Yesterday, I hit the first rock bottom point of my rather short stint at motherhood.
After about six hours of persistent crying from Sophie, my nerves were completely shot, I was consumed with frustration, resentment, guilt and self loathing and I was this close to packing my bags and running away from my life, my marriage and my baby.
Its hard now, even blogging about it, but I am set on documenting every part, good or bad, of this journey with Baby Sophie and I want this up here to remind myself that its okay to feel depressed, its okay to want to give up, and that feeling these things don’t make me a bad mother.
Sophie is one week from turning a month old and in the past week, she’s started having really bad colic. At first, we didn’t know it was colic – we thought she was hungry, but no matter how much I nursed, how much I pumped, until my nipples were cracked and so sore I could barely put on my bra, it didn’t seem enough for her. We tried the pacifier, she spat it out. The moment we stopped feeding her and put her down, she would scream herself purple, arching her toes and wailing in the most inconsolable way. The crying would go on for hours and hours, until she couldn’t breathe. I eyed the emergency tin of NAN Ha formula longingly but K insisted that I keep trying to comfort her the natural way.
At first, I tried to soothe her by rocking her. Things were still okay. But by Day 3 I had cracked. I would sit on the couch trying to distract myself from her crying, using my phone, or snapping at K to do something. I kept trying to “fix” her – changing her barely soiled nappies five times an hour, pumping and saving tiny amounts of milk, etc. It got so bad that I hid inside the toilet in another room and closed the door, trying to shut out her cries while feeling like possibly the lousiest mother in the world.
It didn’t help that K was quintessentially the perfect father. He would rock her to sleep in his arms for hours, sing to her, do her tummy time, bathe her while his wife (me), hysterical from exhaustion, tried to grab naps which didn’t help at all because they were filled with nightmares.
My frustration turned quickly to paranoia – I started imagining that I was one of those mothers who cannot bond with their babies from birth and end up neglecting or hurting them. I wondered if I hadn’t been able to bond properly with Sophie because my childbirth had been so smooth and relatively painless. I wondered if I wasn’t even cut out to be a Mom in the first place because I was too selfish and maybe prized my own well being above hers. I wondered why I wasn’t one of those instantly loving, completely self-sacrificial mothers who were completely overwhelmed with love (I was merely overwhelmed) so that they were able to carry their babies and coo to them until they fell into completely peaceful slumber.
Even worse was the guilt. I knew I was resentful that this pregnancy had cost me my figure and left me struggling with 10 extra kgs of birth weight, stretch marks, a flabby tummy and huge thighs. I was resentful that I had lost my freedom for good and was stuck at home basically being a cow to a baby who didn’t seem to respond to me. And I felt so guilty for feeling like that to my poor, helpless baby. I felt like I didn’t deserve to be a mother, Sophie’s mother. I didn’t want to see friends, I didn’t want to see family, I just shut everyone out.
Basically, I felt like I was the kind of antithesis mother to my own. Everything came to a head last night when I told K that I didn’t want Sophie anymore, I wanted to move out and get my life back and that he could have her. And then I instantly regretted saying that and burst into loud sobs. I looked up post natal depression online and worried that I would become so resentful and angry towards her that I might harm her and I was so, so afraid.
I sent frantic messages to my mother in the wee hours of the morning telling her how I felt and asking her what was wrong with me. I told K that I had to see a psychiatrist or a counsellor before I snapped and told him to monitor me very closely and not leave me alone with the baby. It was a long, difficult night and I woke up many times, confiding in two friends who assured me with prayers and love. I repeated their prayers and did my own, asking God for the strength and guidance to pull myself out of this rut and trying to reinforce my belief in my abilities as a mother.
When morning came, so did my mother’s response. She shared with me how she had gone through the exact same thing as a new mother to the baby me, and how it was actually extremely common to have post natal blues – different from post natal depression – when your baby develops colic in the third week. She also said that bonding isn’t always instant and can take a long time, and the most comforting of all is that she said she felt like running away sometimes too. The wave of relief that washed over me was immense and I was so encouraged that I was instantly able to face the day with a more positive mindset.
Throughout the day I took her tips – instead of wearing myself out by continuously feeding Sophie, I monitored her feeding times to make sure that I only fed every 1.5 hours – as long as she was pooing fine and also drinking xregularly and enough, then I needn’t cluster or comfort feed which would tire me out unnecessarily. I forced myself to nap whenever I had time, even 30 minutes, instead of checking my phone or going online so that I would have enough energy.
K was an absolute brick. He bore all my frustrated lashing out, and went to read up on helping colicky babies. He took her from me every time I showed signs of cracking, burped her religiously, managed to convince her to sleep on her tummy so that her discomfort would be better, and helped me with the feeding times so I wouldn’t lose track (trust me, you forget what time and what day it is with a newborn).
I’m still far from feeling any kind of confidence in my powers of child raising, but I do feel so much better today after all that positive reinforcement. And I underestimated the power of prayer – after placing all my troubles and problems in His hands, I can just focus on being a better mother and leave all the other peripheral feelings behind.
Today is the first day of my renewed resolve – I have been trying to bond better by exclusively nursing Sophie – there is definitely a better connection when I breastfeed and keep her so close to my body (but so much more painful than expressing!). I am also spending more time with her when she is awake instead of leaving her in her cot (was trying to train independence) so I can enjoy her cooing and smiles and cute little expressions
K and I have decided to start taking short walks with Benjy and Sophie in her pram so that my cabin fever will be a bit better – some fresh air and outside contact.
Wish me luck, guys – I (think) I can do this !