Friday, October 31, 2014

"How are you sleeping?"

In every new phase of life, there are questions. Not only in your own mind, but coming from other people. And some come more frequently than others.
These questions sometimes make me think more deeply about the subject matter simply because of the number of times it's brought up to me.
The most frequent question I get lately (having a 6 week old baby) is, "How are you sleeping???" Extra question marks included on purpose. They stand for the silent thoughts the person is thinking while they ask ("They aren't sleeping at all, I'm sure.").
I will say that in the first few weeks that was true. Infants' stomachs start out literally the size of a shooting marble. That means they have to eat frequently. Like, really frequently. Every two hours or more frequently.
Around the clock.
So yeah... A little sleep deprived the first few weeks. After that though, we gradually and gently inched her onto a kinda/sorta schedule. We found she started wanting to eat more around every three hours. So we woke her up around the same time every day and then fed her every three hours. If she was hungry earlier than that we fed her earlier. But mainly we found that she wanted it every three hours with a few exceptions.
We have also been helping her recognize the difference between day and night (she had them a bit confused at first... Can you say party all night long??? Yeah...). Thankfully she is sleeping more hours in the night now and wakes us up when she is hungry. That includes a five or five and a half hour stretch most days of the week (which feels amazing).
So in response to the question, "How are you sleeping???" I am happy to reply, "Better these days." I hear that it only gets better from here. And makes me think pretty deeply about the days to come... Looking forward to the days of 6, 7, even 8 hours a night. Gives me hope for a day that I might have boundless energy once again... You know, the kind that doesn't beg for a second and third espresso throughout the day.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Birth of the Mini, Part Two: I Love Modern Medicine.

