Nothing can prepare you for motherhood. Absolutely nothing.
All your lovely ideals and beautifully structured plans of how it’s going to be, just don’t happen. Everyone tells you “just get to 12 weeks and things will be fine”. But I almost wish they hadn’t, because it only fuelled my naivety and made me feel like I was doing something wrong. That I was a bad Mom for not loving every minute of this so-called beautiful journey. Your baby doesn’t suddenly start sleeping through, well not any kids of the honest Moms I know. The teeth start cutting and the months of sleep deprivation start really doing a number on your sanity. But then they start sitting, and eating solids and little by little, month by month you start to feel like you are actually going to make it out alive.
So you start to plan your next baby, because somehow mother nature (can she really be a mother, no Mom would have such a twisted sense of humour surely?!) She allows you to forget all the minute-by-minute anxiety over the fragility that is 9 months of pregnancy. Those nights you lay slumped next to a cot ugly crying and questioning if you will ever know what it feels like to not be exhausted? The conveyor belt of nappies, burping, feeding on a constant loop. It becomes all a sweet blur, that you weirdly miss.
So you fall pregnant again. Because surely this time round it’ll be a piece of cake!
Cue wrong-answer buzzer! “EH’NT”
I really thought the second time round I did this with my daughter it would be easier. After all I knew the deal, I knew what I was supposed to do, I knew how fleeting the bad times really were. But it wasn’t, in a lot of ways it was harder, because this time all I really knew was the dark depths motherhood is capable of pushing you to. On top of all this depressive deja vue my little girl had silent reflux which went undiagnosed and untreated far longer than it should have. The paed made me feel like I was imagining it and just looking for things to nit pick, but if I do know one thing for sure it’s that maternal instinct trumps everything! Never forget that.
I was blessed to have the most incredibly supportive unwavering mama friend by my side, or rather living inside my phone. But luckily for me if anyone knows about silent reflux, it’s this Mom! Please check out her blog post if you’re curious about silent reflux and the symptoms, there’s nothing I can say that isn’t already beautifully and succinctly written here.
This post isn’t even really about silent reflux, it’s about survival. It’s about sharing my story in the hopes that if there’s a Mom out there barely treading water in the doldrums of the early days, I can promise you, you will see land. Find a mama friend who will stand by you through the many ugly-cry voice notes at 4am when you haven’t even managed to fall asleep yet. Someone who will stand by you when the paed condescendingly laughs it off and makes you feel like a hypochondriac Munchhausen mommy. Having a friend who stood by me appointment after appointment with tongue tie and lip tie specialists, lactation consultants, chiropractors and and and, all coming up short in the answers department is what saved me. Someone to just sit with you while you’re stumped and exhausted and defeated. Someone to help you keep perspective when you feel like sprinkling glitter around the cot and believing it was fairy dust if it would have helped, I was beyond desperate to get to the bottom of my little girls discomfort. But sometimes not knowing, not having an answer to it all is OK.
If the continual reflux wasn’t bad enough, we had a very rocky breastfeeding journey. This was my second baby, I had breastfed my firstborn for an entire year, so what was I doing wrong?! I had such badly cracked nipples that they bled after every feed and eventually infection set it and I was wiping away pus before each feed. Reoccurring mastitus, thrush, blebs. Every feed was excruciating! I would sob from the pain and tears would drench her clothes that I would have to change a sleeping baby (every mom’s worst nightmare – don’t wake a sleeping baby!). I saw multiple lactation consultants, watched countless la leche league videos, everyone told me I was doing it right. So why was it the hardest most painful thing I’ve ever done? What’s worse is she refused to take a bottle, so even though I wasn’t keen on formula, I was desperate for a break – physically, emotionally, mentally. Motherhood often feels like these little people are trying to suck your soul out through your eyeballs.
If the isolation of the early days of motherhood isn’t bad enough, being stuck on a farm 3 hours from any sort of civilisation really does a number on a new mom. Nobody needs a baby spiking a 40C temp on a Saturday night, certainly not when the nearest medical assistance is 3 hours away.
First time moms reading this, I’m sorry for the brutal honesty, but I’m that Mom (usually the only Mom) at your baby shower who tells you how hard this road can really be, but that you are going to be OK. Your baby will be OK. It’s hard, it’s bloody awful sometimes, and that’s OK. You will reach depths of resilience you never knew you had. I want to be that Mom for you to look back on and know that you are not alone in the darkness and nothing but the glow of a nightlight keeping you from falling into what feels like eternal darkness. It’s always darkest before the dawn, and nobody knows that better than new moms praying to any Deity who will listen to get their baby back to sleep after the 5am feed. Realistically you only resurface to a vague resemblance of normality once you’ve made it through the first year. Not loving every minute and gushing over your baby all day despite what everyone says at the baby shower is OK!