It’s amazing how time flies when you’re totally in love. I’ve been writing this post now for quite some time since my down-time comes in spurts these days. 🙂
Again, a disclaimer that while I’m trying to be remotely discrete with some of the details, if you don’t want to know what happens after childbirth, now is the time to stop reading!
After hanging out in the labor and delivery room for quite a while, it was finally time to head up to our room. They brought down a wheelchair and pushed me up to our room. Wheeling down the hallway holding my new son was such a surreal experience! When we’d walked in to the room less than 12 hours earlier, we were two people, and now we were three! I definitely had a dopey, proud mama grin on my face as everyone watched us make our way upstairs with smiles on their faces at our obvious elation. 🙂
We got to our room at 9:10 p.m., just 10 minutes after they stopped room service, boo! Now I hadn’t had anything to eat since a yogurt at 7 a.m. and I was absolutely starving! Once you have the epidural, all you’re allowed to have are ice chips…one of its only drawbacks! I’d also scarfed down a few pieces of my grandmother’s shortbread recipe that my mom brought to the hospital when we were waiting down in labor and delivery, but that was hardly enough to make me feel better! Most of this part is still kind of a blur, but I do remember Glenn running down to the cafeteria to get us some food and bringing up their terribly “healthy” selections of a hamburger for him and some chicken fingers for me. I think I would have eaten anything at this point! 🙂
When we got the room, the nurse gave Carter his first bath in the bathroom, and then he had to stay in the warming bed they brought into the room until his temperature stabilized, which took a while. In the meantime they focused on getting me to go to the bathroom, which trust me, after going through what I’d just gone through, is a scary proposition! (I will say that I managed to avoid one of the biggest childbirth fears out there, though…pooping on the table! Very exciting to know I avoided this one!) I was introduced to the spectrum of “products” that would soon become par for the course…the peri bottle (used in lieu of toilet paper to wash off), a spray can of Dermaplast (to help numb the pain a bit), Tucks (to soothe the “area”), the biggest maxi pads on the face of the planet, and of course the terribly attractive “preggie panties” we’d been shown in our childbirth classes…mesh, huge and stretchy…we soon nicknamed them my “sexy underpants” because they were really anything but. But honestly, at that point, comfort is way more important than vanity!
Our first night is a total blur. I honestly don’t remember whether or not I slept at all. I don’t think I did sleep much, but I also wasn’t very mobile since by this point the adrenaline had worn off and my soon-to-be constant companion, pain, had set in. I know that Carter spent most of the night snuggled on Glenn’s chest. The first night he was just so curious and aware…wondering who we were and what on earth had just happened to him!
After that first feeding in the labor and delivery room, I did my best to breastfeed him every two hours, but it is SO HARD in the beginning! While I was able to stick it out, I can see why so many people give up on breastfeeding early on. Your milk doesn’t come in until the 3rd or 4th day post-partum, so for those first few days all you have is colostrum, which I think kind of ticked Carter off! 🙂 While breastfeeding is one of the most natural processes ever, that doesn’t mean that it necessarily comes naturally to everyone. Each time it was time to feed him, I would feel a surge of panic because I just didn’t feel that I knew what I was doing, and when you’re the sole source of nutrition for this little person, you can’t help but worry that you’re not giving them enough. When I first fed him in the delivery room, they briefly showed me what to do, but each time thereafter I had to really coach myself along with a mental checklist of everything I had to do. I didn’t get to meet with the lactation specialist until more than 24 hours after he was born, at which point I so desperately needed some pointers! Even when I did finally meet with her, she was in such a rush that I only “got” about half of what she told me. But she did show me the “reverse cradle” position, which I think was the turning point toward breastfeeding success because it finally allowed me to get some more control over both Carter and myself. (Note to those of you who plan to breastfeed…they will probably show you the “cradle” hold when you first breastfeed…this is so difficult! The reverse cradle allows you to have one hand directing the baby’s head and one hand controlling your booby, which really makes a difference!) Later that night, after another surge of paranoia that we would be leaving the hospital the next day and I still didn’t have the hang of this, I basically forced my nurse to sit down with me and help me figure out how to properly get him latched on, which is the hardest part, in my opinion. While the next few days were still a challenge, getting the proper hold and latch enabled me to gain some confidence and persevere through the hard part.
