This is motherhood

IMG_5781*phone rings*

“Hey Mummy, I’m in the grey truck with Daddy. Have you made my Valentines cards?”

“Yes sweetie, Mummy made cards for your friends. They are at home. I made pretty bags and put a candy bar in each”.

“Oh Mummy! Thank you so much! I am so excited”.

And suddenly, there it was. It was all so worth it: the time spent hand making those little bags, the paper cuts and the missed sleep. The excitement and gratitude catching in my three year old’s voice… It was worth it.

This is motherhood.

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IMG_5911That is totally what I was going to write immediately after that ‘phone call at 5 pm.

At 6 pm, it was a different story. I came home stressed because there were more Valentine’s bags to make, since the class has – unbeknownst to me – increased in size recently. We came home, dinner needed tending, Caroline needed feeding, the bags needed finishing, and in the middle of all this Sam comes up to me and says “Can you go and find my Thomas pictures, please?”, since his Dad is curled up on the sofa feeling ‘cold’.

“Yes,” I snapped. “Because heaven forbid I do only THREE things at once for this family” I muttered as I stomped angrily upstairs leaving a bewildered three year old behind.

Let’s be honest, this too is motherhood. This is the second part after the Babble / Scary Mommy sickly ending that no one really writes about. Just keeping it real here.

This is motherhood.

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IMG_5998Now it is 9 pm. Caroline is fed and sleeping, the dinner was served, Wes put Sam to bed over an hour ago freeing me up to wash my hair, the Valentines bags are in the car, and I am drinking wine. Life is calm.

This too is motherhood.

 

 

 

January goals

 

goal setting and wine

I like to set my goals with wine

I ended up picking just 2 goals for January: keep doing what I need to do to give Caroline exclusive breastmilk (I don’t even know why this is important to me at this stage, but I picked it so there we go) and to get my family into a workable daily routine. Actually, giving my kiddos exclusive breastmilk from my non-maternal breasts is such a huge challenge that it needs a whole routine in itself, so these two dovetailed nicely.

Pumping in meetings academic mom

Pumping in meetings

The long and short of it is that yes: at the end of January I feel like I achieved my goals, if not the sub goals like “take Fridays as vacation” (I only managed one 1/2 day as vacation… Sob…). With breastfeeding I did not remember all those darn supplements and every glass of water but I did keep to a reasonably healthy diet, stay fairly well hydrated, get some Reglan and end up pumping an extra 4 oz a day while also breast feeding evenings and weekends. So, I am going to call that job done.

Houston sunrise

One benefit was beautiful sunrises

I also stuck to a hellacious family routine. Combining pumping and returning to a demanding job with Houston’s horrific traffic has meant that I am up at 5.30 every day and it is go, go, go from then: 5.30 feed Caroline, 5.45 get up and get three people out of the house and fed by 6.30. 7: Arrive at daycare, feed at leave in time to be pumping at 8my desk at . Pump at 10 for another FORTY minutes. Leave the office at 11.30 and feed Caroline driving to be back for 12.30 meetings. Pump at 2 for another faking 40-45 minutes. Leave work at 4, feed Caroline, drive home for 5.30. Make dinner. Eat dinner at 6. At 6.30 Feed and bath Carokine. At 7.15 Bath and bed Sam (<— one of my favorite times of day) to get him down for 8.15 (pardon my French but fuck those sleep consultants with their 15 minute nighttime routines. I swear they don’t have actual children, just cats or something). At 8.15: Sort out the milk for tomorrow, sort out dinner for tomorrow, pack car and pump again at 9. At 9.30 collapse in bed with this little bundle of gorgeousness sleeping beside me. Then do it all again in 8 hours time.

3 months old rock n play

My sleeping buddy

I’m sorry, cry me a river and all that, but isn’t that just exhausting to read? Is it just me? Am I emerging from some deeply sheltered and pampered life blinking angrily into reality? I don’t know but it seems like a crazy exhausting schedule to me, but it is all that works for us right now so do it we will (and it is only going to get easier as I pump less, kids get more independent yada yada yada).

In unrelated news: I also eat a lot of chocolate and drink a large glass of wine every night.

Anyway, the point is not to moan, but to say that slowing down, calming down, climbing down and focusing on just one thing – the daily routine – has been very interesting to me. It has allowed me to see how exhausting it can be and how much energy it needs. Last year, I would have been focusing on that and 20 other things and nothing would have got done properly and I would have been stressed. Just doing this – life – properly has been eye opening.

