Hey ya’ll! I know it’s been a while since you’ve been able to read anything from my wonderful fingertips, but I promise I have a solid excuse! I have been a little busy bringing a new #replayer (now Couch Potato?!) into the world! This article will be a little different from the usual pop culture content we are accustomed to. Read on to find out!
As mentioned above, I recently became a Mom! This is my first child, and I am a first-time mom (no step-children, etc.). I had quite the adventurous pregnancy, as well as delivery and postpartum journey, so join me in re-living it! I found out I was pregnant on the way home from West “By God” Virginia immediately following Thanksgiving, deer meat on board muahaha. Through several doctor appointments, virtual celebrations, and fun announcements, it was finally July! With a due date of Aug 4, the time was near!
I ended up getting induced and giving birth on July 24. My pregnancy, labor, and delivery journey can be another article. This one will start with bringing our little man home (that’s right, it’s a boy)! Becoming a mom has been the most challenging task I have ever encountered in my life. As someone who was in the military, played lots of sports, had several injuries, and grew up in WV, this transition has been the most significant upheaval of everything I have ever known. My life has gone from sipping wine and counting carbohydrates in my meals to chugging water to up my milk supply and counting soiled diapers in a matter of days. We now have this tiny human that they sent us home with, with zero supervision and no instruction manual. What in the hell are we doing?!
The answer? No one actually knows. The sharp transition into parenthood is intense and quick. One of the reasons I believe it is so abrupt is the Hollywood twist given to pregnancy and parenting. We grow up with the thought that pregnancy and birth are shining with rainbows and unicorns. My extreme halt to that thought was when I needed extra doctors simply due to a pre-existing condition that turned into a blanket term. (I am a Type 1 Diabetic. I have an insulin pump and am fully controlled. I ended up having even better control during pregnancy despite the gloom and doom doctors expecting otherwise).
None of this is meant to deter or scare anyone. Pregnancy is a BEAUTIFUL gift that few people can naturally experience, as is parenthood and bringing a child into this world. The issue is that it is SUCH a beautiful and precious gift that people simply end up ignoring or refusing to discuss its difficulties and challenges for new parents. I heard a lot of “it gets easier” and “it gets better.” When you’re in the trenches of new parenthood, that sounds like forever! I quickly discovered that there are very few resources out there for what is called the 4th trimester. The best and most valuable resource? Our parents. My mom was here from the beginning, as was my fiancé’s mom. I had my sister here to help watch pets, my dad traveled in for the birth, and the in-laws were there for help and babysitting. We were able to have meals cooked and laundry done by all the helping hands because my fiancé and I were always complete zombies. It seems like an accomplishment to simply go to the bathroom like a normal person, let alone get a shower. What is a shower anyway?!
The sleep deprivation is real, starting in the hospital. I heard that pregnancy was nature’s way of preparing us for the baby since sleep is so rare in the 3rd trimester. (Can confirm, I barely slept most of June and all of July thanks to heartburn and general discomfort). However, there is nothing like sleep deprivation after having a child. You’re up all hours, caring for this demanding creature, without actually knowing what it needs. You go through the checklist: diaper changed, fed, burped, comfort measures. What else does it need?! This is when the parents mentioned above come in handy (because you definitely don’t yet feel like parents *starts googling when parenthood kicks in*). When you’re able to hand the baby off to someone much more experienced, and the baby quiets down, you feel both accomplished and deterred. “What was I doing wrong?” “Good job Grandma!” “Does the baby prefer Grandma’s smell over mine?” “How insulting; it was inside me for 9 months!” “But he stopped crying. Maybe I can sleep!” And on and on it goes. The beautiful thing is we are now in the place of “it gets better.” It took about 7 weeks, but Chicken Little is now sleeping through the night! We have a solid bedtime routine, he goes down between 10 and 11, and sleeps until about 8! Before this long stretch happened, and I got my first 4 hour stretch of sleep, I woke up a whole new woman. Now we get 8?! So, new parents out there, IT DOES GET BETTER!
