My cousin first turned me on to Listen, Lucy during her battle with cancer. I asked what I could do for help, or how I could support her, and she replied "Join the movement!" How awesome is that? Instead of thinking about herself, she's thinking about spreading hope and courage to others. So, that's why I'm here. There are many stories I could tell but here is one that's been on my heart lately.
I always wanted to be a mom. Growing up, I would have these intense moments where I just wanted to have a baby so bad! I loved my cousins' kids, I loved holding babies...I just knew I was going to be a great mom someday. I got married, we waited awhile, and in my late 20s we started trying to get pregnant. That was a battle in of itself; I had to go to fertility clinics, take the Clomid regime, etc. etc., and finally on Christmas of 2013 we got pregnant with our son. He's 3 years old now and he's a hoot, and we now have a 1-year-old daughter too. But something keeps coming back to haunt me...why don't I love being a mom as much as I thought I would?
I guess it all started off on the wrong foot. My son's delivery was more traumatic than I expected. It was going fine until they said the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck and his heart rate was dropping. They'd either have to get him out immediately with the help of a vacuum, or I'd have to go for a C-section. Needless to say I pushed like crazy and they gave me an episiotomy and 10 minutes later he was born. I didn't get to hold him right away because they had to whisk him across the room for all kinds of tests, but he was fine. Unfortunately, the whirlwind delivery left me in a ton of pain!! It took DAYS to recover; I could barely walk and my husband was stuck holding the baby most of the time. Once we got home, a parade of family and friends came by to help us out. They kept saying "You need to rest," so whenever I could, I'd go upstairs to take a nap. Pretty soon it seemed like all I was doing was sleeping and feeding the baby, and that was another major ordeal. He wasn't breastfeeding well and was getting jaundiced, so 24 hours after we were discharged from the hospital, we were back in the ER and they told us we had to supplement him with formula for awhile. Once he had used a bottle, he didn't want to go back to the breast. So I'd battle with him for hours on end, trying to get him to take the breast milk while he SCREAMED. After a few days he caved in and started feeding better, but meanwhile I was feeding him, then pumping milk to get my supply built up, then trying to rest, and he was feeding 12 times a day, so literally all I did was feed him and sleep.
I wasn't bonding with him! Either my husband or one of the grandparents got all of the "bonding" time with my son and I felt like I didn't know him at all. My husband would tell me about all of his little quirks and I'd be like "what, how did I miss that?" Then, the postpartum depression hit. And it was horrendous. I never want to feel that way again. All I wanted to do was get to the end of the day and go to bed, so I wouldn't have to feel so awful anymore. It was like walking down a long dark tunnel where you couldn't see the end. Or falling down into a hole you couldn't get out of. I felt lost, like I didn't know how to care for my baby. I felt guilty, because my husband was doing so much with no help. I felt inadequate, like I couldn't read my baby's cries or didn't know how to make him feel better. I couldn't sleep. I felt defeated and lost. I hoped that after a week or so the "baby blues" would pass but they didn't. The first thing your doctor will tell you is that if you start feeling depressed, call them right away because you don't want to do anything that will harm your baby. Well, I called the doctor and they couldn't get me into the office for 6 weeks! Big help there. So I had to wait, and then finally the doctor gave me a Zoloft prescription and sent me to a therapist. I never told anyone I was going to therapy, and I don't know how much it helped ("yeah, I've got postpartum depression, tell me something I don't already know"). The meds eventually kicked in though, and I was slowly able to come out of the depression.
But now my son was 3 months old and I'd never properly bonded with him. I was afraid to be alone in the house with him when my husband would go to work. I felt like I needed backup all the time. I'd hear all these mothers say "When they first put my baby into my arms it was the happiest moment of my life" and "I've never loved anyone like that before!" and it seemed like such a big joke. Creating that bond with my son was one of the hardest things I've ever done. And quite frankly, it just took time. He can be a bit of a difficult personality anyway and we just had to take it one day at a time and slowly it got easier.
Then I got pregnant with our daughter. And I had a subchorionic hematoma at 14 weeks (where the placenta separates from the wall of the uterus). There was a 13 centimeter tear (which is pretty huge) and I thought I was going to miscarry. The doctors said REST. They said NO HEAVY LIFTING. So for the next 6 months, I couldn't pick up my son. I couldn't put him on the changing table to change his diapers. I couldn't lift him up into the crib to put him to bed at night. I couldn't put him in the bathtub. It was hard for him to adjust to, and it broke my heart. All of the routines I'd established with him were gone, and my husband had to take over, yet again...and during a critical period of his development, too (18 months to 2 years). When I was finally able to resume "normal parenting" with him again, he was so attached to his dad that he wanted no parts of me. A year later, we are still struggling with this. He wants his daddy to help dress him and take him to the potty. He wants his daddy to read him his bedtime stories. When Dad isn't in the house he cries for him. He tells me "Don't touch me!" and "I don't love you." I have to discipline him a lot and I don't take a lot of guff, so I think he sees me as the bad guy and Dad as his comfort. This is not where I wanted to be. And our personalities are such that I don't know if we will ever be able to have the type of relationship I'd hoped for.
So, I guess I don't love being a mom like I dreamed I would.
There's all the typical hardships that parenting brings, like giving up your free time, your personal hobbies, and lack of sleep of course. There's the stuff you expect, and then the stuff you don't, like not being able to bond with your baby right away, or having to "stop" parenting for 6 months in order to protect your other child and bring her into the world. I wish I could have those precious days back, and rock my son to sleep at night and sing him his old lullabies, and then maybe he wouldn't feel so alienated toward me. But we can't get them back, so here we are. And maybe the future won't be as bad as I expect. Maybe we'll find some common ground and the "Terrible Three's" will pass and everything will gel again. But meanwhile I question everything. If I had spent more time with him as a newborn, would I have bonded better? If the feeding hadn't been so hard, would I have gotten depressed? Did my fear and lack of confidence influence my depression or vice versa? If I hadn't had the hematoma, would I have lost that bond with my son or would he have attached himself to his dad anyway? Or was there a different way we could have handled my physical situation? There are a lot of "what ifs" and the ultimate question is "Would I enjoy being a mother more if I had a better relationship with my son?" I know that not all of the happy parent Facebook posts show their whole story, and that every parent struggles with many issues. But I know that many parents are happier parents than I am as well. I'm not unhappy, but I could certainly be HAPPIER, you know? I guess I thought I'd be a better mom than I am. Reality hurts sometimes. But, these are the cards that we were dealt.
Things will get better. One day at a time.