Project Baby Cheung

The birth story. Sort of.

Sublime? Hmm. I should have spent more time thinking before I wrote that completely barf-worthy paragraph the other day. How can something involving hospital gowns and stitches and, uh, all that fluid be sublime?

I read Moxie's post on what constitutes a good birth a dozen times before I got pregnant and another three dozen times after I got pregnant. My biggest fear was (is) post-partum craziness and after a while I decided that I would "plan" my pregnancy and birth and parenting style around whatever would prevent anxiety. Hee, you are thinking. THAT is HILARIOUS. I know! But all that really means is that I decided not to plan. I smiled when friends gave me books about pregnancy and then barely looked at them. I declined all the genetic testing. I read up on the side effects of epidurals and counted up the number of friends who told me I was crazy if I didn't get one. I did not write up a birth plan. I found a doctor and hospital I liked, went to a one day childbirth class and read an excellent book about labor and delivery about a week before the baby arrived. In the meantime I ate ice cream and watched TV and obsessed over diaper bags. (I bought this one by the way. *Love*. Seriously. Best bag ever.)

I know some people think women need to fully educate themselves about labor and not hand their births over to doctors who may see them simply as the screeching woman in room five and for the most part I agree. And I think I'm pretty educated. I have read every mommyblog on the internet. But I knew that too much information wasn't going to be good for me, the anxious control freak. I knew I couldn't do natural childbirth because 1) I am the Queen of Wuss and 2) it would require a lot more education, practice, determination and commitment than I was willing to give. I didn't want to commit or plan or decide on any one thing on the offchance I failed and set myself up for the kind of disappointment and guilt trip only a Type A overachiever eldest child can create for herself. The most important thing, by far, was to keep my anxiety to a minimum.

Anyway, birth was not a big deal to me. Except for the part about how much it hurts. That was a huge deal. I was not at all excited about feeling what it's like to have your lower lip pulled over your head. I figured as long as I got a healthy baby and a relatively intact body out of the deal, I'd be in good shape.

So that was my mindset when I started having contractions at 3:30 in the morning on Tuesday. I was pretty convinced this was nothing, just practice contractions because hello, this was my first baby and he was sure to be two weeks late. You know how all the books say "longer, stronger, closer together"? Well these were short, manageable and very close together. After a while they were longer, stronger and farther apart. Late Tuesday night we were keeping close track, but they weren't matching the go-to-the-hospital pattern, even though I was having to, you know, deal with these things. Who are these people telling you to get a pedicure and go to the movies in early labor? WHATEVER.

I stayed up all night watching crappy TV. I tried to sleep in between shots of stabbing pain, but because I had to leap up from the couch every time and go through my This Will Not Kill Me routine, sleeping was difficult. I whiled away the morning hours in the same way, watching Phillip work furiously on the laptop because he wasn't quite ready to leave for two weeks. I still wasn't sure it was the real thing, though. I'd been reading up on Jennifer, for one thing, she of the endless early labor misery, and the last thing I wanted was to show up at the hospital all eager new mom-like and be sent home. I had my last doctor appointment scheduled for that afternoon and Phillip made me go, even though I thought enduring a contraction in the car would make me positively insane.

The doctor said, "You're four centimeters already. You can go to the hospital now or stay at home a little longer, but you're having this baby tonight."

I didn't get it. These contractions were above and beyond the ones I was having even a few hours earlier, but they weren't closer together and they weren't getting longer. I didn't feel like I had lost my "social self" like the books said I would in active labor. I was still blogging! How could I already be four centimeters? So we went home and I threw a few more things in my hospital bag. We called our parents. We looked at each other nervously. Phillip did some more work.

A few hours later I was having contractions that were the same length, still about ten minutes apart but making me want to throw myself down the stairs. "I think," I announced to my husband, "that I would like the professionals to start taking care of me." We took five minutes to sit on the couch and ponder our last bit of coupleness, our last taste of doing-whatever-whenever-we-want-ness and then we were off. Phillip trying to remember how to get to the hospital, me praying I would not have a contraction in the car.

