On weaning

Oh, man.  I knew that weaning can be tough.  But I have been SUPER WANTING TO DO so for more than a month, and last night was the first night IN THE BABY’S ENTIRE LIFE that I didn’t nurse her at bed time.  She settled down decently, and went to sleep, and happily nursed this morning.  And I?  Am a weepy, frustrated mess.  Sure, some of that is work related (all jobs, no matter how overall lovely, have less lovely weeks), and some due to a cold I picked up in Toronto.  But not all of it, I’m sure.  I hate times where I have to fuck around with my hormones, which is why I refuse to go on the pill and will only use a hormone free IUD.  (Which I owe you a story about eventually.)  The domperidone pills mess not only mess with my cycle, but also suppresses dopamine.  You know, dopamine, which according to our good friend wikipedia, “has many functions in the brain, including important roles in behavior and cognition, voluntary movement, motivation, punishment and reward, inhibition of prolactin production (involved in lactation and sexual gratification), sleep, dreaming, mood, attention, working memory, and learning.”  So, you know, everything.  And I’ve been on them for like 9 months.

I’ve gone from 8 pills a day in the beginning, then down to 4, and recently been dropping it down to 2, and yesterday I just took 1.

And I’m weepy and sore and my sinuses hurt and I didn’t take a pill this morning so my breasts are empty and I know that without the drugs, there is no milk, and without the milk, there is no nursing, and 2 weeks ago that sounded like a blessing and today that just makes me sad.  No more little monkey lapbaby cuddles while she eats.  No more easy nutrition.  No more easily filling in any gaps in her diet.  (That one is a huge, huge thing.)  No more quiet easy intimacy and bonding – the kind I personally only really found in nursing.  (Not that there’s not all kinds of other bonding and cuddles and loving!  They’re just so much more active.  Baby’s not a huge cuddle-er right now – too much to see and do.)

I’ve breast fed for 14 months.  I’ve required medical assistance for 9 of them.  The baby’s back on track for weight and growth.  I’ve done fine, this is fine. The next step is a good thing, not a bad thing.  I know these things, I keep telling myself these things.  I’m just, you know, hormonal as fuck in the mean time.

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Some things are true…

Okay, so I know it wasn’t that long ago that I was writing about how the messages that people gave me about parenting were kind of lies, but I have to say, there’s one thing that I was told that is totally, totally true.

I think about poop way more than I ever have in my entire life.

This is both gross, and funny.

And it started like, instantly.  From the meconium plug in the hospital (gross), to the first “real” diaper change (gross, and I got poop on my hands, causing me to laugh helplessly while David recorded me), to  the adventure that it solid food (super gross, and yet also fascinating), to dealing with cloth diapers and real poop (gross, and we’re buying biodegradable liners, because I’m getting tired of wiping actual poop off the cloth), to smelling the baby to see if she’s pooped (gross), to watching her for an epically funny poop face that she makes (hysterically funny, with intense eye contact).  It’s a lot of time and energy and brain space, to be devoted to feces.

You’ll be relieved that I will not, as per some of the idealists found on STFU, Parents, I  will not be inflicting any further details on you, because, say it with me, GROSS.

But I did want to chime in to say that there is at least one thing that the world told me about parenting is, in fact, very, very true.

(Gross.)

Post Partum Body

So the baby is 9.5 months old now, which is crazy.  We just had some nice family portraits done a few months ago, and I’m having a hard time making the critical self conscious voice in my head to shut up.  Because my post partum body is still not where I want it to be, and I feel bad because I feel self conscious about it.  (I feel bad about feeling bad!  Welcome to my brain.)   So, inspired by Meghan, here’s my journey with the body post baby.

I have never been thin, and my stomach has always been large and jiggly, even when I was a teenager swimming 6-8 times a week.  It’s just what my body looks like.

Here I am at 4 weeks pregnant, or, more accurately: just peed on a stick, went for a walk to celebrate.  I was at my heaviest weight in my entire life at this point – the summer had already involved a miscarriage and a flooded basement, and that had resulted in a summer of crappy eating and a lot of rum.  I weighed, shall we say, X pounds.

