… has been so pleasant lately. Have a listen.
Multiply that by 45 minutes.
It’s why meal times are an absolute eternity right now.
Sweet Lord, give me strength.
… has been so pleasant lately. Have a listen.
Multiply that by 45 minutes.
It’s why meal times are an absolute eternity right now.
Sweet Lord, give me strength.
In that last mile, my body remembers Birth
The opening, the stretching
The pain, the power
An explosion of endorphins
Water pouring over flame
I remember Birth’s great paradox,
that very first thought with a newborn in arms,
How can so much Destruction
bring about such Flawlessness?
In that last mile, I am part Khaleesi
Circle of Fire
Bearer of Blood
Someone who burns, but is not consumed
Someone who turns nothing, into something
I remember with my body
I am the Sex that brings Life into this world,
And this is Holy to those who understand
In that last mile, I am part Mhysa
I am more than Self
Connected to all the Souls who came before me
and all those who will come after me
Life after Life after Life
Link in the Great Chain
Those whom I will never know
Will never see
Will never touch
But in this space
As my feet slow against the earth
They are here with me
In my breath
In my blood
In my heart
And this is Holy to those who understand
This part of my life could be called “Following.”
When I’m not following this tiny human around and making sure he doesn’t kill himself via stairs or light sockets or small items lodged in the throat, I’m feeding him.
Actually, a lot of the weekend is spent just feeding him. (Thank God the older one reminds me when she’s hungry. I can’t keep both of them straight.)
Offering handheld foods.
Mixing and mashing food.
Haphazard attempts at letting him feed himself
Spooning food into his mouth as he lowers his chin, head turned 90 degrees as he stares off into the unknown…
And I just think, Me too, sir. Me too.
When I’m not orbiting him around the house, he’s orbiting me in the playroom.
Because in a room of 5,000 toys, the most fun thing to play with is always, always, always Mom. Mom’s hair. Mom’s clothes. Mom’s coffee cup. Mom’s blanket that is so nicely arranged on her legs. No matter how many times I try to distract him with other things, he always comes back to me.
Over and over again, we are pulled toward each other, by the simple fact that we are existing in the same space. Either I am following him or he is climbing all over me.
And as I’m sitting on the floor of the playroom, moving my cup of coffee from left to right to left while he climbs over my legs from left to right to left…
I flip open the newest issue of National Geographic on my lap. And for a moment, both of us stare together at an illustrated image of our galaxy as it unfolds in full panorama from the magazine’s pages.
There we are, that tiny speck of a solar system in the Sagittarius Arm
A collection of stars orbiting each other, spinning by the force of their own gravity between each other
And I read about the fact that not only is Earth uniquely situated within our solar system to foster the conditions for life, it’s also situated well within the galaxy
And that our solar system exists in a relatively asteroid-and-space-junk free area of the galaxy
And that the sun actually repels harmful cosmic radiation that would kill us
There we are, so vulnerable and exposed, whether by design or by happenstance, protected from complete annihilation (for the foreseeable future, at least?)
There we are, in that great cosmic swirl around the mysterious, hotter-than-hell core of our galaxy
There we are, the tiniest of tiny of tiny in a universe of unfathomable vastness.
And I just think,
It all started just one year ago.
February 2, 2017, 1:27 p.m.
I may have said something cute today like, “Where has the time gone?”
But quite honestly, I think we felt every bit of the last 364 days. Between typical newborn stuff, the milk allergy, all that teething, several iterations of Cry-It-Out, several rounds of colds, and one wicked spell of diarrhea, I’m relieved to know that the worst is probably behind us. (Knock on wood.)
From the moment he came home with us, it has felt like our lives have accelerated twofold. No more stopping. It’s more like, Rest, while you move.
A few days ago, when Henry was losing his mind because I put him down and turned away, I asked Doug, “You sure you don’t want another one?”
So happy birthday and thank you for being my Last Little One.
A lot happens in the last twenty minutes before bedtime.
