My First Year of Motherhood

A year ago I was battling fatigue from delivering a baby and barely sleeping in the hospital. I had no idea what was coming in the hours, days, months, or years that were ahead of me.

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One year later, I still don’t know what’s ahead of me…

If you know me in a real life, you know that I wasn’t sure I was mother-material. I think I still felt that way while in the hospital after giving birth. My mom laughs and says that I was in denial of impending motherhood up until we got to the hospital. Maybe that’s true…

It was so surreal those first couple of weeks–to think that the little human being crying on the outside was the little bump that used to be in my inside was just weird. I, like every mother, had huge learning curves–I had never changed a diaper before, had no clue what cry meant what, and no real idea how to entertain a baby.

My first few months of motherhood were hard, perhaps a little harder than normal. My husband was living in Indiana with his new job and would come home on some weekends, so I was a pseudo-single mom, working full time and caring for two dogs and a house. It was a definite crash course in handling anything and everything, and getting used to whatever would come my way. Need to go to the bathroom but baby is awake? Just strategically place her where you can still see her, but not close to the grossness that is the toilet. Starving and want to fix dinner, but the baby isn’t going to sleep? That’s what a carrier is for.

Moms = Expert Multi-Taskers  Article on deadline and baby won't sleep in her crib? Figure it out.

Moms = Expert Multi-Taskers Article on deadline and baby won’t sleep in her crib? Figure it out.

I struggled to breast feed–I wasn’t making much milk and Aubrey was a lazy nurser. Those first weeks of lactation consultant meetings and the first pediatrician we went to make me feel like a horrible mother. All I wanted to do was provide nourishment for our baby girl, and I wasn’t able to do that as well. Through exclusively pumping, I made it to the end of May, when I dried up under stress. I had enough milk frozen that she still got a couple ounces of breast milk with her formula for a couple more months, then she went strictly to formula…and I was OK with that. I had learned that it was OK, that everyone is different, and to be proud that I had tried.

I’ve learned how to balance life–perhaps not very well yet, but I’m still working on it. Being a full-time working mom, plus having a freelancing business and caring for other animals is exhausting. There are many late nights, and some early mornings, so I can get work done while A sleeps. I haven’t gotten back to a normal routine with the dogs, but there are other factors with that. As Aubrey gets older, I’m excited to incorporate more of my life with her so she can start to learn and do some things on her own.

I'm hoping A learns by doing--so she goes to the barn with me most of the time.

I’m hoping A learns by doing–so she goes to the barn with me most of the time.

For my first Mother’s Day, I listed some things that I had already learned in my few short months as a mother, including:

  1. Just like with my dogs, seeing her at the end of the day makes my day. Now that she’s smiling, to see her eyes light up when she sees me fills my heart with so much joy.
  2. If you think you’re too selfish to become a parent, think again. I thought I was, but all of that is thrown out the door when that little one enters your life. You will eat last (even my dogs and horses eat before I do), only get to shower if you can quickly squeeze one in, and their clothing needs come before yours. And, surprisingly, I’m OK with that.
  3. I now have a different perspective on that family eating out with a crying child, or the mother who looks frazzled while dealing with a child at the grocery. Before you gripe about how they’re child misbehave, or how dare they “ruin” your dinner out, take a moment to wonder if maybe they’re out to eat because they just want to get out of the house, or maybe that mother is a single mom doing it on her own. Have a little more patience and maybe offer to help, or compliment.
  4. Just a simple compliment can go a long way for an exhausted mom. Even if you’re not someone into kids, just asking your friend how they’re doing, or offering to meet for lunch (with or without offspring) means the world to them. A simple text to say hello and to check on them goes a long way, more than you’d ever know.

