Thursday, June 26, 2014

Puppy Love

They say everything changes when you have a baby.  One of the biggest changes I've heard is your relationship with your pets.  I've seen numerous reactions towards pets when a baby enters the mix.  Some dogs are relegated outside.  Some cats are limited to one or two rooms.  Some people even give up their beloved pets because "it's just too much."  Heck, I got Cody simply because the lady who had originally wanted him found out she was pregnant and didn't want a puppy and a baby (crazy!).  Generally, though, the most common thing I've heard is that the relationship simply changes.  I've been told that the moment your child is born you realize that nothing else is as important.  You realize that your dogs or cats are pets and not the same as your children.  Well, I'm here to tell you that may be true for some people, but it sure as heck isn't true for me.  If anything, my love for my dogs and cats has grown exponentially.

When Anna was born, the first thing I thought of was how I couldn't wait for the dogs and cats to meet her.  I knew they'd be fine with her, since they've been around plenty of other small children, but I wanted to see how they'd do with her.  Would they be excited?  Would they be annoyed?  Would they care at all?  I have to say, even I couldn't predict their reaction.

When I first came home, I was so excited to see my dogs.  I went in first, without Anna, so the dogs would have a chance to jump on me and love on me, without me worrying about a tiny baby.  They were thrilled at first, but once Cody had a chance to sniff me he immediately seemed scared.  He retreated to a corner and started to shake.  This was very unusual behavior, so I went out to Hans and asked him to go inside.  Hans said something seemed off, but otherwise Cody was normal.  He put both Cody and Lollie outside while I brought Anna in.  I set Anna on the floor in her car seat and told Hans he could let the dogs in.  While I waited for them to come in, I pondered what was wrong with Cody.  I was really scared he could smell the baby on me and that he wouldn't take to her like I thought he would.  Boy was I wrong!

Cody and Lollie came through the door.  Lollie went to her normal spot on the couch, tail wagging ferociously.  Cody, however, went straight for the car seat.  He gave Anna a once over while I held my breath, and then he immediately started giving her kisses.  Any sign of fear or hesitation was completely gone, and when Cody looked at me he was happier than I have ever seen him.  Lollie did some celebratory (attention-seeking) barking, and I loved on both of them.

I then took a moment to figure out what had happened with Cody earlier.  This may be reading to much into it, but I think his fear was based on the fact that Anna was no longer in my belly.  I think he thought something was terribly wrong, and I truly believe that he immediately recognized Anna when he met her.  Cody and Lollie had spent the past nine months smelling Anna, listening to her heartbeat, and getting to know her in a way that I could only imagine.  Their attitude around me was one of the first reasons I decided to take a pregnancy test (Cody was very protective and Lollie just seemed confused).  Their sixth sense allowed them to bond with her in a way that no other person could.  It was as I realized this that I also came to the conclusion that these dogs are my world.  Their love for me allows me to grow and to love others.  Their love for Anna only makes me love them even more. 

Since that first day, things have calmed down a bit, but their attachment to my only child hasn't changed.  They come to her when she cries, they greet her with kisses, and they guard and protect her constantly.  Anna has slept against them.  She has learned to accept (and I think love) their kisses.

Now, I will admit one thing.  Time for them is limited.  There is a difference between a baby and the dogs.  Anna is completely 100% helpless.  I can't leave her alone for a moment.  Unfortunately, this means less time to go on hikes and less time to simply hang out with the dogs.  That doesn't mean I care for them any less.  It only means I have to make more time for them, and I am more than willing to do that.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Facing Death and That First Mile

I had a realization a few days after I gave birth to Anna.  I was thinking about Darwin's Theory of Evolution, and I realized that, if I lived a mere 50 years ago, there's a good chance neither Anna nor I would have survived this pregnancy.  That's really startling.  It's hard to think that, even though I did everything right, even though everything prior to her delivery was well within normal, even though I was kind of awesome at the whole pregnancy thing, mere luck or fate meant Anna was an emergency C-section, and without modern medicine, there's a good chance we would not have survived.  I even wonder how things would have turned out if I hadn't happened to have a doctor's appointment scheduled that morning.  Hans would have gone to work.  I would have stayed home.  I would have told him I wasn't feeling well, but I'd call if I thought there was anything to be worried about.  I don't know when I would have headed to the hospital.  I can imagine I would have called the nurse around 10:00 a.m.  Chances are I wouldn't have gotten to the hospital before 11:00.  How  might our story have ended if we'd had these delays?  Would Anna have made it safely into this world?

This is really hard to face.  I'm lucky that I have nothing to feel guilty about when it comes to her birth.  I didn't eat poorly, I didn't gain a lot of weight, I stayed active, my blood pressure and blood sugar were beyond perfect, both her and my heart rate were normal the entire pregnancy (until that last day), and I followed the doctor's orders.  But to think that things could have ended so differently is scary.  When I first thought about this, I was in such new-mom bliss that it was just a passing thought.  As the weeks passed, however, it really started to sink in.

I'd look into my newborn's eyes or I'd watch her sleeping, or I'd feel a twinge where my C-section scar is, and I couldn't help but think about how lucky we were.  Then I'd start to think about all the years ahead and all the dangers we face.  How sometimes you can't control anything.  And then I'd start to panic.  In the past, when I've panicked, I've gone for a run.  That rush of endorphins and the feeling of sweat dripping down my face is one of the best feelings in the world for me.  Not being able to run post-op, or do any sort of real physical activity, has been awful.  The first few days I was still in enough pain I didn't care.  Getting out of bed was a work out, and I had no desire to run.  By the middle of the second week, though, that itch to lace up my running shoes had set in. 

