Sunday, April 28, 2013

Go To Sleep

You spend nine months pregnant, sometimes you can spend nine months trying to get pregnant, and I'm pretty sure that after a baby is born you spend the next nine months-plus trying to make the baby go to sleep. Oh, you love him. You think he's cute. His little smiles and coos charm you. But still, you want him to sleep so you can sleep or watch something good on TV or eat something hot.

My little piggy is sleeping in the bouncy chair while it vibrates, after a successful brunch outing with friends and then an additional outing with his dad. Of course he fussed at home and wanted an extraordinary amount of food that as per usual my body couldn't provide in full, but now he's quiet and all is well. And the Dude is out getting us Nutella lattes from some cafe that apparently sell such things.

I've been thinking about what kind of mother I'm going to be, and want to be, and every time I do I envision an older kid. I'm just not a baby person. I wouldn't trade my own for anything, mind you, but I'm really just biding my time for the real deal, a child. I want a child. In a way I'm almost there. I endured the pregnancy, and I'm going with the flow of newborn life. Soon he'll be more interactive and that's one step away from toddlerhood, which is the bridge to being a child.

Oh, I'm told all the time to "Cherish every minute" and that's all well and good, but I was also told to love my pregnancy and I wanted to tell those people to stuff it. I don't have to cherish my baby's inability to communicate if I find it frustrating. I don't have to be fulfilled from close contact with his urine, vomit and fecal matter. I don't need to love the fact he needs loads of help to pass his own gas and will cry until he does. I can love him without finding all that stuff wonderful, quite easily.

I have memories of things my mom did for us as kids: trips to the park, Friday movie and pizza night, day trips to the white sands beach. I'm going to wait till Jack's four or so to take him to bigger things like the zoo or an amusement park. It doesn't seem worthwhile if he's not going to remember it and the Dude and I will be faced with his dirty diapers and crying in public places for apparently no reason. But once he's old enough, I can't wait. And Toronto has so much. There's High Park, Riverdale Farm, Toronto Zoo, Canada's Wonderland, Ontario Science Centre, Centre Island, and also an aquarium is coming to town.

Growing up in a much smaller city, my mom still found ways to make life interesting. One day she picked us up from daycare and drove past our neighbourhood, insisting the car was driving itself. The car took us to pizza and a movie. Sometimes we'd go for drives and get a little lost just for fun. We hit the sugar bush some springs. She took us to Toronto once for a Blue Jays game. Unfortunately some whacko punched her in the jaw in the lobby of our hotel and the manager came out, repeatedly offered to sue the guy and sent us up a gift basket. She probably should have sued him. I think she had jaw issues after that.

I just had a sip of the Nutella latte. Not too shabby.

I guess I'm basically saying I'm very invested in Jack's childhood. I have all the patience and joy in the world when it comes to hanging out with kids. Love 'em. Love Jack too. But I think I'll die with love when he's a kid himself. He's already a really great baby. I'm excited to see what sort of child and person he'll be.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Tips for C-Sections

I'm officially three weeks out of my C section and I'm up and at 'em. There are some things that can definitely help you get back on your feet, and also there are some things that most certainly should be avoided. I'm going to outline them here.

1. Bind your belly. Seriously, this is a must. You don't need a fancy binder, however you will likely need several different levels of binding as you progress. To start, I used a long muslin receiving blanket, folded into a long rectangle. I tied it around my back while in the hospital. Then eventually I could pull the ends around to my front and tied them there. Four or five days post pardum I could fit into my small size Belly Bandit. Now I can wear my Rago girdle.

I still have some small overhang of skin over my incision, but it's significantly less than it was. I hate it, but it's gratifying that it's shrinking. My skin elasticity is really being put to the test now. It looks a little crepe papery and slightly greyish at present too. But I'm back in my pre-pregnancy clothes. So boom.

2. Get help. Oh my God, don't even try to handle this alone. Even your other half will not be enough. Have someone stay with you. For one, you need assistance recovering from surgery. Two, you have a brand new baby who gives zero shits that you're recovering from surgery. You totally need extra hands to make meals, run errands, do dishes, change diapers... etc. You'll need help into the shower, up stairs, out of bed. And if this all is on your partner, well, dude's going to be sleep deprived as well. His health is going to deteriorate in a hurry.

