By Elaine Ferrell
I’m a chronic planner. So whilst pregnant, I did my research. I read the books, attended the classes, asked the seasoned moms. Even so, I knew that having a child would throw a wrench into any semblance of planning for at least the next eighteen years. But I still plan and organize compulsively because that’s who I am. And I’m married to a chronic planner. (I’m still trying to figure out why we thought having kids was a good idea.) So in an attempt to regain some control back into my life with a baby, I made a list of things I didn’t expect – and thus couldn’t plan for – with a newborn.
1. Cluster feeding
I had never heard of this before my son was born, despite doing research, and it’s a fairly common phenomenon (or so the doctors told me… guess the OBGYN and pediatricians never talk to each other). Cluster feeding means the child pretty much never stops eating. My son wanted to eat at least every hour (thanks, underweight baby!), and ate for at least half an hour (since both he and I were so bad at it – who knew eating was a skill?), so I was getting absolutely no sleep.
I expected sleep deprivation, but not to this extent. It was pretty much the worst thing ever. And as brand new parents, we had no idea how long this phenomenon would last. My husband and I looked at each other when he was two days old thinking the same thing: “We’ve made a huge tiny mistake.” It didn’t help that the nurse came into our hospital room on this night and we told her what was going on, thinking there was something wrong with him. She nonchalantly told us, “Oh, he’s cluster feeding. They all do that around the second night.” Um… thanks for the advice?
Luckily, the initial cluster feeding didn’t last long, but it happened with every growth spurt, and we had no idea when to predict those. We just had to suffer through them and hope the phases never lasted too long (and also hope they were actually phases).
2. Isolation of breastfeeding
No, I take it back. This was pretty much the worst thing ever. For the first three or four weeks, I did all the feeding, since it was too early for me to pump, according to the doctors. Although the cluster feeding had subsided, I was still getting up roughly every hour and a half to feed the little parasite. I had barely any time to sleep, eat, or even use the bathroom. This I expected (but that doesn’t mean I liked it). But the worst part was feeling stuck in a chair all day and all night long all by myself. I couldn’t even bring myself to leave the house alone for more than 15 minutes at a time, because HOLY SHIT WHAT IF HE WAKES UP AND WANTS TO EAT?
I begged people to come over so I could get some stimulation, but I quickly discovered that no one really wanted to watch me breastfeed, especially when I smelled like spit-up and poop and hadn’t showered in a few days. It didn’t help that I would break down crying randomly due to crazy hormones and the stress of all these new surprises.
3. Not feeling love for the baby
Yes, I referred to my baby as a parasite above. I couldn’t think of him as a baby at first. It seemed like I had birthed this creature that cried and barely moved and I was responsible for making sure this thing stayed alive. I didn’t feel much affection for him at the very beginning, due to this responsibility coupled with the thought that he was an incredibly boring nuisance. I still maintain that people who say they love babies are LYING. (Or have never actually been around brand new ones.) And this lack of connection kind of freaked me out. There were several times I started crying because he was crying for apparently no reason and OH MY GOD HOW DO YOU TURN HIM OFF PLEASE I NEED SLEEP?!?
It also didn’t help that he kind of looked and acted like an alien. He had an angular face with a pointy chin, made unearthly sounds, and didn’t really do anything human-like (except poop – SO MUCH) for the first few weeks. This just added to the idea that this creature could not possibly be related to me, and was perhaps implanted into me by a creature from another planet. (I mean, the umbilical cord looked like something out of a Sigourney Weaver movie.)
4. My boobs are no longer mine
This one was perhaps the most disappointing. I knew going into this that my boobs would be subject to the baby’s feeding schedule, but what I didn’t expect was just how much they’d be affected. When baby was finally old enough to be out for a couple hours, we’d go to the mall and I’d have to excuse myself from civilization for 20 minutes to go pump in a tiny, awkward bathroom stall because my boobs were in charge of when it was time to do that. (And then I’d spill the milk all over the floor, because there was nowhere to place the bottle without it falling over).
They hurt whenever I wasn’t pumping or feeding. And the leakage! Oh, the leakage – after showering, during feeding (righty is being used, so lefty gets jealous?), before sex (Which ended up not happening due to boob juice. Around the eight week mark, we were both finally in the mood, I was no longer in pain, and we had a window of time… but then I started squirting milk all over my husband. Yeah, SUPER SEXY.)
5. The rest of my body is no longer mine
There’s a hormone called relaxin, which relaxes the organs to prepare for labor. This I knew; what I didn’t know was that it continues coursing through the body until after the mother is finished with breastfeeding. As a result, while recovering, I had a loose bladder – and boy, did I have to pee ALL THE TIME. It was no different than being pregnant, except this time I couldn’t pee whenever I wanted to since, oh yeah, I had a baby I couldn’t leave by himself. I definitely had my share of accidents. Super gross and embarrassing.
And, oh shit (no pun intended), the sphincter muscle is loose too! I had so much gas – which seemed to happen all the time, even though I didn’t change my diet. Apologies to my husband, mother, and anyone else whose face I accidentally farted in. Multiple times. On top of this, my back went out due to the relaxin making everything loose and the fact that I was bending at awkward angles all the time. I had to see a physical therapist for several months to become functional again.
Clearly, even for chronic planners, newborns bring many surprises. Of course, there were pleasant surprises, too, such as… um, I’ll get back to you when I’m no longer sleep-deprived or beholden to the all-consuming chore of caring for the baby.
This post was originally published on Pregnant Chicken.
About the Author
Elaine Ferrell is a working mom of 2 under 3. She is not a professional writer, but aspires to be one in her ample free time (ha, ha). When not stepping on toys, picking sippy cups off the floor, or writing, Elaine enjoys yoga; binge watching reruns of 30 Rock and The West Wing; and trying to find the humor in parenting, which is a work in progress.