Friday, July 29, 2011

My Baby Runs on Rocket Fuel

I'm sure you've all heard the term "Now we're cooking with gas" to describe something that happens the way it's supposed to, or something that happens quickly. In terms of my baby, it's more literal than that. I seem to have given birth to a gas-powered poop machine. I know that this is in large part due to my diet, but there are some things I just can't bring myself to give up. I mean, I've given up coffee, tea, and liquor for my religion. I've given up almost all other forms of caffeine for the baby (except chocolate. I can't give up chocolate) and I only have the occasional half glass of wine with dinner or while I'm feeding the baby, to ensure my body re-absorbs the alcohol before it affects him. No really, that's how it works. Here's the chart.

So, without putting too much of a point on my weight (since you don't need a real number) I can have half a glass of wine between feedings, or during a feeding since it takes a while for my body to begin processing the alcohol, and little E does just fine. And religiously I feel OK about that. The Word of Wisdom is a doctrine that can be interpreted individually. It does not specifically prohibit alcohol, and in the gospel even Jesus drank wine, and blessed vineyards. Excess is the real enemy, and I am trying hard every day to avoid excess.

But garlic and onions and beans, I just cannot see myself giving up. I know that everything I eat, L. Itsababy eats too, and genealogically he's predisposed to being a gassy little man. But COME ON! It's GARLIC and ONIONS and BEANS! How could I possibly give those up and still be happy with my diet? I try to balance it out. I eat a LOT of fruit these days, lots and lots of apples. I drink almost nothing but water (the occasional orange soda or bottle of carbonated water) and a glass of milk every day. I don't eat food that's super spicy anymore. That's actually sad, because I have a love for Thai food that most people would consider unhealthy.  I don't eat a lot of candy or sweets... OK that might be a lie. People keep bringing me cookies! I love cookies. One of my Home Teachers brought me chocolate chip oatmeal cookies, and my husband keeps making Tollhouse cookies, and the ladies from the Relief Society who bring us dinner every other night (have I mentioned that I love my church in this entry? I love my church) have included a small pack of cookies or some dessert... OK so I'm eating a good deal of sugar. My body is craving it though.

I was shocked this morning when I did the math for how much L. Itsababy is eating now compared to how much he was eating in the hospital. At first, since the newborn's stomach is only the size of a walnut, he was only taking in 15mL or so per feeding. Now he can put down two to three ounces no problem. For reference, 15mL is half a ounce. So he's eating about 6 times as much as he used to, per feeding. And the feedings are getting closer together, too. Last night, for example, he ate at 11, again at 12, again at 1, again at 2, and again at 3. He passed out around 4 and slept til almost 9. so that's 5 feedings in about 10 hours, averaging roughly 2 ounces per feeding, puts him at 24-30 ounces of milk a day. He used to eat .5 ounces every 2-3 hours, or about 6 ounces a day. I would be shocked my body could keep up, if I hadn't read up on how to make sure it DOES keep up. Since E didn't always completely drain my reserve tanks at every feeding, I made sure to express the excess after he was PTFO. This accomplished a few things. First of all it triggered the refill mechanism in me, and second it allowed me to start a backstock of freezer milk, which is handy for things like date night and when gramma comes to babysit. And also for days like today when mommy couldn't wake herself up because she'd been awake til 4 am feeding and changing diapers, and since daddy had been snoozing through it he got to get up with baby and do a feeding because OMG TIRED.

So E is generally well hydrated, well fed, and I can't keep my hands off the foods that might give him gas. As a direct result of this we have in our hands something we call "The A$$ Cannon." The first time he went off, I thought it was one of the adults in the room. He is seriously that loud. The first time Angela heard it she commented that she was surprised his diaper hadn't been blown clear across the room. And he goes off in a series. We no longer change his diaper immediately. He should be given at least 5 minutes to get it all out of his system, else he is likely to finish on the changing table. I learned that one the hard way. It involved lots of screaming, laughing, and wipes. Hundreds of wipes.

While I'm on the subject, let me express the importance of having an unlimited supply of wipes. Preferably warm ones, if you have a boy. While all children have the capacity to spray, little boys are notorious for their distance and trajectory. And that thing will blow pretty much any time it's exposed to cold air, so having a warm wipe on hand to throw over the hose before it lets loose is a life (and laundry) saver. Wipe warmers cost about 20 bucks on average, and WOW are they worth it. Just remember to close the lid of the warmer when you're done, or else it's completely ineffectual.

So as you may have guessed, a slightly modified version of the pregnancy diet is best while breastfeeding. It ensures that baby doesn't get anything he isn't used to having, and that mommy doesn't go insane eating nothing exciting for the next year or so. Gradually introducing new foods into your system will help, and also give you a good idea of what the little one can stomach. My first "I need this now so we're going to find out if it has an effect on L. Itsababy" food was sushi. Just the cheap stuff you get at Safeway (Vons, if you live in SoCal, Kroger, Whole Foods, Trader Joes, etc...) by the deli counter at first, but gradually ramping up to an actual hand roll at an actual restaurant. I don't eat a LOT of raw fish, but I do eat a decent amount of cooked fish and chicken. Red meat upsets my stomach some, and TJs to a greater extent, so we've been phasing it out for a while. And pork is kind of an in-between. In general we eat fish and fowl for our flesh protein. om nom flesh.

I imagine I'll have to lean more towards the vegetarian side with L. Itsababy, but that's ok with me. As long as I can have a diverse field to select from, I'm happy. And with friends like Karla over at the Veggie Noms, how could I ever lack for interesting recipes? Seriously, go check her stuff out. She makes things be tasty.

Thank you, Ladies

I'd like to take a quick moment to recognize the fabulous women who worked on my team at Kaiser Santa Clara. I don't have all their pictures, but here are the ones I do have:

Dr Johnson


Amy The Fabulous Med Student. Also me, looking kinda funny.




Dr. Chang



Cassandra! Fabulous Half Fairy Wonderment!

Dr. Ross


Not Pictured: Sungmi, Young Kim, Dr. Bader, Sarah, any of my male attendants. If I missed anyone else, or if I got a name wrong, I'm sorry; I was on meds.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Coming Home Again, for the First Time.

So there are many things that happened at the hospital that I just haven't had time to cover yet, and I'm sure I eventually will have time, but that will be later. Perhaps much later. In the interests of moving along, we'll move along home. Or at least we'll try, because it took FOREVER to leave the hospital.

A good deal of that is because of just how cute L. Itsababy is. I know that sounds kind of pretentious, and a lot of you are thinking to yourselves "well every mother thinks their baby is the cutest thing ever" but seriously people, it wasn't me showing him to everyone squealing "look how cute!" or anything. In fact, for a good deal of his cute getting in the way it was people either approaching me to mention how adorable he is, or else people who were supposed to mention his adorability in passing spending forever cooing over him. Case in point: the portrait lady. I know, I know, they pay her to talk about how cute my baby is so that I'll buy the prints. But I have a modicum of circumstantial evidence! The people ahead of us, they got 15-20 minutes with her. She took the portraits, cooed the appropriate amount, and then moved on. She then spent 45 minutes with us, trying to find the exact right poses, taking a ton of pictures, and then fretting over which shots to use, since she could only give us 8 poses in our package. And just to show you I'm not being silly, here's one of them:

So don't go telling me it's in my head. This is what he looked like 48 hours old. No squishy red face, no wrinkled crybaby, no real George Burns look to him at all. Just perfect little baby boy. And his daddy's hand, because daddy is the strong. And that's a hospital sheet in the background, not some special backdrop or anything. He's just perfect like that.

We had planned to be out by 11 am, and left ourselves about 45 minutes to get our stuff together, get dressed, get L. Itsababy dressed, and sign out. However since all that time was taken by ordering baby pictures, we ran into a bit of a time crunch. Not that the hospital was being put out. Apparently the week's baby rush was now over and they even mentioned to me that I could stay til dinner if I needed to. I almost took them up on that, too, because something scary had just occurred to me. I was going home. Home to where there were no nurses to help me with remembering to take my pills on time, no one coming in with food reminding me to eat well, no lactation consultants making sure I was feeding L. Itsababy correctly... we were going to be on our own! My anxiety was starting to make a comeback.

I know I've mentioned in passing that I have an anxiety disorder, but I don't think I've really elaborated on how much this used to rule my life. Over the past 6 years or so I've managed to keep it under control with the help of my fabulous husband and a LOT of introspection. Before that it was medication. Lots of medication. Medication to help me sleep, medication to help me think, medication to relax the muscles in my body (which I still occasionally took up to finding out I was pregnant) when I couldn't do it on my own... I did that for years. I had a traumatic experience in college, which triggered a break. When I sought help I hadn't slept in about a week, and was starting to have aural hallucinations as a result. Yeah, I was messed up. As a sad result of the anxiety, I am at a much higher risk of postpartum depression. I've had a few moments since coming home when the stress was just too much and I needed a few minutes to regroup, but sitting in the hospital all I could think was "I'm going to go home, and something's going to go wrong, and it's going to be horrible."