Over the past year, my blog post about my changing heart rate throughout pregnancy and the resulting increase in total calories burned per day has become the most heavily trafficked blog post on this site.
So I figured I’d tackle postpartum sleep loss next.
Because, guys, postpartum sleep deprivation is no joke. (Except when it is.)
So, here we go.
I gave birth on February 2nd. You can see that in my last days of the pregnancy, I was sleeping around 6 or 7 hours at night (not pictured: the six or seven times that I had to get up each night to pee). I was also taking a nap in the afternoon since my daughter was in daycare and I was wasting my maternity leave by being way beyond my due date. (That wasn’t really part of the plan… But hey.)
Note: Dates are in descending order. That’s the only way FitBit will let me view the data.
The last time that I had some solid sleep before giving birth was Wednesday, February 1st. That night, I finally went into labor around midnight (at 41 weeks, 4 days).
It looks like the next time that I slept was on the day that I gave birth.
Do not be fooled. I was completely incapacitated after giving birth and losing 1200 ccs of blood. The same is true of February 3rd. I was lying in a hospital bed, trying to recover, but not really sleeping.
The next time that I actually fell into a light sleep (definitely not REM or a deep sleep) was February 4th.
That’s a full 72 hours without sleep.
Believe it or not, this was an improvement from my first birth, when I went about 96 hours without falling into at least a light sleep. (Wednesday, August 14th, 6:00 a.m. to the night of Saturday, August 17th)
Even with having the help of my husband and mother, on most days during that first week postpartum, I was getting about 5 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period, but only in frustrating 1-hour increments.
There were plenty of times during the day when I could have let my mother do the feedings and caught up on sleep.
But honestly, during that first week, I just couldn’t fully power down. I can’t pinpoint one reason. Was it my fluctuating hormones? Was it racing thoughts? Was the stress of recovering and adjusting to life with a second child?
Sure. It was all of these things. It was probably also the additional stress of feeling like, Oh my God, why aren’t you sleeping! Everyone has everything taken care of! Use your time wisely!
Not the most restful thoughts you can have.
So I was exhausted. I hurt everywhere. The afterbirth cramps were intense. I was still bleeding a lot. Breastfeeding was (once again) complete hell and I was dealing with the emotions of stopping completely. The baby was eating every 2 hours and we were figuring out that, just like his sister, he was allergic to dairy. The house was in disorder. The other child was feeling left out. My husband was trying to keep the ship running.
And every night, from midnight to 6:00 a.m., it was just me and the baby. Although it was emotional and beautiful in its own right, it was also incredibly exhausting.
This is when intense sleep deprivation began to take hold. Not only was I unable to sleep because the baby was eating all the time, but my body began to realize that it had lost its placenta (no more all-is-right-and-good-in-the-world levels of progesterone for me anymore).
This week, by far, was the absolute worst for me.
Some things you cannot do when you’re getting this little sleep:
At the end of this week, my mom (who had mercifully been staying with us after the delivery) returned home. My husband and I looked at each other like, What now? How are we going to get some sleep and not lose our minds?
We made a compromise.
We decided that my husband would take the evening feedings that happened before midnight. I would get the feedings after midnight. I would try my damnedest to get some sleep before my first night feeding. In addition, on the weekends, my husband would take all of the night feedings so I could get some restorative sleep.
And because he was extra awesome, he allowed me to tag him in when I told him that I was seriously losing my mind. Because, quite honestly, sleeping like this is simply unsustainable for weeks on end.
Things you still should not do when you’re sleeping like this:
By some miracle, our baby started to shift towards only two night feedings by this point, leaving me responsible for just one feeding since my husband took the other one. This is not a common occurrence, so if it happens for you, just express your undying gratitude to the Universe. Seriously.
By this point, I had mostly recovered from the pain of childbirth and postpartum blood loss. I had more energy and was able to independently take care of household responsibilities like dishes, cooking, laundry, and vacuuming.
This dramatically improved my mood. I mean, obviously, right?
