Friday, December 31, 2010

Second week

Baby is sleeping 5-7 hours straight at night at less than two weeks old. This stretch usually starts around 6-8 p.m., so I’ve been getting to bed early, and spending half of each day in bed. But as long as I do so, I’m getting a decent amount of sleep. Can this last? We’ve been incredibly lucky in getting a baby that is as easy, or perhaps even easier, than the super-chill River. I feel like I’ll jinx it as soon as I believe it.

I took my first excursion alone with Willow today. We went shopping at Target and the supermarket. Both the car and the shopping cart seemed soothing to her, I selected stores where I was likely to be able to find a place to sit down and nurse, and I nursed her at the end of the visit to each store. I was prepared for disaster, but it actually went OK. I don’t think I’m up to handling two while shopping yet, but I feel a little more freedom in realizing that as long as Willow is with me, and I’m able to nurse when she needs it, I have pretty free movement. It felt like a treat to be seated with her attached to my boob and seeing something different than my bedroom or living room.

We took our first excursion as a family to a holiday light show. It was an easy trip to make in that the lights could be viewed from the car. River enjoyed it and it was good for us to spend some time together. The next night we met some friends and their baby at a restaurant for dinner. We’re taking baby steps towards resuming a more normal life.

I am so very appreciative of the little things that people do to help out when a new baby arrives, whether it’s food, grocery shopping, a gift or flowers. When you spend much of the day alone with a baby attached to you, it’s nice to be reminded of your friends. I’ve found it hard to take people up on the offers to call them if I need anything. It feels too much like asking for a favor. But I have taken up those who call or write and insist that they want to bring something over or run an errand and it’s been a huge help. Lately I’ve been pretty good about bringing over some food or sending a gift to friends with a new arrival. I will try to continue that.

Breastfeeding continues to be painful, but I’m hopeful this won’t last for more than a few more days. Our two potential problems that could be causing the pain are thrush and/or a short frenulum. Willow and I will start diflucan together on Monday and on Tuesday, we are meeting with a pediatric ear, mouth and throat specialist about the possible short frenulum. Hopefully solving one or both of these issues will make things easier. And then I’ll appreciate the fact that breastfeeding is no longer painful. Since it wasn’t painful last time, I didn’t appreciate the relative ease.

I’m getting in a decent amount of movies, and a little bit of reading. But more intensive tasks, like finishing the exam I still have to complete, are more challenging. I might get between 15 minutes and an hour a day during which Willow is sleeping and I can recruit someone else to hold her while I work. Nevertheless, I appreciate these little chunks and know that each little bit of progress made adds up over time.

River’s adjustment continues to be difficult. It’s still a challenge to spend time with him, I’m sure he feels neglected, and his behavior reflects it. I’ve twice taken him on walks around the block with me. Even a mere 30 minutes together, just the two of us, was very rewarding. I need to be able to find more chunks of time that I can devote to him.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The calm after the storm

After a most miserable day yesterday, we had a spectacular night. Willow slept 7 hours straight – 7 hours!, from 6:15 to 1:15. In that time, I’d manufactured a good supply of milk, so the feedings at 1:15 and around 5 a.m. were fairly quick and both times she went back to sleep right after eating. She didn’t cry for a second the entire night.

So I spent about 14 hours in bed, got quite a bit of sleep, and right now, she is resting quietly in someone else’s arms, while I was able to take a half hour walk with River and now have a little time to myself. Whew!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

One of those 'holy crap' days

In the just over a week that I’ve been a parent of two, I’ve alternated between thinking this isn’t so bad, that babies aren’t as much work as I thought, and feeling strangely happy and motivated to spend the couple spare minutes I have in a day on household tasks.

The other days are like today, in which I think, holy shit, how do I manage this. Today was the first day I started to feel a bit bummed, as though this is overwhelming. Even looking at email stresses me out because I can’t imagine how I’ll find time to respond to all the messages I should answer.

First River gets sent home from preschool with pink eye, just as he has recovered from a fever. We go from him never being sick at all to suddenly going from one malady to another.

Then we go to the doctor, the whole family, and Willow’s poop explodes through her diaper for the first time, staining her sleepsack and her Bundle Me. I felt like I was a better mom this time around, as I actually brought a spare diaper and some wipes (I often didn’t with River). But as soon as I placed the spare diaper under her bum, she peed. I didn’t have another spare. Nor did I have an extra outfit. We had to go back outside with her dressed only in a t-shirt and plopped into the Bundle Me.

We’re still dealing with the thrush and now the doctor says I should look into having her frenulum cut, as it may be short and this could be causing some of the breastfeeding pain, and perhaps could be an issue with speech later. So I had to make an appointment with a pediatric throat specialist.

The best part of my day was getting the medicines at the pharmacy because I got to walk home, spending a good 20 minutes alone, outside, in the sunshine.

From that point on, Willow has been on my boob for a solid five hours. It’s already like a knife going through me when she attaches, especially on the left side. Even better when I get to spend five hours with her going from one side to the next and back again. We had a sitter around all afternoon, but I couldn’t give her to the sitter and take a break because every time I did, she’d start rooting again.

At the same time, River was freaking out about the drops I had to put in his eyes and nose, and begging for mom to read him a nap-time story, give him his medicine, pay him some darn attention. With the exception of a single storytime and a 30-minute walk in the snow yesterday, I have spent no time with him in the last week. It’s painful to him and to me and is just one more thing stressing me out.

I was getting exhausted and frustrated and felt glued to the chair. My back is killing me from constantly bending over to breastfeed. Finally, I figured out that she couldn’t possibly be eating for five hours straight and that she was using me as a pacifier. I pulled out the pacifier we got from the hospital and voila, she sucked calmly. Why didn’t I think of that earlier?

I’m crossing my fingers that since she spent the whole day awake and sucking, that will result in some good sleep for both of us tonight. I need it. I can’t fathom how I’m going to finish my exam, or do anything else of substance, at this rate.

This too shall pass, I remind myself, and she will only be my 7.5 pound baby doll now. I am trying to treasure it.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

OK, it's getting hard now

Mom is dealing with:
-Lower parts that are still sore and swollen and results in her walking like an old lady
-Anti-fungal medications for thrush
-Breasts that are functioning, but sensitive due to overuse, milk flow and possible thrush
-An underarm abscess
-Lack of sleep

Then River wakes up with a 104 degree fever for the past two mornings – the first time he has ever been truly sick.

After virtually not seeing the pediatrician for about a year, we are probably their most frequent patients this week.

We are utilizing divide and conquer, with Mark taking charge of River and me in full charge of the baby. We were trying to keep the baby away from River, and now I have to keep her away from Mark as well.

It is horrible to watch River with this fever. I can’t imagine the effect of a one-week old getting it. So I spend most of my time in the bedroom, breastfeeding, drinking liquids, doing a little reading, sleeping when I can. It is so painful to hear my child sick for the first time and to not be there for him. Last night he screamed out “No more! No more!” as Mark and his mom applied cold cloths to him to reduce his fever. I cried at not being there to hold and to comfort him. Talk about abandonment. Not only is mom less available with the arrival of the new baby, but now she’s virtually disappeared, and just as he’s going through an experience where he really needs love and comfort.

The in-laws have been lifesavers and Mark’s mom was a soothing presence to him. They left this morning, so we are now on our own.

