Sitting in the newly finished nursery rubbing my very pregnant belly, I imagined all the sweet and tender moments I would have with my son once he was born. I pictured us laying on the floor playing, me listening to him coo and explore his environment. I had a detailed plan of how we would spend the first few weeks as a new family; skin-to-skin, snuggling and bonding, breastfeeding and enjoying being a mom. I felt prepared and confident, after all I had been a nanny for many years. I had done all the research and knew how I wanted the birth to go and figured that once that part was over, then everything else would just click into place and I would be a mom!
I had all these wonderful expectations of how I thought I would react to being a mom, how my son would be as a baby, and how life would look once he was born. I wasn’t ready for what was about to become my reality.
June 12th at 1:32pm my husband and I welcomed our sweet baby boy into the world, screaming and covered in meconium! I had the expectation that I was supposed to initiate breastfeeding right away or else I risked him becoming to drowsy. Baby boy had a horrible latch, and nursing hurt from the very start and would continue to be a challenge for us. That was the first failed expectation. Instead of sleeping like I had anticipated, baby boy was so alert and didn’t fall asleep for close to 8 hours after he was born! The nurses were shocked at how wide-eyed he was and reassured us that he would soon resume the normal newborn sleep schedule. He did not. That was failed expectation number two.
Hours before we were to be discharged the doctor came in and asked if she could sit down and talk to us about our son. She explained that he had a click in his left hip and that he needed to be seen by an Orthopedist because she believed he had hip dysplasia. I was in shock. I had done all the research and picked the baby gear that aided in healthy hip development but I never dreamed that my son would, just have it! I had the expectation that my son would be born free of ailment and would be totally normal. That was the third failed expectation.
The next week was a whirl wind of doctors visits, referrals, more doctors visits and lots of tears. I was beyond devastated when I learned that my baby would have to be put into a brace and that skin to skin was virtually impossible. There went my vision, there went my plan. I was now being asked to completely rework my expectations for myself as a mother and him as my son.
The day they placed my son in his harness was one of the hardest days of my life. He screamed the most horrific scream I had ever heard and continued to cry and scream for the rest of the day. I didn’t know it then, but that was the start of what would be the rest of his first year of life. From that day on, my son cried and wailed for 10+ hours a day. He was only ‘happy’ if he was nursing or sleeping. I didn’t know how to care for this child and I felt helpless and alone. The expectation that I placed on myself to be able to meet all his needs and to care for him and soothe him came crumbling down. All the preparation in the world could not have prepared me for how difficult it was.
Going through this with my first son, I am now able to sympathize and recognize how hard it is as a new mom to adjust your expectations. It doesn’t have to be something as intense as having a child with hip dysplasia, it could be having difficulty with breastfeeding, having a more challenging baby, getting less sleep than what you thought, to throw a new mom for a loop. The tears I cried were for what other’s might classify as insignificant. I cried because I had to find a new way to breastfeed, I cried because my once happy baby now screamed all day, I cried because I couldn’t do skin-to-skin, I cried because I couldn’t put him in all the cute outfits, I cried because my child wasn’t ‘normal’. In the grand scheme of things, those aspects were small but at the time they felt huge and insurmountable until I found new ways celebrate my baby and myself as a mother. I didn’t get skin-to-skin like I had hoped for but my little guy LOVED to be carried in the baby carrier, he didn’t get to wear all the cute outfits, but I also had a lot less laundry to do, and it took him so much longer to reach milestones, but he stayed my sweet little baby a whole lot longer too! I am a better and stronger mother because of the challenges that my son and I faced together, and for that I am eternally grateful!
During your postpartum period, what did you find particularly challenging? What did you find helpful and easy? So often what one mom finds difficult, another finds simple. Did you have to re-evaluate your expectations for yourself as a mom and for your baby? I would love to hear your stories of success as well as your challenges!