Why Would A Mom Shake her Baby?
When I was a little girl, all I wanted to be when I grew up was a mom. There was something about it that just beckoned me. There was something special about giving my complete love to a tiny little person, doting on them and caring for their needs. I loved the idea of playing with them and teaching them all that they needed to know. Being a mom was a sacred gift that had been bestowed upon me. How blessed I felt that my Heavenly Father had such trust in me as to bring me to the earth and give me the opportunity to care for one (or more) of his sweet little spirits. I was special and the idea of being a mom gave me a sense of great worth.
Fast forward a few years. My husband and I took our time having kids. I was dealing with some serious mental health issues and we wanted to make sure we were ready to bring those little angels into our home. Of course we both wanted children, but I was fighting some major internal battles, and we wanted to have a place we could call our own to bring a child into.
After 5 years of marriage, we finally decided it was time. My pregnancy was a breeze, and from the moment I found out I was pregnant, I felt so excited. I felt like I was finally getting the opportunity to become the person I always wanted to be and fulfill my calling in life as a mother. I had a sense of self worth that I hadn’t felt in a long time. Not only did I feel love for myself, but I could feel my Heavenly Father’s love for me as I carried this precious little one through my pregnancy. I was so happy, I think it was the happiest my husband had possibly ever seen me. What a miracle it was. A tiny little human was growing inside of ME. Oh how blessed I felt.
I soaked up all of the flutters and kicks. It hardly seemed real, a little person swimming around inside of me? WOW! I got goosebumps every time I felt him move over those first exciting weeks. I became giddy when my husband was finally able to feel some of what I was feeling. It was finally real. There was truly a baby growing in my body and it was a true miracle.
Those last weeks of pregnancy were so exciting. I just wanted to meet this sweet little human, I wanted to know who they were and who they might become. My heart was full and my body was beyond exhausted. Four days after my due date, my blood pressure started to rise and wouldn’t come back down. I had been preparing myself for another week, but the Doctor said induction was necessary. It was time! Oh how I had waited for this moment! I couldn’t wait to finally meet this little guy. Boy was I terrified but so excited!
Finally, I heard crying. My beautiful little boy was finally here. I wasn’t prepared for a 30 second hello just to have him whisked away for testing. I didn’t even get to see his face. Did he look like me? Was his hair really red like the doctor said? Did his fingers and toes all add up? I carried him inside of me for 41 weeks and they couldn’t let me hold him for 2 minutes? The nurses got to hold him more in the first 10 minutes of life than I did. I was feeling quite jealous! I made my husband take pictures and show them to me so that I could at least see him.
A beautiful, healthy baby boy with a full head of RED hair! He was absolutely beautiful and I was so excited. I didn’t realize how tired I was. Maybe I knew I was tired, but we were just too excited and I really didn’t think to take care of myself and sleep. Not to mention, this little boy was so interested in the world! His eyes were wide open and he was just taking it all in! I had never heard of a baby who was so alert. He was so beautiful and he was finally here.
Breast feeding would soon prove to be a new beast for me to conquer. No one in my family had ever done it, or at least been successful. I was determined to give my baby what I thought was the best. I followed all of the advice I was given in the prenatal breast feeding class, and was determined NOT to supplement with the bottle. The nurses assured me that what I had was sufficient and baby’s latch was good, so I just kept at it. I didn’t, however, take into consideration the fact when inviting family to come and meet him that I would need to plan those visits around his eating, especially since I was so modest and uncomfortable feeding him around other people. I also didn’t realize how much help I would need from my husband during feeding time, because I was in so much pain. I was also afraid of taking pain medication because I wanted to be mentally present.
Because my body didn’t naturally prepare for the birth of this baby, his birth wasn’t as smooth as I had hoped. Three hours of pushing and quite an extreme episiotomy left my body needing some TLC. But being a first time mom, I had no idea how bad it actually was, I just figured “women do this every day, I should be able to do this”. I had heard of so many women passing on pain meds because it could pass through their breast milk, or because it could alter their own capacities. I didn’t realize that the pain I was in was NOT normal, and that the more pain I was in, the more stress there was on my body, and the less milk I would be able to produce. I pushed through the pain, taking as little medication as possible. Every time I got up, I felt my stitches rip, and every time I sat down they would rip again. I have heard people describe recovery from hemorrhoid surgery as being absolutely horrible compared to other surgeries they have had, and I am guessing this was pretty similar, all muscles had been separated, there were a lot of similarities I am guessing, and I was going home without a clue.
Home! Oh how excited I was to be home. Somehow I thought that recovery would be easier and more comfortable at home. I had thought to send my mom to clean things up before we got there, but we never ended up sending her. We walked in the door with our brand new “delicate” little bundle, and there was camping gear strewn all over the living room, our roomate had just returned from a camping trip. My anxiety was mounting when the home health company knocked on the door to deliver the bane of my existence, a bili bed. No one told me that this thing would be the one to snuggle my baby for the first few days of his life instead of me! No one told me that I would be required to sit and watch him on his little light bed for all but feeding time for 3 whole days!
