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September 2011

Friday Reads & Recommends: The Lanolin Edition

Well. Enough of all THAT, am I right? 

This week of newborn-ness has been about Extreme Highs and Extreme Lows. I am so in love with my new baby. I don't know if I told you guys this, but I never felt attached to my other pregnancies and it took a while before I felt attached to the new babies, but I've pretty much been in love with this new baby since I found out she was on her way. I have no idea why that is, but I loved it and I love HER. She is going to be SO. SPOILED. 

Then again, breastfeeding has been WAY harder than the other kids. Well, with Jack it just didn't WORK for two to three weeks, but we kept at it and it figured itself out. I don't remember being frustrated about pain so much as the logistics of breastfeeding. With Molly there was initial latching pain, but barely anything else. THIS time HOLY COW it hurts. After much Twittering and emailing and phone calls to my mother, what's working for me, both physically and mentally, is a regimen of nursing with the shield then Lansinoh, then nursing on the other side sans shield then Lansinoh, then a bottle of formula. So I get a break every other feeding and that's REALLY helping. After just two days of my little system I feel a lot, ah, tougher and halfway healed. I can sometimes nurse without the shield, even, and the bottle has been great for getting a little more sleep/not feeling like I'm in breastfeeding jail. I think the most helpful element in the whole process is Lansinoh. That stuff is magic. 

Thank you everyone who told me that I didn't have to choose one or the other, which is totally what I was feeling in the moment - I could do a bottle AND breastfeed and figure it out as I go. 

I recommend Pulse and Flipboard as reading-material-while-nursing. 

I HIGHLY recommend the iPad game Little Things as entertainment-while-nursing. I'm usually totally impatient with hidden picture games, but I find the reward you get for finishing super motivating. And the reward is only a 'puzzle piece' that unlocks a new picture. But I am DRIVEN to unlock NEW PICTURES! 

It's slow going, but I'm reading The Art Of Choosing when I have a minute or two to read. FASCINATING. I can't wait to finish it so I can bore everyone silly telling them about it. 

And okay okay, I like New Girl. I find Zooey Deschanel to be just this side of irritating. But I really love the guys in the show. I would probably watch this even if I weren't carrying a torch for Deputy Leo. 

In other television news, I hate Alicia Florrick's bangs. 

I do not recommend shopping for clothes at six days post-partum. I wasn't even trying to find REAL clothes, just pants in which I could leave the house without feeling TOO embarrassed. It wasn't as bad as my post-Jack shopping trip to Old Navy, when I had a small crying fit in the dressing room, but it was still bad. Bah.

Anyway. I hope you all have a lovely weekend. I will be attending a baby shower at which I thought I would still be Hugely Grossly Unhappily Pregnant. Now my only problem with attending is the problem of no pants... 


How I felt about it all (WHICH IS STUPID)

SO YEAH. That happened. And for the record, I am REALLY GLAD I didn't know how many of you had 1 and 2 and 3 hour labors. EGAD.

I'm not sure what else to say about it, but I do have this NEED to "decide" how I feel about it. I would like to be all: DUDE. AM MADE OF AWESOME. but I'm not really leaning that way. It feels more like something that happened to me, that I just happened to get through because it was the only option. Which is TRUE. I mean, no one gets to choose their labor, right? 

I'd always thought that if I could maybe give birth without drugs if my labor was fast. (I never thought THIS fast, but, you know, fast-ISH.) And it turns out that was the case, but I feel like I could have done it BETTER. I could have done better than just SURVIVED. And yes, I know how ridiculous that sounds and I know what I would say to a friend if she were saying that to me, and yes I ALSO know that success and achievement and doing things well is sort of my hang up and I need to get over it already. ALL THAT SAID, there's something about Emma's arrival that leaves me solidly unimpressed with myself. 

After I had Jack I was the highest of high. I figured out why people shoot for natural childbirth. THE HIGHS, man! Holy cow. That was awesome. And it lasted for days. DAYS! I always wondered what a TRUE natural childbirth high would feel like, since mine was really only a half-high (I'd had the drugs, I just didn't have them the entire time.) I mean, I didn't wonder enough to actually want to try it, but I imagined it must be pretty great. 

So Emma's out, the nurses are fussing over my breathing yet super bruised and super purple baby, and everyone's waiting for the doctor to show up. I'm just laying there wondering what in the world just happened to me. The contractions have completely disappeared, as they do (this is still an amazing fact to me. The pain! Gone! Like that!) but I'm still hurting. I feel destroyed. And then the nurse keeps pressing on my abdomen to try to deliver the placenta and it feels AWFUL and then the doctor eventually shows up and does her thing and THAT feels awful. Pretty much everything feels awful, which makes me angry because after all that I feel like I deserve to not feel awful ever again. I'm just laying there, utterly exhausted, only half aware that my new baby is potentially not doing well, not focusing or listening and I am waiting for my high. Where is it? 

I'M STILL WAITING. Ho hum. And then I remember the screaming and the crying and the refusal to get on the bed and my inability to recognize how fast things were going... Oh wow, this is SO ME to berate myself for not doing NATURAL CHILDBIRTH CORRECTLY. Seriously. I DO hear myself. I DO read what I'm writing. AND YET! I continue to feel this way! 

So I've also thought about what it might have been like if I HAD tried to prepare for natural childbirth. Honestly, I'm not so sure how that would have gone... and it's actually part of why I never seriously gave it consideration. All the coping techniques I know about involve relaxation or meditation or focusing on breathing - ALL things I totally failed at during my Figure Out How To Manage Anxiety days. I was never good at listening to tapes or visualizing or breathing or any of that stuff. And now that I've DONE it, I'm not sure any of that would have helped me anyway. WAS PAINFUL. 

I don't know. I do realize how pointless this is. I DO.

A few days later I'm feeling a little less physically and psychologically wrecked, which is nice. I'm not as warped about everything as I was the first day or two. I've stopped running the entire timeline through my brain. I've asked Phillip what he remembers and what his experience was, and that made me feel better. In the hospital my nurse kept saying how great I did, how awesome I was, what a great story this would be, what a rock star my husband was, how honored she felt to be there, blah blah blah. At the time I totally blew her off, but now... maybe she wasn't just being nice? 

