how we survived: the hospital
For the birth story, click here.
The hours and days immediately following a birth are surreal, as you can imagine. Time keeps moving forward, but suddenly, there's a new person for which you are entirely responsible. Your whole life has changed, but it doesn't mean the whole world has changed. I found that juxtaposition to be very strange. That nurse who's changing your sheets? You're probably the tenth mom and baby she's seen in the last hour. It ain't new for her. Even your friends who come to visit in those early days: they go home to their regular lives after they leave you. But for you, it's as if the poles have shifted. EVERYTHING is different.
Anyway, not to stray too much off course here, but those first few hours after birth are when I found myself thinking a lot about how much my life had changed but how much was still the same around me. It was a lot of, "I bought this Kind bar before I had a baby. And now I have a baby. WHAT." Eloquent, no?
But, here's how we handled our first few days of baby:
Like most babies, Avvie was born in the middle of the night. Immediately after her birth, we did skin-to-skin on my chest for around an hour, while the doctors took care of stitching me ... down there. Thank GOD the epidural was still running through me. Even so, I definitely yelped out a few times and then immediately felt horrible for yelling in my baby's ear.
After they finished with me, they weighed and measured her, as well as taking her footprints for her commemorative birth certificate. I even remembered to bring her baby book, so they could stamp her feet in there. After all of this was done, our family could come in and meet her -- it was probably around 3:30 AM by this point -- which was very exciting for all of us. But, since it WAS incredibly late, they were quick visits so everyone could get home to bed.
We had to wait to go to the post-partum floor until I regained enough feeling in my legs that I could walk from the bed to the wheelchair, which took probably another half hour. (Do you know what takes even longer? Knowing when you have to pee. JUST SAYING.) Since the drugs were wearing off gradually, I still couldn't feel how wrecked I was down there, which was definitely for the best. Once I wobbled into the chair, we ended up waiting in the hallway for about 10 minutes for someone to come escort us upstairs to our room (while, by the way, holding a newborn for the very first time and running on about 24 hours of no sleep). At this point, though, there's not really much you can do except remember to keep breathing and to not drop your baby.
Here's my PSA on rooms, FYI: when possible, get a private. As soon as the birth was over and we were all cleaned up, I had Mike go request a single room, since you can't reserve before the baby is born. Considering how many people are in and out of your room, not to mention how much your baby is crying/pooping/snoring, you want to try and carve out a few minutes of sleep wherever you can. I can only imagine how much harder it is with twice the amount of people. We were also lucky because Beth Israel private rooms aren't that expensive, compared to the tricked-out "Beyonce-floor" pads at some of the uptown hospitals.
Anyway! I was starting to regain more feeling by the time we got upstairs, which was not super pleasant. And I'll be honest, it was weeks before I felt like I could sit down without bracing myself for impact. The nurse on duty gave me Motrin and said if it got really bad I could have Percocet (both of which were cleared for use while breastfeeding).
We ended up having to fill out a ton of paperwork, which, come on, really? It was around 5-something AM by this point. I don't remember anything that we signed except a waiver saying we'd watch a video about shaken baby syndrome, which apparently ran on repeat on one of the TV channels. Spoiler alert: we didn't watch it.
Since she was born early on a Tuesday morning, we knew we'd be in the hospital until Thursday, since you spend two nights after a regular delivery. Those two-and-a-half days were probably the longest of my life. Not only was I incredibly sleep-deprived, but I was also in a fair amount of pain and pretty shell-shocked from the delivery. And then on top of all of that, I had to care for another creature? There's no other way to handle it other than to take it in hour increments.
Breastfeeding did not come naturally to us, most likely because she was stuck in the birth canal for about two and a half hours, so her jaw was very tight. But, since I didn't want to give her formula if I could avoid it, I had no option but to hand-express my colostrum (the precursor to breast milk, which comes in around day four) what felt like 20 times a day. My forearms were so sore by the time we went home. We'd then feed it to her with a tiny sample-sized ice cream spoon, which sounds kind of adorable until it's 3 AM and your baby is screaming. Side note: even hours-old newborns can sip from a spoon or even drink from a tiny cup! Who knew?!
It's hard to remember exactly what happened chronologically in the hospital. It's more like a blur of images: Peeking over her bassinet to make sure she was still breathing (repeat times 100). Trying to sleep with the iron IV still in my arm. Changing that first diaper and trying our best to wrap her in a swaddle. Having a steady stream of hospital people in and out of the room: lactation consultants, nurses, doctors, cleaners. Taking what felt like ten minutes to lower myself into the hospital bed. Taking what felt like 30 minutes (actually, that's probably accurate) to pee and change all the dressings. And, most important, eating the first bite of sushi, which I made Mike run out and get me in the freezing weather. I love him.
While we were supposed to be discharged by Thursday at 11 AM, we had to wait for Avvie's lip and tongue tie to get snipped (more on that later), so we didn't end up leaving until around 4 PM that day. I think it probably goes without saying that those hours ticked by at the rate that glass flows. The only thing that made it tolerable was dressing our baby up in her take-home outfit. See below:
Check back soon for our first few days at home!