Friday, June 27, 2008

Week 3

Gosh, next Tuesday my baby will be a month old. Wow! She's really developing so fast. She's incredibly strong - she's always rolling around and wiggling out of our arms, especially and unfortunately during diaper changes. When I burp her by sitting her, she doesn't flop over anymore - she sits up and looks at me, for a good few seconds. She holds her head up all the time, too. It's really amazing how strong she is - and from what we can tell, strong-willed.

I don't know when the "real" smiling is supposed to start, but I've said before that she's always been pretty smiley - in her sleep she even laughs these beautiful full-body laughs. Well today she was in her bassinet and I leaned down really close to her face and she broke out in a huge smile. So I don't care if that wasn't "real" - it was as real as this momma needed.

She's also in her 3 week growth spurt - her eating behavior completely changed and now she gulps voraciously and noisily. She's also a bit fussy but knowing that it's probably due to the growth, we can deal with it (she had a couple good days just before the spurt started, so I don't think she'll be colicky). Nursing continues to be a challenge off and on, but the biggest challenge is trusting myself. I have to put all the advice into the hopper, but in the end, I have to trust that I can read her cues. Every time it's hard it's because I'm trying to do something someone else said was right, instead of just following what has worked for us. It's most helpful when people remind me that I'm the mommy and that means I really do get to say what's best. Hey, I'm the one who gets smiles! (well John does too, and that's super sweet)

As for the move, it's moving forward, and it will be OK. I'm really looking forward to my house! And I realized last night there was absolutely no reason to be afraid of the PhD program -it's school, and I'm GREAT at school! John pointed this out too, reminding me that the scary hard challenge in my life is the baby, not the classes. If anything, school will be the thing that brings my confidence back, because I know I can do it and do it very well. So I feel good about that. It's absolutely something I'm gifted at and I think it will make me happier and more well-rounded, and maybe even more confident with the baby since I'll feel empowered overall.

Anyway those of you who pray for me, many thanks. I pray for me too, but more for Maggie, that she'll just find her happiness, and know that we will absolutely always love her and meet as many needs as we are capable of doing.

OK, momma doesn't get much time for leisure, so I'm off.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Second thoughts

So I am having serious doubts about the path I've set myself upon. It may just be the new momma hormones, or the sleep deprivation, or the fact that we're supposed to move in about 2 weeks and have nothing packed nor even movers hired.

But yeah, in all honesty, I'm really scared. I'm scared to move, to leave all my friends, to leave the life I know and understand for this entirely new thing I know nothing about, this new city, new community. And I'm scared that we'll never find someone to live with us, and we'll get up there and have to search frantically for another place to live whilst keeping our stuff in storage. Yucko.

But mostly I am finding myself desiring deeply not to leave Maggie. Like, ever. I know I will probably get bored one day and will want my own life again. But right now I can't imagine leaving her at all. Not even for the few hours a day I'd be in class.

She's a high-needs baby, and I feel like she needs me most of all. I want to be here for her. I know I shouldn't make any huge life-altering decisions in my present state, but don't you hear all the time about women who met their babies and that was it - they knew they were staying home from then on?

I'm not saying I'd never go get this degree, but I'm really questioning whether now is the time. Maybe I have jumped into way too much change at once. And really, would it be so awful to just give myself a break? To take a year to really love and enjoy my child?

And who knows, maybe I could get part time work here at a church or college ministry or something - I do have an MDiv after all, and it's not like I'm shabby in the experience or education departments. But I guess if I'm planning ways to work in LA, there's really not much difference between that and planning to go up to Berkeley for the work there.

I know a lot of people read this blog who are parents, and mommies who work, and some even mommies in that unique universe of academia, where you're not really gone 8 hours a day and maybe there is some way to have it all without feeling like you're compromising. I'm jealous of John, to get to stay with her all the time. But it's not like I'll be gone that much - that's what he keeps reminding me.

Anyway you people who've done this thing, please give me feedback. I need to hear from you.

She's so special. She needs a lot of extra care, but I think God gave me a gift in that she's about the smiliest newborn ever. I know that they say it's not "real" smiles, but what the hell does that even mean? She's smiling, for goodness sakes! And she does it a lot, and I think it's my special reward for the fact that she's also a screamer. I can live with the screaming and the crying because I get to have smiles already, and a lot of them.

I do love her. We got her a mirror and she's just looking in it - she loves to be set down, alone (she's not into being held all the time - tricky when you're trying to do attachment parenting) and just look in her mirror. She makes the funniest faces. I seriously am smitten with her. And she charms everybody who sees her in this state (but most people don't get to see it, because it's few and far between).

Anyway I might just be freaking out about all the changes and the upheaval in my life. But I mean, I kind of have a right to - it's really huge stuff that I've set before myself. And now I'm questioning whether I want to move forward. Part of me - a big part - just wants to hang back. Not never move forward, but just take some time to savor what's happening right before my eyes this moment.

And maybe in a few months I will be tired and bored and ready for school again. But maybe not - and why did I think I needed to jump right into this degree? Oh yeah, I did this because my ordination process fell through yet again. And I panicked and ran to academia because I felt safe there. And it was really great - I found a sexy topic, and I got into schools, and I met people who will be awesome mentors. I mean, the path is a good one. It's totally going to be great. But in all honesty, yeah, I'd rather just be a priest, and I wish that would have just worked out. This is all a huge distraction to take me away from my failure to get through ordination, my inability to convince my church to let me serve (in that capacity). All I really wanted was the priesthood, but I went with what I could get, which is great too, but not my first choice career. And at this point I'm just hoping one day I'll be able to get back on track for ordination, and I know that moving to another diocese is probably a wise idea to help that along.

