Joelle’s birth story

Here is Joelle’s birth story, written so I don’t forget any of the wonderful details. And there’s a lot of details.

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Pretty newborn

This birth went completely med-free (by choice). I still can’t believe I did it. I have to think back to that night’s events and double-check sometimes because it doesn’t seem real.

And as a result, this birth was much more, um, VIVID than my first. With Josiah, I did not appreciate how much the Stadol had subdued me. I don’t even remember the “ring of fire” with him. Things were fuzzy in retrospect, but I thought that was normal. Nope.

This was pretty much my dream labor. I (unintentionally) labored at home for the majority of it, and it went very quickly anyway. From check-in to birth was three hours and about six hours of labor total. No complications and a healthy baby. I was incredibly lucky to have this experience. A lot of women do everything “right” and it still doesn’t go the way they want.

I went to my 40 week appointment on my due date, Friday, April 11. My doctor suggested scheduling an induction in case baby girl didn’t come soon. I agreed only because the baby was lying on some nerves in my hip and often while walking my left leg would painfully lock up and I would get “stuck.” Not fun (and embarrassing in public)!

Sweet girl

Sweet girl

So an eviction date was set for Wednesday, April 16. I had been walking around at 3 cm dilated for weeks and was 4 cm at the appointment, so I was hopeful the induction wouldn’t be needed. My goal was a medication-free, intervention-free birth as long as we were both safe.

The weekend passed uneventfully. On Monday night, I took a Benadryl around 11 to help me sleep, but it only knocked me out for about 30 minutes and I woke up wide awake with contractions. I played around on my phone, hoping I’d get tired again soon. I was skeptical the contractions were real, and since I didn’t feel as “in labor” as I did when I had pre-term labor back in February, I mostly ignored them. I half-heartedly timed them, but gave up.

I had heard that a good thing to do early in labor is watch a funny movie because a) laughter gets the endorphins going, b) it distracts you from contractions and c) kills time. My husband graciously had taken to the couch to give me the whole bed, but the TV is in the living room and I didn’t want to wake him. Instead, I laid in bed and watched some newer Jenna Marbles videos I hadn’t seen. After a while they stopped being funny and I realized this could be something, so I ate some snacks and bounced on an exercise ball.

A couple more labor-y things happened (TMI to share, sorry) and at 2:30 a.m. I woke him up. He didn’t have a bag packed (men!), but we got out pretty quickly. At this point, I was contracting every two minutes and couldn’t walk through them.

The crazy thing was that I actually felt 100 percent normal between contractions. I could talk and walk, but when that contraction hit, I stopped dead in my tracks. So I wasn’t convinced I was in labor.

I had been following the “blood moon” lunar eclipse (remember that??) on Twitter as it peaked an hour earlier, but seeing it in person was totally different. Pictures did not do it justice – seriously creepy and not the kind of omen you want to be looking at while in labor in the middle of the night!

We got to the hospital at 3 a.m. and into triage. I brought the exercise ball almost as an afterthought. I felt silly bringing it in and shudder to think that if we had arrived in the middle of the day that I would have been too embarrassed to bring that big old thing inside. It saved my labor – SO glad I had it!!!

I changed into a gown, got a cervical check and BAM – best news ever! I was 8 cm, y’all! I would have jumped up and down if I could have. I think the nurse was amused. I had dared dream of maybe being at a 7, so this was awesome. I was already 80 percent done!

I got wheeled into a delivery room at 3:30 a.m. and made it clear I wanted nothing to do with the bed, if possible. I got an IV started (can’t remember if it was hooked up) and I labored on the ball for the next hour. My nurse, Kim, came back pretty frequently as my fetal monitor kept slipping off. By 4:30 a.m., I was much more uncomfortable and felt my bag of waters about to bulge out, but it wasn’t broken. Another check, still 8 cm. I was not happy about that. She offered to have the doctor break my water, but I said I’d rather wait and see what happens.

For the next hour, I knelt over the ball and rocked back and forth, side to side. I breathed and hummed and moaned – all that lovely Ina May stuff. 😉 My husband applied counter pressure to my lower back with a tennis ball, but it didn’t seem to help enough. I inquired about pain-relief options, but Kim said I was past the point where I could get Stadol and it was either an epidural or some hot or cold packs on my back. Talk about two extremes. I think I chose a cold pack.

