Liesl changed my life. And I thought I had a pretty good life before she came around. It’s one of those things that scared me the most about motherhood. The fact my husband Jake and I loved each other so much. We had a great life before her. I was afraid that I was going to mess that up. In no way, shape, or form did that happen. Liesl enriched everything about our lives. She made Jake and I a stronger couple, me a better person. She helped solidify priorities that I am happier with now than the priorities I had before. She helped me value myself more than I ever did before. Which is weird, because you think of being a mother as giving yourself to someone. However, I found other aspects of myself that she basically gave me.
I definitely wanted to have kids, but Jake probably wanted to be a father more than I wanted to be a mother. They say you really never know what you have lost until it has been taken away. Conception didn’t come as easily for us as it does for most people. The thought of not being able to experience pregnancy and not being able to have my own biological children was scary. I was really afraid I was never going to be experience pregnancy and have children that were both my husbands and mine. The whole process really made me want to be a mom more than anything I had felt before.
We did require intervention. That was a defining moment in our marriage. We had to be a lot stronger than we had ever been before. At that point I think this was something we both really wanted. How we had to deal with the idea of this plan we had laid out, changing, brought up a lot of stuff emotionally in the both of us. Luckily, it wasn't as hard for us as it is for some couples. We didn’t have to do too much to get pregnant. In retrospect, it all worked out for the best and I’m grateful. I was probably more freaked out than I should have been. It’s really hard when you’re the woman who asks herself, is this going to happen? You begin to look into adoption and all this other stuff. Deep down, all you want to experience is what it is like to be pregnant, what it’s like to have a child. It was a stressful time. But here she is.
My pregnancy was good. I really enjoyed being pregnant. I know a lot of women don’t, but I really liked it. I liked having ultrasounds. I enjoyed watching her develop. Loved baby kicks, like really loved them. It's one thing I miss the most.
I started dilating and effacing at 33 weeks, so I had to go on bed rest for three weeks to get to the 36-week mark. That was super important for me, not to have her in the NICU. So I basically just laid on the couch for three weeks. We made it to 36 weeks. I was induced at 39 because I just kept dilating but nothing else was happening.
While I was pregnant I defended my Ph.D., published my paper, and got my degree. Although, it was a very hectic time, I really look back fondly at that period in my life. I really enjoyed her being with me all the time. I think one of the hardest parts of delivering a baby is that they’re not with you all the time. She spent the first part of her life with me, a part of me. Then all of a sudden, she wasn’t there anymore.
Postpartum depression is a super real thing. I noticed it as soon as we came home from the hospital. I was more detached from the situation, more than I wanted to be. I had already had a mental health practitioner set up and that was dealt with rather quickly. One of the issues I had was breastfeeding.I had a really hard time and I just didn't think I was providing for her the way I thought I was going to be able to. I couldn't give her the things she needed right then and there. As a result, I felt completely useless. If I had left the situation, left her, it wouldn't matter because she was getting her food out of a little box. And that was all that she needed at that point and time. The feelings of uselessness. It's really hard; especially since breastfeeding was something I had planned to do.
Jake was super good, he really didn't care one way or the other. I believe the breastfeeding issues really triggered the whole depression situation. Along the way, I discovered this blog, Fearless Formula Feeder ; I’d suggest it to anyone. It helps a lot. At the time I was having Liesl and to this day, the hospitals make it seem like you’re the only person in the world who’s choosing not to breastfeed or can't breastfeed. That resource and blog helped me realize that there are a lot of different reasons why people can't or choose not to breastfeed. I now recommend the blog to everyone I know who’s pregnant.
This is also where one of my first regrets comes from, as a mother. I wanted to be more engaged in the situation, than I felt I was at the time. For example, I would say I didn’t hold her as much as I should have. I guess most parents say those kinds of things. They grow up so fast, and you should have just held them the entire time.
My biggest struggle as a mother is always time. Especially in today’s day and age, we are pulled in a thousand different directions. In my life right now, I feel like I’m not giving enough to anything. I’m not giving enough to my husband. I’m not giving enough to my job. I’m not giving enough to my daughter. There’s always anxiety if I leave work too late at night, anxiety if the traffic is too heavy getting back home. Because I’m trying to get home at a certain time and I tell myself, “Oh I’m only two minutes late, that's okay”. Or if I have to work really long hours for a couple of days, “She won’t remember these days because she's so young”. These are my coping mechanisms. Because really and truly, I want to be here all the time. Then again, I’m a working mom; It’s hard to manage everything. Just coming to terms with the fact that cultivating all these different things in my life, as long as I’m doing my best, most of the time, then that's going to be enough. So for me, the number one struggle is time.
I feel bad for Jake. He handles a lot of the things I think the mom would be doing. He’s here all day with her, which I can imagine is a struggle because on the weekends it’s a struggle for me. I don’t know how he does it. It’s finding balance, and finding time for yourself. I started playing tennis again, and everytime I’m late getting home or leave the house because of that I feel guilty because it’s something I’m just doing for myself. Which automatically induces guilt. I’m choosing to not give someone else that time, because I want to take it for myself. On the other hand I think it’s good for my daughter to see me taking time for myself. It instills that value in her too.
I think I’ve handled a lot of things in a more calm and patient way than I ever thought I was going to be able to. I’m really proud of that. Even though I also freaked out about every single milestone, I think I held it together a little bit more than I thought. I also believe I’m a more nurturing person than I thought I was going to be. I didn’t think I was going to be able to do those kinds of things.
When children are crying, I get really anxious and angry about it. I’m proud of my ability keep my calm in those situations. Motherhood has definitely taught me to remain calm. I used to be a very anxious, worrying type of person. Liesl has taught me that it’s not worth it. If you’re too busy worrying, you’re not going to be in the moment.
I really admire my own mother. She had twins, she didn’t know that was happening and my parents weren’t prepared for two babies. I have no idea how they managed this, because I think one is hard on it’s own. The thought of having two, the same age, I can’t imagine having two of Liesl. I wish I could talk to my mom about it. So I would say she’s the person I look up to the most. I wish we could have conversations about it, and I wish I could tell her that.
It’s been ten years since my mom has passed. Every year that day comes, it’s a hard day. Bad luck; if there were anything that was going to be awful to happen in my life, it would happen on that day. Time has dulled that anxiety. The way my brain has tried to handle it, my mom died of cancer, but I really believe she died of a broken heart. Of all days to go, she died on the anniversary of my dad’s death. My dad passed when I was 16 years old. I have had people that ask me, do you think Liesl looks like your parents? At the time, I kind of hoped that she wouldn't resemble them because I thought it would make me sad. But now I see so much of my dad’s face in Liesl and it makes me so happy. Liesl has blue eyes just like him. I hope they stay that way, because really love telling people that.
I have aunts on both sides of my family, which is wonderful. But there's nothing quite like being able to talk to your own parents about: was I this way, is this normal? I believe when you're looking for parenting advice, no one beats your own mom’s advice. Just about anything you’d ask your mom about raising kids, I wish I could.
I feel like Liesl got the worst qualities of both of us. Liesl is very headstrong, she's very stubborn, and she doesn't like asking for help, she wants to do the things that she does the way that she wants to do them. Which I know are qualities of a toddler, a three year old, but she was like that from birth. These are the same qualities that make people persistent. They are qualities that make people determined. Qualities that help people persevere through difficult situations. I hope those are the things she will use those qualities for. Life requires all of those things.
Even though I say she’s a very challenging person, I mean that in the best way possible. If you were to ask me what these early years were like, I would tell you it’s challenging. But it’s only because I had to become a better person, for her.