Thursday, February 23, 2012

4 months

PB is already four months old, and I realized with some sadness that I'm already starting to forget things from when he was a newborn. Of course we were all pretty tired in the first few weeks, and that can lend a haze to the recall function, but still - it's nice to remember these things.

I'll try to be better about a monthly update from here on out, since he changes so much these days. So here's what's up with him at 4 months old - and it's pretty wordy, since this is the first of these I've done:

His 4-month appointment was on 2/22, two days after he turned 4 months old.

Weight: 17lb, 10 oz (90th percentile)

Length: 26.5 inches (95th percentile)

Head circumference: 98th percentile

So... he's pretty big!

What's he eating: Exclusively breastmilk, approximately 24oz from bottles while I'm at work, and then three nursing sessions per 24 hours. On days I'm home he gets almost all his milk from nursing, though there's an occasional bottle if I'm out running an errand or something. So: easily over a quart of milk per day. We're putting those Poly-Vi-Sol with Iron drops in one bottle a day (99% of the time DH is the one who remembers/does this, thankfully). They make his poop stink like metal. But I guess that's good.

Physical skills:

* Rolling from his tummy to his back is old hat for him.

* He's found his hands, and they are usually in his mouth, except when they're grabbing toys/burp rags/ his dad's beard or mom's dangling earrings. I can't believe there was a time when he didn't grab everything, but that was actually just over three weeks ago.

* Sometimes he just chills on his tummy during his tummy time, and while he's doing that he does a sustained pushup while moving his legs in a very pre-crawl kind of way. His neck is quite strong now and he will also look around a lot while he's on his tummy - if one of us is walking around the apartment he'll just track us, and then smile if we stop and say hi/make a face/ do something goofy.

* Lately he's also started rolling over on to his back and then figuring out how to do a Stooge-esque move wherein he wiggles himself around in a circle, with his head at the center. He does that in his crib, too, so sometimes when he wakes up from a nap he'll be facing the opposite direction from the way he was set down. That's all recent - within the last week.

* Overall, the dude never stops moving, and he is STRONG. He wiggles so much during diaper changes that it's becoming something of a wrestling match, and he's thwacked me in the face with his head so hard a couple of times that I've had actual concerns about chipping a tooth or breaking my nose. Neither has happened yet, fortunately.

* The amount of drool he produces in a day is astounding.

Favorite Toys:

Sophie the Giraffe, The Sqwish, The OBall, and burp rags.

Verbal skills:

* He's definitely laughing now, though it's at kind of random times. Often when he gets placed on the changing table, he does a giggle-SHRIEK combo that encourages me to do a lot of silly stuff to draw out changing time because it's a lot of fun. Of course, changing diapers takes twice as long now, anyway, on account of the wiggles, so I'm glad he's happy there.

* When DH plays his guitar, PB likes to babble along. Sometimes he makes extended "aaaaaaa" sounds, almost like singing. And sometimes he makes that noise while holding his hands up like he has a harmonica, so it looks like he's accompanying his pa. Cute!

* He's also making a cute "bppppththtt" tugboat-type sound. He's been doing that for a little over a month now.

Social skills:

* PB is really a happy baby, though he's definitely a morning person. We had a family funeral this past weekend, and he didn't handle the visitation well (I would normally not take a 4-month old to a visitation, but there were automobile logistics involved) because it was late in the evening, he slept in the car on the way there, and when he woke up there were 4 complete strangers (excited cousins) looming over him, so he was kind of overwhelmed. On the other hand, the church service was the next day at 11:30am, and he did wonderfully: he quietly sat and watched the ceiling fans, chewed on his hands or a burp rag, and played with his great uncle's glasses for the hour. He babbled a little toward the end of the service, but several people actually thanked me afterward - they said hearing a baby in church helped remind them that life goes on. I was concerned about the lunch after the service (the funeral was for DH's 90-year-old grandfather, and nearly all of his very numerous descendants were present), but he handled the crowd well, and did a lot of smiling and looking around while he was passed from relative to relative. He definitely recognizes the voices of DH's parents - he generally reacts with a smile when he hears them, especially his grandmother, who's crazy about him.


