Sam is now in size two disposable diapers (disposables are used infrequently around here, but he’s dealing with a yeasty diaper rash due to my thrush, and that Lotrimin will eff up my nice cloth diapers in no time flat!), and he’s solidly in 3-6 month clothes. He’s also making some pretty amazing eye contact, and he “talks” to us — especially to Eric and my dad. They get the most response out of him. I predict he will be a daddy and granddaddy’s boy. (That means he’ll like knives, guns, and video games. And the guitar. And maybe science — biology or physics?) He also rolled over from back to front. This amazed me as I watched it happen, but he hasn’t done it again, and I think it was mostly accidental, though he looked quite pleased as he settled on his tummy. I hastily weighed him on my parents’ scale, and he’s nearly 12 pounds! How time flies when you’re having fun changing diapers, cooing and singing, walking around like a zombie, and nursing constantly.
Lordy, I’ve been somewhat remiss in loving my blog because of loving my son. I think that’s acceptable, but I need to do something for me! And I need a better record of this pretty amazing time.
So, this is my challenge! For November, I’m going to write at least one thing, EVERY DAY. My husband said that was a lot of writing! I tend to be long winded and craft major posts (I have several sitting on my dashboard that are monstrous), and I figure I might just rather be prolific this coming month. Just for a change, for a little while. Maybe long term? Who knows until you try?
For now, readership, please hold me accountable. Fill up my comments with ideas for short blog topics! I yearn to write through November.
It looks to be nearing 2:30 AM, and Sam SEEMS to be sleeping in his crib at my parents’ house. I will try to do the same myself. I predict a rude wake up call in less than three hours.
Good night friends. Be well.
Sam is four weeks old today. That means we’ve kept him alive for a month, and neither of us has run away from home. Also, the dog is still alive. I think this means we’ve been somewhat successful. I think we’re over the infant culture shock hump, but life is definitely not “back to normal.” I don’t expect that it will be, ever.
I do have some tips for surviving the first little while …
1. As I said before, the first two weeks were the hardest for me. I assume this time line is different for other people … For some folks, it might be the first week, or the first four weeks that have them ripping their hair out. I cant tell you that it does get better — and this is something that is really good to keep in mind. IT GETS BETTER. You start to get a little more sleep, everyone adjusts to a new schedule, and you start to figure out how to respond to your infant’s needs.
2. Don’t push yourself too hard. As a new mom, you need your reserves of energy for feeding baby and making sure he’s changed and dressed and reasonably clean. This means that the dishes in the sink, the laundry pile at the foot of the bed, and the painting project you didn’t finish … they can just sit for a while. Your SO should help take care of them, particularly during that first little tough period of time. And if you are more interested in cleaning than I am, and this stuff drives you nuts, try to ignore it if you can. If you can’t, give yourself an hour a day to clean, and then go sit down. Your baby, your health, and your sanity are the most important things during this time. Don’t sweat the small stuff. (And don’t cook either — either stock up on frozen dinners or hit up your friends and relatives for casseroles.)
3. Have entertainment ready. Before you deliver your baby, find a few shows you’ve never seen, put them on your Netflix queue (instant is best!), and enjoy watching them while breastfeeding. Get your friends to lend you a few books that are guaranteed to be good, order some used on Amazon, or get a few from the library. You’ll be sitting a lot, and reading is a great thing to do while sitting … or lying down. If TV and books aren’t your thing, get magazines, crossword puzzles, or something else you can do one handed (breastfeeding requires at least one arm to be out of commission … this is why I recommended Netflix first!).
4. Limit your visitors until you feel like having them. For me, I really couldn’t handle a lot of visitors until about three weeks postpartum. I waited until I was more comfortable with Sam and until I had gotten over some of the natural postpartum anxiety. If you do have family or close friends, make sure they know that you can’t play hostess. There won’t be any appetizers or beverages, and you’ll probably just sit in one place. If your guests really know what’s up, they’ll bring you food, clean something, and leave early.
