I know every woman feels different, but I wasn't prepared to feel like this. I never wanted to leave my daughter. And when I did, I felt(feel) guilty. I also worried if I had to be gone unexpectedly, and for long hours, what if she "forgets" me or refuses to nurse when I get home? Because, get real, your body does not respond to a breast pump the same as a nursing baby. So that 15 hour work shift I just had to pull caused a HUGE drop in my supply, AND because it was overnight, my body is really out of whack. My daughter is now 13 months old. She still breastfeeds once in the morning. I know she doesn't get a ton because it is followed by a sippy of whole milk, but at least I know I can give her some nutrients and antibodies to help keep her from getting sick. (13 months and free of a real sickness to date). She started weaning herself around 10 months old, mostly because I had to work an overnight shift, was awake for 24+ hours, and my milk supply plummeted, she got frustrated and my supply never bounced back. Even with fenugreek supplements, tons of water, and oatmeal. None of those "natural" remedies worked for me. I "helped" my mom with my sisters after they were born, I was 12 when the first was born. I had a great sense of what being a mom meant, responsibilities-wise, but because they were not my own and I was still young, I had no idea what being a mom would actually feel like.
I wanted to breastfeed because it was the best for my baby, and why, if I am perfectly capable, would I not breastfeed? I am so glad I chose to stick with it, but breastfeeding is demanding when you are not working, therefore super stressful when you ARE working. And the lack of sleep is difficult, which if you breastfeed, there's not any way to change that. Because the fact is, you WILL be up every 3 hours for the first 3-6 months (if not longer) of your baby's life.
At 6 weeks I was exhausted, so I tried pumping a bottle for my husband to try and take a shift during the night so I could get more than my 2-3 hours of sleep. That was a disaster because at the next feed I could not get my baby girl to latch. After crying for four hours with sadness and frustration, I finally got her to latch and said no more bottles until we have to give them to her when I return to work at 12 weeks.
No one told you all those things that bothered you when you were pregnant you couldn't have while you were nursing too. I could not drink any caffeinated beverages while I was nursing, no milk, no orange juice, no red pasta sauces, no broccoli. And I am sure I am forgetting some others. (No glass of wine before bed). So then I was nursing a baby every 3 hours, sometimes more, I was sleep-deprived, and I couldn't have any caffeinated beverages. It was hard. In between those 3 hours, if the baby isn't sleeping on you, you're hoping to shower, maybe eat, clean up around the house and maybe get some shut eye before the next feed. But you also have to change baby diapers, burp them, bathe them, give them a little activity time when they are awake.
No one told me that my baby wouldn't sleep laying down, on her back, in her bassinet. She did not want to be in her bassinet but maybe 15 minutes, and then would wake up crying and we would have to start all over again. (Even in the hospital she did not sleep in their makeshift bassinet). The only way we got some sleep in the beginning was if she fell asleep on our chests (which I am a stomach sleeper ONLY, so sleeping on my back was difficult, but guess what, you're tired enough you'll fall asleep!!!) or if she was swaddled and in her swing, turned on, with white noise, and a binky. I have another blog post that describes all the crazy methods we tried to get our daughter to sleep. But really, no one warned me that not only would I be sleep deprived, but I would have to try a million different things to try to get my baby to sleep at all, other than on me. (Next time I will be buying a rock and play sleeper, and/or a co-sleep extension for my bed, as well as a swing that swings side-to-side and back and forth).
My biggest "warning", for lack of a better term, to soon to be mom's or families that are trying to conceive out there is to not plan for when baby arrives, but be prepared for many different scenarios. For example, set yourself up so that you COULD be a SAHM if you find after having a baby that's what you want to do. Leave as many options available so that when the time comes you aren't cornered to do something that makes you cry every day that you are away or feel guilty that you can't pump enough for your baby anymore.
Thankfully for me, my employer worked with me and allowed me to go part-time, because I had to face it, I couldn't just flat out quit. But that also "cornered" me when thinking about having baby #2 because federal law does not protect part-time employees with FMLA, which meant if I wanted any sort of maternity leave with the next baby, I'd have to quit. So for baby #2, we are going to plan better. So I have the option to continue work or not continue work without putting my family in financial jeopardy. Or putting myself risk of going to a mental institution from my misery due to work stress. (I have to laugh a little bit, but am slightly serious).
Next baby, I will drink coffee to maintain my sanity if I must. I will have a can of formula in the house so its available if I really just need the help to catch a break, and I will not feel guilty. I will call my mother or mother in law to watch the babies so I CAN get sleep, even if I don't think I need it. Fortunately, my mom is young, at 43, so she has been a tremendous help. But even with her being my daughters caretaker when I am gone doesn't make me feel any less guilty when I have to go to work for who knows how long and be gone from my daughter. The first bedtime I missed, I bawled my eyes out.
In all of this I have learned that my sanity is more important than being a "perfect" mom in my terms. I was so worried about being the perfect mom to my daughter that I didn't care what cost it came at. But truth be told, a happy mommy = a happy baby. An unhappy mommy = an unhappy baby. Everything you feel, they feel. For instance, my daughter knew when I was stressed because my heart rate would skyrocket and my motions would get faster and my grip tighter, and we would sweat like crazy. This would only cause my daughter to become more inconsolable. Another piece of advice, buy earplugs. Hearing my daughter cry is one of the most stressful things for me, even 13 months later. I learned to cope with it and maintain calm by taking deep breaths, and earplugs for those really extreme moments, or taking a timeout in the other room while she was safe in her crib for 5 minutes. Purple crying, my hospital sent me home with this DVD, which they also made us watch before going home with our daughter, and I am glad they did. Because it was the "ok" to set my daughter down to gain my composure and start over again. Your sanity is most important.
I love my daughter and wouldn't change anything. But I will prepare myself better before we have any more children because I don't want to go through all of this again. I am *hoping* the second is easier because I'll know more about what I am doing and I'll have more confidence as being mom. All I ever wanted was to be a mom, and its reward, joy, love is much more than I ever thought it would be. It's definitely one of the best, and hardest, things I have ever done to date.