Life with baby! (3 weeks)

At the moment, baby J is 3 weeks old and getting plumper. He weighed a full 10 pounds at his appointment on Wednesday. Life with baby is characterized by a lot of doing things with one hand, and a lot of sitting on the couch under a pile of pillows breastfeeding. Oh, and laundry.

What can you say about someone who is super cute but doesn’t have control of his limbs or make social facial expressions?

I’m trying to enjoy the current stage of baby J at 3 weeks.  This time does have some very sweet aspects:

  • When J wakes up from a nice long sleep, or a nice long drink at the boob, he does this adorable half-smile and full-body stretch with his short little arms up around his face. I’ll have to try and get a picture of this, because it is charming and, I’m sure, fleeting.
  • When he’s swaddled up at night, J looks like a glowworm with a tiny little body and a giant pair of eyes. I need to get a picture of this too! He’s pretty awesome at night so far, mostly just waking up to eat and get his diaper changed, with the exception of between the hours of about 5-7am, which he spends bitterly complaining about something and then going back to sleep for another few hours.
  • J doesn’t scream much, although when he does, it’s good and loud. Most of his problems seem to be related to pooping and farting, which I guess are stressful if you are just getting used to your brand new operating digestive system. The Happiest Baby on the Block has a chart showing that babies’ time spent crying every day generally peaks at 6 weeks. I fear and dread this ominous future time.
  • J digs noise, and lets me wear him around the house while vacuuming. Other household chores that involve too many arm movements, such as doing dishes, or too much bending over, such as laundry, are less popular. We spend every night listening to a looped recording of a thunderstorm, and he threatens to wake up every time it gets to the quieter part at the end of the loop.
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Baby's waking-up stretching sequence looks a little bit like this, but is cuter in motion.

All these charming features aside, some changes are already happening, and we are looking forward to others.

  • He’s already growing out of his damn clothes.
  • J’s already starting to be curious about what’s around him, and gets cranky if he’s awake in the carrier but can’t see out. Even compared to a week ago, he spends a lot less time contentedly eating, and more time thrashing around trying to look around while he eats
  • I know it’s going to be a long time coming, but I am looking forward to him talking and telling us what he’s thinking about. Right now, it’s pretty much sure to be either eating or pooping, so we’re probably not missing much at the moment.

While I know increased awareness of the world around him will cramp my chronic iPhone use and evening TV watching, it’s going to be a lot of fun to have a baby who can smile back at us and get interested in toys, music, and other things that aren’t boobs.

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Introducing Baby J, and a (really long) Birth Story

Baby J joined us this Monday, February 20 at 4:38 in the morning, weighing 8lbs4oz. We are so glad he’s here. Below is his birth story. I tried to write a short summary, but it turned into the monster below. I need to hit “publish” before it grows any longer.

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Here he is: Baby J, a week old in this picture! (He's 2 weeks old today and has gained a whole pound since his 7-day appointment!)

A few days before my due date, I came down with the worst bout of hacking crud. There was goo in my lungs and I was exhausted. In the end, because our bodies are awesome, mine waited until I had mostly recovered to go into labour. I think that acupuncture also helped clear my lungs as well. Thank goodness: I don’t know how I could have managed birth without being able to breathe. The downside was that a few days on the couch recovering may have been what caused my baby who had been positioned OK to turn posterior, despite all my hands-and-knees floor-washing to try and turn him before labour began.

First stage labour started Sunday morning, Feb 19, at 40W3d. I woke up with fairly mild contractions around 8am. Hooray for a night’s sleep beforehand. Things got going pretty definitively, although I was initially reluctant to cancel breakfast plans with friends in case early labour was just teasing me. I spent the morning and afternoon either standing and leaning on a dresser, or on my hands and knees leaning on a giant stack of pillows. My fabulous doula was on her way by 1pm, and we called the midwives with me in active labour (3-1-1) at 3pm or so. The whole afternoon, we listened to Hypnobabies tracks over and over again, and I demanded endless back massages and hot water bottles from Z and our doula.

