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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Change of Plans

Sunday the 28th is my due date. Throughout the pregnancy I was absolutely sure I’d have New Guy well before then. Partially because classes start on the 29th for Z, and it would be beyond inconvenient for us to have the kid after the semester began. Partially because I just convinced myself he’d come early. But as of yesterday I really don’t want to go into labor before Monday.

Last week when I made the appointment for yesterday the receptionist told me my doc (Doc A) was on vacation this week, but not to worry, he wasn’t traveling, he’d be available to deliver me. I was totally cool with that. But yesterday the doc (Doc B, who we really like) told us she wasn’t aware that our doc was planning on delivering anyone this week. And then she told us that she’d been on call for the first part of the week and the doc that delivered T (Doc F) would be on call until Monday. And then I started to cry. She knew about my experience with Doc F, which was why she told us about the on call situation. She also said she’d call Doc A and ask what his plans were. She figured she just might have been out of the loop and he was planning to come in for my delivery. She said she’d call me later and let me know.

Doc A really is an amazing medical professional. Doc B has recently finished her residency. She’s about Z and my age and it is clear that she looks up to him as well. The other doc we see in the practice (Doc C, she’s part time and doesn’t have hospital privileges, so no chance of her delivering) is another younger woman who we like a great deal. She’s the one that gave us the news about the miscarriage so gently. And she also thinks highly of our doc. The fact that his colleagues both respect and admire him only makes us love him more. They have both told us how much they have learned from him, he obviously loves medicine and sharing his knowledge. On top of that he actually cares about his patients on a personal level. He is the real deal through and through. I was pretty sure he’d come through for me.

And when Doc B called last night she said his plan was to do what he could to deliver me. If I go into labor this weekend I’ll call the after hours number and speak to Doc F. She will call my doc and hopefully he’ll be ready to go. Doc B made it clear that nothing is 100%, and I totally know that. I also appreciate that my doc is on vacation and he is really going above and beyond for me. And Doc F is a colleague to the other docs, they all know about my experience, I feel like a turd for putting everyone in a difficult position. I’m sure that Doc F has been a great doc for hundreds of women, but sometimes people fuck up, and she did with me. But just the thought of talking to her makes me break out in the cold sweats. Should I have left the practice altogether? Z and my folks think not. Last night when I was freaking out a bit they pointed out if I went to another practice it would have been a shot in the dark. I changed to my doc because he helped me when I was at my most vulnerable. He made me feel listened to at a point in my life when I was truly terrified and he got me help.

But I do not want to deal with Doc F, especially when I’m in labor. And I hate the idea of interrupting my doc’s vacation. Hence, I’m cool with keeping this baby in until Monday. No more complaining. It’s only 3 days away. And one of our best friends in the entire world is visiting us to get away from the hurricane this weekend. I can’t wait to spend time with him. I’ll be surrounded by people I love and who love me. My folks are here, Z will be home, friends will be in and out, and of course there will be T. It will be a great weekend. So what if I’m a tad bit uncomfortable? And if labor does start Z will have my back for sure. If Doc F delivers New Guy I’m sure she’ll be a hell of a lot more careful than last time.

Last Christmas Mom and Dad gave T these awesome Star Wars sheets for his big boy bed. We didn’t have room to get them home then, so they brought them up and we got them on the bed the day they arrived. And no, we aren’t putting toddler safety rails on the bed. T doesn’t move that much in his sleep. And my mom said she just threw some pillows on the floor for us when we were little and we lived. Yes, he did fall out the first night. But it didn’t tame his enthusiasm for the bed and it hasn’t happened since.

T was suitably impressed. You can’t really see, but his t-shirt has a big X-wing on it.

I told Z I was buying a bookcase for T’s room and he had this made almost immediately. It’s the first furniture he’s built specifically for T that T will be able to use into adulthood and I absolutely love it.

He was able to source some waney-edge boards that came out of a tree sequentially. 

The room is really starting to come together. Z tried doing green/yellow trees on this wall, but we don’t like it. One of the millions of things I’ve learned from him is it’s only paint and we can always re-do it. So he got some chalkboard paint and the current plan is to do the whole wall with that. Then he’s going to paint white silhouettes of trees on it. If we hate it we’ll figure something else out.