4 weeks pregnant

I got pretty big during my pregnancy, but I put on very little weight at all. I actually lost 5 pounds in the first trimester – stepped on the scale to see that the very day I popped my first stretch mark.  I take no real credit for what my body did during the pregnancy – I had terrible heartburn that meant even eating a muffin was a set up for 18 hours of unrelenting burning pain.  The only foods that I could really eat in the second trimester were Lucky Charms and ice cream.  (Being pregnant meant I suddenly became lactose tolerant, which was awesome.)  So I didn’t eat much, but what I ate was really calorie rich.  I got big in the belly, and fast, but I didn’t get big all over.  In fact, I’m pretty sure the rest of me lost some fat.  (I had some to spare.)  I also lost muscle mass when I had to stop working out around 28 weeks pregnant, because of some pelvic floor issues I was having.  Okay, yes, I still walked and did yoga, but that’s totally not the same as 4 day a week fitness classes with weights.

28 weeks pregnant

After I discovered Zantac, I could eat again, but still didn’t gain much weight.  During the whole pregnancy, I put on 12 pounds, or, X+12.  I’m short, and carried it all out front, so I looked like I gained a lot more.

38 week pregnant, after my water broke

I gained 12 pounds (X+12), gave birth to an an 8 pound baby (X+4), and a week after she was born was down to X-7 pounds.

1 week post partum

I bounced up to X-3 pretty quickly, as my body tried to adjust to the baby and the Breastfeeding Hunger, and all the rest.

2 weeks post partum

I fit back in to my jeans by the time Jess was a month old. Which was nice, but I again can’t take any credit.  The c-section recovery was really, really hard on me, and at a month post partum, I still couldn’t lift her in the car seat, let alone exercise.

At 12 weeks, I took a lame mommies and babies yoga class.  (I don’t like singing much.  I like yoga.  This class was way too much of  the former and far too little of the latter.)  At that point, I couldn’t even lay down from a sitting position because of the internal adhesions and resulting pain.

4 months post partum

Around the 4 month mark, I started taking more intensive fitness classes – starting with strollercize twice a week.  By the end of November (9 months post partum) I was up to 4 classes a week – a deep water running class, two areobics/weight classes and a pilates class.  My weight has been pretty stable for a couple of months at X-5, and while ideally I’d like to hit X-8 and stay there, I’m not unhappy about my weight.

7 months after Jess was born

7 months post partum

I finally bought new jeans, in time for our family photos, and found that I’d dropped a pant size from my pre-pregnancy jeans.  (My chest size, however, is still a few sizes up.  Breastfeeding!)  My hips, ass and thighs are the same size or smaller than they were pre-baby.  Thanks to all the fitness classes and squats, I had not developed mom-butt and I still like my ass.  (I first learned to love my butt when I took pole dancing classes.  I liked the way I looked in short-shorts!)

Baby's first ocean, at 8 months old

Baby’s first ocean, at 8 months old

But I am unhappy about my stomach, and it shames me that my belly is the first thing I see when I look at the family portraits.  I don’t want to be that person.  I don’t want to be the woman hiding from the camera, or the one who looks at herself with shame.  Because life is too short to fixate, or so I keep telling myself. The conflicting messages in my brain (be happy!  you’re too big!) are annoying, but I’m feeling them, so here we are.

The thing is, I’m DOING THE WORK, and it’s not making the kind of difference I wish it would.  I work out a lot, I eat mostly sensibly, and I have a big belly and my core strength just is not back yet, 9 months after the c-section.  When I started doing the fitness classes at 4 months, I couldn’t even get in to a plank position, because something internally caused screaming pain if I tried.  Hell, the first time I tried to do a crunch, 3 months after the birth, I couldn’t lift my head more than a half inch of the ground, and 5 of those made me hurt for 3 days afterwards.  (C-SECTIONS ARE NOT THE EASY BIRTH ANSWER.)  Things are better – because I’ve worked very, very hard – but still not great.  I still can’t, for example “access my transverse abdominals” at pilates, or hold a plank for 60 seconds.  I’m getting closer, but I don’t have the strength that I’m used to, or the sensations I remember.

