Thursday, March 25, 2010

The day-to-day

As usual, just when we feel we have figured out Theo's patterns, he changes them. Instead of focusing on specifics, here's a general breakdown of his habits.

Theo usually has two wakeful periods in a day. The morning one starts about 8am and is usually overwhelmingly happy. The evening one starts about 4pm and is usually overwhelmingly cranky. Wakefulness lasts anywhere from 2 to 5 hours. Otherwise, he's pretty much asleep.

When he's in a good mood he's hilarious to be around. Check out all the recent videos here. He's beginning to make some spectacular noises, chuckling and making back-of-the-throat gasps, aka Baby Pterodactyl sounds. His smiles are huge, bigger than any adult ever smiles, taking up his entire being with their intensity. It's hard enough to get the video camera on him at the right time, never mind trying to get the perfect photograph, as these moments are unpredictable. There's nothing like seeing him decide that life is wonderful. Another cliche proven true - his laughter is all I need to keep going.

It's a good thing, too, because the evening crankiness can be very challenging. Just when I want to make and eat dinner, he needs endless attention. Greg and I hand the task of cooking dinner back and forth as his needs require - if Theo's in a good mood, Greg gets him, and if he needs food, I handle him. Quite often he's at his worst when dinner is ready and I have to put off eating. It can be tough to end up with a cold dinner.

"Cranky" means he's unhappy, of course, but here's what his crankiness consists of. I feed him until he wails and then I try to burp him. Sometimes the burp just won't come. It may not sound like much, but just patting him on the back for 15 minutes straight (or longer) is exhausting. Pacing while carrying him sometimes helps the burp happen, or at least calms him considerably, making it extra exhausting. Even if he burps relatively quickly, he can keep eating and burping for hours if he's in the worst sort of mood. He may yell the entire time (except when actually eating) making everything even more wearying. Some nights this marathon has run on for 3 hours, leaving everyone frazzled.

I'm glad to report that all this has gotten better - or at least, we have gotten better at handling it. I happened across the Dunstan Baby Language concept and had instant results applying it. Quite often I can decipher what he needs and provide it quickly. It also serves as a confidence builder. The more capable we feel, the better the baby responds to us.

His naps have gotten longer and longer, often three and even four hours instead of two. His first stint of the night is the longest. Night feedings are short - seems that it's not hunger that wakes him, it's digestive stuff. I'm considering trying the "pat and put back" method in an attempt to get him to sleep all the way through. I'm not overly concerned by it at this point, as I can usually get an afternoon nap in, helping me feel like I'm getting just about enough sleep. It took me a while to allow myself to get very little done on any given day, but once I let go of that and embraced sleeping more, I became happier with everything, and far more able to deal with a possibly cranky child.

That's the most important thing...dealing with stressful crying situations, not from a place of exasperation, but with an even hand and an upbeat attitude. He deserves it.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The day we haz a bebe.

Ok, ok - here is the birth story. I do wish I'd gotten it done sooner as remembering details this far out is near impossible. I wanted this blog to carry the full telling, and it took a while to get it down.

Theo Allen Sloan, born January 9th, 2010 at 4:14pm. Five pounds, eleven ounces, 19 inches. Three weeks early.

I know I don't have to apologize for being away, and that everyone understands, but I do wish I could have blogged from the hospital but I just didn't have the time. Getting settled at home has been another adventure.

Anyway - let's get to the story. I'll try to keep it less than graphic, but it is a childbirth and requires a certain amount of, shall we say, squishiness. Also, please excuse the changes in tense and the tons of errors I'm sure I haven't caught - I will never get this thing published otherwise.


Friday, January 8th was a day I didn't have to go to work (I worked alternating Friday/Saturdays). As usual with my Fridays off, I had plenty of errands and chores I wanted to get done. I took my Honda in for an oil change at the dealer, bought my dad a birthday present (we were to see family on Sunday for that event), and wrapped the gift. A couple of electricians came in to install the ceiling light in the kid's room, and after their quick work, wished me good luck with the baby.

A pretty successful Friday off.