5. Control the anxiety. There’s a certain amount of anxiety that comes along with being a first time mom. As I’ve written, at first, I cried when Sam cried. It stressed me out completely. I cried when I couldn’t get any sleep, and I cried when my dog refused to eat for two days because her world was turned upside down. Just relax as much as you can. It’s all going to be a lot more stressful than you imagined — and that’s normal, and it’s okay, and you’re not alone.
6. This one helps with number 5 … Take some time for yourself. If your SO has time off, get him or her to take the kid while you sleep in your bed (or wherever you find most comfortable). If a friend or relative comes to visit, tell that person the best thing that they can do for you is let you take a shower, read a book somewhere else in the house, or get back to your knitting project. And here’s the key — don’t feel guilty. If your baby is fed, changed, and in the hands of a responsible adult, everything is fine. You can even leave the house! Go to the grocery store. Get home before the next feeding. Do it as soon as you can drive.
7. Make time for getting outside. Eric and I started this at week two. We made time to go get a smoothie or a burrito, go to CVS, or go on some random errand every day. Recently, we’ve started going to sit down restaurants that are relatively kid friendly. We go at off times, sit outside, or go to restaurants that aren’t generally crowded. The worst that happens is that Sam cries, has a diaper leak, or spits up. He does that ALL THE TIME, so it doesn’t matter if it’s somewhere public. We can just leave. Realize that. You can get the check and leave if a tantrum occurs. Since doing all of that, I feel confident going out on my own, which is pretty great. I feel like much less of a shut in at week four because I started venturing out at week two.
8. Exercise! Even though you’ll feel like someone has hit you with a bat in several different areas, it’s important to get the blood flowing. We take a walk almost every day. We’ve been increasing the length of the walks, and I’ve started carrying Sam in my Moby Wrap. This makes my body feel useful again. I love that my muscles work in the same way they did before I got pregnant. I love that I can walk without Braxton Hicks contractions, and I love being outside … as simple as that. Do what you can to own your body again. You’ll feel good, and happy, and positive.
9. Take one day at a time. Some days will be a lot more stressful and exhausting than others, but if you view one stressful day as just one day, it helps a little. Tomorrow will be different, no matter what.
10. Be ready for everything to change. Sam’s sleep schedule is different every day, and his attitude towards eating is different with each feeding. I expect his routine to change over and over, and that’s okay. My life is about him now, and my schedule will change accordingly.
11. Don’t let the crying get to you. It’s hard, especially for the parents of babies who cry a lot or have colic. The crying at this point is simply communication — it’s not manipulation, or a sign that you’re a bad parent, or anything negative you might assign to it. It’s a way of speaking to you. Respond as quickly as you can, but don’t get upset with yourself if you can’t get to your baby immediately. And then try your repertoire — breastfeed, cuddle, wear him or her in your wrap, bounce, walk around, try the pacifier. Keep a level head as much as you can while trying to calm your infant. A stressed parent does no one any good.
Good luck … you can do it.
I’m sure you’ve read lots of books that tell you all about your pregnant body — how your baby is developing, the weight you should gain, how your feet might start to swell, or the nighttime insomnia you may experience. Very few of the books I read really mention the postpartum period, and they certainly do not cover it in detail. There is some mention of the baby blues and postpartum depression. (Maybe if there was more coverage on what to expect of your body in the first few weeks, depression rates might be a little less. Just saying.) But the books — perhaps society — seem to assume that we women are simply back to normal after a birth. Friends, it is not so. Your body has just experienced a major trauma, and here I am to be very blunt about what to expect. (*Since I haven’t had a c-section and wouldn’t know what to expect, this is the vaginal birth edition.)
Fair warning …. there’s a lot of grossness, and if you don’t want to read about it, or if it will unduly freak you out, just navigate away from this page …
So here’s what to expect from your (lovely, hardworking) postpartum body:
1. It’s going to hurt to pee at first. In fact, this is the first thing you’re going to have to do for your nurse or midwife — in the hospital or at home — to let them know you are okay. And it’s going to hurt like a mother, because you are a mother. Just do it, grin and bear it, and it’ll all be okay. How does it hurt? It burns. What can you do to help it? Use the peri bottle from the hospital — fill it with some warm water and flush your lady area during or after your pee time. (You can also add some Epsom Salts to the warm water … this can speed the healing process and help cleanse the area.)
