Dec 142012
 
Holiday Gift Guide -- Toddler Mealtime

I know “toddler mealtime” isn’t the usual theme for a holiday gift guide. But I came across so many useful-but-adorable options, I couldn’t help but share!

Top row, from left:

Straw dispenser with colorful straws. $13 at Amazon.

Littlephant kids’ mugs. $16.50 each at Huset Shop.

Starter chopsticks. $5.50 at For Small Hands.

Rilakkuma bento box. $16 at Kawaii Kids.

Middle:

Ingela P. Arrhenius melamine plates. $12 each at Huset Shop.

NotNeutral melamine meal set. $26 at Design Public.

Animal face mugs. $18 each at Apartment 48.

Bottom:

Lollacup straw sippy cup. $16 at Paper Trail Rhinebeck.

Shinzi Katoh bento box set. $23 at My Sweet Muffin.

Lunchskins reusable lunch bag set. Lunchskins are all over the Web these days; this set was on the Lunchskins main site. (Our family also likes Kushies On-the-Go Bags, which lack the cheery designs but have softer fabrics.)

Skip Hop divided bee plate. $9 at Daytrip Society.

Sectioned car tray. $16.50 at My Sweet Muffin.

Oct 022012
 

When Vera was around 9 months old, she had a couple of nighttime tantrums that almost broke me. Vera was sleeping peacefully, an hour or so after bedtime, when suddenly she started to cry and kick and scream. She wouldn’t take a bottle, fought my hugs, and kept throwing herself to the floor. Nothing I tried would soothe her. The screaming and fighting went on for 30 agonizing minutes, 40, 45, until Vera finally settled back into an exhausted sleep and Mama dissolved into tears.

The first time was just weird. After the second, I did what I always do with strange symptoms — turned to Dr. Google. Results suggested she might be experiencing night terrors, but most articles reported that night terrors don’t start before the preschool years. One even insisted they only happen to teenagers.

Three years and a few hundred bouts of night terrors later, let me assure you that night terrors can strike babies and toddlers! Here’s our hard-won knowledge for anyone else out there facing something similar:

What are night terrors? A night terror is a bit like sleepwalking — a person may walk, talk, and open her eyes but is actually sound asleep. In fact, it can be difficult to awaken someone in the middle of a night terror. The “terror” part is because people with night terrors enter fight or flight mode, screaming and crying, fighting imagined threats, and sometimes running away. Most people don’t remember anything about the night terror once it has passed.

That may sound simple, but the actual experience can be horrifying. Vera either cries loudly in her sleep or yells “NOOOOOOOOO.” Sometimes “STOP” or “I DON’T WANT IT,” but usually just “NOOOOOOO.” Sometimes she slides to the floor. Often she just cries and thrashes. If we pick her up for hugs, she arches away or physically fights us. She kicks a lot, and sometimes she nails us hard. As a parent, it’s indescribably difficult to see your little one in trauma but get kicked away when you try to soothe her.

Terminology confusion: Some argue that “sleep terrors” is a better term than “night terrors” because they happen at nap time too. Sleep doctors use “confusional arousal” for Vera-style episodes. I find that term much too mild — her episodes are definitely more “terror” than “confusion.” But true medical “night terrors,” which do strike mostly teenagers, are on a whole other level. Teens suffering true night terrors frequently injure themselves or others during fight-or-flight.

What causes night terrors? No one knows exactly. They’re described as a “neural storm” that happens when a person gets stuck between normal sleep and wake cycles and one part of the brain signals sleep while another signals wake. Night terrors usually happen in the first several hours of sleep, during Stage 4 (deep, non-dreaming) sleep. They are most likely to happen when a child is overtired or sick. Sudden loud noises or other disturbances during the wrong part of sleep (I’m looking at you, yappy dog) can jolt Vera into a night terror. A full bladder or wet diaper are other common triggers. The episodes can hit several times a night for several nights in a row, then disappear completely for weeks or months.

Nightmare or night terror? Nightmares happen during REM sleep and are most frequent in the morning toward the end of a night’s sleep. Kids often wake up afraid, and older kids sometimes remember and describe their dreams. Night terrors happen during deep, non-dream sleep and are most common in the first few hours of a night’s sleep. The child will usually go right back to sleep after a night terror and won’t remember it in the morning.

