I’m the person everyone hates on the plane today
I’ve got an infant, a toddler, and a cold.I apologize in advance.
Win - 6 Weeks
I caught a smile with my real camera! So exciting! Win smiles a lot these days—when he is actually awake, that is. He is still the world’s sleepiest baby. I recently looked up how many hours a baby his age spends awake on average, and the answer was 10 hours in a 24 hour period. Win is awake for maybe 5 hours, and that’s on a good day! I know I’ll miss these sleepy days as soon as he begins to grow out of them, but for right now I’m so anxious to see more of his personality and get to interact with him, so I’m looking forward to when he finally wakes up.
His nighttime sleep has been pretty good lately. He wakes up maybe two or three times per night to nurse, and I get up at least once to change his diaper. I’ve been amazed by the fact that he doesn’t really do the whole comfort nursing thing. Eleanor was a huge comfort nurser. She wanted to be latched on constantly, whether she was actually hungry or not, and nursing was the only way she would ever fall asleep. Win will often nurse until he falls asleep, but usually pulls himself off after he dozes off. And sometimes he doesn’t want to nurse when he is sleepy. If it’s during the day and he is overtired but not hungry he will actually fuss if I try to nurse him, then settle and go straight to sleep by rocking or being worn in my woven wrap (I must post about how much I love that thing sometime soon). At night when we go to bed he nurses for a long stretch, falling asleep at the breast. If he doesn’t unlatch I do it for him and usually try to put him in the bassinet for a while. The bassinet really isn’t his cup of tea though, so he usually wakes up after being in it for only a few minutes and starts to whine. To get him to fall back asleep again all I have to do is pick him up and lay him down beside me, then once he is snuggled in close he closes his eyes and goes right back to sleep without wanting to nurse again. Maybe that is typical, but Eleanor had to be nursed every time she stirred and it was so exhausting. I love the way he is so easily soothed by other things.
He’s really working on this whole “I’ve got hands!” thing. Now he likes to try to use them to help while he is nursing, but he isn’t very good at it and they usually end up getting in the way. It’s adorable to watch his attempts though.
We’re off to Phoenix today where Win will get to meet most of his extended family for the first time. I hope he wakes up and gives them all a few sweet, gummy, wide-mouthed smiles.
(Bonus: here is a photo set of Eleanor in the same onesie at 17 weeks)
Ask me this question in a couple of years, because that is when the differences will start to emerge.
Right now my only point of comparison is the newborn phase, and there isn’t any difference at all between a newborn son and a newborn daughter. Newborns are just newborns. They all sleep and nurse and poop just the same.
What you might actually be asking me is if it feels noticeably different to parent a son versus a daughter. My answer is still largely the same. I don’t feel any different toward my son than I did my daughter. In fact, I tend to forget that my son is even a son at this stage in his life. I don’t even think about it unless I’m changing his diaper. Nothing about him seems more masculine or anything like that. He’s just a sweet, pretty, cuddly baby, exactly the same as my daughter was. As I said before, a baby is just a baby. Gender doesn’t matter at all.
I had forgotten the way that having a new baby can sometimes make you feel like you no longer exist. Reduced to a shell of your former self, you’ve suddenly dropped down to the lowest rung on the hierarchy of needs. It’s a good day if you can manage to simply keep yourself clean and fed. All of your wishes, whims, and desires have been subverted by the demands of an infant. You’ve lost your autonomy. It’s hard enough to leave the house, forget about socializing with other adults. The good news is that it doesn’t last forever; the bad news is that it can be difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel when you are in the thick of it.
"Hello," I want to scream, "I am more than a pair of arms and breasts! I am a fully developed human being!" But at this stage in his life he doesn’t need a mother with a college degree and a rich thought life and a decent sense of humor, he just needs a warm body to offer him security and nourishment. "Hello," I whimper, "I have been reduced to that body."
In this place, I find myself relying on social media to keep me afloat. I check and recheck throughout the day, looking for the small threads that for a short moment pull me up. Please like my post on Facebook, click that little red heart on my Instagram photo, comment on my Tumblr post. Text me. Write to me. Call me. Remind me that I’m still alive, that I am still here among you. Even the most fleeting interactions help. I need all of this, small reminders throughout the day that I’m still a part of society when I feel exiled to the brutal, anarchic land of the babies.
Now I feel like I must add a disclaimer: the land of babies isn’t all bad. There are countless sweet cuddles, toothless smiles, delicious milk-breath sighs, tiny, soft bodies to swaddle and rock. It can feel timeless—day and night do not exist, one week glides seamlessly into the next. It can feel primal in the best sense of the word, with everything stripped away except that which really matters. It’s a time surrounded by the aura of the truest, purest love imaginable, the love between a mother and her child. But that being said, it can be overwhelming for an adult to suddenly find herself here, alone here for hours and hours every day.
