We Are the Face of Motherhood: a Series on Postpartum Depression

I have to admit that I have been putting this off for some time.  I first heard about this endeavor in late 2016 and wanted to share and be part of this movement. But, figuring how and what to share has been difficult.

I had another post written. I detailed those first few days and weeks after the birth of my first son and explained to all you beautiful, wonderful people how much I was going through. I expressed in my best words how it felt, why it was happening, and all the things that were working against me.

And then I stopped.

If we are going to end the stigma, we must begin by ending the thought process that our feelings need to be justified or validated by others.

I stopped because I was justifying my feelings. I was trying to justify the fact that I struggled for months with undiagnosed postpartum depression. I explained everything that was going on because I didn’t want you to think I am weak.  I so want you to understand my deep struggle and the visceral heartache that still plagues me that I wrote a very meaningful piece that did nothing.  I think it would have been fine, or even good, to share all of those things for the simple fact that I know other moms feel the exact same way right now [and dare I say that moms well beyond those newborn days feel the same? Moms of toddlers, elementary school kids, preteens, teens, and beyond? Moms who have lost children, moms who never got to meet their babies, moms who adopt, moms who perhaps never got to have children at all?].  My post was true and deep and meaningful and difficult, but I do not believe it was the right post for this cause.

This cause is about ending the stigma of postpartum depression – PPD – and postpartum anxiety – PPA.  If we are going to end the stigma, we must begin by ending the thought process that our feelings need to be justified or validated by others.  It certainly feels good when we someone else understands the way we feel and why we feel it, but even if no one else ever understands the way you are feeling, you are still dealing with depression, and that’s okay.

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This is after we got to our recovery room. I had been awake for about 36 hours at this point and just had a C-section. 

I want you to know that it is okay to deal with depression even if you had a beautiful birth, just the way you wanted.  It is okay to deal with depression even if you have a beautiful baby that you cherish, love, and adore. It is okay if you have depression even though breastfeeding went well for you.  It is okay to have depression even if your baby sleeps through the night.  It is okay to deal with depression whether you prayed for your child for years or you had no idea motherhood was before you. It is okay.

Our first picture as a family of 3

There is no qualifying list, no one way depression manifests itself.  In the midst of postpartum hormones and sleep deprivation, depression can seem like it will take care of itself if you can just sleep, just relax, just get away, just have one minute to yourself.  And sometimes it does, but other times, in darker times, it sticks around.  It follows you like a lurking shadow.  No matter how bright the lights are, the shadow is still there, attached to your every move.  The shadow is not nimble, it is cumbersome, it is exhausting.  Your shadow is a physical weight that you carry on a daily basis, an emotional sink that you keep pouring into, but never fills up.  The shadow clouds your judgement, you ability to think and concentrate, your patience and ability to deal with your ever-changing emotions.

One of my favorite pictures, but one that I forced myself to take because I knew, someday, that I would want to see pictures of his little face.

There are signs of PPD/PPA, certainly, and I had many of them.  I felt disconnected and numb. I told myself I HAD to take pictures and I HAD to tell Vincent that I loved him everyday because I didn’t feel like doing either of those things. I wanted to get away from the baby, but as soon as I was away I dealt with anxiety that something terrible would happen while I was gone.  I was irritable and impatient with the baby, but as soon as I felt myself snap I would melt into a big ball of tears. But the fact of the matter is, you can hide these things if you really want to.  The shadow can continue to follow you if you let it, and many times, no one else realizes it’s there except for you.

We must act. We must speak out. We must advocate for each other. And in order for women to seek the help they need, we must end the stigma.

You can read more about my newborn experience here.  I won’t detail it in this post, but I will tell you that I was struggling and I didn’t know how to tell people I was struggling. How do you verbalize a change that happened so quickly you don’t have time to process it? It’s more than, “I’m having a hard time.” I wish I would have said something. I wish I would have had help. I wish I would have known how to do more than take the 2 minute survey at the doctor and be told my feelings were normal.  [and yes they are normal, but there was MORE going on and I wanted SOMEONE to see it and identify it FOR me, I just wasn’t able to do it myself]

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So what I want to share is this: it’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to struggle. And it’s okay to ask for help, even if you don’t know what you need or what help looks like. If you start to ask for help you will find relief and reprieve, you will find healing. The road will not be easy, but it will be worth it.

I would also add that as a culture, WE MUST SLOW DOWN.  If you know a new mom, slow down enough to look her in the eye and say, “How are you doing, really?” And when she says, “Oh I’m fine, just tired,” look her in the eye again and repeat, “Really?” I fear that our culture has become so fast, so focused on posting the perfect Instagram picture, so busy, that we won’t slow down enough to see people who are hurting, struggling, and in need of a friend.  New moms especially fit into the category. Your ENTIRE world was just changed and now you have the responsibility of raising a tiny human. The pressure, the loss of independence, the sleepless nights, the physical recovery that has to happen all while caring for a newborn is more than anyone has ever dealt with before and it is okay to not be okay.

I give you permission to not be okay.

