Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Three Weeks Out

This Saturday marks 4 weeks since my daughter was born.  At this point, life is settling into a sort of rhythm for us.  Not one that's sustainable for the long term, since sleep patterns aren't really being established all that well for anyone except my husband, who gets to have night after night of uninterrupted sleep since he's back at work and I'm at home with the seahorse all day.  Once I go back to work, I'm not sure how all of this is going to work out, since she's not a huge fan of sleeping at night, or sleeping easily at night if she does decide to sleep.  We also go through evening bouts of unexplained screaming where she fusses for hours and hours prior to bedtime, but things are slowly starting to get easier.

Does that mean it's all sunshine and roses?  No.  I get resentful when all I want to do is sleep and she's got other ideas.  I get frustrated when she cries for apparently no reason at all.  We've found a rhythm to our days, but sometimes I find myself wishing for one night a week of completely uninterrupted sleep.  It's not as miserable and difficult as everyone I know has made it sound, but there are moments when I am tired and frustrated and I just want her to be quiet, or to go to sleep and let me sleep too.  I am not always super mom.  I am not always happy and content, and I don't romanticize those moments late at night as being sweet and peaceful.  The bottom line is, I'm still me, and I've never been ok with anything waking me up in the middle of the night.  This isn't any different.  I just have to deal with it, which I'm doing.

At the same time, there are things that are kind of nice.  When she falls asleep on me and she's warm cuddly.  When she has reflex smiles that aren't really smiles, but it's a preview to what she will look like when she does smile at us and recognize us.  When she looks over because she hears my voice.  Realizing that she can suddenly see the little mobile pieces that hang over her bouncer seat or her swing that she couldn't see a week ago.  Her tiny hand wrapped around my finger as I realize I'm actually the one that's wrapped around her tiny little finger.  Her big eyes looking around as she starts to take inventory of all of the new things in her range of vision.  These things are nice.  They're moments I won't get back, and they are fleeting.  Late at night, when I'm feeding her and trying to get her back to sleep, I stare into that little face and realize that it's not as little as it was 3 weeks ago.  She's already grown so much, and changed so much in such a short time, and while I'm not one for getting tearful over reaching new milestones or watching your baby grow up, I did think I'd have more time with her as a tiny newborn.  I didn't expect her to change so fast.  On one hand, I'm ready for it.  I'm ready for her to sleep through the night and learn new things, but there is a piece of me that loves her as a tiny little baby and isn't necessarily ready to see that go away so quickly.  I'm not an overly sentimental person, but I have my moments of wondering how long I have with her wanting to be held, or snuggled close to us, and sometimes I'm afraid that my exhaustion and frustration are making me miss out on the small amount of time I have with her like this.

I also sometimes worry that, while I love her, I don't love her enough.  I know that sounds weird, but in the moments when I'm frustrated or annoyed by the middle of the night feedings or the unexplained crying, when I think that if I loved her the way I am supposed to, I wouldn't be feeling this way.  I watch my husband with her, and realize he has literally hundreds of photos of her already, and who immediately takes her from me when he gets home and holds her for hours at a time, staring at her, stroking her feather soft cheeks with his fingers, and I wonder if he loves her more than I do or at least the way he's supposed to love her.  I love her tiny face, I love when she is awake and stares at me.  I hold her when she cries and I try to hold and play with her for a little bit each day, but my days with her are a lot more task oriented and practical.  She spends a lot of her day in a bouncer seat, or a swing, or on her lounge pillow while I do things around the house.  She gets packed in the car seat and dragged around while I run errands.  I feed her, I change her, I get her dressed and bathe her.  I take care of her daily needs but I don't spend a lot of time holding her in adoration, marveling at her existence and feeling like she is magical.  I love her, but I love her as an addition to my life that I work into my day, not the reason for my existence that I work the rest of my life around.  But, sometimes I feel like as a mom, I'm supposed to want to sit and stare at her for hours, hold her constantly, and never want her out of my site.  I feel like I'm supposed to just be enamored with everything, and the fact that I'm not makes me somehow lacking in the love department.  I do love her.  I think she's beautiful, and sometimes I'm a little blown away that I had any part in her creation at all, but I don't know if that's enough.  

