For those of you who missed the birth story of my son, check out parts one and two first before reading this. I’m going to resume where I left off with my last post.
As I mentioned before, those early weeks were rough. I was suffering from severe swelling, migraines, and high blood pressure. In addition to this, I was figuring out how to be a mother to a newborn baby. I’d read so many books, blogs, etc. Yet nothing can quite prepare you for being the primary caretaker of a tiny human being.
They say newborns sleep a lot and they do, but it is very sporadic sleep. A nap for twenty minutes here, an hour or two there. They rarely sleep for very long and in addition to that babies want to eat all the time. Breastfeeding is great because it’s the healthiest and most cost effective option, plus there’s no bottles to wash, but it’s time consuming. Babies digest breast milk much faster and have to be fed every two hours or less. Adam is also slow at eating, so sometimes it takes nearly an hour for him to finish, leaving me little time until the next round. To make matters more difficult, he doesn’t like being left in his crib or bassinet alone. So whether he’s awake or asleep, he wants to be held all the time. Especially in the beginning, it made it rather difficult to use the bathroom, take a shower, eat, or anything.
I started out not knowing how to multitask with a baby. For those first few weeks I’d only shower once every few days when my husband could watch our son and just do quick sponge baths the rest of time. Eventually, I heard of a trick from other moms on a baby forum to put him in his car seat in the bathroom while in there. Best advice ever! The soothing sound of running water keeps him content, so he usually won’t start crying until I get out. I also discovered white noise can help him fall asleep in his bassinet, but this is rather hit and miss. Most of the time, he isn’t fooled and won’t sleep while in there.
Sometimes, I’d spend hours going through all the tricks other mothers suggested trying to get him to sleep outside my arms, but to no avail. I eventually gave up and started letting him sleep with me in bed. They say not to do this because it’s risky for a number of reasons, but something had to give. My husband and I were exhausted. Once I started bringing Adam to bed with me, he’d stay asleep for eight or nine hours just waking four or five times during the night to feed or get his diaper changed. When he is only hungry I don’t even have to get up. It’s worked well and since I’m an extremely light sleeper I’m sensitive to the baby’s whereabouts and needs. It’s made a big difference, allowing me to heal from childbirth and be more rested and productive.
As I mentioned in my last post, we discovered at Adam’s two-week checkup he had a problem with one of his eyes. He had a cataract partially blocking his vision. This is normally an issue people only get in their advanced years, but in rare occurrences babies can be born with cataracts in one or both eyes Adam was already starting to focus on us at that point, so we couldn’t tell it was impairing him in any way. We saw a specialist a couple of times over the course of the next few weeks after discovery, waiting until the cataract was bad enough that it blocked most of the vision in that eye. We didn’t want to rush into it since it would require removing the natural lense. Adam would never be able to focus on anything again with that eye without a corrective lense. On a side note, there are only two doctors in the state who can perform that particular operation on a baby. It’s just not common enough to need more specialists in the field.
We scheduled Adam for the surgery in mid-February. He had to fast that morning, which was no fun forcing an eight-week old baby to go without any sustenance. He cried and cried, giving me imploring looks that broke my heart. I felt terrible and we hadn’t even gone to the hospital for his operation yet. At 6:30 a.m., I got him there and we waited for over an hour before they called him back for pre-op. They put him in a hospital gown, put a mark on his forehead to denote which eye would be operated on, and gave him some eye drops.
Shortly after that, they took him away and my husband and I returned to the waiting room. I was a nervous wreck, praying everything went alright. My husband had warned the doctor and anesthesiologist that we’d tried for ten years to have our baby and to not mess up! We waited about an hour and a half before we got word the surgery went well, but we had to continue waiting for the baby to wake up. That was nerve-wracking as well.
It was about forty-five minutes later before we got word Adam had woken and one of us could go back to see him in post-op recovery. I got to go since I needed to feed him. Once I got there, I found the nurse rocking and swaying him, trying to soothe him. He was not a happy baby, and his cries were weak and scratchy from the tube they’d put down his throat during the operation. I felt so terrible for him.
The nurse helped me set up a place to feed him with pillows for support and pulled a curtain for privacy. Adam was still fairly groggy, so he had a rough time latching and would cry every time he lost it. I did the best I could to help him. He was happy to be back in my arms and steadily growing more content once he had his mama, but it was a struggle for him since he still had an IV in his hand and monitors on his foot. It’s not easy handling and maneuvering a baby around when they’re wiggly and can easily get caught in the tubes and lines running from them. Once he was cleared from the first phase of post-op. We moved to another room where he stayed for another hour before he could have his IV and lines removed.
To our relief, he had no complications during or after surgery. Recovery went great and we were allowed to take him home just before noon. I spent the day holding and comforting him. He slept most of the day until around 9 p.m. when the remaining effects of the anesthesia wore off. He was rather cranky after that. Through the night and next day, things were rough, but the poor baby could hardly understand what had happened or why.
