Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Birthening: the prologue

Over the last several years, I have read many, many birth stories, and I know that there is often an unexpected thing that happens during labor and delivery. Birth plans are just plans, and they need to be flexible. My whole approach to labor took that in to account: we took a childbirth class focused on unmedicated childbirth, but I was clear with DH that if things took a long time and I needed to conserve my energy, I was open to the idea of some pain relief that would help me rest.

We didn't even write out a birth plan, actually: we talked the whole enterprise over with the midwives, and everything that really mattered to me was just standard operating procedure. The most crucial aspects of any plan we would have written were the moments just after birth: I wanted immediate skin-to-skin contact with my baby, I wanted the team to wait until his cord had finished pulsing before it was cut, I wanted to try breastfeeding before they gave him any shots or weighed and measured him. The midwife said this is all standard - we would need to write out a special request NOT to have these things happen.

Well, none of those things happened. My son was born in a freezing operating room, via caesarian section, after a failed induction that took over two days. I didn't get to touch him for almost 4 hours except for a quick kiss on the cheek before they whisked him away to the nursery while I was sutured up and rolled back to a recovery room, without him. DH spent some time in the middle of the night pacing the hall between his post-operative wife, his baby in the special care nursery, and all his in-laws in the waiting room, waiting for news. The final process looked nothing like our general plans.

I am 100% OK with all of this.

I used to think that the people who had experiences like mine who said things like "at the end of the day, I have a healthy baby and that's all that matters" were just making themselves feel better about a situation over which they lost control. Maybe they were, but I seriously feel good about the way my son's birth panned out. He's huge and healthy and beautiful, and I never felt like I had lost what small amount of control I ever had over the process. It's just that the plan had to be even more flexible than we realized.

In part because I feel like I owe it to all the bloggers who shared their birth stories, and in part because now, only a week later, certain details are already starting to elude me, I'm planning to write out my son's birth story. It will likely take a little time between feedings (oh man, does this kid like to eat) and naps (his and mine), but I'd like to write it down. Because what happened was basically my nightmare scenario, but it wasn't terrifying at all. Through the whole process, which lasted over three days, I felt supported and listened to, and I felt like all the options were being laid out fairly to me and DH.

And, yes, at the end we have a healthy baby. I think I had to grow up a little and realize that seriously? That is the point of this whole thing.

Before I get in to the long story, however, here are the details: the kiddo (sorry interwebs, you don't get his real name) was born at 1:48am on Thursday, October 20. He was 21.25 inches long and weighed 8 pounds, 15 ounces. The midwife on call noted that this was after he pooped several times immediately after delivery, so she insisted that he was at least a nine-pound baby. And yes, his size was part of the reason we ended up in the operating room.

Oh, and we love him to bits and pieces. I'll have to write a separate post about how my feelings toward newborns have changed, because this particular newborn is just the tops.

Monday, October 17, 2011

39 weeks

OK, this really may be the last weekly pregnancy update. The midwives have continued to be nervous about my blood pressure and they're indicating that they won't let me go past 40 weeks, and may try to induce me sooner than that. Since, as I type this, I'm at 39 weeks, 3 days, that means - urp - some time in the next 4 days I may be delivering this kid. Am I ready for that? Is anyone ever ready for this? I'm huge and kind of uncomfortable, and I'm looking forward to meeting the little guy, but I just spent one last, relaxed autumn Sunday hanging out with DH and soaking up some just-the-two-of-us time, and it made me feel a little melancholy that I'm about to give that up. DH likes to say we're just adding someone else to the party, and I'm sure he's right (and I'm sure the second I see him holding our son I'm going to melt into a puddle), but after five-plus years of sharing my home life with just DH, I know it's going to be a serious adjustment for me. Not a bad thing, just a big change.

Weight Gain:
35 pounds! I lost a pound over the last week. Meanwhile, my belly got bigger, so I'm thinking we're in a magical phase wherein I transfer my weight to the tot. Maybe I should stay pregnant for three more weeks? Is that the best weight loss plan ever? Probably not.

Symptoms: Achey hips, occasional shortness of breath, bizarre hunger cues (I didn't want to eat much of anything Saturday, then I was STARVING ALL DAY Sunday). And - get this - contractions. Only a few, on Friday night, but they felt like menstrual cramps that started low down and moved slowly up my abdomen. It's bizarre to feel excited about pain, but as DH pointed out, the whole pregnancy enterprise involves feeling positive about crappy symptoms (early on it's "I want to puke... yayyy!"). Also, I know I could have on and off contractions for, like, weeks, but I still take it as a hopeful sign.

Happily, my belly button is still just weirdly flat. I feel blessed that it hasn't yet popped out, like a turkey timer. Maybe we'll manage to avoid that...?

