The Red Dot That Ruined My Life: Part XI

If you’re reading this, thanks already.

But first, let’s make sure you’re caught up on this story before you venture any further:

For Part 1 of this blog, please click the link here to READ or here to LISTEN.

For Part 2 of this blog, please click the link here to READ or here to LISTEN.

For Part 3 of this blog, please click the link here to READ or here to LISTEN.

For Part 4 of this blog, please click the link here to READ or here to LISTEN.

For Part 5 of this blog, please click the link here to READ or here to LISTEN.

For Part 6 of this blog, please click the link here to READ or here to LISTEN.

For Part 7 of this blog, please click the link here to READ or here to LISTEN.

For Part 8 of this blog, please click the link here to READ or here to LISTEN.

For Part 9 of this blog, please click the link here to READ or here to LISTEN.

Part 10-A of this blog, please click the link here to READ or here to LISTEN.

Part 10-B of this blog, please click the link here to READ or here to LISTEN.

And if you’ve gotten this far, please know I am incredibly grateful for your support in joining me through my story of self expression.

And if you wish to listen to this current blog via audio instead of the written format below, you can do so by clicking HERE

Now, let the journey continue…

My most radical life transition: 

From “Just Me” to “Me: The Mother” 

From “Just Us” to “Mom and Father”

From “The Two of Us” to “A Family of Three” 

From “It’s About I” to “It’s About WE” 

From “Worry About Me” to “She’s Number One”

From “Total Independence” to… “Zero Freedom”

From “Slow Mornings with Coffee” to “Up at 530”

From “Late Nights with Friends” to “Sleep Is A Luxury” 

From “Empty and Hopeless” to “Filled to The Brim”

From “What a Journey” to “It’s Just About To Begin”… 

A tsunami of emotion barrelled over me, and with it, it wiped out all recognition of what life was before that moment: 

My independence floated away,

My freedom washed over me, 

My priorities all shifted. 

February 13th, 2021 

at 6:45PM 

I became a Mom. 

And that shift into Motherhood continued- although more drawn out and less wet and painful than the actual birth moment- that evolutionarily engrained energetic and biochemical change your body experiences after giving birth: you can’t forget it. 

So magical and yet incredibly exhausting. 

So beautiful and yet excruciatingly painful.

So liberating and yet so vulnerable. 

I walked into the Lethbridge Regional Hospital as Me, Ashlyn Gunderson: and within the confines of that room, I transformed. I was now- Me, Ashlyn Gunderson: Blakely’s Mom. 

It’s like I didn’t know what to do, but yet I knew exactly what to do. 

I was welcomed into some type of Collective Motherhood Energy vortex. A place where heavy compassion, extra empathy, and the deepest love you can experience live. A new dimension of understanding. A port-key that will transfer you to a world of Mama instincts and newfound nurturing. 

This had been the most unique experience of my life: yet, also the most universal. 

This was my postpartum. 

I remember that day. 

“Newborn photos should only be for the baby”

I huffed to my husband as I sobbed in the passenger seat of his Chevy. My sore and scabbed nipples stretched through plastic pump cylinders as my little family of three ventured out of town for our daughters newborn photoshoot. 

“I am so uncomfortable” my oxytocin overloaded hormones spoke. 

Not one item of clothing had fit my new-to-me postpartum body, and although irrational and unrealistic: I couldn’t help but release some mascara-painted tears. 

All the pants purchased before I was pregnant sat cuffed at the ankles, the waist bands making their way to the circumference of my knees. Tank tops now crop tops: revealing the squishiest and most unfamiliar midsection I’d ever sported. Maternity dresses equipped with form-fitting-fabric: the clingy-in-those-spots dresses now, overnight, becoming the enemy. 

So, I decided upon a modest dress: one without any form fitting fabric or clingy-in-those-spots spots. I covered my large sheet dress with an overflowing cardigan: neutral tones to work cohesively with my baby girls’ blush pink themed photographs. 

