Thursday, September 24, 2009

Just Call Me Mommy

I finally have twenty seconds away from the baby with which I can blog. One thing is quite clear - while I was pregnant, I was blissfully ignorant of exactly how all-consuming motherhood is. I mean, I knew it all in theory - the sleepless nights, the total lack of time for oneself, the overwhelming love for your child. But motherhood has knocked me silly, harder than I knew possible. These days I am truly nothing more than an utterly exhausted ball of pure emotion wandering around in a zombie-like trance of baby love. Nothing is about me anymore - regular tooth-brushing and hair-combing are a thing of the past, conversations are cut short at the slightest whimper from my infant, and facing the outside world seems like a daunting task after being sequestered in my apartment for several weeks. If I have the chance to change out of my pajamas by noon, it's a good day. But my little boy is thriving, and that's all that matters.

Carter is a wonder - I spend every waking moment marveling over him. His strong legs! His long eyelashes! His little smile! In my hormonal postpartum insanity, I am prone to tearful outbursts during which I can do little more than babble about how much I love him, how lucky and humbled I am to be his mother, and how hard, yet wondrous, these first weeks have been.

The most difficult part by far has been breastfeeding. This took me by surprise, since in typical type-A fashion I had taken a five-hour breastfeeding class and read every book I could get my hands on on the subject in anticipation of feeding my baby. It should be the most natural thing in the world, right? Not so. It just so happens that my son has the world's most powerful suck, one which is somehow capable of reducing my nipples to gnarled masses in minutes. Although I've worked with him consistently to improve his latch, he bit down wrong in our early days of feeding and my left breast was left with a small but mighty abrasion that caused wincing pain with each of his meals. I tried Lansinoh lanolin cream and Motherlove nipple salve, both highly recommended by the Pump Station - my local breastfeeding mecca - but nothing did the trick. Little Piranha Jaws simply reopened the wound with each meal, leaving me increasingly frustrated and overwhelmed. My child is solely dependent on me for his nutrition, so anything that compromises my ability to feed him is terrifying.

Finally I sought advice from a local lactation consultant, who told me that he simply needed to outgrow his evil power-suck, and suggested that I pump the left side for two days and nurse only on the right in order to let the wound heal. I did, and was triumphant when it worked and I was capable of breastfeeding on the left side without pain. However, after a couple of days Carter once again bit down wrong during a blurry-eyed 3am feeding, leaving me to repeat the pump-and-heal exercise.

All of this has proven immensely frustrating - I had always looked forward to breastfeeding, insisting that I would be the crazy hippie lady who would breastfeed her child til age 3. Now I find myself despairing over the soreness and pain and just hoping to make it to six months. The fact is, if I weren't so horribly sleep-deprived, the breastfeeding issue would be manageable, and if the breastfeeding was going perfectly the sleep-deprivation would be manageable - together, it's a recipe for tears.

My mother stayed for only a few days after his birth, and during one of our routine phone conversations a week later I started weeping uncontrollably, asking "Why aren't you here??" She came back down this week and stayed for five days - she just left yesterday, and I cried again to see her go. Having Grandma here made everything better - I am green with envy at any woman whose mother lives nearby.

I am keenly aware that writing about all the crying makes me sounds like a case of full-on postpartum depression, but that's not it. I simply had no idea that these hormones would be coursing through me in the weeks after giving birth, and although I manage just fine for 23 hours of the day, the 24th can be overwhelming, sending me into fits of tears. Ah, new motherhood.

Our daily routine is a simple one - Carter usually has nightly feedings at midnight, 3am, 6am and 9am. On a good night he eats like a champ, allows me to change him without squawking, and goes right back to sleep. On a tough night, he eats, yells a bit, and then just wants to stare at me for two hours, and no amount of shhhh-ing, bouncing, or singing will get him back down. During daylight hours, we sing, bounce, have tummy time, and, above all else, nurse nurse nurse.

All the nursing is paying off - at his three-day-old pediatrician appointment, Carter was 5lbs 8.9 oz, down from his 6lbs 1oz birth weight. Five days later, he was 6lbs 2oz, and a week after that he was a whopping 6lbs 15.4 oz! That's right - our boy gained almost 14 ounces in seven days! We were thrilled, and Carter seemed to share the celebratory mood when he sent a projectile poop and pee fountain all over Daddy's shirt and iPhone in the middle of the pediatrician's office. Our next appointment is next Friday, and I'm hoping he's over eight pounds.

Tomorrow I am having my first outing away from Carter, to go to a friend's baby shower. Actually, I was away for a half-hour last weekend when I made a run to Motherhood Maternity to buy nursing bras, but he slept the whole time I was gone. This will be the first extended time away, and Daddy will be giving him his first bottle. My husband is actually driving me to the shower with the baby and dropping me off so that he can hang out nearby in case Carter has a meltdown or refuses the bottle. Truthfully, it's more for my peace of mind than Carter's, as the shower is a 45-minute drive away and I can't stand the thought of being away from him for more than a couple of hours.

We are slowly feeling more confident taking him places, and I am beginning to feel like a member of society again instead of the recluse that I have been for the past several weeks. Last weekend we went to Santa Monica and walked up and down Montana for several hours - I managed to feed and diaper him several times without incident, although I was doing it all in the back of our car on a secluded street, so it wasn't that impressive. Today was another story - I took Carter to the Grove (a ten-minute walk away) to meet a friend, and we had a restaurant meal, a public breastfeeding under his feeding shield, and a diaper change in the Nordstrom's bathroom. A smashing success! It must have tired him out, because he's been sleeping almost all day since we returned home, waking only to chow down on my right boob.

More later - I should take the opportunity to get something to call dinner while I have a sleeping baby.


Anonymous said...

Oh, the poor poor iPhone! :)

I love that you felt so triumphant about changing him at Nordstroms. Never forget WHO showed you that clean place, okay? One trip to McDonald's on a road trip up north and you'll understand what I mean.

I love that you're like, "gotta make dinner, I'd better go!" You're a TOTAL mommy blogger now. Welcome.

The Mama said...

I agree, breastfeeding is hard! Congrats on all your successes.