My dark first weeks of motherhood

julia hargerI can hardly believe I survived all the chaos of early new motherhood. At the beginning, I didn’t think I would — at least not with my sanity intact.

For nine months, I mentally prepared to share my life unconditionally with a new being. I also did my best to get ready for one of the most anticipated — and what I thought would be the hardest — moments of my life: labor. Looking back, the physical pain from delivering a baby feels insignificant compared to the hardship of early motherhood, especially the first 6 weeks.

I wondered what I could have done to be better prepared for early motherhood with my first baby. But nothing can really prepare you for this.

Editor’s note: Adjusting to parenthood can be challenging, and the emotions of early motherhood can be difficult to navigate. In-person support is especially critical. Attachment Parenting International (API) encourages all mothers to consider hiring a doula, to be in frequent contact with a breastfeeding specialist and to connect with their local API Leaders and API Support Groups. Additional considerations for a smooth transition to new parenthood are included in the first of API’s Eight Principles of Parenting: Prepare for Pregnancy, Childbirth and Parenting.

For the first weeks, I wondered what would happen to me. I am certain I am not alone here, moms. Not even all I have learned from yoga in the past years were very helpful, I must admit. The beginning of motherhood was a time when I felt completely taken up by my emotions.

I became moody due to the lack of sleep. I felt pain from my body healing itself. I cried when she cried. I thought “Not again!” when, after 10 minutes from falling asleep, I heard that tiny cry all over again. I found myself stripped of any patience, way beyond what I imagined. Indeed, I thought “What did I get myself into?”

I skipped showers because of lack of time. I looked really bad. I had my legs hairy all summer, and I had to get used to my new body. I cried out of frustration, “I don’t know what you want!”

There were days when my face did not manifest a single smile. I hated my husband, because he could do anything whenever he wanted — shower, sleep, go for a jog — while I had to plan a whole schedule just to brush my teeth, or do it in 10 seconds. I also resented the fact that he could get back to his normal life straight away, and I was stuck at home.

I felt this extreme guilt of not responding properly to what everyone expected of me as a mother or what I idealized of myself as a mother: that, at the time I held the baby for the first time, a magic would happen and my own needs and desires would simply vanish…that I would be complete and happy straight away, only for being a mom…as if this dark part of questioning, frustrations and pains simply don’t exist.

But slowly, the rewards came. As the days went by, I started to feel happier with tiny feats: when she smiled, when she stopped crying, when she finally slept. I was so thrilled when we could go through a diaper change without a single tear, or when I could put her in the stroller and go for a 10-minute walk to pick up some groceries. I was deeply grateful when my sweet and calm words could soothe her, even if she was screaming her lungs out and could barely hear me.

I also rediscovered joy in the most trivial things: drinking water, having a shower, a tight hug, a quick chat with a friend, sleeping, my mom cooking for me, my daughter’s smile, her smell. I love and value these things so much more now!

Oh motherhood! The contrast between devoutness and empowerment at the same time! My vulnerabilities gave way to strength and resilience as I realized I was capable of all this. I did not know my body was capable of producing something to nourish her so perfectly. My embrace, my arms and my words can transform the loudest scream into a timid smile. My smell, hinting she is safe, changes her face completely.

And, all of a sudden, me again! A couple of weeks ago, I wondered how quickly this phase would pass, but now I hope it does not go so fast. I am anxiously aware that this dependency will someday be gone, and I will miss the time when all she needed was me.

Attachment Parenting doesn’t make me a perfect parent

Attachment Parenting doesn’t make me a perfect parent. It makes me an involved parent, a loving parent, and well… an attached parent, but certainly not a perfect one.

*****

jillian_amodioIt sneaks up rather quickly. It consumes my thoughts and drags me deeper and deeper into the same vicious cycle. All seems well, and then out of nowhere, it launches an attack on my psyche. It plagues my subconscious mind more than I care to admit. I’m sure it has an effect on the way I parent and the way in which I interact with my children. How can it not?

What is this mysterious thing that infiltrates my parenting and causes me such distress? Guilt.

Guilt over not spending enough time with my children, spending too much time on housework or not spending enough time on housework. Guilt for having a gassy baby. Guilt over not giving as much attention to my husband. Guilt for taking a nap rather than doing something “productive.” Guilt for not working outside the home. Guilt for losing my patience and not being creative enough, fun enough or energetic enough. Guilt for allowing screentime. Guilt for not allowing screentime. Guilt for wanting me time…

Now don’t get me wrong. Overall, I am happy. I adore being a mom. It is my calling, my purpose. But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t difficult, and that doesn’t mean that I’ve got it all figured out. More often than not, I’m clueless. I’m learning as I go. But for some reason, learning from my mistakes often results in feelings of failure.

