Let me preface this by saying that I am totally and utterly ashamed to be publishing this post, for a bunch of reasons. I feel like a bad, bad, bad mommy to be feeling so utterly hopeless. And I feel like a whiny bitch to be putting words to a lot of this. And I feel like a failure to admit how bad it is here. But I want to get it out there, as well, I need to speak my truth (or at least the truth as I'm feeling it today...)
Owen will be 8 weeks tomorrow.
These have been difficult weeks. Nothing like what I imagined. And I suspect to the BLMs who have not gone on to have a subsequent child, and perhaps even to those of you who have as well, I sound like an ingrate. I remember reading of women complaining about lack of sleep and thinking "Oh cry me a fucking river...."
Well, I've cried that river, and then some, in the last 8 weeks.
I need to remember that Owen came 5 weeks early, and his milestones are different than that of full term babies. It sometimes helps if I think of him as a 3 1/2 week old baby, rather than an eight week baby, because he just doesn't do "what 8 week old babies do" (or at least according to my observations of other families with 8 week olds.)
We started him on reflux meds last week, which I never thought I'd do (kinda like how before Otis I thought I'd never have an elective cesarean...), and they do seem to be making a difference, but he's still young, and in general just seems unhappy to be out of the womb most of the time. Please don't link me to the npr article about reflux meds being overprescribed - it's been sent to me twelve times over. The meds seem to be helping my son. That is all I need to know.
Perhaps because of the meds, perhaps because he's just growing up, this is the first week we've even had a glimpse of "baby." Up until this point, we have pretty much just known crying, screaming, pooping, sleeping, fussing. No smiles. Little eye contact. Barely any awake time. And he cries or screams unless he's held, for the most part. We get about 30 minutes, maybe an hour, two if we are SUPER LUCKY, in the morning now where he can hang out in my arms, or be in a swing or his pack n play just cooing and chattering and generally happy to be around - but this is a new development as of the last four days. Today was the first time I've even been able to attempt "tummy time" with him, because he was awake, alert, not screaming. He's only had a handful of real baths in his short life because they cause a crapton of distress for both him and for us. (When I have the stamina, I'll write up the story of the day we tried to give him a bath and the glass bathroom sconce fell off the wall and shattered on the sink right next to him, sending shards of glass all over him but not drawing a drop of blood or cutting him at all (but taking a huge chunk out of my finger... and causing me to have a full blown, serious, breathe-into-a-paper-bag anxiety attack...))
At night, he'll sleep one shift, usually for an hour, in his cradle. Other than that, he needs to be held to sleep. I've camped out in a big chair in the bedroom and have him there, on my chest, usually from about 3 am to 8 am. The early shift, Owen is on E's chest, usually in the rocking chair in the living room. I get a decent few hours of sleep from about 11 pm to 2 am, then I feed O, then he kindasortabutnotreally sleeps in his bassinet next to the bed for an hour, then he wakes himself up all fussy, and we go to the chair and sleep there for the rest of the night. He fusses, but it's easier to soothe him when he's right there on my chest.
Nursing a reflux baby, especially when you have an overactive let-down and too much milk, is not always easy. He has his "I forgot to breathe, mama, sorry!" moments. He chokes and sputters and coughs and gasps. He freezes up, eyes popped out, staring at me, and I wonder if he'll start to breathe again. (So far, he obviously always has.) Night nursing especially is challenging, and I find that most nights I have a mini panic attack of sorts prior to nursing. The stop-breathing moments seem to be lessening now that he's on meds, but they still happen and they still freak me out. He still does his gaspy, shrieking breathing thing sometimes and it terrifies me. I sit and tremble as he sounds like he can't breathe. The moments pass, but not without wearing very thin on my already frayed nerves. And I don't even know how much of this is real and how much of this I exaggerate in my frayed frantic freaked out mind.
He hates the moby, almost always. Sometimes he'll allow himself to be held in it for a half hour while we walk the dogs. He tolerates the ergo but it doesn't work so well on me, his head burrows into my chest and then I get nervous about smothering him. (I can sit at the computer with him in the ergo, as I'm doing now, because it kind of leans him back away from me a bit but still cradles him close to my body so he's cozy but his face rests back; but I'm also sitting on a bouncing ball so he gets that gentle motion to keep him sleeping.)
