We spent part of our morning at the chiropractor. Yesterday I did something to my neck - I have no idea how it happened. One second I was setting Leo down on the bed and the next...I could barely turn my head. I am very uncomfortable, and so far nothing is easing the pain.
Anna and I decided we needed a quiet craft project to keep us busy this afternoon. This is what we came up with, thanks to Pinterest:
Anna's new cereal box guitar...
I don't feel quite as bad about watching another hour of TV now...
Anna and I had some much-needed time alone and away today. We drove the three minutes into downtown Dexter and hit the DQ for slushies on, what I'm sure will be, one of our last hot summer days. Anna chose blue raspberry and I had lemonade (and a tummy ache)! She finished every last drop.
We walked across the street to enjoy our treats at the little park, then played in the gazebo, Anna practicing her dancing leaps. I don't think it mattered much what we were doing - we were both just happy to spend the time together.
I can barely string a sentence together, written or spoken. I'm missing the blog, though. I'm missing other people's blogs. I'm missing my mind and my sanity as well, but I guess that goes along with having a newborn and a four year old.
After Leo's 4 week doctor appointment yesterday, it's clear that he does have reflux...bad enough that they prescribed some medication for him...not bad enough that they feel we must medicate him. There is no clear right or wrong here, and that makes this all the more difficult. We have a few more things to try out to determine if we can ease his discomfort more (like getting my oversupply of milk under control, as this is a frequent contributor to reflux and colic...something I wish I'd known with Anna). Speaking of oversupply...Leo is now 8 pounds, 8 ounces. He's gained nearly three pounds. This extreme weight gain is apparently a common symptom of oversupply. Fortunately, exclusively breastfed babies cannot be "overfed" I guess. As for the reflux, there are no long term negative effects they say. At this point, the biggest issues (for us) are his discomfort and our lack of sleep. SO, last night was the first night of "taking shifts." We didn't want to do it, but for the time being, Blake and I are sleeping in separate rooms. He sleeps uninterrupted for the first 4 or so hours while I take care of Leo. Then I sleep. I still get interrupted for feedings, but that's all I do. He takes Leo again after he's done eating. It seemed to work pretty well, as we both got more than three hours for the first time in a while.
Anna. My poor girl. I know having a sibling and the adjustment that goes along with it are going to be good for her (and us) in the end. For now, though, she's having a very tough time, and she's making it very tough on us as well. I guess I don't blame her. I feel like I'm a fraction of the mom I would like to be right now as far as patience, attention, and energy go. Lately, Anna has been both sweet and forthcoming with her emotions, letting me know that she feels left out and that she is really missing me...but not until after she is utterly defiant and irrational. Not until after she's thrown something (repeatedly). Not until she's screamed "don't tell me what to do!" (also repeatedly). Needless to say, I'm over this part of it. Unfortunately, with preschool starting for the first time in two-ish weeks, I'm sure it's far from over.
Meanwhile, Anna is busy. The last few weeks of time at home have driven her to be very creative. Her imagination is unbelievable. She pulled out the Pop Beads with Papa last week, and she decorated the house for Christmas with them. She made stockings, Santas, candy, snowmen, fondue...all with beads. She's been grocery shopping daily and planning birthday parties, and along with that goes making grocery lists, which she's been writing all by herself after we tell her how to spell each item. She loves her lists, just like her mom! She's also been devouring new, complex puzzles and taking care of her babies, of course. It's so cute when she changes a diaper and very intentionally points the baby's imaginary penis down so he doesn't pee right out of the diaper.
We've emerged this week. While last week we hunkered down at home and adjusted to having a little bit less (although still some) help, this week we've had many outings and just a little help around the house. A friend of mine at book club mentioned how the help really needs to come in around 4-6 weeks, because this is the time when the sleep deprivation really wears on parents and when babies are fussiest. I'll have to remember that for next time (in my next life I mean). On a different note, I didn't realize how out of it I've been until I went to book club. Being out in that kind of situation made me realize how tired I am. I was in a drunken-like haze, feeling strangely unable to carry on a normal conversation. Good thing they all understand.
Other than book club, Anna and I went to two different parks with friends on two different days this week. On both occasions, we almost didn't make it out of the house, and we certainly didn't make it out before 10:30 or 11am. The amount of energy it takes to wrangle a four-year-old, a new baby, and myself is nearly on par with what's required for labor (OK, it's not THAT bad). It feels that way sometimes, though, when Anna is resisting, Leo needs another diaper change as we're headed out the door, and oh, I guess I should give myself a minute to use the bathroom so I don't pee my pants. We also took a family trip to the swimming pool on the weekend (Leo and I watched from the edge). I'm pretty sure we went somewhere else, but I just can't remember.
