I had been awake with her all night. Not the type of all nighter I was used to; alcohol, dancing, short skirts. I thought about this as Natalie was slumped over my shoulder, and I wondered if I even missed it. I also wondered how I had gotten to this place of actually wanting to hear someone burp in my ear.
4 AM: She just wouldn’t sleep. Ten day old Natalie screamed every time I put her in her bassinet despite being fed and changed.
I had planned to breast feed, and express milk so my husband could feed her and join in on the bonding as well. But with latch issues and frustration on my part with using a nipple shield, I began to exclusively pump and feed, which I have reconciled and justified to myself is just as good, no matter what the women in my breast feeding support group say. This is my journey after all.
6 AM: Her writhing and fussiness was getting contagious and I feared she sensed that in me. Out of desperation I breastfed her once more (with the nipple shield of course); she quieted down. She was mostly self soothing, she had just drank 2 oz. of pumped breastmilk so I knew she wasn’t hungry. Trying once again to put her in her bassinet, her eyes shot open and the crying began…again.
8 AM: I wake up with my head on her nursing pillow, and Natalie cradled in my arms. We are still on the couch. My back and engorged, un-pumped breasts ache with stiffness. I feel guilty. The posters and pamphlets the hospital gave me come to mind- Safe Sleeping; How to avoid SIDS. I replay parts of the video they made me and my husband watch, a documentary interviewing mothers who lost their children to co-sleeping.
I chase my guilt with a can of sugar free Red Bull and throw on the same clothes I wore yesterday. I rush around the house preparing Natalie and her diaper bag. I know we have her second pediatrician appointment in an hour, and I still have to change her diaper, dress her, feed her, and manage to get myself presentable.
Driving to the pediatrician, running yellow lights and making illegal right hand turns, Adele’s song “Hello” comes on.
Maybe from the hormones still coursing through my body
Maybe because I’m sleep deprived
Maybe because it reminds me of bad choices I’ve made in the past; I start crying.
I quickly wipe the tears away and change the song. I can’t walk into the doctors office like that, and I wonder if she is not only checking Natalie’s progress, but mine as well. Is she looking for signs of post-partum depression, my ability as a first time mom?
We get there just in time for our appointment. After checking in with the receptionist, I take a seat and my first deep breath in a long time. My mind races over everything I am supposed to remember:
I packed the diapers, wipes, extra change of clothes, 3 bottles just in case.
Remember to ask the pediatrician about her clogged tear duct, am I allowed to give her gas drops yet? Her cord fell off, how often should I give her a bath? Why isn’t she sleeping in her bassinet anymore?
Shit…I forgot to brush my teeth. Did I really forget to brush my teeth? How? Shit. I didn’t even pack mints.
I stare at Natalie and check to see that she is breathing for the 472nd time. Was it bias that had me thinking my husband and I created the most beautiful baby I had ever seen? Did everyone else think she was just as adorable and perfect as I did? In the ten days she has been in my arms, I have inspected every wrinkle, every hair, every piece of her with complete satisfaction yet hesitation that something could still be wrong. Something that I just couldn’t see. After all, I wasn’t expecting to stay in the hospital for five days treating her jaundice under light therapy and foam goggles.
“You look amazing for just having a baby.”
I look up at the girl sitting across from me in the waiting room with her toddler. The swirling thoughts in my head fizzled away and I panicked. I knew I had to respond but was completely unprepared.
“Thanks, but I don’t feel amazing.”
That wasn’t what I meant to say. Or was it? I had been scared since finding out I was pregnant that not only would I lose my body I had worked so hard to maintain, but that I would never get it back. I worried my husband wouldn’t find my post pregnancy body attractive. I would be cursed to forever lug around my “mom bod” and wear levi jeans.
My little sister, who had just given birth two months earlier, lost all of her baby weight literally overnight and looked better than before she was pregnant. Feeling compelled and pressure to achieve the same, only to realize disappointment when I wasn’t that lucky.
I let my thoughts wash over me, and then I was called back into the doctors office with Natalie, away from the girl in the waiting room.
I realized by the time our appointment was over, and I was driving back home, what I had really wanted to say to the girl in the waiting room:
Thank you. You made my day.
Natalie will learn her bedtime routine when she is ready. She will only be a newborn once, and from what I hear this time will fly by and I will likely miss it when she is a rebellious teenager. To the girl in the waiting room, your compliment meant everything to me, so much so that I am still replaying that morning in my mind, and now writing about it the next day. My body will bounce back, or not, but I will continue to work on it – as well as my responses to those like the girl in the waiting room.