This is the story of our nights...

on 30 January 2012

People keep asking me how I'm doing.

I'm tired.

And I'll show you why:

This, is where she STARTS.  Not how, we don't let her sleep on her tummy...she sleeps all swaddled up in a flannel and then we loosely wrap her green softie around her.


Sometime between 4 and 5am, This happens:

And yes, we change her, we nurse her, we reswaddle her, we rock, we sing, we cuddle, we try white noise and total darkness and for some reason, none of it works.


So for the remainder of the night, This happens:

Manufacturing Sunshine

on 24 January 2012

Yesterday was a gloomy day.

Cold.  Cloudy.  Foggy.  DARK.  It was a strange day.

So what do you do with a day like that?  Make your own sunshine.


Squishy Wishes

on 20 January 2012

For some reason, Chris has taken to calling our daughter Squishy Face.  I think it has something to do with these cheeks.

The Girl the Birth: or Teaching Bravery

on 18 January 2012

"We can do Hard Things."

I say this to the Boy several times a week, and sometimes several times a day within the week.  It's one of the few downsides to having a very cautious child.  The upside being that he's never been a climber, he never runs away from us in public spaces, and I've never had to pull random nastiness out of his mouth.  But the downside is significant.  After all, how do you teach bravery?  How do you teach a child the importance of TRYING...even if you fail, even if you get hurt in the process, how do you teach them to try?

And since I don't know, I find myself reminding him that we can, in fact, do hard things.  We can do scary things.  We can try and fail and it's ok.  Mama and Daddy do it all the time and so can our Boy.

***

That said, there are few things in this world I am more afraid of than surgery.  I don't like needles, I don't like being cut open, I don't like my own blood on the outside of my person, and I really hate the whole recovery process.  It's mainly due to these reasons that I pushed so hard for a VBAC.

At 20 weeks, I switched from my OB/GYN to the midwives.  I had heard wonderful things about the midwives, and at that point I was having a painfully boring pregnancy.  There was no need for me to see a physician, I wasn't SICK.  I was just pregnant.  So I started meeting with the midwives and I just fell in love with them.  They were so compassionate, so kind, so maternal and understanding.  They could give me reasonable, medical explanations for why I was feeling what I was feeling, and they would still give me a hug if I had cried all over them during the appointment.  I honestly felt that my best chances for a VBAC lay with the midwives, and I was happily ensconced in my belief that the pregnancy would remain uneventful.

Then I was diagnosed, back in early November, with gestational diabetes, and I knew then that the odds were not in favor of a VBAC.  They put me on a medication called glyburide in an attempt to keep my blood sugar nice and even so as to attempt to control the size of the Girl.  The theory being that if they could keep her relative size in the more normal range (babies from mothers with gestational diabetes tend to be BIG, 9-10 pounds rather than the 7-8 pounds of non-gestationally diabetic mothers), then my chances for a VBAC would improve.  In addition, they reviewed my history with the Boy and decided that if I went in to labor on my own and before January 1st, I stood a good chance of a successful delivery.  But if I went past the first, and never went in to labor, then it was a pretty good sign that my body wouldn't tolerate a natural delivery very well.  At this point, the midwives referred me back to my OB/GYN and while I understood completely why they had to do it, I was so sad to leave them.

And at a consultation with one of the maternal and fetal medicine specialists, they scheduled a c-section.  Just in case.

***

Chris and I worked hard through all of December to try to bring on labor.  I walked and walked and walked and we tried...um...other means to bring on labor.  But nothing and I mean NOTHING was happening.  What can I say?  Apparently, I have a really cozy uterus.  The Girl's non-stress tests showed that she was happy and healthy, but not the least bit interested in the outside world, and so I started to practice what I preach.

I would get in the shower every day and remind myself that, We can, in fact, do Hard Things.  I can let this particular thing go, I can accept that babies come how they need to come.  I can learn the things that I need to learn from this process.  And, perhaps most importantly, I can be brave too.