Sometimes I just wonder if anything I'm doing is enough.  

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Am I just not normal?

Lately several people on Facebook have been posting this article all about what people really should have warned an expectant mother about when she was pregnant.  All about how she got warnings about things like childbirth being painful, or never having a moment to herself again etc. but no one warned her about how her heart would be seized immediately by a tiny precious miracle and she'd never be the same again or whatever.  Lots of people posting the article are talking about how it made them cry because it was just all so true.  I read it.  It made me cry as well, but for other reasons.  Namely that I couldn't relate to it at all, and I felt like there was something wrong with me.

That's not true.  Not exactly.  I do love seeing my husband with our daughter and I think it's awesome to watch him step in to be a dad.  Sometimes, I actually find it difficult to watch, because he seems to have slipped into the role so much more seamlessly than I have.  I still don't feel like a "mom".  I guess I thought there was going to be some mental switch that flipped in my head the second I saw her, and that everything would seem somehow different.  It hasn't been like that.  I don't feel like my mom trigger got tripped.  I just feel like me, trying to navigate the needs of someone else without making too many mistakes.

The article talked about how waking up to care for the needs of your baby is one of the most rewarding things you'll ever do, and those quiet mornings together become your favorite moments when you get to snuggle and share that time, just the two of you.  I have felt none of that.  Mostly I just sit there, watching her slurp down a bottle, wondering how long it will be before she finishes, and how difficult it will be to burp her when she's done, all because that hinges on how quickly I can go back to sleep and all I really want to do is sleep.  When she makes me work half an hour to get a burp out of her, and then fusses for another half hour after that so that by the time she's back asleep, I have a whopping 45 minutes before I will need to be up again for her next feeding, I don't feel anything other than exhausted and a bit frustrated.  I know, I'm supposed to be enamored, but I'm not.  I'm just tired, and sometimes I resent my husband who is able to snore his way through the whole thing all night while I'm up trying to get her to sleep.  The sad thing is, I have zero right to resent him at all.  He's been awesome.  We have worked as a team and he's given me several mornings where I can sleep late while he gets up with her, but there's something about having to get up out of your warm bed at 4 a.m. while someone else gets to keep sleeping away that just makes you frustrated.

The article also talks about how when you leave the house without your baby, you'll be constantly texting for updates or wondering what's going on with her, and that's just what life will be like from now on.  Except that I don't feel like that.  I had to buy diapers one afternoon and my husband told me to go to the store by myself while he kept the baby, and I cried because I felt like I should protest and feel terrible about leaving her behind, but what I felt was....relief.  The idea of going out by myself was so nice.  So appealing.  And my husband hasn't felt the need to step out and be I feel terrible because I'm pretty sure it makes me a terrible mom.  Same with going to my holiday party for my office.  We left her with my parents, and I didn't feel the need to check up on her all night.  I didn't need to know what was happening, or constantly check to make sure she was doing ok.  I just left her and felt confident that everything would be fine and I'd come get her later.  Later I did feel anxious, but it was because I felt like I just wasn't being a good parent by being so calm and ok with leaving her for a few hours. I not normal?  Is there something inherently wrong with me?  Am I really just not cut out for this mom thing?  I wish I knew.  I love her.  She's adorable, and tiny, and nice to snuggle with, but at the same time.....I still wish I had a full night of sleep, and I like being able to go out alone, or with just my husband, and I don't obsessively need to know what she's doing all the time.  I'm ok with letting her cry for a few minutes if I'm busy with something, and when she wakes me up at 4 a.m., I have a moment where my first thought is "I don't want to".  What does all of that mean?  Why does this seem so hard for me to be like everyone else seems to be in this whole motherhood thing?  Why can't I sit there and talk about how peaceful and beautiful it is to get up and feed her or change her diaper in the middle of the night?  Am I broken?

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Am I a mom?