Blake flew to NYC on Tuesday for a golf outing. Betsy came to visit and help out that evening, and she brought with her a work of art. Betsy is a skilled knitter, and she generously offered to make me a pouf for Leo's nursery like the ones I'd seen online, but couldn't justify buying because they are so darn expensive! Check it out...it is absolutely gorgeous. Thank you so much Betsy! I love it.
In my sleep deprived state, I failed to post a link to the beautiful pictures Krysha took of Leo and our family back when he was a fraction of his current size. Needless to say, I've ordered more pictures than I have wall space for. Take a look. It's a good thing someone has taken some pictures since Leo's arrival. I haven't pulled out my camera at all, except for the one on my phone, since his first few days.
What a difference a week makes. We may not have been getting much sleep during Leo's first two weeks of life, but it wasn't because he was awake. Now that we don't have to feed him every two hours, he's not only up every two hours to eat, he's up for an hour or two at a time during the day and night fighting sleep, and he won't sleep for long laying down in the bassinet, thanks to the reflux that wakes him regularly. If I hold him upright, though, he sleeps like a dream. Unfortunately, my back and shoulders aren't too happy with this arrangement. When Leo wakes up coughing, choking, gagging, or spitting up, he merely grunts, groans or cries out briefly, and he usually calms easily, even if he doesn't go back to sleep. The not crying for long stretches at a time makes the extreme lack of sleep that goes along with frequent waking at least slightly more bearable. But, don't let me fool you. I may sound all positive about it, but at 3am when I've only accumulated an hour and a half of sleep, I'm anything but shiny and happy.
Anyway, last night went something like this:
8:00pm: Fed Leo. He slept on and off while I held him in the bed as I worked on his birth announcements and did some online shopping for Anna's school clothes. Yes, I should have been sleeping at this point.
10:30pm: Blake and I turn off the lights and put Leo in the bassinet to sleep. We are both out immediately.
11:00pm: We are woken by a hungry Leo. After this feeding, he is uncharacteristically fussy, gagging on spit up and unable to get to sleep. I try unsuccessfully to help him sleep until 12:40 when he finally does it...or so I think. He wakes moments later in his bassinet. Blake holds him for sleep so I can rest until the next feeding.
1:55am: Blake brings a hungry Leo to me. By now, I've had, at most, 90 minutes of sleep. Leo does not fall back to sleep after nursing, rather he is awake until 3am. I hold him, rock him, walk with him, lay him down, bounce with him...then he starts acting hungry again.
3:10am: I feed him again. He's out after twenty minutes or so. We lay him down...again. Blake tends to his regular waking in the bassinet until 4:30am, when I can't stand it anymore and we put him on my chest to sleep.
5:40am: Anna wakes for the day. Yay!
6:20am: Anna comes in to watch too much TV in our bed while Blake, Leo, and I dose until nearly 8am, hungover from our sleepless night.
9:00am: Somehow, Blake musters the energy to make waffles for us all, we compile a grocery list, and then he and Anna shop while I somehow take the full three hours they are gone just to get a shower and a 15-minute walk between feedings and holding our little man.
The afternoon went something like this:
2:00pm: Blake and Anna return home and bring me a much-needed sandwich. We are awaiting the arrival of the Sears repair person, because of course, our washing machine broke on Wednesday when I needed to do multiple loads of laundry. The repair man was supposed to come Friday, but had the wrong address. He was supposed to come today, but he called in sick. SO...
3:00pm: Blake decided to pull apart the machine and see if he could fix it. As I finished nursing Leo, I hear some profanity from the laundry room and Blake yells for help. The stinky, dirty, three-day-old water is pouring out of the machine, and it smells like raw sewage in our upstairs. I scrounge for towels and a bucket while Leo and Anna scream and cry, respectively. Blake cleans up the flooded floor while I open windows and try to calm Anna.
5:00pm: We pile hot dogs, kale salad, homemade salsa (made quickly by Blake with our CSA heirloom tomatoes), and s'more fixings onto a tray to take out to the bonfire. We promised Anna a fire tonight, and we weren't going to let the washing machine fiasco stop the fun.
7:40pm: I'm feeding Leo. Anna has been in bed for nearly an hour. Blake ran to Lowe's to get a part for the washing machine. When he returns, he fixes the machine (way to go, Blake!). For the next three hours, Leo struggles to sleep while I type between turns holding him.
It's nearly 11pm now, and once again, time for me to try to get some rest (rather than proofread this post).
