Friday, January 4, 2013

No more rose-colored glasses

Warning: I'm gonna talk about postpartum depression and life with a colicky baby.  Feel free not to read if it's not something you're comfortable with.

Also a cat picture, because they make everyone happy amiright? Cat in a window!

About this time 5 years ago, I was sitting down and figuring out exactly how things would go once the kid arrived.  We were budgeting for childcare and figuring out where to advertise and planning interviews and such.  Now, we're doing all those things again, only with a potentially lower stress semester about to start than the one 5 years ago (what idiot thought a full load including a math class was a good choice? It was me, wasn't it? I was very wrong).

I imagined the following: the spouse would be home for a few days after the kid was born but I'd figure things out enough to punt within that time, delivery would have been uncomplicated for all involved so we'd be home and healthy in rapid succession, nursing wouldn't be fun but would be doable, and the kid would sleep for at least 12 hours a day with no major sleep impediments in the way.

What we got: complicated delivery and a day in the hospital after an ambulance trip at age 7 days, only one day home for the spouse, super duper oversupply of milk (like whoa), mastitis at 3 weeks and again at 8 weeks, and colic starting at 10 days.  Whoa not anything imagined.  I wound up giving up the semester as a lost cause and being home starting at 7 weeks postpartum.

The other part that I hadn't considered was postpartum depression.  I'd say that anything that was wrong with me was that I was numb.  I quit caring, especially about myself.  Eating? I'll get to it, maybe.  Sleeping? Oh ha.  Bathing? Maybe tomorrow, the kid is howling. Still. After 5 hours straight.  I was numb for about 3 months, and then the colic went away and we all slept and I got better (phew).

For us, the real kicker was the spouse's postpartum depression.  It may have been that a family member died just before the kid was born (so we couldn't travel to the funeral and it was a surprise loss), or that the seasonal job's season got cut short with a scary auto accident, or that we were about to be homeless until the spouse's new job started a few months later, or just the hormonal overflow of the whole thing.  It was serious and scary for months until the spouse finally could afford some healthcare and see someone about it.

This time, we're trying to plan better and be prepared for the worst, if that's what we get.  Here's the specifics.

1. Have mental health well in hand before Little Monster arrives.  If I'm honest, things weren't so rosy last time even pre-baby.  We're getting check-ups and med adjustments dealt with ASAP so there are no existing problems to make worse.

2. Preparations for meals: we're buying a big ole freezer and I'm going to be loading it with food so we have things to defrost so meals are less trouble.

3. Support system: we didn't have one at all last time, so this time, I'm going to make a list of folk who have said or hinted that they'd like to help and put it next to the phone so when we need help, we know who to call.  We're scheduling infant childcare to include running the dishwasher and doing laundry, and to start before our due date (and we have a proper budget to pay for it so we won't have to cut hours to afford food either).  I'm also going to try to schedule a friend to come by for a few hours a week on the weekend so everyone can have a nap while someone else monitors the wee ones.

4. Lighter class load.  No math classes this time.  I'm just slow at math, so it takes twice as long as any other class.  Just the one class, and it's one I took before and did quite well in (although I missed the pass mark on the final by a single question).

5. Auto-pay for the bills.  Almost all bills will be set up to auto-pay on their scheduled due dates so we don't have to fret about it.  If we could arrange for grocery delivery, I'd do that too.  Similarly I'm going to switch all our prescriptions to auto-refill and delivery so when we are due to be out of something, it just magically shows up at the door (and yay for free prescription delivery).

6. Generate a "usual groceries" list so other people can do the shopping for us.  We also recently bought a pad of paper with a list of grocery items on it labeled "All Out Of" and little boxes to check, so when we run out of something, we have a record of what we need to buy.  Now I just need to get a pencil/pen on a string to go with it, because with no marking device, it just looks cool on the fridge.

7. In case of oversupply of milk, I'll pump before every baby feeding.  I think a good chunk of the Kid's terrible reflux was overeating to try to get to some hind milk last time around, so maybe we can fix that.  Before I was afraid pumping would keep my supply up too high, but since it regulated itself at about 14 weeks anyway, I think that so long as I didn't pump/nurse to empty with every feeding, it probably wouldn't do that.  At the least it would mean I'd have lots of frozen milk stored.

8. Plan for time out of the house with zero children or at least zero baby: The spouse is doing some kind of fancy fitness challenge at the gym (oh man, we have a gym membership! How luxurious!) so that will require a few hours a week.  I get the same number of hours (probably something like two) a week out of the house to have "me time" too.  Mental health breaks are really important and must remain a priority.

Most of this stuff is about streamlining our lives so we can focus on surviving rather than everything else that takes away from valuable sleeping time.  It's also about asking for help when we need it, knowing that we will need lots of help, and finding that help ahead of time so when/if things go badly, we're supported and they don't go as badly as before.

There's another emergency plan too: ask my mother to come help out.  She's mostly retired at this point, so she could come stay for a while and would if we ask.  The problem is that she and I tend not to see eye to eye about much and criticizing my every move (while providing no helpful/feasible alternatives) is one of her hobbies (and when I point out how hurtful it is, she proclaims that she wasn't criticizing anything at all! She was just making a suggestion!).  This is the emergency plan though because I'd rather not have to deal with the commentary on everything I'm doing wrong.  As helpful as another set of hands could be, I'm not sure it's worth the mental stress.  Mental health is priority one, so we're going to stick with that as long as possible.

I also think that splitting up the wailing colic time worked out fairly all right for us.  I fed the kid before her "bedtime" when she was so tired and so unable to sleep, then I'd go sleep for 3 hours while the spouse walked with the kid and sang to her so she'd stop howling and just look sad and wide awake, then we'd trade for 2-3 hours until the kid approached sleepy and could be put into bed to sleep (and she'd sleep for 3-6 hours in a row after the scream-fest most days).


  1. You seem to have a LOT of good plans in place to make this transition a smooth one. You also have very realistic expectations of how hard it may be. I hope this baby--and this experience--pleasantly surprise you.

    Good luck!

  2. I've been spending so much time worrying about just getting to the end of my pregnancy with a healthy baby, that I haven't planned much at all for after birth. I'm going to regret it, big time, I know.

    1. You've got time still! It doesn't take much to make the list of people who volunteered to help or buy one of those grocery list thingers, and I presume you've got maternity leave (man I wish someone got parental leave, but not really. Maybe the spouse can squeak in a week) so you could do some stuff during that. At the least, stockpile take-out menus and print their numbers out in a big font by the phone!

  3. Wow, I'm really impressed with how well you're planning to handle this birth and the aftermath. You seem to have thought of absolutely everything and then some. That's fantastic! I really hope for you that everything goes smoothly and you won't need all your backup plans, especially your mother, but even just having options will help you feel more in control, I'm sure.