I know, I know. Sounds like a strange title coming from a new mother. I know most days in my near future will be spent begging for time alone to drink a hot cup of coffee or go to the bathroom alone. But that’s not necessarily what this post is about.
I was thinking about something that’s been repeated to me about this phase of Caroline’s life. She is learning to be outside the womb. She is learning how to deal with being hungry, being wet, being cold, being sleepy. All those things that she spent almost 10 months taking for granted (as it were) in the womb she suddenly has to learn how to deal with. She has to learn how to deal with being away from me–even if it’s only for a minute at a time.
So while I was thinking about that, another thing occurred to me, and it’s something that I feel isn’t often discussed with new mothers, but that I think could help explain some of why baby blues and postpartum depression happen.
Sure, Caroline is learning how to exist on the outside of my body. That makes sense. But I am learning how to exist with her outside my body, too. I am learning how to exist alone. As an individual again. For almost an entire year of my life I was never alone, ever, no matter what. I always had her inside me, always felt as though I was coexisting with her even before I could feel her somersaults and jabs and punches. I always had somebody with me, even if I did not know her as I know her now.
Does this make any sense or am I a total nutjob?
I keep trying to explain to Cameron that when I feel anxious when I am away from her, it has nothing to do with my trust in him. I know perfectly well that he is more than capable of taking care of her, feeding her a bottle when she is hungry, changing her when she is wet…of course I trust him. He’s a great daddy. I’m not anxious because I don’t trust him. I’m anxious because I have forgotten what it’s like to be alone. And it’s not like I want to be away from her–but in the times that I want to leave her with Cameron and run to the grocery store or visit a friend or do SOMETHING without her…I don’t know how to relax. Don’t know how to not think about her. I literally get shortness of breath when I leave the house alone. Last weekend, at my parent’s house, we left her with my mom and dad upstairs for a few hours and went downstairs to take a baby-free nap and I could barely sleep because I felt like a part of me was missing and it just didn’t feel right. And she was only a floor above me.
I know that this time will pass. Soon enough I will relish and look forward to my time alone. Soon enough I will allow myself to let someone else take her for a while so that Cameron and I can go to a movie or go to a restaurant by ourselves. It isn’t that I don’t trust the wonderful friends who have been offering to watch her so we can have some baby-free time, it’s just that I can’t be without her for that long. And that’s hard to explain right now, I feel rude when I tell friends that it’s okay, thank you very much but no thank you…just yet. It’s taking baby steps, no pun intended. Today Cameron forced me out of the house to spend a couple hours with a friend, and it was hard and I really didn’t want to go…but I needed to. I needed to trust me again, trust that I can exist on my own. It’s an aspect of this postpartum journey that I never, ever anticipated. Nobody ever warned me that I could or would feel this way.
Still, like I said…baby steps. This will get easier and I will learn how to be alone again. And I will actually enjoy it too!
Yes. 3 nights in a row of calm, collected sleep. For Caroline AND mommy and daddy. What. A. Relief.
I feel like we’ve finally reached some sort of understanding about each other, and started getting a handle on her preferences and what she likes and doesn’t like. I know patterns change and what works one night may not work the next night, but for three nights in a row, we’ve all slept well and it is amazing. I’ve had to learn to be flexible–sometimes she just doesn’t want to lie in her cradle and sometimes she wants to sleep on my chest and that is okay for now because if it works, it works. The little bean is still way too young for forcing patterns or routines on her. The time will come but for now, I have to learn to live by her cues.
I don’t know if it’s because I’ve gotten more sleep or because I finally feel like I have a handle on this whole “mothering” thing (or both, more likely) but things have been so much better the last several days. No crying (from me at least), no meltdowns, no middle of the night freakouts involving my being certain that there was no way I could do this. Apparently I can.
So, anyway. Enough about that. I will celebrate my small victories when I have them and I will embrace the positive days so that when I have a negative, hard day, maybe it won’t feel so hard. In the meantime, here’s what we’ve been up to this week!
I want to first say thanks to all the people who responded to my last post and offered words of encouragement. It really does go a long way.