2. It’s also going to hurt to do anything else for a while. It’s going to hurt to walk, get up from the couch or the bed, turn over, shift positions or stay still. And guess what? It’s normal. It’s okay. And it’s going to get better. I promise. At about two weeks, you’ll start to feel like you can do all kinds of normal stuff! Before then, just chill. Don’t push yourself to clean the house, make the bed, exercise, or anything that requires much effort. Load up your Netflix queue, get out the Boppy, breastfeed, and watch television. You don’t need to do anything else (if you’re a first time mom … I won’t get into the territory of parenting another child!). Have your SO get you water, food, and ice packs. Get lots of ice packs. Ice packs are good.
3. Sorry about all the pain stuff, but I’ll just warn you on this last one: it’s going to hurt when your milk comes in. It just does. Your boobs will load up like they are going to explode, and it will feel like you’re on that edge … the explosion edge. Again, this gets better too. It takes a couple of days, and then your body starts to adjust. In the meantime, take a long hot shower, hand express, breastfeed often, and use those ice packs between feedings.
4. Okay, this one is gross, but it’s true. I guess all of this is kind of gross. So, how do I put this delicately? You’re going to stink. For some reason, your hormones go all whack after you have a baby, and you produce sweat like a thirteen year old boy. That means you are stanky in the BO type of way. Just make time to shower every day. There’s not much you can do about this one.
5. On the sweaty-ness. You will likely have night sweats. That’s exactly what it sounds like. You will get real hot all over, and sweat, and you will wake up all sweaty. Don’t worry when this happens. It’s normal, you don’t have the flu, and it’s natural. What to do? Shower! And change your sheets often so you have that freshness feeling.
6. You’re gonna leak. Get tons of disposable breast pads (Lansinoh makes the best ones) — if you’re like me, the cloth ones just won’t keep up. And change the pads with every feeding! If you don’t, you are making a perfect place for yeast and bacteria to grow (I told you this post was going to be gross). If you get those nasties growing in there, you could end up with thrush or mastitis. Change them. Often. (If you want to go with cloth breast pads, get at least 20 pads, and you’ll probably be washing them every day.)
7. Oh no. More fluids. Okay so, you’re body gears up for this pregnancy by making all of this lining and placenta and goop inside of you (that’s where some of those extra calories are going when you eat them during pregnancy). When you have the baby, a lot of it comes out — but not all. It’s going to come and keep coming 2-6 weeks. You’ll have all sorts of gnarliness — clots, period-like bleeding, and some tapering off discharge at the end. This glorious gift is called lochia, and it’s doing it’s job to get you cleaned out. You’ll need some giant pads at first (they have them at the hospital — take them home with you!), and then regular overnight pads worked just fine for me.
8. You’re skin might not have the pregnancy glow anymore. In fact, you might break out. I have. It’s gross. But again, I guess I can live with it since I’ve got this baby in return.
9. This has not happened to me yet … but … your hair might fall out. Sorry about that. Something to do with the hormones again.
10. And the last one … this was a hard one. I definitely did have the baby blues. It was something that I could sense was really hormonal, but it also had a lot to do with the stress of having a new little baby. When he cried, I started crying. It stressed me out so much. When I couldn’t sleep, I cried. I cried for no reason, and I cried for changing my life so very much. Crazy enough, this all but disappeared around week two. This is big time something you and your partner need to keep an eye on — and be aware of. If it lasts longer than the two or three week mark, go back to your OB, and demand help. Advocate for yourself … because your baby needs to be enjoyed by a mom who is capable, emotionally available, and energetic.
Good luck, and I hope this wasn’t too too gross.
I’m really hoping to stir up some controversy with my title. But I think you’ll get where I’m coming from when I explain myself. Even my lactation consultant was sympathetic when I talked to her for an hour the other night. I confessed to her that I’d had a dream I mixed Sam a bottle of formula and gave it to him. In my dream, I was SO happy.