So maybe I dragged my feet a little. Maybe when they gave me the paperwork to sign so we could leave I asked questions. Maybe when Amy came in to say goodbye I spent some extra time talking to her. Maybe when we got L. Itsababy dressed in his cute little dicky outfit I took him on a walk to find Cassandra so we could say a proper goodbye. Maybe I spent a little extra time getting my things from the pharmacy...but they had just handed me a baby. MY baby. This tiny, beautiful little life that was mine to take care of, but not really mine. Just entrusted to me for a while, to form and shape and screw up as I may. They gave me a PERSON and said "OK, here comes the hard part, and it just keeps getting harder. Good luck!"

Of course they didn't really just give him to me and tell me to suck it up. They even assigned me a social worker because of the history of anxiety, a nice man named Raj. They gave me a giant list of phone numbers in case of emergency, and reminded me that they're there to help. Or course the amount of help I'm getting from non-hospital sources is amazing as well. With Angela, my family, TJ's family, my friends, and my church, I have only had 2 real breakdowns, one a week. And considering I haven't had a period in 9 months, this could all just be hormones. I intend to treat it that way to a certain extent. Not that ignoring feelings is a good way of dealing with them, but I have so much to do right now, and so little time to do it in, that I can't afford to be freaking out every time I have a sleepless night. If I don't take a nap that's my problem to deal with, and if I overwork myself and go for too long of a walk it's not like L. Itsababy's going to stop needing me for a night. I can't just take a night off from being a mom. I'm a FOOD SOURCE for land's sake. So to a certain extent, yes, I have to suck it up. I'm trying to do that right now even, writing and not editing because I'd rather get another hour of sleep than find my run-on sentences and comma splices.

But hey, they say you can't go home again, right? Right. I left home a wife and a woman but I came back a mother, and the home I had isn't the home I have now. It's all different, and while some of it may be frustrating, and approaching too much, it's all worth it when I look at him.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Being a Strong Mother is Hard Work

Shortly after L. Itsababy was born they prepped a Mommy and Baby (forthwith M&B) room for me to occupy for the next 24 hours (which turned into 48, but more on that later) and Hilary wheeled my still-drugged-and-temporarily-paralyzed self down the hall to scope my new digs. The room was smaller than the L&D room, but had all the same furnishings, minus the emergency equipment. And the bed was MUCH more comfortable, though too small for me. One of the drawbacks of being over 6 feet tall is that things designed specifically for women do not fit. Even beds. But cramped as it was, it was a solid state bed, with no removable bottom half (which the L&D beds are all equipped with, for ease of delivery) to create the kind of cracks that those who have slept on two twin mattresses pushed together will recognize as both uncomfortable and, if not dangerous, then at least worrisome.

Not surprisingly, L. Itsababy and I slept. The lady came in with lunch, and I ate, and I tried to get L. Itsababy to eat, but it took only about ten minutes before he went back to sleep. I figured he'd had a big day, and went back to sleep myself. We slept. And slept. And slept. I occasionally got up to pee, which is no small feat when you're sewn together the way I was. They give you this peribottle to use, and tell you to not wipe, but just rinse and dab. They are not kidding, this is the only way to do it. Learn to love the peribottle. Take it home with you, you're going to need it. The bleeding takes a few weeks to stop fully. I am currently still waiting to stop bleeding. And they say I wasn't even that bad, so I can only imagine how bad it can get. Though I did apparently somehow manage to lacerate my urethra. So yeah, peeing was awesome. And by awesome I mean WHERE ARE THE PAIN PILLS?

Eventually the nurses came in and told me that I had to wake up L. Itsababy and feed him. But there was a problem. I couldn't wake him up. I mean, he'd wake up for a second, and his eyelids would flutter, and he'd go back to sleep almost instantly. The nurse, Kim, told me that I needed to wake him up and feed him, and then left. I tried everything. I tried rubbing his feet, tickling him, blowing raspberries on his stomach, I tried ICE CUBES on his feet, and on his face (My mother used to have to hold ice to my face to keep me awake while feeding me as a baby, this is NOT cruelty, I swear). Nothing. Poor kid was tuckered out like nothing I'd ever seen before. We knew he was getting SOME nutrition because every so often he'd wake up, poop, and then pass out again.

Then the nurse came in and told me that they needed him to eat, because they needed him to pee. If he didn't pee in the first 36 hours they were going to have to either start a pediatric catheter, to check his kidney and bladder function, or they were going to start supplementing him with formula. I kind of flipped out at the nurse at that one. My baby would NOT be put on formula, I told her. I was NOT going to be feeding my son some scientific concoction that "approximated" something my body could make very well on its own thankyouverymuch. I requested to see a lactation consultant, requested a new Ice Diaper, and sent the nurse away.

Let's take a quick moment to recap the benefits of breastfeeding. America is actually not considered a breastfeeding culture anymore, because the average breastfeeding woman does it for less than 9 months. The average worldwide is 3 years. Now a ton of women reading this (and probably some men) just recoiled in horror, thinking of social stigma, regressed development, feeding in public, and most importantly, TEETH. But breastmilk can also be administered by bottle,  if you're worried about pretty much any of those things. But of course that takes time, and I am usually not one for extra time taken, even if it is just for pumping and bottling. So I prefer the old fashioned way. The way our bodies are designed to do it. I mean cmon, ladies, they're not for decoration. If you're religious, then God gave them to you so you could feed your children. And if you're not religious, then you evolved specifically to have those particular glands whereas your partner (or sperm donor, or whoever) does not because you're supposed to use them to feed your children. It's fabulous that you love the way they look, but seriously, they're utilitarian devices. Also if you think they look nice now wait til you've been breastfeeding for a week. They get bigger. And fuller. And if you're not careful they turn into something you'd see in a fetish movie.

But I digress. The benefits of breastfeeding, for the baby: faster gut sealing time, more highly functioning immune system, easier to digest, lower chance of diabetes (types 1&2), lower chance of heart disease, lower chance of many types of cancers, lower chance of asthma, lower chance of obesity, lower incidence of ear infections, and even a lower chance of infant and childhood leukemia. Before your milk comes in fully, your body produces something called colostrum, which is essentially a specialty food for newborns. It's a clearish yellow color, and is basically pure nutrients and antibodies. You won't produce much at a sitting, just a few teaspoons or so, but that's fine. I started hand-expressing mine into a bottle as soon as it started coming in, and by the time L. Itsababy was born I had 15 mL stored in the freezer. Considering the average newborn's stomach is between the size of a hazelnut and a walnut, that's a LOT of food. It took him a few days to put it down, in collaboration with my rapidly changing milk.

The benefits of breastfeeding for the mother: quicker bonding with the baby, lower chance of postpartum depression, lower chance of ovarian and breast cancer, faster weight loss (your body burns a LOT of calories making milk) faster uterine contraction (yeah it's a bit crampy, but getting back to normal quickly is a good thing), lower chance of type 2 diabetes, saves money, saves time (you don't have to sterilize nipples and bottles all the time), breastfeeding releases oxytocin into the bloodstream, so it actually feels pretty good, more sleep (no bottles to mix and warm at 2am, just scoop the kid, feed the kid, put the kid back to bed) and less time lost at work since your baby will get sick less often.

Also to be taken into consideration is the affect breastfeeding has on society. I'm not going to get all super-preachy (well, no more than usual) nor am I going to turn into a propaganda film, but it is important to note that since breastfeeding decreases the risk of so many illnesses that there is in fact an impact on society, in the amount of medical care and provision a mother and baby will need, if nothing else.Of course there ARE other things (environmental impact, workforce impact, etc) but the one you're probably not going to think of is the medical provision, so there you go.

Unfortunately, once a baby is given formula from a bottle it can be very hard to get the child back to breastfeeding, since bottle feeding can be so much easier for the baby (it's hard work to use those jaw muscles for the first time!) and can take so much less time (though that also makes babies gassy, and then they spit up when they overflow) so it's important to be consistent.

Now that we've covered why I will be attempting to exclusively breastfeed, let's cover something else I said really quickly. Ice diaper. OMG ice diaper. My cousin K, who last year also had a beautiful little boy, told me about these fabulous inventions. They involve taking a newborn diaper, ripping it open, stuffing crushed ice between the desiccant and the fluff, and then stuffing them in your hospital-approved undies. It doesn't sound pleasant, but when you're swollen, bleeding, stitched together, and sitting on two maxi pads and a folded up chuck anyway, (those blue thingies, remember?) it's pretty appealing. The numbing sensation is fabulous, and since the diaper is designed to absorb, you don't have any uncomfortable wetness other than what your body is producing on its own. Cassandra, the nurse I dubbed "some sort of magical Sookie Stackhouse half-fairy" makes the best ice diapers at Kaiser Santa Clara, from my experience. She never over-fills them, never forgets to crush the ice, and always keeps the diaper tabs tucked away so they don't scratch.

