My "4th" Trimester
Updated: Jun 16, 2019
This is supposed to be the post you would expect to read something like we can’t believe how much joy he has brought us in this last year, we can’t remember what life was like before him! Happy birthday to our big one year old” But I’m going to be vulnerable with you because I feel like we need to share the hard stuff. If I honestly tried to some of this last year it would go something like this: This last year has brought us tears. So many tears. Heart ache. Sleep deprivation. Anger. Self-doubt. Bitterness. It's tested our faith. It's tested our marriage. It's highlighted our weaknesses. It's shown me just how much we NEED Jesus. Honestly, there were more hours with tears than those without. Especially for those first 6-7 months. Carter was exactly 252 days old by the time that I looked at him and thought to myself, "wow, what was life ever like before you were here?" Maybe it was the sleep deprivation and nursing struggles. Lack of weight gain or the career change at 8 weeks postpartum, but I wasn't bonding with my baby. Why wasn't I madly in love with that tiny piece of me? Every time someone commented on how "great" of a baby he was and "can you even remember what life was like before he was here?" a little part of me broke even more. I felt like a terrible mom. And
I hated being a mom.
I had to avoid leaving anywhere that was further than 15 minutes from my house because I knew if I left I would have to nurse him which would take up to an hour so I couldn’t just "run to Target" or "go on a lunch date" ...all the things maternity leave is supposed to be for, right? Because leaving the house meant handling a newborn, his diaper bag, my pump, all the pump parts, and lunchbox with an ice pack so my liquid gold wouldn't go to waste.
I had heard it was "hard" and it "wasn't going to be easy" ...this is what they meant, right?
And I kept on nursing we spent more than nearly two mortgage payment at Lactation Consultants, co-pays for doctors visits, and I felt like such a failure for giving him a bottle. I was making plenty of milk he just wasn’t able to get it for me. So instead of switching to formula I wanted to pump because it was “free“...but what I’ve learned is that even though breast-feeding doesn’t require you to purchase formula, you pay for it in time emotional energy and sometimes those things are more costly than formula.
We struggled on like this for months.
Cory watched me day in and day out...hardly able to take care of Carter, let alone myself, while I spent every waking moment feeding, pumping, cleaning pump parts. I was determined. "Breast is best"... that’s why everyone sad and so I kept pumping after every time he nursed...but honestly the first six months of his life are a blur. I remember going to my six week postpartum visit and I walked in there so proud because I had made it. I had gone six whole weeks after his birth without crying sobbing uncontrollably. I only cried every time he nursed (which was usually 7-9 times per day) But I hadn't cried other than that! I didn't sit around and cry all day long and didn't ever want to harm myself or Carter, so I clearly didn’t have any issues. I definitely didn’t have any kind of postpartum depression anxiety right? They gave me the paper that screens for postpartum depression and anxiety, and I scored not a high enough for any kind a recommended treatment but it was close that my midwife told me if I start to feel anything different to come back and talk to them. So I went along my way, thinking I had cleared the "baby blues" phase. During those next several weeks, Carter lost more and more weight. I kept gaining weight.
I wasn't eating.
I wasn't sleeping.
I wasn't bonding with Carter.
And I didn't care. It all felt so distant. I felt numb.
I’ll never forget when I realized I needed to make the phone call. I had gone to Hobby Lobby for three items. I had a full on panic attack trying to choose if I should go to the canvases or the paint section first. The decision on which way to go around the store was so overwhelming, it broke me. For things like breakfast, I would have to decide between eggs and toast. And it was just too much. So I didn't eat anything. I
I felt so ashamed for scheduling that appointment and prayed as it rang that she wouldn't ask me WHY I needed to come in. I love love love the doctors office that I go to (Womancare) and the girl that schedules the appointments of course asked what I need to be seen for and I was so embarrassed and I didn't know how to say, " I don’t like my baby and I hate being a mom" but I couldn’t do that so I mustered up the strength to say that I was having some anxiety and she got me in the schedule as soon as she could.
I was so embarrassed. But why, would we, as new mamas, feel embarrassed by something happening chemically in our hormones & brain? I thought it was because I wasn't praying enough. I thought it was because I had been mad at God for going through a miscarriage before Carter. I thought "postpartum depression" meant you wanted to kill yourself or your baby. That wasn't me. I truly loved him, but didn't like him. I couldn't make the simplest decisions. I couldn't differentiate his cries. And I didn't care.
I truly believe God brings people into your life at certain times. And for me, this is evident with Jen.She just so happened to be my labor and delivery nurse with Carter. At the time, she was finished with all of her midwifery training and certifications, but was waiting on hospital privileges. She took such great care of me, Cory, and Carter. She brought me all the banana popsicles my heart desired (which was actually a lot 😂)
When you go through something as life altering as childbirth, you definitely connect to the people that are around you at the time.
I was so excited to see her again but also, I was so embarrassed.
So I wanted to "plan" this appointment around when Carter may or may not nap...and of course he fell asleep in the car that day and was ready to eat when we got there. And then Jen came in.
And she held Carter. Loved on him.
And listened to me.
She listened to me cry.
She listened to me try to put words together between sobs.
She handed me tissues.
A wave of relief crashed over me when she told me I wasn't the only new mama that felt this way.
She sees this all the time.
No one ever talks about it.
But she didn't stop there.
I told her I really didn't want to take medication unless she thought it was the best course of treatment. I was willing to try other things first.
She gave me tangible things I could do. From that moment she told me these feelings were common but no one talks about it, I made a promise to myself that, when I was ready, I would share my story.
Your mess is your message.
She wrote them all out on two Post-It notes. And told me to keep those Post-Its where I could see them. They are still on my bathroom mirror to this day. Here are just a few of the things she shared with me:
-Get at least 30 minutes of sunshine every day (walking to and from Target in the parking lot DOESN'T count)
-Wind down before bed by reading or a bath, something relaxing and not looking at a screen
-Contact a counselor (I actually had a few sessions with a counselor and she helped me realize I truly wasn't the first new mama to feel this way)
-Take at least ONE hour this week to do something for yourself (this means no "errands for the baby" or "work"...bonus points if it is something like walking in the park...sunshine, check...exercise, check...and alone time, triple check)
And then Jen told me something that would change my life.
"The best way for you to take care of your baby is to take care of yourself."
And even though that was so simple, it was mind-blowing to me at the time. My days were filled with weight checks, tracking feedings, figuring out milliliters to ounces, trying to get him to sleep...I had convinced myself that taking a shower was "taking time for myself." Jen...thank you. Thank you for taking the time to really hear me. And help me. I am forever grateful.
Mama...it is not selfish to take care of yourself. It is a NECESSITY. In order to take care of your baby...your husband...your family...your business...whatever it may be...you have to take care of yourself. Physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. The "4th" trimester for our family was definitely filled with very trying days. Hours.
But I'm here to tell you. There IS light on the other side.
You aren't alone.
It WILL get better.
But it's OKAY to ask for help.
Today is our baby's first birthday. And we love getting to celebrate his life. We are so grateful. We love you, Carter Lee Duncan.