Yesterday a friend of mine was asking how my husband was doing and if he was excited about the new baby. I explained that I think he’s the one nesting lately, not me. He’s cleaning and organizing and replacing things around here that needed to be replaced for a long time. It’s probably in part because he remembers how hazy and busy that first month with a new baby can be, and he knows home improvement won’t happen for a long time.
I wish I could get the cleaning bug as part of my last month of pregnancy hormonal fluctuations. I know for most people “nesting” is a phenomenon that has them rewashing baby clothes and organizing some long-forgotten bathroom cabinet or something. So far, I cannot seem to get motivated in that regard. In fact, I am ashamed to tell you that the nursery is not quite complete yet. Close, but not done. (Which is extra funny considering I think my son had clean sheets on his bed at 26 weeks gestation.) I am 35 going on 36 weeks, and I need a push to finish these sorts of things.
But the one area where I think my nesting instincts are taking hold is my kitchen. I’ve written before about the glory of freezer cooking and how it helps a busy weeknight come together or a sleepy morning go more smoothly. I didn’t discover this until my son was about 9 months old, but it would have been so helpful in those early days. This time I have another mouth to feed, of course. And I know Jude’s world will feel really different no matter what I do, but I like the idea that he can still sit down at the same table with the same parents during the first few weeks of this transition.
I’ve mostly used Once a Month Mom as my resource for recipes and ideas, and I wanted to link them here as well. I’m trying to do a good mix of dairy-free and regular recipes in light of a lot of newborn’s sensitivities to dairy in the early weeks. I was lucky with my son that I could eat anything at all and he was never bothered, but you never know, so I wanted to be at least somewhat prepared for that possibility and not have a freezer full of food I couldn’t eat. Once a Month Mom now has a dairy and gluten free menu every month, and while I don’t care to limit gluten, I used that menu to get some dairy-free ideas since 99% of my freezer recipes involve cheese, cream, or milk. So far, I have managed to cook and freeze the following:
A few extras like mashed potatoes for a quick side dish and a couple of rounds of pizza dough should help, too. I also hit up the frozen foods aisle at Trader Joe’s for a few favorites, which for us means Crispy Orange Chicken, Fried Rice, Chicken Tacos, and Croissants.
We have a small chest freezer in the basement, so most of it is stored down there – mainly so I won’t be tempted to dive in to it before the baby arrives. I just used old paper grocery bags and labeled them for various meals to make things more simple.
Most of the dinner entrees really won’t fit in the dinner bag, so they will be stacked beside it instead. Still though, walking downstairs to get food and throwing it in the microwave, the oven, or the Crockpot is ten times easier than making something from scratch, and I’m excited to reap the rewards next month. On the whole, it’s taken far less time than one would think since I typically just double something we are eating tonight and freeze a portion. I’ve used Jude’s nap time to cook and freeze as well which is always helpful with an hour or two alone.
I am a little lost on the dairy-free menu, so any suggestions on things of that variety that freeze well would be greatly appreciated. Send them my way!
The next week promises to be full of lots of reflecting because (gulp) my baby will be ONE in 8 days. (I say that like it’s something new when all this journal really ever contains are random reflections anyway.) Anywho…..I dug up some baby photos and here’s what I found.
me at 12 months
and Jude at 11 months and 2 weeks
I remember when Jude was something like 10 days old and I was hormonal and overwhelmed with the weight of so many things at that point (aren’t we all?) and a visitor came to our home and uttered these exact words, “Well, Katie. I’m sorry. He’s a spittin’ image of his daddy. I mean he looks just like Scott did as a newborn.”
Really? Because I just withstood 9 months of discomfort. 8.5 months without a damn cocktail. Then 16 hours of completely unmedicated labor. Then 3.5 hours of attempting to push this kid out of my vagina. Oh yeah, then a major emergency surgery followed. And I’m currently his sole source of nutrition, but whatever. He has none of my genes? That’s cool. No biggie.
I admit that I was hormonal and anything but rational at that time, but please be forewarned never, never tell a new mama the baby doesn’t share her traits at all. Because even if he doesn’t, she needs to feel like he does. For a short while anyway. (Am I the only crazy one who feels this way?) And who knows? The characteristics might show up later like Jude’s did.
The truth is there are aspects of me that I hope to pass on to my Jude – my hair color, my tolerance of things that are different from me, my love for good music, my picky-eaters-are-unbearable philosophy, my appreciation for roots and all things southern and homey, my ear for poetry, and my love of books.
But there are things I don’t want him to get from me either – my at times ridiculously overactive imagination, my tendency to blush, my inability to say no to chocolate or pushy people, my excessive worry.
I’m hoping he inherits Scott’s humor, his intellect, his love for travel, his loyalty, and his decent singing voice without picking up that gene that inspires a passionately undying love of Star Wars.
I guess I am hoping we somehow pass down all that is best of ourselves to him. But isn’t that what all parents hope for?
So mamas (or future mamas), what do you hope your little ones get from you? What do you hope they don’t?
Today was one of those days. The rare perfect, or almost-perfect ones. The ones that never seem to happen, or if they do, we tend to forget them by somehow focusing on the ones that are most imperfect instead.
I am finally beginning to respond to the question, “What do you do?” with a confident answer that I stay home with my son. For a long time, I felt the need to qualify this with a “well I taught for five years” or “I tutor a few nights a week” or “for now at least.” I know my days are full of laundry and picking dried yogurt off the kitchen floor. And scrubbing the sink to turn around and dirty it up again with the remnants of the turkey sandwich I really don’t want to eat because I had that for the last 3 days in a row. And answering the door bra-less and embarrassed as my landscaper or UPS man or neighbor or whatever sees me and probably thinks I have been eating bon-bons all morning and oh-my-god-does-she-ever-shower? [What is a bon-bon anyway?]
But today, my friends, today was perfection. Our nighttime sleep is gradually improving around here, or not really but I am at peace with it, and Jude only woke up once last night at 3am. When he woke up for real, he was smiling and happy and greeting the day in a way that made me overlook the fact that it was dark out and not yet 6:30. We came downstairs where he played and the dogs lazily awoke and I made myself a homemade latte and a bagel and listened to morning news so that I remembered there’s a big world outside of this house. Away from me and my little family and my mounds of chores and lack of sleep.
