I don’t think I could have ever imagined saying “my pandemic baby was a lot easier than the first one.” Or even “my pandemic baby” at all. When I think back to December 2019 or even February 2020, and how relatively oblivious and carefree so many of us were, it’s hard to imagine how that was real with this current perspective.
I am 4 days away from my maternity leave ending and “going back to work” aka to my basement, and I only now have had the time, strength, energy, to write about the end of my pregnancy, birth and postpartum period. While this has truly been easier on me both physically and emotionally than my first child, it still knocked me the EFF out. The bottom line…I need sleep. I know this sounds obvious. But some people function at a pretty high level without it, or without much. I am not one of those people. I’ve always felt that way, but if anything, having two children has confirmed that for me. I used to joke…waaaaaaay before any infertility issues or even trying for kids…that the only thing that scared me about motherhood was never sleeping again. Of course there are 18385982919481 scarier than that, I know that now and really knew that then. But still my comment was not compeltely wrong. Because everything else sucks, at least a little, when you’re in the constant fog of exhaustion. But, here I am now, with my brain functioning at least at somewhat near normal to share my experience this time around.
My last day in person at work was March 13, 2020. The week leading up to it, my college had been buzzing around with what to do regarding a decision about students returning from spring break. It was hard to focus on anything until that Wednesday when we found out the students would be told not to return from spring break “for now”. Employees were not sent to work from home yet, but we were given the option. And since I was super preggo I figured it made the most sense to work from home at that point. Plus, to be honest, I was pretty sure we’d all be sent home soon anyway. I also had a cute social distance baby shower that day with a few coworkers. It was weird, but fun, and I was grateful to have it. It was the last time I would see these people IRL for months, way longer than any of us thought. And, my first work shower got cancelled since my baby showed up MAD EARLY.
The first week of working from home was great. Liam was still in daycare so we got to wear comfy clothes and be really productive. My husband was also working from home in our extra bedroom/office. And my mom who also lives there and works from home regularly was here as well. But that quickly changed when we got a text from our home daycare provider that her daughter, whose kids also attend, was third party exposed to COVID. And while we knew it was unlikely with that many degrees of separation, we decided to pull him. Then all childcare centers in MA were closed by the state soon after.
I went through a couple weeks of waves of panic. My husband took over grocery shopping and errands that I would typically do since there wasn’t enough info on how the virus impacted pregnant women or babies. Work became incredibly more difficult with a high energy toddler home with us. We were exhausted. But grateful for jobs, home, food, and the option to work remotely. We eventually found what could be described as a groove of handing off the toddler between meetings, power productivity lunches during naptime, way too long with Liam’s new teacher Blippi, and Moana on repeat. Squeezed in there were solo, masked trips to the OB for monitoring, virtual Early Intervention appointments for Liam’s speech development and packing my hospital bag.
I had a few people say at least being home you can relax and hopefully not have another early delivery. I was like HA! Relax! Have you ever had your toddler, husband, and mother home with you 24 hours a day-7 days a week while you try to invent a virtual new student orientation in record time for an incoming class of college students before giving birth and worrying about the country’s safety under garbage leadership? Definitely the least chill I have ever been. But skipping the commute was cool.
We joked around about how even 3 grown adults in our house weren’t enough to manage everything with just one toddler and work. No idea how people with more kids and no grandparents were doing it. Still don’t. But everything was looking good with the pregnancy, I was closely monitoring the hospital’s policies, and exploring birthing centers or even home births because I was afraid I would have to labor alone based on other state’s policies. We had a lot of restrictions but luckily, not that.
My due date was May 14th, once we reached the 34 week mark I had the bags in my car, something you can’t avoid after one preemie experience. The weekend of May 2nd I started feeling a little funky. Having my water break with Liam, but then being induced, I didn’t really know how labor worked normally. But all I knew was I saw blood. It’s amazing how the PTSD from recurrent pregnancy loss never leaves you. Even after you’ve had one healthy child and a second normal pregnancy that was now full term. As soon as I saw blood I went immediately to DOOM. Turns out it was just the mucus plug, what a lovely name.