How to handle an episode? Articles will tell you everything from “talk to him reassuringly and hold him close till it passes” to “don’t talk to him or touch him under any circumstances.” The best advice is usually to watch and be sure your child is safe but otherwise to let the episode run its course without interfering. That is easier said than done, though — most parents are compelled to try and comfort a child who’s so obviously upset. When Vera was younger, we could sometimes pick her up and hug her out of it. With small grumbles, I can usually “shhhh” her and quietly reassure her that we’re there. Now that she’s older, we try a series of questions: “Do you want a blankie? Do you want a teddy? Drink of water? How about hugs?” The first several offers are usually met with “NOOOOOO,” but sometimes we break through to a sad little “yes.” If those tricks don’t work, we just have to walk away. It always stops eventually. In fact, her terrors rarely lasts more than 5 minutes. But those 5 minutes can be very long for a concerned parent with a tragic child.

Are there treatments? Nothing much. Sedative and sleep drugs may work in severe cases. Luckily, most kids outgrow the problem.

Other trivia: The worse place Vera has had night terrors? Small bed and breakfast wasn’t fun (the rooms down the hall woke to middle-of-the-night bloodcurdling screams), but the absolute worst was on an airplane. Twice. Loud, extended screaming and fighting mom and dad, all while scores of judge-y strangers watch? Check and check. (And I’m not the only one — this blogger’s child had a 45 minute episode on a flight.)

Scholars suspect night terrors are the real-life explanation behind some stories of demonic possession.

My biggest worry? That Vera is seeing the things described by night terrors sufferers at this site. Hoping it’s purely a neurological thing and not terrifying visions. Our poor baby!

Do you know anyone who suffers night terrors? Any wisdom to share?

Sep 192012
 

Vera had a lot of anxiety over starting school this fall. Perfectly natural: she’s shy, she’s only three, and she’s never been away from family before. But we were all awfully stressed in the few weeks before the transition.

I decided a little “play therapy” was in order and went online to look for toy schools. Ended up with a cute school set from Playmobil. (Playmobil’s the greatest!) But my web search for “Playmobil school” also brought up some kids holding giant cones. Huh?

(Seems to be gone from the Playmobil site. Here it is on Amazon.)

Apparently there’s a German tradition called Schultüte, or First Day of School Cones. Big paper cones are filled with toys, sweets, and school supplies to brighten up a child’s first day of school. Traditionally they’re given to a child starting school for the very first time, but the tradition has expanded so that many kids get them every year on the first day.

(image source: Moddernkiddo.com)

The gifts sounded like a wonderful way to give Vera something to enjoy on her nerve-wracking first day, so I put together a little Schultute of our own. I wrapped a few small gifts — the Playmobil cone kids, some pink sparkly nail polish (she’s wanted this forever but I was holding out for both a nontoxic version and a special occasion), some pink sparkly hair items (you may notice a theme), a giant round lollipop, and some extra-special school supplies (patterned tape! magnets to hang school art! Post-It notes!).

The presentation wasn’t anything fancy. We were staying in a hotel that week, so the cone and decorations were pieced together from whatever I could find at the nearest drugstore. Luckily, CVS had big sheets of poster board in its office supply aisle. I just rolled the paper into a cone, scotch-taped it together, and added some curly ribbon, tissue paper, and Sharpie-d drawings. Here’s the final result (showing Vera’s real name, shhhh):

We brought the cone after school so the gifts wouldn’t be too distracting during the school day. Obviously it cheered her immediately, ha.

But opening the gifts really did send her over the moon. As parents, wouldn’t we do anything to transform our child’s scariest day into one that ends in bliss like this?? Schultute for the win!

(P.S. Don’t know whether they do this every year, but looks like Chasing Fireflies sells pre-made school cones if you like the idea but don’t have the inclination to make your own.)

Apr 062011
 

This is a re-post of something I wrote a few weeks after Vera was born. For some reason, the post didn’t properly make the transfer when I moved to WordPress. But given my belated push to share our experiences with childbirth and baby-raising, seems a good time to republish….

