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Piecing it all Together, One Post at a Time

I did not intend to let so many months pass without a single post here. I thought that during my maternity leave I would write daily about my experience in new motherhood. I thought I would do so many things on my maternity leave. Twelve weeks of projects! Twelve weeks of accomplishments! Twelve weeks of doing All The Things. But I ended up doing just one thing during those twelve weeks: I loved my baby. I held her skin-to-skin for weeks. We cranked up the heater and neither of us wore clothes unless we absolutely had to. I pressed my cheek to hers and breathed in the scent of her newness. I studied her every feature, memorizing each eyelash and fingernail. I danced with her, sang to her, read to her, cried with her. I bounced her and rocked her and nursed her and every day fell deeper in love with her. The world fell away the moment she was born and nothing else mattered. I forgot about emails, phone calls, texts. I stopped reading blogs, watching television, checking Facebook. I didn’t do laundry or grocery shop or fix a meal for probably five months. (Thank God for Mike.) An old friend said motherhood had made me “lame” and I thought, you know what? I might be a totally lame friend, but I’m a fucking great mom. So, I’ll take it.

When Eva was seven months old I went back to the little hand-written journal I’ve been keeping since I was eleven weeks pregnant, to re-read all the entries since her birth. I hadn’t been blogging, but at least I’d been journaling all the wonderful moments I had wanted to capture forever. But there were only three entries. Just three in seven months. The realization was crushing.

That said, not for a second do I wish I’d spent a single moment doing anything besides loving my baby. I knew going into this that her infancy would speed past and I was determined to soak up every moment. And I really feel like I did that – I relished every day. But I do wish that I’d been able to write every day, even just a few lines, to fill in what are now blanks. So many moments have slipped like sand through my fingers. So I’m hoping to spend some time in the next few weeks using this space to write out the bits and pieces I do remember, in an effort to try and recapture as much of those early days as I can. Because more than this blog is for me, its for her now. I want so much for her to grow up knowing how treasured she is and has always been. And when I finally drop dead (hopefully a long time from now) at least she’ll have my words here to come back to.

In the mean time, here’s her birth announcement, which (of course) I intended to post last February…

newborn birth announcement

Eva’s Birth – An Epilogue

three day old infant and mother

Mike snapped this shot of Eva and me on his cell phone when she was 3 days old.

(I started this post months ago, but the days have a funny way of slipping by too quickly. So here it is, now, nearly nine months after the fact. )

That first night, as they wheeled us from Labor & Delivery to Postpartum, I was in shock, almost. Utter disbelief. We did it. Mike and me. We made a baby and here she was, living and breathing in my arms. I birthed a baby, with no drugs, just pushed her out and bam. I’d been dreaming of this moment my entire life and here it was, all of a sudden, as real as anything.

I barely slept. Not because the baby kept me awake but because my feelings kept me awake. My happiness. My body felt wrecked – like I’d been through battle – but my heart was so full I didn’t care. I couldn’t bear to put my tiny baby in a bassinet so she slept the night in my arms, waking every hour or so to nurse and I was only too happy to feed her.

Looking back, it still seems surreal. And I still can’t really find adequate words to describe the completeness and fullness of my happiness. I remember we kept the lights on in our hospital room and I never took my glasses off because I wanted to look at her, gaze at her nonstop. She was real. Tiny, perfect, alive, breathing, in my arms. Unbelievable.

This was all I ever wanted, in my whole life, since I was a little girl. A baby. I never had any real career ambition – I really tried to because its what you’re supposed to do, right? Be ambitious about a career? But my heart was never in it. I just wanted to be a mama. And now, finally, after all these years, I was. Am. Consider my mind officially blown.

The next day was still surreal. I think it was my unending joy, or the hormones, or both that kept me wide awake despite the fact that I hadn’t slept more than an hour in two days. Family came from all over Los Angeles to meet our sweet babe and we were delighted to show her off. We checked out of the hospital late Saturday night and went home. Michelle had stocked our fridge with food and the dogs were thrilled to see us, much more interested in the cheese Mike was feeding them than the baby in my arms. Mike snuggled Eva while I had my first (wonderful) shower since Friday morning. Then he showered while I nursed Eva on the sofa, a pamphlet about breastfeeding open in my lap. My nipples were starting to get sore and I wanted to work on our latch.

I don’t remember when we finally went to bed but it was late, after 11 probably, and I couldn’t bear to put her in our bassinet. I couldn’t bear to put her down, period. I’d waited my whole life for her, she’d spent nine months inside my body, how on EARTH could I be expected to put her down? I was too scared to try sleeping with her in our bed, worried I’d roll over on her or she’d smother, so I spent the night wandering in circles around our living room, whispering, praying, nursing, changing diapers. The dogs howled every time she cried and I winced, worried that this was our new life, dogs howling all night, the neighbors cursing us as they tried to sleep. I was so tired, so very tired, at some point I realized it wasn’t safe for me to wander with her in my arms – I nearly tripped once and another time almost bonked her head on a corner. At 4:30 a.m. I woke Mike up, asked him to take over so I could sleep. He was happy to – held her in his arms and walked with her, cooing and whispering and cuddling while I got four delicious hours of uninterrupted sleep.

The second night home we decided to sleep with her in our bed. I left all the lights on and slept with my glasses on because I needed to be able to open my eyes and see her there, safe and sound, still breathing. We slept on our bed bare of sheets, blankets, or pillows, the heater cranked up to keep us warm on that cool January night. I curled my body around Eva and Mike curled his body around me. I understand that bed-sharing is incredibly controversial, and we did not make the decision lightly. It was, in our opinion, the safest and most natural option. And it allowed me to tend to her every need immediately. She never cried at night but only peeped and I was able to nurse her immediately. We slept well together and Mike and I experienced no sleep-deprivation (until recently – ha!).

It took a few nights, but eventually I felt safe turning the lights off to sleep, taking my glasses off. I remember it was a few weeks before I could nurse her without turning all the lights back on and getting into a comfortable position. Eventually I figured out how to nurse her while lying on my side and then the benefits of bed-sharing really became clear.

You think, at the time, that you’ll never forget these incredible moments, the extraordinary ordinary minutes of every day. But they tend to slip away, fading out, until they’re gone. I don’t remember now what the first day home was like, not really. I remember pieces: The home nurse coming to visit, weighing Eva, examining me, helping with breastfeeding. I remember family coming to visit. I remember Mike cleaned the whole house top to bottom, did all the laundry, fed me whenever I was hungry, kept visitors out of the bedroom while Eva and I napped.  I remember reading to her, curled up in our bed. I remember dancing with her in the living room, singing “At Last” and crying because I was so, so, so happy. Once, Mike found me sobbing over the baby. Terrified, he rushed over to find her sleeping peacefully at my breast. “What happened??” I looked up at him, and said between sobs, “I’m just so happy! So, so, so happy…”

That’s what I remember most about those early days of new parenthood. Being overwhelmingly, absolutely, so, so, so happy. Like every wish I’d ever wished and every dream I’d ever dreamed had come true. My parents ran errands for us, helped fold laundry, brought groceries. Michelle brought hot meals. Mike kept the house, cooked, changed every single diaper for a week straight. We never put Eva down, not once for several weeks. If I needed to use the bathroom or shower, Mike held her, or my mom or dad held her, or Michelle held her. But she was in arms always, listening to a beating heart, bathed in love and adoration.