Spoiler alert: We had a baby. And you can bet I will drag you through the whole thing in a blog post at some point, but for today, some images and thoughts from the last few weeks – the final weeks of pregnancy, and the first few weeks as a family of five. I love labor. LOVE IT. To be fair, I have had pretty easy labors and embrace the epidural, so it’s not hard to love. But I think the real reason I love labor so much is because it means that pregnancy is OVER. Those last weeks, even of an easy pregnancy, are brutal. And this one was far from easy. I spent the last couple weeks in constant discomfort, pain and exhaustion. Yet there were still some really wonderful moments in there. We had some amazing family outings, backyard bonfires, and special moments. The kids are really into building tents in the backyard and eating meals inside of them, which gives us some tranquil dining on the patio and I am all about that.
I also nested like an insane person in those final weeks. Days before giving birth, I was trying to teach myself how to watercolor so I could paint something to hang over a giant whole in the wall of the guest room. Clearly, this was of utmost importance in those last pre-baby days. I purged and sorted and rearranged and generally did all sorts of crazy things that very few people would ever notice, because we all know that bringing a newborn into a house where the rubber bands aren’t sorted in the kitchen drawer increases the odds of SIDS. Or something. We squeezed in several final hikes and nature outings in those last couple weeks, including one that was accidentally much longer than anticipated, in the hot sun, without snacks or drinks. Was I a little miserable? Yes. Would stationary activity that might have prolonged pregnancy been more miserable? Abso-freaking-lutely. My mom came to town when I was 37 weeks and 3 days pregnant and I conveniently woke up the next morning with feet resembling manatee fins and even new levels of misery.
But never fear! Because at 37 weeks and 5 days, Madeleine Lois showed up and everything became instantly better. I’ve said it before (like here and here and here), but the newborn stage is not where I thrive. This time around though, the first couple weeks were beautifully different. Now, I know that babies get harder before they get easier, and the first couple weeks for many newborns are easy, a blissful cocoon of sleepy babies. But I have used that easy time to bounce back into life. I get back to the park and playdates, the splashpads and to-do lists. This time – I didn’t. I have long mourned the cuddles and sleepy snuggles I missed out on with Henry and Etta, the former because I was trying to establish good sleep hygiene and a schedule, the latter because I was busy and trying to be productive. Those lost snuggles caused more emotional issues than I realized for a long time. With Madeleine, we decided to try something different.I didn’t leave my room much those first couple weeks. I slept in, then spent much of the day holding Madeleine, nursing and snuggling, listening to audiobooks and bonding with my baby. I emerged periodically to see the rest of the family, but I really reveled in that special time with my newborn in a way that I didn’t get to, didn’t choose to, with the others. This bubble of newborn tranquility was totally due to my mom, who kept the other two away and the house running, and James, who really encouraged me in making it happen.This sort of rest does not come easy to me. I like activity, love outings and visitors and summer fun. But COVID has forced me to slow down, and with so many things just not a possibility, the decision was made easier.
Maddie Lo might be my fussiest baby. It’s hard to remember exactly what the others were like, since your brain erases so much in nature’s attempt to get you to do it again. But she is definitely going to need the reflux meds that brought relief to Etta, and we have a lot of tears in our evenings these days. And yet, they don’t grate on me as much as they did with the other two. I had two weeks of rest and bonding to refresh my body and prepare my soul.Since my mom left, I’ve certainly had to leave my room. But then again, I was ready to. We’ve had some wonderful family outings this weeks, some hard learning moments about life with three, and some big things that we needed to get done (helloooooo minivan purchase!). But instead of feeling burnt out a couple weeks in, I feel empowered. Yes, last night when I had to put all three to bed by myself for the first time everyone got yelled at, Maddie just had to be put down to scream while I supervised bed prep, and Henry tearfully informed me that I was “using my bad voice.”
Because adding a person to your family is hard. But the hard doesn’t feel like it’s outweighing the good or suffocating this time, and I think so much of that is due to those first two weeks.
How many of you did the cloister-away method with your newborns?
Thank you for your memories you have brought back to me and a few chuckles! I at age 79yrs. still remember it all as if it were today also! I am a mother of 5 daughter, 14 grandchildren & 3 great little ones. Oh how worth it is to see your children become parents and live it all over again through their eyes! And one of my grandson’s married this past weekend, God is so wonderful and good to us!!
Congratulations, Hannah! Madeleine is beautiful. Your family is beautiful. I am so glad you were able to rest and transition to three more slowly. It took until our fourth (this spring)–and a really tough time with our third when she was a newborn– for me to figure out that going slow was better for me and everyone else.
Thank you for the time you take to write about your family and your parenting. I don’t have many fellow moms nearby, so I find your stories and honesty encouraging.
Congratulations on your sweet baby girl! I did not cloister away with either of my boys—and I regret it. I’m an Enneagram 1 (a do-er) and I was back at it right away after my first. I didn’t do much better with my second. With a third baby, I’m going to try my hardest to give myself two weeks of snuggles, plenty of rest, and no activity whatsoever. We’ll see how I do!
Love reading through all of this, Hannah. Thank you for sharing your world. And we are celebrating the new addition right along with you!
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