Monday, September 23, 2013

Sullivan's Fast & Furious Home Birth or Why You Cannot 'Doula Yourself'

Saturdays, around our house, are known as 'Daddy Days', basically meaning that Kevin gets up early with Oliver, the two have breakfast together then go out on the town to do 'guy stuff' while I get to sleep in and then take myself out to the farmer's market and for a brunch date with a book. 

That Saturday I invited my best friend and doula partner, Nena, who would be attending my birth, out on my Me-Date. Looking back on my texts from that day I was already showing some early labour signs: 

"True. Lol.... Ok. Braiding my hair, starting laundry, then leaving my house. Slowly. You may even beat me there."... "Ok. Psa. I laid down in my towel with some Braxton hicks and haven't gotten back up. Sloooow. Haha"

I did eventually get out of bed and walked the 4-5 blocks to the market to meet Nena. I had a crepe from my favourite food truck, we roamed the market, bought some produce,  joked with friends we passed that I was still pregnant, then walked back to the coffee shop on my street for a tea.  

While we were there I couldn't stand long enough to wait for my order at the counter and when we sat down finally I couldn't sit still and before we were finished I started feeling 'weird'. It was too hot, I was nauseous and dizzy, something just wasn't 'right'. I knew my blood sugar was fine since I'd just eaten and I was hydrated and it wasn't a hot day so I dashed across the street to the pharmacy to check my blood pressure thinking maybe it had dipped but it was normal so I figured maybe I'd just over exerted myself and went home for a nap.

Knowing Nena had plans for the rest of the day and a wedding out of town that evening  I joked that I would wait until next week to have the baby. But she was really adamant that I not hesitate to call and interrupt her if I needed her. Apparently right after leaving me she made arrangements for all her other commitments & responsibilities for the weekend. 

On this 'Daddy day' Oliver and Kevin went to see some crazy hillbilly mud racing monster truck thing, leaving me with the house to myself all day. I took it easy, I did some laundry, I napped, I read, I watched TV. And eventually started feeling better. throughout all this I was having some sporadic surging but nothing even remotely 'productive'. I did have a bit of mucus and 'show' but it was such a small amount I dismissed it. 

I texted my other doula, Kim, about it and then assured her she should still take her kids to an event 45 minutes away but to maybe just keep her phone close in case anything changed (as if us doulas ever leave them far away). 

By the time Oliver and Kevin came home around 5pm I was starting to feel some downward pressure every 10-15 minutes but I still wasn't calling them 'contractions'. I felt nothing 'up top' or in my back where most of the intensity had been when I laboured with Oliver so I figured it was just baby moving or getting into position. We ate supper, we watched the first 3 quarters of the 'Rider (CFL Football) game, and then I took Oliver up to bed at about 8:30.

I nursed Oliver down that night and the moment he latched I knew if something hadn't already started it was starting now. In the 15 minutes that he was at my breast the 'pressure' went from about 10-15 minutes apart to about 3-4 minutes apart (i never timed them, just guessing) and I had to focus on my breathing to get through each one. 

I texted Kim again while I was laying there, I told her I didn't know if it was actual surging because I still couldn't feel anything except for the intense downward pressure on my cervix. She told me to put my hand on top of my stomach during the next one to see if I could feel the tightening that way. The second another pressure started with my hand resting there I knew for sure they were 'real contractions'. The light pressure of my hand felt unbearable and I could definitely feel the tightening of my uterus from the outside. But I was still convinced it was early and could go away at any moment so Kim suggested I eat something, take a walk, and then try to get some sleep.

Once Oliver was asleep I went downstairs (stopping twice on the stairs to breathe through more pressure) and tried to eat but wasn't hungry, I took a walk around the main floor of my house (stopping every few feet to breathe through more pressure) then got onto my knees and leaned into my couch thinking if I just stopped moving around they would go away. 