Anyway. Emma slept awesome last night and then kept sleeping all day and is still sleeping now and either she's just going to keep it up because she's the best baby EVER, or she (and I) will be up all night. I should probably sign out and then not check the comments because I'm pretty sure this is the dumbest thing I've ever written. 

 


Be careful what you wish for, aka: the birth story

I feel like I should start out with a big flashy warning, ie: the birth story may be longer than the actual labor. I wanted to write it down right away, first of all because I feel like I'm already forgetting things and second, because I'm still not really sure WHAT happened. Writing will help me figure out how I feel about it, so in some ways this blog post is just for me. Because I know you love a good birth story, Internet, I hereby apologize for the inevitable tangents...

My parents arrived late Thursday morning to take the kids for the day. I would have told them to just keep the kids overnight, but Jack had preschool Friday morning and my parents offered to bring them home after dinner and honestly, I didn't really hear anything they said after, "We'll take them for the whole day." Whee!

I made a to-do list, but basically I decided to do a whole lot of nothing. I did go grocery shopping, I did do a little more painting, I did do all the laundry. Other than that, I read the rest of Faithful Place, watched a bunch of television premieres (Revenge: intriguing! Up All Night: almost unwatchable! How I Met Your Mother: meh!), and I napped. I napped all afternoon and it was glorious. 

My parents brought the kids home, Phillip got home from his work dinner (at my favorite downtown restaurant - annoying), we finally got the kids in bed, and right before I turned out my light I texted my good friend who had a feeling she was going to go to the hospital that night to deliver HER baby. 

Around 12:20 I woke up, vaguely aware of some strong lower-abdominal cramping. My whole thought process about that amounted to, "This sucks." Of course, at this point in pregnancy, almost everything makes you think: IS THIS LABOR? But I totally didn't think so. I was annoyed because the cramping made it hard to fall back asleep, and THEN I realized my pajama pants were wet. And my whole thought process around that, lasting a good several totally zoned-out minutes, was, "Wow. This feels disgusting."

Then I realized my water broke. I kicked Phillip. "I think my water broke." And then, I swear to God, we just laid there looking at each other wondering what we were supposed to do next. 

My water hadn't broken with Jack or Molly. I wasn't expecting it to happen this time. What I knew about water breaking was that you then had 24 hours to deliver a baby OR ELSE. And, well, THAT did not seem real at ALL. 

I think I'm usually pretty good in A Crisis (ie: the panic does not set in until everything is OVER, usually) but this time I seriously could not wrap my brain around ANYTHING. I wasn't panicking, I just didn't know what I was supposed to do next! A few minutes later we decided that we should probably call someone. We fussed around looking for phone numbers and reached the doctor on call. I told her I was cramping, but no big deal. She said, "Well, if it was your first baby I'd tell you to stay home for a bit. But because it's your third..." 

So, uh, we were now instructed to head to the hospital. Part of me was all, "Yay! I don't have to go through the whole Should We Or Shouldn't We Go To The Hospital part!" and another part of me was all, "I don't want to labor at the HOSPITAL, this is going to SUCK." My mind had already drifted to the Labor Not Progressing So You Get Pitocin Then A C-Section route and while I was quietly stressing about this, Phillip was loudly banging around our bedroom packing a hospital bag. (Tangent! I'd written "pack hospital bag" on my to-do list and then chuckled to myself, because HA HA HA we had WEEKS!) 

My contribution to the hospital bag was a bunch of maternity clothes that did not match and that I ended up not wearing at all. Also shampoo, since I remembered being without shampoo when I had Molly and how dirty I felt even after a shower. 

We tried calling the FPC and her husband several times, the designated middle-of-the-night babysitters, but never made it through. We called our backup child-watcher, my good friend who lives minutes away. She woke up and said she was on her way, then we called my parents who said they'd leave right then (12:45ish) to stay with the kids through the next day. This was their third trip to my house that day - they live about 50 minutes away. I know. I felt terrible. I still feel terrible. It's one of the parts of the whole deal where I really felt our unpreparedness. 

Although, what are you gonna do? I'm not sure we could have planned it another way. 

Off we went to the hospital, which is five minutes away, and the whole time I am all, "Gee, this is the easiest in-labor-car-trip ever!" I was still only cramping at that point, and not terribly often. My other in-labor-car-trips were a bit longer, and at 4 and 5ish cm. No fun. I would have been afraid of being turned away from the hospital, except I was a hundred percent sure that my water had broken and no one would be sending me home. 

We entered at the emergency room because it was one in the morning and they wheelchaired me up to labor and delivery. I felt like a dork. I'd had a handful of had-to-breathe-through-them contractions, but was perfectly capable of walking. Nope - wheelchairs were hospital policy. Labor and delivery was a ways away and my memory of this is pretending I am in a from-a-wheelchair's-perspective movie. You know, like when the camera pretends to be the character's eyes, and you're just sort of zooming around. Dork! I kept thinking. Dork! 

I was gracefully deposited in our room. I remember thinking, "Yes, this room is smaller, but that's it." This was a new hospital for us and we'd never got around to taking the tour, but what my doctor said was true - the only difference between the new hospital and my old one was the size of the room. 

A nice nurse named Linda came in and did all her nice, slow, nursey things. I don't know about you, but the nurses have this sort of aggravating calm about them. Like, DON'T THEY KNOW YOU ARE GOING TO HAVE A BABY?! She had me get into the fugly gown, she strapped the monitors around me, she used a very caaaalm, geeeentle, sloooow, quiiiiet voice and left us there for a bit. She didn't want to check me because of the whole broken water bit. It was a short time after 1am. I am mostly sure of that. 

I sat there knowing that I wasn't contracting very hard and wondering how long we were going to be stuck there. I wondered how much it was going to suck to labor in a hospital room, without my own space. I wondered how far along I was and whether I'd get my drugs sooner or later. I wondered if I'd be able to sit still through the epidural, which was my biggest Labor Fear. (Well, RATIONAL labor fear. I had plenty of freaky irrational ones I won't bother to mention. We all do, yes?) 

Phillip was busy setting up the computer and emailing work and all that. I was just mad about having to be stuck in bed. I decided I didn't like my nurse - she obviously thought I was going to be there for a week, she was patronizing, she had no sense of humor, she was making me sit in this bed, she didn't like me, and I didn't like anyone. (Perhaps none of these things were true. I didn't care.) 