I wish I could say now that we’d hit some sort of turning point and things were getting easier day by day, but they’re not yet. And I know it’s probably too much to hope for at this point, I know I still have several more weeks before the “it gets better” part happens. Wishful thinking I suppose, because the last week has been rough.
I hate that I feel so out of my mind most of the time. I feel like I’m missing the good moments with my sweet girl–two weeks old already–when I fall into these black holes of exhaustion and uncertainty and who knows where I’ll end up when I finally make it out on the other side. I hate that my days feel like they are ruled by sleeping through the sunshine hours with the hopes of catching a few hours of sleep here and there and waiting for the next time that she’ll need to be fed. I hate looking at my baby in fear every time she starts squawking because what if this is the beginning of a huge meltdown?What happened to my life? What did I even do with myself two weeks ago? I feel so lost and scared sometimes.
Last night at the height of Caroline’s 6-hour refusal to sleep when she spit up all over me at 3 in the morning, I actually said out loud, “I can’t do this.” I wish I could say exactly how horrible that makes me feel as a mother, as a person.
Of course I can do it, of course I can. Not like I have much choice anyway, but of course I can. But sometimes…sometimes it feels impossible. Mostly it’s at night, when I am desperate for her to sleep even for an hour somewhere other than on my chest in the reclining chair. The night feels so much longer than the daytime and there comes a point when I just have to hand her over to Cameron and let him take her for a few hours, which makes me feel like I’ve failed because nothing I did worked. He takes her to the other room or downstairs and leaves me to get some sleep, but I can’t even sleep then because I just keep thinking about how awful I am.
I don’t mean to write this with the intention of creating a pity party or looking for sympathy. I mostly just needed to get this out somewhere, but it just so happens that I know I will receive some encouragement in return from mothers who have been where I am, and I really need that. I can only repeat myself to my bewildered (and so, so supportive) husband so many times. I cried so much last night that my body is sore. I know it gets better. I know the first 4-6 weeks are the hardest and after that it will start to turn and I will see the light at the end of the tunnel…it just still feels like that tunnel is very, very far away.
But in the meantime I’ll throw this picture in…because it makes me laugh and I really need that right now.
Whoever came up with that was obviously not a new mother. And especially not a new mother trying to breastfeed an underweight newborn who vomits said breastmilk all over mom right before bedtime.
(Did I mention said new mother is already feeling like she’s barely holding it together? You probably catch my drift by now.)
Yeah, that was my night last night. Caroline had been fussy most of the day and didn’t seem to be feeding very much (only a minute or two at a time and never taking both sides) but it’s so important for her to put on weight right now that any sign of hunger I try to give her the boob. I was starting to get frustrated and nervous and worried, most of all, that she wasn’t getting enough food, so I was already in a pretty bad place by the time the evening rolled around. I was in tears before dinner was over so we decided to go up to bed early since we were both obviously tired. We got upstairs, got ready for bed, and I fed Caroline one last time and she got really fussy. I swaddled her, tried to burp her and shush her, and nothing was really working, which of course only frustrated me more. Finally I decided to use a technique from Happiest Baby on the Block and turned her on her side and jiggled her a little–and she projectile puked all over the bed and the floor, which was pretty much the straw that broke this hormonal camel’s back. I turned to take her to the bathroom (what for I have no idea) and she threw up again all down my shirt.
Cue some absolute hysterics. And I mean hysterics. I had no idea what to do so I just sat down on the edge of the bathtub and started bawling until Cameron came in and took her from me and put her in her crib. Then he took me into our room to try and settle me down. It’s not like I was taking the whole thing personally; it’s not like I was thinking “my baby hates me so she’s puking all over me.” I was so upset and worried that she wasn’t getting enough to eat if she was throwing it up. I was worried that she was sick or something–you know, all those first time mom freakouts. After about 15 minutes of the mother of all meltdowns we finally went back to the baby’s room and crawled into bed–conveniently, she had been fast asleep since barfing all over me. She slept from about 8 till 11, and then unfortunately was up every hour till 2 or so, when she slept till almost 6:00. It was a rough night and she kept fussing every time we put her down. We tried her chair, thinking she might be wanting to sit upright, but no dice. She only seemed happy when she was being held, which meant we had to hold her until she really passed out and then we could put her down. So, for that 3-hour period it was pretty rough. She would wake up and make these noises like she was struggling to burp or pass gas or poop, none of which she was doing when we picked her up and tried to burp or jiggle her. My rope was already so thin and I just kept saying “I don’t know what you want!”
