Monday, June 09, 2008

The first week

I'm going to do this a bit backwards and post notes on our first week home with Maggie here, then post her birth story hopefully tomorrow. I just haven't had time to write the birth story out yet, though I have notes. So here is how things are going as of day 7 of Maggie's life on earth.

And oh, friends in LA, looks like her baptism will be THIS sunday, so email me if you want details to come.

Maggie’s First Week

We decided to leave the hospital after only about 24 hours (although it took more than 36 to get us discharged which was BORING). John felt like it was a prison and they were moving in another mom/baby in our room, so we didn’t feel like sleeping there with roommates and John in an uncomfortable chair instead of the other bed.

Getting her in the car seat the first time was horrible – she screamed and screamed and we didn’t have any idea what we were doing. We couldn’t figure out how to loosen the straps or even get her limbs in the right place. Somehow it got done, and as soon as we were off she did the magic car trick and went right to sleep as all kids seem to do. I got my Fatburger shake.

After we got home we had an incredibly difficult night. I wish I’d been warned that the first night home is traumatic – I later read it in a book and felt much better, but at the time I was just horrified at myself for leaving the hospital so early. I was in so much pain myself – my recovery has been slower and more difficult than I imagined – and the baby just wouldn’t eat as much as I was told she had to, and I felt like all parents with the inadequacy and the terror. I spent a lot of time that night on the phone to friends in the Midwest, people who were themselves up with babies, thankfully. But it was miserable and not something I am keen to repeat. I was so sorry that my mom wasn’t with me. This whole first week (since she came early) has been just me and John, which is very difficult but I hope will ultimately have been some quality bonding time as a family.

Plus I just didn’t realize how hard my own recovery would be. I’m so sore (god bless my friend who brought me a donut to sit on!!) and it hurts to stand up, sit down, cough, laugh, pretty much everything. I have to sit in baths and the first time I did that I couldn’t get down or up by myself. I can barely use the toilet by myself. And don’t get me started on BMs. Let’s just say that department seems to be on permanent vacation. So besides being physically exhausted and mentally stressed from caring for the baby, I’m wiped from my own body’s need to recover from its biggest task ever. Everything just takes so much effort. I actually sent John out on day 2 to buy a $300 rocking chair. I didn’t care a whit about the money – I needed the damn chair for my freaking sore bottom! Not to mention to sleep in at night when I can’t manage to get up after feeding the baby. Anyway, women understand when I simply say “I’m stitched down there” – pretty much any woman can imagine how that would be the worst pain in the world. And when John once ventured something about his own frustration, I snapped that we could cut a few inches into his scrotum and see how he felt after that. Yeah, sometimes pain makes you bitchy.

The main reason that the first night, and subsequent feedings, have been stressful is that I was fed this line that breastfeeding, done properly, is not supposed to hurt – like, at all. This is the impression I had. So when it hurt, I assumed I was doing it wrong and would try again, which would make the baby frustrated and mad, especially if she was eating. After many tearful tries and frustration, I spoke to several good girlfriends who assured me that in fact it DOES hurt at first EVEN if you’re doing it right. I don’t know why this “proper latch doesn’t hurt” myth is perpetuated – perhaps to keep women from getting frustrated and quitting. But I got frustrated and was thinking of quitting because I didn’t realize that a couple days later, doing the exact same thing, it wouldn’t hurt because I would have gotten a bit more calloused and tough. And I’m lucky – I was able to procure a relatively painless latch (after the initial, teeth-gritting moment) within two days, which is way fast. Many times it takes a couple weeks.

The first full day home was actually way better than the night before – the baby slept most of the day and I decided to stop pushing for a feeding schedule (the nurses at Kaiser had been adamant about it, but I could tell the baby just wasn’t that hungry plus for God’s sake she was less than 48 hours old! It was hardly time for scheduling!). I of course got nervous about how much she ate, or didn’t eat, and my own inability to feed her properly. That’s about the only thing I can control in all this, so it’s what I obsess on. But really, I didn’t realize at the time how great she was being (the true stress was on its way).

