Friday, August 31, 2012

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

the first two weeks

I'm just going to put it out there: the first two weeks postpartum were the worst in my life.

After an uneventful pregnancy, and a pretty quick labor and birth, I was wholly unprepared for the anxiety and difficulty of a newborn. Partly due to hormones, partly due to exhaustion, and partly due to complete and utter overwhelmingness of the entire new person experience, I am so grateful that we are firmly past that initial stage. I had breakdowns almost every day. One low point was my sobbing hysterically at Kaiser Newborn Club in front of all the nurses and new moms because I was so despondent over how things were going. Another low point was when I bawled to Whit to hide the photo of us from Ted and Whitney's wedding in the drawer because looking at it while trying to feed Linnea only made me mourn the ease of our pre-baby life.

I felt completely blindsided by this, because no one has ever spoken explicitly to me about how terrible those first two weeks are. I think it is a combination of blurred memory, sleep deprivation, and that you switch to survival mode and have almost zero time to reflect on what is happening to you and your life during that time. The first two weeks are a black box of experiences that no one hears about.

If I had to pinpoint a single cause, it likely would be the initial (difficult) attempts at breastfeeding. While in the hospital postpartum, I had requested breastfeeding assistance from a lactation consultant. Unfortunately, there was only one LC available (for 30 women) on my last day, and so I only got a 10-minute consultation with her. I had not realized how inadequate this would be until later. By the time I went back to Kaiser two days later for Linnea's follow-up assessment, I had severe nipple trauma (with a fissure along the nipple border), and breastfeeding had turned into a dreaded, resentful experience. I spent the first 8 days of Linnea's life trying to get things fixed: three trips to the Kaiser Newborn Club, a private consultation with an LC at Day One (totally worth every dollar), and a La Leche League meeting. On the other end, Linnea was feeding what felt like constantly, I was trying to pump to increase supply, and I was terrified that she wasn't getting enough food (even though I rationally knew it was ridiculous, since she was back up to her birth weight within 9 days). We had to bottle feed her expressed breast milk a few times because her feeding hurt so much, which made me feel completely crushed with guilt. Single events from day to day felt insurmountable, and I feared every difficulty would be permanent. Whit and Nordis spent a lot of time trying to build my confidence, which had mixed results. I was so stressed that I dropped down to ten pounds below my pre-pregnancy weight by the end of the second week.

This was mostly my fault; I had assumed breastfeeding would be challenging, but I think I also assumed that things would eventually resolve on their own. I did NO preparation for the process of breastfeeding. I didn't have any idea that it was something that needed to be taught to both the mom and baby.

Finally, I started reaching out to my network. I invited Evelyn over for a pep talk. Things she told me that helped a ton:
  1. The first 2 weeks kind of suck.
  2. Breastfeeding is really hard for lots of people.
  3. It will get easier as the baby grows and her mouth gets bigger.
[That last point cheered me so much because it introduced the concept that things can change/improve because of something tangible.]

Erika and Pree also came over, commiserated, and gave me a ton of additional advice/tips, which helped so, so much in reassuring me. And if Nordis hadn't been here for 2 weeks to help out, I think the entire thing would have broken me. I am grateful to have had the support that I did.

Currently, breastfeeding has resolved itself, but I'm finding myself bored by the afternoon. I keep dragging Linnea out to new mom support groups, breastfeeding support groups, walks to the drugstore/grocery store, etc. I also don't feel totally bonded with Linnea yet (something that I am assured of by other moms is totally normal until the baby starts responding to you). However, when she started acting fussy, not sleeping, and feeding constantly yesterday, I knew that she was going through a growth spurt, and could take it in stride. This is a huge improvement from her prior growth spurt at 10 days and I panicked that I was starving her. I can see things a little more rationally, and am looking forward to things getting better soon.

P.S: I revisit these three posts on Ask Metafilter to keep myself from feeling like a total monster.
[although it seems like most people seem to hit a wall during weeks 5-6, to which I am not looking forward]

Monday, August 27, 2012

day 21

the birth story

I was 41 weeks. The baby had been low during the last 2 checkups, but my cervix was still posterior and not even close to ready. The OB/GYN, citing the usual concerns about a late-term baby, scheduled an induction for Thursday, August 9. She really wanted to schedule the induction for Tuesday, August 7, but I negotiated with her for a later day. Of course, August 8 was all booked up (yay, Chinese superstition). Prior to this, I have been walking everyday, hoping to get something kick started.

Sunday, August 5
7:00 pm
I made some dinner, and we watched 30 Rock and a few TED Talks on Netflix. I started having some mild contractions, but it was nothing out of the ordinary from the past couple of weeks.

11:00 pm
I realize that the contractions were still happening, and told Whit that we should probably start timing them. Contractions are relatively mild and far apart (ranging from 8-13 minutes).

