As sort of a follow-up to my last post, I feel like I should be doing so many things that I’m not. I should be following an eat, play, sleep routine, which I do most of the time, but sometimes I just let her sleep after eating. I should be putting her down at least once a day for a nap in her crib to get her used to it so that transitioning her there will be easier, but she almost exclusively naps in my arms, her wrap, or her swing. I should be getting her to do 30 minutes of tummy time a day, but it’s more like 0-5 minutes (however much she can handle before fussing). . . . If you read baby blogs, books, and forums, or if you compare yourself to other mothers, it is easy to feel like you are falling short. There are so many theories and pieces of advice out there, much of them conflicting. Again, being type A, I am prone to perfectionism and I get caught up in worrying that I’m missing some key activity and L’s development will be stunted because of it. It’s ludicrous really! I mean, there is no such thing as perfect parenting and you can’t do it all. And just because something worked for one baby does not mean it will work for mine. But knowing that what I do now shapes L’s future is a very heavy responsibility. It is a responsibility that I want, very much, but it can be overwhelming, especially for a person like me.
* warning: if you are trying to conceive, this post may be a trigger
Being type A and a new mom does not mix well in my opinion. I am used to having it together and accomplishing what I set my mind to. Now I feel like I make mistake after mistake when it comes to figuring out what L needs and wants. Despite what the baby websites and books say, I have not figured out different cries. The only difference I can recognize is her really mad cry but I couldn’t tell you why she’s mad with certainty much of the time.
I know babies cry, it’s normal but after reading up on how to read baby’s cues and the importance of making her feel secure and cared for during this incredibly impressionable and important developmental stage, I often feel like if she cries for more than a minute or two that I am permanently scarring her and providing material for years of therapy. In my darkest moments, I worry that she will feel abandoned by me for not anticipating her needs/reading the early cues (which I swear are often absent). I am always wondering if I am over or under stimulating her. And although she generally loves her swing, I worry that I am being a lazy mom if she is in there for long, especially if I am trying not to engage with her in an attempt to get her to unwind and nap.
I know she isn’t even 3 months old but it feels like so long ago that I was still pregnant. I feel like I should have it together better by now. I feel like other mothers do. I feel like we should be able to go on tons of outings, join classes, and have a set schedule. Instead, I still sometimes feel overwhelmed by the thought of leaving the house and although we have a routine of sorts, the timing changes day by day depending on if she sleeps through the night. Everyone says it gets easier with time and there are such great days that I start to think that we’ve turned a corner, but then we have another string of fussy, hard days and it feels like we’re regressing. It’s hard not to feel discouraged. Realistically, I know there will be many changes and developments over this first year (and in the years thereafter) and while many things will get easier, new challenges will arise. Hopefully, I’ll feel better equipped for the new challenges. Right now though, when I am trying to take things day by day, it can be exhausting and frustrating. I am used to following a linear path toward the future and this experience is more of a winding road.
Because I was diagnosed with depression in 2007 and on antidepressants since then, I was acutely aware of my increased risk for postpartum depression (PPD). I wanted to be proactive and on the lookout for symptoms following L’s birth so that I could treat it quickly and save L (and myself) from the adverse effects. However, when L was born, I found I reacted differently. I was very easily moved to tears, both happy and sad, following the delivery. I chalked this up to baby blues and all the nurses were telling me it was normal. I found myself worried that J would think I was emotionally unstable and that he would feel differently about me, so I tried to reassure him (and myself) that it was normal. And maybe it was at that point. Maybe it would have remained “just” the baby blues if I hadn’t had problems with nursing, postpartum preeclampsia, and the doctors and nurses hadn’t expressed concern about L’s weight gain. However, those were my experiences postpartum and I found myself consumed by worry and the need to scour the internet for answers. As we all know, Google can give you every answer (i.e., conflicting ones) and no answers. By the time I was ready to admit to myself and a doctor that I needed help, I was having difficulty sleeping and eating and I couldn’t enjoy my time with L the way I desperately wanted to because anxiety wasn’t leaving room for much joy.
Even though I had been through the process of getting help for depression before and I was already on antidepressants, I found myself resistant to increasing my dosage or admitting that there was reason for concern. I think I felt guilt (a symptom of depression) at the idea of admitting a key symptom of PPD, that I sometimes felt disconnected from my daughter. I felt like that made me a bad mom and I was scared of others thinking that of me although I was already feeling that way myself (yet another symptom of PPD). There were definitely days and moments within days where I was enamored by my daughter, and I always knew I loved her, but sometimes I felt distant and like maybe I wasn’t cut out to be a mom, that I wasn’t the mother she deserved or that I had always envisioned myself being. Even now that I am feeling much better, it’s hard to write this and I worry that others will judge me for ever having moments of doubt.
Luckily, I did admit that I had concerns and the doctors were in agreement that I needed a higher dosage of my medication. Reassurance that L is doing well and I am doing right by her was also something I needed. I’ve been able to be more in tune with her cues the last few days and I have come to realize that she needs more naps (by any means necessary, i.e., the swing most of the time) even though she fights them. Making sure she gets them has made things better for both of us. I have also been able to let go of the worry about her eating/weight, possible reflux, and possible allergy. I now highly doubt she has a cow’s milk protein allergy, at least not a severe one. Her reflux may be responding well to medication or it is possible that she is more of a “happy spitter” than she is experiencing pain from the reflux. She rarely fusses during or after bottles now, eats more than she used to, is gaining weight at a slow but steady pace, sleeps pretty well during the night (down between 10:30 and 11, up once sometime between 2 and 4, and up at 7), and she is thriving developmentally (good head control, rolled from tummy to back 4 times now, bears weight on her legs already, coos up a storm, lots of smiles, very alert and seems more and more aware of and interested in her environment by the day). Now, I am able to really focus on just how amazing my daughter is and how head over heels in love with her I am.
