Friday, September 14, 2018

Newborn-1month & Survival Mode

Want to know what it's like having a newborn? Just look at the date of this post. I'd meant to write immediately after the birth, but my son is now 5 weeks old, and my world has shrunk down to Baby, Baby, Baby and almost nothing else.

The first few weeks after bringing home Sheep have been like survival camping. You go days without showering; makeup is a long-ago luxury; you see people a lot less often than you used to; you forage for something quick and easy to heat up, and it has to be something you can eat with one hand; and you pick up skills quick - I can now change a diaper in about 40 seconds, under immense pressure. For example, when a golden arc of pee comes spraying over me (this has happened at least 10 times within the past month).

When my best friend said, "The first month is going to rock your world," I didn't know what she meant until now. I'm amazed by how used I've gotten to having 3-4 hours of sleep at a time during the night, with 1-1.5 hours of feeding and soothing in-between. And, whereas in the past I couldn't go to bed without perfect conditions and earplugs, now I'm asleep instantly.

I've had a major identity crisis since bringing home baby. In the past I pursued writing goals, made new connections, stayed in touch via social media, kept my home clean, read, and maintained my Spanish. Those have all been next to impossible to keep up. Now my only goal is that Sheep is fed and happy, and myself afterwards. This change was so abrupt, I had difficulty with it and reached out to other moms. They all assured me this was normal, and because it was hard to say what Sheep's timeline was, they said to just ride the wave and see how far it goes. It could be the 6 week mark, or it could be 4 months, until my day to day has some regularity.

R has been amazing at being a dad. Despite having a long commute to work and regular overtime, he's always home to make dinner and is my respite on the weekends. But the lack of sleep and discombobulation of everything makes me forget at times, leading me to be bitchy - a lot (I'm really sorry, hon). They say the first 5 years of a child's life are a real test on a relationship. This I believe.

I hear Sheep waking up from his's time to turn off the computer and get back to Baby, Baby, Baby. They say I'll look back and miss his newborn stage, so time to be present in these moments and enjoy them as much as I can.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

A Sheep Is Born

{The following has explicit medical stuff that isn't recommended to read if you're queasy about labor and delivery.}


Sheep's birth was quite the experience. I'm still pleasantly surprised by how everything turned out.

It started 7 a.m., one day before the estimated due date. My water broke and I immediately called R at work. I then called the hospital and described my situation to the intake nurse, including that I was GBS positive. She calmly told me to come in order to start an IV of antibiotics. After hanging up I relaxed, knowing I had a while before R got home with a vehicle from the car co-op (we don't own a car). The contractions hadn't started yet, so I leisurely showered and ate a tiny breakfast.

When R arrived, he was excited and kissed me. "Today's the day!" he whispered. I resumed feeling nervous again, realizing I was going to have to try to push a baby out of me.

The drive into the city was a long one. Traffic was bumper to bumper, as people were struggling to get to work. Suddenly, in the midst of a three-lane crawl of cars, ours sputtered and died. "The car ran out of gas," said R in disbelief. He coasted over to the far right lane and tried to re-start it. Drivers were starting to honk behind us.

I glared at him. "How much gas was in the car?" I asked.

"A quarter tank," he answered. With traffic, it normally took almost an hour to drive to the hospital. On this day, R had also driven the car from work all the way to our condo to pick me up.

"That's not enough gas!" I yelled, and flung open the car door. I leapt out in anger, held my very pregnant belly and wildly waved my arms, signalling to people to switch lanes. Drivers stopped honking upon seeing my huge stomach and merged over. Within a few minutes, a good samaritan pulled over in front of us and said he had towing supplies, and could pull us into the nearest side street a half-block down the road. We gratefully accepted. While being towed, I had my first contraction, tears streaming down my face.

"Does it hurt?" asked R.

