By Audrey Sanchez of Two Dogs, One Cat and a Baby
Before I was discharged from the hospital, my doctor said, “There will be a lot of crying fits. Yours. Not your baby’s.” This was his way of helping me situate the emotional and physical wrecking ball that was about to hit me within the realm of a normal postpartum experience. He laid out a list of additional things I could expect both emotionally and physically.
“Mild cramping” (makes sense).
“Engorged” (holy moly, so engorged).
“Other emotions, blah blah blah.” That’s what it sounded like. Like Charlie Brown’s teacher, but in scrubs. “Wah wah wah. Something important about your mental and physical well-being.” Who knows? I was too busy riding the oxytocin high that accompanies a drug free delivery to be a good listener.
Note to doctors: write that shit down and give it to me to read when I can process words.
I should have listened, but to be fair, it’s hard to concentrate when it feels like the universe just exploded in your heart. That’s why people at raves don’t really have conversations; it’s probably hard to drop Ecstasy AND concentrate on important details.*
The crying fits were real. Oh so real. So were the fatigue, cramping, and engorgement. Probably the other things, too, but remember what I said about endorphins?
Still, of all the complex multitude of sensations I’ve felt since my daughter was born, both physical and emotional, there are four things that I have yet to feel.
Warm. Dry. Full. Rested.
My daughter was born in the middle of June in the Deep South, so one would logically assume that I’d be warm. That was certainly the case when I was pregnant. What is it about pregnancy that makes a mama sweat like a linebacker? It’s as if when Mother Nature was writing the recipe for pregnancy she decided to throw in a dash of “hot as hell” just for good measure.
The shivers started after delivery (probably one of those things the doctor said would happen) and haven’t stopped since. Between the thermostat set at a brisk SIDS-preventative-68-degrees and the constant disrobing of my shirt so my baby can access my breasts, I’ve almost quite literally (literally almost literally, you guys) not been warm in five months.
WHY AM I SO DAMP ALL THE TIME? Damp everywhere. My pre-mama self couldn’t have imagined the variety of moistures associated with having a baby.
Lochia: This one gets a pass. It only lasts six weeks.
Breast milk: Perhaps the most insidious of all the liquids, it’s inescapable. There are not enough nursing pads on earth to make a new mama feel dry. How has evolution not gotten around to addressing leakage?
Spit up: Did your baby not dribble enough milk on you when she was eating? Good news! Now it’s mixed with saliva! And it’s projectile. Congratulations.
Sweat: But only where the baby just laid for two hours. The rest of your body is still shivering. See “can’t get warm” above.
Urine: Yours? The baby’s? Who knows? You’ve given up trying to figure out at this point. Just try not to sneeze or laugh.[/nextpage] [nextpage title=”Page 2″ ]
One major selling point of breastfeeding is the three to five-hundred extra calories a day it burns. Essentially, you get a bonus meal worth of calories a day. Great news! Unless you have a baby that won’t let you put it down, thereby forcing you to consume things that can be eaten with one hand. Energy bars, Cheetos, whiskey.
Even if you’re wearing the baby, you’re limited in the number of things you can eat. Something hot? Not unless you like the way a blistery baby scalp looks. Something that requires cutting? Newborns don’t love stitches.
It’s almost as if babies have a special radar that detects when you’re about to sit down to a warm meal. When that radar goes off, they become inconsolable. Suddenly they’re hungry, it’s nap time, and world peace depends on them being held. By you. Hungry, hungry you.
Just lean into the emptiness that is your belly. Your heart is full enough to compensate for the hunger.
Personally, I make a point not to complain about being tired. My motto is, “It won’t last forever,” and I try to be generous in directing my energy toward meeting the needs of my baby. All that is to say, if you step to me and pretend, even for one second, that you’re well rested, I’m not trying to hear it.
Get out of my face. We’re all tired.
The doctor definitely mentioned I’d feel overwhelmed. He meant it in the “so much to do, am I doing it right, why won’t she stop crying” sort of way. While that has definitely been true here and there, the vast majority of the overwhelmed-ness (not a real word) that I’ve felt has been positive.
Overwhelmed by gratitude. My family is healthy. My daughter is strong and smart. She’s gorgeous and hilarious. I’m overwhelmed with gratitude because I know this is not the case for every new mother. I know there are mothers who would do anything to spend a sleepless night rocking their babies at home. Mothers whose milk never comes in, who stay dry despite their desperation to feed their babies at their breasts. I’m so grateful to have air conditioning and access to other first-world resources that keep my baby safe.
Overwhelmed with love. As if my heart was cracked open, overstuffed with a desperate adoration, and shoved back into my weary body. The kind of love that breaks and softens a woman. The kind of love that changes the way you breathe and transforms you on a cellular level. That negates the hunger and the fatigue.
The kind of love that makes you vow you’d do it all over again, soaking wet at the South Pole if necessary.
*Mom, I promise I don’t know what it’s like to take Ecstasy.
About Audrey Sanchez