And I didn't!

Gosh this is getting long.

Once we got to the hospital everything got much more whirlwindy. Within the first half hour I was wearing the gown, strapped to the monitors, hooked up to an IV, a blood pressure cuff, fetal and pulse monitors and quickly growing loopy from the dose of narcotics the nurse had kindly dumped in the IV so I could sit still while they inserted the epidural catheter. "This," I thought to myself, "is why people do not want to have babies in the hospital." The epidural lady was scary, my nurse was pushing the drugs because she wanted me to sleep, the bed was already uncomfortable and the blood pressure cuff squeezed my arm off every fifteen minutes.

But the contractions didn't hurt anymore. After everyone left the room and I was under orders to get some rest, Phillip and I just stared at each other. We were going to have a BABY. I was already at 5-6 centimeters by the time we got to the hospital and unless the epidural slowed everything down, I was pretty sure I'd have a baby in my arms by morning. I couldn't sleep because of the stupid blood pressure cuff. We talked about how everything had gone as hoped: we'd stayed home as long as possible, we were well along our way dilation-wise, we had a room that faced the city instead of the boring hospital courtyard, we had yet to argue or freak out on each other. We were both done with work, we had time to pack our bags, we were totally prepared. I was starting to grow very fond of my nurse, who checked up on me frequently, and I think at that point we were both feeling incredibly thankful.

My nurse would come in every so often, cluck at the contraction monitor strip and say my contractions weren't getting closer. She laughed when Phillip asked if we might have the baby before midnight. Then she'd check me and every time I was further along than she thought. Sometime in the night we heard the woman next door start to scream and Phillip looked at the nurse nervously. "I thought she got an epidural too," he said. "Oh," she grinned, "let's just say that not all patients are like your wife." Which, you know. Totally made me feel like a labor and delivery ROCK STAR. I have to be a brown noser even when having a baby, people.

So we just waited. At one point the nurse came in and sat down and said, "Looks like you're ready to push!" And I was all, "Um, I don't think so." Because my doctor was not there. It was the middle of the night. I was quite happy just dozing off in between blood pressure readings. This was not how I pictured pushing. Phillip and I were all, "We cannot believe how easy this has been. Everything is going SO WELL!"
Of course, that's where things started to not go well, because suddenly our baby did not have a heartbeat. The nurse put on her Worried Look and started fussing with the monitors. I switched positions fifteen times. We could not get a consistent heart rate and when we did, it dropped dangerously low during contractions. The nurse went to page the doctor and left me there to obsess over the numbers. I finally made Phillip take my glasses away so I couldn't see the machine. (See? I need LESS information!) Finally the nurse brought out this scary ELECTRIC PROBE THING and said she was going to attach it to my baby's HEAD. And then? THAT DIDN'T WORK EITHER.

I don't know how long this took, but suddenly there were lots of people plus my doctor fidgeting in my room. Sometimes they had me push, sometimes they told me to hold back. My doctor hesitantly brought up the suction option, which I had to explain to Phillip was like putting a toilet plunger on the baby's head. They'd asked me long ago not to turn up the epidural anymore (turns out the contraction monitor wasn't working either and they needed me to "feel" them) and yowie, this was starting to get intense.

I thought of pushing as two things: either the crazy intense horribly painful experience I'd read about in countless natural birth stories, or my friend N's epiduralized pushing, which was more like calmly giving a good push every time she finished a chapter in a very engaging book. Phillip and I had watched N's birth video (not by choice, my God, we were so not interested in seeing that) and the pushing looked like a breeze. Seriously. She could have been having a pedicure. And that was our picture, Phillip's especially, of pushing.