When Kim came back with my ice diaper she reminded me that if they hadn't seen a wet diaper within 36 hours of birth, they'd be calling a doctor. I reminded her that I did not want my baby on formula. I then grumbled at length to myself and my mother-in-law, who was visiting, about how I knew the baby was eating, I knew I was producing enough food, and that if it came to 36 hours without him producing a wet diaper I would prefer them to catheterize, thank you, since eating wasn't the problem and I'd like to know what the problem really WAS.

But wait, you may exclaim, how DID you know your baby was eating enough? If he was still producing meconium, and he wasn't peeing, how could you know? Easy. I took choir. Therefore I know how to count beats. L. Itsababy at that point was sucking about 5 times before swallowing, which was audible, then resting for five to ten seconds, then repeating. He'd fall asleep after about 5-10 minutes of that. I'd be sure to try to wake him up every hour to feed him a little more, letting him pass out when he was tired. At that point (almost 24 hours in) he would wake up when his feet and arms were rubbed, or when he had a thermometer placed in his armpit, which happened just about every 7-8 hours, in keeping with hospital protocol. He also would get fed after he came back from any of his myriad tests, or whenever the pediatrician would come visit, or when the nurse would come to see if he'd peed yet. Which he had not.

We were just rolling into 30 hours when the lactation consultant showed up. Janice, a lovely woman who referred to L. Itsababy as "Mr. Baby" and continued to lead him through extensive "waking up exercises" during our session. When even she could not convince him to stay awake she taught me how to cup-feed, which involved hand expressing into a small medicine cup (she commented on how I didn't seem to have any supply issues) and then letting L. Itsababy half-drink half-lap the milk to make sure he was getting enough. I was right, he was. Just two hours or so after my meeting with Janice, L. Itsababy gave us the wet diaper we had been waiting for. He actually completely soaked it. It was like someone had taken a Super Soaker to that thing. However, I was slightly frightened to see that there was some blood in his urine, and called the nurse immediately to tell her. Turns out that blood in the urine is completely normal for the first wet diaper. Babies had a tendency to swallow some of their mother's blood during delivery, since they're all covered in it and stuff, and they don't process it so well.

After being reassured, we both fell asleep. Again.

And now it's time to feed the little piglet himself, so the rest of this story shall have to wait a little longer.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Labor and Delivery, Part 2

Picking up where we left off, I had wimped out and decided that the pros of an epidural far outweighed the cons. And those are some serious possible side effects. To recap quickly, those would include paralysis and death. The chances, however, of dying or becoming a paraplegic under the hand of a skilled anesthesiologist are pretty remote. It does happen, but not very often.

So it was about 3:30am (according to my mother's text updates to my brother) when I requested the epi. I assume it took about 5 minutes for the anesthesiologist to come in. We all remember Liz the anesthesiologist, right? The lovely lady who finally got my IV in? I was in luck, and she was still int he hospital. So when she came in I got to say "Hi Liz! You're going to make the pain stop, right?" and she got to reply "Hi Alix, yes I'm going to try" and then we got down to business. If i had not gone through the IV problem earlier, I would have had to do some paperwork and listened to the side effects and indications and confirmation questions at THIS point, when I was in pain and tired and shaking every time I had a contraction. Instead Liz just got out the needles and told me to sit on the edge of the bed.

The best part about the epidural is that the person it's being done to doesn't have to see any of the instruments. My mother, TJ, and Angela were not as lucky as I. Angela, a former fire fighter who has seen some pretty gruesome things in her life, later told me she had to sit down to keep from vomiting. My mother, a nurse, got eyes as big as saucers looking at some of the hooks and needles. My husband TJ was standing right in front of me and trying to keep me distracted, and he still says that watching me get the epi was the hardest part of the labor and delivery, including the parts with waves of blood.

The worst part about the epidural (excluding the anxiety of "OMG is this going to leave me paralyzed") is the Lidocaine. Remember how much I hate Lidocaine? Evil nasty painful burning stuff? Getting it injected into your back is not better than getting it injected into your hand. Liz however is a consummate professional. She talked me through every movement of her hand, from "I'm going to be putting some betadyne on your back to clean off the work area, and draping it now" to "I understand why you jumped there, and it's ok, I figured you'd probably pull away because most people do but you're going to have to do this again and then it'll be over" before I went almost completely numb. I say almost because you can still feel pressure. The threading felt to me like someone slowly running a finger down my back, but like they had somehow bypassed my skin and fascia. The only exception was what they called getting a "zing" in my back. It felt like a short electrical impulse, and was only on one side of my back. Of course I freaked out a little, but Liz assured me that it was completely normal, and what she was doing to fix it, and how it was going to effect the rest of my epi. Apparently she needed to withdraw a little and go around a nerve cluster, and the side of my back with the zing would be affected slightly differently than the other.

When the thread got seated I was instructed to run through some basic movements to make sure there was no damage, and then it was taped in place. By like half a roll of tape. Easily half a roll. I have a mild allergic reaction to some kinds of medical tape, so I had checked ahead of time what kind of tape they were using, and BOY was I glad. Usually I can stand the "wrong" type of tape when it's on something small, like holding a cotton ball over an injection site, but this amount of tape would have had me breaking out in hives you could have seen from space. Then she attached the threading to a dispenser, which she taped up over my shoulder, and helped me lie back in bed.

Then my body disappeared from the bottom of my rib cage to the tops of my ankles. I was expecting to not be able to feel them, but what I was not expecting was being unable to move them. I instantly freaked out again. I was sure I had just fallen into that .01% again. I say again because I've had mono 3 times and L. Itsababy was conceived while we were using condoms. I'm used to being a slight medical anomaly. But no, I was not paralyzed. When I calmed down I realized I could in fact feel pressure on my legs when people touched me, and that the nurses were not freaking out with me. In fact they were taking this time to prep a catheter for me. Suddenly the need to catheterize epi patients made a TON more sense. If my legs don't work of COURSE I have to be cath'd. The weird part was still being able to move my feet. It was like they were somehow floating below me, still attached but by some invisible thread only. Like when you light up last year's string of Christmas lights and there's a giant chunk in the middle that no longer lights up, but still relays electricity to the last few lights on the strand.

It was 4:30 am, I was 4 centimeters dilated, and I was more comfortable than I had been in months. I fell sleep and let my body do what it was going to do.

And apparently what it was going to do was progress VERY quickly. I woke up a few times when the nurses came in to check me, including once to say good morning to Hilary, my nurse from the observation room, whose voice I recognized without my glasses on (I have a negative 7 sphere AND am astigmatic, this is an accomplishment) but would promptly fall back to sleep. Around 9:30 I was inspected and told that I was at 9 1/2 or 10 centimeters, and they were calling the doctor in because it was time to push. I had progressed over a centimeter an hour for five hours. That is extremely rapid, especially for a first birth and an induction.

When Dr. Bader came in and introduced herself I was starting to feel pressure from L. Itsababy having fully dropped. There is no kind way to say this. It feels like you have to take a ten pound poop. The muscles you use to push out a baby are essentially the same muscles you use to have a bowel movement, which is why this skit involves the phrase "shameless bowel movement." Because a lot of women poop on the table. One more reason I was suddenly glad they had taken me off solid food.

Now there's one more thing I need to tell you before we get into the actual delivery. I did not go to any birthing classes. I went to newborn care classes, breastfeeding classes, infant first aid and infant activity classes, but when the time came for me to sign up for an actual birthing class, they were all full. Apparently the San Francisco Bay Area is experiencing a baby boom (remember the poor lady delivering in her observation room?) which is being partially blamed on the Giants making (and then winning, YAY! ) the World Series last year. But this means that I was essentially unprepared. I mean, I had read books, I had done my specialized exercises, I had researched what I was supposed to do, but no one had SHOWN me. I never really feel prepared until someone has seen me practice and told me I'm not wrong. So I was scared.

I didn't need to be. The best advice I got through my entire pregnancy came from my mother, and it applied to this situation more than any other: "Your body knows what to do, just get out of its way if you can't help." We told Hilary that I hadn't gone to any classes and she assured us that the nurses on staff all knew how to help me get this going right, and comfortably, and would be glad to help. It was 10:00 and they told me to push.

And wow did I push. Throughout my pregnancy I had been doing a particular type of isometric crunch in order to prepare these muscles. Essentially you take a normal crunch, get to the apex, and hold it for 30 seconds while you do proper kegel exercises. Now I know a proper kegel exercise involves not having your abdomen tense, but the important part here is to separate the abdominal muscles from the kegel, and to keep your rectum as relaxed as possible. The expectation is to be able to hold the crunch for up to a minute, while doing 30 kegels in that time. It takes a loooooong time to work up to this, so don't feel bad if you can't do it right off the bat. If you can hold a full crunch, with no pulsing, for 5 seconds at the beginning, you're doing better than average.