A word on Hypnobabies: I’m glad to have had those tools to help me relax and focus even though I didn’t end up using the program in quite the typical way. For one thing, Hypnobabies mamas always look like they’re asleep through their whole labours, and I did a fair amount of moaning and yelling. Maybe because of his positioning, I found that vocalizing really helped, especially in the later stages which involved lots of excitement and decision-making and I couldn’t focus much on relaxing.

In addition to using Hypnobabies tools, I spent a lot of time using Ina May’s suggestion to meditate that you are a monkey or other kind of animal, because your human thinking brain isn’t really helpful in birth. So I was trying not to get involved in cerebral details like what time it was, or logistics that could be left to my very capable support team, because I was a monkey.

Second stage was hard work because, despite all the damn floor-washing in late pregnancy, because baby was still posterior. Therefore, I was in transition, by which I mean feeling pushy but not pushing yet, for damn EVER. Fortunately, my water didn’t break for a long time, and I was in my element at home, so it was manageable, but I was starting to fret about being seemingly stuck in that intense stage. Being in the birth pool was helpful for awhile, but we were trying increasingly crazy things to make the baby TURN already. Z got to spend lots of time holding me up in the water in weird positions, then hula dancing with me in the shower, then finally watching the midwives do the Rebozo technique on me (suspending my hips in the air from a giant scarf, shaking me from side to side)… but baby did not turn.

Finally at 10cm dialation, my water broke, and it was full of meconium. Damnit. At least no-one had to to feel conflicted about the reason for a hospital transfer – meconium is one of the non-optional scenarios to get to a hospital, in case baby breathes it in on his way out. So we got an ambulance ride at 1am, which must have made a fantastic spectacle for the neighbours, and continued the party at the (blessedly close) hospital.

I was getting pretty cranky but very determined to push the darn baby out, even posterior, which the midwife assured me is often possible. His head was visible with each contraction, but he was stuck under my tailbone. I was doing a lot of swearing and yelling trying to get him past that bottleneck, which may have disturbed the nurse. Sorry, nurse. The midwife remained calm, encouraging and awesome. Unfortunately, baby’s heart rate was starting to decelerate problematically, so the interventions began.

A lovely little perinatologist was summoned to get her hands in under my tailbone to try and manually turn the baby. This is a very groovy trick, but was officially the most uncomfortable thing that has ever happened to me, and the only part of labour which I wish I’d been a little tougher about enduring gracefully. The lovely doctor thought she would be able to turn the baby, but wasn’t quite able to do it in two attempts. The medical team convinced me to try some laughing gas to help relax my muscles, but it didn’t do a damn thing. Z since told me I wasn’t breathing it in properly, which may have been due to my horror of the stuff.

The ouchy baby-rotating procedure was making me tense up in a counterproductive way, so the doctor needed me to be seriously anesthetized before she would try one more time. So, damn it all, I agreed to a spinal anaesthetic and a forceps birth. Baby was in distress and needed to be out. They summoned an anesthesiologist to take me to the OR, where the really frightening medical instruments are kept. The anesthesiologist had just arrived when I was pushing through another contraction, My awesome midwife looked at the baby’s head and noticed that he had finally turned after all! Angel choirs.

Baby still had to be born in a big hurry, but because he was (finally) optimally positioned, the perinatologist could use a vacuum extractor to enhance my pushing instead of the forceps of doom, and I didn’t have to have any anesthetic. Thank Christ on a bicycle.  I understand why some women choose to have spinal/epidural anesthetic for birth, but I think everyone would agree that 5 minutes before the baby is born is not the best time for a needle in the spine. So, vacuum extractor: very strange but not the worst thing ever (see above re: worst thing ever), and soon enough he was out!

Baby J was super alert at birth (Apgars of 7 and 9) and was pretty hungry. He has continued to be a big fan of eating ever since. He was 8lbs4oz at birth, and today at his 2 week appointment was 9lbs4oz. He’s going to be a bruiser, although nowhere near the giant baby predicted by ultrasound. He’s healthy, sturdy, and super cute. I had a really sore tailbone for a few days, and a few minor stitches but nothing serious. I would not have come out of a forceps birth so unscathed. Thank you, amazing midwife, for being awesome, indefatigable, observant, and calmly coaching me through everything!