My mom and my sister walked in the door just in time to see me have the meltdown of the century. Here we were, day 3 of my little one’s life, and instead of the joy I had imagined of bringing him home, was terror. Despite being in the worst physical pain of my life, I hadn’t slept more than a few little cat naps since his arrival. Giving birth is like running a marathon yall, LET THE NURSES TAKE YOUR BABY SO YOU CAN SLEEP! You will have plenty of time to bond with that sweet little one when you get home, and Facebook and instagram will still be there next week, I promise. I only wish someone had given me this advice. I was drowning, and I hadn’t even been home an hour! Then to add to the experience, I was terrified to let someone else watch the baby so I could sleep. So instead of getting any sleep, I layed there filled with anxiety while my sister and her husband so kindly sat up with him. And being the devoted breast feeding mamma, I braved the 13 stairs between my room and the baby with all my stitches and miserable pain so that I could feed him. People! DO NOT REPEAT MY MISTAKES! Either set up shop in the living room, or your room and make everyone do everything for you, or give the baby a bottle!
Here I was, struggling to figure this whole thing out on my own. No one told me the importance of a schedule for both eating and sleeping. No one I knew had experience breast feeding, no one even had a remote clue as to the pain I was in, and I wasn’t sleeping. This was a recipe for disaster.
When the bili bed was no longer needed and they came to pick it up, I was elated. FINALLY, I didn’t care that it was late, that I was exhausted, or that he was sleeping and so should I, I finally had my baby all to myself and I finally had the opportunity to take him all in. I nestled him in my shirt and savored every little touch of his skin, his beautiful face, his precious little fingers and toes…. We made this…. I closed my eyes and took it all in. I wanted to remember this beautiful moment forever. He was perfect and I would make sure he had everything he needed, even at my own expense.
We were supposed to have 2 weeks leave for my husband, but by the end of the first week, he was back at work. “I can do this” I told myself as he walked out the door. I had 2 other people who wanted to help me all through the pregnancy, but as luck would turn out, just as my husband returned to work, they both started new jobs and were unable to come to my aid. I was alone. Sleep deprived, still ripping stitches every time I had to stand up or sit down. I wasn’t eating much because I was both super stressed out over all I was trying to adapt to and it was just too painful to walk into the kitchen to make myself anything.
2 weeks home, and I was already down to my pre pregnancy weight, my baby wasn’t really gaining any weight. Despite meeting with a lactation nurse, we were still struggling. The doctor wanted me to supplement formula…. I had failed…. On top of all of the feelings I was experiencing, and still in a significant amount of pain, I was now a failure. I was doing everything I could possibly do, and seemingly alone. It was an overwhelming feeling to think that I was failing this beautiful little boy I so desperately wanted.
I was failing at the one thing I was certain I was made for, motherhood. Where had I gone wrong? I didn’t have any clue how much I was doing and dealing with, or how incomparable my situation was to all of the other stories I had heard. I needed help and had absolutely no idea.
Over the next several months, I would continue to fight with breast feeding, poor growth, no sleep, no help and a deep sense of failure. I began to feel resentment toward this perfect baby who I had once been so elated to have. How could I possibly feel resentment toward such an innocent baby? He depended on me, he loved me, what was wrong with me?! I began to hate myself. I wanted things to go back to the way they were before the baby came. I wanted to send him back.
I would finally get him to sleep and lay down and he would start to scream. His cries became incessant and I became ever more increasingly irritable. I wanted to throw him across the room. I was desperate for sleep. “Just an hour?’ You can’t give me just an hour?!” I would scream as I flew out of bed in a rage. I stopped as I entered his room. “What am I doing? Didn’t I want this baby?” I asked myself. I collapsed on the floor in tears. “Heavenly Father? What is wrong with me? Was this not what I asked for? Why can’t I do this?” I finally understood why I would hear about mothers on the news who had shaken or even drowned their babies. I knew their desperation. But why me? Why was I so weak? I just needed a nap. I just needed some help. I just wanted to love this baby that I brought into this world the way a mother is supposed to, so what was wrong with me?
At the 6 month mark, I wrote in my baby log “for the first time, I finally feel that love that I have always heard about people feeling for their babies. I can now actually say that I have no idea how I ever lived without this little one, I love him so much.” I wish I could say that it stayed this way, but the feelings of exhaustion and resentment continued beyond the year mark. I remember asking my mom if she ever had a moment where she wished she could send us back? Her reply? “No never”. I assumed what I was going through was somewhat normal until my mom said that, and my self hatred mounted. I was living in desperation with no hope in sight.
At 9 months I finally gave up breast feeding, and miraculously (or maybe not so miraculously) the colic finally stopped. I finally figured out why my baby wasn’t sleeping with Dr. Richard Ferber’s book How to Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems, and made the necessary corrections. We were finally sleeping!
Over time, my coping skills began to improve again. I began to feel normal again, and most importantly, I could finally love myself and my baby again. What I didn’t realize was that there are resources out there for moms dealing with what I was going through, and that there was a name for it. Postpartum Depression.
It does get better. If you are experiencing any of what I went through, tell your doctor or pediatrician that you need help. Don’t do it alone. If you need someone to watch your baby so you can get some sleep but can’t afford day care, tell your doctor. There are resources available. Tell them how imperative it is that you find help. There are medications to help take the edge off, and there are therapists available as well. No mom brings a baby into this world with the expectation that any of this might happen. No mom wants to have those moments of emotional separation from someone they truly love. No mom actually wants to harm their baby. If you notice these symptoms in someone you care about, don’t ignore it! They are screaming for help! Even if they tell you they don’t need help, do what you can to help them. Offer to take the baby for a walk so they can nap. Come wash their dishes or do a load of laundry. Bring them dinner. Be a shoulder to cry on. Don’t let them go through this alone. They want to enjoy that baby as much as any other mom, they are just drowning in desperation.
Don’t give up momma. Keep praying, God really is with you, he hasn’t walked away. There are better days ahead. I promise!
If you are in a crisis situation, please call 911. Don't go through it alone.