Last week was apparently #rainbowweek. I had no idea, but since I had already been planning this blog post, I figured I'd tag it on to the end and be fashionably late (because, lets be honest - I haven't been on time for anything since having a baby!).
I am a rainbow mom but my experience has not been rainbows and unicorns. In fact, it's been dark and stormy and more difficult than I could have ever imagined and so I thought I'd share my story.
As many of you know, we lost our daughter at 23 weeks in December 2015. We then conceived again fairly quickly and were due to have a baby boy on December 22, 2016. After our loss, all I could think about was getting pregnant again and having our "rainbow baby" and once we did get pregnant, the focus shifted to getting across the finish line. Over the course of the pregnancy, I counted down the months, weeks and days and could not wait to hold our little rainbow in our arms. I pictured this sweet and sleepy newborn and imagined the joy I'd feel upon his arrival. Somehow I just assumed that because we have gone through such a difficult experience, life would throw us a bone and we would have an "easy baby" - ha! And to be honest, I wasn't mentally prepared for any other scenarios.
Asher Owen Suni was born at 8:53 pm on December 21 and came out screaming. Literally - I'm pretty sure he started screaming before he fully ejected from the womb. This set the tone for the weeks to follow. In his first 12 hours of life he slept for about half an hour. By day 2, the scream-fest had started. By day 10, full-blown colic had taken over our family and we began trying EVERYTHING possible to make it go away - Ovol drops, gripe water, probiotics, chiropractor, never ending car rides, every rock/bounce maneuver there is, every wrap/carrier there is, every swing/chair there is. I became neurotic about what I was eating and starting cutting out "problem foods". Nothing made a difference.
When your baby literally screams every waking moment, it rips your heart right out of your chest. Add sleep deprivation to the mix and it's completely maddening. People would say "isn't motherhood just the best?" or "aren't you so in love?" and I found myself lying. It wasn't the best and at that time I was having a really difficult time feeling the love. Then came the guilt. I knew I *should* feel happy and be grateful that we were blessed with a healthy baby boy but all I felt was anger, bitterness and confusion which made me feel like a horrible person.
By 6 weeks in I had gone to a very dark place and was diagnosed with postpartum depression. This is also the time that I stopped breastfeeding. I realized that my mental health was the most important factor in raising a healthy child and, while it was a difficult decision to make, I can now say with certainty it was the right one for our entire family.
And then the dark storm began to pass. Something amazing happened - Asher started to smile. He started to have moments of being awake and not crying. He started engaging with us and he actually seemed happy (maybe he doesn't hate us after all!).
Asher is now 11 weeks old and our rainbow has just started to appear. He is still a fussy baby and will fight every daytime nap with a vengeance, but he also spends much of the day smiling, cooing and THRIVING and he sleeps like a champ at night. I no longer have to lie - it is the best and I love him so much I could explode.
I used to be overwhelmed by bitterness about how our first 2+ months went and I think that's ok because eff it - it was really brutal. Now, I'm mostly happy with a slight stank of bitterness every now and then (mostly when he's losing his sh*t in the car). I'm sharing my honest experience because I know I'm not alone and I also know these feelings can be dangerously consuming.
To any mom who is going through this - know that it gets better. I can't tell you when, and I kind of hated hearing that when people said it to me, but it does. Take care of yourself whether that means having a good cry in the shower while baby is wailing (in a safe place), asking for help when you need a break (even though we all know how hard that can be) or seeking help from your doctor if you feel yourself slipping into that dark place.
You are not alone. You are a good mom. You are enough.
And to the rainbow mamas with difficult babies who are left wondering why things can't just be easy for once. You've already proven you are a strong woman. You've got this. Life if tough but you're tougher.
** while he was not really mentioned in this post, it's important to add that my husband was and continues to be my rock and I could not do any of this without him **