"No!" I cried. "It's just not going the way I want!" R stroked my face and apologized. Once we were parked, R leapt into the guy's truck so that he could be driven to another co-op car. I stood beside the dead car, laboring. He returned promptly and again we continued to the hospital, my contractions becoming stronger. Once we parked, R supported me as I stumbled through the doors and greeted the attending nurse with grunts of pain. They promptly brought us to an assessment room and checked me, while R left to move the co-op car to the street and end the rental.

"You're 4 centimeters," the nurse announced. "Let's start the antibiotic IV."

R returned to the room and said, "I got a f***ing parking ticket!" Apparently the hospital's enforcement officer didn't realize the hybrid car was still running in the lot while we were checking in. R called them and explained the situation, and the company promptly rescinded the ticket.

After what felt like an eternity laboring in the room (which in reality was probably for a very short time, but I wasn't looking at the clock at all), a nurse came to bring me to the delivery ward. On the way upstairs, I had to stop in the hallway and breathe through a contraction. I proceeded to crouch down and brace against the wall, using my yoga breathing and moaning, while hearing the soft padding footsteps of staff passing behind me. My nurse was very calm and reassured me through the contraction.

Stepping into the birthing room was like stepping into a palace: skylight, birthing tub and shower, en suite bathroom, delivery bed, and guest bed. It was clean and looked brand new. I changed into a hospital gown, but promptly stripped it off a few minutes later when I realized the feel of cloth on my skin bothered me. The contractions were coming much more frequently. The nurse was very hands-off, which I liked, and she recorded notes during each contraction. Using what I learned in prenatal class, I concentrated on my breath and moved into different laboring positions to help Sheep descend lower. Four breaths in, eight breaths out. The nurse drew a bath for me to labor in. The contractions came faster and more powerfully. I tried to moan my exhalations but eventually the sound would escalate into a scream. I was convinced that other people on the same floor thought a murder was taking place in my room. R later told me that I was dropping F bombs left, right and center, which I honestly don't remember doing. The nurse checked my dilation again, and told me I was now 8 centimetres. So within no more than 2 hours, I had dilated 4 centimetres and was now in the transition phase, which the nurse knew by the amount of screaming and swearing I was doing.

At one point, the pain was too much. I had been using laughing gas but I threw the mouthpiece down, frustrated by the lack of effectiveness. "I need something!" I begged.

The nurse offered to call the anesthesiologist for a walking epidural, and I hesitatingly agreed. In prenatal class it was suggested that epidurals were not a good idea, but the pain was unbelievably intense and I needed it. The hospital offered walking epidurals, which were of much lower dosage than full epidurals. My nurse also offered fentanyl while we waited for the anesthesiologist to arrive, which I accepted.

Time passed. "Where's the anesthesiologist?" I cried in pain.

"He's coming. He's on his way." was all the nurse could answer.

Once the anesthesiologist arrived, she explained she was a resident and I had enough of a clear head to ask if the more experienced one could administer the epidural. I'd thought long and hard about my labour plan while pregnant, and I was afraid of the small risk of becoming paralyzed. The other anesthesiologist arrived, and stated he trusted the resident to do it. However he offered, "Would you feel better if I supervised while she puts it in?" I answered yes. She proceeded to quickly inject it, pausing when I indicated I was going to have a contraction. Very soon, the walking epidural took effect and I settled back into the bed, becoming more clear-headed and relaxed after the agonizing drug-free contractions.

The walking epidural worked well. I was mostly pain-free, and still had the use and control of my legs. I was able to feel when a contraction was coming on, and I was even able to walk slowly to the bathroom.

I dreamily looked at the nurse. "This drug is amazing. Why don't more people use this?" She laughed.
(L) Before the epidural; (R) After the blessed epidural
 A woman walked in and said, "Hi, I'm a volunteer from the West Coast Massage Therapy school. Would you like a 45-minute massage to help you with your labor?" I answered something to the effect of, hells yeah. She proceeded to massage my shoulders and scalp. Whenever I felt a contraction come on, she would guide my breathing until it passed.

