Finally, I had a chance to sit down and wrote this long overdue post! I know I’ve been neglecting my blog for a long time but this summer has been absolutely crazy for us with weddings, sessions, travelling and back to my daytime job. But I made it, and here it is! Today I’m sharing with you my experience as the first-time mom to a not-oh-so-easy baby. There has been many ups and downs, many struggles, emotional breakdowns, tears, happiness and joy…all mixed up in my motherhood journey. I decided to break it down into 2 parts, otherwise it will be too long to read. The first part will be about the challenges, struggles and emotions that we experienced in the first 6 months of being parents.
I wish I could tell you that I had an amazing start of motherhood and my baby is one of the dreams, but it just wasn’t the case. The very first lesson that I learned after becoming a mother is that nothing goes according to plan. I came across this quote and really liked it:
“A perfect example of minority rule is a baby in the house” – Unknown
We had an emergency Caesarian section due to CPD (Cephalopelvic disproportion), which occurs when a baby’s head or body is too large to fit through the mother’s pelvis. It was pretty crazy! My epidural stopped working half-way in and I felt every single contractions…it was the craziest, most painful things I’ve ever had in my entire life! I was pushing for over 2 hours and still the head wasn’t anywhere near where it’s supposed to be. I almost passed out from exhaustion and pain. My body was as weak as an overcooked noodle. So, a C-section was called!
Baby Zachary Joseph Tanto was born on August 13, 2016, weighed 8lb4oz (3740grams)….no wonder I couldn’t push him out! He was HUGE!
Coming home from the hospital, we was still very excited and looked forward to spending time with our baby. But that excitement was short lived. We had hoped that our baby would stay asleep in his bassinet next us and would only wake up when he wanted to eat. But no, that was too good to be true. Our situation was looking more like: baby crying and refusing his bassinet, mom with a painful tummy kept getting up to nurse, rock and walk the baby around, at 3am. That bassinet didn’t even last a week with Zachary! I knew right away, that I got myself into a pretty hot mess!
I was in so much pain, I was scared and confused. Everything was upside down in the house and out of exhaustion, we ended up cosleeping – which I said I would never do. The first month was the longest month ever in my life. It felt like an eternity! and I didn’t enjoy motherhood one bit. Everyday was another day of survival. We were dealing with colic, torticollis, gas, acid reflux, breastmilk jaundice, and the “famous” sleep deprivation…all at the same time. I lost my mind. And my world crumbled!
Our daily activities were pretty much restricted down to 2 tasks: 1. stopping Zach from cry and 2. putting him to sleep.
I honestly have never seen a baby who could cry so much and for so long. Every time we had a colic attack (about 3-4 times a week), my poor baby would cry and scream for at least 3-4 hours straight, until he turned purple. We tried everything that we could: rocking, bouncing, swinging, swaddling, white noise, side-sleeping position, diet restriction, gripe water, etc…NOTHING worked! I felt so helpless that I could only cry with him, shared the tears and the pain together. The crying was so much that I swore I hallucinated hearing him cry everywhere I went, even when he wasn’t crying.
There were many times I woke up in the middle of the night, panicking and crying like a mad woman. Why could I not enjoy my baby like anyone else did? Was there something that I did wrong during pregnancy? Maybe I ate too much meatballs, too much Pho, or too much chocolates? Was it because of the epidural? Or was it karma coming back because I was a very difficult baby to my mom? I felt so upset with our situation, we were supposed to be happy, to be excited and to be lovely with our baby, but instead I felt depressed and resentful. When my husband went back to work, I was really jealous, almost hated him for being able to go back to his regular social life, while I’m stuck here trying to survive. I tell you, those days were dark and scary!
Now looking back, I think I can blame most of my feelings on hormone! We, mothers, go through an extraordinary hormonal change since the moment we conceive until we deliver and even after that. It is a lot to deal with, emotionally and physically. It took me a while to accept what I felt was normal, that it wasn’t my fault, and to believe that things were going to change for the better. Though, the transition was rough!
Sleep was our biggest issue. I think most, if not all, parents will say yes to this. The saying “Sleep when your baby sleeps” was a lie 🙁 Sorry! It never worked with us, because Zachary never slept. The longest nap he took during the day was 45 minutes, and the longest stretch at night was 3 hours. He woke up before I even had a chance to put my head on the pillow. No kidding! If you saw me during those first few months, I looked like a walking death. I was kinda impressed with myself that I could last through the day with as little as 2 hours of sleep in 24 hours. But honestly, there were many things that I had to do, or could do, during those short precious time that he slept, and none of them were house chores. Here are the top five:
- Washroom run – very surprised of how much my bladder could hold up. I didn’t know until I had a baby!
