Part III – Motherhood: All the Feels

In a previous post, Pregnancy: A Roller Coaster, I mentioned how I hadn’t thought much about parenthood before baby arrived. Well, now that I’m a mom, I’ve thought about it a lot…and I have a lot to say! So, here is a list of my top ten insights of what to expect when becoming a parent.

Postpartum Life –
1) Belly Massages, Swollen Legs & Postpartum Period –

There were a handful of body related issues that made a lasting impression on me:

Belly Massages are the Devil – I’d heard from other women that the after birth belly massages were really painful. And I found out that I’m 100% in agreement with them! Imagine having a giant, swollen, deflated bruise that covers your whole abdomen…and then having someone knead their hands into it. Yeah, ouch! (10/10…would not recommend, ha!)

Swollen Legs for Days – Before I left the hospital, I had a little bit of swelling in my legs, but not really. Even the nurses seemed surprised. Now I can see why, because once I got home they BALLOONED into giant floppy blobs! I felt jiggles throughout my whole leg with every step I made. It took about a week until they got back to normal. Just thinking about them makes me cringe, yuck! So much water retention.

Postpartum Periods Feel like Forever – I had no idea that a postpartum period was even a thing. (Shows you how much I read up about the postpartum body…not at all!) But I soon found out that pads would be in my life for a long, long time to come – about two and a half months. What a relief it was, hundreds of pads later, to finally be able to go pad free!

2) Changing Hormones & Pregnancy Fever –

I kid you not, within my first week postpartum I was already wanting to be pregnant…again! And I may have upped how many kids I wanted. (Two? How about FOUR!) I’m sure I’m not the only mom who has had these feelings. But I felt surprised and baffled, because usually it seems to go the opposite way. (Two? ONE is just perfect!)

Well…I assure you, I don’t plan on trying to have four children. So, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say all of that baby fever and desire to have ALL the babies was hormone related. And really, it wasn’t baby fever at all, because I was already feeling in over my head with one baby – it was pregnancy fever.

As much as I found pregnancy to be exhausting and terrifying, I still thoroughly enjoyed being pregnant. It was wonderful to see my body change and the baby grow, move, kick…and my most favorite of all, hiccup. I think I would’ve had pregnancy fever regardless of when baby decided to make his arrival, but looking back – 36 weeks along; four weeks early – it felt far too soon of a farewell to my first pregnancy.

3) Confidence Boost –

I’m betting this could go either way, but for me I had a huge confidence boost after giving birth. As I’ve mentioned in Part I & Part II, pregnancy had me feeling quite inadequate and – to be frank – slightly disappointed in my body. So, I found giving birth to be a real confidence booster. Not only did I bring a life into this world, but I got to SEE the fruits of my labor…quite literally, a healthy baby!

I had another confidence boost after seeing my body recover from pregnancy. I know every pregnancy is different, but going into pregnancy I’d only ever heard about the detriments pregnancy could have on a woman’s body. So, I was pretty sure I’d be leaving pregnancy with stretch marks, added pounds, droopy this, and leaky that.

But I can happily report that that is not always the case! If I’m being honest, there are only a few indicators that show I was ever pregnant:

a) a slight hollowed out area above my belly button from where it popped out (and then back in);
b) a linea nigra (i.e. dark, central skin line) that’s slowly lightening; and
c) a few areas of small spider veins on my legs.

Overall, things may be a little less taut, but basically I look and feel no worse for the wear! But don’t get me wrong, my body hasn’t bounced back without me trying. I’ve been breastfeeding, eating healthy, and exercising – all of which have helped!

4) Breastfeeding –

I had NO IDEA what kind of commitment I was making by deciding to breastfeed.

Breastfeeding has proven to be such an evolving endeavor to undertake. Storage systems, pumping times, feeds via bottle versus breast, and more! These are just a few of the factors I’ve tested out multiple times to see what works best for baby and me.

To this day, I’m amazed at how all-consuming breastfeeding feels. I need to eat this, I need to drink that…I need to nurse now (and now and now and now), I need to pump then. Basically, it’s all about the boobs! All. the. time. Which can be rather frustrating, because they don’t always cooperate…

Sometimes I haven’t drank enough water, or eaten a well-balanced meal. Other times I’m too stressed out and uptight, or exhausted and worn down. And sometimes I’m just not feeling that great. Unfortunately, all of these factors can negatively impact my milk production, and thus impact my baby’s feedings.

Almost 5 months in, and some days I just want to throw in the towel. Am I producing enough? Is he getting enough? Do I need to pump more? These are a few of the questions I have on a weekly, if not daily, basis.

I hope to breastfeed for 12 months, but who knows if I’ll make it or not. If I don’t, it definitely won’t be for lack of trying…that’s for sure! I’m stubborn that way. At least I’ll know I tried my best, and that’s all that really matters. Because in the end…formula feeds a baby just as well.

5) A Spouse to Lean on –

Damon and I have been together for over 10 years. From the start, we’ve worked well together, and our teamwork has only improved since. So, when there was a baby on the way, I wasn’t too worried about our abilities to work together as a team.

However, I didn’t realize how much our teamwork would be tested once a newborn had entered our lives. It soon became obvious that I had had no idea how mentally and physically exhausting those first few weeks would be! Talk about complete and utter physical and mental exhaustion, especially that first week home. Looking back, it felt like I was living in a dark cave…where there was no distinction between day and night.

It soon became apparent that recovering from giving birth and running on only a handful of hours of sleep, meant I was basically down for the count. To put it into perspective, I could hardly lift Aldric up – who was 6 lbs or less – at the time. That’s how physically exhausted I was at that point. Thankfully, Damon was there to take care of us, and he basically did EVERYTHING except feed the baby.

