Nothing is how I thought it would be

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motherhoodbuttonYou are reading my personal story for the When Motherhood Comes Softly Series. You can read more from this series by clicking the button to the left. We hope you are encouraged as you read about other woman as they struggle to grow into the role of mother by trusting in God day by day. If you would like to submit a post for this series, please read the introduction to this series and guest post submission guidelines. I look forward to reading your story!

 

 

Surviving with a newbornThere’s no way to tell when it’s coming. One minute, he’s perfectly content, nestled next to me nursing contentedly. The next, he’s screaming and clawing at my breast leaving red scratches all over. He throws his head back in an angry roar. He’s in pain. I can tell by his cry. I don’t know how I know this, but I do. He’s hurting, and I don’t know how to make it stop.

What kind of mother does that make me?

I relatch him and all is calm for a moment. First a slight whimper and then the screaming again. I rub his back and speak softly to him. He’s bobbing on and off my breast. I can tell he’s hungry, but apparently it hurts to eat.

Why can’t I feed my son without causing him pain?

Finally, I sit up and prop him up against my knees. He’s happy. I sit there watching him for a few minutes until I think it’s safe to try again. This time, as soon as I lay him down next to me the screaming starts again, so I cry too. I am just so tired. I just want to sleep. I can’t keep doing this. I cannot soothe him now. He just keeps screaming, thrashing his tiny body, and lashing out at me with his hands.

In that moment, I truly understand why some people shake their babies. Utter frustration and a total loss of what to do.

But I don’t. I lay him down in the bed, which only makes him angrier, and walk away. I take a few deep breaths in the living room and pull myself together. I head back into the bedroom with a new resolve. I scoop up that tiny baby, and we try again. I hold my breath as he suckles. Waiting for the moment the screams will come, but they don’t. His body relaxes and finally sleep comes. I don’t dare move him back to the bassinet. I just lay there as still as possible and try to get some sleep, too. We both need it.

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I’ve wanted to be a mother for as long as I can remember. I always had the natural touch with children. They loved me. And I loved them. I couldn’t wait to have one of my own. I dreamed about what it would be like.

It’s funny how dreams shift when they become a reality. Once I had a positive pregnancy test in hand–my ideas about motherhood began to shift. I wanted a natural birth, to breastfeed at least a year, to cloth diaper–all things the 18 year old me would’ve thought was crazy. But one thing never wavered: I was confident I would be a good mother.

Then, my little one arrived after a long day of induced labor with an epidural (not the labor I had envisioned!). I had been awake for nearly 24 hours and was exhausted. Most babies sleep for the first 24-48 hours of life. Not my boy. He nursed. Constantly. I remember the moment I snapped that picture. I posted it to Facebook with the caption “asleep at last”. I’m pretty sure he woke up 5 minutes later.

My confidence began to slip.

The first week at home, my mom was there, and Thomas was an angel. Seemingly, the moment she walked out the door, the crying started. Nights like the one described above were routine. He started pulling his little legs up to his chest and screaming. We tried gas drops, bicycling his legs, gripe water. Nothing helped.

My husband suggested a call to the doctor–I refused. Babies cry. It’s just what they do. I wasn’t going to be that mother.

But inside I already felt less than.

He would not sleep anywhere but on my chest or nestled next to me in bed. If he was awake, he was probably nursing. He also started spewing milk. I won’t call it spit up because that just sounds too gentle. After, he wanted to nurse some more. Motherhood was just so constant.  

When he was four weeks old, my aunt brought my grandparents out to meet Thomas. I remember sitting in my rocking chair crying because I couldn’t get Thomas to stop crying. I was embarrassed. I was tired. I was lost. I was confused. They probably went home thinking I had lost it.

And I had! I remember telling Michael multiple times in the middle of those long nights, “I quit. I just want to take him back to the hospital. I don’t want to do this anymore!”

What kind of mother says that?

I had done everything right. I nursed on demand. I held or wore him. I never let him “cry it out”. I read the books and did what they said. I also followed the few instincts I had. But still, he cried. And truth be told, I didn’t even know if I really liked him. During the day, when all was well, I adored him. But at night, when this monster child came out, I wasn’t so sure anymore.

What was wrong with me? 

Finally, I broke down and called the nurse at the pediatrician’s office. One doctor’s appointment, an acid reflux diagnosis, and two prescriptions later, we had an answer, a happy baby, and I was on my way to learning some of a parent’s most important lessons:

I cannot perfectly parent my way to having the perfect child–he is unique, and we are both sinners.

I cannot be a perfect mother.

God has grace for both of us.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

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Comments

  1. Cross Moms says:

    Oh, I so remember these days with my boys. My third was the hardest. He, too, was amazing for the first twelve days of his life. I remember telling my pediatrician at his first doctor appointment that God knew what I needed because this last little one is such an angel. Literally, the very next day, colic symptoms arrived and we spent the next six months trying to sooth our son. It was an incredibly trying time for our family. I am so thankful God’s grace is sufficient! That’s what got us all through it! Thank you for sharing on NOBH!
    Love and God Bless,
    Christy

  2. Desiree Kelley says:

    Beautiful! My son also had acid reflux, but meds helped him too. So glad you also found a diagnosis and you were able to feed him. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Christina@toshowthemjesus.com says:

    This brings back memories! Those early weeks and months are so hard! My depression clouded the early months of both my boys infancies. Thanks for sharing your heart!

