I’ve alluded to the challenges of the first few weeks of Davids life before. I don’t want you to think it’s all been bad. There have been great, great days (even weeks) amidst the tough ones.
I worked behind the chair until I was nearly 8 months pregnant. During that time I had the pleasure of chatting with a lot of my clients about motherhood, what it’s like to have a baby, etc. I always asked them to keep it real, and don’t be afraid to tell me the hard parts.
I felt prepared for nursing. A lot of women, almost a vast majority, told me how challenging it will be. So, I was ready for the challenge. Ultimately, Justin and I decided to switch to formula and that has been the right decision based on the circumstances. I don’t suffer any guilt or feel like “less of a mom”. Maybe it’s just the way my brain is wired, but while I hoped to breastfeed David for much much longer, it simply didn’t happen. The goal was to breastfeed, and when that became unachievable, the new goal was simple: feed him. And so formula did that job for me.
I didn’t feel prepared for the emotional roller coaster that is the first few months with a newborn. People would talk about postpartum depression, but not in detail. I do not think I truly suffered what would be categorized as PPD, but I did experience a major hormonal fluctuation that led to a lot of thoughts, feelings, and emotions. I think that’s just what comes with childbirth. Your hormones need to adjust back to “normal”.
It surprised me how quickly the weight of caring for David settled in. I think it was during the first week home from the hospital. My mom was still around helping, which was an unbelievable blessing, and I cried at the dinner table.
I didn’t know how to express what I was feeling but it was a combination of feeling overwhelmed, a little scared, and weighed down. And then I felt bad.
I prayed so long for this baby. And some of you prayed as well, which means so much to me. It took us a little while to get pregnant with him. Why did it seem like I was feeling more stressed than happy about it?
My brain started fighting my feelings. I knew I was thankful and that I loved him. But I felt more stressed than expected.
On top of that, I felt “off”. In hindsight, I am fairly certain this was all hormones, because I feel completely different now that the fog has lifted.
There are a few things I wish I would have known. And I think if I had even heard any of this before having David, it would have made the transition a little bit softer.
1. You may not feel connected to your baby on a level you imagine right away. Maybe this was due to my planned c-section, or maybe it would have been like this if I had any kind of delivery. But it took a few days for it to really settle in that he was mine. I loved being pregnant. So it felt a little strange to look at my child, and miss my pregnant belly. I immediately felt like my pregnancy was over too soon and that I didn’t appreciate it as much as I should have. I know that sounds strange, but it’s just how I felt! I didn’t want to “return” David, per say, but I just had this thought of,”Oh my gosh, my pregnancy is over. What an abrupt finish!”
2. There’s a vast middle ground between perfectly normal and extreme PPD. I know women that have suffered PPD and I know women who felt totally themselves after birth. I felt like I was going to be one or the other. Instead, I fell somewhere in the middle. I experienced some stress, lots of crying, and also extreme joy. It’s best described as a hormonal roller coaster. So while I didn’t need medical assistance, I did need to talk through my emotions with my friends. I needed to be told it’s okay to feel a lot of things. And not all bad things, but just a lot of things.
3. You won’t believe how much is involved. It really only boils down to feeding, changing, and taking a nap (especially in those first few weeks). But when you are going through it, you suddenly are watching the clock every second. Is it time to feed? How long as he been asleep? How long has he been eating on that side? How many wet diapers has he had today? When did he wake up? There’s a lot to keep track of. Apps, or the old school method of writing it down, is really all you need to do to keep a running list, but there are so many things to think about that you never thought about prior to having a baby.
4. It is vital that you communicate with your spouse. For Justin and I, it was helpful to have a “parenting method” plan before David arrived. That way, when we were having a tough time, we knew what we wanted to do instead of just throwing in the towel and giving up on the “plan”. When the emotions could have taken over, we tried really hard to think rationally and stay grounded. I made conscious efforts to point out the great things Justin was doing, and he did the same. Encouragement is crucial, especially from someone that sees you day in and day out.
5. It get’s easier. It just does. I didn’t really believe people when they told me that at the 2 month mark. I just chalked David up to be a difficult, fussy baby. And I just figured I didn’t like motherhood as much as I thought I would. But around 11 weeks, I felt a distinct change in myself (it’s difficult to put into words) and it became much easier. His fussiness wouldn’t frustrate me as quickly. And I was able to tolerate more stress without breaking down. Around this time, David also changed. He became less of a newborn and more of a baby. He was entertained for longer on his play mat. And would watch his mobile while I folded laundry. He was a bit more interactive, and would smile. I began to enjoy motherhood, and found that I was happier in general. My mom told me that “everything changes around 3 months”, and she was right.
David at 3.5 months
If you are pregnant, hope to be pregnant, or just had your first baby, I hope that someone told you these things. If not, maybe it will be helpful that you read them here. I also hope, truly, that it isn’t as difficult for you as it was for me. But in case it is hard, know that it gets easier. And more and more enjoyable. And you’ll suddenly find yourself in love with a tiny little human.