Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Sh!t happens!


My sister and I went to an art show by the lake -- Art in the Park. It was nice to get out and was my first outing with the baby in her stroller. It seemed to be going well. She was sleeping contentedly. People made a fuss of her. I enjoyed looking around at the different artists' booths. I found an adorable little baby mermaid plaque that's just perfect for the ocean themed nursery. I was thinking, "This is great! I can still get out and do things with the baby!"

But then things got ugly...Michelle started to cry. We went back to the car and she was still crying, but she sounded more desperate. Then it became screaming. She screamed the entire car ride home. Was she hungry? Did she need changing? A car ride seems that much longer with a screaming baby, let me tell you. To make matters worse, everyone on the road seemed to be conspiring against me. Cars cut me off so that I'd just miss the light (I needed to make a right and could have if the idiot hadn't passed me and was now stopped there on red, not turning.) I seemed to hit every red light. The baby was howling, inconsolable. I'd never heard her cry like this. She was REALLY upset. I wasn't exactly amused myself.
"Hang on baby!" I tried to console her, "I'm going as fast as I can!"

I get her home and go to take her out of the carseat and I couldn't believe my eyes. What in the Hell...?
She was absolutely COVERED in orange diarrhea. I don't know how it got out of the diaper. Apparently the diaper wasn't very tight on the left side. Apparently her poop was volcanic, erupting out of the diaper onto her frilly little pink dress (first time wearing it. Now it was stained orange), her belly, the blanket, the carseat, everything. I couldn't believe it. Of all the times to have this happen. It had been such a cute little dress. And poor baby. No wonder she was screaming. I would be too. Covered in feces. Nasty.

So I bathed her, put the dress in the sink to soak, washed out the carseat and was utterly exhausted and discouraged. I had been feeling good. Feeling like things were getting easier. I was encouraged that I was still able to do fun things with the baby. Now this unexpected nightmare knocked the wind out of my sails. At least I managed to get the stains out of the dress with stain remover. (It said it worked for red wine. Apparently it works for orange poo too.)

Someone told me it would get easier after three weeks. Then it would get easier after three months. The first week with a newborn is the hardest. Then again I was also told that newborns are "easy." "They sleep 16 hours a day." Yeah, right. I'm lucky if she falls asleep for fifteen consecutive minutes before she poos or is hungry again.

Some days I'm feeling rested and positive and happy that I feel like I can handle anything. Other days I feel exhausted and drained and it feels like I can't keep up with diapers and feedings. Some days I feel like I'm a hair's breadth away from a full-scale nervous breakdown. Except I don't have time to have a breakdown. And how would I breastfeed from the insane asylum?

So baby and me survived the exploding poo eventually, though we were both traumatized. Once she was fresh, clean, warm and dry, she started to settle down. After her feeding she was sleepy and happy.

Sh%* happens. You just deal with it. It's unexpected. It's not pleasant but it's not the end of the world. Though it can feel like it at the time. I'm so much more fragile on no sleep. It makes every problem seem magnified a thousand times. I know that hormones can wreak havoc as well. I'm guessing that while breastfeeding the body is overloaded with hormones (as much as when you're pregnant, if not more) so that likely makes me feel more emotional as well. Then there's the fact that I'm sore from the stitches, am bleeding lochia constantly (like a never-ending period since delivery). Not to mention that my life has changed utterly and completely in ways I couldn't have fathomed. There's a lot going on. Yes a baby is a miracle. Yes I love her more than my own life. But becoming a Mom is still a lot to take on and quite honestly I had no idea how hard it would be. I thought I knew, but until I was in it, I really hadn't a clue.

My friend called one day while I was changing the baby. We could barely hear each other above Michelle screaming. "I'll have to call you back," I said, "My life is poo and milk now. Just poo and milk."

The baby's poo has metamorphosed quite a bit in the first couple of weeks. It started out looking like pudding. A sticky black/forest green tar-like substance -- meconium -- unearthly poop left over from being in the womb. That lasted a few days. Then it became kind of a mustardy colour, complete with mustard seeds. The latest incarnation is this watery orange stuff. I guess that's what my breast milk does to her. I was concerned that it's always diarrhea but considering she's on an all-liquid diet I guess that's just how it is. She won't have a solid poo until she's eating solid food. Something to look forward to I guess. I hear that eventually there will only be two diapers to change a day. Right now it's about 6. One positive thing about so much poop is that at least I know she's eating. But it is overwhelming to have to change her so often. Especially when it goes through more than a diaper. Right through her clothes and blanket. I'm doing a load of laundry every day now for the baby. I've already thrown one sleeper and blanket out (I really loved the pink dress so it was worth saving but I'm not going to that much trouble for a plain old sleeper or blanket.)

