Friday, August 28, 2009

Things I Haven't Blogged About

Yesterday I got my hair done. Because I decided I wanted to stop making a fashion statement that said, "WEREN'T THE 90s AWESOME?"


(I don't think I look like Heather Locklear, God bless 'er.
I am using her to illustrated tired color, frayed ends, and dark roots.
This was a fashion "in" for about 11 seconds circa 1995.)


So I got to leave Eve alone with her father for a couple hours and it was totally, totally worth it. Not because I got time to myself, although, hi, hallelujah. But it was so worth it because of the look on Ish's face once we were reunited. He was happy, and relieved, and his eyes had a bit of giddy-cum-desperate-ness to them that, I'm not gonna lie, I relished.

In the two hours I was gone, he wasn't able to clean or work or get pretty much anything done other than baby-tending. "I-- I-- I couldn't even type two sentences!" he exclaimed, looking alarmingly at his open, untouched laptop, the Twitter screen aglow.

Oh, how I know the glowing Twitter-screen taunt.

My point is that I have been dying to blog. Dying to write, to be creative, to get to any of the dozens of little projects I've promised myself I'd get to. But mostly it's still all I can do to shower more than once a week.

It's getting easier. It's getting better. But it's still hard. Case in point: I started this sad little blog entry at 11:45 a.m. It is now 5:30 p.m. Who knows what time it will be when I finish this. (Ed note: 8:14 p.m.)

But in case you're wondering, here's some stuff maybe someday I'll write about:

- We have been trying very hard to make sure Eve gets out into the world (and also to make sure that Mommy gets out of the house). Before Eve was two weeks old, she went to her first winery. Here is a picture of me feeding her while taking a sip of something delicious and red:
Photobucket
Mother of the year.

- We've taken Eve to dinner a handful of times. We took her to Tahoe. We took her to an outdoor concert. We took her to the movies. And next weekend, we're taking her to Maine for my cousins' wedding. (At some other point, I'll have to explain why that apostrophe is where it is, and why that doesn't make it illegal.)

- I have only taken Eve out by myself a couple times, but that's because I was given strict orders not to until my 6-week check-up post-surgery. The first time I went to the gym for a post-natal workout class(!) and the second time I took her to a Napa mom's group event that I didn't hate(!!!). Don't these things seem notable and blog-worthy!?

- I have SO MUCH to say on the breastfeeding subject. For now, I will offer that it's going fine. And in fact, I am looking forward to sharing my experience because it has been so darn fine. Despite the mass hysteria I created when I Tweeted the word "formula," it hasn't seemed to ruin my child's appetite for breastmilk OR my ability to create it. But I will tell you. Sometimes I feed her every 30 minutes, sometimes every couple of hours. Sometimes not for 4, 5, or 6 hours. And sometimes? When I haven't pumped enough "extra" boob juice but want an extra martini? I'll give her formula. AND SOMEHOW WE ALL SURVIVE.

- Oh, but also? HAHAHAHAHAHA. You know what's hilarious? People who can nurse standing up. All the baby carriers use the "and it's a great way to nurse discreetly!" line as a selling point. Um, no. There is no "discreet" nursing when your boob is larger than your baby's head. Not in a sling, not in a wrap, not in a carrier, not in a million years. Diagrams to come.

- In other news, for those of you who empathized with my hatred of Vicodin, thank you. I have been off it for 4 weeks now. Eve continues to sleep for 6 hour stretches at night anyway. (Not all the time, but hey, we'll take what we can get.)

However. I read that women who are breastfeeding do not get REM sleep, and that that's nature's way of keeping new moms alert. So in the end, 2, 4, and 6 hour stretches basically all feel the same. And explain the drool on my shirt.

- I stand by the declaration that Eve is an easy baby. I'm certain I will pay for this in horrifying toddler years or something.

- Um. I dunno. There's more to come. In the meantime, here are some pictures:

The birth announcement photo.


Focusing on the dangly-toy playmat.


Look how happy she is in her Boppy Bouncer chair!
Is this not a look of baby bliss?


Taken this morning, to get a shot of her hair.
That fauxhawk is all natural, yo.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Because I Can't Not Say ANYTHING

The insanity surrounding the current healthcare "debate" makes me, in my new-mom, blurry-eyed, sleep-deprived, drooly state a little bit nutty. I mean, yes, it would make me nutty were I not already in a new-mom, blurry-eyed, sleep-deprived, drooly state, but now it's just so much worse.

I stare at the television, looking as disheveled as it is possible to look, and just go, "HUH?" And then in a sweet, sing-song voice, tell Eve how much we love Rachel Maddow.

Sigh. I can't bring myself to get into the political debate here. I've just written and deleted about nine paragraphs, realizing that I have too much to say but I'll either just be preaching to the choir or my words will fall on deaf ears. My blog is not the place to change minds.

But it is the place for me to spout off. And so my top thoughts on the current state of the healthcare "debate" and Town Halls and astroturfing are thus:
  1. Whoa, there, crazypants. No one is coming to take your guns away. On my planet, giving all citizens access to healthcare doesn't have anything to do with your interpretation of the 2nd Amendment. So while you're busy defending yourself against lower insurance premiums, please keep in mind that your right to bear arms does not supersede my right to peaceful assembly.