One of the things I enjoyed about pregnancy/childbirth was the way it brought me closer to other women who have been there before.  I particularly treasure talks with my mother, stepmother, and grandmother, who described their experiences in decades past.  But even random strangers are often extra-friendly in recognition of a shared bond of experience.  There’s a Club Mom out there that I never recognized, much less appreciated, until I become a member.
But if Club Mom is a sorority of sorts, I could do without its initiation by hazing.
The Club Mom variety of hazing may not involve extreme drunkenness.  However, there’s definitely sleep deprivation, humiliation by bodily functions, and a chance of finding yourself in a public place in an embarrassing get-up (if only because you’re too wrung out to care).
In other words, I always understood that sleep deprivation would be part of new motherhood; I just never realized there would be so many other challenges at the same time:
Pain: Turns out, you can tear in all sorts of places beyond the one they tell you about.  Some of those places have an astonishing number of nerve endings.  And the area is affected by activities you really can’t avoid, like sitting and walking. Thank heaven for Percocet!
Breastfeeding: A minefield and a subject for another post.  But even when all goes smoothly (not the case for me), it’s demanding and incredibly time-consuming.
Body Image: No amount of warning prepares you to look 5 months pregnant after the birth.  My feet are swollen to twice their normal size, my fingers are too swollen for my wedding ring, and my face now sports chipmunk cheeks (all problems I largely escaped during pregnancy itself).  Small things, but even after 9 months of pregnancy, it’s disturbing not to recognize yourself when you look in the mirror.
Baby Blues: Most women experience slight depression in the first week or two after birth.  Such a cute name for such crushing feelings of hopeless inadequacy.
Lack of Information: For me, this has been the greatest challenge of the whole experience.  Medically speaking, it feels like no one out there has our backs.  Which leaves everything up to me — cue night after night of hours-long Google sessions in the wee hours when I’m up with the baby.
Obviously, no one hands out an operating manual for newborns, but the lack of information goes much further than that.  In the hospital, we were never told results of the baby’s checkups.  She needed an ultrasound to confirm a heart murmur (which thankfully turns out to be both common and mostly benign), so one day they just wheeled her away for “further testing” without a word on what might be wrong or what they were looking for.  (Leaving behind two seriously freaked-out new parents.)  The hospital’s lactation consultant never visited, despite my extreme problems establishing breastfeeding.  No one even told me about my own injuries — it took more hours on Google to find out whether it was even possible to incur the injuries I thought I saw.  (Once I gathered the courage to pull out a mirror and take a look — eek!)  And a standard OB followup is 6 weeks after the birth, which means 6 whole weeks of wondering whether this bleeding or that pain is abnormal, and whether I should really feel like this.  This morning I called the OB nurse about a few symptoms that worry me.  Her answer?  “That’s within the range of normal experience so probably nothing.  Unless it’s serious.  In which case, call me again.”  Um … thanks?  It all makes sense now.
For those of you who have been here, what was your biggest surprise or biggest challenge? How did you survive the hazing?
Apr 062011
 

Birth stories are understandably popular — they give expecting women a peek into one potential future, and they offer everyone else a dramatic story of a big event. But birth stories all share one serious flaw: they end just when the story gets really interesting. The parents were just handed a brand-new human … now what??!?

My own “after the birth story” suffers pretty badly from the two-year erosion of memory. I refer you to this post of Mandy’s for the definitive version (and second her recommendation to pilfer everything you can get your hands on!). Still, as with birth itself, everyone’s story is different. (I was reminded of that recently with this post and its comments — several women had very different experiences even at the same hospital.) So, here’s what I remember of our hospital stay:

This baby is a miracle. Now everyone please leave so I can sleep.

Nurses – There were nurses? Maybe it’s because we were there over a weekend, but we barely saw anyone. Except of course at 6 a.m., when they suddenly felt an urgent need to wake me up and take my temperature.

Breastfeeding – For a first-time mother who breastfeeds, getting the process working properly is usually an all-consuming task for the first few days. No exception here. Vera was sleepy from her big ordeal, and she would drop off to sleep the moment she started to suckle. Of course she had to eat, so the nurses told us to strip her, poke her, and basically keep her awake by any means necessary. Not a good way to start our relationship!

Part of the problem was that my body wasn’t producing milk (actually colostrum at that stage), so there was nothing for her to drink. But I didn’t find that out till much later.

