What does it feel like to be Maddy’s mama?

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I’ve had a very down few days. After cutting wheat out of Maddy’s diet, she has only eaten fruit and granola bars (maybe a total of 300-400 calories of food each day). She has cried and signed for food all day long, but spit out everything we tried to give her. Two nights in a row I’ve put her to bed crying while she signs for food. It just breaks my heart knowing that she’s sad and hungry, but not being able to give her the feeling of fullness. My saving grace is that I’m still nursing her, and so I’ve gone from 2-3 nursing sessions a day to 5-6 to help compensate, and her goat milk intake has increased substantially.

This new hurdle has brought back some of my early feelings, but it is also bringing up some new ones. Last night I sobbed as I read an article Eric found online – you can read it here. For the last few days I’ve felt like I’ve been trapped in a bad dream – a dream where nothing I do can help to make Maddy a healthy and happy baby for longer than a month or so. I feel like I’m perceived as “the crazy mom” who is dreaming up new issues for Maddy to have, out of anxiety or first time mothering. I feel as though my search for an answer continually brings up new issues or potential diagnoses, and people just don’t believe that Maddy can have that much going on (and in fact, I feel often that people think she’s completely typical, since her issues cannot be seen on the outside). If I hear, “my kid does that too” one more time, I’ll scream. Why is it that other parents feel the need to impress upon me that Maddy is no different or no more difficult than theirs?

But, the thing is, I know I am not dreaming these up…. and her issues are all interrelated. I know Maddy, better than anyone else knows Maddy (okay, Eric runs a very close second… and only because he didn’t get all that special at-home time I did during my maternity leave). So why does it bother me so much what other people think?

My low point of the weekend was celebrating the first birthday of our good friend’s little guy. I was so happy to be there and share that special moment in his life, but it was so hard, so very hard, to watch him be happy. He played, ate, giggled, and was happily held by people other than his two parents. In particular, it was a stark contrast to Miss Maddykins first birthday celebration.

Maddy spent the majority of her buddy’s party in a grumpy, bear-like state. She sat and whined by herself. Did not engage at all with the other kids, except for a few short bursts. She scowled all day long. The only way we could keep her happy, was by holding her in the exact way she wanted to be held. She didn’t eat… except for 6 raspberries and a few bites of a granola bar.

While we were at the party, people commented that Maddy seemed happy and seemed fine. It’s so interesting to me that people saw her that way. Maybe it’s because I know what Maddy looks like happy, or because I know exactly how to hold her to make her appear happy, but she was not happy. Not by any stretch of the imagination. When Maddy is happy, she leaves our side, she doesn’t need constant comfort from us. She explores and plays, and is quite interested in motoring around. She’s vocal, very vocal. She smiles and giggles. She doesn’t whine and cry and immediately want to be held when she sees me.

On the one hand, I’m so happy to see the other babies in our life that we love thrive. We love to watch them smile, explore, and play. But, it always draws up a mixed bag of emotions in me. It makes me question what more I could do to help Maddy feel that way. It makes me wonder if I have caused some of this (even though the network of professionals that surround us are constantly reminding us that this is who Maddy is, not who we’ve made her). In fact, the amazing professionals we see on a regular basis frequently compliment Eric and I on our creative solutions, on our flexibility and patience, and our willingness to put Maddy first. Why is it so hard in tough moments to remember those things?

I’m constantly reminding myself that everyone has their own battles to fight, and this just happens to be ours. But, I can’t help but wonder why we have to experience this? What in the world is this supposed to teach us? I thought we had learned a lot of tough lessons this year, so why do we need to learn more? The continued struggles have me really questioning if I will be able to do this again. I don’t know if I’m going to be able to survive another baby if it is going to look and feel like this.

So what does it feel like to be Maddy’s mommy? Painful, rewarding, scary, hopeful, draining, tiring, exhausting, amazing, confusing, frustrating, angry, unfair, incredible, challenging, and sometimes even fun.

Now, I need to leave on a positive note, so I’ll share one of the blessings this experience has given us: the very apparent, strong, and supportive network we have surrounding us. I have so many people to talk to, that I never feel like I’m stewing over these feelings. So many people not only listen to me, but hear what I’m saying.

I had a really nice conversation last night with an old roommate of mine. Her (and her hubby’s) struggles happen to be difficulty conceiving. We’ve talked about our issues before – surprisingly we’re able to unload on one another despite the fact that I’m telling her how hard it is being Maddy’s mommy and she’s telling me how badly she wants to be a mommy (and I know that one day she is going to be one truly blessed and amazing mommy, no matter what shape it takes). I’m so thankful that she’s able to understand and be so supportive when what I’m saying is probably the last thing she wants to hear. I’m glad she’s able to understand that though our struggles are different, they’re both painful. Thank you – you know who you are!

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5 responses »

  1. Sorry to hear the last few days are tough! One of my favorite moments is when Maddy came downtstairs first thing in the morning and reached out to be to be held. She’s definitely a different girl when she’s feeling well and her needs are met.

    I had similar experiences when I was sick through university with un diagnosed celiac. You start to feel like it’s all in your head and something’s wrong with you. I met someone on my trip in Peru who had the same experience before being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.

    I feel as if it’s more damaging to minimize and deny someone has struggles (regardless of the kind) than it is to choose not to engage in those conversations to begin with. It may be helpful to try and limit conversations about Maddy’s struggles with people who aren’t empathetic and supportive and lean on those that are.

    And, I think a weekend north is called for. 😉

    • Yes, I’ve often had the thought that I need to pick more wisely who I open up to on the topic. It’s hard to do when people make certain comments or ask specific questions though.

  2. Btw, it must be really hard knowing she’s hungry and wanting more food and not being able to give her enough or have her needs met. 😦

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