Sleepless Nights

Two sleep deprivation-induced incidents:

1. Maggie falls asleep nursing at 3am; I hand her off to Tom for a post-nurse cuddle and burp. Upon his return to the bed (no burping in bed due to projectile spit up), I, having dozed off, become convinced he hasn’t put the baby in her co-sleeper but instead stuffed her under the covers at the foot of the bed. I then repeatedly frisk Tom’s leg, convinced that it is Maggie, and can’t figure out why she has toes but no head. Fortunately I wake up all the way and realize Maggie is perfectly fine on the other side of me.

2. The baby makes her pre-nursing cooing noises–it’s like a two-minute warning to real “FEED ME NOW” fussiness. We try to avoid that stage if at all possible so I sit up, grab the Boppy, and position the baby to eat. She lets out a tiny squawk. Tom sits up and mumbles “S’ok Maggie.” He then stands up, picks up his pillow, cradles it to his chest, and bounces it gently while sleepwalking around the room while I say “Tom? Tom, the baby is fine, come back to bed.” Repeat twice more on subsequent evenings.

I think we’re handling this fine, but the lack of sleep is a killer.

Our Parenting Philosophy

Some people do “attachment parenting,” some people believe in fostering total independence from the get-go. Us? We’re “path of least resistance” parenting, at least as it concerns the newborn phase. This note from http://www.askmoxie.org is the epitome of our parenting style.

“Therefore, in the first 12-14 weeks of parenthood you should take your lead from Malcolm X: By Any Means Necessary. If your baby only sleeps on your chest with his/her head wedged up into your neck*, do it if you can sleep that way. If your baby only sleeps in the swing or sling or Amby hammock thing or car seat or car or front carrier or laundry basket or between you in bed or holding onto the cat’s tail or on the bathroom floor or in a tent in your backyard, do it. If you have to run the hairdryer, clothes dryer, white noise machine, “La Vida Loca” CD, or any other noise, more power to you. Whatever gets the maximum number of hours of sleep for the maximum number of people in your household, that’s what you should do. And when anyone asks you how your baby’s sleeping, just lie and say everything’s great.”

For the record, everything IS great! But I figure until she’s about three months old, we’ll do whatever works, and only that. And so far, it’s working out splendidly.

Birth Story: The Hospital

Maggie spent her first 48 hours in the hospital nursery being monitored for rapid, shallow breathing and fluid in her lungs. This condition is rather common in c-section babies who have not been squeezed by the birth canal, but occasionally happens in more rapid labors. Mine wasn’t super-fast, but it was fast enough. For the first 24 hours she had an oxygen cannula (the little nose snorkel-like thing) tube taped to her wee face. This was a lot scarier to see than the condition warranted; nobody likes to see their baby clad only in a diaper in the NICU-grade bassinet with wires running off them like a damn experiment lab rat. Even if the stickers used to secure the monitors are shaped like teddy bears.

For me, the birth (post-epidural ;-D) was mostly a source of joyous laughter; I was worried when she was rushed off with the world’s tiniest oxygen mask, but we had gotten some skin-to-skin time before they realized her breathing was off and we got to see and snuggle her beautiful little moon face close up. Plus Tom was with her and I trusted him to keep me in the loop. I didn’t feel the urge to cry until we hit the nursery about an hour and a half later for our first nursing and her first bath. (Girlfriend needed a shampoo rather badly. Birth is GORY, y’all.) Then I cried. The nurses understood how important it was for me to nurse, and we had our first go at it. It went really well, and she went back to sleep. They brought me back to the room and I made my first attempt to use the restroom, a process that can only be described as a black comedy.

Throughout the course of our first 24 hours, I had to go to Maggie to nurse. This was an unforseen benefit to not rooming with her–it got me out of bed every two hours for a nice long constitutional to the nursery. Her latch was great and we spent all of ten minutes with the lactation consultant covering proper positioning. We didn’t need any more help than that.

Problem was this–with the tubes in her nose and with my sore parts, she got distracted really easily and by the time she latched on and got down to business, it had become excruciating for me to sit. I gritted my teeth, readjusted myself on the inflatable donut, and kept going. Somewhere in there they took her for chest x-rays. The neonatologist then told us that she needed more liquids to help her metabolize and reabsorb the fluid in her lungs. We would have to supplement with formula. (Imagine a crinkling noise heard here as I folded my birth plan into a paper airplane and sailed it out on to Punchbowl Ave.)

