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Monday, August 22, 2011

One of these things is not like the other

There's nothing I wouldn't do for Aspen; but then I realize maybe there is. Maybe I won't give her a sibling. I'm consumed by the thought of having another child. It's not the when, it's the if that reverberates in my head. Guilt drapes over me and suffocates me when I think about being emotionally unable to have another baby. Add to that the additional guilt of knowing loved ones who want babies with all their hearts but don't yet have them and I'm ready to crawl into a hole and die for feeling this way.

Kev tells me not to think about it. There's no need to think about anyone except for Aspen right now. So why can't I push the thought out of my head that I'm failing her? Is there another kid "out there" trying to tell me s/he belongs in my family? Kev also told me he was pretty sure Aspen was the only baby we'd have. And that makes me feel even worse.

I can't let go of how I felt when my life changed from full-time work to full-time mom work. I was unprepared for everything. I couldn't comfortably nurse for 3 months (normal). I didn't sleep more than 2 hours at a time (normal). I cried all the time (normal). I begged Kev to come home from work (normal). I started hating the dog for making noise (normal).

Even though my reactions were, for the most part, normal, I don't believe I can survive that experience again. Even though Aspen was and is a delightful baby girl, I don't believe I can survive another newborn and remain emotionally intact.

I take everything so personally. When Aspen lashes out and cuts my face with her fingernail, I take it personally. When Aspen won't nap and instead screams at me and arches her back to fight my arms, I take it personally. When Aspen can't decide what she wants to eat when I've prepared everything we have in the kitchen, I take it personally. In reality, she's just being a baby girl. She's just reacting to situations in the only way she can. My job as the supposedly selfless parent is to teach her new ways to react. To overlook the outbursts and help her grow out of tantrums and food-spitting and drawing blood.

Why can't I let go of what was just a short blip on my life radar? Sleepless nights, learning to breastfeed and tantrums are just fleeting moments in the life of a parent. Regardless, the thought of intentionally getting pregnant and enduring 9 months of knowing what I'm about to do to myself presents an insurmountable obstacle.

The phrase do what's best for your family makes me want to take a cue from Aspen and arch my back while flailing my arms in frustration. Shut up already with the worst advice ever. And please don't tell me the second baby is easier. How can you say that? The first baby wasn't that hard; it was me that was difficult. I'm just not very good at newborns.

While talking with a friend last week I realized I don't know of any other moms who really feel the way I do. Sure, some people are like "ohmygosh yes having a newborn was so hard" and then they tell me they're having their 3rd kid.

I don't think they really feel the way I do.

16 comments:

  1. Maybe you need to go see a counselor about it all. Not so you can have another baby someday, but for you. It sounds like it was extremely traumatizing for you and you need to deal with that. You don't need to feel guilty about feeling so scarred. We all have something we wont do anymore because we have had such a bad experience with it.

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  2. It was hard and I am beginning to have a lot of the feelings that you have in this post. But at this point there is no going back for me. I am already stressing about the sleepless nights, the difficult breastfeeding (I only made it 5 months and it was a struggle the whole time) and more. But I guess I am about to jump into again. I'll have to let you know how it goes. Don't ask for at least 6 months-then once those are over I will probably tell you that it wasn't too bad. Any time before that who knows what I will say. I am probably one of those moms that you mentioned at the end of the post.

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  3. There are lots of kids waiting to be adopted, you could skip over the newborn stage and adopt a toddler or something. That is, if you want more kids. There's nothing wrong with just having one child if that's what you feel is right for your family!

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  4. Liv, numerous times over the past year you have expressed EXACTLY how I felt when I was a new mother. I started to leave a comment a dozen times to let you know that I understood how you were feeling, but I could never get the words quite right.

    To say that I struggled when I first had my daughter is an understatement. Absolutely nothing came naturally to me. It all felt like a huge test that I hadn't studied for and I constantly beat myself up over it.

    My baby wouldn't nurse and we had to switch to bottles after less than a month. She would often take an hour or two to eat and then I would spend the rest of the day pumping. She was colicky and impossible to calm. And she rarely slept longer than 20 minutes at a time. I was terrified to take her anywhere by myself, because I didn’t trust that I could handle her needs and moods all by myself.

    So, on the one hand I had my baby, whom I loved with all my heart and whom I would lay down my life for without a moment’s hesitation. On the other hand was motherhood -- and motherhood sucked as far as I was concerned. That paradox ate at me for years.

