‘There are moments I think, ‘Can I give the baby back? I’m not cut out for this.’ And yet, there is nothing and no one else in the world who matters more.’: Mom shares candid reality of first month of motherhood

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“Pregnancy has been a huge lesson for me in letting go and having faith. There is so little I have control over and for a planner like me, I had a hard time adjusting. 

I stared at the positive pregnancy test in total disbelief and then yelled for Steve from the bathroom. We jumped up and down in pure excitement. 

Then the anxiety rushed in. I immediately started thinking about all the things I shouldn’t have done over the past several weeks while our precious embryo came to life. 

My two matcha lattes a day. The x-rays at the dentist’s office. The cigarette smoke I walked through. The mouthguard I wore at night. The hot yoga classes. The list goes on. 

Before I got pregnant, I remember thinking that I would only eat healthy and organic. I wanted my baby to have the very best. I laugh now about how naive and judgmental that thought was. 

I braced myself for the nausea and like clockwork, I started feeling nauseated the week after we found out we were pregnant. And the only things that made me feel better: bread and cheese. Oh, the irony of thinking I could stick to a healthy diet during my entire pregnancy. 

Ginger, kale, mushrooms. I couldn’t stand the sight or smell of them. I ate loads of them before getting pregnant and now just the thought of them made me want to hurl. I remember ordering a side of kale at a restaurant with the hopes of taking a few bites since I hadn’t eaten greens in a while. When it arrived at the table, it made me feel so sick that I had Steve eat all of it as fast as he could just so I didn’t have to look at it anymore. What. Was. Happening. 

I couldn’t believe it. I had heard stories like mine and laughed about them, fascinated and slightly doubtful nausea could be that bad. Oh, it’s bad and I had to experience it to finally understand the tragedy of wanting to eat something, but having it completely disgust me at the same time. To feel nausea every day and have the only things that make me feel better be the things I know I shouldn’t eat. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. 

But I know I’m one of the lucky ones. My nausea started to subside around Week 9. 

When the nausea kicked in, I was angry. You’re telling me I have to work full-time, grow a baby, fight nausea, AND try not to tell anyone for the first few months lest I miscarry? Nothing is fair about pregnancy. The fear, anxiety, and stress are a lot to bear. Not to mention my body is changing, my hormones are all over the place, and I feel exhausted most of the time. 

Late one evening, I was on my bus ride home, reflecting on my workday. I was about nine weeks pregnant at the time. A day full of back-to-back meetings with an extra side of a long commute. I needed breaks in between my meetingsIn reality, I needed naps in between meetings. I felt like my brain wasn’t functioning at full capacity and I couldn’t give it the rest it needed. Instead, I was expected to be alert and engaged the entire day. I felt frustrated, sad, and guilty I couldn’t be my best self. 

Then, a thought crossed my mind, ‘Um, hello! I’m growing a baby!’ I had to be kinder to myself. The expectations of me at work may not have changed but the expectations I had about how and when I take care of myself could. 

My second trimester was more enjoyable. These few months were full of special milestones. We shared the pregnancy news with our families, close colleagues, and friends. Though as soon as we started sharing the news, a small part of me felt sad about it. The baby was no longer our little secret. 

At Week 20, we found out we were having a BOY. For me, the gender reveal was the most exciting part of the pregnancy. I was convinced we were having a girl, and we even had a name picked out. Our ultrasound technician saved the reveal until the end of the appointment and when she confirmed we were having a boy, Steve sat next to me, jaw-dropped, and I immediately teared up. One minute we’re in complete shock and the next, we’re filled with overwhelming excitement. It was the biggest surprise of our lives. 

The following week, I felt the baby kick for the first time. Being pregnant has been both a magical and terrifying experience, and I don’t hear about the terrifying part enough. As soon as the baby was conceived, I felt like it was us against the world. I worried about consuming caffeine, deli meat, raw vegetables, fish with high mercury content, tap water, and artificial food coloring. I worried about breathing in car and truck exhaust, going through body scanners at airports, taking baths, and wearing jeans that were too tight. Choices I made throughout the day became a game of ‘pick my poison.’ And, those were the things I tried to control. In the back of my mind, I thought about the chances of a miscarriage, of genetic defects, of a stillbirth. The things I couldn’t control but nonetheless worried about. Whether or not my fears were rational, I was (and still am) scared. But to stay sane, I had to learn to stay positive and have faith that everything will be okay. 

Courtesy of Linda Yin

That is to say, the little kicks I felt (and still feel) are my main reassurance. I like to think they are his way of telling me that he’s all right in there. 

