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Things I’ve learned during motherhood

Things I’ve learned during motherhood

Well intentioned advice gets annoying.

I didn’t know how physically or mentally exhausting motherhood could be because I didn’t have anything to compare it to. I just knew it would be really hard. And it’s not because I never dealt with kids before. When I was 16, I babysat 2 kids, aged 3 and 5 for 40 hours a week for an entire summer. When I was 18 I babysat 3 kids, aged 3, 5 and 7 once a week. When I was 19 I worked at a daycare for a summer. I don’t think I’m a total idiot when it comes to kids. But once you take care of your own baby, every suggestion or piece of advice makes you feel like an idiot. Well intentioned advice becomes irritating, rather than helpful it makes the mother feel like everything she does is wrong. How you feed the baby, diaper the baby, burp the baby, hold the baby, whether you play with baby enough, whether you read to baby enough, whether you talk to baby enough, every action is criticized. I might be taking it the wrong way, since all the advice is meant to be helpful.

But I never asked for advice.

A little empathy goes a long way.

I’m doing the best I possibly can. Just picture doing what a new mother has to do 24/7. It’s a never-ending job. Cut her some slack, if she looks like she’s not playing with the baby enough, if she’s too tired to pick up the baby the second she cries, if she isn’t walking the baby around with bundles of energy. She (me) gets around 3 hours of sleep a night, 5 if she’s lucky.

And never ask the new mom if she’s bored staying home all day. EVER. My old 40 hour work week was a piece of cake compared to this. In fact, it’d be a vacation compared to this. At least I got to go home and sleep uninterrupted every night. I got to drink wine, go out to restaurants, go shopping. Now, something as simple as grocery shopping takes twice as much time.

So please, try to be a little understanding. If a new mom wants to complain, it’s because she wants to let out her frustrations as a way to de-stress. She doesn’t want more advice or nasty comments (i.e. “This is what you wanted, so stop complaining.”)

Breastfeeding is hard.

I never thought about breastfeeding until the day I attempted it. I mean, how hard could it be, right? You stick the baby on your boob and the baby drinks milk. It sounds easy. It’s probably the toughest thing I had to do aside from labor. Who knew you could get infections, fevers, chills, body aches, clogged ducts, etc. And let’s not mention the excruciating pain.

Ok, let’s mention the excruciating pain.

It hurt so much the first month that I had tears running down my face each time I fed the baby. Shooting pains up and down my chest. I had to take painkillers almost every day. I had help from lactation consultants at the hospital, a nurse that came to my apartment, and I even went to lactation support groups. I learned every possible way to get the baby to latch correctly. It’d work some of the time, then stop working, then work again. To me, it seemed that time was the only thing that made feedings better.

I was told to give up by numerous people. I was also told that formula was better for the baby and that she wasn’t getting enough milk from me (from multiple family members, not doctors). Even my husband couldn’t stand to see me in pain and told me there would be no shame in formula feeding. But all the talk about giving up just made me keep trying. I cried through so many feedings, then over time I cried less and less. After 2 months, it wasn’t that painful anymore. The baby learned to latch successfully. I’m still in pain but it’s on and off, and I learn to deal with it. Breastfeeding isn’t perfect for me, but I think it’s best for the baby. A baby who doubled her weight in 2 months from breastfeeding. So take that, you formula pushers.

Not that formula is bad. I had to supplement the first couple weeks because the baby was so small. Sometimes I wonder if that’s why I had such a hard time breastfeeding though…

To anyone who is thinking of breastfeeding, or is breastfeeding now, get a support group if you want to do it. And tell everyone to shut up if they tell you to give up. Or that formula is better than your milk. Do what YOU want to do and get support. Chances are there aren’t a team of cheerleaders behind the decision you make.

You get no sleep at first….but it gets better.

Everyone warns new parents that they won’t get any sleep when the baby is born. This was absolutely true. At first, we thought those people were just exaggerating, or that they weren’t scheduling the feedings properly or something. But they were right. At the hospital, Chris and I got around 2-3 hours of sleep in 3 days. Then we’d get around 2 hours a night, then around 4 hours a night for the first month. But it was on and off between feedings. You both get cranky, snippy, you can’t function properly, you surely can’t drive a car. When you shower you’ll forget if you shampooed your hair or not, so you’ll do it three times.

The first month with a baby is the hardest. For example, you’ll feed the baby at 10pm, burp her between 10:45-11pm. She’ll wake up at 12, you feed her, burp her between 12:45-1am. She’ll wake up at 2am, and it goes on and on and on. Sometimes the baby will sleep 30 minutes in between feedings, not an hour. You get fragments of sleep that add up to maybe 4 hours at most, but it doesn’t feel like 4 hours. You think it’ll never end, that you’ll never sleep normally again.