The reason these exercises worked was starting to make itself VERY clear. When you push, they have you curl around the baby, and bear down like you're trying to push out a huge bowel movement. You push with every muscle you can possibly push with, and you want to be able to be relaxed where you need to be (in the rectum) while you do it. This prevents a ton of tearing. Since they rarely do episiotomies anymore it's important to know that you probably WILL tear. With perineal massage or dilation it will not be as bad as it would have been without, and if there's a chance of third degree laceration they might still cut, but in general the faster the baby descends (like, say, from -3 to +3 in 5 hours... yay me) the more tearing should be expected. Also speed of delivery plays a large part in tearing, and since my delivery was particularly quick, I was extremely glad for the exercises that had taught me to keep control of the muscles I was using (and the few I was pointedly NOT using)

The first few pushes Hilary and Dr. Bader had me do in a style you see frequently in movies. They had my legs up, and I was to hold onto the back of my knees and use my arms to pull myself down while pushing as hard as I could. This worked pretty well, and we stayed like that for maybe 10 minutes. Then Hilary pulled out the stirrups and handlebars. No joke. Since I had 3 people on my support team this was optimal for me. My mother braced one leg, Angie braced the other, and TJ curled his big manly arms around my back and helped me push from behind. Which I had specifically requested since I was not for one instant letting a man with that much desire to photograph or video my delivery near an angle that would make that possible. I'm an open and progressive woman, but no one wants to see that. And i don't really want them to see it if they do. There are plenty of gross pictures out there, and he ended up taking one gross one anyway, so bah.

From that point the hard aprt was keeping L. Itsababy descended during the period of time when I was not pushing. They do pushes in sets of threes, with breaths in between. Each push takes 10 seconds, then deep breath and push again. Did the timing for the isometrics just click in your head? If you can relax your back and take a deep breath WHILE KEEPING YOUR ABS TENSE in between pushes, you can keep the baby from sucking back up into your body (a weird feeling, btw) and losing you your progress. My best advice during this part is to not laugh. My mother made me laugh and I lost my push big time. The pushes are in concert with contractions, so they're a minute or so apart, unless your doctor tells you to skip one and rest. Which is neither lovely nor painful, it is simply a period of time when your body is screaming "PUSH!" and your mind is screaming "NOOOOOOOOOOO" and then it's over and you can breathe until the next push.

I was pushing for 45 minutes. L. Itsababy was helping considerably. At one point I was holding my push, they told me to breathe, and the little sucker found foot purchase on my ribs and decided mommy couldn't do it on her own and he needed to intercede. When I finally DID get the head out the next thing out was his arm, followed by a little wave of blood as he LITERALLY HELPED PULL HIMSELF OUT. Talk about a weird feeling. Not painful (thank you epidural) but definitely odd. And then they put him on my chest and my whole world imploded into that tiny little face. If you've never believed in love at first sight, this experience will make you believe. Logically I know he was kind of grey and covered in blood and mucus and vernix, and that he pooped on me two or three times before they took him off of my chest to weigh him (8 pounds 11 ounces! POST POOP!), but logic has nothing to do with the way I felt in that moment. He was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen, he was my sun and my moon and my stars, and he always will be.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Labor is an interesting thing... part 1.

So, picking up where we left off, I was just moved to the L&D room, and hadn't eaten anything in a few hours.

My new nurse Aimee started my pitocin drip immediately. Since I had chosen the saline lock IV and the doctors knew it was going to take longer than two hours to get me a baby, she started the pitocin, the penicillin, and the D5 solution (D for dextrose, 5 for 5%) at the same time. The pitocin needs to be increased slowly, since every uterus is different. They don't want you suddenly cramping so badly that you hurt yourself, or the baby. They start at 2 milli-units per minute and increase by 2 every half hour or so. I was also re-hooked to the fetal and uterine monitors, and continued to watch L. Itsababy bounce around like a jumping bean. At this point I had been in latent labor for 26 hours, and was very happy I had decided to go with the pitocin. Of course it's a personal decision, but I was looking forward to a relatively speedy labor after that. I also knew that for most women, postpartum, they hook you up to pitocin anyway, to help contract the uterus back to its original size. If a C-section is needed, the hospital will almost assuredly hook up the pitocin, since the body cannot really process what just happened, and otherwise would wait until the first menstrual period to start contracting. Or so I've been told by several women who were relating their C-section experiences.

Since it was about 10 o'clock at night, my support system (my mother, my husband, and Angela) camped out in the L&D room. They had one chair that folded out to a twin cot, which TJ took; Angela set up a sleeping bag on the floor; mom took the rocking chair, swearing she was going to stay awake as long as it took. She actually did, too, only taking a short nap while everyone was asleep. There was another shift change at 11, and I met the nurse who would be taking care of me for the majority of my active labor, Sungmi. She was lovely, and was very good at explaining what I could expect to happen while attached to pitocin. Which is good, because I went through most of the "possible side effects of labor" that she had described in a relatively short period of time.

It took about two hours for the pitocin to start kicking my butt, but when it did WOW did it pack a punch. I was suddenly very glad I had been told to stop eating solid food, since I am apparently that woman who vomits during labor. Because if having all your abdomen muscles contracting for the baby weren't enough, vomiting and having the rest of your body start to contract too will put you right over the edge into the aerobic exercise arena. I was sweating, and it had nothing to do with heat. Sungmi had previously offered an anti-emetic (to prevent vomiting) when I had started to feel nauseous, but I had tried to tough it out since my birth plan specifically said I was going to try to do this with as little chemical help as possible. It occurs to me now how silly that must have looked: "yes, hook me up to the induction chemicals and the antibiotics but I'd prefer no pain meds, please." I am truly special some times. So when I started vomiting, I requested the anti-emetic, and boy was I glad. Shortly after that was when my next labor curveball showed up. I apparently am a labor-shaker.

Some women (like me) experience something similar to shivering when in labor. The labor shakes are extremely annoying, but more than that they really put a damper on the types of natural pain management that most people suggest. Walking helps greatly with labor pain, but if your knees won't stop knocking, getting out of bed and walking the ward isn't much of an option. Shoot, getting out of bed and using the bathroom wasn't much of an option. I actually almost fell twice, and had to wait through two full contractions the one time I did try to bravely make my way to the toilet. I say "the once" because when you chicken out and go for the epidural, they catheterize you. Yeah, the "I'm going to do this with alternative pain management" chick ended up with the thread in her back.

This brings up a good point though. Flexibility in the birth plan is EXTREMELY important. The doctors really ARE trying to help, and if they suggest something, there's probably a good reason for it. Try to get as much information ahead of time, before the pain and the delirium set in. When you are 6 centimeters dilated and everything hurts and you haven't slept in way too long, the last thing you want to do is focus on the list of side effects of different medications and try to make an educated decision. Get all that out of the way ahead of time, so if you have a preference you can voice it. I had spent some time researching, and deciding when was going to be "enough pain" for me. It turned out that at about 2am, lying on my side crying, with my mother guiding me through breathing exercises was when I whispered "I can't do this anymore" and they came with that sweet, sweet needle of Fentanyl. What I had not been expecting, however, was that my body processes Fentanyl quicker than the average person, and what should have lasted an hour only lasted about 35 minutes. Before I could have another dose, I was back in the same pain. Before that could happen, though, my water broke. For real this time.

I felt particularly silly after that. They all told me "you'll know if it happens" and "there's really no mistaking it" but I still had told the admissions nurse "I think my water broke" and "I think I may have partially ruptured." Yeah, no. There really IS no mistaking it. I felt a pop just above my cervix, and suddenly I was leaking. My husband, God bless his soul, was so interested that he actually reached down and touched it. He has one of those "oooh, what's THAT about?" kind of minds. His term for what it felt like is "thick water." For me it was kind of goopy feeling. Like a mildly viscous solution. And it didn't stop. It takes about 3 hours for the amniotic sac to replenish itself, and the seeping just kept going on and on and on. They put me on my side, with a pillow between my legs, covering the pillow in one of those lovely blue absorbent cotton-and-plastic "chucks" that I was falling so much more in love with by the moment. There really is no mistaking that feeling. If you ever think to yourself "I think my water might have just broken" the answer is no, it didn't. Because when your water breaks, there is no "I think it might have" about it, there is simply the statement "my water just broke."

After that, and then the slow return to pain from the Fentanyl wearing off, I decided that enough was enough. My mother had helped with my breathing as much as possible, the drugs had allowed me a moment of respite to calm down and rationally think this through, and I was dreading what I knew was coming. I called for the epidural.

Monday, July 18, 2011

12 hours of observation - A Love Story

So. When last we saw our heroine (me) she had been left hanging on the phone call that could change her life in a flash, the induction call.

Cut to early morning, grey light just beginning to filter through the blinds. A young (I can dream) blonde woman lying in bed, on her side, asleep. Suddenly, her eyes fly open, and a hand fumbles under the sheet, coming back wet. A look of mixed confusion and horror comes over her face.

Yup. I totally thought my water had broken. Apparently this is because I am a very silly woman. I was wrong. However, I called the Labor and Delivery (L&D forthwith) department and dutifully told them that I was leaking fluid, how much it was, how far apart my contractions were, how painful they were (more painful than a stubbed toe, less painful than a broken bone. I was helpful) and how long they were lasting. After a long pause, I was told to come in for observation. I promptly woke up TJ, who I had courteously decided to let sleep until I knew what was going on, and told him to take a shower because (in Angie's words) it was FREAKING GO TIME.