After playing and eating, he went down for a long morning nap when I showered and straightened up and, wait for it….. scrubbed every bathroom in this house until it shined. He woke up happily again, and we set off to Target to get exciting things like trash bags and a new mop head since our current one is covered in dog hair. After this, we went to my favorite little lunch spot and met up with a graduate school friend of mine and her 3 month old, and I found myself asking if Jude was ever that tiny, that quiet. I almost don’t remember it. We had a nice lunch despite Jude’s pile of food on the floor I cleaned up before we left, and it felt so good to talk to another mama, especially one you knew before either of you were anywhere close to motherhood.
When we got home, Jude napped again, peacefully, and the rest of the afternoon was a combination of playtime, wearing him around the house to finish a thing here or there and generally enjoying these little moments. At one point, we swayed and danced to my new favorite song and Jude smiled and hummed along, his new favorite talent. Dinner was Martha’s Tofu & Broccoli, and even Jude loved it and will eat the leftovers tomorrow I’m sure.
And when bathtime came, he splashed and giggled and moved that naked booty all over the bathroom as I dried him off and he crawled around. When I laid him down awake, he put himself right to sleep. And afterwards, my friends, I indulged in a cold beer and hot bath, and I even shaved my legs. Somehow, I cleaned the kitchen, and somehow I found the space and energy in my day to light a fall-scented candle, look forward to the weeks ahead, and think about how lucky I am. And write about it here for you. And mostly for me.
Is it all roses all the time? No.
I could comment on how I made it halfway up my stairs with the vacuum and Jude awoke from his afternoon nap, so the top half of the stairs remain covered in dog hair. I could tell you that I haven’t had a full night of sleep in I dunno how long. I could confess that you cannot see the surface of my dining room table because it’s been littered with half-finished craft projects for the past month with no end in sight. I could tell you that I still haven’t made that dentist appointment I have sworn for weeks I would get around to eventually. I could explain that I have no idea what lesson I will do for tomorrow’s tutoring session, and I will most likely throw it together at the last possible moment. I could complain that my husband is far away yet again this week, and I am so so so tired of a quiet, empty house eight days a month.
But to focus on any of that and miss the beauty of a perfect day like this one? Pointless. Because at the end of it all… at the end of the tiring nights, the bathroom scrubbing, the whining, the never-ending pile of papers that never gets attended to, the “to-be-put-away” laundry pile that always remains…. there’s some joy underneath. A lot of joy actually. And a lot of beauty in some small moments.
Why is it that with parenting, everything is so polarizing? Breast or bottle? Vaccinations? Discipline? Sleep? All of it requires that you read so-called expert opinions and feel guilty for choosing either side because the opposing team leaves you doubtful and confused.
I have a ten month old boy who is clearly adorable. (duh) He’s aware, engaged, well-adjusted, friendly. When we go out in public, it never fails that someone comments on what a happy baby he is. What a happy boy, they say. Or he is such a well-behaved baby. You are so lucky, blah blah blah. These compliments are nice, but I can’t help but feel that his temperament is most likely something he was born with and not something I am responsible for. I was blessed with a laid-back, smiley, easy kid. And for that I am really grateful.
The one hang-up? He is ten months old and he doesn’t really sleep through the night. At all. And by that I mean that I feed him once or twice (and maybe occasionally three times) between the hours of 7pm and 6am. It is highlyunusual if we wake up in this house with a full night of sleep. Like in the past 5 months, it’s happened maybe 3 times. The truth is, I don’t necessarily care all that much. I stumble in his room when he cries, I feed him, I stumble back to my bed and return to sleep. After 10 months of breastfeeding, he’s got it down and he’s a fast eater, so the whole process takes maybe 6 or 7 minutes. That’s it. Where I am concerned is when I tell people this, and they look horrified or say that their baby slept all night at 7 weeks old. Or if someone is telling me about these terrible sleep problems she is having, and later in the conversation, I discover that she means her baby actually needs a midnight feeding and this hasn’t happened since month 3 or something. Most of all, I worry that this won’t go away on its own and I will end up with a toddler with massive sleep disorders and learning disabilities or something and that it will be all my fault for not “sleep training” him so that he gets proper rest. Oh, mommy guilt. Gets you every time.
I’ve read it all. When Jude was about 16 weeks old, he was up at night more than he was asleep. I was working full-time as a teacher of 150 high school students, and I was getting up every hour and a half with a crying baby at night. I simply could not function. I read Ferber’s book (or the chapters that applied to us anyway), and I thought I did “cry it out.” I say thought because in hindsight, it was “simmer it down” more so than cry. He whimpered off and on for maybe 30 minutes at a time throughout that first night, and then he gradually stopped. After that, he slept through the night (well till 4am which is good enough for us and a vast improvement at that time), and I really thought CIO was torturous but a miracle solution. In hindsight, I am at least happy that Ferber’s book taught me that I don’t have to immediately respond to every little whimper and I can give my baby time to soothe himself.
Then came a bad cold, and really….. what heartless woman can leave her sick baby crying?…. so of course I was up with him for that. Soon after that came the insane growth spurt he had at 5-6 months where he’d eat hungrily and gained a ton of length and weight to prove it. So after that we settled in to a pattern of one feeding at about 3am. He goes to bed at 7pm, so this is 8 hours, and I really didn’t think it was that bad. Sometimes he’ll get me up at midnight as well, but he seems hungry as he eats, so I am at a loss as to how I can say no.
The past few weeks, he was having nap time woes (as in NOT NAPPING AT ALL). I quickly realized that daytime sleep is where I gained my sanity, not overnight sleep, and I couldn’t take it anymore. Three other moms I trust shared their love for this book. I tore through the book as soon as I got it, and the daytime nap solutions are really working for us already, so all is well you’d think, right? Except that as I read, I am again struck with the what is wrong with my baby questions when I read about nighttime sleep. He certainly does not fit the profile of a kid with sleep disorders of any kind. He cries, eats quickly, goes right back to sleep, but I can’t help but think that he “should” be able to sleep all night.
So here are my questions – Should I be worried? What are the chances that I am establishing something awful that will need to be amended when he’s older? “Should” he be soothing himself back to sleep at this age without the food I provide for him? How do I know if he is genuinely hungry? Most importantly, be honest with me, what ages were your children when they really, truly, reliably slept through the night? Did they do it on their own, or did you do something to help them along?