I'm going to be very wordy about this, because in the last month or so this has changed drastically for us.

* We're settling in to a decent nighttime sleep routine. Bed time is 7pm, so around 6:15 I start to draw a bath. I give PB his bath in the bathroom tub (dude's too big for the kitchen sink now!) in his green foam baby tub, which is not ideal but we only really need it until he can sit up on his own. I just climb in to the tub barefoot with shorts on and crouch over him to bathe him - it's the easiest way to manage bathing him at this point - again, when he's a little bigger I'll probably kneel next to the tub, but at this point I have to support him somewhat, so I'm often using my foot to keep the little tub propped up while I use my hands to bathe him. (I've heard of people just taking a bath with their baby, but then isn't the aftermath too slippery? How do you get both of yourselves dried off? I don't know how well that would work for us.)

PB used to not be a big fan of the bath. Now he's OK with it, and sometimes I get a few smiles. If he has a washcloth to hang on to and chew, he's pretty content. After the bath, he gets a triple-stuffed diaper (just started tripling 2 nights ago, with good results), PJs, a sleep sack and hat, and then we enjoy a nice long nursing session in the chair in his room. His room has a dimmer light, which is perfect because I can set it to almost-off and help him get drowsy while he eats. Half the time he falls asleep at the breast, which they say isn't the best sleep training, but "they" can deal - it's adorable and he's happy. The other half the time I'll put him in his crib drowsy and he might complain for a few minutes, but it's rarely longer than 8-10 minutes, and his heart isn't in it. He wakes up once or twice a night. If he's up before 1am, DH gives him a bottle of milk and puts him right back down. If it's after 1am, I nurse him. If he sleeps that long (which he's been doing more often lately), I usually have to change his PJs, and sometimes his crib sheet, because he's peed through everything - hence the triple-stuffing, which has helped this problem. I get all the fabric changing out of the way first so he can nurse himself back in to a stupor afterward. He generally looks wide awake when I put him in his crib after a night feeding, but he doesn't make much noise at all, usually just a little chatting to himself before he drops back to sleep. He wakes up for the day between 6:00 and 7:30am (though this weekend after a particularly tiring day he slept until 8:30! On a Sunday morning! I was in heaven).

* Side note: Evenings are nice. DH and I have our dinner after PB is in bed - often DH is cooking while I'm doing the whole bath/bed routine - so we have a couple of hours of just-the-two-of-us time to eat and chat and watch a little TV or whatever. I'm not sure why, but I didn't expect that perk.

* Naps are not completely consistent, but it often seems to hinge on the morning nap: if PB gets an hour or more at the 9am nap, he's pretty happy for the rest of the day. If the 9am nap doesn't work out well, the rest of the day's naps are usually crap, and he's a crank by the evening. On good days (which are more common) PB takes 2 long naps (1.5 - 2 hours each) or 3 shorter (45 minutes - 1 hour) naps. The longest nap he's taken when I'm home is an hour and 15 minutes... I think the dynamic is just different if I'm around all day and he's nursing, rather than getting bottles.

For naps, we're generally just following the guidelines in "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child" that say an infant shouldn't be awake for longer than 2 hours at a time. PB gives pretty clear cues that he's getting sleepy, though: starting to whine (annoying) and rubbing his eyes (adorable).

All this wordiness may convey that I was a little bit obsessive about sleep. When PB was almost 3 months old, I read in Dr. Spock that children should be able to go to sleep on their own when they're put to bed "drowsy but awake" by 4 months of age. This freaked me out, because at the time we didn't have a consistent bedtime or routine, and putting him down for his long (maybe 5 hours) sleep at night involved a long time (sometimes upward of an hour) of rocking/bouncing/shushing/etc. to try to get him to sleep around 11pm. I'm a little stunned to realize that a month ago we were still doing all that - and still wrapping PB up in a swaddle blanket at night. And only a couple of weeks before that he was doing all his sleeping in the swing.