But now the calling to parenthood is even stronger, and I fantasize about staying home with my baby, and maybe continuing to help out with liturgies like I've been doing at church (freelance liturgist for hire?), and not having to move so far away (but obviously still out of this apartment!), and keeping close to my friends and support system...

Oh, I have to go help the baby, she's freaking out. Anyway comment, pray, help me however you can. Should I give up? Or will it not be giving up but choosing the best path for myself and my child? Everything about Berkeley always felt so right, and it all came together just perfectly, just as I prayed it would. And yet. And yet. This little person has changed everything. She's stolen my heart away from any ambition I ever had for myself. OK I have to get her now.

Friday, June 20, 2008


BTW, I should have mentioned that I know so much about how love works because I've been married ten years. Today.

Happy anniversary and yay for us.

Thursday, June 19, 2008


Thank you for the encouragement, especially you who have been here. It helps a lot. I read it all even if I can't respond most of the time. Today in a store a mom took me aside and just started telling me how everything would be getting easier and better and not to worry - I must be wearing my heart on my sleeve, that even strangers are comforting me. Or God's just sending them my way. Or both.

But yeah, I write lovely blog entries in the night, in my head, while I'm nursing her, but since that still takes two hands (really I need three or four to get it right), I can't write you everything I'm feeling and thinking. Which might be for the best - a little amnesia about these weeks will probably one day help my relationship with my daughter.

I'm a little sad that the original euphoria wore off so fast, but J pointed out that was chemical anyway. I don't feel that deep well of love every time I look at her, but when she's awake, quiet, and adorable, which happens more and more, I do look at her and feel affectionate. I suppose I'll fall in love for real with her more slowly, over a longer time - which is always the way with real love anyway. Perhaps I was just infatuated before, and the deeper connection is yet to come. I know that I will love her with my whole heart - what's that quote? Having a child means letting your heart walk around outside your body.

Now I need to nap - J is helping to make me do that since I tend to not sleep enough. And mom's helping me eat, another thing I forget to do. So I'm doing OK (except there is literally no food at my house - we cancelled the friends bringing food too fast, because even though mom's here, she's not shopping so she's not able to cook, meaning we're spending way too much...oh anyway I have to stop).

Anyway thanks for being there and for helping me through this. I hope one day it will be so good, I might even want to do it again.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Peace child?

Forget the peace corps. This is the hardest job I'll ever love. Well I am hoping to love it one day...right now it's just damn damn hard.

Please keep the prayers coming. I think we may have gotten over a hump, but I'm still feeling slightly desperate now & then. I did finally give in to some feelings of resentment and anger towards the baby. She's just so screamy. It's like she doesn't know how else to act when she's awake, like she hasn't learned she can be awake and not crying. We had a couple horrible nights (usually when Mom hasn't stayed over), and mostly we're just incredibly frustrated that we can't figure out what's wrong or how to soothe her. She's just too little for most of the techniques we read about to work. I honestly think she's either just freaked out by being awake, or she could be in some kind of pain.

Tomorrow we go to the pediatrician and we're praying she'll be able to help. But it's totally possible we'll just be told she's being a normal, "high-needs" baby. I love her but I don't always like her very much...sometimes I wish I had my life back, my sleep back, and definitely my emotions back. I know I'm acting the total bitch, and I can't deal with being asked any questions or having to make decisions (Mom wants me to pick through baby clothes or decide what we're all eating and I just don't have the brainpower to do this!). Fortunately we talked through it and I guess I'm getting a free pass for a while, so I'm not having to apologize, although I do feel terrible and I know it's not me.

But yeah, this little girl is pushing us very close to the edge, and we bicker a lot (although he's tremendously better now that I realized he was forgetting to take his prozac and put him back on it). I hate how stressed we both are (it seems as soon as the company is gone - mom & dad that is - we are both yelling and I'm in tears within moments). BUT last night was a lot better, and we seem to have found a way to sleep in shifts. I think Mom thinks we're holding the baby too much, but I'm just trying to do what feels right to me.

She does seem to be inching (painfully slowly) towards being more mellow. Maybe she'll learn she doesn't have to cry every time she's awake - that there are other things to do with awake time. We sometimes wonder if she's just bored and doesn't know what else to do with herself.

Her eating is also somewhat problematic in that one of my nipples is horribly sore (it throbs when she's not even on it) and that's the side she prefers eating on. I am trying to make her stick to the other side, but she seems so pathetic when she doesn't eat much and I know if I put her on the sore side she'll go at it voraciously. I don't know why she's got a preference - both sides pour out milk so it's not a supply problem. Maybe the one side is too much for her. I don't know. I think I might try to hit a b-feeding support group this week and try to get help with the painful side. It's so weird - neither was hurting for a while, and all of a sudden the left side just starting hurting like hell. However, most of the time it doesn't hurt through the whole feeding - just as first, then again after she's off.

Oh, her eye is MUCH better. It was very swollen yesterday but has gone down, and she hardly has any discharge at all anymore. I do keep massaging it a couple times a day and put in a little milk to ward off infection. It's a big relief though to see her eye open now & then. She also seems to have some pain from gas - she'll fuss just before a bm or fart. The colic tablets do seem to help a lot with that. And the gripe water. Usually she'll have some colic tablets and then about 5 mins later the gas will come out all ends. :) And then she can sleep again.

