Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Nap of Luxury

"Sleep when the baby sleeps" was something I had heard while I was pregnant and sounded logical to me. Of course once I actually had the baby I realized that when she's asleep is the only time I have to run around and get everything done -- run to the bathroom, grab something to eat, have a quick shower, throw some laundry in, make calls, pay bills, check email, etc. But once in a while I'm so tired that I think, to hell with it, I'm having a nap too! Everything else can wait. Sleep is more important.

I have a nursing pillow that I use in the family room and in the rocking chair in the nursery but at night I feed the baby lying down in bed. It is just easier for both of us. She often falls asleep while she's nursing, wakes back up and nurses again. Sometimes it looks like she's nursing in her sleep. Before having the baby I didn't know how parents could sleep with the baby in the bed. Now I can't imagine any other way. To lift her up and put her in her crib would wake her up. It's more convenient (and cozy and a bonding experience) to have her right there with me. She sleeps better/longer than she does alone. During the day I have her in the mini crib downstairs so that she's close to me on the main floor but she never sleeps very long in it. Maybe she senses when I'm next to her.

She usually naps after each feeding. Sometimes a few minutes. Sometimes an hour. Or if you're really lucky a couple of hours. Usually in the morning when she nods off again is when I run around to start the day. But occasionally I don't have the energy, I don't have to be anywhere anyway and it's just too cozy lying next to her. Having a nap with the baby in the late morning or early afternoon feels like such a luxury. It's funny because when I feed her lying down I feel like a mother cat feeding her young so it only makes sense to have a cat nap too! One day I even had a dream that I was sleeping in a lion's den with baby lion cubs around me. Baby Michelle is like a baby lion! The way she feeds it almost feels like she has teeth (thank God for the nipple shield or I'd be bleeding!) and now she often digs her little claws into my breast as she's feeding too. (I have baby nail clippers but I'm terrified to use them and keep putting it off. I'd have to wait until she's asleep sometime to do it. Her nails are so small I'm afraid of cutting her finger by mistake. I'd rather be clawed! I just hope she doesn't scratch herself.)

So many things in my life have changed. The days fly by. There is so little time for anything. Certain things I've come to accept are no longer a part of my life, for quite a while. I don't know when I'll ever be able to eat in a restaurant again. There's no way she would stay quiet just sitting for an hour or more. She likes constant motion. Even having dinner at a friend's place I have to eat hurriedly. I feel like my social graces have gone out the window. I wind up just trying to scarf down a meal while they hold the baby or trying to eat with one hand while holding her myself . Luckily they understand and don't think less of me for eating like a starved animal! At home by myself I am even more animalistic. Wolfing meals down as quickly as possible. Inhaling an overripe peach over the sink (the juice drips, it's just easier over the sink!) Eating a chicken breast in four bites or less over the stove. And when I don't have her settled down, holding her in my left arm while eating with my right and trying not to drop my food on her (putting a paper towel over her while I eat seems to help.) Twirling spaghetti is the trickiest. I used to twirl it with fork and spoon. Have to settle for just the fork when you're down to one hand. Not that I have spaghetti too often. Usually I try to keep meals as simple and mess free as possible. When I get to eat at all! Sometimes it feels like Baby Michelle is a very strict diet. She screams if I try to hit a drive-thru (if you read my last post you know I didn't get to have the Big Mac I was craving!) Screams if I try to buy groceries (we had a rather ugly incident but thankfully at least she was good on my last shopping excursion). Screams if I try to cook (one day I tried to fry asparagus while I thought she was asleep but she woke up minutes later so I had to turn it off and wait until later.) I don't like frying anything with her in my arms because I'm afraid something might splash her and burn her. I try to avoid cooking as much as possible and nibble fresh fruits and vegetables. A few people were on me about not getting enough protein so I do make sure to have some meat as well but it's more of a challenge. I read that breast milk isn't dependent on what the mother eats, that you can produce enough milk even on an inadequate diet and that it is still nutritious. Then again it's the mother who suffers if she isn't eating enough calories and protein because her body will tap into its own stores of nutrients to produce milk.

