Some people might say our daughter was born from science – but I say she was born from love. Dani and I’s love for each other. Our hopes to start a family.
The first few weeks after Valentina’s birth were possibly the hardest and simultaneously the best of my life.
No matter how much you read about life after birth, it’s different when it’s you that’s sore and exhausted and lost. And we were so freaking lost. We had no idea what we were doing. There were so many times where I was just done. I didn’t feel like myself anymore. How could I, after giving birth? In all those painful midnight trips to the bathroom, I felt so alone.
My body didn’t bounce back as fast as I’d liked and on top of that, we struggled to get Vali to breastfeed the first month. I’d be waking up every two hours to just try and feed her and when she wouldn’t take, I’d be stuck pumping instead. Things didn’t fall into place like people make you believe. It sure as hell wasn’t easy. In one moment, everything changed. I was suddenly responsible for this little person’s life. And yet no matter how frustrating it could get, when she smiled her big toothless grin everything seemed perfect.
Those moments made everything worth it, 10 times over. Her soft cooing and giggling whenever I played around with her almost made my heart burst with happiness.
But things weren’t the same between Dani and I, either, or at least it felt that way. We didn’t have time to just be us anymore – taking care of Vali took up all our energy and there were days where we hardly said a word to each other.
There were others where we snapped at each other for the stupidest things because we were going on three hours of sleep.
Because this was all so different. Then we’d try and ‘apologize’ by cuddling in bed and all (not going all the way, since my body was not ready for that) but when we woke up, the problem was still there.
Vali’s incessant crying woke me up at all points of the night – and tonight was no exception. My ears were apparently fine tuned to catch any wail that came out of her little mouth since I’m always awake the second she starts screaming. It might be the only maternal instinct I have because I can’t get her to quiet down for the life of me.
“Shhh, Valentina. You don’t want to wake up your other mommy, do you?”
She looked up at me with those soft green eyes of hers for one second before she started wailing again.
“Vali, shush,” I pleaded, rocking her. I never knew what she wanted. Was she hungry? Did she need a diaper change? Was she just crying for no reason? I propped her up in the nursing position since her diaper didn’t smell and mentally prepared myself for the struggle that was to come. I didn’t understand why it was so hard to breastfeed. It’s supposed to be natural, right?
I plopped down, defeated after attempting to get her to latch for thirty minutes. I shoved the pacifier in her mouth – her cries were driving me crazy now – and I started crying myself. Quietly, nothing like what Vali had been doing, but crying all the same. And it was my tears that finally woke up my wife. She took one glance at me and our screaming daughter – she’d spit the pacifier out – and wrapped her arms around me knowingly.
“Why can’t she do it?” I sobbed. All she has to do is put her lips around my breast and suck.
“I don’t know,” Dani murmured, “Adelaide…can’t we bottle feed her, at least for tonight?”
I sat up abruptly, glaring at her. “No! This will work eventually, it has to!”
“She needs to eat!” Dani shot back.
“And she will. I don’t care if it takes another hour, I will breastfeed my daughter!”
“This happens every damn night! You’re just making it harder for yourself and Valentina.”
“Don’t do that!” I screamed.
“Make her a part of this!”
“Adelaide, she needs to eat. I am making her a bottle right now and you’ll see,” she replied in that ‘I am holier than thou’ tone but she walked out before I could reply, leaving me fuming.
She placed the bottle in my hand, gesturing toward our daughter.
“No,” I replied in disgust. “I am not going to bottle feed her, then she’ll never learn to latch!”
“Doesn’t matter if she’s dead,” I heard Dani mutter and that was it.
“I am not killing my daughter!”
“She’s hungry!” Dani picked her up, placed the bottle in her mouth – and just like that, she sucked down the whole bottle as I stood watching. With every drop she sucked down my heart broke more and more. I held back my tears until I got to back into bed. What a horrible mom I must be to not be able to swallow my pride for my daughter’s health. Deciding not to say anything in the moment ended up being the best idea since it gave us both time to think.
We both acknowledged we made mistakes and while I was still hurting from the realization my daughter had been starving – we were able to make the best decision for all of us and go to a lactation consultant. I still really wanted to breastfeed and within a few weeks of going there we were able to get tips that worked for us and Vali was finally sucking on my boobs like there was no tomorrow.
Once she started sleeping through the night and I started getting my energy back, I started thinking seriously about getting back to work. My job had always been a big part of my life and I felt bad that I didn’t want to spend all my time with Vali. She’s precious, but I can only take so much of her screaming before I want to scream.
My mom and grandmother were both really family oriented and I know my mom never went back to work after having me. I’m just not like them in that way. Does it make me a worse mom? I honestly don’t know.
The first time I went back to work, it was pouring down. It accurately reflected my conflicting feelings on going back.
I was excited to start working again, but it would be the first time I’d left Valentina alone for longer than an hour since she was born. Dani would be there with her and I had pumped plenty of milk beforehand but it was still hard. But the moment I walked back into my office, I knew I’d made the right decision. I didn’t know how much I needed time without having to constantly think about what Vali needed.
Before long, she was an excited and curious toddler. Some days it’s hard to keep up with her little feet – but it’s so amazing every time she learns something new. Every time she giggles, my heart melts.
It seemed like just as quickly as we got into something resembling a normal routine, Valentina would learn something new and throw everything off. It was crazy and unpredictable – but amazing. When she took her first steps I swear I squealed so loud the neighbors could hear.
Lexie’s such a great aunt to Valentina. Since both Dani and I work during the day, Lexie ends up having a lot of time with Vali since her work schedule is 7 pm to 2 am. We’ve told her multiple times that she doesn’t need to watch our daughter all the time but she insists that she doesn’t mind…and Vali doesn’t either. She loves playing with her Aunt Lexie.
Valentina is captivated easily by the littlest things. Whenever she sees or learns something new, it’s like Christmas for her.
The first time she saw snow, her eyes got so big. I wonder how big her eyes will get when we tell her she’s going to be a big sister. We’ve always wanted our kids to be close in age so once Vali’s first birthday hit we started talking about the next baby and started soon after. She’s always wanting someone to play dolls with her and I’m sure she’d be a great big sister.
Good thing, too, because it didn’t work as well this round and we had to go through two cycles before getting that positive late May. (Vali’s birthday is April 9th) It was incredibly tough going through fertility treatments while caring for a toddler and being pregnant while caring for a toddler is just as hard. My energy went way down practically the first week after getting pregnant – and Vali always seems to have an unlimited energy supply so she’d been running around like crazy while I just laid on the sofa waiting for her to tire out. We splurged on a new toddler tablet to keep her occupied which worked better than expected. She’s actually learned a lot from the games on there so we’ll take that as a win. Raising her has been frustrating but insanely rewarding and I’m sure this new baby will only bring our little family more joy. I know Valentina thinks so, anyway.
A/N: I wish I could’ve posted this earlier, but I’ve just been really busy with school since it was the last week before midterms 😭 Hopefully I can get out another chapter next week, we’ll see!