  2. Obama cannot be a Fascist and a Nazi AND a Socialist and a Communist. While also being a secret Muslim.

  3. Oh, and speaking of secrets? Obama is not talking about a nationalized healthcare option because he is secretly a citizen of Kenya. No, really.

  4. You want your America back? From whom? Where did it go? I swear, it was here just a second ago. Oops! See, it's still here, right where you left it.

  5. Ohmigod Obama's mother-in-law does not practice witchcraft ohmigod.

  6. I would LOVE to hear your ideas on how to keep the government away from your Medicare.

  7. Can Barney Frank be my uncle? Please?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

How To Sum Up The First Month

I will get back to telling the rest of the labor story, specifically what happened before we left the hospital, the first few days at home, and OH MY GOD WITH THE BREASTFEEDING. (Which, by the way, has gone just fine.) But first, this snippet. I believe it illustrates the insanity that is being a crazy first-time parent:

Sometime around week three, I noticed something in Eve's left eye. It looked like a tiny little hair. I didn't know what to do about it. I tried the internet, but got nothing but the usual hodgepodge of shrill, non-medical information. No good.

I thought long and hard about what to do. (We're talking hours of contemplation.)

Do I use my finger to try to get it out? That can't be a good idea, right? What if, no matter how much I wash my hand, it's still dirty? Like, with microscopic germs or dirt or oil? The kind that only adults can have on their fingertips that infants can't tolerate? What if I accidentally scratch her, even though I have already cut all my fingernails down to the stub? What if I cause some kind of damage that her little body won't ever be able to repair? WHAT IF I BLIND MY CHILD???

Clearly I should not put my finger in her eye.

I next considered washing her eye out with the syringe, but also thought there might be no way to clean the syringe enough to guarantee that I wouldn't irritate her eye more. What if there's some weird residue on the syringe? What if the water itself isn't clean enough? And certainly Eve is not going to like getting water squirted in her eye.

No. The syringe isn't a good idea either.

The book says to clean around baby's eye with a cotton ball. Except what if the hair in her eye came from the cotton ball in the first place? What if more cotton just made the whole thing worse? What if she got several more hairs in her eye?

It went on like this.

I finally decided to leave the hair there. Eve didn't seem to notice or care at all. And if I've learned anything about how to be a good parent According To The Internet, it's to believe that natural is better in every way. I didn't want to scar my child for life! Natural! Her eye will flush out the hair itself.

Hours of terrified contemplation, I tell you.

The next morning, Eve woke up and I was ready to be handcuffed and carted away by child services. Because, you see, the inside corner of her left eye was slightly red, there was a little bit of yellow goo, and her eye was tearing. Yes, her eye was flushing itself out, but! But it looked kind of gross! Which means bad! And "bad" could mean blind! WHAT IF SHE DIDN'T RECOVER? HAD I BLINDED MY BABY???

Ish and I were sick with worry. We called the doctor's office and left a message for someone to get back to us asap.

When the pediatric nurse called me back, I tried hard not to sound like a crazy-lunatic-first-time mother even though that's exactly what I was. Which became evident to me as I heard myself telling the story to the nurse on the phone.

It went something like...

"I noticed a little hair in my daughter's eye yesterday. This morning, her eye seems irritated, like it's being flushed out. But I'm concerned because her eye is red and tearing up."

"You noticed a hair in her eye yesterday?"

"Yes."

"Did you get it out?"

Um.

"No? I was afraid...I didn't think...No."

"I see. So the hair stayed there and now it looks like the eye is irritated?"

"Yeah."

See how stupid this is sounding?

"It's probably just cleaning itself out. If you want to help it along, put a warm compress on it or dampen cotton balls..."

The nurse went on to basically describe all the ways in which you can try and clean a baby's eye out. And to say that I didn't need to have it looked at unless it got worse or didn't clear up in another day. And when I asked, she very kindly told me that no, it was unlikely that any permanent damage had been done.

And before I even hung up, I realized that I'd fallen into a trap of my own making. I mean, sure, let's take general health precautions and try to do what's best for the baby, but not at the expense of all common sense.

So I thought about it, and felt dumb, and eventually made a promise with myself. The next time a "dilemma" like this one presented itself (other examples include: "Oh my god, the baby COUGHED!" and "The baby scratched herself!!!"), I would ask, "What would a mom with FIVE kids do in this situation?" Certainly she wouldn't spend hours trying to figure out what to do about, well, anything. She'd just go with her gut and get on with her day. Mom with five kids? Queen of common sense.

Common sense: you see something in your baby's eye, you get it out. No hours of contemplation or referencing manuals or calling doctors required. It requires nothing but washing your hands. Or maybe even just sucking on your finger.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

My Labor Story: Part Five

The Part Where There's A Baby

Within five minutes of saying, "Okay, I guess we should do the c-section today," I was on a wheelie bed going down to surgery.

I honestly knew nothing about what all was involved in c-sections, and I was really glad. Because if I had known all the things that could go wrong, they would all have begun flashing before my eyes. Instead, I was blissfully ignorant.

And speaking of blissful: my Pitocin drip had been shut off and I was on my way to get a spinal ("spinal" is somehow different from "epidural" but I don't know why/how). Soon I would be pain-free! And then I'd have a child! Things were looking UP!

