Friday, April 23, 2010

Photo Friday: Blue Jeans

I know, I know, feast or famine.

I was excited that Calliope resurrected Photo Friday, and I'm finally getting it together to jump in.

This photo was taken last spring, just about a year before Cho was born. Who knew where a year could take us? That's Jo in his first pair of walking shoes. (And that's me, with my head cropped off.)

Notes on Cho

Our baby girl turned six weeks old yesterday. Hard to believe!

Here she is on her first restaurant outing, last week.

In the past week, she's become much more alert. We've seen her first social smiles and she has begun to vocalize. She has incredible head control, like her big brother did at her age. She also has incredible hand control, and is already reaching for the toys on her playmat and bouncy chair, much younger than Jo did.

She's rocking the tummy time, too. Co decided that she needed an 80s power woman for her anthem -- we sang Jo our version of Eye of the Tiger while he did tummy time -- and we settled on Pat Benatar's Invincible.

She looks like me, and like her brother, and she is amazing.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


(I started this post on Cho's 4 week birthday -- April 8 -- and I'm finishing it on her five week birthday.)

Today is Cho's 4 week birthday. Yesterday she went to the pediatrician and was declared healthy at 7 lbs, 4 oz. and 20 inches long.

But this post is about me, and the journey I've been on over the past four (now five) weeks. I mean that metaphorically, of course; thanks to the abdominal surgery and the breastfeeding, the vast majority of my time has been spent wearing a dent in the futon and watching Gol.den Gi.rls reruns. (Did you know it's on practically all night? And when it's not, La.w & O.rder is...) I've never had any type of surgery before, so I'm surprised and frustrated that I still have mild pain, and am not back to myself in terms of walking or lifting. I've always thought of myself as a couch potato (see: G.olden Gi.rls above) but I am surprisingly frustrated by my limitations. Earlier this week I walked ten blocks to meet a friend and it turned out to be overdoing it. I hate feeling that helpless.

In the hours immediately after the C-section, I felt like I didn't know who I was. I've always been a robustly healthy person and this was my first experience with the medical establishment around my own health. (My mental health is another story, but I've always been able to rely on my physical self.) I'd never been admitted to a hospital and I wasn't even born in one. Now here I was, post-surgery, a newly minted Cesarean statistic. I didn't recognize myself in that scenario. I had the powerful sense that I had let down the natural birth community that had supported me through my pregnancy, and prepared me so lovingly for a labor I never got to experience. I tried desperately to figure out what I could have done to cause the crisis with the placenta. The nurses told me that evening that I would be getting up and walking around the next day, and I felt that I never wanted to get out of bed again. Then the next day they started talking about how I had to take a shower, and I didn't want to do that either. I stayed in the same pair of socks from Thursday through Saturday, which horrifies me now, but at the time, I just didn't want to move.

At first I cried every time I had to talk about Cho's birth: in the hospital when a nurse asked if my delivery was "normal or Cesarean," when the pediatrician and the lactation consultant asked about the delivery, when I filled out my disability form, again with the "normal or Cesarean." I thought it was cruel that the hospital had maternity and labor and delivery on the same ward, because I had to see women in good old normal labor walking the hallways. I dreaded sharing the news of the birth, especially to people like our doula and childbirth educator, because I felt so strongly that I had failed, both myself and all of them.

Then one day when Cho was a week and a half old, someone asked me about her birth, and I just said, "Well, she's here." And I didn't cry.

Now, five weeks later, I feel some peace with Cho's birth. No, it's not what I planned. I will always feel some sadness that I never experienced labor or vaginal birth. But I've been able to integrate the event with the rest of who I am. At first I felt like the moment I started bleeding, I was jolted into a different world, even a different self. I felt like my body had let us down and so all of the loving, natural, holistic plans I had were for naught. But it turned out there was more continuity than not. Our midwife still came to the house -- she took out my staples on our futon -- and checked in with me by phone every day. Our childbirth educator has offered to meet with me to help heal some of the trauma of the birth. Our doula came over for the post-natal visit and did some post-partum hours.

My body comforted me by kicking back into recognizable gear. The nurses at the hospital were impressed with my mobility, as well as how quickly I was able to perform, um, some of the post-op requirements. The midwife is pleased with rapidly the incision is healing. My milk came in fast and prodigiously, and breastfeeding has been going well. Not flawlessly but well enough. And that feels good, too; at least this part of my plan is going the way I wanted it to. I know it doesn't for everyone, and that is a trauma and scar of its own, so I am grateful that at least my body is performing as expected in this way.

