I haven’t written in this blog in over a year. I’ve debated putting it to rest as I just haven’t had freedom to dedicate the time to writing. I spent the better part of 2018 being pregnant. Oh, the things I wanted to write about and post. Each trimester came with its own set of both exciting milestones and challenges. I wanted to talk about my favorite pregnancy items and things that saved me. I may still write about all of these things in the future, but I wanted to talk about something that women are rarely real about… what it’s like to actually have the freakin’ baby.
I became a mother to my son, Graham, on January 5th, 2019. He is the most perfect, beautiful, little peanut. My life is forever changed because of this tiny human I grew and nourished inside of my body. Feeling his little kicks and hiccups and knowing his movements was more special than I could have ever described. Seeing these movements on the outside and knowing that’s what he was doing when he was partying in there gives me the strangest sense of familiarity. I loved waking up in the morning and spending time just feeling him kick. Just me and Sprinky. In case you are wondering, Sprinky came about because he was the size of a donut sprinkle at five weeks and it just kind of stuck. Looks like it’s sticking on the outside, as well.
I had taken off of work the week he was born to go into the last four weeks of my pregnancy prepared for anything to happen. I organized the nursery, made freezer meals, ran errands, you name it. My water broke in the middle of the night in the middle of that week. I woke up my husband to tell him and was hysterically crying saying, “it’s too early” as I was only 35 weeks along. We hadn’t even had our hospital bags packed or the car seat installed as these were things that we had planned to do that weekend. I won’t go into detail about my birth story (maybe a post for another day?), but he came into this world via C-section after 32 hours of labor.
My advice to those of you who are planning to start a family someday: do NOT go into your delivery with any expectations. Literally everything I had feared and had anxiety about happened to me. But I didn’t expect it to go any sort of way and I’m grateful for that. Just because you think/hope an emergency c-section won’t happen to you, it might. Educate yourself on the procedure and the recovery. My paralyzing fear of having one (mostly the abdominal surgery while awake aspect) kept me from researching it. Do it. Prepare yourself.
We then spent three more sleepless days in the hospital until we could go home. We were extremely lucky with how healthy he was given that he was a preemie. We were told when we went to the hospital that any babies that arrived before 35 weeks were automatically sent to the NICU. At 35 weeks he would need to prove himself to stay out of it. Our little peanut surpassed all of the goals and never needed to go to the NICU.
Here’s the first part about postpartum that caught me by surprise… a c-section is major surgery. MAJOR surgery, y’all. And you’re basically expected to pretend it never happened once you get home. You are sleep deprived. You are taking care of a new human. The hospital was fantastic. I can’t say enough great things about the level of care we received. All you nurses out there: you make the world go round. The true heroes. The nurses come in periodically to check vitals and you remember that half the time they’re actually there for you. Even when they tell you… well we’re concerned about this thing or that thing, you’re only thinking about the baby and you feel like you’ll deal with your own thing later. Whenever you have surgery you are aware of the care requirements when you go home. When to take meds. How much rest you need. For new moms? Maybe you’ll remember to take your meds. Shouldn’t take the stairs? Too bad, I left his favorite swaddle up there. Don’t over do it! Well, this tiny baby laundry isn’t going to do itself! Showering to make sure your incision stays clean? Forget it. Maybe tomorrow. Also, what is makeup?
Try to remember to TAKE CARE OF YOURSELVES, mamas. Or you’ll end up in the urgent care with a hole in your incision after you suspected something was wrong for several days but you’re restricted from driving and terrified to leave your baby and miss a feeding. You can’t take care of your family if you can’t take care of yourself.
We’ve also been dealt another struggle with having a preemie. Everyone is always so excited to take their baby home from the hospital. Putting him in the car seat and seeing how tiny and awkward he looked in it was terrifying (we’ve since corrected his positioning in the car seat from the photo in this post). The poor volunteer that walked us out of the hospital had to stand with me while my husband got the car and I frantically posted a photo of him to a car seat Facebook group in tears to make sure that he was in there safely. The drive home was not enjoyable.
Then once you sit in the glider in the nursery you so thoughtfully decorated for them (that I actually mostly finished organizing hours before my water broke), it is a mix of strong emotions. I was so happy to have my sweet baby home, but the realization that our life in this home as we knew it is changed forever was harder for me to accept than I thought it would be. This is when I found out what the Baby Blues are.
