Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Brutal Honesty: Postpartum Blues

Disclaimer: This blog goes to dark places and may unnerve you. If you are easily upset I strongly advise not reading paragraph 6.

A lot of people would assume that since I have my emotions well under control at nearly all times regardless of circumstance, that I may somehow be less affected by them. Or perhaps even that I do not feel or have emotions, since I've got mine on such a tight leash. Let me assure you: I feel emotion the exact same way you do, whether you see it or not. When I say, "Only you can decide when to be happy, angry, or sad," I mean just that. This wasn't always an easy thing, it took time to master. As with all disciplines.

I did not get hormonal mood swings during my pregnancy. At worst I found myself mildly agitated from time to time. So I figured postpartum hormones would be no different. This deduction was wrong. I found controlling my emotions much more challenging after labor than before it. Your mind wanders to really extreme places under that amount of pain and stress. Things you'd normally only think about for a second you find yourself thinking about for hours, maybe even days, as you have nothing else to really do to distract you from such thoughts. Your job is to nurse and nap. That's it.

I never once felt bad about my post-pregnancy body image or got mad at Aaron simply for having a penis. However I did manage to somehow take every single criticism given by anyone, constructive or not, personally. Sometimes even if it wasn't directed at me. I didn't outwardly show it, of course. True to nature I realized the illogical nature of these feelings and did not act upon them, but I still felt them.

When my milk didn't come in until almost a week after delivery, I felt like the most useless human being on the planet. When the eye dropper from our necessity kit didn't work, somehow I felt like that was my fault too. Even though I had no hand in even buying it! When I dared take a walk a week postpartum only to pass a huge blood clot and be told by nurses to I would need to take it easier... my fault! I knew better, I truly did, and I withheld these feelings because of that. Yet things like this still happened. No amount of reasoning could prevent it.

Many new mothers experience resentment towards both their newborn and their significant other. From the books I have read, it is actually totally normal to want to throw your husband, your baby, or both out of the god damned window at any given time -- so long as you don't actually do it and the thoughts don't linger. This I did not experience. Instead I distinctly recall while nursing Jude well into the wee hours of morning, how very tragic it was that any mother anywhere could abandon her offspring. I was just overwhelmed by sheer love looking at his little pink face as he peacefully nursed and could not fathom ever dumping him off somewhere and walking away. I wondered how many new mothers had done this only to regret it hours or days later, too late.

Then I got to thinking of even worse things. Such as mothers who actually harm their new babies. Their completely helpless babies who depend on them completely for survival. What utterly desperate mindset they must be in to do something like that. Then the terrible realization of just how simple it was: to place a baby into the bathtub and just turn on the water. I wondered how many mothers who had done this regretted it minutes too late?

These weren't things I was considering, mind you, not ever. As I said, I began this sombre mental journey by being overwhelmed by contentment and love. Yet somehow my hormonal postpartum brain thought it up anyway. As if I were too happy and that wasn't okay. I needed something to depress the hell out of me.

Any time I missed out on eating dinner with my family, I'd get sad. Whenever I thought about how my mom could not be with me at the hospital, I'd get sad. When I thought of my mom, I'd think of Booka and, you guessed it, get sad. When Aaron would play video games, no matter for how long, without me -- yep: sad. When I realized all of my friends who could help me most during this period were 3000 miles away, more sadness. It was a horrible experience. Nothing you say or do seemed to make it any better. Every extreme high of new motherhood was countered by a self-inflicted low. Like Nature's way of making sure you don't overdose on happy.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Mom is A Wizard

Mind = Blown
Usually I only sing or hum to Jude when he's on the brink of sleep, to help facilitate the process. Last night while Aaron was running out to grab us a bite to eat I decided to sing to him while he was fully awake. Best decision ever. No, really. I am a master of decision making.

Never before have I felt that amazing, like some fantastical creature of myth and legend. His eyes opened like little saucers, and I could see he was trying to figure out how the hell I was doing what I was doing. He grew completely still, watching me with intensity and drew in his bottom lip. Such an expression of wonder! I laughed until I cried. He looked like a curious owl. Then he cracked the biggest smile and didn't quit smiling.

You're welcome.

Fast forward to this morning. Reflecting on it while looking at the picture above on my phone, I decided this was something that needed to happen. Maybe it was because Jude had woken me up so early and I was suffering from a touch of deprivation, or maybe I'm just a mad genius -- this was how I decided to spend the morning: transforming Jude into an owl using my phone and its stylus.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Who Gives A Shit: Diaper Review

From left to right: Luvs, Kirkland, Pampers

In the brief eternity that has been the first month of my son's life we've found ourselves trying out many different brands of diaper, as I am sure many of you have, looking for that magical one that does everything you could ask of a diaper consistently. Here are my findings thus far.

In six weeks time we have gone through 4 brands of varying cost: Pampers, Huggies, Luvs, and Kirkland (Costco generic).

Before Jude's birth we had received a package of Huggies Little Snugglers as a gift. At the hospital they supplied us with Pampers Swaddlers. While out on a pre-delivery supply run we nabbed a box of Kirkland diapers on sale from Costco, because why not? And later at the suggestion of my mother-in-law we gave Luvs a shot to see how they measured up.

Pampers 3/5
Pampers Swaddlers were the first diapers we used, starting right after birth in the hospital. Size 0 have a generous dip in the front to avoid irritating the umbilical stump which is good, a feature which goes away in the size 1's (understandably). They're decorated with a Sesame Street character and have a yellow line on the front which changes color to blue when baby is wet. The ease of use is fantastic, with the diaper staying open to put on baby once unfolded very nicely. The velcro tabs are a different color than the rest of the diaper making them easy to find even in low light, and are of such a shape as to easily meet in the center of the diaper evenly. Unfortunately they are prone to leaking on occasion, especially from the sides for whatever reason. So many times when baby peed while nursing, he needed a wardrobe change.

