For the New Parents Out There

When T turned us into parents on August 13th of 2009 it was life changing, exhilarating, terrifying. If I had to choose one word to describe the first few months with T it would be overwhelming. We were overwhelmed with love, but also with the enormity of being responsible for another life. Z had a four day business trip before T was 12 weeks old. I remember sitting on the sofa holding T and weeping on that last day, just waiting for Z to get home so I could get a break from the unrelenting demands of a newborn. Actually, all that Fall I spent a lot of time sitting on the same sofa and weeping because the intensity of the love I felt for T was almost suffocating.

On August 31st of 2011 C made us parents again. And it was simply exhilarating. After you’ve given yourself a bunch of gray hairs shepherding a baby through infancy the second time becomes old hat. Last Fall we knew how to keep a newborn alive and safe and loved. We kept saying to each other, “What was the big deal with T? Compared to dealing with a toddler this is easy! What was our problem?” I’ve thought a lot about our attitude almost a year ago. You know what? Parenting C wasn’t easy, it was known, and it wasn’t accompanied with never ending fear. That said, if Z took T on a trip last Fall for four days and I was left with C alone it would have felt like I was the one on vacation.  
Experienced moms can occasionally be a bit, um, insufferable. I know, I am one. When I was brand new at this mothering business I’d roll my eyes when moms would dismiss the stage I was dealing with. “You think this is hard? Wait until they are toddlers…or school aged…or teenagers…or when they are in college!” I try really hard not to say that stuff to other moms, not that I haven’t caught myself doing it at times. Yes, moms who have been doing it longer are a wealth of information, but you can’t understand the struggles of motherhood until you do it yourself, until you feel it in your bones. Each mom needs to go through the process and discover all its ins and outs for herself. I think that is one of the many reasons the pregnancy and newborn books can be so unhelpful. I’m a life long obsessive reader, but this is one area in which reading let me down, at least in the qualitative sense. Don’t get me wrong, the info in those books is important. I had one that listed what was going on with the baby developmentally week by week and I loved reading it. The quantitative stuff-like if your newborn has a temp above 100.4 you need to take them to the hospital, that is valuable information. But your panic at being responsible for another human? Your exhaustion from being up all night with a baby? Reading about it doesn’t make you understand it in your bones. 
I feel so grateful to T for making me a Mom. He’s my Guinea pig and he is a rock star for weathering the emotional storms of a couple of novice parents. I also feel so fucking guilty. C has parents who pretty much know what they are doing. He hasn’t had to absorb the angst of two people transforming into a mother and father. Oh, I feel guilty about other things when it comes to C, but he has parents who knew the drill on day one. T deserves a shit load of credit for prepping us. His gift of changing who we are in the most basic sense is the best gift I’ve ever been given.
When friends of mine have a baby I am thrilled for them and excited for the adventure they are embarking on, but my heart also aches for them. Because it is so fucking hard at first. The awesome outweighs the hard, but man, it’s pretty damn close. The mechanics of dealing with one kid who is getting close to exiting toddlerhood and one kid who is getting close to entering toddlerhood are difficult and overwhelming and unrelenting in a new way. But if I really think about it nothing is like those first few months. So to the new parents out there, I salute you. I empathize with you. I admire you. You are doing the hardest of the hard stuff, and it is only going to get easier. Becoming a parent is amazing, personally I wouldn’t change it for anything, but do not doubt that you are doing some of the most difficult work you will ever do in your life. You deserve a lot of credit. Don’t be too hard on yourself when it wears you down. You will get through it. And if you choose to do it again your confidence will astound you. 
This was the second best gift I’ve ever been given. Z gave me a “blue canary in the outlet by the light switch who watches over you” on December 18th, 2008, my 32nd Birthday. In just under two weeks we’d find out I was pregnant with T. It hangs in our kitchen here in Syracuse as well. I love looking at it every day.
T calls this “riding the crane”. I think Z calls it “having a sore arm”. And you can see the bottom of my gift hanging on the wall. You can almost see the little copper strip on the bottom right corner that is stamped l-i-t-e. Z thought of everything.
And then there’s this kid. 
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Go Read My Friend’s Blog

Kelly was an acquaintance  in high school, and I was rather terrified of her. She was all sorts of confident and sexy and all the guys wanted to get in her pants, but the amazing thing is they also wanted to be friends with her. She was by far the coolest member of the drama crowd, which I know isn’t saying much, but she’d be cool no matter who she hung out with. It was like she almost legitimized the band of freaks that we were to the rest of the school. So fast forward a decade and a half and she and I become friends on facebook. And we somehow morph into actual friends. Z, T, C, and I visited her and her family a few weeks ago at her home in NC. First time I’d seen her in 17 years. The internet is weird.

