Week 2 – Same, same, but different

Today Max has been with us for two weeks and two days. I can’t imagine my life without him. How has it only been two weeks? Things are still going well. He is still a perfect little sweet potato who grows more handsome by the day; one who affords me those precious 6-7 cumulative hours of sleep during the night, and one who continues to fill my days and my heart with purpose I never knew was possible.

But not everything has been easy. In fact, this second week has presented us with many new challenges that I’m just now able to rationalize. I won’t bore you with details because I really don’t want this to turn into a pregnancy-turned-mommy-turned-everything-about-raising-my-son-blog, and I am certainly not qualified enough to offer any sort of sound advice to others who stumble upon a few choice keywords, so I’ll leave you with these snippets:

Challenges

  • I thought I had a handle on breastfeeding but apparently we weren’t completely draining Ol’ Righty and got a plugged milk duct which wasn’t painful, yet went undetected long enough to result in the dreaded mastitisThe end result was 24 hours of 103* fever for an already tired mama. Thankfully we were able to nurse the plugged duct away and I’m back to normal, mostly unscathed.
  • Max is going through a growth spurt (to be confirmed at the pediatrician later today). During the day, he wants to nurse every 45-60 minutes. If he is awake, he is either nursing or rooting around like a little snorting piglet looking for a boob. Needless to say, this has been not just exhausting but has made leaving the house pretty impossible.
    • This has also made having guests over challenging. When people go out of their way to come see the baby, I feel guilty for tucking myself away in the nursery with him for long stretches of time. I’m sure I’ll get over this.
  • My hormones seem to be rebalancing this week. Yesterday, after canceling a family visitation I wept. I’ve never heard myself make such a sound, really. I didn’t cry because I necessarily felt bad for “flaking” on someone, although I did— but I wept because I’m probably exhausted…depleted physically and emotionally after two weeks of my life being turned upside down, of turning my self over completely to someone else, of being “on” all the time. I wept when I read the local news, and kept crying when the 49ers lost. And I don’t even care about football.

The Good Stuff!

Of course there are good things, too!

  • We had a beautiful newborn photoshoot this week (pre mastitis). It’s incredible looking at photos of our perfect baby just 5 days ago and already seeing how he’s grown. His hair is even longer today than it was last week, and his face a little rounder. We’ll treasure him at this tiny little size forever.

    photo courtesy: marcielynnphoto.com

    photo courtesy: marcielynnphoto.com

  • My body is recovering very well from childbirth. Meaning… my lady business is back to normal or at least feels that way. I still have 2 weeks until my first OB appointment but it’s really encouraging to feel so “normal” in this regard. Makes me feel like running again is not such a lifetime away!
  • I’ve already lost 27 pounds, magically. I used to scoff when people told me that the baby-weight would just “melt off” because I didn’t believe it. But thanks to breastfeeding, it actually seems plausible that I won’t be wearing my maternity jeans forever. I still have a long way to go to “get my body back-ish” but I feel encouraged by a strong start.

In other news…

I’m starting an email account for MM so that when I get the urge to gush over the tiny thing that he just did, or take a million selfies with him I can just email them directly to the inbox. One day we’ll hopefully be able to open it together and all the stories will be saved, as if in a time capsule for him to enjoy. That said, I probably won’t be blogging as much here. As mentioned above, I never intended for this to turn from a pregnancy journey blog to a mommy-blog. Nothing against mommy-blogs (I live for others’!) but I just want to keep my baby-mama stories for catching up with people in person. We’ve got to have something to talk about, right? ;)

The 4th Trimester is BS

Before giving birth to Max, I was sold on the infamous Dr. Karp’s “5 S” method of calming an infant, and his notion that the first 3 months of my child’s life he would be nothing more than a large fetus stuck in the dreaded “fourth trimester”. Before my baby arrived I resigned myself to caring for an under developed human who would much rather still be in my womb than out here with us.

But then my little MM was born. And I couldn’t disagree with the “large fetus” diagnosis any more. I do believe that all newborns are different and that this is not necessarily how all babies are, and that my next baby may or may not be like this one. But this baby– he was born ready for the world.

