Vocabulary for New Parents

The other night, after waking up for a second time to nurse Frida, I was Googling any number of questions I’ve had recently–“When to start sleep routine with baby?” “How long after birth does your body take to heal?” “Sore, burning nipples?” “What’s the meaning of life?” etc–when I realized that there really should be a word for what I was doing.

I know other moms and dads are doing the same thing across the country. You can’t help it. You’re there. It’s 2 a.m. and you’re feeding a baby. Maybe your baby is colicky and you want to find a solution to that. Maybe your baby wakes too much or too little and you want to know what the internet says about that. Maybe you had no freaking idea that your body would be such a mess after giving birth and you hope someone can advise you in that area. And so you multi-task: you feed your baby and you look ask the internet for help.

What is this thing we are all doing? Boobling? Polling an all-nighter? Momvestigating? Readers, help me out here. I’m too sleep deprived to think of a good one.

In my own case, I’ve had a lot of reasons to Booble/momvestigate. Though having Frida has been a joy overall, there have also been challenges–to say the least.

The first was breastfeeding itself, which, in case you’ve never tried it, is not all that easy (at least for many of us). Within the first week my nipples were cracked and bleeding from Frida’s “improper latch” as they say in breastfeeding circles. So I spent many a late nights feeding her while also watching YouTube videos on how to get your baby to latch correctly (it turns out you have to treat your child’s head like a football and gently but firmly and–most importantly–swiftly steer it onto the goal post that is your nipple).

After things in the nipple department got a little better, I developed a bladder infection, which required antibiotics, which affected Frida (or at least I decided they affected her). For the first three weeks of life, Frida was the most docile, sleepy, lovely baby ever. I thought that maybe we were going to have one of “those babies,” i.e. the ones that slightly smug parents smile about and say, “She’s just always been SO easy.”

But then I got on antibiotics and suddenly Frida started to have gas issues. And when you’re a baby with gas, your best way of handling it is to scream and cry. So suddenly we had still-sweet baby, but one who occasionally took to screaming and crying (and sleeping less).

So of course, I started Googling, “How to help with gassy baby” and “Do antibiotics affect baby?” The internet helped a little bit there, mostly in reminded me what techniques we used for Nico when she was gassy. And after seven days my antibiotics regimen ended. I thought we were on the up and up.

Then, I kid you not, that same night I woke up with a high fever and a killer pain in one of my breasts. I mean killer. So as I fed Frida with the other breast, I Googled, “high fever and painful breast.” Every site that came back told me I had mastitis, which, if you don’t know, is a painful bacterial infection of the milk ducts. So, the next day I called my OB and described the symptoms to a nurse over the phone and she confirmed that I had mastitis and called in ANOTHER antibiotics prescription.

The antibiotics worked quickly and soon my fever was gone and my breast started to feel better. But by the next day, Frida was suddenly much worse, gas-wise. We had two nights in a row in which she just screamed for an hour or two without stopping. So, of course, those nights I Googled, “Does my baby have colic?” and “Signs of a colicky baby” and “When will this all stop??”

The internet was inconclusive on this front (apparently colic is only diagnosed if a baby cries for three straight hours, at least three days a week, starting around three weeks of age, which seems somewhat unscientific to me), but it did help me find one page that discussed antibiotics and infants and recommended that both Frida and I start taking probiotics. So we did that (Gerbers probiotics drops for her and a stronger one for me). And, so far, they’ve seemed to help. I’m still on antibiotics, but Frida’s gas is getting better. And my stomach (which was a little achy from the back-to-back doses of antibiotics) also feels better.

This is not to say that we won’t have more issues to come. But last night, at least, Frida fell asleep at 7:30 and woke up only to feed and then fell promptly back to sleep. I still have some pain when I’m feeding her, but it’s starting to feel a lot better. I’ve even downloaded a book to start listening to during my late-night feedings (H is for Hawk–it’s great!). So there is hope. Maybe I won’t need a word for that late night Googling after all…

My mother lied to me

When I was younger, I always wanted to get pregnant. Because my mom told me that she felt SO incredible while pregnant and that it was SUCH an incredible experience. I had this vision of lazy days filled with pizza and ice cream and everyone taking care of you and telling you you were beautiful.

