It has been one week and one day since we welcomed Jasper to this world. When they plunked him on my chest, I was overwhelmed by how familiar he looked. Yes, this was the person I had been feeding and holding and loving for months. This was the person who had been kicking my ribs and sticking his skinny little kneecap into my side since the weather turned cold in November. He even looked familiar.
I am humbled by how much I don't know about this baby thing, but I am also proud of the lessons I've already learned since last weekend. Here are a few of the things I now know. They make me feel stronger than ever.
1. Labor. Everyone says you just know when you've gone into labor. Not only can your body rise to the occasion, but it invites your brain along for the ride, giving you wisdom and confidence for the whole nine yards. I spent Thursday night and Friday tuned into my contractions, noting how they crept closer together and became more aggressive by evening. Every fiber of my being knew I would give birth the next day. Still, our first trip the hospital ended when I didn't dilate at all in two hours. I couldn't walk the halls and was doubled over with back labor pain, but they sent me home. I didn't speak up, but I knew that was a bad idea. My body knew better than they did.
2. Epidurals. Some people avoid pain medicine during labor because they want to be fully present. I spent only three hours at home that night before calling out to Matt from the bathroom floor and bouncing over potholes back down Lake Street. We arrived to find that I had dilated more than 5cm while at home and there were only a few minutes for an epidural. I mustered all the interactive social skills I had at that point to sign the consent form and in a few minutes, my labor experience was transformed. The pain in my back melted away and I saw Matt for the first time in hours. Oh, hello there. I was like a feral dog successfully re-socialized. I understand that they aren't for everyone, but my epidural was fantastic. I could still feel the pressure of my contractions, but I was able to recover before it was time to push and could hear (with grateful ears) Matt supporting me until Jasper arrived. Instead of making me less present, the epidural welcomed me back into the process and helped me feel so strong.
3. Sleep. Everyone says to sleep and rest. This is true, but it's also annoying. Contractions kept me up on Thursday night. Going to and from the hospital kept me up on Friday night. Saturday and Sunday nights in the hospital were more educational than restful. Somewhere along the way, I forgot how to sleep deeply. Matt would send me down to the basement for a nap in the afternoon and I would jolt awake after twenty minutes, too tired to relax and disappointed in myself that I wasn't achieving what everyone made sound so simple: Sleep when baby sleeps. Instead, I started taking time for myself - reading a magazine, listening to music and just resting with no expectations. Eventually I found sleep again, but it didn't happen right away and that's okay.
4. Feeding. Waiting for my milk to come in was discouraging. I didn't expect the first few days to be so bad - to dread his hungry cry and to hurt so intensely - but I also didn't expect the tide to turn so quickly. On Wednesday night I finally broke down and had a good cry. I couldn't tell if he was getting anything substantial and I was exhausted. Matt and I sat in front of the bouncy chair watching Jasper break it in. He looked around suspiciously before quickly barfing all over himself. Just like that, my tears turned to uncontrollable and joyful laughter. Look at everything I was making! He was getting enough! Suddenly, it became a privilege to meet someone's needs so completely. I've become proud of that time we have together and my ability to fill him up with good stuff that's making him grow.
And it's just been a week. I wonder what next week will teach me...