The first night at home was the worst, as I imagine most people would tell you. We kept the boy in our room and handled him like a tray of delicate glasses, holding him awkwardly and shushing like leaky water hoses. The first time we heard him poop (yes, we HEAR it – it is a total butt explosion and has been from the first day) we laughed like fools and both ran over to the changing table to see what color his poop was. He cried and we panicked.
“He’s crying! Why is he crying?!”
“I don’t know! His diaper’s clean. Did you feed him?”
“YES! I just fed him!”
“Did you burp him?”
“Yes, but he didn’t burp.”
“Should we check his diaper again?”
“Why is he STILL CRYING?”
“SHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH SHHH SHH SHH SHHH”
“That’s not working!”
“Let me try to burp him.”
“Maybe I didn’t feed him enough?”
“Quiet, baby! SHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH”
Of course sleep was impossible. We tried to sleep when he slept, but we couldn’t keep from checking on him every five minutes to see if he was still breathing. Dave ended up going to work with only a half hour’s sleep. I was luckily able to hand him over to Grammy and Gichan (Mom and Doug) and I got to sleep a little.
That was our crash course in baby care, and even though it was brutal we learned more in that night than any class would have taught us. We were already much better by the second night, and by then we had the great luxury of being able to give him over to his grandparents around 5 in the morning so we both could sleep. It was glorious. Dave was able to at least get a few hours before work and Mom and Doug let me stay in bed as long as I needed – at this time we were supplementing my milk with the goat’s milk still, so I didn’t have to get up to feed. We got better and better at handling mini baby crises, and having Mom and Doug around was a huge help, both for asking questions and getting things done around the house. Doug had a really amazing ability to calm the kid down, and Mom was a total whirlwind of activity, washing dishes and doing laundry and cleaning up and running for food and burping and holding the baby. I don’t think I touched a dirty diaper until they left. One of my favorite moments in that time period was when my mom came in our room with the boy to change him and he was crying. She was talking to him and she said, “Why are YOU crying?! You don’t have to change this poopy diaper. I’m the one who should be crying!”
(Side note: the baby ALWAYS pooped when Mom held him, or almost always. It was really funny. I guess she just made him very comfortable!)
Nine days after the birth, we went back to Mediflower for the circumcision. Dr. Chung had called a urologist over to perform the procedure – although he apparently CAN do circumcisions (no one on the staff knew!) he preferred to let the other doctor do it and just assist, since that guy had performed so many. It was pretty clear that our doctor doesn’t like to do them, and I don’t blame him after what I saw.
Saw, you say? Yes, I say. I was in the room and saw the procedure. Worse, I had to hold his arms down while he screamed. He wasn’t screaming from pain though – they used a topical anesthetic, and besides his nerves weren’t very developed so he wouldn’t have felt much of anything anyway. He even fell asleep on the operating table, but I ruined it by prodding him because I was scared he had stopped breathing. Anxiety does not make mommy very smart, kids.
Holding him down was an absolutely traumatizing experience. He screamed in my face while the doctors sliced up his little wiener and Dave said the Hebrew prayers that went along with the bris. As soon as I saw the first blood my blood pressure spiked. My mom and I talked later, comparing this event to a time in my childhood when my mom had to hold me down while the doctor took my blood. The feeling was the same – a feeling of betrayal and cruelty, holding your child to subject him/her to something awful. It was one of the most heartbreaking things I had ever experienced, and I hope I never have to do anything like that again. Next time, we are having a girl.
Dave had an equally traumatizing time, but in a different way. The prayers didn’t take long to say, and after that he didn’t have a task. He tried to take over for me, but if I had let go of that baby I would have totally unraveled. At that point, my tension was the only thing holding me together. So, instead he tried to console the baby by saying comforting things and shushing, but I could hear in his voice how freaked out he was. Dave is by nature a quiet man and only talks when necessary, so I know he is stressed out when he babbles. He babbled at this little boy, trying to think of anything to say to make him feel better. Later I found out that it was worse for him because he watched the whole procedure – something I could not do. I focused on the baby’s screaming face and only took a few involuntary glances at the surgery, but Dave saw it all and can never unsee it. That would rattle any dad’s nerves. He did the same when the nurses took blood (a different day) to check his metabolism and blood type. Later he explained that he had to watch, to know exactly what they were doing to his kid. He hated to see any of it, but if watching protected our boy from anything unnecessary or wrong, then it was worth it.
Anyway, Sidney was just fine mere seconds after the surgery (because I let go of his arms! That was the whole reason for his screaming!) and the nurses swaddled and coddled him – I think it was hard for them to watch, too. Hee Ya, one of the midwives who had been with us for the whole birth and recovery period at the hospital, took special care with him and was downright magical with her ability to make him happy. Dr. Chung, Hee Ya and the staff of Mediflower all knew us, and we trusted them so much – if we had done this anywhere else it would have been much harder to handle.
Before the circumcision, I was having trouble deciphering my feelings about my new ‘mother’ role. I opted to have my placenta encapsulated so I could take it in pill form to help avoid postpartum depression. I feared that losing my steady stream of hormones from the kid would turn me into a crying, screaming banshee since it seemed to keep me so stable during my pregnancy (maybe it doesn’t work that way, but you can see how I might think that, right?). Considering all the company we were going to have, I didn’t want to chance it. I don’t know if it helped or not, since I don’t have anything to compare it to, but regardless I did end up having a few pretty emotional meltdowns. I did some crying and was pretty overwhelmed by how much of my attention this new little person demanded. The motherly feelings I expected to show up immediately after labor weren’t kicking in. Sure, I was concerned for the baby and didn’t want anything to happen to him, but the unconditional love and tenderness I thought befell every mother was not manifesting itself. I would get exasperated so easily. I thought of the baby as a demanding little tyrant. I felt like a slave, and I hated that I felt that way – it led to a lot more crying on my part, wondering why I wasn’t more patient with my baby. I thought that would change after the circumcision, seeing that poor little boy in such a vulnerable condition, but it didn’t. It did raise my anxiety, but I still would get exasperated with him, especially at night. Dave never seemed to get annoyed, which made me feel both better and worse – even if things stayed this way, at least he would have one really great parent!
It took a few weeks, but that strong mother love has really kicked in at this point. I’ve found myself over the last week having a lot more patience with the baby, and the love I feel for him is so strong it hurts. It still feels like a drug trip, though… I stare at him and feel this chemical change come over me. I can practically feel my eyes dilating. When he stares at my face, I can’t help but stare back at him. I love holding him so much that sometimes I will hold him while he sleeps at the expense of my own sleep. He’s so warm and cuddly, and he smells good and his funny little facial expressions make me smile. The screaming is worth it to get the peaceful moments. He needs me more than anyone else ever has, and while he doesn’t need much, what little he does need is very important (and just happens to be somewhat time consuming).
Today, our boy Sid is one month old. Mom and Doug have gone home, Dave’s brother and sister have both been out to visit and gone again. We have gone through six packs of diapers and we’ve both been peed on (in fact, Sid even ‘christened’ the doctor and almost got him in the face), and I was the lucky one to see his first projectile poop – it would have reached the wall if it hadn’t been stopped by the stuff in front of the wall. I was too amazed to be upset. He smiles and laughs in his sleep, and we found out that he likes to dance. I’ve played Joanna Newsom, They Might Be Giants and Liz Phair for him, as well as the Ghost World sountrack. Dave has introduced him to Dave Matthews. We love him with a love that hurts, right in the solar plexus, but in a good way.