The Dude was operating on about eight hours of sleep the whole first week. Eight hours total. I was almost more worried about him than me. Almost. Get a trusted family member to stay with you. You'll need it. And if you're like me and you need to haul ass back to the hospital, you'll really need the help.

3. Do not recover in the hospital alone. You can. Sure. Technically. There are nurses to assist you. But do you really want to call them every time you need help out of bed? The baby is hungry. You'll need up. You need to pee. You'll need up. Baby needs a change. You'll need up. You'll be up every damn hour, so forget about rest. Or you could have your other half stay with you and bring you the baby to nurse, change the diapers himself, and give you a hand in the bathroom rather than a stranger.

4. Arinca pills. Take 'em. There's Arnica cream, but I'm talking about the tiny little pills that'll help you heal internally. My healing time was actually really good, once I got home from the hospital the second time anyway. I was up the stairs within a week and lifting my baby, and getting out of the house within two weeks no problem, no pain. Additionally, take as few painkillers as you can get away with, and take the weakest ones. I was offered oxycontin and, uh, yeah, no. Them things be addictive.

5. If anyone wants to bring you anything at all, request food. Making meals requires trips to the grocery store, time in the kitchen, and then clean up. Even with someone in the house helping you with the baby, this could be too much in the first weeks. Prepared meals are gold. Best thing ever.

6. Midwifery is amazing. You'll have been transferred to an OB for your surgery, but you'll still be visited in your home afterwards by your midwives. I was also seen in my hospital room in labour & delivery, and also while recovering from my infection. I do have to travel to see the OB who performed my C-section, but that's on Monday, nearly four weeks after it took place. Nothing beats the personal attention you get from midwives. If you have a problem, you can see an OB any time. But starting with a midwife ensures a continuity of care with a personal touch. When you're reeling from a crazy birth, that personal touch means the world.

7. As soon as you can manage it, get a massage. My body ached in ways I can't describe. I got used to feeling like hell when I was pregnant, but after surgery and recovery, you don't realize you can make those pains go away. You're accustomed to it. But lemme tell you, a massage will make you feel more human. Trust your husband with the baby (He'll be fine) and get out into the world and re-introduce your back to feeling normal. I had one a few days ago and sweet Jebus, was it good.

8. Don't sweat it if your milk is delayed. This can happen. Don't freak out. You may need to supplement with formula so you don't starve your baby in the meantime. Jack lost 12% of his birth weight, which considering he was 9 lb 13, was not a huge deal. But kiddo needed some sustenance. I felt crappy about this initially, but really? It was out of my control. Too many things were thrown at me (C-section, infection, large baby, separation) to breastfeed exclusively. He's getting formula fed about 60% of the time because that's all I can manage.

I'm on meds to increase supply, I'm getting as much sleep as I can, I'm pumping and allowing my baby to drain me dry and that's all I can do. I accept this. Also, I enjoy the benefits of my husband taking on the odd feed, and being able to wear non-nursing friendly clothing from time to time. I realized that breastfeeding doesn't have to be a zero-sum game. I can give what I can and feel good about it.

Cesarians can be really upsetting. You can feel like you failed or a little traumatized by the experience. But a little acceptance goes a long way. I found I was able to cope with everything that happened once I embraced the fact you can't count on your plans. I'm no less a mother for birthing surgically, or being unable to breastfeed all the time. Shit happens, and then you move forward. Being a resilient person helps.

As for things that hinder recovery, try to avoid large gatherings in your home. Make sure visits are short and no one expects you to get up or do anything. Don't make phone calls or field phone calls, not till you're ready. Time is best spent sleeping. Let other people answer questions for you. Don't let nursing staff interrupt your sleep too often, before or after your birth. Set boundaries. They'll want to check your vitals all the time, which will wake you up, but you don't have to let them. Sleep, sleep, sleep. have your husband run interference for you. Their policies are all well and good, but you won't recover worth a damn if you're deprived of rest. I should know.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Motherhood is Surreal

Today I walked through the Eaton Centre, sans bebe, and revelled in the surreal experience of being 2.5 weeks post C-section with no one the wiser. It's so bizarre to have a baby at home, after having undergone major surgery to have him, endure a serious infection that lands you in the hospital, and then mosey around a mall like nothing ever happened.

Jack stayed with the Dude today while I dropped my aunt off at the bus station. Her time here, spanning two weeks, has come to a close. I feel far more prepared to handle life now. Before I was a dazed mess, in pain from a large incision, weak from my delivery and recovery and unsure of what to do with a baby. Now I feel like I can read some of his cues. I can change him quickly, I know a few ways to comfort him and I know his hunger cries.

