I started a post titled "The First Week" almost one week after Jeff returned to Egypt on 2 August. I haven't had time to finish it. Or, more accurately, on the few occasions when I've had uninterrupted time to finish it, I was so tired I couldn't think well enough. That post is a bit out of date now, to say the least. But the main point of it still stands: Jeff had to go back to Egypt so that he could work, and we had to stay here in order to get all of the required paperwork--medical clearances and Alexa's passport and visa. For almost two months now, it's been me, Alexa, and a good bit of help from my mom. As much help as my mom has been, though, it isn't the same. I have a newfound respect for single parents. I've been gradually adjusting to the things I've needed to do, but at first, I was completely overwhelmed.
The day that Jeff left, I readied myself and Alexa for bed. Then I just sat on the bed and held her while I cried. I missed Jeff already, and it wasn't just because I wanted to be with my husband. I also was looking forward to the night ahead of me--a night of waking up every two hours, trying to nurse Alexa, bottle feeding her when she refused the breast, trying to get her back to sleep, then pumping so that there would be some milk available to mix with the requisite formula (I couldn't pump enough) for her next feeding, then cleaning the pump kit, and finally going back to sleep. Based on how long it had been taking Jeff and me to do each task when they were shared (Jeff feeding her while I pumped, for example), I estimated that I would be up for 75 to 90 minutes each time Alexa woke up. So I could expect to sleep in 30 to 45 minute increments. I was already exhausted and overwhelmed, and I hadn't even started yet.
That night went even worse than I expected. I forget all the details now, but I remember clearly that at 3am, I had gotten less than an hour of sleep. I was rocking Alexa, trying to get her to go back to sleep, when I realized that she needed a diaper change. As I got up from the glider, it rebounded back and hit the wall--hard. My mom's room is right below mine, and the crack of wood on wall woke her up. While I was changing Alexa's diaper, she came in. There I was: standing over the changing table, crying so hard from exhaustion and stress that I couldn't even see what I was doing, trying to change the diaper of a baby who had absorbed my tension and was screaming as loudly as I wanted to be. Mom deftly shooed me out of the way, changed the diaper, and sent me to bed while she stayed up the rest of the night with the baby.
Things have gotten better since that first night. First I realized that Alexa was content to fall asleep in my arms while I pumped, if I just got her calm enough not to squirm too much first (Jeff had rigged a way for me to pump hands-free, which has been a lifesaver!). Then when she got big enough to rub up against the pump supplies and be uncomfortable, she was okay lying in my lap. When that became too precarious, I realized that if I got up when she first started squirming, rather than waiting for all-out hunger, she would take the bottle and then fall back asleep without requiring a lot of soothing after. And at some point, I decided that it just wasn't worth it to keep spending the time--and allowing her frustration and hunger levels to climb--while I tried to nurse her. We just started skipping straight to the bottle. Now, instead of 75 to 90 minutes per waking, it's more like 45 to 75. And she's sleeping longer, usually eating on a 3-1/2 hour schedule at night. I average 2-1/2 hours of sleep at a time now during the week. On weekends, Alexa goes downstairs to spend the night with her Grandma Linda, and her mama gets up at most every 4 hours to pump.
Things have gotten easier during the day, too. I still rarely shower before Mom comes home for lunch at 1, unless I get up early to shower at 7 while she's still here to take care of Alexa. Yesterday was only the second day that I've showered while home alone with Alexa without being summoned from the bathroom by her cries--and I did it twice yesterday: my usual morning shower and then another one last night because I'd gotten sweaty at my niece's soccer practice. Very proud of myself for that, even though I didn't get to dry my hair last night because Alexa got hungry.
I still don't accomplish much in a typical day. I spend most of my time feeding Lexa, pumping, changing diapers, and just holding her--she hates being put down. The bouncy chair is my best daytime friend; it's where Lexa was until just a few minutes ago and therefore why I was able to start this post. And for the last few weeks, Lexa has spent all day on Wednesday with her Aunt Jeanne and her cousin Harry. That's allowed me to do some shopping, cleaning, and packing that I would not have been able to do otherwise. I'm trying to get ready for our return to Egypt, which isn't too far away now.
Lexa and I are making it on our own. Or as "on our own" as we are, with the help we receive from Lexa's nearby grandparents, aunts, and uncles. But there's a wonderful day coming soon, when Grandma will drive baby Alexa and her mama to the airport to pick up Daddy. A few busy days later, she'll drive us all back to the airport, and the three of us, rather than the two of us, will be on our own. Lexa and I will have fewer relatives around to provide childcare, cuddles, and general help, but we'll be with the one person we need most.
We miss you, Jeff, and we can't wait to be reunited with you.