Hello to all- and my gosh, it's been a while! Almost a year, in fact. I didn't mean to take such hiatus- things with the pregnancy and then the birth and then the actual parenting of my son- got kind of (or really) hairy.
Good news: Karl was born!!!! Better news: We're IN LOVE with him! Best News: Karl is HEALTHY- Kidneys and all! He was born at 5:21pm on March 31, 2011. My porker weighed in at a healthy 8lbs and 7oz and was 21in. long. He was born with a full head of gorgeous hair and the most piercing ice blue eyes I've ever seen. They're like gazing into glacial water- cool and deep blue with a clarity that allows you to see on for miles. 10 fingers, 10 toes, and an insatiable appetite (lucky mommy- and now I'm afraid of his teen years!). He has been growing strong and healthy since day one. Now he weighs in at a whopping 24lbs and stands a little over 32in. high when he stands. He's my big and happy dinosaur!
It's simply amazing, now that he is 8 months old, being able to look back and remember his birth and the first few very rough months. Parenthood is NOT easy (and yes, all you out there who are thinking it right now- I KNOW it's only going to get harder) but it is the most awesome and astounding experience I've ever had. When I look into my son's eyes I feel what every mom told me I would feel- this profound and indescribable connection and soul filling love. It can not be adequately described or defined and if you're not a mom, you probably don't understand, but I gaze into his eyes and know that part of me lives in him. I don't mean scientifically- though I do know that he is biologically "half mine"- but I mean spiritually. I can see my soul when I look into Karl's eyes. I see it more clearly in him than I ever saw it in myself, though I've been living with it my entire life. When our eyes meet, my soul plunges into his and we're connected in a way that no one else in the world can experience or understand. He's mine, heart and SOUL.
It is not easy for me to openly admit this because no one talked to me about it before I had Karl, but I didn't always feel that connection to my son. Mom's are led to believe that the moment they push this new and terrifying being out of their bodies that they're going to feel instantly connected. Well, I don't know, maybe some mom's do feel that way... but it's not the way I felt. Please don't read into that statement to assume that I didn't immediately love my son. There is no denying that from the moment he was born I loved him, but from the moment he was born I did not feel the profound attachment that I feel to him today. I took that lack of attachment feeling to mean that I was a bad mommy.
From the moment they're born, your children become your everything. They're all consuming...and you know that going into parenthood, before the baby is born. You know what kind of dedication it will take in your brain in the way that you know Antarctica is cold even though you've never been there. What you don't know is just how ALL CONSUMED your life becomes when you have the baby until you're living it with the baby. Like you don't know what if feels like to have your eyeballs literally freeze in their sockets- must be uncomfortable but you have no personal experience with it. This tiny and utterly helpless little human relies on you for EVERYTHING (again, I "knew" that before I had him, but I didn't "know" it until I had him) including food, comfort, shelter, sleep, diaper changes, entertainment, stability and countless other things. And they rely on you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with (if you're breastfeeding as I am) literally NO time off. Your child is born, HOORAY! Now, prepare to give up any shred of freedom you ever claimed... it is not an easy transition for a lot of moms. It was not an easy transition for me.
I began to feel unworthy and helpless. Like my poor son deserved so much more. He deserved a mom who took pleasure in getting 1 1/2 hours of sleep at a time and no more than 4 hours a night. He deserved a mom who didn't complain or feel burdened by the weight of being his sole food supplier. Hook me up, Bessie, 'cause woah was I ever a milk maid those first few months! He deserved a mom who knew how to get him to stop screaming and squelching for hours on end. At the very least he deserved a mom who could "grin and bear it" through all of this chaos. I had a real hard time- I had a PARAMOUNT time- trying to grin and bear it- and for that, I felt like the world's worst mom. I started to secretly resent him and my husband. I resented my son because he wouldn't give me a break though I pleaded with him daily. How dumb of me. Looking back now, my poor angel was probably sensing all of my angst and neuroses and was scared to death to be left alone with his crazy mom. I resented my husband for actually getting sleep at night and for being able to leave everyday and go to work and get the hell away from the "hell" I was living. He, of course, didn't know I was living in "hell" because my "hell" was all in my head. Living with that feeling whilst having a tiny and perfect child to love, take care of, tend to and protect, is quite a difficult row to hoe.