So, mama, I give you permission to struggle and need help. I want you to know that people see you and hear you.  We know the heartache and we are here for you. We want you to feel free to share what is going on so that we can better help you.  We are here, and we are here to stay.  It’s okay to not be okay.

{Think you or someone you know may be struggling with postpartum depression, anxiety, or another mental health disorder? Please contact your health provider including your OBGYN or family doctor. Need more information? Visit Postpartum Support International for great information on maternal mental health disorders and more. If you fear you or someone you love may be contemplating suicide or facing a mental health emergency, call the Suicide Prevention Hotline and get to your nearest emergency room.}

 

Motherhood Unedited

 

Things no one ever tells you about being Mamma

Entering motherhood is this mix of mystery, wonder, excitement and fear. You’ve had this thing growing in you for nine months and [if you are anything like me] you are ready to just get that baby out. You know intellectually that it will be difficult, but you’ve read the books and blogs, you’ve talked to other moms, you have done hard things before so you can do this, too. This was my mantra before baby arrived – I have survived life so far, millions of women have done this before me, so I can do this too. I asked advice of my mom friends – and got the advice of plenty of strangers. Many people asked, “Are you ready?” Umm, no I am not ready! Who is ever ready for a complete life change and being responsible for someone else’s life? But I was as prepared as I could be, or so I thought. Once the baby came I realized that there was a lot to motherhood that no one shares with you before the baby arrives. Maybe they don’t want to be a downer or they don’t want to scare this fresh new mom who is just excited to meet her child, but either way I wish someone would have shared more of these truths with me. I am realistic and straightforward. I know not everyone feels the way I do, but were all really difficult parts of motherhood for me.  I hope that talking about these realities will help someone else know they aren’t the only one feeling this way. Here are three things that no one tells you about motherhood:

Motherhood is Lonely

No matter how many of your friends are simultaneously having children at the same time as you, mom groups you join, or how much time your spouse gets off from work, motherhood is ultimately the loneliest I have ever felt.  You are stuck at home a lot figuring out how to be a mom, how to breastfeed, trying desperately to get a nap in while the baby sleeps. When your spouse is home you dump the baby off on them so you can do something normal – like shower because you seriously don’t remember the last time soap touched your body – and you don’t get to connect with them the way you used to. If you are breastfeeding, even social events can mean being by yourself so you can find a quiet spot to try and get your baby to settle into their normal nursing position.  You are the one that hears the cries at night (or those fake cries when they don’t really wake up, just make noise, but you wake up and then listen for 30 minutes to make sure they aren’t REALLY awake, and then once you are done listening and determine that they are still asleep, baby actually wakes up to eat, joj mene [pronounced yoy menna, something my Croatian grandma says when frustrated]) and you are typically the one to get up at 3am to feed your baby while your spouse blissfully sleeps. If all your friends are having kids it is helpful to know you aren’t the only one that is going through the emotions and the feels that come with being a new mom.  Mom groups can help bring people together, too, but here’s the common thread through all these events and isolation – no matter how many wonderful people are around you, no matter how many people volunteer to help, no one can lift the weight of responsibility from a mom’s shoulders. You are suddenly responsible for a human life, and not just protecting it, but also sustaining it. I think the weight of responsibility makes new moms feel lonely – at least this is what I realized I was feeling. I felt isolated because I knew no one could do this job but me. Even when you get a break, your baby is in the back of your mind… when will he need to eat next? Will she just cry the whole time? Should I pump now, or wait because he might need to eat as soon as I get back?  It’s never ending responsibility and it will continue for forever. So it’s okay if you feel lonely, but don’t go it alone. Share your feelings with your spouse, make sure you are plugged into a mom’s group or have friends that you can share your feelings with. Ask for help when you need it. But just know that none of these things will take away the feeling (sometimes the burden) of being a mom and that huge responsibility.

Motherhood is Tedious

Change diaper. Nurse. Burp. Hold baby. Put down for a nap. Repeat.

I hate changing diapers, it is probably my least favorite mom thing to do. Turns out babies – especially newborns – need diaper changes ALL. THE. TIME. It didn’t take long for me to realize that most of being a mom the first 8 weeks is just the same thing over and over again – lots of sitting and nursing and then getting up to change a diaper. And if you are lucky, you also get to change your shirt because the baby spit up on it… and then change their clothes because they leaked out of their diaper.

Being a manager of customer service representatives, I am used to being busy and thinking on my feet. I am used to problem solving and utilizing my skills and brain on a daily basis. Shifting to the mundane tasks of nursing and diaper changing was really difficult for me. I like routine, but I don’t like boredom. I like getting things done, crossing things off a list and I felt like I wasn’t accomplishing anything being a mom. I was just doing the same things over and over without actually moving forward. Eventually I was able to shift my thinking to make my “to do” list things that I could accomplish through the monotony of motherhood. I had things like: – nap, – snuggle baby, and – put clothes in dryer on my “to do” list. I literally made a list and then crossed things off. It gave me the sense of accomplishment through my daily responsibilities and made things that I used to see as time wasters meaningful to my day. It didn’t change the fact that these things were still tedious, but it was at least balanced with the feeling of accomplishment so I felt more positive and could stay motivated to keep going.

