Thursday, September 29, 2011

As September Ends

The high temperature tomorrow is supposed to be 90 degrees. Ugh! It has been really warm this September, which I shall have to remember to prepare myself for next year. This year June was very cool and September was very warm-- interesting. Even I will admit that Utah has lovely, lovely summers but I am totally over it now. This is exacerbated by the fact that I am nearly always carrying around or nursing or otherwise in physical contact with a little warm baby. I don't really desire to get space away from the little warm baby but gosh, I am ready to not be so sweaty all the time. Maybe it is partly hormonal as well? Bring on autumn!

Lewis is 4 weeks old now and doing quite well, full of sweet baby snuggles and a zillion poops a day, in stark contrast with Violet who at about a month old pooped every 4 days or something like that. Seriously, it is not uncommon for me to change his diaper 3 times in an hour when he is awake, and we have had diaper changes that have involved up to 4 diapers as he poops again immediately as I snap him up. Or as he squirts bright yellow breastmilk poop several feet out his butt while his diaper is off, which is a less desirable option. It is a toss-up which is worse-- that, or being peed upon, boy-baby-fashion. I am glad we're using cloth diapers because otherwise we would have spent a fortune on diapers by this point. Also, all this pooping is finally motivating me to switch to cloth wipes as well. Yes, I know, I know-- I've been cloth-diapering for going on six years now and have never used cloth wipes. I know everyone says you might as well do the cloth wipes if you are using cloth diapers already but for some reason it has seemed too hard until right now. Right now, when I am displeased by how many disposable wipes we are going through in a week.

And me? I am tired. Weary. Knackered, even. It befits the mother of a newborn, I suppose, but is not very fun. I have that eye twitch that I get whenever I am low on sleep. I feel like I spend a huge portion of my day walking and moving around and bouncing, because GOODNESS Lewis likes movement, as almost all babies do, I suppose. I am sort of considering buying a baby swing but am full of ambivalence about it. We borrowed a swing from friends with Grace and she liked it for, oh, two weeks or so, after which it made her cry and cry and cry. We didn't have one with Violet. I'm kind of a minimalist when it comes to baby stuff and also am snobbily horrified by the way most baby gear looks so I don't really want one at some level. At another level, I am lured by the siren promises of being able to put my baby down without him wailing. I want to throw money at the issue, thinking "Surely if I just buy the right thing everything will be fixed?!" If I did buy a swing, I know which one I would get: BEHOLD! A non-horrifying swing! There's a handful of them for sale used around town for about half that price. But would I be spending a hundred bucks for less than a month of use? Or worse than that, even? All of the listings for the used ones are all about how it's been used only 3 times and their baby didn't like it, etc.

I am taking a nap or at least resting most days, which is helping with the coping and the sanity and all. Most days after I pick Grace up from kindergarten and we eat lunch, I let the girls watch TV and curl up with Lewis for a nap. Ah, TV, what a wonderful/horrible crutch you are... Speaking of kindergarten, Grace is having a very good time, making new friends and navigating her new social world well. We've only had one school-related melt-down so far; it was the first day the teacher had them write in their journals and Grace was frustrated because she couldn't write EVERYTHING she had in her brain to express. She wanted to learn how to write the entire English language on her first try. I think she has since come to terms with the incremental nature of learning, to some extent at least, and kindergarten is going swimmingly. I am amazed with the strides she's made in reading in just four weeks there. She is doing so much better sounding out words and is much more willing to try and work hard to decode words. It's liked a trained educator knows what she's doing when it comes to teaching reading or something! Or it could simply be investing time on it every single day, which I admit I have never been good at here at home. That is true in almost every area of my life, actually; I have a hard time maintaining the discipline to do something non-urgent every single day. I can cook and do laundry every day but I have always struggled to be consistent at daily exercise or Bible reading or sticking with an eating plan or the like. Discipline is hard.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Lewis' Birth Story

Disclaimer: TMI galore! Proceed no further if you are squeamish about childbirth-type gross stuff!

A glad sound

I had a midwife appointment on the Friday when I was just shy of 39 weeks. She checked my cervix and I was dilated 1 cm, which seemed like an encouraging development, although of course not a promise that anything was going to happen immediately. Over the weekend when I was exactly 39 weeks, I lost my mucus plug. This was the first time this rather startling and gross thing had happened to me, as I didn't lose it until I was in active labor with Grace and Violet. Again, sort of encouraging that this baby was getting ready to come, but not a sign that I was going into labor right then or anything.

A few days later, I was awoken around 4am Tuesday morning with contractions that were much more intense and painful than the Braxton Hicks ones I'd been having for weeks and weeks. When I timed them, they were about 10 minutes apart, though, so not really looking like active labor or anything. The contractions stayed pretty much like that for the rest of the morning so Rob went off to work at his normal time, promising to stay glued to his cell phone in case things changed.

