There are some personal thoughts I keep having that I feel like I want to put in writing somewhere – maybe for my future self, or whatever – but for some reason I want to type this out. I think about these things all the time, and there’s probably so many more topics I could write about, but for now, this is what I have. Read ahead with caution – these are personal experiences and things that I have come to realize through the process of being pregnant, giving birth, and having a newborn. I am no expert, to be sure, but with so many mommy blogs, it seems like everyone else is writing down their thoughts, so now I am too 🙂
P.S. This probably has nothing to do with living in Israel.
Miracles of Life
Getting pregnant, and staying pregnant, and delivering a healthy baby into this world are miraculous, unbelievable, totally mind-blowing miracles. If you are too young to know people who have had troubles with fertility, suffered a miscarriage, or had complicated deliveries, please know that these things are WAY more common than you realize. My pregnancy was complicated, relatively speaking, and in the end, was high-risk – and those months felt literally like decades – but I was very lucky in many ways. And still, it was not easy.
The eternity that was my pregnancy led me to understand why women remember so specifically an event based on which child they were pregnant with. It also gave me a newfound appreciation of my husband’s generosity, patience, and his ability to ignore my hormonal tears when I tried to convince him that I really did not know why I was crying. While pregnant, I had a very hard time remembering what it was like to not be pregnant. I could not figure out how women around me were physically able to wear high-waisted jeans. I did not remember a time when I wasn’t nauseous on the train to work. This was my new reality, and I couldn’t imagine that it would ever end. And then it did, and I faced my biggest fear: childbirth.
Childbirth is the most insane experience of all. The amazing thing is, everyone experiences it differently. For me, it was mind-blowing. I was in total shock when my son was placed on my chest, covered in gooeyness, and breathing, with eyes and ears and the most perfect little nose. I was speechless. It was profound. To my surprise, all the nerves I had felt leading up to the delivery room (like, months of being nervous, not hours or even days), those nerves vanished. I felt confident in my partner, in the medical professionals coming in and out of the room, and most importantly, I discovered a new confidence in myself. I felt like I was in touch with my body in a way I didn’t know was possible. Though my pregnancy felt like an eternity, the 15 hours of delivery flew by somehow, and now my life has resumed it’s normal pace, and I feel like every time I blink my son grows out of another onesie.
Feeding a Newborn
Nursing is hard. Nobody really talks about it – except other nursing mothers – but it really should be public knowledge.*** For something that is supposed to be so natural, and come naturally to the mother and baby, there are a hell of a lot of youtube videos on technique. After you give birth, the nurses in the maternity wing are basically there to help your baby latch onto your nipple – because it is not necessarily a natural instinct for a lot of babies, and it actually can be quite painful for the mother. For some women it does come easily, and many babies do catch on quickly enough, so I am not trying to scare anyone – I just think this should be known. Like, now when I see a woman breastfeeding a baby, I am so impressed – everyone should be this impressed.
Mother’s milk is literally a scientific miracle; it helps your baby get better if he becomes sick, it adjusts to the ever-changing needs of your growing baby (providing different vitamins and levels of fat for different stages), I even rubbed it on my son’s forehead when he had a pimple or patches of dry skin – and it actually healed the dryness before my eyes. It’s amazing. And at the same time, nursing is definitely not for everyone.
Here’s my personal story: when my son had difficulty latching, I realized I had to pump in order to get him the nutrients, but it also would have required me to never leave the house to pump the amount he needed to eat. Instead, I chose to do a combination of pumping and formula, so that I could regain at least a bit of my sanity and be able to leave the house (which usually only happened about once a day anyway for the first 2.5 months), and also to sleep! My son was very happy to have a bottle before bed, and would then sleep for relatively long stretches of time. This also meant that my husband could help with the feeding in the middle of the night or early morning, so I could have strength for the rest of the day. Being a new mom is so utterly exhausting and frustrating, and sometimes all you want is 3 minutes to poop. So if you can get an actual extra hour of sleep at night, that is seriously priceless.
Sometimes I do wish that I had persisted and just stayed home all day to build up my milk supply, but I honestly don’t think it would have been good for my sanity – plus, my son wasn’t able to nurse, so this only would have meant more hours pumping. I needed to feel like a human again and make plans with friends when I could. Some days, I was so grateful to just take a walk around the block. The only thing that actually matters is that my son was getting the nutrients he needed in order to grow and thrive – even if it wasn’t from me. Thank god, most of my son’s doctors and nurses at the baby care clinic – as well as friends and other mommies in my community agreed with me – I couldn’t have handled even one off-handed comment about giving my son formula. Everyone seemed to agree the most important thing was that he was eating.
***I just watched the series finale of GIRLS, which basically was all about nursing and how hard, frustrating, and mentally exhausting it can be. So now I feel like this is out in the public sphere and I kind of take back what I said.
I am done, at least for now. I have gone back to work, and am starting to really reintegrate into society. I am lucky that my colleagues are aware of my new-mommy status, and that I have had a smooth transition back into the working world. Getting out of the house and back to work was so good for me. I know some new moms just want to be at home with their newborn, but I find that I am just as happy when I know my son is with a loving care-taker, who will care for him and give him a schedule and make sure he’s entertained all day long. I do really miss my son when I leave for work each day, but it’s also really nice to use my brain again, and do things I know I’m good at, other than change diapers and sing ‘the wheels on the bus.’ Obviously our lives are a little more hectic, and every car ride takes careful planning, and every time we leave the house we need to go through a mental check-list of supplies. It’s stressful, but I am not alone. My husband will hate this if he ever reads it, but he is honestly the best. When I’m about to lose all patience with a screaming baby in my arms, he comes in and whisks the baby away. When I can’t find the energy to even bring a dish to the sink, he steps up to wash the dishes. He’s not only there emotionally, and to make me laugh, and to make the baby laugh, he’s also super helpful. Not all husbands are this way, not all new fathers are this way. But they should be. Basically, I am incredibly blessed to have a phenomenal partner who is also a co-parent, and a healthy baby boy who I am completely obsessed with.