The Loneliness & Isolation of First-Time Motherhood

Being a new mom is a brave new world and no matter how much advice and help you have, it still feels like you’re facing it alone. You alone bear the title of  “Mom.” You are your baby’s source of life, his source of comfort. And it’s overwhelming.

You’ve anticipated the arrival of this little bundle of joy, but nothing prepares you for your new reality. Your needs and desires are sitting on a shelf for a while. You have one priority and one priority only, and that’s taking care of baby. We’re talking survival mode.

A good day consists of making sure you get to eat at least two meals, don’t pass out from exhaustion, and as far as you know, baby is well fed and has been changed a few times. Answering emails? Responding to phone calls? There’s no time. You barely have time for your spouse, much less anyone else. Your capacity for emotional connection is drained, likely every 2 hours or so, by the most precious life you’ve ever seen.

Ironically, this loneliness may be a time when you’re around more people than you have been in a while. But even though family is in town, they’re likely in survival mode too. You’re new 24/7 job means you have little time, if any, for laundry, cooking, cleaning, shopping or anything else that doesn’t directly contribute to baby’s survival. That’s where their energy goes. They offer practical support and may even attempt emotional support, but it’s just not connecting.

Friends stop by to drop off food and cuddle your little one. You smile and try your best to find your way out of the fog so you can carry on a decent conversation. It’s sad really. You’ve looked forward to a new face walking into your cave of a home all day long, but once they arrive, you realize how exhausting it is just having company. If baby’s asleep, you’re missing time to sleep, shower, or get something else accomplished. If baby’s awake, you’re likely struggling to figure out that nursing cover or hiding in another room altogether. You crave the company, but your mind and body aren’t prepared to handle it.

Even those that have been through this phase before, those that know it well, even they aren’t able to meet you there. Not now. They’ve seen the other side. They know there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. They’ve felt the warmth of it on their skin. You haven’t. For all you know, that light has been permanently squelched.

So we hold out hope that the light isn’t squelched. Although deep down we know our reality will never be the same, we will never be the same, we pray there’s a chance that one day soon we will rise from this strangely dark, yet delightful place to reenter and reconnect with the world around us. And hopefully, we’ll have had a chance to shower by then.  ;-)

Praying with you.

Shana

Motherhood: A New Perspective on Productivity

You’re a new mom. You live under a new schedule, one you can’t control. Make whatever plans you like for your day or even the next hour, but beware that your baby’s hunger supersedes any of your plans. All it takes is one hungry squeal from his lips for my body to go into feeding mode, pulling me away from whatever I might be trying to accomplish. It’s like babies have productivity radar. The moment you sit down to fold that load of laundry or write that quick work email, baby awakes from his deep slumber like he hasn’t eaten in days. Even if you wanted to ignore his cry for a moment so you could mark one teeny thing of your list, the ache in your body caused by his precious cry grabs all of your attention.

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Say what? Not me, Mom!

Your to do list grows and grows, and if you’re like me, the lack of checks at the end of the day leaves you feeling disappointed. But if I’m honest with myself, I should realize I’m not going to get that report done for my client when I can’t even finish a load of laundry in a day. Sure, I make plans for when he is sleeping, but I’ll get distracted with things not on my list like, I don’t know, eating. I tend to forget to do that unless my husband brings a plate and sits it in front of me. Oh yeah. That is another feeding queue for baby. Anytime hot food hits a plate my little one decides he’s hungry, no matter how I try to strategically plan feeding times. I’ve tried feeding at the table during dinner, but I still can’t get settled and eat fast enough to enjoy a hot meal.

And then there’s sleep. I’m not sure when that’s supposed to happen. I never plan for it, but always end up there at some point in the day. I suppose I just push it off, focusing on that joke of a to do list, until my head is quite literally too heavy to hold up. They say sleep when the baby sleeps, but if you do that, you’d never get anything done. When do you eat? Go to the bathroom? Take a shower? Shower. One of those sure would be nice. You know you’re a new mom when you can’t remember how many days it’s been since you last showered, but you know exactly how many wet diapers your baby has had and how long they last fed on which boob. Priority shift.

Even though I’m not quite adjusted to this new world order, I’m slowly learning, with the help of my husband, that my new job is being a mom to baby. My new to do list is feeding 10-12 times a day, making sure he burps, rocking him to sleep, comforting his cries, and somewhere in there, feeding myself. My new measure of success is my son’s weight gain which, by the way, has been quite impressive!