Motherhood is Exhausting

Okay, so people tell you this. They joke about not getting sleep and being tired, and it’s true – I have never been so tired as when we brought our first baby home. Those first 8 weeks were the worst, I was like a walking zombie. But the exhaustion of motherhood is more than just a few nights of little sleep. I am talking about complete physical, spiritual, and emotional exhaustion. Even if your little one sleeps, you are still pouring everything you have into this new human, or multiple little humans if if you have older children. More than just being sleepy – you have a child attached to you in one way or another all day long. You no longer get to be alone. Even if your child or children are napping you are on alert, waiting for one child to cry or need you in some way. I knew I would be tired and I figured I could deal with fatigue, but I didn’t realize what complete exhaustion was like. It extends into your other relationships. Even though I felt totally alone (See loneliness above) I was so tired that I couldn’t find the energy to connect with anyone. Also, I didn’t want to be touched – like at all. Bryan would be holding the baby and the dogs would want some attention and I just did NOT want to pet them. I had to remind myself to hug Bryan and hold his hand or sit next to him on the couch. I just didn’t want to be touched because I had another human attached to me all day long.

That is the best way I can explain the exhaustion of motherhood. I think that nothing else is quite like it. And on those days when you are feeling completely spent and useless because you are so exhausted, just know that it will pass. One night you will get 4 or 5 hours of sleep and you will feel like a new person! Or your new baby will FINALLY take a 2 hour nap ON HIS OWN and it will be amazing. Until those days come, it’s okay to feel completely exhausted.

I think the overarching theme of this post is that you can’t do it by yourself. I know single moms who have survived these early weeks and years of parenting and I am just so in awe of what they do. You need a tribe, you need support, you need community, you need help. So ask for it! Surround yourself with people who love and support you. If you live far away from family, find a community through church or another organization. Find a mom group so you have others that are dealing with the same things you are. Join a mom group on Facebook! It’s just another way to get connected.

Moms, what surprised you about parenthood? How did you survive those early days and weeks of motherhood?

Hospital Bag: Take 2

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Ahhh, the joy of having a baby – this is minutes after Teddy was delivered – look at me, happy, glowing, excited for this new life.  The first moments are so precious and its amazing and all that – but here’s what they don’t tell you. You have to stay in the hospital for at least 24 hrs after you deliver. Here’s another thing they don’t tell you – hospitals are noisy, there are constantly people barging into your room, and there are always lights flashing somewhere in your room.  I, personally, hated staying in the hospital post baby arrival. I know some people like it and appreciate all the support they get from nurses and stuff. I am not that person. I need sleep and I had a really hard time sleeping or napping in the hospital. But there are a few things you can bring with you to help your post baby hospital stay. So if you are a first time mom or heading back, here is what I packed in my second time hospital bag…

lip-conditioner

First, lip balm. Seriously, no matter what else you pack don’t forget this item. Hospitals are SO DRY. I drank so much water and felt like I was putting on lip conditioner every 3 minutes. My personal favorite for lip conditioner is Beautycounter’s Peppermint. It works so well, has just enough peppermint (which helps with nausea – did I mention that you can still get nauseated after your baby comes? super fun), and is safe for you and your brand spanking new baby. You don’t want to be kissing that perfect little head with questionable or harmful chemicals in your lip balm! Beautycounter is a great way to make sure all the products you use are safe for your new baby and for yourself.  Amy’s Beautycounter link to order!

ipodThen your iPod or make sure you bring ear buds for your phone. I listened to my iPod when I was trying to sleep; it helped block out some of the noise of the hospital. I love listening to audio books, so I made sure my iPod was loaded with books and fully charged. It was so relaxing to just listen to the book. I could focus on the story and block out the noise and stress of the hospital. Also MAKE SURE YOU PACK YOUR CHARGERS! this means phone, iPod, tablet, whatever else you bring to the hospital.  There’s nothing worse than wanting to listen to your iPod and its dead.

kangaroo-tank-topNext – this kangaroo Care tank top from Milk and Baby. I loved having this with me for skin to skin time in the hospital.  Skin to skin is hugely beneficial for both you and your baby. It helps your milk come in faster and also helps support your milk supply throughout your nursing days.  Your baby will benefit from hearing your heartbeat, temperature control, and lower stress levels. In case you didn’t realize this, going from a warm, loud, very small, and dark environment to the hospital with lights, cold air blasting and your arms and legs flailing about is highly stressful for babies. Being cuddled up with you is so comforting for your little one. And this shirt allows you to have skin to skin without feeling like you are on display. You may have already felt this way throughout your delivery (I definitely did with my first) but after the baby comes its nice to feel like you can cover up and wear some sort of normal clothing. So this is a must in my books. Here’s the link to order: Kangaroo Kare Tank ** I would suggest ordering a size up, I thought it ran small.

snacks

SNACKS

Pack snacks for days.  I wouldn’t necessarily pack a whole cart full, but definitely bring enough for your hospital stay which can be up to 96 hours if you have a C section. Fluctuating hormones and an irregular sleep schedule left me starving at the weirdest times.  Also, when I get hungry and I am hungry NOW so I don’t want to wait on the hospital to bring me something.  Snacks are simply a necessity in the hospital. Some maternity wards have a few snacks available, but since I am GF the only thing they had for me was fruit and let’s be honest, sometimes you need some salt and crunch in your life.

