It was two days after Christmas, and I was home from the hospital with my new baby. By home I mean I was living with my in-laws as my soon to be husband prepared to leave for a 5 month training academy. Although, I was grateful not to be figuring things out on my own the non-stop visitors during that first week began to take its toll. It was holiday season and everyone was excited to meet my new little son. I was in a daze.
During one visit with my friends I finally broke down. I locked everyone out as I gave in to tears. The exhaustion from childbirth and the recovery from my episiotomy began to catch up to me. But this particular breakdown was because I was about 3 days into this motherhood thing and I couldn't get my son to latch properly. I was worried that he wasn't eating enough and I kept thinking about those nightmares I'd had during my pregnancy about forgetting to feed my baby.
The nurse on call ensured me that his tiny stomach was getting enough. Others suggested I give him formula until I could figure it out. While others said that if I gave him a bottle it would cause nipple confusion and my breastfeeding dreams would be over. Engorged and defeated I went and bought a manual breast pump. Although I was concerned about nipple confusion my maternal instinct said this baby needs to eat!
I remembered that my husband's aunt nursed all three of her children and had offered to help me if I needed. I definitely could use the help. I reached out to her to see if she could shed some light on what I was doing wrong. She came over and patiently sat with me as I attempted to get a good latch.
I'd love to tell you that the first 10 days of my sons life were filled with cuddles and snuggles and lots of bonding. But honestly, there were a lot of tears, stress, anxiety.
Perhaps you can relate to this experience. The constant exhaustion and fatigue. Not knowing what the heck you're doing and just kind of winging it until you discover what works. The self-doubt. The overwhelming amount of well meaning advice. Seeing other moms seemingly transitioning into motherhood with ease, while you on the other hand feel like a hot mess.
No matter what your expectations of motherhood were and how things are measuring up to them, there are lessons to be learned through every victory and every challenge. While challenging, breastfeeding taught me some very valuable lessons that I will carry throughout my motherhood journey.
- Be intentional. Be present.
Have you ever found yourself looking forward to your child being fully potty trained after changing the third poopy diaper in a day? Or have you anticipated your little one taking her first steps only to realize a month later when she's all over the place that those non-mobile days weren't so bad?
Sometimes we get so caught up in milestones that we brush past the current phase when in fact each phase brings its own challenges AND new milestones to look forward to. Embrace each stage that you go through with your child knowing that you won't experience it forever and you'll probably miss something about it.
I know you're tired. Your baby is still eating through the night. You're wondering if you'll ever sleep through a full night again. As easy as it is to just go through the motions sludging through your day on autopilot take a few moments throughout the day to be present. These can be small purposeful actions like smelling your baby's hair or closing your eyes and taking in the moment as they fall asleep on your chest. If sleep for you is scarce, try optimizing your own rest by putting drops of lavender on your pillow.
- Ask for help and accept it when offered
I know, I know. This has to be the most over given piece of advice, but I believe it's because although we hear it time and time again we still don't take it. The reasons you're not asking for help are typically pride (thinking we can or should be doing it all ourselves), shame (we're embarrassed that we can't do it all ourselves), or fear of inconveniencing someone else.
I went from someone who was morally opposed to asking for help for as long as I could help it, to asking my husband's aunt to come over and whipping my breasts out in front of her. Talk about a humbling experience. There comes a time when the result you need to accomplish overcomes the mental inconvenience of asking for help. ~ Tweet this!
This takes time and practice. When you feel yourself resisting someone's offer to help, breath through your objection and just say "Thank you, I'd really appreciate that." Accept the offer first and then go through the process of being ok with it. I'll be honest nursing laid the groundwork for this lesson, but It wasn't until we had our second child 16 months later that I realized that it was imperative for me to master this lesson - fast.
If you are new to asking for or accepting help, start small. Ask someone you trust if they can sit with the baby for one hour while you get a nap. This also helps you to become more comfortable with trusting others with your little one.
If you ask for help and someone says no don't take it as a no to you, but instead as a no to the request. ~ Tweet this. Depersonalizing the no can help with the feelings of rejection that may prevent you from asking for help in the future.
- Plans change. Give yourself some grace.
Most of the time we have an idea of how things are supposed to go and how we want things to turn out. Motherhood by nature just doesn't lend itself well to our preconceived notions. ~ Tweet this!
Whether you set out to nurse for 3 months or 2 years, give yourself the gift of grace and the freedom to change your mind or your methods. Shift your focus to the bigger broader goal instead of getting locked into how you are going to achieve it. Whether you nurse exclusively, supplement, or exclusively formula feed the main goal is to get baby fed and for baby to be healthy and growing. Be stubborn about your goals and flexible about your methods.
Grace is important because at the end of the day you need to be healthy too!
My original goal was to nurse my son for 3 months. After that I wanted to nurse for 12 months. When he was 9 months we learned that we were expecting again. I continued breastfeeding but I experienced cramping whenever I nursed. Even though the doctor said it should be ok to continue nursing, I made the decision to switch him to formula. Was this a tough choice, sure. Did I have to let go of my plans and how I saw things playing out, yes. But such is motherhood. In the midst of the opinions of others, trust yourself.
Much like nursing there's no cookie cutter way that motherhood plays out. Every mom's journey will be unique. Being present, asking for help, and giving yourself grace will help you to be content with your own journey. I'm curious, what lessons have you learned so far in motherhood? Use the free My Purposeful Motherhood Workbook to embrace where you are while to create a plan to reach your #1 personal and business goal! Come say hi, over at the Purposeful Motherhood Facebook Page.
Kelley is a believer, wife, and mom of two. When she's not wrangling toddlers she can be found at Purposeful Motherhood Coaching and Consulting, where she empowers busy ambitious moms with the resources to care for themselves, their families and their dreams by focusing on the essentials. For more tools and resources on setting and reaching your goals in a way that honors your family join the Purposeful Motherhood Success Essentials Newsletter.