Month 1: I Am a Dairy Cow with All the Feels

Yes, we are awful cruel parents to capture this moment instead of immediately attending to our daughter's needs. BUT SHE SNORTS LIKE A TRUFFLE PIG WHEN SHE GETS UPSET AND IT IS FUNNY, SORRY NOT SORRY

Yes, we are awful cruel parents to capture this moment instead of immediately attending to our daughter’s needs. BUT SHE SNORTS LIKE A TRUFFLE PIG WHEN SHE GETS UPSET AND IT IS FUNNY, SORRY NOT SORRY

This morning, during a moment of family peace (that was still not quite peaceful enough for anyone to sleep through, and by “anyone” I mean “me”), my husband suggested that I plunge deep into my energy reserves to commit a few thoughts about our earliest days of parenthood to posterity. Those of you who’ve had newborns know exactly what kind of sacrifice this is; in these early days, especially when you are the one with the mammaries, the last thing you are thinking about are the memories. My mother-in-law is visiting and she “suggested” (demanded) yesterday that since neither my husband nor I is on Facebook anymore, we should email her and all of her relatives photos of the babby “every few days.” I cannot possibly find the words in my addled brain to express how low on my priority list that is right now. When I get four minutes to myself each day (and that is often generous) I spend those minutes doing the following, in the following order of urgency:

  1. Going to the bathroom (not to go into too much gory deets, but one of the ugliest side effects of having a C-section is that your plumbing, not in the best of shape during pregnancy, is FUBAR from being manhandled during surgery and, in my case, during the three failed hours of pushing the “old fashioned way” that precipitated the surgery).
  2. Changing my clothes, or at any rate removing the most obviously puke-stained layers
  3. Showering, or at any rate hurriedly rinsing off the non-negotiables (“bathing suit area,” incision)
  4. Eating, which some days I forget to do or am unable to do

BRIEF moments of peace, before/after feedings (they are the same thing).

BRIEF moments of peace, before/after feedings (they are the same thing).

You will notice that “sending a 2001-style email full of attachments” is not on this list. Neither is “write an excellent blog post.” You will notice that “take the garbage out” is also not on this list — that we reserve for the truly luxuriant moments, although it pales in comparison to the ULTIMATE luxury of changing the sheets and washing the duvet cover, which may or may not be covered with a Jackson Pollack array of breast milk spatters and Nystatin (the babby’s thrush medicine — another awesome side effect of having a Cesarean is that you’re pumped full of antibiotics, and in my case have to take even more because your incision gets infected, and thus you get a raging yeast infection on your boobs which makes breastfeeding, already a challenging experience, excruciating, which is especially fun given that your child is an Eric Cartman-level piggie who literally eats non-fucking-stop for most of the 8-12 hours of the day she is awake. At this point she is so fat that her face has morphed from square to trapezoidal.)

Granted, now that we have reached the fourth week of the baby’s life I have become fairly confident that I will not actually spontaneously die of exhaustion or incompetence. There are indeed moments of peace and bliss in our family time, though nothing like this hot mess of a manic episode that went viral shortly before I gave birth and makes me feel like an abject failure as a parent when I skim through it now.

Because fuck if this isn’t the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do — not necessarily because of the difficulty of any individual task (breastfeeding, though painful, is pretty rote, and she has more or less stopped screaming bloody murder during diapey changes now), but because of its sheer Sisyphean relentlessness. Yes, I realize this is a fleeting time, a precious fleeting time that I should cherish because before I know it my daughter will be 12 years old and getting sent to the principal’s office for giving blowjobs behind the gym. I realize this. And I do cherish it, and I cherish her and my husband and I are overcome with emotion and sheer true love for each other and our baby girl every day. For the first week she was home I was convinced I had postpartum depression — I was sobbing a good portion of the day and punctuated said sobs only with the assertion I can’t do it; I don’t think I can do it –– but, a la Wayne in Wayne’s World, who thought he had mono for an entire year, it turns out I was just really fucking tired.

By the babby’s second week of life we had established whatever passes for a routine in a newborn’s day (plus I stopped the Percocet cold turkey, which helped immeasurably), and both of us are sleeping quite a bit more (my husband sometimes sleeps more or less through the night, with only a brief interruption to help with a 3 a.m. butt-blast diapey situation), so things are not quite so dire — but only because we have capitulated fully to the demands of the teeny tiny terrorist in our midst. Hate your $150 “arm’s reach” co-sleeper sidecar and insist, instead, on sleeping nestled onto my chest while I perch up at a 45 degree angle and half-doze terrified that I’m going to drop you? No problem. Need to eat for four hours in a row first thing in the morning before I even get a chance to pee or drink a goddamned sip of water? Here’s all the titties I’ve got, over and over and over again. Entered into your “witching hour,” which coincides exactly with the time existential and physical exhaustion overtakes both of your parents and they must, must, must go to bed? No problem, we will Happiest Baby on the Block you nonstop until you get spacey enough that you forget, momentarily, that the only thing that will please you besides nineteen titties in a row is constant wiggling, shooshing and undivided attention.

So, those are all the memories I can muster for the time being. It took every ounce of mental energy I had just to crap out these subpar sentences (those of you who thought I was a bad writer before I got pregnant, when, I now realize, I was at the top of my fucking game, are going to have a goddamned field day now), so if you think I can muster up a decent conclusion, you are sorely mistaken. Schuman out.*

*by which I DO NOT mean “asleep,” god dammit all to hell.

