After Ava's birth (read about it here), we were transferred to our hospital room where we would stay for the next 2 days. In an effort to keep it real, I'll tell you the truth about our first two weeks with Ava. This is a long post, but I wanted to record it for my memory, and there are lots of pics throughout!
Days 1 & 2: Hospital
We thought we would get to sleep once we were in our own room, but no - that was not in the cards. I am not lying that hospital staff came in our room every ten minutes, around the clock. This is not an exaggeration. Ava & I got our vital signs every 2 hours around the clock. People came to do blood tests on Ava at 3am (for real). They brought us our birth certificate information at 1am (I am not lying). Food service came in 7+ times a day. At one point, we had the following people in the room all at once: the nurse, my OBGYN, the obgyn nurse, the housekeeper, and the lactation consultant. They were all trying to tell me things and ask me questions at the same time. I broke down in tears in front of all of them. Lovely. Also, did I mention our room was like a closet? You couldn't even walk without tripping over something. Needless to say, we didn't sleep in that room. By night 2, I had not slept for 72 hours.
Unfortunately for us, night 2 was no better. Ava was inconsolable all night and would not eat or sleep. We called the nurse twice in desperation to help us - we just couldn't figure out what was wrong. The nurse would eventually get her to sleep and leave the room, and then Ava would wake up and scream again five minutes later. The next morning, haggard and desperate, we asked to see the lactation consultant. God bless lactation consultants. This one was FANTASTIC. When she arrived, she witnessed one of Ava's meltdowns and realized what we had been dealing with. She spent most of the day with us trying to figure out what was the matter. Long story short, Ava basically wasn't getting any nourishment. She was hungry and overtired and frantic as a result. We tried a few things, and finally settled on a system that allowed Ava to breastfeed but also be supplemented with formula for a week or so until we could get breastfeeding more established. For the first time in days, Ava ate and was full and slept. God bless America.
I had visions of going home from the hospital in a cute outfit with my hair all done and my makeup on. Ava would be cute too. We'd smile and take pictures. Um, not so much. I hadn't showered or slept, and neither had Brent. We just left Ava in what she had on and packed up. We were a sight for sore eyes leaving that hospital! Thankfully my wonderful mom was there to collect us and help us function for the next week.
Days 3 - 7: Home with Mom
Getting home from the hospital was when things finally started to look up. My blessed mother had dinner ready for us. We took a shower and were finally clean. The familiarity of home was awesome. We had tools that we could use to calm Ava that we didn't have in the hospital (swing, bouncy seat, Moby wrap, etc). Still, we were functioning on no sleep, and all of us were still in major recovery mode from delivery. We headed to bed and put Ava down in her pack and play in our room. Long story short, we did not sleep from 9 pm - 4 am. Between eating and crying, Ava was a handful. She did not want to sleep flat in her pack and play. At 4 am, we were at our wits end. I had a major crying breakdown. I went down the hall and knocked on my mom's door, screaming Ava in hand. She jumped out of bed and took her and watched her until 7 so I could get at least a few hours of sleep. This routine went on for 2-3 days, and my mom took her each night around 4 am. Then, my mom finally discovered that she loved sleeping in the bouncy seat. Success! That night, we put her to bed in the bouncy seat, and she slept for three hours straight. I fed her, and she slept for three more hours straight. I fed her again, and she slept for three more hours straight. OMG!!!! I could have danced. I know the bouncy seat is NOT a long term solution, but at the moment, I don't care!!!
That first week is kind of a blur, but every day got better than the last. My mom made sure we ate and picked up the mess that we created daily. I got more sleep each night, and I started feeling like a new person. When my mom left on day 7, I had a meltdown. But I knew we were on track to good things and that we could do it on our own.
Days 8 - 14: Home Alone and More Visitors
After my mom left, we began to figure out how to be a family of 3 on our own. Even though Ava doesn't have a routine yet, we usually have some happy play time in the morning, somewhat regular feedings, and we try to have an outing a day - a walk, trip to the doctor, etc. It felt good to be home with just the three of us (and Blazer). I've tried to use feeding time to pray and do my Bible study. One prayer that has really gotten me through these two weeks is "help me get through this hour/day". I pray that one a lot! We know that with each passing day, things will get better, and we will find more and more of our "new normal". On Saturday, Brent's parents arrived, and they are staying with us until Wednesday. They are spoiling us with plenty of meals and love - such a blessing! They are always willing to quiet a crying Ava, and they have watched her while Brent and I took a walk yesterday and today. So awesome!!
