The First Six Weeks
Ari is more than 6 weeks old already. It feels like it’s been way longer than 6 weeks but I also can’t believe he’s already past that 6 week milestone. My little baby doesn’t curl his legs up anymore like a froggie which makes me so sad, and he has already learned how to smile and hold his own head up (unreliably) and roll over from his tummy to his back… which all make me so proud.
I make no promises on the eloquence and grammar in this post. It’s pretty much just one rambly run-on sentence. I’ve written this post during a collection of small 5 minute moments and so it also may not flow very well. Sleep deprivation is a terrible terrible thing. It makes perfect sense to me that it is used as a form of torture. Add on top of that the fact that you’re trying to heal from a traumatic experience to your body, and learn how to take care of a little person who has lots of needs that he can’t communicate and you have a recipe for one tired, overwhelmed mama (and same goes for all of the people around her).
I haven’t written a blog post since Ari was born. The last time you heard from me I was pregnant, overdue, enormous, frustrated and miserable. Thank goodness my sister Tamara wrote a blog post to welcome Ari into the world because I was in no place to do that myself. Even now I don’t understand how I’m typing this.
As miserable and uncomfortable as the end of my pregnancy was, my labour was amazing. I don’t think many people get to say that and I absolutely realize how lucky I am. I was induced, which I wasn’t happy about at first, but there’s something really lovely about going to bed knowing “I’m going to have a baby tomorrow”, having a chance to double check your hospital bag, take a shower, watch TV, and do all the things that you probably wouldn’t be doing if your water just broke all of a sudden like it’s supposed to. While I was unhappy about being induced because it often leads to more medical interventions, and I was grumpy about being oh so very pregnant, I look back on it and am glad everything went the way it did. (And I must caveat that this is my potentially post-labour amnesia memory of it so Navin will have to confirm if this is accurate or not).
Most people who give birth at this hospital get whatever OB is on call, usually not their own, and I was so lucky to have my own OB on duty that day. We didn’t know what time we’d be heading in, but before my alarm went off at 7am, the phone rang and we were told to come in to the hospital so we could have our baby. I’ll be honest, it’s a pretty great way to start a day. I had my water broken and an IV started, but things got off to a very slow start and as morning turned to afternoon I was still smiling, laughing, reading magazines, Navin and I were walking around the hallways and playing scrabble and the head nurse kept coming in to check on us and saying, “I don’t like this. You’re not in labour. You’re smiling. There need to be tears. This is the one part of the hospital where we like people to be in pain.” I thought maybe I just had a very high pain tolerance and labour wouldn’t be so bad after all. My contractions got stronger and closer together and it became evident that the baby was posterior (the dreaded back labour). When I asked the nurse to check me halfway through the day I was still only 3 or 4 cm dilated, but she thought she could still feel forewaters. I didn’t even know that was a thing, but in came my OB to re-break my waters (again, didn’t know that was a thing) and then the pace picked up in a big hurry.
Around 4:30 Navin sent an update to my family that things were moving slowly. Not long after, I was lying on the bed with tears filling my eyes, focusing on trying to breathe with Navin coaching me on one side and the nurse pushing hard on my back on the other side. At this point I decided I couldn’t take the pain anymore, and terrified about what it would feel like as labour progressed if this is what it felt like to be only 3-4 cm dilated, I asked for an epidural, and was told that the anesthesiologist would be there in the next 45 minutes. The rest is sort of a blur… Lots of tears, lots of yelling, lots of encouragement. I asked for the bath to be filled and the nurse started, but stopped because we were told the anesthesiologist was on the floor. Suddenly I felt the urge to push. In a matter of seconds, the nurse checked me, picked up the phone and in a frantic voice started calling for backup because I was fully dilated and this baby was coming right now. The anesthesiologist walked into the room at that moment, all chipper and happy and the nurse sent him away, telling him I was fully dilated. I screamed after him to come back but he didn’t listen. My OB came in then and asked if we were really needed because the room next to us was also delivering their baby at that moment, and the nurse said “okay, no problem” and closed my legs. Well that wasn’t going to fly. Honestly, at that point I didn’t care if the OB was there or not. This baby was coming.
