Monday, August 27, 2012

Milk, Poo and Tears

Sometimes it feels like I'm drowning. Between spit-ups and leaky diapers (pee and poop) the baby went through four outfits and five blankets in a single morning. While I was pregnant and accumulating baby clothes I told my Mom I had enough sleepers for her to wear a different one each day. Mom laughed "You'll need about 6 sleepers a day!" At the time I thought she was exaggerating. Before the baby, a single girl on my own, I used to do laundry once a week, if that. With the baby, I'm doing a load a day. I'm getting tired of the sight of orange poo. Sometimes it's a constant stream. Sometimes I have just finished changing her and she's already pooing again. One time she even splashed my hand before I could get the next diaper on! Beware of exploding orange baby poo! At least I know she's eating well but this is ridiculous. It seems almost constant. She eats. She poos. She cries. She sleeps five minutes. And it repeats. ALL DAY LONG. Until you fear for your sanity. It seems like she screams every few minutes with another poo. I understand, mind you. I'm pretty fussy myself. I would get cranky if I was starving and overtired (come to think of it, I am!) and sitting in my own feces (thankfully I am NOT. But I do suffer from bouts of IBS and have spent a lot of time in the bathroom. Maybe poor baby has inherited my bowel blues.) So I would complain too. But sometimes she keeps crying even after she's been fed and changed and everything is good and then it's just frustrating. "But you have no complaint!" I try to tell her to no avail.

It can be daunting dealing with bodily fluids from morning until night. I'm surprised I don't have nightmares about orange diarrhea! They tell me the day will come when she will only mess one or two diapers a day. Right now it's about 6-10 a day. Or more. I lost count. At least 4 really big poos. A few smaller poos & a bunch of wet ones. She never used to spit up milk. Now she's spitting up more and more (which I hear is normal). There are often little white curds in it. (Curds and whey? What is she? Little Miss Muffet?! What kind of milk am I making here?) I heard that when they are first born they don't have tear ducts. She certainly does now. It breaks my heart to see her little tears. I never want her to cry. Sometimes it does make me angry though, when she's fed and clean and everything seems good and she still fusses. It's like she doesn't have a right to cry! I tell her I'm the one who should be crying! She has me to take care of her and meet her needs but there's no one to take care of me and I barely have a moment to care for myself!

One day when she was upset inexplicably I sat with her laying on my lap in the rocking chair making a gentle shushing noise (it occurs to me how much easier it would be if we lived by the ocean. The sound of the waves would be soothing for both of us) until she stopped crying and fell asleep. Then I started to cry. I looked at the turquoise wall that used to be grey, sitting in the nursery that used to be an office (at least for a few months) for her father, wondering where he is, what he's doing, whether he ever thinks of us. Even if he hated me (and I don't know why he would when I gave him everything, the key to my house and my heart) how could he walk away from his own child? And not ever want to see her, hold her, know her? How could he just forget? How does he carry on with his life and just pretend we never happened? I still can't believe it. And I wondered, just for a fleeting moment, what if I hadn't gone on that date, hadn't met him at Tim Hortons, hadn't fallen in love with the most cruel, most cowardly man on earth, hadn't let him move in too soon, hadn't gotten pregnant unexpectedly. Then I looked down at my perfect, beautiful little cherub and I sobbed deeply (as quietly as I could so as not to disturb her) and I thought "But I couldn't undo this. I wouldn't undo this. Even after all the pain, all the stress, all the anguish. It had to be. She had to be. And I would do it all over again to have her."

"I love you, baby," I told Michelle, wiping away my tears, "Mama loves you." She let out a little sigh in her sleep and her lips curled into a half smile. "Even when you're killing me, I love you."

I survived abandonment. Pregnancy. Being pregnant alone. (And still having to do housework, yard work, gardening, mowing the lawn, heavy lifting, even at 9 months pregnant.) I survived labour and delivery, even when it got rough at the end with a male doctor stepping in to "assist" -- reaching into my insides up to his elbows and twisting things around, even using a plunger (vacuum) and salad tongs (forceps) to pull my 9 pound 4 ounce baby out -- and ripping me apart in the process. I'm hoping the stitches from the episiotomy are healing OK. I'm too scared to look. Survived the first few difficult weeks with a newborn, the challenge of breastfeeding, no sleep, barely a second to myself to eat, go to the bathroom, do laundry. I survived. And I will survive. I have to be strong for her. She's worth it. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.

