Friday, August 31, 2012

New Rules

Here's the thing I didn't realize about other people's kids... you don’t see them generally when they are acting up. You see them after they fell asleep in their carseat looking all cute and being all quiet. My baby does this too. Yesterday, we had a little get together with some neighborhood mommies, and my adorable Em was fast asleep in her carseat for the majority of the time. After awhile, I got her out of her seat, and she slept in my arms. Twenty or so minutes later, she started to stir, and I knew she’d be hungry so I fed her for a reasonable amount of time. Then, she continued to be pleasant, though fully awake and alert, as other people held her.

Doesn’t that sound lovely? Isn’t my baby precious?

The answer to those questions are (respectively): Yes and Yes, but really NO. My precious babe tends to be less precious at home, during the day, when she will not sleep, wants to eat fairly constantly, and fusses... um... a lot.

Did I say “fusses?” I meant, “screams bloody murder like she is being robbed at gunpoint.”

It’s been... trying. Some days seem better than others, and I’m trying really hard not to use the “c” word (cough-colic-cough) because I am hopeful this is going to be something that will pass, quickly. From what I’ve read, it’s possible that she’s just hit this stage in development (she’s one month old--seriously, already?--tomorrow) and it will die down at six weeks. Fingers crossed.

So here’s the thing, she is soothable. She’ll quiet down during car rides, storller rides, and if I “wear” her (she’s asleep in the K’tan as I type this), but sometimes, I just really want to put Em down in one of the many, many baby holding items that we have (infant lounger, swing, bouncey chair, crib, etc.) and just have some quiet time or a chance to do something fun and awesome like a load of laundry. This does not happen with my child.

I am lucky enough to have a supportive partner. Seriously, how do single parents do it? I would just lay down and die. And because I have a supportive partner, I have instituted a new rule in my house. It is: Mommy leaves the house ALONE. Just for an hour or two, to go to the gym or the dentist or even the grocery store, but MOMMY LEAVES. BY HERSELF. We’re three days into this rule, and I will say, it has done wonders for my patience and sanity. I've stopped saying things like, "Maybe I should go back to work at six weeks."

My husband was able to take a whole month off work, which has been amazing, but unfortunately, this time is coming to an end. We’ve agreed that he will do his best to get home by 5:30 every day, at which point (say it with me now) MOMMY LEAVES. I’m scared to be left alone all day, but I have faith that we’ll adjust, and I am hopeful that Em’s fussiness will improve with a few more weeks. In the meantime, the new rule presents an excellent opportunity for me to work on my postpartum fitness.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Life Postpartum

There are so many layers to this new normal, and some of those layers have been easier to accept and manage than others. On one hand, Em feels like she’s been part of our family forever. On the other hand, some aspects of being a new mom have been more difficult for me to accept.

I'm pretty sure she's in the running for cutest baby ever.
One of the big variables when you give birth is how long it will take you to heal and feel, well, like yourself again. I will say it again: I lucked out big time with my labor and delivery. I did have some stitches, and I vigilantly took the painkillers provided to me for about a week and a half. At that point, I started taking less and less, until, by about two weeks, I wasn’t taking anything. This isn’t everyone’s experience, but I felt pretty much like my old self at the two, two-and-a-half week, mark. The bathroom routine was no longer a serious production; I no longer needed painkillers; and I felt ready to start getting active beyond daily walks.

By three weeks, I was ready to give a gym workout and running a shot. Now, I’m not insane, and I wanted to be careful to not to convince myself I was ready when I really wasn’t. My first run was less of a run and more of a walk: 30 minutes walking with a handful of 30 second to 1 minute run intervals. I probably ran for five minutes or less. It felt not quite normal, so I kept it short and easy.

I decided to try again yesterday with a little more structure. This time I did 30 minutes, 2 minutes running/3 minutes walking. It felt way better, and my goal now is to get in three 30-minute cardio sessions this week (probably either walk/runs or the elliptical). I don’t want to jump back in too fast.

"I can fit my fist in my mouth."
 Other things I’ve handled decently well: the lack of sleep. Em has consistently given us at least one four-hour stretch at night. This combined with two other two to three hour stretches, and we can easily string together six to eight hours of nighttime sleep. It’s certainly not ideal, but I think it’s pretty decent for a newborn, and I have surprised myself on how I’ve adapted to this schedule.