Anyway. The struggle to balance out the hormones has been challenging so far. For some reason, it’s always worse at night. Maybe it’s the time change and the fact that the sun goes down at 4:30. I feel like if I nap during the afternoon, I’m wasting good daylight time that I really need to feel normal. It’s hard. Caroline was fussy part of the day today, though perfectly calm when we went to the library for story time, and this afternoon she had (according to Cameron) a huge poop, and since then she’s had some solid feeding times and slept through most of the afternoon, so maybe she had to pass something through her system and that’s what was making her upset the last day. I don’t know. I think that’s part of what is exacerbating my hormonal craziness, is the not knowing what she needs when she’s been fed and has a dry diaper and otherwise doesn’t seem to need anything. I know it’s just part of the deal, I know she’s supposed to still be in the womb so she’s still doing a lot of growing and I just need to deal with it and get through it–but that’s my rational side talking. My irrational, hormone-filled side sees her crying when I can’t tell what’s wrong and is sure that it’s because of me, because I’m a horrible mother and she’s sick and isn’t gaining enough weight.
I just have to keep reminding myself that this time will get better and I have to take everything one day at a time. And more importantly, that I’m not a bad mom.
It really has been an amazing week watching her start to grow. Already, she isn’t this frail tiny little 5 pound flopper. She is putting on weight and starting to chunk up and every day I can see this amazing change in her. It’s crazy! She’s finally starting to get those chunky little cheeks and her hands and feet aren’t so wrinkly anymore. At her pediatrician appointment on Friday, she weighed a whopping 5 pounds 7 ounces (when she left the hospital Tuesday she weighed 4 pounds 14 ounces) and she took in an ounce of milk while we were showing her latch to the lactation consultant just to make sure we were doing it right. Her jaundice is almost unnoticeable now and the doctor was really impressed. I was worried she wasn’t getting enough milk (since it’s so hard to tell exactly how much is going in) but apparently she is just fine. She nurses like a champ especially since my milk came in on Wednesday/Thursday.
She has really been the most mild-mannered baby. She sleeps about 3 hours at a time at night (Friday night she even slept for 4 hours, I was shocked when I got up and looked at the clock) and snoozes peacefully in her bouncer chair most of the day. We decided that we would only swaddle her at night, so that she associates it with sleep/night time, and so far it seems to be working. When we go to bed at night, I feed her, give her a change, and burrito wrap her and she passes right out. Only once or twice has she given us a fuss to go down, and I think part of that had to do with the fact that I was really stressed and emotional and she was probably feeding off of that energy. When she wakes every 2-3 hours, she never cries, just makes little fussy noises that are usually enough to wake me up. At first she hated getting her diaper changed, but she doesn’t seem to mind it nearly as much now and is very accommodating with getting her clothing changed too.
She isn’t displaying a ton of personality just yet, but a couple quirks are becoming apparent. For example, she usually double poops–one about 5-10 minutes after the first–so we have learned that when we hear her poo, we have to wait a little for the rest of it or else we will have to change her twice. I swear if we do it too soon, she gives us this devious little smile like “oh just wait, Mom.” She loves to wait to pee till she’s on the table too. She is learning how her arms and legs work more and more now too. She loves stretching those looong skinny legs out when she’s in her bouncer. Sometimes we’ll look over and see her feet way up in the air waving around. Last night I was trying to get her calmed down after a feeding and she was practically flailing her body around. It’s a very positive sign to see some more control over those muscles since that was one of her lowest scores on the APGAR.
