Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The First Three Months

I'm going to be completely honest. If I have learned anything these past few months as a new mother, it's that you cannot deny the truth because it only leads you away from Christ and loved ones and that's a dangerous place to be. I know because that's where I was for the first three months of Zoey's life.

Let me start out by saying that Zoey is 4 months old and I'm IN LOVE with her. She's beautiful. Everything about her is perfect to me. She is God's creation and couldn't be more breathtaking. But as much as it breaks my heart to admit, I didn't feel this way about her all along.

The moment Zoey was born was a strange one. I was dizzy. My nurse had given me a pain medicine before the epidural because I was almost fully dilated and in a good deal of pain. The pain medicine made the room spin, which I was told was normal, but I didn't like it. The whole experience of delivery was bizarre. Once she was out and I heard her cry, I was waiting for that moment I had heard about where you feel overwhelmed with joy. I had romanticized it in my head, imagining rays of light around us as I held her for the first time with a huge smile on my face. My reaction was different. Her cry made me cry but it didn't feel like joy. It felt like fear. As they handed her to me for the first time I was terrified to hold her, but I grew more comfortable as time passed. I just kept feeling like something wasn't right but I couldn't put my finger on it. I loved her and she was precious, but I felt like a train wreck. Of course I felt sick since I unknowingly had a bladder infection and was in a great deal of pain from childbirth on top of my whirling hormones so I figured it was all normal. In retrospect, I was wrong.

The first week home was intense. When she cried, I cried. And she cried a lot. I spent most of my days and nights nursing her in great pain, which also brought me to tears. Like every new mom, I was sleep deprived which makes everything harder, but I loved her and I wanted to enjoy her so badly, but I just didn't. She didn't feel like my baby. I didn't understand her. She just wailed at me and wailed at me and I felt totally helpless. I hoped it was just baby blues and kept telling myself it would get better soon.

The weeks following got a little easier. I started to get the hang of it a little bit more but loneliness was really starting to set in. I struggled to nurse her as she would pull off and flail and scream at almost every feeding which made me miserable, but I kept going because I told myself it would get better. But it never did. I began to resent her with each feeding. I felt myself losing my patience as she would pull off and scream. I wanted to run out the door. I wanted to disappear. No one was there to help. Just me and this beautiful child that didn't even feel like mine that was screaming for me to do something for her but I didn't know what it was. I continued nursing despite this, partly out of guilt and partly because I really wanted to. It got a little better but I never stopped feeling anxious about it. I tried to bury the anxiety but that never works. It comes back tenfold later on when you do. I was depressed. I questioned why I had ever decided to have children. How could I be so stupid? What did I expect? Is this going to be the rest of my life?

When Zoey was 8 weeks old, I went to see a friend who had told me she had post-partum depression with her first child. As I told her everything I had been feeling, she looked at me with such understanding and empathy. She had been there and she assured me I was not crazy but that I had PPD and it was totally common. I felt relieved. I started medication and got off of it quickly because things with Zoey started getting easier and I was feeling happier. But the thing about happiness is that its situational. Around 11 weeks, Zoey's fussiness peaked. She stopped napping during the day and started nursing poorly again. It didn't take long before I started sliding downhill again. I denied it for a little while, telling myself I just had to figure out how to get her nursing and sleeping better and I'd be okay. But I couldn't deny it forever. When Randall would come home I would just shut down. I didn't know how to talk about it. I just felt scared and alone. I was still depressed. I loved Zoey so much but I just didn't feel bonded to her like I knew I should. It felt like there was a wall I was putting up that I couldn't take down by myself and I hated it.

I started taking the medicine again. But I knew that wasn't going to fix me. I needed God and I had been running head on in the opposite direction. I was ashamed. I knew what a godly mother looked like and it wasn't me. I didn't want Him to see me in my sin. I wanted to avoid Him. But He wasn't going to let go of me and once I hit the wall, I fell to my knees. I needed Him so badly. I needed the rest and peace that only He gives. I needed patience because I was impatient. I needed selflessness because I was so selfish. I needed gentleness because I was quick to anger. I needed grace because I was a sinner.

He reminded me that Zoey was His child. He knew the struggles we would face with each other and yet created me to be her mother and her my child. The whole thing seemed crazy but I knew in my heart it wasn't because God ordained it and everything He does is perfect. I found comfort in knowing that despite all of my weakness in being a mother, my utter failure at it, He was there. He picked me up and began putting the pieces back together. I began relying on Him because it was so evident to me that I couldn't do this on my own. There was no doubt about that. But with Him, I could.

Today she is happy and healthy. God answered our prayers for wisdom and provided us with what we needed to take care of Zoey. She wasn't gaining enough weight nursing so we switched her to formula, which actually greatly helped me with my depression because it had been such an emotional struggle. She takes 3-4 naps a day, rarely cries and sleeps through the night. It is such a blessing to see her thriving after she had been miserable for so long.

I'm so thankful to be able to say that today I am in love with my child. I cannot imagine life without her. There are still tough days and I'm sure there always will be, but they don't consume me anymore. I wake up each morning relying on my Creator and Savior. I lay down my selfish desire to do it all by myself (because I know where that got me) and rest in the assurance that He will equip me with what I need to take care of the sweet child He gave me.


henninl said...

wow, Ashley! thank you for being so honest. we all need to be more honest with each other about our struggles as we walk through this life. I was amazed at you today- I could tell a difference. Praise the Lord for His strength that we can turn to when we are weak. love you! ~Brooke

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