I’ve always been a naturally social person. One could argue that I’d befriend a plant if I was lonely enough. With a wide, diverse social circle and seemingly unlimited time provided by a generous maternity leave, I was ready to mingle. The first 4 weeks of motherhood were a blur of breastfeeding, diaper changes and naps but now I was ready to start my “new normal.”
However, along with the many physical changes motherhood brings (saggy skin, stretch marks, hair loss), my friendships changed too. New connections bloomed, old ones deepened and grew, and some fell away. Some friends embraced the “new me” with open arms, others welcomed me the mom club, and some just stopped calling.
Instead of mourning friendships lost, I did what I always do when I don’t know what to do…launch into intense research mode. I reached out to old acquaintances that had kids, joined a dozen Facebook groups and Googled the crap out of things like “How to Make Mom Friends,” “Moms Near Me,” and “Meet New Moms”.
That’s when I came across the most amazing (and under-used app) called Peanut. It allows you to connect with like-minded mamas in your area and makes it easy to meet them. It’s basically like Tinder for moms – swipe down to wave at a mom, swipe up to maybe connect later. Ah technology!
I actually ended up connecting with a few different women who I had seen around at pre-natal class, the obgyn, and the mall that I had been shy to approach (I know, right?! Me?! Shy?!) But it’s true…as much as you want to share and connect, striking up convo with strangers is weird. Thank god my experience in a sorority taught me how to approach other women. I always start with a compliment; your baby is adorable, or, I love your diaper bag,
This blog has also been an amazing way to connect with other moms. My heart bursts with joy every time one of you reaches out to connect or to simply say “ditto” to my most recent post. Keep it up! Motherhood can be isolating. So much of your time is wrapped up in your baby and it gets a little lonely. Each time someone reaches out digitally, it’s like a warm hug and instantly brings a smile to my face. Thanks for listening to my complaints…er, I mean stories.
I’m slowly building my mom tribe and would love to connect with you if you have kids (especially if you are in Montreal and on mat leave). Leave a note in the comments!
My breastfeeding story isn’t unusual. Before having a baby, I figured that you put the baby at the breast and the rest was nature taking over. WRONG! Never has something so natural, been so difficult! I struggled…a lot! I thought about giving up nearly every day. I cried, cursed, screamed. I spent hours googling remedies for sore breasts. I joined lactation groups, had my own lactation consultant and became obsessed with finding out how I could make my misery end.
Let’s go back to the beginning. One of the questions I was asked repeatedly while pregnant was whether or not I’d breastfeed. My mom breastfed my brother and I, and since she is my guru on all things baby, I knew that it was something I wanted to do. Plus I factored in all the research; breastfeeding protects baby from illness, allergies, SIDS, as well as boosting your child’s intelligence and reducing mom’s stress levels and risk for postpartum depression. But other than that, I didn’t know what I was in for.
Naturally, being the Type-A person that I am, I signed-up for a breastfeeding workshop where nurses demonstrated how to get a baby to latch (i.e. suck your nipple properly) with a knitted boob. “Sure,” I thought, “seems easy enough!” I followed this up by reading my mom’s “The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding” and felt like I would figure the rest out once baby arrived.
At the hospital, in the post-partum recovery, a sweet nurse helped me breastfeed for the first time. She literally squashed my gigantic 40DD boob into my little one’s mouth. As your body isn’t really your own post-delivery, I went with the flow and was encouraged when she seemed excited that the baby had latched. But, holy shit was it painful! I chalked it up to being a first-timer and continued this painful experience every 2 hours because Charlotte was a hungry little hippo.
The real drama began once the pediatrician told us that Charlotte had a tongue-tie. This means that the piece of skin that attaches her tongue to the floor of her mouth is unusually short. This restricts the range of motion and was the culprit behind the pain. She doctor offered to cut it for us and two minutes later it was done. But the pain in my nipples and breasts continued and was joined by a blood blister, bruises, bleeding and cracks.
When the nurse visited us at home the next day, she was concerned. Not only was the tongue-tie not totally revised, she told us that Charlotte was also lip-tied. Again, the little piece of skin connected the lip to the gums is unusually short and thick and prevents babies from flaring their lips when they breastfeed. Why is this important? A flared lip is what allows the baby to take your nipple deeply into their mouths and suck without causing you pain. To fix this issue, the nurse recommended a laser revision by a pediatric dentist.
Pat and I balked. We didn’t want Charlotte to suffer and it seemed a bit barbaric. I resolved to “tough it out” but after a week, I was in constant pain. Because my nipples were being re-traumatized each time I breastfeed, I developed vasospams. After feeding, they would turn white and burn from the inside. Nothing seemed to help.
