Really, I should have called this post “Our Stay in the Hospital” and let “Coming Home” be a fourth post.  But I’ll go ahead and try to combine the two.

We had a wonderful stay in the hospital – like everything else about my pregnancy and Catherine’s birth, the memories of that tiny room with its uncomfortable bed (who was sleeping, anyway?), its weird extra space with no use in the corner, and its little basinet that stayed beside my bed and held our baby girl – are dear to us and imprinted in our minds.

We spent our first nights as a family of three there – with well-intending, if slightly annoying, nurses popping in and out at all hours of the day and night…our family visiting and sitting patiently on the little side bench waiting to be offered a chance to hold Catherine…me struggling to learn to breastfeed while waiting for my milk to come in… Scared I’d starve her, I collected drops – literally, drops! – of colostrum from my breasts and painstakingly fed her with my finger like a baby bird at two, then four, then six in the morning.  It sometimes took me an hour to get her to wake up, if I even succeeded.  I literally must have slept a total of 3 hours in three days.  After labor, I was so incredibly exhausted, yet I didn’t sleep, and wouldn’t for days.

One night, a nurse suggested we leave our baby in the nursery for 2 hours until it was time for me to feed again, and then they’d bring her to me.  This suggestion devastated me for some reason.  I burst into tears and sobbed.  Chris suggested we take her up on the offer and I let her take Catherine away, but I was convinced this suggestion was a reflection of my mothering skills.  I was failing; that’s why they took her from me.  It was 11am.  Instead of sleeping, I stared at the clock until 1am, slipped on my shoes, and went out into the halls looking for her.  I found the nurse, asked her to please bring me my baby, and that was the last time Catherine stayed in the nursery away from her parents (except when she saw the pediatrician or something)!

We’d checked into the hospital at 3am Saturday morning.  On Monday afternoon, we stood in our cleaned and packed-up hospital room, filling out her birth certificate before we could check out and go home.  We’d agonized over her name, and now we finally had to settle on one.  Chris had so much anxiety about making the decision.  But we finally did.  Leaving was bittersweet.  We were very ready to take her to our nice, clean, comfortable home.  But the entire experience was so, so special to us that we were reluctant to even say goodbye to that room.  I don’t know if I have or will have any other memory that will stay in my heart like that one.  I can’t even describe it.

BUT…we came home!!  And home was so much better than the hospital!

We got Catherine on a good eating and sleeping routine (well…for the time being).  Breastfeeding got a LOT easier – but still not easy!  I actually got sleep – finally.  For the first two weeks, Catherine was an easy baby – a perfect baby.  She ate, stared at us for a few minutes, then passed out for 2 hours.  Repeat.  She sleeps through the night (most nights) with only one feeding around 3am (last night was an exception ;-/).
How do we feel about her?

When she was born, she instantly became the center of our world.  I can’t speak for Chris but I can tell you what I observe.  He holds her and stares at her with this happy expression on his face and spontaneously says things like “heh heh. I’ve got a mini me” (because she looks just like him) or “God. She is beautiful!”  He sings Radiohead songs to her in bed.  He changes her diaper – her most loathed activity – and mocks her angry protests, causing her to pause and stare at him like “Did you just do that?”

As for me, I’ve never worried about anyone so much.  I’m totally in awe of her, but I have plenty of moments where I feel frustrated and sad because I question my ability to be a great mom.  This happens when she is breastfeeding, and the milk isn’t coming out fast enough for her, and she gets so, so angry!  Her face turns red, she claws my already sensitive breasts with her fingernails, bites down, and jerks her head back!  Then she screams.  This only happens a couple times a day, but it hurts my feelings!  Two minutes later, she is asleep in my arms looking so beautiful, and I forget my hurt feelings and think how exciting it is that I have a daughter.  I tell myself it’s an honor that she feels like she can express her frustrations to me. Heh heh heh.

Something that’s been new for Chris and me during these two weeks of his paternity leave is learning to sit still and relax.  We’re both multitaskers who love to be busy accomplishing things – even if it’s just him designing for fun on his computer while I’m in the kitchen making us dinner.  We do relax and watch television or read, but that’s just right before bedtime.  The thing about newborns is, they’re best appreciated while being still. (btw, this blanket was handmade for me by my grandmother’s good friend when I was a newborn!)

We have to find our zen place.  It’s hard.  I feel pulled to the kitchen to unload the dishwasher and bake cookies.  But when I do, I feel terrible and I long to be back holding her, even when she’s napping, so I don’t miss a minute of her before she grows up and isn’t a newborn anymore!  So I’m always happier in the end when I just sit still and be with her.  That’s my challenge at the beginning of my maternity leave…to learn, as one dear friend put it, that “I have nothing else to do, and no where else to be but here.”

Anyway…that’s our update on baby Catherine.  More to come!