Guest Post: pregnancy with PKU, a dream come true
By | Amanda Cosburn
Becoming a mother has been a lifelong dream for me, and one that for a time I never thought would have been possible due to my health. In March 2016, my beautiful and healthy baby Girl, Madelyn came into our world, it was and is a dream come true.
Motherhood was something that would have been considered impossible because of my genetic condition. Thanks to advancements and years of research, we learned that it was possible.
I was born with a genetic metabolic disease called Phenylketonuria (PKU). PKU is when someone like me, is born without the enzyme that converts one of the amino acids in protein called phenylalanine into tyrosine. Because I don’t have this enzyme, phenylalanine accumulates in my blood and is toxic to my body and brain. When the level of PHE (phenylalanine) is too high in my blood, it causes serious side effects and a risk of brain damage or mental disabilities and handicaps.
PKU is diagnosed through newborn screening at birth. It is a simple heel-poke blood test that all babies in North America are screened for at 24 hours old. Up until the 1960s there was no screening for PKU and most children born with PKU were severely handicap and ended up living in group homes as they are completely dependent on 24 hour full care. Since screening began in the 1960s babies with PKU are caught before damage is done and can live a long happy healthy life when treatment is followed.
A positive result for PKU means you need to start a life-long treatment program immediately to protect your brain and body. Early diagnosis is key because if not detected most babies by six months will experience brain damage. Fortunately, because of the early diagnosis through newborn screening, babies can grow up to be happy and healthy adults, like me.
However, the treatment program takes discipline and commitment. Pregnancy with PKU can cause concerns for the baby if an even more strict diet is not followed, more on that in a bit.
PHE Free Diet
Those living with PKU have to follow a restricted, low protein diet. My diet consists mainly of fruits and vegetables as well as medical foods that don’t contain protein or PHE. I also drink a PKU specific formula that is full of amino acids, vitamins, minerals and protein without PHE. The formula is essentially a crucial medication and my life support system.
This diet is very strict. Food needs to be weighed to the gram and then I count how many milligrams of PHE is in the food. If not followed to meet a daily tolerance, those with PKU can experience impairments – neurological and behavioral, and sometimes physical side effects, if the levels are too high.
It can cause mood swings, depression, anxiety, trouble focusing, retaining information, concentrating, and can cause you to lose IQ points. You can also experience tremors and headaches, to name a few. Too low, and you can become catabolic and your body starts to break down its own protein, which also can release PHE into the blood and affect your brain.
Pregnancy and PKU
Until I was 18, I was told I would never have a baby because my PKU would make my uterus toxic and cause serious side effects to my unborn baby and myself. I was told that if I became pregnant my baby could be born deformed, handicapped or die.
However, medical advice began to change and thankfully, we now knew that it was possible for women with PKU to have a normal, happy, and healthy baby. A healthy pregnancy would be possible if a woman with PKU worked very hard and followed a even more restricted diet and was closely monitored. This is called the maternal PKU diet. It was recommended that if a woman with PKU wanted to have a baby, she had to follow a preconception diet and treatment plan for three months before getting pregnant. This plan was recommended to lower the risk and toxicity to the fetus.
This was the news I had always secretly hoped to hear as my deepest and most secret dream was one day to be a mother myself. Every time one of my friends got pregnant or someone close to me, I ached inside, longing to carry my own child. My arms ached to hold my child. I dreamed and wished and prayed with all of my soul to one day be able to be a mother. It took me a long time to accept that it could happen one day.
Even with the new advancements and advice, I still didn’t fully believe I would be a mother I didn’t have all the tools I needed to be successful at the maternal PKU lifestyle available to me. I also didn’t have the confidence in my ability to comply to this restrictive diet plan.
In 2014, thanks to Health Minister Terry Lake myself, and a team of PKU advocates, we were able to secure funding for our medical foods. This helped me to be more compliant with my special diet to help me one day realize my dreams of motherhood.
A dream come true
In May 2016 I went off birth control to ready my body to one day have a baby! Over 10 years on birth control, I expected it would take my husband and I a while to conceive…not the case. I found out on June 17th, 2016 that we were expecting!! I was nearly three weeks along already. It was a surprise as we were not officially trying.
