Almost there...

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Three weeks and counting...

Erik took Athena this morning while I lounged in bed and read a book uninterrupted for over an hour, followed by a lovely late lunch out at La Pinata with Erik and Athena, followed by lounging with a sleepy baby on my lap while watching Warehouse 13. Not a bad way to celebrate our first three weeks.

So this baby thing is going pretty darned well. Athena Eleanor is an easy baby to get along with for a large percentage of the time. Just don't ask her to change clothes, because sleeves are the tools of the devil. From the first days home, she would surprise me by sleeping for four hours uninterrupted. Sometimes it's five hours. I never expected to be this well-rested, but we get one longish stretch a night, followed by another 2-3 hour stretch, and I'm feeling much less strung out than I expected. Sleep is a magical tool.

She's also taken to breastfeeding like a champ. We had some problems at first with her being too sleepy to eat much, and before the milk really came in, she got really hungry. It was a bleak night when I sat up with her from 2-6 a.m., her inconsolable because she was hungry, me unable to do much about it, and the propaganda saying, "colostrum is all the baby needs for the first few days." Well screw that. Baby was hungry and thirsty and unhappy and Similac and Enfamil had both sent us sample formula which I was now very grateful to have in the closet. Erik's alarm went off at 6 and I asked him to put some together for her and I'd feed it to her with a syringe. A milliliter later, she'd gone from inconsolable to sleeping soundly. Sure, I'd just contaminated my perfect baby with the evils of formula, but she was happy and that's all that really matters. And during the course of the next day or so, my milk arrived and this became a non-issue.

There I was, Erik at work and I'm trying to figure out how to pump (to encourage that milk supply), but really needing a third arm. You're supposed to somehow be able to hold two cones perfectly centered on each breast, then press a button on the machine, then adjust the suction with another button on the machine. And oh by the way, this is having never done this before because this is not something you can practice in advance. While trying to figure this out, I got a text from Rachel asking if I needed any help. Yes! Oh yes please! She came by, pressed the buttons for me, and took photos of Athena. It's amazing what she can capture. I'm consistently amazed at her skill and vision.

We lived our first week at home day by day. Tuesday evening, Alex and Sherman stopped by. We went to Kaiser on Wednesday for a weigh-in and nursing check and she hadn't gained back enough weight yet, so they wanted to see her again on Friday.  Wednesday evening, Fred, Malaya, and Mira came by, officially kicking off our food train. On Friday, I was amazed at how much better I felt as I trudged back across the parking lot at Kaiser. Athena had gained four ounces in 2 days, which is well above the 1/2 to 1 ounce expectation. They pronounced us good and told us we needn't come back til her first pediatric visit next week. We'd made it to the weekend, and Erik's mom was due to arrive on Tuesday evening.

Erik doesn't get maternity leave right now as it's not really like he can just bail on his class. He gets 2 "personal days" to take off during the year, so he used one of those to stay with us in the hospital on the Monday after she arrived, but it was straight back to work for him, Monday through Thursday with a class (lab) starting at 8 a.m. We've settled into a nice routine of me staying up with the girl til she's ready to sleep, and him sleeping. Then I get up when she rouses, nurse again, and go back to sleep with her. Then I get up in the late morning with her again. If Athena needs extra support or I need an extra pair of hands, then I wake Erik, but mostly, he's gotten some half-way decent sleep most days. Then there are the exception days.

Sometimes she's not a perfect angel. Sometimes she utterly refuses to sleep. After hours of nursing, feeding from pumped, and sometimes even formula to supplement, she won't relax and let go. Swinging won't tempt her to sleepytime. The bassinet is clearly a torture chamber. And inevitably, just as she starts drifting off, we hear the tell-tale blast of poop on diaper, inevitably starting the cycle all over again as she's stripped down to too chilly to enable the diaper change and reassembled. Those are the hard nights. But most of the time, so long as she's warm and well-fed, she goes to sleep sometime between 1 and 2 a.m.

