Falling in Love with Levi…

So it’s been a while.  I guess I just haven’t found a lot of time to update since Levi’s birth in May.  I’ve been meaning to write about his birth…but waiting until I felt emotionally prepared to speak about it candidly.  So, enjoy the ride…

Levi Knightlee was born about 3 weeks early on May 31, 2011 at 6:10am.  He was 5 lbs 15 oz and was 18″ long.  My labor was pretty short, but a little bit crazy.  I started to feel contractions at 3:40 am and barely made it to the hospital at about 5:55.  Levi was born 15 quick minutes later!  The doctor never made it.  In fact, my doctor was not around so I had the on-call doctor.

The amazing nurses delivered Levi in the small check-in room.  There was no pain killer, no IV, no delivery room, no doctor.  They were so composed.  I was not.  Levi came out and seemed tiny.  He was also a little bit purple.  So they whisked him away to a delivery room so he could be put under a warming lamp.  I could hear his screams from down the hall.   All I could do was lay there…painfully waiting to see what would happen next…Waiting to see this baby…A baby I wasn’t sure I even knew how to take care of.

The doctor showed up about 30 minutes after Levi was born.  By this point the nurses had wheeled my bed into a delivery room so I could be ready for the afterbirth and a few stitches.  I was still in a lot of pain, but the doctor insisted that much of the pain would be eliminated once the afterbirth had passed.

A small little push later and out it all came.  I laid there…an emotional wreck.  By this point it was after 7:00 and as I stared at the clock, I couldn’t help but think that it wouldn’t be long before Emery would wake up.  Levi was still crying.  I thought if I could just hold him, maybe I would feel something.

The doctor interrupted my thoughts as he held up the placenta.  “It’s beautiful, isn’t it?!” he asked.  Completely irritated, exhausted, and disgusted, I replied, “No.  It’s disgusting.”  He seemed surprised.  “This is what has kept your baby alive these last nine months.  The color is perfect.”  “It’s disgusting,” I said, as I thought, “The placenta isn’t beautiful.  My baby is beautiful.  I want to hold my baby.”

We weren’t finished, yet, though.  The doctor informed me that I had a very minor tear which would require only two or three stitches.  I asked for some pain medication before he started his work.  He said, “You don’t have an IV.  It would take too long to get the IV in.  Then we would need to add the pain relief.  It would take at least 30 minutes.  We could give you something orally, but that would take 30 minutes to kick in as well.  You’re better off just getting it over with.”  “I’m sure you wouldn’t be saying that if YOU were going to be getting stitches,” I thought to myself as I nodded my head.

Either way, the stitches were coming.  I held my breath and just waited.  Apparently my nerves were already completely shot because I didn’t feel a thing.

It was about 8:00 by the time they finally handed Levi over to me and wheeled us to the room where we would spend the next two nights.  The room was large and much nicer than I expected.  And as I sat there, I looked at Levi’s little face and thought, “Where is it?  Where is that feeling I had with Emery?  Where is that overwhelming sense of perfection?  It will come, right?  I know it will come.  It has to come…”

I looked, again, over at the clock and thought, “Emery must be up by now.  I wonder what he’s doing.  I miss him.  I’m a terrible person.”  I couldn’t believe I had done this.  I couldn’t see why I would choose to have another child when Emery was all I really needed.  I also couldn’t believe that I felt this way.  How could I look at Levi’s perfect, beautiful, innocent face and not feel anything but love for him?  When I looked at him, though, all I could feel was guilt.  What was wrong with me?  I said a prayer in my heart, “God, help me.”

In just a few short hours our friends and family began their visits.  I plastered a tired smile on my face as everyone came to see my precious little boy.  How could they all be smiling and laughing, “Congratulations!” when all I wanted to do was cry?  What on earth was wrong with me??

I awaited Emery’s visit like a small child waiting for Christmas morning.  I perked up when I finally got the text that he had arrived at the hospital and I would see him at any minute.  I had planned this moment in my mind for months.  I just knew that Emery would come and we would all fall in love all over again.  He would look at Levi with his beautiful, dark brown eyes and say, “I love you, brother.  I love you, mommy.”  We would all sit, like those families in the movies, in a circle just smiling and laughing as we held our new bundle of joy.