31r2ws7alzl-_sy445_Nice Maternity pajamas. My mom bought me this three piece set off of Amazon from Bearsland Maternity (Link to Amazon here).  These were great because they looked so nice – I got lots of compliments on how cute they were! – and because its a nursing tank it’s easy to strip down and nurse or cover up with your robe.  Honestly, every time you are trying to nurse someone will be coming into your room to check on you so it’s nice to have options for covering up a little. Plus these jammies are super comfy. I wore them all throughout nursing Vincent and plan to keep wearing them with Teddy! They describe the fabric as “Rich cotton” and I would have to agree! The fabric is really nice.  It breathes and has stretch to it. They get the thumbs up from me!

So these are the items that get pictures – but there are other items that I packed that you might want to consider:

  • Granny panties – because you need someone to wear that will support the ginormous pads that they give you
  • Sweatshirt – because your hospital room might be a balmy 75 or a freezing 20 degrees so you need layering options
  • Slippers – you will want to walk around the halls because you need to escape your room and it’s good for recovery
  • Toiletries – shampoo, face wash, lotion, toothbrush, DEODORANT (hormones made me super smelly) etc. I would also suggest bringing some make up, especially if you are going to have pictures done in the hospital.  I think being able to put on some make up helps you feel like a human and less like a zombie who has no idea what is going on.
  • One going home outfit for baby – the hospital will provide clothes for your baby while they are staying. Let them do the laundry and only put on your clothes when you are ready to take baby home.

I think that’s it! What else did you mammas pack in your hospital bags? What am I missing?

So, what helped?

After my last blog post When you [don’t] love your baby I was asked a question by a friend (who gave me permission to use this question):

     “What specifically helped you through this time with Vincent – spiritually, emotional, mentally?            What did dealing with lack of feeling look like for you as you struggled through the process?”

I thought these were great questions – but I really had to think about them.  How did I actually do this? What did help me during this time? I have been reflecting on these questions all week and I have had some thoughts that I wanted to share. There are 3 things that I think helped me through those first 8 weeks.

The first thing that helped me through this time is my relationship with Jesus Christ. I can’t tell you how many times I cried out to God in silent prayer, wrote in my journal, or just asked for comfort.  I honestly do not know how parents do the whole parenting thing without believing in a higher power. I feel like I need God’s help, peace, and guidance every single day.  That being said, I would like to add that Jesus did not magically make the process easier. I would ask God, “why can’t I just set this baby down?!?!? Please Lord, just let him sleep for 30 minutes by himself!” or something of the like. I can tell you that at those moments Vincent did not automatically fall into a peaceful dream state and then I immediately calmed down and then had a perfect day after. Why? Because newborns act the way they do for a reason – they are learning how to function in this new world and it’s overwhelming. I think that my relationship with God gave me a solid foundation to stand on, I stood on my rock and this kept me grounded even on the hardest days. God DID send me comforts – Bryan would get home from class early so I could take a nap, a friend from church would text or bring over dinner, another new mom would stop by with her baby and I would have company, my parents would call with encouraging words.  It might not have been the 8+ hours of sleep that I was hoping for, but God bore me up in different ways so I could keep going.

The second thing that got me through is my self talk. I have always had a strong inner dialogue with myself.  For majority of my life this was third person.  I don’t know if you have ever thought about how you speak to yourself, but typically when I speak to myself in the third person it is negative, “Why did you do that?!” “How could you make that mistake!” etc.  Thankfully, one thing that I began before Vincent came was talking to myself in the first person and asserting truths when things were difficult.  When I was feeling like the worst mom in the world because I didn’t want to hold my child anymore, I would speak to myself truthfully and logically (sometimes out loud) “You are tired, and that’s okay, but Vincent needs to be held right now and you can do that.  Holding Vincent helps his brain develop, I am helping him feel protected and cared for.  I am a good mom because I am doing exactly what Vincent needs right now.”  I would also assert Biblical truths over myself and Vincent.  You see, Satan (who is very real) plays tricks on our minds often. Unfortunately, he just has to plant a little seed of doubt, discouragement, question, or deception for our brains to latch on and let them grow out of control. He would slip in with thoughts of “You aren’t good at this” “You can’t keep going” “You shouldn’t have had a kid” and on and on. What I have learned is that we have extraordinary power over ourselves simply based off of what we think and what we listen to. When these thoughts would slip in, I would speak a truth to combat the lie.

