December 8, 2015
The Early Days: How I Survived
by Andrea Bates
Remember the early days of parenting?
When you found yourself sleep-deprived and wishing for more coffee?
When you tag-teamed with your partner to ensure that you got to take a shower at some point that day?
When you put the shushing sounds CD on repeat so your baby’s witching hours, from 6-9pm every.single.night, would possibly end early?
When your parents would call and hear the wailing and the sound of the hairdryer and know it was just not a good time to talk?
When you were home alone with your newborn and did not move from your spot on the couch because she had just fallen asleep in your arms?
Or when you tried to put her down in a bouncy seat or pack-n-play, stepping back slowly, only to have her scream bloody murder the second she felt a surface other than you?
All of these moments are moments that I survived when my daughter was an infant.
She struggled through reflux and colic, and I struggled through intense anxiety.
Can you imagine the mix of it? The way my heart raced and my head pounded as she screamed?
It was definitely not fun.
But it was motherhood.
And I loved it. Even when I didn’t.
Motherhood is no picnic. Even now, with an 8-year-old, I find things that hit me wrong. Moments that leave me panicked.
It’s easy to think that when that sweet little bundle of joy comes home with you that you’ll be tired due to lack of sleep, but nobody tells you about the other possibilities.
And when they hit you – full force – you find yourself flailing. Drowning, even. Looking for help. For answers. For something.
Sometimes you get answers right away. Sometimes you figure out what’s happening and soothe your baby in the blink of an eye. Those times, though? They can be few and far between. That’s often how it went for me.
I was a good mom. I knew it. I felt it. But I still questioned it.
I questioned why I didn’t understand what my baby needed when she screamed that loudly.
I questioned what I could do to be a better mother to her.
I questioned why I didn’t know how to soothe her. She was MY baby. How could I not know?
And those questions? They raised my anxiety levels beyond what I expected. So I made sure to talk to my doctor. I managed my anxiety with her help. And I needed that help.
I wasn’t too proud to ask for it.
I wasn’t too ashamed to say so.
These moments we moms live through – the early days of motherhood – they’re often tougher than we anticipate. The struggles can trigger anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders we might already be experiencing. Asking for help does not mean you’re weak. Asking for support means you’re a good mom. Even if saying the words out loud make you feel as though you are not.
You’re strong. You’re powerful. You’re a mom who loves your baby. And a mom who loves yourself enough to be the best possible mom for your baby. Take care of you. Your little one needs you to do that just as much as she needs you to take care of her.
Andrea is a native New Yorker living in NC who has become quite accustomed to wearing flip-flops year-round. An LCSW, she works part-time, benefiting her social media addiction, and volunteers regularly for several non-profit organizations helping women in need of support. Andrea has been published on sites like Carolina Parent, Postpartum Progress, Scary Mommy and Midlife Boulevard. You can also find her at her own website, Good Girl Gone Redneck, writing about her life as a mom, her family, important causes, and incredible books you absolutely must read.