Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Murkiness of the Early Days

On the murkiness of the early days. I don't know if all new mothers experience something like this, while their lives are adjusting to the new course, but in the first few weeks after Andromeda's birth where like emerging from a fog. Perhaps it stems from lack of sleep, but I think it's more than that.

The first few weeks are what is traditionally called the "lying in" period. At first, a mother lies in bed to recover from birth. In our culture it is more admirable to jump right out of bed and try to go back to work, but I think mothers need this time, especially if they're breastfeeding. A mother must focus on feeding to regulate her supply and be successful at breastfeeding, and this can mean not getting up from bed/chair even if she feels like it because baby feeds almost constantly.

Then, a mother stays at home for a while, figuring out how to deal with baby along with the rest of her family, whether it is just her and baby, baby daddy, husband, older children, other housemates. Nothing will be the same ever again; it can't, there is a new person where no one existed before. This takes adjustment on everybody's part. The mother must figure out how to go to the bathroom, shower, eat, while taking care of baby. How does baby fit into everyone in the household's schedule?

For me, it was a time of frustration, lack of sleep, learning to breastfeed, getting used to everything. It was awesome, truly awesome. Ollin had to take Simone to school in the morning, and only I could feed Andromeda, so I did what I could to protect his sleep. Even so, our schedules took a beating. I'm proud that Simone didn't suffer; she was to school and home and to bed and up on time.

After the first few weeks, Andromeda began to sleep longer and more regularly, I learned how to breastfeed her well, and we got back into some of our old habits. Things did go back to normal; plus one.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The price I pay...

A warning about gross; you might as well avoid the whole post today if bathroom talk is not something you tolerate.

"That's just the price we pay to bring our little ones into the world."

This is what my Dr. said to me at my six-week postpartum appointment when I said, "Yes, I think I have a hemorrhoid."

I've always had a problem with constipation, due to my poor diet and failure to drink enough water, and I've had painful BMs, but I've never had a hemorrhoid. Not like this. I dread going to the bathroom. The pain is worse than labor, almost as bad as the last few seconds of pushing. At least then, I knew it would be over soon. This, I have no idea. I know people who have to deal with hemorrhoids their whole life; this is unacceptable. Life is hard enough without being afraid to crap.

The Dr. recommended that I get plenty to drink and eat a lot of fiber, and if I felt I needed a laxative, to drink prune juice. This is the only advice my Dr. gave me, other than taking sitz baths, which is impractical because of the new baby. She seems to be implying that if I treat the symptoms and prevent constipation, I should start to feel better.

As far as drinking goes, the recommend 6-8 8 oz cups to anybody; I need to make 25-35 oz milk for Andromeda, which is another 3-4 cups. 12 cups means 96 0z, or 3+ refills of the water jug they gave me in the hospital.

I have been eating more fiber, having oatmeal for breakfast instead of cold cereal, eating more beans. I should find a way to eat more vegetables; this is one of my health goals, anyway. I ate peas last night!

After doing some internet research, it seems my favorite foods all cause constipation. I could try to replace my refined grains with whole, eat sweet potatoes instead of russet, reduce my consumption of dairy and fatty meat and eat more fruits and vegetables. Adding veggies will be the easiest thing, as my family loves veggies. Replacing refined grains will the hardest, because my family loves them. Brown rice, whole grain bread and pasta don't appeal to them.

I could get my own and make it up in advance, so that I could just microwave a portion at dinnertime. Money's been a little too tight to buy two of everything just to accommodate my ass. This should improve, but in the meantime I will focus on eating the best things I can, adding veggies and drinking enough water.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Yesterday at the park

Yesterday I made it to the park with my kids. That's such a new feeling: kids. Not daughter, but daughters. It makes me a little giddy to be able to say that.

But I digress. I put Andromeda in the sling and Simone grabbed her scooter and helmet and we walked down to the park. I told Simone she could scooter ahead as long as she didn't cross the street without me. When we got there, she scooted through a puddle in the parking lot, but it wasn't terribly deep. Simone was disappointed. So we went in search of a bigger puddle, which we found at the corner of the basketball courts.