I am not morally opposed to formula; I have no issue with supplementing per se. For me, the worst thing about formula is the smell–nasty formula burps, spit-up, poo, blech. So it wasn’t an ethical/moral dilemma that got to me. The economist in me recognized the issue of supply and demand, to wit: if Maggie got the goods wholesale from a bottle with a nice wide rubber nipple, would she continue to tolerate my boutique wares at a lower quantity? Nipple confusion would really screw us up later on. I really wanted to exclusively breastfeed at home, for all the medically indicated benefits and bonding, and because I am cheap ($20 a can for formula, sweet skipping Jesus) and not fond of the myriad odors of formula.

The other thing was that in my sore, hobbling condition, I couldn’t run back and forth to the nursery like Tom. Tom could feel useful fetching me ice packs, water, snacks, and running to and from the nursery far more often to practice diapering and swaddling with the nurses. In my state, nursing my poor oxygenated baby was the best way for me to feel useful. Alas, it was supplement with formula or put an IV in her tiny wee skull for the required liquids, so obviously we supplemented and I nursed at every opportunity. There was another unforseen benefit here: Tom administered the few bottles she received and was able to bond at another level with his daughter.

I spent most of the hospital visit on the phone with relatives, scuttling back and forth to the nursery, and keeping an eye out for Josh Holloway, who plays Sawyer on the show “Lost,” whose wife had given birth the day before. (He is quite handsome, tall, and the accent is real. Tragically, I saw him in the nursery when we were getting a consult and could not bring my unwashed, braless, and slightly bloodstained self to ask for an autograph. Poor taste and all.) After the first day Maggie was weaned off the oxygen and brought to our room for feedings, where she ate like a champ. Her stats improved greatly with skin-to-skin contact, so I did as much of that as possible. She did well enough that we didn’t need the extra day of monitoring that they thought we would, and after stripping the room of all possible freebies, we went home on Sunday afternoon.

Happily, aside from a small bout of constipation that seemed to affect Maggie not in the slightest (her panicked parents were affected and bothered, but our amused, rectal-thermometer wielding pediatrician and Maggie, not at all), there was absolutely no nipple confusion or other problems associated with the bottle and we were able to stop supplementing a day after we got home. It seems that Maggie is not picky about where her meals originate.

We have been exclusively breastfeeding ever since, and I’m grateful to report that our only problem is that she sleeps so soundly that occasionally I will need to wake her up to relieve Mama’s full tanks because I am too lazy to get out the pump and store up. I attribute this to equal parts good luck–good latching from Maggie, good initial supply from me–and all the recommended practices to improve supply have worked well for us. (Knock on wood; I should continue to be so lucky.) We have lots of skin-to-skin contact during the day when it is cool (she gets icky heat rash if I do it in the afternoon). We do not practice the “family bed” style of co-sleeping, as Tom and I are violent, deep sleepers, but we have a co-sleeper sidecar attached to the bed and she is no more than a foot away from me. She is increasingly more comfortable in our babywearing wrap after some initial resistance and Tom looks adorable using it. She has begun to nap in it, although I will transfer her out and let her complete her nap in the co-sleeper so I can do things like cook a hot meal and shower. Her physical strength is incredible, astonishing her pediatrician, and she is developing delightfully hammy little rolls on her legs and arms. She is wake and alert for long periods of time and seems happy to let Tom and I talk to and play music for her.

In short, she is strong, thriving, pink and plump as a Christmas ham, and has a mellowly cheerful little personality. We are thrilled she is ours.

Adventures in New Parenting

“Did I just lie down in a pee spot?”
“Yeah but I did that yesterday, don’t worry.”

“Did that sound…?”
“Come out of her butt? Yes.”

Sleepwalking 2, Tom 0.

Waterproof mattress pad 0, Maggie’s aim off the pad 3.

“How are you doing pain-wise?”
“Still romancing my ice packs.”

“When do you want to have dinner?”
“As soon as she goes down for her evening nap. Then we can eat with both hands!”

The Birth Story

Here is my account of Maggie’s birth. It was an incredible roller coaster in which our birth plan was, with our informed and occasionally eager consent, completely thrown out the window. Would I induce with pitocin again? Probably not, it got really intense really fast. Would I get the epidural again, even without pitocin? Absolutely, and I would get several and give them as gifts to friends and family.

