The first two weeks of motherhood have been, well… eventful. I’ll see if I can give you the short version, since I know what you really want is baby pictures! These I have provided.
We brought home our wrinkley little baby, well-encased in wool, around noon on her birthday: Sunday, February 24th. Jared’s family had come to town, and they all came over to meet and cuddle her a little bit before they headed back to their respective homes in central PA and MD.
Monday we had a quiet day at home. After that first outfit, we more or less gave up on clothes. Here I was, thinking I would be putting her in cute outfits every day, but the reality was that I could barely get out of the room to go to the bathroom, let alone assemble her an outfit. And realistically, when it comes to a freshly minted human, clothes are a royal pain for both mom and baby; we just wanted to spend the whole day nakeys and skin to skin in our little warm cave.
Two nurses came and checked us out around the middle of the day and everything looked fine – except we had begun to notice a yellow tinge to her skin that really showed up in daylight. If we were perfectly frank, Jared’s skin had a slight yellowish tinge too, so we reassured ourselves that it could just be her 1/8 hispanic heritage coming out. One of the nurses had been present at the birth, so we chatted about that experience; later that day Megan and Carrie came over too and I talked through with them as well.
Day 3 was when things started to get really and truly dicey. I posted the above picture on FB, but did not mention it was taken from a hospital bed. (For obvious reasons.) The day started out beautifully – we got up and out and to the pediatrician’s in a timely fashion, and we really liked the doctor. But in those lights, it was pretty clear that she was a yellow baby in a non-ethnic way. We had to do a horrible test in which the poor nurse (who was very sweet and I’m sure hates torturing babies) had to prick her foot and squeeze drops of blood out of it for a good ten minutes while Naomi screamed her head off.
Later that day I got my first call-back from the breastfeeding consultant/postpartum nurse, and we chatted about nursing positions and what-not. I mentioned almost in passing at the end of the call that I’d been experiencing some shortness of breath when I got up to do anything, and wondered when I could expect that to get better. But the nurse hadn’t heard of that, so she said she’d check with the midwives and get back to me. Not much later she called back and told me to head to the nearest ER: there’s a small chance I could have a pulmonary embolism (blood clot in the lungs) and that would need to be checked out immediately.
It was on the way to the hospital that the pediatrician called back with the results of the bilirubin test: Naomi was at the very top of the high-intermediate risk zone for jaundice issues. If her levels had been a titch higher, or if she’d had any of the other risk factors for bilirubin toxicity, she’d have been right to the hospital to go under lights. But as things stood, he was willing to give us another 24 hours of religious breastfeeding to see if we could bring her levels down, or at least keep her on the same curve since one normally expects levels to be their highest on day 5.
The trip to the ER was very long and very horrible. It was horrible because of my history with ERs meant I had a few just straight up circumstantial meltdowns to get over, and it was very long because we had to have a long series of arguments about breastfeeding and contrast CTs. For a long time it seemed like I was going to have to choose between getting a contrast CT to find out if I had a pulmonary embolism, which if I had one would straight up KILL me, and breastfeeding my daughter, whose best chance to overcome jaundice was a lot of breastmilk. In the end, this ended up not being the case. Long story short: If anyone tells you that having a contrast CT means you have to pump and dump for 24 hours, they are WRONG. Tell them to ask their radiology department about it; the American College of Radiology says it’s ok. (Apparently the chest diagnostics department hadn’t gotten this info, nor had the ER doc.) I felt like crap at the end of this ordeal, because I’d been in there for 8 hours not eating and barely drinking, but breastfeeding every 2 hours, on top of having had a very long natural birth less than 72 hours previous. This meant I had to stay even longer to feel well enough to go home, even after all their tests showed I just needed more food, water, and rest. But in the end we got out of there, and after another long night were back to the pediatrician’s.
I should say that the funniest part of the whole ordeal was that my milk came in while we were at the ER – meaning I soaked that hospital gown from all angles during our many feeds. Better their laundry than mine!
The second trip to the pediatrician, on day 4, started to show the rewards of our efforts. She was already .1 lbs heavier than the previous day, on which she had only lost about .4 lbs since birth. Meaning she hadn’t lost much and was already gaining at day 4; quite the achievement! After the second iteration of the the horrible heel stick test, we took our yellow baby back home and had another mostly quiet day, aside from another nurse visit. Breastfeeding was starting to get more difficult, what with cracked nipples and so on, but Carrie helped me learn the side lying position, which we’ve moved to almost exclusively since. That night we got the good news about the test – her bilirubin had stayed the same whereas it would be expected to go up. This meant we’d done our job; she was now at the low end of the high-intermediate risk group, and we were to keep on the same track for another 48 hours.