On my parents first full day here we went grocery shopping. After we loaded the trunk Dad grabbed T and threw him in there, too. Then he closed the door. He opened it half a minute later and T was cracking up. “Again!”, he shouted.

Two Unrelated Things On My Mind Today

Tomorrow afternoon my parents arrive to help out with the baby I’m starting to believe is never coming out of my uterus. So today is the last full day we have as a family of three. This makes me pretty melancholy. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful. I fully understand how lucky we are that my folks will drop their lives for weeks on end to help us out. T absolutely adores them both, and having them here is going to help smooth the transition for him from being the center of our lives to being a big brother. My mom has trouble sitting still, she’ll be cleaning, cooking, and running errands like a wild woman. I’ll be even more spoiled rotten than usual. There is not a single part of me that wishes they weren’t coming. But it always saddens me when a chapter of our life ends. I wish I was a glass-half-full gal. I’d be able to focus on the beginning in front of us. And I know the change is going to make me all of our lives richer. Hell, I want this baby as much as I’ve ever wanted anything.

Just before T was born I felt the same exact way. I mourned the loss of Z and my relationship as non-parents. The responsibility we were undertaking seemed completely overwhelming. Last night as we were bathing T he was cracking us up with his adorableness. The thought that it was our second to last bath as a family of three kept intruding on my enjoyment of him. It’s the moments when my participation in our life is hindered by the sadness that accompanies my emotional problems that really frustrate the hell out of me. As much as my shrink insists there are upsides to being excruciatingly over sensitive, anxious, pessimistic, and insecure I’d much rather not be a crazy person. Even if it made me a less empathetic individual. I mean really, how far is an abundance of empathy going to get me in this world? I’d kind of rather enjoy my current kid while being super excited about my kid on the way and not give a shit that the door is closing on one phase of life and opening on another.

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So who knows when New Guy will choose to make his appearance. Today would be nice. It’s my favorite Aunt’s birthday. I’d love to have the baby share that day with her. His due date is my best friend’s son’s birthday. That would be pretty awesome as well. I’ve talked about how healing September 3rd would be (please god, don’t make me wait that long). I’m trying to be more roll with the flow and have a “he’ll get here when he gets here” attitude.

But here’s the thing. I’m fucking terrified. As T’s birth was sort of a shit show I should have listened to Z and taken a birth class or prepared in some way for this time. But I did what I usually do and ignored the thing that scares me the most. In my brain I think if I don’t acknowledge something I wont’ have to deal with it. Can you believe that line of thinking regularly backfires on me? Now that the labor part of things is imminent I am out of my god damned mind with fear. What was I thinking? I’m going into this situation as blind as I was was T. There are a few things that will make this time better, Z and I will both speak up if we feel like something is wrong, and we both completely trust my doctor to do right by me. But the pain part? When it was time to push with T I told everyone in the room I simply couldn’t do it. It hurt that bad. The pressure was so intense, I’ve just never experienced pain so acute before. I don’t do well with pain, even the little stuff. And this is in no way little. So I’ve known it is coming for nine months. What is my strategy? To not have a strategy. To probably beg for an epidural the minute I get to the hospital. To walk the line between not making a huge fool of myself and completely freaking out in front of a bunch of strangers. Hell, I am freaking out here and labor hasn’t even started. Freaking. Out. Also, I’m an idiot. Wish me luck.

T fell and cut of the inside of his mouth today. He loves the idea of having his picture taken (execution- a bit harder, he doesn’t get the “hold still” part yet) and I was trying to cheer him up.  

He’d recovered at this point, but then climbed on the chair, started crying, and called “Mama! Boy bonked mouth!” It’s been a refrain all morning. 

But I think he’ll live. Distracting him is pretty easy.
The melancholy part of the post had me looking at old photos of T. Wasn’t he just this size? What the hell happened? His round baby face just slays me. God, I miss him.

Think I’ve posted this one before. It’s one of my all time favorites of my two guys.