The next couple of contractions felt a lot stronger and Linda, who was monitoring the contraction tape from the nurse desk came back to the room announcing she changed her mind, she was going to check me. And you guys, I was only at a 1. A ONE. I wanted to throw something. Not only was this going to take for absolutely ever, I was going to have to get pitocin and be miserable in a hospital room for hours on end and SUCK SUCK SUCK. Linda tried to be encouraging about my effacement (70%) ("Effacement never gets credit on TV and in the movies!" she claimed) but all I could think about was ONE and how far away it was from TEN. 

We agreed that I would be monitored about a half hour longer, then she'd let me get up and walk around. I wasn't super uncomfortable in the bed, but I knew I WOULD be, at some point. I'm not sure if I was a half hour longer or not, maybe she even let me get up then? 

At some point I was let out of bed jail. (Maybe this was after she checked me? I know you don't care, but timing IS important and it bugs me that I can't remember this. I should ask Phillip.) Linda put me in a robe and gave me some super sexy green socks and told me I could walk around or get in the tub or take a shower or whatever I wanted. I elected to stay in the room near a ledge I could lean on, to rock through the contractions. I wanted the news on in the background, because I'm a background noise kind of person. I found the tub intriguing, but sitting sounded horrible. So we just stood around waiting for things to happen. The contractions were stronger, but I still felt like I had DAYS to go.

The first couple contractions were familiar. It felt like Jack and Molly. Not too hard, but I had to stop and lean over and breathe. I could do those, easy peasy. Phillip was emailing away, since of course he wasn't ready to leave work yet. We had to email the friend who was getting married on Saturday, to tell her we wouldn't be able to perform the eucharistic minister duties. I thought about my friend who thought she was also headed to the hospital that night and how totally random it was that I was there too. I scrolled through Twitter. I emailed some friends in between contractions. I thought about how integral the laptop was with Jack and Molly, but how I had a fancy phone this time. P.S. No one updates Twitter at 1am PST. Aggravating.

Okay, so what I think was going on was: the nurse was going to come back in two hours to check me. At that point the two hours just sounded long, painful, and dull. Stuck in the hospital room, blah blah blah. And I believed her because I WAS ONLY AT A ONE. How discouraging (even though she'd tried SO hard not to discourage me. Perhaps I was beginning to appreciate my nurse.) 

Blah blah blah contractions and then... ouch. The next contractions were much harder. I was rocking through them. I felt like I could do it. I was in control. This felt familiar. I knew what to do. I did feel a little worried, because now I was looking at two hours of HARDER contractions and then, if I was at a 4 when she came back in two hours, at which point I would be allowed my epidural, who knew how long I'd have to wait for the drugs? I was a little worried, but remembered my other labors had taken forever and I'd waited a long time through those and I could do it. I was stronger than I gave myself credit for. I reminded myself of how I wasn't allowed to keep turning up my epidural during Jack's birth, and how I felt the entire pushing part and I survived and if I could do THAT I could do THIS.

But they kept getting harder. They also felt longer than I remembered. I started feeling totally out of breath after each one, like it took me longer to recover from each contraction and prepare for the next one, and perhaps the time in between each contraction was getting shorter too. I'd never matched the "right" contraction pattern before and I wondered if I was going to do it this time. I got even more worried about the next two hours because for me, it felt like only five minutes had gone by. I wasn't sure if I could keep doing THIS for two hours. Seriously, every contraction left me panting and heaving and whimpering and then another one would roll over me before I felt "recovered" and ready to cope.

They got harder. And deeper and weirder and I started to feel like these were nothing I'd experienced before. Rocking was no longer enough and with each contraction I'd try to find a new way to cope. The pain was radiating through my back and while it felt good for Phillip to rub the small of my back in between each contraction, I HATED having him touch me during one. I think he mentioned the jacuzzi but again, the thought of sitting down sounded awful. 

Pretty soon I was making really unattractive noises. Well, at first I felt they were acceptable. I WAS in labor after all. But with each contraction I sounded more and more like a cracked out banshee. I was AWARE and EMBARRASSED by it, but making the noise really helped me deal. I wondered who could hear me. I wondered if the nurse could hear me and if she'd come back. She was going to come back, right? 

Phillip, at this point, I think, was saying, "I should call the nurse back" and I was saying, "No, I don't want her to check me and find out I'm only a two. It hasn't even been _______ minutes." Because I was thinking two hours was our threshold and I am a People Pleaser and a Rule Follower and I did not want to be that evening's labor and delivery drama queen. 

But ohhh it got harder. They felt stronger, faster, longer. The noises I was making were REALLY embarrassing now, though embarrassment left me the minute the pain hit and it was all I could do to really hang on and get through. I rocked, but I also crouched down, I smacked the ledge I was holding onto, I tried really hard not to swear because I'm really NOT a swear-er and I didn't want the entire hallway to hear BUT GOSH I WANTED TO. And in between - oh God - I would cry. I'd never cried during labor before. And I don't feel like I was crying because of the pain, I felt like I was crying because I was so overwhelmed. I kept saying I was scared - another thing I found embarrassing in the moment, but couldn't keep to myself. This was... like, I think I KNEW it was different and sort of insane, but I was also trying to follow the rules and and remember that I wasn't the professional and people knew what they were doing. After two fortyish hour labors, how could I possibly be going this fast? Maybe I was remembering it wrong. Maybe it WAS this hard before. Maybe I was a bigger wimp this time. Maybe I was less prepared somehow. Maybe I was giving up already. I started to really be disappointed with myself which honestly made it worse. Gah! 

I'd also started to say, "I can't do this anymore." I don't think I said that during my previous labors either. I know for sure I'd said things like, "I don't know much LONGER I can do this," but I'd never come to a point where I felt like I couldn't do it right THEN. Even when I was having to sit and be still through the epidurals, I felt like I only needed to center myself for a few minutes, eyes on the prize, and I could get through it. This? I could not keep doing this. Not for two hours. And there was no way in hell I was going to be able to sit still through an epidural at this point. 

Not that I considered NOT getting the epidural. Had the drugs been available I would have shot up my own spine at that point. 

One thing - when I started to say "I can't do this anymore" or "I'm scared" and cry... Phillip would totally contradict me and encourage the absolute crap out of me. And even though I knew it was only WORDS and that that was his ROLE, it was a BIG DEAL to hear it. (Words of affirmation!) In fact, I sort of felt ALLOWED to cry because I wasn't the only one available to be strong for me, if that makes sense. I could allow myself a moment of weakness because Phillip was there to pick up my slack. 