Breastfeeding has never been something I’ve been totally on board with. During my I-want-an-epidural (or a scheduled c-section!) phase back when I first got married, I expressed my distaste for the idea of breastfeeding to my husband. (“It’s gross! Fluids! Sticky! Bleh!”) He thought I was crazy, and he expressed that he knew I would breastfeed when the time came.
Fast forward to October 6, 2010. Sam is a little over three weeks old, and I am four days into a 21 day course of Diflucan (fluconazole — an antifungal drug). Why? I have a fierce, painful, burning case of thrush — a yeast infection in my breasts. Blerrghhh …. (that’s the sound of me being appropriately disgusted). What does thrush do? It makes it incredibly painful to nurse my son. I have radiating pain for an hour to two hours afterward. It makes a special bond between me and my child something that I dread.
I haven’t gotten to enjoy nursing for one day, in fact. Before my milk came in, I was worried Sam wasn’t latched properly and wasn’t getting enough colostrum. When my milk came in, I spent a good while crying over the pain and taking multiple hot showers for a modicum of relief. As soon as my supply evened out and the pain of engorgement stopped, I got what I now know is thrush in one breast. Over last week, it jumped to the other.
I can say that I am incredibly lucky that Sam gained 1.5 pounds (!!!) by his two week appointment. He’s gained at least a full two by now. My supply is fine, his latch is good, and my god, I am lucky.
I am lucky, and I am not. I am one of so many women who suffers at the whims of breastfeeding success. The information I’ve read on breastfeeding has a lot to say about how crazy you are if you formula feed (I’m paraphrasing, but you get the point), how breast is best, and how too many women stop for little issues like soreness or thinking they don’t have enough supply. If you have a breast, you can feed, they say. You’re silly to think that you can’t.
I know, of course, that breastfeeding is ideal. It provides closeness and warmth, and all of the wonderful nutrients that your baby needs. It builds immune systems, provides antibodies, and gives the tools for brain growth. But I do think women these days, especially in certain circles, can be made to feel that if they choose to formula feed, or NEED to formula feed for their health or for their baby’s health that they are terrible people. I know several women who have had to quite breastfeeding after so many attempts to keep pushing forward for the sake of their children. This situation hurt these women, but in the end, formula proved to be the best — perhaps the only — option.
The lovely, patient lactation consultant talked to me for a long while. She told me of a woman she knew who had mastitis (a painful bacterial infection in the breast) once a month for all of the ten months she fed her child. She kept on pushing through. Noble, but … could I do it? I’m not sure I could. I know I would feel guilty quitting. But should I be expected to continue through such a painful and continuous issue? Just a question. Mostly rhetorical.
I’m left sitting here, back to square one. After my natural birth, my growing success in cloth diapering, my recent successful forays into babywearing … I’m left unenthusiastic about breastfeeding. Knowing it is best (and cheapest!), I continue for now. But I feel for any woman who has had supply issues, mastitis, latch problems, poor health and of course, thrush. It’s hard when you’re always told to do what’s best, and what’s best hurts you so much.
I so want to enjoy breastfeeding, because it is a unique time in my son’s life, one that will be over too soon. I’m giving him strength to live and grow — and that’s pretty amazing. I hope I get the opportunity to enjoy this task I now see as an obligation.
And by damn, I hope that medicine works soon, because this totally sucks.
For great information on curing thrush, check out this site.
Poems always help.
Song for a Fifth Child
Mother, oh Mother, come shake out your cloth
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
Hang out the washing and butter the bread,
Sew on a button and make up a bed.
Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She’s up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.
Oh, I’ve grown shiftless as Little Boy Blue
(lullaby, rock-a-bye, Lullaby loo).
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
(pat-a-cake, darling, and peek-peek-a-boo).
The shopping is not done and there’s nothing for stew
And out in the yard there is a hullabaloo.
But I’m playing “Kanga” and this is my “Roo.”
Look! Aren’t her eyes the most wonderful hue?
(lullaby, rock-a-bye, lullaby loo).
The cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow,
For children grow up, as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs. Dust go to sleep.
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.
