How This First-Time Mommy's Sanity Was Saved With A Camera

My first baby was one that the books (and my pediatrician) referred to as ‘spirited’.  What that really means is from the moment they are born, IF they are awake, they ARE screaming.  ‘Spirited’ is not to be confused with colic.  Spirited hangs on much longer.  She also never slept for more than 2 hours at a time (often 45 minutes) for months and months.  Even as an older baby, she didn’t sleep well and was crying most of the time.  It wasn’t a ‘something hurts’ cry, it was an ‘I’m pissed’ cry.

For that reason, I was forever trying to get her to sleep.  She hated the carseat, and would scream bloody murder the entire time she was in it.  She hated the swing, the crib, the co-sleeper and the bouncy seat most of the time at first.  I mostly held her when she slept and then shared the bed with her for the first year.  I was not one of those mothers who loved being a mother and whose heart grew three sizes the moment I looked into her eyes.  I went months without more than a 3 hour stretch of sleep and even that was rare.  One day I told my husband ‘I don’t exist anymore’.  Cue the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie (preferably with a brunette Reese Witherspoon playing me).

I would see other mothers with their babies out and about and they looked happy and refreshed.  I would stroller her around the town center where we lived, and was sometimes lucky enough that she slept long enough for me to get a milkshake from Potbelly to drown my sorrows.  If she woke up she would scream.  If someone looked at her, she would scream, if she had a bath she would scream and if was hysterical (which happened a lot), she would scream -- assuming she wasn't already screaming.

I asked my pediatrician and he was always reassuring and made me feel normal, but I also didn’t think he realized that her weekly batshit crazy freak outs in his office were status quo for me at home.  I didn’t want to hysterically explain it to him for fear he would put me on some sort of postpartum watch list.  I was rational enough to know that she was an innocent little baby and I was just a struggling, overwhelmed, and sleep deprived mom reacting to an intense situation that would eventually pass.

A few weeks into scream-ageddon I thought I would take a few photos in the fleeting moments she wasn’t screaming – a.k.a. while she was asleep.  I figured I could post them on Facebook and send them to relatives and everyone would think she was adorable.  They didn’t have to know the ugly truth:  that I didn’t enjoy her, she didn’t enjoy me and I was about to see if the hospital had some sort of return policy.

There was no question that I loved her and I was fiercely protective.  Maybe this was because I knew she couldn't help that she was a more difficult baby and I wanted other people to be able to see past that, even if it was proving to be tough for me.

So I took some photos.  56 during month 1 to be exact.

Wordlessly, the photos said:

"Look how precious my child is!"

"She is a miracle!"

"Words can’t express how happy we are!"

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Oh and of course my favorite… “Look at my well-lit arm, I’m not fat anymore!”

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In reality, I felt like saying:  

"All she does is scream"

"I am miserable and so is she"

"She is the most unhappy child ever"

"I have yet to meet another mother who feels this way"

and

"I understand why sleep deprivation is used to torture certain types of prisoners"

Of course after posting and emailing the photos, I got responses saying how beautiful she was and I felt a little better.

...And thus my photo addiction was born.  Month 2 = 94 photos, Month 3 = 196 photos and so on.  I took hundreds of photos every month.  It would have been more, but I was very careful to delete those that were redundant or just poor quality as well as those where she looked drunk or angry (both common photo looks for her).  I would share the photos and get compliments on how pretty, sweet and adorable she was and it would convince me, if just for a moment, that maybe she was sweet and adorable and things would be okay, because soon I would start to see it too.

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