Even though God is slowly giving me a new perspective on productivity, I’m still struggling to truly embrace this new job description and the success metrics that come with it. I mean, how many jobs can one have? It’s clear that baby is my #1 job, but what about all those other roles I play? Mom, wife, aunt, friend, daughter, writer, and the big one, company owner :-/

How do I be everything to baby right now, and still have something left for myself, my family and my job, the one that pays the bills? It’s overwhelming and quite frankly, it seems impossible. No, it is impossible. I’m just going to have to accept the fact that lots of to dos will not get done. My house will be dirty. I will eat cereal more than I like. My husband will be neglected. Birthday parties will be missed. New clients will have to wait. And the list goes on. But this season is only temporary and order will be restored soon. Or at least that’s what I’m going to tell myself.

Our Hospital Adventure with Silas

Read the birth story first.

We soaked in our baby’s presence for the next hour before we let anyone else touch him. We even waited to tell friends and family that he had arrived, just absorbing the moment with the 3 of us. He was so quiet, yet so alert for a newborn. He didn’t really fuss, not even when he was first delivered, and was fine with waiting to eat while I cuddled him. My heart was immediately overflowing with love for our Silas. I soaked up skin-to-skin time for what must have been an hour before feeding him. Then daddy took on skin-to-skin time while I talked with the doctors and nurses and they adjusted all my monitors and wires.  Now THAT is one of the most precious memories!

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After an hour or so, Silas got his first checkup. He weighed in at just 6 lbs 2 oz and measured 19 inches. Everything else looked fantastic from head to toe. They were a little concerned that he was so small considering he was past his due date, but I was quite thankful for his size. It made delivery very easy! He did have one temperature drop that landed him a spot under the warmer for a bit, but I’m pretty sure that was just because mommy spent a little too much time admiring him after a diaper change. Other than that he was perfectly healthy and handsome :) He definitely has my hair and lips, but the rest seems to be all daddy who, by the way, was a champ at the hospital changing diapers when I wasn’t feeding. Speaking of, Silas took to breastfeeding really well. So well in fact, he enjoyed eating so much momma barely got a break.

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Mommy on the other hand wasn’t quite as healthy as baby Silas. I had experienced a couple drops in blood pressure and an irregular heart rhythm that earned me an extra 12 hours of monitoring. They apparently don’t have that sophisticated equipment in the postpartum rooms which meant we’d remain in our labor and delivery room the rest of they day until I was cleared. That wasn’t such a bad deal, except for the sounds of labor that surrounded us. Let’s just say not all women have a pain-free birth like I did.

It wasn’t too long before my mom and stepdad arrived. They had hit the road that morning thinking that Silas would arrive that night or the next day, like we all did. I’m sure they were excited that the wait was over and they got to head straight to the hospital to meet their grandson. They cuddled and nuzzled him, absorbing the joy of new life. I’m sure they wanted to stay all day, but they knew they’d be with him for a week so they headed home to get settled in.

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Not too long after they left one of my sisters arrived with her husband and 2 of her 4 kids. Unfortunately, the youngest, Nate, was too young to be in the labor & delivery area. Pam, Gino, and Sophia got to meet Silas though. Pam was super excited. Even though she has nieces and nephews that she loves dearly, Silas is her first blood niece or nephew. There’s something special about that.

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The rest of the time was not quite as ideal. Unfortunately, my epidural was so good I was numb for 13 hours after labor. More unfortunately, they had already removed my catheter from labor, assuming I wouldn’t be numb much longer. They kept coming in to get me up to go to the bathroom and each time my legs wouldn’t lift front the bed, no matter how hard I tried. That left me with lots of uncomfortable moments and feeling pretty helpless. In fact, I was still stuck in bed when they removed all my monitors. By the time I could walk again, my tailbone was bruised from the labor and delivery bed, not meant for a long-term visit. Thankfully they brought in a new, more comfortable bed before we shut down for the night.

Although we were supposed to move into a postpartum room, by the time they were done monitoring me, all those rooms were full so they kept us in L&D. At least that was the plan. If the constant rotation of nurses and doctors, plus feeding and diaper changing weren’t exhausting enough, they came in at 3am and said the L&D rooms were full and we had to move. It was quite funny watching Casey try and rise from his slumber to pack everything while I was stuck in bed. Eventually everything was packed and they dragged us across the hospital to an overflow room which was essentially a daytime operating room with no window. Tiny, even though they said they gave us the biggest one. I immediately started asking when we could go home. They kept giving us hoops to jump through. I would need to pass another round of blood work, Silas would need a certain number of wet diapers, and he’d have to pass his 24-hour doctor appointment.

