My First Mother’s Day

The best thing about my first Mother’s Day is that I get to be a mommy to the sweetest little girl in the world. I feel so lucky to have her – to have this sacred privilege.

I had envisioned my first Mother’s Day to be a quiet, family only affair. I got to experience that for at least half the day…. I had told my husband that I didn’t want to go out for brunch, and I wanted to spend the day at home, relaxing with him and our daughter. He was excited about making brunch for me and spent at least a day planning the menu and gathering things he needed. As always, he went overboard, buying me 6 different bouquets of flowers (so sweet, I know) and spending four and a half hours making my brunch (did I mention what a slow cook he is?) Regardless, it was delicious and he put his heart and soul into it. I knew how much he wanted to make my first Mother’s Day special… which is partly why it hurts so much that my own mother successfully poisoned the last half of my special day.

It’s not the first time, but I keep hoping each time is the last. I stand at the end of a trail of ruined birthday parties, Christmases, graduations, and various special occasions that my mother has (intentionally?) brought to ruin. I should have known better, perhaps, but when it’s been a while I let my guard down. And that is always, always when she strikes.

It started earlier in the day when I called to wish her a happy Mother’s Day and she said, “Thank you,” which wasn’t immediately followed by “And Happy Mother’s Day to you, too!” In fact, those words never came. About five minutes into our conversation, she said, “This is your first Mother’s Day.” Yes… yes, I know… I clued into that fact, too. Still, no happy wishes for me, almost as if there was yet another invisible hurdle I had to pass to deserve that honor.

I knew then that there would be no card for me. No flowers. No gift. Nary an acknowledgment from Mommy Dearest.

She was supposed to come over at 3 pm, but called at 1:30 pm and said she wanted to come then. Surprisingly, and showing what might have been my only true insight of the day, I said she couldn’t come that early because we hadn’t had a chance to have our brunch yet. She was upset and nearly threatened not to come at all, but then thought better of it and said she’d be over after 3. Oh, how I wish she hadn’t come at all.

From the moment she showed up, she was complaining — about her life, her week, her day — how everything had been going badly for her and she’d been fighting with everyone from repair men to her loser boyfriend. There were a string of stories about her hanging up the phone on various people. Clearly, she hadn’t been getting along with anyone and I so desperately wanted to shout, “Can’t you see the problem is YOU?!” but I didn’t. I listened, even if half-heartedly, and tried to offer some solace.

I had gotten her a gorgeous card, written in it sweet nothings, and purchased a pewter frame with a flattering picture of her with my baby girl. She seemed to like it, but also noted that, “…it isn’t a Mother’s Day without flowers.” So, I told her she was welcome to take any of the flowers from my bouquets. That’s rich, isn’t it? She comes to my home empty-handed and complains about the gift I got her.

After nearly three hours of all this negativity (and me silently fuming that my first Mother’s Day wasn’t going to be acknowledged by her), something happened that was for me, the straw that broke the camel’s back. I had my daughter on my lap and she “fell” backwards onto my legs as she is prone to do. I’m used to it and I always “catch” her (since she lands basically right in my lap). Both my husband and my mom thought she was going to tumble to the ground and reached for her. My daughter, startled, started crying hysterically at the commotion. At least, I thought it was because she was startled… until I saw two bright red, deep scratches on her little cheek. My mother’s long fingernails had lacerated her face. Internally, I completely lost it. Externally, I was pissed off but biting my tongue.

The thing that upset me even more was that she didn’t really seem appropriately remorseful or apologetic. She said she hadn’t done it on purpose, that she thought my baby was going to fall. I know that’s true… but I don’t know… she just didn’t seem sorry enough! Finally, I said to her, “See? Your negativity affects other people.” I know I shouldn’t have said it. I know that I was really upset about a lot of other things I’d been repressing, but hey, it came out how it came out. And I meant it. She got very upset and immediately grabbed her things to go. My husband tried to get her to stay (I don’t think he’d heard what I said at that point). I said, “don’t forget your gift,” and handed her her things and she said, “But I still want my flower!” And she grabbed a red rose from the vase on the dinner table and fled our home.

So, this afternoon, she calls me and says, “So, are you ready to apologize to me?” I laughed — because it genuinely caught me off guard. I said, “No, I don’t think so.” She tried to start arguing with me, but I said I was feeding my baby and didn’t want to talk right then. She informed me that she would be coming over to my house tomorrow. I told her I wasn’t ready to see her yet. She said, “You can’t keep my granddaughter away from me!” I explained that I wasn’t doing anything of the sort. “I’m coming over whether you like it or not!” she threatened. “That’s not how this works!” I said, feeling my anger rising. Then she said, “I’m coming over whether you like it or not, and if you don’t like it, you can call the police!”

