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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.

  6. I can’t imagine what any of you go through. I was blessed for the most part from pregnancy, delivery, and nursing. Don’t get me wrong I had problems with all of it but not allergy screaming uncomfy babies. My heart goes out to all of the mommies that struggle with any of these areas. I keep you all in my prayers. I also want to say I am completely blessed by this blog. I look forward to every email. It is nice to read about other stay at home moms and there creative lives. Our job is NOT 9-5. Thank you. Good job mommies everywhere. You are doing your best and that is the best that you can do. Keep up the good work ladies. We will survive all of it. Later look back and think one of two things: what was I complaining about that was easy OR how did I survive that.

  7. My colicky baby, who used to bang her head against my chest and who I, more than once, laid gently on the bed and stepped backward from so I would not shake her, is now the world’s sweetest seven-year-old. Those first four months were crazy hard and I dreaded the sun going down because nights were just me and her and the screaming. We survived it, but gosh I wouldn’t return to that time for anything!

  8. Thank you for being *the Voice*, for being willing to be open and honest about the ugly feelings adn moments. Motherhood is not always a bed of roses.. and too many are afraid to admit that! But so many NEED to hear that! I admit, I don’t know that I had it *THAT* bad, but I suffered MANY weeks.. and I look back now and realize that I SHOULD have been open with my Dr and asked for a prescription for anxiety.. I was a train wreck! But I was in survival mode.. plain and simple.. a toddler still not yet 3, nursing twins.. one with reflux and eczema.. Oh they both cried.. she screamed.. My husband admitted he looked forward to working and staying late if needed.. b/c it was misery at home.. moreso in the evening hours!

    Prayers for your friends daughter while she wades through these early weeks. You are an awesome mentor!

  9. We all have those times! My son wouldn’t latch and I didn’t want to be the mother that didn’t breastfeed so I pumped everything for 12 months. I was bleeding and in pain and wouldn’t stop. My husband came in to ask me something and I was pumping and crying. He said why can’t you just stop and we can give him formula. As I cried “Because I am a horrible mom and I need to do something right!” No one tells you these things until after you have kids or else I totally missed it!! Good luck to all those going through it to know that you aren’t alone!

  10. I’m almost crying on my lunch break. I needed this note so badly when I had a newborn (now she’s 18 months). She had colic, would NOT latch, cried endlessly unless in the proper walking/bouncing/swaying motion. I thought that all of this was the norm…and I felt helpless. I was either swaying/rocking/walking/bouncing/feeding/burping OR chained to a pump/washing bottles/trying to eat or shower while my baby screamed at me. I cried A LOT. When little old ladies asked me if she was “a good baby” (which is already sort of WTF?) I answered with an extended “uh” and said “she cries a lot”. I know what you mean when they have warnings about purple crying and not shaking your baby and now you know why. Before pregnancy, I couldn’t imagine anyone needing those. With a newborn I wondered why everyone else didn’t seem to need those, but I did.

    I didn’t really understand that all babies were not like this until my friend had one three months later. The little guy was happy as a clam, ate really well, slept like an angel. Whereas, nobody wanted to hold my baby because all she would do is cry.

    I am lucky because she outgrew her colic around 3-4 months (just in time to start daycare. yay.). The only reason I would consider having a second one is because I don’t think I could possibly have another one as bad…but then I’m scared to death that I’ll be wrong.

    Anyway, thank you for this. I hope it helps lots of new moms out there.

  11. yes, yes and yes…. we waited soooo long and paid soooo much money to get pregnant with what we knew was going to be our only child. we were soooo happy when he finally arrived.

    Then he screamed. for.6. months. 6 months of screaming and anger from him. he was so unhappy and we only got our first smile at 8 months and first real laugh at 9 months. i remember handing him to my husband at 4 am and going for a walk in my bathrobe and slippers, in montreal in december, for 2 hours…. and finally telling god that i will deal with this, and love him, but i will need lots of help.

    it did stop (with the miracle help of an osteopath. i have no idea what he did and his explanation sounded allot like rainbows and butterfly magic, but it freakin worked and thats what mattered…) and he is such a happy gentle 4 year old who laughs and smiles all the time. it will come, and you will sleep again.

    • 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….

  12. Very well said!

  13. It’s so nice that even while you are having your own personal struggles you can reach out to help a new mom. You’re right in that while I’ve been waiting so long to finally get pregnant, misery is not that picture. So reading this makes the wait just a little bit easier!

  14. Oh Sarah! I had that baby too! Well, with some of those problems and some other ones to replace a few that your Jack had. I felt like shouting ‘Sing it sister!’ while reading that because so much of it resonated. I remember the days of crying because at 2 in the afternoon I literally had no clean tshirts left because my kid threw up on every freaking one that I owned and in my hormone ridden post partum state it was just not something I could cope with (having a wet smelly shirt was so so gross!)… I remember the screaming, the crying, the endless wind pain, the vomits, the blood in the vomit, the purple circles under his eyes because he just couldn’t sleep, the two loads of washing a day because he had thrown up on so many clothes and all his 30+ burp cloths to the point they were soaked, expressing milk because we had attachment issues and then thinking the same thing ‘THIS IS the last feed then no more, I can’t do it again’ etc ….My little boy was also born with an imperforate anus so had surgery at 30 hours old to create a little bum hole which came with a whole slew of other things to deal with.
    It does get better, just a few days ago we had a celebratory dinner because for the first time in 9 months he and I both had the same clothes on at 7pm that we put on at 7am. It sounds ridiculous but it was worth celebrating for us haha. Nipple shields for us started with me wanting to punch someone, but now at 9 months I am thankful for them because they ended up working and I have been able to breastfeed since Josh was a month old.
    Long ramble to say, commiserations and thank you for sharing that letter. It did resonate deeply for me, particularly the part about leaning on your partner. That was a hard lesson to learn!

  15. Oh, those sleepless first months of the first baby. Thirty some years ago my oldest daughter was born, I had to quit nursing after the first month to go back to work. We started her on formula and that’s when the fun started. Endless crying from colic and sleepless nights, on both our parts. Her little tummy hurt and was so swollen.

    I would get up with her at night and go sit in the living room so my husband could sleep because he had just started a new job, and she could only sleep if she was held upright. My MIL would come spell me so I could get some sleep to go to work in the morning (thank god for her). After a week or two of this, I finally had the final straw when she threw up a whole bottle full down my back after a feeding.

    We called her doctor, an older man who had seen it all, and he was so calming because I was nearly in hysterics. He had me give her a bottle full of water with a little sugar and then another one later to flush her system. Then we started her on a soy formula and the difference was amazing. She was a happy baby, and the first night she slept I kept getting up and checking her to make sure she was okay. (This was in the days before much was known about other digestive problems with babies.)

    The happiness when she felt better was such a relief, and such a joy. That time will finally come for her, too. Confidence and a piece of chocolate are great helps, and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you are just too worn out to do anyting else. If for nothing else but a nap!