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Before I had my baby I thought that I knew it all, and comparatively speaking I kind of did! But nothing could have prepared me for what happened my first year of motherhood.

I was in my 30’s when I had her so I was no spring chicken, and I had spent all of my 20’s doing my own thing, growing up, and being young.

I had more life experience and book knowledge on raising kids than most new mothers. I had played a large role in raising my younger siblings. I had worked as a full-time nanny for a two-year old, a one year old, a six-week old, and a sick 8 month old at different times during my 20’s.

I had worked in day care full-time in an infant room with 13 babies under a year old, and parents would come in and see me juggling 3 babies at once and say, “I do not know how you do it!” ” You are the only one who can get my child to do….(fill in the blank.)”  I knew all of the tricks, and I had dealt with all of the different temperaments from high maintenance screamers to easy quiet babies.

I had a degree in early childhood education and a teaching certificate, and I had studied psychology. I had taught classrooms full of two-year olds, three-year olds, kindergarteners,  first graders, and second graders.

So honestly I had the resume of one of the most educated and experienced new mothers in all the land! So of course I thought that raising my own child would be a breeze. How hard could one baby be after all of that? I had no worries about it at all. My pregnancy was even relatively easy.

BUT…….

As confidence in myself and my experience cunningly and slowly turned into pride nothing could have prepared me for what happened.

It began on a Thursday night when the baby in my womb literally did flips all night long, and I stayed awake the entire night. Around 6:00am that Friday morning as I lay in bed still wide awake the pain and cramps began to come in waves and slowly I realized that I was in labor a week early.  By 7:00pm (13 hours later) that Friday evening I was having severely painful contractions every 3 minutes, and I was throwing up. This is when we went to the hospital the first time, and to make a long story short this was only the first day of a full 3 days of labor.

After being awake non-stop since Thursday morning and painfully laboring from Friday morning until Sunday night I finally had a C- Section Sunday night at around 10:00pm.

During that surgery I lost so much blood that I was not even allowed to stand up without help. I could not walk to the bathroom or even stand in the shower because I was so weak. For months afterwards I would literally shake uncontrollably just from standing up for too long such as in the shower, and I would have to sit. And the pain from the surgery made it difficult to move or walk for a couple of months as well.

I remained in the hospital from Sunday until Wednesday, and I did not sleep one night while I was there. I got very little sleep during the day because of all the visitors and nurses coming in. One nurse even came in my room (I think it was the last night, but it is a blur) and said, “You never sleep.”

“I KNOW!” I snapped back at her.

So from Thursday until the following Wednesday I did not sleep one night. I was already so sleep deprived that I had some hallucinations. I barely had enough blood to function. I was recovering from a hard labor and surgery, and I had a newborn to care for.

On top of that I was breastfeeding which became very painful when I got engorged and had bleeding scabs caused by the baby’s constant suckling, and even that got more complicated when they made me give her formula at the hospital the last night which completely messed up my milk supply.

When I got home the sleep never came. My baby never slept even one hour in her bassinet. She was high maintenance and had to be held at all times. The only time she ever slept was while I was holding her…..EVER.

She never sat happily in a carrier or bouncy seat or swing. She never laid on a blanket for more than 5 minutes. She had to have me holding her at all times, and she breast-fed every 45 minutes. This meant that I never slept, and I only showered once a week! When I was in the shower I could hear her screaming bloody murder the entire time….How relaxing.

My body has never been so depleted in my life, and my entire body was in so much pain that I could hardly bare it all year. Even when the baby slept I could not sleep. And all of the nutrients from my already anemic and depleted body went straight to the baby when I nursed her.

And so then the depression and anxiety set in. I sobbed and sobbed all the time. I felt completely overwhelmed and exhausted. I had horrible nightmares that my baby was dead. I had anxiety that caused me to stay awake and check to see that she was breathing all during the night, and I had thoughts of suicide and of running away. I could not imagine being without my baby though so that is why I did not run away or overdose. Postpartum depression is a monster that is very frightening and cannot be described appropriately. It is unlike anything else even other types of depression.

Even though I really did know what I was doing, and I knew things that most new mothers have no clue about I still thought that I was a horrible mother because my baby was fussy, and I was so depressed and sleep deprived that I was almost delusional.

The horrible depression lasted about a year, and my baby did not sleep through the night for 15 months. I never slept through one night that entire time, and remember I had been awake for four nights already when she was born.

As much as I loved my baby and had always wanted her more than anything else….it was not the ecstatic experience that I had hoped for and had seen in the movies and TV.  It almost sent me over the edge.

