The Best Laid Plans

So far, my baby journey has not been anything like what I had planned. This makes me sad. I know it shouldn’t. He is happy and healthy (I’m a lucky girl) but I can’t help it.

I didn’t get to give birth. I didn’t even get to try. It is a rite of passage that I was terrified of and excited for. I really wanted to experience it. Since conceiving G was so hard I don’t know if I will get another chance.

I am no longer breastfeeding. To me breastfeeding is like magic. Somehow your body can keep a teeny baby healthy all on its own. It’s pretty incredible. Bottle feeding will never compare to that feeling of connection you get breastfeeding.

My baby is still too small for cloth diapers. Every disposable I throw out makes my heart ache a little for the Earth. Its been two months of waste, and its a tragedy.

Little Bean was born too early so hubby was not able to take paternity leave because of project commitments he had made. So our first couple months have been stressful and tiring instead of the slow snuggle fest I had envisioned.

My mental health has tanked and I have had to start medication again. I felt so wonderful during pregnancy I really believed I had been cured. It is heartbreaking to know I was not, and this garbage will continue. I wanted to be a happy, loving mother who had her shit together. Now I’m a sad one who listens to the WiFi. Obviously, I am getting better because I know now it’s not real, but I still hear it.

It’s really hard to rationalize all these things when you feel like crap.

A friend told me that the ideal of motherhood will never be 100% realized and that is perfectly okay. That we do the things we need to to get by.

My mom says I have a happy baby who loves me. Who doesn’t care that I am formula feeding now, he just wants to be full. Who hasn’t noticed I’m sad because I try so hard to only show him love.

My hubby says were doing the best we can and that should be enough for me. That having to switch to bottles has allowed other people to help more. That a few months of garbage is minor, and all my other plastic-free efforts are off-setting it.

Why can’t I listen to all these people? Why don’t their kind, reassuring words get through to me? Why must I continue to beat myself up and feel miserable?

It doesn’t help when its not only your voice but others telling you your horrible.

I really hate my brain sometimes.

Momming is hard.

I’m not sure we can ever fully appreciate our mothers until we become mothers. Those sleepless nights, the tears, the fear you’re doing it all wrong… And yet somehow they never let on that they were scared and confused a lot. They also loved you more then anything, even themselves.

When you have your own baby its like you wake up to all the sacrifices they made for you that you never saw before. They also rocked you for hours at 1am because you had gas and were inconsolable. They also proudly showed you off to their friends and random people on walks. They also watched you grow and change from a wiggly pink blob into a mother yourself.

Most of the time I post here and a few hours later I get a call from my mom or dad, or even my sister, asking not-so-subtly if I’m okay. According to my sister my mom almost always cries after reading my ‘struggle posts’. She worries about me and feels powerless to help.

Folks, my mom helps me every. damn. day.

Just knowing she’s there and that if I really do need her, I only need to ask and she will move mountains.

She has rescued me from horrific hospitals, listened to me cry on the phone, made my childhood loving and supportive (dad did too, don’t worry pops), kept me inspired in med school when things got hard, and more recently visited and told me I was doing great and not to worry.

Mom, when you read this know you are not only are you a good mom- you are the best mom. I hope I can be half as good for G.

Re-framing

And just like that G is five weeks old. It feels like both an eternity and only a moment has passed. I still forget he is not inside me anymore and when I remember I feel a little sad. When we have playtime I marvel at how much he changes everyday. When he’s screaming for no apparent reason I have to remind myself its all part of the magic.

He’s now up to 8lbs and starting to both sleep longer stretches and be awake for longer stretches. We can get a good play in a couple times a day. He is so close to smiling- I can’t wait for that first true gummy grin.

I definitely feel like a real mom now, especially with the breastfeeding going so much better. I kind of know what to do- but I’m also finding that every few days you have a whole new situation on your hands!

