Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Baby Love, Baby Blues

November is two weeks old as of yesterday- my birthday. Having a Halloween birthday has always been a great excuse to go all-out; dress up, drink up, and party. This year I stayed home eating Thai takeout while holding my new baby and watching How I Met Your Mother. It was relaxing and wonderful, even though the sight of dressed-up kids and twenty-somethings roaming the streets made me nostalgic. I just need to remember how much fun our future Halloweens will be when we take November trick-or-treating! And I got a wonderful gift this year; my little daughter!
Life has been full of ups and downs these past two weeks. It's been amazing getting to know this new little life and learning how to be parents and feeling my love for her grow every day. I expected all this; the joy, excitement, love, confusion. I even expected the sleeplessness. What I didn't expect was the emotional toll known as the 'baby blues.'
You read it in all the books, but I really feel like it's understated. And no one ever talks about it. Either the baby blues are rare, or most people would rather gloss over the experience, especially after things get easier and the blues take a back seat. Well, I would like to share my experience as it is.

These early weeks are wonderful, of course. But they are also very challenging. It starts with the lack of sleep. Especially with nursing on-demand, and around the clock, there's not a lot of time for sleep, much less solid, quality sleep. Add to that the fact that this baby dislikes her bassinet and will awaken within minutes of putting her down and will only sleep in our bed cuddled close to mommy, plus her desire to sometimes nurse nonstop, resting only ten or twenty minutes between feedings, and you've got an overwhelmed and over-tired new mommy. Now, it's not always that bad; sometimes she sleeps in 4 hour chunks through the night, which is wonderful in comparison. But those times when I'm awake from 2am to 6am without a wink of sleep are so draining and frustrating that it brings me to delirious tears. I can't help but wonder if I'm doing something wrong when she nurses for almost 12 hours straight, aside from a couple 2 hour naps here and there. And the pain! My poor bruised and abused nipples! I miss my old, non-swollen, non-painful boobs!
But I also need to remember what they say: baby knows what she needs in those early weeks, and sometimes baby needs more food! Another frustrating adjustment is my lack of freedom. As I type, I am laboriously using only one hand. Since November prefers being held constantly, it's rare that I have both hands free. I actually MISS doing the dishes and laundry! But this is another thing that I'm sure will get easier. I'm already adapting to one-handed tasks, and soon I'm sure she will warm up to her swing and bouncy chair, giving mommy some freedom. And someday outings will get easier! It is quite the production to get out the door, even just to go to the store! November needs to be fed and not fussy, I like to shower at some point, Kitsune needs to be walked...

All these frustrating things are a taxing adjustment, and sometimes I just need to cry. But I know it will get easier. My boobs won't hurt forever. November will someday require less frequent feedings. Someday she will sleep through the night. Someday she will nap in her crib for a couple hours instead of a couple minutes. Outings will become second nature. I'll have time to clean and do laundry. And before I know it the newborn phase will be over and I'll actually miss the warmth of her tiny body snuggling on my chest.
This morning I awoke after a terrible night of (lack of) sleep and near-constant nursing. I opened my eyes and November was looking right at me with her big curious eyes, and smiling. I know they say newborn smiles are the result of nothing but the passing of gas, but that doesn't make them any less beautiful or heartwarming. Because when I awoke to that cute little smile, I suddenly didn't care that I was still tired. It didn't matter that I had been up for hours and crying in frustration. All that mattered was getting up and starting my day with my baby. I know there will be a lot more tears, sleepless nights, painful and nonstop feedings, but there will also be more smiles.