17 thoughts on “Month 1: I Am a Dairy Cow with All the Feels

  1. You’re not alone in anything that you feel… if my wife were posting here (three kids) she’d tell you. I showed her the photo and the headline and she said, “I know exactly how she feels.” It’ll get better.


  2. I remember walking around bouncing my one month old in a sling and staring at airplanes in the sky wishing they’d take me far far away. And then suddenly happy the next moment… Sysyphean relentnessness is exactly the right expression. (See, your brain does work!)


  3. I had the same experience — the long labor, the c-section, the baby who used me as a pacifier, and I hear you. It gets better. Said vampire baby just turned 5, and I’m halfway along on the third.

    Fun story, though, to make you feel better about the sobbing. I defended my diss. In English a month before my baby was born, and it was two weeks into a new semester, so we decided I’d just take a semester off to be with the baby. When I — puke-covered, unwashed, and bleary-eyed — took the kid to her first pediatrician’s appointment, they asked me to fill out some paperwork. There was a line for my occupation, and I burst into gut-wrenching, snotty sobs. When the terrified nurse asked me what was wrong, I gasped out “the baby ate my identity.” I still cringe a little when I take the kids to the doctor.


  4. This all sounds very familiar. Our oldest had a flipped schedule for the first six months and nursed non-stop from 12 midnight to 6 am. My wife Ellen had a wraith-like quality as a result– I could actually see her fading. I had a gig at Brandeis, Harvard having barred me from teaching shortly after our son Ben was born, because that’s what you do to new parents to instill self-reliance. I would come home so tired, having taught and dissertated all day, that I would find Ellen and Ben in the bath, and I would promptly pass out on the bathroom tiles, going straight into REM sleep. And I had the infinitely easier part of the deal….


  5. This made me chuckle. The takeaway here is not that I am an asshole, but that you, too, might be able to re-read this and chuckle in just a few months. Just a few months!


  6. “Hate your $150 “arm’s reach” co-sleeper sidecar and insist, instead, on sleeping nestled onto my chest while I perch up at a 45 degree angle and half-doze terrified that I’m going to drop you? No problem.”

    Hahaha so I’m not the only one! That actually makes me feel better. We’re a few months ahead of you with the baby thing, and we started putting the baby in the carseat, and the carseat in the sidecar. I think the baby likes it because it’s more like being held, the head is elevated, and the arms can’t swing around, so we are all sleeping much better. (Not a permanent solution, unfortunately, because the infant car seat must soon be returned to the pregnant friend from whom we borrowed it for a few months. But helpful enough that I thought it was worth maybe passing on.)

    Kudos for writing down anything. I think I felt guilty for not writing anything down until, like, month 3, and I have made all of 2 journal entries since. It’s hard to find time away! But you WILL have it to look back on and that will be a pretty cool blast from the past.


  7. I can’t actually remember much about the first year of my twins’ lives. I didn’t write it down. I know it happened and they survived but not sure how now! I do remember, embarrassingly, going to get my daughter out of a five day stay in NICU after her birth (her brother already at home) and telling the nurse I wanted to leave her in there a bit longer.


  8. Just: mwahahahaha. And somehow you will want another one in about a year. I know, it’s not possible. But unbelievably you will. And likely you will succumb. And then, if you succeed in making the little fucker despite the other one pulling on your boobs and sleeping in between you and hubby, you will worry that you couldn’t possibly love him/her as much as perfect child #1. Then, miraculously and impossibly, as Michelle Burnham’s husband Chip Cassin explained to me, perfectly correctly, your hear will expand to love #2 even though you were absolutely sure it wasn’t possible. And amazingly through all of this you will not lose your edge to sentimentality. Because fucking justice.


  9. Minus the thrush, and having a boy who likes to pee on the curtains every time (changing table in front of nursery window) diaper is changed and we don’t cover his junk fast enough, this hits the nail right on the head.

    Well written. Thank you for the lIghs and reminder of the first few weeks of life.

    Grayson’s Mommy.


  10. those first 6 weeks (you’re almost there!!) are soooo hard. And look – you haven’t lost your edgy sense of humor, so I know you’ll all be just fine!

    I always hated it when older moms told me to “enjoy the kids while they’re young.” it made me angry because I was pulling my hair out walking a crying infant in one arm while cradling Adorno in the other. they made me feel I was inadequate for suffering. Now i’m the older mom. So i’ll just tell you it gets better and easier. And you will sleep again–all the way through the night. right about that time, you’ll probably decide to have another. 🙂

    she’s adorable btw. truffle pig and all.


  11. I spent the first four weeks of my daughter’s existence wondering “what am I doing wrong? She’s always crying!” and all I wanted to do was sleep. I know everyone says those first few weeks are magical, but I was so sad and stressed that I developed mastitis. Those two days in the hospital were a nice break.

    It gets better, by the way. ❤


  12. Don’t worry, everything’s going fine. Feeding all hours of the day and night is completely normal. Shows she’s thriving. And it will start tapering off by six months or so. Ditto with wanting attention all the time: perfectly fine and healthy, sign of a smart child.

    But oh gosh, a C-section and then yeast infection? Poor you, how hard, and you’re still doing so much through it! NB: after a C-section, breastfeeding and holding the baby on top of you, ever, is ‘so much’; anything beyond that, including things like showering, gets you bonus points.

    In conclusion: go you!


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