Thursday, April 10, 2008
Levi: Month One
We brought you home from the hospital on New Year’s Eve. Wouldn’t it be nice to say that we stayed up with you until midnight and toasted the start of our first year as a family of three while fireworks exploded in the background? Instead, we were all conked out in bed, trying to recuperate from the stay in the hospital. Now I know why some of my patients were so mean to me when I woke them at 2 in the morning for vital signs. Another lesson for you, Levi: don’t go to a hospital expecting to rest.
Predictably, the cats didn’t care for you when you first came home. Loki occasionally sniffed your head, but would run and hide under the bed the second you opened your eyes or had one of those spastic newborn baby arm-flailing moments. Shiva, however, pretended not to notice you. She would walk right past you with nary a glance.
I don’t know how that was possible, since you were such a beautiful little guy. You were born with gorgeous, big, steel blue eyes—not that we got to see them very much at first. You were a good sleeper right from the start. In fact, you slept so much the first week that I often had to wake you up to eat. From your second day of life to the end of the first week, we have few pictures of you with your eyes open.
When you were a week old, however, you started to wake up more. You would often sit and watch the world around you, as long as you had a boob or a finger to suck on. We took you to Hideaway Pizza when you were seven days old, and you behaved very well, sucking on Dad’s finger the whole time and looking around at everything going on.
As I said, you were always a good sleeper. But like all newborns, you didn’t sleep all at one time. You started breastfeeding the first day of your life, and breastfed babies have to eat at least every two to two and a half hours. The key phrase being “at least.” Meaning that at most, a breastfeeding woman only gets about one to one and a half hours of sleep at a time. Meaning I was really effing tired, dude.
I planned on breastfeeding you until you were at least six months old, Levi, and you’ll never really know how sorry I am that it didn’t work out for us. I should have known what I was in for when the lactation consultant checked in with us. She stuck a finger in your mouth to test your sucking ability and proclaimed, “Wow! That’s a strong suck. I’m glad it’s your nipples and not mine!”
Things went downhill from there. After three (and a half! Don’t forget the half!) weeks of bloody nipples, engorgement, clogged milk ducts, finding out that I was only producing half the milk a newborn needs, pumping with a hospital-grade breast pump, hot packs, cold packs, appointment after appointment with the lactation consultants, fenugreek capsules, and finally thrush, I gave up the dream. By this time, I had lost all contact with any male friends and family members I once had, because every time they asked how I was doing, I said something like, “Imagine your testicles are so full of fluid that they are three times their normal size and as hard as rocks. Your scrotum has a small area of skin that is raw, bloody, and has recently started burning like fire every time it is touched. Every two hours, a baby sucks on that area for thirty minutes. THAT’S HOW I’M DOING.”
I felt so guilty for finally stopping breastfeeding. You were born into a family that likes to do stuff the old-fashioned way, Levi. We make our own soap, build our own furniture, knit our own scarves, sew our own backpacks, etc., etc. Of course we would also be committed to feeding babies the old-fashioned way. But THANK GOD for formula. You took to the bottle with glee and vigor and a voraciousness that must be baby for “Thank God someone is finally feeding me!”
Honestly, the first month of your life is kind of blur to me. A foggy-eyed blur of fatigue and uncertainty mixed with the wonderful head rush of caffeine after I stopped breastfeeding. Oh, how coffee helps. Through the blur, I remember how serenely you slept on your father’s chest. How your baby breath felt on my neck. The night that just the two of us were awake at two a.m., watching the lightning flashes during the rainstorm. The way you absorbed your surroundings with your eyes. Your first bath. Your hand curled around my finger. The way the pounds suddenly flew back on you, making both of us healthy once again.
Just in time for colic. But that’s another story.