I remember about 15 nurses surrounding me in the room and yelling at me (Navin says there were 5). I remember screaming…sounds coming out of me that I’d never heard before like an out of body experience (Navin confirms that part). Either way, at 6:19pm, our little Ari Joseph came into the world. I feel so grateful for how it all went down. While not having an epidural was not exactly my choice, I’m so glad that it went that way in the end. And obviously I’m so glad that when it all got moving, it went so quickly!
The next few days were rough. I felt rushed out of the hospital when I didn’t have confidence in my ability to breastfeed and Ari hadn’t had a wet diaper yet. I cried the whole ride home in the car. And the first night at home was a disaster. He screamed non-stop, had 90 minute feeding sessions with half hour breaks in between, and wouldn’t let us put him down. We took shifts pacing the halls with him. A couple of days later we were back at the hospital with a baby who was dehydrated and had lost too much weight. Honestly, that experience was more traumatic to me than giving birth. I felt like I had failed him as a mother. My baby was starving and it felt like the nurse was staging an intervention… like we were neglectful parents. I’m sure she wasn’t, but that’s how it felt. How were we to know that his cry was a distress cry of hunger? It’s the only cry we’d ever heard out of him. The next two weeks were full of appointments with consultants and doctors, we were waking him up to feed him every 2 hours (on a side note, whoever decided that the time “between” feedings should start at the beginning of the first feed is a cruel jerk) and finally, Ari surpassed his birth weight and we could all breathe a giant sigh of relief.
Less than a week after coming home, our beloved Birdie, my feathered companion of over 20 years, died. I was at my absolutely lowest place emotionally, traumatized by the experiences of the past few days and hormones going crazy, and was dealt this heartbreaking blow. I still can’t think about it without tearing up… I plan to write a post in honour of Birdie in the future, so stay tuned for that.
Things have gradually improved and have gotten a little easier since then. A little easier…not a lot. And full of ups and downs. I’ve never felt so incapable and unconfident (if that’s a word) as I have these past 6 weeks. But every day I get to know my Ari a little more. And every day I start to form my own opinions on what’s right for us out of the conflicting, confusing recommendations.
One of the most wonderful things through this time has been the unsolicited encouragement from other moms who know how hard it is in the beginning. When I felt the most alone and discouraged, I would randomly get a message from a friend telling me that those first few weeks were so hard for them, that they cried for the first four weeks straight, that breastfeeding is so hard, that I will sleep again, that I’m not alone, and that things will get better. Feelings of “I don’t know what I’m doing…this baby deserves a better mama than me” were echoed in emails from wonderful friends with wonderful words of encouragement at the times I needed them most. My heart feels full just thinking about how lucky I am to have these people in my life.
The other most helpful thing has been family, and especially my own mama. After that first, horrible night, my mom told me to let her know when we needed help. My response was that she should assume we need help until further notice. When we were in emergency weight gain mode, she moved in and woke me up every other hour to feed him. When Navin has had to leave for work, she’s moved in. She shows up almost every morning to throw in a load of laundry, put away our dishes and take the baby and let us sleep. She has come with me to appointments, done all of our groceries, and fed us supper every night. I literally have not made dinner since coming home from the hospital and haven’t even had to dig into my freezer stash yet. And she has encouraged me and let me know how proud she is of all of the steps I’m taking to be a the kind of mama I want to be to my precious boy.
I had all these ideas about what life would be like after Ari arrived and most of them were way off. But it is getting easier. And it is getter better. And I had one thing right: my heart is so full of love for this little boy that it aches. And now that he smiles at me, I know he loves me back.
One lesson I’ve learned is that everything is a trade-off. If I brush my teeth in the morning, I feel like a success. If I get dressed out of my pajamas: look out world, here I come! So the choice always becomes: Do I shower? Or sleep? Do I eat? Or sleep? Do I write a blog post? Or sleep? etc…