Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Notes from postpartum

People don't really tell you about those first couple weeks of having a baby.  It's not their fault -- during those weeks, they're too busy to talk to you, and once they're over, they immediately forget because they were so sleep-deprived at the time they didn't make many memories.

But I've got a moment right now (who knows how long it'll last!) and I'm not too far out from those first days to forget, so let me try to jot down as much as I can.

Giving birth is, of course, really difficult and painful.  It's always the cruelest shock afterward to remember that you don't get to just kick back, relax, and get back to your old life as soon as it's over.  No, on the one hand you feel like you've been run over by a truck, and on the other, you're responsible for a new tiny human who is as needy as they will ever be.  (Some babies sleep soundly for their first day or so.  NOT MINE.)

So you basically stay in bed, getting up only to go to the bathroom (and put on fresh giant mega-pads because, well, giving birth is a grisly business) while the baby is next to you in bed, occasionally sleeping but mostly just wanting to nurse.  And since it's just born, it doesn't know how, so you spend most of your time trying to teach it to latch on.  This doesn't leave a lot of time for what you really want to be doing, which is eating and sleeping.

I can say, though, that this time was a lot easier than last time.  Nobody was sick, thanks to my cloistering the family for the past several weeks.  Miriam adapted beautifully -- John says she was a great deal of trouble, but all I saw of her was her occasionally breaking into the bedroom to hug and kiss Jackie and me.  She has even weaned ... basically just quit asking to nurse for a week and a half, and when she finally did ask, I felt like, "Well, why can't she just be weaned now if she's that uninterested?"  So the few times she's asked lately, I've offered a book instead and she's been fine with that.  Definitely NOT what I expected.



Now, don't get me wrong -- she occasionally throws these massive superfits from which there is no talking her down. And her nighttime sleep is spotty at best.  But, well, she's two, it's pretty normal.

The boys are pretty much unaffected.  Marko still maintains that he hates babies and wishes Jackie were never born.  I don't exactly blame him; he's had a hard couple of months as it is.  I remind him that when she's older she might be interested in more of his favorite things.  And Michael for the most part doesn't seem to care; he'll take a mild interest if she's getting her diaper changed and then gets back to serious playing.  The only issue the boys are giving me right now is that they are SO LOUD and they always want to be where I am, which makes it difficult to get the baby to sleep.  At least when I do manage to get her to sleep in her bed, it's far enough away from the playroom that their noise rarely wakes her.

But I'm getting ahead of myself, because the whole first week I was never able to put the baby down.  Neither was John able to hold her for more than twenty minutes or so before she started crying for me.  The first two days, she nursed continually (because my milk wasn't in, so she was always hungry).  That includes nighttime, and she couldn't latch on very well unless I sat up and had a light on, so ... those first two nights I basically did not sleep.  Then my milk arrived, as always, superabundantly, so she latched even worse and got really gassy.  It felt like we were in a constant cycle of nurse - fall asleep for two minutes - burp and wake self up - tired and want to nurse.  There was no putting her down, there was very little even lying down.  All that dread I first felt when I found out I was pregnant came rushing back -- is THIS how it's going to be?!  Followed by "I wish we had not had her" and swiftly thereafter by "I'm a horrible mother, how can I think such a thing?"  Ah well.  I know that unplanned pregnancy puts me at higher risk of postpartum depression, but luckily those thoughts did not last and I feel better about things.  No, I'm not GLAD I got pregnant, but hey, she's here now, may as well get on with it.

Luckily, it did get better quickly, as I got the oversupply under control with block feeding.  She's still not super great at latching; she needs a few tries before she can get it, and for some reason she struggles twice as much on the left side.  I think she may have an upper lip tie, though I'm not sure what I will do about that.  In any event, by day four or five she was letting me lie down to sleep for several hours at a shot, which felt GREAT after all that sleep deprivation.



One of the hardest things about the necessary rest postpartum is having very little control over anything.  Couldn't cook, so I could only eat the things John knows how to cook.  Couldn't get up to deal with the kids, so I had to sit and watch John manage things differently from how I would.  Couldn't go to Miriam at night even though I could hear her saying, "Not Daddy, Mama!"  It's really rough.  I almost felt like I didn't even count as a person at all -- not as an adult, at least.  It just doesn't feel right not to be able to take care of your own needs, let alone anyone else's.  Even once I felt able to do things, I still couldn't because I had a baby on me.  It's hard to get across to people what it means to have a baby on you all the time.  Most of the time, no problem.  But all the time ... I'm talking, trying to figure out how to use the bathroom while still holding the baby.  Or just skipping brushing teeth because the baby is asleep NOW and you'd better go to bed with her while you can.  You can't do much of anything, especially not if the baby is nursing and the slightest movement will dislodge her, or if she's asleep and even talking will wake her.

Close to a week in, I started being able to set her down for short periods -- maybe a half hour nap here, five minutes of happy awake time there -- so I could rush around and use the bathroom and shove food in my face.  That was nice.  After nine months of pregnancy and a week of "baby glued to you" there is nothing more wonderful than walking around by yourself.  I felt so light!  (I am not really light.  I'm 18 lbs heavier than I was.  But that's not too shabby considering.)



Of course that's the time John went back to work, so things got difficult.  It's one thing to be able to just barely take care of your own needs again, and another to be responsible for three other people in addition to the baby that needs 98% of your time and energy.  That first day was really hard, despite the baby taking one really good nap, because so much of the time people wanted things and I had the baby almost asleep.  I would say, "If you'll just wait and be quiet, she'll fall asleep and I'll put her down and take care of you," but with Miriam especially that fell on deaf ears.  She would stand right next to me screaming like a banshee, thus ensuring the baby would never go to sleep and therefore she would never get whatever it was she had wanted.  Again -- I've been down this road and I remember.  Having a baby and a toddler is SO HARD.

On the other hand, during that second week I slowly started to feel better and better, and Jackie napped more and more, so I soon felt a lot more capable.  From "barely keeping the kids alive" at the beginning of the week, I progressed to "unloading the dishwasher, baking cookies, and making dinner" by the end.  It feels good to be back on the job.  John is still taking over as much as humanly possible, for which I naturally feel guilty, but I'm doing most things now and feeling very proud of it.  Still not ready to leave the house with four kids, but I'll get there.





3 comments:

Tiffany said...

Sheila,

You have been on my mind. I totally understand how you feel. Hang in there. <3 You know that it gets easier, but that doesn't help the daily grind sometimes, I completely commiserate.

The Sojourner said...

Oh man, this is giving me flashbacks. 3 months in and I mostly feel like I've hit my stride with two kids, and I'm honestly kind of glad those 3 months flew by so fast.

Cristina said...

I never know how to respond to posts like these. I've never been through this experience, so what can I share? Even a truly sincere "I'm glad you're feeling better and that things are lightening up a bit" rings a bit hollow coming from a childless woman!

But yeah, I'm glad you're feeling better and that things are lightening up a bit. LOL!

PS -- I guessed from Facebook where Jackie got her name, but it was a little surprising to this long-time blog reader that Baby #4 didn't have an "M" name!

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