    Anyway, ultimately my husband and I decided not to have any more children. It was a mutual decision and we've never regretted it.

    My baby is now 13. Has she ever wished she had a sibling? Absolutely. Does she hold it against us because we never gave her one? Nope. She thinks our family is fine just the way it is (I know because I asked her).

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  5. @andi, I think that's a really great way of putting it: that motherhood can suck even if the baby is perfect and you love her and are so happy to have her.

    I really would love to have another... someday... but I'm just not sure how to get there. INSERT SEXUAL INNUENDO HERE.

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  6. This post is....shocking. As a mother myself, It's difficult to read this sort of thing. When you chose to have a baby, you chose to take on all the things that come with that baby...sleepless nights,endless crying, diapers, etc. It's sad to hear that these things have been such a burden to you. You really should take 5 seconds to realize how LUCKY you are to have this baby and these experiences b/c there are thousands of people in the world who cannot have a baby on their own.....people who would die to have these experiences that you loathe and that have basically ruined your life. Motherhood sucks? Seriously? Just be happy that you have a baby and stop taking things an infant does so personally.

    Sorry if this comment is offensive, but this is just my natural, motherly, reaction to your post.

    Angie

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  7. One cannot always prepare for the emotional stress of motherhood, no matter how much knowledge one has of what is to come.

    Yes, I knew motherhood would be hard. And I never regret becoming a mother. I must not have made myself clear when I said that I FEEL HORRIBLE FOR FEELING THIS WAY.

    If only there was a switch in my brain I could flip so I could stop feeling how I feel.

    Angie, sorry if this is offensive, but if that is your natural, motherly reaction to someone else's emotional suffering, then I feel lucky I am not your child to mother.

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  8. You ROCK liv! Thank you for being so incredibly honest! I love it. I agree with you, I wouldn't trade being a mom for anuthing, but there are days that it sucks! You are fabulous!

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  9. Can I be bluntly honest? If I did not know you, if I didn't know the struggles you've had with depression, if I didn't know how much you do love your baby, if I didn't know YOU as a person ... I might have responded the way Anonymous Angie did. You know my situation, and you know how hard it would be for me to hear someone else say these things. I would have never had the gall to type it out and leave it anonymously on someone's blog, but some of what she's said might have flitted through my brain. SOME of what she said.

    But I do know you. And I know you're a good person. And I know depression and what it can do to a person. Aspen is a lucky girl to have you, and she'll understand whatever you end up deciding.

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  10. I knew this would be a touchy subject. But I'm still glad I wrote about how I feel.

    Sometimes I physically ache because I love this baby girl so much. And I want everyone to know that kind of love for a child. Which is why it's so hard to admit that sometimes I suck at being a mom and I feel badly about it. Like I was given a chance to do something some people can't do and I'm wasting that chance.

    In reality, I'm just a normal, imperfect person who admitted how bad she is at having a newborn, no matter how grateful.

    If I was complaining about an amazing office job I have, and how hard it sometimes is, everyone's response would be so different, even if they wanted my job and applied for it and didn't get it. But because this is about being a parent, oooh boy.

    Everyone is entitled to their feelings though, which is why I allow anonymous comments.

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  11. Hey Liv,

    So. Here are my thoughts. I too, had a terribly hard time adjusting to motherhood. I wrote on my blog that in the beginning, I wanted to leave Lydia in her crib and run away. I overthought everything. If she cried, I was sure it meant she hated me and we would have a horrible relationship. In reality, she just wanted her diaper changed. I played this game where I would try to prove to myself that life could be just as it was before Lydia came along. I frantically mopped floors, cooked, and shook rugs while my poor baby cried for me to hold her. I thought that if I yielded to my baby’s needs, it would be like admitting defeat. Like admitting that I had let this seven pound baby turn my life upside down. It now breaks my heart to say this, but, for a time, I could not understand why people would say “congratulations” to someone who had just had a baby.

    We say that these are normal reactions in the first weeks or even months after childbirth, but I think the only reason we say this is because they are COMMON reactions. How can you think NORMALLY when your brain and body are ravaged by hormones and you’re deprived of sleep, all while trying to climb the oh-so-steep learning curve of new motherhood? Our nipples hurt, we’ve got stitches in our mangled lady parts, and we’re squirting milk all over the place; who WOULDN’T go a bit nutty?