Here are some other things I want to remember about Ava's first weeks:
- Mornings: The old saying that "everything looks better in the morning" is SO, SO true. On some of the hard nights, I just can't wait for morning. I know my spirits will be lifted and nothing will be quite as bad as it seems. Even if we've had little sleep, there is something refreshing about turing on all the lights, opening the blinds wide to let in the sun, and having a BIG cup of hot coffee. Brent has also been really good about letting me shower and get ready each morning, which makes a big difference in my general outlook on life!
- My mom helping us: My mother is a saint. Part of me thought that we wouldn't need any help when we got home with Ava, but I could not have been more wrong. We truly would not have survived (and I mean that literally) without my mom. My mom got here while we were still in the hospital. Before we even got home, she had gotten everything ready for us, cooked meals, bought flowers, gone to the store, put balloons on the front porch, and set the table with placemats and silverware for dinner. She functioned as our brain when our brains were not working (which was most of the week). She was SUCH a blessing!
- Family Time: Every night around 8 pm, we snuggle in bed to feed Ava, cuddle, and watch TV until her last feeding around 10 when we go to bed. These hours are so sweet and precious. Even Blazer joins us, and we get to just spend time together as a family. I know we've been a family all this time, but now it's like, wow, we have a FAMILY.
- Ava's Nighttime Sleep: While the first three nights home were chaos, by about the 4th night, I think Ava was starting to get the difference between night and day. She is usually pretty good about sleeping at night. We have to wake her up for the nighttime feedings, and she usually goes back to sleep after feeding with minimal soothing. I'm still tired because I'm waking every 3 hours to feed her, and each feeing takes about 45 minutes. However, I'm so grateful that she lets me sleep a hour or two between feedings. If I was up the whole night, every night, I don't know how I'd make it. Some nights are better than others, but overall, she's making mama happy at night. She doesn't sleep hardly at all during the day, but I'll take it if she sleeps at night!!
- Late Afternoons: At the end of a long day, things can begin to look a little bleak. My least favorite part of the day is from about 4:00 - 6:00. It's getting dark, I'm exhausted from the day, I'm kind of dreading the night, and Ava is usually screaming at the top of her lungs. Just keepin' it real. These are the times when the tears usually flow. God bless my sweet friend, Mary Elizabeth, who has been known to call me at 5:00 just because it's getting dark and she knows I'm probably sad!
- Newborn Photos: We took Ava for her newborn photo shoot where they take all those adorable pictures of your sleeping baby. The only thing is, the baby needs to be SLEEPING. This is not an issue with most newborns, but Ava was not having it. She cried and refused to sleep for 3.5 hours while the sweet photographer (bless her heart) tried valiantly to calm and soothe her, to no avail. I was so stressed the whole time - I REALLY wanted those pictures! We decided it was just not going to work that day, but the photographer was so kind to let us come back later in the week and try again. This time, we tried the afternoon, and I tried to keep her up in the morning so she would be tired. I also prayed all the way over there that she would sleep. What a blessing that God cares about the little details of life, too! She slept like a CHAMP. Whew. We will have cute pictures after all.
- Swaddling: She loves swaddling, especially with the Summer "swaddle me" blankets - we found they work the best and are most snug on a tiny newborn.
- Bouncy seat: We absolutely can not live without the Fisher Price "little snugabunny" bouncer seat. She loves it. It's pretty much the only place she will sleep. This is where she naps and sleeps at night by our bed. We know we'll have to break her of it eventually, but for now... survival. And if chica likes to sleep in the bouncy seat, bouncy seat it is.
- Morning play time: Little girl is VERY alert for a newborn. In fact, our photographer said she has never, ever in her career seen a newborn stay awake for as long as Ava stayed awake. Awesome. However, this makes for some fun daytime play time. She is most alert and happy in the morning from about 9 - 12. She loves to lay on a blanket on the floor and move her arms and legs like crazy, looking all around.
- Car rides: She screams like crazy when we put her in the car seat, but as soon as the car starts moving, she is out like a light and sleeps until we get where ever we are going.
- Pacifiers: I've tried to get her to take one, but she's not having it yet. Maybe later.
- Swing: She's not a huge fan. She will go in it if she's asleep, but it doesn't really calm her very much.
- Laying flat on her back: We might be in for trouble since she eventually needs to lay on her back in the crib to sleep. She hates being flat though. She prefers to sleep inclined in the infant seat for now.
We love you so much, sweet little girl! We can't wait for all that's to come!