Real Talk: My Baby Doesn’t Sleep and I’m Not OK

I have written and rewritten this post half a dozen times. It’s so hard to know what and how much of my life to share online. If I share too much “bad” stuff, I feel like I’m being melodramatic and seeking attention. But if I only share the “good” stuff, it feels fake. I tend to use sarcasm to talk about stuff that upsets me because it’s light and easy and I can continue to pretend that everything is fine while letting off a little steam. As a new mom, I sometimes feel like I’m not allowed to be honest about how hard this is because I’m supposed to be drowning in gratitude for a healthy baby, and blissfully in love with my little girl. But I firmly believe that acknowledging my struggles in no way diminishes my gratitude or love. So here goes.

***I feel like it goes without saying, but just in case you’re worried: I love my daughter. My husband and family are incredibly involved and supportive and we’re working on it with our pediatrician. Please don’t interpret this as some kind of cry for help. I’m not depressed. I don’t need meds or therapy. I need sleep***

Vera just sucks at sleeping. Right before the three-month mark, it seemed like she was maybe on her way to sleeping through the night, but then we went into some kind of regression that never ended. Rather than getting better, it’s been getting worse. She used to regularly take 1-2 hour naps twice a day; now, we’re lucky if she naps for 25 minutes twice a day. Sometimes her naps are as short as ten minutes. Or she falls asleep nursing but wakes up ready to party the second I put her down. When once she slept for 3-4 hour chunks all night, she’s now up every 2 hours or less. Every. Night. Sometimes she wakes up and eats and then it takes over an hour to settle her down again. Or she falls asleep for thirty minutes and then wakes up crying. I haven’t slept more than four consecutive hours since before Vera was born five months ago.

While Ben was on paternity leave, I was getting regular naps to help offset the deficit, but now that he’s back at work, I’m just digging deeper and deeper into my hole. As someone who has more or less made a career of being overtired, I’m reaching the end of my reserves. My brain function is starting to go.

Mom Brain, right? People talk about “Mom Brain” with a wink and a smile, as if it’s some benign condition that causes you to do silly things like put your coffee in the kitchen cabinet instead of the microwave, or wash the same load of laundry twice. The other day, I put pizzas in the oven without cheese. I literally didn’t even realize my mistake until I was cleaning up and found the package of cheese still unopened on the counter. But calling it Mom Brain makes me absolutely furious. It belittles something that’s a much larger issue. Mom Brain is actually sleep deprivation, and there’s nothing funny about it.

There’s a reason sleep deprivation is classified as torture. After 24 hours without sleep, your judgement is impaired. Hand-eye coordination is impaired. You’re more likely to have a fatal accident like falling asleep at the wheel. Long-term sleep deprivation can cause cardiovascular issues and hormone imbalances. It is terrible for your health.

Being a new mom is already hard. Being chronically sleep-deprived makes everything harder. I’m “on” all day, with no breaks and no help. I get one or two 25 minute chunks each day while she’s napping to tear around the house trying to get shit done. It’s not even long enough to make myself a cup of tea and drink it in peace, let alone nap or exercise or journal. Even if I had time to exercise, I certainly don’t have the energy.

The days are hard, but the nights are harder. The sun goes down, and I know I’m in for another sleepless night; I become irritable and restless. I get into bed and lie there thinking about when she’s going to wake up next, instead of actually trying to get some sleep. I cried myself to sleep last night because dammit, I thought by five months in, sleep would be better. It’s supposed to be better by now. Isn’t it? Every time someone asks how she’s sleeping I fantasize about punching them in the throat.

We do all the things we’re “supposed” to do. We have a strict bedtime routine, down to reading the same exact books and singing the same exact song every night. We’ve tried nudging bedtime a bit earlier or a bit later. We give her a “top up” bottle of pumped breast milk in addition to nursing before bed to make sure she has a full belly. We use a white noise machine. None of it seems to help. We go back to the pediatrician next week and I pray that she has some help for us, but at the same time, I can’t let myself get my hopes up.

The reality is that there’s probably no magic bullet. We’re not doing anything wrong. I suspect that she’s just a shitty sleeper, and probably will be for the duration. Which is a really hard pill to swallow. How long can I do this? Yes, I have family and friends who can help me out with naps here and there, but this isn’t a situation that can be rectified with an occasional half hour snooze. I just don’t have any answers.

