Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Motherhood uncensored

I stayed in the hospital for two days after Hayden was born. He had a cone-on-cone head from the vacuum and his face was pretty bruised, but he was perfect and he was mine. I learned how to change a newborn diaper (things like using the hospital-supplied facecloths for getting the tar off his bum instead of expensive wipes), how to nurse him (although for the first day all he wanted to do was lick my nipple) and how to distinguish his cry from the other dozen babies in the ward. I slept best when he was in my arms – which would become the norm. We had many visitors and I healed quickly and almost painlessly from the tearing.

The day we brought him home, it was drizzling and cool, but it was all sunshine to me. My mum was waiting at home for us and my husband surprised me by finishing Hayden’s nursery. He had spelled his name out with wooden letters and put some pictures from those first few days in the hospital in frames. It was a wonderful, thoughtful gesture and sent me into a flurry of tears.

My mum was our saving grace during those first few days. She fed us and helped us clean and took care of the thousands of details that go out the window when you’re new parents. She helped to keep me sane as my hormones adjusted and taught me all those things that you can only learn from your mother. When she left, I bawled at the thought of having to be a mum without my mum there to guide me. And being the great mum that she is, she told me that I was already a great mother and I’d be fine. And if ever I wasn’t, she was only a phone call away.

Hayden was not the easy-going baby you see in commercials or in the carefully edited Baby Story shows. He cried often and needed to be held constantly. After some research, we determined he was what the experts called “High Needs.” Dr. Sears had phenomenal information on how to help these sensitive babies to adjust to the world outside of the womb. Lots of love, lots of contact and responding to their cries as often and as quickly as you could.

One of my girlfriends bought me a sling as a gift and it is quite possibly the thing that transformed my relationship withHayden and his relationship with the rest of the world. With the sling, Hayden got that close comfort he truly needed and I got the necessities done (like brushing my teeth and eating)! I became quite adept at doing just about anything with a baby strapped to my chest.

About three weeks after I brought Hayden home, I began to break out in boil-like lesions all over my thighs. It started with one and within a week I had a dozen of these painful b@stards. After a trip to the doctors and a subsequent trip to the ER, I was diagnosed with MRSA: a highly contagious and drug-resistant infection that comes from the hospital. Somehow I had been infected when I gave birth to Hayden. I had to wear a portable IV drip for a week to get the massive doses of antibiotics into my body. It was truly awful. On top of tending to a wonderful but high-need baby, I now had tubes coming out of my arm, very painful open sores on my legs and I had to go back to the hospital with my newborn (who was nursing almost every hour) every few days to get the lines checked and blood work done. Every day the VON would come to change my dressings and change the IV bag. Really, it was a very stressful time. I look back now and wonder how I managed to get through it all. I think I was just numb. Numb and also blessed with a very caring and supportive husband.

Adam did everything for me and for the house after Hayden was born. He cooked, he cleaned, he did laundry, he gave me pedicures, he did the banking and the shopping, everything. All he asked me to do was to take care of Hayden. Adam gave me license to just love that little baby all day, every day. I spent every waking minute just tending to his needs and not worrying about anything else. It was wondrous.

Hayden and I slept together after a few weeks of failed cradle attempts. With him safely nestled in the crock of my arm, we could both fall into a secure dreamland. My poor husband had to learn not to throw his arms around in his sleep, as per his usual routine. While it only garnered me a painful knock on the head, his giant arms could do a lot of damage to a newborn. For this reason, I also slept in one position all night, keeping Hayden safely away from Mr. Flaily.

But I have to admit that sleeping with Hayden was one of my favourite things. Listening to his tiny, quick breathing, smelling that baby scent and feeling his warmth against me fulfilled my every hope of what motherhood would be. He lay ever so still when he was in my arms. Together we would sleep for hours on end until his belly told him it was time to eat. By the time he was a few months old, he was sleeping for up to five hours straight a night (though this wouldn’t last). Co-sleeping, as the experts call it, was one of my favourite parts of being a mum. Until he was a year old, we cuddled all night and I breathed in his fresh baby smell as I drifted to sleep.

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