Almost 8 months to being a mom and I am finally getting around accepting this new phase of life where waking up after 8am is a luxury and watching a show or a movie without any interruptions is impossible. The feelings of heart-bursting love for my child are finally settling in and I no longer feel like the burdens and exhaustion of motherhood will kill me.
Progress? Hell Yeah!
Now that I am feeling a lot like myself, I thought of putting all of it all there; my pregnancy, childbirth, the fourth trimester (and months following that), my mental health, the affects of all of it on my relationship and how I evolved through it all.
Disclaimer: I am not a medical health professional; this is just my account of the happenings of last year/this year which might/might not help you.
So, my pregnancy was very smooth. I mean I did experience nausea, sciatica, acid reflux, headaches, food aversion and swelling, but I guess all of it is a part and parcel of pregnancy. I absolutely loved poking and chatting with my baby and I had this maternal instinct throughout my entire pregnancy where I just couldn’t wait to hold my child.
I was due on the 4th of November and we were really excited since it’s also Shahzeb’s birthday but my kid wanted to have his own special day and he was just too comfortable inside, hence the day went by and we kept waiting. I was finally induced after 41 weeks, on Friday at 10pm and after a long labor of 26 hours, Hussein was born on Sunday morning, the 14th of November. And yes, opting for epidural was always in the plan and I am SO glad I went ahead with it. Magical would be an understatement to describe it. If I ever have to do this again, I am not doing it without epidural!
Anyway, even though it took me forever to deliver Hussein, I found the entire experience quite painless (at least compared to what I had imagine) and I was so heavily sedated that after his birth, when the nurse asked me if it was my first, I said yes but I can do this a million times over.
Yeah, definitely high on meds. LOL
My experience at the hospital was also pretty great (I delivered at Inova Alexandria). The midwives and nurses were very helpful (we didn’t even change his first dirty diaper lol they took care of everything). The first dose of how painful motherhood is was when they tried to make Hussein latch for his first feed. It was so painful that it made me feel dizzy and I almost passed out.
They discharged us after 2 days and trust me I didn’t want to go home because I was so pampered and comfortable.
The first shock of ‘what’s happening to my life’ was when the nurse told me to sit at the back with my baby. I wasn’t ready for it as I was so used to sitting in the front, often holding Shahzeb’s hand and catching glimpses of him while he drove. I know how dramatic and even pathetic this might sound since it’s not even a real problem. What I mean to point out is that this was just the beginning of minor changes and transitions that our life was about to become.
Also, you are a cocktail of hormones after childbirth; your mind and body is still registering to the fact that the fetus they were nurturing is now out of your system, hence, it really makes you a ball of emotions.
We brought Hussein home and the reality of parenthood set in. I hated that everything revolved around this new family member, the room’s thermostat, my sleep schedule and my husband’s attention. I could see that crazy love in the eyes of my husband for my child (which was once only reserved for me) while I just couldn’t feel the same emotions for my baby. It felt like my maternal instinct and connection broke with the cutting off of the umbilical cord.
Breastfeeding made all of it even worse. It was painful positioning him and making him latch. He had to be fed every 2 hours and it really made me feel like a cow. Besides, I found breastfeeding extremely messy, the leaks would make everything smell really bad and I feel that the pressure to breastfeed made me averse to it even more.
At one point I didn’t want to continue to breastfeed but that was out of the question since it’s the best feed for the baby and Shahzeb (or our families) wouldn’t understand the complications of it. He would say things like ‘sometimes you have to take one for the team’ and ‘how hard can it be, all women do it’. He made sure that I get all the help that I need yet it was taking a toll on my mental health and my relationship. I feel that no matter how supportive and well read men are in our lives, they can never truly understand the complications of these bodily changes and processes and its impact on a woman’s sanity.
Since breastfeeding wasn’t working out for me, I started exclusively pumping. It had its advantages: I would get some baby-free time to myself and anyone could feed him but then it was triple the work (pumping, storing, washing and sterilizing the bottles) and I had to be on a strict schedule of pumping otherwise it would result in lumps in my breasts and cause Mastitis.
Then there were also comments about how necessary it is for me to lose weight and I need to start working out right away. This led to me having body image issues.
Please note that I had a lot of help at home yet I would often find myself in tears or sometimes even hysterically crying and I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I was extremely unhappy. I constantly missed my life before my baby. The negative feelings would make me feel guilty that maybe I am being ungrateful and what if God takes all of it back. I was ashamed of feeling all of these negative feelings and couldn’t find that ray of hope at all.
What helped me was constantly talking about my feelings with other new moms (I wouldn’t have made it this far without them) and also having unfiltered conversations with my husband. Before I went on to talk to him, I would share my expectations of what I was looking for at the moment, for e.g. I would tell him that right now I just need to vent out and need you to validate my feelings, other times I would ask him to work out solutions with me.
Also, since in the first two months after Hussein’s birth my inlaws were here, they would encourage us to go out alone for walks or groceries or other mundane stuff and that gave us a lot of time to find our way back to each other.
Moreover, since both of us are BIG on words of affirmation, we would often let the other know how thankful we are for each other’s help and support and how we see each other trying and improving constantly. Phrases as simple as ‘I am proud of you’ & ‘you are doing so well’ did wonders for us.
Furthermore, since I missed my pre-baby life all the time, I figured that I need to incorporate some of the chores or hobbies that I loved doing before, into this new life. I loved cleaning, so any chance that I would get I tried to wipe the counters or organize little things.
I also started reading and that made the biggest impact on my mental health.
Around 5 months we decided to quit breastfeeding (pumping basically) and transition to formula completely; that made the biggest impact on my feelings and overall routine. I did feel guilty and thought that I am opting for the easy way out while depriving my child of the best, but I constantly reminded myself how it was literally killing me and robbing me of enjoying the best moments of my baby’s life and our new life as parents.
Now that Hussein is on formula and also on solids, he is a much happier baby and we connect more, or maybe he always was and I was just too lost in my own misery to enjoy any of it.
Last but not the least, sleep training changed our lives! After Hussein’s four-month-sleep-regression he would wake up every 45mins to an hour all night and it was driving me insane. We decided to move to the guest room and sleep train him. We’d read horror stories of how the kid may initially cry for 45-60 mins before they start to learn to sleep on their own but thankfully Hussein’s a quick learner. Our first night in, he was out in less than 15 mins (I KNOW!) It was still extremely difficult to leave him cry and go in to soothe him every few minutes. There were a lot of tears but once he learnt to put himself to sleep, all of it was SO worth it.
Now 7 months later, I am head over heels in love with my kid. We have become those parents who after putting their baby down for the night scroll through their baby’s photos and videos endlessly. All three of us are obsessed with each other and have become each other’s world. And don’t get me wrong, we still can’t watch anything in one go or plan our outings spontaneously, but now when Hussein wakes up in the morning or after a nap and we walk in to pick him up, the light in his eyes and his warmest smile make all of it worth it.
So, in conclusion, I just want to let you know (all new mommies) that your feelings are valid and motherhood (parenthood) is the toughest job out there; you are not being ungrateful or unnecessarily whining. It most definitely is hard but IT DOES GET BETTER and humans have been crafted with the ability to adapt. We all take our time but eventually we get there. So hang on, take care of yourself and just keep showing up for your kid, that is all that matters! 🙂