My sweet baby girl is two weeks old today. Just fourteen short days on this earth and already Audrey Sophia is rocking our world.
In some ways, these early days have been easier than they were with Ella. We’ve managed to keep up with the most basic household chores instead of becoming overwhelmed with dirty dishes and piles of laundry and bags of recycling unattended. We’d already become accustomed to broken sleep, so exhaustion hasn’t been the shock it was last time around. And since Ella has been carefully teaching us the magnitude of our own ignorance as parents for the last four years and change, we don’t panic when we can’t immediately divine the motivation behind the baby’s cries. There’s something to be said for knowing what you don’t know.
But in other ways, these last two weeks have been the hardest of my life.
This birth did not go as planned. I’m feeling a little more even-keeled this week, but I’m still not ready to talk much about it – someday I’ll have to, but right now thinking about every moment along the way where we veered off course is much too overwhelming. It’s like an old band-aid I can only pull up a bit at a time, even though it’s excruciating and one big rip might be cathartic.
Trauma is funny. I was OK while we were in the hospital, but the second I walked in our front door on the day Audrey and I were discharged, I crumbled. I spent our first week home marooned on our couch, a shore battered by waves of traumatic memory from my wild labor. The physical trauma was much less difficult than I expected and certainly nothing to the way this experience shook me to my core.
I’m clawing my way out of that shaking, bruised place. I’ll tell you about it sometime, but now it’s still too raw.
On top of the energy it has taken me to process some of what happened while I worked to bring this precious baby into the world, we’ve also had to face some setbacks that have further eroded my confidence.
After a healthy pregnancy with little medical intervention – always my preference – I wound up with postpartum preeclampsia that gave me horrible headaches and required hefty medication. It’s already resolved, but for a few days there my head spun not only with pain but with worry that, despite my best efforts to live a healthy life and make good choices, my family’s dismal health history (very little of which has been determined to be genetic) was destined to repeat itself. Another log on the “I don’t have much faith in my body” fire after our fertility trouble and a surprise c-section was not strictly necessary, but there it is.
And, after having a birth experience that was in direct conflict with my values and my philosophy about birth (and, really, about women’s health care in general if we want to go big on broad strokes here), the prospect of breastfeeding this baby was sort of the last of my hopes and dreams from this pregnancy that seemed hell bent on trashing my expectations from the very beginning. So it was fairly devastating to learn that Audrey, although she’s healthy and wonderful in every other way, has some anatomical challenges that may make nursing impossible.
The door hasn’t completely closed on breastfeeding for us yet – we’re seeing a specialist next week who should be able to tell us more – but in the meantime I’m pumping around the clock to build my milk supply while Audrey isn’t able to give my body the signal that we should be feeding her, and hopefully we’ll know soon which of her feeding challenges can be addressed. The pumping is hard and honestly kind of grosses me out but I’ll keep it up for now if it helps bridge the gap until we’re able to nurse.
Pumping is also lonely. It’s harder to do discretely in front of other people, and, unlike breastfeeding, it doesn’t help me bond with the baby at all. I pump on the couch while my family keeps moving without me – while I’m attached to the milk machine, Jon has to handle any baby needs and manage Ella, who has understandably been a bit of a handful.
Also: I miss Ella! We were attached at the hip before the baby came, and now I’m feeling so separate from her. Everyone warned me that the transition from having one kid to having two would be difficult. Silly me – I assumed they meant it would be difficult for Ella! We’re going on a “just us big girls” date tomorrow, which I’m really looking forward to, and I’ve been trying to give her as much of me as I can, but the reality is that the baby needs me more right now, and Ella has been so excited to have Jon home that she’s not too psyched about me anyway.
I hate to sound like I’m complaining. We have two healthy, beautiful little girls, and in the end that’s of course the most important thing. I’m soaking up all the snuggles I can get, prioritizing sleep above almost all else, trying to stay hydrated, treating my body kindly with good food, thanking God for getting us through it all, and giving myself some grace during this healing time.
And that’s what it really feels like – time to heal. As much as I’d like to be, I am not healed yet. More patience is needed, always. And some trust that, with time, we’ll all find our footing and move forward.
For now, I’m keeping the band-aid on.