Sunday, August 19, 2007

r is for regret

Some people say they have no regrets in life; that every decision they made has helped make them who they are today.

While I can see that side of it -- I feel differently. I know that I have some regrets in my life and I'd like to talk a little about probably my biggest one.

I regret not enjoying Malia's newborn stage. Some of you may know about this already, but a lot of you probably don't. I couldn't wait until Malia was 6 weeks old, and then 3 months old, and then 6 months old. I pretty much wished away her baby stages.

See, after Malia was born I got hit pretty hard with post-pardum depression (well, this is all self-diagnosed as I didn't talk to a doctor about it until Malia was probably a year old). Things got off to a very rough start when she was born which set things in motion. The starting point was that she didn't sleep for the first few weeks of her life -- at least not at night. The first two nights after she was born (when I was at the hospital) she was up literally ALL NIGHT. All she wanted to do was cluster-feed. I would feed her, she would fall asleep and I'd put her in her basinnette. I would tip-toe to my bed and get settled in as quietly as I could so as not to wake her. I'd get all comfy and close my very weary eyes...and then the crying would begin. This happened over and over and over. And -- over. I tried sending her to the nursery a couple of times but they kept bringing her back to me 'cause she was sucking on her fists, showing that she was hungry and needed to be fed. And since I had such problems with nursing Joelle (and only did it for a week), I didn't want to take any risks in it not working out this time around -- therefore I didn't want the nurses to supplement her with formula (which, if I had to do it over again I would definitely do differently). So they had no choice but to bring her back to me.

This happened all through the night not only at the hospital but also upon returning home. And since I had already laboured with her all night long, I was already short on 3 nights of sleep by the time I came home.

Nights were horrible for several weeks. She was definitely confused and slept most of the day and was awake for most of the night. I was so tired, I was having hallucinations at night. I was exhausted, I was scared, I was emotional, and I was resentful.

Resentful of this little creature who had taken over my life and was causing me to be so terribly sleep-deprived. Being so terribly exhausted combined with all the hormonal changes from having gone through child-birth and the new adjustments with balancing two young children and just the general recovery from something so physically and emotionally draining...I sunk into a dark hole and stayed there for several months -- in fact, I still feel lasting effects from it every once in awhile almost 2 years later.

I was so depressed that I cried and cried...and cried and cried. A lot. Sometimes in front of Les, sometimes in front of my mom, sometimes on the phone to my dearest Jackie and Andrea -- and sometimes just in front of God.

I remember very vividly one night -- my turning point. Malia was a couple of months old and Les was going to try giving her a bottle at night. She had taken bottles before during the day, but never at night. I was so excited about getting to STAY IN BED all night long. I knew I'd wake up from her crying and that I would probably be awake until Les came back to bed, but at least I wouldn't have to get up.

Well...things didn't exactly go as planned. Les tried to give her the bottle and she drank a few ounces just fine. Then with about an ounce left, she stopped and just started screaming. After trying for awile to get her to finish it, Les figured she was done, so he just tried to calm her down and settle her back to sleep. Well, this was just not happening.

So he had to come upstairs to get me, even though he really didn't want me to have to get out of bed. I went downstairs to try to finish feeding Malia, even though she had already had almost her entire normal amount of milk. I took her in my arms and started to nurse her. She was so incredibly happy to have me. She settled into my arms and I was struck with this amazing feeling. Nursing had been going great already -- but there was something about that night the way she fit in my arms. It had never felt so comfortable before; so right. She lay in my arms and hunkered down for a 45 minute feeding (on top of her regular amount of milk that she had taken from the bottle already).

I sat there with her and cried. But these tears were very different. These were tears of love and joy. Tears of peace. Tears because my little daughter knew that her mother's arms was the only place she wanted to be. She needed me. Nobody else. Just me.

And that was the night I fell in love with my daughter.

I finally came to a very important realization after that night: None of this was Malia's fault. She wasn't up all night on purpose. She didn't know she was making me sleep-deprived and emotional. She wasn't trying to frustrate me. And most importantly -- she didn't ask to be born. We made the decision to have her. She was an innocent baby in all of this.

I wish I could say that things were all better from that point on. They definitely improved, but the problems didn't go away. Even when she finally started sleeping better at night. Something had taken root inside of me during those first few days and weeks and it wasn't ready to let me go. It had already been planted and watered and it had already grown.

I know that there probably wasn't much I could've done about it. But I still feel guilty for missing out on so much. I still regret not savouring every moment of her as a baby. Especially since I knew that she was probably my last baby (at least those are my plans -- God sometimes has something else up His sleeve...).

I wish I had been more vocal about the way I was feeling. I wish I had sought help. I wish I had talked to a professional. I wish I had been braver.

But you know what else R is for...??

R is for R-E-D-E-M-P-T-I-O-N


Ruth said...

wow andrea. what a testimony. what a little love. it makes my heart break for all the babies that cry for a mama that will never hold them.....

so thankful your girls have you.

Anonymous said...

oh Andrea...i totally can relate to you. i fell head on heels in love with Jessica less than 2 weeks ago! she just smiled, and it seemed like she reached her arms toward me and ever since that moment the love just came. your words said how i have felt, we both have been thru a lot!
seeing you and your girls yesterday...there is no doubt the love you have for them. you are a wonderful mother. they absolutely adore

Anonymous said...

Andrea, thank you so much for sharing something with you that is so personal as well. It takes alot of courage to admit that things are not always perfect. That there are things we keep to ourselves so that nobody will find out. And then there comes a time when it is okay to tell, to let people know how you are feeling inside. To take the weight off our shoulders. R is also for RELIEVED! Love you,


Pamela said...

Thanks for sharing your story. If you want to look at the bright side...Malia won't remember a thing! Remember that today is what matters to a child and I can tell by your posts that your girls are really loved!

Christine said...

I was there with my first. I blamed him and had horrifying thoughts. We got through it, but by the skin of our teeth! Now he's a wonderful , sensitive 7 year old. Our 4th, Zack, is colicky but I don't have those overwhelming feelings of "It's his fault", just "Lord, let me have some sleep!!" I still don't like the baby stage but know that eventually there will be an incredible bond between us. Thanks for visiting and leaving such an encouraging comment!

Rebecca said...

Beautiful post. I had somewhat similar struggles bonding with my daughter for a period when she was younger so I can understand what you were talking about. It's great that you shared your story so others are encouraged to speak up as well.