I didn’t realize that the first three months I would be so tired I’d have to push back taking my qualifying exams for my PhD, that I would start requiring two naps a day, that I would stop running, or that I would also feel so incredibly nauseous I’d skip dinner entirely and eat white pasty things the rest of the time.

I had no idea my boobs would get huge and uncomfortable, so much so that I’d end up crying in kitchen one morning and only be saved from utter despair when Marta would mention that she knew a better bra that might work and that, when that bra did work, I would think she was the messiah come to save me from all the world’s pain.

Nor did I realize that, once that those early symptoms began to abate, I would start to get big in the belly, and it wouldn’t just be like putting a pillow or a ball under your shirt and walking around. When you are pregnant, that weight actually is INSIDE you and it’s not always comfortable. Sleeping becomes difficult and strange parts of your body begin to ache. My tailbone, for instance. For about two weeks my tailbone ached with the same pain I once felt, many many years ago, when I went sledding off a ramp, landed bad and bruised it, hard.

It is true that some food tastes better. There have been hamburgers that went down like ambrosia. There was pizza at a farm last night that was so satisfyingly tasty, I filled myself with six pieces of it. Ice cream and sweet treats have also suddenly become appealing–after nearly a lifetime of not really liking sweet things. For a few weeks there, in fact, I was going almost every morning to “work” at a local bakery, where each time I would try out a new sweet baked good: chocolate croissant, apple danish, coffee cake, cinnamon role.

On the flip side, of course, if I eat too much, I feel it for hours if not days like a second baby in my chest, just above this baby in my womb. It interrupts my sleep and sometimes even manages to make me feel mentally low (the mood swings are another subject altogether).

I’ve also come to realize–since I was seven and fantasized about this whole experience–that you’re not really “supposed” to just eat whatever you want whenever you want. There are guidelines about how much weight you can gain now, and I’m already at the upper end of the suggested weight gain, which means I recently stopped going to the bakery every day and I am trying to eat more spinach and kale and things that are “good” for this tiny life growing inside me.

If I’m honest, that tiny life is really the only thing I completely enjoy about this whole experience. She moves around all the time now. Or rather, she moves around like crazy at set times during the day. Usually a little after lunch, I’ll start to feel her. I also feel her at night when I got to bed and around 5 or so in the morning. Sometimes it feels like she’s a miniature boxer practicing her footwork and jabs. Other times, I imagine she is just stretching out. The other day, a part of her jutted out of one side of my belly and I could put my hand there and feel the solid roundness of her body beneath my skin.

My favorite, favorite part of being pregnant are the afternoons when I read on the couch alone and then feel her moving inside me and realize, again, that I’m not alone. Or when I read Nico books and she suddenly starts to move, as if she wants me to know she’s listening, too. That part I like.

As for the rest of it, I think my mom lied to me. She and every other once pregnant woman who has told me her pregnancy was incredible. Either that or (and this is more likely) they just don’t actually remember the discomforts, mental and physical (even Marta claims her’s wasn’t all that bad, which I can assure you is not what she was telling me at the time).

I am sure when you look back on all this after the fact, it must seem pretty incredible. Your body is suddenly not acting like itself. You change in strange ways: your feet get bigger, your gums bleed, you have crazy dreams, you develop restless leg syndrome, etc. And then there is the fact that you have an actual thing, an actual small being, growing AND moving inside of you.

I am sure all of this might be remembered as a lovely sort of magic, especially through the haze of post-labor hormones and new baby bliss. But I’m not there yet. I just woke up from about seven hours of tossing and turning and my gums are bleeding and my back aches.

We’ll see if I feel differently in about three months.