All in all, Baby J is a lot of fun.  Z is a wonderful dad, and I think he will enjoy parenthood even more once J is interactive and his set of interests expand beyond boobs. Even though we decided to have a baby on purpose, I both underestimated the pain in the ass that a newborn represents (as I think everyone does) and how much joy he would bring, even right off the bat. And all he does is eat, poop, sleep and yell. Wait till he does other stuff too!

Happy Due Date To Me

Today is little boy’s due date, and I’m so pleased to have refused to give that information out to the general public. Nonetheless, the midwives certainly know. I’m not particularly looking forward to this afternoon’s appointment, since they have been keen on my “not going post-dates” due to the giant baby syndrome.

After my last week’s appointment, the midwives and my acupuncturist (the latter based on an analysis of my pulse) figured the baby would be here pretty soon. But then I caught the cold of doom (like, #5 of this pregnancy?) and basically lay on the couch coughing for several days. I asked baby to stay in until I could breathe, eat and sleep again, and he has obliged. While I’m still snotty and coughing, my energy is just now returning, to the point where I think I could handle labour and birth.

I kind of wish we had never heard of the giant baby thing, because I’m pretty happy to keep lumbering along, knitting, marvelling at my spectacular stretch marks, and doing little jobs around the house until baby decides he’s ready to join us. And basically, that’s how I feel. For what intuition is worth, I feel like baby is fine too. He’s doing lots of dancing and wriggling in there.

My belly, looking all pretty after henna at my awesome Blessingway at 37 weeks.

My plan for today’s appointment is to accept another stretch and sweep (#3! Woohoo!), but not the “labour cocktail” they will offer. The latter is an unholy purging brew containing castor oil, cohosh, and other deliciousness. I’m not afraid of pooping for hours, but I am kind of afraid of what happens if it makes me really really ill (like it sometimes does, I believe) and then I start labour weakened and dehydrated. That sounds like a terrible plan.

But I do also want to note, at this special juncture, a bit of the mindfuck that is late pregnancy, especially when your caregivers want the baby out (which is not in any way unique to me. In fact my caregivers are so damn awesome and chill compared to the norm, I count my blessings all the time). On the one hand, babies come when they are ready. You should just chill out and let them arrive. But on the other hand, maybe your own fears and anxieties are keeping the baby in! I’m not looking forward to labour enough. I’m not doing enough squats, walking, sex, pelvic tilts, or yoga. When I think that there will be a baby here pretty soon, I still feel like “holy shit, really? are we ready?” instead of “come to us, baby, just as I envision you in daily meditations”.

I am, at least, eating enough pineapple. Nobody could accuse me of less.

Braindump: 36 Weeks, Homebirth and Potential Restrictions

Today was my 36-week midwife appointment (2 days early), and it seemed like all the restrictions came out of the shadows.

I’m most disappointed to learn that provincial policy applies an arbitrary time limit to cervical dilation. Once 3 cm dilation is reached, after 4 hours with no further progress, “consultation with a physician” (i.e. hospital transfer) is mandatory. Having read about homebirth (in the US context) as having the advantage of avoiding arbitrary hospital time limits, I am pretty disappointed to that this rule will be applied to me labouring at home, however unlikely the scenario.

The midwife’s response to my dismay was basically that if I had been labouring for 4 hours with no progress, I’d be asking to go to the hospital anyways. In certain contexts, that makes good sense. However, I can think of 3 births during which the mom’s body took a several-hour break at 6-8cm dilation to allow her to have a rest or nap before transition and pushing. So a pause in dilation isn’t necessarily pathological or even uncomfortable! The midwife also mentioned the purpose of this policy in limiting professional liability. Anyways, there is no point in arguing about it, because midwives are bound by these rules too. I’m still thinking about whether there’s anything I can do to try and protect myself, such as declining frequent cervical checks.

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St. Anne, a Catholic version of the crone goddess, and patron saint of childbirth. I love the idea of her, but do wonder why she is always so creepy looking in paintings. Also, why does the baby Jesus look like a balding miniature bodybuilder?