I guess, really, that it upsets me on both fronts – the loss of tone and the loss of strength.  I’m trying hard to be kind to myself, and to keep going to the classes and to generally not think about it to much, but it’s hard. I’m mostly happy with my body – as much as I ever am – but this one thing upsets me, and then I’m upset that I’m upset.  Blerg.

Being a woman in the 21st century: self-esteem is a minefield.

Paying for university

I just read an interesting article on Babble by Megan Francis, talking about why she won’t be paying for college for her kids.  I don’t necessarily agree with all of it, but I do with most of it, especially the part about a trade being more valuable.  David is a lead engineer, and makes good money.  The plumber who came out a few weeks ago to fix our little sewage backup problem charged an hourly rate almost 3 times higher.  Yeah.  If I go back to school, it will be to the local polytech trade school, not to the university for grad school.  Because I want a career, see, not another amusingly useless degree.  Don’t get me wrong – I loved university, and the classes I took, and the experiences I had.  It has, however, done nothing material to help my career, and while I’m totally fine with that, I see no point of going back for more paper I can’t translate in to the work force.  A 2 year engineering technician program would be infinity more useful to me than a MA in International Relations, you know?

Anyway.

David and I each paid for university, but we both had help.  His parents, along with his roommate’s parents, bought the boys a condo for the 4 years they were in Calgary, so they ddn’t have to paay rent – *just* utilities and food and books and tuition and rum.  I lived at home, so got free room and board, but still paid for books and tuition and a social life.  I worked summers, of course, and I also had 4 part time jobs.  (Which sounds way harder than it was. I worked catering and concerts at the university, and the special events set up for the city and the botanical gardens.  All were random shifts with unpredictable hours, and I could turn down any I needed to without problems.)   David didn’t work during the year (engineers have to take 6 courses a semester, while the rest of the campus maxes out at 5) but worked every summer.  We both agree that having to work to pay for (some of) school made us work harder and not fuck around.  Also, we’re in Canada.  Tuition to our university was like 25k for the 4 years, I think?  Call it 30k with books.  I couldn’t quite make enough in the summers to cover it, but that’s why I worked year round.  David had to take out a small loan in his 5th year, but it was paid back quickly.

So we want some of that for Jess.  Working to your goals makes you work harder, and be less entitled, and appreciate it more.

But, on the other hand, we want to do something.

So yesterday, I figured it out.  Canada has a nice Registered Education Savings Plan program, and I think it’s kind of great.  We’ve registered for a family plan, so if Jess doesn’t go to any post secondary, future-hypotetical second kid can, or I could even use it.  And even if no one ever can use it, the money can be moved to an RRSP, although minus the grants and the tax on the interest.  Otherwise, the interest isn’t taxed, and the money is only taxed when the student uses it, but kid will probably have a low enough income to not need to pay much in the way of taxes on it.  Also, they can spend the interest, and at the end, you can take the principle back, tax free. So far, so good, right?  Well, it gets better.  This is Canada, where politicians actually back up their claims of “family friendly”.  If you put in $2500 a year, the feds will add $500 a year to the RESP.  Our province matches that the first year, and there are a couple of $100 grants offered throughout the kid’s childhood.  Plus, all families in Canada are eligible for the Universal Child Care Benefit, which comes to $1200 a year. Thankfully, we don’t need that money to cover day to day costs, so we’re saving it up and will stick it in to an RESP every year, which means that we personally only need to save $1300 a year.  If we do this for 17 years, everything else being equal, before interest that’s $51,500, and will only cost us $21,800.  And, let’s be honest, I expect the grandparents, or at least my mother, to give Jess a bit of money at Christmases for this exact purpose.

So that’s our plan.  We’ll not spend the UCCB cheques, and we’ll save $1300 a year (minus whatever comes from the grandparents) and anything else is on her.  That seems fair, right?  Hopefully, because that’s the plan.

 

God, I love this country.

Daycare

It’s one of the oldest mom fights on the internet – working moms versus stay at home moms, and rhetoric is strong and people have such intense feelings about their choices.  While I personally don’t care what anyone else does, I wish I had some of the conviction that these shrill internet voices have.  Hi, my name is Morgan and I have a seven month old daughter and I can’t decided what kind of parent I want to be.

