Best Present Ever

Today is my birthday, which means I usually: 1) get a massage, 2) go to Starbucks, and 3) write a blog post.  Today is no exception.

So far, today has been fabulous.  My little girl started sleeping through the night about 3 days ago, which has been a godsend because everyone in the family (including her, poor thing) is sick.  Today, my babies let me sleep in til 9am.  NINE. In the MORNING.  Best birthday present ever.

We snuggled and breastfed and ate breakfast and danced and sang.  I tried on my pre-pregnancy jeans (always a gamble) AND THEY (just barely) FIT.  Let’s just take a moment to glow in that last sentence.  Aah.  As if that weren’t enough, I saw a rainbow on the drive here.  Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if I saw a leprechaun today.  Or maybe Bigfoot.

So.  Since last year I blogged about my own birth, and since then I’ve given birth, so let’s talk about that one.

The two times I’ve given birth were extremely different.  For my first, I was induced, labor took 32 hours (including 2.5 hours of pushing), and ended in a vaginal birth aided by an epidural.

The short version of my second L&D is as follows: labor was so fast that it only took 3 hours and ended with me giving birth on my bathroom floor while my baby was delivered by firefighters.  It was the most physically painful and intense experience of my entire life.

Allow me to back up.  Because I was induced last time at 41 weeks, I was determined to do everything in my power to try and go into labor naturally.  I asked my OB to sweep my membranes on Tuesday, December 20 when I was 39 weeks +1.  Initially I had some cramping, but nothing major.  At 2am Thursday morning, I woke up with contractions.  They were mild, but strong enough to wake me up, and I found that they were coming at regular intervals once I started tracking them.

I woke my husband and we called L&D.  The nurse asked me a bunch of questions but she wasn’t convinced I was in labor because the intensity of my contractions just wasn’t there.  She advised to call my childcare person to come over but to wait another 30 minutes and see if the contractions ramped up at all.  Her guess was that this was false labor and they’d go away and she was right.  I felt horrible for getting my friend (who was also pregnant) out of bed for a false alarm, but we all went back to sleep.

That day I took it easy and had a few wimpy contractions here and there, but nothing out of the ordinary.  We went to bed.  I woke up at 3am Friday morning with contractions again.  This time, as I tracked them, their intensity increased but their frequency was all over the place.  Around 5am Brian woke up and I told him what was going on and we talked about what to do between contractions.  At 5:20 we decided to call L&D, so I said I’d get up to pee and then we’d call.

I stood up and quickly discovered that I couldn’t walk as the intensity of my contractions rapidly increased.  I turned around, grabbed the side of the bed and instinctively swayed and moaned to get through the waves of pain.  Brian was still quite groggy and wasn’t grasping onto what was happening so I finally barked at him to get up and help me walk to the toilet.  As we moved I started to panic because my body no longer felt like it belonged to me; some force had just taken over.

As soon as I sat down on the toilet, my water broke.  I turned to my husband and told him (screamed at him) to call L&D.  Immediately, my body was rocked to the core by a contraction that started pushing my baby out of me.  I couldn’t believe what was happening.  My instinct was to try to suppress the urge to push because there was no way my baby was coming so early.  In hindsight, this probably made things all the more painful.

My husband couldn’t hear what the nurse was saying over my screams, but she could most definitely hear me scream that I needed to push, I need to push!  She told him to hang up and call 911.  By this time it was 5:40am…and my baby was born at 5:57am.  It took the firefighters 9 minutes to get to our house, and Audrey was born 8 minutes after that.

The dispatcher told my husband to get me flat on my back and to get some towels.  It was only then that it dawned on me that they were getting me ready to have the baby right there on the bathroom floor.  I don’t think I’ve ever been so terrified in my entire life.

