Lets continue to learn about how my newborn baby had this inborn QUEST in her to challenge each and every mothering myth ever known to humankind. And each time she did that, I was left STUMPED! So far, in the Part 1 of this outpour, I have covered the challenging myths related to the most basic and “simplest” needs of a newborn viz. Milk, Sleep and Comfort … now lets look into some more that followed.
To give you a quick review from my previous outpours, as a first time overconfident and underprepared mum, I was struggling to cope with some intense postpartum trauma, while my baby was struggling to satisfy her basic needs of milk, sleep and comfort. Just then, I was advised by the doctor to entertain and engage the baby through the day, so she can be tired by the end of the day and sleep well at night. HA HA HA #EASIERSAID. If only, there was a book on “101 activities to engage a hungry and sleep-deprived baby.” No, seriously… how was this lost and restless newborn supposed to enjoy any form of play or even comfort when her basic needs weren’t met adequately. Still, the data freak in me tried to follow the books that offered a number of activities for playtime with babies. Guess what? Those exploratory activities and movements were only adding on to my baby’s discomfort. The absurd glares and stares that I got from her at that stage was making her annoyance very loud and clear to me. A major discomfort being that, whatever little milk she had consumed, was often spit out a few minutes later if not right after. We were looking at the possibility of her having some kind of acid reflux. We had to then ensure and be careful with holding her upright so her feeds could stay in. Wow… that was all I needed. Try entertaining and playing with a baby in that situation! It was like holding a ticking time bomb and constantly monitoring it to avoid “explosions” of any kind. Each spit out made me sad and angry at the same time. Sad because my baby couldn’t keep her food down and angry because the tremendous “effort” put behind the process of breast feeding had proved to be so futile and wasted. So that led to another dilemma of whether her crankiness was out of hunger as her tummy might have been “emptied out” with every spit up. As if she were some sort of a tank which had to be filled right till the brim at all times. If that was actually so, should I then be feeding her right after the spit ups? Would “I” like to be fed immediately after a throw up myself? NO! So, should I wait for the 2 hour feeding interval to elapse? Give her some time to settle the tummy? And this cyclical or rather cynical process of dealing with tonnes of such unsettling thoughts went on and on and on.
And don’t even get me started on the whole burping contest. It did seem like a contest because each time that she did manage to burp, I felt like I was celebrating some sort of a victory at a game I didn’t even know I was playing. Naturally, because she wasn’t full enough (which we didn’t know for a fact back then), she had issues with burping. We tried and tried and tried, name the burping technique and we had done them all. Her lack of burping made us then suspect some digestive problems in the form of gastric or colic issues. The solution to that was some oral drops to improve the baby’s digestion and changes in her mother’s already controlled, healthy diet. Phew! Will this ever end, was all I wondered. Her evening crankiness got even more inconsolable and her uncontrollable crying through the nights made me cry out of helplessness, too. It was a nightmare trying to figure out exactly why she was crying… was she crying out of hunger, sleep, discomfort, acid reflux, colic, ….. and the MCQ had so many options which only added to my frustration to finding the correct answer. I remember how I used to dread the evenings – the sheer presence of and efforts by everyone trying to help. My hubby, my mum, my in-laws, my helper and then repeat that in no specific order, all over again. #PASSTHEBATON. We were constantly trying to address each of her discomforts one at a time and also trying to keep her entertained. Walk her, rock her, play music, dance with her, and do whatever it took to soother her. Relief did come when some of those attempts worked but only with a quick expiration date, which happened to be just minutes after.
The baby had taken over our lives, unfortunately, not in a positive light, definitely not for me. I couldn’t experience any of the post natal elation, pampering and self care. Not that I wasn’t cared for, but I just didn’t FEEL cared for. There’s a huge difference between the two. I couldn’t think of a single reason why I had wanted a baby of my own, even more so desperately towards the end. What was I thinking? What had I done? What on earth were people congratulating me for? Why do people go to great lengths and through desperate measures to get this done to themselves? Are they aware what they are heading towards? Are they prepared? So then, why was I so under prepared? I had successfully connected with stranger’s kids as I am curious child at heart myself. As a passionate educator, I have comprehensively studied early childhood development and successfully engaged with/taught random kids from diverse cultural backgrounds. Then why was this happening to me, that too with a kid that I could finally call MY OWN???
No wait! There’s more to this outpour… Conventionally, babies are supposed to enjoy their massage, diaper change and bathing times, well at least according to those advertisements we have grown up watching. But NOOOO, mine let out a loud cry of intense physical and emotional discomfort during these times. Don’t most images of new mommies and babies depict satisfying feeds, peaceful naps, fun playtime, soothing massages, splashy baths and giggly diaper changes? Well, this mommy experienced none of that. For me, every simple to complex task was a struggle, and my baby gave me a tough fight to achieve each of those tasks. A fight so strong that I would for sure be proud of her, some time later in life. #MYBABYSTRONGEST. But not back then. My baby was fighting me every time I was trying to cater to her simplest of the needs. Was I delusional? Was it all a part of my imagination? Not that I could blame the baby, but neither did I blame myself because I was in a physical and emotional mess of my own – a hot, boiling and at times spilt mess. I wont be wrong in saying that both, me and my baby were dealing with some rough issues of our own. We were both new at this after all. Not to forget what the other involved parties were dealing with. I for one, hated how, in the name of taking a break from my baby, I had to rush up everything and get all of my baby-related and personal care errands squeezed in-between my baby’s catnaps through the day. The second I put her down, she cried. Slightest of the change in positions or softest of the sounds in an already quietened and mellowed environment, would wake her up and I had to start the whole lengthy process of soothing her all over again. Even the constant silence got on my nerves – talk softly, move softly, walk softly, breathe softly, eat softly – still the silence wasn’t good enough for my baby. I even remember scolding my baby in a fit of frustrated anger a couple of times. Not the loud kinda scolding but the soft kind, during which I helplessly yet fiercely asked her what I was doing wrong and why was it all so difficult. Now when I look back, I feel that the poor, clueless, and helpless soul was kinda craving for and feeding on love and intimacy, to make up for the inconsistencies in her milk, sleep and comfort routines that she was struggling to cope with.
