A-Force has mangled my body, put an end to my freedom, and brought chaos into my day-to-day life like I have never known before.
A-Force only drinks breast milk. Before I gave birth, I thought, how difficult could breastfeeding be? Pop in a boob, let ‘er rip, and go on our merry way, right?
Wrong. Breastfeeding is grueling. Every two or three hours, day and night, the baby has to eat. You can’t really do anything else while she’s eating, unless you want to let her fall off and have breast milk spray everywhere, leaving a sticky film where it dries.
A-Force is only a few months old, and her digestive system is triggered by feeding. That means sometimes stopping to change diapers between switching boobs, because if her diaper gets too full, there will be... a poop explosion. At the very least, there is one diaper change at the end of every feeding.
Doing all this for half an hour, every two or three hours, and it adds up to about 4.5 hours a day, seven days a week, focused on feeding, burping, and changing. That is a full part-time job.
I am my baby’s personal Starbucks barista... and bidet.
No matter what, A-Force must be fed, burped, and changed. Everything else revolves around that. Sometimes, I have a dozen things to do, and I can only get the three most important things done. Sometimes, she cries a lot, and I can't get anything done until she calms down.
Myself? What is myself? The tenuous force of will that I exert over my body and my surroundings? I once thought of myself as a person moving in an environment. It was easy to buy into this comforting illusion. Just like it was once easy to slip into those 25-inch waist raw denim jeans.
Now, I only see chaos. Day after day, I wrangle order out of the ether with my mind, as a rapidly growing baby dangles from my chest, her eco-friendly diaper perpetually ready to burst.
I am told that there is no end to the tunnel that A-Force and I are in, and that raising her when she is a teenager will somehow be more outrageously demanding. This, I am finding hard to believe, but I didn’t understand a lot of the things that people told me about parenthood until I was already deep in the thick of it. Like breastfeeding.
I drafted the blog post above almost one month ago. Since then, I got a hydrocortisone shot into my wrist to treat the mommy thumb, which has made breastfeeding and taking care of A-Force SO much easier. Also, babies need fewer diaper changes as they get older, so she only needs to be changed about ten times per day now. Finally, it was a godsend when she started sleeping on a real schedule.
The following paragraphs contain my most treasured information from my experience.
When A-Force was around six weeks old, we started doing eat-play-sleep on a two hour cycle. At the end of the first day, she slept through the night for the first time ever. I think I woke up screaming with joy that morning. We worked up to two and a half hour cycles, and then three hour cycles. It was awesome for a long time, but the times that she slept kept changing, which made it hard to plan.
So, when A-Force was around three months old, we began nudging her onto this sleep schedule: wake at 7 a.m., morning nap from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m., afternoon nap from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m., evening nap from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m., sleep at 7 p.m.
The exact times that she wakes up and falls asleep vary, and things get messy when we have to go off schedule, but overall, it worked. It might sound like no big deal, but when you can plan to do things for approximately four hours per day, that is 28 hours per week over which you have regained control. Not to mention the 10 to 12 hours that she sleeps per night!
I don't think it will ever be easy, but having A-Force on this sleep schedule restored a lot of autonomy to me. I love my daughter so much, but I miss having access to the simplest kinds of freedom.