It’s impossible to have a discussion about these kinds of choices without discussing privilege, so let me own up to mine right up front.  I am middle class, white, university educated, cis-gendered, married, financially solvent, own my own home, gainfully employed, have a husband who theoretically could support us on his salary, and, rather importantly for this discussion, Canadian.  Which means I get a year of parental leave.*  It basically gives me a year to play stay at home mommy before I have to commit to either going back to work or choosing to stay home with my kid. This is a huge blessing, obviously, but it’s given me perhaps way too much time to go back and forth on deciding if I actually want to return to work.  It’s the topic that keeps me up at night.

I started to write this and I made my usual pro and con list, and it’s lengthy.  I can argue that it’s bad to derail my career, now that it finally has some traction, but on the other hand, if I want to progress substantially in my field, I will have to take a two year full time program and have to drop out of the workforce anyway, so why not now?  And back and forth – career, money, child care options, and so on.  But those are all fairly specific to my personal situation, and, if I’m being honest, are more superficial than figuring out How I Want My Life (And Motherhood) To Be.

Let’s, for now, completely discount the oft repeated line about “paying someone else to raise your children”.  And by discount, I’m calling bullshit.  After all, no one accuses elementary school teachers of doing that, right?  I’m Jess’s mother.  David and I raise will her, and will instill values and all the rest.  The fact that someone else would deal with some of the day to day care doesn’t change that.  And, as a bonus, a paid professional would be the one to have to do the bulk of potty training!  Daycares do things that I can’t.  I don’t bring in a music man once a week to sing songs.  I can’t socialize her as well through occasional playdates as day to day companions would.  I don’t have a dietician planning meals.  I don’t plan theme days.  I don’t have any education in how to raise babies, and can easily slide in to lazy habits like sticking Jess in the excersaucer for an hour, because I don’t always know how to fill all the long days. I mean, I am hardly neglecting her, but I also know that I’m no childhood development expert.

Seven months in, I like the life I have.  I like that I get to sleep in every day, and go to fitness classes with Jess multiple times a week.  I like the long walks, and puttering around the kitchen making baby food, and coffee shop visits with friends.  I like being able to go to the wading pool in the middle of afternoon.  I like her two hour long naps that free me up to do my thing – read a book, surf the internet, work on a painting, even do housework so that evenings are free to hang out with David.  I like spending my days with the cutest person I ever created, chomping on her cheeks and watching her grow.  I like this life I have right now.

But I do miss work.  I miss doing measurable, productive work, of reaching milestones, of business lunches.   I miss getting to learn new things, and take on new project.  I miss getting to sign off on millions of dollars of work and build databases and be the business unit’s expert at something.  I miss getting to spend 8 hours a day without someone touching me.  (Babies are great, but some days all I want is a little personal physical autonomy.)  I want the chance to focus on something for longer than nap time.

But if I stay home, it does mean that we need to change a few things about our lives.  David and I both grew up without much money, and have never got in the habit of spending too frivolously, if you exclude travel and hockey tickets.  So cutting down our income wouldn’t change the fundamentals of our lives – David would probably sell more of his seasons tickets, and our vacations would go from international trips to the road trips around Montana and BC that we both grew up with.  (I’d probably go to Sephora less often too.)  But I love our vacations!  Wanderlust is part of how I define myself.  David’s promised me that if I do go back to work, we’ll go to Europe next fall, rent a place and stay for a few weeks.   (It’s like he knows what makes me tick…)

One of the great things about mat leave is that you get to experience so many things – those first smiles and the day your baby discovers her hands and those other sweet firsts.  But you also get to experience the lows of staying at home, and it means you can never truly glamourize it.  For every afternoon in the pool, I’m going to have a winter day where it’s -30 out and the baby is bored and I’m exhausted and we’re just so sick of each other’s faces. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to stay home, exactly, it’s just that I can more clearly see both sides.

I have no fear that putting my child in care would change the love my baby has for me.  We currently joke that Jess thinks of me as “Milk” and David as “Happiness”, because when he walks through that door after work, her face lights up with pure joy.  He works full time and she still thinks he is the best thing ever.  The daily time apart has not stopped them from bonding – in fact, due to the PPD, he bonded with her far more easily than I did, despite the daily separation.