Ruth Hulburt Hamilton, 1958
We’ve just about made it to Sam’s three week birthday. I have no concept of time though. Without work to fill my weekdays, and without a routine sleep schedule at night, the hours blend together, and I don’t have a concrete way to measure time. Most of today, I’ve been confused about what day it is. I keep having to remind myself. The time seems to have passed so very quickly, and yet, it feels like a long, long time that we’ve had Sam.
I’ve gotta say — these past weeks have been some of the hardest of my life. The only time in my life that rivals this in difficulty was perhaps the year I spent in Japan, where I dealt with major culture shock, homesickness, and a long distance relationship with my then boyfriend, now husband. It doesn’t seem fair to compare getting to know Sam to living in a foreign country, but bear with me. Even though I cried a lot, and even though I was completely out of my element living in Japan, I got to know myself in a totally different way, I grew as a person, I got to see some of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen in my life, and I had to majorly adjust my concept of what is “normal” on a day to day basis. I would count Japan as a major step in my maturing process, and certainly Sam’s first year will be as well.
I’ve definitely experienced some culture shock over the past three weeks, and I’ve had just as many weepy spells as I did those first weeks in Japan. The light at the end of the tunnel isn’t as elusive to me, though. In Japan, I was on a quest to find adventure, find myself, and gain space from my sheltered life as a child and young woman. Now, the prize is Sam, and even as he flips our lives upside down and changes our concept of what is normal, he is a living reminder of the reward. I can look into those deep blue newborn eyes and imagine the things that we will show him. As my emotions begin to adjust and my body heals, I can allow myself to fall in love.
Just as I couldn’t have written Sam’s birthday story in the first week after his birth, I couldn’t write this post a week or even two weeks after Sam arrived. It was all too much in the first weeks — too much physical pain, too many hormonally induced crying sessions at 2AM, and too much doubt around being a good mother. I can also honestly admit that, like any other difficult or challenging (or truly rewarding) thing in life, it has taken me a couple of weeks to actually start feeling like a mom. It’s taken me this long to start to fall in love. Notice I left this out of the birth story — it was hard for me to form a concept of love at first for Sam. Of course, I felt happy. I felt protective. I felt accomplished. But all the mothering feelings didn’t rise above the difficulty of recovering from birth and adjusting my concept of what is normal.
I have to say that this whole newborn phase is a lot harder than I thought it would be. It’s a lot more time-consuming than I thought it would be. And it’s … just a lot different in every way than I ever realized. Sleep is elusive. For me, breastfeeding has been painful and difficult. Cloth diapering was a major bust at first (but is starting to work out great now). And sometimes I simply feel tapped out, used up, dehydrated, exhausted. My mother pointed out to me that if you had a guest who was as needy as a newborn, you’d kick them right out of your house. Absolutely true.
But … in the past few days, I’ve begun to realize how fleeting this period of time is. I look at friends who have older babies — who are so, so different from Sam right now. I look forward to those phases too, but I’m beginning to enjoy and appreciate this one for what it is. For now, Sam is gentle, delicate, warm and small. He nuzzles and cuddles against my chest after eating. He smiles to himself before he falls asleep, and he dreams. I love to wonder what he dreams about. After all, what does he know? Three weeks of life, and he dreams.
There are days, especially days in autumn when the nights are cool and a certain smell is in the air, that I truly miss Japan. I sometimes find myself wondering if I knew how amazing my experience there truly was at the time. I know that I cannot get that time back — not in the same way I had it then. I might return, but it will be under entirely different circumstances, and I’ll never recapture the experiences that shaped that tremendously formative year. Likewise, I won’t get back these weeks. I won’t get back the feeling of falling in love with my son, and I won’t get back the newborn noises, warmth, dependence. There are great things ahead, but I’m beginning to appreciate that great things are right here in front of me.
Welcome to the Savvy Mom Space
I’m a liberal feminist that believes that liberal, feminist ideals should gel with embracing your gender and motherhood (if that’s what you feel like doing). I support all kinds of moms and dads and parents. Oh and, although I totally love that natural vibe and not harming the environment, I supplement my organic milk and fresh fruits and veggies with the occasional Twix, the frequent Oreo, and the daily Coke Zero. I’m opinionated, not easily offended, and a loudmouth in person and on the internet. I am what I am. Welcome.