I won't be able to go dancing for a while. I suppose I could actually have my Mom babysit. I could pump milk for a bottle and leave the mini crib for her to sleep in at my Mom's. But I'm not ready to leave her even for a couple of hours. Now I just dance with Michelle. She loves it. I have the radio on the dance station and bop around with her in my arms. It puts her to sleep. You wouldn't think she could fall asleep with so much activity but like a doctor told me, when she was in the womb she was being bopped around and rocked constantly while I walked, climbed stairs, did anything. That's why they need constant motion. It's comforting. It doesn't feel natural to them to be still. Same thing with the noise. White noise is soothing. In the womb there would have been constant background noise -- inside the body and outside. Silence would be foreign to them. They also wouldn't like to be alone because they were used to being connected to you. So when my arms are aching and back is breaking from carrying her almost constantly I just have to remind myself that this is what I have to do to make her feel safe and happy.

Last year I was at the beach almost every day. This year I only got to go a couple of times while I was pregnant and not at all since I've had the baby. She can't be in the sun as a newborn (a little redhead with sensitive skin I have to be extra careful). You can't put sunscreen on a baby until they're a year old. Besides I'd like to get back into shape before hitting the beach again. Even though I have lost 40 lbs so far, I haven't been able to work out yet and I still have my Mommy tummy. After I see the doctor for my six week appointment I'll ask her about doing aerobics and yoga again. That is if baby will let me. Hopefully I can find 20-30 minutes in a day to work out. Sure. Could happen!

I'm grateful that I got to go to the movies with my friend a couple of times late in my pregnancy because it will be a very long time before I'd be able to go out to the movies again. I have to settle for watching movies at home while Michelle is breastfeeding. The pause button comes in handy when she cries to be changed, rocked etc.

Sometimes it's a treat to get out either for a walk with the stroller, a visit or a shopping excursion, at least when she's good. It's pretty stressful when she's not! Other days it's a treat to just stay home and take it easy. Sometimes even staying in my pjs all day when I'm not expecting anyone and I know I don't have to go out. I am grateful to have this time to spend with the baby, even though it can be difficult and exhausting some days. Breastfeeding takes so much out of me physically and emotionally but it's worth it. Michelle is worth it.

Michelle is my life now. My days are spent caring for her. There isn't much time for anything else. I never get bored. I never get lonely. There isn't time. I was living for myself before. Now I live for her. This blog is one of the few things I do for me and even it is about her! I am grateful for the few moments I can steal for myself, to spill my thoughts and feelings in this way. Aside from my support network (mostly my Mom and sister) this blog is what helps me cope. Being able to talk about my experiences, even the hardest ones, makes them easier to deal with. It also helps me to appreciate (and record) the good experiences and happy moments. When she's not screaming, when she's just being, when she's smiling, or just looking around, her eyes full of wonder, she is the most precious being on Earth and she is worth every stressful, sleepless moment.

I couldn't have imagined how much work it was. I couldn't have fathomed how many diapers I'd go through in a day. How many hours I would spend breastfeeding. How few hours I would get to sleep. No one and nothing can prepare you. But you rise to the challenge. Because you have to. Because you love her so much.

Every day is an adventure. I never know what she's going to do. I was used to living on a schedule, living with a routine. That's definitely out the door now. She's in the driver's seat and she's completely unpredictable. She's just taking me along for the ride! It's an adventure for her too of course. This is all new to her. She's just discovering the world gradually, growing each day, inside and out. It must be overwhelming for her. Maybe babies cry sometimes just because they're overwhelmed. They take in so many new things each day. New sights and sounds. Their bodies are growing at an incredible rate. They go through a lot in the first year. I'm still working my way through "What to Expect." Of course every child is different and you can never be certain exactly what to expect. Michelle has been a surprise from the beginning and never ceases to amaze me.

Sleep is a precious commodity these days. I appreciate it more than ever when I get it. I think I'll try to take more naps with the baby. It's the best feeling in the world to sleep next to my little angel. Everything else can wait. The most important thing is sharing a bond with my little girl and getting some well-deserved rest.

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