Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Does Anybody Here Speak Baby?

This morning, I awoke to Tori's soft, "I'm waking up now, Mom" coos, just like always. But since it was only two hours since she'd last had me up, I made the mistake of rolling over and trying for five more minutes of shut eye.  About 30 seconds after I dozed off, those happy little noises turned into sound barrier breaking screams.

To say I bolted out of bed would be an understatement. For one groggy minute, I thought one of the cats was trying to eat her hand off or something. But no, she was just complaining about the slow service, or so I imagine.

The screaming continued at about 15 minute intervals all day long. All day. From 6:45 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

I tried everything to get her to stop. I fed her. Burped her. Changed her. Distracted her with toys. Put her in her swing. Put her in her bouncy chair. Put her in her car seat. Rocked her. Walked with her. Danced with her. Even subjected her to my terrible singing voice (which prob'ly would have made me cry too).

Nothing worked. At least not for long.

At one point, I called my mom, trying unsuccessfully to hide the panic in my voice. She didn't have the answers, but, amazingly, the sound of her voice seemed to calm the baby.

But eventually, of course, I had to hang up. And the screaming started again.

By 1:30, I was beginning to understand why people shake babies.

By 2:30, I was ready to throw her out the window.

By 3:30, I was ready to throw myself off the roof.

By 4:30, I didn't have the strength to do anything but sit on the couch and make ineffective shushing noises at her.

That's when I started wishing for some sort of baby translator - like the things they had on Star Trek that allowed everyone to understand everyone else. How else am I supposed to figure out what her different screams mean?

For all I know, she could have been trying to tell me that she disapproves of the scent of my deodorant. Or that I need to help the starving babies in China. Or that my current recycling habits (virtually non-existent) are killing the planet and ruining her future.

More likely, she just had gas. Or a tummy ache. Or was tired of the sound of my voice. What's important is that she's being quiet now...unfortunately, the sounds of her cries are still echoing in my head.

It gets better, right?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Changing Perspectives.

Here it is, 24 days into my new career as mom, and already I can't believe how much I've changed. And not just in the vomit-inducing, Hallmark cheesefest ways "They" rhapsodize about.

Nope, I'm talking about real change. The kind of 180 degree turn that would have made the self-centered, shopping obsessed me of a few years ago  shudder with barely repressed horror.

Example? Yesterday morning, Tori barfed (or, to put it politely, spit up) on my shirt three times. Each time, without batting an eye,  I wiped it up with a burp cloth and went about my day, not the least bit worried about the stains it left behind.

In fact, it wasn't until her diaper went nuclear and poop spurted out onto my chest that I even thought about changing. And honestly? First I wiped up the evidence and tried to convince myself that it wasn't really noticable, just to avoid making the effort.

Not that I've turned into a total pig or anything. I shower each and every morning (really!). I even went so far as to paint my toenails the other day. It's just that I'm no longer my own top priority.

Want more proof? On Saturday, I made a quick, baby-free run up to Kohls, intending to buy a few things to make myself feel a bit more presentable when leaving the house. Instead, I came out with a really cheap pair of sandals for me...and three new outfits for Tori.

For those of you who don't know me, let me assure you that this is unprecedented behavior. There is always room in my closet for a pretty new top or four.

But really? There's no making this post-pregnancy body look good. But Tori? It's easy to up her cuteness quotient. And let's face it, she's the star of the show these days. I'm lucky if, after cooing over the baby for a while, people remember to look up and say,  "oh, and how are you doing?"

But I don't mind. After all, I made the thing they're oohing and aahing over. I can't help but swell with pride when people admire her (she is pretty adorable, if I don't say so myself).

I could go on (and on and on). But I guess what I'm trying to say, in my clumsy way, is that having a baby really does change everything - from the inside out. Even the things that a few months ago, you would've sworn never would.

And that, I'm pretty sure, is why humans have survived as a species for so long. That, and our apparent ability to completely forget how badly pregnancy sucks a few months after the baby is born...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Let the Public Flogging Begin.

I have a confession to make. Last night, I washed out all the bottles I got as shower gifts. And began using them.

And people? The relief was instantaneous. Not just because it makes feeding easier (which it does, by 10,000 percent), but because the decision was made. I'd chosen to take my place among the Bad Mommies of the world, public opinion be damned.

