Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Mad Dash

I used to be a bit of a procrastinator. There isn't time now. I have a very small window of opportunity between feedings, changings and other assorted screamings. Anything that needs to be done has to be done NOW and quickly. I used to leave dishes to sit in the sink. Now they're loaded in the dishwasher immediately. I'm doing laundry every day now. Sometimes I have the luxury of running around to get things done while Michelle is asleep. Other days I have to do things while carrying her which is much more of a challenge. Sometimes I wish I could grow extra arms. Trying to eat cereal without dropping milk on her head. Answering the phone, doing housework. The hardest was loading the washing machine. Hard to reach in with her in my other arm. So you hope she falls asleep for a few moments and then you put her down and make a mad dash to get everything done.

Certain things I dreaded like putting the garbage out, I now realize can be done in under 5 minutes. You just run around as quickly as you can and get it over with. The baby has forced me to be fast and efficient because otherwise nothing would get done. And there's no one else to do it so I don't have a choice!

I never know when she nods off whether I'll have 10 minutes, or if I'm really lucky, an hour or more to get things accomplished. So I basically have to get everything done in 10 minutes or less, just in case. I've become quite adept at dashing through most things. It's a whole new sort of multi-tasking. Sometimes I get lucky and she gives me a reprieve. One night I actually got to take a BUBBLE BATH!!! This is like winning the lottery. I always loved bubble baths by candlelight. They were one of the few things that relaxed me while I was pregnant. When the baby was asleep I thought, I could eat something (I've lost 35 lbs already, without exercise other than a couple of walks because breastfeeding burns 500 calories and I'm lucky if I have time to consume 1000 calories a day) because I am pretty hungry, I could grab some sleep because I'm beyond exhausted, but what my soul really yearned for was a bubble bath. After delivering a more than 9 lb baby, obviously my body has been through a lot. I have been pretty sore "down there" after the episiotomy. I thought the bath would be soothing (it was HEAVEN) for body and soul. I knew that if worse came to worst, I'd just step in and baby would scream and that would be the end of it, in which case I'd just drain the water and walk away. But I said a little prayer for peace and she complied. I got to lay in the soothing bubbles for almost half an hour! It was a luxury I thought I'd never experience again.

And I needed soothing after my ordeal the day before...

The day started out well. I took Michelle to the doctor. She did start to fuss in the office but I managed to pacify her with a bottle of my pumped breast milk (I really don't feel comfortable breastfeeding in public so I have a bottle ready when I know I'll be out.) When the doctor checked her out she said Michelle is very healthy and she weighs 9 lbs 12 ounces now! It feels so good to know that she's eating well (as if the constant diaper changes weren't evidence enough!) and that I'm producing enough milk. I actually leak sometimes now and my breasts become engorged. Sometimes I pump the milk for extra relief but I've been told that that's like putting out a fire with gasoline because it's supply and demand, so the more I pump, the more my body will produce. In any event, after my first stressful week wondering if my milk would ever come in, I'm just happy that my cups runneth over!