Trying to Get Over It

I have to make an appointment with the Ob-Gyn for a little issue (I won’t bore you/gross you out with the details). For months I’ve been meaning to switch doctors from the person who delivered me to the person in the same practice who helped me with the whole piece of placenta still in my uterus thing. But I’ve been sick to my stomach with worry about making the call. Can you switch doctors within a practice? Should I just suck up my discomfort? Do I have to tell my doctor that I felt like she let me down? I couldn’t face all that stuff and did what I do best—procrastinate until something happens that forces me to act.

I am still waiting to hear from the practice to see if the switch can be made, which is kind of a bummer because now there is an urgent matter at hand and if I can’t switch I need to find a new doctor pronto and this all could have been avoided if I had dealt with it in a timely manner, blah, blah, blah.

After I got off the phone with the receptionist the weirdest thing happened. I started crying uncontrollably. And when Z asked if I had called the office last night and I told him yes—you guessed it. I started crying uncontrollably.

T turned 8 months old yesterday. It got me thinking, why am I still so upset about the circumstances surrounding his birth? Every birth has its issues, and mine was not that bad. But I really can’t seem to get over it.

Here is what I came up with: It isn’t the medicalization of my childbirth that I can’t get past, but the dehumanization.

I had preeclampsia. My blood pressure was worrisome and I had to be induced a week early. T’s birth was very medicalized, but I understand why the doctor made the choices she did. If a piece of my placenta had been left behind and I had been treated with compassion I think I would have been cool with the whole thing. I get that mistakes happen and no one is perfect. So I had to go back in and get a D&C. You know what? In the scheme of things it wasn’t the worst experience. It made me stop bleeding. It would have just been another part of his birth story if I felt like the doctor was listening to me.

But I feel like the nurse who helped me deliver, Z, and I all voiced concerns about what was going on and we were all ignored. The nurse was worried about my heavy bleeding less than 2 hours after T was born and she contacted my doctor who was no longer at the hospital. My doctor says that she requested an ultrasound, but one was never given and she didn’t follow up to make sure it happened, or to find out if I was OK. Every morning during the hospital stay you get a visit from your doctor or member of the practice and the baby gets a visit from a pediatrician. The morning after T’s birth I didn’t get a visit. After inquires, the doctor finally sent someone to see me at 3 in the afternoon. Then after I got home I called the office for an appointment because I was worried about the amount of blood I was losing. My doctor’s nurse told me she spoke to my doctor who was sure I was fine, but if I really wanted to come in I could get an appointment with another doctor at the practice for the following day. Through all these events things were going wrong and she wasn’t listening to us. I have never felt so helpless.

Thank God the other doctor realized what was going on and got me some help. He sent me right to the hospital, and to my doctor’s credit she came in to do the procedure though it was her first day of vacation. When she saw me she said she was sorry, but the next thing out of her mouth was she couldn’t believe this happened, it was her first D&C for a left behind placenta in more than 5 years. It was like she had no comprehension that the situation needed to be about me rather than about her.

Again and again she made me feel forgotten. When things started to go wrong it felt like she couldn’t be bothered. If she had acted like she gave a crap or listened to what we were saying I don’t think I would feel so awful about my experience. I wonder if I am obligated to let her know how I feel, or if I can just leave her care without an explanation. Am I a coward for not wanting to have it out with her?

The bigger question is how do I get over it? As my shrink recently pointed out to me it would be wrong to let an awful experience rule my decision to have another child, but at this point it is. If I do decide to have another child at least I will understand the importance of finding a doctor who is completely engaged. I can handle medical bumps in the road if I feel like my doctor gives a shit.

Vanity

About a month ago I tricked Z into admitting that going through pregnancy and giving birth has noticeably aged me. I know. I am an enormous jerk.

My self-loathing issues have been so toxic that for years Z wouldn’t comment on my appearance at all. He learned to hate and fear giving me compliments because I would accuse him of lying. Yeah, I was really unwell. So it was a huge deal that he engaged me at all when I brought up the issue. He’s been giving me tons of compliments since I got pregnant and I’ve been trying really hard to just take them. I only mutter denials under my breath about half the time and I rarely accuse him of lying anymore. Big big progress.

I’d been thinking about the aging after pregnancy thing for months. I think part of it is because lots of women (like me) are waiting to have kids later. The body really doesn’t bounce back the same way when you are 32 as it would when you were 22. And going through pregnancy and childbirth is a real trauma even if nothing goes wrong. Bottom line, you have a kid and you instantly look older. Sometimes it’s more, sometimes it’s less but it is always there.