J is over there with the baby "slung" right now. She does enjoy that, once you get her in there. It might be part of the "hold her too much" thing, but honestly she's so little, there will be time to teach her to sleep in her bassinet later (and she did sleep there most of the time she slept last night). She seems to be calming down a tiny bit, so I'm hopeful that her fussiness was just related to being new in the world and won't develop into full-on colic (which usually doesn't show up this early). I think she's more fussy than even my mom knows how to deal with. I get the impression she's more fussy than a typical baby, but perhaps it's just the first couple weeks of being out in the world.

She does get SO mad - she's never sad, just angry (hopefully not in pain, though sometimes seems to have gas troubles). She's quite a screamer. For a few days I've felt really depressed and overwhelmed, but I'm trying to get out of the mindset that I got a "bad" "difficult" baby. One morning we both really felt like cashing her in. She's just so demanding. I just pray she'll realize that she's safe and doesn't need to cry all the time, that we really will meet her needs (which is why it is important to me to pick her up when she's crying and try to suss out the problem).

I do get a little jealous when I see older babies who are actually awake and not fussing, who smile and interact with their parents. I am told those days will come, but I'm so tired and it's hard to imagine my life won't be this way forever. It's hard to see past today. I try to go one second at a time and treasure the quiet moments. But yeah, friends were over with a happy 1 year old and I just wanted them to leave because it made me so sad for my crying baby. And mom read a story about "you were born into the world quietly" and I cried again because she WAS quiet when she was born and now she's so NOT quiet and, I'm afraid, not content.

This is so hard. Sometimes I just wander around with her in my arms, screaming, and I'm weeping and feel numb, like the walking dead. Like I have no sense of hope whatsoever.

And then sometimes she'll smile for a while and I do love that. It's no longer enough to make me think she's an angel, because I know better, but for that moment I can really enjoy her, and hopefully that will get me through this time.

Anyway it will be time to feed her again soon so I'd better go psych up for it. I mean, on the right side it's actually not difficult (not quite a pleasure yet, but tha'ts just because I have to constantly tickle her to keep her awake - it's like that side has tryptophan or something), but I should really have her take a turn on the left, as I'm looking down and the left looks about 2 cup sizes bigger at the moment! Owie owie!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Maggie's Birth Story

Maggie’s Birth Story

This is going to be long – but it was a r-e-a-l-l-y long labor.

I had had a cold for a couple weeks and we kept saying that I had to get better or labor would never come. Or so we thought. We were also talking about starting several measures – cohosh tea, walking/stairs, even a special salad at a local restaurant rumored to start labor – so that she’d come a bit early, allowing her to make it to graduation and me to have her a bit longer before school started. I even had a long talk with her and God the night it all began, explaining how it would be really wonderful to have her arrive early so I could spend more time with her, how I couldn’t wait to meet her, but I wanted her to come when she was ready.

That weekend was terrifically busy – we actually had a baby shower, of all things, on Friday night, then Saturday I went to a choir rehearsal most of the day, then Sunday was my choir concert. I was completely wiped out, but at least the concert was the last thing on my agenda before I was basically uncommitted (save for a few papers to grade). I guess my body was waiting for that, because it swung into action after the concert. Rather than feeling tired, as I had all weekend (and the week before, in bed), I was energized and started organizing everything around the house, and cleaning and stuff. I didn’t know if I was nesting because labor was coming or I was trying to make labor come by nesting, but either way, I had the energy.

That night, weirdly since I’d been sick, I couldn’t sleep. I was just restless. I felt “up” and jittery and kept staring at the clock all night, then snoozing, then noticing it had only been 10 minutes and I felt awake again. Finally around 1:30 a.m. Sunday night/Monday morning I got up to pee, then was thinking maybe I wanted to try eating (I’ve never been a night eater) or at least get some water, so I grabbed my water bottle and was leaving the room…and then, just like in the movies, like they say never really happens in real life, my water broke in a massive gush. Cursing, I grabbed a “puppy pad” (not actually but they’re like that for humans) and put it under me and was rather shocked as the gush didn’t stop at all. I was sopping. And I was completely freaked out.

I yelled at John something about my water breaking (with a few more choice words thrown in) and he was like OK OK calm down! But my very first thought was that now I’d have to be induced because once that water breaks, it’s tick tick tick until the hospital decides you better not wait any more to be in labor. Since I was going to the hospital I started envisioning all the interventions I wouldn’t be able to avoid and got really scared. Finally made it to the toilet and gushed for a while there, called Mom and my childbirth educator, and they calmed me down.

Then I listened to my childbirth meditation cd which, like buying diapers and other little things, was an activity I’d planned to begin the next day. And it really mellowed me out, and in fact I started having contractions. John was awesome – he never went to sleep, just got up and started doing dishes and making me food and cleaning the house. He knew we’d be gone for a while. He prepped the cats, got cds out for me to take the hospital, and helped pack my bags (which were another project for the following day).

We knew we had to get into the hospital after a couple hours or they’d be mad we waited so long, so after I showered, ate a decent breakfast, and drank several cups of cohosh tea, we were off. It was actually really exciting by this point. I really thought I’d kick into labor soon and we’d have the baby that day.

