A Snapshot of the Last Days

The last week of my time off was not perfect. The hives continued to be horrible, and also appeared on my arms and hands, though with less ferocity, so I decided I would just stay in bed all day and do nothing for a couple of days. This was the best decision ever, and bed was a magical place where I enjoyed holding Vale in bed while different versions of La Vie En Rose played on my Billie Holiday Pandora station (Louie Armstrong and Edith Piaf), and watching her sleep while I ate breakfast (cooked by Dad) in bed.

 

 

I propped my laptop on my breakfast-in-bed table from Ikea, answered some emails, surfed the web, blogged, cuddled with Vale, and took it easy for two full days. Fiona, my faithful feline friend, joined the party and insisted on crowding up against Vale in my lap, or hovering underneath the table like she did when I was in law school. I was reminded of how she’d accompany me for hours while I read law school assignments and studied for the bar. She (and Ophelia) were our babies first, and turned 10 years old in a flash.

While in bed, I contemplated the importance of family, slow moments, and the little pleasures in life. I texted my mother frequently, and thought of how difficult it must have been for her and my dad to be half a world away from their family for decades.

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.

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.

 

Did You Buy _______ Yet?

No, but I do have a big jar of coconut oil in the kitchen pantry, so I’m good. Twitter tells me coconut oil is the solution to all life’s problems, and since I already own a big jar of it, I’ll bite.

I’m completely serious. I’ve already acquired way more baby shit than I intended. I don’t know how it happened, but somehow we have like 5 different sleeping arrangements for Fetus, including a co-sleeper, a crib, a cradle, a folding Rock ‘n Play, and a swing. Granted, she is expected to grow out of the co-sleeper and cradle within a few months, but still. Five. Sleeping. Arrangements. How does sleeping get this complicated? Why are babies so hard? Aghghghghghgh.

I’ve also been advised I really need a baby wipe warmer, nipple cream, some sort of diaper rash prevention cream (as opposed to Desitin, which treats the rash once it occurs), a bottle warmer, a changing table, among others items I have avoided buying thus far. With the exception of the changing table, a lot of these don’t take much physical space, especially compared to the 5 different sleeping products/devices, but they take up mental space and create psychological clutter for me so I am avoiding them for as long as possible.

According to Google, coconut oil can suffice both as nipple cream and diaper rash prevention, so I’m going to do just that unless/until it proves to be an embarrassing hippie failure.

Morning

She blinked and caught his weakness; he was secretly studying her face and looking away when she noticed.

Could you leave me? Yes. Yes you could. 

Her body was a dark slush folding into him in the hopes of forgetfulness

She slept while he was gone, and before he returned, her head was full of turpentine, bleeding and spreading through pans, indiscriminately disintegrating the hours of sleep