Friday, February 15, 2013

Life with a Baby

It's been three and a half weeks since we brought our little love-bug home. I thought the hospital was overwhelming, but I had no idea how unprepared I was for life with a baby! Well, I guess I should say life with a baby and pneumonia and food poisoning was more overwhelming than I imagined. Once I started feeling better late last week, things have been much, much better! Maleah is the easy part - she is a textbook baby. It's all the other stuff - visitors, laundry, eating, pumping, taking advantage of naps, hospital paperwork, remembering to pay the bills, etc . - that's the hard part.

Maleah is on a fairly consistent three hour routine. She eats (100 mL to be exact!), wakes up for a while, and goes back to sleep. I'm learning that her morning nap (around 9) is her shortest - she is awake for a good bit and maybe sleeps 45 minutes to an hour. The rest of her naps come within an hour or hour and a half of feeding and she'll usually 90 minutes to two hours. So, if she eats at 12:30, she's usually on her way to dreamland by 1:30 and starts to wake up again near 3:30. We've had some trouble with her sleeping after her 2am feeding, but I think the problem is with my impatience (putting her down too soon) and she's had some gas that seems to wake her up. So, we've got some tricks up our sleeve to try over the next several days to help her sleep better at that time.

I have to go back to work part-time next Wednesday and will start back full-time on March 6. I'm trying to figure out how in the world I will be ready to go by 7:45 a.m., but we'll figure that out! Thankfully, Maleah will be staying at home so we just have to make sure she's fed and clean - we don't have to take her anywhere just yet.

So, just like with my pregnancy posts, I really am not intending to bombard the world with baby info (hey, you're the one who clicked the link!), but that's what my life revolves around currently... plus, as you probably know, I write so I can remember things! Just the other night, I rummaged through 10-year-old journal entries... and found a few things I'd like to forget!!!! But I think I'll want to remember this baby stuff since I'm already forgetting things that happened a week ago!

A few things that have been life-savers over the past three & half weeks:

These puppies are invaluable to me. At first, I was washing the pump parts EVERY SINGLE TIME. It was exhausting. Target and Toys-R-Us had them on sale (Buy 1/Get 1 50% off) so we stocked up. I cut them in half and keep them in a Ziploc bag with all my pumping gear. I just wipe down the pump parts at each sitting and then wash and sterilize the parts at night. 

One of Blake's professors gave us their ERGO since they weren't using it anymore... I think I owe them  a HUGE thank-you. I started using it this week and it has been a true lifesaver! Part of the struggle of having a newborn is that their little three hour routine sounds like plenty of time but it really isn't! I've been putting her in it when she gets sleepy during the day so I can help her fall asleep while getting some things done (i.e. writing this blog post!). This was a free item for us, but I would highly recommend purchasing one or something similar. It's worth the money. Ours has a newborn insert that basically swaddles her before going in the carrier, so it's totally safe for a baby her age and is specially designed to help support her spine (so I don't feel bad carrying her around through an entire nap if I feel like it!). 

This app is fantastic!!!! A book we've been reading (also highly recommended - The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems) suggests that you "shush-pat" your baby to sleep. That means you pat their back while making a "shhhh shhhh shhh" sound. The "shh"-ing really works, but if you've ever tried to make that noise for an extended period of time, you'll know that it hurts your mouth after a while! Blake found this app and it's saved our mouths a lot of pain! Since it's on our phone, we can use it anywhere we go. We try not to use it every time since we don't want it to become a crutch, but we whip it out when she's fighting sleep or when we're somewhere noisy and she's too distracted to sleep.

If you have a baby under twelve weeks old, you need to click the link above and watch the video. The theory is that babies have 5 distinct "pre-cry" sounds that act as reflexes to whatever their current need is. For instance, they begin to make the "Neh" sound when they are hungry. I have had to watch it several times to distinguish the sounds (and spend a few days really listening to Maleah's pre-cries) but, people, IT WORKS. She was making the sound for "lower gas" earlier and I started moving her little legs for her and out came a toot (!!) and she calmed down! It was amazing. 

