This is the last part in my three part series about my journey to becoming a mother. To be honest, this has been the hardest one for me to write.
I think it’s because I want to be able to share a happy story with you all. One of sweet newborn cuddles and bliss. I don’t want to add another story out there that causes fear, but the reality is that my journey was challenging. It was filled with newborn cuddles and happiness, but it was also filled with anxiety, fear, frustration, and stress. It was real. And it helped make me the mother I am today.
My hope is that as you read my story you will see the importance of support and community. I hope that as I share my heart, you will find hope and maybe even healing. Those of you that are struggling, I hope this encourages you to seek help and recognize that you aren’t alone. And maybe, just maybe, my story will help you all see how important it is to prepare as much, if not more, for your postpartum journey as you do for your birth.
So let’s jump in, shall we?
After the intensity of labor and birth, Dillon and I spent some time bonding with the newest member of our little family. I laid there so in shock and overwhelmed that this moment was finally here. No more anticipation. No more being pregnant. It was time for the real deal. It was time to be the mother I was preparing to be.
Except I didn't really prepare to be a mother.
I spent so much of my pregnancy researching and preparing for labor and birth, that I neglected preparing for the journey of being a parent. I convinced myself that it would come naturally and I could figure it out as I went.
So there I was, hours after having a baby and already feeling in over my head.
Ezekiel started to show signs that he wanted to nurse, so with the help of a nurse I attempted to get him to latch. He would latch on for a moment, and then he would pop off and cry. I didn't know what I was doing wrong. I didn't know how to fix it. The nurse tried to help out with different ways to hold him, but eventually left me to it. I figured he just wasn't interested and I could try again later.
A little while later, I decided I needed to get up to use the restroom. I called the nurse in, and she assisted me in my little journey. As soon as I stood up from the toilet, everything went foggy and then quickly turned black. Next thing I knew, I was laying back in my bed, exhausted, with multiple nurses and doctors rushing around the room. They pumped me full of fluids, took my blood pressure, and told me to take it easy. It was terrifying and I felt so very out of control.
At some point in the middle of the night, they wheeled us up to the postpartum recovery rooms where we would spend the rest of stay in the hospital. I had ZERO energy, so I quickly fell asleep and Dillon took the first shift. When I woke up, he filled me in on his stories about meconium poops, changing his first diaper, and the panic of our new little baby choking on the fluid that was still in his lungs.
I couldn't believe I had slept through all of that! How did I not hear any of that going on?
Feelings of guilt rushed in. Here we were, less than one day in, and I was feeling guilty for not being there for the first diaper change. I was feeling fearful that I wouldn't be able to hear our baby in the middle of the night if something went wrong. And I was still feeling so extremely exhausted.
The next day was a rotating door of friends and family. It was a beautiful day filled with our most favorite people in the world. Looking back on that day, I am blown away that we have such an incredible support system. I am so thankful that the people in our lives love us and our little man so much! To this day, we couldn't do this whole parenting thing without all of them.
Because of my quickly developing insecurity with breastfeeding, Ezekiel didn't get fed much that day. I tried to nurse him in between visitors, but we were still having so many issues. A lactation consultant came in at some point to try and help, but didn't have a lot of advice for us. It was basically a "you'll get the hang of it" kind of conversation. We started feeding him colostrum with a syringe that day so we knew he was getting SOMETHING to eat.
After a long day of visitors, I was looking forward to an evening of rest. We settled down and tried to get little man to sleep in the bassinet provided by the hospital. Yeah. Right. I can't even explain to you how much our new little baby cried that night. Dillon and I's most used nickname for Ezekiel is "Little Monster". I'm pretty sure it was developed that night. As the hours went on, we tried everything to get him to calm down. Looking back, I know he was hungry and probably over-stimulated, but no matter how hard I tried, he wouldn't nurse longer than a few minutes. No one was getting any sleep that night.
Eventually one of the nurse assistants came in to check on us and saw how frantic and frustrated we were. The hospital we were at didn't have a nursery, so she offered to take him to the nurses station for a bit so we could get a few minutes of sleep. Before that moment, I would have never taken someone up on that offer. Heck, that was one of things I loved about the hospital we were at. I was all about my baby being with my at all times. But in that moment I was desperate. I was exhausted. And I didn't know what else to do. With every minute he spent crying, I started to get more and more frustrated and angry. I started to feel more and more like a failure. In the fog of sleep deprivation I sent my new little baby away with someone I barely knew.
It's truly amazing what an hour of sleep can do for someone. I woke up feeling a lot more clear headed and so much less frustrated. Unfortunately, with a clearer head came the shame and guilt for letting my baby out of my sight. I decided in that moment that I would be stronger and I wouldn't show people how weak I really felt on the inside. If so many other moms could get through the middle of the night struggles, I could too. I didn't want anyone to know that I had sent Ezekiel away, so until today, I didn't talk about that night much.
Now I see how much that affected me. I see how the shame I developed that night seeped into how I handled the majority of my postpartum struggles. I see how my inability to receive help and my desire to pick myself up my bootstraps caused me to crash and burn when things got hard.
The next day we were scheduled to leave in the early afternoon after Ezekiel’s circumcision. The nurse said it would only take 15-20 minutes, but he was gone for about an hour. I knew something wasn’t right before they brought him back to us. The nurse assured me everything went well, but that wasn’t actually the case.
Ezekiel wouldn’t stop bleeding from the procedure.