By 5:15 or so, I was pretty miserable. I dreaded having to get on the bed for cervical checks. The contractions were absolute agony while lying on my back. For like the third time, I was offered a manual water break.

I was hesitant to go this route because it was a gamble. I was told it could speed things up, or not, but either way the contractions were going to get really intense. Now, I’m the kind of worrier who assumes that any intervention is going to eventually result in an emergency C-section. But since I (and my labor coach) had been up all night, I was mainly worried about exhausting myself since I was already getting pretty tired and still 8 cm.

I asked to speak to the doctor, who was a kindly, older woman. I asked her what I should do and she explained again what could happen. Seeing the indecision on my face, she said with a nod (and maybe even a wink?) in her kindly, I-have-caught-thousands-of-babies-and-know-what-I’m-doing kind of way, “Why don’t I break your water?” I nodded back and with much relief said “OK.”

She broke my water at 5:39 a.m. It did not hurt (actually felt kind of good?) but the first contraction made me feel like I had been thrown against a wall. I wasn’t allowed off the bed and endured these blindingly intense contractions for about 15 minutes, the longest minutes of my life. I would have screamed for an epi if I hadn’t been so close to pushing her out.

I was at 9.5 cm and with every contraction felt like the baby was about to fall out. The doctor said I could start pushing soon because she thought I’d get to a 10 in the process. A team of nurses came in and furiously began prepping and moving the stirrups and turning on blinding lights.

Kim then went into turbo delivery nurse mode and I was grateful. She barked out orders for me to get myself into position and push. My first two pushes were awkward and ineffective but I got into proper position for the next two, and with much cheerleading from my husband and the staff, out Joelle came, screaming. Someone called out 6:01 and I got super excited because that’s exactly when my son was born!

Proud bro

Proud bro

Words cannot describe the immediate relief felt after birthing a baby.

I have to note that something came out that felt like a beaded necklace. Pretty sure that was the umbilical cord. Just going to leave that image for you. My husband got to cut the cord this time. The doc said it was too short to delay the clamping or something.

The placenta felt oddly slimy, but once it was out, the relief was complete. I had it encapsulated. Jury is still out on whether it helped with recovery.

I ended up with a “jagged” second-degree tear (thanks, doc, for that description) but it didn’t feel any better or worse than the episiotomy I had with Josiah.

Right away a nurse set Joelle on my chest for skin-to-skin. She was thoroughly explaining why she was doing it and I was like, “Um, I’m OK with this, you don’t have to talk me into it!” It was funny to me, because three years ago in the same hospital I requested immediate skin-to-skin and a nurse looked at me like I had three heads. “Before his bath?!” she asked. Um, yes. And now apparently it’s standard procedure.

I bled more than they liked afterward, but the word “hemorrhage” was never used, so that’s good. I was in my recovery room not long after.

Recovery was much harder than I anticipated. I literally could not put one foot in front of the other to use the restroom. I couldn’t even get out of bed – someone had to pick up my legs and swivel me so they could help me out. (That was fun on my fresh stitches.)

That lasted a day or so. I wanted more help but some nurses kind of pushed me to help myself, which might have sped my recovery. Still, I didn’t think I was leaving without X-rays. I was sure something was broken. Turns out the ligaments in my pelvis were severely irritated by the delivery.

Joelle nursed well, but a bad latch on the right stung pretty badly. Still, I found breastfeeding came a thousand times more naturally with her since I already knew what to do. Proud to say she is well over her birth weight and also takes a pacifier – win win!

That’s about it. Thanks for reading.

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New title

I don’t write much anymore, but I just wanted to give a quick update. I changed the title of my site.

Yes, at 40 hours per week in the newsroom I am still the “duchess of deadline,” but I feel like “second-shift mom” more accurately describes who I am now. Still putting the newspaper to bed instead of my kid. Hey, that should be my tag line…

Still grieving my dad. Wonder if it will ever get better.