2:00 am
Contractions jump from every 7-8 minutes to every 2-3 minutes, and the intensity starts to ramp up. Whit asks plaintively, "what happened to every 4 minutes?" I am moaning on the bed, and trying out some labor positions that we had practiced. Hands and knees seems effective. Whit starts checking the hospital bag list for any forgotten items, although he can't remember where everything is, and I have to tell him locations in between contractions.

3:00 am
Whit calls Kaiser L&D, and they tell us to come in for observation. He starts packing up the car while I slowly get dressed. I say "slowly" because I have to stop every few minutes and lie down, or rock on my hands and knees to get through another contraction. We finally make it down to the car, and head towards the hospital. I express relief that we are going into labor prior to Monday morning rush hour traffic.

3:30 am
We arrive at Kaiser, finding a sweet ass parking spot right in the front. We enter through the emergency room since it's after hours. The guy manning the front desk took one look at us, and asked if we wanted a wheelchair. I was sort of annoyed that no one offered to help us up to L&D (Whit had 2 bags, a suitcase, and a bicycle pump).

3:45 am
We make it up to L&D. The intake nurse started asking me a ton of questions in what seemed like the pace of narcotized sloth. I could only answer her in short bursts of concentration. I am now suspicious about the need to have completed all that pre-admission paperwork. She finally gave me 3 forms to sign, of which I did not have the patience nor the bandwidth to read (hooray, informed consent). I was able to sign 2 of them before the next contraction came. I believe the last form had something about having permission to take pictures of the baby, of which I was uncomfortable with anyway, so yay convenient pain threshold.

4:00 am
I am brought to an observation room, and change into a hospital gown. The nurse hooks me up to a fetal and maternal monitor, and checks my vitals. She asked a few questions without looking at me. She tells me that a new nurse will come in, and that a doctor will check me out, and then leaves.

4:30 am
An attending comes in to check my progress. I am at 1.5 centimeters. I will stay in the observation room, and would be rechecked in two hours. I try to steel myself for what I imagine will be the longest two hours of my life. I break things up by going to the bathroom often, mostly to try and poop, so that I don't have an OMG BOWEL MOVEMENT during delivery. The monitors keep coming loose, and the signal drops (Whit finds this very irritating, and I am sure was brainstorming QI ideas), but the nurse only occasionally comes in to reposition them. I try some other labor positions, but I settle on lying on left side gripping the side rail.

6:30 am
Another attending comes back to check on me. I am at five centimeters. Time to be admitted.

I am wheeled in a hospital bed from one room to another, and then rolled from one bed to another. It was sort of exciting, like in ER.

6:45 am
The medical assistant attempts to place an IV in my left arm (in the INTERN VEIN), and fails. She also tries to adjust the needle (the BEVELED NEEDLE) while it is inside my arm. She blames my "rolly veins." I work hard not to tell her that "rolly veins" are a lazy excuse for poor technique. She tries again in my right hand, and fails again. She then explains to the nurse that she already stuck me twice, and my "rolly veins" make it too hard to gain access. Thankfully, the nurse takes over, and is able to put in the IV and saline lock within 2 minutes. She then reviews my birth plan, and says we should be in good shape. And then I am left to the labor.

[I literally cannot remember much during this time. The contractions were coming one after another, and I wasn't able rest between them (Whit later said that there were moments when I looked at him as if to say "I. Cannot. Do. This."). Despite having permission to move around, I mainly wanted to stay on my side in the bed, gripping the handrail or Whit's shoulder.]

8:45 am (??)
My nurse (whose name is Cory -- dear, sweet, wonderful Cory) comes in to check my progress. Seven centimeters. She asks if I want to labor in the shower, and I figure it can't hurt. Whit and I slowly make our way into the bathroom, and I sit on a stool in the shower. The warm water feels fantastic, and helped me relax quite a bit. I even drifted off between contractions (Whit was afraid I would hit my head on the shower wall). However, after maybe 10 minutes, the contractions came back in full force, and I told Whit that I needed to get back to the bed. Now.

9:00 am
Cory comes back in and checks my progress. I am still about 7-8 centimeters. In the process, my water breaks, which initially was a relief (pregnancy milestone!) but then is replaced by cold dread. Since the amniotic fluid was gone, the baby had dropped lower, which means I knew the contractions would start getting much, much worse. And I am right. I squalled in the bed, and yanking on the handrail so much that I thought I would break it, and hitting Whit's shoulder rhythmically. I tried to find things to concentrate on -- Whit's t-shirt graphic, a button on the handrail, a cup on the table. These attempts were less than useless.

9:15 am
I want to push. Now. Cory checks me, and she either stretched my cervix the remaining few millimeters, or I was already there, because she tells me to bring my knees up to my shoulders and start bearing down like I was having a bowel movement (hilariously, I misheard her and anxiously ask, "I'm having a bowel movement?"). It takes me a few minutes to realize that I am actually pushing the baby out. Cory tells me to roll over to my right side, and holds one of my legs while Whit holds the other. I am pushing. I am so ready for this to be over. Whit glimpses the baby's head crowning, but then switches his attention back to me.

