Motherhood

Date: January 2, 2019 at 2:52 pm- by Ali- Comment(s): 28

Eleven weeks.

I’ve been a human mom for 11 weeks now. I texted Brian this morning: “I don’t think it’s sunk in yet that I’m a mom.”

Motherhood

She’s the taquito (small and cute and you can never get enough!) and I’m the taco (fun in theory, but kinda messy).

People said it would sink in when we got the crib. Then when I had my baby shower. Again when we did the hospital tour. Others said it would sink in when my water broke, when we drove to the hospital, or when my baby was placed on my chest for the first time. Some people said the reality would hit me two days after we got home from the hospital.

But here I am. Here we are, all four of us. Eleven weeks as a family of four, and nope! It still has not sunk in that the cute little potato who sleeps next to me at night is, in fact, my daughter. I take care of her. I love her. I am obsessed with her. But I don’t think I can comprehend the fact that I’m her mother. It’s so weird. That I am to her what my mom is to me.

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Three generations! Annie and Ellie are the same generation. The baby generation.

The past 11 weeks have been everything. Amazing. Exhausting. Wild. Crazy. Fun. Horrible. Wonderful. Stressful. Sleepless. Sleepy. Painful. Exciting. Magical. Hilarious. Messy. Hectic. Pajamas. Spit-up. Diapers. Boobs.

All those phrases people have said to me that never made any sense now make sense. That motherhood is so hard, but so worth it. That it’s exhausting, but so rewarding. That the sleep deprivation may kill you, but won’t.

If nothing else, for 11 weeks, we have all survived. It’s been really hard for me at times. It’s been helpful for me to share that.

As I near the end of the “fourth trimester,” I feel like I should have it all figured out. (Seasoned moms are laughing right now, I’m sure.) I know I’ll never have it all figured out. I’ve found myself consumed — obsessively consumed — by a few things over the past 11 weeks. It’s almost like postpartum nesting, but more intense.

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My babies!

First it was breastfeeding. Fail.

Then it was pumping. Stressful.

After that, it was sleep and schedules. I went all-in reading everything I could find and talking to everyone I know about sleep schedules, theories, bedtimes, and wake times. Eat, awake, nap, repeat times. You know what’s more exhausting than not sleeping? Thinking about not sleeping!

When you’re a new mom, I’ve found, people — from relatives and friends to strangers on the next treadmill at Orangetheory — ask two questions.

  1. Are you breastfeeding?
  2. Is your baby sleeping through the night?
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Annie’s first hotel! We survived the holidays on the road: New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and all the states in between!

The number of total strangers who have asked me if I am breastfeeding is crazy. I know people are well-intentioned, generally. That asking seemingly innocuous questions like these is the non-baby equivalent of asking about the weather.

But as a new mom whose answer to both questions is “no” and “not really,” it was so frustrating, so defeating.

My friend Michele (you know her!) helped me out of the trenches with one very simple statement: “Whether or not your baby sleeps at night is not an indication of whether or not you’re a good mom.” It was such a lightbulb for me. A really bright, wonderful, day-starting lightbulb. My baby is a baby! And the thing is, she’s not even a bad sleeper! But thoughts of sleep have consumed my past six weeks (the first five, I don’t remember, TBH). So when I was struggling to get through my day, bleary-eyed and delirious, and the cashier at Acme smiled at my super cute baby and then asked, “Is she sleeping through the night?” I felt like a total failure.

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She only wanted to sleep on me that day. And I loved it.

And when the nice woman — the one I saw nearly every day of my pregnancy but who never spoke to me — suddenly had an interest in whether or not I was breastfeeding, I again felt like a failure. As if the way I chose to feed my baby, and the way a stranger may or may not judge or question that, was suddenly a measure of my success as a mom.

I wanted to breastfeed. I always assumed I would. I didn’t expect it to be “easy,” but I also didn’t understand it or know what it entailed.

Want me to be super honest? Before I tried it myself, I didn’t really understand how milk even came out of the boob. Was there a little hole in the nipple I didn’t know about? Did it come out in one big stream, like a water fountain? I felt like that was something all women instinctually know, and I didn’t, and that made me feel stupid.