On Tuesday, Erik's mom arrived. She'd originally planned for a shorter stay, but the moment Athena was born, she went to reschedule her flight to arrive earlier. Erik's mom is pretty cool. She's a fountain of energy and reminds me a lot of my grandmother when she was her age. On her first day, she cleaned our bathroom. The next day she vacuumed. The next day she dusted. Then she did laundry. Meanwhile, she cooked yummy turkey meatloaf and loved holding the baby. I shuffled around and got a few things done and it was great. We took Athena out to Trader Joe's and Target on Thursday. She likes her car seat so she slept like an angel the whole time. We even walked from the TJ's all the way down to the Target at the far end of the shopping center and back, me enjoying stretching my legs, and Athena sleeping in her carseat on stroller. On Saturday, Erik's stepdad, Rich, also arrived from Cape Cod. My Grandmother was having a birthday, so my mom drove her and grandpa down for birthday lunch with her great-granddaughter. Karen (Erik's mom) made us stuffed chicken with roasted veggies and rice with spinach salad and ciabatta. I baked a berry/peach pie on Friday (since my grandmother shares my lack of love for cake). After lunch, we all shuffled over to Kevin and Rachel's place for a quick photo shoot because my mom wanted to capture the four generations in a photo.

Sunday, we tried to walk over to Naglee Garage for brunch, but got a late start and arrived about 45 minutes before they were due to close and found that they were actually out of food early. We regrouped and headed to dim sum at Dynasty instead. Karen and Rich had never done dim sum, so that was a new experience for them. Once again, Athena sleep peacefully in her carseat perched on the stroller. After lunch, we came back and took care of Athena's needs, and eventually made it back out for a stroll around the Japanese Garden in San Jose and finished the day with meatloaf sliders and various other leftovers.

Karen and Rich were heading home Tuesday morning, so we had a lovely lunch of Thai Pepper and dinner of burritos, and with one last bottle of breast milk, Karen said her teary goodbyes to her first grandchild. We expect she'll be back before too long.

So, after the whirlwind of the first two weeks, we made it through the rest of the next week one day at a time. Friends brought us food, so we never went hungry. We did more laundry than seems possible. Having a child is clearly the least eco-friendly thing I've ever done as we are also keeping the house at 72 degrees for Athena's sake. Our hands are dry from so much handwashing of bottles and breast pump and from keeping our hands washed so frequently. Erik came down with a cold, but neither Athena nor I got it. Hopefully she inherits my immune system because I tend to dodge most of the bugs that hit everyone else. Luckily, this cold didn't get too bad, but we learned that Athena's least favorite sound is Daddy's cough. Erik spent most of the week sleeping in the guest room so that when he woke up coughing, he would neither wake her nor manage to cough in her face or mine. By the weekend, we were ready for a fairly mellow time, save for missing our annual trip to Dundracon. As our friends converged in San Ramon, we sat on the sofa watching Warehouse 13.

In general, I like to prepare for upcoming challenges. I prepared for sleep deprivation, no showers, cold food, screaming baby, and being covered in spit-up. Sure, a lot of that has happened, but not with the frequency I expected, and I've managed to get a shower every day so far. I have no idea how people do this as a single parent (or with twins). Without Erik to hand her off to, I'd be drowning, but he's a willing participant and so far, this just isn't as bad as I was prepared for. By setting my expectations low, I've managed to feel like I'm doing alright with this whole thing.  Life is weird and very different (she says as she types while pumping her breasts), but it's not overwhelming. And there are other things that I expected to be far harder. A week after giving birth, I felt pretty good so long as I kept up on ibuprofen. And two weeks after giving birth, the weirdest thing of all was that I'd lost all my pregnancy weight gain. After all the water drained from my legs, suddenly, I was 30 pounds lighter. Of course, though I'm currently about a pound less than when I started this process, I wouldn't say that weight is anything like the weight I had before. My legs look positively skinny now and my middle is squishy and stretched, and that speaks to a lot of loss of muscle mass as I've been sitting on my butt for two months straight. No Irish dance. No polkas. No climbing the stairs of the Clark Center. I'm an awfully flabby 30 pounds lighter. We'll fix that. And maybe, just maybe, I can peel off another 10 pounds and get to my goal weight from before this adventure began. I'm certainly a lot closer than I expected to be at this point. I've climbed up the attic last week to swap the clothes in my closet. Suddenly v-neck shirts with stretch are significantly more valuable than all other clothes as they work for breastfeeding. All the turtlenecks have been banished til next winter.

This weekend, I plan on missing the Gaskell Ball. I'm sending Erik to teach the class and host the ball, but Athena's immune system is just too immature to face 200-300 people in a room during cold and flu season. Hopefully I'll get a trip out to Friday Night Waltz the following week to make up for it (as I'm dying to learn the Peanut Butter Jelly Time dance). Word is, she needs to be kept out of crowded places for the first six to eight weeks, but after that, expect us to be back. Lord knows I need the exercise.

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