I could write more. Complain more. Entreat the gods for help. But I’ve gotta go; Vera just woke up crying for the second time tonight. It’s 8:06 pm. So yeah. That’s how I am these days.

Advertisements

Postpartum Update: 6 Weeks

Hi, friends! This post is coming at you a bit late, but I wanted to wait to post it until after my six week follow up appointment with the midwives. Enjoy!

Physical Stuff
I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect at my six week appointment, as I’m definitely not feeling 100% healed up. Unfortunately, my gut instinct was right. I still have areas that are not fully healed, and had a bit of a complication crop up that requires additional attention. I’d rather not get too detailed, but suffice to say, I’m still not cleared for regular physical activity. This was definitely disappointing, but I’m trying to focus on what I CAN do versus what I can’t. Yoga and walking will continue to be my sole forms of exercise at the moment, and that’s better than nothing.

A few things I haven’t talked about recently are my hip and my carpal tunnel. Thankfully, my right hip went back to normal immediately after delivery; I haven’t had a single twinge of pain since V was born, which is wonderful. The carpal tunnel is still hanging on a bit, but it’s way less of an issue. The very tips of the fingers on my right hand are still numb, but everything else is operating as usual.

Sleep is slowly but surely getting better. We can get stretches of up to 4 hour between feedings at night, which feels downright luxurious, but I still have to get up 3 or 4 times a night depending on when we actually go to bed. We still don’t have any semblance of a schedule, but I’m thinking that when Ben goes back to work next week, our days will inevitably become more structured.

Breastfeeding
Ahead of Ben going back to work, I have been pumping a couple of times a day to have a backup stash of breast milk. We still haven’t figured out what our schedule will be, so I want to have extra just in case. Having a stash will also make eventual date nights possible.

We’re trying to stretch out the time between feedings, as during the day V eats as often as every hour, which is pretty taxing for me. It’s just the easiest baby placation method, and I think I’m too quick to offer the boob when she may not actually be hungry. Spacing things out a bit more will hopefully help me be a little less tied down during the day.

I’m still trying really hard to keep up a balanced diet and hydrate like a boss, as both are essential to successful milk supply. I’ve been drinking a lactation support tea every morning, and some friends who had a baby in April also sent along some lactation cookies, so I have one of those each morning as well. It’s tough to say if they’re actually helping my supply or not but they taste good, which is good enough for me.

img_6003

I’m finding that I have to be pretty careful not to have too many gas-inducing foods, or else we all end up paying for it. If I have a dinner with things like beans or broccoli, poor V wakes up crying with gas pains sometime around 3 am, and requires lots of soothing to get back to sleep. We tried some gas drops recently, which helped some, but she can still get cranky.

Emotional Stuff
I’m still feeling pretty anxious about Ben going back to work and me being on baby duty full time. Even the few afternoons where Ben has been outside doing yard work and I’ve been inside with V have been a bit taxing. I can’t always go to the bathroom or have a snack when I need it because V is hungry or crying. I have a hard time leaving her when she’s crying, even though she might be perfectly fine. My hat goes off to all the single parents and parents whose spouses have limited parental leave. I can’t imagine being the sole caretaker of an infant after only a week or two. I’ve been lucky enough to have 6+ weeks of help from Ben and I’m still feeling nervous to be on my own!

Thankfully, I have a really good support network. My in-laws live minutes away, and I have a fellow stay-at-home-mom friend who lives in the same town as we do, so I’m far from alone in this. I just keep reminding myself that I’ve always wanted to do this, I chose this, and I believe that overall, it will be fun and positive to stay home and raise our daughter.

Mamas out there, how long did it take before you were fully healed after delivery?

 

Postpartum Update: Weeks 4 & 5

Happy Wednesday! I missed the one month milestone last week, so here’s my update for weeks four and five postpartum.

Physical Stuff
Physical recovery is still going about as well as it could. Thankfully, the itchy stitch situation has abated somewhat. My midwife actually called to say that the results of my test for infection had been inconclusive and that I could take an antibiotic if I wanted to, but I could potentially resolve the situation at home with probiotics and just staying as clean and dry as possible. I chose that route, as I already had a shitload of antibiotics during labor due to my Group B Strep status, and I don’t really want to take more unless it’s absolutely necessary. I’ve been taking a few gulps of kefir every morning with breakfast and so far, so good.

