Remember how I said after the last post that I’d be back to update? Well, here’s that update:
Remember how I said after the last post that I’d be back to update? Well, here’s that update:
The newborn phase sucks.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Clover. I love my whole little family. But there is no denying this is hard. As a matter of fact, there’s no denying that there is little happiness or rest these days. There’s a lot of frustration and tantrums from a toddler and a baby yelling in my ear and vomiting in my hair. There’s a lot of crying. I feel like Gwenna doesn’t like me very much, like I’m losing her. I’m convinced that Clover is dead every time I wake up and she’s not screaming to be fed, and even if she is, I’m terrified to look at her because she could be crying because of some lethal injury or strange newborn illness. I feel like I’m failing at everything- mothering, being a wife, being a homemaker, being a woman, being a business owner, being a student.
Last night was the first time I slept 4 hours in a row in over 3 weeks. My days alone with the kids consist of never changing out of a single half-outfit, nursing, getting vomited upon, and pleading with my two year old to do various things, like wear underwear. I’ve been sicker than I have ever been in my adult life within the past few weeks, I have mystery symptoms that are getting worse, and yeah, let’s just sum it up with “health not so great.”
I feel like I’m in a debt of depression and happiness is thousands of dollars or days away.
Yes, I know some of this is extreme. You don’t have to tell me to ask for help or to sleep when the baby sleeps (um, that is when? Exactly? Also, just let the toddler run amok?). I know things are supposed to get better with time. But here is the thing: I have not given up on my dream of happily teaching Gwenna to decorate sugar cookies or doing holiday crafts while nursing Clover in the Moby wrap.
I’m not stranger to the crazies. Seriously, just ask anyone I’ve ever dated. So! I know that there are specific habits one can adopt to help themselves out of a hard place, if they’re not too far gone. (Notice I’m not saying that if someone is depressed that it is all their fault and they should just DO something about it. Um, no.) I’m going to write out a few things I plan on doing, and to keep myself accountable, I’m going to track my progress here.
Want to join me? Let’s map out a plan for our hearts, minds, and bodies.
Start by setting a small relationship goal. It can be something to do with your husband, your children, your best friend- something that gets you connected with other people. That’s for your heart. Then set a small goal to do with positive thinking- prayers, affirmations, meditation, or whatever suits you. That’s for your mind. Then plan an activity you can do every single day to be active for a little bit. That’s for your body.
Here’s what my game plan looks like:
Heart: Half an hour of cuddles every day with husband, daughter dates every weekend (one parent with one daughter, the other takes the other daughter, alternate children every other week), call a family member once a week.
Mind: Affirmations- I am strong, my heart is open, I can feel happiness, my life is beautiful, things are getting better every day.
Body: Walk every morning with Clover in the Moby wrap.
I will see you tomorrow for check-in!
WOW I’ve been away for a while. Obviously, I’ve been in over my head with a newborn, a toddler, wifely chores, full-time class schedule, and my own little business. A little behind-the-scenes peek at a few of my Facebook statuses would also clue you in to the health issues I’ve been having and the reflux my poor Clover has. Those are different posts, though. This is about my second birth.
My first birth was an unhappy one. My husband and I were all set to have a serene, natural, unmedicated birth, using Hypnobabies and the birthing tub we rented. We were seeing the only certified nurse midwife practice in the city, and set to birth at the only hospital that was “friendly” to their practices. When my water broke a day shy of 41 weeks, I was not only ready, I was flat out excited for the pain to begin. “This is what your body was made to do,” said so many voices in my head- the voices of birthing blogs, attachment parenting literature, Ina May Gaskin, Rikki Lake.
The rhythmic waves never came. Five hours after my water broke, the midwife suggested a cervical ripening agent to stay ahead of the risk of uterine infection. The drug- Cervidil- was inserted. An hour later, I began to experience “contractions”. They were stabbing pains, one after the other, reacting to movement, sound, anything at all. They weren’t, however, moving my labor along. I howled out with every one, for 12 hours. At some point, I realized that my need for rest was much greater than my need to forgo pain medication, and I asked for the epidural. Good thing, because somewhere around the 24-hour mark of my waters having been ruptured, I got a fever. Antibiotics were hung. But now that my body could relax apart from the contractions, progress was very fast. The baby began to experience frightening decelerations, and the midwife urged me to get her out, very soon. I pushed on my hands and knees after the epidural had been turned off for a couple of hours. I did this for an hour and a half. Convinced they were all lying to me, telling me my baby was crowning, I screamed at the top of my lungs and gave a huge push and out came Gwenna, whom I thought would never come, and she was whisked away for “aspiration.”
