An Honest Account of the “Baby Blues”

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It’s 2:00am on a Tuesday night. Everyone tells new moms to sleep when the baby sleeps, but it’s pretty difficult to asleep awkwardly half reclined on a pillow with a baby sleeping on your chest, grunting and chortling like a piglet. Yep– it’s one of those nights when baby is adamant she can only sleep in one position and one position only. Of course I could try laying her down but since that has already backfired twice three times in the last two  four hours, I figured I would just accept the reality of this sleepless night and make use of this time to write. I’m just glad that she is asleep.

I can’t believe I made it through the first month of motherhood. It has been inexplicably the most challenging month of my life. Perhaps I’ve had it easy for a while and life wanted to throw me a hard ball?

Let’s start from week one. Recovering from an emergency cesarean section is no easy ordeal, both physically and emotionally. I could hardly move the first few days. It took me about ten minutes to walk the fifteen feet from my hospital bed to the bathroom. When I came home I was stronger but I resented that it would take me a whole minute to get in and out of my bed. I’ve been too used to being spry apparently. Despite being in so much pain, I was trying to wean myself off of my pain medication early due to the severe constipation that the narcotics caused. I’m not one who is shy to talk about poop so I’ll readily admit that it took six days to have a bowel movement – I was crying and praying the last two days that the prune juice and stool softener would start working because it was so uncomfortable. When I finally had a bowel movement, it felt like labor pain….but thank goodness, I have never felt more relieved!

I never imagined that I would undergo any surgery, never mind a c-section. I felt like I had been cut in half and the idea of it was very gross to me. I refused to touch to look at my scar for a week and a half.  My husband finally succeeded in convincing me to tear off the tape off of the scar.

My labor trauma set me up for what experts call the “baby blues” and what I call “the intense experience of recovering from a major surgery, learning how to take of a new human being, not sleeping for 48 hours, hormones going out of whack, suffering from pain, second guessing everything that you’re doing as a mother, dealing with my overbearing parents, and missing my old life”. In my honest opinion, the term “baby blues” is a stupid way to label the intensity of becoming a new mother and only seeks to pathologize the women who experience it and compare them to the ideal vision of women who are able to fall in love with their child right away and feel like everything just comes naturally.

For the first week and a half, it was hard not to associate the baby with pain and displeasure. Every time I nursed her, I wanted to cry from the the blisters and scabs that had developed on my nipples, caused by her biting the tips of my nipples on the first day. Of course, I was in pain meds and couldn’t feel the pain initially. And it took every ounce of effort to pick her up due to not my then dysfunctional abdominal muscles. I wasn’t sleeping much due to her 2-3 hour feeding cycles at night.  Additionally, I had high maternal anxiety at night and could not help from paying attention from every sound she made in her co-sleeper.

Soon after my nipples recovered from the scabs, I developed a high fever one night of 101 degrees. I was scared it was due to an infection from my c-section wound but it turned out it was mastitis (infection of the breast tissue).   Despite my hatred for antibiotics, I had to take them for a week to treat it.  The mastitis symptoms soon subsided…but it didn’t end there.  A few days into my medication use, my baby developed abdominal pain and had an episode of projectile vomitng and diarrhea, which I believe were side effects of the antibiotics.  So began several days of intense researching on how to relieve her discomfort and trying out baby gas drops and gripe water.

All of this happened in the first two weeks of her birth and I felt like the chaos would never end. When I was alone in my attempts to nap, I often cried. Several times I broke down to my husband and cried, “Why is this so difficult for me?” I could not believe that I didn’t fall in love with motherhood as I had expected. I was also struggling with the reality that I didn’t have a easy-going, calm baby that Hypnobirthing had promised me. My baby was fussy, particular, and not a self-soother—not unusual for a baby but just different from what I expected for my first baby.

