Emma is two months old. While the first four weeks were definitely challenging. I found that once I was left to care for Emma on my own, things got even more difficult. As a new mother, I am fortunate enough to not have to worry about cooking meals or doing laundry. Living with my parents is a blessing in that perspective, as I can focus my energy on caring for Emma. However, just attending to a newborn needs, which seem to change with each week is still very exhausting. I can’t imagine how some mothers do that while still having to cook meals and do laundry. I guess most women have the luxury of having husbands share the workload so it isn’t so bad.
While I love this little baby with all my heart, I have had my moments recently where I just wanted to leave her alone to cry in her crib. In my moment of frustration, I was close to thinking of hurting myself or just throwing her down on the bed. When Emma cries hard and I’m so exhausted … it’s scary how my mind can take a 180 degree turn very quickly. There have been moments where I resented her, and questioned if I was ready for motherhood. Was this what I really wanted? All this time, I’ve said to myself I loved babies. Yes, I love playing and spending time with babies. Happy babies, that is. I was ignorant to see only the surface of life with a newborn. I failed to recognize that majority of the time is spent attending to their basic needs; their need to feed, clean, and sleep. I’ve gotten over the whole guilt of not being able to breastfeed. Now and then, I still envy mothers who can just pop a breast at anytime with their baby when they are out and about. Formula feeding has been fine so far for Emma, except with the whole colicky business, of which I’m still not sure if she’s really having it that bad or she’s just been super tired because she hasn’t been able to sleep well. Recently, I’ve also learnt that babies do need our help to get to sleep. You would think it comes naturally for them since they need to sleep a lot during the first three months of age. At seven weeks and with the turmoil I’ve had with an overtired baby, I’m starting to realize how true this fact is.
In my hype to give Emma the best, I had not realized I was turning into an obsessed parent. I was trying really hard to solve Emma’s increasing fussiness. As usual, everybody will have an opinion about your baby.
“She has a lot of wind in her tummy”
“She is just colicky.”
“Since she can’t sleep, just let her stay awake.”
“Just let her cry a bit. You don’t have to respond to her every cries.”
“Why do you keep saying she is tired? She doesn’t look tired to me with those big, wide-open eyes.”
For some reason, I became very defensive over these comments, especially when it came from my mother. I don’t know why I reacted that way. Perhaps, it was the way the comments reached my ears. Not that I should blame people for the way they blurt things out. If anything, I should blame myself for letting it affect me immensely. However, the true reason could be I was adamant Emma was not getting enough sleep during the day, which was contributing to her fussiness every evening. This was when I realized we had weaned her off the swaddle too early. At 3 weeks old, we stopped wrapping her like a burritto because we thought she hated it. She would always protest and fight it. Little did I know, the swaddle will help her sleep better. I had not educated myself on babies startle reflexes. The older generation relates this to baby becoming frightened in their sleep but science has proven, it is just the way babies are designed in their first few months of life. I have received so many protection charms to put by her bedside, it’s ridiculous.
So there I was, sitting by her crib and watching this little burrito struggle to nap. I could sit there anywhere for up to an hour, re-inserting her pacifier every 5-10 minutes that she awoke. I was exhausted, and feeling terrible as to why this was getting so frustrating. I didn’t realize I was slowly losing focus of what’s important. The obsession to follow an expert’s advice in a book gave me more stress than comfort. Things weren’t working out, and I had shut out advice from my own mother, who was an experienced parent. I continued to drown myself in the obsession that she was not getting enough sleep. Perhaps, there was an underlying factor which caused her discomfort, hence her inability to sleep well. That underlying factor was her tummy discomfort. I focused so much on solving the problem at hand, and forgot to enjoy my time with Emma. My sister, who was visiting from Canada, gave me a slap in the face (not literally) … Still, I felt my whole family was going against me. My husband was not here to help support my decision. At the end of the day, what really helped was the doctor’s visit. A face-to-face meeting with an expert who could pour cold water on my head. At Emma’s two-month check-up, I took the opportunity to ask the doctor about Emma’s fussiness. He prescribed gas drops to try, and suggested we switch Emma’s formula milk to a different brand if the situation does not improve. And so, we tried the gas drops. It did help but I think the effects were not as strong as I expected. She was still fussy but things did improve between me and my family. My mood improved. Emma was sleeping a little better. Eventually, we switched her formula milk from Nestle Nan to Similac Total Comfort. It is day 4, and Emma has been drinking more milk at each feeding, falling and staying asleep better. She doesn’t fuss with piercing screams in the evening anymore. I was definitely getting more rest.