Oh, and I love love love watching her facial expressions. I know most of them are involuntary at this point but some of them are hysterical. She scrunches up her face like she’s about to start bawling and then just relaxes, but it freaks out people who have never seen her do it before because they’re sure she’s about to have a fit. She seems pretty chill about being in her car seat, she has barely cried in the car even though she’s only been in it for about 10 minutes. This weekend we’re pretty sure we’re going to go down to my parent’s house, which is about an hour drive (now that a highway is open! YAY!) so that will be the real test. She wasn’t super excited about being in her stroller the one time we tried to take her for a walk around the block, but I think she was also pretty hungry and fussy when we went out, and it was really windy, so we’ll try again with that one soon. I brought her outside with me to fill the bird feeders the other day, and she seemed to like the fresh air. I’m excited for her to get big enough that I can put her in the Baby K’Tan and take her outside with me for easy walks without the stroller. (The instructions say they are only rated for babies 8 pounds and up, so I probably have a little while to wait.)
The animals are doing pretty well with the new addition. The dog is nervous around her, and I have a feeling he recognizes that she’s a member of the alpha pack and automatically above him on the totem pole. Hopefully when she starts getting bigger and isn’t always in the chair or crib he will start to come around. The cats were sort of aloof at first, but as you can see from the picture above, it didn’t take Sherlock too long to get comfortable with her. Whiskey is relatively indifferent, but he was the first to do that face rub thing on her, meaning he obviously accepts her even if he doesn’t pay her much attention.
Cam is doing great. He is willing to change diapers (even the really gross ones) and get up with me at night to feed and change her. He was stoked to give her her first bottle yesterday (which she took like a champ) and every day I can see him totally embracing his daddyhood. Today he is going to build a ramp off the front porch so that I don’t have to lift the stroller off the steps by myself once he goes back to work. Mostly he has been a rock for me, since parts of this week have been challenging emotionally, and that is invaluable to me.
On the subject of me, this week has been a pretty wild roller coaster. Physically, I feel great. I’ve dropped almost 25 pounds already (which seems hard to believe) and since I am getting an average of 6-8 hours of sleep a night, cumulatively, I feel pretty put together most of the time. Most of my days are great and I feel upbeat and happy and positive. Most nights, though, I end up in tears at some point. Over the weekend I started feeling like all I had done since coming home from the hospital is sit in my chair and wait for the next feeding time, so Cameron made me go out to breakfast with my mom yesterday so that I could get out of the house a little. I started getting it in my head that our house was this safe little bubble where I knew what to do and I felt comfortable here with the baby, so the idea of taking her out and about with us was freaking me out a little. My parents said we should come down to visit this weekend and I sort of panicked thinking about all the things that could go wrong and how scary it would be to not be inside our house, our little bubble. I have to remind myself that I can’t stay in here forever and I need to try to trust myself and be confident that I have the resources to be able to take care of her when we are out and about. Today we are going to take her out to the library to pick up her complimentary book bag and find out what the storytime schedule is so that I can start going out and meeting other moms which will be especially important once Cameron goes back to work. After the library we are going to go to Starbucks and visit his employees, and then as long as everything goes well we are thinking we will go out to lunch too. It’ll be really helpful for me to get out and interact with other people and escape the bubble for a little and see that it’s not as scary as I have built up in my head. Everything gets a little easier every day but I have to remind myself to take it a day at a time and not panic about the next week or the next month or the next six months. I also need to start doing things around the house when I am just sitting around, which will help me feel more structured and that I am doing something other than sitting here waiting for the next feeding time. I think I’m going to pull out my knitting loom and get back to work on that, maybe make a baby blanket or something like that. I’ve also been cruising Pinterest for craft ideas especially now that Christmas is coming up. If I keep myself moderately busy, my days will not feel quite so “empty.”
In the meantime, it is awful nice just to spend time snuggling this little bean. 🙂
(It’s a long one, so TL;DR : I had a baby. It was awesome.)
This story starts off with a hunch.
I had a hunch, not long ago, that Caroline was not going to wait till her due date to come earthside. I don’t know how I had this hunch, I just did. That was the first hunch I had.
