March 30, 2010


Reader TK told me a long time ago that my post on lasik was an "honest account of the procedure."  I thought I'd try to do that for the first month of having a baby too.

Oh, and as an aside, I can't tell you how happy I am that I got lasik now.  I can see my baby in the middle of the night to nurse.  That is worth any money I had to spend and any disappointment I previously felt with my imperfect results.

A year ago, my husband was at SERE school.  We decided that having a baby is my version of SERE: you don't grok it until you've done it.  No matter how much you think you mentally understand what it's like to be starved and beaten, until you go to SERE and experience it, you really can't grok.  That's how I feel about having a baby.  Sure I knew that labor would hurt.  I knew that babies cry and don't sleep through the night.  I knew that my life would get difficult.

I knew it.  But I didn't grok it.

The first days home from the hospital were rough.  And that's an understatement.  I remember weeping frequently.  Wandering around the house in a daze because I had had no sleep at all.  Topless, because my breasts were leaking both milk and blood.  Unable to sit, because my episiotomy hurt so bad that I couldn't sit upright without severe pain.

No one fully explains that to you when they say "being a mother is hard."  Or "childbirth hurts."

My husband remarked that a woman goes through the most pain she will ever experience in her life and simultaneously gets slapped with the biggest responsibility she's ever had.

No one could possibly have helped me grok the sense of frustration and failure I would feel when my baby is in pain, when she gets severe gas, when she projectile vomits several times a day.  How manic I would get, googling over and over to figure out how to breastfeed better so my scabbed and bleeding nipples would heal.  How to prevent and cure her gas.  How to help her calm herself when she's obviously tired but simply won't listen to me when I beg her to just close her eyes and sleep.

I have done this for one month, in a fog of pain and exhaustion.  I cannot believe how hard it is.  I can't believe that most of the women in my life have done this before me and survived.  Without constantly complaining about it.  Because that's what I want to do.

It's getting easier.  Or at least more predictable.  I am starting to distinguish her hungry cry from her tired cry.  I am slowly learning how to fix both.  I no longer panic when she barfs all over me at 1 AM; in fact, I have learned to burp her while standing in the bathtub for an easy clean-up.  And when I jolt awake in serious pain because of a blocked milk duct, I know what to do.  And I push through the pain and feed her because that's what mothers do.

I am learning to be a mother.  It's far harder than I imagined it would be.

And I am now smart enough to grok that it won't get easier, just different.

Posted by: Sarah at 03:56 PM | Comments (18) | Add Comment
Post contains 561 words, total size 3 kb.

1   You DO grok!

Posted by: Stacy at March 30, 2010 05:31 PM (bVL/L)

2 By the way, keep it're doing a GREAT job...learning those survival things like burping in the shows you were made for this!

Posted by: Stacy at March 30, 2010 05:32 PM (bVL/L)

3 Insane, isn't it?   Motherhood is forever a full-mind-and-body experience--and you often don't get full use of your mind and/or body in the duration!  It's a good thing those little babies are cute (and remain cute as toddlers, for the most part), or the human race would never have survived.

By the way, if you haven't already, try out some Lansinoh lanolin cream.  It's stickier than honey, but it's extremely soothing AND you don't have to wash it off before nursing.  Beware of using gel pads, especially sticky nursing pads, because they can block the natural flow of milk and cause clogged ducts, and the adhesive tears the tender skin, making bleeding worse. 

You might also consult a lactation consultant to make sure your baby's latching on properly.  Supposedly, "nursing isn't supposed to hurt."  I beg to differ sometimes, but on the whole, it's not.  I had to fix Ian's latch from birth till I weaned him, because he kept getting that upper lip in the way and just wouldn't open his mouth wide enough on the first try.  As much as I would have loved it to be, nursing just wasn't a natural, easy process for us.

But I'm sure you've had enough unsolicited advice.  I have a hard time shutting up when I get going.

Posted by: Deltasierra at March 30, 2010 07:38 PM (/Mv9b)

4 Tired cry is easy--close the door and go downstairs.  It'll play itself out in under 15 minutes (an hour at the longest.)
Hungry cry is easy too--just give the baby to mama! --Oh, wait...

I agree with Russ, you go through the most painful experience in your life, and simultaneously get life's greatest responsibility.  But then, you also get a baby shower, and bigger juggs, so it's totally worth it. 

The bad thing about the crying is that as they get older, it only increases in duration, volume, and frequency, until they turn 22 or so. Then they stop crying long enough to ask if they can move back in after college.

My 10 year old son threw an hour-long fit yesterday because I grounded him for a single day.  A full-on, wailing, screaming, sobbing, hyperventilating fit.  And my 7 year old pitched one tonight, because she thought she was in trouble for something she did, even after her mother and I assured her she wasn't in any trouble.

If the honkers are bleeding from being chapped, Udderbalm or Lansinoh (or even chapstick) but the thicker the cream, the better.  To keep my nipples tender (okay, to help my skin grafts heal faster,) I wholeheartedly recommend gold-bond hand lotion or Nivea. Whatever you choose, ensure it does not contain any of the alcohols, or it will make the problem worse.