A flurry of activity followed this call, as I'm sure you can guess. However you might not realize how much of that was trying to gauge how long we'd be there, and the appropriate amount of food to bring. Apparently I take after my father, who when it was suggested he make his own food for the labor of his firstborn went into a cooking frenzy for multiple days. In his case it turned out to be a good thing, as my mother was in active labor with my older brother for 72 hours before she had a C-Section. Even after that, she was afraid people would think she was a wimp for taking the easy way out. After 3 DAYS.Yes, that is the kind of strong woman who raised me. I, however, was not in labor for 3 days. I was not even in active labor for 1 day. However I was not thinking very clearly, and essentially my process went "hospital food is nasty. We have good food. Let's take good food and not eat the nasty." My thought process forgot to consider the possibility of not having a refrigerator available. So into the cooler went fruit, and cheese, and some delicious kielbasa I bought at the farmer's market from a man who seemed a bit too gruff until I realized he was cranky and Polish, two things I identify with greatly. In went juice, and crackers, and oh so many delicious things to snack on. And then we were ready. Except TJ was still in the shower. So we loaded up Angie's car and waited for him to emerge, pink and clean. When he did he let us know he was planning on taking his own car, and would meet us there.

All our test runs to the hospital had taken about 15 minutes. This one took 6. Somehow I walked myself up to the L&D without the use of a wheelchair, carrying my purse and medical folders while Angie carried the cooler, my overnight bag, and her laptop. Angie is Much Woman, Small Package. The check-in process took less time than we had thought it would, since we had done all the pre-admission forms weeks before, and had called to announce our impending presence. We were escorted to an observation room after only a short period of nervous banter and stress-jokes. I specialize in stress jokes. I am hilarious when I am scared.

The observation room is a small, windowless cubicle in a short hallway. It contains a steel slab bed with a foam pad on it, a chair, a stool, and a few random computerized things. One is actually a computer. Another is the monitor. No not the computer monitor. The monitor they hook to the outside of your belly to measure the interval and duration of your contractions, the baby's heartrate, and the fetal movements. It became very apparent very quickly that L. Itsababy was awake, moving, and that my contractions were indeed 5 minutes apart and about  a minute long. We finished my admitting paperwork and I started waiting for a real room.

And I kept waiting. And waiting. And waiting. My nurse, Hilary, who had introduced herself immediately after I was admitted came in and told me that an OB would be with me shortly to check my amniotic sac, but since I hadn't yet overflowed the maternity pad and chucks (blue absorbent pads covered in cotton and lined in plastic) they had under me in the four or five hours I'd already been waiting, they were pretty confident that I had been mistaken. When Dr. Holland came in and checked me 10 minutes later, it was confirmed that I was, in fact, not in active labor. I was in what is known as "latent labor," a kind of warm-up period. Think of it as stretching before a marathon. They decided that this would therefore be the ideal time to set up my IV saline lock.

I am what is known as GBS Positive. i have a form of Strep, Strep group B, which can be transferred at delivery if there is no antibiotic given to the mother. So they had to have me on Penicillin, one bag every four hours, between the time the induction started and the time I delivered the baby. Since I was also considering IV pain meds, and would be on the IV Pitocin, I opted for the saline lock. While part of me is glad I did, part of me wishes I could have done this med-free, if only to avoid the hassle that ensued from that lock.

I apparently have troublesome veins. By this time Hilary had gone off shift, and had been replaced by Kelly, another lovely young lady. Actually one of so many lovely women who took care of me that I started taking pictures of them, knowing no one would believe that so many gorgeous women work in L&D without physical proof. As such I have pictures to present later of almost every woman who worked on "my team." I'm just missing a Dr. Bader, a Young Kim, and a Sungmi before I have collected them all! I think. I don't really know. The drugs were good. Anyway, my veins: they call me a "hard stick," which I of course mentally retort with "that's what she said" and then giggle to myself. Kelly tried both the vein in my right wrist and the back of my right hand. The same thing happened both times, which is to say that the IV went in, but when she tried to retract, the vein blew. Then she called in reinforcements. After four nurses checking for places to stick me (again, mentally giggling) and a few more blown veins, they called in the BIG GUNS. Liz from Anesthesiology finally got the vein in the back of my left hand to function, after a shot of lidocaine and four pitchers of water. I hate lidocaine, btw. Nasty evil burning painful stuff. I like what it DOES, of course (numbs like whoa) but the actual injection is not very fun. Liz then decided since she was already there, and I had put in my birth plan that I was considering an epidural, that she would do my epidural paperwork then, and get it out of the way.

Liz then sprung on me something I was not quite prepared for. Since my epi paperwork was finished, I was now NPO solid. That is to say, I was no longer able to eat solid food until after the epidural wore off. At this point I had been in the observation room for almost 8 hours, and had eaten almost nothing. A cafeteria turkey sandwich had graced my stomach perhaps five hours prior. Remember that giant cooler I packed? Apparently when I'm that nervous I have very little interest in eating anything that cooler contained. Cheese? No thanks. Sausage? What was I thinking? Fruit? Who has time to eat fresh fruit? It's all messy and then you have to find a place for pits/seeds/cores. But mention just once to a pregnant lady that she can no longer eat, and suddenly she's ravenous. Too bad for me. Less bad for my mother, brother, Angie and TJ, who were by this point taking turns staying with me in the ONE VISITOR ONLY observation room.

Another shift change came and went, along with a visit from my Medical Student, the lovely Amy Wasterlain. Let me tell you right now, this girl is going to make one HELL of a doctor. She's absolutely fabulous. Communicative, easily understandable, knowledgeable, gracious bedside manner, personable, and quite obviously sharper than the average tack. Amy told me that while Kelly was going to be staying with me as my nurse, she herself was going home, but that she'd see me tomorrow and probably the day after. Another few hours came and went, along with an unexpected surprise in the observation room next to mine. Apparently, since there was such a shortage of beds, the woman who had been admitted to the room next to mine had actually GONE INTO LABOR AND DELIVERED A BABY without getting to leave her observation room. I suddenly was very happy I was not in active labor. Those steel beds are hard enough to deal with, without having to be in a situp labor position on them. And then Kelly came back in with fabulous news. Several women had recently delivered, and they were being moved to the Mommy and Baby (forthwith M&B) ward. I was going to my own L&D suite, and I was going to start my induction. I hugged her. Really, I did.

I had been there for 12 hours, and it was just starting.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

How to break up a catfight

still tired, so I'm just posting this until I can get my outlines together for the labor and delivery revue.

How to Break Up a Cat Fight

You will need:
2 cats of similar size and weight who either do not know or do not like each other
1 small room, preferably with tile flooring for easy cleanup
1 broom
1 bowl of wet food
1 chair, or footrest, to protect your ankles.
1 spray bottle of water (to taste)

Combine cats and bowl of wet food in small room. Allow to marinate for ten minutes, or until cats have begun to rise and proof, before entering. Hold broom with both hands, and when it becomes necessary, strike straight down next to the bowl. If or when this is not effective, use broom in a stiff stirring motion, separating cats as one would eggs. Add water from spray bottle to taste, protecting your ankles by lifting your feet (and rest of body, if preferred) to the top of the chair or footrest.

Approximate prep time: 10 minutes
Approximate brewing time: 20 minutes
Cleanup: 5-25 minutes depending on hose availability.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Quick Catchup


They actually let me take him home from the hospital today! They gave me a baby! ME! I have one! And he's perfect!

Can you tell I'm excited?

There will be long posts covering many aspects of this later, but today I am very tired (imagine that) and need some time to recoup and process and adjust, so here's the baby rundown:

Elliot was born at 10:44 am on July 13th. I was in active labor for 11 hours, and was pushing for only the last 50 minutes or so. Somewhere there is a woman reading this who now hates me. I understand this is a very short laboring period and that the amount of push time is almost negligible. There are medical reasons for this, and I will cover them in their own post. I will even tell you women who haven't had babies yet how to start prepping your bodies NOW to have a shorter labor later. There's nothing we can do about your hips, but we can improve your pushing ability. It just takes time.

He was 8 pounds, 11 ounces approximately, and 22 inches long.

And now I need to go feed him. More later!

Monday, July 11, 2011

How Kaiser made me a liar: my (maybe) real last day pregnant

So... The Plan, as we left it, was to wake up at 6:30, make coffee, get up again at 7, take a shower, try to get into the hospital around 7:30 or 8, and get this ball rolling.

What REALLY happened was:

Wake up to use the bathroom at 5. Unable to sleep, stay awake til 6:30. Ask TJ to make coffee since I am le tired and would LOVE that extra 30 minutes. Still can't sleep. Get out of bed at 7, take a shower. Call hospital to check bed availability. Am told they are full, but I should call back around 9.

TJ needs to go to work for a few hours to finish some time sensitive things, so I call my mom and ask her to come down, to make sure she's with me when I get admitted to the hospital, because I am a super mommy's girl and a wimp. She obliges.