Knowing what I know about natural birth and its advocates, some people will read this and see a tragedy of avoidable suffering and feel badly for me. Some of the people reading know Maggie had to be taken to the nursery immediately to be put on oxygen to resolve an issue of rapid breathing and fluid in the lungs and was not able to room with me at the hospital. This sounds a lot scarier than it was. I think it’s important to note that the drugs I took during labor did not cause her problem; it was a matter of the fluid not being squeezed out 100% in the birth canal, and happens more often in c-sections but occasionally in vaginal births. I felt horrible, awful guilt about being induced and taking the drugs until her doctors explained it all to me, and I shouldn’t have. It wasn’t my fault, it wasn’t anyone’s fault. No birth plan is worth feeling that kind of guilt if you don’t, won’t, or can’t stick to it.

Most importantly, I went into every decision with open eyes, realistic expectations, and that I don’t feel a bit bad about how it all happened. It was nothing like we expected, and magical in its own way. My baby is healthy and beautiful and our labor together was truly awe-inspiring to me.

Friday, April 10, 7:00 a.m.: We are prepared for the 9am induction and decide to leave the house early to beat traffic. I have showered, put on a bright red kicky sports bra and shaved my legs, and I feel good. Empowered. Even with the imminent pitocin induction, I feel confident. Tom looks every inch the capable father-to-be. We head off to pick up breakfast and get on our way.

7:50 a.m.: Thanks to Good Friday, there is no traffic on the roads. We swing by Whole Foods to pick up a ration of high-quality snacks for us after the labor: proscuitto, fresh cherry tomatoes, sourdough bread, and cheese. I become utterly giddy at the prospect of choosing soft cheese. We pick out a bottle of Veuve Clicquot champagne to toast our new arrival (as of today, April 16th, we still haven’t opened it yet.) I text my family to tell them how Tom is selecting fine wine and cheese to celebrate our baby. My cousin Megan responds with “Tell him to stay standing for the birth. He won’t want to wrinkle his tux.”

9:00 a.m.: Admitting. Our nurse is super-supportive of the birth plan. Yay! They finally hook me up to the pitocin IV around 10, blowing out a vein in my hand in the process. For a while that pain is worse than my contractions. We are told they’ll increase the dose half-hourly until things get rolling. I am 3cm, 80% effaced.

10-1:55 p.m.: Trashy TV marathon on Vh1 Bravo. We don’t have cable so this is a rare treat for me. I am having definite contractions, but no more intense than what I have experienced at home. Because of the pitocin and whatnot, I have been strapped to monitors and an IV pole, the second of many divergences from the plan. At five of two I look at the clock and think “Seriously, it’s been almost four hours, when is this going to really get rolling?”

2:00 p.m.: Be careful what you wish for because BIG CONTRACTION HOLY SHIT. And we’re off to the races! After about twenty minutes I need all my energy to focus on my breathing. I use my color imagery and hold on to Tom.

3:30 p.m.: My adrenaline is through the roof and the hypnobirthing is becoming difficult to maintain. My body’s fight-or-flight response is to flee; every contraction inspires the need to jump straight through the ceiling. This is not surprising given my past reactions to pain. They are every two minutes. The nurse checks me. I am still at 3cm. I agree to the suggestion that my water be broken. I tell Tom I am ready for an epidural; if this is what 3cm feels like, I have no interest in what 9cm will feel like. He knows me well enough to say “Absolutely.”

3:45 p.m.: The doctor arrives. Tom tells me he held my hand but I don’t remember that part. All I know is the nurse has to lean her whole body weight on my shoulders to compress me while they insert the epidural catheter. Relief starts to come but my left side feels considerably more numb than my right. I lie on my right side and call my mom and sister to tell them that I couldn’t go all-natural like they did. My sister says exactly the right thing: “If I had had more time, I’d have gotten the epidural too.” The idea of being confined to bed, once so terrifying, no longer matters.

4:15 p.m.: The epidural fails to work on my right side, and what little relief I received on my right begins to fade. My left side is numb but my right is back up to pre-epidural intensity with no breaks in between. They call the anesthesiologist. He is in an emergency c-section and won’t be available to help me until 5pm at the earliest. I tell Tom that this wasn’t supposed to happen–if I was going to disregard my birth plan, I want results, goddammit. It seems so unfair to have happily pitched our plan and still be exactly where I was. The good news is that now I am at 6cm! Progress!

