A blog about babies: the babies I lost, the babies I never had, the baby who made me a Mama.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Wild Man Blues; or, Three Weeks

My little boy is three weeks old!

These three weeks have raced by-- it feels like I was just pregnant yesterday. But I also feel like I've been sleep-deprived and changing diapers for a year. My relationship with time is strange--days both fly and crawl. Moments can feel monotonous, but then I look at the clock and can't believe it's 5 pm already.

This is my first week alone without motherly assistance. It's going fairly well. I feel more confident about my ability to read Smudgie's cues and to keep my spirits up through the poopsplosions and crying jags. (I'm actually rather amazed that I feel so relatively calm and even-natured-- the postpartum blues were one of my biggest fears and I'm very grateful to have mostly avoided them so far).

My biggest emotional issue right now is feeling useless and unproductive. I haven't gotten the hang of the Moby or Ergo yet and our stroller is too difficult for me to lug it up and down the stairs of our walk-up and assemble myself, so I haven't been leaving the house much on my own. And when Smudgie falls asleep during the day, I'm lucky if I manage to get a few loads of laundry done, pump some breast-milk, or wash and sterilize some bottles. I mostly read on the couch or catch a nap or watch tv.

I can't shut off the guilty, need-to-accomplish-things part of my brain. I feel bad that I'm not baking pies with all the apples we got from our CSA or finishing knitting Smudgie's blanket or cleaning the apartment. I feel bad that I haven't figured out the carriers yet so I can run errands or walk Bella or just introduce Smudgie to the world. I had a phone session with my therapist yesterday, who suggested I try to just be in the moment right now and not think of this time as achievement-oriented, which I agree is wise and I'm trying to do. But it's hard.

Also difficult is the spate of the fussies that Smudgie has weathered over the last week. Once or twice a day, he'll have a three-hour span where he won't sleep, doesn't want to eat, doesn't need a change, and doesn't want to be set down. We call this his Wild Man Phase, because of the way he'll grunt and bang his head around my boob and flail his arms like a tiny dictator having a tantrum. The Wild Man phases, with their whining and crying, are really difficult for LG and I to deal with, especially when they happen at 3 am. But at least we know that they're temporary and rarely last more than 4 hours, at which point Smudgie falls asleep and is out for hours.

I also made the mistake a few days ago of reading a sleep training book someone sent me. It ramped up my anxiety hardcore. Do I not feed Smudgie often enough? Too often? Should I really be letting him cry it out at less than a month. (No way, I last about 30 seconds when he cries before I start crying too). I got really worried about doing everything wrong and decided to stop reading books. Smudgie seems to be growing well and sleeps okay in his crib at night (though he will only fall asleep in my lap for daytime naps). So I'm going to try to follow my instincts and hope for the best. (As my bff said, no one goes off to college still needing to nurse to sleep, so one way or another these things get fixed.)

There's so much more I haven't touched on: Smudgie's blisters (a staph infection acquired in the hospital--scary!--but nearly gone after antibiotic cream), our first brunch outing as a family last weekend (successful!), my struggles with the Moby wrap and Ergo carrier (majorly disappointing and inconvenient). But I'm juggling a wild man on my lap and my lunch with my one-handed typing, so I'll leave you with a photo of my little dude stylin' in his fall duds.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Notes From Week Two; or, Boobs, Blues, Bella, and Blisters

Life with my Smudgie is slowly settling into a routine. A routine notably lacking in sleep but full of snuggles, kisses, explosive diaper changes, breastfeeding, and love.

Lawyer Guy returned to work last Tuesday after his week off. I was fairly terrified, not so much of being able to handle Smudgie on my own as much as worrying my mental and emotional state wouldn't be able to hold up to the hours of alone time sure to come. Fortunately, my mom and mother(s)-in-law either don't work, took off time from work, or were temporarily in the area, and have been visiting me every day LG is at work. Even if they're only here for three or so hours, it still gives me some adult conversation and a pair of arms to hold Smudgie for an hour or two so I can grab a little nap.

