By the time Maren was born, I’d been in the hospital for three days, had only eaten liquids for those three days, and had only slept for six hours. Total.
And this isn’t what this entry is about– but did you know that after a c-section, and I mean FIFTEEN MINUTES after your c-section, they come and push on your belly and wiggle your uterus around? I mean, the staples aren’t even set and here they are, trying to jiggle them loose.
And all your family members are there, crying, and your in-laws– and your adorable father in law tells you that he loves you for only the second time since you’ve known him, and your Mom kisses you for the first time since you could tie your own shoes, and they still aren’t going to let you eat anything, so don’t even ask.
And then, in the midst of all that, they hand you a newborn. They don’t even make you work your way up to that– like no one comes in with a plant, and after an hour or so they bring you a goldfish, and then the next day they give you a puppy. They just come right in and hand you a newborn HUMAN. And she looks at you with these eyes that say, “Game on, woman.”
That night Mitch curled up on the pull out couch and I settled in to sleep for the first time in days, and guess what? Oddly enough, Maren was all, “Oh, so all the lights are off and it’s really quiet? Wow, I must be back in the womb. Time to drink some amniotic fluid.” So she opened up her mouth super wide and didn’t get that rush of fluid that she was used to– instead she got all this fluffy cold stuff called air, and when she went to go close her mouth, guess what, all that air just FLEW out of her. And then, I bet, there was this little moment of panic as she thought, “Wait a minute. WAIT ONE HOT DAMN MINUTE. ARE YOU SAYING THAT THAT WHOLE BIRTH THING WAS FOR KEEPSIES?”
And that panic was followed by this panic: “OH MY GOD I FORGOT HOW TO BREATHE.”
And then she started to scream.
Most hospitals have this fantastic little idea called ‘rooming-in,’ where they put the baby with you so that you can spend the first few days of their life with them, getting to know them, while you still have the support of the nurses and medical staff. Here’s another fun fact. And it’s not hospital policy. It’s BIOLOGY. Did you know that when you first have a baby, there is this nice time period while you have to wait for your breast milk to actually go into your breast? Even though you’ve spent the last few months waking up with breast milk all over you?
So– after THE ODYSSEY that was the birth of my child, Mitch and I were left alone to be a family and get some sleep, and Maren woke up screaming for her womb and some milk– and guess what? I had nothing to give her. And Maren’s great– I mean, who doesn’t love someone who can swallow air and fart it immediately?– but she’s not long on patience. And Mitch is great too, but try as I might, nothing that we did over the last year made him generate a uterus and therefore, the ability to just HANDLE all of this ooky pregnancy stuff. So I figured that he probably wasn’t going to sprout breasts, either.
I’ve noticed in this blog that I cry a lot– in real life I’m not really a cry baby, I promise. That’s why Mitch was so alarmed to wake up a few hours later and find both his wife and his newborn daughter bawling their eyes out.
“She HATES me.” I said– and I mean, I was totally sure of it.
“No, she doesn’t hate you.” He said. “Why aren’t you sleeping? Let me take her to the nursery.”
I looked up at him like he had just suggested tossing our newborn into a pit of vipers. Or a pit of hungry lions. Or some other really awful, visceral, and completely impossible scenario.
“What if she wakes up and looks around and thinks– Hey– Where’s my mom?”
Now, looking back, I realize how dumb that sounds. Because, first of all, newborns can only see 12 inches in front of their face. So as long as one of the Fuzzy Shapes in the room at least slightly resembled the Fuzzy Shape that is me, she probably would have been fine. Not to mention, she’d only known ME for about 6 hours, so I’m not sure what kind of attachment I was assuming she’d grown in that 360 minutes.
The nurses started devising ways to get the baby away from me. They’d come in at odd hours and say that she needed to run a few routine tests, and then keep her out as long as possible so that I could sleep a little bit.
Cuz here’s the thing folks– I don’t know how it is for most people, but the whole Hollywood, angels singing from the heavens thing didn’t happen for my family. Partially because I was such a wreck that I destroyed our whole first week, partially because we had no idea we were going to have to be in the hospital for so long so Mitch actually had to go back to work and school before I’d been discharged, but mostly– and let the guilt begin– mostly because all my kid did was scream.
And I know, I know. She’s a baby, it’s not her fault. I’m right there with ya. Totally not her fault. As it turns out, my milk hadn’t come in yet, and how should I have known that? First timer her folks. This actually IS my first rodeo.
The day before we left the hospital, I turned my bleary eyes to whatever nurse was there that morning and said, “I don’t know what to do.” And handed her my screaming baby.
And I’m totally not making this up. She looked over her shoulder, and then went and shut the door. Then she came and stood very close to my bed, as if she was about to tell me that she was not a nurse, instead, she was an insane person who liked to roam the halls of labor and delivery wings and steal babies. What she did actually tell me was, I guess, just as groundbreaking.
