Friday, August 31, 2007

38 Weeks: In Which I Attempt to Amuse You!!

Good morning, erstwhile audience!! (I have no idea what "erstwhile" means. Hopefully it is a compliment, not an insult. I mean it in the nicest possible way, okay? So no offense taken? It's just a wickedly awesome word, isn't it? Say it with me: ERSTWHILE!! There- I saw you smile! I did!!)

Maybe I'll just skip having coffee this morning. HA HA!! Pretty funny, huh?

(I can hear what you're thinking. You're thinking, "Oh please, please spare us these ERSTWHILE attempts at humor. They are so... NOT." Well, I have news for you Mr. Grumpypants McGregor: reading this blog is FREE for you! There aren't even any ADS for crying out loud! Didn't anyone ever tell you, you get what you pay for!?! So shut up and deal.)

WOW she is cranky this morning, you are thinking! Well, I respond, I am NOT cranky. Maybe a little tired. And hungry. And vomit-soaked. And Unshowered. And did I mention, tired? BUT NOT CRANKY. HAPPY! I am HAPPY! Here, I will take a picture to show you:

Do you notice that I cropped out my chin? I did not like my chin in this picture. My chin looked Fat. Thus the cropping. And here is a picture of the wee one, just 'cause:

More Numbering! Because it's my blog, and I can number if I want to!!

1) Breastfeeding! It takes approximately 267 hours a day. Sometimes it hurts a little bit and sometimes it hurts a lot. But I like it! Funny how that works, isn't it? It's very cozy (for lack of a better word) and it makes me feel good knowing that I'm giving my baby such good nutritious food. (Well. Except for the caffeine. And the lack of vitamins due to the recent complete absence of vegetables in my diet. And the occasional crack cocaine. [Kidding! Really. I eat a FEW vegetables once in a while...]) Anyway, we did have some problems getting started; namely, there was a Boycott of The Left Side* in the beginning due to its Less Appealing Milk Distribution Structures, but thanks to vigorous and persistent negotiations between Management and The Consumer [including but not limited to a full-blown Marketing Campaign that included the catchy slogan, "The Left Breast is the Best Breast!!"], we have now happily established Bimastical Eating Patterns here in the Nebiverse. [Blogger's spell-checker is claiming that "bimastical" is not a word!! Then again, it doesn't realize that Nebiverse is a word, either, so what does it know...?]

*Names have been changed to protect the innocent. In other words, this will be the blog pseudonym for my left breast. Obviously I cannot tell you the proper name of my left breast, because that would be embarrassing and inappropriate.

Also re: The Feedings: you guys know how in the last post I was all happy that the pooping/vomiting/etc factors were so mild so far? Yeah, how many of you laughed when you read that, thinking, "she has totally just jinxed the situation..."? The past day or two have witnessed a marked increase in Spit-up Volumes, which is distressing because 1) we do not have a washing machine, and we have limited [ie finite] numbers of things like baby blankets and nursing bras; 2) it is Sad to patiently nurse (or pump) for a long time, only to see most of the "good nutrition" [see above] wasted; 3) did I mention the LACK OF WASHING MACHINE?? Yeah. Daddy Nate has launched an aggressive Burping Campaign in the last week or so to combat our child's phenomenal and award-winning Gas problems, so now it's just a matter of finding the perfect combination of frequency and length of feedings, burping persistence, vertical positioning, and gas drops to ward off both the Spit-up and Gas monsters. Wish us luck!!

2) When Nate wakes me up at 2ish every morning to nurse, I am Very, Very Sleepy usually. A couple of nights ago he was talking to me, making the Camera Words again about lenses and focal length, etc etc, and finally I glare-yawned at him and said, "Your sentences must be no longer than THREE WORDS EACH!! And each word must have no more than THREE LETTERS!! Because I cannot process any more than that right now."

He gave me a mischievous look and said, "GO TO BED."
Neb: "...!!!!"
Nate: "THE HOU SE."
Neb: "What??"
Nate: "I was practicing how to say, 'the house is on fire...'"

This was hysterically, riotously funny at the time. Now we wander around the apartment saying "THE HOU SE" to each other and cracking up. Yeah. New parenthood is fun.

3) I started calling my daughter "Chicken" because this was one of her favorite poses the first week of her life:
See the resemblance?

4) Around 35 weeks I started working on a Birth Plan post, which I never got to finish because I actually, you know, GAVE BIRTH. But why not share what I had so far...?

"1) 'Who would you like to be present at the birth of your baby?'

Answer: Nate! He's a good friend to have around for things like hugs and kisses and hand-holding. Also? I know he would totally sneak me a cup of coffee if I needed it. Sara and Judy are welcome to show up too, if they want, because they are so sweet and kind and understanding, and if I called them and asked them to come and then when they got there suddenly wigged out and was like, "You must LEAVE ME NOW! I MUST BE ALONE!" they would be all understanding and patient and go with whatever and wait in the waiting room until I actually wanted them again...

2) "Would you like to be offered pain medication during labor, or do you want to use only natural comfort measures (i.e., relaxation techniques, massage, distraction)?"