He would also talk about the GOAL, the BABY, our new EMMA, and this was encouraging too. 

Unbeknownst to me, he'd called the nurse (who happened to be on her way, since she did hear me all the way down at the nurse station.) He thought I should be checked. I was against it, afraid of being discouraged. She said it was up to me. She offered the jacuzzi again and again I said No Way In Hell Am I Sitting Down. The nurse didn't want to tell me what to do (perhaps I was growing to love her) and Phillip knew better than to tell me what to do. So they watched me/helped me through a few more mind-bending contractions, complete with what was now full on screaming (the nurse coached me go to lower and guttural) and sudden new sharp twisty sensations, and finally Linda said she thought she should check me, but I had to get on the bed. 

No, I was not getting on the bed. Why did they not believe me about this? NO BED.

She said she would try to check me standing up, but that it probably wouldn't work. It didn't. The only reason I got on that bed was because I felt pretty sure I was farther than a two.

I was seven cm. It was, I believe, about forty-five minutes past the point where she told me she'd leave me for two hours. 

I heard her mention something to someone about the epidural and for a split second I was all, "THANK YOU JESUS!" Then I remembered what it would take to GET the epidural. Then I stopped thinking about anything because the next contraction was washing over me and NOW I thought I was going to die. I heard Phillip asking how long it would take for the epidural to get there. He'd asked several times about the epidural when we arrived and I'd been jokily annoyed, because it was clear he wanted to nap and an epidural was going to be how he got a nap. Now I didn't even hear the answer. I seriously... I feel like I remember everything in between the contractions clearly and rationally. But during the contractions I started to sort of lose my mind. For some reason I was now HANGING on Phillip. Like I had my arms around his neck, but then during a contraction I would sink down onto his forearms and turn into Primal Shrieking Cave Lady and he would somehow hold me up. (Tangent: I weigh a lot. No really. A LOT.)

This is when I remember the pain being so intense that I sort of left my body. I don't really remember what it felt like or how hard it was, but it was of a completely different quality than the earlier contractions that I could just rock and breathe through. It was worse, obviously, and somehow... sharper? Anyway, for a split second I really felt like I left my senses because it was the only way to cope. And when the contraction was over it didn't really feel over, the pressure was too much and it occurred to me that if I reached down I might be able to feel the top of a baby head...

And THAT my friends is when I realized I would probably not be getting an epidural. Can you say: DENIAL!?!?

When I WAS in my right mind I was thinking about how, when I was pushing out Jack, it wasn't the PAIN that consumed me but the PRESSURE. I would have sworn I had a watermelon in my pelvis and I was going to split in half. This time I felt pressure, but it was the contraction itself that hammered me. I had two or three of those sorts of contractions and I'm pretty sure I was pushing because, obvs, I couldn't NOT push. And I hadn't exactly told Phillip or my nurse, still the only people in the room with me, that I was pushing. Although they probably realized it, due to my extreme unladylike postures and sounds. The only only thought in my head was getting this over with, and I was aware enough to know that the only way to do that was to push and DAMMIT I WAS DOING IT. 

Someone - me? the nurse? - shouted that the baby was coming out and then I started to hear talk about getting back on the bed and I was all HA HA HA I AM NOT GOING ANYWHERE NEAR THAT EFFING BED and still! They would not shut up about the bed! You guys, I was perfectly confident in my ability to catch my own baby simply because I didn't see another way around it. I was contracting and pushing and could barely hear them over my own voice and seriously, not a thought in the world than MAKE THIS STOP. I knew the baby was crowning (and for the record, I have no memory of feeling "the ring of fire", only pressure and contractions) and even though I was totally out of it, I also realized I was near the end - an incredibly helpful piece of information!

They were still talking to each other about needing me on the bed - which I was ignoring - then finally, in my ear, I heard Phillip say (and he did not like it when I described it thusly to a friend this afternoon): MAGGIE. YOU NEED TO GET IN THE BED. in the tone of voice he uses when he's lecturing me, ie: changing my passwords. Getting my wisdom teeth taken out. Drinking fluids when I have the stomach flu. I HATE his I'm-acting-like-your-father lecturey voice and this was, like, nine bazillion Stern Phillips in my ear. And something clicked in my brain, outside of the physical, that told me: Maggie, you need to get in the bed

So I did, and I pretty much thought that might kill me right there. Even though, I think, the head was out. I think Phillip told me that the nurse was holding the baby IN, due to (I find this out later) her not being able to deliver a baby with me standing up. Later she said if the doctor had been there that would have been fine, but SHE could not do it. Anyway, that was the one other time that I sort of remember leaving my body and having this extremely "rational" thought. It went something like this: If nothing else, lying down in this bed and pushing IS going to kill you. You WILL die if you don't get this baby out. So let's calm down, collect every molecule of strength, and push like you have never ever pushed before. 

So that's what I did. I honestly remember taking one second to brush everything out of my mind, alert all my muscles and push like my entire life depended on it. And THANK GOD the baby was born. 

And that? Was fifteen minutes after Linda said I was at a seven. 

I'm not TRYING to be super dramatic and I'm well aware that enough of us have had our own dramatic births, but dear God this was mine and I was shell shocked afterwards and everything I've written has been without any Emphasizing For Dramatic Effect. It's exactly how I remember it. 

The confusing part is how long everything took. I, understandably, was not really aware of the clock and what time it was when the baby was born and all that. I THOUGHT it was three something and so I had a vague understanding that I'd been in labor for all of three hours. I thought this was the case until the official birth time was 2:42 am and my nurse proudly stuck a note to my wall that said "I was in labor for two hours and twelve minutes!" 

A few hours after sticking that note above my head (and me tweeting it to the world, because By God I was going to get some credit for this) she came back in and said that the time on the computer records and the time on the contraction monitor tape were different and she'd done some calculating and changed the birth time to 3:42, meaning three hours and twelve minutes of labor. 

To me, three hours, two hours, it's still the same amount of hurt, but Phillip adamantly believes Emma was born at TWO something and has added up all our minutes and hours several times and stands firm at 2:42 am. I don't remember enough solid details to be sure either way (and honestly, I'm going with the nurses on this one. And yes, it's super weird to me that this was an issue in the first place. It is true, though, that the only people in the room were desperately trying to deliver a baby, not paying attention to time, and the other nurses and the doctor didn't show up until after the show was over.) 