The second night was fabulous – she slept long stretches and the feedings went well. But then we had to go to the lactation consultant, and I was scolded for letting her go 4 hours between feedings, and for not making her eat as much as they thought she should, even though I could tell when she wasn’t hungry (and spitting up which can mean overfeeding anyway). She’d lost about 8% of her body weight, which is within the normal range. But still I went home determined to put her on a 2-3 hour schedule, which then was challenged by others who say feed only on demand…it’s all so damn complicated. I can only trust my gut, and my gut often tells me not to wake her because the poor thing gets so little down time as it is.

But anyway, things got funny at the appointment: I had been telling John about how nervous I was about the visit, because I felt like it was my first “test” as a mother – they were going to watch and see if I did things right! And I didn’t know what I was doing! John helped by reminding me it was more like a piano lesson or a coach than a test – their job was to help me, not criticize me. But still, I was nervous about being on display.

So when we arrived the nurse asked what color her poop was, and we said still black, and she said it should be turning green by now. Just then, Maggie produced a green poop. My little pleaser. Then she was scolding about my schedule being too lax and that I needed to pump to ensure my milk supply because the baby wasn’t swallowing – and then we looked down, and sure enough, Maggie had suddenly mastered the swallow that she was looking for. Things went on like this. Even I was able to perform: she asked if my milk had come in, I said no, and then she squeezed and milk came out! So Mags is definitely taking after her mommy in being excellent when under test pressure. I’m so proud.

Another funny story was one time John was holding her skin to skin, and suddenly he lets out a whoop and says, “Whoa, she’s hungry!” because the little one had tried to latch onto his nipple! She has since pulled this a couple more times. We think it’s cute that she likes daddy’s smell so much and assumes he’s a food provider too. Would that it were so…breastfeeding is tiring and pretty repetitive. Thank God for my Sex & the City dvds.

On Sunday Maggie was especially fussy most of the day, and we noticed her eye was discharging and leaving a crust like sleep over it, that kept her from opening it. It was sad to not see her pretty little eye anymore. Plus the crust was yellow, and she was super fussy. So after much deliberation all day, calling the nurse, calling girlfriends, and reading up on infections and blocked tear ducts, we wound up with our first frantic trip to the hospital. It was actually only frantic because we found out the urgent care was closing in 30 mins and we live 20 mins from there. We just didn’t want to let it go overnight if it was indeed infected, and it turned out my niece had had just such an eye infection in her first days. So in we went, the rite of passage for parents, to have her checked on something probably that was nothing. And it was – just a blocked duct, which is painless (so they say – she’s still super fussy) and mostly just annoying. We have to clean it and massage her little eye. But mostly I cry because she is so beautiful and now her little eye is always closed, so you can’t see her full gorgeousness anymore. And I remember how lovely she was in the hospital and I miss her full face so much. John joked about getting her an eye patch and calls her Popeye. But I just cry and think about how we won’t have pretty pictures from her first weeks. I know that’s kind of a dumb thing to cry over, but believe me, it ranks pretty high compared to most of what I cry over these days.

Yeah, riding the hormone wave is really tiring, and I try to just let it wash over me and know it will pass, and everything seems worse than it really is, and John and I are snippy because we’re tired and both stressed. The baby seems to be in a sleep-scream cycle with no in-between and that’s just frustrating. I have no animosity towards her at all – she makes me nothing but happy and loving – but I hate my own inability to soothe her. I hate that I can’t fix her troubles. We broke down and got a pacifier today, because we just couldn’t take the screaming anymore. And I feel bad that I didn’t have the strength to wait longer and try more things, but I just didn’t. This morning I scared myself because I let her cry – just a few minutes – because I was literally too tired to move to pick her up. I can’t be so tired that I can’t respond to her. God, I am counting the minutes until my parents are here. I need help so bad. For the first couple days I felt really up, and I suppose I had adrenaline or something on my side. Now I’m getting increasingly teary, impatient, and utterly exhausted. The smallest tasks are daunting, and I’m taking shortcuts with my kid (I do not want her reliant on the paci!). I couldn’t even remember to try rocking her to make her not cry – I can’t think of what to do because this switch in me goes off when I hear it and I can’t think straight, I just have to make it stop. It’s crazy – I always hated baby cries. But my own baby’s cries are like this alarm bell inside my brain and even my body itself. It almost physically hurts when she cries. Often I just bawl while she does because I want her to feel better so badly. I can’t fix her! And now with the eye thing, she really is broken, and that kills me.

