|*photo by my sister-in-law Carrie|
As of May 5th, I got a new boss and she is most definitely the cutest boss I will ever have in my life, but she is by far the most demanding boss I've ever had. It goes without saying that I adore her and have wanted to be a mom for so long, but what I have found to be so enlightening is just how hard the first month has been.
When you're trying to get pregnant, all you focus on is wanting a baby. I pictured fun activities we'd do together like going to the park, snuggling while reading a story and hearing her say "mama" for first time. I sort of skipped over the newborn phase during this daydreaming process, as I knew the sleep deprivation and around the clock feedings would be hard. I just didn't know how hard.
For years, getting pregnant was my # 1 goal. Then once I was pregnant, I was in this state of mild euphoria. Not the first trimester, because I spent the majority of it in bed with debilitating nausea and migraines, but once I hit the second trimester, I really hit my stride. I loved my growing belly and saw it as a badge of honor. I know exactly where I was the first time I felt the little flutter of her first kick and was mesmerized every time she did thereafter. It never grew old to me that there was a life forming inside me. I was so excited to be pregnant that I went out and bought maternity clothes way before my belly had truly formed and was fully registered for everything baby before I even entered my second trimester.
And then there's all the celebration that comes when you're pregnant. You receive so much joy and love from everyone in your life, even those you don't know. I loved having impromptu conversations with strangers at Starbucks, whom I would otherwise never even make eye contact with. Let's face it, everyone loves a pregnant woman. And people want to know what you're having, do you have a name, and then they always, without fail, offer you a bit of advice -- even if they put the disclaimer out there that "you're gonna get a lot of unsolicited advice, but ..." Of course the most popular bit is "get your sleep now," which of course now I understand why they say it, but it doesn't make any sense. You can't store up sleep and you can't comprehend what they really mean until you are two days in, averaging 2 hours of sleep a night.
But about halfway through my third trimester, I have to admit I was over it. I was so uncomfortable, my belly was just taking over my life. I couldn't sit comfortably. I couldn't stand comfortably and I definitely could not sleep comfortably. My pregnancy pillow we nicknamed "The Snoog" had taken over our bed and poor Jeff had maybe 1/4 left to sleep on. I was no longer sleeping, waking up at 3 am and watching hours of terrible television. I think my lowest point was watching "The Flintstones: Viva Rock Vegas." Okay, in all honesty, my lowest point was watching "The Flintsones: Viva Rock Vegas" for the second time, because I fell asleep during the last 30 minutes the time before. I somehow loved watching these terrible movies during the wee hours of the night. It was like my little secret. But then I got so tired of being tired that I thought "can i just go ahead and have this baby? I mean I'm already not sleeping, I might as well be taking care of my baby." Little did I know.
So three days after my due date, little Amelia decided it was time to get moving. Of course, as with everything in my life, this didn't come easy. She was posterior. For those of you who don't know what that means, babies are supposed to come out face down, but she was coming out face up. This meant that the hardest part of her body - her skull - was scraping up and down my spine, causing a ton of back pain, which ultimately meant a very long and painful labor. Normally, you get relief between contractions, but I was having excruciating back pain in between each one. By the time we got to the hospital and got into our delivery room, Jeff and I asked roughly how long it would be before she arrived. When the nurse said about 10 - 12 more hours, I maybe hesitated a few seconds before the words "epidural" shot out from my mouth. I had been in labor since Friday and it was Sunday morning, the thought of ten more hours was just unbearable.
Once that beautiful epidural shot into my spinal cord, things felt SO much better. Why had I not gotten to the hospital earlier, instead of laboring in pain at home for so long? How was I thinking about doing this without drugs? Props to you moms out there who did it, but I reached a point where it just didn't seem possible without some sort of intervention.
Jeff was the best labor coach I could have asked for. He was with me every step of the way, pressing into my lower back when I was moaning through each contraction, telling me "you're halfway through the contraction. The pain will be going away now. You're doing such a great job, baby!" He fed me italian ices (which felt so decadent compared to ice chips), sneaked in a strawberry yogurt, held my hand, rubbed my back and just made it all better. He was even helping the nurses by getting pillows, grabbing ice chips, and playing good music, which of course, put him in their good graces. In between checking on me, they would tell me how lucky I was to have such a committed partner. One even asked if she could be our sister wife! I can't imagine what it was like in the Don Draper years, when men stayed out in the waiting room with their bourbon, smoking their cigarettes.