I’m still in shock.
What. A. Fucking. Psycho.

I’m not sure what I’ll do if she really shows up and tries to bully her way into my home. The one thing I do know is that she no longer has the key. I called a locksmith as soon as I hung up the phone with her and our front door lock has already been changed. That was certainly $257 that I didn’t want to spend right now, but my peace of mind is worth so much more.

Worst. Feeling. Ever.

For the past six days, my baby girl has been sick with a respiratory infection. She has been suffering from Bronchiolitis, which is basically a virus that causes mucous to build up in the small bronchial tubes in the lungs. She’s had difficulty breathing and she’s been wheezing and coughing – she’s had a runny/stuffy nose and a fever. There were days this week when, despite all our efforts, she was too weak to muster a smile. And it completely broke my heart.

I’ve decided there is absolutely no worse feeling in the world than watching your child suffer and knowing that you cannot do anything to alleviate that suffering. I’ve held her in my arms and cried because I could tell she was so miserable and it just seemed so unfair that this beautiful, helpless baby was going through this.

She can’t understand what’s happening… she can’t even blow her own nose, for God’s sake – how is it fair to be sick when you can’t even blow your own nose?!? I’ve had to suck her snot out with the nosefrida. It’s an idea that sounds gross to people who don’t have kids, but those who do don’t even flinch. Your kid’s nose is stuffy, they can’t blow it, you suck it. Case closed. Although, I must say, she hates it (even though she feels better afterwards) she hates having people messing with her all the time. Today, I reached towards her to touch her face and she recoiled. It hurt my heart. I know she’s just associating it with me wiping her nose (which gets sore after a while) but it still made me a little sad.

I’m only able to write now because she’s asleep, and I believe, on the mend. She’s been in good spirits today, and I realize more than ever that her smile means the world to me. I will make a complete fool of myself – anywhere, anytime – if it means I get one of her gorgeous ear-to-ear grins. I live and die for her. She holds my heart in her hands. I am constantly in awe of how immense my love is for her. I want to protect her so much that I can feel that desire in me as a visceral pain. I know I can’t protect her from everything and her being sick has probably been a lot harder on me and her dad than it has been on her. I’ve never felt more helpless or useless in my life.

How am I going to make it? This is just her first illness, and it’s not even a serious one at that. How will I make it through her first real injury, her first day at school, her first broken heart, her first million-and-one things that everyone goes through?

I guess I feel like I’m earning my stripes as a parent now. The word “Mom” is sounding more like a badge of honor to me these days than a description of familial relations. And despite everything I’ve just written here, I know in my heart, I’m ready for one more. Our family is meant to be the four of us… so whoever you are, spirit number four, get ready. Mommy doesn’t have a lot of time and you’ll soon be on your way!

Why I don’t write more

Someday, I will no doubt look back on this blog and wish that I had written more – documented more about what my experiences in early motherhood were like. The present Me would like to remind the future Me that there simply is/was no time and that I was either torturously sleep deprived and/or preferred to spend precious waking moments paying attention to and interacting with my sweet baby.

Having said that, I am intentionally trying to ignore her now… as it is almost an hour past her bed time and she has had a screaming fit – for no discernible reason – for the better part of this time. Maybe if I hadn’t already been deprived of several nights’ sleep, I could think of a better, more creative, more compassionate plan of attack. However, that is simply asking too much of me right now.

Last night went something like this: I gave her her “last feed” at 8:25 pm and she was asleep by 8:50 pm, then she woke up at 9:10 pm. I rocked her to sleep. I tried to go to bed at 10 pm. She woke up again at 10:45 pm and 11:45 pm and I rocked her back to sleep each time. She woke up again at 1:20 am and would not be consoled, so I fed her (my admittedly misguided attempt to cheat & put her to bed the “easy way” as she tends to fall asleep after feeding). The joke was on me last night as she decided to sever our tacit understanding by crying, screaming, and generally making a nuisance of herself until 3:30 am. At this point, I was sobbing in the kitchen, on my husband’s shoulder (a rarity at that time of night) out of sheer exhaustion. I fed her again and she drifted off to sleep for somewhere close to an hour – I think. My memory starts to get a little fuzzy here. She may have gone to sleep for longer, and it just took me until 4:30 am to get to bed. At any rate, she was up again at 6:30 am, and I fed her again. Again, she showed no signs of going to sleep, and started her (cute, when I’m not tired) babbling. I tried to ignore her, but it was impossible since she still sleeps in our bedroom. Eventually, I had to wake up the hubby on his day off, even though he’d only gotten a few hours of sleep himself. He could see I was in bad shape, so he watched her for a couple of hours so I could get some much needed sleep.