Due to traffic mom arrives shortly after 9. I have just called the hospital and have been told to call back again around 1 because they still don't have a room for me. Mom and Angie and I chill int he living room for a bit, chatting. Around 11 we decide food is a fabulous idea and run to Safeway (a local grocery with a fabulous deli counter) for sandwiches. By the time we return TJ is back from his time sensitive stuff. My mother has also at this point called my brother to tell him what's going on, and ask if he'd like to come down. He starts down.

He gets here just after 1, when I have called the hospital and been asked to call back, around 2:30, because that's when they do the patient transfers from Labor and Delivery to Mom and Baby (from the sweating rooms to the sleeping rooms).

I call back around 2:30, only to be put immediately on hold with no operator answering after 15 rings. I call back and the line is busy. I call again in three minutes, still busy. Rinse repeat until almost 3, when I reach someone and am told to call back again between 5 and 6.

I'm feeling anxious now and need something to take my mind off the day. Luckily (?) someone (OK it was probably me) has locked Chimi in the bathroom so he can eat, and has also forgotten to let him out. If you're familiar with diabetic people you probably realize Chimi needs to pee pretty soon after he eats. There is no litterbox int he room that holds him captive. I am stupid, but am also now distracted by the need to do some laundry, including the bathroom rug. I also put on a movie (The Secret of Nimh, a favorite from childhood) and try to forget that I've been awake for almost 12 hours now on about 4 hours of sleep. My mother suggests we take some time outside to get some air, so we go sit by the pool in the chaise lounge thingies they have, until just after 5.

At which point I call again, and am told that 1) there are a lot of women who just aren't delivering, and they've been there all day and 2) I am the second name on the list of people waiting to be induced.It is suggested that I call back around 8. We go back into the apartment to find that while my darling husband has assembled the crib tent, it does not fit our crib.

As you can imagine, at this point I am tired, uncomfortable, irritated, starting to get REALLY anxious, and am approaching hunger again. We (all 5 of us) decide to go get a light dinner, since I really shouldn't eat too much if I'm going to be induced, and seriously, how much longer could this take? We go grab some Japanese food (as much as I want sushi I have teriyaki chicken and gyoza with 4 pieces of fake California roll like a good pregnant woman) and return home in slightly better (and more sugared) spirits. It is now 7pm, so mom and I decide to kill time the way we used to when I was growing up: crosswords. My Nook is fully charged and loaded with hundreds of them, so we fire it up and knock one out. This takes about an hour, because we have a few giggle fits trying to name all The Waltons. Which brings us to 8 o'clock

 So I call the hospital again. And am informed that there has been one delivery in the past hour, that they are cleaning that room and transferring the patient to Mom and Baby, and that the lady who is number 1 on the list (remember, I am number 2--and feeling like it) will get that room, and if there are any more openings I will be called in. They do not suggest that I call back, instead opting for the "We can call you at any time, right? Like even at 3am?" approach. I get the feeling they are tired of me calling and suggesting that some women in there need to have C-sections, that I have to be on IV antibiotics for a while and am happy to do that in the waiting room, that I will bring them all free Slurpees or coffee or whatever their hearts desire if they can just GET THE BABY OUT OF ME.

Which brings us mostly to now, with the exception of my mom and brother dancing around the middle-of-the-week business rush to get a hotel in the area so they don't have to drive the hour back to where they live only to turn around after almost no sleep and drive back. Which actually turned convoluted and involved more than the average amount of effort.

ie. Still no baby. This is worse than trying to schedule cable installation.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Wrapping up the wive's tales, and my last day pregnant.

Well, tomorrow is the induction. I'm going to wake up at 6:30, put on the coffee pot (for Angie and TJ) and then go back to sleep for 30 minutes. Then I'm going to get up, take a shower, and call the hospital to check bed availability. If they have beds available I get to leave right then and go straight to the labor part.

For the record, I've tried all the old wive's tales now, painful or not. There was definite progress on that last one, but apparently not enough to convince Mr. L. Itsababy to leave the warmth and comfort of my womb. I tried one more today, though it's more urban legend right now. There's this pizza, at Skippolini's in Walnut Creek, called "The Preggo Pizza" which is supposed to induce labor. No, really. Here's the link. It's got just about everything you can think of on it. Salami, Pepperoni, Ham, Mushrooms, Olives, Bell Peppers, Extra Onions, Sausage, Ground Beef, Linguisa, Extra Garlic, Parmesan and Oregano. OK, so there are a few things I can think of that aren't on it. Artichoke hearts for one. However I don't really like artichoke hearts, so that's ok with me. Unless they're like, marinated in garlic and olive oil and oregano for days before you use them for anything. Mmmmmmm... that makes pretty much anything good though. 

The pizza is tasty, though. My brother, mother, and mother's best friend brought it to me, as we were celebrating my last day of pregnancy today. We went to the farmer's market and bought supplies for the labor and delivery room (cheese, crackers, fruit, kielbasa, chocolate) and the coming few weeks, and then went out to get some delicious Chinese food from what I fondly refer to as The Only Chinese Restaurant In The County, or Chef Chu's. Essentially, I got to eat all my favorite things today, see the people I love, and celebrate the life I've lived so far and the wonderful way it's about to change. There was also cheesecake, though that was received yesterday. And also partially eaten yesterday. But come ON, it's CHEESECAKE! And it was vanilla bean cheesecake with lemon curd on top, to boot. Soooooo tasty.

So the refrigerator is currently full of amazing leftover food, the cabinets are well-stocked with things that are both tasty and easily prepared, the crib and bassinet are quietly awaiting occupants. My backpack has clothes, a towel, a book of DVDs, my DS, and other essentials to keeping me occupied and happy. My cell phone and my Nook are fully charged, and I am remembering my spare charger cord.I still feel like I've forgotten something, but other than the "How to Not Raise a Psychopath" handbook, I can't think of what it could be. I know that technically we have everything we need. Babies don't need much, people keep telling me. Babies need love, and food. I can supply both of those, from just my body and heart.

It's nice to have all these wonderful optional things though: breast pumps and terry cloth changing table covers and stuffed animals and baby chew toys... and the support of my family and friends has been overwhelming. So many handmade blankets, lovingly preserved hand-me-down clothes, favorite books, treasured stuffed animals... I am truly blessed. And then of course there's my church. As much as my husband doesn't understand my religion, he does understand the support they're giving me. Just yesterday one of my Visiting Teachers came by with a loaf of home-made bread and a tupperware container of what she referred to as "freezer jam" which means she was actually APOLOGIZING for bringing last season's fruit instead of this season's. The Relief Society has planned the meals for my entire household (yes, for Angela as well) for the third and fourth weeks after L. Itsababy's birth, because that's what the Compassionate Care sisterhood does... it's just the way we roll. 

I'm so overcome by love today, it's the most amazing feeling. If it wasn't for the fact that tomorrow ends with a baby in my arms, I'd almost want it to never stop.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

My last prenatal visit, and cat worries assuaged

Still no baby.


I have now had what is 100% guaranteed to be my last scheduled prenatal visit. For this pregnancy, at least. With the induction scheduled for Monday, there's no wiggle room on this one. They did the no-stress test (apparently named such because they are checking to make sure the baby is under no stress) and my cervical (3cm, 40% effaced) and finally gave me some kind of weight estimate (8 pounds, give or take a pound. So not helpful) though I have to say, it seemed like my OB was not used to making these particular measurements and estimates, so I have no idea how accurate she might have been.

They did the no-stress test first. This involved hooking me up to a fetal monitor and a uterine monitor. The particular fetal monitor they used records movement in the womb, not fetal heartbeat. The uterine monitor they used records muscular contraction. So on one side of what looked suspiciously like a prenatal polygraph was a nice relatively smooth line occasionally broken by a peak or a hill when I had a contraction (which, according to both my brain and the nurse, were relatively mild) and on the other side waaaaaaas... almost nothing. Apparently Elliot spent the first ten minutes or so asleep. Then they gave me apple juice. Suddenly it was like being at the seismograph when the Loma Prieta went off during the World Series in '89. And considering I actually remember being in the Bay Area that day, I have a pretty good idea of what I'm talking about. Peaks, valleys, squiggles, actual JUMPS on the machine where the pen could not keep up with how quickly and strongly he was moving... and this continued straight through my cervical and ultrasound. To say the least, the doctor is not worried about Elliot's current energy level. She actually commented that he must be showing off during the ultrasound.

To predict the size of the baby, they hook up an ultrasound machine, and make several measurements. They measure the length of the femur, the diameter of the skull across the parietal bone, and the circumference of the abdomen. Apparently there are 2 other possible measurements that she didn't do because she was running behind. The parietal was normal for 41 weeks, the abdomen was around 40, and the femurs were normal for 38 weeks. Which my doctor assured me does not mean that Elliot will have stunted legs. I think she just missed some leg up there, because between my husband and I we could supply the average Christmas Elf with enough femur to play for the NBA. My personal guess is that Elliot will weigh around 8 1/2 to 9 pounds.

