Monday, March 27, 2017

Healthy Habits: It's OK to Struggle with a New Baby

My husband and I tied for longer than we wanted to before we got pregnant with our first. After a couple of scary episodes during the pregnancy, I was absolutely certain that I would fall in love with her the minute she was born. I was wrong.

I was about as experienced of a new mom as I could be. I was the daughter of a former daycare mom turned teacher, and my husband was the son of a daycare mom. I had baby-sat kids of all ages since I was twelve. I had worked in preschools and infant rooms as a sub. I had life experience, and not just what I read in a book.

When my daughter was born, she was immensely challenging. Not challenging in a special-needs way, or in a major health-related way - not exactly (we determined later based on our experiences that she was likely having reflux issues, but that was about it). No, it was her feeding. She would nurse for about 2-3 minutes, be happy for 2-3 minutes, sleep for 10 minutes, and screen for 5 minutes, around the clock. We ended up co-sleeping to save my sanity.

She ended up losing more than 10% of her body weight. Luckily, she started as a large baby, so she did have some extra to spare, but we had to do weight checks and bilirubin level tests every other day.

On top of this, we had a new house, I had quit my classroom job for online teaching, my husband had a new job, and we were still relatively new at our church. It was too much.

There were days I understood how someone could drive off a bridge with their kids in the car.

Thankfully, with a strong support system, we got through it, and the other challenges we have had with both of our children. But I always try to make sure to share at least part of my story with other new moms. I think there's still so much stigma about being a new mom, and that you should be happy, and that you should fall in love with your child right away.

I didn't. I loved her because she was my child, but that was it. I didn't feel the maternal affection I thought I should.

If you're pregnant, or a recent new mom, help yourself out.
  • Give yourself permission to not be OK.
  • Find another mom you trust, and don't be afraid to share what you're struggling with.
  • Say yes when other people say, "Can I help you out?" Honestly, just having a meal brought over can be a bigger help than you realize.
  • Put the baby down and walk away. Obviously you shouldn't neglect a newborn's urgent needs, but if it saves your sanity to put him or her in the crib and go outside for ten minutes, then do it.
  • Do what works for you. There are things that you "shouldn't" do that really aren't harmful if done correctly. Don't put your baby in danger, but don't feel like you have to go by the book either.
  • Take ten minutes to pray, meditate, or read - just for you.
  • Get physical - even if it's just for five minutes at a time.

Above all, don't be afraid to ask for help. There are wonderful support systems out there, medical and otherwise. If you aren't sure where to ask, your pastor, OB/GYN, pediatrician, or mom friends can help you. Professionals and true friends won't judge.

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