Last week, I just had a hunch that something was up. I felt lousy. My stomach hurt almost every day. I just felt run down. Thursday night, Halloween, I felt completely miserable, upset stomach and sore muscles. (And I didn’t even get to have any candy!) All early signs of labor. And maybe I was just in denial about the whole thing because I really had it in my head that knowing my luck, I would go past my due date. I hadn’t even packed any bags. All I was thinking about was that I only had one more week left of work, and then I could have that nesting time and finish cleaning my house, make the baby book, get everything ready and then do what everyone always seems to do and just wait it out.
Friday I kept having another hunch. Saturday, we were supposed to go down the valley for a memorial service for a family member of mine who passed a few months ago, and then Cameron and I had arranged a small babymoon–show tickets and a hotel in Denver. All day Friday though, I was really nervous about going down to valley. Highway 36 still hadn’t opened which meant we would have to take the long way around, almost 2 1/2 hours to Denver. I kept worrying–what if something happened and we were 2 1/2 hours away from the hospital? All day I couldn’t shake the notion that it just wasn’t a good idea to go down, but I couldn’t really justify canceling all our plans especially on a non-refundable hotel reservation over a hunch.
Saturday morning, Cameron and I were laying in bed being lazy since we didn’t have to get up and leave till after 11. We were watching videos on his phone and I rolled over to look and something happened.
“I either just peed myself or my water broke.”
Cameron evidently didn’t hear me–or thought I was joking–but I got up quickly and hurried to the bathroom in time for a terrific gush of something that was definitely not pee. All righty then. I called Cameron in and told him I thought my water just broke. We immediately got on the phone with my OB–I felt bad because it was before 8 on a Saturday, but he had just given us his personal phone with explicit instructions to call if we needed anything. When I told him what happened he said to go over to the hospital and get it checked out. While I got ready–and continued to leak fluid all over the place–Cameron got on the phone with my parents to let them know what was going on.
Around 8:30 we walked into the ER and were ushered back to a room that was not in the birthing center and the labor/delivery nurse, Joanne, told us that there were 2 people in the center who had just had babies the day before and were still waiting to be discharged, so until they left I’d have to stay in this other room. Then she asked how frequent my contractions were–and I told her I wasn’t having any.
“Oh, we’ll probably just send you home then and you can come back when things progress.”
PHEW. I was really worried they’d want to keep me and I’d be stuck at the hospital for all of my early labor. I got changed into a gown (and left another lake’s worth of fluid on the bathroom floor) and Joanne hooked me up to the belly monitors to make sure everything was kosher and did the litmus paper thingy to find out for sure if my water had broken, though by that point I had zero doubt it had. The baby sounded fine, and I was having contractions according to the monitor, but very small ones that I didn’t feel at all. Joanne declared that I was about 2cm dilated and sent me home, telling me that Dr. K would call me in a few hours to check in. (Knowing that he had delivered TWO babies the day before really made me feel bad for calling him so early on a Saturday!)
My mom texted to say that she was packed and ready to hit the road to come to us. I was really relieved that she was going to come–originally she had planned to come for the birth and stay with us for a week to help out, but that was contingent on waiting until the 11th when she could have the time off work. Since it was the weekend, though, she was able to at least come up till Sunday. I called her and asked if she could pick up a baby book for us since we still didn’t have one (I was going to make one) and I didn’t want to miss out on getting footprints in the book. We got home and I took a shower, Cameron started tidying up the house, and we packed up my bags, got the car seat ready, the whole nine. My doctor called around 11 and said that if things didn’t pick up by that evening he’d want me back at the hospital to get things rolling because he didn’t want me to go too long since the risk of infection was there. I wasn’t super pleased with this, as I was hoping that he’d give me till the next morning, but it was what it was. My mom arrived around noon, Cameron ran to the store to stock up on some groceries for the next few days, and I finally wrote our birth plan (another thing I was procrastinating on) and then we all finally sat down to breathe.
