It's amazing how easily an infant can instantly transform an established household, especially for first-time parents. I've had so many questions from blog readers and social media followers (especially on Instagram) that were genuinely concerned for my well-being and wondering how things are going now that Dessa Marie has arrived. I'm relieved to say that things are going better than I anticipated. Which doesn't mean that things are going perfectly (far from it, as a matter of fact), but Rob and I are slowly coming out of the initial transition and discovering a new rhythm to our household and family.
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I am Not Supermom
I realize as I type this post that some people will think it's absolutely amazing that I am finding any time at all to blog and start to see me as some type of super-woman. I also realize that other people will worry about my well-being and be concerned that perhaps I am pushing myself a bit too hard. It's worth noting that I'm typing the bulk of this post on a Saturday afternoon car ride with Rob to visit his family. The ride lasts for over an hour (each way). I'm also desperate for routines that resemble my pre-baby life. Long car rides have always been my favorite time to get work done and this gives me something to do while Rob drives and Dessa sleeps peacefully in the backseat (thank goodness she enjoys car rides!)
The rest of the post was finished in my free time around the house. I would sit and dabble a bit whenever I had a quiet moment with a content baby to finish writing this post. Life right now is all about trying to feel normal and writing makes me feel about as normal as I can get. So, no, I'm not supermom. Just a new mommy trying her hardest to feel “normal.”
So Many Emotions
When Dessa first arrived, I was overwhelmed with emotions that were beyond my control. We had a few unexpected disappointments during her delivery and our time in the hospital (more on those when I have a chance to share Dessa's birth story). I took those disappointments hard and bawled uncontrollably. I can't even count how many doctors and nurses saw me ugly cry during my time in the hospital. In hindsight, everything turned out fine and all three of us are happy and healthy; but those pregnancy and new mommy hormones are no joke.
Speaking of hormones, sadness was not the only emotion to wash over me. The moment that Dessa arrived it felt like my entire heart burst open with more love than it could possibly contain. I kept finding myself overcome by tears of joy (the tears are returning even as I type this post). The same thing happened to me for the first few days after our wedding, but these emotions run deeper and truer than anything I have ever experienced.
Our First Night At Home
Rob and I thought we had hit the baby jackpot during our time in the hospital. Dessa was always easy to calm down and never really put up much of a fuss. She was also a great little sleeper. We were completely in awe of how mellow she was and how easy it was to keep our little Dessa happy.
Then things got really interesting once we got home. We learned quickly that an infant has a way of ruining every schedule and activity that we had planned for ourselves. Our beautiful plated dinner sat for two hours while we fed, changed, and calmed Dessa down for the night. Tensions ran high as our frustration grew. Time was slipping away and there were so many things to accomplish before we could finally go to bed. Someone needed to make a trip to the store for formula (which we hadn't anticipated needing ahead of time), bottles had to be washed and sterilized, and our baby monitors needed to be charged and set up. It seemed like an endless list of things to accomplish and our work ran well into the night.
That evening was probably the tensest and most difficult night Rob and I have ever had in our marriage. At last, Rob and I had a chance to sit down, eat, relax, and watch a quick episode of Parks and Recreation on Netflix before heading to bed for the night.
Unfortunately, Dessa still had other plans.
A series of truly unfortunate events led us to a very sleepless night with a very restless infant. Rob and I racked about an hour and a half of shut eye that night and we had a 9am appointment with the pediatrician for Dessa's first well visit the following morning. We were exhausted, hazy, and not quite thinking straight. So exhausted, in fact, that we left the diaper bag that I had lovingly packed a few weeks before my due date at home on the sofa. We quickly realized that we had a lot to learn as new parents.
Life With Dessa
Thankfully, things have gotten much smoother after that very first night. Dessa is a wonderful baby with a very happy temperament. She eats well and sleeps for 2 to 4 hour stretches. And in my humble opinion, she has the best snuggles in the world.
Rob and I voraciously read the usual books throughout our pregnancy. “What to Expect When You're Expecting” became my go-to reference as we awaited Dessa's arrival and Rob absorbed every word of “The Expectant Father.” As my due date drew near, we started reading “What To Expect the First Year.” Then a friend highly recommended “The Happiest Baby on the Block.” Not one to turn down a great parenting manual, we ordered a copy and were instantly intrigued.
The author, Harvey Karp, offered his theory on why infants can be so difficult to calm down and offered a solution which he dubs the “5 S's” to help turn on a baby's calming reflex. His theory was so simple, yet so genius. We used his methods on Dessa right from the start and are pretty sure that he is the reason Dessa brings more peace than chaos to our home. (If you are expecting or you know someone who is, we highly recommend the book!)