Anyway, her blog is awesome. It is incredibly honest about the hard stuff and honesty is like crack to me. She had a baby last week and today she posted about the hormonal nuttiness that happens when you are very recently postpartum. She wrapped it up with a photo of her belly one week after giving birth. And it made me think of this post  that I wrote 30 days before C was born. I included pictures of myself in all my huge glory and promised to post pictures in the same dress a few weeks after C arrived to show how a flabby postpartum belly looks.

I’ve felt guilty about not putting on the dress and taking pictures ever since. But the reason I didn’t do it wasn’t that I didn’t want to show my gross postpartum self. As someone who struggles with positive self image, any opportunity to rake myself over the coals in a public forum is welcome. Instead I felt guilty because I was one of the ladies who ended up losing weight quickly. And I felt like posting pictures would have been bragging. Look at me! Yes, I’m technically still overweight, but I weigh less than a did when I got pregnant! How gross. It wasn’t just the bragging aspect of things that kept me from posting the picture. The rapid weight loss was a direct result of the hemorrhage that occurred six hours after C was born. It was another example of my body failing me. With T there was the preeclampsia and retained placenta. With the miscarriage there was THE MISCARRIAGE, and the D&C because it was an incomplete miscarriage, and then the never ending saga of passing all the “products of conception”. With C there was the hemorrhage.

It was hands down one of the scariest moments of my life. A few weeks after it happened Z told me it was one of the scariest moments of his life, too. He said that blood was actually gushing out of me, he said it was like a bad horror movie because if you saw that much blood on the screen it would look fake and ridiculous. And the next several weeks were scary as well. I was so incredibly weak. My postpartum emotions were tied up in the fact that I was physically unable to care for my newborn and toddler. I was so lucky to have my parents there and desperately clung to them and their help.

Kelly was able to have the birth experience that she wanted, unmedicated at a birthing center. I am so proud of her for achieving her goal. But I’m jealous, too. Not so much of the unmedicated part, I’m a total epidural gal. And I’m not interested in the holier-than-thou battle of epidural vs. natural (though I chafe at the term natural-it indicates there is something not natural about giving birth any other way). Like in most things I think there is a choice to be made and just because my choice was epidural doesn’t mean I look down on those who made other choices. I admire the hell out of the unmedicated ladies and the c-section ladies. All roads to birthing a baby are tough. Hell, sometime circumstances dictate the situation no matter what choice you make. We should be supporting each other rather than judging those who have different ideas than our own. And honestly, C’s actual birth couldn’t have gone any better. I still get the warm fuzzies when I think about pushing him into this world.

What I’m jealous of is that her body didn’t betray her. She didn’t hold on to a piece of her placenta, she didn’t gush blood while doctors took turns reaching into her uterus to pull out blood clots, her body behaved itself. When I think of my body’s weakness I feel shame and guilt and fear. I think about those first few weeks of C’s life when all I could do was lay in bed. I think about the middle of the night calls to the doctor’s office when I was convinced I was going to hemorrhage again and needed to be talked off the ledge. I think about wanting another child and being scared my body can’t handle it. I was too ashamed to post a picture of who I was at that time, I might have had a relatively flat stomach, but I felt like a colossal failure.

The picture Kelly posted is beautiful. She looks strong and happy. This is the woman who left the birth center hours after having her daughter and walked into her home while carrying that baby. She is a total rock star. I may be jealous of her, but I don’t begrudge her the success of her experience one bit.

Sometimes your kids are sitting on the sofa and looking totally adorable and you want to share that adorableness with the world and this is what you get instead. 

Check out this kid’s lashes. I’ve always had the shortest thinest lashes ever, it amazes me that my boys have such thick beautiful ones. 

C’s Birth Story

The first several weeks postpartum are completely overwhelming. Duh. And yet, I sort of forgot they would be. So sorry for the lack of posting. I keep meaning to, I keep wanting to, but life keeps getting in the way. Which I’ve realized is totally OK. There is a lot about the last week that I do want to write about, but I’m 10 days out from giving birth to C and I’m already forgetting details, so I’ll go back to hospital visits 3 and 4 and delivery for today.

Shortly after midnight on the early morning of August 31st I felt a gush of water that woke me up. I waddled to the bathroom and felt a bunch more come out in the toilet. Then I peed. Then I woke Z and my mom and we got going to the hospital. Since it was my second visit in a 24 hour period they put me in triage. I explained what happened to the nurse and she got the resident to do the test for amniotic fluid. No dice. They waited two hours to redo the test and to see if I progressed from 4cm dilated, all the while my contractions strengthening. Again no dice. I asked what they thought happened. They said there could have been a second amniotic sack (they did an ultrasound and my fluid levels looked good) or I could have peed myself (I really didn’t think so. I’d peed right after, they were two completely different sensations. But I was still only 4cm dilated, they’d talked to Doc A and he said to send me home.