I was filled with so many mixed emotions, from disbelief, then to relief that it was finally my turn. I began to fear the hard work needed so that I could give this baby a good healthy start but my emotions quickly turned to pure joy. Many tears were shed in those early days. I don’t think it fully sunk in for a few weeks. I barely remember breathing. I was not on the preconception diet yet so I was terrified. My PHE levels in my blood were not in the safe range.
I immediately called the PKU clinic in Vancouver for help, which is where my medical team who monitors and treats my PKU is located. It is the only clinic to treat PKU in adults that is located in BC. The clinic consists of two dietitians who support me and guide my diet and treatment plan and they also monitor my blood levels. The clinic also has a nurse and a specialist doctor. The first thing I needed to do was get my blood levels down to safe range. I did a home blood test immediately. I take my blood from my finger and place it on a card and courier it to the newborn screening laboratory in Vancouver where they read the results. Because PKU is so rare, we don’t have a home testing device like diabetics do.
The best way to get levels under control is to get my diet under control. I need to be very careful about what I was putting in my body now. I started getting back on track and doing regular blood tests. While pregnant I did blood tests three times a week and drove them to our local hospital so they could send them to Vancouver. Thankfully got the results back quickly enough that if there was a issue or to high we could correct it before damage was done to my baby.
I had to weigh and track every bit of food I put in my mouth down to the gram. I had to count how many milligrams of PHE I was putting into my body to keep it safe and not cause any side effects to my baby. I had to meet the required amount every day and not be under or over, as both would affect my baby. The first few weeks through the morning sickness it was tough, especially keeping my medical formula down. But I knew subconsciously I had to keep every mouth full down for the health of my unborn baby. I struggled everyday not to throw it up.
Throughout my pregnancy an OBGYN and a midwife cared for me and I had specialized ultrasounds to check for deformities and issues with baby’s heart and brain. Because I did stick to my diet and controlled my levels, my baby never had any side effects from bad PKU levels.
Had I not gotten my levels down before organogenesis started in the fetus they baby would have been deformed, had a very small head, been mentally handicapped or stillborn. I had always been told most of my life it this happened that the clinic would strongly recommend abortion, and that was also drilled into my head from an early age by my mother. This would not be an option for me. I wanted this baby for so long, I worked so hard every day. I never wanted anything more.
I was able to get my levels down three days after the first positive pregnancy test. I got my levels into range and kept them in a stable range before the end of my fourth week of pregnancy.
In addition to my midwife and OBGYN I was also under the care of a maternal fetal specialist in Vancouver at the high-risk pregnancy clinic. This clinic is where I had most of my ultrasounds and fetal echo cardiogram done. We even saw our baby in 3D though we asked not to know the gender. I will always remember this ultrasound the most. It was the first real look at our baby. Our first dating scan was done at six weeks but we hadn’t had another scan between then and this special anatomy scan at 21 weeks. We were looking at a real baby! We could see the little nose and cute little ears and eyes, even tufts of curly hair. We watched our baby move and roll and suck its hands. It was a powerful moment and I still remember the way the tears felt on my face and how full my heart felt. It was love at first sight. I could finally see myself counting and kissing all those fingers and toes!
Pregnancy helping PHE levels
A very interesting phenomenon occurs in maternal PKU in the second trimester. Once the baby is able to eat and break down protein in its liver, if it has the enzyme I am missing it takes my protein and breaks down the PHE and takes it out of my blood.
So my levels got even lower. Being too low can cause side effects and affect the growth of the baby, I had to start eating more protein. As my baby grew and developed and needed protein, my own tolerance to protein would increase. Because of this, while I was pregnant, for the first time in my life, I got to try new foods that I have never eaten before. My regular daily tolerance is seven grams of protein from food, and 90 grams from my medical formula that does not have PHE. By the end of my pregnancy, I was able to eat 40 grams of protein just from food!
However, as soon as my baby was born, I would have to give up all these new foods. I was very careful about what I introduced so I wouldn’t miss anything or struggle after my baby was born. I did enjoy being able to eat oatmeal and chow mein noodles. I also developed a love for oreo ice cream. I never added any meat or dairy to my diet while pregnant. Instead we increased my protein with foods such as grains like rice, more of foods I could already eat, and by adding protein powder to my formula.
My pregnancy progressed well and myself and my baby were both very healthy. I will never forget hearing my baby’s heartbeat for the very first time, or the first few flutters of movement. I had dreamed of these moments, they beat all my expectations. I enjoyed every appointment and ultrasound. Feeling my own baby grow and move and roll inside me gave me the strength I needed to persevere with my diet and blood tests.