Our story wasn’t anything like that.  Emery came in with a big smile on his face, “Mommy, I missed you!” he shouted.  His face dropped, though, as he noticed my hospital gown, smaller, yet still swollen belly, tired face, and strange bed.  I held out my arms, “Emery!  I missed you!  Give me a hug!”  “No,” he replied.  He shied away from me.  He shied away from Levi.  He seemed scared, as if he wondered, “What happened to my mommy?”

After Emery left I looked at Josh and cried.  “Maybe if I wear my own clothes the next time he comes,” I said.  Josh agreed.  So, I made it a point to shower, get dressed, put make up on, and do my hair so Emery would want to be by me when he came to visit for dinner.  It didn’t work, though.  He still didn’t want to be by me.  To make things worse, I was told he had refused to eat all day.  I couldn’t help but think I had made a huge mistake.  In my selfish desire to have another child I had risked Emery’s well-being!  I felt like a terrible mother…a terrible person!

The days and nights at the hospital were long.  The stories of Emery missing us, looking for us, asking for us.  He even went up to our bed at night and just sat there with his books waiting for mommy and daddy to come read to him.  I missed Emery and I still felt so disconnected to Levi.  I wasn’t sure what was wrong with me, but I was certain that it would get better if I could just go home.  I wanted things to get back to normal.  I wanted to sit and read books with Emery before bed.  I wanted to fall in love with Levi.

Thursday couldn’t come soon enough.  I began to pack up all of our things the moment I woke up.  I smiled at Josh and said, “Yay!  We’re going home today!”  Several nurse visits, phone calls, and text messages later and we were heading out the door!  Hooray!  We walked outside and Josh’s family was waiting with Emery.  Emery ran down the sidewalk, “Mommy!  I missed you!”  He jumped into my arms and I was on cloud nine.  “I knew this would be what I needed,” I thought to myself, “this is perfect.”  We loaded the boys up into the car, took a few pictures and headed home.  I could finally breathe.  Little did I know that my journey had just begun.

Over the next several weeks I was lost.  Levi seemed to cry non-stop.  There was nothing I, or anyone, could do to soothe him.  Emery had issues with jealousy and would burst into tears over nothing.  I would also find myself sobbing every moment I could.  I was quickly losing my patience and thought, “The world would just be better off without me…at least my family would be.”  I couldn’t imagine leaving my family, though.  It wouldn’t be fair to them, right?  So I reasoned my way out of those thoughts at least once every single day and several times each night.

The nights…oooohhh, the long nights.  I learned very quickly why sleep deprivation works so well as a torture tactic.  I would do almost anything for some sleep.  I remember just sitting on the bed crying at all hours of the night.  Some nights I would do what I could to be quiet so Josh didn’t wake up.  Other nights it was all I could do to just not scream and jump out the window.  Poor Josh.  He had no idea what to do to help me.  I know he was scared too, but he had to be strong for his family.  It was all he could do to remain composed for my sake.

“I’m losing my mind,” I thought, “I’m really going insane.  They’re going to institutionalize me.”  Whenever anyone would come to visit, I would slap a smile across my face.  When people would ask how things were going I would say, “OK.  Levi doesn’t sleep very well, so I’m pretty tired.”  How could I complain, though?  How could I complain when there are millions of families in the world that would kill to be in my shoes?   How could I be so insensitive as to feel anything but love, gratitude, and joy when there are so many people that would do anything to have a baby…even if it meant losing all of their sleep?  “Maybe one of those people would want Levi?” I thought to myself.  “You terrible person!” I quickly thought in response.  How could I think these thoughts!?  What on earth was going on with me?  “This isn’t me,” I thought. 

To add to the insanity, we were moving.  (I would not recommend doing this just after having a baby…)  After a few weeks we were in our new place and just a couple weeks after that, my mom came to visit!  I could not wait for her visit.  I could not wait to have an extra hand around the house.  I wanted an outsider to actually get to experience what I was experiencing.  I wanted the affirmation that I wasn’t crazy.  My child really was insanely difficult and I had every right to be exhausted, short-tempered, irritable, emotional…and even suicidal.

Well, it didn’t take long for my mom to say, “You need a nanny.”  Even with the two of us around our hands seemed to be full!  She sat up with me until 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning and let me cry as we tried to comfort Levi.  “Something must be wrong with him,” she suggested.  “Has he pooped at all this week?  He hasn’t since I’ve been here.”  I hadn’t really noticed if he had pooped or not, to be honest.  My mind was elsewhere, I suppose.  “I’m not sure,” I confessed.  I agreed to keep an eye on it and see.