I know Ferber says to cry it out, but when we tried that (a second time and for real this time) for naps and bedtime not long ago, it only left Jude feeling panicked and HATING his bed and left me feeling frazzled and guilty. I know that works for some children, but I also know that crying increases levels of cortisol and in some babies (mine included, in my opinion) that only leads to a terrible hyper-alert kind of state that is anything but conducive to sleep. I cannot handle crying for longer than around an hour. I know that Ferber and Weissbluth say that you really have to let them get it all out, no matter how long it takes. They also say if the crying episode leads to vomiting, you go in the child’s room, silently clean him up, and lay him back down in the crib. I know as a parent, I am supposed to set perameters for my child and enforce rules, but that is so so so not instinctual for me, I just can’t be that much of a hard-ass. I also don’t like thinking of “training” my child to sleep like he’s a dog or something. I wonder if sleeping is a developmental milestone like rolling over or walking and perhaps I shouldn’t rush it. On the other end of the spectrum, I adore Sears on basic baby care and discipline, but I also know women who follow his ideas exclusively and they have 3-year-old children who still nurse often and need their attention at all hours. That might be fine for some families, but I simply cannot do it, and I want Jude to have an independent spirit as well. I know mothers who follow either model (Ferber or Sears) stringently and have children who seem less than happy and thriving. I also know families who follow these plans stringently and have seemingly perfect kids. To each his own.
If I have learned anything these past few months it is that you are the best mother you can be when you are authentic and are doing what feels right for you and your family. My problem is that neither of these extremes or ideas seems right for us. None of them have worked.
So mamas, what do you do to get your little ones to stay asleep? Is there a golden ticket? Do I wait it out till he’s ready or take a more active approach to prevent further problems? Cautionary tales? I’m all ears.
We are back from Seattle, and I am busy catching up on things around here. Rather than writing a post about how great our trip was, I figured I’d share a couple of scrapbook pages I finished. (You can click on the image for a larger view.) Traveling with a baby was SO much easier than I had expected. It was fun!
This is the third part of the series. Be sure to begin with chapter one and chapter two to get the entire story.
This chapter, in ways, is the hardest for me to write, but also the most important, I think.
The weeks that followed my delivery were rough. There was the physical healing with both an incision and some vaginal tearing as well, and there was so so much disappointment. I’m not saying that cesareans are like this for everyone. I know plenty of women who prefer them, and I understand that every woman’s situation and response is unique; all I can write is my own story and what it was for me. I think women who have a hard time healing emotionally after a cesarean birth are often seen as crazy people who care about the vaginal birth above the health of your baby. This is not the case at all, and I understand that surgical birth can save lives that would have been lost a few generations ago. Nevertheless, I feel like a hole is carved in the memory of my son’s birth. I will never feel my first-born, warm and fresh, laid on my chest. I will never be the first one to hold him. I will never feel him pass through my body on his entrance to the world. It is a moment I can never get back, and one that I craved not because I’m selfish or because it’s a medal of honor or because I wanted to feel pain but because I am a mother, and that is how my body is designed to begin that journey.
Yes, I was in love with this beautiful boy and admiring him more everyday, but what surgical birth robbed me of is the feeling of confidence and contentment in my own body, my own abilities as a mother. I’ve written here before about my problems breastfeeding, and that certainly added to my self-doubt. I can remember one instance where my mother and sister came by for a visit, and Jude was something like a week old. I sat on my couch in my dirty, sweaty, stained pajamas and cried about how I was defective. My body didn’t work. I was not capable of pushing a baby out, and now I couldn’t breastfeed. I truly felt, at that moment, like I wasn’t cut out for motherhood and I didn’t deserve my baby. My cesarean robbed me of joy I should have taken from those first few weeks, and that is something I can never, ever get back.
In the end, it took many things from me. What did it give me? A healthy baby boy first and foremost, but a few other things as well. It gave me an appreciation for my hours and hours of intense unmedicated labor. It is because of that time spent working through every rhythm that I can remember Jude’s delivery as ours alone. When I think back to his arrival, it is those 22 hours spent in a dimly lit room focusing and breathing with my husband and my doula that I reminisce on. Many women look back at natural childbirth and remember pain pain pain. I sincerely appreciate that pain and will do it again gladly. I am not sure I would have that admiration for the process of labor if mine had not ended the way it did. My cesearean also gave me a ridiculously stubborn determination to breastfeed. I’d like to think that, even with a perfect natural birth, I would have kept fighting until we got breastfeeding right, but one thing I know is that I craved that confidence in my body and my abilities, and I refused to let my surgery take away my nursing relationship with my son. It was a lot of crying, a lot of pain, weeks of hard work, a pediatric ENT, a frenulectomy, and 5 lactation consultants, but in the end, I felt relieved to have us back on nature’s path that I felt was right for us. Lastly, my cesarean has left me plugged in to the birth community in a way that has proven so helpful. My local chapter of ICAN is very active, and their message board has been infinitely interesting and useful for problems big or small. My interest in birth, ongoing as a result of my cesarean and the choices it has left me with, is blooming in to an interest in informed parenthood that is continually connecting me with others whose stories and advice make me a better mother everyday.
So at the end of the day, what do I know for sure? I know that birth is a natural process. I know that every woman’s body is different, and nature knows what is best. I know that medical intervention is necessary sometimes, and at that moment, it was necessary for my Jude to arrive safely. I also know that medical intervention is overused, and we have to change the way we view birth in this country. I know that, when you really look at the research, VBACs are indeed safer than repeat cesareans. I know that sometimes life is completely unfair and it absolutely sucks. I know that a delivery that was so frightening and so difficult has bonded me with a little boy in a way that I never dreamed was possible. I know that breastfeeding does more than nurture a baby, it heals a mother, too.
I believe that every baby has the right to choose his or her birthday. I believe that every mother has the right to refuse medical intervention that is not absolutely necessary. I believe that even informed women can be bullied into decisions they know are not right. I believe that doctors who intimidate women into deliveries that are “convenient” and overly-controlled make us feel powerless, and they should be called to task for this. I believe that birth is a rite of passage, one of the rare moments in life that women remember for every second thereafter, one that changes who you are in a single instant. I also believe that one day, I will have a beautiful, natural delivery that will validate my body’s abilities and be a source of redemption for me as a woman.
