Wednesday, June 10, 2015


We had Robbie's Baptism on May 9th, which happened to be the Saturday of Mother's Day weekend.  Not planned.  Again, one of many beautiful God-incidences along this journey.

To say it was the realization of a dream long awaited is an understatement. 
Likewise to say the gown was stunning (handmade gift from Sew Hormonal's mother).

The memories of that day, just like his birth day, will forever remain imprinted on my soul.

I'll share some of those memories with you, dear friends.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Birth Story

I used to read birth stories on other blogs when I was still infertile.  And then I'd sob.  And sob some more.  And get pissed off.  And feel generally depressed and angry for weeks after the fact.  Why I did that, God only knows.  But maybe it was cathartic?  Maybe in a way, as I read each birth story, I was going through a death of my own - the death of another knot in the tangled mess of my pride.  So I put this story on my blog not with a warning this time to my sisters still in waiting.  Because perhaps, like me, you may find something you're looking for without knowing you were looking for it.

My due date was April 19th.  I had convinced myself that this baby was going to be late, some time around April 25th.  Preparations were definitely being made for the home birth, but I continued to work through April 3rd, and when the home birth visits were cancelled and rescheduled twice, I thought, no big deal, we have plenty of time, yet.  Holy Week came and went, the first week of April.  I was having no Braxton-Hicks contractions anymore, since about 36 weeks.  What I knew of those were that they were mild, definitely noticeable, but mild and isolated usually to the top of my uterus.  Robbie always sat very low, so it was hard to tell if I had dropped or not.
35 weeks or so, loving every minute
37-ish weeks
38 weeks, and running out of room!

Easter was nice, and we spent it just as our small, little family together in our formal dining room.  I made a ham (Boston Butt) and Rob made a turkey.  We had lots of leftovers for the week.

At the end of Easter week, having finally met with Cindy, one of the midwives, for our home birth visit, we had pretty much everything we needed for the home birth – now we just needed to set it up.  We planned to do this over the weekend of April 11-12.  Friday night (April 10th) after going to bed, (and after having relations to help “soften the cervix” per Cindy), I awoke to a stronger type of contraction than I had previously felt.  I knew enough to know this wasn’t the real deal yet, especially since it was my first baby.  So I went back to sleep, and had a couple more contractions through the night.  I never looked at a clock but I believe it was around 2:00am when these started.

Saturday April 11th we had planned to go to the Farmer’s Market, and I did not want to miss it, so we went – and I told Rob that I had had some contractions through the night, but assured him that they were very far apart, not regular, and this was either very early labor or false labor.  I had planned to rest as soon as my contractions started, but suddenly that plan went out the window since we had things we needed to get from the Market, Petco, and Michael’s, and then had to come home to set everything up in the Parlour for the home birth – JUST in case this was the real thing!  I continued to have contractions throughout the morning, with one particularly notable one at the Farmer’s Market that I needed to sit down for.  I still didn’t look at a clock, but I estimated that the contractions were at this time coming every 12-19 minutes, but again, didn’t seem to be regular (though they could have been, I knew it was still way too early to be interested in that).

When we got home, we went into full speed getting the Parlour set – Rob had to bring down the full-size bed from the guest room, and set it up with the sheets and plastic tablecloths, as well as blow up the tub, and I moved some lighter furniture out of the way, and moved the rug over to the end of the room where the tub was.  As I was bending and lifting and pushing things, my contractions came a bit closer together, and were stronger.  I remember having to kneel or get on all fours to get through them, this time.  Rob saw me have some of these contractions and scolded me to stop pushing myself, to go and lay down.  I wouldn’t listen – I think instinctively we both knew this was the real thing, now, and I was determined to have everything in place for the next day, Sunday, when I imagined the birth would happen.

Baby's first clothes and my birth affirmations hanging in the Parlour. 

Finally everything was set up for what I believed would be the following day’s active labor and birth.  We had a quick frozen dinner, and then I went to bed in the full-size bed downstairs in the Parlour while Rob went up to the bedroom, because at that point my contractions were 9 minutes apart and consistent.
I turned off all the lights and prepared to rest through the night to start the next day fresh and ready for labor to progress.  By the time I was laying down in bed, the contractions were much more difficult to manage.  I used my HypnoBirthing techniques and breathed up slowly, imagining my breath filling a giant balloon, then releasing the balloon with my slow exhale.  After several of these contractions, and not falling asleep, I looked at my clock again and timed the next several, which were now 7 minutes apart exactly.  I got up and had a contraction on all fours, which was much more manageable, and it was at this point that I realized I wouldn’t be getting any sleep if they stayed this consistent.  Laying down was the most uncomfortable position for my contractions.  (Makes ya wonder about hospital beds, eh?)

