We were thrilled to billions of tiny pieces to welcome our daughter, Ruthie Mae Viola, into the world on July 3rd weighing in at a booming 10lbs1oz. After worrying relentlessly that I would need to have a c-section after carrying for 42 weeks, we were also quite thrilled to be able to have that chunker in the comfort of our own home, as we planned.
She came in 12 hours, which I hear is not so bad for a first-timer, but it certainly felt like forever when I was in it. After labour, when that little lump of a human was placed on my belly, I felt like a warrior. I felt proud of my body for allowing me to do what I’d so badly wanted. I felt proud of my support group for helping me through those long hours where I spoke to no one and expected them to read my mind. Especially my Allan, who was the first hands to welcome to our girl into the world. He placed her on my tummy and we gazed at her, awed by the fact that she had literally moments before been in my stomach. It was magic. Absolutely, no question about it, magic. A miracle, for those who might believe in such things.
The first few days were bliss and I wondered why anyone would ever complain about the “newborn days”. She slept peacefully in our arms, in her bassinet, in our bed… it was so easy. And then day 5 came. And along with the hormones literally oozing from my body came real life. The crying, the fussiness, the difficulty breastfeeding, and the realization that this was actually our life now. What in the HELL had we gone and done? I hear that’s a common thought in those first days. I didn’t know what to do with myself or her. And I certainly didn’t feel bonded to this tiny human. Where was that instantaneous love that everyone talked about? Where was my blissful mother-earth experience? All I felt was exhausted, resentful and sore. And anxious. So very anxious ALL THE TIME. When she would finally sleep, in our bed with us at this point, I would lay awake panicking that she was going to wake up. I wouldn’t sleep, I would just wait. Listening to her grunts, sighs and other plethora of newborn baby noises. And she would want to breastfeed ALL NIGHT LONG.
How in the hell did other mothers do this? Was it normal? Was I all alone? I certainly felt like it. My heart was so heavy with anxiety and feelings of inadequacy and guilt for not feeling that bond with this incredible miracle I had waited so, so long to meet. And it became obvious very quickly that she felt my anxiety and it was causing us a disconnect. I repeatedly told people I was OK, and that I didn’t need them to come over and help. I didn’t want anyone to see me struggle. I had had such a beautiful pregnancy and was able to do it all. But this was different. I was drowning. With no sleep and the black sheet of anxiety slowly covering me over, I melted. Talk of medication came up and that scared me. Luckily, my mom recognized that I had hit rock bottom almost immediately when she came over one day to help. Intervention was coming whether I wanted it or not. She slept over and gave us a full night of sleep and I made the hard decision to purchase and give my mom formula to feed Ruthie over night as I just couldn’t bring myself to wake up and breastfeed her. And of course, that brought a whole other type of anxiety and guilt. But I woke feeling more confident and better able to look after this child of mine. But when my support left, I felt lost all over again. This back-and-forth still continues. The feeling of loneliness and helplessness when people leave our house is intense. No one ever told me how lonely and isolating motherhood can be at the beginning. How your bedroom and home can feel like a prison and your tiny innocent baby like a cruel warden.
The last few weeks have been the most trying of my life. We’re sitting here at almost 4 weeks and I can’t believe that it’s passed so quickly and so slowly. After weeks of guilt and stress, I made the decision that I wouldn’t breastfeed any longer. It wasn’t working for me and it was causing so much extra stress. And I’ve heard from so many moms that a happy mom = happy baby. And clearly, I was not happy and neither was she. So we adjust and go with the flow. She will survive and thrive despite my not breastfeeding, this I know. And I can handle the judgement with a smile knowing that this is the best option for us. Not for my doctor or midwife or friends or well-meaning strangers. (New moms: please take this advice. DO WHAT WORKS FOR YOU AND YOUR BABY. You will feel such relief from going with what works and not forcing things on yourself). Every day is a struggle but we’re still so early in our relationship. We will grow together and find our routine and harmony. And this too shall pass.
I decided to share this in hopes that new moms might not feel so alone in their early days of motherhood. It is not a walk in the park for us all. It is more work than you could ever imagine and only made more intense by the sleepless days and nights, inability to look after yourself some days, and hormones slowly spewing from your body. I could never have been prepared but I wish someone had told me more about their struggle and journey. We are amazing creatures, us women. To endure the growth of a human in our bodies, to somehow manage to get them out of our bodies, and then to learn how to keep them alive and thriving is the most unimaginably powerful experience. I’m lucky to have an amazing man by my side to champion for me, push me to keep pushing on and support my decisions. I know not all are so lucky. But if you’re struggling through it, I’m here. Struggling along with you and sending you all my support and love. I know it’s not easy. And at the top of the page here, there is a “contact” button. Use it! Let me be your support if you’re feeling lost and alone and drowning in these most intense days. Believe me, I understand and you are certainly not alone.
Things will get easier, this I know. We will find our groove and start kicking ass together. But we have to struggle and learn to get there and that’s OK.
Sending you all love until I can get back to the kitchen and start feeding my soul again.