A friend once asked me, “What surprises you the most about being a mom?” Here was my answer:

  • It surprises me how much I give of myself to her. I used to think that I was a very selfish person, hence why I didn’t want to have any kids. While it sucks to miss out on a lot of things, I know it’s for her, and that lessens the sting.
  • It surprises me how much I’ve changed in my thoughts of things. When I’d hear babies crying or toddlers acting up at restaurants I’d chime in, “Ding! Beat the kid!” (inside joke from a comedian) But now I’m like, “Oh that poor momma…”
  • It surprises me how lonely you feel as a mother. It’s hard to believe that you can feel that way when you’re constantly clung to, cried for, and pushed, but you do, especially if a lot of your close friends don’t have children. (And definitely when you move…but that’s a whole other blog post.)
  • It surprises me how I am actually starting to plan in the future…for her. I always hated those questions in job interviews, “Where do you see yourself in 5/10 years?” because I could honestly say I have no clue…I didn’t plan in the future, except for a few months down the road. But now, I’m seeing A riding ponies, playing sports, etc.
  • It surprises me how scared I am that I might make a mistake that will affect her in some way down the road. Am I reading enough to her? Is she eating the right things to grow and develop physically and mentally? Is she on the right track? I’m almost paranoid and find myself comparing A and ourselves to others, and I never used to do that (and I know it’s a scary cycle to do).

While A has definitely grown and evolved through the year, so have I. I’ve grown to accept that I am a mother, and I’m OK with that, and proud to be her momma. I’m just going to do the best that I can with what I know, and try my best to relish every moment. But I also want to make sure that I get back to finding myself again, and remind myself that I’m not just a mother, but a professional, a horsewoman, a dog trainer, an award-winning journalist, and a fit woman.

But, I’m still a mom. And she’s still my daughter. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Breastfeeding Isn’t Easy, nor for Everyone

While going through pregnancy, I was asked many times if I planned to breastfeed Baby A&W. It wasn’t even much of a conversation between M and I–it was up to me, and I figured it was the best thing to do. I had read articles saying how it helped keep allergies at bay and boost the immune system of the baby. Plus, let’s face it, I was all about the weight loss benefits.

I knew breastfeeding wasn’t going to be easy, and I’ve many stories from those who tried and couldn’t or tired and succeeded, but I still went into it kind of blind, thinking surely it’d be something that just came to you–like maternal instincts are supposed to do. But then Aubrey came along, and I was rocked into motherhood.

Poor thing had no clue what she was getting into with momma and nursing.

Poor thing had no clue what she was getting into with momma and nursing.

Aubrey was a bit of a “lazy nurser”–meaning she didn’t want to try very hard to nurse on me, and would fall asleep often. She was also a little jaundice and lost about a pound from her birth weight, so I was stressing. The pediatrician prescribed that I feed her every two hours, and to pump after each nursing. I was spending 1.5 hours feeding A every 2, between fighting her to nurse, then pumping, then feeding what I pumped to her to make sure she actually got nutrition. It was wearing me down. I wanted to go straight to bottle feeding and pumping, but our first pediatrician said to not do that for another three weeks.

We went to see a lactation specialist, who had taught our breastfeeding class we took a month before A was born. She was great–she spent 3 hours with us, helping to work on A’s latch, checking to see how many ounces she really was getting from me, and being a big support. Unlike some lactation consultants, she was OK with pumping and she said she expected that I would have to supplement with formula–and that was OK. But because the doctor wanted A strictly on breastmilk, she helped us form a plan (which was the feeding, pumping, bottle plan), gave me her personal cell phone number, and wished us luck.

I was feeling more and more depressed, and stressed, feeling like I was a horrible mother for starving my child. I was also exhausting myself with the hellacious schedule that it required. It was all a nasty cycle that just continued, and I felt like M was getting tired of dealing with my tears of exhaustion and frustration because he knew there wasn’t anything he could do to help, and he hated feeling helpless.

Thankfully, we had to see another pediatrician in the same practice due to scheduling for one of A’s follow-ups. Dr. W was a breath of fresh air. She admitted that breastfeeding was difficult for her with her two boys, and how she felt guilty because, after all, she was a health care professional and she couldn’t breastfeed. But she pumped, and supplemented with formula, and her boys turned out just fine. Her wise words of advice: “All that matters is that you’re feeding and nourishing your baby. How you do that doesn’t matter–whether it’s via breastfeeding, pumping and feeding via bottle, supplementing with formula, or using all formula. It’s all the same. Just get food into her.”

That was a turning point, and, thanks to support from my mom, who saw how beaten down I was (my phrase was “Mom, I feel like I’m a dairy cow, and that’s all I am right now.”), I turned to exclusively pumping and feeding A via a bottle, using Similac Supplemental to boost her ounces. Doing such helped her finally start to gain weight and really start growing.