Before the screaming becomes too loud, though, let me assure you that my relatiionship with the Mooing Machine remains as strong as ever. I fully intend to keep pumping milk for my little one for as long as I can (although if I have to use formula sometimes, I'm not going to beat myself up about it).

So she'll still be getting the hallowed breast milk that everyone insists is not just the best, but the only option for mommies who really care about their babies.  She just won't be getting it from my boob. And I think we'll both be happier that way.

Don't believe me? Then maybe you should come sit in the nursery with me and watch as my sweet, even-tempered baby becomes the demon child from hell when faced with the prospect of eating from my breast.

There's only so many times a person can take that kind of total rejection before it starts to get to you—in a soul searing, spirit crushing kind of way.

Of course, I feel insanely guilty about making this choice. I feel selfish. Inadequate. Like a failure. If there's one thing I hate, it's quitters, and by golly, giving up breastfeeding places me firmly among the quitters of the world.

But you know what? Today I've been able to really enjoy her for the very first time. I'm not busy worrying about what the next feeding will bring. Or how much I can pump. Or how I can trick her into taking a few more sips before pulling out the syringe.

Instead, I can focus on her expressions as she sucks, scrunching up her little face and making what I swear are happy cooing noises.  I can cuddle her close to my heart, play with her perfect little fingers and toes, and thank God for bringing this miraculous little creation into my life.

In short, I can love her wholeheartedly, without the pain and despair I've been carrying with me since she was born.

And isn't that what babies need more than anything else?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Alone. At last?

On Sunday, the last of our visitors/helpers/sanity savers cleared out. Which meant that Monday morning, I was all alone with my baby for the very first time.

All alone after a fairly sleepless night. And a C-section incision that was back to being ridiculously painful (because stupid me doesn't know when to call it quits).

So yeah, I was a little worried. Maybe even an eensy bit terrified.

But you know what? It wasn't that bad.

Sure, I cried when my husband left for work. And again when the first feeding of the day exploded into a red-faced, screaming demon temper tantrum (by the baby, not me). But then the day smoothed out a bit.

I discovered that I actually could eat breakfast while she was fussing if I put her in my wrap/sling thing. Of course, that meant I later had to dig bread crumbs out of the folds of her neck, but I won't tell if you don't.

And I figured out how to balance the baby on one arm while typing with the other so I could answer email and check facebook (very important for my sanity).

I even managed to take a shower. It might have been the world's fastest shower, but I did get clean. The trick? Putting her in her car seat on the bathroom floor. It has magic properties that make her fall asleep, giving me at least 15 minutes to  take care of myself.

Things that didn't go so smoothly? Feeding, of course. And pumping. Every time I pulled out the Mooing Machine, she woke up and refused to be comforted by anything less than a complete cuddle. Not easy to do when both hands are holding on to the thing that's milking you.

That might have led to another crying episode...but I'm not admitting it.

And as for that whole "sleep when the baby sleeps" thing? It's not as easy as they lead you to believe (kinda like breastfeeding). Those precious minutes are taken up by things like using the bathroom. And eating. And putting on another layer of deodorant (taking care of a baby is sweaty business).

But, I got through the day. And I'm sure my effusive greeting made my husband feel like quite the hero when he got home—I've never been quite so glad to see another human being.

After handing him the baby, I went upstairs and took a nap. Because if there's one thing caring for a newborn makes you appreciate, it's an hour of uninterrupted sleep.

Speaking of which, I think I'll go try to get another one right now...

Friday, April 17, 2009

Day 14.

Tori is officially two weeks old today. And they have been both the longest and the shortest two weeks of my life.

Every day I wake up with a list of things I'd like to do. Simple things. Things like take a shower. Give the baby a bath. Write a blog post. Maybe even read ten pages in a book.

But guess what? The baby hasn't actually had a bath in a week. And I've read  - but only about five pages. Total. In two weeks. This coming from the world's biggest bookworm. The one who routinely tears through two or three 500 page novels in a week.

Yeah, life has changed.

Now my schedule looks something like this:

4 a.m. Wake up. Attempt to breastfeed the baby.

4:30 a.m. Give up on breast feeding. Pull out the milk and syringe.