I was so lucky to have my aunt with me. She made bottles, did dishes and relieved me from the constant care of my baby when I needed rest or a nap. It was also nice to have someone to talk to about what I was going through. I had a lot of feelings I needed to work out about breastfeeding and bonding and it meant a lot to me to have her as a sounding board.

I won't be exclusively breastfeeding. I just can't and I'm not going to beat myself up over it. The C section delayed my milk, then the infection and separation reduced my supply, and Jack's large size meant he needed bigger feedings that I had no chance in hell of producing, not starting from scratch when supplementing with formula was mandatory to keep him alive.

So he gets a couple breastfeedings per day and I'm satisfied with this. It's not the free food situation I had in mind, but then my entire introduction into motherhood hasn't been anything like I planned. So be it. Life is unpredictable.

My bond with my baby has been slow. I think he's a great kid. He's mellow and cute and an easy guy to care for. I'm lucky. He slept five hours straight last night. I enjoy him more and more each day and I wouldn't trade him for anything. But love hasn't been instant. It's been growing slowly over time. It'll continue.

So after I dropped my aunt off I decided to have my first bout of me time. I was wearing my pre-pregnancy clothes (Which I fit into now. I'm 3 pounds away from my pre-pregnancy weight. My muscles, however, are all entirely gone due to all the bedrest I had after Jack was born. Also, my tummy is scary looking at present.) and I wanted to do something frivolous.

So I got my nails done and had a half-hour chair massage. I feel more like a woman and a human being. It was nice to walk around unencumbered. I didn't worry about my baby at all either. He was with his father, and anyway, I spent two nights away from him in the hospital and he did just fine. Humbling knowledge that my baby doesn't need me, but there you are.

And I don't mean he doesn't need me. He does. He just doesn't need me all the time and to the exclusion of other people. I'm not the only one who can care for him. The Dude is super competent. And with this knowledge I wandered somewhat aimlessly around the mall, like a normal nondescript non-pregnant woman. Almost back to normal, at least on the outside. So long as I'm viewed with clothes on.

I suppose I'm sort of floored how similar I feel. I'm still very much me in every way. I just now have a baby.

Sunday, April 14, 2013


Having a new baby at home means keeping things simple. There are no Pinterest craft projects here, nothing making the experience more precious or unique. We just manage the intake of food versus the output of waste. We try to discern whether a fart contained a mess. We decipher cries (Hungry? Needs a diaper? Gas?) and we change our son in and out of clothes as he pukes on them. This has happened three times. The smell is unpleasant.

We did wind up with a good baby, though. He doesn't enjoy screaming for the sake of it. He mostly sits around like a happy little nugget and coos and otherwise enjoys being here. He's not immune to being fussy, but I'd say we lucked out. This child is a delightful baby.

Happy as a clam.
I'm doing alright. The week of his birth was really low for me. I still haven't brought my milk supply up. The wee lad is taking in 4 ounces and there is no way I can produce that right now. I'm averaging half an ounce per go. I'm on meds to increase supply, and we're using a tube to feed him formula while I feed. This allows Jack to suck, thereby sending signals to my body to make more milk, and still get enough to eat at the same time. And I'm pumping as well. I still may lose my milk all the same and I'm doing my best to approach that with some grace.

With a C section, you can experience delayed milk, which happened. An infection doesn't help, and being separated from your newborn for days is definitely a hinderance. Having such a big baby who needs a lot of milk means you face a further obstacle to making enough for him when you're essentially starting from scratch. With everything I'm doing to try and fix this, combined with all the problems that were thrown at me, I at at least know I won't blame myself if I fail.

My recovery is going well, much better than it was. My midsection has shrunk considerably. I'm nearly back to my original size. The skin, on the other hand, is looking mighty upset. And there is no tone there to speak of. But it is a three-step process: shrink down, tighten skin, and tone muscle.

I've been sweating through a towel every night. I had to start sleeping on one almost immediately. I was so swollen with excess water and now it's pouring out of me. I suppose it's helping me whittle down, but dude. Seriously. It's no way to sleep. Jack wakes up wanting something to eat and I realize I'm clammy and gross.

