I’m Ready to Have a Baby – I Thought
Over the past 8 weeks of Amaya’s life, I’ve been struggling to accept, learn about, and embrace the new me. For 32 years I’ve been learning about myself and my tendencies – I like structure and control; I’m a doer; I’m stubborn in my ways; I’m giving; and I embrace things with passion and emotion. For the past 14 years I’ve been learning about myself as a girlfriend and now wife to Andy – I keep the household running while he manages our finances; I love to travel overseas while he prefers urban cities stateside; we both love food, binge watching our favorite shows, and music; we embrace open communication and have taught each other humility; we love each other fiercely. Things have been pretty easy and stress-free for awhile now. I’ve done a lot of soul searching and introspection to try and live an authentic life. Andy and I embraced wedding planning and house hunting with ease. And during all this time, my whole life, I have always known I wanted kids. So when we first broached the subject about trying, Andy was firm about waiting until he was ready while I felt like I wanted to be pregnant yesterday. We often talked about how our lives would change and how difficult it would be. Andy tried to help me get perspective on this, but I held onto my idealistic dream that the joys of parenting would far outweigh the hardship. This notion lasted my entire pregnancy. Then Amaya arrived, and my world was rocked.
In Limbo – Between My Idea of Motherhood and Reality
Everything I thought I knew about myself and my life was turned on its head. I was still me, but I didn’t understand being in my own body. Breastfeeding, lack of sleep, and not having energy or space to even think of myself let alone my husband proved to be more difficult than I imagined. It’s almost comical how badly I idealized motherhood, and now that I’m a mom, I’m struggling to find myself again. Instead of structure, I have a newborn who feeds on demand and whose sleep schedule is varied day by day. Instead of doing, I find myself scrolling on my phone while holding her as she sleeps. Instead of embracing her for everything she is, I found myself wanting her to be different – less fussy or a better sleeper at night for example. And instead of holding on to my stubborn ways, I have to constantly adapt because every week there’s something new to learn and understand; I think I say “I’m overwhelmed” or “I’m frustrated” daily. I find myself feeling trapped at home and wishing I could get out more without her crying or having a meltdown. In the evenings, Andy and I just sit and mindlessly watch Food Network because we feel our time is limited until she wakes up, and we don’t know what else to do. On top of this, I don’t get the ability to recharge in solitude, work out, or find a lot of quiet time with Andy, things that I literally need to function at my happiest. I “knew” it would be this way, but for some reason I still didn’t expect it. Even if you told me, I wouldn’t have understood. I was stuck in this weird place between thinking I would love being a mom and not understanding why I’m not enjoying every moment.
Expectation is the Thief of Joy
But then a few weeks ago Andy reminded me of this quote above. I painted such a rosy colored picture in my head that I wasn’t grounded in reality. It threw me for a loop and brought out a side of me that I wasn’t proud of. I was jealous of Andy for getting to go to work and work out. Then when he came home I would refuse help even if I needed it until I eventually had a meltdown. This obviously caused tension between us. I was too stubborn to listen to advice and just kept getting frustrated doing the same thing even if it didn’t work. I would complain that the days feel long and boring when she’s sleeping or unable to reciprocate any interaction. Everyone told me it takes time, but I am seriously the most impatient person ever. It’s so hard to accept that I’m doing everything I can and to not see results from my efforts. It made me cranky, and I felt defeated. I even took it out on my poor dogs! After a hard talk with Andy, I realized the impact of my negative energy. I needed to come to terms with myself and shift my perspective. It took a lot of patience and tough love from Andy.It required a lot of letting go and a lot of grace. But for my family’s sake, I needed to get over myself in order to grow.
Finally Seeing Progress
The last two weeks have been full of great learnings. I took Amaya on my first solo outing to a mommy group with 5 other moms and newborns. We did great! She fed and slept on my chest, and I got to catch up with the other December moms and swap stories/tips. Amaya and I also took a trip to Target that was short-lived, but I got over the fear of changing her in a public bathroom, and it wasn’t bad at all! Andy and I implemented mommy and daddy’s day out each week where we both get a few hours to ourselves, baby-free, to recharge. I met up with friends for a baby shower and a birthday. Andy met up friends for a drink and went to play paintball. We even had a quick date night at a sushi trailer! We got a system going where he gives a bottle and takes the midnight-3am shift so I can get a solid 4-5 hours of sleep, and I haven’t really felt tired much. And this past weekend we took a mini road trip as a family out to Driftwood for our friend’s housewarming. I was able to nurse and wear her so we hung out for a few hours and enjoyed ourselves. We also attended a Lunar New Year dinner, and Andy gave a bottle so I wouldn’t have to feed in public. On both occasions Amaya did pretty great. We still have some crazy nights, but they feel more doable now as both Andy and I get the hang of things and work as a team. And all of a sudden in the last two days she’s started to sleep for slightly longer stretches. Yay!
She’ll Be Fine
I not only feel more confident as a mom, I feel more connected to Andy as a partner. As a result, I’ve created more space to understand Amaya and her cues. It’s crazy how once I stopped thinking I should do this, or she should be like that, I could actually listen to and bond with her. With Andy’s help and my weekly “me time,” I also feel more rested and recharged. Amaya started smiling at me this past week and is much more alert! It melts my heart. And I haven’t really felt so overwhelmed since. I’m starting to trust that I’ll figure it out or keep trying and that she’ll be ok even if she cries for a bit. My latest mantra is “She’ll be fine.” I’ve stopped stressing over her “schedule” and second-guessing myself. We’re doing what works for us, and I know she (and we) will be ok…better than ok.
Old Me vs. New Me
The picture above is a testament to this whole journey. When I completed the BBG workout a year before I got pregnant, I was already thinking about my post-pregnancy body and planning how I would bounce back. I envisioned I would have a super healthy pregnancy, eat well, and work out consistently. Well that all went out the window with my midnight cravings and my back injury. By the end of my third trimester I was barely able to walk, not eating well, and had already gained nearly 40 pounds. Not what I had imagined. But everyone told me I would be back to my pre-pregnancy self in no time. The last picture is 6 weeks post partum after I got cleared to work out. I tried to do some light ab workouts, and the first time I extended my leg while lying on my back, it felt to the floor. My abs were non-existent, and until then they were always the strongest part of my body. It was humbling. But I also look at that picture and feel really proud. My body has gone through a lot this past year and produced a miracle. And it’s now sustaining a life. I thought I would look in the mirror and feel wistful, sad, or even disappointed with what I saw. But I feel happy to see this new me. This new definition of healthy and determined. I’m probably now 10-12 pounds over birth weight, but it’s shedding fast as I breastfeed. I’ve been doing yoga and light cardio almost every day, and I’m getting better, even though everything is still slow and difficult. I see the loose skin and the dark line down my mid section, and I remember the pain and glory of birth. I look back at that first picture when I was my fittest and skinniest. I remember how proud I was. But I realize that she didn’t know pain, purpose, and gratitude the way I do now. I’m so grateful for this entire journey. I know I’ve said that before, but I don’t always feel that way. If you ask me how I’m doing, I’ll tell you there are ups and downs. I’ll probably complain or be hard on myself. But lately, there’s a lot more ups. And what Allie told me is true: It doesn’t get easier; you get better.