We did it! We kept a baby alive for three whole months! And not only that, he seems to be doing quite well. I’m not going to pretend like it was all a perfectly natural, no hiccup experience. Not to say it hasn’t become second nature, because it has. My ‘new normal’ is getting very used to interrupted sleep, greasy hair, a general sheen of spit up on myself, my house, my husband, and my dog. However, mild sloppiness aside, you guys, we kept my baby alive for three whole months!
When we brought him home I was quite open about the fact that I was not qualified to have a newborn. I am an only child who grew up without knowing any children younger than me. I didn’t hold my first baby until I was twenty-eight, and the whole time I was convinced I was going to drop/break/scar him for life. But here I was, after an almost forty-eight-hour labor, followed by an emergency C-section. They handed me a bundled up Little Bear, I slid into the wheelchair, and Big Radish rolled me to the car.
The subsequent month was challenging… to put it mildly. Sleep disruption turns me, apparently, into a monster. Big Radish had to put up with a lot of snarky, half-asleep comments and grumbling whimpers. To his credit, the man was and has been an absolute rock. Without him I don’t even know how I would have made it through the beginning stages of this crazy journey. Breastfeeding hurt so much. For the first few days I wasn’t producing enough, and for the first week and a half I couldn’t latch him properly. What ensued was a lot of silent crying as I spent forty-five minutes trying to get Little Bear onto a nipple and then once he was finished eating I’d have about an hour before I had to feed him again. I dreaded it. This was not what I was led to believe breastfeeding would be like. I got so irritated when people would tell me ‘I think he’s hungry’ or ‘looks like he could use some milk’! Because I knew it meant another agonizing hour trying to get him to latch and then trying to bear the pain of his firm little jaws snapping down to feed. Not to mention, I would leave to feed him in the nursery, effectively keeping myself isolated to figure it out in a haze of exhaustion, frustration, and a pervading sense of failure.
But, like everyone always says, it gets better with time. I also had an excellent one-husband-cheer-squad. Not to mention the benefit of a full month of help from my in-laws and parents. That being said, those first two weeks when people would say by the second month everything would be a lot easier, I thought there was, absolutely, no way I was going to make it that long. My nipples ached, I wasn’t sleeping, my hormones were insane and I dreaded feeding my child or picking a fight with the equally tired Big Radish. But, they were right. I met with a lactation consultant, my milk came in like gangbusters, I figured out how to latch him on the first try, my nipples toughened up, and my hubby praised me constantly for my relentless effort. Those first two weeks were the scariest two weeks of my life. I didn’t think I was cut out to be a mother, I was so afraid my husband and family thought so too. But I started getting the hang of things. Little Bear didn’t need as many feedings, he started sleeping longer, and we started feeling each other out.
Fast forward to today. Little Bear is three months old. You guys, I kept a baby alive for three whole months. Now? We have little routines, little moments that we share, little looks and coos and touches that speak to a growing sense of familiarity and fondness. I’ve created little games for his expanding mind, I read to him every day, and we dance around the house instead of doing the dishes. This has been the craziest quarter of a year I’ve ever had. And I don’t just mean in the sense of motherhood. I mean, I became a mother, I watched an election go horribly wrong, I started writing again, I became addicted to my morning cup of coffee, I allowed myself to be vulnerable, I cried, I raged, I leaned on my husband more than I ever had, I surrendered, and I became who I am now.
Who am I now? I’m a mom, a child co-creator, and an environmental educator to my kiddo and those kiddos I can reach through this medium. I worry, I laugh, I fear for the climate in this country and I mean that in both senses of the word. But here we are! Three months! Little Bear is a bundle of health and exploration, and I’m a bundle of coffee, the occasional beer, a good podcast, and a whole bunch of dance moves.
Here’s to the next three months!