Wednesday, June 25, 2014

5 things i wish i knew:

In case you didn't know, I am a planner. A total type A personality. So, when I got pregnant, I did it all. I read all the books. I spent hours on the internet researching. I talked to ladies who had little ones. I watched documentaries and tv shows to prepare myself. I thought I had it all together. I was as ready as I was ever going to be. And then life happened. I know they say you can never be prepared for a baby and you probably think to yourself, "I know, I know, but I feel really prepared". Well, guess what? You're not. There is absolutely no way you can be ready because if it's your first baby, you really have no idea what to expect. You can't be ready because you don't know what to be ready for. You have no basis for comparison.

I did my best to prepare myself for pregnancy and birth. Yes, there were some unforeseen complications, but mostly I think I did okay. What I failed to consider, however, was what comes next. You know, the whole newborn thing. And while baby M is a really good baby and easy to manage (most days), I have really struggled lately with everything that has happened to my body. No one ever really talks about that. They tell you all about the magical things that are happening to your body during pregnancy and the actual birth process, but the stories usually stop there. No one tells you about the weeks and months that follow. So for all you women soon to be in my shoes, here is what I know. Here is what I wish someone would have told me:

  1. You will cry. A lot. For every tiny little reason and sometimes for no reason at all. This does not mean you're crazy or anything, it's just that your body has just birthed a tiny human being and sometimes it takes a while to process that. And also because your body is pretty much just a huge sack of hormones right now. You will cry because you have just been through a very traumatic, life-changing event. You will cry because one day soon that tiny person will grow up and not need you anymore. You will cry because your pants don't fit. This is all normal. It goes away after a while. But I really do think the whole overemotional phase changes you. All my life I have been someone who doesn't like to show emotion. I've always operated under the whole "showing emotion makes you seem weak" thing. When my body breaks down emotionally without my brain's permission, it always makes me angry. But after that whole birth thing, I no longer operate this way. Maybe it's because I've ugly cried over so many things so many times since M was born that I am desensitized to it. I no longer let it phase me. I cry when I feel like crying and I don't care who sees. Life's too short to hold it all in. And once I turned it on, I can't seem to turn it off. I'm a major weeper now. 
  2. All sense of modesty will go out the window. I used to be an incredibly modest person. That's over now. Having complete strangers mess around with your lady parts (and in my case, internal organs) will do that to a person. And if it doesn't, the whole having your husband help you to the bathroom postpartum and witness the shit storm that is happening down there definitely will. But this is a good thing because motherhood and modesty don't mesh. It all just preparation for life with kids and never getting to pee with the door closed ever again. I think my friends who are mothers can testify to this.
  3. You will not immediately lose as much weight as you think you will. I thought I'd go in, have the baby, and leave about 20-30 pounds lighter. That was not the case, my friends. At my two week postpartum visit with my doctor, I had only lost 14 pounds. In two weeks. Not at all what I was expecting. It was a rude awakening. The weight is still coming off but very slowly. It's a slow process and I am still learning to accept that and have patience.
  4. Breastfeeding hurts. Oh man, does it hurt. And it's hard. I thought you could just pop the kid on there and they'd take it from there. Nope. They don't really know what to do any more that you do. You kind of have to figure it out together. And in the meantime, they will tear your nipples up. But it does get easier. I like to compare it to breaking in a new pair of shoes. At first, they hurt and give you blisters but after a while your feet get used to them and then everything's good and they look really cute. And so it is with boobs. Just hang in there and after awhile it won't hurt anymore. Just make sure you get yourself some good cream. I'm told it hurts less with the second kid. Let's hope this is true.
  5. You will struggle with your identity. I had just figured out who I was and then this baby came along and changed everything. Suddenly I have this person who relies on me for absolutely everything and it's a little overwhelming sometimes. It takes a lot out of you. There are a lot of days when I don't feel like myself at all (and then I cry, because, well, you know). I struggle with being a mom and maintaining my sense of self -- those interests and hobbies I had before he came along. Yes I am a mother now but I'm still me. I still want the same things and like the same things as before. I'm sure I'm not the only person who feels this way but so many mothers that I see act like being a mother is the most important and most fulfilling thing in their lives, almost like it's the only thing they are anymore. Call me crazy, but I don't want that. I don't want to be just a mother. I want to be me -- the person I have always been who just also happens to be a mother now.
So many moms feel like they have to act like they've got it together all the time. How exhausting. I say now is probably the #1 time in your life when it's acceptable to not have it together. The world will totally understand. I plan on taking full advantage of that. I am a mess. I'm pretty sure my shirt has both spit up and urine on it. Every day is a struggle. I don't pretend to be perfect. And I think it's easier that way. Keeping up appearances is too exhausting. I'm already exhausted enough and I still have so much more to figure out. 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Our birth story, part two:

