- Unpack my old work clothes and figure out what still fits
- Figure out when I’m going to get to the gym
- Get my hair cut
- Get my oil changed
- Enroll my husband into my health plan
- Clean this house like there’s no tomorrow
- Sleep (what is that?)
- Find my breast pump
- Resign myself to the fact that I have to go back to work
Not long after my older son got his ferris wheel experience, he began asking for another adventure, as 3 year olds are wont to do. We had procured tickets to Hersheypark for their holiday lights show before the baby was born. As we picked a date to go, I worried about taking the baby on a long drive so far from home. I wasn’t very confident that we’d do well in the cold either, and given my husband’s non-enthusiasm for amusement parks in general, we decided ultimately, to divide and conquer.
So, I left my husband home with the baby and took off for a day of adventure with my older son. He was excited at first, but began to wane as the drive out to the park took longer than I expected. It’s about a 2 hour haul one way, and there’s not a lot of stuff to do along the way. I’d hoped he’d sleep, but no dice. We finally got there around lunch time, and navigated the difficult parking lot traffic (read: backtracked because I got lost) and just as he was about to lose his patience with me, we got to the front door.
All was forgiven then, because his little mind was blown by all the super fun stuff there was to do. We latched onto the first ride, a simple merry-go-round style ride with different types of vehicles. He must’ve ridden it 6 times before I was finally able to convince him we needed to go on some other rides. Of course, the next one he wanted was the crazy go upside down roller coaster, which unfortunately, he was tall enough to go on.
We immediately regretted our decision after the first drop, but luckily he didn’t want to go again He picked the teacups next, but after that, got his heart set on the bumper cars (which sadly we couldn’t go on because of his height). Cue epic tantrum and meltdown, because I had waved this lovely fun ride in front of him and now had to go back on that because it wasn’t safe for him. No amount of consoling could calm him, so we had to deal with the meltdown until I was finally able to get him on the monorail.
From the train, we got to see more of the park, and I was able to pick out more toddler friendly options. We got some snacks and then hit up a few more rides. Unfortunately, it was getting late and dark and colder fast, and I was beyond ready to go. I wish I could say he took it well, but our departure from the park was an experience in cranky, tired toddler hitting, crying and screaming. I was 100% done by then, and only salvaged our return to the vehicle by giving him a piggy back ride.
So, all in all, it wasn’t too bad. I think I’d do it again, but try to go when we have more time and maybe grab our stroller for the next round. Maybe we’ll give it another go in the spring. But, he seemed to really enjoy it, forgetting all the negativity by the next morning, and bragged to his teachers about how he went on the scary upside down roller coaster for weeks afterward.
(For those reading this who may not be aware, these posts are scheduled from my maternity leave, so what goes live in May actually took place last year. I’m doing this so I can catch up on my real life nonsense and still keep an active blog. I’ve had a few comments lately confused about the material I’m posting and when it goes live, so I thought I’d add this caveat to one of the more obvious posts. Thanks as always for reading, and bearing with me as my life undergoes yet another major shift! Love, Hajisaurus)
My second (and last) son was born in the middle of October, which is nice, all things considered. Fall is a great time of year, my favorite, honestly. It also meant that he’d be a teeny weeny around about the time we’d be expected to turn up at family events. Thanksgiving was the first time he’d meet most of my husband’s extended family.
Still reeling from the adjustment, we loaded up the car on Wednesday night and headed out into the world, planning on staying two nights at my in-laws for the holiday. Sure enough, the baby slept as long as the car kept moving, just like his brother did when he was small. What we didn’t count on, though, was the construction on the Pennsylvania turnpike drawing four lanes of traffic down to one, compounded by all the cars travelling for the holiday.
Right on cue, my son began crying, as tiny babies are wont to do. But the thing about newborns is their squall is so unbearable, that any sane human can barely stand it. There’s some evolutionary crap in there so we don’t leave them to die. But I wasn’t leaving him to die. I just couldn’t get out of the car and go to him, because we’re stuck in traffic. It went on for almost 45 minutes, stressing out not just me, but everyone in the car, including his poor brother who could do nothing to stop the crying or process what was happening.
