The Identity Crisis of a New Mom

I refer to myself in the third person a lot these days: “It’s okay, Mommy’s here.” “Are you smiling at Mommy?” “Do you know how much Mommy loves you?” I do this so often that in my head I think of myself as Mommy. The line between me and mommy has gotten blurred. I’m this new person occupying my mind. This person with a new found sensitivity to everything. This person who wants to talk to strangers about their baby: “How old?” “Oh, that was such a lovely time.” “What’s their name?” “Oh, that is so cute. Well, congratulations, he’s a doll.” I’m this person that not only wants to talk about parenting experiences but I have a hard time thinking of anything else to say. It makes me wonder, where is the me in mommy? I’ve always had a strong sense of self, not to say that I don’t struggle with insecurities, but I like who I am. By nature I am more logical than emotional. Before having my daughter I would close my eyes at the scary parts of movies or skim over dark subject matter in books, but now I just stop watching or reading it. I project every vulnerable character onto Jude. She’ll most likely be napping on my chest and I put my arms around her protectively. And heaven forbid a baby dies or is trapped in the middle of the story’s drama. There are two movies I can think of that I would have loved to see prior to becoming a mom but now there is no way I could watch them. Or I guess I could watch them but I would just cry through the whole thing (and not a good cleansing cry, but a forever broken kind of cry.)

So that’s the weirdness that is my emotions, but then there is the fact that my body isn’t my own anymore. To be honest it hasn’t been my own since last September when I found out I was pregnant. My pregnancy was really easy, I’m incredibly grateful for this. I didn’t have weird cravings or sickness or very much physical pain, but still I had been high jacked. I couldn’t eat a lot of foods or drink certain beverages and then my clothes didn’t fit. It all contributes to the reality that I am physically changed for the rest of my life. I do remind myself that my body is beautiful the way it is because all of these changes have given us our wonderful daughter. And yet… I can’t sleep without waking up covered in breast milk. Then there is the shear fact that my body is her food source. Begging the question, is this MY body?

Mentally, I have trouble engaging with anyone on any topic not related to parenting. This is probably what bothers me the most. I love people, I want to hear about their lives and interests and know them. I want to understand them and give them my attention. But ever since have Jude it’s like I’m having trouble comprehending the words they are saying. I feel like I catch just enough to grasp their meaning but I can’t give the undivided attention I used to. This is by far my greatest struggle as a new mom. It might seem small, but to me it’s not. To me it’s selfish and it doesn’t express the level of love that I want to. And that’s why it’s the hardest. 

I don’t know if any of this will ever go back to normal or if this is my new normal. Everything in my life is getting more known, all of these large and small adjustments even our girl is becoming predictable and manageable. I don’t want everything to back the way it was, but I’d like to feel like I’m immersed in my own reality instead of this skimming feeling. I’m so in love with my life and my child, I would just like to feel like I’m engaged in it; not just surviving it. 

Mother’s Milk in a Cup!

I’ve never met a mother to be that doesn’t say she would like to breastfeed. It is “free”, it “helps” you lose weight, it is “best” for the baby and it creates a “bonding” experience. All of these things are “true” and yet not. Let me elaborate.

Breastfeeding is free-ish. I am currently exclusively breastfeeding our daughter, so we are saving money on formula. Great. Good deals. What we aren’t saving money on is all of the food I’m eating. I cannot get full. I’m starving right now as I write this, I also just ate. I will eat again soon and within thirty minutes I will be hungry again. This is my life; I think this will always be my life.

Breastfeeding helps you lose weight-See paragraph above. Yes, I do attribute breastfeeding for me being able to fit into my pre-pregnancy clothes so quickly. But of course I lost weight, I AM STARVING. My metabolism is at a breakneck speed and I will never be full again.

Breastfeeding is best. I get the science, but what’s best is your baby will not go hungry. Like so many other mothers I had trouble in the beginning and this point expressed by a friend really helped put everything back into perspective. Continuing to exclusively breastfeed is what’s best for me and my child, but if it wasn’t that would be okay. My baby won’t go hungry and that is best.

Breastfeeding creates a bond. In my experience it does, but that is not to say that it’s not tiresome and hard at times. Jude eats every three hours, my day is set to a schedule of pumping or nursing every three hours. Nothing can be beautiful or magical every three hours. Just a few nights ago at 4am we had a terrible time nursing. We were both tired and hungry-see second paragraph– and she wouldn’t stop flailing because she wanted to eat faster than she could swallow or I could produce and she was furious. And I was as well. But then she calmed and she has the most perfect little round head and I was so happy to be what she needed.