I have had meltdowns – huge meltdowns. I have got through the check-out at target and realized my wallet is at home (and got bailed out by an amazing friend!). I have needed my friends desperately (all of whom been wonderful). From my friends’ behavior towards me, I have learned how to actually help someone, not just want to help them. I would have failed utterly without Wes (howl – where is my independence?). I have thrown pity parties all for myself and had a little tantrum if it is mentioned that many people do this every day and many people have it worse than me. It’s been exhausting and humbling, so humbling. But so rewarding. It has been so nice to think “I should fix my postpartum figure” or “I need to get my stampin’ Up! Business going or “I really should write a blog post” and just think “No. Those are not my goals right now, right now I M just getting my family trough this transition”. It’s been freeing! And I feel like I have achieved something! I feel good.

I am also amazed that I haven’t completely given up on future goals: we’ve cooked at home all but 2 meals a week, the house has been liveable, I have made some cards, I have seen friends, I have lost 1 lb… All these little things have just meandered along at a snail’s pace. I am also amazed at how relaxed about them I can be when I have a focus and when I give myself permission just to go with the flow.

academia urine collection

At work! Success collecting baby pee.

I have started to adopt this at work too – just focussing on one thing and trusting that everything else will get done adequately. I have focussed on my main twin study, and the second grant to find that. I got the grant in (Friday!) and am pleased with it. This month I am focussing on my twin papers, and saying ‘no’ to things that don’t align with that goal. Whether that works for not I will let you know – academia seems a separate beast to personal life.

3 year old happy

My happy

Amazingly, I have been so happy this month. So, so happy. Busy Lekki = happy Lekki, and my children delight me daily. I have realized that for now, building my family and getting the home right is my joy. I have felt a deep contentment and peace (I have also been renewing my relationship with God which has helped). I have felt supported and surrounded by so much love and friendship and understanding. And I have felt so lucky! Tears and grumpiness and meltdowns not withstanding, I have felt gloriously like I am where I am supposed to be, doing what I am supposed to be doing.

tea biscuits and emma bridgewater

Goal setting with tea and biscuits (and Emma Bridgewater) not wine.

For February… I am not so sure. Probably more of the same: get through the month with home cooked meals (not thinking about actual nutrition right now), and no late starts, and with feeding Caroline breast milk). I feel like I need one thing to add onto this base, but something small (like, being presentable at work would not be an option right now – as I sat in my oversized hoodie, maternity pants and glasses, my co-worker commented that I looked ‘depressed’). Maybe staying on top of our finances – that’s something that I need to get back to. Or building a family recipe book. Or doing craft activities with Sam (not sure if that is for him or me.. probably walking with Sam would be better for him). I’ll pick something and let you know.

Did you set any goals for January? Make progress on your New Year’s Resolution(s)? How do you stay on track?

Planning for 2016

I tend to shy away from making New Years’ Resolutions. I am not sure why. While I love the idea of setting goals so maybe it is the years of my attempts to achieve them not going past 2-3 weeks that have left me jaded. Or, perhaps it is that right now smaller goals (go to the gym, read books, try new recipes, that kind of ilk) are not what I need. I wrote at the end of 2014 that I had not been that happy that year, and was resolved to rectify it in 2015. Sad to say that I didn’t. I mean, I don’t want anyone to think that I was sitting in a pool of misery the whole time, but something big was missing from my life for me to say: yes I am happy with this. Certainly I had a lot to be happy with: a great son, a much wanted second pregnancy (and then a much wanted daughter), a job I love (although I don’t perform at it in a way that makes me happy), and a hobby I love (card making). I also make strides forward in 2015: I developed a bigger friendship group, was the recipient of several grants and a National-level award, including one from NIH and improved our home no end. So, perhaps a lack of contentment is a better word, because overall there were very happy moments. I just wouldn’t say that I was happy.

Can't deny these things make me pretty lucky

Can’t deny these things make me pretty lucky

I did get the gift of 12 weeks maternity leave right at the end of the year. It was a glorious reset. For the first time, I got to sit and do (relatively) nothing. I only went into the office once a week, once Caroline was 3 weeks old (delivering a successful presentation nonetheless!)  and did an hour or so emails a day. The rest of the time was gloriously mine. With no pressures and no demands, it was interesting to see what I did. I made wall displays in our house. I redid the kiddos playroom. I built a china display cabinet and started collecting Emma Bridgewater pottery (thanks to Clio who sent out several pieces while I was pregnant, and much to the dismay of my poor parents who are now being forced to source and purchase pottery and – even worse – get it out to the US!). I kept Sam home way more than I should have from the perspective of ‘giving preschoolers good routines’. I spent hours getting to know Caroline: playing games, holding her, soaking her in. Because I had so much more free time I spent evening time just soaking in Sam too, in all his glorious preschooler-ness. All his quirks, and his loves. I appreciated the joy in being his mum.