You came back! Does that mean you are ready to hear part two of The Arrival of the Mini?
All righty then. Picking up from where we left off (metaphorically leaving my life as I knew it dropped on the tile floor behind us as the nurse wheeled me down the hall to labor and delivery). Where was I? Oh yes. My uterus was trying to kill me.
Literally every bump in the hospital corridors (from tile to carpet and vice versa) made me want to yell at the nurse, "Watch what you're doing, lady! HOLY HELL!" I didn't though, because I was starting to get kind of freaked out. I was having this baby! And soon!
They dropped us in our room, and straight away had me change into one of those awful gowns they give all the patients. Seriously, hospitals? These things are huge, one size "fits" all, and as if that wasn't enough to deal with there are SNAPS that form the arm holes. Snaps. Now, I worked in daycare for years and I know my way around snap closures-- but these are insanely stupidly designed. I almost put my leg through one of the "holes" I created. Two (yes, two) nurses had to come into the bathroom and help me put it on.
But I digress. The pain, a good solid 7 in the car ride over, had crested to a consistent 8 as I labored in a tub of warm water (helpful, but honestly... really not much at all), and bouncing on  a birthing ball (looking back I think that particular method made the pain worse. They should just say, "Hey, try these things to ease the pain," and, chuckling/rolling their eyes, saunter out the door. Because there is literally not one thing they can do to help besides get the guy who administers the epidural).
A couple weeks prior, I had created a playlist on my phone called"Hospital Relaxation" (can I get a good chuckle out of those that have tried this? ha!). During the first couple hours at the hospital I became the stereotypical dancer and put Claire de Lune on repeat. It was the only song that didn't make me want to stab my eyes and everyone else's eyes out for those few hours. I then proceeded to tap out the tempo through every, dang, contraction. I counted to five on my deep breath in, and a slow eight as I slowly let it out. During the moments the pain and my body were totally out of my control, it gave me a sense of being able to be in control of my world for a few moments. Strangely enough this was the most helpful technique to distract me from the pain.
The contractions were coming every two to three minutes by 1 am. Casey sat by me and tried to help by massaging my back like we'd learned in birth class. It was nice but honestly nothing helped too terribly much. I was getting pretty vocal by 2 am. Our nurse  had come in twice to check my progress. Both times she said, "You're gonna hate me. But you're only one centimeter and a scootch." To which I replied, "SERIOUSLY?!?" Labor is no joke, people. The second time she checked me I had not progressed any further. I had the impression I needed to be further along to be officially admitted (not to mention get the epidural), so I just dealt with the situation at hand, hoping that I would progress. Around 2:30 am she came in again, took one look at my wilted form hanging over the bed, sitting on the useless birthing ball, and said, "Wow, you look miserable." Thank you, Captain Obvious. Then, she became my favorite person in all the land as she continued, "Do you just want your epidural?" (Upon arriving in my room, she had asked if I had a specific birth plan. I replied that my birth plan was very simple: To get an epidural. )
The clouds broke and sunshine beamed through as a luminescent spotlight on this beautiful creature. I said in reply, "YES PLEASE." She said she would check with my doctor and left the room.
Another reason I LOVE my doctor? Oh yeah-- he approved the epidural and they officially admitted me. I remember asking, "You're not going to send me home, are you?" with palpable fear in my voice. She said, "No way! We wouldn't send you home with your contractions this close and hard."
I got the epidural at 3 am as my amazing nurse supported my upper body (which needed to be tilted forward as the needle was inserted). I have never been so grateful for a nurturing presence in my life. As much as I wanted the epidural and knew I needed one, I was pretty terrified. At one point she actually rested her head on my shoulder while I leaned into her, which did more to alleviate my fears than anything else she did. It was a beautiful moment. The process of the epidural was far easier than I had imagined and I was again very grateful for that very unexpected gift from God.
After the pain meds began to flow I was able to "sleep" a bit. There's nothing like feeling the medications kick the ass of some of the worst pain you've ever felt. I love modern medicine.
 It wasn't a deep sleep however, with the blood pressure cuff inflating and deflating what seemed like every ten minutes, complete with it's annoying beeping to end each cycle. However light a sleep it was though, I was glad for it after those harrowing few hours.
