I became a new mom.
No, I didn't have my first baby. (His 6th birthday was last week.) I became a new kind of mom.
Several of our friends had babies in the year or two before us and I’d heard lots of “put them in their own bed the first night or you’ll never get them out.” “Get them on a schedule right away; babies need to learn that they have to fit into your world, you don’t fit your life around them.”
It kind of made sense until I brought Bug home and it seemed the ONLY place he’d sleep at all was in my lap. Not ideal, but I figured it would get better in a few days once he was used to being on the outside and all.
We’d only been home two days when we went back for the follow-up appointment where they make sure feeding is going ok and such. . She was concerned that he wasn't back to his healthy 8 pounds, 2 ounce birthweight yet. In fact, he'd lost another couple ounces since we left the hospital. She checked to see if he was nursing ok (he was) and showed me how to pour formula down his throat if I needed to supplement (wasn't happy about that part) and let us go home with instructions to return Monday for another weight check.
Later that night I could tell something was wrong. It looked like he was having a hard time breathing. As someone with asthma, I know what a terrible feeling that is, and to see my 4-day old baby struggling was awful. I didn’t worry about trying to put him in his bed that night; I was going to hold him to make sure he was eating enough and that he was ok. That night he finally slept well; so well that I couldn’t get him to wake up to eat for one stretch of almost 8 hours.
Even though the next day was Saturday, I called the Dr’s office because I knew something wasn’t ok. My pediatrician wasn’t in so we saw his partner who said Bug was "just a little congested." He told us to use Saline drops and the nose sucker and make sure he was eating as much as he could because that would help too. (He’d lost another ounce or two).
Bug and I worked hard those next two days. Monday we came back as instructed for the weight check. He still had not gained any back. I was mostly concerned about his labored breathing, but the Dr. assured me his lungs sounded fine and the lack of weight gain was the big problem. The pediatrician told me to chart each feeding session and to come again on Wednesday. If Bug wasn’t gaining by then we’d have to start supplementing with formula. I was sooo determined to BF only, that the idea of being forced to formula-feed was very upsetting. I spent the next two days trying to get him to eat any time he seemed willing. No schedules, no “routine.”
When I returned Wednesday I was feeling more optimistic because it did seem that Bug had been eating more regularly, even though he was still clearly working hard to breathe through his congestion. But the appointment proved otherwise. He'd dropped well below the 10% 'comfort zone' for newborn weight loss and was now a slight 7 pounds. Dr. McGuiness heard "some crackling" and sent us off for a heel prick blood test and a chest xray. Somehow, even with all of that, I was still stunned to hear that my baby had RSV and we needed to check into the hospital.
I tearfully asked if there was time to go home and pack a bit and call Hubs, who had just returned to work for the first day since Bug was born. I stalled at home until he could get there. The Labor and Delivery unit was warm and comfortable and optimistic; checking into the fifth floor pediatrics unit was scary and overwhelming.
I couldn't really wrap my mind around the need for it even. I had a ridiculously healthy pregnancy and delivered a full-term, healthy baby. Yes, I had the sniffles and he'd seemed to pick them up, but was that cause enough to be hospitalized? Of course, there was no question we'd do as we were told; I just couldn't come to terms with the abrupt change of course.
And that's when I became a new mom. The primary thing they were considering in determining when Bug would be healthy enough to go home was weight gain. We couldn't leave the hospital until he'd re-attained his birth weight. So if he was ready/willing/able to eat, I was going to feed him. If he wouldn't sleep anyplace but in my arms, I was going to hold him. And if a nurse or respiratory therapist or anyone else didn't follow the doctor's instructions and he showed a setback of any sort, I was going to speak up and make sure that people who would do the right thing were caring for my little guy.
Thankfully, he fought the virus well and we were able to leave one week later. It was a different kind of homecoming from the first. Gone were my ideas that I needed to "get the baby on my agenda." All that mattered was that he was healthy and happy. I didn’t worry about getting him to sleep in his crib; it mattered more that he did sleep, not where he slept. I didn’t worry about an eating schedule because it was more important that he eat and grow stronger than it was that he eat breakfast, lunch and dinner when I determined it was time. There would be time down the road to “teach” him all those things about not being the center of the universe and how to be independent. He was, after all, not even a month old. It’s not like he was starting kindergarten.
My world didn't come to an end. I didn't cease being me, consumed by this tiny tyrant. I was (and am) still the mom and he couldn't (and can't) dictate anything to me that I can't refuse. If it really matters, I can still win. It's just that my idea of "winning" was completely altered.
I don’t believe there’s always a grand “why” that sums up the purpose for difficult situations we encounter, but I do believe that God used that experience to make me a different kind of parent than I’d have been otherwise. I don't get it right all the time, and while I'd never have selected that particular method for delivering this lesson, I'm actually really glad I learned it when I did.