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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

4 weeks with a baby

My baby is four weeks old today, so I think it's time to start eeeeeeeasing back into writing this blog. I'm going to ease my way in with today's post which shall not contain any Paint pictures. I'm sorry. I don't know where my computer mouse is, and I'm not about to try to draw anything with the touch pad ... so no pictures for you. But you'll be alright.

After spending the last four weeks on maternity leave with baby Audrey, I have watched myself become a total Mom. Let me just share with you the things about parenthood that are apparently inevitable. It doesn't matter what kind of person you were before you had a kid; these things WILL happen to you because they happen to anyone.

Everything you do becomes a "we" activity

I pretty much never say "I" anymore. Anything that happens to either the baby or myself happens to "us". There is no getting around this.

Sometimes it makes sense, like if I were to say "we went to Safeway today." The baby and I did, in fact, go together to Safeway. It's not like she was here watching Dr. Oz while I hopped over there. She went with me.

And then there are the times when it makes no sense at all. Like if I say "we had a poop so big it almost escaped the diaper!", that has nothing to do with the baby. That was all me. Or if I say "we threw up all over the laundry room floor today!", that was Audrey and not me. But I still say "we" ... because ... I don't know. I just have to.

You will talk about yourself in the third person, referring to yourselves as "Mommy" and "Daddy" ... and this will begin to extend into areas of life that do not involve the baby at all

The baby is constantly listening to you talk and absorbing everything you say, even if it doesn't look like it. In order to win the race to have her first word be "mama" and not "dada," I constantly refer to myself as "Mommy" when talking to her. And Jesse, equally invested in the competition, always refers to himself as "Daddy." 

You start to get used to calling yourself that.

And next thing you know, the baby is in bed and I'm telling Jesse to "pour a beer for Mommy."

There isn't really any avoiding this either, unless you're willing to cede the first word battle to your spouse. Like an idiot.

You will become expert at timing the baby leg pistons when changing a diaper

Newborn babies flail a lot, because they don't have the motor skills to contain their limbs. Mostly it's the arms that flail -- hence the whole swaddling in a tight blanket thing -- but when it comes time to change a diaper, it's the legs that take a turn.

As soon as her bottom half comes out of her one-piece sleeper suit, her legs become little pistons, pumping up and down in a bizarre rhythm understood by no one. Sometimes the two legs pump together up and down; sometimes they alternate one and then the other; sometimes, one does 80% of the pumping while the other just steps up 20% of the time. I have discovered no pattern in this.

These little leg pistons are powerful. Like, POWERFUL. I am not really strong enough to fight the pistons -- at least not without feeling like I'm going to rip her little legs off -- so instead, changing the diaper becomes a game of timing. You have to tape up the new diaper in time with the pumping legs, waiting until each leg straightens out to quickly slap the tape onto the front of the dipe. 

And then putting her back into her clothes is even more challenging: you have to wait until the leg-piston bends up and quickly put her foot into the suit, and then as soon as the leg straightens, tuck the rest of her leg into it. And then repeat on the other leg when it does its pump. And then try to do up the snaps or zippers during those rare moments when both legs are straight out.

This is especially fun in the middle of the night.

And of course, as soon as the clothes are back on, the legs stop pumping. Because of course they do.

You will not get grossed out by things that are objectively kind of gross

This one is old news. Everyone says this happens -- that whole "when it's your kid, it's different" thing in regards to pee, poop, and puke.

But I think it's not necessarily the fact that it's my kid. I mean, I don't exactly get a thrill out of cleaning up my OWN poop or puke, and I am me. Why would I be less disgusted by my child's bodily fluids than my own??

I think what really happens is that baby puke/poop just doesn't even register as gross. Like, if you spilled some soup on your kitchen counter, you wouldn't start projectile vomiting everywhere in disgust. You'd just clean it up.

The baby's poop affects me about the same way as soup on the counter might. It's just a mess that has to be cleaned up.

A mess that is green and curdy and stinks, and that you have to be really careful about with those little leg-pistons because if you're not, she'll dip her heels in it.


You will start calculating how much puke needs to be on something before it's considered too dirty to wear

It's easy to say "if my kid throws up on something, I will change it. Only clean clothes for us!"

But then you realize just exactly how frequently babies spit up. It is all the goddamned time.

If you really changed your clothes or her clothes every time she spit up on them, you would never get anything done. You'd just be spending all day and all night changing clothes and doing laundry.

So you start to get a little lazy with it. You start to debate yourself about how much puke really is too much. Like, if she throws up on my shirt, I will quickly wipe it off and maybe wet down the spot with some water. When it comes time to leave the house, if I can't see the outline of where she puked, then the shirt is considered clean.