I decided to text my doula, as it was now about 11:30pm and I wasn’t sure if my contractions would continue to get closer together through the night, or what.  She responded right away and said to let the midwives know, because they may be able to recommend something to help me sleep through the night, as this was still early labor.  I spoke with Roxy at the midwives, and she said to take Tylenol PM – we didn’t have any, so I sent Mr TCIE to the QuickChek down the road to pick some up.  Roxy had said to take 2 every 4 hours.  I took 2, laid back down to go to sleep, but the contractions were again worse laying down, and still like clockwork every 7 minutes.  I definitely could not sleep.  By this time it was about 2:30am, and I was back on all fours contracting on the floor of the Parlour, when I decided to text Simone my doula, again.  When she heard that the Tylenol had not helped me get any rest, and that my contractions were strong and still consistently every 7 minutes, she said she would pack her bag and be over.  She got to the house about 4:00am on Sunday morning, April 12th.
Simone and Maeve (the doula in training who attended my birth, as well) were absolutely wonderful from the moment they arrived.  They helped to set the mood immediately, and make a nice, safe, quiet space for me to labor during the dark night/early morning hours, and once the sun came up and the birds were chirping, they knew exactly when to switch things over to a more active, energetic, airy mood.  I remember the entire time I was in labor thinking that the lighting and ambience in the Parlour was just perfect.  My contractions early that morning were coming every 5 minutes, and when I was in the bathroom they came closer together, every 3-4 minutes.  In the bathroom I noticed a small amount of mucus that was gummy in consistency and brown and clear in color – I thought this was my mucus plug (which it was, but only the beginning of it.)  When the contractions had been every 4-5 minutes for a few hours, Simone said it was a good idea to call the midwives to let them know about my progress.  I called and Roxy was at another homebirth with Chrissy up in the northern part of the State (about 1- 1.5 hours away)!  She said she would call me back after they made a plan of what to do.  While awaiting her call back, I went back to the bathroom (after each strong contraction, I had a bowel movement during the day on Sunday – by the end of the afternoon, I had had 13, yes, 13 bowel movements!!!) – and passed more of the mucus plug and afterwards I thought I felt fluid dripping from me, not from the urethra.  I mentioned this to Simone and she said to call Roxy back and let her know, that it could be my amniotic fluid leaking.  I called back and Roxy said that she was sending Chrissy to the house to check my status, but that she wouldn’t be there for another hour or so.
I continued to labor while waiting for Chrissy, and she showed up sometime around 9:00-10:00am to check my cervix.  At this point my contractions had been steady at 4 minutes apart, and in the bathroom (where I was quite often!!) they came every 3 minutes.  We were all pretty convinced that something was definitely happening with my dilation.

Chrissy told me that I was 1+ cm dilated, and 55% effaced.  This was a huge bummer to me, since my contractions had been so strong and every 3-4 minutes for what seemed like awhile, but Chrissy gave me suppository of Fenergen to help me sleep since I was still so early.  I couldn’t lay down, still, so I sat in the recliner to try to sleep.  I did get some rest, waking up with some contractions, and only moaning through others (per my doula), and got 2 hours of sleep.  At noon, however, I was up for good because now the contractions were even stronger and I couldn’t sleep through them at all.  I found that the best position for me to get through a contraction was squatting, so I would squat while holding onto the bathroom sink, squat while hanging over the edge of the portable tub in the Parlour, and later on in the day, I discovered that holding onto the mantle in the Parlour was also a good squatting position.  It was a gorgeous day outside, about 68-70 degrees or so, and Simone had us go out for a walk and while walking I also squatted to contract.  Other positions I tried were all fours leaning on the birthing ball, sitting on the birthing ball, and sitting with my legs straight out in front of me while leaning back slightly.  In between contractions I was still able to talk and even joke with Simone and Maeve, while stretching, doing some yoga poses, and trying to relax.  Also after every contraction I would belch and/or get the hiccups, which we all thought was funny.  One time I went to the bathroom and Simone didn’t come upstairs with me, but I was hiccupping on my way down the stairs and she said, “Oh, you must have just finished a contraction!”