With all the extra screening and appointments with my family doctor, OBGYN, midwife, fetal medicine specialist, my PKU clinic and dietician I felt so very well cared for and it continued to grow my confidence. I read all the baby books back to front. I went to meet ups and prenatal classes and prenatal fitness classes. I loved my pregnancy and my experiences. I kept a journal and recorded everything on my PKU blog and Facebook for all our friends and family. I also shared my story publicly with the PKU community so other women like me would know it’s possible for them too!
At 33 weeks my OBGYN was so impressed with my progress that my midwife was given the go ahead to deliver my baby when he or she was ready to be born. My baby was born 10 days overdue — a happy, healthy baby girl Madelyn,who weighed 6 lbs 11 oz, the same as her mommy did! My dreams had finally come true and she really is everything I hoped she would be.
In my heart, long before we were ever pregnant I saw a brunette baby girl with her mommy’s curly hair and her daddy’s smile. I saw this little girl bouncing on his shoulders while walking along the beach, our family dog trailing beside us. It always made me feel whole inside. Madelyn is exactly that and I could not have asked for more. I know the angels sent her to us! She is everything I had ever dreamed of. She has fulfilled me and I feel complete.
I am so happy and blessed to have experienced a healthy pregnancy and have such a beautiful intimate birth. Surrounded by an amazing team, the love of my life Cole, our truly amazing and wonderful midwife Joanna and the fantastic nurses at the Kamloops Royal Inland Hospital.
Madelyn developed normally and she is growing and thriving and now a year old. She started walking at nine months! She knows a few words already and is very social and talkative. She knows mama, dadda, copper (our dog), hi, and yum yum!
Actually, doctors say she is very advanced for her age and size. She still wears nine month clothing but, she is meeting all of her milestones ahead of time and following her growth curve. She is a very good eater. Teaching her about food and weaning her has been a learning curve for me, since I can’t eat most of what she does. I work hard to give her a variety so she has a better relationship with food and is not a picky eater. We do baby-lead weaning and she eats everything! Her favorite fruit is banana, she loves rice, pasta, sweet potatoes, cod fish, chicken, and pork. She eats toast and muffins, oatmeal, all fruits and vegetables (especially carrots and broccoli), and so much more. She has a cow’s milk protein allergy so like mommy, we use almond milk in her food, and while cooking and baking.
However, for my own diet since giving birth and coming back to my regular protein and PHE tolerance and back down to my normal intake, I have struggled. I am having post partum anxiety and I get panic attacks. I have not been eating well or weighing and tracking my intake anymore. Life has been so busy. I don’t always find time to manage my diet or weigh and measure and prepare my meals and I am so hungry and eating over my recommended tolerance. I have learned in this past year that the first year for a mom with PKU is very hard to adjust back after pregnancy. I thought it would be easy since I did well while pregnant but, my diet lacks in nutrition and whole protein and is high in carbs and starches and sugars. I struggle with my weight, eating healthy, and staying full. I thought my daughter would give me the incentive to stick to my restricted diet so I can be my best for her but I have definitely had my ups and downs. My PHE levels after birth took a while to come down and were high for the first few weeks, then dropped, and then went back up again. They have been mostly around 11 or 12 since because I haven’t been strict with myself.
I try every day to do better. At least I enjoy my special medical formula and drink it every day but, I am finding it hard to do my meal prep when I usually am cooking for three different diets. I am working with my clinic again to get back on track and maybe lose some weight so I can be active with my daughter and lead by example for her.
I don’t ever want her to struggle with food, weight or activity like I have. I don’t look forward to the day I must explain my PKU to her and why mommy can’t share her foods when she tries to share with me. I sometimes wish I could eat the same healthy foods as her. I am so happy she does not have PKU. Even though there are worse health issues someone can have, and PKU is manageable, I am still relived she did not get it.
I tell myself every day is a new day and another chance to do better and try harder and fix what I didn’t do yesterday. Today I have already had my formula and some low protein bread I baked from scratch while she had her toast and banana.
Either way, I look forward to watching my daughter grow, helping her thrive and finding new ways to teach her and challenge her. She has taught me so much already and filled my life with so much joy and happiness. I am so in awe of this little person and that I was able to grow her and nourish her and give her the best start to life!