Things that have gone less well: breastfeeding. As much as I hate to admit it, I sort of bought into the breast versus bottle hysteria. Now I don’t believe in flaming the fires on mommy message boards or breastfeeding/formula feeding articles. People can do whatever they want. And I totally understand that sometimes formula feeding or supplementing with formala is necessary. But, breastfeeding was the only option for us, and I kind of didn’t understand the people who proclaimed that they just weren’t even going to give it a shot.

Let me say this now: I now completely understand why people choose not to breastfeed. It can be difficult. It can be painful. And, it can make you feel like you are nothing more than milk machine for a baby who is feeding nearly every hour for upwards of 30 minutes. In the three and a half weeks of Em’s life, we’ve dealt with the following: bad latch, cracked nipples, Em not gaining enough weight, supplementing with bottles of pumped milk, blocked ducts, clusterfeeding, and, lastly, mastitis. It has felt like it’s been one breastfeeding challenge after another, and this list doesn’t include the feelings and struggle I’ve felt trying to reconcile and accept the loss of freedom that comes with being your baby’s only food source.
Full disclosure: A lot of times, Em looks like this--on the verge of screaming.
The good news is that we have figured out most of these problems. I am on antibiotics for the mastitis. Em’s latch improved and she started gaining plenty of weight. We no longer need to pump and supplement with bottles. Without a doubt, at almost four weeks, it has gotten easier. But, dealing with nursing fatigue, particularly with a baby who always seems to be feeding or crying to be fed, has been a challenge I did not expect. There have been tears--mine and hers.

I guess that feeling really goes beyond breastfeeding. I know it sounds selfish, but I think as much as I was “prepared” for a baby to change my life in huge ways (and not all amazing/fun ways), accepting the new reality of interdependence has been more difficult than I anticipated. If I didn’t have a supportive partner who pushes me out the door everyday to have some time alone or with a friend, I’m not sure how I would manage.

That said, I love our daughter, and it’s amazing to watch her change every single day. It’s just that there are highs and lows, and I’m not a person who can easily fool myself into believing the lows aren’t there. I know as Em gets older, things will shift and something like balance will return. Even days and weeks at this stage can make a difference. I try to remind myself that she'll only this small for a few short months, and I know there will come a time when I look back and miss this.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Our Birth Story

So the inevitable outcome of pregnancy happened: Despite feeling that I would be pregnant for the rest of my life, I had a baby. And I was lucky enough to have a labor and delivery that did not include one moment of drama. It doesn't make for a good story, but I'd rather have boring than the alternative, and I'm going to share it regardless.

Like any very, very pregnant woman, I hit the home stretch of pregnancy and was OVER IT. Luckily, once my 40th week rolled around, I didn't have to wait much longer. I always had a feeling our baby would be born past her due date so I tried my best to gear up for the long haul. In fact, I was kind of shocked that she showed up only three days late.

Early Labor
On Tuesday, July 31, I went to bed around 10pm. Even though I slept well my entire pregnancy, I woke up every two hours with lower back pain. I'd shift around, attempt to get comfortable and after a bit, fall back asleep. It did not occur to me that I was sleeping through what I now realize was early labor. That said, I highly recommend sleeping through as much labor as possible.

When I woke up on August 1 at 5am, I had the period-like cramps that everyone who’s been through labor tells you about, and it finally occurred to me that this might be the real deal. But maybe not. Maybe I just ate something that didn't agree with me. I contemplated whether or not I should go to work--in other words, despite recognizing that I was probably in labor, I was in denial, big time. But just to safe, i decided to start timing these alleged "contractions."

When I started timing the contractions, they were about 8-10 minutes apart and mild. Hower it was clear they were 1) happening in regular intervals; 2) getting closer together; and 3) becoming more intense. I still didn’t believe it, but I decided that i was uncomfortable enough that I wouldn’t chance going into work. I wrote my boss a whackadoo email that went something like:
Hey boss,
I think I might be nearing the end of the road here, but I'm not sure. I might have just eaten something that did not agree with me. I don't think I'm going to be rushing to the hospital any time soon, so I will just work from home today and keep you posted.
I was wrong. I managed to get a few emails sent, maybe I proofread something--who knows at this point--but by 8:30 contractions were strong enough and close enough together that it was concentrating on work became impossible. I rolled around on our exercise ball to manage the "pain," which worked really well for these early, still not so intense contractions. In between, I chatted with friends on the google, and finally, after accepting that my probably real contractions were around 5-6 minutes apart, I reluctantly called my doctor.

