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    Our Journey With Special Needs

    I feel as though my experience as a mother has been somewhat unique (at least I don’t meet many people in my circumstance). I had a fairly typical pregnancy. I had one pregnancy loss, but my doctor said that what I went through was fairly common, and I should have no reason not to try again. Even with the encouragement I was super nervous.
    I was finally feeling like I was in the homestretch of my pregnancy, and that everything was going smoothly, but around 36 weeks I started to feel a strange pulsating sensation in my lower back. It was not super painful, but it was uncomfortable, and I had a very bad feeling about it, so we decided to get it checked out at the hospital. As we were pulling in the driveway I felt a flush of fluid run down my leg. I thought that my water had broken, and started to get a little excited actually. I assumed I was just going into labor, and was nervous, but so excited to finally meet my little girl. I looked down, and the car was covered in blood. I had passed a blood clot to the placenta that caused a full placental abruption.
    We both came very close to losing our lives that night. I was stabilized after two blood, platelet, and plasma transfusions. My daughter was born without a heartbeat or breathing for nearly 20 minutes. After getting her somewhat stabilized she was put on life support, and a cooling blanket that put her in a hypothermic state for 72 hours to allow her brain a chance to rest. Upon coming off her cooling blanket she went into seizures, and there was a big question to if we would ever be bringing her home. She struggled to be weaned off of life support, and we did not even hear her first cry till she was nearly a month old. It was consistently the scariest time of my life. Coming home to an empty nursery every night was devastating.
         
    She eventually was transferred to Children’s NICU for her first surgery for a placement of a gastric feeding tube. She has coordination issues, so feeding in the typical sense is very difficult. She was then given the diagnosis of quad cerebral palsy in addition to original diagnosis of HIE (basically means brain damage caused by oxygen deprivation). I have always been a perfectionist, so having a special needs child is not something I felt like I was capable of handling. But, through this experience I have found people just adapt. Everyone has there own reality, and this is ours. Instead of bouncers and rattles, we have medical equipment and feeding pumps.
       
    As we are heading into the one year mark, her birthday is two days after Christmas, it is bittersweet. I’m so impressed by how far she has come, but it’s hard not being affected by other children reaching so many milestones she has yet to meet. Overall, I’m well aware of how lucky we are, and how much worse things could be, but I’d be lying if I said I’ve completely come to terms with things. I see her struggle so hard to do the most basic of things people take for granted. But, she continues to show progress with all of her therapies. It may be at a pace I’m not accustomed to, but this whole experience has also been a hard lesson in patience. They are not playing when they say inchstones and not milestones.
         
    She now smiles and interacts, has her favorite shows and toys, and her own unique personality. None of this seems like a big deal, but she was almost five months old before she even really made eye contact. I have become so codependent with her throughout all this. I’m so scared to leave her with anyone. I feel like we have been through so much together, that I am really the only one that truly understands her. I know this all sounds terribly depressing, but sometimes I feel like I have to express how far we have come, so people can understand how truly amazing she is. I’m not sure if parents of typical babies love this hard, I’m sure they do, but it’s hard for me to imagine anyone loving anything more than I love this little person.
    -Sarah Hayse, @sarahhaysek

    First Month of Motherhood: My Experience

    Today is a special day. As I sit holding my newborn in my arms I reflect on this motherhood journey and the ups and downs of my first month postpartum. I am a first time momma and I can’t believe it’s been one month today that I brought a beautiful baby girl into this world.

    Each morning I stare at her soft perfect skin and think to myself that she’s a blank canvas full of potential and endless possibilities- so pure and so new. The world is her oyster. I daydream about all the beauty we will show her and all the adventures we will go on as she grows yet on the other hand I want to stop time and keep her in my arms protecting her from any pain and discomfort. The feelings of happiness, fear and joy were so intense that I cried daily. I was overwhelmed by my emotions the first two weeks after giving birth.

    The postpartum journey is bittersweet as I am so in awe of this little human my husband and I have created yet my body and hormones were wreaking havoc on me as well . This can make it hard to the sweet fleeting moments with your newborn and the emotional roller coaster that mothers talk about is real. My body ached, I was sleep deprived, I was bleeding and had a new found appreciation for mesh undies. I was adjusting to my new body that’s now showcasing a squishy belly. I was introduced to horrid hemorrhoids and learning to breast feed and get a good latch was not an easy task in the beginning. It also didn’t help that I was sensitive to anything anyone told me. The first two weeks postpartum I also felt an odd emptiness, a sadness that I could no longer protect my baby in my belly and feel her daily kicks and the anticipation of her birth which seems silly but it’s how I felt at that moment in time. 