Huggies 2/5

Once we got home we started using the Huggies Little Snugglers we'd received. These too have a dip in the front for size 0, though it seemed a little less generous. These were decorated with Winnie The Pooh characters on them and also contained the wetness indicator on the front. They didn't stay open as well as the Pamper's Swaddlers and thus were a little harder to get onto a squirmy baby. The tabs are white like the diaper and therefor not as easy to get off during those midnight changings. Much to my dismay they were prone to leaking as well and fairly frequently, particularly from the top of the diaper, front or back depending on what position baby happened to be in when he peed.

Kirkland 4/5
We next tried the Kirkland diapers we purchased at Costco. I assume size 0's would have a dip in the front but we started at size 1, which was wise because Jude grew out of size 0 diapers rather quickly. These are decorated with panda bears and also have the wetness indicator on the front. It works the same as name brand ones, changing from yellow to blue when baby pees. The tabs on these are white like the main body of the diaper and rounded which makes them sort of hard to meet evenly in the middle (not that this is a huge deal). These did not stay open near as well as the other brands once unfolded and required some adjustments once baby was in them as a result, but they did not leak near so much as Huggies or Pampers did. Occasionally a leak would happen but it was pretty rare.

Luvs 2/5
Lastly we busted out the Luvs. By then Jude was in 1's, so I cannot speak as to the size 0 or whether or not they have a dip for the umbilical stump. I would assume yes, as that's pretty standard these days. Luvs are decorated with wild animals, penguins, gazelle, and so forth. They do not have a wetness indicator on the front which is their major shortcoming. They are peculiarly scented though, and the scent of the diaper becomes more noticeable once the diaper is wet. I'm not big on the fragrance, but these diapers have yet to leak at all. Which is amazing for the price of them and given their thinner appearance.

Addendum: Now that Jude has fully grown into the size 1 diapers, Luvs is not as dependable. They leak just as often as the Pampers, so without the wetness indicator, actually fall beneath them in ratings. Score dropping from a 3 to a 2. Summary will be amended to reflect this.

All in all it seems that for ease of use the top name brands trump their more reasonably priced competitors, but when it came to functionality the cheaper diapers actually out performed the costlier choices far and away. I would probably rate them in the following order: Kirkland, Pampers, Luvs, Huggies. Jude seemed to find them all equally comfortable and has yet to experience any instances of diaper rash.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Rough Start

Motherhood is a magical experience. Normally it's a lot like playing The Sims. So long as baby's hunger, bladder, sleep, social, and entertainment meters are full -- baby is content. Little toothless smiles up at you after a good nap and happy cooing when baby notices you've entered the room are priceless. That said, it's not all adorable. Being a mom is hard fucking work. For every good day you and your newborn have together, there's bound to be a bad one around the corner as he adjusts to life in the world. I could just spew all the good tales at you, but that's not fair. It's not honest. So, here's the story of this morning.

I've been battling a cold for the better part of a week now, and this morning was no different. Around seven AM, after having only been asleep in his bassinet for thirty minutes or so (par for the course), Jude wakes himself up farting, realizes he's not in mommy's arms and that he has wet his diaper and decides this combination of things are the worst that's ever happened (circumcision aside). Sniffly and exhausted I get up to soothe him so that I may wash my hands, but he is far too sleepy and upset to be truly soothed. So I just have to wash my hands while he fusses and cries about life in the living room.

Hands germ free, I get him on the changing table and alert enough to realize dingos are not eating him, so he's finally calm and content. Until... he pees on himself. The world ends when you pee on yourself. Lets be real, this isn't mere crying like before, this is a true wail fest. He's also peed on me, so I have to go wash my hands again before I can finish the diaper change. Now he's crying even harder to the point of near screaming because not only has he peed on himself but mommy is gone. Dingos must have eaten her. It's a dingo apocalypse up in here.

I return, hands germ free again, and try to soothe him but he is so worked up by this point that it cannot be done. I can't be mommy! I must be the ghost of mommy because dingos ate her two minutes ago! I proceed with the diaper change while he's flailing and crying, cleaning him up, applying the Vaseline to his healing incision, and finally closing the diaper (after several tries due to kicking legs). Once I scoop him back up into my arms everything is right in the world and the wailing instantly stops. I take him back out into the living room and nurse a smiling little boy as if none of this morning really happened and maybe I'm just a crazy person.

Lets hope this isn't an omen as to how the remainder of this day will play out.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

One Month!


I write this under the same disclaimer as my last post.

The days following the birth of our son are hazy to me. Many encounters I had, I've forgotten entirely while others manage to remain in my mind fairly clear. For instance, I was completely unaware that I had partaken in a rather thorough explanation of the hospital's food services and menu options with a cafeteria representative. I thought you just received whatever was on the menu for the day and it was a complete surprise.I didn't know you could order food beyond breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and even change your entree from what was on the menu to whatever you wanted so long as you notified them in time enough prior to the meal's serving time.

I do remember shaking uncontrollably after birth, probably from pain, adrenaline and blood loss. No amount of warm blankets helped. I remember how proud Aaron was. I remember that the nurse who weighed Jude had to weigh him a second time because she couldn't believe it. I remember not being able to move my right leg from the epidural for a long, long while. I do not remember Josh and Melina being in the delivery room with me for a little bit after birth before I was taken upstairs to the recovery room. Which means I also didn't remember the photos they had taken -- thankfully I was wearing clothes!

