(Originally written September 14, 2009)
Me and Jackie at 4 weeks old
I have been writing a couple blogs in my head the last few weeks.. I am on week 7 of my newborn, Jackie. She is amazing and it’s been a lifetime of learning in a few short weeks. My first 4 weeks were amazing and hell all at once.
I hadn’t been around babies much and never a newborn. Although I was told over and over “you will know what to do” I knew better. I tend to be a realist bordering on pessimist so I wasn’t expecting happy bunnies, rainbows and butterflies when we came home. Well, butterflies, yes, but more on the anxious side.
Regarding my experience at the hospital, the Tufts staff was amazing. My labor and delivery was 12.5 hours and I couldn’t have asked for better care. I don’t know how nurses do it there. They are dealing with people in extreme pain, possibly on drugs to deaden it, and in a way, out of their minds. All I got from my head nurse was a soft tone, kindness and someone who continued to give me options without any input from her. I was able to make all my decisions on my own (along with my husband) and they had all the confidence in me when at times I didn’t.
When I made it to the postpartum floor, it was along the same lines. I did expect that nurses and staff would come in more often, but in essence, they didn’t come in to check on you unless you asked. It was kind of “tough love” in a way. You’re in the bed, your sleeping baby beside you.. you gotta figure it out. They were there with a push of a button, but basically we were on our own.
Although scary at first, I ended up liking it as it prepared me (somewhat) for being at home. At least at home I’d get a more comfortable bed–but I’d also not have a nurse to take my baby to the nursery if I wanted to get some sleep.
Overall, everything was fine when we returned home, other than some breastfeeding issues. I will tackle that in another blog, but this was an area that I did NOT research enough and I regret it. I am lucky that Jackie is resilient, didn’t have any sort of nipple confusion and ate well, but I had no idea that I would be pumping early, that I would be SO engorged that the milk almost wouldn’t flow, and that I would be dealing with these types of issues upon our return home.
If I had it to do over? I’d throw away all those “what to expect” books and focus all my energy on breastfeeding. Although I took a class, talked to people, etc., there’s only so much you can learn before you actually do it.
My first week started that way.. exhausted and feeling like a milk machine; it was all I could do to not give up. I had a couple bouts of “this was a bad idea” over the week, but thanks to my husband, I came back to Earth and kept moving forward. I had done all my research (as much as I could) prior to the baby, but it really comes down to hands on learning, as I said before.
Things were awkward for both of us in the beginning.. even just changing a diaper was a chore.. what would we unveil every time we changed her?? We just kept going, every 3 hours, and things got easier. It’s actually fairly tough though, as babies really don’t know how you are at that time and have no long-term memory, so it’s like each time they see you it’s like the first time. I found it psychologically difficult.. there’s no reaction to things you do from the baby.. you just have to trust that you are making a difference.
The following weeks were full of trying to get sleep, working on the breastfeeding and keeping myself sane. It was finally sunny here in Boston, but I was stuck in the house a lot due to just being exhausted or thinking about all I had to do just to get her out in the stroller. I later got over that, but once again, the entire thing is overwhelming. I thought that once she was born, I’d be out gallivanting around, but I forgot about the sleep, or lack of it.
Another issue we ran into is that we had a sleepy baby. I thought something was wrong with her, but later (too much later), we found out we should have been counting our blessings. The kid slept in her crib from day one and wanted to sleep. We were waking her every 3 hours, even overnight. Once again, found out thru another nurse at her pediatrician’s office that we could have let her sleep through the night. Oh well. It’s the old “live and learn” routine.
After a couple weeks of getting bombarded with advice about sleep from you name it, my husband and I decided to just follow her lead. That was my first major lesson: FOLLOW THE BABY. She knew what she needed and all we had to do was watch and listen for her cues. Once I did that, things got a lot easier and I gained a bit of confidence.
Speaking of confidence, one of my fears about having a baby was that I wouldn’t know what to do when she cried. I had an incident when I was 12 while babysitting a newborn. The kid cried, I couldn’t console him and had to call my mom. Embarrassing. From then, I swore off kids under 3. Later babysitting jobs were toddlers and older, and even working with kids once I graduated college, they were teens or I could choose who I worked with.. never with babies.
When I had my first encounter with Jackie crying, I found myself anxious, but with tons of patience and peace. I wasn’t sure if I was just so exhausted or if something transformed. But after a few bouts of her crying, I actually consoled her, she stopped crying and that incident was “complete.” My husband was shocked. It was amazing to experience a completion in the moment, but I knew at that moment I could take care of her and everything would be OK.
From there, all I had to do was focus on the breastfeeding issues and not quit. If it weren’t for my husband, the book “The Nursing Mother’s Companion,” other breastfeeding mom friends, and our amazing Lactation Consultant, Beth, I know I would have quit. It just goes to show “it takes a village.”
Slowly but surely, we started to see changes in Jackie each week. She initially started sleeping in her crib, was fairly quiet and then it started to ramp up where she wanted to be around us a lot, she was sleeping in with us (or us with her), and she was getting more vocal. I found with babies that nothing really goes in chronological order. 🙂 What we expected at the beginning didn’t happen and it seems to be going backwards, but really, it’s not.
Basically, what we found was that she just wanted to be around us more. She was getting to know us, trust us and wanted to be touched, held and loved. We had, and have, no problem doing that. 🙂
The fussiness also started to ramp up, but as we left week 4 and headed out to week 6-7, that tended to subside. I also have been seeing a recent reaction to my food now (going into week 7) where I didn’t before. Again, it’s a learning experience every day.. every week.
All in all, the first 4 weeks were the hardest 4 weeks of my life and also the most transformative. I was in a situation that I could not get out of and throughout my life I have always had an out in things. It pushed me to the limits of what I thought was possible with myself, and I overcame it. Yet again, I couldn’t have done it without the help of family, a very close friend (thanks Babs!), my loving and attentive husband and several patient professionals. I’m sure I will be calling on all of them (and more) over the weeks, months, and years.
I’m creating my “mom-hood” and it can actually be pretty cool. I have been able to do things I’ve wanted to do, and some I’ve had to restructure, but overall, I’m still me. I really don’t want to lose myself in all of this.. I just want “mom” to be an additional way of being and not have it take over my identity. My hope and stand in the matter is that it makes me a better person.
Jackie has already turned out to be extraordinary and it brings tears to my eyes to think about where she is now in comparison to the IUI procedure we had back in November of ’08. How literal cells can get transformed into an actual human being with emotions, wants, needs, thoughts, etc. is amazing and miraculous.
As I am ending this, my little one is starting to “ask” for food so I will end here. 🙂
More to come…