4:45-5:30: Tom tries to use our hypnobirthing to talk me through the surging transformation I’m undergoing. I tell him to shut up but apologize after the contraction passes. He continues to soothe me as I try to find my happy endorphin place, with varying success. There is a lot of focused breathing/groaning. Every time I remember the nurse is in the room I ask where the doctor is. Fortunately for her I don’t remember that often. As a stopgap, the nurses ask my OB if they can give me an injection of something that I will never remember that is supposed to help me not care about the contractions. This is the only part I actually regret–even at the half-dose my doctor grudgingly approved, the drug doesn’t work except to make me feel woozy. My doctor is on the way from her office and will arrive just after 6:00. One contraction is such that my bladder is totally overpowered, and Tom strokes my hand while they change out the pad underneath me. I am grumpy about my loss of control.

Somewhere in this time period I sign a waiver to donate the baby’s cord blood. I think this is the very definition of consent under duress.

5:30-5:50 p.m.: The anesthesiologist comes and tops off the epidural. My left side, still numb but capable of movement, goes even blanker. I try to wiggle my toes and get a twitch. My right side STILL ranks at “moderate pain.” I am topped off again.

6:00 p.m.: Ahhhhh. I have new energy. I feel bright-eyed. I babble like a drunk who’s just taken a mild hit of speed. I feel fantastic, alert and confident again. I tell Tom that given that I am the sort of person who will take to my bed with Vicodin for menstrual cramps, I am not sure why I thought I would make the all-natural plan work for me. The nurse inserts a catheter. I get the giggles and can make small talk.

6:15 p.m.: My doctor arrives and checks me. “Well! No wonder you were uncomfortable, you’re at 10 and the baby is at the +3 station! Let me scrub in and you can push!” While it wasn’t exactly all-natural, I give myself a pat on the back for making it 90% of the way without the benefit of a full epidural. I don’t care if anyone says I cheated–I at least made it that far.

6:30 p.m.: Tom gets misty and emotional, I start laughing. We’re going to do this. We make small talk between contractions. “Did you know Josh Holloway is here? The guy from “Lost”? His wife had their baby.” I am numb from the waist down but I am able to use the hypno-birthing birth breathing techniques to find a place to push into that doesn’t strain me. I decide the mirror would be cool and I watch the head slowly pulse back and forth.

The baby’s heartrate dips and threats of the vacuum come out. This is terrifying to me, and I redouble my efforts and the shift in the baby’s position resolves the problem. My doctor is thrilled with my baby’s progress. The nurse and the doctor cheer me on while I push. Even though it expressly states not to do this in my birth plan, I actually enjoy it. Go me! I am rocking the push. My bowels behave and I become irrationally pleased that my birth story will not include me pooping on the table as well.

6:55 p.m.: I put my fingers on the baby’s head. This is weeeeeeeird.

7:00 p.m.: The doctor tells me the baby is crowning and to push into the burning sensation. Thanks to the epidural I have no burning whatsoever. I get a second wind to push–the next few minutes feel like one long super-push. The doctor says “Your baby is coming, it’s coming!” The only thing I feel is the heat from the high-powered light trained on the area for the doctor. The nurse rips off the monitors and prepares a landing site on my stomach for our first meeting.

7:05 p.m.: Tom is crying and I am laughing with joy as he tells me “It’s a girl, a girl.” The doctor lifts a solid, chubby baby into the spotlight area. She has enormous cheeks. I repeat her name over again, “Maggie, Maggie” as she is placed on my torso. She is beautiful. We laugh and cry. We are a family.

Maggie

Margaret Kelley, Apri l0, 2009. 8lbs 3oz, 19 inches.

Maggie had some minor problems with fluid in the lungs, more common for c-section babies, so she spent some time on oxygen, but otherwise she is perfect and delightful. Tom and I are thrilled.

The birth plan flew out the window, all with our consent and sometimes eager encouragement (for example, I got the epidural and feel that my life is no less complete for not having felt the head pass through the designated exit). More about that once I get more time.

She is here, and beautiful, and amazing. I can’t believe she’s really ours.

Birth Story: The Prologue

Okay, kiddo. We’re ready if you are. We don’t know when we’ll be able to post again, but here’s an account of our week prior to the Friday induction.