What I really don’t understand is how she went from sleeping 7 to 9 hours a night without waking up – which is what she was doing at 2 months old – to THIS?!?! I’ve read all kinds of things about sleep regressions and 4 months seems to be a typical time for the first regression but this is horrible and I cannot go on like this. I walk around like a zombie all day, trying my best to be present and have fun with my precious baby – but I’m exhausted and am actually starting to dread nighttime. I can’t take all the screaming and crying. I can’t stand the lack of sleep. I completely understand why sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture.

To top things off, tonight, I felt some tenderness near my c-section incision and when I felt the area with my hand, I noticed a sizable lump on the right side. It felt very strange and I’ve never experienced anything like this. Google seems to think it’s a hernia… which would be really bad news, as that can only be treated surgically, and I wouldn’t be able to lift anything weighing over 15 lbs. (which basically means, no lifting my daughter). I really hope that’s not what it is, but I have a sinking feeling that my hoping is in vain.

I know this post isn’t particularly clever, funny, or entertaining… I just needed to jot a few things down for me. Take a little time for myself. Sometimes it just helps to take pen to paper, or fingers to the keyboard, as the case may be.

House guests and fish…

You know that old 16th century saying about house guests and fish having something in common? They both start to stink after three days.

Well, I just need to let off a little steam before I go mad here! My in-laws have been here for 5 days and nights so far and my husband has been at work (working super long hours) for three out of the five days, which means I’ve been left to care for and tend to his parents. And, I’ve officially had it today. I’m tired. And for the second time this week, my incisions scars are really sore – which always puts me in a bad mood – and, incidentally, is a sign that I’ve been too active. I want my peaceful home back!

Every single dish in the sink or used glass left wherever anyone feels like it is just irritating me more and more now. Last night, I made dinner from scratch even though we had a refrigerator full of leftovers. Why? Because my father-in-law won’t eat leftovers as a rule. Wow, that must be really nice considering he can’t even make himself a sandwich and depends on others to feed him! Tonight was just the worst. I asked my husband to take care of dinner (which I knew would mean ordering out). I figured that would be simple enough. We suggested several options. His dad decided he wanted pizza and his mother decided she wanted Indian food and, get this, neither one of them budged. So we had to get pizza for him and Indian food for her, all on my dime, mind you! I was so annoyed that I could hardly eat anything.

Also, I’m now so very tired of hearing the same exaggerated stories about my husband for the twentieth time. No, Lady, he’s not a “genius” with an IQ that leaves the rest of us in the dust no matter how many times you tell me the same phony story, I’m not buying it. (Neither does my hubby, just for the record.) To hear her tell it, he was reciting Shakespeare at 6 months old and winning every music competition they ever entered him in. These stories were somewhat endearing the first ten times I heard them, but I’m simply over it now.

Then there’s the weird, bad grammar talk. They say things like, “Her so pretty.” “Her is tired.” “Her is a fussy baby.” It’s nails on a chalkboard to me. I asked my husband about it and he said it’s their idea of being cute or funny or whatever. I say, let’s teach our daughter how to speak correctly before we fuck it all up.

They bought her a toy monkey which they named “Willie” after a toy monkey my husband had when he was a kid. (I thought kids were supposed to name their own toys, but I guess not.) Anyway, our daughter does really like playing with the monkey and we sometimes call her “Monkey” because she’s so silly and cute. So, when we went Christmas shopping last week, my husband bought her another stuffed animal monkey — this one wears a pink dress and cannot possibly be referred to as “Willie” unless it’s short for Willemina. It’s a harmless thing, right? I mean, the monkeys aren’t in some kind of competition. Or maybe I have it all wrong? So, his mother takes the monkey we bought and holds it up to my daughter and says, “Oh, look… here’s another monkey. Hmm. This monkey’s cute I guess, but not nearly as cute as Willie! You love Willie, don’t you, honey?” Seriously? I mean, really?!

