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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

the P word

This picture above is me in the hospital with Owen one day old. I was exhausted, overwhelmed and overjoyed at becoming a new mother. I had not slept more than an hour since the night before. I could not sleep. I didn't know it at the time but I was experiencing a slight form of post-partum depression that the docs and authors of books call the "baby blues," a very mild form of PPD that only lasts maybe two weeks after the baby is born. This is self-diagnosed, but the more I've read and the more I reflect on how that first week of Owen's life went for me the more I know that is what I experienced. Yes, the P-word, post-partum.

For me, the hospital experience was one of the most miserable experiences ever. Seriously. I don't tell you this to scare you, truly I don't. I tell you this to be honest with you and so that in case you don't have the grandest time in the hospital you don't beat yourself up about it for months later, thinking somehow you failed at being a good mom when it counted in the hospital.

Nursing Owen was not working. I was sore from trying so hard and from the c-section. We had so many visitors that our door was a revolving one. That was a blessing and a curse, of course, as it was so wonderful having so many people love our son and be excited for us, yet it was tough to get in any rest with so many visitors.

With nursing not working, it caused friction between my husband and I. He saw a screaming baby, who he was now supposed to take care of and who he knew needed to just eat, so he got frustrated with me refusing to do anything but try more nursing that was not working. I was so utterly devastated when the nursing was not working as I expected it to that I was defeated and feeling terrible, like somehow I was failing at something that "should" be working for me, that works for "all" other moms out there so why not for me?

I was exhausted. I literally did not sleep more than a couple of hours the entire 5 days we were in the hospital. Not a couple of hours at a time, I mean the entire 5 days I slept only a few hours total. It was clearly not a good thing and definitely took a toll on my body and emotional state. I could not sleep though. I kept feeling like I needed to make sure Owen was OK, I had to watch him all night to be sure he was breathing. It was this crazy irrational fear that if I did not stay up he would need me and I would not be there.

I felt that Jared and I were on the wrong page. I felt like I was in over my head. I felt miserable - except for the moments holding and taking care of my son. Those moments were the most amazing in my life, truly.

It was just a really difficult time. I blame the lack of sleep, the inability to nurse coupled with the high expectations and pressure I put on myself beforehand to make that work for us, and the crazy hormones I was experiencing. The picture below shows me moments after arriving home from the hospital. I just look exhausted. It's all over my face how deflated I was feeling.

I still feel to this day like most new moms I visit hours, days or weeks after having their babies seem way more put together and in control and OK than I felt that first month of having my son. I was a wreck! I looked terrible in pictures, wore my hospital gown four of the five days in the hospital and then wore only big sweat pants and sweatshirts once home. I was so tired and the whole month was a complete blur to me.

Once getting home from the hospital, however, my bed and being able to actually sleep some I did MUCH better. The post-partum feelings of inadequacy went away quickly so I could just enjoy being a mother. Jared and I quickly got into a routine and I saw how amazing he was with our son that we were once again normal and on the same page about everything. I realized how OK it was to feed my child whatever he needed and see that he was gaining weight, instead of put pressure on myself to do something like nurse that just was not working for us. It all got so much better.

I hope this post does not make you nervous, but rather tells you that if it is tough for you others have been through it before and are here for you to talk to, as well as shows you that you have no idea what to expect so don't plan anything ahead of time.

The biggest thing I hope you learn from this is that everything you feel and experience is totally normal, even if it doesn't feel that way. I did not feel normal in the hospital. Maybe if someone had posted something like this, a true story of what it could be like, I would have let go of some of the pressure I put on myself and realized it was all OK and normal.

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