24/7 the First 48 Hours

Well, I’m over a week into motherhood and I think it’s pretty rad so far. Sure, there’s some not-so-wonderful aspects to it (sleep deprivation, round the clock feedings, poop explosions, etc.), but when Zelda smiles or grips my finger, all those not-so-wonderful things wash away and I’m left in awe.

I’ve been wrestling with what I want to write about this round, and I finally settled on talking about my experiences with 24/7 rooming at the hospital. If you’re not familiar with the concept, it means the baby is in your postpartum recovery room with you all the time, day and night. The purpose is to promote a stronger bond between the mother and child, encourage breastfeeding, and more or less familiarize the mother with the baby’s cues. In our childbirth class, we were told that we would be doing the 24/7 rooming, and Matt and I thought it was great. I looked forward to the time we would spend getting to know Zelda right away.

Well, it was great in theory.

Don’t get me wrong. I understand how important 24/7 rooming is. I have no problem believing that it fosters stronger bonds and teaches the mother to interact with the child. However, my experience was marred by a few factors.

  1. I had absolutely no recovery time. After about an hour of recovery time in the birthing room, I was popped onto a wheelchair, baby in arms, and wheeled to the postpartum room. Once I got settled into bed, she was plopped in my arms and that was it. Matt and I were on our own. For the first day, I was unable to get out of bed. Literally. I’d suffered a first-degree tear during the birth (funny enough, getting a tear was my biggest fear and it did come to pass, but I didn’t give a damn one way or the other in the end), so my ladybits were packed with ice packs, witch hazel pads, and a hospital grade menstrual pad. All of it was wrapped up nicely in the equivalent of an adult diaper. And it HURT. The first time I had to pee, it took two nurses to walk me to the bathroom. Needless to say, every time Zelda started to cry, I was completely dependent on Matt to get up and hand her to me, change her diapers, try to swaddle her, etc.
  2. We got no sleep. I know, I know, newborns and sleep don’t belong in the same sentence unless you’re talking sleep deprivation. Maybe this rooming in was a way to prepare us for it, I don’t know. I’d been awake since 2 AM, birthed a child at 4 PM, and by 12 AM I was ready to have a breakdown. I was unable to form complete sentences. We could not sleep and hold Zelda at the same time; we had to sign a disclaimer saying we wouldn’t due to the safety hazards (which is completely understandable). When we hit 24 hours, I’m pretty sure both of us were safety hazards. We begged the nurse to take her to the nursery for an hour (since Zelda would be due for another feeding) and she told us to tough it out. We finally managed some sleep after 26 hours. As sleep deprived as we are, we have yet to go 26 hours without sleep.

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    3 AM and going strong.
  3. I resented not having options. I was eager to start breastfeeding and bonding with Zelda, and I dove into the task with enthusiasm. The enthusiasm waned as the lack of rest and pain overtook me. I was so exhausted. I appreciated the opportunity to bond, to learn to breastfeed, and to get to know my baby better. However, I started to resent the fact that I could not get a break. Again, I know. When you go home, you don’t get a break and the nurses aren’t there to help you. But if those first couple of days are so crucial, I didn’t want to spend them so sleep-deprived and resentful that I don’t know heads from tails. My baby and my relationship with the baby is important, but so is my headspace. If my head isn’t in a good place, I can’t be the best I can for Zelda.

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    A moment of respite.

Even as I type this, I feel like I’m whining. It wasn’t all bad. I got a lot of quality time with Zelda. We did establish a breastfeeding routine, got lots of skin-to-skin time, and I learned the ol’ check the diaper-offer the breast-rock-soothe-swaddle routine. I’m not saying that the 24/7 rooming in should be abolished, but I am saying that there should be options. I didn’t want to sleep all night. I just wanted to rest so I could not endanger my child.

I would have liked more options. I would have liked my health to be considered a little more. Rooming in is painted as a totally rosy experience, and in truth it was stressful. In the end, everything turned out OK and I think the rooming in was beneficial. I only say it was great in theory because my expectations of what it would be like vs the reality were so drastically different.

But touting the perk that mothers get more rest when the baby is in the room 24/7?

I don’t think so.

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All worth it, regardless.

 

Born Slippy (PART I)

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There is no time like the present.

Actually, I have always hated that phrase. What does it even mean? To me, it feels like the lazy man’s carpe diem. Robin Williams would be disappointed. Given my current situation, I ascribe to my own bastardization of that phrase: There is no time AT the present. There is literally no time, and I only use that word sparingly. I might as well forget trying to do an anything I have planned in the next few weeks, because I will undoubtedly not have the necessary time for it. Everything is on hold: baby watch is upon us.

This will likely be my last post before Zelda is born, so I want to make it a good one. I have thought long and hard about what I wanted to talk about over the last few days. I thought to try and eschew the comedy bit and talk straight – something I have only done on occasion on this blog. I think I owe that to the relatively few people who will manage to read this far (and who want to continue reading our exploits into parenting). I want to lay it all out there and get all those feels out on the table. It’s time for reflection.

I know that I live a blessed life. I really do. I have a steady job and a roof over my head. I eat two to three meals a day, depending on if you count coffee as breakfast. I have a loving wife and an adorable dog and cat that love me to pieces. To top it all off, I was blessed with the ability to create a life. It’s truly amazing. Please understand my understanding of how fortunate I am in all of this. That doesn’t mean this pregnancy is without its hang-ups. I’ve also noticed that it’s almost never kosher for me to speak out about my own personal shortcomings and feelings when trying to successfully cope with a pregnant wife who’s had a rough pregnancy. Indeed, it has not been sunshine and rainbows for her. I do not fault her for any of that. It hasn’t been one hundred percent for me either, and I want to explain why without sounding egocentric, pig-headed, or anti-feminist.

