Saturday, August 1, 2009

Life after baby

Our son was born on September 5th 2001 at 10pm and the next six weeks seemed much tougher than either one of us had expected.
I am an obstetrician and therefore used to being up at all times of the night. Prior to the arrival of my son I would dismiss comments such as “you better catch up on your sleep while you can”. After all I had been through a tough obstetric residency and how much worse could this really be.
My wife had to be induced and so we didn’t really sleep much the night before the delivery. We were just too excited. This would eventually add to our feeling of total exhaustion by the time our son was born. I clearly could not have been nearly as tired as my wife (before anybody comments that I wasn’t the one who carried and pushed the baby out!).
Our son was 8lbs 11oz and because of his size needed some supplementation with formula immediately after delivery. This was so that his blood sugar wouldn’t drop. My wife wanted to breast feed and I told her that this shouldn’t cause any problems. I was categorically contradicted in the morning by our nurse who told us that she could not breast feed since our son was used to the bottle now. Our son had “nipple confusion”. My wife burst into tears since we had clearly failed as parents and he wasn’t even a day old.
I was recruited to clear my son’s confusion. I had a syringe full of milk draped over my shoulder which was attached to capillary tubing. This tube rested on my pinky which was meant to imitate a nipple. Perhaps if I wasn’t as tired I would have protested a little more emphatically. As it was we kept trying and eventually were sent home.
The constant attention that the little person needed was shocking. Days and nights blended into each other and for the first couple of days neither one of us wanted to admit how overwhelmed we were. Then we felt guilty if we did acknowledge how hard this was. This would mean we were unfit parents. After all when you have your baby you are supposed to be overjoyed and walking around with a constant smile on your face. You know like the ones on the cover of magazines.
Thankfully at the same time I found a support group. Not an official one but a group of wonderful physicians who used to supervise residents with me one afternoon a week. They all had children of different ages and told me that neither our experience nor our feelings were unique. It was just unbelievable that no one talks more openly about how overwhelming being a new parent can be.
Since then I try not to forget to have a talk with first time parents before they deliver. I still see that look in the faces of many women when they come back to see me after the delivery. That pale and sleepy look. They tell me how tired and overwhelmed they feel but after every sentence remind me that they love their child. As if to make sure that I don’t judge them for complaining. I tell them our story and that they are not alone. I also recommend mom and baby support groups.
Sometimes the feelings of anxiety and sadness last beyond the first few days and weeks and that is the time to call your doctor or midwife to make sure you are not suffering from postpartum depression.
Our son is soon to be eight and we have a daughter who is five. It would be silly to try and find a word that describes how much we love them. We gladly work hard to take care of them and appreciate everyday what they have added to our lives. We also make sure to tell expecting parents that the first few weeks can be tough.


  1. Dr. Takhsh,
    Although I've just had my second child (within 2 yrs of the first), he is so different from my daughter and in some instances it feels like I'm doing this for the first time again. I've always been told that the second one would be easier and labor would be faster...that didn't happen for me. I am in awe of how different each pregnancy and labor experience was for me.

    In the end, I love both of my children dearly and wouldn't change anything.

  2. I wish more physicians would take the time to share their personal experiences.