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Dear Alexis

I feel like I am walking a very strange path these days.  On one hand I have become, what my friend has called “an inadvertent mouthpiece for infertility“, but on the other hand, I have a kid.  And I can’t pretend that I don’t. So the post below is all about babies.  If that is something that just isn’t your bag, feel free to skip. 

An acquaintance of mine has a daughter with a new baby that is giving her a lot of trouble.  Just hearing her talk about the problems is like a giant flashback to when Jack was a baby.  Jack was like his mom – a terrible baby.  He had many issues: GERD, never sleeping, lots of screaming, a dairy and wheat allergy, and until we found the right combo of things (Prilosec, me cutting out dairy and gluten, his gut finally maturing, and finally getting a hang of nursing after nine long weeks), it was miserable. I remember feeling like a crap mom, and thinking no one else was dealing with this kind of crap.  And it was very lonely.  I wrote my friend’s daughter a note (below) and sent it with a dairy and gluten-free chocolate pie.  I’m sharing it with you today to hopefully help anyone who is currently going through this as well.

Dear Alexis,

Your Mom has been telling me about Wyatt and his struggles, and my heart just goes out to you. I am 99% certain we gave birth to the same child. A lot of moms get what they call “Momnesia” in which they forget about all the hard parts of having a newborn. Moms like us who have babies with colic, overactive Moro reflex, reflux (GERD in Jack’s case), food allergies, and nursing problems don’t get the luxury of Momnesia. We have a special form of PTSD. Listening to your Mom describe Wyatt’s crying and painful fits almost gives me anxiety because it puts me right back in your shoes six years ago. If you told me then, that one day it would all be ok and behind me, I’d call you a liar. Because when you’re in the middle of it, it is all-encompassing, defeating, polarizing, and so freaking exhausting. The stage you’re in now is the stage when rest is impossible, and pillows are only used for screaming in to, and not sleeping.

I am here to let you know it does get better. You’re going to survive this, and one day, you’re going to be able to help another mom going through the exact same thing (though you wouldn’t wish this kind of frustration on anyone).

There are things you picture while pregnant, and none of them involve a kid who screams their face off, getting to eat only about four things because your precious child has food allergies and you’re breast-feeding, and feeling like this is all your fault. No one tells you about how hard it can be, which means you look inward and blame yourself. If everyone only talks about the wonderful times, then surely what you are feeling and experiencing isn’t normal, which means it is your fault. Right? Wrong. You are a great mother and none of this falls on you. You’re doing a wonderful job and this crappy time will pass.

Below are things that no one talks about, but I thought multiple times when Jack was young. I’m sure you’ve experienced some of these. It doesn’t make you a terrible mom; it makes you normal. It makes you exhausted.

  • If you’ll just tell me what the hell you want, I’ll give it to you.
  • Why in the world would anyone have more than one kid? These things are a huge pain in the ass.
  • I love this kid. I do not like this kid.
  • This is not fun. I don’t enjoy any of this. Can I have a do over? Do they take returns?
  • Now I get why they have all those “don’t shake your baby” posters at the pediatrician’s office.
  • Where is the off switch?
  • Maybe if I scream as loudly as he is, he’ll realize how stupid he sounds and just stop it. Like scream shaming.
  • I’d like to meet the person who created the nipple shield, and I want to punch them so hard.
  • Whenever someone would tell me “enjoy this time because it goes so quickly”, I’d want to say “do you promise”, but never had the nerve, lest anyone think me a terrible mom.
  • I’m just going to get through this one last feeding and then I’m going to quit breastfeeding. THIS is it.
  • There were times when I felt so awful that Jack was in so much pain, but I also resented him for having those issues.

This moment in time seems like each day lasts 15. You doubt every single thing about yourself, and you retreat inward. Unless you have been through this experience, you don’t get it, so helpful advice from others never ends up helping, but only making you feel more insecure and more like you are failing. Things that work for normal babies, don’t work for babies like ours. Society tells us that moms are supposed to know everything and I’m sure you’ve been told “you know what’s best for your baby”, but in moments like this, you totally don’t. No one possibly could know what babies like ours need right now. And that puts more pressure on you to try to fake it.

Along with the impossible expectation of trying to know it all, you start to feel like you should do it all. I over-compensated with other things because I just couldn’t get my head wrapped around what do actually do to help my kid. I felt the expectation to be a super mom and I knew I was failing miserably. So instead, I tried doing it alone. I didn’t lean on Troy (my husband) because I didn’t want him to know how to be Jack’s mom better than I could. I couldn’t imagine what my mental state would look like if Jack was better around Troy than he was with me. So, I circled the wagons to protect my heart and what was left of my soul, and did everything…except diaper changes because for some strange reason, Troy liked doing those. Strange man.