Ok. Holy hormones. This is what I wish people talked about more. I didn’t know what this was. I knew postpartum depression existed (something else that should be talked about more), but I had never heard of the Baby Blues and wish I had. I have spent the first couple of postpartum weeks crying constantly. About everything. Sleep Deprivation + Hormones = Misery. I worry constantly… especially with a preemie. Is that sound normal? Is he going to aspirate the next time I wake up to find him sleeping in a pile of his own spitup? What does this poop mean? Seeing this tiny person in a big world is also a hard pill to swallow. He swims in preemie clothes (that we had to go out and buy because nothing I so excitedly purchased during my nesting spree fits him). He is resilient but he just looks so fragile. Everything will make you cry and feel like you want to give up, but it’s totally normal.
My baby is so tiny. He was 5lb 2oz when he was born and we have worked around the clock to try to get his weight back up. He was 4lb 10oz when we took him home and was 5lb at his two week checkup. Our little guy is just too tired to eat. But he needs to eat to grow. This has been our biggest stressor. My dream of breastfeeding has been put on pause as we have him on the bottle to make feeding less exhausting for him. Between feeding every three hours and pumping every two, it’s the full time job I never expected. If he has a couple of small feeds at the beginning of the day then I worry about him getting behind as I watch the feeds and the hours tick by. It is the worst feeling in the world when you’re an hour and a half into a feed and he’s only taken in 3/4 Oz. We know how much he needs to eat to sustain himself, to maintain, and to grow and if he doesn’t meet his mark then it feels like I failed for that day. Even though the pediatrician says he looks great, I just want a chunky, healthy baby.
We wanted to be kind of parents that get used to taking their baby places from the beginning. We can’t because we’re terrified of the car seat, terrified of exposing him to sickness during cold and flu season, and we don’t take him anywhere he doesn’t need to go. Someday soon I hope this will change.
This new adventure is not all sunshine and rainbows. Although, social media makes it look that way when you have a baby. I am guilty of this, as well. All I’ve posted are sweet photos of my baby boy. I didn’t post photos of myself ugly crying mostly all day every day the past couple of weeks. I didn’t post what I looked like when I hadn’t showered or rebrushed the bun I threw on top of my head for several days. I didn’t post any photos of myself in my standard outfit which is maternity leggings, my belly binder, my pumping bra, and a robe. Or a Kardashian-esque mirror butt selfie of myself in the postpartum mesh underwear that I found myself unable to live without once I left the hospital (Amazon will rob you on these, just FYI). I didn’t post the texts I sent my friends in desperation for reassurance when I felt like a failure and like literally anyone could do a better job of taking care of this baby than I could.
It’s. Just. Hard. And it takes a village. The other advice I have is to accept help when it’s offered and ask for help if you need it. My husband and I are so incredibly lucky to have the families that we do. It’s been all grandmas onboard (or B.B. and G.G. in our case). Someone wants to hold your baby while you nap? Someone wants to send you a pizza? Someone is running to the store or pharmacy and asks if you need anything? Become the Yes Mom. Our friends… I have no words for how lucky we are. They are certainly the family you choose. Between the premature birth and method of delivery, we had been needing to supplement with formula as we wait for my supply to come in. He began to stop tolerating the formula. A friend/coworker selflessly donated 144 Oz. of breast milk to us. I will be forever grateful to her for her generosity.
I also don’t know what I would have done without the incredible dedication my husband has shown to our family and our marriage during this complete shift of our life. Lean on your partner. Love each other more than you ever have. Let them know how much you appreciate their part in this journey. Even when you’re playing scoreboard with how much sleep the other one has gotten in the past 24 hours.
While I sit here and talk about how trying this has been, I can’t even begin to describe how much joy I have looking at this tiny person’s face or how my heart is just so full of love for this little life. I love seeing him grow and change every day. Seeing him stretch, and sneeze, and make little baby dolphin noises lights up my life. I am so thrilled that Baby Graham is a part of our family now.
I know that my experience is not everyone’s experience. I hope some postpartum journeys are, in fact, sunshine and rainbows. But sometimes it’s not. I write this as this is one of our better days. Tomorrow may be better, or it could be two steps back. But to all of you new moms… I see you, I hear you. We’re in this together.