“Is it everything you expected?” Isabel asked. I think it was Isabel, but it may have been one of my other former roommates at the mini-reunion lunch to celebrate 15 years of friendship.
I didn’t know how to answer because I couldn’t clearly list my expectations. Sure, I had an idea, but it was pretty vague. I tried my best and said stuff about being tired and not sleeping much. Now after thinking about it for a few days, I have more to add about the first month.
Yes, it is everything I expected and more. It’s been difficult in ways I didn’t expect and rewarding. However, each day it just gets better as Xavier grows, becomes more alert and I feel less inept.
Expectation: We’ll get the hang of breastfeeding pretty quickly. It’s natural, how hard can it be?
Reality: Breastfeeding is freaking hard, painful (at least for me) and time consuming.
I knew that breastfeeding was a skill that must be learned by mother and child, but I naively expected that it would come easy for us. It didn’t. I blame myself. I should have done more to prepare and been more realistic about the challenges.
I did prepare. Before delivery, I met with a lactation consultant and attended the breastfeeding with success class. After Xavier was born, I saw three separate lactation consultants 4 times, but only 2 had a chance to see me nurse. I think the biggest mistake I made was checking out before seeing the on-duty LC. I saw another LC in clinic on day 5 and 8. By day 8, I’d already cried in frustration and pain a few times and really needed her assistance.
It’s getting better. Xavier is latching on better (no pain!) as he grows and we try different positions. I know he is getting enough by his wet/dirty diaper count and growth. He may still be small, but the newborn clothes that looked huge on him initially are more fitted. And there are a lot of moments while I’m feeding him and just staring at his little face and cheeks feeling all warm and fuzzy.
I also didn’t expect breastfeeding to be a topic of conversation. I don’t mind the comments, mainly because they’re positive and pro-breastfeeding. It is weird to answer questions from neighbors about how it’s going, if my milk came in or if I have enough.
[We weighed him recently and his weight gain is right on track. That makes me feel so much better about breastfeeding.]
Expectation: I won’t get much sleep at night, but I’ll sleep when the baby sleeps to make up for it.
Reality: I sleep in short 2-3 hour stretches at night, but not much when he naps during the day.
Initially, the sleep deprivation didn’t feel that bad since it was pretty new and he was sleeping a lot. I feel more tired now as Xavier sleeps less during the day and the tiredness from the past few weeks sort of accumulates. He sleeps for intervals of about 3 hours between 9/10 pm and 9/10 am and 2 hours during the day. The night feedings have been getting easier to deal with if I keep him in bed with us rather than swaddled in the Pack n’ Play napper. Swaddling works best when Sean does it at night, during the day he breaks out of it. I don’t sleep much during the day since his naps are shorter then, he wants to be held and will wake if I put him down about 60% of the time, and I’m not a daytime napper in general. Plus, sometimes I’d rather shower, eat, or pump during his naps.
Expectation: The first few months are like the third trimester and babies need to be held a lot.
Reality: Xavier wants to be held all the time, even when sleeping.
I don’t have a problem with this since I’ve been waiting months to hold my son. However, there are times when I would like to take a shower or use the bathroom without worrying that he’ll wake up as soon as I place him in the napper. If Sean is home or we have visitors, I’ll feed Xavier and then get a little break to nap or do something else while someone else holds him during his nap.
Expectation: Going anywhere with a baby will be a production. You can’t just spontaneously pick up and go out.
Reality: I’m a little anxious about going out with him and have become a bit of a homebody.
In the first week home, I only went out for appointments with the doctor and lactation consultant. After a week of this and feeling like I was getting cabin fever, we finally got out for a short walk. After Sean returned to work, I’d take him out in the stroller to meet him on his walk home from the train station. I haven’t been out with him alone and still am working through the whole nursing in public issues.
Expectation: I’m going to need a lot of help from Sean and my family.
Reality: I needed the help and got it. Sean and my family have been the perfect support for this new mama.
I really haven’t done anything except care for Xavier in the first month. Everything else including cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, laundry has been taken care of by Sean, my mom or my sister. My mom comes over to bond with her chulo, but will also start cleaning around the apartment as soon as Xavier shows signs that he’s hungry. She and Lori have cooked several meals and done grocery shopping. My brother sends over food from the restaurant where he works. Even my neighbor, Maria, has helped out with meals by making me oatmeal or soup. [Sidenote: I've been living in the same place for 13 years. Maria and her husband have been my upstairs neighbors the entire time. We've always had a cordial relationship, but hadn't interacted much until recently so it's been a pleasant surprise that she's been so helpful.]
Expectation: Sean will be a wonderful father and partner in adventures in parenting.
Reality: Xavi and I couldn’t ask for better.
Sean does everything I do with Xavi except nurse. He returned to work after the first 10 days at home, but he gets home pretty much at the time of day I need help the most. Not only is he great with his son, he’s also done everything possible to ease my recovery and encourage me as I struggled with breastfeeding.
He’s also responsible for all the great pictures.
Expectation: My physical recovery would take a few weeks.
Reality: My recovery has gone well. I feel back to normal physically and any lingering pain/soreness has gone away.
I hope to be cleared after my 6-week check-up to begin running [slowly] again. For now, short walks with the stroller are about all the exercise I’m getting. I hope to get a wrap so I can wear him out.
Expectation: There would be a lot of diapers and some blowouts.
Reality: There have been a lot of diapers and a couple of messes.
We’ve both been peed on and have discovered that some diapers don’t work for us (ew, leaks) and babies can be really forceful with bowel movements.
Expectation: I’d fall in love instantly with Xavier and would be awed. It’ll make the challenges worth it.
Reality: I’m totally in love. I stare at him all the time and study his cute features, tiny hands, feet, etc. And yeah, there are tough moments, but they pass as soon as I see his eyes light, his lips part in to a grin, and he snuggles up next to me content and satisfied after eating.
I love the faces he makes when I talk or sing to him or after he’s just finished eating. He really likes the singing and looks at me in wonder. I love seeing Sean cuddle and rock Xavi to sleep. He’s still small, but growing steadily. At the two-week check-up he had gained back what he lost in the first few days and surpassed his birth weight. He still looks goofy in some of his newborn clothes. I do get a little frustrated after a long day when it’s just us two and I need a nap or he’s in the middle of a cluster feed. But then Sean gets home or Xavi goes down for a nap or I finally get a chance to shower/eat/sleep and everything is better. I even look forward to doing it again the next day and seeing what’s new with Xavier.