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Scarlett @ Three Months

Three months!!  Whooeee – how is it possible?  Before I know it, she’ll be dating!  Oy.

At three months, here’s what my little nugget is up to –

Still Little Miss Cranky Pants much of the time, although she is having more frequent and longer periods of just chillin’, cooing and gracing us with her lopsided grin.  She’s a tough baby – have I mentioned that?  I know these pictures make me look like a liar.  She still wants to be held almost all the time, and she doesn’t sleep on the go.  That means that when I’m out running errands with her (which is necessary a lot of the time), she doesn’t sleep, and then she gets so overtired that she just melts down and is a wreck.  I’ve successfully gotten her completely hooked on sleeping in her swing, although for the last two days she has napped in her bassinet (yay!  Fingers crossed that this is a new trend!).

Let me just stop there and have a quick word about Attachment Parenting.  I’m a big fan, a believer, in Attachment Parenting, to the extent that it’s possible.  And that is key – to the extent that it’s possible.  Hardcore AP just isn’t possible with this many kids – at least it isn’t for me.  I can’t sleep with her all the time, and I can’t wear her all the time, I just can’t.  We all do what we can, don’t we?

(And that reminds me, I’ve been meaning to sort my thoughts and write about why we moms give so much of a crap, anyway, about how other moms parent their kids.  Maybe I’ll get to that soon.)

Back to Miss Scarlett: She’s rolling from tummy to back and from back to tummy, and as you can see, she rocks a tutu and pearls.  I don’t know how much she weighs, but she’s a peanut, and is still in newborn clothes.

She had her first cold this past week.  I knew it was inevitable with all the other kids back to school and bringing cooties home.  Fortunately it was pretty mild and short-lived.  She did spike a fever for one night – and fevers in infants scare the crap out of me thanks to the twins both contracting meningitis when they were two months old.  But Scarlett was fine, so.

 

 

What else?  When I was pregnant with her, I meant to start pumping and giving her bottles within the first couple of weeks, but it just never happened.  So she’s 100% a boobie girl, which means I can’t leave her for more than an hour or two.  I remember this frustrating me with some of my other babies (none of them ever took kindly to bottles anyway, so it probably doesn’t make too much of a difference that I never even tried with Scarlett), but it doesn’t feel like I big deal this time around.  She’s only going to be a baby for such a short time.

 

 

As for me, three months later, I’m hanging in there.  Sometimes I still wonder if I might be dealing with some postpartum issues.  The crying jags still hit me from time to time, and they seem to come out of the blue, but they seem to have become less frequent.  I honestly don’t know if it’s hormonal, or just life stuff.  Probably a combination, but I’m dealing as best as I can.

I had a surprisingly hard time with my birthday this year . . . it’s funny – having a new baby should make me feel young, right?  But in some ways it just doesn’t.  Not that I feel old, exactly, but . . . I guess I’m at a point where I know my youth is truly behind me.  I have a hard time with passages – I always have.  And having this last baby at my age, it’s been such a gift, a bonus, but it’s also come with the knowledge that this will never, ever happen again, and that so many of the things you work towards and look forward to during the first  couple of decades of adulthood are just behind me, period.  Does that make sense?  It’s not that I’m not grateful for the bounty of my life, but there has been a sadness lately that so much of my life is behind me.

Blah.

I have up days and down days, and don’t we all anyway?

But Scarlett, she’s a peach.

 

 

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The Way It Is

I know, it’s been like a week since I last wrote anything here.  I’ve thought about writing, but every time I think about it, either (a) the baby starts crying, or (b) all I can think to write about is how much the baby cries.  So I’m just going to spew.

Scarlett cries a lot.  A lot.

Basically, if she’s awake, she’s crying.  That might be an exaggeration, but only slightly.

