When I look back over the past year it’s hard to get a clear picture of exactly what was going on in my head. It is like one big hazy mess. Not quite as fuzzy as the day I had Dylan (pictured below), but close.
I knew before I had Dylan that having a baby meant being a hormonal mess for the duration of my pregnancy and a few months following. I did not, however, realize that I would feel like a lunatic for nearly two years.
Ok, so I am slightly over exaggerating, but I feel like I recently came out of a dark pit and am only now beginning to see the light.
Before I had Dylan, I think most people would have described me as: a cheerful, soft-spoken (depending on how well you know me), whacky, open-minded and loyal friend who pursues what interests her. A swollen and more emotional version of myself came out during my pregnancy, but little did I know what was to come!
Who was postpartum Erika? I have no idea! I have no idea where she came from and what she did with that earlier version of myself, but I feel like I’ve been fighting that evil twin version of myself over the past year and I finally won the battle. Or I’m getting there at least.
With that being said, I’d like to speak to all the first time moms out there who are currently struggling with their postpartum minds and bodies:
Dear New Mamma,
Right now, I know it feels like your body was run over by a truck and you’ll never look or feel like yourself again. You are operating on way less sleep than was ever acceptable before and are either patting yourself on the back for not falling apart yet today, or are desperately praying to get through the rest of the day without losing your mind!
You are also second guessing EVERY SINGLE ITSY BITSY decision you make for your new baby. What sort of diapers should you use? Are you feeding your baby often enough? When should you start solids? Should you sleep train and, if so, when should you start?
You also may be wondering: Will my baby ever stop crying? Will he/she EVER sleep more than two hours at a time? Am I a horrible mother for wanting five minutes completely to myself? Am I a horrible human being for having terrible thoughts and saying terrible things to my supportive husband at 3AM when my baby won’t sleep (As our newborn care class instructor put it, “what is said at 3AM, should stay at 3AM”)?
Many of those questions and concerns will arise in the first three months , but it does not completely end there. Don’t get me wrong, it got INFINITELY better at that point! I just mean, with every milestone, there are new decisions to second guess (which I know is something that never ends… it’s called parenting).
So, what I want to tell you is: none of those decisions are as earth shattering as they seem at the time! In retrospect you will realize your nurturing instinct was right and you should not have second guessed yourself.
For instance, in my case, I struggled with whether or not to sleep train Dylan and, once I made that decision, which approach I wanted to take (and, if you want, you can see for yourself what a mess I was during that time). Every parent I knew or met seemed ready to volunteer unsolicited advice whenever I brought up my sleep deprivation, but they also all seemed to have such firm beliefs in either cry-it-out or co-sleeping through the toddler years. I struggled to find anyone who fell somewhere in the middle. But in the end, I figured it out and in retrospect, it just was not worth all the time and energy I spent worrying because eventually his sleeping patterns regulated on their own and all that was important was that I was listening and responding to my baby’s needs.
So, here is my unsolicited advice:
You are the expert when it comes to your child. No one has the right to take that away from you! Do not let ANYONE (even if they are a doctor or “expert”) talk you into something you are not comfortable with. You have the ability to weigh the advantages and disadvantages in every situation and you just have to trust yourself as long as you are putting your baby’s needs ahead of your own.
I lived a pretty structured life up until college, where I was given boundaries, I respected them, and I constantly looked for guidance. Needless to say, Dylan did not come with an instruction manual and that was scary for me. One day, I just realized that many people with no more experience than me had been parenting for generations and we have not gone extinct… yet! 😉
If you are interested in what I ended up doing sleep training wise, check out my Sleep Training page.