 

Although we should have stayed for 3 days, we passed all the tests with flying colors and were discharged just 26 hours after Silas was born. I just couldn’t wait to get home and get our family settled in. Plus, my 13 hours of numbness and all the monitors had prevented me from being able to shower. Let’s just say I’ve never needed a good dousing of water as bad as I did by the time I arrived home.

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A short bath and a nice long shower later and I finally felt like myself again, but nothing like myself at the same time. More to come :)

 

Our Birth Story: Welcoming Silas Graham

Friday was a busy day for us as we wanted to wrap up decorating and setting up the house, plus spend some time with family. Casey’s brother, Rich, had a stopover in Nashville (he’s a pilot) so we met him for lunch at his hotel. Since Rich lives in Arizona, we don’t get to see him very often. We truly enjoyed catching up with him and discussing our future with Baby B. At this point in the day I was having minor cramps occasionally. They had started the day before, but they were few and far between and not at all painful so they were easy to ignore.

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It wasn’t too long after we returned home that my sister, Felicia, and Tailynn, my niece, arrived to pick up Ashlynne for her weekend with her mom. Tailynn was extremely excited to see the new house and was quickly exhausted from trudging up and down the stairs. Ashlynne was excited to show off her room. Even though she’s still lacking furniture, the bright blue/green walls are worth the trip upstairs to see them. IMG_7950Toward the end of their visit I noticed the cramps were a little stronger, but that wasn’t the main thing. I had an unpleasant visit to the bathroom which I had heard was a sign of labor. However, it could be days before labor starts and who knows that I didn’t just eat something bad. It did give me hope that I would be able to avoid the impending induction though.

Once Ashlynne hit the road, Casey went down the road to play basketball and take Minny for a walk While he was gone I thought I would get started on hanging things around the house. I wanted to complete as much as I could before Baby B arrived and by the grace of God, lots of hard work, and good friends, the only thing that was really remaining was hanging a few items that had a place. I was trying to hang a painting in our room when I decided I should time my cramps and felt like I needed to take a break on the bed. That’s where Casey found me when he got home. Contractions were about 11 minutes a part. I’ll let the video explain the what happened next.

 

Casey drove the whole way balancing the urge to fly down back roads and run red lights, the pain increasing, now 2-3 minutes apart. In between contractions we’d laugh as I would tell him to slow down so I wouldn’t puke and then just as quickly tell him to pass someone or approve his request to run a red light. We were headed into the ER by 11:15. The doctor on the phone had made this part sound so easy. “Check in at the ER and we will be right down to get you.” That was the complete opposite of how it went.

First we had to get through security. They checked each and everyone of those bags that we had brought while I curled over in agony. Casey scurried to empty his pockets so he could walk through the scanner, and I did my best to explain why I couldn’t go through it. After making it past security we stood in line to check in. You would think my moans, groans and large belly would queue the two visitors in line before us to move out of the way, but apparently that’s not how things work in the ER. We checked in and the lady at the desk confirmed that someone would be right down. They set me in a chair in the hallway across from the discharge lady. I’m sure she enjoyed my screams as she was trying to work. 10 minutes goes by and no one comes. Casey checks back in at front desk, but makes no progress. More time goes by, more contractions, and now tears as sympathetic passersby encourage me and reassure me that it will be okay. Fed up, the discharge lady heads to the front desk to get help and just a few moments later the triage nurse, apparently the only one on that night, is taking down my info as he coaches me through contractions. He left and a few minutes later we were on our way up to labor and delivery.

They took me up to a temporary room to check me, and I passed the test. They admitted me and quickly hooked me up to heart monitors and began blood draws.

Side Note: I have an undiagnosed condition that causes high potassium and muscle weakness during physical activity that is believed to be a rare condition called hypokalemic periodic paralysis which makes me a high-risk pregnancy.

The resident anesthesiologist began talking to me about the curvature in my spine as we prepared for the epidural. His concern and talk about narrow pathways had me super nervous. That plus the contractions had me begging for Casey to tell me stories for distraction, but he just kept asking me questions instead. The attending anesthesiologist with the fun accent stepped in with neat stories and helped me learn to “just blow it away,” the pain that is. It actually helped, but by the time I mastered it, the pain was gone.