Thankfully, I think I'm doing well emotionally as a result of all this help. I had a little breakdown last week after a particularly exhausting night and an argument with LG. But a half-hour of crying, my mom's visit, and a quick solo walk around the block once LG got home helped me feel in control again. I didn't like feeling emotionally unwound like that, but I'm glad I was able to persevere through it and I'm hopeful that I won't have too many more such moments as my hormones re-regulate.

I also feel very lucky that breastfeeding has not been too much of a struggle so far. We learned last Monday that Smudgie had essentially regained his birth weight in only four days of feedings. My supply seems adequate and I treasure those early morning quiet times when I can kiss my baby's soft little head and stroke his hair. He latches on quickly and eats greedily--sometimes even choking himself in his hurry to get that milk down! There's a bit of pain at the beginning, but it's not unbearable and I'm working to get the latch exactly right to cut down on even that amount of pain. Our (non-flaky) doula recommended a local Lactation Consultant as well, and I'll be setting up an appointment with her if I run into any problems in the next few weeks.

Despite enjoying breastfeeding, I'm really looking forward to pumping next week and introducing the bottle in about 9 or 10 days. I can't wait to skip that one feeding each night and let LG take over and maybe get 4 or 5 hours of sleep in a row. Bliss!

We went for our first family walk around the block yesterday-- the whole family, including Bella! We picked up bagels and donuts from a local place, finalized our birth announcements order at the stationery store, and stopped off at the local breast-feeding/baby-wearing store to pick up breast pump parts and nursing tank tops. It was a crisp and lovely fall day, the sun was shining, and I felt so close to Lawyer Guy. I spent so many months walking those uneven sidewalks dreaming of this family that I now have. Amazing.

Bella's doing well with the adjustment, by the way. She spent over a week staying with her grandmas while LG and I tried to get into the baby-watching groove, but came back to the fold on Thursday. She's intensely interested in Smudgie, but as long as she can see him and see what we're doing with him she's content to sniff his feet or head and settle down on the couch or at the end of the bed for a snooze while I feed him. When he's crying and she can't see him--we're standing and he's in our arms or we're changing him or he's in his stroller--she gets worked up and barks. But she's made such strides over the past few days, we're confident that she and Smudgie will be grand friends soon. Already she runs to peep in his crib in the mornings after her walk.

The only real snag we've hit has been a strange case of blistering around Smudgie's diaper area. He gets little white heads that occasionally blossom into puffy, liquid-filled blisters. Our pedi sent us racing to the pediatric surgeon in Manhattan last week when she saw the first one, worrying that it was infected. But it turned out to be fine, which helped keep us calm when more blisters appeared over the following week. We'll be taking him in to a dermatologist tomorrow morning to figure out what exactly is going on, but we're trying not to worry too much since these blisters don't bother Smudgie at all appear to be totally harmless once they've burst.

There are little challenges all the time-- moments when I worry that putting him in a swing or his crib to sleep during the day rather than holding him the whole time is taking the easy way out or when I stress about over- or under-feeding him. But as of now, the good moments far outweigh the trying, and that is a wonderful blessing.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Smudgie's Birth Story; or, Updates from Newborn Land

(I'm writing this post over a series of days because, yeah, they weren't lying. Newborns are awesome but exhausting.)

Here's a picture of the incredible view from the big reclining chair in my living room:

I had a feeling my boy would be able to rock a pastel pink butterfly swing with no problem at all. (It's a loaner from his girl cousins). The swing is not in motion, of course, though the sound component is on and lulls a swaddled Smudgie to sleep after feedings, allowing LG and I to catch some rest of our own. Or to eat. Or go to the bathroom. Exciting stuff like that.

Lawyer Guy and I have an okay system going on right now-- as much as a 5-day-old baby can respond to systems. We each try to spell each other once a day so the other can get in a substantial nap. His tend to be a wee bit more substantial, since I can breastfeed while he sleeps and the reverse isn't true (no, I'm not pumping and won't be for at least a month so as not to interfere with my supply). At night, he handles all diaper changes and fetches Smudgie from his crib next door so I can feed him. It's working okay so far, though we certainly have our moments when we miss the night nurses and nursery at the hospital!

