Having a child has forced me to live in the moment. It has really screwed with my perception of time, and I suspect that this is what parents mean when they say things like, “they’re growing up so fast, ” or “time is going by too quickly”. I feel like I never really caught my breath or wrapped my head around what I was experiencing, so I wrote this as a way to process what has happened in the last 1+ year. It’s long, and probably only interesting to those who are closest to me, but for whatever reason, it feels important to put it out there in the world. ***WARNING: Possible TMI for those who don’t want to know this much about me!***
A few years ago, I wasn’t sure that I wanted kids. My 34th birthday (last year) gave me a shove, and I admitted to myself that avoiding the decision would eventually become a decision to not get pregnant. Once we made the decision, it happened much faster than I had anticipated, and things were moving along before I could fully wrap my head around it. Pregnancy was a mixed bag. I was fortunate to not have morning sickness, but I had horrendous heartburn throughout the whole pregnancy that me not want to eat much more than crackers, cheese, and cereal. Other than that, things were going pretty smoothly. At 32 weeks, I accidentally stepped onto a treadmill that someone had left running at full speed. I decided to go to the hospital to get checked out “just in case,” and the monitor showed that I was having contractions 2 minutes apart. The ultrasound showed that she was still healthy, but that she was in a breech position. There was talk about injecting me with steroids to mature the baby’s lungs because it was looking like I would need to be transferred to another hospital for a pre-term c-section due to her position. Fortunately, things calmed down, and I was able to go home the next day, but from then on, I was anxious that every Braxton Hicks contraction meant that I was going into preterm labor. This also started the process of trying to get her to flip to a head-down position. I spent weeks going to see a baby-flipping chiropractor, hanging out in various inverted positions, and burning Moxa near my toes. Every time she moved, I got excited that she was flipping. I had tried to be open-minded throughout pregnancy about natural delivery vs. various interventions and c-sections, but when it came down to it, I was tremendously afraid of having a c-section and hugely disappointed that I wouldn’t have a traditional labor experience. In the final few weeks, I finally accepted the situation, and I scheduled my c-section for the Friday before my due date. My plan was to work Monday-Wednesday of that week and have a day to rest and mentally prepare myself as much as I could. Tuesday morning, I woke up around 6:30am to go to the bathroom, and when I stood up, my water broke.
We tried to be relaxed as we got ready for the hospital. I showered and ate breakfast, we took some photos and videos, and started making our way to the hospital. It was a beautiful sunny morning, and I was filled with butterflies. Contractions began while I was in the car. I was admitted to L&D around 8am, where they confirmed that she was still, in fact, breech. We waited until they were ready for surgery. Between contractions and anxiety about surgery, I was shivering uncontrollably. They wheeled me into the brightly lit operating room, administered the spinal block, and started the procedure. I was so scared that I would be able to feel them operating. Ira was right by my side, and I vaguely remember the anesthesiologist helping to distract me. It seemed to be only a few minutes before I heard the cry of my brand new baby. The midwife came in, and brought her to me so that we could meet for the first time and have skin-to-skin contact. Ira and I just stared at her with tears in our eyes. It was the most beautiful moment of my life.
Too soon, they whisked her away, and I was sent to recover. It was the strangest thing to have no feeling in my legs, and no ability to control their movement. Because of the c-section, we had another 4 days in the hospital. On Wednesday, my catheter was removed, and the nurse and midwife helped me to get out of bed. My legs were working again, but the pain from surgery was intense, despite being on pain meds. Getting in and out of bed was an enormous effort for the first couple of days. It turns out that use automatically use your core to stabilize every little movement (who knew?), and my core had a giant slice in it. Either Ira or the nurse had to bring Cadence to me for skin to skin contact and to practice nursing, and Ira was entirely responsible for soothing her when she cried, which was often. There were moments in the hospital where it seemed impossible to calm her down, and sometimes the nurses would take her and work their magic while we wondered how the heck we were going to learn to take care of a baby. Neither of us had any experience with babies, so it was the nurses who taught us about swaddling, soothing, diaper changing, and feeding. Nursing was extremely painful, and because of my incision, I couldn’t hold her without having 5 pillows propped up around me. She was generally healthy at birth, but there was some concern about the shape of her skull. It was elongated front to back, which sometimes happens when a baby has been breech for many months, and there was concern that she would need surgery to rectify premature fusing of her skull plates. I was distraught over it, but fortunately, the bones were shifting quickly enough that doctors were no longer concerned by the time we were discharged.