And then, when Annie and I tried to make breastfeeding happen as a team, it didn’t work. We kept trying. I spent hundreds of dollars on home visits from lactation consultants. I got Annie checked for tongue ties (nope) and lip ties (also nope). I cried. She cried. I bled. I ached. I finally took a break to pump milk for her, and that turned into me “exclusively pumping.”

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JUST A CUTE POST-BATHTIME PIC. Annie loves the bath!

So yes, Annie drinks breastmilk. Cool. I don’t really care what she drinks as long as she is happy and healthy! She will get breastmilk for a while. Turns out, I have an oversupply. A full freezer. And a second freezer. Annie will get to drink breast milk for the first six months of her life, and maybe more after that. I don’t have a goal. I’m not insistent on making her get my breastmilk up to a certain date. I had to leave the “Exclusive Pumping” group on Facebook because while it was initially helpful, it was making me insane. So was the “Badass Breastfeeders of New Jersey” group. Power to all those women and what they do, but it all felt so intense to me.

It’s so easy to overthink everything as a (kinda crazy, IDK) new parent. Everything has felt urgent to me. Annie’s cries make me sad, even when I know she’s OK and that’s just how babies communicate. I just want to do right by her. I want her to love her life.

On the sleep front: Oh I lost so much more sleep just thinking about sleep!

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SERIOUSLY ANNIE BE MORE CUTE I DARE U

Annie has never been a bad sleeper. She isn’t colicky, she doesn’t have reflux, and she seems to appreciate a good snooze, just like her dad.

For the first six weeks, I think I was running on adrenaline. I had no problem with the broken sleep, the middle-of-the-night feedings. It was exciting. We were learning about each other! All the time! At 3 AM, and sometimes again at 4 AM! It was totally fine.

Then the adrenaline wore off. And the holidays came. And I got so many clogged ducts in my boobs that may have been more painful than childbirth. I was exhausted. So I consumed myself with research about sleep. It was all I could think about. I wanted to solve this “problem.”

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The holidays! So restful! (LOL no they weren’t. Two horribly clogged ducts made for zero sleep and so much pain. Do not recommend.)

But Annie isn’t a problem. (OMG it makes me so sad to even write that!) She’s a baby. So I unfollowed the Instagram accounts where people talk about how much their baby slept the night before. I get it! Be excited! That’s awesome…for you! But when babies younger than Annie are sleeping more, are on locked-down schedules, or are getting 12 hours a night already — that doesn’t make me feel good. So. Unfollow. At least for now. I can’t do my thing if I’m constantly looking at everyone else’s.

I’m learning to manage my expectations. To throw away this idea of my old life, and to create a new normal. To let that look however it looks. To let it change constantly. To give into it all and focus on all the good, because there is so much good.

In hindsight, yes, I should’ve given myself more grace. I should’ve given myself some kind of maternity leave so I wasn’t trying to “do it all” from day one. I can’t change the past 11 weeks, and I wouldn’t want to.

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Best buddies!

A week or two ago, I called my mom crying. I was in the midst of some breakdown or another, and I called her and just lost it. (I am the worst.) We talked the next day, and she mentioned that she hadn’t slept well the night before. I asked why, and she admitted that she had been up all night worrying — about me.

I felt bad, of course, but also realized that, as a mom, I will never stop worrying about my baby. I’m 33 and my mom still worries about me! So the worrying isn’t going to stop. The striving to be “the best” or whatever isn’t going to stop. I’ll always wonder if I’m good enough. If Annie is happy enough. If we’re all healthy enough.

My mothering instincts may not be super strong, but my love for Annie is. I’ve questioned myself so much in the past 11 weeks, and I know that’s not stopping anytime soon. But the most helpful thing I can do is just look at Annie.

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OMG

I look at her and I see the brightest light. People said she wouldn’t smile right away. That it was “just gas.” But I knew they were wrong. Annie smiled the day I met her. They said she wouldn’t laugh “for a while,” but she laughed. She communicates with me. She smiles at me. And I know that even though that pile of laundry (it’s clean, I swear!) has been in the bedroom corner and not put away for 11 weeks now, or that my thank you notes are still unwritten and unsent, and that my work life is kinda not great at the moment, that Annie is so happy.