Just when you’re about to pull your hair out, the baby will sleep a good 2 hours straight. Then 3 hours, then 4 hours, then 5 whole hours. Soon you’ll be waking up just once a night in between 9 whole hours.

It doesn’t mean that you’ll get sleep though. If you have insomnia like I do.

Ironically, I can’t sleep when the baby sleeps.

It takes me a good 2-3 hours to fall asleep after the baby falls asleep. By that time, I’m up in an hour or two to start feeding anyway. Sometimes I don’t fall asleep until 7am. I pace back and forth the living room exhausted. I can’t take sleeping pills because it decreases milk production. What makes it worse is when my husband says it’s my fault I don’t go to sleep anyway. The problem is, it’s not something I can control. Not that my husband can help it anyway. As he snores soundly for hours, then says he didn’t get enough sleep.

I know why there are such things as Mommy Groups.

There are so many mom groups out there. I always thought it was so they could brag about their babies to the other moms and compete. I guess some groups are like that, but they exist because the minute you have a baby you’re completely isolated. All your friends stop calling, because they say they don’t want to disturb you or the baby. And everyone who does call just asks how the baby is doing. Nobody will ask how you are doing, how you’re coping, how you’re feeling. It gets lonely and depressing. You don’t want to complain on the phone to the people who do call, so you say everything is great. Even if someone did call to ask how I was doing, I’ll always say I’m doing fine. I rather not get more advice or the ‘stop whining’ attitude from people. I don’t think I ever had someone tell me I was doing a good job with the baby. Which is the only thing I want to hear, being isolated, stressed, exhausted and depressed.

But I hope that one day the baby will learn to say that I’m a great mommy, even if I don’t think I am. That would mean more than what anyone else says.

Smiling baby make it all better.

After a month, your baby will smile at you, and it’s not because of gas. She’ll poop on your hand while you’re changing her diaper, and just when you’re about to get mad, she’ll smile, and you’ll forgive her. She’ll wake you up at 2am crying, and when you pick her up, she’ll smile, and you’ll forgive her. You’re about to eat lunch, and just when you put the forkful of food in your mouth, she’ll want your attention. You’re exasperated and hungry, but she’ll smile and coo, and you play with her for another 15 minutes before you attempt to eat again. You always forgive her. Besides, it’s not her fault she loves you.

Things I’ve learned during motherhood.

10 thoughts on “Things I’ve learned during motherhood”

  • Oh I hear you there!! I’m so glad you’re still breast feeding. I wanted too so badly. I tried and tried and I tried. but after 2 months she hadn’t gained more then half a pound. My milk just never came in, i’m sure it’s because she was early and I was stressed.

    I won’t knock formula, but breast is best 🙂

  • Your post really touched me. I’m reading in bed hoping that the baby sleeping next to me will continue to do just that. Luca was born on Nov 5th and is truly the love of my life even when I think he’s severed my nipple off completly! Thank you for this sweet read.

  • Marion – I’m sorry it didn’t work out for you 🙁 There are so many reasons breastfeeding doesn’t work. I think it was hard for me because I had to start supplementing with formula at birth, which in turn affected my milk supply, which in turn forced me to pump, which in turn affected my milk supply in a different way, etc. Stress does affect it too, I was so stressed the first month, struggling to get her to latch, especially with family visiting, no routine, etc. Then when everyone was gone and it was just me and baby, it worked. But then again, if it weren’t for formula, so many of our babies wouldn’t thrive, either.

    Emily – Congrats on your new baby! He will sleep through the night sometime, trust me. I never thought it would happen but it does. I wish someone told me before that breastfeeding DOES hurt when you start, but over time (months…) it does get better. At the hospital the consultant told me it shouldn’t ever hurt, and I thought I was doing it wrong each time it hurt.

    Update: Here is a great article I found last night that I wished I had before I started breastfeeding: http://thestir.cafemom.com/baby/112602/breastfeeding_101_getting_through_the

  • You hang in there ! I couldn’t get baby to latch on, so I pumped. It worked great and was not too very painful. As far as all the advice : you decide what is best for baby ! Have faith in yourself and let your natural motherly instincts kick in ! Keep in mind, your next baby will be easier ! =)

  • You are a wonderful mom! Breastfeeding for me has finally turned from a nightmare to a great dream! It took him 3 months to learn. And the LCs are right. It shouldn’t hurt. IF you and the baby can do it properly each and every frickin time. And I think that’s completely unrealistic. It hurts like holy hell if you aren’t positioned properly, or the baby doesn’t open his or her mouth enough or all sorts of reasons. And figuring it out takes time and until you do it hurts! We had to use a shield and I was pressured to stop using it. Finally, at a mom’s group… one of the mom’s told me that he’d let me know when it was time to stop. Well, just this week (3 months) he whined when I used it and has started to learn how to do it without! YAY! And ouch – because he still is learning to open his mouth.

