Mom in labor with husband's supportAustin only left my side once during labor, because he had to move the car, and even then, he moved as fast as he could, because he knew I needed him.

Mom in labor with a nurse standing near byTrue love is letting your wife rest her head on yours, even though you are getting soaked, because you know that is the only thing that will bring her comfort.Laboring in the showerThe best healthcare provider I have ever met. I thank God for my midwife Kathy. She truly cares about her patients, and is passionate about her job.Birth with a midwifeMeeting Thea for the first time. Birth photos all by the talented Paulina Speltcha.
Cesarean birth, skin to skin in the OR.
On Monday, October 17th, 2016  at 8:16am, after 27 hours of drug free labor, my daughter was born via Cesearan. Hearing her cry for the first time, was pure relief. The battle had been won. All 9lb 1oz of her was here. They placed her on my chest in the OR, and her little hand grabbed my face. The first thing I noticed was that she had the same nose as me. I was too tired to express my emotions, and if I am being honest it wasn’t the best moment of my life. I didn’t feel the magical love that everyone talked about.  I was way too tired, and traumatized to really feel much at all.  I wanted to instantly bond with her, and feel that great love, but it wasn’t there.

The view from my hospital room. Photo by Paulina Speltcha.Sunrise in West Palm BeachWhile we were at the hospital I spiked a fever, so they put me on a ton of antibiotics to prevent any infection that might have been forming. We stayed at the hospital for four days. If you know me, you know I am not a fan of hospitals. The constant people in, and out, the attention, and overall atmosphere doesn’t mesh well with my personality. I thank God that our hospital room had a view of palm trees, and the ocean, without that it would have been much harder for me. 

Leaving the hospital. I really hope we buckled her in better than this before we left, but we were so out of it, I’m not sure that we did. Oops.Baby in carseatThursday late afternoon we were finally released from the hospital. Bringing a baby home for the first time is scary, but my husband and I were both anxious to leave. We were both exhausted, and ready to be in the comfort of our own home.  I didn’t think of how hard life would be once we got there. Somehow, bringing Thea home confused her days and nights. Instead of just eating and going back to sleep like she had at the hospital, she was awake in the middle of the night. I remember sitting in our bedroom at 3am with an awake newborn, who didn’t want to go back to sleep, or be put down. It was not fun. Add to this the fact that when I laid down to try and sleep I was having nightmares about being in labor. The lack of sleep felt like torture. We were so overwhelmed.

Time stamped 2:54am (Ironically sleeping)Newborn at homeOur first day home with Thea.
Postpartum experienceThe next morning I called my mom in desperation. We needed help. We couldn’t do this alone, but I felt so guilty asking for help. I was Thea’s mom, I should be able to handle this right?? I felt like a burden, and a failure asking for help. I know now that I shouldn’t have felt this way. My mom got to spend time with her brand new grand baby. I’m sure she was ecstatic, but I didn’t see that in the moment.

Grammy to the rescue.Grandmother holding newbornI spent the majority of my time for the first few months of Thea’s life in this spot on the couch. It was easier for me to get up and down from the couch than the bed, and Thea slept better in the swing. ( Photo by Austin)Newborn Sleep deprivation Daddy Daughter napMommy baby portraitThe months to come were some of the hardest of my life. With the lack of sleep, and my body not healing properly, depression set in (not surprising for me). It all felt too hard, like so hard I couldn’t do it. I remember asking God why he made me Thea’s mother because obviously I wasn’t cut out for it. Everyone around me expected me to be over the moon, and so in love with my new baby. This expectation just added to the guilt. I was struggling to bond, and feel the love that everyone talked about.

I don’t want to leave you with the impression I never enjoyed her, because I did, I just didn’t enjoy her like I should have.Self portraitI mean look at this sweetness. She was/is so precious.Baby in a swingBaby being heldAt six weeks old, Thea started sleeping a 4-5 hour chunk in the beginning of the night. It felt amazing, and it gave me a glimmer of hope. I thought maybe I could do this after all. Sadly it only lasted a few weeks, with her teething early, sleep went out the window once again. Sleep continued to get worse, she eventually got down to waking up every single hour ( and no I am not exaggerating). This was my breaking point. I couldn’t do it anymore. I finally broke down sobbing, and my aunt took her for the night. It’s hard for anyone else to watch a breastfed baby who won’t take a bottle, but they made it through, and  I slept for five hours straight. This was the longest stretch of unbroken sleep I had slept in the three and a half months of Thea’s life.  It was also the longest stretch of sleep my body would allow. My body didn’t know how to sleep through the night anymore. 

I posted this photo to Instagram, talking about sleep issues. Looking back now, I think it should have been titled “This is what Postpartum depression looks like.” But depression is tricky, it doesn’t always look like this. There are smiles, and happy moments still, but a dark cloud lingers overhead.Postpartum depressionAround four months old we let her cry to go to sleep, it was that, or me locked up in a mental ward.  It was one of those things I never wanted to do but ended up doing to save my sanity. (For those of you who think I was a terrible person for letting my baby cry herself to sleep. I don’t really care what you think, nor do I want to hear your opinion.) It helped. She didn’t magically sleep through the night, but enough to keep me from losing it, we went from waking hourly to 3ish times a night.

Baby face hugWhen Thea was five months old, I sought help for my mental health, and something was sparked in me. God spoke into my life, and I finally had hope of getting better. Hope is powerful. I realized that I wasn’t stuck like this forever. That God was/and still is bigger than my struggles. My bond with Thea grew, and I developed the great love that everyone talked about so much. I started to enjoy spending my days with Thea, and being her mom.Playing with babyFamily Photographer I am so grateful for this love, and the joy that she brings into the lives of those around her. I love watching her grow, and learn. I soak up her smiles, and laughter.  I love listening to her ‘talk.’ She is my little people watcher, and observer. She is strong willed, and will let you know exactly what she wants, or doesn’t want. She loves figuring out how things work, and imitating mommy, and daddy. She is still a boobie baby, and will let me know she wants to nurse, by repeatedly pecking her face into my chest like a little bird. She loves animals, and insists on making friends with them where ever we go. And I am thankful to say that she nows sleeps through the night completely!

Baby bathTo the mamas struggling, hang in there, I promise it gets better. Find your village ( I am still in the process of growing mine), and accept help. I promise there are people in your life that want to help, let them. I had help, but should have accepted more. I felt guilty accepting more help, because she was my baby, and I should have been able to do it all by myself right?? 

To everyone with a new mom (or dad) in your life, ask how they are doing, care about them too, not just the baby. Don’t assume she is on a magical new baby high, too many women struggle with Postpartum Depression to assume this.  Even if they aren’t facing PPD, parenthood is hard, not sleeping is hard, trying to do it all on your own is hard. And don’t forget dad, this whole thing is hard for him too, and takes a lot of adjusting, and sacrifice. 

To all of you who helped us in this past year, thank you! When they say it takes a village to raise a child, they mean it. I have learned the importance of community. We weren’t created to do this life alone, even if you are good at being alone like I am. 

I write all of this, not for sympathy or your pity, but so the mom who is in the midst of the struggle knows she isn’t alone.  If you are struggling, and need an ear to listen, or want to share your story, feel free to email me shelbytruly@gmail.com. I will do my best to reply to everyone in a timely manner.