***

Okay, so that post got interrupted, too. And my in-laws actually left this morning after seven long days & nights at our house. Yay!

Last night was the worst. I asked my husband to pick up a couple of frozen burritos and enchiladas, since we had guacamole, salsa, and tortilla chips here. I figured we could make it a Mexican night. When he got home, he asked me to prepare everything while he got changed into is PJs. I did… with no help from anyone. I set the table and prepared the food. Everyone seemed to enjoy the meal. When we were done eating, his father thanked my husband for the meal and then his mother chimed in thanking him as well, with no sense of irony whatsoever. My husband, to his credit, told them they should be thanking me because I prepared the food (yeah, and paid for it and waited on them hand and foot for the last week, too!) They looked surprised, but perfunctorily thanked me, too. So rude!

I’m going to cut this post short now so that I can move on to something a lot more positive… like how 2012 has really been the best year of my life!

Birth Story [Part 2… long and graphic]

The doctor says, “Get her oxygen, now!” A nurse straps the oxygen mask onto my face and instructs me to take deep breaths. My doctor says, “Breathe the oxygen down to your baby!” So I breathe, deep, quick breaths, visualizing the oxygen going to the baby. I don’t really know what is going on.

There I am with all five nurses, my doula, my husband, and the doctor (who usually doesn’t show up until the delivery) hovering over either me or the monitor showing the baby’s heart rate & my contractions, and I’m still trying to figure out what the hell is going on! Someone (I don’t remember who) tells me the baby’s heart rate has decelerated — apparently to a dangerously low level. They decide to insert an internal fetal monitor. I remember seeing one of these at the baby prep class… and a part of it actually goes into the baby’s scalp so they can accurately monitor her heart rate, since the external monitor is not nearly as accurate. It freaks me out a little, but at that point, I want them to do whatever it takes to make sure my baby is okay.

The whole chaotic mess lasts about 5 minutes before my relieved doctor announces that the baby’s heart rate is back to normal and she’s happy that the baby was able to recover so quickly. I still have no idea what happened or what it meant, but my husband has now gone ghost white and is covering his mouth with his hand, as if he’s still in some terrible shock. In fact, the look on his face is scaring me more than anything else. The doctor steps out and my husband rushes after her. This worries me as I wonder if there’s something they’re not telling me.

When they return to the room, the doctor explains that the baby’s heart rate dropped so low that she wasn’t getting enough oxygen to her brain, which is why they gave me extra oxygen. My husband is beside himself because he’s worried our daughter will have some type of brain damage. Our doctor reassures him over and over that the baby has more than a 5 minute supply of oxygen and no damage has been done… but she also stresses that we can’t afford another episode of the same. She says she doesn’t know if the baby’s head is too big for the birth canal or if the baby has a cord wrapped around her neck, but the monitors show that whenever I have a contraction and the baby’s head descends, that her heart rate slows down. She tells me that because she knows how much I want a vaginal birth… and I’ve already worked so long… that she’s going to monitor us for half an hour and see how well the baby tolerates my contractions.

“If she’s not tolerating them well, I’m not going to let her decel again – we’ll get this baby out!” she says. And by that time, I’m so afraid that some last minute tragedy is going to occur and that my husband’s long-time fear of us having an impaired child is going to come to pass, that I actually just want the doctor to wheel me in to the surgery room and get the baby out immediately. But I don’t say anything – partly out of shock and partly because I’ve now mentally/emotionally handed over all decision making power to my doctor. And I pray, with all my heart, that my baby is born healthy. This is the first time in my life that I have known real fear.

The baby doesn’t seem to be doing well, but not poorly enough to rush me into a C-Section, either. Everyone in the room is now staring intently at the monitors. No one is looking at me. Except for my husband, it almost seems like no one even knows I’m there. At a certain point, the baby isn’t tolerating labor even in between contractions. My doctor is trying to wait it out… and then notices that I haven’t had a contraction in a while.

At nearly 29 hours of labor, my uterus has reached fatigue and stopped contracting. There’s nowhere else to go now, and a C-Section is imminent. The nurses have been prepping the surgery room and now they prep me… putting me into a hospital gown and covering my hair with a surgical bonnet… then wheeling me into the O.R. My husband and the doula are given scrubs as well.

I’m in the surgery room and everything feels a bit surreal. Oddly, the operating lights overhead give me a feeling a familiarity – I looked up at similar lights during every egg retrieval. I find this thought strangely comforting. From beginning to end, this entire process seems to come full circle.