It is true that you lose a lot of your old self. Not the core stuff, just the things that used to seem really important are no longer crucial. My schedule has totally changed, and it has taken a while to adjust to the chaos of a newborn. I sleep A LOT less, but I’m starting to get 7hrs consistently and I think that’s manageable. I long for those days of sleeping 12hrs then reading with coffee and a warm blanket the rest of the day, nothing to do and no where to be.

I’ve learned though that the most important part of having a newborn is how you frame it. My good friend grew up around a Mennonite community and she says the way they view children as a blessing and a miracle really changes your outlook on diaper changes at 3am. She says no matter how awful the baby, she never heard a bad word spoken about them. They were cherished every moment. I think in today’s world with all this pressure to raise the perfect child, to go back to work too fast, and to keep your whole life Insta-worthy, it’s easy to get frustrated and angry with a difficult baby. But I’m trying to slow down and enjoy every moment- even the not so great ones. To be present is changing the way I see G. Yes he’s a handful. He’s also a miracle that won’t stay small for very long. He’s already almost out of newborn clothes and his first few weeks were so crazy for both of us I want to make sure that I’m there for him in everyway possible from now on.

While I think its important for moms to be themselves as well as moms, sometimes letting your old self go a little bit can make you a better parent. After all, I CHOSE to have this baby. I wanted him. I can’t expect such a huge and powerful experience to not change me. I grieve my old life a little, I’m not going to lie- but allowing myself to change has made my outlook so much better. I’m happier for it. And getting peed on is no longer a hassle but hilarious.

Body Sharing

I mistakenly believed that at the end of my pregnancy I was going to get my body back. I had shared it with G for 8 months and I was looking forward to more freedom. Little did I know that it would not end- only change.

I still have to be careful about what I’m eating and drinking. No alcohol and no coffee. Even my beloved bananas are gone. G goes crazy if I have a coffee and gets gassy with bananas. Le sigh. Decaf for me still. Also, though I have an okay supply, G is growing at a (somewhat alarming) rate and demands huge amounts of boob food. So I find myself baking lactation cookies and downing gallons of water.

The amount of time I spend hooked to a pump or my child would have shocked and disturbed pre-baby me. Heck, it disturbs me now. Breastfeeding is lovely. But also boring. Just a warning to pre-mums, save up some shows on Netflix you want to watch because you will need many (many) hours of handsfree entertainment.

Because of the C-section I am very limited in what and how much I can do physically. At first it was a chore and a painful experience to hike down and back up from our laundry in the basement. Now I feel much more capable and the twinges sneak up on me and remind me: ‘you just had major surgery, slow the f* down’. The most frustrating thing is no vacuuming or lawnmowing. As the primary (read: only) one who does these chores it has been a frustrating experience. Watching the dog-fur dust bunnies blow by, or wading through the jungle lawn to the compost makes me cringe. Luckily, my sister came to stay for a bit and managed to tidy things up for me.

I am DYING to get back to my pregnancy fitness routine. I miss long walks, Zumba and weight training. I felt so good going into the final months and I really want to feel that way again. Not to mention it would probably help me lift this expanding child without all the back pain.

As G gets bigger and takes more naps not on my boobs I am getting more freedom and mobility during the day. This is awesome. I LOVE my baby more then anything. But I also love knitting. And that needs two free hands. Plus our dinners have become more then cereal and freezies. Yay nutrients! (Another pre-mom tip: make your freezer stash early! I thought I had so much time. Wrong.)

While I somewhat enjoyed this last month of hysterical crying (both me and G, and sometimes hubby) I am really looking forward to having my body back all to myself. To eating what ever I want, to exercising without pain, to use both hands at the same time… its going to be wonderful.

So people can stop worrying…

Knock on wood but- things are improving.

I am cheating a little by starting a new medication that is breastfeeding safe for the voices/music/apparitions. Not being constantly distracted by them is helping IMMENSELY. I can also sleep properly at night without the noise and a slower brain. It’s a low dose that shouldn’t be too hard to get back off of when the time is right.