“You know,” She started, “We aren’t supposed to say anything…. but you could give her a bottle if you want.” And then she looked over he shoulder again, as if she fully expected a fully armed branch of the La Leche league to come out of the woodwork and mow her down for suggesting that a new mom even consider putting FORMULA in her baby’s tummy.
“SOLD.” Mitch said, before I could even say anything. “Do you have one?”
About five minutes later, Mitch was giving Maren her first bottle– really, her first meal. She sucked down two ounces of formula in such a way that it reminded me of a time that the guy at Jimmy John’s bet Mitch the cost of a gargantuan sandwich that he couldn’t eat said sandwich in five minutes. Mitch lost the bet, but let me tell you, it wasn’t for lack of trying. I think we both threw up after that meal.
Maren’s eyes rolled up in her head and she breathed a huge sigh of relief. Then her head tipped back and she fell asleep in the crook of Mitch’s arm. About five minutes later, I fell asleep too. If we hadn’t all ready filled out the birth certificate, we probably would have named her after that nurse.
Maren is three weeks old today, and even though my milk did end up coming in, it has never come in to the point where I can exclusively breast feed Maren. We still give her about six bottles a day, and I breastfeed her first thing in the morning and right before bed.
To be honest, I feel a little let down (no pun intended). I mean, if there is one thing I’ve been able to depend on since puberty, it’s my breasts. They’ve gotten me into trouble, and they’ve gotten me out of it. For a kid who had the world’s worst awkward phase in adolescence, at least being able to pull off a decently hour glass figure in a prom dress was a nice little boon at the end of ninth grade. It’s a little anti-feminist to admit, but when the guys who had been dicks to me all through grade school and junior high started to notice that I was a GIRL underneath all that, and then I could merrily shoot them down and date my way through the world’s oddest collection of geeks, it made me smile. A lot.
AND I even took a breastfeeding CLASS. And I’m GOOD at school. But it turns out that no amount of studying will actually fix this problem. The pro-breastfeeding wing of moms and nurses made it sound like it was going to be oh-so-super easy, and like giving my baby formula was like saying, “Hey, you know what Maren? Go ahead and eat paint chips, too. Who cares?”
And here’s another thing about Moms. We’re all trying to one-up each other. Like if I would say, “Oh man, I’m so tired, Maren hasn’t slept all week…” Suddenly someone would jump in with, “Oh yeah? My kid hasn’t slept through the night EVER ONCE ONE SINGLE TIME EVER AND THEY ARE TURNING THIRTY NEXT WEEK.” Or if I would say something like, “I really just don’t like breastfeeding, my nipples hurt so bad…” Someone– and usually someone that I didn’t even LIKE to start out with– would throw in: “Well no use to crying about it now, young lady. Because MOTHERHOOD is PAIN and SUFFERING so you take that sore nipple and be HAPPY with it.”
(And that? That right there? That way that us women so easily tear each other down and find ways to be critical rather than supportive? THAT is why FEMINISM hasn’t worked yet, ladies)
I am happy. I know that things could be much, much, much worse. I mean, intellectually, I know that. But at three AM on the seventh night that you are still up with your screaming child, and you haven’t slept next to your husband since she was born, I think it’s completely okay to start feeling a little sorry for yourself. Healthy, even. Because when I say that Maren didn’t sleep through the night, what I mean is that she would lie down for exactly ten minutes and then wake up screaming. To stop the screaming, you had to stand up with her and walk around the apartment. And for good measure, you also had to pray that the neighbors didn’t call the cops. I spent an entire year of my life training to be an opera singer. And Mitch’s goal in college was to yell louder than any ten people in the crowd at the Hockey games. Maren has some good yellin’ genes in her.
It got to the point where Mitch and I would just take turns staying up all night, because it wasn’t even worth going to bed. At around ten each night, one of us would set up shop at the couch and the other would say goodnight and go to the bedroom and close the door.
A few days ago, we switched her to a sensitive, lactose free formula and put an anti-gas medicine in a bottle at around ten pm. And then for the next hour, I frantically googled every story I could find related to the medicine, because my kid was sleeping so soundly I thought we must have given her morphine. WHAT A TERRIBLE PRACTICAL JOKE, SWITCHING THE BABY SIMETHICONE OUT FOR MORPHINE.
It’s only been three days, so I don’t want to jinx us. But since we switched and started the meds, she wakes up every two or three hours to eat and then goes right back to sleep, minus three times during the day when she is awake for about an hour. Waking up every two to three hours is pretty brutal to think about, but oh my God is it better than what we were doing before. If she keeps this up till kindergarten, I don’t think either one of us will complain.
But here is what I think. After the hell I went through for delivery and then the minor hell that is breastfeeding, I am calling dibs to sit it out on the next two major parenting gigs: Potty training and THE TALK (If you guys back me up on this, I promise to videotape Mitch attempting to give his daughter The Talk. HILARIOUS.)