Then the nurse indicated I was fully dilated, and it was time to end the massage and to push. It was difficult to do so, as the epidural blocked some sensation. I used various pushing positions, but very little progress was happening. The doctors came in once in a while, but ultimately the labor belonged to me, R, and any nurses that came in to help.

After pushing for a while, the doctors returned and said, "The baby's heartbeat is becoming dangerously elevated with each contraction. You haven't been able to make as much progress as we'd like, so we want to try an intervention."

I thought they were going to say C-section, which I had no problem with. Instead, they said, "Forceps." I started bawling.

"What's wrong?" the doctors asked. "It won't hurt the baby."

"It's about it hurting ME!" I cried.

R then said, "Can you give us two minutes please?" Once everyone had left, he talked to me reassuringly and said I was so close.

"I can even see a bit of the baby's hair, you just have to push really hard, okay?" R didn't want me to have a caesarean, because he knew my recovery would be difficult and take longer. He promised to make sure they upped the epidural dosage so that I wouldn't feel too much pain in the event of a forceps delivery.

The staff returned, and as they were getting the forceps ready, one of the nurses looked me in the eye and said, "You're going to have to push like you've never pushed before."

So I did. I bore down and pushed hard. One of the doctors noticed my progress and said, "Wow, someone really doesn't want us to use forceps!" I kept going, pushing hard with each contraction.

I could feel progress happening. At one point, it almost felt like Sheep's head was going to come out, when suddenly my contraction stopped. "The contraction ended!" I yelled in frustration.

"Then don't push!" the doctor replied. What the hell!, I thought, There's a freaking head stuck midway in my vijayjay.

The next contraction came quickly. "PUSH PUSH PUSH PUSH PUSH" was all I could hear the staff say. And I did. And Sheep was born.

I don't remember much about that exact moment. I remember looking down and seeing his purple, slimy body being laid upon my skin. I remember waiting for what seemed like forever, but in reality was probably only a couple of seconds, before our son finally cried and I could breathe a sigh of relief. I remember his cry was so loud and shrill, but he immediately calmed down upon hearing his mom and dad's voices. His eyes were so large. R says I cried when he was born but I don't remember. I vaguely remember telling R I loved him. Even now I feel tears well up when I recall those moments.

At times I stop and can't believe I managed to push out an entire baby. I never asked about Sheep's weight during the last month of pregnancy, because I was afraid he would be large. He ended up weighing about 7 lbs and 13 oz., but it didn't feel like it because of the epidural. I was also stitched up from a second degree tear, but even that didn't give me too much pain. R claims I turned to him after the birth and said, "It's true, you forget the pain quickly. I could do that again!" (I can't believe I said that, and chalk it up to the drugs.)
Sheep has a repertoire of expressions.
Sheep ended up being born at 18:30. The staff were so good at the hospital. The care I received during my two night stay was fantastic. The nurses readily answered all my questions on how to care for Sheep, things we were unable to discuss in prenatal class. I actually felt sad when it was time to go home, because I had gone through an amazing, albeit painful experience in that room.

Of course, the next phase of work starts upon arriving home. In my post coming up, I'll write about what it's like having a newborn in our lives.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

39 weeks & Get the Baby Out

At my last appointment the obstetrician reminded me that if I don't go into labour by 40 weeks, I'll be induced at the hospital. I'd totally forgotten; I thought I had until 42 weeks, but because I'm 40 years old I have to give birth earlier (I believe if I'd had a midwife I could've gone until 42, but since I have this OB and the hospital nurses believe the same, I choose to trust their advice).

The next week is filled with appointments to monitor the baby's condition, plus to try to induce labor naturally. I'll go over what I have in mind to try to encourage Sheep to come out:

Dates: The moment I found out I was GBS positive, I wanted to try to reduce the chance of my water breaking before going into labour. I know it's impossible to defy Mother Nature, but while doing research I did see a couple of studies that suggested eating 6 dates a day from 34 weeks onwards reduces the need for interventions, and can lead to a smoother delivery. Could be hokey, but eating 6 dates everyday has been an easy add to my diet.