But no. Not only did I have a lazy SMALL BABY who didn't shape up and start growing until the doctor threatened induction, I had a baby who didn't care for these monitor things and clearly was not interested in going along with the plan. Until the doctor threatened suction and he was all, "Time to exit! Here I go!" And suddenly I was PUSHING. Like, oh my God how is this even humanly possible pushing. Pushing to the tune of a chorus of people shouting, "YOU CAN DO IT! YOU'RE AMAZING! YOU'RE DOING SUCH A GREAT JOB! LOOK AT THAT! SHE'S AWESOME!" And you know what? I totally felt awesome. Well, I totally wanted to die, first of all. But a teeny part of my brain was also thinking, "This is the most cool thing I have ever done in my entire life and oh YEAH I am doing awesome." I mean, I know they say that to every woman pushing a baby out, but I don't care. They made me feel like a superhero. If I hadn't been breaking in two I would have given them all big sloppy kisses.

I think that was the part I would call sublime. Which is crazy. I have never ever felt that kind of pain AND THAT WAS WITH AN EPIDURAL. It was so awful I couldn't stand to not push. And at the same time I thought I was going to explode, I was unbelievably high. The baby wasn't even out yet and I couldn't believe that I, me, girl who hates exercise, girl who does not run unless she is being chased, girl who thought running suicides at the end of basketball practice was tantamount to torture- I WAS DOING THIS. AND IT WAS WAS WORKING!

He was out. He looked like a little alien. And quite honestly, I was much more excited about no longer having a watermelon in my pelvis than I was about having a baby.

A few hours later, in the middle of the night when all three of us were supposed to be sleeping, I cried into my plasticky hospital pillow. I could not believe this happened to me. I'd spent nine months fretting over how horrible it was going to be, how I'd just have to endure it and get through it and hopefully recover fast enough to escape the anxiety monster. And here I was thanking God that I got to feel what it was like to push my baby out. (Caveat: WITH AN EPIDURAL. I cannot even imagine what it would have been like withOUT the epidural. I would have surely died.)

I was so taken care of, you guys. By my husband who totally did not faint, by my nurse who stuck around to watch my baby being born even though her shift was long over, by my doctor who cheered me on. All the things my friends had prayed for a week earlier, when it occurred to us that we were going to have a baby soon and it'd be nice to have people pray for us- all of those prayers were answered. We had amazing nurses and a room with a view and not once did I tell Phillip that all of this was his fault and he was sleeping on the couch from here on out. Our baby came out by himself, perfect, ten fingers and ten toes. And the very last thing I thought I would feel- that the birth had been an amazing singular experience I'd treasure- was exactly what I was feeling.

I just have to think that God knew. God knew that the weather would be beautiful in May, and he knew that good weather does wonders for my psyche. He gave us enough time to finish up at work and still have a few moments alone together. He knew I'd want a room where I could see what was happening in the rest of the world. He knew my nurse would immediately want to drug me up and that I'd resist for the sake of showing off, but that she would sit with me and reassure me and treat me like I was Superwoman when I started to panic.  I was so afraid and so nervous and so anxious about being anxious, and the whole time God was going to give me this.

Now I have to go feed the boy. Eventually I want to write up a play by play, just so I don't forget, but these are the parts I want to remember most. I can totally forget the mean epidural lady who told me, after the fourth prick, that if I didn't stop flinching I'd get the spinal headache to end all spinal headaches and she'd blame ME. Now I think she was trying to be jokey, since we were all being kind of jokey and I was completely doped on fetanyl and attempting to make light of absolutely everything, but MAN did she scare the crap out of me.

The calm before the storm

Well there were a couple of obstacles to getting this post out.  First there was the trip to the hospital.  That went pretty well.  Lots of green lights and no traffic.  Not very many contractions on the way there either.  Then there was all the hospital stuff.  Signing forms, setting up monitoring, getting epidural, ordering dinner (for me, not Maggie).  Throw in a visiting sister and calling friends and relatives and you have a pretty busy time. 

Also there was some technical problems as well.  Turns out the hospital uses the same IP range as my work so my VPN client was actually blocking the internet.  So now I have internet but it looks like the the hospital blocks access to Typepad.

Long story short, Maggie's doing fine and is trying to rest.  After posting this I'll try and get a nap too.  Hopefully the next update will have some baby pictures. 


Written in between the times I want to die

Can I just say how lovely you people are? Phillip feels so special ("I already got three comments on my post!") and I really appreciate the emails. Even my mom is all, "Aren't those internet people so NICE?"