If you’re getting this much sleep, driving might be possible, but honestly, it’s really best to only drive if you’re getting at least six hours of sleep every night.
After about one month after birth, we started to find our rhythm with taking care of the house, the new baby, and the preschooler. We were still doing night feedings, but they were becoming more manageable.
I need to emphasize at this point that my increase in sleep by four weeks postpartum is a direct reflection of my husband’s willingness and ability to step into his role as an equal caretaker. Without his help, I would still be getting minimal sleep by this point.
So hats off to you, Doug. You kept me from losing my mind.
Okay, first, if you’re trying to make friends with other new parents, don’t ask this question.
But I’m game for it. So…
“Sleeping through the night” was a process for us. Our baby slept ten hours in a row for the first time when he was two months old.
… it was just a one-night reprise from the continuing pattern of night feedings that stretched on well past four months. At five months, he started to want to put himself to sleep. No more rocking or holding him while he got drowsy. Odd, but I acquiesced.
By six months, his eating schedule got all screwy and he started to develop a middle of the night feeding again. And we had had enough of it. He was a huge baby. There was clearly no need for him to be eating in the middle of the night. He was healthy. He wasn’t teething. Coupled with the crushing reality that things were not going to resolve by themselves, we made the decision:
It was time to Cry It Out.
It took three nights, but it was the best decision we made. Hands down. He dropped the night feeding and learned to tank up in his first and last feedings of the day. No one was worse the wear.
Here is what my average number of hours of sleep looked like from February 2017 to December 2017 looked like in summary, with some annotations to help make sense of what you’re seeing.
Keep in mind a few things:
1.) I had lots of help.
2.) I had a pretty long maternity leave (at least compared to most women in the U.S.)
3.) I did not breastfeed.
4.) I committed myself to working out in the morning because it improved my mental and emotional state. This meant that I would get up at 4:30 a.m. on most mornings to exercise before the kids woke up and before I had to get ready for work. Yeah, it was hard, but it made me feel so much better. So I made adjustments to help commit to this goal, like going to bed way early (like 8 p.m.)
5.) There were plenty of bouts of illness, teething, and unexplained fussy nights that were peppered throughout the year.
6.) Our baby did not have acid reflux or prolonged colicky periods or other conditions that made him unable to sleep for long periods of time. With the exception of the dairy allergy, he has been very healthy.
Postpartum sleep deprivation is real and it’s tough.
No way around it.
If you’re reading this while you’re pregnant with your first child, don’t despair. There are some things that you can do to prepare yourself for the realities that await you soon.
1.) Establish clear expectations about care-taking responsibilities with your partner.
Talk openly. Talk honestly. Agree that no one really wants to lose this much sleep, but damn it, you’re in this thing together. Tag each other in when you’re down for the count.
2.) Do not be too proud to ask for help.
You cannot do this alone. You will need help. And lots of it. You are not Superwoman and there is no glory in trying to be. Few, if any, will know of your struggles to simply get through the day. Every woman who has been through this understands the pain and exhaustion that you are experiencing. They are, quite often, thrilled to help.
3.) When it gets tough, remember that you’re not doing it wrong.
You’re not doing it wrong. It’s just plain hard. No one has an easy time of this, and any woman who says it was not that bad is airbrushing reality.
4.) Ask those who are close to you to let you know when they think you’re not okay.
Losing sleep can bring you to the edge of psychosis. If you go days and days without sleep, you will start to lose your grip on reality. And from your perspective, you may not realize that you’re not fine anymore. If you cannot achieve restorative sleep even when you are provided the opportunity, it is probably time to seek help from your medical provider.
5.) Buy ear plugs and a sleep mask. You’ll need them for daytime sleeping.
I mean… obviously.
Good luck on your postpartum journey, Friends.
It’s a crazy way to live and in the hard moments when your head is warm and fuzzy and everyone around you is so blissfully unaware of how LUCKY they are to have slept more than four hours last night… it feels like it will go on forever and you will forever be stuck in the vicious cycle of Never Enough Sleep.