 The Mrs. says to try alternating ta-ta's between days, to allow recovery time.  If blood is coming with the milk, don't nurse.  Otherwise your baby will become a goth kid.

I know you get advice from everywhere, and you aren't asking for it--just telling you what worked for me, because I really can't imagine what an episiotomy feels like, although I imagine it's something like having having a testicle explosively amputated.  Nobody gave me a baby to care for afterward, however, just lots and lots of narcotics;  so, YMMV.  I'm not giving advice to tell you what to do, just to let you know that what you are going through is normal, that you are not alone, and that gin and Zoloft will cure postpartum depression just fine. 

One last tip:  sometimes babies won't stop crying until you take them for a drive.  Just remember to take them out of the car when you get home.

Posted by: Chuck at March 30, 2010 09:40 PM (bMH2g)

5 because that's what mothers do.

That is the wisdom of the ages. I understand that breastfeeding is very important to some mothers.  We bottle fed our kids though.  As a dad, the middle of the night feeding was a VERY special time for me as I was the one to do it.  Holding my children close as I fed them is a fond memory. As crazy as it sounds now, you will miss these days. 

A helpful hint about the gas.  Look into a product called  Mylicon (simethicone drops).  It was a tremendous help with my son when he was colicky.  

Posted by: SciFiJim at March 30, 2010 09:53 PM (kJF1e)

6 If you haven't already, I totally second getting Mylicon (I think Gripe Water does the same thing).  We gave it to the Captain whenever she was uncomfortable and it works like a charm.

Just keep on keepin' on.  Keep doing the things that work for you and let go of anything that doesn't. She'll change the game on you frequently but you are a smart woman and you roll with it with the best of 'em.   I know you know this already but it gets better/easier/you get more used to it every day.   

Posted by: Ann M. at March 30, 2010 11:15 PM (+GQ3g)

7 LOL, Chuck

Hang in there, Sarah -- I've no doubt you are becoming an awesomer mommy by the moment!

Posted by: Lissa at March 31, 2010 04:59 AM (mgjM7)

8 Sometimes I comment to my husband now "I can't remember when they were little" maybe its the sleep deprived fog - -or maybe I just dont want to remember all those nights of standing/rocking in front of the exhaust fan from the stove (the only thing that worked to calm the cries!) but in a few weeks, she will sleep more, you will sleep more, the stitches of your epis will be a distant memory (ok maybe not... ) but you will settle into a routine and be able to more fully enjoy your new bundle of joy. Oh and I totally agree the people that say "nursing doesnt/shouldnt hurt" must've never nursed b/c I beg to differ - at least in the beginning....

Posted by: Keri at March 31, 2010 07:33 AM (6/M22)

9 Great post, Sarah.

I remember, after having my firstborn, looking around at other mothers I knew and feeling bonded in a way I never knew existed. We had all gone through this experience that could never be fully explained to someone who hasn't been through it.

Just remember, the first three months are survival mode. (At least that's how I view it.) As long as you and your baby make it through the day, it's a good day. LOL. Seriously, anything else is secondary and optional.

I triple the recommendation for Lanisoh. Slather it generously before and after feedings. And, I found the best nursing pads were Johnson & Johnson. Many other pads have plastic backs or lining, which don't allow nipples to breathe properly & can lead to further problems. Nursing, honestly, sucks the first month. (Ba-dum-pah.)  But, it gets better! Hang in there! When it gets towards weaning time, you'll weep because that stage is ending.

Posted by: Heather at March 31, 2010 08:29 AM (k6tVi)

10 It is hard work, but we do it anyway.
Maybe some words of advice, maybe not:
My mother nursed 6 of her seven children, including me and my twin.  On the seventh for some reason, I was 12 and remember this, she had projectile vomiting because of blood in the milk.  She had to bottle feed her seventh child.
On the other hand, my first child was bottle fed and had projectile vomiting, till we tried about 4 different soy milks.
She had it until she was about 12 when I started making her clean up the mess!  
I know it was not her fault as a baby and young child but after about three it came after tantrums.;D
Thanks for giving us the grokking update, its cool.

Posted by: Ruth H at March 31, 2010 09:04 AM (19vzx)


Welcome to the sisterhood!   My babies are 23 and 28 now, but I vividly remember the sleepless nights and the overwhelming feeling of navigating a place I'd never been. 

I was engaged in a nursing marathon (constantly smelled like a dairy cow) for a year and a half with each of them.  BEST investment I've ever made.  Each daughter was a little different, as is every mother/baby team, but here are things that remained constants for me:  for the first three or four months, I eliminated onion, brocolli, asparagus, cabbage, caffeine, chocolate, milk, and cheese from my diet.  These things made them gassy and/or made the milk taste funny.  Gradually, their stomachs became less sensitive and my diet didn't matter much.  Neither of them had fruit or juice or cereal until they were six months old.  Another thing I had to do early on was  burp them gently every few minutes during feedings.  This mostly eliminated trapped air bubbles which caused tummy ache and spitting up.