But back to that first night. I don’t know what I expected…again with the dramatic difference in what I expected versus what actually happened…but we were basically on our own for everything. No one showed us how to change diapers, how to take care of him, how to calm him when he cried. It was totally trial by fire as we learned how to be parents those first tenuous nights. Now allow me to put in a plug for one of my saving graces…the book Happiest Baby on the Block, which was a complete and total lifesaver, and I really think it should be mandatory reading for anyone who is about to have a baby. The book talks about babies needing a “4th trimester” to develop, so for their first 3 months, you’re supposed to created a womb-like environment for them, which is accomplished through what they call the 5 S’s of the Cuddle Cure: swaddling, shushing, sideways, swinging and sucking (here’s an article that spells these out a bit more). Right off the bat, when Carter cried, I would put my lips to his ear and loudly make a shushing noise, and what do you know, this really helped to calm him down. As did the “Jello head” move they suggested, which involves cupping his little head with both of your hands and loosely allowing it to vibrate in your hands. As crazy as this sounds, it really does help the baby calm down because they’re used to constant movement. They’re also big proponents of swaddling the baby very tightly, and this is the one area where we doubted their methods (and shouldn’t have!). When we swaddled Carter in the hospital, he would always find a way to finagle his hands out of the blankets and flail them around. We took this to mean that he didn’t want his arms to be swaddled, but we figured out days later that this was not the case! Sure he THOUGHT he didn’t want his arms swaddled and he screamed bloody murder when we did it, but by swaddling him tightly, we took away the distractions and allowed him to calm down and go to sleep. I can’t say it enough…read this book before you have your baby!! We didn’t allow Carter to be a fussy baby…we just nipped it in the bud before it happened!
But that first night in the hospital, we didn’t have Carter swaddled properly. Every time Glenn would put him down in his bassinet, he would tolerate it for about 15 minutes and then scream bloody murder until he was picked up again. Not so great if you’re trying to get some sleep!
The day after Carter was born we had lots of visitors. It started at 5:30 in the morning when they came to take my blood (good morning!!). Next came the nurse practitioner from my OB-GYN practice, Ellen, to check in with me. The first thing she said was that she’d heard I had a rough delivery, and she said it with such concern on her face. I honestly didn’t even know at this point that I’d HAD a rough delivery! This was the first time I’d heard that I had a 3rd degree (out of 4 degrees) tear, and had it explained to me, and at this point I was pretty terrified of what had happened to my body. Sure I knew I was in pain, but I thought that was just normal for what my body had been through. When I realized there were extenuating circumstances and I would have a difficult recovery, I was completely freaked out! We discussed my pain management options and I decided against narcotics because I didn’t want to affect Carter, and against plain old Ibuprofen because that just wasn’t cutting it, and settled on what I called the happy medium…Darvocet. They also gave me a sitz bath, which is a basin of water that you put under the toilet seat and sit in to soak your bottom. At first they didn’t show me how to use this properly, but after I made my nurse show me how, this became another helpful companion…though I never did quite find time in the day to use it 4 times like I was supposed to! Finally, they prescribed a stool softener and laxative to help make “things” a bit more comfortable for me considering how sensitive that area was. I will say that even if you don’t have a tear with your delivery, these things are probably a good idea to bring with you to the hospital or have ready at home, because trust me, it’s scary going to the bathroom after having a baby and you need all the help you can get! While I won’t go into any more detail than what I’ve already said (and trust me, I could if I wanted to share that much), you do NOT want to get constipated. Eat plenty of fiber, drink plenty of water, and take some sort of over-the-counter remedies to ensure that it doesn’t happen. And if it does, feel free to contact me for recommendations! 🙂 But on to more pleasant memories!
We also had some welcome visitors on the second day. My mom came in the morning to hang out with me while Glenn went home to change, check on the kitties and attempt to get rid of his migraine headache. At lunchtime we had a visit from my friend “Auntie” Lauren, and a very-awake Carter just loved her! Later that evening my parents came back over again and I think my poor Dad was a bit scarred by having to watch his daughter breastfeed, but he was a good sport. 🙂 One of my oldest friends, “Auntie” LeShayne, also came over that evening. Since I’m an only child, I “adopted’ her daughter and son as my unofficial niece and nephew and have been Aunt Jenni to them since they were born. LeShayne has been on my case to have kids for years now so she could return the favor, so she was very excited to finally meet her new unofficial nephew!
After everyone went home though, Tuesday night rapidly went downhill. Neither Glenn nor I had gotten any sleep since Carter was born and we were both completely exhausted. Carter, on the other hand, did not want to sleep at all, and did a ton of crying any time he was put down in his bassinet for us to try and get some shut-eye. Add to this the fact that I was in a ton of pain at this point and we were both reaching melt-down status! A small part of me was wondering what the heck we’d been thinking when we signed on to this whole “parent” thing, and I really didn’t know how we were going to survive…it was definitely my low point and I really doubted my abilities to be a mom.
So in the wee hours of the morning, we decided to have him taken to the nursery for a few hours, which was a really hard decision for us. We felt like such bad parents sending our baby away, but we knew it was really for the best because we weren’t doing him any good while we were so completely sleep-deprived! The only catch? We had to agree that if he needed it, they could give him a pacifier, which we were really trying to avoid since we didn’t want to interfere with his breastfeeding. This was almost a deal breaker, but I was such a basket case at this point that I agreed. Turns out it wasn’t necessary! They swaddled him so tightly that he slept like a log for 4 blissful hours with no pacifier, which means that Glenn and I also got to sleep for 4 blissful hours. Now let me clarify that I have always been an 8+ hours of sleep kind of girl, and I get very cranky if I don’t get that much. The fact that 4 hours of sleep would even remotely sound like a good idea was such a new concept for me, but wow, that was one of the best sleeps I ever had!