Monday, April 6th, 4:00 p.m.: I am two days overdue, having a few contractions per hour that are mild-moderate in intensity but do not progress. I have been in this holding pattern for over a month, I’m exhausted and my lower back is killing me. Our doctor reports that I am over 50% effaced but have made no progress in dilation. I have held steady at around 3cm for three weeks. The professional opinion is that I’m “there and ready, and there’s really no reason why [I] shouldn’t have made the leap to regular contractions yet.” Her policy is a 40 week cap to pregnancy (I would have asked why, but a) I’m too tired, and b) I don’t especially care that much), but we’ve negotiated to go to 41 weeks before inducing. Truthfully, I do not want to go to 42 weeks. I submit to the non-stress test, noting that the baby has settled directly on my sciatic nerve and my lower body is in ridiculous pain when I get into the best monitoring position. We agree to schedule a late-week date to induce, although we hope not to need it. Friday is the best day in Tom’s work window, so we settle on Friday at 9:00am, just a day shy of 41 weeks. Waiting until his next best date would be the following Friday, which is longer than the doctor and I care to go. We decide to use the bare minimum of pitocin to “jump start” the labor and turn it off as soon as the contractions become regular.

April 6, 6:30 p.m.: My Macbook hard drive commits suicide. Contractions increase to 5 minutes apart while I deal with the fallout. I schedule a Genius Bar appointment for the next day; contractions subside.
Tuesday, April 7th, 2:00 p.m.: There is nothing the Genius Bar can do, the data loss is total. I am told that “Sometimes these things just happen and there’s no reason why.” Thankfully I have backed up about 90% of my files. Contractions remain in the limbo pattern; apparently Baby has accepted death of Macbook. I arrange for the new hard drive to be installed and leave my mechanical baby at the Apple Store.

Wednesday, April 8th, 12:00 p.m.: I am off work and on leave, sans computer, which I consider essential to the functions of life. Tom graciously allows me use of his, but without all my bookmarks and feeds, it isn’t the same. With all my time to think and dwell, I start to consider calling the doctor and canceling the induction. Work schedules and doctor and back pain be damned; why am I disturbing this baby if it doesn’t want to come out yet? I have horrible guilt for altering the 100% natural plan, even though we will be turning off the pit as soon as possible. Then I realize that the holding pattern of unproductive contractions isn’t good for me, and how will it help the baby if I wait and wait and go for a natural delivery but am too exhausted and worn out from the last six weeks of fake labor to follow through? I would rather have a small bit of pitocin than an epidural; for someone with ADHD, the idea of being confined to a bed and immobilized from the waist down sounds like medieval torture. I resolve to stop being a ninny and decide that pitocin or no, if I can do it without an epidural, thus staying mobile, I will consider it a win. I further remind myself that a successful birth is one that concludes with a live healthy baby and mother, and to try to stay off the high horse. All the same, I take a very small dose of castor oil to see if I can jump-start things at home. At best, it works, at worst, well…my system needs a good clearing.

April 8, 4:00 p.m.: Castor oil does not work, for the record. At least, not in the small amount I’ve taken, and I have seen enough to know I don’t want to see any more.

Thursday, April 9th: Intermittent but increasing contractions make napping and resting difficult. Am exhausted from previous night of tossing and turning and contracting. Maybe the castor oil did do something. I do the Hypnobirthing CD one last time and manage to relax enough to nap a little. While watching cheesy late-90s horror movies, I start to get optimistic about the contractions’ progress. Hopes are subsequently dashed as the contractions taper off late in the afternoon. I decide to call Tom and tell him that what I really want for my last meal is a good steak. My decision to marry Tom and make him the father of my child is reaffirmed as he suggests filet mignon wrapped in bacon, and offers to go to the store on his way home. Now that’s service! We spend the evening watching movies, setting up the co-sleeper, and enjoying each other’s company in baby-less quiet.

Eviction

Friday, April 10th, 9am.

Kiddo, it’s been fun. I will remember our time together always. But Mommy has been lingering in false and early labor for six weeks, and thus you have until then to get hopping on your own. Then you get served your eviction papers.

I suggest you go quietly. I’ve heard a lot of crap about this pitocin stuff. We’ll do the minimum, but it would really be best for all parties if you decided to go on your own.