What I’m learning while parenting is that it’s full of contradictions. You’re told to sleep when the baby sleeps. How will anything else get done?! Everything else can wait. Learn to not live in a pigsty just to have a baby and live in a pigsty because we have to sleep when the baby sleeps and can’t clean. Grow up being told to shower and not stink just to have a baby and have no time to shower and end up stinking. This leads me to my next weird point. THE HORMONES.
Let me tell you, pregnancy hormones are no joke. You just spent 9 months creating life, so of course, the body goes through major changes and adjustments. Now that the baby is out? The body goes through those changes it went through for 9 months in approximately 4 weeks. All of those hormones come rushing out and in the form of sweat (and tears and other fluids, but we’ll stick to the sweat here). I don’t mean cute, glistening wisps of sparkle. I mean buckets of sticky, cold saltwater that looks like you just crawled out of the ocean. You wake up drenched, everything sticking to everything, hair wet, underwear slippery on the muggy atmosphere created under the covers (so gross). I woke up at one point and got out of bed to care for the baby, and my body print was in the sheets. SOAKED INTO THE SHEETS. You could actually see where my leg was bent and my arm was stretched out. I started sleeping on a towel after that. Your partner looks at you like you’re either dying or disgusting, or both, and we’re just supposed to live like that for a few weeks because it’s ‘normal.’ I will say, though, that 2 months in and the sweating has calmed down, and I’m no longer drenching my bed sheets. Things are slowly resolving themselves!
The hormones also play a significant role in the breastfeeding aspect. Breastfeeding has been a journey entirely on its own. I knew I wanted to breastfeed and went into it thinking it was something completely natural and instinctive for both the baby and me. Another hard reality slap here! We both have to learn how to breastfeed. Say whaaaa?! You mean the baby doesn’t come out of me and just know how to latch? I have to learn how to hold this awkward creature from the black lagoon to help him?! Oy vey. And learn we did. The hospital has people specifically hired to help, called lactation consultants. What they don’t tell you about these wonderful and helpful individuals (they truly are, no sarcasm there) is that they care very little about your personal bubble. They are there to do a job, and boy, do they do it! You quickly learn that your body is still not yours to take back just because you gave birth. They come in and show you how to self-express, and by show you, I mean they grab that boob and do it for you, repeating and repeating until you get the gist. What is personal space?! Intimacy? Is that even a word after childbirth?
I learned that due to being a Type 1 diabetic, my milk would take longer to come in. I did not know that beforehand. The very first bit of milk a baby gets from a breastfeeding mother is called colostrum. They call this liquid gold, as it contains the required nutrients and antibodies for the baby’s first few days of life. I was successful with that, but latching, in general, was a challenge and the entire breastfeeding aspect was not as innate as I first suspected. The first few weeks were so frustrating. Between not producing enough, painful latching before building calluses, and fussiness in general, I was ready to stop and make the switch to formula. I know many people who start with formula, which is absolutely ok, and I can see why. We had to supplement at first, and the societal pressure put on breastfeeding makes you feel like a failure. Like you’re doing your child a disservice. I now know the phrase “Fed is Best,” and I 100% agree. As long as the child is alive and not withering away, there is no disservice being done. I am happy to say we are 10 weeks in and going strong with breastfeeding, though I look forward to when he begins solid foods! It seemed to just click one day, where it no longer hurt; he latched and got plenty of food. Eventually, we stopped making bottles because he was getting enough from me (finally!) For solid foods in the future, we will attempt a method of introducing food called baby-led weaning, which also means I will still be the primary source of nutrition for my little hungry monster. Since breastfeeding has improved so drastically (we both have the hang of it now, and I'm even building a freezer stash, something I truly didn't think was possible at first), I can see how it is such a bond for mother and child, and dare I say I actually enjoy it? Yes, I do (as I’m typing with one hand since he is latched currently, ha!).
I know this is not the usual “pregnancy was amazing, and my child is the light of my life” type of story, but that’s intentional. Childbirth is HARD. The newborn phase is strictly survival mode where eating and peeing seem like privileges and tremendous accomplishments. There are growth spurts that create a fussier baby. There are no such things as errands or quickly leaving the house for anything. There is just you and this new tiny bundle trying to learn how to live together and learn this new scary phase of both of your lives.