Today has been a drag. D-R-A-G. I've pretty much been wide awake since 3:30 YESTERDAY morning blowing my way through contractions. Like this one. OW. But now all is well because we just got back from a regularly scheduled doctor's appointment where, after a most uncomfortable 'exam' (that's a pretty fancy word for what she did, I'd say) she told me I was at 4 cm, everything was thinned out and the baby's head was all the way down. Quoth my doctor, "You're going to have this baby tonight."

So NOW... we're back home. I am alternately elated at the idea of going to the hospital ASAP and getting pumped full of modern medicine and thrilled that I can stay home where I can eat ice cream and curse in peace. We'll be here for a while, but I have no qualms about heading over to the hospital sooner rather than later. I'm a little afraid of 5 cm to tell you the truth.

Phillip and I feel so much better. I didn't want to go to this appointment (and tried to get out of it) because I didn't want to endure a contraction in the 10 minute car ride to the clinic. I've been up all night (I saw E! True Hollywood Stories for both Saved By The Bell and That '70's Show) and I'm exhausted. Yesterday I went to Target and hung out at a friend's house, just biting my lip and holding my breath through contractions. But today... holy crap. And I was positive I'd go to this appointment only to hear that I was .037 cm and nowhere near actual labor, thereby confirming my big fat wussiness.

But! I do not feel like a big fat wuss! Am feeling like Superwoman!

Not really. I totally bawled when the doctor left the room because OHMYGOD. Someone is feeling a tiny bit overwhelmed. Tomorrow, if all goes well, I'll have a BABY. Who is allowing this? I don't know what to do with a baby. Anyway, all of that is to say: OBVIOUSLY I need all the prayers and THANK YOU.

Still no baby

Well all of you get the proxy blogger this morning since Maggie is too busy huffing and puffing and in general not feeling too great.  No baby yet and we're still at home.  I called the hospital last night and the nurse said to call back when Maggie's pain reaches "toe curling" level.  Maggie was not too happy to hear that.  First, it means that these are still the minor contractions and the worst is still coming.  Second, should I really be watching Maggie's toes?

I'm hungry.  I'm off to see what's in the fridge.  More updates later. 


I am not amused

Phillip and I have been keeping track of [manageable thus far] contractions since about six. It's nearly ten. Tomorrow morning I am either going to be shaking my fist at the universe for robbing me of a whole night's sleep or I'll be in the hospital. I still don't know if I'm ready for the whole hospital thing (seriously? I'm having a baby?) but if all these contractions are for nothing I'm going to be REALLY IRRITATED. At the very least I have another doctor appointment tomorrow afternoon. Anyone want to come hang out with me while Phillip crams the rest of the work week into one morning shift?


***Update! 9:33 PST!***

So right after I posted this the contractions sort of melted into the background. Of course! It's like telling the internet your child is now sleeping through the night. We all know how that turns out. I'm still feeling them, but not as often and I managed to sleep another hour. Go me. Also, I am eating everything in sight. I think this is because I hear the hospital wants you to starve and I am not a big fan of starvation. Anyway, don't get too excited. Phillip is at work (poor guy, he can sleep through anything except his wife potentially being in labor- he bounded out of bed to get the birth book he's been reading to refresh himself on the 'How You Know You're In Labor' chapter) and I have every intention of getting outside and visiting the trendy outdoor shopping center with my friend and her six-month-old. It's beautiful in Seattle today. BEAUTIFUL.

Are these contractions?

Reasons why they might be contractions:
1. Owie
2. Disturbingly cramp-like
3. Every 5-10 minutes
4. Since 3:30 this morning
5. Which was two hours ago
6. Did not stop when I got up one hour ago to make myself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich

Reasons why they might NOT be contractions:
1. They only last, like, 15 seconds
2. They're not getting longer
3. They're not very consistent in the ow department. Some are swear word worthy, some are all, "Meh, whatever."
4. It is only Monday. This is not supposed to happen till, oh, next Monday.
5. I think my doctor is out today.
6. It's going to be 70 degrees and I have plans.
7. It's only been 2 hours. Wimp.