I will be forever grateful for advances in treatment for PKU however, PKU is still not well known. It is my mission to share my story and to spread awareness about this genetic disease. The more we know, the more we can research and evolve PKU care to improve quality life for people living with PKU. Alone we are rare, together we stand strong.
Amanda Cosburn is a mother, PKU advocate, and entrepreneur who lives in Kamploops, BC with her husband Cole, Daughter Madelyn and dog, Copper!
To learn more about Amanda’s PKU journey please visit her website, here. www.pkuproud.com
“People with PKU are missing an enzyme to break down protein in food, specifically one aminio acid. This amino acid is called phenylalanine, often called PHE (pronounced fee). Since this amino acid cannot be completely processed, it builds up in the blood and excess amounts cross the blood-brain barrier. When excess amounts build up, brain damage and other neurological problems result.
“PKU is a rare and inherited metabolic disease that affects approximately 1 in 12,000 newborns in North America. Both parents must be carriers of the gene for there to be a chance that their child will have PKU.”
– The Canadian PKU and Allied Disorders Inc. http://canpku.org/about-pku-2
Guest Post: Dear Breastfeeding Mama
By | Laura Cooper
New breastfeeding moms: you’re doing it right. Sore, milk-spraying-across-the-room, cracked, “are these even mine?” boobs and all: you’re doing it right.
A lactation consultant’s help doesn’t mean you’re failing. Pumping when you never thought you would, tube feeding, spoon feeding, supplementing with formula; it doesn’t mean you’re failing.
You’re fighting to give your baby what you think is best, and make it work for you. Breastfeeding can look 100 different ways for 100 different moms and babies. I wish I knew that before I started.
For me, it looked like 10 weeks worth of lactation consultant bills, nipple balms, shields, different types of bottles, and a perma-puddle of tears at my feet as I nursed and tried to teach my little one to feed well. It looked like guilt in those early days, self-doubt, and extra weight on my postpartum shoulders that should have solely been for cuddling a tiny little boy. (He still won’t take a bottle, but, pick your battles: I picked to fight to make our breastfeeding relationship a strong one. I wouldn’t change that for a movie out or a beer downtown…the movie theatres will still be there when my little peanut is grown up.)
I’m sorry, new mom, that no one was able to warn you about the emotional struggle that would come with breastfeeding. It’s hard physically, but a good diet, rest, lots of water, and time will fix those nursing problems (and for all others, we thank our lactation consultants!) But no one was able to tell you that something so “natural” would be so hard to figure out mentally.
Don’t get caught up in that: you aren’t doing anything wrong if it doesn’t click and come natural at that first latch. Or the second, or fiftieth. Just because that mom who became Facebook famous for breastfeeding while doing yoga handstands has it in her upset-down bag, doesn’t mean that struggling to make the football hold work on your couch means you’re failing.
I’m sorry, new mom, that you feel pressure to introduce a bottle, when you fear nipple confusion, or a tongue for formula over breastmilk. I’m sorry that others just don’t get it: that switching to a bottle doesn’t take off that anxiety, that pressure, for everyone. I’m sorry that you aren’t told enough that you’re doing the healthiest, best thing for your baby and you should be proud of your decision! I’m sorry that in others’ advice and tips you find insults, guilt, and mom-shaming.
I’m sorry, new mom, that you weren’t prepared for how lonely breastfeeding can be. That sitting alone in a dark room at 1 a.m., 2 a.m., 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. trying not to make noise, with one arm trapped under a tiny little head is lonely. I hope you can find a tribe of mamas that you can text in the middle of the night and answer back and forth when your babes wake. I’m sorry that glaring eyes in public make you feel like you need to hide under a cover, or a whole blanket, or in a bathroom, or in a back corner. That your pride of figuring out breastfeeding and nourishing and nurturing your precious, sweet babe is squashed on by comments to cover up, or eyes that don’t speak — but that don’t need to.
I’m sorry that the stress of returning to work, or even wanting a night out, means sitting hooked up to a pump that might make you feel like a cow. That you’ll hydrate, and eat healthy, and sit and pump, and only get half an oz of that liquid gold. That you’ll re-enter all those feelings of what’s wrong and wonder if your breastfeeding journey is coming to an end — because no one told you that your body reacts perfectly for your sweet babe and different to a pump.
Normal might not mean easy, and it doesn’t have to. You’ll make your own normal, and don’t let anyone tell you it’s not just that: yours.
