I didn’t know real exhaustion until after Caroline’s birth. I went into labor overnight, so my husband and I got no sleep the night before Caroline was born. Because of this, we started our marathon at a disadvantage, as many parents do. In the hospital, nurses often came in to check on me as well as Caroline, and it felt like a time warp. If the nurses didn’t write down the time of Caroline’s next feeding, there was no way I could remember. Time is an enigma in the hospital. My husband was so exhausted that I watched Caroline for the majority of the next night so that he could get some sleep. I was still running on the adrenaline of Caroline’s birth and the wonder at how well she was doing. The next day, grandparents helped me to get a little sleep, but there was so much planning to be done! We were taking our little girl home! We didn’t even have a car seat. We couldn’t stand the thought of having a car seat installed in our car and driving it home empty, so we figured if we needed one, we would go out and get one. Kindly, the hospital was able to give us one. We continued making plans for hospice care, all the while taking care of our beautiful Caroline.
When we got home, time was less of a warp. We started to get into a routine, but Caroline liked to be awake and fussy around 2-4 am. My husband and I worked together to learn how to calm her. I learned that he has infinite patience when he’s exhausted, and I do not. At one point when I had gone several days on little sleep, I was looking for a pen to label my breastmilk. I couldn’t find one, and I crumpled into a pile and broke down into tears. At that point I knew I really needed some sleep – a simple problem felt like the world crashing down. My husband, on the other hand, never got frustrated the way I did. He always asked if I needed help, even when I was snapping at him. I really don’t think I could have done it without him.
One night, I was so exhausted and Caroline would not stop crying. This was a serious problem, because when she cried, she wasn’t breathing, and when your heart is in bad shape, not breathing is not good. I was walking around with her and bouncing her, because looking around at different rooms and feeling the motion often soothed her. As I walked around with her, I was telling her, “You are driving your mommy crazy, do you know that? Yup, driving mommy crazy. Calm down baby girl!” Eventually she did, and I kissed her goodnight as we both tried to get some sleep.
I felt bad later for telling her that she was driving me crazy. Who says that to their baby? However, I think it was a moment that we needed to have. I would never get to tell her as a teenager, so in my exhaustion it came out. Strangely, it is one of our mother-daughter moments that I most treasure.