My discomfort levels are continuing to decrease daily, but I’m definitely still a little sore around my stitches. I’m not really bleeding anymore, just dealing with occasional spotting. I’m hoping that this will continue so I can get to postnatal yoga next week. Other than recovery related stuff, I feel pretty good physically. I can handle normal tasks around the house, and Ben and I have been walking. Unfortunately it’s been super hot and humid lately so we haven’t gotten out as much as I’d like. I’m excited to (hopefully) be cleared for exercise at my six week follow up so I can work back up to running.

img_5969

I know my straps are funky. I know how to carry her safely. Thanks!

Sleep continues to be elusive. I know the wisdom is “sleep when baby sleeps,” but I think most moms know that’s kind of bullshit. When she’s napping, I’m eating, hydrating, using the bathroom, and trying to accomplish at least one non-baby related thing so I don’t feel like my entire world revolves around her. Also, I’m a terrible napper, so there’s that. Thankfully, we’ve reached the point where even though she’s still waking up every two hours during the night to feed, she generally goes right back to sleep after, which is a blessing.

Breastfeeding
We had our one month follow up with the Lactation Consultant, and she went over pumping with us. GAME. CHANGER. I can now pump bottles for Ben to give Vera, meaning I can occasionally sleep through a nighttime feeding, or leave the house for longer than 45 minutes. Ben is also super happy that he can now, in his words, “appease” her more easily, since he has the option to feed her. She has taken to the bottle with no issues, and while pumping basically feels like I’m milking myself, it’s not uncomfortable.

Emotional Stuff
I went into town ALL BY MYSELF, not once but TWICE during week five, woohoo! I was away from the house and Vera for a whole three hours. It was emotional and weird, but also really good for my mental well being. It was nice to feel like a normal person and just go do some errands like I would have pre-baby. And then hurry home for baby snuggles 🙂

img_5972

I went and got my nose pierced sans baby!

The next hurdle I need to get over is going somewhere with Vera WITHOUT Ben’s support. Thus far, I haven’t taken any car rides with her without Ben there to help. I’m hoping to take her to postnatal yoga this week so I can rip the band-aid off sooner rather than later. Ben goes back to work in less than two weeks, so I need to be okay taking Vera in the car with me.

I have to confess, I’m starting to feel some anxiety about Ben going back to work and being home alone with Vera. I’ve always hoped to be a stay at home mom, but I fully recognize that it will be very challenging. I need to start thinking now about ways to stay busy, get out of the house, and not become a shut-in.

Miscellaneous
We took our first “road trip” down to Quechee to visit my parents because my sister Haley was visiting from Michigan. We fully intended to do a straightforward there-and-back same day trip, but we were having so much fun and my family was so excited to have us there that we decided to stay overnight! We had everything we could have needed for Baby V, so we just pulled the proverbial trigger. The only thing I wish we had brought was the baby monitor, but otherwise it was smooth sailing.

 

It feels really good to have cleared these new parent hurdles relatively early in the game. If we let it go too long it would have been easy to build it up as a scarier event than it really was.

Any wisdom from fellow stay-at-home-moms to ease my worries?

Postpartum Update: 3 Weeks

Hello, friends! I hope you’re all having an excellent week so far. Here’s the latest in my postpartum updates.

Physical Stuff
I had a 2 week postpartum checkup about 18 days after giving birth. The midwife said that my stitches look good and are healing well, which was a relief. TMI alert, the stitches are really itchy right now, so I’ve been pretty uncomfortable for a few days, and was worried I might have an infection; I don’t, but it sucks regardless. They also took my weight, and in spite of my resolution NOT to look at the numbers on the scale from last week’s post, I couldn’t help myself. I was pleasantly surprised to see that I’ve lost 20 pounds already, leaving me with only 10 to go to get back to pre-baby weight. Again, I don’t want to place too much weight (pun intended!) on the numbers, but it was nice to see nonetheless. I’m definitely a lot squishier around the middle and I’ve lost a lot of muscle tone, but I know I can get it back when I’m ready.