At around 1:30pm, Jodi my chiropractor and Dr Jean my NaPro Dr/friend showed up.  Jodi gave me an adjustment to help things progress a bit quicker.  Dr Jean helped me labor by holding my hips or allowing me to lean back into her as I squatted through a contraction.  Both of them left by 2:00pm, but Dr Jean said she would return after a hike with her husband.  For the rest of the afternoon, the doulas made me special labor drinks and got me snacks and water whenever I needed them, along with anything else I could possibly have needed, they diffused essential oils in the Parlour for me, and made suggestions for new things to try – we went for another walk, and went out and sat on the porch when I no longer wanted to be “on display” in the neighborhood, we played my labor soundtrack on the iPod to energize me, and I took a shower.  While listening to my soundtrack, I remember becoming aware of the irony of my song selections, and the lyrics of those songs.  “For the Longest Time” by Billy Joel, “So Much To Say” by Dave Matthews (with the lyrics “cuz here we have been standing for a long, long time – treading trodden trails for a long, long time”), “Rocket Man” by Elton John (lyrics “And I think it’s gonna be a long, long time”) and “Run Around” by Blues Travelers (lyrics “is there a sure-fire way to speed things up, when all it does is slow me down”).  Also during my many visits to the restroom, I saw more of the mucus plug and a lot of bloody show.  Dr Jean returned around 6:00pm or so, and by this point I was chatty a lot less between contractions, and more focused on staying relaxed and in my zone.  Simone suggested I return to the bathroom to have my next 3 contractions, because every time I was in the bathroom, I had very strong, very close together contractions, and she wanted to help me to progress.  She noticed that in the Parlour my contractions were about 4 minutes apart, but now in the bathroom they were every 2-3.  The contractions were lasting 60-90 seconds, now, where earlier in the day they were 60 seconds.  We decided to call the midwives again when I was at this pattern for a couple of hours.  I wanted to be sure that I was further progressed when we called the midwives, again – I was so worried that they would show up and tell me I was only 3cm.  Both Simone and Dr Jean assured me that the way I was laboring and how my contractions were, there was no way I was only 3cm.  So we called, and Chrissy came back to the house to check me.  Now it was about 8:00-9:00pm on Sunday night.  By now, I was soooo ready for this baby to be born.  I remember telling Simone that I just could not do this for another 24 hours, but what I actually meant was I couldn’t do it another 12.  I was either going to be having this baby TONIGHT, or I was checking myself out!  So, when Chrissy checked my cervix and told me I was at 2+ cm, I immediately broke down into tears.  I was defeated.  I couldn’t go on any longer.  In my mind, all of this laboring was a wasted effort, and at 2cm, I could only imagine that if I continued naturally, I was in for another 6 days of labor!

Chrissy told me that I had a few options.  She knew that I needed to rest more than anything else, and she suggested we could try the Fenergen medication, again (which only gave me 2 hours of sleep previously), or she could call in some additional medications to use with it, and then when I woke up I could continue to labor at home and hopefully deliver at home, as planned.  In retrospect, this sounds like it could have been a viable option to try.  She also said we could try cod liver oil to move things along quicker.  At that time, I knew that whatever decision I made HAD to be one that was definitively going to lead to this baby being born SOON, within 12 hours at most!!  I did not feel that trying those options at home would be foolproof, and I feared laboring through more wasted efforts only to make the ultimate decision 12-24 hours later.  The final, and ultimate option and decision made was to transfer to the hospital where they could offer me some pain relief via IV that would ensure sleep, as well as possibly and epidural and Pitocin to move my contractions along so that my cervix would finally respond.  After discussing with my doulas, Dr Jean, and Rob, I knew my decision was clear – to the hospital it was.  I wasn’t about to hold on for dear life to my home birth plan.  This was an unexpected turn of events, HypnoBirthing prepared me to meet it calmly, and infertility more than prepared me to graciously accept that I had no control over this turn in my birthing.  While yes, retrospectively I was a little upset I didn’t get my home birth, I also know that I had the birth that I and Robbie needed.  And at the time?  At the time I even said to everyone in the room, “Just take me to the hospital, I’ll have an elective C-Section!”  Yeah.  I was DONE.

Except, I wasn’t done L

Mr TCIE was frantic running around the house getting things together for the hospital – clothes for me, the baby’s clothes (which were hanging in the Parlour already), snacks and drinks, the witch hazel/lavender/frankincense sanitary napkins I had frozen for after birth, a cooler for the placenta… (yes, we took the placenta home and let's just leave it at that :)- he was absolutely crazed, since we hadn’t packed a hospital bag.  I kept assuring him this wasn’t an emergent transfer, but at the same time, every time a contraction came, I was audibly VERY eager to get to the hospital.  The only hospital where my midwives had working privileges was 50minutes away, so Mr TCIE was also very concerned to see me in so much discomfort all that time.  As he set up the backseat of the car (laid down chucks pads and towels in case my water broke, , moved the seats all the way back so I had room to move, at least minimally, through contractions), I had several contractions outside the car.  Then when I finally got in, Mr TCIE ran back inside to let the dogs out and grab a few more items we had forgotten – and the contractions I had in the car were so uncomfortable, I got back out and squatted nearby to get through them.  I was not looking forward to this long drive to the hospital!

On the way to the hospital, we called my parents, my sister, and Mr TCIE's dad to let them know we were heading there, but that I was only 2 cm so it would probably not be until the next morning that we’d be welcoming the baby.  My Mom said they would leave really early the next morning to come to the hospital, but I told her to await Mr TCIE's (or our doula’s) call that things were getting close.  I had a contraction while on the phone with her and had to pass the phone to Mr TCIE.  Each time he stepped on the brakes to slow down or stop, my contractions were worse.  I held onto the headrest of the passenger’s seat and “stood” up as much as I could to get through each one.  Mr TCIE made record time to the hospital, and we arrived around 10:00pm.