After making a few big splashes there, we decided to take on the hill in the middle of the park. On the second side, she swerved to avoid a pothole, lost control of the scooter, stepped off and ran several steps before wiping out completely. Now, the last time she'd taken a tumble from her scooter, she bounded up with a laugh and said, "That was awesome!", but this time she sat there looking pale and shaken. " Are you all right?" I asked, trying to keep matter-of-fact and not rush while I caught up with her.

"I think so," she said, her voice a little quavery.

"If you let me get to you, I'll help you up."

She checked her knee, which was scraped, and then let me help her up. "You want a drink of water?"

She nodded, and I noticed a spot on her side that was scraped up. We started to walk, and she hissed and said, "Ankle!" and then limped to the drinking fountain. She didn't ask for help, but I brought along her scooter. That drinking fountain was broken, so we sat on a bench on the basketball court for a while before moving to use the one by the bathrooms. By then her ankle was better and she wasn't limping.

There was a time when I had to work to be nonchalant about a fall. I imagined her breaking a limb, the poor thing. I imagined getting blamed for it. "Why oh why did you let her scooter down the hill, you horrible, horrible parent?!" I suppose there are some who could actually think that; it does say right on the scooter to only use it in flat areas, but where's the fun in that?

I swore I would let my kids have exciting fun in their environment, even if it was a little dangerous. It ultimately makes them safer, by teaching them to use their judgement. It also teaches them what happens when you fall, how to fall more safely, and how to get back up again. As soon as Simone could crawl I started letting her climb up and down the stairs outside our apartment. I stayed a couple steps behind her in case she fell, but I didn't help her or guide her. She never needed my help, and she never fell down the stairs. I let her climb all over the planters and benches at the mall. "Don't step on the flowers," I'd say, and I'd stay close and hold her hand if she needed it. My mom calls her a mountain goat, but I think most kids would climb and climb well if they were allowed.

She decided to put the scooter up after she fell and played in the playground until it was time to go. Then she said good-bye to the new friend she'd made on the swing set, put on her helmet and rode her scooter out of the park, building enough speed to splash through the puddle in the parking lot, sending sheets of water out behind her.

Sunday, January 16, 2011


The most important thing for me to do right now and for the next several months is feed my baby. Then all of her other needs take precedence; diaper changes, baths, etc. After that are my own physical needs. I need to eat, eliminate and bathe, sleep and exercise. After that are the physical needs of my family; they need to eat, sleep, bathe and exercise. Then are the maintenance chores; dishes, laundry, house cleaning. Then there are those other productive things I like to do that aren't necessary, like writing. After all this is done, then I can play.

If I can multitask, I will get more done. I already do a lot of things while nursing. I eat and drink, I can write, though it's slow. I haven't figured out how to sleep, though I do protect the sleep of my husband. Mostly I play. If we can learn to nurse in the sling consistently, then I can do even more that's productive because I'll be able to move around. If I can nurse hands free in the sling, I can do just about anything without having to stop. If we can learn to nurse lying down, I can sleep, while nursing, too. There are really only two necessary things that I can't do with Andromeda in the sling: shower and ride in the car.

I can't control the actions of another person. I can only ask them for help or get out of their way. If they do something that inconveniences me, I can only ask them not to do it again, not go back in time and make them take it back.

Daily note

Today was a nursing and not sleeping in her bassinet day. It was also a pooping day. We went through three outfits, because her diaper failed. I may take her into the shower later, if she has another awake but not hungry period. When the diaper fails and the poop escapes, it gets places you'd rather it didn't go. I went ahead and left her clothes off this last time; it's warm enough and she was hungry and wailing.

We were able to nurse in the sling, though. Not terribly discretely, but I was just at home, anyway. A nursing bra will help, once I find one that fits; also a nursing shirt or a low-cut shirt so that I can pull the top down instead of the bottom up.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Andromeda's Birth Story

Birth stories can be beautiful, but they can also be graphic. This one's not too bad, but parts of it would probably disturb some people.