Mood-wise I guess it was just the pregnancy hormones because the clouds have certainly cleared. I am definitely exhausted and worn down by the time I crawl into bed every night but the crying jaggs have passed. Yay motherhood!

We found help with the nights that hubby cannot cover due to work which eases the stress significantly. I’m also starting to nurse and the amount of washing and sterilizing of bottles has greatly diminished (although the laundry has not!). Meal planning simple dinners that create leftovers is helping keep us less hangry.

I am still nervous to take G out with everything going on and his erratic schedule of inconsolable crying, but I am eagerly looking forward to a return to somewhat normal soon. I think his first big outing will be the library (he’s been to the lake quickly, but he slept through it!). I’d like to instil a healthy love of books early on if possible.

There are still many moments where I ask myself “what have I done?” but I am really looking forward to so many things! I can’t wait until he is more interactive and we can play and sing and dance. For now though, baby snuggles are pretty awesome.

Lessons from G

  1. No two days are the same. Somedays I scream bloody murder all day. Somedays I’m a little angel.
  2. The days I’m an angel are ALWAYS the days someone comes over to help/hold me.
  3. I make more laundry then your tired ass can keep up to.
  4. I go through more diapers and take more shits then you ever thought humanly possible.
  5. It seems as though I only pee when diaper is off and dick is left unattended (though amount of diapers would prove otherwise).
  6. When you think its safe to sit and pick up your knitting I WILL start screaming. Its the law.
  7. I insist upon eating too fast and getting milk all over my face and in my neck folds. I will then spit up a good portion of every meal instead of just burping like you seem to want.
  8. Most of my naps will be on/squished under one of your boobs.
  9. Mom learned she can blog with only one hand because I am so helpful.

Restless nights

Sleep is one of those things that you don’t appreciate until it abandons you. Laying in bed awake is possibly one of the worst feelings. When you know you have a full day the next day, yet your fevered brain is running a marathon in your skull its enough to make anyone freak out. I spend most of my night trying to meditate, make lists, count sheep… anything. The music plays, my thoughts wander everywhere, and my eyes won’t stay closed.

Sometimes I drop off and have these incredible dreams so vivid I wake up to do things and realize minutes later that its not real. Its disorienting, upsetting, and I’m pretty sure it means I’m not getting good restful sleep.

During the day I run as if powered by steam. Constantly moving, never settled. I feel awake- which is strange and probably not healthy. I can’t nap. I don’t even feel like I need to. The only symptom of my 2-4 hours per night (so far) is being bitchy and forgetful. The hysterical sobbing seems to have passed and left behind a kind of strange detachment.

Hubby goes back to work Wednesday. We are going to run a little experiment in coping this week. I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.

Dredging it all up

I recently spent 7 days in NICU with my 4-week premature son G. While the experience was vastly different, it brought up a lot of trauma from previous psychiatric hospitalizations.

Post c-section I was in too much pain and was too worried about G to be bothered. But as we improved being there chaffed. I had a key card and ‘could’ leave at any time. But that would mean leaving him. I began to feel totally trapped. The smell of the hospital sheets was the same. The food was the same. The boredom was the same. Suddenly I was a psyc patient again.

As an involuntarily committed psyc patient you have no control over your stay. They say when and if you can go home. The worst part is they often tell you things are going well and you might be home by end of week and then they yank it away because of some small thing.

When this happened with G I totally lost it. He was doing so well. I had even gone home for the night to get the house ready. When I returned in high spirits the next morning he was back in the incubator under the jaundice lights again. The nurse told us at least another two days. I freaked out. This had happened to me so many times before and something in me just couldn’t hear those words again.

I feel selfish even writing this article because my poor baby was the one unwell and I should have been entirely focused on him, but I also have to be honest about how I feel.

G is really grappling with his bowels because his little immature digestive system is struggling to keep up to his voracious hunger. The little dude is up to 6lbs 3.5oz already and wants tons at every feed but is then gassy after. We have tried every method to help his poor little belly but the doctor assures us only time will help. It is hard emotionally to listen to him cry and exhausting to hold and burp/belly massage/comfort all day and night. Hubby and I are totally drained and hoping it passes soon.