Lie: “You aren’t good enough”

Truth: “Jesus died on a cross and said that I am worth the price, I am his daughter, I am good enough for Jesus and I need nothing else”

Lie: “You shouldn’t have had kids”

Truth: “God knit this child together in my womb. He created this life and chose me to be his mom. This was divinely appointed, not by chance. I am supposed to be Vincent’s mom”

Lie: “You can’t keep going”

Truth: “God will lift me up on eagle’s wings.  He will support and sustain me.  He is Jehovah Jireh – God who provides. I cannot do it on my own, but God will help me”

We have such power in what we say to ourselves and what God says about us. It’s amazing how quickly things turn around when we start focusing on God’s truth and do not let the lies enter into our thoughts.  If you don’t have a relationship with God (or even if you do), I would encourage you to ask God a question, “What are lies I am currently telling myself?” and then if you discover any, “God, what do you say about these things?” I think it would be an interesting experiment. Even if you don’t feel like that would work, or you are opposed to a higher power, I would encourage you to start practicing positive self talk. No matter what, I think you will see a difference in the way you hold yourself, act, and respond when negativity comes your way.

Third, I am extremely stubborn and hate failure. And this really helped me persevere.  Being stubborn and having a fear of failure is definitely something that I am not always proud of, but in this circumstance it worked to my advantage. You want to know why I was able to breastfeed for a year? Because I am stubborn and I set a goal – I was going to achieve it NO. MATTER. WHAT. I didn’t want to fail. You want to know why I woke up every two hours to feed Vincent for those first 8 weeks? Because I am stubborn, I wanted to continue to breastfeed, and I knew I had to keep going in order to be successful. When I felt void of emotions and that I wanted to shirk away from responsibility – I couldn’t because I am too stubborn to admit that I couldn’t do it so I just kept going. This is called perseverance and the experience of living through the newborn stage helped me realize how important perseverance is in life overall.  They say the best things aren’t easy, and I would say motherhood and the newborn phase definitely fall into that category. I learned a lot about humility and asking for help with Vincent, which was good growth for me. But ultimately the will and drive to not give up and just keep going did help me get through a really hard time and continue to breast feed through it all.

The second part of the question, “What did dealing with lack of feeling look like for you as you struggled through the process?” this part is more difficult. Apparently, to outsiders it looked like I was fine. After I wrote the original piece my husband said, “I had no idea you were feeling that way.” In my head I thought,how could you NOT know that I was feeling that way?! I was a wreck and I looked like a disaster!  But at the time, I didn’t express much of the lack of feeling because everything was SO OVERWHELMING. While I didn’t feel like I loved Vincent and felt void of many emotions, I was equally overwhelmed with the amount of change that occurred. I have been able to process these feelings in the year that has followed and I have been able to sort through the difficulties. At the time, I couldn’t express these feelings because I didn’t really fully grasp what was going on. I simply existed and got through the day.  AND WE HAD GOOD DAYS! Here is proof

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See! I am actually happy, that’s not a fake smile. I don’t mean to sound like everything was doom and gloom, it was just hard. I do remember happy times in those early days, too.

As I reflected on this time I realized that social media also played with my head. I had several friends that also had babies around the same time I did. They were posting pictures of these precious little bundles with captions like, “My everything!” “I love him/her so much!” “We are so in love with our little one!” etc. I would see these pictures and think, “I don’t feel that way!” but then immediately feel the need to post a picture with some sort of heartwarming caption because other people were doing it. Here’s the thing – I STILL don’t post pictures with captions like that. My captions are literal, sarcastic, sometimes (I think) funny, etc. The closest I got to “heartwarming” was when we were in the hospital and snapped this pic with the caption “Be still my heart” –

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but looking back it is interesting that I felt I needed to SHOW and PROVE my love for my child via pics and captions on social media. Just because I don’t post things that way, does it mean I love my child any less? No, it means that type of characterization is not genuine to who I am as an individual. And that’s okay. I don’t have to be sappy just because I am a mom. So this time around I know that social media does not define my affections for my child and I don’t need to worry about how much or how little I post about him.

So those are my thoughts and responses. Mamas – what got you through the newborn phase??

 

 

When you [don’t] love your baby

This blog post has been a long time coming, but it’s one that I keep putting off.

It’s a hard topic to talk about, but a few interactions recently have made me realize how important it is to share about the reality after your baby shows up.

So here it is…

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Prior to Vincent arriving people would ask me if I felt prepared. My answer was almost always, “as prepared as I can be.”  I knew that motherhood would be like nothing I had experienced before, but I also knew that I was a strong person who had lived through difficult experiences so I knew that I could conquer life with a newborn.

No matter what people tell you or what you think you are prepared for, no verbal explanation can explain the first 6-8 weeks of motherhood.  The first 8 weeks were especially difficult for me. I don’t know that I was suffering from postpartum depression, I was actually vigilantly looking out for this because I have suffered from depression in the past. No, what I felt was complete distance from who I used to be with this new life that now depended on me for everything.  I was extremely sleep deprived, away from family, and had a husband in the midst of nursing school and clinicals.  Many days, it was all me all day with a newborn. And many nights I was getting about 30-45 minutes of sleep between feedings while my newborn slept on my chest because he hated being set down.  One day I went from being an independent and self-reliant individual to a mom, and that’s something that no words and no verbal explanation can prepare you for.