That was a weird, weird day. The contractions definitely felt "real"; I had to stop whatever I was doing to cope with each contraction and they were intense enough that I did not think it would be safe for me to drive anywhere. The hours passed, and then passed, and then passed some more, and the contractions just wouldn't get closer together, staying at 8-10 minutes apart for the entire day. I started googling things and decided I was probably in prodromal labor or very slow early labor or, I don't know, whatever you want to call it. The internet informed me that it is not unheard of for this pattern of labor to go on for days (DAYS!). I did my best to rest and conserve my energy and even sleep, with about as much success as you would guess when every 10 minutes my uterus was clenching up in a painful-type manner. I didn't call my midwife until late that afternoon and she was sympathetic and nice but of course couldn't really do anything or tell me anything that I didn't already know. She did recommend that I do everything I could to stop or slow down my contractions and try to get some sleep that night, in the hopes of waking up in active labor in the morning or sometime that night.

That evening I took a warm shower, had a glass of wine, and watched some mindless TV, all in the hopes of calming things down. I felt super-relaxed as I crawled into bed that evening, and then, suddenly, LABOR! Within an hour of getting into bed, the contractions intensified and finally started getting closer together. Eventually they were about 5 minutes apart and at about 1am we decided it was time to go to the hospital. We called our friends who were coming to take care of Grace and Violet to come over (yes, at 1am-- what good friends...) and then drove up to the hospital. THAT was an uncomfortable drive, let me tell you; having a contraction in a moving vehicle is much, much worse than having one elsewhere.

We got all checked in and settled in our labor and delivery room; our nurse eventually checked my cervix around 2am and I was dilated 5cm. Hooray! I was really having a baby! My midwife came and she offered to rupture my membranes. I decided to try walking around for a while first to see how things were progressing on their own, since things would likely get a lot more intense once she broke my water. Rob and I hung out for about an hour, walking loops around the hospital floor, contracting every 5 minutes or so, and eventually laboring on the birthing ball.  We were both quite tired at this point and in between contractions we both couldn't stop yawning; our nurse and midwife laughed at us and our contagious yawns making them yawn too. About 3am, my midwife decided to check me again and OH THE SADNESS, I was still 5cm! I was (and am still) very surprised by this because it felt like I was having good, effective contractions. The first check was with the nurse and the second was with the midwife; I wonder how much these things vary by who is measuring? Anyway, I may quibble but I obviously wasn't making huge progress so my midwife again broached the idea of rupturing my membranes. I decided to go for it, with the idea that I could move into the jacuzzi tub to labor if things really ramped up and got intense and I was having a hard time coping.

The jacuzzi tub was not to be, sadly, because when she ruptured my membranes, both the nurse and midwife made squeamish faces as my amniotic fluid was all full of meconium. I mean, a LOT of meconium. For the uninitiated, meconium is the poop that a baby stores up in his system in utero. They are not supposed to pass it until they are out, and a baby's first few poopy diapers are this stuff, which is all tarry and sticky and weird. When a baby passes meconium while still inside, it means they are stressed to some extent or another and it is a bad thing. For us, it meant that the pediatrics people had to come to check out Lewis right after birth, and that I had to be on constant monitoring until he was born (nooooooo...), and because of that I couldn't get in the tub or walk around or move much anymore. This was particularly unfortunate, because as advertised rupturing my membranes kicked things into high gear pretty much immediately and lots of the labor coping techniques don't really work if you're hooked up to monitors and unable to move.

So there we were, and there we stayed for a while longer as labor progressed. It wasn't pleasant, certainly, and I had a lot of pain particularly in my lower back. I was running out of energy and SO SO tired. Eventually I felt the urge to push and started on the stereotypical scream-y laboring woman routine. My midwife checked me one more time and I was completely dilated so we started pushing. I experienced pushing very differently this time around; with Grace, I had leftovers from the epidural so pushing mainly felt like just very hard work, with Violet, pushing hurt but felt like such a relief after the first part of labor, and this time around it mainly just hurt, especially in my lower back and tailbone. (He sort of spun around while descending through the birth canal from occiput anterior to occiput posterior, or maybe the other way around? I don't remember exactly what the midwife was saying. Whatever it was, it hurt.)