Now I want to share the things that helped me. I’m on the other side of the hardest part; if I can give support through to the other side then I’m going to.

Production:

Water! Never stop drinking water!

Lactation cookies, if you have someone in your life that can keep you in a constant supply of these bad boys then ask them to. They are perfect midnight snacks, after breakfast snacks, because I didn’t have time to eat lunch snacks, after dinner snacks, before bed snacks, because I woke up to use the restroom and I’m always starving snacks. To help with the nutrition factor we have added chia seeds to the recipe, this also means you need to add milk or more oil to help with the moisture. If you have any questions on the exact recipe, please comment and I’ll get the recipe from my aunt.

Fenugreek: I take tablets and drink Nursing Mother’s tea. The tea is an herbal that helps with the water consumption as well.

milksaver-box-v2_0
Milkies Milk Saver: I love this contraption. Something I didn’t know before breastfeeding was that when you nurse on one side, you express from the other. So, this lovely piece of plastic inserts into your bra and collects while you nurse. I collect about an ounce a day, that might not seem like a lot, but its seven ounces in a week and that’s more than one feeding for her currently. Another wonderful feature is that I’m not some swampy mess after nursing. Breastmilk is sticky-ish, if it’s just leaking all over me then I feel humid; like I’ve been sweating down the front of me. It’s not awesome.

Resources:

Kellymom.com: this has been my favorite website for three months now. I honestly haven’t found a question that they haven’t answered.

Other parents: Those people who have gone through this before you, ask them questions, talk to them about their experience. Accept whatever they have to say as coming from a place of love. Being a parent can make you feel inadequate and that can make it difficult to take advice, but try and train your brain to open to suggestions. There is nothing like a comrade in arms.

Advice:

It gets easier. A cousin of mine told me this when I was pregnant and it really does, those first 4-6 weeks are by far the hardest. Lean on any support system you have. Without my husband and mom bringing me food or water I don’t know if I could have made it through.

Study breastfeeding before having your baby. If you’re anything like me, it’s already too late for this advice to be relevant. I was of the mind that as long as my body didn’t have a problem with production then it would all come naturally. That’s really not the case. There are so many variables. Jude just wouldn’t latch… I don’t know why. She had a great coordination of sucking, but she wouldn’t latch, which meant that when she was a day or two old, I was trying desperately not to sob in the hospital room as she screamed for food and I had what she needed but she wouldn’t just take it from me. I remember our night nurse popping in as I was giving up and going to the pump, my husband was trying to calm Jude down and I told the nurse that I thought she was associating my breasts to stress. It was a terrible feeling. I cried a lot those first couple weeks. I don’t know if more research would have helped, but doing my research later certainly did.

When you find something that works, be mindful of any suggestions against it, but if it works stick with it. I have been using a nipple shield for almost every nursing session for the past two and a half months. I try occasionally to feed without it, but Jude is still not interested. “They” suggest against using nipple shields because it lowers your supply. This has not been my experience. My experience is that she is getting all the food she needs. I have a cousin who exclusively pumped; I’ve heard that this can lead to breast milk drying up. This cousin was a mass producer. If it’s working for you, then do it.

Don’t let anyone shame you. Whether you breastfeed or use formula don’t let anyone make you feel bad for the decisions you make. “Breast is best,” chimes the masses. “Do you really think that’s appropriate to do here, maybe you should do that in the bathroom,” heckles a cynic when you breastfeed in public. Screw ’em, don’t let anyone shame you.

Remember your baby will not go hungry. Really, sometimes things do not work out as planned, you may decide that formula is best for your family. Keep in perspective what is important, don’t let anyone shame you. Your baby will not go hungry.

I hope there is information here that helps. If you have any questions, please ask. I would love to share and help in any way possible.

All the love,

Marty Vee

P.S. The title is from The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan series.

P.P.S. Milk-Saver photo from http://www.mymilkies.com/milksaver

The Moment It All Changed

 

Through pregnancy, my body changed. Through birth, my mind changed. And through her, my heart changed.

I’ve always rolled my eyes at movies and television that depict a woman going into labor as, “Oh! My water just broke!” I mean, who does that happen to? No, you go a couple weeks feeling Braxton Hicks and then a couple of days feeling real contractions and when they get closer and more intense you go to the hospital. The water breaking may or may not be of note. But that was not my experience. I was the first example: “Oh! My water just broke!” That was me. And to increase the “Hollywood Factor” it was on Mother’s Day.

