Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Life as a Mama

Some people have asked me questions like this... "Love the posts about Ian, but what about you?" or "How are you doing with motherhood?" Here's my best attempt to answer this honestly.

34 hours of labor. 2 false starts. 1.5 hours of sleep. 1 hour of pushing. Back labor that wouldn't desist. When Ian was born, I quickly moved from unbearable, piercing pain, to joy and exuberance. So strong are the endorphins that I no longer pleaded for sleep or rest. My body had just accomplished an unbelievable feat and I had been given the greatest gift of all. I wanted to shout from the mountaintops and share my great joy.

This feeling didn't leave me, but the lack of sleep and the physical exertion it took to birth a 8 lbs. 14 oz. baby definitely caught up with me. Those early days were filled with exhaustion, unrelenting soreness and pain, and a desperate desire to soak in as much of my newborn as possible. After all of those hours of labor, my body was weary, my legs shaky, my eyes heavy.

I was filled with contentment while getting to hold my sweet boy. My heart burned with love as I held him. My emotions were on my sleeve because of the miracle of birth, the sleep deprivation, and the feeling of being physically unable to walk a few feet to fill my water or make a meal. During the days I felt alone & worn, but also completely whole holding my child.

In the weeks after he was born, my one goal was to sleep whenever I could. I was content to stay home and try to sleep at any time possible. I went out or visited with friends, but that was the one and only thing I'd plan for the day. And that was fine by me.

It took about five to six weeks for me to feel like I didn't need to nap at least once during the day, though it still was nice. Getting out and about, exercising, and spending most of the day out was more feasible, to me.

Crying shook me to my core. One of the first times we were in the car with Ian he started crying. Desperately I begged Jim to stop the car, even though we would only be in the car for a few more minutes. Ian was crying and I was crying. What a sight we must have been! For the most part I could keep it together, but hearing him cry meant I needed to try everything I could to help him stop. It's amazing how we're designed. The baby can only cry to communicate and the mother cannot stand the crying until it's resolved. Other people would tell me that his crying didn't bother them, but it was impossible for me to allow it to happen.
Breastfeeding has been challenging at times because of my strong let-down and Ian's fast gulping which leads to gas, but it's evened out. I've breastfed in some weird places (the pumpkin patch, sitting on the floor in the soda aisle of Walmart in Seneca, PA, the car in many-a-parking lot, etc.), spent time on the phone with lactation consultants, read and reread books, and talked to many mamas. It's been an all-engrossing journey.

How wonderful to be all that another being needs to survive! My body sustained him before he came into this world and it nourishes him completely now. I love the sweet time we share when he nurses. It's guaranteed time with him when we're visiting family and it's such a strong bonding time just between the two of us. It makes the hardest challenges worth it.

I've second guessed everything. Is he getting enough to eat? (Let's be clear... this was in the beginning.. I'm sure he is now!) Am I giving him enough attention? Too much attention? Holding him too much or too little? Is he getting enough sleep? Should I soothe him to sleep or allow him to soothe himself? Sometimes I think this is good because it challenges me to respond the best I can, but sometimes it's too much. Every mom I've ever talked to struggled with things like this for their first baby, at least.

During the first three months of his life we were traveling so much. Mainly for rotations, but also to visit family for the holidays. Throughout each location I told myself that once we came home we'd get into a routine. This was our first full week at home and I felt the mounting pressure to establish some sort of normalcy and consistency. I'm still working this out.

Since there's always been the next place to live with the next people to see, I haven't had a chance to feel settled. But I also haven't had a lot of time by myself. Hopefully my spirits can stay high and my mind active. I always felt lower after the college year ended because I was not nearly as busy or surrounded by people. This may compare, in a way, even though I am still busy keeping up with Ian. I look forward to returning to the activities I enjoy while home and hope to stave off any blues.

I have honestly loved being at home with him. Hard with him doesn't compare to hard within a classroom of 27 students. Late nights, early mornings, crying fits, goopy poops, figuring out his cues...  it's all a different kind of hard.

Well, trimming his nails is definitely something I wouldn't mind hiring out. Their nails are so dainty and delicate. It's too easy to catch his skin, which each of us has now done once. It's the worst. We've learned it's okay if you do it when he's sleeping. In this photo I was braving it while he was awake.... no nicking this time, though.

Whenever someone watches him for me so that I can get some extra sleep (Jim, Mom, Kim, or Stacy- thank you!), I feel like a different part of my brain is allowed to work again. Though I am much better rested than those early weeks, my body definitely knows it's not getting enough, with Ian waking twice in the night, usually.

I feel like the moments are fleeting and I want to get as much out of time with him as possible. The time is flying and I don't want to miss a thing.

I could do a better job of taking time for myself and time for me & Jim. Balance is certainly necessary. The time I do have is often wasted or filled with to-dos that really could wait until later. Checklists litter the house. I'm now making checklists that REALLY matter and some that don't. Oh checklists...

As with any life-changing event, there are adjustments and kinks to work out. Mistakes to make and learn from. New habits to lose and to make. Growth and limitations. As I've said before, it's a steep learning curve. I wouldn't want it any other way.

Thanks for making me a mama, Ian!

1 comment:

  1. Kathe, you have the cutest family! I love reading the weekly updates 7 stories. This post made me smile because so many things you said I experienced the same. I remember driving in the car and Charley crying and me frantic to find out what was wrong. During this drive I stopped once and she had a messy diaper, but less than 5 minutes down the road she was crying hysterically again! I couldn't handle it. I pulled over and tried nursing, tried soothing her. I called my sister to get some advice. She asked things like, "Does she feel like she has a fever?"..."Is she hungry?"...no. and no. She came to the conclusion that she probably just doesn't like the carseat! We momma's worry so much. I still sometimes wake-up in the middle of the night, with anxiety whether she's ok. Not every night, but every so often. Oh but nail clipping gets better, especially when you can distract them with a cartoon (that's the only time Charley gets to watch the tube). My little munchkin will be one years old in a few weeks! They change so quick, but each new stage is so fun! Charley took her first steps last week and is constantly keeping her momma busy ;) LoveU. Hope we can chat soon!