I really need to make a better effort in writing these blogs (insert face palm emoji) but, you know… life. I’ve almost caught you up to the part of our story where I can start talking more about Audrey’s milestones and what life is like with a NICU grad, but I have to tell you the beginning so you can understand the milestones… actually no, not milestones, more like the triumphs our Little Nugget (Audrey) has made so far. So, moving on with our story…
Expect the unexpected is a term I’ve heard several times before, even said it a time or two, but I never really understood the meaning of it until the NICU nurses unhooked my daughter from the monitors she’d been connected to her entire life thus far, placed her in the car seat and sent us on our merry way. First thing I didn’t expect… just letting us take our NICU baby home like we were totally prepared for what lies ahead. “You can’t take all these beeping machines home with you, but go ahead and take this fragile little thing home instead!” Let’s be clear the only life I’d ever been responsible for up until this point was a dog who I’ve forgotten to feed a time or two (sorry, Lola!).
We got in the car to head home and for the first time since she was born it was silent. No monitors beeping. No babies crying. No quiet chatter. Nothing, just silence… until we pulled out of the hospital parking lot and Audrey lost her shit the whole way home. Thankfully at this point she still sounded like a cat when she cried, so her cry was adorable. However it was scary to not have the monitors telling us what her body was doing. Was her heart rate too high? Too low? Was she getting enough oxygen? Is she warm enough? All the things the nurses and machines would tell us, was gone. We were just left to figure it out. Awesome! We’ve had our baby alone for less than 15 minutes and we’ve already failed as a parents. FML!
Over the next couple weeks we had a lot of adjusting. I couldn’t sleep and was freaking out over whether or not Audrey’s bed was safe enough. Just an FYI, from personal experience, if you’re suffering from new mom brain (which you probably are, don’t lie!), do not read the AAP guidelines on safe sleeping. Your swirly little new mom brain is not prepared for that much information yet. You will absolutely 100% make yourself insane and you will never sleep… like ever again. You’ll turn into the creepo mom staring over your kids crib all night and that’s just not a good look, Mommy Dearest. Just ask your pediatrician like a normal person and stay off the internet at 3 o’clock in the morning.
Honestly, with all the shit I’ve put my poor husband through the past couple years I’m surprised I’m still married. Anyone who says motherhood is a piece of cake should seriously get her head examined! Motherhood is not easy but it does feel easier. That’s just because you’re building up that mommy experience, honey! Regardless if you had a NICU baby or a perfectly healthy baby, being a mom is tough especially your first time around. You’re trying to figure out how your B cup bras are going to fit your now DD size boobs. You’re trying to master the nurse and eat a burrito maneuver without spilling on the baby’s head because if you don’t eat now you’re bout to starve, sister! You’re trying to figure out why your maternity clothes don’t fit like they did five days ago and why your regular clothes are still too small. This will usually end with you sitting on the floor of your closet, in your granny panties (because those sexy ones are not so sexy right now), with a half clasped, breast milk stained, bra on (you’ll get extra points if a big ole swollen boob is hanging out because you haven’t figured out the importance of switching sides yet), full on sobbing. Like big ole fat, what-have-I-done-with-my-life, tears! Your husband will come running in thinking your insides are falling out again, only to find you in all your new mom glory. Hormones, emotions and self doubt all at it’s finest right here. If he still wants to be your husband after this dramatic scene, you’ve got yourself a keeper!
I only make light out of this part of motherhood because it’s really the only thing you can do. You honestly feel the lowest you’ve ever felt in your entire life in this moment. Five days ago you were planning for a baby but it didn’t feel real yet, because you didn’t physically have a tiny human to hold on to and make it real. Your hormones were mostly in check and you had all kinds of emotions flowing through you. Nervous, anxious, excited, scared. Then all of a sudden your water breaks and it’s go time, momma! How ever many hours you may be in labor, seem like minutes once they hand you your baby or, in my case, seeing your baby being passed from doctor to doctor in the OR. (Side story: I’m not a very religious person. I don’t read my Bible on the reg and I don’t go to church as much as I probably should. I believe in God but religion isn’t a huge part of my life, but in that moment, seeing Audrey being passed from my OB doctor straight to the NICU doctor without letting us see her first, I prayed. I prayed harder than I ever did in my entire life! I remember begging God to protect her. I said I’d go through all this again 10,000 times if he made sure she was okay. I said I’d do anything he wanted me to if he let her survive this. If I could have fallen to my knees (being on an OR table made that difficult) I would have.) The second you lay eyes on your baby for the first time, your entire world is flipped upside down, you just don’t know it yet.