She’s sensitive.  As in, high-strung.  She’s only amused for a few minutes at a time.  She cries when she’s no longer amused.  She cries when she’s tired, and then she fights sleep.  She’s a very light sleeper.  Eventually, she goes into comatose sleep where even the smoke alarm going off right outside our bedroom door doesn’t wake her (yes, it happened), but it takes her a loooong time to get there. Nighttime is generally not a problem since she’s content as long as she’s hooked up to the ol’ milk machine aka moi, and she sleeps in bed with me, so . . . I’m talking about daytime – you know, when I have six other kids who need my attention, when I need to get things done, that kind of thing.

Let me paint a picture for you:

It’s roughly 6:00 p.m.  Scarlett has been awake for about three hours, during which time I’ve moved her from here to there to there, trying to keep her entertained.  I’ve carried her in a front carrier for a little while, but let’s be honest – it’s not always the most comfortable thing in the world to carry a baby around – even hands-free – and the situation becomes dicey when you’re dealing with stress incontinence – yes, that’s right, I pee myself, I’ve had seven kids, thank you very much.  Her crabbiness has cranked up a couple of notches, indicating that she needs some shut-eye.  The other kids haven’t yet eaten dinner, but I’m working on a pot of mac & cheese and a cookie sheet’s worth of chicken nuggets for them (dinner might be a smidge fancier under usual circumstances, but as it is, on this particular evening, Michael has left for an overnight business trip, and Kevin is out with a friend, so I’m pretty much on my own).  The water for the mac & cheese hasn’t yet started to boil, so I think “I’ll just go put the baby down – it’ll take ten minutes.”  (Who am I kidding?)  I take her from under her play gym, sit in the rocking chair and start nursing her.  She quickly dozes off.  Perfect.  I give her a few minutes to make sure she’s really asleep, and then I tiptoe her over to the bassinet and ever-so-carefully lay her down, and then tip toe out of the bedroom, closing the door ever-so-gently.

The moment the door clicks shut, she’s crying on the other side of it.

Damnit!

And trust me, I know that to wait a few minutes to see if she’ll settle down on her own is folly.  She only gets herself more and more upset until she’s nearly inconsolable.  It’s best to go to her quickly.

So I go back, in, scoop her back up, and plant myself back in the rocking chair with her.  She dozes again.  I wait.  Longer this time, to really make sure that she’s really asleep.

Suddenly, Finn is right outside the bedroom door yelling his head off.  (This is what he does these days to express dissatisfaction with, well, anything.)  I hiss “No, Finn!  No yelling!”  So he lays down on the floor and starts kicking the door.  I clench my teeth.  Scarlett’s eyes have popped open – she’s wide awake again.  I put her down on my bed and go march Finn to his room and give him a brief, stern talking-to.

I repeat the process with Scarlett.  This time I put her in the swing when she’s asleep – which I hate to do because I feel like I’m probably creating a crutch for her that will eventually have to be taken away from her – probably painfully – but I’m now at my wits’ end, and the swing often works better than the bassinet.

Finally, she sleeps.

Meanwhile, it’s now after 7:00 p.m., the other kids still have not eaten dinner, the chicken nuggets are burned and half the water for the mac & cheese has boiled away.

This was my evening today – and I’m only sitting her writing this because she remains asleep in the swing for the time being.

And the thing is, this is really an everyday occurrence in some form or another.  She’s a tough baby, an all-consuming baby, and everyone in the house feels it in some way.

Me?  Sometimes I feel like I’m losing my mind.

Sometimes I just break down and cry my eyes out.

This isn’t postpartum depression or postpartum anything – this is just plain old being overwhelmed by our new reality.

More than ever, I find myself pondering this life of service to others I signed myself up for.  That’s what it is, you know.  Being a mother – at least a mother who gives a shit – is all about serving others, about giving, giving, giving, taking care of, cleaning up after, counseling, and putting oneself last most of the time.  It’s mostly thankless, a one-way relationship that’s fraught with struggle, and the payoff is way off in the future.