One of the things I love about the blogging community is the inspiration I find from all of you. Kelle Hampton’s approach to life’s obstacles sheds light on my own challenges every time I read her posts. In comparison, my birth story does not hold a candle to hers and neither does my situation, but she wrote something once that hit me at my center. She said birth is a beautiful transformation, “Especially when it’s a little bit scary. It rocks you to the core. Picks you up, smacks you down hard and then rebuilds you with all new parts…..the minute you welcome [a baby] into your life, you inherit a thicker skin…because the bus will hit you plenty of times to the point you’ll think you damn near died. But you don’t. You pick yourself off the ground, dust off your knees…and move on. Because beauty awaits. The beauty that fills in all the holes and rough spots.”
And rough spots there are. The scariness, the ugliness, the overwhelming unfairness is what really began my journey to motherhood in a big way. I cannot forget that. I cannot pretend it didn’t happen. But for now, I can dust off and move on and cherish all that it taught me. I can’t say I’m grateful for it yet, but we’ll get there. In the meantime, there’s too much joy to dwell on the ugly and too much love to be weighed down with disappointment.
First I have to admit that relaying this part of the story is only possible because of the timeline my doula provided and the details my husband and sister remember. While I remember most of it in one way or another, the idea of time is completely and totally foreign to me when I think back to that day. I also have to admit I had to let go of a lot of vanity showing these photos, but at the end of the day, I am so, so grateful I have them.
Checking in to the hospital, they confirmed all of my medical information and verified that I was being admitted as a result of low fluid levels. I said, yes, my fluid was a 7, so it had gotten progressively lower, but I explained that I didn’t feel that urgent. The nurse glanced at me, smirked, and said the doctor had written fluid level of three on my forms, but that he had a habit of “fibbing a little to speed things up.” This bothered me immensely, and it certainly did nothing to calm my nerves, but it did verify that I, in fact, was right in knowing that a seven was nothing of concern. She completed a cervical exam though, and I was 100% effaced and 3 cm dilated at check-in, so that was good news. At 6:30 pm, they inserted Cervadil and told me to get some sleep. Scott and I talked, called my doula, and generally wasted time and watched television until we decided to try to get some sleep. The hospital had offered me a mild and safe sedative, and I took it hoping to calm down, get some rest, and have energy for a Pitocin drip at 7am the next morning.
I dozed from something like 10 pm until 11:45, but some intense cramping kept waking me. At midnight, a nurse came in and stated that I must be dehydrated because I was having contractions. (Nothing to do with my being 41.1 weeks pregnant, I’m sure.) She hooked up a bag of fluids to my i.v. port and left the room. I’d been drinking water all day, mind you, but on came the intravenous fluids. These pains continued to get stronger and stronger, and I certainly couldn’t sleep through them. At 1:00 a.m. , the same nurse came in and removed the Cervadil after telling me that I was, for sure, in labor. So my induction consisted of about 6-7 hours of inserted synthetic prostaglandins, but that’s it. No intravenous Pitocin! I woke Scott at about 2:30 to tell him I needed help focusing and getting through these contractions.
By 3:15 a.m. things are moving along faster than I expected, and we call my doula, Pam. She arrives at the hospital by 4:30, and according to her notes, my contractions are steady at every 2-3 minutes. By 6:30 a.m., my sister arrives as part of my labor team and my contractions are coupling, as Scott said at that time, “It’s like aftershocks after earthquakes.” A nurse tells me to lie on my left side to regulate them.Things start to get a little hazy here, but I remember a lot of back labor and some very focused breathing. My water breaks – in a steady drip, not a gush – at 8:30 a.m., and my amazing husband is behind me all the way. My contractions are definitely felt in both my belly and my back.
At 9:10 the on-call doctor comes in and is so welcoming and encouraging. Her exam shows that I am at about 8-9 cm with a noticeable anterior lip of cervix. She manually breaks my bag of waters (what was left) hoping that will speed things along and help me get over that cervical lip. The baby is a -1 station which is still a bit high for this stage of the game. I have an awesome nurse named Tracy who is letting me go off the monitors fairly often and move around to ease the pain. She’s also holding them to my belly as I bounce on the ball which is amazingly supportive.
I remember bouncing on the ball and saying, “Everyone leave me alone. I need to go to the bathroom.” I get up to head that direction and nurses in the room scream, NO. One asks if it feels like I need to poop which is usually not information I willingly share, but I assure her that yes, it does. The nurse informs me that I could be very, very close to push time, but that I need another check before I get the okay. They check me again and I am at, as my doctor describes, a 9.5 – that damn lip still won’t move. During my next contraction, my doctor tries to manually move the anterior lip, but it won’t budge. She tells me to open my pelvic floor as best I can, but fight the urge to push. If you’ve been in labor, you know what this means. It’s like saying fight the urge to vomit, not to mention that opening your pelvic floor while fighting the urge to push is opposite in nature.
This is where things get really, really fuzzy. They catheterize me (ouch!) to move things along faster, new people come in the room with all the baby lamps and gear, my doctor places the covers over her shoes. Everyone is saying I’m almost there, and one nurse tells me that she knew from the moment she walked in hours ago that I would make it all the way. “I could just tell when I saw you, I said, ‘she’s going to do it.'” I start to cry saying I will meet him soon and this is really hard not to push. I want to see him. I just want to hold him. I want to push. Can I please push? I am going to push? I’m trying so hard. This is so hard. Then we find that we really aren’t that close as my body refuses to fully dilate. Some time between 9:30 and 11:00 a.m., I go from feeling a little pushy to oh-my-god-I-am-going-to-push-this-baby-out-I-can’t-help-it. The urge to push at that point is the most overwhelming physical sensation I have ever felt in my life. Eventually I find myself lying on my side on the bed with Scott behind me, and I am kicking my legs like scissors as hard as I can with every urge to push.
