There are things about motherhood, especially new motherhood, that no one tells you. Or maybe it was just me?
I was scared of my baby.
For many reasons: That something would happen to him. Of the pain I was feeling. When he cried. Needed to nurse. Every breath he took filled me with fear. How did I know that it wouldn’t be his last?
The constant breastfeeding launched me into a tailspin. I’d check the clock in anticipation. Dread washed over me. I needed to know how many minutes I had until he was ready to nurse again. I felt like I was awaiting my executioner.
He was like one of those baby birds you see on National Geographic. Back arched, bright red, mouth open and screeching. Awaiting a worm. Once food is dropped into the bird’s mouth everything is calm. But only for a moment. And the cycle begins again.
It was like that. My baby was the bird, and my breast was the worm. Or so it felt.
We struggled to get into a hold. His little mouth would be open in a wail before it would clamp down on my nipple. My raw nipple. It felt like it’d been worn down with sandpaper. Shoved into a pencil sharpener. Sprinkled with acid.
I had a heavy letdown. The milk would course through my ducts like fire in my veins. It sent shooting daggers down my arms. I’d gasp in pain.
Eventually the pain would cease. And he’d eat. And eat. 30, 40 minutes. An hour. And less than 90 minutes later he’d be hungry again. Don’t get me started on the cluster feedings, those were a separate category of misery altogether.
The sleep deprivation gripped me. He was my captor, my torturer. I’d stand over him with tears in my eyes. Please sleep, I’d beg. Please rest so that I can sleep. I was afraid I’d feel this way forever.
There was also terror that something would happen to him. He’d choke. Stop breathing. Roll over and suffocate. I couldn’t let that happen. When I finally did sleep I had nightmares. That tiny baby fell into a pool, rapidly sinking toward the bottom and no one was helping me get to him.
How do other parents do this, I’d wonder. Day in and out. How can you survive this paralyzing fear. Does it ever end? If it did, I didn’t — couldn’t — see how. Or when.
I felt like I walked into a dark tunnel. Except it was a dead end. There was no exit, I’d be in there forever. Trapped with this tiny baby. So helpless. Yet controlling everything, pulling my strings and keeping me in a constant state of panic.
And I loved this baby. One night (when I was existing yet again on two hours of sleep) I began to question if parenthood was some form of Stockholm Syndrome.
I was trying to find a way to reconcile these feelings. Or at least find a way to live with them. That I could be so consumed by love for and fear of the same person felt maddening in itelsef.
Fortunately that dead end began to show cracks. Slowly it opened up and I made it to the other side. It’s amazing now, our relationship. He’s my sidekick. A source of constant joy and happiness. We sleep, that helps. Breastfeeding stopped hurting. In fact, we’re still nursing today, 20 months later. It’s second nature.
Yes, I will always worry. His well-being is my greatest concern. But it’s no longer crippling. The worries are further back in my mind. There are days when they don’t even surface, at least not the really big ones.
I expected it to be hard. To be scared. But no one told me I’d be scared of my actual baby himself. I’m glad it was fleeting, at least.
I always thought I was the only one. But I’m learning as I go that anything I’ve thought or felt has probably also gone through the mind of another mom.
So to anyone else who may have been scared of their baby, know this: you’re not alone. Which means I’m not either.
For more mom moments, follow me on Instagram at Witty Otter.
Images by Becky Vieira