But honestly, it’s hard to choose the future right now, as life with babies is so … immediate.  It can be hard to see what’s ahead.  I wasn’t really a newborn person, but I love this baby stage.  She’s easy to deal with – she can amuse herself for 15 minutes just looking at her own feet! She’s not mobile and naps a lot and is easily entertained.  I’m not sure I’m really cut out to be a SAHM to a toddler.  They look exhausting.  I feel exhausted just being near my friends’ toddlers.

But my baby is so little, and for such a short time, and I have another 30 years of work ahead of me.  How can I not want to spend a little more of this precious time with my little baby while she is so tiny?  I know from spending the last seven months at home that there are days that just feel like magic – and other days that feel like hell.  (And quite honestly, those are the days I’m very glad I am on mat leave, because I can also take a nap after another horrifyingly sleepless night.)

Let me be honest.  Much of this decision has to do with what’s best for me, not for my baby.  She’s an easy going baby, one who goes with the flow, whatever we’re doing.  I’m sure that she would thrive at home with me, or in a daycare setting.  So it really comes down to what I want, and what’s best of our family of three.  I just don’t quite know what that is yet.  As it is, I will sign up for (very expensive) daycare and plan to go back to work, grateful with my whole heart for the year we’ve had spending basically all our waking hours together. **   I’ll go back to work, but with the understanding that if I truly hate it, we will talk about me quitting my job (part time just isn’t done at my company).  It’s far easier to quit your job than to find a new one, after all.  Or we can push the timeline up for kid number 2, because let’s be honest, if I can collect another year of paid parental leave, that wouldn’t hurt the bank account.  In the meantime, I have 5 more months of getting to spend all my days with the cutest person I ever created, and that’s pretty awesome.

* Quick explanation, as this always comes up.  In Canada, you pay into Employment Insurance with every paycheque, up to a max of ~$800 a year, and your employer matches it.  So in the 10 years we’ve been working, David and I have paid ~$16,000, plus the employer match.  Parental leave pays a max of ~$25,000, depending on your income.  It’s pretty great –it’s much easier to pay into a system that pays you out when you need it, instead of trying to save up 25K before you’re ready to have a kid.  Also, you are guaranteed an equivalent job at your company when you go back.  Companies do not pay you anything while you are on leave – with a few exceptions of companies who “top up” your EI payments.  Jobs are usually filled with someone working on a one year contract – a lot of people get in to an organization that way and find a new position when the year is up – it’s actually pretty good for everyone.

** Parental leave is something worth fighting for!  Canada only moved to 52 weeks of parental leave in 2001 – that’s not that long ago!  Change can happen.

Milk Matters

When Jess was 5 months old, she weighed a fraction over 16 pounds. At almost 7 months, she weighed under 16 pounds.  The public health nurse wasn’t worried – she said that babies have to drop below two lines on the percentile chart for them to be concerned.  But I was concerned, a little.  75th percentile down to 30th percentile in weight in less than two months seemed like a lot.  So we went for Jess’s (belated) 6 month check up, and the doctor wasn’t initially concerned either.  Until we talked through the horrible sleep problems (waking more times a night than she did at 2 weeks old*) and the dry rabbit-pellet-esque poop and the fact that I haven’t been able to pump milk in months.  (Once a month I’d pump at least 5 times in during the day, on both sides, and not get enough milk to coalesce in a puddle on the bottom of the bottle.)  I mentioned that the next weekend, our plan was going to have David cover the night feedings with formula, just so that I could get a solid block of sleep in.  (In large part because the sleep deprivation was bring the PPD back, and I had started to cry myself to sleep again, and I am tired of that shit.)  She said that before I try formula, that we should try domperidone, the same anti-nausea drug my dad took while he was on chemo, because it has the awesome little side effect of increasing lactation.  (It’s not approved for this in the States, apparently, but it’s common practice in Canada.)

IT TOTALLY WORKED.