And yes, the constant attempts to breastfeed meant I had to whip out a boob many, many times a day and often in front of visitors. One of Mr T’s friends came by to visit as I was breastfeeding and was mortified that, despite his wife’s clear directions beforehand, he’d walked in without knocking. I actually found that far less disturbing than having to breastfeed in front of my mother-in-law.

Baby – She didn’t open her eyes much the first day or two, so we got really excited whenever she did. “We can see you!!!!” They took her out of our room a couple of times for first check-up and vaccinations, and then they rolled her away for an ultrasound to follow up on some unspecified health problem. Seriously, we could get no one to tell us anything — we didn’t find out until at check-out we refused to leave until they explained what was going on. (Turns out to be a heart murmur, fairly common and closed on its own in her first year.)

She also developed jaundice, which meant they had to keep her for an extra night under a special lamp in the nursery. The hospital was 45 miles from our house, so luckily they let us stay the night for free in an unused room. It was heartbreaking to see our tiny beloved alone under the bright nursery light.

Sleep – Wasn’t going to happen. The beds are uncomfortable, the baby needed to be fed every couple of hours (which would take at least an hour each time, thanks to the sleep / poke / drink / sleep / poke process), and hospitals are loud. Mr T had to sleep in the world’s least comfortable armchair, but I forced him to stay. He couldn’t exactly complain about discomfort, given what I’d just been through and the ongoing state of my ladybits.

By the morning of the third day, I was so exhausted that at one point Vera started to cry and I broke down and bawled along with her. She immediately stopped crying and eyed me suspiciously, like “I didn’t know the Big Ones could do that too! Did I break her?” They wheeled her to the nursery shortly after for her time under the jaundice lights, and I slept many blessed hours in a row.

Food – I was given hospital meals for all but our unofficial last day. I actually don’t mind hospital food, but it never seemed enough and I was starving. And Mr T was on his own. This meant lots of trips to the hospital basement for cafeteria provisions, but somehow (weekend hours?) Subway was always the only thing open. Afterward, I couldn’t look at a Subway sandwich for a long, long time!

Pain – Thanks to the joys of narcotics, I didn’t have much trouble on the pain front. Though, given our lack of nurses, I learned to ring for more drugs an hour or so before they were next needed. You definitely don’t want the drugs to wear off.

Visitors – Babies bind extended family together in new and special ways, and it’s deeply meaningful to share your joy on such a momentous occasion. But visitors can bring their own brand of headache. Any time extended families get together there can be family dramas. And everyone really wants to help the new parents with advice, but this can translate into a lot of bossing just when you’re trying to find your own way as a parent.

Also not helpful: the fact that every imaginable practice has changed since our parents raised us. Either we’re way too worried about unimportant dangers nowadays, or it’s a miracle any of us survived our own deathtrap babyhoods! Luckily my mother was able to say “wow, a lot has changed since the 70s” rather than insisting on the outdated practices. Not all grandparents can do the same.

Then again, maybe we needed more help than we realized. Despite 38 years of formal schooling between us, the first time Mr T and I tried to change a diaper, it took us 10 minutes and we still got it backwards!

Other parents, was your hospital experience similar or different? Any advice for the parents-to-be out there?

Mar 092011
 

Baby Wallaby just turned two.

Which means it’s probably time to get around to writing her birth story.

At this point, a lot of the details have faded away. And yet it’s incredibly long — how does that work? Anyway, if you have a vague interest in childbirth but not enough to read this book, the “too long, didn’t read” version is the last 2 or 3 paragraphs at the end…..

I don’t have many photos, but here’s the “before.”

Background

In my perfect world, I would have approached childbirth as naturally as possible. Unfortunately, this is not my perfect world. I am disabled by fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, and an autonomic nervous system disorder called POTS. I also endured three months of premature labor and the bedrest that went with it, during which I watched my already limited physical fitness drain away day by day.

In other words, my pregnancy and birth experience were extremely medical. I saw a high-risk perinatologist for the last half of the pregnancy, spent a couple of nights in the hospital with the premature labor, took drugs, got shots, had weekly ultrasounds in the last few months. A couple of months before my due date, I visited the hospital for a series of lung and cardiovascular tests to be sure I even had the capacity for a vaginal birth. The whole thing was about as far from a midwife-assisted natural process as you can get.

Vaginal, or C-Section?