I was in such good, weird, loopy, tired-but-wired spirits that I -- yes -- took my phone with me.

Those are my feet in the bed.

Here we are, waiting for the elevator.

We got to the hallway just outside the operating room, where one of my doctors was waiting for us. She told Ish he had to wait there "a few minutes" while I got situated on the table. They gave him his scrubs-jumper and told him to put them on. She said she'd come get him when we were ready.

I was wheeled into the OR and then everything became bright, organized chaos. Immediately they apologized for it being so cold. I said I didn't care because I had been hot and sweaty and uncomfortable for the last 24 hours (but also, truth be told, for the last 9 months) and it was a welcomed change. Besides, who could think of temperature at a time like that?

There seemed to be tons of people in the room and they were all smiles (from what I could tell by their eyes since they were all in masks). The smiling made me feel more comfortable, and reminded me that this is a procedure they do every day. Everyone introduced themselves and told me why they were there but I don't remember a single name. All I know is that I kept making jokes. Not, as you might suspect, to cut the tension. I was telling jokes because I was ecstatic. I was going to have a baby! Now! FINALLY!

Except.

(Because there's always an except.)

Except there was one more hurdle, and it turned out to be the worst hurdle of the entire labor. Getting the spinal sucked. Sucked. Suck-suckity-suck-suck-sucked.

Of course, I didn't know it was going to suck. It started out seeming pretty normal. They asked me to sit on the verrrrrry edge of the very cold table. This is not so awesome in a hospital gown, but I figured it wouldn't take too long. The nurse from upstairs was still with me, holding my hand. They asked me to tuck my chin against my chest and lean forward as much as I could, to extend and stretch and bend my spine as much as possible.

Apparently, bending and stretching one's back spreads out the spine, making it easier for the anesthesiologist to do her thing.

And while I'm not in any way afraid of needles, I chose not to look at the one she'd be using.

They said that I would first feel a slight-but-sharp prick from the needle, then it would pinch (as the drug awesomeness was first released into my numb-making places), then it would feel all better.

But here's the catch: You're not supposed to move. Because if you move, or flinch, or jump, the needle could end up who-knows-where and, in the very worst case, paralyze you. (Which basically never happens, but still: having a giant needle inserted into your spine is reason enough to stop moving.)

But but but. It's hard enough to stay still when you're in an awkward position on a cold table and stretching your spine while having a needle jab at you. It's another thing entirely to have to stay still under those conditions WHILE YOU'RE STILL HAVING CONTRACTIONS.

And, because I am not skinny, it's harder for the anesthesiologist to get in the right spot.

It took forever. The longest forever, ever. I was sitting on the table, cold, immobile, contracting, being pricked in the back, being THIS CLOSE to having my baby...and not being able to. I'd feel the pain of the jab, and I'd wait to feel something, and I wouldn't, and no one would say anything to me, and the clock was ticking, and where was my husband? and holy crap, here comes another contraction...don't move!...did it work? No?

Eight tries. It took eight tries and calling in a specialist in order to get the job done. (A doctor ran out to let Ish know what was taking so long. The poor guy was just standing in the hallway, wondering what on earth was going on.)

Finally, I rather suddenly felt like I had wet myself from the inside. There was a rush of what seemed like warm liquid trickling down the inside of my legs.

And then the chaos resumed. Everything was whoosh, whoosh, whoosh!

I was lying down. Whoosh! They were prepping things. A big curtain went up so I couldn't see myself below my waist. Whoosh!

Can I feel my legs? Yes! Can I move them? Whoa! No! Weird! Whoosh!

And then they said all they had to do was test to see that I was numb, then they would start, and I would feel some pulling but no pain, and that it would only take 5 minutes (Whoosh!) before the baby was out. (It would take 20-30 minutes to put everything back together.)

I made some stupid joke about if they could do lipo while they were down there.

And then Ish was with me. Whoosh! And with almost no sense of "pulling" at all, the next thing I knew, they were asking if Ish wanted to stand up so he could see the baby coming out. Whoo--

Actually, no. Not "whoosh." This time there was a pause. He paused. He blanched. He wasn't sure. Ish has no tolerance whatsoever for gore, especially not of the medical kind. He was afraid that he would stand up, see something super-gross, look horrified, and then scare the crap out of me. But after a few beats, he decided he did want to see.

And he stood. My eyes were fixated on his face. And the very moment he stood, he said, "HEY! You guys weren't lying! There's actually a baby in there!" He was completely stunned.

Moments later, I heard her crying. Then I saw them carry her over to a station behind my head to clean and weigh her, while Ish looked on. The doctor proclaimed 5:57 p.m. Then they finally brought her over to me to show me.

And I cried. Not a lot, just an "I'm so overwhelmed I don't know what to do" cry.

My first thought as I saw her was was "Whoa" and my second thought was, "She's perfect, and exactly what I hoped for, " and my third thought was, "Huh?"

I was completely taken by surprise that she didn't look familiar. I thought I would recognize her.

They said that Ish should go upstairs with the baby while they performed the standard tests, and I would meet him up there as soon as we were finished. Which, 20 or 30 minutes later(?) seemed like three seconds. Whoosh!