I haven’t been posting lately because I haven’t had the time or energy. I’ll give a quick point form update.
* Baby L is steadily following the 10th percentile growth curve for weight and the 75th for length. We have finally been told that she is healthy and we don’t need to worry about her growth if she follows the curve.
* Before being told she is healthy, the concern expressed by the doctors and nurses had me panicking that L was failure to thrive. I did far too much googling, looking for answers and solutions. I became convinced she had painful reflux, which was causing her to scream while feeding and refuse to drink much. The doctor put her on Zantac.
* I became so distraught that I took her to the emergency room at the children’s hospital so I could get a pediatrician’s opinion. The ped was more concerned about my anxiety level than L’s weight or feeding. I had become concerned as well because I couldn’t sleep even when L was asleep. I kept thinking of new things to look up, to try to figure out what was wrong and how to help. I also lost my appetite. So I ended up going on a higher dose of my medication.
* L was referred to a pediatrician for follow up, He changed her from Zantac to Losec (a proton pump inhibitor). So far I haven’t seen a change but it’s only been a few days. He also gave us a sample of PurAmino A+, an amino acid based formula! since L is already on Alimentum. Turns out a can of PurAmino would cost us $75 and only last about 3 days. The doctor said to try it if the meds aren’t working. He said her fussiness could be due to reflux, a cow’s milk protein allergy, or colic.
* I previously rejected the idea of colic because the duration and frequency of her fussing didn’t fit the definition! but she has recently been much fussier and it does follow a pattern.
* I don’t think it’s an allergy because she rarely fusses during bottles now and is very pleasant through the night and morning. I wouldn’t think an allergy would be selective about the time of day.
* I am also doubting that L has painful reflux now. I think she may be more of a happy spitter.
* the doctor said that L is healthy, but fussy and regardless of which of the 3 suspected conditions she has, she’ll outgrow them even if she isn’t treated, it would just make for some long months if we don’t treat her.
* I think being overtired contributed to L’s fussiness. She resists naps and I was trying to build good sleep habits but now I plan to do what works (swing, car, stroller . . . anything with movement).
* Today was a really good day and I hope we continue to have many more. I want to stop merely surviving and start truly living.
* Everyone comments on how alert she is.
* She is very strong in my opinion.
* She is also very curious.
* Making her smile is the most rewarding thing and I love our cooing conversations.
This post wasn’t really thought out beforehand, so I am sorry if it reads strangely.
During pregnancy, I loved reading weekly updates on fetal development. I also researched labor in an attempt to prepare and mitigate the pain. I did read about infant care and parenting strategies, but babies aren’t textbook and I don’t think I read enough or concentrated on the right things. Our first few nights home involved frantically researching baby topics on my phone while trying to nurse or get the baby to sleep. These topics included milk supply, gas, colic, reflux, bedtime routines, how much formula to feed by weight and age, bottle warmers, formulas indicated when there’s a family history of type 1 diabetes (alimentum and nutramigen), etc. I didn’t research bottles, formula, or much about nursing before because I took it for granted that breast feeding would just work. It may be natural but it does not come naturally for lots of people!
Similarly, I felt like I focused on buying cute yet often unnecessary baby items and then had to scramble in the first few weeks. I didn’t buy bottles because a) I didn’t think I’d need them and b) a friend had bought a bunch and then her daughter refused to drink out of that kind. I didn’t buy a pump because a) I didn’t know if I’d need one and b) if I needed one I didn’t know if I’d be better off renting a medical grade one or buying a single electric for the occasional break from nursing. With the trouble with breast feeding we had, our house quickly filled with bottles, a rented Medela Symphony pump, formula, and a steam sterilizer. We also bought a few pacifiers, which I had originally planned to avoid out of fear of nipple confusion, but they calm her. I had thought we were well prepared and had bought everything we’d need for the first few months, minus more diapers and wipes, but those first few weeks proved expensive (especially since we first bought Medela Calma bottles to help with nursing and they are $22 each and once we gave up on nursing, we made things easier for L by going with Playtex Ventair). Definitely a better investment than all the headbands (albeit those are still cute)!
Although I had previously told J that we’d have to rely a lot on trial and error, I underestimated how much. I have definitely wished that babies came with manuals since becoming a mom, but we are getting to know each other and starting to develop a routine.
The first time I looked in the mirror after giving birth I thought I still looked 7 months pregnant. I expected that to be the way my body would stay until I hit the gym, hard. Considering that I got in the shower during early labor and laid down on wet hair, I also looked like a hot mess. My feet and ankles were very swollen and my face also seemed extra puffy. In those first few days in the hospital, I found myself worrying that J would never find me attractive again.
I stepped on the scale the day we got home because I was curious to see how much weight I lost just from giving birth. 17 pounds. Pretty surreal to see a sudden drop like that on the scale. I’ve continued to lose weight as my uterus continued to shrink and I lost more fluid. I think I’m plateauing now and will have to work for the rest, but so far I have lost 36 pounds, 16 pounds away from my per-pregnancy weight. I’m pretty happy with that as I was worried I’d keep on the majority of the 52 pounds I gained. However, my body may forever be different. My stomach is riddled with stretch marks and far softer than it has ever been. They aren’t all that dark so I am hoping they fade well. I have some varicose veins along my side too. And although I didn’t think it was possible with my smaller boobs, they are now saggy. I feel that they lost volume from before. All of these changes, yet I don’t overly care. Sure I hope to get back in shape and if the stretch marks don’t fade considerably, I will never sport a bikini again, but it’s not worth stressing over and my body went through something pretty incredible that is so much more important than my vanity.