On June 11, 2018 our worlds changed forever. I went to the hospital thinking they’d send us right home…we still had a month left of my pregnancy and I was able to talk through most of my contractions. But just a few minutes later the nurse told us my water had ruptured and we would be leaving the hospital with our baby girl. About 18 hours later, our sweet Everly Kate entered the world in the most beautiful and unexpected way. Nothing about her birth was easy and nothing went as planned. And that was my first lesson in motherhood.
Even though I typically write about teaching, it just wouldn’t feel right unless I shared my journey as a mom. Before I start, though, I wanted to take a minute and honor you precious readers who are struggling to have a baby, who have lost a baby, or just don’t know if you’ll ever be a parent. I see you and am so sorry for your pain. I wish I could take it away or say something to make it better. I just wanted you to know your pain isn’t forgotten and I am here for you.
These past 4 months have been full of laughter, fear, pain, and so much joy. Each day is a rollercoaster and each day I learn something new. I’m learning about myself, my husband, our marriage, and our sweet girl every single day. A few things stand out to me about the past few months, and I felt the need to share them with you…my teacher friends.
1. Breastfeeding is more about perseverance than anything else.
During my pregnancy, Keith and I both spent a ton of time learning about breastfeeding. For so many of my closest friends, breastfeeding had been fraught with tears, stress and pain. I just knew our journey would be different, but my sweet little one was too weak to nurse effectively, and she had a lip and tongue tie. We tried syringe feeding to help with nipple confusion…I just knew once she used a bottle, she would never nurse again… (even though what she was doing was barely called nursing.) Fast forward 8 weeks later and she had her lip and tongue ties released…then she stopped nursing completely. What was supposed to HELP nursing actually led to a full-on strike and she would cry anytime I tried. But something inside me just wouldn’t give up, so 10 days after her procedure we went to our lactation consultant one more time. And she did it! Without a nipple shield or any help. I couldn’t believe it and my eyes filled with tears.
I know for so many breastfeeding is stressful, painful, and just isn’t a positive experience. Whatever is best for mom is best for baby and for many of my friends that meant formula. And they are some of the most incredible mamas I know with the most brilliant, strong, self-assured little ones. I also have friends who pumped exclusively, and their families are just as incredible. But for me, breast feeding was something I desperately wanted and no matter what anyone said, I just couldn’t give it up. I say all that because when I was pregnant, I truly thought if breastfeeding didn’t work immediately then it never would. I was told if she didn’t latch well or used a bottle, she’d never latch again. And that’s just not true. So, if you want to formula feed, more power to you mama! And if you just want to pump…you’re a rock star! But if you decide to breastfeed…don’t give up. Work with your baby…ask for help…. go with your gut. You can do it!
2. The things you least want to share are the things you SHOULD.
When Everly was a few days old, I gave her a bath and swaddled her up for bed. I wanted to snuggle her a bit before I put her in her bassinet, so I laid her on the bed beside me. The next thing I knew, my husband was waking us up with a heartbroken look on his face. I had fallen asleep with her in our bed. I didn’t have it set up for safe co-sleeping at all and I immediately burst into tears…apologizing over and over. That could have been the absolute worst day of my life and I felt such shame. How could I ever tell anyone about that? I felt such a darkness surround me…I didn’t deserve this precious life…I wasn’t even keeping her safe. I lived in that shame for days before I finally shared it with one of my best friends. Instead of guilt, I was met with incredible grace and “I’ve been there.” She shared with me her own stories of guilt and shame and I realized I wasn’t alone. While I had made a mistake, I wasn’t a terrible mom and Everly wasn’t going to be damaged forever because of it. Had I kept that secret, I would still look back on it with such isolation and dread in my stomach. But because I was willing to share my secret, a kind mama friend put her arm around me and said, “we’re in this together.” A few weeks later, I started really struggling with intrusive thoughts. I would have vivid images flash before me of her getting hurt. Things that were totally irrational…like a trash bag flying across the room and covering her face. No matter how careful I was, these thoughts tormented me. I thought that meant (again) I was a bad mom. I had these images in my head because I didn’t love my baby…or worse…I actually wanted them to happen. I made an appointment with a psychologist and was so relieved to know intrusive thoughts are a very normal part of postpartum anxiety. They don’t mean anything…they’re just my body’s way of dealing with all the hormones and new emotions. I am so incredibly thankful I chose to share things that I wanted to keep inside. And I hope by being vulnerable and sharing with you that you will make the same choice. We have all been there. Being a mom is incredibly lonely but it’s also an opportunity to find deeper friendships then I ever had before. Share your secrets…you’ll find someone who has some too.
3. You will have the most random insecurities…and sometimes they literally compete with each other!
I’ll never forget the day I texted my close friend, “I think my baby hates me.” She was about 2 months old and she wasn’t sleeping well for me. As soon as anyone came over to see her, she would fall asleep on them. When Keith held her, she would settle right down and sleep. But for some reason, she just wanted to be awake when I had her. I internalized her sleeping on others to mean she didn’t like me, and I didn’t make her feel safe. “Look how comfortable she is with her grandma, I wish she felt that way with me,” I would think. “If she felt safe with me, she would fall asleep with me.” Looking back, it’s so silly. She was probably awake because I talked to her constantly. Or maybe I was stressed about her not loving me and she sensed it. Who knows…but I do know she loves me and feels safe with me. I truly never thought I would be worried my 8-week-old baby didn’t love me…but I was.
Last night was her very first Halloween. I planned costumes for MONTHS and was SO excited for the day to finally come. When it finally was Halloween, I didn’t get many good pictures. My camera was acting funny (then it died), Keith had to work late, and it was just a crazy night. Immediately I started thinking “All of these moms are so much better than me! Look at the pictures they got! The lighting on those photos is so amazing. They really love their baby more than I do!” It’s ludicrous!! But that’s what being a mom is…the most random, irrational insecurities will sneak up on you! Of course, earlier in the day, when I was trying to take pictures all I could think was “man I bet there are better moms who don’t take any pictures of their babies and are just so engaged they don’t even know where their phones are.” Truly…I can’t win. Either I don’t take enough pictures so I’m a bad mom or I take too many pictures and I’m a bad mom. Being a mom means desperately wanting to be the very best one you can be…even when you think you’re the worst.
One thing that has helped me through pregnancy and these past few months has been finding positive affirmations to repeat to myself when my anxiety or self-doubt gets out of control. I wanted to offer those to you as well… you can grab the cards below! They’ll come to your email so you can save them to your phone! Let me know if they help you! 🙂 I know they help me!
There are a ton of other things I’ve learned so far. Like trust your gut…doctors don’t know your baby as well as you do. Rest when you can and take breaks even when you don’t feel like you need one. Figure out what works for your family…we have chosen to co-sleep with our Dock-a-tot while some of my other best friends knew their little one needed their own room early on. Some of my friends give their baby a bath and have a very specific bedtime routine. I bring her in the shower with me when she needs one and bedtime is whenever she starts yelling at us. There’s no right or wrong in being a mom…your baby knows what they need. And they will tell you. But don’t do it alone. Ask your friends questions and call your mom when you need advice. Talk to your doctor when you feel “off.” Find a counselor if you need to talk. If you don’t know how…email me! I will help you! This mama thing isn’t easy, but man is it worth it!