Today is my first day back at work after my maternity leave. It’s hard to believe I’m back to sitting at this desk all day rather than hanging out with my baby, but that’s how it is. I’m not sorry we have him in daycare – I want him to have that experience of interacting with other children and adults – it’s just rough going back to work after being at home for so long. And before today I’ve not been away from Caelan for more than an hour or two and that is rough too. I’m sure he is having a great time at daycare and I’m sure this transition is harder on me than it is on him!
I’ve been meaning to try to write something down about how Caelan’s first few weeks were for him and for us because I know I’m not going to remember later. And now all of the sudden, he’s almost 11 weeks old and I have only foggy memories of his first couple weeks.
Sleep deprivation wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. The thought of having to feed the baby every 3 hours and thus never sleeping more than 2 hours at a time sounded impossible. How can anyone function like this?? Well…your body adjusts. I was tired for sure, but I didn’t feel like a zombie. I did all the middle of the night stuff myself. Bill always told me to wake him if I needed help, but after the first couple of days I just got into a routine with getting up with the baby. I had to get up since I was breastfeeding so it’s not like we could have taken turns anyway. We had Caelan in a bassinet in our room for the first 5 weeks. It worked out well. I didn’t jump up at his every snort or whimper so I was able to get some sleep. And the transition to his crib was easy on all of us. His room is close and I can hear him loud and clear on the monitor (audio only) and that was fine. Once we got to about 5 weeks, I felt the urge to move things along. I wanted things to get back to normal – or the NEW normal – hence getting him settled in his room earlier rather than later.
Having Bill at home for the first 4 weeks was invaluable. I know not all dads have the luxury of taking an extended leave and I’ve even heard some moms say that they didn’t care that their husbands wouldn’t be home because their mom would be there or they’d have other help. Or worse, that they’d hate having their husbands home with them for a long period of time. I have to say, I just don’t get it. I’m raising a baby with my husband, not my mom, so having him there in the beginning when we’re both learning how to be parents just makes sense to me and we’re thankful that we were able to both be home. And not only were we both home taking care of the baby, but we were both home and able to spend time together. There were a few mornings where we’d bring breakfast upstairs and eat it in bed with the baby and the cats – our whole family all together.
When Bill went back to work and I was on my own with Caelan during the day, it was an adjustment for me. I found that I was very frustrated with how unproductive I was during the day. I was able to take care of Caelan, feed him, play with him, etc but there didn’t seem to be time for anything else. So by the end of the day, I felt depressed that I hadn’t got anything done. Caelan isn’t a very good napper, so I barely had any downtime. My few spurts of “free” time were spent making food for myself, doing laundry, washing dishes, or washing and making bottles. I had originally planned to work from home a bit but that turned out to be impossible. I knew being a stay-at-home-mom was a full time job, but it’s even more than that. A full time job is 40 hours/week – if you take out the 6-ish hours a day I end up sleeping, this is 126 hours/week. Of course Bill is there in the evenings and on the weekends so I tended to get more things done then.
In some ways, the first 3 weeks or so were the easiest. Caelan woke up every 3 hours, Bill changed his diaper, I fed him, and then he went back to sleep. Rinse, repeat. But now he spends much more time awake and his sleep is very unpredictable. He sleeps for short spurts during the day and nighttime is hit or miss. Most nights he sleeps 6 or 8 hours straight, but some nights he’s up every 3 hours. But on the flip side, in those first couple weeks we couldn’t really interact with him. Now he smiles and gurgles and almost laughs, all while staring around soaking up all of his surroundings.
Breastfeeding (BF) went better than I expected/feared it would. And “feared” is the right word too because I was really dreading it and was ready for it to be horrible. Just the thought of being the ONLY person who could feed him and therefore NEVER getting a break EVER was crushing to me. So much so that I almost didn’t want to do it at all. In the beginning, there were definitely a few very frustrating nursing sessions that brought me to tears. And there is no doubt that I felt isolated and restricted by having to nurse, which often required hiding out in a room away from anyone else. But it did get better, and supplementing with formula (FF) definitely helped. I wanted to BF and FF at the same time, but I had a hard time finding any information about how exactly to do that. I think that’s what stressed me out the most beforehand – wondering HOW this would work. And what ended up happening is that we just…did it. For most of his feedings I nursed him, and then also gave him a small bottle of formula. Eventually I started dropping nursing sessions. I never thought I’d make it past 4 weeks with BFing. But 4 weeks came and went, and then 5, and then 6. To my surprise, I found that I wasn’t ready to quit BFing – I actually enjoyed it. But the combination of BFing and FFing really worked for us. We had the freedom that bottle feeding provides, plus he was still getting the benefits of breastmilk. Of course it may be different for each child, but given the relatively positive experience with Caelan, maybe for our next child, I might try to continue nursing past 7 weeks. I know 7 weeks sounds really short, but I never expected to make it past 4…
So now that we’re coming out of the fog that is the first couple of months, I’m looking forward to when it will be time for us to do this again. Not to say I’m ready for another NOW, but my pregnancy, delivery, and the first few weeks weren’t so traumatic that I don’t want to think about another child for a long time. It’ll be different of course because we’ll have a toddler underfoot next time around, but we’ll manage. Bill’s boss told him “it doesn’t get easier over time, it just gets different” and that seems like a really good way to put it.