9 Realizations of Motherhood

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I’m just over 4 weeks into this world of motherhood and I’ve not only run the gamut of emotions, from extreme joy to extreme sadness, with tears accompanying both, but I’ve also had some stark realizations that I was completely unprepared for. Even with people telling me their own stories, I didn’t fully appreciate or understand them until reality hit at 10:06am on December 7th, 2015, the moment Paavo was pulled from my uterus. I now consider myself a card carrying member of the motherhood club and I’m here to admit: This is really, really, yes really, hard.

Perhaps I should have taken the unique circumstances of Paavo’s birth as a sign that this child was about to throw me a few curve balls. At 2:30am on December 7th, my water broke. I woke up feeling like I had started my period, that all too familiar feeling of leakage down in the nether regions, only I knew it couldn’t have been my period. I called my doctor and headed to the hospital with Matt, walking the four blocks from our friends Dave and Jami’s condo, as we’d been staying the night there to watch their dog Mia. It really was perfect timing!

Once at the hospital, I sat in triage and noticed quite a bit of movement in my belly. A doctor performed an ultrasound shortly thereafter and to all of our surprise, the little stinker flipped breech. I had leaked too much amniotic fluid for them to flip him back, and my fate for a c-section was sealed with that ultrasound. That was the first sign that Paavo was calling the shots and that no amount of planning would do us any good. I was mainly bummed I had sat through all those prenatal classes talking about vaginal births and here I was skipping it completely!

That’s all the details of the birth that I’ll go into, because the purpose of this blog story is much more about life with Paavo outside the womb and all the unexpected realizations I’ve had since his birth. Here are my top 9 (with many more to come, I’m sure):

