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Postpartum: the first two weeks…

Wow.

First of all, Rich and I would like to thank all of you SO MUCH for your phone calls, emails, and blog comments. We love and appreciate you, and have been so busy learning how to care for a newborn that we have yet to respond to most of you. Please forgive us if you’ve called or emailed and we haven’t gotten back to you yet…we are deeply grateful for your love, support, and prayers. Thank you!

If I could sum up the past two weeks since Alana came into the world it would be something along the lines of “oh-my-gosh-this-parent-thing-is-so-much-harder-than-I-thought-it-would-be.”

Yes, the past two weeks have had their share of trauma, and I would like to document everything in a blog post, before this season fades and gives way to new seasons, and time dims my memory of this crazy time. And I am positive that time must affect one’s memory, or there would be a large number of families with just one child! As it is, the majority of people decide to have more than one…which means that the blessings must outweigh the challenges 🙂

The trauma really began in the hospital (as it does for most women!), when my body actually labored for 24 hours and gave birth to a baby and subsequently received almost no sleep for a couple of nights while I was poked and prodded by hospital staff all throughout the night. Did they really need to take my blood at four in the morning and my blood pressure every hour???

But the real trauma started when we tried to leave the hospital. We had always been told that we needed to have our car seat “safety checked” before going into labor because the hospital staff would not let anyone leave unless the car seat was installed properly. Well, not only did they not check the installation, the man who wheeled me to the car didn’t even know how to help us put the baby in it! We tried to put Alana in her car seat and realized that her body was literally too small to fasten the straps. Not only were the shoulder straps just too large — even when completely tightened — but the leg straps didn’t even come close to being able to restrain her tiny legs. We stood there in the parking garage, attempting to outsmart our car seat, while little Alana flailed her little limbs and grew more and more agitated. The more she cried the more stressed I got. That is one thing about being a new parent…we are not used to the crying yet, so it is very upsetting at first. When we realized that the man who wheeled me down would be of no help, we made the decision to fasten her the best we could and pray our way home (rather than spending the next half hour trying to track down someone who did have a clue).

God saw to it that we arrived home safely, and I slowly emerged from the car, hurting almost too much to walk myself to the front door.

Once inside, my mom and I were unpacking in my bedroom and suddenly Alana began to choke. We looked at her, and it was obvious that she couldn’t breathe. Her mouth was wide open, and no noise was coming out. She began to turn bright red, then white, and as mom and I struggled to find the bulb to suction whatever was choking her, she literally turned blue. I panicked and began to cry while my dad hugged me and prayed. Rich walked in at that moment, found the bulb, and he and my mom began suctioning Alana’s throat. They were level headed and efficient, and soon Alana coughed and was breathing again. But it was too late for my nerves. I was a wreck. It was the scariest minute of my life, and it felt like an eternity. We assumed that she still had some amniotic fluid in her lungs from birth the day before, and thankfully, we’ve not had another episode like that again. But I was jumpy with every choke Alana uttered.

Once that ordeal was over, we spent the evening rehearsing everything that the lactation consultants had taught and shown us while at the hospital. I don’t know what I would have done without them. We had a lot of trouble with breastfeeding at the hospital, and they saved the day. Alana and I are getting to know each other, and we are both learning together…but wow…all of my assumptions about breastfeeding coming naturally and without a glitch were far from reality. But I’m committed. I’ve always wanted to breastfeed, and we are getting the hang of it! My sister flew in late that night and joined me in my bedroom, got to meet Alana, and hear about everything that had transpired so far. It was wonderful to have my family here.

The next day was equally distressing. Either from catching someone’s sickness (or possibly from the stress and lack of sleep), I was sick with stomach problems all day long. I felt so sick that I couldn’t take care of Alana very well, and I was so thankful for Rich and my family and all the help. I thought I was going to have to go straight back to the hospital since I couldn’t eat a thing and I felt so weak! Rich and I prayed for God’s grace and strength all day and that prayer continued into our week (and it continues now). I was much better the next day, though still weak, frazzled, and tired!

The remainder of the week wasn’t as stressful, but when Sunday came and I said goodbye to my family, I thought I would fall apart. Then on Monday morning, Rich took my wonderful sister back to the airport and he went to work. I went from a houseful of help and support to…well, total loneliness. I was alone at home with a newborn. I was thinking…”Now what???” Well, the absolute dependency of a newborn turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I was so busy feeding, changing diapers, doing laundry, and getting in naps whenever I could that the loneliness wasn’t as intense as I’d feared.

The second week was not nearly as stressful, as Alana and I got into a routine and began to know what to expect from each other. We still aren’t supposed to be in public much due to germs and giving Alana’s immune system a chance to strengthen, so we took long walks around our neighborhood, ran a few errands, and enjoyed some visitors at the house. Rich even took care of Alana while I got out with my in-laws for a few hours last Saturday! Man, I feel like a woman!

Amid the stress, physical exhaustion, and emotional/hormonal fluctuations, I have so many things to be thankful for: I am incredibly thankful for a smooth labor and delivery, a healthy and beautiful baby girl, my incessantly supportive husband, my incredible family who cooked and cleaned all week for me (and even took turns waking up to help with the baby), and friends and family who have prayed, brought meals, and visited.

