July's Story: The Fourth Trimester
Have you ever heard of the term "fourth trimester" with newborns? Some babies are born perfectly happy and content with the world, while some babies simply can't handle their first three months of life. I was "lucky" enough to have two babies who despised their newborn days.
Milly was a tough baby in the sense that everything was new and she happened to have severe acid-reflux. It took us a few weeks to get the hang of being new parents, and making sure that she was comfortable, and finally we turned a corner around 10 weeks. By the time she was 4 months old she was sleeping through the night, and we felt like we had won at parenting. So, why was I going to worry about having a second baby? Of course I dreaded the newborn days because of the lack of sleep, but I also knew there would be an end in sight. So, I tried my best to focus on that. I won't lie and say that I didn't secretly wish for an "easy" baby, picturing myself actually enjoying maternity leave, and walking around Target with my peaceful little newborn baby sleeping so snuggly in her wrap.
Man was I in for a RUDE awakening.
I swear I knew something was wrong with Emmy from the moment the doctor cut me open. After the first incision, we heard a small cry...she WAS NOT EVEN OUT of my belly that she was already crying. I kept telling myself that it was a good sign, she was healthy. But she didn't stop crying, she never slept soundly and peacefully like newborns do at the hospital, and I even had a few nurses tell me that she would be a handful. That was the understatement of the year.
I was terrified to go home, even though I was ready to be in my own bed (remind me why, because it was definitely not for sleeping). I wanted to be home to Milly, and start our new life as a family of four. Every time I would get anxious about Emmy's arrival, Michael would remind me that we had to "start the clock" in order to get to the good parts. I knew he was right, but I was scared. I knew deep inside something wasn't right with Emmy.
She was already too fussy for a newborn, and in spite of being a second time mom, her cries crippled me. She cried non-stop, all day long, all night long, even while trying to feed her. I tried breastfeeding, and really wanted to make it work since I wasn't able to do so with Milly; but despite of all my efforts, I failed, and Emmy never latched on. We decided to switch to bottles, which was a mess of its own. Finding the right bottle, the right formula, combined with a baby that screamed all day long made for frantic and poor feedings. She was so gassy that she couldn't lay still, and so squirmy that she couldn't stay asleep. She would wake up screaming from pain, and it would take an incredible amount of walking/bouncing/shushing to get her back to sleep. We went to many doctor's appointments, tried reflux meds, five different formulas, and even did an Upper GI. All came back clear, and the GI confirmed she did not have reflux.
I spent the first two months of Emmy's life wanting to crawl into a hole and disappear from the world. Her cries shook me to the core, damaged me, and crippled me in every possible ways. I became numb to her crying, numb to everything around me, and even felt myself becoming distant from Milly. I broke down every time I was alone with Emmy, wanting to just run away, and telling myself that I simply couldn't do it anymore. I wanted to give up. I had terrible post partum depression on top of everything else, and there were days I honestly didn't think I would survive. I saw my OB and upped my anxiety medication, but I knew that the only way for me to feel better was for Emmy to start feeling better as well. In the midst of all the craziness, my saving grace was my husband. I am well aware that not all mothers are lucky enough to go through this with their husbands, and goodness I commend you all for getting through this alone. I don't know if I would have been as strong as you were. Michael and I took shifts every single night when Emmy turned two weeks old. He'd stay with her from 9pm-2am so I could get some sleep, and I would take over from around 2.30am until the next night. We both needed uninterrupted sleep: him to make it through the work days, and me to survive all the crying. He was my rock through it all, and I hope he knows how thankful I am for everything he did and continues to do for our family.
A few days after Emmy turned two months, I was holding her during one of her many eventful naps, and googled "frantic feedings" yet again. After going down a rabbit hole of message boards, I saw a post about upper lip and tongue ties. Hmmm? I checked Emmy's upper lip thinking that of course if there were any issues, the pediatrician would have seen it. To my surprise, it looked like she had a pretty severe upper lip tie. I wasn't able to check her tongue without her screaming, but I did take a picture of the upper lip and sent it to a friend of mine who is a nurse practitioner for a well known ENT in Atlanta. She immediately confirmed the lip tie, and got us an appointment with the specialist four days later. The appointment in itself was a miracle because it usually takes four to six weeks to even get in his office. I was so scared to go in, knowing she could get her lip and tongue revised that very same day. Sure enough, he confirmed all my suspicions, as well as explained that every symptom Emmy had presented during those first two months were directly related to her tongue tie, and her inability to latch correctly on the bottle. She was not able to create a seal, therefore was constantly swallowing too much air, which resulted in the painful gas she would experience. Tongue ties also mimic the symptoms of reflux and colic, as well as create feeding frights. But the worst of all? My baby wasn't gaining weight, and she was essentially starving. So we did the revision, and I hoped for the best.
Here we are a month and a half later, and I can honestly say we have turned a corner. She is eating better, sleeping better, and overall seems to be a much happier baby. She is very sensitive, and I feel like she will always be more high maintenance than her sister, but after going through 10 weeks of sleepless nights, and constant screaming...I can handle two night feedings between 7pm and 7am. I am back at work, she has started daycare, and we have somewhat of a routine. I like to say that our family of four is finally "living", but I know we are not there yet. I am NOT there yet. I am still damaged. I still get crippled by her cries. I am terrified of newborn babies. I am done having kids because I don't think I would physically survive another newborn. It would be detrimental to my health, and to my family. I find myself scrolling back to pictures of Milly at every stage, trying to tell myself that I AM going to enjoy Emmy's first year of life. I try hard, but I don't know if I will. I am constantly wishing time away, because I know it gets better, and I want to be there already. I know I will regret it, and I know I will never have a newborn baby again.
Last night during Emmy's 4am feeding, she grabbed my finger out of nowhere, and it left me speechless, and somewhat emotionless. Not because I didn't care, but because I wasn't even sure how to react, or how to appreciate the moment. I told myself I needed to remember this, and to remember that there was once a time, when everything was quiet, and she was finally eating calmly, that she might have wanted to let me know that everything was going to be OK. At least it's what I tell myself.