Welcome to Parenthood!

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sondra houghton photography

 

I walk out of the master bathroom, in a diaper, with milk streaming out of both of my breasts. My husband rushes and grabs the baby from my mom. I sit on the bed and nurse my son on the right while my husband starts the breast pump on the left. This is parenthood. This is Day 3.

Day 1

With every ounce of strength in me I push a baby’s head out of my body and the rest of him follows, at 12:32 am on February 4th. He cries immediately in spite of the meconium that came out when my water broke. I thank God for that. My child is healthy and surprisingly large. The baby nurse checks his blood sugar as soon as she can.

For the next hour and a half I shake uncontrollably while a very stressed-looking resident doctor stitches me up and repeatedly comments on how terrible the laceration is. I didn’t have an epidural so she’s ineffectively using lidocaine. The child is finally weighed in at 10 pounds! I pass out in the bathroom due to blood loss.

During the day my husband feeds me my meals while I nurse or hold the baby. I still feel light-headed and drowsy and keep falling asleep. Later I receive two blood transfusions. I watch the SuperBowl while my husband sleeps. I wake him up for the half time show, but he falls asleep again.

Day 3

We are ready to leave but have to wait for the pediatrician to come perform the circumcision. Yesterday pediatricians seemed to be coming by every 20 minutes, but today the nurse has to call for one. My husband and I have discussed this choice for months, but the decision came down to last night when I called my brother to help me be rational. I cried when they took my son and I cry when they bring him back but he is happier than when he left.

We finally head home at 2:00.

Day 4

I don’t fall asleep until 7 am because we can’t get the baby situated in the bassinet. Despite the fact I know the womb is very different from this environment, it’s a complete surprise to me baby might not be totally comfortable on his own in a bassinet.

Day 5

I feel overwhelmed. Having a newborn hasn’t been challenging with my mom and my husband at home, but being so broken down has been hard. I had looked forward to giving birth because I assumed my pregnancy problems would go away since, you know, I wouldn’t be pregnant. I am disappointed to find my hands are still swollen, my carpal tunnel is worse, my pelvis still hurts, it’s still hard to stand up, and apparently I’m still snoring. On top of that, 10-pound babies don’t simply exit the body without leaving a mark. I’ve got stitches for days… and hemorrhoids. Where a week ago I was beautiful and interesting, heavily pregnant, today I am deflated and not at all vibrant. And my white baby looks nothing like me. I have the baby blues.

In the evening I feel a sharp pain as I sit. I start to cry out of frustration and ask my husband to go to the bedroom with me, away from my mom. I cry and explain all the aforementioned grievances, and I tell my husband I miss him because we are only Mommy and Daddy right now. And my mom has been here for 10 days. I miss snuggling on the couch. I miss cuddling in bed. I miss joking around, and obviously having sex. Instead, I’m wearing an actual diaper, and I’m afraid things won’t go back. My husband is, for maybe the first time, incredibly sympathetic. He validates my feeling and makes the right faces and sounds to soothe me. He suggests I need to be patient and volunteers to help me take the multiple prescriptions I was sent home with. And through logic he assures me things will “go back” after the wounds have healed.

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Day 6

After fearfully co-sleeping for the last 3 nights, we have the baby snoozing peacefully in a swaddle suit in the rock n’ play, for the win.

Day 7

If I ever get breast implants, they will be the size of these beautiful, currently engorged breasts. I’ve been an A all my life.

Day 9

My baby makes me feel sad. I feel guilty for creating a child and giving him a womb, then ripping him from it to deal with us and all this gravity and time nonsense. I’m sad I don’t feel as attached as I expected. I question if I really needed to have a child. My husband says he was in love right when baby was born. He doesn’t understand why I have these feelings. I acknowledge these thoughts are irrational…

Day 10

I can’t imagine someone else caring for my child full-time and at this point it won’t happen. I learn that childcare on the Army post won’t be available until August. I return to work in May. I should start my search off Post, but I’m unmotivated because I don’t want to think about working again. If my work performance was mediocre before, look out!

Day 11

I need a break from breastfeeding! I’m tired of my bra being wet all the time. This little nursing pad does not help. The baby eats almost every hour. This is too much!

Day 12

My mom knocks on our door at 7 am, waking me up to take her to the airport. I am surprised I have slept so late and realize the baby didn’t wake up for my turn to feed. On the way, I tell my mom not to cry and the sensation will probably pass. I am sad too.

Later, Spencer and I take our baby for his two-week check-up. He weighs 10 pounds and 12 ounces. The doctor tells me our baby’s stomach should hold about an ounce and a half of fluid. Our son drank a 4-ounce bottle last night so my husband and I smirk at each other.