Despite my fears and the minor discomfort of not being able to bend over and put on my own shoes in Week 34, pregnancy hasn’t been all that bad. My hair has never been thicker, my skin never clearer, and I’m thoroughly enjoying foods I would normally restrict myself from eating. There’s also something incredibly liberating about intentionally growing my belly. I’ve spent most of life sucking in my stomach so I could fit into skinny jeans, look thinner in photos, and feel a tiny bit more comfortable in a bikini. For the first time ever, I don’t have to think about that. I’m proudly growing and showing off my big belly. 

As we head into the final weeks, I’m absolutely terrified of the labor and delivery. I’m worried I won’t be a good mom. I still worry about a lot of things. I’m told my thoughts are normal. But if the past eight months have taught me anything, it’s that thoughts come and go. And even if most of them are scary, it’s the positive ones I need to hold on to. 

Reggie’s birth was, dare I say it, a fun experience for me. Of course, there were tears (and tears), lots of physical discomfort (thank you, contractions, and a horrendous IV), and lots of worries (#Covid19). But the positive moments I had far outweighed all of the pain. 

A couple of days before Reggie was born, I went in for a scheduled ultrasound and doctor’s appointment. Throughout my pregnancy, he had been measuring on the smaller side, but I was told not to worry. Except for this time. This time, I was told Reggie’s stomach was measuring a few weeks behind the rest of his body. Because he was growing asymmetrically, our doctor recommended we induce labor that evening and get the baby out as soon as possible. I went from thinking I still had two weeks to prep before the baby was due to…this baby might come today.  

Despite feeling nervous, Steve and I spent the rest of the day trying to prepare as much as we could: packing a hospital bag, dropping the dog off, figuring out how to set up the car seat. We were supposed to be at the hospital at 9:30 p.m. As the sun set, I tried not to obsess about the fact that our lives were about to change forever and the next time we were home, we’d have a BABY with us. 

As we walked into the hospital, I laughed at all the stuff Steve carried: a pillow, a comforter, a bag full of snacks, a duffel bag, and the breast pump backpack. We looked like we were going to sleepaway camp. 

No joke, the hardest part of Reggie’s birth for me was getting an IV. Had I not been lying in my hospital bed already, I definitely would have fainted. Throughout the night, our nurse would check in to see how my contractions were coming along and each time, it was my IV that I’d complain about. To help take my mind off it, she ended up wrapping it with hot pink medical tape that’s typically given to little kids. Babying my IV became the running joke during my hospital stay, and I am in no way embarrassed about it. 

My original birth plan was to give birth naturally with no medication. I laugh about that now because I was given Cervidil immediately after my IV was put in. After 12 hours of being on Cervidil, I was administered Pitocin. Ten hours later, I got an epidural. My doctor manually ‘broke my water’ and a few hours later, I went into active labor. So much for having a birth plan. I honestly assumed because my mom had relatively quick and easy deliveries when it came to my sister and me, I would experience the same. Not the case. 

Once I was in labor, Steve and our nurses were the ultimate team. When I felt a contraction coming, Steve took my left leg while two nurses grabbed my right leg. DEEP BREATH. PUSH, PUSH, PUSH. QUICK INHALE. PUSH, PUSH, PUSH. QUICK INHALE. PUSH, PUSH, PUSH. They cheered and yelled words of encouragement. I felt like Lebron James at the free-throw line. I was in labor for two hours but it felt like 10 minutes. I was so glad I got the epidural – it allowed me to enjoy every moment of my delivery experience. Without it, I would have only focused on how much physical pain I was in. 

I was told that the biggest challenge with a vaginal birth was pushing out the baby’s head and shoulders. After that, he would slip right out. And, he did. He literally slid right into the doctor’s hands.  

The hospital room immediately buzzed with activity. I looked around me and was in awe. Aside from Steve, the room was filled with women. Our doctor was stitching me up. One nurse was weighing Reggie (6 pounds, 2 ounces). Another was removing my epidural. Two nurses were helping with cleanup. It was one of the few times in my life that I recall witnessing smart, compassionate women expertly doing what they do best, confident in their knowledge and skills, and working in beautiful synchrony. I felt inspired and am so proud our baby was welcomed into the world by a team of strong women. 

With a healthy Reggie in my arms, I suddenly realized I now needed to keep him alive. And, I had no idea where to start. Thank goodness for the nurses we had. During the next 24 hours at the hospital, our nurses would teach me how to properly hold him, nurse him, change him, and bathe him. This was my first hospital stay ever and throughout it, I experienced firsthand what a godsend nurses are. Can we start calling them angels sent from heaven? 

