Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The best of times, the worst of times

McKay pointed something out to me last night.

He said, "Remember when we had Margaret, you got an anonymous comment on the blog from someone in the ward saying that if we didn't take the birth pictures down, they'd tell the bishop?"

Yes, I remember. The worst of Mormondom exploded in my inbox and comment thread. Another Mormon birth blogger wrote a post about how "immodest" it was for me to share those pictures and the floodgates of disapproval opened up. I got emails from people I didn't know telling me I was a disgrace to Mormondom. I deleted it all because I was newly postpartum and not as brave about those things as I am now.

McKay continued, "And last week, a member of our bishopric came up to me and said he saw the pictures and video of Linda's birth and wanted to comment on how happy you looked."

Yes. Five years later and two states over. What a difference.

I wanted to share this, partly as an FU to all those negative commenters from five years ago since Linda's birth video is way more explicit than my labor pictures from Margaret, and partly to say, "It can get better." I know people who have been bullied by church leaders for all sorts of things, but it can get better. Mormons can be downright jerks sometimes: gossiping, tattling. But there's also some good there. Unfortunately, it can very much depend on things outside your control- like location and who the leadership is. And I wish it didn't. At least we have the Internet now and can find like-minded people (hey all!) for support.

Also, everyone needs to move to the East Bay. It's a wonderful place.

Baby picture! QED.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Kindness of Strangers

The first week postpartum was rough... McKay was doing a lot, especially since meals hadn't been set up yet and so he was making dinner along with doing laundry and kids and errands. But this week was a little easier. I had set up a meal train to bring us meals. I collected the emails of people who had offered us food and put those into the meal train and let people pick which day was good for them. The meal train emails were mostly people from my blessingway and the homeschool group we're in.

My friend Ashley* had signed up to bring us a meal for last night. Ashley is in the homeschool group and her two youngest are the ages of Margaret and Isaac. We see each other a lot. I hadn't heard from her all day about the meal and wondered if I should call her, but I didn't. Right around 5:45 I got an email from Ashley explaining that she'd be late because her two year old daughter took a late nap and her husband was still on the BART on the way home from work.

Except... Ashley's two year old is a boy. And her husband works for the school district and does not take the BART home.

Slow realization: when I collected the emails, I copied the email of a different Ashley. And now a stranger I don't know was bringing me dinner. I was mortified.

McKay kept assuring me that it was an honest mistake. I don't know the last names of many of the families in the homeschool group- we're all on a first name basis, we're not work associates! The intended Ashley's children all have insect-related names* and this other Ashley's last name was Starburst*. I just assumed it was the same Ashley because hey, hippie names! And yeah, I know what happens when you assume...

After receiving that email, I responded, "It's ok," and spent the next couple of hours like this:

Who is this Ashley? I didn't know there were two Ashleys! Where is she from? I hope she's not from SF or the south bay and she's travelling all the way to our house and I don't even know her! And because of my mistake, there's an person worried and stressed about getting dinner to us on time. I am so embarrassed. What did I do?! I caused another family stress because of my incompetence and trouble with names. Life fail. Repeat ad infinitum. 

And yes, that lasted for two hours. I did go through the back emails on the homeschool list and discovered that she is from Richmond, so the drive wasn't terrible, but still!

Right before 8 o'clock, she showed up at our house. I sort-of recognized her. It'd been months since we've been at the same homeschool activity; she has a teenager and so they do more of the teen activities while I go to more of the younger-children-oriented activities. So at least I recognized her. Yes? That's sort-of good?

I need a day off from life.

*names and name-themes changed for privacy

Sunday, January 20, 2013

A Week

So 8 days ago, I was in awful labor and it was never going to end. Glad that's over.

Postpartum healing... so that's happening. The worst parts of the first few days were the breastfeeding and afterpains. Sore nipples for a few days, but a really good latch. My best guess (and totally a guess) for why breastfeeding is so painful those first couple of days is hormones. Pregnancy hormones make your nipples sensitive. And in the first few days before your hormones switch over to nursing hormones, you still have a good soup of pregnancy hormones in you. Once my milk "came in" the soreness eased up and latching stopped being as painful. On the other hand, it could just be related to a new baby learning to latch. Oh, and did I mention afterpains? Those suck. A lot.