Joy

Joy

What didn’t I do? I didn’t write any grants or papers. I honestly thought that I would, but given the choice I chose not to. That is not to say that (1) I don’t enjoy these things (I do), or (2) there is no space for them in my life (there is. There had better be, anyway). But it became clear to me that these were not to be the sole things I focussed on to be happy. Along those lines, it was interesting the work tasks I missed doing (being part of my twin study, discussing and writing up new ideas, getting that first set of exciting [though often wrong] results), and of course, those I didn’t.

I knew that going into 2016 I needed to make a change. It seemed clear that I needed to set some goals and figure out steps to achieve them. So, I started looking into planners. Just a subjective impression, but it seems that planners are a very American thing – big binders full of pintrest ideas, to do lists, trackers and so on. But they appeal to me – I need ways to organize my thoughts and my actions, figure out my goals track if I am achieving them. I use a lot of planner-style apps and of course my blog is a ‘brain dump’ and a planner. Turns out this idea (using a planner), is not so revolutionary after all. There are bloody millions of planners, and even more forums, facebook groups, blogs and even Meet-up groups dedicated to them. Wow. Where to start? I did read some reviews, and had my planner choice whittled down to 4 or 5, but was loathe to drop $40-80 (yes really!) on something I have never used before.

The came the Passion Planner. The passion planner was already in my top 5 because it met all of my requirements: blank ‘brain dump’ spaces, daily time slots broken into smaller sections, prompts for goal setting and reviewing and lots of space for to do lists. Oh, and it was one of the cheapest at $30. What held me back was that it was black and white and that I wasn’t clear if it was actually any better than any of the more expensive, but much prettier ones. What made me pull the trigger? You can get it free. Yes free. All you have to do is share this link on social media (http://www.passionplanner.com/downloads-2/) and you can download the whole planner as a PDF file. No outlay, so Passion Planner it is.

Passion planner does have prompts and charts to help you goal set, but I suspect my issue is more global than that. I want to do things well, and I want to do a lot of things. My goals include: spend quality time with my kids, work at my job hard, run a toddler craft group, run a stampin’ up business, collect Emma Bridgewater pottery, keep a really nice house, write a personal blog, write an academia blog, write a crafting blog,  see my friends, read non fiction books, volunteer, look after my animals more, be more present and more purposeful, eat better, exercise, get Sam a regular out-of-the-house hobby, bake more, cook more, commit to a regularly weekly food shop, stop wasting money, breast feed for another 10 months, stop wasting time so much on the internet and, and, and. Clearly I cannot do all of this – even without a toddler and infant and a deep need for a lot of sleep (I am one of those ‘8 hours a day or else’ people). So what to choose and what to prioritize?

More time with these things please.

More time with these things please.

My friend chic in academia to the rescue… She wrote this lovely post on writing a goal statement. She gives much more guidance in her post, but the idea is think hard about your values, strengths, needs and talents and write an overall statement summing those up. From there you goals should flow. So that is what I am off to do. I am hoping that at the end of this process (mission statement and goal setting) I will have a much clearer path forward; I will know what to say yes and no to, and how to fill my time. I hope it will give me motivation to spend the time I currently spend glazed over on the internet more purposefully and I hope it will also give me the gift of guilt free relaxation. I am looking forward to sharing my process with you.

Edited to add: writing this post has made me reflect on how gloriously lucky I am: I have the kids I wanted, a job I love, enviable health and many, many superficial trappings (‘things’). I am still on a goal setting path though 🙂

Do you set goals? How do you do it? How do you keep track of important things? Does anyone use a planner regularly, and if so, do you have any tips to share with me?

 

 

Thoughts on my unmedicated birth 

Sam’s birth story here. Caroline’s here and here and here.20151011_041329In no way do I want to put anyone off having an unmedicated birth (by which I mean no epidural or pitocin). In fact, the recovery was so easy, and my inherent (and unempirical) resistance to pharmaceutical intervention means that were I to give birth again (which Wes says I absolutely won’t, sob) I would probably go the unmedicated route if possible.

That being said, I feel the most prevalent birth stories we here are (1) I had an unmedicated birth and it was beautiful and magical and what birth should be and (2) I had a medicated birth and it was disappointing / I’m ashamed / I’m traumatized / I feel like a failure. These stories are followed by a smattering of (3) I had a medicated birth and it went well but was nothing to write home about. I just want to add another story: (4) I had an unmedicated birth and it was fine, but I didn’t like it as much as my medicated birth.

