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The Postpartum Reality

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The Postpartum Reality

My name is Giselle and I am a mom to two beautiful babies, Matthew (age 3.5) and Emma (age 13 months). As long as I could remember, I have always wanted kids.  Naturally, as one of two myself, I wanted two kids, a boy and a girl, in that order.  So of course, when we found out we were pregnant with Matthew (Matty) over four years ago, my husband and I were ecstatic. 

We welcomed our baby boy on January 14, 2016.  My labor was long, hard and painful. Long story short, I was in labor for 12 hours, and pushed for 2 hours, and out came an 8-pound, 12-ounce perfection of a gordo who looked just like my husband (he looks just like me now, by the way).  He was perfect, and life as we knew it was perfect…until we got home.   

I think those first few weeks were the hardest of my life.  Matty would cry all day, would nap for about 10 minutes at a time, wanted to be held and rocked constantly, and woke up several times every night.  I was exhausted.  I would cry when he cried because I did not know what to do.  I would talk to my friends who had babies around the same age, and their babies would sleep all day and only cry “when they were hungry or needed to be changed.” Really?! Wtf!? I would read mom blogs about how “important it was for your baby to sleep for growth and brain development.”  Great, so my baby was not going to grow or develop? Was he going to remain this crying newborn forever!?  What was I doing wrong? Why couldn’t I figure it out and other moms could?  I was failing as a mom and he was only 1 month old.  It wasn’t until my mother-in-law came over to help me one day and noticed I was just a wreck, and said, “are you ok?” that I realized I was not.  I felt helpless and lonely (even though my husband was incredibly helpful).  I thought having a baby was supposed to be the happiest time of a mom’s life.  It was not for me.  It was exhausting, messy, sad, and there was no ending in sight.  I was in a constant funk and could not get out of it. 

It took 6 different formulas, 5 different bottles, and 3 different medicines to figure out that Matty had acid reflux and a milk protein allergy.  Luckily, by 3 months old, he was doing so much better, he began napping during the day consistently, and even started sleeping through the night! After several months of consistent sleep, the post-partum hormones normalized, and I felt back to myself again. I was rocking it at mom life.  I lost the baby weight, I was back to sleeping 7-8 hours at night, and my baby slept from 8pm to 8am.  Life was good. 

Fast forward to December 2017—we find out we are pregnant with baby #2!  I was so happy when I heard the nurse say “girl” on the phone (after I stalked their office for days and left 10 messages for them to call me back with the Harmony Test results), that I screamed and cried at work in front of my entire office. After much debate, we decided to name her Emma (Emmy). We tried to prepare Matty as much as possible for a 2-year-old to understand. He would rub my belly and give her “besitos.” We could not wait to be a family of 4!

On August 10, 2018,  twelve days before my expected due date, I gave birth to a beautiful 7lb, 11oz baby girl. She was perfect in every way. This time, my labor was smooth, short and relatively painless! I pushed for 10 minutes! Epidural did not wear off this time. Thank. The. Lord. After two days at the hospital it was time to go home.  We could not wait to get back to our “new normal” with two babies, 2 and under. 

Holy s**t.

So, I lied earlier when I said the first few weeks with Matty were the hardest of my life. Those first few weeks with Emmy (and her toddler brother) feel like a blur. Emmy didn’t latch on correctly, so I had to pump. Because of solely pumping, I developed terrible mastitis, which led to an abscess, which then led to taking very strong antibiotics. The very strong antibiotics meant I could not feed my daughter any of my breast milk for 20 days. But because of the abscess I developed, I had to keep pumping around the clock, only to just dump it out. Everyone knows that pumping and dumping is only fun when you’re doing it to drink alcohol. Well, funny enough, I could not drink on this antibiotic. And woah, did I need a drink!

Matty was jealous, of course. For the first time in his little life, he was not the most important person in our world.  He would refuse to sleep in his bed and would come into our bed every single night for 2 whole months. Emmy would cry all day, every day, just like her brother did 2.5 years earlier. She would nap maybe 10 min at a time, wanted to be held all day, and would wake up multiple times a night. Sound familiar? This time, as an expert of fussy newborns, I knew what to do. I changed her to the most expensive formula on the planet, took her to a pediatric gastro, and started her on Nexium. I immediately self-diagnosed her with acid reflux, and I was going to fix it by the time she was 3 months, just like it happened with her brother, right? Wrong! Emmy had it worse, unfortunately. The gastro called it “silent reflux,” which means she would not actually spit up the milk, so the acidity just sat in her tiny esophagus, burning her every time she drank milk. She also had colic.  She would wail during each feeding, and I had no idea how to soothe her.  

