This will be a long one. I was able to journal almost every day during the first six weeks of postpartum and thought it would be interesting to put together a little excerpt of each entry. Those first weeks are rough. Often the memories are just a blur so it's interesting to look back and see what I was thinking and feeling.

2 days before:

I cried in the doctor's office on Thursday afternoon when she said to come back on Monday or Tuesday. I was so, so tired of being pregnant. It seems like I have to be pregnant longer than anyone else I know. She offered to try to schedule an induction but I just mopped my eyes and declined. I know it's just a few more days. Not very long. It just feels like forever.

Day 7:

Eric Bryan Howard joined us on Monday, September 25, at 1:59 p.m. It ended up taking three or four doses of misoprostol on Monday morning at the hospital to coax him out so I suppose I was not going into labor on Sunday night after all. It's so hard to know. He was 10 pounds even and 21 1/2 inches long.

Day 8:

I was pretty sore and swollen when I came home from the hospital but we went to the store and got epsom salts and I took an epsom salt bath every day. I've never done that after a birth. On the other hand, I've never been able to, because Christopher never had a week off to help with the baby before. It was wonderful to have him home all week. I could fill the tub in the morning and then sink up to my chin and relax, knowing he was taking care of Eric while I bathed and got dressed.

Day 9:

First snow today. The first snow always makes me feel bleak and unhappy inside. The leaves are still on the chokecherry trees in the yard. Our yard isn't ready, clearly. I'm not ready, but the snow is likely here to stay till April, at least. Just one week after Eric was born on a beautiful autumn afternoon! If only we could have had three or four more weeks of autumn.

Day 10:

Mom brought us over a lot of fruit, which was wonderful because the boys are eating fruit almost as fast as Christopher and I can buy it. There were strawberries, raspberries, pears, mandarins and bananas. It was a perfect gift.

Later in the evening two ladies from church came by and basically (between them and Suzy and Weston) stuffed our refrigerator and pantry with meals and snacks and also brought gifts for Eric. It was heartwarming and humbling. I remembered writing in my journal months ago that I just wanted to feel like someone cared about me and my new baby. Well... God must have answered with an outpouring of love and care.

Day 11:

Eric has been sleeping for a couple of hours this morning so I was able to take a shower and get dressed. It was very heartening. Something about going around in pajamas, even if they are nice ribbed pink floral pajamas, makes me feel sloppy.

Day 14:

I'm haunted by a sentence in the email from our contact teacher at IDEA. She asked what everyone was looking forward to in October. She said she loves baseball so she was looking forward to baseball. I could not think of one thing I was looking forward to in October. In fact, I dreaded the snowy days ahead and the darkness falling earlier and earlier each day, shut up in this messy apartment with the children. What is there to look forward to? October is just something to be gotten through.

Day 15:

Eric had his two week check today and it went well. I took him to TVC after Christopher came home from work. Dr. Banks was very busy so they asked if I could see PA Weight instead and I said that was fine.

PA Weight was a nice, unpretentious middle-aged woman with the same forehead creases I see I'll have in ten more years. She did not grill me on Eric's sleeping habits, much to my relief. She just asked if he was nursing well and how often and if he had plenty of wet and dirty diapers.

The first month with a new baby always seems twice as long as a normal month because you're awake for so much of the night. When I hear Christopher run Julian's bath after dinner and I see the twilight dimming outside, I get such an awful feeling, knowing I'll soon be alone in the bedroom trying to take care of the baby all night while everyone else is asleep. I sit up nursing for hours, and I desperately wish I could curl up under my covers and close my eyes. Not even my stack of books I collected over the summer can comfort me. Why does having a new baby have to be so lonely?

Day 16:

I am so miserable it feels like I will never be happy again.

Day 17:

Carmen from church brought us a nice dinner. She also brought me a potted plant, an offspring of one of her plants. I was so touched. I love it. She said she misses the days when her floor was covered in toys. "It's a short season," she told me, her eyes shining with sympathy and a little bit of wistfulness. I was very comforted by her brief visit.

Day 18:

Eric had a weight check today with Dr. Banks, late in the afternoon. I blushed, thinking back to my early days of fumbling my way through learning to parent baby Silas. Dr. Banks was there to see that. I hoped he didn't remember those baby check-ups from 6 years ago. I hoped I didn't say or do anything embarrassing at this appointment. While we waited in the exam room that still managed to be cheerless in spite of being painted in bright yellow and green, I gazed down at Eric in my lap. He looked resigned to his fate of being stripped to his diaper and wrapped in a blue hedgehog blanket, ready to see the pediatrician. I supposed I could be resigned to my fate of awkwardly trying to answer the dozens of questions on feeding and sleeping habits and how many wet and dirty diapers.