My mom and I were wandering around my grandparent’s yard taking photos and then it happened. I was so… so many things, but mostly denial. I was so denial. I mean come on, I hadn’t felt any contractions ever, at all. And yet, my water broke. But did it? I’ve never done this, maybe it didn’t. Then I was telling my family and my dad’s face went white. I called my husband, he was working at the time, the sound of his voice was on the edge of frantic.

“Okay, I’m leaving work now.”

“Well, Baby, I’m still at Grandma’s.”

“Why are you still at Grandma’s?!”

The thirty-minute drive to the hospital was wrought with me convincing myself I wasn’t in labor. But I was. I knew the whole time I was pregnant that it would happen in the thirty-seventh week, but still, I couldn’t believe I was right. But I was. From 5:10 when the process began to 6:45 when my husband arrived at Triage the ultrasound showed everything was good to go, the baby was in position but I still hadn’t felt any contractions.

They lead me, my husband and my mom to the Labor and Delivery room and I felt the first twist of my uterus. One of my best friends arrived bearing the hospital bag I had failed to pack for thirty-seven weeks, but if you know me then you know that is only to be expected. My sister-in-law arrived and then my dad came shortly after that. We were a party of five waiting for the baby to arrive. They were there for hours but I have no memory of what we talked about. My brain was still reeling from a few hours before: “Oh! My water just broke!”

The nurse suggested that we walk around the floor. Here I am in my hospital gown and hospital-issued socks, wandering around with my husband. I hate being gooey and gross, so even though the walking was a relief it was short lived because in case you didn’t already know, I was still leaking fluids down my legs and it was soaking into the socks. My contractions were getting harder to ignore, as well. We went back to the room and, bless our family members, they took note of my condition and offered to leave.

That’s when I got really uncomfortable. Everything was progressing so quickly that by 9:30 I was halfway dilated without any medical intervention. The contractions were right on top of each other and intense. I didn’t have a lull in between contractions, just varying levels of pain. I am not a yeller so instead I laid on my side clutching the bed railing repeating, “Okay… Okay,” in a sad whimpery voice. My husband was rolling a tennis ball on my back. I really feel for him, I cannot imagine watching him hurt like that for hours with only a tennis ball in his arsenal. About an hour later I was signing the consent for the epidural. A half hour after that I was dozing off unable to feel my legs and experiencing strange dreams.

Then a couple more hours passed and they were checking to see how dilated I was. And there’s something strange. In the words of nurse Becca, “It’s squishy.” I can tell you, this is not what you want to hear. Then our doctor checked and the baby was breached. “Okay,” said the doctor, “we’re doing a cesarean.” I felt a lot of things at that moment but mostly I was relieved. I still couldn’t feel my legs and I didn’t know how I was going to push. I also have never had a huge desire to push.

But then there was also fear. I am the product of an emergency c-section. I know they are fairly standard, but I also know they were going to cut me open, remove some of my organs and pull our baby out of my uterus and put those organs back before closing me back up. This never seemed like a small medical procedure.

I was in the OR so quickly. My husband came in shortly after. I couldn’t stop shaking. My teeth were chattering. I was scared I’d bite my tongue. I kept humming Ben Folds “The Luckiest” to try and calm down. My husband’s face was right there. There was one Anestatision explaining what was happening step by step. His face was right there. I wanted to remember every detail of him. “The Luckiest.”

“There’s going to be some pressure as they pull the baby out.”

And then her cry.

I was somewhere between a laugh and a sob.

Her cry.

My sound.

Our first conversation.

Nurse Becca, “Here she is.”

My husband laughing, “She’s disgusting!”

She was, all blue and skinny legs and arms, wailing.

Then she was on my chest. This little creature that was us and ours and all her own. I tried to connect her to the bump that had formed in stomach. She was too real and tangible. Her little head bobbing, rooting. She looked like my husband: his chin, his brow, his feet in baby form inked onto the paper.

To him, “Do you want to holder her?”

He looked at me. I nodded. Standing he held his hands out awkwardly and admitted, “I’ve never held a baby.”

“Okay, sit down.”

She’s in his hands, three seconds of not knowing and then there he was: her dad. And she was the extension of us we had been waiting for. This piece of us that fit perfectly in his arms. She’s ours and she’s all her own. One second we’re us, the next we’re parents and she is… too much and too precious; the lightest pressure and the heaviest gravitational pull.

I loved our life. I loved being my husband’s wife, but now we are something more. We are very much the same but different. Throught pregnancy, my body changed. Through birth, my mind changed. And through her, my heart changed.