About a week or two ago, my friend Jen (who had her daughter Jane the day before I had Maggie) posted on her blog about her experiences and feelings about being a new mom, and I was so inspired by her candid words and honesty, that it made me want to reflect on my experiences as well. Since it's Mother's Day Weekend, what better time?
I should start by saying that for a long time, when I was younger, I thought I really didn't want to have children. I don't know if there is one real reason I felt that way, I just did. So, for a long time, when John and I weren't getting pregnant, I wasn't really concerned or that upset. But life changes, and I started feeling like I was ready to get pregnant, I wanted it to happen. I started feeling a little sad every month that I wasn't "late," and that feeling kept getting stronger for about the past two years. All this time went by with no pregnancy, I started to believe that we wouldn't be able to have children naturally...I was sad. We started planning our life in a different direction, and then that magic day arrived when we learned we were pregnant.
Expecting Maggie was filled with excitement and anticipation (if you haven't read the story, you can read about it here), and now that she's here, I realize that I had no idea, no idea in the world, what being a Mom or having a daughter would be like.
The first few weeks were so hard. The first night home, oh my God. I was a wreck. She was really miserable, unless we were holding her or she was asleep while we were holding her. We couldn't put her down, she would scream her lungs out. That first night home when we finally realized that we had to get some sleep, my poor Mother had to sit in the chair in our room and watch Maggie while I slept sitting up holding her. I couldn't let her go, but I couldn't stay awake. It was awful. I was so afraid she was going to die in her sleep, that she would accident ly suffocate on her swaddle blanket, so she slept on a sleep positioner between our heads for the first week. It was the only way I could sleep. I had to have her right next to me. I guess I still do because she still sleeps in the bassinet right next to my side of the bed, and I still check to make sure she's breathing normally before I can sleep.
Breastfeeding: I didn't even think my breasts would be working, since I had a major breast reduction in 2005, where over 1000 grams were removed from each breast. We had been trying to breastfeed at the hospital, and while I was happy that I was producing colostrum, I had no idea how much Maggie was getting for nourishment. She was just so obviously unhappy those first couple of days. We were stressed and I was a mess! I kept bawling my eyes out feeling racked with guilt because I loved her so much but I couldn't do anything to make her happy. Without any other idea of what to do, the night before her first doctor's appointment, we finally decided to break out the formula and fed her. She gulped and gulped and promptly passed out cold. Once she began eating, she became an entirely different baby. A happy baby!! :D Maggie was starving! At her first visit, the doctor weighed her and confirmed that she had lost over 10% of her weight, and said we should supplement with formula at every feeding. In one day she went from eating less than 1oz of food in day to getting 2oz's each feeding!! Talk about a relief and a confirmation that even though we had only been parents for a few days, we had good instincts.
I wanted to breastfeed. I tried, I pumped, I went to see a consultant, I bought a bunch of supplies. It didn't take. For me, it was too hard emotionally and was interfering with my bonding with Maggie. I would get so frustrated with her at first because she couldn't latch. Then I bought a shield, which worked when I could hold it on with my hands and had John help put her on my breast...but then nighttime feedings, she would karate chop that shield off as soon as it was on, and then scream for my boob. Then she wouldn't get hardly anything...even pumping, I was only producing maybe a third of an ounce. I just couldn't go the distance. I was so keyed up I couldn't relax and do what should come natural. I cried to my pediatrician, she told me I was allowed to stop if it wasn't working, that Maggie needed a happy Mom more than my boobs. It was the permission I needed. I still fed her here and there over the first month, but it was more for comfort than nourishment. I haven't given her the breast in over a week, and she doesn't miss it at all. I only do when I think about it.
I have had my ups and downs emotionally, but right now, I am doing great. The worst was the week after our trip to the Hood Canal, recovering from being sick. That was brutal. I broke down by the end ot that week. Thank God I have a wonderfully supportive husband who is happy to dig in and help. And now Maggie is sleeping pretty reliably, we have a routine where we give her a bath around 11pm, give her a little massage, then jammies and feed her, she gets to sleep about midnight and will sleep until about 6:30am. John has started taking that first feeding in the morning, so I get to rest. What would I do without him?
It has been a big adjustment for me. I was really used to my free time, my ability to do with my day what I wanted, and now that I can't even take a shower when I want to, I would say the loss of my freedom is the hardest part. I described it to John the other day after he asked me if I wanted to read an article he thought was interesting in a recent issue of The Economist. Before Maggie, I would have loved to. But now, I only have so many minutes each day for myself, and I have to carefully consider what I am going to do with that time. I can edit photos, or scrapbook, but not both. I can read or play on the internet, but not both. I can shower or relax, but not both. I have to have discretion about my free time. It sucks!! :D
But then there is the other side, I miss her when I spend too much time away, either when I get some real "me time," or when family visits and takes her, or even after a long sleep. I am amazed at how fast she is growing, in size and maturity. She has started to smile and is doing her own version of talking, and I can't get enough. I love to sit with her while she chats with me. My favorite is when she pulls off the bottle mid-feeding because she just HAS to tell me something important. Oh, and she thinks it's time to start standing. It's her new thing, she stands on our legs while we sit and looks at us with THE proudest expression on her face! It's priceless, a look that is forever etched in my heart. I love each new thing she does, but am sad that she's "growing up" so quickly. I barely just woke up out of the coma of having her to realize that the little helpless teeny newborn is barely there anymore. I didn't realize it would go so fast.
I had no idea how much I was going to love Maggie. I cried and cried those first days home out of sheer heart-wrenching emotion over my love for her. I can't imagine my life without her, I never want to. I love her to the core of my being.
I have a new found love and respect for mother's everywhere. For any mother who has had a sick child, or lost a child, my heart aches for you. I can't imagine how awful and painful it would be. About 2 weeks after I had Maggie, I saw a very dirty, obviously mentally ill homeless man cross the street while we were driving, and I started crying. Why? Because he is someone's baby. Somewhere he has a mother whose heart is probably breaking over him. Don't even get me started about the night I watched "American Idol Gives Back."
I hope I am a good Mom to Maggie. I don't mean just now, when she's a baby and needs me for everything, but later, as she gets older, when I need to teach her things and make sure she makes good decisions. I hope I am good at balancing friendship and parenting. I hope she loves me and that I have made her a happy life.
Well, I guess that's it. Those are my thoughts about being a mom. I love it, I love her, no matter how hard it gets at times, it is so rewarding. I feel like I must have done something right in my life to have been so blessed to have such an amazingly sweet little baby girl. I wish I had known I was going to love this, and her so much, I would have made it a priority sooner, because really... now... I think I want to have like, 20 more.
Happy Mother's Day to all you beautiful moms. I hope you have a wonderful weekend with your babies, no matter how old they are!