    I posted more about our little life on my blog – but your post is just so right to the point. This is hard.

    I have run into lots of people (friends and family) who always start sentences with “Well, that’s how I…” or “I never….” Like because they had a kid or kids their way was the best way and the only way.

    Sounds like you are doing awesome! I’m trying not to feel guilty for every decision I make – like using formula because I don’t produce copious amounts of milk, or being sad that I can’t eat dairy or soy or nuts or avocados because he’s allergic, or choosing to talk to a friend on the phone instead of doing tummy time for the billionth time.

    Hang in there mama! And keep blogging!

  • Lady Prayther – Thanks for the support 🙂 Pumping definately did give me a break when it got really difficult. The positives from it outweighed the negatives (well, just one negative). And what do you mean, NEXT baby? I gotta get the hang of this first one! 😛

    Sheila – During pregnancy I had a friend who invited me to a Le Leche meeting. I was like…why? I’ll go later if I have any problems. I really really wish I went that time. Because I think everyone has problems with feeding. Whoever said their baby latched correctly every time and that it never hurt, either had one perfect baby or is a big liar!

    I have major guilt issues too, exactly the kinds you mentioned. I feel guilty replying to comments as she sleeps in her swing. I mean, she’s SLEEPING. I should be happy. I feel guilty when I do tummy time and don’t give her my total undivided attention. I feel guilty that I bought a spicy shrimp sushi roll for lunch because that $6 I spent could’ve went towards the baby.

    I’ll be sure to catch up on your blog as well! I’m glad we can relate because it makes me feel like everything we feel is normal and I’m not a total idiot 😛

  • OMG! You’re doing great! During one of my LOW moments when I was nursing. He just chewed me up! And it hurt. I unlatched him. And set him down. And just walked away. And I was mad at him! Of course he did nothing wrong on purpose – but I was pissed. I felt really guilty! I think you just do what you can do when you can do it. (I figure he’ll end up in therapy anyway – after all he IS my child!) 😉

    I tell myself (after a splurge or whatever) if I don’t make sure I’m ok – then I can’t take care of him or the husband. And right now, I’m force feeding two men in my house because I am the ONLY one who can gain weight. So, rock on sushi eating mama! Next time you have soy – have a bit extra for me.

    I agree about pumping but I also hate it with a passion because it is so boring to sit there all by myself while I wait for my pathetic milk supply to fill up the bottles. UGH!

  • Candy, I have been reading your blog for quite some time – first because you were in Rochester where I used to live. I’ve enjoyed your lovely photography and recipes and your spirit, too. I love that you don’t just go along with anything. There is starch in your backbone and that is a good thing.

    As an older mom, I’d like to just say that I think you have just what it takes. You don’t need the unsolicited advice or the guilt. No, there is no manual that comes with them but you are bright and you care and everybody makes some mistakes and it still works out. It sounds to me as if you are doing a very fine job of it. Remember…when the cabin pressure drops you have to put your own mask on first. Please don’t beat yourself up for taking a little care of yourself.

    And what a gorgeous little girl! If she is lucky she will be a lot like you. But that will mean whole new problems for you as she gets older.

    I had a similar birth experience to yours with my first. I didn’t have problems with breastfeeding and had no idea how fortunate I was in that. On the other hand my youngest woke me every single night (usually more than once) until she was four years old. She had learned to read by then and I gave up in exhaustion and told her (horrible mom that I am) to please read herself to sleep because one of us HAD to sleep through the night. She is 26 and has only recently been diagnosed with a genetic problem that prevented her from ever sleeping on a regular schedule. My feeling of failure is out of all proportion to the possibility that I could have seen that coming. And there will be things like that – you can’t know it all. And neither do those who would tell you how it is or how you should or what you are doing wrong. Don’t listen. (I know you won’t.) Nobody ever does it perfectly. This is YOUR child. Along with the almost overwhelming responsibility comes the right to raise her the best way you can. It is a two-edged sword. But it is your sword.

    Bless you. And try to get some rest any way you can.

  • My heart goes out to you young mothers now. I was a very young mother in the very early 1960s far from any of the older women in my family. I had never even seen a baby up close, much less held or diapered one. At any rate, with no instruction or help from the hospital at which I had delivered the child I chugged on and my daughter and I prevailed. Naturally, I chose not to ever have another child. What a cold and unsupported event motherhood was for me, even though I had a husband. He had never seen a baby either!

    I hope that young mothers have more tribal support now of some sort.

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