Since I had not pre-registered at the hospital, I had to fill out paperwork, but there was no way I could fill out anything, so Mr TCIE started it for me, then Simone finished it since he had to move the car and get some more of our things.  Luckily, he had cleaned out the entire car the day before I started contractions!!!  He hadn’t installed the car seat, yet, but since he had to go back to take care of the dogs at some point, he figured he’d do it then.  Chrissy arrived (one of our midwives) and told me Lisa (another midwife, one of the senior midwives) was on her way.  I had some loud contractions in the waiting area of the hospital maternity ward, and quicker than I’ve ever been taken to a room, a nurse came and showed me to a room with a birthing tub J  Even through my contractions I made sure to ask if my room had a tub (they have several, but sometimes they run out of these rooms).

Once in the room, they made me get into the hospital gown and bed, and about 97 different people came in to ask me the same questions over and over.  My LMP… um, really?  Does it MATTER at this point?  Having had the opportunity to labor in the comfort of my home now gave me a new perspective on how the hospital was trying to “manage” my labor and birth.  Luckily, when it came to the actual labor and birthing, that’s where the midwives did have clout.  But, I still had to tell 97 people my mother’s maiden name, and if my 2nd cousin on my father's side was allergic to anything, at the peak of my contractions.

They administered a pain relieving medication through an IV that remained taped on my arm, and the good thing was I could get out the bed and walk around the room, use the bathroom, etc. without being “connected” to anything.  I remember using the bathroom and seeing a lot more of the bloody show, and by now, things were getting real messy and I didn’t care since it wasn’t my bathroom J Lisa had arrived and talked with Chrissy to get caught up on how I was, and she checked me again and I was at 4cm.  She watched/listened to me having contractions after the pain med, and saw that they were lasting for 2 minutes (usually they are 1 minute, but I’m just special, I guess).  Even though I was only at 4cm, Lisa started drawing the water to fill the tub, because my laboring seemed much more advanced.  That was absolute music to my ears.  I remember being in the bathroom, trying to stand up with Mr TCIE and Simone’s help, they were trying to fix my gown and monitors, and I just didn’t care anymore, I was going to walk to the tub butt naked and no one was going to get in my way or slow me down!

Stepping into that hot water was nothing short of divine.  Yes, I was still having 2-minute long, intense contractions, but being surrounded by that warm water just felt so… secure and manageable.  I stayed in the water, with Lisa refilling with hot water periodically, for about 2 hours(??)  Lisa checked me again in the water once I started acting “animalistic” as Mr TCIE called it.  I was finding it hard to focus my eyes on one thing, and I was moving and contracting like an animal, he says.  Lisa had me turn over and “float” my pelvis up towards her, and she checked me and I was still at 4cm!!  It was at that time that we decided enough was enough, and she asked if I wanted an epidural to get some rest, followed by Pitocin to help my cervix to open while my body rested.  I was ready to embrace this unanticipated route, and they called the anesthesiologist in.

It seemed like forever for him to get everything set up, and I felt like I had about a million contractions while waiting for that needle in my back and the sweet, sweet relief that quickly followed.  Finally, I was able to breathe and feel my own center, again, and I think I almost immediately laid back and fell asleep. 

The next thing I knew, and I had no concept of time since I had fallen asleep, I was waking up to the most God-awful, painful, intense, never-ending contraction known to woman.  All I could feel were two simultaneous and equally strong feelings:  pain and fear.  I had NO IDEA what was going on, but part of me didn’t care because the pain was just so awful I couldn’t focus on emotions.  I turned and grabbed the closest thing I could, the rail of the bed, and nearly ripped it right off.  The contraction from hell just kept going, there was no climbing, peaking, and winding down like all my previous contractions, this one started at Defcon 5 and stayed there… for FIVE FREAKING MINUTES.  It could have been 30 seconds, it could have been an hour, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you.  I was in it, and there was no way out.  All my breathing techniques went out the window since I hadn’t prepared before the contraction hit, and all I was doing was trying to survive it.  I remember one of the midwives (later I learned it was Chrissy) checking my cervix towards the end of this contraction, to see if it was in fact actually dilating me to the extent that it was contracting my uterus.  While she checked, Lisa told her to go ahead and break my water, which she did.  When the contraction heard ‘round the world finally stopped, I recall the nurses and Chrissy arguing about whether or not it was the fault of the Pitocin.  The nurse was saying that she had JUST turned on the drip, so it couldn’t have been the medication.  While Chrissy counter-argued, Lisa came in and reached over and turned off the drip.  If ever I was happy to have the most “take no prisoners” midwife from my group in my birthing room, it was then and there!!  No more Pitocin for me (during that labor, or ever, ever, ever again in the future!!!)
I got back to sleep after being assured that THAT would never happen again(!) and it was now about 4:00am.  My amazing doulas, having been with me now for 24 hours straight with no breaks for real naps, went to Simone’s nearby house to grab a quick nap while I rested.

I awoke around 7:30am to the voices of Mr TCIE, my mom, and my sister whispering, and I could tell that they were talking about my Epic Contraction from a few hours previously.  My sister later told me when she came into the room and looked at the monitor, she pointed to that contraction (which was still on the screen) and said, “Oh, WOW, look at THAT one!”  When I awoke I also got another strong contraction, but this time with a ton of pressure very, very low.  It was the pressure that was most intense.  I started to breathe and moan loudly, and my sister and mom quickly left to go wait in the waiting room.  Chrissy had been napping in the room with me, and she woke up and came over immediately to tell me the pressure was a great thing, and that I could start preparing to push.  I was at 10cm(??? I don’t recall if she told me how dilated I was at that time).

