Guess what? We had a baby!
On March 2 at 3:12PM, just two days shy of his due date, we welcomed a bouncing baby boy into this world, measuring 21 inches long and weighing a robust 9 pounds 9 ounces. His name is Oden John Witherspoon Howe. We wanted a little bit of both of our families to be represented in his name; “Oden” was my paternal grandmother’s maiden name and “John Witherspoon” is not only John’s full name but a historical family name (that goes back to the Declaration of Independence!). He is squishy and perfect and intense and delicious, and he shares his daddy’s furrowed brow when he’s focused on something. The time and effort it took us to get to this point was so worth it. We are simply over the moon. I’ll share his birth story soon!
Life with a newborn is pretty nutty. Being smack-dab in the middle of it, I can attest to the fact that no one can prepare you for the experience- you just have to live it. It’s also clear that each family’s experience is individual and unique. There are many things that we’re struggling with that we expected; we knew that we’d be lacking sleep and that there would be a pile of dirty diapers and that life’s focus would shift forever. There are plenty of things we weren’t expecting, though. We weren’t prepared for how my body would react after the major surgery of a C-section, that my legs and feet would swell up so much that I couldn’t wear shoes and, in fact, could hardly walk at all. We knew we’d lose any sort of schedule in our lives for a while, but weren’t expecting to have to carefully track pee-filled diaper changes, feedings, and my rainbow of medications (painkillers, anti-inflammatories, placental capsules, fenugreek for milk supply). We didn’t realize that Oden’s poopy diapers would be the indicator of his health or nutrition; we are intimately acquainted with the color, frequency, and amount of poo our little boy produces (and occasionally are covered in it).
Our toughest topic is feeding Oden. We knew breastfeeding could be a challenge but didn’t realize how emotional and difficult it would be to experience that struggle. As his mother, I fully expect to be able to feed my son with the body that has fed him throughout pregnancy, but it’s been easier said than done. We’ve worried over Oden experiencing dehydration and introducing a bottle and pacifiers too quickly. We met with a lactation specialist and employ a supplemental nursing system (SNS) to feed our boy. We had no clue what being “tongue tied” really meant before we were watching our pediatrician clip the little strip of skin under Oden’s tongue. (Well, John watched- this Mama couldn’t bear it.) We’ve learned to value the rare good latch, are all about nipple care, and know how and when to use the industrial strength, hospital-grade breast pump we rented (which, incidentally, I’m pretty sure talks to me). My mountain man husband probably never envisioned himself spending 45 minutes in a store called “The Lactation Station” discussing his wife’s breasts in detail with another man as if it was the most normal thing in the world. It’s all-consuming and I find myself wishing we were “only” dealing with the sleep deprivation and exhaustion of feeding a hungry newborn on demand. It sounds so easy after what we’ve been doing these last ten days.
I think the most unexpected part is how natural it feels to be suddenly and completely in love with this little being. I’ve experienced de ja vu before- I love it and try to make it last as long as possible! But since Oden has joined our world, I swear I’ve done all of this before. Each new experience with him is somehow completely confusing but also super familiar. It’s as though I was always going to be his mama. I know that John felt the wave of love wash over him when he met Oden, too. They have their own special relationship and it’s amazing. Oden doesn’t even seem to mind John’s snoring. I must also say that nothing will make you fall more deeply in love with your husband than watching him care for the child you made together with utter devotion.
Life is different than it was on March 1 and every day before that, to be sure. At this point, I’m all about two-in-one shampoo/conditioner combos, air-dried hair, maxi pads, panty lines, stool softeners, compression socks, rotating between three pairs of stretchy pants, and dried milk on various parts of my body or clothes. A shower is a heavenly break. Mascara is a minor miracle. When it comes to Oden, there are a lot of bodily fluids involved. One moment, Oden and I will be enjoying a perfectly fine conversation in which I’m explaining something like the difference between Eskimo kisses and butterfly kisses. He’ll be watching me intently, his brow furrowed in concentration, clearly enthralled by my descriptions when BAM! He barfs all over me. He showers us (or himself) with pee during diaper changes and sometimes likes to wait until we’ve cleaned up the last poopy mess (but haven’t yet put a clean diaper on him) to show off his poo explosion skills. This morning, I swear I pulled a teeny tiny booger out of his nose and had to pause to acknowledge what a MOMMY MOMENT it was.
Speaking of Moms, can I give a shout-out to my own? My parents were here in time for Oden’s birth and my mom stayed to help us at home for a couple of weeks. The Grandma Fairy is a LIFE-SAVER. We came home from the hospital to a tidy house and gorgeous fresh flowers. I find little piles of magically washed and folded laundry. The dishes are already done before it enters my mind. The fridge is stocked and what’s for dinner is never an issue- something delicious is in the works. Groceries are bought and plants are watered without me mentioning it. When I need a nap or a shower, Grandma’s hands are eagerly awaiting some Oden time. She has kept our bellies full with pot roast, beef stroganoff, homemade spaghetti and meat sauce, my standard turkey-cheddar sandwich with apples, and even baked a big batch of “milk makin’” lactation cookies (which are delicious, by the way)! And in between all of this, she’s knitting baby booties and a blanket. I have no idea how a single parent does it, because John and I would be pretty lost without Mom’s extra set of hands and love-filled heart. I’ve had to relinquish my need for control and learn to humbly ask for help when it’s needed and accept help when it’s offered…Mom makes it easier. Thanks, Mom!
And so, ten days in, we are as “in the weeds” as we were on Day 1 but feel so lucky to be Oden’s parents. He’s tiny, helpless, already obviously sometimes stubborn and strong-willed but charming and alert and quick to learn how to get what he wants. Is it my imagination, or did he just give me a smirk and a side-eyed glance after filling his diaper the moment I finished changing him? Was that a joke on Mama or have I been awake for too long? It doesn’t actually matter, because one look into those tiny little eyes and I’m a goner. If you’re lucky enough to catch a fleeting baby smile (or is it gas?), you may as well have won the lottery. It actually still feels like a dream, finally becoming a mother. But I have a smile-shaped scar on my belly and a squirming little replica of my husband that tells me this dream is real. And, despite these tough first weeks, nothing could be more blissful.
ALSO: Coffee, wine, and sushi are NOT overrated.
Welcome to the other side, Oden John W.! You are our light and you are beyond loved.
One year ago: The first camping trip of 2015.