I am one of those patients who Googles the *^&#%)(& out of every medical question. (You know, the patients that doctors must hate.) Because POTS involves blood circulation, I worried how it would affect pregnancy and childbirth. So of course I looked it up. There were only a couple of relevant research articles on the Web: one that said “consider scheduling an early C-section” and another in which the patient had a vaginal birth but then got so uncomfortable she had to be put completely under. Not exactly encouraging on the vaginal birth front!

My sister-in-law is a urogynelogical surgeon who has worked as an OB. Her advice was to schedule the C-section. Not even necessarily for POTS reasons, but she spends all her time fixing the ways that vaginal births ruin ladybits, and as a surgeon she sees operations as no big deal. So there was that, too.

But my perinatologist was probably the one OB in the world who pushed heavily for a vaginal birth. (Hyperbole, obviously — any OBs out there, please don’t take offense. But you know there’s a reputation….) She had three children by Cesarian herself, and she didn’t want me to have to face the difficult recovery. She assured me that, contrary to the image of labor as a marathon, the body can expel a baby fairly easily if you let the baby move all the way down the birth canal on its own. She said parapalegics and women in comas can give birth vaginally, so there was no reason I shouldn’t be able to as well. They would give me lots of IV fluids (it’s important to keep up blood volume for POTS) and hook me up to an epidural before I exhausted myself weathering any pain. I was terrified of the process, but frankly I was equally terrified of the C-section (cutting you open while awake??!?), so decided to give it a try. Still, I couldn’t help but worry about the whole idea — either c-section or vaginal birth felt a bit “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” — and I watched the last weeks slip away with a feeling akin to dread.

My Water Breaks

One of the fun bits of pregnancy, at least for me, was bonding with other women about their own experiences with pregnancy, birth, and motherhood. Technically my mother’s pregnancy and childbirth were my own history too, but until I got pregnant I never felt much curiosity about the process. Once I was pregnant, I hung on every detail.

My mother was the only woman I talked to who vividly described the feeling of having her water break. She said she was lying on the couch and felt an odd little “pop” inside her. On the day of one of my weekly ultrasounds, Week 37 in the pregnancy, I was half asleep in the early morning and swore I felt a “pop” just like the one my mother had described. Curious, I got up and went to the bathroom. All was normal, so I went back to bed. But something still felt somehow … off. So I got up to visit the bathroom again.

And halfway there, the flood began. I trailed a stream of fluid down the hall to the bathroom, unleashed a gusher once there, and then continued to leak as I rushed to the bedroom for a new set of clothes and back to the bathroom for a menstrual pad. Then, in the next 10 minutes, I wet every pad in the house, a couple of towels, and another set of clothes.

I woke Mr T to tell him it was Time. He groggily asked whether we could sleep until our originally scheduled wake-up time. At which point I murdered him.

No, not really, but hard-to-wake-up husbands and wives in labor definitely don’t mix! Luckily, he had a little time to shake off the sleepys while I rushed around throwing some possessions into an overnight bag. (Thanks to my obsessive research tendencies, I already had a detailed packing list for the hospital. But I hadn’t expected labor so soon, and hadn’t gotten around to actually packing the bag.) I grabbed some towels to protect the car in case of more leaking, and we hit the highway.

We Arrive

My sister-in-law did her residency at a hospital in Baltimore, about a 45-minute drive from our home. When I switched to a perinatologist partway through my pregnancy, I started seeing a friend of hers at her old hospital.  The drive was only slightly inconvenient for weekly checkups, but I really started questioning my choices when we made the trek during labor! Luckily the pain wasn’t too agonizing at that point — a 4 on the standard 10-point scale — but I definitely felt every bump in the road.

BRAND new. (“Why is everything so bright?”)

The hospital offered free valet parking to women in labor. So we pulled up right outside, threw the keys at the valet, and ran off. (Or, in my case, waddled off….) But the labor department was on the opposite side of a GIANT city hospital, and there were no wheelchairs to be found. So we walked … and walked … and walked.  Carrying our overnight bags, no less. Labor was still bearable at that point, but it wasn’t necessarily my ideal time for a lengthy hike.

Turns out we arrived at the labor department in the midst of a traffic jam. They had me wait in the waiting room for an hour or so — labor still bearable, so I said “no biggie.” But by the time we got into a room and they got me into a gown and hooked up to an IV, I was starting to hurt and awfully glad to finally have a bed to lie in.