The thing I most didn’t like was the lack of control. Towards the end my body was doing things (pushing, screaming) without me even knowing it was happening. Looking back. I feel like I acted like some crazed animal. Which is fine, it’s just not my preference. Some people love this aspect of birth – they use words like ‘primal’ and dig getting back to their raw nature. I’m actually kind of embarrassed now, and I feel awkward going back to my OB. This is even though my head tells me repeatedly that I acted like 90% of laboring / birthing women, and indeed many. many pro-unediacted birth people have told me they did exactly the same and loved it. It’s fine, I just preferred Sam’s birth where I could answer questions calmly, where I decided when to push (as I got the epidural at a full 10 cm – aside of a lip – I actually lay down for 30 minutes while complete to let the epi wear off a little before pushing),  and so on. Having my water broken by my OB with Sam was a little awkward, but it was definitely preferable in my mind to suddenly finding water all over the floor and on my legs and on the birthing ball and so on. At the time I felt bad I couldn’t help clear it up – I was even about to but I got slammed with double peak contractions, os just splashed around in my own amniotic fluid. Delightful.

Yes, I like to be in control. Yes, I have a lot of social anxiety – and sure these are the factors. I’m not saying there isn’t a reason, just that for whatever reason, an unmedicated birth was awkward to me.

I also, against traditional or prevalent dialogue, I found it in no way empowering. The short story of my birth went like this: Turn up in hospital, ask for epidural, beg for epidural, can’t get it, have to give birth without it. I understand this is super common, in fact our Bradley teaching told us that the reason it is “husband coached” childbirth is that this will happen, and you will pretty much not be able to get through it without someone stepping in and preventing pain relief (which is obviously not true, because people do it on their own all the time, but the gist is there).  Or, since the real begging for pain relief comes near the end, it’s too late anyway. So. In a nutshell, for many people, unmedicated births go something like:

I want X.

You can’t have X.

This is opposite of empowerment to me. Just to explain my definition of empowerment, it generally goes:

I want X.

Here is X.

 

Me with a medal. A day I (and my high school sports teachers) thought we would never see

Me with a medal. A day I (and my high school sports teachers) thought we would never see

Finally, I thought I would feel all proud of myself for doing this amazing feat. Sort of like how I felt after my first 10K. Time and time again birth stories finished with women saying “and I realized my strength”. Right. I screamed and wailed and wanted it to stop and my body did it’s own thing regardless. I mean, it did it very well, don’t get me wrong. But it didn’t require any mental strength or fortitude on my part. No matter how painful those contractions are, it’s not like you can turn them off and you won’t die, so you will get through them. And that baby is coming out – I am pretty sure there are almost no stories of C-sections because the mother gave up pushing (babies getting stuck is a different issue). Your body is just going to push it out whatever. So, yes, it is very cool that bodies can do this but really, just making a kiddo and having it enter the world is the cool and amazing part. I didn’t feel ‘amazingly strong’ after giving birth.

My "it's over. It's actually over" face.

My “it’s over. It’s actually over” face.

Perhaps it helps that I didn’t have any negative effects from my epidural. I could walk and squat with it, and move about. It was effective, but I was not numb. I felt the urge to push appropriately, and after the baby came out felt the same emotion as an unmedicated birth (honestly? My first thought both times was: Thank f*ck that it over. For Sam because he took so long and I was worried they would do an emergency C-section, and for Caroline because: no more pain!). And that is not everyone’s experience with an epidural, so maybe you don’t want to take the risk. And I say all this having had two amazing and faultless birth teams both times. And I could have prepared better for Caroline’s birth and prepared Wes better and we could have handled it all a bit differently (although, as I say, most unmedicated birth stories seem to be quite similar). But of course, yymv.

There was a sort of stunned silence after Caroline’s birth from my husband and I. It had been so quick, and so… violent is the word I would use. I honestly felt a little shocked and mad at the world. I think Wes knew, because the first thing he said when they placed Caroline on my chest was “Hey – you got the natural birth you wanted” [he uses natural… I think all births are natural and use the less loaded medicated vs. unmedicated]. And it’s all good. My kiddos are here and healthy, I don’t dwell on either birth, feel positively about very many aspects of both (especially that my teams respected my choices – now that is empowerment -, that they had very baby centered approaches and that they never ever got frustrated with me, in fact, both times they treated it like this was their only birth not the 5th of the day…) and am generally a happy camper.

I would go unmedicated again. But I wouldn’t look forward to it, like I would look forward to a medicated birth.

 

Caroline’s birth story – pt 3

AKA “the part where I lost my freaking mind”.

Me. Losing my mind.

Me. Losing my mind.

Also – before we get to the nitty gritty, remember the recent hoopla over the guy who took selfies while his wife was delivering? Let’s just say he wasn’t the first.

birth - 1 (5)

Needs no caption.

Part 1 here, and part 2 here.

I was 7 cm dilated when I got to triage, and probably about the same when they wheeled me up to a delivery room since the stress of transferring to hospital slowed things down a bit. All my months of denial about birth, and hours of denial about labor made me forget all my Bradley training and pretty much everything I knew about labor and birth, so I pretty much rocked up like one of those women who mistake an 8 month nausea-filled gestation complete with intestinal punches and kicks for “the effects of holiday eating” (and I’m really concerned about how they eat on holidays). Naive, confused and completely fecking useless.

