Saturday, December 10, 2011

Newborn

(Very few photos in this post were actually taken by me. Most were taken by other family members.)

When I was pregnant with Sydney I found myself often thinking about what it was going to be like when we were finally able to meet her and bring her home. I imagined streams of family and friends coming by the hospital room and eventually home to visit with us and hold our new baby.  I pictured baby baths, nursing, sitting on the couch as a family watching TV, or breaking out our new video camera. Her nursery was perfect and awaiting her arrival. I knew I’d be tired, but in general, I just envisioned us happy and overwhelmed with love.

My sister made these cookies for my baby shower. Totally amazing!
We went to all of the classes that the hospital had to offer for new expecting parents. I read all of the books. I scoured the internet and chat sites. All those things are good. And you should do them. But nothing prepared me for what it is really like to be home with a newborn.

 
Every baby and every experience is different. My experience, in the beginning, was nothing like I was expecting. 

My first few weeks as a new mom were really hard.  It was never a question of love. I loved Sydney from the minute she came into this world. Overwhelmed with love just like I hoped I would be. But I was in a funk. Nothing like extreme postpartum depression…but definitely the baby blues.  My hormones were on overdrive, I was getting basically no sleep at night, and I was completely, totally overwhelmed. I don’t know what I looked like from the outside, to friends and family, but on the inside, I was a train wreck. I was happy and sad all at the same time. I was thrilled to have Sydney, but I was completely consumed by exhaustion, worry, and uncertainty.

The day we left the hospital, we met with a nurse who went over the basics with us, we packed up all our informational handouts, signed a few forms, answered a few questions, and were on our way. I remember loading into the car for the first time thinking, “That’s it? They’re just going to let us walk out of here with her? What are we supposed to do now? This little girl’s life is in our hands now and I have no idea what I’m doing.”


Those first weeks, my life revolved around the clock; when did she eat last? When does she need to eat again? is she getting enough to eat? When was her last wet diaper?  Has she had a dirty diaper? Did the poop look right? When did she sleep last? When will she sleep again?

I didn’t feel like I had a clue about anything and I was worried about everything. Every decision we had to make felt like a monumental choice.  Should we supplement with formula? When can we give her a pacifier? Where should she sleep? How should she sleep? Am I holding her too much? Not enough? Every question seemed to be of epic proportion, with potentially lifelong consequences.  It was all very melodramatic.


Night time was the worst. During the day I could at least feel some sense of “normalcy”, but I dreaded the night. As soon as it would get dark I could feel the dread start to creep into my chest like a weight. I knew what was coming. I knew that my body would be craving, screaming, even physically aching for sleep...and it wouldn’t get it. How can you explain to someone what it’s like to go weeks without more than a few hours sleep here and there? I thought I would be tired.

Tired doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt.

I remember night after night, I would lay down after getting up to sooth or feed Sydney for the 3rd, 4th, 5th time and begging God to please let her sleep. PLEASE. My head would hit the pillow and just as I would start to drift off…she'd start crying again.

It was like a physical punch in the gut.

I would want to cry, and often did, as I dragged my body out of bed one more time. At some point in the night I would usually work in about 1-2 hours of uninterrupted sleep. But 1-2 hours of sleep feels like the second you close your eyes, you’re awake again.

Not a pretty picture, huh. Definitely not what I was expecting my first few weeks as a new mom to be like.

Here’s the thing though. It got better. Fast.

No, at the time it didn’t feel fast, but now, looking back…it was the blink of an eye.


Looking back now, I realize how very lucky we actually were. Sydney was an unusually good sleeper.  Some parents struggle for months, or even a year to get their new babies to sleep through the night. At just  4-5 weeks Sydney was sleeping in FOUR HOUR stretches! After a few months, almost the entire night.  We learned. We adapted. Swaddle blankets and one bottle of formula before bed, were lifesavers for us.

So why am I telling you all of this? It’s not to scare anyone. Like I said, every baby and every experience is different. It’s not to have a pity party. After a few weeks, once I started getting more sleep, my hormones settled down some, and I managed to get the hang of things, having newborn at home went from one of the most challenging things I've ever been through to one of the most rewarding, and I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.


It’s just to say, that I’ve obviously been thinking about having a newborn at home again and trying to mentally prepare myself for it, but as I do, I'm finding that I really don’t think things are going to be as hard this time around.  (I’m only talking about the aspects of bring home a newborn here. Believe me, I know having two kids isn’t going to be a cake walk and I’m plenty worried about the logistics of managing two kids.)

I feel so much more prepared for a newborn this time. I’ve already got one notch on my belt. I finally know what to expect.

I remember the first week I was home with Sydney and a friend came by to drop off some food for us. As she left she told me “Just remember, it DOES get better.”  At the time, it didn’t really mean much.  “It will get better” is hard to digest when you are totally overwhelmed and can’t see the forest through the trees. But now, now I KNOW, it WILL get better. I understand what she was trying to tell me.

I’ve been through the trial by fire and come out stronger on the other side.  I’m sitting up on a hillside and I can see the forest and it’s amazing. Breathtakingly beautiful. I know this time, when I’m sitting in a rocking chair in the middle of the night for the umpteenth time, that I will treasure those intimate moments, because before I know it they will be gone forever.


I know there’s still the unexpected card that hormones throw into the mix, but I’ve got a secret weapon this time. My ace in the hole.  This time, I’ve got this little beauty by my side.


I know that with her around, there’s no way I’ll be able to slip back into that dark, depressing, place again. When I start to feel exhausted and overwhelmed, I know that her little smile will be there to snap me out of it and keep me focused on the big picture.

No book, no class, no words of wisdom, can prepare you for being a parent the way, well, being a parent can. I was so completely worried and overwhelmed the first time. But I’ve got an arsenal of experiences and memories in my pack now. I’m ready, I’m excited, and I find myself once again anxiously awaiting a little girl’s arrival, looking forward to bringing her home.

3 comments:

  1. Great post. Agree, agree agree!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Sarah, I love reading your blog. What a great post!

    ReplyDelete

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