Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Blur of Summer

Summer is gone, the last batch of watermelon has been depleted at the grocery store, and Fall is already giving way to the dark chill of the impending winter. It's hard for me to grasp these facts, given that summer seemed like such a fleeting blur this year. Of course, the main reason for this is because I had a newborn. I barely kept any record of the months of June through August, but I wanted to write the highlights down before they fade into oblivion.

I love summer and was really glad to have had a new baby during those generous months. I thrive in the sunshine and abundance of fresh foods, which I think helped me during the hardest days. Honestly, things started off pretty great. Despite physically pushing myself way too much in those first few days, I really felt like this whole baby thing was pretty awesome and easier than everyone had made it out to be. It was the most amazing experience to suddenly be a mom and watch my husband be a dad. I didn't mind the sleeplessness. Elias didn't fuss much at night. We had so many friends bringing us meals. We took a lot of time to soak up the sweetness of those early days.  

But then by about 5 weeks in, things suddenly stopped being so sweet. It seemed as though someone had swapped my child out with a shrieking banshee. Nothing seemed to calm him besides standing outside. Worse yet, it looked and sounded like he was in pain and not just being a baby. I knew babies cried, but he would arch his back and squirm in the most unnatural way.

Plus, nursing had become a struggle. I was both blessed and cursed with an overabundance of milk. This roughly meant that my poor child was trying to drink from a fire hose at every meal. This upset his stomach a good deal and made him more fussy. It made for a very challenging time for both of us. And babies need to eat every 2 hours at first. Yikes. 

Around this time, Jon left to go to a friend's wedding in Maine and I stayed behind. Those were easily some of the most grueling days and I didn't think I would survive. I began to believe that I couldn't do it by myself even one more day and was tempted to ask for Jon to come home early. But then, an answered prayer arrived on my doorstep.

My dear friend Laura and her daughter Eden had flown in from Virginia to surprise me with a visit for the weekend! I was so relieved and excited. It was so lovely to show them around Memphis and have the extra help and reassurance. The timing was beautiful. 

After Jon returned, we found some ways of coping with the fussiness. It almost seemed to be improving! So when it came time for Jon's work trip to San Francisco, we buckled down and all made the trip California in July. Elias was 6 weeks old and was on his first of many flights! Praise the Lord, he slept for all 11 hours of flight time there and back. We went to a baseball game, visited the sites, toured some breweries, Elias slept in our suitcase, and we even got a spectacular visit in with Nana, Papa, and cousin Kathleen. 

Please note the matchy-matchy father son duo up there. Too cute.

I really tried my best to enjoy myself. And for much of the trip, I did. But every time he needed to nurse, it was a battle. I cried at the baseball game. In the brewery bathroom. In the car. At the outdoor festival. Pretty much every time he needed to eat, I got tense because we were out and about. He would scream bloody murder. The judging (pitying?) eyes of strangers multiplied with every shrill note that my child was emitting whilst trying to eat under a blanket cover thingy. I would feel hopeless and defeated every time. The one thing that was supposed to help calm him was making him miserable and it felt like it was somehow my fault.

On our last day there, he stopped nursing entirely and I panicked. After calling the pediatrician and discussing the situation, we came to the conclusion that Elias was suffering from something called "silent reflux". Silent reflux is silent in name only. It basically means that his esophagus sphincter muscle was not yet developed enough to keep his food in his stomach. After eating, his stomach acid would rise and essentially give him heartburn. Most babies with reflux spit up a ton, but with silent reflux, they swallow the spit-up back down. This means it was burning his throat twice and masking the main symptom.

Armed with new information, management techniques, we returned home and began him on some awesome new medicine. It worked brilliantly and we suddenly felt like we had an entirely new baby. He was cheerful and peaceful again. Hooray! 

To make things even better, he began sleeping through the night at about 7 weeks. We had been roughly employing the Baby Wise method to help him get on a good rhythm. He would sleep nearly anywhere and through anything. His naps were consistent. I resumed working from home after 10 weeks and just got work done while he napped. He began smiling all the time. Things started to feel somewhat normal and less baby-centric. We thought we were clearly awesome at this parenting thing. We were patting ourselves on the back, quite pleased with ourselves. Go team!

Then, something happened that we were not expecting. No one warned us. But apparently, there is this thing called the 4th month sleep regression. It's real, my friends. Babies apparently have one mode of sleep up until about 4 months: deep sleep. When they are out, they are gone. This is how newborns can sleep through nearly everything, including loud outdoor concerts. We know, we experienced this first hand. After about 4 months (or in our case, 3.5 months), babies begin cycling through lighter REM sleep cycles like adults do and have to figure out sleep all over again. It went like this: one night, he slept from about 10pm until 8am. The next, he decided to wake every 2 hours and scream. I wanted to die. This was worse than the newborn days because I had grown accustomed to sleeping again. Maybe we had thought a little too highly of ourselves up until that point. Rookie mistake.

In August, during a particularly nasty heat wave, my dad drove his motorcycle to Memphis to come and visit us. Although the weather was not making Memphis the most enjoyable, it was so good to introduce him to his grandson and show him our home. There is something special and also strange about watching your parents become grandparents. Little things I had barely remembered from childhood came flooding back. The faces he would make, the horsey song he would sing while bouncing me on his knee, the mannerisms, all the things he did with me as a child I was now watching him do with my son. It caught me off guard how sweet and gentle he was with him. He even was able to elicit Elias's first laugh. It melted my heart in ways I didn't know possible.

As summer came to a close, our new "normal" had begun to take shape. Or at least the best it could with a constantly changing baby. By the grace of God and the help of friends and family, we had survived the newborn stage as well as the Memphis heat.

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