Here I am, a whole four weeks after Isaac La`akea’s birth, wondering where on earth those days went and also thanking my lucky stars to have made it through in one piece.
I’ve mentioned before that I’ve always wanted to be a mom. When I was hapai – and even before that – I had all these preconceived ideas about what life would be like at this point. I planned to write daily posts filled with cute newborn photos from the moment my little one was born, talk about how perfect my child is, how incredible motherhood is, and the ways in which I’m working on “getting my body back”.
Oh how naïve I was. Of course, my son is perfection; and motherhood is incredible. As for the baby weight? I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight in a matter of days after the birth, although it’s distributed differently now. Nonetheless, the big realization I’m having is that those things I thought would be important – like losing baby weight – couldn’t be further from my mind at this point in time.
Pre-pregnancy I had all these ideas about what would be difficult and what would be easy once the little one arrived. I assumed that birth would be the most difficult thing, and that sleep deprivation would be hard, but totally doable. I thought losing the baby weight would be an issue for me, but that breastfeeding would be completely natural (I was horrified by bloody nipples but thought that would be the worst of it).
As it turns out, I had it all backwards.
I feel the need to preface this post by saying that this post was really difficult for me to write. I in no way take motherhood for granted, nor do I resent my decisions. I am just speaking my truth, as honestly as humanly possible. Because when it comes down to it, I appreciate people speaking their truth, and hopefully it’ll make other Mamas feel less alone if they’re going through it too.
Here’s my honest truth: these past four weeks – as beautiful as they’ve been – have been some of the hardest in my entire life. Every day my son and I are learning together, and it’s continues to be a journey – and sometimes struggle – for me to embrace my new role as Mama rather than woman – gone are the worry-free days where I put myself first.
Ben and I rode the emotional high of being new parents for over a week after La`akea was first born. He slept almost exclusively, rarely cried, and we assumed we were doing everything correctly. But the combination of serious sleep deprivation (we’re talking never getting more than 1-2 hours at a time, or 4-5 hours in a night), hormones, and some unexpected breastfeeding issues soon left me feeling isolated, depressed, and useless for more than a week.
When La`akea was two weeks old, we found out that he was still pretty well below his birth weight (which is normal for the first week or so of their lives), and wasn’t actually getting the nutrition he needed. I thought I was doing fine with breastfeeding, but as it turned out, he wasn’t latching on correctly and therefore (1) my milk production was two weeks behind the typical schedule and (2) he wasn’t getting adequate nutrition.
I had just spent the entire afternoon the day before with my midwife, who said that he was nursing beautifully, so I felt confused as to what to believe. But the numbers didn’t lie – plus his demeanor was also a bit sluggish and something innate told me that I needed support.
Suddenly my perfect world felt shattered. Rather than being a wonderful mom, I was starving my child without knowing it. My head immediately went to the worst case scenario and I wondered if it was too late and if he had gotten brain damaged already due to my horrendous misknowledge.
Not being able to feed my own child is the worst feeling in the entire universe, and I completely shut down. All I wanted to do was bond with him and give him nutrition through breastfeeding, but the more I stressed about it, the less sleep I got, and the less milk I produced. The less milk I produced, the more stressed I became. It was a vicious cycle (that I’m still working through). Add to that my history with depression – and the fact that I knew I was meant to be bonding with my newborn and couldn’t – made me a serious wreck, plain and simple.
I tried everything for a week: pumping every hour (including at night, which meant even less sleep), feeding on demand and waking him up, herbs, etc. But in the end it was my incredible friends and family who came through with a level of support I never thought possible and helped me through it. A good friend gave me bags of her breastmilk to supplement La`akea until my milk came in, and both Ben and my mom ran around the island getting me every remedy they heard about so that I might create more milk. They sat with me and meditated, thinking happy thoughts like waterfalls flowing with white, frothy milk. And they held me as I sobbed uncontrollably for hours at a time while my son cried for more food.
For over a week I sobbed multiple times a day, feeling worthless and depressed. I refused to talk to anyone and didn’t leave the house or even shower some days because I was attached to a breastpump. I felt even worse because during those feedings I had to hand my son off to someone else rather than taking the time to bond with him.
And then I met with a lactation consultant who came to our house and gave me some tips on what I could do (including how to step away from the pump). She resonated most with Ben and I because she said “the best equipment you have to up your milk supply is your baby. You can get rid of the pump for now.” I also got acupuncture from a good friend who has a nine-month-old, and things have slowly been turning around for us. The amount of supplementation we give La`akea has gone down significantly and I’m beginning to trust in my body’s abilities once more.
As it turns out, children are incredibly resilient. And La`akea definitely has a strong personality that is definitely growing and healthy, despite my worst fears. I’m definitely still in it, and every day has it’s own struggles, but that completely helpless depression has washed over now and I am taking it one day at a time rather than one hour – or even minute – at a time, which allows me to enjoy my precious son that much more.
Everyone talks about the bliss of having a new baby, and yet when I bring up my struggles to new moms, everyone seems to have their own issues as well. I wish we could feel safe to be a bit more honest and open about the difficulties as well… maybe then I wouldn’t have felt so isolated or alone when I was going through it. Or maybe that’s just part of the process. It’s all really tough to talk about, but it’s so important.
[Of course, the bliss is powerful and having a milk-drunk baby is priceless.]
In any case, it’s true what they say: It gets better. After four weeks, I’m finally starting to understand this whole motherhood thing. For the first time in my life, I can say that I truly understand the meaning of the word SELFLESS. I don’t care whether I get a shower or write a post at this point anymore… as long as my son is getting what he needs. And the numbers on my scale are insignificant now – it’s what the numbers on La`akea’s say that really matter.
I’m hoping to write a 4-week update focusing on La`akea soon, but for now, I’m still spending whole days in my pajamas just watching my son. And I’m totally content with that, because honestly, life is so fragile and I’ll never get these moments back.
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