Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A fine balance

For the last few weeks, I've felt very sad and was unable to figure out why. I finally realized the reason I felt an all encompassing sadness was because I feel like a failure since I have to depend on someone else to  care for my baby. I'm not used to failing and I'm not used to depending on others. My whole life I have been independent and have overcome many of the challenges that come with having Cerebral Palsy: I walk on my own, dress myself, run a home and more. I'm used to doing things on my own. Now all of a sudden after more than 20 years, I'm almost COMPLETELY dependent on someone to help care for my baby and I'm having a very hard time dealing with that change. My situation changed because of a number of factors. 1) I haven't worked out since I got pregnant, so I'm not as strong as I was, which greatly affects my strength and balance. Therefore, I will not attempt to lift or carry my 2 month old baby at least until she has better head control. 2) My inability to use both hands well affect dressing and bathing the baby in a timely manner. 3) Fear of causing my baby discomfort because my grip is too rough or if I'm too slow, stopped me from attempting any aspect of baby care except feeding and even that I need help with. The baby needs to be put in my arms, burped by someone else and then positioned to feed on my right side since I have trouble getting her into a good position on that side.

Every time I watch the nanny dress, bathe, change or burp my baby, my heart would sink, but I didn't say anything. I knew I had a lot of trouble doing these tasks and I didn't want my baby to be uncomfortable. When the baby cries and the nanny picks the baby up to cuddle and comfort her, I feel like grabbing the baby away from her. Sometimes I literally have to hold myself back. She's my baby. I want to pick her up and cuddle her so she stops crying. I want to rock her to sleep in my arms while standing which is the way the baby likes best, but because of my unsteadiness I can't pick her up or rock her while standing. It drives me up the wall to see my baby so comfortable in someone else's arms when the only way my baby will fall asleep on me is during nursing. If the baby is in a good position and good height during nursing, I can give her kisses and hold her against my breast, but I can't cuddle her or hug her the way I crave, by just picking her up when I want. One day I told my husband I wanted to hug my baby. He put her in my arms facing me so I could hug her. It was delicious!

Having to depend on someone else is actually a very humbling feeling i.e. I'd be kinda screwed without help. I'm reminded of that whenever I'm alone in the house with baby when the nanny has her time off. I will only be alone with the baby if she's sleeping and only if I'm alone with her for a short time.

When I am alone with the baby, the hardest part for me is being unable to console my baby when she wakes up and starts crying. My baby clearly wants to be picked up and I can't help her. As she looks at me and cries harder, the tears come into her eyes and I almost start crying myself. I can't even describe how horrible and helpless I feel during these moments. I have to substitute picking her up by rocking the bassinet or swing, or by sticking the stupid pacifier in her mouth which she usually spits out. One day when I was alone with the baby who was crying, my husband finally walked in the door and said "daddy's here everything's ok now." Yea and mommy feels like a sack of potatoes!

Sometimes having help feels like I'm being overruled. One day during a nursing break, I got up to get something. When I came back, the nanny was rocking the baby to sleep. I mentioned I wasn't done nursing. The nanny said the baby didn't seem to want anymore. I turned to walk out of the room but then decided that I wanted to rock my baby to sleep. I could rock her sitting down just as the nanny was doing. "I want to hold her," I said. The nanny said the baby was half asleep and she was fine. Not wanting to interrupt, I left the room. Truth is, I'm a little intimidated by the nanny. She's old enough to be my mother and she's a mom and grandmother too, so when she suggests something regarding the baby, I'm very inclined to listen. That said, should I have demanded to hold my baby?

Yes I need the help and we get along well, but I really don't like having a live in nanny. We suddenly became a family of 4 instead of the family of 3 I dreamed of. The nanny lives with us, so she's around ALL the time. She's like my shadow and I hate it. I see the nanny as my failure, so when introducing her to anyone, I feel like saying and this is my failure, her name is...

I crave the weekends, when the nanny has days off. Finally, from Friday afternoon-Monday morning it's just us 3 the way I really want it to be. However, as much as I love our family time, I realize that having full time help is necessary if I want a peaceful home. Sunday is a workday in Israel. Even though my husband works from home currently, he can't stop every so often to help me with the baby because before he knows it, the day is over, so as much as I hate having another person live with us, I have no choice.

I needed to find a solution to my dilemma and a way to make me feel better. As it happened, the baby center made me an appointment with an occupational therapist. I almost didn't go because I was constantly feeding the baby, but I fit in the appointment and I'm glad I did. The therapist mentioned the importance of touch between mother and child, saying I should try and do whatever I could with the baby and have the nanny be there just in case. She also said I should talk and sing to the baby often. I told her that when the nanny bathes the baby, I'm with her and I sing to the baby as the nanny bathes her, so the job is being done by someone else's hands but the baby hears my voice. The therapist suggested I wash the baby while the nanny hold her. I left the appointment feeling very empowered. I'm the baby's mother. I CAN take care of her.

After speaking with the nanny, we made some adjustments to our baby care routine. When the baby's diaper needs changing, I do what I can while the nanny stands beside me. She takes over when there are things I can't do like completely take off her onezie, or slide the diaper underneath her properly.During nursing, If I'm comfortable and the baby settles comfortably after being placed on me, I can burp her.

During bath time, the nanny and I work as a team. I take and pass her the towel, I put soap into the nanny's hand and I sing to my baby. Lately, my baby looks at me as I sing to her. I've even gotten a smile or two=) Occasionally, I will touch my baby during bathing. The reason I don't wash her while the nanny holds her is because the job is already being done by someone who's competent and fast and bath time can't take forever, so why screw up something that works? After her bath, I massage moisturizer into her yummy baby skin as I talk to her. Sometimes the baby's lips will tremble because she's cold so I try and work faster, but hearing the nanny state the obvious, i.e. she's cold, makes me feel like crap, so I finish as quick as I can so we can dress her.

The nanny is in her late 50s. I used to wake the nanny up late at night to help me nurse, but I don't anymore. On a recent visit, my mother forced me to nurse the baby while laying down. she insisted its the best way to nurse. Sometimes I struggle to get in a comfortable position, but once there, the baby nurses comfortably for quite awhile and afterward I have moments like this:

Not having to wake the nanny in the wee hours of the morning makes for a better relationship between us. She does light housework during the day as well as helping me with baby care and some nursing, so I don't want to overwhelm her. Nursing in bed also gives me some independence and is more convenient when I'm dead tired. And I only have to shake my husband awake when she needs to be burped, when I need to switch sides, or when he has to take the baby back to her bed;) Gone are the days of yelling like an idiot for help from the nursery when I'm done with a late night feeding! I know I will face different challenges as the baby grows, but for now, I feel the nanny and myself have reached a fine balance.