I felt that my body had failed me by not producing contractions on its own. I felt defeated by the unforeseeable reaction my body had to the Cervidil. I felt disconnected from my newborn, who did not escape the nursery for 4 more hours. I felt disappointed, despite my best efforts at optimism. My husband and I repeated the claim that the epidural saved me from a c-section. I don’t know if it’s true or not. Part of me believes it’s just an excuse.
And so this time would be different. I found a student doula. I taught Zumba throughout the pregnancy so I could keep my fitness level up. I researched even more than the first time. I knew that this time, my water probably wouldn’t break. This time, my body had already been through it, so I’d go into spontaneous labor, of course! How could she possibly stay in there with me doing the salsa three times a week at full term, anyway? We saw the same midwifery practice and were to deliver at the same hospital as the first time.
Right about the same time as my due date, I discovered signs of a kidney stone. I went in to the midwives’ office to have things checked out. One centimeter dilated. Group B Strep, positive. E. Coli, positive. The hours and hours of rhythmic, textbook contractions got me one centimeter. 20% effaced. That was crap… and so it was on the evening of my induction, at 41 weeks and 4 days.
And YES, I DID try every method of self-induction I could have possibly tried.
So, at the hospital for my induction, I agreed to the placement of a Foley bulb catheter. This would get me from 3-5 centimeters before we evaluated whether I would need Pitocin in the morning. The placement was painful, only because the midwife seemed to have a huge problem with placing. I was, after all, pretty much closed shut. I noticed the contractions begin almost immediately. Mild, but regular.
The midwife strongly suggested I take something to get some sleep before the hard work began. I was offered a choice of either Benadryl or Ambien, and I chose Ambien, because it sounded prettier. I asked the nurse if there was any difference in side effects between the two, and she shrugged. Thus began my hallucinations: blinking lights that turned into spiders, buttons on the bed that wouldn’t stay still. And then I got a little sleep.
When I woke up at 5 AM, I realized the bulb had fallen out. I also realized I was having frequent, regular contractions. I pulled out the breast pump and did ten minutes. Rested for a while. Ten more minutes. At 6 AM, the nurse came in with the Pitocin and annoucned that we would be starting the drip. I said I’d like to talk to the midwives first and assess the need, as well as walk around, be active, encourage the contractions. They were 3-4 minutes apart, 40-50 seconds long. She said, no, we would be initiating the process at that point. I was really shocked, stood my ground, and politely repeated myself: I was going to wait and speak to the midwives before starting the Pitocin. I had dealt with this nurse’s rude comments regarding natural birth and my daughter’s name, and now had to defend myself against baseless demands not made in my interest. I was ready for shift change at 7!
I met my new nurse, an angel, and my husband and I walked the halls. I found some stairs. I felt a little tired and the contractions were beginning to hurt- we went back to the room. I rested. The contractions slowed.
When the midwife arrived, we decided to start the Pitocin. The Foley bulb had apparently dilated me 5 centimeters, but I was still just 20% effaced. With the slowing contractions, I was convinced that my body had failed me yet again- so near 42 weeks, and not committed to moving the baby out. I was disappointed. I was giving in. But I was also hopeful that I could still avoid the epidural, with the birth tub available and my doula and my husband both present.
So, 10 AM, the Pitocin started. I began to take slow breaths through the contractions. I also started my nails, my makeup, my hair- Mary, my doula finished my hair for me (angel). It didn’t take long for me to have to focus through contractions. I decided at some point that I would rest as much as I could, and we turned on Hypnobabies tracks. I rested in a half-awake state through at least one half hour track- and that was the limit of my use of Hypnobabies during labor.