Day 5 we had another errand that took us out of the house, to renew our benefits for some food assistance we get from the state. That wasn’t so bad; I got to play with the ring sling, and while we were up in beaver falls we got to visit one of the finer coffee establishments in the county. But believe me, after the days we’d had, we wished we had scheduled that visit a bit later. That night the rest of my family came to town – my mom and youngest sister had been up helping out, bless them – and we had a little visit.
Day 6 was the last visit to the pediatrician, and she was looking a lot better already. The third iteration of the horrible test not only showed her bilirubin staying on track according to the curve, but dropping drastically into the “low risk zone.” I found myself asking, what am I going to do with this pink baby? I’d gotten so used to the yellow one!
Our second week got to be filled with much more ordinary things, like days of just snuggling in bed, going out just for fun to see a few people then coming back, and of course, baby’s first bath.
I learned an amazing number of things that first week, but I can boil them down to a few. Lists are rather easier to construct than paragraphs at this point for my increasingly sleep-deprived brain.
1) My time is no longer my own, and I have to completely redefine productivity. It won’t be the same for a long time. Currently, every spare moment in between feeding, comforting, napping, sleeping, changing, and eating is spent either getting out of the house (because I do need to get out of the house at least once every two days) or doing homework. Thanks to reading week next week, it’s looking like I will in fact catch up, but as it is, it’ll probably be a near thing.
2) Naps will save my life. Taking them makes me a much happier person. This is important since I am the only earthly bonding agent for a new human for at least the next few months, and the main one for some time after that.
3) Other things I underestimated: water. breast pads. smartphones (its hard to check your email one-handed and prone with a laptop). blackout shades. nursing rooms. q tips. showers.
4) Cuddling a baby engulfed in soft wool is sooo delicious. You don’t realize this until after you’ve spent a week cuddling a baby in polyester fleece footie sleepers. Mom’s wool romper (see above day 6 picture) is a serious winner; I hope she’ll do a full post about it soon (hint hint)!
5) Frankly, I thought I was a bit of a cold-hearted itch-bay. I knew, going into this whole parenting thing, that my main issue was going to be presence: being present to my daughter and giving her the love and affection she needs to believe in the possibility of trust and love as an older person. What I didn’t count on was the effect she would have on me. Somewhere around day 4, when breastfeeding was painful, I felt like trash, and she didn’t want to be roused to eat for the umpteenth time that day, I realized something. I was going to keep fighting to the death for the well-being of this little person, and it wasn’t going to even occur to me to do otherwise. And I just started crying. “If you, though you are evil, know how to give your children good gifts, how much more will your heavenly father give good gifts to those who ask him?” – Luke 11:13 I just didn’t understand. I knew that there were loving people in the world, but somewhere inside I thought it came out of their own psychological proclivities or weirdness. I don’t think I actually believed that kind of love existed. But here it is, pouring out of me – and I can tell it comes from what’s best in me, not what’s worst.
Because of the aforementioned lack of free time, knitting has been pretty minimal. I did get as far as having Bethany help me pick out sock yarn for March’s socks:
And as of March 8th, this is how far I’d gotten on them:
The only knitting time I’d gotten was in the car, with Naomi in the back seat. And during those few in-between moments that I’d had for knitting in bed, I forced myself to finish the crocheted edging on her Audrey hoodie.
This was a near thing, folks. I realized two days ago, crocheting an edging with her on my lap, that I’d let my daughter surpass a week of age without holding knitting needles! This is a huge parenting failure. I was so shocked that – get this – in that moment, I almost put the crochet hook in her hand. Then I realized what a mistake this would be, and held back. (Sorry crocheters. Prejudice never shines through more than in parenting.) Don’t worry folks – the crochet is done for the moment, and before I post again, my daughter will have touched the pointy steel of highest craftiness.
Meanwhile, her hoodie is finished. The edging could use a block, and of course it’s huge on her, but it goes really well with some mint-colored outfits she has right now. So I couldn’t resist.
After taking these pictures, I realized that last time I changed her, I forgot to put a cover on, so she soaked through the whole outfit post-haste. Oh well. My kids are probably all destined to spend most of their lives in footie sleepers anyway.