***

So the 2nd comes, and we head to the hospital for pre-op and I'm nervous and sweating and they take (what felt like) 400 vials of blood, and another non-stress-test, and another blood sugar test and more forms and questions and rather than sitting there thinking, "Why me?"  or "Why can't she just come like a normal child?"  I reminded myself that I can be brave.  If I'm going to ask my children to be brave and to do hard things and things that scare them, then I should step up and do the same.  And so I did.

I didn't sleep much the night before.  I was worrying about all the complications.  Worrying about my Girl and would everything be ok.  Worrying about my Boy at his Nana's house, that he would wake up and be scared and I wouldn't be there for him.  I worry very well, it's one of my mad skillz. 

At 5am, I gave up trying to sleep and got up.  I checked email and read news and blogs and then showered.  I dressed and dried my hair and put on a little make up.  It's a woman's armor, right?  Anytime I feel scared or nervous, I tend to apply make up, as if that will somehow disguise my anxiety.  I packed up the last few things I thought I might want in the hospital.  Did anyone doubt that they were books?  Tale of Two Cities, Happiest Baby on the Block and the Complete Guide to Breastfeeding.  As though I would have buckets of time to just read.

Chris and I packed up the yellow beetle and headed to the hospital.  It was fitting somehow, the beetle had driven us for the delivery of our Boy and now it was shepherding us for the delivery of our Girl. 

***

We checked in.  Chris is amazing in a hospital.  It's like a switch flips in his brain and he ceases to be anxious or nervous about anything and becomes completely calm and professional.  So while I was pale and trying not to freak out, he was completely in control and cracking jokes.  He introduced the entire anesthesia team to me, they told me funny stories of some of the physicians to try to distract me while the nurse applied my IV, and we waited.

Chris wasn't allowed back in the OR while the anesthesia team worked, I had to go alone.  And honestly, I was terrified.  They were all lovely doctors and residents, they were kind and compassionate and gentle...but...they were still strangers.  Their voices were unfamiliar and it's like they're speaking a different language back there.  It's just chatter.  So I took many deep breaths.  I reminded myself of things that my lovely friends had told me to remember only the night before.  And I'm quite proud to say that I made it through without collapsing into weepy tears (which I really wanted to do).

I was finally situated and they brought Chris back.  I had told him before that he should prepare himself to talk to me the whole time.  He has a very soothing voice and I tend to be rather auditory by nature, but instead, my husband went in to work mode.  He was checking lines and making sure everything was secured properly and everyone was in their proper places and the attending physician had to keep reminding him that he wasn't there to WORK, he needed to focus on his WIFE.  I thanked her more than once.

And then I heard another familiar voice.  It was my midwife!  She was on call that morning and saw that I was down for a c-section, so she masked up and came in and sat right next to Chris and I and talked to me the whole time.  I can't tell you what that meant to me, to have someone there who understood all my fear and anxiety of this particular place (Chris does NOT understand, he thinks ORs are magic places where science and artistry meet to help people live longer, healthier lives). 

There was a lot of careful cutting and different people asking me different questions about how I was feeling (cold, mostly, and nervous and light headed and very, very NUMB).  And then, there was this extraordinary scream.  And I mean SCREAM.  And I started to cry, of course I did.  It's easier as they get older, I still cry when my babies cry.  Maybe it's that long connection to their bodies that makes me feel connected to what they feel, I don't know.  But there she was...all white and pink and screaming her head off in protest of her eviction.

Chris stayed with me...he would only glance over at her while they put my pieces back together again.  I kept insisting that he go and check her out, but he adamantly refused.  I'm not sure I know what was going on there, but he stayed with me.  The nurse finally brought her over and we both shed some happy tears.