My husband started grabbing our good towels we got as wedding presents and, in true form, I was still able to scream, NO!  NOT THE GOOD TOWELS!  GET THE OLD ONES! because I’m a freak.  And bless him, he got the old towels for me.  The dispatcher continued to ask questions, one of which was, Do you see the head?  He looked once, no.  He looked again, and yes, yes he could.  YOU CAN SEE THE HEAD?!  I screamed in reply.  I was still in shock and denial about what was happening.  Contractions were back to back at this point and  I was screaming pretty much the whole time.  In case you’re wondering, my two-year-old was down the hall and slept through the whole thing.  Like I said, my kids (angels) are sleepers.

We could hear the firetruck arrive and B ran downstairs (still in only his boxers) to let them in.  They had trouble finding me at first but I think they just followed the screams.  I immediately asked them for pain meds – ANYTHING! – and they sadly shook their heads and said they couldn’t.  I was devastated.

Pretty soon her head was born (worst pain of my entire life) and they told me to keep pushing to get the rest of her body out, and I remember thinking that I just couldn’t.  I needed that 15 second rest between contractions.  I pushed again and she was out.  She wasn’t crying right away and I held out my arms for her, but it felt like an eternity while he rubbed her back, suctioned her mouth and got her properly breathing.  Once it was apparent that we were both just fine, the 6 firefighters who were crammed into my bathroom were overjoyed.  They proudly announced the time of birth and her Apgar score.

They had B cut the cord and gave us the shears to keep, joking that they make great cigar cutters.  One firefighter asked for our phones and started snapping pictures.  She was here.  My little girl was in the world.  I couldn’t believe it.

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We were carried downstairs and into the ambulance and taken to the hospital.  A few firefighters even stayed behind at the house to wait for my childcare person to get there.  Later that day, she brought my son to the hospital so he could meet Audrey.  We came back home the next day – Christmas Eve – to start our lives as a family of four.

Best Christmas present ever.

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Juggling Act

I can say that having a newborn the second time around, for me, has been easier than the first time.  That leap from non-parent to parent was so intense and life-changing, and nothing could have ever prepared me for that experience.

This time, though, I’ve realized that the only thing that can prepare you for baby number two (if anything) is…baby number one.  And it’s not the baby that’s doing the preparing, exactly, but it’s the experience of being a parent, of having to care for a newborn.  This time, I knew to expect the extreme sleep deprivation, and what that felt like.  I knew to expect feeling isolated, feeling trapped inside the house, feeling resentment at my baby, at my husband, at everyone who wasn’t me and didn’t have my issues.  I also knew to expect that this newborn phase would pass (and quickly), that there was definitely light at the end of the tunnel.  I had done this before; I could do it again.

Because of this previous experience, I think I was able to fall in love with my baby a whole lot sooner than with my first.  This time, I had already given up my freedom, my childless status, my sanity, so there was no resentment.  I had little else left to lose!  I’m already crazy, baby, so you can’t even come close to rocking my world (in a negative way) the way my first one did.

And this time, this baby made my family complete.  Because she’s my last kid, I figure I had better enjoy the good parts while I can.  I also did this with my first, to be sure, but it’s different when you know something is the last time going in.

Another point is that we already had all the baby crap.  There wasn’t new stuff to research and buy and worry if you’re getting the right thing, or enough things.  We had all the things!  They just needed to be washed, is all.  Easy-peasy.

This time, it’s been a little easier because we, my husband and I, have more balls to just smile and nod while our baby’s doctors tell us to do impossibly time consuming and unrealistic things, and then go home and do what we know will work for us.  Namely, we’ve been told with both babies to wake them up to eat every 2-3 hours.  We are blessed with babies who love their sleep.  Waking them up made them pissed (like me) and they didn’t want to eat.  It wasn’t working.  We killed ourselves trying to comply with the doctor’s orders for baby number one.  For this one, fuck that.  We’re letting her sleep, and guess what – it’s working.  And that’s only one example, but it’s an important lesson to just follow your gut because it’s made all the difference.

This time around, my physical recovery was easier, which may seem counterintutitive.  I was anemic with my first, so I felt weak, tired, and out of breath.  This time, although my labor and delivery was crazy amounts more intense than the first (that’s another post entirely), I’ve felt more energetic and sooooo happy to have my body back.