Of course, my plans are to 1. nap and 2. read the two books I bought last night. I bought Mayflower, because I was talking to my dad on the phone this weekend and he asked me what books I was reading and I said, "Uh, Us Weekly?"  He, of course, was reading something intellectually stimulating. I supposed I could stand to learn a few things about the pilgrims beyond what I learned in fifth grade, so I picked up my own copy. And so far? I am not bored. Amazing!

I also bought Darcy's Story, of which I was highly suspicious, but both my mother and mother-in-law, the Jane Austeniest of all the Jane Austen fans, thought it was terrific. So I have that one too. But first I am going to learn about the Puritans and the first Thanksgiving.

See, I don't think these are real contractions. Do you have little baby contractions mere minutes after a swear word contraction? This is not what the books say it's like. Stupid books. And if these are not real contractions, I would like them to please go away because I've been up since 3:30 and if anyone needs her beauty rest, it's me.

Oh. AND we were going to see Spider-man tonight. Not that we are big fans or anything, but I was going to drive downtown after work and meet my husband at the Thai restaurant for the deep fried tofu and chicken satay appetizers and then go to the movies. While we are still Free of Responsibility. I am really uninterested in having to go to the hospital today. People keep acting like I should be dying to get this kid out of me, but... OWIE. Yeah, THIS isn't fun.


Hey people. I will TELL you if I go into labor. I will be the girl who remembers to bring her laptop to labor and delivery but forgets her hospital bag. Like I won't be LIVEBLOGGING the entire event.

Okay. Maybe not the ENTIRE event.

On an ordinary Monday at this time, I would be hurriedly stuffing a bagel down my throat as I ran red light after red light, but today I am home. I have absolutely no idea what to do with myself. Help!

I had Phillip leave last night's dishes in the sink so I would have "something to do". I made myself leave the baby's room alone this weekend so I'd have things to fuss with this week. I have a short list of errands to run and grand plans to clean the bathroom and I might even schedule that pregnancy massage I haven't had time for, but other than that? What do you DO when you stay home all day?

If I had the kid, obviously, I wouldn't be asking such a stupid question. But for now I am a housewife. Maybe I'll buy myself a box of bon bons and run the bath.

People (other than yourselves) have started the BabyWatch. We were a little late to a church fundraiser thing on Saturday and when we made our grand entrance, a dozen people rushed up to say they were SURE we were at the hospital having the baby RIGHT THEN. And when I got home a friend had left a message on our machine demanding to know if were giving birth that instant as we were a whole fifteen minutes late to the fundraiser.

I saw my aunt and uncle yesterday and they were all, "Next time we see you you'll be a MOMMY!" Very nice people have asked to be put on the Email Notification List, people I thought really weren't all that interested. Every time I call Phillip at work, to ask what he wants for dinner or that ha ha I'm leaving early and he isn't, his coworkers crowd around yelling THIS IS IT!

Tangent: My local news is interviewing Zach Braff right now (squee!) and there was some question regarding biological clocks and Mr. Braff just acknowledged that he is 32, "the time people start thinking about when to have babies." Oh Mr. Braff. I suppose it's all relative.

My new hire is supposed to show up at work in seven minutes. That's the real reason I'm on the computer. So if she has a question she can email me and get an instantaneous answer. This is how much I care.

Oh dear. Are you now dreading the caliber of my blog posts now that I am a blissfully unemployed housewife who requires a Hoyer lift to get her off the couch?


My public demands to know

Hee! Maybe I should set up some sort of automatic email list. "No baby today." "No baby today." And then, you know, in June: "FINALLY!"

Would you believe I've had things to do? And that my internet freedom has been severely compromised by, like, real work? Also, there's just not a whole lot to say when there is NO BABY YET.

Not that that has ever stopped me before.