It took 20 months to start her.  39 weeks to grow her.  And 45 minutes to bring her into the world.  We had waited for so long...and here she was.  She was so very tiny.  I had been expecting (and fearing) a ginormous baby, and in the end she was only 8 pounds and 20 inches long.  She has HUGE feet, but these teeny-tiny hands.  I had spent the better part of the last 8 weeks of the pregnancy in a high state of anxiety over her and her health...I just needed to know that she was ok, that my body was absorbing the stress of elevated blood sugars and protecting her from it all.  And finally, finally, here she was. 

***

The doctor put me back together.  (He corrected a couple of issues that may have led to the delay in conception.)  And they wheeled us back to the recovery room, and there was my sister.  I had so wanted her with me...she's been through this four times, and for some reason I became convinced that if she was there then nothing bad could happen.  She's heroic that way.  Anyway, we all took turns holding our Girl and mooning over her pink and white skin and head full of hair. 

The pediatric nurse came to check her blood sugars and they were low.  Disappointingly low.  So they helped me to breastfeed her in the hopes that what little there was, would help bring her sugar back up.  Alas...it did not.  Her blood sugar continued to nose dive and so they brought out the formula and a teaspoon (they don't give any sort of artificial nipple at UNC) and we slowly, slowly spoon fed her and then tested her again and again and my poor Girl...her little heels STILL have scabs on them from being pricked open so many times.  But by the evening, her blood sugar had stabilized at an acceptable level and we were alternately breastfeeding and sleeping.

The nurses were positively amazing.  They took such good care of me, poor Christopher was bored.  But he did his part too, he changed every single diaper, and he made all the phone calls.  Were you expecting a call?  Did you not get one?  Blame him.  I made him a list of people and he forgot it at home.

We managed to talk the nurses into letting us out early (after only 3 days instead of 4), and since we were at the beginning of a big wave of births, they were happy to comply.  And so we headed home and I sent Chris out immediately to bring our Boy home.  It was time to put our family together and to stay together.

And yes, having 2 children to care for is hard, particularly when you're in pain and weaker than normal.  It's not easy to be home and have to cook and clean up after yourself.  It's not fun to parent in a percoset induced haze.  But after all...we can do Hard Things.

In lieu of actual content

on 13 January 2012


Anatomy of a Winter Girl

on 11 January 2012

So, Sarah asked an interesting question in the comments...namely, "What color is her HAIR?"

Chris posted pictures of her on his Facebook page and a friend of mine from my last job asked, "When does M get to have a child that looks like HER?"

I cracked up laughing at that.  There is a strong resemblance between the Girl and her Daddy, but really no more than between the Boy and his Daddy.  She has a lot of darkish hair now, but her eyelashes and eyebrows are strawberry blond, so Chris and I both have a strong hope that when her newborn hair falls out, her hair will grow back in as strawberry blond or red.  Right after her bath it's all wavy and frizzy, but the next day it's totally straight, so we're also hoping that it will grow in curly.  She has my brother's wrinkly ears, and her brother's mouth.  She also has her brother's enormous feet, but her own teeny tiny hands--and I mean they are TEENY TINY.

At a week old, she seems to have grown back to her birth weight, which is a relief to this Mama who struggled to breastfeed her brother.  It's going a lot better this time around.  I suppose that's the blessing of subsequent siblings, the things you know you messed up on the first go around, you can fix and do better.

I am much relieved to be done with gestational diabetes and back to my normal grain-rich diet.  The Boy loves his baby sister, and is enjoying the run of the house.  We're in full survival mode right now, which generally means that toys get left out, too much television is watched and snack foods become entire meals.  I'm hoping that in the next week or so, my body will bounce back enough for me to go back to running my usual tight ship...it pains me to see it in so much chaos, but it must be for right now.  I have no pretenses to being a superwoman.

Lessons from the Girl

One of the things I learned with the Boy:

You really CAN have too many blankets.

When I was pregnant with the Boy I made 9, count them NINE different flannel blankets.  My Mom made 5-6 swaddling weight blankets, and then we were given 2-3 more.  For a grand total of...let's just round up and say 20 in case I'm missing some in my mental calculation.