The midwife approved me for easy walking, but I’m still not supposed to do any vigorous exercise. She warned against going too hard even though I might feel pretty good, and advised me to continue to think of this as a recovery period. Again, TMI alert, but sweating makes the itching worse, so I’ve been reluctant to get moving too much. She also said I’m allowed to go to postnatal yoga as soon as my bleeding stops, which I’m looking forward to. I’m still taking OTC pain meds a few times a day, but I’d say I’m dealing more with discomfort rather than pain at this point.

I’ve finally reached the stage where I’m feeling like wearing “real” clothes again versus just hanging out in a bathrobe or PJs all day. I can squeeze into plenty of pre-pregnancy bottoms, and I bought myself a bunch of new nursing tops to wear, since we are exclusively breastfeeding. It’s nice to actually get dressed, put on some jewelry, and be a normal person again. I’m planning to pack up my maternity clothes this week, which I’m actually pretty psyched about. I need the space in my closet/drawers.

img_5857

Pre-pregnancy leggings, yay!

Ben and I are both still pretty sleep-deprived, but it’s getting better every day. All I can say is, I’m glad neither of us are working right now. We still don’t have any kind of routine, but we’re managing to get about 6 hours of sleep each night in various chunks. It’s amazing what feels like “enough” sleep these days.

Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding is still going well! I’m still a little sore when Vera first latches on, but otherwise it’s great. We feed on demand, which is usually every 2 or so hours, so I spend a lot of time sitting on my butt with a baby attached to me. As she gets older, feedings should space out more, which will allow me to do more. We will also be having a follow up visit with the lactation consultant this coming week to go over pumping, milk storage, and stuff like that, which will mean that Ben can help out with some feedings, allowing me more freedom. Yay!

Emotional Stuff
My hormones seem to be equalizing a bit, although I’m definitely still more weepy than usual. I don’t have “baby blues” or anything like that, I just feel things more strongly. We watched Coco on Saturday and I spent most of it crying, haha! So far I’ve been adjusting to motherhood well. Being sleep deprived is hard, and being so home bound is hard, but it’s all worth it when I look at her sweet face. The love I have for this little baby is hard to describe. Even when she wakes me up crying for the umpteenth time a night, I only want to love her and help her. Motherhood is a trip, ya’ll.

Miscellaneous
Ben and I are emerging from the “newborn bubble” a bit, which is nice. We’ve had friends over, we’ve gone to friends’ houses, we went to a free play group at my yoga studio, and we even went out to breakfast, which felt like such an accomplishment! As I said in my Weekend Update post, we’ve realized that we need to be leaving the house more for our mental health.

In order to get out more, I purchased a set of disc golf discs. I know, Vermont hippie much? Anyway, Ben already had a set, so with my discs, we can now plop Vera in her baby tent while we throw discs at made up “holes” around our yard. Vera loves being outside as much as we do, and it’s so good for our brains and bodies to see outside once in a while!

Mamas out there, did you experience itchy stitches? Any tips for relieving discomfort?

Post-Partum Update: The First Two Weeks

Hi, friends! Sorry I disappeared there for a bit, but with a newborn to care for, blogging is a bit less of a priority at the moment. As she gets bigger and we can go longer stretches between feedings, I hope to get back on a more regular Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule. But for now, I’ll just be popping in where I can. As promised, I will be doing regular(ish) updates on how I’m healing and adapting post-baby. Let’s dive right in, shall we?

Physical Stuff
My delivery was fairly straightforward, and I only had minor tearing, so physically I’ve been feeling remarkably good. I’m honestly WAY less sore than I expected to be. There’s also been a lot less bleeding than I anticipated, which is a nice surprise. I’ve been feeling so good, in fact, that it’s easy to forget the grueling physical trial I just went through and overdo it. I have to keep reminding myself that I need to take it easy and rest.

For the first 5 or 6 days, my feet and ankles were still VERY swollen from being pumped full of IV fluids during labor. Thankfully, they’re now back to normal, but it was a very uncomfortable few days, and even my Crocs were too tight!

My pregnancy-induced carpal tunnel is slowly improving. I’m honestly disappointed with how numb my fingers still are. I really had hoped that having the baby would bring immediate relief, but not so much. Still, some improvement is better than none. But my fingers are also still just swollen enough that I haven’t been able to get my rings back on, which makes me sad.

