Someone recently asked me what were the first weeks like with Ava.
I had to pause and really think hard about that.
A few days after bringing Ava home.
Although the “first days” were really just a few weeks ago, the experience feels like a distant memory in the far distant past. The routine and rhythms (or lack of) are blurred, swirling memories. What endures, though almost vaguely, are the vast range of emotions I felt during my initiation into motherhood. Perhaps that’s a good thing…
Because in all honesty, the first weeks were hell for me.
My doctor told me on many occasions that the first two weeks are the hardest and then “it gets better.” That wasn’t the case for me. The first two months proved to be a long, hard, and slow period of acclimation and adjustment for my new family. And that’s ok. Because although I had banked on my challenges being limited to just the first two weeks, the number one thing I had to remember after those first two weeks was that every child is different. I can only now say that that’s ok because I am out of the trenches. While on the battlefield, the last thing that I wanted to hear was that “every child is different.” That made me feel so lonely. While reading all the baby books in the world can prepare you with general parenting skills, nothing in the world can prepare you for the unique personality that your baby has. And that can be very lonely. Not so much physically lonely (because I was surrounded by a lot of love)–it can be mentally lonely. Loneliness is one of the unspoken, yet common emotions that many first time parents experience. I personally found a lot of comfort in joining online communities, such as Babycenter Community Groups because I got to commiserate with other moms of babies that were going through the same developmental stages as my daughter. I also joined Facebook Breastfeeding groups.
Yes, less than a week after Ava’s birth, I ran to Babycenter Birth Club/Community Group to get advice on soothing a baby. I got some really helpful tips. This is a screenshot from the app My Pregnancy (Babycenter).
Other than loneliness, the first days at home were also filled with pain and exhaustion. Of course I was excited to have Ava home, but I was also in severe pain from my c-section. And my breasts were extremely sore and cracked from around the clock nursing–around the clock nursing which left me with no time to sleep. No sleep and no routine. Healing while trying to care for another little being was one of the hardest juggling acts I’ve ever performed.
I felt like I had no “me” time and that I served at the pleasure of Ava–a sweet faced but finicky baby who cried a lot and was often hard to console. She woke up at all hours of the night and wouldn’t go to sleep. I was actually miserable. She was probably even more miserable. But the doctor (and every baby book or website I could get access to) said that it was completely normal and that most babies were like that.
I didn’t anticipate the sense of hyper-vigilance that I had over Ava. I felt like I couldn’t ever sleep because I was constantly worried about her and my body was ultra sensitive to any sound that Ava made. A deep sigh would jolt me out of my sleep, in anticipation that Ava was about to wake up hungry and then inconsolable for hours.
I remember hoping every night that from whatever time she last ate, that she would at least make it until 4 am for her next feeding/cry session. At 4, I felt like it was “late” enough to get my coffee and day started.
Even my dog was worried about her.
The most helpful bit of advice I got came from the book “The Happiest Baby on the Block.” It proposed thinking about newborns as fourth trimester babies (or fetuses) that are continuing to develop, but outside of the womb. It challenged parents to think about how jarring and scary life is for newborns outside of the warm waterbed they were used to for 40 weeks. Get the image of the fat smiling baby out of your head! That fat smiling baby will come, but not for another two to three months.
What people imagine newborns to be like versus the reality. Image from the book The Happiest Baby on the Block.
At two months, something clicked. We got into more of a “loose” routine. She started sleeping much longer at night, waking up only once or twice. She started to smile and to babble. She was just darn adorable. My fat smiling baby finally appeared.
While love is one of the most anticipated emotions that you expect after having a baby,
it is not like what movies depict. I certainly felt a maternal love for Ava–a quiet love. But also, I felt frustration, anger, pain, and exhaustion–all of which was “Ava’s fault.” I don’t say this to be mean and I certainly don’t/didn’t actually blame Ava. Besides just pure shock at being a new mom, I believe part of my “lower than expected excitement” was also due to my hormones trying to readjust themselves. But everyday my love grew for Ava.
I really hate to say this…but nothing prepares you for motherhood. The closest experience I can relate it to is like pulling constant all nighters and cramming for exams during finals week. But add pain and frustration to the mix.
All in all, I am very happy and excited to be a mom. Yes, sometimes I want to lock myself in a room, alone for some “me” time. But I absolutely adore Ava. My favorite time everyday is when I rush home to see her chubby cheeks and chunky hands reach out for me to pick her up. I love the smell of her hair when I go to kiss her, or seeing the bright spark of life in her eyes. I love holding her as she gets ready to eat. Or singing songs in the bathtub as she kicks her feet and flails her hands to splash the water. All these moments and more, I hold dear to my heart.
At 6pm, Ava and I snuggle together to watch the tv show “100 Latinos dijeron” (basically, Spanish version of Family Feud).
From my instagram. We basically chill together all evening long.