Also those first few days my abs were so tired. Suddenly they hade to hold in my internal organs again and my uterus wasn't there to help out. Standing up for too long (aka 5 minutes)? Ouch. I had the hardest time simply trying to stand up straight. It's getting better.

My breasts started feeling fuller on day 2. And that's when I started having the irrational anxiety-ridden thoughts, but I think I handled them pretty well. Once I realized what was going on I tried to let myself see the thought and let it go. No, McKay probably did not fall and break his head open on the stairs on the way to doing the laundry, leaving me with 2 kids going crazy and a baby on my lap. It's ok. I would have heard a fall on the stairs anyway.

Hemorrhoids aren't as bad this time. That's good. In fact, I think they're gone already. I was having issues with them for at least 2 weeks after Isaac. I think I'm going to make it out of this alive!

It has been great having McKay home. He does so much stuff! Like mopping. And fighting these ants. Why am I the stay at home parent again? He's way better at this stuff than I am. I'm so happy he gets 7 weeks off. It feels extremely luxurious that he doesn't go back to work until March. He can split is leave up over the first year of Linda's life and I'm wondering if maybe we should do that. Or we can have 7 weeks off and enjoy ourselves.

Linda is getting older. Meconium has been gone for a while (huge blow out the first night though... ugh). She's my first baby to not have jaundice, which I attribute to spending most of her life in our south-facing front room with lots of sunlight. With the other two, we didn't have such lovely windows. She's also spending a little more time awake. The first few days we rarely saw her eyes open. Now she'll stay awake for 45 minutes or an hour. Of course, she just stares there. I wonder what it's like to be a baby and have things just happen to you.

Our goals for this next week include getting the paperwork from the midwives to file the birth certificate. And McKay thinks he's going to get up every morning to work out like he was before Linda was born. I would like to simply keep up with my emails and other errands like going to the post office.

Also, check out that crease on her nose. It makes her look grumpy, even when she is content. Like  Grumpy Cat, she is Grumpy Baby. Other notable features: she has McKay's double cowlick. And a red birth mark on her left eyelid that you can only see with her eyes closed. I had a similar mark on my hand when I was a baby, but it has faded over time, which I expect hers to do as well. Her eyes are dark, so I'm guessing she'll have my eyes. I have dark blue and McKay has bright blue. Margaret got McKay's eyes- and it was noticeable even when she was this young. Isaac got my dark blue and I think Linda will too. And personally, I think she looks like my newborn pictures. And those cheeks! So much cheek! I can't wait until her scrawny frog legs catch up with her cheeks. There will be chubs! Everywhere!

Baby's first babywearing at 5 days old. She's in the wrap here. And since we rarely get to be in a picture at the same time, McKay and I are here, too.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Linda's birth

This is a birth story. That means I'll be talking about vaginas and poop and all those sorts of things. And I don't really give birth fully dressed. You've been warned. There is also a link to the video of the birth. 

In the weeks up to Linda's birth, I kept thinking she'd be born on a weekend. Every time a weekend came I'd think, "Is it this weekend?" And when Monday came, I felt let down that now I'd have to wait five more days.

Linda dropped in my belly a week before Christmas and when that happened, all the prodromal labor seemed to cease. I spent the last few weeks fairly comfortable and without many contractions. On Sunday the 6th, while I was sitting in church, I felt the contractions move lower like menstrual cramps, which I knew was a good thing. If I relaxed and focused on them, I could feel them dilating my cervix. But this week was too busy to really focus on that: the landlords were redoing the floor in the room above our bedroom, so Isaac wasn't getting any of his regular naps and then they wanted to fix a hole in our living room floor. Also, they wanted me to watch their daughter Monday and Tuesday (I limited it to Monday) and didn't seem to understand that I might have a baby. It was stressful.

When this most recent weekend came up, I woke up on Friday morning thinking, "This will probably be the weekend." I wasn't sure if it would start Friday or not, but I was thinking it. After all, if this pregnancy followed the timeline my previous one did, as far as dates, Linda was supposed to be born on Sunday. And if this pregnancy was going to be "typical" and the baby would come sooner than the previous one, then Friday and Saturday were it.