New mom, you’re doing amazing. Whether you breastfeed for 5 days, or 5 weeks, 5 months, or 5 years: you are providing your baby with the best. Whether your breastfeeding looks like a breeze, or is a long-fought bottle, or whether it means exclusively pumping, or topping up with formula…Mama, you are killing it!
Laura Cooper is a first-time mom of a busy little boy, and wife to a PhD student. A displaced Maritimer and a travel writer by trade, she now calls Hamilton home.
Reflection on the first year of motherhood
By | thoughtsinamoment
Instead of writing a typical “New Year, New Me” type post, I thought I would share a little bit of a reflection on 2016 and some things that inspire me daily!
Well, where do I begin? 2016 was an amazing year and a feel extremely blessed. Early in the year we welcomed a new life into our family. Gabrion Marley was born a healthy baby boy in February and life obviously hasn’t been the same since. It has been a truly wonderful year and I am so grateful to be in Canada where we are privileged to have a one-year maternity leave. This year has flown by in an instant and I honestly cannot believe that I am planning a one year old’s birthday party next month! So crazy! For each stage there has been excitement and sorrow. Happy sorrow, if that even makes sense, somehow it does to me.
He is now a walking, babbling, busy, going concern. He is so happy and cheerful and absolutely adores his older brother (my step son). I am truly blessed with how well pregnancy went, his birth, and we’ve had a smooth transition into motherhood with the typical challenges. I feel like I am living in a dream world but it truly has been a wonderful year. We were fortunate to do some travelling and spend lots of time together as a family. It’s been enjoyable so much so, that it has also been a complete blur. I wish I had written more things down to remember for years to come, but, I am sure I can deduce things from the literal million photos I’ve taken this year!
As I ready myself to go back to work, I am obviously a little sad but, I am excited. His first-year milestone is an exciting one and I feel ready to head back to work, grateful with the time we had to spend together as mommy and son bonding. I would do the whole pregnancy and delivery again in a heart beat and I truly miss the little tiny baby stage. In my personal experience it has been a lot more challenging the more mobile he gets (I miss the baby cuddles and he is into absolutely everything).
He is my whole world! However, we don’t share many photos of him on social media and if I do it’s the back of his head or a hand and that’s it. Some people have found this a little strange but it is just where our comfort level is. I obviously want to share tons about him but something about it just doesn’t feel right to me in my core. It’s just my personal preference – just an aside in case you were wondering.
Obviously 2016, as any year, was not without it’s challenges. Being a mom is tiring! Also, I exclusively breastfed for six months and then introduced some solids through baby led weaning while still continuing to breastfeed a lot! At almost 11 months he is still breastfeeding and while as he gets bigger it gets more challenging, he basically lifts my shirt up now, it is still such a magical experience. The thing about breastfeeding is, he relied solely on me for nourishment which, is amazing, of course but it does leave you bound to his schedule and feeding times. I feel like am just now able to get a tiny glimpse of my freedom back and I think this has been the biggest challenge for me. I am a very active person and I love to be on the go. I take Gabrion out with me all the time but, sometimes it’s just nice to have your own personal time and that’s a challenge with all things considered!
2016 has changed me in many ways. I am proud of myself and the mom I am.
I am by no means perfect and I rely on a lot of people for help but I feel really content with life and I have more of a calm spirit about me in a lot of ways. Although, some things still make me want to pull my hair out overall, I feel like I have less anxiety than I did. I feel like everything else I worried about before was a small thing and nothing more matters now that I have become a mother.
I have had a number of favourite moments in 2016, first and foremost the birth of my child but there were many other memorable moments too! We took a trip to Vancouver and Vancouver Island in June! It was great to visit with family and visit Parksville where I spent my childhood summers! We had a lot of fun exploring on the beach!
In December we visited Toronto! It was a wonderful trip and I was able to connect with some wonderful mommies from my Facebook Mommy Group, on a few occasions! A lovely lunch where we were so graciously welcomed by new friends and we were also able to explore the Christmas Market in the Historic Distillery District! It was a brisk walk but definitely a lovely day! It’s amazing how connected we can become and how the internet has changed our world and we feel close to people we may never have met before. It was nice how effortless the conversations were and so nice for all of our babes to meet face-to-face.
