Being a new mom is like no other experience and literally there is nothing you can do to prepare yourself for it… I guess you could stay with a friend or a family member with a new baby and everything they do, you do the exact same! Example: they get up every 2-3 hours in the night to change diapers, feed, pump- you get up with them and mimic them… although, I don’t know how you’ll get the full effect of the constant pain from pumping and feeding in your breasts and nipples… I guess you could rub some sand paper on your nipples here and there and maybe into the areas surround your aereolas. That might give you a little glimpse into those feelings. But truly, no matter how prepared you think you are, your experience will be nothing like what you think it will be!
For me, I always knew I would be a mom. I dreamt of it for years, honestly since I can remember. This is why I chose the career and school path of early childhood education; from nannying to teaching in preschools. I love kids! But my idea of what my life with a newborn would be like has been a complete 180 from what I thought it would be! I thought I’d still be able to get my household chores done: laundry, cleaning, dinner made, etc. I thought I would breastfeed like a boss! I mean, it’s the most natural thing, all animals do it, our bodies are made to do it, why would I not? I had 3 things that I said I would never do based on my background of school and experience. Those 3 things: 1. Let her sleep in the bed with me. 2. Swaddling 3. Binkies. Can you guess how long it took me to do all 3? Yeah, less than a week. We all go into things with expectations or comparisons with others and those expectations comparisons set us up for the feeling of complete failure. I can’t tell you how many times in the 5 months my tiny human has been alive that I’ve felt like a complete failure. (And the truth, I’M NOT! She’s alive, she smiles, she loves me, she loves others, she’s silly! How can I truly be failing when these things are happening?)
I’ll start with her birth. I was induced due to high blood pressure. I didn’t know my blood pressure in 3/4 appointments prior to my 39 week appointment was high and at my 39 week appointment, I decided I was gonna get her movin’ and closer to entering the world! My girl dr was on the 5th floor of the building, I took the elevator like I did every other appointment even though I knew I wanted to walk some stairs… I get to the 5th floor and see the stairs right next to me. Yup! I walk down the stairs to the first floor and allll the way back up to the 5th floor…. completely winded I can barely speak to check in for my appointment, I get checked in, go back into the room and my blood pressure is really high. She has to take it again and then she has to go get my dr. My dr comes in and says “guess who’s getting induced tomorrow? And why did you walk down and back up the stairs?” I said “to get her out!” She laughs and said “I knew it. Well, you’re going over to labor and delivery to do tests and get monitored and if they come back normal, you’re being induced at 7am tomorrow (Thursday) I’m not on call until Friday, but this could take a day or so, so I will probably be there to deliver baby!” At this point, I’m kind of freaking out, being wheeled over to labor and delivery. (she wouldn’t let me walk to keep my blood pressure down) I casually text my husband saying “you don’t need to leave work, but they’re wheeling me over to labor and delivery to do some tests and I’m being induced tomorrow if they come back normal.” Right, like he’s not going to leave work. They do the tests, they all come back normal so we go home and come back at 7am Thursday morning.
Now, being induced was not apart of my birth plan. I wanted her to come naturally, but I also knew they thought my blood pressure warranted being induced, so there it was. The first time I had to come to terms with my life as a mom not going how I had planned.Before I got pregnant, I thought for sure I would have a hard pregnancy based on how tough my periods were along with having ovarian cysts that would rupture leaving me in excruciating pain for about 24 hours at a time. My pregnancy was so easy! So when I had to be induced, I started to think “ha. Now it’s coming. This is what I get.” Being induced for me was just boring and hard. I had to stay in the hospital, I’m impatient, the cervical ripener they used was a 12 hour one and no one would check me until it came out- 12 hours later…
I started to have pretty heavy contractions with a few hours left of the cervical ripener. Once it was 12 hours, they said I was far enough along to take it out and start with the pitocin. That is supposed to make contractions pretty heavy, but for me…. They ended up getting pretty mild and slowing down. So much so that I could sleep. So I woke up the next morning and anxiously waited until 7- when my dr was on! She came in shortly after 7 and said “ok! We’re gonna break your water!” I was so excited! It’s finally happening! So she checks to see how dilated I am first and says “you are nowhere near where they said you were last night! We need to do another form of cervical ripener- a 4 hour one.” And I lost it! I wasted 12 hours by being on pitocin instead of them just using another cervical ripener to get me to where I needed to be! So I had to get the 4 hour ripener twice and then she finally broke my water! Now, we are about 32 hours into the induction. I start to have heavy contractions and eventually go back into active labor and part of my birth plan was to go without the epidural! If I really needed it, I would ask for it, but I wanted to do it without! Well, when you’ve been in labor for 32+ hours, made it through active labor and heavy contractions without it, then they stop and start again, my body apparently was done and I needed that epidural! Once again, something that wasn’t a part of my birth plan!