The good thing is that the baby is still easy. She doesn’t cry without cause. Silly as it sounds, I’m trying to acclimate her to sleep at night by using a tight swaddle only at night and letting her move freely the rest of the time. She slept from somewhere around 1 a.m. until I woke up from River’s screaming and woke her around 4:30. Then she slept again from 5:15 until after 8 a.m. I felt terrible going back to sleep while everyone else in the house was up helping River, but I knew I couldn’t go near him and figured I was of better use rested. Those two chunks of three-hours of sleep really made a difference. I’m crossing my fingers that she continues not having prolonged periods of wakefulness at night. It makes the whole newborn stage so much more manageable.

And I’m still enjoying watching her and being with her. Looking at the variety of facial expressions she can make can keep me occupied for hours. I marvel at the shape of her body and how she swims in her 0-9 month My First Christmas sleepsack. She has little smiles, which I know are probably just gas, but heartwarming nonetheless. And I feel like she is recognizing my touch and voice, which is comforting.

The one challenge is that, like River, Willow** wants to be in someone’s arms at all times. That makes it hard to leave both the kids with anyone. But I’m hoping when River gets better, I can leave Willow with someone and take River with me on my daily stroll around the block, getting in some one-on-one time with him.

**I wish I could share her name, because I really love it. But I change everyone's identity on my blog to protect their privacy. So I'll call her Willow here.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Newborn day 4

I’m feeling very lucky in many ways.

1. Having family here to support us has been so very helpful. They have been able to provide River with fun and individualized attention at a time at which he would otherwise likely feel ignored. They have also been helping with housework, errands, and food, which reduces the burden on me to be able to focus on the baby. The first time around, that seemed pretty overwhelming. Now that seems fairly manageable.

2. It’s early and perhaps things will change, but so far, the indications are that we have hit the jackpot and got a second easy baby. The pediatrician commented that she is very calm, she sleeps most of the time, and so far, has not cried more than about 10 minutes or so per 24 hours. I’m able to get through the whole night without her crying more than a few minutes, which means that everyone in the house except me is able to get a good night’s sleep.

3. I’m enjoying the newborn period even more this time around. Last time I was anxious for interaction. This time, I better recognize how fleeting these days are. I know it won’t be long that my daughter will be only seven pounds, that her fingers are such tiny, precious little strands, that I can watch the beautiful expressions that fleet across her face as she sleeps. I trace the perfect curl of her earlobe, stroke her soft cheeks and marvel at how her thin little legs and tiny organs are able to function. I hold her against my shoulder to burp her and touch my cheek to hers. I try to save the moment forever.

Though overall, things are going well, there are definitely challenges with number two.

These include:

1. My new relationship with River. I’m glad the grandparents are here to allow us a little space to figure this out. He now appears gigantic to me, his hands and feet as though already fully formed. He makes up songs about caca (poop) and uses nonsense language, which no longer impresses me so much. But he also knows facts about squid, hippopatomuses and tyrannosaurus rexes. Hearing him discuss these things with his grandparents makes me marvel that he also came out of me as a tiny babe, not so very long ago.

Unfortunately, our first substantial interaction upon my returning home was disciplinary. He took his grandfather’s newspaper apart and scattered it across the floor. I gave him a time-out and asked him to apologize to his grandfather. He wouldn’t, so he received three subsequent time outs. The most we’ve ever done before is two in a row. Four was miserable. Even more miserable when he peed his pants during one. When I asked him to apologize to his grandfather, he looked at me with such defiance and contempt. It reminded me of how I looked at my mother during our battles of my teenage years. It was also such a contrast with the look of complete understanding we shared until just a few days ago.

I think he was overtired, because the fourth timeout turned into a long nap, with none of the usual preambles. Grandma helped with the baby so that I could be the one to get River up from his nap, to read him a story, and to spend some positive quality time with him.

He realizes things are going to be different and I understand this is rough on him. I also know things are going to be different and I find it stressful. As much as I want to be there for him, to go out and do fun things with him, as long as the baby is attached to my breast, I am limited. I know this will get better with time, but I am glad I took him on so many excursions in the final weeks of the pregnancy. I wish we’d had another week or so of mom and River time.

2. Breastfeeding has been more challenging this time around. Last time the challenge was a long delay (about a week) in the milk coming in, but it wasn’t painful at any time. This time it’s been painful from the beginning. I spoke with several lactation consultants at the hospital, who said her latch is fine and that her suck is like a vacuum extractor. When I look in the mirror, I see holes in my nipples, where scabs have formed and then come off. For the first several days, it was so painful that I panted with pain, as though back in labor again, every time she latched on.

It’s getting a bit better now – perhaps my nipples are toughening up. And my milk came in last night, which reassures me that I won’t repeat the low supply issues. But her tongue is white and I have an underlying fear that she has thrush and will transfer it to me, repeating the miserable process of infection and reinfection I went through with River. I got some Nystatin, which was not effective last time, and am crossing my fingers I’m wrong about this. This time, I’ll be quicker to head to the powerful antibiotics.

3. I seem to have an extra supply of adrenaline this time, or perhaps it’s the gift of her not being alert, except while feeding, during the night. I don’t think I’m getting a whole lot of sleep, and I don’t find I can sleep during the day. There are times at night when I feel exhausted. Too exhausted to read certainly. But I’m so grateful that I’m not dealing with a screaming or wakeful baby that I tell myself it’s not so bad.

4. I came home from the hospital full of rules. It’s great they do education there, at the time when people need it. But I’m just too tired, or too lazy, to implement some of them. Wake the baby every 2 to 3 hours to feed. When it’s 4 a.m. and she’s already been sleeping three hours, no I’m not waking her. Sorry. I worry that will have an adverse effect on my supply, but I’m just not willing to give up the sleep to do it. Nor I am willing to record and/or track feedings and/or wet diapers. It’s a small step, but anything extra at this point is cut. For the past two nights, I’ve taken on all the feedings and allowed Mark to sleep through the night, but that also means I haven’t changed her diaper during the night. I feel negligent, but I’m tired and just can’t bring myself to remove her from her swaddle and wake her when she is quiet and restful. Nor do I really want to get out of bed. Luckily, both nights, she had only a bit of pee each morning. Once she’s getting more milk and has more bowel movements, I imagine I won’t be able to slack off so much there.

5. I’m in better shape physically than last time around. I avoided an episiotomy. But I do have a second degree tear and several smaller lacerations. It still hurts. I took my first walk outside today, around the block, and felt like an old lady, barely moving one foot in front of the other when I normally stride at a rapid pace. The continued pain below, plus the pain in the boobs makes me feel like I’m in pretty poor shape.

6. The weight is not disappearing as fast this time around. Last time I seem to recall dropping about 25 pounds right after the birth. This time I’m only about 10 pounds lighter than I was the day before she was born. That’s almost 30 pounds above my starting weight. Granted, from two hours post-birth on, I’ve been eating like a fiend. I’m trying not to worry about it too much, figuring I need nourishment for breastfeeding. I’ll try to focus on slowly reincorporating physical activity into my routine and perhaps replacing my current midnight snacks of Christmas cookies with some healthier options. But for now, I’m trying to focus on getting sleep, taking in adequate fluids and nutrition, and generally doing whatever makes me feel good to get through this physically and mentally rough period.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Day 2

We’re on day 2 and baby is still surprisingly easy. We had one little rough stretch, between 4 and 5 a.m., when she was hungry and crying, but refused to latch on. It’s the worst feeling in the world to not have milk for your hungry child and to be shoving your nipple in their mouth as they scream. I started to become a little worried that we were in for a rough ride since breastfeeding has been more painful this time around, especially when it stimulates painful uterine cramping. One of the nurses said it produces oxytocin, which is also released during labor, and can feel a lot like being in labor again. This is true, as when she suckles, I find myself panting in pain that radiates from the nipples down to the area she emerged from. But I try to reassure myself this is temporary.

