A Womb of One’s Own: The Arrival and the Aftermath

I wish I could adequately convey the amount of change that ten pounds of person has wrought in our lives. I don’t know how to explain it, he’s affected every aspect of my days and nights, from how loud I listen to music in the car (not as loud as before, but still pretty loud) to how much sleep I get (never enough and never all in a row) to what food I eat (farewell onions, I loved you so). He’s the biggest source of stress and tears and laughter and amazement in our lives, and for all the time I’ve spent in the past seven weeks in tears or pain or a fog of sleep deprivation, I wouldn’t trade him for the world.

From the beginning, he’s forced me to realize that not everything works on the schedule or path I’ve envisioned.I was convinced he’d come early or on time, but instead we had to induce ten days after his due date (I had to get home to be with the dog on the Fourth of July, this would be the last time a plan went the way I hoped it would).  I was confident that I could go through the birth process without medication, but from the moment the induction started, I revised my stance from “Probably not” to “Let’s discuss drugs.” After 15 hours of Pitocin, I again changed my stance from “Let’s discuss drugs” to “BRING ME ALL THE DRUGS EVERYWHERE.” I’d sworn I wouldn’t get an epidural, but when that needle sank into my spine, it was the sweetest relief I’ve ever experienced. I had thought that I’d want a mirror to watch my son be born, but when it was offered, the idea of watching him wreak havoc on my body was the last thing I wanted to do. All I wanted was that baby out of my body and in my arms; I didn’t want to be distracted by mirrors or touching his head as he crowned or anything else. I just wanted that baby in my world.

After 25 hours of Pitocin and labor, 80 minutes of pushing, one epidural, tearing in the second and third degree, I managed to evict 10lbs 2oz of Gabriel Brian from my body. From the start, he made sure we weren’t going to continue as planned. I’d expected a baby close to nine pounds, not this Churchill-faced giant infant. At 22″ long, he didn’t fit into the half-dozen assorted swaddle and sleep sacks we’d received as gifts. He never fit the small selection of newborn-sized clothing we’d received, instead falling firmly into 3-month clothes. Most disappointing to me, he didn’t take to breastfeeding as I’d planned. I’d been a breastfed baby, we planned on him being a breastfed baby. But for the first three hours of his life, I tried to convince him to latch, and he either couldn’t or wouldn’t. Eventually, the first of many compromises happened: I accepted a nipple shield to help him feed.

My husband and I had been convinced (after dozens of hours of parenting classes and lectures from various health professionals) that we would quickly get him onto an eat-sleep schedule. I now understand why our parents laughed at us. We didn’t get more than an hour of sleep at a time for the first five days of his life, at one point spending 14 hours on the couch trading him back and forth as he cluster fed to bring my milk in and staring blearily at the television and watching the sun rise for the third day in a row. We’d planned on getting him to sleep in a bedside co-sleeper, but he’d only sleep in a swing or our arms. For the first five weeks of his life, Gabe and I fell asleep together on the couch, both covered by a blanket, breaking every rule we’d had drilled into our heads in parenting classes. It’s only been in the past two weeks that we’ve managed to get him to sleep in the co-sleeper every night, and now I miss our nightly cuddling on the couch, as he apparently prefers to be swaddled up like a burrito, corked with a pacifier, and lulled to sleep by white noise turned up to 11.

For all the compromises and disappointments, we’re terribly in love with this small pants-crapping tyrant. While I miss eight hours of sleep, onion rings, and finishing a book in a day, I know that the choice we made to make him was the right one.

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Jessica Werner

Free-range librarian in Seattle. A sucker for happy endings, teen angst, and books that make me want to sell my possessions and travel the world. Incurable homebody and type A. Send love letters and readers advisory requests to jessica.werner@gmail.com

13 thoughts on “A Womb of One’s Own: The Arrival and the Aftermath”

  1. Congratulations – I’d been wondering how you had got on.

    I lol’ed at your comments re: epidural. I too had said that I was never going to have one. Then after I’d been induced over the course of three days and then had my waters broken on the fourth and was in so much pain that I started begging for one. Took two hours for the anaesthetist to get back to me but it was totally worth it. We joked that if we have another one that I’ll be demanding for the epidural in the car park before we actually enter the hospital.

    I think you do what you can to survive at this stage. It’s so intense but then again so worth it.

    My little boy is 8 weeks old today. Gummy smiles make everything worthwhile :D

  2. I always found that (imo) Parenting Magazines were like fashion mags – they set an unattainable ideal that very few humans (especially this one) can reach, and leave you feeling like you were doing it wrong. I always got the best advice and support from other mothers who had done it before and were in the trenches with me. So here is the advice I would offer to you: As hard as it sounds, don’t sweat the small stuff…babies are more resilient than you’d even believe. If you already haven’t, hook up with other mothers that can share thier support and advice, and most importantly – don’t ever feel hesitation or guilt over calling your pediatrician any time of the day or night even for ‘silly’ questions.
    Oh, and take care of yourself. You didn’t stop being a person when you became a mother!

  3. Aw, so happy. As a parent who is leaving the baby/toddler phase (second kid out of diapers as of this month — sweet jebus!) I wish you all the luck and happiness in the world. They do change everything. Sometimes for the better, sometimes not, but always a change. Hope you enjoy your 10-pounder as much as I’ve enjoyed mine (though he’s now a 32-pounder. How did that happen?)

  4. Parenting books and sites are pretty much useless, except for general information. I was wholly unprepared for my daughter’s arrival, and she managed to not do all the things I was so prepared for. I have to say, I was better prepared for taking care of her as a baby and a toddler than I am taking care of her as a 6-year-old.

    Thanks for sharing. :)

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