It's been nearly three weeks since Leo's birth, and I find myself reflecting on the experience nearly everyday. I welcomed the process of laboring and delivering Leo - maybe because there were so many risks associated with this pregnancy, or maybe just because bringing a life into this world is miraculous no matter the circumstances. Whatever the reason, I was looking forward to it. So often, I'm the one who would happily skip the difficult journey to reach the destination. So often, I'm the one who would jump at the chance to schedule and plan a big life event like this, which we could have done if we chose to have a c-section. In the case of childbirth, however, that's never been my wish.
My water broke the day before my due date when we were pregnant with Anna. We had hopes for an intervention-free labor and delivery. We hired a doula, worked with midwives, and took Lamaze in an effort to make this happen. So much of the process is beyond our control though, and when we went to the hospital after my water broke, it was discovered that Anna was in the frank breech position. This meant that she had to be delivered by c-section. I never even had a contraction before they brought her into the world.
While I was thrilled to have a healthy baby in my arms and knew this was, ultimately, the most important thing, a large part of me was devastated by the surprise. I was angry that our midwife didn't identify her position earlier (the pediatricians said Anna had been breech for some time), because there were numerous techniques we could have used to try to flip her. I was disappointed that we no longer had choices in the birth process. I didn't like the impact that an epidural, drugs, and surgery had on my mental state post-delivery or on Anna's ability to nurse right away. I knew going into the hospital that we weren't likely to have our "ideal" labor experience, but this wasn't even a sliver of the picture that I'd envisioned.
Call me crazy (plenty of people have), but I really, really wanted to have the experience of a vaginal, intervention-free delivery. I don't judge anyone for choosing a different path, but for me, it was both something I wanted to know and it was the path that felt the healthiest and safest. It's not that I wanted to experience all that pain - I think that if there were a side-effect free way to take the edge off the pain, I might have welcomed it, especially during the pushing phase. But, narcotics and epidurals just plain freak me out. Surgery freaks me out, too. And, recovery from surgery, especially with a 4-year-old running around, isn't easy. So, we embarked on the VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) journey this time around, and once again, hired a doula and worked with midwives.
How it all unfolded...
We've been told that only ten percent of women actually experience their water breaking before they go into labor, so I wasn't really expecting it to happen to me twice. For some reason we'll never know, it happened again. When my water broke at 7pm on Monday, July 23rd, at just 36 weeks and 4 days pregnant, I wasn't feeling very confident that Leo's birth would be what I'd envisioned. At that point I felt shocked, overwhelmed, and worried about our baby's health most of all. I just wanted to get to the hospital and find out if our baby boy was OK.
Once we arrived at the hospital and they confirmed that my water did, indeed, break (yes, they questioned it even after I informed them that it gushed just like it does in the movies), and they confirmed that our babe was doing just fine in utero, the clock started ticking. We were told to get rest, but at the same time, we needed to try to get contractions going, because the longer one goes with one's water broken, the greater the risk of infection. Given the circumstances, I could not sleep. We were initially told we had until 7am, and then we'd need to consider Pitocin. I wasn't thrilled about this option, because it's not often someone can manage laboring on Pitocin without pain medication. Thanks to the support of our doula and to the midwife who came on at the 7am shift change, we were given a full 24 hours (or more) to get into a regular contraction pattern. During that time I tried to rest, and I may have gotten a 20 minute cat nap in somewhere, but by late Tuesday night, I'd pretty much been awake since Monday morning...and then the fun began.
When my contractions were still 30 minutes apart after 24 hours, we agreed to starting the lowest dose of Pitocin possible to see how my body might respond. It's not a typical way to administer the drug, but they were willing to explore options given how well Leo was tolerating the process (I nicknamed him "Trooper" in the midst of it all, because of his resilience through labor and delivery). In the end, the midwives never felt the need to increase the Pitocin dose as they typically would, because my body took over. By 10:30pm on Tuesday night, I was in full blown labor. Blake, our doula, and an amazing nurse who we'd had the night before, supported me through each contraction over the next seven and a half hours. During that time, I was up, I was down, I was in the shower, I was swearing, I was making noise, I was focused, and I was in another realm without any medication to take the edge off the pain. Just three weeks later, I cannot recall the exact nature of the pain - I just recall how crazy it felt.
It seemed things were progressing by 5:30am, but we really had no idea how close I might be to pushing, because checking for dilation could increase my risk for infection given that my water was broken. When I said (or forcefully asserted) that I was beginning to feel the urge to push, they decided to check me, and thankfully, I was dilated to 9 cm. For two and a half hours, after being awake for 48 hours, I pushed. For me, this was, without a doubt, the most physically challenging thing I have ever done. I was beyond exhausted, and I still had so much work to do. On top of the effort required to push, the pain of pushing was, for me, much more challenging to tolerate than the pain of contractions. This pain is still completely fresh in my mind. I was sure he was splitting me in two, and apparently, I quite loudly told this to everyone in the room. It was a slow, gradual process, which seemed torturous at the time, but in the end, the timing was a very good thing for my body.