I can’t feel any letdown when I’m nursing – G cup boobs aren’t that sensitive, or at least mine aren’t.  So I had/have no idea how much milk she’s getting, and pumping has never been very effective for me.  (Which I totally blame on the G cup boobs.)  But I can tell that now when she’s nursing on one side and the other side leaks all over the breastfeeding pillow.  The milk supply increase was very quick, and her poops totally changed within a couple of days.  It took a week, but the 7th night after I started the pills (8 a day!), she slept for 5 straight hours.  And the next night?  FOR SEVEN HOURS IN A ROW.  You guys probably don’t get how fucking amazing that is after 3 straight months of sleeping in 3 hours (and less!) intervals.   I feel like, to use the cliche, a whole new person!  It’s quite lovely.

Fun story about my lack of letdown sensation.  Jess was a few weeks old and we ended up going to Walmart one evening (why, I can’t remember, because I kind of hate shopping there).  Luckily, it was still winter, and I had my coat done up the whole time, because when we got home, I discovered that at some point during our shopping trip (probably when she started to fuss while we were waiting in the check out line), both boobs started leaking like crazy, and soaked my shirt with big wet circles.  Like, wet spots the size of my hands.  We laughed and laughed, and then I started wearing washable pads when I left the house.

I’m trying not feel terrible about unknowingly slightly starving my baby.  I mean, she grew 2 inches in that period and still has deliciously chubby thighs, but something just didn’t quite feel right, and I’m glad we got it resolved, and I’m glad the drug works, and I’m also glad that in the first week she put on a quarter of a pound and started sleeping for nice stretches at night.  Yay good medical care!

* All the sleep books focus on teaching your child to be able to fall asleep on their own, and that’s one thing that we’ve been very lucky to have no problems with, so the books were no help at all.  Even at the height of her sleep issues, I’d hear her wake up occasionally, coo to herself, and go back to sleep.  I take a small amount of credit for this, based on the sleep routines we started on like day 5, but mainly I think that my kid just likes to nap.  Smart baby.  Of course, seeing the fact that the problem was she was starving, it’s no surprise the books didn’t help.  Damn lack of personalized baby handbook.

Birth Story – part 2

We left for the hospital just before 7:00 am, just as the snow was beginning to fall. I’d repeatedly made a joke about how even in a blizzard, we would still be able to get to the hospital, as it is so close to our house.  It therefore amused me that it did, in fact, turn in to a full blown blizzard.  The doula took an hour and a half to do a 20 minute drive, due to the snow and traffic.  It was basically the only thing I expected about the birth to come true – I mean, of course there was a blizzard!  (Sure, it had totally stopped by the time she was born the next day, but still.  There was a blizzard as we headed for the hospital.)

We got to the hospital and headed for the 6th floor – the same triage I’d been checked out at two weeks earlier, after a bad fall.  It was nice that because of that fall, all of our paperwork was up to date.  (And I had already had the discussion with the nurse to remove my father as my primary contact, because that was hard enough when I wasn’t in labour.)  They put me in triage, and the doctor confirmed that they would be inducing me as soon as a delivery room became available.  Which took until noon, because every time a room would become available, some lucky woman in full blown labour would arrive and logically get the room.  We walked the short hallway, David got us scones and we chatted.  I had an IV put in at 8:00 am, because they were about to move me in to a delivery room and I was going to need it for the induction.  Having to drag the pole around for an extra 4 hours was annoying, but what could we do?

We finally got a room – the nice room – the room with the tv and vcr player! Heh.  The doctor checked me out and after 38 hours of early labour, I was completely effaced but only a single centimeter dilated.  About as big of a failure as you can imagine, and it was hard to hear that so much work has resulted in what happens to most women before they even go in to labour – sometimes weeks before.    I was hooked up to an IV of oxytocin around noon, and they would increase the dosage every 15 minutes for the next 5 hours.  The oxytocin worked quickly, in that the contractions started in earnest.  We hung out, working through poses and quietly watched Raiders of the Lost Ark on vhs.

Now, everyone knows that contractions hurt.  But there is normally a break between them – a time to catch your breath.  When you add the synthetic hormone, you stop getting that break, and the contractions are harder and stronger and faster than natural ones.  Much worse, by the time the drug is fully ramped up.  The crappy little chart below illustrates what it felt like for me, with normal contractions, and then drug supplied contractions. You’ll notice two pain lines in the latter.  It really felt that way – the contraction pain, and then the constant, unceasing pain that never, ever let up.  It was horrible.