The one great thing about going to the doc was that they weighed her, and she has put on 9 freaking ounces since Friday when my milk came in! She’s only 1 oz from her birth weight, which is the 2-week goal! Quite the little overachiever at 6 days. I was so happy with that. Counting diapers is tiring but at least it’s reassuring. We were keeping a very careful log, but that’s not going to last long. We’re both too tired to remember the last diapers and feedings, especially now that she’s up more at night. We’re still at only 2 or 3 times a night, which isn’t awful and isn’t every 2 hours, but it is enough to make us both raging tired.

We did have one really positive experience today: we actually left the house and went to the “mommy movie” at the theater up the street. This is a special deal where they invite everyone to bring a baby, and they turn the lights up slightly in the theater and turn the sound down to about halfway, and there’s even a changing table right in there! It was totally the greatest thing ever. If we were staying here I’d go every week. So I got to see Indiana Jones AND my baby was totally good the whole time! I should have known that movies would be our baby’s soothing device. Stands to reason from parents who met in film school. And then about halfway through she started to wake up, and I actually FED her right there in the theater!! No special support pillow, no time for getting things perfect, I just slapped her on and wouldn’t you know, she just suckled for the rest of the film and was perfectly happy, and I was comfortable and thrilled to provide something that kept her content. I had the hugest sense of accomplishment from that simple act (how different my standards are these days!). And the two plus hours of peace for all three of us was so needed. It felt so good to be outside in the sun, and to be walking around instead of sitting on my sore bottom, and to be just able to DO something again, to stop feeling like a sick person but gain a bit of normalcy.

Here’s hoping it can continue. My baby is a week old tomorrow. I am praying so hard that whatever is bothering her will just go away, so she can be calm and peaceful again. I can’t believe how all my entire life has changed in a week. How the world is completely and utterly changed. And I’m trying very hard to just live in each moment. John will talk about her crying “all day” but I think more in terms of OK she’s crying right now, but look, she’s calm right now. And yeah, I could think back and realize she’s mostly either sleeping or screaming, and rarely awake and not unhappy, but I’m trying very hard to not add it up. Just take it literally one minute at a time. And she’s there in her bassinet sleeping alone for the first time, and yeah, she has a paci, but she’s doing really well for a not-quite-one-week on this earth person.

The stamina may be failing, but I’m still in the mommy high – I’m still, despite the tears and the wishes for her to feel better, I’m still completely and totally blown away by how blessed I am, how much I love her, how much I would do anything and everything for her. Even get myself to the point of near-insanity with exhaustion, just so that I can make sure she knows all her needs will be met, that she can trust us and we will never let her down.

Anyway I’m making myself cry now so I’ll cut this off.


Jennifer Thorson said...

Sounds like you're having a normal first week.

I have a couple of suggestions, if you have the energy to consider a stranger's suggestions.

1. Learn to nurse lying down. My little boy didn't sleep well for a long time, Being able to doze while he ate made things much, much easier.

2. Don't be a hero. Take motrin for the pain. Use Dulcolax until going to the bathroom doesn't scare you anymore. (Both were recommended to me by my midwives. Check with yours if you're concerned about safety.)

3. Remember that right now her needs are pretty simple. She needs to be fed, kept warm and dry, and loved. I think you've got it covered.

M.J. said...

Ditto on what p.l. frog shared!

babies really seem to take the breast better in a reclined position - and tend to do that "fall asleep" then when you pull them off the nipple "suck like crazy" eventually they learn to sleep/eat...

Don't freak about a schedule just yet. With you moving shortly I'd focus on just finding a schedule that works on your comfort level. Definately use the time now to learn how to pump and "toughen up" (suggestion - BAG BALM is WONDERFUL when things get chapped)
After you move and before you get into classes, then work on the scheduling. These first couple of weeks everyone is getting used to life so just do your best to go with the flow...

Repeat after me - Dulcolax is a godsend. Prunes are delicious!

Use what the midwives tell you as the parameters - and yes J is awesome by using the "coaching" analogy. You two will have to find your own rhythm. Don't be surprised if the weight fluctuates again either up or down. It isn't that unusual the first four to six weeks, especially when they are a tad early.

Most of my friend's little ones who have/had blocked tear ducts have had them clear up fairly soon. keep doing what they're telling you to do.

I wish I could be there for the baptism this Sunday - you are going to film it right?

Thinking of you all