Friday night I kept thinking, "Saturday," so I messaged Jena, a doula and massage therapist friend of mine, whom I thought I might want at the birth to see how busy her Saturday would be. She lives an hour away, but happened to have an audition in Oakland around 1 in the afternoon.

I slept fairly well Friday night. My uterus was pretty quiet. The only time I woke up was when Isaac had kicked off his blanket in the middle of the night and wanted someone to help him settle back down.

At seven in the morning, after waking up, I was having those low menstrual-like cramps and decided to focus and try to relax through them because I knew they would help dilate my cervix. I told McKay that I'd be "breathing" through them, but not to worry because I can still talk through them- I was just trying to put myself in birthing mindset. By 9am, I was getting very close to not being able to talk through them any more. I listened to the Hypnobabies birth affirmations track and I told McKay that I thought we should fill up the pool. He said that he thought that I said that my breathing through these cramps was just something I was doing, but I could talk through them. I told him, no, we need to get the pool out, so he started blowing it up and filling it. Strangely, I also had a couple of moments of just crying. McKay didn't notice and I don't know why. I think that impending labor and birth was just a little much for me to think about.

I spent the next couple of hours debating whether or not to call the midwife, J. She had all these ideas that I'd have a baby before Christmas (yeah... no...) and that since this is my third child, it'll go fast. I didn't want to call her too early and then have her sit around for a long third labor and wonder what was wrong with my body that it doesn't work. I called her around 11am and told her that things were 5-7 minutes apart. She had attended a birth the day before (actually her last for January except for me-- and I was "due" January 1) and had called me after that birth on Friday afternoon to see if I wanted my dilation checked, which I turned down. So she had a newborn visit to do and since things were "slow," she'd come after. At noon she called me to ask if things had picked up. I wasn't paying attention to the clock, so I said I'd time some contractions for her.

While that was happening, the pool was done. I was having bad lower back labor and wanted to get in the tub, but we couldn't keep it warm. The tile in the kitchen was sucking out all the warmth from the water. I got in anyway because my feet were cold and the water was warmer than my feet. The midwife's partner, L, came at this point and my contractions were 2-3 minutes apart. I got out of the tub, dried off (check out my Wonder Woman bikini top!) and sat on the ball and switched various positions to deal with the back labor. L put pressure on my back, but to be honest, I wish McKay was doing that since he would have put more pressure and I needed a lot of counter pressure. He stayed close by. I was having hot flashes and the shakes and shivers. That's pretty normal, but I kept a blanket on. For a little while, the kids went upstairs to play with the little boy who is about Isaac's age, but when it was his naptime, his mom sent my kids back down.

Before J showed up. Blurry pics! This is our dining room. We moved our bikes out of the kitchen and you can see them against the window/door.

J showed up at some point. She's a talker and that was kind of annoying at times. My friend Jena also showed up after her audition, so I guess that was after 2 some time, and took my kids to the park. I had called other people earlier in the day for child care, but being Saturday, most people had plans.

I was really tired. I had been telling McKay that all day. I really just wanted to take a nap, even back at 10am, but I couldn't. The midwives suggested I try resting on the bed or couch. I opted for the couch because our mattress is directly on the floor and I didn't want to have to get up from the floor to have a baby after being down. I probably spent half an hour to 45 minutes on the couch. L put pressure on my back, McKay held my hands. Every time I got a rest and got close to dozing off, my uterus and back would remind me that I'm supposed to be having a baby. Every other contraction, I'd have a hot flash or get the chills. I also spent a lot of the contractions hiding my face with my hands. It's like I wanted more privacy and I had to go away. You can see that in the pictures.

As I was getting ready to lie down on the couch. Hiding my face. Could have used a little more back pressure, to be honest.

I had felt a little pushy before lying down and my brain kept telling me that if I just tried being upright I'd have a baby. But I was tired. And the midwives kept telling me that I was still in dilation phase. I figured they hear more birthing women than I do, so they must know based off my sounds. Eventually they asked me if I normally was more upright in my previous labors and I said, "Yes." So it was suggested that I try laboring in the shower with warm water on my back. That felt a lot better and I was getting pushy there. There was one point where I "pushed" in the shower but then stopped myself because I was afraid. After the hemorrhoids I had with Isaac, I was scared to bear down this time around. I had L hold the shower spray on my back and McKay held me upright while I was in the shower. The warm water only lasted 3 or so contractions and I had to get out. I took off my bikini top at that point because I didn't want wet, cold clothes on me. I was still having chills and shakes.

