Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Days. Oh How They Are Long

Perhaps you could read this to the tune of "If you take a mouse to school..."

Erik has this job where he has to wake up at 6:45. In the morning. I know some people do this regularly but we are not usually of these people. Erik's getting up didn't wake me but Zoe popped in at 7:14. (You can tell what kind of day it's going to be by how strictly you pay attention to the minutes on the clock. ) From there, the day began. First, coffee. Then, breakfast for me and Z while Max still slept. I printed out the galleys to my book so I can try to get them off to Publishers Weekly today. Then, awaken the Max so he can eat. Bring Zoe's albuterol to her in the front room so she can nebulize whilst watching Curious George. Change Max. Print out homemade publicity letter. No color comes out on the color printer. Don't care. Black and white it is. Make Zo's lunch. Change Max. (Thank god Zoe is extremely capable of getting herself dressed. She's wearing my favorite yellow dress with yellow pants outfit. Thanks Z). I look up Publishers Weekly address. I also write, "in lieu of galleys" since these are homemade and I could do it after the copying and the binding but I'm afraid that this day will be a day where I spent 12 minutes trying to decide whether it's spelled leiu or lieu in the car at the post office.
Then, into the car we go: one of us with binkie, one of us with a water bottle, one of us with a manuscript, a lunch box, a diaper bag, a purse, and an array of re-usable grocery bags.

On the way to school, I describe to Zoe Max's doctor's appointment. He's going to get circumcised. I explained about the delicate removal of the foreskin from the penis. She said, I know what Max is thinking. I said, what. She said, Max is thinking "Doctor, don't cut off my penis." I said, he probably is thinking that.

I drop Zoe off at school, carrying Max in his baby bucket (relevant only later, and relevant only to my shoulders), go to Office Max for the copying and binding (with baby bucket), go to grocery store (with baby in bucket), I come home, bring in groceries, put away the groceries and feed the baby. I remember to eat a yogurt. Check email. Respond to a few. Friend calls to discuss Kindergarten, ballet, and piano lessons for Z. I have to cut her off because it's 11:49 and we are already late for the foreskin removal service scheduled for 12:10

Arrive at sad place. I have second and third thoughts. Think of springing the poor 3 week old from the medieval torture. Fortunately, the doctor ushers us in quickly, laughs at the medieval jokes AND Zoe's joke about don't cut off Max's penis. Funny doctors are rare and reassuring. They give Max sugar water. He's so enamored I'm afraid he'll never go back to breast milk. He cries when they anesthetize the area--the stick the lidocaine into his actual penis! but after that, no crying. Even when the take something that looks like a bottle topper or wire cutter right to the tip. The doctor successfully does not remove the penis. Zoe will be so happy which is good because we have to go!

Off to the post office to drop off PW package. Then, to meet Erik and Z at the dentist at 1:30. Arrive early. Eat Zoe's almonds from her lunch.

Z's first dentist appointment. Great teeth! Yay! We're not neglectful, horrible parents for waiting this long for the dentist (although we did just purposefully and intentionally torture our son but hey, life is pain, princess...). And then, come home. Eat chips. Eat cookies. (What happens when you don't eat lunch). Set a better example: Eat strawberries, grapes, celery. Feed Max (man, we're close to the 2, 5, 8, 11 schedule and yet it's 2:32). Played fish (I draw some fish.) Play Princess (again. As usual. What does the snow princess where? Whatever you're wearing Z). Play hide and seek (really? But I have to get up for that!). Write blog post for the new Essay Daily Website. Send novel to novel contest. Feed Max. Feel bad for Max who seems to be in a little pain. Worry he was just putting up a strong face for the doctors. Poor Max.

But, work! Send: flurry of emails about certificate program--3.0 gpa required? Everyone gets back to me so quickly that I fear I've neglected them lo these many weeks off. Won't my colleagues be thrilled when I'm officially back and emailing daily? (Not daily. I promise). Help Z wash lettuce for tacos. Find onions for Erik for tacos. Feed Max. Update blog. Type one-handed. Play pretend dinner with Z. Hope the table cleans itself off.
Looking forward to tonight, a multiple choice quiz.
a) shovel snow
b) read student (295 page!) thesis
c) finish thank you notes
d) send manuscript to other review places
e) play princess
f) feel bad for Max. Worry. Infection, bleeding, pain. Oh what have I done for the sake of not Max not having his penile region called pigs in a blanket (and other reasons. I promise. Also, the dentist supported the circumcision and had just read new studies about the preventative powers of the circ. So good then.
g) watch the state of the union.
h) want to watch Modern Family.

I say all of the above except A. But A sucks particularly when there's nowhere new to put the new snow. But I have an excuse. I have to feed Max. 9 lbs 7 oz a mere three weeks after his birth (including a first few day loss of 10 oz.).