It breaks my heart to see my son so uncomfortable, so much of the time. We joked that he's got to be kicking himself, my little Made on Maui miracle baby - we say maybe when he "chose" to join us in my uterus, since we were on Maui when I got pregnant, he was erroneous in thinking that he was choosing a family that lived on Maui. Poor little guy, living in a small home in a big, cold city that is falling apart at the seams with earthquakes and occupiers...this is decidedly NOT Maui. Would he be happier there? (Or, better question, would we? If there were any way to finagle it financially, I'd move. Though that would mean we'd be away from my mother, who has been a lifesaver these last two months...)
I love him with every cell of my being. It hurts so incredibly much to hear him crying, screaming, and to be trying every single thing with every single part of me to make it better.
And I can't figure out how much of my emotional stuff is fatigue and how much is hormonal ppd type stuff and how much is the fact that I am just completely fucked from having gone through the year that we went through last year. But I see other BLMs with their rainbows having a seemingly much easier time, so I know this isn't just residual grief causing panic and anxiety. Owen is a challenging baby. And that feels like a really fucking unfair hand to be dealt after having lost Otis. And I feel like a fucking failure, pretty much about 90% of the time.
And like I said, I also feel like a total ingrate. I should be cherishing every peep out of his mouth, including the blood curdling shrieks at 4 am. The shoulds are killing me. We should be happier. He should be sleeping better. I should be able to get out of the house to join that mommy's group. He should be smiling more. I should be ready to go back to work. I should be able to figure all this out. We should just count our blessings that he's here, he's alive, and it appears that he might actually get to stay...
And I can't help but wonder - would Otis have been challenging like this? He was such a big baby, and hung out until 40 1/2 weeks in utero, and was always so chill in the womb, I feel like he would've been different. And then I think this kind of thinking further kills me. The comparing. The wishing Owen was someone different. It makes me cry even to type those words, because I love him so much, how could I possibly wish he were any different than exactly as he is? I worry that he doesn't know how loved he is, because so often I'm just so run down by him.
We went last week to the pediatrician and Owen was weighed. At 7 1/2 weeks, he weighed Otis's birth weight. This is what Otis's body would've felt like squirming in my arms, I think to myself. Would Otis have done that thing with his lip the way Owen does? I wonder. Would I have felt so overwhelmed, so sad, so desperate, with Otis? I realized as I folded clothes the other day that I no longer associate really any of the outfits as being Otis's outfits - they all belong to Owen now - with the exception of the dandelion onesie that my bff gave Otis, and the monkey butt pants. I can't wear my Otis necklace because Owen yanks on it while he nurses and I'm afraid of the chain snapping. E lost his Otis necklace at some point while we were at the hospital. The symbolism of these two things makes me want to scream and sob. Otis, you are here, always, right at the forefront of my heart. The space you occupy is always yours. Uniquely and unequivocally yours.
And then I sit here, and I glance down at this beautiful little boy strapped onto my chest, and tears fill my eyes, because he is so gorgeous, so amazing, so miraculous. Because I love him so much. It's so damn confusing. So damn confusing. I read back over my words here and I am so sad because I feel like they don't convey the truth in my heart, that I love this little man so much I would gladly lay down in front of a tank or a bus for him, in a heartbeat. I look at him, recognize how hard these days are, and my heart hurts, I feel like it's somehow blasphemous or contradicts that love to admit how hard a time I'm having.
I miss Otis.
I grieve that we didn't get to do "newborn" with Otis.
I grieve that these first 8 weeks have been so drastically different than what I hoped for, what I imagined for us, what I dreamt of.
I miss me, I miss the pre-Otis me, I miss the post-Otis me. I miss what semblance of "solid ground" I felt like I was standing on, even in the precariousness of being pregnant with Owen. I miss taking deep grounding breaths, I miss feeling like I knew what I was doing, I miss feeling competent. I miss being able to type emails to my friends (yes, especially you, B), I miss being able to answer a phone call, I miss having clothes that I feel comfortable and presentable in.
And I read those words and I am embarrassed and disgusted by myself. Because I have my baby, my living, screaming, breathing, healthy baby. He's here. He's healthy. He's alive. He's ours.
And yet it all still feels so fucking hard, in some agonizingly familiar old ways and some brand new and terrifying ways...
But...when it comes down to it, Steven Tyler still captures the song that's been in my head throughout these last 8 weeks...