Cleared for battle
And by that, I mean life with a baby. Alban turned six weeks old on Tuesday. Kimm came for one last follow-up on Friday, and gave me the OK to get on with it and resume normal activity. So far, there is nothing normal about caring for a newborn. At least, nothing that resembles the normal I once knew. It is by turns exhausting, exhilarating, heart warming, frustrating, and everything in between. Like giving birth, it is both exactly what I thought it would be, and much, much harder. Also, rewarding in a way that is hard to describe.
Now would be the time to avert your eyes if you don’t want to read about my post-partum recovery.
I was surprised at how noticeably and steadily my body recovered week by week.
Week one was a cross between feeling fantastic for the first three days, and then feeling like I had been hit by a bus. I was terrifically sore everywhere from the exertion of labor for at least two days, and then my muscles slowly unknotted and recovered. I bled heavily, and had to use a peri bottle every time I used the bathroom to cleanse the area, and to cut the sting. Fortunately, my bladder was returned to good working order. I had stitches and swelling. My voice was hoarse. My belly was deflated and soft again, but still round. I ate a lot of fiber because I have never been so scared of a bowel movement. It took a few days for my digestion to recover from the complete evacuation during labor.
Our childbirth teacher told us when the tears come, that’s when your milk comes in. Sure enough, that’s when I crashed from my birth high and sleep deprivation caught up to me. I was a weepy mess the day my milk came in. Fortunately, I had some breast feeding help from a friend and post partum doula, and that went a long way towards making me feel competent and confident enough to carry on. Breast feeding itself deserves its own post, so more on that later.
Our mothers were still in town for the rest of that first week, and then the rest of our immediate families joined us that first weekend. It was also my brother’s birthday, so we tried to do something special since it was his big 3-0. Alban went to his first restaurant the Saturday after he was born, and he attended mass for the first time the following morning. I tried to sing, but found my abdomen very weak, my voice still hoarse, and my bottom too tender to provide the additional support that is second-nature in my singing technique. I walked around the neighborhood, but very, very slowly.
Week two and week three are a bit of a blur. I saw steady improvement in my strength and stamina. I noticed that I began to feel thirsty all the time from nursing. The bleeding started to subside. I continued to sit gingerly, but I also started to feel like doing more than napping and being a milk machine. However, I obeyed Kimm’s instructions because I was terrified of overdoing it and hemorrhaging. Towards the end of the second week, my uncle became very ill. My mom had to leave the city early to be with my brother because my dad had to fly out to be with his siblings. I was convinced I would be taking Alban on his first plane ride to attend a funeral.
My mom left on the 17th, and that meant we were all alone, the three of us. I have to admit, the first day I was completely alone with Alban was a little scary. But, we managed to figure it out, and we survived, though it was much harder to nap, or do even basic things like shower. Happily, my uncle recovered miraculously, my dad came home, and I was able to make the planned trip to Maryland to spend some time with my family and give Darien some much needed space as he handled a particularly stressful work week. We brought the beagles with us, so he was responsibility-free. I had stopped taking ibuprofen by this time, and the swelling was gone.
I stopped bleeding sometime in Maryland, and found myself bounding up the steps like I used to. I had to remind myself to take it easy. By the time I returned to New York, I had to take special care not to lift and pull things I shouldn’t because I was feeling about 90%. I sang a church gig the next day, on March 4th, and felt I’d had just enough recovery time to pull it off. I’d practiced throughout the week leading up to it, and felt stronger each day. By Sunday, I could tell I had abs in there again.
Week six was a waiting game. I felt almost %100. I got out of the house and went to the office a few days. We finally had our tax appointment. I saw a play. I started thinking about buying new running shoes.
Now, I’m mostly just sleep deprived. Every once in a while, I still feel some tightness in my groin, but I actually marvel at how good I feel considering the trauma that happened down there. It took me over a week before I could bring myself to look in the mirror and assess the damage. I saw that I was healing, and decided I would let nature run its course and not worry about it until six weeks had passed. I’m still not sure how “Irish twins” exist.
I can take two hour naps in the late afternoon and it does not affect my sleep at night. My feet have gone more or less back to pre-baby size. I have a voracious appetite. I am within ten pounds of my pre-baby weight without even trying, though I do find that more movement is naturally incorporated into my normally sedentary times at home due to rocking, bouncing, and carrying around a rapidly growing milk monster. Fortunately, the weather has also been unbelievably beautiful, which has encouraged me to get outside and do quite a bit of city walking. Yet, I am trying to be kind to myself, and I have few goals beyond: feed the baby; feed myself; shower once a day. Life is different and wonderful. And it only gets better, right?