The day took a dark turn when my Mom (who I'd been visiting after the doctor) suggested we run up to the store so she could buy a lottery ticket. I needed garbage bags anyway (and it was garbage night that night) so I thought what the heck. Baby seemed to be safely napping in the carseat. Of course you never know how long she'll stay asleep and when she may wake up screaming. I'd already experienced her screaming tantrums in a grocery store before and I sure didn't want another ugly episode. So Mom runs into the store and leaves me to haul the carseat into a cart myself. Fine. She's just trying to be quick. I go in and am pleased they actually sell blue bags there. I grab a couple more things quickly. Baby is still quiet. So far so good. Five minutes later, I'm ready to motor. I line up at the cash. That's when it all falls apart. Baby Michelle likes being on the move. As long as she's in a moving car, cart or stroller, she's soothed, entertained, lulled to sleep. When the motion stops, she goes ballistic. So as I'm trying to pay, she begins screaming like a banshee. "Dear God," I think, "not again." The line-up scream. I was sure the entire store, including my mother, would hear her. It's hard to miss a newborn having a meltdown. I couldn't get out of the store fast enough. I get to the car. Mom isn't there but is no doubt on her way. She was just buying a lottery ticket after all and she knows I have the baby (Mom was notorious for leaving you waiting when you would take her shopping, but surely she wouldn't do that now that I have a baby.) I start the car, hoping Mom will be here any second. She wasn't. The baby is still howling like a demon. I decide to circle the parking lot. Maybe if the car is in motion, she'll calm down. I kept passing the grocery store hoping Mom would be out any second. She wasn't. People exited. None of them her. I finally parked in front of the doors and started honking. I was about to run into the store screaming her name and thought better of it. How could she be so inconsiderate?! The baby was beside herself (almost purple now from screaming.) I was getting more stressed and more livid by the second. I circled around the parking lot again and almost got into an accident with some idiot pulling out too quickly and not looking. This was ridiculous.

You know how there are football minutes and dog years? I think there should be "baby screaming minutes." A minute with a screaming baby feels like 10 minutes. Ten minutes with a screaming baby feels like an hour. An hour with a screaming baby feels like a year. Enough was enough. I had endured at least 15 minutes of this Hell (it felt like 2 hours) and I was ready to kill someone. Namely my mother!

I pulled up in front of the store again and tried to look through the glass to see if I could see her cashing out at least. What on earth was she doing? I wanted to just leave her there. A delivery person with a pallet gave me a look. I pulled ahead to get out of his way. Then I saw an employee bringing a bunch of carts into the store. I asked him if he would please have someone page my mother. I gave him her name and said tell her to come out right now or I'm leaving, I have a newborn baby screaming and I can't wait for her anymore. He nodded but apparently completely ignored my request, went into the store and did nothing. I finally saw my mother at a cash register. I was FURIOUS. So when she got to the car, I was screaming. She screamed that she had been looking for me (Why wouldn't you go to the car?! As if I want to hang around inside a store with a screaming baby!!!) The parcels in her arms proved she'd gotten more than a lottery ticket. We yelled at each other for a bit. The baby finally stopped screaming (I guess she figured she couldn't compete with us) and fell asleep. After fighting with my mother I dropped her off and said I'm never taking her anywhere again.

She left a message on my machine that she was sorry for the misunderstanding. She had been looking for me in the store. Next time, run to the car!!!

Baby can scream. She screams when she's hungry (which is almost constantly for my voracious little vampire). She screams when she's dirty (eating constantly means she poos constantly too). She screams when she's tired. Which is most of the time because she doesn't get much sleep. It's tough. My Mom always told me that I screamed the whole first year. That I wouldn't sleep, wouldn't let her put me down all day long. I was moody, demanding and high maintenance. So I guess this is karma that I wind up with a little girl just as difficult as I was. My mother said that the trade-off was that I was brilliant. I was very advanced for my age. Walking, talking and potty-trained all well under a year. She said I was a "firecracker" because I was born on "firecracker day" (aka Victoria Day) and because of my red hair. Redheads can be moody. I'm the first to admit it. Now I have a little one on my hands. She's a real Drama Queen!

People ask me what's a good day/time to do things and I don't know how to answer. I don't know with the baby. I can't plan my day out and know how it will go. She calls the shots. She might sleep for a few minutes or (by some miracle occasionally) a few hours. But you race to do whatever you can as fast as you can while you can. And you hope that she doesn't scream. Especially when you're out in public. But so far she has made a scene almost every time we've gone out.

I went to the grocery store today because I was nearly out of milk. She screamed the entire time I was in the store. I had never moved so fast. I threw things in the cart. I threw them on the belt at the cash register. I was stressed beyond belief. Then there was the time she screamed at the drive thru so that they couldn't even hear me. She was screaming so much I thought I'd better check on her so I parked and went to the backseat to see if she'd had an exploding poo or something. Next thing I knew there was a hornet in the car. Great. So now I have a screaming baby and a hornet to deal with. Luckily he moved along when I opened the window. I guess he couldn't stand the screaming either.

