I’m feeling very lucky in many ways.
1. Having family here to support us has been so very helpful. They have been able to provide River with fun and individualized attention at a time at which he would otherwise likely feel ignored. They have also been helping with housework, errands, and food, which reduces the burden on me to be able to focus on the baby. The first time around, that seemed pretty overwhelming. Now that seems fairly manageable.
2. It’s early and perhaps things will change, but so far, the indications are that we have hit the jackpot and got a second easy baby. The pediatrician commented that she is very calm, she sleeps most of the time, and so far, has not cried more than about 10 minutes or so per 24 hours. I’m able to get through the whole night without her crying more than a few minutes, which means that everyone in the house except me is able to get a good night’s sleep.
3. I’m enjoying the newborn period even more this time around. Last time I was anxious for interaction. This time, I better recognize how fleeting these days are. I know it won’t be long that my daughter will be only seven pounds, that her fingers are such tiny, precious little strands, that I can watch the beautiful expressions that fleet across her face as she sleeps. I trace the perfect curl of her earlobe, stroke her soft cheeks and marvel at how her thin little legs and tiny organs are able to function. I hold her against my shoulder to burp her and touch my cheek to hers. I try to save the moment forever.
Though overall, things are going well, there are definitely challenges with number two.
1. My new relationship with River. I’m glad the grandparents are here to allow us a little space to figure this out. He now appears gigantic to me, his hands and feet as though already fully formed. He makes up songs about caca (poop) and uses nonsense language, which no longer impresses me so much. But he also knows facts about squid, hippopatomuses and tyrannosaurus rexes. Hearing him discuss these things with his grandparents makes me marvel that he also came out of me as a tiny babe, not so very long ago.
Unfortunately, our first substantial interaction upon my returning home was disciplinary. He took his grandfather’s newspaper apart and scattered it across the floor. I gave him a time-out and asked him to apologize to his grandfather. He wouldn’t, so he received three subsequent time outs. The most we’ve ever done before is two in a row. Four was miserable. Even more miserable when he peed his pants during one. When I asked him to apologize to his grandfather, he looked at me with such defiance and contempt. It reminded me of how I looked at my mother during our battles of my teenage years. It was also such a contrast with the look of complete understanding we shared until just a few days ago.
I think he was overtired, because the fourth timeout turned into a long nap, with none of the usual preambles. Grandma helped with the baby so that I could be the one to get River up from his nap, to read him a story, and to spend some positive quality time with him.
He realizes things are going to be different and I understand this is rough on him. I also know things are going to be different and I find it stressful. As much as I want to be there for him, to go out and do fun things with him, as long as the baby is attached to my breast, I am limited. I know this will get better with time, but I am glad I took him on so many excursions in the final weeks of the pregnancy. I wish we’d had another week or so of mom and River time.
2. Breastfeeding has been more challenging this time around. Last time the challenge was a long delay (about a week) in the milk coming in, but it wasn’t painful at any time. This time it’s been painful from the beginning. I spoke with several lactation consultants at the hospital, who said her latch is fine and that her suck is like a vacuum extractor. When I look in the mirror, I see holes in my nipples, where scabs have formed and then come off. For the first several days, it was so painful that I panted with pain, as though back in labor again, every time she latched on.
It’s getting a bit better now – perhaps my nipples are toughening up. And my milk came in last night, which reassures me that I won’t repeat the low supply issues. But her tongue is white and I have an underlying fear that she has thrush and will transfer it to me, repeating the miserable process of infection and reinfection I went through with River. I got some Nystatin, which was not effective last time, and am crossing my fingers I’m wrong about this. This time, I’ll be quicker to head to the powerful antibiotics.
3. I seem to have an extra supply of adrenaline this time, or perhaps it’s the gift of her not being alert, except while feeding, during the night. I don’t think I’m getting a whole lot of sleep, and I don’t find I can sleep during the day. There are times at night when I feel exhausted. Too exhausted to read certainly. But I’m so grateful that I’m not dealing with a screaming or wakeful baby that I tell myself it’s not so bad.
4. I came home from the hospital full of rules. It’s great they do education there, at the time when people need it. But I’m just too tired, or too lazy, to implement some of them. Wake the baby every 2 to 3 hours to feed. When it’s 4 a.m. and she’s already been sleeping three hours, no I’m not waking her. Sorry. I worry that will have an adverse effect on my supply, but I’m just not willing to give up the sleep to do it. Nor I am willing to record and/or track feedings and/or wet diapers. It’s a small step, but anything extra at this point is cut. For the past two nights, I’ve taken on all the feedings and allowed Mark to sleep through the night, but that also means I haven’t changed her diaper during the night. I feel negligent, but I’m tired and just can’t bring myself to remove her from her swaddle and wake her when she is quiet and restful. Nor do I really want to get out of bed. Luckily, both nights, she had only a bit of pee each morning. Once she’s getting more milk and has more bowel movements, I imagine I won’t be able to slack off so much there.
5. I’m in better shape physically than last time around. I avoided an episiotomy. But I do have a second degree tear and several smaller lacerations. It still hurts. I took my first walk outside today, around the block, and felt like an old lady, barely moving one foot in front of the other when I normally stride at a rapid pace. The continued pain below, plus the pain in the boobs makes me feel like I’m in pretty poor shape.
6. The weight is not disappearing as fast this time around. Last time I seem to recall dropping about 25 pounds right after the birth. This time I’m only about 10 pounds lighter than I was the day before she was born. That’s almost 30 pounds above my starting weight. Granted, from two hours post-birth on, I’ve been eating like a fiend. I’m trying not to worry about it too much, figuring I need nourishment for breastfeeding. I’ll try to focus on slowly reincorporating physical activity into my routine and perhaps replacing my current midnight snacks of Christmas cookies with some healthier options. But for now, I’m trying to focus on getting sleep, taking in adequate fluids and nutrition, and generally doing whatever makes me feel good to get through this physically and mentally rough period.