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“I caught my husband wearing leggings.”
I wrote this post about a month ago, and I wasn’t sure if I was going to publish it. At the time, I was ragged; emotionally raw. And SO TIRED. A month has passed, and now I feel comfortable sharing these feelings because I think it’s important to do so. In the weeks since I wrote this, the Blues have passed and I am so thankful for that. And while sleep still is challenging, we’re getting FOUR HOUR STRETCHES WOO HOO!!!! and that makes a world of difference. It’s amazing how much can change in a month!
Owen is one month old today. One month! The past four weeks have alternately flown by and dragged at a snail’s pace. We’ve been initiated into Parenthood and while I wouldn’t give him up for all the stilettos in the world, I have to be perfectly honest and say this month has not been easy for me.
I read a lot about emotions postpartum because I had a sneaky suspicion I might be susceptible to Postpartum Depression. I’m a very sensitive and emotional person without crazy hormones, and I saw how pregnancy hormones affected my moods from day-to-day. So I made sure I was informed and able to notice the signs of depression if it decided to sneak up on me after birth.
I don’t have full-blown Postpartum Depression, but I certainly have a bit of the baby blues.
Owen came into this world screaming (as you will read about soon) and hasn’t stopped yet. In general, if he’s not eating or sleeping, he’s fussing. Not always, but most of the time. Strong-willed baby? Maybe. Colic? Perhaps.
Eat. Sleep. Poop.
He was born on a Saturday and my family was with us until Wednesday. Which meant for five days he was basically held exclusively and slept pretty well. But then they left, and it was just us…new parents, new baby. My milk came in and my chest tripled in size, engulfing my child’s head (freaky!). They were so full and hard that it was difficult for him to eat. His latch wasn’t correct yet, so breastfeeding hurt. A LOT.
He cried. And cried, and cried, and cried.
He wouldn’t sleep in the bassinet, only on my chest in bed. I loved the feeling of his little body on me, but was terrified I’d smother him in my sleep.
One night during the first week, somewhere around 3 a.m., I walked into the bedroom, placed my wailing baby in Michael’s arms, walked into the nursery, and collapsed on the floor and sobbed.
I still get teary thinking about that moment, because it was a low for me. I felt so overwhelmed. I felt like I was failing at motherhood already. My child was hungry and I couldn’t give him enough food to make him stop crying. My child was tired, and I couldn’t make him fall asleep.
Week One was hard.
Slowly, very slowly, things started to get better. Together, we learned how to breastfeed. (I’m going to dedicate a whole post to it because I think it’s important to share.) The more he ate, the more milk I made and the happier we were as a lot. We started to figure each other out a little more. Though he’s still too young for a real routine, I began to understand when he was hungry, when he was wet, when he wanted attention.
Week Two wasn’t so bad.
The evening that ushered in Week Three changed everything. He wouldn’t sleep. He was up every 45 minutes crying, wanting to eat. I would stare at the clock each time he woke, bleary-eyed from both exhaustion and tears wondering what happened to the progress we had made.
I cried a lot that week. Not to the severity of the night in the nursery, but still. In his quiet moments, I would look at my son and my eyes would fill with tears of pure happiness, joy and wonderment. And then he would wake up screaming and the tears would change to frustration and confusion.
Week Three. Oh my, week three.
And now, now he’s four weeks old. After four nights of no sleep and lots of mutual tears during week three, he’s finally back to three or two and half hour stretches at night between feedings. We’ve got breastfeeding DOWN and it no longer hurts. He will sleep in the bassinet — for a while.
This is good. This is really good.
But I still get sad. And I still get emotional. And sometimes I have to put him in his father’s arms and walk aways for a minute when the crying gets too much, because it’s not his fault that gas is making his belly hurt or he’s over-tired. It’s not his fault that crying is his only means of communication and that I haven’t slept. (OK, maybe that last one is a little bit his fault.)