Everyone says the first few days at home with a newborn are harrowing.  They don't come with an instruction manual (though, the hospital did give us an instruction booklet) and you have to figure out how to navigate life while at the same time managing the needs of a tiny creature that only cares about its own needs.  I think it's probably a bit harder when trying to navigate all of that while recovering from having your abs sliced open.  I'm slowly becoming accustomed to the idea of my body being a patchwork of surgical scars, and I don't even really care about the whole "My body looks weird now" factor of the whole pregnancy/c-section thing.  Yes, I'd like to go back to my own personal normal, I'd like to comfortably wear my own clothes again (I'm close!  My jeans button!) but for the most part, it's not really a huge focus like I thought it would be when I started this journey.  Mostly, I just want to feel like I'm doing the right things.

All of the stupid hormonal stuff I skipped during pregnancy may be hitting me full force right now.  I get weepy over stupid shit, and I find that I'm often annoyed with myself for not being able to hold my shit together over really stupid things.  I know, it's temporary.  It's a balance of hormones and whatever else.  But sometimes it makes everything else seem amplified.  The lack of sleep seems more intense.  I sit around the house in my pajamas until mid-afternoon because she's kind enough to sleep from 8:00 a.m. until 11:00 a.m. and I try to squeeze in a couple extra hours of sleep during that window just so I can keep my sanity, but then I get up, I feed and change her, I try to keep her awake in hopes that it'll help her learn she's supposed to sleep at night and by the time I realize it, it's mid afternoon and I'm still walking around in pjs and a robe, and I get angry at myself once again for not having my shit together.  I'm not the person who stays in pajamas all day.  Now I've become that person and I don't like it.

Then I feel like a terrible person for not wanting to just sit and stare at her all day, or snuggle up to her all afternoon while she naps.  My husband seems perfectly content to hold her all day long and marvel over how awesome she is, snuggling her and rubbing her tiny cheeks.  I don't want to hold her all the time.  I enjoy holding her, and snuggling with her for a bit of time here and there, but there's a large part of me that is reaching for a sense of normalcy and I'd be just as happy to leave her in the swing while I clean up the house or make dinner and feel like something normal is happening.  I feel like, by not wanting to just sit and stare at her, I'm not being a very good mom, and my husband is already doing so much better than I am.  

I feel like I missed out on something by doing this whole thing via c-section.  It definitely wasn't a choice, but it was what had to happen.  The problem is that you read all of this information about how quickly babies will bond with their mother once they're born, and usually mom is the first person (aside from a medical team) that your baby sees.  Normally it's into the world and then lying on mom's chest and apparently this is how that bond is built.  But that didn't happen for me.  I was strapped to a table, posed like Jesus, unable to move or even see her properly.  I couldn't touch her.  They brought her over and handed her to my husband and that was the first person she saw.  The first voice she recognized.  The first touch she knew.  She'd been in this world over an hour before I even got a good look at her, let alone got to hold her, and even when I did get to hold her, I was so exhausted and medicated that I couldn't process everything as properly as I'd have liked to.  Now I feel like I didn't bond with her, and that I am somehow less than my husband here.  She knows his voice.  She turns to look for him when she hears him talking somewhere out of her sight range.  She can go from screaming bloody murder while I hold her to silence as soon as I hand her off to him.  She spends every single night from 11:00 p.m. until 2:00 a.m. shrieking and crying for absolutely no apparent reason, and the only moments of silence that punctuate those hours of crying are when I hand her off to him.  I will pace the room, bouncing her, rocking her, trying to sooth her, fighting back tears because I don't know how to make her stop or why she's so upset at the same time every single night.  I just feel like she knows.  She knows I'm not enough and she's just waiting for him to step in and do the right things, because I am not going to be able to do it.  Like she knows him, she wants him, and she doesn't want me.  

I realize that a lot of this is probably in my head, that it's probably my emotions getting the better of me at the moment, but I think about it a lot, and it stings.  I'm trying really hard.  I just don't know if I'm succeeding at all, and I'm really afraid that I've missed my bonding window because of circumstances out of my control.

Friday, January 9, 2015

So, I had a baby

That's such a small, simple sentence.  "I had a baby".  It doesn't really encompass the whole process, really.  It doesn't begin to describe everything that can happen, does happen, or what unexpected things you come up against.