Accupuncture: I stopped into The Accupuncture Hub on Broadway in Vancouver, because of their sliding scale pricing ($20-50 per session, compared to $100 for a private session in a clinic). I'd never tried accupuncture before, but I had read that some women used it to induce labor. The practitioner I spoke to said it was too early to induce, but recommended several sessions to "ripen the cervix" instead. Uh-huh. I did a session anyways (absolutely no needle pain) just to try it, and fell asleep in the chair within 10 minutes. I have no idea how "ripe" my cervix is, but I will say the session was very relaxing, and I've booked another session at a community accupuncture clinic in New West for induction.

Membrane sweep: The obstetrician will offer this at my next appointment, which is a few days before my 40-week due date. I'm going to decline, as I've read it can be very painful, plus it might lead to my water breaking before labour, which is exactly what I don't want.

Spicy food: I've visited Indian, Mexican, and ramen restaurants, asking for the hottest items. Sheep hasn't budged.

Reflexology: My fiance R hates giving and receiving massages. Bless him, he's a wonderful man and can fix things and does all kinds of favors for me (for example, putting my shoes onto my fat-ass feet because I can't bend down and tie the laces) but massage is not one of them. I was reluctant to spend the money on a reflexologist, so I looked up pressure points online to try to induce labor. I vaguely pointed out a pressure point on my foot (I love foot massages) and begged R to rub and press that area. It didn't induce any contractions, but it felt nice!

Relax: Almost everyone who offered advice said that relaxing and trusting in the process would lead to a good birth. I have incorporated this into my day to day: prenatal yoga in the morning, meditation at night. All in a bid to give Sheep and I the best journey possible.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

38.5 Weeks - Do We Ever Really Feel Ready?

If I guess correctly, I'm past the 9 month mark now (who knew, due dates are given at the 10-month mark!?!) and in the final home stretch. I can see the finish line ahead. There are parts of pregnancy I will miss - this is probably one of the only times where I and others will really take care of me. I slow down when I'm tired, I eat what I want (with care, of course), I nap when I need to, I let myself cry if it feels good. I live in a society that is normally very go, go, go so recognizing the importance of slowing down and enjoying the present has been a great lesson.

.....Well, enjoying the present as much as possible. We're currently in a heat wave and my body is retaining more fluid. I've had to buy new sandals because 3/4 of my shoe collection doesn't fit. My toes look like vienna sausages. You'd think I'd be happy with the heat, but my tolerance has been Canadianized and I've become a sloth in order to deal.

A sure way to slow down: prenatal yoga at home.
I'm doing my best to focus on relaxing when it comes to thinking about the impending labor. Every night I watch an affirmation video or meditate. Almost every morning I do yoga and focus on relaxing and stretching. I refuse to listen to horror birth stories, instead reading ones where the women felt empowered. I know bajillions of women have labored before, and I know our bodies are designed to handle it, blah blah blah..... I'm still anxious. My obstetrician said my Group B Strep results came back positive (apparently at least 2 women in my prenatal class are also positive), which has put a kink in my plans. If my water doesn't break before I go into labour, I'll do as much as I can at home and then it's off to the hospital once the contractions reach a certain point. However, if my water breaks, I have to go to the hospital sooner in order to get an IV for antibiotics. A broken amniotic sac means increased risk that Sheep would catch my Group B Strep. So in this situation, it's possible I'd be labouring in hospital instead of the comfort of my home. It's also possible I'd have to be administered pitocin (noooooo!!) in order to deliver earlier rather than later, for Sheep's safety.

