This is my home-game entry for Week 31 of therealljidol. I invite you to read the many fine submissions and the other home-game entries. This week we could choose between three topics: "Unexplored Country," "Things I Didn't Mean" or "Moving Target." I chose "Unexplored Country" and am pleased to once more find it suits what I would have written anyway.
First, let me define terms. When I say "zen," I mean the popular understanding of the term: maintaining inner calm, accepting rather than fighting change, and paying attention to the spiritual connection between all living things.
Today, Kung Fu Panda celebrates the one-week anniversary of his birth day. For both me, a first-time mom, and Kung Fu Panda, a newborn, it's been a journey into the unknown. If you ask me, though, he's had it a lot harder than I have.
I just now managed to get the last of the adhesive tape off my arm for the various needles and devices I was wearing a week ago, and my bruises have faded to an interesting shade of yellow-brown. My feet and ankles are still swollen, but since I've started actually obeying the doctor's instructions to avoid stairs -- by staying upstairs near the nursery, bathroom, and bedroom, and having The Gryphon bring me food and other items from downstairs -- my aches and pains are healing far better.
Kung Fu Panda has battled his own war with his fledgling digestive system and has struggled to learn how this whole eating, digesting, pooping and peeing thing works. Not to mention sleeping someplace other than inside the comforting water sac of his mommy and dealing with this great, big, confusing world. I can see why he's upset.
Over the last few days, my husband, The Gryphon, and I have learned a lot about newborn care, some of which just reinforces what we learned in the baby care and breastfeeding classes that we took. Other lessons are personal discoveries, a sort of enlightenment.
1) Take care of yourself. We heard this countless times, both from the classes and from friends. I'm not saying we deliberately ignored this advice the first couple days, but we didn't make it enough of a priority. And as we discovered, if you're sleep-deprived, hungry and frustrated, you'll find it more difficult to handle stress. Let's face it: that first week with a newborn is like baby boot camp. Sneak in naps when the baby sleeps. Don't forget to eat, bathe, and meet your own needs.
2) Find your zen. Or, if you prefer, your inner quiet spot, your calm. I'm not talking so much about visualization, although if that works for you, fine. Mainly, I mean that you need to do whatever it takes to find that calm center. Babies can sense the emotions of those around them. When we got anxious, Kung Fu Panda was harder to soothe. When we remained calm, speaking to him in soothing voices, making all of our actions gentle, deliberate and reassuring, he was easier to calm.
3) Provide structure but be flexible. It's important to find a rhythm and a routine, but not a strict schedule. Every baby is different. Some don't mind being awakened every two or three hours to feed, as is recommended by some sources. In the hospital, on his first day, when Kung Fu Panda slept in my room (by my request), I quickly recognized the hunger face (which I'd first seen when they handed him to me to breast-feed before moving into the recovery room). I fed him when he was hungry. That worked out to be about a two- to three-hour schedule. Don't ask me why I tried to regularize that more when I returned home. It had been one of the suggestions for getting your baby to sleep longer at night. Which brings me to...
4) Seek advice from experts & friends and choose what works. The corollary: ignore what doesn't, including this advice. Newborn care is far from an exact science. While some basics, such as supporting the neck, watching for signs of medical distress, and the like, are undisputed, in many other areas, it's easy to get overwhelmed by a cacophony of conflicting advice.
For example, when The Gryphon and I tried to discover ways to reduce the gas our baby suffered and to soothe him when he had gas attacks, we learned there are nearly as many theories on causes and remedies as the myriad burps and toots that brought our Kung Fu Panda such distress. We picked a few to try and plan to stick with what works.
So far, a combination of methods seems to be working. I am sticking to a bland diet for a few days, as recommended by the pediatrician, who said to then start adding foods that might produce gas, one at a time, and note the effects. We're also trying a few simple techniques I picked up from a breastfeeding support site. We're also using some techniques friends provided for dealing with fussy babies. So far, the attacks have all but disappeared, and those that he has experienced are much milder and easier to alleviate. I don't honestly care which technique solves this problem for us, only that Kung Fu Panda is free of suffering.
5) Find time for some non-baby-related activities. This might not be possible for the first couple of days, but as long as you're rested and fed, make time for a silly video, or an online game, or just some adult conversation. Otherwise, it's far too easy to get overwhelmed.
As a conclusion, I'd like to share two happy moments. The first was that the pediatrician who had seen Kung Fu Panda on Thursday called us on the phone last night for a follow-up. This time, he was very understanding and reassuring. He was relieved to hear that Kung Fu Panda was doing much better, and he assured me that "things will get better."
I suppose even doctors have off days. I also suppose, like my sister suggested when I spoke to her on the phone this morning, I might have been taking things a little personally, given that I was stressed and sleep-deprived during the office visit.
And now, the latest baby discovery. This morning, Kung Fu Panda discovered the dog. While Una has been a constant companion, she has also obeyed our strictly-enforced buffer zone, so she's been outside of Kung Fu Panda's visual range. Today, though, during some alert time, Kung Fu Panda was looking around, and I saw his eyes grow large at something he saw, with his mouth making the little "O" of surprise or wonder.
Una had put her paws on the mattress and was grinning a big grin, staring intently at her newest protectee. The two locked eyes while I told Kung Fu Panda, "Doggie." Una seemed thrilled to be acknowledged. She stood there, right at the edge of the buffer zone, smiling as big as a dog could smile, while Kung Fu Panda stared in amazement at the large, golden dog who has already accepted him as the newest member of her pack.
Newborn care is a journey into unexplored country.