Saturday, August 27, 2016

What Goes Up Must Come Down

Last night, on our first post-child date, Jenna and I cried over our Proscuitto and Arugula Pizza at the Corner Room in Portland. Maybe it was the wine, or maybe it was the lack of sleep, but we agreed things have gotten harder over the past few days.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Breastfeeding: A Love Hate Relationship

I'm breastfeeding my baby right now. I was breastfeeding him an hour ago. And I'll be breastfeeding him again in another hour, or maybe even 20 minutes. Feeding him seems absolutely endless, but I love breastfeeding.. and I hate it.

I knew babies needed to eat every two hours or so but I don't think I really realized how much time it actually takes. It's all I do. It's all I think about. It's what I plan my day around. And that every two hours thing - that clock starts from the beginning of a feeding! So I feed the baby for at least 20 minutes per side. That's 40 minutes, which means I have an hour and 20 minutes of "free time" until the next feeding. By the time I clean everything up, change a diaper and put him down for a nap it's time to start the process all over again. Oh, and I think my right breast might be clogged so I'm pumping in between feedings too. But I love breastfeeding...and I hate it.

Breastfeeding hurts. Another thing to add to my list of "what hurts today." My boobs hurt, my nipples hurt, my back hurts, my vagina hurts. Labor and delivery is only the very beginning of what seems like an endless pain of parenting. But I love breastfeeding...and I hate it.

It's only been two weeks since my son was born and already I can't help but think "Will this be my life for the next 6+ months?" "How many more reality TV shows can I watch while I feed before I go insane?" "Will I forget who I am by the time I'm done breastfeeding?" "Did I ever really know who I was anyway?" Well, at least I have a lot of time to think about all this while I breastfeed.

I know that breastfeeding is beneficial for the baby for a variety of reasons so of course I will continue on this breastfeeding journey for him but boy is it hard. P.S. I have absolutely no judgement towards those moms who choose not to or are unable to breastfeed. To each their own. A happy baby is a fed baby.

And as much as this post seems like a rant, I really do love breastfeeding. I love the time my son and I get to be belly to belly. I love the look on his face when he is milk drunk. I love to kiss his little swollen lips when he's done eating. I love to listen to his grunts and squeaks as he's eating. I love that I can make him happy and calm by putting him on my breast. To me, all this makes all the pain and frustration well worth it. I love breastfeeding...and I hate it.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Birth Story Video

In between the excitement, pain, and sleeplessness, we tried to capture Michael's birth story on video. My time at the hospital with Jenna and her mother was a mix of nervousness and joy punctuated by moments of hilarity. This video documents our hospital adventure including the first precious moments of Michael's life.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

My Birth Story

This is my birth story.

Monday, August 8th 2016. I open my eyes from a not-so-restful slumber and think, "ugh. Still pregnant." I was 5 days past my due date and each day postdate felt like torture. I said goodbye to Jeff as he left for work and sat out on the deck with my mom, who had flown in from NJ for the big occasion, with a cup of half-caff coffee and a bowl of cereal. I complained about how tired and uncomfortable I was and figured I might as well get one last manicure to try to keep my mind off still being pregnant. At 8am I went upstairs to get ready, sat on the toilet and heard a "pop" within me as Niagara falls came pouring out of me. "Mom!" I yelled. "My water just broke!" She came upstairs and looked at me as I sat on the toilet crying. "What's wrong?" she asked.  "I'm scared," I replied.

I had always wondered how the show would go down. Would my water break at the grocery store? Would I start feeling contractions in the middle of the night? How would I know if it was a real contraction? Would I labor at home for a few hours or go straight to the hospital? After 40 weeks and 5 days of pregnancy today was the big day.  I was excited, but also terrified. This was going to hurt.

The first call I made was to my doctor who wanted me to go to Maine Med Labor and Delivery triage right away. Then, of course, I called Jeff. "Hey babe. My water just broke. It's time to come home. The doctor wants us to go to the hospital right away."

