WHEW! Baby Phillipa is 13 weeks old. I’m freshly out of the so-called fourth trimester and figured that now would be a good time to try and pen some thoughts & feelings. She is napping in her solly wrap on me right now – tickling my armpits with her fingers, headbutting my chin, compressing my chest with every breath. K and I have ventured out to a local coffee shop two blocks away from home and have finally got the wifi working. Deep breath.
So. I am a mother now. I wrote about my birthing experience here. It was kind of tiring and painful.
A few things that have been on my mind since…
A few weeks ago I came across this podcast episode that describes a phenomenon that Dr Sterling has dubbed the “Millennial Parent Problem”. We millennials are the first generation to become parents with the internet at our fingertips. I know I’m supposed to talk to my pediatrician when I want the answer to one of the many pressing questions that I have (did I just shake my baby too hard? why isn’t she pooping? why is she grunting? is it ok if she’s breathing funny? HOW DO I GET HER TO SLEEP????) But calling my pediatrician’s urgent line is still going to require several hours of waiting, and often these concerns arise between 1-5am. When your precious baby is screaming and you are crying and you have no clue why she is so hysterically angry and possibly in a lot of discomfort, a minute is too long to wait. An hour is definitely too long to wait, let alone til morning. So of course I’m going to panic-type keywords into my pocket device. Of course I’m going to Ask Reddit. And I am going to call my pediatrician too, but when I get her answer in the morning I am inevitably going to pit her words against 4,000 other opinions, theories, and voices from various “experts” and fellow-parents that I have consumed in a state of semi-consciousness. And my baby is still crying.
Trying to parent in the midst of information overload, chronic and compulsive comparison (omg, @babymama123’s baby is also 6w old but they are sleeping through the night? i must immediately generate a diff of everything i do vs everything she does!), and against the isolating backdrop of a global pandemic (yes! another lovely blessing for millennial parents!)…INSANITY. Utter insanity.
I don’t have the answer to how one might transcend said insanity, but I did feel seen and heard when I listened to the podcast episode. I’m also working on pausing/challenging the urge to question and second-guess every last thing. I am limiting my consumption of social media and the infographic advice of all of its “experts”, though it is honestly difficult and I am giving myself grace for this because the reality is that being a parent (especially now) is incredibly lonely. And being able to witness other parents doing their thing even if it is manicured and limited and digital is my attempt at meeting a real need for the community that I don’t currently have.
Rigidity and anxiety
Rigidity is one of the hallmarks of an eating disorder. I used to lose my sh*t if a food-related or meal-related thing didn’t go according to plan. I spent all my energy organizing my life around various rules and ideologies. I will say first that I am infinitely grateful that I had the chance to fully recover from any weird eating stuff prior to pregnancy and postpartum. Eating has been really disorganized – lunch at 9am and pumpkin pie at 4 in the morning – but I have never felt more relaxed about food and meals. Didn’t eat any vegetables all day? No sweat. I probably didn’t even notice. Frozen food again? Cool. Microwaving plastic – yes please if it’ll save me from washing one more thing. Hungry after two large portions of food? I’ll eat more. Structured exercise? LOL no. Am I eating mindfully and chewing slowly? BAHAHAHA. No. I’m shoveling food into my mouth straight from the fridge. Fuel is really a means to an end at this point. Maybe one day I’ll eat more slowly and have meals at regular times. But that day is not today and that is 100% okay.
However, I have noticed that I still have a strong tendency towards rigidity & holding myself and those around me to unrealistic and inflexible rules. Especially when I am under a lot of stress (e.g. newborn parenting). The first few weeks of P’s life I obsessed over breastfeeding: my milk supply, her latch, her weight gain, trying different pumps & flanges & bottles & etc. To be fair, we had a rough start to our feeding journey. Several lactation consultant visits/nipple balm brands/bottles of nystatin for thrush & tylenol for mastitis/two tongue tie releases later, all that thankfully smoothed over…but then I found myself obsessing over her sleep. And what an abundance of confusing and conflicting information there was (and still is) for me to dive into! At one point I was so entrenched in this stuff that I would have a meltdown if my husband woke the baby up 15 minutes earlier than I had “planned”.
My rigidity and anxiety have been robbing me of much-needed sleep of my own and putting a lot of strain on my relationship with my husband. And to no one’s surprise, simply willing myself via pure logic to become more flexible and less controlling hasn’t exactly worked (though I’ll keep trying). As any therapist worth their salt will tell you, these tendencies are typically coping mechanisms that are heroic but ultimately less-than-than-optimal attempts at resolving something a bit deeper under the surface.
Depression and the future
It’s 2021. And frankly, I feel depressed about the future. Between COVID variants, increasing political polarization, and the climate crisis, I am coming to terms with the fact that reality is frequently disappointing (hence the appeal of virtual reality). It feels helpless and evil and altogether lonesome. Becoming a mother was a long longed-for and deeply cherished dream that I worked for, prayed for, and paid for…a lot. But my heart feels heavy and afraid when I think about the kind of world my baby will grow up in. I’m not going to sit here and tell myself (or anyone, really) that it’ll all work out and be okay and to cheer up. What I am trying to do, fumblingly, is to practice acceptance and compassion – oddly enough, the very same things I struggled with during our season of infertility.
Isn’t it funny how that goes?