My mind feels scattered all the time, flooded with hormones, suffering from a lack of sleep, attempting to keep tabs on the vital needs of two little ones and meet a few of my own from time to time. It’s hard to carry on a real-life conversation, hard to find the time, and hard to find the focus. So I live for the brief communications that social media provide, flashes of proof that I am still here.
And I need more than anything to set aside time to write, to force my brain to form cohesive thoughts, to craft a sentence with nouns and verbs and articles and prepositions—beautiful, complex things which bear no meaning in the realm of the nonverbal 5 week old. I force myself to find something to say, just to prove that I still have a voice, that I am still capable of it.
This post is hyperbolic, but I needed to say it. Say something back.
When Win was one week old our doula came for our postpartum meeting and snapped a few photos of us as a newly minted family of four. I felt like a total mess that day, but I love looking back at these photos, and getting the chance to see myself as the mother of two.
Goodness me! I’m so brave!
Well, at one month postpartum, life isn’t exactly how I expected it would be, both practically and emotionally. I don’t know what I was thinking, but I had hoped that the chaos would have mostly died down by now. It hasn’t.
When I was pregnant I decided I would allow myself one full month after the baby was born to let the house be a disaster and not give much thought to cleaning or keeping up with my normal chores. I figured one month sounded like plenty of time to get back on my feet, both literally and metaphorically, but here I am, past that deadline, and everything is still a mess. I’m struggling just to stay on top of the laundry, never mind the completely neglected floors and clutter piling up in every room. I wish it didn’t bother me so much, but it does. Luckily I can blog while I nurse, or else I wouldn’t have time for this either. I hate feeling so overwhelmed by these simple tasks. Everyone tells me it will get easier, and I’m sure that it will, I had just hoped it would be a bit easier already.
Dinner and the evening in general has to be the hardest. We finished the freezer meals I had amassed two weeks ago, and I’m struggling to find a new groove. I’m trying to keep meals quick and easy and at least a bit healthy (let’s just ignore the fact that Eleanor is refusing to eat anything but frozen chicken nuggets from Trader Joes right now), but I often don’t even have time for that because I have to nurse the baby. Andrew can make dinner after he gets home, but he comes in so late, and that ends up pushing our entire night back significantly, to the point where Eleanor isn’t in bed until after 9, and that isn’t ideal. But even on a good night, we can’t seem to make her 8:30 bedtime to save our lives. She’s doing fine, and since she isn’t in school she can sleep in as long as she needs to each day, but it feels like a personal failure.
Don’t even get me started on the dishes. We don’t have a dishwasher, which I never minded until now. Most of the time that chore is the very last of the day, and either Andrew and I are stuck in the kitchen scrubbing plates until almost 10pm, both after long, tiring days. That’s the real crux of it though, the days feel so much longer now. Neither of us get much in the way of breaks. There is always someone to care for or something that needs to be done. It’s all go, go, go, until after 10 when we collapse into bed. It can feel so overwhelming to look back on an entire day and only be able to see the things that I didn’t get done. I’m trying to go easy on myself and remind myself that although it might look like I did nothing, I was busy keeping two small people alive.
At one month postpartum, my body is still pretty gnarly, but it doesn’t really bother me. It helps to have been through it once before. My bleeding has totally stopped (hopefully it will stay away, but after Eleanor was born it came and went for two months) and I feel completely healed physically. The first few weeks postpartum I was really happy with the way I looked, all things considered. But now I feel like I’ve reached that plateau that follows the initial dramatic postpartum weight loss. I don’t still look pregnant, which I’m thankful for, but I look like the human equivalent of a deflated kickball.
Last week I found myself in a sort of pants no man’s land. I had been wearing my maternity jeans, and I was fine to keep wearing them for as long as I felt like I needed them, or until I was able to fit into some of my regular jeans again, but they started sagging off, and with no belt loops to help hold them up I knew I needed another option, so off to Old Navy I went. I had to buy a pair of jeans one size bigger than the “fat” pair I had to buy after Eleanor was born. I’m glad to have them because I look better in them than I did in the saggy maternity jeans, but it makes the modest goal of getting into my old size 8s seem further and further away.
A few days after I bought the new jeans I washed my maternity jeans for the last time and packed them and the rest of my maternity pants away. It was an extremely difficult thing to do. I can’t bring myself to do the same with my maternity tops yet. Every time I see them in my drawer my heart seizes up as the realization that I won’t ever get to wear them again hits me. I was so sick of those clothes just a few weeks ago, and now I can’t stand to part with them.
I just don’t want it to be over. I miss being pregnant so much. I missed it after Eleanor was born too, but every time I found myself getting worked up about it, all I had to do was remind myself that I would get to do it again sometime soon. I don’t have that thought to comfort me now. I don’t want to be done having babies, but I know that this last one will most likely be it for me.
