my husband, to my daughter. I was such a mess. Eric told me to stop apologizing and talked me down from my mental emotional ledge and fortunately we got an ultrasound the next day at my doctors office, that showed no clot but it was just a severely strained calf.
It was huge relief to hear that, though I was to hobble around for a good two and a half weeks afterwards. Add a week and a half long cold on top of my fragile mental, physical and emotional state of being while I was caring for a newborn with a banshee wail that would last for what seemed like hours, and I was pushed to the limits of my sleep deprived sanity. Hence the ugly run on sentence.
Through it all, Evie took up my entire focus. I stopped worrying about myself and put everything into her. I was worried, trying to bring her back up to her birth weight, but I felt like a failure when I had to start using a bottle so soon with her. I was already using a nipple shield to help with breastfeeding, and was determined not to use formula so I obsessed with getting whatever extra milk I could out of my boobs when she wasn’t attached them. The darkness crept in ever more as I wondered why I wasn’t enough to feed my baby.
Even though I had family around me, I felt very alone. While they could come and go as they pleased, I was attached to my baby. I was her source of comfort and food for pretty much 24/7. I was there to serve her every waking need and it was up to me to figure out the riddles of her crying. Sometimes I’d get it right. Food? Check. Diaper change? Okay. Burped? Yes. And there where many a moment where I couldn’t determine what she was crying about. Too many dark hours where I felt like I was drowning in my own tears along with hers since I didn’t know how to comfort my own child.
I felt helpless. A failure at motherhood only days in. I would cry along with her, frustration eating at me, threatening to boil over in a scream or wail of anger and fear of my own. And when Eric would take her and manage to soothe her where I couldn’t, I felt completely and utterly gutted. I knew he had his rough nights with her too (he takes care of her in evening and early night so I could get some sleep before the witching hours after midnight), but I felt as if she were purposefully testing my ability to be her mother and by the despair I felt, I wasn’t going to get a passing grade. What was so wrong with me that my daughter didn’t seem happy around me?
Soul crushing. It’s damn soul crushing when you think that you’re not enough for your child.
I didn’t trust my decisions around her. I would second guess anything that I thought would come naturally to me. I had always been a hard decision maker, but for the life of me I couldn’t even decide whether I wanted orange juice or water when asked. Even though I loved her with such a fierce insanity and would destroy anyone or anything that would mean her harm, I felt hopeless in my abilities to care for her. I would cry. Constantly. I tried to hide it, ashamed that I was so weak, but the tears didn’t stop.
The feelings were slightly muted by my families help, but when my little sister went back home, my older sister had her own baby and my mom’s focus was split between us, and Eric went back to work where it was just me. Me and Evangeline, the feelings would ride me all day and through the night. The only peace I had was in the few hours of tangled sleep I could get.
At some point, in the midst of some tears, I remember messaging my friend Josana, who had been through the trenches of being a first time mom a few years ago and was surprised at her response. She had felt similar as well. She went through the darkness I felt smothering me. She gave me advice, told me I would get through it and be stronger on the other side. I just had to take it one hour at a time. One day at a time. To let Evie go in a safe place, and step away for a few moments so I could release the pain I was in. Whether it be mental, emotional, physical, to just step away and deal with myself.
It took me a while come to terms with my feelings and listen to the positive words Eric was constantly trying to support me with. I wasn’t a failure. As much as I felt like I was failing her for stepping away while she was in the care of her dad or my sister or mom, it began to dawn on me that I needed those moments. I realized I needed those moments to recharge. To gain a mental clarity, to soothe my soul, even just for 5 minutes.
And with it I began to really enjoy being with my daughter. Sure, we have our ups and downs, good and bad days (in the middle of a bad stretch right now, she’s sick), but the breathers I take help me get through the hard moments. She’s sleeping longer through the night and the little coos and smiles that spread across her face in those early morning hours that only I see, those that are meant for me, is worth it.
All worth it!!
I’ve learned that every new parent goes through some sort of trial and tribulation the first month and a half. And many new moms go through the darkness like I did. I don’t know if knowing about it beforehand would have prepared me for it, because we all react differently, but at least I wouldn’t have felt as alone, isolated in my dark world of despair. That it wasn’t just me having these thoughts.
I’m not alone. You’re not alone. And having those feelings of guilt, insurmountable worry, and wondering if you were meant to be a mom are normal (or so it seems). But don’t go through it alone. Reach out and talk. You’d be a surprised at how many new parents feel some form of fear, weight of second guessing, what have you when it comes to being with their baby. Talking about it helps. Whether with a friend, a loved one, a fellow new parent or even a therapist. Don’t suffer alone.
Parenthood isn’t all sunshine and butterflies. Oh heck no. And I’m just over two months in, but it gets easier. Slowly but surely, day by day it gets better. Even when she screams for an hour straight with that beautiful banshee wail that can pierce eardrums, and you’re at your wits end on trying to fix them (and panic begins to bubble in you) take a breather, gather yourself and trust your instincts.
It gets better.
Love the time you’re with them and love the time you are away.
And when I do go to the store on my own, I enjoy the moment away from her, and no longer want to run away, but look forward to getting back to my little girl and holding her in my arms.
Note: I had been writing up this post when Colleen’s post from The Lunchbox Diaries came across my feed. If you haven’t read it yet, I suggest you do. I was nodding my head in tears because I knew exactly what she meant. I lived it. I breathed it. I went through it. Even if you didn’t have the same feelings the first month or don’t think you will, any new mom or mom to be should read and know, you are not alone.