My son is almost 4 months old, and I am finally getting around to writing again. It’s not that I haven’t had time, because I have, however my free time has been spent cleaning the house, napping and watching the entirety of The Sopranos and Nurse Jackie. Hunker down, because this is a long post.
The first few weeks of my son’s life were some of the best and worst days of my life. The last time I said that I was referring to the days in college when I could do whatever I wanted (awesome!) which caused me to make poor choices and ruin my life for a short time (womp womp).
The first few weeks postpartum are seriously unfair. The phrase “nature’s cruel joke” kept rolling around in my head as I realized that I had to juggle “taking care of myself” aka needing to spend twenty minutes figuring out how to move my bowels again, and take care of postpartum stuff, and having approximately negative forty-five minutes to do so. The doctors/nurse attending me kept asking me how many times I’d eaten or gone pee within the last 8 hours, like I could keep track of something like that after 16 hours of labor, and then having to walk my sore little self down to the NICU to visit my son. I literally googled “how many times should I have gone pee by one day postpartum” so I could just give them the right answer.
It turns out my boy was and is completely fine (he aspirated a little fluid…the nurse during that shift was about twelve years old, and seemed like she wanted to do her job right by being extra cautious), but once you’re in the NICU, it’s hard to get out. Overall, my son’s birth story is really magical and I would not change a thing, except that I would have loved to bring my baby home with us on day two like everyone else I know.
My contractions started at 2am on Wednesday morning, April 20th. I had been having prodromal labor for the three weeks prior to that, so I half wondered again if this was it, or if I was just doomed to suffer through “false” labor which feels pretty damn close to real labor every single day until my doctors finally induced me at 42 weeks. After an hour had passed, my husband was waking up for work and I told him I thought this might be the real thing, finally. Normally, the contractions would peter out after about an hour, and they didn’t really feel like they got more painful. About twenty minutes after that, I figured they were real because they got about a million times worse. I was having to breathe through each contraction after about 2 hours, so I got in the shower to see if they would stop. After no sign of them slowing, I called my mom and told her I apologize in advance if this is a false alarm, but I think I’m in labor finally.
Fast forward to an hour after I called my mom, when I was laying on my side in bed, moaning loudly through each contraction, exhausted, because I hadn’t slept in almost three weeks. In fact, I’d even had a little breakdown the night before this all occurred, because my doctor had told me I was not going to make it to my due date (yay!) and here we were on the eve of said due date with no baby in hand.
But labor thankfully did come, and after about twenty minutes of Matt and I deciding whether or not he should try going into work, I hopped in the shower and ate some toast in preparation for going to the hospital. It took about an hour for my contractions to speed up to about 5 minutes apart, at which point I was laying on my side in bed, wondering how the hell women wait any longer to head to the hospital. I wasn’t sure how I was going to survive sitting in a car for the ten minutes it takes to get there. My contractions had double peaks (even though they said that wasn’t the case in the hospital – those monitors are completely worthless. I would be writhing in agony and my nurse would say “okay, contraction is over”. Yeah. Right.)
When we got to the hospital, the nurse told me “Congratulations! You are dilated to 4 centimeters!” at which point I began moaning hysterically. I had been at 4cm for three weeks already. The doctor on call suggested we take 2 hours to walk around the hospital campus to see if I could move things along a little, and I agreed. As much pain as I was in, I wanted to get things as far along as possible to avoid the dreaded intervention slide that tends to occur in hospital births.
When you see women in labor in the movies, they waddle around, breathing hard for a few seconds here and there, sometimes throwing things at their husbands. I knew real labor wasn’t going to be anything like the movies, but I did expect to be able to talk a little between contractions. Um, no. My contractions didn’t start out slow and get more painful. My contractions started out MORE painful, and then got so painful I thought there was no way I wasn’t getting brain damage from the pain. I for real thought I was damaging my brain by experiencing the pain of labor. And again, the double-peaks. I would waddle sloooowly in between each contraction, then feel another one coming on, and frantically look for the closest thing to lean on during the peak. Sometimes that was Matt, and sometimes I would yell at him to shut up or stop it, even though he was doing and saying nothing at all. At one point, I got a kind, sympathetic smile from a woman passing by, and I wanted to kick her in the head.
Those two hours flew by in what felt like twenty minutes. My mom showed up and proceeded to take pictures of me breathing, and I broke down and told her I was going to get the epidural. I was nervous about getting to the point where I was too exhausted to push – I hadn’t slept in days, and the physical pain of labor was completely exhausting. She told me it was okay, I cried, and then when I finally got that epidural, ten hours into labor, I laughed a lot and decided I didn’t regret it even a tiny bit. In fact, my body finally relaxed and my water broke about two minutes after it was in. About an hour after that, I was fully dilated and ready to push. AND THEN the epidural completely wore off on one side. I always figured if that happened, it would be like half the pain, right? NO. IT WAS SO MUCH WORSE. So they fix my epidural and completely FLOOD my spine with medication. It is then that the nurse tells me it is time to push, and I can literally not even feel my legs.
So poor baby W has to wait around in there during all my double contractions, while mommy waits HOURS for enough of the medication to wear off so that she can push. The nurse tried to get me into all these pushing positions, which failed miserably because I COULD NOT FEEL ANYTHING.
Finally, after about 4 hours, the new doctor on call barges in gallantly, pulls my butt down on the bed, orders my mom and husband to each grab a leg, and she urgently makes sure baby has room, which he does. It then took 45 minutes of pushing, several rounds of throwing up orange popsicle on my husband, and our perfect, stocky little eight-pounder was brought into the big, wonderful world.
Overall, parenthood is SO GREAT, but those first few weeks can really throw a person for a loop. I’m used to the sink or swim method of learning, but the curve is pretty damn steep for a first time parent, and there’s just so much at stake. Everything feels like life and death in those first few weeks postpartum. But honestly, that’s the exhaustion, stress, and mostly hormones talking. You will not mess up your baby (at least not that early on). You do not have to do everything yourself while you have no core strength to speak of, and no comfortable way of sitting down or standing up. All you have to do is get through it at first, and make sure you stare at your tiny wrinkled baby as much as possible, because pretty soon they will be grabbing toys and have super good head control, and we all know that’s like one step away from graduating high school.