I was able to sooth her to sleep on my chest, where she remained until Mark returned at 7:30. It’s been better since then. I took my first shower, put on something other than a hospital gown for the first time, and ventured out of my room to attend a baby bathing class two doors down. That woman had just pushed out a 9 pound, 6 ounce boy last night. Despite being her fourth child, she described the process of getting him out as “horrible,” so I felt rather lucky in comparison.

I’m going to be discharged today, but I’ve asked to stay until the latest I can – 10 p.m. I know some people can’t wait to get home. I like the quiet of the hospital, the lack of responsibilities, the help available when needed, the room service food. They hold several classes that seem useful. I didn’t feel strong enough to venture out yesterday, especially in the hospital gown that opens in the back to bare my butt, my diaper and my bulging ice pack. But today I’m capable of putting on shorts and a t-shirts and waddling around a bit.

River met his sibling last night and it wasn’t the beautiful introduction I envisioned. Unfortunately, the exciting arrival of his grandparents shortly before his nap meant he didn’t go to sleep and was tired and edgy. He presented his sister with a couple of small toys selected by dad, and seemed enthusiastic about that. And he was excited about the toy she brought for him. But he didn’t show much subsequent interest in the baby, nor did he show a lot of affection towards me. I attribute a lot of that to his lack of a nap, and I’m sure part of it may be stress and anxiety about the changes. Our pediatrician suggested we maintain his normal routine as much as possible and modify the baby’s schedule to fit his. I think that should be feasible.

I’m having a surprisingly difficult time sleeping. The 5 mg Ambien they gave me the first night did nothing. Last night they gave me something equal to double that. When I still wasn’t asleep after 40 minutes, I added another two Tylenol p.m.and that did the trick. Mark however is able to sleep at the drop of a hat. Despite getting a full eight hours last night, he can nap within five minutes. I’m a bit jealous. Luckily, I don’t feel too exhausted yet though, especially during the first half of the day.

I think I’m liking and appreciating the newborn phase more this time around. She’s small and delicate compared to River. It amazes me that her hand was about the same size as the round Oreo 100 calorie cookies I ate a few hours after delivering her – somewhere between the size of a quarter and a silver dollar. Her head is not much larger than my breast. When she’s feeding, I love to see the tiny, perfectly shaped ear, the scrunched eyes, and her full heart-shaped lips, pursed and working hard, instinctively knowing what they need to do to get sustenance.

No one can really figure out who she looks like. When she first came out, I thought she looked like River, but that’s not so much the case upon closer examination. Perhaps she’ll grow into looking like someone in the family. River resembles men on both sides of the family. Who he resembles more can depend on his age or the particular day. Or perhaps she’ll just be her own little unique person. Either way, I’m in love with her already.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Day one

It’s surprisingly easy so far. This baby seems content in the hospital bassinet and will stay there for hours, sleeping or resting. She may not be feeding quite enough, due to all that sleeping, but when she does feed, she seems to have plenty of suction power.

I got out of labor with one second degree tear and some minor lacerations. It’s still painful to move around, but as long as I’m in bed, I feel fine except for a slight headache and fatigue. Despite a sleeping pill, I didn’t get much sleep last night, partially due to racing thoughts, partially the annoying sound of the IV, and partially the frequent disruptions.

Overall though, I’m in much, much better shape than last time around. I’m not puffy, I’m in good spirits, I came in a good ten pounds lighter than when I delivered last, I avoided an episiotomy, it was shorter, it didn’t hurt as much, I had 11 ounces less baby to push out and the doctor seemed truly committed to doing what he could to minimize pain. I am grateful for all the above. Also, we had kind friends who came over and spent the night with River and Mark’s parents will be there soon. Mark has now gone back to greet them and to help River choose flowers and a gift for his new sister. This evening I’ll have the pleasure of seeing my two children meet for the very first time.

I called her an it the whole time she was inside me, but as soon as she emerged she became my daughter. Mark, on the other hand, keeps accidentally calling her a he. I am very grateful for her and feel very lucky. I never finished my statistics exam (I have the last few questions to look forward to in the coming days or weeks) and I never got around to my nesting projects. She came on a weekend, which is not ideal in terms of getting the best hospital care. But she came on the day the doctor I trusted most was on call, she gave me some helpful warning signs of her arrival, allowing me to get things in order, she probably saved me some pain by coming out before surpassing 8 or more pounds and so far, she’s easy enough to care for. I don’t recall making much use of reading material and Facebook last time I was in the hospital. This time I feel like I have hours of precious quiet time to myself. We are blessed with a wonderful holiday gift.

pregnancy week 38

One more piece of good news – I’m negative for Strep B this time around. Since I was positive last time, I expected I’d be positive this time too. The required IV was just one more layer of discomfort among many. I’m very happy to not have it this time around.

The colder weather, the lack of a commute, more frequent access to the car and my increasing size are reducing my movement. At the same time, I’m eating whatever I want – which includes a lot of carbs and sweets. I feel so huge that it doesn’t seem like it matters much if I get a little larger. I know this will create a bit more work for me post-birth, but this doesn’t really seem like the time to deny myself.

Some parts of me really want the baby to come – like the parts that realize the longer it’s in there, the bigger it gets and the harder it is to get out. Or the part that is just tired of being a walking whale. Other parts want it to hold off. I’d like to finish up my stats final first (will be done this week), I really don’t want it born on or near Christmas, I have nesting projects I’d like to get to, I’m enjoying having the time alone with River. Wishing one way or the other probably won’t have any effect. The only decision I may have to take is when (and if) to let my pre-natal masseuse do a foot massage she says induces labor.

I attended my first La Leche League meeting. Mark didn’t want me to go. He was afraid the people would be too crunchy and would encourage me to have the baby on my breast for years. The leaders were more balanced than I expected. They said they were there to support people who wanted to breastfeed, whether that was for three weeks, three months or three years. The leader commented that she was “pro feeding of babies,” whether that was breastmilk or formula, and I thought that was sensible. One leader was still breastfeeding her 14-month old, another didn’t have any children under 10. I admired their dedication to help other mothers and their willingness to serve as a resource. I expected the meeting to be over in an hour, but people were still chit-chatting when I had to leave after two hours. I kind of had the sense that there were “right” answers and “right” ways of behaving, which made me a little uncomfortable. As far as I could tell, I was the only person there because I wanted to build up a supply in order to return to work. And I can’t say I got a whole lot of helpful advice on that front. But it’s only one meeting and it was good to meet other moms of young kids. So I’ll probably try again. I’ll also be trying a Spanish-speaking group in a lower-income area nearby, which should provide an interesting contrast.

Mark is starting to recognize that it’s on the way soon. He proposed spending this weekend getting things ready. Unfortunately, I still have to finish up my class. But once I’ve done that, if there is still time remaining, I can do some nesting.

Though the discomforts are becoming more severe – along the lines of kicks in the ribs, backaches, etc., my prenatal massage still manages to allow me to not feel pregnant for one hour each week. It is such bliss.

