Hey, y’all, she remarked sheepishly. I am sorry it has been so long. I thought I remembered about this phase, how it means just nursing 27 or 28 hours a day, but I crucially forgot that nursing a newborn requires, at least for me, both hands. Also, by 28 hours a day I mean 40.
But anyway, here I am. Mostly because how many places am I free to talk about my nipples and hooha hurting? Y’all are a special group, internet. I don’t have real hope of managing a narrative post in the next two years, but I will indulge myself in some categorized items. (Spoiler: my nipples hurt. Also my hooha.)
[Several hours later....]
Where to begin? Jackalope, I suppose, since she’s the most novel:
Item: She’s marvelous. Disregard all the time I spend begging her to go the hell back to sleep at 3am. She’s healthy and growing and sleeping more than the Bean did, even if I could frankly use a lot more hours. She seems to be that proverbial easier baby that some people have. Now I understand the magical beliefs that persist about babies — how they give explicable cues before screaming that they are hungry, for instance, and how they like things like swaddles and pacifiers and soothing. I imagine some of this is our being more experienced parents, but mostly I think she’s just a wildly easier baby than the Bean. (Knock wood, knock wood.)
Item: She’s huge! She was almost two pounds heavier than the Bean at birth (7/13 to his 6/1), and she’s growing much faster. She was over eight pounds at her last appointment, at age 2.5 weeks.
Item: She’s tough. At five days old, she reached down during a clothing change, took hold of her umbilical cord stump, and tore it off. No crying.
Item (related): She nurses well! This, I believe, is both cause and consequence of being larger (and born two weeks later). Consequence, because her mouth is larger, her stomach holds more, and she is just more coordinated and, well, finished than the Bean was. She latched on and nursed better in the delivery room than he did for a month.
Item: I have SO much more milk than last time. Funny, it’s almost like a person is healthier when she keeps most of her original complement of blood. Someone should study that.
Item: Nursing a baby who is into it while yourself making adequate amounts of milk is SO MUCH EASIER than nursing a weak, tired, young baby while making not enough milk. It still takes forever and wears me out and hurts my nipples and drives me a little crazy, but really, not at all in the same ballpark. I did have a small nervous breakdown at her first out-of-hospital doctor’s visit, when she had lost still more weight and I imagined us spiraling into the same nightmare we had with the Bean. I took home formula samples and cried and refused to use them, which confused poor Sugar badly. I couldn’t decide whether it was more irrational to begin supplementing a baby I knew didn’t really need it yet, or to dig in my heels, the way I did last time, and allow us to go back down the road of failed exam after exam, needlessly starving baby, etc. (Side-item: I really wish we’d been able to see our preferred pediatrician for that visit instead of her young partner. I think she might have been able to calm me down.) But then, like in the books, my milk came the rest of the way in, and at our next appointment, she’d regained her birth weight. Just like they say happens!
Item: As much as I like the lactation consultant we ended up eventually seeing with the Bean (as opposed to the ones we saw before her, who were various flavors of useless), I like not having to see her even more. And even more than THAT, I like having a baby who can just be fed when she’s hungry and gain weight, without my having to go through routines of timing and facial exercises and diaper changes to wake her back up and horrible teas and pumping and crying and guilt. Funny.
Item: At the second weight check, when she’d regained her birth weight, I also had my first experience of really feeling like an experienced parent. The NP we saw that time, who had repeatedly praised her weight gain, asked about her sleep. At the time, she had been sleeping a 4-6 hour stretch at the beginning of the night, which, I’m sure you can imagine, was heavenly. (I mean, the Bean doesn’t even always do that, and he’s THREE.) Oh no, she said, you can’t let her go that long. You need to be waking her up to eat. And I thought, lady, you just said this baby is gaining weight and looking great; like hell I’m waking her up. But what I said was, “We’ll see.” Because I realized in that moment that not only did I not have to do that, I didn’t even need to tell her I wasn’t going to.
Item: We don’t always get that stretch anymore. Or it isn’t always at night. Sugar generally ends up in the Bean’s room, and I am alone with Jackalope, who likes to have a couple hours of being awake for no earthly reason sometime in the 1-5am stretch. I am tired.
Item: On Monday, my first day home alone with both kids, she stayed awake from 5am until 10:30, napped for 40 minutes, was back up for a couple of hours of continued, constant nursing, took another cat nap, was up again, etc. There was a period when all three of us were wailing. It was precious.