I remember a cumbersome trip to the bathroom- IV and pole in tow- and the end of my peace. Every contraction after that was moaning, breathing, squatting, opening, swaying, holding on to my husband. He says I really tired him out with the squatting. I wouldn’t know, because he was supporting my weight along with his! To work through the contractions, I did squats, rolled on the yoga ball, hung over the yoga ball (all fours), and looked wistfully at the birthing pool that my husband kept having hiccups setting up.
The baby was very difficult to track on the monitor. Her heart rate, when tracked, was beautiful; however, the nurse was very insistent on tracking the heart rate through contractions. This turned into her digging the monitor into my abdomen through contractions. I pleaded with her and cried and felt utterly violated when a struggle away from her proved futile, but her heart was in the right place. She was moving around with me, trying to help me maintain my freedom while monitoring the effects of the Pitocin, which can be dangerous.
I remember intense pressure in my tailbone, and I thought it might be gas or something, so I’d tighten up and fight the “opening” work my body was doing. I then remembered all the frustration I’d been experiencing over this baby insisting on being malpositioned- everything I tried from Spinning Babies to accupuncture would move her… and she would move right back into a position ill-suited for birth. It occurred to me that she could be posterior- backwards from the appropriate position, or head up- and her skull could be putting pressure on my tail bone. So I stopped fighting. With the next contraction, I felt her move down.
Every contraction after that, I felt her move down. This was so different from the first time, when I was feeling betrayed by my body and by the medicine which had promised to step in where my body had failed. This time, I felt the building strength behind these waves. This time, I felt the humanity in birth- specifically, the other human involved in the experience. I felt like I knew what was happening at every moment.
Eventually, even though I hadn’t dilated further from 5 centimeters in about 7 hours, the midwife told me I could go ahead and get in the tub. Considering the growing intensity and frequency of contractions, I would have been fairly upset if I’d have been denied the tub any longer. I climbed in with my bra on, intending to change into my bathing suit top. Then the bra was wet, and there was no point, and I had no energy to spare, anyway. The pictures of me laboring in the tub are pitiful… wet nursing bra and a band around the monitors.
The contractions were getting really rough, but I made sure to make each count, blossoms in my mind’s eye and peace in my breath. I thought my water broke just a couple of contractions into my time in the tub. I asked the nurse to assess. I stood up and the drips of fluid from my body came to a stop, so we assumed it hadn’t broken. But somehow, I really thought my water had broken.
Contractions ripped into me after that. I allowed myself to resign to the idea that this intensity was just normal at this point. The midwife said “This is what active labor looks like, you’re doing it!” And I just stared at her. I was looking for “transition”. I was hugely disappointed. After hours and hours of what felt like decent progress, and being told I had not progressed. Then the midwife claimed that I shouldn’t worry about transition- transition was just “so short”!
That was a normal woman’s birth, I reasoned. Short transitions were for women who didn’t have to be induced at nearly 42 weeks with their second births, who had some kind of progress at that point, who had entire labors which lasted less than the 7-8 hours I’d already been in active augmented labor, whose bodies weren’t broken. I didn’t believe her. I was convinced that I still had to move through transition, that my water would break and it would get even worse, that I would endure it all and in the end face a c-section because of lack of progress.
And yet, in the back of my mind, something told me it was almost over. That I was in transition, and moving fast.
I announced that I would like to be checked and if I hadn’t progressed, I wanted the epidural. And so they checked me. The midwife said I was 5-6 centimeters, but I was more effaced now. It sounded like a trivial amount to me, and I was losing the ability to “roar” through the contractions. They wouldn’t let go. At the peaks, I felt my head shaking, side to side, “No,” it said. No, this couldn’t be less than transition. And yet, I surrendered to the impossibility that the Pitocin was responsible for the overwhelming experience, which is what everyone around me seemed to believe.
The epidural required about half an hour of fluids before they could place it. The anesthesiology team swept into the room like a military unit securing a base- ushered everyone out, set firm orders for everyone. This didn’t mean insensitivity; no, the nurse anesthetist assured me I was during great as I roared through every contraction, shrieking at times. I could no longer breathe normally. As hard as I tried, I felt myself losing control, and the familiar pattern of breathing that comes along with hyperventilation set it. I was given an oxygen mask. The epidural was placed at about 6:30. Immediately after it was placed, I was checked, and found to be 8 centimeters dilated. The midwife confirmed that Clover was posterior. I knew what was in store for me with a posterior birth: greater chance of tearing, more pain.