Kevin, who had been watching me quietly since I came down the stairs asked if I should call the midwife. I laughed and told him if this was it then it was really early and maybe I would think of calling once the pressure was a consistent 3-1-1 (three minutes apart, lasting a minute, for over an hour). He, in his totally straight faced take-no-bullshit way, asked how I would know when that was if I wasn't timing any contractions. I promised him I would track some and text my doulas again while he gathered the supplies on our 'Homebirth List' the midwives had given us. 

I didn't really time anything, or text either of my doulas. I just hung out there swaying my hips asking myself if I was ready for this and thinking of all the ways I could make it stop and wait for another day. I decided a bath would be the ticket. Everyone knows if you get in the tub too early it can totally slow everything down. 

Before going up to the bathroom I texted Nena:

 "Hey so like. Don't jump in your car or anything. Enjoy the wedding. But like. Don't accidentally get drunk because there are surges happening... Fairly close-ish together. Keep your phone close?" 

and to Kim:

 "can't decide if I want to stop this or encourage it. Getting in the tub to slow down" 

I was in the tub only a few minutes when the intensity picked up again. Kevin came in and timed a few surges. They were 2-3 minutes apart lasting a minute or more but because it was only 9pm and therefore not over an hour I still didn't want to call the midwife. I compromised and told Kim: 

"I think I may need you ... 3min apart lasting 50-80sec for half an hour. Trying to get Kevin to wait the hour and see but he's jumpy.... And they're getting intense for me to reassure him"

Then told Kevin I would call the midwife after Kim came and told me this was real. It could still be in my head, I needed someone (not Kevin) to tell me this was real. I also texted Nena who had apparently anticipated me and was already on her way back from her out-of-town reception. 

Kevin lit some candles and sat with me through a few more surges applying counter pressure to my back (which was suddenly in for the ride) and around the point I started needing to vocalize through the surges he called the midwife anyways even though I was still in denial. 

Kim showed up right as Kevin got off the phone and I remember complaining to her that the midwife would get there and check me and I would only be 3 centimetres and that would mean more checks later and I really didn't want to be checked at all so couldn't we have waited until I was more active? This was at about 10pm I think. 

Not long after the water in the tub just wasn't doing it for me anymore and, having resigned myself to getting a vaginal exam, I decided to get out of the tub and go to my bed to settle in where the midwife could do her assessment without moving me and I could try and sleep a bit when it turned out I was only 3cm. I was really convinced I was only at 3. 

But when I stood up everything got even more intense. I had to pee. No I had to poop. But I couldn't -No really I COULD NOT- sit on the toilet. 

My 'doula brain' thought: How many times have I insisted to my clients that the toilet was a great place to labour? Why had I said that? The toilet was an awful position to be in! With Kevin applying pressure to my back as I hovered over it backwards I was barely able to stand it long enough to push out a few drops of pee but much to my disappointment 'emptying' by bladder did nothing to relieve the suddenly constant pressure I was feeling. I'd been joking around only minutes before and suddenly I was pacing and muttering and for some reason apologizing profusely to Kim for no reason at all. I put my dress back on and fell into my bed on my side and moaned like a banshee through a few more surges praying for my butt to just fall off already. 

At some point in this the midwife got there. I told her something vaguely coherent about the pressure and I think I told her quite seriously that there was NO WAY it was the baby, I just had to poop. She asked if she could check and I agreed but wouldn't move to my back so she must have checked with me on my side. I don't remember feeling her check she just said 'No that's definitely your baby' and then something about a cervical lip but by the time she finished her sentence an uncontrollable grunt pushed its way through my body and was so loud to my ears I thought I must be roaring or something.

The spontaneous push did not feel good. My 'doula brain' quickly latched onto the midwife saying 'cervical lip' and tried to tell my primal brain not to push but my primal brain was like 'F*ck you this is happening'. 