Everyone is looking at me an laughing like there is some kind of joke going on. I don't look so amused though... Hmmmm

Everyone is looking at me and laughing like there is some kind of joke going on. I don’t look so amused though… Hmmmm

Oh, addendum: before leaving the triage room I stated “I want an epidural”.

We arrive in delivery at about 3 am and the contractions are picking up steam in terms of pain. Having slowed a bit for the jaunt to hospital (an oft-observed phenomenon) they luckily got nice and regular (read: sucky and regular) when we settled in. The nurse started preparing an IV of antibiotics for the group B strep and fluid for the epidural.

Then my OB arrived. She apprised the situation. She uttered the words “but I thought she didn’t want an epidural?” and with -I swear – a sort of disappointed look responded to “she’s changed her mind” with a shrug and an “OK then”. I wanted to punch her, really hard (even though I love her really). The only thing that saved her pretty face and my jail-free life was the knowledge that she’d be poking around the business end of my body soon, and hey, I try to be nice to people who end up there, whatever their reason is.

I gritted my teeth and told her that I couldn’t deal with the pain after all. My OB’s path to redemption began when she looked at my nurses and told them to help me with the pain. She offered me a bath which I declined mid-contraction in tears and so she suggested a yoga ball. This gave me pause. Wes said “she’s the yoga ball queen” so as a contraction ended I bitterly conceded “ok, that maybe sounds good”.

They even inserted up my IVs while I sat on the ball.

They even inserted up my IVs while I sat on the ball.

I’ll confess: it was darn good. She then got the nurse to put counter pressure on my back with the contraction and I entered his blissful phase where the contractions were pretty bearable and I got glorious pain free (completely fucking pain free) breaks for a minute or so in between but was high on the endorphins. And all with my OB was forgiven. Happy times.

No pain! Glorious pain-free moments.

No pain! Glorious pain-free moments.

That glorious state lasted for ooohh… 10 minutes at the most and then transition started. The contractions got stronger until I was flopped over the bed from my yoga ball begging my OB to look at the contraction monitor and tell me the contraction was on its way down. At some point I think they situated Wes opposite me and got him to be reassuring… Unfortunately at that point I felt intense nausea and started shriek “I’m going to vomit” and retch at his crotch. He bore it well but later confessed he was horrified. The nurses did sweet things like ask me if I liked my hair tied up, and when I said yes, they did so. They really tried to help with small comforts.

At about 3.20 I looked down and saw fluid everywhere and felt totally humiliated by it for some reason. I miserably said “I think my water broke” and the nurse looked down and said “yes” then looked at the OB and said “light meconium staining” and I remember feeling truly miserable as I thought through the pain “I am sitting, helplessly bouncing around in body fluid and poo while crying – this is the worst thing ever”.

My water breaking signaled another increase in contraction intensity and a lack of break between them such that one would start before true other ended. I think I truly lost my mind slightly because I remember the OB reminding me to breathe and I didn’t even realize I wasn’t. I also remember the pain ripping angry yells from my body at the peaks. I was lucky – transition lasted only about 15 minutes for me. I guess it was obvious to my experienced OB that I had passed through that because after 15 minutes she looked at me and very calmly said “Alexis, do you feel constant pressure yet?”. I tried to figure it out… I thought that if the pain would just recede a little I could figure out if and where and when I was feeling “pressure”. But the pain was just unending and intense and I gave up and felt useless not being able help, and said in tears “I don’t even know”.

My team was super nice about my pathetic-ness and just gave me space to do my thing; they never questioned or pushed me or intervened to assess me. They seemed to truly trust me and my body which on some level was reassuring and must have been calming because a few minutes later I looked at them with terrified eyes and said “I need to push”. Followed by “actually, thinking about it, I think I’ve been pushing for a while”.

The OB told me to get on the bed and the thought of actually balancing and putting weight on my legs was like someone asking me fly so I declared I couldn’t do it. I looked at the resident who was evidently going to actually deliver the girl and said in a measured and dangerous tone: “my epidural?”. I swear j have never seen a doctor look so scared and she mutely shook her head. That was it. I wailed “I can’t do this” as the nurses hoiked me onto the bed. Half way up I yelled out “oh, ring of fire! Ring of fire“. My nice OB said no stirrups or anything like that, just to let me get into my own position. Basically a glorious hands off approach.