Starting to see signs – cervical mucus, contractions – that lead me to think it is coming soon. But yet, I still don’t really know.

River’s why phase continues. I respect his inquisitiveness, but my patience for trying to answer questions (in Spanish, no less) like why was our street built where it is and why can’t it be moved, and why are lakes formed and why are there depressions in the earth where lakes can form wears thin when I’m simultaneously being kicked in the ribs and trying to maneuver a car through traffic. I feel bad about this.

I’m eating in smaller quantities and very picky about what I want and when. I’d love to make more room in the freezer, but not much we have in the house appeals to me. It’s like being back to early trimester cravings.

And she arrives – it’s over at 38 weeks and 5 days.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

She's here!

Birth story to follow, one of these days.

pretty sure I'll be in the hospital tonight

I’ve given up on the exam. I sent what I finished to the professor and asked for an extension on the rest. I may well be doing a bit of final statistics with a newborn.

The contractions are getting closer together and more painful. I want to cry, which is what happened last time as well. The doctor said I could come to the hospital, which seems a bit early. But I think I’m going to be there this evening.

Packing for the hospital the second time around

As I neared the end of week 37 and still hadn’t packed my hospital bag, I thought I should at least get started with a list of what to pack. So I looked in my files to see if I could find the list I’d made when heading to the hospital to deliver River.

Looking it over made me laugh, even more so than my oh-so-sincere birth plan, as though I could actually control those things.

“Do you think I need a nice nightgown and pink fuzzy slippers?” I asked Mark.

“No. You just get things bloody there anyway, so you might as well use the hospital gown.”

That’s what I was thinking.

“How about the rice-filled sock or the scented lotions and oil?” I laughed.

“Yah right,” he said. “You were definitely more….I don’t know what the word is, but you were more that way last time.” I think he was looking for the word anal.

“I have apple cider on my list last time. What was that for?”

“I don’t know. I don’t remember drinking it.”

I think it was sparkling cider, meant to celebrate the birth. I also had on my list to label it with my name and to have it put in the refrigerator when we arrived. I might actually leave that one on there. I never would have thought of it again if I hadn’t seen it on the first list, but why not be rewarded with some bubbly?

We don’t have the car seat installed and I’m not the slightest bit anxious about it. Mark said he was thinking of putting it in this weekend. I said I didn’t care either way. We live six blocks from the hospital. I didn’t use the carseat when taking River home, and I doubt I will for this baby.

Neither the bassinet nor the swing are ready. None of the clothes are out. I figure Mark can pull that stuff out when I’m in the hospital. No need to take up extra space now. I haven’t prepared a bunch of extra food. We’re thinking of indulging in a meal service this time, and I can make that call when I get home. I realize that I can order any supplies I may have forgotten from Amazon, if not from other stores, and it will be here within two days. It’s not the end of the world if I haven’t purchased everything in advance.

It’s funny to go through this process a second time and see how my perspective has changed. Of course, that’s to be expected. I don’t think a first-time mother can really have any idea of what giving birth is like, unless she has perhaps been there while a close relative is giving birth.

This time I’m less concerned with all the details, I’m less concerned with being in control. My main priorities are to minimize pain and injury, to minimize the stress on everyone involved, and to come out with a healthy baby and mother.

is this it?

Mark is kindly taking care of River for the whole day today, so that I can make an all-out effort to finish this statistics exam before going into labor. I’m skipping my planned excursion to the gym. As much as I’d like to move a bit, I don’t want to do anything to stimulate labor right now. If I can hold off until tomorrow, I could both hopefully turn in the exam and avoid giving birth on a weekend.

Mark got out the bassinet and the swing. River is very excited about this. “My sister is coming!” he says. I look over at the empty bassinet and the pink snowsuit lying on the floor and realize that my daughter might soon lie in these things – a human filling the emptiness. It is scary to imagine.

Saturday, December 18, 2010


The best indication I had of my oncoming labor with River was the appearance of cervical mucus beforehand. It started to appear three days before I went into labor and continued for the subsequent days. On the morning before I went into labor, the mucus was streaked with blood (bloody show).

I’m looking for a similar pattern this time around and it’s starting to appear. I’ve seen mucus for the past three days now, though since it was only in the morning, or only after exercising, I dismissed it. Today it has appeared throughout the day, making me think this could be the start of a real sign. I’m also starting to feel some light waves of pain, only slightly painful, which isn’t what I remember from last time. So perhaps they are Braxton-Hicks, or false labor. But they do come and go in a wave, which makes me think it’s not baby movement, and they are occurring with some regularity. This, along with backaches severe enough to cause me to take Tylenol for the past two days.

When we visited the doctor on Friday, he said I was 2-2.5 centimeters dilated, but he didn’t see any signs of imminent labor. He expects to see me at our next appointment this Thursday. But besides the mucus, I didn’t have any other clear signs beforehand last time either. The baby remained high, my waters didn’t break until I pushed. But when labor started, it came on strong.

So now I’m starting to freak out that it could be on the way, that I could realistically be in labor within the next 1-3 days. And this is making me stress out about priorities, all of which seem equally important. Do I:

Try to maximize rest in order to get through labor and build any possible reserve before the oncoming sleepless nights?

Try to finish my statistics final, which is due on Monday? I’m sure I could get an extension, but it would make things easier to not have that hanging over my head.

Or finally get around to the basics of preparation, like packing a hospital bag?

Mark told me to stop stressing and just do one of them. So I started with some rest, and am now working on my exam. I don’t think I can finish it tonight though. I just don’t have the concentration or motivation. Breaking it into pieces, I should be able to complete it by Monday, when it is due.

So I’ll try to make some progress on the exam tonight, perhaps try to pack the most critical things, and get back to the exam tomorrow morning, if I’m not in labor then.

I know in the big picture all of these things will be taken care of. Even if I don’t pack a hospital bag, we live only six blocks from the hospital and Mark can always grab whatever I need later. Though forgetting something critical like a camera, videocamera or my birth plan would be more disappointing. Nevertheless, I’m finding this stressful. What I’d really like to be doing is curl up on the couch with a movie and a hot chocolate. Why can’t babies provide some advance notice of their arrival?

our current favorite toy

I recently took River over to play at a friend’s house, where the dad engaged both River and his friend with this super awesome toy, the Battat take apart airplane.

I rarely buy new toys, but this was cool enough that I wanted to consider getting it for River. I asked the parents what it was called and where they got it.

“Don’t worry about it,” the dad whispered. “I’ve got two more in the basement and one will be appearing at River’s party.”

Though we had requested no gifts, they brought this 4x4 for River and I can’t complain as it is without a doubt his favorite toy. It comes with a cool battery-powered screwdriver that both removes screws or screws them back in, depending on the setting. While Mark initially had to help River, he’s now able to completely dismantle and reassemble this 4x4 by himself. I think it’s pretty empowering for him to be able to do that and the drilling is great for both hand-eye coordination and for figuring out how to put things together.

Still in our friends’ basement, and soon to be headed to another birthday boy, is this crane.

That’s going to be a happy kid.

Friday, December 17, 2010

our first posada

River and I attended our first posada and I think I’ve found a new holiday tradition. I hadn’t heard of the Mexican tradition of posadas until I saw this one advertised. But a Mexican woman I spoke to there told me it’s a major tradition where she comes from. It is meant to recreate the process of Mary and Joseph seeking lodging and it ends with a celebration. She said that where she comes from, a block of attached houses are all occupied by various relatives, so people will go door to door along their block, acting out the ritual with their family.

