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Friday, November 11, 2011

Confidence in Being a New Mom

You've probably read about my struggles with confidence know the journey I was on to get to where I got. Well, let me assure you, nothing has ever tested my confidence level quite so much as being a mom!

I second-guess every decision I make. I constantly wonder am I good enough for what this perfect little baby deserves. I feel helpless and inadequate sometimes and wonder why the hell I ever thought I could be a mom. But then some days I feel like the best mom ever (besides my own) and rest in the knowledge that I will make mistakes but that she will be okay because no one will ever love her the way I love her. She's one month old already now, and we're still learning each other and figuring out our routines. Between a scare about her weight dropping too much at one point and breastfeeding challenges, I can really work myself into a frenzy of "mom guilt," feeling like I'm failing her. But, really, when I step back and look, I am doing a good job. All new moms go through a slightly crazy period the first two or three weeks after delivery. Your whole life has changed in an instant (or, in my case, after 39 hours of labor, lol), and not only that, but you suddenly have this tiny little person that you love so much you can hardly bear it. You feel pressures you never knew before and would do anything, anything, just to make them happy, healthy, and safe. I'm learning as I go, as all new moms do. Some days are filled with crying - mine, not hers! - because I'm so scared of everything. Others are calm and peaceful as I just hold her and watch her face because it's so lovely that I can't look away. It's up and down but all amazing. I've officially done the one thing in my life that I couldn't have lived without, and that in itself gives me confidence if I think about it. I can hardly believe she's here; every action I made my whole life has been leading up to her, and now, here she is. So many choices that I made in life were because I was thinking of my future daughter.

Whenever I start feeling really scared and overwhelmed, my husband reminds me of my pregnancy, labor, and delivery. It's definitely something I should mentally call upon any time I feel like I can't do something from now on. If I could do that, I can do anything! If you're interested in this sort of thing, here's the short version. I think I mentioned before that I was planning on a water birth and had taken a HypnoBirthing class. HypnoBirthing is self-hypnosis (essentially very deep relaxation) that centers around delivering your baby calmly and with as few interventions as possible. It goes on the premise that birth doesn't have to hurt like we are taught in our culture. We expect it to hurt, so it does because our bodies tense up, and the tension causes the pain and actually hinders the baby's progress coming out. I'd been practicing with the relaxation exercises almost daily for months, to the point where it became completely ingrained in me and I could get myself in that zone anytime. I wasn't scared about giving birth at all. I knew we would have a calm, relaxed labor and birth...and yes, I know, "calm" and "relaxed" are not typically words you hear to describe giving birth! But I can honestly say that's exactly how it was. Anyway, I was planning on an all-natural birth, and I almost got it. The first sign my labor had started was my water breaking. I started having contractions (called "surges" in HypnoBirthing, which sounds less scary!) not long after that and started playing the HypnoBirthing exercises on my iPhone. When the contractions were about a minute apart, my midwife asked me to come into the office to get checked out to make sure I wouldn't get admitted into the hospital too soon. I was 4 cm then, so we went ahead to the hospital. I was talking through my contractions. We all thought it would be a pretty fast labor...but baby girl had other plans. I labored in the shower, in the water birth tub, standing up leaning against a chair...I had no concept of how much time had passed, as I was completely in my zone of relaxation, and nothing could interrupt it. No one could even tell when I was having a contraction unless I held my hand up for them to be quiet during it.

