You have nine months to prepare for your baby to arrive, and yet … it’s impossible to prepare.
I’ve had a hard time with that fact over the last few weeks since Clayton arrived. How to go through life clueless (and sleepless), relying on instincts that everyone promised you’d have but that still have you questioning yourself, how to trust you’re doing the right things, how to look at everyone’s social media and not feel like they all have it figured out and you don’t. And how to let go of the things you planned for, your to-do lists, the life you knew, and just roll with it.
First of all, I’m not a ‘just roll with it’ kind of gal, and things started to not go as planned for me in January when I found out my high blood pressure would mean the baby would be coming early. And even though I had two months to get ready for that, I didn’t fully grasp what it means to be induced until it was happening. We were scheduled to go into the hospital on Tuesday, February 27th, sometime after 7 p.m., and they told us they’d call us with one hour’s notice when a bed became available. After brunch with my in-laws and handing off Mikey, a trip to see Black Panther, packing our bags, and my favorite meal of Mexican food, we wound up not getting the call until 11 p.m. and the *adventure* began. I will save all the details for perhaps a later post, but all I can say is that when your body isn’t ready, it isn’t ready. And I … wasn’t ready. I was in labor for a total of 34 hours, and pushed for three of the longest hours of my life before our little nugget finally came out.
Our first week pretty much continued on at a similar clip, as we struggled to figure out breastfeeding, Clayton had to be re-admitted to the hospital overnight for jaundice, he lost a concerning amount of weight, was suspected to have a milk protein allergy, and I realized I was dealing with symptoms of postpartum depression, which I recognized and have since gotten under control (maybe that’ll be its own post later, too).
In the two weeks since, thanks to some tough decisions and the help of our village (you know who you are!) things have improved tremendously, and I can honestly say life is good! We’re all adjusting more and more each day, and I feel like we’re getting the hang of this newborn thing. Kevin went back to work last week, but I am home until June 5, so we have lots of time to get even more comfortable. I know that once we figure out this stage, a new one will be upon us, but the thing I want to get better at is taking each phase as it comes, and learning to be okay with not knowing, with having questions, and with not having a plan.
In the meantime, I wanted to share a couple things I’ve learned over the past month that no baby book or well-meaning friend can prepare you for when you push out a baby and bring him home, sans instructional manual:
Everyone tells you something different. This goes for friends sharing the things that worked for them and their baby, and it also goes for hospital staff. Over the course of our two nights in the hospital after Clayton was born, we were tended to by numerous doctors, nurses, and lactation specialists, and the advice from one to the next was never the same. For me, that was hard. Why is there not one right answer? Why do two staff members at the same hospital not believe the same thing? So… pacifiers are okay? They’re evil? I should start pumping tomorrow? In three weeks? He can sleep on his side if he seems to want to? Only his back? Never wake a sleeping baby. Don’t let him sleep longer than 2 hours during the day! Ya’ll. I CAN’T EVEN. The lesson, I think, is that there’s not a right answer, because every baby is different, every situation is different, and every parent is different. And I am pretty sure that the only thing you can do is see what works for your baby and do that thing. But don’t get too used to it, because tomorrow it might not work.
“You’re the parent.” During one of my panicked early phone calls to the pediatrician, a nurse responded to my question with “You’re the parent.” This kind of goes with the above thought that I want there to be one right answer to each problem, but the lesson is that there’s not, and that you are the one that can decide. I think I really struggled with being the one that makes these choices for him, rather than taking orders, but it’s getting easier.
The first night at home is hard. And lonely. I will never forget the feeling of sitting up with him in his nursery at 2 a.m. after changing, feeding, swaddling, rocking, and singing to him, and having him still scream and have no idea what to do. I felt like I was the only person awake in the world.
Babies don’t always make sense. Babies aren’t like cars or household appliances, where if you have a flat tire or a leaky pipe you fix the thing and the problem is solved. Sometimes all a baby wants is comfort, and after trying 10 other things, you finally realize it. Turns out snuggles was all he wanted.
Perhaps the biggest lesson of all, though, is to be kind to yourself, and to extend yourself the grace you would to someone else in a new, scary situation. Eating, sleeping, showering, and getting out of the house are all important, and you should make time for them, as well as whatever other types of self-care are important to you. Take your village up on offers to help, even just to take a walk around the block. Learn to be okay with things not going as planned, even if it seems impossible and takes a while to accept. Something that used to be second nature might take forever to do, and it’s okay to set one goal for the day and to feel accomplished that the laundry got done.
For now, at three weeks plus a couple days, Clayton is doing well! He’s growing and changing every day, he’s awake for longer stretches during the day, sleeping better at night, recognizing our voices, and reminding me of the above lessons. Kevin and I are navigating the new life we’ve made, and I’m looking forward to warm weather so I can spend time outside with my human child and fur child. My delivery and first couple weeks may not have been what I expected, but that’s okay, because the next ones likely won’t be, either. I’m just going to try to be ready for that.