A Day in the Life: Maternity Leave, Part 2

Yesterday I posted a description of how I spend my days with my baby. I outlined a very nice day, full of sweet moments of bonding and only the mildest frustrations for realism. It was a Pinterest-worthy, Facebook-ready day.

Every day isn’t like that.

I think it’s important for people to share not only the stuff that makes them look like they have it all together, but also the stuff that proves they’re human–imperfect. Owning our not-so-proud moments can help others realize that they aren’t alone in their struggle. So I also wrote about another day, one that wasn’t my finest hour.

Sometimes when people tell others about the unpleasant minutiae of their lives, especially on social media, it’s a plea for pity. They go on and on about how horrible things are so that people express their sympathies. Maybe that makes them feel better. Sometimes all you want is to be heard. I understand that. But that’s not the purpose of this post. I don’t want people to feel sorry for me. I really have a great life (see yesterday’s post). And I certainly don’t want advice on how to solve these problems I’m having; this is not the proper forum for requests for help. I just want to present the full reality, rather than only the good parts that make my life look idyllic and my family perfect. I have great moments and great days, and bad moments and bad days, and sometimes they mix together so closely I get whiplash. Like the times when my baby makes faces that flash instantly between a grin and a sob, and back again. Mix this post and yesterday’s in a blender, and you have a pretty good idea of what my life is like now.

I’ve found that my mood and state of mind determine so much of my experience. Breastfeeding pain is either a minor annoyance or reason for tears and rage, depending on how I’m feeling when I start. If I’m in a bad mood or overtired, I imagine that I hear babies crying in the white noise we play for Cogan to help him sleep. This is both empowering and disabling. It means that it’s harder to break out of a bad mood, because everything seems bad: a vicious cycle gets started. It also means that once I’m in a good mood I can handle lots of the things that might otherwise spoil my day without getting too upset.

I also want to preface this by saying that Cogan really is a very good baby. He’s healthy and generally happy and doesn’t have colic and doesn’t seem to fuss or cry for no reason. He’s usually sweet and accommodating, allowing me to accomplish tasks. But, like all babies, he has his moments. The day I describe here is full of almost nothing but those moments. I’m not sure that I’ve ever had a day exactly like this one. For the sake of a good story, I’ve pulled together some of the most grating, annoying things that have actually happened and presented them as a single day (I did that for yesterday’s post too, but with a positive spin).

Cogan wakes up for a feeding at 1:00. I’ve finished feeding him and put him down again by 1:35.

He’s up again at 2:20. I carry him to the other room to avoid waking David up, but it’s too early to feed him. I change his diaper, reswaddle him, and rock him until he seems drowsy again. He’s back in the swing to sleep at 2:35.

At 3:45, I hear more crying. I nurse him, and he falls asleep at the breast. I carefully put him back to bed just like that. When I get back in bed, I find David’s messed up the sheets in a way I can’t even begin to understand. I pull them out from under him and arrange the comforter on top of me, not giving him any since he doesn’t seem to want it.

It’s 4:30 and Cogan’s awake again. His diaper is clean and he’s not hungry. I can’t figure out why he’s up, and my annoyance at being woken is starting to turn into anger. Tonight has become just as bad as last night was, and I know from experience that two nights like this in a row do evil things to me. I might be a little rough with him when I wrap his swaddle, but maybe that’s what makes it so tight and secure. I have trouble falling back to sleep this time because I keep dreading the next sound he’ll make. It’s like my mind hates being woken up so much that it just refuses to sleep.

5:25. It’s a little early, but I feed him anyway just to shut him up.

At 6:40, Cogan whimpers again. David isn’t in bed. I take the baby out to the den and find my husband on the computer. If he’s awake in the morning and not actively getting ready for work, it’s fair game to ask him to help with the baby. I thrust the child into his arms and tell him to make him sleep. I lay back down myself, but again, I have trouble falling back to sleep.

When I wake up again, David is gone and Cogan’s crying to be fed. The day has begun, and I am so not ready for it.

I go to the den to feed him, my left breast throbbing with this phantom pain that seems to have no cause. We settle in, but I can’t focus on whatever book I’m reading and end up staring at the blank TV.

When we’re done, I carry the baby to the kitchen, get my cereal and set him down in his play gym while I eat in front of the computer, reading on facebook about my non-parent friends who went to fancy restaurants last night and my grad school friends getting fancy university jobs. Cogan is bright-eyed and bushy-tailed; the night was fine for him even if it was horrible for me. He makes his sweet sounds, kicking his chubby legs, but I’m not in any mood to appreciate his adorableness. And then the fact that he’s smiling and cooing and I’m missing it makes me feel guilty because he’s growing up so fast and I want to enjoy every second. And then that guilt promptly turns into resentment of the imperative to “enjoy every second.”

