Although I read about the recovery of child birth in all my parenting books and websites, it's still been extremely challenging. In fact, I would say the recovery has been harder than the labor itself.
Immediately after Penelope was born Danny and I were starving and exhausted. We hadn't slept or eaten in 24 hours and had just gone through the biggest, most important, beautiful and hardest ordeal of our lives. Two nurses came in with a wheelchair to take me to use the bathroom. Weak and tired, and seeing all the blood I started to warn them I was feeling dizzy. I must have passed out because when I came to there were 10 nurses bustling around calling out to each other, poking me, asking me questions. They wheeled me back into the room and Danny was pale with worry, standing close to the baby. My glasses were askew and the ponytail I'd had since before birth was half undone. He told me later I was smiling like a mental patient. In my mind I was trying to smile to reassure him that I was fine. But apparently it wasn't a very reassuring picture.
That night we didn't get to catch up on any of our rest. Penelope did cry a bit, she was confused and cold and I imagine really hated gravity. But the real issue was the hospital staff coming in once or more an hour to check on us, take blood sugars, blood pressure, give shots and ask us the same questions over and over again.
When day broke we were finally drifting off to sleep, and I was trying to breastfeed when that same awkward medical student guy came in to ask more questions. "heh. hi. How. heh.. um, how are you feeling?" he started. I tried to smile and whisper so as not to wake up Danny who had finally passed out on his cot. "I see.. you are ..heh. you're breastfeeding." he commented awkwardly amid the questions.
For two days we got terrible hospital food, and the same repeated questions with each nurse starting her next shift. When we were finally released from hospital jail, I was wheeled out of the hospital to the van where Jack and Angela were giving us a ride. To their horror, and my amusement, after we piled in, the van wouldn't start. Jack and Angela were so apologetic and embarrassed, but it really was very funny. A storm was brewing outside and I knew I didn't want to take this new baby in a taxi cab. Fortunately, someone at the hospital gave us a jump start and we made it home laughing at our luck and taking pictures of our new baby in her first car ride.
When I walked into our apartment, the place had been cleaned and a sign welcoming the baby hung off the chair that her grandma had made for her. There was a tall chocolate cake frosted, a bag of Godiva chocolates and some champagne in the fridge- all due to my amazing mommy in law. I felt elated, shocked, happy and also sore, confused, overwhelmed and scared. Who was I now? I knew I was being reborn as a new person, but it was still unclear who that new person was and how she was going to manage to care for such a tiny, perfect, frail little girl.
Over the past two weeks I've had many meltdowns. Maybe on average- one a day. I start to cry, either for no reason or because I'm so sore on so many parts of me. For days I felt like I'd gotten into a bad hockey fight. The only part of me that wasn't sore was my face, though, so maybe hockey is a bad analogy.
While I knew breastfeeding would be challenging, I never realized how much time it takes. I mean it's pretty much all I do. At first, I was so sore, every time she'd cry with hunger, I'd deny it. "No!" I'd tell my family when they'd hold her out toward me, "She's not hungry! She's not! I just fed her! She just wants to sleep. Make her sleep!" "No", they'd shake their heads, gently "She's sucking on her hand."
But while it still takes up the majority of my time, leaves me and the baby covered in milk, requires both of us a lot of costume changes, and demands careful planning even to limp down the street to get an iced decaf, it really has gotten easier.
At baby P's first Dr. appointment they weighed her and told us her weight was already picking up. "The breastfeeding must be going great!" The pediatrician said. "Wheatever you guys are doing, keep it up!" This assurance strengthened me and has helped me keep going, making it through the roughest patch.
A few days after birth I got some sort of pregnancy/new mom rash that hits 1 out of every 200 women. Tiny itchy hives covered my stomach, arms and legs. They prescribed two tiny tubes of steroid cream which I used that same day. My refill isn't good for another 5 days! But these hives are starting to go down.
I won't go into the details of the main source of soreness, but all I want to do is go see the light of day and walk outside, and I really can only make it for a few minutes before I have to hobble home and lay on the couch. They really need to make a stroller for new moms. Then Danny could push us both around.
Through all of these pains, getting to know my daughter and myself as a mom has fueled me forward and given me so much joy. So far Penelope rarely cries, sleeps a lot (sometimes five hours at night!) and on the rare occasions when she's awake and not eating, looks around with curiosity and hangs on our every word. When she sleeps she goes through a range of entertaining facial expressions, sometimes even a smile, which she has yet to do awake. She makes these really cute noises- sometimes like a gremlin, sometimes like a cat or a bird calling. She moves her arms and hands like she's trying to stir a batter or put a spell on us. Yesterday at 5 in the morning I was explaining to her my limited knowledge of the sun and moon. These moments are so precious and perfect it hurts to know that they're also fleeting and that we'll look back on these times and wish we could relive them.
Adding to the list of my sore parts you can add my heart, it feels like it might burst sometimes.