Eventually, over 30 hours had passed, and she was very low but not getting any lower. My body started to give out; it was most comfortable at that point to labor standing up and rocking from side to side (I had to give up my water birth because her heart rate had increased enough to where there was a risk for infection), and my legs were shaking and could barely hold me up anymore. I had the incredible urge to bear down, but it wasn't accomplishing anything. I developed a slight fever, and at that point, we needed to help her out a little. I was 9.5 cm then and not in pain...I mean, I wouldn't say labor is the most comfortable thing I've ever done, but I can honestly say it was not painful. We made the decision to induce just a little and get an epidural - again, not for pain but because my body was completely worn out! When it was time to push my little one out, the epidural had worn off enough where I could feel almost everything. It took a lot of energy, and having the epidural had given me time to rest and try to recharge some. I continued using my HypnoBirthing techniques throughout. Just when I thought I had expended all my energy again, my husband said, "Your dream is about to come true!" and that gave me the last burst of energy I needed. And then, suddenly, there she was! They put her on my chest, and I can't even describe the feeling of looking into her face for the first time. I didn't get the natural birth I'd planned on, but I have no regrets. And if I can labor for that long with no drugs until the very end and keep myself absolutely calm and relaxed throughout, good God, I can do anything! And, I might add, any woman who has birthed a human being out of her body, whether she did it naturally, with drugs, or had a C-section, should feel like she can do anything in life as well! Carrying a baby for 40 weeks, give or take, and then giving birth is nothing short of an amazing feat no matter how you do it.

There's actually nothing special or different about me that enabled me to do it that way any more than anyone else; I'm not more brave. I just have knowledge and resolve going for me. And, okay, I admit I'm one of THE stubbornest people I know, and when I want something, there is absolutely no stopping me. But the ability to birth this way is not unique to me or anyone else...anyone can do it! I learned everything I could, made a decision, took the class and read the book, practiced the relaxation exercises regularly, and, most importantly, believed it's possible. I'm really happy with the way things went; it's our own unique birth story, and I wouldn't trade it for anything. 

So I'm now trying to regain that same sense of calm and confidence as a mom, and I'm getting there! I've started listening to HypnoParenting relaxation exercises and affirmations, and they really help me calm down when I'm freaking out. I had gotten so used to doing the HypnoBirthing exercises every day and then suddenly had nothing like it anymore, and as dramatic as it sounds, I really felt a big hole not having relaxation exercises anymore. HypnoBirthing principles can work for any situation in daily life, and the basic ideas are quite ingrained in me, but I needed something to listen to that was tailored to being a mom rather than birthin' a baby. I felt so different after listening to HypnoParenting. My whole perspective has shifted into something much more positive and less fearful. Some things in particular about it really stuck out to me. One is the part where she has you visualizing hugging and appreciating your inner little girl, which was powerful. It might sound a little cheesy at first, but it's quite healing. That was actually one part of a hypnotherapy session I had years ago that I had kind of forgotten about. It made me see myself the way my mom did, LOVEABLE and WORTHY. Seeing myself as a child, I could see myself similar to how I see my daughter...perfect and wonderful...and there's no reason I wouldn't still be that way now that I'm an adult. Besides, if something so perfect and wonderful came from me, I must be pretty darn awesome. :) Before having a baby, I was one of the most confident, self-assured gals I knew (well, most of the time, anyway), trying to show other girls how to be the same through this blog. But being a new mom has challenged every ounce of my confidence. Most of the calm and "centeredness" I'd had in pregnancy and labor went out the window when my baby cried. It just breaks your heart and takes a while to adjust to hearing it. I feel now like I'm on the right path towards gaining that confidence back, now not just confident as a woman but as a mama. I am deciding to stop doubting myself and chill out. Lately, I've seen some of my mom instincts paying off, even little things like stuff I bought before she was born that we are finding out we need now. It's reaffirming. I'm choosing to focus on the positive things I know I'm doing right and give myself the freedom to just do my best and remember that I don't want to teach her that making mistakes in life is a bad thing and does not make you "less than."

Even if you're not a mom or planning to be one soon, something you can take from this is that even when you've built up a healthy self-confidence level, sometimes things in your life might crop up that challenge it all over again, and that's okay. Just remember how you've drawn strength from within yourself in past situations, and above all, try to get yourself in a relaxed state of mind so that you can calm down and view the situation more objectively. That will help you to know what to do and have the confidence to do it and be your best you. And remember, everyone messes up from time to time. You can beat yourself up for it forever, or you can plunge on and do your best from that point forward.