It's hard to do anything now. Sometimes I get lucky and get an hour to myself. Other times baby won't even give me five minutes.

My friend came to visit (and brought pizza and lava cakes God bless her soul! Visitors Welcome! Please bring food! Mama is starving!) last night. I had to feed Michelle almost the whole time. And then there were the diaper changes. Then there were just the screams of overtiredness. My friend got to see the kind of stress I deal with on a daily basis. She suggested I try bottle feeding so I'm not so depleted breastfeeding all day, try a soother to quiet the baby. I am committed to breastfeeding and I don't believe in soothers (to me it's just sticking a plug in the baby's mouth and it may confuse her, interfere with her feeding.) She was thinking of my best interests. But I can only think of the baby's. Even if she's killing me. Sometimes I think I'll lose my mind.

The baby is all that matters. Some people say "Just let her cry." I can't. They say I'm spoiling her. I don't care. She is innocent, helpless. She needs me. I can't let her think that the world is a cruel place and her needs won't be met. I have to comfort her, reassure her, make her happy. Even if it destroys me in the process. That's my job as a Mom. To put her first.

I really had no clue what it was going to be like. My life has changed beyond recognition. I used to need 10 hours' sleep to function as a human. I never get anywhere close to that now. I'm lucky if I get 3. I remember before I had the baby that I told someone I would just sleep when the baby slept. It seemed to make sense at the time. I actually did grab a cat nap for a bit with her once but usually when the baby sleeps is when I have to do everything else. Laundry, cleaning, dishes, grabbing a bite, running to the bathroom, or when I'm really lucky, doing a bit of writing. I knew that the baby would consume most of my time but I didn't fully understand how completely she would take over my life. I thought that it was so difficult being pregnant. Now I see how easy I actually had it. I think about the days when I was able to go back to bed and sleep until the afternoon. Now I'm lucky if I get 3 hours' sleep in a day. Sometimes you don't know how you survive. But you do. You have a really bad day and then the next day is pretty good.

Sometimes I do feel depleted. The baby takes so much out of me emotionally and physically. On the positive side, breastfeeding and carrying around a nearly 10 lb baby has proven to be a good workout. I've lost over 35 lbs already. Just another 25 to go. My doctor cautioned me to be careful though. If I don't eat enough I may become very weak. I have had a couple of near fainting spells from lack of food and sleep. The baby literally is sucking the life out of me! She feeds on me all day and then doesn't let me eat or go to the store to buy food! 

There are good days. One day I went for a walk with Michelle in the stroller. It was a beautiful day, not too warm and with a slight breeze. She didn't start to fuss until I got home. It felt good to get out. Sometimes you can feel isolated when you're locked away feeding and changing and caring for a baby. Some days I wasn't able to get out of my pj's. A friend popped by unexpectedly and I answered the door with a zombie face and a milk-stained nightgown. Some days I just don't care. Vanity has gone out the window. There just isn't time. Sometimes I think maybe things are getting easier. Maybe baby is settling into more of a routine. Then I'll have another stressful nightmare day and I think I'm having a nervous breakdown (how can you tell if you are? Just out of curiosity...)

And just when I think I'm losing my mind and I can't take this anymore, the baby will be calm and angelic for a few moments. She'll look up at me with these curious big blue eyes and I love her so much that I know I can go through anything for her. She drives me crazy but I adore her. I look into her eyes and I melt. She smiles and it is the highlight of my life. Several times she has looked right into my eyes and smiled when I said "I love you!" or "Where's your smile?" Or she makes this little cooing noise. Just the thought of her being able to talk, to say "Mama" one day makes me tear up. It is worth it. If this is what I have to go through then so be it. Yes some days I feel like I'm going to crack when she's screaming and I feel like I'm going to collapse. I start to cry from a mixture of exhaustion, frustration and hormones. But somehow I survive it. I have to. And at least I'm always able to comfort her, eventually. Once I figure out what is wrong I can fix it. She's hungry and I feed her. She's wet/dirty and I change her. She's bored/tired and I entertain her/lull her to sleep by rocking, walking, dancing, singing, making strange noises, taking her for a drive, doing whatever I need to do!