The worst is when I'm out or heading out because it's an ordeal to get her in the car seat to start with and then when you have to change her and get her out and start from scratch again, you just know you're going to be really late for your appointment! Timing is everything. I'll be just heading out the door and hear the gurgling sounds of a poo brewing and have to take her out and go through it all over again. That's still better than having it happen while we're out and hearing her scream.

One day I tried to go to the grocery store quickly. She'd had a good feeding, seemed mellow. I figured it would be a good time. She'd sleep in the car and hopefully be peaceful in the store. Yeah. Not so much. I was just grabbing some fruits and vegetables (I have no time to cook anyway so I might as well just eat healthy fresh things I can gobble quickly without preparation) and some milk. By the time I went for the milk, she was screaming bloody murder. I went to what I thought was the shortest line to cash out but of course there is always a problem to hold things up. Especially when your baby is howling like she's possessed. An elderly couple needed a price check on their milk or something. It felt like it was taking an eternity. The baby was getting more distressed. I couldn't console her. I figured she probably needed changing  but there wasn't much I could do in line at the grocery store. Everyone was staring. Finally it was my turn. By the time everything was bagged she had stopped crying. She must have sensed we were going home. When I got home it was even worse than I thought. Another explosion. Poor little girl. She was covered.

My Mom thinks that the baby takes after me. Mom told me I was very easy to toilet train. I couldn't stand to be uncomfortable for a moment. It seems my little girl is the same. I don't blame her. It's just overwhelming. Between the cries of hunger and the cries of discomfort, she does a lot of crying. Though people told me you'd be able to tell the difference in the type of cries, to me they are the same -- a desperate cry of helplessness. It is the only way they can communicate. "Something isn't right! Help me!" So I just check each time and rule things out by process of elimination. If her diaper is dirty, I change her. If it's not, I know she's hungry (she does give other cues as well like making sucking movements with her mouth and moving her head around like she's looking for a nipple.) When both those are taken care of if she's still crying then she's just overtired and upset and just needs to be amused/consoled long enough to fall asleep. Someone suggested I let her cry. I can't do that. I am here to meet her needs. I can't let her suffer. Besides I've heard that at this early stage it's crucial to make them feel safe and secure so that they will have a solid foundation for later. I don't want her to feel like I don't care, to feel helpless and that her needs won't be met. I try to meet her demands as promptly as I can. I'm only happy when baby is happy.

Thankfully there are some good days, good moments. Outings where she is content and poo/scream-free. We went for a walk in the woods and she really seemed to enjoy it. Even when the path got bumpy. I looked in on her and she was wide-eyed in wonder at the sights and sounds. She must have wondered about the flicker of light as the sun moved through the canopy of trees. It felt good to get some exercise too, though I was absolutely exhausted by the end of it.

The doctor said that walking is about the only exercise that's safe at this stage. I'll have to wait another month or two to do anything more strenuous. I am encouraged that I've already lost 30 lbs. Of course 10 lbs of that was the baby and the fact that I'm burning at least 500 calories breastfeeding and probably only eating about 1000 calories (because there's no time to eat/cook) probably helps. I have to be careful not to get dehydrated though. With all the blood I'm still losing and the milk I'm giving the baby, sometimes I feel weak and faint. Carrying her around and trying to do things with one arm is quite a workout too. So far the hardest thing was doing laundry -- reaching into the drum to pull out my sheets with my right hand while she's cradled in my left arm was almost an acrobatic trick.

I've heard stories from other new Moms who felt as overwhelmed as I do and I know that even on my worst days I can get through it. I'm not alone. So many women have faced the same challenges, felt the same frustrations. And everyone says it will get easier. I got through the first couple of weeks. Hopefully baby and me will settle into a routine and it won't be so stressful. It makes a big difference when I actually get some sleep. My friend told me that sleep deprivation has actually been used as an instrument of torture. You feel so fragile when you don't get any rest. Add to that the fact that you've lived through the greatest physical ordeal of your life, you're dealing with stitches, discomfort and blood loss, dealing with hormones, physically and emotionally giving everything you have for the baby -- it's no wonder you wind up feeling overwhelmed and depleted. 

You just have to be grateful for the happy moments. They make everything else worth it.  


  1. That sounds awful! Blowouts are never fun! Glad you were able to save that beautiful dress!

    1. Thank you! Yes I was relieved! She's had blowouts since then but when it's not a special outfit, I just pitch it. How does one little baby create so much orange poop?!