I mean, I love my kids – don’t get me wrong – and even this crabby little baby girl has my heart in her tiny little hands – but this is hard.  Really hard.  And sometimes – most of the time as of late – I just feel sucked dry.  A little resentful, sometimes even angry – even though I know I have nobody to blame for my circumstances but myself.  (How is it that Michelle Duggar always has that beatific smile pasted on her face?  It’s for the cameras, right?  I mean, good god, she’s got to feel a little overwhelmed and even pissed off at least sometimes, right?)

As for Scarlett, I think maybe the most frustrating part is knowing that there’s nothing wrong with her, this is just the way she’s wired.  Which means that there really aren’t any tricks or methods that are going to change her fundamental disposition.  We just have to ride it out and hope that eventually she outgrows it.

 

The Deception of the Easy First Baby

When I had my first baby over 15 years ago, I discovered that I was a great mommy.  Oh, yes, I was a natural.  I could tell right off the bat that all those notions I had before I became a mother were going to hold true for me: my child would be well-behaved, would never be one of those brats who threw tantrums, would happily eat whatever I served him without complaint, etc., etc., etc.  It was a dream come true – and proof that all it took was good mothering to produce a good child.  How did I know this?  Because Kevin, my first baby, was a dream.  Seriously.  He slept through the night at six weeks old, and in fact, he would sleep anywhere, and through anything.  I would vacuum in his room – right up to the crib! – while he slept.  No wussy babies for me, by god!   By subjecting him to as much noise as possible while he slept, I would ensure that he wouldn’t be all sensitive to noise and stuff.    He was an easy-going, happy baby, and even when he got upset, he was easy to soothe.  And it was all to my credit, thank you very much.  Obviously, I was doing this parenting thing the right way.  I should have half a dozen more babies!

Five years later, Joey came along.  He emerged into the world screaming, and I’m pretty sure he didn’t stop for a year, at least.  I did all the same things with him that I had done with Kevin, employing all my Good Mommy methods.  Didn’t work.  Joey cried all the time (or at least it seemed like it; pictures of his first year tell a different story – there are actually photos of a smiling baby! – but I mostly remember the incessant wailing emitting from him over that first year).  He wanted to be held all the time.  He would only sleep (a) in bed with us, or (b) in his swing.  I remember moments of utter panic when the batteries for his swing would die and we realized we didn’t have any spares on hand.  Oh!  I remember feeling like a prisoner in the rocking chair with him, nursing him to sleep, and then ever-so-carefully getting up and gently laying his sweet, sleeping self down, only to have him start screaming the second I let go of him – and this process would repeat itself for hours on end (I’m sorry, but I can’t let an infant cry it out).

A baby like that?  It humbles a person.

It was quite a rude awakening, having Joey.  But maybe a necessary step in helping me to see reality: babies come with all sorts of pre-wired temperaments, and you never know what you’re going to get.  My “good” mothering with Kevin was all an illusion – a complete snow job.

It would probably be more fair to have a difficult baby first – it toughens you up for the next one, and if the next one turns out to be easy, it’s icing, and you’ve earned it, dammit.

Scarlett reminds me very much of Joey as an infant.  Crabby.  Difficult.  Utterly demanding. Oh, sure, she’s a beaut, and she can turn on the charm with that adorable lopsided baby grin, but it hides a darker, diabolical side.  The side of her that wants to take over the household and hold her mommy hostage.  Oh, I’m onto her, you can bet that.

(I have no idea what I’m going to do about it, except go along with it, I guess . . .)

Not so smug anymore, me.

One Month

I can’t believe it’s been a month already since Scarlett was born.

She’s changed so much; she hardly looks like the same baby.  It was hard at first to figure out who she looked like.  After a few days, I saw a resemblance to Annabelle and Lilah.  Now people are saying she looks like me, and at first I didn’t see it, but I’m starting to now.  It’s weird – I’ve never had a kid who looked like me.

She’s starting to reward us with those first goofy baby smiles – real smiles.  (Which is not to say that she’s not still quite a fuss bucket – she is.  Man, can that girl scream!)

