SAHM Struggles

When I thought about being a stay-at-home-mom, I imagined I’d have the apartment spotless, prepare breakfast, lunch, and dinner for my husband and me, and still have time to do my schoolwork and creative pursuits and hobbies. Instead, I find myself struggling to finish dinner while my Sunstar fusses to be held, the apartment is never as clean as I’d like it to be, and I barely even have time to myself to shower, so that schoolwork is delegated to the weekend, and everything else is forgotten in the hazy fog of long-term sleep deprivation.

I’m doing important work, the MOST important work of caring for our daughter, my husband assures me when I express my feelings of inadequacy,  uselessness, and lack of accomplishments.  But still, I doubt. Other moms are out there with newborns, and toddlers, and twins, and they’re running businesses, and writing books and successful blogs, and having social lives, and working, and just being supermoms.  I am not a supermom.  I am an ordinary, average, sometimes good, sometimes not so good, everyday mom.

I’ve failed to meet my own expectations and standards in so many ways. I haven’t managed to teach my daughter to “sleep through the night”, or even to take so much as a nap without having my right next to her and with my boob in her mouth most of the time.  I don’t talk to her, or read to her or sing to her as much as I should, and I worry that she seems to be slightly behind in her language development. I’ve failed the “no screens” rule and let her watch Disney songs so I can cut her fingernails because I don’t know how else to get her to be still.  I also model bad behaviour by being on my phone all the time, and knowing that her daddy does the exact same thing makes me feel worse, not better.

Being able to be with my daughter all the time is wonderful!  And also boring and lonely and frustrating.  I struggle with the conflicting emotions of wanting to be with her all the time, but also wanting to have an identity and purpose apart from her. I’ve loved seeing her first smile, watching her learn to crawl, and hearing her first “ba-ba-ba” babbles, but it’s been tough to feel like I’ve had to lose some of my independence and freedom to do so.

Becoming a mom has been the single biggest adjustment of my life and I’m still coming to terms with it.  I’m trying to find a balance with my little Sunstar who has become the center of my life without completely falling into her gravitational pull.  I try to find time to do a little writing while she sleeps, have a conversation with my husband that’s not about her, read a book, or watch TV, or listen to a podcast; these small triumphs help me feel like I haven’t lost my identity in becoming a mom, but added to it. I continue to hope that someday soon I will feel like a success as a mom, as a wife, and as a to-be-determined career person.

The Daily Diaper

Meconium should be dark black or green and tar-like, they said.  Make sure she has least one dirty and one wet diaper in the first 24 hours.  Make sure you feed her every two to three hours.  The colostrum will clear out her brand new digestive system and prevent jaundice and keep her from losing too much of her birth weight.  Of course, they didn’t say how you feed a sleeping newborn when she won’t even wake up enough to open her eyes, let alone latch.  And once she’s awake, there’s the actual feeding to accomplish.  It’s natural and instinctual, but neither mother nor infant have ever actually done it before, so they stumble and fumble like two virgins in the dark.  I remember pushing my nipple into her tiny mouth over and over, crying with exhaustion and hormonal changes.  “She’s starving!”  But there it was nevertheless, sometime that first day: a diaper filled with a thick sticky forest-green substance.  We triumphed over its appearance; it was the most celebrated bowel movement in the history of the world.  It was her first one and our worries were over.

Not.

Over the next week I worried incessantly.  All the how-tos and shoulds of infant care filled me up with worries over my own inadequacies as a new mother.  Was she getting enough colostrum? Would my milk come in soon?  What if it didn’t?  Was she eating eight to twelve times a day?  How could I tell when one feed ended and another began if she never actually unlatched from my breast as she slept in my arms?  Was she pooping enough?  Peeing enough?  And then my milk did come in and I could barely get her to feed from the left side.  My breast became engorged, a silent and painful accusation and reminder of my failure.

And it wasn’t just the feeding that I was doing wrong, sleeping was just as much of a source of stress.  I couldn’t bear to be apart from her, nor she I.  So our crib sat unused next to the bed, a looming monster of accusation.  Bed-sharing was dangerous, they said.  You could suffocate your baby.  An independent risk factor for SIDS, the pediatrician said.  All the ways she could die just by sleeping next to me rather than by herself in a crib were easy to find.  Smothered by a pillow, tangled in the blankets, wedged between the bed and the wall, even strangled in my own long hair.  I had been adamant that we wouldn’t co-sleep, but she wouldn’t sleep anywhere but in our arms, nestled snug against my breasts or cozied up warm against her father.  So I worried, startling myself awake at night to check that she was still breathing.

Despite all of my worries, she did keep breathing.  And she kept pooping and peeing. The dirty diapers increased in number and regularity as they shifted in color and consistency, until the single thick green sludge became four or five or six yellow seedy squirts.

The First Time

There are many firsts in life, some inconsequential–the first time you ride a bike or the first time you try a new food–while others are significant–the first kiss with your spouse or looking into your newborn’s eyes for the very first time.  Some first times are amazing, unforgettable experiences, while others we might wish had never happened.  But firsts all have one thing in common: they teach us something about ourselves and how we relate to the world in which we live.

As a first time mother staying home with my tiny precious perfect daughter, I find myself elated, depressed, content, bored, relaxed, angry, peaceful, annoyed, and a thousand other emotions that are difficult to share.  Being a socially anxious introvert, I have few friends.  Since my husband and I share one car, I go few places.  Sometimes I’ll go an entire day without interacting with another adult.  Writing, I hope, will be an outlet to help me keep my sanity and equilibrium.  I hope also, that other women may read what I’ve written and find comfort in their struggles, just as I have found comfort in reading others words.

Becoming a mother has been both the most rewarding thing I have ever done and the most difficult.  The sleep deprivation and constant worrying take their daily toll and I don’t know how I’d manage without a supportive and involved husband.  At the same time, my daughter is the light of my life and I wouldn’t trade a minute I’ve spent with her.  I dream of the woman she’ll become; maybe someday, in the middle of the night, with her newborn baby sleeping in her arms, she too will read this and know that she is not alone.