Answer: Why, YES! YES I WOULD LIKE TO BE OFFERED THE PAIN MEDICATION! I WOULD LIKE THE SWEET, SWEET DRUGS PLEASE! AS SOON AS POSSIBLE! In fact, NOW would be good! Narcotics! AND an epidural! Morphine! Codeine! Whatever you've got! BRING IT! I am so ready! I mean really, it would be cool if you could start an epidural a week before my due date and leave it plugged in until Everything Has Healed, if you know what I mean! But I'll settle for IV narcotics upon arrival to the hospital and an epidural as soon as the anesthesiologist can be paged...

And after the birth? What do you offer gunshot or burn victims for pain? I'll take some of that. (What's that, you say? It will go into my breastmilk? Well, the baby won't feel any pain either, then. Good!)

3) "What other comfort measures would you like during labor? (Examples: music, dimmed lights, eating/drinking, whirlpool, walking/trying different positions...)"

Answer: Well, let's think about this. See, being as this is my first baby and all, I have never tried this labor gig before. So really it's hard for me to predict ahead of time what might be Soothing and Comforting when the time comes. Who knows? I mean I might be there for awhile and all of sudden realize that what I really need is MOTHBALLS! I need to smell MOTHBALLS RIGHT NOW!!!

So, dear Nurses and other Hospitally-type people: considering that my insurance is paying you guys A Lot Of Money to help me out with this childbirth thing, really I just think it would be nice if you could try to be prepared to accommodate my desires when the time comes, within reason at least. Who KNOWS what I might need during labor? Here are some guesses/ possibilities: Chocolate pudding! Jugglers! To touch a chenille blanket! Welsh Corgis! Blueberry muffins! Rose-scented candles! The smell of gasoline (or magic markers)! Acrobats! Celtic music! Macaroni and cheese! Reruns of "Saved by the Bell"! Monopoly!

Or: just peace and quiet...?"

5) Speaking of our insurance paying the hospital a lot of money: we got a statement from the hospital the other day showing the total charges. Are you guys ready for this? Do you know how much it costs to have a baby in a hospital these days? Sure you're sitting down?


Yes, that's in US Dollars. That's for an uncomplicated vaginal delivery and standard 48-hour stay. That includes about $9600 for "room and board"; $1800 for the epidural (a bargain at any price!!); $6400 for "labor and delivery"; and almost $500 to test the baby's hearing. All I can say is, I hope our insurance covers most of it... we have 80/20 coinsurance for the $5000 after our $1000 deductible (which we've already met), so I know we'll be paying a minimum $1K out of pocket, but I hope it's not a lot more than that. So far the insurance has been good and paid for everything pre-natal except the Group B strep test, so I'm hopeful.

6) Wondering how the Nebiverse is looking in its Contracting phase? Here's a picture from Fri. 8/24:

And a close-up:

The bizarre thing is, after having the baby my body felt so SMALL to me all of a sudden... so I was kind of shocked when I got on the scale a few days after coming home and weighed 163. That's still 22 lbs more than pre-pregnancy weight!! But a few days later I weighed 154, then 153... so there is definitely some fluid loss and things going on. I also now fit back in my pre-pregnancy jeans, which is good because otherwise I would have nothing to wear!! (Have been somewhat wardrobe-disoriented; still reaching for the maternity clothes out of habit, discovering that they're too baggy, but then not being able to figure out- what in the world did I WEAR before I was pregnant...? It's like I no longer know how to put together outfits from my regular wardrobe. Bizarre, huh?) So I feel really small, but on the other hand my stomach is amazingly soft and flabby. Hello, abdominal muscles?? You were never great and mighty, but have you vanished altogether now?!? I am SO not into doing crunches...

7) Okay, to prove that I still have A Working Mind that can think about things non-baby-related, I was going to write a nice paragraph here critiquing The Number One Ladies Detective Agency series that I'm reading (Yes, I read! It is one of the few things I can do while nursing and pumping). However, this post is already Long! And I am Sleepy again! Also, the sproguelet is waking up! And I haven't pumped yet this morning! And I need to clean my house before my family comes! So without further ado, I bid thee all, FAREWELL!


PS "Erstwhile" means "former; of times past." Like my ability to Think! And be funny! Ha ha.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

37 Weeks! In Which I Interview Myself (And, apparently, still deny that I am no longer pregnant...)

[Preface: I started writing this sometime last week. Progress is slow! Yet I press on!]

Hello, Nebiverse fans! I could really use some more coffee, but, being a Good Breastfeeding Mom, maybe I can deny the urge a little longer!

(*Goes to microwave 1/2 a cup*)

(There's none made, although that's impossible to tell until you start pouring, because the pot is opaque, not having been washed since Peter came to visit us, which was probably something like 2 1/2 years ago. It's all about the Pure Essences, my friends!)

Alright, first things first: to those of you wondering why I'm still entitling my blog posts with weeks of pregnancy, well... I am NOT having big psychological issues from having had the baby 3 1/2 weeks early; I just feel the urge to complete my pregnancy journaling. (...?) This time between now and her due date seems like a little bit of an in-between stage; I'm still getting emails from Babycenter with titles like "what to pack for the hospital" and "how to recognize the early signs of labor"; my pregnancy ticker is still ticking; my weight "gain" chart isn't completed; etc. Just humor me. And yes, today I am thirty EIGHT weeks, not thirty seven. I'm catching up!