After a couple more days, and still no poop, I decided to call his doctor.  He said to wait another week and we’d go from there.  “Wait another week???” I thought, angrily.  “Does he know what I’m going through?”  I wasn’t sure if this was really the problem he had been having the whole time, but I wasn’t willing to rule anything out.  I needed this problem to be fixed!  I wanted, desperately, to feel anything but irritation when I looked at Levi.  Every time he cried past 8:00 pm my heart would pound, I would begin to shake, and I would have a panic attack.  How much longer could I live like this?

The week went by so quickly and I was soon dropping my mom off at the airport.  I was kissing my only help goodbye.  I was letting the only person who could help me just hop on a plane and fly away.  I begged her to stay longer, but what could she do?  What would I do?  She promised to pray for me and assured me that things would get better.  “They can’t get any worse” I thought to myself.

A few more days without poop went by, so I called the pediatrician.  As I drove to the office I prayed that he wouldn’t just disregard what was going on.  I prayed that he would really look into what was happening with Levi.  He was only eight weeks old, but it had been the worst eight weeks of my life.  I needed him to figure this out.  I needed him to help me regain my sanity.  I needed an answer.

Well, I got my answer.  The doctor was concerned, mostly because Levi was only eight weeks old.  He didn’t want to take any chances.  He sent us to the hospital for an ultrasound and some x-rays.  The x-ray showed a small partial bowel obstruction, so the doctor suggested an infant suppository.  Suppositories are pretty uncomfortable for these little ones, but it would be worth the 45 minutes of crying if there were results.

I carefully administered the suppository and waited.  Now, suppositories are supposed to work within 15 minutes for a typical case, and up to an hour for a severe case.  Hours past and I wasn’t sure what to do.  How long was I supposed to wait?  I called the doctor after five hours.  He wasn’t sure what to do, so he called the pediatric gastroenterologist at Loma Linda University Hospital.  I was directed to take Levi to the emergency room at Loma Linda immediately.  We were not going to take any risks.  He needed to be seen right away.

This was the turning point.  For the first time I looked at Levi and loved him.  Not just a sense-of-responsibility love.  I felt love from my heart.  My heart broke for him as I looked at his sweet, perfect, precious little face.  For the very first time, I was afraid I could lose him.  What if he needed surgery?  What if he wasn’t OK?  I began to cry and kiss him all over.  I was scared for him, but partially relieved that I finally loved my son!  I had been longing to feel this for eight weeks…the longest, worst eight weeks of my life…and finally it had happened.

After several hours in the ER, Levi finally filled several diapers.  They did another x-ray to make sure that any blockage was gone and sent us home.  That was the first night that Levi slept.  For the previous eight weeks Levi slept by me, in bed, and awoke every couple hours screaming.  But this night was different.  He slept all night long.  I couldn’t believe it when I woke up and the clock said 5:30…and my baby was smiling at me.  What a beautiful smile!  I thought about how thankful I was to be able to see that smile first thing in the morning.

After about a week of him sleeping well, we decided to try putting him in his own bed.  Shortly after that we moved him to his own bed in Emery’s room.  Things were greatly improving.  Things were not perfect, and never will be, but they were (and are) way better than they were.  Levi was finally eating happily.  He was still growing and thriving.  He began to have productive tummy times, naps, and nights.  The whole family was given the freedom to enjoy him.  We even were able to have great one-on-one time with Emery.  My patience slowly started to come back too. 🙂

Looking back, I believe I struggled with post-partum depression.  I didn’t fully recognize it because I thought, “I’m just tired…and this is normal…it’s just my hormones.”  I didn’t want to admit it because I didn’t want to be weak.  I didn’t want people to know that I was crazy.  I’ve come to realize, though, that there is nothing weak about post-partum depression.  There is nothing weak about admitting that you need help…that something just isn’t right.  I wish I had been strong enough to admit that.  I wish I had been strong enough to wipe the fake smile off of my face and acknowledge that I couldn’t do it all on my own.

These days Levi is doing great.  He isn’t perfect, but he is all at the same time.  He usually sleeps at least five hours at a time, but will sometimes sleep as much as eight or nine hours at a time.  He is finally able to ride in cars without constant screaming.  He smiles, laughs, and thinks his big brother is the greatest thing since sliced bread…and Emery reciprocates that feeling.  They are two little peas in a pod.  Best of all, I fell in love with Levi.  And that was what I had asked for all along.


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