After having my daughter, my first child, I was burdened with more guilt and sadness than I had ever known. There she was lying in my arms barely 24 hours old, and I sat there covering her with tears of guilt. I sobbed, feeling like a failure for having a Caesarean section when she went into fetal distress. I sobbed harder when I found breastfeeding to be one of the most difficult and confusing things I had ever tried to do. I had just begun my journey as a mother, and I already felt like a failure. For months after her birth, I would call my mom crying, telling her that I wasn’t good enough.

I remember almost dropping my daughter the first day I was home alone with her while trying to get the stroller out of the car so we could go on a walk. I sat in the parking lot out front of our townhome and sobbed, clutching her to my chest telling her how sorry I was. A few minutes later a jogger came by and asked what he could do to help. I handed him my phone and said, “Please just call my mom. I can’t do this.”

More often than not, I cried myself to sleep. Once I finally did fall asleep, I would dream of my baby crying or wake up in a panic thinking that something was wrong with her. One night, my eyes popped open and I was drenched in sweat. I kept screaming at my husband that something was wrong. I was convinced that my daughter’s soft spot had caved in. I was inconsolable. He had to grab her out of the bassinet and place her in my arms to get me to believe that she was OK.

This kind of self-doubt continued throughout her infancy — and quite honestly has yet to disappear completely. I was always anxious and worried. What if we get into an accident? Was her car seat fitted right? Did she have the right toys? How early is too early to start music lessons? Was she getting enough milk? Was my diet to blame for her being fussy? Should I supplement with formula? Should I feel guilty about even thinking of supplementing with formula? Was my house quiet enough during her nap? Should I have classical music playing in the background? Am I providing enough stimulation for proper cognitive development? The questions were endless, and I was completely overwhelmed.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but after doing research for a book I was working on, I began to realize that I was most likely suffering from some degree of postpartum depression or anxiety.

While still anxious and often guilt-laden, those feelings began to decrease in severity as time went on. Then along came our second child, my sweet boy.  This baby is the calm that I desperately needed. He is mild-mannered and snuggly.

Even so, I could feel that same vicious cycle starting again. Even while pregnant, I worried if I would bond with him and adore him the way I adore my daughter. I felt guilty for not being able to focus on each week of gestation with the same intensity I had with my daughter. After he was born, the tears and feelings of guilt and inadequacy began to surface even more. I felt guilty over having a Cesarean section for the second time. I felt guilty about having less time with my daughter. I felt guilty about being tired. And I wanted so desperately to be perfect for both of my children.

This time however, I recognized the warning signs. I read an article written by Birdie Gunyon Meyer with Postpartum Support International. Several things stuck out to me:

  • “Depression and anxiety occur frequently, affecting 1 in 7 women.” I am not alone…
  • Some symptoms of postpartum mood and anxiety disorders include “frequent crying, sleep changes, …feelings of loneliness, sadness, or hopelessness, …anxiety, panic, excessive worry, feeling overwhelmed…” Check, check, check.
  • “If you are experiencing any of the signs and symptoms beyond 2 weeks, it’s not just the blues anymore.” It might be time to get help.

It has been more than 2 months since the birth of my son. I am slowly starting to feel like myself again, but this time, I know that these lingering feelings are not normal. They are not founded on any basis of truth. I have opened up to friends and family and have been seeing a counselor. I am learning to be confident in my role as a mother and to not be so hard on myself.

My point in this is, that while being a mom is a great honor and brings me much joy, it’s OK to not be perfect. Seeking perfection is setting myself up for failure.

Above all else, there is no shame in asking for help. Motherhood is hard, and I just want all moms to know that I’m rooting for you. We all need to support each other and let each other know that “Hey, I’ve been there. You’re not alone.”

Postpartum mood and anxiety disorders don’t need to be taboo. They need to be talked about. It’s the only way any of us are going to feel better. And when we feel better ourselves, we can better love our children. Happy moms make happy littles, and that’s really all that matters.

If you think you may be experiencing a perinatal or postpartum mood and anxiety disorder, don’t hesitate to get help. Postpartum Support International connects mothers and their families with volunteers, support groups and other resources, many of them at no cost.

Opportunity for mothers with postpartum depression

Editor’s note: Attachment Parenting International (API) advocates for a parenting approach rooted solidly in research, and continuing research further validates and builds upon API’s foundation. API shares this opportunity from Mills College for women with postpartum depression to share about their transition to motherhood:

1136463_aloneI am a graduate student at Mills College. For my research project, I would like to know more about you and your experiences as a mother.