When I discovered I was pregnant, the first thing I decided to do differently was breastfeed. I'm no hero, but I wanted to make the best attempt I could. So I did my research, and discovered that after an unmedicated birth, an infant will often find their own way to the breast and make a perfect latch. While not guaranteeing a perfect latch later, statistics showed better breastfeeding success if this happened.

So an unmedicated birth was my first goal. Again, I'm no hero, so I wanted to make the best attempt I could. The first doctor I spoke to seemed nice. I saw her for most of my pregnancy. I didn't speak to her much about the birth. She told me she was pregnant with twins due a few weeks after me; I knew she wouldn't attend my birth. I waited way too long to meet the other doctor in the practice, who I ended up liking even better; when I suggested I wanted a natural birth, she agreed that was best, and said she'd arrange for the lactation nurse to be there right away to help with breastfeeding.

My due date came and went with no contractions or dilation, and my doctor ordered a non-stress test and sonogram. This made me nervous; I didn't want to be induced, but everything was fine.

On the day of what was to be my last prenatal appt, I had a feeling. Still no contractions, but my abdomen and pelvis felt different, a little uncomfortable. It was a strange sort of soft fullness that made me want to rock my hips. I spent much of the day bent halfway, leaning on a chair, rocking my hips.

At the appointment, Doctor said my cervix was much softer and a little dilated. She asked if I wanted her to try to stretch it, and I said okay. This was very uncomfortable, though not painful. She said she stretched me to a whole cm, and sent me to another NST. Everything was still fine.

The first pain I knew was a contraction came as we were going to bed around one am. Ollin asked if I needed anything, and I said he should sleep as much as possible and I would wake him if I needed to go to the hospital. My fist labor was very long, I figured there would be time.

I didn't tell anyone else this, but I knew if my labor was fast and I got to the pushing stage before I could get to the hospital, I was going to birth at home and go to the hospital afterward. I was not going to risk birthing in the car, and I was not going to call an ambulance and have an "emergency" birth.

But it wasn't necessary. The contractions came every 10-15 minutes at first, and I'd determined that as long as I could sleep in between contractions I would. I went back and forth between the bed and the toilet all night; I slept as much as I could, and when I couldn't relax my pelvic floor lying down, I'd sit on the toilet. I would moan low down in my belly when I needed to. For those first several hours it was more like an 'ohm' than a moan.

The rest of the family got up around 6:30. The contractions were less than 5 minutes apart by then, though each was not very long, 15-30 secs. I told them all I was going to call the doctor and probably go to the hospital after we dropped Simone off at school. I made sure to eat a bowl of cereal before we left. We told Simone that we would have someone pick her up when the baby was born.

The doctor called back while we were on the road and said she'd meet us there. We got checked in without a hassle and went straight up to one of the antenatal rooms, which was quite small. I put on a hospital gown and the nurse hooked me up to the external monitor, using this stretchy band. I lay on my side because that's how I was the most comfortable.

When the doctor got there, she checked me and I was at 3.5 centimeters. She watched me breathe through a contraction and said that I should stay. The nurses checked on me frequently, and brought me water and food when I asked for it. The stretchy band for the monitors was too tight and painful during contractions. I told the nurse and she disconnected the thing so I could take it off.

When my water broke, I got up to go to the bathroom and change my gown. When I stood up, all this fluid gushed and ran down my legs. I just stared at it stupidly. One of the nurses said, "Go on in the bathroom and clean up a bit." I felt a little dumb for standing there dripping.

I tried some contractions on the toilet, but they were excruciating; probably the different height and shape of the hospital toilet. All I wanted to do was lay down again so I could concentrate on relaxing. The nurse wanted me to go back on the monitor for a while when my water broke, and I almost cried when she held up one of those stretchy bands. "Is there any other way?" I whined. "That thing hurts." She suggested we try the velcro straps, so they wouldn't be as tight, and that worked fine.

I lost track of time completely. I kept looking at the clock, and I could read it, but the numbers meant nothing to me. When a really strong contraction would hit, I'd hold up my hand and Ollin would grab it so I could squeeze. I remember that between some contractions, not all, I had this euphoric feeling. Ah, I thought to myself, these are the natural birth endorphins I've read about, and I muttered something like that to Ollin. I also remember a nurse offering me an IV and being gracious when I refused.