Hair and makeup intact, body and mind falling apart. 

3 more pills of Domperidone, 500mL of water, decaf only coffee, 2 Brewers Yeast based muffins and less than an ounce of breast-milk to show for it as the moaning of my breast pump repeated for the length of our 30 minute drive through the county. 

It had been 6 days since my daughter was pushed from my vagina,

5 days since I brought her home, 

4 days since my anxiety started,

3 days since I slept last, 

2 days since I began to hate breastfeeding and 

1 day since I cried. 

This was my postpartum. 

Although the postpartum period consisted of many days, weeks: months even; the way I felt on this day seems to encapsulate them all. 

After much preparation and many tears, we arrived at the photographers place. 

Before heading inside, I rummaged through the diaper bag- containing approximately 17 added items from the week prior. 

Diapers, wipes, breast pump, blankets, bottles, finger-feeding tube, syringes, outfits, hats, bows, prescriptions, tinctures of herbs, nipple cream, Vaseline… formula?. 

Shit. I should have more formula. 

My limited milk supply was no longer keeping up to my daughters needs- leaving us both angry, upset and mentally exhausted.

She would cry,

I would cry,

I would feed her,

She would cry,

I would cry,

And repeat. 

And repeat,

And repeat,

Until you go insane. 

So after seeing 2 lactation consultants and a breastfeeding specialist, it was confirmed that we would need to combination-feed my tongue tied baby (formula, pumped breastmilk and/or breast-fed). My daughters weight and my supply had dropped significantly since birth and it was evident that an exclusive-breastfeeding arrangement wasn’t the healthiest for my kid. We were both suffering. 

Feeding my baby became all I thought about. Obsessively, almost. 

Like, how could I forget the fucking formula? 

If he was feeding her a bottle, I was pumping- and if I wasn’t pumping- I was latching her to my breast- and if I wasn’t latching her to my breast- I was feeding her a bottle. 

and the cycle continued. 

And wake her up every 1.5 hours.

But sleep when she sleeps 

But pump after you feed her,

But make sure you feed yourself.

My brain, my body, my belly, my breasts: they were all mush. 

This was my postpartum. 

I poured the contents of my pumped breast milk into a Dr. Browns bottle and fed Blakely in the backseat of the truck before entering our photoshoot. 

She appeared satiated, sleepy, full.

“Thank God” my anxiety brain settled as we carried our sleeping newborn to her photo shoot debut. 

My cozied up newborn began fussing as the momentum of her car seat halted. We stood with our belongings at our feet, slightly spread across the hardwood. 

Shush, shush, shush, I whispered to Blakely as I hesitated the addition of the soother we had reluctantly been giving her. 

So many rules. So many instincts. So many emotions. 

I toed the car seat in hopes of halting the crying: but to no prevail- my baby howled. 

I began unbuckling Blake from her seat, wondering if the straps were in the correct position and whether the photographer was judging if they weren’t. I embraced my baby the only way the last week had taught me and attempted to soothe her. 

“Shush, shush, shush, shush”, I whispered. 

Cupping her head beyond graciously as to showcase minimal amounts of confidence in my baby-handling skills. 

“May I try something?” This Angel of a mother-of-5- asked as she outstretched her hands towards my crying baby. 

She then placed the entire 6 lbs of my child vertically down her forearm and into the palm of her dominant hand while grabbing a white piece of fabric from her photography clothing closet with the other. 

She began wrapping the fabric across Blakelys midsection, up, over and around her arms and her feet as to mummify my baby into a human-cocoon. 

Blakely’s demeanour shifted instantly as she dozed into newborn dreams in the hand of this woman.

A stranger just comforted my baby. 

She knew what my baby needed… and I hated that I didn’t. 

I felt defeated and embarrassed and raw and vulnerable and still uncomfortable as fuck in that dress. 