But back then, all I could focus on was the feeling that I had NO SENSE OF PERSONAL SPACE to breathe and be, AT ALL. I had completely LOST myself. As a matter of fact, this suffocated and frustrated feeling in me led to me feeling remorse towards my baby. There were times I felt that she was doing it all on purpose, just to make me feel even more miserable about being an incompetent mother. Just spitefully testing my patience. Yup…one can only imagine the pathetic mess that I was, that it actually had me thinking that an infant was capable of being spiteful. But then again, how was I supposed to keep her happy when I was nowhere close to being happy myself. My husband, mother and in-laws did see the struggle and tried to help in whatever way possible but at the end of the day, I was just repeatedly proving my incompetence. They did try to cheer up the environment for me and the baby but it was only a matter of time, before the whole chaos and irritation around her feeding and sleeping would take over. I could see it all taking a toll on, not just my baby and me, but also my husband, my mother, my in-laws – needless to mention, on all our interactions and inter-personal relationships (given that we were all living under and sharing the same roof, most if not all of the time). We were all walking on thin ice around each other when we were actually supposed to be floating over cloud 9 happily together.
But I was far beyond the feeling of GUILT. I was aggressively wanting to do it all by myself to prove my competence and fight back the verdict of me being a failure. Even when I was offered help and relief, all with good intentions, I saw it as my incompetence. It’s said that it takes a village to raise a child and yet there exist a whole lot of people who have done it all, by themselves, multiple times, in the absence of nothing close to a village. And there I was, with not just a village, but a developed first world country, with all of its amenities and resources at my disposal. And yet I was out of (my own) control … randomly switching between the states of trying to stay positive, trying to prove myself, getting anxious and irritated, feeling anger and remorse, and eventually retracting into my shell, all depressed and zoned out. The switch was in no particular order and came with no warnings, not even to me. God! Those days seemed looonnnggg and the nights seemed loooonnnnngggeerr, with no relief in sight. I needed help and I needed it quick. This was turning out to be like nothing I had expected. EVER!
And then, my worst nightmare came true. Suddenly in a flash, days and weeks flew by and my husband had to resume work after his paternity leave. Soon after what appeared to be another flash, it was time for my mum to go back. My two major pillars of strength were resuming their lives, with nothing but worry for me and my “bundle of joy”. Again I did feel guilty for doing that to them but like I said I was beyond the feeling of guilt. I was now largely self-centred and occasionally bipolar. One minute I decided to solely take control of the situation based on my minor successes in the role of a new mom and the next minute I had some major, hysterical breakdowns that could be attributed to my disastrous failure as one. I decided to see a psychiatrist. Never thought I would need that either. #NEVERSAYNEVER# And there I was, clinically diagnosed with PTSD and a mood disorder which caused all of the anxiety attacks. I was specifically told that I was not at the depression or suicidal stage, YET. So in addition to counselling, I was put on some anti anxiety medication… And then we were glaring at another dilemma. Breast milk v/s Formula? I was now on drugs.
The counselling was helpful only to the extent that I could get my toxic feelings out of my system in the form of words, rather than mismanaged moods and erratic behaviour. What was actually working were the drugs. In a way, it was a relief to learn that I was largely feeling and acting the way I was, because of the chemical imbalances in my body. It’s a vicious cycle but a major breakthrough came to my rescue when the drugs started to instantly settle my imbalanced state of mind. It was keeping me calmer, making me less anxious and making me finally see myself getting back to the rational and emotionally strong person that I had always been. It was as if I was wearing this mental lens all this while, that had now been cleaned and cleared out of all the muck on it. All the “mucky” thoughts that had stuck on and accumulated over that lens since the time I went in labour, had now vanished. What helped even more was the removal of that inserted tube and the bag, after about a month, without any further complications. I could go about living my life, without any “hold ups” now, LITERALLY! Things only started going upwards from there…. How low could it go! (Ok lets not answer that). So as the medication was rapidly fixing the chemical imbalances in me, my baby not only had a happy and a receptive mum but also a mum who was much more grateful and appreciative of all that she was blessed with. I “felt” stronger – physically, mentally, intellectually, emotionally and socially. I finally “felt” blessed to have had a baby of my own … around the time when my baby was about 3 months old. I “felt” resilient and prepared to challenge any myth then on. I “felt” ready to create and live my own, unique motherhood journey. The journey had just begun or should I say “restarted” – the journey of striving to be the BEST MUM EVER. I said goodbye and gave a mental farewell to my “By the Book” approach. And then on, I decided to embrace my baby and her “unique” mantra of #Doing.it.my.way#
“Winners don’t do different things. They do the same things, differently.” My next outpour will venture into this age old saying which was made famous in the book “You Can Win.” I sure was determined to give it my best shot then on…And I still am… #MumsLife #Nothingbutrespect