Doctor came back and checked me again; 8 cm. We moved to the birthing room. It was difficult to stand, so they got me in a wheelchair to move me over there. I had a crushing contraction when I stood up to get into the birthing bed, and stopped still. Everyone tried to hold me steady but I snarled, "No touching!" and they let me alone. I got into bed on my side, facing away from the door, and gripped the side rail of the bed like it was a lifeline. I didn't realize it but I had flopped diagonally on the bed with my butt near the edge, and just lay there because it hurt to move.

For the rest of labor I moved between pulling on that side rail and Ollin's hand. I remember moaning the word "open" a lot. My doctor encouraged me, said I was breathing well. The contractions came one on top of another, some with more than one peak. I lay there and chanted, "I need a break!" in between.

My moans turned to groans. Nurses started asking if I felt pressure and I couldn't really answer because I was too busy and internally focused. In retrospect yes, I was feeling pressure, but it wasn't perfectly distinct from what I'd been feeling all along. They got the doctor, who checked me and said she could feel the head moving down and it was time to push. "Do you remember how to push?" one of the nurses said. "I am pushing!" I told her, because I knew I'd been, that's what the groans were about.

They wanted me to turn on my back. I didn't want to move. Someone explained that if I pushed in the position I was in, with my butt so close to the edge of the bed, the baby would fall on the floor! I rolled on my back and asked what I could grab hold of, because yanking on the bed rail had helped me so much. Your legs, the nurse told me. She holding one leg, Ollin holding the other, I pushed. I wasn't about to hold my breath; I went ahead and vocalized, my groans as low pitched as I could remember to make them.

A big difference from my first birth,I could really feel the baby coming dow my birth canal with each push. Toward the bottom, I felt like I was going to split apart. It felt like the doctor was doing something, too, stretching me open, but I think she was just supporting my perenium to keep me from tearing. It really hurt, and I mentioned this fact several times. My doctor kept telling me I was strong, and almost there. I demanded a break. I think Ollin tried to support me on this, saying something like, "she's beeen doing this since one this morning!" The nurse said something like, then let's finish and she won't have to do it anymore.

The doctor said, one more good push and you'll be done. I decided I could do that. It took two, and the second one I sustained for an extea second. I felt her head come out and the relief was immediate. I still had to push out her body, but thst was nothing. The doc handed Ollin the scissors to cut the cord.

Andromeda took a deep breath, pinked up and just started looking around. The nurse took her over to the warmer and rubbed her til she cried; I don't think that was necessary. They put her on my belly after she cried and she calmed right down and looked up at me. "There's my baby!" I said. I pushed out the placenta and the doc looked me over and said I had a tiny tear that didn't require stitches. They asked me if I wanted to keep the placenta. I said, "No, we're done with it."

They did a heel stick to check her glucose level just because she was large and overdue; it was a tiny bit low, so they started talking about supplementation. This pissed me off; if I'd known this was an excuse for formula, I would have refused the test. Her blood sugar came back up after a few minutes at the breast. This just shows that you can't do too much research.

Andromeda was born with dark blue eyes; the iris filled her little eyeholes. Her cheeks were puffy and her mouth was tight and pursed. I remember thinking how different she looked from Simone. Then Ollin took out the picture he keeps in his wallet of Simone at a day old, and they looked exactly the same. Simone's mouth was never pursed like that, though, and her hands were always out away from her, not tight in close to her head like Andromeda's.

Throughout all of this, Ollin was keeping his mom informed of my progress and she was letting everyone else know. She picked Simone up from school a little early and brought her to the hospital to meet her new baby sister.

I have few complaints with the way I was treated. I feel I was over-monitored, but I didn't feel like moving around much anyway, and I know no one would have stopped me from unplugging the monitors so I could walk around. I feel the staff didn't take Ollin seriously and made him feel he was in the way. I feel that Andromeda should not have been taken from me, even briefly, even to the other side of the room, and she didn't need all that rubbing from strangers.

Other than those things, Andromeda's birth was a positive experience for me. I am proud I was able to do it without medication. It's incredible what a body can do when you get out of its way.