Hey yall. It’s been a while. My son is 19 months old now, and over the last year and a half I’ve had so many moments where I sit and think about mine and my husband’s life with him in it. It is overwhelmingly better and as cliche as it is, we can’t imagine life without him. I say that now that life with him has found  somewhat of a routine. He’s a toddler, so it isn’t easy – but it’s pretty great. Most of the time ;)

I’ve also spent many times thinking about how hard it is. Mostly in the first year. Sawyer was not an easy baby. Surprised? If you’re on my facebook or instagram, you might be. There are so many photos of him smiling, being silly, sitting there occupying himself. What you don’t see is that those photos were carefully timed. As soon as he woke for the day or from a nap, was fed and changed, I’d snap the picture. Post my adorable, happy baby to my friends and family. Then, about 20 minutes later, he’d be screaming while a new comment saying “he’s such a happy boy!” popped up. Oh, the irony.

All babies are hard, but I really do feel that Sawyer was extra fussy and high needs. Surprisingly, he was a pretty good newborn. He cried, but not more than a “normal” baby might. Around 4-6 weeks…the point when it’s supposed to get easier, it got harder.

Sleep. Or lack thereof. Starting around 6ish weeks, he’d sleep for 15 (yep, 15!)-45 minutes at a time during the day. Nights were decent till about 3.5/4 months, then we’d be lucky to get one 3-4 hour stretch…followed by up every hour. This varied up until about 8 months when he finally started to fall asleep on his own. He has slept through the night plenty of times since then – but even now as a toddler he rarely sleeps through without needing us to comfort him. It’s just more manageable now. Up until about 6-8 months, it was chronic sleep deprivation for everyone.

My days and nights were spent bouncing on a yoga ball getting him to sleep. I spent one afternoon on the yoga ball in the dark laundry room with the hum of the dryer while I struggled to bounce, eat a sandwich, and hold a baby at the same time. Every nap, bed time, and night waking was spent bouncing.  It got to where I could transfer him down once he was asleep, but I had to do it just right or he was awake and we were back at it. And naps were still 45 minutes max, minus a random, glorious, occasional 1.5 hour nap.

We tried co-sleeping, but I was still on the yoga ball. He’d sleep a few hours (I would get interrupted sleep for a few hours, thanks to him moving a lot). Then he’d wake up crying, even though he was snuggled up with Mama. So I’d bounce on the ball for 20-40 minutes (where sometimes he still screamed) next to the bed before carefully climbing back in for a few more hours of restless sleep. 

We didn’t get him off the yoga ball till about 7 months, when we pulled the plug and had a burning ceremony. OK, we didn’t really burn it. But we thought about it.

My husband works long hours, so when we were co-sleeping we literally would barely speak the entire week. He’d get up for work, get ready as quietly as possible while I held my breath in hopes that Sawyer wouldn’t wake up and put me back on the ball. When he came home late, we were already in bed and I irritably sshh-ed him as he got ready for bed himself. It wasn’t working. We eventually got him to sleep in his crib and between that and him finally sleeping longer stretches, life started to work itself out a little better. 

I lost my patience with Sawyer. I screamed at him more times than I like to admit. Then felt awful because he was doing the best he knew how as a baby. I wasn’t excited about my days playing with him. I put on my big girl panties and busted through each day. I put myself last. I realize lack of sleep is part of the deal with babies. But when you have months of chronic sleep deprivation, the affect it has is real. And it’s a struggle.

Awake. When he was awake, he was happy sometimes (and thanks to a fussy baby group I’m in, I know how lucky I was with that!). But a lot of the time he was fussy, crying, and generally needy –  particularly for the first 3-4ish months. I counted down the minutes I had that he’d happily sit in a bouncer or swing while I tried to rush and get things done around the house. I guilted myself about not enjoying him. I loved him, but I was also overwhelmed by him.

