Thursday, August 07, 2008

The curse of the efficient woman

I always encourage clients to send me a blog post after their birth. Here's a post that I asked dear Kate to write after she told me about one day in her "life as a new mum". I'll be writing more about her amazing home birth (and the string of amazing home births I've attended) soon as I've had some sleep...

"This is for all the women who are doing very well... you know the kind - maybe you are one. One whose families are wondering, why does she keep calling her doula every two days? Surely a doula is just necessary for the labour part. Maybe even your husband, who was over the moon at having a doula present at birth, is a little skeptical:

"You like calling Jacquie, don't you?"
"I do! And she says we can call as much as we like anyway!"
"I guess she hopes that it tapers off after awhile, even though she says she's ours forever."
"Well she doesn't expect it to taper off THIS quickly!"

My father's partner calls this "the curse of the efficient woman".

I admit it, I'm doing well. My labour was short (so short, we didn't make it to the hospital - hurray for homebirths!), my stitches have healed, my breasts don't hurt, and we get some sleep every night. My baby is gaining weight and generally seems happy. Now he is five weeks old, and I made it out to stroller fit yesterday. Today,with Sacha happily sleeping in his baby wrap, I cleaned the garlic we've grown in our garden and made a fresh batch of granola, all before noon - perhaps I am an efficient woman. But even we have 24 hour periods like the one I'm going to tell you about, when Sacha was just 3 weeks old...

Nana, my mother-in-law, was visiting, and we decided to head out to Langley to pick up some berries. While we were there, I figured I ought to have lunch with my baby sister, still just 19, who lives there with her mother (who is not my mother). Anyhow, my sister has a stepsister, also 19, who had a baby 4 days after mine. I have worked hard to avoid jealousy over the fact that my own baby sister has another nephew to adore just when I have provided one for her... So when, during lunch, my sister holds Sacha the entire time, but talks steadily the ENTIRE time about the OTHER baby, I do my best to smile and encourage. After all, a teenage mum needs support, and I should be glad my sister is helping out so much. When we were sitting in the restaurant after my sister leaves, Nana takes Sacha and says to him, "Well, Baby X sure is a perfect baby, isn't he?". I laugh, relieved that I'm not crazy. And after all, I am doing well... so I still have a sense of humour.

Later the same day, Sacha, Nana and I are on our way home... Unfortunately, we overshoot feeding time by about 15 minutes. The last bit of the drive home is a combination of wild, distraught screaming from Sacha, punctuated by eerie minutes of silence in which I become terrified that he has screamed himself out of air... But, we make it home and he gets fed. I laugh, relieved that I can so easily meet my baby's needs. I am doing well...

Midnight that night, disaster strikes. I have fed Sacha, and burped him. When I lay him down right after a feed, he gets the hiccups, starts to cry, and things go downhill from there. So I am in bed, slighltly propped up, with him on my chest. Have I mentioned my son is strong? Somehow, while I am semi-dozing, he pushes up, rolls to the side...and right off me onto the floor. I jump up with a shriek, pluck my beautiful baby off the hardwood floor, and lay him on the bed to examine... he hasn't even woken up... his eyes open as and he sees me above him, talking hysterically to his father about whether he is concussed, whether we need to take him in to the hospital. Meanwhile, Nana runs into our room having heard the fuss... there I am half naked sobbing "I d-d-d-d-ropped him on the fl-fl-fl-floor..." We all notice that my nursing pillow is on the floor right where he landed.. Everyone concludes that he landed on the pillow. And, well, babies get dropped (I got dropped 3 times on my head according to family lore). I laugh, relieved that Sacha is ok, there are no bumps and bruises. Nana goes back to bed. But I am officially NOT doing well...

"Aren't you mad at me?" I ask my husband, still sobbing.
"Of course not. You didn't mean to, and he's perfectly fine!! "
"But if you'd done it, I'd be FURIOUS!!"

I cry some more over my own double standards... Eventually, my husband suggests that I take the baby downstairs for a cuddle so I can work out all my guilt. I follow his advice, and an hour later I manage to put the baby in the bassinet and throw myself back into bed for a few hours of desperately needed sleep.

The next morning, I am feeling fragile. But having been reassured by my husband, mother, and mother in law that I am still a trustworthy mother, I venture out. With the baby, the dog, and Nana, we walk to the grocery store. We get groceries (stored nicely in the stroller, while baby snuggles in a sling). I have overshot feeding time again, and since I'm not about to subject any of us to a long bout of crying at this point, we stop at an off-leash park. The dog runs after sticks while I feed Sacha. Suddenly, my friendly, bouncy lab-cross who still looks like a puppy at nearly 3 years old, starts barking and running towards somebody across the playing field behind us. I jump up, babe in arms, shirt half off, receiving blankets flying, and see that Nellie is headed toward a mother and daughter across the field. Now, I know my dog is all bark and no bite. But, THEY don't. They see a large, black dog tearing towards them. Unfortunately, the mother seems to have no sense of how to react to a dog, and starts screaming. Not just a yelp - repeated, high pitched, terrified shrieking. The daughter follows suit, and just to add to the effect, they both start running in circles. Nellie thinks this could be a fabulous game, and keeps on charging towards them. They keep shrieking and running in circles. I start to wonder how this is going to end as I'm yelling "SHE'S FRIENDLY, JUST STOP SCREAMING. PLEASE!!!!!!!!! STOP SCREAMING!!!!!!!!!!!". I alternate this with yelling at Nellie to come back. After a few crazy seconds that felt like minutes, Nellie comes prancing back, very proud of her efforts, and the mother and daughter aren't shrieking, but the mother is yelling at me from across the field, accusing me of having a vicious dog off leash (in an off leash park, of course). By this point, I am shaking, the baby is crying, and Nana is trying to pull the pieces together. We put Sacha in the stroller with the groceries, get Nellie on her leash, and make a beeline out of the park (as fast as we can considering Nana has recently finished a course of chemo, and I still have stitches on the mend.) I laugh, glad that Nellie didn't reveal any new aggressive tendencies, but there is more than a little hysteria in my voice. I'm not convinced that I'm doing so well...

We make it home. I go to use the washroom and see that I have acquired a blotchy rash all over my neck and face. Nice touch. Nana suggests that it might be stress related, takes the baby, and sends me for a nap. An hour of solitary sleep and a tearful phone call with my own mother later, and I feel like I could possibly soon be doing well again.

So, for all of you who generally do well, and maybe don't feel like the roller coaster ride of early motherhood is quite as crazy-making for you - don't fall prey to the curse of the efficient woman -- let everyone know that you need just as much TLC, and make those phone calls to your doula!" - Kate, mum of Sacha James (and Nellie the dog)