At 3:20am that night, I woke up and went to the bathroom, as I have been doing nearly every night for 6 months. When I got back to bed I realized that it wasn't really a bathroom trip that had woken me up. I had been having Braxton Hicks contractions here and there for a while, and the last few days had been pretty frequent. Now, I felt contractions and assumed they must be more Braxton Hicks...though the thought that they were strong enough to wake me from sleep planted the seed that this might be more serious stuff.

Even so, it wasn't painful, just a stretching feeling, like flexing muscles. I settled back in bed and tried to relax. Even if this was real labor (how could it be, it's so early yet!) the advice I was given was to relax and let things progress at home as much as possible. I did not disturb Greg - if anyone needed more sleep before the trip to the hospital, it would be him.

The contractions came and went rather regularly, though I wasn't timing or anything. After 20 minutes, I decided I should get out of bed and perhaps read something about Braxton Hicks, as in, how can you tell whether they are BH or real contractions. I was beginning to suspect this was the real deal and it made me too nervous to continue to lie in bed. I left Greg asleep and went downstairs.

The sequence was short - a second bathroom trip, a selection of pregnancy books, a settling in, opening a book and flipping to the index....and my water broke.

The adrenaline rush kicked in and after a quick restroom check, I tried to gently wake my husband with the news. Took him a moment to get over surprise and shock at the sudden situation.

Remember, we are 3 weeks prior. I have a bag mostly packed, and I have my lists written up, but it had seemed like we had time. We had things planned, lots yet to do. Throughout our night, I kept feeling like I had come unstuck in time and lost 3 weeks. How did we get here so quickly? Even while we know that this isn't something we can schedule, it still never seems like it's THAT out of our control. When else would something this momentous schedule itself, other than the truly unpredictable, such as car accidents and overnight illnesses. Unlike those, we did know this was coming, but didn't know when.

Greg came downstairs and it was less than a minute later that I felt the waters continue to come. Now we were sure it was the water and not bloody show. Breaking your water is like popping a small hole in a water balloon, with the water continuing to trickle out, and that's exactly what I had.

Once your water is broken you are hospital bound, as the baby is now vulnerable to infection from the outside world. On the plus side, this means no hemming and hawing over whether they'll let us in or not. We got to work, Greg packing his clothing, me shoving the laptop in a bag, both of us in a serious get-it-done mode as my contractions continued to come regularly. Thank goodness my last minute pack list was done, as I didn't have to think at all to get everything in the bag. The bunnies were fed and off we went.

We got to the hospital in about 15 minutes. Greg timed the contractions on the way - 30-45 seconds each, 2 minutes apart. Already. By the time we hit the emergency entrance, the pain was beginning to show up.

There was a strange interlude in the emergency entrance, which you will appreciate if you are of our generation. There were only two other people in the waiting area - a man and a young boy, probably 8 years old. They didn't seem ill themselves, and in fact the man was playing some portable video game system, with the boy looking on and commenting nearly constantly. As Greg dealt with the lady at the counter and I held onto a chair for stability, we overheard the boy say to the man, "What kind of Mario games did they have when you were a kid?" Greg and I could not contain ourselves. Oh, future son, what a world I have to show to you...

Then, it was the wheelchair, which was the first of much hospital help to come that I greatly appreciated. It's an other worldly feeling, breathing through contractions as the halls move past you, reminiscent of dolly shots in medical movies. I've never stayed in a hospital before. Not surprising this would evoke film, my only point of reference.

We arrive at our Labor and Delivery room and just getting on the bed makes me feel much better. All the hustle of getting here is over, and we're going to be taken care of. The room is smallish, which I also like, perhaps because I can see everything at once.

They put the two sensors on my belly - one to measure the strength of contractions (just a pressure gauge) and one to measure the baby's heartbeat. They hook me up to the computer, and Greg can see when my contractions are coming on and coach me through them.

We work on the labor for some time. The contractions are painful, but nothing I can't handle. In between, my body is flooded with endorphins, and I feel fantastic. It's almost as if the endorphins make me forget how painful the contractions are...or that the reward for getting through the contraction was so good that the pain seemed worth it.

