Yesterday Baby A turned 15 weeks old, but this isn’t about her. I want to remember how I am, because I’m already forgetting. I know “now” is already blurring into the foggy dream of the pain and joy of my first year as a mama.
15 weeks in, my body is still healing. This experience put me through the most physical pain of my adult life. During labor, I used my arms so much that I couldn’t lift, extend, or bend them without weird tingling and aches so deep I thought something was broken. I couldn’t sit comfortably, but I also couldn’t stand. Sitting up, turning over, getting into a car or out of bed, it all felt impossible. I took 800mg Motrin every 6hrs for weeks and added Tylenol with Codeine when the pain was at its worst. Later, my right hip felt like it was breaking from carrying the car seat around and I couldn’t push the stroller up a hill. Lately, my upper back and neck ache on the daily (I assume from the combination of working at a computer and lifting a 14lb baby). I still have weird aches in my pelvis and I worry about long term healing. I know yoga, hiking and climbing will help, but I can’t seem to fit them into my days. Not yet.
If I thought the post-labor pain was bad, being hit with thrush 5 weeks in almost undid me. The pain in my breasts was like thousand of tiny razor blades. I am not exaggerating. The lactation consultant said that I was one of the worst cases she’s seen, and was so concerned it would send me into post-partum depression, she called multiple times a week. Nothing could touch my skin – fabric, baby’s body, my own hands. It made nursing pure torture. I cried through every feeding and sometimes in anticipation of, not to mention the utter frustration of not being able to get rid of it for over 3 weeks. It felt endless.
To that note, 15 weeks in, and I don’t think I’ve ever cried this much in one season. I cried from the pain of thrush, from the anger of my birth experience, from the desperation of her being in the NICU. I cried because we spilled breastmilk on the counter, because the dog woke up the baby, because there were no more eggs in the refrigerator and god dammit, I just needed some fried eggs. I cried in the shower, driving my car, in bed. Tears came from exhaustion, from overwhelm, from hunger and from panic. I thought I would never make it through a day again without sobbing, but I did, and now I can. Not every day is tear-free, but most are.
15 weeks in, my body still doesn’t feel like my own. I’m on baby’s feeding schedule, trying to keep up with her needs. This means I have to be conscious of how much water I’m drinking, how much rest I get, how much good food I can consume (it all affects my milk supply). I cut out dairy and soy because it was exacerbating her colic and I’m nervous to add it back in. I feel better when I eat plant-based meals, but I crave sugar, chocolate and carbs. Like, chowder-in-a- breadbowl carbs. It’s more pertinent now than when I was pregnant – it really does matter what I put in my body. I’m also not free to come and go as I please. If baby wants to nurse at 4pm, well, I’ll be stuck with my butt in a chair until she is done. If she wants to be held, I’m picking her up. If she wants my attention, I’m laying on the floor poking the playmat toys as she bats at them.
15 weeks in, I have weekly worries about breastfeeding. Did I make enough to cover daycare tomorrow? Should I feed her an extra 4 oz in the afternoon so that she isn’t too hungry to nurse herself to sleep later? Why is she making that awful grunting noise and can she please stop whacking me and herself with her firsts while she eats? I set alarms on my phone to make sure I pump while at work. I fret over using any of the milk we have in the freezer (currently about 70 oz, and I have no idea if that is a “good” amount or not). In the second week back-to-work I thought we’d have to give up nursing entirely and switch to formula, and then her eating pattern and my supply promptly adjusted. We seem to be back on track. For now. I cried about the thought of giving up nursing and then I felt a twinge of excitement at the idea that formula would give me more freedom. My original goal was to make it 3 months. I have no idea how long it will last, but now that we’re here, I want to keep going.
15 weeks in and I am much more playful and touchy-feely with her than anyone else ever before. I make funny noises and faces, I sing or play music, and I stand her up so she can “dance”. When she’s nursing, I kiss her hand while it’s wrapped around my finger. When I’m holding her, I kiss the top of her head. When she’s on her changing table, I kiss her neck. All I want to do is kiss her and make her laugh. It’s varied how and why she laughs, and it takes work to get them out, but it’s so worth it.
15 weeks in and the exhaustion isn’t all consuming. It’s more like now it’s a part of my week instead of part of my days. Or it hits me randomly in a day, but the rest of the time I’m OK. This is what’s been working for me: A wants to nurse and fall asleep somewhere between 6pm and 9pm (depending on how tired she is, if she went to daycare, how much she ate in the early afternoon, and my milk supply). When she falls asleep, ideally, I get into bed too. I’ll nap for 45min to 3hours. I’ll wake up to pump, eat something or continue getting ready for the next day, but I really don’t have a life after 8pm anymore. I dream about staying up to read, write or spend time with H, but it never works out. A could wake up anywhere between 1am and 4am for a nighttime nursing session and I need all the rest I can get. Generally, I’ll sleep from 8:30pm-11pm (2.5hrs), 11:30pm-2:30am (3hrs) and then 3am-5am (2hrs). And that is how I cobble together the 7.5hrs per night that I need to function. It’s not ideal, but right now, it’s working.
15 weeks in and my love for H is at a new level. His patience, support and love are bigger and more necessary now than ever before. He plays guitar for A, narrating the world for her as he carries her around, says “hey girl” when he picks her up. The way he cares for her and the way she looks at him breaks my heart into pieces.
15 weeks in and I still can’t believe I’m a mom, that we made it here, that she is ours and that we get to follow this little person as she grows.
15 weeks in and my mental energy is coming back. I want to plan, organize, coach, think, write and read. Of course, I don’t have the time or energy to most of those things, but the drive is back.
15 weeks in and I have no patience for drama, whether from people or ToDos. In fact, I’m learning to do less, and less, and less. When I do find time to work on something, I want to create a better process, streamline, clear a path, but if I can’t get to something, sometimes, it just gets let go. And that’s OK.
15 weeks in and A makes me want to be a better person. All of my frustration, rage, judgement and pity feel heavy, and honestly, useless. Being exhausted doesn’t have to mean anything but that. Instead of raging, I really just need a nap. Instead of overwhelm, I just need a hot bath. There’s just not enough energy to expend on negativity and there’s just not enough time in my life to spend with her, so why waste what I have? This doesn’t mean I don’t feel all of the above and more – I do, acutely, and sometimes hourly – but I’m learning to let it go, process it faster, relax into what is as best I can.
15 weeks in and I’m learning, it’s all a phase. Each challenge, each frustration is met with my own resourcefulness, H’s help, A’s tenacity and we get through it. Sometimes it becomes something awesome (like my supply adjusting so we don’t have to switch to formula yet) and sometimes it becomes something hard (like managing daycare days), but it’s that whole idea that the only thing constant is change.
I’m already nostalgic for her at a littler age, curious about her at a bigger age, and obsessed with trying to take in all that she is, and that we are together, in this very moment, 15 weeks in.