It was so much fun! Everyone was given a candle and we carried the lighted candles as we walked from one site to another, recreating the scene of Mary and Joseph looking for lodging. At each of the three sites, we sang and some people pre-planted at the sites sang back.

I told River we were looking for a place to sleep, which he didn’t seem to understand entirely. But he didn’t care much, as what just-turned-three-year-old wouldn’t be thrilled to be allowed to carry around a lighted candle? He loved watching the flame dance in the breeze and being allowed to share his flame with others whose candle blew out.

After the singing was a party with hot chocolate, sweet tamales and tres leches cake. Then came the best part, heading back outside to break two piñatas. River was thrilled to be able allowed the opportunity to swing at it, though his gentle touch didn’t so much as loosen a strand of crepe. But when some older kids broke the piñatas, he liked scavenging for candy.

There was only one other little girl there as young as he was, and the fact that he didn’t look Hispanic, but spoke fluent Spanish, attracted people’s attention. Everyone was very nice to him and several children offered him candy that they had collected from the piñata.

The other three-year-old, a Mexican child, was a friend of ours, who attended River’s birthday party last year. We hadn’t seen her or her family for almost a year and I had on my long to-do list to try to call her mother. I was wondering how they were doing.

It turns out they went through an immigration nightmare and had an order of deportation against them. They have been in the country nine years, both of the children were born here and they are kind, hard-working people. The ordeal began in June and it was just that day, the same day as the posada, that they went to court and the judge allowed them to stay until the spring of 2012. Hopefully that is enough time for them to get things in order.

The mom almost cried as she told me this. She said that November was the worst month of her life, that she had been depressed, and that the court order was like a weight physically lifted from her. I didn’t have the chance to ask what she was thinking of doing with the kids, but I imagine she considered leaving them here, and can’t imagine the pain she must have gone through to imagine being separated from them. It made me sad to know they had suffered so much over the past months.

I know the legal fees were a great hardship to a family that didn’t have a lot to start with. But I was grateful for the encouraging result, glad that the children could sing and clap and dance and chase the candy, not afraid that they or their parents would be put on a plane and sent to a place they had never seen before. I’m glad they will remain in our neighborhood and be River’s friends and classmates.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

early signs of labor?

We could really use, and would really appreciate, a little advance notice of when labor is going to begin. There are a bunch of people we need to notify, from the people who might be keeping an eye on River, to Mark’s mother, who needs to drive several hours, to our doula, who lives an hour away.

When I look back at my first pregnancy, I see we had good forewarning, with cervical mucus appearing three and two days before labor began, and the bloody show appearing the day before labor began. Mark is counting on the same thing to happen again this time, and I admit, that would certainly be helpful. Especially since we know how to interpret it this time around.

But then I hear of other people’s water breaking with no notice at all. I found this list of six potential signs of imminent labor, though none are quite as clear or give quite as much notice as the bloody show. Any other suggestions of what I should look for, or when to make the call to people that perhaps they should be prepared? Looking back, did you have any clear signs that labor was on the way?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

post-partum snacks?

When I had River, I had a drawer filled with Kashi Go Lean rolls and Kashi Crunchy bars next to my bed. These were delicious, and very satisfying when I was starving at 2 a.m. while awake breastfeeding or with a non-sleeping infant.

But I also wonder if chowing them down at 200 or so calories each in the middle of the night was the best thing.

I’m debating if I should have snacks on hand this time and if so, what kind. Should I have tasty, filling things available to minimize my stress and discomfort at a time when I’ll have a lot to deal with? I do get cranky when I’m hungry. Or should I make it more difficult to access food and maybe drop some weight earlier than last time around? Perhaps if there isn’t any food in the bedroom and it’s too hard to walk downstairs with the baby to the kitchen, maybe I’ll consume less. Or I could become even more resentful about being both awake and hungry in the middle of the night.

Did you have snacks strategically placed in your first weeks with a newborn or did you go without? Any suggestions of what might be good to have around?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

week 37 belly shot

Getting ginormous. Part of me needs a bit more time (at least through this weekend) to finish things. Another part thinks I should get this thing out before it gets any bigger. And then I remember that stress about it as I might, I really don't have the control.

Third birthday dinner

I let River choose whatever he wanted to eat for his third birthday dinner. When I asked the question open-ended, he didn’t know. So I offered some suggestions of things he likes – pizza, spaghetti, sushi, chicken, beef. If anything, I was hoping to lead him towards macaroni and cheese, because that’s what I’ve been craving lately. But he went for sushi – the item I craved a lot in the first two trimesters, but am over now.

Here is my birthday boy with his birthday sushi dinner. Perhaps an unusual request for a three-year-old, but I think he’s wonderful.

A girl? That's so awesome!

Mark is pretty excited about our soon-to-arrive daughter. He tells me I should refer to it as her instead of it. But he has trouble understanding why other people are so excited. Today we met with our Russian pediatrician to ask about newborn hospital care. When we told her we were expecting a girl, she said, "Oh, that's so great!"

"Why is that so great?" Mark asked. "Why does everyone say that? What would they say if we said it was a boy - oh, that's too bad?" He seemed to take it as an insult to his manhood. "At River's birthday party we told someone it was a girl and she acted like that was the best thing ever."

"It's nice to have one of each," the pediatrician said. "And everyone knows that the girl will stay with you while the boy gets married and goes off to his wife. I know this from experience, having two daughters."

"Do they stay in close contact with you?" Mark asked.

"Yes, they will call me to tell me they have an earache - at 30 years old."

"Is that how it worked for you?" Mark asked. He knows my brother lives about a mile from my parents, while I am far away. Also, that I tended to bond more with my dad, while my brother got along better with my mom. It's the same in Mark's family. He has a closer relationship with his mom and I think his sister and his dad connect better.

In terms of understanding, I'm prepared for our daughter to be a daddy's girl. I think Mark deserves it, after all the care he has put into River, with not so much reward (River strongly favors mom). I feel like I do understand River perfectly, perhaps in a way that Mark doesn't. And I wouldn't be surprised for the pattern to be reversed with a girl. I think it's too easy to project oneself onto a child of the same sex, which may result in some of the conflicts.

But one thing that makes me very happy about a girl is that I do want to be there when she's pregnant. Whether she ends up being closer to me or to Mark, I'll be her child's grandmother and if I'm still around, I hope I'll be involved in her transition to motherhood. River's wife will probably turn to her own mother first. The possibility exists that River could impregnate someone without us ever knowing, without him ever knowing, and our offspring could exist without us ever being aware. With a daughter, we will know when she bears an offspring, and we will know it carries our genes.

Perhaps it's inconsequential in the big picture. My own brother is adopted, his children are the light of my life after River, so I don't want to overplay genetics. But there is something special about being connected to the ensuing generation, and there is something about a daughter that brings that process closer. I look forward to my daughter becoming a mother more than any other aspect of parenting her. Perhaps this shared sentiment is what inspires the frequent comments we receive - a daughter, how great!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Week 37 pregnancy

Maternity leave. Aaahhh. What a wonderful thing. I’m not exactly sitting around eating bon-bons. Instead, I have plenty of doctor’s appointments, planning, organizing, quality time spent with River, and nesting-related tasks to keep me busy. Oh yes, and that statistics class to finish up. However, I do have more flexibility with sleep, I’m more able to rest or to move when I need to, and I’m really glad to have the time to make the necessary preparations.