During Cogan’s first two naps of the day, I try to follow the advice to “sleep when the baby sleeps,” but he only naps for 30 minutes and that’s barely enough time to get myself comfortable in bed.

I’m itching to leave the house, but I’m too tired to go to the gym, and the library doesn’t open until noon. So I go to Kroger because we’re out of milk and bananas. Sometimes it makes me grin when strangers at the grocery comment on how cute Cogan is, but no one is even in Kroger at 9 AM on a Wednesday. I need to eat my feelings, so I pick up a box of Reduced Fat Chips Ahoy and a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Peppermint Crunch. As always, I feel guilty about eating this way, especially since I still have 6 pounds to lose before I’m back to my pre-pregnancy weight, and only half of my wardrobe fits. But since I haven’t lost any weight in a solid month despite going to the gym about 4 times a week and not going to as many social events with tempting buffets, I figure I’ve plateaued and there’s nothing I could do about it anyway. I’m probably doomed to weigh this much until I quit breastfeeding and am no longer ravenously hungry all the time.

When we get back from Kroger, I go to change Cogan’s diaper. It’s a 3-wiper. As soon as I fasten the diaper cover, I hear the squirting, pouring sound that means he’s pooping, again. I take a deep breath and dive back in, as the baby continues to scream.


He calms down only a little when we’re done with the diapers. His cries go from screams to mild fussy complaints. But if I try to sit down with him, he switches back to the scream. I end up pacing the house, from bedroom to hall to dining room to kitchen, down the steps to the den, up the steps to the kitchen, down the hall to the bedroom, and repeat, and repeat, and repeat. As we walk, his little fists keep reaching for my hair, pulling painfully when they get the individual hairs stuck in the wrinkles in his chubby fingers.

My usual running monologue is dead. Today I just don’t care to think of inane things to say for a baby who can’t understand them anyway. Cogan is getting zero language stimulation today; our house is silent except for his cries. I feel guilty about that too.

I’m in the mood to just veg out mindlessly and play Civilization V, a computer game David got me addicted to, where you pretend to be someone like Napoleon or Attila the Hun and take over the world. But Cogan fusses as soon as I sit down with him. I end up making a move or two each time I return to David’s computer as I pace the house, but I never get to immerse myself in the game and get that feeling of escape.

Finally, it’s time for a feeding. When I nurse him this time, Cogan keeps popping on and off, with a lipsmacking sound. It feels like being tweaked or flicked in the nipple and I hate it. But I keep at it because it’s only been 3 minutes and he seems to want more and because my breast is full. The only things worse than this are a hungry, crying baby, and engorged breasts that make it painful to hold him. When he gets to 8 minutes, I stop trying to make him eat. I feel drained enough, but my breast has this achy feeling like a sore muscle that it gets sometimes.

I try to burp him, but he really is a hard baby to burp sometimes. As soon as I give up and stand to go to the other room, he spits up, aiming right down the neckline of my shirt in the middle. Surely every ounce I just fed him is now soaking my entire front. I put him down on the couch, which sets him off crying of course, while I strip and throw my clothes in the hamper. I never imagined motherhood would involve spending so much time walking around my house without a shirt on.

The library is finally open, but now it’s raining, so I can’t walk there. There’s no point in driving to the library; I’ve got more than plenty books and driving doesn’t give me the physical outlet I’m looking for anyway. The rain also means I also can’t take Cogan outside to calm him down. I’m getting more than a little stir-crazy.

Luckily, Cogan is due for a nap. But he doesn’t seem to agree. He’s swaddled, and the white noise is on, and I put a pacifier in when he closes his mouth between screams–I’m doing all the things that normally put him out, but he’s not having any of it. He gets himself so worked up he spits up on me again. Sometimes I feel like a contestant on one of those Nickelodeon game shows from my childhood, constantly getting slime dumped on them. I take off my second soaked shirt of the day and continue to bounce and shh the baby, putting him down and picking him back up, for almost forty minutes before he tires himself out and sleeps.

There’s no way I’m doing any housework today. Just let the laundry and dishes pile up and the hair tumbleweeds accumulate in the corners, who cares. It’s a good thing there are leftovers in the fridge, or we’d be eating takeout tonight. I’ve given up on trying to sleep, so I do something mindless that’s bound to make me feel bad–cruise Pinterest while eating the junk food I bought at Kroger. And of course, since this is the nap that I didn’t even bother laying down, Cogan ends up sleeping for a full hour and 15 minutes.

When the baby finally wakes up, I sit down to nurse him. It’s the left side, the good side, so I don’t have any nipple pain, thankfully. But he keeps kicking and jerking, and his legs are so strong now that he almost knocks himself off the Boppy pillow sometimes. He also insists on moving his hand around, pinching my skin with his sharp little fingers. and draping his arm over his face. I try to restrain him while also massaging the milk out of me, and wish I had three hands.