My aunt is here with me. I have many aunts, and this one is the aunt I stay with when I go back to my hometown. She's been like a surrogate mother for me in my adult years. We have her help for another week. I should be well recovered by the time she goes home, and hopefully more equipped to handle motherhood on my own during the day.

This whole thing is life altering and wild. I have no regrets, but occasionally I'm phased by it all, and what I'm able to deal with when I have to.

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Birth pt 2

Okay, the pitocin. I was able to put it off for a stint, but I had been kept awake for 24 hours and lost my resistance. Pitocin, without a doubt, is a terrible experience. And I didn't have the stamina needed to sustain it. After three hours of fast-paced, hard irregular contractions that raked my body with pain, I caved and got an epidural. Meanwhile, they cranked the pitocin all night and by morning I was suffering in an immobilized state. They inserted a catheter into me because I could no longer get up to pee and I still was able to feel it going in.

When the nurses changed shifts, my fetal monitor had slipped. The nurse freaked out at the new erratic numbers and started rolling me around and the OB came in and wanted to attach a monitor to baby's head, up my cervix, which was only 5 cm after all that. At this point I said simply and loudly, "No. Just get him OUT. I want a cesarian."

And that's what happened. It was quick, I was scared, the Dude was left behind with no instructions and I was wheeled out of the delivery room and to the OR. I had to lay in a crucified Jesus pose while I was hooked up to things, given more anaesthesia and prepped for surgery. My midwife came and sat with me, offering comfort and eventually the Dude was given a place beside me.

There was pressure. I held the Dude's gaze the entire time, and it was the only thing keeping me calm. I love that man, I really do. He had no interest in watching the procedure. He was there for me. The curtain draped over my face quite a bit, my torso being so short, and it was yet another minor indignity.

We heard, "It's a boy! And he's peeing!" John was proclaimed a healthy baby, 9 pounds 13, and scored a 9 out of 10 on his Apgar. All the concern over him was unwarranted. The placenta looked in good shape, I'd had a lot of fluid and the cord was great. I cried when I heard him cry. The Dude was crying and we had a son.

He doesn't look a thing like a newborn. He instead looked about 2 weeks old or more. His neck was strong and he could already hold it up some. He latched to my breast within 40 minutes of the birth. Slightly overcooked, but seemingly healthier and stronger for it. My body sustained him well, but never seemed to be able to transition out of the pregnancy.

The recovery was a little rough. We paid a little extra and got a private room since we'd be there awhile. Unfortunately, the sleep deprivation was constant. I was woken up frequently by staff to give me meds, take my vitals or talk to me about various things. And this was on top of Jack (Which is my preferred nickname for my son) waking up and needing us. Rather than go into a lengthy sleep, he began a cluster feed immediately and I was nursing all the time while the Dude changed diapers.

Eventually I developed hives. They spread all over my body and itched horribly. I was given Benadryl, which worked, but they still came back. I was exhausted. I found nursing challenging with my incision and the pain meds were only enough to take the edge off, not eliminate it. I needed help up for everything. I could barely walk. The Dude was in and out a lot running necessary errands and fielding phone calls and texts, getting me drinks, and getting himself food since they would only feed me.

I was discharged after two days, hives in full effect, pain constant and feeling highly depressed about my chances of taking care of a baby. The Dude talked to my aunt and she came a little early to be with me. My father-in-law, now in town, took us home and I was helped into bed. My hives spread to my face and my lips looked like bees had stung them.

My aunt arrived and after more Benadryl my hives subsided. It was a battle for another day or two to keep them away. I developed more nursing issues after that. My milk didn't come in. I was only getting colostrum and Jack was going hungry. After losing 12% of his body weight, he was put on formula and I had to start pumping to generate more milk.

But this proved difficult. I was still exhausted and needed to nap, eat, tend to my body and the manual pump I had was not very efficient. The Dude went out and bought an expensive electric one. It works great, but I only got to use it once.

Last night I developed a fever of 38.6 C (Almost 102 F). It started with uncontrollable shakes and chills. After a couple hours I was heating up. My midwife said to go to the emergency room, and my father-in-law came over and drove us to the ER while my aunt stayed with the baby.

We were there till 4:00 a.m. The woman beside me, separated by only a curtain, was not given much chance to last the night and her family surrounded her as a priest gave her Last Rites.