There are times when she won’t let me put her down, when I spend hours sitting with her, trying to soothe her, trying to get her to go to sleep . . . and then when she does finally go to sleep and lets me put her down, I find myself missing her.  I like having her close, and I feel very possessive of her.  Which makes sense, if you think about it: she’s been with me since conception; why wouldn’t I have a hard time separating from her this early on?  I have friends who want to hold her for hours, and I imagine they think they’re doing me a favor by giving me a break (or satisfying their own baby lust), but the truth is, right now I still feel like she’s a part of me, and I miss the soft, warm weight of her when we’re apart.

As for me, it’s been a tough go all the way around, this recovery.  First a bad case of the blues, which, thankfully, began to lift a week or so ago.  But right when I started feeling better in my head, I got a bad case of mastitis, and that was miserable.  Then that started clearing up, and I started having abnormally heavy postpartum bleeding – at a time when it should have been petering out.  That appears to have resolved now, but for a few days I was scared and just really bummed that one more problem seemed to have appeared.

I’m finally starting to feel better in every way, so hopefully things will remain on an upswing.  Seems to me that this is just a sign that chicks as old as me . . . well, anyway.

Here’s a montage of my birth photos.  Some of the pics are fairly graphic, so if you’re squeamish about that sort of thing, or if you won’t be able to look me in the eye after seeing pics of a baby coming out of me, do us both a favor and skip it.  I think birth is beautiful, though, and Scarlett’s birth was by far the best of all my birth experiences.  A wonderful note to end my childbearing career on.

Stumbling Up the Road to Postpartum Wellness

Well, it’s been a somewhat eventful few days here on the home front.

Sue, my midwife came over a few nights ago and brought me some magic potion to perhaps help ease the blues.  While she was here, she weighed Scarlett on her scale (the very same scale Scarlett was weighed on at birth), and she weighed 7 pounds 12 ounces – so she is gaining (you might remember that I was concerned because she wasn’t yet back up to her birth weight of 7.5 at her first pediatrician appointment at 2 weeks old). I am therefore officially putting that worry to rest.

Sue also made arrangements for me to see her favorite chiropractor on Saturday morning to address this lower back/hip pain I’ve been having for so long.  I confess that I was skeptical – but also desperate.  I’ve been in chronic pain for a few months now with it, and it’s only gotten worse since Scarlett was born, which I’m sure has added to my feeling punk.

When I got up Saturday morning, my left boob was sore.  I also noticed a white coating on Scarlett’s tongue, so I assumed thrush.  I’ve never had it before, and none of my babies have, either.  I packed Scarlett up and headed to Sue’s office (she shares office space with her chiropractor), and she wrote down some things to use to treat thrush.

So the chiro has me lie on this table/contraption (I fondly named it “the rack”), and after asking me a bunch of questions, she proceeds to examine, and then adjust me.  She said it wasn’t sciatica at all, but a strain of the sacroiliac joint (huh?).  She basically tortured me.  No, really – I was yelling out in pain as she twisted me and cracked me this way and that.  When she was done, I slowly got up from the table – er, rack – and . . . the pain was gone.  As in, no trace of it.  I’m not kidding.

Phew.

Sue and I chitchatted for a while, and then I left.  On the drive home, I suddenly started feeling achey.  All over.  And I had the chills.  Very quickly, I started to feel really crappy.  I thought to myself, “What the . . . ??  Did that chiropractor eff me up?  Did she trigger some weird sick reaction in me?”  No, really – I actually thought that for about two solid minutes.  It was just so weird how suddenly I felt so sick.  When I got home, I took my temperature, and it was 101.  And my boob was really hurting.  And it hit me then: mastitis.  In all my years of nursing, I’ve never had that either.  I guess I’ve been lucky.  I got undressed and got into bed with Scarlett, and that’s where I stayed until this morning – for two solid days, I was feverish and achey and more miserable than I could imagine from a breast infection, and all I did was sleep and nurse while Michael took care of the other kids.  I’ve heard about mastitis but always thought it must be trumped up – now I know.  I would not wish it on anyone.  Okay, maybe a few people . . .