Why we as women feel that instinctually we should have a practical answer to every cry from the day a baby emerges from our vagina is beyond me. 

“Oh you’ll just know”- people will tell you as you prepare for motherhood. 

But in the off-chance you actually DON’T KNOW: you feel like a piece of shit parent. 

Don’t get me wrong- motherly instincts are the real deal. I swear I can feel my babies needs in my bones. But, the expectations I placed on myself as a mother of 6 days- I’m hindsight, it breaks my heart. 

She soothed and coddled Blakely into the tiniest of peanuts and proceeded with the photo-taking: my precious Angel baby wrapped perfectly: calm, collected, happy. 

My husband held my daughter for the first set of photos as I watched from the couch- semi-uncomfortable as my sore vagina sat free from any ice packs or supportive panties that had been in use back home. My eyes glancing back to the last spot I sat to ensure I left no trail behind me. 

Those two. My whole world. Everything I’ve ever wanted. Right there in front of me. 

Emotions flooded from my gut to my heart to my throat and poured from my eyes as tears striked again- this time, in pure awe of what I was witnessing. The most powerful representation of love: my husband, and- my daughter. I felt the pure gratitude radiating from Robbie as he held his little girl skin to skin- the love then flowing over to me  and growing exponentially in that room. 

Sharing a common love for something that deeply with the person you love, it’s some sorta magic. 

Soreness, gratitude, defeat, vulnerability, unconditional love: and all at once.

This was my postpartum. 

Part way through the photo-taking, Blakely began to fuss: this time, it was certain swaddling wasn’t the answer. 

Food. She wanted food. 

“You can take a break and feed her”- the photographer mentioned as she motioned to the small couch against the wall. 

Anxiety striked again. With no formula to back me, I fussed with my dress and tried to find a comfortable positioning on this couch: this would be my first time breastfeeding anywhere but home and I felt lost. I grabbed my daughter- attempting to latch her: praying our bodies would work together on this one. 

“ Please God just let me feed my baby”- my heart began to race as the pressure to perform mounted, 

Blakely whaled in agony against my chest without satiation as my anxiety amplified.  Robbie noted the defeat-tears welling up against my makeup covered face as he Googled the closest place to find formula.

He quickly left the countryside home to the nearest small town to purchase the same formula I left on the kitchen counter at home. 

The convenience of whipping out a tit, feeding my baby to satiety and moving on with the appointment would be like winning the lottery. I squeezed my nipples and kneaded my breasts as my tiny infant nuzzled herself into my chest- her newborn cries now ringing in my ears. 

She’d latch, I’d jump, she’d suck, I’d quince. She’d feed, I’d gain hope, she’d stop, I’d try again.

And repeat, and repeat and repeat: until we both had enough. 

Robbie returned after speeding down many a dirt roads. He promptly prepared a bottle in the kitchen of this woman’s home- taking directions from the oldest of her 4 siblings who all collected in the kitchen. 

Our morning photo-shoot was now definitely overstaying it’s welcome. 

As Robbie brought the bottle towards me, I tucked away my disappointment of a body  into my modest dress: the one without any form fitting fabric or clingy-in-those-spots spots. 

This was the same body that just birthed my daughter 6 days prior. The body that housed and grew her for 9 whole months, the body that pushed through a decade of amenorrhea, 2 miscarriages and severe hormone instabilities- and yet in this moment- I couldn’t see her greatness. 

Blakely’s tense body relaxed as the bottle met her lips, a thrusting-like suckle began as she consumed the entirety of the formula before falling back to sleep in my arms. 

I was in heaven with this baby.

But I was at war with myself. 

This was my postpartum. 

One response to “The Red Dot That Ruined My Life: Part XI”

  1. Oh my heart breaks for you reading this as I also went through this with my first being a preemie and when I finally had someone bring some light on formula and I let go of the expectation on myself motherhood became a whole lot sweeter. Your an amazing mom! ❤


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