I tried my best to keep breathing and vocalizing through each surge, I remember Kim telling me to 'slow it down, deep breaths, slow it down' but I just couldn't, the pressure was SO intense, at one point I asked the midwife to break my water (my 'doula brain' gasped in horror at the suggestion) but she just shook her head. Later she told me that the membranes were stretched so tight over baby's head that she wouldn't have been able to rupture them even if she'd wanted to. 

I remember at this point being really concerned that all of my begging for AROM and yell-moaning was going to wake Oliver in the next room but almost the moment I thought that someone told me that Nena had arrived and I was able to relax knowing that if Oliver woke up someone he trusted would be able to tell him what was happening and reassure him that his mother wasn't possessed, that writhing around on the bed yelling about pressure an butts falling off was a normal part of having a baby. 

Around that same time the second midwife showed up so my primary checked again to see if I was still grunt-pushing against cervix. I could have told her that I was still pushing against cervix. I could feel that lip with every uncontrollable grunt and my 'doula brain' was not at all happy about it but she was not in control. My primal brain was pushing, my body thought it was ready. The midwives then told me that I could either change positions to see if that helped or they could try and push the lip away with the next contraction. My primal brain, which was the one connected to my mouth, said 'no I can't move'. And my 'doula brain' threw up her hands in frustration. 

After just one surge baring down with the midwife trying to move my cervix primal brain caught up and realized her mistake (OUCH!) so I moved onto hands and knees. 

The second I got to my knees my membranes finally, mercifully, gloriously ruptured on their own but the relief was really short lived because with the next surge I yelled 'there he is!' and I felt his head, then for some reason second guessed myself and asked 'what is that!?' (I laugh at myself for this now. Of course it was him! What else would it be!?) with the next surge I felt his shoulders rotate and suddenly there he was. 

At 11:15pm The midwife guided him from my womb under my legs and up into my arms. I looked up at Kevin first as if to say 'holy f*ck that just happened'. Then down at my baby. 

The first thing I said after Oliver was born was 'oh my god look at all that hair!' and apparently I was expecting the same for this baby because the first words out if my mouth were 'where's all your hair!? You're bald!' And really I think the most shocking thing to me about Sullivan is how very different he is from Oliver. His pregnancy, birth, postpartum, appearance, temperament, everything is so very very different. I am a new mom all over again. 

I don't know where people get this idea that second or subsequent babies make you a 'seasoned' parent. I am 'seasoned' at parenting Oliver, but I've never parented this little guy before and I am learning everything fresh just like I did the first time. 

Anyways. Once the initial meeting was over I turned to lay back and rest him on my chest to hopefully get him nursing. The midwife asked if she could cut the cord and I said to leave it for now since it was long enough to bring him up to my chest. He bobbed and looked around and made a few moves in the direction of my breast but didn't seem ready to eat so we just rested and gazed at each other. 

A few minutes later I started to get uncomfortable and told the midwife I was ready to push the placenta so she clamped the cord and offered Kevin a cut. He said no and I jumped in and said I wanted to but I was shaking too much so I handed the scissors back to the midwife. As soon as that was done I pushed and coughed a few times to deliver the placenta. 

Needless to say after pushing against that cervical lip and how fast he came once I moved to hands and knees, and the previous perineal damage from Oliver's birth there were stitches to be had but its amazing how much less that part sucks when you're at home in your own bed and there aren't any nurses trying to take your baby away for 'assessments' or trying to tell you it will 'be more comfortable' to hold them once that's all done, or, in Oliver's case, whisking them off to NICU. I just snuggled in and loved on my new baby and chatted with my husband and my friends and occasionally asked the midwife for more freezing.  

After that because I was still bleeding a bit and Sullivan still wasn't latching I accepted a shot of synthetic oxytocin. God I hate that stuff. Immediately felt awful and the after pains got way worse but it did its job and soon I was ready to get up and get cleaned up while the midwives did the newborn check.  

8lbs 7oz, 20.5 inches long, great tone and colour, heart good, chest a bit mucous-y from the fast delivery but not enough to worry. 