The anesthesiologist is there, ready to connect me to the morphine drip. His droll humor is now amusing. It’s something to focus on in the quiet, sterile environment. As he adds the morphine to the epidural, I begin to convulse. I feel like a fish out of water, flailing everywhere. To me, the convulsions feel violent and uncontrollable. My teeth start to chatter. He asks me if I’m cold. I can barely stop them long enough to form the word, “No.”

I take a closer look at the light fixture above me and notice it has a smooth metallic disc in the center, serving as a makeshift mirror, and the way it’s positioned, I can see exactly what’s happening on the other side of the “germ guard” they put up. “The nurses are going to prep you now,” someone says, and I watch them swab Betadine over my belly. I realize that I could watch my entire surgery. How could they not know? I quickly make the decision to close my eyes, fearing that seeing what’s happening to me will somehow make me feel it, too.

My husband and the doula arrive in their scrubs. My husband is seated next to me. He strokes my cheek and tells me I’m doing really well. The doctor’s assistant warns of an unpleasant smell. It’s flesh burning. It’s my flesh, as they cauterize the incision. It’s a very peculiar sensation to be conscious during surgery.

The operation lasts about 15 minutes, with all kinds of minor chatter. The anesthesiologist asks if we have a name for the baby and my husband says, “Yes. Samantha!” I smile. Because we hadn’t officially come to any conclusion, but earlier Friday morning, I had mentioned that I was really leaning toward “Samantha.” I guess 30 hours of labor will get me whatever name I want!

A few minutes later, the doctor says, “Yep, she’s got the cord wrapped around her neck! So that’s what was happening!” Then the doctor says, “Are you ready to meet your daughter? She’s coming!” And she pulls a very pink and healthy baby Samantha out! The anesthesiologist holds up a mirror so I can see my baby over the germ guard. But he doesn’t realize that I can also see behind the baby at the gaping hole in my body. I can see my skin cut open, the blood, the layers of tissue and fat, and the huge open gash. Luckily, seeing it does not make me feel the pain.

I turn my gaze back to my daughter. I’m overwhelmed. Crying. Convulsing. My husband keeps saying, “Oh my God, she is so beautiful!” in a voice that makes me cry even now as I remember it, because it was so full of unadulterated love. Even the doctor says she’s beautiful and quickly adds, “and I don’t say that to all my patients!”

She is beautiful. None of it seems real… but there she is, this beautiful creature of ours. Nurses are cleaning and weighing her. One of them asks my husband if he wants to cut her umbilical cord… yet another aspect of my birth plan goes by the wayside, as they were supposed to wait until the cord stopped pulsating before severing it. But it doesn’t matter… nothing matters other than the fact that we have a healthy baby!

The anesthesiologist arranges for photographs with me, my husband, and Samantha. They bring her close to me and she opens her eyes and gazes into mine. I am so in love already. I’m crying… still shaking… but so happy now that my family is all together and that everything has turned out alright. I tell her I love her. My husband sings to her — the same song he sang every single night when she was inside me: “My Girl.” For a moment, no one else exists. We are in our own brand new cocoon. The world is perfect.

When they take Samantha away, my husband follows her. I am still being sewn up on the table. Later, my husband tells me that when was on the other side of the germ guard, he saw me laying there, wide open, with my guts piled onto two separate tables. He says he’s never seen anything like that outside of a horror film where a zombie gets disemboweled. (Lovely image, no?) No. It’s brutal. This entire process has been remarkably so.

Eventually, I get wheeled to a recovery room. I still can’t move my legs and my belly feels sore. Thank God my doula was there with me, otherwise, I would have been completely alone. It’s a very strange feeling to have gone through all that… to give birth and then not have a chance to hold your baby.

When they finally brought her to me, I was overjoyed. I took her into my arms and marveled at her fine features. Her little nose, her big eyes, her chubby cheeks… and her little hands. And just as I touched her little hand, one distinct middle finger rose up to greet me. I turned to my doula and said, “Is she seriously flipping me off right now?” And she burst out laughing because it was undeniably true. My precious daughter’s very first communication to me was to give me the bird! It was hilarious. And I thought to myself, “Oh, she’s going to love this story when she becomes a teenager!”

The Birth Story… [Part 1- Long]

(By the way, I did post a couple of pictures on the Pix page, if anyone is interested in seeing what our bundle of joy looks like!)