Sometimes my heart still breaks though. I know that hormones are part of it. My breasts are leaking milk. I'm on little to no sleep. I'm run ragged from morning to night trying to meet the needs of an adorable though ruthless and irascible dictator in diapers. I am so owned. Her father mesmerized and controlled me. Now she's doing the same. The difference is she's innocent. She doesn't mean to tear me apart (even when she nearly bit my nipples off the first week of breastfeeding.) Sometimes I just think about all that has happened this past year. I see the months flicker by like movie scenes. Meeting Mike. Him moving in. Finding out I was pregnant. The house full of pets. Christmas and the beautiful letter he wrote me about how much he loved me, how excited he was about the baby, how we'd be a cute little family and I was stuck with him forever. Then his unexplained disappearance in February. Losing Banff. Being broke. Everything falling apart. All the heartache. Then miracles happening, hope, life getting better. The months of pregnancy -- a rollercoaster of highs and lows. Labour and delivery. The pain and fear and joy. Meeting my baby. The scary first few days trying to care for her. Seeing her smile the first time. Looking into her eyes. Sometimes I'm overcome with emotion. I can't believe it all happened. Sometimes I just need a good cry. It's like I can only hold it in so long and then I crack, the dam breaks and it all floods out. It's a release. A relief.

Some days it feels like an uphill battle. She poos and it leaks through the diaper and is all over her outfit and blanket. So I bathe her (which is quite an ordeal in itself with a little screaming on her part though she usually enjoys it at least partially. She never likes getting out.) Then when she's all clean and I'm putting the lotion on she pees/poos on the towel. "Really?!" It's so frustrating. I'm not about to bathe her again but it's disheartening to go through all that just to have her sitting in pee/poo again anyway. Although with 10 or more diaper changes a day it's not as though I can keep her pee/poo free for long! You just go through a ton of baby wipes and wash cloths to keep up.

There are times I think "This is hell!" and I don't know how I'll cope. Other times I manage to have a sense of humour about it. And then all of a sudden she'll surprise me and have a really good day -- sleeping better at night, not fussing so much during the day, letting me go through a grocery store or visit friends without screaming. Then there are the magical moments when I watch my little angel sleeping, when she smiles at me or stares at me wide-eyed, innocent and full of wonder. Those moments are worth anything. Even poo and screaming.

A public health nurse came to the house to see us. I guess it's standard practice when someone has a baby for them to send someone to make sure you're doing OK. It's a good idea. You never know. I mean you need to read a manual and take a written test and road test before they let you drive a car but you give birth to a fragile little human and they let you walk out of the hospital the next day without any sort of test! The biggest responsibility on the planet, caring for a baby and yet there is no test, no manual, no license. You just figure it out on your own. (Mind you the nurses did give a few pointers in the hospital. Some more helpful than others.) I remember one nurse, a cool one (I wish she had been my nurse the whole time instead of the scatterbrain that was dealing with me most of the time) saying "People think that babies are so fragile, that they're like eggs. But they're hard-boiled eggs. They're more resilient than you think." It was after she had shown me the proper way to breastfeed and it seemed a bit aggressive to me. She thought I wasn't aggressive enough. (I don't know why but this reminds me of the one time I went horseback riding. The trainer was telling me to kick the horse and I wouldn't. She warned me that I was "too nice" and the horse would be in control instead of me. I couldn't help it. I didn't want to kick the horse. "It doesn't hurt them," she reassured me, "they're tough and they're used to it." But I still couldn't do it. So of course while everyone else's horse was sauntering along obediently at a leisurely pace, mine was galloping ahead at breakneck speed, scaring me to death and doing as he pleased because I was too much of a wimp to take control. Nice guys finish last. Unless they're on a horse and then I guess I would have come in first with my wild out of control stallion!) OK this paragraph was supposed to be about the nurse and somehow I ended up on horses... I guess the point is (when it comes to animals or children) sometimes you have to take charge, to take control or they will run amok and drag you with them. Anyway, the nurse was very nice. I told her my tale (about the baby's father leaving etc.) She thought he was a monster and that I was very strong. She complimented me on the baby, on my home and said that I seem to be doing really well. It felt good to have a stranger come in and tell me that I'm doing the right things and have it all together. It was reassuring to have positive feedback, especially from an expert. It's easy to doubt yourself when it's all so new and when you have people throwing in their (often negative) two cents about what you "should" be doing.

I also had a very nice visit with a couple of friends, James and Amy, and Michelle was surprisingly good at their place. She was all smiles and in good spirits most of the time. She almost made a liar of me (they had heard about Michelle screaming and thought I was making it up) of course by the evening she was showing her dark colours again and started exercising her lungs until her face turned red. I took my cue and bid them good night. It was a treat to have a home cooked meal, a bathroom break (James held her while I went to the ladies room. Not always an option when I'm home! Sometimes I have to hold it indefinitely!) and people to talk to who are down to earth, relaxed and calm. It was a good vibe for Michelle and I to be around. So thanks guys! Amy made a beautiful Little Mermaid blanket for Michelle and cooked a nice dinner (which I inhaled ravenously!) James was hilarious as usual and even had Michelle smiling and laughing. Aside from her relatives she doesn't have a lot of men in her life (I don't plan to have one in my life for quite some time! I wouldn't have time anyway!) so it's nice for her to be around a nice one now and then.


