Those first few days span the gamete of emotions though this time I was conscious to really let the love flow through me, Whenever I felt a wave of emotion I found that at the heart of it, it was almost always a wave of pure love.
I began writing a little bit nearly every day for those first few days of my new daughter's life. The emotions are raw and tangible. Here is a sampling:
"The First 24 Hours: You cried for at least 2 hours after your birth. I knew you had something to tell me and it didn’t bother me at all. I wanted to let you tell your story and not keep you from crying. I had planned on having you breastcrawl but once I got into bed and put you on my abdomen, it just felt wrong. You were crying and upset. I knew you could do it but I didn’t feel the need to make you do it. You needed instant comfort, not to perform for me. For 36 hours at least you did not open your eyes. You kept them tightly shut, only opening them one time when your sister Avery held you and talked to you. You knew her voice so well. You would stop crying if you had the breast in your mouth but as soon as you lost it, you would cry intensely again. I felt like you were mad at me. We had talked so much before birth about how I would just open up and let you out. You agreed to do what you could to make it easier for me. I wasn’t prepared to feel like I needed to push you out so forcefully. I feel bad that I went back on what I said. When I talked to you and told you I was sorry for doing that, you stopped and opened your eyes. You stopped crying every time you didn’t have my breast in your mouth. You just needed to be heard.
Day 3: I am feeling some emotional postpartum stuff. Nothing bad, just joyful and happy to have you in my life. I feel so grateful that you chose me. I also feel wistful that you will likely be my last and each tiny milestone is the last time I will ever experience it with a baby of my own. I relish each grunt, each cry, and even each poop. You are so incredibly special to me. I love your reddish blonde hair and the way you cry as soon as you don’t have something exactly the way you want. I love how you raise your eyebrows in your sleep and how you look so serious and wrinkle your little forehead. In the middle of the night, I woke up to find your little coiled cord sitting right next to your head. It was so sweet to find it just sitting there. Bittersweet though to know that you were completely detached already! And you are only 3 days old!
Day 4: Today, you spent most of the day sleeping and I just wanted to wake you up and interact with you! You open your eyes and look around a lot when you are wakeful. We have had some good eye contact times and it seems like you are connecting to me as a person more now, rather than just a source of comfort and food. We took a bath together today and you loved the feeling of the water on your body. I let you float around and covered your ears with water. You loved that and instantly looked like you were remembering the feeling of being inside. I had the thought that it must be difficult for newborns because when you are inside, you are independent, moving when you choose to and how you want to. You know how to control your movements in the water. But when you are born, you don’t know how to control your movements very well and a person is moving you instead of you choosing to move yourself.
Day 6: Your sisters really fell in love with you today, asking to hold you and cooing all over you. Annalyse especially stepped into her big sister role. Avery and I took the part of your cord that was attached to the placenta and buried it in the backyard. We thanked your cord for growing you so perfectly and buried it by some daylilies, the first flowers to bloom in spring.
Day 7: I saw you looking up at me today with true love in your eyes. I think before that I was just a couple of boobs to you but today you realized I was a person and I saw you fall in love with me. I was so enamored with that look that I instantly produced a massive amount of milk and I swear within two hours I had a clogged duct. That's really been about the only painful part of birthing or postpartum with you. And of course you had your fill quickly and slept pretty much through the night. You are so sweet though, whenever I would wake you from your drowsy slumber, as long as I asked you to please help me by nursing a little, you would nurse. You were so full already though I know you didn't need or probably even want it but you were willing to help your Mama.
Day 8: I am surprised at how weak my stomach muscles feel still. I know I shouldn't be but my whole girdle area front and back is sore when I sit or stand too much. It's the only reminder that I'm not "normal" again yet.
Day 9: You are starting to smile more frequently and I love to see your smiles! You also gaze up at me when you wake and I won't know you're awake yet until I see you looking at me with loving eyes. The mere thought that you are so cute makes my milk letdown!
Day 10: Your dad and I spent the whole day in bed with you today, admiring your little noises. Your sisters gave you a mild cold a few days ago and you have a stuffy nose from it which makes your breathing that much cuter. You sound like a little piggy, grunting and snorting away!
Day 11: We were all too tired to get up and take your sisters to school and they were too tired to go so we decided to do a family day today. Some time over the past few days both of your sisters learned to ride their bikes without training wheels so we've been sitting outside with you and watching then ride. Annalyse has become such a big girl that she started doing the laundry (there was a lot of it since it hadn't been washed since before your birth!) all by herself. She wasn't asked, she just brought it down and happily did laundry all day. Avery and Annalyse love you so much! They always ask to hold you and are so careful and loving of you. I caught Avery pulling up her shirt to see if you would take her chi-chi. How cute! I didn't say a thing about it her because I didn't want to embarass her. You sleep the whole day in my arms and the whole night by my side or on top of me. You let other people hold you for 5 or 10 minutes but then you want Mama back. I kiss your forehead and tell you I've got you and you look at me with those loving eyes again. I love you Areighly!!"
For those of you who are doulas, midwives, mothers, sisters or friends to new mamas, your job is to step in and fill the mom's typical role so she can be guilt free in spending that time with her baby. Make sure dad gets in bed with them too. Dad's job is NOT doing dishes, mopping, or working even. Make sure he plans for and takes as much time off as he can. He deserves it as much as mom does. Instead of asking what you can do to help, see what needs done and do it. Do it happily and without complaint knowing that they will both be forever grateful that you helped them run their household so they could spend precious time with their baby.
For those of you having a baby, you will get lots of advice, most of it is honestly useless! But, the one piece of advice that you should really take to heart is to enjoy every minute. Cherish your time with your sweet baby. You will be tempted to do other things. You will see dishes and want to do them. You will think that surely you can fold laundry. You will have to convince yourself that, even if you don't feel any immediate physical limitations from your birth, you still need to rest. Spend the first 2 weeks or longer in bed with your baby. Yes, your only job should be to drink your baby in! No one on this planet has ever said "I regret spending so much time with my baby in the first weeks after their birth." Talk to the mothers who are done having their babies. They will tell you where their regrets lie. "Enjoy every moment," they will say. "In the blink of an eye, those days will be gone and your newborn will be all grown up." Enjoy your special time!!!
*** A special thanks to my own friend and family who stepped in, brought us meals, helped us keep our house clean, and helped us entertain our older girls. Our postpartum would not have been the same without you all and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts! ***