I took a quick shower and the contractions started coming on, albeit mildly at first. By the time Jeff got home my Mom and I were finishing packing up the bags. Jeff looked excited and ready to go.  I pulled on a pair of Depends adult diapers and by 8:30am we were heading out the door as Jeff took a few pictures to document the beginning of this journey. The contractions continued in the car, about 10 minutes apart. I could still smile and talk through them.

Jeff dropped us off at the door and we headed up to triage. The elevator door opened and there were eight women in training at the desk to greet me. "Hi," I said, looking at the crowd. "I'm here to have a baby." They checked me in and all congratulated me as I was escorted to my room.

The contractions were coming on a bit stronger now and they determined I was in fact in labor and moved me to my labor and delivery room with a view of Hadlock Field. This is where we would spend the next 12 hours before meeting our son.

I tried finding a comfortable position during my contractions. I started by leaning over the bed with my head and arms on a stack of pillows. This worked for a while, but after a couple of hours my legs were getting weak. I tried sitting and rocking on the exercise ball, but it wasn't for me. Jess, our L&D nurse, recommended I get in the tub. Good thing I had bought that neon orange bikini top at Target a couple days before. I spent a majority of the day laboring in the tub. By noon, the contractions were coming on faster and stronger. I would put my chin to my chest, close my eyes and moan in a low, basey voice like we were taught to do in our Birth Roots class. Thank God for those classes. I don't know what I would have done without them.

Jeff supported me by sitting next to the tub holding my hand and offering me water. He took a few pictures, interviewed me on camera and made the occasional joke between contractions to keep my spirits up. My mom paced around the room nervously. I could hear her crying around the corner telling the nurse how strong she thought I was. I can only imagine how hard it was for her to watch me in so much pain, but hearing that made me power through even stronger. I could do this...right?

Around 3:00pm, and a loose 4 cm dilated, I could barely take the pain any longer. I asked what my options were for pain management. I still wasn't set on getting the epidural. In the world of labor and delivery the epidural is a controversial subject. Who knew! Some say that once you get the epidural you are bound to the bed and no longer able to use gravity to get the baby down. It's also said the epidural can slow down labor increasing the chances of needing pitocin to speed labor back up, which can then increase the chances of needing a C-section if the baby is in distress. I wanted to avoid all of this. I also wanted to see if I could in fact do this without the epidural. Was I strong enough? I knew that several of my Birth Roots classmates did it without the epi. I admired them for that. Would it be a sign of weakness if I got the epidural?

I opted for a shot of Nubain to ease the pain. I HATED it. I still felt every ounce of pain with each contraction, which were now coming on so strong and fast. I barely had a break in between. The Nubain only made me feel really high. I could barely open my eyes. I didn't feel like myself. Luckily it would only last a couple of hours.

Just before 5:00 I was 6cm dilated and in agony. No break between contractions. I remember being in the bed with Jeff standing next to me. My face was buried in his chest and I grabbed the sleeves of his shirt. "Call the anesthesiologist," I begged. I had had enough and I could feel the anxiety in the room rising. Not what I wanted for my delivery.

The anesthesiologists came rather quickly. I barely felt anything (other than the pain I was already in) as they administered the needle in my spine. I immediately felt better. I could breathe again. And surprisingly I could still wiggle my toes, feel my legs and get in different positions in the bed. The fact that I was hooked up to monitors, IVs and a catheter didn't phase me one bit. I was quite comfortable. I immediately asked for my hairbrush.

I took a quick nap to rest up for the final act - pushing.

During my nap the contractions were still coming strong and steady. I quickly progressed to 10 cm and the doctors could feel his head. It was 7:30 pm - time to get this show on the road. I looked out the window and saw the most beautiful sunset. The delivery room was lit up with golden sunshine. I will never forget that moment, and I'll always think of the day my son was born whenever I see the sunset.