Anyhow, when I woke up this morning I knew I had turned the corner (thanks to antibiotics, Advil, warm compresses, and lots of rest).  I feel much better today, thank goodness.

Oh yeah, and sometime over the weekend, Finn got out of the house, out of the yard, and took off down the street.  We have a childproof doorknob cover on the inside of the front door specifically to prevent him from getting out, but apparently it had come off, and he knows how to open the front gate, so, off he went.  A neighbor down the street saw him, thank goodness, and brought him home.  I still feel sick inside when I think of how easily he could have run into the street, or just kept booking it down the sidewalk if nobody had seen him.

It’s hard to say how I’m feeling mentally/emotionally at this point  after losing an entire weekend to near unconsciousness.  Last week I was still having crying jags.  None today – just the usual level of aggravation today.  My friends have been so wonderful – especially since I broke down and confessed what a tough time I’m having – bringing us meals and having the older kids over for playdates to give me a little breathing room.  I’ve got a pretty great support network when I admit I need it.  And I’m deeply grateful.

Bear With Me

Funny how a topic like postpartum depression can be such a lightening rod for discussion.  But I think that’s a good thing – and half the reason I write about even the not-so-pretty things that go on in my life: because I think discussion is good.  I think awareness is good.  It’s useful to me to write because it helps me sort things out and feel less alone, and I like to think it’s useful to someone else out there who might be struggling the same struggles.

I really didn’t expect anyone to have any instant answers for me, but I appreciate everyone’s input.  And it’s silly to think that anyone is going to be able to accurately diagnose me over the internet.  I’m keeping my eyes open to whatever it is I’m going through, rest assured.

A friend of mine posted this on my Facebook wall:

Postpartum Confinement

Although the length of the postpartum period varies cross-culturally, the notion of a 40-day postpartum is common in many non-Western cultures (Lauderdale, 1999;Nahas et al., 1999). In almost all non-Western societies, 40 days after birth is seen as necessary for recuperation. Among most non-Western cultures, family members (especially female relatives) provide strong social support, help new mothers at home during that period. The new mother’s activities are strictly limited, and her needs are taken care of by (typically) female relatives and midwives (Holroyd et al., 1997;Nahas & Amashen, 1999).

For example, in Guatemala, a traditional midwife visits the mother every day or two, for up to 2 weeks after birth, to check the baby’s cord, to massage the mother, and to wash the families’ clothes and linens, so that the new mother may rest (Lang & Elkin, 1997).

Chinese women believe rest is essential after birth. During the customary 30-day postpartum confinement, female relatives or live-in helpers perform household activities for the new mother (Holroyd et al., 1997). The new mother must be confined to her home during a 30-day postpartum period and must perform a variety of avoidance rituals (Holroyd, Katie, Chun, & Ha, 1997).

In India, postpartum confinement typically lasts up to 40 days. This seclusion is to protect the new mother and her infant not only from evil spirits, but also from exposure to illness, because both are considered to be in a vulnerable state after birth (American Public Health Association, 2001).

In the Middle East, resting 40 days after having a baby is customary in Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, and Palestine (Nahas & Amashen, 1999;Nahas et al., 1999). During this 40-day period, someone comes to the house or stays with the new mother to take care of the baby, the house, and the other children, so that “all new mothers have to do is rest” (Nahas & Amashen, 1999, p. 42).

Very interesting.  Kinda makes me want to move to a different country.  I would be very interested to know how the rate of PPD in those countries/cultures compares to the rate of PPD in western culture.  It seems that other countries maybe have more reverence for the profound changes a woman goes through after giving birth, and a deeper respect for what she and her new baby need.  Here in the U.S., it seems that overall, we expect women to get over it and bounce back very quickly – and we’re more interested in treating PPD than taking measures to prevent it.  Even being in the throes of postpartum-ness myself, I’m still a product of western culture: I want to feel like my old self NOW, and accepting help is very, very difficult for me; I hate being needy.