But you won’t.
Please let me know how it’s going for you in the comments below.
I love writing.
But finding time to fully develop and organize a written blog post has proven to be… challenging.
Full-time work. Two kids. House. Life.
It usually takes me at least three or four hours to craft a post that I publish on this blog. And let’s be honest, I’m really stretched for finding that time.
But I really love writing.
So for 2018, I’m going to try a different format and reach beyond the written word.
The theme of the year is “Pieces of Parenthood.”
Each week, I’ll share a picture, a video, a sound file, or maybe just a short written post. The theme of these posts is to give the reader a glimpse into what parenthood looks like in this version of life that our family lives. Since these pieces of media will be curated, I’ll present them like an art exhibition.
Admission is free.
So, here we go.
Format: Digital picture
Feeding is a central theme in the care of infants. It is one of the three-pronged components of an infant’s life: feeding, peeing/pooing, sleeping. To feed a baby is to love a baby. My 11-month-old son is in the midst of transitioning to solid foods. As such, his primary caloric intakes comes from formula (soy-based, to respond to lactose intolerance). In addition, he eats three bowls of some kind of solid, blended food. In this photo, I capture the moment just before I mix together some baby oatmeal cereal with a blueberry/pear blend.
On his face, you can see the eagerness with which he reaches for his food and his recognition of the person who is offering the food.
I’ve recently been called “selfish” by one of my readers for having taken my child to daycare while he had diarrhea.
It’s a heavy, knife-twisting word for women.
There’s nothing worse than a selfish woman.
Except a selfish mother.
How dare I take my child to daycare while he had diarrhea?
I dared because there were three viruses going around in his classroom and every child had at least one of them. (And as you’ll find out later in this post–we got all of them). That’s what daycare centers are. They are veritable petri dishes of illness. Everyone who uses a daycare knows it. And none of us point fingers at each other saying, Ohhh… I’m so mad at you because your kid got my kid sick! That never happens. Ever.
I dared because I had already called the doctor and she told me that we were doing everything we could. The virus would just have to run its course. And this bug lasts about 5-7 days…
I dared because he didn’t have measles or rubella. He had diarrhea.
I dared because he was only having diarrhea when he ate, not continuously throughout the day.
I dared because his teachers said they would call me if he got worse. And because they’re an Amazing Sort of Awesome, they said, “Don’t worry. We can handle poop.”
I dared because every morning, I was up at 5:30, giving him baths and scrubbing poop off laundry before it could actually be washed another two or three times (And then I had to get another child ready.)
I dared because I had been up several times each night that week, changing vile, vile diapers, rocking him when he couldn’t go back to sleep, and then listening to his screams when I couldn’t calm him down.
I dared because I had to work. I didn’t have sick leave and I had to administer and grade final exams before the university’s deadline. (Not a task you can really hand over to a substitute.)
I dared because I was headed for a breakdown in my mental sanity.
That’s how I dared.
Thanks for asking.
What is it about motherhood that makes mothers so quick to point out what they perceive are another mother’s failings?
Honestly, how can you know the whole context of a situation when you’re outside of it?
And why is the word “selfish” just about the worst thing that you can call a mother?
As I sit here now thinking about that word, a knot is forming in my stomach and my heart is thumping.
Are you serious!?!?
Isn’t this reader right?
Aren’t I selfish for wanting someone else to take over some of the burden that both my husband and I had been dealing with all night long for days on end?
Yes. In fact, I was selfish.
Selfish in my need for self-preservation.
But should I be ashamed that I couldn’t handle all of this at the same time?
Should I be ashamed that I desperately wanted out of my life, if only for just those worst, most miserable days in the last few weeks?
After Henry’s diarrhea tapered off, a bad cold hit him–and, subsequently, all of us–hard. We were all plagued with it to varying degrees. Mine lived mostly in my throat and chest. For everyone else, it set up house in their noses.
And then came the Infamous Daycare Puking Bug.
Over last weekend, Henry went through it.
Doug got it.