So, I'm no expert, but these four things have been huge helps to us as new parents. There's numerous other things we've found helpful, but these are definitely my top four. I'm curious as to what you found helpful for your newborn. Any books, gear, websites that you found to be your lifesaver during the newborn phase? I'm interested to hear!! 

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Baby Ball: Birth and Beyond

Being a mom is the absolute greatest job in the entire world. I had to start that way because that's how I feel every time I look at the little kiddo Blake and I were given to nurture, raise, and love. Everyone says you can't understand the love you feel for your child until they're here - and they're right! Having Maleah here is the greatest gift. Getting her here was no walk in the park, but worth it nonetheless.

Before you read... here's a little disclaimer: there's nothing gory or graphic in this blog post but it is fairly detailed so if you don't really want to know about labor and delivery, you might want to just stick to viewing the millions of pictures we've posted over the past few weeks! Oh, and this is a really long post!

Blake and I found out we were pregnant just before 11pm on Saturday, May 26. Talk about the SHOCK of a lifetime! Maleah was a complete surprise to us and she has been surprising us since day one. Pregnancy was overall a happy, lovely time. But there were those moments when I swore I could never go through it again. (For the record: I'm pretty sure I'll go through it again.) I wouldn't say my pregnancy was a miserable one - not at all - but it was harder and more physically demanding than I expected. I got used to it around 30 weeks and finally started to come to terms (so to speak) with the physical toll pregnancy takes and learned to love the new limitations. I learned that it was okay to take it easy, okay to not feel like cooking, and okay for dust to collect on the entertainment center. :)

Around 37 weeks, I started to get annoyingly uncomfortable. I'm a small person, so you can imagine having a giant basketball for a stomach would cause things to ache. I started having lots of trouble sleeping (more-so than usual), more intense back-aches, and - oh yeah - Braxton Hicks contractions! I was in "false labor" several times towards the end of pregnancy, which is good because it helped things progress... bad because a few hours' worth of any type of contracting will leave you feeling pretty exhausted! I tried to take it all in stride until...

...I was literally ready to POP!

So I started talking to my doctor about the possibility of an elective induction. When I originally sat down to write this post (it took a few days!), I wrote this long explanation as to why we chose to have an elective induction. There is this sense of pride that mothers feel about the way their children are delivered. Women seem to feel empowered when they go "all natural" and feel like failures if they wind up with a C-section. While I definitely believe women need to make informed decisions, modern medicine is not evil! I did not think I would EVER get an ELECTIVE induction, but the pains of pregnancy changed me and I had a really happy, peaceful, beautiful experience. I am willing to share why we chose an induction if you are pregnant or thinking of being pregnant one day and are exploring your options. For the rest of you, here's my "why?" response: I'm a 21st century mom and my doctor rocked and I trusted her when she said I was favorable and that it was safe. There ya go. :)

On Thursday, January 17, we went in for our weekly appointment and left with induction orders in hand. Maleah was "scheduled" to arrive Tuesday, January 22 (39 weeks, 2 days)! We didn't make it complete public knowledge to avoid criticism and opinions and because I was scared. Scared because it's unknown. I would've been scared if we had waited for spontaneous labor. I would have been scared if I planned a C-section. Bringing a child into this world is a scary ordeal, no matter which way you go! So, we notified our immediate family and close friends and hoped for the best!

We spent the days between Thursday and Tuesday trying to soak up the last bits of life without a kid. We went to a gymnastics meet, we went to dinner and a movie, we hung out with friends, we slept in. It was a fantastic weekend. Then Tuesday came (eeeeeek!!!!). Oh, and no, we didn't sleep very well at all Monday night! We arrived at the hospital at 4:45 a.m. and the nurses quickly got us back to a room and before I knew it, things were moving right along. They started pitocin at 6:30 a.m. and Dr. Ray came to break my water right after 7 a.m. She said I was already 3 centimeters and 80-90% effaced (I think). That was good news!! The contractions started quickly after and though I could feel them, I really wasn't in much pain.