My point is not just to write a “woe is me” story. My point is that no matter how much difficult hands on experience or college education a person has sometimes life throws us a few curve balls that nothing at all can prepare us for. Sometimes things happen that are so far beyond our control that we could never have planned enough for them. Sometimes people are going through things that we have not experienced and so there is no way that we can understand it or judge it. Sometimes people might warn us about something or tell us about an experience but until it happens to us we just do not get it.

I had a little pride and then I got pumbled in ways that I could never have imagined. My body, mind, and spirit took a beating that year and then got kicked with steel toed boots. Now when I see a mother struggling, exhausted, losing her mind or crying…..I get it!

I had another mother tell me that when she had her first baby she just did not understand what all the fuss was about. She said that her baby was so easy, and she did not comprehend what other mothers were so wound up about……then she had her second child. And she got it! That second baby cleared it all up for her!

So if you have had a pretty easy time with your baby, and you see another mother looking pale with black eyes pulling all of her hair out of her head piece by piece and cussing someone out……don’t throw stones at her. Or if you see a mother who cannot seem to function normally in the world for a season. She cannot ever go anywhere or do anything because her child will scream the entire time…..don’t assume that she is just a rookie or a drama queen. Pat her on the back. Giver her a hug. Look at her with love because you never know what things are like for her, and one day it might be you.

I am happy to say that I survived, and my daughter sleeps through the night now. She is in the terrible twos, but for me that is a relief  compared to the first year. She is the light in my life. She is my little side kick. She is more than the daughter that I always dreamed of, and I would do it all again right now for her.

I also have a happier more inspirational story about her birth that I hope to tell soon, but this one is for all the moms who have been to hell and back and have lived to tell about it. My hat goes off to all of you. I understand! I get it now!

There are certain gifts that people are just born with. Well, “gift” is not even the right word. It is who we are. It is not only part of our DNA, but it is somehow imprinted into our hearts and souls.

That is how dancing is for me. I am not saying that I am the world’s greatest dancer, but I was a born dancer. I was dancing before I could walk and begging to take classes by age three.

My parents saw this true desire and gifting in me and were good at supporting me by taking me to classes and coming to all of the performances. My mom even held my dancing as sacred for me because she stood up to my step father when he bitched about my loud dancing feet scratching up the wood floor of my bedroom on the second floor above his room. She said, “She’s a dancer! You cannot tell her not to dance!”

My dancing was the expression of my deepest soul. I danced for hours and hours in my room when I was not in the studio. I could free style and just allow the music to move me, and I also choreographed and performed daily for my family. My friends and I even spent our play time choreographing and performing for our parents during play dates.

I danced when I was sad or angry. I would passionately dance it out alone in my room. I danced when I was happy and celebratory as well. Dancing was my way of releasing everything, and it was my escape. It was my refuge. I could literally block out everything around me and enter another dimension when I was dancing whether shining like a star in front of an audience or all alone in secret solitude.

Dancing was also my way of connecting to God. I could feel a larger higher spirit pulsing through me when I danced, and I was even asked to dance in church as a young teenager. When I was finished and  “came back” to reality I saw everyone in tears in the congregation. Apparently they could feel it too. But usually this was something that I did alone with God.

When I went to college I immediately got into a dance company. At that time I was so depressed and still reeling from the things that I had been through before college that I no longer felt like dancing. I just didn’t care anymore. I could hardly dance, and that was my major red flag that something was horribly wrong in my very soul…….But that is not the story for today.

Saturday night I got the pleasure of dancing with my two-year old daughter in her very first dance recital. It was more than just a child’s recital for me because it was as if everything had come around full circle, and I was back on that dance stage. But this time I was with my baby…holding her hand….quietly whispering the next step in her ear….lifting her up….swaying and sashaying hand in hand….and experiencing her first performance with her.

What a magical and healing experience. I was taken back to all of my childhood performances. I was reliving them …not just through my daughter…..but actually with her.

Honestly I can hardly explain it, but if your soul is a dancer like mine you may understand. Or maybe if your soul is a singer or an artist of some sort you may understand too. But helping my baby as she danced for the very first time under the lights stirred my soul. It re-awakened something within me that is actually me, and I was teary eyed all weekend.

When she came outside after the show and saw her two grandmothers she gleefully said,  “I’m a dancer! I’m a dancer!”……

Wow!…… Me too!…… And forgetting that is forgetting who I am in my truest self.

I am thankful for the divine cycles that bring us back around to ourselves. And I will never forget the feeling of dancing with my baby girl in her very first performance. I will try to hang on to that feeling of life continuing…..renewing…..and healing. And I will try to dance again.