When we finally arrived, my nerves were frayed, but we got through the worst of it. We managed to get through the entire visit without much problem. We didn’t have the help I’d hoped for, though. I had to ask people to hold the baby, not the other way around. I ended up breastfeeding more than I planned on to make the formula we brought stretch out, and because it seemed to be all he wanted to do. Of course, when it was time to eat, in true fashion like his brother before him, I could eat, but not sit. So, I put him in my moby wrap and ate while I bounced him next to the table. It wasn’t ideal, but I made it work.
Sleeping was trickier because we’d been doing shifts at home, but each time the baby woke up, both of us were awakened too, so no one got much rest. The only person who slept was our older son, who had a room of his own. Halfway through, we said we weren’t going to do this again until he was a bit older. It was nice to see everyone, but man, travelling with littles is so hard.
I’m so happy that I can finally write this post. Looking back on all my “unmedicated” years, I’m shocked at what a difference a simple pill can make, but there it is. It’s true that meds are not the answer for everyone, and even if they are, it’s best to use them as part of your strategy to mental wellness, not as your catch-all. Still, I can’t understate how different, and by different, I mean better, I feel being back on my medication.
Because I had always wanted to have more than one kid, I decided to forego the meds after my first pregnancy. Having gone through that transition without it, I realize how hard it was on everyone around me. Hindsight is 20/20. I can’t go back and undo it. I regret all the times I lost my patience, or held myself or others to unrealistic standards, because I just needed some stability.
This time around, I’m calmer, more centered. I can’t say that I haven’t lost my patience or held myself to an unrealistic standard this time around, but I’m definitely going easier on myself and (I hope) everyone around me. I don’t have room in my heart for anger. I’m hoping 2017 gets to be the year where we all feel the love a bit more.
I’ll just come right out and say it: I’ve never been more exhausted in my life. I used to think I had it rough with the first kid, but dang, this is so much worse. Don’t get me wrong, I love my kids and they are so awesome, but I’m so freaking tired. The baby is on an opposite schedule from our 3 year old, so while they get their rest, we get nothing.
Thankfully, for the first twelve weeks, we had the option of napping while the oldest was in daycare, but the weekends were hell. At first, I was taking the whole night shift, but as my husband’s job was winding down to its end, we began to work in shifts. I would put our older son to bed and sleep when he slept until about 2:00 a.m. Then, I’d switch with my husband and take the baby until the morning.
The advice to sleep when baby sleeps is solid, if a little misguided. Sure that works at night, but once you’ve pumped yourself up on caffeine, it’s not so easy. I worry about functionality when I return to work in a few weeks. I’m going to have to add a bunch of things to a crazy morning schedule in order to get to work on time. But for now, I’m focusing both on simply surviving this minute by minute, and dreaming of the days to come when my boys will be largely self sufficient and sleeping on their own.
The one thing you can’t really prepare yourself for when a new baby arrives is the exhaustion from the sleep deprivation. By design, they are needy, warmth-seeking, fragile things that we are hardwired to protect. There is something deep down in our DNA that reacts so viscerally to a newborn’s cries, something so alien sounding that you’d think we’d have the opposite reaction. But no, we run toward it, every fiber of our being surging with adrenaline, as if some primordial creature would find us hidden in the brush and eat our whole family.
The loss of sleep, if you’re lucky, will be minimal. With this baby, he’s actually a pretty good sleeper. He prefers to be in my arms, of course, but unlike his brother, he will let you put him down and he will sleep on his own. But it’s only for a few hours, and although I had forgotten what a real full night’s sleep was like with my older child, this is still difficult to adjust to.
When you’re sleep deprived, the mind plays tricks on you. One night, as I struggled to settle back down to sleep because I wasn’t sure if the baby was actually done eating or not, I swore I heard my older son sneak out of bed because I heard him in the kitchen. But he never came downstairs, there was no creaking of floorboards, nor heavy footfalls or normative chaos that accompanies a 3 year-old’s descent into a room. My mind perfectly conjured it, and it felt like I was going insane.