Another dream

(This was supposed to post in March but didn’t go through for some reason.
)
I had another dream about my dad. No appearance this time.

It’s last December, and my mom and I are at the home of my parents’ across-the-street neighbor. It’s him, but for some reason he’s a doctor who commutes to Kansas City, which he admits is crazy (um, yeah, from Texas, it is).

He asks how my dad is, and we sigh and say good, he’s resting, as though he had been ill or something. The “doctor” nods and says “good.” Then comes the moment that always seems to come in this type of dream, when I remember the funeral in real life and get confused. The End.

It’s not much, but after the second dream, I wonder if he’ll never “visit” again.

Bad dreams

It has been a little more than two months since my dad unexpectedly passed away. I have had two dreams since then in which he was alive and everything was normal, but both times I and the other people in my dream realized it wasn’t real.

I had one today that was upsetting, and I just can’t shake it. I was so grumpy and impatient and rude to my family because of it. It went as follows:

I was at my parents’ house making dinner with my mom when I noticed my cat had a bloody spot on one of his front legs. We bent down to look him over and thought maybe it had dripped from his mouth. We checked out his mouth, but it was fine. So we parted his long, orange fur deeper and noticed a big, gaping wound in his leg. He didn’t seem to be in pain, but I thought we should get him to the vet right away.

I went to the room that was mine when I lived there to change clothes real quick, but on the way I stopped in the living room to tell my parents what was going on. My mom was sitting in a chair, but it was like she was a different person now. My dad was on the couch. I told them what was wrong with Toby (the cat), and my mom said, “Maybe it’ll heal on its own. A vet examination can be pretty expensive.” I said no, I’d rather get it checked out. My dad said, “Maybe Corky bit him.” (Corky, RIP, was a dog of theirs. She was sweet and would not have bitten anyone. My dad was fond of her and doted on her.)

I said, no, I think I would have heard them fighting. So I went on to my room to change and while I was doing so, I realized, wait. How was I just talking to him? That’s not possible.

Then I was like, OK, focus: Get Toby to the vet. It doesn’t matter if my dad’s a ghost, or whatever, I just need to tell him, “Look, you can’t keep coming around anymore. We love seeing you, and talking to you, and being near you. But it’s too hard. It hurts too much once we realize it’s not the truth.”

I had this little speech planned out, but when I went into the living room, it was dark, and he wasn’t there.

* * *

I just keep replaying that last part in my mind. I don’t know if I believe in ghosts, or communicating with the dead in dreams. I do believe there’s supernatural stuff we don’t understand, whether it’s the afterlife, or angels, or whatever.

In real life, had I seen my father’s ghost, I would not have had the guts to give him this little speech. Because part of me feels like those times in my dreams where he IS alive are so cool and wonderful that it’s better than nothing at all. Even if it hurts twice as bad as it feels good.

I’m almost afraid that if dreaming communication IS real, then I’ll never have another dream like that again. I’m afraid I subconsciously told him off, because even if my heart disagrees, my brain knows it’s for the best if the dreams stop.

Turning point?

Tonight, on the way home from work, something very important happened.
I thought about my dad and smiled. Like really, truly smiled. No tears.
I was running through some memories of him and came to the one where he visited one Fourth of July. He was holding his 4-month-old grandson and I was taking a bajillion pictures, trying to get the perfect one. One that I captured was of him, with a half-exasperated, half-smiling expression. It cracked me up then, and now too.
Maybe that last post was more cathartic than I thought.

Thoughts on grief

It has been so long since I posted anything. I still think about this blog, but I feel like I never have time to sit down and write anything. I can’t focus with a wild toddler at my feet!

Anyway, it has been almost two months since my dad unexpectedly passed away. I have a bunch of thoughts bouncing around in my head, some I wrote on my phone late at night, and I need to just get them out so maybe I can heal a bit. He loved reading anything I had written, so it feels appropriate to put them here.

* People tell me they are so sorry and can’t imagine what it must have been like to have no warning. To get a phone call at 8:15 p.m. on a normal Monday night that shatters your life. I say, it doesn’t matter. Even if I had been able to jump in the car and hold his hand at his bedside in a hospital for his last moments, the point is he still would have died. It still would have sucked. We parted on good terms, and I am eternally grateful for that and cling to that.

