This is a draft post from Shannon – posted by her mom, Gretchen
Recently, it seems like whenever people have asked what we’ve been up to, the answer is… not much. And it’s been lovely.
I feel like we are really getting a routine and a rhythm going. I’m settled into my new roles of mom and part-time housewife and my new schedule of working 3 days a week, Peter is adjusted to his new workplace and his role as a dad, and Emmie is now on a pretty regular napping and bedtime schedule. Whatever “normal” is, I feel like we are now there.
I’ve been reading several blogs about new moms trying to adjust to having newborns and it’s made me reflect on our own utterly abnormal “newborn experience.” Even at the time, of course I knew what we were doing wasn’t “normal,” but now that I’m out of survival mode and can reflect more, I realize how insane it really was.
Other people talk about how challenging the first 2-3 weeks can be. When Emmie was 2 weeks old, I had to have my full-body scans done and had to be away from her for 12+ hours because I was too radioactive for her tiny body. Two weeks postpartum, I had lab technicians laying me flat on my back, then expecting me to get back up to sitting with no help (and on a skinny board that wouldn’t allow for rolling over). For those who’ve never experienced just having given birth, imagine that none of your abdominal muscles work. AT ALL. Because they have been stretched apart and no longer connect. Try doing a sit up without your abdominals. Yeah, good luck.
The craziest part to me is that at the time, I felt like this was totally doable. By 2 weeks, I felt like “Thank goodness we got to wait this long for the scans! If we’d had to do this last week, I would have been a mess, but I’m doing awesome now.” Are you FREAKING KIDDING ME? Two weeks out???
Most new moms are barely coming up for air at two weeks post partum, but we didn’t have any choice. When Emmie was three weeks old, I started interferon. CRAZY.
Honestly, the “new mom” part was the thing I was least worried about. Everything from the moment of that fateful phone call where I got the diagnosis of cancer was all about survival. Everything was about getting through this step immediately in front of me, and as soon as that was complete, looking ahead to the next task to be finished. People talk about “survival mode,” but this was the first time I’ve ever truly experienced it. I was living completely in the moment (probably a big reason as to why I was able to have such an amazing, completely drug-free birth).
We were also *incredibly* lucky that Emmie had no problems with nursing, latching or any of the other things many new moms and babies struggle with. I truly don’t know what we would have done if she had been colicky, had trouble nursing, or any of the million other things that can complicate new parenthood.
That said, I also wonder how much our attitude affected her. We simply were not able to do the same kinds of things most new parents do for their new babies. I wasn’t able to spend every waking hour snuggling her or doting on her. Mentally, I was already preparing for the arduous month of interferon ahead, when I knew that I would have to entrust her care to grandmothers.
This was a double edged sword. Looking back, I wasn’t able to bond with her in the deep way that I think many new mothers do. My days and nights were not consumed with her. I was fighting my own battles. I know this was necessary, and one of the prices we had to pay for my survival, and I would do it again in a heartbeat, but I also know that it’s not “normal.” (A side note to acknowledge that mother-infant bonding is not immediate or instant with all mothers and that this is normal too. We just never had the chance to find out if that would have been true for us). Our bonding time came after, in the brief few weeks after returning from Grandma Emmi’s memorial and before I started work again.