I checked out probably 8 different sleep books from the library. Part of the reason there are a zillion sleep books to choose from is that every baby is a bit different... so we just decided to pick and choose what sounded reasonable for the baby we have. In the end, I think the folks who needed the most "training" were DH and me. Once we tried a routine, PB took to it right away, and now, as Dr. Spock predicted, we can put him in his crib still awake and he will go to sleep.

* The night after his 4-month shots, PB went to sleep just before 7pm (he fell asleep at the breast - he was pretty tired) and slept for TWELVE HOURS STRAIGHT. He has never done that before, and I'm sure it was because of the shots, but wow... I felt so well-rested.

I also felt like my chest was going to explode, but such is life.

Things change so quickly with this guy. I wonder what I'll be writing about him in another month!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The birthening, part 3: Wednesday, or, Progress? Please?

Ed. Note: I had a self-imposed deadline to finish my birth story: March 22, The Speaker's due date. Then that kid decided to go and get born 6 weeks early. Happily, they're all fine, but that thwarted my plan... so I'm just finishing it when I'm finishing it.

By around midnight Tuesday night, I felt like we were down to the business of getting this kid born: my water had broken on its own, my contractions were becoming intense, and when I took a bathroom break, the second dose of Cervadil just... um... fell out.

Ick. Sorry.

Frankly, that kind of grossed me out, too, but it told me that my cervix was open enough that it couldn't hold the weird dosage suppository thing in place anymore, so I was making progress! Apparently every gross thing was a sign of progress.

I called the nurses to tell them about the Cervadil, and the midwives showed up to talk things over with me. I would have a few hours to labor without meds, and then they'd hook me up to an IV of pitocin. I wasn't looking forward to that, and I was briefly sad that I couldn't use the bath tub because my bag of waters was already broken... but the midwives said that was crazy, I should feel free to labor in the tub. So DH and I shuffled over to the bathroom.

(As an aside: I've read and heard plenty of stories about women being in shared rooms during their labor and delivery, and I just don't know how they did it. I would have murdered someone if I'd been sharing the room with other laboring women. As it was, there were several times over the three days when we could hear women in other delivery rooms SCREAMING while they were pushing, followed by the crying of a newborn baby. Early on, that made me anxious. Toward the end of my labor, it made me sad because I kind of knew that wouldn't be me.)

At some point around the breaking of my waters, DH's presence went from "nice and comforting" to "absolutely required". I was starting to have trouble getting through contractions without his coaching, and I think the real shift to seriousness happened in that bathroom, while I was laboring in the bath tub and he was perched on the toilet lid, timing contractions and talking me through them. While I was in the tub, the contractions got considerably more intense, and I found myself starting to vocalize: making "aaaaaah" or "haaaaah" sounds to get through them, relaxing my jaw at the same time.

When each contraction started, I would turn on the jacuzzi jets and roll on to my side so they were hitting me in the lower back, where it really hurt (um, back labor! But my brain wouldn't consider that, because back labor is hard, y'all). DH would time the contraction and tell me when it was halfway over: we learned in childbirth class that, around 30 seconds in, the pain won't get any worse and would start to dissipate. It became absolutely vital to me that he tell me when I'd passed 30 seconds. For the next entire day, he did just that, every 3 to 7 minutes: "you're halfway there". "OK, it's halfway over"; "You're past 30 seconds, you can make it." Over and over and over. Later in the process I recall he ran to the bathroom, and I had a contraction while he was away, and I thought I was actually going to die.

Also around this time, I think it was about 1:00am on Wednesday, time began to flow in a different manner. I began to lose any idea about what time or day it was - time was either a contraction or the pause between contractions. (This is why writing this has been so difficult. For the rest of this story, I've made a good-faith effort to keep things in chronological order, but I may be mis-remembering the order of things.)

Unfortunately, the contractions still weren't coming regularly - there could be anywhere from 3 to 7 minutes between contractions, which is a big difference.