As you can imagine, I was miserable. I cried a lot.  Mostly because I felt guilty.  Guilty because I did not know how to make my baby feel better, guilty because I did not want to be home, guilty because I dreaded feeding my baby because she would cry through an entire feeding, guilty because I quit breastfeeding after only 2 weeks, guilty because I could not tend to my toddler, guilty because I wished I had “easier” newborns, guilty because I was not being the happy mom and happy wife I should be.  I felt like a rug was ripped out from under me.  I had somewhat figured out this mom thing with my first, and now I was starting all over again. Life with 2 babies was harder than I thought. 

I was angry at everyone: myself, my husband, my mom who would try to help, my toddler, and worst of all, my newborn.

At this point, I knew I needed to get some help for myself and my family. I decided to see a therapist. At first, the idea of seeing one felt weird. I had never seen one before, and I always thought that was just for people “who were crazy” or “had problems.”  But the truth is, this was a problem.  I wanted to be a better wife, mom, and overall person, so I had to get my sh*t together.  After that first session, I felt a weight lifted off my shoulders. It was basically a one-hour venting session with someone who wasn’t giving me their opinion, or looking at me with judgment, or interrupting me to try to make me feel better. I just needed someone to listen to me, someone I could just be wholeheartedly honest with. Don’t get me wrong, my husband is a wonderful listener, but he was just living it too-- he was also not getting sleep, working 14+ hour days, and then dealing with a hormonal maniac (me).   

I went to see her a few times during those couple of months.  She is a mom too, so she was able to empathize and relate with my struggles and worries, which gave me a sense of comfort.  She reminded me that this tough time was going to pass, and that my “normal” will come back.  She reminded me to stop comparing my children to each other and to other children, and to just live in the “now,” and appreciate my kids in the ages and stages in life they are each in. Each child does things at his or her own pace, and they just need to feel you love them, even though they may not be doing what you want them to do according to your super schedule or plan.  She reminded me that there is no perfect mom. All moms struggle with finding balance. All moms struggle with the thought that they may not be doing the right thing for their kids. All moms have self-doubt and insecurities, and even when they look like they’ve got it all figured out, they may not.  She reminded me several times that it will get better, it just takes time and I needed to stop trying to rush life—savor in the moment, and don’t take this newborn stage for granted.  It really does fly by, and babies are only babies for such a short period of time.  She was right.

Emmy’s reflux got better by 4 months and she started sleeping the night by 6 months. Because Emmy got better, I got better.  Of course, even now I still have my bouts of typical mom anxiety (like waking up in the middle of the night to just make sure both my kids are still breathing), but I am a much better person all-around. Emmy is now 13 months and a delicious ball of crazy cuteness.  She is incredibly smart, feisty, loves to eat all foods, and most of all, loves her big brother.  Matty is 3.5 years old and is so funny, he makes me laugh until my stomach hurts.  He is so sweet, it melts my heart.  He protects his little sister and tells me things like, “I love you, mami,” and “you’re the best!”  😊

The point of my story is to show new moms that it is completely normal to feel this way. Giving birth and having a baby (or 2) is not easy.  The rush of hormones, coupled with the lack of sleep, really take a toll. Some moms unfortunately are struggling with more than just sleepless nights and hormones.  They are struggling with real health issues, family issues, divorce, death, grief, and other unexpected life challenges, all on top of the difficulties of that “fourth trimester.”  Post-partum depression or the “baby blues,” as some like to call it, is real. Some women experience it worse than others. Some women are lucky enough to never experience it all.  If it does, it can consume you and negatively affect you and the people you love.  I am not sure whether I had PPD or some form of it.  Looking back, I realize my struggles were very normal, every-day struggles of having a newborn. The truth is, I was lucky enough to not feel that way for so long, and to get out of it so quickly. Some women are not as lucky.  Do not feel ashamed or afraid to talk about it or seek help.  Talk to a fellow mom, a friend, and even see a therapist.  Vent, cry, scream, and most importantly, take a break every now and then for yourself and your spouse.  Do not feel guilty asking for help when you need it.  Do not feel guilty for wanting to leave the house, even if it is just to stroll the aisles of Target aimlessly by yourself for an hour.   Do not feel guilty leaving the baby (or babies) to go out to dinner with your spouse or girlfriends. Most importantly, do not feel guilty for stopping breastfeeding.  If it is making you miserable as a mom, then it is not worth it.  I don’t care what any lactation nurse tells you, it is not for everyone, and every mom is different.  Stop comparing yourself to your friend who breastfed her kid for 2 years. That was her “thing,” and you have another “thing.”  A happy mom yields a happy baby.  For those who have been through the new mom struggles, reach out to a new mom and ask how she is doing.  Even if she tells you everything is fine, tell her you’ve been there, and it is hard, and reassure her that this time will pass, and she will get through it. 

I thank God every day that He blessed me with these beautiful, healthy babies.  I love them with every single part of me.  Those sleepless nights and tearful days were all worth it, and I would not have it any other way. 

Miami native, Giselle Maranges, is a lawyer, wife, and mom to two beautiful kids, Matthew and Emma. She lives with her family in Miami, Florida. 

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