Those few days were a fog of sleeplessness, pain medication, and the total joy and amazement over the person that we had created. For a brief time, we had no responsibilities outside of getting to know our tiny human. Our friends were amazing, bringing us delicious non-hospital food and sharing in our excitement. Saturday was our “going home” day. We dressed Cadence in her own clothes for the first time, and she screamed bloody murder as we changed her. We wondered how on earth we were going to survive the car ride home with a crying baby, and what we were going to do without the help of the nurses. As soon as we put her in her car seat and started walking with her, she calmed down, and looked around curiously. We got her home, asleep, and asked each other, “so now what?”.
The Early Days
By Sunday night, nursing was so painful that I cried in anticipation of feeding her. I did a variety of things to try to reduce the pain and help my skin heal, but it was still a challenge. Nursing sessions were marathons, and she would still end up screaming inconsolably at various times throughout the day, and neither of us knew what to do. Her weight gain slowed down, and it became a source of stress throughout my maternity leave. The experts said that newborns wake up every 2-3 hours to eat, but she could easily sleep 4-5 hours at night. I had to set my alarm to wake up and feed her every few hours. Every day revolved around trying to feed her, and wondering what I was doing wrong. The crying was so intense, and I was so uncomfortable with nursing that I was afraid to leave the house with her. I felt my loss of independence intensely, and the weight of the responsibility of feeding her felt crushing at times. In July, I ended up with mastitis twice in a row, painful vasospasms, and she still wasn’t gaining enough weight. She had laser surgery around 7 weeks to resolve a lip and tongue tie, and she had minor torticollis, likely the result of not being able to lay flat with the bump on the back of her head. She also seemed to spit up more than the average baby, but our pediatrician reassured us that it was nothing to be concerned about, and that eventually it would resolve. Meanwhile, most days were spent trying to control her meltdowns. People kept telling us, “All babies cry. It’s normal,” but the intensity of her crying did not seem normal. She would turn red and scream so long that she struggled to catch her breath. We bounced and shushed and used white noise and rocked and brought her for walks, and sometimes those things would work, but other times, it would go on for hours. There were days when Ira would get home from work and find me crying because I couldn’t get her to stop crying. I would practically throw her at him so that he could try to get her to calm down. Perhaps as a result of those first few days in the hospital, he was much better at soothing her than I was. We did not have a meltdown-free day until she was 8 weeks old.
Her first hint of a smile was around 3 weeks old, and by 4 weeks, she had a mischievous gleam in her eyes. She became much more aware of her surroundings, and seemed to be curious about everything that she saw. It was obvious early on that she had a dynamic personality. Around 5 weeks, she started making non-crying sounds, and even her cries became easier to understand. I remember the first time that I recognized her cry as a tired cry. I put her down in the Rock n Play for a nap, she cried a little, and then she stuck her thumb in her mouth and went to sleep. It was life-changing. We started a bedtime routine around 2 months old, which included putting her down to bed much earlier than we were previously. We just had no idea what was a normal amount of sleep or a normal bedtime for a newborn. She went to sleep pretty easily, relying on her thumb for self-soothing, and would wake up a couple of times during the night to be fed. Sometimes she would fall back to sleep, and other times, she would cry until Ira got up to bounce and shush her until she fell asleep. She gradually woke up less and less until she was sleeping through the night.
She started daycare at 3 months old. We were worried that they were going to kick us out because she was too difficult, but they loved her. She became increasingly active, curious, and social, and while evening fussiness was still an issue for another month or so, we had increasingly more non-fussy times. Nursing was finally pain-free by this point, but she continued to spit up large quantities of milk, and as a result, she was solidly in the 9th percentile for weight for quite a few months. We started giving her solid food around 6 months old. It turns out that she LOVES food. By 8 months, the spit up was minimal, and she was easily eating 2-3 large meals along with all of her bottles. She was late with rolling and crawling, but with both skills, it was like things clicked all of a sudden. She became a much happier baby once she was able to control her body to get to what she wanted. Just like Mom and Dad, she likes to move!
1 Year Old!
We made it! Hooray! Cadence has jumped several lines on the growth curve, hovering around the 67th percentile for weight. She is crawling and cruising everywhere, and interested in anything that doesn’t involve sitting still. She’s still a bit of a sensitive kid. She gets freaked out by loud noises, too many new people, and abrupt changes. She’s not really one for routine during the day, but she sleeps and eats well overall. Most of the time, she is the happiest little girl. She smiles at anyone who catches her eye, giggles when we tickle her belly, and beams with pride when she accomplishes something new. Smiles outnumber the cries at this point, and I find myself not wanting to miss a single second with her. She is just the best.
I had no idea that I could love motherhood this much. It has been the hardest, happiest, most intense, and most amazing year of my life. She makes my heart burst with love.
Happy first birthday, Cadence!