    The Postpartum period and the baby blues brings the unexpected. I read so many books and blogs before giving birth but nothing prepares you for those first few weeks except love, support and encouraging words  from family and friends. I realized my baby and I had to learn about each other. I needed to learn her crying cues and I had adjust to my new role as a momma while my body healed and hormones leveled out. I was fortunate enough to have my mom stay with me the first two weeks and having that support was essential. I recommend that all new mothers put together a support system for the first couple weeks as you heal and find your new way of life as a momma.

    The saying it takes a village brings own a whole new meaning to me now. My dear mother gave me good advice during her stay when I was feeling overwhelmed and said, "honey your job right now is to love and nurture your baby and yourself, nothing else." Once I processed those words of wisdom a weight lifted off my shoulders and I realized that was all that mattered and the cleaning, cooking, unfinished projects and emails could wait. 

    Today one month postpartum I feel strong and accomplished as a new momma, not every day is perfect I still struggle but love and nurturing my baby is a true gift and each day I learn new things about my baby girl and myself. Cheers to all the new mothers out there. Stay strong and confident in your instincts and may you find strength in yourself and all those around you during this postpartum transition and the sweet journey of motherhood.

     

    -Christine Rapley, @c.rara22

    Fourth Trimester

    Honestly, motherhood is hard as hell. It’s ram your head through a wall hard. It’s cry your eyes out at two in the morning hard. It’s wanting to scream at the top of your lungs 23 hours of the day (the other one hour you’ll be asleep…maybe) hard. It is not what I expected AT ALL

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    Most moms only tell you the good and magical things about being a mom. They don’t tell you about how postpartum bleeding lasts weeks after birth and your bathroom will look like a scene from Carrie, how it’s going to feel like your butt hole is going to rip into a million pieces the first time you poop (no really, that was scary shit. no pun intended). Or how you’ll have to squirt a bottle of water on yourself after you pee instead of wiping. Oh and hemorrhoids. Yup.
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    They don’t tell you that your body doesn’t just go back to what it was after you give birth (if you left the hospital in the jeans you wore pre pregnancy, I loathe you. jkjk…or am I?). They don’t tell you that peeing your pants every time you laugh, sneeze or move is normal now. They don’t tell you that you sometimes won’t even want to get out of bed because you’re scared of what the day might have in store for you. They don’t tell you that you won’t know what to do with your baby when you get home, how to calm them down, how to read what they want. They don’t tell you that you’ll probably have zero sex drive or any desire to even kiss your partner for weeks, you might even feel like you HATE them. They don’t tell you how much you’ll be googling “when does a newborn sleep through the night” and “why won’t my newborn stop crying”, no joke I must have googled this about 27 times and read the same articles over and over. Talking about poop color is now the norm and you might as well go save a poop color chart into your phone now.

    No mother wants to admit that when they first meet their baby, they don’t feel all mushy and warm inside like you’re supposed to. I had pictured us meeting to be magical but after pushing a watermelon sized human being out of your vagina it’s hard to be all sunshine and rainbows at first. It’s overwhelming for sure. And yeah, sometimes I even resented her a little for using me as a human pacifier! I remember one night just sitting up in bed crying hysterical while I was nursing her asking myself “WHY am I doing this???”, “WHY did I want this???” but of course those feelings start to fade and you realize it’s all worth it. You’ll question yourself, you’ll doubt yourself, you’ll even ask yourself if your baby is broken because they cry so much. But it’s beautiful in all its craziness.
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    Postpartum anxiety aka baby blues is SO real. Taking care of a tiny helpless human is actually pretty damn scary. You’ll worry about everything and anything. You’re afraid to fall asleep, you’re afraid to put them down to go to the bathroom or take a shower, you’ll constantly check if their chest is moving up and down while they’re sleeping. You’ll most likely feel like you have a lump in your throat 24/7. THIS IS NORMAL. Not only did your body go through a massive life change, so did your mind! Hormones are flying around like crazy, you’ll be crying one second and happy the next. It’s basically like having your period, but a thousand times worse. If you’re having trouble coping and your anxiety leads to depression, get help from your doctor, partner and loved ones. Don’t be afraid to ask for help – this does NOT make you a bad mom.

    You will constantly ask yourself, “why does she cry when I put her down?”, “why does she only sleep on my chest?”. For the first three months of your baby’s life, it can help to think of her like a fetus outside of the womb. I wish I had known this while I was pregnant so I could really understand WHY Rori was always crying and upset, it’s so hard to forget that every single thing for them is new. YOU are their entire world. They’ve been in your belly for the past nine months, the safe sounds of your heartbeat and the tightness and warmth of the womb is all they ever knew.UntitledNow just imagine yourself going back to womb from world…I wouldn’t be happy either! This is why I’m constantly promoting baby wearing and swaddling. It mimics the womb so baby is the most comfortable they can be and you can regain some sanity! White noise is a lifesaver even now and Rori is four months old. I’m not going to say it gets easier after the fourth trimester, but it definitely gets better. You’ll find yourself again, you’ll love your partner again, your body will go back to normal. This chapter seems endless and all babies are difficult, but one day your crazy ass will want another one! That’s motherhood. giphy (1).gif

    It takes a village.

