My first year as a SAHM can be divided into two parts: Breastfeeding + The Rest.
The initial months were ROUGH. Sleep deprivation, the chaos of my entire life turning upside down, a body I felt like a foreigner in…it’s a lot to deal with the first time around. However, looking back I attribute most of the discontent to breastfeeding. I hated it. HATED IT. It sparked an awful hormonal reaction for me. A rage I can’t even put into words. Not every time, at first, but eventually I couldn’t even bear the thought of feeding my baby. I would dig my nails into my leg or squeeze something the entire time to combat the waves of fierce, inexplicable anger.
Enzo wasn’t loving it either. He was making adequate diapers and gaining *just* enough to meet guidelines, but he was screaming a lot. Acting hungry even after hours (days, weeks) of cluster feeding. And honestly, he began to look tired and sickly to me.
Feeding him was a nightmare, the exact opposite of a bonding experience, so around 8 weeks I decided to switch to exclusive pumping + supplementing. I had been pumping after every nursing session to try and get my supply up. Meaning by the time I finished that, Enzo was usually up again. I was getting absolutely no sleep and felt like I was living in a vortex of crazy.
Pumping still brought a negative response (putting it nicely) but at least I didn’t have a sweet baby attached to me in the process. Also by using bottles and supplementing, we quickly confirmed Enzo was HUNGRY. He gained a pound in a week and became a whole new baby. Calmer, happier.
I’m not sure why he wasn’t getting enough to eat. I had his latch checked 3 times, not by top breastfeeding specialists but my pediatrician and lactation consultants. They all saw nothing concerning, each stating he appeared to have a wonderful latch. Maybe someone trained in latches would have seen something different, but I really don’t think that was why he wasn’t getting enough milk. When I began pumping I averaged 20 ounces a day, and that was stuffing my face with recommended “milk producing” foods and hooking up to a machine for a total of 10 hours a day. Literally. With bottles we found Enzo was satisfied by 30-32oz.
Lactation consultants will tell you babies are more efficient than a machine and that may be true, Enzo may have had a latch issue not making him efficient enough, but in my gut I believe it was me, not him.
So maybe I could have done more to try to fix myself, but it wasn’t just about milk production. It was my sanity and emotional stability. I saw no reason to go on for months and months hating something so much when there was another perfectly healthy option for feeding my baby.
Still, the choice to abandon breastfeeding became it’s own issue. I was so disappointed in myself for 1. hating breastfeeding, 2. giving up on it and 3. supplementing. I continued to pump at all hours of the day until 4.5 months when I decided I needed more than 4 hours of broken sleep a day. I cut back on pumping sessions until I stopped producing at 5.5 months. My goal had been 6 months, but I was done with what felt like heroics. As soon as we switched over to full formula, a huge burden was lifted. Guilt that I wasn’t giving my baby “the best” lingered, but I got over that because I finally felt like I could give him MY best. I didn’t have to spend the majority of my day sitting at the kitchen bar attached to a pump, trying to keep him happy and entertained in his boppy lounger.
Between a miscarriage, a close miscarriage call with Enzo at 5 weeks, having a pelvis that’s literally too small to birth a baby, and then hating breastfeeding/not producing enough milk…it seemed like nature was telling me I wasn’t supposed to be a mother. Throw all of those thoughts and feelings in with a mass hormone exit, a drastically different lifestyle from what I’d known for 32 years, and harassment from all sides about trying to keep our infant away from sickness during flu season and HAVE MERCY. What a brutal Fall + Winter.
Thankfully it was all up from there. I could not be happier. Staying home certainly does NOT feel like a vacation, but neither am I bored or unfulfilled. My to-do list is forever growing and as long as I have children to care for, it will remain that way. There will come a day when I have the time to read and write (to clarify, writing is more than a hobby. when I talk about writing I mean a book. that’s one of the things I work on when I find a nugget of free time), and I won’t be frantic trying to complete my workout and chores before the baby needs me again. And when that day comes I will enjoy the peaceful productivity. But I will miss this.
First morning smiles, and hugs after naps.
His tiny body contorting itself into even tinier spaces, then hollering when he gets stuck.
How he is CONSTANTLY finding a new way to potentially harm himself, that I never would have thought of on my own. It’s both terrifying and impressive.
His tiny hand and arm gripping mine as I carry him around.
Carrying him around.
Storytimes and music class and proudly parading around Target with THE cutest child in the entire world. ;)
Stroller walks, porch pools, park trips.
Chasing and being chased by a tiny giggling human. Up the stairs, around the rocking chair, via his hilarious ferrari walker.
It’s sweet and fun, but also demanding and exhausting. Trying to maintain the home while making sure my rapidly changing baby has fun, feels loved, socializes, learns on pace, sleeps enough, eats enough, etc., Twenty. Four. Seven, is no joke.
