It’s our first night home from the hospital with our newborn son. After birthing five children, I had no delusions of how Hallmark this evening would go, but this isn’t what I expected. My husband is in my almost two year old daughter’s room, trying to coax her to sleep. She wants no part of it. She’s confused and somewhat angry. I haven’t been home in days and now that I’m here, I’m different. She wants my undivided attention, but there is a strange new crying baby in the house that we keep saying is her brother. All my attention is directed towards him at the moment.
My husband, I imagine, had visions of us cuddling our precious tiny boy as we took zillions of photos, remarking about how he has my nose and my husband’s eyes. That’s not happening either.
I’m propped up in bed, surrounded by a thousand pillows with a Boppy around my waist. My eyes are burning from tears, sleep deprivation, and pain. I try not to wince as my son latches on, but my nipples are excruciatingly sore. The right one still tender from the deep purple hickey on my areola after he latched on incorrectly, and my left nipple has a crack across the middle making it look exactly like a Phillips screw head.
With each suckling I feel my uterus contract so violently, I’ve almost convinced myself there’s another baby in there and I’m in labor again. I’m weak. My knees tremble when I stand. The bathroom seems so far away, but the urgency to tinkle is overwhelming. I’m dehydrated. My lips, hands, and feet are begging for lotion. I could be in the Nevada desert right now. As I work my way down the hall to the bathroom, my moistureless barefeet uncomfortably glide on the wood laminate floors. I find temporary relief as I reach the bath mat.
This part is neither pleasant, nor pretty. I know that the stinging comes next and I chastise myself for not stocking up on Dermaplast and comfortable pads. The ones I came home from the hospital with were apparently designed for an 800 pound gorilla. I manage to eek my way through, get cleaned and changed, while simultaneously slathering cocoa butter all over myself. The slight relief I feel comes to a jerking halt as I enter the bedroom. My son is crying. Again. He is furiously sucking his fingers as his head moves back and forth, searching for food. My nipples and uterus tighten in unison as the pain shoots through my body to my toes. I clutch the nightstand for support, hoping not to fall to my knees in shock. The bed is on risers, making it difficult to get back into. Suddenly, I’m on fire. My bangs are stuck to my forehead; beads of sweat are dripping down my temples. My mouth is open, hot, and dry as I huff and puff, working my way into position. I’m back in the Nevada desert. Do late in life babies trigger the change of life? I make a mental note to Google “post-partum menopause in women of advanced maternal age” because this must be a hot flash.
I brace myself for what is coming next. With my son cradled in my left arm, I release the flap of my nursing gown, cup my breast, and offer it to him. He senses it immediately and takes it. My chapped lips taste the salt of the tear streaming down my cheek as I squeeze my burning eyes shut. Aware that he can sense it, I try not to stiffen, but I can’t. I cry out in pain. My milk hasn’t come in yet and it takes all his effort to get the precious colostrum. I can tell he’s not satisfied. My boy is hungry and I can’t provide for him.
I consider asking my husband to go to the store for formula, but quickly nix the idea. If I go in my daughter’s room and she’s not asleep, the whole cycle will start over. I feel jealousy and resentment towards him. They’re probably in there all cozy and snuggly, watching ‘A Bug’s Life’ together without a care in the world while I’m sitting in the dark in misery. I quickly nix that thought, too. I consider the notion that he’s feeling jealousy and resentment towards me. While he’s having to get my daughter in bed, I get to be in here with our brand new son. He’s been wanting another boy for more than a decade, patiently waited the nine months I carried him, then had to wait for us to come home – now he’s stuck in the room next to us.
It’s almost midnight. Time to throw in the towel. With embarrassment in my voice, I ask my husband to head to the store. I have failed. As soon as he leaves, the self doubt sets in. “What were you thinking? How will you ever manage this? You can’t even last a few hours.” I’m crying. Ugly crying. Kim K ugly crying.
My husband is home and we are short with each other, both of us on edge. We are exhausted. This isn’t how things were supposed to go. He’s feeding my son while I lay here with my back to them, in shame.
We repeated this process throughout the night with my son and daughter waking in alternating hours. My husband kisses my forehead as he races out the door, headed to work. My daughter is sleeping soundly in her room and my son is fast asleep on the Boppy around my waist.
As the morning sun pours through the slats of the blinds from the window behind me, they shine directly on my son. It’s as though God Himself is trying to show me what a beautiful, perfect tiny human He has created for me. And he is perfect. A new day has dawn and I’m ready. My milk came in with the sunlight along with my drive to try harder, to keep going. Even the darkest nights turn into mornings. I’m happy. I look down at Joaquin, the rays warming his cheeks, and thank God for him.