I kind of feel like I did a particularly bad job of pushing effectively this time around. I mean, I don't feel bad about myself or anything, but I'm pretty sure it was my worst showing yet in pushing a baby out. I attribute this to exhaustion; I hadn't really slept in 24 hours at this point and I was just out of every resource I had. I actually passed out briefly a couple time during pushing. I would start to push and the whole room would go starry and black and everybody's voices would fade away for a brief moment before coming back. We kept at it, though, and eventually, FINALLY, despite my inability to really do a good job, Lewis emerged into the world at exactly 5am on August 31. The umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck and his shoulder got quasi-stuck, freaking Rob out for a moment, but he was eventually birthed safely, albeit covered in meconium goo. He wasn't super vigorous when the pediatrics people whisked him to the other side of the room; his first APGAR score was 4, way lower than either of the girls. They intubated him and suctioned him and cleaned him up and generally got him mad and responsive and crying, which in this situation was a good thing. While all that was happening, I delivered the placenta (which my midwife declared to be covered in disgusting green meconium goo-- yeah, thanks for that) and my midwife repaired a small tear I got during the birth. My midwife decided she wanted to give me some pitocin at that point to make sure I didn't hemorrhage (she thought it was a good idea since this was my third birth and I had been in labor for so long) and I said OK, although I think that was kind of silly (AND PAINFUL) since by that point Lewis was back with me and breastfeeding, which releases natural oxytocin that causes uterine contractions anyway. (That's why I make a funny face at 0:57 of Lewis' birth video-- more contractions.)

But oh, it was so, so wonderful to be holding Lewis and to have him safe and sound with us and to be done with the whole ordeal of birth. There is just nothing like the intoxicating newness of a just-born baby who belongs to you, the realization that he is here, that there is this new tiny person to get to know and mother and love.

Some concluding thoughts:
  • I never fail to be amused/horrified by the weird, unexpected "injuries" I end up with after birth. With Grace, I strained an eye muscle so badly that I couldn't focus that eye for a few days, with Violet, I was hoarse for a while from the screaminess, and this time around my tailbone was bruised or something and I burst a ZILLION capillaries on my face, neck, and chest. Seriously, I looked like I was a heavily freckled person. Crazy. Both things were mostly better by the time I left the hospital, but at the beginning my tailbone hurt more than my perineal tear.
  • I was very curious as to why exactly Lewis passed all that meconium and what stressed him. My midwife said it was probably the cord being around his neck combined with being in labor so long. When you have a contraction, the cord gets compressed to some extent, reducing the oxygen that gets to the baby. Apparently the effect here with the cord around his neck was drastic enough to distress poor little Lewis. And he passed ALL the meconium in his system; we changed no meconium diapers at all. He didn't poop at all in the hospital (causing all the nurses to tsk-tsk in a concerned manner), had one sort of transitional poop, and then just went straight to the regular yellow breastmilk poo.
  • At just over 24 hours, this was my longest labor, by a good margin (16 hours with Grace, under 5 hours for Violet). What the heck, man? On my third baby?! I don't think this is how things are supposed to go. Of course, this was also my first time to go into labor spontaneously and have a closer-to-drug-free birth so maybe those are related?
  • This was my second epidural-free birth but I felt pretty different at the end of it than with my first. After Violet's birth, I felt like I'd conquered the world ("I did it!") while after Lewis' birth, I felt more like I'd been hit by a truck ("I made it!"). There were many contributing factors to the difference, but probably the two biggest were 1) the lack of sleep with my labor with Lewis and 2) the artificial speed of my labor with Violet because of the prostaglandin gel I had. Also, the not-ideal positioning (sunny-side-up baby) could not have helped. I also now wonder how much "help" I got with Violet when I threw up. My midwife said that vomiting can really push a baby through the birth canal effectively. I don't know; it just seemed a lot easier last time.
  • Do I wish I'd had an epidural this time, given how rough it was? No, probably not. It was less than 4 hours between when we arrived at the hospital and when Lewis was born so I don't think it would have been worth the hassle of having IV fluids and not being able to walk afterwards and probably a catheter and all that stuff, not to mention the cost. I ponder this now, but at the time it didn't even occur to me that I could ask for one. And anyway, it may have been rough, but he was worth it.
Sleepy boy

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Bullets! Especially For You!

