Now be forewarned, if terms associated with childbirth and nursing make you squeamish you may want to skip this one and just scroll through for the cute baby pics. I promise you some house and organizing projects are coming up. But first, life with a newborn....
Feeling bad for all the radio silence since Livy's birth, I finally posted this pic on Instagram:
I had been waiting until I could take a shower, find clothes that disguised the postpartum everything, and actually do something with my hair. But alas, that magical trifecta has not yet manifested. I was taken aback at your encouraging comments on that pic and it's really what triggered the desire to write this post.
I hope this doesn't sound completely wretched, but it seems to be baby season around my social media land and all the pictures are "Yay! Our baby is here! We're so in love!"
And I love my baby too, but I wondered....while holding my beautiful 4th child screaming from a stubborn bubble/poop/gas conundrum, my nipples sore and cracked from the first week of nursing, my postpartum gut keeping me out of any clothes without a stretchy waistband (not exactly a complaint at this point)....and really.....was I the only one who wasn't relishing in newborn baby bliss? I mean, this isn't my first rodeo here, so shouldn't I at least have it more together?
And friends, we are totally BLESSED. We have big babies (all born around 9.5 lbs with the exception of my "little" guy Sully who was 8 lbs 9 oz), which means they are generally good eaters (read: holy cow are my nipples still there) but they also tend to sleep a bit longer at night. Livy is no exception. It could be the hearty eating, the good weight, ooooor sheer exhaustion from the two hours of colicky raging during the evening hours that precede her bedtime. It's a toss up.
So, if we're getting 4-5 hr stretches at night, and nursing every 2.5-3 hrs during the day, why are we still so dang tired?!? And why am I not overwhelmed with all the feelings of "this is the best thing ever!"?
Some days it seems like the only time she's not screaming is when she's eating or asleep. I hate wishing she would just conk out and go back to dreamland. I love the rare moments when she's calm and awake. I'm looking forward to the day we have a lot more of those and less of the ear-splitting form of communication. It's so hard to see your baby in discomfort and not be able to sooth her.
I can still remember the days at the hospital and then home with our first baby, Mia. After 23 hrs of labor and 1.5 hrs of pushing, I had a beautiful 9lb 8oz daughter and a nice helping of 3rd degree tearing. I was so exhausted from hours of walking the hospital halls trying to help labor progress and was in so much discomfort from the tearing that I could barely hold Mia. I remember crying in that hospital bed because I would feed her and then immediately need (even want) to just hand her off to James for some relief. She also received bottled formula in the hospital, so she was not happy about my very slow let down. Her and James actually bonded more in the hospital than her and I did.
I thought it would get better once we were home, but Mia had a "fussy hour", which was more like three, where she was simply inconsolable. The only thing that semi-soothed her was James pacing the house with her in his arms. Nursing was a fight (despite being a trained lactation educator) and incredibly painful at first. My recovery was so much harder than anything I had anticipated and I hated feeling so unlike myself.
I really didn't bond with my baby until several weeks after we were home....and I felt like the worse mother on the planet. It seems silly to me now, but it was a very real feeling of disappointment and failure.
Livy is very much like Mia with a fussy time in the evening. Her scream is LOUD and after pacing with her for two hours while she wails in my ear, I usually have a splitting headache behind my left eye that will. not. quit. Put that on repeat every day and it sucks. For both of us. But I also know that it will not always be this way.
She will not always scream so loud I question my own hearing loss and I'm not a terrible mother if I can't sooth her every cry. I'm OK with admitting that this is a struggle, no matter how many babies fill the nest. I might have a bit more perspective with baby #4, but lets be honest - this work is hard.
I find it almost humorous (and I stress almost) that some of the most selfless and exhausting work we will do is required of us when we are physically weak, mentally foggy, and riding an unpredictable hormonal emotion-coaster. Seriously. What was God thinking with that one? I have asked Him this many times over the past couple weeks (in a bit of a toddleresque whine), but maybe he knew exactly what he was doing, Right out of the parenting gates, we will never have enough strength or wisdom to get through the long road of parenthood alone. We need him from the very start and for every stage going forward. We do our best...which some days is simply showing up, and God meets us in our humanity with grace for that moment.
After a series of back to back screaming-spitup-hold-me-constantly days, I was hitting a breaking point. I sent a lovely message to James telling him so. He responded with words I didn't know my heart needed - Keep at it. Don't give up. You're doing a great job and she's lucky to have you #cuewaterworks
Even a veteran mom needs to hear that. We need to hear it to get us through the newborn days, heck that whole first year, but also to get us through the toddler trenches...and when those toddlers turn into big kids...and tween territory...and certainly beyond. No matter how seasoned or new you are to motherhood, we all need the reassurance that our efforts are worth it. Because being a parent is not easy. Our best efforts don't always feel very heroic or effective, but the simple act of staying in the fight (even when it's not very pretty) is how we love. And love always wins. (Right Mary?)
The beauty of these newborn days is absolutely in the gift of your child, but it's also in your daily sacrifice. In the way you tend to your child even when your body is screaming for rest. In your commitment to your motherhood even when you question why and how you got there.
So, to all the first time mamas that may be wondering why no one told them how hard this would be (or to the mom of many who sort of forgot), I'm with you. And I promise, it does get better. With our other kids, I remember the clouds parting and a glimmer of hope at normalcy breaking through around the 6-8 week mark. I was a truly colicky baby and my mom said it finally improved around 4 months. Each baby is different, but it will not be this way forever.
In the meantime, embrace the little victories. Celebrate the day that dang umbilical stump falls off....give thanks for the day nursing doesn't hurt quite as much as it did the day before (you're on the downhill!) or the day he takes a bottle and doesn't throw it all back up when he "burps".....do a little happy dance when you can finally downgrade from DEF-CON diaper-size pad status for your own recovery/self-care....and just know that before long, you will be in much easier days and pants that fit. Or better yet, just get yourself a good pair of jeans that fit you now and you'll feel a whole lot better.
I'm off to console my daughter who is refusing to nap in her crib, but will probably fall right asleep if I hold her for the next two hours. Solidarity, Sisters!
Thanks so much for reading! We would love to hang out!