My process was somewhat traumatic.  I'm not really sure my case is typical in any way.  I woke up on New Years Day with a splitting headache that wouldn't let me go back to sleep.  I decided to get up and take some tylenol and spend the morning on the couch.  I was eventually able to fall asleep again for an hour or so and then woke up around 11:00 when my husband came downstairs to watch tv with me.  Around that same time I was lying on the sofa and suddenly felt...wet.  Not like a giant gush of wet like in movies, but just this weird leaking sensation that wasn't even enough to make it look like I peed myself, but enough to notice.  So, I sat around for about 20 minutes before I told my husband that I didn't want to be all movie dramatic but I thought maybe my water had broken.  The problem was that there was nothing else going on.  No contractions, just weird wetness.  I decided to call triage at the hospital and ask them about it and they said to go walk for an hour and then call back.  So I did.  And nothing changed, except the leaking continued.  So, I was told that I was probably wrong about what was going on and to hang out at home.  I felt stupid, mostly, and went about my day.  We took down the Christmas tree, we cleaned up the house a bit, and I went to bed at 11:00 so I could go to work the next day.

Then at around midnight, I started getting pains in my lower back that were increasingly intense as the evening went on.  My husband was asleep and I wasn't sure it was really anything to get worked up about so I just laid in bed, googling what contractions should feel like because apparently I'm an idiot and have to google this sort of information.  Then I started timing things and for about 3 hours the pain would return every 15 minutes, pretty regularly.  Around 3:00 a.m. I decided to wake up my husband and tell him what was going on.  He asked if he should shower, and I said I'd just call triage again and see what they said.  They told me to take a shower and try to get some sleep, because I was going to need to get some rest since I hadn't slept since about 9:00 that morning.  The sleeping part is a lot easier said than done when you have pain ripping through you every 15 minutes.  But, I took a shower because I figured that couldn't hurt anything and if we did have to go in, at least I'd feel clean.  Since sleep wasn't happening, my husband started timing everything and we decided to put together the pack n' play so that if we did end up having to go in, we'd have a place to put her when she came home.  So, between contractions, we put together her temporary bed.  Then we hit the 7 minute mark and I called triage back to see if we should come in.  They were weird and asked if I wanted to come in and I was like " tell me, pal.  You know this stuff better than I do" so they said I could come in and at least get checked.  So we did.  Called the parents on the way in, and made our way to the hospital.  We got there and they decided to check to see if there was any progress made in dilation, but after doing the check confirmed that yes, my water had broken.  I wanted to shout "I TOLD YOU SO!" at that moment, but I also remembered these were the people with the access to the people who would be hooking me up with an epidural so I shut my mouth.  So, at 7:00 a.m. on January 2nd, I was admitted to the hospital to have a baby.  Holy shit.

The day was long.  Really long.  The whole labor process was 30 hours long, to be exact.  They gave me an epidural around 10:00 a.m. which was awesome after 10 hours of labor.  My contractions weren't even that intense yet, but they wanted me to try to sleep a bit.  Around 11:00 a.m. family members showed up to keep us company, which was a mixed bag of good/bad.  Good to have people who cared, bad to have people who wanted to talk to you when you just wanted to sleep.  My husband and I were both exhausted by midday and just wanted to pass out for a few hours, but it was hard.  Late in the evening, they decided I wasn't making enough progress and wanted to start me on pitocin to increase contractions.  So, we did that.  After a few hours a doctor came in to check me, and then a team of doctors flooded in to talk to me about some complications that had arisen, including the chief resident, so that was scary.  They told me her heart rate kept dropping every time a strong contraction would hit, and they were worried about her so they wanted to back off the pitocin and give us both a break.  If I'm being honest, this was my breaking point.  I broke down.  I cried like a toddler.  Everyone thought I was frustrated because they were telling me it was going to take longer, but that had nothing to do with it.  I kept trying to explain that I was crying because her heart rate was dropping, and I was afraid for her.  From day one, I've been worried that something awful would happen and we wouldn't be bringing her home, and that very scary conversation felt like a preview to my worst fears.  I was so afraid, and so exhausted, and I couldn't control my emotions anymore at that point.  They kept reassuring me that pulling back on the pitocin would probably help. So, we did that.  As soon as we stopped it, her heart rate regulated and she was fine again.

