Wednesday, October 24, 2012

breastfeeding > childbirth

How we have survived as a species this long is beyond me. We emerge into the world hairless, unable to walk or feed ourselves, completely dependent upon parents who have neither sharp talons nor speedy gait to protect us. Human childbirth in and of itself is dangerous, considering our upright posture makes our hips too narrow to birth our enormous brains without considerable pain and risk. But for me, childbirth pales in comparison to sustaining our lives beyond the womb.

I've managed a domestic violence shelter and answered a suicide hotline. One time, I kicked a nail while walking barefoot, then walked another mile and a half back to our house while my shoe filled up with blood because I didn't want Mitch to think I was a wimp. But nothing has reduced my stoic, unfeeling face to tears more often than watching my hungry baby scream and thrash at my bosom while I calmly try to explain that if she would just latch, the hunger would go away. Mommy would stop crying, and all would be right in the world.

But unfortunately, human babies are born not knowing how to latch onto their mother's breast. It is something that must be learned. They come out knowing how to suck, bite, nosh, and chew, but not latch. This also means that your baby can not eat. One would think that evolution would have prepared us to at least eat upon entering the world, but evolution has failed us miserably in this area. Thankfully, technological advancement has given us many implements and procedures to counteract natural selection. To simply feed my darling Dot, we tried tubes and syringes, several different bottles and formula. I pumped the crap out of my boobs. We have a Boppy and a My Breast Friend. We even altered my daughter's flawless, perfect little body by consenting to a frenotomy. We were advised to have her upper lip cut as well, but have decided against further procedures for now. We consulted three different pediatricians, two lactation consultants, our doula, and at least half a dozen nurses. I have googled "nipples" more times than I care to count.

And finally, as of Sunday, we were exclusively nursing. It was toe-curlingly painful and required nine hands to get started, but we were nursing nonetheless. And despite all the crying and consulting fees and implements, it is one of the most liberating things I have ever done. I consider myself immensely lucky to have even established it in the first two weeks, and to have access to so much help and support. And Mitch considers himself lucky to have a wife who walks around topless most of the day.
boob coma

Saturday, October 20, 2012

SPLADOW. My birth story.

This seems like a thing that bloggers do. Write their birth stories. So seriously, if you don't want the blood and guts of birth, don't read this. But if you're voyeuristic and nosy, please proceed.

Our precious little girl decided to hang out for 11 days past her due date. She also decided to make labor challenge every ounce of will that I had in my body. Labor was long and difficult (hence the name labor), and most of our birth "plan" went right out the window. Tuesday morning at 1:00 am, after having been in early labor for about three days (which I had been successfully ignoring), real business contractions started, which was awesome because I had only had 30 minutes of sleep. I was kind of like, yeah right, this baby has been yanking my chain for almost a month with these so-called "contractions." But she was like, super serious this time. I let Mitch sleep until they were 3-4 minutes apart for an hour. Our doula joined us at 4:00 am, and we continued to try and labor at home. Unfortunately, our pilot light decided to go out, and Mitch, being the son of an electrician and the grandson of a carpenter, of course had no idea how to fix it. It was 57 degrees in our house. I could not get comfortable, and my contractions were steamrolling me. I couldn't let anyone touch me, as I was having back labor and these really hideous shooting pains in my hips and legs. Counter pressure and hip squeezes just made it worse. I'm pretty sure I yelled at my doula a few times, but I'm also pretty sure that's why we pay her in real dollars and not cartons of eggs. So at 6:00 am, we headed to the hospital.

I had fully expected them to tell me I was well on my way to pushing this pumpkin out. I had contractions through the insurance questions and the spouse beating questions was about ready to murder the physician's assistant who made me lie motionless on the exam table with the monitor straps by the time the midwife came back to check me. Not being able to move during contractions is like staring at the sun and not being able to look away while your retinas shrink to pinholes and your eyeballs shrivel up inside your sockets. Anyway, after the two-finger dip test (Mitch's pet name for cervical checks), I was shocked, dismayed to learn that I was only 1-2 cm dilated, 90% effaced, and still posterior. Didn't she know I had been laboring actively for 5 hours?! The midwife suggested we consider going home to labor some more. At this point I had a minor freakout and started ripping tape and straps and hospital gowns off of me while yelling at Mitch to get me out of there. That part's mostly a blur, but he will substantiate my story.