We NEVER used that many.  My boy took to his woobie almost from day ONE...we have pictures of him wrapped up and contented in his woobie going back to his first month of life on Earth.  He would tolerate the other blankets for swaddling and to play on, but nothing, NOTHING made him happy like his one true woobie.

***

One of the things I've learned from the Girl:

You really CAN'T have too many blankets.

This time around I made ZERO blankets for my girl.  My mom made, oh, probably 6-8 blankets, mostly swaddling weight (because that's what we used the most), but a couple that are nice double weight blankets for my winter girl.  A lovely woman at church knitted up 2 delightful baby afghans for her bringing our total to 10.  TEN blankets.

We use them for swaddling, but also to cover her changing table so it's a soft, cozy feeling rather than cold plastic that we're laying her down on.  And in the first FOUR DAYS at home she managed to pee or poop on, I am not exaggerating here, FIVE of the ten blankets.  HALF of them in FOUR days.

If I hadn't sworn that I wasn't leaving the house for the month of January, I'd be sorely tempted to get myself to Joanns and make up a few more blankets...apparently, we're going to need them.

36, Counted them myself...

on 09 January 2012

It's been a weird week.

I kept forgetting that today is my birthday, for starters.  My poor Mother had to keep reminding me that Monday was indeed my birthday.

Of course, it didn't hit me until Sunday morning when I felt a little bit of self-pity that it's my birthday and I feel like crap.  Which, in the grand scheme of things, a sore back, aching uterus, and stiff and sore pretty much everywhere else, isn't that bad because I get to hold the squishiest, softest little girl in creation.  And my Boy keeps coming in to my room to say, "Mama.  I need to cuddle YOU!" 

He climbs up on to the bed and lays his head in my lap next to his baby sister and I rub his back as I nurse her and yes, it's pretty much moments like that, that make up Heaven itself.

I really am going to write my take on the Girl's birth, but not today.  Today is my birthday.  I am staying in my nightgown and nursing my wee one.  My mom is bringing me the most delicious cake known to man and I'm going to eat it with not one shred of guilt for garnish.

That's not to say there won't be some amusing posts going up this week.  With PICTURES!

The Girl is Here

on 03 January 2012

Everyone, we'd like you to meet Elizabeth Jane. 



She did not come quietly.  I had hoped for a nice, uneventful VBAC.  What I got was a moderately high-risk pregnancy, followed by a schedule c-section.  She came out positively screaming.  But then, she's named after my two favorite female writers--neither of whom came or went quietly from this Earth.  So how could I have expected anything differently from her?

It was a stressful day involving unpredictable and unacceptable blood sugars (on her part mainly, mine were high, but not scary).  We were all grateful for modern medicine and trained and competent medical professionals.

I really am going to write the details of her birth and post them here...but I think I'll wait until I'm not quite so doped up on percoset and can actually string together several articulate sentences.  Well, if not articulate, at least coherent.

On the Day Before

on 02 January 2012

On the day before you were born, your Daddy stayed home with us.

We lounged in Bed Sweet Bed, him and me.  I talked about how scared I was, he rubbed my arm and reassured me that everything would be ok.  He's very good at the reassuring, your Daddy.

On the day before you were born, we tried to act normal.  We did laundry, we read books, we packed clothes.  But all day long, you were there, in our minds, hovering just out of our reach.  Until tomorrow.

On the day before you were born, we drove down to your Nana's house.  She's taking care of your brother so that your Daddy can take care of your Mama.  That's how a family works, we all take turns taking care of each other.  We ate, we talked, we laughed.  Those are also things that families do together.

We tucked your brother into bed at Nana's house and smothered him with kisses.  Just like we'll smother you with kisses.  After last hugs, he went to bed and we drove home.  Because tomorrow, YOU are coming.

Little Girl, we've waited for you for a long time.  We've tried to be patient.  We've waited and prayed and waited and prayed.  And finally, we're here.  On the day before you were born.