Now that I’m back to work, things have changed even more so. I’m extremely thankful to have a boss who immediately went to work finding an empty room and making it a “Mothers’ Room” for me and any other mother looking for a place to pump in peace. However, I was also dealing with being somewhat of a “single mom” and had to figure out how to pump when A was still awake (pumping in the middle of the night or before she woke up was easy). Because of that, I had to start dropping pumpings because it just wasn’t feasible.

Feeding your child helps you bond, whether its via the breast or the bottle, and no one should make you feel horrible for choosing either way.

Feeding your child helps you bond, whether its via the breast or the bottle, and no one should make you feel horrible for choosing either way.

Now that she’s past the two month mark, and had her first set of shots, I’m feeling more comfortable with the fact that I’m already starting to dry up. I never was able to produce much in the first place–maybe 3 ounces (from both breasts) at a time–so I knew my time would be limited. However, it does make me sad that soon I won’t be able to provide my own nourishment to her, not to mention the idea of buying formula more often than I am now makes my bank account cry.

I feel selfish saying that I can’t wait until I’m done producing breast milk because then I can easily go workout or go for runs on a tight schedule (right now I have to pump for at least 30 minutes beforehand, which requires planning and balancing). I can also relish in an adult beverage or two, which I haven’t done since I discovered I was pregnant (sure I could “pump and dump,” but I barely make enough milk as it is, I felt like that would be a waste of “liquid gold.”). And I can get back to wearing normal bras and clothes that I don’t have to worry about being able to pull up easily to pump while at work. Even just typing this makes me feel like I’ll be judged.

But, truth is, I’m ready to have my body back to myself. I’ve been able to provide more than some mothers are able to, for some reason or another, so I should be proud of myself for at least being able to stick it out as long as I have. I really did give it a good college try, and I provided her with my nutrients the best I could. I can’t be like my co-worker who has a 15-month-old and still pumps 10 ounces once a day–most women aren’t built like that.

And I’m OK with that.

More reading:
Fit Pregnancy: It’s OK if You Can’t Breastfeed
The Lean Green Bean: Breastfeeding is Hard

One Month Ago Life Changed–Dear Aubrey

It’s hard to believe that it’s been one month since Aubrey joined this world and changed my life forever. It feels like it’s been longer than a month, but then again, it’s like “It’s already been a month??”

1 Month Old!

1 Month Old!

One of my favorite bloggers, Lindsay over at The Lean Green Bean, recently had a baby as well, and I love what she does to commemorate each passing month of Chase’s life, so I thought I’d steal her idea (I hope you don’t mind, Lindsay!). Every month she writes a letter to Chase about his month of growth, which I love. I’d hope that one day Aubrey can read these letters…

Dear Aubrey,

I can’t believe it’s already been one month since you joined me and Daddy’s world. All the preparations we did leading up to your arrival didn’t prepare me for the roller coaster ride that is new motherhood.

You’ve already proven you’re like your mother in the fact that you’ll do what you want when you want. Right now, it’s mostly been sleeping–you’ve slept away most of your first month on this Earth. If only I could say the same for myself. I only hope you’re able to sleep well the rest of your life!

Your momma conquered changing diapers pretty quickly, though there are times that I forget to put a diaper under you as soon as I remove the dirty one…and then we have to wash the changing pad. Oops. We’ve had a few blowouts, but nothing horrible.

We’ve had our struggles with your weight, and with momma trying to breastfeed you. But I think we’re starting to get things figured out. After dropping a full pound, you’re now up to 7 pounds 6 ounces! At your last doctor’s appointment, you were 20.5″ long, but I think you’ve grown at least an inch since, because your legs are too long for Newborn-sized sleepers.

Lots of feedings!

Lots of feedings!

My saying for the first month has been: “First time mom + first time baby = not a good combo”. Thankfully you’ve been pretty forgiving. I just hope you’re this forgiving later in life…

We’ve spent most of your first month living with Grammie and Granpie in Indiana–Daddy had to start his new job two weeks after you were born in Indianapolis, so that I had some help, we temporarily moved up to the family farm with your puppy sisters. I think you’ve enjoyed your stay–you get spoiled by not only Grammie and Granpie, but also your Aunt Erin and Uncle Jerry. Win-win.

We’re in this together for a lifetime, and while the future is still scary for me to fathom, I’m happy I have you as my little partner in crime.