I am packing in the quality time with River. During this week, we’ve visited three museums (a children’s museum, a science museum, and another children’s museum), attended a birthday party and participated in a Mexican posada. I recognize that museums will still be there after the birth. I know we’ll do all kinds of fun stuff as a family and as a twosome in the coming years. I know his life will be no different whether or not we do all this stuff. But I figure I should make use of the time while I have it. I’m awake and I’m available and I may not be a few days, weeks or months from now. I want to have fun with him while I can.

River continues to be so cool with the idea of the coming sibling. When I asked him who his friends are, expecting him to name off the kids who attended his birthday party, the first name he said was “baby name.” “She’s my friend,” he said. Whenever Mark puts River to bed, he tucks him in by going over a list of the people who love him. He includes “baby name” in that list. I guess it has sunk in for River that this person he can’t see or interact with is already a close relation.

I’ve got the pregnancy brain. I went to the library with the purpose of one task. I did several other things, left, and hours later, realized I’d forgotten that one task. Returning later in the evening to complete it, I forgot to check out of the parking ticket machine. I’ve failed to notice a “no turn on red” sign until I was well into the turn. I’m now starting my daily to-do list with “print this list.”

I went to the hospital to have a consultation with the anesthesiologist, hoping that labor could be a bit less painful this time around. He was a nice guy, but very pro-intervention. “Why don’t you just have an elective c-section?” he asked. He thought I should come to the hospital immediately when labor begins so that I can be hooked up to the fetal heart monitor. His own wife had a c-section despite arriving at the hospital fully dilated because of something seen on the fetal heart monitor. I would like to have minimal interventions, but maximal pain relief. This seems to be a difficult balance to strike. On the positive side, he said he thought I’d be pleasantly surprised at how much easier it is the second time around. I sure hope so.

At the hospital, I tried to ask who I needed to talk to in order to take my placenta home with me. Last time, they wouldn’t give it to me, saying it was against hospital policy. In the consent to service form, which I’m told can’t be changed, they want me to sign over the right for them to do whatever they want with any tissues taken from my body. The nurse looked at me like I was a freak. “What do you want that for?” she asked. I told her it was private. No, I’m not going to eat it, but it’s none of her business if I was. I don’t feel it’s up to her to judge whether or not my wanting to enact a Vietnamese tradition of burying the placenta at the home of birth is valid or not. It’s my placenta, my house, my yard, should be my decision. Another medical staff person came out, apparently just to catch a glimpse of this weirdo who wants her placenta. She did nothing but eye me over and return to her office. I think she was expecting a voodoo practitioner or something. My Gap maternity coat and the fact that I was busily highlighting a statistics textbook probably screwed with her preconceptions. If someone has a tooth extracted, there is no question it belongs to the patient. Why is it any different with a placenta? Why do I feel like I have to fight to get my own body part?

Upon discussing the meeting with the anesthesiologist with my doctor, I’m told that while he’s a nice and competent anesthesiologist, he hasn’t worked in labor and delivery for years. Therefore, several of the things he told me were out of date. Thank you, hospital, for sending someone who hasn’t dealt with a pregnant woman for years to meet with a very pregnant woman concerned about pain control during labor.

Last time around, I was very concerned with losing my identity, my freedom, my profession. In a determination to prove to myself that I could still continue the things that were important to me and be a mother, I took River on a five-state, two-country, three-plus week trip when he was just over two months old. This time, I’m not so worried about it. Yes, I made adjustments professionally. Yes, my ability to travel was changed (but not done away with). But I am able to continue those things to a certain extent, and I also have an additional source of joy in bringing the world to my child and knowing that he is happy and well-adjusted. I originally thought I’d try to do some projects of interest to me during my leave. Now I have no goals for the first few months. Work will still exist, as will everything else. It doesn’t matter if I step out for a while. I’m more at peace with this.

Planning is getting tough. I feel like the birth could potentially be tomorrow. It could also realistically be over three weeks from now. Everything is planned on a contingency basis. As much as I want to have fun with River, I’m starting to get nervous about driving 45 minutes or more away alone with him. I feel that managing a car and a toddler may be too much if labor begins quickly. I made a last solo hour-long journey with him this week, but don’t know if I’ll risk it after this.

Two centimeters dilated and 80 percent effaced. The doctor predicts I’ll still be pregnant this Friday, but I’m making progress without major pain. Yay! He also told me I could have an epidural early and that a major study showed no effect in outcomes, especially in second or later pregnancies. My dream delivery would be little pain, a healthy mom and baby, and rapid healing. I’m starting to build up a little more hope that this could be possible.

The belly button popped.

I’m a wide load. If I’m going through a doorway, no one else fits. My stomach bangs into this. This takes getting used to.

People are starting to comment that I’m large. That’s no fun.

Is this really only week 37? It’s feeling like it should be the end. While I’m still not ready, another potential three weeks starts to seem like a long time. Mark says he’s afraid to touch my stomach for fear it will break. Can it really keep growing? I start to think how nice an elective c-section sounds. It would probably be out in a matter of days – and would probably be as robust as a baby needs to be.

I’m having less side effects of pregnancy – dizziness, blurry vision, hemmorroids, etc. – but the discomforts of the large living thing inside me are becoming more distinct. Kicks in the ribs, painful twinges in the vaginal area, backaches, difficulties moving and bending over. The process of it coming out is definitely underway. I’m just a bit left out of the loop in terms of how far along it is and when the big wave is coming.

People are starting to look at me with concern, as though I might drop a baby upon them. The scary thing is, they could be right.

I still haven't packed that hospital bag yet. But I have at least looked at the list of what to pack.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

cute winter hats

I think these are the cutest hats. River is getting one soon and I can’t wait to see his reaction. I imagine he’ll love venturing out in the cold as an owl.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Fire truck birthday cake

Evolution of a fire truck cake:

Lessons learned:

1. This recipe makes for a delicious cake, but it’s not ideal for molds. Though I greased the pan well, it’s so moist that a lot of it still stuck, only giving me the bare outlines of lines to follow. And a lot of little crumbs came off in the process of frosting it, making it tough to keep the white frosting white.

2. Make the cake the morning ahead and give it lots of time to cool (if you have room in your freezer to freeze the cake, that would be ideal, otherwise chill it in the fridge). I did the white frosting the night before the party and the rest the morning of. The good thing about this cake is that due to its moistness, it’s great a day later.

3. These directions are excellent. I followed them for making the frosting and doing the decorating. Even a non-artistic person like me can come out with something resembling a fire truck.

4. I invested in this cake carrier, which was a really handy way to both have a surface to frost it upon and have an easy way to cover and store it in the fridge. It also comes with a tray that holds either cupcakes or mini-cupcakes, so I’ll be using it in a few days to send River to preschool with birthday cupcakes.

5. Next time, I’d thin the frosting a little more than the recipe suggests. Perhaps it was too thick, or perhaps it was still too chilled from the fridge. But I had a very hard time working with the yellow, which was the first color I used. I was panting with exertion, my hand was cramped and I started to think I needed to call Mark and ask him to pick up a cake at the supermarket. Luckily, the other colors were much easier to work with. When the frosting flows quickly out of the tip, it makes all the difference.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Waiting until my belly gets smaller

When a friend had her first baby this spring, and showed up at her baby shower with a truly massive stomach, some people commented how they rarely see women that big. Is it because the pregnant women disappear from sight in the weeks before birth? Is it because others aren’t paying so much attention to pregnant women?