I remember that all of the nurses were amazed by how long my delivery took and even more in awe with how long I pushed. They also kept warning me that Jude would be a night owl and I should not expect him to sleep much during the night, only for him to sleep like a champ. Had nurses not come to wake him up for a feeding, he would have slept the entire night! I remember they wanted to give me a room mate but (thankfully) decided not to because Aaron was rooming with me in a cot. I do not recall the social security representative or the birth certificate one coming in to brief us on how to receive official copies of each. I do not recall the vaccinations or the speeches preceding them, only that I received two and Jude received one. I vaguely recall the hearing screening a-okaying Jude's hearing.

I remember a day or two later that my doctor came in surprised I stuck it out so long. The average birth takes six hours and the average time spent pushing is roughly an hour. I labored for twenty-nine hours and pushed for four! I remember him saying that after two hours most women opt for an elective c-section. I was far too stubborn for that though. I remember a pediatrician coming in but I do not remember what he talked to us about.

I remember a nurse briefing me about when I am finally checked out, how I'd receive a prescription for two different types of pain killers. I also remember how, when it came time to check out a day or so later, that one of those prescriptions magically disappeared and they were going to send me home with Motrin alone. After a bit of confusion they finally sent me home with a new prescription for a lesser pain killer, but at least it was something. I still have no idea what became of the original prescription (it was being kept at the nurse's station), I don't think anyone does. I don't remember the process of checking out, only the journey down to the car escorted by a nurse.

The car ride home was nerve wracking. It seemed like every other car on the road was driven by a mad man. The first twenty-four hours at home were spent nursing and napping with absolutely no time for anything else which left me sleep deprived and starving. Jude had developed an appetite but I was still only expressing colostrum. A combination of my milk coming in late, and little time for rest leaving me with little supply once it had, meant by Jude's Monday doctor appointment he'd lost an entire pound from his birth weight. Far more than the acceptable ten percent that's expected. So we had to introduce him to a bottle and formula supplement. Luckily introducing him to the bottle didn't effect his ability or desire to breast feed.

I had planned on remaining enrolled in classes after birth, doing my work from home for a few weeks and going in for exams and such. Unfortunately I did not consider a difficult birth of a large baby. Ultimately, I wound up needing to drop them. After merely taking a casual stroll with Aaron and Jude a week later, I passed a blood clot the size of a chicken egg followed by an increase in bleeding. Nurses instructed me to get as much rest as possible and if the bleeding didn't begin to taper off again in twelve hours or increased at all to go straight to the emergency room. So that ended that. Only now, nearly five weeks later am I beginning to feel any better physically though lack of sleep certainly hasn't sped along my recovery, that's for sure.

My pregnancy anemia is worse due to the amount of blood lost during childbirth, resulting in spontaneous bruising, fatigue, and headaches. My hip can barely support my weight, making walking painful and difficult. Naturally, it goes without saying that it feels like someone kicked me in the uterus and the rearrangement of one's organs is never pleasant. We'll see what the doctors say on the twentieth. Hopefully it's all going well, even if slow. Still wouldn't trade it for the world.

Jude's up to ten pounds as of his circumcision, having regained all of his birth weight and then some. As such, we've weened him off the supplementing to see if I'm producing enough milk to sate him now. I think it may be ideal to continue giving him one bottle in the evening so that he sleeps a little longer, so I don't deteriorate due to deprivation again. Breast milk is easier to digest than formula, so babies get hungrier faster. Jude only sleeps for a max of two hours after breast feeding, usually less. He'll sleep for four or so after a bottle of formula at night. We'll see how he's doing post circumcision tomorrow at his one month well-check. I'll keep you posted.

Other than these things, I don't recall anything else. I know Jon and Sean came to meet Jude when we got home from the hospital, but I don't actually remember this taking place. It's all very surreal.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Bye-bye Edema

The edema has subsided for the most part and my engagement ring fits once again! It's so nice to finally have it around my finger again. I felt so naked with a bare hand, having to wear it around my neck for the last couple of months.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Belly Button News

Breaking news: Jude's umbilical stump finally fell off this morning leaving him with... an innie! How precious. Welcome to the world of belly buttons, son.

Monday, October 15, 2012


Disclaimer: I type this single handed, as the other hand is occupied by a baby, so pardon any typos or inconsistencies in style as every now and then I have to take twenty to forty minutes to breastfeed rather than write.
Three weeks time.
On Tuesday October 9th I went to the OB for my weekly check-up. By this point I was as many as forty-three weeks pregnant or as few as forty weeks pregnant. Either way, it was about time for Jude to make an appearance. By this point I'm seeing the doctor once a week and having Fetal Nonstress Tests every three days. The nurse takes my vitals and asks me if my blood pressure is always high. Given that my chart is in her hands I kind of want to direct her simply to look at it and find out, but that's the remarkably pregnant part of me thinking. I inform her that, no, my blood pressure is normally chronically low. So she double checks and confirms it's high today.

The doctor comes in and examines me, noting I'm still only one and a half centimeters dilated, and mentions briefly the possibility to need to induce labor, but she presents it in a way where it doesn't seem likely. To be sure, she leaves to confer with the attending. When she returns with intent to induce in a couple of days, I'm genuinely surprised. So much so that I forget to express how direly I don't want to be induced. Not that I just want Nature to take its course, but inducing labor in first time pregnancies often makes labor take longer once it's begun. Aaron reminds me to stick up for myself, and I resolve to go out there where they're setting up the appointment to delay it as long as possible.

I understand the judgment call being made, post-term and high blood pressure set the stage for preclampsia -- which my mother had experienced, making me more likely to experience it as well. I just felt, given a little more time, Jude would come on his own terms.