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Baby A&W’s Arrival

It’s hard to believe that it’s only been two weeks since Baby A&W came into my life. They say time goes by quickly, but I think the first few weeks actually slowly trudge along. That could be because of the lack of sleep, or the overwhelming feeling you constantly have because of all of the new information, new learning, new schedule, etc.

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Without going into detail, I thought I’d share my story of Aubrey’s arrival.

Monday afternoon (Feb. 2) I had my regular 39 week appointment (I was 38 weeks and 5 days) with my doctor. At 1 pm, I was only 2-3 cm dilated and 80% effaced, and my doctor said she was thinking Thursday or Friday would be the day. If not, we’d induce at my 40 week appointment the following Monday, so that way M was in town for the birth of our baby girl. I went back to work, perfectly comfortable. After work, I went home and took my two dogs, plus my mom’s Vallhund, for our usual 2 mile walk in the neighborhood. It was then that I started to feel extreme discomfort off and on–no real regular timing, and no pain, just uncomfortable. I figured it was because we were walking at a fast clip over the hills in my neighborhood…but apparently it was labor contractions (though I didn’t know this for a few more hours).

When I finished our walk, I stretched out on the couch and my mom said I didn’t look too good, so we started timing the cramping and called the doctor. We waited an hour, I drank about 50 ounces of water and tried to relax, but finally the doctor said I should go into the hospital–it could be one of two things, true or false labor. So at 9:30 we headed out the door and to the hospital. At 10, upon admittance, the nurse checked me over and said I was 5 cm and 100% effaced–this was the real thing. So I called M, and he and my dad started their 3.5 hour journey from Indiana, and with adrenaline pumping through his veins, he made it to Lexington in less than 3 hours.

By 11 pm (or so), I asked for an epidural because the contractions were coming hard and fast–we knew the only way we could hopefully slow down labor so hopefully M would make it to the hospital in time for his baby’s birth was if we did the epidural right then. I was at 8 cm, and we were speeding through. Getting the epidural hurt…like hell. My contractions were nonstop, so it was hard to get the epidural in place, but finally we did.

By 1:30, M and my dad had made it, and I was 9 cm…and finally feeling relaxed because of the epidural and because my best friend was there. Then it was a waiting game…things had basically stopped. My water had yet to break. It wasn’t until about 4 am that I was at 10 cm. Around 5 am, they finally broke my water on their own. At 5:30, the doctor came in and announced it was “time to have a baby!”

Delivery was short and sweet–the nurses and doctors were impressed at how quickly things were progressing. At some point I said something about how I had heard that if you worked out and/or ran throughout your pregnancy, delivery was supposed to be quick. That’s when the doctor looked at me and said, “Considering most first-time moms push for at least three hours, and your baby is going to be here in less than 30 minutes, I think you’re doing pretty good.” Lo and behold, at 5:59, little miss A&W entered the work. (Ironically right before my alarm went off on my phone to wake up to go to CrossFit. LOL)

He's definitely one happy, and proud, daddy.

He’s definitely one happy, and proud, daddy.

So, there you have it….labor lasted less than 12 hours, with delivery less than 30 minutes. She was (still is) perfect. Born 38 weeks and 6 days, 6 pounds 14 ounces, 20 inches long, with a full head of hair (taking after her momma, of course). Within the first 24 hours, it was apparent she’s a strong girl–she was already lifting her head off my chest, pushing off my body with her legs and arms.

The first week was a strange sensation that I actually gave birth to this little human being–I’m actually a mother. It’s still a hard concept to grasp for me right now, even after two weeks.

I’m not 100 percent sure all of my maternal instincts have kicked in, yet, but I’m getting there. Learning how to change a diaper wasn’t too hard, and I’m still getting the hang of swaddling. Trying to figure out why she erupts in cries is another story…I may never figure all of those out. Breastfeeding is hard…don’t ever think it’s easy, because it’s not. I’m planning to do a write-up on that soon. Aubrey dropped all the way to 5 pounds 14 ounces by the time we left the hospital (babies typically lose 4% of their body weight after birth, anyway), and it’s been a hard, slow road to get her back to her birth rate (she’s at 6 pounds 2 ounces now).

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Do I recommend continuing to work out during pregnancy still? Of course I do. I think it did help me have an easy labor/delivery and I think it’s been what has helped me recover faster than most. But you have to do it on your terms and listen to your body, and fuel wisely.