Friday, July 27, 2012

It was the best of times, it was the messiest of times

I stopped myself from posting this blog Tuesday because it would have just been an inventory of all the times Penelope pooped on me.  (One of which was after I'd managed to fit a shower in during her power nap, which made it especially insulting).

I was solely responsible for a newborn from 3 am to 4 pm and I thought I might go crazy.  Twice I cried, one time I let out a sustained moan as if I was giving birth.  It was during one of the baby's cries.  She must have had a tummy ache but there was nothing I could do to help her.  She was also so tired but wouldn't go to sleep. She probably wanted to be walked around but I was tired and a little sore still and all I could do was stare at her and say "Why? Why won't you sleep? You're so tired." 

The times during the day when she would sleep, she was very particular about location.  If I set her down, she would soon wake up, demanding to be held.  Now, don't get me wrong, I LOVE holding her.  She's my perfect angel sweetie cupcake honey bunny baby.  But I'd also like to get something done.  Like clean the oven that I'd recently burned a cake in, for example.  (The remains of this burnt cake incident had led to a fire in the oven when we'd tried to use it so it was imperative that it be cleaned that day in order to make dinner.)  I'd finally managed to set her down long enough to take a shower which was especially critical since she kept having mustard-seed-poop blow outs, getting some on my shirt and pants.  And in addition to the slight fussiness, and frequent bowel movements she WOULD NOT STOP EATING.  And the times I offered her the breast she went at it like a Yorkshire Terrier gnawing a recently caught animal of prey.

Now, all of this sounds like classic baby behavior.  Stuff I knew I'd be dealing with when we decided to enter parenthood.  But by 1 pm I had shed a few tears myself, closed my eyes and asked Jesus if he could please babysit while I took a nap or screamed.  When I opened my eyes she had spit up on my shoulder.  I was eventually granted a slight repose, but before long she was at her tricks again.  Making this weird gremlin growling noise to communicate her unhappiness with me, even while she was sucking down some fresh breastmilk.

Danny came to my rescue at 4, rushing in from work, anxious to hold his baby.  Of course by then she was sleeping in an angelic pose, with no evidence of her prior misdemeanors.
And as soon as he took her out of my arms I was flooded with guilt.  How could the best treasure God had given me gotten on my nerves so bad?

Wednesday was a new day.  As psychotic as it sounds I was euphorically in love with her again.  Everything she did was adorable and I was happy to change her diapers and smile while she cried.  She continued to have poop blowouts, and was constantly starving, but I felt refreshed, which is probably thanks to the shift change with Danny coming home to relieve me.   How do single people raise babies?? I'm baffled, astounded, in awe by their strength.  Single moms and dads, my heart goes out to you.

She is one month old today.  I can't believe how cute she is.  And I can't believe how fast she's growing! Everyone says that all the time about kids, but I think she's already 10 pounds! She's outgrown some newborn outfits already, and I feel sad about it.  Sometimes I get scared of how fast she grows, I already miss how small she was the first week.  But I'm trying to stay calm, thinking about all the things she has yet to do.  And how exciting it will be when I get to make her laugh, brush her long hair or show her a movie.  These future plans keep me from cutting off her food supply so she'll stop growing.  Happy one month, baby! You and your daddy are my favorite parts of life.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Birth of a Mommy