I'm like a Girl Scout and I've done everything I can to prepare. I've already attended workshops on infant CPR, car seat installation, and baby sleep habits. R has been wonderful and done SO MUCH to prepare our home - Sheep's room is basically done, plus he's been my sherpa when buying second-hand furniture and doing big Costco shops. We bought a new mini-freezer which I'm currently stocking with frozen meals (thank you, Ara). You would think, with the fact that we'd planned this pregnancy, and the nine months it's taken to get here, that I'm feeling the excitement everyone else seems to be feeling. But most days I haven't been. I've been feeling 90% worried instead. For selfish reasons: will I ever have time to myself ever again? Can I ever have fun travel adventures ever again? And for low self-confidence reasons: will Sheep love me? Will my relationship with R stand the test of time?

It wasn't until I admitted to myself that I don't feel 100% ready, that ironically I began to feel better and more open to Sheep's arrival. I realized I always felt this way before big changes, for example before each trip to Spain. Despite extensive preparation and lots of time before jetting off, I always had an urge to cancel the trips the night before. That's how nervous I was, and that's how I've felt with Sheep's impending arrival. Despite the prenatal classes, baby prep workshops, and extensive research, I haven't felt completely ready, but almost no one ever feels 100% ready for big changes. Even though everything around me is set - we have a new home, no personal debt, I've done plenty of adventurous things in my life, and I feel I'm at the right age to have a baby - I had to admit in my heart that I wasn't ready, in order to be ready. Seems counterproductive on paper, but in reality admitting that to myself made me feel 100 times better. So Sheep, come on out when you're ready! Because Mom and Dad are here for you.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

8.5 Months - What is Normal?

I've completed prenatal class, read a tonne of articles and books, asked for opinions and advice, and know that I'll be delivering in a hospital that encourages the "normal" birthing process. I feel prepared and ready for the challenge coming my way, but I've formed an opinion:

If it weren't so complicated to heal from, I'd choose a caesarean section.

(Cue fainting prenatal class teacher and my obstetrician.)

I swear, generations from now people will look back and say, "It was so barbaric back then! Women had to push babies out of their vaginas. Now we use precision lasers, cut the babies out and voila!" But for now, and probably for good reasons I'll admit, what's being encouraged is to give birth the "normal" way.

I think whatever method women give birth is "normal". Even though I'm aiming for a vaginal birth, I don't like that it's distinguished as natural whereas caesarean isn't. There are many reasons for women to opt for one or the other. Our bodies, our choices.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Eight Months & the Nosebleed of the Century

A recent (albeit disconcerting - nose is chopped!) ultrasound photo. Looks like Sheep's got mom's lips!
Sheep is moving like crazy. This baby, whom I previously labelled a Black Belt, is now a gymnast. The advantage of having a mover is that you don't have to count kicks. It also makes for a great show when I'm sitting with nothing to do.

R has been a darling, making dinner on most nights, painting the condo, and helping me buy baby furniture second-hand. However, as wonderful as he is, his joking manner and my raging hormones are not always a good mix. On a recent evening, he asked if I was going to have my tubes tied in the hospital, after delivery.

"No, I don't think so," I answered. "I'm quite sure Sheep will be our one and only child, but I don't want to close that door too early. I can always tie them in a few years, when I'm completely sure I don't want anymore children."

"But babe," he said, "You're old."

My head whipped towards him. "WHAT????"

Just to be clear, my remark of "What" wasn't a Pardon me? or Please Explain More kind of 'what'. This was a Watch Where the Fuck You're Going With That You're About to Cross a Very Fine Line kind of 'what'. I have my reasons to have only one child: I think having two or more children is a lot of work, and costs a lot of money. I wholeheartedly believe Sheep could be a happy only child. My age isn't a reason for wanting just one kid.

My fiance R, who is only a few years younger than me, is a very sincere, unfiltered man. Which has been refreshing, but also frustrating at times when tact is called for. Apparently he didn't see the Tact Angel waving at him frantically from the sidelines, as he plunged towards a very ugly pileup. "Well, you're FORTY. I mean, you're probably too old now to have anymore kids....right?"