As promised this is my (Andrew) recollection of the events that occurred on Thursday, May 29th. 

In light of Meghan having a reasonable amount of pain Tuesday night I decided to work from home Wednesday, May 28th. I knew that the arrival of little Mr. M was eminent and I didn't want to risk being 30 minutes away when that time came. To me the whole ordeal of deciding to go to the hospital and the drive there was very calm and well-timed. I remember walking into the living room:

"Still timing the contractions?", I asked.
"Yes", she said.
"How many minutes apart?"
She replied, "Three to five."
"Ready to go to the hospital?"

So we packed up our hospital bag, slowly got into the car and headed west.  It was all puppies and rainbows until we reached the hospital. That's when Meghan's contractions began to get so intense that she had a hard time speaking through them. So as Meghan mentioned before we were placed in triage, walked forever and then were finally admitted. One thing that I really liked about triage was our nurse, Melissa. She was pregnant too. For some reason this brought me a lot of comfort. 

After being admitted, I had a rough time. We hadn't yet reached the part where Meghan could get the good drugs so I had to just watch her struggle. Even worse still, she began to convulse and shake a lot under the stress of the pain and anxiety. It's difficult to watch someone you love endure these sort of things. Even worse when the ability to help does not lay with you. Finally, our delivery room nurse, (I'm sure they have official titles) Terri, gave Meghan a healthy dose of Stadol.  She almost instantly looked better. Like she does after having a margarita. Relaxed and a little slap-happy.  When the anesthesiologist entered I thought, "Finally, an end to the bulk of her pain!" He was a very nice man. It turns out we both knew a prominent family in the town I grew up in. Small world. 

A funny memory I have in the middle of all of this is during one occasion when Terri was checking to see how far along Meghan had progressed. She said, "It looks like there's meconium in your fluids." Not good news; he can't stay in that polluted environment for much longer. After she left the room Meghan said, "Great. He pooped in me. The one thing I asked him not to do."

Things progressed normally from that point on.  Labor did stall out at 9cm and we were told we needed a c-section. I couldn't process it. Meghan and I hadn't even talked about the possibility of a c-section. I knew it had to be done for the sake of Meghan's and M's health.  It all happened so fast. We were both suited up in our surgery attire. They let me follow her to the double doors that lead to surgery. I had to wait outside until she was prepped. 

Silence. I was standing in front of several large events that were about to change my life and it was completely silent. Approximately 2:40 AM and there was not a soul around. I could hear the wall clock tick from a ways down the hall. I had a dry mouth and a tight stomach. I looked at my watch. 2:42 AM. 242. I remembered this as my first dorm room in college. -- before I'd even met Meghan years ago. From there I did the classic life-flashing montage of our lives together. At the end, I found myself there in a cold silent hallway. Waiting too long to be back with, what I consider, the best parts of me. 

The double doors opened and I was invited in. A new anesthesiologist led me through the doors, helped me tie on my mask and sat me down next to Meghan. Then surgery began. As I watched her body be jarred and jostled (from the chest up) by the surgery happening behind the curtain, I struggled with finding something to talk about; something to help distract her and pass the time. I knew she couldn't feel anything and that she was mostly out of it so maybe the talking was for my benefit as well. The surgery was over in a flash. Imagine making a sandwich. How long does that take? Two to five minutes maybe, depending on your ingredients. I'm telling you, the c-section was performed faster than that. Faster than any sandwich I've ever made. 

