paul and i officially have survived our first three weeks of being new parents to our newborn Evelyn.
the labor itself went so much better than what i had expected (see post below) but i had no idea how hard the recovery period after birth was going to be like. i thought i had over prepared based on reading too many blogs and advice i had seen in what i needed for recovery: my arsenal of items involved depends adult diapers (i know…seriously right??), frozen pads with witch hazel and aloe, a sitz bath with epsom salts, dermoplast to numb the nether regions, and a supply of prunes (you can guess for what). i prepared these things not really understanding what the after birth recovery was going to be like and i figured i wouldn’t really need everything (again…seriously, adult diapers!!??), but i actually wound up using everything and they made the recovery that much more bearable. oh all this and of course really really strong prescription strength ibuprofen.
what did not help my recovery process? korean craziness. i’m not against non-western medicine as i always thought i could tolerate some things like gross herbal drinks and acupuncture. but i had no idea how crazy koreans were when it came to the postpartum recovery process. i wasn’t supposed to be exposed to any cold air (including air conditioning), i wasn’t supposed to lift anything heavy (like my own newborn child), i couldn’t eat anything too cold, i was supposed to dress like it was fifty degrees outside, and i wasn’t supposed to leave the house—mind you, this was not for a week but for twenty one days during one of the seemingly hottest summers we have had in sd! yes, i did eat lots and lots of seaweed soup—with meat, with clams, with mussels. i didn’t mind this too much although by day 21 i was ready to throw in the towel with this too. apparently, not taking care of oneself after labor according to these rules would cause absolute ruin to a female body when she aged. none of this made any sense to me despite my searching online for any reasonable explanations for any of these ideas. so i did what any person would do when imposed with asian customs with no logical rationale: i fought hard. by the end of week 1, i convinced my mom to let me pass on most of the rules but i did keep up the seaweed soup. i had the ac on, dressed in shorts and nursing tank tops, went out to give walks to my dogs, and was able to go out to meet with friends, we took evelyn out on little short trips to balboa park and coronado, and every night i tried to leave the house for some sanity. that being said, after my mom left, i realized the strength of the love that she had for me in wanting to take care of me as her daughter and i couldn’t have imagined surviving the first weeks at home without her as she took care of me so well as well as taking care of evelyn for much of the day–it was so nice to have nutritious delicious meals cooked for us all day and to have someone watch the little one so i could take naps and rest during the day while recovering. i actually wound up intensely missing the nagging about dressing in warmer clothing and not having any drinks with ice in it as i realized that my mom cared for me that deeply. if i could do it all over again, i would even have my mom stay with us longer and probably give in to the small battles like wearing longer sleeves or socks around the house for the peace of the household’s sake
the worst of the pain wound up coming from trying to provide nourishment to the little one. i was really scared about breastfeeding because of all the stories that i had heard and i knew it was not going to be easy. this was one of those things where my paranoia expectations lived up to the hype–yup, it really was that hard. yup, it really was that painful. yup, why do mothers do this again?? i had no idea what i was doing even though i had several nurses help me out while i was in the hospital for 48 hours—it probably had to do with the fact that after the trauma of labor, i was in no shape or form to learn something new and important like how i was supposed to function all of a sudden as a milk dispenser to my newborn child. i honestly wasn’t even sure how to hold evelyn as i probably held a total of 1 baby ever under the age of 1 month in my thirty years of life and all of a sudden trying to cradle my newborn or holding her like a football while getting her mouth to latch in a perfect configuration seemed impossible as feeding her each time just brought on incredible pain. oh and i was supposed to do this every 2 hours?? i definitely wasn’t making enough milk and by evelyn’s fourth day of birth when we had our pediatrician appointment, she lost so much weight that our pediatrician advised us to supplement with formula and got us a consult with a lactation consultant at our home that night. our lactation consultant was another person that i wanted to marry after meeting her as she saved me from wanting to give up breastfeeding after four days of pain; meeting with her for two hours was worth her weight in gold–liquid gold that is. i finally learned how to latch properly and it no longer hurt like evelyn was trying to gnaw off my feeding tools. life definitely became not so miserable after this encounter and i was so thankful that we met with her relatively early as breastfeeding now has gotten so much easier and better.
another hardship of the first three weeks–the baby blues. i spent the last three weeks crying and bawling over everything and anything. i’m pretty sure that on some days, evelyn and i spent an equal amount of time crying out our eyeballs. evelyn was crying to communicate her needs while i was crying because i didn’t know how to communicate my needs and make sense of things. the first week was spent crying over the stressful and painful feedings and evelyn not being able to get enough to eat. the second week was spent crying as i over-dramatized the enormity of the task of being a new mom and i also found myself bawling over the most random things: a commercial featuring a happy baby and overly smiley mom would set me off in tears as i wondered why i didn’t feel so happy about being a new mom, seeing evelyn peacefully sleep would make me cry as i was so thankful for this child that God brought into the world, watching the u.s. open and seeing the underdog who was so close to winning lose would make me tear up—i was a confusing hormonal mess. and the whole time, i was worried that it wouldn’t ever disappear and these confusing emotions would last months and feeling trapped inside my own house from the korean postpartum ways didn’t definitely help at all. but thankfully, i’m doing so much better. i haven’t had a crying episode the entire week! i finally feel like i’m starting to feel like my old self and i am so thankful.
despite these initial challenges, having evelyn here has been such a huge blessing. i see my little milk monster happily sleeping and i cannot believe sometimes that she really is our baby and that God has given us this beautiful healthy child. i do feel guilty sometimes as i didn’t hold evelyn in my arms the first time completely smitten in love. i’ve had moms tell me that when they gave birth and met their child for the first time, that they couldn’t imagine loving someone more intensely than their newborn, but that really didn’t happen to me–i was amazed by her but to be honest, i didn’t feel this instant magic bond of love for her immediately. instead, i’m finding myself slowly starting to fall in love with the little one. God has been using her to teach me about patience, sacrifice, and selflessness little by little–all characteristics that i need so much growth in as paul and i embark on parenthood. these past three weeks have been so humbling and a time in which i have really seen that i need to cling to Christ daily–in desperation when the little one won’t stop crying, when my emotions send me in a whirlwind of doubt and fear about knowing how to take care of a newborn, and when i feel incompetent as a new parent. i praise God for getting us all through these three weeks and am taking it slowly one day at a time. 🙂
here are some more pictures of evelyn to end off this long post if you have made it this far!