We were discharged from the hospital on a Thursday. Bewildered and bleeding, I tried to dress up this tiny baby in some tiny baby clothes, but the 'going home' outfit I brought had too many snaps and it overwhelmed me, so he went home in some Carter's footed jammies that had only a zipper to deal with. This was the first of many grand plans and optimistic delusions the Internet had convinced me to buy into that would end poorly. I nervously strapped him into his car seat -- under supervision -- as Aaron brought the car around. We drove home at 10 miles an hour. Casey slept, and I sat in the back seat and cried for no reason all the way home.
We brought him into the house, where he immediately lost his shit and the cat lost her shit as well. We changed him on his fancy changing table and tried to place him in all 100 of his fancy baby containers, eventually settling on a little pillow where he slept for a bit.
Then the sun went down and shit got real.
I will pause here and say that I went into motherhood with an "eh, if breastfeeding works, great; if not, meh" type of attitude. We had cans of formula stashed in the house, plenty of bottles, and lots of nice thoughts about how laid back I was going to be about all of it. But when I took the breastfeeding classes, when that baby came out, and when those lactation consultants descended in the hospital, I was going to breastfeed come hell or high water and oh my god how could I dream of giving him formula when breastmilk is magic and he'll be immune to everything if he gets it and an obese convict if he doesn't? I remember asking, "how will I know when my milk comes in?" as I left the hospital. "Oh, you'll KNOW," they said. "Should be any minute now."
Here is what I knew: It did not come in.
I fed the baby when we got home from the hospital. He kept sliding around and nursing was awkward and I kept referring to iPhone photos of the notes the nurses had written on the whiteboard in the hospital. Then I fed him again. And he cried. And I tried again. He sucked, he cried, everything sucked. We'd put him down in a bed of some kind. Cried. We'd take turns getting up and walking up and down the hallway with him. None of us -- mom, dad, or baby -- slept. We got out the white noise machine; we tried the Pack n Play, Rock n Play and bassinet; we tried every swaddle and swaddle-like contraption we had in the house through the night. HOLY SHIT. The whole time, both of us were thinking, IS THIS WHAT IT'S LIKE? [We've made a huge mistake, etc.]
The next morning, we dragged our tired asses to the pediatrician's office for his checkup (which is a thing that seems just totally bizarre; like, can't someone swing by our house just this once?) He was down 10% from his birthweight and was yellow like a Simpson. No bueno. My milk hadn't come in and he was hungry as hell. And he was pissed. And I was terrified.
They sent us to a lactation consultant. He had no tongue tie; he was latching like a champ. It was me. He was getting 5 mL per feeding. There were a variety of things we needed to do, but the big one was this: triple feeding. That meant nursing for 30 minutes, feeding him a small bottle of formula, then pumping for 15-30 minutes to get my supply going. For a newborn baby that eats every 2-3 hours, we were spending 90 minutes feeding and 30 minutes washing shit before feeding again. It sucked, and I cried and cried and cried the first time I poured that little bottle of formula in his little face. My dreams of exclusively breastfeeding were gone, just 3 days in. Now he was going to get typhoid and cholera and he's going to be a convict and it's my fault.
But. After he got formula, something amazing happened: he slept. And I felt so relieved. And so tired while I watched my baby sleep at 2 am while I sat awake and hooked up to a loud ass pump squeezing DROPS out of my body.
We stayed hunkered down in our bedroom for the next 24 hours, with a couple brief breaks for one of us to go to the kitchen to wash pump parts and bottles. I wore nothing but a robe and a diaper in those first days (shout out to the Depends Silhouettes; would wear ya forev if I could). It was overwhelming and we stupidly refused our moms' offers to help for those first few days and we had no idea what we were doing. We Googled lots of things.
So, I have this mom friend I met at work. She is a queen and I have always admired everything about her, professionally and personally: She's brilliant, witty, well-spoken, stunningly beautiful and seemingly comfortable in a pencil skirt and heels (this is not just my rosy perspective because I adore her and she can do no wrong; these are actual facts. Ask anyone.) We got closer as my due date drew nearer, and as I struggled with how to prioritize the what-ifs of my career with the ohmygods of impending motherhood, she was there -- she'd just been through it. She helped me delete useless shit off my registry. She listened and pretended to not be disgusted while my 8-months-preg face wept into my Taco Bell tacos. She was my safe space.
And then she saved me.
Back to day 2 home from the hospital. It's Saturday; I'm in a robe (and a diaper) in my bedroom crying. I felt so alone and scared with this tiny strange creature that I had failed to feed, lying helpless in a bassinet next to me. If you're following along, the baby and I have now been crying for 2 days straight. This friend checked in. I told her via text that I was having a hard time with feeding; I told her my milk hadn't come in, we were triple feeding and I was scared shitless and also what have I done and could she please drive me to Mexico and help me change my identity?
"Been there," she said. "And I get it. I'm coming over." And within the hour she showed up with a bin of every pumping accessory imaginable, a nursing pillow, pumping bras, cans of formula, and gallons of wine. She sat with me while I cried on my bed. She told me I looked thin, because she is an angel sent from heaven. Then she taught me how to use the pump efficiently (NOBODY TEACHES YOU THIS), size the shields, etc -- and then the doorbell rang with the dinner she'd ordered. On Monday -- and the Mondays after -- she showed up with tupperwares of healthy, homecooked food to last us through the week and an open ear for me to ask, "how do I..." questions over and over. She was my saint, and I love her forever. She came right down into the thick of it with me and chose to help me with the nasty bits instead of just swinging by to hold the baby and ask questions like, "are you JUST SO IN LOVE?" And she kept checking in when everyone else stopped checking in, and she came over when the days of mat leave stretched longer and lonelier.
Anyway. I'm misty. Those first weeks were hard. So, so hard. I look back now and can't remember why, exactly they were so hard, but I think I have a vague idea: my body was in shambles. I had chills, night sweats, soreness, and this constant, consuming feeling of abject terror all existing alongside this feeling I felt when I saw my tiny little baby: like my heart was going to explode. I cried a lot.
People brought over casseroles and brownies and we were really well-loved and supported. Everyone came over to meet the baby, and family and good friends and acquaintances really showed up for us. It was all real and raw and it was super hard, though.