Item: On Tuesday, Sugar came home from work early and I took Jackalope to a department meeting at adjunct-institution-community-college. I had written to ask permission and not heard back, and I need brownie points over there. No idea if I scored them with the right people. I missed half the meeting, including the topic I’d come to hear about. A woman next to me was snide at me while using FB on her phone. It was one thousand degrees and packed; turns out my comfort level with public nursing does not extend to the front row of such a setting. I had the unsettling experience of realizing that the woman I thought was the chair of the department isn’t. But several people said kind things on their way out the door, and I reminded the person who hires adjuncts that I’d like work in the fall.
Item: Poor Jackalope is a second child when it comes to pictures, I’m afraid. We remember to take them, sometimes, but then they are stuck on the camera.
Item: We had a tiny little party and a cake with trains on it. My mom tried to send the trains for his last birthday, but they arrived too late. He liked it.
Item: Still not eating many foods or sleeping through the night or reliably using the potty. But he can do a 100-piece jigsaw puzzle with almost no help. (Still figuring out how to work that “but” into his doctor’s appointment on Monday.) I am an unabashed puzzle pusher, and am beyond thrilled that he likes them, too.
[There's Jackalope waking up....]
[And then the rest of the afternoon and the evening and the night happened, and most of the next morning. There was an interlude for an unexpectedly early first brother/sister bath, which damn near killed me with the cute.]
Item: The Bean is so much better with Jackalope than I thought reasonable to expect. He likes to put his nose against her toes. We failed utterly to move him to a big bed and decommission the crib/toddler bed in time that he wouldn’t associate the loss of his familiar spot with the arrival of the baby, but as soon as it was converted back to its baby configuration (he helped), I heard him stop mid-sentence, correcting himself to call it “Jackalope’s bed.” She was fussing in there one afternoon, while I was stuck on the toilet. I was a little concerned when he went in to her — he is a lot larger than she is and unaware of her comparative fragility — but he sat down on the floor with his legos and said, “don’t cry. I am making you a tower to make you happy.” Melt.
[Whoops, there went the whole weekend. My dad visited. There's a lot to say about that, almost all unbloggable. He is charming with babies.]
Item: Our older cat, Michaela, died. She was diagnosed with kidney failure right before Jackalope was born. Sugar learned to give her sub-cutaneous fluids every night. There were supplements but no real hope of recovery. She seemed okay for a while, and then suddenly wasn’t. We all miss her, and of course this has started another round of questions and pronouncements from the Bean about his dead grandmother and great-grandmother, with lots of crying from me especially. I know these questions are a typical part of being his age, but really, the last four months have been over the top for our family. I am so sick and tired of death.
Item: Michaela came to us as a teeny kitten found in the woods, so dirty we didn’t know she was white. (Really, she was a secret calico, with a smear of grey and buttery-tan on her head as a kitten.) She lived with us in Massachusetts and Chicago and New York. She nearly died of hepatic lipidosis in 2005 and after recovering, slept on our feet every night. Despite being standoffish with strangers (“Michaela has boundaries,” said an approving friend, comparing her to our more dog-like Orson), she turned out to adore babies, both ours and others’. We called her the Bean’s nanny. Here she is with the Bean, in 2011, and with Jackalope:
Item: Yesterday morning, Sugar’s paternal grandmother died. (Her maternal grandmother died in December.) It wasn’t a surprise, but it is awful. I am so tired of death.
Item: Sugar is going to Chicago for the funeral for the first part of the week. I’m not ready to be alone overnight with both Jackalope and the Bean, but, well, I guess I’m about to be ready.
My Addled Brain
Item: Despite everything, I don’t seem to be depressed. At least, I don’t think so. It’s almost weird. I am sometimes sad and sometimes overwhelmed, but yeah, not depressed. I do still cry about my mom a lot, but I have a hard time categorizing that as pathological; crying seems pretty rational to me, and naturally I think of her all the time, especially looking at this baby, whom she would so have wanted to know. There’s not much I can do to make that not awful.