For the next 45 minutes to an hour, I shrieked and writhed as I felt the contractions building in intensity. I felt the pressure in my pelvis. I didn’t stop to think what this meant. I kept asking why the epidural wasn’t working. The nurse anesthetist said it was just taking time, and I was progressing so fast it couldn’t catch up yet. They kept injecting drugs into the line. Finally, a different anesthesiologist was called. He gave me something different or something more, and within ten minutes, I was pleasantly numb. I would have been happy to have had half of that relief, or a quarter of it. But I had all of it, and I was very happy.
At 8 PM, I was checked. I was not only complete, but Clover’s head was crowning. My husband and Mary were retrieved from their errands and the midwife set up for birth. She told me to go ahead and push. I was extremely relieved that the epidural would not be turned off this time. I pushed. Then I laughed at something. The midwife said, “Laugh again,” and I did, and it counted as a push. And then I pushed one more time, and out she came. I caught her, brought her up to my chest, but paused halfway there to let the midwife unwrap the cord which had wrapped tightly, twice, around her neck. I gazed over my beautiful little one while we waited for the cord to quit pulsing. My husband cut it once it did.
Clover had turned at the very last minute. I had no tearing. My body pushed her out almost entirely on its own, while I was oblivious and numb, at 8:28 PM. Roughly an hour after I got relief from the epidural.
I’m a bit disappointed, but keeping Clover close after birth meant everything to me.
Maybe next time, I’ll have it all…
Clover was born on October 29th, at 8:28 PM. 7 pounds, 14 ounces, 20 inches long. Happy and healthy.
I will eventually write all of the details- but for now I want to get down my favorite parts. The ones that are pure emotion and are sure to fade if I don’t document them.
My husband was my safe place. He was the grounding force with all his love and support while my body was roaring with power/pain. The tub was not nearly warm enough to provide relief, but that might have just felt that way because my water broke (which makes contractions feel more intense) as soon as I got in, and I began transition. A huge obstacle to my peace during labor was being hooked up to monitors and an IV. The nurse had to find fetal tones during contractions and her hands digging into my uterus while it was doing birthing work was a little hellish and felt like a violation of my humanity… but in reality, she was doing her best to help me achieve a natural birth without having to lay in bed, which would be more agonizing than anything. I did not achieve that. The midwife mentioned me being in “active labor” and I was looking for the word “transition”. I felt that I must be in the hardest part, because we were all under the impression at that point that the water hadn’t broken and for me to think that the water had to break and make the contractions bite even harder on top of this pain meant it must, must be the end. After this “news” I cried- it hurt. I missed my daughter. I’d been through weeks of pain of anxiety and couldn’t do this anymore. I knew the baby was badly positioned and felt it through every contraction, when I focused, “Down, down,” and felt her move down. Every time. We ordered the epidural. I roared through each contraction. The epidural did not work for about 45 minutes. They kept pushing more drugs. The midwife checked me and my waters had broken, I was at 8 cm. I had been in transition. I had an oxygen mask because I couldn’t regulate my breathing. But one hour later, the baby had been pushed nearly all the way out by my body. I laughed, and the midwife said to laugh again. One little grunt after that, and I caught Clover myself. She had her cord wrapped around her neck, twice. Nearly 24 hours after the induction started, 12 hours after the Pitocin started. She had turned from posterior to anterior at the very last minute. There were no “birth injuries”. The placenta came out in one perfect piece soon after Clover. I was able to hold her, skin to skin, and nurse her as soon as she wanted. I was brilliantly happy to meet her, and I was grateful to have had the epidural at that moment- I was still high from the relief and enjoying the baby, rather than licking wounds, like I had been with Gwenna. I would have forgone the epidural, had I known that my water had already broken, but the experience of so much power ripping through my body to bring a life into the world, that was enough for me to appreciate.
Every bit of pain was beautiful, a ripple in a wave that would change the world.