And with her, it's really just a matter of percentages. Any puke that covers less than 5% of her body is not an outfit-changing event. If that first puke mostly dries but then a second puke occurs, that second puke is considered on its own -- not combined with the first puke. Two pukes can only be combined if they occur close enough together for them to be soaking wet at the same time.

We brought the baby over to my parents' house in a little Halloween sleeper suit that she had thrown up on no fewer than five times already.

We are awesome parents.

You will take like a billion pictures

The funny thing about babies is that they really truly do look different almost by the day. They grow and change and learn new facial expressions and do new funny things, and it's almost impossible not to take pictures of all of them.

Our baby started out looking like an Eskimo. Then she started to fill out, and her distinctly Asian features got a little more Caucasian-looking. And then she started to get a chubby face from all the food we force down her little gullet. And then she got a bad case of baby acne.

Now she looks like a chubby teenager with bad hair, but on a 1/20th scale.

And of course she's still cute as all get-out. Because she's mine. :-)

... and my iPhone has at least 50 pictures of her. That's more than one per day of her life.

And don't even get me started on what my Facebook feed looks like. Sorry, friends. There are a lot of pictures of my baby.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

My birth story: graphic, gruesome, gory; a story for the ages

I debated long and hard about posting this story on this blog. Because this is a HUMOR BLOG, and there isn't really a whole lot that's funny about having a baby. But in the end, I decided to go for it, for a couple of reasons: First, because it's a damn good story. And second, because I think it's important. It's important for everyone -- women, men, those who have never had children and those who have -- to know as much as possible about the true ins and outs of the whole process. And it's important that people realize that even if your worst-case scenario plays out, you will be okay (yeah, this story ends in kind of a worst-case scenario). Fear of childbirth is no reason to not have children. Fear of childbirth is no reason to take all the medications you can get your hands on during labor. Fear of childbirth is no reason to opt for a C-section if you don't need one. You don't need to be afraid.

I wasn't afraid, and things went south. And in the end, it was all okay.

Here's the story. Be warned -- it gets pretty graphic and it may change the way you think about me a little bit. But don't let that stop you from reading it. Just try not to complain too much afterwards.

Early labor started in the afternoon of September 30, not that I realized that’s what was happening. I was having what I thought were an insane amount of Braxton-Hicks contractions – they felt just like Braxton-Hicks, but I was having them every half hour or even more frequently. I was also having a lot of period-like cramps and they were getting pretty intense at times.

The period cramps continued all through the afternoon and evening, but I still didn’t really clue in as to what was happening. I convinced myself it was false labor and there was no way we were going to be having a baby that night. I finally figured out that maybe something else was going on when we went to bed that night. I was lying there playing games on my phone and realized the cramps were coming and going regularly – VERY regularly. I looked at the clock and realized that the cramps were at most 4-5 minutes apart. They weren’t lasting very long – maybe 15-20 seconds – but it was enough to make me panic a little. It almost seemed inevitable when my water broke at 9:15PM. I tapped Jesse on the shoulder and told him my water had broken, then ran to the bathroom to take a look at the damage. (Oh, and guess what -- I WAS WEARING AN ADULT DIAPER AT THE TIME so no mess was made in the bed! DING DING DING WINNNNERRRRRRR!)

Once it was assured that my water had indeed broken (and was continuing to leak out), we sprang into action. Phone calls were made; items from the list were gathered; Jesse took a quick shower; and then off into the car we went on our way to the hospital.

When we got there, I was taken into L&D triage to get checked out. They found my cervix dilated to 3cm and my contractions regular but brief. They were getting stronger though – they felt just like really really horrible period cramps; the kind that knock you on your ass whenever they hit. I hoped that all of labor wouldn’t feel like this, because I can handle a lot of different kinds of pain but something about the bottomless yawing agony of a bad period cramp just darts around my pain tolerance every time.

My mother arrived soon afterwards, as did our doula, and I was admitted to a labor suite. I was thankfully able to get midwife care, which meant I had an advocate for intermittent fetal monitoring and another person on board for my plan of a natural birth with no pain medications.

The contractions continued to get stronger and I spent a lot of time leaning heavily on Jesse and swaying rhythmically when they hit. I tried to get in the shower, but the water wouldn’t get quite hot enough so all it did was make me shiver violently. It didn’t help at all.

I tried sitting on the birth ball and swaying my hips in circles for a while, and while that felt fantastic, it seemed to be slowing down my contractions so we decided to try wandering the halls. Up and down the halls we walked, my contractions bumping up to a solid 7 on the pain scale and piling up one on top of another. They had started coupling up – one would start, peak, and then tumble 80% of the way back down, then hang out at that 20% level for a while before bumping back up to a second peak. It was awful. The worst part was definitely when the contraction would linger at that 20% level, because while that was manageable, I knew I wouldn’t get any real relief until it had risen to its second peak.