* One key to dealing with grief is that you can’t think about anyone else. It sounds harsh, but it’s true. Deal with your own stuff and don’t dwell on how other people are feeling.

I realized this shortly after word spread. I would check Facebook and see how other people were shocked and how they felt so sorry for my family. Every few minutes I’d check FB and see a new comment and I would start crying all over again. I started feeling so sad for people who felt sad for ME and the grief just compounded on itself.

I would think about how his siblings were devastated. Holding my sobbing uncle as he wrapped me in a crushing embrace with his big brother laying just a few feet away, I had to steel myself and just hug back. Thinking about how he would never walk my sister down the aisle or hold another grandbaby, I was sad for her. How my son won’t have any memories of him, I was sad for him. How he and my mom will never celebrate a 37th wedding anniversary, let alone a 40th. The grief, still in its early stages, became absolutely crushing.

* I still cry almost every day. It’s usually in the car on the way home from work. Why then? I don’t know. Maybe because it’s dark. Maybe because it means another day without my dad is in the books. It’s usually brief.

* In general, I’m just exhausted. Too tired to take Josiah to playdates, which makes me feel like a bad mother. Too tired to focus on normal tasks. Short with my husband and child. It’s worst in the morning.

* My faith was shaken by my dad’s death. It actually is still shaken, and I’m not sure how it will recover. I hear these songs on Christian radio about faith and joy and how He will never leave you and I am just nauseated. I want to believe in heaven but it’s so hard. And I feel like a stupid spoiled baby writing any of this, from my toasty cozy home on my nice computer with a full stomach while my wonderful husband and sweet boy sleep. And my dad had a beautiful, dignified funeral in a fancy casket with many of his loved ones around him. I’m so ungrateful. I mean, seriously, I’m not the first person who ever had a loved one die. What about all the people who have died in genocides or in third-world countries or in American ghettos? I’m sure their families were sad, too. But they moved on, because it’s life and life is hard. I hate not knowing what happens to us after we die.

* I recently sent condolences to a former co-worker about my age whose mother had died. As I did it, I thought of the two sorority sisters of mine who reached out to me, as their dads had recently passed as well. I have this sick feeling like I’m in a club I never asked to join.

* The fact that I no longer have my dad feels so wrong. Like wearing your shoes on the wrong feet. The situation is like an irritant, like something I wish I could just fix real fast, like getting an eyelash off my cornea and then feeling that physiological satisfaction of righting the wrong.

* These aren’t weepy, moany, sobby tears, but silent ones that trail down my face until they tickle behind my ears. They don’t elicit a sob or sniffle. They just flow freely as I ponder whether it’s worth the energy to say a prayer asking for God’s presence and continued healing, or whether I should just go to sleep.

* Everything is darker at night.
Fears are scarier.
Anger is redder.
Love and lust are more intense.
Sadness becomes despair.

-30-

One year!

I can’t believe my baby is already one. I wish I’d found more time over the past 12 months to blog more, or at least journal his progress.

He’s hardly a baby anymore. Every day he looks more like a “kid” and he literally does something new each week.

This week, he is crawling on all fours and pulling up on furniture with purpose. Last week, he was able to climb over the couch cushions we use as a barricade in our living room to keep him out of the kitchen (open floor-plan problems!). The week before, he army crawled. Before that, he went from tummy to sitting for the first time. So to recap, in less than a month, he went from being helpless on his stomach to practically getting up on the couch with us. Whew!

One of the decorations I put up for his baseball-themed party was a series of photos mounted on pieces of construction paper that said “March: 1st inning,” “April: 2nd inning,” and so on. I noticed I had very little selection for January. Hmm. I seem to recall him starting to scoot around pretty good about two weeks in. That month, he got too mobile for pictures and the ones I did get were blurry!

I’m proud also to say we are still breastfeeding. My initial goal was 6 months, then a year, and now I’m looking at 18 months. Ideally, he will wean himself. I don’t want to take a source of nutrition and comfort away if he’s not ready, but it will be a bit nice to have my body back to myself.

