Just about this time last year we found out we were expecting. It’s hard to believe that in just one year there would be such a huge shift in the way in which I see the world, the way in which I see myself, and just how those interactions intertwine. It’s been a crazy journey for me as the center of my universe has gone from this:
Truth be told, I still look at photos from the first few weeks of Isaac’s life and feel a tremendous sense of guilt and depression; sometimes I can’t even stand to read friends’ blogs who had kids around the same time because I feel such jealousy. That said, I really wasn’t sure when – or if – I’d ever be able to talk about just how difficult it truly was for me. And yet, as I’ve said before, writing is my therapy. My release. And if there is any chance I can help someone else feel less alone in their journey, it’s all worth it to me.
The irony in all of this is that my main goal in life has always been to have a family and be a good mother. If you would have told me a year ago that it would take 3+ months for me to truly start enjoying motherhood, I would have said you didn’t know me at all. But it’s true.
Isaac is now almost 15 weeks old and while I absolutely adore him, the whole motherhood thing has already been the most difficult and humbling thing I’ve ever experienced. I know that our journey as mother and son will always be a learning process, but I feel like the lessons I’ve been taught in these short fifteen weeks have already given me a good foundation for my journey as a mother.
- Expect the unexpected. I’ve talked a little bit about how I thought the hard part was going to be the labor, but how in actuality my labor was one of the most beautiful experiences I’ve ever had (it was by no means easy, but I was blessed not to have any complications and to have pushed Isaac out with just five intense pushes). The difficulties for me all arose after his birth: with breastfeeding and fussiness especially.
- Listen to my inner wisdom. Until Isaac was 2 weeks old, I never imagined there was any problem. I didn’t educate myself on just what it meant for a baby to be jaundiced, or have green foamy poos, or for my breasts to never get that initial engorged feeling… because I honestly thought being a mother be just entirely intuitive. But when a doctor said he was experiencing “failure to thrive” (he still hadn’t gained back the 10% of weight he had lost by 2 weeks), and that he wasn’t getting any milk from me, I could suddenly see just how frail my son looked. I fell into a downward spiral of depression and guilt and did everything I could think of to help the situation. He fell off the growth charts for weight and was gaining the very minimum for his age, but I knew inside that something wasn’t quite right. When Isaac was about 6 weeks old, I told my Mama Support Group that I was worried about his weight gain, along with everything else that was happening with him. I knew deep down inside that something was wrong, but I couldn’t figure out what, exactly. I have always been so in touch with my intuition, but when it came to Isaac, I had suddenly lost all confidence in myself (I suppose a doctor telling you that you aren’t feeding your child can do that). The group kept saying it sounded like he might have a tongue tie, which I had never heard of. Then, incidentally, a fellow mama blogger wrote this blog post, which resonated on a very deep level. Her son looked just like my son and exhibited the same behaviors…
- Ask for support. It’s extremely difficult to see things objectively when you’re in it. When I told two good friends about my hardships, they were amazing enough to offer me breastmilk that they had stored up. They came over to just sit with me and talk. They allowed me to cry. They were honest with me but didn’t judge me. They loved me up, even when my own mom stopped talking to me. I don’t know how to ever thank my friends enough.
- I will never know a hero greater than my own son. I think about how depressed I was… how I sobbed in the shower and thought about how much better off Isaac would be without such a horrible mother… and I now think: How selfish of me. While I was lost in my own emotions, my son did everything he could to be here. Day after day he fought to get what he needed from me, even when it wasn’t enough.
- Being a Mama entails advocating. I saw multiple lactation consultants, midwives, pediatricians, and an Ear Nose and Throat specialist and everyone said there was no tongue tie, until I personally sent them literature on posterior tongue ties and asked that they read it, speak with their colleagues, and then reevaluate my son. It took weeks, but when Isaac was 12 weeks old, we finally got his posterior tongue tie clipped by an ENT after both specialists at the clinic agreed that it was present. It hasn’t solved all our issues – as he also has a high palate, which is typical for tongue tied babies, but it has helped.
- Selflessness. Letting go of my ego has got to be the greatest lesson I’ve learned throughout all of this. Being such a huge advocate for breastfeeding, I never imagined this would ever be my reality. That I would spend thousands of dollars and countless hours trying to save my breastfeeding relationship. That I’d be blending up my own homemade goat milk formula every night because I don’t trust conventional formula and my son reacts badly to dairy, or that I’d be putting in hours upon hours pumping, sterilizing, and filling Lact-Aid bags while everyone else sleeps so that my son can supplement at-breast and get whatever milk I do have. All in hopes that someday something will miraculously shift and we’ll be able to exclusively breastfeed.
- I will always put my son’s best interests first. Ironically, after spending ten months worrying about my weight gain and then losing it within the first week of my son’s birth, I am now heavier than I was even while pregnant (due to trying everything to up my supply). Because I’m hoping to still up my supply, I’ll stay this way until Isaac’s at least 6 months old so that we have the best chance of success. And while I don’t currently have the greatest self-image or esteem, I’m learning to put my own stuff aside for Isaac.
“No one ever said it would be easy, they just promised it would be worth it.”
A year ago, when I saw the word Pregnant on that plastic stick, I never could have imagined that this would be my life. But, even with all the challenges, I sure am grateful that it is! Because, while no one could have prepared me for the hardships, no one could have prepared me for just how much my heart would grow to fit this little guy into it, either. And it is all so worth it.
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