And the only thing I ended up doing was pissing away my last shred of sanity. I was so tired and hungry (because Jack was allergic to everything that was delicious), and I was isolated. It took me awhile to realize I had to “share the pain” and not protect Troy because doing so meant my own mental health was at stake.

I wish there was a magical formula I could give you that would create a happy baby. I wish it was as simple as “reflux meds” + giving up anything tasty + prayer = happy baby”, but it’s not. In most instances, the only thing that will make it better is time. Time right now seems so cruel, but one day you’ll nurse your baby and it won’t hurt, or it won’t be hard, or it won’t involve a battle. And one day you’ll sleep for more than one hour at a time. And one day, you’ll realize that it’s been at least 12 hours since you last screamed and cried along with your baby just praying your heart out that he’ll just be quiet and happy.

One day, and that day will come soon, you’ll be abl eto enjoy your child and realize that this will turn out ok.  And my fervent prayer for you is that one day, you’ll feel confident in the fact that you are a great mother.  You are doing a great job with what you have been given.  Be kind to yourself.  Be patient with yourself.  Celebrate every single victory that you get.

You can call or text me any time, and I don’t mean that lightly. Please lean on me if you need anything or have any questions. You can’t get through this alone, and it’s great to have a “battle buddy”.

It gets better.

You’ll get through this.

You’re doing a great job.

And when all else fails, have a piece of dessert. It lasts for a few weeks in the freezer, and can be a tiny chocolate lifesaver when you’re at the end of your rope. Ingredients: cashews, honey, coconut oil, dark chocolate cocoa powder, vanilla, coconut cream, and bananas.

Sarah

 

PS, I get the pie plates at Goodwill for occasions such as this, so when you’re done with it, you can just throw it away (so much freedom and satisfaction in breaking a dish!), or save it for the day when you’ll need to share a dairy, gluten, egg, sugar, and soy-free dessert with someone in need.

 

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16 comments on “Dear Alexis”

  1. I am sure this post will help a lot of anxious new moms, and I think I may have “momnesia”, which you mentioned.

  2. You are a wonderful person, Sarah.

  3. my across the street neighbour said that the best day of her life was when i crossed the street and knocked on her door un announced, handed her a bottle of wine, told her to drink fast, take a shower, and get some sleep, grabbed a bottle out of the fridge and put her 24hr a day screaming baby in her carriage and took her for a 4hr walk (yes, she screamed the whole way…).

    then she did the same for me the following year when i was going through it… the best 4 hours of my life….

  4. The perfect message for a new mom with so many challenges.

    My miracle baby who cost only $30,000 in infertility treatments had a difficult birth that not only kept me from getting to hold him for 14 hours, but also necessitated his taking IV antibiotics for his first few days. I have never found anything as difficult as trying to nurse a baby who was not hungry and attached to an IV and a breathing monitor. I could go on, but you get the idea. It was harder than hard, and it took what felt like forever to get better.

    What a blessing you are to your friend. Your words would have been a lifeline to me back then.

  5. YES. Yes, yes, yes.

    It feels like sacrilege to say, but I would rather have another micropreemie clinging to life in an incubator for four months than spend one night trying to soothe a colicky baby. If my second kid had been born first, I would never have had another one. I thought a kid with medical issues was difficult; I had no idea. At least with Pickle, we knew what was wrong and we were able to treat it with medication, with oxygen, and most of all, with comforting. She may have puked on every inch of carpet in the house, but she was easy to soothe as long as she was being held. But Baby Bear….it is only in the last few weeks that he hasn’t screamed in my face for half the day, and he’s five months old (and he still screams in everyone else’s face, so no one wants to babysit). And I managed to get four consecutive hours of sleep earlier this week, for the first time since my second trimester, so I feel like I’ve got a lot to celebrate right now…which when I stop to think about it is kind of sad. With Pickle, I was celebrating far more major milestones, like “baby off ventilator!” and “no eye surgery needed!”

    Babies with colic are devastating. My MIL tells me that I will not remember much of this year, and I’m really hopeful that that’s true. There have been days where I did not like this kid so much it hurt. It often felt like I’d been promoted to a job I wasn’t qualified for and they’d stopped sending my paychecks but I couldn’t quit. Now I feel a little more in control on a daily basis, but I still am haunted. Moms are the strongest people on the planet, and each day I find another reason why that’s true.