My Body, Upper
Item: Remember that Cold of Filth I was complaining about before Jackalope was born? (COF is trademarked to either May or Mrs. Hairy, not sure.) I had this fantasy that somehow the intensity of labor would drive it out like a demon. Yeah, no. Instead, I was sick for a solid month, coughing my brains out. (Other things also coughed out, too, thanks to an enlarged uterus and a pelvic floor that went on strike altogether.) The Bean and Sugar were sick, too, but luckily Jackalope was not, nor does the codeine cough syrup I was living on seem to have bothered her. Still, I do not recommend the experience of being that sick immediately postpartum.
Item: Dateline: NIPPLES. The Reynaud’s is back. For new readers, this means that my nipples are spasmotically seizing up in response to breastfeeding, and if that sounds horrifically painful, well, it is. I got on the nifedipine in short order this time around, following some minor difficulties getting my OB to prescribe the extended release version in place of a “take as needed” regime of regular capsules. (Let me tell you, you take one of those at the same time as a slug of cough syrup and WHOA, good luck standing up.) Unfortunately, the nifedipine isn’t working quite as completely, though things are a great deal better than they were a few weeks ago, when many tears were shed. Now I mostly have spasms at night, and they aren’t so terrible.
Item: I can’t try a higher dose of nifedipine, apparently. I called the OB office a couple of weeks ago, when things were getting very bad, to ask about that and about some renewed locchia. The nurse insisted I come in to see a midwife. On the one hand, it was nice to feel they were concerned about my health, in marked contrast to Dr. Russian’s nurse. On the other, schlepping into the city is not easy, nor was there a point. As I had suspected, the bleeding was normal. Meanwhile, they are afraid my blood pressure will bottom out on a higher dose. I suspect that’s not right — my understanding is that, while nifedipine does lower BP in people with pathologically high pressure, it doesn’t have much effect in someone like me, whose body doesn’t have difficulty maintaining a steady BP. Certainly my BP while I was taking it last time was at my usual level every time it was checked. But, since my usual level is on the low side and I don’t want to pass out all over the place, I guess that’s how it is.
Item: I started taking some extra B6, on the advice of the internet. Hard to say whether that helped, but I already had it in the house. At least I won’t get pellagra.
Item: The Reynaud’s has new tricks. Several times a day, associated with let-down, I have what I think must be massive spasms in my milk ducts. (This happened sometimes with the Bean, but not this early or this fiercely.) The only reason I’m not weeping over this is that it doesn’t last that long, just a minute or two each time. It is more of a sore feeling than a sharp one, but it is intense, like each duct suddenly has a fist inside it. Not recommended.
Item: It was an act of purest optimism to have ordered that breastpump, wasn’t it? Sigh.
My Body: Lower
Item: I know y’all mainly read this blog for hooha news. It’s cool. I mainly write it to talk about my hooha.
Item: In so many, many ways, my recovery from Jackalope’s birth has been nothing at all like my recovery from the Bean’s. Thank whatever it is you like to thank. I am healthier and happier and in much, much better shape.
Item: My pelvic floor is shot, but recovering. For a while there, advertising algorithms were chasing me across the internet with ads for protective undergarments. Depressing. Now I am mostly okay as long as I go to the bathroom a lot and, I discovered yesterday, don’t attempt any hopscotch games. Bad idea.
Item: The hemorrhoids are likewise retreating, like big, ugly glaciers. Butt glaciers. Thank God for witch hazel.
(Gratuitous witch hazel shot because I also love the plant, mostly because it blooms so early.)
Item: Stitches still beasts. The proverbial they say you don’t tear as much the second time, and I guess I didn’t, inasmuch as I’d already, erm, resected my vaginal septum and it’s hard to tear more than that. Nevertheless, I was fairly shredded, inside and out. My new vocabulary word is “sulchal.” That all hurt in a predictable way at first, then got worse around week two, when everything got irritated and the lines of stitches felt like they might rip right out every time I coughed. Or God forbid sat up. Things improved again, with a delightful interlude of suture ends poking me in personal places.
Item: Except now I have these hard spots I suspect are scar tissue, and nothing is stretchy enough. As in, it hurts to sit again, in sharp little ways, and then there is blood. Not a whole lot of blood mostly, but I think I am tearing a little bit every day now, just from sitting. I am so not into this, I can’t even tell you. I have my postpartum appointment on Tuesday, and I sure hope there is something to do about this problem. I’d like to, um, use that part of my body again someday, for one thing. Ahem.
Item: Sara started blogging again! Check that OUT.
Item: I have spent an absurd amount of time giggling at this, featuring drawings the Bean describes as “some funny folks!”