My doctor arrived around 6 am and examined me quickly. I had progressed to 3.5 centimeters, hallelujuah (and all the angels rejoiced!). He's a busy guy and works at two hospitals, so he left to tend to some other patients across town and said he'd be back in a couple hours to break my water if need be. That's exactly what happened. I was able to doze off a bit again. Again-- I love modern medicine. For me, it prevented me from hating every moment of the birth process and that was worth millions to me.
Around 8 am they broke my water, a strange sensation and experience, if you've never been through it. This caused me to progress a little further, but not quite enough because around mid morning they gave me pitossin to progress me the rest of the way. Physically it was a strange few hours-- my right leg was more numb than my left and I had fun poking it and not feeling anything. As a dancer the experience of losing control of my lower half was strangely fascinating. I was ok with that non-control knowing it was also numbing the pain. Casey was there with me the whole time, catching a few z's here and there, and really helpful in keeping me grounded. I loved having him and only him there in the room, it kept my emotions from causing me to totally check out or become distracted from the task at hand.
At some point my (new) nurse checked me and she said, "I can feel your baby's head!" That's when it became real I think. This baby was coming. For reals. Then, the contractions got even stronger (thank you pitossin). I knew I was allowed to push the button next to my bed, the one attached to the epidural, or as I like to call it, the sunshine-happiness juice. Suddenly I got all ballet dancer on the situation and decided to try to tough it out. Half an hour later, my nurse asked me what the heck I was doing-- and that I should just push the button. She had somehow gotten to know what I needed in the few short hours I had been in her care. So I pushed the button and things got manageable again.
Around 12, something miraculous happened! I got to 9 centimeters! They called my doctor, who had gone home because he hadn't thought I'd progress this fast. As I progressed quickly to a ten, the nurse began to coach me in how to push and when to do it. She also brought Casey into it and told him how he could help. It was awesome to have him right by my side, assisting with everything.
Then the time came for the first push.
Because of the sunshine-happy juice, I couldn't feel the contractions coming until they were already happening for a few seconds. She let me know when they started and when it was time to push through them. My doctor arrived about fifteen minutes into the process, and began coaching me as the Mini made her way (slowly) down the birth canal. He was an amazing coach. As a ballet dancer I am used to and prefer "tough" corrections and encouragement. He fit the bill perfectly, as he said loudly during the pushes, "Go go go go go! Keep going! KEEP GOING! GO GO GO!"
I am grateful for the muscles I gained as a dancer, as I had to locate them to push even through the fact I was numb in those exact places. They kept saying I was doing really well, and that I was making their job easy. I wasn't sure whether to believe them until, between pushes and contractions, they began discussing a co-worker of theirs and where he went on vacation that summer.
I pushed for about an hour. Around the forty-five minute mark I began to believe she was never going to come out. At that point my doctor said he could see the head, which fueled me to keep going in my tiredness.
At 1:42 pm, he had to prompt me, "Look! Look down, Gina," as she made her way into the world. I saw her face (which was slightly gray) and I could not believe I was seeing my baby. As I continued to watch, I noticed her face wasn't moving. My heart dropped in fear. Then he said, "Ok, the cord is around her neck, no big deal, happens all the time. We're just going to pop it off," and in about five seconds flat, he did. Soon after, she began crying. That was my cue. My heart broke open in such relief, I simply lost it. I started crying and couldn't stop. They put her on my chest and she immediately quieted. This was when I knew she really KNEW me, that she was mine. Casey cut the cord which was also extremely special and symbolic.
After that, she was cleaned off, weighed, etc, and I craned my neck to see all that was going on. I was so distracted that I didn't even notice much of the post birth procedures that went on involving me directly. She was here! She was so quiet and sweet, even as she was being given her first shot.
We soon knew that Scarlett, the name we were convinced was right for her, was not anywhere near fitting for her sweet personality. Adeline, a name further down our favorites list, seemed perfect for her. Rose became her middle name (a family name on my side and also happens to be my middle name as well).
I loved that our hospital let us bond with her for the first few hours before rushing us out of the room. Those first moments were some of the most incredible I've ever experienced. I wasn't sure if I would bond to my baby right away, and I didn't believe everyone who said to me, "You just fall in love with your baby the second you see her. You'll see. It's hard to explain." Well, if you were one of those people-- you were right.

