Nightmares and Paranoia

I think it’s universal that all parents at some point obsess over their newborn’s breathing in the middle of the night to make sure they are not dead. I only engaged in this behavior briefly the first couple of nights. However, Little V has a habit of wheezing sometimes in her sleep, which is yet another cause for paranoia. Is her swaddle too tight? Is she sick? Is enough oxygen getting to her brain? SIDS?! Aghhhhh…

Every time she does something weird or makes strange noises, I Google it. I’m less than two weeks into this parenting thing and I truly do not know how new parents ever survived without the internet, psychologically, or otherwise.

It turns out newborns have some pretty seemingly erratic breathing patterns that are totally normal, and there are just a handful of concerning indicators of respiratory distress to watch for. However, the other night, while sleeping, Little V started to exhibit what we thought was retraction, which led me to call the Pediatrician’s after-hours line.

The intake person who took the call asked whether Little V was “responsive” which was a confusing question. Newborns sleep like 18 hours a day. Little V sleeps through piano playing, loud noises, and even diaper changes changes – what level of “unresponsiveness” is really a problem?! The intake person tried to clarify the question by asking whether we were able to “keep her awake” which was just as confusing because we had not woken her up yet, much less “kept” her awake.

We poked Little V and dripped some water on her, which caused her to squirm and flail, though she did not open her eyes. I advised the intake individual Baby V was responding to external stimuli but not opening her eyes. At this point, the intake person said to call 911 if she could not be “kept awake.” I seriously panicked and we decided to get a bit more aggressive about waking her up. We tickled, poked, and pinched her until she made horrible faces, started bawling, and we felt relieved but also wretchedly guilty.

I did not have the vivid, horrible dreams some people have during pregnancy, but I’m making up for it now! I rarely remember my dreams, but in the last week I’ve had a few horrible paranoid dreams about miscarriage and birth defects. I dreamed I ran into my best friend from middle school, who recently gave birth to a baby with a beak instead of a mouth; he also had a foot growing out of the inside of its beak. The foot coming out of the mouth reminded me of the conjoined fetus nurse character from South Park though there was absolutely nothing comedic about the scenario when I was actually dreaming it.

I am a responsible person, but have virtually no experience with babies. I rarely held anyone else’s babies before I was pregnant because I was always afraid of dropping or hurting them and will not offer to hold any children unless specifically requested. My parents never made me change my brother’s diaper when he was a baby (so spoiled). Thus, I made it to the age of 32 with no working knowledge or practical skills in this department. Sometimes I wonder how it is that they let me walk out of a hospital with something as vulnerable as an infant. With all the classes I took during pregnancy, and some instruction from nurses and lactation consultants, I am catching up though, and I dare say it’s been a fun learning process so far.

LOL Vegan Gluten Free Ramen

How about NOOOOO?

Sometimes when I’m bored, I actually bother to leaf through the coupons that come in the mail. Today, I encountered the coupon pictured above. This food is so preposterous I don’t even know what to say. Are they aware Japanese people invented udon and also MSG? How can you possibly open a legitimate udon noodle restaurant and simultaneously advertise for NO MSG and NO gluten? Give me a fucking break. I can already imagine how boring, flat, and ridiculous this food tastes. Stewing udon broth in vegetables will never, ever, ever, ever give it the same flavor or depth as broth stewed in meat. Period. Impossible. No.

The whole demonization of MSG is junk science anyway, probably stemming from racism against Asians. Oooh I ate Chinese food and got dizzy! Shut up. The billion Chinese people eating MSG regularly don’t seem to have your imaginary MSG allergy. How do you explain that? Your stupid sensitivities are made-up, just like many gluten and carb allergies. For most people, it’s not a fucking allergy. It’s an aversion. There’s a difference. You aren’t “allergic” just because you refuse to eat something based on your blind adherence to the latest retarded fad diet. Allergic is when you eat something and swell up/stop breathing and possibly die. Did you asphyxiate or die from eating MSG or gluten? No, so you are not allergic.

The coupon advertises it is “Voted the best Vegan BLT in California by PETA” which is completely meaningless. If PETA people don’t eat meat, they cannot possibly know how shitty vegan BLT’s or vegan ramen udon are. These are the same people who compare eating pork to the murder of Jewish people during the Holocaust, so their opinions when it comes to meat are hysterically biased. Also, this is to say nothing of the fact a place that serves both BLT’s and Udon noodles cannot possibly be a good restaurant. This is some seriously infuriating hipster bullshit.

Little V Meets the Kitties

Our cats have been our babies for over 10 years now, and we were a bit concerned about what their reactions would be to a new mini member to the family. As soon as we arrived home from the hospital, we made efforts to pay attention to them and encourage them to be nearby.We predicted Fiona would be jealous and Ophelia would be anxious and depressed, but so far, things are much better than expected.