To prepare to push, Chrissy told me to go ahead and use my HypnoBirthing breathing to breathe DOWNWARD and help to ease the baby lower and lower.  I did my best, but I wasn’t sure if I was actually doing it correctly.  Chrissy seemed really calm and confident, but also was not right by the bedside the whole time, so I assumed I had a long way to go.  She said she would let Lisa know when I was ready to actively push (Lisa was napping elsewhere in the hospital).  Well, sooner than I think Chrissy expected, the baby’s head was fully engaged and she was calling Lisa in.  Lisa quickly got her gloves on and I saw her and Chrissy getting a bunch of things ready “down there,” as Chrissy told me whenever I felt like it, I could begin pushing. 

For the first couple of pushes, I tried breathing the way I read how to in Hypnobirthing.  It wasn’t quite clicking, and didn’t feel right.  Lisa just bluntly told me, “OK, listen, I’m not ‘coaching’ you on pushing, BUT, just push harder than you ever thought you would ever have to push in your life.”  I took that as a challenge J  With the next contraction, I breathed in deep, held my breath, and pushed HARD.  I could feel the baby descending!  I was able to get about 2-3 good pushes in with each contraction, and then there was a break.  Chrissy kept reassuring me that I was doing great, and I think she was amazed each time she checked that he was coming so nicely and quickly!  As I could feel his head coming through the cervix, I remember Mr TCIE speaking to Robbie.  “Come on, Big Boy!  You can do it, my Big Boy!”  I quickly said, “How about we call him ‘Little Boy’ as I push him out?”  Lisa responded, “Good idea.”  (This may be my favorite memory from pushing.)
Before I knew it, they were saying that his head was right there and they could see all his hair!  They told me to reach down after that push and feel his hair.  I remember thinking this was funny, because I was totally in a zone of getting him out efficiently and safely, and I really did NOT care about the hair, so I faked an obligatory “Oh, wow!” and quickly got back to business.
When the head was coming out, Lisa told me to prepare to ease up when she told me to and not push as hard.  I followed her directions to a T, and I remember feeling like this part was amazing, even while I was doing it.  I felt powerful and capable.  After the head was fully crowned, they had me turn onto my left side with their help and Simone’s help, so the baby’s body could turn properly.  For the next contraction after one push they told me to ease up, but I heard them whispering about the meconium near his mouth, and wiping it away.  I felt secure and safe since they were so calm, but at the same time, I thought, this baby may need to come out quicker if he has meconium!  So, for the first time, I did not listen and instead of easing up, I pushed harder.  His head was out, and another push and out came his body.  I heard them saying “Whoa, whoa, whoa!” when I pushed before they were ready J  (I did wind up with a superficial tear because of this stubbornness – Lisa told me “Well, you had the POTENTIAL not to tear, if you had listened to us!”)  They also later told me that his little nose turned upwards at the last minute as his head came out, causing the other superficial tear up top.
I could hear him crying, and I was quickly turned onto my back as they wiped away his meconium.  What was a matter of seconds felt like an eternity and I was saying “Let me see him, I can’t see him…” since my legs were in the way.  Then I finally got a glimpse of my boy...
They lifted him onto my belly and his tiny little face cried and his eyes searched for mine.  It was all at once magical and surreal.  I could freeze that moment in time.  I didn’t know it at the time, but the reason he was on my belly and not my chest was because his umbilical cord was short.  Interestingly, Simone told me later that she wonders if short umbilical cords are somehow linked to long labors with failure to progress, as she had now seen this scenario twice in her own experience. 
After the cord stopped pulsing, they were clamping it off to have Mr TCIE cut it.  Then, my baby was finally on my chest, in my arms, and only inches from my face.  I kissed his head.  I stared and stared and stared at his perfect little body.  He was just – perfect.  The nurse told me I had pushed him out in 23 minutes, and that that was amazing for a first time mom.  He was weighed and measured after we had uninterrupted skin-to-skin bonding time.  He was 7lbs 9oz, 20 ¼” – and entered the outside world at 10:53am on Monday April 13th.  Finally after a good ½ hour together alone, Mr TCIE went and told my parents and sister, who came into the delivery room to meet him.  Lisa helped me to get him latched for breastfeeding, and afterwards, they were ready to move me to the recovery room. 

I felt pretty amazing after everything, considering I hadn't slept in 3 days.  But how could I not feel amazing??  The entire experience, from positive pregnancy test through delivery and continuing through today, has been surreal only in that it has NOT been surreal.  In other words, I feel like I have been handed a new mission in life, and that my heart, body, mind, and soul jumped right into it without looking back.  Every experience, every moment of maternity has felt so natural to me that I almost don't remember the 8 years of painfully sorrowful childlessness that preceded it.
This has been my experience.  I know it is not every woman's story, but it is my own.  And I couldn't have written a better one, myself.  Thank you, Author of my life.  Thank you.