The first couple days as a new mom aren’t so bad. You have people visiting, bringing gifts for you and baby. You have nurses, doctors and lactation specialists at your disposal. You get your crazy new mom questions answered quickly and everything is all right in the world… until you get discharged. That’s when shit gets real! That’s when your baby starts crying for no reason. Your tired mom brain can’t remember when the last feeding was so you try nursing, just like they taught you in the hospital, right? That’s a big ole nope. You can’t remember for the life of you how to get baby to latch or which side you used last time. (Sleep deprivation does that to you.) Baby doesn’t latch, not hungry? Maybe a wet diaper? Nope. Maybe too cold? Nope. Maybe needs to burp? 20 minutes later, nope. Gas? Belly massage and bicycle kicks… still no fart, probably not gas? So, you try to get baby back to sleep and repeat the same cycle again in an hour. After five days of this routine, you can see how sobbing on your closet floor can happen, right?
But wait, there’s more! Your body just figured out that you no longer have a tiny human inside you anymore and now you have to turn on that milk making hormone, so it’s time to “regulate”. Imagine your pregnancy hormones times two with a little mix of those PMS hormones you used to get in there too. Then top it off with the new hormones your body was producing so it could be in sync with baby when they started producing their own hormones. I like to think of your body was one of those gross, play ground ball pits (For the record, I don’t think YOU are gross, that cesspool (aka ball pit) people like to call a “playground” is gross. I promise the analogy will make sense). Your body normally produces the red and yellow balls. When you’re pregnant with baby, your body starts producing green balls. Now your body is adjusting to functioning with a new hormone on board. A little fluctuation here and there but nothing too crazy. Then you have the baby and now your body has to produce a new hormone so it can produce enough milk for baby, those are the blue balls (yes, I did that on purpose). So now your body is producing red, yellow, green, and blue balls. This is when the fun starts! Out of nowhere, your body starts producing more hormones to help get you back into homeostasis. (I don’t know all the details on the hormones because I’m not a professional in anything so if you’re looking for accurate medical advice, this ain’t it!). You’re producing orange and purple and even these weird light blue color balls now. As you can imagine, it’s a pretty colorful concoction but not so colorful when your body normally produces two of the seven colors. This is what leads you to the closet floor breakdown, a bunch of colorful balls floating around in your body. At least I made it sound fun, right?
Real talk: joking aside, all new moms (and even some pro moms) have experienced this. Maybe a little less dramatic than this, but it’s something we all go through. We went from being responsible for one person to being responsible for two. We went from having a restful nights sleep to being woken up by the slightest noise coming from the monitor. We went from not having a care in the world to this new thing called, anxiety! Regardless if you have a supportive spouse or boyfriend, the anxiety and fear you feel as a new mom doesn’t go away just because you have someone to help out. He’s also a new dad and doesn’t know what he’s doing either. It’s literally the blind leading the blind and all you can hope for is that your kid doesn’t end up on a shrink’s couch talking about how much you guys screwed them up.
New mom brain, anxiety, fear, stress, self-loathing… are things all moms go through at one point or another in motherhood. You are not alone in feeling those feelings. Sit on your closet floor and cry about how your clothes don’t fit and how your vagina still hurts and how you can’t figure out how to breastfeed the right way. We’ve all been there. We’ve all been that overwhelmed new mom on the floor crying. Some of us were lucky enough to make it to their own floor before completely losing it. But from experience, the Target fitting room attendants are very attentive for 16 year olds who have no idea why this crazy lady is bawling in the fitting room all by herself. It does get less stressful when you gain experience as a mom, but being a mom is never going to be easy and anyone who says it is, well… she’s not allowed in our club because she’s not being real with herself. You will amaze yourself when you start to differentiate your baby’s cries or when you know exactly what to do to get them down for a nap, or when you develop that special language only you and your baby understand. My daughter said to me the other day, “Wua da oooh eee?” and I replied with “Oh, just making coffee.” She just smiled and walked away. I knew we had something special there. Even if it was a misunderstood conversation with a toddler, I’ll still mark it as a win.