So the baby was out and as it happens there are some complications with babies born so quickly, but I was not aware of this. I was sprawled on the bed, relieved that the contractions had disappeared, but so dazed and out of it that I didn't realize they hadn't given me the baby right away. I kept trying to focus and I kept losing it. People kept talking to me and I kept answering without really hearing what I was saying. I was waiting to feel like Superwoman, waiting for the spectacular amazing incredible high I'd experienced after having Jack, with my half-epidural, but instead I felt wrecked, exhausted, barely there. 

Aaaand, I think that's enough for now. That's how she showed up. I'll save the self-indulgent, probably unnecessary, internal reflective processy stuff for next time. Which is what I originally wanted to write about in the first place, but all of this had to come first. 


Explosions and meltdowns

Early this morning I was actually asleep when our whole house, which is large and solid and LARGE, started to shake, the shower doors rattled and clattered, and then it was still. Phillip was all, "What was THAT?!" and I was just barely coherent enough to think, "Earthquake." Since it was only a few violent seconds and we'd been up all night with a gorgeous yet hungry baby, we immediately fell back asleep. Except then we started hearing sirens and helicopters and it occurred to us that the shaking was maybe not an earthquake. 

Turns out there was a natural gas explosion in my neighborhood, a boom that was felt surprisingly far away according to the local news. A house burned to the ground, the neighboring houses were evacuated, and we've seen crews and utility trucks on every street. My husband also just informed me that he received an automated phone call this morning warning gas customers that crews were now inspecting neighboring houses and had already found three more leaks - so be careful! If you smell gas, get out! Good luck with that!

This totally made my day. Which had ALREADY been made, a little bit later in the morning, when I had a total mental meltdown over 1) all these NOISY PEOPLE IN MY HOUSE and 2) the horror that is Beginning Breastfeeding. 

It's not like I expected it to feel GOOD, right? And I successfully breastfed two other kids; the second one was even a total piece of cake from day one. I remember it hurting in the beginning, but I also remember near immediate improvement. This time it feels worse with each feeding. I checked her latch with the lactation consultants before we left the hospital, just wanting to confirm my own opinion. (Was confirmed.) I felt confident that I knew what to do and how to position her and what the right latch looked and felt like. But even when I had all these things in place it was So. Incredibly. Painful. I expected to wince when she latched, but I was doing Labor Breathing and Labor Noises when she latched, and wincing and tensing and gasping with each suck. NOT OKAY. 

I was feeding her in the living room because at that moment, Phillip and the kids were in the bedroom. But then everyone migrated to the living room and not only was the local news blaring the house fire drama, I had Jack singing at the top of his lungs in gibberish and Molly climbing on me and asking for something to eat and Phillip... Phillip was somewhere, I guess, but I was mad because he wanted to call into a work meeting at the exact hour we had to do preschool pick ups and lunches and HELLO I JUST GAVE BIRTH THREE DAYS AGO, I SHOULD BE SITTING ON SATIN PILLOWS AND DRINKING ORANGE DREAM MACHINES AND WEEEEEEEP. 

I'd got up early because the explosion jolted me awake. I'd made the snacks/lunches, pulled out school clothes and got the kids washed and dressed, I fed them breakfast, I changed the baby and now I was feeding her and I wanted every single other person in the world to drop off a cliff somewhere. HORMONAL MUCH?

So I did what any other blogger would do and turned to Twitter. I only meant to vent, but it turns out people had advice. And usually, I won't lie, I hate advice. I'm sorry. I really only want you to say, "OMG THAT SUCKS" and volunteer to kick some shins or whatever. But Twitter, you were SO WONDERFUL. You reminded me about nipple shields and gel pads and lansinoh and things I KNEW but could not REMEMBER in the moment. You told me that nipple shields do not kill babies and that I need a breastfeeding break even in the first week and formula is not the devil's drink and I needed to hear all of these things. Phillip and I decided to pick up the license plates for the new car while the kids were in preschool and do you know what is very near the car dealership? The giant baby box store. 

So I stood in the breastfeeding aisles for God knows how long and I spent a fortune on breastfeeding survival supplies. I came home, slapped on a shield, and fed my kid without wanting to overdose on the Percocet. My mood, it did a complete 180. I am now Optimistic and Halfway Confident and No Longer Cowering In Fear Of The Next Feeding. So thank you, good women of the internet. God help the next person who says some smartass "who CARES, what's it FOR" comment about Twitter in my presence. 

And I just want to say... this is HARD WORK. This is REALLY REALLY HARD. First you have to push an entire human being out of your nether regions, then you are subjected to cramping and bleeding and soreness, THEN you are expected to feed your child with the one tender part of your body that WASN'T ravaged in the birth, all on little to no sleep. I mean, it's normal and Just Life and totally stuff that I am happy and proud to do as my baby's mother, but let's not forget that it is also HARD. 

Did I tell you about how Phillip kept looking at his ear in the mirror at the hospital? While I was in labor? Because it sort of hurt and he couldn't tell WHY it hurt? And it was really bugging him? WHILE I WAS IN LABOR? 

I will also tell you that he stopped that fairly quick and was an all around Expectant Dad Rock Star that night. Well, I will tell you that if I ever get around to posting the birth story. Um, tomorrowish? I know you are all on tenterhooks, (well, in my imagination you are), but you try telling a 3-day-old, "I can't feed you right now, I'm too busy telling the internet about your hellish entry into the world."


Outnumbered

Gak.

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Emma Jane Cheung arrived two weeks early and rather insistently on Friday, September 23rd, at 3:42 am. 7 pounds 2 ounces, 19.5 inches. 

Photo (14)

Photo (15)

You KNOW I am already writing down her birth story, so stay tuned. 

Photo (16)

And I have NO CLUE where that little cleft chin came from. (We can rule out the milkman.)

 


Eleven years later

So, love languages. I just took the quiz, for kicks, even though mine is bleeding obvious: "words of affirmation". But I was also reminded of how much "acts of service" mean to me. Especially now, when we're so close to having a baby and I haven't done things like, uh, make dinner, in weeks. 

"Physical touch", which I guarantee is Phillip's primary language, is dead last for me. I'M SORRY, PHILLIP. 