Courtesy of Linda Yin

When it was time to leave the hospital, I was reluctant. I didn’t want to say goodbye to our round-the-clock care and amazing nurses. The 400 square feet hospital room was my home for the past three days and the only world Reggie knew outside the womb. For three days, I was sealed off from the outside world with only one mission: to give birth to a healthy baby. Nothing else and no one else mattered. It was freeing to be able to ignore every other responsibility in my life. Now with the mission accomplished, it was time to face the outside world and I did not feel ready. I wanted more time in my hospital room bubble. 

No book, YouTube video, or class could have prepared me for motherhood. There is no manual for my specific baby, no teacher I can turn to with all the answers. I often feel like I am in over my head, and I’m up at all hours of the night thinking to myself: 

How do I pull a onesie over his head? What’s the best way to bottle feed him? Why is he still crying even though I’ve changed, fed, and burped him? Why does he hate sleeping in his bassinet? Why does he fart so much? Does he have colic? Why isn’t my breast milk coming in as much as I thought it would? 

So many questions. So much googling. And those are just some of the questions I had about taking care of a newborn. I’m also trying to figure out the new postpartum me. My body, my hormones, my sleep schedule. They’re all changing and at times, I feel really overwhelmed. I cry at the drop of a hat. I fall asleep on command. I sweat the small stuff. I get triggered easily. I can’t remember the last time I had a good laugh. I feel isolated. Top that off with a screaming baby, showerless days, and sore boobs. Postpartum life is all of the things. 

Being maternal is pretty foreign to me. I wouldn’t say I have a strong ‘maternal instinct.’ Fortunately, my other half has parenthood down to an art form. Steve has taught me how to put clothes on Reggie, how to bottle feed and burp him properly. Steve is the one who knew to monitor for jaundice right after Reggie was born. Steve never loses his cool, even when it’s 3 a.m. and Reggie has pooped and peed all over himself. I wish I had Steve’s confidence and parental instinct. But I’m grateful I have a partner who has the patience to teach me how to take care of our baby and who does his best to cheer me up when I feel like a failure of a mother. 

And, I often feel like a failure. When Reggie is wailing at the top of his lungs in the middle of the night, I get flustered. I just want him to stop crying as fast as possible. Easier said than done when he’s spit up and peed all over the changing table and all the swaddles are in the laundry I haven’t had a chance to wash. I’m constantly worried I’m not doing something the right way. I’m scared I’m not holding his soft head correctly. I’m terrified I’m going to break him somehow. 

Courtesy of LInda Yin

For the first month, our lives have been broken into two-hour increments. Warm up his bottle, feed him, burp him, change his diaper, try to get him to sleep. Then, eat and hydrate ourselves, pump (for me), take the dog out (for him), clean dirty bottles and pump parts, maybe do laundry. Repeat. 

Our new routine has been hard to get used to. Every day, I feel some form of frustration, exhaustion, and anxiety. Every night, I feel a sense of dread knowing Reggie will likely fuss every 90 minutes. The truth is, there are moments when I think to myself, ‘Can I give the baby back? I’m not cut out for this.’ There are moments when I miss my life before the baby. 

And yet, I love my baby more than anything. I want to remember everything, every little thing he does: the way he cracks a smile after chugging a bottle of milk, the way he coos in his sleep, the way his tiny fingers wrap around my index one, the way he looks around him with such curiosity and sometimes a furrowed brow. I’m both eager for him to be able to hold his head up on his own and asking time to stand still so I can keep him this size in my arms forever. As his mama, I’m learning there are tears of joy and sadness when he reaches each milestone. 

One month in and I’m still getting used to calling myself ‘Mom’ and thinking of myself in terms of ‘Parent.’ Sometimes my mind still thinks I’m pregnant. Sometimes I wake up, don’t know what day it is, and forget for a hot second that I have a baby. Sometimes I make plans in my head only to remind myself I can’t because of how unpredictable he is. 

But every day, I learn something new. About him. About myself. I’m learning to embrace all the feels, all the cries, all the smiles. I’m learning to let some things go, like cleaning floors and tidying up the house. I’m learning to ask for help, even if it’s just a glass of water. But most of all, I’m learning to slow down and be more present. I’m not a perfect mom, nor will I ever be, but if I can show my baby love and give him the time and attention he deserves. Maybe I can do this mom thing.”

Courtesy of Linda Yin

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Linda Yin. You can follow her journey on her websiteSubmit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

Read more from Linda:

‘When I went to pick him up, I felt a snap and then searing pain.’: 10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Having A Baby

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