Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Stick out your tongue and say "Red!"

I know, I know. It's after 1 a.m. and I should be sleeping. Well, for your information, I am pumping. Emma just inhaled 4 oz of breast milk and probably would have had more had there been any. Its the most she's ever eaten in one sitting.

Today has been a day of milestones. A trip to the WIC office revealed that Emma is now 6 lb 7 oz, quite the development considering her hospital discharge weight was only 5 lb 12 oz. I told Emma how proud of her I was, but she just stuck her tongue out at me. That's something she's been doing for the last few days. She sticks it out, moves it from side to side, licks her hand, and makes little smacking noises during feedings. I guess for a two-week old squirt like her, a tongue is a new and fascinating thing.

Emma also had her first restaurant experience today when Mom and I stopped at Bob Evan's. We happened to get our favorite waiter (sweet kid named Alexx, has performance art major written all over him in bold cursive), which was nice. I had the spinach tomato breakfast bowl. Emma had formula.

When we got home, Emma had another feeding. But instead of going to sleep like she usually does, her eyes were wide open. She wasn't fussy at all. She just sat, looking at the purple curtains. I started telling her about the curtains, but she wasn't really interested in knowing where they came from, so I got out some stroller cards and we looked at colors. She really liked the red cards, and the mirror. After a half hour, I grabbed a book and took her down to her grandma so I could do a few things. I'm told she was fascinated with the green pages, and the white page with the black and white penguin. All told, she was wide awake for about an hour. That, my friends, is a record.

Now let's see how long she can sleep...

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Baby Happened: The Story

"Good grief, kid," I think to myself at 3 a.m. as Emma sucks down a third ounce of breast milk. It's pretty hard to believe that almost two weeks ago I was feeding her five milliliters at a time with a hospital syringe.

To really start this story, we'll have to rewind to Sunday, August 15th. It was a hot day, but my two cousins and I had planned this trip to the zoo a good month in advance, and there was no way we were backing out because of a little sun. I was smart, packing baby carrots and plenty of bottled water in a cooler (which my cousin Justin graciously carried for me through the entire trip). We got to Toledo about a half hour after they opened and stayed until well after 3. Several offers were made to push me in a wheel chair, but I was determined to stay on my own two feet. We toured the entire zoo, visiting the elephants, the penguins, and, finally, the gift shop. It was a great day that I wouldn't have traded for anything.

Needless to say, I slept in the next morning. I got up around 11:30, feeling fantastic. Now, (guys might want to skip a few sentences) as a woman, but especially as a pregnant woman, I am used to fluids and such in the nether areas. So when I found a teeny bit of clear fluid, I didn't think anything of it. I'd heard that pregnancy can make you a little incontinent. Then a teeny bit became a teeny bit more. I made a mental note, but still didn't think much of it. I put on a pad, figuring I'd check in an hour to see if there was more, and then walked down stairs to let my mom know, just in case. The words that came out of my mouth sounded rather like this:

"Hey, Mom, just to let you know, my underwear was a little wet this morning. I put a pad on, just in case, but I don't think-- Oh my." My pants were soaked.

No doubt about it. My water had broken. I still felt fantastic, though, so I called Meng to let him know, hopped in the shower and got myself around before heading to the hospital. At 1:30, when I checked in, I still hadn't felt a contraction.

Around 4 p.m., the doctor decided to give me pitocin to help the contractions along. I was still pretty comfortable when Meng arrived an hour later.

After that point, my sense of time gets a little hazy. I know that by 6 p.m., I was doing my best to sleep between contractions, and that by 8 p.m., I had asked the nurses to stop chatting in my room and rather rudely told my (abused but understanding) boyfriend to stop munching his carrots. I'm told that I started asking to push around 10, and that I was given the go-ahead an hour later. I must have succeeded in resting a little because for me, the two hours between 10 and midnight felt like a half hour.

After what seemed like 10 minutes of pushing (but they tell me was an hour), and quite the episiotomy (they cut some tissue "down there" and had to sew me up later), Emma made her entrance into the world.

Sometime I'll tell you about how my concept of the 1 to 10 pain scale has been altered forever.

She passed all the necessary tests, but from the start, she wouldn't nurse. I found out later that this is a common problem for newborns, particularly preemies, but at the time I just felt like a failure. A talk with the lactation consultant didn't help. Even using the breast pump they brought me, my supply was going out, and we had to switch her to formula. We used a syringe to feed her, in hopes of keeping her from getting too used to a bottle nipple.

The problems continued all night and into the next day. She was completely lethargic, and wasn't waking up even to eat. She wouldn't even cry. The lactation consultant had told us to strip her down to her diaper to wake her up each time we fed her. This might have been good for a full-term baby, but it wasn't effective for Emma. When the nurse came to take her temperature the next morning, she didn't even register on the thermometer.