- Wash my hair – such a simple wish, yet too difficult to come true.
- Pumping – around the clock, every 2-3 hours. I had this anxiety about breastfeeding because I never knew how much Zachary was drinking and whether he had enough. So we pumped and bottle-fed.
- Eat breakfast – at 2pm in the afternoon!
- Do dishes – dirty dishes made my stress level go up, so they gotta be done.
Not only we were sleep deprived, so was Zachary. A baby should sleep between 14-16 hours a day to be healthy. My little Zach had the most 8-10 hours, that is 6 hours short so no wonder he was always tired and upset. We found out later that Zachary had some sleep association issues. Not going into the science of infant’s sleep, but basically Zachary associated sleeping with nursing and rocking. Every time when he woke in the middle of the night, he would require to be nursed or to be rocked in order to go back to sleep. That may sound normal, but it was not. It took 1.5 hours of rocking and bouncing to get him to fall asleep, but the moment we put him down, he woke up, the vicious cycle started all over again. Cosleeping helped to solve our immediate issue and kept our sanity in tact. However that, too, didn’t last long. Because I nursed him to sleep, every 2-3 hours when he woke up, he needed to be nursed again in order to go back to sleep. Repeat this over and over…all night! He probably thought it was a buffet!
Four months went by and things just got worse and worse. I was at my breaking point! I could no longer take it, being sleep deprived and emotionally and physically drained. I know unless I solve this sleeping thing, I would not be able to function and enjoy my baby, at all. So, we decided to sleep train. Did it work? -YES. Was there a lot of crying? -YES. Did I leave him to cry it out? -NO. Do I regret it? -NO. Sleep training was probably the best decision we made ever since we became parents. It WORKED amazingly! After 6 weeks, with on and off crying, we had a new baby. Zachary was able to go down without a single peep and with no help of nursing, rocking or pacify. Daytime nap lasted 1.5-2 hours, and nighttime stretch prolonged to 5-6 hours with 1 night feeding. It was a game changer for all of us! Zachary became much happier, more interactive and the crying reduced tremendously. It was the first time in 6 months that my baby woke up smiling at me, instead of screaming. It was the first time in 6 months that I could actually SLEEP! But the most important thing is, I finally got to enjoy my baby!
There was a phase in motherhood when I felt very lonely. Imaging you stay at home all day talking and taking care of this tiny human who doesn’t really respond to what you say or what you do. You either hear nothing or crying/screaming. You wanted to talk to someone who was in the same situation with you and could understand you, but instead you received unwanted advices and judgements. You barely left the house because your baby hated the carseat and the whole ride turned to nightmare 20 minutes in. You feel left out because your friends are getting together while you’re here trying to rock this baby to sleep!
I had really amazing friends who gave me advices and shared their stories and experience with me. They all told me that this whole difficult situation will pass, things will get easier as the baby reaches his milestones. Those were the words that I hung on and lived by every day. Except, most of my friends have good baby who would sleep. When we talked, they told me that their baby slept through the night at 8 weeks, everything was so great for them. Trust me, I was super jealous that I stopped contact for a few months! I thought that if I ever heard another baby sleeps through the night and it wasn’t ours, I would have an emotional breakdown immediately. So, we isolated us from the outside, just me and him –Pretty dumb, right?!
My mom and my husband were extremely helpful and supportive during this time. They helped as much as they could. Without them, I would be a wreck! However, they were also struggling themselves. It was the first time for my husband just as it was for me. My mom had some health issues and she needed a lot of rest as well. I felt like I needed a comrade – a mom who is also struggling and has a high needs baby, to understand me. Does it make sense? So, around 5 months, I found this online community is called ” The Fussy Baby Site” Facebook Group. I joined them immediately and the mamas over there have saved my sanity! As the name implied, it is the place where mothers who have fussy, difficult and high-needs babies gather and find emotional support. I vent and they listened. I asked, they answered. I needed support and they gave me encouragement. Through the forum, I found out there are babies out there who are even more difficult than Zachary, some babies are sick and required lots of hospital visits and medications. There are mamas out there who are alone, battling with postpartum depression and/or postpartum anxiety, they are the ones who need more help and support. Since then, I knew that I wasn’t alone. While I received support, I also gave back and offered my experience to help those new moms who are struggling.
As time went on, I discovered the Oakville Parent-Child Centre and we started going to their musical classes, mommy & baby dance, and soon enough, we were having playdates with other moms. It felt so good to gain back my social life and to know that being a mom doesn’t mean that we have to miss out other things in life. Loneliness was just temporary!
Motherhood could be scary, depressing and lonely at first. However, it surely doesn’t remain that way for us. Stay tuned for the next part, in which I will tell you about the transformation, the fun, joy and excitement of the journey!