One of the biggest reasons why this is more manageable: my husband and I have already hashed out how we deal with all the baby-related chores.  This may not sound like a big deal, but trying to figure out who does what and when and how and what feels fair is the biggest deal of them all.  It’s so easy to feel alone, unsupported, and resentful when you don’t feel like your partner is doing their fair share of the work.  We got through all those sleep deprived, tear stained arguments two years ago, so now we’re good.  Feeling the ease of routine and the support from my husband has been incredible.

So what’s been hard?  The hardest part by far has been trying to meet both my kids’ needs, often simultaneously, not to mention trying to meet my own.  There’s always at least one person waiting for needs to be met, and it kills me.  I feel like I owe both my kids an apology.  I’m sorry to my toddler, who’s been used to having my undivided attention his entire life and suddenly has to share me and wait for things.  I’m sorry to my infant who has never known my attention to be undivided, who sometimes has to wait for things.  I never worried about being able to love both my kids; that part is easy.  But feeding them at the same time?  Goodness help me.  It’s one huge juggling act.

How am I holding up?  Better than with my first baby, that’s for sure.  The first 6 months with him were the hardest, and if this time is anything like the first, then I definitely see a light at the end of the tunnel: come June, I’ll be getting more sleep, we’ll have found our new normal, we’ll have a routine and a schedule, I’ll feel better in my body and I’ll be ready to be more active and my god, the weather will be nicer.  Walks!  Parks!  Bike rides!

Right now, I’m rediscovering a realization I had when my son was tiny: that good days and bad days don’t depend on what happens, but they depend entirely on how I am feeling and my ability to cope with what happens.  If I am well rested and have patience, it’s going to be a good day.  If I can remember to sing and dance and laugh, it’s going to be a good day.  Even if that day includes a tantrum and tears and potty accidents.  That all may sound like a no-brainer, but it’s huge.  It makes all the difference.

Here’s to surviving the newborn phase being a mom of two.  Cheers.

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Swirling Hot Mess of Emotions

My heart is just so bursting full…of everything.  Love, gratitude, depression, exhaustion, sadness, grief, body image issues, joy.

My mood swings are controlling me.  I feel like my whole life is out of control, and rightly so…because was it ever within my control to begin with?  Like when my son was born, this out of control feeling lit a fire under my usually only moderately crazy OCD tendencies.  I go nuke if something goes missing.  I clean even when I’m supposed to be doing something else.  I try and control the things in my house because I can’t control any. thing. else.

Being alone with my two kids often terrifies me.

The things my body is capable of continue to astound me.

Breastfeeding is a beast.  I’m having PTSD flashbacks around what it was like to breastfeed my son two years ago.  I hate how my entire outlook on life depends on how well our last breastfeeding session went. And they are hit or miss.  At least she’s latching better than my son did and I am very thankful to report that, for whatever reason, I am actually making more milk than I did after my first pregnancy.  Huzzzzzzah.

I hate talking to lactation consultants. They mean well, but man they hit me squarely on my breastfeeding shame trigger. On one hand, it’s my fault that I can’t feed my kid. The simplest thing ever, just feeding her so she doesn’t die. I’m not doing the right position, or I’m not making enough milk, or I’m not pumping enough, not getting enough sleep.  Take your pick.  On the other, it’s her behavior that’s getting in the way because she pushes and claws and bites and thrashes around and screams.  And I resent her for it. Damnit. Either way, horrible mother. And in suggesting I try something different, like massage the breast, use a hot compress, nipple shield, football hold, pump, pump, PUMP – the lactation consultants just seem to highlight the fact that IT’S NOT WORKING and somehow it’s all my fault. You see the spiral.

In order to get through days without falling apart, I’ve had to work hard to disconnect myself from my feelings. It feels so yucky to just numb out like that, but the alternative is to burst into tears while listening to a voice in my head that is wailing, “It’s noon and we just finished breakfast! We can’t do this! How are we supposed to be able to get outside today? Or brush your teeth? Or put on pants?!”

