Postpartum Interviews: Jessica and Daniel
Dan and Jess have two kids: a four year old boy named Nicholas and an 18 month old girl named Evelyn.
How did your actual experience differ from your expectation of what it would be like?
Jess: It’s a lot scarier. I didn’t dream about the scary parts.
Dan: You can’t prepare yourself. As many books as you read, when you actually bring a person home that you’re responsible to keep alive and to care for, it’s a lot more. With Nick (our first), he didn’t sleep…for like…years. He’s four, and just a couple months ago is when we finally got him sleep trained. We all have our strengths. Sleeping is not his. He was great with everything else, he didn’t give us too much craziness but lack of sleep effects everything. And it’s hard to imagine beforehand what it will be like to be totally sleep deprived.
Jess: In my head, I thought that we would bring our baby home and breastfeeding would be really natural and I would feed him and then he’d fall asleep and I’d put him down and go fold some laundry. And really breastfeeding was incredibly hard. It IS natural but it doesn’t feel that way at first. It feels strange, everything is engorged, the baby’s mouth is tiny and your nipple is HUGE and you have no idea how you’re going to get it in there! And Nick had a tongue tie. It’s just not as lovely as they make it out to be in movies. And you just love this little human being so much but it’s terrifying that they’re not inside your body anymore where you can protect it and there’s all these unknown variables on the outside of your body, like are they breathing? getting enough to eat? And then you have your hormones that are just all over the place. It’s overwhelming.
What do you feel was the hardest part of bringing a baby home?
Dan: It’s constant. It’s like one day you don’t have a kid and now you do. And then you ALWAYS do. Anybody can babysit for a night or a day or two days, but when you haven’t slept in weeks and you look out into the future and realize oh, this isn’t changing, this isn’t going away….that was the biggest change for me. There’s no giving him away. Life before as you knew it is gone. And sometimes you have to grieve that and it’s a process. I mean we were ready and we moved heaven and earth to have a baby through an IVF process so it wasn’t shocking to get pregnant, this was on purpose. But it was tough to reconcile the feelings of wanting this so badly and also having such a hard time adjusting to it.
Jess: I think the hardest part for me is the first three months. It’s my least favorite phase of babyhood. They’re not giving anything back yet and you’re just pouring all this love and attention and care into them and they’re not smiling at you or thanking you or anything, they just pee and poop and sleep and eat. Not necessarily in that order. Also the stress of breastfeeding, I did not see that coming. I don’t really know anyone who can say it just clicked and it was great right off the bat and the whole time. But now I’m on the other side of those three months and I can see that that was a really hard PART but when I was in the middle of it, I didn’t know that that was a stage or a phase, I was like this is my life now, oh my god what did I do. This might never end.
Dan: And people tell you, this will be hard, but nobody really wants to rain on your parade. And it’s not about just holding on, white-knuckled and hoping that it’ll all pass. It’s work and you have to try things and find resources and troubleshoot. That, coupled with time passing will get you there. And Jess likes to remind me that I have worthless nipples and it’s true, they’r really just for decoration. I feel really bad about it.
In retrospect, if you could have prepared differently, what would you have done?
Jess: Well one thing that I learned the first time is that I do not trust the lactation consultants at the hospital. They all gave me conflicting advice and they told me that Nick did not have a tongue tie. Then a month later, I called the amazing Dianne Cassidy and she spent one minute with my son and told me that he did have a tongue tie and showed me exactly where it was and it was clear that he wasn’t getting enough milk, which was why he was still nursing around the clock. And I was so frustrated because I could have saved myself a month of struggle. So the second time, I just had Dianne come and meet me in the hospital and that was SO helpful. I wasn’t going to listen to what anyone else had to say. Her word was it. And there were still hurdles after that but at least I had the resources right away. And I tried to accept that I was going to be tired. You can’t store up sleep. But I was ready to ask for help. So if I could give advice to any new mom going into this, I would say know who the people are in your life that are going to support you both emotionally and physically. Know who can bring you meals, or groceries, or come over to hold your baby so you can take a damn shower. I think lining those things up and also being more honest about how scared I was, would be the things that I’d do differently. And tell your partner exactly what you need. What you need might change from day to day or hour to hour. They can’t read your mind so just say it.
What was the most helpful thing that your partner did?
Jess: He wasn’t afraid to say, “we need help over here”. So he’d call in reinforcements when we needed them and let my friends know that we needed extra support. And he was just willing to try so many different things to try to help calm the babies down. He didn’t back down from that and he didn’t like try one thing and then hand them back to me and say they’re hungry. I think a lot of partners do that.
Dan: She shouldered all the hardest things. And she has those very valuable nipples. Oh, and kept our kids alive, that was really helpful.