The pain was getting so bad that they decided to check me again at around 4:30am. I thought I must be getting close to go time – the contractions were so intense I really didn’t think I could keep it up for much longer. I hoped I was in the transition phase of labor, since I know plenty of people say “just when I couldn’t take it anymore, I realized I was in transition and soon it would be time to push.” So the midwife checked me, and found … I was at 7-8 centimeters dilated. Maybe I was in transition, but if so, it was only just the beginning and I still had lots of these terrible contractions to go before I’d be fully dilated.

I wanted to quit. I wailed that I couldn’t do it. But everyone there – especially the midwife and the doula – told me I could do it, that I was doing it right now, and that I shouldn’t quit. So I kept holding on. I pretty much just quit paying attention to anything other than breathing through the contractions and trying not to push because I knew it wasn’t time. I kept staring at the little pictures on the side of the hospital bed explaining how to make it go up and down. For a good hour I just looked at the little stick figure next to the plus sign for raising the head of the bed.

But the urge to push was becoming unbearable. With every contraction, my body just wanted to push and it was taking every ounce of willpower I had just to hold back from pushing on maybe half of them. Through each contraction, my body wanted to push maybe 5 or 6 times. So if I only gave in and grunt-pushed three or four times, that was considered a victory. Also, I was peeing myself every time I pushed. EVERY. TIME. Thankfully I was wearing these mesh panties and a giant pad so the peeing myself didn’t really bother me. It just happened.

By the way, if you want to run the numbers on the peeing, let's see here ... contractions every 3 minutes, with uncontrolled pushing and uncontrolled peeing around 3 or 4 times per contraction. So I was peeing my pants somewhere on the order of 60 times per hour. Is that some kind of record??

After what felt like an eternity in the open knee chest position (which is supposed to help take the pressure off the cervix that makes the body want to push before it’s ready), the midwife finally checked me again and found me at 9 ½ cm. Awesome, almost there!!!

But they also did another check on the baby’s heart rate and found that it was low and getting lower. Not so great.

The labor suite started to fill with people – word was starting to spread that something bad was happening and there needed to be a lot of people at the ready.

They put me on oxygen and turned up the lights and rolled me onto my back. There were people everywhere and the fetal monitors were strapped onto me full time. I started to realize that something not good was happening.

There were multiple doctors in scrubs entering the room and I started to worry that this whole adventure was going to end in a C-section after all. I didn’t really understand what was happening; just that the baby’s heart rate was falling and they needed to get her out ASAP. The eastern European nurse kept getting in my face and ordering me to breathe deeply and slowly to get in all the oxygen I could. When she wasn’t in my face, I could feel my eyes darting around the room rapidly, not really seeing anything except the lights on the ceiling.

I had specified in my birth plan that I didn’t want to push while lying on my back, but there I was lying on my back. At the time, it was absolutely the most comfortable position I could imagine and it just felt right. This was a really big surprise to me. I mentioned something about pushing on my back not being part of the plan, but both the midwife and the doula assured me that if it’s what felt best to me, then it was the right thing. So I stayed that way.

The contractions kept coming and the midwife ordered me to push, saying she was going to try to pull my cervix the rest of the way open. Yep, she yanked it open another half centimeter while I was still not on any pain medication. But I didn't feel a thing -- my body's natural endorphins were better than any epidural could have been. I pushed and pushed, and everyone kept screaming that the baby was right there, RIGHT THERE and they could see her hair and I just had to push a little bit harder and we’d have a baby!

So I kept pushing and pushing, but she didn’t come out. And the heart rate dropped lower and lower. And the panic level in the room started to rise to fever pitch. At this point, there were no fewer than 15 people in the labor room with me – my three support people, the midwife, the nurse, plus at least two OBs, an anesthesiologist and team, a bunch of pediatric doctors and nurses … it was a circus.

One of the OBs told me that they needed to get the baby out immediately and in order to do that, they were going to give me an episiotomy (snip snip of the old perineum, aka "taint") and use the vacuum to pull her out. Apparently, the reason she wasn’t coming out was because she was sunny side up -- her face was pointed upwards instead of facing towards my spine -- which nobody had realized until then. That would explain the premature urge to push, and the coupling contractions. The baby wasn’t going to come out on her own, because with each contraction and each push, she was getting forced into a position that wouldn’t let her through the gates. So, episiotomy and vacuum it would have to be. And if that didn’t work, emergency C-section. They couldn’t use forceps on me because I hadn’t had an epidural.

All I could manage in response to this was “aw, man!” – in the same tone you might use when someone tells you the meter maid is writing you a parking ticket. Aw, man! An episiotomy and a vacuum-assisted birth? This wasn’t in the birth plan at all!