I made the mistake of hopping on the bathroom scale at 5 days postpartum and seeing that I’d only lost 6 of the 30 pounds I gained. My immediate reaction was shock and disbelief. Seriously? After getting the baby, placenta, and amniotic fluid out I only lost 6 freaking pounds?? And then I gave myself a strong reality check. Five days postpartum is nothing. I have all the time in the world to lose baby weight, and that’s so not my focus right now. I REALLY don’t want to obsess over numbers, and it’s way too early to worry about that anyway, so I’m planning to avoid the scale entirely until I’m at least 6 weeks out, and go from there.

Breastfeeding
I am so, so happy to report that breastfeeding seems to be going well. We are blessed in that the Mother-Baby nurses at UVM Medical Center are all well-versed in breastfeeding, and we saw not one, but TWO lactation consultants while we were at the hospital. We also had a follow up home visit on our first Sunday at home and Vera was already up from her birth weight, which is fairly rare; breastfed babies usually lose weight in the first week or so while mom and baby figure stuff out.

I was very sore the first few days, but once my milk came in it got much better. Vera has a good latch and good suck and I have an abundant supply, so it’s going as well as it possibly could. It’s endlessly amazing to me that my body can produce food for my baby! As a very well-endowed woman, I’ve always had such mixed feelings about my breasts, and it’s so nice to feel like they have a purpose other than as sexual objects.

Also, I have already become pretty fearless about pulling out a breast and feeding wherever and whenever necessary, which is pretty freeing. If I can BF in front of my dad and father in law, I can do it anywhere, haha! The process of giving birth really broke down the remainder of my modesty, which as a theatre person, was pretty low to begin with!

Emotional Stuff
Thankfully, my emotions/hormones haven’t been running too, too wild. The first few nights home from the hospital were very difficult. I basically went without more than an hour or two of sleep per night from Monday through Friday, and between the hormones and exhaustion, I had a couple of small meltdowns. Thankfully, Ben has the patience and calm of a saint, so he was able to continue caring for Vera while I pulled my stuff together.

I’m definitely more prone to crying now than I was during pregnancy. I played Billy Joel’s “Lullabye (Goodnight My Angel)” for Vera before going to bed recently and I started to cry thinking about how I used to listen to that song with my parents when I was little. Also, we’ve been watching season six of Game of Thrones, and I’m finding I’m a lot less tolerant of violence than I used to be, particularly when children are involved. I spent a lot of time with my eyes averted from the screen.

Relationship Stuff
Bringing a baby into a relationship will undeniably change things, and I think most expecting parents worry about how things will be between them once the baby arrives. Ben and I weren’t worried at all, and so far, we’re proving ourselves right.

If anything, we have become infinitely more appreciative of each other since bringing Vera home. Every day, multiple times a day, we verbally express our love and appreciation for each other. Ben is an amazing partner and dad. He does the majority of diaper changes, and is a swaddling champ. He has taken over a lot of the household stuff so that I can sit and rest and feed the baby as needed.

Watching him interact with our baby girl with so much love, kindness, and patience is almost overwhelming sometimes. I feel so lucky to have him for a partner and co-parent.

img_5714

Kitties
I was very curious/nervous about how the kitties would react when we brought Vera home. Before leaving the hospital, we had my in-laws drop off the hat Vera wore immediately after she was born, so that they could smell her scent and get used to it a bit.

Thus far, the cats have been cautiously curious about her, Rocket more so than Creemee. Rocket spends a lot of time sleeping by my side when I’m nursing or cuddling Vera, and will stare intently at us and meow if she starts crying. He also will sleep by my feet at night. Creemee will approach her bassinet and sniff her, but has taken to sleeping outside our bedroom. I think she finds the constant up and down at night with feeding and changing disruptive.

30a43128-3186-40dd-a63e-111021da8b8a

Miscellaneous
My sister helped organize a Meal Train website for us, so we’ve been receiving semi-regular deliveries of delicious food from friends and family. This is a HUGE help, as Vera is still very needy, and naps infinitely better while being held, so it can be difficult for one or both of us to get in the kitchen and make food. To say that we are grateful for our wonderful support network would be an understatement. We are also incredibly lucky to have my in-laws living only 15 or so minutes away. They’ve stopped by several times with food, drinks, and gifts for Vera, including a set of Beatrix Potter books, which we LOVE!

Care to share any quick and easy recipes for busy new parents?