The rhythm of things at this point is urge to push, contraction, rest between contractions. Urge to push, contraction, rest between contractions. Again and again. I remember feeling the contraction swell like a wave and being so grateful for the pain, loving the pain, relishing the pain because that meant that the pushing feeling would disappear. I loved the rest between contractions , too. But I would get scared after a few seconds because I knew the pushing feeling was coming. I’m telling everyone I am so scared because I am pushing. I can’t help it. I’m pushing. The nurses start to look concerned. My doctor comes in, She tells me that she knows I didn’t want to go this route, but that an epidural may help to open me up. Fighting the urge to push is keeping things tight. She also warns that tearing my cervix would lead to major swelling and we really don’t need for that to happen. She leaves the room, and I say there’s no way I am getting an epidural when I have made it to a 9.5. Then some more time passes, I don’t know how long, and I say I can’t do it anymore. I get an epidural or I push this baby out. Now.
So the anesthesiologist is called, and it seems to take her forever to get here, but she finally does and the epi is inserted. I hate it, and it feels so weird and disconnected, but I am not trying to push him out. I am not yelling or crying or kicking my legs like scissors, so that’s good. Scott is relieved. I don’t blame him; being the spectator cannot be easy.
Time is so weird when you are in labor. For some women, they think it’s been hours when it’s only been minutes. For me, time was racing without my realizing it. The clock had been covered in our room since about 4am. I honestly thought it might have been something like 11 or 12. When my doula told me it was past 4pm and that I had fought the intense urge to push for 5 hours, I was shocked. No wonder everyone else looked so exhausted.
By 6:10 pm , I complete dilation, so my doctor’s suggestion of an epidural, in this case, was a very good one. She warns me, though, that Jude was still quite high, and it might be a good idea to sit up in the bed and “labor him down” for a while and make pushing easier. I agree, and at 8:30, we finally had the go ahead to push. The first couple of pushes, I can’t feel anything, so I tell the nurse to turn down the epi. Every time she turned it down, I tell her more, more because it is so incredibly weird to feel so much so intensely and then nothing at all. So by the time we are really pushing, I am feeling the pain and the urge – although not nearly as strong as before. The first hour or so of pushing, everyone is cheering me on and they sometimes say “That was a good one!” or “You brought him down.” They give me a mirror for motivation, and soon we see hair! Not far down; he certainly isn’t crowning. But up a ways, we can definitely see hair. I am so happy and relieved after almost 20 hours of labor; I know I will see him soon.
But after a while, a weird thing happens. He doesn’t seem to be moving anymore and people stop congratulating me. My doctor is trying to get her hand as close to his head as possible and I am bleeding from some internal tears. No one is really saying anything. Scott is cheering and motivating, and my doula is patting my leg and encouraging me, but I can tell something has changed. My doctor mumbles something I cannot hear, and my sister looks at me and said, “He’s posterior, Katie.” Okay, I say. So what do we do? Should I change positions? My doctor explains that she doesn’t think he’ll get out “this way,” but that his heart rate is okay, so I can keep trying. In hindsight, I know she knew where this was headed, but I am forever grateful that she allowed me to make this as much my birth as it could have been. I decide I am not done yet. I push for another 40 minutes or so. Finally I lie back on the bed and just say, okay.
My doctor says hold on a minute and puts her hand up me. I know she is pushing him back up. The urge to push is back, and I want to do it so badly. I suddenly realize I am really, really exhausted. I start to cry and say it hurts. My doula rubs my leg and says, “You are so strong. You’ve done so much, but we have just a little more work before the end okay.” The doctor leaves the room. The lights go on. The room fills with people I haven’t seen yet. They pull up my hospital gown and shave me. Another anesthesiologist comes in and doses the epi really high. I start shaking uncontrollably. Like seizures shaking, seriously, out of control. I vow VBAC for my next baby, and I am told “They don’t do those anymore. They are too dangerous.” I am wheeled in the hallway and to the OR. The surgeon shakes my hand (my doctor is assisting him). I’m just crying and I say, I tried so hard. I tried so so hard. I’m still shaking uncontrollably.
I feel them tugging. I smell burning. My doctor pulls my baby out of me at 11:46 pm.My husband shows him to me. He is beautiful, but I cannot touch him or hold him. I am shaking too much. Scott tells me he has my eyelashes, and that is the last thing I remember. I wake up 2 hours later, and my husband and son are next to me. I am a mess. It was only the next day, that I could smile like this.
Somehow the ugliness, the disconnectedness, the unfairness of my delivery melts a little more every time I look at this photo. I worked so hard, and I loved him so much already.
So what caused my cesarean? I guess I’ll never know for sure. For a long time, it was my belief that Jude was not positioned correctly and that in a few days time, he probably would have maneuvered to the right fit and labor would have begun. No woman has ever been pregnant forever, and I would not have been the first. I’ve read that Cervadil is stronger than it’s given credit to be and that it can, in fact, induce labor. When I read those sorts of things, it’s my belief that my induction led to my cesarean. Worst of all, I feel like I was bullied into the induction and can remember that sick feeling in my stomach when I knew things were going down the wrong road. It’s hard not to blame myself, to feel stupid and a little broken.
On the other hand, I’ve read – and even been told by a reputable midwife – that if my body responded to Cervadil in a few short hours, I was ready to go and in early labor anyhow and it most likely had no effect on the outcome. I know other mothers who ended up in the operating room for a stubborn posterior baby and had no medical intervention at all. When I hear those sorts of things, I believe that there was really no “cause” and that is perhaps even more frustrating than playing the blame game.
I can question every decision made along the way. What if they didn’t break my water? What if they never gave me fluids? And the big one, what if they had just let me push despite the large lip? Why would nature give me such a srong urge if it wasn’t time? Even in hindsight, there are so many uncertainties. I know a few things for sure though: I certainly didn’t grow a baby too large for my pelvis (one that was over a pound less than estimated, by the way). I wasn’t incapable of giving birth vaginally because God made me some odd way. I don’t think my body is a lemon, but I did for a really, really long time. The road to healing was pretty long, and for more on that, read the third chapter of my experience.
It’s about time. Jude turns 9 months this week- which is so hard to believe, by the way. And I can’t believe we are nearing the one-year mark. This year has been full of so many surprises, and when I reflect on who I was 12 months ago, I realize I have learned a lot. I’ve learned life is not always fair. Choices are not always easy to make. I’ve learned that motherhood is amazing, challenging, and in a weird way, also healing and redeeming.