Shortly after that the midwives snuck away to the other room to fill out their paperwork, Kevin and Nena cleaned up a bit while Kim (an IBCLC as well as my doula) helped me try a few tricks to get Sullivan latching. 

We knew going in that he would likely be tongue and lip tied like Oliver and even though Sully was sliding around and sucking air and doing all the worrying things Oliver did it felt amazing to have Kim there to reassure me that it would be ok and make a plan so I could stay confident. (That's all a different story for another day)

It was 3am by the time everyone packed up and went on their way and I drifted off to sleep with Sullivan while Kevin went to crawl in with Oliver for the rest of the night. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

A Letter To My Sons

A few months ago, I saw this letter shared on Facebook about what kind of guy the author wanted his daughter to look for and it got me thinking. Much is made of female sexuality and morality and looking for Mr. Right, but not much is ever said seriously to young boys other than the occasional "be strong" or "patient." So I wanted to write this to explore the advice I want to give to my sons one day.

Dear Sons, 

You must know by now that you already hold the key to my heart and that I will always love you, all of you, unconditionally and without pause, but everyday, you grow older and closer to the day when you will want a wife and love of your own. This is what I want you to look for and who I want you to be to make that relationship everything it should be for you:

Choose someone that you are not only attracted to physically, but who also has a beautiful soul and a kind heart. Such a person will only grow more beautiful with age and will support you in becoming more kind and selfless. You will, in turn, become more beautiful yourself long after your physical self starts to age.

Choose someone who respects your needs. This does not mean its somehow possible that someone will give you everything you want when you want it, but a good partner will respect and try to help you get what you need when you need it.   If you are really lucky, you might even find someone who helps you see more clearly what your wants and needs are.

Choose someone who cares for family because once you marry, you will be family.  You can learn a lot by watching those whom your beloved has known and loved a long time. No one's perfect, but ask yourself how faults and mistakes are accepted and how love is expressed.  You don't have to write someone off because of a family dynamic that wasn't a matter of choice because people can make new conscious choices and grow. However, be aware that family history will set the tone for the family you build together.  You will need to remember and be accepting of some differences, but only commit to someone who will love you and respect you as much as our family always has tried to because that is the kind of love you deserve. Make sure to choose someone whom you can  love the same way.

Experiment with dating as much as you want, but don't feel you need to be as sexual as people seem to expect you to be. A man's body and sexuality is every bit as important as a woman's. You have an obligation to protect it from those who do not treasure the emotions and spirit your body houses. There are those who will try to convince you that you are cold or just a dumb guy who isn't vulnerable when it comes to physical intimacy. That is a lie.  Real intimacy is vulnerability and truly physically, emotionally, and spiritually satisfying sex can only happen when you are deeply intimate and committed with someone. That doesn't happen on the third date.  Don't tolerate anyone who tries to convince you otherwise. Let your heart and your soul guide you not what anyone has to say about what it means to be a "man." A man is simply a human the same as a woman and you are not any less attune to what you are and aren't ready for.  Choose someone who loves you for your humanity and who can appreciate that your masculinity is whatever you feel most comfortable defining it as.  You should be the man you want to be and you need to be for the people you love, not "the man" others might tell you to be. Someone who loves you will respect that. Make sure to respect her as well. How she dresses, how she talks, how she dances,  and how much she touches you does not imply anything about who she is or what she wants from you. Always ask the person you love about what she wants and respect her wishes and boundaries as much as she needs to respect yours.

When you do find someone, make sure that someone truly supports the journey you are already on. It's not important that you are loved for everything you do or even who you are in the moment because you will continue to grow and change in unexpected ways for the rest of your life. You need someone who will love your trajectory, not just your current position in life.  Likewise, choose someone whom you can love the same way and whose faults (which will be just as numerous as your own) you will be able to live with.