Are you a mother with a child between 1 month old and 14 months old? Since giving birth to your child, have you experienced postpartum depression?

If so, please consider participating in this study.

Access the survey link through the API Forum. (You will need to use your forum login; if you don’t have one, it’s free to join.)

Your participation in this study is voluntary and anonymous, and will help inform medical practitioners about women’s transitions to motherhood and the mental health risks that may arise during and/or after pregnancy.

All you have to do is fill out the online survey, which takes approximately 15-20 minutes to complete.

Depression is caused by the lack of chemical neurotransmitters called serotonin and dopamine and thankfully Keith Myers’s study have proved that CBD a component found in cannabis that doesn’t get you high like THC, it’s very helpful for depression, anxiety and other mental conditions. Go ahead and discover how important are cbd cartridges on laweekly and how to use them.

Your participation is highly valued and will contribute to the growing body of infant mental health research!

You’ll be learning about How New Mothers are Using CBD to Combat Baby Brain

An estimated 90 percent of women experience some type of mood disturbance during the postpartum period. Some experience lack of sleep, chronic pain, hormone imbalances and other physical changes, coupled with the sudden intense responsibility of a new life, can result in significant damage to a woman’s mental health. This can make a new mother feel helpless and detached, especially when there is little in the way of support. To mitigate these feelings of despair and to increase mindfulness, some women are turning to CBD and other cannabis products in the postpartum phase, so for new mothers feeling anxiety they can look for the cbdistillery tincture review to find the best products so she can feel better and more calm. You can look at i49.net to find out how CBD can be beneficial to your health.

 

Thank you,

Natalie Brazeau, Mills College

P.S. This research is being conducted under the supervision of Carol George, PhD of Mills University.

Saved by AP and now 8 kids later: An interview with Margie Wilson-Mars

family heartThrough APtly Said, I have had the privilege of meeting Margie Wilson-Mars of Salem, Oregon, USA. A parenting writer and blogger, Margie and her husband of almost 20 years, Robert, have eight children ages 27, 25, 23, 21, 14, 12, 9 and 8—seven sons and one daughter, three of the boys who are on the autistic spectrum. Margie and Robert also have three grandchildren ages 7, 6 and 3.

Now there’s a full household! I could hardly wait to share her Attachment Parenting (AP) story.

RITA: Thank you, Margie, for your time. To begin, how did you decide to first try out the AP approach?

MARGIE: By the time I found out there was an actual thing called AP, I had already been practicing it.

I was only 19 when I had my first son. My mother-in-law had been an oddity in the very early ’60s and breastfed her boys. My mother, who was 15 years older than my mother-in-law, was in my ear constantly with, “You just have to nurse for three weeks and then it does no good.” It was simply a reflection of her generation.

Even in 1987, I was the odd one out breastfeeding and refusing to let my son cry it out. I watched Dr. Jay Gordon on “The Home Show” on ABC—so radical then! My mom told me I was punishing myself.

RITA: Your mom didn’t agree with AP?

MARGIE: For the record, she was legitimately worried about me. It’s just what she knew. She was an amazing mom.

By the time my mother passed away, she was finally comfortable with my parenting style. Acceptance means the world to new moms, to all moms.

RITA: So who did you lean on for AP support?

MARGIE: When my daughter was born 19 months later, I found La Leche League meetings. I am a very solitary person, so in hindsight, I wish I’d participated more, but it did give me validation for what I felt.

I just got “worse” from there! I met Peggy O’Mara, went Dr. Sears happy—yeah, I was hooked.

RITA: And your husband is supportive of AP?

MARGIE: After getting remarried, my new husband instantly accepted and participated in AP. In fact, I don’t even recall discussing it. When our first son was born, he slept with us. Well, I should say he slept with his dad because he was only comfortable on Daddy’s hairy chest! Most of them did the same, but our last, preemie Adam, was partial to sleeping on his brother Mark or his “Sissy Mama,” our only daughter Stephanie.

RITA: At one point, you mentioned to me that AP saved your life. Can you expand on this?

MARGIE: When my first baby Steven was born, we moved in with my parents because I was scared to death. When he was 2 weeks old, my older sister came upstairs into my bedroom and asked me what I was doing. Apparently I calmly answered, “I’m going to try and finish feeding this baby, and then I’m throwing him out the window and following.”