I went to visit my friend last week after she had a baby in the same hospital where Jude was delivered, and so many details of Jude’s birth came racing back for me. Then this week we have ventured to Seattle to tag along with Scott while he works, and I actually get some time to reflect and write while Jude naps (instead of racing around the house to clean or deal with something that needs attention). Writing is healing in ways, and this has really helped to end one chapter and move on to some more exciting things with a growing, active boy. It’s taken me so long to sit down and write this, and even now, I’m not totally ready. There’s always something in the writing of things that makes you see everything more clearly, though. So here we are. I’m dividing this in to three pieces. The before, the during, and the after. It makes sense to me, and it avoids the Longest Post Ever that I won’t even want to read myself.
So let’s rewind. My pregnancy. It was totally uneventful as I felt pretty good (comparatively), and my round belly displayed all the signs of a growing, healthy baby. I was at the same OB practice I’d gone to for something like 5 years, and I found my doctor through his ASTOUNDING reputation in the Atlanta area. I will spare you the details of my sister’s second delivery, but I’ll tell you he treated her during a difficult pregnancy that could have ended at least three times as she was in and out of the hospital for premature labor; he vaginally delivered a large baby who was positioned in a way many doctors would have shied away from and preferred the OR. It was actually my doctor who first said to me when I had my introductory prenatal appointment, “Pregnancy is a wellness. It’s natural. It’s not a sickness. Relax and know your body knows what to do.” It was his attitude that led to my interest in natural childbirth, and I enrolled in a Bradley course where I learned a lot of specific and useful information, and my birth plan revealed my preference for no induction or pain relieving drugs. I wanted to do what was best for the baby, and I also wanted an experience that would allow me to feel everything in labor and fully experience childbirth as I was created to do it.
Fast forward to October 3rd, 2009. I finished my last day of work before maternity leave, and I was 4 days out from my “due date.” From the beginning of my pregnancy, I had always proclaimed that I knew he would arrive late. I don’t know why, I always knew. Family, friends, even strangers affirmed this as they’d tell me I “looked too good to be that close.” I felt too good, too. I’d walk up and down my driveway and around my hilly neighborhood everyday to “walk that baby out” as I’d been told. My driveway is a small mountain, and this task leaves even a fit man exhausted, but I walked and walked and walked without a second thought. I was relishing these last few days off work before Jude’s arrival and taking it easy with energy to spare. Minimal anxiousness, total confidence in my body. Having taken my Bradley course, I knew precisely what would happen in each stage of labor and how my body should react. I knew that modern interventions are usually unnecessary. I knew that birth is natural for the female body and that I was created for this very thing. My original due date according to my period was October 1st. My practice later changed that date to October 7th after looking at an ultrasound and understanding that I wanted to avoid induction.
The morning of October 7th, I awoke feeling great but dreading being “overdue” and answering the questions that came with it. I went to my weekly ob visit, and my doctor was very calm and collected. He informed me that he had a family emergency he had to attend to and that he would be gone the following week. He also assured me that I was 80% effaced and that many women go in to labor within a week after their “due date,” and that would probably happen to me. If it didn’t, I was in the care of the practice’s senior doctor the following week, and he knew my baby was healthy and delivery would probably go very well. With a smile and a vote of confidence in me, he was gone. I left the appointment feeling so impressed and grateful that there was NO mention of induction on the date I was due. I knew most Atlanta practices would have scheduled an induction already, and I felt both affirmed in my choice of practice and confident in my body. That evening, Scott and I went out for eggplant parmesan (third time!), and I even indulged in a glass of red wine – a first for my pregnancy. I mustered all the patience I had and waited on Baby Jude.
As great as I felt, I also wanted to avoid induction so badly that I had been doing everything in the world to get this baby out since about 38 weeks. Walking? Check. Pineapple? Check, everyday. Eggplant? Check, three times. Sex? Super awkward and check. Nipple Stimulation? Used the breast pump, check. Herbal teas? Check. Full moon? Weekend before my due date, check. The only thing I refused to try was castor oil since I’d read a few things linking its use to meconium issues. Nothing was successful, and let me assure you that there is still nothing more frustrating to me than wanting so so badly for your body to do something when it won’t. It’s torture. As the days after my due date went by, I began to fear induction and get nervous. I was never worried about Jude’s safety; I felt good and he was active and moving. I just worried about having to be induced if I went 14 days over since I knew that even very lenient midwives usually act at that time.
On the morning of Monday, October 12th, I was 5 days “overdue” and went to the doctor for my weekly check-up. I had a vaginal exam, and there was no change in my dilation, and the new doctor (whom I’d never met before prior to this appointment) explained that Jude was still quite high. He stripped my membranes without asking “to hurry things along” and chatted with me in a way that seeped arrogance. With an ultrasound, they discovered that my fluid levels were at a 7 which is certainly a drop from my previous reading of 15. I knew from my research that normal levels were 5-25, but when we went in for the conference with the doctor, he explained that his anecdotal experience told him that 7 is definitely low, and that I needed to be induced that very night. I questioned him on this, and he informed me that he was a doctor who had been delivering babies since I was born, and that a healthy mother and baby were of his concern. When he asked,”You don’t want to risk stillbirth for the sake of a ‘birth plan’ do you?” I really began to freak out. He also told me that Jude was “at least 9 pounds” and that I was a small woman with an unusually narrow pelvis, so a cesarean was a possibility. I knew in my gut that I was not carrying a 9 pound baby, but the mere mention of a cesarean sent me to ridiculous levels of anxiety.
I left the office in such a crying mess, I couldn’t even talk. I felt so betrayed by my doctor. I knew deep inside that there was no problem and that I didn’t need to induce, but what if I was wrong? He had a point that he was certainly experienced, and I could never forgive myself if my stubbornness led to problems for Jude. The word stillbirth hung like a rock in my stomach, and I couldn’t shake it. I called the office back and asked for a few more days. The doctor himself called my personal phone, which apparently he never does, and told me that he wouldn’t feel comfortable letting me go longer and that his conscience would not let him be negligent on this. I asked for a non-stress test to assess Jude’s health more closely. He said “okay but only if it is early tomorrow a.m.” So on Tuesday the non-stress test was performed, and everything looked fine. As I used that for an argument against induction, my new doctor explained that it was just the point he was trying to make; Jude was fine now, but I was playing with fire by staying pregnant any longer, and those test results could soon change. He argued for an induction that night. I was incredibly torn, stressed, anxious, and conflicted. I did my reasearch on which doctors were on-call in which days, and I finally succeeded in convincing him to wait until Thursday, even though he was “not entirely comfortable with that.”