Contractions Comparison

We had agreed on a safe word before I was induced.  I picked the word elephant.  By 4:00 ish, the contractions were pretty brutal and I started saying elephant during the contractions.  The nurse offered nitrous, which I used for the next couple of hours.  It did, I’ll be honest, very little, but it took the edge off.  And forced me to take slow deep breaths, which helped, as I was in pretty terrible pain.  I tried the shower, which was basically useless and totally uncomfortable, even while sucking back the gas.  It mainly just made me cold and David’s pants wet.

I guess I wasn’t clear enough with David and the doula, because I always knew that if I was induced, I would need an epidural.  I knew that I did not want it for a natural labour if I could help it, but oxytocin labour isn’t normal.  My yoga teacher (also a doula) told us that they are inhuman contractions, and that you almost always need an epidural to withstand the pain.  And she was right.  It’s not productive pain.  It’s closer to torture.  And they, as per my natural birth plan, kept deferring my request for pain relief, also knowing that the longer I could go without it, the more quickly I would progress.  I managed until 6:30 pm when it turned out to flat out begging and pleading.  I think my final argument (begging) was that there was productive pain, and there was suffering, and that this was no longer productive and could I please please please have something to make the suffering stop? In those 6 hours, I had only progressed to 5 cm.

The anesthesiologist arrived just before 7:00 pm and gave me a high dose epidural that had me able to breath and dozing within minutes.  The next two hours passed in about 20 minutes for me.  David and the doula dozed on the couch and the chair, respectively.  I eventually woke up and was able to feel the contractions but was not pained by them.  The nurse kept rolling me from one side to the other, but that was about it for movement – this was not a walking epidural.

Just before midnight, I was checked again and had only managed to progress to maybe 8 cm.  The doctor added an antibiotic to the IV stand, as according to what we told them, my water had broken 48 hours earlier.  (We did lie by a few hours about when my water broke.  We said midnight instead of 9:30 pm because I didn’t want anyone to yell at me.  Again, I don’t endorse this.  I just really, really did not want to be induced.)   Still, 50 hours of labour, including almost 12 with oxtocin, and I was only at 8?  That’s pretty classic failure to progress.  The doctor called in various OB/GYNs and none of them could tell which way the baby was facing.  As in, was this back labour and that is why she was stuck?  No one could tell.  We later found out the J’s fontanelles had basically already closed up within a week of birth, suggesting that they weren’t open enough for her head to squish and be born vaginally.  Certainly, between the hair and the fontanelles, no one could tell.  As well, I’d gone from fully effaced to not effaced at all – the cervix was ‘bunched up like a turtleneck’.  Probably because of her unyielding head slamming against it for twelve hours.

I dozed off between doctor’s visits and intrusive internal exams and being cathetered.   Eventually, I was abruptly woken at 2:00 am by another OB/GYN who announced, without any preamble, that I would be getting a c-section.  I didn’t take it well – I may have burst in to tears – and her attitude didn’t help.  A trio of OB/GYNs came in and lectured me about all the terrible things that could happen to me and the baby if I didn’t immediately consent to it, up to and including fetal death.  The baby had been on the monitor basically since we checked in, and there wasn’t even a heart rate deceleration at any point.  The baby was fine, and they were using mean scare tactics that immediately got my back up.  I asked, and eventually got, one more hour to try and progress further.  I hadn’t been moving much, so for the final hour I rotated in a new position on the bed every 5 minutes.  Around 3:00 am, the nicest of the OBs came back and checked me again.  He looked sad to have to tell me that there was still no progress.

So I had to consent to the c-section.  They came back in and when through the risk factors, which sounded EXACTLY like the risk factors they had listed when I didn’t want to have it, up to and including fetal death.  I cried, and signed the consent form.  They took David off to get changed in to scrubs, and the doula left, as she could not accompany us to the OR.  The nurse (my least favourite of the 3 I’d had that day, and in Calgary the nurse spends her whole shift just with you, in the room) gave me this really gross anti-nausea drink, which I immediately puked back up.  (I still wonder why my puke was neon yellow.  Is that the colour of stomach acid?  There certainly wasn’t anything else in my stomach.) She broke regulations to give me enough ice chips to wash the taste out of my mouth.