Although I read about the recovery of child birth in all my parenting books and websites, it's still been extremely challenging.  In fact, I would say the recovery has been harder than the labor itself. 
Immediately after Penelope was born Danny and I were starving and exhausted.  We hadn't slept or eaten in 24 hours and had just gone through the biggest, most important, beautiful and hardest ordeal of our lives.  Two nurses came in with a wheelchair to take me to use the bathroom.  Weak and tired,  and seeing all the blood  I started to warn them I was feeling dizzy.  I must have passed out because when I came to there were 10 nurses bustling around calling out to each other, poking me, asking me questions.  They wheeled me back into the room and Danny was pale with worry, standing close to the baby.  My glasses were askew and the ponytail I'd had since before birth was half undone. He told me later I was smiling like a mental patient.  In my mind I was trying to smile to reassure him that I was fine.  But apparently it wasn't a very reassuring picture.
That night we didn't get to catch up on any of our rest.  Penelope did cry a bit, she was confused and cold and I imagine really hated gravity.  But the real issue was the hospital staff coming in once or more an hour to check on us, take blood sugars, blood pressure, give shots and ask us the same questions over and over again. 
When day broke we were finally drifting off to sleep, and I was trying to breastfeed when that same awkward medical student guy came in to ask more questions.  "heh.  hi.  How.  heh.. um, how are you feeling?" he started.  I tried to smile and whisper so as not to wake up Danny who had finally passed out on his cot.  "I see.. you are ..heh.  you're breastfeeding." he commented awkwardly amid the questions.
For two days we got terrible hospital food, and the same repeated questions with each nurse starting her next shift.  When we were finally released from hospital jail, I was wheeled out of the hospital to the van where Jack and Angela were giving us a ride.  To  their horror, and my amusement, after we piled in, the van wouldn't start.  Jack and Angela were so apologetic and embarrassed, but it really was very funny.  A storm was brewing outside and I knew I didn't want to take this new baby in a taxi cab.  Fortunately, someone at the hospital gave us a jump start and we made it home laughing at our luck and taking pictures of our new baby in her first car ride. 
When I walked into our apartment, the place had been cleaned and a sign welcoming the baby hung off the chair that her grandma had made for her.  There was a tall chocolate cake frosted, a bag of Godiva chocolates and some champagne in the fridge- all due to my amazing mommy in law.  I felt elated, shocked, happy and also sore, confused, overwhelmed and scared.  Who was I now?  I knew I was being reborn as a new person, but it was still unclear who that new person was and how she was going to manage to care for such a tiny, perfect, frail little girl.
Over the past two weeks I've had many meltdowns.  Maybe on average- one a day.  I start to cry, either for no reason or because I'm so sore on so many parts of me.  For days I felt like I'd gotten into a bad hockey fight.  The only part of me that wasn't sore was my face, though, so maybe hockey is a bad analogy.
While I knew breastfeeding would be challenging, I never realized how much time it takes.  I mean it's pretty much all I do.  At first, I was so sore, every time she'd cry with hunger, I'd deny it.  "No!" I'd tell my family when they'd hold her out toward me, "She's not hungry! She's not! I just fed her! She just wants to sleep.  Make her sleep!" "No", they'd shake their heads, gently "She's sucking on her hand."
But while it still takes up the majority of my time, leaves me and the baby covered in milk, requires both of us a lot of costume changes, and demands careful planning even to limp down the street to get an iced decaf, it really has gotten easier. 
At baby P's first Dr. appointment they weighed her and told us her weight was already picking up.  "The breastfeeding must be going great!" The pediatrician said.  "Wheatever you guys are doing, keep it up!"  This assurance strengthened me and has helped me keep going, making it through the roughest patch.
A few days after birth I got some sort of pregnancy/new mom rash that hits 1 out of every 200 women.  Tiny itchy hives covered my stomach, arms and legs.  They prescribed two tiny tubes of steroid cream which I used that same day.  My refill isn't good for another 5 days!  But these hives are starting to go down.
I won't go into the details of the main source of soreness, but all I want to do is go see the light of day and walk outside, and I really can only make it for a few minutes before I have to hobble home and lay on the couch.  They really need to make a stroller for new moms.  Then Danny could push us both around.
Through all of these pains, getting to know my daughter and myself as a mom has fueled me forward and given me so much joy.  So far Penelope rarely cries, sleeps a lot (sometimes five hours at night!) and on the rare occasions when she's awake and not eating, looks around with curiosity and hangs on our every word.  When she sleeps she goes through a range of entertaining facial expressions, sometimes even a smile, which she has yet to do awake.  She makes these really cute noises- sometimes like a gremlin, sometimes like a cat or a bird calling.  She moves her arms and hands like she's trying to stir a batter or put a spell on us.  Yesterday at 5 in the morning I was explaining to her my limited knowledge of the sun and moon.  These moments are so precious and perfect it hurts to know that they're also fleeting and that we'll look back on these times and wish we could relive them.
Adding to the list of my sore parts you can add my heart, it feels like it might burst sometimes.