Cory gets out her phone and calls the attending. "I need someone in the room for delivery NOW." (Later, she says she knew that the attending didn't think it was so time-sensitive, because she heard her on the other end asking the residents "who wants to delivery a baby today?"). After a few minutes, the attending and a resident rush in with their face masks and safety glasses. I am not waiting for them to get situated, because the baby is so close to being out, and I need it to come out.

9:31 am
I finally feel the baby slip out of my body (the attending didn't even have time to put on gloves before she caught it). They put it on my chest. I look at it, and then at Whit with an expression that probably translated to "What. The. Fuck." I am in shock that the process is over, and now we are meeting our child. It's a girl.

9:35 am (??)
The placenta comes out. They clamp the umbilical cord. Lots of other things are happening, but I cannot get over that there is a tiny person on my chest that was once inside my body. They start stitching me up, which feels like it takes forever, but probably only took 10 minutes. The resident does the stitching, which means that it probably took longer but that it was well done.

Other things that happen: the attending shows us the placenta and asks us if we want to do anything with it (NOPE), the baby starts to breastfeed, and I am still staring at her in shock. We haven't picked a name yet because we wanted to meet her first, but somehow, her not having a name makes her seem more of a stranger to me. I want to choose a name right away so that I can feel connected to her.

11:00 am
Another nurse comes in to do all the newborn stuff: tests, bath, measurements, etc. The baby lies under a heat lamp. Whit takes photos, I drink apple juice. Cory helps me get cleaned up in the bathroom. She is very excited by the birth, but I know she is someone who is excited by all births which is why she is an awesome L&D nurse. I am still in awe of this tiny person. I am excited to find out who she is.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Friday, August 24, 2012

on leaving the house

I have been hanging on to the blog Rookie Moms for dear life. The idea of doing small "challenges" to get new moms comfortable with getting back to their pre-baby lives has been both scary and enticing to me, since I've been defaulting to staying in the apartment most days. On the need for Fearless Fridays in the first year:
That first year, however, my world was so small and my fears were so sharply surprising and unfamiliar, I was not able to look beyond my immediate surroundings. I could only focus on my baby and surviving my new role as a working mom. I feel ok about that now. I can’t apologize for it, and I fully expect to repeat that experience when my second child arrives this summer.

All over again, I might be afraid to leave the house, to nurse in public, to commit to a social engagement, or to wear anything that makes me look worse than I already feel.

So, in honor of Fearless Friday, I invite our newbie mom readers to do something that scares them. Whether it’s drive into the city with your baby, take a shower while she’s lying in her crib, breastfeed at a department store, mix up a bottle during an errand, or change a diaper in the trunk of your car.

Identify what exactly you fear. Is it that the baby will cry and you will feel guilty? You will feel embarrassed? The baby will be hurt? You will have forgotten something that you need? People will think you are a bad mother? You will feel overwhelmed and disorganized?

Once you’ve figured out what you fear, you can try to approach it with fearlessness.
Maybe it's a little too "rah rah motherhood" for some people (and probably for me prior to Linnea's birth), but right now, it's giving me some courage to take small steps.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Monday, August 6, 2012

introducing Linnea Hatsumi

Born Monday, August 6, 2012 at 9:31 pm. 3000 kg (6 lb, 10 oz) and 49.5 cm (almost 19.5 in).

Friday, August 3, 2012

love and the self: Susan Sontag

Favorite quote from Susan Sontag's diaries, hand-lettered by Wendy MacNaughton and posted on Brain Pickings:

Thursday, August 2, 2012

step 3

I'm trying to knit a baby cardigan, but have gotten completely stuck on step 3 ("CO 5(6:7:8:9) sts at beg of next 8 rows" = me with a comical face).

We had our 41 week checkup with the ob/gyn today, and even though the baby's head is low, my cervix is still pretty posterior, which means no one is closer to getting out (I am imagining the baby banging its tiny fists on my bladder, whispering "give us us free"). We scheduled an induction for next Thursday, with a fetal non-stress test for Monday to make sure the kiddo is tolerating things well. I could tell my ob wanted to schedule the induction a bit earlier in the week, but I am hoping with all of my being that things move along on their own before I have to jump start events in a hospital room.

Up to this point, I had been making quips about the baby needing to decide when it was ready, but now it feels more like the baby has been ready for a while, and it's my body that is holding up the process. My cervix is stuck at step 3. I am also nervous that we may be waiting too long, and the best place for this kid is no longer inside my body. I feel a bit like a failure as a human being (no one ceases reminding me that my "body was made to do this" which just makes me want to kick them in the shin).