And then nothing happened. Which is sort of weird because usually the water breaking indicates “hey! baby coming now!” From the moment my water broke until much later that night, I didn’t have a single noticeable contraction. Maybe a couple squeezing sensations here and there, but absolutely nothing happened. We took a walk around the block, I sat on the exercise ball, we did lunges, I put tabasco on my lunch…and nothing. I started growing increasingly disappointed, because I knew if nothing was happening by that night, I’d end up getting induced and that terrified me because it was the number one thing I had hoped to avoid. Around 2 or 3 Cameron got a call from the doctor who was checking to see how things were going, and Cameron expressed to him that I was concerned about induction. Dr K said we wouldn’t go immediately to Pitocin, but instead they would give me Ctyotec to soften the cervix and hopefully get things rolling that way, since he knew that I really wanted to go naturally and he wanted to support that. We told him we would be back at the hospital by 7 at the latest if nothing happened before then.
And nothing did. We got about a quarter of the way through watching Braveheart and decided that since nothing had happened already, nothing was likely to happen by 7, so we packed up the car and headed over, despite my mounting disappointment. When we got there I was immediately hooked up to the monitors and Dr K came in and gave me a dosage of Cytotec, and then he said he was going home and that he would be back later when we were ready to deliver. He said it was likely that nothing would happen for a long time.
And nothing did. Fancy that. Because of the Cytotec, I had to lie in bed on my side for up to 3 hours at a time, which just made me miserable and disappointed and sore. And still not a single contraction. Part of the way through watching Saturday Night Live, the nurse came in and said that I could get out of bed until the next dose of Cytotec, which made me feel a lot better. I went back to the standard–sat on the ball, did lunges, had Cameron rub my back. But by the time she came back at 11:30 for my second dose of Cytotec (at which time I was at 3cm, 60% effaced), I still hadn’t felt any contractions.
Finally, about 12:30 or so, I was lying in the bed starting to feel sorry for myself, and finally started feeling something. The monitor thingy confirmed that I was indeed having contractions. My first thought was relief that my body was finally doing something and that I was finally walking in the other direction from having to be put on Pitocin. I think somewhere around 1 or 1:30 the nurse said I could get out of bed, as long as I stayed hooked up to the belly monitor. It was a fair compromise to me because it meant I could sit on the ball and not be lying prone on my side with my leg going asleep.
Things started to ramp pretty quickly at this point. My contractions started out around 4 1/2 minutes apart for only about 40-50 seconds and they were manageable. I asked Cameron to put on my Mumford and Sons playlist and for almost a full hour (I think) I sang my way through contractions and we kept time and it was finally exciting! Something was happening!
I lost track of time after a while, especially because at 2:00, daylight savings time ended and we went back an hour! I remember watching my mom turn back the clock on the wall (and I remember her telling the nurse so that we didn’t accidentally time the birth on the wrong hour) So we were back at 1:00, and at this point things started to get really hard. I couldn’t sing through the contractions anymore, but I do recall quite vividly trying to listen to the banjo licks and concentrate on those. Cameron was incredibly supportive, he sat on the stool behind me the whole time and rubbed my head during each contraction and occasionally suggested a different position. We tried a few different things, but I felt the most comfortable sitting on the ball and leaning on the side of the bed. I think at some point my mom asked if there was something I could throw up in in case I started feeling nauseous, and the nurse put a sick bag on the bed right in front of me, which was stupid because then all I could think was “I hope I don’t throw up, I hope I don’t throw up” which was not helpful to concentrating through my contractions. (I’m pretty phobic about vomiting and I really worried more about that than pooping myself during delivery.) Unfortunately I had kind of lost the ability for most speech at this point and I couldn’t vocalize that I wanted someone to move that stupid sick bag. Contractions seemed to be coming right on top of each other now and sometimes never seemed to end at all–just tapered a little–before another one began.