For the next several hours, we labored at home. Mitch managed to convince a repairman to come out and fix the furnace post haste, and the doula helped me spin our baby into a more favorable position. Still no one could touch me. I felt like an island, even though I knew I wasn't. I had amazing support, but I couldn't see anyone. I remember hearing my friend Jillian's voice telling me she eventually learned to submit to the pain. You can't control it. Submitsubmitsubmit. It's a mind game. If you can stay ahead of the contractions, you're golden.

I couldn't. By 1:00 pm, my contractions were 2-3 minutes apart, 60-90 seconds long. We headed back to the hospital only to find out that I was just 2-3 cm dilated. After hours of breast pumping, laboring in the shower and on the ball, standing and walking, I had progressed maybe a centimeter. This was possibly the most disheartening news I could have received. I felt so defeated. The midwife speculated that because my water hadn't broken, the baby's head couldn't dilate my cervix. She suggested we go ahead and break it. I knew that once we did that, I was on a tight schedule. You get 24 hours to push that baby out, or you get a C-section (dun dun dun). But I knew we needed to get things moving along. So the midwife got out her knitting needle and went to work.

During labor, I had wanted to be able to ask for an epidural without really getting one. Sometimes you just need people to tell you how awesome you are. So Mitch and I came up with a safe word that would mean I was serious. That would mean get the mother f***ing anesthesiologist in here now before I eat somebody's face off. Sixteen hours into unmedicated labor and only being 4-5 cm dilated, I started yelling "POPCORN POPCORN POPCORN" until Mitch retrieved a swarthy South American doctor who would inject the sweet sweet nectar of heaven into my spine. He may not have actually been swarthy, but at that moment, Dr. Rodriguez was the man of my dreams.
Before the epidural.
After the epidural. Thumbs up!
According to our midwife, the uterus is just like any other muscle in the body. Sometimes it gets tired. Mine got tired. My contractions starting slowing down and getting weaker. They started talking Pitocin. I knew this had been a risk when I asked for an epidural. It's hard to keep labor progressing when you can't get up and move around. But Pitocin can lead to a cascade of other interventions, so I asked the midwife if we could try using a breast pump first (it's been shown to accelerate labor). I was a little shocked when they said they may not be able to find one for me. The highest level NICU in the city, and they can't get me a breast pump for a couple hours. Well suck it. I'll get my own damn breast pump.

Three hours after we started pumping, I was complete and ready to push (totally showed them). But of course we were those people who were like, we have to wait for our birth photographer! We must document all the gory details of our birth! Let me do my hair first! Agnes arrived, and we started pushing. For two hours, the baby and I pushed as hard as we could. She emerged pink and screaming, my long and slender baby. Her umbilical cord was so short, she had to cuddle on my belly until Mitch cut her loose.

Lots of people talk about how they feel an immediate, deep connection with their babies. I did not have that. When she was placed on my body, all I could think was, this is a baby. That's new. We'll call her Dot. Oh, Mitch is crying. She's crying. Why can't I make her stop crying?! OmigoshI'malreadyaterribleparent.

She screamed for two hours solid. Forget breastfeeding in the first hour; my kid won't close her mouth. But they wheeled us to our recovery room, and she quieted. We learned what soothed her. She started to learn us as well, studying our faces at a close distance, turning her head towards our voices. And all of a sudden, it felt like she had always been there. Cliche as it may be, we had always been parents, and this had always been our family. Not sticking to our birth "plan" doesn't seem to matter anymore. Oh, and since I promised blood and guts, I got a second degree tear and an awesome case of 'roids. Totally worth it.

