Tuesday, December 15, 2009
The other day I shared the news about the home birth of friend/distant relative. Today, another online friend (an online one from afar) is having a tough first week postpartum, and it reminded me of my own beginnings. There was so much that was wonderful - and so much that was not just grueling, but frankly, terrifying. For many moms, the Third Day is the day of reckoning. Hormonally, you're undergoing the biggest changes you will ever undergo in your life apart from puberty and menopause, and both of those take place over the course of years, not days or even just hours. Going from being pregnant to not being pregnant, and then from not-lactating to lactating . . . And then there's the sleep deprivation, and the overwhelming reality of one's responsibility as a mom hits you - well, sometimes it's just not very pretty. If you're reading this, you've probably been there.
Here's my crash course boot camp story, in a nutshell:
Day 3 into 4 was the time of staring into the abyss for me. OH, but I was an absolute wreck. I had only slept a few scattered hours total since the birth, my hemorrhoids were terribly inflamed, making it impossible to get comfortable in any position, but especially sitting, my milk had just come in and I was hugely engorged with what felt like rocks in my boobs and ARMPITS and had no idea whether it was normal, I was freaking out about Lily's umbilical cord getting funky, and worst of all it was becoming clear that she was having trouble latching, though I had no idea just how epic this would turn out to be (but that is entirely another story).
I felt completely buried by my endless task list. In addition to just caring for a brand-new precious baby, I had to make sure to 1. learn to use the breast pump, 2. take both of our temperatures regularly, 3. make sure I was getting enough fluids, 4. do fundal massage to help my uterus keep contracting down, 5. keep replenishing my witch hazel and comfrey pads in the freezer to soothe my bottom, 6. do lots of skin-to-skin contact with her, 7. swaddle her, 8. feel confused about which of the former two I should be doing at any given moment, 9. put her in the sun periodically to help with her mild jaundice (and at one point I was CONVINCED I had done so for a few minutes too long and given my newborn a sunburn and was despondent), 10. figure out how to use my Maya Wrap, when thanks to the extremely confusing DVD I couldn't even get it threaded . . . And all of this was on top of nursing difficulties. Yeah, I was a little overwhelmed.
I remember sitting at the computer at 6 am with cabbage leaves stuffed into my bra, tears rolling down my face, posting a pitiful thread on Mothering.com's forums asking for help. I had never felt so pathetic. I remember sobbing hysterically - and I do mean hysterically - when Lily wet her diaper while lying on a heating pad - it leaked (I hadn't gotten the hang of using the waterproof covers yet) and I was suddenly convinced that she could have been electrocuted and it was all my fault. I remember on day 4, having not ventured out of the house since I was in labor, Aaron convincing me to take a walk during a time when Lily was asleep. I wasn't up for a long walk, but he begged me to please, at least get some air, just for 5 minutes. Clearly he could see that I was becoming seriously unhinged. So I agreed to walk to the mailbox. I ambled out the front door, dazed, and then realized I had walked out there with my shirt COMPLETELY unbuttoned and hanging open, in the state I'd been walking around the house in. Thank goodness no neighbors were around to see, and it did give me the first laugh I'd had.
I never saw why a postpartum doula would be such a big help before I had that day, and then I totally got it.
Can you relate? Share your own Days of Reckoning?