So I told him that was my theory. He thought about it for a bit and said he agreed. I said I thought I definitely looked older. He very kindly said “Yeah, but you still look younger than you are.”

Ah ha! I got him! I quickly asked what specifically looked older. He looked like a deer in headlights as he realized what happened. He told me he would no longer be participating in the conversation. And that was the end of that.

So two things.

First of all I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Z is to be pitied and he puts up with a lot. To those of you who know him please remember this story and be really nice to him the next time you see him. Buy him a beer or something.

Second there should be a petition titled “Damn it! Why aren’t you telling us this stuff?” which lists all the crap that happens during pregnancy that no one tells you about and it should be submitted to companies that publish pregnancy books. The whole aging issue should be at the top of the list.

Looking older certainly isn’t the end of the world, but come on. I would have like to know so I could have been more emotionally prepared. And I’m sure there are lots of shallow gals just like me out there.

Birth

*Things didn’t go terribly smoothly with my labor and its aftermath. So if you are pregnant you really might not enjoy reading this.
Cast of characters—T, my son who is 7 months old, and Z my husband of almost 10 years. Let’s start when T joined the party.
Four weeks before Thomas was due I was diagnosed with preeclampsia. So I had to be on bed rest for 3 weeks until I was induced. Zeke was alone packing the apartment in Providence and I was at an extended stay hotel in Syracuse with my mom for more than a week. Mom was great, Zeke was great, but this was a very stressful situation. Duh. We closed on our new house without a hitch on the 4th of August. The moving van arrived on the 5th, and we were frantically unpacking (by we I mean Z and my mom) because we only had a week until the baby arrived. We were scheduled for a weekend birthing class, but I had to miss it on doctors orders because the preeclampsia had me sort of messed up.
So we showed up at the hospital to have the baby on August 12th at 6pm. I didn’t have a clear picture of how I wanted my birth to go. I didn’t have a clear picture of how anything would go. I hadn’t even been inside the hospital. I was scared shitless. We were brought to the room by a really nice nurse and I was explaining to her about the move and the new house and new job and lack of preparedness for labor and I started to cry. Hard. I was trying to swallow the tears, but I totally couldn’t talk. She kept asking me questions and I kept looking at Z. Luckily he understood my looks meant “answer the damn questions! I can’t speak right now!” And luckily he had all the answers. And most luckily the nurse was very sympathetic. She got choked up too, told me I had to stop crying or she was going to cry as well.
So everyone was very nice to me. I think they sort of thought “Oh we need to be very careful with the crazy unprepared lady in room 19.” And the Cervidil went in to get the party started.
My water broke at about 2:20, which felt kind of cool. Kind of like a creaking wrenching in my belly that was unlike anything I had every felt before, but wasn’t really unpleasant. The contractions came immediately and they were strong. I didn’t make it 2 hours before begging for the epidural. We spent most of those 2 hours in the bathroom. Z kept asking if I wouldn’t like to go back to the bed and I really didn’t understand why it didn’t make sense to him that the bathroom felt much safer.
After the epidural I got 2 hours of sleep, and then I woke up experiencing the intense pressure which translated to the worst pain I’ve ever felt. I’d dilated to 7 cm. Being induced just made it all go so fast. I was fully dilated by 8 am and it was the longest hour and a half of my life getting there. I thought there wasn’t supposed to be much pain with the epidural, but sweet Mary mother of god it was terrible.
The doctor finally told me to push. Z was holding one leg, my mom had the other and I tried. And promptly announced I would be unable to continue. Not being prepared for labor really was a stupid move. I didn’t have any concept that I was expected to push through the worst pain of my life. It simply did not seem reasonable or possible to me. Everyone in the room except for me seemed to be on the same page. They made it clear to me that really there wasn’t another option and I was going to have to push the baby out. I tried very hard to explain to them that it wouldn’t be happening, but they were really persistent.
So I pushed and pushed and pushed for 2 ½ hours. I fully expected to crap all over the place because I’ve heard that happens, but I didn’t. Every time I pushed I did pee everywhere. Al least the doctor was laughing. She said that she’d never seen anything like it. I was all pumped full of fluids so the amount of urine was truly amazing.
