A Snapshot of the Last Days

The last week of my time off was not perfect. The hives continued to be horrible, and also appeared on my arms and hands, though with less ferocity, so I decided I would just stay in bed all day and do nothing for a couple of days. This was the best decision ever, and bed was a magical place where I enjoyed holding Vale in bed while different versions of La Vie En Rose played on my Billie Holiday Pandora station (Louie Armstrong and Edith Piaf), and watching her sleep while I ate breakfast (cooked by Dad) in bed.

 

 

I propped my laptop on my breakfast-in-bed table from Ikea, answered some emails, surfed the web, blogged, cuddled with Vale, and took it easy for two full days. Fiona, my faithful feline friend, joined the party and insisted on crowding up against Vale in my lap, or hovering underneath the table like she did when I was in law school. I was reminded of how she’d accompany me for hours while I read law school assignments and studied for the bar. She (and Ophelia) were our babies first, and turned 10 years old in a flash.

While in bed, I contemplated the importance of family, slow moments, and the little pleasures in life. I texted my mother frequently, and thought of how difficult it must have been for her and my dad to be half a world away from their family for decades.

Nightmares and Paranoia

I think it’s universal that all parents at some point obsess over their newborn’s breathing in the middle of the night to make sure they are not dead. I only engaged in this behavior briefly the first couple of nights. However, Little V has a habit of wheezing sometimes in her sleep, which is yet another cause for paranoia. Is her swaddle too tight? Is she sick? Is enough oxygen getting to her brain? SIDS?! Aghhhhh…

Every time she does something weird or makes strange noises, I Google it. I’m less than two weeks into this parenting thing and I truly do not know how new parents ever survived without the internet, psychologically, or otherwise.

It turns out newborns have some pretty seemingly erratic breathing patterns that are totally normal, and there are just a handful of concerning indicators of respiratory distress to watch for. However, the other night, while sleeping, Little V started to exhibit what we thought was retraction, which led me to call the Pediatrician’s after-hours line.

The intake person who took the call asked whether Little V was “responsive” which was a confusing question. Newborns sleep like 18 hours a day. Little V sleeps through piano playing, loud noises, and even diaper changes changes – what level of “unresponsiveness” is really a problem?! The intake person tried to clarify the question by asking whether we were able to “keep her awake” which was just as confusing because we had not woken her up yet, much less “kept” her awake.

We poked Little V and dripped some water on her, which caused her to squirm and flail, though she did not open her eyes. I advised the intake individual Baby V was responding to external stimuli but not opening her eyes. At this point, the intake person said to call 911 if she could not be “kept awake.” I seriously panicked and we decided to get a bit more aggressive about waking her up. We tickled, poked, and pinched her until she made horrible faces, started bawling, and we felt relieved but also wretchedly guilty.

I did not have the vivid, horrible dreams some people have during pregnancy, but I’m making up for it now! I rarely remember my dreams, but in the last week I’ve had a few horrible paranoid dreams about miscarriage and birth defects. I dreamed I ran into my best friend from middle school, who recently gave birth to a baby with a beak instead of a mouth; he also had a foot growing out of the inside of its beak. The foot coming out of the mouth reminded me of the conjoined fetus nurse character from South Park though there was absolutely nothing comedic about the scenario when I was actually dreaming it.

I am a responsible person, but have virtually no experience with babies. I rarely held anyone else’s babies before I was pregnant because I was always afraid of dropping or hurting them and will not offer to hold any children unless specifically requested. My parents never made me change my brother’s diaper when he was a baby (so spoiled). Thus, I made it to the age of 32 with no working knowledge or practical skills in this department. Sometimes I wonder how it is that they let me walk out of a hospital with something as vulnerable as an infant. With all the classes I took during pregnancy, and some instruction from nurses and lactation consultants, I am catching up though, and I dare say it’s been a fun learning process so far.

Little V Meets the Kitties

Our cats have been our babies for over 10 years now, and we were a bit concerned about what their reactions would be to a new mini member to the family. As soon as we arrived home from the hospital, we made efforts to pay attention to them and encourage them to be nearby.We predicted Fiona would be jealous and Ophelia would be anxious and depressed, but so far, things are much better than expected.

They both purposely avoided her initially. Neither would approach her and Ophelia seemed to abhor even the scent of her on my hands; she cringed and shrank from my attempts to pet her the first couple of days. The first day, Fiona worked up the courage to come close enough to sniff Little V’s head, but appeared to be repulsed by the scent, and quickly turned and ran. Eventually, habit got the better of Fiona. She wanted to continue her cuddling routines, so she tolerated the new presence, along with the occasional fussing and screaming at night and stayed curled up close unless the screaming grew too prolonged and loud (which didn’t happen too often). On the second or third night, curiosity set in and she actually tried to climb into Baby V’s cosleeper on 5 occasions. Although I doubt babies or cats are dumb enough such that accidental smothering is any significant risk, it seems a universal rule to prohibit cats from sleeping with babies, so we redirected Fiona’s attentions to be safe.

 

Ophelia has not taken to Baby V as well, which is unsurprising. She has not been as anxious or depressed as we feared, though she is still a bit distant. She hides under the bed more than usual, but of course will still emerge when treats are presented. In the past, my little glutton has actually been depressed enough to turn down treats, so I consider the present state a win. Sometimes, she even seems perfectly content sprawling out in the sun, and after a week, she no longer shuns pets (probably has gotten used to the smell of Little V). As is always the case with poor, sensitive, Ophelia, these things will take time. It looks like Fiona and Little V may eventually be good buddies though.