The pay off for all this effort?  Some day soon, you'll be nursing, and you two will make eye contact, and she will smile and pat you.  I wouldn't trade five minutes of my experience for anything in the world.







Posted by: char at March 31, 2010 09:08 AM (5q8VK)

12 You've already had lots of personally tested ideas and advice given above. I'll add a few. Advice gives you starting points, since each baby is different, some advice may resonate while other stuff is already being used or is not relevant or doesn't work. My kids were prone to the projectile vomiting, not after every feeding, but enough to take two or three outfits in a diaper bag with me. When they were infants, you were told to have them sleep on their tummies. I worried about the vomiting and them choking, so we raised the head of the mattress. Each baby slept on a slant in the crib. We raised the head of the mattress a notch or two above the foot end. I think it helped. My son also did this with his infant after he got home from 10 days in the NICU. He put packages of diapers that the baby hadn't grown into under one end of the bassinet type crib's mattress to create the slant. That seemed to really help his son as well. He is turning 4 this week, and slept on his back per the current advice. I also recommend making an inexpensive album of the first month of baby pix. Relatives cherish it, especially if they aren't local, and your baby changes so fast, it's nice to look back and see what and how they were doing when you were so exhausted. Kids like looking back at themselves as well... especially if and when younger siblings arrive. First meaningful smile is magic and has a wonderful way of softening any pain and worry memories. It still is amazing to me how a baby, so small, can so change a house and the people in it.

Posted by: HChambers at March 31, 2010 10:03 AM (m6pqD)


You're doing great, Mama!  It is so hard.  And no one can really explain that to you, and it's something we don't talk about which makes it that much lonelier.  But you are doing it and doing it well.

I just want to say, because of course, it's my thing...  You don't say much about how you're feeling here, and I'm not assuming anything.  I say this because I wish someone would have said it to me--if how you're feeling doesn't start getting easier...  If it continues to feel too hard...  If you just feel off and not yourself...  It is so ok to get help.  It's ok to explore the idea that maybe you're dealing with PPD.  Because you CAN feel better.  And motherhood CAN feel better than bleeding nipples and exhaustion.  And again, I'm not assuming anything.  I'm just giving my little PSA because I wish I had known that before I went through it.

But let me say again, you are doing SO GREAT. 

Posted by: Val at March 31, 2010 03:54 PM (JPt9E)

14 With neither of my kids was I ever able to distinguish the was always going through a list of possible solutions. I would laugh, because for my husband, it was always: they need to be first thought was: they're hungry...lols.

Posted by: CaliValleyGirl at March 31, 2010 06:10 PM (yMqzQ)

15 I grok'd your grok. Give your husband a hug for me. I love his quote about responsibility and pain. Many of my friends will firmly believe that I'm sure. I love your raw honesty and thoughts how "childbirth will be hard" doesn't describe the pain, the bleeding nippples, the inability to sitdown or the survival techniques like burping in the bathtub. Hang in there! My twin used to say ... how many years to go? That 11 years has flown by.

Posted by: Darla at April 01, 2010 08:39 AM (RAPsl)

16 "The pay off for all this effort?  Some day soon, you'll be nursing, and you two will make eye contact, and she will smile and pat you.  I wouldn't trade five minutes of my experience for anything in the world."

My wife would second this.  And the advice to see a lactation consultant - a regular nurse (even the L&D nurses) just won't do. 

The mushy feelings might not be there (my wife didn't have them, especially that first month) - it's the actions that show you love your baby (and you really do if you are doing all of that).

That first meaningful smile wipes away a lot of the troubles.  And we just weaned our fourth (and last), and it was hard for my wife, despite the pain from the teeth and other abuse nipples get.

Parenthood is the hardest, bestest thing I've done (am doing - the oldest is 6, the youngest 1).

Posted by: Phil at April 01, 2010 01:30 PM (ldQys)


I love that even the "Dad's" are weighing in...says that they were a great support to their wives.


Momma you are doing a great job and before you know it she will be old enough to date and then you and Dad can fight off the "evil little boys!" (I say that because I had three boys and always used to tell the boys that "girls are evil" I knew because I was one.)  Enjoy these moments they do fly by quickly

Posted by: Laura, A Military Mom at April 01, 2010 03:33 PM (oLHZ3)


Though I've never been a mother (and never can be, sadly) a friend has sworn that her usage of the offerings from LeLeche helped her immensely. Particularly in re: nipple issues and thrush...

I am confident you are smart enough to have already been there, done that, so I offer it as a just in case your exhausted brain hadn't reviewed yet.

I have to tell you - I came home all mad because we had to rush to a dinner tonight and the kitchen was left a mess that I returned to...a dog that had to be let out...a garden to water...a stack of laundry...but after reading your words I can put all those things in their proper level of importance. As in not very damned. Thanks for giving me some real perspective tonight...

It WILL be better.

Posted by: LauraB at April 04, 2010 08:47 PM (2uqvG)

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