    **I don’t want to scare anyone into having a baby, because it is a beautiful journey. I wrote this blog to educate new moms or soon to be moms on things that no one tells you about postpartum/fourth trimester!

     

    -Shannen Fusco, @raising.rori

    Check out Shannen's blog, www.lifeofafusco.com 

    A Mirror of My Selfishness

    Before having kids, I wasn’t what you’d typically call a “party girl”, in the sense that you wouldn’t always find me out on a Friday or Saturday night. I’m quite the opposite really, a homebody by choice and definitely introverted. So, when it came to having kids I assumed I’d be pretty damn good at selflessly caring for their needs before my own. I wasn’t afraid of not being able to hangout with the girls or get dressed up for clubbing. To my surprise I am actually really, really, really, really selfish. That sounds really bad, but I honestly love my kids more than anything. They are my whole world and they truly make me the happiest…they are my greatest accomplishment!

    The harsh reality is that as their primary caregiver I’m responsible for their every tiny need, mind you, those needs are sometimes quite smelly and sometimes insanely cute! I take the responsibility of motherhood extremely seriously because these tiny humans are the future, I want them to experience a joyful childhood and remember a caring Mother. But yeah, sometimes I really do wish I could take a 30-minute shower like I use to, or eat my dinner without sharing, or even just write blog posts like this without my adorable toddler screaming at me because he wants my attention.

    Here’s to taking an hour to get ready, here’s to doing nothing on a Sunday, here’s to sleeping in, here’s to clean clothes without stains, here’s to working out alone, here’s to blasting my sometimes-inappropriate music in the car, here’s to the selfish person that I didn’t even know I was. Cheers! In light of all this, I still don’t feel like I’ve “lost” anything, maybe a bit of my independence and definitely some of my sanity, but I’ve just gained WAY more. I’ve gained two amazing babies who I am insanely proud of and obsessed with and I’ve gained a new sense of what it is to truly love selflessly.

    Being a Mother is one of the toughest jobs on the planet, it can be mentally and physically exhausting. But we are freaking superheroes! We’ve mastered the skill of multitasking, we carry babies in our bodies for 9 months, in our arms for years and in our hearts forever, and we still manage to look bomb while do it! So, if your missing your pre-baby life, just know your not alone and you don’t need to beat yourself up about it. Feel the feeling and look around you, you are blessed Mama.

    xx

    -Michelle Carrozza, @michellemybelle.c

    How Babies Can Affect Your Marriage [Part 1]

    Photography by Lindsey Tuscany

    I am not a marriage expert. I am not a baby expert. However, I am a wife and first time mom. 

    I have been a wife for almost three years, and together we have an 11 month old daughter. Putting those two things together has been the greatest blessing of my life. However, it has not been easy.

    Before having a baby, my husband and I had an amazing relationship. I don't want to say perfect, because I don't think any marriage or relationship is perfect. However, we were pretty damn close to perfection. And we still are! But...things are different now.

    We used to do whatever we wanted, when we wanted. If we wanted to go out and try a new restaurant, we did. If we wanted to go see a late-night movie, we did. Now, we have a bedtime to think about. We have a tiny human's well being to think about.

    Date Nights

    In the past 11 months, we have only had three date nights. My family lives 300 miles south of us, and his family lives 600 miles south of us. So, you can see where the issue lies. I do have a cousin who lives within 10 miles of us which has been amazing. But I try not to constantly bother him with babysitting gigs, even though I'm sure he doesn't mind. Yesterday we asked him to babysit, and we went out to dinner [without the baby]. It felt nice to connect with each other just like we did before we became parents. If you are wondering if we physically connected...We were in bed by 10pm. And by bed I mean asleep. Which leads me to my next point...

    Sleep Deprivation

    On top of not having the ability to go out whenever we want, sleep deprivation has been a HUGE factor in how having a baby has affected our marriage. Our daughter is breastfed, so for about 7-8 months, I was the main parent who had to get up 2-3 times in the middle of the night to feed her. My husband would help out when he had days off, but he is a police officer, so he needs to be well rested during his 12-hour shifts. Even though I insisted on getting up to feed our baby most of the time, I couldn't help but resent him. Just a little. [You would too if you were dead tired, with a baby attached to your boob, looking over and seeing your husband sleeping peacefully]. Ever heard the expression, "I don't want to sleep like a baby, I want to sleep like my husband?" No truer words have been spoken. 

    T sleeps through the night now [for the most part], but we are no less tired. This little ball of energy keeps us on our toes. Quite frankly, I am still recovering from the many months of sleep loss. No amount of coffee can make me feel wide awake.

    Part 2 coming soon. Thanks for reading!

    -Kristin, owner + creator of Free the Mother