the first month of penny’s life was basically hell on earth. it’s quite harsh to word it like this but i don’t want to sugarcoat what i had endured during that time.
even though i was told by multiple lactation consultants that penny had a great latch, breastfeeding was incredibly painful. despite this, i kept on doing it hoping that the pain would subside. thing is, newborns nurse constantly and – tmi alert – my nipples never got the chance to heal so they were red, raw, cracked and bleeding. every time i breastfed penny tears would be streaming down my face and i’d be gritting my teeth. looking back, i still can’t believe i didn’t give up. my pride and obstinate nature were big factors in continuing this torturous deed but it took a great toll on me emotionally.
the pain of breastfeeding caused me so much anger and misery that it was hard to really enjoy motherhood initially. i knew that it wouldn’t be comfortable but i had no idea how much it would actually hurt. i dreaded breastfeeding so much i would cry in anticipation of the impending pain; and during breastfeeding, i would picture myself jumping out a window or hanging myself in a doorway! i was suffering so much i had thoughts of wanting to die. and still, i pressed on. many times i couldn’t take it anymore and would unlatch penny so she could bottle feed.
one particular lactation consultant advised me to take a break so i could heal mentally and physically. that meant i had to pump, and i pumped every. two. hours. even at night. this went on for a few weeks and i wanted to collapse from fatigue. i had white bumps underneath my eyes from lack of sleep and i was unbelievably hostile and irritable. to top it off, i got mastitis (twice), an infection of the breast tissue. the constant pumping and, quite possibly, bacteria entering my body through cracked and sore nipples took its toll.
although i had, and still have, a great support system i still felt helpless and alone. it was difficult to talk about my ordeal with anyone because i didn’t know anyone that shared my painful experience. or so i thought. when i posted about my breastfeeding struggles, i was amazed at the large amount of feedback i received from other mom friends about their own personal struggles. having these women respond to my story and offer words of encouragement and advice certainly helped in my being able to persevere and trying to maintain optimism and hope.
i found using a nipple shield greatly helped penny’s latch while also diminishing pain and discomfort. even though i seemed to have overcome the biggest source of misery, i was still often unhappy. a lot had to do with being overwhelmed by a baby’s demands and being constantly tired. for the most part, penny has always been a great sleeper. i’m not counting the first few weeks of her life because newborns have to wake constantly to eat. they also have what is referred to as “the witching hour” – from roughly 6-11pm, babies can get inconsolable and refuse to sleep. growth spurts and developmental leaps are usually not fun and affect sleep as well.
whenever there was a hiccup to the schedule that i had for penny, i would freak out. i’m constantly researching articles on sleep and i had learned that “sleep begets sleep.” if penny ever woke up from a “disaster nap” (a nap that is less than 45 minutes), i would get upset because not only would it throw off the whole schedule but i’d worry about her being overtired and waking up at night. i drove myself crazy envisioning possible scenarios and found it tough to cope with unexpected situations. it got the point to where my anger and frustration would boil over and i would lose my cool at penny. how can you get mad at a baby? even worse, how can anyone yell at a baby?
the times i spent an hour rocking penny to sleep only to have her wake up the minute i put her down were usually because she was transitioning to fewer naps. i didn’t know it then and kept trying to figure out what was wrong. i would cry from being angry, tired, and hungry. sometimes i would yell at penny to go to sleep. after penny’s newborn stage, i was mostly alone all day with her and my dog. i was lonely and overwhelmed. i kept praying for patience and endurance, and i would have a good stretch where i felt happy. then something would throw me off and i’d start having a panic attack. often times i felt guilty for feeling angry or sad because penny actually is a good sleeper and such a happy baby. i was also often told that i “should be like this” and “not like this” so that made me feel even more terrible. i knew i had to act before it really started to affect my relationship with penny.
i scheduled an appointment with my ob to discuss the possibility of my having postpartum depression. we found that my type a personality makes it hard for me to be flexible and be able to go with the flow. i’m all about structure and schedules and the unpredictability of a baby basically threw my whole life off course. thankfully, it seems as if i have adjustment issues instead of postpartum depression but i still constantly have to keep working on remaining calm and being more relaxed. i’ve also been taking 25mg of zoloft before i go to bed to help take the edge off and sleep better at night. although penny sleeps 11-12 hours, any little noise that she makes rouses me from my light slumber and i’d lie awake thoughts running through my head, unable to sleep. zoloft doesn’t conk me out but i have a more restful sleep now.
with penny sleeping such long stretches and going to bed on her own, i’ve been feeling more rested and happy these days. i know anything can change… and i still have my bouts of freak-outs but my attitude has improved. dennis says he feels encouraged because he sees me smiling more than i had been before i had gone to see my ob.
parenthood is such a monumental and pivotal moment in our lives – it’s vital to have a support system. i also learned not to be afraid to ask for help and to also r e l a x without the baby. now i feel more comfortable about going out sans penny after having nervously done it the first few times. it wasn’t that i didn’t want to go out; i was afraid that penny’s schedule would get messed up because whoever watched her wouldn’t do it the way i did. even now i still struggle with micromanagement but i’m trying to be more easygoing. the vegas trip helped immensely because i got a much-needed getaway and i learned to “let go” since i wouldn’t be taking care of penny for 4 days.
this friday, dennis and i will be going to punta canta for 5 days for a wedding. i’m nervous again about leaving penny but much less so this time around. she’s on a great schedule and she loves my in-laws so i know she’ll do well. i just have to remember to relax and have fun.
i love having visitors. for a while, i struggled with staying in touch with people because i was so miserable and tired but human contact is so important. having visitors also breaks the monotony and helps the day go by quicker.
dennis could always tell if i had a visitor while he was at work because i’d be happier and smiling more than usual.
our friend, john, came over yesterday to hang out 🙂
goodbye to the merlin sleep suit. penny finally mastered rolling over in the suit so she can’t wear it anymore to bed. we were worried about transitioning her out of it but she’s still sleeping wonderfully! she’ll wake up at night because she’ll roll over onto her stomach but she falls back asleep, usually on her tummy.
penny sleeps in a sleep sack now – still too young for blankets. dennis gets really worried about her sleeping on her stomach especially since her face was right up against the mattress last night. i reassured him that she would wake up if she can’t breathe. she has great arm strength as is evidenced two photos above but admittedly i get anxious too and stare at the monitor to make sure she’s breathing.
this post took a lot longer than i had thought it would. it’s nearly 9pm and i haven’t eaten dinner yet. still, i’m glad i finally was able to post about my struggles because it’s not something i feel like i should have to hide or be ashamed about. if my personal experience can spread awareness and encourage new and current moms, then this has been all worth it.