Jolivette Mecenas

A Final Farewell, Before I Fall Asleep

Maximilian Dominic Mecenas-Sarmiento, born Aug. 17, "smiles" for the camera. i i

hide captionMaximilian Dominic Mecenas-Sarmiento, born Aug. 17, "smiles" for the camera.

Courtesy of Jolivette Mecenas
Maximilian Dominic Mecenas-Sarmiento, born Aug. 17, "smiles" for the camera.

Maximilian Dominic Mecenas-Sarmiento, born Aug. 17, "smiles" for the camera.

Courtesy of Jolivette Mecenas

It has taken me almost two weeks to write about Maximilian, mostly because I'm so exhausted. When I have a chance to sit down at the computer, I usually end up asleep at the keyboard, with sentences trailing off into nonsense on my screen.

About Jolivette

Jolivette Mecenas, 38, lives with her partner, Charlyne, in Los Angeles. The two welcomed their first child, Maximilian Dominic Mecenas-Sarmiento, on Aug. 17.

It's hard work, this nursing/diapering/rocking-to-sleep business, even though the baby has "Team Max" (me and Charlyne) to attend to his needs 24/7. Thank goodness there are two of us, because learning my new mama role while recovering from a C-section has not been easy.

In the first week, I counted multiple hot spots of suffering on my body. Obviously, there were the "bikini line" stitches that throbbed whenever I coughed, laughed or moved my body in any way; these necessitated a regimen of prescription painkillers. Then there was the rawness on both sides of my abdomen where the surgical tape ripped off my skin.

I also had swollen feet (a side effect of the IV) and a creaky abdomen that felt like it was shrinking at the same time that my displaced organs where trying to rearrange themselves again. I was constipated from the Vicodin and often had a headache from lack of sleep. My breasts were swollen with milk, and that didn't feel too good, either.

The winning hot spot in this litany of postpartum woes were my nipples. Max and I had a slow start in figuring out how to nurse. I would often let him latch onto just the nipple, instead of latching onto the areola around the nipple. The result? Bruised and bleeding nipples, which then turned into scabby nipples. I had no idea that nipple tissue could scab. Oh yes, they can — and it isn't pretty. Luckily, the lactation nurse at our hospital showed me a good trick: Rub breast milk onto the afflicted nipples, and air dry; they heal magically, almost instantly.

Max is nursing properly now, my feet have almost returned to their normal size, and I'm off the Vicodin (not so great to take these while nursing, I've read).

For this last post for the Baby Project, I wanted to write about something significant.

(An hour later, after falling asleep writing that last sentence ...)

Max catches a nap on his birthday. i i

hide captionMax catches a nap on his birthday.

Courtesy of Jolivette Mecenas
Max catches a nap on his birthday.

Max catches a nap on his birthday.

Courtesy of Jolivette Mecenas

OK, I have no idea what I meant by that last sentence because I was half-asleep, so I'll settle for writing quickly about how much I enjoyed participating in the blog.

It has been an honor to report my last weeks of my pregnancy up to Maximilian's birth with the eight other women who participated in the Baby Project. Both Charlyne and I would read the posts by the other mamas, and often over breakfast or whenever during the day while we were getting our daily NPR fix, one of us would ask the other, "Did you read the post by the woman who ..." We'd also talk about comments responding to my posts. Readers offered advice, shared their own experiences, and sent encouragement and good wishes our way. I am thankful for all of these thoughtful comments.

The biggest surprise from participating in the Baby Project is the impact it has had on my relationship with my family. I come from an extensive (mostly) Filipino family that not only includes uncles, aunts and cousins, but also second cousins, old family friends, godparents — including several people who have known me since I was a baby myself. And although most of my family lives in Southern California, I have kept myself at a distance from most of them, never really talking about my personal life. I think no matter how loved one feels by their family, the fear of rejection can be gripping, even paralyzing.

In any case, writing about my pregnancy for a national audience has made me face that fear. Maybe I assumed that no one in my family would read the NPR blog. Boy, was I wrong. Several family members read it, asked me questions about details in the posts, brought up comments posted by other readers, downloaded photos from my posts, recommended my posts on Facebook. Overall, they love the blog, and they love me and Charlyne and Max.

What a wonderful, giant leap forward for me, and one that I needed to do not only for myself, but especially for Max.

Mom Charlyne holds Max at just 2 days old. Jolivette says Charlyne is an expert swaddler — a very important duty in calming unhappy babies. i i

hide captionMom Charlyne holds Max at just 2 days old. Jolivette says Charlyne is an expert swaddler — a very important duty in calming unhappy babies.

Courtesy of Jolivette Mecenas
Mom Charlyne holds Max at just 2 days old. Jolivette says Charlyne is an expert swaddler — a very important duty in calming unhappy babies.

Mom Charlyne holds Max at just 2 days old. Jolivette says Charlyne is an expert swaddler — a very important duty in calming unhappy babies.

Courtesy of Jolivette Mecenas

Lastly, I need to thank Charlyne for allowing me (she was understandably hesitant at first) to write about our life for such a public forum. She read every single post I wrote before I sent it, not so much to approve them, but to confirm with me that, yes, these events really did happen to us.

I did not post a detailed description of Max's birth, but I will say that Charlyne kept me from panicking during my C-section — she was amazing as the birthing partner. Dressed in surgical wear from head to toe, she stood beside me, a calming presence. I looked at her as the low murmurs coming from the other side of the curtain signaled that we had begun. She reassured me over and over again that I was doing great, and I gripped her hand, locking my eyes onto her as my anchor in these strange waters. More than anything, I needed her to be there with me, and she was, smiling and holding my hand until we heard the baby's cries and she went off to cut Max's umbilical cord, a huge smile on her face.

Pregnancy and the birth of our son has been an amazing journey for us both. Thank you, NPR readers, for being a part of it.

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