Left to my own devices my body really did take over and push with the contractions at the end of transition. My mind had nothing to do with this… My body was pushing and wailing and screaming through contractions and I was completely unaware of it… It all seemed to be on autopilot and I truly felt like an animal. A couple of minutes after getting on the bed, when my OB said “try to use your energy to push down not yell out” it brought me to my senses more. I realized that I had not even realized I was yelling and needed to pull it together a but. The contractions had more or less gone and the pain was gone. So I did what any reasonable person would do at this point when faced with the prospect of reopening the door to pain and took a deep breath, looked the staff In their eyes and calmly, but firmly, re-iterated

“I can’t do this”

Everyone - everyone - joining in the effort to convince me that I could do this

Everyone – everyone – joining in the effort to convince me that I could do this

Everyone joined in this team effort to convince me I could. I was highly skeptical until my OB told me that I could, because I basically already had. Caroline was almost out – she had been pushed most of the way on the ball, and was now crowning. I should have known that from my “ring of fire” yelps, but my reason had gone. Gone. Even the crowning didn’t move me – it was when my OB said “she’s blonde” (I responded “blonde? Really? Like her brother?”) that it became real to me – my daughter was here and she had hair like her brother.

My super sexy pushing face.

My super sexy pushing face.

So I pushed. And pushed. Probably only 3 pushes or so, but it hurt. It really hurt – the contractions were like the most intense I-might-pass-out type pain. The pushing was nowhere near as painful but just deeply unpleasant – I felt like my intestines were going to fall out of my butt hole. Seriously. Like I was going to turn inside out. The level of pain was bearable… The unpleasantness held it back. My OB could tell I was holding back and put two fingers in me and pressed down stretching my entrance. I got quite cross and said “you’re hurting me!” And she said triumphantly “yes! Now push past that pain” which helped – a lot. I could focus on an area and push beyond it. A couple of pushes and I asked if I could have a break to breathe… They said yes…. Then as I started up again, the other super helpful thing my OB said was “when you get her out all this pain will go” which was a good motivator. A few more painful pushes and the nurses looked excited and said “yes! She’s here”. Her head was half way out! I asked for another break…

At this point. All the pain really really stopped. I mean, I’m not going to claim that it was comfortable having half a baby’s head out of me, but it wasn’t painful. And it was nearly 4 am and I was tired and it really did cross my mind that I just wouldn’t start pushing again. I’d nap. Have a snack. Maybe start again tomorrow. Maybe.

My team began to get a bit nervous as their wailing gnashing banshee sat there serenely peaceful, doing nothing. For all the world as if she was about to settle in with netflix and some wine… Apart from the baby half hanging out of her. They made all sorts of encouraging noises (it got to the stage where even the non-medical staff such as the clean-up lady give me huge thumbs up of encouragement). I just half closed my eyes and felt peaceful. Eventually it crossed my mind that this might not be too good for my baby and that galvanized me into one last push… And out she came. Caroline was here.

birth - 1 (3)

The pain did indeed immediately end. The pediatric team had been called because of the meconium staining, but Caroline came out roaring and my OB said “as she’s crying can I hand her over?” (Love my OB!). They pediatric team obviously said yes and a sticky, gooey, poo-ey Caroline was laid on my chest while they suctioned her and did a clean up right there on my chest. I had an itty bitty first degree tear sewed up and just looked at my daughter. She was here!

birth - 1 (4)

Internet friends


“When one door closes, another opens” – Alexander Graeme Bell.

Is it weird that I have ‘internet friends’? As in, people I interact with and feel an attachment to, but have never met? I mean, I have an ‘internet husband’ I guess (in that we met online and I was attached to him before I ever met him… not that I still have not met him 😉 ), so are internet friends the next step? Maybe… And, while I realize this whole story my make me sound distinctly odd, today I ‘lost’ one friend but gained another.

Losing Caitlyn.

In 2010 when I took up running, I began following a blog called ‘Healthy Tipping Point‘ because it had lots of good running and exercise and healthy eating tips, without being too overly preachy or extreme. It was written by Caitlyn Boyle, the woman who started Operation Beautiful.  Reading blogs is weird – they can contain so much personal information that you start to identify with someone, even though you have never met them. I remember in 2011 when Caitlyn announced she was pregnant, I was insanely jealous and I think reading her bump updates tipped me over the edge to want to try for Samuel instead of waiting for the year we originally planned. Then because we were pregnant ‘together’ (ahem) I would read Caitlyn’s blog as a ‘heads-up’ about what was coming… then she birthed her son and I followed all her posts on being a new parents and figuring that malarky out, while figuring it out myself. And so on… then she had a daughter… she sent me her maternity swimsuit which I used a lot while pregnant with Caroline (it was about the only form of exercise I could stomach after the hyperemesis). Once, she even responded to one of my comments personally (fan girl moment!).

