It Takes a Village

September 26, 2018

Being a mom is tough. It’s amazing and fulfilling and really, really hard sometimes. The first two and a half months after having Desi and being home on my own were fine; we were finding our rhythm, getting used to this new way of life, and I was still recovering from surgery, so I wasn’t comfortable leaving the house on my own with a fragile baby. Our days were roughly the same, and I focused on taking it easy. But by the time Desi was 3 months old, I was going stir crazy. Our schedule was a bit all over the place, Desi was still at the age where he slept a lot during the day and couldn’t really play or do much, so there wasn’t much I felt I could do, either. I somehow got it in my head, though, that by not going out, not doing activities, not creating these Pinterest worthy moments for him, I was letting him down, I wasn’t doing my job, I was being lazy, I was failing, again. I was constantly beating myself up, not taking into consideration we were still in the “fourth trimester,” and it was starting to affect my mental health, so I knew I needed to make a change. At first, I just started doing little outings in our neighborhood: short walks, quick trips to the grocery store, and, if naptimes allowed, storytime at the library. It helped; it broke up the monotony of the day, forced me to get dressed and feel human again, and made me feel like I was being proactive in exposing Desi to the world and providing him with enriching experiences. I felt great, I was doing a good job. But after a month or so, I started getting in my head again: I wasn’t doing enough, every day was the same, I was failing.

Burkley has always been my biggest supporter, and every time I talked to him about how I was feeling, usually after a minor breakdown with tears running down my face, he’d assure me I was doing a great job, I was doing more than enough, but it didn’t always feel like he really got it. He wasn’t doing anything wrong, his days just looked very different than mine, so he couldn’t truly understand. He went to work every day and interacted with people, fixed problems, worked on something tangibly productive. That’s not to say what I was doing wasn’t productive; I was keeping our child alive, happy, thriving, that’s pretty productive, but after the fourth hour long nursing session on the couch, it doesn’t feel like you’re doing much, and when the one person you spend your days with has no language skills yet, it’s hard to get reassurance that actually breaks through your own self doubt.

Motherhood is lonely, especially when you’re a stay at home mom who doesn’t really have any friends with kids or who are home during the day. It took me a while to realize it, but that’s where the root of my problem was. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t do it alone. Humans are a social species, we need community, and at that moment, I was seriously lacking in it. It was just me, my baby, and, on evenings and weekends, my husband. I may have been providing enriching experiences for Desi, but I was forgetting about myself and my own needs. That was the next change I needed to make. 

I started reaching out to other stay at home moms in the area, through social media and apps designed to connect moms (the fact that those existed should have clued me in to the fact that I wasn’t alone in this feeling). I started finding other moms that I had a lot in common with, and as we talked more, got to know each other more, and started hanging out together, we all recognized we were having the same problem, and we all started to notice a shift. We still had our tough days, we still questioned ourselves, we still had breakdowns here and there when we had really overwhelming days/nights/weeks. But this time, in addition to the support from our significant others, we also had the support of a community of women who were going through the same things, who could offer advice where applicable, and, often most meaningfully, true and sincere understanding. We no longer felt alone. 

“It takes a village.” We had found ours.

To any moms out there going through something similar, the single best piece of advice I can offer you is to reach out to other moms. We get it, and just knowing you have someone to talk to who really does get it makes a huge difference, day to day, and long term. If you don’t yet know any other moms, feel free to reach out to me, join some Facebook groups, or try out apps like Peanut or MeetUp to find local moms and/or mom groups. I promise, it helps. 

On Routines (and expectations vs reality)

September 12, 2018

As a nanny, I was always very routine based. I had calendars and schedules and everything was predictable. Things happened at basically the same time every day and everyone knew what to expect. This is how I assumed I would be as a parent, as well. Turns out, I’m not that way as a parent at all.

Burkley and I are Attachment Parents. While we subscribe to the AP philosophy pretty heavily now, we actually came upon it rather organically, later finding out the way we were doing things had a name. With attachment parenting, everything is very baby led; it’s all about following baby’s cues and responding to them quickly and empathetically. 

When Desi was just a few weeks old, I remember sitting in bed beating myself up over the fact that we didn’t have him on a schedule. Nap times happened at what felt like random, he slept for varying amounts of time, he wasn’t staying awake long enough to introduce the idea of play time or to read 3 books to him every night before bedtime. I felt like I’d already messed up. But he was happy, and thriving, and we weren’t nearly as exhausted as so many other new parents seemed to be, so I couldn’t have messed up that bad. 

I hadn’t messed up at all. I was meeting my son’s needs as they arose, not forcing him to wait it out until what I deemed to be the right time. Babies don’t follow the clock, they follow instincts, and that’s how I should be (and was) responding. And that was working beautifully. 

