Sunday, November 13, 2011

Time flying

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...


Anonymous said...

I don't know how I got to your blog, but I'm so glad I stumbled upon it. You are an amazing mother! You wrote this post with such love and it shows. You are experiencing what most new mothers feel. You have a 'typical' reflux babe and I am so glad you chose to give him medication. If you can imagine what your baby is feeling, a constant pressure in his tummy, a burning in his chest, being so hungry and wanting to be nourished, but being 'punished' every time you try, so you just try harder, but it hurts even more... No wonder he's been a miserable baby! My son was a term baby, no reflux, smily, etc. He HATED the ergo until he was about 5 or 6 months old. He was a horrible sleeper. He still is! I know you have gotten tons of advice-do this, do that, why are you doing this, no, that's wrong, but please trust your gut as a mother! My best two pieces of advice (which you can leave if you'd like) is to continue to pick up your baby when he cries. I was told babies who are picked up in the first 30 secs of crying tend to start to cry less. Number 2-babies tend to love warm water, so turn the bath water up a bit. Think that he was just inside a body at what temperature! Please know that this stage will pass, he WILL become a cute and smiley babe. It does take some time for the reflux meds to fully kick in. We suffered from infertility, and I felt, at times, much like you do in your post. It's OK. Really. It's OK.

Catherine W said...

Oh Sarah. I know I'm not a frequent commenter but I am here reading and I just wish I could reach through the screen and give you a hug.

Please don't feel ashamed or like a failure. You aren't. You truly aren't. This gig is HARD, babies are wonderful and amazing and so much fun and absolutely merciless and incomprehensible all in one package. You aren't alone in feeling like you don't know what you're doing, feeling incompetent, I still feel like that frequently!

I'm sorry that you are having such a tough time with Owen, it is very difficult when you have a reflux-y baby who doesn't sleep. As you might know, my surviving twin was an early birth and I do think that early babies are a little less interactive and more difficult to feed. It's tough and it's even tougher when you feel have to appreciate every. single. moment,. For what it's worth, I just don't think you can, it isn't humanly possible, that is one of the great and annoying conundrums of being alive. That life is wasted on the living, just as youth is wasted on the young. You simply can't always be happy and grateful but, as you say, that doesn't mean that you would want to miss a single thing about your boy, a single moment with him.

It is difficult, physically, emotionally, in every way. And it is so hard to see what you missed out on with the baby that you didn't bring home. My subsequent baby is six months and it still breaks my heart even though he is my second living child since I lost my eldest. J snapped her sister's memorial necklace chain whilst she was feeding and R is giving the replacement chain a good go and it does feel as though there is some horrible symbolism at play. But you are a mother of two and there is a separate place for both your sons, a separate strand of love for each.

I'm sure you've seen this website but have you looked at Kelly Mom? I also had a few problems with fast let down and choking. It's scary and I was worried that I was drowning my little boy but it does seem to have calmed down as my body has adjusted to how much he needs.

And I see the love for both your boys here so clearly, I know that love. For Owen. For Otis. You are allowed to find this difficult my dear. I know that feeling of somehow blaspheming all too well, especially with my first as she should not be here. But love and having a hard time aren't incompatible. It helps me to think in terms of an adult relationship, imagine spending that much time with another adult and never, ever finding them difficult!

Anyway, sorry about this monstrous comment. This post just broke my heart. Much love and I hope that your dear Owen lets you get a little more sleep soon. You aren't failing. Truly xo

Brooke said...