My mother also brought up an interesting point on the phone. My original due date was for July 15th. They moved it to July 1st after the 18 week ultrasound, when he was the size of the average 20 week fetus. My mother pointed out that he's probably just actually big for his "age," which means that when they induce he'll be at the 39 1/2 week mark. A perfectly good time for a baby to enter the world, and perhaps not break my pelvis in the process. So this is good news!

More good news, it seem like the cats have no interest at all in being inside the crib! This was a big concern for me. I was afraid that the cats would want to snuggle and suffocate the little longpiglet in his sleep. I think that's where the stories of cats stealing babies breath came from. Babies are generally pretty warm, and soft. Cats love warm soft things. And if you've ever owned a cat you have probably consigned yourself to waking up every now and then with a cat on your stomach, chest, or face. This is essentially fatal for babies. And that's just if the cat was being nice and wanted to snuggle. On the off chance that one of our cats had been int he crib when the baby started actually CRYING... well let's just say that I would fear for my OWN skin, let alone a baby's soft and supple hide. Moo and Chimi have been getting into it lately, and Chimi has a pretty deep hole in his face right now, something I would really NOT want my baby sporting, no matter how sexy scars are.

So yes, I am elated that after only one attempt to get INTO the crib the cats seem very content to lay underneath it, where the shade seems to be keeping them cool. We also have something called a crib tent, which I have yet to set up. It involves dropping the mattress in the crib a few settings, and that involves moving the crib. We've a pretty sizable crib, so this is not something I can do alone. This isn't really something I can even HELP with;  it involves a level of coordination that surpasses me. The crib tent is some sort of magical cat barrier, or so the pictures would have me believe. You attach it both inside and outside the crib structure, and then you put the mattress INSIDE the tent. You then somehow put all the sheets on the mattress. I can only assume the crib tent, while repelling cats, allows this with some modicum of ease. I have not yet figured out if the (breathable!) crib bumpers go inside or outside the tent. In my fantasies little gnomes come and do it for me while I'm asleep, pitching the miniature tent poles and raising the great mesh beast, then pulling the mattress in and, since they are the perfect size to stand up inside the tent, making my baby's bed with ease. It's also really cute when I dream it. They even hook up the mobile. Then they make a lasagna.

Man, I need to find me some gnomes.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Pregnancy Diet (for him)

According to the Institute of Medicine the average healthy woman should gain between 25 and 35 pounds during pregnancy. They define healthy as having a BMI (you can calculate yours here ) of 18.5 to 24.9.

When I got pregnant my BMI was something like 30. Which sounds scary, until you go follow that link and realize all they measure is your height and weight. They don't measure your lung capacity, your heart rate, your stamina, how much you can leg press, or your density through submersion. Just your height and your weight. So you can probably see how a woman within millimeters of the 6'2" mark might be harder for them to correctly calculate. If not, let me just point to the fact that they do not consider me "underweight" until I weigh 143 pounds. Which is essentially my skeleton and organs. I actually have a picture of me weighing 143 pounds around here somewhere, but everyone who looks at it tells me I was too skinny. I'm also only 15 in it.

In the first few months of my pregnancy I lost (yes, LOST) about 20 pounds. My morning sickness was almost unrivaled. I threw up everything I ate. I could usually keep down water and Gatorade, which is probably what kept me out of the hospital. That and my love of cupcakes. They didn't stay down, not really, but my body could process enough of the starches in the short period of time they were with me to keep me moving. Meat was impossible, it came up in less than ten minutes. The same with fruits, vegetables, and dairy. Pure starch was the only way I could see to go, and it wasn't even that I was keeping it down, I was just keeping it down LONGER.

That carried on in varying intensity for the first 5 months of my pregnancy. When I hit month 6, however, it was like an impenetrable part of my stomach had suddenly opened up again. Not only could I eat, I was RAVENOUS. Of course after having 5 months or so to shrink, my stomach would not hold very much at a time. I was simply always hungry. I became a grazer. Grazing is a much healthier way to eat, of course, so this was in no way or shape a problem. Until my husband starting gaining weight.

Now it's important to know that a pregnant woman should not eat for two. She should only eat 100-300 extra calories a day to support the baby, and besides, the baby gets first dibs on anything you eat anyway; the human body is just designed that way. So if you're adding three more meals but only 100 calories, your portion sizes go waaaaaaaaaay down.

Imagine, if you will: I am still cooking the same amount of food I have always cooked for my husband and myself. I am also eating several snacks during the day. I cannot eat a portion larger than half of my pre-pregnancy portion size. My husband really likes my cooking. The stress of having a new baby coming is starting to get to him a little, and at this time he's not getting the amount of exercise he likes to, because his hours at work and the time of year don't allow him very many (read: ANY) hours of sunlight during the week with which to ride his mountain bike (his preferred method of aerobic exercise), and we are almost always inundated with doctor's appointments and baby preparation on the weekends.

My poor husband. I wasn't losing weight anymore, but he was gaining, a little each week. I decided then that I needed to completely change my cooking style, and more importantly, I started bringing my husband his food and not letting him get up to get it himself. I imagine he thought I was being an adorable housewife, bringing his dinner to him and serving him first. The shocking truth is that I was controlling his portions, and his meal balance. In the past when I had made a three part meal...let's say chicken breast, salad, and rice...He would have skewered a whole breast, a ladle of rice, and a few scoops of salad. The effect would be a plate that was half meat, a quarter veg, and a quarter starch. Very manly, and a great style of recovery meal for someone who rides regularly and is burning quite a few calories during the day. ie, perfect for my husband's old lifestyle, less so for the one he was finding himself living. A few tweaks, however, and the weight gain, while not reversing itself, did stop. His plates became more vegetable centric, I stopped cooking so much starch, and the meat portions of our meals reduced DRASTICALLY in size.

Let me make a quick segue. There is this phenomenon called couvade syndrome. When a man and a woman are really deeply bonded, and they are having a baby, sometimes the man starts presenting pregnancy symptoms with the woman. This might seem like a crazy horror story to some people, but yes, it happens. Hormone levels shift, weight is gained, in some extreme cases men have been known to LACTATE (or at least their bodies try reeaally hard to) when their partners are pregnant. Luckily hubby does not seem to have a serious case. Though his cortisol levels, I'm sure, have done some wacky dancing recently and his testosterone levels have been their partner, he has not started growing hair in new and interesting places, and he has not gained the 25-30 pounds that some men are tormented with.

With all this in mind, I present to you my solution: if you're pregnant, pretend your partner is, too. Smaller, more well-managed portions, balancing heavily on vegetation (because trust me, you need that extra fiber right now). Scheduled meal times with grazing in between. Switch to non-fat milk. Cut out alcohol and caffeine as much as possible (in my husband's case, not really possible). Stop using pressed meats and unpasteurized cheeses (In pregnant women this is so you can avoid listeria, but honestly that stuff's tasty but not really good for you anyway). Don't eat right before bed. Drink more water. Take a walk together. And most importantly, set aside time each day to discuss something that is totally and completely NOT BABY RELATED. It might seem like a little thing, but if you set precedent during pregnancy to focus solely on the baby, your relationship will deteriorate until the baby is all you have left. This last tidbit, I know, doesn't seem diet related. But think a little bit about how and what you eat when you're relaxed and comfortable versus how and what you eat when you're stressed and anxiety-ridden. The differences should be pretty clear, and the dietary benefits of taking a few moments every day to specifically be NOT stressed, to discuss something trivial and entertaining, to really just BOND with your partner again should be apparent.

And if it's not, you should do it anyway.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Beating the Heat

STILL no baby. Every day we get closer to the induction, but I'd really prefer he was born naturally. Inductions are expensive, and silly me didn't check to see how much of it was covered by our medical plan. The heat must be getting to my head.

As I've mentioned, we don't have AC. So in general I try to keep the heat down in the apartment with cheap, natural methods. The biggest no-brainer there is turning off the lights when we're not in the room. And also sometimes when we are. The shades are usually drawn in the living room because that's our biggest vent, and the sunlight coming in is WARM. But even with the blinds closed there's enough light coming in to comfortably read by. So the lights in the apartment are usually out until about 5 or so, which also does wonders for our electric bill.

Another, more fun way I keep the heat down is by having a gorgeous garden. That might not seem right, but believe me, it is. If you have a porch garden, and water it in the morning before it gets too hot, the water evaporation has a lovely way of cooling the apartment naturally. In addition the shade that some of those plants can afford really helps. I'm not talking full sized tree shade, but some tomato plants grow in excess of 6 feet, and if you can get the RIGHT kind of vegetables, you have almost no need for a shade canopy by your patio table. Pole beans, climbing squash, and some pepper plants are perfect additions to tomatoes, and will cast enough shadow to keep at least part of your patio cool.

Which brings up another topic. Not cooking.

I would, at some point, like to start adding recipes for the things I cook to this blog. However, the heat has made it pretty hard to do, since to beat the heat I haven't been cooking. But that in and of itself is a pretty good topic, so let's address it.