Most of the women I’ve talked to have been more than eager to share their pregnancy and birth stories, offer advice on nursing and show off pictures of their babies. Some, but not too many of them have looked into my eyes and said, “It was hard for me too.” It’s not something people like to talk about, but I think it’s important that we do.
It’s a huge adjustment, this mommy thing. Not sleeping, caring for another human, having them attached to your chest every two hours or so all day and night. I wanted to write this post to let those who are going through it now, have been there or will go through it eventually know that it’s OK. And it’s normal! And it will pass.
And it was hard for me too.
I love my baby, my son. I love him more intensely and differently than I’ve ever loved anyone before. And every day the Blues are getting better and less frequent, to the point where sometimes when he cries, I just laugh at the quivering bottom lip and kiss his wrinkly forehead before scooping him into my arms to settle his sadness.
I dry his tears and he dries mine.
One month of motherhood down, a wonderful lifetime to go.
Recently, a friend of mine told me a story that made me laugh out loud. The more she told, the more convinced I was her story should be a blog post. She’s a good sport and wrote it out for me, even though not all people like to share the intimate details of their lives on the Internet. (What, that’s not normal?)
How do you know that you are in the throes of a post partum life? When you approach the checkout of a pharmacy and have the following three items in your basket:
1. A pregnancy test
2. A box of tampons
3. A box of condoms
As any menstruating woman can tell you, in theory, if you need any one of these items, you should not need the other two. Some may argue that #2 and #3 could go together but that has never really been my thing as I have been blessed with severe cramps and have too high of an affinity for my linens.
So there I was, waiting for a post pubescent high school short stop to check me out, daring him to smirk and violate his company “do not make a face when people are people are buying things you find amusing” policy so I could point out that at least I was not buying cigarettes and prenatal vitamins. After seven months of exclusive breast feeding I still had not gotten my period and I was sure that my mood was either a result of 16 months of back logged PMS or my early pregnancy phase exhaustion. To make matters worse, for the past week I had had bouts of that “I am going to get my period any freaking second” cramping with no visit from Aunt Flo in sight. This reminded me just enough of how I felt 16 months prior to warrant the pregnancy test.
When I convinced myself for the third time that morning that I really was going to get my period any freaking second I went to try to locate a box of tampons and discovered that they were inconveniently packed away with my skinny jeans, my dangle earrings and any other evidence I had of a pre-baby life. I looked at the down pillow sized pads I had left over from the hospital and decided to add a box of OB Super Plus to the list just to be sure. On the short but blissful solo drive to the store the reality of a possible pregnancy began to set in.
Flashbacks of midnight feedings and three hour stretches of sleep being classified as a ‘good thing’ came back to me in the parking lot. By the time I walked through the automatic doors I realized that kids 16 or 15 or however many freaking months pregnant I could be apart would mean two in diapers at the same time. It would mean needing to buy one of those double strollers I eyed with pity at World-of-Baby. It would mean no sushi, no wine, NO BRIE CHEESE! I panicked. I promised myself with all of the earnest sincerity I had shown my OB and my 11th grade health teacher that I. Would. Use. Condoms. And that I would use them every time. I practically ran to the Family Planning aisle (HA!) and threw a jumbo pack into my basket. I was officially prepared for everything.
The next morning I peed on the stick. Not pregnant. That week I waited. No period. The box of condoms? Still unopened but residing in my bedside table which seems like a step in the right direction.
Oh well. Life is what happens when we are busy making other plans right? And lets face it, I’m too old for the skinny jeans anyway.
– The other night Owen was sleeping and I knew I should take the opportunity to sleep as well, but that whole “sleep when the baby is sleeping” thing is a load of crap. Sometimes you’re not tired at that moment, or there’s laundry to do, or maybe you just want to catch up on an episode of Drop Dead Diva and really, is that so bad? (The answer to that will be answered loud and clear when you have a child attached to your boob at 3 a.m.)
