In the past four weeks, I've had my fair share of days where I was certain I was in over my head. I clearly remember a Thursday morning a couple of weeks ago where James was about to leave for work and, overcome by hormones and sleep deprivation, I became hysterical -- as in complete meltdown. I felt like I was going nuts, and was utterly powerless to stop the runaway train running down the hill.
I CAN'T DO THIS! I CAN'T DO THIS! I NEED SO MUCH HELP! I CAN'T DO THIS!
I asked James if he felt safe leaving her with a person who was so clearly insane as I was.
I was in the midst of my frustrations with breastfeeding. I can't even feed my own baby. And I had had more than one day where for hours at a time, I could not console her no matter what I tried -- and it almost always happened at the point in my day where I was at the height of my fatigue. It seemed that it was all I could do to feed her during the day and get in a few trips to the bathroom.
It's the first time I've ever taken care of a newborn and though I had read any number of books ahead of time and waited on those trusty mama instincts to kick in, my confidence in newborn care hovered somewhere between zilch and minuscule. Our experience with Ewan didn't make me afraid that something horrible might happen to her, but it did teach me to keep my mothering instincts at bay. We handed him over to gloved strangers almost as soon as he was born. Connected to ECMO, I couldn't pick him up to pat or rub his back when he was upset. Being fed proteins and lipids automatically through tubes, he didn't need me to feed him. Everything about that experience went against the grain of mothering.
With things being so entirely normal this time around, I was hoping this wealth of universal mothering knowledge to spring up from the depths. The long and the short of it is that it didn't -- at least not right away.
Four weeks into it, it is going a lot better. Our days are hardly frustration-free and I certainly still have plenty of moments where I feel clueless as to what I should do. But as I'm learning, I do know her. I'm learning her signals, her cues, her smiles, her yawns. I'm figuring out what works best for her and for us. Though far from easy, it's getting easier.
And you know what? The days where I feel like ripping my hair out are still going to come. But I have a good feeling that we're going to be just fine.