I'm reminded of this because Phillip and I have been talking about this Unbloggable Thing for a few months now, a sort of sticky situation that neither of us are quite sure how to navigate. However, I am always - ALWAYS - at peace and reassured and totally fine with everything when Phillip actually speaks the words, "I will put you first." 

This has been true ever since I've met him. He's someone who does a lot of Helping Other People and there are often these obligations to others where I'm like: WHAT ABOUT ME? In college it was about the freshmen in his bible study. Now it's work and work people and even sometimes Phillip gets really caught up in wanting to help a relative or close friend and I'm silently fuming, all: WHY ISN'T HE LIKE THIS WITH ME? 

He is, of course. In a different way, since everything about me strongly affects HIM, and for a 9 on the enneagram he tends to "merge" with me (oh wow am I font of personality typing today)... anyway, it makes a world of difference for me when he's able to articulate it and speak it out loud. "You. Come. First." 

Other phrases that mean the world: "I appreciate you." "I know you do a good job." "I know you work hard." "You're a great mom." "I like you best." "Why would I want to hang out at happy hour with all my awesome work people when I can stay home with my hugely pregnant cranky wife and watch bad television?" 

Acts of service... who doesn't like those? I think, for me, acts of service is about someone recognizing a need without me having to bring it up. There was a while a few weeks ago where I thought I might die of washing dishes. I wouldn't do them at night, then I'd be faced with this huge mess in the kitchen every morning which, believe it or not, would ruin my entire day. Like I would just feel overwhelmed from the get go, conquered the minute I got out of bed. Then Phillip started helping with the dishes a little more and OH WOW I haven't had a morning like that in a while. 

I've tried to make a greater effort - okay, not necessarily NOW, when I'm weeks away from giving birth and sort of mad at the entire world - to respond to Phillip's love language. Which is HARD. I mean, I'm a pretty touchy huggy person, but it's not the first way I think of to take care of someone. Probably because that's not what I want when I'm not doing well. But all Phillip really wants is a massage. Seriously. Sometimes I think how much easier life would be if I just mentally scheduled a shoulder massage after dinner several times a week. I even remember the first time I finished rubbing his shoulders - because my fingers were ACHING - and Phillip turning around and saying, "I feel LOVED!" 

I tell myself this is as legitimate as needing to hear that I am appreciated on a regular basis. Even though it's obviously not. I mean, a MASSAGE? Really? Can I just tell you how many times the LAST thing I want is for someone to grind their fingers into my shoulders? STAY AWAY FROM ME. 

But none of the love languages are rated higher than the others. Sigh. 

I don't think we had any clue about these things when we got married. I've been reading that VirtuousPla.net website and it's actually starting to irritate me. There's a lot of dating/marriage stuff written by people who are dating/barely married. Not that that means those posts aren't weighty or worthy or anything, but I'm just highly annoyed by how churchy they are. And I thought Phillip and I were churchy! All this stuff about preparing for marriage and asking the right questions and hard core grounding in the faith and all that - GOOD STUFF. I do not deny it. They are smarter and wiser than me. 

But Phillip and I were two stupidheads who happened to be super serious about dating (as in, we considered the idea of breaking up and then having to find someone else a giant undesirable bummer). I met him at 19, I started dating him at 21, we got married when I was 23. I was the only person I knew who felt I wasn't old enough. But it wasn't about age it was about... well, I just knew I didn't KNOW anything yet. Who WERE we? I mean, I knew he liked massages, but come on, we were Churchy Waiting-For-Marriage Kids and that's all he was getting YOU KNOW? And man, do you know how long it took me to realize that I just needed him to say, "YOU COME FIRST"? Yeeeeeeeeears.

By the grace of God we've figured this stuff out. We fight and fight and fight. We know we're stuck with each other so we HAVE to figure it out EVENTUALLY. Believe me, eight years ago this Unbloggable Sticky Situation would have been a much much MUCH bigger deal. And now it's... hard, but talkable. Awkward but both sides are infused with major understanding of how the other one works, and why the other one is taking that stance. We didn't know this crap eight years ago. I wonder what crap we don't know right NOW.

I have to say, I spent absolutely no time discerning if marriage was my vocation. Well, I HAD prayed about dating Phillip for an embarrassing amoutn of time, but it didn't occur to me that we might actually get married. Honest. That was so... unfathomable. And then it happened. And we had a million things to learn about each other. We probably have a billion more.

Last night Phillip's phone beeped before we went to bed. He pulled it out and looked at his calendar and looky there - guess who has "anniversary of dating maggie" on his PHONE. Who has not mentioned the day since, oh, it happened? To be fair, I had no idea. So not on my radar. But I remember it: talking the night before he left for a four-week trip to China, to overlap with my two-month trip to Europe. He'd waited till the last minute (TYPICAL PHILLIP) and still didn't want to make a decision (TYPICAL PHILLIP) and we said we'd talk about it again when I got home.

Then he picked me up at the airport, with flowers he left in the car because he was embarrassed (no longer typical Phillip) and I made him walk around the lake at midnight and talk talk talk because I couldn't stand the idea of not being around him.  

That's all I really needed to know, you know. That everything was lacking without him. Well, that and he'd always put me first (possibly dependent on massage frequency. But I can work with that.) 


About to go to bed at eight

This is the most uncomfortable day I've had yet. PERHAPS it is due to the fact that I POSSIBLY overdid it yesterday - painting, errand-running, no nap. I mean, I have sore muscles. I can't remember the last time I had sore muscles. I meant to finish painting my kitchen while the kids were in preschool, but I ended up on the couch watching The New Girl and reading Faithful Place. (I have to give both of these a thumbs up, which is somewhat surprising re: the TV show and obvious re: the book.) 

Anyway, absolutely everything hurt, and then I realized I was having BH contractions as well (I THINK, I'm still not super sure about those suckers) and then I allowed myself a few minutes to hope that maybe things were, you know, PROGRESSING. But no. I'm just Hugely Pregnant But Not ENOUGH Pregnant. So I'm sorry, I know I'm whining about this a lot suddenly. I did try to put most of my whining over at Parenting today, but it appears I still had a little bit saved up for this spot. Oops! 