Most of all I didn’t feel like I loved my son. I remember when Bryan brought me Vincent in the hospital and I literally had to tell myself out loud “this is your baby, this is Vincent!” But I wasn’t excited, I wasn’t overwhelmed with any sort of feeling really, I felt next to nothing.  I went through the motions, started nursing, tried to sleep (which in the hospital is a joke).  We took Vincent home and I continued to do the things that moms are supposed to do, but it all felt detached. It didn’t feel genuine, it was an obligation, a responsibility that I was now stuck with and no one else could really help with. Bryan did everything he could – he would be up late studying and hold the baby so I could sleep. He forced me to take naps and made sure I was eating while he was around.  But it’s not the same as being a mom.

The most difficult and most unexpected transition was the loss of independence. Suddenly, you have to think and plan every hour of every day to make sure that you are able to provide for your child.  Since Vincent hated being set down, this meant that I literally had a baby attached to me almost all the time.  Being a very independent individual, this was shocking and revolting to me.  Whenever people would come over I would immediately hand over Vincent because I just didn’t want to hold him anymore. I remember telling myself that I had to take pictures of Vincent because SOMEDAY I would want to look back and see how little he was (and that definitely DID happen! Now I wish we had more pictures of those early days).

All of this made me think that I didn’t love Vincent. I would physically make myself tell him that I loved him every day, because I knew that deep down I probably did love him even though I didn’t FEEL like it.

What I learned is that newborn love is a different kind of love.  I was used to relationships with reciprocity.  Babies don’t do this.  You pour out into your little one and you get crying, sucking, and poop in return.  Don’t get me wrong, there were some precious moments, but mostly it was just trying to make it through another day. What I realized was that I DID love my baby because I was doing everything I needed to do in order to care for him. I was nursing him, holding him so that he would sleep, cuddling him, cleaning him, and learning how to be his mom.  This is how you love a newborn – you survive, you learn, and you do what you can every day.

Our feelings lie. Especially sleep deprived hormone driven feelings.  Feelings come and go, like the ocean tides. They well up and overflow and then they dry out. Actions don’t lie. Actions show who and what we really are.  So if you are having a hard time and your actions are to seek help, tell your doctor, ask for assistance – this is you loving your baby.  If you feel like you don’t love your baby, but you nurse him every time he is hungry and then walk him around for 45 minutes at 3am because he is fussy, this is you loving your baby.  If you are a natural and you just have the mom thing down, your actions are still what demonstrate this love.  Babies feel loved by being taken care of, protected, cuddled, swaddled, and being nestled against mom or dad. They experience love in safety and comfort, not words or expressions.  I know that Vincent felt loved because we did everything he needed in those early days and on those really hard early days, I knew that I just had to act like I loved Vincent no matter what my feelings were telling me.

I recently heard of another mom who was experiencing the same feelings that I was during this early period.  My friend was concerned and shared her story with me. I asked if I could write her a letter.  I later had the pleasure of meeting this new young mom and she thanked me for the letter and encouraging words.  So here is a letter to all new moms and especially moms that don’t feel like they love their babies.

Dear Mama,

I am so proud of you. You brought new life into this world and now you are literally sacrificing your own life, sleep, and sanity.  It is not easy, but somehow you are doing it.  I remember those early days and I remember how difficult the first few weeks are.

I remember that I didn’t feel like I loved my baby and maybe that’s how you feel, too. But I want you to know that YOU DO LOVE OUR BABY.  You are doing everything you can for your child, and this is love. You are working hard to feed and nurture, hug and cuddle, figure out sleep and adjust to this new life. It’s a hard adjustment and it takes time. YOU CAN DO IT!  Take things one day at a time, each day gets better.

I promise that things get better. Nursing gets easier, sleep gets easier, you figure out how to balance your own needs with your baby’s.  But it takes time. I know that days feel like weeks and it seems like it will never end, but I promise you will both survive.

I am so proud of you and the effort you are putting into your little one. Remember, ask for help and tell people what you need. Pass that baby off every chance you get – catch a nap, take a shower, take a break. It is important to take care of yourself so that you can care for your child.  But every time you change a diaper or sit down to nurse, I want you to know that those actions clearly show you LOVE YOUR BABY.  Despite what your feelings tell you.

Good job mama – You Rock!

My favorite things {baby edition}

Recently, I had a friend ask me about what she really needed for her new baby.  If you have so much as stepped inside a box store in the last century, you realize the enormity of products available for new babies and moms.  Getting your registry together is a ridiculous overload of decisions and pressure to choose the right thing all while your hormones are going crazy and you are questioning why you ever wanted to have a baby in the first place.