Monday at 4:30 a.m. we arrived at the hospital. Because I’d had some trouble with high blood pressure during the pregnancy they were very concerned, and then my stupid urine had protein in it, so they told me I’d have to labor in the high risk area instead of the birthing center with the midwives, which really made me sad. For six hours I stayed on a monitor (external) and tried to lay on my left side and bring my bp down, tried to sleep, and had docs and nurses tutting over me and checking my bp every few minutes. I tried to read the paper too but that wasn’t happening. Then a nurse came in to put me on an IV (damn! My first intervention) for saline drip. I can’t remember why they thought I needed that. But anyway I was on it about an hour and I thought it seemed weird because it didn’t look like anything was moving through the IV. So I called in the nurse, who had forgotten to turn the thing on. Well, great. That was an hour wasted. And once the stuff starting flowing I definitely could feel it. Ay yi yi. I’d never been in the hospital at all so I didn’t know how these things were supposed to go, but I was not pleased with the incompetence. I was also hungry so I snuck a protein bar and a honey stick.

Around that time a nurse came in who was really on her game, and she read my birth plan and knew how bad I wanted out of that section of the hospital. So she worked with me to make it happen. Finally I had a clean urine test and my bp went down enough that I was officially cleared from the high risk area and allowed to go to the birthing center. HUGE answer to my fervent prayers!

Unfortunately after six hours stuck in a bed, what contractions and momentum I’d had were lost. I saw the midwife around 10 a.m. on Monday and she wanted me on the monitor for an hour, but then said I could walk around which I was DYING to do. I so just wanted to be free of the monitor and to try my various natural ways to get labor going. So we tried them - walking, nipple stimulation, making out, stairs, everything we could think of that we had available. The one thing I didn’t get to try was castor oil – a friend tried to get some but couldn’t find it. I don’t know if that would have helped.

Anyway the hours passed and no matter what I couldn’t get the contractions to show up regularly on the monitor, and one line or the other (baby’s or mine) was always doing something they didn’t like. It was frustrating because I could sense that things were moving along, but they only would look at that damn ticker tape. At one point the contractions got quite strong and low in my back, and we started timing them ourselves at around 3 mins, but they wouldn’t show up on the monitor as consistently as they wanted, so the midwife asked me to consider the p-word…pitocin.

Pit is a fluid made up of oxytocin, which is the thing your brain secretes to put you in labor. I had heard many horror stories of how it causes miserable, too-quick contractions, and how it puts you down the road to an epidural and c-section. I was terrified of pit, and it was something I was dead-set against going into the hospital. However. It was coming up on 13 hours after my water had broken, which was 5 hours more than they usually let people go. The risk of “infection” kept growing, I guess, although I had no fever and no sign of it yet. We had a long talk with the midwife about the risks and benefits, particularly of the infection itself. They wouldn’t give me antibiotics now to stave off the risk, but if an infection happened, both baby and me would get them. The main reason the midwife wanted me to get it was because she was going off work at 7 and then I’d be alone all night with doctors, who could be a bit more eager to move things along FOR me. That made sense. Also, she explained that if I did get an infection, they would take away the baby at birth and I wouldn’t see her for 24 hours. THAT was the thing that put me over the edge. I didn’t care what it did to my body, I couldn’t handle the possibility of not having my baby with me every moment after she arrived. So after a very, very difficult, traumatic decision, involving many calls to other women (including my little sister who mommied me very well) and a lot of tears, I caved and let them put me on pit.

4:30 p.m. Monday we started it. It meant I was stuck on the monitor from then on, although they were nice about letting me move around from birth ball to bed to rocking chair. And I could still do many of my contraction positions. Plus, whenever I wanted a break, I could say I had to pee and they’d take me off everything for a while. I peed a lot.

The contractions did start to get more regular, about 5-6 mins apart (by our timing – again the monitors wouldn’t show every one of them). They wanted them 2-3 mins apart though, so they kept turning up the pit. Now they started it at 2 ml/hr which is really quite a tiny amount, and they would turn it up 1 ml every hour (it goes up as high as 20 ml before they start talking about things like c-sections). So I never got it above 6, and even then that was only during pushing much later. For that I was grateful. It was up to 5 right when my midwife and good nurse went off duty (about 7:30 p.m.) and then nobody checked on me for hours, and the pit stayed as it was. That was a relief. For a while.

Around 9ish my contractions got really intense and I asked for a doctor. I wanted to see if I could bargain for a little less pit so I could sleep for a while. Remember I’d been up since 1:30 the night before, but really hadn’t slept before that either. So I started hitting the wall. Anyway, despite asking at 9 I didn’t wind up seeing a doc until after 2 a.m.! And a lot went on in those hours.

From 11 p.m. until 1 a.m. I was in what we are sure was transition. I had all the symptoms and it was my keen, well-trained husband who called it. Besides the big-time contractions, which were moving lower into my back, I started shaking really hard between them. I also was burping and hiccupping, and was in the worst pain. The self-doubt started and I said over and over that if it got any worse I couldn’t do it. John was sure this had to be transition, except for one thing: those damn contractions were still not showing up on the monitors as the right consistency. They had never gotten much closer than 3 mins and were usually at 5, and during the transition they were 3-5 and not super regular. But I think I’m just not a digitally-monitorable person (one friend said I am “analog”). Because boy howdy, I knew they were there. So we took the time to just ignore the machines and we were left alone and could focus on getting through it. It was LONG though – 2 hours – and it didn’t wind up being right before the pushing as it usually is. So maybe it wasn’t transition – but it was the closest I ever got.

