Because lately I live in the state of Distraction. Don’t get me wrong. I have my days – days where the sun shines through and the stars align and the cosmos smile down on me and I sit the baby up on the bed and he plays and we “talk” while I hang clean laundry, still warm, in my closet. Then, as he gets fussy and I’m finishing up, I sing to him. A hymn, no less, which calms us both. Then, I dress him for church and feed him. And he goes down for a nap while I shower and he wakes up just as I’m finishing getting ready and M arrives home from his meeting and we’re only 2 minutes late to church. And later in the day, we take a family nap in our bed. Then I make dinner and we have good conversation. And it’s wonderful.
Then there are the same days where everything turns on its head and I get to bed too late and can’t sleep (darn that nap!) and then the baby wakes up eleventy times and when I finally get to sleep, M wakes me up and asks me to check on the baby because he thought he heard snarfling noises and I huff and I puff because I justgottosleep! and I’vealreadybeenupalot! and I throw back the sheet fiercely to show I’m mad and it turns out the baby isn’t suffocating so I go back to sleep, then wake up again in the wee hours because the baby’s awake again and I finally surrender to the fact that Monday will just be a day of exhaustion, and there will be take out for dinner and I will most certainly try to get to bed earlier.
I am one of 5 new moms in my ward. I am the oldest. I am the one who jokes that I wear glasses because the bottom rim hides the bags under my eyes. I feel like the only one of the 5 of us who is constantly tired, since the others all seem to have recovered from labor and childbirth and transition to new mommyhood really well.
My labor was not as traumatic as it sounds in the retelling of it. Still, it took its toll on me. I was worn out for a full 3 weeks afterward, I was sore for at least 8 weeks, and I stayed home from everywhere but the occasional lunch date for the first 12 weeks. The most recent new mommy made her postpartum appearance at 6 weeks, seemingly unzombified and unfazed. Then there’s the new mommy of an 11-week old who, when I showed up to visit one recent afternoon, had a spotless house and a folded up treadmill she had just used and the very sight of it made me want to fall onto her vacuumed floor and sob.
So, on my worst, utterly exhausted, hanging by a thread days, I start to wonder. Is age a factor here? Does the fact that I’m 5-10 years older than these girls play a role? Or is it just me? (Silently in my head, I plead: Please let it be my age and not an inherent character flaw.)
And before you say it, let me just tell you: I know I shouldn’t be comparing myself to others. I know. It’s just disturbing me that I’m almost 6 months into this gig and I’m tired all. the. time. I could enumerate the mitigating Whys: I work full time, I’m helping hub through grad school. . . wait, that’s it? (Oy.)
Either way, survey says I’m 33. 2010 will make me 34. I’ve begun to have the most grave doubts about my ability to carry, deliver, and mother more than 2 children, even if Time were not a factor. Which is why I’m sort of glad my ticking clock is winding down with no reset button in sight. There’s a sort of relief about the thought of only having to do this one more time.
In the meantime, if one of my fellow new mommies (and maybe a few of the “old” ones) would come up to me and say, in a low, conspiring voice, “am I the only one here that’s always exhausted?” I would feel SO much better. Still tired. But better.
Before I was pregnant, I made much ado about labor. It freaked me the freak out! Then I actually became pregnant and became much more zen about it. Not completely, mind you. Just more.
Had I written a birth plan in those days, given all my reading and research, it would have demanded natural start of labor, laboring at home for as long as possible, no medications, no IVs or IV fluids, ability to move around and walk as desired, freedom to labor in a shower or tub, the ability to eat and drink something, no unnecessary medical interventions, adequate private time for my husband and I to make decisions if circumstances changed, the use of a birth ball, being able to labor in any position I wanted, no episiotomy, no cesaerean, immediate skin to skin contact with the baby, allowing the cord to stop pulsing before being clamped and cut, no tugging or pulling on the placenta to “help things along”, the introduction of breastfeeding as soon after birth as possible, complete rooming in of the baby, and absolutely no bottles or pacifiers.