I also feel like pregnancy is maybe clouding my perspective and judgment on things. It's weird, you know, because I FEEL LIKE ME. Except for my intense anxiety while pregnant with Molly, I've never considered myself to be super affected by pregnancy hormones. (And at the time I wouldn't have blamed the anxiety on hormones either.) I don't get super weepy or ragey or any of the stereotypical things I hear/read about. But I'm now wondering if... well, it's either pregnancy-related stupidness/unawareness or just the fact that maybe I think I'm only suffering from the physicalness of it and not the psychologicalness... oh wow, I don't even know if that makes sense. But I still feel like I can DO anything. 

FOR EXAMPLE: stand on a ladder to paint my freakishly tall walls. It's like I know I probably shouldn't do this? But I am doing it anyway, because I can, and I'm not THAT unbalanced, right? It took some imagining of what FIL would say, plus a bit of worry from my mother to make me realize that, um, yeah, won't be doing that anymore. (Sorry Phillip, I still have a couple high spots left.) 

FOR EXAMPLE: intense stress and feelings of failure when I skip out on the coffee and pastries Molly's preschool kindly put out for the moms in order to foster some socializing. I mean, not that this is my thing anyway, but I REALLY DO want to get to know some of the other moms and it's not like I had anything else to do. (See: on my couch for three hours.) So here I am giving myself a really hard time for not Trying and then I remember: 8.5 months pregnant. Why WOULDN'T I prefer my couch?

FOR EXAMPLE: feeling totally overwhelmed when a handful of other parents are standing around waiting to pick up their kids from J's preschool and talking about how unimpressed they are with the teacher and the stuff their kids are bringing home. And I know it's totally obnoxious to say this about preschool, but I'm of the same mind. That said, I don't really feel like doing anything about it, and Jack seems very happy, and because of that I should probably just quit comparing this preschool to last year's. Done and done. But these other parents are, like, PLOTTING, and should I be more concerned? Should I be doing something? Am I a terrible parent because I am thinking we will just skate by for now? Then I remember: VERY PREGNANT. Please to give myself a break. 

What's sad is that this is probably a Very Good Lesson for me, but I will have a new baby soon-ish and I won't remember. I might go through a spate of For Goodness' Sake, You Have A New Baby, You Cannot Be Expected To Run Three Miles Immediately sort of lessons, but chances are I won't take those to heart either. Bleargh. 

 


I am the boss of me

I feel sick tonight (sick does not equal labor UNFORTCH) so Phillip offered to make the kids lunch/snack for tomorrow. So I go off to be sick (SORRY) and when I come back Phillip is still sort of standing uncertainly in the kitchen having no idea what to put in those overpriced lunch boxes. So then I'm hunting around in our [super empty] fridge and our [full of carbs and HFCS] pantry, pulling this out and that out and saying, "Molly won't eat sandwiches" and "Jack doesn't mind apple peel" and later Phillip says, "Thanks for doing that because, uh, I HAD NO IDEA."

I felt like such a mom right then. SUCH A MOM. 

This is why I'm in awe of working moms because God knows THEIR husbands don't know how to make lunches either (right? Unless they've been trained?) and they have to make lunch AND earn money. While I just get to sit here and feel sick. 

I don't know, I guess I'm not really in the SAHMs are SUPERHEROES! camp. I mean, a lot of us are, no doubt. But me? I know I've said this a dozen times now, but I am getting away with MURDER. Phillip has to deal with all manner of worky things I cannot stand, while I get to wear my pajamas as long as I like, decide whether to go to Target or the park or the library, never answer the phone, nap in the afternoons, and bake cakes whenever I feel like it. I can up and paint the kitchen if that's how I feel. Like, uh, today. (AM PAINTING AGAIN. CANNOT HELP MYSELF.) I DO have a boss and he is four years old (his VP is three and just mimics his every move, she's easily managed) but on occasion I find the energy to exert myself and shout, "YOU ARE NOT THE BOSS OF ME, FOUR-YEAR-OLD!" and send him to his room. And when does a working person get to send their boss to his room? NEVER! 

Am I giving SAHMs a bad name? It definitely has its sucky moments, I'll tell you that. Like Phillip is scheduled up with fancy work dinner after fancy work dinner this week and SURE maybe I TOO would like a fancy work dinner once in a while that didn't involve chicken nuggets or SURE maybe I TOO would like to go out with my fun coworker people while someone ELSE fed the beasties their chicken nuggets. And there's that whole personal matter of struggling with Self Worth and No Paycheck To Prove I Am Not A Total Drain On Society. But eh! I manage to get over that pretty easily. 

Today we hung around until the library opened. Then we went to the library where I picked up the next Tana French book, we colored, we played with the felt board, then we ran outside to the playground and met new friends. Me, even! I keep meeting these moms of preschoolers who, five minutes into the conversation, reveal they also have MIDDLE SCHOOLERS and then I am disappointed because OBVS they are past the wanting to have a playdate mom friend stage. But whatever, it was still fun and then I painted half my kitchen and convinced the kids to eat omelettes for dinner and YEAH! I mean, if it wasn't for the feeling sick part (NOT LABOR, BOO) I'd be all I ROCKED THIS SAHM DAY, INTERNET! Time to lounge in front of some crappy television, yes?

Speaking of, I have availed myself of several Television Premieres and I am Not Impressed. I am waiting for The Good Wife, which I suppose will tide me over nicely until Mad Men comes back. I'm TiFauxing that Zooey Deschanel show, but I'm not sure if I want to love it or hate it. THOUGHTS? 


Itemized

Things That Are Going Well-Ish:

1. Potty training. There are still accidents, some traumatic moments, and I don't trust her to tell her teachers at preschool, but over the last handful of weeks, things seemed signficantly easier. I kept hoping for a generally positive trend and I think we're on one at last. 

2. Pregnancy weight gain. When I tell you I have *only* gained 44 pounds you will not be impressed, but this is a whole 18 pounds less than I gained with Molly. So I say: HURRAY FOR ME. I mean, I still have three weeks to go, but even I am doubtful of my ability to gain 18 pounds in three weeks. 

3. Preschool for the kids. So far so good. Everyone's happy. No one appears to like the snacks/lunches I pack, but for some reason it's a lot less antagonizing to open a lunch box and see that someone hasn't eaten, as opposed to sitting there watching them not eat. I still think Jack's preschool last year is way cooler than either of the preschools we're in now, but C'EST LA VIE. 

