We spent the first four days of Squishy’s life at the hospital. Looking back now, it’s a bit of a blur. I mostly felt like a useless potato on the bed during the first day. I wasn’t allowed to walk at all during the first day because of my catheter. Mikey was up and about and learning everything he could from the nurses. He was getting valuable supervised training from them and all I could do was sit and watch. I was desperate to be able to walk around and take care of Squishy.
But I had something important to do before I could start walking: I needed to fart. I was told that I could only start eating if I farted. So I drank prune juice and waited to toot. I eventually farted and I felt like a success. But I was still pretty useless. I looked like a beached, unkempt whale on my hospital bed.
They only had use for me when Squishy seemed hungry. Thankfully, at first, it looked like I had an OK supply of colostrum! My boobs felt swollen and when I tried hand expression (just to check), I expressed drops of clear liquid. It was a hallelujah moment! Many people in my family were skeptical of our choice to breastfeed because many of them had negative experiences with it (mostly lack of supply).
While Squishy needed to learn how to latch well, he seemed like gung-ho eater, so he tried over and over again in between crying. Mostly, I needed to help fit my areola into his mouth by squeezing it “just like a hamburger” (our lactation nurse’s words, not ours).
Some time during the second day though, Squishy would cry when we tried to feed him and both of Squishy’s grandmothers felt like he wasn’t getting enough milk/colostrum from me. A team of doctors, nurses, and lactation specialists came in to try to help and I felt like a failure because I couldn’t feed my child. The doctors and nurses and specialist told us that the only way you can tell if he’s getting “enough” is if he meets the minimum number of diaper changes per day (which at that point was one poopie diaper and one pee-pee diaper). We were kind of freaking out because he hadn’t peed yet that day. But there was still some time, so we waited. Eventually, Squishy wet his diaper.
I remember feeling like such a failure during this time. When everyone was gone (except Mikey and Squishy of course), I would look at Squishy’s first photo, stare at his fat face on my phone, drink my soup, cry, and think: “you’re such a perfect baby. You deserve a better mommy.” Mikey caught me and reassured me that we were doing everything that we could do.
So, we kept on going. I drank my Mega Malunggay pills three times a day, I drank all the malunggay soup my mom brought me, and I drank Traditional Medicinal’s Mother’s Milk tea. (Eventually, by the third day, I noticed that I had wet spots in the chest area of my sweater! And when I tried hand expression, creamy colored drops came out. My milk had finally come in! I cried when I saw it. Another hallelujah moment.)
24 hours after my c-section, they removed my catheter. I was told that if I didn’t pee in a couple of hours, they would have to re-insert it. I drank all the water I could. But I was glad that I could finally start walking around! The first few steps were the hardest. My legs felt like dead weight and my surgery wound made it difficult to bend and shift positions (ex: lying down to sitting up or getting into bed). But I was determined to get better so that I could be more useful. Eventually, I felt the urge to pee, so a nurse and Mikey helped me to the bathroom. It was a bit awkward to pee in their presence at first, but my crafty nurse turned on the bathroom faucet, and then I started to pee. I changed out of my adult diaper (which I hadn’t even noticed I was wearing until that point) to fresh underwear and a maternity napkin. I instantly felt better. In fact, I had Mikey help me spray on some dry shampoo so that I could fix my hair a little. I was slowly feeling human again.
It was a little difficult to entertain visitors, but looking back, it forced me into a state of okay-ness. And I suppose that really helped me fake it until I was really okay. And it was therapeutic to talk about what we had gone through in a light hearted manner.
By the time we were ready to leave the hospital, I was anxious because I felt like we had just started getting the hang of taking care of Squishy. I wasn’t confident enough to do it without a nurse that we could summon with a push of a button. The night before we got discharged, I told Mikey: “if I can be better at just one thing each day, I’ll be okay.” He agreed that that was an attainable goal.
Transitioning from the hospital to our home was kind of jarring. The first challenge was trying to take care of Squishy without aggravating my operation wound. Our bed is quite high so I was in pain every time I tried to get on and off it. I was also in pain every time I tried shifting positions. I couldn’t even use our La-Z-Boy because it was too big for me. I ended up spending most of my time nursing Squishy on our couch. There was one disastrous evening when we transferred Squishy’s bed in the living room and we all slept outside (me on the couch, Squishy in his crib, and Mikey on the Lazy Boy).
The hardest part of the transition was getting used to sleepless nights. Squishy was going through some kind of a growth spurt and he would feed every hour. I’ve been sleep-deprived before, but all the times I pulled all-nighters in the past, there was always light at the end of the tunnel—sleep would come sooner or later. But with a new baby, I read that the light at the end of the tunnel will come anywhere between the 3rd-6th month (if at all). So I had to learn how to function with little or no sleep. Sleep deprivation makes everything worse. I remember feeling anxious, hopeless, and useless. I kept dreading the end of Mikey’s paternity leave. I would cry every time I would try to do something for Squishy and it would take longer because I was in pain. No one really warned me about this. Maybe my Mommy friends all had an easier time than I did? But I did find some comfort from people who wrote about having similar experiences.
Week 1 was really tough. It was messy, scary, and the opposite of glamorous. And I realized that the learning curve isn’t really a curve. It’s more like a perfectly shaped, really tall and wide volcano. And If I kept focusing on the uphill-ness of this volcano, then I would have gone mad. Instead, I force myself to focus on that one thing I could do better for the day. At the very least, Squishy deserves a Momma who won’t stop trying to be a better Momma.