And so, that is a (lengthy) recap of the first two weeks in the Smith household as I’ve experienced it. It’s been exhausting but energizing, non-glamorous but beautiful, and messy but covered in God’s grace.

“The Lord has done great things and we are glad.”

  • Rie - December 5, 2007 - 1:06 pm

    There is nothing like sleep deprevation that can bring out total CRAZINESS!!! Remember to get those power naps. She IS beautiful!

  • Sara Hayes - December 5, 2007 - 1:11 pm

    I had the same experience in the hospital as you. I hated it!! I would go to sleep and here they were again taking my blood pressure or pushing on my stomach, I was out of there the next day. We all have those crazy moments when they first come home though. I remember trying to do the feet and hand mold and when I was washing his feet I put his poor little foot in super hot water!!! I handed my baby to my husband and ran off crying “I’m a horrible mother!!!” It was like I lost some brains during delivery, I think that is because we are SO TIRED! You’ll have everything down before you know it.

  • Heidi - December 5, 2007 - 1:23 pm

    It DOES get better, I promise! She’s such a cutie. 🙂

  • Lisa Hickman - December 5, 2007 - 1:23 pm

    you are so cute, You’re doing great! love you lady 🙂

  • Stephanie Blackiston - December 5, 2007 - 2:35 pm

    You are doing great, Heather! I was so stressed when we brought Reece home from the hospital. It is so scary when this sweet, vulnerable, beautiful life is placed into your arms as you leave the hospital with no instruction manual.
    BTW, Tim and I still don’t do well with crying. That is why I could never do Babywise. My kids have never cried for more than 2 seconds bc my nerves get shot.
    I am sorry Alana choked. That is every new mom’s worst nightmare.
    Hang in there! The learning curve is leveling off now.
    ps WHERE ARE THE PICTURES?

  • Cami - December 6, 2007 - 8:46 am

    dearest heather joy,
    it is so refreshing to hear someone be totally honest about motherhood…yes, we all know it’s a joy & a blessing; but it is also a lot of hard (& often thankless or unacknowledged work). i am glad that you had the foresight to document these first few days in writing. you are sooooooo right–time changes perspective & we forget those early days. it does get (a lot) easier–you’ve probably been hearing this regularly, but honestly, the 3 main factors are sleep deprivation, hormones & major life adjustment (& the good & bad stress that accompanies it!) all of those things resolve themselves relatively quickly. very honestly, the first 6 months were by far the most difficult (for those reasons & also as it took max that long to REALLY get into a good routine, sleep through the night & have regular naps. it’s also difficult not to really see any tangible results from all your efforts–and just be encouraged to know that more are coming soon…you will reap your reward in all the smiles & laughter & babbling & other milestones that will come in only a few more weeks. anyway, take heart that you are a wonderful mother–even when you feel incompetent, as everyone is in the beginning, you have a perfect little family…and know that it’s soooo much easier to feel the joy after having slept for more than a 3 hour stretch! i cannot think of a person better suited to be a mama than you!
    lots & lots of love
    ps yes, tell richard to get on the pictures!

  • Kathy - December 6, 2007 - 2:13 pm

    I barely remember the things you described so well. I think everyone has a hard time adjusting after the arrival of a new person! You did an excellent job of putting it in words. It is the best time of our life and the worst at the same moment. I do remember when everyone left and I was totally responsible…whew…the times get better and then they grow up…enjoy every moment that you can. even the crazy sleepless nights…laura had to be held in a rocker all night…now she has a 1 year old! wow how time flies!!! praying for you…should you ever need me please don’t hesitate to call!!! i also remember the “don’t go out into germs” for 6 months with laura…thought i was going to go nuts!! lol…you are doing great!!!

  • Pix - December 6, 2007 - 6:27 pm

    Gosh I love you. I will be calling you every day for the first month when I finally have a baby. Better yet, I will be over at your house every day! Everyone is right, all of your efforts will be be acknowledged…not that you need them to be, but they will. Whether it is a parent in the store admiring how well behaved she is, or your friends and family being enthralled with how blessed you are as a family, or Alana herself saying “Thank you”…

  • Wendy - December 8, 2007 - 11:57 pm

    Hey Heather! I am sorry things weren’t so smooth the first week but I am glad everything is starting to get into a routine. Sorry our visit was a little crazy too! I didn’t even get to say goodbye! 🙁 It was great to see you though and to meet Alana. She truly is a beautiful gift from God. I am praying for you, Richard and Alana daily. Love you Heather!

  • carol lewis - December 18, 2007 - 1:08 am

    Hey there, sweet Neice, I love you—we really enjoyed your first 2 weeks with you as you described so well. You are certainly going to learn to do a million things at a time in a short time, for a while, till little one is a little older—I remember days of yore—wow, we wish you and yours a very healthy and happy beginning. Alana is certainly a little rosebud, and more! Our love, Aunt Carol& Uncle C.J.

  • […] at a computer to type up my thoughts until Alana was two weeks old. I documented my experience with Alana’s first two weeks here, and I cried tonight when I re-read that post for the first time in a long time. I identify with […]

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