Wow. Just, wow. I could never really have grasped how completely revolutionized my life could be over the course of eight days. When we lost E last year, I was decimated and forever changed. The new life that followed that loss was always a new version of normal. But the extent to which active parenting is reshaping all of my time, my priorities, and my internal landscape is just completely unparalleled.
Like R in her most recent post, the paragraph is somewhat elusive for me right now, so bullets will have to do. We have some new photos to share with you too, but I’ll let her post them the next time she writes. It’s currently 6:10am and I am up while the baby sleeps because I couldn’t stop having a terrible nightmare without waking up and really coming out of that sleep cycle.
So to share some first week thoughts:
– Bram. The way he smells; his soft skin; his tiny, warm body in my arms; his little mews of contentment; the way his arms shoot out overhead in a big stretch; his newly minted belly button; his big, dark eyes when he opens them; his downy soft hair. He’s so much more than I could have ever imagined. He’s exactly who he is supposed to be in the world, and my love for him is entirely present and unconditional.
– My marriage. While I’ve known this for quite sometime now, R and I make a pretty unstoppable team. The experiences of the last eight days are a testament to the fact of this. She is a pillar of strength in our home right now, she was everything I could possibly have asked for in a birth partner, and she’s the only person in the universe that I could imagine parenting alongside. There is no beauty in the world like watching her come alive as Bram’s mama. Looking at the way his long limbs drape down the side of her body while they do skin-to-skin; Hearing her up with the baby trying to comfort and soften his cries so that I can prepare myself for a nursing session…For these small reasons (and a thousand more unspoken), I am so very grateful to her.
– Our pediatric nurse practitioner. As you might imagine from our last year of loss, TTC, chronic medical stuff, and pregnancy, we’ve been through the wringer as far as medical professionals are concerned. Some have been godsends (like our midwife) and some have been (seemingly) trained by satan’s elves (like R’s hematologist). So it’s been such an absolute pleasure to have been turned onto Bram’s N.P. Her patience and dedication to seeing whole families and whole babies is already evident. Because of her, Bram is off of the glow-worm Biliblanket and we are getting some real intimate skin-to-skin time as a family. She’s called us at home at 9pm each night to update us on his bili levels (which are already trending down). She said at our last appointment that she trusts us as parents and knows that we will give him the kind of care that he needs. She boosts our confidence and we already trust her so much. Again, I am so grateful for this burgeoning relationship.
– Our labor and delivery. I have no idea when I’ll be able to write my POV of our birth story. 71 hours is a lot to track and I’m still entirely overwhelmed when I try to think of it in any comprehensive way. I will get there, though. For the time being, I just feel so much joy to think of all of the women laboring with us. I would only hope that (be it birth or another major life experience) every woman has the opportunity to be carried and upheld (in an acute way) by a community of compassionate women. It’s the kind of encounter with humanity that brings down so many walls and hardened ideas about the truth of the world. Yes, the world is cruel and filled with violence and malice, but last week there were nine women in a hospital room in the midwest working toward a beautiful, hopeful, generative goal. And I got to be there.
– Breastfeeding. We’re having some breastfeeding challenges. My milk CAME IN on day three. My breasts are very very engorged and sensitive to every touch. Bram is having a hard time getting a good latch with how hard and large my breasts now are. It’s causing some very uncomfortable irritation to the nipples, Engorgement is temporary, though, and we’ve been getting some good help from a lactation consultant (and some great tips from our doula during her postpartum visit yesterday). We’re trying to be really proactive so that this doesn’t turn into a cycle of painful breastfeeding. Bram is a champ of an eater, though, often eating more than 14 times/day. He’s flying through his diaper “output” benchmarks and he’s already up from the weight that he left the hospital at. So, despite the pain, I’m so glad that he’s getting just what he needs from the experience.
– Sleep deprivation. Is hard. There’s not much more to say on this point. My guess is that this is one of those, “until you’ve lived it” kind of things. I suspect that it will continue to get worse (as the sleep deficit accrues) before it gets better. But everyone insists that, eventually, it will get better. R said yesterday that, having completed Air Force boot camp and Officer Training School in the past, she can attest that new parenting makes both of those experiences look like child’s play. Perhaps in lieu of military survival school each soldier could be issued a newborn for a week :-)
– New things to worry about. I do find something new to worry about each day. None of these fears are rooted in clinical concern or even legitimate instinct, but I just find that I’m more worried than I used to be. Is his temperature comfortable? Is his hearing good? Will his jaundice go away soon? Is he getting enough of the right kind of breastmilk? Will he ever stop irritating the rash on his chin with his little beloved fists? The list is seemingly endless, and, from what I hear, will only ever change in content not quantity.
– Our labor and delivery. Processing this experience falls under the challenge section as well as the rewards section. From a physical standpoint, I’m still very sore. I feel like I ran a couple of marathons last week and all of my muscles and joints are achy and often unsteady. My network of “stitching’ has been rather sore and has changed the way that I sit and walk (just, I’m assuming, while they finish healing). My body is covered in bruises from how many times I hit my knees during contractions and how much counter-pressure I needed applied to my back at all times. The physical stuff will heal more quickly than the nagging emotional stuff, though. There were some very dark moments before the absolute light that was Bram’s birth. And those experiences deserve as much time and attention as the empowering stuff does. Again, though, those are thoughts for another day.
Well Bram is still sleeping, so I’m going to go and do the same. Hopefully he’ll give this mum a little more shut-eye before our next round with the breasts! Thanks for all of your kind, supportive comments over the last week. They’ve been sustaining…