Motherhood- What a trip!

And I thought learning a new language, finishing school while working, and learning to love myself after pregnancy was hard… wow. I had no idea how challenging parenting can be. This is, by far, the most difficult yet rewarding trips I have ever been on…
My baby is now one month old- already. It is hard to believe others when they say time flies by- especially during the night feedings when I am barely awake to see if she is happily feeding on the bottle or my finger… but time does fly and I am almost saddened by the days gone by. Almost.

My baby was born small and she was so adorable. She is now almost 7 whole pounds and has miraculously stretched in height to a complete 53 cm. That is almost 21 inches. Her head is getting heavier by the day and her wakeful moments are increasing. Every week of the first month something new was happening and I think I took over 1000 photos so far and 50 or so videos with my phone, my camera and the recently purchased HD Camcorder that my husband got for me.

Here are the things I learned so far about being a mommy.

1) Everyone who has had a child will offer advice and know more than me but only I know what is best for my baby.

No matter what anyone says, thinks, imagines, assumes or believes, the baby is mine and only my husband and I can truly decide what is best for our child. It is great to hear experience from others but at the end of the day every child is different and so each piece of information needs to be dissected carefully and taken with a large grain of salt.

2) Breastfeeding is necessary but if the mother is unable to provide enough nutrition or the baby will not latch, then it is time to move to formula.

Ok. I have to vent here so that it is out of my system once and for all. What is with the pressure?? Seriously. Why do random strangers and acquaintances think it is ok to make comments like “Oh, you SHOULD breastfeed- it’s what is best for the baby”- Really? You’d think I would know that since it makes that same exact statement on the Formula containers, the sign in the NICU and every commercial and ad created for new moms. Here is the deal- some women just CANNOT breastfeed. There are a variety of reasons including the child’s inability to latch, the mother’s inability to express enough milk for the child, and most importantly, the mother’s decision NOT to breastfeed because she does not feel comfortable doing so.

I tried everything. Pumping, nipple shield, medicine that made me nauseous and dizzy as well as endless nights of persuading, crying, and yelling at my tiny baby to “just latch please” to no avail. After much money spent, hours spent in the breastfeeding clinic and online researching, as well as incessant pumping, I decided that it is just not worth it. I was so concerned about breastfeeding that I was not enjoying my newborn baby who was just as happy with a formula filled bottle. Before my husband and I made the final decision, I was depressed, anxious, disappointed, angry, bitter and tense. All negative emotions that manifested themselves and were felt by my baby who was beginning to be tense in my arms because she “feels” me. I was headed towards postpartum psychosis and my husband was actually told that a colleague’s wife was full out psychotic as a result of the same issue. So I ask you in the name of all that is good and mighty, next time a new mom pulls out a bottle to feed her child, resist the urge to ask the million dollar question and do NOT proceed to recite the advantages of breast feeding because in essence, every mom knows but not every mom can perform this inexplicably and “un”natural form of feeding for her child. No matter the reason, I feel like an outsider and shame washes over me because I have failed my mission to lactate for my child. But I am now realizing that I have tried my best and my child needs me…not my breast…me. Formula has its benefits as well… especially at the midnight feeding which my husband gladly performs to give me a decent 5 hour sleep! I have come to peace with the fact that she needs to eat and we are able to provide this basic need… one way or another. Now I have more time to hold her, kiss her, and play with her knowing that I am doing the best for my baby.

Ok. Vent completed. Now on to more humorous observations.

3) Every parent WILL get frustrated with their first newborn baby at some point when the crying won’t cease and there seems to be no justifiable reason for the drama.

It is 3 am and she is crying sporadically. She closes her eyes and I think she is about to doze off for three or four minutes then suddenly an eruption of unhappiness flows out. I go through the checklist of things she may be crying about- feeding, check- diaper change, check- burping, check- warmth, check- temperature ok, check- comfortable position, check- spinal cord aligned, check… then what is it???

I hold her close to my chest and it works for two minutes then another scream. I rock and coo and sing and make sounds with my lips that I have never thought possible- nothing. She is miserable and the bottom lip is shaking and I am torn between crying with her and screaming at her. I am so frustrated that I want to just put her down and walk away. Let her cry. If she doesn’t know why she is crying then why would I try and figure it out?
So this is why they say that newborns are challenging, I can’t wait until she starts talking. Then I make the stark realization that she will start talking soon and that I need to treasure every moment even these ones where I am completely comfuddled by her moods and reasoning for being in them. This gives me a new surge of hope and I gently turn her head towards me as she rages at the tragedy of being a baby and I say “Baby, you will not remember this when you are older but I will because everything you do is beautiful to me”. I kiss her reddened face and start humming a soft lullaby and after mere seconds she begins to calm down. As the ire seeps out of her little taut body, she begins to show signs of fatigue and is now slowly closing her eyes as her blinks become lengthier. She just wanted to sleep but didn’t want to leave mama so soon… at least that is what I believe and I am sticking with it!

4) Grandma will do things better than me and make it look easy because she is already a veteran and can take care of the baby and us… two generations at a time.

For all you moms out there who are upset at how grandma decides to hold, feed, lay the baby to sleep and how to deal with all the different moods- I have one word of advice- LEARN. She knows how to do this is her sleep. She is capable and knowledgeable and deep inside she is smirking at how lost I seem to be. She gently reminds me that this is hard and that I should be proud of myself and that I can finally take a nap. Internally, she knows exactly why my baby is crying before I do but she holds back and asks “Do you think she may be tired or hot? Maybe she is just cranky because she has gas?” Grandma knows because as she is taking care of our baby, she is taking care of her baby- my husband and I. I would like to take a moment to thank all the grandmas out there. You are angels and idols. We are grateful for your existence and I promise I will never doubt you… again.

5) Guilt is an infinite and constant companion of a new mom because no matter what I do, I feel like I could, should and need to do more for my baby.

So no matter what I do or don’t do or have done, I feel guilty. I feel guilty when she is crying and when she throws up. I feel guilty when I am 15 minutes late in feeding her because I overslept or because I am just not singing to her enough. I feel guilty when I think of how I need to spend some alone time with my husband. I even feel guilty when other moms seem so much more “in tune” with their babies. I don’t think I have ever experienced more guilt in my life (except when I was 13 and had a secret stash of Cosmopolitan magazines in the third drawer underneath my folded up t-shirts). So I have decided to rechannel my guilt into something productive. Every time I feel guilty now, I hold her close to me and whisper to her that I love her. I remind myself that feeling guilty is a dark shadow on the sunshine she brings into my life. I am now guilty of one emotion- infinite love for my baby!

On a final note- I know, this is a long entry- I want to take another moment to recognize the most important person in my life right now- my husband. A loyal father and an amazing partner, I couldn’t ask for anything more. The things he does for us are incredible and there is nothing sexier than a man who takes care of his family. I can’t take my eyes off him when he is with our daughter and she adores him with every inch of her tiny body but I already warned her- he is mine and she needs to find someone to make her happy when she is older just like him and just like I did!

SMartignani

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