Sometime in this Jena had come back with the kids and they went upstairs again to play with that little boy whose nap was over.

I moved over to the couch and leaned on the armrest, so I was in a hand/knees/kneeling position. I had a contraction or two there and got very discouraged because the pushy feeling had left. In a particularly long lull (you know... 2-3 minutes), I said out loud, "No baby coming." But everyone heard "Baby coming." So they got all excited and I was all, "No!" My brain was so distraught that I was no longer pushy and everyone was waiting for a baby.

Then immediately, a contraction happened and I pushed and suddenly I felt the balloon of my water come out (also, I pooped, which I knew was going to happen, but I couldn't stop it). It was like my vagina was blowing bubble gum, but with the water sac being the gum. I guessed it was probably 6-8 inches in diameter from what I was feeling and so I declared, "Nope! Baby is coming!" My water broke and Linda's head crowned. Lots of voices all at once. Someone said, "That's the head!" And I couldn't tell if they meant that the head was out all the way and the pressure I was feeling was the shoulders trying to get through, or if that was just them saying the head was crowning. I quickly realized it was just a crowning head. I eased that out (loudly) while L put a warm wash cloth on my perineum and told me to push into the warmth/heat. McKay said he could see the face. I was just trying to stay upright- my body was so tired and I don't think my legs wanted to stay attached to my hips.

Once the head was out, I asked if I needed to wait for the shoulders to turn. I was ready to rest to allow that to happen, but the answer was, "No" so I kept on with the pushing. They moved my leg up, but I didn't feel very stable. Lots of noise was happening (mostly from me) and I couldn't think, so I just pushed a baby out. Linda was placed underneath me, but because my hips felt like falling off, I didn't want to pick her up right away because I was afraid I'd fall over or drop her. In the blur, I thought I saw a vulva, so I announced it was a girl. In the video, you hear me saying, "I don't know what I'm supposed to do," and that's because I was afraid if I sat back too quickly, my legs really would fall off and I'd fall off the couch. She was born at 4:18pm.

If you want to see the video of crowning to birth, it's here. There was a ton of meconium everywhere, which is why I mention the mess that's there. Also, I did all that without tearing. Sweetness!

She was really vernix-y, which I thought was great. One of the biggest issues I had with J as a midwife was that she didn't seem to believe me when I told her that my babies went over dates, but didn't show signs of being post-dates. Her conclusion was that I must have had my dates wrong (I don't...). So showing her a very vernix-y 41 and a half week 10 pounder was a bit of a gloating thing for me. See! My babies just grow big!

After sitting back, I started nursing her and the afterpains happened and it was like I never had a baby and was still in labor. The kids came down and met Linda.

Kids meeting Linda. I like Isaac's expression in the second one.

Same pic, but this time I'm in the middle of an afterpain. Sucky suck suck suck. It's like being in labor, but with no baby at the end.

More nursing

I've never had to work at getting a placenta, so I just laid back and figured it'd come out on its own. After half an hour or 45 minutes of waiting, the midwives were getting a little nervous about that, so they had me squat and wait for pushy contraction. It came out with about 3 cups of blood and clots, about 50 minutes after the birth. I know that's nearing "hemorrhaging" proportions, but to be honest, it seemed about right from what I remember from the other births and told the midwives that I just bleed a lot. I give blood regularly and I know what too much blood loss feels like and I wasn't feeling it. On the plus side, the back labor with my afterpains got better after the placenta was out. Still happened, though.

Placenta was inspected. It was big and whole, no calcification or other signs of age (none of my placentas had any calcification).

Linda wasn't weighed until after the placenta was out, but I figured the few teaspoons of colostrum she had wouldn't make much difference in weight. She was 10 pounds even, which was bigger than I thought- I was guessing around 9 pounds since that's between Isaac and Margaret's weights.

Jena went and got me gyros for my first meal postpartum. That was lovely. Midwives cleaned every thing up. Ended up not using the pool because of temperature issues, but McKay emptied it and cleaned up. I missed out on a potluck we were planning on going to that night (sorry about not calling you back, Fran!)