When she is at peace, the world is a beautiful place. I watch her sleep and she is my little angel. I'm so grateful for those heavenly moments. They make up for the moments of sheer hell! I just wish she could be happy all the time. I can't bear to hear her cry.

Some people don't have it so hard. I met someone with such a quiet baby, she never seems to cry. She slept through the night right from the beginning. Other people tried to tell me newborns were so easy. They sleep most of the time. I guess it's luck of the draw. Just as no two pregnancies or labour stories are the same, no two babies are the same. No one can tell you what experience you're going to have.

She is an individual. There has never been another baby like her. I am blessed to have her. Even when it's not easy. Even when it's the hardest job in the world.

Writing about it helps somehow. Writing has always been a form of therapy for me. A way of sorting out my life, my feelings. I didn't know how I'd keep up with this blog. It's different now. I just type my thoughts when I have a moment, save it as a draft and post it when it's done. I don't have time to painstakingly proofread and edit anymore. I can't afford to be picky. I won't be able to write as often or as much as I did before but I can still share my thoughts and experiences. And I need to. Writing, like the bubble bath, is something I need, for me, to nurture my soul.

I'm a Mommy now and 99% of my time and energy goes to the baby, but I still need something for me so that I don't go crazy. I can't lose myself completely. I need these few moments for myself. It's hard when you're on your own and there's no one to watch the baby for a minute while you run to the bathroom or grab a shower but you just get creative. You learn to hold it until you have a moment. You learn to be grateful for the few seconds you can steal for yourself.

And I am grateful for my time with the baby. Even when it's rough. I wouldn't trade it for the world. This is love. Messy, complicated, joyous, painful. As Shakespeare said "The course of true love never did run smooth." She is my true love.


  1. Ann Marie- I've been meaning to comment, congratulations on the baby. I have three little ones and I know how hard breastfeeding can be. It was NOT natural for me at all, I admire your dedication. It is so good for them! I also know this stage you are in right now, you live in a bubble and have know idea what date it is and some days seem impossible. Just remember it is a stage- all of a sudden they just start sleeping 4 then 6 then 8 hours at a time. You are making an incredibly huge adjustment, and I can tell you are a great mom. These little things don't come with an instruction manual! Be well-

  2. Thank you so much for your kindness! And for giving me hope! I need it right now. Having a really rough time but I'm determined to keep breastfeeding (even though people are telling me I'm feeding her too much or should just switch to a bottle etc.) My baby calls the shots. I feed on demand even if it's every hour. It is a HUGE adjustment and more difficult than I could have imagined. I hope it does get easier. The idea of being able to sleep for 8 hours sounds like paradise! :) Thanks again for the pep talk, Missy!

  3. "My baby calls the shots" Truer words were never expressed...I had the same philosophy & still do. And it does get easier. My mom tells me all the time that my daughter is chaleging in the same ways I was so it must be a kharma thing!

    Have you thought about getting a carrier? Like a Moby or something along those lines? It made a world of difference for me when Elena was small & wished I'd started earlier, it makes doing chores easier, if she insists on being held anyway & maybe she'd be calmer in stores if she was on your chest rather than the car seat...

    I promise, it does get easier. Yesterday afternoon I was laying on the couch watching a TV program while Elena was playing on the floor beside me & it hit me, "Wow! I never thought we'd get here" but here we are!!

    1. Thank you for the encouragement! Yes I have a "Snugli" kangaroo pouch thing. I wasn't sure how old they have to be to go in it... I figured at least a month, when her neck/head is a bit sturdier? Yes carrying her like a kangaroo will be easier! :)