Friday, May 2, 2014

one month in...

One, two, three and four weeks old.
We're (almost) officially one month in.  It's been overall good.  We've kept her alive, she's gaining weight, and she's growing.  But I'm about to give you a dose of my reality as a new mom.  It hasn't been butterflies and rainbows like most of the world makes it seem.  I had multiple friends who delivered their babies days and weeks before me and they all texted me something like "It's the greatest thing ever!  I can't wait for you to experience it!  You are going to love being a mom!"  Those texts made me more and more excited as D-Day approached.  But it wasn't like that for me.  I knew it was going to be hard and exhausting and I felt like I had the most educated guess on what having a newborn would be like.  I however was not prepared for what it would do to ME.  With all the research (read: google searches and message board reading) I had done prior to having McCauley, I knew it was normal not to have an instant bond with the baby.  I knew it was normal to be sad and have the "baby blues" soon after delivering.

I remember being pregnant and loving the little human being that was growing inside of me.  However, I also remember thinking, "I love her but I don't know her.  I don't know what she's like.  I don't feel that connected with her because she's still a stranger to me."  You would think that when she had been growing inside of me for 290 days I would feel a bond - like I've known her all my life.

If you read my birth story blog post you may remember that it was a long labor lasting 24 hours.  When she finally came out and rested on my chest, I recall having that "Oh my goodness, she's finally here, she's so beautiful and I love her!" feeling.  And that feeling definitely continued the next few days despite all the damage and pain she had done to my body.

The first week was a blur.  Getting used to feeding her around the clock was an adjustment.  Getting used to being woken up in the middle of the night was a rude awakening.  And with all the time spent looking at her and holding her I still didn't feel like I knew her.  But I did know that I loved her.

And then the hormones came crashing down.  Bad.  I admit I had a pretty blissful pregnancy.  No nausea or vomiting.  No swelling.  Progesterone was my BFF.  I was happy nearly all the time (except for when I would get hungry or very tired).  I didn't have the ups and downs of having a monthly cycle and I was truly happy while I was pregnant.  However, I had a feeling, from the very beginning, that my post-partum course would be difficult.

Physically I was feeling great after having McCauley but emotionally I was a mess.  I didn't like being needed around the clock.  I didn't like that she relied on ME and only me for food.  I hated looking at the clock thinking "it's only 9:00 am and I have to do this the rest of the day?  and then through the night?"  Without a full night of sleep, the days felt endless.  I didn't like that Ehren enjoyed just about every minute he had with her.  I didn't like that Ehren was happy and I felt sad.  I had no motivation to soothe her or console her when she was upset - after I would feed her I would just hand her off to Ehren and he would take over.  I felt no bond.  I felt no connection.  I knew it wasn't good to feel this way and I knew it was "normal" to feel this way but I also knew I didn't like it.

And then it got worse.  I noticed that some stretch marks I got on my thighs during pregnancy started itching and developed some bumps on them.  I thought "oh, my skin must be adjusting".  And then my neck/chest started itching and I thought "oh, I must be allergic to that new necklace I got".  And then it started spreading.  Before I knew it, I was covered in itchy, red bumps that felt like chigger bites or poison ivy all over my body.  Every day new areas popped up: my stomach, neck, arms, butt, thighs, back, lips, bottom of my feet, palm of my hands, breasts.  EVERYWHERE.  I discovered I had developed PUPPP or pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy.  Google it.  It's horrible.

Except that I wasn't pregnant anymore!  Why was this happening to me after I had my baby?  I found that very, very rarely it happens postpartum.  Lucky me.  Normally, women develop it during pregnancy and having the baby cures it.  Not in my case.  And with breastfeeding, there was little I could do medically to fix it - no Benadryl, no oral steroids.  I could use a topical steroid in small areas but not on my breasts.  That meaning I had to pick which area itched the most and treat it.  I also drank dandelion root tea, used Grandpa's Pine Tar Soap (it made our bathroom smell like a campfire) while taking a cold shower, used oatmeal lotion, took Claritin, and avoided being in public.  With my milk coming in (read: huge boobs) and my lips being swollen from PUPPP (read: big, puffy duck lips) I felt like a Real Housewife of Douglas County.  I was miserable.

Can you believe it actually got worse than this?


McCauley was a very good newborn baby.  We could figure out what she was crying about and fix it.  She was sleeping good chunks of time through the night.  I didn't feel as tired as I anticipated.  But I was so, so, so sad.  I was dreading my long maternity leave (gasp!  I know).  I was dreading every cry and diaper change and feeding.  I wanted someone to adopt her.  I wanted to run away.  (Yes, I even texted my friend this).  I didn't want to be a mom anymore.  I wanted to go back to just Ehren and me - I was perfectly happy and content before.  My mom came over to see her perfect little granddaughter and she could tell I was upset.  She asked, "what's wrong?  Are you itchy?" and I said, "No, I can't stand her!".  Ugh.  I know.  It was hard to admit that.  She was perfect and healthy and a miracle.  I felt so bad for feeling this way when I knew many women were doing everything they could just to get pregnant.  I felt so guilty.  I felt like a bad mom.