At this point I was so frustrated I didn’t know what to do. My contractions were really strengthening and getting longer, and I knew I shouldn’t go home, but I was so confused and upset and exhausted I didn’t communicate that to anyone. My mom came and got us at around 4am. When she pulled up I was having a contraction that was so strong I couldn’t move to get into the car. Back at home Z took a snooze and mom timed contractions. After an hour I couldn’t bear it anymore and we roused Z and went back to the hospital. The receptionist clearly thought I was a nut ball, but the same nurse was there and she said she thought she might see us again before the end of her shift. Even though we were back in triage I told her I wanted an epidural as soon as possible. I was scared it would be too late because I knew I was progressing fast.

You need to have tests and be hooked up to machines for a while before the epidural can happen. The resident came back and found I was more than 5cm, so I was admitted. Shortly after that Doc A showed up. He said I could get out of bed and move a bit to work through the contractions, even though they want a bunch of fetal monitoring before they do the epidural. It really helped to sway and hang on to Z and moan and grunt through the pain. By then the contractions were so severe that when one would happen I’d be rooted to the ground, the pain was so profound I remember thinking I wouldn’t know what to do if I didn’t get an epidural. I had no idea how I’d push because the contractions paralyzed me completely. Doc A checked me out, and sure enough I was already at 7cm. Thankfully the anesthesiologist was waiting. Z was fascinated by all his glass vials and needles and the two of them hit it off discussing the intricacies of the procedure. Even through the blinding pain I was amused and a little proud that Z has such an incredible thirst for knowledge. So Z watched his new buddy insert the needle in my back with great interest while the student nurse in the room suddenly rushed out. Turns out she got lightheaded.

Within one contraction I realized I had no idea what an epidural really was before. The one I got with T helped for a few hours, but when it was time to push the pain was bewildering. I had no idea what to do or how to push past it. This time I was as jittery as hell, and my left leg was extremely numb. It’s not a group of sensations I’d ever seek out recreationally, but sweet jesus, it was a million times better than the contractions. After about 5 more I could sort of feel when I was having them, but the contractions were a very far off sensation, and not at all unpleasant. At the next check I was 9cm dilated. I continued to drift. Not loving the jitters. Not loving the numbness. And I did want it all to be over. But I was so grateful to be out of the pain. I started to feel some pressure, again it wasn’t unbearably painful. I just knew it was time to push. Doc A confirmed my suspicions.

There was a flurry of activity. The room was filled with my nurse, the student nurse, the nurse who was teaching the student, a med student, my doc, and the Chief Resident who’d been my doc on the first two visits to the hospital, and of course Z. They gathered around in a semicircle and the doc told me to start pushing like I had to poop. So I did. Even though I thought I’d have no idea how to do it, I somehow did. I had wanted to grab Charlie’s shoulders and pull him on to my stomach the same way I did with T, but there wasn’t enough time. It was all over in 5 pushes. On push 3 my water broke, on push 4 his head was out, and on push 5 his shoulders slipped out right along with the rest of him.

He was set on my belly and as soon as Z saw his face he said, “Another Cordano baby!” I didn’t get a good look at the face until a while later, I still can’t get over how much he looks like T. Delivering the placenta was easy as pie. In fact, I pushed so hard that it shot out and Doc A said, “Hey! Slow down or I’m gonna drop this thing!” And Z did get to use his great grandfather’s snips to cut the umbilical cord. As I lay there holding my baby and feeling so completely happy with everything in the universe I heard Doc A mumbling to the Resident. Turns out I tore along the scar tissue from T’s birth. From what I could make out it was clear he thought the original repairs were not well done. As Z and I cooed over our New Guy I half listened as Doc A explained to the Resident how to fix me up right. It was Greek to me, him telling her that it would look fine if he just went through the blah blah tissue, but tearing would happen again unless he went deeper into the blah blah blah tissue. It was so cool to hear him teaching, and I felt like I was in such good hands. I was also 100% happy with my epidural decision. I wouldn’t have wanted to go through the stitches without one.

When the stitches were done I asked Doc A if all the placenta was really there. I didn’t get to see it with T, and I was shocked at how small it was when he held it up. For some reason I thought it’d be as big as the baby. I guess it’s held such ominous significance in my life it really has seemed larger than life. He said it was all there and then he explained to everyone why that was so. It was something about the veins crisscrossing the entire thing. All the people in the room (save me and Charlie) had gathered around him to check it out, even Z. The camaraderie in the room among the medical staff was amazing. It was just so fucking positive and awesome to see people learning. I felt relaxed and grateful and I was thrilled Doc A was using my placenta to teach new medical professionals. It was the least I could do after having a birth where I felt supported and encouraged and comfortable with my care.

 Ellie Leonardsmith and her lovely wife/photo assistant were in town yesterday and they did a newborn shoot with C. Naturally, all photos by her.