I honestly don’t remember how it happened, but I ended up at my mother-in-law’s house where she tucked me into bed for some much needed sleep and took Steven. She would wake me up to feed him, keeping an eye on us, and then send me back to bed.

Her gentle manner just blew my mind, the total opposite from my family. Even the way she bathed him was so soft and stress free. No more watching the clock between feedings or freaking out because he didn’t poop that day.

My depression ran deep, and it took getting pregnant with my daughter Stephanie before it totally lifted. Being constantly reassured that listening to my instincts was not only OK, but good, made all the difference. I have no doubt that if I’d continued on the path I was on, I wouldn’t have made it.

RITA: The quality of parent support can really make all of the difference. I’m glad you found support when you did.

MARGIE: There have certainly been huge bumps in the road since, but my mother-in-law set the tone for my parenting. No matter how rocky things got at times, our attachment was never affected. For example, when my daughter and I clashed through her teenage years, she told me she never felt like she couldn’t crawl into bed with me and know that everything would be OK. Her grandmother is truly the one to thank for that.

RITA: I’m thankful for her, too. The world needs more parents like you—and her! So how has AP worked out for your family as it has grown?

MARGIE: I think the best thing was the ease of taking care of the babies when they were little. When the oldest four were teenagers and the babies were little, we had a gigantic cushy spot—spots are very important in our home—in the living room where I could just be with all of the boys, yet stay accessible to the older ones. It also forced my autistic boys to be social with their brothers.

People are still astonished when they see how cuddly our autistic sons are.

RITA: What is it like seeing your oldest children becoming parents themselves?

MARGIE: Even though we still have little ones at home, seeing our daughter with her children—just wow! She’s the best mother, so instinctive and giving. Our oldest son is a newly single dad and so intensely bonded to his son.

The evolution of parenting, seeing them working so hard to correct the mistakes we made and become even better, closer parents to their children: It’s a beautiful thing to see.

We’re really doing the same thing with our younger boys—improving and evolving. It can be a struggle to stop feeling sorry for yourself and just move forward.

The bigger the family, the more you need Attachment Parenting.

RITA: You mentioned that AP seems to be helping in parenting your children with autism.

MARGIE: This is huge for us.

My third child, Mark, has Asperger’s Syndrome. He is from the first wave of autistic children born in 1990 when it started to skyrocket. When he would nurse, he would pull his entire body away, trying so hard not to be touched any more than he had to. The more I’d pull him in, the harder he would fight. Autism wasn’t even on the radar. Mark self-weaned at 8 months old, and I was crushed. He was happy as could be as long as he was on his own.

When our sixth child, Nathan, was 3 months old, our oldest son kept saying, “Something’s wrong with him.” Teens are so subtle. We thought maybe he was just sensitive because he had suffered a birth trauma when my cervix was lipped over his head for over an hour while pushing during labor. An hour after birth, his face turned nearly black from the bruising.

Months later, while I was sick, my husband took Nathan for a checkup. We say that the baby we had died that day. Rob brought home this terrified, seemingly hollow baby we didn’t know. If there was something wrong before, it was a million times worse that day. While probably predisposed to autism, the vaccines finished the job.

Having had Mark, I knew that holding Nathan, feeding him and snuggling him through his fears was the only way to go. People are amazed when they see how connected he is. If I didn’t have him, my husband did. If he didn’t have him, his big sister did. He is a little cuddle monster, and while he has full-blown autism, he shows no signs of “don’t touch me, don’t look at me.”

By the time Justin, baby number 7, came along, we knew fairly early and said, “Ah, we have another Aspie!” Sure enough, he has Asperger’s like his older brother, Mark.

The parents of autistic kids I know have them in day-long therapy, speech class, tactile class, etcetera, etcetera. We could never do that. There’s even one mom I met who put her 12-year-old into a group home when he hit her 4 year old. She brings him home on Saturdays. I cried when I heard. It still breaks my heart to think about it.

The biggest difference is in how bonded we are to each other. It’s not unusual to see 140-pound, 12-year-old Nathan on his dad’s lap or mine, or finding them all in a big “puppy pile” playing video games. Our youngest, Adam, says, “My friends never sit on their mom’s laps. Isn’t that weird?”

RITA: Thank you so much, Margie, for your story. Is there anything else you’d like to share?

MARGIE: Recently, I’ve read a lot of parents online who have left AP. Most claim that AP parents are too militant and flip out if people stray from the Eight Principles. The parents that make these claims can scare off new moms who are may be only breastfeeding and want to find out more, or can’t get a good night’s sleep but feel wrong letting their baby cry. I hope that parents think about these things before they make that [judgmental] comment to a new mom.

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