My parents arrived a little after 8 and stayed in the room for a while. Not long after they arrived, the contractions were getting strong enough that I was having to stop talking through them and focus on breathing and relaxing. Eventually, they decided to leave the room so I could rest and I called for an epidural not long after.

The epidural was something else I debated over for a long time. I have a pretty high pain tolerance and probably could've gone without it, but the biggest benefit of having an epidural to me was rest. Labor and delivery is an exhausting process (have I mentioned that yet!?) no matter how it comes about. I knew if I was going to have the energy to deliver a baby, I'd need some rest and the epidural offered just that. I planned to wait until I was 5-6 cm dilated, but since they don't "check" you every five minutes (thankfully!), I tried to have it done while the contractions were still far enough apart (3-5 min) that I wasn't in agony during the procedure.

The epidural was, by far, the scariest and worst part of the whole process for me. I was more nervous about that procedure than I was of going through labor & delivery! The anesthesiologist came around 11 and got started. I was scared of the epidural mainly because I've never had a needle or catheter stuck into a tiny crevice of my spine, so naturally it was a little frightening! :) But, I am a tough cookie and wanted it, so I obeyed every command! About halfway through the procedure, Blake (who is in front of me) says "I - I - I need to sit down". Let the fun begin!!!

They got him into a chair and someone brought him a Mountain Dew. Poor guy hadn't eaten all day and I honestly hadn't even thought to remind him that he should eat (even though I couldn't)!! The room was pretty hot and I was holding on pretty tightly during the epidural, so it was like a perfect storm. Thankfully he didn't pass out, but once he felt better I sent him downstairs with my parents to get lunch!

The epidural wasn't so scary after all - although the first catheter went down a blood vessel, which they say happens often. And oooooh did I feel good after it got to working!!! I definitely will have one again! (Update: Actually, I might not!) Oh, I also felt it much more on my left side than my right... although after laying tilted for a while, it took effect on both sides. My blood pressure also dropped at one point, making me feel ridiculously sleepy. I naturally have low blood pressure (usually 110/60 or below), so they gave me some epinephrine to fix that.

There are these myths out there that say an epidural causes you to not be able to feel your contractions, slow your labor, and make it harder to push. That may have happened to some people, but not to me. Although I couldn't feel the pain of the contractions and couldn't always exactly tell the intensity of them, I knew they were happening. Labor also wasn't slowing down any. It was progressing smoothly, Maleah's heart rate was perfect, and although I was much more "at ease" thanks to the epidural, I tried to remain focused on the task at hand. I didn't want to get too distracted, so we limited visitors and I tried to rest as much as I could in anticipation of the delivery of my baby girl!

The hours continued to tick by and although our family was getting anxious about this baby's arrival, I was perfectly calm and patient. Sometime around 4 or 5, the nurse checked me and told me I was getting very close. I was really feeling the pressure of the contractions again, but I had what is known as an "anterior lip" - look it up, I don't totally understand what it is and really don't want to know because it doesn't sound pretty! They were trying to wait for that to thin out, but close to 6, I started feeling the urge to push.

So... we started pushing! Our nurse was great - she was actually a girl I graduated high school with! Sometime around 6:15, she told us she could see BLONDE hair!!! What!?!?! I mean, if I hadn't been in the room, I wouldn't have believed it! My mom and Blake were my "coaches" and they were incredible. I expected pushing to take quite a while - most of my friends have pushed for well over an hour, if not more. Each time I pushed, I tried to focus my energy and concentrate on the end result. I remember bits and pieces of what was going on in the room (I remember hearing the word "crowning" at some point and remember thinking this is IT!), but mostly I was zoned in on delivering this baby girl. Oh, and I was also focused on eating ice! Between each contraction, my mom had to spoon-feed me ice because I was so incredibly thirsty!! I was also trying to relax between contractions, so mom and Blake say I was making lots of jokes and being rather chatty until the very end.