They took blood and urine and I was sent home with an appointment for an ultrasound for 1:00 pm, which my father-in-law also drove us to. I wrote part one of the story before this appointment. The ultrasound was 45 minutes behind schedule and it was both an abdominal and a trans vaginal. I was uncomfortable.

After going through the ER again I was informed I had Endometritis, an infection of the uterus. I'm now alone in a hospital room away from my family for up to two days. I've cried a lot today. I'm tired. I'm low. I'm afraid of losing my milk. It'll be hard to pump in this room. It's from 1930, the whole ward is outdated and sorta scary and what few plugs there are are inconveniently located. The Dude fought the staff to get me a private room, and that is sustaining me right now.

That and the knowledge that it's either this line of treatment or I pretty much suffer indefinitely. Jack is in good hands, the Dude is home and finally getting some needed sleep and I guess now is the time to rest, myself.

So now I sleep. Tomorrow brings antibiotics, hospital food, pumping efforts, and complicated trips to the bathroom.

The Birth pt 1

I'm a mother. And it came about in spectacularly terrible fashion on April 3. I have a son, his name is John (Though I want to nickname him Jack and the Dude is only calling him John. We'll see who wins), and he is, if I may say so, stupid cute. He doesn't look at all like a newborn, probably because he cooked for 43 weeks.

We went in on April Fools Day and I didn't get my C section. The OB on that day felt it was important to give labour a chance. He sold me a bill of goods about this Cervidil induction, how it's gentler because it takes 12 hours to fully take effect and it ripens your cervix. FYI, I'm going to get graphic from here on out. If this ain't your bag, I'd suggest stop reading now. I'll understand.

My midwife inserted it for me. This was painful. Generally speaking I don't enjoy hands putting foreign unwanted objects into my private crevices. I'm especially protective of my holiest of holies. However, this was the first of many such experiences and I was lucky my midwife was there to do this for me because I know and trust her, whereas I didn't know the OB from Bob.

Cervidil is not gentle, at least not to me. I could feel it chafing my vagina. My cervix, which was clamped shut, began to burn. I could barely walk. 12 hours of a burning nether region is a long time. Couple this with being hooked up to a fetal monitor around your belly and a nurse coming in every 30 minutes to check your vitals. This went on till 4:00 a.m. and meant no sleep for me.

I was able to remove the Cervidil tag (Yes, it's a long tag-like thing. Bizarre.) even though my midwife was called to come back and do it herself. Silliness. There was a slight amount of relief there, but then the resident insisted she check my cervix. My burning, long suffering cervix, which didn't deserve such torture, was not having it. I wanted a cooling off period for it to not feel like it was dying. So I said no. I said no again when she asked me 15 minutes later. And then the Dude said no. That actually got her to stop harassing me.

8:00 a.m. the new OB arrived and she wanted to check for dilation. I'd had bloody show, finally (Don't Google this if you don't know what it is and are squeamish about intimate female matters) and was hopeful that something had happened to make the Cervidil worth it. As the burning had stopped, I let her, and after 12 hours of suffering, the gain was 0 cm. I don't know that "disappointment" is the appropriate word, because I was feeling an otherworldly version of that.

She wanted to insert a foley catheter. It's a balloon-like object that goes in, yes, the damn cervix. It expands it manually and hopefully painlessly and is not supposed to harm the mother or baby at all. That's all well and good, but I couldn't bear the thought of having something pry open Fort Knox (By this time I had casually named my cervix since it had become such a big part of my life and yet had motivations and goals seemingly opposite to my own).

So they gave me morphine. I was accepting of this. Yes, I was pregnant, yes the effect on the baby, but seriously? At this point, he was cooked, he was healthy and he was coming out and I'm no martyr. They said it would wear off by the time he was born and I went with it.

The morphine was something of a mental vacation from what was happening to me. The insertion didn't feel good, but I kind of didn't care. I stayed in bed hooked up to this monitor and zoned out for a few hours.

The catheter was a success. I got to 4 cm and the OB broke my waters. Now that was weird. It's like peeing yourself except with no pressure, cramping or anything. And it keeps leaking and leaking. At this point I thought I was supposed to be able to walk around and get labour moving. But instead I was re-hooked up to the monitor and kept in bed for an hour. I was let off for 15 minutes to get moving around and when labour didn't start in that time frame, it was declared a failure and that I needed pitocin.

At this point I'm going to have to leave part 2 until later. I need a nap something fierce and there's a ridiculous amount of crazy shit left to tell.