Becoming A Mother, Part 2: The First Days at Home
I want to start off by saying thank you to everyone who read part 1 of this story and reached out to me. What an amazing feeling it is to know that you are not alone, and that so many other women experienced the same aftermath that I did. We should talk about this more. We should not be afraid to come forward and be transparent about how we really feel, instead of masking over it and pretend like everything is glossy. Life (and birth) is messy and complicated, and that’s likely what makes it such a profound experience. And now onto the next stage…
As we were driving home, I couldn’t wait to get into my apartment and just get settled. My parents were bringing Maui over, and somehow the timing worked out such that we all arrived at our doorstep at the same time. Cue: chaos. Maui hadn’t seen us in 4 days, so he was losing his cool, jumping around everywhere, sniffing the baby, running around in circles, and just generally being a dog. My parents and brother were at the apartment because they came to set up our stroller, clean up, and just help as much as they could. Unfortunately, things did not go as I had intended. (Are you noticing this theme here?)
Our apartment is ~800s sq ft, so five adults, one newborn and one dog in it is such a tight squeeze. My mom was asking me what she can do to help, but I had no answers. I felt like my brain was an overcooked egg on a hot summer day. I was so tired and almost delirious. I holed up in my bedroom, trying to feed the baby yet again. Now remember, Reva was not one of those babies who latched easily + immediately, so each feeding was hard work and determination. My aunt gave me some great advice before I came home, which I’d like to share with you. She told me that breastfeeding IS really hard and it does not always come naturally. I should allow myself at least a month of trial and error before I expect things to go smoothly if I wanted to do this. And somehow, that realization did help me calm down when the baby kept screaming or took forever trying to latch. I was able to remain calm with the knowledge that it’s not me, it’s not her, it’s just the way it is, this is normal.
Eventually my parents headed home for the evening, and the baby fell asleep. We were warned before we left the hospital to keep track of her diapers in an effort to make sure she was eating enough. As if it wasn’t enough to spend every second thinking about her, we also had to count poops, and pees, and minutes on each breast. Brandon downloaded some apps on his phone, and we began to document.
By the next morning, the baby had only peed once, which is way less than normal. Enter hysteria. We called the pediatrician emergency line, where our doctor walked us through next steps. Basically, we had until 9pm that night for another wet diaper, or we would have to give her a bottle, breastmilk or formula, depending on how my boobs would cooperate.
*Another tip here: we found our pediatrician a month before I gave birth, and pre-registered at their office. This was a HUGE lifesaver because they had all of my insurance information and administrative mumbo jumbo down pat when I really needed them. Do this! The last thing you want to do after coming home is fill out paperwork.
Here is the scene Sunday: Brandon’s mom and sisters came over to set up the nursery. They were like 3 little angels who just laundered and folded and organized and fed. I slept for a little while and then tried pumping. I was really scared my milk would not have come in, but by the grace of the lactation Gods and the universe, I pumped enough for a bottle, in case she didn’t pee. As soon as I was done pumping, she woke up. I got her back on the boob, fed her, checked her diaper 1 million times, praying for some pee (nope), rocking her to sleep, and repeating. By that evening, she hadn’t peed. We called the doctor who said we should give her the bottle otherwise she may get dehydrated and need to go to the hospital. No big deal!! Totally calm over here!!
Right before we did, she peed. Phewph! Back to smashing her face into my boob for an hour or two at a time as we prepared for battle-aka another night with a 3 day old baby. The following morning, we took her to the doctor for her first check-up. I cannot tell you the anxiety I felt when they put her on the scale. Some combination of dread, hope, and fear. I didn’t realize at the time, but what I felt was really the same question I’ve been plagued with my whole life: am I good enough? Do I have enough milk to nourish my baby? Am I doing the best for her? The intense hormone drop our bodies experience after birth make all of our physical and emotion reactions intenseeeee. And we’re already working in overdrive just to stay awake.
I know that on the outside, it’s easy to say that I should not have felt that way, or that I was freaking out for no reason. If I had read this story before Reva, I would have thought this mom is just a hypochondriac. It won’t happen to me because i’m so chill! I’m totally laid back and easy going, this won’t get to me! Wrong again. I can tell you that when it’s your 4-day old, and you’ve never had a newborn, and you’re responsible for this tiny human’s life, it’s very hard to chill out. I’ve gotten so much better at relaxing as the weeks have gone by, but in the early days, every minute felt like life or death.
They weighed her. She had gained weight, and the doctor was pleased. A wave of joy cascaded over my body and I felt my shoulders relax for the first time in two days. We asked the doctor 900 more questions before leaving the office. No exaggeration, I felt like an addict who needed more information. My eyes were red and I was feeding off her knowledge. More, more, more, tell me more. Make me feel like it’s going to be okay and we are doing a good job. (She did).
Coming up next, the first two weeks with baby Reva. I hope you are enjoying reading this journey. I’d love if you share any thoughts, questions, or experiences you had during birth in the comments below; whether they are similar or totally different!