… 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,
Most days, I’m up at 4:15 and in bed by 7:30.
On Mondays, I “stay up” until 9:00 so I can have dinner with my friends for our weekly Monday Night Dinner.
I don’t have much of a social life anymore, beyond MND and the soul-cleansing Saturday breakfasts that happen at my house when our friends come over and help me remember a time in my life before children.
Lately, my “downtime” takes place during the commute and between 7:00 and 7:30 p.m. when the baby is finally asleep and I can get ready for bed **by myself.** Bonus if I’m able to read five or six pages of a book before I’m nodding off.
I’m not complaining that we have children. It’s a decision that we made with eyes wide open–and we took plenty of time to ourselves before we made that decision.
But it’s still hard.
We fight hard every day to discipline with purpose and meaning instead of flying off the handle. We fight hard to “balance” work and home life. I hate that word: balance. It always makes me think of that slowly moving two-sided scale that takes forever to equalize.
There’s no time to wait around for that kind of balance when you have two kids under the age of five. Somehow, their needs manage to vacuum all the bits of your time that you didn’t realize were squirreled away in your day.
You’re carving out 2.5 hours of your day to drive from work to daycare to pediatrician to daycare to work for a well-child visit, only to find out, actually he tested positive for RSV, so here’s a prescription for steroids and nebulizer treatments. Administer twice daily and four times daily, respectively. And he can’t go to daycare tomorrow, so figure that out. And come back next week for the 12-month shots. And also take him to a lab to have a blood screening done for lead exposure and iron deficiencies.
And then you’re behind at work because you took off half a day and when you return, you realize 10 minutes before class starts that, oh no, I have absolutely nothing planned for the second hour of class. But you’re a pro. You can wing it. As long as your boss doesn’t decide to drop in unannounced to review your teaching performance (true story several times over, but not recently). And no big deal, you can finalize those three final exams before their deadline in two days and create three more original tests because you really can’t reuse the same tests from the last two terms, while you’re grading the most recent writing assignment that you’ve collected and planning lessons for tomorrow and the day after that…
And then it’s Ash Wednesday, a day when you remember that dust we are and dust we shall return.
And 17 more kids die in a mass shooting at school.
And instead of feeling sorrow, which is a far, far more appropriate reaction, I feel exasperation.
Because HERE WE GO AGAIN.
Listening to the snippets of the unfolding story on NPR is all I can take. I stay the hell away from Facebook this time around. I simply cannot stand to read a feed filled with posts about pro-gun and anti-gun again.
As much as I am pro-common-sense-gun-control, I cannot stomach another round of posts and comments and threads with people so blatantly and carelessly disrespecting each other on a topic that we so desperately need to figure out.
Unh-uh. Not this time.
Because at the end of the day, what are we all working so hard for if we can’t even keep them safe when we send them to school?
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 woman’s best friend in pregnancy isn’t ice cream. Or pickles. Or brownies. Or whatever other non-sense popular media tells you.
No. Her best friend is stretchy pants.
And I was lucky enough to have two best friends.
They weren’t yoga pants.
They weren’t maternity pants.
They were actually Victoria’s Secret Pillowtalk Pajamas.
These pants were truly made of magic and grace. Magic, because they transformed from Smalls to Ex-Larges, right along with me. Grace, because they didn’t make me feel like any of these changes were inconvenient for them. They moved out of the way. They said, Oh, excuse me for not accommodating you more quickly. Here you go.
I wore them so much they frayed at the bottom hems.
I wore them mostly around the house.
I admit, I may have worn them to the gas station.
Maybe also Target.
I’m now about 8 pounds from my pre-pregnancy weight (which means I’m 37 pounds lighter than my last days of pregnancy. Woot.) One more inch off my hips and I’ll be back in my pre-pregnancy pants and a whole new section of my wardrobe opens back up.
When it’s all stacked and folded like this, it feels like a geological record of the last 21 months of my life.
So I say good-bye.
Good-bye to all the postpartum clothes that have served me in all the hard In-Between Phases of transformation.
All those months of looking in the mirror
and not seeing myself at all
and then not really seeing myself
and then not quite seeing myself
and then kind of seeing myself
seeing that first glimpse of the the version of me that I used to be
A lot happens in the last twenty minutes before bedtime.
Today’s installment of Pieces of Parenthood comes to you as a video mash-up.
Movement is physical. It’s maneuvering and taking first steps. It’s also traveling with objects and experimenting with how those objects may travel on their own.
Movement can also be abstract. Photos take us back to moments in history, which proves to be a challenging concept for the growing preschooler. Was that when you and daddy were born, she asked just before the video started.
Movement is also seen in language, in the give-and-take of those first interactions. It’s verbal and non-verbal, words, gestures, smiles, and laughter.
And, of course, peanut butter, which has now been categorized as safe to expose to infants (granted they haven’t had reactions to other foods).
By the way, that’s not just pure peanut butter. It’s mixed with cereal and milk.
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.