And then I was in the room, and everything slowed down. I was tired, foggy, drugged, euphoric, giddy, terrified, and without any sense of reality. Nurses were buzzing in and out, the TV was on, hospital visitors were roaming the hallway. The staff had to move me from the wheelie bed to my regular bed, which had changed to be less frilly and more utilitarian.

But soon I was in my bed, and I don't know what happened in any sort of order after that. Once my husband handed my daughter to me, that's all there was.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

My Labor Story: Part Four

We're Crossing That Bridge

"We've asked the doctor to come in for a consultation when he has a moment," the non-stabby day nurse told us.

When we'd met with the medical staff earlier in the morning (what time? who knows? 6? 7? 8?), I didn't pay much attention. They said something about no more pain meds until my labor re-intensified, and I pretty much ignored all else.

But after going all morning into afternoon without any progress, without any medication, without anything but hours of the same la-la-la-I'm-in-labor-la-la-OW-la-la, it became evident to Ish and me that we'd be going to Plan B, whatever that was.

So when the doctor came to visit around 2 in the afternoon, he laid it out for us. We were going to be given Pitocin and he'd come back around 6 or so to see how far we'd progressed. The notion of c-section had finally been put on the table, officially. Till now, the c-section possibility had loomed far off in the distance (along with, apparently, my friggin' epidural).

For any of you who don't know, Pitocin is sort of THE labor-inducing drug. It's administered to make your cervix do its thing. It also kicks your contractions into high gear. It's my understanding that part of what makes Pitocin-induced contractions worse than normal contractions is that you stop having complete relief between them -- you're just kind of always in varying degrees of uncomfortability.

I guess now's as good a point as any to say that Ish and I had never once discussed what we'd do if a c-section were recommended. I never read about c-sections, I didn't study up on all that could wrong during them, and in labor-prep class when they showed the LIVE C-SECTION VIDEO I chose to use Twitter instead of watch. This was not because I was so convinced I would have a vaginal birth, but simply because I didn't want to freak out entirely if we had to go the c-section route.

Especially because I could not help but notice that c-sections are kind of the new devil. (After non-drug-free births and bottle feeding, that is.) Nowadays, hospitals are conducting c-sections at alarming rates, in some cases because they are more convenient and faster than traditional births. There is, therefore, backlash about c-sections, and many women are refusing to get them unless they are absolutely medically necessary. Which makes sense. Except I'm not sure there's a shared view of what "absolutely medically necessary" means. I suspect some people mean they don't want a c-section until the baby or mom's safety is compromised in any way, and some people mean they don't want a c-section unless it's a life-or-death situation.

It's a lot to think about, and kind of hard to plan for. So I didn't. Instead, I took a "Let's cross that bridge when we come to it" kind of attitude.

And lo, that bridge was coming into view.

When they hooked me up to the Pitocin drip, I asked how it works, how much they administer, if they increase the dosage at a certain point, etc. The nurse rather blithely said, "Oh, well, [the machine] is set to increase the dose every 15 minutes."

As you might imagine, the next couple hours were painful. The contractions were different than they'd been. They weren't exactly worse, they were just...different. If I had to describe it (and I realize I don't, but whatever) I'd say pre-Pitocin, my contractions were sporadic and felt more localized to the under-the-belt region. On Pitocin, the contractions just felt like they were constant, but the highs and lows weren't any better or worse. Except the sense of "localized" went away and it felt like my entire under-the-neck region was contracting.

I was given some more pain meds around 4.

Miraculously, the doctor reappeared at 4:30 p.m. instead of 6. He came in to see how we were doing. I got "checked" again, and, in two-and-a-half hours of some heavy-duty dosing of Pitocin, my cervix had responded NOT AT ALL.

It was time to make a decision.

Not wanting to rush us into a decision, the doctor said we could continue on our current course of action for the remainder of the day and night, and schedule a c-section for the next morning just in case. Or, he happened to have enough time that they could just do a c-section right then and there.

I think the doctor thought I was opposed to c-sections in general, since I had been so willing to put off inducing labor. He was wrong. I wasn't opposed, I just really thought our little peanut would get with the program if we gave her enough time. And since I wasn't completely miserable even at 42 weeks pregnant (anxious? yes. ready? yes. miserable? no.), I thought we could wait it out.

So looking at another 15-20 hours of labor that might well end in a c-section anyway, or just having the baby already, guess which I wanted to do.

I couldn't tell you how that "conversation" went with Ish, but it probably involved a lot of head nodding and grunting while I pointed to the bag of Pitocin and whined "another full DAY OF THIS?" We also asked the doctor for a recommendation, and he said that he didn't expect to see much change in my cervix by tomorrow (or, from the sound of it, EVER). He also mentioned that he could feel wehre the baby was trying to fit her head through my tiny little 2 cm and wasn't getting anywhere.

Well, that did it. At 4:40 (I looked at the clock) we said, yes, c-section now, please.

I grabbed my phone to Tweet that I would be having a c-section.

It is only because I love you that I would ever, ever share this photo with you.

And then a LOT of things happened very, very quickly.

Monday, August 10, 2009

My Labor Story: Part Three

Starting At About 10:30 p.m., Things Start To Get Blurry. And Stabby.