5:15 a.m. Connect myself to the mooing machine.

5:45 a.m. Change diaper.

6 a.m. Sleep for another hour and a half.

7:30 a.m. Start the process all over again.

9 a.m. Sneak in some breakfast.

9:10 a.m. Pick up screaming baby.

9:30 a.m. Put down sleeping baby.

9:35 a.m. Pick up screaming baby.

9:45-10:15 a.m. Play with cooing baby.

10:15 a.m. Put down sleeping baby.

10:30 a.m. Start that feeding thing again.

I'd keep going, but you get the picture. About 5 p.m., I look up at the clock and realize I have no idea where the day went.

Such is the life of a new mother. And I knew that. But I've got to tell you, I had no idea how thoroughly it would actually kick my ass.

Don't worry. There are good moments. Lots of them. Moments when she's ridiculously cute. When I thank my lucky stars that I've got her.  When my heart seems to expand another notch.

It's just hard to remember that in the middle of the screaming.

But hey, at least I got a blog post written today, right?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

How long before I start mooing?

Breastfeeding is supposed to be the most natural thing in the world. And if you look around at the rest of the animal kingdom, the process does seem to be pretty simple.

Puppies do it. And kittens. And even baby warthogs. They climb their way over their 8 or 9 siblings, find a teat, latch on and suck for all they're worth! And people? Most are born blind!

So why can't a human baby - with all the advantages our species supposedly has over the rest of the natural world - figure it out?

I'm trying to breastfeed my daughter. "Trying" being the operative word. And she's getting a little better every day - or at least, that's what I tell myself when I'm not in the thick of it.

The problem? She's too sleepy most of the time to want to wake up and eat. And even when she does latch on,  she doesn't seem to like to suck. She's still waiting for the 24-hour feeding tube to be reactivated, I think.

Most of the time, I do manage to get her to nurse for a while. But, in another Catch 22, I'm so worried about her not eating that I get stressed, and then I can't seem to make enough milk. So then we have to supplement with formula, or pumped milk. But we're not supposed to bottle feed, so we have to do it with a syringe.

And that just breaks my heart. I mean, what kind of mom am I, to allow my baby to be force fed with a cold, sterile piece of medical equipment?

Then, I attach some suction cups to my boobs and allow another piece of machinery to milk me like a freaking cow - or at least, I try to.  More often than not, I get so little, it's not even worth the effort.

By the time the process is finished, an hour and a half has gone by. And I have to gear up to do it all again in another hour and a half.

I'm exhausted.

Feeling inadequate.

Ridiculously frustrated.

And more prone to hysterical sobbing fits than I care to admit.

I want to give up, but I promised myself I'd give it the full two week trial run before making any rash decisions. Which means I have at least another five days left.

It's going to be a long week, people. Wish me luck.

Friday, April 10, 2009

A Week of Firsts

Tori is officially one week old today, and it's been a busy week. So busy, I dont' actually have time to do a real post, so how 'bout I just throw some cute baby pics at you instead?

Her first minutes in the world...

All cleaned up...

Cuddling with mom...

Cuddling with Dad...

Her first visitors...

Ready to go home...

Her first walk...

Her first bath (yes, in a roasting pan)...


And that's all for now, folks. I promise to write something soon, when I have both a free minute and the necessary brain cells.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

One Day Down, a Lifetime To Go.

We were released from the hospital yesterday—and it was not a moment too soon. If one more person had come barging into my room without knocking, I may have started scratching eyeballs out.

I know they all meant well, but every time I pulled my boob out to feed Tori, the parade began. And I don't know how most new moms feel, but I, for one, am not comfortable with public nudity. Especially when I'm already stressed, overtired, and feeling ridiculously inadequate.

Although you'd be amazed at how quickly you get used to strangers manhandling your boobs when you're trying to learn to breastfeed...

So anyway, after a flurry of paperwork-signing, they let us leave the hospital with our defenseless little girl in our arms to begin a life of unsupervised parenthood. And it was all downhill from there.

We knew we were in trouble when Kermit, (our socially retarded mutt) growled at the baby upon being introduced to her.

Then we discovered the cats had peed in the crib.

And then I realized that there was a reason I was on all that pain medication—and my earlier decision to try to do without it was a Really Bad Idea.