I’m riding a lot of ups and downs right now.  I’m actually not sleep-deprived; I get a decent amount of sleep at night because Scarlett sleeps next to me, so I barely have to wake up to nurse her.  The tiredness is more from being physically and emotionally drained every day trying to meet the needs of seven kids, take care of the house, etc., and then the resulting guilt for knowing I’m short-changing everyone.  I might spend a good part of the day feeling okay, feeling like maybe I’m getting a handle on things, and then it can all unravel very quickly when, say, the baby wants to be held, and while I’m holding her, Finn pitches a fit, so I ease the baby down in the bassinet to go to Finn, only to have the baby start crying as soon as I put her down – and that cycle might go on for a solid hour or more.  Or, I might dissolve into tears when Michael takes the kids out and I get the baby down to sleep and suddenly I’m left with peace and quiet that I don’t know what to do with.  Or my 15-year old might leave for a four-day camping trip and I might find that I’m really going to miss him.

I’ve been thinking about things that would help me feel better overall, in no particular order:

  • If my kids would be just a smidge (okay, A LOT) more cooperative and well-behaved.
  • Walking.  I really need to start walking again – I think the fresh air and exercise and endorphins would do me a world of good.  I’m going to shoot for starting next week, just short walks and working my way back up to the 2 – 3 mile walks I was doing before I got pregnant.
  • More time with Michael.  I miss us time.

Boy, a baby sure can throw a monkey wrench into things, huh?

Baby Blues vs. Postpartum Depression

Several people have expressed concern that I may be suffering from PPD.  No, no, I’ve said – I’ve experienced PPD before and that’s not what I’m dealing with now.  When I had it before – after Kevin was born, and after Joey was born – it was truly like I was weighed down by a black cloud.  Although I never had any issues bonding with my babies, I was profoundly sad.  I had no appetite and had to force myself to eat a little something a few times a day so I could nurse the baby.  I would sit with the baby in the rocking chair and stare into space for long periods of time, thinking about all the terrible things that could befall him, and I would cry and cry.

 Yes, I’m feeling less than sunshiny.  Yes, I cry easily.  Yes, my temper is short.  But given the circumstances, I’d say that what I’m feeling is to be expected.

To reassure myself, I decided to do a little research.  What I found was that, pretty much across the board, the experts say that if a mom isn’t feeling mostly like her old self within two weeks (two weeks!) of giving birth, it’s most likely PPD and not just the baby blues.

This news, of course, left me in tears.  Scarlett is two and a half weeks old, and I’m still feeling low.

But the truth is – at the risk of coming off like someone in denial – I’m still not convinced that what I have is bona fide PPD.

I probably don’t have much standing to argue with the experts, but two weeks seems like very little time for a mom to get back to her old self, emotionally speaking.  She’s still bleeding, she’s still adjusting to a massive hormone shift, it’s doubtful that she’s well-rested (especially if she’s got other kids besides the new baby to care for), she’s likely still trying to figure out her newborn and get into a groove – in short, she’s still adjusting.  It’s a huge adjustment, by the way – even for a seventh-time mom.

There are so many things I’m dealing with.  At the top of list are some serious behavior/discipline issues with the older kids – mostly the twins and Finn.  Finn is prone to awful tantrums lately – he will scream his head off when he’s unhappy about something (and he’s very often unable to communicate what it is he’s unhappy about, but sometimes it’s as simple as being told “no” to a snack or TV time).  Daisy – who is highly emotional to begin with – has become almost incessantly whiny and complainy and screechy.  And Annabelle . . . Annabelle.  Naughty Annabelle is driving me to drink with her antics.  Coloring on the outside of the house with crayons.  Digging in the outside garbage cans for god knows what.  And the hair-pulling.  More on that in a separate post, but it’s worse than it’s ever been, and it’s breaking my heart.