And now, for your reading entertainment: A Birth Interview!

NEB: "Thanks for being with us today, Neb!"
Me: "My pleasure!"

NEB: "And I must say, that post-pregnancy body is looking pretty Hott!"
Me: [blushing] "Thanks..."

NEB: "So in your last post, you told us in great detail about your birth story. Today maybe you could provide some commentary/ analysis of your experiences."
Me: "Why, sure! Anything for the pleasure of our reading audience..."

NEB: "So, overall, how do you feel about your labor and birth experience? Was it easier or harder than you expected? Surprising or predictable?"
Me: "Looking at the whole thing, I have to say that labor, birth, recovery, and adjusting to being a mom have been a lot easier in many ways than I anticipated. My labor was certainly shorter than I thought it would be, and started much more suddenly; it sort of seemed like it was all over by the time I really knew what was going on. The contractions before the epidural were hard for me to deal with, but I managed, and then after the epidural, labor was a piece of cake. Healing from all those stitches has been way, WAY easier than I thought it would be- other than *TMI ALERT* a Very, Very Bad Hour on Saturday morning when I pooped for the first time after giving birth *END TMI ALERT*, the discomfort from that has been barely noticeable- not like the horror stories I've read on the internet. Sleep deprivation has been hard- but I'm discovering tricks to get more sleep, like how to nap with the baby- and nursing has been painful, but when I do a better job taking care of my breasts (lanolin, nursing/pumping more frequently) it gets better. So all in all, things have really not been too hard- not nearly as much as I expected."

NEB: "Are you happy with the choices you made for giving birth? What, if anything, would you do differently next time?"
Me: "Overall I'm very happy with the choices I made. In terms of doing things differently next time- I guess if I had known that labor was really going to pick up so quickly, I would have asked Nate to stay with me at the hospital instead of dropping me off; but it still worked out fine- he just missed the first bit of labor, not her birth or anything like that. Next time I might be a little more insistent about getting drugs earlier; although I don't know that I would want Stadol again, and epidurals can't always be obtained earlier (one has to wait for the anesthesiologist.) I think it's quite possible that I wouldn't have torn so severely if I hadn't had the epidural, because I would have been pushing more gradually. But then again, many women still tear badly WITHOUT an epidural, and I sure wouldn't have wanted to get all those stitches without being numb, so I don't at all regret that decision."

NEB: "On websites like Babycenter, there are a lot of debates among women about choices in childbirth- what's your perspective on those, now that you've had a baby yourself?"
Me: "You know, when I was in labor the one thing I kept thinking about over and over again was that women have gone through this for centuries- and in many places in the world today- *without* many choices, without many options. In the US today, most (?) women [except probably the poorest women, or women who live in the middle of nowhere] have the option of a hospital birth or a birth center or a homebirth, an OB or a midwife, pain medication or not, and just about any comfort measure you can think of (whirlpool, birthing ball, etc etc). Not only that, but after giving birth, most women have access to tylenol (or stronger drugs), maxi pads, cold packs, hot packs, Tucks pads, comfortable pillows, air conditioning (or heat, as the case may be), Lanolin, nursing pads... running water... indoor plumbing...

So while I really can understand why women in this country would choose homebirth, or birth centers, or medication-free births, or less-medicalized births of various kinds- (I understand meaning it makes sense to me that many women are happy choosing these things, even though they are not what I would choose)- what I DON'T understand is the amount of (what seems to me like) bickering and complaining that sometimes goes on when women discuss giving birth. To me, the fact that debates are even possible, that there are choices to be made about giving birth, should make us all spend a little more time giving thanks that we have these choices and options and a little less time debating what's the "best" way to give birth.

Having said that, I should be quick to point out that I realize lots of women have bad experiences in childbirth, sometimes for reasons that can't be prevented, but sometimes by the fault of incompetent or uncooperative attendants. While I had a great hospital birth, many women don't; the fact that I had such wonderful doctors and nurses and care makes me all the more grateful. I just think too many women are too quick to say, "I had a bad experience with X, therefore X is bad for everyone" instead of realizing that a lot of elements of childbirth are a matter of luck (or, rather, the sovereignty of God.)"

NEB: "Any other thoughts you'd like to share with us about anything?"
Me: "Sure. Mind if I number them?"
NEB: "Go right ahead! [What a great way to organize your thoughts!]"
Me: "Thanks!
1) I personally know at least ten women who have had babies in the past few years, and in talking to each of them about their pregnancies and births, the thing that really intrigues me is that, even though the end result is the same for everyone (a baby comes out!), there is so much variation in individual experiences. Different parts of the pregnancy/labor/birth story are hard (or easy) for different women. For example, I remember talking to one of my friends a few months ago who told me that she could cope with the pain of unmedicated childbirth because, no matter how intense, it only lasts a few (several?) hours, but she had a much harder time dealing with the healing process afterwards because it took so long. I found out that I'm the exact opposite- I couldn't deal with the intensity of labor pain, no matter how brief, but am much more okay with the long-term but milder discomfort of healing (and breastfeeding!) Some of my friends have loved IV pain relief and some have found it not too helpful; some have had great experiences with being induced, and some have hated it. Again, it all just goes to show (in my opinion) that we should be thankful we have CHOICES and recognize that we aren't all meant to choose the same things...