    • They are so hard! I don’t think anything can prepare you for the first weeks of motherhood. I’m curious to see what it’s like the second time around.

  4. Oh, yes. It’s amazing how painful and nerve wracking sleeplessness can be. I remember being a crying wreck walking back from the doctor’s office the first time because a form hadn’t been signed and something hadn’t been done. I was in a total state of desperation. It still comes back nearly 3 years later.

    • In high school, my friends always joked that I turned into a pumpkin at 10. Its true though, I need my sleep. This of course oozed over into motherhood when of course you are not getting enough sleep! I was a pumpkin for several weeks!

  5. Oh sweetie – I was there, right with you. My darling first born and my confidence left with each cry. After a diagnosis of lactose intolerance and colic to boot I took it moment by moment. There were nights that I called my best friend and just cried. Eventually we all made it through :)

  6. Sharon O says:

    Being a new mom is hard work, nursing is even harder. Be kind to yourself in this new process. It will get easier but in the meantime find patience and continue to breathe.

  7. Oh yes….isn’t parenting the most humbling experience you’ve ever had?!? Thank You, Father, for keeping me on my knees…

  8. Thanks for this honest post, Mary Beth. Madison was an easy baby, so when Ryan came along I thought I had this mama thing down. Boy was I wrong! He cried constantly and I felt like a horrible mother. In God’s time he showed me that my children were unique and not cookie cutters. He also has shown me that my identity doesn’t come from being the perfect mother, wife, or christian. My identity is in Him alone. I have also learned that the same goes for my children, that their identity isn’t how people see them or perceive them. Like you said they are sinners too. I have learned that parenting with grace is what’s needed in our home. We make mistakes, but we forgive and move on. You’re doing great and I just love your blog.

    • I have to remind myself that my identity is not wrapped up in how good a mother I am. For so long I looked forward to this part of life, I kind of built it up to the “be all end all”, and while motherhood is definitely probably the best thing I will ever do, it does not define who I am–only Christ.

      Thank you so much for the encouragement!

    • That’s an important one: ‘children aren’t cookie cutters.’ Which means that the books that make so much sense to us sometimes don’t make sense for our particular kid. Great post!

      • I’ve had to learn to take the books with a grain of salt and trust my instincts. I know my child best and can determine what works best for us.

  9. Great to meet you as well!

    Mary Beth

  10. messymarriage says:

    I remember days or “nights” like that, Mary Beth. It was so many years ago for me, but your writings bring back that maternal frustration in a flash. I’ll certainly pray that things continue to improve for you and your sweet baby.

    • Thank you! He is 17 months old now and while this age certainly presents its challenges, it is nothing like those first 6 weeks. They were especially challenging for us!
      Mary Beth

  11. KathleenBasi says:

    My fourth child is coming up on 8 months old, and it’s interesting to me now to see how calm I am through those kinds of times–not that I don’t ever lose it–I do!–but it’s usually when the yelling is in combination with other kids whining or complaining. In many ways, the baby’s the easy one now–I have learned so much about parenting babies!

    • I can imagine the frustration is compounded with more children! (I only have 1 right now!) I just have this idea that when he can talk it will be easier because he can tell me what’s wrong. I suppose a new challenge comes with each new stage though!
      Mary Beth

      • KathleenBasi says:

        Compounded, but also mitigated. They are the baby’s best entertainment. :) I have posted so many times on how people shouldn’t talk about how it’s harder later. The truth is that every stage has its joys and its challenges. I adore babies and I adore the school age, but that toddler-preschool age I could do without!

        • Oh see I love the toddler age…well I loved it with other people’s kids! We will see how it goes with my own!

          I’ve been told that the second baby is “easier” because you have entertainment there in their older sibling!

  12. As a young wife, I have dreams of being a mother.

    And I have worries.

    Will I have morning sickness when I’m pregnant? How will I cope? How will we keep our marriage healthy? What if the birth doesn’t go the way I hope it will? What if there are complications?

    And then…how will I be a good mom? What if my baby is sick? How will I know what to do?

    I really need to remember what God has been telling me about life the last few days….
    “No, you’re not perfect, but that’s ok.”
    “You don’t have to try to do life on your own. That’s what I’m here for.”
    “I love you no matter what.”
    “I know you’re overwhelmed sometimes. My grace is sufficient for you…”

    And, when I remember those things, and that God is in control…I know everything will be ok. :)

    Also, thankful for your post that’s appearing TOMORROW! :)

    • Isn’t that sort of the ultimate lesson in most of life? Trusting God that His grace is sufficient and He will get us through!

      I’m looking forward to it as well!
      MB

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