I’m not making any concerted effort to stay out of sight. But I do move around less. I venture further from home less often. And I’ve noticed that I’m ignoring events that would put me around unfamiliar people – things like networking get-togethers, small lectures, lunches – any event where I’d have to talk to new people and make an impression. There is no shame in being pregnant, I just don’t like it to be the primary thing people notice about me. I don’t really feel like being the super-pregnant lady.

So even though I may have some extra time in the coming weeks, I’m avoiding those events in favor of doing things with friends, family and those I interact with on a regular basis. I’ll still go to the gym, I may attend a performance or two (being a spectator in a large crowd is less of an issue), I’ll go about my anonymous daily errands, but I’m not out to meet new people, unless they are other pregnant women or new mothers.

Did you notice any changes in your socialization patterns as you became larger?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

First day out of office

I wake up tired and cranky from a poor night’s sleep. Despite taking two Tylenol p.m.’s, I lay awake for a long time, my mind rushing over all the inconsequential, but seemingly important things.

The house clears out and I go back to bed, obtaining an extra hour and a half sleep. I wake up refreshed, feeling good, with some energy.

Aaah! This is just what I needed.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Week 36 pregnancy

Sudddenly, I seem to have occasional bursts of energy, days in which I do just fine without a nap, alternated with days in which even sitting is a challenge.

I think it’s my last week of work. It’s a bit stressful to try to finish everything, but the reward of an upcoming leave is so very enticing.

I’m full of plans and things to do. They are all pretty meaningless in the big picture, but that’s OK. I am embracing the small achievements. On good days, I’m quite enthusiastic. Despite the discomforts, I’m healthy, well cared for and have good friends and family. I’m able to indulge in some self-care treats. I’ll soon have the gift of time. I have a lot to be grateful for.

My friend warns me that caring for a little one can be mind-numbing. Yet I’m rushing enthusiastically towards days at home filled with cooking, organizing and errands. I have little desire for large accomplishments. I’m hoping this is a temporary effect of pregnancy and nesting.

This may be the month I meet my daughter. There is a chance it could be early January too. But in either case, it’s getting close. Even other people are now commenting that the date is fairly soon. There are so many fun things I want to do with River once I’m on leave. But I realize that we don’t have all that much time. Hopefully we can fit in a few activities.

My in-laws have agreed to come care for River while I’m in the hospital. We’ll still have to find someone to drop him off with while I’m in labor, but that is much more manageable than trying to shuttle him from place to place over a couple of days. This is a big stress reliever.

My mom is referring to the new baby by its name. She sent cookies and labeled them: To worldmomma and “baby name”. She sent me a family heirloom and asked me to eventually pass it on to “baby name.” This sounds weird to me, given that I still refer to it as “it.”

I’m really hot these days. This makes me glad to be having a baby in winter. At least I’m saving on the heating bill. I can’t imagine how people manage in summer.

I have a serious case of the waddles. I’m more like a moving tank.

I feel like a ticking time bomb that could go off at any moment. Part of me denies it can or will happen. Part of me doesn’t want to think of the pain. Part of me recognizes that any plans made are only tentative. This uncertainty was difficult last time. But it’s even more difficult with another child involved.

Monday, December 6, 2010

week 36 belly shot

We're getting close now.

First holiday tree

Was put up last weekend. Along with the first decorations. These are meaningful because they were decorations given to my mother, by her aunt, for her first holiday tree as a married woman. Though Mark wasn’t eager about a tree, he kindly put it up. River was thrilled to help with the decorations. He looks at the tree with magic and appreciation in his eyes, and that alone makes it worth it.

I feel like I’m turning into a boring, stereotypical adult, taking on the rituals of holiday cards, a tree, and a soon-to-occur cookie exchange. But the truth is that I like it. I like the soothing glow of the lights, the family history represented in the ornaments, the beauty it adds to the room. I’m glad number two will come back to a place that looks welcoming and that she’ll see photos of her early days that reflect the season when she was born.

I like that River takes pride in his home and his environment. He’ll make comments, entirely unprovoked, such as “Our house is so big and beautiful. There is so much room to play.” (It’s actually not very big, but it’s larger than the place he spent his first 18 months).

Or “I don’t like (insert name of neighboring street).”

“Really?” I ask. “Do you prefer (insert name of our street)?”


It’s good to have a base, a shelter and a family, where we all feel safe and comfortable and warm. I appreciate that now.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Close call

Last night I thought I could maybe, possibly be in labor. After taking my vitamins before bed, I puked them all up. As a person with a stomach of steel, vomiting is a rare and usually serious thing. Afterwards, when I tried to go to sleep, I felt a lot of movement, and some of it felt like rectal pressure. That wasn’t what I remembered from last time around, but I thought I’d read of some people feeling something similar during labor. I wondered if it could be it.

But no, even though I’ve been wanting this to be over for ages, I realized I didn’t want it to come last night. For one thing, River’s birthday party was today. We had a ton of people planning to come over. The last thing River said before he went to sleep was, “Sera muy, muy, muy, muy, muy, muy, muy, muy, muy, muy divertido!” (It’s going to very (to the tenth or so power) fun!) That would not be fair to deny him his party. I almost became weepy thinking about how it would suck for him. And I was annoyed, even a bit angry at the baby for possibly ruining his one last, special day before her arrival.

I also realized that we are just not ready. Those people I thought I’d maybe ask if they would be willing to watch River when we go to the hospital – I hadn’t gotten around to asking them directly yet. Who in the world would I call in the middle of the night? I didn’t have a bag packed. I hadn’t sent in my hospital admission forms. I didn’t have anything ready for River. I hadn’t prepared my birth plan. I hadn’t rejected the enema yet. I hadn’t even communicated with my doula for a couple of weeks. Help!

Luckily, it was a false alarm and we had the party. Making the fire truck cake extended my abilities to their max and I answered the door for the first guests unshowered and wearing an inside-out t-shirt covered with frosting. But it went well, the cake was tasty and though we were short on space, people had a good time.

Now I’ve received the wake-up call that I need to start getting things in order. This would be the week to do that.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

First trip without baby booked

The baby isn’t here yet, but I’ve just booked my first evening away from her. She’ll be approximately two months old and it will be our fourth wedding anniversary.

I received a great Groupon offer, from a hotel an hour from our home, that includes dinner for two and a night’s lodging. Two months is a bit young, but it’s only one night and it’s so close to home.

I didn’t leave River for any extended period until he was three months. Then I left him for 12 hours with a woman in Mexico, while Mark and I took a van far away to go see monarch butterflies. I didn’t mind being away from him for that period, but the conditions didn’t allow me to pump, and it was a killer on my boobs.

This trip is more likely to be 18-24 hours and it will be overnight, but we’ll probably know our sitter much better than we knew the (kind and wonderful ) woman in Mexico, we’ll be in control of the transportation, and we’ll be in easy phone contact.

Mark and I haven’t slept together in what feels like ages. He’s been complaining about the couch lately and asking when he gets to sleep in a real bed. We agreed that whoever is on baby duty at night will get the real bed after the birth, while the other sleeps on the couch with earplugs. So his only prospect for a mattress in the near term comes along with a baby that will probably be wakeful.