So I’ve gotten back to swaddling her, and putting her to nap as soon as she shows sleepy signs. In combination with the above changes, Emma is a happier baby now. If there’s an important lesson from this experience I can share with new mothers, it would be to always get as much rest as you can; and open your mind to try new things if you feel you have reached a roadblock. Lack of sleep can really affect our energy and ability to focus at the issue at hand, and subsequently affect our relationship with people around us; people who care about us.
I’ve also realized there were a few things that we didn’t necessarily needed to own. One of them was a stroller. I have taken a liking to the concept of babywearing. In efforts to help Emma with her fussiness, I decided to attend a babywearing workshop and educate myself on the different types of baby carriers. Again, the older generation would boastfully comment on how babies should not be carried too much lest they become addicted to it. Sure, our adult lives in this modern world is a busy one. Of course, we would get frustrated with a baby/child who wants to be carried all the time. Although, this logic did not appeal to my senses. My baby is only going to be a baby once. My time with her as a baby is short. I can never get that closeness back as she grows older and more independent. If they want to hold my hand now, I will let them hold. If they need to be held close, I will hold them as long as I can until they feel secured. It made sense to me for a baby this young to want the feeling of security. Attachment parenting is not about spoiling a child. It is about being as supportive with touch and closeness until they are ready to face the big world independently. How is a newborn able to suddenly adjust to this noisy, fast-paced, scary world? Come to think of it, this world we live in is really overwhelming for a baby. Therefore, I purchased a ring sling. Although Emma is still getting used to it, and she sometimes fusses when I put her in it, she does eventually fall asleep in it comfortably, especially when we are out and about. The poor girl gets overwhelmed with the sights and sounds when she is tired and trying to sleep. I have seen how she goes into an overdrive when sitting in the stroller; her hands and feet becomes jerky, and she looks at us with this facial expression of distress. Then came the “helpful” comments from others.
“She’s doing fine, she is just taking it all in.”
No, she wasn’t doing fine. People tend to forget their speech and opinions about a child in the presence of his/her mother. It is as though the mother doesn’t understand her own child as well enough as them. What do they know, seriously?
And this is where I am still learning how to … breathe. In it goes one ear, and out it goes the other. I have to just let it pass by. Ignore it. I am going to hold my baby close to me, and make her feel better. I am going to wear my baby in a sling, and let her sleep more comfortably if it helps her. I am going to keep my wide-awake baby in my sling while I’m out and about and let her slowly gain confidence to learn the world around her. I love holding my baby close to me, and will do it as much as I can now. I do not want to look back in regret.
Sometimes, I feel like we have been spending much $$$ on this baby. We have since bought four additional furniture from IKEA to organize baby’s items. Recently, I noticed Emma was not sleeping well in the Graco play pen. Moreover, the laying-down-and-picking-baby-up is starting to take a toll on my back. Emma is going to outgrow the bassinet in the play pen, and I’m not going to bend any further if we were going to let her sleep at the bottom level of the play pen. Therefore, another trip to IKEA was made. This time, we were on a hunt for a crib. I’m glad the price was affordable, and it met all the basic needs of a crib – two adjustable, comfortable levels and it can convert to a toddler bed. I decided to spend a little more to get a good, firm mattress for her. She loves it, and has learnt to associate her crib with sleeping. I can put her down, swaddled with her favourite item – the pacifier – and she will fall asleep on her own in a few minutes (if she’s sleepy).
Yesterday, I made an observation to my husband on the glass feeding bottles. We use Dr. Brown’s, and it has been great so far. The only pet peeve I have is that it is heavy to lug around, whenever we travel or even just an afternoon out at the mall. One of the bottles had started to leak, as discovered by my mother-in-law this past weekend. It must have been from two weeks ago where my mother had accidentally dropped the bottle. The bottle fell from the couch onto a hard surface. While it did not shatter and there were no noticeable cracks, I think the cycles in temperature when washing and sterilizing eventually compromised it. My sister had helped me purchased a new bottle. Although, she had accidentally purchased the plastic bottle. It wasn’t a big deal, and I decided to give it a try. I had always been an advocate of using glass items when it came to foodware. Having worked at a plastics manufacturing plant for four years, I saw what chemicals went into the making of this innovative invention. BPA-free? I didn’t truly believe it was completely free of it. But after this incident, the idea that a tiny shred of glass could pass into my baby’s intestines was worse than some BPA or other chemicals entering her mouth. I am ready to switch to plastic bottles. My husband is still confused with my decision.
Emma has been giving us lots of smiles lately, and I’m looking forward to hear her first giggle when awake. Right now, she laughs and giggles only in her sleep. A happy mother gives birth to a happy baby. Remember, don’t let stress and depression take over us. We as mothers, deserve so much credit for what we do for our children. Don’t forget, to appreciate our own mothers as well … no matter how traditional or fishy their suggestions may be, they did experience the issues we are facing with our infants now. Open our minds, and learn together. You’ll be surprised what both of you may find.