Looking back, I knew things were heading in a terrible direction. I spoke with my family, cried to Scott, chatted with my closest friends, all the while making it clear that I didn’t want to do this but felt pressured to do it. My friends, bless their hearts, were trying so hard to be supportive and reminding me of all the successful inductions they knew of. Nevertheless, I was so so nervous as we drove to the hospital on Wednesday evening.
I’m just a few days in to my new job, and I have already discovered a few things.
You can do A LOT in just a few minutes. Jude takes an hour-long morning nap and an hour and a half afternoon nap. That’s pretty much all the time I get for household odds and ends uninterrupted. Yesterday, I went in to turbo-mode during his morning nap to get as much done as possible. I placed the steam sterilizer full of pacifiers in our microwave with the timer on and somehow managed to tend to the dogs, unload and re-load the dishwasher, and straighten a cluttered living room in only 7 minutes. Makes me feel a little guilty for wasting half an hour on the computer.
Taking the time to put on matching clothes and mascara after my shower gives me more energy throughout the day. I swear it’s true.
The grocery store is infinitely more pleasant on a weekday without the Saturday crowds.
Laundry is the bane of my existence. This is not really a change from the days when I worked outside the home, but I wanted to mention it.
Even at the height of his incessant, teething-induced whining, Jude is nowhere near as aggravating as 32 ninth graders in one room at 2:30 everyday.
I’m really really happy to see Scott at the end of the day.
Going somewhere everyday – the grocery store, TJ Maxx, an afternoon walk – will be good for me and for Jude as well.
Spending more time in this house makes me want to improve it in ways that seemed unimportant before. I think I’ll start with our home office which gives me a headache when I walk in it and see the scary, disorganized mess.
If I had a free second at work, I would never feel guilty about doing nothing. I’d eat my lunch and browse online, for instance. Or I’d chat with a coworker for half an hour and feel good about it. At home, I feel like I always have to be doing something. Always. Jude naps, get busy. Toys picked up, time to vacuum. Laundry done, clean the kitchen. I’m wondering if this goes away as you get used to staying at home or if it always feels like this. In a way, yes, this is my job and I want to do it well, but I also know that a few minutes of relaxing my brain and my body are good for me, too. I’m hoping this compulsion will get better.
The transition is pretty seamless though, and I am looking forward to the days ahead.
We celebrated Jude’s half birthday tonight, and I can’t believe we’re halfway to the big number ONE. Every parent says this and it’s so cliché, but I don’t know where the time goes. When I think back to that first week home or our time together in the hospital, it seems like it was yesterday, but then again so much has changed in our lives that it seems like a lifetime ago. For every mama, those first few weeks are filled with sweet memories of tiny little newborn diapers, sponge baths, lullabies, sleep deprivation, admiration of those awkward little arms and froggy legs, and laughing at squeaky newborn noises. And then there’s the hormones. The crying, crazy hormones that leave you so in love with this tiny creature one minute while the next you find yourself wondering what you’ve gotten yourself into or if you can handle the big task ahead.
My situation was much like most of yours except that it was further complicated by a few things.
There was the laboring for hours unmedicated (which was exactly what I wanted) and the unexpected cesarean at the end (which was exactly what I feared the most) and so many feelings of disappointment following those experiences.
There was the recovery that results from pushing for more than three hours only to have a doctor tell you to please hold on while I push him back up a little so we can wheel you to the O.R.
And then there was the breastfeeding.
Oh, the breastfeeding.
When I took my Bradley class* before I delivered Jude, we had a session on breastfeeding and all of the wonderful benefits that come along with it. Focused on unmedicated childbirth, the class informed me that there would be a beautiful moment when my child entered the world, when he was laid on me skin to skin, and he’d latch on beautifully and thus we would begin our loving breastfeeding relationship. There was some mention of a few latch problems that you can correct should they arise so that you can get the baby drinking most efficiently, but all in all, breastfeeding was introduced as a perfectly natural thing that our bodies were designed to do. It is beautiful and natural, of course, but what I was completely unprepared for is that it is HARD for some women.
Unfortunately, because of the nature of my delivery, Jude was about 3 hours old when I first got to hold him. After he was delivered by cesarean, I remained in surgery for about 2 hours. When we were finally in our postpartum room together, my wonderful doula helped me get proper positioning for breastfeeding. We tried, but little Jude just couldn’t stay awake. We’d missed the “magic window” just after birth, and he was so tired and I’m sure influenced by the drugs in my system as well. He never truly latched on, but at least we got the positioning down before she left and told me to call her the next day if I needed her.
The day following Jude’s birth, I had some colostrum coming in and we were working diligently on nursing. At the first sign of hunger, I’d bring him to my breast as you should, and he’d seem to be nursing hungrily. The lactation consultant who helped me that day, however, pointed out that we could see a deep dimple in his cheek and that was a clue he wasn’t latching on correctly. She assured me that he’d get it if we kept working, and so we did. Around the clock. Again and again. Subsequent LCs who came to help me noticed the same thing, and the third one vaguely mentioned Jude’s tongue-tie as a challenge, but that was it.
Meanwhile I was growing more and more tired and Jude was growing hungry. The evening before we left the hospital, Jude was angry. He would respond to my attempts to nurse him by crying at my breast and refusing to suck. I now understand that he’d learned to associate breastfeeding with frustration because he wasn’t getting much of anything as a result of his tight frenulum and my slow-to-happen milk. My milk hadn’t come in – partially because of the cesarean and, I think, partially because his inefficient latch wasn’t stimulating my milk production accurately. Frustrated and crying, I felt like a complete failure as I looked at my hungry baby and felt so helpless. Late that night, a nurse suggested that I give him formula, and I absolutely refused. I was scared of nipple confusion, and this was not the way things were supposed to be. What was wrong with me? First I couldn’t deliver my baby vaginally and now I can’t breastfeed. I was waiting for it all to “click” for the both of us. The next morning, however, the pediatrician came in and told us that Jude had lost a lot of weight (12 ounces down from his birth weight) and that supplementation would be a good idea. When she left, I cried my eyes out, and Scott gave Jude his first formula bottle.