2) Newborns are easier to take care of than I thought they would be. Before Madelaine was born, when I thought about taking care of a baby, I imagined both positives and negatives- along with snuggling and cuteness and little hands and feet, I had visions of her crying endlessly with us unable to figure out what she wants, and poopy diapers leaking everywhere, and projectile vomit covering things, and aching arms from carrying her around. The reality is that she's really very good at communicating what she needs- she sticks out her tongue/ chews her hands when she's hungry, and only really fusses when she has gas or wants to be held, so we really aren't having long unexplained crying fits (yet!) Newborn poopy diapers don't smell much, are easy to clean up, and, thanks to Pampers Rocket Science Technology, hardly ever leak! Projectile vomiting has happened a few times, but since her stomach is small the volume still isn't THAT bad... and since she's lightweight, it's not so hard to hold her and carry her around yet. In other words, the crying/pooping/vomiting/heaviness factors start out small and increase gradually, giving us time to adjust. Pretty neat, huh?

3) For several days after Madelaine was born, I had a frustrating sense of disorientation, brought about by a number of things- first the narcotics during labor, then the serious sleep deprivation I went through in the hospital, and then all the things happening at once- visitors, adjusting to taking care of a baby 24/7, doing the things (like shopping) we hadn't completed yet because she was early, etc. After awhile, I thought about why I felt so overwhelmed and realized that part of it was due to information overload, of a type that a lot of women around the world probably don't have. If you have your baby in a hut in Africa or South America or something, you probably have (for better or worse) a few local women giving you all your information about pregnancy, labor, birth, and baby care. When you give birth in modern America, you have not only family members and friends, and your actual doctor, but a host of books and handouts from the hospital and the vast wealth of the internet. It's overwhelming!! For example, in the first few days of nursing, when Madelaine and I were figuring out how everything works and trying to solve problems as they came up, I tried reading the different books and resources I had, as well as listening to all the different nurses and people at the hospital, about how often to nurse, and how long, and which side, and what to do before and after, and what to do about sore nipples and latch problems and positioning and sleepy babies and pumping and storing and thawing, etc etc... And every information source was a little different. After we were home for a couple of days and it was clear that she was eating and pooping enough, I decided to just STOP- stop reading, thinking about it, timing everything, tracking everything (they wanted us to count her dirty diapers for the first week!!) and just Do What Works. It's much simpler that way! And, I think indicative of the big picture of how we look at parenting; I'm not really interested in what different "experts" and gurus have to say about things, at least not yet. We feed her when she's hungry, change her diaper every few hours, talk to her, sing to her, hold her all the time because she likes that, and pick her pacifier up off the floor and stick it back in her mouth. Yeah, no germ-consciousness here. (We didn't wash her clothes before she wore them, and didn't sterilize the pump before use. Hardcore!!)

4) When I took Real Analysis last fall, I used to think "this is the hardest thing I've ever done... but when I have a baby, maybe that will change." Well, maybe it's silly to compare apples and oranges, but a few days after she was born I realized- No, Real Analysis still stands as the hardest thing I've ever done in my life. And if I could go back in time and give myself a big hug during that semester, I would. [A few times in the past 3 weeks when the sleep deprivation has been at its worst, my sentiments about this have wavered- but on the whole I'm still persuaded of its truth.]

5) You know how most people think they have The World's Most Beautiful Baby? The moment she was born, I realized with a shock: we had actually done it. We had ACTUALLY given birth to the most beautiful baby in the world!! She's just perfect. God made her perfect; perfect for us. I said to my mom, "I know I'm prejudiced, but don't you think, objectively speaking, that she's absolutely gorgeous?" and my mom said (completely seriously, with a straight face), "Of course. It is obvious to the most objective observer that you have given birth to the most beautiful child in the world."

And during our first week together, I woke up one morning, came out of the fog I was in and looked at her in my arms and realized: out of all the things in this world that I have done or will do or could do, I really can't imagine anything that would compare- anything that would beat this.


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

To appease my adoring fans!

Hello! I nurse all the time! And try to go to bed at a decent hour! She's crying now as a matter of fact!

Okay, I am now nursing hands-free. Because, yes- I am Just That Cool.

Seriously, folks, I am not abandoning this blog- I am just Adjusting To Being a Mom. I have a Cool Post in the process of being composed right now, as a matter of fact. I just don't get many opportunities- GOOD opportunities- to work on it. Given a choice between, say, writing in this blog and SHOWERING every other day, I choose to shower. I choose to eat. I choose to pay our bills. You get the idea!

Here's a picture, to further appease you!

My family is coming this weekend to visit. Baby Shower! Baby Dedication Sunday morning. Yay!


Friday, August 17, 2007

36 Weeks: In which I GIVE BIRTH (!!!!!!!)

Allright, y'all ready for this?

*Baby fed, changed, sleeping: check!
*French vanilla coffee with cinnamon-hazelnut creamer available: check!
*Banana bread available: check! Already devoured. Time to eat another loaf.