I’m excited to have a date on the calendar in which we’ll be able to share an evening together, share a bed, and have some time alone. I don’t even care much about the attractions in the town. I’m thinking dinner, a movie, some wine, a good night’s sleep, breakfast and perhaps a stroll. That sounds like a fantastic, and sufficient, celebration.

It may not be easy – we’ll have to find a sitter, I’ll probably be dealing with breastfeeding issues, it might be hard to leave so early. But I think it’s a good thing for us to do and I’m already looking forward to it.

Friday, December 3, 2010

A taste of what leave might feel like

I took the day off today, in order to prepare for the brunch/birthday party we are hosting this weekend. I was going to do a bit of work, but computer issues prevented that. So I had a taste of what it’s like to spend a weekday on leave. It was great.

I woke up a half hour later than normal. I didn’t shower. I didn’t get dressed until 11. I was able to move at a leisurely pace as I got River up and could agree to his request to read two stories before we did anything else. I baked a cake, went shopping for party supplies and indulged in a pedicure.

I didn’t plan to nap, thinking I had too much to do. But when I was overcome by fatigue at 3:15, I sunk onto the sofa and fell into sleep. There was nothing to stop me. River helped out by taking a four-hour nap, so we both awoke refreshed. I did more cooking, more preparing, picked up things around the house, and had time to play some more and read more books to River.

I’m ending the day tired, but feel accomplished. Besides the pedicure and the nap, I didn’t do much for myself – no reading, no studying, no exercising. But I loved the time available to get things done, I liked having more down time with River, and I really liked being able to sleep when I needed to.

I’m very much looking forward to my leave.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

An enema during labor?

At my 36 week appointment, I was told that the medical group has a practice of giving an enema at the hospital. I was told this is in order to:

1. Stimulate labor
2. Prevent pooping
3. Make the baby's movement down easier.

The doctor said that in his experience, he sees less tearing when women have an enema because it allows more space for the baby to move. He said it's a lesson learned from midwives, who use castor oil. I was kind of surprised by this, having no discussion or use of enemas during my last labor.

But I did poop and I did tear. Though I don't like pooping while pushing, I can deal with that and wouldn't get an enema just for that reason. Nor do I see much need to stimulate labor if it has already begun or to endure any extra discomfort. Given the significant tearing I had last time, if an enema would reduce that, then perhaps it would be worth considering. I told him I’d look into it. I asked if I could reject it if I didn't want it and he said yes.

When I started googling, the information seemed dated. Many women wrote of hearing from their mothers that they had enemas, that it was terrible, and their mothers were glad their daughters didn’t have to experience that. It seemed it was often does for the comfort of the medical provider and had been rejected as an outdated practice. So why was my doctor recommending it?

The most compelling arguments were the possibility of reducing infection during delivery, the possibility of making the baby’s trip down easier, thus reducing tearing, and reducing the need to poop after delivery, when the area is fragile. I know I was terrified of pooping in the days after delivery, thinking that a bowel movement would rip out all the stitches and cause the toilet to fill with blood, as happened when I took my first pee.

When I looked for scientific evidence, this is what I found on the Cochrane Collaboration. In 1999 it was determined that research doesn’t show any benefit to getting an enema. But there is the risk of greater discomfort, of watery stools (which could increase infection) and of speeded up labor. This report was updated in 2010. I also found this page, which referred me to Cochrane, helpful.

So far, this is the most reliable information I can find. I discussed it with Mark and he thought there was no need to endure any additional discomfort. He was the one most bothered by seeing me poop last time, yet he thought it was better to poop again then to try to hold in an enema for 1-10 minutes while simultaneously dealing with contractions.

I wrote to my former doula, an expert who has been at well over 100 births, to request her opinion. She also did some searching and couldn’t find anything that would recommend its use. Out of all of her clients, only one used an enema, out of “a certain fastidiousness” as she described it. She said if the baby needs extra room to get out, then I will poop. She suggested having one on hand at home, in case I want to push labor along, and to bring it to the hospital for the same reason. But she didn’t see any other reason to get one, besides the doctor’s convenience.

So perhaps I’ll get one to have on hand at home. But I plan to opt out of getting one at the hospital. Since it seems the medical practice will put an enema on my chart for the hospital to carry out, I’ll have to add my opt-out to my birth plan and make sure the doctor is on board.

Now I’m starting to worry about my medical practice. One doctor of the three, the most senior, gets pretty bad reviews on bedside manner. He is the one I’m afraid of encountering. I’m imagining the policy probably comes from him.

Another non-patient-friendly policy I was just told about is that the practice doesn’t distribute the doctors’ schedules. My last practice did. I knew exactly who was on call on which days and I tried my best to not have to go to the hospital on the day when the doctor I was least comfortable with was on duty. I was also reassured when I did go into labor and I saw it was a doctor I was comfortable with on call.

The doctor explained that some people prefer one doctor over another, and so in order to not make it uncomfortable for the doctors, they don’t distribute the schedules. But whose comfort is paramount in this situation – the laboring woman or the doctor who is being paid for his or her services?

I told him that at a time that is stressful and painful, any additional uncertainly adds more difficulty to the situation. I told him how I find even not knowing the nurse ahead of time stresses me out, and is why we got a doula. We had one great nurse last time, and one horrible one. To also not know who the doctor will be is like walking helpless and in pain into a great abyss, where you don’t know if you will be aided and soothed, or treated roughly.

He did tell me the days he was on duty, and unfortunately, it looks like he’ll be off on the days immediately surrounding my due date. Given his willingness to violate the “policy,” I’m again suspecting that this comes from Mr. poor-bedside-manner, who seems to put the doctor’s comfort over the patient’s.

I asked my doula what to do if I get the doctor I’m afraid of and she said to take the support of the nurse and our student doula. I guess there is nothing more I can do.

Did you know who would be on duty when you went to the hospital? Did your doctor recommend an enema, or did you give one to yourself? Would you recommend doing it or avoiding it?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

cute baby girl clothes

These outfits (I don't know why blogger rotates the picture) almost have the effect of a 4-D ultrasound in making me excited to meet the new one. My co-workers threw me a little baby shower, which was very kind of them. I didn’t expect it, since their policy is usually to have showers only for first babies. So it was a nice surprise.

My energy seems to be up and my mood is definitely lifted. I found out I’m already one centimeter dilated. Yay! I’m ten percent of the way toward pushing and without major pain. I know it’s not a big deal – the doctor said it’s normal at this time during second pregnancies. But I’m going to take it as an achievement.

Getting closer to the end gives a boost to my spirits. I’m taking a vacation day to get a pedicure and to shop and prepare for River’s birthday party this weekend. I turned the party into a brunch for our friends (mostly with kids) followed by birthday cake. Which means I broke my own rule of only inviting as many kids as River’s age. We are expecting 16 children and quite a few adults.

I asked people to bring a brunch dish rather than a gift, so I don’t necessarily have to feed 40 or so people. But since it’s been over a year since we threw our last party, I do want it to be nice. Today I bought champagne for mimosas, ingredients for potato basil frittata, baked French toast, and double chocolate layer cake. I’m aiming for this – which is pretty ambitious. I bought all kinds of fun cookies and snacks for pu-pu platters. Tomorrow I’m buying flowers, poinsettas and mylar balloons for all of the kids, which will make our home colorful and festive.

Good food, flowers, champagne, balloon, friends and a little boy excited about his birthday all make me happy. As does approaching the end of the 40 weeks.