Once we're out there we discover "a couple of days" is actually "tomorrow at 7:00 AM." Uh, whoa there Nelly. I express my concerns and ask if we can delay it to at least the weekend, to minimize missing classes. The clerk making the appointment cannot defer to my whims or even the nearby midwives who seem to agree with my choice. So we have to wait for the attending to finish up with the patient he's in with to yay or nay it. Patience is something I possess in droves, so we wait. It doesn't take him long to emerge from some examination room behind us. Much to my surprise he's very laid back and cool with my decision. He agrees that we can hold off on inducing labor for now, so long as I make my Nonstress Test on Thursday, and has the clerk schedule me in for induction 7:00 AM Friday.

Relieved, we go home and let everyone know that at the very least there is now an end in sight. Much to my dismay, my grandfather and mother won't be able to make the 3000 mile journey to be there with me at the hospital. According to my grandpa, my mom has the flu. While she'd be fine with the miserable sick trip, you're not supposed to have sick visitors in the maternity ward. So they promise they'll come out as soon as they can thereafter. It's a bummer, but it is for the best.

We plan our week around this new deadline. Wednesday we're going to finish cleaning house, do the laundry, and go to class. Thursday we're going to go shopping and have our last "Date Night" before baby is here. I even tough it out upright at my computer for a few hours to socialize and game a while. Sitting at my desk for any stretch of time has been increasingly difficult for me this last month, as I'm so pregnant I'm only comfortable laying on my side, so it's a bit of an effort but I manage. After a while though I assume I have overdone it, because I'm remarkably uncomfortable, and I resign myself to bed.

The next morning, Wednesday October 10th, I wake up crampy at 11:30 AM, which has me a little nervous (given the previous day's doctor visit). I roll over to see if changing positions helps at all, but it doesn't. I then have a contraction. Okay, that at least puts me at ease about the cramping. I've had false contractions in the past, so I really think nothing of it and get up and start getting ready for school. Seven minutes later, while in the shower, I have another one. I grab my watch from the counter to time it: thirty seconds, and then go back to washing my hair. It's still entirely likely to be Braxton Hicks contractions. Then, exactly seven minutes later... another contraction! Huh. This must actually be it. Good thing we postponed inducing, what a waste that would have been -- inducing me just a few hours before I would have gone into labor naturally!

I remain calm, knowing we don't even go to the hospital until contractions are five minutes apart and lasting over forty seconds for an hour, and finish up in the shower. I then go and wake up Aaron, informing him that, "It looks like we're going to be missing class today anyway." He is groggy and confused, so I explain my contractions. We lay all cudddly together in bed for the next contraction and then he goes out into the living room to inform his mother (who's come up early to help us prepare). Unfortunately, since today is the day I was going to do laundry, my options are kind of minimal. I wind up in sweat pants a tank top, and a lacey thong. Yes, a smexy thong is what I wore into the maternity ward. Aaron gets a shower, Eileen gets a shower, and then Aaron has an egg, bacon and cheese bagel for breakfast. I cannot eat something like that in under seven minutes so I just nom a power bar. We hang out for the afternoon, monitoring my contractions, and luckily by 4:00 PM they're close enough together that we can leave for the hospital without having to worry about rush hour traffic.

My contractions started off really mild. I had no problem at all just breathing through them. I couldn't walk through them though, and Aaron forgot to let me out at the door, so we sat in the car to wait for my next contraction before bee lining into the hospital where a wheelchair was procured. They rolled me upstairs and asked me if I could walk into a nearby delivery room. I don't know why they asked me this, I can only assume the wheelchair might not have fit? Not that it mattered, I was having another contraction right then, so the answer was no. They took me to a different room instead where I was hooked up to all sorts of monitors which thankfully confirmed that I was in actual labor.

Aaron asked if he, as a registered EMT, could assist in the delivery of our baby. The nurse was doubtful, but went to ask. Much to everyone's surprise, the doctor agreed. Which we'd find out later, is apparently not something he's ever done before. Even in cases where the father asking was an actual doctor, he never lets anyone assist with deliveries.

I was four centimeters dilated upon arrival, big difference from the one and a half I had been only the night before. When it came time to start my IV, I opted out. Agreeing if it was later needed, they could go ahead and do it, but since it wasn't currently, I'd avoid any unnecessary sticks. This meant they had to send up a lab tech to draw bloodwork, but that was fine with me. There's a huge difference between the butterfly needle he uses and the thick pen cartridge size needles they use for a labor IV. At this juncture my contractions are about every four minutes, lasting forty seconds. The nurse tells me I should go for a walk, while I still can, so very carefully Aaron guides me through the hospital halls, stopping to hold me tightly (and keep me upright) during contractions. He has to go register me though, so Eileen takes over walking with me. In just the few minutes he is gone my contractions go from uncomfortable but tolerable to intense and agonizing. They also jump to two minutes apart for upwards of fifty seconds each, which leaves me little reprieve.

I had chosen not to have an epidural upon arrival, when they offered me one basically the same time they offered the IV, a decision based on high pain threshold and stubbornness. However Aaron later brought up a good point. I have PMDD -- if the mere monthly shedding of my uterine lining causes paralyzing cramps OF COURSE something like childbirth would cause even worse ones! We should've seen it coming and accepted the epidural to begin with. Ladies with PMDD: keep this in mind.

So I asked for an epidural, at least I think I did. Maybe Aaron asked, I gave him that power. Before they'll start an epidural though, you have to empty your bladder. So Aaron had to walk me into the bathroom so I could pee. Unfortunately once I got in there my contractions sped up again and I wound up stuck in there with him unable to move for a good while. Just writhing and trying to pee so the ordeal would at least not be in vain. We finally managed to escape the bathroom but I could barely make it the three feet back to my bed before the next contraction hit.