We Get Started

Our hospital was a teaching hospital, and two years later I’m pretty blurry on the details of when I dealt with labor nurses versus med students versus residents versus orderlies versus heaven-knows-who-else. But “whoever” was weirdly skeptical of my claim that my water broke. They kept saying that, IF it broke, blahblahblah would happen. IF. You think most women would know — maybe some women pee themselves and get confused? (Or maybe, as an “urban” hospital that treated the fictional drug community on “The Wire”, as well as their real-life counterparts, the docs don’t trust any of their patients as a general rule…?)  But, aside from the fact that I didn’t suffer pregnancy incontinence, I’ve never peed that quantity in my life. I’d have to have a super-human bladder. So eventually they did a swab test that confirmed the external presence of amniotic fluid. Once your water breaks, you are on the clock to have the baby before the risk of infection grows too high. So the big event would take place that day, one way or the other.

The maternity ward traffic jam meant that the anesthesiologists took a few hours to arrive with the promised epidural. And holy cow, did labor start to hurt! Not to freak anyone out — remember, I suffer from a disease (fibromyalgia) whose very definition is that pain signals are amplified beyond the normal range. The pain was truly, mind-blowingly, all-consuming. I was expecting an epidural and didn’t bother learning any pain-management or relaxation techniques, so I was caught completely unprepared. Every time a contraction hit, I panicked and just started sobbing.

Luckily, that phase only lasted an hour or so before the anesthesiologists finally made their blessed appearance. And I do mean anesthesiologists, plural — an entourage of five or six people. They made Mr T leave the room, carefully worked me into an extremely convoluted hunchbacked position with head down over arms crossed on the bedside table, and got to business. The doc doing the actual poking was an orthopedist who was learning the epidural ropes (never quite understood the explanation on that one), but he was supervised by the ward’s big-shot, who remembered my sister-in-law fondly. (And by “remembered my sister-in-law fondly,” I mean spoke the entire time about how she was a respectable resident in the days where residents worked for a living and not one of the coddled modern-day namby-pambies with their wimpy 80-hour weeks.) The worst part of the experience was having to hold COMPLETELY STILL, even when hit by the agonizing contractions. Luckily, there was a very sweet male resident stationed by my head, who gently talked me through each contraction and helped me find the strength to weather it without moving.

A Short Wait

My “epidural” was technically a spinal block. Advantage: they take effect right away. First my lower body was there, and then it wasn’t. It was nice to have a bit of time to rest after the painful contractions. My mother and in-laws stopped in from their banishment in the waiting room. “Whoever” gave me pitocin at some point to speed along the process, but the spinal block kept me from feeling any of the heightened contractions.

Proud (and slightly shellshocked) daddy.

I Push

And before I knew it, my doctor came in and said it was time to push. I didn’t feel ready. There was no “urge” to push. The doc explained what I should do, and I tried a really wimpy version. They had to tell me not to talk, to focus all my energies, and to really throw my whole being into the push. It got a bit better after that, but it still took me a while to get into the swing.

My big problem with a numbed birth wasn’t so much the health concerns of anesthetic drugs passing to the baby, it was the birth position. When you can use your legs, you can squat in a natural position that works with gravity, lie in a tub of water, or whatever works. With the epidural birth, you’re pinned on your back to the hospital bed, with (in my case) the labor nurse and a very nervous male medical student each holding a leg all the way back toward your shoulders. Besides the fact that I spent the whole time fighting the urge to make inappropriate jokes about how that position landed me in this bind in the first place, it’s totally unnatural and forces your body to work against gravity to push out the baby. I felt very deeply, on an evolutionary, intuitive level, that it was just wrong. But there really aren’t any other choices. They did let me shift my shoulders up and my pelvis down by at least a few inches.

Turns out there’s one other problem with a numbed birth — it’s not so numb! You can’t feel the contractions, but you can still feel a lot of the actual pain of childbirth. (Again, fibromyalgia = extreme pain. Please don’t take my experience to mean that you, or anyone else, will experience the same level of pain.) Don’t know whether the numbed nerves don’t fully reach that area, or whether they turn down the drugs when it’s time to push, but one way or another the actual birth was #(*$&#& painful. It was the main problem with early pushing for me — I didn’t WANT to push because pushing just made everything more painful. (The exact feeling? In the immortal words of Amy Poehler in Baby Mama, “It feels like I’m shitting a knife!”)

