Friday, January 25, 2013

In which Mary has survived a whole month of novice parenting

Mary is one month old.

I feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment keeping a human being alive for that amount of time.  How did I do it? you might wonder.

Well, it turns out the first month of parenthood is not for sissies. There's the standard sleep deprivation, meltdowns on both sides (baby and mom), physical recovery (I'm never taking sitting down for granted again), and, of course, keeping the pediatrician on speed dial. Pediatricians must hate new parents (So...she hasn't pooped in three days? Is that flaky skin life-threatening? Why is she hungry all the time?).

The first two weeks we said several times, "This is hard!" And it was. At one particularly low point I lay on the bed blubbering (should we blame it on the hormones? Let's blame it on the hormones) while Isaac called the pediatrician. Mary had been either eating or crying all day. She clearly was not getting enough food. Thus ensued a week and a half of supplementing with formula, visits to lactation consultants, feeding her too little, feeding her too much, pumping, weighing her, blah, blah, blah.

Things are much better now. Mary has turned out to be a really good baby--waking up only once at night, eating well with no more need for formula, and relatively calm in between feedings.

More than marveling that she's still alive, I marvel at how much I like being a mom. Because--please don't judge--parenthood used to terrify me. It seemed so...hard. I saw other moms sacrificing so much for a little person that didn't seem to give back. I watched, bewildered, as they gave up sleep, gained weight, sacrificed careers, and cleaned up vomit. There seemed to be no logical explanation.

Turns out, there is no logical explanation.

I do not love her because she is a fascinating conversationalist or has an amazing personality. I do not love her because she has exciting ideas or a vivid sense of humor. I do not love her because she tells me all the time how awesome I am for taking such good care of her (although I'm pretty sure she thinks that...waaaaaaay deep down).

I cannot explain why I love this little person so much I was willing to go through years of fertility treatments and spend lots of money and sacrifice sleep and stop working and gain weight and dedicate nearly every waking thought to her well-being.

Perhaps I love her because she asked all that of me, and you love people you serve. Maybe it's because I know there's a whole person in there and day by day her personality is coming out. Maybe it's because I see a little of Isaac and a little of me in her. Maybe it's because she is so pure and innocent. Maybe it's because she's so darn good-looking (that's probably the real reason).

At any rate, I think I know now why moms do what they do. And I'd happily do it again.
With Nana (Isaac's mom)
Contemplating the world's problems. During tummy time.
Chilling with her dad.
Aaaaaannnd the bear suit.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Worst Weekend. And the Best Christmas.

What follows here is a *hopefully* non-graphic labor story. I am a nurse, however, and as my idea of non-graphic may be different than yours, I'm including the short version at the beginning for the squeamish. For those that just came for the pictures, scroll down to the bottom.

The Short Version

On natural childbirth:


On baby Mary:


The Long Version

It all started Friday night (the 21st). Contractions started coming on shortly after I went to bed, every 10-15 minutes. Then they stopped. And I slept for an hour and a half or so. Then they started again, and by 3 AM were getting closer and more intense, around 7 minutes apart. I knew not to call until they'd been 5 minutes apart for about an hour, so I decided to wait to wake up Isaac until they were a little closer together.

By 4 they were petering out again, and by 6 when Isaac randomly woke up and asked how I was doing, they were back to 10-15 minutes apart. But I told him I'd been having contractions all night and suddenly he was WIDE awake. This was Saturday, our 6th anniversary, and the baby's official due date. "We're going to have a baby today!" We told each other. We opened anniversary presents. We timed contractions. 7 minutes. 15 minutes. 20 minutes. 12 minutes. We watched Ratatouille with my mom. 10 minutes. 30 minutes. 15 minutes. We went to the mall to walk around and distract me a little. No change.

By afternoon I was frustrated and called the OB office and found, to my dismay, that the midwives I knew and loved were short-staffed and a doctor I didn't know at all was on-call. "Is this your first child?" Yes. "Call me back when your contractions are 5 minutes apart," was his incredibly helpful response. 

We went out to dinner for our anniversary (with my mom--why not? It was hardly a romantic anniversary). We went to bed. And the contractions still came every 10-15 minutes. I didn't sleep Saturday night. I woke Isaac up around 2:30 because the contractions were starting to hurt enough that I needed him to coach me through them and help me time them. 8 minutes. 6 minutes. 12 minutes. Grrrrr. 