After an hour under a heat lamp, and a better controlled environment, her temperature stabilized. She still wasn't eating well, but we were given a regimen to follow and they sent us home. Now, thanks to an amazing Medela hospital-grade breast pump (turns out my supply was going out because the pump at the hospital sucked, or rather didn't suck), and the diligent help of Meng and my mom, Emma is the most ravenous of kiddos, and more than willing to wake everyone up when she's hungry.

After those first two nights, though, I really don't mind hearing her cry.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Baby Happened: An Outline

Water broke at 11:45 am, 8/16. No contractions.

Checked into hospital 1:30 pm. Still no contractions.

Given pitocin around 4 pm because there were still no contractions.

Meng arrived a little after 5. Some contractions by this point, but nothing serious.

Contractions became noticeably uncomfortable between 8 and 9.

Contractions caused serious discomfort by 10.

Around 11, I started pushing.

Emma Yuan Liang was born at 11:53 pm, weighing exactly 6 pounds and measuring 19.5 inches long.

More descriptive details, along with the story of the last two days will come tomorrow. Until then, see these pictures taken by the hospital photographer. If I may say so myself, I bake a cute baby. Meng might have helped.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

fake contractions

My impatience for this baby's arrival is not at all being aided by the Braxton-Hicks contractions that have been happening nightly. Braxton-Hicks contractions are basically erratic, harmless, (supposedly painless) contractions designed to gear up the uterus for labor and freak out unsuspecting and uninformed first-time moms who then lie awake, either trying to time them without any success, or writhing in pain. (How many times has someone told you, "This won't hurt"?)

The major difference between BH contractions and "real" contractions is that BH contractions eventually go away. Luckily, this little blogger did her research beforehand, so I didn't actually freak out. I did try to time them the first time it happened, but once I realized that they were getting further apart in time, and that the intensity wasn't gradually increasing, I gave up. They must have gone away, because I eventually fell asleep.

Since then, I've been averaging one or two every night. If I have any more than that, they usually taper off into nothing-ness. It's disappointing. At the same time, it's also a relief. Funny how that works. It just so happens that my mom is out of town until tomorrow or the day after, and my (very intelligent and studious) boyfriend has a test on Monday. I've been told I'm not allowed to go into labor until at least next Tuesday.

Honestly, I'd prefer it that way, too. I have a movie night scheduled for tomorrow and a trip to the zoo on Sunday. Not to mention the condition of the nursery... You know how, when you're organizing a room, it's got to get worse before it gets better? Well, I think it's going to look great when I'm done cause it looks pretty bad at the moment.

Anyway, what do contractions feel like? Well, for me, they feel like period cramps. I remember, when I was a freshman in high school, having terrible cramps that left me lying on the bed crying for a half hour. These aren't quite that bad, but then again, these aren't "real" contractions. It's different for everyone. Other women have described it as a stabbing feeling, a pulling feeling, just about any feeling you can imagine, actually.

So yes. Period cramps. The kind that radiates into the small of your back. Really, since I've been dealing with this kind of pain for (goodness) almost 10 years now, I'm rather encouraged. Again, it just makes me want to go into labor. I've held my own against some mighty cramps in my day. How bad will the pain actually be?

Does anyone know how to launch this thing?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Let's do this thing, already!

Last week I started Lamaze classes. Class #1 was really quite uneventful, which is why you didn't hear about it. Highlights included a basic introduction to what makes babies and the stages of pregnancy, resisting the temptation to put a quarter down the butt crack in front of me (the guy needed a belt; it was more like a cavern than a crack), and watching the dads-to-be on my left shoot hoops with a grape and a trash can.

This week was much more interesting. We started out with a short video documenting three "natural births," (watching the men's faces during that was entertaining) talked about technical terms like dilation and effacing, did some relaxation exercises and had some valuable Q & A time.

The woman conducting the class was different from last week, and I think I liked her better. She kept making side comments such as, "And husbands, after transition, your wife doesn't mean anything that she says," and, "You'll think you have a bowling ball resting on your rectum, but you can do it." I appreciate blatant honesty like that. I'd rather hear about what it's going to feel like than how wonderful I'll feel afterward.

But now I'm depressed. Can't I just have this baby already? It's not that I'm apprehensive of or excited for labor, it's just that after seeing three other women do it, I can't help but think to myself, "I can do that!" So let's do it! I'm ready to go. The nursery isn't exactly ready, but a few hours of organizing can take care of that. (I should post a picture or two... I'll see what I can do once I've got everything set.) The only essential thing I'm missing is a changing pad. I've packed my overnight bag, made a playlist on my iPod for the hospital, and discussed a contact plan with my (almost 200 miles away) boyfriend. I'm at 36 weeks, the baby has dropped, so what's with the wait?

I'm tired of wondering what it's going to be like, if I'll go to the hospital because my water breaks or because contractions are 5 minutes apart, how well I'll handle the pain, and if I'll need an epidural. I keep finding myself putting my stuff by the door (then thinking, "this is silly," and putting it back), stopping to pay attention to every kick and twinge, and hoping that each little back pain will radiate and worsen. Really, baby, this is quite nerve racking.