The doctor said they have to give you some feeling so you can feel where to focus your push. I thought that was a load of crap, so I kept yelling at her about the pain. At one point I had a small hemorrhage, and as the doctor tried to stem the flow of blood I just kept yelling “I FELT THAT!” after every gush. ‘Cause there’s a big difference between “knowing where to push” and feeling every little sensation down there, amiright or amiright?

The one thing that got me through it all was Mr T at my head (yes HEAD, no way was he getting a view of the proceedings) murmuring encouraging words throughout. I tuned out everything but his voice, which helped me find the focus to get through. At one point, I was starting to feel too tired to go on. They had me reach down to touch the baby’s head — and her wet, hairy little noggin was RIGHT THERE at the opening, but I just couldn’t seem to push her forward. It was the epitome of “so close and yet so far” — an inch or two that I just couldn’t seem to get beyond.

And then, finally, I discovered the urge to push. I let out a giant yell, gave a giant push, the doc wielded her episiotomy scalpel with a flourish, and there was our baby. I had been a little nervous about whether I would feel bonded to the baby from the start, but I did. Oh, how I did. It was truly love at first sight. She was a mess, Mr T cut the cord, they took baby away for cleaning and checking — those minutes are a blur. I also have no memory of delivering the placenta. None. I assume it happened around now, but I don’t have the slightest glimmer of a memory. And then they gave her back, and I barely noticed that fact that a group of people was standing in Ginatown, several of them with needles, poking and sewing — all I noticed was that little one in my arms.

Holy cow, I just gave birth!

The exact timing is blurry this late in the game. My water broke around 7 am, I hit the hospital around 9 am, and Wallaby was born around 5 pm. I think I pushed for 90 minutes or so.

And physical damage? Oh yes, there was damage. In addition to the episiotomy (2nd degree), there were tears in other areas. I didn’t even know there could be tears in other areas, but sadly yes. It’s interesting — going in, if I had only one thing I felt strongly about, it was avoiding episiotomy. And when it actually happened, I was so grateful! My skin was neither stretching nor tearing enough to let the baby through, and I was growing exhausted from the repeated efforts. One little cut, and suddenly she had the space to make it through. So lesson learned, no matter how strongly you might feel about something in your birth plan — until you are actually facing the real situation, you just never know. It pays to leave a little room for flexibility.

Cleaned up and tucked in. And totally worth it!

And If I Do it All Again?

My choices were a product of circumstance. But if I have another child, I will try a more natural birth. My doctors were both pleasant and professional, and I have no complaints. But I felt powerless and more “patient” than — I don’t know, choose your metaphor, “warrior woman?” Knowing I can handle the basic process, I would be bolder about trying something that left me more in control. Even with another medical birth, I would love the assistance of a midwife or doula who might know gentle ways to avoid physical damage.

Others who have given birth, what would YOU do differently next time around?

If you had an epidural, were you also surprised by what it didn’t cover?

Anyone else with damage you didn’t even know could happen??

Dec 172009
 

In this info-oversaturated world, sometimes we need to see something over and over before it sinks in.  Such has been my relationship with Children Inspire Design.  I’m always looking for creative ways to use scrap paper or fabric, and have this Zinnia print saved in my inspiration files:

I’m also obsessed with peacocks, and keep saving this Peacock to my Etsy favorites.

I’ve admired this bird print on other blogs.

I even entered a contest on the Children Inspire Design blog.  Yet somehow I never realized that all these artists are, in fact, the same artist.  Until today, when I received email notice of a 50% off sale at her store.  And suddenly, Elsa’s nursery-to-be is ready to decorate!  We got the Zinnia, the Peacock, and a few other pretties, including this set of number prints in Chinese:

The Children Inspire Design 50% off sale is going on until December 19 (discount code: HappyHolidays).  Alternatively, her Etsy shop, Art and Philanthropy, is offering buy-2-get-1-free with free shipping, also through December 19.  She promises to deliver by the 24th, so hurry over if you need last-minute gifts for yourself or your loved ones!