As wonderful as our little peanut is, and as equipped as we are to calm her when she's upset, Dessa certainly keeps us on our toes. It's amazing that someone who is only two weeks old can already be going through phases. My sleepy little princess has been going through a phase for the past few days where she just wants to be held during the day. Her long, sleepy stretches of daytime naps have been replaced by short little naps that end with a fussy baby who is only happy and restful when she is being held. (Thankfully, this has just been a daytime development and Dessa is still a good little sleeper at night!) In the meantime, we've started reading our newest parenting book “On Becoming Babywise” to help us keep Dessa on an even better sleep schedule.
How I'm Doing
People ask all the time how I'm handling my new role of Mommy. The truth is I have more good days than bad. The good days are amazing, and the occasional bad day feels unbearable. It's not that terrible things are happening on the bad days. It's just an unfortunate combination of hormones and tiredness.
Everyone I know asks if I am tired and wants to make sure that I nap during the day. The funny thing is, I'm not nearly as tired as I expected to be as the mother of a newborn. What I didn't take into account was how terribly I was already sleeping during my pregnancy. I had so much swelling in my legs during my third trimester that a good night's rest was nearly unattainable. My right leg in particular was sore to the touch, the skin was so stretched that no amount of lotion or cool compresses could calm the itchy feeling, and the entire leg and ached throughout the night. I tossed and turned all night long trying to find a comfortable resting position.
Once Dessa arrived and brought her own sleep schedule into our house, it was relatively easy for me to adjust. After all, I hadn't slept well in months. The really bad nights continue to feel awful, but I get enough rest most nights to feel sustained.
I have been surprised by how much I treasure my time with Dessa at night. I had heard from other moms that you don't really mind the time spent with your baby in your arms in the middle of the night and I thought that sounded a little crazy. Turns out that I detest those first moments out of my warm bed as I stumble into my daughter's bedroom, but those feelings instantly melt away when I approach her crib and see her sweet little tongue sticking out because she's ready to eat (here come the tears of joy as I write once again!)
After my sweet little girl is happily fed, I wake up Rob to change Dessa, finish feeding her if necessary, swaddle our baby, and lay her back to sleep. When I return to my own bed, deep sleep comes quickly and easily – a simple gift that I desperately missed during the long nights of my pregnancy.
Rob's Return to Work
I was really hoping to have Rob at home with Dessa and I for a full week before he returned to work. Unfortunately, staying in the hospital for two nights before Dessa's arrival put a crimp in those plans of ours and Rob felt a pull to return to work a few days earlier than expected. Dessa and I had him at home with us for 4 full days before Rob went back to work.
Going in to the transition, I wasn't particularly emotional about being home alone with Dessa. I was well aware that things are easier when Rob is in the house to lend a hand, but I didn't need him to be home with us. So far, things are going ok with just Dessa and I at the house. We have had a string of visitors to lend a hand and keep me company, which help the time to pass quickly.
As much as I don't need Rob to be home, I find myself better settled and more content when he is around. After my particularly bad day at home on my own, I was surprised at how much calmer I felt about the day's events once Rob walked in the door. I still cried a lot about the frustrating parts of my time alone at home, but it was reassuring to know that Rob was back home to offer support after such an emotional day on my own.
As you would expect, Dessa's arrival took a toll on my body. The doctor had to use forceps to deliver her and I am still recovering from her birth. I felt like I had been in a car accident several hours after she was born. Everything hurt, including my arms. Little by little, I've been feeling more like myself and the pain and discomfort are subsiding.
The swelling in my legs has gradually subsided to the point that only my lower calves and ankles are still affected. My ankles are still quite stiff, but I can finally fit my feet into slippers and my calves into comfy leggings once again – two comforts I had given up weeks ago.
The rest of my body is bouncing back as well. My sutures are slowly healing and I can already fit into some of my pre-pregnancy wardrobe. As my recovery continues to progress, I feel more and more like myself again. The other day I was able to shave my legs and paint my toenails while Dessa slept. It was glorious. I look for chances to get out of the house and into the fresh air. Taking Dessa for a walk through the neighborhood is always the highlight of my day. We started with a short walk around our block and have gradually been extending the duration of our walks. (I'm trying to build my stamina up so we can walk Dessa to downtown Royal Oak and enjoy dinner at one of the local restaurant patios.)
I also find myself reaching a new level of productivity. If Dessa is sleeping and I am well-rested, I don't waste a minute of that precious time. It's amazing how much I can accomplish in just one hour while my newborn naps. In particular, I find myself organizing and tidying little corners of the house that seem to be overcome by “stuff.” I'm pretty sure this is my body's way of making up for the last-minute burst of nesting energy that I missed out on from being induced. Either way; the tidying, organizing, and productivity make me feel more like myself again and I am so thankful to be bouncing back.
As my body heals and I begin to feel more like myself, it is so easy to overdo it (and as you can imagine, I am a chronic overdo-er.) I keep trying to take it easy, but that has never come easy come easy for me. By the end of the day, I can feel the discomfort from my sutures and I have to remind myself to slow down and take it easy so that I can be fully on the mend even sooner.
I'm looking forward to the day when it feels like I have my body back, but I don't want to wish a single moment of time away. My baby girl is already two weeks old!