When it hit me at 10:00 p.m. on Monday night, I was in denial at the first twinges of nausea.
Nope… Nope… That’s not what this is.
All night, I twisted and turned as the first ripples of nausea swelled into cresting ocean waves. At 1:00 a.m., I allowed myself to believe that, yes indeed…
It was happening to me.
I dreamed that instead of puking into the toilet, I puked in the shower.
When 6:00 a.m. came and Henry started crying, I pulled myself out of bed and held the walls as I walked down the hallway. From my toes to my shoulders, everything ached. All the way down into my bones, I ached. When I opened the door and smelled the poop, I turned around and told Doug that I couldn’t do it.
Unsure about what had happened the night before, I checked the bathroom. No puke.
Just unbelievable nausea.
I lay back down until Doug needed me. As I sank into the bed, I was certain that nothing had ever felt so good as to be lying there in the cool sheets, my head against the pillow. When he called for my help, I only did what was absolutely necessary.
I couldn’t hold the baby.
I couldn’t even hold the bags.
I put food in containers for the kids. I sent along extra clothes and bibs.
When they were mercifully gone, I ate six saltines and went back to bed.
I woke up at 12:45 and ate six more saltines.
Then I slept until 2.
Then I ate a banana.
And slept until I heard Henry crying.
I rolled over, blinking. The clock read 5:55. Morning or night? I wasn’t too sure.
It turned out to be night, so I helped put one child to bed.
Then I ate a bowl of cereal.
And went back to bed.
Was it selfish of me to send the kids to daycare while I stayed home sicker than I’ve been in two years?
Is it selfish of me to send my kids to daycare in this last week before Christmas even though I don’t have to teach, simply because we’re paying for it? Is it selfish that I crave this time to work on creative projects that have nothing to do with my kids or my work?
Yep. It sure is. I’m selfish.
You caught me.
But here’s the harder question: Should I be ashamed of being selfish?
I think this is where I disagree with my reader.
I don’t think I should be ashamed of taking time to care for myself–and it shouldn’t matter whether my needs are physical, emotional, or mental. It’s all important. This whole culture of “real parents are the ones who always put their kids first” is setting us up for rampant depression and divorce.
I love my kids, but, nope. They don’t always come first. Especially when I’m on the brink.
I care about having enough wherewithal to get through not only the days, but the weeks, the months, and the years.
So yeah, I’m selfish.
But I’m not going to feel badly about it this time.
Holy Mary, Mother of God…
I’m not Catholic, but this is what I feel like saying when I’ve opened my baby’s diaper lately.
Just… Dear God…
But that’s not where this story starts. No, this story starts way back in a more peaceful, almost utopian, moment in time called “Our Anniversary.”
It was a time of Hotel Bliss. A time of Sleeping In and Room Service. A time of Binge-Watching and Massages. There was even Sex!
Yes, we’ve been married for twelve years.
It was last Saturday afternoon. Snow softly fell outside of our swanky hotel room. We ate a delightful lunch, brought to us on trays and adorned with cloth napkins and adorable bottles of Heinz ketchup. And because I could, I ate that delightful lunch in my bathrobe.
We spend time hammering out several scripts for upcoming episodes for our YouTube channel. (Check it out here).
We talked about the future. Of possible Ph. D. programs and how old we’ll be when the kids graduate.
We talked about politics. Of just how many men in media and politics and business will fall from grace under the crashing wave of sexual harassment allegations. Of the possibility of a pedophile in our U.S. Senate. (Dodged that bullet. Thank God for small favors.)
And of course, we talked about our kids. They’re such good kids, aren’t they? We really lucked out. Felicity has such a big heart. And “my little man”… Oh, I can’t get enough of that face! (taking phone out) I just have to see that face one more time. Oh my God… He is so ridiculously cute. Mama loves you, Big Boy!
It was perfect.
When we arrived home on Sunday afternoon, the Conveyor Belt of Life from which we disembarked on Friday afternoon had accelerated from Challenging-But-Doable to All-Systems-Go.
