On the Newborn Life. Sleepless Nights, and Flexibility

Sensory Friends! I'm officially a mom.

On January 27, 2017, without much warning or enough preparation, I gave birth to our tiny, sweet, and headstrong baby girl. She wasn't due for another three weeks at least, but on day four of a ceaseless headache, I was diagnosed with preeclampsia, a condition related to elevated blood pressure and swelling that, when gone unchecked, used to kill women only a century before. The cure for this headache, said my doctor, was delivery. Talk about a strange remedy.

Walking from the doctor's office to the hospital, me in tears while calling family and wishing we'd found time to complete our birthing course, the Handler in best form scooting me and our almost-baby around the world, something my mom had begun saying lately started really resonating with me: be as flexible as you can. And as someone with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), I am rarely - if ever - flexible with surprises that come my way. Unexpected happenings come with a deep degree of unpredictable sensory information - strange locations, sensations, experiences. They're especially frightening and taxing. But on January 26, I was in no position to have a choice. It wasn't a case of well thanks, Doc, I'll take your suggestions into consideration. Let me sleep on it! Let me finish packing my hospital bag and schedule time off from work and really deal with the fact that our lives are about to change in unspeakable ways. There's no "let me cope first" time once a medical diagnosis has been cast.

I'll sum up the 23 hours of induction and treatment and labor (and the 72 hours that followed) as a hazy, medicated mess. I was on some crazy and necessary substances to keep me and the baby safe from symptoms like seizures, and they have turned my memory of the day and the days that followed into a weird, haunting haze. Looking back, I feel like someone who experienced some sort of trauma. In the first week, I'd startle awake at night with a foggy, scary half-memory that I'd clarify with the Handler in the morning. Did that really happen? I'd implore, trying to connect fragments of experiences to piece together a story. In the hospital, the doctors and nurses commented on how well I did, how nice I was, how flexible and calm I remained through delivery and long after. This is not a memory I have, it's one that's been reinstated for me by my husband and parents, who did most of the communicating for me once the medicines had kicked in and I was MIA. Although I have to say, I very clearly remember delivering our daughter: how powerful and capable I felt with each push.

But enough about that. I love that human beings have the capacity for forgetting the explicit details of pain, and with each day, whatever minutiae I registered fades further. Our daughter is a gorgeous mix of our features, and when she's not struggling and crying with what we think could be colic (and what I suspect may be some early sensitivities - only time will tell), she squeaks and coos and makes adorable kissy sounds. At two days old, she was already holding her head up on her own, and at just over three weeks, her legs are so strong that she finds a way to stand up in our laps - as small as a table lamp and already seemingly ready to walk away and lead her own, independent life. And though she be but little, she is fierce. 

The challenge for me now is the chronic exhaustion and limited sleep, which would've wreaked havoc on my sensory life long before our baby girl arrived, and now just has me living in a daze with my postpartum body attempting to make sense of proprioceptive input (or lack thereof). I suppose it doesn't help that I dropped my full pregnancy weight gain of 25 lbs in 11 days thanks to my medical condition, although it sure is nice to wear my old clothes. While out on maternity and paternity leaves, the Handler and I have been sleeping in six hour shifts, giving the other a chance to be baby-free and really rest, although six hours seems like it'll never progress to seven or even eight, and 5am on a Sunday is really the loneliest time all week (take it from one who knows).

Funny, I'm now looking forward to change. I can't wait for this little girl to sleep later into the night, to grow so we can keep her ever-hungry belly fuller longer. I know with these anticipated changes, there will be new challenges, new reasons to be as flexible and bold as I can as we face the unknown together.


  1. Congratulations!! I just found your blog through your SPD article on Body is not an Apology and I was excited to read more. What a fun surprise to find this news! Looking forward to back-reading :)

    PS I'm a postpartum doula and baby sleep coach in NYC so let me know if I can help you! You've already helped me :)


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