Here I am, alone, with seven kids.  SEVEN!  My hat is seriously off to all those other moms of large families who seem to hold it all together so easily, and with smiles on their faces.  I’m not one of them.  I feel like I am barely hanging on with my fingernails.

I’m overwhelmed.  I thought it was going to be a real positive for Scarlett to be born during summer break, when we had no schedule to adhere to, when the long, lazy days would make it easier to handle a newborn.  In reality, I think the lack of routine is causing everyone to run amok, and I feel like I’ve lost control over all the kids – and with that comes a whole lotta guilt.  “You’re failing,” this little voice keeps chanting at me.

I miss being pregnant.  This is a feeling I’ve struggled with after every single one of my babies has been born.  It’s not that I don’t adore the baby, I just miss that magical time full of anticipation, when it’s all still in front of me, when the baby is all snug and cozy inside, and with me all the time – not crying, not demanding, just along for the ride – all mine, not something I have to hand over and share with everyone.  And this last pregnancy, especially, perhaps.  It was a bonus, so out of the blue, and so unexpectedly wonderful – I felt like Wonder Woman: who would have thought that a 44-year old woman could have such a positive, easy pregnancy?  Now, I just feel old and frumpy and drained.

I miss my midwife.  The thing about home birth and that sort of midwifery care is you spend all those months in this very personal, intimate relationship – and then the baby is born, and poof, she’s gone.  Onto other clients, other births, other stories.  And I’m left sitting here, grappling with the end of something.  It’s a sort of loss, and I’ve always felt it keenly.

All this to argue the fact that I may or may not have PPD.  I don’t know if I do or not.  I feel like, regardless of what the articles say, it’s still too soon to say.  Give a girl a chance to catch her breath!

This is part of the path I’m on, and hopefully, it’s just a relatively short detour.

Scarlett and Me

Scarlett had her first well-baby visit with our pediatrician today.  When we arrived, the receptionist handed me a card from Diana, one of the nurses.  The entire staff has been there as long as I can remember (we’ve been with the same pediatrician since Kevin was born 15+ years ago), and Diana is the first nurse there I ever encountered – way back when Kevin was a tiny newborn and I had to take him in for jaundice.  For some reason, she’s taken a special liking to us, and every time I’ve announced another pregnancy, she’s just been thrilled for us.  I still remember when we took Finn in for his first well visit after he was released from the hospital, and how I cried and cried over his diagnosis and everything he had already been through in his brief life, and she just put her arms around me and let me cry and told me everything was going to be okay.

Anyway, so I opened this card today, and inside she had written a very heartfelt note congratulating us on the birth of another baby, and she had included a $50 gift card to buy something for Scarlett.  I was speechless.  Have you ever heard of such a thing?  It was incredibly touching.

So, back in the exam room, I stripped Scarlett down to her diaper for her first weigh-in.  Let me just say that she nurses about every hour and a half to two hours around the clock, so I was expecting to see her tip the scales at approaching 8 pounds (she was  7 lbs. 5 oz. and 20 inches at birth).  I was sort of taken aback when the scale said she weighs 7 pounds even, and she was measured at (still) 20 inches.  In fact, I almost started crying.  How can it be that at two weeks old, she’s not even back up to her birth weight?

This all hearkens back to the feeding difficulties Finn had and how I agonized over every fraction of an ounce he gained or lost in the first few months of his life.  I’m not saying that Scarlett has feeding difficulties – she nurses like a pro, and has from right after her birth, as far as I can tell – but this lack of weight gain was like a flashback for me today, and it kind of threw me for a loop.  I don’t want to obsess over it, or make more of it than necessary, but  . . . I don’t understand it.  The pediatrician isn’t concerned about it (although he does want me to bring her back for a weight check in a couple weeks), and I even called Sue, my midwife, and she’s not concerned either (although she said she’d come over in the next few days and weigh Scarlett on her scale so we can get a real comparison to her birth weight).