As the stealthy lack-of-sleep-due-to-newborn coma steals over me, I need to narrate Smudgie's birth story. I don't want to gain too much distance from it and forget all the details. The short version of the story is: I had a great, successful labor, a good chunk of it at home, a good chunk of it eased in the hospital by an epidural, I pushed for slightly under a half hour, and here we all are: healthy and happy, if sore and ridiculously tired. The long story is longer....

I had a busy day on Monday before I came home and updated the blog about my Ob appointment. I'd had a therapy session in the morning, a super long, leisurely lunch with a friend, my appointment, a meet up with Fairy Tale Ending and her little boy afterward, and then the trek home to Brooklyn, where we arived around 7. I was feeling tired but very encouraged by the progress I'd made at the appointment. I was planning all the nice enjoyable things I'd do for the rest of the week while I waited for Smudgie to arrive.

LG and I ate dinner and I watched my guilty pleasure tv show, Gossip Girl. I was feeling awfully uncomfortable throughout the show, with a backache and lots of "Braxton-Hicks" (or so I thought), but I perservered for the sake of Chuck Bass.

I continued to fell really uncomfortable for about an hour, but everything was centered in my lower pelvis, not radiating throughout my stomach, so I didn't think it could be a contraction. LG had gone to bed around 9:30, and at about 10 I decided to settle in with a book and take my mind off the discomfort. I laid down and suddenly realized that these pains were coming pretty regularly. Maybe I should time them by the digital clock on my nook.

10:17. 10:22. 10:27. 10:32.

At that point I woke LG up, saying, "I think I'm having contractions." We timed a few more together (as he shook off his grogginess). Still 5 minutes apart.

At this point, we had a little debate over whether we should call our doula first or our doctor. We went with the doula. And...here comes a strange complication.

I think I posted here about our doula's initial flakitude--missing our first meeting because of attending another birth and not letting us know. We'd moved on from that, but I must confess I never 100% trusted the situation (why I continued with her is the subject of another post).

When I got home from my appointment Monday evening, I had e-mailed her to let her know the status and that I probably would be going into labor that week. Once LG and I realized we needed to figure out if I was actually in labor, I went to get my phone and saw that Flaky Doula had written me back.

She was bailing on us. She had recently become pregnant, had some latex allergy that had landed her in the ER, I don't even know what. She had found us a replacement doula and gave us her contact info.

Neither of us had the time or energy to really process this news. LG didn't want a stranger participating in the birth. I just needed information about what was going on and needed it quickly-- by this point, the contractions required me to stand and breathe to get through them. We called Flaky Doula anyway and told her that we were likely in labor right then. She patched in Replacement Doula.

Immediately, I found Doula #2's voice and energy to be calming, soothing, and in charge. I trusted her just from hearing her over the phone. I decided I wanted to just go with this sudden change and use her. We told her we would call our doctor's office and be in touch. LG was skeptical, but deferred to me. A good decision, since I was the one panting in pain.

The doctor on call (Dr. F, for those who know my practice) wanted us to observe the contractions for another hour and then call back. Because of the internal exam I'd had, there was the chance that this was a false trigger and that labor would slow soon. He didn't think it would, but it was a possibility.

And sure enough, it did. Within 20 minutes or so, the contractions were down to once every 10 minutes. I assumed things were dying down. I called New Doula and she said to keep an eye on this, that sometimes our bodies give us a rest before kicking into a new stage of labor. I lay down and tried to sleep between contractions, asking LG to time them to see if they sped up.

They didn't. They held at one every 10 minutes for the next two hours. But they became extremely intense. I started moaning. I started feeling nausea at the end of each one. I think at one point I turned to LG and said, "Make it stop, make it stop." I soon couldn't sleep between them anymore. I think at this point, I said "As soon as we get to the hospital I'm having an epidural."

At around 2:30 am they picked up the pace again and went back to every 5 minutes. I wanted to count them for a full half-hour before getting in touch with doctor and doula again. But after moaning through three, I was struck with the unmistakeable urge to vomit. I got out of bed and sank to the floor, knowing I wasn't going to make it to the bathroom. I puked all over the hardwood, somehow missing the dog bed and massive pile of shams and extra pillows next to me.

While LG cleaned the puke up, I cleaned myself up and bore through another few contractions in the shower. The doctor told us to come to the hospital as soon as LG told him about the vomiting. We arranged to meet the doula there.

