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Monthly Archives: June 2012

How did I survive the first few weeks with a new baby? How does anyone?

My friend Courtney was visiting when Baby Bear was about three weeks old. I told her that we hadn’t been sleeping much, but things had improved since the first week when we hadn’t slept more than a few hours a day.

Didn’t you start hallucinating? she asked.

One would think! According this article I found on the Internet (so we know it’s true!), some side effects of prolonged sleep deprivation include hallucinations, temporary insanity and sometimes death.

I’m happy to say that I didn’t hallucinate, although at times I did feel like I might die. Some things that helped me through the craziness were my husband, our moms, and our amazing friends who brought us meals for the first week. Homemade brownies and lasagna can help you through anything. As can love.

Baby Bear was born on a Saturday, after a night of no sleep.  When we finally got to go home on Monday afternoon, I had still hardly slept despite my extreme exhaustion. The lactation consultant was very clear that I needed to feed her every 3 hours from beginning of feeding to the next. So, if I started feeding her at 8 and finished at 8:45, I would have to make sure to feed her again at 11. That doesn’t leave much opportunity for sleep in between.

I was also still exhausted just from the birth itself. So tired in fact, it took about all my strength just to stand. And I’d experienced some tearing complications that had me on Vicodin and generally feeling awful.

Additionally, we had appointments for Baby Bear every day that first week. She had jaundice and was having problems breastfeeding. So we had two pediatrician visits, two lactation consultant visits, and two trips to the hospital for bilirubin tests.

On Wednesday, they determined she had lost a little more than 10% of her birth weight, which is a red flag for jaundice. So the lactation consultant put us on an even crazier regime where every 2 1/2 hours I had to breastfeed her, then Spencer would feed her breastmilk from a tube while I pumped breastmilk.

On Thursday we both had a meltdown and I called my mother-in-law and asked her to come spend the night. She came, did laundry and dishes, and took over Spencer’s tube feeding duties so that he at least could get some sleep.

Somewhere around Saturday I started having REM sleep again. I’d gone that whole week without dreaming, but I became so exhausted that I would sink into a deep sleep during each brief break between feeding the little one.

On Monday we went back to the lactation consultant, and she still had not gained much weight. I couldn’t believe it after we had worked so hard. The nurse gave us a new plan, where I would breastfeed her and then Spencer would feed her from a bottle. The bottle was able to fit quite a bit more milk than tube we’d been using.

The next day we returned to her pediatrician to find that she had gained several ounces. Thank God! Of course, we had to keep feeding her constantly, but the whole situation was becoming slightly less stressful.

Things have continued to get easier, and now at 10 weeks, Baby Bear is in the 75th percentile for weight and 95th percentile for height. She goes to bed regularly around 10 p.m., and I get up with her around 3 a.m. to feed her. Usually she sleeps for a few more hours after that, although last night she declared a sleeping strike from about 3:30 – 5:30.

Now, she is napping peacefully. I still can’t believe how beautiful she is, with her long, dark eyelashes and little elf ears. It all seems like such a miracle. To have such a sweet, healthy baby. To get through a natural birth and weeks of sleeplessness. To have all of our needs provided for when I was so worried that they wouldn’t be. I don’t know how it all happened. I can only say, thank you thank you thank you.

Now maybe I should nap.

 

Mama and baby ducks.


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In our childbirth class, the teacher compared giving birth to running a marathon. If that’s a fair comparison, then I might compare the whole experience of birth followed by caring for a newborn to running a Sahara desert ultramarathon. You think at any moment you might die from exhaustion, but somehow you just keep going. Eventually you hit the wall, and your mind and body do start to shut down. And then you make it through to the other side.

The 20 + hour natural birth experience was just the beginning. My husband and I arrived at the hospital on a Friday evening, after we’d both worked a full day. I was only having mild contractions, but my water had broken, so they told us to come in to the hospital. My doula joined us shortly after we’d arrived.

The nurse suggested I try to sleep during the night. Despite being tired, I couldn’t sleep, because of the anxiety and excitement. And contractions.

I didn’t necessarily plan to have a natural birth. Actually, through most of my pregnancy, I thought the idea of natural birth was crazy. According to my ob/gyn, natural birth was akin to having dental surgery with no painkillers. And why would anyone want to do that?

But my mom kept mentioning how epidurals had dangerous side effects. And other people were bringing that up as well. And then I had a nightmare about it. So I started thinking about it more. I took a childbirth class and got a free doula-in-training. I annoyed my doctor by asking him lots of questions.

By the time of the birth, I’d decided I just wanted to wait until labor was progressing well before getting an epidural. I thought that maybe, if things were going really well, I wouldn’t need an epidural. But I would definitely get one if needed. There’s no reason to experience excruciating pain if you don’t have to.

The doctor didn’t want to check my cervix during the night, because my water had broken and he didn’t want to risk introducing an infection. So I went through the night unaware of how labor was progressing. As the contractions got more intense, I distracted myself with deep breaths, music, and meditation.

Around 8 a.m. they discovered that I was dilated between 5-6 cm. I still felt like I was coping quite well and able to continue without drugs. Awhile later, I got into the jacuzzi tub.

My childbirth teacher had claimed that the jacuzzi tub was as effective at pain management as an epidural. I think that claim is probably false. But it did work pretty well. I would only feel intense pain for maybe a few seconds at a time.

Finally, around 12:30 in the afternoon, I felt like it was time to get out of the tub and start pushing.

That was also about the time I started screaming and crying and asking the nurse to give me an epidural.

She said no. She cheerfully said, “You’re almost done! This is the way birth should be!”

Easy for her to say. I thought I might die.

The nurse kept yelling at me to push, while my husband and doula held my hands.”This is the hardest work you’ll ever do!” said the nurse.

And then, at 2:07 p.m., little Baby Bear was born. They handed her to me and I held her in my arms for her first hour of life. She was so tiny, with perfect little features and a full head of beautiful black hair.

My husband and I knew we had met the new love of our lives. There would be no looking back.

There are things in life that exceed expectations, and things that fall short. Marriage has definitely exceeded my expectations. Six years into our marriage, I can still say that my husband is my dream guy and my best friend. Don’t gag.

On the other hand, my career hasn’t quite turned out like I’d planned. Life is what happens when we’re busy making other plans, thus sayeth The Beatles. Does anyone’s career ever turn out just like they planned? Even if they end up with the career they wanted, is it ever as good as they imagined?

Two months into my life as a new mom, I’m pretty sure that parenting is going to exceed my expectations and then some. She is much more amazing than I could have imagined. Nothing is better than holding my beautiful little girl while she looks into my eyes and smiles and coos. I’m so looking forward to hearing her say her first words and watching her take her first steps.

These are the moments in life that matter. I don’t want to miss any of it.