Saturday, August 30, 2014

Postpartum "vacation"

John had one week off to help me after Miriam was born, and he had high standards for himself.  He was going to do ALL THE THINGS!  And I was going to get to stay in bed and do nothing but nurse and recover, because he was going to consider himself a complete failure if I was forced to do anything else.

On Wednesday, after the midwife left, I napped and tried not to move because my abdominal muscles were utterly shot.  John did a ton of laundry and cleaned the entire house and served me dinner in bed.  Marko recovered from his fever and tried to fight with Michael, so he also kept the two of them entertained.

That night, Miriam nursed ALL NIGHT.  Well, I believe there was actually a nap in there somewhere, but my main memory is of watching the clock slowly count off the hours and wondering if I was ever going to get to sleep, and if Miriam was going to do this every night for her first year of life, which is about how it felt with Michael.  Periodically -- like every half hour -- Michael woke up crying.  I have no idea why his sleep has regressed so much, but he was up eight times that night.  John took care of that of course since I was nonstop nursing.  And Michael's sleep has continued bad ever since.

On Thursday, Michael woke up with a fever and then threw up when we tried to give him breakfast.  He wasn't willing to just sleep all day like Marko had been -- no, he had to be held and comforted a lot.  And Marko was crabby from having just been sick, so he threw fits about Michael sleeping on the couch (HIS spot to be sick in!) or in the bedroom (HIS room!).  I spent the day trying to nap while also nursing.  I also ended up nursing both Michael and Miriam together, something I wasn't sure I was going to do, but Michael was so sick and pitiful and Miriam wouldn't give me a break to pay attention to him, so that was what I did.  And I felt really good about that -- that I could give each what they needed at the same time.  I was glad to be able to give Michael something so good for him while he was sick.

On Friday, my milk came in.  That's great as far as the baby's concerned -- she finally got a full belly and napped! -- but it comes with downsides like waking up in a puddle of milk.  Oh well.  The kids were both well enough to go to the grocery store with John and lay in a supply of food.  Miriam started sleeping great -- two hours of sleep, provided I was always touching her, and then a good nurse and straight back to sleep.  That is what I call STELLAR sleep for a newborn.

On Saturday, Marko came down with an awful cold.  This cold comes with copious snot and coughing oneself and one's brother awake all night.

On Sunday, Michael got the cold too.  The two of them have been venting their yucky feelings by grabbing each other's toys and biting each other.  John has resorted to a lot of movies to entertain them, and for once I have no complaints about that.  Ya gotta do what ya gotta do.  That afternoon I started to feel like I could actually do stuff, and I used that amazing energy to walk outside to get some sun.  (Because Miriam is perfect in every way, she has no jaundice at all, but it can't hurt anyway, right?)  I sat in a chair for two minutes and then the neighbors showed up to talk over the fence, so I got up and walked over there to show them the baby.  BAM, stepped on a bee because I was barefoot (not planning to be walking around much, you know!) and not watching my feet (because I had the baby).  I didn't get the stinger out right away, because I was reacting slowly and of course had to find a place to put the baby in, and perhaps that is why the reaction I had to this sting was the worst I've had yet.  My foot started swelling right away and I couldn't walk on it without excruciating pain and itching until Wednesday.

Monday, I spent on the couch with my foot elevated, unable to walk and trying hard to ignore the itching, because scratching makes it a thousand times worse.  In a way it was for the best, because I did need to rest anyway and at least it was while John was there, but it was infuriating all the same.  The kids climbed all over me and whined a lot.  I read them some books and they coughed all over the baby.  She might be a good eater and a good sleeper, but she is NOT good about being put down.  I have held her pretty near 24/7 for her entire life.  I laid her down to type this and we'll just have to see how it lasts.

That night, right around when we went to bed, Michael started to cry.  John went to take care of him, but for once he didn't settle down for him.  I lay awake, next to Miriam because I knew if I moved I'd wake her, hearing John take Michael out to the living room and try in vain to calm him down.  I heard a lot of "I want Mama" and suffered the most guilt I've felt since Miriam was born.  I'd been feeling so good about her, but I felt awful because it seemed I'd gotten a great baby, and Michael just got nothing.  Here he was sick with a cold and his throat hurting, and couldn't have his Mama when he wanted her.

Eventually I got so upset that I decided I just HAD to get up, so I took sleepy Miriam with me and sat on the couch with Michael.  But it didn't help, he just sat there howling.  Nothing I said or did was any comfort; he was in that worked-up state when literally nothing helps.  I remember Marko having fits like that at about the same age, and feeling so guilty because nursing was the one thing that might have calmed him down, and now he was weaned and we didn't have that option.  So I handed off Miriam to John and nursed Michael.  Sure enough, it calmed him right down and he started getting sleepy.  But then Miriam started to wake up, and I felt like I was in a race against time -- get Michael to sleep before Miriam woke up.  I thought for a bit that Michael was asleep, tried to unlatch him, and instantly the screaming resumed.  Ugh.  Miriam woke up and I could hear her getting restless as John tried to console her with a pacifier.  Finally I asked Michael, "Would you like to lie in your bed with your blanket?"  He let go and said yes (he'd been begging to get in his bed, but we wouldn't let him because he was screaming too loud and would have woken up Marko) and I carried him to his bed.  Amazingly, he actually did lie down and go to sleep.  At last!  It had been about 90 minutes of screaming.