In his 12 days of life, I have not once felt that he would rather be in the comfortable womb he came from. I have not yet panicked to create the series of swaddle, shushing, side laying, swaying, and whatever else that 5th S is to create a more womb-like environment for him. He is a baby and seeks baby human comforts: mom and dad’s face and voice and smell.

This baby is so happy and calm when he is with us, and the mornings have been our absolute favorite.

MM and I typically wake up around 6 to nurse and then fall back asleep until 8 or 9 and then Melbs and I enjoy an hour or two snuggled in bed with coffee and a very alert little buddy. We prop him up on our bent knees and let him stare at us intently. He is so inquisitive and expressive already that I can’t imagine the next day’s developments. I feel like we could wake up tomorrow and he could start talking to us.

These mornings have been heaven for all of us. Sometimes I wish we could lay here all day. But as with everything else I just try to appreciate what’s happening right now knowing that tomorrow could be completely different.

I am so in love with this precious baby human and can’t believe that only a few weeks ago I had merely hoped for a giant fetus who would prefer my womb to my face. We are both so much happier to be here together, I can assure you, Dr Karp.

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Week 1 – Life with a new baby

Today is our one-week birthday (yes, both mine and MM’s!). I get some glory here, don’t I? ;) I won’t be doing week-by-week updates, but since this is our first one I didn’t want to miss capturing it.

How has it been? In short, it’s been so much more (read: better) than I expected.  Just like with labor, I hoped for the best but prepared for the worst when it came to the first few days home with an infant. MM is such a good baby.

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As expected, he does approximately 3 things: eat, sleep, poop. But unexpectedly, in between and during each of these things, he does a 4th thing: radiate the most powerful love imaginable. Yes, even when he’s pooping in my hand I am filled with love and pride for my son. The faces he makes while he is sleeping melt my heart, and when he is alert and looking at my face I just want to cry tears of joy. And sometimes I do.

The postpartum roller coaster of emotions haven’t hit hard (yet?) and I’ve been pretty even keeled in terms of my mood: just happy. I think it’s pretty normal to shed a few tears of joy for a new love no matter how many chemical changes your body is under-going. But I am still watchful and attentive of myself— making sure not to ignore or miss any major changes in how I’m feeling.

This week has been filled with quiet mornings cuddled in bed. Melbs and I enjoy long cups of coffee and exchange “what we learned about newborns” from the previous day (eg: today I learned that he doesn’t start pooping until he’s been awake for a while, so we should never change his diaper right when he wakes). And despite our plans to kick the dog and cat out of the bed, they remain intact as ever. All 5 of us lump together and enjoy each other’s warmth and the sound of the baby.

We’ve had short visits each day which are welcome and necessary, but have also been a little stressful too. A couple close friends and immediate family have come by for an hour or two each day to hold the sleeping baby. At first I was anxious about having people come over at a set time. I didn’t want him to be fussy nor did I want to breastfeed while company was over and felt like I had to time everything just right, counting backwards from the time of their visit— okay, I need to feed him 60 mins before so he falls asleep… but then ensure he stirs a little bit before they leave so they get the joy of seeing his eyes open… oh, the clock is ticking! But I am learning you can’t plan around a baby’s schedule. If I need to shut myself away in the nursery and feed my baby while visitors are here, it’s no big deal. Like, at all.

Unexpected things: I am so grateful to have Melbs home for a couple of weeks while we acclimate to our new life but there are few things he can really do with the baby (because boobs). He’s been on top of laundry, diaper changes, and picking out daily outfits for MM. But mostly, he’s been taking care of me— making sure I’ve eaten, have taken my ibuprofen for cramping, and am drinking tons of water. He literally bottle feeds me while I feed the baby. I did not expect this.

I also didn’t expect breastfeeding to be all consuming. It’s like, 90% of newborn care. At least in our household. I am taking breastfeeding VERY seriously, but its paying off. At our 5-day old newborn check-up the pediatrician was wowed by how much weight the baby had already gained and told us that since he was so close to his birthweight that I didn’t need to wake him up every 2 hours to feed anymore, which is great. My nipples are sore. Latching hurts like a b*tch, my boobs don’t fit into any of my nursing tanks. But I have a happy, healthy, chunkier by the day baby and I am happy about that.