And then there was the constipation that suddenly descended. I'll spare you the details, but suffice it to say that the pain was far worse than anything else I've experienced throughout this whole having a baby thing. My howls sent a very panicked Brian racing to the drugstore in search of something, anything to make it stop.

And then (yes, another "and then") Victoria decided to really wake up for the first time, and be ridiculously fussy for the next several years.

So, yeah, it was a bad day.

Bad enough that Brian had to order a shattered, sobbing me to bed at 10 p.m.

But you know what? Today is going a lot better (everyone cross their fingers and knock on wood). She's finally starting to get the hang of this nursing thing (don't you dare uncross those digits), and after six hours of sleep, I feel almost human.

And the sun's out. Was the sun out yesterday? I don't even know.

And, thanks to my awesome coworkers and their impromptu food delivery service,  lunch and dinner is ready and waiting.

It's going to be okay. I'm sure of it—something I wouldn't have said 24 hours ago. Although, someone's probably going to have to remind me I said that in the not to distant future...

Monday, April 6, 2009

Holy Cow, I'm a Mommy.

Victoria Isabel entered the world on Friday, April 3, at 11:07 a.m. She weighed 7 lbs, 4 oz, and is 19 inches long. She's got the full complement of fingers and toes, beautiful blue eyes, and a whole heck of a lot of hair.

And she's totally stolen my heart.

There are about ten million blog posts I need to write...about the actual surgery (so much less traumatic than I thought it would be), the hospital stay (I wish I could take a nurse home with me) and the countless frustrations we're already dealing with (who knew a baby could sleep too much!).

But as I sit here in my hospital bed with her wrapped up like a burrito and snoozing peacefully on my lap, I'm simply too overwhelmed by the flood of emotion filling me to try be clever, or funny, or smart.

It sounds trite, I know, but nothing could have prepared me for the depth and the ferocity of the love I feel for this perfect little person. She staked her claim on my soul with her very first cry, and now, a little less than 84 hours later, I can't even put into words how completely she has wrapped herself around the core of my being.

For crying out loud, I sound like the cheesiest of all cheesy Hallmark cards! I'd blame it on the sleep deprivation, but that's how I really feel.

There are a lot of things I don't know right now. I can't even begin to fathom how challenging the next few weeks are going to be.  I'm sure I'm going to make a lot of mistakes - and that I'm going to doubt my mothering abilities on more than a few occasions.

But nothing has ever felt so right as the way she feels curled up against my chest. And nothing has ever tugged on my heart quite so much as the sight of Brian chattering away to her as she sits snuggled in the crook of his elbow.

I'm a Mommy now. A Mommy. How amazing is that?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

One Last Day.

After 39 weeks and five days, I've finally reached the end of this particular journey. Tomorrow, my daughter will be born and it'll be time to start the next adventure. My mood? Highly changeable, to say the least.

I'm excited, of course. I can't wait to finally meet this little person that we've created. To count her fingers and her toes. Analyze her features and try to decide who she looks most like. And maybe, just maybe, finally pick a name for her (her grandma sure would appreciate it if we did).

But, unexpectedly, I'm also a little sad. I think I'm going to miss having her all to myself. I wonder if my belly will feel strangely empty without her squirming around in there all the time...

And then it's back to excited, for completely selfish reasons. I know I'm headed for a period of Extreme Sleep Deprivation, but when I do get some shut eye, I can sleep on my back! Or my stomach! Or hanging upside down from the ceiling, if I want!

And I'll be able to see my toes!

And tie my shoes!

And maybe, just maybe, put on something slightly more fitted than a circus tent by the end of the summer!

All happy things. But lordy, am I nervous about the actual procedure. No matter how many people tell me that getting a C-section is the easy peasy way to have a baby, the whole surgery thing freaks me out just a little bit. And honestly? It feels like I'm cheating. Skipping out on the hard part.

But I'm sure I'll get over that. Because, people? By this time tomorrow, I'M GOING TO BE A MOMMY. For reals. Let's all stop and appreciate the perfect insanity of that statement (it'll give me time to quit hyperventilating).

I think it's time to retreat to my happy place now. The one filled with cute high-heeled shoes, chilled white wine and bloody steak.

Ahhhh, that's better.