Thankfully, before I started my registry I had a close friend who warned me of the perilous journey that baby registries can be. So my first bit of advice is to make an online registry.  We used amazon.com for our registry because it was super easy and they have basically everything [including a 60″ TV that my husband insisted on listing ‘just in case’ someone wanted to give us a gift].  Also, everything gets shipped to your house! Babylist.com is another great site because you can add items from any website and then just mark them once they have been purchased.  This was much easier for me than going to a store. I could add a few items a day and then if I forgot anything I just popped in and added it!

Outside of where to register, I also told myself (daily) that all we really needed were:

1. a car seat to bring the baby home

2. a place for the baby to sleep

3. something for the baby to wear

4. diapers

If we had those things we could survive. This helped me eliminate the anxiety of needing everything on the list in order to function with a newborn. But there are several products that made our lives better. Some things we bought before Vincent came home, but the majority of items we picked up along the way.  We didn’t have tons of money since Bryan was in school so we tried to pick up a lot of stuff second hand or borrow things we knew we wouldn’t need long term. Here are 10 items I would recommend purchasing before baby joins your family:

  1. A great car seat. We went with Evenflo Convertible. I wanted a car seat that would grow with Vincent so we wouldn’t have to buy multiple pieces throughout his life. Also, I have a hard time with the click in car seats because they are so bulky and cumbersome when you take them out. Here is the car seat we purchased: //ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ac&ref=tf_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=theprapea-20&marketplace=amazon&region=US&placement=B01BI7JC5W&asins=B01BI7JC5W&linkId=5QHOVFDJ7XCB46MG&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true
  2. A nice set of nursing pajamas for the hospital.  Okay, this one is for your ladies.  I was so glad that I was gifted a beautiful three piece pajama set before I got to the hospital.   First you feel weird and you are still huge, so comfortable pjs are a must! But I got so many compliments on how nice my pajamas looked and it made me feel so great! My mom gifted me these jammies, and I would suggest grabbing a pair for yourself. We also got newborn pictures taken and I felt like I actually looked somewhat put together with these on, so again, they just made me feel great and I was so glad to have them! //ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ac&ref=tf_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=theprapea-20&marketplace=amazon&region=US&placement=B01CI9355M&asins=B01CI9355M&linkId=OS7BYSMCTLZZZSKT&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true
  3. A convertible crib.  Again, I wasn’t sure when we would have another baby and if we would purchase another crib. So, I wanted something that could stick with Vincent long term if we needed it to. Also, why are cribs at Baby’s R Us $700? I wouldn’t spend that much money on a bed for myself let a lone a crib for a baby. So once again, amazon.com to the rescue! We really like the modern look of our crib and I really appreciate that it’s lower to the ground. Let’s be honest, someday Vincent will climb out and I would prefer if he falls only a short distance. Also, when babies teeth they will bite the sides of their crib. I would prefer to not care if the crib looks terrible instead of freaking out because we spent tons of money on it. //ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ac&ref=tf_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=theprapea-20&marketplace=amazon&region=US&placement=B00FPJTY44&asins=B00FPJTY44&linkId=CSBQMS4X2IZ52GNV&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true
  4. Somewhere to put baby when you need a break.  We had this bean bag which Vincent liked for the first several weeks of life: //ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ac&ref=tf_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=theprapea-20&marketplace=amazon&region=US&placement=B00WORZYQC&asins=B00WORZYQC&linkId=TIRXVEDNPVBAINF3&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true   My only problem with this was trying to keep a blanket on him. Because of the way he was strapped in he would kick off blankets that I wrapped around his feet. Also, you couldn’t swaddle him and lay him on this so it was okay but maybe not the best.  Several of my friends had one of these: //ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ac&ref=tf_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=theprapea-20&marketplace=amazon&region=US&placement=B00C4R338S&asins=B00C4R338S&linkId=EU3T75UTM2P6MICL&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true  and said that their kids loved them for the first 3 months or so. I plan to borrow one for baby number two!
  5. Baby carrier.  I loved my Boba Wrap when V was just tiny. He loved it too! It freed up my hands if I wanted to get something done around the house and V got to be all snuggled in tight.  My husband also used it a couple times when Vincent was up and crying in the middle of the night, worked like a charm! //ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ac&ref=tf_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=theprapea-20&marketplace=amazon&region=US&placement=B00OHBGZA2&asins=B00OHBGZA2&linkId=HTU4OZMCXBKF66GR&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true  I stopped using this wrap at about 2-3 months because it has zero lower back support. We then switched to the Lille Baby carrier, which is AMAZING. It distributes weight across your entire torso, has lower back support, and has multiple positions. The fabric is also mesh so it breathes which is essential on warmer days! There is also a cover so that you can block out the world and baby can take a snooze while you are running errands or going for a walk. I seriously can’t say enough good things about the Lille Baby carrier //ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ac&ref=tf_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=theprapea-20&marketplace=amazon&region=US&placement=B00IXXYYQC&asins=B00IXXYYQC&linkId=YZZMCTVY5HFXXHEB&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true