Before they'll start an epidural, they also have to start an IV. So in the fifteen seconds I had between contractions the nurse had to find a vein, prep my arm, and then try to stick me. Which did not happen on the first try. Thanks to amazing skin elasticity, she had to basically use all her might to puncture the skin on my forearm. It was a lot like trying to puncture cured leather with a Taconderoga pencil. When she finally got it in, she could no longer access the vein, producing a large painful lumpy bruise. She wound up having to go in through the back of my other arm. Luckily with far greater success.

Looking back, due to the intensity of my contractions, I'm a little unclear if I peed first or if they started the IV first, not that it really matters. In fact, thinking about it, I'm actually pretty sure the IV came first because I remember having to have the IV in for a set amount of time before the epidural could be given, and clenching onto Aaron's hand to get me through contractions in the meanwhile. I may get the order of things confused here and there, but most of this is a blur to me, remembered in fragments rather than a timeline of consecutive events.

Up until this point I had been keeping friends and family up to date via Facebook, since most of my friends and family live three thousand miles East of here, but things went dark for several hours during this period where I was in too much pain to update anyone and then asleep. My mother, worried about the lack of contact called the hospital to make sure everything was okay. So from that point on, Eileen made sure to keep my mom updated for me, when I couldn't.

Then the anesthesiologist was there like an white knight to save me from these back-to-back contractions. I felt incredibly rude because they were casually taking the time to introduce him to me, but at the time I was incapable of giving a damn. Luckily I apparently did not vocalize half the things I was thinking, so I came off far less caustic than I felt I had been. This was incredibly difficult though, being stabbed between the vertebra is painful and not easy to begin with. During nonstop contractions, oh boy. I kept asking them to hold on a minute, hoping there'd be a window of opportunity between contractions, but they were happening so quickly now that there wasn't. I wound up just doing my best to hold still so I wouldn't be paralyzed forever while being stabbed during a contraction. Relief was almost immediate. If I were Mormon I'd have asked the anesthesiologist to be my second husband.

At first the epidural worked a little too well and I couldn't feel anything at all for a few hours, which gave me time to get a little sleep. Not good sleep though, since every fifteen minutes my blood pressure cuff would inflate, and they had to put it on the arm they had created the giant bruise on. So every fifteen minutes my arm would throb with pain and disturb my Z's. I could only lay on my left side for all of this because laying on my right caused my blood preasure to plummet and alarms to go off, and laying on my back made the baby's heartbeat slow and alarms go off.

Eventually the effects of the epidural lessened a little though and I was able to feel my contractions again, though my water had not yet broken, so I was no where near pushing. This went on all day and well into the night. To the point where they offered to puncture my "bag of waters" for me, but I kind of wanted Jude to take things at his own pace still so I declined. And sure enough, several hours later, while I was asleep, my water had broken... but I had no urge to push, so it was not yet time to push. I was also only about eight centimeters dilated, need to be ten for pushing, so we resigned to more waiting through contractions, epidural making them tolerable. Of course since time continued pressing on, as did my IV fluids, I had to be catheterized, since it had been hours since I could feel my right leg for some reason.

I'd had only that single power bar to eat. From the moment I checked in was not allowed any solids and only clear liquids -- which meant I couldn't have the orange juice Aaron had packed for me. He did however sneak me a few bites of additional power bars or some peanut M&M's when the nurses weren't looking. Much to my delight.

Don't blame them. I can't be trusted with orange juice.
After an examination the following morning, on October 11th, it turns out my bag of waters had not broken. Not really. I had two, or something. So we had to wait even longer, through more contractions and hunger pains,  for my water to actually break. Which it didn't wind up doing until a later pelvic exam that determined I was nine centimeters dilated. By this point I had been in labor for over twenty hours already and it would be several more hours to go yet.

A little after noon I finally felt the compulsion to push and was thought to be fully dilated, so we began. Not long after, during another pelvic exam the nurse noticed my cervix was not in fact fully dilated. So I had to stop pushing and the waiting game began again -- through contractions and hunger pains. We had the anesthesiologist back to turn down my epidural so that when I was fully dilated I'd better be able to feel my contractions and know when to push. Which meant more painful contractions but nothing like the first day as there was still some anesthesia.

Some time around 1:00 PM I was finally fully dilated for real and we could begin in earnest. Pushing anew, it didn't seem to take long before you could see the top of his head coming down. An hour to an hour and a half the nurse predicted, as I continued pushing away, with contractions sometimes as frequent as back-to-back. A lot of people seem to be under the impression that, as a defense mechanism, the female mind blocks out the pain during recollections of labor. So while they know it hurt, they can't recall just how badly. Let me just say: this is absolute bullshit. At least it was for me. I remember every second of the pain with absolute clarity. One of the few things I do.

An hour came and went without rest. Then another. After the third hour, and many thoroughly soaked bloody towels, I was beginning to feel faint. It made pushing extremely difficult for me as my vision started to tunnel and I was sure I was about to black out. The nurse paged the doctor, as three hours of pushing is the cut off and then they start prepping for cesarean section, but I wasn't about to give up. Not even if the doctor was on his way to cut me open. Thankfully the nurse didn't expect me too, so I labored on.

I'm not sure what was taking so long. You could see his head almost out for like two hours of the time spent pushing, he just quit moving down at that point. Like perhaps he was stuck behind my pelvic bone or something. Then, as if someone flipped a switch the pain was so much that my mind sort of snapped and I wasn't even able to produce words. All I could do was utter a pathetic, "ow..." to Aaron between screams of pain and tears. Never before had I ever felt that much pain and this is coming from someone who has experienced a variety of physical pain. The epidural was doing nothing at all anymore. I was incapable of pushing through the pain, though I kept trying. I know I didn't make any formal requests so it was either Aaron's concern or the nurse's that the anesthesiologist was called back to fix the issue. But it couldn't be fixed instantly. It'd take twenty minutes to kick in, whatever it was. Just as I was sure I was dying, I started pushing with all my might, the baby crowned, then the doctor arrived.

