Not long after I had Zain I shared this Instagram post and received so many comments, texts and emails from women saying they were feeling or had felt the exact same way that I was taken back. For some reason, I had felt like I was the only new mom that felt this way and maybe I should be ashamed. Then my friend Rachel sent me this article titled ‘The 100 Days of Darkness with a New Baby’ and I couldn’t have felt more in tune with something.
There seems to be a lot of talk about postpartum depression and the warning signs after delivery but not a lot of honest talk about all the other hard feelings that may be normal. At every turn, I was terrified I may be depressed and would spend time googling symptoms and asking Trevor or my mom if they thought I was.
Looking back now, from a much less tired place I think I was just experiencing everything that comes with having a newborn. I had not truly realized how hard it would be and although people love to say ‘It’s hard but don’t worry it will get better’ let’s get a bit more specific.
I went into pregnancy ready. I had wanted to have a baby for so long and suffered through a miscarriage and fertility treatments for this miracle. I had spent a lot of time around my nieces and nephew and felt confident with what I thought was experience.
When my water broke it was a bit of a shock. I probably wasn’t mentally prepared for him to arrive since everyone had repeatedly told me I would probably go past my due date. The last thing I expected was to deliver early.
After a long few days of labor and delivery, we were wheeled up to our room with Zain and left with some really helpful nurses that checked in from time to time.
Holy Shit. It’s just us and this baby. What do we do?
Everyone had told me to send the baby to the nursery so I could get a few hours of sleep. Interestingly enough, our hospital didn’t have a nursery and I didn’t know that since our hospital tour was scheduled for the next week. (Pro tip: schedule your hospital tour earlier than 36 weeks) I’m still not sure I would have sent him but having him with me that first night was rough. Getting used to breastfeeding was a challenge and the lack of sleep really started to kick in. On top of trying to navigate your way through caring for a newborn, you are constantly awoken by nurses and doctors coming in to check on you and the baby.
‘Hi, my name is Sally and I am from Rush Patient Relations. I wanted to come in and see if there was anything I could do for you?’
‘Umm, yes. GET OUT’
There are a slew of tests they have to perform on your baby and between those and figuring out how to nurse, it honestly left me with what felt like very little time to connect and enjoy Zain. I desperately wanted to get home.
When the tests were done and we received those magical discharge papers, I finally felt a sense of relief. The ankle monitor was cut off and we were out the door! Just kidding, it took 3 hours to get all the paperwork ‘organized’ for us to leave and I was about to lose it. When we finally headed down that hall, my baby boy in hand I just couldn’t wait to get in my bed and feel normal again.
Hmmmm, think again.
Once we were home, the shit really hit the fan. Round the clock feedings, engorgement and endless crying can really take a toll on a person. I felt every emotion in the book: resentment that no one else could feed him but me, confusion that I couldn’t figure out why my baby wouldn’t stop crying, anger that I couldn’t get some sleep—you name it.
I said and thought things like “Maybe I had so much trouble getting pregnant because I’m not cut out for this mom thing” and the list goes on.
I think a lot of times women are pressured to feel this immediate and strong bond with their baby, be in a blissful state and just go on with life as it was. The truth is, your life will never be the same and that is something that took me a while to realize. I remember having a long talk with my mom in the middle of the night and she said to me ‘I think you haven’t realized that your life will never go back to what it was’ It was like a lightbulb went off. I could release all this pressure I had put on myself to get back to ‘normal’ and finally embrace this new life.
Everyday I think I couldn’t possibly love Zain more. I often tell my friends ‘I love him so much now and I wasn’t sure I did in the beginning’ with a laugh. Most often, people respond and say thank you for being honest! I think it’s okay that it took me time to get the hang of this mom thing and realize how much I adored this tiny human.
Now, when my girlfriends have babies I always try to reach out in those first few weeks with some real talk. I almost always get a sigh of relief back and a thank you for making them feel less alone.
Everyone will tell you to just buckle down and wait for those first 3 months (or 100 days of darkness) to pass. I wish I had better advice to give but it really proved to be true. Once Zain grew out of his gassiness (thank god!) started eating less often and allowed me to get more comfortable breastfeeding, life greatly improved. He started sleeping for longer stretches and although we still have our bouts of ‘rainy day Zain’ as we lovingly refer to him on cranky days, I’m much better equipped to handle them.
I think it’s important to share the up’s and down’s of life, especially this stage of parenthood we are currently in. It’s a crazy journey that we are figuring out day by day but I wouldn’t trade being Zain’s mom for anything in the world. It is by far the most amazing accomplishment of my life and I feel so lucky every day.