Last night I had a dream that I went for my last postpartum checkup with my midwife. She felt my belly to make sure that my uterus had fully receded, but found that it was enlarged again. She told me I was pregnant. I was shocked, but so excited. I wasn’t even scared at the thought of having two babies back to back, I was just so happy to be pregnant again. And that’s sort of where I am mentally. A freak surprise pregnancy is my only hope, and it’s a hope I’m clinging to desperately.
I hate feeling this way. I wish I felt like our family was complete, but instead I feel such a deep desire for more children. But how many would satiate my need? Three? Four? Five? There is no guarantee. I could feel this awful, aching longing in my chest after putting away my maternity clothes for the twelfth time. That’s reason #1 why I know realistically I should just stop at two and find a way to be content.
I try to rationalize this all in my mind. I argue with myself, saying that just one more wouldn’t be that bad, that we could manage, but there does seem to be such a big difference between two and three children. With three, the parents are outnumbered. You almost certainly have to get a minivan or an SUV. You have to have a larger house with at least three bedrooms, which would mean we would definitely have to move, probably to a different city if not a different state. There is one more college tuition to worry about. And for whatever reason, five to a family just sounds like so many. I know people do it all the time and that surely we could make it work, but I don’t know that it is what would be best for us. I’m so jealous of those who feel the freedom to have as many children as they want, those who live in a place where they can easily afford a large car and a large house and a large savings account and a large dining room table where they and all of their children can gather. I wish that was my reality, but it is not.
I am dreading my last appointment with my midwife so much. It certainly won’t be like the dream I had. Thankfully because of the upcoming trip to Phoenix I ended up scheduling it for eight weeks postpartum rather than six, and that gives me a little bit more time to attempt to come to terms with it. I can’t even think about it without crying though, because in my mind this appointment officially signals the end of pregnancy and all that goes along with it for me. Forever. To make matters worse, I grew very attached to my midwife, and the thought of never seeing her again is so difficult (before anyone suggest it, she doesn’t do non-pregnancy related care). She shepherded me through one of the most important moments of my life with so much support and love, and it feels almost wrong to think that now we simply part ways. I don’t want to cry in front of her because I don’t want her to worry that I have postpartum depression, but I don’t know how I will possibly make it through the meeting without a copious amount of tears. I just don’t know how I will manage to say goodbye to her.
All of this still feels so raw. I’m praying for a bit of comfort, healing, and a sense of closure. I don’t know that I will ever find it though.
Eleanor on the left, Win on the right
Both of these photos were taken on my babies’ one month birthdays. I think they look a like in some ways, but different as well. I posted this photo last week for my family to see, and their consensus was that they look like twins. I wouldn’t go that far. They certainly look like sibling though. Sometimes looking down at Win feels like deja vu, but other times I think he looks totally unique. It’s funny how it can fluxuate. In general, I think Eleanor takes after her father, and Win after me. Win’s coloring (like mine) is significantly darker. I’m very please that they both have my nose though, because it’s my favorite feature of mine.
Win - Week 5
In the last few days Win has started smiling a lot more. I can’t say when exactly his first real smile was, but I think it was a few weeks ago. It happens on a bit of a continuum, but they are definitely real smiles now. You’ve got to really work for them though. Eleanor and I spend an inordinate amount of time every day staring at him with maniacal grins on our faces in an attempt to get him to smile back. I’ve been trying so hard to capture it in a photo, but I’m never quick enough. Plus he is still very sleepy and spends the vast majority of his day snoozing, which makes catching a smile even more elusive.
He is starting to figure out that he has hands. When he is upset he will grab onto me so tightly with literally a white-knuckled grip. He is also increasingly aware of when I’m not around. He prefers that I hold him over Daddy, and will cry if I slip out of the room, but I won’t let it go to my head. I know it’s all about the milk.
He is getting so big and strong. He can hold his head up for an impressive length of time, and I swear he is the size now that Eleanor was when she was three months old. Just check out those lovely thigh rolls in the photo above.
His tolerance for being in the bouncy seat is unfortunately starting to wane. he seemed like he loved it so much last week, and the weeks before that he would sleep in it for long stretches. But lately he wakes up after just a few minutes if I put him in it while he is sleeping, and he is only content to sit in it for maybe 15 minutes tops. Thank goodness for all of the baby carriers I have, because otherwise I wouldn’t get anything done.
Unfortunately he did end up catching a very mild version of the cold I had last week, which gave him the sniffles for a few days. I was so relieved that he didn’t come down with anything worse than that. He is totally better now, a healthy, smiley, happy little mama’s boy.
…but I’m a cool mom though! Sitting in our Subaru wagon in the Target parking lot, nursing my baby, snacking on Teddy Grahams with my toddler, and listening to the new St. Vincent album that came out today.