My doctor was not in denial. "I don't think you need to rush out the door right now, but you should leave for the hospital within the hour." So I can be told that I told that I need to turn around and go back home? I took my time. I ate a bagel; I drank some coffee (yes, I drank coffee through my entire pregnancy, and it wasn’t decaf); I rolled around on the exercise ball; and I took a shower and finished packing my bag. By the time MM and I headed out the door an hour or so later, my contractions were becoming more intense and less than 4 minutes apart. Um, so maybe this was the real deal.

The Hospital
By the time we got to triage 25 minutes later, my contractions were closer to 3 minutes apart and I was increasingly uncomfortable sitting in the waiting room with half a dozen other pregnant women. It was a busy morning for labor and delivery. My name was finally called, and was checked. At four centimeters dilated, being sent home wasn't happening and the baby was officially on her way. I was admitted around 11am.

Still in triage, while waiting for my labor and delivery room to be available, the nurse asked me if I was planning to get an epidural. Yes, I told her, but I wanted to wait as long as possible before I did. That turned out to be not so long. By the time they were ready to move us into the room where Emme would be born, they asked again. At this point, I was in pain. The contractions had intensified, and I had little break between them. The answer was still yes, but now as soon as possible please.

As far as getting an epidural goes: Early in pregnancy, I entertained the idea of having a natural birth. But the more I thought about it, I decided I needed to be honest with myself about... myself. I am a huge whiner. I hate being uncomfortable, much less in pain. I have no doubt that I could give birth naturally if I had no choice, but I did and I knew that giving birth could easily be an extremely unpleasant experience for me and MM if I didn't have pain medication. I had my reservations about the whole needle in the back thing and the potential side effects--at one point during pregnancy I was completely terrified by this--but by the time they took me to our labor and delivery room and the anesthesiologist arrived, I was hanging onto the nurse, breathing rapidly through intense, long and close together contractions. They could have told me they had to stick the needle in my eye and I would have let them (eh, maybe not).

They make husbands leave the room when you get the epidural, which I was prepared for, and didn't matter one bit once the time came. By the time he came back, I was numb from the waist down and in much better spirits. We settled in for what I assumed would be the long haul. We turned on the Olympics, I continued to chat online with friends, providing updates, made some phone calls and even napped. All in all, it was much like hanging out in a hotel room, except that I was in a hospital gown and had an IV in my arm.

The End is Near
Things progressed quicker than I expected. I was checked again around 1pm, and I had progressed to six centimeters dilated. The doctor checked the position of the baby and realized that her face was turned to the left. I was put into various positions to help the baby turn her head so she was facing down. Everyone left for a period of time, and MM and I just relaxed. Around 4pm I told the nurse that the pressure "down thar" was getting more intense. I was checked again and was told I was 10 cm dilated, the baby turned her head the right way, she had dropped more, and yep, it was time to push.


I had been gearing up for marathon labor. I had expected to be dodging threats of interventions along the way, and here we were--five or so hours after being admitted--ready to push, the word “pitocin” never even uttered. I knew that we could still have a long road ahead--some first time moms push for as long three hours, but there was light at the end of the tunnel... uh, literally.

For all the research I did, one thing I did not expect was how difficult and tiring pushing would be. The nurse gave me a “how to push” tutorial; my doctor showed up; and we got down to business. I pushed in three different positions, including squatting, which I didn’t realize was possible with an epidural. It was exhausting. But finally, after an hour and 10 minutes of pushing, Emme was born.

And that was it. Emme came out screaming and perfect. MM cut the cord. And, she was immediately placed on my chest. I didn’t cry; I laughed. We are so lucky that we have a birth experience that wasn’t scary or traumatic. I don’t know at what point I’ll be ready to do it again (if ever), but I am truly thankful that I had a complication-free pregnancy, labor and delivery and, most importantly, a healthy baby girl. I know none of this should be taken for granted.