We still needed to:
This is the point in the story when It All Goes to Shit.
As I was feeding Henry his 3:00 p.m. bottle, Diarrhea was engaged.
Okay. I knew this was coming. My mom (who was watching them while we were away) told me that he was having bad diapers since she picked them up at daycare on Friday (He had an explosion in the highchair… From shoulder blades to knees…)
But we were on vacation.
And Mom had it under control. And when Mom has things under control, everything is fine.
We would come home just as the diarrhea was going away.
Oh, sweet naive little Me.
Sunday evening was unpleasant, but we survived. I explained to Felicity that “the puking bug” that was going around daycare wasn’t something that was going to crawl into her food, like a spider.
“It’s a virus,” I tell her. “It’s a… a… really small germ that can get into your mouth and make you sick.”
Her new saying that she likes to apply to all contexts is, “Well, I was going to…”
So what she said was: “Well, I was not going to eat the puking bug.”
“Good idea,” I told her.
It was early Monday morning.
3:00 a.m. He was crying. A cry that said,
Harmph… What is wrong with me? I don’t like Life. Life blows. Argh… < asleep >
Wait… I still think Life blows… < asleep >
Arghhh! Isn’t anyone going to come help me? < asleep >
As I stared at the ceiling, I kept praying that he’d work it out. That he would eventually go back to sleep. I was going to get up to exercise at 4:30. At least, that was the plan.
I ended up holding him from 4:00 until 5:30 that morning as he softly protested, moaning and groaning, clearly fighting something.
We pulled through. We got them to daycare. We worked. I thought back longingly to the Anniversary Weekend. It felt like that had been months ago instead of the mere 24 hours that it had been. I listened to my co-workers talk about their lazy Sundays of Not Doing Much of Anything.
I was intensely jealous. But I kept it in check. You’re the one who wanted to have kids, my Evil Ego said. Then, there was my Good Ego, saying, Don’t freak out on people who don’t deserve it. This too shall pass.
That evening, the Conveyor Belt of Life kicked into Panic Mode.
We spent an hour just feeding and changing Henry’s diaper. Over and over again. Which doesn’t sound too bad until I tell you what is involved in that process.
Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Every single time that he poops.
It’s a vicious cycle of, Should I feed him? What should I feed him? He just calmed down. Should I really give him something else? I don’t want him to get dehydrated. But he needs protein. But is soy formula okay? Or not? How many days is this going to go on? Should I call the doctor?
Monday. Tuesday. Wednesday. Thursday.
A midnight cry that turns quickly into a scream.
It takes a moment to realize, but you do. It starts with unzipping the footed pajamas that you hoped would contain any leakage. (Wishful thinking.)
But it’s on his legs, his belly, even his torso. It’s all over his footed pajamas.
For the love of God, it‘s between his toes.
There’s poop everywhere.
On his sheet. On his blanket.
It’s the definition of Lovely.
Then the screams, the tears, the twisting full-planked baby, fighting your every move to stop you from removing all the shit that is literally everywhere.
It makes you frustrated that you can’t just do the Shitty Job that you have to do.
You have to do the Shitty Job while your ears bleed and you’re tired and you’re angry and you just want to go to sleep and your baby can’t say, Thank you. Hell, your baby isn’t even non-verbally saying thank you by just going to bed.
He’s going to scream way down into the Seventh Circle of Hell while you try to shush and rock and sway him to sleep. You try patting his back and butt the way your husband does (It works every time. He likes it that way.)
All to no avail.
So you leave your baby screaming in his crib, shut the door, and cry in the hallway.
Then, you call in your husband and pray that he’s able to get the baby back to sleep.
It makes you hate your baby.
It makes you sad that you just thought that you hate your baby.
It makes you feel like a failure.
But by the time morning comes, the night terror is a distant memory.
And covered in poop again. (Of course.)
With my hands under his armpits, I carry him at arm’s length directly to the bathtub.
And we try again.
Maybe this will be the last day of this Shit.