Silence again. For a brief moment, everyone was silent. Then a little raspy cough and a cry. Our baby boy made his debut. I couldn't see anything. I heard his little cry. I heard the NICU nurses suctioning fluids out of his orifices and looking him over. Dr. Owens said, "He's beautiful!"

Then they handed him to me. This part was different then I had imagined it. I was told that there is an overwhelming flow of unconditional love that overcomes you. This was true. I did feel this way but it isn't the feeling that stands out. I remember holding his little body for the first time and looking into his almond-shaped eyes. And I thought, "I know you." It wasn't that I'd spent the last several months listening to his heart beat or talking to the kicks in Meghan's stomach. I knew his face. It's something that has been etched in me from my very beginnings. He's always been a part of me and now I'm finally able to meet him. How wonderful it is.

You can read about our birth story from Meghan's point of view here.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Our birth story:

We've been MIA lately. But we have a good reason: baby M is here! Born May 29th at 2:55am, 8 lb. 1 oz., 21 inches long. He's perfect. And we've been spending all our time snuggling him, catching up on sleep, and figuring this whole parenting thing out. Taking care of a newborn is no joke, you guys.

Andrew and I both had very different experiences of baby M's birth. So we will be telling it from both our perspectives. Here's mine:

On Tuesday, May 27th, at around 9:30 in the evening, I started feeling kind of funny. I had cramps and a backache but didn't think anything of it because I had been experiencing these off and on for weeks. Nothing timeable, just sort of a constant ache -- just enough to be annoying. So I did what I always do: relaxed on the couch, drank some water, and went to bed. Usually when I felt like this, if I went to sleep, it'd be gone when I woke up in the morning. But this time I had a hard time falling asleep and when I woke up around 4:00 in the morning, it was still there. Not really any stronger and still nothing that I could time. But it concerned me that it was still there, over 4 hours later. So I called the Labor & Delivery unit at the hospital and spoke to a nurse about what I was experiencing. She told me I was probably in the early stages of labor and to take some Tylenol, drink more water, and wait it out at home. So that's what I did.

I was able to get back to sleep and finally woke up around 9:00 later that morning. I moved back to the couch and tried to make myself as comfortable as possible. Andrew stayed home from work to be ready in case anything happened. We just laid low the entire morning. I watched some TV and had a sandwich. Andrew worked on some things from home.

Around 11:00, I felt like things were starting to change. The uncomfortable feeling I had been dealing with since the night before was starting to feel different -- more like waves of cramps. I could definitely time these and they were coming between 6 to 9 minutes apart. It wasn't consistent though and not unbearable so we decided to wait and see if it changed at all.

By around 1:00, the contractions were more consistent and coming about every 4 to 6 minutes. So I called the hospital again and they said to wait it out if I could. I was afraid of going in to get checked out and then being sent home. So we waited until around 2:30 when things were starting to feel pretty uncomfortable and then we decided to go in. So we grabbed our hospital bag, called my mom to come get Tillie, and off we went.

We got to the hospital at around 3:00 and checked in. While we were in the car, my contractions were coming less than 4 minutes apart and I felt every single bump in the road. I remember the long walk to Labor & Delivery and thinking that this could be the last time we did anything just the two of us; that the next time we walked down that skybridge again, we would be three instead of two. It all felt very surreal.

When we checked in, they sent us to triage where they got me hooked up to a fetal monitor and told me to just wait and see what happened. So we watched a little TV and talked about anything and everything. I was only a 3 when we got there so the nurse suggested we walk around the unit a little to help jump start things. So we did. For 1.5 hours. 1.5 hours is a long time to walk period but try doing it while the size of a whale and contracting every 3 to 4 minutes. Needless to say, it wasn't fun. Things went okay at first. I was able to move pretty well and we were keeping a decent pace but by the end, I could barely walk. My contractions hurt so badly; each one left me feeling light headed and seeing spots. So we finally made our way back to triage and when the nurse checked me again, I was almost a 5 so they decided to go ahead and admit me. We were so excited. We started texting friends and family. This was it. No going back now. Show time.