Phillip and I have been trying to think of ways for the baby to sleep in our room without actually sleeping in our bed. I'm not so big on the cosleeping thing, mostly because I think I would be so afraid of squishing the baby it'd be impossible to shut my eyes. I looked at Moses baskets and that cosleeper thing and the plastic bassinets with all the ruffles (why all the ruffles?) and decided it was silly to spend all that money on something we probably wouldn't use for very long, and that the baby would grow out of quickly. So I called up my sister and asked her to haul what my mother calls "the six month crib" out of my parents' garage and drive it up here last weekend. The six month crib is a little mini crib that I apparently slept in, as well as my siblings and some of my cousins. Which means it is ancient, but it is free, and would probably fit in my bedroom.

So my sister drives up here Friday evening, calls and says she's left the crib in our entry way and she'll help me plant flowers on Saturday if she's not too hungover tired from the party she's going to that night. I picked up Phillip after work and he walked into the house before I did. "Maggie," he said hesitantly, "I don't like this crib."

"Why?" I hollered from the garage, where my darling husband had left me to finagle all our bags and coats and groceries out of the backseat, how charming of him.

"It's dirty." Pause. "It's really old." Pause. "I don't want to put our baby in that thing."

I walked inside to see what he was complaining about. And while the six month crib is possibly old and dirty and Phillip will always be against giving our baby anything that didn't arrive home from the store within the last week, this was not the six month crib. This was the little doll bed my grandmother's godfather made for my mother when she was little. Which my mother still has. And which is large enough for a real baby, but very old and very dirty, as it has lived in a garage for FIFTY YEARS.

But it was impossible to shame my sister. "The other crib didn't fit," she explained.

"Oh, that makes sense," I said. "Decide which one is the six month crib based on which one fits in your car. Brilliant!"

We made her take it home and went back to figuring out where the baby would sleep if we didn't get the real crib in time. I was seriously considering a dresser drawer. And then? The people who never give me flowers gave me a pack and play. WHICH IS PERFECT!

We, I mean Phillip, set up the whole thing- bassinet attachment, changing table thing, mobile, white noise machine- and we marveled at what Americans can do with fifty-nine plastic parts and enough nylon and mesh for a six-person tent. I'd considered buying one of these myself, but it seemed gratuitous when we already had a crib and our house is too small to cart the thing up and down stairs. (And when your parents are planning to buy their own baby sleeping arrangements for their house, your inlaws have a crib and all of your friends have babies and heaps of baby gear already.)  But the pack and play fits perfectly between the wall and my side of the bed. And with the bassinet attachment, all I have to do is sit up, lift the baby out, feed him and stick him back in.  Perfect! After we set it up I just sat on the bed and beamed. I am such a dork.

And then I freaked out because 1) we have a place for the baby to sleep right away and 2) I am almost done at work and 3) there is nothing left to do except HAVE THE BABY and OH MY GOD.

Oh, I also ordered two sets of the Ultimate Crib Sheet and isn't that the smartest invention ever! I know this because I attempted to take the crib sheet off the crib and wash it (everything the baby owns has been washed, pressed, folded and laid neatly in lined drawers, I have become my underwear-ironing grandmother) and putting it back on was torture. There's no way I could change a crib sheet in the middle of the night. Stupid bumpers! So cute, so un-functional! But someone much smarter than me thought up the Ultimate Crib Sheet. All this baby stuff makes you so impressed with Innovation!

So yeah. We're just waiting around now. La la la. I spend a lot of time tracking who has already had their babies and who is just about to pop. Yesterday Phillip asked me what I was going to do next week when I am Unofficially and Blissfully Unemployed and I looked at him like he was speaking Swahili. "Clean," I said self-righteously. "Organize. Get things ready." But you know all I'll be doing is napping and catching up on TiVo. I am not ashamed to say I watched three episodes of Gilmore Girls last night, people. How come it took them this long to get good again? I CRIED at the end of the newest episode. REAL TEARS. But not as much as I intend to cry if Charla and Mirna win the Amazing Race next week, can you BELIEVE they're part of the final three?! ACK. (See, my priorities are clearly in order.)

Anyway, I'll keep you posted. You guys are as bad as my mom.