Oh, S, you have me crying big fat tears here. And I know nothing can really make things easier for you. I want to give you a big hug. I can so easily imagine how strained and frazzled and uncertain and ungrateful I would feel if I were getting little sleep and constantly tending to a fussy infant. Owen, bless his heart, is what my mom would call "a handful." Nobody doubts for a second that you love him more than life. And we'd probably all be a little more chillaxed if we lived on Maui (please can we move there and start a commune?), but I don't think anybody doubts for a second that Owen is lucky to have YOU. Eight weeks feels like an eternity right now (for both you and me). But in eight more weeks? Owen will probably be a new man, and you'll be getting more sleep, and it will be a new year, and life will start to feel sweet again. I really believe this for you. Please be gentle with yourself. You don't sound ungrateful, you sound overwhelmed and exhausted, and given your circumstances, I'm not sure how you could feel any other way. But this cannot last forever. Sending you much love.

Hope's Mama said...

I could write an essay of a comment, Sarah as this truly was just the experience we had with Angus. We just wanted to be parents to a live baby, but my god we underestimated how hard it would be, and that was without the reflux. We too let him sleep on our chests for weeks on end, as that was the only place he'd sleep. He also went on meds about the same age and it seemed like he spent most of the day (and night) screaming.
Just want to send you a huge hug. It really is so, so, so hard.

Monique said...

Sarah - sending love and just writing to say that you are an AMAZING mother who has the right to complain. I too felt I couldn't complain about anything, just because I should be grateful, right? But as you know, newborns are hard work and the sleeplessness will drive you crazy. It will get better. And right now, whatever works to get him to sleep is all that matters. Hang in there.

brianna said...

Brooke, you are not crazy, a bad mother, an ingrate, or any other negative adjective you used to describe yourself. Being a mother is really freaking hard work, previous dead baby or no. Try to stop being so hard on yourself and remember that you are doing a great job.

It will get better.

LauraJane said...

I know these days must be so hard for you... These are they days you were praying for after Otis left too soon, and now you are frustrated by them. Don't you worry at all, I truly do think this is an entirely natural feeling, and doesn't make you ungrateful at all. Babies are hard work at the best of times- add in a premie with reflux, ppd and a grieving mother and yeh, you have yourself a battle.

As Brooke said above, in another 6 or 8 weeks, your little man will be different all together and you can start "enjoying" your time together, rather than being frustrated. :)

Hanen said...

Oh love, I'm so sorry things are so rough at the moment. But please don't add the guilt to your difficulties - I'm glad you trusted us enough to say the truth and open up a little about how hard this is and what a weird mix up of thoughts and emotions this whole parenting post loss process is.

You are a fabulous mama. You don't need a necklace to be connected to Otis - these little things can help us make visible the connection, but the substance of that connection goes much deeper. You'll find other ways to make that connection visible in different ways all through your life.

And it's clear how much you love Owen and how hard you are working to meet his needs and figure out how to soothe him. There's no shame in letting people know how exhausting that can be.

Sending lots of love and hoping that those moments of cooing and chattering start to grow as the medication kicks in. It is tough work hanging out with anyone who is in pain - once he's feeling better, his little personality can start to shine through. Hang in there Sarah xxxxx

æ said...

hey there you.
I've thought in the last weeks how nightmarishly peapod it is that O has reflux too. Sarah--your words, they feel like they could have been my own last year, except that I was comparing C's life to Otis' death, and I hated myself so goddamn much for having such a hard time with it.

The reflux--it's truly terrible. TERRIBLE. Only now do I take in what other people's experiences are like with their babies, and I really can't believe it. Only now do I not sit on pins and needles waiting for the screaming.

I realized after the millionth person told me today I should be glad C isn't walking yet because I'll be so tired that they have NO IDEA what a year of reflux and illness is like. It's hard. Running around? Well at least you're keeping your acid in your stomach.

So here is what I can offer, in addition to being very patient with our being in touch and an ongoing invitation to vent:

it gets better. it gets sooo much better, even when it's still difficult. I think I started feeling like I was dressing more like a normal person around 6 or 7 months. Okay, maybe I'm still not there yet, but I think you and I have pretty similar standards re: comfort.

I still don't feel like I have time for ME yet at any point that C is awake, but now his sleep is finally more predictable and I can count on some night time to myself.