Daytime blurs into night time, the sunrise surprises you and then it’s somehow noon. Days smear together, and without having my cell phone to tell me, I honestly have no idea what day of the week it is. The adults have fleeting conversations, nearly all sentences go half finished and so many assumptions just simply have to be made in order to make the household run. We lean heavily on each other nowadays. This is easily the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I can’t imagine it getting easier either, as the little one gets bigger and begins to do more than just eat, sleep and poop.
The baby was about 4 days old when I began to fall apart. Since we’d been discharged from the hospital, everyone was on their best behavior, knowing how difficult this would be. We’d spent the better part of the year preparing for this, so when the afterglow began to wear off, I really began to feel it.
We’d been working the evenings in shifts, and the lack of sleep was beginning to make us feel crazy. Where I failed at breastfeeding with my first child, my second made up for it in spades. His hunger was insatiable as my production couldn’t keep up with demand. Although the doctors at the hospital were adamant about over-feeding with the supplemental formula, apparently the little one hadn’t gotten the news. Fortunately, he was a good sleeper and so after these heavy feeds, he’d lapse into a deep, happy slumber.
My older son was an absolute champ about most of the new adjustments. However, the one thing I couldn’t give enough of was attention. Breastfeeding took a good hour at a time, which would then be followed up by more formula and subsequent diaper changes. It wore my patience thin, as it definitely did for him as well. For him, it was a world of unfairness, as he’d been patiently waiting for his pregnant cranky mommy to have this baby and get back to her old self again. And, as much as I want that too, I know I am not there yet.
What he wants most, though, is the closeness we’d had before the physical and emotional toll of the pregnancy kept me at arms length. Tonight, as I laid next to him as he fought sleep, he wanted me to cuddle with him. I was happy to oblige him, but my heart broke, realizing the weight this new baby was putting on him too. I felt like such a failure because of how I’d let him down.
As I write this, I still don’t have an answer to how I’m going to make this work. I’m hoping to find more ways to show both children how much they mean to me, but honestly, I’m scared I’m not going to pull it off. The worst feeling in the world is to be mother to children who don’t think you love them enough.
After my son was all cleaned up, and we were given a room in the mother baby unit, they loaded me into the elevator and shunted me into the room. I hated being in the hospital the last time. There were so many people coming and going, I never got a moment’s rest. I made sure to express to each person who came in how I didn’t want to be bothered (or at least bothered as little as possible).
It didn’t matter though, they had to do their rounds and make sure the baby and I didn’t die, so the constant bothers continued. What also continued were the judgements and issues surrounding the medication I wanted to take for my postpartum depression, my dosing was not to their liking and because it didn’t go through their pharmacy, they wanted to confiscate my bottle. Nah, bro. Nah.
There were also judgements about how I decided to feed my child. Because I put formula on my intake form, there were lots of efforts to dissuade me, and criticisms about things like pacifier use and nipple confusion. The medical residents, who are doctors, but I honestly don’t think a single one of them has ever had a kid.
What I had forgotten about was the contracting and cramping my body would undergo as my uterus tried desperately to deflate itself and go back to its normal size. The pain was constant and unyielding. I wasn’t able to take anything for pain other than motrin, and the nurses were always late in giving it. I was able to score incredible pain management for my delivery, but my postpartum experience left much to be desired.
The first night, though, the night shift nurse told me that I could leave the baby with her, and get some sleep. They kept him for five hours and I woke up the next morning feeling more human. My doctor came by and examined me, telling me that if I wanted to go home, that she could authorize my discharge, as long as the pediatrician said it was okay to take the baby home. I was so excited. The hospital was not my favorite place and I missed my older son and husband. I wanted to get back on track with integrating our new foursome.
The problem was that, even though my son was cleared around lunch time, my doctor again took her sweet time authorizing the discharge order for me. My husband came and went, as the time for daycare pickup had come and now my son would be a complicating factor at my discharge time. It wasn’t until nearly 6:00 that evening that I was able to get in my own car and ride home.