Cravings/Aversions: All over the place, and kind of unpredictable. I'm thinking my system must be getting ready for some action, because my relationship with food is becoming weird. There's a little of the first trimester "I need to eat and I feel bad because I haven't but nothing sounds good" feeling, but then eating almost anything is generally delightful (except on Saturday when food was mostly a chore).

I am loving: How unavoidably huge I am. People just stare. And sometimes make comments. One woman just laughed at me. I wonder what people do to women who manage to make it to 42 weeks?

I miss: Oh, the usual stuff: especially rolling over in bed without it being a major chore. My hips feel like they're going to dislocate in the middle of the night these days.

I'm looking forward to: Meeting him! Maybe soon! We got a bunch of hand-me-down clothes from one of DH's cousins over the weekend, and since they'd been in storage for a while I washed all the newborn-to-6 month size stuff. Folding up the tiny sweaters and snuggly little pajamas was really fun, and I am geeked about finally putting a little person in to these outfits and cuddling up with him when it's cold outside.

I'm concerned about: How it's all going to go down, delivery-wise. I have no choice but to go with the flow (OK, I guess the other choice is to panic... but that doesn't help anything) and hope - and work for - the best delivery possible. I got to have a nice long chat with my friend who had an emergency c-section 10 days ago, and she's rooting for me to have a natural birth so she can live vicariously through me. I hope I can come through for her! But whatever gets this little guy out in to the world safe and sound is good to me.

Milestones: Little dude is "watermelon sized". And his mother is Sherman Tank sized. :-)

Movement: Still good. I got hooked up to a fetal monitor for 20 minutes on Thursday, and they wanted him to move twice in that time - which he did - and they wanted his heart rate to accelerate appropriately when he moved - which it did. So he's already passing tests! I'm proud.

OK, mostly walking and puttering around the house. I've been sitting almost exclusively on my yoga balance ball at work, too, which is its own low-key exercise (and makes my hips feel like they're dislocating... but that's kind of all the time these days).

Sleep: Still pretty good, especially considering what I hear from other moms about how they just DID NOT SLEEP the last weeks of pregnancy. I'm getting at least 6 hours a night, and usually closer to 8. The kid is definitely down in my pelvis, though, because when I get up to pee at night it is a desperate and painful need to make it to the bathroom in time, not just kind of urgent like it used to be.

Diet: Mostly OK. Saturday was kind of a wash, as I had a big basket of fried stuff when DH's family took us out to lunch and then I felt crummy for much of the rest of the day. Otherwise I've been much better, and have been tending toward spicy foods, just in case that home induction remedy works.

Something nice: Most people, in most places, are just really nice to someone who's as huge-pregnant as I am. And most of them smile at me. I appreciate that.

Monday, October 10, 2011

38 weeks

Though I know this can change at any moment, the little guy has shown no signs of making his appearance any time too soon. On the other hand, there's a full moon this week, so... will this be the last weekly update? Time will tell...

Weight Gain:
According to the midwife, 36 pounds! Yikes. I'm gaining over 2 pounds a week lately, which is TOO MUCH.

Symptoms: Is "I can't say no to food" a symptom? I don't know. Otherwise, I'm big, my right hip occasionally hurts, I've started to have some really lovely crotch pain (sorry, TMI? It seriously feels like I got kicked down there sometimes), and my lower back is achey by the end of the day. So basically I've gained 36 pounds in a few months and my body is reacting appropriately. Oh, I also have cankles. This is what I get for being all smug a few weeks ago, when I thought I'd made it through the summer unscathed. Seriously, though, these are all minor, and - except for the cankles - none of them are constant. I still feel like it's been smooth going for this whole pregnancy.

Cravings/Aversions: I seriously want to eat everything. OK, except the canned mushrooms. But everything else.

I am loving: That the midwife at my last appointment took all the data points seriously and didn't order another 24-hour urine screen. We bought another week! And she was even asking us what our plan will be if I go over 41 weeks, so the specter of induction seems to be receding, which is fantastic.

I miss: Having a pregnant buddy. My friend who was due 4 days after me had an emergency c-section on Thursday. She had a boy, which means we're both raising sons, which is exciting, but we both really expected me to go first - she was talking about trying to hold out until November, actually. The circumstances for her were a little scary, and pretty sudden, but mom and baby are both fortunately doing fine now.

I'm looking forward to: the return of cooler fall weather this week.

I'm concerned about: When this is on my list of "concerns", I've got it easy: some of my maternity shirts are getting to be too short, and they're riding up in the front, exposing either my bare belly or the big elastic band of my pants. If I go to something like 41 weeks, WHAT WILL I WEAR?? I may need to get a pair of maternity leggings so I can just wear all my dresses as shirts.