The only way I could deal with those contractions was on all 4’s, or sometimes with head on the birth ball and on my knees. John or Kelly (awesome friend who stayed all day and night!) would do the “double hip squeeze” on me and rub my back or roll cans on it to alleviate the pain. The hip squeeze worked wonders, as did the position on hands and knees. Unfortunately it would make the monitors fall off or get knocked off balance, and usually a nurse would come in a scold me. They’d make me lie down on my BACK (worst position every) and take a few contractions, then they’d leave and I was back up again. I was very naughty, but luckily there were a bunch of deliveries happening all around me so they mostly left us alone.

So FINALLY at 2ish the doctor came in, and the first thing out of her mouth (despite my birth plan that said, in bold and underlined, “Do not offer pain medication”) was “I know you don’t want an epidural but we can give you morphine…”. Well friend Kelly was quite pissed at her for that, and tried to help me think through it carefully. John was more willing to go for the drugs, probably because he saw my level of tiredness and pain. I was pretty much out of my mind. But I heard a few important things: morphine isn’t going to deaden you, just take the edge off; it’s not going to last until the pushing stage but will definitely wear off; and it doesn’t get to the baby (or so they say). These sounded OK to me. Of course when I asked for the risks they said “none” which isn’t true exactly. We did a vaginal exam and I was 3 cm dilated and 50% effaced. Not super progress considering how long we’d been going (and 10 hours on pit). So I went for the morphine - just one dose, to get some rest (it takes the edge off the pain but doesn't numb you like an epidural). My second compromise. But the one I am SO glad I did. This was at 2:30 a.m., 25 hours after water breaking.

Because, to me, I conked out for the next 5 hours. Apparently I actually did not sleep but got up for every contraction, on all 4’s, and John got up with me and squeezed my hips. Then I’d collapse and snore for a minute or two in-between. I have absolutely no memory of that. I do remember puking up my last power bar at one point. But clearly the morphine worked its wonders. Poor John was a mess, but I “woke up” (came out of my morphine haze) around 7 and felt awesome. I think the contractions were about the same intensity but I could handle them SO much better. So it was really, I think, a good choice to have gone with the morphine. I needed that rest so badly, as we headed towards the 30 hour mark. I also had some Recharge and some coconut water which helped my strength a lot. I was having broth but it was causing me to puff up (combined with my saline drip) so we stopped that. I had to hold my hands above my head – they looked like sausages! Luckily they could tell it was from the saline drip so they didn’t start going all freaky on me about eclampsia. My bp had been high off and on, but I managed to keep it in a safe enough range.

Finally at 8 a.m. a doctor came in to check me but I knew my midwife (Susan who I’d seen all along – and who is only in 2 days a week – but I’d prayed my whole pregnancy to have the baby on a Tuesday or Thursday so I could have her and God obliged) was coming on, so I asked to wait for her. There was pressure moving lower and lower inside, and I was definitely feeling that distinct urge to poop – I mean, push, but it feels like you have to poop.
At 9 Susan walked in and it was like seeing the face of God. I was so incredibly relieved. I knew she’d advocate for me and she’s not into the medical stuff. We talked for a minute and then she checked me, and wouldn’t you know, I was 8 cm, 80% effaced and the baby was at -1 station. She was shocked because the docs had all told her I was “not progressing at all” – she said, “I’m going right out there and telling them off!” I told her it was because the monitors weren’t showing my contractions, and she completely ignored the monitors and listened to me. Hallelujah. I guess word really had gotten around, though, because later as they wheeled to the other area where we recovered everyone who saw me (nobody I knew) was like, “finally!” Thanks people.

Anyway, Susan went to check on some other people (including another friend from my prenatal group visits, also due in 2 weeks – and we both got Susan delivering us same day!) and said she’d be back in an hour or so. Well in half an hour I had such a strong urge to push that I just went with it. And I told them to go get Susan right away, that I couldn’t wait anymore.

So she came back at 10 a.m., checked me (a bit skeptically), and her eyes got huge and she said I was fully dilated and effaced and the baby was at 0 station and we were ready to push! Well I knew that, but finally everybody else caught on. J At 10:05 a.m. I started pushing. It was the hardest part, really, because it was harder than I expected. Everyone says it’s such a relief, but in fact it was so long after my transition that I wasn’t relieved, I was like, OUCH. It really took so much effort (no drugs, remember) and burned like crazy. Fortunately I had awesome cheerleaders – John and Susan and a new nurse who was great too. And Susan let me lie on my side to push her out instead of on my back, thank God. I had wanted to do squatting but after 34 hours I was in no shape for it. So I lay on my side, which was very comfortable and relaxing, and held my legs I swear above my head. John and Susan helped me with my legs, and she helped by telling me to pull up on the leg while pushing down, which was good advice. I pushed with and without contractions, but they were coming REALLY fast anyway. And I was tired but when she’d say “push or rest?” I nearly always chose push because I wanted her OUT. Not only did it really hurt to have her halfway there, but I was so ready for it to be OVER. Plus the resting didn’t feel good at all. The whole pushing part was harder than I thought.

