But I'm sure that I am barely scratching the surface.
- Trust, or the lack thereof. One of my very first surprises in the hospital the first day of Giovanna's life was that I didn't trust her to survive. During that first night she coughed up some of the leftovers from being a womb-dweller, and I was extremely afraid that if this continued, she would not make it very long and that if I ever turned my back, it was over. I felt completely powerless, and it affected my bonding with her: when we left the hospital at 24 hours, I told Marcos through my sobs that I was afraid of loving Giovanna, and afraid of even liking her, because I wasn't sure if I could keep her alive and I didn't know if I would survive the heartbreak if something happened to her. Now, five weeks of admiring her fighting spirit later, I feel more like, "Watch out world! Here she comes!". Yet although I trust her much more now and I'm more in love with her each day, I am struck by the truth of the saying that goes something like "Having a child is allowing your heart walk outside your body". I have allowed myself to love her because I've found it impossible not to, but I am also distinctly aware that doing so has put me in a more vulnerable place than I have ever been before.
- Quick Learning. The first few days of Giovanna's life, she was in constant sensory overload, and every transition was accented by her screaming freak-out sessions. I have been surprised by how quickly she learned our routines: diaper changing, going down for naps and switching sides during feedings are no longer catastrophic for her, and what a relief! I suppose that we have learned quickly as well. One of the things I noticed about the first few days of her life was that no matter how difficult some things were, the range of infant activity is limited to about three items, and since each occur about ten times each day, we were pressed to learn pretty quickly. Although those first few days may have felt like eternity, the learning curve was very steep and through simple repetition we were able to pick up the basics in minimal time.
- How Little Sleep we can Function on. Blessed be Maybelline for creating the make-up that I use to cover up the dark circles under my eyes! Although Gigi is a good sleeper, she is an even better eater, and so our together time in the middle of the night often draws out as she feeds and feeds and feeds. Yet despite our total sleep deprivation, Marcos and I have been surprised by the activity we are able to enjoy during the day time hours. We have made a point to continue to be as social as possible, and as long as we are moving we feel great! Of course, as soon as I am unoccupied for three seconds I fall asleep on the spot, but that's why Marcos does most of the driving...
- The Physical Toll. We had no idea that having a baby would take such a toll on our bodies! One night a few weeks ago Marcos got up quickly to calm the crying baby and threw out his back as he jumped out of bed. It is still giving him trouble. From hours of breastfeeding, rocking the baby, and hunching over to change diapers and give baths, I also have chronic pain and tightness in my back, shoulders and neck. We decided after treating ourselves to a recent massage therapy session that when we can afford luxuries in life, massage will be tops on the list. We deserve it, darn it.
- How WELL Breastfeeding has gone. I wrote an exasperated entry recently during the middle of a crazy few days of Giovanna having late-night munchies, but in general, I have been surprised by how well breastfeeding has gone. I have observed that women who have had difficulties with the process (for any number of reasons) are generally more vocal about their experiences with breastfeeding than women for whom it came easily, and so prior to Giovanna's birth I had prepared myself for the possibility of it not working out for us. But 101 applications of lanolin and one mastitis scare later, I think I love it! If you have not yet had children but plan to, just know that for most women it is totally doable and it can be a very positive experience.
- How much Support we needed. In other words, after living just a few weeks with our little girl, I am surprised how millions of people in this world raise wonderful children with much less support than we have. Around Giovanna's birth, my mom and Marcos' parents were in town, and they were an essential part of keeping great food on our table, our dishes washed, and providing us with love, support, and many happy grandparent arms to cuddle our baby when we needed a break. Three days after Giovanna was born, the shifts switched, and my best friend Lindsay came into town for a week. She has four little ones, and is a pro on the logistics of baby care! With her guidance we were able to get the basics down so that we were confident when we were finally back on our own. And without the meals that our church community has been providing since Lindsay left...? We would be in top ramen and frozen pizza mode, and I would have chucked the dishes in the trash ages ago to avoid having to wash them. Hugs and kisses to everyone who has helped us along the way.
One thing that has not be surprising? Gigi's obvious love of chocolate. Here she guards the Brazilian chocolate while she sleeps...