  6. Nursing Pillow.  I used My breast friend nursing pillow, the deluxe version. The reasons I loved it are thus: it has a snap so you can snap it around your waist which means you don’t need an extra hand to carry it. This is key when you are alone with baby and you have to carry your baby to your nursing station or just generally around the house.  It also has a pocket in the front where you can stick stuff while your pillow is snapped around your waist so you can freely walk to your destination. I consistently stuck remotes, water bottles, granola bars, cell phones, and other necessities in said pocket.  Again, you want to free up your hands as much as possible so this was a life saver for me!  I also thought the pillow helped get Vincent into good nursing positions and you can use it for multiple positions which is also helpful! //ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ac&ref=tf_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=theprapea-20&marketplace=amazon&region=US&placement=B00XOSQU4K&asins=B00XOSQU4K&linkId=TADTRVSK53EYXK5V&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true
  7. Swaddle blankets.  You will want swaddle blankets, it will just depend on the time of year the weight of the blankets you want.  We used Summer Infant swaddles and really liked them. You can get them nice and snug and they are a good weight.  Vincent was born in February so if we used these we would usually add another blanket around him (our house is pretty chilly) but he liked these the best.  We had some heavier fleece swaddles, but I thought they were harder to work with so I recommend these.  //ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ac&ref=tf_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=theprapea-20&marketplace=amazon&region=US&placement=B00TTWAQZY&asins=B00TTWAQZY&linkId=W5MBDJK3FHGHZBHY&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true
  8. A video monitor.  It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but when your baby finally leaves your room (which was THE BEST decision we ever made as parents) or you lay them down for a nap alone, a video monitor is key.  We especially appreciated the video monitor once V was older, especially when we were sleep training.  We used the  Motorola Video Monitor below.  It’s been great! You can spend tons of money on video monitors – ours is pretty simple, it doesn’t connect to our cell phones or anything, but it gets the job done.  It’s so nice to be able to click on the monitor and know if your baby is actually awake or just making sleepy nighttime noises. It gave me a lot of peace so that I could actually sleep instead of having to get up and check on the baby all the time – highly recommend investing in one!  //ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ac&ref=tf_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=theprapea-20&marketplace=amazon&region=US&placement=B018F1E5FQ&asins=B018F1E5FQ&linkId=WIRMP7P7LMQCCYYZ&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true
  9. Breast pads and night time nursing bras.  So once your milk comes in there is no stopping the leakage – or at least there wasn’t for me.  The breast pads were a must! They stopped many a shirt from getting ruined with leaking breastmilk.  They were also a life saver for going out in public.  Now remember, these are my suggestions for what you need before baby comes home – there is plenty of time to find good nursing bras later when you are more mobile. I just bought a few comfortable looking night time nursing bras for the beginning and used my Bamboobies nursing pads under them.  There are lots of reusable nursing pads out there – I personally have only tried the Bamboobies brand, but they worked great for me and have stood up under several washes.  I didn’t think that the disposable nursing pads made sense, I would rather save the waste and wash them instead of running out and having to buy more.  //ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ac&ref=tf_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=theprapea-20&marketplace=amazon&region=US&placement=B0043ZPVDO&asins=B0043ZPVDO&linkId=KYHSCZDFT2Y33GEW&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true
  10. A Amazon Prime Account.  Here’s the thing, you can buy everything you think you need or want and inevitably your baby won’t like it or you will get a recommendation from another mom of something that is better. It was impossible for me to pack up and get to Target to buy this stuff, and this is the beauty of Amazon Prime. You can order anything you need and it will ship to you FOR FREE in 2 days. Can’t wait that long? Lots of major cities now have Prime Now, where you can have stuff delivered to you same day for just $5! We used (and still do use) our Prime account all the time. It was so great to just be able to search something online and order it and not have to write it down on a list and hope that I remembered to search the shelves for it the next time we went to the store. Also, they have movies, TV shows, and music that you can stream for free which will also be a necessity when you have your 1 hour nursing sessions and you can’t take another day of soap operas and talk shows. Just go get an account now, seriously you will be so thankful. You can try it free for 30 days!<a target=”_blank” href=”http://www.amazon.com/tryprimefree/?ref_=assoc_tag_ph_1427739975520&_encoding=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&linkCode=pf4&tag=theprapea-20&linkId=5IWOHVDVYB3RIRNC”>Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial</a><img src=”http://ir-na.amazon-adsystem.com/e/ir?t=theprapea-20&l=pf4&o=1&#8243; width=”1″ height=”1″ border=”0″ alt=”” style=”border:none !important; margin:0px !important;” />

So there you have it. The 10 things that I think you should have before the baby comes home.  There is a lot of other stuff we purchased after we had Vincent for awhile (breast pumps, bottles, more clothes, etc) but you also get a lot of extra stuff from showers.  If you don’t have everything you think you need when the baby comes, THAT IS OKAY.  Newborns don’t need that much stuff and then you can feel like you have more control when you are making purchasing decisions later. This system worked well for us.

Mamas – what were your essential products when you brought your newborn home? What would you say is one thing every new mom needs? We would love to hear your ideas!