Day 20:

Yesterday I noticed that for the first time my nipples didn't hurt like crazy when baby latches on to nurse. So we have made it through that sore/chapped/cracked nipple phase at the beginning of breastfeeding. An milestone of understated importance! At least they didn't bleed this time.

Day 21:

I can't believe it's been only three weeks since we went to the hospital that night hoping to have Eric. Seems like much longer. I took him to church today. He was duly admired by a few kind souls.

Day 22:

I feel trapped. Trapped in our cramped apartment, trapped in my ugly postpartum body.

Day 24:

I decided I needed to get out of the house today. I decided that after lunch I would take all four of the kids and go to Walmart to buy diapers. We needed diapers. Plus it just sounded comforting to walk around Walmart and look at all the stuff, like the fall decorations. I've always enjoyed doing that.

It wasn't very comforting, though. It was the stuff of nightmares. Julian screamed and fussed the whole time we were out. When he wasn't crying, Eric was. Nursing Eric in the Walmart parking lot, I passed a sobbing Julian back my phone with Little Bear playing on YouTube. He stopped crying and frowned down at the screen. There were still wet tear tracks on his face and his nose was streaming. I stared morosely out at the gray, wet asphalt of the parking lot and the gray, wet sky and thought, I can get out of the apartment but I can't get away from my life. I am a mother to four children ages 6 and under. Which is a pretty hard job.

"Tould I have a 'nack, Mom?" Julian asked.

"I don't have a snack," I told him, feeling ashamed. He was having a hard time. It's 3 in the afternoon and I didn't even pack any snacks. That wasn't his fault. I feel like I am doing a bad job.

Day 25:

Eric had another weight check today and he was 10 lb 6 oz. He finally surpassed his birth weight! I felt proud of him. His legs are still very skinny, but I remember Dr. Merriman telling us it takes a few months to get the chunky thighs.

Day 26:

Went to the doctor for my postpartum visit. She was going to be out for the next three weeks, so I just decided to have my postpartum today and not bother coming back at 6 weeks.

I dropped the kids off at Suzy's house and took Eric with me to my appointment. The nurse called me back. While waiting for the doctor in the exam room, I noticed Eric was a little smelly. I put him up on the exam table and changed his diaper. He peed all over his sleeper and onesie. I quickly diapered him while trying to mop up the mess. With a feeling of doom, I looked inside the diaper bag. I had forgotten to put any clean clothes in there. Oh no, I thought. While I was standing there wondering what to do, I heard a big squirt as Eric filled his diaper again! It was one of those parenting moments where you don't know whether to laugh or cry. I changed his diaper again and then tried to mop up all the spots where the pee had landed on the exam table. Dr. Heilman came in just as I was finishing up.

I wrapped him in his muslin swaddle and put him back in his seat. There was nothing else I could do. Poor little guy. He was naked until we got home, and it was 27 degrees out.

Day 27:

It was a nice day. The sun was out, for awhile, occasionally drifting out from behind the heavy gray clouds. 27 degrees again. Slushy streets. Snow mixed with fallen leaves on the sidewalk, an odd but beautiful sight in its own way. Christopher was home. We went to Value Village -- we haven't gone since just before Eric came.

It's almost 11 p.m. now and Eric is not settling down to sleep. He's been cluster feeding for a couple of hours. Whenever I try to lay him in his bed he cranes his little head up to try to spot me above the edge of his bassinet. I am getting tired!

Day 28:

I hope Eric sleeps well tonight. This week I am going to try to start making the boys breakfast again, instead of having Costco muffins. To tell the truth, we are all getting a bit tired of Costco muffins. We have some freckled bananas and I want to make banana oat muffins.

Day 29:

I feel dreadful, like I will never be happy again. I hate how messy everything is. I thought I would feel better at 11 o'clock, when I finally managed to get out of my pajamas and get dressed, but I didn't.

When lunchtime came, Eric was napping and I realized it would be pretty easy for me to put chicken nuggets in the oven for the kids. I took out my phone to message Christopher that he could stay at work over lunch break if he wanted to. But I couldn't bring myself to send the message. I felt so terribly lonely and desperate for someone to visit with, I wanted him to come home, even if it was for a short 30 minutes. Anyway, we agreed he'd come home on lunch break until I reach the 6 weeks postpartum mark. Maybe things will be better then.

Day 30:

Feeling a little better today. The thing that probably lifted my spirits the most yesterday was that Christopher had to do an errand across town and he said he would bring home pizza from Costco for dinner. I think I am slowly getting back to normal but I was so relieved not to have to think of dinner or make more of a mess in the kitchen. Then also the kids and I went on a walk in the fresh snow. Not very far, because Julian was on foot and he got tired easily. Still, it was something.

Day 31:

Today is Eric's one month-iversary. Still has some baby acne. I dressed him in his little gray and blue sweater suit in honor of the occasion. He looks so sweet.

