Emma Ferneyhough Colner

Seven Months

When the new year started I made a couple resolutions. I only remember one of them now, and it was to write with some sort of regularity. You see, as a new mom I feel like I lost myself and I need to figure out how to find me again.

A lot of days pass where, after the baby is napping or down for the night, and all the necessary cleaning and chores are done, I just sit in one spot and have no fucking idea what to do with myself. Do I read a book? Watch a show? Get some exercise? Call a friend? Spend quality time with my husband? I sincerely have no desire to do any of those things. All I know how to do is take care of the baby, and when that’s done I’m kind of done too. Is this postpartum depression or is it just adjusting to a new me? I know for a fact I use to have hobbies and could occupy myself for hours on various projects, but now, now I feel like I am one-dimensional. I’m sad about it, in a way, because I feel totally uninteresting and I used to think I was at least a somewhat interesting and interested person.

And so, I started writing again in a little black moleskine journal that I started writing in during 2010. Just little status updates, really, at the end of most days of the week. The idea is that I’ll eventually be reminded of who I used to be. It’s been about a month now, and I’m not sure I’m any closer to figuring that out. Maybe I’m realizing that the old me is gone, and I have to decide who I want to be next.

Today, Miles, my one and only, is 7 months old. He’s an amazing, cuddly, smiley, fun little boy. I love him more than I’ve loved anything. I’ve caught myself thinking and even saying that if he dies before me, I’ll kill myself. This level of obsession is bonkers. It reminds me of when you first fall in love with someone. You’d do anything to spend more time with them. I guess I’ve been falling in love with my son these 7 months.

So about Miles. He’s been coughing and somewhat sick for the past month, but that doesn’t stop him from being a happy baby. His first two teeth are starting to come in on the bottom. He can almost sit up by himself, and he’s on the verge of rolling over. He’s great at tummy time and giving his dad high fives. And, to top it all off, he sleeps 10 hours (7pm to 5am) a good proportion of nights now after a few weeks of sleep training. Illness has set him back a little but I’m confident his sleep is going to get gradually better over time.

I’ve gotta tell ya, after my first night of 4 hours of sleep in a row (x2 with a feeding in between), I felt like a million bucks. You quickly acclimate, but I felt awake for the first time since he was born. And speaking of awake, Miles is getting more and more awake. He’s noticing small things, and he’s really interested in everything going on around him. He’s learning. His brain is one of the most powerful learning machines on this planet. I’m in awe of his ability to change daily. I love watching him grow and am constantly astounded. But some days I miss the old Miles. The little itty bitty Miles who I’ll never see again. I know in a few weeks I’ll miss the 7 month old Miles too. I feel like I’m always saying goodbye and hello to my baby boy.

Motherhood is tough. It’s about never being enough for anybody. And feeling guilty about it. I want to do more at work, but I can’t because my boy needs me. I want to do everything and be everything for my boy, but I can’t because I have to work to earn money to buy the things this family needs. I want to be a better wife, but I can’t because of work and the boy. There’s only so much of me, and so much more of everything else.

Motherhood is about contradictions and cognitive dissonance.

The rest of this post is copied from an entry I made 1 month ago in my paper journal.

So the contradictions of motherhood. They can be boiled down to:

  • Desperately wanting time to myself, yet never wanting to leave my baby alone.
  • Desperately needing help, yet always butting in and taking over when help is given.
  • Desperately wanting Bob to be an equal parent, yet not fully trusting him to do things his way.
  • Believing that breastfeeding is a prison, but dreading never breastfeeding my baby again.
  • Constantly feeling like I’m not doing enough while simultanesouly holding the world on my shoulders.
  • Wanting advice and support from other moms, but feeling sensitive about the choices I’ve made on how to care for my baby.

If I were to explain motherhood to another engineer, maybe it would be like this -

Imagine you have your perfect set-up on your laptop. All your apps and keyboard shortcuts and development environment. (New) motherhood is like the disorientation you feel when using someone else’s computer. Except you haven’t slept in days and it’s going to die if you don’t do things right and it’s screaming at you. Ok, that’s not a very good analogy.

Motherhood is totally losing track of the self. Your self has been pulled out and now exists in another physically compromised human being. It takes a long time to feel like you have your self back. At 6 months postpartum, and finally getting some sleep, it’s just starting to come back. I found the energy and gratitude to finish writing my thank you cards from the baby shower. I cook again. I’m writing in this journal again. I may have the courage to make plans with friends without the baby. I am less afraid of having Bob parent Miles. I’m putting less pressure on myself in regards to breastfeeding by the very fact that we made it to 6 months.

I passed a milestone. Get it?


100 Days

The first 100 days of a baby’s life has sometimes been called the “100 days of darkness”. At first I was going to title this post “4th trimester” because that’s also what it is - the first 3 months of life where babies seem to hit new developmental milestones daily. But I think 100 days of darkness is a little more honest.

This baby has wrecked me, to be even more honest. I love him so much and I’m so happy he’s finally started to smile, coo and even laugh, but wow, new motherhood is like getting brained and then recovering from that. For me at least, the physical recovery wasn’t a huge deal (and that isn’t always the case for many new moms). By 6 weeks I was pretty much healed, though I had no pep in my step and barely felt up to taking walks. The emotional rollercoaster, however, has been like nothing I’ve ever experienced. 100 days postpartum is definitely better than 60 days, is better than 30 days. Yes, it’s gradually getting better. Everyone told me that by age 3 or 4 months, things would be getting better, and it’s true. It’s not like a switch by any means, but I’m starting to decipher patterns and predictability to my little baby’s behaviors. A life without pattern and predictability is madness.