Anyway, I don’t know if you’ve seen the show, but the characters work in a law firm and it’s very Ally McBeal-ish. Which got me thinking about Ally McBeal and how much I loved that show and why doesn’t any network play reruns of it? I mean, come on, we’re faced with shows in syndication like Malcome in the Middle and According to Jim and three (three!) seperate networks playing back episodes of Ghost Whisperer (which yes, I admit to watching occasionally) and other craptastic shows that make me want to scream, but where are all those old good ones? Bring back Dawson’s Creek! Or, you know, Ally McBeal. Don’t we all just miss that weird dancing baby?
So I’m thinking about the lack of good reruns, when all of the sudden I discover a channel lost in the 200s of my television guide — The Reelz channel. And lo an behold, what are they playing at 3 p.m. today? ALLY McBEAL!
Owen, you better take a nice long nap for mama.
– I was catching up on some magazine reading while waiting to go in for my six-week post-baby appointment, and they were filled with photos of fall clothes. Which made me really, really want some new clothes. While the weight loss is going pretty well, my body has certainly changed, leaving some areas larger (my sister now calls my chest mombo jombos), and other areas wider (helllooo, hips). I have no idea if these changes are temporary or permanent, so I’m hesitant to buy new clothing until at least another month or so. But oh, the fall lines. They look so lovely and cozy and autumnal.
And I really want some cute fall dresses, but finding ones that I can pull down easily to breastfeed aren’t so abundant. Because let’s be honest, I can’t pull the dress UP, now can I?
– The Baltimore trip went great and my friend was a beautiful bride. The bridesmaid dress was a gorgeous color and ended up fitting just fine, but ladies, I do not recommend breastfeeding in a strapless bodice dress unless you have a private space to do so.
I’ve gotten pretty good at feeding him discretely in public, but this required taking him far away from party goers, less I give everyone a free show of not one, but both of the girls.
This seems to go hand in hand with the how not to flash the lady bits issue in a regular dress I mentioned early. And also, apparently we will be talking about boobs here a lot more. Such is life, such is motherhood.
– Not about boobs: why have I only just discovered Laughing Cow cheese? WHY, internets? I love cheese. I have at least two servings of cheese a day, and that’s conservative. And all along there was this yummy, spreadable cheese out there that is only 35 calories a wedge and delicious and I didn’t know about it?!
Excuse me, I have to go eat some now.
They told me it was time to push, but I didn’t exactly feel like I had to. The epic battle of Butt vs. Torso continued, but I didn’t yet feel like the solution to stopping the pain was to push. But since they said it was time, I figured I would try.
With Michael on my left holding my leg and my mom and my sister on my right holding the other, I lay back into the semi-reclined position and looked to the nurses for guidance. They told me to bear down as if I was having a bowel movement. So I did. And then, as they instructed, I did again. The more I pushed, the faster the contractions came and the worse the pain in my pelvis became. Let me be clear, the epidural did work in the sense that I felt no pain, only pressure in the vaginal area; but I did feel every. single. contraction.
And all the pain that came with them.
At some point they had me roll onto my side and push in that position, which I prefered to being on my back. However, I suppose the progress wasn’t so great so I rolled back over.
As the contractions went from minutes to seconds apart, I found myself in doing the hardest, most strenuous physical work I had ever experienced. A contraction would start as a wave, gripping my middle and washing over me from head to toe. I followed my body’s lead, curling forward over myself, lifting my knees to my chest, resting my forehead on Michael’s and pushing with all I had.
My main nurse had a nice strong count. “One. Two. Three. Four.” She would count for three counts of 1o, and I would take a deep breath between each set. Eventually, she encouraged my mom to count for me, but she was far to gentle in her counting and I requested that the nurse resume in her firm manner.
In the moments between contractions I would collapse back on my pillow, or chew on ice chips my sister was feeding me from a spoon. Except for the one time she gave me a massive scoop and was met with a “TOO MUCH ICE!” from me, the ice was a welcome relief in the seconds between pain.