Aaron scrubbed up and delivered his son into the world. The doctor even gave him his seat, standing off to the side to guide him through it. When Jude was finally out they placed him skin-to-skin on my chest and the first thing he did was lift his head up, unassisted, to look around. Talk about fantastical. To look down and see Aaron deliver our son into the world, then be handed our healthy baby boy... just wow.

They then took the baby to weigh him and actually weighed him twice because no one could believe it. Eight pounds, thirteen ounces. They've no idea how tiny me managed to birth that! And thanks to that amazing skin elasticity, only a single stitch was needed and that wasn't even from pushing so much as it was from having to be recatheterized while pushing. I then lost all color and began shaking uncontrollably. While I didn't lose consciousness, I don't really remember anything else from that day other than Eileen, Josh, and Mina being there. That and for some reason they brought me Thanksgiving dinner (turkey, sweet potatoes, green beans, gravy, cranberry sauce, and a slice of pumpkin pie) for my first meal. Which after more than 29 hours was fucking delicious despite being hospital food.

Overall I'd spend three and a half days in the hospital.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Sapphire or Opal?

Like a turtle on its back.
Pregnancy is not an exact science, not that much really ever is. It's a day past my due date now and there's still no sign that our little bundle of joy intends to join us outside of my womb any time soon. So I just lay around (read: wallow) growing more rotund and uncomfortable by the day.

It's not uncommon for first pregnancies to run up to ten days late, but here's the kicker -- since no one knows when precisely we conceived, my due date is just an estimate anyway. Essentially give or take two whole weeks. This means I may be pregnant for up to three more entire weeks! Or, I could go into labor while typing this. No one can say for certain.

I am 75% effaced though, and if I continue progressing at the rate I have been, that'll put me at 100% effaced by this weekend. After which point I can go into labor at any time.

It's a little funny because a couple of weeks ago, I'd have been happy with the baby taking his sweet time to arrive. Halloween? Sure, whatever. Stay in there as long as you want to, dude. Mostly because the thought of child birth is somewhat terrifying, notably the anticipation of pain and the absolute spontaneity of labor. I could be sitting here, fine, one minute and writhing in the throes of a contraction the next! There's no way to know.

However as time goes on, I become more and more uncomfortable, and am now to the point where I kind of can't wait to have this baby. Not simply because I'm excited to hold him and introduce him to the world, but because I'm also excited to not exist in a constant state of discomfort.

He sits so low right now that I experience intense pain in my hips whenever I stand up or roll over in bed. I think at times that my legs may actually fall off. No, seriously. It's that intense. From what I'm told, this is only going to get worse as he drops lower in preparation for birth. Oh boy.

My feet are swollen more often than not, making walking a challenge. Granted the pitting edema is kind of neat, like my feet are made of Play-doh -- you can push it around and leave indents with your fingers. Even if I elevate and ice them for hours they're swollen again within fifteen minutes of resuming normal activity.

Add to these things the fact that when he decides to roll around and kick he now consistently hits my cervix (a pain you can't comprehend unless you're a female) and it's like a trifecta of discomfort.

I can no longer tolerate sitting at my desk for any real length of time, which means significantly less video games and writing. Luckily I now have a smart phone (yay the future!) so I can at least browse the internet and keep in touch with people. I can't sketch because my hands are too achy to reliably hold a pencil. The mere act of taking a shower exhausts me. I'm alright laying in bed or on the sofa. I've basically become dependent on Netflix and reading to cure my boredom.

I've missed my first day of class because of it, something I hoped not to do until actual labor, but oh well. I'm not sure where my ASL2 professor stands on the issue, as he's yet to get back to me, but my ECE instructor has been very understanding and I'll be able to complete her coursework from home if I need to.

Granted every second of pain is worth it. I am creating a human being. It's just an overwhelming experience, sometimes. I'm not accustomed to having to lie down and take it easy. That's a foreign concept. I'm used to just go-go-go.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Unspoken Pregnancy Symptoms

I'm probably not alone in this. There are a lot of whacky changes that take place during pregnancy that produce a whole range of symptoms. Some of which you've undoubtedly heard about, such as:
  • breast tenderness
  • swollen ankles or feet
  • back pain
  • rashes
  • morning sickness
  • frequent urination
  • constipation
  • exhaustion
  • skin discoloration
  • cravings

Those are what you can pretty much expect anyone you've ever known who has had a baby (or their significant other) to tell you about. They're like, the staple of pregnancy for almost everyone, I guess. While I experienced a few of those, notably having to pee once an hour every hour, I skipped over most of them. No morning sickness, no constipation, no rashes, no change in my skin, very little tenderness, hardly any cravings, no foot swelling, etc., etc. Lucky me, I am told!

Instead, however, what I've experienced mostly is the following:
  • groin pain
  • swelling of the hands
  • headache
  • heartburn
  • hot flashes
  • excessive hunger
  • rib pain
  • food avoidance
  • insomnia

No one has ever mentioned any of those things to me as pregnancy symptoms, with the exception of late third trimester heartburn. I'm on prescription strength Prilosec due to a preexisting medical condition (cleared by my OBGYN) and cannot fathom a woman going through pregnancy without it. Even with the Prilosec I experience extreme heartburn (if I lay down without care, there's stomach acid in my throat) daily and Tums have become a staple of my pregnancy diet. A side note there, who decided citrus was the best flavor to make an antacid? Citrus is the last thing you want to consume when you've got heartburn! I know it isn't actual citrus, but still. Totally unappealing.