For some people I suspect it’s easy to go with the flow and not have any expectations for how your day will unfold, but I was cursed with this desire to plan out my day, set goals and try to achieve them. That’s not possible with a new baby. So I was (and am still) constantly fighting with myself over feeling anxious that I’m not getting anything done, that I’m wasting my days, when in fact what other pursuit could be more worthwhile than raising a new human and literally nourishing him with my body? I feel rewarded when I’m productive, but unfortunately when my reward systems were being set up, my brain never associated childcare with productivity. In other words, I probably had a touch of postpartum depression and anxiety.

Now that I’m getting a little more sleep a little more consistently (roughly 5-6 hours a night, achieved in 3 “naps” in between nursing sessions), I’ve been able to think about what I just went through. I knew having a kid would be difficult, I just couldn’t imagine what it would actually feel like. The feeling that I’m the only person in this world that can keep this kid alive. The isolation from friends and other non-family adults. The isolation even from older family members who “can’t remember” what this stage of life was like. The absolute boredom when you haven’t left the house in days. The guilt that you did something wrong when baby won’t stop crying or fussing for hours. The anxiety over every noise, watching your baby’s chest rise and fall on the monitor. The fear that your baby is dead when you haven’t heard them make a noise for 30 minutes. The effect on your marriage. The sleeplessness all of this causes.

There’s a reason sleep deprivation is a torture tactic.

When I first gave birth I was really confused about how women could ever be convinced to have a second child. Pregnancy was not fun. Labor was the worst. The physical and emotional recovery takes months. The purple-faced crying makes you feel like you’re losing your mind. Last night I googled “why women forget the pain of raising an infant” or something, to try and answer that question. It led me to this article in The Atlantic. I suppose what happens is that over time you remember the positive memories more than the negative, and you construct a happy montage of raising your baby, because when they’re older it really is more enjoyable, and those enjoyable feelings color your recollection. And really, 100 days isn’t that long in the grand scheme of things compared to how rewarding having a family can be.

Of course I’m a little nervous about publishing this to the internet. I’m being too honest. I wish I could have read something like this before I was pregnant. Or that someone could have really told me what it was like. It wouldn’t have stopped me from wanting a child but I might have been a little more informed. I was about to type “prepared” but I’m not sure anything can prepare you. Unless you’re a live-in nanny and wet nurse. Unless you’ve already been a mom.

I’m in the middle of reading Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott and I’ve been comforted by the disturbing thoughts she had back when her baby was a newborn.

(Pause here as my breast starts spontaneously dripping milk all over).

(10 minutes later - I had to pump about an ounce of milk out since it’s been over 2 hours since I last fed my baby. You see, it took me over an hour to get him to take a nap, and I type this as he is sleeping. Actually, I couldn’t get him to nap after that hour, my husband had to relieve me and I left the house to go on a short run to blow off some anxiety/guilt caused by baby crying. Within 2 minutes of me leaving baby was asleep. When I got back I showered, and I have been sitting on my bed naked this whole time (NOT meant to be sexy) because all my clothes are in the closet in the baby’s room and I dare not enter for fear of waking him. Our house is from 1940 so they didn’t think that a bedroom needed more than one tiny closet and my husband got the one in our room).

Anyway, here are a few nuggets from the book. As terrible as they sound, I’ve had very similar thoughts, especialy in the very early days.

“I wonder if it is normal for a mother to adore her baby so desperately and at the same time to think about choking him or throwing him down the stairs.”

“When he woke me at 4:00 this morning to nurse, I felt like I was dying. I felt like getting up to pull down the shades and wave good-bye to all my people, but I was too tired.”

“We had another bad night. We finally slept for two hours at 7:00 AM. What a joke. I feel like thin glass, like I might crack. I was very rough changing him at 4:00 when he wouldn’t stop crying. I totally understand child abuse now. I really do. He was really sobbing and the gas pain was obviously unbearable, and I felt helpless and in a rage and so tired and fucked up that I felt I should be in a home.”

At this very moment, I’m watching my lovely baby sleeping on the video monitor, scarfing down a snack, typing this post and really missing him. I wish he’d wake up soon so I can feed him!

Yes, literally conflicting thoughts of “I wish he would nap”, and “I wish he would wake up because I miss him” go through my head every day. It’s fucking insanity.

Here’s a cute picture of my baby, because he’s all worth it (everyone tells you that too).


Older Posts

New Motherhood 26 Aug 2016
Coming To Terms 02 Jul 2016
Baby Room Makeover 20 Jun 2016
Joshua Tree 30 May 2016
Goodbye Second Trimester 03 May 2016
On Pregnancy 24 Apr 2016
How To Install Windows 22 Nov 2015
So Long San Francisco 28 Sep 2015
Portland 20 Jun 2015
Sunol Regional Wilderness 31 May 2015
Javascript The Good Parts Pt3 10 May 2015
Javascript The Good Parts Pt2 27 Apr 2015
Javascript The Good Parts Pt1 26 Apr 2015
Alamere Falls 18 Apr 2015
Big Basin 12 Apr 2015
Tilden Nature Area 04 Apr 2015
Fort Funston And Baker Beach 30 Mar 2015
Thoughts On Gender And Tech 11 Mar 2015
Hello World 27 Feb 2015