You hear stories about how women are in labor for 12, 18, 24, 36 hours and, if you're like me and haven't ever given birth, you go, "Huh?" Like, how is that even possible? Are you in agony the whole time? How does it take THREE DAYS? And what the hell do you DO for so many hours?

I don't know what everyone's answer is, but I will say that once the contractions really kicked in, time just sort of went away. And not in a happy, "Oh, my my! Where did the time go?" kind of way.

No. I lived from contraction to contraction, which I guess is what happens. And occasionally I'd look at the clock and wonder how it was so many hours later. Sort of like losing track of time because you're so engrossed in a project. Except in this case, the project is a little like removing your fingernails.

I did learn that sitting or lying down was wholly unpleasant, and the only position I could tolerate during a contraction was that of "bent over." So for the next four hours I was standing, chatting, occasionally tweeting, and then bending over my bed humming.

Yes, humming. Making a long, low humming sound brought me relief.

I remember thinking that was interesting. I just found myself humming. Not because I read it or saw it or was taught it, but because that's what I wanted to do. And I remember also thinking YOU KNOW? If childbirth is supposed to be so friggin' natural, why do they even bother trying to teach us what to do...? Bending over the bed humming was not something I expected, and yet there I was. It just sort of "happened."

WHEREAS. There was one point when my pain was getting worse and my "humming" had escalated to "mooing" that the nurse suggested I try the "birthing ball." This was something they'd taught us about in class. So against my better judgment but willing to try anything that might make the contractions more bearable, I agreed. Why not?

So she got the stupid ball and it was a complete and total disaster. (Do I need to remind you of the BALLS OF DEATH?) I can barely manage not to roll off a yoga ball when I'm NOT pregnant and writhing in pain. This ball was rather small to begin with, and not particularly well inflated. When you then add me and my million pounds, the ball sags to within inches of the floor. Um? Sitting was unbearably uncomfortable. Why did I think hunching and squatting on some plastic ball would make everything better? It was the worst position yet, and also had the pleasant side-effect of making me feel like a whale. A beached, mooing whale.

We got rid of the ball. I thought I showed tremendous restraint in not throwing it at my nurse. (This was the same nurse who sorely bruised me while trying to get my arm IV in, and who kept doing silly voices and making light of the situation and insisted that my contractions had barely begun and that my water had not broken. I think I will now refer to her as Nurse Stabby.)

At another point, just after a doozy of a contraction, I stood up and realized that I was completely entangled around my IV pole. Between the bending over and walking in circles in the room and being hooked up to the IV and to the fetal monitor (still), I'd wound myself around the pole and was stuck. Like a dog that's wound its leash around a tree.

Nurse Stabby did a mental eye-roll. "Oh, honey, just stand there." And as she proceeded to try and unwind me, she couldn't help but mutter, "I have no idea how you did this."

Meanwhile, poor Ish was doing his best to by my coach, given my volatile and inconsistent state. And by inconsistent I mean: I wanted no physical contact unless suddenly I did(!), whereupon I'd then grab hold of whatever part of Ish's body was closest. My dislike for Nurse Stabby was palpable, but I certainly wasn't going to show any of that in her presence. I was incredibly testy during contractions and yet (I'd say) rather pleasant between them. Well, and then there's the part where I was mooing.

Ish did a very good job of being my partner and catering to my needs and getting ice water and going with the flow of my crazy. Despite his near-perfect behavior, however, I managed to find fault with him on one count. In the throes of a contraction, I decided he wasn't being creative enough in his use of language. Somewhere around his 150th "You're doing a great job, sweetie!" I glared at him and barked, "STOP SAYING THAT! YOU HAVE TO FIND ANOTHER WAY TO SAY THAT! HOW HARD CAN IT BE TO SAY THINGS?!?!"

Which basically meant, "Your job here is to find new and interesting ways to compliment me while I moo!" Note: Also not something they cover in labor prep class.

Now. At this point, you might be wondering about pain medication, huh? Like, you might be thinking, "Hey, wasn't she supposedly all gung-ho about pain medication? I wonder why she hasn't taken any yet!" And you would be asking very good questions.

One of the first things I did when I got into the hospital bed at 4 in the afternoon was proclaim to any medical professional within earshot: I do not want to miss the Epidural Window. Make sure I do not miss the Epidual Window! I did this because every labor horror story anywhere begins with how the pregnant woman missed the window for getting the epidural, either because her labor progressed too quickly or because she thought she could handle the pain and later determined otherwise. I did not fall into either category, but just wanted to be crystal clear about my preferences in case. The nurses thought this was hilarious. I did not.

Anyway. It turns out, they don't administer pain meds of any kind until you're dilated to at least 2 cm. (They won't even discuss the epidural.) If you'd told me that two weeks before, I would have said, "Oh, that sounds reasonable." But after my water had broken and my contractions were clearly not funny anymore (not that I ever thought they were), Nurse Stabby finally agreed to check me at about 2:30 a.m.

[Aside: "Check." That is what they call it when they put the glove on and reach all up in your business to see what's going on. And I don't want to begrudge medial professionals or anything, but it seems to me there should maybe me a more scientific way to gauge dilation than by a stabby nurse with a glove. Plus also, no matter who's doing it, it hurts. I mean, it's uncomfortable too, in the way that any formal assessment of your hoo-ha is uncomfortable, but it also hurts.]

