I know this sounds weird, but I loved my hospital stay, and the minute we got home my first thought was that maybe I wanted to go back. Because I hadn't anticipated having a C-section, I was prepared for two nights in the hospital, which is nothing, really. Instead I got four. And I adored every minute of it, from the moment the nurse wheeled me into my room a couple hours after the surgery, and said that if I needed anything - anything at all - to call, until the nurse took my last blood pressure reading before we were discharged. I loved that first morning when my nurse came in to help me walk to the bathroom and wash my face. I loved ordering breakfast (pancakes!) from the special hospital room service menu. I loved going for walks around the maternity ward with my new baby. I loved that breastfeeding and baby care classes were offered for all new parents. I even loved Nora's middle-of-the-night checkups, when they'd wheel her away to the nursery to weigh her or take her temperature. God only knows why they needed to weigh her in the middle of the night but somehow it was comforting to know that the care we were receiving took place 24 hours a day.
Our room was sunny and warm. J slept on a couch and kept our temporary lodging tidy for the duration of our stay. The baby was so sleepy in those first days that I had to wake her up to feed her, not the other way around. She took well to breastfeeding right off the bat, thanks in large part to the fact that nearly every single nurse, and a couple lactation consultants, sat with me to make sure we were doing alright. "How many people have I shown my breasts to, do you think?" I asked J at one point. "A hundred?"
The nurses were also available for all the other questions we had. Are we doing an ok job changing her diapers? How often does she need a bath? They'd sit with us for as long as we needed them. The doctors came and went, too. Doctors for me, doctors for her, telling us we were both doing great, reassuring us, building our confidence. We had visitors in the hospital, our friends and family. When a resident came to remove the staples from my incision the day before we left, she told me it wouldn't hurt. I didn't believe her. But you know what? It didn't hurt. I'm telling you, it was complete euphoria.
But we had to come home, because those are the rules. Don't get me wrong, I was excited to come home, and for the most part, coming home was wonderful. My parents and little brother were in town for the week and J's family came to check in, as well, everyone helping us by getting dinner, cleaning up and holding the baby when we needed a break. But I missed the hospital from time to time in those first few days. I'd think things like, "Who is going to check my vitals?" and get a kind of nostalgic.
They tell you all about the "baby blues" in childbirth class and in the books, a condition that involves, very simply, being sad after you have your baby. The feeling doesn't always make sense to the new mom, the experts say, but is totally normal - after all, her body has just been through a major change, her hormones are raging and she is likely exhausted. Yet there she is with her newborn, a wonderful husband and supportive family, crying for what seems like no reason.
I was sure I wouldn't experience anything like the "baby blues" but as I found with the whole childbirth experience, you know nothing until you're there, in it. And so I did find myself inexplicably sad all of a sudden for an hour or two a day those first days home. I think feeling like I wanted to go back to the hospital was a general, impractical feeling that encompassed a lot of other emotions and fears. Taking care of the baby, and myself, had been so easy when there was nothing else to do during my post-delivery days at Yale. My mission had been clear. But once I got home there were packages to open and a house to clean. And I wasn't allowed to do any of those things due to the surgery. None of my clothes fit and wearing sweatpants all day seemed lazy, not obvious necessity due to my incision and my new body. The baby was everything and I wanted to hold her and watch her make adorable faces in her sleep all the time, but devoting my everything to her was, nonetheless, a foreign notion. I felt strange and tired, but also overjoyed.
Despite the fact that my feeling down was limited to a small portion of every day, I was afraid that the feeling wouldn't go away. Then, just like the experts suggested it might, it did. I don't know why. Maybe my hormones stabilized or I talked myself out of the mood. One thing I know for sure is that I finally got it, being a mother. I got it that lying on the couch with Nora for two hours wasn't just ok, it was my job. I got it that feeding her was going to take up a lot of my life, at least for these first few weeks, and that trying my hardest to perfect the activity was a perfectly legitimate way to spend my time. I got it that because of my surgery, I needed to ask J to do a lot of things for me, even though my recovery has been very easy - that I have to slow down and take care of my body right now no matter how good I feel, to ensure that I stay healthy.
I started looking forward to the little things, like walks down by the water or in nearby parks or car rides out to get coffee. Because I wasn't allowed to drive the first couple weeks, J and I had to do everything together, a happy side effect.
I remembered that I have friends I can call any time to chat, including friends who have babies, in case I need a little advice or want to share stories. I found comfort in the stories of those who have been there and done it, like the pediatrician who told us about the time his baby, now grown, wouldn't stop crying. He and his wife went downstairs, poured two glasses of wine, and waited. Or my doctor, who agreed that becoming a mother can be a tough transition, and reminded me that I only have to do that one job for now.
I'm looking forward to possibly getting to know other new mothers in the area, perhaps through some of the programs at Yale, and know that just sitting for an hour or two with them at a breastfeeding support group or an exercise class would make me feel really good.
I'm also looking forward to bigger things, like road trips to visit family and friends.
But for now, I know that we will pass many quiet daytime hours just hanging out. Maybe we'll read some classics."A Farewell to Arms," perhaps. Or, you know, I might revisit Harry Potter if we're not up for the ultra serious stuff. Whatever is just fine with me. More than fine. I love that I've got tons of time on my hands, and very good company.