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Max is an old soul. He came out of me silently, with his eyes wide open. Up and onto my chest, we just stared at each other for ten minutes. We asked the doctor not to cut his cord until it was done pulsing, and we relished in those few minutes while we were still attached to one another. He seems wise beyond his 7 days still, and I am amazed by what he can do physically. I wonder what he knows and what he will teach us in his lifetime. I just can’t wait to wake up to him every day.

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40 Week Update: My natural birth story

Today is Mini Melbs’ due date. And he is already with me.

Although it’s only been 3 days since he arrived, I’ve already told this story a dozen times in my head, consulting with my husband, “Melbs” about the facts of what occurred. “Are you serious? Unbelievable!” It is still surreal and I cannot believe it happened. If there wasn’t a perfect baby boy sleeping next to me right now, I would tell you today that the events on Saturday October 4 were simply a dream.

Since there is so much detail here, I’m going to keep this post to just the facts: what happened and when. The love, the emotion, the tears, and everything that comes along with the physical aspects of childbirth will escape in later posts, I’m sure.

Cliff notes:
– Early labor – 6am to 2:30pm
– Active labor – 2:30-4:30
– Pushing – 4:30-5:51

October 4th 2014 – 6am On Saturday morning I awake to a familiar dull ache in my lower abdomen. It’s like a menstrual cramp, and I’ve had them each morning this week, hoping each day that they continue with some regularity– something that signaled real contractions– something that told me, yes, your baby will be here soon. And on this Saturday, I laid still in bed feeling the wave of this achey sensation, trying not to get my hopes up that another one will come. But it does! Just a few minutes later.

The doctors tell you not to come into the hospital until your contractions are about 4 minutes apart. Mine never started any further apart than that.

So quietly, yet filled with the excitement of a kid on Christmas morning, I tip-toed into the kitchen to start a pot of coffee. I wanted to wait and give Melbs the good news only after I was certain something was happening, and after he’d slept in a bit more.

6:40 am - While making coffee, I feel a thin liquid trickle down my leg and make a small puddle on the kitchen floor. This is my water breaking, I was sure. I wiped it up, noting the time, odor and color, as instructed by my OB and called it in. She told me to labor at home as long as I could and to come in to the hospital after a couple of hours once the contractions became stronger. I went to wake Melbs. “Things are happening,” I told him with a huge grin.

9 am – I’ve been tracking my contractions with an app for a couple of hours at this point. They’re consistently 3-4 minutes apart but not strong enough (in my opinion) to come in yet. I call my mom to come down and wait with us, just to be sure.

11 am – After eating a hearty bowl of oatmeal and peanut butter (perfect carb:protein ratio!) I decide we should go in. The contractions are still “mild” meaning I can sort of talk through them but they’re definitely getting stronger.

To say we were excited to go to the hospital would be an understatement.

To say we were excited to go to the hospital would be an understatement.

12 noon – We check into triage on the L&D floor and after hearing that my water has already broke, they immediately want to confirm. Because only about 10% of women actually have their water break before active labor begins, they seemed a bit skeptical that the bag had really ruptured. (Many people confuse other sorts of discharge, of which there are plenty! with water). The triage nurse swabbed me and left us for almost an hour while the lab downstairs confirmed what I already knew.

In triage, hooked up with matching baby and mama monitors

In triage, hooked up with matching baby and mama monitors

1:30 pm – The triage nurse comes back to us beaming. “Congratulations. You’re staying here,” she said, and handed me a gown and the infamous mesh underwear I’d grow to rely on over the next several days. At this point the contractions were strong enough that I couldn’t talk or pay much attention to anything else while they were happening. It was literally like, la dee da, I’m okay… just a normal person making conversation and then ——— ZAAAAAAAAAAAP, aaaand back to normal! During this time many forms were explained to me and signed only after 45 seconds of pain had passed through my body. What a hoot.

2pm – We are in our delivery suite. It’s large, with a flatscreen and a couch. There is a tub and natural light. I feel so lucky to have such a nice set-up and tell Melbs that he should relax and find the Giants post-season baseball game on the TV (assuming I’ll be rather dull entertainment for the next few hours). How perfect!

