Well. They say having a baby changes your priorities, and this is true. While he’s awake, it seems impossible to do anything but pay attention to him. And while he’s sleeping, you’re doing everything else – laundry, dishes, eating, sleeping, and any job-related stuff that absolutely can’t be put off another day. The blog falls by the wayside. I expect this trend will continue for some time.
So, he came. Contractions woke me up at around 6am on the morning of August 20th. Surprise! They were more than two weeks early, and first babies are usually late. I mistakenly thought, given that I felt strong and healthy at the end of my pregnancy, that the labor and birth would be relatively easy. Unfortunately not. After 27 hours of excruciating pain, but still not enough dilation, the midwife suggested an oxytocin drip. This meant a transfer to the labor ward, where I was also offered an epidural. I reluctantly accepted both, out of pure exhaustion. Four hours later, Russell was born. I can’t really describe the moment they put him on my chest – even though I had 9 months to get used to the idea, it was still an overwhelming surprise when suddenly there was a new person there, where there wasn’t one before. Out of the three of us, I think Russell cried the least.
The hospital stay was pretty wretched. They’d had to resort to a forceps delivery, so Russell had sad little bruises on his face, and his body temperature and blood sugar were low. I’d sustained a third-degree tear and a combination of bad drug reactions and just plain fatigue had me wrecked. But we had each other, and, during visiting hours, we had Brad, who brought him clothes and nappies, and me food and magazines, and spent every minute he could with us until the midwives would kick him out. After five long days in the ward, they released us into the wild. One positive thing about the long stay was that by the time we got out, Russell and I had more or less figured out breastfeeding*, and Brad and I had started to feel comfortable with holding, changing, cleaning, etc., after getting advice and help from the midwives. So we were nervous, but knew we had mastered the basics. He was already gaining weight when the midwives came by the day after we brought him home. All the clothes we had were still far too big for him though. Luckily our lovely neighbor had recently had a baby who was also on the small side, and she loaned us a bunch of “tiny baby” onesies. It wasn’t until he was over a month old that he fit in the “newborn” size.
I look at those tiny baby onesies now and marvel at how little and fragile he was. Back then, just leaving the house with him seemed like a scary and complicated endeavor, so I hardly left. I was slow to recover anyway, so it was actually not such a bad thing to be curled up on the couch with him most of the time. Brad was home too, and lots of people came by to visit, so I wasn’t lonely. At first he slept all the time. You might think that sounds good, but it was nerve-wracking. At night we’d set an alarm to go off every four hours to make sure he was getting enough to eat. By the time he was 4 weeks old, though, he was crying a lot, hungry all the time, and starting to spend more time awake and looking around.
They say this time is fleeting, but to me each month has felt like a year. His development is not the rapid cascade I expected — each tiny improvement in his motor control seems like a long-fought battle. He babbles and smiles now, and can hold his head up well. He seems to enjoy our funny sound effects and silly songs and cuddling. He focuses his eyes on objects. But he can’t reach for things — he doesn’t yet know his hands are his own. His digestive system is still his worst enemy, keeping him (and us) awake for long hours during the night. His eyes are bright and wise, but then his head lolls over and milk dribbles down his chin. Learning is slow and hard. I think half the time he’s crying it’s out of pure frustration.
And our lives proceed. We’ve gone on a few road-trips and walks, which we’ll try to post about someday soon — he’s quite happy in the car, and he quite likes being outside if the weather is good. But there is no question that our days are very different now than they were before, and will be for a while. I’ve been to the climbing wall four times in three months. I’ve started avoiding my email because of all the people waiting for help, answers, comments . . . I do what I can, and try not to feel guilty about the rest. Nappies and poo are dinner conversation. Being peed upon is no big deal. Burps and farts are events to be warmly applauded. Sleep is nice if you can get it, but there’s no point in getting upset when you can’t. I do laundry every single day. It all sounds a bit grim, but you know what? It’s awesome.
Below are some pictures of our first three months together, in chronological order.
*I’d been warned, repeatedly, that breastfeeding would take some time to master, and kept thinking, how hard can this be, really? Baby, breast, put them together. But it really was very hard to get the hang of it – the baby has a sucking reflex but doesn’t know what it’s for, and you have to trigger the reflex at just the right moment, and hold the baby in just the right position, for everything to line up. After a few weeks it’s easy, because you both know what to do, but until then it’s baffling, painful, and frustrating.