To top it off, as a new mom, I felt isolated and alone. My husband had to go back to work just 12 days after my son was born and my mother is blind and unable to drive to visit me when I needed her. I didn't want friends to visit because I wanted to catch up on sleep, though when my son slept, I was too nervous to allow myself to. I was petrified that something awful was going to happen to my baby. At all hours of the day or night my thoughts paced and raced with the tenacity and irreverence of a speed addict riding high. If I didn't fall asleep at night with my hand on his chest, my son would stop breathing and I wouldn't know it. If I didn't stay in the room with him while he napped during the day, he'd stop breathing and lay there alone to die. If I took him for a ride in the car, even to go to the doctor's office let alone visit someone, we'd be involved in a catastrophic traffic accident that would send us careening our of control, into a deep embankment filled with ravenous and drooling crocodiles hungry for flesh, all the while our car would be ablaze in a hellish fireball. You get the idea... basically, I was nuts.
These thoughts- these actions, I carried in silence because of the sheer magnitude of shame they were served up with. How could anyone think I was a fit mother if I was feeling this way? Who the hell would think that way when they have a perfect child at home- what kind of ungrateful and unworthy bitch would feel that way? Burdened by the weight of breastfeeding? " Pssh... you're a MOM- that's what moms DO"- they'd think if I said anything. Feeling like you deserve more uninterrupted sleep at night? "What did you think you were in for?" I certainly didn't think I was in for it..a virtual "prison sentence." (I know some of you moms out there are going to wince when you read that, which is part of the guilt of having that feeling. Prison sentence? you might think. I don't feel that way anymore, but I did and it's hard to admit that honestly).
I kept it up, too, though my husband called my OBGYN and told her what was going on and how I was feeling. In the midst of all of this post partum depression and anxiety, I was suffering from a debilitating-ly painful infection from a tear during delivery that went unnoticed. YOW-ZA! Talk about pain! I'd do childbirth ten times over before experiencing that kind of pain ever again. I also had mastitis but refused to quit nursing because if I did I thought it was a sign of weakness and I wouldn't be proving to the world that I was a great mom (even though, internally I was convinced I was lousy at the whole mommy thing). My OBGYN prescribed me a quick and easy anti-depressant and I dutifully started taking it. After about a month, the dreadful feelings wore off and I didn't feel hopeless anymore...but I most certainly didn't feel normal. To me, though, I thought that's how I was supposed to feel. I mean, I'd just had a baby and in my mind I didn't think I'd ever feel "normal" again because "normal" was pre-baby. "Normal" was pre-responsibility. "Normal" was quite obviously a thing of my past.
The weeks wore on and I wore my anxiety like a superhero wears a cape.
Was my son getting enough sleep? Was he getting enough milk? Oh my GOD- if he's not getting enough sleep he won't develop properly. Oh my GOD, if he's not getting enough milk- he'll die! What if I die? Oh my GOD- how will he survive?
This was my very calculated and snowballing thought process. One thing led to a bigger thing which led to a HUGE thing which could only mean I couldn't handle it and if I couldn't handle it the world would end. I started sleep training Karl. I kept him on an extremely strict and regimented schedule. His naps were planned out and he WOULD take them, for as long as he SHOULD be taking them, damnit! I think how funny it is now for me to have expected my infant to conform to my obsessive compulsive delusions. (As a side note, I do think schedules for babies are extremely important because it allows for some structure to what can most certainly devolve into a higgldy-piggldy day, but I became obsessed with his schedule...to the point that I wouldn't leave my house for fear he'd fall asleep when he wasn't supposed to or stay up longer than he should.)