Day 32

I tried to think of something to have for dinner, but found I couldn't handle anything beyond just folding clothes and gathering up the overdue library books. I got too overwhelmed.

Christopher and I had planned to go to the library in the evening. With the boys' help, I found all the library materials. It was easier than I thought it would be, considering how messy our apartment is.

We struggled to get out the door. It was a struggle to even get TO the door, crunching our way over laundry and toys and who-knows-what. But we finally managed it. Christopher carried Eric's car seat, the diaper bag, and the library book bag. Silas carried the water bottle and the bag of DVDs. Micah carried his shark backpack, which he had packed with snacks for himself and all his brothers. I carried a snack for myself, a thermos with the rest of my coffee, the baby carrier, and held the hand of a grumpy Julian. What a production to go places with little kids!

So we got to go to the North Pole library, then we went out to dinner at Wendy's with Rebekah, then we got to drive back to town while the sun was setting in glory (as they said in Miss Rumphius). Golden light spread across the horizon and reflected pink on heavy purple clouds. It was a wonderful evening in spite of the the difficulties of the day.

Day 34:

I prayed about the lady at church who I thought hated me. This is what happened. I got to ladies Bible study last night and found a seat. She came over and said, (sweetly and kindly) "Hello! How are you? Congratulations! I wanted to bring you guys a meal when you had your baby, but I was gone on a trip." She didn't hate me. I had completely misinterpreted her facial expressions.

"Well... thank you," I stammered, flabbergasted. "We... uh... actually, were already pretty spoiled with all the meals." I felt like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders, because I knew, deep down, that Christians are supposed to love and forgive each other, not hate each other.

Day 35:

A husband and wife got baptized today. It was very touching.

After the potluck the boys and I went upstairs and looked in the baptismal. Silas saw a dead bug floating in the water and I think that didn't make him feel too enthused over the idea of getting baptized. Julian said worriedly, "Dey got deir jammies wet."

"Yes, when you get baptized you get all wet," I said. "Are you going to get baptized someday?"

"YES!" he said happily, "In here!" patting Eric's car seat. I laughed.

Julian has been making us laugh with his toddler talk. Tonight he came out to ask Christopher to tuck him in for the third time. "Are you going to stay in bed this time?" Christopher asked. Julian nodded.


"Yes!" Julian said. Then he added, "Forever." We told him that wouldn't be necessary. Just till morning would suffice.

Day 36:

Felt awful today. As bad as I have ever felt since he was born. Maybe worse. It was almost like the dysphoria before milk letdown, but unrelenting. I muddled through the chores of the morning. The sky was an awful bright white-gray outside and I could not shake the dreadful feeling of unhappiness.

Day 37:

Eric is starting to interact with me a little bit more. He looks at me and smiles (sometimes). He gives me a thoughtful stare and wants to say something. He stretches his arms and legs and wiggles and then with what is obviously a great effort finally says, "Ga."

Day 38:

I can't sleep! I am mad at myself because the baby is sound asleep and so I need to be asleep. No doubt as soon as I lie down and start to drift off into that drowsy, half-asleep state where you are warm and cozy and comfortable, he'll wake up needing to be fed.

Day 40:

Eric and I slept for a 4 1/2 hour stretch last night. 11:45-4:15. It felt glorious. So far every night he is cluster feeding between about 7 and midnight. Christopher always brings me 2 fig bars to eat in bed in case I need a snack. Turns out if you nurse a baby for pretty much 5 hours straight you get very hungry. I always eat both my fig bars. They are 200 calories apiece. If I don't have them I sit there dreaming of peanut M&Ms. One day last week I saw the floor beside my bed was littered in half a dozen fig bar wrappers. It was so embarrassing I quickly scrunched them all up in my hand and threw them away. Nursing makes you really hungry, though!

Day 41:

I got the kitchen and living room cleaned up today.

I'm ashamed to say I couldn't even carve out a clean spot to do school yesterday. For two days we have been crunching over Julian's crayons that spilled out of his art caddy onto the living room floor. From my nursing spot on the couch I begged him to pick them up so they wouldn't be ruined. I don't think he was being disobedient; I think just mixed with all the other toys and junk on the floor, the job was too much for a tiny tot of 2 1/2 years old.

Stayed up nursing Eric till midnight last night.

So that was a glimpse into the first six weeks. Things are a bit easier now.

With baby Silas I was completely shocked by how much time nursing took up. So much time I didn't have time anymore for cooking, cleaning, showering... or even sleeping. Much less hobbies. With Eric I was prepared for the reality of newborn life but that didn't make it much easier. I tried to be okay with not doing much of anything. This won't last forever.

I think that is the important thing, to remember that it won't last forever. Though it sure can feel that way in the first month.

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