So, when the doctor came in the room around 6:30 or so, I was shocked! Usually doctors only come right in time for the big moment. I knew we were close! When she began to tell me that Maleah was "right there," I asked for the mirror. I was able to see the top of Maleah's head and then I felt like I was in a tunnel. I could still hear everything around me, but all I could think about was finishing the job. Seeing how close I was to delivering her made a huge difference in the way I pushed.

And at 6:52 p.m., this tiny creature came out - all at once - screaming and crying into this cold and scary world! Blake cut the cord and they handed this gorgeous being to me and I was, as is expected, in total disbelief. She was and still is the most incredible thing I've ever laid my eyes on! I was able to hold her for a few minutes before they took her to the warmer.

As I was being tended to, I watched this tiny arm flail back and forth in the warmer. That's all I could see of her, but it was AWESOME! I could hear Blake saying, "Hi, sweetheart! I love you!" and my heart melted. My mom was taking pictures like a madwoman (miraculously she was able to work the camera...that's an inside joke!) and I was trying to pretend I didn't know what Dr. Ray was doing to me (stitching me up). I had a 3rd degree tear and then one that I assume was either another 3rd degree or 4th degree - one reason why I love Dr. Ray is because when I asked her how bad my tearing was she just said, "Pretty bad. You don't wanna know." And, truthfully, I did not want to know! I only know what I overheard her say to the nurses as she was fixing me (which took what felt like at least 30 minutes, maybe longer!).

Dr. Ray explained to me at some point that Maleah had not been face-down like she was supposed to be. Instead, she had her little head turned sideways which was why the labor was so difficult. At the very last push, Maleah turned herself face-down and came out all at one time. There was no pausing and pushing to deliver the shoulders - she was out! Since I had been pushing so well, Dr. Ray said she didn't even consider checking Maleah's position but that if she had, she could have turned her and pushing would have been easier. Honestly, I didn't know the difference!

The little miss was 7 lbs 2 oz and 20 inches long (my guess exactly!) and she was absolutely beautiful. After they handed her back to me, we let our family come in to see her before they took her to the nursery. I was so proud to show her off!

The next several hours, I was running on total adrenaline. Everyone left the hospital sometime around 9 or 10 and I don't think I slept until closer to 4am! This made for an exhausting Wednesday, but it was worth it!

The days in the hospital were extremely overwhelming and stressful, and I'll write about those later. Now, almost three weeks later, we are starting to get the hang of things and figure out this tiny person we've been given. She looks exactly like Blake and seems to act exactly like me. She is set in a little routine, fights sleep (but then sleeps well once she's out!), and has lots of funny and grouchy faces. Blake has been an incredible help so far... not only taking care of Maleah, but doing double-duty and taking care of me through pneumonia and food poisoning! Hopefully this coming week he can really get back to work. We've had lots of great meals and visits from friends and family. And most of all, lots of quality time with our little girl.

Right now, I am pumping instead of nursing (again, another decision I feel like I have to justify but won't because that's what works best for us) and she takes 3.5 ounces every 3-4 hours. (If that's something you're considering as a new mom, I'd be happy to tell you more about the pro's and con's.) Dr. Oz's White Noise app has been a life saver - spend the $1.99 and get it if you have a newborn! SwaddleMe blankets are our best friends. And oooooh how we love our swing! We let her sleep in the swing during the day (we try to turn it off once she's truly asleep) and she sleeps in a pack-and-play next to me at night. Blake and I are still trying to figure out a daily routine, but she is pretty consistent. Eat-wake-sleep. Every 3-4 hours. ;) We love being parents. It feels very natural to us, even though it is completely different from our life this time last year!