  1. I’m covered in some sort of bodily fluid all the time, whether it be breast milk, urine, poop, slobber, spit up, and unknown. I’ve become much more comfortable with this realization, to the point that a little spilled milk is no reason for me to change my shirt or my bra, as it’s just going to leak out again shortly or be spit up by Paavo after eating. Urine and poop still deserve and outfit change…for now.
  2. There is no preparation for the lack of sleep. I had no idea how erratic newborn’s sleeping patterns are, nor how hard it would be to stay sane and positive when I’m running on such little sleep, and I even nap during the day when he naps. It’s been over 4 weeks since I slept more than 4 hours at a time, and on the rare occasion I get more than 3 hours, I feel like a million bucks. Paavo normally sleeps 1-3 hours at a time, and twice has slept for 4 hours. I imagine that by the time I sleep 8 hours straight (please God, when?!?), I’ll feel like I can conquer the world.
  3. There is no guarantee that he sleeps when he’s sleepy. I’d heard people say, “He’s so tired he can’t fall asleep,” and thought, “What the hell? If he’s so tired, how can he not fall asleep?” Oh man, now I understand. I feel like “putting him down” to sleep is part art, part science, part luck, part voodoo, part prayers, and never, ever a guarantee. I still cross my fingers every single time we lay him down to sleep, especially at night when all I want is a few hours of shut-eye. I can’t explain why sleepy doesn’t equate sleep. All I know is that it doesn’t and damn, that’s a rough reality.
  4. Breastfeeding means Paavo is attached at the boob all the time. At least it feels that way. While I’m happy that Paavo took to breastfeeding rather easily, I have to admit that I feel attached to him at the boob, ALL THE TIME. He eats about every 3 hours, sometimes more, sometimes less, and one would think a 3 hour break is a lot, but that is usually three hours from when he started eating, so if it takes him about 30-45 minutes to eat, including all the burping in between, as he’s a gassy gus, and then it takes another 20-30 minutes for him to fall asleep, I’m barely getting 2 hours between feedings, which zips by and my nipples have barely had a rest. I definitely didn’t take all that feeding time into account!
  5. It’s hard not to feel down. I had heard that post-partum depression was fairly common and yet I didn’t understand why. Shouldn’t we be incredibly joyful with our new baby? Now I get it. Take into account numbers 1-4 above and 6-9 below, along with hormones pumping through me and lots of other tough realities of motherhood, and I truly get why so many women suffer. I had a bad weekend two weeks ago where I cried at the drop of a hat and had a lot of negative feelings, including regret, resentment and lots of sadness. While I don’t think I’m depressed beyond some usual baby blues after a sleepless night or a rough patch of inconsolable crying, I finally get it. It’s hard not to feel down when I’m covered in breast milk and likely urine, haven’t showered for two days, am unsure why my baby is crying, haven’t accomplished much around the house beyond simply keeping the baby alive, and feel like my needs are so far down the totem pole that it feels like there’s not even time to go poop without an interruption.
  6. C-section recovery is rough. How did I not realize that a c-section is a fairly major surgery? They cut inches across, through several layers, tugged and pulled and stretched, and then sewed it all back together again. In the hospital, I tried standing up after 12 hours and the 10 foot walk to the bathroom was actually really difficult. I felt like if I stood up straight that my incision would rip open and my legs just didn’t seem to work the same. Upon going home after 3 days in the hospital, I basically didn’t leave my bed for days and struggled mightily with sitting up and laying back down since they cut through my ab muscles. I’ve been very lucky to have Matt to help me through this recovery, which I hope to be just another few weeks.
  7. Parenting really is 24/7. In the words of Rocketcop, “It’s like playing tennis with a wall.” The wall will always return the ball before I’ve even gotten a grip on the racket again. I truly feel “on” all the time, even when I’m sleeping. The first week home was probably the roughest for sleep, as every little movement, cough, sigh, and sound that came out of Paavo while he slept also woke me up. I was checking on him constantly to make sure he was still alive. Again, I’d heard this before but never truly understood what it was like to feel like I’m on the job all the time.
  8. Google is my new best friend. I spend most of my time on Google while Paavo is attached at the boob. My phone and water bottle are the two things I always have with me when I’m feeding Paavo so I can keep myself entertained and hydrated. Since I have no idea what I’m doing most of the time in terms of parenting, I consult Google. My search history looks a little like this: Why does my baby sound like a goat?, How do I get baby to sleep at night?, When will my baby sleep through the night?, How to introduce a pacifier?, What do I do with a newborn while he’s awake? (besides feed him and change his diaper), What are good baby farting positions? The list goes on, mainly involving questions about newborn noises (they are farm animal impersonators), breastfeeding, sleep, gas, and development. Thank you Google for always being there for me, even at the 3am feedings.
  9. Just when I have a theory, Paavo changes the game. Matt and I are creating quite the toolbox of techniques to deal with Paavo, from simple stuff like diaper changes and feedings, to other ones like swaddling, white noise, rocking, and going for a walk. There are times when a technique will work for two days in a row and we’ll think, “Damn, we’re good. We got him to sleep by doing XYZ.” And then two days later, that technique is old news and Paavo is having none of it, so we have to reach into our toolbox again and pull out a different tool, or learn a new tool entirely, usually acquired through a Google search. Again, thank you Google. I have a feeling this will happen A LOT as Paavo grows up, so I’d better get used to this one.

There you have it, my top realizations of motherhood, all fairly unexpected, or at least greatly misunderstood. I have a whole new respect for parents, especially mothers, as I truly never understood how much work it is to raise a child. It’s already taken much more patience and compassion than I expected, and I’m only 4 weeks into this new job as a mother!

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Thank you to all our friends and family who have helped us since day one of Paavo’s life, by providing meals, company, an extra pair of hands, a car…the list goes on and we’re incredibly grateful for all the people in our lives who have helped us so much. I’m looking forward to seeing how this list of realizations changes over time as Paavo grows up. Thanks so much for reading this and being a part of it all.

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8 Responses to 9 Realizations of Motherhood

  1. Debbie Spinelli says:

    First congratulations to you both!!! I have to say reading your blog brought back so many memories! Water breaking, c-section etc.. you hit the nail on the head with all of the emotions you are going through! All that I can say if there is a way to savor this time try to do so. My son turned 21 December 12th and I only wish I could have slowed things down a bit, relished every moment, not just wished for time to fly so I could sleep etc… it really is true that time flies!
    Have fun, sleep when he sleeps, cry, be messy, enjoy!!!Welcome to Motherhood the toughest, most rewarding job you will ever have!

