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.