They took the end off my bed and gave me some local anesthetic on my perineum (since I still had not had any pain medication whatsoever while in labor), and then gave me the snip snip. Another contraction rose and all 15 people in the room started screaming at me to push. And then all 15 people started screaming at me to take a deep breath. And then 15 voices rose again in unison ordering me to push.

I pushed through a couple of contractions but the baby still wouldn’t come out. I could sense that my time was running out – that I was about 20 seconds away from getting the C-section I was so desperate to avoid. So when the next contraction rose, I listened to the 15 screaming voices and pushed as hard as I possibly could. Jesse said my face turned purple and my neck looked bigger than my head. I popped capillaries all over my body and a blood vessel in my eye from the strain.

And then it happened. I felt another pop.

The pop of a fourth-degree tear. The pop of my entire perineum just exploding.

But it worked. Her head finally came out, and then with one more push, out came the rest of her. And then she cried, and 15 people, most of them strangers, gave a loud cheer together. Audrey was born, and she was fine and healthy!!

My birth plan continued to go out the window, though. Because of all the drama and the danger, they clamped and cut her cord immediately so that the pediatricians could take her over to the incubator and make sure she was okay. She had a major hematoma on her head from the vacuum, and Jesse said she looked pretty bad in general. The cord had also been wrapped around her neck. So much for immediate skin-to-skin time.

But, she was fine – Apgar score of 9. And as soon as she was given the green light, she was brought over to me and placed on my chest. She was so gorgeous, with a big full head of hair. The midwife helped me get my gown open and we put the baby on my chest to feed, and she latched immediately and easily and suckled for a good 15 minutes. I was in love.

And it’s a good thing I had the baby to distract me, because my bottom was absolutely shot. The two OBs worked together for over an hour stitching me up. My vagina and rectum were completely merged together. When the placenta came out, I actually felt it brush against my rectum like a sloppy turd. It was gross. They had to stitch each part individually -- 4 different layers of stitches and repair. I tried to ignore what the two doctors were talking about, but I could hear things like “next we’ll repair the muscle” and just tried not to picture how much damage had been done to my down-below.

I finally had my first pain medication of the day (other than the local anesthetic before the episiotomy) while they were stitching me up – some nice narcotics in through my IV lock. It didn’t really block any pain but it did snow me out nicely and take the edge off the whole experience.

Not that I really felt any pain – I was actually cracking joke after joke at my own expense. One of the nurses taught me the word “vaganus” after I asked her if there was a word for what I had going on down there, and I laughed and laughed and kept teasing everyone about my vaganus. I told Jesse he was in luck because “you’ll finally get all that anal sex you’ve been after.” The nurses told me they were shocked by how good my attitude about the whole thing was – but I just said that I couldn’t imagine acting any other way. What’s the point in being hysterical? My baby was born, she was safe, she was healthy, and I got my natural vaginal birth. Sure, it didn’t go according to plan, but close enough.

Meanwhile, I think at least partly because of my good attitude, my bottom hasn’t been the least bit sore at all. In fact, I think I’ve been less sore than most women after giving birth, even though my vagina and anus ripped together into one giant opening. I can honestly say that my pain level has been consistently at a zero. A ZERO. Can’t beat that.

Anyway, now it’s over two weeks later, and my bottom has healed up perfectly. The stitches dissolved without ever feeling any pain or itchiness from it. I have no issues with incontinence of any kind. I can poop all by myself.

And of course, our little daughter is beautiful and perfect and life is good.

And for a brief time, I had a vaganus. I asked the doc the other day for the final tally on how many stitches it was, but it wasn't a very clear or easy answer. I guess repairing a 4th degree tear is a very complex job -- not just "20 stitches and you're done." He tried to explain it to me but I totally didn't understand a word of it. The end result was something like "ten stitches, but two of them were very, very long." So I dunno, maybe like ... 238497245 stitches total. Not too shabby for a natural vaginal birth!

But ain't she precious?

Oh, and in case this post was making you feel kind of sympathetic towards me and maybe you were thinking that I'm not such a dick after all, here's a picture of myself that I just took this morning. I had a baby 16 days ago. As soon as the ol' linea negra fades, I'll be ready to hit the beach. Well, okay, maybe a FEW more sit-ups first, but y'know ...

Suck it, haters.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

I had a baby

Afternoon, friends! (And enemies who read my blog in order to better plot my downfall)

I had a baby yesterday. Yep. I have a lot more to say on the subject, but I'm still in the hospital and there's a baby sleeping in my arms so you're just gonna have to wait. 

I just wanted to let you all know about the whole baby thing so that if you showed up to the blog and were all pissed like "wtf, no new material since Friday?! Lazy bitch!!" that I actually have a pretty good excuse. So there.

Anyway, stay tuned for more!

Oh and by the way -- my water DID break at home in bed, but guess who was wearing an adult diaper at the time and didn't make any mess at all? Yeah, suck it haters. I'm a goddamned genius.