I had read every book and bought and lovingly washed every piece of clothing.
After watching several episodes of ‘One born every minute’ I felt almost expert. We had spent a large sum of money and time getting pregnant through IVF so having a ‘textbook’ pregnancy seemed just to me. I luckily had the exact birth experience that I’d hoped for, despite a little haemorrhage drama the following day. A retained clot lead me to spend the first 24 hours of ‘getting to know your baby’ time flat on my back with a catheter and oxytocin drip. Still no complaints, really. I had a perfectly healthy baby daughter with even healthier lungs.
Having read so much on breastfeeding prior, I knew that it can take up to six weeks for mother and baby to become a perfect feeding dyad. My first many attempts at feeding baby were not at all joyful. My daughter pushed and screamed even time I attempted to latch her. Did she sense my fear? Conversely, If I let my brand new little bundle latch in ‘her’ way, I was in agony. Despite hearing that pain can be normal for a while, feeling like red hot chilli-coated needles were penetrating my nipples felt wrong. We were at an impasse.
Home time. A relatively quiet but painful two weeks where I dreaded every feed. Still being weeks off that magical six-week mark, I gave us the benefit of the doubt and pushed on. She was just a baby, and I was new at this. We will get there. The breast pump and tonnes of supplements kept up some measure of a milk supply despite my fledgling efforts and the occasional formula feed kept her satisfied.
The crying started. Once the sleepy first two weeks were over, my baby transformed into a demon (not quite Rosemary’s Baby, but it felt close). I had never heard a baby cry for as long or as loudly as she did. We peaked at about five hours of crying every afternoon and into the night.
There had to be something wrong with her, right? I consulted with specialist GPs, lactation consultants, a paediatrician and all my mum friends. All confirmed that I had a perfectly healthy, normal baby. Babies just cry. I was given every suggestion under the sun, and all failed one-by-one. Any remedy, concoction, rocking technique and sleeping aide I could google was trialled. I began to fear that this was just normal and I was mentally ill-prepared for this ‘mothering’ thing. I’ve never felt so powerless and useless in my life. I felt like I was now crying as much as she was.
I decided very suddenly one night to give up the feeding fight. The sane part of me reasoned that when you’ve hit 10 weeks and are still at the starting gates and have a better relationship with your pump than your baby, something has to give.
I quickly started to see changes in both myself and my baby. My broken body recovered and I no longer dreaded every feed. I noticed her occasional smiles and her cute little nose. I had a baby who sucked every formula bottle to the bottom and cooed sweetly at me afterwards.
But….the crying continued. Despite being a much happier feeder, I was confused, exhausted and frustrated as to why my baby was still so unhappy.
A scheduled visit to the maternal nurse saw me yet again pour out my desperation. “Why does she cry so much?!”. The nurse looked at me, offered several ‘heard it before’ suggestions, then slipped in ‘temperament’ under her breath. I’d never had a light bulb moment so bright and intense before.
She was just like me.
Suddenly it all made sense. It was just her. She was impatient, non-clingy and demanding. I had learned more about her in that moment than I had in nearly six months. It was only then that I could start the revolution. Within a week, she was out of my bedroom, was drill-sergeant-style sleep trained and sleeping through the night. Her crying quickly reduced to typical temperamental baby stuff, not the desperate cries of a sick, powerless being. I finally understood and gave her the predictability and quick-satisfaction that she craved.
Now that she’s two, she continues to make more and more sense every day. She’s calculating and clever, independent and feisty. She’s impatient and not overly affectionate. She’s the most wonderful emulation of myself, despite our shared flaws and I’m looking forward to facing more challenges she presents to me with similar reason and understanding.
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Article submitted by Lynn.
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