MY NAME IS JESSICA
I am a labor and delivery RN and a certified lactation consultant. As an urban California transplant raising two young kiddos in the middle of rural Pennsylvania (think Amish… literally), my personal blend of liberal chillness and backcountry honkey tonk often yields interesting results. The transition to motherhood has not been an easy one for me. As I have clumsily traversed all the stumbling blocks of pregnancy, labor, breastfeeding, baby sleep, infant reflux, toddlerhood, finding an identity in parenthood, and just basic survival, I have made it a bit of a personal crusade to help other new mothers find themselves in the same uncharted territory.
Our Porch View
As a nurse, part of my job is educating new moms. What I quickly learned as I brought my own bundle of joy home was that the bullet points we send mothers home from the hospital with is vastly insufficient. Even my background in maternity and newborn care did not adequately prepare me for life with a newborn. How could we expect the average mom to go home and not feel totally overwhelmed and alone?
Both my infants were difficult babies. They were colicky poor sleepers and seemed to spend the majority of their waking hours crying. My first cried a great deal, especially during the evening witching hours. Breastfeeding became a real struggle as I dealt with overactive letdown and oversupply. I had no idea that too much milk could cause so many problems! I was basically drowning my son in a torrent of breastmilk ultimately leaving both of us drenched and crying by the end of each feed. With the help of a lactation consultant and dropping dairy from my diet, he mostly outgrew his cantankerousness by 6 months.
Large and In Charge
Then came my daughter. Holy Cow. Colicky did not even begin to describe her. I quickly realized her issues were far more severe and could not simply be attributed to oversupply and run of the mill infant fussiness. She screamed bloody murder ALL. THE. TIME. When she wasn’t screaming, she was vomiting. She was ultimately diagnosed with infant reflux that led us down a year-long path of medication, frenectomies, exclusion diets, allergy testing, and lots of tears (for baby girl and mommy). The most frustrating part of my journey was how very alone I felt. Many of my health care providers failed me. The first person to give me any real guidance was the same lactation consultant who guided me through my oversupply issues. She gave my daughter’s issues a name and then provided a play by play plan of action to help her.
We are now free of reflux but its grip on my entire family has left a mark. I have felt called to take everything I have learned to help other mothers in similar situations. As an RN, I only get a very limited time to educate and help parents. I wanted to do more. I decided to get certified as a lactation consultant and open my own private practice.
As the dream of my own business became a reality, I began to feel a piece was missing. I wanted to reach parents on a greater scale; to be able to teach, share, and grow together. During the height of my daughters’ reflux battle, I wrote a piece for Scary Mommy that did pretty well. When that article got picked up and shared, it felt like I found a piece of myself that I never knew was missing. I love to write, take pictures and talk about being a mommy. How amazing to use all my passions in one neat little package.
While birth is just the beginning, it can at times also feel like an end; the end of who we were, the end of freedom, the end of dreams. Friends, I’m here to tell you that it is not the case. It may be the end of life as you knew it but it is not the end of you. Some days will be hard. There will be times when motherhood feels crushingly lonely. I felt those feelings. I have cried ugly tears alone in my baby’s nursery. I felt the guilt of wishing away parts of my children’s infancy so that I could regain some piece of my former self. I let these feelings consume me.
Then, gradually at first, the stranglehold of infancy started to loosen. I began to breath again. It started with little uninterrupted moments; like pooping in private or having an uninterrupted shower. I began to get a full nights sleep REGULARLY. I started to feel human again. It was then that I realized I was building the walls of my own confinement. When I began to reach out to other mothers and shyly confess some of my deepest darkest feelings I was not met with disapproving stares. I was met with confirmation. They mirrored my sentiments and we felt community from our shared experience.
I began to realize that it doesn’t “take a village to raise a child” simply because of the workload, but because mother’s need community. We need to know we are not alone. Through commonality mothers realize that their perceived failures are just part of the landscape of raising children. When I was able to step back, it changed my whole worldview. I was able to see the beauty of my days with my kids, those little magical hidden moments nestled away amongst the frenzy of my day. Chubby baby smiles, little fingers twirling in my hair, and lispy baby babble are breadcrumbs leading me through my days. If I don’t open my eyes and SEE, I am going to miss all of this.