It felt so wrong to feel that way but it's the only emotion I had.  Luckily, Ehren reassured me that I was doing a great job and that it was normal and okay to feel that way.  Thank goodness for late night Google searches.  I found, through message boards, that so many other women felt this way, too.  I knew I wasn't alone but I still felt helpless.

Day by day, the itching subsided (very slowly, I may add) and I started feeling better.  I started feeling "normal" or my new normal.  I started liking my daughter a little more everyday.  (That sounds bad, doesn't it?)  My hormones seemed to calm down a little bit.  I wasn't a red, itchy, blotchy, milk-engorged mess anymore.  I was getting the hang of this whole mom thing.  Mac was starting to get the hang of the schedule I was trying to follow (Baby Wise), my best friend encouraged me to meet her for a play date, and I would go on a walk (with Mac strapped to my body and Cozy on my arm) when I got frustrated.  It was a long, frustrating, emotional two-ish weeks but I feel like it's only been up from there.

And now for the positive spin on this whole motherhood thing.  McCauley is a really good baby!  I love her and even like her now.  She went from waking up three times a night to two, to one and has even had some nights where she slept a full NINE hours before waking up.  (Ehren and I woke up panicked, scared to death to check on her.  I made milk puddles in the bed because my little parasite hadn't nursed for many, many hours.)  She follows our sleep training schedule pretty darn well.  I feel rested.  I "sleep when the baby sleeps".  She rolled over at 2 1/2 weeks.  She's gaining weight like a champ - I like to call her my little milk monster.  I'm feeling back to normal and I couldn't be happier.

I'm now understanding that being a mom is the "greatest and hardest job" in the world.  (The first two-ish weeks I only understood the "hardest" part of the job and was longing for the "greatest" part of the job).  Ehren texted me this quote that his friend had sent him from here and it gave me so much reassurance that I was doing okay.  That I was a good mom.  That having a newborn is freaking hard… no matter how good of a baby you have.  I assure you, any parent with a newborn understands this:

"Infants are the drill sergeants of parenting bootcamp.  They give you four basic tasks - diapers, burping, feeding, and napping - and then scream at you when you do them wrong.  There's no encouragement, no smiles, just crying and quiet.  And they give you tasks at any time, day or night.  Just finished changing my diaper?  Change it again.  Good job, now change that one.  After a few months of breaking you down, they build you back up again.  They smile at you.  They sleep through the night.  They hold their head up, so you don't have to.  And after it's over, the tasks you learned - swaddling, diapering, bottle prepping - are tasks you will likely never use again.  But the skills you've gained - patience without sleep, calm in the face of screams, moving your hand into the shit instead of recoiling - are skills that will serve you the rest of your life".  
The other day, my mom asked me what surprised me the most about being a mom and having a baby.  At first, I couldn't think of anything and then a few minutes later, it hit me.  When Ehren and I would go on walks while I was pregnant, we discussed what it was going to be like to be parents.  We talked about how we will probably get frustrated at each other, that it will be a big test to our marriage.  I think I even apologized in advance for getting mad at him!  But what has surprised me the most is how much more I love my husband.  How much stronger our marriage is.  How much I realize I rely on him and look to him for support.  I've realized what a good husband, and now father, he is.  When I was breaking down, crying, regretting the last 10 months, he was strong, encouraging and loving.  He never made me feel guilty for my feelings.  He built me up and loved me and I couldn't be more thankful.

Like I've said before, this blog is for me to write down the goings on of my life, whether it be house projects, an account of my pregnancy, or an emotional outpour.  I hope everyone appreciates the honesty that I've put down on this webpage and that you don't judge me for having such negative feelings towards our little miracle - it was hard for me to admit, hard to write down, and probably hard for you to read.  Just know that no matter how blissful a new mother and baby look through Instagram filters, being a parent is not easy and sometimes the smiles aren't either.  It's the hardest job in the world. 

And now for a picture overload:

First smile caught on camera.

First walk!

Who says the dog gets less love after a new baby?

Loving the cloth diapers! 
First real bath after her umbilical cord finally fell off. 

Easter family selfie.

First time on Mass street. 

First time breastfeeding in public.  I dare you to say something. 

Finger puppet show with dad. 

Happy birthday to Ehren and Cozy!

Ehren's nose feels a lot like a nipple I guess.  Hungry much, Mac?

Why, yes, we went to the KU football spring game when she was 9 days old.

We walked to the store for some groceries; Ehren made himself comfortable.

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