Baby Feet

Parenting –
1) A New Level of Anxiety & Fear –

On our car ride home from the hospital, I had my first real dose of mommy panic. I was already anxious, because there was a newborn baby in tow. And then, within a few minutes, Aldric spit-up for the first time and had a small gagging fit.

Adrenaline kicked in, accompanied by first-time jitters, as I fumbled my way through the diaper bag to find the burp cloth and bulb syringe. I successfully suctioned his mouth, and cleaned him up, which made me feel a little more confident in my parenting abilities. However, the rest of the ride home I watched him like a hawk. I was fearful of the long road ahead of me – both literally and figuratively – as a mom, whose first and foremost job is to keep her child safe and healthy. (No pressure!)

Needless to say, now that I’ve experienced the fear myself, I wholeheartedly agree with the parents who say: “It’s so hard to see your child in pain.” Any time Aldric is unhappy, my whole body is flooded with concern. And any time he isn’t feeling good, I wish it’d be me who wasn’t feeling good instead.

2) It Takes Time –

In my opinion, the fourth trimester (i.e. birth to 3 months) was the hardest of all the trimesters. When I was in it’s trenches, it felt like I was never going to get out. I hate to say it, but there were times that the thought of being a parent for the rest of my life felt more like a life sentence than a life blessing. What have I done to my life?! Will he ever be happy? Will I ever be happy again?

Unfortunately, those thoughts crossed my mind a lot on the rough days…the days where nothing could calm my crying baby, or console me as a concerned mama.

Fortunately, now that I’m out of the fourth trimester trenches, I can honestly say:
Give it time…it gets better and easier!

With every passing day Aldric is becoming less of a needy newborn, and more of a growing baby. He’s more mobile by the minute, which keeps me on my toes. And his personality is really starting to show through, which makes our interactions so much more entertaining! So far he’s an adorable mixture of mischievous and bashful.

3) Mom Friends & Play Dates –

As an introvert, I’ve lived most of my life being happy just by hanging out by myself. But since baby has arrived, I’ve no longer felt quite as content being alone. And it’s because I always have company now – in the form of a baby! And surprise, surprise, babies are exhausting company with little to give in the conversation department!

That being said, I think it’d be really nice to have a “mom friend” to hang out and talk with on a regular basis. Someone who’s in the same stage of life as me, who can relate to the joys and woes of young motherhood. Someone who I can swap parenting advice with, who understands what I’m going through as a parent on a day-to-day basis.

And to be honest, so far I haven’t had much luck. Making mom friends seems surprisingly complicated. Everyone’s so busy, or already has an established friend base. But I’m sure I’m not the only mom in search of a mom friend. So, I’m staying positive and holding out hope that this year will bring new friendships for both baby and me…play dates may yet be in our future!

4) Marriage: Daily Dealings & Date Nights –

It’s not just Damon and me anymore – now there’s a baby involved! And even though we’ve been together as a couple for over 10 years, I don’t think any amount of time could’ve prepared us for life as parents. Because when it comes to parenthood, there’s no testing the waters, it’s just about diving straight in!

Adjusting to my own new role as a mother, and watching Damon adjust to his new role as a father has been quite the experience. On one hand, it’s been really wonderful to see my husband pour his love and energy into our son. On the other hand, sometimes I miss being the sole recipient of his undivided love and attention. Fortunately, I’ve learned to adjust my expectations, and so has he.

Being a good parent is perhaps the most important job a person can take on during their lifetime. And, in my opinion, being a good spouse is equally important. That means divvying up the workload has been an extremely important endeavor in keeping our marriage strong and our family together.

Damon shouldn’t have to do everything, and neither should I! So, as a couple, we’ve worked really hard to find balance, and work off of each other’s strengths. For Damon and I specifically, a few things that stand out as helpful in keeping our relationship strong:

Daddy Night Duty – He needs less sleep than I do, and is better able to take care of the baby during the night. So, once that was figured out, our relationship felt much less strained and we both became much happier – phew!

Nightly Time Together – Putting the baby to bed, and staying up an extra 30-60 minutes to spend time together has been really beneficial to us. We talk about our days and what’s been on our minds. We watch a tv show. And we clean up the house. All in all, it keeps us happy and on the same page!

Date Nights – We need to get away for a date night once or twice every month. Being baby free, and just the two of us, for 5-6 hours every so often does wonders for us both as parents and as a couple!

5) Savor Every Second –

As I’ve mentioned earlier in this post, becoming a parent and dealing with a newborn is extremely exhausting. It takes time to acclimate to the new normal, and to be honest throughout the whole fourth trimester I felt like there was no “new normal.” Everything kept changing so rapidly, especially our baby! His looks, his disposition, his schedule…they were ever-changing, and quick!

Looking back at photos from those newborn days reminds me just how much he has changed. At the time, I remember feeling like all the milestones would take FOREVER to reach. When will he outgrow his premie clothes? When will he look at me, and actually SEE me? When will he be able to lay happily on a blanket and play by himself?

Well, he’s almost five months old, and he’s already met all of those milestones and more! So, now my question is: When will time slow down? My baby is growing up, and he’s growing up quick! I’m equal parts excited and nervous; happy and sad.

As hard as it is to watch him change and grow so rapidly, it’s also extremely gratifying. He’s only a baby, but I’m already so very proud of him! I’m doing my best to savor every second – even the bad ones – because I’m realizing just how fleeting time can be when raising a child.

Soon he won’t be my baby boy. Instead he’ll be a toddler, a young boy, a teenager, and before I know it…a man. All I can do is give him all the attention, smiles, giggles, tickles, cuddles, hugs, and kisses…love on him hard, and hold on tight, because parenting is shaping up to be a wild ride!


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In case you missed them:
Part I – Pregnancy: The Final Stretch Part II – Birth Story: An Early Arrival.

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