Since I still struggle to sleep, even when given time, I have been dealing with a lot of symptoms creeping in around the edges. I keep telling myself it is just stress and fatigue- but I am also researching the earliest possible time to get back on meds. Everyone keeps telling me this is normal for new moms to be all over the place, which I am doing my best to deal with, but it’s the music that is really getting me. Some days it is so loud it distracts me from everything and keeps me awake. A few days ago (after 1 hour sleep in the last 24) there was a lovely mix of random disconnected talking, a few screams and MUSIC. I finally caved and took my rescue med Olanzapine and 10mg of Melatonin. After a solid 6 hours of sleep things improved dramatically. I was not cured, but I was coping again.

The part that scared me most was my anger toward G. That was really the straw that made me medicate, I could never live with myself if something happened.

I think it is this feeling of ‘crazy’ that is bringing back all kinds of junk from my past. I find in this state I can remember things that happened when I was in this state before. I’m sure it is because I don’t have the mental resources to block it, but also I think you just connect to those feelings better when situations are similar. I have been having very realistic and upsetting dreams about old things and potential new things. Since the meds I have started to ‘unpack’ my night with tea the next morning and put everything away so I can focus on my baby and the (seemingly endless) daily chores without being distracted. It is helping.

I think G and I are still bonding well. Hubby and I are trying to find little moments together now that my sister has come to help out (a total godsend!) and we are less snappy with each other. Overall things are not burning down. They are not ideal- but what life ever is?

Getting off meds

I can’t remember if I had mentioned before but I was/am weaning off meds to breastfeed my son. It was all planned out to be free and clear for his due date. But as we all know- ‘the best laid plans..’ Of course, he INSISTED on arriving 4 weeks early. This meant I had to ramp down my doses faster then originally intended. This, combined with the stress of NICU and normal birth hormone fluctuations means this last 2 weeks have been ROUGH.

I mean, laying sobbing while my baby screams. Sleeping about 3-4 hours a day. Forgetting EVERYTHING, including when last fed baby leading to very cranky baby. TMI but explosive poos for weeks (I have lost so much weight). Hardly eating and then stuffing my face. More crying. Waking up from 20 minute naps feeling like the world is spinning and I’m going to throw up.

Its been hard.

I feel like I am detoxing/depressed/manic most of the time. The first week home I was super mom, now I’m a shipwreck just hoping he stays quiet for at least 30 mins this time. Everyone keeps telling me ‘sleep when the baby sleeps!’ That would imply that I could turn my brain off, which would be lovely. Hubby drops off in 30 seconds. I stare at the ceiling all night, even when I am not ‘on shift’ and am SUPPOSED to be sleeping.

The lactation nurse in the hospital said: ‘you need to be on these meds’. I brushed her off and confidently told her I had felt amazing all pregnancy. Now I’m starting to wonder if she was right. The worst part is G won’t latch and I am still having to pump and bottle feed him. At least its not going down the sink anymore and into my baby. Dumping that bright yellow colostrum out felt like a sin. I keep telling myself (through tears of frustration as he screams in hunger while my boob is right there) that eventually we will figure it out and things will get easier and it will all have been worth it.

Having a baby was my dream for so long and now, through some miracle, I have one. I need to remember that and realize he won’t be a baby forever- I just have to make it out alive.

A little early but…

Arriving into this world amidst much drama is our son G!

On July 23 I noticed less fetal movement but I didn’t have a vehicle and didn’t want to bother anyone for a false alarm. When my hubby got home he calmed me down and we went to bed. On waking I had a huge cup of coffee and a sugary breakfast hoping to get a big reassuring kick as usual. There was nothing. So I woke hubby in a blind panic and we went to hospital.