  • Lewis is 10 days old today and doing very well. He has started to have his eyes open more and to stare incredulously at us or things around the house. What an impossibly strange world this must seem to a new baby... He is still very curled up and waves his arms and legs around slowly as if he is a mer-man living underwater. His eyes are still newborn slate gray and I think he is starting to look a tiny bit bigger, a tiny bit plumper, a tiny bit on the way from newborn to delicious baby.
  • Speaking of such things, breastfeeding seems to be going pretty well, for which I am very thankful. Lewis first nursed in that first hour after birth and latched on really, shockingly well. That instinctive ability is so amazing. He then went on to do exactly what he was supposed to, i.e. nurse ALL THE FREAKING TIME. That link is a little cheesy but I think it does a good job of explaining what normal nursing behavior is for a newborn, something that there is a lot of misunderstanding about.
  • I have had some pain and discomfort with starting breastfeeding this time around, similar to with Violet. The breastfeeding experts say that you shouldn't have any pain if you are doing things right but after getting started nursing three times now, I think either a) they are wrong or b) it is effectively impossible to do everything right with a tiny floppy newborn with no head control to speak of who nurses so frequently that any small problems with his latch can do some damage. It hasn't been too bad this time around; I think my discomfort peaked around day 7, things are getting better each day, and I bet I am totally pain-free in another week. So just like with Violet, basically.
  • On the positive side, I figured out how to nurse in the side-lying position on our first day home from the hospital (as opposed to a few weeks along with Grace and Violet), which I'm pretty sure means I WIN AT BREASTFEEDING. AND ALSO SLEEPING.
  • Violet is going through a super awkward hair phase and I am not exactly sure what to do about it. The issue is mostly the front of her hair but I don't want to cut bangs so I don't know what options I really have other than waiting it out. Although the rest of her hair certainly has the uneven/straggly thing going on, which a haircut would fix, so maybe that is the way to go. Grace got a haircut right before school started, back up to chin-length or so, as I decided to take a break from the hair-detangling drama. Oh, the wailing involved in brushing her hair when it is longer... I would like to keep it longer so we'll see if Grace can handle it better when it grows out this time around. In the meantime, it is super cute shorter and much, much easier to brush.
  • Also in Violet news, I see more visible signs that she will eventually learn to read than that she will ever learn to use the toilet. Sigh...
  • Mealtimes are an interesting study in contrasts around here these days. Grace and Violet are, I believe, the slowest eaters on the face of the planet, while one or both of Robert and I are usually scarfing down our food because Lewis either needs or is about to need attention. The only time I eat in a leisurely manner right now is standing up with Lewis asleep in the sling.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Lewis' Birth Video

Here is a bit of a glimpse into life changing for us a week ago. (And here are Grace's and Violet's birth videos, if you just can't get enough newborn wonderfulness.)


Monday, September 5, 2011

Happy Labor Day

My due date was yesterday and earlier in my pregnancy when I realized its proximity to today's holiday, I thought, "Wouldn't it be funny if I was in labor on Labor Day?"

Speaking of proximity of events, remember all my pondering of how close my due date was to when Grace started kindergarten? Well, it turns out that Lewis was born actually ON her first day of school, about three hours before she needed to be there, no less. What are the odds, right? In related news, I have discovered a foolproof method to avoid feeling emotional about one's oldest child leaving her preschool years behind forever and growing up-- Just have a baby! On the same day!

First day of kindergarten

Lining up for a new adventure

Seriously, I cannot summon up the least bit of lachrymose melancholy for the unstoppable passage of time and transience of childhood and all that; there is just too much else to cope with. My main feeling is one of relief that Grace did not miss her first day. I still am somewhat in awe that Rob managed it all; he went straight home from the hospital after I was settled in my post-partum room (where he had been up all night with me in labor obviously) and walked Grace to school. She had a really great first week (well, first 3 days since they started on a Wednesday) and is enamored of her status as a kindergartener and walking to school and the fun things they are doing. I am so SO glad that she is transitioning well and has this fun new adventure to embark upon.

Oh, and speaking of yet more crazy timing, Rob is currently knee-deep in studying for his allergy boards. This is kind of a big deal as he has to pass this test (and then pass it again every 10 years) to practice allergy. The test is in a handful of weeks (October? I think? I am so fuzzy on everything right now) and he is working working working in every spare moment to learn everything he is supposed to know. It kind of sucks for him because at some level he is missing out on Lewis' first days and it kind of sucks for the girls because they have one parent who is frantically working in every possible moment and one who is sort of out of commission from childbirth and taking care of a newborn and it kind of sucks for me because my main support person can't do as much as any of us would like. It kind of sucks.

What doesn't suck is getting to know this little new person who is part of our family, now that I am home from the hospital and we are all settling in and figuring out new rhythms to our life. Lewis is this perfect curled-up creature with tiny waving fingers and pink shells for ears and a little-old-man-monkey face. There is just nothing like a brand new baby. Grace is full of enthusiasm for him, wanting to hold him and touch his head and play with his fingers; she is such a nurturer. Violet, who I had more concern about, is doing very well with him too. She has a much shorter attention span for him than Grace and she doesn't really do gentle at this point but she has been very positive and happy and accepting. "The baby is sleeping," she notes. "The baby is crying," she observes with alarm. "The baby is soooooo cute," she declares with approval. And indeed he is.

Two days old

Thursday, September 1, 2011


Lewis Martin was born on August 31 at 5am, weighing 8 lbs 6 oz and measuring 20 inches.