At this point, my cervix is checked for dilation for the first time all day. I’m 4.5 centimeters and 90% effaced. The doctor seems pleasantly surprised and says she’ll be back in a few hours to check my progress again.

Meanwhile, the nurses are writing my birth plan on a dry erase board:
“Prefers no pain meds if possible”

To be clear, I wasn’t totally opposed to the idea of medicine if I needed it. I just wanted to be sure I needed it and I wasn’t convinced that  I did. My two primary concerns against an epidural were: I didn’t wanted to be immobile while I labored. I wanted the freedom from an IV drip to walk around, to bounce on a birthing ball, to shower if I wanted— basically anything that would help me cope with the pains of labor. I wanted to truly feel the height of my contractions, determine if I could cope with them, and if so— dare I say relish in the full birth experience. And two, I didn’t want to be numb from the waist down when it came time to push. I didn’t want doctors and nurses telling me when I was having a contraction and when to “push!”… I just knew that it would go a lot better if I could feel and work with my own body.

Despite my preference, the nurses insist that we equip my arm with a saline lock– a placeholder for an IV just in case I want an epidural later, or if there are complications during labor and they need to give me something intravenously. Ok, no big deal. Except that I have small veins or something. The nurse decides that she needs to warm me up to bring my veins to the surface and wraps me in hot towels. They feel great at first and I remember noting that I feel like I’m at a spa!

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But when the waves of contractions come every couple minutes I become claustrophobic and want nothing more than these damn towels off my body—NOW! The hot towels don’t do enough to increase my vein prick-ability and I’m instructed to take a hot shower instead. The shower feels wonderful. The sensation of hot falling water distracts me from the internal pain I’m experiencing and I hang out in the shower for probably 20 minutes. Melbs, (my hunky labor coach) meanwhile is on the other side of the curtain  sweating his ass off. Poor guy had to be miserable in that sauna of a bathroom.

Once I get out of the shower, the nurses are delighted to find that I’m hot and veiny and they can get the lock in place on my arm. Hooray. Show is on the road. (The funny side note to all of this, is that I don’t end up needing an IV at all. The silver lining was that the hot shower probably sped up my labor.)

3:30 - After the hot shower, the contractions get really intense. Something has changed.They are like menstrual cramps times twenty. No, thirty. I am breathing through them, eyes closed, visualizing the yellow chrysanthemum bush in my yard blooming. Gorgeous yellow flowers opening with each exhalation… down into my baby, into my cervix. I alternated between standing and rocking back and forth on my feet while this was going on, and kneeling over the bed. I keep motivating myself to practice good breathing. I tell myself that if I fight the pain, rather than work with it, I am only prolonging the experience. Each contraction is a gift that I need to make full use of— to get this baby out of my body quickly and without too much suffering. I am in. the. zone.

This went on for about an hour. It was totally primal and I don’t remember much of anything that happened outside of low-moaning sounds, rocking myself like a baby, and wanting to labor while sitting on the toilet so that I could fully “let go” down there (If you haven’t labored before, there are all kinds of bloody things coming out of your body throughout the cervix dilating).

4:30 – A new nurse, one named Rachel no less, comes in and introduces herself. Rachel is awesome, and she will be with me through the home stretch. I immediately let her know that my contractions are becoming more intense; that something is changing. She assures me that I’m doing great and that my doctor will be back in about an hour to check my progression. I tell her I need her to check now, so she pages my doctor as asks for permission to do so. (Apparently after your water breaks, they try to minimize the amount of times they dig around in you hoo-haw, wanting to prevent infection). The doctor tells Nurse Rachel to go ahead and check. I’m almost 7 centimeters dilated and 100% effaced. “Okay,” Rachel says, “whatever you’re doing is really working. Your doctor is in another procedure and won’t be back for probably an hour but thinks you’ll be fine.” And then she gets closer to my face like a game-time coach and almost whispers, “but look— between you and me, I think you’re close. With the speed of your progression so far, I want you to remove any pre-conceived time frames from your mind and you just let me know when you feel an urge to push, okay?”

5pm – “Rachel, I need to push!” I get myself back onto the bed. My contractions hurt less now, and with each wave I feel like I’m dry-heaving from my lady parts. I hear a lot of women describe the sensation as feeling the need to poop… and I get that. But for me, it was more like a gag reflex. I needed to expel something but there was nothing ready to come out.

