I want to start off by saying that Nick and I consider ourselves very, very blessed! Ever since Lily graced her way into our lives, we say it even more. We are so blessed. She’s the sweetest little bundle of pure joy and we love her to the moon and back. We like to say she fits into our lives like a puzzle piece we didn’t know was missing – she’s such a perfect addition to our family!
I learned something a year or two ago that I’ve really had to be intentional about; the realization that people’s lives are not exactly what you see on social media. I heard it from listening to one of my favorite pastors, and though it wasn’t earth-shattering, it left me thinking and dwelling on the concept; what one sees on social media is what one chooses to reveal, and there’s a whole life behind the screen that someone is living. Sometimes it’s not all bliss. I’m not saying this is a bad thing entirely – it’s good to share in one’s successes and joys, but a lot of the time the things we see and post can really mislead people.
And that’s how I feel right now; I feel as though I’ve misled all of you to believe that this whole adjustment period with Lily has been easy, ‘cause I’ll be blunt with you – it definitely wasn’t.
Lily came five weeks early, and to be honest, we were really excited about it. Pregnancy was a breeze, and it was only in that last week or two that I got a little uncomfortable, mostly with swollen ankles and Lily’s insistence on pressing her foot against my rib cage pretty much constantly. So the fact that we got to meet her sooner than expected was fine by us! Even better, she was perfectly healthy, and for that we are incredibly thankful.
The problem we ran into was I was counting on those five weeks to prepare for her arrival. I had fully planned on brushing up on my baby skills, and researching techniques for labor and nursing, but that just didn’t happen. I knew very little about labor (which, thankfully, went very well), and I knew absolutely nothing about nursing, so I spent the first few weeks immersed in something I simply was not prepared for.
The hospital made the decision to supplement Lily’s feedings with formula, which as you can imagine, was not what we wanted to hear. It wasn’t just because of the extra expenses we now had to pay for formula and bottles, but it left me with the feeling that what I was doing wasn’t enough. You can tell a mother up, down, left, and right that supplementing isn’t a knock to her personally, but it still can’t keep those feelings away.
Another issue I ran into that I wasn’t expecting whatsoever was postpartum hormones. I feel as if those two words should be accompanied by some dramatic theme music, because they hit me like a ton of bricks. If you thought a pregnant woman had emotions, you should have seen me bawling pretty much every day for 2 to 3 weeks. I can see why women get really depressed really quick after having a baby – the hormones are tough to overcome. I cannot tell you how much I cried those first few weeks!
The biggest hurdle I had to overcome was nursing, and only moms can really attest to that. Lily did pretty well off the bat for being what they call a “late preterm” (premature, but close to full term), but I really stressed when she and I struggled. I always attempted to nurse first, but I didn’t understand that we were both learning together, so I worried and worked myself up a lot (which as all moms know, doesn’t help anything). So after doing my very best, I’d bottle feed her pumped milk… while pumping (motherhood is just a big lesson in multi-tasking, duh). And then I would give her formula, which I hated doing – I wanted so badly to exclusively nurse her and I often felt guilty for giving it to her. Nick had to reassure me constantly that we were doing what was best for her, which was still difficult for me to accept.
But the worst part was the length of her feedings. Her feedings took an average of one to three hours to complete. Yes, it was not abnormal for me to be sitting in a chair, several times a day (and at night) for an average of 2 hours at a time. It. was. awful. I have literally never struggled so much with something in my life. I struggled with nursing her, I struggled with pumping, I struggled with accepting the fact that I was giving her formula. I struggled with how long I sat in the same stinking chair for a combined half the day. I struggled with the fact that I couldn’t do anything but feed her, change her, burp her, and repeat over and over and over again. I struggled so much, especially when people came over. I wanted them to see her, but after trying to nurse and burp her for nearly an hour, all I could do was pass her off to an elated friend or family member to bottle feed her the rest of the way while I sat upstairs alone to pump. At that point I was exhausted, and defeated.
So I went cold turkey. I stopped bottle-feeding, both formula AND pumped milk, when Lily was about 4 weeks old. That was TOUGH. One of the hardest things I have ever done was deciding to exclusively nurse her, but it was one of the best decisions I ever made. For about 2 weeks I had to build my milk supply up because supplementing with formula had made my body adjust to producing less milk. She learned a lot, I learned a lot, and Lily was a CHAMP. She took it all in stride and after two weeks, she was down to 15 minute feedings. It was glorious.
I learned a lot through that experience. First, I learned that I absolutely love being a mom. That might come as a strange thing to hear after I just spilled my heart out in front of you about all the challenges I faced in those first few weeks of motherhood, but I love it. I loved waking up from two hours of sleep to see that precious little girl crying for her one and only mom to take care of her, to hold her, to feed her, to love her. Everyone tells you not to blink because those moments are gone so fast (though if I’m being perfectly candid, I didn’t have to worry about that because I fed her for hours at a time!).
In addition, I am extremely grateful for a loving support system. Nick is fantastic at encouraging me when I am having a hard time, and my mom stayed with us off and on for about two weeks and was my rock when it came to nursing, not to mention my in-laws live down the street so they were there at a moment’s notice any time I needed even a few minutes to rest.
The hardest lesson I had to learn was that Lily didn’t have to fall asleep after she ate. I don’t like admitting my lack of knowledge, but if I’m being perfectly honest, I didn’t know that she could be awake and content and full without sleeping. Sure, she slept a lot, but I think I often fed her too much and for too long so she would sleep after she was done, and that was likely the root of most of the issues I faced. Nick used to tell me this but I was too stubborn to listen, and I regret that.
Finally, to all you new, expecting, or hoping-to-become moms, you need to keep these two words in mind: six weeks. Six weeks is one of the most important things you’ll ever hear as a mom, and I wish I would have known it from the beginning. Many, many moms will tell you that caring for their baby became much easier when their child turned six weeks old, and I am no exception. Once Lily hit that mark, she started eating quicker, nursing exclusively, going more time between feedings, and sleeping mostly through the night. I didn’t find out until right before she turned six weeks that this was often the time babies improved, and I so wish I would have known it sooner – it would have saved me so much anxiety! I’m not saying this will be the case for every child, but for me and many others, it was!
Even through all the stress that came at the beginning, we still see all the blessings – so many people dropped off meals for us, we’ve been able to go on weekly dates because Lily’s grandparents are always eager to watch her, we’ve hardly had to pay for any diapers thanks to everyone’s generosity at the shower, and, in the end, we didn’t have to spend any money on formula between the samples we got from the hospital and pediatrician. It all worked out. I learned a lot, and I am thankful for a God who was always there to grant me peace when I needed it, and a loving husband who never ceased to love and encourage me even when I couldn’t do it in return. I am so thankful.
So here we are; we are so spoiled. Lily is a phenomenal baby. She sleeps well, eats well, smiles all the time, lets people hold her, and we got to hear her giggle for the first time a couple days ago! She’s 11 pounds, just grew into her 3-6 month clothing, has amazing head control, and stands any chance she gets. She is constantly growing and amazing us, and we love having her in our lives. We are so looking forward to spending the holidays with her this year, and can’t wait for all the precious moments we’ll get to enjoy with her in the years to come!