Mothers and daughters

28 Jul

Sophie is now more than 5 weeks old. I can’t believe it. But lets rewind a bit, shall we?

Nothing could have prepared me for that first night home.  Crossing the threshold with that tiny little girl in her hospital hat, looking so miniature in her car seat, I was hit with an enormous wave of scary responsibility. It wasn’t a good feeling. I can’t believe that the first thing I did on bringing my longed-for baby girl home, was sit on the couch and cry. I’m chalking it up to the cumulative effects of sleep deprivation (I hadn’t really slept from the moment my water broke almost 4 days earlier), rough moments in the hospital where my colostrum didn’t seem to be satisfying her and she cried for what seemed like hours. Or when the lactation consultant (lovely as she was) seemed a little overbearing and “it’s my way or a big fat disaster on the breastfeeding freeway”. To top it off, my OB didn’t discharge me until 4pm which meant stupid godawful LA traffic all the way home. It wasn’t the happiest homecoming.

Luckily my husband had 3 weeks off so we had more than two weeks together after we got home. He was the best post-partum doula (as I called him) ever – he made sure I was hydrated, fed and would help check Sophie’s latch. He also did all the laundry, cooking, house pick-up, and errand running (including going out to buy several alternate swaddling devices once we established that our little Houdini could break out of any “standard” swaddle.) He was a star. We did pretty well those first few weeks. Yes, there were painful, aggravating bouts of cluster feeding (it was much easier to deal with once it had a name and I realized it was a “thing”) and many cranky cocktail hours (6:30 pm on the dot was the onset of witching hour every night – still is, but doesn’t last quite as long) but we went out on walks, visited our favorite coffee shop once or twice, and braved the traffic-y drive to her first pediatrician’s appointment. By the end of his time off, we had settled into a nice groove, and I was sad when it was over. But hey, my mom was arriving that same day! Reinforcements would be arriving and all would be good. Right? Wrong.

I realized less than 24 hours into my mother’s visit that I would have to adjust my expectations regarding how much help she would be.  It hasn’t been all bad, lest I sound like a monstrous ingrate, but I’m realizing now that she’s visiting my sister in San Francisco for a week, how much EASIER it is to not have her anxiously hovering over me and the baby. That’s the killer. Her uncontrollable anxiety. My dad said that he talked to her before she left, urging her to not let it ruin the trip, or to feel like she had to express a contrary opinion on our parenting style. I guess he knows her better than anybody, but he must also know that some things just never change. I had prepared myself for every freeway lane change causing hissing from her post next to the baby in the back seat, or that she would have (and express) an opinion on everything from breastfeeding to swaddling (oh, she HATES the swaddle – too bad it’s so damn effective, and we will NOT STOP). What I hadn’t banked on was how nervous she would be. She doesn’t want to hold the baby unless she’s got her surrounded by a blanket (but not a swaddle, because that makes her claustrophobic – my mother, not the baby), so that pretty much eliminates any diaper changes or quick hand offs when I need to pee, or tie my shoes. She doesn’t trust her ability to carry a car seat, or familiarize herself with any of Sophie’s gear, like the stroller or swing, for example. And she will unpack the dishwasher or the draining rack, and not put anything away. Because she doesn’t know where anything goes.  Leaving us with a bunch of dry dishes, glasses and cups creating clutter on our already limited counter space. She’s even apologetic and anxious about her cooking, something that she is actually quite good at.

The same woman who was so efficiently caring when she was here for my amnio seems to have aged dramatically overnight, and has no idea how to mother her daughter who is a first time mom. I would die if she were to read this, or to know that these thoughts were going through my head. She is such a giving, loving person. I think this is just a classic example of her anxiety taking complete control. And it’s hard to watch. Especially since I remember vividly how amazing she was years ago when my sister up north gave birth to her daughter. I suppose it’s the difference between a grandma in her early 50s and one who is 70. But for crying out loud, my mother just went hiking through Spain, and is really quite spry and fit.  My husband and I can’t quite figure out what’s up. Like if there’s something else going on that she’s not telling us. I know that constantly going under general anesthesia to monitor her now-in-remission bladder cancer has taken its toll, as has a difficult situation my brother is experiencing with an ex-girlfriend with whom he has a child. But neither of these situations are new. The plus side is that this has all but completely squashed my own anxiety. When in the presence of someone so anxious, I really try and turn off my own. And now that I have a daughter of my own,  I would like to break the cycle of anxious parenting. Trust me, I wasn’t happy during my first solo trip to the pediatrician that requires a trip on one of LA’s busiest freeways, but I was as cool as a cucumber. Maybe my mom should stay longer.

But other than that little excursion into mother-daughter difficulty, things are good. And Sophie and I are doing great. I feel incredibly lucky that we are  a good breastfeeding match, and despite moments of doubt in the hospital, Sophie is thriving and gaining weight without any major glitches. Yes, it hurts sometimes, and I feel CHAINED to her most of the day, but at the same time it’s very rewarding and comforting. She can be a fussy feeder (think Shark Week) at times and I learned at a breastfeeding support group I attended just today that it could be a overactive let-down/abundant supply problem. I’m hoping that some of the tips I picked up, like letting gravity work for us rather than against us, and limiting feedings to one boob per side, will help. I also pumped for the first time yesterday and did it again today, so we have some bottles ready for daddy to get more involved. I do have an upcoming thing that will require me to be out of the house for a few hours so I’m looking forward to seeing how it goes.

And my boobs? Well, for a girl who has barely filled an A-cup most of her life, they are SPECTACULAR. I could do without all the veins and what look like broken blood vessels all over the place, but I suppose they are hard working boobs, and I should cut them some slack. Although hopefully slack is not where they are headed. And the leakiness is pretty ridiculous. I mean those Lansinoh things aren’t really cutting it. I’m hoping the constant dripping lets up soon once things get more established. But for now it’s pretty gross. I am constantly sporting a wet shirt front and I feel like I must smell, even though I don’t actually smell anything.

Now we’re just waiting patiently to hit 6 weeks when the fussy period (supposedly) lets up a bit. It has felt a little easier with my mom safely ensconced in someone else’s home. My husband has a respite from her worried glances at his calming techniques. (He is an avid subscriber of Dr. Harvey Karp’s 5 S’s, and will often try all of them at once.) And I don’t have to put up with her constantly asking me if I want her to take her. I mean, yes, sometimes I do, but when you ask me that EVERY time she cries, it feels undermining, and that you don’t trust my ability to calm my baby. And that each time you take her, you will either want to unswaddle her, or have me go and get another blanket for you to loosely wrap her in.  Oops. Didn’t mean to head back into that topic again. Sorry.

But life is good. Very very good. I am in love with my baby and could look at her sweet little face for hours and hours. And listen to her adorable sneezes (newborn sneezes are the cutest thing ever) and grunts for ever.  I suspect those grunts are linked to gas pain so I feel bad loving the way they sound, but one day she will outgrow her newborn noises and I will miss them so very much.

I feel like this is a rambly, all-over-the-place post, but if I don’t hit “Publish” now, I never will.


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