Photo cred: Ashely Eve Photography
That brings me to the second part of this post. I have found in the past year that I have been able to really connect with like-minded people and have been inspired by many different things to implement change in my own life. Here are a few things that really inspire me each and every day:
My child – yeah that one is pretty obvious. I love being a mom and it really is an amazing transformation. It’s amazing to experience life through the eyes of someone whom you’ve created and it is a feeling that is really hard to describe. It inspires me everyday to be a better person and to make constant and positive change in my life.
Instagram stories – okay, this one may seem extremely weird but, there are so many people doing so many interesting and creative things and documenting it on Instagram stories. I find so much inspiration through people’s lives and I am in awe of what some people accomplish. I think it challenges all of us to strive for what we want and to praise others for their accomplishments!
Plants – I love food. I love everything about food, especially plant-based food. I am trying more and more to challenge myself to eat a completely plant-based diet and to cut out dairy. It is amazing the food and flavour combinations you can create with plant-based ingredients.
Mom friends – People I’ve surrounded myself with inspire me every day too! My friend group has certainly shifted since becoming a mother. I still have lots of my long time friends but I have gained a plethora of new friends many of whom had their babies the same month! It’s nice to be surrounded by a great support group!
Beautycounter – In September, I decided to join Beautycounter and the mission was something that I had already aligned my values with. The company inspires me daily to strive for better and I am excited to share their amazing products.
My mom – My mom has always inspired me even through our many mother daughter differences but, becoming a mother myself has definitely shown me my own mother in a new light (something she always preached to me – “you’ll understand one day”).
The juxtaposition of motherhood
All those cliches, those things you hear about having a baby and motherhood – all of them are true. And all of them are the most beautiful things you will ever experience.
– Penelope Cruz
Read more at: Brainy Quote
Being a mother is an amazing experience. From the day your child is born there is an ocean of love that is swept over you and it’s unlike anything you’ve ever felt before. From that moment you are forever changed but in the oddest way, you feel like your life has always been like this. You can’t imagine not knowing this person, this helpless little person who depends on you to survive. It can be an intimidating and scary feeling at times. There will be things you won’t know how to do and have to ask for help and support. But, for the most part, the duty is instinctual.
You will think to yourself, “how could I have ever not known this beautiful little soul?” as you watch them sleep. They sort of look like you and as they grow you start to see yourself in them. Every day something changes and something new happens and you are in awe and you want to share it with the world! But, that’s how time goes by so fast! They amaze you daily. Of course, motherhood is full of challenges and things to overcome, it is the hardest thing you will ever do and no one understands it fully until they are there.
Motherhood is awe inspiring but, motherhood is full of contrasting thoughts and ideals. It feels like one big juxtaposition of thoughts running rapidly into each other and every new milestone brings its own set of challenges. You are so excited when your baby does new things like sitting or crawling but you also mourn the fact that they are growing up. You want them to grow and you are excited to see who they are growing into but, you also want them to stay little forever. The mobile baby is a whole new world for you and for them. An exciting, terrifying and exhausting world all rolled into one.
When your baby sleeps in his crib for the first time, you are so excited you can finally have some space to yourself and your partner but, it tears you up inside because you miss the warm baby snuggles and you end up waking yourself up hourly anyway only to pull them back into bed.
You struggle because you want your time alone but then you miss your baby. Date night is never the same (if you even get a date night in the first year).
Should you let your baby cry a little bit (at a certain age) or, rush to them every time? Even if you have a specific idea in your head you may always question if you are doing the right thing. But, generally speaking there are many right things. It’s a confusing world us parents are thrown into.
Sometimes they cry, and cry and cry because they are colicky or teething or just plain cranky and fighting sleep. You may be ready to blow your top but, then they do something so sweet and you forget any ill feelings towards these little beings.
When your child starts eating food, you worry about what is the right way to approach this. You want to make everything, and make sure they are eating wholesomely. But, some days there isn’t enough time and you do your best but you give them some store bought baby food. It makes you feel guilty but you also only have so much time for things in each day.
It comes time for you to make decisions about your career or staying home. We are blessed to live in Canada where we are allowed a full-year of maternity leave. Many of us want our career but it is so hard to leave those little babies for an eight hour day! Your world has likely revolved around your infant for 365 days by this point and the concept of even leaving them for a minute can be scary but, you tell yourself it is important to have your own life and goals as well.
The conflicts in your mind become normal. You work through them. There are endless conflicts! As mothers we are riddled with guilt and worry about every little move we make. We would do anything for our offspring. It is in this worrying that we find that we are our best selves and while there is no such thing as a perfect mom, the fact that we have these conflicts means that we are doing the right thing.