The emergency room attendant sent me immediately to labor and delivery where a nurse swept me into an assessment room and put on a heart rate monitor. The baby’s heart sounded out and I collapsed into relieved sobs. Unfortunately, she did not look happy for very long looking at the strip. She quickly left and called in my doctor. My GP arrived about a half hour later, she also looked concerned but trying to look nonchalant at the strip. She left to call in the OB/GYN.

The OB/GYN felt around my belly, looked at the strip, said we ‘had time for an ultrasound’ and told me to prepare to be there ‘for the night’. At this point I was trying my best not to panic and absolutely willing the baby to move, even a little, so I could calm down. Waiting for the ultrasound was the longest hour of my life.

The tech said things looked good, and I breathed a sigh, but returning to the room the OB/GYN came back right away and said baby is now suddenly breech and ‘throwing decels more and more often’. She didn’t think baby would make it through an induced labour and that we needed a c-section, like now-ish.

The whole time she was so calm and confident. I felt safe in her hands but TERRIFIED to go into surgery. I had seen about 6 or 7 c-sections in med school. They are pretty brutal, and the recovery is long. I also had been preparing for weeks to warrior-goddess this baby into the world through my hoo-hah and was so disappointed I wouldn’t even get to try.

Within 15 minutes they were wheeling me to the OR and I was fighting tears, trying to stay brave for hubby who was freaking out. They took him to get ready and I went into the cold operating room alone.

Again, the nurses were warm and competent, and I was prepared to surrender my body to them. Terrified of the epidural a lovely nurse held my shoulders and coached me through. After the freezing I couldn’t even feel the needle go in. It was so surprising. And then my legs felt bizarre and I was turned onto the table and the real business began. In a flurry of activity everything was set up and they were cutting before hubby even arrived. I was so worried he would miss it, but our baby had to be wrestled out and he made it in time. Apparently, the cord was wrapped THREE TIMES around baby’s neck.

They took baby to the warmer- and it didn’t cry. I have NEVER been so scared. After a few seconds of me yelling ‘why isn’t he crying!?’ I heard that first scream. Immediate, uncontrollable water works. I was told he was a HE and weighed 5lbs 8oz. They brought a teenie-tiny little bundle over for a quick picture with daddy and then whisked him away.

I sent hubby with baby. I lay there now very much alone while I was sewn closed. The doctors had seemingly forgot about me and chatted about their lives while I lay and worried silently. It was the strangest sensation to be aware that they were pushing and prodding but not feeing any pain or discomfort.

What felt like forever later I was moved to ‘recover’ in labour and delivery. This involved a very brisk nurse filling out paperwork and occasionally coming over to see if I could move yet. Eventually she noticed my (normal apparently) uncontrollable shaking and brought many warm blankets. When I finally stopped shaking and didn’t feel like I was going to throw up any longer they let me get into a wheelchair and be rolled over by hubby to see my little boy.

He was unbelievably small but entirely beautiful. He was sleeping soundly despite being hooked to many wires and on a glucose drip. They let me hold him for a few minutes, but I felt like I was going to throw up/pass out and reluctantly put him back in the incubator.

By the next morning I insisted on (very slowly) walking with IV pole and catheter bag over to NICU. I stayed until the pain was so great I had to return for drugs and a lay down. The doctor visited and I was saline locked and catheter removed. The freedom was a relief and I made the seemingly enormous (300m) journey back and forth to NICU to feed and snuggle.

Unfortunately, his recovery was not smooth and was under jaundice lights for several days with and without a feeding tube. BUT within 6 days he was eating fully on his own and out of the incubator and the lights. At one week we got to bring our little boy home.

The relief of being out of hospital (which was incredibly triggering, more to come later) and in my own home was immense. I launched into getting things organized and running smoothly. It was hit and miss, and the lack of sleep and meds (also more to come) made things VERY hard. Now, 8 days later I feel like things are starting to come together. G has put all his birthweight back on- plus quite a bit- and seems to love being our baby. We are pleased as punch and can’t wait for the rest of this journey… I just hope it’s a bit less dramatic then the start.