Today’s HerStories contributor is Amy from Swag On, Momma! On her blog, Amy shares her own stories of new motherhood and invites other new moms to share their own stories. We think you’ll hear parts of your own story as a new mom in Amy’s; we certainly did!
My son Hayden, was born March 25, 2012, and I was scared. Though I liked kids, newborns terrified me. (They’re so helpless and have such floppy little necks!) After years of avoiding infants, I had little confidence in my baby-whispering abilities.
Despite this, I wanted kids and knew that my husband, Patrick, and I would find our greatest joy in becoming parents—we had lots of love to give.
So we took a leap of faith and decided to start a family. About a year later, Hayden was born. Oh, how I loved my little son, but we definitely had a rocky first couple months.
Before I continue, I don’t want you to think that I’m ungrateful for my son…I love him so much my heart aches! And, I also don’t want you to think, “Thanks for the warning sistah, I’m NEVER having a baby.” Though being a mom is hard, it’s also SO full of love. I want to be real since many mommas can identify with my story, and some are going through this right now.
Like I said, we struggled. My baby screamed his whole first week home from the hospital…and I cried almost as much as he did. Looking back, that time is just a blur of worry and exhaustion. Nursing was a nightmare; he had a weak suck and couldn’t latch. My husband (who was in the middle of brutal finals right before graduation, and working full-time), my mom, and I took shifts through the night holding Hayden, bouncing on the exercise ball (his one solace.) He was jaundiced, had reflux, and couldn’t nurse.
I was distraught: “What the crap have we done?! Who was I to think I could hack it as a mother?!” I pictured moms nestling their babies to their breasts, feeding and bonding…but that was nothing like my reality. Soon, I switched to pumping and bottle-feeding full time. Finally he was full, though he continued to scream from the reflux.
I was panicky, on-edge, and tired to my bones. Every waking (and sleeping) minute was commanded by this tiny, hollering tyrant. I wanted to reason with him, “Give me a break, child! I’m new at this, and I’m trying my best!” I didn’t know how to help my baby and that was killing me.
In short, life was ROUGH.
It wasn’t just the worry that made this time so emotionally crappy. After giving birth, your out-of-whack hormones make you a crazy person. Plus, lack of sleep makes you stupid-tired and extremely emotional. My baby’s cries sounded in my ears, “You’re no good at this” and “You can’t even make your own baby happy.”
It didn’t help that I was always in the house. I was no longer walking at the gym and it was too windy and cold (darn Idaho) to go walking outside; I sorely missed those “working out” endorphins. Also, I was no longer teaching junior high and high school art. I missed interacting with students and teachers, along with the accomplishment and recognition my job brought me. I went from feeling successful, to feeling like a big-time failure of a momma. And I was lonely. My husband supported me and adored Hayden but he was gone many days and evenings, busy managing a restaurant.
Worst of all, heavy guilt hung over me, for not “loving every minute”. I’d catch myself thinking, “This sucks.” (Like when my baby woke for the 14th time in one night.) I hated feeling resentful, especially since I knew couples who longed for a child. Then I’d hear moms say, “My baby is growing up too fast!” And I’d think, “In 5 more months he’ll be half a year old. I’ll survive till then.” Then that familiar guilt would wash over me for wishing this time away. I was too ashamed to admit my feelings to anyone, causing myself more isolation.
The beautiful moments revived me: holding my sleeping baby on my chest and seeing his first smile. Also, prayer was my lifeline; it brought me strength and peace. I figured God gave us this child , so I expected His help in raising him!
Through everything my husband, family, and friends loved and supported me.
My saintly mom and amazing mother-in-law each stayed a week with me after Hayden’s birth.
My awesome momma friends commiserated with me, offered encouragement, and told me their own heart-wrenching, hilarious new-momma tales. These stories were like gold; they meant that I wasn’t the only one who sucked at this! Haha! They shared practical advice and gave me hope: “See?” I thought, “They’re normal! I won’t be a zombie forever.”
I also loved visits from my friends who weren’t moms…they gushed about the cuteness of my son, (how could I help but love that?) we reminisced about old times, and laughed our bums off! It was so good to know that the old me was still there, somewhere under the spit-up covered sweats and baggy belly. I could still be funny! People liked me!
Everything steadily improved, including Hayden’s reflux and night wakings. Life didn’t end after having a baby– though for the first couple months, it SURE felt that way. After I found my momma groove—and Hayden stopped screaming—life became fun again! We laugh constantly at our silly son. He waves to everyone, loves reading books, and dancing. Oh, and he sleeps 12 hours straight every night…(insert happy dance) Now, besides caring for my baby, I teach art lessons, I facebook friends, I blog as my social/creative outlet, I have new mom friends, and go walking every day. We are happy!
And yes, every baby/child stage has its crappy parts—we still have rough moments (sometimes entire days)—but when my son beams his adorable two-teeffer smile at me, my heart is so full I wonder why it doesn’t burst.
New momma, you and your baby will make it! Do your best, and don’t guilt yourself—your best is enough!
Amy is the creator of Swag On, Momma! — a blog to support new moms and to share their experiences. She lives in Idaho with her husband and son.
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