I was only at 1. 1! Grrr! I didn't find this alarming so much as annoying. Obviously I was ready for labor, right? With the slightest prompting, my body had started its process and labor seemed imminent. Just as soon as my cervix got with the program, we'd be ready to go. The nurses were preparing for our morning to be very active and our baby's arrival to be late morning-early afternoon. And I'd heard plenty of stories of the cervix leaping in dilation and effacement just like magic.

So, I thought basically I was going to have a swift, good, normal labor. And since I was going to have a swift, good, normal labor, that 2 cm rule seemed kind of stupid. But what can you do.

Another hour of mind-numbing, moo-inducing contractions later, I think Nurse Stabby took pity on me. Or maybe she just wanted me to shut up. She'd taken up permanent residence in our room to help guide Ish and I through the increasingly challenging process, and I wouldn't have wanted to listen to several more hours of me, either.

All joking aside, though, what was the point (I wondered) of saying Yes! to pain meds if I was still going to go through hours of pain? I guess just to get to know the joys of labor. Or something.

At 3:30, Nurse Stabby looked at me and said, "You know, if you're really feeling ready for some kind of pain medication, I can help move things along. But it won't feel good." She made a kind of gesture with her hand when she said "move things along" that I won't describe, but she got her point across.

I agreed. At 3:30 a.m. I got my first dose of something glorious that helped take the edge off. I want to say for the record, however, that taking the edge off of a real contraction is a little like taking the edge off of a bullet wound. Comparatively, the rest of my body was a little more relaxed, and I was able to at least sit on the bed without wanting to claw my face off.

At this point, Nurse Stabby suggested we try to sleep. We needed our energy to be ready to go in the morning.

I don't know what kind of "sleep" one is supposed to get while still contracting every 3 to 5 minutes, but let's just say it's not exactly restful.

The next several hours passed with both Ish and I trying to doze. I will admit, he was more successful than I, though he tried really hard to stay awake with me. We had the blinds closed, the door closed, the lights off. I was on the bed, contorting my body into any position I could think of that might make the contractions better. Ish was beside me on the 300 year old recliner.

Everytime I'd move enough to make a lot of noise, Ish would stir. Without getting up or even opening his eyes, he'd say, "You're doing a great job, sweetie."

He really did mean well.

Sigh.

By the time the sun was up and Nurse Stabby had gone home and it was time for us to be transitioning into the next phase of labor, something unexpected happened: nothing.

We'd started the morning by meeting with the nurses and doctor and everyone agreed we should just wait it out. No more inducing meds, no more pain meds, just let labor progress naturally. If we needed to reassess later in the day, we would.

After which point my contractions stopped getting worse and kind of stalled out. They were back to being very uncomfortable but not debilitating. By 11:30 a.m. I discovered I'd actually fallen asleep and woken up and felt momentarily refreshed...until I realized my labor seemed to be going backwards.

"What's going on with you?" one of the new day nurses asked, in good humor. "We expected you to be delivered by now!"

Yes, well. Ha, ha. SO DID I.

The Part About How I've Never Been Happier

Update: The next part of the labor story is on its way, I promise!

I am grateful for the comments my last post elicited, because I had no idea what kind of impression I was giving. I thank everyone for being supportive, but I really did a bad job of expressing myself.

That post really wasn't about Dooce and it REALLY wasn't about how I am confessing that I don't feel a bond with my newborn or anything like that. Not at all.

What I meant to convey was that I, just like every new mother with an internet connection, am always searching to figure out what the hell I'm supposed to be doing.

How DO you raise a child, exactly? Is THIS normal? What about THIS? TELL ME, INTERNETS: AM I DOING IT RIGHT!?!?!?

And so the moment I find a post from a source I trust (a medical website or a blogger like Dooce, for example) and I read about someone or something being different from my own experience, it's hard not to compare.

Ummm....But....Can my way be right, also?

That's a hard question for a new mom to answer. Contrary to how I've portrayed myself here, I DO have confidence in my parenting skills (really, I do), but still. When my way is different from someone else's way, it's hard not to feel conflicted, or wrong, or not as good. Or at least to wonder.

So. What I tried to illustrate in my last post was that my way, my labor story, is different from anyone who would describe their experience as transcendent (and there are LOTS of them; Dooce just happened to write about hers a couple days ago). My way is different from women who declare that they are "in love" with their newborn baby. And my labor story doesn't have any fireworks or freight trains or sparkles or moments where I feel One With The Universe.

Is my way still okay, then? Yes, of course. But it's still juxtaposed against other ways. And while I know that that doesn't make my experience lesser or not as good -- my way is great! -- it can still catch me off guard.

And that's what happened. I got caught off guard. As a result, here is what I meant to say:

My experience wasn't like any that I've otherwise read. There weren't bells and whistles, exactly, and if I meditated at all it was only to keep myself from punching my nurse. I don't think it's fair for me to use frilly language or to try and describe my experience as something too deep for words. But that doesn't mean my experience was anything less important. It wasn't anything less amazing to me. I don't love my daughter less than anyone else loves theirs. My drug-addled, unfrilly hospital stay was unremarkable in many ways, but oh my god was I ever happy.