Okay! Good MORNING, Nebiverse fans! By now most of you have heard this at various other places on the interwebs, or at least deduced it from the picture above, but, just to make it really clear:


There's so much to tell you I don't even know where to begin, but maybe we should start with last Wednesday, huh?

*My Birth Story*

First, a disclaimer: the following narrative contains references to the real-life details of childbirth, like bodily fluids and things. If you are squeamish, or believe that such things shouldn't be mentioned on people's blogs, I would suggest that you skip reading this post. If you want to know why I can't just write a birth story that omits these details, I will give you two reasons: the first is that I think that hearing other women's birth stories- including all the details- was a very important part of my preparation for having a baby. I enjoy reading birth stories on blogs and bulletin boards and seeing the wide variation in people's experiences. The second reason is that, when all is said and done, I don't write this blog to communicate with all of you- I write it to communicate with myself. This is my chronicle of my life and I feel the importance of telling this story as it is, with the details of real life included. So for those of you who would like to read, I hope you enjoy it, and, thanks for listening!

So after I posted the last two posts (this was Wed., Aug. 8th) I did normal typical morning Neb things and around noon, I lay down for a brief nap. (Not at all unusual- I like napping, and especially liked it in the third trimester.) Around 1:00 I felt this weird little pop somewhere down low, and thought, What was that? I got up and checked but there was no liquid or other visible sign of anything interesting happening, so I decided it must have just been a weird kick and ignored it. About ten minutes later I got up to go to the bathroom, and just as I got there, there was a warm gush of fluid. At first I was like, "Oh my goodness! My water is breaking!" But after a few spoonfuls of liquid it stopped, so I thought, oh, maybe not. I was under the impression that water breaking would involve a whole pint or something and I also knew that having labor begin with water breaking is not too typical (around 15% of the time, I read somewhere). As far as I could tell I hadn't had any of the "early labor symptoms" that books and the internet had been telling me to look for. I checked with a couple of friends who've had babies, and my mom, and none of them were sure, but all agreed with my thought that I should call the OB to ask about it. So I called and got their answering machine (apparently lunch is 1-2 at their office) and left a message. Then I woke up Nate and said, "Something funny happened... I might have to go into the doctor to get checked..." and he was all groggy and said something like "Wake me up when something important happens." At that point I was thinking "I always assume things are much more dramatic and significant than they are... this is probably nothing..." so I wasn't too excited yet.

At some point during that hour though, I started having mildly painful contractions, and realized, "THIS is a little weird..." None of my contractions had been painful before. But I had read that labor contractions usually start in the back and move around front, and these were still like Braxton-Hicks (ie tightening in the front), but with pain like menstrual cramps. So I still wasn't sure. I got a little more excited when I called Sara and she said that her labor contractions were like that, but still didn't want to get my hopes up too much. For some reason I didn't feel nervous or afraid.

So by the time I finally got in touch with my OB around 2, I had had several painful contractions that seemed like they were increasing in intensity, and when I told them about the fluid and then the contractions, they were like, "Oh! You need to go to the hospital to get checked." That surprised me because I assumed they would tell me to come into the office first. So then I was more excited, and woke up Nate and told him we had to go. He was a little freaked out and hid under the blanket for awhile. The problem was that he really needed to go into school to meet with his advisor at 2:30 to finish up things for his dissertation, and was pretty stressed about getting that done, so I told him (still assuming that nothing interesting would be happening for several hours, even if this WAS really labor- all the books and websites point out that first-time labors are usually fairly long and start gradually) that I really didn't mind if he dropped me off at the hospital, went to Lehigh (5 min. from hospital) to do his things, and then came right back. He asked if I was SURE I was okay with this, and I reassured him I would be fine. I was still feeling a little excited and confident and not very nervous. I didn't have a bag packed for the hospital or anything yet (that was on my to-do list for the next few days...), so I was trying to figure out what to put in my tote bag to take with me, just in case I wouldn't be coming home again before giving birth, and finally settled on just my wallet, my address book, the big binder of information from the hospital, and "What to Expect When You're Expecting." I made a couple of phone calls (including my mom) and then we set off.

As planned, Nate dropped me off at the front door of the hospital and I went to the information desk and asked, "Which way to Labor and Delivery?" I set off down the hallway and eventually found the right elevator and the right floor. In the car I had had some increasingly intense contractions, and in the elevator I had a big one and I remember thinking "none of these people I'm with know I'm in labor!" It was weird. I found the front desk of L&D and there were a couple of ladies sitting there who were very, very nonchalant. They were chatting, and multi-tasking, and answering phones, and doing paperwork, and after a few minutes they very casually asked me something like "Can we help you?" They had my charts because my doctor's office (in the building next door) had sent them over, so they started processing my paperwork, gave me a bracelet, etc. I must have been standing at the front desk for about 10 minutes waiting for all this to happen, and during that time had 2 big contractions. I remember thinking "I should start remembering all these details so I can blog about it later." ;-)

So they took me back to a triage room, I changed into a gown and gave a urine sample, and they hooked me up to an external moniter to record my contractions. This involved a large elastic band around my belly, which I found to be fairly uncomfortable- although I think I blamed a lot of discomfort on that band that was actually just, you know, LABOR. (I was still somewhat in denial!) Then they said the doctor would be in in awhile to check me. I remember asking the nurse "Is it likely that if she's born now [36 weeks 2 days] her lungs would be developed?" and the answer was something like "That's why they do amniocentesis to find out..." and I thought, no way do I want to have that done... but no one mentioned it again so it wasn't an issue.