It was real work. I thought it might just be a TV and movies thing that laboring women were covered in sweat, but nope that is totally the real deal. And in between contractions I was so exhausted I fell right asleep. The pain would stop and I’d be out like a light until the pain started again. Evidently when you go into labor naturally it all sort of slowly builds up. Your good old vagina stretches out and the pain builds and builds rather than hitting you like a freight train. My doctor, who said she never did episiotomies had to snip me open to get the baby out. And even with the snips I managed to tear. Most ladies tear in a straight line, but I am an expert at being difficult so I tore in a Y.
And now we get to the one part of this experience that was magical. The doctor told me to grab the baby after I pushed his shoulders out and put him on my stomach. I will be grateful for that moment for the rest of my life. And they left him on me as I birthed the placenta and they sewed me up. So I got about 20 minutes with him. Didn’t see his little face and I couldn’t move myself or him so I had to wait until later for that. It really helped to have him there because the tears were so deep that I got to feel the stitches going in even with the epidural.
So about that placenta…I really wanted to see it cause I’m gross like that, but was too weak to ask. I clearly remember the doctor saying there was an extra lobe on it, but that it all seemed to be there. Um, yeah more on that later.
Jesus this is really long. I’ll try and just get the major points down. I wasn’t doing a good job of slowing down with the bleeding. When I got up to go to the bathroom I almost fainted for the first time in my life, and I couldn’t pee on my own. My bits were all swollen. So in went a catheter. And the nurse was pretty nervous about all the bleeding and called in a doctor. By this time the epidural had been turned off. The doctor examined me and then reached up into my uterus and pulled out blood clots. Zeke said some were the size of his hand. This was by far the most awful painful invasive part of the entire experience.
I asked Z if the weirdest part of the day was watching a baby come out of my vagina and he said nope, it was the number of people who very casually put their hands up my vagina.
Eventually I made it down to recovery. Where I continued to bleed like a maniac. I found out months later that Z was noticing all the other new moms walking around the halls while I was stuck in the bed with a nurse changing a blood soaked pad underneath me with alarming regularity. He inquired as to whether this was normal and assured it was.
When I finally made it to the bathroom and looked in the mirror I saw that there were purple blotches all over my face. I asked the nurse what they were in a panic and she said I’d burst blood vessels while I was pushing. I was so angry at Z for not telling me about them. He looked at me like I was nuts and said that he would be crazy to tell me in the state I was in. Which was a really good point.
I also remember a new nurse checking me out and changing the bloody pad. When she looked down below she involuntarily gasped and said “Oh no!” I asked what was wrong and she it was just that I was so bruised and torn up that my recovery would be similar to a c-section. I remember thinking “Awesome!”
So we got home in one piece, but the bleeding wasn’t slowing. Then the blood clots began. They were big and they were scary. Looking back on it my mother, Zeke and I all feel like we can’t believe we let it go on for as long as we did. We all knew deep down something was wrong, that this was not normal. Days later the nice doctor who ascertained that there was a piece of my placenta still in my uterus had to fish out even more blood clots before he could do the ultrasound. That involved pain like you wouldn’t believe.
He said I needed to call Z and tell him to meet me at the hospital. I started to cry and said “Do we have to do it today?” The doctor was very fatherly. He looked at me and said “You’re the cutest thing I’ve ever seen in my life! Do you want to stop bleeding?” So we went off to the hospital to get a D&C. Basically they vacuumed me right out. They also put in new stitches because the blood clots stretched out the ones already there. But thankfully I was sedated and didn’t feel any of that. Unfortunately the recovery period was extended and the doctor still wanted me on bed rest for an additional 4 weeks.
Yeah, yeah, yeah this is gonna mostly be about T…um I just noticed this was pretty much only about me. Well clearly I am incredibly self absorbed. T was perfect and healthy. I loved him instantly, which was a shocker. I was so scared and reluctant to enter motherhood that I worried about bonding, but it wasn’t an issue. Things were just so scary and messed up but those feelings and events felt very removed from him. In between all the bad stuff I was holding him and feeding him and blissed out with happiness while I was getting to know him.