In the grand scheme of things that could have gone wrong at our time in the hospital, this was pretty small. However, as a new mom with a screaming baby that wouldn’t stop bleeding and wouldn’t eat, I was starting to feel even more out of control. I couldn’t help but feel like I was already failing this little human that had been entrusted to me.
I wouldn’t dare say that out loud, though. Pride will do that to a person. Fear will do that too.
Finally after a long day of waiting, they let us go home under the conditions that if the bleeding got any worse, we would bring him to the ER immediately.
So, we put our tiny human in his car seat and rode away on the scariest car ride of my life. No one tells you how terrifying that first car ride is. You just birthed this baby and then you put him in this huge machine that could crash at any minute. SO SCARY.
We got home around 10pm on a Friday night and one of our sweetest friends, Megan, met us at home with hot, homemade fajitas and cookies. She even gifted Ezekiel his first little hat. When I think about Megan, my heart swells with gratitude. She is the best gift giver and has the most giving heart in the world.
(Side note: here is a link to her website. She is one of the most talented people I know with the biggest heart.)
The only way I know how to describe the first couple weeks with a newborn is survival mode. I told myself I wouldn’t co-sleep with my newborn, but when Ezekiel wouldn’t sleep for more than 10 minutes at a time in his bassinet, he quickly ended up in bed with me. We were still struggling with breastfeeding, but the thought of asking for help paralyzed me with anxiety. My phone history was filled with google search after google search of questions starting with, “Is it normal for a newborn to….”.
Days and nights all ran together and my memories of the first few weeks are a complete blur. What I do remember is being showered with so much love and support. We had friends stopping by almost every day to bring meals. We had family over most days to help around the house and gifting us the ability to get some much needed sleep. Again, I have no idea what I would have done without our incredible support system.
At Ezekiel's first pediatrician appointment, we learned that he had dropped a significant amount of weight since being born and wasn't gaining it back. I knew right away it was because breastfeeding was still a nightmare. Dillon very lovingly, but very seriously voiced his concerns when we got home, but I assured him everything was going to be fine. Ezekiel and I would figure out this whole breastfeeding thing and we didn't need any help.
My fear, shame, and pride were talking.
I knew I needed help, but every time I thought about asking for it, I was paralyzed with anxiety. I didn't want it to look like I was failing. I wanted to be strong enough to figure it out all on my own this time.
Now I know the strength is in asking for help.
After a really hard night full of tears and frustration, Dillon was fed up with my inability to ask for help. So as soon as he got up and around, he googled a list of lactation consultants in OKC and started calling every single one of them until we could get an appointment for that day. Sweet Karen Blackburn answered and got us in first thing that morning.
All of my fears and anxieties quickly disappeared as soon as we sat down with Karen. She was a true answer to prayer. She was so sweet, gentle, and helpful. She never once made me feel like a failure and gave me so much strength to keep going. During our consultation, she noticed Ezekiel was having hard time staying latched. She gave us a nipple shield and he immediately stayed latched through an entire feed for the first time since he was born. It was SUCH a relief. I had heard such horrible things about nipple shields, but that little piece of silicone gave me peace and hope and I will be forever thankful for it.
From that point on, things got SO much easier. Because Ezekiel was eating, he was happier and slept better. We were able to get in more of a rhythm and I started to feel less and less like a failure every day. I was still a crazy person in the middle of the night, but over time I started to feel more and more like a human. (I’m actually still a crazy person in the middle of the night….Shout out to my husband for sticking with me even though I’m a horrible human at 2 a.m.)
As I reflect back on my postpartum struggles, I think the hardest part for me was my unrealistic expectations for myself. This is something I struggle with in almost every area of my life. I put these expectations on myself and then project them onto other people, which causes so much insecurity and the constant feeling that I'm failing someone.
Even though this process wasn't easy for me, and it's something I will probably battle for the rest of my life, I'm thankful that becoming a mother has helped me find some freedom from the unrealistic expectations and negative self-talk. It started a really important journey of digging up all the lies and unrealistic expectations and rules I have set for myself throughout my life. It helped me see the importance of asking for help and how crucial it is to have a good support system around you to walk with you on the uphill journey out of a deep valley.
If you are someone who is struggling through your postpartum journey, I promise you aren't alone. As you scroll through social media, try to remember that what people post isn't their full story. Don't feel like you have to have it all together all the time. Sometimes the best you can do is cry out to God in the middle of the night to ask for help when your baby won't stop crying. And that's enough. If you need someone to talk to or some resources to get some help, I'm here. You can call me, text me, email me, or message me on Facebook anytime.
If you're like me, and you are so excited about your birth journey that you haven't thought about what happens after you have your baby, I encourage you to make a postpartum plan in addition to your birth plan. Do some research and find a lactation consultant you can meet with before you have your baby. Find a counselor or therapist that specializes in perinatal/maternal mental health. Consider looking into resources like placenta encapsulation and postpartum doulas. Get with a trusted friend to set up a meal train or start stockpiling your freezer with meals that you can throw in a crock pot. Set yourself up for success and I promise you will thank yourself later.
Thanks for tagging along with me as I shared my birth journey with you guys. I hope some of you were able to find hope, healing, freedom and grace through my story. I'd love to hear whatever thoughts you have, so please don't be strangers!
Be on the look out for some special birth stories from some incredible mamas, some hard working mamas and friends that sell some great products, some thoughts on all things labor, birth, postpartum, and motherhood, and so much more!