She does love her life. And I will live the rest of my life doing whatever I can, however messy that may look sometimes, to keep that smile on her face.

OK I FEEL LIKE A MOM NOW. THANK YOU.

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My crew!

(No but really, thank you. The support I have received from my internet family over the past 11 weeks has been unwavering and life saving. I am so deeply grateful, and I hope that someday I’m able to give back in some way. Not with a thank you note, because I suck at those. But somehow.)

Oh and Mom. I know you’re reading this. Please stop worrying about me. I’m fine. Annie’s fine. Ellie’s fine. We’re all fine. Because of you.

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28 Responses to "Motherhood"

My son is 4 and I still have moments of, holy cow I’m someone’s mum! Its so weird to really think about – like I know I love him more than anything and would do anything to make his life a good one, but that thought that I’m his MUM is so weird sometimes lol I always thought there would be this huge change in who I was when I became a mum and there really wasn’t, just a lot of added responsibility and worry (and love!). It’s awesome but weird at the same time! Love watching your journey as a mum! Annie is so lucky to have you!

So touched by this. I relate to both you and your mother. My own daughter just turned 22 and yes, I still worry when life challenges her. But I also remember, when she turned 1, that I congratulated myself for keeping her alive for a year! It looks to me that you are doing a great job.

I went through a lot of these feelings with my first baby, so when I was pregnant with my second I was very adamant that I wasn’t going to be stressed/overworked the second time around. NOPE! Still just as anxious and trying to do things perfectly and working too much too early and feeling like I shouldn’t but not being able to stop. So my takeaway is that being a mom doesn’t make you not you anymore, but it also makes you a CRAZY (at times) version of yourself that has no control over any of your actions. And that all of this feels very relatable.

Ali – I just have to tell you, if Annie is drinking breast milk, you are breastfeeding! Please stop saying you aren’t! I know there’s a pump and a bottle as middlemen, but you are producing breast milk and she is drinking it. That’s it. (Not that you have to answer any inappropriate prying person about how you’re feeding your baby!) Also, I know you know it’s so common for babies not to sleep through the night for months, but that’s especially true of small babies!

Sending support from a mom whose baby was born at sub 6 lbs and who breastfed via pumping. I hope you are able to get a little more rest soon!

My son was born within a week of Annie. And I’ve got to say, some of your posts have brought tears streaming down my face because I’m reading the emotions that I’m feeling but couldn’t quite put into words. We don’t know each other, but I feel like I’m on the same journey with you, on the same road, trying to figure out how the hell to be moms. And confession time: for a long time I had to skip your daily Annie pictures because they made me so sad and a little bitter. My son was born with a rare genetic disease that made him uncomfortable and in pain constantly. Seeing your beautiful girl’s smiling face made me feel like an absolute failure, like I was Messing my son up because he wasn’t smiling yet. I was comparing my situation to yours, much the same way you have been comparing your situation to others. And you’re right, it doesn’t do any good. So I like to think that I ‘get it.’ Keep chugging along Ali, and even though you don’t k know me, I hope you know that your honesty and vulnerability to show your authentic self on this blog has helped me so much.

My baby boy had the 11 hour long surgery to treat his disease. On the fourth day recovering in the hospital, he finally smiled because his pain had finally gone away. It was his first smile and he hasn’t stopped since. .

And I love daily Annie now ☺️

I have those same thoughts about “being a mom” – often, “mom” feels like something I do than an identity. And then sometimes I am just taken over by the ineffable, all-consuming feeling of being Elizabeth’s MOM, and that she could feel about me the way I feel about my mom! HOLY SHIT, RIGHT?!

And yes – obsessing about breastfeeding (EPing over here too) and sleeping is crazy. I’m a researcher by nature, so I read ALL THE THINGS and continue to read ALL THE THINGS, even if they don’t serve me. I have to remind myself that I don’t get gold stars for all of this work. Even though I’d like one.

