Posts tagged ‘parenting’

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.

Image

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!

Here We Go

I’m just at the end of a fertility cycle. The next one, starting in June, was planned to be our first cycle of trying to conceive, but Z convinced me that my reasons for waiting one more cycle weren’t the most logical, so we went ahead with this cycle.

Due to time changes, weird sleep patterns, and other hazards of traveling, I have no fertility chart to speak of this cycle, which means I’m completely in the dark in terms of clues to interpret. Based on my Canadian pregnancy book, chances are about 80% that this cycle isn’t the one, but I’m obsessed anyways.

My original plan was to test tomorrow morning (my cycles do fluctuate, but an average cycle would have ended today), but a sensible person would wait at least one more day. Pregnancy tests cost 15 bucks each!  We’ll see how patient I feel tomorrow morning.

In anticipation of the big fat negative I mostly expect tomorrow or Friday, I’ve been proactively combatting disappointment by thinking of what we still want to do before kids:

– Visit my extended family in the town I grew up in

– Start weight training with kettlebells

– Get back to running at least 5km

– Focus on work and professional development

– Move to a new apartment with room for a kid or two

– Go camping

Nina Planck observes that the experience of parenthood laughs at perceived control. If parenting is letting go, then waiting to conceive (or being blessed or cursed with a “surprise”) is just the beginning.

I wish I could be easy-going, casually and wisely waiting to let things happen. I don’t want to be type A about this, but we’ve been waiting for so long.

Next cycle. Next cycle I will chart, and try to focus on those non-kids list of things to do!

Gender and writing about childcare

At school, I’m working on a summer project about (arcane aspects of) publicly supported childcare. Consequently, I have some dry academic thinking about gender to articulate, and get out of my system.

Daycare receives surprisingly little in the way of governmental subsidies here, and is in dire straits in terms of availability and affordability. Everyone I meet seems to present a passionate argument for why publicly supporting childcare is so important. People with kids also describe whatever arrangement they’ve cobbled together for the care of their own children while they work. I have the honour of knowing personally a lot of amazing and committed fathers and mothers, including a few stay-at-home dads and moms and a few families who rely on full-time or part-time daycare.

The most frequent progression of arguments for supporting quality daycare has surprised me and taught me about current understandings of gender. There are two parts to the argument – I almost always hear the first, and sometimes the second:

  • It is economically necessary for most mothers to work; most women can’t afford to stay home with their kids. Furthermore, many women have careers and may not want to provide childcare full time.
  • Society is evolving and the new order, which should be embraced and supported, requires capacity for parents to both participate in the workforce and care for their families.

The first argument (which appears, unqualified, in all kinds of governmental reports and formal documents) strikes me as representative of an intermediate conception of gender that is almost at the end of its usefulness. It is progressive in its way, recognizing the economic necessity of dual-income families and women’s (equal?) entitlement to careers. However it implicitly asserts women’s role as primary caregivers (or assumes that this assumption exists and must be dealt with) even while acknowledging its impossibility. Situated as victims of economics, mothers cannot help but fail at these implicit duties to provide full-time childcare. Those mothers who choose participation in the paid workforce, full time or part time, are seen to leave behind a gap which is ostensibly to be filled by daycare. It’s not a very empowering position for women.

Meanwhile, fathers are left right out of this discussion. In all the reports I have read about childcare so far in my research, none have explicitly mentioned the importance of daycare to fathers. Fathers’ duties are presumed to be wholly economic – they are rarely recognized as childcare providers. Whatever may have been common in the past, the experience of my friends proves that many men are childcare providers, and that they may have even less support than women in this role.

I don’t mean, of course, to criticize the crux of the arguments described here – that public daycare is very important to parents. I only wish my work could make some small difference to make licensed daycare more available, affordable and flexible.

It just seems that our society is, or ought to be, moving forward from the first argument to the second. Parents, regardless of gender, family structure or whether they use public childcare, are responsible for their children’s care in addition to any roles they occupy in the paid workforce. Publically supported daycare is one essential support that can make it economically and personally feasible for parents to achieve a workable balance between their roles at home and in the paid workforce, and for children to grow up without their care being a subject of serious stress.