I still am.

So when someone uses words like transcendent I get defensive. Because I don't think you have to have that in order to have it be the best, most memorable, greatest thing ever. For me? I am crazy about my daughter, I love being her mother, I feel like everything has fallen into place and my life makes sense and that this is exactly what I am supposed to be doing.

AND I know that there are other ways, still. Some of you out there hated having a newborn. Hated labor, hated the newborn insanity, did not feel "built" for parenting at all...and yet also still found your child/parenting to be the best thing you've ever done.

One cannot help but get the impression from the internet that giving birth and having a baby is supposed to be mind-blowing and mind-altering and instantly life-changing and flowery and unicorn-filled. And all I want to add to the chorus is that Nope. It doesn't have to be that way, or any which way at all, to still be completely, totally awesome.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

My Labor Story's Labor Story

Well, crap. I just read Dooce's "Labor Story Part Three" and I'll admit, I cried. Not because it was so beautiful -- although it was, yes -- but because, and I don't even know how to say this other than to say it: my experience giving birth was not transcendent. In fact, it wasn't any kind of adjective deserving of those kind of italics.

I know it's not a competition or that there's any one right way to do things, but it's still weird. I am not a monster, I swear, but the earth didn't shake and the heavens didn't open the moment my daughter came into the world. And I don't think any amount of meditation or visualization would have changed that (though for the record, as you'll read in my own Part Three, I did my fair share of mooing. Who knew?).

So before I get to the rest of my own pedantic (take THAT, transcendent!), albeit breezily elegant labor story, I just want to say that I am choosing to even bother telling it because I owe it to myself.

Because it was just plain.

It was just my own, little experience. It was interesting to me, and had its funny moments and it had its scary moments and it had its really awesome moments, but it just kind of happened. And yes, I suppose my life is changed forever but it doesn't actually feel any different than it did a few months ago. Yes, I love my daughter and think everything she does is really cool, but I would not describe what I feel as being "in love" with her. I cannot wax poetic about what it felt like To Become A Mother because frankly, I have no idea what it feels like. It just is.

I've read a lot about being a new parent, starting about nine months ago and ending with Dooce's post, and I've been surprised at how little I have to offer in the same vein. I'd hoped that having a baby would unleash all sorts of emotionality in me, but I've barely even cried. I have no gut-wrenching metaphors or tear-stained language to offer about the gloriousness of my child's birth. I just have my own, simple, non-transcendent story.

And even without the fireworks or gravitas, it's worth telling. Because it's real, and I love it.



* * * *
ADDED:

This honestly is not about me "comparing" myself to Dooce, but rather a response to SO SO SO much I've seen and read regarding Amazing Birth Stories. Heather's story tipped the scales for me, but I didn't write this post until I read a several-page-long "article" today about why breastfeeding is better than bottle feeding. It was reportedly from a medical source, but the piece was mostly opinion, extremely judgmental and relied on "you will be in love with your child" sympathies to prove its point. And I couldn't NOT write something in response. (Despite that I am, actually, breastfeeding.)

Monday, August 03, 2009

Labor Story: Part Two

The First Few Hours, And More Shit No One Tells You About Pregnancy

It was around 7 p.m. when it was evident I was having contractions. Evident because:

A) I'd had monitors hooked around my belly since I'd arrived. One was tracking Eve's heart rate, one was tracking my contractions. Not only could we watch the machine produce a little seismograph-like printout, we could also watch the activity on a special TV monitor mounted to the wall; and

B) THEY ARE CONTRACTIONS.

Now, on the one hand, I was actually sort of relieved to start feeling something, even something painful, because it meant that I could finally say, think, announce, PROCLAIM that I was finally in labor!!!

Sound the trumpets!!!

On the other hand, well, Ow.

I mean, even in the early stages, the contractions basically felt like I expected them to: like the worst of the worst menstrual cramps I've ever had, in acute, angry, increasingly prolonged bursts.

Except -- just like they say -- the contraction comes and life is VERY unpleasant...and then it's gone completely. So the time between contractions is all weirdly normal, and you're like, "Oh, hey! Just kidding! Everything is fine! Mind if I tweet? Where's that water bottle? I need to text my sister bac--OH, CRAP, HERE WE GO AGAIN..."

By 8 p.m., I was definitely getting into the swing of things. My contractions were regularly registering on the Contraction Seismograph, and they hurt, but it was still early.

To ensure that things continued on this course, they decided to give me my second dosage of Cytotec.

By 8:30 p.m. the evening nurses had come on duty, and were ready to hook me up to my IV. This is worth mentioning.

For one thing, the IV meant I was really, truly, actually in labor. And yes, I know I already pointed this out but dude. After nine full months of pregnancy, four previous trips to the hospital, and a full five weeks of being prepared to go into labor "at any moment," it was kind of hard to believe.

Well, until Our Main Nurse showed signs of hesitation at putting my IV in. She tried to cover for it, but it was obvious she wanted the other nurse to do it. This did not put me at ease.

