Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Learning and re-learning

Noah was three weeks old yesterday, which just seems unreal to me. With this being my third go round, I figured I'd be a pro at multitasking--especially since the big two kids are at daycare during the day. Wrong. Other truths I am learning and re-learning:

-Sleep when the baby sleeps is total crap. Ok, I actually learned this with Sophie, but it's been true each time. At least during these first few weeks, baby sleep tends to be short in duration. And when it is a decent length nap, it is not predictable from day to day. Usually, naps last a few minutes, unless I am holding Noah. Sometimes, like yesterday afternoon, he'll actually sleep somewhere (bouncy seat, bassinet) for a few hours. Figuring that he will wake up soon, I don't bother to lay down. Then, as time goes on, I figure he can't be far from waking up, so there is no point in laying down now. Inevitably, I get ready to take a nap, and then he wakes up. Completely unpredictable, and the reason why I haven't gotten a single nap since he's been born.

-I can function on very little sleep. I think back to fall 2010, when I was back in third year med school, writing my PhD thesis in the evenings, teaching chemistry on the weekends--with a 6 month old baby and a three year old. I was only getting a few hours of sleep a night for several months, and I managed. Noah is waking up every two hours or so at night right now. It is getting better--now, instead of crying for an hour each time he gets up, he eats, gets a diaper change, fusses for a bit, and then goes back down. By the time I fall asleep, I get about an hour of sleep until he gets up the next time. Not ideal, but still manageable. Better than the 0 hours of sleep I got initially.

-Pregnancy is expensive. We have good health insurance through Tim's work, but anything beyond a regular OB office visit has an additional out of pocket cost to us. Each ultrasound costs us between $100-200, each NST was over $40,  each prescription for test strips or insulin was $25, and each high risk OB appointment had a copay. Add the deductibles for Noah and I each having an inpatient stay, and it adds up beyond four figures quickly. And I haven't seen the NICU bill yet (which I hope is fully covered). We added it up with Sophie, and insurance was billed over $25000 for a normal, healthy pregnancy. I expect the NICU bill alone to come close to that. Thank God we have insurance (even with the out of pocket costs), but is it any wonder why one hospital stay is enough to push an uninsured (or underinsured) person into debt and bankruptcy?

-I don't love hearing him cry, but I know Noah will be ok for two minutes if I need to put him down to go to the bathroom, or if I need to eat something (speaking of which, how is it that a sleeping baby knows exactly when you are going to eat? Sixth sense or something...)

-Low to no expectations is the way to go. I still have thank you notes to write, and my pre-baby to-do list hasn't gotten shorter, but I remember now how days with newborns go. They grow up fast, so I don't mind that most of my day is spent cuddling. Noah is already bigger than he was just a few weeks ago. This is the first time I actually have a real maternity leave, and I want to enjoy it. With Sophie, I was working from home on my thesis, and with Josh, I was back in the lab on the weekends less than three weeks post-childbirth. I need to embrace the opportunity to live my days with a minimal agenda. Not easy for a control freak, but a necessary lesson.

-Daytime TV sucks, even with satellite. Seriously.

-I need to listen to my body. I am still learning this one, as evidenced by the previous post re: what is/isn't labor. But, when I got a GI bug this weekend, I learned from last time and tried to stay hydrated. I needed three liters of IV fluids during labor before I had (very concentrated) urine output. I knew my GI stuff the night before labor was bad, but I didn't realize just how bad it was. I didn't want to end up in the hospital this time, so when I started noticing things like, "hey, my mouth is totally dry, and my skin is tenting a bit," I sent Tim out for powerade, and I kept drinking fluids all day. Disaster averted.

-I made a good choice with my husband. I don't think I say it enough, but Tim really keeps things together on a daily basis. In the mornings, Noah tends to get up between 6-6:30 to eat. By the time I feed and change him, it's about 7. Tim gets the kids up, changes them, brings them in to say hello, then takes them downstairs for breakfast and gets them out the door by 7:30. All without me getting up. Unfortunately, this doesn't usually mean I get more sleep. But he tries. He does all the daycare runs, most of the laundry and dishes, and whatever errands need to be done. He rocks.

-Typing one handed is slow and error prone. Sorry.

-Routine is king. Thank goodness the big two have routines. It has saved everyone's sanity. After the first week of craziness, the older two went back to daycare; I felt bad being home without them, but it has been the best thing for everyone. They know exactly how their days go, which gives them security. They see all their playmates at school, which keeps them social. And when they get home, we have dinner, playtime, baths, and then bed between 7:30-8 o'clock. I'd love to keep them up later, but we've learned that they need every bit of that sleep--and they still get up around 7 AM on the weekends, so we try to keep bedtimes consistent then too. We've learned what life looks like with no routine, and it ain't pretty.

-Quality time is important. Tim and I have made a point to have one on one time with each of the kids. It might be an hour coloring, or reading books, or playing with blocks. The activity matters less than the time. Once we got re-settled into our routine, we found time to spend individually with Sophie and Josh, and that has stopped a lot of the acting out problems we had right after we brought Noah home. It's still a work in progress, but it's getting better.

-Help the siblings feel like they share "ownership" of the baby. I don't think "ownership" is the right word--I don't "own" any of my kids--but I am too sleep deprived to come up with a better term. We want Sophie and Josh to feel like they have important, unique jobs as siblings. Sophie loved helping with Josh, but now that she is older, she loves helping with Noah in new ways. Even Josh has shown that he wants to be involved--when Noah cries, Josh runs over and grabs the binky (which was his just a few months ago), brings it to Noah and I, and lays his head on Noah's lap while he says, "shh, baby." It's heartbreakingly adorable, and I take no credit for it. I don't have any idea how to teach them to love each other--they just do. It's awesome. I can encourage them to help each other, and I try to reinforce the positive behavior when I see it, but the rest comes from somewhere beyond me.

-Motrin rules. I missed being able to take anything other than tylenol while pregnant. Ibuprofen is so much better!!

-It is awesome having family around to help. I debated applying to other cities for residency but decided to stay in Cleveland. I am positive that was the right choice. My family has been so great with meals and extra sets of hands. Tim's mom surprised him and flew up from Florida the weekend after Noah was born, which was great. It is so wonderful to have people we love nearby. I don't know if we could've had one child, let alone three, without all of the support.

-I missed chocolate. It's a short-lived relationship though; I am giving up chocolate for Lent, so the past three weeks will be all the chocolate time I get for a while. That is probably good for my waistline.

-Still can't have broccoli early on in breastfeeding. 3/3 with gassy babies post broccoli. It does get better as they get older, thank goodness.

-Procrastination isn't all bad. I haven't had a haircut since January 2011--something I can get away with having curly hair that hides uneven ends--mostly because I haven't had time. I never meant to grow my hair as long as it is now, but it is now long enough to cut and donate. I donated my hair after I had Sophie to Locks of Love. Since then, several people have told me that Beautiful Lengths is a better program, and I plan to send my hair there. I want to have my hair appointment scheduled before I chop, just to make sure I am not walking around with crazy hair for months. Soon though, the hair will be a manageable length again.

-Three car seats in the back of a car is a pain, but possible. It's a huge pain trying to buckle Sophie into her booster in the middle seat. Trying to get three of them into the car in a parking lot in an organized way, when I am the only adult, is like trying to plan a military operation. A minivan would make life so much easier, but the longer we wait, the more money we save not having that car payment. That's me, queen of the pros and cons list, master of delayed gratification.

-I though pregnancy brain was bad; newborn brain is worse. As evidenced by the fact that I had more to say, but can't remember...

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