That Monday morning I woke up with contractions, they were bad enough and regular enough that I couldn’t sleep. I started using an app to track them, and they were about 6 minutes apart. I called the doctor around 5am and when they called me back, to my surprise, they told me to go in. I was like WHAT. I was truly expecting them to say hang out a few more hours, monitor, etc. But as soon as that call came in, everything went away. I took a bath, which I hate, but was trying to convince myself to like them. Turns out, still hated them. But I called the office back and said all the pain disappeared and they said ok maybe false labor stay home and call us if anything changes. The rest of the day Monday and Tuesday I had no pain or symptoms at all. I thought maybe I had another week or so to wait. I had an appt scheduled for Wednesday morning with the OB.
Early Wednesday morning though the contractions came back with a vengeance. Again noticed they were pretty regular at 6 minutes apart. I went in for my visit expecting that maybe they’d send us in. But I was only 1 cm dilated, so they recommended I go home, “rest”, walk around, etc. So, I did. I had a couple of meetings for work, did some emailing, but the pain was intense. At 2 I called back to give them an update. Nothing had let up, but nothing had progressed either. They recommended I go back to the doctor Thursday morning. When I hung up I said ” I don’t think I will make it to Thursday morning”. Right before the office closed, I decided to call so I had a chance of talking to my doctor or nurse. I felt better with them than with the random people who didn’t know me who would answer after 5pm. They put my actual doctor (NP) on the phone and I told her if I was in the hospital already I would have already asked for an epidural and then she said “well I think you should go in then! By the time you get there you will probably be 5 minutes apart or less.”
So, we got Liam’s stuff in order, made sure my mom had what she needed and headed to the hospital. By way of Five Guys curbside pick up…because once you’ve been induced without warning that you can no longer eat and then don’t have the baby for almost two days…you want to avoid being that hungry again. We picked up the food, drove the hospital, and then ate delicious burgers and fries in the parking lot. In between contractions, lol. I sort of wish there were others who could have witnessed it because it was truly ridiculous. But I don’t regret it.
We had to wear masks and carry all of our stuff in with us because we didn’t think they would let Kenny back out to the car if we needed something. When we got to the door they had us throw out our masks and put on new ones, then I sat in at admitting actively in labor and filling out paperwork. Our doctor had called in advance so when we got up to the OB floor they were waiting for us.
We got to the hospital room at about 7pm. It was a remarkably calm experience getting set up, changed and checked. I was about 5cm dilated so I was happy to hear I had made good progress. With Liam I was 1 cm for daaaaaaaaaaaaaays. And I was afraid we would get there and they would send us home. But, they didn’t, shit was going DOWN. They asked if I wanted an epidural and I was like YUUUUUUUUUUP. But they wanted to see if my water would break first. So, since I was managing the pain at that point we waited a bit.
They took all my stats and then recommended I rock on a yoga ball. I hadn’t broken my water yet and the baby was still relatively “high” so I hung out on the ball for a while. Eventually they said they were going to call the anesethesiologist because they knew it would take him a little bit to get up there. I knew I would be bedridden after that so I turned to Kenny and said “I need to brush my teeth and take my contacts out”. He of course thought I was a weirdo. But I had a mask on this entire time, and I felt like I was inhaling my own dragon breath and it was making me nauseous. He helped me with my IV to the bathroom, I took my contacts out and then turned to get my toothbrush and boom. Water broke. EVERYWHERE. This part I should have expected but it was still so different than last time. So, we called the nurse and got me back into bed.
*Eventually I made him bring me my toothbrush and let me do it from the bed. #priorities.
My dear magical medicine man arrived soon after and I was ready to take a nap and wait for things to happen. But, there was no nap. I had this intense pressure that was entirely different than what I felt with Liam. So, I wasn’t sure if it was getting close or not. When the nurses came back in to check me, the first one was in training and she said “I don’t feel any cervix”, the other one checked and then said the same thing. They paged the doctor but she was on the other side of the floor so they asked me if I wanted to start pushing or wait for her. I decided I could wait a little longer and make sure the babe was nice a low.
But soon I felt the urge to push, the nurses came back in, said the doctor was on the floor and that they’d call her when it was almost time but I could start pushing. It was such an odd experience because it was just the two nurses and Kenny. With Liam, since he was premature, I had what felt like an army of doctors in there, it was so chaotic, this felt so chill. I started pushing and they kept giving me props for being so good at it, not sure what that really means but I went with it. They called the doctor in shortly because it was going quick.
