Saturday, May 29, 2010

Home from the hospital

I’ll never forget the moment when I climbed into the car after securing our little one into the infant seat for the first time. I put on my own seatbelt, my husband put the car into reverse and I was suddenly swamped with emotion. As he pulled out of the parking lot, we looked at each other and tears came into my eyes. “We’re a family,” I said.

My husband had taken a couple of weeks off from work. Thank God he did. Everything was so new. My mother had offered to come up and help, but we wanted a little time to figure things out for ourselves. Those first couple of weeks, I really relied on my husband for some of the tricky tasks, such as bathing the baby and cutting fingernails. He would clip fingernails while I nursed. This kept the baby from fidgeting.

It took me a while to get up the nerve to bathe the baby myself. But finally, I took a deep breath and just did it. We bought one of those bath sponges that you can place in the bathtub in warm water and place the baby in. It worked great, although it was a little hard on the knees as you knelt by the tub. (A folded towel under them helped.)

When Phil went back to work, I was terrified. I finally realized that if I can just manage to feed myself and the baby, change diapers, use the bathroom and get some sleep, I was accomplishing a lot. I couldn’t understand why I would cry at the drop of a hat. Postpartum depression? No. I wasn’t depressed. Just emotional.

We loved the Snuggly. If I put the baby in the Snuggly, a front carrier which placed the baby’s head snuggled against my chest, I would have my hands free to make dinner or wash dishes, or even do laundry.

Breastfeeding was the other challenge. The doctor had told me I was to nurse every 3-4 hours. But the baby would never wait that long to fuss. How I wish I’d called La Leche League earlier, or even before the baby was born. Once I started going to their meetings, stress over nursing became a thing of the past. There’s nothing worse than watching the clock and wondering why your baby doesn’t stick to a schedule. And it was a relief to learn that babies don’t nurse only for nourishment, but also for closeness and emotional reasons.

Once I got used to nursing, I quickly came to realize what a blessing it was. I began to look forward to settling down with my baby and drifting into that euphoric state where the world falls away. I feel the compact body of my baby snuggled close to me and I'm no longer sure where my body stops and hers begins. I see the sweet face of my baby, eyes closed, long lashes against her cheek. I feel the gentle tugging at the breast, the touch of a baby hand, the softness of that cheek I stroke with my finger, the gentle press of little feet against my stomach… and I feel a oneness and a rightness with the world.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The beginning...

Do you remember the moment when you first laid eyes on your newborn? For me, there was an instantaneous feeling of recognition, as if I was welcoming an old friend. There I lay, propped up against some pillows with this tiny infant in my arms and I’m thinking, “Hello, old friend.”

I hesitate to say I didn’t experience that same feeling with my second child. The birth was easier than with my first, although it was in some ways more traumatic because it was the first time I was separated for more than a couple of hours from my two-year-old daughter. I wonder if somehow my son knew my thoughts were elsewhere because within a day he found a way to get my attention. He developed what the doctor called “Fast Breathing”, so they put him in an incubator for 4 days and started giving him antibiotics in case there was some kind of lung infection. I had to leave him in the hospital eventually and pump my breast milk that first week. It gave us a good scare, and I understand now as I look back that even then he never had any trouble gaining the attention he needed and deserved.

We never did find out what was wrong. Perhaps he just wanted to make a grand entrance and shake everyone up. The end result was that he created a parent-child bond that was just as powerful and life-changing as his sister. And in both cases, I felt as though something had hit me over the head and spun me around until I was dizzy and disoriented and wasn’t sure which way was up or down.

The world never really does settle back down again. Perhaps it’s the job of children to spin our world around every once in a while and make us see things in a new way…