My Newborn Experience

The shock, confusion (did childbirth actually happen?) mixed with feelings of euphoria of having actually experienced childbirth is still fresh in my mind and even more surreal, having finally met my daughter for the first time after ten months. Not having slept for more than a 24-hour period is also very apparent as I yawn. I will never forget the moment we came home after 22 hours of back labor because my daughter had a hand on her face deep in my pelvis. We arrived home at last at 2 AM. My husband and I just staring at our daughter … we were parents now… what do we do now? Not only did we have a newborn to take care of 24/7, but I was in recovery. It only took me a good ten minutes to urinate in the bathroom! But we got through it somehow, as today marks 4 weeks postpartum/my daughter’s 4-week birthday. Admittedly, my mom had to sleep over one night (the third night) so that us parents could actually recover from the labor. We are so grateful that we had our village of support so that we could be better parents for our PJ. 

The first week went by so fast, and I knew it as it was happening, so I wrote down some of my favorite moments so I wouldn’t forget. Because time no longer existed. Time was clearly an abstract concept, and there is no way to measure the past, there was no future as we were too tired to imagine one, and only had the present to focus on, to put one foot in front of the other. I remember at the end of the first week when we were running on so little fuel, at 9 PM, my husband and I had to decide on the name our daughter was going to have for the rest of her life because the deadline was the next morning. We were in our living room taking turns holding PJ, so exhausted, but having fun as we would think of different nicknames and sometimes raised our voice while saying different full names as practice. 

Who would have thought that the hand that created so much pain during my labor is the same hand that my daughter uses to express herself. From day one, PJ would put her hand near her face in all various poses, to the point that we called her a hand model. She would inadvertently scratch her face and sometimes close enough to her beautiful big eyes that we had to step in and move her hands. No matter how impressed we were with ourselves for swaddling her in tight, in 5 seconds, PJ would show off with her hand out of the swaddle saying hi to mom and dad. She would sometimes make the Dr. Evil’s famous pinky finger face. 

My favorite part was the sloth movements.  She moved her hands so slowly, gracefully and intently that if I didn’t watch her, I would have never known she was actually moving. If I moved while she was sleeping, her whole hand would splay out and open quickly, as if to say “ uhhh what are you doing!” all while her eyes stay closed. Once I stopped moving, she would contently place her hand on my chest, one finger at a time ever so slowly, feeling at peace. 

In the mornings, where we would relax in bed even beyond the 8:00 am hour, we would face each other lying on our sides. PJ, still with her eyes closed, would make noises and make different faces. One of my favorites was her Zoolander face, with her bright pink/red lips pursed together. Then it would quickly change to a smile, to a frown , and then maybe she’d open her eyes quickly with a suspicious look at her mother.

We also luckily found out that PJ could be easily soothed on our chests while bouncing on the exercise ball. It instantly brought her peace as she would forget whatever was making her unhappy or uncomfortable and would sometimes put her to sleep within the first 20 seconds.

The first few days she had one cry. By the end of the week, she had various different kinds of cries. One for pooping, a distinct “wah” for hunger, and a longer lasting cry for when she was overtired.

All of the happiest and breathtaking moments are all mixed in with moments of uncertainty and anxiety. PJ was born at a 5 and half pounds weight despite being full term. Having had no concerns or issues during pregnancy, I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was surprised and a little alarmed. I took my vitamins, never drank, tried to eat healthy as much as possible all throughout pregnancy. A lot of people unsolicitedly said how tiny I was during pregnancy despite my 25 pound weight gain and then continued to say how tiny PJ is. I had no choice but to internalize it. Grandparents quickly came to the rescue with premie-sized diapers and premie-sized clothing. The insecurity grew as the initial experience of breastfeeding became a challenge . While I thought I knew the main gist of what it takes to breastfeed, I remember thinking why didn’t anyone tell me, why wasn’t I educated on how often I should be breastfeeding, what the night would look like, and why didn’t I take the advice from my doula about hand expressing during the late months of pregnancy!? I took a quick breastfeeding 101 Zoom class at 37 weeks pregnant and thought I understood the challenge ahead. But for many different reasons, both PJ and I were frustrated.  I remember telling her not to worry and that we will figure this out together, while having an anxiety attack in my head. She was hungry, and I couldn’t provide for her. We were so fortunate that we had donor milk, and we would feed her via syringe while she would be half latched on my nipple. The donor milk was magical as it served as a safety net and gave us a chance to learn how to feed without any pressure. With help of lactation specialists, we both quickly learned, and breastfeeding eventually became a joy. While I am in love with the bond breastfeeding creates, it is no small feat and continues to be a work in progress every single day . 

Now, as I finish writing this on her 6-week birthday, I continue to be in awe of my PJ, and l love watching her grow as I also grow as a mother. Although I am very much in the journey, I recognize the importance of having a village of support, listening to my instincts (or my rock – AKA husband – as he can see beyond my anxiety/insecurities) and knowing that I will most definitely make mistakes along the way and that that it will be okay. Most importantly, I will try to stay present and appreciate the special moments of PJ and early motherhood.

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