Excessive hunger and food avoidance seem contradictory, but they're really not. I am hungry all of the time. I do not get many cravings, I'm just always hungry. I can eat a bowl of oatmeal with a glass of orange juice and two pieces of multigrain toast with butter and jam and still be hungry enough for eggs and potatoes afterward. I don't (usually) eat two full meals back-to-back, but I could! It's not a nutrient requirement thing either. I take several varieties of supplements per day and have had my blood checked -- there's no deficiency present. I just want to eat like a fat kid.

Meanwhile the food avoidance is more like, certain foods just completely disinterest me or seem repulsive now. I haven't eaten a tamale in months and generally I really like tamales. It's just every time they are brought up as a food option, I'm like, "Ugh, no thanks." I have absolutely no desire for them anymore, even when I'm really, really hungry. I'm not a picky eater normally. I am willing to try anything once, sometimes even more than once just to be sure. So this is strange to me.

Hot flashes are particularly annoying because it's summer time and already hot. We've had a heat wave out here for several weeks now (temperatures of 100 degrees or more) which certainly has not helped either. Even with the AC blasting, I'm uncomfortably hot all the time. Sometimes so much so that my only relief is to either hop in the shower or lay down all sprawled out naked fanning myself. Or a combination of both.Which might sound kind of attractive, but at nine months pregnant probably isn't so much. And I'm not saying that in a moody pregnancy low self esteem sort of way. I know I'm a foxy mama, but when you take hot and stack it with more hot and wallowing, that's just not sexy at all.

Your baby will kick the shit out of you. I know most people talk about being kicked by baby as a fantastic thing, and usually it is! It is an amazing sensation to feel and even see a tiny human live inside of you. But sometimes you will either get kicked someplace really sensitive (like an organ), or just be kicked in one place repeatedly until it's sore. This is not so great.

I don't think I'd have much rib pain if the baby didn't continuously kick them. Which, by the way, feels a lot like when you bang your funny bone. Only inside your chest, completely beyond your control. I can't blame him. He has no idea what the hell he's doing in there. My bones probably seem fascinating in his world of juicy squishiness. It's woefully uncomfortable though, and on particularly bad days can leave you quite sore afterward. Sometimes I go to bed feeling like my ribcage is on fire. Not exactly conducive to sleep.

The headaches aren't frequent, thankfully, but I included them anyway. Mostly because when you are pregnant you're not allowed to take most headache expunging medications. Advil, Aleve, Motrin, Execrin, and any type of Aspirin are all taken off the table. You're allowed only very low amounts of Tylenol, which isn't typically enough to thwart a headache. At the very best it just takes the bite out of the pain. I'm the sort of person whose headaches always gradually progress into migraines if left untreated. So on the rare occasion a pregnancy headache crops up, it winds up restricting me to bed all day. My midwife says taking walks and drinking lots of water can help with pregnancy induced headaches, but in my experience this only helps a little and if the headache gets to migraine level walking will be the last thing on your to-do list. I've found laying down seems to help me more, if only because it usually changes the position of the baby and gets him off whatever he'd been sitting on that probably caused it.

Groin pain took me completely unawares and is probably the only symptom I'd wish out of existence if I had a magic lamp. For the last month or more it has felt like I've pulled my groin. I haven't, but the pain is there regardless of that fact. I cannot lift my feet more then two inches from the floor without sharp pain radiating through my pelvis. I have to sit down to put on pants and if I want to prop my feet up on the sofa, I need to pick up my legs with my hands in order to get into position without wincing. Mind boggling realization? This happens to a lot of pregnant women and will disappear after delivery. In the meanwhile, the only thing I can really do for relief is sleep with a body pillow. Which is kind of like having a third person in the bed. Or I guess, a fourth person if you include baby. I haven't gone to sleep without a body pillow tucked between my knees and under my giant belly in weeks. Because if I do the pain I described above is so intense I can't even walk without experiencing it. This is all caused by the weight and position of the baby as well as the muscle and joint loosening hormones being produced by your body and there is really nothing to be done about it medically. A long soak in the hot tub would probably help, but those are forbidden to pregnant ladies as well. Ho-hum.

Swollen fingers is a new one to me, something I woke up with for the first time yesterday. I've been waiting for my ankles and feet to swell but it just hasn't happened. Not even when I walked from one end of campus to the other and back again while hopelessly lost. So the fact that my fingers of all things have now taken to swelling is just bizarre to me. I get up in the morning and they're so puffy my grip is weak and my knuckles hurt (the ones I can feel anyway). I can only imagine how much worse this would be if I didn't have peripheral neuropathy. I find it a little funny that my preexisting medical conditions have thus far all been boons to my pregnancy experience.

Insomnia, for me as a narcoleptic, is just surreal. I've experienced it before, on rare occasions, but nothing so frequent as this. Sometimes I'll just lay awake in the dead of night, totally exhausted but unable to actually sleep. I imagine it's some primal motherly instinct to prevent my babies from being eaten by predators or something, but it's really annoying. There are no leopards in my house. We reside in a nice neighborhood, so there probably aren't even any burglars anywhere nearby. There's really no justification to be set to "can't let my baby be eaten" mode. Yet at least once a week, there we are. Four am, tired as a dog, staring at the clock, waiting for the moment when I need to fend off a pack of wolves with nothing but my hands and teeth.

And all of this? Completely normal! Just seldom mentioned by anyone, including doctors, until you yourself bring it up. Why? I have no idea. I certainly would've appreciated a heads up about feeling like I've been kicked in the snatch.

Don't let any of this deter you though. I know it might sound like a lot of complaining, but if you want to bring another human into the world -- it is absolutely worth it.

P.S. Adema is neat. I can leave hand prints on my skin, or draw pictures with pressure.