They wheeled me to the OR, flat on my back.  I felt like I was in a tv show, that’s how cliched it was.  The epidural had mostly worn off, but I knew I was about to get seriously medicated, so I just did my best to breathe through the pain.

They moved me on to the operating table and put nice warm contracting leg cuffs on and covered me in hot blankets, as I was shivering so hard my teeth were chattering.  I’m assuming it must have been in reaction to one of the drugs, as it went on for most of the surgery.  At least the spinal needle was already in – it was hard enough to stay still for that during contractions – I can’t imagine how much harder it would have been while having full body shakes.  Various doctors came in – I think David told me at one point there were a dozen people in the room.  However, they didn’t bring David in right away, and it made me panic.  I kept asking for him, and telling them not to start until they found him.  A nurse mentioned that he wasn’t in the change room, and it made me worry.  He was sitting outside OR in the ‘loneliest hallway in the world’, able to hear me ask for him but not being able to come in.

David said waiting here to be called in to the OR was lonely – the loneliest hallway in the world.

They eventually brought him in and surgery started right away.

The anesthesiologist was amazing.  That nice doctor blend of cocky and kind.  (After giving me the epidural, he declared with perfect confidence, and accuracy, that I would not have a headache.)   After I was transferred to the operating table, he started adding drugs to my IV line.  Things get pretty fuzzy for me at this point, but I know that there was a much stronger epidural, morphine, plus an anti nausea drug, and when the pain killing affect of those drugs wasn’t enough, he added something else to the line.  He was also the only doctor who I remember any interaction with, and he never left my head.  The surgery hurt – I don’t think the morphine took – and every time I winced or moaned, he checked over the curtain to see what was going on.  If it was pushing, he did nothing as apparently pushing and pressure are normal to feel, but for everything else, he reacted to keep me comfortable.

I am as stoned as I look

He also told David when to look over the curtain – to see our baby being born.  David said he had no intention of looking, but when the doctor said to, he couldn’t help but look.  Said it was gross and weird and pretty fucking amazing.

The view from behind the curtain, as they were stitching me back up.

Baby J was born at 4:05 am on March 6, 2012, weighing 8 pounds, 3 ounces.  54 and a half hours after my water broke, via c-section.

I remember one doctor telling another that “she looks healthy” and I so clearly remember my voice wobbling and tearing up as I asked, “it’s a girl?”  I guess they are so used to everyone knowing the sex of the baby before birth that there was no ceremony to the announcement – not even, “It’s a girl!”  Just a baby being taken over to the heating table and David got to go up there and see her.  At some point, they brought her over, all swaddled up, but I’ll be honest and admit I don’t really remember that part.  In fact, they took her away and David followed and then I passed right out, and woke up in the recovery room.  During that time, David got to hold her and feed her a bottle and cuddle.

Freshly born

I just remember waking up hurting and having to spend time in the recovery room trying to make small talk with the nurse.  David and the doctor showed up to tell me that J had an unsurprising but very bad tongue tie so they wanted to clip it right away.  I remember slurring something about David would have to be the one to sign the forms for it, because I didn’t think I could move.  Apparently I was very incoherent.

Eventually I got enough feeling back in my body for them to move me to a room.  Luckily, it was a private room (which only costs $40 a night and was worth every penny) because I had got feeling back in my body and the morphine had NOT given me the promised 12 hours of pain relief because I cried out every time we crossed a door jam and then screamed in agony as the nurses moved me in to the bed.  When asked about what level of pain it was out of 10?  It was 10.  It actually hurt worse than anything else that had happened over the last 3 days.  They must have given me something, because by the time David brought in our daughter, I can remember something other than agony, but I’ll be honest.  It’s all very fuzzy.  And I may have been weeping.  And it was 5:00 am after days of labour – with the last solid sleep being four days earlier.

Meeting my daughter for the first (coherent) time

She was small and red and angry and I had no idea what to do.  I think I tried to feed her and she latched on pretty well, and I remember that David went home around 7:30 am to get some sleep and I must have passed out eventually, because the next day was simply a blur of feedings and diaper changes and endless, ENDLESS sitting around the hospital bored out of my mind, wanting to go home, and sobbing.  I’ll talk about that next, this is long enough already.

First family picture