We spent two nights in the birth center being loved on and catered to and snuggled up in bed together. I’ll always cherish those memories of just laying in bed with Maise endlessly, and having our parents come give her a quick snuggle and then back to the peacefulness of being in what felt like our home away from home for a few days. The post-partum care team was fantastic and made us so comfortable.
Tuesday afternoon, we went home and suddenly it was life just the three of us (Mandy went to my in-laws for a few days so we could settle in without worrying what Mandy was getting in to, and knowing she was still getting love and exercise when we didn’t have either one to spare). We got home, and got right in bed. Sam took amazing care of us.
But don’t be fooled – that first week home is ROUGH. There were a lot of tears. A lot of confusion. A few ill-advised attempts to google things. Trying to figure out how to keep this baby alive on the outside was not the easiest thing I’ve ever done – especially because nursing isn’t the most intuitive and not all babies have that figured out right away. I will never, ever forget when the lactation consultant walked into my house and I immediately burst into tears, only to have her basically tell me that it’s no wonder I feel this way, because Maise isn’t eating and has lost a little too much weight. I’ll never forget the feeling the next day, after we thought we’d turned a corner, when the pediatrician told us Maise was still losing weight. Knowing that it’s your only job to nourish the tiny life you’ve made, and feeling like you can’t do it, is the most defeating thing I have ever experienced. I felt like a failure. I felt like a terrible, horrible mom. My heart physically hurt listening to Maise’s hungry cries, hoarse from screaming for two days, and feeling like I had failed her because I didn’t know that’s what was wrong. Everyone tells you ‘breastfeeding is hard at first’ but no one tells you WHY or HOW it’s hard, so I just assumed this was the hard part – which it was, but for all the wrong reasons.
After that, my wonderful blessing of a friend brought us some of her expressed milk to supplement while we waited for my milk to come in, and we fed the nugget through a dropper. Another wonderful friend came and sat with me while I pumped and brought me a few books, and tons of stories about her same struggles. I reached out to a few other mom friends and heard so many similar stories. Why don’t we normalize these other, very normal parts of breastfeeding!? Guess what – not everyone has perfect boobs or a baby that was born knowing exactly how to nurse. Sometimes there are physical or environmental factors that keep you from nursing effectively, or even just a long learning curve, but all the literature and all the classes just tell you what ‘ideal’ is. It was very frustrating to feel so alone, only to find out that there were SO many others dealing with these same issues.
But none of this is actually the point. Maise and I got to know each other. We spent a whole week snuggled in bed together, skin to skin, not really effectively breastfeeding but figuring it out together. Sam brought me all of my meals, ran every bath, and changed most of the diapers. Our first night home, I even lost my mind for a few minutes in the middle of the night and shouted at him, ‘can’t you just stay awake and stare at the baby to make sure she keeps breathing so I can get some sleep!?,’ then I promptly rolled over and passed out. When I woke up two hours later, he was riveted to the spot where I left him, exhausted, but staring at the baby as I had asked (well, demanded really). With a little rest in my bank, I realized I was insane and told him to go back to bed. We didn’t invite any visitors to the house until the following weekend, so we had her first 6 days all to ourselves to figure out what life looks like with a babe.
Life with this babe is beautiful. Mandy came home and gave her one big lick. We struggled, but we sorted it out as a family. We snuggled and we laughed and we cried and we watched a lot of baby TV (you know, where you just stare at the baby endlessly?), and some real TV in the middle of the night while I was pumping, pumping, pumping and while Maise sucked on our fingers endlessly, refusing sleep and demanding more food, always.
I’m typing this with one hand, holding you in the other and expecting daddy home any minute. Your little fingers are hanging on to me, tight (your nails need clipping!). You’ll never remember your first days with us, but I’ll never forget them and have at least 5845744 pictures of you; naked baby snoozing, a few of you screaming, and one of you getting a Mandy kiss. I felt like your momma right away, even as I was struggling to find our way. Your daddy was a natural and only tried to put your diaper on backward once. I didn’t know much, but I knew I loved you. We got it figured out, didn’t we sweet girl? I love you. I love you. I love you.