And here is the photographer herself. Photo by Kelsey, the lovely wife/photo assistant. Thanks to both of you wonderful ladies!

New Guy Is Here At Last

Charles Abraham Cordano Leonard was born August 31st and 10:05am weighing 7lbs 2 oz at 20″ long. He’ll go by Charlie. We are in love with him. As much as I cringe in writing this (it’s the kind of turn of phrase that usually makes me want to gag) his birth was a deeply healing experience.

There are these kind of birthmarks called “stork bites” or “angel kisses” that tend to fade within the year. T had some on his nose and eyelid. C has them all over his face, but the best one is the lightening bolt on his forehead. He’s my little Harry Potter.
I can’t wait to write about trips number 3 and 4 to the hospital, and his delivery. Especially his delivery. That is going to be one happy post. But I’m going to skip ahead to about 6 hours postpartum first. Get the kind of gross story out of the way so I can really focus on the happy stuff. First, let me assure you guys that I, and most importantly C, are 100% fine. Second, I know, I know, if it’s not one thing it’s the other with me, but certainly nothing is every easy…

Bare bones: I hemorrhaged kind of a lot. The amazing staff at this hospital handled it with compassion and efficiency. Everything is totally cool now.
Details: Postpartum it appeared that my uterus was shrinking nicely. The bleeding made me nervous, but it was more the memory of what happened postpartum with T than a super excessive amount of blood. Z was monitoring things for me and when I suddenly passed a large clot he sort of freaked and grabbed the nurse. The nurse and I thought he was being nuts. But then more came out, and then more. And then the nurse got her supervisor. The supervisor thought it wasn’t a big deal. But then more came out while she was there. And then more. And the supervisor got a resident. During this process my parents and T arrived and got to see C for about 15 seconds before they were hustled out to the waiting room. 
The resident started pulling really large clots out. It was painful, I was starting to have contractions again, and I was really starting to panic. Z went to the waiting room and sent my folks and T away. I’m pretty grateful about that part because they didn’t hear the screaming that came a few minutes later. A call was placed to my doc. The chief resident came in. So did a third resident who had experience with “boggy” uteruses. They were trying to be gentle because I had a 3rd degree tear along with several other tears (will explain about that in the birth post to come). But they were reaching into my uterus to get at the clotting. It hurt more than the contractions before I got the epidural. That’s when I started screaming. I’m deeply ashamed that I also started begging the poor woman who was helping me by taking away the clots to stop hurting me. Z was by my side the whole time, usually he is incredibly stoic during crisises, but he was terrified.
Meds were being administered to try and contract the uterus, lots of pitocin in an IV, a shot of something in my thigh, tablets wedged between my cheeks and jaw that slowly disolved, pink pills. And the amount of clots combined with the blood flow was completely overwhelming. And the pain, the pain felt never ending. Finally the docs seemed sure all the clots were out. The bleeding began to slow. They cleaned me up and the bleeding stayed under control. Everyone became much less worried.

So what the hell happened? There was no retained placenta. A clot blocked the flow of blood, so a bunch of blood got caught behind it. And more clots formed. And more blood got caught behind them. And so on and so on and so on. My uterus seemed to be shrinking and firming up, the bogginess was sporadic. And when they pressed on my belly and it would seem soft, some blood would squirt out (sounds gross, totally normal postpartum) and it would feel firm again. My medical care was excellent. It’s my uterus that is the problem.

The upshot is I lost more than a liter of blood, so I’ve been pretty damn weak. But I don’t need a transfusion. They are giving me iron pills and vitamin C tabs to help with absorption. As painful as the vaginal and rectal areas are, it isn’t as bad as it was with T. I’ve been rockin’ the percocet and they are going to send me home with a prescription for more. My recovery is going to be a bit longer, but my folks are here to help. Z has been amazing. And best of all, Charlie is total perfection.

I’m leaving a bunch of stuff out, but it’s the middle of the night. The only reason I’m up is because the percocet has worn off and I’m waiting for more. The climb out of the haze of pain relief and into my ladybits throbbing and burning sucks and I couldn’t sleep.

Again I want to emphasize that everything is now cool. I’m still going home tomorrow afternoon. C is doing a great job nursing. T thinks C is the most awesome thing going. My care at the hospital has been fantastic, both by the nursing staff and the doctors. Doc B showed up briefly after the hemorrhage to check on me. She checked on me again early this morning and my wonderful Doc A was here later in the morning. It’s easy feel relaxed about this whole thing when the care I’ve received has been so wonderful.

OK, now that we have the unpleasantness out of the way the next post will be full of the warm fuzzies and details about C, all the really blissed out good stuff.

I think we’re gonna keep him. 

Yup, definitely. 

Doesn’t Z look particularly handsome here? 

T dropped to the floor and begged to hold him when he first arrived. He cried when anyone else tried to take a turn. He says C is his baby.