All the questions I had regarding labor and how would I know how to push were answered as my body told me repeatedly what to do. Once a contraction started, I couldn’t stop pushing if I wanted to. As we continued, it was the only thing I wanted to do. The nurse would stop counting after the third set of 10 and I would yell out, “ANOTHER!” and push for a fourth set. At one point, she told me I was getting a little hysterical and should really try and rest between my contractions. My brain was screaming at her that my body wanted to push for four sets, that my contractions were lasting for four sets, but my mouth couldn’t form the sentences.
So I ignored her, and did exactly what my body wanted to do.
There was excitement building in the room. I didn’t realize it, but my doctor had been called to the emergency room and was also tending to another woman in labor, and was not back to me yet, despite frantic pages to find her. Eventually I heard a nurse try a page one last time, saying this baby was coming NOW! Luckily, my doctor burst into the room just in time and took her place at the foot of my bed. Turns out that full moon made the hospital a little crazy! My doctor was great, telling me I was an excellent pusher and that my baby would be here in just a few more pushes.
Then, I heard some gasps. The doctor asked me if I wanted to reach down and feel my baby’s head, so I did. It felt…hard. And slimy. I think I wiped my hand on my gown. My sister told me later that for a while, what she saw was just an It, a something. But all of the sudden she saw a little ear and it all became real to her.
With my support team around me and my medical team cheering me on, I put all the strength I could muster into those last few pushes. I made noises I never knew I could make — deep, guttural moans that came from my core.
And then, after pushing for an hour, there was crying. Loud, frantic screams coming from a little person who was being placed on my chest. Our baby, our son.
This picture isn’t pretty, but it’s real.
In that moment, I became a mother, and the emotional heaviness of that hit me like a ton of bricks. I looked at Michael, my husband and now a father; at my mother, now a grandmother; and my sister, now an aunt. We all cried tears of joy together. And my dad, who had arrived just in time to hear Owen being born from outside the doorway, became a grandfather. I am so happy I could share that moment with everyone.
Owen stayed on my chest through all his exams and I was able to try breastfeeding him almost immediately. (Breastfeeding. I think that deserves its own post!) As I bonded, my doctor stitched up the small second-degree tear I sustained pushing out that 8 pound 1 ounce little boy. The stitches stung a little, but I didn’t really notice them. She also showed me the placenta, which was…weird. The body is a strange thing — creating and disposing of an organ just for childbirth. I can’t accurately describe it, except for it was a lot bigger than I thought it would be.
Owen was bundled up in a blanket and hat and we all began the process of getting to know the new edition to our family.
There is more to this story — post partum and all that comes with it, but that’s a story for another day. But I’ll end with this: for me, the cliche was true. I fell instantly in love at 1:05 p.m. on June 26th.
Unconditional, pure love.
I wanted to thank you all for sticking with me as I adjust to motherhood. It certainly hasn’t been easy. Let’s just say that I did not deliver an easy-going baby. More like a stubborn, personality-filled baby who thinks afternoon naps are for the weak and fussing is a must.
We still love him, though. (And those wrinkles!)
Part Four of the birth story is almost done and I can’t wait to share it with you. In the meantime, stick with me a little longer. Mr. O and I are spending the week with some of his most favorite ladies — my mom, sister, two aunts and cousin — all in a lovely beach house for a week of chick time. He is one spoiled little boy.
Every house should be on the ocean with a rooftop deck, don’t you think?
Then, we are attempting our first family trip this weekend to Baltimore, where I am a bridesmaid in my beautiful college roommate’s wedding. Remind me to tell you how fun it is to guess at a dress size when you’re four months pregnant. If I had guessed just one size off, my giant mama boobies wouldn’t have fit!
I hope to begin blogging more regularly starting next week, as Owen will be six weeks old and I think we’re in a good swing of things around here. Until then, happy August, all! I miss you!