Make sure you are with someone who listens to you and make sure you listen as well. Real men do cry when they are hurt and sad.  They also accept support given in love when they need it.   Real men wipe tears away and aren't afraid to hear their loved ones cry and offer support and love. Steel is considered the best building material for sky scrapers because it is both strong and flexible.  In fact, its flexibility is probably its greatest strength.  Make sure that you stay flexible, vulnerable, and open with your partner so that your communication lines can stay open and you can be truly intimate.  That is what a real men do. Don't let anyone tell you differently.

Once you are committed, expect to go through hard times. Remember that on the other side of every valley is a peak and even though the climb may be hell, the view will be worth it. If it seems like you are wondering in the valley too long, change direction and tactics with your partner. You may need to turn to find the way to climb. 

Know in your heart that I will always support and love you and am excited to support and love the partner you choose to share your life with as long as I know you are loved, respected, and honored as you deserve to be.  

All my Love,

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Sweeter the Second Time Around

Yesterday my baby turned six months old. I can't believe it. When my eldest son turned six months old, I didn't know how we had survived those first six months, but with my second son, I can't believe the time has gone so fast! Before I had my second baby, I was desperately afraid of what it would be like to be a mama of two, but six months in, I can honestly say that it actually is easier than I had made it out in my head to be. I know that is not everyone's experience, but I think it's important for me to share mine because it may give someone out there hope! So here are ten things that are definitely sweeter the second time around!

1. The Birth.

Okay, so this didn't really come true for me, but for many women, the second birth goes more smoothly than the first. Statistically, it is hours less than the first and is far less scarier because you know what to expect. Even in my experience, the part of labor I had experienced before was a whole lot less scary and seemingly less painful AND my second birth actually took about half the time of my first.

2. The First Two Weeks

I'm not going to lie. The first two weeks is still a very intensely emotional period and things still feel like they are going crazy all around you, but instead of shifting your whole paradigm of life, you are just adding in another kid to your already hectic schedule of being a parent. The result is that it feels a lot more normal, a lot less intrusive, and a lot more bearable.

3. Sleep (or lack there of)

Now, this will not make sense to the lucky few who had one baby and that baby slept through the night really quickly or were very sleepy as infants, but if you have a baby who is about as sleepless as your first was or even a little less sleepless (as my second baby was), the sleeplessness is a whole lot more bearable. For one thing, you don't have the fear that this will actually last for the rest of your parenting life as you probably did with your first (and this is from a mom whose four year old still has not slept through the night without at least one wake up). Also, you probably made your peace with co-sleeping or not co-sleeping the first time around and even if you have to change horses midstream with your second baby because your second baby has different sleep needs, you do a lot less soul searching and worrying about it because you already know that everything will be alright!

4. Snuggling

Snuggling was sweet the first time around, but some part of you probably worried from time to time that you might actually "spoil" your baby by holding him/her too much and by not putting him/her down enough. By your second baby, you know better. You look at your first baby (so fiercely independent and uninterested you in you holding him/her every minute of the day) and you know that you might as well savor every second you can hold that baby and you do. You appreciate the time when your baby is a lap baby so much more when you've already had a little one graduate from your lap!

5. Eating, Showering, and Tooth Brushing

Okay, it's just as hard to fit all that stuff in with a newborn/infant as it was the first time, but this time you have skills you had to develop before. Sure, the first month or so, you might be a little rusty (and your baby is really floppy), but by the second or third month you will be eating, showering, brushing your teeth and doing just about everything one handed and with your first child holding on to one leg chatting with you about everything from the task at hand to his/her latest game invention. It's okay to feel like a master parent a little earlier in the process of parenting your second baby because you freaking are!

6. Taking Time for Yourself

This is still a struggle for me, but I do have to admit that I don't feel nearly as bad about taking whatever time I need away from both of my children (whether in the house or out of it) because I already know what the consequences are if I don't take that time and those consequences include me being a very bad person to be around and my children will suffer from that.

