Tuesday, September 18, 2012

It Gets Better: The Campaign That Needs to Happen for New Moms

Was it really only two and a half weeks ago that I wrote my last post? Was it obvious that I was on the verge of ripping my hair out and leaving home until my kid was applying for college?

‘Cause I was.

Around Emme’s third week of life, shit got intense. Emme wanted to breastfeed almost constantly, and I was still struggling with pain and general frustration surrounding that whole mess. The only good thing about breastfeeding (it seemed at the time) was that if she was eating, she wasn’t screaming. If she wasn’t eating, she was probably screaming because, she no longer slept much during the day. If we lucked out in one area, it’s that Emme  has consistently (so far, fingers crossed) given us decent nighttime sleep stretches. Don’t get me wrong, we don’t have that kid who amazingly slept through the night from day one, but she’s generally slept an average of four to five hours in a row followed by a couple two-hour stretches -- enough for us to function without feeling like the living dead. Had it not been for this, I’m pretty sure I would have lost my mind.

The truth is, in the midst of the madness, I questioned the decisions that lead us down this path. It sounds terrible, but I worried that we had made a horrible mistake by having a child. I mourned my old life and the freedom I had. I breathed a sigh of relief every time I could spend time without my daughter, and I began to refer to home, somewhat jokingly (but not really), as "prison." Let me assure you: I never once questioned my love for Emme or whether I felt bonded to her. I also never felt like I was on the verge of hurting myself or her. But I was extremely frustrated, and when you’re in it, it’s hard to see out of it.

The good news is that I’m here to report from what I believe (I hope, I pray) is the other side: It gets better. Everything I read said six weeks is a turning point, unless your baby is colicky. I wasn’t convinced that our baby wasn’t colicky, so I hoped (prayed) that she wasn’t, and we only had to white knuckle it through a few weeks. In reality, it seemed like things started to get a little better around week five. I noticed that her quiet, but awake and alert periods were getting longer. We could set her down for five minutes before she lost her shit as opposed to 30 seconds or not at all. It wasn’t much, but I clung to it. She became more soothable, but I think we gave into reality a bit too. We accepted that we had to keep her moving -- either in our arms, in the car or in the stroller. We took A LOT of walks because if we were moving, she usually wasn’t screaming. Her night sleeping even became more consistent. Five hours was the norm and she seemed to be stretching to six. And at five-and-a-half weeks, she smiled.

At six and a half weeks, we had what I consider to be a breakthrough and a glimpse of what I hope will be: On Saturday night, after a busy day of having brunch with other moms and babies and walking through a neighborhood festival a few blocks from our home, MM, Emme, and I cuddled on the couch. She was being so cute and fun as we played with her feet and tried to convince her to smile. She did. A full 25 minutes of family hanging out time with no breastfeeding and no screaming. After 25 minutes, she lost her shit, but it was OK. We saw what being a family could be like, and suddenly it didn’t seem like this was a mistake after all.

So, it's gotten better. My baby still screams a lot, but I'm now sure she's not colicky; however, I'm convinced she somewhat higher maintenance and more temperamental than some of those laid back newborns out there. But I sense that the worst has passed.

More on how I’m staying sane at home when I can find another chunk of time to write a post.