So it frustrates me a little when people ask if I’m bored, or better yet, What do you do all day? I prefer What did you do today? It might seem silly, but there’s a big difference in inference. One makes it sound like you must have trouble passing the time, the other acknowledges you were busy and the inquirer is just interested in what was accomplished.
I have a great deal of flexibility by staying home, but that doesn’t equate to easy. It just means that I can shuffle my schedule to accommodate the various needs and requests of my baby, friends and family. Trust and believe if you ask me to be somewhere or do something for you I was not sitting on my thumbs just waiting for an invitation. I had to put off something I had been working on or planned to get done. (That isn’t meant to come across negatively, I’m just trying to clear up some misconceptions about staying home.)
It is SO. NICE. to have such flexibility. It’s a blessing to be able to be there for the people I love at a moment’s notice. And I think I have made it ABUNDANTLY clear that I am grateful beyond words for the time I get to spend with Enzo. But it’s still work. More challenging work than what I did for my “real job.”
After experiencing it for a year I can confidently say it isn’t for everyone. Not every parent can or wants to stay home. But if you are on the fence, debating whether the sacrifice in career and finances would be worth it….oh honey, draft that resignation letter and quit. Right now. Call or email me if you want to talk about it more, but know I will try to sway you to stay home.
That’s an overview of the year, just for fun here are some details in the form of What I Swore I Would Do, and DIDN’T + What I Swore I Would Do, and DID.
What I Swore I Would Do, and Didn’t.
- Breastfeed. I did but not as long or successfully as I was determined to be.
- Date Nights in the First Month. Ummm…we haven’t had a single date night yet. I have left Enzo alone with my mom and dad a couple times while I ran errands solo, but I don’t even like doing that. I am a total baby hoarder. Before Enzo was born, I had somehow convinced myself that not wanting to leave my baby would be a sign of weakness. So I was hanging my head as I told a fellow SAHM about our lack of date nights and she said looked me straight in the eyes and said so seriously, You shouldn’t feel bad for wanting to be with your baby. And you know what? She’s right. I do think dates are important for our marriage, and I want to give Enzo time to build special relationships with his extended family, but it’s not a flaw in my personality to want to spend time with my kid. I know as he grows, there will be natural boundaries. I’m not going to follow him into kindergarten or summer camp or other places parents aren’t supposed to go. But for now, Ron and I get plenty of one-on-one time when Enzo sleeps so we don’t feel a need for date nights. We love to be together as a family when he is awake. So who knows when we will start doing date nights (or when I’ll want more “Mom Time”) but I’m done shaming myself for a lack of them.
- Travel or Treat the Baby as an Accessory and Live the Same Life We Did Pre-Baby.
The first three months we chose to keep Enzo sheltered because a newborn contracting RSV is a lot more serious than a younger child or adult. Some people think this is ridiculous, and that’s their prerogative. Ron has seen enough for us to know we don’t want to take our chances. But that didn’t mean we planned to keep him sheltered forever. We take him out and about to restaurants and public places all the time now. However, we haven’t traveled yet (we hope to for his birthday week and our anniversary week in December, though) and overall we live a less active life than before. Not because we can’t and don’t think we should do some of the things we used to do. We just don’t want to. He’s no longer small enough to be considered an “accessory.” He’s a moody, squirmy, nonverbal yet opinionated little person. That can translate to a lot of work when it comes to day-long outings and travel. As he gets older we will definitely be all about more adventurous activities but for now we don’t mind slower, simpler days. We are still very much enjoying our life, he isn’t holding us back from fun. We just have a new definition of fun in this season, and it will evolve as our family grows and changes.
What I Swore I Would Do and Did
- Shower Daily. I don’t judge any new moms who don’t find time to shower every day, I totally get it. It’s crazy how the time can get away from you, especially in those first months. And certainly it’s harder the more kids you have in the house. But showering is a big deal to me. A really big deal, ha. On a normal day I shower twice, sometimes three times depending on when I worked out. So I always knew that I would find a way and I did, starting in the hospital. There has not been one single day I haven’t showered since bringing Enzo home. Sometimes I put it off until Ron got home from work but it still happened, and it was one of those small things that made all the difference for me in those early weeks.
- CIO/Sleep Train. This was WAY harder than I expected it to be, but I still did it. I weighed the arguments for and against and made an informed decision that I do not regret. Enzo sleeping through the night was a GAME CHANGER and 1000% worth it.
- Lose all the baby weight. Sure, a baby shifts priorities. But I don’t think making time and putting in the effort to regain fitness is selfish. I gave up a great many “Me” things when I had Enzo. All of my hobbies and social activities have taken a backseat. But I won’t let my health go. It’s too critical to my happiness and well being. It took me A LOT longer than anticipated but I clawed my way back to pre-pregnancy weight and I’m continuing to work hard toward my goal weight, muscle tone, and running speed.
Bottom Line, I love this SAHM life. If you told me this is as good as it gets, it’s all downhill from the baby years..I would believe you. It’s pretty darn amazing. <3