The reflux--we didn't know to insist on treatment. Once it was treated it was at least 50% better. He came off reflux meds at 1 year, and my understanding is that that is late.

Sitting up for reflux babies is HUGE. I know that's still a ways off, but it helps a ton.

All of this is meaningless now, and of course has to be adjusted by 5 weeks, but when I was where you are I needed very concrete ideas of WHEN. I also needed to know that hating parts of the EXPERIENCE of mothering didn't mean I was a bad mother, or that I didn't love my son. You have to love someone an awful lot to invest so much care in their wellbeing.

Reading these things reminds me why you and I are friends. I get you. And I'm so very sorry that we didn't get to see what Otis would have been like. Big brother.

love you

æ said...

p.s. you are doing such a good job. it is damn hard.

still life angie said...

On my phone, but just wanted to say I love you. It is so hard, not least because you feel guilty for feeling so frustrated. Glad you wrote about it, though. Xo.

Merry said...

Oh.... my dear :(

These first weeks are INCREDIBLY tough, especially the first time you do them. And this is the first time you are doing them, with all the added guilt and grief of it not being your first baby you are doing them with.

It will get easier, I promise, promise, promise. Small, prem, early, reflux-y - all those things add up to so very tough. I know because my first was the same. Fran just couldn't settle, couldn't hold her milk, couldn't get full, or comfy, or happy. My mum told me I was having an unusually tough time but I thought it was just newborn stuff. Then I had a newborn who behaved properly and I realised how hard Fran had been.

it will get easier and this time will dissolve into a small blip of a thing at the beginning. Promise.

In the mean time, make sure you are talking in real life to someone, because it sounds like you need it. All the pain of losing Otis is bound to be so raw just now, you describe it eloquently. You've got just enough time to think, but not enough time or emotional space and energy to process.

Keep writing. Keep talking. And when you get the beautiful moments, write them too - once you've enjoyed them.

This too shall pass. There is no way on but through. You are doing great.

car said...

I don't think you sound whiny at all. Tired, yes, stressed, yes, frustrated, yes, but those are all completely normal for someone who is taking care of a newborn. Don't feel bad that it isn't all sunshine and lullabies right now, you just need to do your best to survive. Being exhausted and overwhelmed by Owen's difficulties doesn't mean that you are not over-whelmingly grateful that Owen is alive, we know that.

Anonymous said...

I started reading your blog after my daughter died last year. I have never posted before but feel moved to today. I cannot thank you enough for your honesty and insight.

I do not have any living children, so I have no advice to give except, be gentle with yourself.

Angela said...

My rainbow is a week older than yours. You are not alone in feeling completely overwhelmed and a little lost. I know how much you love Owen, I read it in your words. Having a newborn is hard, add in grief and it feels like days on end of swimming against the tide. I often feel like I should be doing better. As he grows it will get easier. Thank you for being honest.

Alex said...

Sarah, love, I feel the love you have for Otis and Owen right here in your words. Raf had reflux issues but not to the extent of Owen, and the truth is he just puked an awful lot and was generally 'easy'. I now know how lucky we were, even while he wasn't a great sleeper. And it is luck, and it is hard the first few weeks/months, and it will get better.

It really helped me to think about the first three months as being analogous to a fourth trimester. Indeed, they'd prefer to be back inside, in that homely, warm place of gushing and constant easy nutrition. But I'll reiterate that it gets easier and better, and that may not be much of a solace to you right now, but hopefully you can know the truth of that and believe it, even.

Sending so much love, my friend.

Anonymous said...

Sending a hug... and yes, it will get better.. promise.

Roccie said...

It sounds so very hard. I am glad you can think it through and get it out here for others to read - people who get it.

This pain is so complex, I cannot serve you very well. I dont know how to ease it away. You have some really thoughtful feedback from others that I hope can help you get through each day a little easier than the last.