Once I was able to get comfortable, despite the web of wires I was hooked up to, I was able to join Casey who was already sound asleep. My sleep wouldn’t be as sound as I dealt with the constant squeeze of my blood pressure cuff and the cyclical visits from nurses and physicians. I wasn’t feeling contractions though, not even, the slightest cramp so I assumed the pain meds had slowed my labor, something the nurses would later confirm.

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They wouldn’t check me again until 5am. 8-9 cm 90% effaced. What? We were all shocked. 10 cm is pushing time. The nurse confirmed my contractions had slowed which increased their shock of my quick progress. Even still they expected it to be a few more hours before I was ready. Back to sleep. I wanted to get as much sleep as possible knowing baby would be here soon.

I woke up about 3 hours later feeling pretty lightheaded. I called the nurse asking for some apple juice, assuming my blood sugar was low. Before the juice arrived my blood pressure alarm went off and the cardiologist monitoring my telemetry monitor notified my nurse that my heart rhythms were out of sync. Next thing I know my room was full of anesthesiologists, nurses etc.
“Are the blood pressure drops associated with your contractions?”
“I wouldn’t know. Am I having contractions?”
They were shocked to find I hadn’t been feeling anything. They let me know I have a case of premature contractions with my heart which apparently aren’t that big of a deal. Finally some answers! That was helpful considering none of my blood work was showing anything.

They decided to go ahead and check me ahead of schedule since they were already in my room and I was awake.  “Your baby has a full head of hair” was the next thing I heard.
“Excuse me? You can see the baby!?”
“Yes, ma’am. This baby’s ready so you might want to wake up your husband.”
I woke Casey up. “Casey, baby will be here soon. Time to wake up.”

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As I was coaxing Casey from his slumber the nurse was calling for the room to be prepped for delivery. Before I knew it the room was shifting and my legs, which I could have swore weren’t attached, were by my ears.
“Okay, you’re going to push with your contractions.”
“Well you’re going to have to tell me when I’m having a contraction.”
Again, they were shocked that I couldn’t feel anything, not even pressure.
“Okay. Go ahead and push. Stop pushing!”
I didn’t even think I had started pushing before she was calling for the doctor to come in for delivery.

Next thing I knew my room was packed with med students, residents, and attendings. One of the residents would be “catching baby” under the supervision of the MFM physician. Casey positioned himself on my right leg and was soon fighting passing out at the sight of what was happening, but regained his composure. I reminded the doctors of my total lack of feeling so they could tell me when contractions were approaching. They had me push for 10 seconds, 3 times per contraction. Still no pain or even pressure. “Push” they’d say and “breathe” Casey would say. He probably hated seeing me not breathe, but I had to try hard to focus on the doctor’s commands, not his. Just 15 minutes or so and 3 contractions later I heard the squeal of our baby as the doctors placed him on my chest and Casey proudly proclaimed “It’s a boy!” with a huge smile on his face. I was in awe. It had all happened so fast, and there I was with my precious son on my chest.

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More post-delivery updates to come so stay-tuned! 

The Big Move – Part One

We did it. It’s early Sunday morning. I woke up in our new house, calmed by the beautiful view out my window.

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Waking up to the sight of trees makes me feel like I’m on vacation. I pray that feeling never goes away. This week has been emotionally and physically exhausting, but I’m thankful that we made it through the move and Baby B decided to stay inside. It’s only through the power of prayer and the grace of God that we didn’t have this baby. I definitely haven’t been resting. In fact, I’ve been going non-stop from morning until night, reaching the point where I physically can’t stand on my feet anymore because they feel bruised to the bone. Although we’ve been packing here and there for months and spent the last few Saturdays packing all day, there was still plenty to be done this week, on top of coaching Ashlynne through finals and Casey wrapping up the end of the school year.

Wednesday

Wednesday was a big day for all of us. We started off the morning with Ashlynne’s 8th grade graduation ceremony. I held back tears thinking about how far she has come and overwhelmed with gratitude that I get to be such a big part of her life these days. All went well for the ceremony other than the fact that it was way too long and hot to boot. This pregnant lady was quite uncomfortable on those bleachers for all that time. Casey was able to get someone to cover his class so he could be there for Ashes and pass along a beautiful bouquet of flowers to her. There was a little reception afterwards that Casey had to miss, but I attended. I almost didn’t because, in true teenager fashion, Ashlynne was going to bail on me for her friends, but a little hormonal pregnancy tears kept her by side. After the reception I hurried to the bank to write that painful down payment check and then was off to the school to pick up Ashes and Casey for the closing on our new home.

