Tuesday, March 22, 2011

So far, so good

This blogging thing is way harder than I thought it would be.  When I actually have time to start writing something, it becomes irrelevant by the time I get around to finishing it.  Whoever said “The only constant in life is change” was almost certainly a parent.  I feel like I have a totally new baby every two weeks!  Sidenote: I really thought this was going to be a place to keep everyone updated on Liv and what’s going on with her…but to be honest, I spend enough time with her day in and day out.  I think I need to have something for ME…and admitting that isn't easy, believe me!  It’s so hard as a new mom to not feel “selfish” when you want to take a shower longer than 3 minutes or eat your dinner while it’s actually hot.  Or write a blog.  Hopefully someone will still want to read.  Of course this will be all about motherhood/parenting, but mostly my feelings and philosophies and not “OMG SHE ROLLED OVER TODAY!” – which for the record, she does quite a bit now :)

Anyway, we’re just coming out of the four month sleep regression.  I may have jinxed it simply by writing that (fingers crossed), but the little one is finally getting back into a more civilized sleep schedule.  For a couple of weeks the longest stretch she had was two hours.  I was sure I was going to die.  On one memorable night, I sat up in bed after a 2 a.m. marathon nursing session and just cried.  I cried for a long time and wondered why I ever thought I was capable of raising a child.  I wondered if I was ever going to get back to feeling human.  Not great, not even ok, just human.  And what do you know, just when I was ready to adopt her to someone who could adequately care for her, the aliens beamed my happy girl back to Earth and took her evil clone back with them.  I'm slowly regaining my sanity, which I'm sure I’ll lose again in a few weeks time over something completely different, but for now I'm in a good place.

A major part of surviving this crazy mommy roller coaster so far has been learning how to surrender.  I’ve had to learn to surrender to her needs and let go of any preconceived notions I had about parenting and how I was going to do things.  There was a recent time (though it sure FEELS like a hundred years ago) when she would ONLY be quiet (read: not screaming bloody murder) if she was in my arms and in motion.  I heard over and over again from well meaning folks that I *needed* to let her cry so she could learn to be more independent.  I felt like a bad mom every time I “gave in” to her, “spoiled” her, and let her “manipulate” me.  I tried to let her cry on more than one occasion, but it didn’t feel right to me from the get go, and as it turns out it only makes her more pissed off and impossible to deal with when I do that.   So I gave in and bought a Moby wrap and I carried her ass around the house all day every day for weeks and learned to do EVERYTHING one handed.  I don’t remember the particular day when that necessity ended.  It was a gradual improvement (Maybe less and less time in the carrier? My memory of that time is totally shot.  I blame sleep deprivation) until finally she didn’t need that from me anymore.  It was a major “aha!” thing for me.  It would have taken just as much energy from me, if not more, to fight her into sitting quietly in a swing/on the floor/not on me as it did to just ride it out and let her do her thing. 

I’ve applied this way of thinking to her other “habits” (i.e. nursing to sleep) and so far it’s working out really nicely.  It amazes me all the time how she comes into her own with no prodding (maybe a very gentle nudge here and there) from me whatsoever.  Tonight I had an inkling that she could fall asleep in the crib instead of while nursing, and I was right.  She opened her eyes a couple times to make sure I was still there next to her before she would completely pass out, but that was all.  No fuss, no tears.  It was just proof positive that she’s learned to trust me to be there for her.  It felt awesome.

Nobody really tells you when you’re pregnant how freakin’ HARD it is to be a mom.  You want to do it right. You HAVE to do it right…this is someone else’s LIFE you’re responsible for.  You can read every parenting book and listen to every relative, friend, or stranger’s advice and still not find The Answers.  There are none.  Anything that “works” is almost always a coincidence and almost never lasts.  Anything that "worked" for someone else probably won't work for you and your baby.  It’s about trusting your instincts, knowing your child, letting go of control, enjoying the good times, and surviving the bad.  So far, I think I'm doing a pretty ok job of all that :)

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Beginning

It was my due date, October 31st, and I was still hugely pregnant.  The events of the previous three or four days had led me to believe that my baby would be in my arms already, and each ring of the doorbell followed by a chorus of “trick or treat” was a bitter reminder that I was wrong.  I spent most of the day and night with my head buried in my pillow, and moaning “She’s never coming out!” to anyone who would listen.  It was the worst day of my entire pregnancy.

I woke up the next morning even more exhausted than I had been the day before.  I called the office and told them that I wouldn’t be going in and went right back to sleep.  I woke up around 1:00 and had a big lunch with my mom, then headed to the mall with her to try to “walk the baby out.”  I swear, I know almost every mall employee on a first name basis.  I was there every single day for a month.  I told my mom that this time we wouldn’t be paying attention to or timing Braxton Hicks contractions at all because it was just going to frustrate me.  She agreed that it would be a good idea and we spent an hour or two just walking and talking.  We were about to leave when I decided to swoop into Zales to check out the November birth stone jewelry.  The little old man behind the counter really wanted me to purchase a necklace, and was punching away on a calculator to work out a “deal” with me, when I suddenly felt a warm gush (I won’t go into more detail about THAT sensation.)  I dropped the necklace, turned to my mom, and said “Uh, I'm pretty sure my water just broke.”  The salesman turned 6 shades of grey and ran around the counter.  He asked if he should call security, and we told him not to bother.  “We’re just going to go.  Sorry about the floor! We’ll be back for the necklace!!”