4. No more grad school. I am trying really really hard to NOTICE the not-grad-school-ness of our life right now. I want to appreciate it as long as I can! Every once in a while I remind myself that Phillip was never home on Saturdays, just so I can appreciate it MORE. 

5. Family stuff. My brother got engaged! Is it okay to be totally jealous of my SIL-to-be's ring? Because I am. Well done, Brother Of Mine. I still don't get what this awesome chick sees in you, but eh! We all win!

Things That Are Going Not So Well-Ish:

1. Tired. I am still SO TIRED. I am guessing I am still anemic. I am also 37 weeks. At this point I just feel entitled to naps and turning on a movie for the kids when I can't deal and entire mornings when I cannot get going. 

2. Preschool for ME. Speaking of tired, these preschool mornings are murder. We aren't waking up any earlier, but I have to get everyone MOVING a lot earlier and every preschool morning we just barely make it out of the house in time. And I thought we would be walking to school! HA! I'm pretty much a basic training instructor until we drop off Jack, but then I have 45 minutes until I have to drop off Molly. So we've been going to coffee shops, which sounds nice, but I am SO TIRED. And then I have three hours which also sounds nice, but I've been running errands in those three hours and then I have to pick up Jack at noon, eat lunch with him, and pick up Molly at one. Today I was all, "WHY DID I NOT PUT THEM IN THE SAME CLASS???" And I had to tell myself, "1) because you wanted to separate them and 2) you wanted to check out the Catholic school" but MAN do those reasons sound REALLY STUPID right now. Then I'm going to have a third baby and I will NEVER SHOWER AGAIN.

3. The Internet. I have nothing to say here that isn't whiny and/or repetitive (SORRY). Twitter is full of Blathering tweets that make me mopey. Parenting switched commenting systems so now everything must be done via Facebook and I'm sure you know how I feel about THAT. 

4. Making decisions about schools. I have SOME time but not a LOT of time. I think the solution to this is to stop hanging out with other moms of preschoolers because this is ALL WE TALK ABOUT. Catholic school, public school, switching parishes, proximity, buses, class sizes, INSTA-HIVES.

Things That Have Made Me Feel Better About Life In General:

1. I got a haircut. It's short again. Maybe too short. Also I have Pregnant Face and Pregnant Neck and perhaps it was not so wise to go super short. HOWEVER. I can leave the house without feeling like I require the use of a flat iron, volumizer, and pins for my godawful bangs. 

2. Thanks to friends who give gift certificates, I got a pedicure at the fancy pedicure place. It was lovely.

3. My car. I don't care what you say, I AM IN LOVE WITH MY VAAAAAANNNNNN.

4. The pair of maternity leggings I bought six months ago that I can still wear without wanting to die. Someone on Project Runway said leggings were over. I DON'T CARE.

5. When Jack told me that God lived on Mars and all the planets go around the sun, except the sun goes around Mars, because that's where God lives, and God WOULD live on the sun, but it's too hot and he'd get burned. And you KNOW I didn't correct him. 


Actual Real Life Dilemma That I Do Not Think I Am Blowing Out Of Proportion For Once

Here's something I learned in the last year - last fall, to be precise: my body will turn on me, in the form of anxiety, EVEN IF I am 1) eating well and exercising as regularly as I can manage 2) not experiencing any larger-than-average outside stressors 3) everything is going well in my family life 4) everything is going well in the REST of my life. Even when I am at the height of my healthy game, even after training myself to notice and manage/conquer anxiety triggers, even when there is really nothing going on that would naturally make me anxious I WILL GET ANXIOUS. Especially in the fall. Huh!

This is why I decided, after eight years of doing it on my own, to bypass the stigma and the sense of failure, and go straight to the meds. And AMEN. And once I got pregnant? After two pregnancies that verified my own personal health fact that I will be nuttier during pregnancy than at any point in the six months after I give birth? MORE PILLS, PLEASE. To hell with stigma; the difference between my raving, loonypants, irrational fears Molly pregnancy and this simply-physically-uncomfortable pregnancy is HUGE.

But now I am trying to figure out if I should wean myself off of them before/around-ish Third Baby's birth. WHAT DO YOU THINK? 

I've been fine taking them during pregnancy because 1) my doctor says it's fine and 2) I know I'd be a mess. I am LESS fine with taking them while breastfeeding because 1) people generally seem to frown on that and 2) I'm pretty sure I WOULDN'T be a mess. The last two times I had a kid was an Instant Anxiety Fix, I'm not exaggerating at all. With Jack it stayed away for a good six months, with Molly it was two YEARS (I think because I was running. Just a theory.) 

I wouldn't worry about the breastfeeding thing. I'd be fairly confident in my hormones for a while. I also think I would have an easier time losing weight/not eating everything in sight if I weren't on meds. (Shallow? Perhaps.) I could see how long it takes this time to revert to, uh, normal. And if I felt anxious again there is no doubt I would go racing back for a prescription, because I am OVER doing this on my own OVER OVER OVER. 

My fear with that is ... things are fine right NOW. I've read a lot of stories where people have a hard time going back on the meds (and to be honest, the whole first month or two BLOWS) and sometimes the original one doesn't work and blah blah blah. I know that even if I keep doing what I'm doing there's still the possibility that I will need to change it up, but it actually feels pretty frightening to start all over again. And I am pretty sure I will need to do that at some point. 

I could, perhaps, just decrease my dosage after the baby is born. I did increase it just a bit when I got pregnant (because I am from Opposite Land, where the post-partum insanity happens WHILE pregnant.) I suppose a missing piece of information is: how much WOULD it affect the baby? I am loathe to google this. I have a doctor appointment tomorrow, will ask then.

If I had good reason to think I would be anxious after giving birth I would happily - CHEERFULLY! - put this kid on formula and go on taking my meds. I have no issues with formula, other than it being Not Free and also Bottle Washing Sucks. Breastfeeding, even though I never really grew to love it, REALLY worked for my lazy butt. And it IS better for the baby and YES I want to do what is best for my baby, but what is REALLY best for my baby is to not be CRAZY. 

Right now I'm leaning towards going off the meds and Seeing What Happens. But I am not feeling particularly brave about it. I am pretty intimidated by the day, even if it is two years out, when I will be anxious again and have to go through this whole rigamarole again. I would love to know if you've found yourself in a similarish position and what you decided. Aaaaand GO!