But then at 10:55 a.m., that little head finally came out, and then her body flew out on the next contraction (John compared it to the opening scene of “Big Fish”). She came right up onto my chest and was so alert and I was so happy that I had done it without any drugs to that I could have those beautiful eyes looking all around, and she was so calm and content. Susan went on and on about how I hadn’t seemed like I was in labor at all – my face was so placid and I barely made a peep. Well I chalked that up to meditation practice. I knew that sending my energy out through my mouth by screaming wouldn’t do any good; I instinctively was sending it down into my pelvis, along with all my sound and grimacing and everything. I think I was making some sounds, and I sure felt like I made faces, but Susan said I just seemed completely focused and really peaceful. She called in people to watch me, which felt so good. Everyone was so proud of me, and I was too.

My sweet little girl stayed on me for 40 mins, which helped with the pain of being stitched up (the intern wasn’t used to stitching women without epidurals and didn’t realize I could feel EVERYTHING, so Susan sent her to do paperwork and finished me up with a lot less pain!). Oddly being stitched and the recovery pain from that has been one of the harder things as well. Anyway, the baby was ready to suck, and we had a wonderful time just staring at each other, and I had that great moment of bliss, being completely in love and in every way committed to this little life. Which I found I would need in the days to come! John went with her as she was measured and weighed and checked (7 lbs, 19 inches), and then we all stayed together in our hospital room. The first nurse who came in told me she’d prayed for us, and I realized that really, through my 34 hour ordeal, I had been held up by so many people, and me & Maggie & John were always, every moment, in the hands of God. Although it’s not an experience I’m keen to repeat anytime soon, I really did feel like it was a blessed birth, and my joy in the gift of my child is beyond any words to describe.

Doing better

Just wanted to quickly say the baby's eye is MUCH better. She's still fussy but there are periods of relief, and now Grandma is helping out with the rocking and holding too. I even took some pics to prove that she was awake and NOT crying.

Now we think that she probably has a little diaper rash, which is mostly from our not getting her clean enough. Thankfully Grandma is here to diagnose such things - we had no idea, and now she's sleeping peacefully over there with no diaper on. Gotta get some butt paste and then she should clear right up.

Anyway still haven't time to write the birth story (now that Grandma's here I'm actually kind of beholden to conversation instead of writing...) but I had to thank you for the prayers because I think they are working!! At least I feel better now with the help. Here's my adorable girl:

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

More Maggie stories

Yeah, my life is one note right now. Get over it.

I forgot a couple other cute stories. We actually were brave enough to try to bathe the poor child. We got one of those infant tubs with a sling and that thing worked REALLY well. Unfortunately, as soon as baby got in it and got wet she pooped. Yay! What fun. Brand new tub, now poopy. Guess it’s real baby furniture now. And she didn’t even cry – much – during the bath. We were terrified but it worked out, and I think next time we might even try soap!

One of the times she was hysterical I tried sitting in the bath with her. Again, immediately, poop. And this time, ON me since I was holding her, not the sling. Well that was fun. John’s only gotten peed on. I feel like the privileged parent. I got peed on immediately after her birth AND now was the first recipient of a generous out-of-diaper poo (well first human – there’s been plenty on the changing table and in the clothes). I really can’t wait for my own washer/dryer. We had to have a friend bring quarters for us!

Speaking of, friends have been wonderful. We’re really blessed to have food brought almost every night. And mostly good stuff, although we got a comical number of bread loaves, ice creams, and fruits (particularly cherries, which are in season at the farmer’s markets – got several pounds now, John’s considering making a pie). My one sadness is the friend who was bringing sushi last night came down sick. The one meal I was REALLY looking forward to!

And I should report that the cats are doing remarkably well. They’ve always hated babies so we didn’t know what to expect. Kitty, the older one, took to her immediately and likes to sniff and lick her (which we don’t allow much of). She also wants to sleep with us, and the baby, in the bed, which is making for quite the crowded situation. Tyke, the bitchy one, is less thrilled with the whole thing – and cries loudly whenever baby cries – but at least there’s been no violence (at least, only to me and John – we both are sporting huge scratches – and to one friendly visitor who crossed her path). Overall, we’re trying to encourage guests to spend time with the cats, and are giving lots of treats and reassurance. But Tyke caught on too fast and now when the baby cries, she runs over to her treat place and stands there looking at you. Yeah, that cat isn’t super bright, except when it comes to her food.

Anyway those are a couple more things I wanted to share.

Monday, June 09, 2008

The first week

I'm going to do this a bit backwards and post notes on our first week home with Maggie here, then post her birth story hopefully tomorrow. I just haven't had time to write the birth story out yet, though I have notes. So here is how things are going as of day 7 of Maggie's life on earth.

And oh, friends in LA, looks like her baptism will be THIS sunday, so email me if you want details to come.

Maggie’s First Week

We decided to leave the hospital after only about 24 hours (although it took more than 36 to get us discharged which was BORING). John felt like it was a prison and they were moving in another mom/baby in our room, so we didn’t feel like sleeping there with roommates and John in an uncomfortable chair instead of the other bed.

Getting her in the car seat the first time was horrible – she screamed and screamed and we didn’t have any idea what we were doing. We couldn’t figure out how to loosen the straps or even get her limbs in the right place. Somehow it got done, and as soon as we were off she did the magic car trick and went right to sleep as all kids seem to do. I got my Fatburger shake.