Monday, October 8, 2012

yeah so the crazy washed off

Notice I'm wearing a sweater. It's a loaner. I purposely did not buy any warm maternity clothes, because I did not anticipate being pregnant during frost warnings.
I felt the need to post my last pregnancy photo ever. Mostly because I'm vain and I super love my pregnancy hair, and I'm really sad that it's going to fall out in a couple months. Also, I wanted to prove that I no longer resemble Jabba the Hut, since I got all my crazy out this weekend. I had about a thirty-second nervous breakdown on Saturday, during which all Mitch could say was "It's good to see you feel feelings."

I have had several people tell me they can't believe I'm still working. Yes, I'm a maniac. But seriously, if I had taken off even just a couple days before my due date, I would still be farting on my couch and eating Magnum bars (yeah what. it's never too cold for a Magnum bar). I think Mitch would come home from work and have to mop me off the floor every day. Also, I'm learning how much people need me (squeeeeee!). Every day I show up and notify the masses that I have once again failed to birth the Messiah, I get about half a dozen emails asking me to do something RIGHT NOW. It's so flattering that people fight for me to prioritize their busy work. But seriously, it's really interfering with shopping on etsy for baby headbands.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

41 weeks. the horror.

41 weeks. Artist Interpretation.
You can all stop asking me. No, I did not have the baby yet. If you want to know how far dilated/effaced I am, I will sign a release of information for you, and you can call my midwife yourself. Yes, we have tried walking/Evening Primrose Oil/sex/Indian food/breast pumping/animal sacrifices to get this baby out, so I don't really want any more suggestions, thank you very much.

Every day, I feel like I'm waking up in that movie Groundhog Day. "I Got You Babe" comes on the clock radio again, and confusion wells up in my veins that we are still sans baby. Is this real life? I need to figure out what I did wrong yesterday, and do it right today so that by tomorrow this baby has evacuated my body. I swear I'll pick up Buster's poo from my neighbor's yard (what dog poops twice on a 30 minute walk?!). I promise I won't hang up on the pollster. I won't curse at the lady who cut in front of us at First Watch, and I won't give Mitch titty twisters any more. I swear. I'll be good. Just hand over the baby.

I shouldn't complain, though. I'm still sleeping. And now that she has descended a little, my back doesn't hurt anymore. I'm having lots of contractions, so I suppose that means there's progress. She passed her nonstress yesterday with flying colors, so we're just truly grateful that she's still healthy, and they're letting us wait her out a little longer. We keep telling her that if she comes on her own terms, it will be a lot easier for everyone. I have a feeling that this is an indication of how many of our conversations with toddler Meatball will go. Put down mommy's lip stick/nail polish/Long Island iced tea and nobody gets hurt.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

waiting feels like

In the morning, my body is so quiet. I lie in bed waiting for this swell of muscle and pain and rhythm, and nothing ever happens. Every morning I wake up in disbelief that I am still occupied. Surely this can't be real, I think. I feel out of body. Then I feel a stir in my abdomen, a leg stretch into my ribs, and I get up and unceremoniously go to work.

At night, my belly clenches like a fist every fifteen, five, three minutes. I count every contraction with unwavering focus. But no pain. Or rarely. I pray to God that the fist brings pain. Because every day I go beyond 40 weeks, I come one day closer to an induction. My baby's resources are depleting. Her watery haven shrinks. Her skin dries out. Her movements become faint. She stops gaining weight. I've already lost four pounds. My body no longer serves her in this state. But my malingering uterus continues this show every night, promising so much, and then delivering nothing.

I can't help but feel as though I am incompetent. We have carefully prepared for a big performance, learning our lines, assembling sets and costumes, building an audience. But opening night came and went, and the star of the show failed to make an appearence. Eventually, people will stop asking with muted excitement if I've had this baby yet. Their questions will shift to statements about how I only have a few more days until they force her out. At least you only have a few more days. But I want this baby to come on her terms. So until then, I will nod and laugh politely when people tell me to uncross my legs already, and then I will imagine putting my hands around their throats and squeezing until the telling stops. Today is a good day to have a baby? I always think so.