So someone show me where the eject button is on this thing before I go nuts!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Inform the Masses!

Yesterday I complained to you all about feeling mis/uninformed. I've been thinking about it, and the problem is really much worse than we think. There are so many things I've learned by experience that I had no idea about before. (Disclaimer: Very informative. Men might want to skip this post entirely.) For instance:

Did you know that after a woman delivers, she has what is basically a month-long period afterwards? I learned that from WebMD about two weeks before my mom thought to tell me about it.

I'm hungry all the time. People keep on saying that I'm eating for two, implying that I should take double portions, but the fact is that right now I'm lucky if I have room for half of what I could eat in one sitting before I was pregnant. This is because there is a tiny little person where part of my stomach was. As a result, I have to take smaller portions, but get hungry faster. By the way, if I don't eat when I'm hungry, I usually get sick.

Almost everyone knows that during the first two trimesters of pregnancy, the upper real estate looks amazing. What nobody tells you is that the girls hurt like crazy! I think the best adjective I could use is "engorged," and I'm not even breast-feeding yet. It would make sense that when the body is figuring out how much milk it needs to make, things would be a bit tender. But I had no idea it would be a problem before the little squirt arrived.

Muscle pain is (sorry, Mom) a bitch. Again, it makes sense that because the uterus is expanding, bones get moved around, but did you know that when a woman is pregnant, her spine is actually moved out of alignment? Okay, maybe you knew that, but it doesn't just cause back pain. I have a very difficult time putting on pants in the morning, because I have to lift my feet. I've resorted to sitting on something and then standing to pull them all the way up, or lifting my legs one at a time with my hands. Also, any movement that has to do with lying down, or getting up from lying down, requires strategic planning. I primarily use my arms to roll over.

These are just four examples of things that I feel women should be made more aware of. Not just in pre-natal classes or doctors appointments, but starting as early as sex education classes.

I hear a lot of criticism of schools who emphasize abstinence so much, they neglect to educate children on effective birth control. The argument is that teens will have sex no matter what you tell them, so you should emphasize more the necessity of safe sex. The argument has some merit, and I believe we can all agree there are many shortcomings in the education system. (I don't know if I've ever discussed on this blog the circumstances of this child's conception, but the point I would like to make is that no birth control method is 100% effective.) I think if girls knew exactly what kind of hell pregnancy can be, they'd be much more apt to take the safe road and skip the sex. Even with that one incident in the Bible, abstinence still has the highest pregnancy prevention rate.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Doctor Says

I've hit 35 weeks. For those who have trouble counting, this means that I'm just starting my last month of preggo-ness. It also means that I start going to see an actual doctor (since I moved to Michigan I've been seeing the RN instead) weekly. The visits have been gradually getting more and more frequent and uneventful, which is why you rarely hear about them. Results from these visits are usually the same: The baby is healthy. It's normal to feel crappy. It's going to get worse before it gets better.

For the past couple of days something has felt a little... different. There's been pressure "down there," along with some sharp twinges and having to use the bathroom even more than usual. Luckily, today I had a doctor's appointment so I mentioned it to the nurse when she came in. The doctor did a cervical exam and to quote him exactly, "Okay, the baby is low. Oh my, the baby is very low."

He wasn't able to tell if I was dilated or not because his poking around was hurting me quite a bit, but his basic response was, "You could go into labor any day now. See you next week!" And then he walked out the door to the next victi-- I mean, patient.

So that's what the doctor said. I'm more interested in the things he didn't say.

Were it not for my (informative and well-informed) boyfriend, I would have been freaking out. According to Meng the med student, the baby is ready to go into labor at any time but probably won't for another couple of weeks. This is reassuring, kind of. It would have been more reassuring if the doctor had thought to tell me that himself.

After a short walk in the park, we went home for some dinner and relaxation. We'd been lounging for a while when I went on one of my many trips to the bathroom. (Disclaimer: about to get a bit graphic. Men might want to skip to the next paragraph.) The trace amounts of blood on my toilet paper didn't worry me too much. It had happened at the clinic and no one had said anything, so I figured a little more was okay. It was the fleshy looking bit resting in the bottom of the toilet that made way for concern. After a half hour of googling things, we found out that it was my "mucus plug," which I had heard about but had never seen. That would also be where the blood came from.

Of course I freaked out because this is on the list of early signs of labor. More research showed that it's quite common for this sort of thing to happen after a cervical exam, and that it does not necessarily mean that labor is eminent. This is just one more example of something that has been frustrating me. Why didn't the doctor tell me it might happen? I'm sure if I'd asked him, "Later today, if I find something strange in the toilet, what is it?" he could have told me. But he didn't. Even though, had I not had Meng with me, it would have completely freaked me out, the doctor did not say anything.

It just seems like common occurrences like this should be mentioned when someone sticks their fingers up your hooha.