Baby Blues that Won’t Leave

When you have a baby, you expect joy.

It feels silly now, when I look back on what I thought motherhood would be like. I suppose my warped sense of reality was aided in further unrealistic expectations thanks to the persona that nearly every mother (at least those on social media) portrays. You know what I mean, the moms who have it all together. They have the perfect milestone pictures, breastfeed their babies while looking like serene life-giving goddesses, and only feed their baby homemade and organic purées if they’re not following a BLW style. These moms have it all together. These moms know what they’re doing. They feel nothing but joy. They are living a picture perfect life in their picture perfect world and I’m left sitting on the outside looking in. I’m left longing to be them. Longing for their joy; even just an ounce.

I am not that mom.

I’m the mom who was hit full force by the baby blues. I mean, at least I thought I was until I started digging deeper; but that wasn’t until I accepted that the feeling of loneliness and unhappiness were not fading, no matter what.

My midwife and I had talked about my increased risk for postpartum depression (PPD), so I knew to be on the lookout. There were symptoms to watch out for and knowing how difficult I found being alone and pregnant in a foreign country, I figured I’d have to be more vigilant once my son was born. Knowing all of this didn’t really help though.

Sure, I’ve gone through depressing episodes in my life, but I had never been diagnosed with actual depression. I had never done much more than a bit of self-care to fix whatever ruts I had found myself in. I was lucky because when depression actually hits, it’s like a train could be barreling down the tracks and you just stand there. You almost want it to hit you because you don’t have the energy to face the task of moving. Add in some postpartum hormones and you have an incredibly dangerous cocktail.

There’s no easy way to “fix” PPD and as much as I’d love to just avoid it and pretend it doesn’t exist in my life, I can’t. It’s so much easier to post pictures of my happy baby and smile and nod when people ask if I love being a mother than it is to tell the truth. It’s so rare for someone to post the nitty-gritty of life without sugarcoating it and yet it’s so easy to look at those around you and feel as if you’re doing something wrong. I’m guilty of only posting the good. I’ve only posted happy pictures of my son and I focus on the good aspects of the day/month/milestone online. Do I share the fact that my child screams randomly for no reason? No. What about the fact that I hadn’t showered in three days? No. I do share my son smiling in his swing or making cute baby sounds. I share the good stuff and I bottle up the bad.

As mothers and parents in general, we have to be more honest. We have to stop pretending that life is nothing but a fairytale. We owe it to each other to share our battles along with our triumphs, the good with the bad. Your kid slept through the night? Awesome, share it! Were you unable to put him down for more than 2 hours the night before? Share that, too.

Tell the truth because moms like me need to hear it. I need to know that your perfectly dressed child who smiles in every picture can throw a fit at the drop of a hat, just like mine. I need to know that you have piles of laundry to do and you’re down to your last pair of clean underwear, just like I am. I need to know the bad so I can see the good and know that one day, I’ll be there too. One day these battles will be behind me and I’ll be facing new ones – hopefully with a bit more sleep.

-LP

If you or anyone you know is battling with depression, please seek the help of a medical professional. Additional resources can be found here. 

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Marriage is Hard – Babies Make it Harder

Until death do us part, right?

My husband and I have always been pretty simple. We like simple things that you find quality in; our wedding was no exception. We had a simple civil ceremony with only his family (mine couldn’t make it as they were 4,000 miles away in the United States), and a deliciously perfect lunch at Ravintola Haikaranpesä, a scenic restaurant located within a water-tower overlooking lush greenery. Nothing too fancy, but exactly what we’d enjoy – low-key, stress-free living.

Things quickly became hectic, as they do when preparing for a baby, but we had time. I was only 10 weeks pregnant on our wedding day, so we had plenty of time to get ready to bring this little bundle home. Of course, looking back, it feels like just yesterday we were excitedly awaiting our wedding day, now here we are with a 2 month old son.

Anyway, life got the best of us and responsibilities took over. Pregnancy was hard for me as I felt as if I was missing out by not being with my family and experiencing the moments you have when you see your parents more often than once a week on Skype. I knew having my son would be bittersweet as they would not be able to come, but that’s a different story for a different post.

In late December of 2018, we welcomed our beautiful baby boy into the world. Labor was hard and long, but we worked our way through it. Together. My husband supported me through every contraction and leaned over the bed, holding my hand and reminding me to breathe almost non-stop. We labored for nearly two days straight without the slightest break and absolutely no sleep. The exhaustion was insurmountable.