Milestones: I asked the midwife how big she thought this baby is, and she said his head seems about 7-pounder sized, but that he might be faking her out because he seems really long. So... lanky baby? But also: seven pounds already?? Yikes. Also, he's been head-down for several weeks now, which is great.

Movement: Much of the same. If I drink something cold or have something to eat, his foot is all up in my rib. I'd yell at him but I really don't think he has a lot of options for where to put his feet these days. Also, he doesn't allow me to slouch. If I lean forward too much he gets very kicky.

Improving. One insight we gained from the midwife appointment was that, even though I thought I was drinking plenty of water, I actually wasn't. I upped my hydration and a lot of the crampy feelings I was getting on our walks basically disappeared. DUH. So now we're back to taking LONG walks, which feels great.

Sleep: Holding steady. I never thought I'd just get used to waking up between 3 and 4 AM to waddle to the bathroom, but I do it every night now. I'm generally able to get back to sleep after not too long, and I think this is helped by the longer walks.

Diet: Also improving. Something about being over 36 pounds on my weight gain shocked me in to realizing that "occasional sweets" does not mean three desserts in the same day. So... occasional. And I'm eating more fruits and veggies.

Something nice: DH's adorable baby cousin got baptized this weekend, so we went to the service and the family lunch gathering afterward. This baby is so amazingly chill: she loves to eat, she's a good sleeper, and when she's awake she's content as long as she has a good view of the room. Every time DH and I are around her we both rub my belly and tell our kid to be just like his cousin. I hope that works.

DH's whole family is pretty excited about the little dude. His aunt found a bunch of clothes at a consignment sale that everyone has been telling me about: I haven't seen them yet, but there's a rumor of a sweater vest, and oh how I love a baby in a sweater vest. His family is also going to lend us a swing and buy me a breastfeeding pillow - two things I hadn't yet gotten that I really want to have. This kid is lucky! OK... so am I.

Also: over the weekend we stocked up on pantry goods. We have enough laundry detergent, canned goods and boxed mac n cheese to survive the apocalypse. It does help ease my mind, knowing that we can live for weeks (that's probably not an exaggeration) without going to the grocery store, since I'm anticipating a few weeks of complete brain-dead sleep deprivation at the start there. If I get my act together in the next few days I'm going to make a few meals to freeze, since there are still a few square inches of open freezer space in our kitchen, and we can't have that, can we? Does this count as nesting? I think it may.

Finally: several folks have asked me when I'm due, and then have guessed: "in a month?" Then they're all surprised when I tell them two weeks. So I just passed an invisible threshold of somehow looking less pregnant than I actually am. I have no clue how these things work.

Oh, and as a bonus: did you hear about the woman who ran the Chicago Marathon at "nearly 39 weeks" pregnant, went in to labor DURING THE RACE, finished, grabbed a bite to eat, then went to the hospital and had her baby? Thanks for making us all feel like slackers, lady!! I stopped running at something like 10 weeks!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Fall harvest

I don't regularly check in on CJane's blog, so I didn't realize she was pregnant again until she was, like, really pregnant. But this post she put up last week made me nod:

"Good bye September.
It's a curious thing to have a body on the same fertile cycle as Mother Earth.When I see the heavy apples on the tree in the backyard, hanging on for one more month of perfect ripeness, I feel my position. When I see my face in this photograph I also see the roundness, the readiness of a harvest of a different kind.
September, we're glowing."

And she is, round-faced and glowing in the picture.

As I've been waddling around in search of tasty pumpkin delicacies, I agree with her that it's curious to feel rather pumpkin-like, myself, in the autumn. Curious and kind of fun. I've always loved October, and now I think I will love it even more, because (unless I go really overdue) it's the month when I get to meet my son.

I've heard that it's best to have babies in the spring, so one can do all the gestating and nesting when it's cold outside, and that always made sense to me. But this year I'm enjoying this affinity with apple trees and squash plants, and I'm looking forward to what this autumn will bring us.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

37 weeks

0-4 weeks until the big day! That's quite a range.

Weight Gain:
About 32 pounds, according to the scale at home. I would like to keep it under 35, but we appear to be gaining 2 pounds a week at the end here. Not sure how I feel about that.

Symptoms: I know I still have it easy, but I'm experiencing an increase in aches and pains. My hips are achey, my lower back is occasionally giving me what-for (not in a crampy way, more in a "dang, girl, you're carrying 30 extra pounds around all the time" way), and holy hell, have I gotten some painful gas lately. Especially when the kiddo decides to try to stretch out, I have moments where I just feel like there's too much matter in my midsection and not enough space. I'd like to keep the little guy baking for at least another couple of weeks, but I can completely understand why some women are just done with the blessed pregnancy process at this point.

