10 Jun 2011, 10:16pm
animals & children life
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Ten Days

So now that I’m a parent (Wait, I’m what? Weird.), it’s obvious that everyone wants to see endless photos of my son (My what again?) even though each one looks pretty much the same as the next. You’re welcome world.

We got home from the hospital Saturday afternoon. Matt’s mom came in for the weekend to help us out and took good care of us while we tried to figure out a routine. She was nice enough to take Ender’s first photo outside the house, as soon as we got home.

Ender got a cute hat from the hospital. No idea who makes them, but I find it interesting that the fluffy knit hat, like the slightly more disposable hats they keep on the baby during the hospital stay, and the blankets used for swaddling,  incorporates both blue and pink so theoretically no one will complain that their baby’s gender is being bended by pink blankets. Not that anyone would do that (people would totally do that).

We picked out a green onesie for Ender to wear home from the hospital, the first real “outfit” he wore. This lead to the realization that onesies are not nearly as convenient as I had assumed pre-baby: you have to get it over their HEAD?!

My aunt Marion sent me a Moby wrap for a baby shower gift. I’d registered for this sort of skeptically. I though they looked cool, but had some doubts about how easy they’d be to use. Watching Matt go step by step through the video tutorial didn’t exactly convince me, but now that we’ve played with it some, I’m sold. We also have an Ergo carrier, but we’re still waiting for the infant insert to arrive. I’m sure they’ll both have their uses. The Moby is GREAT for around the house. I suspect the Ergo will be the winner for outside, and will probably last a little longer in terms of baby age.

Being a new parent seems to move in waves from complete bliss to desperate how do we manage this mode. I’m actually pretty surprised at how speedy my recovery has been. I still have some pain, which I only notice about every six hours as the motrin starts to wear off, but my energy level is WAY higher than it was during the last couple weeks of pregnancy and certainly higher than I expected considering how I felt after giving birth.

The biggest post labor issue I’ve had was the edema (swelling). For one thing, I didn’t have any idea that this even happened… I thought swelling was a late pregnancy issue, not a postpartum issue. For another thing, even though the appearance wasn’t all that different from my swelling during pregnancy, this swelling just felt SO much worse. I found a poster on a baby forum who described it as walking on water balloons, which came close to what I felt, but my reaction was almost more existential.

I wanted to describe the feeling as numb even though I had no loss of sensation.

What I really felt was that my feet and hands didn’t belong to me. I could control them, I could receive sensory signals, but my hands were not a part of me. I was about ready to call up Oliver Sacks, because it was something right out of one of his books. The three or so days of this I experienced are probably the closest I came to losing it. Forget being kept up by Ender, between leaking milk EVERYWHERE and not owning my body parts, I couldn’t sleep at all.

Fortunately the swelling went down a couple days ago and the detached limbs feeling went with it.

Now sleep is a problem, but not as much as I expected. Ender sleeps very well at night (probably too well, babies with jaundice apparently tend to be kind of lethargic) but we wake him every three hours to eat.

Interestingly, this is revealing how very different my and Matt’s sleep needs are. In the past, we’ve noticed that Matt does far better with sleep deprivation than I do.

He can usually function just fine on 5 hours a night for several days at a time, or less for a day, then he’ll need a weekend’s good full (8 hours) sleep to recover.

On the other hand, I get stupid with lack of of sleep if I don’t get 8 OR MORE hours most nights. Or at least that was true before pregnancy.

I seem to need a little less now, which may have something to do with hormones, or may just be practice since sleeping during pregnancy was pretty terrible towards the end.

Either way, I still tend to need a good 6+ hours or I’m pretty much useless for the rest of  the day, and I need a longer night’s sleep right away to get my brain back.

With that history, I expected Matt to do better with newborn sleep issues than I do, but as it turns out, broken sleep is a much bigger problem for Matt than for me. This is most likely because even before I got pregnant, I had disrupted sleep 99% of the time. I already sleep like a baby- that is, not in very long stretches. I haven’t “slept through the night” since I was a baby. So having to wake up every few hours isn’t nearly as much of a change for me as it is for Matt. We’ll see if this continues on when Matt goes back to work and won’t be up to help as much, or for that matter if Ender continues to allow me to sleep in 3 hour chunks.

I’m a bit worried about how I’ll do in general once Matt goes back to work. He’s been doing so amazing as a dad.

The first day after giving birth I literally needed a nurse to help me walk to the bathroom. I managed to take a shower, but only technically- I spent the whole time under the water leaning on the handicapped bars. I couldn’t stand upright for more than a few seconds at a time.

This left Matt to do the bulk of non-nursing baby care. When it was time to nurse, Matt brought Ender to me and helped prop up pillows so I could try to find the right position. I don’t think I changed a diaper until day 5 or so, not at all while we were at the hospital. Neither of us minded the arrangement (at least if Matt did he never said so), I was too exhausted to want to do anything more taxing than holding Ender, and Matt got to have lots of close time with new baby.

That’s sort of the pattern we fell into though, reinforced by the discomfort of edema. When I called my midwife to ask about the swelling, they asked a few questions to make sure I wasn’t having blood pressure issues (we have a bp monitor so this was pretty easy to rule out) and told me it was normal, I’d just need to stay off my feet more, elevate them when possible, take epsom salt baths and drink lots of water. Since I wasn’t on my feet that much to begin with at that point, that meant I spent most of my time the first few days home sitting on the couch, holding Ender.