They both purposely avoided her initially. Neither would approach her and Ophelia seemed to abhor even the scent of her on my hands; she cringed and shrank from my attempts to pet her the first couple of days. The first day, Fiona worked up the courage to come close enough to sniff Little V’s head, but appeared to be repulsed by the scent, and quickly turned and ran. Eventually, habit got the better of Fiona. She wanted to continue her cuddling routines, so she tolerated the new presence, along with the occasional fussing and screaming at night and stayed curled up close unless the screaming grew too prolonged and loud (which didn’t happen too often). On the second or third night, curiosity set in and she actually tried to climb into Baby V’s cosleeper on 5 occasions. Although I doubt babies or cats are dumb enough such that accidental smothering is any significant risk, it seems a universal rule to prohibit cats from sleeping with babies, so we redirected Fiona’s attentions to be safe.

 

Ophelia has not taken to Baby V as well, which is unsurprising. She has not been as anxious or depressed as we feared, though she is still a bit distant. She hides under the bed more than usual, but of course will still emerge when treats are presented. In the past, my little glutton has actually been depressed enough to turn down treats, so I consider the present state a win. Sometimes, she even seems perfectly content sprawling out in the sun, and after a week, she no longer shuns pets (probably has gotten used to the smell of Little V). As is always the case with poor, sensitive, Ophelia, these things will take time. It looks like Fiona and Little V may eventually be good buddies though.

First 24 with Baby V

The first 24 hours at the hospital in hindsight feel like a fast-forwarding DVD, in that I remember everything that happened, but it felt like it was on super speed.

You barely can handle the excitement from being responsible for a tiny human and the new information and activities just come flooding in without respite, including blood tests, hearing tests, breastfeeding advice, medication administrations, birth certificate paperwork, etc.; it’s a nonstop, intense learning experience. People complain about not being able to sleep because of disruptions from nurses coming in and out, but honestly, we were able to sleep through anything at that point, and when I couldn’t sleep it was from being too excited, not due to external stimuli.

The first thing I did after transferring from the labor suite to the recovery room was take a shower. I felt like I’d hiked Mount Whitney and a hot shower never felt so good. In her first 24 hours, Little V got a hepatitis vaccine, received a vitamin K shot, had a blood draw for various required screening, passed her hearing test, and had her first visit from a Pediatrician. Both sets of her grandparents also came to visit the lucky lady just 4 hours after she was born.

This was my first time staying in a hospital and it was interesting seeing nurses and care providers execute various processes in real life as opposed to reading about them at work. The nurses in Labor & Delivery were great with helping us learn to swaddle and get breastfeeding started. They also took Little V to the nursery for a couple of hours that night so we could get a smidgen of uninterrupted sleep after probably the only double all-nighter we’ve done.

We had the option of staying an extra night at the hospital, but things appeared to be relatively smooth and straightforward, and I really felt it would be more relaxing to be at home. Plus, the hospital food was pretty mediocre. After we felt we’d received enough instruction from nurses on breastfeeding and swaddling, we left the hospital early afternoon and returned home to finish off Labor Day weekend.

Little V Makes Her Entrance

Little V was born on September 2, 2017 after 30 hours of labor on Labor Day weekend (ha!). I say 30, which includes only the labor that required concerted physical and mental effort, but I was having contractions since Monday and she wasn’t born until Saturday morning. The total number of hours is only useful for satisfying morbid curiosity.

I noticed a friend on Facebook had a recent home birth. She posted about her 45 hour labor, which she counted from first contraction until delivery. Well, if I did that I could literally claim like 100 hours of labor. In sharing her birth story on Instagram, she was glowingly positive but felt the prolonged labor altered her plans and her mindset such that she felt deprived of the experience of falling in instant love with her son. Apparently other women with negative labor and delivery experiences report feeling similarly robbed, but I’m not the type for falling in love at first sight anyway so I can’t say I relate.

When I left off my last post, I had seen the doc in the morning at 2 cm dilated and 80 percent effaced, and my contractions had started to speed up on Thursday night, probably in part as a result of the membrane sweep. By 11:59 p.m., they started to become seriously painful enough to be the real thing, and we started our Hypnobirthing skills, exercises, meditations, and tools. I felt most of the contractions in my low back/sacral area, which has been a completely new sensation for me, as I’ve never had any significant back pain my entire life! Until contractions started, low back pain was something totally foreign to me, and the sensations of being hammered in the tailbone were quite awful. Husband was totally amazing with pressing on my back at the right times, reminding me to eat, and lightly massaging my back. After about 3 hours, the contractions were coming faster than the 5-1-1 rule, and we went to the the hospital around 3:00 a.m.