Well... that's about all I've got for now. If you read this whole post, kudos to you. It feels good to type it all out because I can already tell that I'm forgetting parts of the story! Thankfully my husband has the best memory EVER so I can trust him to fill in the gaps! ;)

As I said, there are a few parts of this story that new moms may have questions about (induction, epidurals, delivery, nursing, etc.) and I'm more than happy to share our decisions with you if you do have any questions. Just email or message me!

Update: After nearly a year of thinking about how my labor & delivery went and what I'd like to do for a second child, I have decided that I will just have to wait and see! Honestly, I enjoyed the induction process - by no means was it an "easier" route (it's still LABOR & DELIVERY!), but it suited my needs and personality.
     I actually enjoyed laboring at the hospital because I had people there to answer my questions, to help me and Blake with what we needed, and to be there to coach me through the process. I could see where having a midwife/doula would be beneficial, as they would provide the same assistance without having to be in the hospital. I would not have enjoyed beginning labor at home with just me and Blake because I had a lot of questions! I did not mind not eating - the whole experience (even with an epidural!) was so intense that I was not really hungry. I got to have a few popsicles and ice just to help keep my mouth from getting too dry. If we are to have a second, I could see myself waiting instead of being induced because now I don't have quite as many questions about the laboring process... but I definitely enjoyed the induction experience for our first child.
     The epidural is what I have the biggest questions about. While I am about 90% certain I will get one again, it is still the #1 fear on my L&D list! It was NOT comfortable having it placed, although really that part didn't last that long. It provided the relief I wanted and I eventually stopped pushing the button for more drugs because I wanted to be able to have a sense of what was going on. Maybe that's why I was able to feel the urge to push and why I felt like I was in labor the whole time. I never felt like I was just hanging out waiting on a baby to arrive... I was focused on labor the whole time. I might ask what other options for pain management are available, but I am not opposed to having another epidural.
     Lastly, nursing... oh, nursing. Sometimes I wanna kick myself for not continuing to pump. But then again, I pat myself on the back because I made it through 9 weeks of a compeltely unexpected perdicament. They let me nurse Maleah very soon after she was born - she "latched" on pretty well, but was exteremely sleepy so we just "practiced" for a few minutes. I kept trying every couple of hours and the same thing would happen - she would latch and suck for maybe a minute at the max and then fall asleep. At one point, she hadn't eaten in a few hours and the LC couldn't even rouse her to get her to eat. I was very frustrated and confused and wanted my little girl to eat so she wouldn't become jaundiced.
     Ultimately, I made the decision to pump and, since it had been over 5 hours since she'd eaten, I let Blake give her 30cc's of formula. I wish, wish, wish, that I had never done that. I wish he had given her just maybe 10cc's of it BY SPOON or SYRINGE and then let her have my milk by spoon or syringe. I know now doing that might have helped boost her energy level so she would be able to wake up enough to eat. However, I was a stressed mama who wanted her little girl to get some nutrition and that was the plan we went with in the heat of the moment.
     Most likely, I would have had to continue to pump regardless because I developed pneumonia right after she was born and had to pump & dump for 24 hours (I was given a medicine before a CT scan that was NOT okay for her to have). I think about that 24 hours and how sad I was to be flushing my milk down the sink. But, then I also think... wow... I did that. I pumped and dumped for 24 hours on day 3 of my daughter's life and I kept pumping so she could have my milk. I pumped for 9 hazy, stressful weeks! At 3 weeks, I had food poisoning... I did pump through that and she did get some of my milk, but because of severe dehydration I had a drop in supply so she also got formula. But, I kept pumping!!!
     What made me stop was just the pure exhaustion of pumping and feeding, pumping and feeding, repeat, repeat, repeat. It NEVER crossed my mind that I would ever have to exclusively pump, so it was just something I was not prepared for. I also could not see how I could ever manage to continue the schedule for 1 year.