I am also getting occasional crampy feelings, and I'm feeling my Braxton-Hicks contractions more, so I think the body is moving in to "getting ready" mode.

Cravings/Aversions: I really just want to eat all the time again - hence the 2 pound a week weight gain, I'm sure - but carbs are always delicious.

I am loving: The nice weather and the way DH and I have been kind of soaking in our last few days/weeks together as just the two of us. We did a lot of work on our apartment this weekend and now I feel like we're really moved in, just in the nick of time. The place feels like home, and the kid's room is really cozy, and we're enjoying our last days of quiet while simultaneously looking forward to meeting the new guy.

Oh, and I have a new sleep strategy to ward off hip pain: I am now sleeping with my Snoogle, plus a regular pillow, PLUS a folded-up comforter between my knees. This looks completely insane, as I'm basically sticking one leg all up in the air, but it means I sleep.

I miss: Just about everything about my body 30 pounds ago. But most of that will come back soon, so I'm cool with it.

I'm looking forward to: Hopefully at least one more beautiful fall weekend at home with just DH before the Big Day.

I'm concerned about: My blood pressure... sort of. I'm really concerned about the midwives' attitude shift. Three weeks ago, my BP was a little higher than it had been for most of the pregnancy, but no one seemed too concerned. Then last week, when the nurse pulled out the blood pressure cuff, I briefly panicked - I felt my heart pound and I got that quick fight-or-flight head rush one can get. I should have asked the nurse to wait a second, but she was jabbering away about something, so she takes my blood pressure and it's scary high. Then she interrogates me: "Were you rushing to get here? How do you feel? Have you had headaches?" She makes me lie down and tells the midwife to take another reading later.

Here's the thing: 10 minutes later, the midwife takes my BP and it's almost exactly what it was two weeks before. I am certain I have a case of "white coat syndrome", especially in light of my sister's experience with birth. Despite the new normal reading, though, the midwife orders a blood test and a 24-hour urine collection - something they had made my sister do before they tortured her. When I heard about the urine thing, I yelled, "no!" - in my mind, this was the beginning of the end of hands-off midwife care, and they're about to hand me over to the OB wolves with their IVs and their scalpels.

So in between working on our apartment all day Saturday, I was also collecting my pee in a charming orange jug. Sunday morning we dropped the jug o' pee off at the hospital, and by Sunday evening we had confirmation that no problems were found in any of the blood test labs or in my urine - I'm cool. Despite that, the midwife who talked with DH on Sunday afternoon when I was away rattled off all the symptoms of pre-eclampsia that he should watch out for, and made sure to mention seizures as a possibility. He was rightfully annoyed that they're still acting like something is wrong even though all the tests are showing that I'm fine thus far. I understand that pre-e can crop up quickly, but it almost feels like they're hoping for something to be wrong so they can induce me.

Anyway, with all that, we bought another week. And we're kind of ready for a fight on Thursday at my next appointment. I do feel a little reassured that I have now managed to progress further in my pregnancy than they let my sister get. I feel like every additional day the kid can stay in the womb means better things for him when he's born, and hopefully a better birth experience for both of us... especially if they try to induce me. The closer we are to the due date, the more ready he'll be to get born. But I'm cranky that I even need to worry about induction.

Milestones: Full term! If he is born, say, tomorrow, they wouldn't even think about sending him to NICU unless there's some extra complication with the birth. Yes, I would like my slimy baby placed directly on my chest as soon as he's born, thank you. We have a lot of getting-to-know-you to do.

Movement: Ugh. It's still reassuring, but does it have to be so... painful? He likes to s t r e t c h out, and lo, there is no room in there for the stretching.

Exercise: OK. I've been more sedentary at work than I probably should be, but we are at least getting nice walks in during the evenings. This fall weather is fantastic. I'm sad that it's supposed to heat up again later this week.

Diet: OK-ish. I need to keep focusing on protein, especially with all the midwife panic.

Something nice:
On Sunday, a group of my friends had a "mothers' blessing" for me and my friend who's due 4 days after me. It was a really nice event, and a good opportunity to think about this transition. I'm supposed to text the organizer when I go in to labor so she can tell all the women who were there that they should say a prayer for me, which is cool.

Also, I got to Skype with my best friend who lives far away in Canada yesterday, and she was asking me all kinds of things about my experience with pregnancy and what I'd learned about birth. It's great to talk with her, anyway, but I also like feeling like I'm becoming one of those moms that other women can ask about this stuff. There's a lot of stuff that nobody tells you!

Also, DH's mom picked up a lot of really cute sleepers for the kiddo, and his aunt called on Saturday and said she found a bunch of adorable baby clothes at a consignment sale for super-cheap. There was a time when I was worried we didn't have any clothes for the little guy... that time is gone.