Yesterday, I was pretty pathetic. I was in pain and in the mind set of, “My body is broken,” and I let myself have that day to be upset and selfish. But today, I am Almighty Mommy yet again!
I know that my body is working on things. I know that Clover will eventually move into the right position to be born, even if that happens to be right before she is born. I know that I only have about 2 weeks, max, to suffer additional weight gain and the discomforts of being huge. I also know that when I meet sweet little Clover, I will forget all about this time, and I will be the happiest fat girl in the world.
So excited to meet you sweet baby!
I am well aware that today is my real due date (of the two calculation methods we looked at for my initial appointment with the midwives, the farther one was chosen simply because it affords me more time to go into labor on my own before an induction is required. The other date is more accurate- the one that says I’m due today.) I feel like I must be the only woman who has previously given birth and yet still made it to (and in all likelihood, past) the due date. Even my midwife told me to “visualize going into labor at about 39 weeks” because that is apparently how it happens with second-time-moms. Except for me.
I have been woken up at about 3 AM with contractions every night for the past 4 nights. They were regular and strong the first two nights. What’s more frustrating than that? They weren’t so regular or strong the last two nights. More frustrating than that? Any progress those contractions gave me is nowhere to be found today. I won’t do much cervix talk… but I hate my cervix.
So what I am doing today is having a pity party. I am considering studying twice as long for my trigonometry test because it is almost a sure thing that I will have uncomfortable contractions again tonight, wake up and not be able to get enough rest, and be distracted through the test. I will almost surely learn later that said contractions have not given me any progress.
So today, I study for a trigonometry test. I create documents and newsletter templates for my business. I respond to e-mails and phone calls. And then…
I take tylenol for the the back ache and the hip pain caused by the fetus lodging her head in my hip, despite my many attempts to move her. I surrender to the feeling of disappointment in this persistently mal-positioned baby and wonder what c-section recovery is like. I assess the extensive damage to my figure and begin to plan a recovery period which includes taking back my @#$#@!$! metabolism. But for now, I eat carby, salty foods and forget about the eggplant parmesan. Forget about the pineapple. Forget about the spicy foods. Forget about the water. Forget about the evening primrose oil. Forget about the red raspberry leaf. Forget about hypnosis tracks. Forget about the yoga ball. Forget about acupressure. Forget about the baby-turning exercises. Forget about exercise at all.
Sentiment of the day is this: I have suffered through morning sickness. Through discomfort at every stage. Through a full-term pregnancy. I will devote the rest of my life to the fetus and her sister. So this day- this #%#$%#$ day- this is my day. I will cry if I want to.
When you were born, I held you around the clock. Part of it was due to the fact that the first night home, you refused to be out of my arms, and part of it was because I’d read so much about skin to skin contact being good for babies. Because of this, I got to know you pretty quickly. I was a pro at knowing when you were happy, when you were getting hungry, when you were sleepy. I kissed your tiny little face constantly. I didn’t know it was possible to spend so much time just watching someone sleep and enjoy every second of it.
I knew you, I knew you were different from any other baby. I’d honestly questioned the existence of the soul before you. You showed me that we do indeed have souls; I see yours in little sparks that shoot from your eyes, your special ways of thinking and acting, a well to pull smiles and laughs and tears from that only you can access or understand.
When you were born, I couldn’t imagine you as a toddler. I thought of the babies I knew before and even loved, and I was sad to think that you could turn out like any of them. It’s not that they weren’t wonderful tiny people- there was just no way anyone could be as wonderful as you.
Imagine my surprise when you kept your you-ness right through toddlerhood, and straight into your third year. You’re still you, and even MORE you! Your newborn grunts have been built upon to include an impressive vocabulary. Your smiles get bigger and more expressive every day. Your love of cuddles even has a voice now! I love to hear you tell me, “Mommy, I wanna cuddle!” You are a busy girl, after all, and to know that you are still the same person, you still need me, and you still have all of those sweet qualities you showed me from the beginning… it’s astounding.
Mothers, including me, are often so afraid of “losing their babies”. But we should have more faith in little people like you. You know who you are. As long as you continue to share that with me, I will be grateful, whether we find ourselves playing on the small slides at the park or we’re filling out college applications. You are my favorite you, all of the time.