View WP_000240.jpg in slide show

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Sharks and Giving Birth

Before I gave birth my two biggest fears were sharks and giving birth.  I am proud to say that I've faced the second fear and can honestly say sharks are probably worse.
June 26th I started to get a new kind of contraction-- they didnt feel like the Braxton Hicks/false contractions (or "Carlton Banks" contractions, as Danny named them) I'd been feeling for the past few weeks-- these ones were different-- not painful but "uncomfortable"-- I was calling them, because I knew only once I was in the throes of labor would I understand true pain.  These new contractions would last a second, or 15 seconds and then would vanish.  But by that night they started to come every 12 minutes and always lasted 1 minute.  I started writing down the times for each one, pacing for the minute long contraction and then lying down in bed again.  I tried not to disturb Danny who slept peacefully.  But when I was getting out of bed at around 5, he woke up.  "You've been up all night??"  He was alarmed, jumping out of bed.  But we knew we weren't supposed to go to the hospital until the contractions were 4 minutes apart for an hour.  So we got out of bed, continued to time the contractions, and Danny started nesting-- racing around the apartment cleaning toilets, wiping counters, mopping floors.
After a few hours they were about 8 or 9 minutes apart and now were stronger.  I started to get a little fearful, realizing that the slow yoga breathing I'd been practicing wasn't.. well it wasn't going to do shit to help me once these started coming quicker and harder.  I'd always planned on going for a walk during this early labor stage, like the couples in the birth videos we watched in our class.  We walked to the Jewel Osco, but it was a painful journey and just went immediately home. Danny called to alert Angela-- my other labor coach, so she could make the five hour journey from Michigan. 
By this time the contractions felt strong, and instead of deep breathing I was breathing in through  my nose and out with a sustained vocal moan. "Ahhhhh.."  Yes, it sounded a bit insane, but it was the only thing I could do.  On the return home from the store I had to lean against a brick apartment building breathing out the slow 'Ahhh'.  Danny later told me the window to that apartment was open.  I picture now the residents of this building at 7 or 8 am going about their business when a large pregnant woman leans against their home moaning and then walking along.
By 9:30 they were 4 minutes apart and very intense.  The pain was strong in my back and Danny would massage for the minute of the contraction and I would let out my sustained vocal 'ahh'.  When we called the doctor- (Dr. Favorite was on call!!!)- she seemed skeptical.  "This is your first, right?" She asked, unsure if I was ready to go to the hospital.  Her doubt made us think we should wait.  So at about 11:30, they had been going strong four minutes apart for 2 hours, we decided to go to the hospital.
Our plan had been to take a taxi, since we dont have a car.  We knew Danny's parents would be driving us back from the hospital with the carseat, so we just had to take our suitcase and hop in a cab.  Although at this point I realized I didnt feel like doing my sustained "ahhs" in a wild cab ride.  And what if my water broke in the backseat? I know Chicago cabs charge $50 for vomit, what was the amniotic fluid charge?
So we booked a zip car and Danny ran to pick it up.  I walked down the hall of my apartment, with my sustained moaning, and we drove to the hospital, with more sustained moaning.  Danny dropped me at the door and sped off to park the car, and I made it through the elevator ride to the maternity waiting room, sustained moaning every four minutes despite the looks of the surrounding strangers.  After a check, they found I was dilated to five, so I didnt have to go home, as we'd heard so many others have done when they found out they weren't ready for hospital care. 
Before they wheeled me into the room where I would labor, deliver and then stay in for the duration of the care, an awkward gangly young man came in.  Looking highly uncomfortable, as if he'd been given lines to memorize and recite in front of an audience of hungry bears he stood at the end of my bed and tried to ask me questions.  'uhm.. hi, heh..I am a medical student and i'm here to ask a few heh.. questions' his stunted questions were punctuated with uncomfortable giggles.  'have you had any complications. uhm.  during this pregnancy?' he would ask, trying to smile.  Even though the contractions were very strong now, as I was dilated to 7, I tried to be kind and respectful and answer his questions without irritation.  In the middle of one a contraction came on and i started my sustained moaning- which by this time was a little louder and more desperate.  Danny went into what was by now our established routine-- he would massage my lower back and count down the contraction, cheering me on with encouragement, "you can do it, honey, you're doing great! 40 more seconds! 30 more seconds, you're halfway there!"  (Later he confessed he was just making up the times, but it was what got me through all the contractions).  Through my half shut eyes I saw the young medical student standing in the same spot, frozen, looking even more frightened and uncomfortable.  Why was he still there?  The contraction ended and I took a deep breath.  He stood, trying to keep the weird smile on his face, staring at me.  'Ok. What else?' I asked him.
By 5 pm I was hooked up to an epidural catheter, had two IVs in each hand- one with insulin-- my blood sugar got out of control when I didn't eat all day.  Jack and Angela had arrived and we were all waiting for the baby to drop as I was dilated to 10.  We watched my contractions on the computer monitor next to me, noticing when they were strong and smiling because I couldn't feel them.
At 7 they came in and said it was time to push.  By this time I was feeling very exhausted.  I hadn't eaten or slept in 24 hours.  Dr. Favorite came in to tell me how it would go.   They told me we'd push three times for every contraction.  "You're my favorite." I told her.
Danny and Angela each held one of my legs and like cheerleaders on the sidelines, delivered encouragement.  Between each push I tried to take a 30 second nap.  Then their cheers started to get more excited as they saw her coming.  I was so tired and my eyes were closed through most of the pushing and the resting between.  But 45 minutes later our baby was born. 
I'd always imagined they'd throw her on my chest, covered in goo, but in my hazy memory Danny kissed me, his eyes with tears, they offered him the chord to cut and then they rushed the baby to a warmer next to my bed and started conducting tests, suctioning out fluid from her lungs, trying to get her to cry and then giving her a bath. 
Meanwhile, three doctors-- two of whom were more medical students-- hung out around me for the last stage of labor.  Dr. Favorite was teaching them how to deliver the placenta and then stitch up the tears.  At this point I was so ready for it to be over I think I was getting a little snotty.  "does this hurt?" they were asking me.  "No, it doesn't hurt, but I got three people peering into my crotch, so it's not exactly comfortable." I was saying between demands to hold my baby.
I always imagined when she finally came out, and I heard her cry I would break down into an emotional mess, I would feel the significance of the whole world-- I'd feel one with all women who'd given birth.  Instead, though, I felt very sleepy and irritated that three doctors were still hovering around my private parts, forcing me keep my legs open for too long. 
But in the days following, and now, over a week later, I feel total awe and shock when I stare at my baby.  I can't believe how perfect and beautiful she is.  And how lucky I am to have had such an uncomplicated delivery. For the past 9 months I've been gifted by/subjected to the birth stories of almost every mother whose noticed my bulging belly-- stranger or not.  And now I finally have my own.