We passed several hours this way: first I labored in the tub, then I got my gown back on and tried various positions in the room: squat-sitting on the birthing ball and leaning over on to the foot of the bed, standing up with the birthing ball on the bed so I could collapse over it (this became one of my favorites because someone could easily apply hard pressure to my lower back), and others. I absolutely couldn't just sit through a contraction, and even lying on my side was becoming difficult.

At some point during the night, they started me on pitocin, which made the contractions even more intense.

At 8:00am, Gina - my absolute favorite midwife - started her 24-hour shift. For months I'd been telling myself I wanted to have the baby on Gina's watch, and now it seemed like my dreams were coming true.

Some time around 9am Wednesday, Gina came in. She checked me, and I was dilated to 3.5 centimeters... no progress since the last midwife check earlier in the night, but she said that wasn't an issue - I'd still made some progress with the Cervadil, my water had broken on its own, and there were no signs of distress for me or the baby, so we were just going to keep things rolling along. That sounded good to us. She did offer to call the volunteer doula, which we'd shown an interest in before. DH and I thought about it for a second and said to go ahead.

Breakfast was brought in - eggs and stuff - and I knew I needed to eat to keep up my energy (plus we'd chosen this hospital because they let moms eat during labor) but food was starting to lose its appeal. I forced down some oatmeal. DH ate most of the rest, because he was starving, too.

Jessica the volunteer doula arrived later in the morning. Calling her was the Greatest. Decision. Ever. We automatically felt at ease with her, and I was so relieved to have someone on the team with DH so he could do things like take bathroom breaks or get a snack or just not be "on" the whole time. Plus, she was able to run some interference with the nurses and midwives, which was awesome because they were all ridiculously busy, this being approximately 9 months after Blizzaster 2011 - a bumper crop of babies were being born the week we were in the hospital. As a trained doula, Jessica made suggestions for labor positions/vocalizations, said all the right encouraging things during contractions, made sure I always had super-hot soaked chux pads on my lower back (a Godsend for back labor) and even went out to the waiting room and calmed down my family, who were all trying not to freak out about how long everything was taking. I was so, so grateful for her being there. I didn't expect to even really want a doula, and she ended up being such an integral part of the process for us... it still amazes me.

By midafternoon I became even more charming: after every third contraction or so, I started vomiting. Jessica, dear heart, held the puke tray while DH pressed down on my lower back. I honestly got a little excited about the puking. I thought, "hey, this is progress! Don't you puke during transition? Maybe I'm dilated to, like, 7 or something..."

Labor messes with your head.

Here's where someone might ask: OK, Schmei, the whole labor process wasn't going the way you'd hoped - why not get some painkilling meds? And the truth is, I was totally open to the idea of something like an epidural to help me rest. I was, in fact, asking Gina about it - but I hadn't progressed enough. If they administer an epidural before "active labor" - usually at 4 centimeters - it often has the effect of slowing labor or stopping it completely. Since I was already being induced (forcing labor against my body's wishes), that would have been counterproductive. So I had to work up to 4 centimeters. And at this point in the day, my thinking was moving to that: let's get far enough so I can get an epidural and get some rest before I have to push this kid out.

Also, that the hours and hours of contractions didn't count as active labor still kind of pisses me off. I was active! And laboring! What more did the universe want?


Sometime in the late afternoon, Gina checked me again. We were all hoping for progress.

She reluctantly told me the news:

"Three and a half."

No way. NO. WAY. After HOURS of pitocin and God knows how many contractions? Still? What was I doing wrong? I wasn't visualizing enough, or breathing deeply enough, or something... and how much longer could I do this? I hadn't slept in two days, I couldn't keep food down... I was tired. More tired, actually, than I had ever been in my life. I was starting to wonder how on earth I'd have the energy to push him out whenever I did finally dilate to 10.

And in the back of my mind, there was the kernel of a thought that I just wouldn't dilate to 10... that we were looking at a c-section. But I mostly ignored that thought. I went back to what I was doing wrong. Maybe I was too tense during contractions, despite all my efforts to relax.