Instead, I have to force myself to listen to the other voice, the emotionally sterile voice saying, “Hey. Now we need to feed the baby. Your toddler can wait to eat, but she’s screaming. Go on now, first things first.”  It’s a constant struggle, but it works.  And some days are easier than others.

When I look back, I realize that 2015 was the year when nothing happened.  I know I blogged about how it was the year a grew into being a mom, and I am so glad that I had that time with my son.  That year, we didn’t change marital status.  We didn’t move.  We didn’t change jobs.  We didn’t get pregnant or have any babies.  Things were stable and boring.  Yay for boring!

My hope is that 2017 is like that, too.  I’d like the time and space to develop a routine with my kids, a relationship with my daughter, and a new relationship with myself as a mom of two.  As for 2016…that was the year when things got progressively harder.  I got pregnant, I got tired, then I got huge and tired.  I slowed down while my toddler sped the fuck up.  I had daily pain for a while and I could barely bend over to pick up things my toddler had dropped…or thrown.  We still managed to have a lot of fun in 2016, though.  We went camping and (barely) survived.  I applied for a job I didn’t end up taking, but it was nice to put on professional clothes again.  We took our son trick-or-treating and he loved it.  We took him to the snow and had mixed results.  We took a trip to California and had fun seeing family.  We took our first family road trip and D danced at his first wedding.  We successfully became DAYTIME POTTY TRAINED, people!  We went to the zoo and hunted for Easter eggs and went on a train and picked strawberries and saw a parade and ate ice cream and played in the water features and went to the planetarium and went to the pumpkin patch and toured a cheese factory.  Whew.

I’m glad I just typed all of that out because, according to that list, 2016 wasn’t all that bad.  We were a family!  We really got to enjoy my son being a fun age.  My hope for 2017 is that things just get better from here on out.

Even though my current days are often dark, I can totally see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Part of it is because I’ve been through this once before.  I know a little better what to expect, and we’ve already adjusted how we’re dealing with raising a newborn since the first time.  Another part is that I’m done making babies.  This is it; this is my family, and it’s beautiful!  I’ve gotten everything I’ve ever wanted, and I feel so amazingly (hashtag) blessed, as cliche as that sounds.  But it’s true.

And with that, this blog post has come full circle.  It’s a swirling hot mess of emotions: welcome to my life.  My beautiful, imperfect, perfect life.

 

 

Baby, all I want for Christmas is you

Hey, guys.

I don’t mean to brag (yes I do), but I got the best Christmas present this year:

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Her name is Audrey and she’s perfect.

I’m so lucky and grateful and full of hope and excitement…and I’m also a completely sleep deprived hot mess.  Wee!

Happy New Year, everyone!

 

Six Things I’d Do Differently During Labor and Delivery (and some things I wouldn’t)

On this day last year, I was induced to give birth to my first child.

I can’t believe it’s been an entire year…it went by super fast.  As I usually do, I’ve been looking back on my experiences a year ago and have been having all the feelings.

I plan to eventually have another kid, and that makes me think of what I might like to do differently with the second labor and delivery.  And even as I write that previous sentence, I realize how pointless it would be to count on my wishes coming true, because for all I know, my second labor will be totally different because that’s how the universe works.

But, for the hell of it, here are some things I’d do differently, followed by some things I did that were totally right for me.

Things I’d do differently whilst expelling a baby from my body

  1. Advocate more fiercely against being induced

We have Kaiser Oregon insurance, and for some reason they have a guideline to push induction at 41 weeks.  I know plenty of other midwives/doctors/facilities who won’t induce until 42 weeks.  Either way, I don’t like feeling pushed to force my body into doing something it clearly isn’t ready to do.  Next time, I plan to bring this topic up sooner with my midwife and advocate for as natural a process as possible.

