Saturday, August 19, 2006

The First Weeks

"Be paranoid about who you let hold her," Ellie’s pediatrician told us at her one week well-baby check-up. With this official sanction of our personal preference, Paul and I were off.

We created log charts on the computer and kept a stack of them beside the rocking chair in the nursery. I nursed Ellie every two hours, unless she was soundly asleep, and logged each nursing session.

Twenty minutes on the right breast followed by fifteen minutes on the left breast looked like “20L, 15R” in one column of the spreadsheet, up to twelve entries a day for months. We also logged each wet and dirty diaper and the amount of sleep Ellie was getting, and the spit-ups. It was our way of trying to understand and control the incomprehensible, the impossible.

At every early pediatrician visit, I had a detailed list of questions in my notebook, about everything from Ellie’s poop to her breathing and eating. Nothing was too small to worry about. She was so small and fragile, and we’d been told that she was soon going to get very sick. We’d never done this before and we had nothing to compare our experiences against. Was this normal? How about this? And this?

At her second pediatrician appointment, when Ellie was all of 12 days old, I was already asking questions like: when should I schedule her first appointment with the pediatric ophthalmologist? I was vigilant. I was taking care of my baby the only way I could, and thankfully she seemed oblivious to my fervor.

Today Ellie is 2 weeks old and she can do lots of things!
  • Creaking barn door
  • Cooing
  • Soft murmurings in her sleep
  • Sneeze! Cah! (almost a cry after the sneeze, adorable)
  • She usually only cries once, then stops. Waah!
  • Lip smacking, sucking.
  • Smiles, closed and open mouth - Wide eyes
  • Wail, wide open mouth - Closed eyes
  • Yawn, wide open mouth - Eye slits
  • Latch face, wide open mouth
  • Rosebud/pursed lips
  • No lips
  • Big lips
  • Little tongue
  • LONG tongue
  • Nursing tongue, curls when hungry”
The list of her various movements at two weeks takes up two notebook pages by itself, and then there are the exhaustive lists of each visitor and gift received.

After about two weeks, my developing habit of passive-aggressiveness began to show up on the pages of the notebook.

"Today Paul went back to work and Ellie and I stayed home by ourselves for the first time. It went pretty well, although Lizzi got into the trash in the nursery, made a mess, and got sick on the couch. Hopefully, Paul will put the nursery door up tonight. :) Then Mommy can shower."

In addition to the usual newborn milestones like when Ellie began to hold up her own head, I catalogued every vaccine shot she had and every movie we went to see. In Ellie’s first few months, we went to see more movies than we were to see in the next couple of years,though fortunately we didn't know that at the time.

There were some real benefits to the newborn period, not least her portability and ease of soothing at the breast, but there were some real downsides too, like the 10 wet and 6 poopy diapers every day, and the constant worry about every potential catastrophe in the fragile little life for which her parents were wholly responsible.

Mostly, though, I couldn't have imagined that I'd gladly wake every couple of hours throughout the night to my baby's soft cries. That I'd smile at the prospect of seeing her again, of smelling her scent, of cuddling her to my breast, of simply being awake with her, overwhelmed by love.

If only there was some way to experience that without the other parts, particularly the terror and the yuck.


Moreena said...

The passive-aggressive baby log entry has me howling. Perhaps we are temperament twins?

ccw said...

I am amazed at your energy. I managed to track that stuff while I was at the hospital, but it went to hell once I got home.

I would hate to read my thoughts about other people now.

Sarahlynn said...

Moreena, I'd take the comparison as a compliment! And it took Paul forever to hang that door. It wasn't until long, long after we were done with the cotton balls soaked in water approach to diaper-area cleaning (which made the resulting trash so appealing to the dog) that I convinced Paul to install a little shelf for the trash can, high above pug and toddler reach). Well, we're ready for next time.

CCW, it helps that she was my first. And Paul was really a major participant. And we had the heart thing to worry about, which made us extra vigilant.

I wrote the notebook assuming that Ellie would read it someday, so I left out what I *really* thought of some of the visitors and gifts. ;)

mc said...

With our baby at a little over 3 months, we're still stopping and starting the meticulous charting of every moment. For me, it's an attempt to gain the illusion of control over a situation that is, I've finally come to realize, almost totally out of my control. But, hey, it works, so I can't complain!

Sarahlynn said...

MC, exactly! Or, at least, that's exactly how it was for me. I'm hoping to be more relaxed this time around, though not too relaxed, of course.