    Girl, I know I did.

    One of the biggest helps for me was this truth; it would not be hard forever. Kim told me over and over again, “It will get better, I promise.” And, as you now know for yourself, she was right. I like to view this as thinking with ‘eternal eyes’ rather than ‘right now’ eyes. And when I start overthinking things, as I do in times of stress, I try to remember that view.

    I don’t know if any of this helps you. With whatever you decide, I hope it does.
    -A

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  12. Someone already basically said this on your facebook post, but yes, the internet is a magical place that brings people out of crazy holes to leave wonderful comments. (Sarcasm). A few years ago when my friend and I decided to fulfill a lifelong dream of my friend's dad to drive through all 48 states in the least amount of time (w/o speeding), I thought we were doing something fun and good. But holy moley. By some of the comments we received on our blog you would have thought we were Lucifer himself trying to destroy the whole world by wasting gas on such an idiotic road trip. I was like whaaaat! Are you serious? And it was probably 20 or 30 people. It blew my mind. (although it was also awesome to see people defend us, 80 or 90 of them...like people are doing on here for you.) (If bored you can read them here: http://greatamericanroadtrip.us/Great_American_Road_Trip/Blog/Blog.html) Anyway, my point is, well, people can make anything good you post online, sound bad.

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  13. Thank you for your honesty. My husband and I are contemplating starting a family soon and while I love reading the blogs about how wonderful life is with babies I also love to read about the real life stuff. Thank you for posting this.

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  14. I have an 18 month old. In some ways I felt many of the same things as you have expressed here. There is no way to completely prepare for the realities of being a mom. It's very difficult. The most worthwhile things in life are always the most difficult. It's good you are seriously contemplating whether or not you want another child. Many people have child after child just because that's what they think they're supposed to do, or because they just didn't put any thought into it - not because it's what's right for their family. If only everyone put as much thought into the important decisions of parenting as you have been doing. You'll know if it's right for you to have another child, if/when it is right. Until then, enjoy the freedoms of having only one child.

    Do not let anyone make you feel guilty about your feelings. They're real and they're legitimate. It's only how you act upon those feelings that really determine the kind of person/mother you are.

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  15. GOOD FOR YOU for being strong enough to share your honest feelings. And what you said to Anonymous (who wasn't even brave enough to leave her real first name) was applause-worthy. Seriously, kudos for standing up for yourself.

    I don't have kids, so take my opinion with a huge grain of salt, but I think you're totally human and 100% normal. It IS possible to love something while also struggling with it. This might sound stupid, but I've experienced this phenomenon in much smaller ways: an aging pet, an alcoholic relative. The situation can suck even if the subject doesn't.

    Please, PLEASE don't feel pressured to have another child if you don't feel ready. You might think procreating a second time will be doing everyone in your life a favor, but if you don't feel it in your heart, you're not helping anyone -- least of all that child.

    And I CAN talk authoritatively about that beacuse I don't plan on having ANY children, regardless of how hard my parents beg. And I only feel guilty about it 20% of the time. ;)

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  16. I'm am so grateful that you have written about this. You wrote two things that I especially feel that I understand. First, "Why can't I let go of what was just a short blip on my life radar? Sleepless nights, learning to breastfeed and tantrums are just fleeting moments in the life of a parent. Regardless, the thought of intentionally getting pregnant and enduring 9 months of knowing what I'm about to do to myself presents an insurmountable obstacle." I get it. And, "And please don't tell me the second baby is easier. How can you say that? The first baby wasn't that hard; it was me that was difficult. I'm just not very good at newborns. While talking with a friend last week I realized I don't know of any other moms who really feel the way I do. Sure, some people are like "ohmygosh yes having a newborn was so hard" and then they tell me they're having their 3rd kid. I don't think they really feel the way I do." I hate it when people talk about how hard kids are and they have four of them. Yes, I think we have different definitions of what "hard" is, because if they were the same, you wouldn't have had three more kids. I just totally get what you are saying and it is a miracle to me to find someone who understands and is brave enough to share. Thank you so much for making me feel like I'm not alone. I will be another LDS woman who has 1 child by choice too.

    P.S. To the anonymous commenter: I realize that infertile couples would love to have a baby. I hope they get. But I hope that they can see beyond their own desires and understand other peoples trials. We have a right to share our negative experiences, and I would hope that you wouldn't bash us for that.

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