And then I hit thatpoint. I don’t know if it was the beginning of transition or what, but I definitely hit that wall where I was seriously doubting my ability to get through it without meds. They were coming so hard that all I could do was lean on Cameron and say “ow ow ow” and think about how stupid I was for planning to do this without drugs. What the fuck was I thinking? This was WAY too hard. Fuck this, man. The nurse came in and asked if I was a tub person (Cameron thought she asked if I was a tough person) and said if I wanted, I could get into the bath. Cameron asked if that’s what I wanted (I think he asked me about 5 times because every time he asked, a contraction hit and I couldn’t respond) and at some point I said yes and the nurse went to run it. This was also around the time I started saying out loud that I couldn’t do it, that I needed something to help get me through. The nurse immediately picked up on that and said that if I wanted the epidural I could have it at any time, and Cameron told her I really didn’t want it, that we would try out the tub first but could she check me to see where my dilation was so that we could make a plan. She said she was going to check me in a half an hour (which would have been the time I would have gotten a third dose of Cytotec), but she could check it now, except that she didn’t like doing it because it could lead to infection. My mom said, if you’re going to check in a half an hour why can’t you just check now? So she checked me and I was 6cm and 70% effaced. Which is good because if I had still been at 3 or 4cm I have a feeling I would have given in. But Cameron got super excited about this and urged me into the tub even though I had to stop on my way there (a whole 15 feet away) to have a terrible contraction.
Getting into the water seemed to help, but I think what it really helped was to put me through transition. I didn’t feel like the water necessarily calmed or soothed me, but it did seem to give me a break between contractions. Still, that being said, I was still sitting on my knees leaning on the wall rail in absolute agony and I’m pretty sure it was at this point that I said (for the first time out of many) that I wanted to die. My mom was right there at the tub with me and Cameron was in the room telling the nurse not to suggest an epidural to me again. While they were gone, I had that first serious urge to push. And I mean serious. When I said so to my mom, she said, “What do you mean? You can’t push here. You don’t have to push.” Except that I did, and I had another contraction and could-not-help-it, which cued my mother to yell for Cameron and the nurse that I was trying to push.
Have I mentioned the doctor wasn’t even in the hospital at this point?
When the nurse heard that I was having urges to push, she did the #1 thing that annoys the everloving shit out of me when I read birth stories: “Oh, no, she can’t be feeling urges to push.” Because god forbid a woman, even a first-time mother, actually have some intuition about what she’s feeling. And I mean seriously, it’s not like I was making it up. I was leaning back on all fours and bearing down, unable to stop myself. I had to push and I had to do it right then. Now, granted, we had just done an internal check less than 10 minutes before and I was only at 6cm, but obviously something was happening. I had another contraction and felt like I had to push through it, and I remember my mom frantically going “Don’t push! Don’t push!” and me yelling my head off and finally the nurse came into the bathroom and went “Oh, wow. Yeah, we should check her again.” Ya think??
So they pulled me out of the tub, dried me off a little and threw me back in the bed where the nurse found out, wonder of wonders, that I was 9cm dilated and 100% effaced, and the head was in the canal. Gee! No wonder I was having urges to push! (Sorry…soap box over.)
The problem with having urges to push at this point was that there was no delivering doctor in the hospital. He only lives a few minutes away, but it was close to 2:30 in the morning and I have no doubts he was fast asleep. I know I would have loved to have been fast asleep.
I spent the next 10 minutes or so lying on my side curled against the bed rail screaming my way through contractions that actually, for the first time in a long while, were breaking in between. Cameron told me later it looked like I had reached this “zen moment” and that he thought I was actually falling asleep in between them. It was SO nice to actually get a break even if it was for a minute or two at a time. The contractions themselves, though, were really difficult if only because each one made my body try to push and I was begging them to let me push because the urge was so strong. I kept saying, “I want to push, please, I really want to push” (when I wasn’t saying that I wanted to die) and I could hear someone (the nurse probably, I had my eyes closed the entire time) saying “you can’t push yet, you have to wait.” Cameron was literally holding my legs together to keep me from doing it. He took over at that point and told me to redirect the contraction to my mouth and started breathing with me, which helped until the very end when I started to unintentionally hyperventilate because the redirection of energy was so difficult.
When Dr. K finally (10 minutes is a long time when you’re in that much pain) came into the room, he very calmly sat on the end of my bed, did an internal check and found that I was complete, and told me that on my next contraction I could start to push.