It has taken me a long time to be willing to look at my scar. It's not easy for me to see -- finally, a use for the fat roll! -- and for weeks I wouldn't look at it. I made Co check for signs of infection. I never saw it with the staples, which I found very painful, and the idea of which horrified me. A few days ago I finally took a peek. It's not so bad. Parts of it are still angry and red for now, but I can already see the edges where it fades into the rest of my skin.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Cho's Birth

So this isn't exactly Cho's birth story. I need to create a version of her story that will be fit for her to read and treasure. This version is my story.

I went to work on Thursday morning, March 11. My plan was for my last day of work to be Friday, March 19, which I figured would be well in advance of the birth. My due date was March 22; first babies are usually late; my sister and I were both born "late"; not that it matters, but Jo was a week past his due date.

It is important to note that I work an hour from home, and in a different state. At about 10am, while I was reading a chapter of our class novel to the seventh graders, I felt some uncomfortable cramping, like mild period cramps. At 10:30 -- I know it was 10:30 because that's my break, so I went to the bathroom -- I started bleeding; as in "stuck pig," not as in "spotting" or "bloody show."

I stumbled to the nurse's office, called the midwife and called Co. The midwife asked how much blood -- was it a tablespoon or a quarter cup? I waffled, but in retrospect the answer was definitely in the quarter-cup range. She recommended I get to the nearest E.R. (and that, folks, is how I found out that the town I work in owns one ambulance. They had to send one from another town, so two local police officers were dispatched to check on me in the meantime; they both assured me they'd delivered babies before).

From the time the blood started I was pretty sure things were going south, even at the same time as I wondered if I could get enough paper towels in my pants to make it back to the classroom. Sure enough, when I got to L & D they immediately started talking about "getting the baby out." The doctor on call told me they believed I had a placental abruption, which is when the placenta tears away from the uterine wall. It's extremely dangerous for the baby, because she could have lost access to oxygen; and for the mother, because of the bleeding (placental abruption is a major way women died in childbirth before C-sections). By the time I said okay to the section, I had lost I believe 500 cc of blood, which according to my midwife is as much as a woman should lose over the course of labor.

The baby's heart rate was stable when I arrived but then started to get higher, which kicked everyone into high gear. I asked if I could at least wait for Co to get there (she came ASAP but remember...I work an hour from home) and the doctor said the baby was in distress. I was frightened because I am educated enough to be cynical; hospitals always say that. But I spoke to the midwife and she told me a C-section was the best thing to do, and now was the time to do it.

The anesthiologist had trouble finding the right place in my spine for the epidural thingy (what the eff does it mean to curl your back like an angry cat??? I have a dachshund) and they were threatening general anesthesia, which terrified me. But she eventually got it in. Cho was born at 12:29 p.m. Co arrived minutes later, and she carried the baby over to me. (I couldn't see anything over the screen, I couldn't see Cho as she was taken out or whisked over to be "cleaned up.") Co and I both marveled at how much newborn Cho looked like newborn Jo!

Co has been having a hard time about not getting there "in time," which I totally understand, but we met our daughter together.

And Cho was absolutely fine. She screamed lustily -- much louder than Jo -- and both of her Apgars were 9. She was 6 lb, 13 oz (which in my bio family is a big baby; I was 4lb 14 oz and I was post-term).

While they were stitching me up, I did make sure they double-stitched my uterus. At least I used Ina May for something.

The hospital sucked. That's why I wanted a home birth. They accused us of "starving the baby" (because we fed her expressed breastmilk without offering her formula "to see if she wanted it" and said that they were concerned about what a "big baby" she was because the pediatrician was wrong about her gestational age (thinking she was premature; she was 38weeks 3 days). One nurse said she had "never heard a baby cry like that." Really??? I have and I only have two kids.

So Co nursed her and pumped (I pumped too and my milk did come in in before we left the hospital on Sunday), so she wouldn't lose too much weight. The nurses saw the bottles and were all impressed that my milk had come in on, like, the day of delivery. Our lactation consultant loved the story and was amused that the nurses couldn't tell the difference between Co's mature milk and my new milk. We syringe-fed her the milk (suggested by the LC with Jo) until the nurses sicced a ped. on us to say he knew we might have "read about that on the Internet" but nipple confusion is all a myth and the syringe would make the baby choke. They gave us some nipples that luckily fit on our Medela bottles (they seemed unsure if they had any bottles that weren't pre-filled with formula). Meanwhile, the hospital video about baby care included a breastfeeding section that encouraged exclusive breastfeeding and -- I couldn't make this stuff up -- syringe feeding of expressed milk to avoid nipple confusion.

Cho is three weeks old today and doing beautifully. She's nursing round the clock and gaining weight.

My own journey in the past three weeks is definitely another post, which I hope to write soon (sooner if I can get the hang of "nursing at keyboard".....).