I decided to brave the grocery store again (the same one she'd had her meltdown in before). I do have to eat after all! Miraculously she stayed asleep the whole time. I almost have it down to a science now though. Feed her. Wait half an hour. Change her diaper (a huge poo). Then she's still a bit fussy because she's tired and just about ready to fall asleep. That's the perfect moment to get her into the car. She falls asleep during the ride and then is still knocked out while in the shopping cart. She did start to fuss on the ride home. I crinkled some foil that my Mom had given me. For some reason the noise stops her crying and she goes back to sleep. Sometimes a noise is all it takes. A distraction. Entertainment.

And recently I learned that she loves dancing. I had the radio on a dance music station (I miss going dancing) and I had her in my arms because I was trying to lull her to sleep. I started dancing around with her. She loved it. She looked quite content. The more I bopped around and swayed back and forth, the happier she seemed. Before I knew it, she was out like a light. It's good exercise for me and entertains her so I think I'll be dancing a lot. She likes her swing too sometimes but other times it doesn't cut it. Sometimes I guess she just needs to be cuddled and carried. Needs to know that Mama is there.

She was also good as gold in Walmart. She stayed asleep the entire time and even when I was cashing out, she woke up but was still mellow and didn't cry. I was so relieved. I thought maybe she's turned a corner and is going to be good from here on out. But then she had a difficult night, fussing and inconsolable. It seems if she has a good night then she's fussy during the day and if she has a bad night she's good during the day. I guess it's too much to expect her to be happy and restful both day and night!

The summer is almost over and I was a little disappointed that we didn't get to the beach (other than my little backyard beach) this year but it is too soon. She's too young and fragile and being a pale blue eyed redhead her skin would be much too sensitive, vulnerable to the sun. You can't put sunscreen on a newborn. We'll have to wait until next year. I'm not really ready either. I'm hoping to be bikini ready by next year. I'm hoping to lose the "Mommy tummy." It has gotten a little smaller. I wish I could lose the stretch marks too. I hope they fade at least. I wanted to do a little beach photo shoot with Michelle so I improvised. I had these cute shades from Osh Kosh and adorable little sandals from Old Navy. I did have an adorable pink swimsuit that was supposed to fit 0-3 but it was way too small for her. She pretty much fits 3 month sized clothes now. She looked at me like "What the heck are you doing Mom?" Sorry baby. You live with the paparazzi! You're going to be in a LOT of photos! Everyone always says they grow so fast. I want to capture every moment.

When she gives me a hard time -- with seemingly endless poo and tears -- I can be grateful that she won't stay this way for long. Her stomach will grow and she'll be able to hold more food and poo less often. And hopefully she will learn that her needs are always met and she doesn't need to cry so much. But when she's a delight -- wide-eyed, sweet, smiling or just contentedly looking at me curiously and I look at her angelic little face and her tiny fingers and tiny toes, it makes me sad that she won't stay this way for long. She'll grow up and won't need me so much and maybe I'll look back at this time and think how lucky I was, even when she was screaming. 

She's one month old now! It's hard to believe a month has gone by already. It really has flown by. Even the really hard days. This time is so precious. It is more than just breastfeeding, changing diapers and soothing tears. It's about bonding. It's about love and patience. It's baby Michelle and I learning as we go. It's not easy, for either of us. She's discovering a whole new world that she's just entered. I'm figuring out how to be a Mom (a whole new world for me!) We both have a lot to learn. We'll figure it out together.


  1. Being a mom is freakin' HARD! Especially a single mom! But you have such a good perspective about it!. I remember when Elena was just a few weeks old & someone said to me, "Oh, you'll miss this stage." I was like, "No freaking way!!!" & I really don't!

    Happy 1 Month Birthday, Michelle!!!

  2. Thank you! I'm trying!
    I'm not sure if I'll miss this early stage with the baby. I'm just hoping it keeps getting better! :)

  3. Hey Ann Marie-
    You ARE doing a great job. I have been reading your story for a long time, we have a lot of similarities. We certainly can't control or change what has happened in life. Just accept this beautiful gift and move forward. You are right, she will start sleeping more and pooing less! Just takes time. You are an amazing mommy! Lucky Michelle!!


    1. Thank you so much! It means a lot to me. Sometimes I think it's getting easier and then it gets harder again...I guess I just have to surrender to the fact that babies cry and sometimes there's nothing you can do! It's stressful though!