Let me just start by saying that almost nothing went as planned, despite my best efforts. I’m keeping my birth plan in our keepsakes as a monument to everything I didn’t get – minus the dim lighting – woo hoo!

So, our baby girl was due on Friday, October 12th. We went in the Monday of that week, October 8th, to see how everything looked. My amniotic fluids were measuring at 12 cm (they like to see 10 cm at least) and everything looked good with me and with the baby. My doc suggested we induce on Friday, the due date, because the baby was measuring at 41 weeks and she was concerned that the head might be too large for a natural delivery if we waited past the due date. Also, at 2 cm dialated and 80% effaced, she was pretty sure she could just jump start my own labor with a small dose of Pitocin. I was hesitant, but made an appointment anyway, figuring I could always cancel if I changed my mind. I mean, they couldn’t force me to deliver my baby… could they?!

I spent the next few days very conflicted, trying to weigh the pros and cons and trying EVERY conceivable way to “induce” labor on my own: painful acupuncture treatments, walking like a maniac, evening primrose oil, and even sex! (Trust me, when you’re that huge, sex is the last thing you want to engage in – lol) Nothing seemed to be working, but the more I tried, the more my resolve to go into labor naturally grew. Ultimately, it came down to one question, who did the induction benefit? It seemed pretty clear that the induction was being suggested for my benefit since there was no medical need to induce. Once I came to that conclusion, cancelling the appointment seemed like a no brainer. My doula and husband were on board and I felt so good about that decision. The baby would come when she was good and ready!

What I naively failed to realize was that my doctor had other plans. As nice and caring as she is (and she really is) I think she must have felt strongly that I was making a mistake, since she seemed pretty irritated when she found out I cancelled the induction. When we spoke on the phone, she rattled off dozens (literally – dozens) of reasons I should induce and started to scare me, so much so that I asked to see her on my due date so we could measure the amniotic fluid again and assess my and the baby’s health. I was trying to buy time – the weekend, at the very least – to give my body a chance to go into labor on its own.

When we measured the fluids on Friday, October 12th, two of the pockets (in the ultrasound) showed the umbilical cord, and thus, could not be counted toward the total fluid levels. Regardless, my fluids measured at 4 cm – down from 12 cm a few days earlier! That sent everyone into a panic, as the cut-off is 5 cm. Combined with the baby’s size and the +1 protein in my urine, hinting at pre-eclampsia, my doctor ordered us to go home, eat something, and pack our bags to go to the hospital that very evening. {Gulp!}

I’ll skip the rushed, panicky getting ready to go to the hospital. I was fine, mind you, my husband was the one freaking out. At one point, I gently held him by the shoulders and told him that I needed him to calm down. (It didn’t work!) Anyway, we finally made it to the hospital some time around 6 pm and were promptly escorted into the room where I was to deliver my precious bundle.

I was dressed in my own nighty and ready to but my self-hypnosis techniques to good use. I think they started the Pitocin around 7 pm, and increased it by 2 (ml?) every 30-40 minutes. The contractions were mild and I could see them on the monitor and compare them to the other women in labor – some of whom were having contractions that were quite literally off the charts. I was calm and confident, though. At 80% effaced, I was sure mine would be a speedy labor, even though all the nurses, upon finding out that it was my first child, put my labor odds at somewhere between 24 and 36 hrs. I smiled and gently brushed those silly estimates aside. I was going to have a quick and close-to-pain-free delivery!

That evening, hubby went home to grab a few DVDs (and a few beers for himself, which he sneaked back into the hospital), and we munched on saltines and nuts… and at one point, when I was starving, I had a veggie sandwich from Subway – without asking the nurses – why bother! The whole thing was pretty uneventful. Hubby slept for a bit and I just concentrated on trying to be in the moment and use the birthing ball as much as possible to help open my cervix and bring the baby down. A variety of really lovely nurses came in from time to time to adjust my monitors, take my blood pressure, increase the Pitocin, and marvel at the fact that I had opted for a drug-free birthing experience. I was feeling pretty damn good.

At 11 am on Saturday, I had reached the maximum dosage for Pitocin, yet was still only 2 cm dialated. Apparently, my contractions were “non-productive” and at that point, my doctor suggested giving me a break by taking me off the Pitocin and letting me eat and rest for an hour. After the hour was up, she ruptured the amniotic sac in an attempt to speed things up, and she re-started the Pitocin. We were all pretty sure things would get moving now… and true to form, my contractions started to come every few minutes and were definitely increasing in intensity.