This wasn’t completely useless, since for jaundice we needed to have as much of him in indirect sunlight as possible (as in ideally he should just be wearing a diaper), and the only way he’s content is if he’s either swaddled or being held.

But as lovely as it is to hold my baby, this doesn’t exactly prepare me to care for him independently.

Matt’s mom will be in town the first week he goes back to work, which will be a huge help, and I’ve been slowly working on doing the various baby activities on my own.

My first step was to make sure I can nurse Ender without help. This is harder than it sounds, which I don’t understand at all, because honestly, what did women do in the 18th century, or pre-history, before they invented boppys? The first time I tried to nurse him just by holding him up to my nipple, but apparently it’s not that easy, at least not with a newborn.

It’s not easy to juggle a baby, a boppy, make sure I have what I need/want within reach (like water), have nursing pads, soothies and Lansinoh ready for use, and have towels, blankets, or something absorbent to catch the GALLONS of milk leaking out of my body (ok probably only ounces, but I was seriously getting soaked with the stuff, especially the first few days my milk came in… it was horrifying).

I’m sure this will become second nature as time goes on, but it took me a while, and a lot of careful maneuvering, the first attempt. I’m much better now, but it’s still awkward.

I’ve not had any trouble dressing Ender, but Matt did all the swaddling at the hospital, and while he’s nowhere near as adept as the nurses, (they wrap up a baby like cartoon rodeo stars) he got pretty good by the end, so that Ender would only escape after several hours.

It’s pretty funny, Ender loves being swaddled, it’s one of the things that calms him down almost immediately, but he writhes around trying to escape the whole time. He always manages in the end, even from the nurse wrapped straight jackets.

Matt got pretty good at it, and was doing every part of the night routine but nursing, but every time I tried a swaddle, Ender took it apart within minutes.

I’m sure I would have gotten the hang of it eventually, but we ended up picking up some velcro swaddlers, that are much easier than a 30 inch blanket.

I was able to get Ender in the pre-made swaddle without too much trouble, and he can’t get out of that one, though he’ll occasionally manage to get a hand poking out the side.

Swaddling was key to me being able to do anything at all during the day, but mastering the moby was probably even more important.

It’s amazing how much difference having two hands free makes, not just in freedom of motion, but in emotional weight. The wrap keeps him very securely next to me, so I get all the upsides of holding him, but can still roam around and, you know, do stuff.

I’m still trying to figure out how tight to tie the thing so Ender is secure without being too squished, but the wrap was probably the best thing I’ve learned for letting me feel like I might be able to manage with Matt at work.

Of course I know I will manage… as with the nursing, women (and more recently the occasional man) have been managing for quite a while.

I’m sort of easing into relieving Matt of baby care because I think it will make things less difficult when he’s not shouting distance away (I cover Ender’s ears) but I don’t want to take over too much because I don’t want to rob him of time with the baby before he goes back to work. Even if I don’t get used to it, I’m aware that I’ll learn the baby skills when I need to learn the baby skills… sort of like Matt did at the hospital.

Mostly what I’m worried about is being lonely. I think I’ve got a bit of an edge here on many women who start to feel isolated after a couple weeks of maternity leave. Not leaving the social setting of a workplace, there won’t be as much culture clash for me, but it’s still easy to see how the all-consuming task of new parenthood could be overwhelming.

Matt saved two weeks of his vacation time for the baby’s birth, and the first week was taken up at the hospital. This week, at home with him and watching him be with Ender, has been so special, and so valuable. As hard as it is right now not to be an Ender-hog (and sometimes I’m an Ender-hog even though I know I shouldn’t be) the best part of this week has been the calm (Yes, calm! Don’t ask me how.) warm exploration of our new family.

We’ve got Matt giving Ender a bottle before bed now. We decided to ignore the expert advice on waiting so that he could have the feeding experience. I’m greedy for more though, more time together and more time watching the two of them.

I know I can manage on my own, but I also know that I am going to miss Matt so much when he’s back at the office, and I’m pretty sure he’s going to miss being immersed in baby land, even if he’s simultaneously a little relieved.

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  • Wow! I never saw so much blond hair on a newborn! (Guess i’m used to Asian babies =)

    I am taking notes (in my mind)… i am so going to be the biggest bumbling idiot mom when mine comes in three months. Thanks for sharing your experience!

    Awww, i love all the pictures!!! He’s beautiful! You’ll do great! I can’t speak for everyone, but, I didn’t get lonely staying home. There’s always something going on :) I LOVED my moby, I used it up past two until the bugger got too heavy to schlep, it became my favorite carrier indoor, outdoor, anything more than a 5 min errand, and the moby came along. Welcome to the best, most wildest ride of your life!

    @S Yeah, we were at the hospital for some blood tests (jaundice) and there was a half-Asian newborn on the other side of the room with a SHOCK of dark black hair. I turned to Matt and said, “we’ve been out-haired.”

    I think every parent is probably an idiot to begin, but theoretically we all figure it out eventually, and let our adult kids complain about the bits we didn’t figure out, right?

    @Mahala Good to know… maybe I won’t either. I am used to being home on my own, I just feel like there is a substantial difference being home with someone completely dependent on you… Still, I’m loving being a mom so far.

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