I may be wrong. Other pregnant couples undoubtedly feel different. But that is their story. This is ours. Anybody that says pregnancy is like a modern-day relationship (split 50/50) is a goddamn liar. To me, there is a time and a place to find an acceptable balance. I have yet to find either over the past nine months. I am a ship without a rudder deep in the ocean. Why? Robin never speaks out of turn when the caped crusader is out fighting crime. Holy pregnancy, Batman.

Just so you know, dear reader, I did not bring any of this up with Angela prior to writing this. This is me without a filter. I’ll appreciate any couches that I can sleep on for a while after she reads this…and when you unfriend me on Facebook out of disgust, at least let me know ahead of time.  Let’s at least stay LinkedIn friends, okay?

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FMLa

Looking back, the biggest fear I had coming into this pregnancy was how we are going to handle everything AFTER THE BIRTH. That is still true. Thankfully, both of our mothers will be coming up to D.C. in shifts to help out after Zelda is born. Their help and guidance should get us through the majority of February. The bigger issue looming over our heads is that neither of us have paid maternity/paternity leave for this birth. Because Angela got pregnant before she had been at her new job for a year, she does not qualify for FMLA. It is the weirdest and shittiest loophole in the history of the United States.

We have to literally use up all of our vacation/sick leave JUST TO HAVE THE BABY. Unfortunately, we do not exist in a fairytale world where maternity leave is paid for. Neither of us can quit our job to look after the baby full time. We need the income to pay for our rent, food, etc. Pretty soon, nearly twenty percent of our disposable income will go to childcare. Sigh. D.C. living, right? The best we can do is make sure that our jobs will be there for us when we finally figure this shit out. It’s not the vacation either of us had planned, but one we both feel is completely necessary.

We both have to go back to work, albeit in a telework capacity, two weeks after Zelda is born. I know personally that I have to be back at work at a 100% capacity in March when events start to really heat up. This shit keeps me up at night constantly. To be fair, Angela’s snoring does a pretty good job of that, but the worry of how we will manage with our family so far away is more pressing. We have several friends that have managed to do it, so I am sure we will lean on them for advice in the coming months ahead.

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I am a planner by nature, and we can’t really plan how this will all end up with Zelda and caring for her in the distance future. I desperately want to ease Angela’s mind about all of this. I know it keeps her up as well, but I can’t. I want to tell her that everything will go smoothly, but that is impossible. I have to have faith on the matter, something that I’ve had a severe lack of in recent years (for a variety of reasons).

In the midst of all of this craziness going on, I see a trending story on Facebook about Mark Zuckerberg talking about returning to work after two months of paternity leave. What should he wear on his first day back? Probably a privilege suit. FUCK OFF, RICHBOY.

Time Management

My time management, especially these last few months, has been a huge burden on me and those around me. I slacked off at work when I should have geared up in preparation for time off. On the flipside, I worked too diligently when I should have recognized the need for a break. I am like the perpetual hotel shower: I can never get both opposites just right.

After a busy September and October at work, all I wanted was a break – from everything. I know it sounds selfish and entitled, especially when Angela was going through some very bad morning sickness/food aversion at the time. I couldn’t completely break away – how could I? Instead, all I could do was stuff my face, get stressed, and keep thinking about drinking alcohol throughout the fall months.

The stress was always there, and the desire to drink more and more alcohol was too. All of the items we had on our “to do” list involving the baby made it harder and harder for me not to pick up a bottle and down all of it in one sitting. I have never had that feeling before. It was a numb feeling, like a low and constant drone in the back of my throat. I can count on one hand the amount of times I drank in excess to calm my nerves during this pregnancy. I’m not sure it was exactly depression that drove me to it. It was an overwhelming feeling of being in a box, or like being underwater with no way to reach the surface. The only way to breathe easy was with a drink. I’m not necessarily proud of it in the end, but am happy the number is relatively low.

(via Pinterest)
(via Pinterest)

There were some times over the past few months when I would finally catch up with work. I would come home utterly exhausted. It was almost always a coincidence that “baby stuff” had to be done the minute I got home. Part of me resented that. No, let me rephrase. Part of me REALLY resented that. Don’t get me wrong – there was always a portion of me that was totally gung ho about getting everything done for Zelda. Other parts of me were often more pronounced, like the growing section of me that wanted to get day drunk and sit in silence and stare out the window. A part of me that wanted to back to Disney so I could feel like I was somewhere else; somewhere magical. And still, a part of me just wanted to sit on the couch with the dog and cat and chill out and not do anything.

I think that was the trick – you are always doing something. ALWAYS. It’s a simple formula: Obligations – Needs = Obligations Only (No Remainder). Seriously, that nine months goes so fucking fast. For much of this accelerated timeframe, I wanted to crawl into a hole and hibernate. I think it is okay to feel that way. To a degree, I still do. I am honestly mad at myself for failing to tell Angela how straight up frustrated I was at times. I acted out in other ways that put a needless strain on our relationship. I don’t know if we ever shed tears in front of each other, but tears were certainly shed. I don’t have to ask her to know the answer. If you are a soon-to-be father reading this, thinking how much time you have, stop right now. Go and get it all done. Don’t be an asshole like me. Communicate.

Sometimes you try so hard to be a perfect example for something you haven’t seen that you lose sight of what’s going on in front of you.

(Read Part II Tomorrow)