We were living in a temporary apartment my husband’s company provided when we brought my son home. We had very little of our own personal possessions. Most of our things were in a storage unit awaiting a trip to our new home.
Your first child, who arrived early. Living in a temporary apartment in a new city. Husband about to start a new job. Your family living 15 hours drive away in the Northeast. And you’re trying to teach yourself how to breastfeed. The baby won’t latch and he’s crying and you’re crying. You’re pumping every few hours. You’re feeding every few hours. You’re trying to breastfeed more but you’re both getting frustrated. You’re trying to eat, sleep, shower and use the restroom all during that same time. It feels like you’re going to give birth again from the pain every time you use the toilet for the next few weeks. The fridge is sparsely stocked with mostly oatmeal and cookies. The apartment complex you’re in has a fire alarm, which sounds like a siren directly in your living room, that goes off every single morning between 5 and 6am for no apparent reason which justifiably freaks out your newborn. The icing on the cake – none of your clothes fit and all of your clothes that would fit are sitting in a storage unit with contents you won’t see for months.
It didn’t take long for me to feel overwhelmed and exhausted. Yet despite that, I thought I could do it all and I guess I did for a while…
We eventually got out of our apartment and moved into my in-laws downtown home. To be free from the sound of a siren, close to other family members and able to experience nature again felt like a dream. Not long after moving into their home I gave up on the breastfeeding fight. I remember thinking to myself while I was pregnant that breastfeeding was going to be easy. My mother breastfed most of my four siblings. She made it seem so easy. I wish I had taken more classes, checked into his tongue tie and tried more with lactation consultants. I worried myself sick over this. I laid awake at nights, feeling the enormous weight of milk in my breasts and thinking to myself that I was a waste of a mother. I could not accomplish something as simple as feeding my child – the one skill a mom just instinctively possesses.
I decided it was time to fully formula feed when my son was officially 2 months old. I was personally formula-fed as was my husband. My in-laws, despite their good intentions, didn’t understand why the act of breastfeeding was so paramount to me. I remember spending the early days mixing formula in a guest bathroom in the middle of the night for my little boy. The idea of going down a steep flight of stairs in total darkness in the middle of the night frightened me, especially considering my body was finally recovering. The solution we arrived at was turning the guest bathroom into a small formula mixing station. It was close to baby and didn’t require me to have to traverse the stairs of a historic home in the middle of the night. I remember hiding out in that guest room, only emerging to use the bathroom. In retrospect I can see I was hiding in there to escape the questions, the looks and the attention that I thought I would get because I changed our child-rearing plans.
I remember one time that my mother-in-law got me to leave the house. We were looking for furniture for my new home. It was still the summer and it was close to 100 degrees. I had my son in the infant carrier that was resting in our stroller. He began to look lethargic and generally hot at one point. We stopped in the patio department and I scrambled through my overly stuffed diaper bag to find a thermometer. I finally found one only to see his temperature was severely elevated. I didn’t realize being in a car seat carrier, in a covered stroller, in the summer would be this hot for an infant. My enormous diaper bag didn’t have the one essential I needed – formula. I bought some ready-to-feed formula and my son drank it with fervor. I carried him throughout the store after that, worrying incessantly that he would be forever damaged from this and that I was a terrible mother for forgetting something as simple as a bottle of formula.
Being a first time mother is hard. One of the harshest critics being yourself.