Not cooking is a fabulous way to beat the heat of Summer. And I don't just mean going out to eat in an air conditioned restaurant and letting some poor sap slave over the stove for you. I mean preparing simple, fresh, and refreshing dishes in your home that would satisfy the average raw food enthusiast. I say this because, well, I don't do vegan. I love cheese too much.

Fresh Garden Caprese Chopped Salad:
Tomatoes: diced
Cucumber: diced
zucchini: diced
bell pepper: diced
Basil leaves: 1/2 inch long ribbons
Fresh mozzarella: shredded
romaine and iceberg lettuce
spinach leaves
if you like, you can also add some cold meat. Sometimes I cook a chicken breast or two the night before, around 11 or so after it gets cool enough to run the stove, and dice that into the salad. Sometimes I just use pepperoni and call it antipasti salad.
toss with either a light Italian dressing, or a vinaigrette.
I know this isn't really "Caprese" since that's only tomato, basil, and cheese, with olive oil and vinegar, but it IS a fabulous cold salad that has enough stuff in it to serve as a good meal. AND you can grow pretty much all of this yourself, at the same time.

I love growing Zucchini, but this year we don't have any. I got my usual one plant, but I didn't get my transplant in time. In general a household will not need more than one zucchini plant per growing season. Two if you really love zucchini. Zucchini is a notorious summer grower. The newer zucchini grower will buy a few of the inoculous and tiny looking seedling plants, maybe 4 or 5, and shortly find him-or-herself inundated with the long green fingers. They'll tell themselves that they'll find something to do with the 5 or 6 extra zucchini they've grown, and maybe they'll make zucchini bread or something. The next week when they look outside and realize they have 5 or 6 MORE extra zucchini they will have a moment of panic. Then they'll remember the neighbors, and will simply walk over there with some fresh produce. "Oh hey," they'll say, "I have some extra home-grown veggies, would you like some?"

A month into the growing season they will be tired of zucchinis. The neighbors will be tired of zucchinis. Zucchini bread will have given way to new and adventurous styles of stir-fry, strange jellies, and green versions of almost everything the un-educated zucchini grower knows how to cook.

I discovered our landlord has planted zucchini plants in the now-communal garden area near the pool. I am no longer sad about my lack of zucchini plant, as (true to first-time growing form) she has four plants.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Old Wives Tales

Still no baby. Bloody doctors.

I've been trying the old wives tales. You know the ones I mean, the things your mother and grandmother tell you with that knowing look and they make no sense at all? So far I've tried walks, spicy food, a glass of wine with dinner, chocolate, and changing my sleeping position. As you read previously in this post, still no baby.

Ironically (and sadly, too) the one I haven't tried yet is sex. It's pretty much the only one with some root in medicine, as the cervix apparently does have a dilation response to the introduction of seminal fluid. But I fall into the small percentage of women who suffer from painful sex during pregnancy. It's not even a big percentage, and I feel cheated. Believe me, so does my poor husband. Basically some of us get all swollen and uncomfortable, and when the cervix starts to dilate or efface it gets REALLY tender, so any kind of bumping into it is excruciating. The baby bumps into it a lot as is, so it's even more tender and even more painful. I've been dilated for over three weeks now. My poor, poor husband.

I am, however, getting desperate. Drastic times call for drastic measures and all that, and I'm thinking things don't get much more drastic than "I'm 40+ weeks pregnant and it's 100 degrees outside." Unless you live in a jungle or a swamp. And as luck would have it, our apartment does not have air conditioning, so I sort of AM living in a swamp. A swamp made of my own sweat miasma. It's fabulous, it's like being on Dagobah, but without any muppets to train me. I figure if things don't improve soon I will have a report on whether this last wives tale works, painful or not.

Some of the wives tales have in fact proved relatively true, at least for me. When I started showing I started showing low, which any old fishwife worth her salt will tell you is a sure sign of carrying a boy. Other sure signs I'm carrying a boy? Apparently having a face that doesn't swell during pregnancy, a belly that distends straight out instead of side-to-side, adding your age at conception to the year at conception (27+2010 for me) and it being an odd number, the the woman being more aggressive the night of conception, carrying more weight in your legs than your torso, being especially clumsy, being more comfortable on your left side while asleep, fast-growing leg hair, craving meat, headaches, and a nose that seems to be swelling. I've also had a TON of heartburn, which I hear means he'll be born with hair (no confirmation on this one yet, but judging by the newborn pics of my family and my husband's family, the chance is pretty high). I had horrible morning sickness for several months, which -according to my mother- is a sign of an extremely healthy baby. Considering his current activity level, I can agree that he will in fact be healthy. And squirmy. And probably a world-class athlete in something that involves kicking.

Speaking of kicking, I must add an anecdote, because a) it involves the cats, and b) it is hilarious. I enjoy reading. No, that's not all of the anecdote. I particularly enjoy reading when I have my feet up, which is something that good little pregnant women are supposed to do for extended periods of time every day. Moo has always enjoyed being on my lap while I am reading. He curls up right behind my book and puts his head on my tummy and purrs softly while I read and pet him. At least, he used to. A few weeks ago we were in our normal "isn't this so Rockwellian" pose, curled on the couch with a good book, when Elliot decided he did not enjoy having a cat on him. Elliot, in fact, disliked having a cat on him so much that he decided to kick the cat OFF of him. I had never before, and have never since, seen a look of such confusion on a feline face. Even when playing the famed "hand monster under the blanket" game, Moo would be more likely to pounce and try to kill than run in fear. This time, however (and thankfully) Moo simply got a confused look, and tried to settle down into mommy's belly-pillow again. Which means of course that Elliot simply tried harder. Moo's head actually got air off of that kick, and he jumped and ran so quickly to cower in the corner of the couch that the bottom of my shirt made it all the way up over the belly while he was trying to find traction. Poor kitty nearly had a heart attack, and there's me, his supposed mommy and protector, laughing so hard at him that I had to get up and go to the bathroom to avoid having to change clothes.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Day One

Today is my due date. The doctors, in all their medical and scientific wisdom, tell me I'm going to have a baby. A little boy, to be exact. His name will be Elliot and he will be my sun and moon and stars for the rest of my life. He is going to be my first, and I am scared beyond all belief.

I'm scared for the normal reasons, of course: the pain, the blood, the possible medical mishaps... but also I'm scared of bringing him home. His brother and sister might not like him.

I can hear you now "wait, wait, wait, I thought he was your first!"

He is. My first human baby.

But I have cats.

Territorial cats.

And that could pose a problem, since I appear to be included in their territory. They put up with my husband decently well, but that has a lot to do with him being quite a bit larger than they are. Even together in their wiliness they have trouble out-smarting him. But a baby is another matter. A small, pink, soft, squalling mess of life that is about to be deposited soundly in their territory.

A little background:

I currently live in a one bedroom apartment with my husband TJ, my best friend Angela, and our three cats. Moo and Squeak are mine, and Angela's boy's name is Chimi. Chimi is the oldest at 7, followed by 4-year-old Moo and Squeak is the current baby at 2. We have been living all of us together for a little over a month now, and the cats have not yet settled.

Before Chimi and Angela moved in TJ and I had been living together in various states of room-matedness for almost 8 years. Ever since we got Moo, he had been sleeping in our bedroom with us. When we got Squeak a similar thing happened, but after a few nights it became apparent that the people we had procured her from had lied about her age, and she was not yet old enough to distinguish between the bed and a litterbox. At that juncture, the cats began sleeping in the living room. This carried on quite well until I became pregnant. It didn't make sense until after the tests came back positive, but suddenly squeak would not leave my side. When bedtime came she would run into the bedroom and become extremely affectionate. Suddenly the cat who had been spending most of her nights smushing the same pillow on the couch into a perfect imprint of her sleeping form needed to be directly next to me, sometimes headbutting me repeatedly until I cuddled her closer. Moo began sleeping on the floor directly to the side of the bed. I felt very loved, and very warm, which i welcomed, this being the beginning of Autumn.

When the test results came back we realized we'd have to break the cats of their new sleeping habits as quickly as possible. It would not do to have to disentangle a cat or two every time I needed to wake up for a night feeding, and worse, what if they tried to sleep with the baby?

While Moo took being kicked out with a certain level of integrity, Squeak did not. Our bedroom door now proudly displays several battle wounds; Squeak has a penchant for clawing at doors until they open to her. Eventually she calmed down, though it took a few weeks.

When Angie and Chimi moved in, however, it started again. Originally we couldn't get Squeak out of the bathroom for almost a week, and when she did leave, she wriggled her way between someone's legs (ok, probably my legs) and right into the bedroom. Where she promptly showed her displeasure at our new roommates. We thought perhaps if we brought a litterbox into the bedroom we could help ease this, but to no avail. She had to be kicked out again, and this time she did not stop abusing the door until we wrapped the entire bottom half in duct tape, sticky side out.

So in summation: I'm about to have a baby. My cats are territorial and at least one of them likes clawing things. We have three adults and three cats living in a one bedroom apartment. This should be interesting.