I left the hospital feeling helpless and out of control and dependent on doctors and formula and bottles and pain meds and everything I wanted to avoid when I imagined my birth experience.
This story could become very long – even longer than it is – so I’ll spare you the details, but I will say that the days and weeks that followed were filled with many moments of excitement and joy, yes. But they were also filled with moments of intense frustration and feelings of inadequacy as I absolutely COULD NOT get Jude to latch on and my milk supply was meager. I sought the help of FIVE different lactation consultants and the counsel of my experienced doula after I left the hospital, and we tried every single day for 27 days before we got it. Let me re-phrase this, JUDE DID NOT TRULY FEED FROM ME, NOT EVEN ONCE, UNTIL HE WAS 27 DAYS OLD. Establishing breastfeeding was truthfully the most difficult and trying thing I have ever done in my life and, to date, it’s my proudest accomplishment. I’m proud to say we’re going strong at 6 months, and every second of hard work was worth it!
The breast pump can be your saving grace. Hopefully you will have an easier time than me, and you won’t have to deal with the pump until later if ever. For me though, it is the only reason I’m still breastfeeding. My milk came in a tiny little trickle on day 5, but it didn’t really come in until day 8. And in order for that to happen (and to keep it going until Jude latched), I had to pump 8-12 times a day around the clock. There is nothing more draining than getting a newborn back to sleep, and then sitting on the floor of the nursery in your sleep-deprived haze and staying awake for another 20 minutes to pump. It stinks, I know. But if I hadn’t done this, I am confident that I’d be one of those women saying that I just never made milk. Even with the pump, I didn’t have tons. Without it, I think I would have leaked and then dried.
Don’t underestimate the benefits of skin-to-skin. We all know it’s important in the moments after birth, but did you know it’s helpful in the weeks following delivery as well? The 4th LC I spoke with told me to sit around as often as I could with no shirt on and Jude in his diaper lying on my chest. We lounged like this every hour of every day unless we had company. We co-slept at night like this for 2 months. The day after I started doing more skin-to-skin (around day 12, I think), I saw my milk supply double. It works, I swear. My husband started calling me “The Native” because of my shirtless habits, but I think it was a sort of rebirth for Jude and I after our difficult journey.
Don’t beat yourself up if you have to supplement. I really really did not want to use any formula. That said, my milk wasn’t there till day 8. What was the other option? After my milk came in, the pump was all I could do for 27 days. A breast pump is less efficient than a baby, so even pumping around the clock, I had to supplement with about 8-10 ounces of formula daily. Once Jude latched on, however, my supply went up to accommodate his needs within about a week. At that time, I swore off all formula which brings me to the next point.
Never use formula for the sake of convenience. Nursing is “putting in your order” for the next day. If you ask your body for 20 ounces, it will deliver. If you ask for 24, it will deliver. (Usually anyway. There are, of course, thyroid issues and breast surgeries that can interfere with milk production.) If you have issues with milk production, don’t worry. Lots of women do, myself included. There are a number of remedies and such to help it. A quick internet search can tell you some, but fenugreek works especially well for me. That and LOTS of WATER. Trust that God will allow you to provide for your baby.
Surround yourself with positivity. Ignore the nay-sayers. In that difficult month of establishing breastfeeding, I completely avoided the conversation with someone if I knew that person was not 110% pro-breastfeeding. I have a few friends and in-laws who are not necessarily anti-breastfeeding, but they have a sort of take-it-or-leave-it attitude about it, thinking that breast and formula feeding are basically equal and formula is more convenient. I didn’t want those people influencing my determination or convincing me that lots of women can’t breastfeed. (Some people say this is true…. I just read that over 60% of women say they can’t breastfeed! Realize that statistically that number is actually 2-5%. With the right support and determination, almost anyone can do it. ) Tell yourself you CAN do it, and surround yourself with people who realize how important it is to you and support your journey. I would not be breastfeeding Jude if it weren’t for the encouragement of my mom, my sister, my husband, and my breastfeeding friends.
Don’t give up! Just look at my story. Know that your body and your baby were designed for this very task, and it will work if you keep trying and be patient. When I tell a childless person that it took us 27 days, she doesn’t really seem that affected. When I tell a mother that it took 27 days, she is amazed…knowing how incredibly LONG that first month can feel. There were moments when I was afraid our window had passed, but I refused to accept failure and knew that Jude would catch on eventually and my body would provide.
Set a goal and commit to it. For me, when Jude wasn’t latching on, I said even if I had to pump around the clock, I was committed to 10 weeks. Once he latched on, I soon had to go back to work. Nevertheless, I decided no matter how much I hated pumping, I refused to stop before 6 months. Now we’ve met that goal, and I intend to make it to 10 months. At that time, I’l reassess. Set a goal and hold yourself accountable.
Read about the benefits of breastfeeding. It’ll motivate you to not give up. You can find articles everywhere but here, here and here are a few to get you started.
Use the experts. It took a team of people to get me breastfeeding! As I said before, I saw FIVE LCs after I left the hospital, a pediatric ENT (to evaluate Jude’s tongue-tie and clip the frenulum), and a pediatric OT (who gave me daily exercises to do with him to improve his overly compressed suck). Most major hospitals have a Lactation Department. Use them.
The rewards are better than you can imagine. It helps you bond with your baby, and it allowed me to feel so much more confidence as a mother. You can rest assured you are making the best choices for your baby. Plus there’s no sterilizing and filling bottles in the middle of the night or as you pack the diaper bag!
When it all gets to be too much, just relax. Babies can tell when mama is stressed. There were moments I was intensely frustrated with my situation and disappointed with myself. When those feelings became overwhelming, I’d take a deep breath and rest with the baby. Know it will work for you if you keep trying.
*I don’t mean for this to be a negative statement about my experiences in a Bradley class. It taught me so much about labor and delivery and the many modern interventions that can occur. When it comes to breastfeeding, however, it wasn’t extensive. I would suggest that you take a class specifically devoted to breastfeeding information.