And now, back to my #1 priority...

 Robert Joseph, 7 weeks old today
OMG... I blinked.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

New Life, alternately titled Ode to My Boobs

By the way, my last post in which I introduced my son to blogosphere came 7 years after my very first blog post.  TO THE DAY.  Not planned.  God-incidence.  :)

I promise, I'm here.  It's a good thing my blog posts were few and far between before pregnancy for a while, or I may be inclined to feel more guilty for not updating now.  But who am I kidding, I still feel guilty.  I still get emails daily from readers who stumble upon old posts and reach out for advice, hope, or just someone to hear them.  And it continues to break my heart for them.  And I know I need to stick around, and keep this blog going.  (And, ahem, maybe update my main site   Uhhhh, yeah, anyone wanna do that for me?)

But life with a newborn has been just everything and nothing I thought it would be.  Busy, yes, but also calm.  Joyful, but also anxiety-ridden.  And every single moment filled with gratitude.  Gratitude for the opportunity to be humbled in this NEW way (THANK YOU, God, because while childlessness didn't cure me of my pride, it certainly beat a decent amount of humility into my stubborn butt, and that stubborn butt needed a new beating stick).  Case in point:  Breastfeeding.

Ohhhh, breastfeeding.  How I hate to love you.  Obviously my borderline-hippie (hippy? hippee? hypie? mhipea?) self was all over the breastfeeding plans since, well, the day I got married, knowing it was the healthiest option, particularly given a good maternal diet.  (Cannoli are chock full of nutrients.  That's my story and I'm sticking to it.)  But what no one ever told me (ok, so I may have seen half a dozen million blog posts from new moms with the exact same topic, but what did I care, they should all just shut up and be thankful they have a kid to feed, or for that matter, boobs) is that BREASTFEEDING ISN'T EASY.  At least, not at first.  At least, not if you're TCIE and God is in the awesome business of constantly reminding you never to take anything for granted (thank you, Jesus).

And oh, guess what ELSE no one ever told me?

PCOS is linked (quite heavily) with low milk supply.

I mean, c'mon, now.  Something like 18,000 Drs I've worked with, and nottaone could have said, "Oh, by the way... you know that MAJOR DIAGNOSIS you have that affects all of your hormones, your overall health, and your fertility?  You know... that same thing that you got under control by adhering to a strict, healthful diet?  Yeah, turns out, no, you cannot eat whatever you want because constipation is now just a state of being, anyway, and who cares if you poop, life now revolves around whether or not your child poops.  It actually turns out you SHOULD stay on that diet, and be forewarned, you are highly susceptible to low supply, so maybe have a hospital-grade pump on hand, learn how to use it, and La Leche League phone numbers at the ready, and lots and lots of Guinness (a galactagogue AND a way to drown your "my miracle baby is starving to death before my eyes and there's nothing I can do about it" sorrows)."  I mean, really?  Nottaone?

But, I was TCIE, and I knew all I needed to know.  I wasn't going to be the typical first-time mom, freaking out that the baby won't latch immediately, because my rational self figured, hey, a baby is hungry enough, he'll learn how to eat, and I shall exhibit the patience of a Saint as he practices.

Enter God. 

Well, first of all, my birth plan didn't include a hospital, and yet that's where I was, trying to learn the art of patient breastfeeding.  Hospital and Patient are two things that are at odds with each other, no matter what definition of 'patient' you use.   And while I was trying to be a patient patient... there was simply no time for it.  Lactation consultants have a schedule, after all.  As do all of the nurses, financial counselors, aides, food service workers, pediatricians, and whoever else may have wandered into my post-partum recovery room off of the street demanding something from me within 15 minutes of pushing a human out of my lady parts.

(My Birth Story will come in a later post.)

So, breastfeeding began slightly different than I had envisioned it.  In all of my fantasies of breastfeeding, never once did I dream about gazing down at my new baby, but not for too long because my arm is slipping from the exact angle it needs to be for proper positioning, while simultaneously making sure baby's body is in a perfectly, and I mean perfectly straight line with chin not too far down and not too far up and lips flanged and tongue under, as I watch his tiny mouth and tiny hands (oh, who am I kidding, my kid has giant Man Hands) wrestle with the silicone piece of nursing weaponry necessary for him to suckle anything out of my too-much-fluids-during-delivery anti-erect nipple, oh, and don't forget to relax your shoulders.  Nope.  That definitely wasn't the fantasy.

But, ok, it wasn't the end of the world.  Practice makes perfect, right?  And the nipple shield wasn't meant to be a permanent solution.  (Of course, later, I learned a friend had to use hers with her daughter for 2 years.)  So what if there was one more step needed for me to successfully breastfeed my baby - just put the nipple shield on, and wash it off after every use.  No biggie.  (Biggy?  Biggee?  Mbigey?)