Now, for the record, I didn't really care about being jabbed because that is More Shit No One Tells You About Pregnancy. Pregnancy means taking about nine hundred million different tests, all of which require vials of blood to be drawn from you whether you like it or not. There were days early on when I pricked so many times and had so much blood taken that was surprised I didn't leave the doctor's office "empty."

Still, it wasn't comfortable. And when you're trying to be patient while your nurse is yammering on endlessly about nothing and doing these crazy stupid voices and joking while not managing to get the needle successfully into your vein, you might get a little testy. Then when a contraction comes on and the nurse is still poking at your forearm and WHY IS SHE STILL TALKING you might envision kicking her in the shin. This is a sign that yes, you are really in labor(!) but also you need a distraction.

"Do you mind if I Twitter this?" I asked the nurse.

And so I did, albeit one-handedly. She eventually gave up on my arm and announced she'd have to just put it in the back of my hand, which is "a little more uncomfortable." Great.

(I ended up with a gigantor bruise on my forearm from where all the needle poking and prodding "didn't work." It didn't photograph well, but note that it's four weeks later and there is still a bruise outline on my arm.)

For the next two hours, there wasn't much to do. I was now hooked up to the IV and the two belly bands, so getting up and walking around (or even going to the bathroom) was a challenge. The contractions slowly started to feel more intense, though they looked basically the same on the Contraction Seismograph.

This concerned me. I wondered if that meant the pain would get much, much worse.

By about 10 p.m., Ish and I had worked out how to deal with my contractions as they started to intensify. Turns out, I HATED having Ish touching me in any way. No massage, no pats, no hugs, no nothing. This was contrary to everything we'd seen in videos, learned in class, or discussed ahead of time, but what can you do?

Instead, the moment I'd feel a contraction coming on, I'd look immediately at my husband and open my eyes wide. He quickly learned that this meant: Back away, but do not go far. Do not touch me unless I grab you for the purpose of squeezing the life out of one of your appendages. Say helpful, encouraging things and tell me I'm doing a good job, but whatever you do, DO NOT ASK IF I AM OKAY. The LAST thing I can do right now is worry about answering the dumbest fucking question I've ever been asked in my entire goddamned life.

By 10 p.m., it looked like we were going to have a quiet-ish evening. Yes, I was having uncomfortable contractions, but there had been no change in my cervix, and no reason to think anything really progressive was going to happen before morning.

We asked the nurse how we could expect things to play out, and she confirmed: we were looking at a whole night of the same. I'd probably get more Cytotec and possibly something to help me sleep, so that we could both be rested and ready to go by morning.

She suggested that before we try to get some sleep, however, we should really take at least one walk around the halls. According to her, this would help keep things moving. I agreed, but not because I wanted to go for a walk. I agreed because my nurse would not shut up about how walking was the best thing I could do and I should really walk around and you know I should walk around now before things really get cooking and I can't walk around any more. And also I should walk around.

So she unhooked me from my mass of wires and bands and tubes and damn it, we walked. And you know what? IT SUCKED. I didn't like strolling the hallways half-naked with my tube things on that wheelie cart. I didn't like wandering past the other rooms full of laboring women who didn't want to see me and who I didn't want seeing me. I didn't like the feeling of always having to pee because the baby was still putting massive pressure on my bladder which -- ha, ha -- was NOT made better by all my uterine activity. And mostly I didn't like walking ten feet and then having to glare at Ish so that he would stop walking and wait for me to try to climb the wall with my toenails until the next contraction finished.

By 10:30 we got back to the room and had to call the nurse to come re-hook me up. We thought maybe we'd try to get some shut-eye. I decided to use the facilities while I had the chance.

At which point my water broke.

WTF, huh? I mean, I'm no expert, but I don't think anyone expected that. I certainly didn't. (Especially not while sitting in the bathroom.)

In fact, I didn't quite believe it. So I came out of the bathroom and told Ish, but that didn't help anything. It still sounded crazy: Hi, um, I know there's been no progress and I'm not dilated and sure, I was um, just, you know, peeing for the 40 thousandth time, but hey -- I think my water broke. He just looked at me dumbfounded.

Then the nurse appeared and I told her the same.

I expected her at least to celebrate the news, since apparently her stupid insistence on walking had done some good after all.

Instead she replied, "Oh, no. It probably didn't."

Um.

"I kind of think it did."

"Well, are you still leaking?"

This was an unexpected question. Am I still leaking? I'm supposed to leak now? I had to think about it.

"No?"

"Then your water didn't break. Once your water breaks, you just keep on leaking. Your body will actually keep producing water and leak until you give birth."

I stared at her, processing this, adding it to the More Shit No One Tells You About Pregnancy file.

I was pretty sure something odd had happened while I was in the bathroom, but I couldn't be sure and so we let the nurse leave.

Three minutes later, however, we called her back.

I will spare you the minute details here of exactly why we called her back (but yes, it was leak-related), of how they test said leakage, and of what they do when the "leak" comes back positive, but I will offer these choice phrases: hospital-grade maxi-pads; hospital-grade netted underpants; hospital-grade bed-liners.

Ugh. The miracle of birth.

But who cares, right? Because my water broke! Of its own accord! This indicated that my body was responding to the gentle encouragement of the Cytotec and I was going into a natural labor! Oh, happy day!

The nurse checked my cervix again!

0.