LG drove like a maniac, running red lights and tearing down the highway. We made it to our hospital on the UES in only 15 minutes. After demanding an epidural from the person entering my info into the computer and puking all over the floor of the L&D room they gave us, I finally got into my hospital gown and was examined by the staff doctor.

I was 6 cm already. They stepped up the request for the epidural and our doula and office's on-call doctor arrived around the same time. New Doula helped me through the contractions I had while waiting for the epi to be administered and kick in, and I knew immediately that I was glad she was assisting at the birth. She was calming, soothing, comforting and all around great.

By the time the shift changed around 6 am, I was able to rest. Dr. S, one of the main Obs at my practice, took over and examined me. I'd gone to 8 cm in less than two hours. Things were progressing well.

Over the next three hours, I rested and talked to LG and the doula, who helped me switch from lying on one side to lying on the other over and over. They gave me massages and helped me fall asleep. LG contacted our families, who gathered in the waiting area downstairs. I slept for about 45 minutes, and when I woke shortly before 9, Dr. S came to examine me. I was 10 cm. Time to start pushing.

I freaked out a little and started crying. I was scared of it hurting and didn't think I could do it. New Doula calmed me, told me my body knew what to do, that I'd gone through the worst part, that I could handle this. Everyone got into position, Dr. S cranked up his pushing playlist, and we got started.

I have no idea how I did it. During the breaks between contractions, my brain told me that this just wasn't going to work. But during contractions, I let instinct take over and followed Dr. S's count and the nurse's instructions. Somehow, after 20 minutes of pushing, I realized the pressure had changed. I heard Dr. S. call for the receiving blanket (apparently they placed it on my chest, which I didn't notice at all). He told someone we would have a baby in the next five minutes.

I got the head out with the biggest push of my life--apparently Smudgie let out a cry before his body was even free. I heard Dr. S say, "It's a boy!" and suddenly he was on my chest and LG and I both were sobbing. I kept stroking his wiggly little body, thinking how I had felt it squirming inside me a few hours before. I saw his mouth and eyes and said to LG, "He looks exactly like you!" It was everything I had hoped that moment would be and more.

They topped of my anesthesia to stitch some tears. Our families came to meet our son. And then we started our lives as a family of three. But that will have to wait for another time, because I'm tired and Smudgie's going to need to be fed soon.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

It's a Boy!

Mr. Smudgie Sloper arrived at 9:36 am on October 4th. He weighed in at a bruising 6lb 6oz and 18 inches long. He looks just like his daddy and is a quiet little owl, taking in the world with big attentive eyes and barely making a peep. He's fed twice but seems much more interested in sleeping.

He's already our world.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Progress!; or, 39 Weeks

I spent much of the past week feeling frustrated over last Monday's lack of progress. I worried about going overdue, needing to be induced or have a c-section, and just the uncertainty of not knowing when labor will strike. I began feeling a few more prelabor symptoms--backaches (sometimes coordinated with cramping, sometimes on their own), pressure in the pelvis, occasional exhaustion. But I still had enough energy and felt nimble enough to attend a wedding about 45 minutes outside of the city with Lawyer Guy on Saturday night. And to do it in 4-inch heels, no less (we lasted until they served a selection of pies at about 10 pm. I had to stay for the pies).

I fully expected to be told this afternoon that I was still high and closed and that the various aches and pangs and discomforts I felt all week had amounted to not much.

But no! I'm 3 cm dilated and the doctor felt the baby's head when she did the internal exam! (That explains the feeling that I've been carrying a bowling ball between my hip bones, I guess). I also started losing pieces of my mucus plug today-- delightful globs of what looks like creamy brown snot. (Too much information? I thought some might want to know for future reference).

The doctor thinks I'll likely go into labor on my own, possibly before my appointment scheduled for next Monday. I can't believe Smudgie could be in my arms in less than a week! Less than a week until we can hold him or her, give a name, find out who this little person is.

I know that I could be waiting quite a while longer--people have walked around many centimeters dilated for weeks. But this was the boost I needed to help me enjoy whatever time I have left until Smudgie arrives. Time with Lawyer Guy and Bella, time with myself, time to read and rest and dream of the little baby I hope will be with us soon.