The baby fusses the entire day, presumably because he misses my mom.

Day 13

Spencer returns from the airport with his mother. She is instantly in love.

Day 15

My baby doesn’t make me feel sad anymore. I love being the one to breastfeed him. I love when he sucks feverishly. I love the sounds he makes as he gulps and sighs with his eyes half-closed from pleasure. It gives me heart eyes. I think about how I made him and how he has laid claim to my breasts, which were made for him.

Day 16

My husband is stressed. He isn’t sleeping well since he is alert if our son is making any level of noise. He has taken on a lot. He has a lot of responsibilities with a newborn, an impaired spouse, and loads of laundry; he hasn’t been alone in weeks, American ice skaters keep falling during their Olympic events, and he hasn’t had sex in a month. I shouldn’t be surprised he is edgy.

Day 18

I am in love with my baby.

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Day 20

My mother-in-law cries as she leaves. I’m sad too. I’m sad everyone has to miss large chunks of our son growing up. We want go home this summer but I don’t know if I will have enough vacation days to make the trip. I think about and don’t think about when Spencer leaves for the field or something and I have to take care of the baby myself.

Day 22

This is the first day of our last week of Spencer’s leave: 2 weeks for paternity, and 2 weeks of post-deployment. We are excited to be alone and be parents on our own.

Our son refuses to rest in the Rock n’ Play. We decide to co-sleep. Here we go again…

Dis Tew Much


About a week ago…

This is officially too much. My fantasy is to evade work for a week. Actually, on my 40-minute lunch, and 20-minute break I lean all the way in and literally pretend like I don’t work. Something about not working because I can’t stop coughing or crying feels off base of that dream. 

I had a rough weekend with physical exhaustion, stress, and nosebleeds and was finally motivated to figure out how to use my FMLA benefits at work. As soon as I initiated the process, I called out work for the second half of Monday. On Tuesday, I managed to stay clocked in for 30 minutes. Then Wednesday and Thursday I didn’t even bother trying to work. Wednesday I lie in bed with no medicine and no obvious way to obtain it. A coworker, IraShalee, offered to bring me something but she was working until 6. And then could I really ask her to go to a store, hike up to Post, do a background check real quick (or slow) so she can get through the gate to bring me some DayQuil? No, I would have to get up myself. 

As a person who is self-admittedly vain, as well as formal, the prospect of getting myself together to be in public seemed like too much and caused me to delay going out. I eventually threw on some eyebrows and accepted I’ll just have to look like shit in order to stop feeling like shit. 

Car on E, I drove myself to the PX. I realized after my perilous hour and a half drive home in the dark and pouring rain Monday my car was more sketchy than usual. I decided not to fill the tank, because this could be it for us, and rounded off to $20 worth of gas. 

At the PX, I purchased my medicine and other random pity items including a $6 cone of cheddar popcorn that I always want but seems like a bad deal. It was a bad deal. 


Meanwhile, my brain is wracked by the fact my Masters Program just started Monday and I can barely read text messages, let alone 9 chapters of text between my two classes. Not to mention the fact I have no books, because the school I applied to months ago managed to only accept me with four days notice. Sunday I sat down to try to follow the insufficient registration instructions, which ultimately culminated in me crying, followed shortly by a nosebleed. That experience is what led me to where I am now, which is propped up on six pillows on a Friday night to avoid coughing myself into an early labor. 

Thursday I felt pretty good and hoped to complete some errands to help me return to work with as little stress as possible. I went out with only a headache and a raspy voice. Iwent to the chiropractor who miraculously cured my headache. Unfortunately I traded one headache for another as I had to return to my car in the parking lot with the front right tire basically flat. I put air in my tire for the fifth time in the last month.

Next I went to Chick Fil A for comfort food, but ended up getting a salad because of the kid. 

From there I drove directly to a Jeep Chrysler dealership where they showed me a Toyota Corolla and tried to Jedi Mind trick me into believing as long as I can finance, I can afford it, when my aim is to pay cash. 

Next I saw a new counselor because mine is on a mysterious medical leave. She strongly advised me to drop a class and suggested I work part time. Don’t have to tell me twice. 

I think I’ve called my mom approximately 12 times in the last 6 days. Times like this make me realize she is truly the best friend I’ll ever have. No one else will ever care as much about me as themselves. 

