Discover more from Letters from Hannah
of the baby related variety
For me, the hardest part of having a baby wasn’t the global pandemic that shut down first our city and then the world, that had us packing up our stuff and the still-in-my-belly baby’s stuff, throwing it into my dad’s car and changing all of our plans at 37 weeks pregnant.
It wasn’t the tidal wave pain of labor, the having to wear a mask in the hospital even as I threw up again and again.
It wasn’t the trauma of needing an emergency c-section when I planned for an unmedicated vaginal birth. The getting wheeled through the hospital at breakneck speed, like in the movies.
It wasn’t the grueling 13-hour days spent breastfeeding (I tracked this all on my baby app; I felt better as soon as I deleted this app from my phone) only for the pediatrician to tell us Simone wasn’t gaining enough weight.
These things were hard.
But the hardest part was the not sleeping.
Did you know a newborn needs to eat every three hours? That the clock starts when the baby begins feeding, not when she finishes? It often took Simone about an hour to eat in those early days—we were both learning. That means I had two hours before doing it all again. Since it takes me some time to fall asleep, well…you do the math. Oftentimes, her cry would wake me even before the alarm I had set. Then rinse and repeat.
I had so many questions.
Why did evolution make us like this?
How do new parents and new babies survive this every day?
How is this even possible?
In the first days, I was buoyed by the adrenaline and newness of being a mom. Of the magic of the tiny creature that how somehow come from inside me, her chest rising and falling on my chest. The flutter of her eyelashes against her cheek. The anxiety and excitement of trying to keep her alive.
By about day ten, I cracked.
I am someone who really needs her sleep.
The exhaustion was crushing. My thoughts were mush. Everything hurt.
My emotions were volatile, to put it very, very mildly. Tony walked in one night to the room where I was feeding Simone. I was sobbing. Simone was sobbing.
“This isn’t working,” he said. “You, go to bed,” he told me. He scooped up Simone.
From then on, Tony took the night shift. At around 10 PM, I’d hand him the baby and curl up into bed alone. I can’t remember any feeling more blissful. SLEEP.
Early in the morning, we’d do the baby hand-off and Tony would get a few hours of shut eye.
Of course, this meant a lot of pumping, which is a whole nother story. It meant making the decision to supplement with formula, which is also a whole nother story. But I’m grateful to the part of me that realized my sleep, which is to say my sanity, was hugely important.
It was so hard! And we are so enormously lucky: the pandemic change of plans meant we were staying with my parents, who walked our dog and did our laundry and kept us all fed. They had two extra sets of hands to pass the baby to when we needed a shower or a moment to breathe. We have an amazing support system of friends and family, even if we could only lean on them virtually because of the pandemic. Tony had great parental leave from work. (As a freelancer, I had none.)
And still it was SO HARD.
These days, Simone sleeps through the night. We’re back at home in Brooklyn. She is growing every day.
Still, parenting is exhausting. It’s relentless.
It’s just one of those days. Simone has been alternately very smiley and very grumpy. She has pooped in a big way not once or twice but three times. Work keeps seeming to somehow multiply.
We are pushing through.
I am grateful for coffee.
I am grateful for rest at the end of the day. For Simone asleep in her crib. For a few minutes to read my kindle. For more than a few hours to cuddle my cute husband and sleep and sleep and sleep.
What I’ve been writing: Last week, Grub Street ran a piece I wrote remembering my friend Jimmy Coogan. I love the illustration they commissioned, it really captures Jimmy.
What I’ve been reading: I’m still making my way through Tana French’s novel The Searcher. I’m still loving it. These days I read for about 10 minutes before passing out at night (10 minutes is probably an overestimation), so it takes me a long time to get through a book.