Sunday morning I had a meltdown. I'd had very little sleep, and the contractions just didn't change, and I didn't want to talk to Mr. Grumpy-pants doctor again. Isaac called for me (I was a basket-case anyway) and--hallelujah!--a midwife I knew was on call. "Oh, you guys must be exhausted!" She had us come to the hospital to get checked. Bless her. 

At the hospital I was dilated to a 4 (I'd been a 3 at my last appointment) and given the choice of having my water broken or going home with a shot guaranteed to knock me out for awhile and hopefully reset my uterus--so the contractions would either stop or progress into active labor. 

I chose the shot (Phenergan and Demerol, in case you're wondering). All I really wanted was sleep. I went home and slept for 5 hours. It was delicious. 

When I woke up, the contractions were--you guessed it--about 10 minutes apart. 

I didn't sleep Sunday night. Isaac slept very little.

Monday morning (Christmas Eve) I was back in the hospital begging to have my water broken.

I got admitted (now dilated to a 5) and the midwife stripped my membranes. We walked around, hoping to kickstart labor. The contractions started coming a little closer together. The midwife gave me the choice of breaking my water or starting Pitocin. Since I wanted to go natural, she warned that breaking my water would hurt a little more--loss of cushioning and all that--but Pitocin would make the contractions a little stronger and closer together. Neither choice sounded very pleasant, but I went with breaking my water. I reasoned it would have to break eventually anyway. 

I was at 6 cm by the time she broke my water, and things started picking up after that. The rest of the day--about 7 hours until delivery--is kind of a blur. I'd prepared for natural childbirth with the Bradley method, which is all about having the husband coach you through relaxation techniques to cope with the pain and allow the body to do its thing. This worked really well until about 7 cm, and then it was a slow decline after that. Honestly, I don't think there's anything you can do to make transition (the final, most painful stage of labor) better--I relaxed, I deep breathed, and sometimes I got on my hands and knees to help me progress, but any movement hurt. Additionally, I went into all this with very few reserves--I'd been eating little and barely slept over the past 3 nights. Isaac did what he could, and the nurse and my midwife were awesome as well, but all anyone could do really was remind me to stay in control when I'd start to lose it. 

Towards the end, the baby was super low (I carried her really low all through the end of my pregnancy--part of the reason why I never got super huge) and I started feeling like I needed to push when I was only 8 cm. You have to get to 10 cm before you can push. I wanted to die. I thought the baby would never, ever come. The hardest part was very close to 10 cm, when my body started trying to push almost involuntarily. At that point it's hard not to push, and hurts a lot if you can't. The midwife was helping bring my cervix around the baby's head so I could start pushing, and that combined with the contractions was the most difficult, painful part of it all. I had moments of control and moments where I'd break down, saying I couldn't do it. 

Childbirth is not glamorous.

At last I got to push, and pushed for maybe 30 minutes. One advantage to going natural is that the pushing stage goes much more quickly and efficiently. They offered me the mirror, and offered to let me touch the baby's head when she was almost out. I didn't really want any of it. I couldn't handle a single other thing at that moment. 

And then, suddenly there was a crying baby on my chest. Isaac's first words were, "She's perfect." She really was. I'd spent a long time trying to prepare him for how babies look when they are first born--puffy, purple, covered with blood and white cheesy stuff, cone-headed, etc. She was none of that somehow. She had this adorable head of hair and was pink and absolutely beautiful. They let me hold her there on my chest for a long time, while I got stitched and cleaned up, and I just kept thanking the midwife and my nurse and Isaac profusely for their help. And the relief was profound and complete. I wasn't in pain anymore, and here was this beautiful, perfect baby in my arms.

I once heard someone say that "delivery" is a very apt term for childbirth. It is a delivery from the discomforts of pregnancy. It is a delivery from the overwhelming pain of labor. And it is a special delivery from heaven you could say (with 9 1/2 month shipping) as a precious new spirit meets her parents. 

It was a tender mercy that Mary came when she did, before my mom had to go back to AZ. Not only did she get to meet her grandma, but grandma also saved us all by cleaning the apartment, going grocery shopping, and cooking meals when we got back from the hospital. Thanks, Mom!

Thus ended one of the most miserable weekends of my life, and thus began the strangest and yet the best Christmas of my life, spent in the hospital with my new family of 3. (And my awesome mom.)  

In triage, waiting to get admitted

My "total relaxation" pose. I spent the majority of labor like this.

Our first family picture

Best Christmas present ever.
The adorable hat was compliments of a hospital volunteer.
Chilling with Grandma
Our beautiful Mary, just before we left the hospital