The surge of adrenaline that kicks in at the realization that my baby might finally arrive, on his own, within the next 24 hours (give or take) wears off as the pain of the contractions escalate. Admission takes time, and they have to reach my doctor who’d been notoriously bad at returning phone calls. As I began contracting more heavily, I started to worry that I might not be taken upstairs in time to get my epidural. And I really, really wanted that epidural.
Finally, the call came in, and I was wheeled into an elevator to go upstairs. The anesthesiologist had to be paged, and was finally administered around 1:00 a.m. My texts to my husband are as follows:
1:08 a.m. Epidural is magic. I love you so much.
1:17 a.m. Water just broke.
6:13 a.m. No baby yet. Threw up twice.
7:22 a.m. We’re going to start pushing
And then, at exactly 7:30, my darling child burst forth into the world, 9 lbs even, 21.5 inches long. My husband, who had just dropped off my son at daycare, arrived about ten minutes afterward, which was ideal, considering the mess was cleaned up and all I had to do was present him with his beautiful son.
We had our moment, tears and hugs and most of all, love. Everything else faded away in that moment, we had what was really important. Now the hard part could really begin.
Although I wasn’t any closer to delivering, my due date had come and gone, I decided to begin maternity leave as scheduled. Things at work had slowed for me to the point that everyone felt comfortable with the handoff and I was ready not to be there anymore. The only advice anyone had left for me at this point was to walk, which wasn’t really feasible considering my job required me to sit for 8 hours a day. By the time I left to go home for the day, I was too worn out to do much other than what was needed at home. Going on leave, having the days freed up to give this last ditch effort a try seemed to make sense.
My son and husband left for soccer the next morning, and I decided to go hit the walking trail at the park. It was a lovely autumn day, warm and sunny. I made my way around only about a half mile before the contractions started, although they were only about twenty minutes apart at that point and not very steady. I went home, ate some lunch and decided to see what happened.
The weekend progressed, and the contractions did tighten up in frequency and duration, although not nearly enough to warrant a visit to the hospital yet. I took my son to the grocery store on Sunday and that seemed to kick things up another notch. By dinner time, we were six minutes apart, and I thought it might be go time. I called the doctor’s office after hours line and left a message.
I want to pause here and say that, looking back, I should have absolutely switched my OB earlier in my pregnancy. To say that her bedside manner was lacking is an understatement. Not only did she take an hour to call me back, but her reaction (which my husband got to hear over the speakerphone in the car) was so nonplussed about the fact that I was probably going to have my baby soon left me doubting myself that I should even be paying attention to what I was feeling. As you can imagine, since I’m writing this post this way, I was right to do what I did that night, and at the time I’m crafting this post, I’m seriously plotting my exit strategy from a caregiver who is anything but.
We arrived at triage around 7:00, my son and husband in tow, which was not the plan initially. But, I was feeling scared and unsure, and having them with me gave me a bit of strength. I was going back and forth between fear and excitement. I sent out a text to my friend and birth partner who would be taking care of me so the boys could go home. Not long after I was taken back to be examined, but due to a miscommunication on my part, the boys stayed in the empty waiting room, cranky and unsure as well.
Once I confirmed my birth partner was on the way, I texted my husband and son to head home. The monitoring process to see if I was in labor would take a while. It was best to send them home to keep some sense of normalcy while we waited this thing out.
The nurse eventually came in and checked me, finding I was about 3 centimeters dilated. I was excited, thinking this was a sure thing, but they were reluctant to admit me until it was certain that I was moving along beyond that. After a while, they checked again, finding that it wasn’t really. I was given the option to walk for two hours or go home. Having had enough of this, I decided to try to walk. By then it was late, almost ten, and I’d have to walk until midnight already exhausted from a long day, to figure out whether or not the baby was coming.
But, my determination and that of my birth partner would not be so easily dissuaded. We opted to walk. And walk we did. Since I work on the campus of the hospital where I was to deliver, we found that walking outside in the tepid autumn air was most agreeable. There was a super moon that night, and it was quite lovely, in spite of the increasing pain of the contractions. By the time we returned to triage, they were roughly three to five minutes apart. The nurse checked me again, and put me at 5 centimeters dilated. It was finally happening!