But, the more pregnant I got, the more I read, the more I trusted my doctor, the more zen I became about all of it. I decided to do my best, to let things play out as they would, and to just go with it, relying on my knowledge to help me make good decisions along the way.
So, what I got was natural introduction of labor, laboring at home for as long as possible, immediate placement of IV, inability to move or walk because of magnesium for high blood pressure, restriction to IV fluids and ice chips only, pitocin to kick my labor in the pants and get it going again, a sick husband incapable of helping me make decisions, laboring in bed on my back and sides, (finally!) a birth ball, back labor, an epidural, more pitocin, no episiotomy, vaginal birth, a floppy baby who could not do skin to skin because the cord was wrapped x3 around his neck, near immediate cutting of the cord to get floppy baby some help, some tugging and pulling of the placenta due to hemorrhaging, a curettage due to retained placenta causing the hemorrhaging, a baby who needed bottle feeding due to low blood sugar, who wouldn’t breastfeed, and who was sent to the nursery so his mom could try and recover some much needed sleep.
I don’t know about all women, but labor and delivery really took its toll on me. I tolerated it well in terms of experience, but not in terms of how utterly tired I was afterward. Maybe it is age. Maybe it is that the totality of the experience was more harrowing than I realize. I don’t know. (I do know it was nice to have my doc play policeman and mandate that no visitors were allowed until I went home. I really needed that!)
I wouldn’t change much about what I did have control over. (Technically, I suppose I could have kicked and screamed and denied the magnesium, which was the proverbial fork in Labor Road, but really who wants to be that PITA?) I’m really proud of making it as long as I did without an epidural given the circumstances. I labored at home for almost 6 hours, then labored at the hospital until I was 8cm before getting an epidural. Above all, I took time to make decisions.
Although not in my original “plan”, I trusted my doctor’s advice and went ahead and got an IV and was started on fluids when I was admitted (which made getting an epidural very quick), and got the magnesium which meant I had to have pitocin, which ultimately led to my getting an epidural, but I was sure glad to have an epidural when my doc had to do a curettage and stitch up my 3rd degree tears. It all worked out just like it was supposed to, and while not technically a “natural” birth, it followed a naturally logistical process that worked for me.
I think that’s the point. Every woman, every pregnancy, every birth is different. And as much as women feel strongly about their own birth experience (though, for the life of me, I can’t understand why some are so vehement about all of it), telling someone else what type of birth they should have is like telling them to go out next week and win the lottery. There are just too many variables involved to set that kind of expectation of yourself, much less of others.
(Even so, when I have #2, the only thing I want to do differently is try and get more sleep during the early stages of labor. And I have forbidden my husband from getting sick next time.)
If solicited, my advice would be to not be afraid. And to go into it with as much knowledge as possible so you can make good decisions. And not to get hung up on a “plan”.
When it comes down to it, none of us can do very much about much of anything once we’re on the pregnancy train. We may get on when we want, but when and where and how we get off is not entirely up to us – no matter how many constraints we women want to put on that process. Still, the final destination, the good ol’ Town of Motherhood, is the same no matter what.
I was looking up something totally unrelated the other day about breastfeeding and happened on the answer to the Great Deflate (prolactin levels decrease as a breastfeeding mother's body finally figures out what is needed for production, so breasts feel less firm and full, but it has no effect on milk supply.)
I also found out that pumping exclusively can be really hard or nearly impossible for some women.
Other than the extra time and inconvenience involved, it wasn't that difficult for me. In truth, though, I was so eager to get him off of formula, I never considered whether it would be hard to pump exclusively. I just forged ahead and did it. I'm relieved I never knew about potential roadblocks before I started.
Even so, I am glad I found some helpful resources along the way.
Like this one about exclusively pumping. Or this pdf about how to establish a milk supply or wean while pumping. Or the site about, well, everything else you might want to know about breastfeeding.