I’m going to be honest here, because no one ever is when they talk about the birth of your child. Everyone wants to paint it as rainbows and butterflies, but it’s f*cking hard. Once you’ve made it through the birth, you now have a baby to take care of. Why did I not realize that I wouldn’t get a decent night’s sleep for months or years? I have no idea what I expected, but running on no sleep makes you cranky and postpartum hormones don’t help. We were quickly shifting from a strong unit to two exhausted parents who knew absolutely nothing.

I can’t even explain how many times I cried in those first two days in the hospital. We didn’t know what we were doing and we were constantly at each other’s throats. We spent the next two months snapping at each other constantly. I threatened to go back home countless times until we finally reached our breaking point.

We both knew we couldn’t go on any longer and the constant threat of divorce that laced every argument was too much. It wasn’t until we had gotten into another argument over sleep at 2am that we finally came back together. After hours of sitting in different rooms, we talked and we agreed.

We couldn’t continue carrying on this way. Our constant fighting was making a difficult situation even worse. In the midst of a freezing cold and snowy night, holding onto each other while our son slept peacefully in the middle of our bed, we made a pact.

No more running.

I knew I couldn’t do this whole parenthood thing without him. I knew I loved him more deeply than I could express and that threatening to go to the US (while I really do want to go home) was unfair and made things worse. I couldn’t threaten to take our son over 4000 miles away from my husband just because we were having a bad night. I couldn’t continue to hold grudges and count the hours of sleep he got. I knew that we needed to reset and come at this differently. We needed to heal.

I’d love to pretend that since that argument things have been great. They haven’t. It’s still not easy and we’re still getting very little sleep, but we are better than before. We agreed that we have to make time for each other and actually put our relationship first. We have to communicate. We have to determine what the bare minimum is to function without constant stress and aim to achieve that. For us, that means laundry twice a week, doing the dishes every day, taking out the trash, and passing the vacuum over the rug occasionally. It also means, cuddling when we get the chance and talking as much as we can once our son has gone to sleep. It’s simple, but sometimes things still don’t get checked off the list.

We’re trying and that’s what matters.

Having a child is a major blessing, but it’s so difficult. It’s so hard to remember to brush your hair and days go by when you don’t remember when your last shower was. Add in a marriage that’s quickly disintegrating and you’ll become overwhelmed with stress and emotion at every turn. Days will feel harder and nights will feel more lonely.

If you’re going through a rough patch in your marriage post-baby, I highly suggest having an honest discussion about the bare minimum. It may seem silly or like common knowledge, but it’s worth it. It helps to get on the same page. It helps to make a pact. It helps to know that neither of you wants to walk away. It helps to know that you can heal. That you have each other.

That you always will.

-LP

Breastfeeding is NOT for the Weak – but You Can Do It!

If you’re thinking of giving up, you’ve come to the right place.

grayscale photo of woman carrying a baby

When I got pregnant I knew I would breastfeed my child. Partly because that’s what you’re “supposed to do” and partly because I felt like it was what would be most natural and, let’s be serious – cost effective. I had heard of the discomfort that comes with breastfeeding and how important it would be to stock up on lanolin and nursing pads. I researched breast pumps and feeding positions, bought nursing bras, and picked maternity clothing based if I’d be able to nurse in them. I was ready.

Or so I thought.

The moment my son was placed on my chest, he held is head up and was already rooting. He tried latching and I felt absolutely no pain! We relaxed for an hour with his mouth on my nipple and I figured I had been one of the lucky ones who wasn’t going to have an issue.

Natural. Easy. Exactly as expected.

When we were being transferred out of the delivery ward and to our room, my midwife noted my breasts were leaking through my gown already. Colostrum was in full effect. I was learning how to ensure he was latching properly, and while there was a bit of tenderness, I felt okay overall. I knew he’d have to nurse frequently the first week and especially the first few days, but I completely underestimated what that meant.

It didn’t mean waking my son every 2 hours to make sure he was nursing enough like my friends had done. It meant sitting there with him latched to me for 8 hours straight, switching sides every hour, and literally sobbing from the pain. By the end of the first night, not only was I completely raw, I was also bruised and starting to scab.

Every midwife that came into our room told me it was normal and to keep him latched on as much as he wanted. Every mother I reached out to told me it gets better. Every latch was excruciating and the thought of pulling him off and fixing it when he had latched on incorrectly was terrifying. Luckily, my husband (usually) didn’t let me sit there with him latched on incorrectly, but would help me break the seal and try again. His support and presence while I was nursing our son helped me through every painful moment.