What am I afraid of?  I’m trying to figure that out.  I guess just health issues in general.  I guess, also, I’m afraid that for whatever reason she’ll prove to be a poor gainer, and the doctor will send me home with formula next time like he did with Finn, only this time I don’t have a freezer full of expressed breast milk to supplement with instead of formula.

I’m borrowing trouble, aren’t I?

Sigh.

Aside from the weight/growth issue (which I shouldn’t be concerned about, right?), Scarlett seems to be doing just fine.  She’s still crabby a lot of the time – and let me tell you: this tiny little lady can bring the house down with her screaming – but she appears to be healthy, just feisty.

As for me . . . I’m hanging in there.  Some days are better than others.  I’m still trying to come out of the fog of postpartum-ness (maybe 2 weeks is rushing it), and I very much still feel a little alien to the outside world right now, if that makes sense.  As corny as this may sound, I feel like Michael is the only person in the world who gets me right now, and so he’s the only one I really want to be around right now.  I still break down crying out of nowhere – not all the time, but here and there.  I think it’s safe to say that I have the baby blues – partly hormonal, and partly just feeling very overwhelmed at times – not necessarily by Scarlett and her needs, but by the other kids and their needs and demands and not minding, on top of Scarlett and her needs.  I’m on the lookout for PPD, as I’ve had it before, but I don’t think that’s what I’m dealing with currently.

Anyway, baby’s crying.

A Week and a Day Later

The weeks immediately following the birth of each of my babies has always been a struggle for me.  I walk around in a foggy, altered state, trying to figure out this new existence.  It’s confusing and frustrating – physically no longer pregnant but not back to what I once was either, and emotionally all over the place.  In the beginning, there’s euphoria . . . and as the days go on, the blues always set in to some degree.  My hormones are wreaking havoc on me; the night sweats, the tears out of nowhere, the pining for a pregnancy that no longer is – pining because the realization hits, once again, that caring for a baby while it’s inside is much easier than when it’s outside.  There’s a sense of letdown after spending all those months in excited anticipation – and now it’s over and here I am with a baby who cries almost all the time, and six other kids who are being largely neglected by me because I’m tied to the rocking chair with the baby for hours at a stretch.

I’m trying to figure Scarlett out.  Does she prefer to be swaddled tight, as I thought at first, or not so much?  She’s one of those babies – so far, anyway – who doesn’t want to be put down.  Wearing her in a sling would solve some of this, of course, but the sciatic pain I developed over the last few weeks of pregnancy has only gotten worse since she was born.  So I pop ibuprofen and sit against a heating pad as much as I can, and hobble around the rest of the time.  She hates being in her carseat, and the couple of times Michael and I have ventured out with her to run errands, she’s screamed the entire time.

My blood pressure has been screwy still, too.  The first couple of days following Scarlett’s birth, it dropped so low that I constantly felt woozy and on the verge of fainting.  I lowered the dosage (I had started taking a higher dosage towards the end of my pregnancy), and it would go down for a few hours and then shoot back up pretty high.  I tried all the things my midwife suggested, but in the end I finally called my doctor and explained the situation to him and he prescribed an additional medication to take with the one I’m already taking.  Both are deemed safe to take while nursing, but both do pass into breastmilk, and I hate it that Scarlett is getting any of it, but I have to do what I can to stay healthy, too, right?  Ahh, the dilemmas and guilt of a nursing mother with a chronic condition.

Michael goes back to work tomorrow.  He’s been off this past week – or, I should say home, but working from home every day – but tomorrow he has to go back to the office.  I dread it.  I don’t know how I’m going to cope.  Although he’s been working from home, it’s still been nice to have another set of hands here to deal with the other kids.  Plus, he’s really the only one who understands my tears and mood swings.  Friends have stopped by, to bring meals and to see the new baby, and as grateful as I am for these things, there’s a feeling of having to be “on” for other people, which I just don’t have the energy for right now.

Anyway, I’ll adjust, we’ll all adjust, I know we will.  It’s a tough time right now; it’s a little overwhelming.