After we got home we had an incredibly difficult night. I wish I’d been warned that the first night home is traumatic – I later read it in a book and felt much better, but at the time I was just horrified at myself for leaving the hospital so early. I was in so much pain myself – my recovery has been slower and more difficult than I imagined – and the baby just wouldn’t eat as much as I was told she had to, and I felt like all parents with the inadequacy and the terror. I spent a lot of time that night on the phone to friends in the Midwest, people who were themselves up with babies, thankfully. But it was miserable and not something I am keen to repeat. I was so sorry that my mom wasn’t with me. This whole first week (since she came early) has been just me and John, which is very difficult but I hope will ultimately have been some quality bonding time as a family.

Plus I just didn’t realize how hard my own recovery would be. I’m so sore (god bless my friend who brought me a donut to sit on!!) and it hurts to stand up, sit down, cough, laugh, pretty much everything. I have to sit in baths and the first time I did that I couldn’t get down or up by myself. I can barely use the toilet by myself. And don’t get me started on BMs. Let’s just say that department seems to be on permanent vacation. So besides being physically exhausted and mentally stressed from caring for the baby, I’m wiped from my own body’s need to recover from its biggest task ever. Everything just takes so much effort. I actually sent John out on day 2 to buy a $300 rocking chair. I didn’t care a whit about the money – I needed the damn chair for my freaking sore bottom! Not to mention to sleep in at night when I can’t manage to get up after feeding the baby. Anyway, women understand when I simply say “I’m stitched down there” – pretty much any woman can imagine how that would be the worst pain in the world. And when John once ventured something about his own frustration, I snapped that we could cut a few inches into his scrotum and see how he felt after that. Yeah, sometimes pain makes you bitchy.

The main reason that the first night, and subsequent feedings, have been stressful is that I was fed this line that breastfeeding, done properly, is not supposed to hurt – like, at all. This is the impression I had. So when it hurt, I assumed I was doing it wrong and would try again, which would make the baby frustrated and mad, especially if she was eating. After many tearful tries and frustration, I spoke to several good girlfriends who assured me that in fact it DOES hurt at first EVEN if you’re doing it right. I don’t know why this “proper latch doesn’t hurt” myth is perpetuated – perhaps to keep women from getting frustrated and quitting. But I got frustrated and was thinking of quitting because I didn’t realize that a couple days later, doing the exact same thing, it wouldn’t hurt because I would have gotten a bit more calloused and tough. And I’m lucky – I was able to procure a relatively painless latch (after the initial, teeth-gritting moment) within two days, which is way fast. Many times it takes a couple weeks.

The first full day home was actually way better than the night before – the baby slept most of the day and I decided to stop pushing for a feeding schedule (the nurses at Kaiser had been adamant about it, but I could tell the baby just wasn’t that hungry plus for God’s sake she was less than 48 hours old! It was hardly time for scheduling!). I of course got nervous about how much she ate, or didn’t eat, and my own inability to feed her properly. That’s about the only thing I can control in all this, so it’s what I obsess on. But really, I didn’t realize at the time how great she was being (the true stress was on its way).

The second night was fabulous – she slept long stretches and the feedings went well. But then we had to go to the lactation consultant, and I was scolded for letting her go 4 hours between feedings, and for not making her eat as much as they thought she should, even though I could tell when she wasn’t hungry (and spitting up which can mean overfeeding anyway). She’d lost about 8% of her body weight, which is within the normal range. But still I went home determined to put her on a 2-3 hour schedule, which then was challenged by others who say feed only on demand…it’s all so damn complicated. I can only trust my gut, and my gut often tells me not to wake her because the poor thing gets so little down time as it is.

But anyway, things got funny at the appointment: I had been telling John about how nervous I was about the visit, because I felt like it was my first “test” as a mother – they were going to watch and see if I did things right! And I didn’t know what I was doing! John helped by reminding me it was more like a piano lesson or a coach than a test – their job was to help me, not criticize me. But still, I was nervous about being on display.

So when we arrived the nurse asked what color her poop was, and we said still black, and she said it should be turning green by now. Just then, Maggie produced a green poop. My little pleaser. Then she was scolding about my schedule being too lax and that I needed to pump to ensure my milk supply because the baby wasn’t swallowing – and then we looked down, and sure enough, Maggie had suddenly mastered the swallow that she was looking for. Things went on like this. Even I was able to perform: she asked if my milk had come in, I said no, and then she squeezed and milk came out! So Mags is definitely taking after her mommy in being excellent when under test pressure. I’m so proud.

Another funny story was one time John was holding her skin to skin, and suddenly he lets out a whoop and says, “Whoa, she’s hungry!” because the little one had tried to latch onto his nipple! She has since pulled this a couple more times. We think it’s cute that she likes daddy’s smell so much and assumes he’s a food provider too. Would that it were so…breastfeeding is tiring and pretty repetitive. Thank God for my Sex & the City dvds.

On Sunday Maggie was especially fussy most of the day, and we noticed her eye was discharging and leaving a crust like sleep over it, that kept her from opening it. It was sad to not see her pretty little eye anymore. Plus the crust was yellow, and she was super fussy. So after much deliberation all day, calling the nurse, calling girlfriends, and reading up on infections and blocked tear ducts, we wound up with our first frantic trip to the hospital. It was actually only frantic because we found out the urgent care was closing in 30 mins and we live 20 mins from there. We just didn’t want to let it go overnight if it was indeed infected, and it turned out my niece had had just such an eye infection in her first days. So in we went, the rite of passage for parents, to have her checked on something probably that was nothing. And it was – just a blocked duct, which is painless (so they say – she’s still super fussy) and mostly just annoying. We have to clean it and massage her little eye. But mostly I cry because she is so beautiful and now her little eye is always closed, so you can’t see her full gorgeousness anymore. And I remember how lovely she was in the hospital and I miss her full face so much. John joked about getting her an eye patch and calls her Popeye. But I just cry and think about how we won’t have pretty pictures from her first weeks. I know that’s kind of a dumb thing to cry over, but believe me, it ranks pretty high compared to most of what I cry over these days.