Next blog: OK. This is all well and good but I go back to work next week.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Goes so well, until...

For all the fretting I did about having two kids, these first weeks have been surprisingly easy, thanks mostly to Zoe's enthusiasm for Max and her willingness to give him a binkie no matter what else she's doing. As Erik says, she shows no fear in giving him it--she knows he'll resist at first but she just patiently holds it against his mouth until he realizes she's a force for good not evil. There was quite a bit of competition when Erik's mom was here to hold him, but now that she's gone, we've even had moments where we've put Max in his swing. Z likes the music. I do not. Right now, as I type, he started crying and Z popped up to check on him/give him his binkie. I'm against binkies. Until I'm not. That dude likes to suck.
Things would be even more smooth-going were it not for the minor disasters of the week. First, the toilet upstairs stopped working--the flange in the works cracked, and even though we have two bathrooms, with guests, one is just not enough. So Erik spent last weekend replacing the upstairs toilet which led, as it always does, to Erik designing whole new bands of swear words. Z was like, woah, I can't wait to memorize those for most surprising/embarrassing use later.
But then Z got a cold and, although it was nothing like the horrible croup of early December, I knew it would lead to late-night albuterol and possibly infecting the babe whom we were told to make sure did not get sick those first two months home.
But once again, Z proved her mettle. Her immune system might actually be beginning to function. Albuterol only in the morning and the night. And she was so careful not to get Max sick--hand sanitizer and coughing into her elbow--she has, thus far, kept him from getting the cold.
But then the snow storm of 2010 hit. 56.5 inches of snow down here. 92 inches up at the Snowbowl. More snow in this system since 1967. This meant Erik shoveled pretty much from 9 a.m to 6 p.m. with some breaks in the middle but also some shoveling in the night. I shoveled a tiny bit too but mostly I exercised my ability to be a stay-at-home-mom. I did OK. Only one or two breakdowns--once at Z because really, Z, I can't play princess anymore. I can't remember if you're princess Rose or Princess Mirabella or the Snow Princess and you never like how I'm being the witch and if I say, princess, give me your strawberries, you just say no and then the story is pretty much over. So I broke down and told her I couldn't play princess any more. I made it up to her by playing princess some more.
We also played trains.
Did I mention Z has been home for 3 days in a row now--no school?
Erik colored with her.
I colored with her.
She painted.
She danced (thanks maestra for the ballet clothes).
And she played princess for 23 of the 24 hours a day. Yes, even in her sleep. In her sleep, she's the teeth-grinding, coughing princess.
Erik shoveled the roof this morning. He wanted to sled off it. So far, he hasn't.
I'm not very good at being a stay at home mom. I get nervous when I'm playing trains, like I should be doing something else. I'm also a bad working mom since when I'm working on my syllabus, I feel like I should be playing trains. The nice thing is, blogging and being on Facebook and IMing are all guilt free because I should be doing none of them. Everyone is being equally neglected.
So, if Erik weren't so otherwise busy, things would be super easy. But as they are, they're still pretty manageable. Manageable enough that we're even having company tonight! I'm so excited for in-person interaction with the outside world. Turkey breast and roasted root vegetables with Chardonnay gravy. Should I make mashed potatoes too? Is the answer to that question ever "no"?

Friday, January 15, 2010

For Lis and Lisa B.

Because of my own proclivity for complaint, I emphasize the hard parts of this whole "labor" thing (remember, that's why they call it "labor"). The truth is, things have gone so easily that I worry whatever positive thing I say here will send us all jinxily back to the hospital. But the truth is, it's only been a week and I'm already feeling almost good. It sucked having to recover and breastfeed all at once but now, there's this disturbing normalcy. With Z, everything was so traumatic at first. The only good thing was the first couple days to recover and sleep and the slow-entree into breastfeeding. It 100% sucked sitting in the lactation room off the NICU, pumping, while Z had an IV line needled into her scalp. Now, it's like a week of sharp pain and, I hope and knock on wood, another two weeks of mellowness to get ready to go back to work.

Also, Lis, you probably don't suffer from my many weaknesses: a tendency toward week-long headaches, insomnia, and an inability to sit down for more than 20 minutes at a time. Really, 2-3 hours of pain before the epidural, some hurts everywhere pain for 2-3 days, and then the nipples of doom for a week. Really, considering the whole extra person who now lives with us, it's not too much to suffer. And, as Lisa B. said in the comments here, there is some sort of pride in the whole thing. No matter if you have a c-section or an epidural or no drugs and no matter if you breastfeed or not, the whole fact of producing so much well-organized matter out of almost nothing. It's awesome even though difficult.