I started delaying feedings because I was fearful of the pain that I knew was to come. Charlotte had lost nearly 10% of her birth weight and wasn’t gaining as quickly as desired. I cried and winced each time she latched. The beautiful, tender loving moments between mother and child were non-existent. Instead, my baby was a little devil, intent on destroying me. I knew I couldn’t continue on like this, so I started going to a local breastfeeding clinic. The nurses were incredibly helpful and sympathetic. They showed me how to compensate for the lip and tongue-tie issues. They suggested doing breast compressions while feeding, changing my breastfeeding hold, taking vitamin D, calcium and magnesium for the vasospasms. All of this helped, but still, Charlotte’s latch issues remained.
Finally, after discussing with nearly every parent I knew, we decided to have the dentist do the laser revision. I was scared – what if it burned my baby? I was sad – why am I putting my needs before my child’s? But I was hopeful. If this could change our breastfeeding relationship and I could continue without pain, then I would do it.
The surgery itself was 2 minutes. The most awful part were Charlotte’s screams and the post-surgery exercises I needed to do 6 times a day to guarantee that the skin didn’t grow back. That was traumatizing for both her and I. But thankfully, I noticed a difference in breastfeeding almost immediately. She was able to open her mouth wider and my nipples began to heal. And over time it keeps getting better and better!
Like I said at the beginning of the blog, my story isn’t unusual. But for some reason, nobody talks about the difficulties. The pressure that new moms feel to breastfeed and love it, is tremendous. When issues arise, we’re reluctant to speak out and seek help because we are ashamed. We feel like we’re not good enough, that we don’t love our child enough to be able to provide for them. ALL FALSE! FED IS BEST. Whether breast or bottle, what matters is that you child is being fed and thriving. My story had the outcome I wanted, but had I decided to switch to formula, that would have been fine too.
Did you have trouble breastfeeding? I want to know! Share your stories & thoughts in the comments below.
It’s been a minute…sorry, I’ve been busy tending to my little nugget. Every day is a new challenge, a new lesson to learn and a new reason to fall deeper in love. I spent so much time leading up to Charlotte’s birth worrying about the actual birth process, that I think I neglected to realize the life changing reality of actually having a baby. Read on to see what I’ve learned during the first month of motherhood.
Being a mom is physically demanding! Between the 24/7 breastfeeding and the hours of rocking my little Charlotte in my arms, being a new mom is hard on the body. My back aches, my boobs are swollen to the size of watermelons, my nipples look like old chewing gum and I wonder if I will ever sit comfortably again. My biggest mistake was not taking care of myself from the start. I thought I was doing the right thing to neglect my body in order to take care of my baby. Big mistake, HUGE! At week 5 I’ve finally clued in…back rubs from the hubby, therapeutic baths and face masks…here I come!
No routine is the new routine. As someone who thrives on routine and organization, being flexible in my expectations and schedule is a huge adjustment. I’m so used to having places to go, and people to see, that to go with the flow is like taking a full-loaded freight train to a complete stop. Some days Charlotte wants to sleep all morning and others, she’s wide awake and crying. Learning to just let go and accept the day as it unfolds has been a mind-altering experience.
Pinterest perfection is bullshit. Any mom-to-be will tell you that she has a baby board on Pinterest where she keeps all her inspiration – nursery, newborn photoshoot, baby “hacks.” I meticulously curated my gallery, clinging to picture-perfect ideals of what motherhood should be like. And it’s a lie, a big, giant lie! Motherhood is messy, chaotic, scary and confusing. Hundreds of so-called “experts” will advise you on how to get the perfect baby photos, what your baby sleep-schedule should be and how to get a rocking post-baby body. And it’s all garbage! Listen to you instinct, embrace the mess and let go of expectations – that’s when the little moments you treasure will happen.
You will hate everyone but desperately need them at the same time. Surviving on 3 hours of sleep a night (if that) and listening to the ear-piercing screeches of a newborn has made me highly irritable. My tolerance for people is at an all time low. I want nothing more than to totally disconnect from the world…but at the same time, I can’t bear the thought of being alone. Motherhood is isolating and having people around (whether you can stand them or not) makes the day more enjoyable and less scary. Sometimes you just need to bounce your crazy thoughts off someone: “Is Charlotte’s breathing normal? Should I be worried she never burps? Are belly buttons supposed to look like that?”
And most importantly, what I’ve learnt as a new mom is: motherhood is a secret club, where love and selflessness grants you access. My mom always warned me that when I had children, I would understand her devotion to us. Our joys were her joys and our sadness, her pain. She said that I would spend sleepless nights worrying about everything under the sun. And she promised that things that were once so important, would all seemed trivial compared to the bond between mother and child. I didn’t know love like this until Charlotte’s little finger wrapped arond mine. I didn’t know I could survive without sleep, a hot shower, food and water until I rocked and rocked a sleepy (and very stubborn) baby to sleep for hours. Mom, you were right!
I know there’s more wisdom to learn as I embark on this adventure in parenthood – so please feel free to share your best bits of advice in the comments below!