I spent 1 1/2 hours in the triage room, and was increasingly uncomfortable during that time. It seemed like it took a really long time to wait for things- I kept watching the clock and trying to time my contractions, but kept losing track... I know they were every few minutes, sometimes less than 5, I think. I was also trying to read the monitor tracking my contractions, but wasn't sure I understood how to read the print-out. Eventually the doctor came in to check my progress (this was the FIRST time anyone had checked me to see if I was dilated- my doctor's office hadn't even started that at the routine visits yet because it was too early! they would have started next visit...). He was young and sounded like he had a French accent, and was nice. When they were unpackaging the speculum I heard him say to the nurse, "Is this geriatric?" and I think she said "It's labeled medium..." HINT for those of you in labor (or any time you're going to have an internal exam when you know you're really sensitive...): DON'T be shy about saying "CAN YOU PLEASE TRY THE SMALLEST SIZE AVAILABLE FIRST??" It hurt so bad when they put it in; it was just because I couldn't relax. They kept telling me to relax and I kept telling myself to relax, but the contractions made it nearly impossible. I asked "Why does it hurt so much?" and the nurse said "Because you're 36 weeks pregnant." They took samples to check for amniotic fluid and Strep B (I'd had that done at my last OB appointment, 35 weeks, but the results weren't even back yet so they were checking again.) Then he checked on dilation (that involves pressing HARD!) and said I was 2 cm, 70% effaced. I was relieved to hear that I was at least starting to dilate because I would have been upset to be having contractions at that level and not progressing yet. So they left me alone again for awhile, waiting for the test results to see if my water had broken I guess. I found it really hard to get into a comfortable position on the table; I can't remember what else I was hooked up to at that point, maybe a heart rate moniter and automatic blood pressure cuff? It's all a little blurry. The contractions really picked up and I started to get more upset; I had this sensation of not being able to cope with the pain. I think I remarked to the nurse at some point when she came in, "Maybe I SHOULD have taken Lamaze after all..." During the times I was alone, I would have a contraction and think "OKAY, as soon as this passes I'm going to press the button to get the nurse and ask them to give me some pain medication!!!" but then the contraction would pass and I would think "Well, I don't want to bother them... I can wait a little while longer..." It was weird because for some reason I didn't seem to understand why it hurt so bad... even though I'm sure that I KNEW that contractions are more intense after your water's broken, somehow I wasn't thinking about that. I just remember thinking, "This must be EARLY labor, and if early labor's this bad, what is the middle and the end like?? MUST GET EPIDURAL!!"

Anyway finally the doctor came back in and told me, "Yes, your water is broken, so you will probably be having the baby within 24 hours, and we will give you pitocin to make that happen if you don't progress enough on your own." By that point I wasn't at all surprised, and still didn't really feel scared or freaked out; I told him "That's fine [ie in regard to the pitocin], but I would like an EPIDURAL. Also, probably some IV pain drugs even before then." He seemed surprised that I was in so much pain already, but said I could have what I needed. He also told me I had tested positive for strep B, so they would be giving me antibiotics.

At some point when I was in triage a lady came in with a cordless phone, and it was my dad... he had figured out how to call the hospital and track me down. I have no idea what I told him, but I assume I told him that I was really in labor and they could go ahead and leave for PA if they wanted to. I don't think I talked long. I kept hoping Nate would be back soon and around 3:30 maybe I called him and was relieved he was back in his office; told him my water was broken and the baby was on the way, and he said he and Adrienne (who was in town for a job interview) would be there soon. They got there around 4 pm and shortly after that a nurse came in and said they would move me to an LDR room. She said I could walk if I wanted to, and I asked how far it was and she said "right down the hallway." I got up and sort of leaned over the table, deep in pain from a contraction and starting to get kind of light-headed, and finally she said "Do you want a wheelchair?" and I said yes. So they took me to the LDR room and got me settled in bed, and re-hooked-up to a contraction moniter.

The time frame from 4-6 is a little blurry. I had a nurse named Jeanne who was nice and sort of funny. It seemed like she spent a long time coming in and out, filling out paperwork, asking various questions (I guess- I really can't remember), starting my IV, etc. I started asking for a cup of ice water (unfortunately I hadn't had nearly enough to eat or drink before leaving the house), but she kept getting distracted doing various things so finally someone else (Sara? Adrienne?) found a cup of water for me. The contractions were bad and I still had this feeling of not being well-equipped to deal with them; I couldn't relax, or breathe properly, or anything. Every time one came I sort of writhed for awhile and moaned a lot; back in triage I had told myself "Try vocalizing the pain," something I had read in the hippie natural-childbirth books, and I don't know if it really helped but at least it gave me something to do. I said "OH!" over and over again through every contraction. At some point I started asking Jeanne for pain medication, and told her I definitely wanted an epidural, and she said "You can go ahead and have one now!" and I said "Great!" but it was still some significant amount of time after that that I actually GOT one. During this time while I was waiting, I worked on a list of things to pack in a bag for the hospital- the plan was for Adrienne to go back to our apartment and get things together. (It was also during this time that she got a call from Bethlehem school district offering her a teaching job for the fall- Yay!) I checked the checklist in What To Expect When You're Expecting and was typically OCD about it so it took forever, but it was really good for me to have something specific to do between contractions to distract me.