The truth is, I'm spinningly happy, even at 5 a.m. The right breast hurts very little and the left one only hurts upon latch. I'm cleaning the house today! How scrubbingly delicious.

My sisters are up in Salt Lake and doing Iron Chef pig without me which I am desperately sad too miss. Also, I seem to have picked up an attachment to adverbs. First order of business: how to exorcise the adverbs.

Next week: write a little. And get ready for my semester, dynamically dated to begin February 2nd.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A difficult species

Let me preface this by saying how very glad I am that Max was born very near his due date and that I feel supremely grateful and lucky that he got to come home with us instead of staying in the NICU like Zoe had to for three weeks. However, that experience made me totally unprepared for the bringing-the-baby-home-with-you one. With Z, I went home from the hospital, sad and tired. But then I slept all the night through and was, the next day, just sad, not tired. It's easier to heal sad than tired. Then, when we lived 4 blocks from the hospital, I walked over to bring her milk (Erik tended to skateboarded rather than walk the breastmilk over) the next day. Today, I walked 3/4 miles. It took almost an hour. Last night, I slept intermittently between the 1 a.m. and 4:00 a.m. feeding and was poking the baby awake by 6:45 since I was up anyway. So, happy but tired and more sore and slowly-healing than I was with Z.

But the worst part is the breastfeeding. With Z, she couldn't eat the minute she was born. The suck, swallow, breathe talent takes a few weeks to learn when you're as preemie as she was. Max was born knowing how to do all three at once. Which is great for eating. Not so great for the nipples. There's a sharp shock of pain every time he eats that is getting better, but again, only slowly.

I'm surprised anyone breastfeeds. I don't think our species, and particularly me, is very good at weighing long-term benefits versus short-term ones. The short term benefits of bottle feeding are that it doesn't hurt your boobs. Also, babies sleep longer through the night. Sleep! At night! Directly home from the hospital, these benefits are pretty glaring. It takes a lot of commitment to keep it up.

Plus, the whole manner of convincing you to breastfeed is lame. Breast is best? Annoying, easy rhyme. The long list of health benefits is so obvious. Of course, I'll breastfeed! But at 2 a.m., when you think you're dying of the pain that stabs from nipple to to spine, you think your immediate survival would probably outweigh those nebulous immunological benefits.

Then, there's the whole "is the baby latching correctly" element to the breastfeeding campaign. Look La Leche people, it takes more than two hands to get the baby to open his mouth wide, hold him, and "make a sandwich with your nipple." Plus, no matter how you manage to juggle all these things, it seems the baby readjusts his mouth to suit him anyway. Holding the head "right", not crouching over, relaxing are really impossible tasks when you're not breathing from pain. I think the best campaign would be: Brestfeeding hurts for the first two weeks, pretty much no matter what. Suck it up. The female human species has suffered thusly for millions (right? millions? Lucy was 3 million years old) of years. You can do it too without the help of Enfamil or Similac.

Still, I'm surprised (and happy for those who can) that as many people breastfeed as they do. Although, when I really think about it, the stabby pain isn't so bad after a minute. And only I get to hold the baby for those eating minutes. And it's really kind of fun, in this life-sustaining, baby-connecting kind of way.

But still I wonder, do opossums' nipples hurt?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Gory Details

I'll spare you most of the gory details of the birth and try to hit only the high points--of which there were at least 7.

That night I was to be induced was hella boring. I was like, why not just induce me and then send me home? But apparently, any second a drug is introduced, the fetal monitors are attached. Argh! Would I have agreed to this had I known? I don't know. I hate being tied down to the bed. I did tell them that I have to pee every 9 minutes so not to panic when I unplug myself from the computers. They seemed OK with that. The hep-lock (an IV ready for anything!) hurt like they always do. I'm allergic to metal. I imagine my veins getting itchy from the inside. But really, it just makes me sore. Erik brought his computer and we watched Man versus Wild until midnight. They gave me an Ambien. 10 mgs. Now I know why Ambien hasn't worked for me in the past. I've only taken 5 borrowed milligrams before. I slept and slept. Poor Erik slept on one of those horrible fold out beds. This one came separate planes--one for each vertebrae. Erik though was born with Ambien-like substance in his veins that he just turns on at night and sleeps for 8 hours no matter what.

In the morning, induction part 2. Same goal, different, stronger induction drugs. This is all an attempt to do things gently so things don't get overwhelming and I end up needing a c-section. I sense some contractions building but nothing so different from what I'd been experiencing for the past month or so. Same with the second dose.