I also have an exciting new documented risk factor to contend with, because our baby is presumed giant. Oh, didn’t I tell you? Our last ultrasound at 34 weeks – which showed his kidneys are PERFECTLY FINE, fuck yeah – also resulted in a new diagnosis of “fetal macrosomia”. This means the kid is expected to be really big. Although guesses of fetal size are notoriously inaccurate, his head was estimated in the 99th percentile. Just what every mother wants to hear! We were offered another ultrasound to reassess his size, but have decided against it. Ultrasound exams look for trouble, and every ultrasound so far has brought a new diagnosis to cause stress and threaten required interventions. No, thank you.

Fetal macrosomia is a contra-indication for homebirth. It means that medical care providers will be extra vigilant about the speed of my progress, on the theory that big babies are at risk of cephalo-pelvic disproportion, meaning the head might not fit into the pelvis and therefore couldn’t apply proper dialating pressure to ye olde cervix. According to “Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth”, true cephalo-pelvic disproportion is pretty darn rare, but the concern is often raised with big babies, small women, and small women with big babies. (Hi!)

Another contra-indication for homebirth is my pet fibroid, which was also diagnosed during the last ultrasound. I couldn’t handle a discussion with the midwife today about how much it increases my risk of  postpartum hemmorhage, but will start researching.

Going post-dates would be another risk factor, and while there doesn’t appear to be a hard cut-off at three strikes, it’s clear that the more risk factors I have, the less support there will be for birthing with limited interventions. At an early appointment with a different midwife, I had already raised the question of going post-dates. At that point, with no other apparent risk factors, she had assured me there is no policy on induction or “risking out” of homebirth, but I could merrily go to 43 or 44 weeks. Because of the suspected big baby, however, I am finding myself encouraged to try and have this kid earlier, depending on which midwife at the practice I talk to about it. Hence, starting this weekend, I get more accupuncture, to try and line everything up for delivery. At 38 weeks, the midwives will offer stretch and sweeps, which I haven’t decided yet whether to accept.

The opportunity to birth at home (in the absence of good reasons to go to the hospital) is pretty important to me. The biggest reason is that I feel safer at home, with the fewest strangers around possible, and feeling safe helps mammals give birth. Mostly, that’s psychological, but it’s also partly based on a risk assessment. Despite my documented “risk factors”, I believe this is a low-risk pregnancy and birth, and going to a hospital (again, in the absence of a good medical reason) would actually increase our risk of infection and unnecessary interventions.

Overall, I am feeling relieved to still be clear for a homebirth, although wary and a little defensive about losing the opportunity. I’m also very glad to have an awesome doula lined up to provide non-medical support. I’m fortunate that Z is pretty sensible about all this stuff, although he does think I’m nuts to be upset about being on the clock for cervical dilation. Thank goodness we took a comprehensive childbirth class together, so he is reasonably well informed about best practices and options. One of the lessons from our childbirth classes were that the birth partner is the best advocate and spokesperson for the family. (I’ll be busy, and it’s not the doula’s role.) I still need to think about how to best prepare him to speak on my behalf about issues that might come up.

At 37 weeks (8 days and one midwife appointment from now) I will theoretically be clear for a homebirth at any time this baby feels like showing up. First babies do not tend to be early, and this one has shown absolutely no signs of being in a hurry to arrive, but he may find himself encouraged to depart earlier than he otherwise would have liked by evening primrose oil, acupuncture, and stretch and sweeps. As a general principle, I would prefer to leave my baby alone until he’s ready to be born, or at least until 42 weeks. However, given the risks presented either by actual macrosomia or by decreased support for a low-intervention birth due to presumed macrosomia (I don’t know which stresses me out more) I am feeling conflicted about hurrying him out. Baby, it would be really helpful if you could just be ready to be born on your own steam around 38.5 weeks, OK?

TL:DR – It’s very nearly time to start collecting waterproof sheets, Gravol and secondhand towels. Yay?

33 weeks: Nesting, Exhaustion, All is Well

I have been such a naughty blogger. Haven’t been writing, haven’t been taking belly pictures. Naughty!