One of my goals for 2019 is to remember that she’s loved and fed and happy and that I am, in fact, doing a good job. Ongoing struggle, but I’m working on it.

The guilt is always there! I guess it always will be. I had my first son (who refused to breastfeed, lazy little toad, so I had to express feed too but I only managed until 8 weeks) and when I was pregnant with my second, thought – naively- ah well, I know how to look after a baby. Will be totally fine. Turned out the contrary little fellow was different in every way, I had no idea what I was doing AGAIN! So turns out that I had no clue either time, but they are both still here, moderately clean, healthy and growing like weeds so I guess I’ve managed so far.
Annie is the most beautiful baby, honestly she is, my two were really ugly to begin with! I love daily Annie. Good luck and just remember no one has a clue, probably not even the ones who
Preach so much about knowing IT ALL…..

I swear sometimes I still look at my almost 4 year old and 18 month old and like I love them so much it physically hurts and yet I’m like how can i be their mom I’m only 19?! (Haha except I’m not I’m 34 but seem to think I’m still SO YOUNG).

You know what motherhood definitely does? Makes you more emotional forever. I totally started to cry reading that your Mom stayed up worrying about you because you were worrying about Annie. That’s love. That’s motherhood. I totally get it. 🙂

I worked in a client-facing role at my old job, and saw lots of the same (relative) strangers both while pregnant and after baby. They ALLLL asked about breastfeeding and sleep, and eventually I started lying to end the conversation. No, I wasn’t able to breastfeed exclusively, and no, my 4 (5, 6, 7) month old was not sleeping through the night yet–but I didn’t want the constant stream of unsolicited advice or those recurring feelings of failure you talked about. Feel no shame about a “little white lie” if it’s good for your mental health!

Omg. This made me cry because it is spot on. I remember our first mother’s day I felt like a terrible mom because I didn’t feel this sense of elation over the day despite many people asking me if my first mother’s day was exciting. My daughter was 7 weeks old , not sleeping and I was exhausted and anxious with the constant pump parts cleaning/ feeding. Mom guilt is so real! I read a quote somewhere that “
Behind every great kid is a mom who’s worried she is screwing it all up”.

Ali,
You don’t need to hear it from me but I’m just here anyway to say I think you’re killing it!! Also, as someone who is not a mom yet, I SO SO SO appreciate your honesty through the good, the bad, and the ugly!
Keep on keeping on,
Ali

I wish you had Annie two years ago when I was a new mom trying to navigate this whole new world. So much of what you write resonates with me. You are such a fantastic mom and I love reading your honest posts. It’s awesome and just keeps getting better as they get older. ❤️

You are not alone in any of those feelings. My daughter just had her bat mitzvah 😱 and I still can’t believe I’ve kept her alive for 13 years. And her brothers just turned 11. I almost never know what I’m doing. None of us do. We sit around with friends saying ‘what do I do about this?’ The issues just change over time. It goes from breastfeeding and sleep issues to when is the right time to give her a cell phone. (I’ll give you a hint: there isn’t one)
Follow your instincts. They’ll never steer you wrong

When I see the Daily Annie, it makes my day because I can see this joyful little cutie with a huge personality already! You’re kicking ass, Feller. And if the questions from strangers get you down… LIE! We all have your back, and we’ll never tell total strangers about the struggles that you’ve shared. You could even tell them that Annie is so advanced that she’s been eating caviar and steak tartare, or NUNYA (nunya business), LOL.
Honestly, when this heart that you grew in your very body starts living outside it, you just do your best all the time and you worry and you become the best mom that kiddo could ever have 🙂

Hi Ali!