But then they hit me with the third dose and that was too much. Contractions one on top of the other and no space to rest. Nurse Nikki/Ratchet and Erik's job was to yell at me and to tell me not to push. I explained to them that I was not the one in fact pushing. My uterus was pushing all by itself. Nurse Nikki was the same ill-serving nurse who had earlier said, when I said, "it hurts," "that's why they call it labor." I, in great restraint, did not punch her. She explained that pushing too early can cause the cervix to swell. The swelling then means it can't dilate and thereby blocks any baby-removal activity. It was very important not to push. I somehow managed to wrap my brain around my uterus (that's how I imagined it) and, whilst calling for the epidural, was able to convince my body not to push.

I had already asked for Fentynal which Nurse Mean said they don't offer there. Oh, sorry. I mean narcotics. Give me some. She said, Nubain. OK. They gave me some. It did nothing. Zero. Like less than an aspirin.

So, the epidural. I had no further questions about whether or not I wanted one. But then, the anesthesiologist wanted new labs! Why? They took labs last night. That's one of the reasons for the hep-lock I'd been wearing for almost 24 hours now.
But no, so more blood is drawn from the other arm because the Nubain was busy doing nothing in my left arm where now I sport a delicious looking bruise. Then, an hour for the labs to come back. And hour of contraction upon contraction, of uterus pushing, of talking body into not doing what the body wanted naturally to do, of Erik and Nurse Mean saying in unison "don't push," while I sang some I'm going to die songs with my breath that tried to do what they said.

Dr. Toi, the anesthesiologist, finally arrived. According to Erik, Nurse Nikki have a deep and troubled history. Dr. Toi asked for the stickers on my chart. She said the computers were down. He said, other nurses were able to get the stickers. She said, the stickers are right next to you. Get them yourself. Then, he complained about the computers being down and she said, I guess we should shut the hospital then. I heard none of this because I'm humming the I'm going to die song.

Finally, Dr. Toi explains the pros and cons of the epidural. The epidural goes in below the end of your spinal cord--you can't get paralyzed from an epidural! I don't know if I knew that or not and that's not why I wanted to resist one (I wanted to resist because I'm an idiot and thought that would make a "better" (read: me look tough) birth. In retrospect, living through it/not wanting to die made the birth better. He said one of the cons was that I might get a headache. I was born with a headache. Living with headaches didn't make my life any better either.

Somehow, I managed not to move while he inserted the needle and then, gradually, the pain subsided. I fell asleep.

So did the labor.

A little pitocin added to the IV fluids (thank god for the hep-lock!)

And then a little more pitocin.

And finally, at 10:00 p.m. (25 hours since we'd checked in) time to push.

Analogies to my strategy that the doctor liked:
Squeezing the baby out like toothpaste through a tube.
Keeping the baby's head from slipping backwards in a kegel-lock.
Analogy the doctor did not like:
Imagining the baby's head collapsing like a mouse's as he squeezes under a tightly-shut door. She tried to convince me to substitute the word "molded." Either way, it was important for me, knowing that this baby's head was already measuring off the charts, that heads are indeed malleable.

40 minutes of analogies, metaphors and pushing later, Max was born!

I find out later that the doctors have a theory for the number of pounds of baby a woman can reasonably give birth to. They think that the shoe size of a woman corresponds to those pounds. All along, I'd been imagining my mother-in-law who gave birth to a 10 pound baby. Based on that success, I can do a big baby, I always thought. But then, if you think of her and know her shoe size, the doctor's theory is confirmed. My MIL wears size ten shoes.
I wear a size 6.
Max was 8.6 pounds.

Still. He's out. I'm sore in every muscle. My diaphragm seems to be broken. I forgot how much breastfeeding hurts at first. But overall, things are pretty freaking happy around here. Zoe, who has many emotions, still seems to like him. She wants him to sit on her lap nonstop. She was a little mad when she woke up last night and saw he was still up (he was sleeping on my lap). We'll make sure tonight we put him, the little brother, in his crib before she goes to bed.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010


They're inducing me tonight at 8:30 for a gentle, overnight labor-bringing-on. There's a reason for the nighttime induction: things could go faster and I may as well be there. Also, the high blood pressure is the reason for the induction so I'm sure they'll want to measure that every 15 minutes. This doesn't bode well for sleeping but it does almost guarantee a birth sometime tomorrow. I fear inducing will lead to a c-section but I'm pretty sure anything at this point may lead to one--and both Dr. Write and Mary Anne said the c-section isn't so horrid.
The thing I'm most afraid of is the hep-lock. That's when the put an iv-ready needle into your arm. Like that's conducive to sleep or restfulness. Also, I'm allergic to metal.

Still, I'll be glad this phase of the baby-having is over. Bring on the pain. Or, as Fellner tells me, think release, release. Because he's good with labor if not necessarily the baby-having kind. I will also imagine a tube of toothpaste and how my body should squeeze from the end, down. I will also think of otters because their heads can collapse like mice and they're slippery.