Tuesday, August 9, 2011
Daniel Egan Ackerman entered the world on June 19, 2011 at 10:51 pm. He weighed 8 lbs, 10 ounces, measured 22 inches and had a 15 inch head, which I’m told is very big. (I didn’t need to be told.)
In the twenty minutes I hope I have before he needs to eat again, I'd like to capture something about the first three weeks of his life.
Challenge number 1: Recovering from labor and delivery. Not that I expected to be up and at ‘em immediately after birth, but neither did I expect to be completely incapacitated for almost two weeks. When I was really struggling on day three or so and called the midwife, she asked what I had been doing since I’d been home. I described what seemed like nothing to me, and she said, “When I say, you’re not supposed to do anything, I mean, you can go up and down the stairs once a day. Otherwise, you need to be resting. And nothing else.” Oh. Wow. Actually doing nothing is not something I'm good at, but I tried.
Once I figured out some pain management and my glorious mother-in-law scrubbed my bathroom so I could take warm baths, and I began just resting, things began SLOWLY to improve. Today I took a thirty minute walk with Daniel, which is the most physical activity I’d had since the birth, and it felt good. Slowly slowly I’m starting to feel like myself again. Looking like myself? That’s a whole other issue.
Challenge number 2: Breastfeeding. Good lord, it is hard. It’s better now, much much better. But for weeks one and two, it was painful and difficult. I feed him at least every three hours, and for the first two weeks, at least three feedings a day would be a 45 minute production, just to get him started eating. There would be screaming and crying, swaddling, shushing, swaying, a hair dryer blowing for white noise, Carl and I both trying to get him calm enough to latch, and then if it didn’t work, the process would be repeated. I’m thrilled to say that seems to be a thing of the past. Daniel and I have figured out together how to get him latched, and that happens pretty quickly and easily now, almost every time. Thank God. Because being on call 24/7 is challenging enough, without your patience being severely tested 3-6 times a day. Add to that sleep deprivation, nipple pain and hormones and wow. I really understand why women can’t stick with breastfeeding, especially if they don’t know how much better it gets after two weeks (for most people.)
Challenge number 3: Still looking pregnant. I don’t want to write about this, but I will for the sake of education. I didn’t know I would still look so pregnant in the weeks after his birth – like 6-7 months pregnant. Again, I didn’t expect to have my old body back immediately, but neither did I expect that MULTIPLE people would ask me when my baby was due. If you don’t already know this, please take it to heart. NEVER ASK A WOMAN IF SHE IS PREGNANT. Just don’t do it. I was struggling enough in those first weeks without then having to process feelings about how my body looked. Literally just getting out of bed was physically hard, and then I have to feel fat on top of it? Not cool.
Happily these weeks have been filled with joy too. Seeing my little man’s face makes me smile. When he’s awake and alert, staring into my eyes, I feel wonder unlike any I have ever known. Some of my favorite moments of the day now are feeding him, feeling his warm body snuggled up to mine, his little hands and feet stroking my skin. I soak in the joy he brings to others, the love showered on him, the wonder felt at seeing his little person.
We have received a river of kindness since his birth: people dropping off meals, sending flowers and gifts, coming for visits. My mom has fed us, done the laundry, rocked and comforted Daniel. I don’t know how we would have gotten through those first weeks without her. My in-laws showed up with new pjs for me, an SU hat for Daniel, and lots of love and laughter. Our neighbor appeared one night just as we finished dinner with the most beautiful blueberry pie I’d ever seen. The kindness sustained me as much as the food, and I accepted it all with a grateful heart.
I can’t wait to see how my son (what? I have a son? This still seems unreal.) How he grows and develops, what kind of person he is. But I’m trying to not get ahead of myself, trying to enjoy this phase, one day at a time, for what it is.