Yeah, riding the hormone wave is really tiring, and I try to just let it wash over me and know it will pass, and everything seems worse than it really is, and John and I are snippy because we’re tired and both stressed. The baby seems to be in a sleep-scream cycle with no in-between and that’s just frustrating. I have no animosity towards her at all – she makes me nothing but happy and loving – but I hate my own inability to soothe her. I hate that I can’t fix her troubles. We broke down and got a pacifier today, because we just couldn’t take the screaming anymore. And I feel bad that I didn’t have the strength to wait longer and try more things, but I just didn’t. This morning I scared myself because I let her cry – just a few minutes – because I was literally too tired to move to pick her up. I can’t be so tired that I can’t respond to her. God, I am counting the minutes until my parents are here. I need help so bad. For the first couple days I felt really up, and I suppose I had adrenaline or something on my side. Now I’m getting increasingly teary, impatient, and utterly exhausted. The smallest tasks are daunting, and I’m taking shortcuts with my kid (I do not want her reliant on the paci!). I couldn’t even remember to try rocking her to make her not cry – I can’t think of what to do because this switch in me goes off when I hear it and I can’t think straight, I just have to make it stop. It’s crazy – I always hated baby cries. But my own baby’s cries are like this alarm bell inside my brain and even my body itself. It almost physically hurts when she cries. Often I just bawl while she does because I want her to feel better so badly. I can’t fix her! And now with the eye thing, she really is broken, and that kills me.

The one great thing about going to the doc was that they weighed her, and she has put on 9 freaking ounces since Friday when my milk came in! She’s only 1 oz from her birth weight, which is the 2-week goal! Quite the little overachiever at 6 days. I was so happy with that. Counting diapers is tiring but at least it’s reassuring. We were keeping a very careful log, but that’s not going to last long. We’re both too tired to remember the last diapers and feedings, especially now that she’s up more at night. We’re still at only 2 or 3 times a night, which isn’t awful and isn’t every 2 hours, but it is enough to make us both raging tired.

We did have one really positive experience today: we actually left the house and went to the “mommy movie” at the theater up the street. This is a special deal where they invite everyone to bring a baby, and they turn the lights up slightly in the theater and turn the sound down to about halfway, and there’s even a changing table right in there! It was totally the greatest thing ever. If we were staying here I’d go every week. So I got to see Indiana Jones AND my baby was totally good the whole time! I should have known that movies would be our baby’s soothing device. Stands to reason from parents who met in film school. And then about halfway through she started to wake up, and I actually FED her right there in the theater!! No special support pillow, no time for getting things perfect, I just slapped her on and wouldn’t you know, she just suckled for the rest of the film and was perfectly happy, and I was comfortable and thrilled to provide something that kept her content. I had the hugest sense of accomplishment from that simple act (how different my standards are these days!). And the two plus hours of peace for all three of us was so needed. It felt so good to be outside in the sun, and to be walking around instead of sitting on my sore bottom, and to be just able to DO something again, to stop feeling like a sick person but gain a bit of normalcy.

Here’s hoping it can continue. My baby is a week old tomorrow. I am praying so hard that whatever is bothering her will just go away, so she can be calm and peaceful again. I can’t believe how all my entire life has changed in a week. How the world is completely and utterly changed. And I’m trying very hard to just live in each moment. John will talk about her crying “all day” but I think more in terms of OK she’s crying right now, but look, she’s calm right now. And yeah, I could think back and realize she’s mostly either sleeping or screaming, and rarely awake and not unhappy, but I’m trying very hard to not add it up. Just take it literally one minute at a time. And she’s there in her bassinet sleeping alone for the first time, and yeah, she has a paci, but she’s doing really well for a not-quite-one-week on this earth person.

The stamina may be failing, but I’m still in the mommy high – I’m still, despite the tears and the wishes for her to feel better, I’m still completely and totally blown away by how blessed I am, how much I love her, how much I would do anything and everything for her. Even get myself to the point of near-insanity with exhaustion, just so that I can make sure she knows all her needs will be met, that she can trust us and we will never let her down.

Anyway I’m making myself cry now so I’ll cut this off.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

New life

I'm a mommy. It is awesome.

Margaret Susanna McAteer

(named for Queen Margaret of Scotland - and my grandma, Susanna Wesley - and many Sues and Susans in our life, including our midwife who delivered her!)

Born 6/3/08 10:55 a.m. (after 34 hours from water breaking)

7 lbs, 19 inches

Doing really well all things considered. She is absolutely beautiful.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Thundercats are GOOO

As Juno memorably put it.

About 1:30 a.m., with a gush and a string of curses, I covered my nightgown and floor in fluid. There's no looking back now.

Pray that I will go into active labor soon (or active-er: had plenty of painless contractions) so that I won't have to be induced. Pray most of all that I will remain calm and collected and that I will trust God to carry us through this.

I feel fairly serene at the moment (been meditating for an hour) and am really looking forward to the coming hours.

Here we go!