A few hours later they started the pitocin again, more slowly this time, and my husband finally managed to fall asleep.  Our visitors left, and at this point it was 3 a.m. so it was good to have some quiet.  My husband was so exhausted that he slept through doctors and nurses coming in to check things.  I was so happy he was getting to finally sleep, because I knew he needed it.  Then the doctors came back in with the grim look on their faces.  It was about 5:45 in the morning, and I was being told that the heart rate was dropping all over again, only worse this time.  I was told that she wasn't responding well to the pitocin and that they were worried about her heart rate enough that they were going to be taking me in to do a c-section to deliver her.  I asked the doctor to talk me through exactly what that meant, and he looked at me very seriously and said "I want to make it clear that this isn't a discussion we are having, this is a decision I'm making".  It was all super fast, and I kept saying that we needed to wake up my husband.  We needed to tell him what was going on.  When we did get him awake, he was so disoriented that he didn't seem to understand where he was or what was going on.  I just kept saying "We have to do a c-section.  You have to call our parents" as he blinked at me trying to register what I was saying.  By the time things clicked, I was being wheeled out of the room and he was having scrubs thrust at him and told to put them on.  It was quick.  They weren't fucking around. This felt like a very serious situation and no one seemed to want to waste any time.

When they got me into the OR, they started prepping me, and I kept asking when my husband would be able to come in.  They pumped me full of more meds, and they put a curtain up across my chest.  I cried the whole time, because I couldn't process what was happening and possibly because the drugs had me whacked out of my mind.  They took the fetal heart monitors off of me, and I went into a panic state, asking why they weren't monitoring her anymore, and how they were going to know she was ok.  I kept getting reassured that everything was fine, and they weren't worried, but I was worried and didn't feel very reassured.  Then my husband came in and held my hand while I continued to cry and then I started shaking from all of the medication.  I couldn't stop.  They said they were going to get started shortly and then nothing after that, so we were sitting there chit-chatting about stupid stuff when I heard "You'll feel some pressure now" and assumed it was the "pinch test" they told me they'd be doing, but a minute later, at exactly 6:30 a.m., I heard "There she is!" and I had no idea we were that far into the process.  I kept asking "Why isn't she crying?" because it was still silent in the room.  The nurse said "She doesn't know she's out yet" and I said "Well could someone inform her please?!" because not crying had me as worried as anything else.  Then she started screaming.  Loud, clear, grumpy screams.  She was clearly unhappy to have been removed from her watery home.  But she was crying, and she was ok.  I heard the doctors talking about how her cord had been around her neck, which was why her heart rate started dropping as I began to contract more.  It was choking her.  They said it was good we didn't try to make more progress with a natural birth, because things could have gone badly if they had.  And I cried some more.

My husband was offered to go see her while they sewed me up, but he said he wanted us to see her together, so the nurse went to check on her and came back to tell us "You guys, she's super cute!  She has big brown eyes and she's just darling".  I thought nurses all had to say that, but was assured that they definitely did not have to.  Then they brought her over and my stoic husband shed a few tears while I struggled to turn my head to be able to see her while strapped to the table.  I wanted to touch her and make sure she was ok, but I was strapped down and could only attempt to look at her from my strange angle, hoping she knew my voice enough to know I was nearby.

Now, looking back, it's sort of overwhelming that things happened the way they did.  I had a meltdown in the shower a few days ago while examining my many scars and bruises from various tubes that had been stuck into me, or incisions that had been made to get her out safely, and I just stood there crying.  It was suddenly too much, and in my post-pardom exhaustion I hadn't had a chance to process all of it.  When I had a chance to look back, it became a lot to deal with all at once, and I'm still overwhelmed when I think about it.

Maybe I'll write more on it later at some point, when there's been more time or distance from the overall experience.