Rachel pages my doctor again, gets permission to check my cervix and I’m at 9.5 cm and the baby’s head station is +2… it was go time. Things start happening in warp speed, and Rachel begins paging people with her Siri-like pager. A bit of comedy I remember is that she kept paging for someone, but the damn voice dictation kept barking back, “sorry, I did not understand that command.” She finally gave up and ran to the door and gave a good old fashioned holler. Still no idea who she paged or why. Probably a back-up nurse.

Rachel rallies my mom and Melbs to come hold each of my legs. She explains how this “pushing thing” is going to work. To me, “Okay Rachel. I need you to grab under your thighs, tuck your chin towards your chest and when you feel a contraction coming on take a deep breath in, and then let it out for a count of 10… but NOT THROUGH YOUR FACE. Breathe it out, through your vagina, pushing as hard as you can. We need to do 3 of these for each contraction. Okay?” I was deeply confused about how I would breathe out of my vagina but said, “okay!”

The first contraction came along, and I took a deep breath in… aaaand blew it out right through my stupid face. I already knew I’d screwed up. Rachel told me that this time I needed to not open my mouth at all. No air shall escape my face. Okay. got it, let’s go!

In retrospect, I took this pushing advice too literally. In an effort to literally not breathe out any air from my nose or mouth, my eyeballs were almost expelled from my face. No, I am serious. My eyeballs were so swollen after pushing that I was temporarily blind and could barely see a foot in front of my face. Blind!

Anyhow, the pushing cycles continues. Although hard work, it’s actually a relief from “just” the contractions. Now I feel like all of this build up is about to pay off. For each contraction, I push 3 times as hard as I can, then rest in between. My mom and husband are each at my sides fanning me and telling me a great job I’m doing.

5:30pm - I am getting physically exhausted. I can’t imagine doing this for much longer. How do people push for hours?! I wonder aloud. No one responds. Some contractions begin to feel weaker and I refuse to push during those and instead opt to rest a longer duration. Rachel tells me that since the last two contractions weren’t as strong, I should prepare for a really major one soon. And it arrives. People start telling me that my baby has hair. I begin to feel like I’m actually doing a phenomenal job, and that this may almost in fact be over soon. Then all of the sudden, something is wrong.

Rachel shouts at me to turn over onto my side! 

“Why??” I ask—in alarm of course, and hurrying to my side despite the enormous discomfort. She says that the baby’s heart rate isn’t returning as strong after each push. Oh, god! I lay on my side and wait for whatever comes next. The heart rate returns steadily and everyone is relieved. The nurse sticks a more invasive heart rate monitor to the baby so that they can continue monitoring him more closely from here on out. Instead of a topical monitor strapped to my belly, it’s like an electric cord that they affix to the baby’s head. Yes, to his head….while he is still inside me. Despite the strangeness of all this, no one seems alarmed anymore. I roll back onto my back and everything resumes: contraction rolls in… 3 seriously long and painful pushes… nurse shouting orders, bulging eyeballs, panicked fanning of my face from my husband.

And then, a knock on the door. “Hellooo?”

It was my baby sister who had just driven up from school after hearing I was in labor.

Only 20 years old, and definitely inexperienced in child birth, I wish I could have seen her face when she walked into that delivery room. There was her decade-older sister, spread eagle with a baby coming out of her, and god knows what else. Between contractions, I told her she was “just in the knick of time!” and told her to start fanning my face. She got right to work.

I’m not sure when my doctor finally arrived but she was definitely there to catch the baby. I remember the fiery sensation of the baby’s head coming through and pushing 8-9 times in a row instead of 3 without stopping so that I wouldn’t lose my momentum when things were so close. It had to be over. No mind that I am out of oxygen and my eyeballs are literally bursting from my skull. Nope… just get that baby out. And then he was out.

Just like that. I looked down between my legs, and my doctor was pulling a body out of my body. I did it. There was my baby.

And he was perfect.

And he was perfect.