Anyway – if that didn’t make me sound weird and stalker-ish enough, this might: she recently decided to completely stop blogging and I actually felt very sad. How weird is that? I guess I can best liken it to when you finish a fiction book and are all sad that characters won’t be in your life anymore? Know what I mean? But yes, I was actually really sad. I wanted to call my husband and tell him of my great woe, but since he doesn’t even fully understand why I get sad when real live friends leave Houston, I decided to leave that one lest he have me committed…

But, on the same day, another door opened.

Gaining Las.

Las (you can find her here) is someone I have been interacting with for over a year – but never met. It started with reading her blog when a mutual friend shared a post once (so be warned if I read your blog… I may start to think of us as friends 😉 ). Then said friend shared her FaceBook status update asking if anyone could help her find a baby cocoon for impending newborn, as the lady who was supposed to make her one had gone into early labor and wouldn’t be making it, and her newborn shoot was imminent. I love loom knitting, so I offered to do it (I made a cute hat to boot… I’ll ask Las if I can post a better picture, but as her son is in it, I need permission!).

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I dropped off the cocoon at her house and added her on Facebook and never thought about it again. Then soon after her son was born, Las got sick (learned of this through FB) and so I dropped around a frozen mac n cheese, since I was making one for Wes. We ended up talking on Facebook often over parenting issues, anyway. I have offered to write a post for her blog (which I will do!), and donated money to a few causes that are close to her heart. It got to the stage where I felt I knew her but we’d never met… until today.

All the lovlies

All the lovlies

I confessed to Las (on Facebook… always on FaceBook) that between having a newborn, being sick, having a sick toddler, having a sick newborn and trying to keep up with work, I was close to a letdown (OK, I may have had a meltdown…). Around she came with the greatest gift of all: homemade food. I can’t tell you how much junk food we have been eating and how very, very sick of it I am (I pretty much stopped eating meals and loved off pretzels and cheese strings). OK, maybe the greatest gift of all was some adult company for a few hours, and a playmate for Sam… but a ginger cake, a date crumble, a tray of lasagne, a slow cooked chicken and a bag of pulled pork comes pretty close. Now I have fresh food to eat and someone has come over and not died at the sight of our house (which is in the worst state!) and life is looking a lot better indeed. It’s just a huge weight off my mind to have food, and healthy body healthy mind rings true for me – I feel much better after my lunch of a bagel and fresh chicken, than I usually do after a pile of chocolate and crisps.

So… internet friends. Is this weird? Or is this a ‘thing’ now? Either way, it’s pretty awesome, especially when you are traveling academic whose 2 kids doesn’t let her get out too much.

Internet friends. You win some, you lose some (sorry, I couldn’t resist)..

 

 

Caroline’s birth story – pt 2

Read part 1 here.

Before I get to the real nitty gritty of the delivery, I have realized I can’t describe Caroline’s birth story without acknowledging my state of mind of going into it, because I have realized that it is inherently part of the story. Although it had every medical intervention possible short of a C-section, Sam’s birth went well. Due to an undiagnosed case of von willebrands (plus I suspect, some bad luck), the post-birth part did not go well. Aside from brief outbursts of emotion, this was something I realize now that I chose not to fully process.

In part, I think it is hard to process something that you are unconscious, or heavily medicated, for. In larger part, it is frankly easier, if more cowardly, to go into something that nearly killed you last time pretending that it didn’t nearly kill you last time. The first sign that I might in some sort of denial may be that I refused to believe I had von willebrands for a while. OK, I still don’t really believe it, but I do accept my smart hematologist’s edict that we have to treat me as if I have it, given my “history”. But as mild von willebrands essentially needs no treatment in day to day life, that issue didn’t rear its head too often.

Another sign might have been that if someone brought up how close the call had come, I was genuinely shocked and surprised, and little awkward. I remember my friend Taylor saying on Sam’s birthday “Hey – it’s the anniversary of you surviving!” and I just kind of stared open mouthed like a guppy at feeding time, and then scowled and changed the subject. And when I transferred to my new OB (Dr. Dryden) the nurses muttered to each other “Dryden saved her” – and I just scowled again and labelled them as “over dramatic”. But again, this was not something that often came up – people don’t generally like to bring up nasty medical experiences (at least, not if they want to keep their friends…).

Things started to change when (1) expert people telling me how serious the situation really had been; and (2) having to prepare to give birth again. When I saw my OB at my first trimester appointment she brought up my chart and started stutter as she read the history saying “I can see you had a massive transfusion“. I did. Massive transfusions are not good (well.. they are good, it’s just the situations requiring them is not good), and when I initially told people about my birth experience I would say “As I went to OR I just remember the words ‘massive transfusion protocol'”. But then I decided that I probably dreamed that, or made it up for dramatic effect. So I was kind of shocked to hear the surgeon in charge of the birth state it. And see it there in my notes for all to see.

