Wednesday, December 09, 2009

The New Mom Haze

I've been Sidney's mom for about 13 weeks now. Sometimes I can't believe it. Last night I was in the bathroom brushing my teeth and thinking, 'there's a baby in the other room and she's mine.' Even at 35, I find myself wondering if I'm "qualified" to be some one's mom; but then I think, yeah and it's about damn time.

Truthfully, our first weeks after bringing Sidney home from the hospital were really tough and I struggled to keep it together. I've already talked about the breastfeeding ordeal which had a lot to do with that, but the hormonal fluctuation and the sleep deprivation were also intense. (This is expected for new moms and not what is considered post-partum depression. That is much more severe and you usually can't lift out of it like I was eventually able to do.) But at week two, I commented on Facebook that I couldn't believe it had only been a few weeks with Sidney and that it felt like much longer. My co-worker Dave said it was because I was awake for so much of it.

I like to pride myself in being pretty steady and level emotionally. I also like to think of myself as rational and thoughtful. But my god in the first weeks, I didn't recognize myself. I would start crying when I thought about my mom having return to Portland, when I would see puppies in commercials or when veering into territory regarding my feelings about ANYTHING. And unlike college all-nighters, the consecutive nights of sleep deprivation with a baby make you delirious or at least chronically absent-minded. I couldn't remember anything and there are lots of appointments in the first weeks--and especially with Sidney's jaundice, we had people coming and going here at the house. I could take nothing for granted so everything had to be written down or the information would evaporate into the ether.

I realized too that I had to give it all (emotionally, physically, mentally, intellectually) to fulfill her every need. Her fragility and dependence weighed so heavily--I thought then it might be more than I could bear. But I remembered something my co-worker Craig said a few years ago to me: "Having kids is like cutting out a piece of your heart and putting it out in the world. You have no control over it and it can get hurt." I guess as a parent you are always trying to balance protecting your child versus preparing them to deal with harsh realities of life. It's like you're slowly letting the rope out. When you're a kid, all you want to do it push the limits and as a parent all you want to do is protect that little being as long as possible. (I'm sure toddler-hood will be fun.)

I no longer feel the level of anxiety I had at the beginning where I felt constantly unsure of myself. But I can see why some parents can seem over-bearing and over-protective. That trap of wanting to do everything right and what the books say can make you crazy. Instincts (as muted and suppressed in our hi-tech world as they are) count for something.

No one really told me any of this or maybe as a non-parent you can't quite grasp the intensity. The only frame of reference you have is being someone's kid and it's hard to appreciate all that parents do from that perspective. Personally all of the effort we put into getting pregnant, staying pregnant, eating right, not learning how to deliver vaginally and taking all the classes, still left the "after the baby arrives" part a little abstract. Once I gave birth I actually thought: Whew, that's over. Now I can relax. (Cue hysterical laughter.)

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