I expected to not get much sleep with a newborn. Folks would tell Michael and I to get as much sleep as we could while I was pregnant in preparation for the long nights. Plus, I remembered waking up on occasion to Marty and Liam’s cries when they were babies. But no one told me that I would be a prisoner in my own house being tortured by my truest love.
In recovery circles, there is an acronym that I have found very helpful: H.A.L.T.S. Halt and evaluate. Are you hungry, angry, lonely, tired, or (overly) serious? If you are, take care of that basic need before doing whatever thing you are about to do. I get angry when I am hungry (Literally, just always give me snacks. It’s the best strategy with me.). I shutdown when I feel lonely. I am a snooty booty when I get serious. And I have crying meltdowns when I am tired.
We spent four days in the hospital following my C-section and I think I collectively got about 8 hours of sleep the entire time. Every time we got Rowan to sleep and thought about ourselves, Michael and I were visited by another doctor or nurse. There was literally no sleep to be had in the hospital. Then we went home.
I was told to stay in bed for the first several weeks because I had major surgery. I wasn’t supposed to leave the second floor of our house but one time a day. I did not listen.
I also had a newborn baby.
After a few days home, I had a crying meltdown while I was trying to feed and rock Rowan. I thought I made a huge mistake by getting pregnant. Everything had gone completely off the rails:
- Pandemic related changes to our midwife team
- Pandemic related changes to our birth plan
- Pandemic related changes to who was allowed to be in the room for my labor and delivery, and who could visit us (no one) at the birth center and then hospital after Row was born
- Pandemic related changed to who was allowed to visit us at home
- Delivery complications that were traumatizing to everyone involved
- Major surgery and my body’s healing process
- Being terrified of people and potential exposure to COVID
- Going days with very little sleep
Maybe being a mom was not something I was actually up to. I cried and cried and cried those big cartoon tears that look like two giant blue arcs. But I had sorta forgotten that I hadn’t gotten much sleep. I just thought I was incapable.
I am grateful for Michael and my mom. (She’d quarantined for weeks and came as soon as I called her.) They reminded me that I hadn’t slept. They reminded me that being tired does this. They told me to eat a snack and take a nap. And I did.
Those very early days are already such a blur. I know biology does this to us. Our brains don’t want us to remember how hard it was as self-preservation and species-preservation. But, good Lord, it was almost torture.
We found a rhythm—co-sleeping some in a bassinet and some safely in our bed, breastfeeding cuddled up in bed instead of in a rocking chair, no middle of the night diaper changes unless we had to, and daytime naps together. That rhythm has already changed and Rowan has already moved to his own room. And for the last five days, he has slept through the night. I have cried about this too.
He already has grown so much and already doesn’t need me the ways he did when I had my first exhaustion meltdown. We don’t sleep each night cuddled together. I no longer take daily naps with him. He’s growing and changing. We all are.
Moral of this story: HALTS. New babies can also be torturous right alongside their miraculousness. Everything changes and you find yourself missing the very thing that was so hard.