It’s been seven weeks now and I’m finally getting a few minutes to throw down a blog post. Thanks for your patience Also, enjoy our newborn photos by the amazing Caroline Jurgensen! www.carolinejurgensen.com
I would guess that most people walk into the process of having a baby with a load of expectations however realistic or completely absurd they might be- from what to expect in labor to how to sleep train your nocturnal infant. I know I did, and I got a quick education.
There are assumptions regarding pregnancy, the birthing process itself and a million and one expectations about life with a baby and how to raise said baby. Simply as a human, people expect you to have very basic, life-sustaining instincts that indicate that you are fit to parent a child, like responding to your crying infant and recognizing their need to be fed. As a nurse, people expect far more from you in this arena, even when you don’t work in a specialty related to labor and delivery or babies. They assume you know about zones of jaundice or how to take a sitz bath or what an Apgar score indicates. On one hand, this commonality is extremely helpful because you can use words like “hematocrit” with each other and you’re all on the same page, communicating in your universal medical language. On the other hand, I had to stop midwives, nurses, and physicians mid-sentence, gladly forfeiting any pretense of possessing any baby knowledge, to simply state that I had no idea what they were talking about. My expectations surprised even me because, as it turns out, there are many unexpecteds and unforeseens in the process of bringing a human into the world and honestly, many of them make for a pretty good laugh.
Despite all the TV show reenactments I had ever seen and the few live births I had observed in nursing school, I had some misconceptions about the whole ordeal. To start with something apparently obvious to everyone else, who knew pushing would be that strenuous even with an epidural? In my pregnant naïveté I thought that pushing with an epidural would be more of a spectator sport than a desperate sprint requiring every ounce of available energy for hours on end. In a slightly exaggerated mental picture, I saw myself joking around with the doctors while holding a mock tail with perfect hair and makeup rather than puffing up like a balloon and gripping the bed rails as my epidural inconveniently wore off as I approached the finish line. I didn’t expect the feeling of someone pulling all my guts out as the doctor slid my daughter out or being exposed to a room chock full of strangers and having absolutely no inhibition about it. I also didn’t expect the word “episiotomy” to be my new least favorite word in the entire dictionary.
I didn’t know how truly valuable a lactation consultant would be after my daughter wouldn’t feed for a very long time in the hospital and I turned into hysterical-nurse-mom calling for a provider to come help me, any provider, over the call system like a crazy person. On that note, I didn’t even know some unfortunate souls (me) had to feed my child with a syringe until she could get the hang of feeding on her own. How many times did I hear people say, “you would think breastfeeding is intuitive but it’s not..” and I couldn’t have understood beforehand. If breastfeeding was an arcade game, I have conquered all the levels- getting past the screaming, hysterical baby, through the maze of nipple shields, across the moat of pumping and finally to the prize of having a healthy, easily latching baby after a lot of hard work. I will wear the gold star of victory proudly for a very long time, and I would very assuredly not be breastfeeding today without the overwhelming attention of my very kind and patient LC. I’m still planning on emailing the CEO of the hospital to give her a raise.
I didn’t realize that I wouldn’t just immediately bounce back from the trauma of pushing out a bowling ball (much to the amusement of everyone else who knew better than I did). I needed rest and physical help too, not just an extra hand with changing newborn diapers. I didn’t expect that FMLA paperwork would become a form of cruel and unusual punishment- no new mother should have to shuffle through the mounds of confusing paperwork on literally no sleep.
I didn’t expect that I would literally want to throw the sleep training book in the trash everyday (and still do most days) as I realized very quickly how little control I have over a brand new baby. On that note, I didn’t realize that sleep training is a whole set of elaborate theories and strategies that takes a new mother hours to shuffle through and requires more attention than she can muster, only leading to the very logical and annoyingly obvious conclusion that you have to do whatever YOU think works for YOUR child. (I am a fan of sleep training, just not when you’re exhausted and feel completely inadequate as your child wakes up for the third time during the night.)
I couldn’t have predicted the amount of googling I would do for everything from “newborn rash” to “images of normal baby poop” to “why did Netflix change the theme song to Parenthood” simply because I had gone crazy at three in the morning. Although I pray often, I had no idea how many “Hail Mary” prayers I would throw out in one day, for her to latch on or sleep or stay asleep, and how many God would answer just when I thought I couldn’t take it one more minute. Despite all my years in the grit of blood and guts in the trauma ICU, I didn’t know I would freak out the first time she vomited on me, yelling for Seth as it slid down my hair and calling my mother to ask if she was ok. Yes, that one is a little embarrassing and a lot funny.
But the most significant of all the surprises came at everyone’s favorite moment. Despite all the times I had imagined seeing my child for the first time, I never could have expected how truly awe-struck I would be to meet our daughter. Although we didn’t find out the sex beforehand, I knew in my gut that “it” was a “she”. I talked to her during my pregnancy about all kinds of girly things, singing Taylor Swift and explaining the intricacies of nail polish, and would’ve been completely surprised if she had come out a boy. Instead all I could say was, “I knew you were in there!” Before I knew what was going on there was a blue screaming human baby lying across my chest and I was forever changed.
I didn’t expect that I would think about her all the time, even just in the back of my mind, no matter what I was doing or where I was. I didn’t expect that despite the extreme exhaustion of these first few weeks and the epic battles getting her to go to sleep, that I would miss her when she was finally down in her crib. I couldn’t have predicted how truly amazed I would be as she attempts something so simple like lifting her own head, yet for her that’s a huge accomplishment and we celebrate it as such! I didn’t know how much I would enjoy watching her learn about the world, start to track faces and objects, and respond to colors. And how I would cry happy, overjoyed tears the first time she smiled at me, knowing me as her mother.
I didn’t realize that I could love my husband with a different kind of depth, one that I couldn’t access before, and that it would make my heart ache with affection and appreciation for him. In all my pushing I don’t think I looked at him once but I heard every word he said, every encouragement to push harder or breathe longer. During my four day hospital stay, I didn’t change one diaper as Seth eagerly jumped at every opportunity, wanting me to stay in bed if I was hurting or tired. With every ounce of remaining attention after sleepless nights, he listened closely as the lactation consultant helped us learn how to breastfeed our daughter. He got me ice chips. He told me I had done a great job. He still tells me everyday what a great job I’m doing. As we continue to adjust to life with a baby, he gets up early to take her so I can get an hour more of sleep without hearing her fuss. He comes home from a long day at work and cooks dinner with a smile on his face as he struggles to keep his eyes open. Although my husband has always been a selfless and generous man, he has exceeded every expectation of a new dad and I’m not surprised at all. In the end it will always be him and me, and she gets to join in on the fun.
We are a family of three now and I didn’t expect how challenging or how fun it would be. My priorities are rearranged and I love the new normal even when it means I don’t brush my teeth until 3pm. There are many things I didn’t expect but even more joys I couldn’t have anticipated and I’m so thankful as these blessings continue to unfold before my eyes through a tiny human named Evelyn Kay Bridges.