The hospital ride was uncomfortable to say the least, and I tried to continue breathing and moving on all fours in the backseat during the 25 minute ride. Unfortunately, when we got to the hospital, we were surprised to find I was still only 2 cm dilated, despite the intensifying contractions and hours of seeming progress. They sent me home, and advised me to try and sleep. I declined Ambien, as at this point, I was tired enough, but my major problem was pain. I have never needed help sleeping, as I am a champion sleeper.

At home, I tried to put my champion sleeping skills to work. I took a couple of Tylenol PM and we “slept” in 5-minute chunks between contractions until the late morning. Husband had equally poor sleep because he was amazing enough to wake up every few minutes to massage my back. Not wanting to risk being sent home from the hospital again, we continued the home labor activities until late afternoon and returned to the hospital around 4:30 p.m.

The good news was by the time we went to the hospital for round two, I was 7 cm dilated. My water had not broken yet and the midwife observed I had a bulging amniotic sac. The bad news was I stayed at 7 cm for literally eight more hours. I think I probably stopped keeping track of the time at this point, as it was too devastating. The midwife explained the bulging sac may be blocking the baby’s head from descending, and suggested the option of breaking the water to allow things to speed up. We considered it and in the mean time, Husband motivated me and walked me around the hall twice, and helped me breathe through some contractions on the birthing ball. There didn’t appear to be much change after these efforts and we decided to go ahead with breaking the water 1-2 hours later. The pace did pick up indeed, along with the severity of contractions.

Yet, the bumps in the road were not over for us. I pushed for 2-3 hours (who’s counting?), in different positions, including squatting, on all fours, on my side, with a squat bar and Rebozo. I ended up pushing the traditional way and could not help but constantly feel like I could not take much more. I found comfort in growling like an animal to control my breath (but my throat hurt the whole next day).

After being encouraged that I was “very close” and just a “few” pushes away (and boy, did I need the motivation at this point!), Baby V was born at 6:00 a.m. Again, I don’t know about “instant love” but it was a very overwhelming, exciting, and incredible feeling when I saw her emerge from my body. I baked a little hooman! Holy shit! As soon as they placed her on my chest, it was just as a friend had told me – all the pain and discomfort leading up to it became negligible.

I previously thought having a whole baby come out of my vagina was going to be the most painful and difficult part, but as it was happening, I observed it mostly felt like an uncomfortable stretching that slightly burned. It was the contractions that continued to be totally killer. Maybe I got lucky and had a baby with a smaller head. I didn’t tear, but had some mild uterine bleeding and received some Pitocin and Cytotec. Afterwards, our nurse, who by now was accustomed to me refusing all kinds of meds, came by to persuade me to take pain medications. To her relief, I did not put up any resistance to a some Ibuprofen.

Honestly, these were some of the most miserable hours of my life, but they were met with great reward. After this experience, I’m also fairly convinced Husband is the best husband in the world.

 

Week 41!

Fetus is still in there, having a grand old time! She is 4 days past due now, and I’ve been having contractions for 3+ days. They are mild to moderate in nature, and not very painful, but enough to be uncomfortable and tiring. They started out spaced quite a bit apart, and progressed to every 30 minutes, then 20, then 10, and even 5, but varies and returns to a rate of every 30 minutes and/or 20 minutes with complete lack of predictability. I can sleep through most of them, but wake up to it 3-4 times a night.

I’ve been lounging a lot, but also doing some walking and yoga stretching. I did do 35 squats with a 20 pound weight after walking a short hill yesterday, but that turned out to be a big mistake because I felt grouchy and tired the rest of the day. Husband has been very patient and nice with massages when I wake up in the morning with a kinked spine and foot massages when we watch TV.

Also had my fair share of pineapple cakes. Bribing Fetus to come on out and join the human world of delicious treats. In fact, she’s been bribed this whole week, with Chinese home cooking, including tomato beef noodle soup, mapo tofu, zha jiang noodles, etc.

I had a doctor’s appointment today, and I’m currently 2 centimeters dilated and 80 percent thinned out, so I guess the last 3 days have not been in vain. The non-stress test results were fine, and the amniotic fluid still looks good, so my doctor did not think it’d be a problem to wait a little longer, though she wanted to have a game plan for potential induction if I went past 41 weeks. Potential induction would involve use of Cytotec, a synthetic prostaglandin. In the meantime, she offered to strip/sweep the membranes, which basically involves insertion of a finger into the opening of the cervix, and moving it around to separate the amniotic sac membranes from the cervix. This causes release of prostaglandins which may speed up labor. However, I did not recall what any of my classes and/or reading material had to say about this procedure, and I was undecided on it, so we held off.