November Tigerlily Heller

Our beautiful baby girl, November Tigerlily Heller, was born on Monday, October 17th at 10:35 am. She didn't wait a day past 37 weeks to be born! This baby was ready. I guess my intuition about taking leave when I did was spot on!
My water broke on Sunday, October 16th at about 11pm. Spencer and I had just retired to bed after a busy- and I mean BUSY day! We had finished so much on our 'to-do-before-baby-is-born' list: we purchased some last minute necessities, packed our 'hospital' bag, bought food for during and after labor, installed the car seat adapter in my car, bought nursing bras, organized our house a little, and even bought Spencer his own car! I hadn't the slightest clue I would be going into labor that night, despite my slight intuition that she'd at least be born somewhat early, so it's amazing that so much was accomplished! Anyhow, after this busy and highly productive day, we lay down, and I get a funny feeling contraction. Non painful, just somehow different. And I thought I felt something down there release- maybe a trickle, maybe nothing, maybe...
I stood up just to be sure nothing was 'going on' down there and WHOOSH! Tons of water pours out. It was one of the most shocking and unexpected sensations I have ever experienced. I started laughing nervously, saying 'uh-oh, either my water broke or I peed all over myself!' Spencer and I were so confused. We just looked at each other, wondering what to do next. 'I'm not ready!' I said. We both started shaking as I laughed and smiled in an uncontrollable, anxious, delirious way. I could not believe what was happening.
We called the midwives and told them my water had broken, and they told us to start timing my contractions, and wait until they start to intensify. For the first hour, my contractions felt the same as ever, painless yet frequent. Then the pressure slowly started building and I had to breathe slow and deep when they washed over me. Once they were indeed painful, we stopped in at the birth center, where they checked my dilation- just 2 centimeters. So then we drove to my mom's house in Issaquah, since her house is closer to the birth center in Kirkland. There we waited and coped as my labor progressed. My contractions started getting stronger and stronger. I tried to remember what I had learned from the natural childbirth books I had been reading; I breathed deep and slow, and then began humming a deep, long, low note while keeping my jaw slack when they got even more intense (this helped me remain mellow, as well as zone out while listening to the calming, vibrating sound...also I had read it would help my cervix progress easier than if I were using a high-pitched sound or screaming), I tried different positions when I felt a rush, and I held on to Spencer for dear life.
Around 5am, we headed to the birth center. The rest seems like such a dream. I continued to hum my low note, labored on the labor ball, then moved to the bed where my contractions intensified even more. I would drift of to sleep for a few seconds at a time, and then a rush would wash over me. I started feeling like I wanted to push, but I had to wait. They couldn't do too many internal checks, since my water had broken, increasing the risk of infections. But at some point they checked me again, and I was 8 centimeters. I was so happy. I had been willing my cervix to open, imagining it opening during each rush. I was then allowed to labor in the water (the warm water can actually reverse the progression of labor if used too soon). It was still incredibly painful, but there was something about being in the water that calmed me. I felt like I was in a trance-like state at this point, just feeling the rushes, humming, and then breathing away the urge to push. But then I just knew I NEEDED to push. 'Listen to your body,' one of the midwives said. And I did...
I started with small, short pushes, and then moved on to full-out pushes. It was a relief to push, yet still painful. I pushed on my side, and then the other, which felt terrible, yet really seemed to get things going. And then I was on my back again. And here's the answer to so many of my friends' questions: yes, there was a little bit of poop. Don't act like you weren't wondering! While I was pushing my baby down, I felt the same pressure...back there. Well, as I read in Ina May's Guide to Childbirth, you can't open your cervix and vagina without opening the butthole too. It just happens. And guess what- I didn't care. Not at all. The midwives took care of it, and assured me it was normal. So there you have it- yes, women may poop during labor, even in water birth. But it wasn't even that much, and it was the least of my worries. I just wanted that baby out! Anyhow, enough of the yucky, back to baby...
Somewhere in the timeless place I was in, I was told my pushes were bringing baby down. And after another timeless phase, they could see the head. I reached down and briefly touched the squishy top of her head. 'She has hair!' a midwife said. I knew I was so close. I pushed. It felt like I was pushing out the biggest turd of my life...out of my vagina. Finally her head was out. 'One more push!' and then her significantly less-painful, slimy body rushed out, and in no time she was on my chest, all pink and blue and tiny. It took her a few seconds to start breathing, and when I heard her first cry, I was so relieved and happy, and started coming out of my trance. I was told I only pushed an hour. My mom swears I only pushed four times in that hour. It felt timeless to me.
Spencer held our baby while I delivered the placenta. Then we got in the bed and snuggled with our new little creature. It felt so unreal. We tried breastfeeding, which was slow-going, but she was sort of figuring it out. We finally allowed in visitors (Spencer's mom and sister, my step-dad Chad) while we waited for my slight fever to come down. Spencer fed me mac n cheese and everyone forced me to drink a ton of gatorade and emergen-c for the electrolytes. About 6 hours after November was born, we were allowed to go home. What a day!
We brought home our baby girl, November Tigerlily Heller. 6lbs, 15oz of amazing adorable-ness. I can't believe we made her! Such a little miracle.