Dare I confess, reading your blog was the one thing that kept me sane when my baby was waking up constantly at night at one point. During those moments when she was sleeping, I was terrified to go back to sleep so your blog kept me company during those long nights. Well, that was 3 years ago, and sleeping for my kid is no longer such a minefield! So it’s cool to read about you and your baby now! you are one inspiring lady! there will always be different levels and stages in motherhood and you have already unlocked some levels! 😉

Oh man, I’m 5 years into motherhood but this post brought EVERYTHING back of having my first. There is nothing quite like becoming a mom. I just nodded along the whole time. I nearly drove myself completely insane researching and reading every single human’s opinion (cause they’re all opinions) on baby sleep. I would keep meticulous notes to try to crack my baby’s sleep code (why would she sleep well some nights and not others – spoiler: baby’s do whatever the eff they want, mostly there’s no rhyme or reason). I was better with my second and stressed less (but still more than I should have). Pregnant with number 3 and hope to find the more zen mom for the finale :). One day you’ll look back on this and give yourself the credit you deserve – you’re doing just great.

Hi Ali! I’m a mom of 16 month old son and still feel like I know nothing but also am amazed that this little human running around is mine to protect and love.

Zero part of breastfeeding worked for me and my daughter, and I didn’t produce enough to pump. I was hurt for awhile when that seemed to be the only thing people wanted to talk about, but I soon realized the best way to answer the question “are you breastfeeding??” Would be to just answer “nope!” And move on with my day. I didn’t owe anyone an explanation or justification.

Man, my girl didn’t sleep through the night until 10 months. Also she’s formula fed. Where does this pressure come from? I kind of feel like people must see this as a failure if you expect a 12 week old to sleep through the night or they are a problem?

Annie looks so happy – you are doing everything right!!! Hugs

I love this update! So glad you’re figuring out what is right for YOU.

People are so nosey! You’re doing a great job! Only YOU could be Annie’s mom and she’s ADORABLE.

Love this post and your attitude (did not tear up AT ALL)! I have a 2yr old now and I still have trouble wrapping my brain around the fact that I’m a mom; it just seems so crazy sometimes! I remember completely obsessing as well over the whole sleep thing in the beginning. As easy as it is to say don’t stress, babies will do what they want (and they will), when you’re sleep deprived it’s so hard to think about ANYTHING else. It’s totally normal and it will get easier. You’re doing great—just look at her smile!!

How adorable is Annie in that gold polka dot dress!
I have an 18 month old and I still have moments when I can’t believe I’m a mom! Seriously, we’re all winging it. Even those moms that seem like they have it all together are winging it (or are just plain lucky!). The sleep deprivation is so so so hard. We sleep trained at 4 months and was honestly the best parenting choice we’ve made so far.

Also, breastfeeding looks different for different people. Pumping is still breastfeeding. I should add that I EP’d then switched to exclusive formula at 5 months, so absolutely no judgement from me.

Take care. <3 You're doing a fantastic job.

I really appreciate all these motherhood updates and also following your pregnancy journey. As someone who is approaching their 2 yrs of being diagnosed post an emergency surgery and starting to think more and more about having a child it is such a help! I have the continuous turmoil of yes I am luckily doing well enough with crohns now but how will i be when pregnant, when the baby is born when the baby is 5!? When i have finally gotten past that I have family who unprompted will comment how hard it will be on me and my body. I understand they are only looking out for me and have best intentions. But then it gets me back into the can i handle this spiral. Needless to say i am ignoring everyone’s opinions (minus my husbands). But i love having your blog as a reference, its an affirmation, it is a see other people do this! thank you and best of luck, i look forward to your updates 🙂

🙂 I have learned that raising kids is just one stage after another. As soon as you have finally figured one out (from Google, your friends, and endless testing out new things), along comes another new stage and challenge. I feel like Dad’s don’t really get into this stuff much, but us Mom’s *obsess* about it. And it’s great! Keep up what you are doing. It’s the right solution for you and your family!

You’re doing an amazing job!! ❤️ For what it’s worth my first little lady didn’t sleep on her own until I did some light sleep training at 16 months and then she ended up sleeping through the night a couple months later. My second slept on her own earlier but didn’t sleep through the night until 2 years. Pretty typical amongst friends. And while it can be depressing to think that the end isn’t in sight you will find your groove and don’t let anyone tell you all the other babies are sleeping soundly!

Loved the honesty in this post (and all of your posts really). The moms never stop worrying made me tear up because it’s so true (also I am not a mom). Annie is happy and healthy and you’re a GREAT mom! Congrats and I wish you a healthy and happy family 🙂