Parenting journal: Weathering the intensity

I cried this morning.

It was shortly after seven. I fed Owl and then went into the other room for a snack while Erik burped her and changed her diaper. I drank a glass of water and ate a piece of pound cake and checked my email, and then I came back into the bedroom where Erik was still cleaning Owl up. “She had a poop blowout,” he said. I thanked him and kissed her sweet forehead and got back into bed and cried.

There was no reason.

There were lots of reasons.

Owl had a fussy afternoon and evening (Erik bore the brunt of it). I love Owl more than I ever imagined possible, which makes it hard when she fusses. Erik says he’s fine looking after her; his job is to help me; but it bothers me to see him so tired and not be able to do more to support him. I keep imagining him full of secret resentment even though he’s assured me repeatedly that he is happy to care for us. 

I woke up more tired than usual. My breasts are tender, my neck aches, my shoulders are incredibly tight, and my hands and wrists are sore. I can’t carry Owl for longer than a few minutes because it hurts my hands. I can’t wear her for longer than about an hour because it hurts my back.

My hair is too long and my chin looks like it’s doubling, but I can’t stop eating and I don’t think I should. I don’t know whether my face looks spotty or I’ve gotten too used to Owl’s perfect skin. I feel like I smell bad, even right after a shower. I need to cut my toenails. Sometimes, when I’m nursing, I scratch one foot with the other and think about how long the nails are. Owl’s nails, too: there are fine red lines all over my breasts and belly where she scratches me while feeding. She kicks me, too, if she’s having trouble latching and is getting frustrated. Many of our feeding sessions start with this small lacerating and pummeling.

I feel as if I ought to be recovering faster. Other new moms seem to already be up and about. Erik reminds me that not everyone has a third-degree tear, but I still feel inadequate, half expecting the doctor to chastise me at my next appointment. I don’t want to go out, anyway.

I do want to go out, though.

I’m still only feeding her side-lying; how am I going to deal when we have to take her out for longer than an hour? Our very first feedings were sitting up and I keep meaning to practice that again, but somehow I never get to it. 

My parents want to celebrate Owl’s first month and I can’t decide whether to go down to the South Bay or ask my family to come here. Would confidence in sitting-up feeding help with the decision? 

We haven’t given Owl a proper bath yet. We said we would do it a week ago and still we haven’t. I’m sure she’s fine, but maybe she isn’t.

Are we swaddling her too much? 

Are we giving her enough tummy time?

Are we using too many diapers?

My phone keeps saying it’s out of storage space even though I just got a new SD card for it.

I’ve gone through three audiobooks in the past four days. Should I pay for Audible? Will that not just open the floodgates for me to one-click-buy tons and tons of them? The library has them for free, but Audible has a much better selection.

In essence: I have a new baby, I’m sleep-deprived, hormones make me over-sensitive, and everything feels out of proportion.

I always hesitate to write posts about feeling upset because people try to fix it and make it better, which I find embarrassing, because nothing is wrong — and I mean that sincerely. I have a beautiful, generally very easy baby, and all the help a new mother could possibly ask for. It’s just a very intense time, and for a short while this morning that intensity spilled over the level of what I can bear with equanimity. Nothing has changed from the day or the week before. The occasional overwhelm is just part of the gig.

(I really am fine, and I’m not just saying that. Remember this if you ever read my posts and worry: by the time I can write publicly about my troubles, the crisis has passed.)

I must say that these first four weeks have made me much less judgmental of other parents. Not that there aren’t terrible parents out there, but if it’s this intense when everything is going well and I have every resource at my disposal, I cannot even imagine how hard it must be if it’s otherwise.

This work is not for the faint of heart.

Sweetness has its price, though we pay willingly!

Baby Ada, just over three weeks old


11 responses to “Parenting journal: Weathering the intensity

  1. Hugs, just lots of big, warm, fuzzy hugs your way! I know every feeling you’ve just described. Trust me when I say things WILL get better. They will. You have a beautiful daughter and I am sure you are a wonderful mom ❤

  2. I understand that you really are fine. Wanting to say something kind is the urge a friend has for another who is going through something difficult, even when the diffficulty stems from something precious and wonderful. I was pretty much on my own with a baby crying constantly, from ten minutes after a feeding until the next, until she pretty much fed all the time. (I could have breast fed triplets.)

    I say this to say that you don’t need to worry about Erik. He’s going through this, too, I understand. But he’s what every new mother needs. A partner who can support you and take up the slack. The bonus you have is that he loves you. I’m so glad to have met him. I always think of him as wonderful. Now I’m sure he is. I’m glad he’s there.

    • Thank you, dearest Ré. I send all sympathy to your new-mom self, retroactively!!! Seems like your baby grew up well and wonderful. 🙂 ❤ Erik is amazing, although we’re also exceptionally well supported (by US standards) with his workplace’s parental leave policies — which I will write about in a future post. It hurts my heart so much to think of parents struggling without the societal support we should all have.

  3. Oh Lisa! I would have given ANYthing to have read this post when I was the mom of my first daughter. I could relate to so much of it, and in such a visceral way. Everything was so overwhelming. All the questions, all the doubt. It sounds to me like you are having a perfectly normal response to the most enormous experience ever. Your Erik sounds amazing. He is tired. So are you. It’s BIG. It’s wonderful that you care for each other so much. Do what you can, and be gentle with yourself, and know that whatever you do, you’re doing it right. oxoxo

    • Ahhh, dear Susan!!! Thank you for your words and love. It is an overwhelming time, and I’m so grateful that not only do I have a lot of hands-on support, but was able to learn decently what to expect — and now have a lot of friends checking in (and I still feel happy every time I see or touch your mother’s beautiful quilt). ❤

  4. Hugs! I’ve loved reading about your pregnancy, delivery, and the joys/trials of new parenthood. You seem so open and honest with your emotions and experiences. Since I’m now 21 weeks along in my first pregnancy, it’s great to read your stories!

    • Thanks so much, Jess, and congratulations on your pregnancy!! I hope it’s as fascinating and powerful a time for you as I found it. I plan to keep the posts coming, so I hope they continue to be good reading for you! ❤

  5. Lisa, sweetheart, you are doing well and I am so proud of you. it is good to cry sometimes, to let it go, to get the strength back. Sending you much, much love. you are great mama!!!

    • Thank you thank you, dear Aga!! You know, there is so much emotion right now and so much physical sensation, sometimes I feel as if I need to cry even when I’m not sad — like there needs to be some kind of release because it is tricky to hold it all. Love to you and big hugs.

  6. Pingback: Parenting journal: Slow re-entry |·

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