I yelled, "I'm not that old! I'm only a few years older than you and I could have more kids if I wanted to! It's totally possible!" Then my face fell. "You consider me old??? Am I....unattractive to you?"

R started to backpedal. "NO! I love you! You're totally hot. You're HOT! You don't look your age, even though you're forty....but that's not the point, the point is I love you, and you're a babe, and I'm still totally attracted to you...Hey, what's wrong?"

My head was hanging down, and tears welled up in my eyes. Suddenly, I made choking sounds, which quickly escalated into full-out bawling. Like a baby.

R seemed afraid. "Hey, no, I didn't mean it....Wait, is this a pregnancy cry?"

My wailing got louder. R shuttled me into the bedroom, where the window was closed and hopefully neighbours wouldn't hear me. I couldn't stop my bawling, as much as I tried. It all came out, in a painfully ugly cry. I held my hands to my face to hide.

R said, "Babe, please don't cry. I'm sorry."

After a while, I pulled my hands down to try to breathe calmly. That's when I saw rivers of blood running down my palms. Turns out I was having a massive nosebleed. I hadn't had one in years and didn't remember what to do. R instructed me to pinch my nostrils and gave me a rag to staunch the flow of blood. Nosebleeds in pregnancy are common, but I hadn't had one until the night my fiance decided to touch upon a sensitive topic and made me cry so hard, the blood vessels in my nose burst.

R felt very badly about the whole thing. He said sorry many times, reassured me that he was attracted to me, and said kind words on the phone the next day during his lunch break. I forgave him pretty quickly, and hopefully he's learned to employ a little more tact next time.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Seven Months

It's getting real.

It feels this way when you're looking down and able to see a baby squirming around in your belly. Right now Sheep's also kicking the crap out of my right rib - a favorite target, as the head is diagonally opposite and facing downwards. So while Sheep stretches throughout the day, and grows, my rib takes a beating.

I even watched the baby move while sitting in our first prenatal class this week. It was cool to see other big bellies in the room, along with their nervous/bored/excited partners. We'll be in class for 6 weeks, sharing concerns and learning how to push a huge turkey out of our vijayjays. A co-worker told me he and his wife gave birth before their prenatal classes could even start, and everything went fine, so needless to say I could probably forego the classes and I'm sure it would work out. However, not only do I want to know what's going on and feel prepared, I also want to meet other moms in my area, hence the classes.

Obstetrician appointments are picking up, now every two weeks instead of every month. It's because of my age. The doc says everything is fine, except my iron is a bit low, so I was told to take Feramax. I plan to ask at the next appointment if I can simply increase iron sources in my diet instead. However, if she prefers I supplement, I will. I understand the role iron plays in the baby's birth weight.

But let's talk about my weight now, shall we? Until two weeks ago, I was eating fairly normally. Suddenly, my appetite shot through the roof. A sign I was entering the third trimester, a time when the baby really grows. I. Can't. Stop. Eating. Every two hours, I need a mini-meal. One time I tried to wait and I almost ate the car. I usually surround myself with healthy food and snacks, so that at least Sheep's getting good nutrients. I actually freaked out on R about his candy stash, saying it was a terrible thing to have within arm's reach, and he gave up and said, "Fine, I'll get a safe that locks!"

Went to my old hood with friends last week. Almost all of us showed up, and I stayed out the whole night (well, we ended early, at 11:00). It was nice hanging with the crew, cracking jokes like old times. They all enjoyed their beers at the pub while I nursed my....Sprite. :(

The next morning, R and I did a maternity shoot, so I could look back and feel proud of how my body looked at this stage (for you, I'm only posting G-rated photos):

Sheep's rep
We just took the pics at home, in front of a curtained window in order to use the morning light. No fancy studio (we're on a tight budget, having moved into the new place), but I did visit the salon because I'm terrible at hairdos. Someday I want to look back and marvel at how my body changed during Sheep's incubation.