I ended up pushing for 1:46 minutes, after nurses told me the average first time mom pushes about an hour! Thankfully, it didn’t feel that long! (My body would beg to differ after the adrenaline wore off!)
51 hours and 46 minutes after being induced, our baby girl was born! Beautiful and healthy! She latched right away and was doing amazing! So cute and cuddly!
Hospital life with a newborn who only wanted to nurse, parents who didn’t know how to swaddle and uncomfortable beds was rough, but the staff came and helped!
She loved to nurse! I felt like for the first weeks of her life, she was snuggling and eating! She was a good eater! Or so I thought! My first mistake at breastfeeding was not doing any research prior to having her!
She wasn’t really gaining weight. A sleep deprived, new mom had no idea what she was doing or what she was doing wrong. They then found out she wasn’t transferring even though I felt like I was feeding her ALL the time, I had no idea what this really meant, she was eating as far as I could tell! We went to the pediatrician’s office at least once a week for the first 6 weeks of her life! Apparently the pediatrician thought she might be doing more pacifying than eating the lactation consultant informed us- which was news to us! So eventually the lactation consultant noticed she wasn’t doing the long, deep, nutritive sucks, they were more chompy sucks and thought maybe she had a tongue tie. It just so happened that our pediatrician was the tongue tie expert! But until the next appointment she had me start pumping until I was completely empty to see what I was getting and to start to tell my body to produce more milk. At the next appointment she checked her and never really said yes she had it or no she didn’t, just said “I think you have a low milk supply. So you have 2 options, you can continue doing what you’re doing (feeding her then pumping and taking herbal supplements) or you can supplement with formula. My heart broke. That was the last thing I wanted to do so I said “I’ll continue doing what I’m doing. That’s my last resort” and broke out into tears and left.
The next day I decided I’d go to the breastfeeding support group at the hospital and hope they could give me more positive news. In reality, it was much worse. I kind of gave the LC my story and then started feeding and she told me that her weight gain was really bad and that she was close to hospitalization and she recommended supplementing right away and explained a form of giving her the supplement through a small tube called an SNS that attached to my breast and could help her get those good sucks down and also thought she might be tongue tied. So once again insert all the water works, I left in tears and drove straight to my husband’s work to tell him what was going on. Upset that the pediatrician didn’t catch this, we decided to go to the office to try to explain what happened and start supplementing, but they didn’t have an appointment for us. So we went back to the hospital group and started supplementing. I cried myself to sleep and cried every time I woke up to feed her. My heart was breaking. The vision I had of breastfeeding exclusively was destroyed. And how hard it was to come to terms with the idea that my body wasn’t enough for my baby even though this is what it’s made to do.
After the lactation consultant mentioned tongue tie, I was feeling kind of like maybe she is and our pediatrician just didn’t catch it. So once I calmed down, I called the pediatrician and just asked why. I spoke to a nurse and asked what the reasoning was and said 2 LC’s said they thought she was and explained the whole story. She said she’d talk to the dr and call me back. When she called me she said “your dr has submitted a referral to Dr. Gharei.” He just so happens to be a tongue tie guru! We got in to see him 4 days later and he said right away “yup! She’s definitely tongue tied!” So we got it fixed right then. What a relief! My breastfeeding journey should be starting again soon because so many people said once it’s fixed they should start to breastfeed again pretty quickly! I waited… and waited.. still pumping every 2-3 hours, bottle feeding her.. she was still transferring tiny amounts at the support group group, but it was too much to continue to do the 3-step feeding. The LC’s at the support group kept saying I needed to see the occupational therapist they work with because she would be able to help us! It took forever to get a referral from my dr, so in the meantime I tried craniosacral therapy which I had hoped would work, it did, but not enough. Then at about 4 months, we finally got into occupational therapy. At her first real appointment, not including the consult, she transferred almost 3 oz! The most she had prior was 1.5, but more consistently closer to 1. I said “shut up!” And cried! I could not believe it! They told me I could cut pumping in half and really just mostly breastfeed her unless she seems like she’s still hungry, but my relationship with my pump was coming to an end!
Here we are, about 5.5 almost 6 months after she was born and exclusively breastfeeding! Some days I’m still in shock that we made it! Others, I’m still anxious and wondering if she’s getting enough! I follow a pretty strict feeding schedule and don’t allow us to go longer than 3 hours during the day and 4 at night. (You could say I have PTSD or high anxiety) but we’re here, we’re doing it! My hard work paid off! I was determined and was not going to let anyone who had anything different to say stand in my way! Yes, I wish I had known about her tie sooner, but I now know how strong we all are and that we can truly get through damn near anything if we push hard enough!