Nursing is something I feel very passionately about now. I am so encouraged to see my friends having success as well. I feel like it’s so important for my generation to break the formula pattern and go back to what’s best for babies, moms and the environment.

Given what we know now – and what scientists are continually discovering – about breastmilk’s nutritional properties, the benefits for moms, the incredible technology (electric pumps!), the new laws protecting a baby’s right to eat wherever/mom’s right to pump and the vast resource of the Internet available on our smartphones, I am hopeful nursing will become the norm. I hope American society “grows up” and quits looking at it like it’s a perverse thing. Pretty sure it’s what God and nature intended!

Anyway, off my soapbox… Previous posts were largely about sleep. Josiah sleeps better, though we abandoned crib training in November. It felt, and still does, I guess, like giving up. I never thought I’d be a co-sleeping advocate. But we were at our fatigue limits and pretty much had no choice. I’m a little embarrassed to admit I really like it. There’s something about having the two most important people in my immediate life within arm’s reach that’s incredibly comforting. There’s no wondering if he’s breathing – I can feel it, or at least hear it. There’s no trudging down the hall and picking up a distraught baby – I just roll over. I’ve never come close to squishing him. I feel like he’s safe with us.

And after about a year, he is finally on a good schedule. Used to be, he’d be awake for an hour, then act sleepy and want to nap for an hour. Up and down, all day, all night. Sometimes he’d stretch it to two. This lasted for approximately nine months. I started distracting him during the day and tried to lengthen the amount of time he stayed awake in hopes he’d condense his night sleep. It’s still a work in progress, but much better. Today, if he’s not teething too bad, he can be awake for 3-4 hours at a time. He also sleeps for 3-4 hours at a time at night.

We’ve gotten on the following schedule:

Between 8:30-9:30…Wake up.
Change diaper, then I eat breakfast.
Baby eats oatmeal with breastmilk then plays on the living room floor while I alternate playing with him and watching glancing at the TV/sorting laundry/washing dishes/starting dinner in slow cooker, etc.
I also read him books in the big comfy reading chair in his room.
11 a.m.: Morning nap (1 hour) for both of us, usually.
Noon: Lunchtime for both of us. Him puree, me whatever is filling and relatively fast. He gets bites of mine if it’s acceptable for babies.
More playtime. More chores. Sometimes we have playdates.
2 p.m.: Stroller time! If the weather’s nice. If not, it’s more playtime and maybe I’ll try to hop in the shower and get that out of the way well before work.
Used to be he liked to nap about this time, but for the past couple weeks he has been cutting out the afternoon nap. He still wants it on the bad teething days, though.
3:40 p.m.: Husband gets home. I try not to dump the baby on him, but usually there is at least one critical task I still have left to do before work (shower, dress, put on makeup/do hair, wash bottles and pump parts, pack a dinner, etc.).
4:20 p.m.: Leave for work
12:50ish a.m.: Get home. If all is quiet when I open the door, that’s an excellent sign.
2 a.m.: Go to bed. Josiah has been waking at 3 a.m. like clockwork the past few weeks, so he’ll nurse then, and again a couple more times before we do it all again.

If anyone has read this far, I’ll be stunned. This post has kind of devolved into a journal entry, so I apologize. But if you are enthralled by my minutia, buckle your seat belt…

I’ve been really spoiled lately. As previously mentioned, Josiah has been sleeping solidly until 3 a.m. That gives me a precious two hours after work to relax. My husband doesn’t have this luxury, but he also didn’t carry the child around for nine-plus months then feed him with his body on demand for the past year, so… I deserve it a bit, I think.

Anyway, I feel so blessed to have this life. I have a supportive, caring, loving, responsible partner who brings new ideas to the table and pushes me in the right direction with his parenting instincts. So many times, I’ve been reticent to try something new with Josiah (solids, anyone?) and come to find out I don’t know it all. He keeps me humble.

I’m also very glad Josiah has never been sick other than a stopped-up nose earlier this year that cleared up on its own and typical post-vaccination low-grade fevers.

Well, a woman cannot live on red velvet birthday cake and ice cream alone. Time for this mama to get yet another snack. 🙂