I knew from the beginning that the birthing part of having a baby would be the easy part. Of course, there’s a difference between knowing and knowing.
I stayed in the hospital for two nights after JC was born. I felt pretty good myself, even though I had a minor second degree tear from pushing. My first trips to the bathroom were a little daunting, but soon became less so. Also in the hospital there are lots of people around to take care of you and baby, and “rooming in” being optional, it was not too hard to get enough sleep.
The hard part in hospital for me was not being able to see my dog. J would probably roll his eyes if he heard me say this, but I missed Ziggy. J brought her around to the facility parking lot one day while I was still admitted, and that was nice. She was excited to see me, and I let her sniff a blanket JC had been wrapped in. She didn’t seem very interested in the blanket. Then we walked her around the outside of the hospital building and J took her back home.
When I came home myself, I realized very quickly that I was going to have to come to terms with both my own loss of leisure time and with the reality that my responsibilities were now divided. I had Zig to take care of, but I also had a baby. And the baby required a lot more work than Zig did. The feeling of ‘summer vacation’ that I had come around to only a couple weeks prior to JC’s birth was gone. I was no longer able to simply enjoy this last summer with my dog. Realizing that, I went through a second grieving process as I tried to come to terms with Zig’s cancer diagnosis.
The first couple days were certainly the worst. It was hard adjusting to a baby’s sleep schedule, and the prospect of only 2 hours of napping here, an hour of napping there, being in my future for as far out as I could see was really rough. I literally could not sleep sometimes when JC was napping because I kept thinking about the limited time I would have to sleep between the current moment and the next feeding session. I felt exhausted and I felt frustrated at my body for being so exhausted. I wanted to get things done but to get any one thing done suddenly required a LOT of time. I wanted to be happy about the baby, but all I could feel was a combination of panic about my new responsibility and sadness about my dog.
My mom came out to stay with us for a few more days then, and things got better. They have been continuing to get better. I still don’t sleep well during the day, particularly in the afternoon, but I’ve been managing to squeeze in about six hours of sleep in a twenty-four hour period, which is manageable. I’ve been learning how to take care of a newborn — All the various small yet critical ins and outs of feeding, soothing, and changing diapers. Every day I make time to take Ziggy and the baby out to one of the local trails. Our walks are more complicated now — it’s hard to get out the door, I have a lot more to carry, and I have to plan things so we get out before or after the heat of the day, for both Ziggy’s and JC’s sakes. Our walks are shorter than I would like, perhaps. Definitely slower. But we’re getting out. And it is something to be thankful for, that I can be at home with Zig through this time, even though my attention is often distracted.
As I’ve been struggling with all these things, I’ve been trying to picture how I would be responding to this new lifestyle if Ziggy had not been diagnosed with cancer and if we were simply an expanding family getting used to a new normal. I’ve found some comfort and stability by thinking this way… It would be hard, just like now, and I would be struggling to spread my attention between everybody in my little family, just like now. But I can see, in that scenario, the way taking out that stress of knowing about this awful diagnosis makes everything seem, not like some terrible ongoing chore, but a new challenge — a challenge I can be excited about.
So, I try not to think about the diagnosis. I look at my little guy, this new addition to the family, and I see this needy creature as somebody to get to know. I see how cute he is, and I pay attention to all the little things he does, like opening his eyes so wide to look at the world around him, or how he falls asleep sometimes while I’m burping him. And I love seeing these little things. I see that I can still enjoy those things and enjoy seeing Zig’s tail curl up into a happy flag when we go on walks. I look at the next nap, and it is still hard to fall asleep, but it is becoming easier to shut off the to-do lists in my head long enough to catch a little more rest here and there. It is, generally, getting easier, and I think I just might be able to do this.