Throughout my entire pregnancy, I was terrified of labor, but I have to admit it wasn't that scary, but remember I had drugs. It's the one time in my life where I truly felt in the moment. I had no idea of what time it was, how many hours had passed, or even what people were asking me sometimes. I just remember a ton of pillows, italian ices, excellent nurses, our doula giving me a phenomenal foot massage and Jeff being so supportive. And anytime I felt a twinge of pain, I just had them boost that epidural and all was good again.
Earlier in the day, my nurse Malinda had said "you're gonna love pushing" and I thought "you're insane." But when it was time to start pushing, I realized I actually did like pushing. It was like, after nine months of waiting and hours and hours of labor, I was finally going to meet her - and I was actively doing my part to help her enter this world. After 2 1/2 hours of it, our strong little girl finally made it under my pelvic bone, turning at the last minute, and was on her way out. The instant of grabbing her and putting her up on my chest ( I totally pulled a Kourtney Kardashian) was so surreal. I had a baby. A beautiful, sweet little love laying right there on my chest, fresh out of the womb. Everything else in the room went away and for a few minutes it was just me, my sweet baby girl and my husband. Just like that we were a family of three.
I didn't notice the delivery of the placenta, the uterine massage, or even the many stitches that were being sewn into my poor, torn, swollen perineum. It wasn't until our hour and a half of skin-to-skin time had ended and the epidural had been turned off that I started to feel the pain. We left our massive floor-to-ceiling windowed room with a view of the Hollywood sign and I was wheeled into a TINY, dingy little postpartum room and I thought "oh, how the mighty have fallen!"
Poor Jeff got stuck "sleeping" on a tiny cot that was missing several springs and every time that we thought we could get an hour of sleep, the door would open, the fluorescent lights would jolt on and someone would barge in to give me some sort of medicine, take Amelia to get her hearing test, or ask if I wanted juice. And because she arrived just minutes before midnight, we only got a day and a half in the hospital, which quite honestly turned out to be a blessing, because we clearly got no rest there.
On the day of our discharge I remember trying to get Amelia swaddled and myself dressed, which was a feat as I could barely even stand, while Jeff was running back and forth to the car, getting everything ready for us to leave. All of a sudden, Amelia started wailing and I couldn't get her to calm down. I started crying and the nurse came in to rescue me. Jeff had walked in at this point and took her, checked her diaper and realized she was wet. I looked at our nurse and said "I didn't even think to check that"and she was like "Oh baby, that's one of the first things you check!" That's when I thought - "wait! I'm in charge of her! I can't even figure out one of her most basic needs and now we're just taking over, here?"
I was overwhelmed. This was not how I thought this moment would go. I remember seeing pictures on Facebook of moms wearing cute outfits with fresh makeup on, holding their new little bundles as they left the hospital. Umm...I was wheeled out to our car in a nightgown, as I had accidentally peed on my "going home" outfit, with no makeup and giant bags under my eyes, forbidding Jeff to snap any photos, while I tried to soothe our crying baby. Jeff cautiously drove us home and I think we savored that drive. 1) because she was actually sleeping and 2) because the slower the drive meant the more time we had to get home and getting home was terrifying.
Once we got home I remained overwhelmed, as we maybe slept two hours a day that week. I couldn't believe how challenging it was. My mom arrived exactly a week later (and yes I was counting) and we 100% could not have done this without her. She took care of our little family for three weeks. It was amazing to see her with Amelia and how she instinctively knew how to soothe her. It was such a great bonding experience for me to have my mom teach me how to mother.
I've asked her and my mom friends why is this so hard for me and the response is always the same, that the first six weeks are the worst. I just don't know why people don't talk about this more. Maybe you feel guilty because this is supposed to be a blissful period and you feel like an asshole to complain in any way? Or maybe I'm just a wimp. As much as I love her, this has been the hardest thing I've ever done. But it's getting better every day. And everytime I have a breakdown I know I have Jeff or my mom, or my girlfriends to call and they remind me that it's okay to feel this way -- it's just part of the process. My body has gone through trauma, I'm being tortured with no sleep, my hormones are absolutely crazy and I'm feeding non-stop, around the clock.
So for now, I celebrate the little moments where she snuggles into me while nursing, taking her little hand and wrapping her fingers around my pinky. Or the crazy faces she makes and the little laugh she lets out when her belly is full. Or that beautiful baby smell. Or those chubby little cheeks. Or how even after I've put her down, I sneak back over to look at her, amazed that we created something so beautiful. That's what makes me know that while she is demanding, she's going to be the best boss I've ever had.