First moments after Adeline Rose being born.
 She was perfect-- 5 pounds, 15.5 ounces and 18 inches long, and perfectly healthy. I had never been so grateful for anything in my life, as evidenced by my tears that didn't stop for quite a few minutes.

Adeline's second day of life in the hospital.
And that's how it happened. Sweet Adeline arrived September 14th (a week early) and has cracked open both mine and Casey's hearts in a way that can never be fully explained. We love her more than words can describe (even at 4 am).
Thanks for reading. If you've made it this far I commend you! Stay tuned for more of Adeline Rose's adventures in the world.

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Birth of the Mini, Part One: The Problem of the 7's

I've taken entirely too long to write this blog. I have a good excuse, though-- the mini-human that was in my uterus is now on  the outside. And I have, for a few weeks, had numb and tingly fingers (thank you, post-natal carpal tunnel) which makes typing not so fun. But back to the story!  This is how Mini made her grande-- yes, I used an "e" at the end of that word on purpose-- entrance into this world.
Leading up to the 14th of September my Braxton Hicks contractions had been a constant "friend," getting chummier and chummier with me, as if I'd had a DTR with them and told them I wanted our relationship to go to the next level. People kept telling me, "That's good, that means your body is getting ready!" I had been having them since about week 25, so I was feeling pretty ready to have them stop if you know what I mean.
Saturday, September 13th was no exception. Woke up huge and crampy. Rolled out of bed. I had a feeling maybe Casey and I didn't have much more time totally alone. I informed him that we were going to have a coffee date later amidst all the baby preparation in the nursery. He readily agreed. So it was set!
Off we went, late afternoon to Starbucks. We sat outside and shared a Pumpkin Spice frappuccino and pumpkin cream cheese muffin, where I told him that I was nervous about labor. I told him that I felt like I was waiting for the worst experience of my life. Casey is amazing, in case you didn't know, and an equally good listener as well as encourager. We left Starbucks later with me feeling a bit better. Not much, but a bit.
As we pulled up to the house, suddenly all the muscles in/surrounding my uterus pulled together so violently that I doubled over in the passenger seat. This was a Braxton Hicks like no other. I wasn't worried, however. I just figured that was going to be the new normal. Awesome. I let it pass and went inside.
About 6:30 pm, we were both in the nursery organizing and cleaning ("nesting" as some people like to call it-- I just call it being prepared). I got another one of those doozy Braxton Hicks contractions. Then, fifteen minutes later, another.
Then, ten minutes later... Another.
My stomach dropped and I kind of knew right then something different was up. But I'd heard stories over and over about how women go to labor and delivery hoping it was their time, and get sent home because they weren't dilated/ready enough to be admitted for real. I figured that would be me. Yep. Probably about seven times. So I simply pulled out my phone and started timing the contractions.
By 7:30 they were about 6-7 minutes apart and getting more intense. I was on the floor of my bedroom, putting the final touches on my hospital bag (yes, that included a sparkly headband I wanted to wear during labor-- don't judge). When they started getting to be 5 minutes apart I thought it would be a good idea to call the doctor, because I wasn't about to go to the hospital unless he said it was likely I'd be admitted. Being sent home in this kind of pain felt like a fate worse than death.
"On a scale of one to ten, how painful are the contractions?" he asked.
"Uhhhh... Maybe 4 to 5?" I replied.
"Ok. Well we don't want you to go to the hospital just to be sent home, I have a patient who was having pretty good contractions, went to the hospital, then they just stopped while she was there. That was last week. She's still pregnant. Let's wait till your pain level is consistently a 7. Then call the service and they'll let me know you are on your way."
Now, I love my doctor. He is amazing. But at that moment I wanted to punch him. LET ME GO TO THE HOSPITAL!
Instead I attempted to eat a little dinner then sat on the bed timing my contractions and recording the times and pain levels on my phone (I still have that note saved), breathing through them. It was getting more and more painful. Casey went into "super nesting mode" as he called it, on the nursery (the drawers were sticking on the dresser and that wasn't ok) and checked on me every ten minutes or so.
Eventually I got to 7's. Constant pain in the uteral (yes I just made up that word) area.
About 10:45 pm, I walked into the bedroom where Casey was sitting and (yes) doing our taxes. "I think maybe..." I attempted to say, as my uterus gave a huge "HELLO", almost a 9 level, and I doubled over, bracing myself on the bed.
"Yeah... I think it's time to go," Casey said. We gathered our stuff, tucked the birds in (who knew if we'd be back that night) and got into the car.
Getting to the main entrance in record time, we found a parking spot. We had to walk across the lot to get to the (dark) entrance doors. We arrived, then both stopped in our tracks. Why were all the lights off?!? Yeah... Turns out you have to go to EMERGENCY when you are having a baby that late. I had never been to emergency, so we had to search for that entrance which took about five more minutes. Which is kind of funny now. Not so much at the moment as you can imagine (picture me getting super testy and yelling as we drove in circles, "WHERE IS EMERGENCY? SERIOUSLY???").
We finally found it luckily. Casey dropped me off at the entrance and went to park the car, which was somehow not what I'd imagined. I went in and they asked how they could help me. "I think I'm in labor," I said.
"You THINK you're in labor?" he asked.
"Yeah. I'm PRETTY SURE I'm in labor," I said, getting a bit testier. Seriously? Just get me a wheelchair!
It's true they make you fill out a form before you are admitted. But it was short. And they got me to labor and delivery in record time. With every bump in the wheelchair causing my uterus to scream a little louder.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of the birth story, called, "The Birth of the Mini: I Love Modern Medicine."