When he’s done I try to burp him, but nothing comes out, and he gets the hiccups. I see that he’s got that green gunk gluing one of his eyes shut by the lashes. It got that way during his nap and I didn’t even notice. If my child looked like this–hiccupping miserably and winking at me from dirty, gooey eyes, with spit-up down his front and a wet diaper–when I picked him up from a babysitter or daycare, I wouldn’t be happy with his caregiver. Another reason to feel guilty: I don’t even meet my own standards of care for someone I would pay. Feeling like a crappy mom, I change him and wipe off his eyes, wishing I could fix his hiccups as easily. Then I think about how he still hasn’t learned to roll over, and convince myself that he’ll be behind in everything, from walking to reading to algebra, because I’m so inept and exhausted. My rational mind chimes in, telling me I’m being ridiculous, but she can only take the reins when I’ve had a certain minimum of sleep.


David’s late coming home, which annoys me more every minute because I want relief. My arms are getting tired and I am sick of pacing. I just want to sit and journal and read things online. At least my husband’s tardiness gives me time to put the empty box of Chips Ahoy in the outside trash can so he won’t see it.

When David finally arrives, I thrust the baby into his arms and retreat to the bedroom to try to nap. But I can’t fall asleep, and it doesn’t help when David has to bring him into the bedroom to change him and he cries again. I give up and go to the kitchen to start some spaghetti and spoon out our dinner to be microwaved.

Cogan cries for 20 minutes when David tries to put him down for a nap. Finally I can’t take listening to it anymore, and offer to take over. It takes me only five more minutes, which makes my husband feel like crap, but I tell him it’s not personal.

While Cogan is napping, David and I usually watch a show and eat dinner. Tonight it’s Dexter and reheated turkey chili from the crockpot. However, the baby wakes up early and we have to take turns holding him while the other eats. My chili gets cold. We have to stop the show a couple times because Cogan interrupts with crying.

When it’s time for Cogan’s last feeding of the night, something is seriously wrong with his latch, and three tries isn’t enough to fix it. It’s the right side, which is always more painful anyway. I grit my teeth and try to power through it. When I complain aloud about the internal breast pain that two lactation consultants and the LLL online forum have not yet been able to explain to me, David doesn’t respond. I know this is not because he doesn’t care, he just doesn’t know what to say or how to help–this isn’t the first time he’s failed to respond at all to my complaints and we’ve had this discussion before. I snap at him anyway, wishing I could storm out of the room. Instead, he does.

Cogan falls asleep after his torture session–I mean, feeding session–and I put him down in the swing for the night. I apologize to David for yelling and offer him the last third of the Ben and Jerry’s pint as a peace offering. It’s only 8:15, and I wish I could spend an hour or so writing or reading online, but I don’t have the energy anyway. Instead, I just get ready for bed and pray that Cogan sleeps better than he did last night, so that he can have a mom who will play with him and talk to him, rather than just exist and fulfill his most basic needs.


9 thoughts on “A Day in the Life: Maternity Leave, Part 2

  1. “He makes his sweet sounds, kicking his chubby legs, but I’m not in any mood to appreciate his adorableness. And then the fact that he’s smiling and cooing and I’m missing it makes me feel guilty because he’s growing up so fast and I want to enjoy every second. And then that guilt promptly turns into resentment of the imperative to ‘enjoy every second.'”

    Ugh, the hardest part! You’re spectacular for sharing.

  2. I am so guilty of issuing the imperative to “enjoy every moment.” Eighteen years removed from caring for a baby, I can now appreciate how fleeting those moments are. But I distinctly remember the day when I was completely exhausted and sick of being cooped up in the house with sick kids and my mom said “I know it doesn’t seem like it now, but these are the best days of your life.” And I said “Then just shoot me now, please.”

    I enjoyed both your posts, Mary Jo, but I have to admit that this one made me laugh out loud. Thanks – and hang in there. He’ll be 18 before you know it! 😉

  3. Pingback: Transitioning Back To Work | Liberating Working Moms

  4. Awesome! I’m in the midst of it…a just-turned-3 year old boy and a 6 month old baby…and yes: a lot of my days look like this. I work from home so there’s nowhere to run…sometimes I close my eyes and hope they start school tomorrow and of course there are also times I just wish all days could be like this because they’re so sweet and cuddly…. Hopefully I’ll be able to apreciate it…before they’re 18 years old!

    Anyway, thanks for sharing!

  5. Pingback: MeReader: Year Two in Review | MeReader

  6. Pingback: All Joy and No Fun | MeReader

  7. Pingback: A Day in the Life: 16 months | MeReader

  8. Pingback: What We Talk About When We Talk About Our Daily Lives | MeReader

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s