My take on the beginning of an amazing journey
It’s almost 11pm on a Friday night. Baby has finally decided to go to sleep, he really is a good sleeper, just tonight, he needed a little extra love.
I sit here writing this as the thoughts of the day fill my head. I am nearly 11 weeks postpartum and it feels as though my life has been like this forever, yet I yearn for my old, carefree ways. It’s a hard juxtaposition, new motherhood. You are flooded with questions about your preferences, if you have a “good baby” whatever that means… if you have established a routine, why he won’t take a bottle or why you shouldn’t let him nurse to sleep, shouldn’t pick him up as soon as he cries, shouldn’t let him sleep on you too much because he will get too used to that or why you shouldn’t give rice cereal, etc. The list goes on. These questions and pieces of advice start on day one and don’t stop. Most people are trying to be nice and you consider all the advice you are given but it often makes you second guess what you are doing and what is right for your baby. Don’t second guess your gut. If it is working for you, and working for your baby, in my opinion it is probably the “right way.”
While I am still a very new mom, it is amazing how you are so afraid ahead of baby coming and you worry about how you will manage, most of it comes naturally. In my short 11 weeks, I have realized is that there isn’t a one size fits all approach to babies. All babies are different. But, what I do know, and this is inserting my opinion so like I said, take the take what you want and leave the rest approach, babies cannot be spoiled by love. Babies have needs, babies need you and can be clingy – they just spent nine months inside your warm womb for heavens sake, it’s probably pretty scary and cold out here compared to in there. Hold them, love them and cherish their tiny beings, they are only small for a very short period of time – the newborn stage passes so quickly! Don’t blink, please don’t blink! At nearly 11 weeks, my boy is nearly crawling across the floor – he can’t wait to get going, get moving! I wasn’t prepared for how fast babies develop and learn, it is truly amazing to witness! I am thrilled he is so enthusiastic and so ready but, it is sad in a beautiful way that they grow up so quick, and this is only 11 weeks! So, when he needs to nurse to sleep or needs his comfort on me, I savour it. I don’t believe letting him fall asleep on me or in my bed will necessarily lead to bad habits. I am cherishing these small moments with my small boy before he gets too big.
Motherhood is beautiful. However, as a new mom you may (probably will) experience anxiety. All kinds of anxiety. Some of it can be completely unexplained. Maybe it’s the fact that you just went through such an amazing transformation and you not only birthed a baby but a mother as well. You may have moments where you feel completely helpless and you feel like you could just burst with love but you are so scared for this precious life all at the same time. This can lead to random crying episodes holding your tiny human in your arms while blubbering “you’re so beautiful” with your boob out. Yes, this happens, embrace it.
Motherhood is terrifying. Beautifully terrifying. You cringe at the thought of clipping your baby’s tiny fingernails because you don’t want any pain to be inflicted but, if you don’t, he will scratch himself. You hold your breath and try to sneakily do it. Eventually, you get used to the process and slowly the hands open up and they aren’t clenched tiny fists anymore and you miss the tiny closed fist hands, even though this makes the nail clipping job easier.
Ugh. Motherhood is also random, really random. You become scatterbrained and think thoughts like my last paragraph that may not make sense to anyone else but other mothers.
Motherhood is exhausting, it takes a village. While as a new mom, you may get a lot of unwanted advice and it will be annoying, it is also okay to ask for help and ask for input. It’s hard but it helps. Ask a friend to stop by to have dinner, to cook dinner, to bring you coffee. It all helps.
Motherhood is confining. Go ahead and get out. The house can become enclosing as a new mom but venturing out can be scary too. Once you get out of the house in those first couple weeks with baby it feels great! I felt empowered and excited. Most people are really helpful to new moms and it isn’t as scary as it seems.
If I have learned anything in these short 11 weeks, it’s that this love is deep and compares to nothing else. The bond only grows. At first some don’t feel it immediately and that’s okay. It develops and just continues to grow. It leaves you a tired mess and you care more about how your baby is dressed than yourself but you wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Motherhood is wondrous.
inspiring a feeling of wonder or delight; marvelous.
Oh, and p.s. drink all the coffee, it’s okay.
“The natural state of motherhood is unselfishness. When you become a mother, you are no longer the center of your own universe. You relinquish that position to your children.”