Big picture-wise, it turns out I wasn’t terribly delusional about what having a new baby in the house would be like. By and large, it’s been how I envisioned the experience to be – for better and for worse – just fleshed out in vivid colour and detail.
But as always, it’s the little things that sneak up on you.
The bleeding. Again, with the bleeding to lead off a post. After nine months of missed periods, your body makes up for it with the heaviest, longest period of your life. Asshole. Yup, even if you delivered via c-section you will still have to shed blood, mucous and uterine lining. A delightful trifecta called lochia because everything pertaining to your body, pregnancy and childbirth has to be the grossest sounding word possible – and it lasts for 4-6 weeks. It’s actually shocking how much you bleed at first. Sort of a steady stream with the occasional gush (especially when you nurse or when you get up after sitting or lying down for a while). Oh! And clots! Mustn’t forget those. Isn’t this a pretty and poetic post?
the afterpains. Turns out, contractions don’t end just because labour is over. Your uterus still has to shrink back down to its pre-baby size and does so by continuing to contract for 10 days to two weeks. Personally, I only noticed it for the first week or so, again, particularly when I was nursing. It’s weird – and almost a little bit triggering – to feel like the
nightmare most beautiful experience of your life is starting all over again.
The tranquilizer dart effect. everybody warned me (with regards to breastfeeding) about being crazy thirsty and to arm myself with a giant water bottle. This has been true, I drink an unreal amount of ice water out of a spill-proof adult-sized sippy cup now, but it’s the insta-NyQuil effect that caught me off guard. I just realized that it doesn’t really happen any more, but for the first couple of weeks I’d be nodding off like a junkie the instant the baby latched on.
the adrenaline rush. I’m here to tell you that “sleep when the baby sleeps” is the biggest crock of shit ever. It may be good advice, but it’s not realistic. Not that I wasn’t tired, I was fucking exhausted a lot of the time, but I wasn’t sleepy. I was absolutely wired. For like, a solid week, I couldn’t slow my brain or my body down. There are scab-covered meth users taking apart old VCRs who are more chilled out than I was. There was CONSTANTLY something I needed or wanted to be doing for the baby, around the house, or for myself. I had to keep consciously telling myself, “you just had surgery” and it still didn’t stop me from cleaning my house.
And the truth is, in the twenty minute intervals when you’re not looking after baby or doing chores, sometimes you just want to have a bath, text a friend or browse Instagram to feel human and connected to the outside world instead of taking a pointlessly short nap. At one point I read a list of postpartum psychosis warnings signs and “feeling no need for sleep” was on there…as you can imagine, that really helped calm me down.
the crying hour. This refers to the hour of day at which I would spontaneously (but predictably) cry – not to crying for a whole hour. Because that would be crazy, obvs. This was quick and dirty…clock strikes 9 pm, bawl for 10 minutes, done. Like actual clockwork. And it wasn’t out of sadness or even frustration (though I did that too at times) this was just a sheer overflowing of emotion that needed to be released through the old eyeball valves. I would just look at Sloane and suddenly couldn’t stand how beautiful she was. The one thought I had over and over was, “nobody deserves something so nice.” It sounds so dumb now, and certainly not very poignant, but it was all I had.
the insatiable hunger. I have never been hungrier in my life than I was in the week after having a baby. Granted, in my case I had gone through something like a 24 hour fast followed by a couple days of barely eating. And breastfeeding makes you ravenous on top of all that. The first few nights we had her at home I was up multiple times in the middle of the night shoving whatever was handy in my mouth. Entire cans of Pringles were consumed in bed. I ate things like chocolate croissants (note the plural) and hot chocolate with whipped cream for breakfast. And I didn’t feel one tiny bit bad for it either.
the other craving. The same hormone that starts your contractions and gets your milk flowing also helps you bond to your baby. That oxytocin is a multitasking motherfucker. It not only helps you feel attached to – and in love with – your baby, but it also creates intense desire for further contact…effectively causing you to become addicted to your baby. I had heard this, but of course didn’t really get it until she was born and I found that I physically craved holding her. I would also smell her – like, really smell her – taking giant whiffs of her head.
I recently read Amy Poehler’s “Yes Please” and there’s a part where she says of her two boys, “I swear, if I could eat my children, I would. I’d consume them like some beast in a Hieronymus Bosch painting, but in a friendlier, more momlike way. Their little bodies make me salivate. It takes everything I have not to swallow them whole.”
That about sums it up.
Even when I was near my baby constantly, if she was in her stroller or car seat, after a while I would need to touch and cuddle her body-to-body to satisfy the urge. Doing so felt strikingly similar to the sensation of something like lighting up a cigarette after a long plane ride. One night, when I had gone for an actual nap and left Sloane and Andrew downstairs, I woke up and called down the stairs that I was awake and ready for him to bring her up to me. I went back to the bed, and in the (maybe) 5 whole minutes it took them to come upstairs I lost my mind. What was taking them so long?! I need my baby…Right. Now. By the time they got to me I had tears streaming down my face and could barely choke out, “I just missed you guys so much”. It’s crazy town. Of course, it was also around 9pm ish…