The arrival of a new life is a little like a hurricane has come through shaking everything up to the point where you don’t recognize the landscape any more. I had a reader comment on one of my recent poems that the adjustment to motherhood appears to be agreeing with me. Becoming a first time mother is exhausting, scary, joyous, frustrating, and can feel like you are going a little nuts. In some ways I have enjoyed the transition that I am adjusting to as a new mother. In other respects I find the change to be very overwhelming.
My son, Dylan, is now two weeks old. He has no qualms about making himself known when he needs something, or even just wants to be held. As a new mom, I usually start with basics. Does he need to be changed? Is he hungry? Is he too hot or too cold? Is he overstimulated or overtired? Does he just want to be held? Is he gassy (big source of discomfort for babies)? Sometimes though a baby will just fuss, and there isn’t too much you can do about it. This last one is frustrating when you’ve had very little sleep, and your son or daughter seems uncomfortable.
Once you have a child you will find yourself laughing at, or saying things you never thought that you would. A few days ago I was getting ready to give my son a bath when he peed all over the towel, so I had to get my husband to fetch me a clean one. Baby boys require very fast diaper changes by the way. If you have had a little baby boy and been peed on enough times you know exactly what I am talking about. Once the cold hits his little penis it is like dealing with a fire hose. A few minutes after the pee incident, I was laughing, because my son was making bubbles in the bath water from his farts. Bathroom humour normally doesn’t make me laugh yet now it appears to.
As a new mother, you worry about things that you never cared about before or that prior to having a child weren’t a concern. For example, if I want to take a shower or even go to the bathroom then I have to make sure if I am home alone that he is either in his crib, or another safe place. I normally leave my bathroom door open so I can hear him if he starts to cry.
Self care is an important part of me staying well myself, and bare minimum for me is eating 3 meals per day, a shower, and brushing my teeth. Emotionally I speak regularly on the phone or have coffee with those friends of mine who have had young children. With a newborn sleep is probably the most challenging basic need for me to meet. My husband during the weekends takes the night shift to care for Dylan so I can get some rest, and during the week my mother will take him for a few hours so I can get sleep or a sanity break. I love my son, but appreciate him even more when I get short periods of time away from him. At first I felt a bit guilty about taking the time away from him, and I think most new mothers do feel like they are being selfish if they are away from their children.
Labour, delivery and the adjustment to becoming a new mother have not been easy on me emotionally or physically. Physically I am still recovering from a c-section. My staples that held the incision together came out shortly after Dylan was a week old. I am still in some pain from my surgery, and have another two weeks that I am restricted in what I can and cannot do physically. I have been lucky to receive help from family members, so cleaning, dishes and laundry are kept up. I have had to relax my standards quite a bit as I am trying to find the balance between what needs to be done, and what isn’t that important. My body also underwent a huge change physically as I dropped down 28 pounds when I gave birth from the loss of fluid, no longer carrying my son, or the placenta.
Emotionally, hormones have had some fun playing mind games with me and sleep deprivation probably doesn’t help matters either. My anxiety has been a big challenge recently as I have had a hard time trying to relax, or rest. I also find that I do not tolerate large amounts of visitors very well. It has been important to set some strict boundaries to limit how many people come to my house at once. I have been making it a point to get out of the house every second day for a walk, or even for just a coffee as I know that isolating myself will make things much worse. The first week that I was home from the hospital I was very weepy, and this is getting a little better over time. What I was wondering at the time was why am I crying when I have this beautiful little life in my care? Some of the tears came from the knowledge that his care is largely all on me. I just learned how to take care of myself not too long ago and now I am responsible for a little soul.
New mothers don’t talk very often about the fact that it can take a while to feel a bond with your offspring. I loved my son when he was in the womb as the connection felt so very intimate. I did not finish labour and delivery with Dylan as he would not have made it through my pelvis. His entry into the world felt very surreal to me. Day by day though I am slowly getting to know this little soul who appears to have a strong personality already. My favourite moments with him are when he is snuggling with me after a feeding, taking him out in the stroller, or he is watching TV with me on the couch. It’s in those quiet times when it is just him and I that I can feel love slowly growing.