I woke up totally refreshed and ready to take on mommyhood. All of the doubts from the night before were wiped away. And after my body had a bit of time to heal while I slept, I could actually get up out of bed for a little bit to take care of Carter, finally have a shower (which was very scary since my body was such a wreck!), and get us all ready to go home. I got Carter dressed in his going home outfit, some PJs with lion footies, took lots of pictures, and got everything packed up. Glenn took everything down to the car and pulled it around to pick me up. Finally, they brought up a wheelchair to bring us down. Carter got strapped into his carseat and sat in my lap on the way down to our car. We put the carseat into the car and drove out of the hospital, with me sitting with Carter in the back seat to make sure he was OK…he slept the whole way! Again, the fact that we’d driven in as two people and drove out as three was so surreal!
The next few days were some of the hardest of my life, but not because of being a mommy. While I certainly don’t want to scare anyone, my recovery and healing process was less than easy to say the least and I was in a lot of pain. Thankfully the further we get away from that time period, the more the pain just fades away, which I think is a genetic predisposition to help continue our species. 🙂 Glenn was wonderfully supportive during those really rough days and nights, and he basically had to take care of Carter without any help from me aside from feeding him, which was my sole responsibility. I was on partial bedrest and couldn’t cook, clean, drive, or go up and down our stairs more than once a day. I consider myself so lucky to have a husband who would take care of both of us so well when we couldn’t take care of ourselves! I know it was really hard for Glenn to watch me in so much pain, and he did everything he could to help make me more comfortable, including going out to get lots of embarrassing things for me at the drug store.
I thankfully talked to my cousin Lexy within the first few days, and she gave me some great recommendations to help make me feel better. There is a great line of products called “Earth Mama Angel Baby” that are all organic and so soothing! They have the most embarrassing names ever: Nipple Butter, Bottom Spray, and Bottom Balm, but they really did help me feel better! (If you’re going to breastfeed, the Nipple Butter is SO much better than Lanolin…highly recommended!) They have them in the “Mommy” section at Babies R Us, and my dad actually went to pick them up for me! I told everyone I was going to make them t-shirts…”My Wife/Daughter Just Had a Baby” since they had to buy so many embarrassing things for me!
I generally would feel OK during the day and then the nights would be pretty horrendous. My worst night was night 6 post-partum, when I really almost had a nervous breakdown. Again, I will spare the details since this is the internet, but if you are going to have a baby and want to know what to expect, please don’t hesitate to ask, and I’d be glad to fill you in! After that really bad night, I went to the girly doctor the next day to be checked out, and was told that everything that was happening to me was perfectly normal, and I was healing great. I think this was what I needed to hear, and day 7 was when I finally started feeling better. By day 8, I actually felt human! What a relief to finally be able to be up on my feet again!
I will say that my boys kept me sane during this time. Glenn was so supportive, and Carter just kept me grounded. As much as I hurt, I knew it was for a good reason, and the sweet baby boy I’d brought into this world made it all worthwhile. Tears of pain alternated with tears of pure joy as I looked at his sweet sleeping face in total awe of what we’d created. The fact that he was made completely from scratch and every little part of him was either from me or Glenn was just incredible to me, especially since he is so perfect. Of course his health was first and foremost our priority, but the fact that he is just so darn cute made it that much better! There is nothing like snuggling with a sweet, soft baby, especially YOUR sweet, soft baby. When Carter looks into my eyes, or sighs in his sleep, it just completely melts me. As I type this blog entry, he is lying on my chest on his tummy with his hand under his chin, snoring softly, a warm heavy weight next to my heart. He is so sweet and innocent, and he’s all ours!
As I said to start this blog, it’s amazing how time flies when you’re totally in love. Four weeks have passed since he came into this world, and they’ve had their share of ups and downs. While Carter is a great baby most of the time, he definitely has his fussy moments when I’m driven to the brink. There’s nothing like a screaming baby to make your blood curdle and every nerve stand on end, and some evenings he just screams bloody murder and nothing we do makes him feel better, which is just so hard! Is it easy being a parent? I give that one a big resounding no! It’s the most challenging thing I’ve ever done, and I’m constantly doubting my abilities as a parent. But I think that’s only natural, and the hard parts are blurred and softened by the wonderful, magical parts. By watching him grow and change before my eyes every day. By the look of adoration in his big blue eyes when he looks up at me. And by the way he completely relaxes when I hold him close to me. I am amazed every second by my sweet little Munchkin, even as his little face is starting to turn red right now in anticipation of a good cry!
I hope these two blog posts were a good summary of the first days of parenthood for those of you who have yet to have kids. I think it’s important to have realistic expectations, and while everyone has a completely different “baby story” to tell and mine isn’t necessarily the norm, I just want you all to be prepared, just in case! I am glad to give any of you advice or information…I’m an open book…all you have to do is ask. 🙂
Let me finish up by saying that while the recovery was awful and the pain was unbearable at times, I would still do it all over again in a heartbeat. This sweet boy on my chest (who fell back asleep, after all!) is so incredibly worth it. I had no idea how much I would love him, and the fact that I’ve been entrusted with this new little soul to nurture and grow is such an amazing gift. I will try to keep you all posted as he continues to become more and more amazing.
Love, Jenni and Carter