7. Your identity

When you became a parent (whether you became a stay at home, work at home, or a work outside the home mom), you had to re-evaluate who you were and what the balance would be between yourself as an individual (and a wife/partner) and your identity as a mom. By the second child, it isn't that hard to slide into an identity as a mom of two. In fact, for me, I became more comfortable with myself in both categories.

8. Milestones

With your first baby, milestones are something to look anxiously forward to and you are constantly worrying that he/she won't make them on time. (And if you're naturally competitive, you might feel a little pressure to have your baby accomplish milestones before those other babies in your playgroup.) By your second baby, you aren't nearly as worried. Milestones just become sweet (maybe even bittersweet, if you suspect this baby is your last) celebrations. I feel like with my first son, my mind was constantly focused on what was coming next, with my second son, I'm content to let him just reveal where he is at. It's a far less anxiety invoking experience.

9. Love

This is a huge worry for many of the second time mothers I have known. Will I love my second as much as my first? Will I fall in love with him/her as quickly or as slowly as I did my first? Will it change the love I feel for my first? Here's the truth: Yes, you will love your second as much as your first, but maybe not immediately. After all, this is a completely new person who may or may not look exactly like another completely new person you remember falling in love with not long beforehand. You have to get to know your new baby a bit before you can love him/her with the same kind of intensity you feel for your child you have spent over a year building a relationship with. Cut yourself some slack if it doesn't quite feel the same right away; it will. It will be a new love for a new child and that love will grow. In my case, I actually found my love feelings growing faster than they had the first time (probably because with the VBAC, I had access to all kinds of hormones that were different from the hormones that happened with my c-section first). And yes, the love you have for your second baby will change how you feel about your first. At first, you will feel torn as your child works through her/his feelings for the new sibling, but once your baby learns how to love your new baby, your love for your first will deepen even more because you will have a new facit of that baby to love: the caring older sibling side.

10. Expectations

By the second baby, the way your expectations have evolved as a parent really changes. You know better what to anticipate and you know better what to ignore. You feel more confident in your ability to let things lie from time to time and you just all around enjoy things more. Despite a myriad of personal problems and obstacles in my life right now, I have never felt happier as a mother since I had my second baby. He has helped me to once again grow and become a better person.

Thanks for reading,

Monday, September 9, 2013

transitioning from crib to bed

We had a bit of excitement in our house last Friday, when we finally decided to take the front off of Gwen's crib and turn it into a toddler bed. ::gulp:: 

She was so content in her crib that we always figured, why mess with what worked?! But she is really getting so big, and the whole previous week she has been asking about sleeping in a real bed, since she slept in a single bed at my Aunt and Uncle's, and fell asleep in a single bed every night at Cape Cod (I then transferred her to a pack'n'play before I went to sleep since it was my single bed she was falling asleep in!). I'm feeling a little "Mahhh Bayy-Beee" about the whole thing, but she is so ready. I had high hopes for a easy transition.

So, Friday night, post dinner, we headed upstairs with the Allen wrench and removed the front of her crib, then added the little guard. The guard went on the opposite side of where she has always slept, but we didn't even worry about turning her around, since she hadn't fallen out once during all the single bed sleeping the previous week. We actually said, well she won't even need that... famous last words! She fell out the first night (though she didn't even fully wake herself when she did), and I ended up moving all of her blankets/pillows/stuffed animals and turning her while she slept!

A little excited, huh?!
Thankfully, otherwise the transition has been pretty easy. Other then a bit of fussiness around 10pm, she's been sleeping just like normal. And since we turned her, she hasn't fallen out again! She loves the novelty of hopping into bed all on her own, and reading her books in her "big girl bed." She loves climbing out by herself in the morning too, but so far (::knocks on wood::) still waits for us to come into her room to "get her up."

Next project will be turning that toddler bed into a real bed (should be easy with the conversion rails which we already have). But that will need a full weekend, as it will involve buying a new mattress, some new sheets, and rearranging her room. I am pretty excited for the project though! It will be fun to change Gwen's room from her nursery into her big girl room, and new sheets of her own choosing will go a long way.