  2. Maurine says:

    I agree with Debbie. I had 2 c/sections 31 and 33 years ago! The time will fly by so fast you won’t believe it. Treasure every second. Yes it is very hard. I always said raising children (especially the baby phase) was the hardest job I ever had, but the most fulfilling (i was an RN prior to kids). And just realize everything is a “phase” and will morph into the next phase before you know it. I wouldn’t plan on ever getting your life back to just the way it was before he was born!! Unless you have a full-time nanny, your life will revolve around the baby’s life for a long time!! But that is a good thing. Like I said, it is the most fulfilling job on the planet! Eventually you will find people you can trust to come in and babysit for periods so you can get out and do some things just for you or with your hubby. That is critical, to make time for yourselves and find a sitter you can trust. I found that I suddenly became enlightened as to what my own mom and dad had gone through when I was a baby and it gave me a new appreciation for them. (and they had to use cloth diapers and make formula and sterilize bottles, etc) It was even harder for them for than for me or you!! If you are close to your mom or mother-in-law, listen to their advice and glean what you can from their experiences. Some of it you might find obsolete, but a lot of it will be useful and wise information. As much as you can, try to have a schedule for everything. I fed on demand and my life was chaotic. But a friend used a set schedule and fed every 3 hours and put the baby down for naps at set times, always gave bath at the same time, but her baby down at night at the same time, etc, and somehow it worked for her and her life was much more manageable than mine. With my 2nd baby I did have a schedule and it truly worked better, but of course having the 2nd baby 17 months apart has it’s own set of “thrills”!! Schedules are great, but you do have to realize it won’t always go according to schedule. It will just be a guide to try to keep you on track!! It will all work out. By the time you have it figured out, he will be 18 and off to college!! It happens in the blink of an eye! Look forward to reading more from you in the future!

  3. Sister says:

    I am excited to help with the shifts…with the time difference, I will have 3 hours on you, so you can sleep. Boobs and all.

  4. I can be your babysitter the first week in May so you can get some sleep! 🙂 (I am riding bicycle along the west coast.)
    I just found this article:
    http://www.fitpregnancy.com/pregnancy/labor-delivery/giving-birth-harder-running-marathon
    Hope to see you, Matt and Paavo in May!
    /Anders

  5. Rick says:

    Sounds like you’re doing a great job Mom! Being a parent is a full time job with constant changes and adventures along the way. It’s easy to teach a child what you believe in as the grow, the challenge is getting them to learn it.

    Hang in there, Lisa and I were there 17 years ago. Now our oldest is going to college next year and her younger sister will be a senior in high school… As Debbie said above, time flies…

  6. Julie says:

    Thanks so much for all the nice thoughts and words of wisdom. I’m definitely trying to savor every day (not so much every sleep-deprived night), knowing he’s going to change faster than I want him to. It’s wonderful to know we have such a great support system of friends and family, and all our urbyville readers as well. We have some exciting plans in the works for this year and hoping that lends to more reading material regarding life with a kid. Thanks again, Julie

  7. Karlakarla says:

    Did I give you this advice? Don’t listen to anyone else’s advice?
    Embrace the brutality – snort….and hugs…

  8. Scribe says:

    Every kid is different! So, gather all the advice given, which sometimes conflicts, and decide for yourselves because you know your baby/child better than anyone else. I remember those demanding years with the sleep deprivation. I had to come to the realization that hot food and sleeping through the night were overrated! As to the comments about the time going fast, I found that it isn’t so much that the time goes fast, every age was wonderful and challenging, but when you are in it, you feel like it will never end, that you will forever have these glorious baby ducks following behind you; and then one day, you turn back to look for them, and you remember they have embarked on their own lives, which do not include you. And, you silently know that it is right that they go, but you long for those little socks stuck to your t-shirts, warm out of the dryer, and you get nostalgic. So, cherish the time while it lasts, knowing that your life will always be richer for the experience.

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