Things I’ve learned:
- The emotions you feel as a new mom are normal and nothing to be ashamed of. You are adjusting to a whole new, sleepless life! You just grew a tiny human and it came out of you- of course you’re going to feel a whirlwind of a rollercoaster of emotions! It is okay and normal to feel it. So feel them come, be gentle with yourself and don’t live there. Find support people. They may just be people you call or text. Life with a newborn can be overwhelming. Don’t set too many expectations of yourself.
- These ideas of how you think things will go or you have planned out, yeah, those will most likely go in a direction you didn’t think or you didn’t want! Breathe and channel your inner Elsa and try to let it go! I wanted a natural birth: like baby to come on her own, no epidural natural. I didn’t get either of those. I beat myself up over them and it got my nowhere. Just frustration, sadness and disappointment in myself. But that’s so silly! Look at what I did, I pushed a beautiful baby girl out of me! She’s healthy and here, why does it matter how she got here? Breastfeeding: holy crap! Now that was a BIG one for me… I never wanted to use formula. With my background in early childhood education, working with infants, I saw babies who used both. Now, there’s nothing wrong with formula, I just didn’t like the smell, noticed the babies spit up more and saw the bond that babies who were breastfed was different with their moms. I also know how breastmilk has health benefits for both mom and baby. But, the bonding and the natural aspect of it were very important to me. Like I said, I thought my baby was eating fine.. she ate ALL the time, latched well and would fall asleep on me. I guess I didn’t do enough research. But letting go of my idea of strictly breastfeeding so that my baby could grow and be healthy was so hard. I was extremely hard on myself. I said that I was an unfit mother because how could I not breastfeed her when it’s so natural and our bodies are made to do it, yet, mine can’t. Coming to terms with my reality being so different than I wanted and imagined was so hard. I have to talk to myself so much about how my baby is healthy, she still latches, I’m pumping and she’s getting breastmilk and I’m working my butt off to try to get back to where my vision of strictly breastfeeding was. You’d be surprised at how many people struggle with breastfeeding! No wonder so many end up using formula! What I thought would be easy and natural has ended up being so hard and, well, not so natural because I have to trick my body by using an electric pump!
- You have to find some time in your day for yourself. And by for yourself I mean, to shower, to do your hair, just to ensure you’re not fully jumping into motherhood and identifying yourself as only that. Don’t forget to be kind to yourself and take care of yourself. You’ve gone through and are going through a lot, so try to remember that. Don’t expect too much of yourself.
- Don’t forget about the relationship you have that brought you this baby! It takes two to tango! (If you’re still with the father. And if you’re not, I’m truly sorry, with my experience, I’m married to my daughter’s father.) it’s easy to get wrapped up in your new role of mom, but your significant other is adjusting to their new role too, support each other and remember that you are a team! Communicating and having a relationship are extra tough when you’re sleep deprived, emotional and feeling all the feels. Remember that and forgive and communicate.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Ha this one is hard for me! I’m particular about who I ask help from and when I ask for help! I don’t like showing weakness and people thinking I can’t do it. But seriously, they say it takes a village and it sure does! Just make sure you are asking for help from people you feel comfortable with.
- Do things that make you comfortable and don’t do things that make you feel uncomfortable. Your mom instincts are strong, listen to them. You just went through a lot, so it’s important to make sure you are comfortable and you aren’t there to please other people. Your family is your priority!
- This mom thing is no joke! It is beautiful and fun, but it’s also exhausting and hard! Everyone has their struggles and social media is great at hiding them. The amount of pressure we feel to be perfect and enjoy every aspect of it is unreal. So try to not think about it or compare yourself and situation to others, it will only hurt you! Everyone and every baby is different! You will hit milestones at a different rate and that’s normal and ok!
- I’m lucky if I get dinner done. I used to ensure the house was clean, organized, laundry done and dinner made every day… well, newborns make that kind of difficult. I’m someone who functions better when things are clean and organized. I get overwhelmed when there’s clutter. So, letting go of a clean house, dishes and laundry done along with dinner being made has been tough. But, I better get used to it now because kids are messy and they don’t always clean up after themselves.
- If you have a strong feeling about something, speak up! Your mama instincts are strong, there’s probably a reason you feel something! I was so glad I called our pediatrician after having that 2nd lactation consultant mention the tongue tie! Who knows where we would’ve ended up if I hadn’t!