Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Newborns are TOUGH

At about six weeks postpartum, I had missed an important deadline for the HWC newsletter. I wrote a short email on my ipad (while breastfeeding) explaining that I had just given birth a few weeks ago and sorry for the delay. The woman responded immediately, saying it wasn't a problem and, "good luck, newborns are tough!"

At the time I was very grateful for her understanding, and that, having three much older children, she remembered just how tough it is/was. Because it is easy to forget how hard those first three months were. Now, at 7 months, Gage is a cheerful, smiley, happy, easy-going bubs, who only whines when he's over-tired, sick, or has a poopy diaper. (Hey, I would whine too.) It's easy to forget that he spent a lot of his first three months of life - when awake and not feeding - crying. Yes, my happy go-lucky baby boy cried a lot. And even if you manage to give birth to an "easy" newborn, the toll of night-wakings, constant feedings, and constant attention do take their toll.

I remember thinking when I was pregnant - "bah, this whole waking every 3 hour thing during the night to feed - I can do this! I'll just sleep during the day when baby is napping!" Well sister, let me tell you, you just do NOT realize how important it is to have more than 3 hours of continuous sleep at night. I don't know rightly how to describe it except that there is no other point in my life where I have been as sleep-deprived. In college, or when working a very demanding job/jobs ( there was a point in my life where I was working 100 hour weeks), I still got to go home and sleep for at least 5 hours, uninterrupted, and then made it through the day with lots of caffeine. With a newborn baby you NEVER get more than 5 hours uninterrupted - in fact it's dangerous if they do go that long because their little tummies (smaller than a walnut at birth) can't take in enough milk to last them that long!) Also, you can't have caffeine when your baby is this young (caffeine in a newborn has a half-life of almost 90 days!!!)

Just to give you an idea of what days (and nights) with a newborn are like, here is a snapshot - taken from my handy breastfeeding app (which I wouldn't have survived without.)

Gage's feeding times on Friday January 20th 2012 (four weeks old):

1:00 am - 1:35 am
4:14 am - 4:20 am
5:12 am - 5:16 am
5:33 am - 6:45 am
7:35 am - 7:45 am
10:07 am - 10:22 am
10:30 am - 11:52 am
12:16 pm - 1:13 pm
2:40 pm - 3:49 pm
4:30 pm - 5:05 pm
8:15 pm - 9:10 pm
9:28 pm - 9:50 pm
1:17 am - 1:30 am

OMG I feel exhausted just reading the above. In case you fail to recognize the significance of the time table above.... at NO POINT in that 24 hour period did baby Gage go longer than 3 hours without eating, and in fact, he only gave me ONE stretch of 3 hours, and he did several HOUR LONG feedings. Yes, my pregnant, and soon to be maybe one day pregnant friends, please queue up some movies and TV shows on your ipad - you will not be cognizant enough for any serious reading, but you won't be able to sleep with baby on your boob either!

Baby Gage at 4 weeks, screaming his head off after a bath

As time progresses it gets gradually better...

By 8 weeks he was waking up to eat at 1am, 3am, and 5am (going to bed at 9pm and waking up for the day at 7am - not that there is really a huge difference at that age beween night and day! but still he did know that nighttime was for sleeping, not playing, which is more than can be said for some of my unlucky friends' babies!)  This 3x a night waking was totally do-able. I was still walking around like a heavy-lidded zombie most days, but at least I managed to get out of my pjs and make a trip to the grocery store or go to the cafe to meet friends (not both in the same day though!)

And then, at 3 months, he had a major growth spurt and he was waking up EVERY HOUR to eat. So, like any reasonable person who wants to get a maximum of sleep and keep insanity at bay, I just brought him to bed with me. He could eat as much as he wanted all night long, and I could sleep through most of it. Win, win. Except now we're trying to get him out of the bed so.... maybe not. But seriously don't know how I could have done it any other way!

I got kinda sidetracked there on the co-sleeping issue - which I will most definitely have to write more about - but the moral of the story is NEWBORNS ARE SO TOUGH!

Add to the constant eating, the constant poo-ing that goes with it (12 diapers in one day being about the norm - and night-time diaper changes too), oh and the CRYING, oh and then on your end the continuous bleeding, the still-looking-like-you're-7-months-pregnant for the first MONTH or so post-partum, and yah, it all adds up to some FUN. TIMES.

Forgive the sarcasm, but I like to hammer home a point.

And to end this post on a positive note, I'd like to add that, one of the reasons it's so hard caring for a newborn is because you care SO much about this new little being whom you have brought into this world - you would do anything on earth for them - and it is so overwhelming, and wonderful, and beautiful, but, like anything worth doing, it is a challenge.

My sleeping angel 11 days old