Alas, I’ve been kind of knackered. I had three (count’em) colds, one after another, stretching out over two snot-encrusted months. It would appear that I have no immune system at all. I’m also just plain tired. Walking is far, stairs are tall, bags are heavy. One theory is that I may have developed anemia: the midwives have me taking iron supplements for the next few weeks, then a blood test will reveal how I’m doing.

But, really, in the realm of important things, all is well. The kid is enormous (or feels that way to me) and is vigourous, flippy and full of kicks and pokes. He is positioned incorrectly (as indicated by the bony skull pushing into my ribs), but at 33 weeks tomorrow he still has lots of time to turn. I’m going to see an acupuncturist tomorrow to see if she can convince him to get head down. I wonder if that might be more comfortable as well as more conducive to easy birthing, but won’t get my hopes up about comfort.

A random image from Christmas day by the ocean.

After the Christmas holidays, I’m back to work until 39 weeks (or that’s the plan). The very thought of going downtown and working 8.5 hours every day for 6 more weeks is so exhausting that I’m trying to get lots of nesting done in the next few days here. Z is painting the kid’s room, because it had lots of holes in the walls. Today, we did a big shop, picking up all kinds of baby miscellany like a change table topper, diaper bag and swaddling blankets.

Then, the day after tomorrow, we’re going on a road trip to collect hand-me-down clothes from some friends in another city. I’m hopeful that between the clothes their little girls have outgrown, and the stuff we already have, we can be officially set for clothes for the first six months. Then, we just have a few more things to fix and organize in the kid’s room, and we need to put together a functional guest room space in the basement or attic for when grandma comes to visit after he is born.

Just twoish months left! When I feel like an old, old woman huffing and puffing my way down the sidewalk, I remember that one day I will go running again, sleep on my stomach and be strong enough to carry this little kid around all over town.

Some Whine with my Cheese

On the subject of cheese: I have been all about the dairy products lately. I can’t decide whether to count my heightened cheese and milk consumption as a virtuous attempt to meet the insane dietary protein guidelines recommended in my prenatal class, or whether I am just a gluttonous cheese-hound. Because I am definitely that.

I've been eating these little cheeses like they're going out of style.

As threatened, a bit of a whine: I have a cold, which makes me cough all the time, which would make my abdominal muscles sore, if I had any. Instead, coughing torments my poor stretched-out belly, aggravates the round ligaments, and makes my belly button distend outward in the most tragic manner with each cough. And gives me a headache. It’s really very tragic.

This is the tail end of the second trimester, a time when I had hoped we’d be more or less finished renovations and able to settle down, relax and get ready for the baby. Haha! Renovations are certain to extend past the kid’s birthday, and may in fact outlive us all.

Oh well. We are tough and resourceful. We’ll do what we can for now, take a little break when the kid is born, then keep going. Babies don’t need kitchens or living rooms anyways, right? They just need diapers, a place to sleep, and somewhat sane parents so I’m focusing my efforts on that stuff for now.

This is what every mama says at every stage of pregnancy, but I CANNOT BELIEVE there are give-or-take 12 weeks until we will have a kid. Living with us for ever! How can you even prepare for a thing like that? You can’t. It’s insane.

Ginormababy!

I got a copy of my ultrasound records from my midwives so I can bring them to the pediatrician at the end of the month. Reading them for the first time, I have just realized all kinds of neat information I had no idea about.

Because of the pelvicaliectasis shitstorm, we had two ultrasounds with detailed measurements taken three weeks apart, at 19w6d and 22w6d. The kid was measuring a week ahead both times, with an estimated weight in the 95th percentile (1.5 pounds a week ago!)

I have the gestational diabetes test coming up this weekend, so as long as I pass that, I will try not to worry about the giant baby situation. I know it doesn’t predict anything about how big he will be at birth, or what his birth will be like. But it is fascinating all the same.

I also learned from the ultrasound records that I have an anterior placenta (but no evidence of previa, so it’s all groovy). That likely explains why I never felt definitive movements until almost 20 weeks.

Having access to your own medical records is the bomb!