Here’s where things get super hazy. Considering I had gone through transition and went from 6cm to 10cm in under 20 minutes, I was pretty exhausted and mentally unstable because I never really had a chance to evaluate what was going on and process the whole thing. It was just like, labor start. Labor suck. Labor REALLY suck. Bam, pushing. Wait, what? Where was my average 12-14 hour labor? Anyway, I started pushing and I only really remember up to the point of the ring of fire when I totally freaked out and started saying I was scared and that I couldn’t do it. Everything gets super blurry at this point but apparently right before one push I told the doctor that I “wanted to fucking die” and he told me “No, I’m pretty sure you don’t want to die.” I only remember a lot of voices and a lot of screaming and at one point telling everyone I was sorry (seriously why do I do that? My first memory coming out of anesthesia when I had my tonsils out was telling the nurse I was sorry for coughing when she took my oxygen tube out), presumably for all the insane noise because I was actually feeling embarrassed by the noises that were coming out of me. Hormones, who knows.
I wish I could remember the exact moment when her head came out, but I do remember looking down and seeing it and asking if she was out only to be told that it was just the head. I only had one or two more pushes and suddenly, there she was. I had only been in real, active labor for about 5 hours and pushed for about 15 minutes. The instantaneous relief was overwhelming. The doctor wasn’t able to put her on my chest immediately because her cord was wrapped around her neck four times–yes four–and had a true knot in it below. Once he had unwrapped her, they put her on my chest and started sucking out her mouth. She cried a little, but not like I was expecting, and I asked if she was okay, and the doctor told me she was. I also asked if she was still a girl. (After all, we’d only had an 80% certainty of that on the ultrasound) She didn’t have a lot of vernix, and she was purple, and god was she tiny. But she was perfect.
I looked up at Cameron at some point to find him weeping and trembling. I said, “please don’t pass out.” He said the moment was something he had never expected, and he had that sensation like when you hit your funny bone, all over his body. The doctor fixed up her umbilical cord to be cut–it didn’t occur to me at the time but I had expected them to wait longer for the cord to stop pulsing, but because of the knots and how many times it was wrapped around her neck, there was nothing in it left to pulse out. When I was more coherent later, this fact scared the shit out of me. No wonder she had come so early and was born so small. She was running out of nutrients from the cord. Later, the doctor told us that if she had gone to her due date, we would have ended up having a cesarian in the best case scenario–the worst case scenario would have been her not making it. It’s a fact that still, a few days later, gives me a feeling of ice water falling straight down into my stomach. I suspect it will for the rest of my life.
After our golden hour, our Caroline got all her measurements and came in at 5lbs3oz, 19 inches long, and born at 2:59 on Sunday, November 3rd. We ended up staying an extra day at the hospital because she lost 9% of her birth weight over the first night (mostly due to her being so small that she had almost none of that brown fat that babies burn through first) and she was slightly jaundiced, but we took her home on Tuesday morning. Because of her size we had to supplement her with formula for about 48 hours, but now that my milk is in and she is feeding like a champ, we are hoping for a positive weight gain (or at least a stabilization) at her first pediatrician appointment tomorrow.
So far she has been amazing. She cries rarely and calms easily, sleeps for pretty long stretches, breastfeeds well, and loves to snuggle with her mommy and daddy. Of course we have our moments, and I’ve had several overwhelming overloads and breakdowns, frustrations with painful engorgement, and general postpartum hormones, but things are smooth sailing for the most part. My mom wasn’t able to stay with us for the first week as we had originally planned, but she is coming up on weekends for now just to lend a hand which is super helpful especially because she can bring us stuff we can’t get up here that we don’t have time to get down the valley. (For example–preemie size diapers. The Safeway here didn’t have a single package in that size and the only ones we had were size 1 newborn and were so big on her they didn’t keep any poo inside. Luckily we called the hospital and they were nice enough to give us a few packages in the meantime.) It’s still a process adapting to this new life we have, but whenever I get frustrated, I look down at her and feel so much love for her that I think I might explode. It’s true, what that quote says, about having a child meaning that you are allowing your heart to go walking on the outside of your body. I’m pretty sure I’d never ask for it to be any other way.