After Husband went to work, I went home to consult some books along with Google. It seemed to me that membrane stripping was relatively benign, with minimal risks, compared with some of the horror stories one of my books seemed to suggest about Cytotec. I really hope to avoid being induced to begin with, and although I think some of the hippie set tend to overstate the risks of Cytotec, both Google and Expecting Better seemed to indicate there’s evidence membrane stripping is relatively safe and and up to 25 percent effective, so I called the doc’s office back to see when I could come in to get it done.

I went in basically as soon as I hung up the phone, and was seen within 5 minutes. The sweep itself lasted probably less than 20 seconds. She literally just poked her finger up in there and swished it around a little. The internet said it could be crampy and uncomfortable, but it was even less so than I imagined. It sort of felt like my bladder was being poked a little, but otherwise was entirely bearable. I felt like contractions began to speed up within the hour (after a pretty slow morning and early afternoon), but who knows if this is coincidence. Stay tuned.

Week 40

My mind is tired, perhaps because I did not sleep well the night before, or maybe just general fatigue from feeling like a really fat old person, huffing and puffing up hills and “ohhhhh my bones.” I did some yoga on Monday, followed by triceps dips and wide squats with a 20 pound weight.

Packed 3 conference calls in on Tuesday. I may schedule some things tentatively for after my due date in the (likely) event Fetus is late.

8/24/17

Thursday, while on a conference call at 5:00 p.m., I felt some a sudden onset of low back pain and tightness and thought I’d better wrap a couple of things up in case I was going into labor. It was better by the time I got home, so I did some light yoga to stretch things out, and then we walked the hill across the street a couple of times. Some variation of this sensation continued throughout the night, but with less intensity (woke up a few times but slept through most of it).

8/25/17

When I woke up in the morning I thought I better not go into work and just do some work from home instead. I had just one major thing to finish up, but I felt it would be just fine quickly wrapping it up from the comfort of home. Of course as soon as I sent out an email saying I was working from home, I stopped feeling anything for 2 hours, remote access to my work computer failed to initiate, and I found myself twiddling my thumbs (writing this) at the kitchen table with a cat glued to my lap. Very good use of time.

So I dumped Yona off my lap, swept the floor, took out the trash, and put away some dishes. On my way back from the dumpster, our neighbor gave us some cat toys that his cat did not happen to fancy, so I came back and entertained Yona with them.

I ended up putting in a full day of work, and we did some hill walking at night.

Weekend

The weekend was a bit of a blur. I started to have sort of minor contractions, that felt like a combination of cramps and back pain, which woke me up a few times at night, and then started happening every 20, then 10 minutes. I used this as an excuse to be lazy. We took a really brief walk on the beach and did some meditation.

The Waiting Game

I’m on day 2 of week 40. Home stretch. At least, hopefully. I really don’t want her to be too late, but if she does not come by her due date, I’m working from home until she does. All my friends’ babies (all five of them) this year came early. Although there are only 5 days until my due date, according to this neato labor probability calculator, the odds of me giving birth by my due date is a mere 20.34 percent. The odds of me giving birth by week 42 is actually not that high either, at 85.03 percent! Ugh! I barely feel capable of making it through this week, much less 3 more.

On the other hand, as impatient as I am getting, I’m also nervous about labor and birth. Maybe this is the mental dissonance that is causing me to lose sleep in the middle of the night.

My parents arrived over the weekend and I was showered with more cute baby clothes, pineapple cakes, organic snacks from my Aunt Sylvia (dried pineapple, dried guava, glutinous rice with dates, almond tea, etc.), and chicken soup from my Aunt Amber and Uncle Alfred. All the way from Taiwan. I’m very excited about these foods, which are supposed to be good for the postpartum period so at this point I’m excited to give birth just so I can start eating these things.

I’ve developed a bad sweet tooth. I was in an irritable mood the other day and self-medicated with a pineapple cake and strangely felt better immediately after eating it. This has never happened to me before with sweets. Maybe with a beer, but never desserts. People give alcohol a lot of shit, but drinking an IPA after a crappy day costs you 140 calories, and you get some antioxidants in the mix. Eating cookies/cakes/creme brulee costs a fuckload more calories, sugar, and fat. I hope this is a phenomenon limited to pregnancy because otherwise, it is extremely dangerous.

I had a relatively smooth third trimester for the most part, but first trimester seems to be repeating itself in these final days. I randomly feel nauseated during the day, and wake up in the middle of the night and can’t fall back asleep for hours. I woke up at 3:00 a.m. on Tuesday and could not sleep so I finished up some laundry.