The nurses come in periodically to check on us and check the machines, and we call them for small favors, but most of the time Greg and I are alone. He does an amazing job keeping an eye on the machines and getting me to stay focused. At some point, Greg's parents show up and stay with us for a bit, and I'm social enough that I hold court with them in between focused breathing. After a while, we had to ask them to leave, as things were getting more serious for me.

At 9am (5 hours after my water broke) they checked me for dilation. I was very excited to see what my progress was after all that time and work. When the nurse said I was at only 1 centimeter, meaning I was going nowhere, I was surprised and dismayed.

There was no option - since the water was already broken, the baby has to come out as soon as possible, and without progression, they administer pitocin. Pitocin makes the contractions happen faster, stronger, harder.

I was dismayed. I'd been excited to do the labor myself, and while the early hours of labor had been challenging they had also been fun, with Greg and I working together to get through it. Once pitocin is administered a natural birth isn't really an option anymore, but there was nothing else to be done. I hoped that I'd be able to handle the pain, but very quickly it was too much for me. I found myself dreading the contractions. As each one built and peaked I felt my disappointment growing - I would not be able to do this without painkillers. I asked what my options were and they offered either an epidural or a general narcotic painkiller in an IV called Nubain, which they said would last about 2 hours. I still wanted to avoid the full epidural so I asked for the Nubain instead. I was glad when it came on fast and strong. It made me dizzy and generally happier and the pain was muted for a while, but after only half an hour things were already getting unhappy again, probably due to my speedy metabolism. I asked for another hit of Nubain and it also didn't last long at all. I was then out of options, and resigned myself to the epidural. I was definitely disappointed in having to get it, as I still couldn't get over that the pitocin was a game changer. In any case, I wanted this to be the best day of my life, not the worst.

So I resignedly ask for the epidural and the anesthesiologist is summoned. By the time she showed up, set up her equipment, and gave me the paperwork to sign, I was ready to beg for the pain-free experience. It didn't help that she asked Greg to leave while she worked, leaving me without my coach, and that I was still heady from the Nubain. I won't say that I was panicked - more that I was focused on the end goal of getting the epidural. All I could think was, "whatever you want me to do, I will do it, just please get me there..."

And then, the nurse said I would probably feel 3 more contractions. I felt one and a half, and then they melted from my perception. It's hard to describe the relief I felt.

If you don't know what an epidural actually is, here's a quick primer. They poke a hole in your back and insert a very tiny tube into a space in your spinal column, then drip amazing anesthetics in, numbing your entire lower body. From my waist downward, I was meat in flesh, which was rather bizarre. To keep the drip in place my back was covered in tape.

Within moments of the drugs taking effect, I was chatting happily with the anesthesiologist and the nurse. Looking back on it, I think they asked me general questions to see how well I was doing. The change in my attitude was instantaneous.

I texted Greg to let him know I was doing great and that he could come back. He showed up with some food leftovers. I had been hungry for hours and had forbidden him from showing me any food, as I wasn't allowed to eat anything during the labor. Now, with the amazing drugs under my belt, I told him he could snack, and if he wanted to watch the football game on our room's TV, he could do that. I was just so happy to be pain-free and have him back. Greg likes to say that he wishes I'd get an epidural every Sunday.

At this point I tried to get some form of rest, and while some time did pass, it really wasn't very long at all before the nurse checked me and said in complete nonchalance that I was fully dilated. Suddenly I felt extremely unprepared. She said she could feel the head, and that since things were going well, we could wait another half hour for things to get even closer and then a few pushes would finish the job. I asked her to dial down the epidural so that by the time it came to push I could feel more of what was going on down there.

She walked out and Greg and I were agog at each other. Only 30 minutes and it would be over, our baby would be here. All I could think was, I'm going to meet him, I'm going to see his face!