We got settled in our room and they took my blood, hooked me up to an IV, and gave me a little something to take the edge off the pain until I got my epidural. It was amazing. Seriously, it felt like being drunk. I felt slightly groggy and silly. Shortly after, the anesthesiologist arrived to give me my epidural. It didn't hurt nearly as bad as I had anticipated and gave me instant relief. Whoever invented the epidural should have some kind of statue erected in their honor.

We spent the next few hours just hanging out. Time passed so quickly. I remember looking at the clock and feeling like the hands were just spinning around. Hours felt like minutes. And every time the nurse came in to check on me, I had made progress. Everything was going perfectly. I think she even used the term "textbook". We were on our way! Our son would be arriving soon!

Then I remember starting to feel really nauseated. I was shaking uncontrollably and I didn't know why because I wasn't cold. And I started to get really tired and kept going in and out of consciousness. It was hard to keep my eyes open and focus on anything. People kept talking to me and I had a hard time concentrating on what they were saying.

Sometime after midnight, the nurse came in again and said that she had been watching the baby's heart rate on the monitor and while it was normal for it to drop during each contraction, it was taking a long time for it to come back up. So they gave me oxygen and kept an eye on it. I was dilated to 9 cm at that point. She came back again and I was still at a 9 and still experiencing problems with the baby's heart rate. She started throwing around the word c-section.

Finally, the doctor came in (not my doctor, who was out of town at the time) and looked things over and finally told me that she thought the baby was in distress and that the best course of action would be a c-section. I remember being so tired and having a hard time processing what she was saying. I heard c-section and knew what that meant but was so out of it I didn't really have any other thoughts or reaction. I just said "okay".

So they started prepping me for surgery. I remember drinking some really gross stuff and putting on a hair net. I remember them wheeling me out of the room and down the hall. I remember Andrew's mask and gown. I remember the operating room and the bright lights. I remember telling myself that I absolutely had to wake up and pay attention because this was the birth of my son and I didn't want to miss it. 

They made Andrew wait out in the hall while they got everything set up. They put up a curtain and placed warm towels on my arms. They kept pressing something cold on me and asking if I could feel it. The anesthesiologist kept giving me a play-by-play of what the doctor was doing and what I could expect to feel. Then they brought Andrew in and he sat right by my side. His face looked so nervous and unsure. I don't really remember what we talked about but we talked the entire time. I just kept my eyes on his face. And that's what we were doing when we heard our son. He coughed a little and then started crying. It was such a tiny little voice. I smiled at Andrew because it was all I could do. 

They cleaned him up and brought him over to Andrew to hold while they stitched me up. I remember looking at his tiny little face but I was so out of it I don't remember what I said or what I thought. It was just like "there he is". Once everything was done, the doctor leaned over, told me he was beautiful, and congratulations, and then they moved me to a bed and I got to hold him on our way back to the room. 

Once we were back in our room, I finally got to eat. I chose Cheerios. I watched them give him a bath, do his footprints, and do other tests. I didn't get to hold him for a long time. Then they put him in his little bed and we tried to get an hour or so of sleep. I was completely exhausted. I don't think I've ever been more tired in my life. 

Looking back on the whole experience now, I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, I'm glad things happened like they did. Obviously something was wrong and I feel that a c-section was absolutely the best decision at the time. He's here and we're both healthy and that's really all that matters. I am grateful that everything went smoothly. I realized things could have been much worse. But on the other hand, I feel a little cheated. I didn't realize how much it mattered to me until afterward. I didn't get to see my son be born. I didn't get to see him take his first breath. I didn't get to hold him right away. Andrew didn't get to cut his cord. I feel like I missed out somehow. It's something that I'm trying to come to terms with but it's almost like I have PTSD or something. When I look at my incision, I feel like it's a battle scar that I earned or something but also, it scares the mess out of me. I'm almost glad I was so out of it when they broke the news of a c-section to me because I didn't really understand what was happening enough to be scared. If I had, I'm sure I would have cried like a baby the entire time.

For Andrew's take on the whole experience (and get ready because it's very sweet), click here