I also became obsessed with pumping my milk. I had to start a stash for... for what? I didn't know. What if my milk suddenly stopped coming in? What if my son suddenly started eating more than I could produce in one feeding? What if I died? What kind of mother leaves her child without her immuno-packed liquid gold breast milk to survive on in the event that something terrible happens to her, like she becomes the main course to those drooling crocodiles one night? Dun, dun, DUN... What if my boobs fell off? I had to pump. Each and everyday. At least once and if I was lucky, more than once. I wasn't going to be that mom who supplemented because that meant I didn't love my son enough to make the sacrifice of running my nipples through a medieval torture yolk on a daily basis. I was going to be super-mom, damnit, if it killed me. I had to go back to work. I HAD to make sure my baby had enough milk. And as a result of all that obsessive pumping, I now have a deep freezer chock-o-block full of the finest quality, most neurotically obtained breast milk known to man. About 500oz worth.
I finally hit a wall. More like I drove out of control head-on into a brick fortress. I did not win. I had what one may refer to as a "big ass breakdown." I was consumed with thoughts of death- nothing specific, but I just knew something would happen to me. I was consumed with the deepest and darkest sadness I'd ever felt in my life. By this time I didn't have the "bad mommy" feelings anymore or any resentment towards my son. I had a connection with him, but I couldn't feel it anymore through the soul sucking depression I was experiencing. My period came back for the first time since I had my son and I felt as if I was falling apart at the seams, at all ends, from all angles. I was so fortunate, though. I was so fortunate to realize how wrong this feeling was and to go seek help for it. That realization wasn't me, but I am convinced it was devine intervention. God himself must have said "enough is enough already." I knew I had to get the proper help.
I started seeing a counselor even though that meant I would be away from my son for an extral hour or two during the day or my appointments. Talk about mom guilt on top of mom guilt. I was already away from him all day long at work and then I had to miss out on "our" time together. I still have guilt about going to my counseling sessions, though the guilt has eased. I started taking a medication that actually works! I had to come to terms with the fact that I needed the medication to begin with. Once I started to feel better, though, I realized I didn't care much about having to take the meds if it meant that I could feel like this for longer. What was "this feeling?" It dawned on me... "this feeling" was normal! I began to feel NORMAL again. Normal DOES come back after you have a baby, who'd have thunk it?
I'm still in therapy, I still take my medication and I still have my "down" days. My "down days" are few and far between now, though, instead of ever present and life devouring. What is most impressive and most priceless to me is that now I'm ENJOYING my son. I loved him before, but I couldn't "feel" it. Like you think the stars at night are beautiful, though you've never been to see one up close. I live my love for my son everyday now, and it is breathtaking. How did I go so long without that feeling? How did I ever let my situation get that bad? I'm haunted by those thoughts sometimes now, but I can't live with that guilt lingering in my head ever present because it will start that dirty cycle up again in my thoughts. I have to be grateful and thankful that I am now who I was before I had my son- only now I have experienced grace and I know the passion of love that only a mother can know. It's the closest feeling on earth there is to heaven and it is beautiful and I am SO THANKFUL I am getting to experience it now!
If you feel like you need help- if you don't feel your own version of "normal" you need to stop letting the bad feelings live for you and take back your reigns on your life. Every mom deserves to know the undying love you can have for your child without the feelings of guilt, shame, resentment and depression attached to it like a ball and chain weighing you down in the depths of a brackish sea. I visited a website, postpartumprogress.com, that truly helped see me through some rough times and helped me realize that I needed to seek help. Please check it out and please get help if you need it!
And for you readers who have read since the beginning, I promise my next entry won't 1- take a year to get around to and 2- won't be so "heavy, man."
Thanks for reading and until next time LOVE LIKE THERE'S NO TOMORROW!