He was constantly filling my water bottle, stroking or kissing the top of my head during painful latches and silent (and not so silent) tears, feeding me when my hands were full and I was starving, and above all – he was there. Partners, take note. I doubt many first time moms would say it, but just having someone to rely on that tells you what a great job you’re doing when you feel like giving up is huge.

I wanted to give up. So. Badly. I thought about it every time I nursed my son. Every time he stirred. Every time I thought about feeding him again. I wanted to quit. Honestly, I probably would have had my husband and I been better off financially, but we really couldn’t afford to have to buy formula when feeding our child didn’t have to cost anything. At the time, I resented it. I resented how strapped for cash we were, our tiny apartment, and the fact that I had to endure, what felt like torture, because we couldn’t afford the alternative. Two months in, I’m grateful.

I’m grateful because had there been an option to quit, I would have taken it. I would have used my son’s lip-tie as an excuse, or maybe the scabbed nipples, the inability to get him to latch, the uncomfortable positions, the constant nursing all through the night… I would have used it all as an excuse to stop. I wouldn’t have pushed through. It would have been easier to quit.

If you’re thinking about quitting, I get it. Hearing that it gets better simply doesn’t help. Those words don’t comfort you as you try over and over to get your baby to latch correctly while gritting your teeth. They don’t help when you’re running on fumes and are at the end of your rope. I honestly understand. I was there.

Introducing formula might sound so good right now and if it does, I don’t blame you. If you do, I don’t blame you. If you don’t, I don’t blame you. If you choose to pump, pump. If you choose to give formula because it’s just too much, give it. But if you want to nurse, if you’ve looked at your baby and known this is what you want to do, don’t give up.

You can push through. I promise.

-LP

(Not) Bonding with Your Baby

Having a baby is hard; feeling like you’re doing it wrong makes it harder.

When I gave birth to my son, I was exhausted.

Yeah, I know what you were expecting. You were expecting me to say I was in love, overjoyed, overcome with emotion… something like that, right? I could say that, but I’d be lying. A more accurate description would be exhausted, relieved, or shocked, but that’s not what you generally hear when a new mom is talking about the birth of her child. You hear nothing but the positives. Nothing but love and joy. Nothing but the good stuff.

I was expecting the good stuff. I was expecting an immediate bond that brought me to tears and made my life feel complete. I was expecting his birth to live up to the images I had swirling around in my head from the moment the test read “pregnant” and when none of that happened, I was confused.

Sure, you can blame it on the 38 hours of labor. You could blame it on the fact that I was giving birth in a foreign country and felt completely out of my element. You could blame it on the fact that my husband an I weren’t in the best place when we were leaving for the hospital, the cold weather, the full moon, hell, blame it on Donald Trump or the bad tacos I must have eaten the day before. Blame it on whatever you want, but I was not bonded with my child and that was terrifying. So, I did what all first time mothers do, I blamed it on myself.

Something had to be wrong with me. I just knew it. How could I not be madly in love with the life I literally grew inside of my body for 42 weeks straight? I was a bad mom and I had only just started.

Things did not get better with breastfeeding… you know, the “natural thing” that all mammals can do. Nursing my child was excruciating and, yet again, exhausting. Spending 8 hours straight with a baby nursing on your raw nipples is awful; a lip-tie doesn’t help and all the nipple cream in the world will never be enough, but that’s for another post. It’s sufficient to say, things just got worse and they kept getting worse.

I was sore, tired, and overwhelmed. Neither my husband nor I had any idea as to what we were doing; baby books didn’t help with this part so we anxiously waited for the bond to form while muddling through postpartum hormones, sleeplessness, and pain.

The pain wasn’t just physical, it was emotional too. We thought we were awful parents. We couldn’t calm our screaming baby down and the moments we did were few and far between. I constantly asked my husband what I was doing wrong. Why wasn’t I able to cherish these moments everyone talks about? What was wrong with me?

We both just needed to know if and when things would get better. After weeks of suffering through and barely surviving, I can say things do get better. They’re still not easy. We’re still struggling every day, but I get it now when people tell you to cherish this time. I get it because I’ve finally started to bond with my son. Seeing his face light up with excitement while my husband taps on his hands, hearing his first happy coos and exclamations, watching him grow… those moments are the ones to cherish but it’s okay if you’re stuck in the thick of it and feel like you’re missing something.

Not everyone bonds with their baby immediately.

I wish someone had warned me and told me that it doesn’t make you a bad parent. The bond will come. Things will get easier. One day, you’ll get a little more sleep. One day, you’ll look at your baby and just feel it. One day, you’ll just know.

Hold on, momma. You’re doing great.

-LP