After stopping briefly in the bathroom we made our way quickly to the car.  I was already having really intense contractions that I had to stop and breathe through.  I called my OB and sent Steve a text to let him know it was show time.  The plan was to go home and wait for a while, but on the way there it became apparent that that wasn’t going to happen.  My contractions were already 4 minutes apart and getting worse and worse.  The OB at the hospital called back just after I got home to grab my bag.  “You sound pretty uncomfortable,” she said “why don’t you just head over now?”  Little did she know I was already halfway out the door.

We got to the hospital some time between 5:30 and 6:00, and I could barely get out of the car.  The security guard rushed over with a wheelchair and took me into L&D.  The contractions on the way over were only 2 minutes apart, and I was in an excruciating amount of pain that I was really not prepared for. I don’t know how much time lapsed between me getting to the hospital and actually getting some pain relief, but it felt like an eternity.  Everything I learned in Lamaze class went right out the window, and I spent all of that time screaming and cursing at my poor mom and the nurses.  I begged over and over again for drugs but they insisted that I needed to be “checked” first.  When the doctor finally came in I was 4 cm and she gave the go ahead to order the epidural.   Steve got to the hospital half an hour before the anesthesiologist came in.  He held my hand when I wanted him to and stayed his distance when I wanted him to.  Overall, he was awesome. 

My anesthesiologist Mark (his name is the only one I remember from the entire hospital stay) was a total godsend.  He placed the epidural perfectly. The pain was gone within ten minutes, but I could still feel my legs and the pressure of the contractions, which helped a lot when it came time to push.  I asked him before he left if I could kiss him.  He politely declined.

Everything progressed really quickly after that.  I had one or two more cervical checks and was at 9 cm by (I think) 8:30.  The nurses recommended that I let the contractions do some of the work before I started pushing.  I had Steve put the Monday night football game on, though I didn’t really pay attention.  My dad, brother, grandparents, and Steve’s mom came in and out to visit.  At one point my mom told Steve to kiss the belly goodbye, but when I lifted the gown it was pretty much gone already!  It hit me at that moment that our baby was really going be here soon.  It was uneventful until about 9:30 when the pressure started getting intense and I decided I was ready to push.  Everyone left but Steve and my mom.  The nurse had me do a couple “practice pushes” and then called the doctor in. 

Pushing was hard work and it took a while for me to get the hang of it.  It seemed like there was no progress being made no matter how hard I tried.  Just as I was starting to get really discouraged, my mom let me know that if I reached down I could feel her head, and so I did.  It was a feeling I’ll never forget.  She was right there!  It gave me a burst of energy and I decided that she was coming out NOW.  A few more pushes and Olivia Grace was born. 

They placed her on my chest and it was the most surreal thing I’ve ever experienced.  So THIS was the little person I’d been carrying around with me for all this time.  She didn’t look anything like I imagined, yet she looked exactly the way she was supposed to look.  I can’t say I was instantly in love, but I was definitely in awe of her, and very relieved that it was all over. They took her from me to weigh her and get her cleaned up.  When I looked at Steve I saw that he was wiping away tears.  He and my mom followed her with the camera and I watched from the bed, still in a bit of a daze.

She was a whopping 10 lbs 13 oz and 20 inches long.  She ended up being in the NICU for most of our hospital stay, first because they wanted to monitor her blood sugar and then because they suspected a heart murmur (which turned out to be nothing.)  At night they brought her into my room whenever she needed to be fed.  I stayed awake the entire time waiting for her.  Even though breastfeeding was a challenge and I was exhausted, I couldn’t wait to see her again.  I could already distinguish her cry from the cries of the other babies, and when I heard it out in the hallway I would perk right up and eagerly take her from the nurse. 

It’s funny looking back how totally clueless Steve and I were when it came to taking care of her.  Even though she was a big baby she seemed fragile.  We did everything so gingerly, from holding her to changing her to getting her dressed.  I will never forget standing helplessly over the bassinet, trying my hardest to swaddle her and failing miserably over and over again.  Of course a nurse came in and did it in 3 seconds flat, which made me feel even worse.  I broke down and cried.  “I can’t even wrap my baby in a damn blanket!  How am I supposed to take her home?”

Eventually, we did have to take her home.  I sat in the back seat with her and just stared at her for the entire ride.  She was the most beautiful and perfect thing I had ever seen.  I was thrilled, and terrified at the same time, to start our new life with her.

Olivia is 4 months old now and I’ve loved every second of being a mom.  Well, almost every second.  We’ve had some rough days and sleepless nights, but I can honestly say it has all been worth it.  Every day she does something new and her smile melts my heart.  I'm so excited to watch her grow and guide her in her journey through life. 

P.S. I promise my future entries will be more fun and less sappy!  This is the first time I’ve recounted her birth story and it was, obviously, a really emotional experience