This is a very tough one to write, but I felt the need to remember how far I’ve come in 8 short months. They call it the 4th trimester. The first 12 weeks of being a new mom. My baby LJ was born on January 21st, 2012. Surrounded by my two sisters and Juan, several hours of waiting in the hospital, followed by an epidural, about 2 hours of actual pushing, and suddenly I was holding this tiny little person in my arms. This story is my reminder of what I need to prepare myself for, in case I suddenly turn crazy and decide I may want to have another baby someday. I’ve been watching a lot of new moms on Facebook holding their newborns and posting happy things like “I’m so in love with this baby!” or “Baby’s first time in the pool!” or “Baby’s first road trip!” and I can’t help but think to myself, COME ON. You know you are crying on the inside just a little bit. Now, just to be clear, this is my story of the first 12 weeks of motherhood. I dub this as the dark days. And when my friend told me the payoff would be big, it took me a while to finally believe it. But turns out she was right. My baby was about to show me a whole new side of myself I never knew existed.
1. Goodbye sleep: When I was pregnant, all I heard from other moms was “get as much sleep as you can before the baby comes” and I would think ok whatever. I usually wake up 2-3 times a night anyways to use the bathroom, and I’ll be on maternity leave for a couple months, I’ll be fine. Well, today I eat my words. My friend later told me that when she heard me say those words, she laughed snidely to herself. I can see why. Living with a newborn means that sleep becomes a pipe dream. Not only am I waking up every 2-3 hours to feed the baby, I also have to change his diaper, swaddle him back to sleep, keep a log of his feeding/diaper changes, pump more milk, and constantly check on him to make sure he’s still breathing. The level of anxiety and fear is so high that you’re afraid to sleep. I would lie in bed in anticipation of hearing him cry again. Imagine an entire month and a half of no more than 3 hours of sleep at a time. Juan tried to help but I wanted him to get enough sleep for work, plus I had my own “system” that I wanted to stay consistent with. That was probably my first mistake. Not letting him help me more at night. I’d sit on the edge of the bed pumping and glance over and see him sound asleep, and I was so envious of him I wanted to cry. That was my life. And for someone who loves sleeping as much as I do, it was a complete shock to my system.
2. Waiting for Sunrise: I was so tortured by my lack of sleep that the nights became another source of fear. As soon as it started to get dark outside I started dreading the long night ahead of me. For some reason, the daytime feeding and crying and changing was cake compared to the nights. At least during the day, I had people texting or visiting or calling me to give me the support I needed. I remembered that at the first sign of light outside, my spirits were lifted again and I found the strength to get through another day. My nights were spent counting down the hours until the sun came out.
3. Recovery time: On top of being devoid of sleep, my body was going through a tough recovery. I had to figure out how to walk “normal” again after 9 months of waddling around with my baby belly. Stretch marks beyond belief, not being able to sit on any hard surface for 6 weeks, flabby skin, a tired weak body, not to mention this horrible nerve damage on my left wrist from the hospital IV. I couldn’t bend my thumb for almost 2 months. Try carrying a baby or lifting a baby car seat in and out of a two door car with only one functioning hand. My left hand couldn’t grip anything, and anytime I accidently I bumped my left wrist or thumb I’d experience a shocking pain. It took about 8 weeks before my body felt “normal” again.
4. Friendships vs Family: This one caught me by surprise. It’s hard to explain, but having a baby truly shows you the people that genuinely care about you. More than anything it shows you the value of your true friendships and strong family bonds. We had a LOT of people visit us in the hospital the day LJ was born, even some friends that I didn’t expect to show up actually came by to see us. It was so heartwarming to see the outpouring of support. But yet… the friends that we expected to see that day, the ones who were so “excited” to see our baby and claimed they would come see our baby all the time….they never showed. It was heartwarming and a little bittersweet at the same time. My closest friends that I thought would come visit me all the time when I was home with a new baby, they never came. But I knew who would show up. My family. My mom showed up every other day to bring food and make sure I was fed, my aunt showed up many times on her lunch break to spend time with us…but I have to say my saving grace was, without a doubt, my sister Janet. She completely and utterly held my hand through the entire thing. She had her own 2 year old to care for, but despite that, every other day she was at my house helping me feed LJ so I could nap, doing simple tasks like washing my dishes, held LJ so I could finally take a few minutes to shower, cooked me food, gave me moral support. Just like when I was 8 years old when she saved me from almost drowning at a water park, she had saved me from drowning yet again. This reaffirms my lifelong belief system –family is everything.
The Payoff – Finding Freedom, Stronger Relationships, Learning to Love, and My Beautiful Child: When I was going through these dark days, the baby blues came on pretty strong. It felt like I was in some sort of prison and would never be able to see the light of day again. I was left wondering will I ever sleep or be free again. About 4 months later, I learned the answer was YES! I do get to live again! Since LJ was born, Juan and I have traveled to Vegas, Cali, Payson, have gone to concerts and shows, had date nights, and time to spend with our family and friends. I’ve reached that light at the end of the tunnel that looked so dim 8 months ago. My relationship with Juan is getting stronger by the day. He has been such a supportive partner to me, even more so than I expected. I remember one time I was awake in the middle of the night feeding LJ…Juan heard me next to him so he reached over and rubbed my back. It was a small gesture that meant a lot. It told me that I wasn’t alone. There were many small moments like that, like when he would lay still on his back the entire night while LJ slept on his chest. Back then it was the only way LJ would stay asleep. This is a man that’s not afraid of doing 4am feeding and diaper duties even while he’s juggling 2 jobs and school. Here’s an example of one of his 4am diaper changes. This cracks me up every time. But hey, he got the job done. Lol.
And LJ…my beautiful little LJ. He’s now 8 months and crawling, wakes up all smiles every single morning. Oh, AND he’s sleeping 11 hours a night! Yesssss. I love this little person sooooo so much. He looks like the exact mixture of Juan and me. I remember the first moment I felt like a real mother. It was a couple months ago and LJ woke up crying in the middle of the night, which is rare for him to do nowadays. I picked him up and held him in my arms, and as soon as he was in my arms he relaxed and fell back asleep. There is nothing more amazing than holding your sleeping baby in your arms. As my friend said to me once, “you will never love anything more” and she was right. There’s nothing more scary, exciting and rewarding in life than being a mom. Now every birthday, holiday and special occasion becomes that much more incredible when you get to experience it through the eyes of your child.
Follow us on our journey with LJ! You can visit our family blog here.