The room was calm, but fear set in again as the doctors told me it was time to push. I was scared. Would I tear? Would I poop? Would Jeff faint? Pushing a baby out of your vagina must be the most vulnerable position a woman could be in, but also the most powerful.

I began pushing on my side. The doctors were impressed at how easily I could still move around in the bed. I must have only pushed on my side for about 30 minutes before they recommended I turn on my back in order to open up my pelvis more.

I switched over to my back and pushed with all my might during each contraction. I'd push twice during each one. "Do you have one more in you?" the nurse asked. "Sure, why not," I said trying to keep the mood light. The nurses laughed.

At some point one of the nurses disconnected the epidural by accident. Just in time for the baby's head to start crowning. Throughout the pushing I could still feel contractions, but it was more pressure than pain. As his head was crowning the epi began the wear off a little but I think it actually helped me to push stronger. We were about an hour and fifteen minutes into pushing. I was exhausted. Jeff held my left leg the entire time encouraging me with each push. My mom fed me ice chips between each push to keep me hydrated.

Just a few more big pushes and my son would be in my arms. At one point I glanced down and saw the top of his head, full of hair. When I saw that I knew it was go time. It was so motivating. I pushed with all my might knowing he was almost here. 9:04pm his head was out. 9:05pm his shoulders and the rest of his body were born. The relief was great and the nurses put him on my chest - 8lbs 4oz, 20.5" long. He was wet, slippery and so soft. Oh, and he immediately peed in my hand.

My mom and I were crying tears of joy. I looked up at Jeff and said "Look, it's your son," and all I can remember was the look of amazement and wonder on his face. We kissed and said "I love you " to each other.

I finally looked at my son on my chest and his eyes were wide open looking around as if to say "where am I?" His thumb went right in his mouth. A self-soother from the get go.

For the next hour I lay there holding Michael in disbelief as the doctor worked to deliver my placenta. No one ever really talks about afterbirth. That also hurt as it was taking some time for the placenta to detach from my uterus. The doctor kneaded my stomach as I pushed. Finally the organ that I had grown inside of me, which provided Michael all the oxygen and nutrients he needed was delivered. Jeff and I checked it out for a little while. No, we didn't take it home with us and no, I didn't eat it. It had served its purpose.

Afterwards the doctor stitched up my second degree tear (they said that's normal...probably just so I wouldn't worry) and helped to clean me up before moving us to the mother and baby care floor. All four of us were in the room by 11pm, but how could I sleep?? I just gave birth to a human being! Yes, I was utterly exhausted but I couldn't stop replaying the whole day over and over in my mind. I couldn't believe I actually did it. I was so proud of myself, even though I got the epidural. Maybe I was even more proud of myself BECAUSE I got the epidural. It allowed me to remain myself and to experience the birth with joy and excitement rather than suffering and pain. It's what worked for me and Jeff. And that's how we plan on raising our son. We'll do what works for us even though it may not always be by the book. The most important thing is that Michael is safe, happy, clean, fed and loved.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Establishing My New Normal

Before the baby, I'd often lament my anticipated loss of free time. My friends, humoring my sour disposition, tried to convince me that I'd still be able to do whatever activity I happened to be whining about at the time. I just needed to establish my "new normal".

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Life with Baby: You're Still You

While waiting for Michael's arrival, Jenna and I took a course for new parents. We watched birth videos, learned about oxytocin, and shared our fears with other apprehensive couples. I was particularly concerned about how my life would change. One of the other expectant fathers shared sage advice. "After you have a baby, you're still you". Now that Michael's a week old, I want to reflect on what has changed and what has stayed the same.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Please welcome Michael Robert Marion

My son, Michael Robert Marion, was born on August 8th at 9:05PM. He weighed in at 8lb 4oz and was 20.5 inches long. His birth was both a finish line and starting line: the end of months of pregnancy and the beginning of our lives together. This is his story.