Soon enough, the half hour was up. The nurse came back in and had another look. "How about you give me a push?" I did, and this time, even Greg saw the baby's head. "Ok, looks like this is going just fine. Your doctor is still 20 minutes away, though. We'd like to wait for him to get here. Can you hold off for a little longer?" I was still in a very good mood and didn't have any issue with waiting, as long as the kid was in good shape. The idea of him hanging out in the birth canal, already crowning, made me worry for him slightly, but if the nurse was this comfortable with the situation then so was I. Her attitude seemed to be that this was par for the course.

At this point I was feeling the contractions a bit and the urge to push was real. With each contraction I repeated, "I will NOT push, I will NOT push..." with Greg helping as usual.

Then the doctor arrived, and though it took him some time to get set up, it didn't seem long at all to me. Extra nurses came in and our little room was much busier. After things were set and he had a look, the doctor said he wanted to do an episiotomy. I didn't really care at this point so I let him go ahead. I didn't feel a thing, of course.

Then it was time to push. We waited for a contraction, and I gave about 3 big pushes. There was a slight break between contractions. Another push had his head out, and another push got the rest of him.

As soon as he was out, he was crying loudly. He did have some of the cheesy covering on his skin but you could still see that he was a healthy pink color. They put him on my stomach, attacked him with towels and sucked fluid out of his mouth and nose.

I looked at this baby on me and I didn't know what to do. I thought things like "here he is" and "he's healthy" but everything was muffled and unreal. Greg cut the cord, and they put the baby on my bare chest and went to work on me down below.

I had prepared myself for a "gross" baby, covered in goo, with gray skin and a blotchy face. This was not a gross baby. Still, he was brand new, and I was a brand new mom, and the whole thing was still a shock. I don't remember doing or saying much at that point, just laying there and looking at him and being with Greg. After awhile I looked up and said "Is that the placenta?" The doctor showed it to me, and while I'd been extremely curious about it during my pregnancy, at this moment it seemed pointless to spend time on it when I had a new baby in my arms. The doctor sewed up the episiotomy and probably did other things but I couldn't feel any of it and was beyond distracted by the baby, who was warm and beautiful and glowingly healthy.

I just held him and held him and after what seemed like a blissful eternity they wanted to weigh him. After only a moment away for the measurements they gave him back, and I held him for even longer until the official baby clean up nurse came in to give him a full bath and do some standard tests. Hearing him cry while these necessities were performed sounded so alien to me - this is what it was like, hearing a baby in seeming distress, realizing it's YOUR baby, and wishing you could soothe him.

At this point, in came another nurse, with trays of food for Greg and I. Full meals with tea and side dishes and dessert. It had been about 20 hours since I'd last eaten. I nearly cried in appreciation. My first taste of hospital food was well earned and it was delicious.

This was also the point where I wanted to post things to this blog and elsewhere, letting everyone know that it was done and everything was fine. As you probably know I was anticipating this moment when I originally set up this blog. I had tested my ability to post from my phone and even post photos. But...when I picked up my phone I realized this was impossible, as my hands were shaking terribly. Waning drugs and adrenaline had my nervous system in a total mess. Reluctantly, I decided it would have to wait. If my mind were in a more stable state I would have simply typed out the basics and sent it but I couldn't even manage that.

Theo passed all the reflex tests with flying colors and his Apgar score was 9 out of 10, proving that while he was "early" he definitely wasn't a preemie.

Theo after his tests, under daddy's watchful eye:

When all that was done we made the move to the postpartum room - Greg shlepping all our stuff, me and my numb legs in a wheelchair, and Theo in his rolling bassinet.


Before I get tempted to go further, I'm going to stop here and get this posted. Theo is about 2.5 months old now, and I think that's as long as I'm allowed to let this go unpublished. Suffice it to say that the next two days at the hospital were wonderful and the weeks since have been amazing. Generic happy terms, but true, and there's no way to describe all of it more clearly that you haven't heard before. Our lives are inexplicably changed. Everything else seems small in comparison. He's a joy even while he's a challenge and we're feeling up to whatever comes our way, even as we realize that we know nothing going in. The adventure continues!

Just for fun, here is one last photo of me pregnant. We never did get a comparison pic close to before the baby was born, so this is it, me at maximum size.