At some point someone checked my progress again, and I was 4 cm, 80% effaced. I was relieved to hear I was still progressing well. Jeanne said the anesthesiologist was finishing up a C-section and then would be on the way. Eventually I said, "I'm not sure how much longer it will be til the epidural- if it's going to be another half hour or something, I'd like some IV pain relief now." She asked if I needed to go to the bathroom first, saying "I don't like helping a drunken sailor walk," and she made me sign some forms (which, of course, I didn't read first- that would have delayed the drugs!!) She gave me the Stadol, and literally about 60 seconds later, the anesthesiolgist got there!! The Stadol made me woozy and unable to keep my eyes open. If I had known the epidural would be there right away I wouldn't have asked for it, because as far as I could tell it didn't really relieve the pain of contractions (although it didn't have long enough to work to really tell) and just made me groggy. But I guess it was nice to be a little out of it during the epidural installation, although the pain from that really wasn't significant compared to the contractions. Once the epidural kicked in there was sweet, sweet numbness, and I felt absolutely no pain whatsoever for the rest of the day!!! Then I was all peaceful and mellow and happy.

A little while later I was excited to see Judy and Sara show up- I had invited them to come to the hospital when I was in labor, mainly in case Nate had issues with seeing childbirth stuff (especially if I needed a C-section.) They were completely awesome and were really good company the whole time. Adrienne came back, having found everything on my list in our apartment (what a great sister-in-law!!) Also Mike and Rich stopped in brieflly; then they waited outside until after the baby was born. I made and received a few phone calls during this time, but don't really remember what I said to people, or who called when.

Sometime between 7:30 and 8 I think, they checked my progress again (painless checking, this time!) and were shocked to find out I was 9 cm! Earlier when I had asked how long I would be staying in the hospital (48 hours literally, or, discharged at some point on the second day after delivery), a nurse had said, "Oh, your baby will surely be born after midnight, so you'll stay until Saturday." So it was surprising (and thriling!) to hear I was so far along. They told me it would be time to push soon, and someone said that first-time labors usually involve 1 to 3 hours of pushing. I was a little bit apprehensive about the pushing part because I was so numb that I didn't know whether or not I would be able to push properly, and I was terrified that they would suggest turning down the epidural so I could feel more.

My OB was on vacation that week (at my previous appointment they'd told me he'd be gone that week), so I had asked Jeanne who was covering for him- she said Dr. W was supposed to be covering, but Dr. A was covering for HIM until 11 pm. So at some point I met Dr. A, and was really happy to find out that she was very nice- honestly, I liked her more than my own OB! What a blessing. [She delivered the baby, and I never saw her again! Funny how these things work...] Before pushing, I told her "I would rather risk tearing naturally than having an episiotomy" and it was a relief when she said, "Don't worry, I don't do them routinely" (which is not exactly what my OB had said...) so at the time, that was very reassuring.

So about 8:13 they said I could start pushing, and I thought about what I'd read/heard various places: Push like you're having a bowel movement! They said take a couple of deep breaths and then push, the next time a contraction came (I couldn't really feel most of the contractions, so a nurse watched the moniter/ felt my belly and told me when.) I scrunched up my face and really gave it all I had, and asked if I was doing it right, and was relieved to hear that I was. So I pushed for 11 minutes and she was born! Towards the end I asked for a mirror so I could watch, and I saw a long strand of her dark hair come out. That was pretty cool. Interestingly I wasn't at all disturbed by the sight of all the blood and things coming out of me; I just found it fascinating. (If I had been FEELING what was going on, I'm sure it would have been another story altogether!) Anyway, she came shooting out all at once (not the head first, then the shoulders, etc.) with a big gush of fluid. I can't remember if she cried or not, but I remember saying she's beautiful, and they wrapped her up and handed her to me. It was the most amazingly cool thing. They let Nate cut the cord and took her aside to do the standard newborn things (eyedrops, vitamin K) before giving her back to me.

Shortly afterwards I asked the doctor if I had torn and she said, yes, you tore a lot, part-way through your sphincter. So that scared me a lot- getting stitches was one of the things that scared me the most about childbirth, just because I'd heard bad things about the healing process. But Dr. A was very reassuring and said, "Don't worry, it will heal just fine." (Unlike the nurse who was in my room later and said, "You'll never want to have sex again!" Really encouraging, huh?) She and another person that she was teaching (some kind of med student?) spent a long time sewing me up- more than 30 minutes, Nate said. [Again, this was all 100% painless.] Nate said she was very careful and seemed to be doing a really good job. I asked her what degree the tear was and she said "partial 3rd degree"- later I was told that it went through about 75% of my sphincter. [This is more than you EVER wanted to read about my sphincter, isn't it...? Don't worry, I'm almost done...] I asked her how many stitches it needed and she just said, "Well... many layers." After a few minutes the placenta came out; when Dr. A looked at it she said it was a "Battledore Placenta," meaning the umbilical cord was attached close to the edge instead of in the middle, which *might* explain why I delivered 4 weeks early- but then again, might not.

