Again. He wants to eat again.
Growth spurts and developmental leaps can greatly influence baby's behavior. Somethin' big is happening with my babe this week. Luckily, his nighttime routine hasn't changed all that much. We crawl into bed around 11pm, nurse to sleep, and then he's up every 2-3 hours to eat until we get up between 8-9am.
But everything leading up to 11pm is a little rough. This baby wants constant contact. I am thankful I can sit him down when we first wake up so I can make a pot of coffee and grab a quick breakfast (with both hands!). I'm also grateful that I have accommodating employment and don't have much else on my plate except for caring for my baby. He's growing every minute...and it's not just about weight gain or the fact he's 2 feet tall. He can follow my voice, lift his head, show emotion (happiness and discontent), and roll to his side (okay, maybe not purposefully). Oh, and I can't forget the cooing. Although our conversations are one-sided, he tries to talk back and often smiles when I joke around. How long until Mom isn't funny anymore? Luckily, I think I have a while. ;)
However, with all of these changes comes nursing around the clock. Sometimes it's not even about being hungry. He just wants to be close and to comfort suck. The "baby eats every 2-3 hours" rule of thumb is thrown out the window-- no use in watching the clock. Pumping to build a stash of milk often feels daunting because baby is constantly at the breast. How can I pump if he's busy eating? Sometimes I awkwardly pump one side while he feeds on the other. Other times, I just don't feel up to the challenge. Of course, those last couple hours of the day, when I'd really like a moment to myself, are spent holding my half-asleep, barely sucking, fidgety, fussy baby.
Mamas, this is hard. I'll admit--sometimes I feel trapped. I feel a little claustrophobic. I long for a date night with my husband or a night out with friends. I irrationally think to myself, "Well, that's never happening again." My sweet husband wears, bounces, and rocks our baby. He may even give our babe a bottle to give me "a break." But when it comes down to it, baby just wants to be at the breast. It's his happy place. My husband reminds me that this is temporary. This too shall pass. As exhausting as it is, it feels good to know I am needed. There will be a day when I'll look back at photos and think, "How was he ever that tiny?" I'll miss the constant cuddles, the belly-to-belly naps, and the nursing sessions where I just stare, observing his long eyelashes, his smell, and the softness of his skin.
When my baby looks up at me and smiles, I know it's all worth it.
Comparing myself to others. It's a dangerous thing in many ways and usually leaves me feeling inadequate. No one is perfect, but when I feel like I'm failing it's difficult not to focus on the bad. Working through labor, birthing babies, parenting children...these are not feats for the weak-hearted. And when you're in that vulnerable state of figuring things out, it's very tempting to ask, "Well, how does she do it?! How are they making it work but we aren't?"
Having previous experience or knowledge on the said topic helps but does not guarantee a straightforward experience. Despite your level of experience or how much you think you know, I think it really comes down to attitude and, let's be honest, the cards you're dealt. Sometimes we're dealt really crappy cards. Have you done this two or three times already? It may be very different this time around. It doesn't always come naturally and when I say "attitude," I don't mean you gotta be 100% positive. It doesn't mean you're not entitled to feel exhausted, confused, angry, or just plain over it. It means that you do the best with what you have where you're at.
Take a proactive approach. Getting your ducks in a row before baby arrives can help you feel more prepared. I am a firm believer that planning ahead helps me meet my goals. Reaching out for support and gathering resources is HUGE. Hiring a doula, taking classes, choosing a care provider that you feel comfortable with...these are all things that can potentially help you have the best experience. You can customize your preferences as you see fit, which will help you feel more at ease.
Sometimes though, no matter how much researching and planning we do, we hit a few speed bumps or stray from our original plan. When this happens, it can be devastating. It may feel so overwhelming that you may not know what your next step will be. Hopefully, you have your people to lean on and your trustworthy resources close by. I also think it helps to:
Validate. Remind yourself that this is hard work. Take your time. You are not alone in this. Remind yourself that you're doing your best. Or, maybe it's not your "best," but under the circumstances, you're doing a pretty darn good job. Breathe. Things will fall into place.
Reframe. I am my toughest critic. What feels like failure to me may feel like success to others. Basic example: I was consumed by my grades in school. I always aimed for all As. I was a perfectionist, and it was a high expectation that I set for myself. If I landed a B, I was very upset. Others may have been very pleased with a B. Often, I needed to step back and look at the whole picture. "Okay, you got one B but four As," or "You weren't the only one who had trouble with that final." Pros vs. Cons lists really help me sort out my feelings, too. I can reason with myself and realize, hey...this stinks but it's not the end for me. It ain't all bad.
Troubleshoot. Tell yourself what's done is done but ask, "How can I make this better?" Find your support people and talk with them. Process your experience and take time to acknowledge the feelings that you have- don't brush them under the rug. Find folks who have had similar experiences- you may learn from them and find comfort that they understand where you're coming from. Or you may want to sit down with a professional who can be objective, nonjudgmental, and who can help you navigate what's to come.
Comparing ourselves to others cannot benefit us because it belittles our personal experiences. We're all doing what is best for ourselves, our babies, our families. You are different than your mother, your neighbor, even your best friend. Find what works for you and embrace it.