Linda on Sunday morning:

Oh my goodness, labor is intense. I was hoping that the Hypnobabies stuff would be more effective, but I think I'm too cerebral for that. Lots of back labor and I don't know why. Maybe I'm just doomed. I think a warm tub would have been nice, or if the water heater could hold more hot water and I could shower with water on my back longer. And I need McKay putting pressure on my back. I'm glad he got the video. I just watched it for the first time while typing this up and it doesn't seem as chaotic as it felt in my brain. Seriously, I felt like everyone was talking all at once and it was very disorienting for me. But I know McKay felt glad people were there because with juggling the kids, he wouldn't have been able to do as much hand-holding and support-giving if he was the only person there. And if I had thought my brain hadn't erased the intensity of Isaac's birth, I'm not sure if it'll ever erase this one. Intense. Seriously, anyone with back labor needs to figure out how to manage it better than I have been doing. This is why people get epidurals and I don't blame them.

But yay, baby! We went to bed that night and got a little sleep... until Linda decided that she had to poop meconium out her diaper at 4 am. Fun times.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Samus was born!

So... I had a baby yesterday. Birth story and possible video to come. I haven't watched the video myself yet because I'm still processing.

Linda Renee
22 inches long
10 pounds, even
14 inch head circumference
Born at home 4:18 pm PST, 11 days "over" the LMP-based due date
Had midwives, which was nice when McKay took video and when I needed extra people for back pressure. Linda was in the perfect LOA position and yet I still had back labor. Boo!

Early labor started at 9am. Active, around eleven or noon. I think. Pushing stage was something around 10 minutes.

Latched and nursed when she was 8 minutes old. I'm healing up well, I believe. No tearing. Took almost an hour for placenta to come out. Lots of afterpains, which aren't very fun at all.

ETA: Fun birth trivia!

You know how supposedly more babies are born on full moons? Well, my babies have been born on every quarter except the full. Margaret was a 3/4 moon baby, Isaac was a day before the 1/4 moon, and Linda was born the day after a new moon.

Each of my babies were born on Saturdays. Margaret's labor went from Thursday night to Saturday evening. Isaac was early Saturday morning (2am) to regular Saturday morning (7:30). And Linda was Later morning to afternoon on a Saturday.

For each birth, I was on hands and knees, facing south. Every time I visualized Linda's birth, I just naturally imagined facing that way and then I realized I had done that with the other two also. Facing the sun.

Margaret had light blond, barely there hair. Isaac and Linda were born with full heads of dark hair.

Every person I met on buses or on the street for the past many months have felt like it was their duty to tell me I was having a boy because I was carrying low. Ok fine, every person except 2 people. When I saw Linda was a girl, I thought to myself, "Suck it, Oakland! I'll show you who can carry a girl low!" It was really annoying to have people "guarantee" to me it was a boy. I'd have been happy with a boy, but I'm not happy with people being nosy know-it-alls after judging how my abs have held up over the past 3 pregnancies.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Belly Cast

Last weekend we did a belly cast. I originally wanted to do it over Thanksgiving break because I didn't want my belly to be too big. I've seen casts of very large bellies or bellies with twins and I'm not much of a fan of the very oblong shape that happens at the end. But we are procrastinators, so what can I say?

Here are some "action shots" of McKay layering the plaster on my belly. I was standing.

It pulled a little bit on my small belly hairs, particularly on the sides along the top. Every time I had a Braxton Hicks, the cast would be pushed away from my belly and once it ended, it was right back on my shape.

We used plaster strips. They needed to sit on my belly for 15 minutes to set and then we took it off to dry for a couple of days. It would have dried faster, except it's been humid because of the rainy season.

Look! You can see my belly button!

I'm not sure how we'll decorate it. One Twitter person suggested yarn bombing it. Margaret wants to paint it. I told McKay we should seal it and use it as a chip or popcorn bowl.

Despite doing this a month and a half after I originally planned, I'm really pleased with the shape. It is definitely not as oblong as I assumed from the comments I get on the street. Seeing my belly cast makes it seem a lot smaller. Maybe people in Oakland have no idea what pregnancy looks like, because this is not a huge belly.

I'll share what the finished project looks like later when I decide how I want to decorate it.