The next day I could call The Day of Irrational Screaming.  Because that's basically all either kid did.  At least we parents didn't do any screaming.  We just kind of held screaming children and showed them movies.  I sat on the couch another day because the swelling was even worse.  I couldn't spread my toes because they were so swollen they were always touching.  The swelling went several inches above my ankle; if I bent my ankle (like by standing up) I got a big white crease there; if I stood up, my whole foot blanched white.  Nothing helped.  It was awful.  Couldn't take benadryl because I was cosleeping day and night and couldn't chance being groggy.  I think it was also this day that John came down with the same cold the kids had.  He has had a sore throat and been coughing and sneezing constantly.  Sleep would be good, but he's been up half a dozen times every night and often getting up for the day at five.  And I couldn't help at all because I couldn't walk or put down Miriam.

Wednesday I could sort of walk, so I did some things.  I was able to make breakfast for the kids and lunch for myself.  But still, even with two parents, Marko and Michael seemed too much to handle.  So much whining and crying.  So much fighting.

And then on Thursday John went back to work!

I had imagined a week off work would be a lovely vacation for John.  Instead, it was really, really rough.  Every day he did laundry (we seem to have too few cloth diapers, oops), dishes, cleaned up, and made three meals a day as well as fetching me water and taking care of all my needs because I couldn't get up most of the week.  It kind of was a nice vacation for me, except that what I would really like is a vacation where I could DO stuff.  Lying in bed, even with a good book, gets old after a bit.  But I do feel pretty well rested and recovered from the birth.  I seem to be managing okay with three kids, though still there is a lot of screaming and fighting.  The boys are really struggling.  Instead of being obviously jealous of the baby, they're jealous of each other.  They seem convinced that there will never be enough toys, food, lap space, or attention for both of them.

Miriam, though, is happy and contented all the time.  She seems comfortable, cries very little, sleeps through being swung around in my arm while with the other arm I separate screaming children, sleeps decently well at night, and gained back her birthweight in four days.  I wish I could put her down, but I think that's just a newborn thing and that she'll be able to sleep on her own at some point.  Already she will tolerate some time in her bouncer while she's awake, just looking around at everything while I rush around going potty and refilling all the sippy cups.  I don't want to speak too soon, but she is looking like she might be an Easy Baby!

I am not going to lie and say "this is easy, I should definitely not be afraid of doing this again."  But I am going to say "this is easier than I remembered, and I didn't need to be quite as afraid as I was."  Miriam is a way easier baby than Michael was, and although the boys are struggling, I think they will be okay.


Sugar Coater said...

God bless you. All I can say is that just from reading that, I got exhausted. I would have, by now, entertained serious thoughts of running away from home. Yikes!

Enbrethiliel said...


Oh, wow. What a week!

I'm so sorry to hear about the colds. As if things weren't stressful enough, aye? My home remedy is a glass of hot milk, turmeric powder, black pepper (just to activate the pectin in the turmeric), and honey. But it kind of works better as a preventative measure--or when you feel the cold just about to start, at the latest. I'm not sure if it would be that effective for the boys. And I remember reading that pregnant women shouldn't have turmeric, though I don't know about nursing mothers. Hmmm. This paragraph was a waste of your time. ;-)

My phone battery is dying, so I'll have too contrive this comment later. In the meantime I'm sending lots of love and prayers to Our Lady of Leche!

The Sojourner said...

Oh my goodness. I hope your normal life is a little more restful than your vacation!

Anonymous said...

Early on, I called the early days of 3 children, "a lesson in guilt" because someone's needs were always unfulfilled.

As the boys aged, I realized that the 2nd and 3rd child benefitted from learning early that sometimes there are needs that have priority over your own.

The oldest still has a hard time with this. Being the center of the universe for 4 years has a downside. ;)


Sheila said...

Yes, it really is a lesson in guilt! I feel so horrible when I turn one kid's world upside down because I had another. I do think it's good for them in the long run, but very rough in the short term ... and very humbling for me. I don't get to *feel* like a good mother anymore.

I should say, lest everyone worry, that things are much better now. The boys are over their cold. (John still isn't; it's settled into his ears and I am hoping hard they clear soon on their own.) A return to routine and making some new routines is helping a lot. Miriam got the cold (boo!) but was only really snuffly for two nights and is pretty much over it now. And I still haven't gotten it at all; I did take vitamin C so maybe that's it? Certainly I have gotten quantities of snot on me from the boys, so it's not that I haven't been exposed. And best of all, Miriam can now be put down if she's really thoroughly out, which means I have time to cook, do chores, and give lap time to the other kids. I'd say they are back to pre-baby behavior. And me, I feel better than I have in months. Not quite to a pre-pregnant level of energy, but a second-trimester level at least.

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