I asked Gina what my options were for pain relief. Since I hadn't progressed enough for the epidural, that was out, but she could give me a narcotic to dull the pain. I accepted it, leading to one of the only regrets I have about that process: that stuff (Nubain? I'm not sure) sucked. I did get a little pain relief, but I was mostly just out of it - half-asleep, disconnected from the world for a while. And since I was so fatigued, I never completely recovered from it: for the rest of the labor process I had difficulties keeping my eyes open for more than a few seconds, and many times I would have one eye closed while the other struggled to focus on something. It was weird.

And that was the start, I think, of the slow march to the operating room.

Friday, February 10, 2012

A list

1) I did a little math and realized I am producing a quart of milk, give or take, every day. A QUART.

2) You'd think that would mean our freezer is full of backup milk, but nope! I'm barely keeping up with the kid's daily needs.

3) We weighed him like a turkey (or a camping backpack) the other day, and our home scale says he's pushing 17 pounds. Not surprising, since he's drinking A QUART OF MILK EVERY DAY.

4) I'm hungry all the time, and I'm drinking - no lie - about 100 oz of liquid per day. See #1.

5) I threw out my shoulder/neck a few days ago. See #3. Also: cribs are not ergonomic, especially not for short women... which is, like, half of all parents. OK, I guess there are tall women out there. But I'm not one of them.

6) The little guy is learning how to laugh. I'm grateful for this intermediate stage, where his laughs are kind of tentative, because they make my heart aaaallmost explode. He's giving me a chance so I'll survive his first belly laugh. Hopefully.

7) We are doing some gentle sleep training. It is working, for the most part: he's been going to sleep at 7pm and sleeping until roughly 7am (the range is from 6am to 7:45 so far), with one to two wake ups during the night for a snack and a diaper change. It's a very livable routine for the whole family, especially now that DH and I have worked out the nighttime feedings so we both get a solid chunk of sleep. I think the good sleep is 30% our doing and 70% just that the universe blessed us with a relatively chill baby. We're doing sort-of cry-it-out stuff. He generally cries for 10 minutes or less, and it's totally an "I'm sooo sleeepy..." kind of cry. And then he sleeps for hours and wakes up super happy.

8) He could also be sleeping well because of #1 and #3.

9) I keep hearing that all the sleep routines go to hell at 4 months, so... one day at a time.

10) Almost every time I pump at work, someone knocks on my office door. Inconvenient, because I need to pump relatively frequently (see #1), and seriously? You don't want me to answer the door. We'd all be traumatized.

11) Because of #10, I am now having anxiety dreams about pumping at work, similar to those dreams you have as a kid about showing up to school naked. In the dreams, I'm pumping, with the office door open, without pants on, and there are like twelve people standing in my doorway. What I want to know is, where did my pants go?

12) I've decided to refer to the kiddo as PB on this blog, because I'm tired of calling him "the kiddo/kid/baby/dude/little guy", and I was so focused on protein when I was pregnant that he is probably 30% composed of peanut butter.

13) Last night PB only woke up once, around 2:30am. I nursed him on one side, then changed his diaper, and then was about to start nursing him on the other side when he spit up on my neck, purposely missing the burp rag. When I pulled him back to wipe off his face (and my neck - ew), he gave me a huge, gummy smile in the dim light. Which just made me hug him. Who else gets a hug for horking part of their meal on to my neck?

14) A year ago today I found out I was pregnant. That's nuts.

Friday, February 3, 2012

A side note

This is a non-baby-related post. In fact, this post is on the opposite end of the spectrum from my drooly, adorable son.

A former professor of mine posted a link to this story on facebook: 83-Year-Old Activist Priest Held in Solitary Confinement, which, through the comments, led me to this piece in The New Yorker about the US as a carceral state. Which led me to renew my subscription to that publication - something DH and I had been waffling about.

Though the Occupy protests by the 99% have been heartening, they don't seem to have touched very much on our enormous, expensive, embarrassing prison system - and I haven't heard much about how states like Florida disenfranchise felons for life, which, the way felony convictions get handed out, can effect the electorate fairly drastically.

And frankly... maybe this isn't that unrelated to my kid. Every one of those incarcerated people has a mother.