When Leo finally emerged and was lifted directly onto my chest, Blake was behind me, supporting me. I held Leo close as Blake and I both stared in awe at our little miracle. He was born at 36 weeks and 6 days, just one day shy of full-term, and he was in perfect health, despite every risk he was faced with. Blake cut the cord and Leo stayed on my chest as the pediatricians examined him. He immediately latched on and began nursing, despite his questionable premie status. In those moments right after Leo's birth, the pain was forgotten. I felt something indescribable, something I really can't put words to. Just like with Anna, I felt love more intense than I'd ever felt. Just like with Anna, I was overwhelmed with that love, with gratitude, with awe. This time, though, it felt like a much more spiritual experience for me. At the risk of sounding cheesy, I felt a greater sense of connection to the universe, to all things, to life (maybe because I was so out of my head!) I felt empowered. I felt strong. I felt absolutely amazed at what our bodies and minds can do. I felt everything, and that felt (when it was all over) good.
The highs have been higher and the lows have been a bit lower, thanks to the continued, albeit expected, sleep deprivation.
Leo continued to nurse every two hours, with one doctor-endorsed 3-hour stretch at night. Leo's peaceful, sleepy, premie nature has given way to a bit more fussiness between the hours of 10pm and 5am, so even that 3-hour stretch was hard to come by. The poor guy has a baby's typical gas and reflux and he lets us know it with the sweetest little grunts and groans and the most animated sad faces. SO, it seems we have not been sleeping even as well as we were the first week, BUT...
We visited the pediatrician today, two days after Leo's two-week "birthday," and they are thrilled with his growth. My bountiful, high-octane milk supply (or more appropriately insane over-supply) has helped Leo put on over one pound in just over a week. He's weighing in at his sister's birth weight of 6 pounds, 15 ounces. Two days after his birth he was down to 5 pounds, 8 ounces. That's a lot of weight gain in a short time for a very little guy. Needless to say, we will no longer be waking him to eat every two hours. Tonight, we are hoping for some longer stretches of sleep!
We've continued to have the help and support of so many friends and family members. The cooking, cleaning, and laundry that our parents have done in the last two weeks has been beyond helpful. Anna has relished the attention from her grandparents, not to mention our friends, Alicia, Emily, and Betsy who have showered Anna with love and listened to me vent and emote. We are so grateful.
Anna, while managing this huge transition quite well, especially when we have a third party present to give additional attention, is definitely struggling a bit and challenging us. I wish there were more I could do, but outside of making some Anna-Mommy time every day and (trying) to talk through things with her, I think it's just going to take some time. I know the crying, whining, and screaming is to be expected, but it isn't very pleasant in the meantime.
Anna has also been a very busy big sister. She loves, and insists on being present for, Leo's diaper changes. She observes and hears everything about how we care for him, and then I watch her in amazement as she mimics in crazy detail our actions with her babies. Today she told Mo D that Ella was having seedy yellow poops, which means that she's getting the good kind of milk now (presumably after hearing me talk about my oversupply and having too much foremilk versus hindmilk, which was giving Leo watery poops). She also has no shortage of other things to do, as she's been showered with big sister gifts. Anna is tackling new puzzles, building cars with legos, and playing Go Fish daily.
My cousin, Krysha, came to take newborn photos of Leo and our family, just two weeks after she was here for maternity photos. While Anna wasn't into the process this time (she really just wanted to play with her cousin), Krysha managed to snap some beautiful shots. Once she posts them, I'll be sure to share.
Leo, Little Man, or Mr. Man, really does look like a little guy, and he's changing so much every day. I'm soaking up every minute of his newborn days, as they will be behind us all too soon. He's obviously filled out a lot, making him look less newborn-like. We see the deep blue of his eyes more and more as he wakes up to the world. For now, he still has his peach fuzz and his reddish hair that looks an awful lot like Papa Mox's...even the hairline. I have heard from more than a couple of people that he looks like his mama and his Papa Mox. Leo really doesn't cry a real, screaming cry unless we are changing his diaper or he's hungry, which I know won't last long. He's still so small that I can hold him with just one arm, and he fits just perfectly there.
I'm mom to a four-year-old daughter and a growing newborn son. I'm a wife. I'm a life coach on hiatus from my career. I'm a woman inspired by relationships, health, natural living, self-discovery, good food and wine, dreams of travel, and making a difference. I try each day to remember Who I Am and honor that truth. I hope you enjoy reading this blog as I chronicle our lives and share what's on my mind.