I have been terrible about blogging for the past several months in part because I've been crazy busy with three munchkins running around. Jon and I are now outnumbered two-to-one if you count Dahlia in the mix, so it's been a steep learning curve to grapple with managing the day to day craziness of raising our three daughters.
I've really struggled to decide if I wanted to write a blog post at all about what's been going on, but after reflection I think it's good to talk about the pieces that we don't really share openly on social media or with others in passing (mostly because it feels like people don't want to hear anything other than good things).
Parenthood is magical and amazing, moments filled with so much love that you wonder that you can contain it. Your heart bursts with pride at every milestone or simple moment you're lucky enough to witness. Parenthood is incredible, but of course, the reality is: parenthood can also be pretty crappy. It can drag us through the ringer for what seems like weeks on end and, just when we feel like we're reaching for a breath of fresh air, it can shove our face into the dirt again.
Mae is three months tomorrow. She is a bundle of squishy, dimpled cheeks and grinning sweetness who has just begun to find her laugh and absolutely adores being snuggled up as close as possible. They say your heart grows with each child and, while it's hard to believe you could love any others as much as the ones you already have, you somehow just do. It's true, my heart beats for each of the girls, and each of them has expanded my capacity to define the meaning of the word love. Which is why the past two months have been simultaneously the most meaningful and the most challenging time of my life. Raising twin newborns was filled with logistical obstacles that made being a new parent exponentially more challenging. However, in many ways, Mae has been harder than the girls ever were.
When Mae was three days old, I was sitting in my bed nursing her when she suddenly started choking and stopped breathing. Jon was busy putting the girls to bed and my mom was sitting with me when it happened. There was this surreal moment in which you just react, I turned her over and immediately tried helping her clear her throat and putting my ear to her face to hear if she had started breathing again. Jon had called 911, but within a minute or two she cleared her throat, regained color and was breathing again. It scared the shit out of me, and everyone else. The paramedics came, she was fine, my midwife gave us tips on how to help her clear her airway if it happened again... and it did. Mae stopped breathing several times a day for a couple of weeks, to the point that I didn't want to be alone when I was nursing her, afraid that would be the time I wouldn't be able to clear her throat.
Eventually this stopped and we started to settle into a better nursing routine. Things were going really really well, perfect even. Then around 5 weeks, midway through eating she started getting really angry, pulling off screaming, or inconsolably crying. She'd want to eat every five minutes, each time angrier than the last... it was feeling impossible. This went on for weeks and weeks, and throughout, she was crying all the time. Something about what was happening felt wrong to me. Her cries felt like they were trying to tell me something, more than just "mommy I'm hungry/wet/cold/hot/need to be held" needs of a newborn.
They felt like cries of a baby pleading for me to help her because she was in pain. Yet I questioned myself, convincing myself that I was just being moody and "postpartum," that this was a normal phase and would pass. I'd obviously blocked it from my memory of the girls. I felt deep and horrible sadness about my inability to handle her needs, often finding myself just crying while trying desperately to figure out what was wrong. I could not shake the feeling that there was something more than her just "being a baby." She still choked on bottles or on the breast, hiccuped constantly, she was hard to burp and then when she did, it came out like like she was chugging a beer at a frat party. She arched her back in discomfort and just seemed so unhappy.
Then one night I was feeding her a bottle when she choked again, only this time she projectile threw up a gigantic amount. While gross, it was then that a light went off in my head: REFLUX. In my typical fashion, I researched like crazy and confirmed that her symptoms mirrored those of a baby with silent reflux (meaning they don't spit up, much). I called the next day and made a doctors appointment, armed and ready to fight for the help my daughter needed to relieve her pain. The doctor checked her out (yelling over her screaming the entire appointment), agreed she was suffering, and wrote her a prescription, which we filled immediately. I cut dairy from my diet (a known culprit in reflux) and patiently waited for things to get better... and they did, for a bit.. but during the past couple of weeks, she got worse again.
A typical three month old baby cries about one hour a day, sleeps 10 hours at night, and takes 3-4 naps a day. Compare that to Mae's 3-5 hours of crying, no naps, and passing out for 12 hours at night from exhaustion. After two months of endless hours of inconsolable crying, I really thought I was going to lose it. I'd become a big ball of anxious, stressed out energy, sick to my stomach at hearing my child in pain and lost in the feeling of helplessness of what to do to help her, then feeling sorry for myself.
Last week, I'd had enough. I started to dig deeper and deeper into research and found a more optimal dosage pattern and quantity to bring her relief. We're three days into this new schedule and already she's a new baby: finally comfortable enough to take a nap and find more than just fleeting joy in experiencing the world around her. The light in her eyes, just beaming out of her, as she can eat and find comfort again. We're still not through this, but we're finally getting up for some air and seeing that there is hope and light in what's felt like a very dark tunnel these past eight weeks.
As a mother, it can be hard to trust our instincts. I know I questioned mine. Despite being the person that was with her all the time, I still felt like I needed to seek confirmation from others even though they didn't know her as well as I did. When I sat in the doctors office and she confirmed that Mae was in pain, I wept, happy that she was going to get on the path to help, but also that I'd somehow failed her for not advocating for her sooner. When you're healing from childbirth, tired, emotional, and overwhelmed with trying to establish the new normal... it can feel impossible to make heads of tails of anything. You just try to survive, one moment to the next, one day at a time.
I'm guilty of feeling like people only want to see the beautiful ideal picture of everyone's lives. But doing that just isn't being real, and it's not fair to myself, or others who might also be struggling with their own daily challenges of motherhood. I have three kids under two, and yeah, it's insane, messy, and disgusting. Most days end and I feel completely destroyed. Ready to go to bed by 8pm. Wrecked.
But when I lay down in bed, I don't dwell on the struggles from the day, I dream about toddler belly laughs, playing chase in the yard, dimpled baby smiles, and sweet smell of baby lingering in my nose as I rock her to sleep.
One day at a time right now. I'm relishing the good moments and praying we continue on a healing path that brings more good days than bad in months to come.