Thankfully his happy times were often enough that I was able to stay sane and start to enjoy him. I feel for the parents who truly have colicky babies. Sawyer was tough, but mostly due to sleep issues. He didn’t have reflux or any medical issues. I chalk it up to a combination of him being chronically tired, and him wanting to be more mobile than his little body allowed him. People joke that once they start crawling and walking, it’s all over. But our life got so much better when he could physically do more. It started to get fun.

When Sawyer was 4 months old, I lost my dad. I remember not knowing how I was going to handle taking care of him day to day when I was in such a lost place mentally. And for a while, I was just going through the motions. But then something amazing happened. His happy moments would make me smile or laugh at a time when most people couldn’t. I’d be crying and he would smile or talk or do something silly, and it was infectious. I realized his heart would help me heal. This tiny little person. I loved him from the start, but those moments were the first time other than his birth where I felt fully overwhelmed by it.

Myself. When you struggle with a baby, you struggle with yourself. Your needs are last. I used to shove granola bars in my face because it was the only thing I could eat with one hand. People would compliment me on losing the baby weight, but I weighed less than I did pre-pregnancy, was unhappy about my body, and wasn’t in a healthy place. Our marriage struggled. My husband was amazing about helping out as much as he could, but were both sleep deprived and irritable, and sometimes we took it out on each other.

I’ve thought about all of these things over the last year and a half. About why he was so tough. I did everything right and by the book. I tried all the different tricks. I heard every tidbit of advice and spent my bouncing time googling ideas. I trusted my mama gut. The only thing that worked was time. I sometimes feel like I was robbed of enjoying the baby stage. I tried, and did a lot of the time (just check out all those fb posts I was telling you about earlier)! But it’s hard to be fully in it when you’re so exhausted and drained mentally and physically.

I say all of this because I know I can’t be alone. And I want people to know that it’s ok to have a really, really hard time with your baby. It’s ok to feel like sometimes you aren’t cut out for it. To wonder if you made a mistake. To dream of a day when they’re older, even though everyone tells you to savor every moment. It’s ok to NOT savor every moment. Some moments fucking suck. You wonder what you’re doing wrong when you see friend’s posts about how good their baby is, how well they sleep and you just want to slap them in the face. Sorry friends. I love you, I’m happy for you, and I don’t fault you at all for making said posts…but it’s hard to hear that sometimes. That’s why it’s important to share the hard times too. So we know we aren’t alone. If you’re having a hard time, it means your trying. You’re doing your best. And that makes you the most amazing mama (or dad!) to your kid. It will get better. And it’s hard in the moment to hear that advice, when it sucks NOW. But it gets better.

I lost my mom 5 years ago. I miss her so much during the hard times when I wish she was here to talk to. But you know how we use social media and the internet to vent? Back in the day, she used to write. Like on paper…old school ;) And I thank God that she kept all of those old papers. Because about a month ago, I opened a box I hadn’t before and found some. And there it was. Her venting about her hard times with my brother and I as babies and toddlers. Questioning the same things I questioned. This woman, who was the most amazing and caring mama in the world, who I have so many amazing memories of as a child, had a hard time too. I love the old photos I have of my childhood, but finding her words and her struggles are so much more meaningful to me.

So I end this long vent session with 2 things. 1. Some of the words from my mom that brought me to tears when I realized that even with her gone, she can be there for me. That even though I never knew her in this life while being a mother, I can still relate to her as a mom. 2. Some photos of Sawyer. The screaming, endless day, never-before-seen photos. Right next to a few happy ones that were, naturally, taken around the same time. Click to view larger.

Just remember yall. It’s hard. But we aren’t alone.

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2 thoughts on “The Side You Don’t See

  1. good write up rachel. you said something about how some of your friends said how good their kids are. you dont always  see what goes on behind the lines. yall are doing a great job, keep up the good work and I wish yall the best on your future journeys

    Sent from Yahoo Mail on Android

  2. Rachel, that is so amazing you found the journal of your Mom’s…..I bet that was really neat reading. Bit all Mom’s go thru that whether you baby is “good” or not. And everyone of them is different from each other…treasure your Mom’s writing….live you like mine….

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