And so, life continued, and baby Robbie breastfed on demand (and once we were home from the hospital? - he demanded pretty much incessantly).  We went to our first pediatric appointment with the pediatric nurse at our midwives' office that Thursday (Robbie was born on Monday), and he had lost a little bit of weight, but all par for the course with breastfed babies.  The nurse recommended I pump for a few minutes after each feeding, even if I only yielded a few drops.

And so, TCIE who knows everything there is to know about birthing babies, and feeding them, went home, dug up a big bag of "breastfeeding supplies" her sister gave to her, found the hand-pump, and pumped each breast for about 3 or 4 minutes, thinking to herself, "Self? You rock.  Look at that!  15mLs!  A few drops, HA!  You, my friend, are an overachiever."

We returned the following Wednesday, and Robbie had lost even more weight.  He went from a birth weight of 7lbs 9oz down to 6lbs 13oz (which I mistakenly read as 6lbs 1oz, but that may have been a blessing in disguise, more on that in a bit).  The pediatric nurse assured me he wasn't in the danger zone, yet, but that it was time to become a little more proactive to ensure it didn't get worse.  She asked me about the pumping, and of course, I was supposed to be using the electric pump, oops.  She did a before and after breastfeeding weight check and Robbie was only getting about 1 oz.  She gave me a rental pump with instructions to pump 4-6 times per day (ideally 6) after a feeding session, and to use an SNS at the breast and a bottle of expressed breast milk to ensure Robbie got enough calories during the day.

SNS.  Affectionately known as the Suck my Nut Sack.  Sorry for the profanity.  But there's just no other way to describe it.  PARTICULARLY when trying to use the damn thing WITH A NIPPLE SHIELD.  One woman has not the number of hands required to make an SNS/nipple shield feeding work.  And yet, I had to.  Or face imminent death.  (OK, maybe not imminent death, but I still faced the certainty of knowing my child's caloric intake in the most crucial weeks out of utero hinged of my mastery of the Suck my Nut Sack.)

Supplemental Nursing System, i.e. New Mom and New Baby Torture Device
Wanna know why they don't show anything above the chest?  Because the woman in the picture is probably struggling between keeping the thing around her neck without it hitting the baby in the face, under her neck without getting a permanent crick, in her teeth without developing lock-jaw, or under her bra strap without losing the 90degree angle necessary to get every last drop of that more-precious-than-gold breast milk that she pumped over 2 sessions of 15 minutes apiece, all the while grimacing and muttering obscenities under her breath so as not to disturb the already-frustrated starving baby in her arms.  That, and the advertisers probably realize if anyone recognized her face and asked her opinion about the SNS, she'd tell them to run, not walk, RUN away and never look back.
So, life was about to get a lot more interesting.  My first 2 attempts at the SNS, I lost about 1oz (that's a lot, given I was to fill it to 1.5 or 2oz, only) because the tube slipped right out of the nipple shield and emptied my hard-earned expressed breast milk right onto my glider.  Oh, my glider.  Let me also say now that my ass didn't leave the seat of that glider for 2.5 weeks straight.  I literally ONLY went to the bathroom, and that was primarily to wash all the contraptions I now needed to "breastfeed."  A process which took 30 minutes, by the way.
The nurse had also said if I wasn't able to pump 2-3oz per session, to make sure I had a bottle and some formula, Earth's Best, to give the baby, because he needed to get his calories asap.  And, yeah, I was pumping 1.5oz at best.  Begrudgingly, I gave him a bottle of Earth's Best that night.  Oh, and did I mention in all of this time (now the 10th day since he was born and 8th day since being home), Robbie still hadn't pooped?  He passed all of his meconium in the hospital, but no poop since.
A few hours after the formula and a long nap, Robbie awoke with a terrible rash all over his back and chest.
This picture still pains me.  Not only the rash, but his puny little body :(  Ugh, so sad.  Let's erase that memory with something happier...