We decided it was time to call the doula. She showed up around 3:30 pm (and started taking notes, which is how I know what happened when, for the most part). She started to make a really annoying “Ahhh” sound during my contractions, I think in an attempt to make me feel comfortable making the same sound. I was not amused. There was something I really enjoyed about being completely silent during my contractions. For some reason, I felt like it would make them hurt more if I acknowledged the pain with my voice. Luckily, after a few rounds, she clued in and stopped!

Around 4 pm, the Pitocin was at 14 and my contractions were every 2 minutes apart and they hurt like hell. I definitely could not speak during a contraction and was squeezing my poor hubby’s hand until there was no blood left in it, I’m sure. The one thing that made my contractions somewhat better was the travel DVD hubby had on about Angkor Wat (one of our honeymoon destinations). The narrator (and captions) were in such bad English that we frequently had no idea what they were trying to say – it was hilarious! In fact, I made him play it twice because it was making me laugh and helping with the pain… for a while at least.

At 4:45 pm, a nurse came in to check how far along I was. I hadn’t been checked since my waters had been broken and my contractions were reaching the threshold of my pain tolerance. I thought, for sure, I must be around 8 cm dialated by this time – I was in so much pain! When the nurse checked me and pronounced that I was 4 cm dialated, my heart just sank. I had been in labor well over 20 hours and was exhausted and near the peak of pain tolerance…. I didn’t know how much more I could take. I became pretty upset and saddened. The doula tried to tell me that it was good progress, but I knew better. You can’t help but do the math. I wasn’t even half way to the requisite 10 cm, and I didn’t know how much more I could tolerate. It was one of the lowest personal moments for me. I didn’t want to give in and ask for drugs, but I also knew I was reaching the end of my reserves.

One of the nurses said that the baby was in a posterior position, so they tried to get me into a side-lying position and told me I couldn’t use the birthing ball anymore. Shortly thereafter, my doctor came in and said that my blood pressure was reaching dangerously high levels (due to my pain) and that she would have to give me blood pressure medication if it didn’t go down. She also warned that the medication could cause its own complications… so she presented me with an ultimatum: narcotics or epidural. I had to choose one. I’m not going to lie. At that moment, I was ready for pain meds. I knew I had given it my all and that I couldn’t take any more pain.

The 30 minutes it took for the epidural to kick in must have been the longest and most painful of my entire life. I was shivering from the pain and in a dream-like (more like nightmare-like) state. People’s voices seemed far away and my pain was magnified.

Once the anesthesia kicked in, I felt human again. In fact, it may have worked a little too well… because soon, I could neither feel nor move my legs at all. I actually couldn’t feel anything below the waist, which is a really weird feeling – especially, when nurses come to examine you and stick their hands inside you, and if it weren’t for you seeing it, you’d never know. Since I was doing much better, hubby decided to dash home for a meal and a shower (and a beer!)

At around 7:25 pm, they checked me and I was 6-7 cm dialated and baby was at a -1 station. Every now and again, the baby’s heart would decelerate (what the hospital staff refers to as a “decel”) and nurses would come to move me into a different position to see if that would return the heart rate back to normal. The baby seemed to respond well to me laying on my right side, so that was the side I was on most of the time.  Hubby returned to the hospital after going home, taking a shower, eating something, and cleaning the house! (Who does that?) My doula actually thought he was kidding, but I assured her that he wasn’t. I could tell she was impressed.

At 8:15 pm, they increased the Pitocin to 20 (which is the maximum dosage) and my contractions were 4-5 minutes apart. I have to admit, it was kind of nice not to feel them for a change! By 9:40 pm, I was a full 10 cm dialated and at zero station – woo hoo! The doctor said we should wait for the baby to come down a little further and as soon as she did that, I would be ready to push.

Suddenly, somewhere around 10 pm, there was a rush of about five nurses to my bedside. They didn’t address me, but were clearly displaying a sense of urgency as they moved me from one side to another and feverishly adjusted the baby monitor. I wasn’t sure what was going on, but wasn’t too worried until both my husband and my doula hovered over my bed, continually saying, “Don’t worry, everything is going to be okay!” with a panic that belied their words. That was my first clue that something was very wrong….

Into the Rabbit Hole

Is it just me? How do people with a newborn get anything done – ever?!?! Thank goodness that I have my (amazing) husband to help out… but I only have him for another 10 days before he has to go back to work. I have no idea how I’m going to get anything done after that.