P.P.S. Someone just pointed out that I myself forgot one: leaky nipples! While you do not produce milk until days after delivery, for four or more weeks prior to delivery your breasts begin to produce and at times secrete pre-milk called Colostrum. A clear (sometimes cloudy) nutrient rich substance that will keep baby nourished until your actual milk comes in. It's usually only a small amount (a few drops worth), unlike actual lactation, but can be more at times. So you should invest in nursing pads ahead of time, just in case! It may be tempting, but you should avoid expressing before delivery as doing so may cause uterus contractions as well as leave less nutrients in the pre-milk for baby when he or she arrives. Expressing won't make you leak any less, anyway. So there's no point.

P.P.P.S. I've been told due to Ph changes you should avoid colored panties, mostly because you might find that you bleach them!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

There is A Ninja II

As you heard in the last installment of Ninja Baby 2012, we went from "maybe baby" to "5 months along" in a week, according to my primary care physician. Okay, halfway through, that's still plenty of time for preparation. Then from "five months along" to "more like seven months along" the week after that, according to our midwife. Alright, a little less time to prepare than we'd like, but we'll manage. And then from "seven months along" to "you're due next month" a week or so after that, according to the ultrasound technician. Holy crap.

With gestation like that, I might be an alien of some kind. Not that that would make me any weirder, really.

Baby kisses!
So obviously, we've had our first ultrasound now, which was super amazing. Getting to see the baby for the first time, moving around and stuff. Really cool. Of course, being my offspring, it rolled over as soon as the technician started the ultrasound, making the woman's job more difficult for her. Not that I minded, since it also meant the whole process would take longer, letting Aaron and I see our baby longer! The baby was very active on film, making faces, kicking me, and then pulling his foot up to his face to use like a pillow.

We also found out what we'd be having! Are you ready? Just in case you're not, I'll put a little space here. If you'd rather be surprised in September, then stop reading NOW (and probably avoid looking at our baby registry, it's got spoilers).

Are you still here?


Then that must mean you really want to know whether we are having a boy or a girl.

Then know you shall:

At the end of September, Aaron and I will be welcoming a baby boy into the world!

We met with the midwife again on the 8th, but she didn't have all of the results back yet so we won't meet with the actual MD until the 22nd. I really like our midwife though, she'd very warm and friendly. My bloodwork and such came back good. No gestational diabetes or anything, however I was a little anemic so they've added additional iron supplements to my prenatal vitamins. We've another ultrasound scheduled for the 15th!

Baby shower (for local friends and family) forthcoming, online registry (for those of you too far away) exists for you here. I want to say thanks for all the support and assistance you guys have reached out with. Finding out you are pregnant and basically due any time is a lot to take in!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

There is A Ninja Inside of Me

Way to be conclusive there, middle line.
Back in May Aaron and I noticed that, due to eating poorly and lack of exercise, we were putting on a little weight. Nothing out of control mind you, just a few pounds. It's not like we were eating nothing but deep-fried butter and laying on the sofa all day. We resolved to pick our exercise routines back up.

In June we noticed that my weight gain was not normal... Aaron could now see the end of my belly button (which had always been a bottomless void before) and my abdomen was firm, not soft like fatty tissue. My period was also a day late, not unusual but strange enough in combination with those other two things for us to venture out for a home pregnancy test. Just in case.

I had absolutely no signs or symptoms of a pregnancy and had been taking birth control religiously for years due to PMDD. I immediately suspected something else was amiss. Like a cyst, a tumor, or something gross like worms. So imagine our surprise when three minutes had passed and the test seemed kinda-sorta positive! Now we were baffled, excited, and understandably a little nervous. It wasn't a bad time for a baby, it was simply unexpected.

I called the doctor to set up an appointment to confirm but couldn't get in until the following week, so we went ahead to L.A. for our planned trip to visit family. During that week I went from "maybe baby bump" to "almost assuredly pregnant." So much so we had to take a trip to the mall to buy me new clothes because my extra small shirts which normally left plenty of room were now definitely several sizes too small for me. By the time we got home, the message I had left for my doctor was going to seem absurd!

We would have to explain to her, that all of this change had seriously happened in seven days. Which was something she found pretty amusing. She felt around, listened for the baby's heartbeat with her stethoscope, and then did another test just to confirm. It was now officially official: I am pregnant. Up until that day we assumed I was two months along, maybe three, since I had been having normal periods up until June, which had been abnormally light. However the doctor suspected I may be as many as five months along. What? I'm such a freak of nature. She prescribed a prenatal vitamin to add to my already existing vitamin cocktail and had us set up an appointment with an OBGYN in a week's time.

Of course her staff is awful and I had to call my insurance to arrange this myself, otherwise I'd probably still be waiting for approval... but I digress on that.

I was scheduled to meet with a midwife who, after taking my extensive medical history, decided I should consult with the actual MD instead. Since she, "deals with normal low risk pregnancies" and I was anything but. She at least got us started though, doing another physical exam which concluded I may be even further along than my original doctor estimated. As many as seven months! Seven months and not a single instance of hormonal moodiness or morning sickness. Not a single sign or symptom.

We also got to hear the baby's heartbeat for the first time though, which was amazing! The midwife seemed to think everything sounded and felt good, so she had us set up an appointment with the MD in two week's time. We'll be seeing him on the 8th of August. I can only imagine how huge I'll be by then, because in the week since I saw my primary care physician to the day I saw the midwife I have doubled in size!

In the meanwhile I'm being ruled by a tiny person who controls me from the inside like a Gundam/mech/Gear (pick your nerdiness), left curious as to whether this person might be a boy or a girl. Naps, orange juice intake, and what I eat are all up to it. And let me tell you, this baby is kicking and moving around like a champ. When it's time for orange juice -- if I don't get up quickly enough, sometimes I think the baby might walk me there itself. I don't know where this ninja has been hiding for seven months, but it's definitely here now!

Not much time to prepare, but we're pretty thrilled!