Ah.  Much better.  This was 3 weeks later.
So, a frantic picture text to the nurse and my suspicions were seconded - dairy allergy.  Solution?  No more formula tonight and call her in the morning.
My sister was already down visiting because I was downright exhausted and frustrated with breastfeeding.  Now keep in mind, I thought the scale earlier that day had read 6lbs 1oz.  I was flipping out that my son was losing so much weight, and now the ONE thing I could do to ensure he got enough milk during the day was off the table!  I needed to get help increasing my own milk, and FAST!  My sister called my mother to look up lactation consultants while she helped calm the screaming baby and talk me off a cliff.  Miraculously, my mom who only learned how to turn ON a computer when I went to college, found a whole lactation CENTER in the town right next to mine!  She gave me the number, I called, and got a call back in about 30 minutes.  In the meantime, my sister drove all the way home with her 18month old baby, to return the next day.  God bless her.  And God bless the two friends of hers who pumped that very night in order for her to bring me some donor milk!!
The woman at the lactation center told me to ease my mind over the night, to go and pick up some Similac Allimentum, which is a much easier to digest formula with broken down dairy proteins that babies can tolerate pretty well even if they have allergies.  She also made an appointment for the following day for me to come in.  Mr TCIE frantically ran out to the store and picked some up at 10:00pm.  In the meantime, a friend in a FB Mom's group where I posted the rash picture and asked for help improving lactation IMMEDIATELY told me she'd come over with fennel essential oil and some green smoothie drink with lots of galactagogues (that's just a fun word) for me - she lives 20minutes away, and I only met her a few months ago.  The generosity of people astounded me in this hour of need.
The next day, in the Land of Milk and Honey (which, from henceforth, the lactation center will be known to me), I finally felt like there was a plan in place that, with a lot of hard work and dedication, I could be successful with.  I knew I had their continued support, day and night, and that they had literally seen it all.  The new plan included the SNS, surgical tape, smaller nipple shields, pumping after EVERY feed, not just 6 x day, a syringe and tube, breast compressions, and herbs like Motherlove More Milk, and Mother's Milk tea (which I had already been drinking but now upped my intake to about 3-4 cups per day).  They also told me to continue with the Similac Allimentum if I wasn't pumping enough and ran out of donor milk.  Miracle of miracles, I only needed to use the formula TWICE more, because the donor milk lasted me until my supply picked up a few days later.  While at the appointment, they had me feed Robbie using all of these ways (we just stuffed that boy silly) and they weighed him at 6lbs 11oz (which made us all realize I got his weight wrong the day before, and he was actually still losing, but MUCH better than 6lbs 1oz).  They wanted each of his feedings to get him about 3oz, so that he was in a food coma each and every time.  I was to top off with a bottle after each feeding (meaning more contraptions to wash after each feed).  My new schedule looked a little something like this:
Set up SNS (5-10 minutes) with my milk, donor milk, or formula
Feed baby, both sides, with breast compressions the entire time (this took about 1 hour, my son liked to know his milk was still coming and now that it was, he reveled in it)
Top off with bottle if not satisfied
Put baby down and pray he doesn't wake crying
Pump for 15 minutes
Disassemble pump parts and wash them, along with the SNS, bottle, and nipple shield
Baby awakes
Breast and nipple shield only, with a top off bottle of 2oz
Put baby down
Wash all parts
Baby awakes
Bottle-feeding by Daddy WHILE Mommy pumps (this happened exactly once, it was meant to give me a break in order to pump and have a little time to rest.  However, Daddy couldn't handle the screaming hungry baby while Mommy set up all the contraptions, etc. and after one "I know, I know, Robbie, I don't know WHY Mommy won't let me give you formula..." Daddy was DONE)
and repeat.
The next day Robbie had gained about 2oz.
Over that weekend, Robbie gained 5oz.
At the end of a full week on that plan, he was over 8lbs.
A week after that, he was 9 1/2 lbs.
I was able to discontinue the SNS first (praise the good Lord above), but was to continue with syringe-tube, pumping each feed, etc.  After about a week of that, I went for another appointment, did a before and after weight check, and Robbie was taking in close to 3oz just at the breast!  So we discontinued all of it.
The nipple shield was the last to go, and while Robbie did successfully latch without it ONCE after all the craziness, he generally vehemently opposed my non-silicone nipple.  Until Mother's Day.  At Mass.  Fussy baby finishing a growth spurt decides he's hungry an hour after a feeding.  So, we go to the church basement, find a quiet little room that may or may not have been the utility room, and give him all Mommy had with her - her bare nipples.  And, hungry baby decided that was a good time to just work a little harder.  And we haven't looked back, since.  Praise the good Lord above.
SOOOOO quickly after all of this, breastfeeding went from pure hell to pure joy, where Robbie is actually feeding in my ring sling as I get sh*t done around the house, hands-free!  I honestly cannot even believe how night and day it is.  But, that 2 week period seemed to last forever, and I was thisclose to throwing in the towel and counting my losses.  God, and Robbie, had other plans.
And so, boobs, I thank you for your tireless efforts and HARD work.  You, my dears, are rock stars.
Full and happy suit him well



Saturday, April 25, 2015

He Was Worth the Wait

On April 13th, 2015 at 10:53am, after an intense 70,128 hours of (infertility) labor preceding conception, and a mere 56 hours of physical labor, with a lovely, redeeming 23 minutes of pushing, our son Robert (Robbie) Joseph entered the outside world.

I think it goes without saying that any child, any precious gift of human life, is worth the time, pain, and suffering that may have preceded its joyous arrival on the outside.  But, there is so much more worth in the wait when the focus is on the Truth.

My son, and the blessing of his life, was of course worth every moment of agony and joyful, and not-so-joyful suffering we encountered during our 8 years of infertility and inadoption.

But THE Son... He was the true desire of our hearts.  And no matter how our story may have played out, no matter what the future still may or may not hold for our family, HE was, and always will be, worth the wait.

At the culmination of this National Infertility Awareness Week, I want to remind my former self of that crucial fact that kept me going even on the darkest days.  HE was worth the wait.

He is worth the wait.