I know people always talk about how your life completely changes and you get no sleep and how the baby’s needs come before your own… and that all seems fine when you hear it. You think “I can do this!” But lo and behold, your life COMPLETELY changes and becomes unrecognizable — as do the days of the week or ever knowing what time it is. In fact, time loses all meaning. You operate in some strange, sleep-deprived alternate reality, barely able to hang on to any recognizable structure. It’s disorienting to say the least. Sleep is a distant memory… something you vaguely remember doing in more than 45 minute bursts a long, long time ago when you were child-free.

The baby feeds every 2 to 3 hours, but what it really looks like is this: feeding alarm goes off at 3 am (did you know you have to wake babies to feed them, at least initially?) – diaper change takes place first (because you’re hoping baby will be drowsy after feeding and magically go right to sleep – ha!) Easy diaper changes take only a few minutes, but it’s more likely that the baby will projectile poop as you’re changing her diaper and sometimes, not just once or twice. So, you go through 1, 2, or 3 diapers and manage to finally get her in a clean, dry diaper. Hooray! (She is screaming by now because, well, you woke her up – it’s cold and uncomfortable – and you introduced a wet wipe to her privates. Nobody likes that!)

Then the feeding commences. You have to have her properly positioned, which requires lots of pillows – and, in my case, since she can’t rest on my C-Section scars (or belly in general) it’s a little tougher. I can only use the “football hold” for breastfeeding now. Although, I started using the My Breast Friend pillow this morning which works quite well. Our baby girl generally feeds for 20 minutes on each breast, with a five minute burping interval in between sides. This is the part where I either try not to nod off, if I’m really sleepy… or alternately, stare at my baby in complete wonder, adoration, and gratitude for the miracle she is. These are love-filled, bonding moments. And I realize that what people told me is true: I can’t imagine life without her now.

If I’m lucky, I won’t have any issues with breastfeeding – other than sore nipples – as sometimes she falls asleep and is nearly impossible to rouse. (This is a bad thing because it shortens my 3 hr interval between feedings as she’ll be hungry sooner.) When the feeding is done, I burp her and swaddle her tightly. She absolutely hates the process of swaddling, but it’s our best chance at a calm baby afterwards. If she gets out of her swaddle, the shrill screaming isn’t far behind.

At least an hour has passed and now it’s 4 am. I still need to get baby to sleep before I can sleep. My mind starts counting down the hours. If I fall asleep now, I can get 2 whole hours before the next feeding! (This almost never happens.) What usually happens is one of two scenarios, either she’s screaming her head off for some unknown reason or she fakes sleeping for a good 5 minutes and I am lulled into a false sense of security before she starts whimpering, then crying, then screaming. Some nights, I get lucky and all the tricks from the “Happiest Baby on the Block” video actually work. Other nights, it takes anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour or more to get her to settle down and sleep. I try my best to fall asleep for whatever time I have left before I have to do it all over again.

At least once per night, hubby takes a screaming shift so that I can get some sleep. This makes me fall in love with him all over again! I have the BEST husband in the world!!!

I don’t get what people mean when they say, “Sleep when the baby sleeps.” Um, yeah, I would love to. But when do I get to eat, use the restroom, take a shower, do the laundry?(Omigod, there is a TON of laundry all of a sudden and it’s all baby stuff!)

Oh, and speaking of “the baby’s needs come before your own” — I didn’t realize that actually looked something like this: I’ve had to pee for 4 hours but the baby is crying because she’s hungry and I now have to breastfeed for an hour before I can use the toilet or her screaming will wake up my sleeping husband whose been up with her all night! Or, I’m starving, but the baby needs to eat, poop, sleep, etc. and I haven’t had a chance to grab anything from the kitchen, let alone the luxury of a PB and J! It’s a good thing she’s as cute as she is because at the end of it all, you just look at her an melt and know, deep in your soul, that you would do anything for her.

I’m obviously ridiculously tired right now… but regardless of how any of this might sound, I wouldn’t give it up for the world. I love our little girl so much that I can hardly stand it. My husband and I are sooooo in love with her! It’s our mutual obsession. He says it has changed his perspective on life completely. He’s now afraid to die because he’s afraid of leaving her alone. All our priorities have shifted in a way that would only sound trite if I tried to describe it. I have never known real fear until now. The thought of anything happening to her is devastating beyond recognition. She holds our hearts. She is our world.

 

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