Tonight I called in regards to coughing so hard I was starting to feel like I would throw up. She advised me to go get Delsym. Once again, I pull my raggedy ass together to go the commissary. I didn’t even draw in eyebrows this time, but put on jeans. I made it home to attempt to study but my 2008 Acer laptop wasn’t working. When I finally rebooted it I found myself coughing and texting Allison my judgements of my teenaged neighbors for playing 2009’s greatest rap hits at their party next door. 

I decided to give up on studying and get ready for bed but found a dozen little chores to do. I realized I hadn’t eaten, but coughing was making my stomach upset. As I peed for the 20th time this evening, I coughed and sprung a nosebleed for the fourth time this week. 


From my pillow mountain, I texted Spencer who I knew was asleep “I need you,” because I do. With so much on me mentally, physically, and practically, I didn’t see how I could continue. I am always tough and rational, but I need my husband right now. I need him to do laundry, get me medicine, buy me dinner, fill the humidifier, force me to drink water, bring me a charger, buy me a car, and make me feel like I’m going through this for the team.  

But alas, all I have is myself. This being pregnant during deployment is much harder than I could have imagined. Something has to give. 

Baby Making

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I am 18 weeks pregnant and my husband is deployed. He knew I was pregnant before he left because we planned it.

Why would one plan to carry a child without her partner? Because the Army. The Army has commandeered almost all of my significant life choices and it seemed important that we not let it dictate our life plan. Where we live and what jobs we have are temporary, but bringing a child into the world is hopefully a permanent decision. We wanted to make that choice on our own terms. Being 29 this year and reaching three years of marriage, it was the right time for us. Personally, I’ve been ready since I was about 18 but having a child in high school is frowned upon. Spencer on the other hand stated he needed a total of three vacations before he could feel he had done enough. The third would have been this summer, but all the dates conflicted with the deployment… Does Afghanistan count?

The thing about deployment is we basically know what to expect: things are going to be less good for x months (of course, still anything can happen). That sounds bleak, but better the bleak you know than the bleak that springs up when you have something nice and elaborate planned! Better he missed the pregnancy than us wait and he miss the pregnancy, birth, or newborn stage for some other reason. Those things can still happen, but the deployment should at least allow us a guarantee he will be home for the first part of our son’s life. Despite those “facts,” we ultimately prayed that whatever was best would happen and proceeded.

I know this is frustrating to many people, but we started trying in April, and we conceived in May. I was obsessed in April. I realized I could not continue on like that. It made me crazy. The tests, the sex, the hyperawareness was too much and I knew I would be a wreck if I repeated that pattern. The following month I just wanted to continue our normal routines, but did take an ovulation test the day my Glow app suggested I should ovulate and made a point to follow up…

At the end of the month, Spencer brought up how overwhelming it might be to come home from deployment and have a newborn. I thought that was reasonable; reacclimating after a deployment can be difficult. I agreed that it would be best to wait. LOL.

I hadn’t thought I was pregnant because I didn’t have any symptoms, I mean, I had a frozen daiquiri in the freezer. But Spencer was leaving town on June 1st so I figured I should go ahead and take a test so we could find out together as opposed to waiting four days until I joined him in Oklahoma. It caught me completely by surprise for the test to come up positive. Spencer came into the bathroom to see why I was laughing so hard. I replied by showing him the pregnancy test…which he couldn’t comprehend, because I’m cheap and had the test strips instead of the plastic test stick that has the legend on it to tell you want the lines mean. We took another test later that afternoon. Then I took one Friday and when we got back about 10 days later. It actually takes a while to really be convinced.

That was Memorial Day and Spencer left June 25. It was hard to celebrate a pregnancy when Dad was rearing to join the boys in the sandbox. And it’s hard to celebrate now with the time difference and our separate stressors. I didn’t think much about being pregnant without my partner because thousands of other black women do it every year. I now understand that just because people go through something does not mean it’s easy and it has not been. And that is the same truth about deployment. I wish I had someone to get me food, hug me and rub my feet, watch me grow, and talk about the future. Twenty minutes of FaceTime once or twice a day cannot suffice.

Despite the exasperation or aloneness I feel at times, so far I can’t say this was not the right choice. Overall it would be better if Spencer were here, but at times, it seems like he is better off not being around, because with these hormones and his personality, I’m going to be mad at him regardless of where he is.  This has not been as exciting of a time as I expected for several reasons, and only as I write this I make the connection that neither was my engagement because Spencer and I were apart for that as well and I had to do everything on my own. But the difference here is that my son is with me. At this point, I have to add “so I’m told,” because I’ve got this bump and these C cups but nothing else to show. Hopefully in the next few weeks I will start to feel him and that will comfort me. Although I’m not excited, the pregnancy is hardly the end goal; the baby is, and Spencer will be here for that. Hopefully.