During that visit, my OB said to me “You’re lucky to be able to have another child!” and I said “well… it’s due to YOU” and she looked confused and I reminded her “You were the one who delivered my son… you saved me and my uterus by using a new procedure… you sewed the balloon into my cervix which hadn’t been done before.. right?” and the light dawned, and her eyes went wide with recognition and then a kind of fear and I’ll never forget her saying “Oh my God… it’s you… you’re you… You came back!” [aside: of course I came back – she was the most awesome surgeon ever! And my kiddo is the greatest kiddo ever]. I nodded and my OB – my extremely experienced OB who seems to specialize in high risk cases – said “I will never forget your birth”. Seeing how seriously she took the situation was not something my “it was no big deal” mindset was ready for. I looked her straight in the eyes and said “It’s fine… you did great last time with no warning, I have no worries about this time with plenty of warning… I trust you completely”. Then I pretty much packed up my things and left. Which was nice for my OB, but essentially what I was saying was “I don’t want to think about this, or deal with it, so I am shutting the whole conversation down”.

The I vowed not to think about birth until I hit the second trimester and the highest risk of miscarriage passed. And then, at that point, I would start to think things like “do I want an epidural?” and never really get very far with my answers. And suddenly I was 35 weeks and it was my beautiful baby shower and I was telling people that ‘yes, I was totally ready for everything” but when they got to specifics ‘no, I had not bought diapers yet…’ and ‘no I had not packed my hospital bags..’ and ‘no, I had not sorted the nursery’ and ‘no, no, no’. And that triggered something in me… some deep seated awareness that holy crap, I was actually going to have to do this again. And suddenly the darkest recesses of my mind took over and would pipe up at inopportune times. Like when I was reading Sam a book, something deep in my mind would say “I hope that if you die someone will tell Sam that his Mum used to read him books and do all he silly voices with him..”. I would squash the thought but later on the voice would say “If you die, hopefully people will tell your children ‘she loved you so much, she risked everything to bring you into this world'”. It wa startling to me how strong these thoughts were.

The next day I was in Starbucks and I had to walk past my hospital and while standing in line waiting for ‘the usual’ [tall decaff PSL, no whip, just one pump of syrup] I began to shake and cry and it is very awkward when heavily pregnant women start silently bawling in public because no one thinks they can ignore them and everyone thinks it is about the baby and tries to help . And when strangers asked if I was OK, it’s not like I could regale them with the whole birth history that I was trying to deny….

It’s funny, looking back, I don’t think I truly accepted what happened after Sam’s birth until after Caroline’s birth. I was taken up to a postpartum recovery room, and the nurse in the room said “Have you given birth here before?” and I said “Yes! Almost three years to the day I delivered my son here” and she said “OK, I am going to be honest… I knew that… I remember you… No one will ever forget your birth” and I thought “Geez… even nurses not involved in the situation are freaked out about this”. And my OB came by to visit me, and everything was perfect (and as you’ll find out in part 3 she has been utterly amazing in the birth) and I was holding my sweet Caroline and fully recovered within about an hour and my OB could finally say “I’ll just never forget your first birth… it’s just emblazoned in my memory and I can’t shift it”. And I thought ‘crap.. it really was that bad’.

So I didn’t finalize the process before Caroline came along, but I did begin to accept that I was utterly freaked out about giving birth again – not necessarily because I thought the same thing would happen, but because I realized that anything could happen. So I began to accept that I was scared, and angry. I was angry at my body for letting me down. My strong, half marathon and tough mudder running body builders body. And I was angry at the ‘natural birth’ community. I was angry at their message that ‘women were made to do this and should just trust their bodies’ (because where would that have got me? Let’s say it: dead is where) and even more angry at my treatment after birth. Basically, from all the natural birth communities I engaged with while pregnant, suddenly not one of them wanted to share my birth story, which left me feeling excluded and shunned. And then angry that by purposefully denying these stories, some parts of the natural birth community are lying to their followers: they simply discount the very real, and very rare, dangers rather than acknowledge them and allow women and their partners to make informed choices.

It was a tough few weeks and probably contributed to a lot of the depression I suffered with at the end of Caroline’s pregnancy (not something I have admitted before). I was scared and felt trapped – trapped into having to do something I was scared of. But, the reason that this is so part of Caroline’s birth is that I eschewed all thinking about actual birth before going into labor (in fact, possibly while in labor, which is why I didn’t accept I was until I was fully in transition. Although sleeping through labor definitely has some up sides…). Consequently, I didn’t have any kind of plan for what I would do in labor. At all. I just ticked the ‘no epidural’ box on my hospital pre-addmission forms and that was it.

So, I went into the delivery room really quite unprepared…

I’m glad I have written this down now. I am still 28% hippie and believe in things like the damages of repressed emotions, so I am glad to have written it down and am now able to really move onwards an upwards.