That’s something I’ve learned about parenting, you have all of these expectations, you read all of the books and articles, you think you know everything going into it, but until you meet your child, you can’t *really* know. Every baby is different, reacts differently, responds differently, has very different needs, and thrives in different ways. Parenting is about figuring out what works for you and your child, and sometimes that looks completely different than what you expected. And that’s ok. 

Do those moments of self doubt still creep up? Absolutely, especially when you’re doing things a bit differently than others around you. But then I have a moment where Desi’s fussy and tired a little earlier than I would have expected, but I still respond to it, and within 5 minutes of laying down with him and nursing, he’s fast asleep with a little smile on his face. In those moments, I know I’ve done the right thing by trusting not just my instincts, but his as well. 

To the Unplanned C-Section Mama

September 05, 2018

For many women, most women probably, something about their labor or delivery doesn’t go quite as planned. Like much of motherhood, we like to think that if we do all of the research, watch all the videos, write out a plan, things will go how we want them to. And, like much of motherhood, we are quickly shown how little control we actually have. Labor and birth smacked me in the face with that lesson.

Even though I told anyone who asked that I would “go with the flow” of my labor wants and needs, knowing logically that things change and you can’t really know what you need until you’re in that moment, I still had a vision in my head of how I wanted the birth to go. When it ended up going in the opposite direction, I wasn’t prepared at all. At first, I was able to take it in stride; I had my baby, he was safe and he was healthy. That’s all that mattered. And while, yes, that was the most important aspect, that’s why I agreed to the csection, when I got home and the realities of my recovery hit, and all those post partum hormones came rushing, I began to question myself. 

Here’s the thing about unplanned csections: people often treat you like the lowest rung on the birth totem pole. Not only did you fail at having a natural birth, but you weren’t quite to the point of having a scary, emergency csection, so you just failed all around. You took the “easy way.” And I internalized that idea. I felt like I failed. I pushed aside the reason I agreed to the csection, I pushed aside the fact that I’d had major surgery and was looking at months of recovery, I pushed aside every small detail that lead to the need for a csection and focused on everything I felt I could have done differently. 

Maybe if I’d labored at home. 
Maybe if I played the birthing playlist I’d created but said I didn’t want in the moment. 
Maybe if I’d worn the clothes I’d picked out for labor instead of the pajamas I happened to be in. 
Maybe if I didn’t stay in the tub for so long. 
Maybe if I’d done more squats. 
Maybe if I’d refused the epidural. 
Maybe if I kept pushing. 

Maybe I could have had the birth I’d dreamed of.

Maybe I would have lost my son. 

What I didn’t realize at the time was why, knowing full well the csection was the right decision, why I mourned the loss of an experience so heavily. It wasn’t until we found out that our midwife unknowingly captured a video of Desi being born that I figured out why it affected me so much. 

During a csection, there is a drape placed around you, at about shoulder level, making it so you can’t see what’s going on. Even though my child was still coming out of my body, I was separated from it, blocked from it, not really part of him being born. I didn’t get to see him come into this world, I didn’t get to see him when he made his first cry or opened his eyes, I didn’t get that moment of overwhelming emotion and joy when all your hard work has paid off, I didn’t get to see the moment when his Being separated from mine and the cord was cut. That’s what I was really mourning. Discovering the video was the first time I saw my son being born. 

A little while after, I decided to write a letter to all the unplanned c-section moms saying what I wish someone would have told me, hoping maybe one day it could help a woman out there who’s feeling like she wasn’t good enough. 

To the unplanned, unexpected csection Mom:

You didn’t fail. You put your child before yourself. You laid yourself down on that table for the safety of your baby. You became a mother. 

It’s going to be hard, you’re going to need help, you’re going to feel helpless at times, but remember the sacrifice you just made. Its ok to need help. In no other instance is someone cut open so extremely then expected to care for another being right away. You are doing the impossible. So take it easy. You aren’t weak, you are healing. And you will be for some time. Take it one day at a time. Do not push yourself too hard. Rest often. 

Be proud of your scar. It’s a war wound, it’s a physical reminder of the warrior you are, of the strength you have, of the amazing thing you just did! You’re a mother! That is where your baby came in to the world from!

And if you’re able to: get pictures/video during the procedure. You may not want to see it right away, but one day you will! And you’ll be glad you had them! You’ll be glad you got to see your child’s first moments earth side! 

It’s hard. But it’s so worth it. You are a mother now.

—Deanna Patterson

Popular Posts

©Mommy New Year 2018

Unless otherwise stated, all images and thoughts expressed are the property of Mommy New Year.