So, my dad called and I told him the baby was already here- he and my mom were on the way. The nurse told me Madelaine's Apgar was a 9 and that she seemed completely healthy, which was so good to hear; they let me hold her for awhile and try nursing a bit, but eventually she was cold and so they had to take her to the nursery and put her under warming lights. I finally got to eat something (macaroni and cheese, and a PBJ) and they asked if I could use a bedpan and I said I'd try. Well, nothing worked; I was still too numb to even feel like I needed to pee, although they had given me so much IV fluid that I certainly needed to, so they put in a catheter (one of the other things which terrified me about childbirth, for some reason, but turned out to be completely not an issue! too numb to feel it) and they drained out way more urine than I thought my bladder was capable of holding.

[Commercial Break: It is now Monday morning. This post is now ridiculously long, considering I had a shorter-than-average labor. So something tells me I should stop telling you all EVERY little detail, and try to wrap it up here...]

I got moved to a private room (where I stayed until we went home Friday afternoon), and we waited for my parents to arrive. I didn't feel sleepy for a long time- too much adrenaline maybe. My family got in around 1 am and went to the nursery (where she was still warming up.) They came back to my room, and we waited for the nursery folks to bring her back to me. They finally did around 2, maybe, and after that my parents left to find their hotel. Nate left around 3, and after that I was alone with my baby. She was sleeping fitfully in her bassinet, and I knew she would sleep better if I held her. So I held her in bed with me for a long time. And together, we watched the sun rise. :-)

Love, Neb

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Dr. Nate :-)

My husband did his thing yesterday! He defended his dissertation against the cruel, harsh attacks of the outside world! He went into The Big Lecture Room with the Powerpoint and Made the Science Words for like an hour, all the words about the Proteins, um... doing their Protein Things! And there were graphs! and charts! and many, many equations! And I recognized a couple of the equations because I had helped with them! And then his family and I went into the room next door and set up all the tables of Snacks while the faculty people questioned him about his work and his affiliation with the Communist Party and why his shirt is never completely tucked in and why he's always drenched in sweat, and then they signed his papers, saying he's a Doctor! Woo hoo!

This is before the big talk. Doesn't he look incredibly Hott??? (...and hot...?)

Here's the snack room afterwards. The nice man in the blue shirt is his adviser, offering a toast. His siblings Adrienne and Elliot are here, too. (I'm pretty sure Elliot understood more of the talk than I did.) Do you see the cheese plate? With little flags in the cheeses? We had 10 kinds of cheese and I made little flags identifying each one because I hate eating cheese and not knowing what I'm eating. Not that I'm obsessive compulsive or anything.

Look at all those cookies I baked! Because I am totally a Proverbs 31 woman! (Just kidding, of course. Wegman's helped out a little bit. But if we read the part of Proverbs 31 that says something about "bringing food from afar," then I still qualify...?)

Here's Nate looking happy with his friend John.

Most of the good friends he's made while in grad school.

And as a special surprise, his family and my family and some friends chipped in and we got him the Big Person camera he's always wanted. So after he opened that, the rest of the evening was spent Talking Camera with his dad (they know all the things about lenses and filters and, you know... Camera Things.) So he was a happy boy. And then I fell into bed, exhausted and Great With Child.

So thanks to those of you who prayed for him. Yay! (Now we just need a job.)

:-) Love, Neb

Dialogue taken straight out of an NSF brochure...

BERNINBUSH: hmmm.... so am i better off with my current plan, which charged me this month 10.5 cents for the first 250 kwh and 15.2 cents for 1,230 kwh, or the new plan that charges a flat 14.6 cents per kwh?
Eliane16: you can make a graph and see where the lines intersect!!
Eliane16: this is so exciting!
Eliane16: Inner Math Nerd Activated!
BERNINBUSH: i'm just doing it on the calculator ;-)
Eliane16: Math in the Real World! Look! Look!
Eliane16: but you can calculate the break-even point! hang on
BERNINBUSH: i think for this month the new plan would come out two dollars more expensive
BERNINBUSH: well.... it gives my "average" as 14.8 cents, but i think that's factoring in tax, which I'm assuming i would still have to pay on top of the "flat rate"
BERNINBUSH: bottom line: it doesn't make much difference. i'm not going to mess with it
Eliane16: wait! wait! I just got our equations... one minute...
BERNINBUSH: whatever makes you happy....
Eliane16: OKAY:
Eliane16: if you use MORE THAN 1958 kwh per month
Eliane16: you should use the flat rate plan
Eliane16: if you use less than that, you're better off with the original plan
BERNINBUSH: yeah i've only used more than that once or twice i think ;-)
Eliane16: okay! yay! decision: stick with plan you have now!
Eliane16: I AM SO EXCITED!
Eliane16: YES!!
BERNINBUSH: lol. I'm glad to make you happy ;-)
Eliane16: I have GOT to put this in facebook or my blog or something...