I’m just over 4 weeks into this world of motherhood and I’ve not only run the gamut of emotions, from extreme joy to extreme sadness, with tears accompanying both, but I’ve also had some stark realizations that I was completely unprepared for. Even with people telling me their own stories, I didn’t fully appreciate or understand them until reality hit at 10:06am on December 7th, 2015, the moment Paavo was pulled from my uterus. I now consider myself a card carrying member of the motherhood club and I’m here to admit: This is really, really, yes really, hard.
Perhaps I should have taken the unique circumstances of Paavo’s birth as a sign that this child was about to throw me a few curve balls. At 2:30am on December 7th, my water broke. I woke up feeling like I had started my period, that all too familiar feeling of leakage down in the nether regions, only I knew it couldn’t have been my period. I called my doctor and headed to the hospital with Matt, walking the four blocks from our friends Dave and Jami’s condo, as we’d been staying the night there to watch their dog Mia. It really was perfect timing!
Once at the hospital, I sat in triage and noticed quite a bit of movement in my belly. A doctor performed an ultrasound shortly thereafter and to all of our surprise, the little stinker flipped breech. I had leaked too much amniotic fluid for them to flip him back, and my fate for a c-section was sealed with that ultrasound. That was the first sign that Paavo was calling the shots and that no amount of planning would do us any good. I was mainly bummed I had sat through all those prenatal classes talking about vaginal births and here I was skipping it completely!
That’s all the details of the birth that I’ll go into, because the purpose of this blog story is much more about life with Paavo outside the womb and all the unexpected realizations I’ve had since his birth. Here are my top 9 (with many more to come, I’m sure):
- I’m covered in some sort of bodily fluid all the time, whether it be breast milk, urine, poop, slobber, spit up, and unknown. I’ve become much more comfortable with this realization, to the point that a little spilled milk is no reason for me to change my shirt or my bra, as it’s just going to leak out again shortly or be spit up by Paavo after eating. Urine and poop still deserve and outfit change…for now.
- There is no preparation for the lack of sleep. I had no idea how erratic newborn’s sleeping patterns are, nor how hard it would be to stay sane and positive when I’m running on such little sleep, and I even nap during the day when he naps. It’s been over 4 weeks since I slept more than 4 hours at a time, and on the rare occasion I get more than 3 hours, I feel like a million bucks. Paavo normally sleeps 1-3 hours at a time, and twice has slept for 4 hours. I imagine that by the time I sleep 8 hours straight (please God, when?!?), I’ll feel like I can conquer the world.
- There is no guarantee that he sleeps when he’s sleepy. I’d heard people say, “He’s so tired he can’t fall asleep,” and thought, “What the hell? If he’s so tired, how can he not fall asleep?” Oh man, now I understand. I feel like “putting him down” to sleep is part art, part science, part luck, part voodoo, part prayers, and never, ever a guarantee. I still cross my fingers every single time we lay him down to sleep, especially at night when all I want is a few hours of shut-eye. I can’t explain why sleepy doesn’t equate sleep. All I know is that it doesn’t and damn, that’s a rough reality.
- Breastfeeding means Paavo is attached at the boob all the time. At least it feels that way. While I’m happy that Paavo took to breastfeeding rather easily, I have to admit that I feel attached to him at the boob, ALL THE TIME. He eats about every 3 hours, sometimes more, sometimes less, and one would think a 3 hour break is a lot, but that is usually three hours from when he started eating, so if it takes him about 30-45 minutes to eat, including all the burping in between, as he’s a gassy gus, and then it takes another 20-30 minutes for him to fall asleep, I’m barely getting 2 hours between feedings, which zips by and my nipples have barely had a rest. I definitely didn’t take all that feeding time into account!
- It’s hard not to feel down. I had heard that post-partum depression was fairly common and yet I didn’t understand why. Shouldn’t we be incredibly joyful with our new baby? Now I get it. Take into account numbers 1-4 above and 6-9 below, along with hormones pumping through me and lots of other tough realities of motherhood, and I truly get why so many women suffer. I had a bad weekend two weeks ago where I cried at the drop of a hat and had a lot of negative feelings, including regret, resentment and lots of sadness. While I don’t think I’m depressed beyond some usual baby blues after a sleepless night or a rough patch of inconsolable crying, I finally get it. It’s hard not to feel down when I’m covered in breast milk and likely urine, haven’t showered for two days, am unsure why my baby is crying, haven’t accomplished much around the house beyond simply keeping the baby alive, and feel like my needs are so far down the totem pole that it feels like there’s not even time to go poop without an interruption.
- C-section recovery is rough. How did I not realize that a c-section is a fairly major surgery? They cut inches across, through several layers, tugged and pulled and stretched, and then sewed it all back together again. In the hospital, I tried standing up after 12 hours and the 10 foot walk to the bathroom was actually really difficult. I felt like if I stood up straight that my incision would rip open and my legs just didn’t seem to work the same. Upon going home after 3 days in the hospital, I basically didn’t leave my bed for days and struggled mightily with sitting up and laying back down since they cut through my ab muscles. I’ve been very lucky to have Matt to help me through this recovery, which I hope to be just another few weeks.
- Parenting really is 24/7. In the words of Rocketcop, “It’s like playing tennis with a wall.” The wall will always return the ball before I’ve even gotten a grip on the racket again. I truly feel “on” all the time, even when I’m sleeping. The first week home was probably the roughest for sleep, as every little movement, cough, sigh, and sound that came out of Paavo while he slept also woke me up. I was checking on him constantly to make sure he was still alive. Again, I’d heard this before but never truly understood what it was like to feel like I’m on the job all the time.
- Google is my new best friend. I spend most of my time on Google while Paavo is attached at the boob. My phone and water bottle are the two things I always have with me when I’m feeding Paavo so I can keep myself entertained and hydrated. Since I have no idea what I’m doing most of the time in terms of parenting, I consult Google. My search history looks a little like this: Why does my baby sound like a goat?, How do I get baby to sleep at night?, When will my baby sleep through the night?, How to introduce a pacifier?, What do I do with a newborn while he’s awake? (besides feed him and change his diaper), What are good baby farting positions? The list goes on, mainly involving questions about newborn noises (they are farm animal impersonators), breastfeeding, sleep, gas, and development. Thank you Google for always being there for me, even at the 3am feedings.
- Just when I have a theory, Paavo changes the game. Matt and I are creating quite the toolbox of techniques to deal with Paavo, from simple stuff like diaper changes and feedings, to other ones like swaddling, white noise, rocking, and going for a walk. There are times when a technique will work for two days in a row and we’ll think, “Damn, we’re good. We got him to sleep by doing XYZ.” And then two days later, that technique is old news and Paavo is having none of it, so we have to reach into our toolbox again and pull out a different tool, or learn a new tool entirely, usually acquired through a Google search. Again, thank you Google. I have a feeling this will happen A LOT as Paavo grows up, so I’d better get used to this one.
There you have it, my top realizations of motherhood, all fairly unexpected, or at least greatly misunderstood. I have a whole new respect for parents, especially mothers, as I truly never understood how much work it is to raise a child. It’s already taken much more patience and compassion than I expected, and I’m only 4 weeks into this new job as a mother!
Thank you to all our friends and family who have helped us since day one of Paavo’s life, by providing meals, company, an extra pair of hands, a car…the list goes on and we’re incredibly grateful for all the people in our lives who have helped us so much. I’m looking forward to seeing how this list of realizations changes over time as Paavo grows up. Thanks so much for reading this and being a part of it all.