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My sweet Max, born Oct 4, 2014 at 5:51pm

30 Days of Mrs Melbs – 2 Take Aways

Welp. It’s day 30 of my “try and do something nice for yourself for a whole month before you have a baby” challenge, as documented on my instagram account.

just a few of the photos from #30daysofMrsMelbs

just a few of the photos from #30daysofMrsMelbs

What have I done over the past month? I’ve mostly gone on a ton of long walks, and tried out a lot of new recipes. Other highlights include: new hairdo, couple of massages, spa mani-pedis, visiting friends and family out of town, catching a movie, and a little bit of obsessive reading.

I’m taking 2 main things away from this experiment:

  1. There really aren’t that many things you can’t do with a baby!
    I struggled with this challenge at first, trying to keep it strictly to things that you wouldn’t be able to bring an infant along to, like a massage. But there aren’t that many scenarios that I truly couldn’t make work. In fact, I saw moms getting their nails done with babies on the laps, ladies lunching with their girlfriends, while their infants slept sounding in a stroller near by. It was encouraging to say the least. “The good stuff in life” doesn’t end when baby comes for most.
  2. I sooo need to work!
    I made a very conscious effort to exclude work from my 30 days. Sure, the whole point of paid leave is to leave the office and fall off the radar completely. But without a baby yet, and a lot of things happening in the office politically, it was challenging to let go. While not logging into my corporate email, I found myself devouring industry articles, co-workers twitter streams, and watching a ton of YouTube videos (where I work), hungry to remain “Relevant”. What I learned about myself during this period is that I love my job— and that I would work even if I didn’t have to. I need the intellectual stimulation, and to feel like I am a part of something greater than myself.

    For me, this is an important thing to realize early in my leave. I worried that I would want to drop off the face of the working world once I got a taste of 11am brunch dates and carefree dog-walks. But nope. I got bored and found my mind wandering to thoughts of “what can I make?” more often than not.

Which leads me to today. My final day of this arbitrary challenge. Obviously my baby isn’t here yet… I could have daaaaaaaays of a solo-Mrs Melbs life ahead of me, still. For posterity though, how should I spend this last day? While you’re thinking about that for me, I’m going to go on another long walk with the dog and ponder work. Le sigh.

Pre Labor Symptoms

Just came home from seeing my beloved OBGYN. And as promised, here is my TMI medical report of the week! Some exciting progression today…

@ 38 Weeks
Dilation: 0cm (unchanged from previous week)
Effacement: 60% (unchanged from previous week)
Head Station: -2 (unchanged from previous week)

@ 39 Weeks 
Dilation: 1cm (4cm is your ticket into the hospital)
Effacement: 85%
Head Station: 0

The head moving to a lower position is definitely something I felt this week. In fact, right after I blogged that letter of discomfort to MM, he responded in kind. I woke up that night to pee per usual, but sat right up without any problem whatsoever— sat up like a normal person! In my half-sleep state of mind I freaked out and thought, “I’m not pregnant anymore!” because I couldn’t feel the weight of the baby inside me or under my ribcage. Of course, the baby was still there, but had moved down so low that it was a whole new sensation entirely. Although this new, low baby comes with his own set of limitations, I’ve been a lot more comfortable the past two days with the extra room in my torso.

Now, because I am starting to dilate, the doctor offered to “sweep my membranes” — basically use her finger to try and separate the amniotic sac from the cervix itself with the hope of jump-starting labor. She warned me that it would be pretty uncomfortable to which I replied, “so is being 10 months pregnant”. Needless to say, I obliged.

The process itself was quick and while yes, wholly uncomfortable didn’t really hurt. In fact, it felt like exactly what it’s called… a lot of pressure waaaaay up there and then small ripping of tissues, sort of like a popping sensation more-so than a pulling one. Anyhow, the doctor told me to breath through it, which I did. But I also started laughing hysterically, which is maybe something I do when I’m nervous or uncomfortable? I don’t know. But it was funny.

I’m trying not to get my hopes up that this minimal procedure will actually jump-start labor. It only works about half the time, at best. If baby is ready, it works. If not, it will just lead to cramping. I was told to expect some light bleeding and some cramps over the next 24 hours, which have actually just started. Yay!

One way or the other, I feel like my labor journey has just begun. Whether it takes 24 hours or another 3 weeks… wish me luck.