2. Ask my midwife when she plans to go on a frickin vacation

My midwife went on vacation the very week I was due, and then I had to have the induction discussion with a midwife I had just met.  It sucked.  Medical people – please tell your pregnant patients well in advance when you’re planning a vacation.  Grr.

3. Bring (even more of) my own crap to the hospital for delivery

Our Kaiser hospital claimed to be a “breastfeeding friendly” hospital.  What that really translated to was, “We won’t provide you with simple things like breastfeeding pillows, and the things we do provide, we’ll judge you for not bringing your own.”

I’ll start with the breastfeeding pillow.  I had one, but I left it at home.  My hospital only provided those thin, plasticy hospital pillows, and I had to stack 6-8 pillows around me in order to get my kid in the right position to even try latching.  It was awkward and very inconvenient.

Since my boy had trouble latching, they asked if I had brought my breast pump.  I said no.  They gave me one, but it came with a glare.

Next time, I am bringing all my own stuff.

4. Do everything I can to minimize interruptions and distractions

Nurses and doctors and photographers and clowns and dancing bears were coming in and out of my room juuust about every 30 minutes.  Are you frickin kidding me?!  There is no way anyone can get any sleep or try to breastfeed with that parade of crazy.  This hospital claimed to offer “collaborative care” for my baby and me, meaning that the baby’s doctor and my doctor would work together as a team.  Well you know what?  That never happened.  It didn’t help to have my doc come and take my vitals and then my baby’s doc came to take his vitals 20 minutes later.  After this happened to us many times, my husband and I finally had to actually yell at a nurse to get her to leave.  And my husband doesn’t yell.  We were pissed.

Next time, we plan to tell everyone straight up to take our vitals at the same time and to minimize visits.  And we’re bringing paper and tape and a pen to make signs to put on our door telling the photographer to stay the hell away.  And you too, dancing bears!

5.  Advocate to switch nurses if one isn’t meeting our needs

There was one nurse who came in juuuust after I was finished trying to get my boy to latch.  And by try, I mean that we spent 20 minutes wrestling with my boob and his mouth and he was having none of it.  I put him down so we could both sleep and we’d try again later.  Enter nurse, and she insisted that it was time to nurse.  I told her we’d just tried.  Like, just.  She didn’t believe me.  She brought my baby to me and insisted that she watch while I try to get him to latch in front of her.

Looking back, I should have asked for a new nurse right then.  If I have to do it over again, I hope I have the ladyballs to do it (ask for a new nurse), because she made me feel like crap and she sucks at her job.  At the very least, I’d have my husband go to the nurses’ desk and request a new nurse.  Passive-aggressive advocating is better than no advocating at all.

6. Advocate for leaving the hospital sooner

My boy was having trouble breastfeeding, and so it took us a bit longer to figure out a feeding plan that would work for us.  I am thankful that things didn’t turn out worse, because had my boy lost any more weight they would have discharged me and kept him and I would have been very worried and peeved.  Buuut, I still feel like they took their sweet time getting us ready to go.

We were in the hospital postpartum for 2 days, but when you tack that onto being induced and laboring in the hospital for 2 full days prior, it felt like a looong time.  We were tired and cranky.  I wanted my own bed and my own shower.  Next time, I am going to be packing my bags much sooner as long as we’re all good and healthy.

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Now, I know I’ve just done a bit of bitching, but overall I am satisfied and have made peace with my experience.

Hell, there were even some things we did really well that I’ll totally do again:

  1. Brought my own pillow

Cannot emphasize this enough.

2. Brought my own snacks

Because you can’t always (or ever) count on hospital food.

3. Brought my own DVDs

Our hospital room had a DVD player, and I think watching Ryan Gosling helped to move labor along.  Seriously.

4. Made a labor playlist

Music really helps to calm me down, and although it didn’t magically end up taking the pain away, it definitely helped.  Perhaps Led Zeppelin will work for you, too.

5. Yell at people who aren’t meeting my needs

This includes husbands.  Sometimes, you just need to take your pain out on others.  It’s not healthy, but it’s like giving birth: you don’t always get what you want.