The lack of sleep exacerbated the crying spells so I was super protective over my sleep and making extra efforts to make sure baby was sleeping well.  Yes, Dr. Harvey Karp (author of “Happiest Baby on the Block”, this included making sure baby was 100% sound asleep when I put her in the crib instead of developing the good sleep habit of making sure she’s still a little awake when I lay her down. That advice was ridiculous to me. My emotional sanity was on the line and I felt I had to do whatever it took to make sure all three of us got sleep during the night.

The third week was approaching and I was worried that my baby blues still had not subsided.  After all, the literature says that it should only last 2 weeks or else it becomes this other pathologizing term called postpartum depression. Thankfully, I turned the corner the night after my husband poured me a glass of wine and cared for the baby while I slept for a 4 hour chunk, something I had not done since before her birth. I also did several treatments of an energy psychology technique that I practice called “Neuro Emotional Technique” on myself.  I did emotional clearing on issues of feeling lost and vulnerable as a mother, my inability to sleep at night, and the stress of not knowing exactly how to make my baby feel comfortable with her gas pains. I woke up from that 4-hour nap and immediately felt back to normal. I no longer felt like crying at every little thing that happened and stopped ruminating on how much I missed my old life with my husband.

My husband went back to work after three works of being with me, and it has helped me feel more confident in caring for the baby when I’m alone with her. I know her routine and her nuances. I still question a lot of things I do and continue to strategize every day on how to make her more comfortable and sleep better.  But I’m so relieved I’m not feeling so emotionally fragile anymore.  It was a truly scary feeling.

I understand that it may be taboo to talk about the baby blues this publicly.  After all, new parents on Facebook mostly share about falling in love with their baby and photos of what I call “the good times” (e.g. not the photos of babies screaming and crying in the middle of the night or mom’s raccoon eyes). But apparently I read somewhere that 80% of women experience the baby blues, again whatever that means for each individual mother. Why is it that I have never read or heard detailed accounts of the baby blues until I actually experienced it?

I’m so glad that stage has passed and that I’m able to fully appreciate my baby now—even on nights when I’ve only slept two hours because I’ve spent 6 hours either feeding her, changing her diaper, or trying to rock her back to sleep. I would still give anything for her to be able to communicate with me her needs.  But for now, I think I just need to focus on this moment…which is learning to sleep sitting upright with a grunting baby on my chest.

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36 Weeks And Counting Down

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I can’t believe I’m finally at this point….week 36!

This last trimester has definitely felt the longest.  Whereas the second trimester flashed by like nobody’s business, these last two months have been crawling at snail speed.  Or maybe it’s just me that’s been moving at snail speed?  Transitioning from lying down to sitting has been quite the struggle.  And I swear it takes me five full minutes to put on my socks and shoes.  My darling dog is looking behind his should to slow down so I can catch up with him during our walks.  The three times I managed to get to the gym swimming pool this past month I end up wading around rather than try for an cardio-aerobic session.

It’s really not so bad that time is slowing down.  I have been enjoying my no-rush days with my hubby and the husky.  We have been spending long leisurely weekends together, going to the beach, indulging in eating out at pizzerias, taco shops, and dessert parlors, enjoying a lot of quiet time together as a couple.

I have noticed myself really wanting to retreat from the outside world.  I’m not very excited about phone calls right now or even leaving the house for the grocery store.  And definitely not eager to go to work (thank goodness, I have only a few more days of work!). I am definitely ready for a spiritual hibernation right now, which means lots of quiet moments of meditation, stretching and internal preparation to become a mother.

Last night, I finally had my first dream about my baby.  In this dream, I was in a white room.  I was laboring on a bed with white sheets.  My labor seemed so effortless and felt very relaxed.  I remember reaching down to feel her head as she was crowning.  I couldn’t believe how easy it was.  I put her on my chest and then remembered that I still had to wait for my placenta to be expelled.  Sure enough it came out on its own.  I had a beautiful little moment with the baby and put her in her crib to sleep.

Still doing a lot of visualizations, positive affirmations, relaxation exercises, Spinning Baby exercises (to get baby in a good position), watching natural birth videos, getting educated about potential complications, preparing for how to avoid them, preparing fur child for human child.  100% ready to meet baby girl and welcome her into our family.

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