I should add that the ophthalmologist put in a contact right after the surgery that served to protect his eye while it healed and allowed him to focus. It only gives him near sighted vision, though, so only his good eye can see at a distance. Once a week we have to take the contact out overnight for cleaning before putting it back in the next morning. For the first month after the surgery, we were also given two sets of eye drops that Adam had to have four times a day. He hated the drops at first and fought us every time, but he eventually got used to them.
Unfortunately, he still screams bloody murder when his contact is removed or put back in, but I’m told he will adjust to it in time. I can’t wait for that because you’d think we are torturing him. His motor skills are improving in recent weeks too, so he’s getting better at blocking and pushing us away with his hands. My husband has to hold his arms down while I take the contact out or put it back in his eye. You know it has to be done, but the hurtful and accusing looks we get are tough to take. He won’t get a permanent lens until he’s older and isn’t growing so much, maybe at age seven or eight.
At the one week post-op checkup, the ophthalmologist added more to our routine. From that point forward until around the time Adam is about two years old, he has to wear a patch over his good eye for a few hours each day. This is to ensure he uses his weaker eye and it also prevents him from getting lazy eye. He’s not fond of the patch either, so we have to keep him entertained the whole time or he gets very fussy and tries to remove it.
Putting the patch on goes smoothly for the most part. Taking it off is a lot like removing a bandaid and hurts no matter how careful I am. I use a wet washcloth to soothe his skin afterward, but he almost always screams and cries. I time it so he feeds afterward, which makes him happy again. The little guy loves to eat and always grins after I lay him across the boppy pillow. He knows it’s milk time!
While things haven’t been easy these past few months, it’s only fair I mention there have been plenty of wonderful times as well. I adore Adam’s smiles. For the first month, they were more for practice and obvious he wasn’t directing them at anyone or anything in particular. More often than not, he smiled in his sleep, which was adorable to see.
Once he was about four weeks old, though, he started smiling at us. Then he began squealing and barking laughs around six weeks old. His favorite thing at that point was when I put him in his crib and turned on the mobile. Despite his having impaired vision, he loved to watch it go around. For about 10-15 minutes that can still entertain him. It gives me a bit of time for bathroom breaks, sorting laundry, making something to eat, etc. The mobile is a godsend, though it only works a couple of times a day before he catches on that we’re not holding him, so I have to use it judiciously.
I also love the way the baby curls into me when I pick him up or when he falls asleep against my chest. There’s something so touching and fulfilling about a little human being who loves and trusts you more than anyone in the world. It’s gotten to be where I have a tough time letting him out of my sight. There’s only been two times I left the house without him and even then for no more than an hour. With this likely being the only child I’ll ever get, I hate to miss a moment.
Of course, I do have housework to do and duties as an author. For a while in the beginning, I only worried about the most pressing things and let the rest go. At around ten weeks old, Adam started taking naps in his rock n’ play. This was the first time we could get him to easily sleep without being in our arms or after a trip in the car (which often makes him tired). In most cases, he’ll fall asleep on me after feeding and then I’ll carefully transfer him over. I get about an hour or two to do house chores or anything else that needs doing without a baby in tow. Of course, I check on him every few minutes like an over-obsessive mom.
There isn’t an exact time he’ll take a nap yet, so sometimes I have to employ other methods to keep him calm while I cook or clean. Sometimes I “wear” him in a carrier. He usually likes that and may even sleep. On a brief grocery shopping trip, he spent the first five minutes looking around while strapped to my chest, then passed out until I transferred him into his car seat after finishing. I have a bad back, though, so I can’t wear him like that for too long before it becomes too painful.
Baby wearing is also tricky because there are some things that I can’t do that way. Anything that requires a lot of bending is too much, and I don’t want him that close while cooking with grease or using a hot oven. In those cases, I put him in his rock n’ play in the kitchen so he can watch me while I cook or wash dishes. He usually enjoys that, though he’ll eventually lose patience if I take too long. Sometimes I play music to keep him calm. On two occasions this actually put him to sleep so I could do even more chores, but at other times he’s gotten mad and cried until I finished. Nothing ever works consistently.
I’ve learned to face the fact he’s just gonna have to cry for a short period if I must get something done, but I never let him go longer than 10-15 minutes before picking him up. It took ten years to have this baby and I just can’t stand to let him suffer for long. He’s one of those babies who likes to be held all the time and I know he won’t be this little forever. I try my best not to stress about it and enjoy my precious time with him. Friends who’ve had babies with similar temperaments reassure me they do eventually grow out of this phase and not to worry that I’m spoiling him. There’s a time to foster independence but not when they’re small and helpless.
As I wrap up this baby update, I want to thank everyone for their patience while I have been getting the hang of being a new mom and dealing with various health problems along the way. It’s been a rough but rewarding journey. Also, thanks for following these posts if you’ve stuck with me this far!
I’m working on “Destined for Eternity” and hope to give you all more news on that soon. Then I’ll be back to writing the Dragon’s Breath Series.
Here’s one final picture of Adam from a week and a half ago when he turned three months. He’s growing so fast!