It started off normal and typical.
Breathing in freshly baked baby smell, hours spent with a tiny little heater on my chest, soft chubby cheeks kissed at every chance.
I stared at her for hours on end. We were immersed in this blissful world of mother & daughter. I got lost in her perfection, studying every feature and making note of them because I knew she would change so fast. Before I could blink the newborn stage would be over. I knew she was probably my last baby and I didn’t want to miss out on a second.
I think part of me was trying to make up for lost time. I wanted a do over on all of those moments that I didn’t hold Madison in the beginning. I wanted to remember what it was like to spend those early days enjoying my baby and not crying in the corner of my shower.
It felt so different this time.
“Hannah is perfect.” We bragged about it at every opportunity. You could swaddle her, set her down in the bassinet & she just slept. Before you knew it two hours would pass and you’d see her wide beautiful eyes just staring up at the ceiling. She would just lay there and take her world in without so much as a peep.
I don’t know when it happened. I couldn’t tell you the day or how old she was. It was probably around 6 weeks… Maybe more, maybe less. All I know is that one morning it started and for the next 10 months I felt lost in a black hole.
It’s difficult for me to write this out without tears puddling on my keyboard. In my mind, being her mom shouldn’t have become so hard. I shouldn’t have started my days counting down the minutes until bedtime. I shouldn’t have sent my husband text messages that I just can’t do it any longer.
I shouldn’t have looked at her and thought “if only she was a better baby, perhaps I’d be happier.”
What kind of mother does that? Puts her happiness in her child’s hands? Wishes that her child would be “better” for the sake of her own happiness.
I felt selfish & awful for having those feelings. I cried when she cried.
I cried when she slept because I felt like I failed her every moment that she was awake.
I was lost in the darkness.
I think it was because in the back of my mind I knew what it was like to have a “better” baby. Or at least an easier one. And I was happier. Madison and I had a rough first six weeks but luckily with the support of my husband I had the courage to realize what was going on very early. I knew I wasn’t just dealing with the “baby blues” and got help, both therapeutically & medicinally to get me through the days. We got into a groove and by 2 months old being her mom was a breeze.
I try very hard not to compare my children. Lofty goal, I know. But we realized early on that Hannah was 100% different from Maddie. They reached milestones on completely different timetables, they enjoy different activities, different foods. Their sleep patterns, their schedules, their taste in food…. all strikingly different. The list of things they have in common other than DNA is quite small.
So I tried to look at Hannah as an individual…tried to train myself how to mother her the best way for her and yet I felt I was continually falling short. She never seemed happy…. and I was never happy.
Every mom has to deal with difficult times. The hours spent pacing the house in the wee hours of the morning with a baby that just won’t calm down seem to be the price we pay to join this club. Those hours give us the empathy to look at a woman with a screaming child in a store and just want to hug her and tell her it will get better. It bonds us.
But reality really stings when you look in the mirror and realize you’ve spent 10 months telling yourself it will get better…. and it never did.
I was told everything… “it’s just a phase, it’s just separation anxiety, she’s probably teething.” You name it, I heard it… I told myself it and I tried to believe it. But what about when it’s not?
“What if she just really is a high needs baby?” I thought to myself… and ”what if I’m just not equipped emotionally to handle her?”
It’s a crippling feeling… to think you are not good enough for your child. To wish you were more laid back. To try and convince yourself that the screaming does not drive you crazy.
And the reason I’m sharing this with you guys is because I know it doesn’t make me a bad mother…. and it doesn’t make YOU a bad mother either.
Luckily for Hannah & I, we are out of the darkness. I don’t know why we had such a time. I don’t think there was really a specific reason. I know that for the longest time I feared she would have a lasting resentment towards me for having to walk out of the room when she screamed. I ached to be the mother who could hold her child for hours on end and be happy. I wished the crying and flailing and car rides spent with white knuckles clenched to the steering wheel didn’t define what kind of mother I was… although secretly I feared that they did.
But those moments didn’t define me as a mother & they don’t define you either. I felt crippled by my anxiety. Constantly on edge. Truthfully, I probably should have reached out and gotten help. But I didn’t. I stayed quiet and hoped people didn’t figure out my misery.
It feels amazing to be out of the darkness. To hold my Hannah and kiss her cheeks and love on her every chance I get. I’m no longer crippled by the fear that she will scream if I step out of a room. We still have our moments. I have triggers. There are still times I need to walk outside or put my head in a pillow and yell.
But we are better & I know now that I was never a bad mother. There is no right way to do this job. There is no medal at the end of the day for the mom who can handle the most crying with the biggest smile on her face. We’re all just trying to find our way.