And just like that, Logan was here! 11:04pm on May 6th he arrived. Just 4 hours after we arrived at the hospital, and just 14 minutes of pushing. THANK GOD. I still can’t get over how relaxed it felt, depsite me doing all of my labor in a mask, compared to my first. They put him on my chest and we just snuggled for an hour. Then they took his stats and he started to root. So, we got him latched for the first time super easily. It was wild.
Once I was able to go to the bathroom on my own, they wheeled us all over the the postpartum floor. Logan continued to nurse pretty well. Not having to manually express and pump every 1-3 hours like I did for Liam was so nice. We still didn’t sleep much but it was nice. The only thing that sucked was that we underestimated our snack supplies. We didn’t realize we wouldn’t be able to leave the room, even to go to the vending machine. Our last night our nurse brought me an emergency late night turkey sandwich. Praise. But that was one pandemic birth outcome I wasn’t expecting, NO SNACKS!
We opted to leave the hospital a day early since we were all feeling good and there were no concerns. So, we headed home Friday afternoon. I was anxious about how Liam would react to us walking in with this tiny creature. He had been pretty clingy during the later months of the pregnancy, which was out of character, so I was curious. I had been pretty sad we wouldn’t be able to have grandma bring big brother to the hospital to do the whole dramatic meet and greet thing. But I think it was probably better at home anyway.
Shortly after Logan started crying, and then Liam started crying even more because it startled him. So, everything was going swimmingly lol.
I’m going to do a separate post about the ups and downs of the feeding journey, but overall the first couple of weeks went well.
I feel a little bit like I trained for the isolation of pandemic post-partum experience by having a preemie. I am not sure if it was just having more realistic expectations, but my emotions were a lot more manageable this time around. I knew from my first that I was not exempt or immune from the challenges of motherhood just because I had survived a tumultuous infertility journey. So, I went into it understanding that instead of thinking that I had reached the mountaintop and would no longer have any issues in life, I knew it was just the beginning. That was a big difference from 1 to 2.
Physically I felt pretty good. I have had some joint pain and felt a little like a hobbling old lady at times, but not terrible. My core is definitely weaker than the first. Making sure I was giving my big little guy attention and solo time has been hard, especially when breastfeeding on demand and when my husband started working again after a couple of weeks. He was still home, but also not available. A weird combo.
We’ve been in our little cocoon and have sometimes been able to forget the time we are living in for short moments. On the other hand, I have been sucked into a pit of despair after watching the news, a press conference, or scrolling on my phone. And then I get snapped back in by a request (demand) for Cars 3 or legos. The balance of the daily monotony of putting away toys, washing all the dishes (I didn’t even know we had that many dishes), listening to Wheels on the Bus, feeding, burping, bottles, repeat with the magnitude of the health crisis going on in the background is so strange. I often feel overwhelmed with both ends of the minutia and the grandeur. Time feels incredibly slow and incredibly fast. I went to the store for the first time since March 11th on July 17th. The last time I was wearing a winter coat and winter gloves, this time I was wearing shorts, a mask and equipped with wipes.
It has definitely not been the postpartum or maternity leave experience I was expecting or hoping for, but there have been some great moments nonetheless. I do think expectations plays a huge role. As someone in the #ttc, #ivf, #infertility, #miscarriage community, there is an image of what life will be like once we finally have the baby(ies) we’ve wished so desperately for. And those of us who’ve gotten there, fear being honest and open about the trials and tribulations of motherhood because we don’t want to turn away our ttc sisters or look like we’re complaining. But, when we do that, we perpetuate the idea that everything after a healthy birth is perfect, and then when it is inevitably NOT perfect, new after-infertility moms feel like a failure. That is something that doesn’t change even amidst a pandemic.
To illustrate this lack of perfection let me hit you eith this Instagram vs. reality of epic proportions.
Me and the boys feat. makeup, hair, amazing lighting, bribery and a professional photographer:
Me and the boys feat. Liam demanding both his feet be rubbed at the same time, no sleep, spit up, absolutely no personal space and my post-partum belly hanging out, taken out of love but NO CONCEPT OF FLATTERY by Dada:
I hope that this blog and @notquiteknockedup on Instagram can continue to be a place where the TTC and infertility communities can go and feel seen and heard. And a place where moms can see my honest portrayal of motherhood. infertility never leaves you, but motherhood after infertility is a whole additional identity. It is a weird place to not relate to some moms who don’t understand what it took you to get there and also know your success story is heartbreaking for so many still in the infertility struggle.
Wishing you love, health, baby dust, and Five Guys.