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Other than some hiccups on the drive there and an issue with our home insurance, closing was flawless. Emelyn’s (Ashlynne’s best friend) dad, John Cook, was our closing attorney so Ashes enjoyed watching him in his element. John was extremely helpful and the closing flew by. The next thing we knew we had keys in hand and were headed to our new home to meet the painter.

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That afternoon we were busy getting the new house clean. Our friends, Pat, and the Baileys came over to help. We definitely couldn’t have done it without them. I definitely couldn’t have since Casey had to go back to work. By the end of the day we were exhausted, but the kitchen and most bathrooms were clean. The baseboards had been wiped down thanks to Ashes and I tackled the doors, door frames, and electrical/light switch plates throughout the house while Casey tackled the windows. Progress, but still much more to do!

Thursday

Thursday was the most chaotic of days. Casey spent the day at work so I was on my own in the morning trying to get Ashlynne to pack for her trip to GA and finish packing her room and bathroom for the move. Surprisingly, it was all done relatively close to the time I asked it to be done.

We headed to the house around 11 am to get started cleaning. Ashlynne tackled sweeping the deck and patios and even helped me finish cleaning the bathroom tub.

The rest of the day was this crazy combination of productivity and chaos. We had friends come to help – Emily, Annie, and Brittany. They did more than I could have imagined and pretty much tackled the remaining cleaning items. The chaotic part was the babies – 4 under the age of 20 months. Ashlynne did the best she could to watch them all, but it was nearly impossible for her to do on her own. I would help her in between cleaning and her friend, Madison, even came to help for a little bit. Our friend, Stan, also came over Thursday afternoon and spent an incredible amount of time outside in the heat. I’m not even sure what all he did, but I know that by the time he left my deck, patios and driveway were all more beautiful. By the afternoon, Ashlynne had left for GA and friends were heading home after a long day of sacrificial service.

Once work was done for Casey it was madness. The painter was finishing up just in time for the carpet cleaners to arrive. That’s when Casey showed up with about 3 students and a truck and trailer full of boxes. They started unloading into the dining room where I was sweeping and mopping. Once I saw Casey I let him know everything needed to go into the garage so it was out of the way for the movers. A little frustrating for all, but eventually all was unloaded in the right place.

Our friend, Ryan, showed up to help, but it was just in time for them all to pick up pizza and head back to the old home. I had been living off pizza since our kitchen was packed so I passed on that and stayed back at the new house by myself to finish up in prep for the big move on Friday. I planned to get a sandwich at the Feed Mill but showed up just a bit too late. I ended up back at sonic which was the only thing other than pizza that I had eaten recently. Not happy, I wanted to console myself with a strawberry shake. I headed back to the old home to eat and see what work the guys were doing, but showed up to find them all leisurely chatting on the front porch. Not pleased considering how long I had been working at the house. I filled my hands with my purse, food, and shake then set my shake down on the car as I spoke with Ryan. That’s when the final straw fell on the camel’s back. My shake, the strawberry shake that was going to be my 9 months pregnant indulgence after a tiring, frustrating days work, tipped over and poured down the front of the car. In tears, all I could get out was. “I’m just going to go in. I’m done.”

Seeing my emotional frailty, the boys and Ryan left, and Casey came in to comfort me. I vented about the exhausting chain of events and how hard I had been working etc. Although I was a wreck, Casey knew just what to do. He hugged me, apologized, offered to get me a new shake which I regretfully refused, and then Casey gave me the night off, well tried to at least.

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With movers coming the next morning there was still plenty to pack – laundry room, closets, etc. Everything needed to be packed and organized for the movers’ 8am arrival. Casey set me by the foot massager with my computer and told me to watch New Girl episodes. Instead, I knocked out some client work, but being off my feet was rest enough. I could hear how hard Casey was working downstairs, which made me reluctant to disturb him, but I knew there had to be plenty more to do. We were up until 11:30… still more to do, but no energy for it. We took a brief moment to recognize that this would be our last night in the only house we’ve ever known together and then drifted off to sleep.

Continued… Read Part Two!

 

Originally written May 25, 2014