Yesterday, I had a very relaxing day.  It was perfect in almost every way.  I stayed in bed, I nursed, I ate well, Anna wasn't fussy.  And yet, I still ended up crying by the end of the night.  I felt overwhelmed by life.  I felt flabby.  I felt misunderstood.  Call it postpartum blues or call it anxiety.  Whatever you call it, it sucked.  And then this morning, Anna woke at 5:00 a.m. for a feeding.

I nursed her, changed her diaper, and looked outside.  It was a beautiful morning.  The sun was just rising, and the morning had that grey, not-quite-awake feel.  I couldn't take it anymore.  I did a quick assessment of how I felt: Great.  I told Hans to keep and ear out for Anna, I put on my running clothes, laced up my shoes, and headed out. 

I told myself I'd keep it slow.  I told myself I'd keep it short.  I told myself I wouldn't be too upset if I wet myself after half a mile due to stress incontinence (although I made sure to empty my bladder before I went out).  After a brief warm-up, I started my run.

A mile and a half.  Actually, less than that.  1.34 miles to be exact.  It wasn't even half the distance of my last run almost 5 weeks ago (two weeks before Anna was born).  However, it was the most wonderful experience.  It wasn't fast (an 11:15 min/mi pace if you must know), but it wasn't terrible.  I was tired when I was done, but I was able to finish.  And I didn't wet myself!

This morning, I feel refreshed.  This may sound overly dramatic, but I kind of feel like I'm coming back from death.  That panic I felt yesterday evening has dissipated, and I'm left with a euphoric, victorious feeling.  I'm not even 3 weeks post-op (2 weeks, 6 days to be exact), and I know I'll need to take it a little easier the rest of the day, but I feel great.  I may not be able to run a marathon or even a half marathon tomorrow, and it may take a lot of time to work back up to where I was, but I feel great.  That first mile was wonderful

Beginning Breastfeeding: a.k.a. A Glimpse Into Hell

As I prepared for the birth of my first child, I discovered that there were really two main schools of thought regarding breastfeeding.  The first stated that breastfeeding was a beautiful and natural thing.  As with many things in childbirth, its motto was "Trust your body.  Trust your baby."  The second stressed just how difficult breastfeeding would be.  It taught proper positioning and techniques.  I fell firmly into the first camp.

Growing up, all I heard from my own mother was how easy breastfeeding was.  She said she never had any trouble, and she loved every moment of it.  In fact, when other women discussed the troubles they'd had with breastfeeding, she'd often tell me she just didn't understand.  How could anyone have any trouble with something so natural?  I didn't have any reason to not believe her, so I felt the same way.

Before I go any further, let me say that breastfeeding is beautiful and wonderful and amazing and completely natural...sometimes.  Here's the thing, I do, in fact, love breastfeeding Anna.  I love how content she is.  I love that I'm able to provide her a comfort that no one else can.  I love the time alone we get to spend because of it.  I love a lot about breastfeeding.  However, it is in no way, shape, or form easy.  At least not for me.

Getting Anna to breastfeed in the first place was pure hell.  Let me paint you a picture.  Imagine being in a hospital, on the world's most uncomfortable bed (seriously, the floor was better), with a newborn who came 2 weeks and 1 day early, accompanied by at least one nurse who is just trying to help but who is actually stressing you out beyond belief, trying to get said newborn to latch onto a breast that really isn't ready.  It doesn't help that Anna's birth was extremely traumatic for her.  Nor does it help that we didn't have the bonding time in the beginning that I was so looking forward to (NICU had to check her out first).  And then, each new nurse had a different bit of advice and much of that advice clashed with what we'd learned in breastfeeding class.  It was so frustrating!

Honestly, the first day wasn't a huge concern.  I was pretty drugged up, and Anna was tired from birth, so neither one of us really realized there was an issue.  Plus, both the lactation consultant and the nurse said it could easily take 24 hours or so.  When 24 hours passed, though, and Anna was still having a lot of trouble, I started to get a little stressed.  She was getting cranky because she was hungry, I still wasn't producing much, and Anna was dropping  Then came the first really stressful night.

Anna was fine, just a little cranky, but the nurse REALLY wanted her to start nursing.  So, she pushed me to do a lot of things I really didn't want to.  Some of those things, I was able to really stand up and stop, but the fight itself was exhausting.  First, she wanted to put sugar water on my breast to entice Anna to nurse.  If this had worked really well, I wouldn't have argued.  However, it didn't do much other than give Anna a taste for sugar (and make her crankier).  Then she told me to just force Anna's head onto my breast and hold it there until she latched.  Again, if this had worked, I wouldn't have argued.  However, it really stressed Anna out and it made me want to cry.  I asked for a pump because I decided if worse came to worse, I'd give her a bottle (I didn't want to, but she had to eat somehow).  The nurse said I should give her formula, it would be fine.  This was an absolute deal breaker.  No!  I asked the nurse if she thought Anna should be suctioned again.  She seemed to have a lot of fluid still left.  The nurse said she was fine.  Five hours later, when the lactation consultant came back, the first thing she did was suction her (and she latched just fine).  The nurse was well-intentioned, but she was overzealous and very stressful.  I feel that one night, really set us back.

Fast forward two days.  Anna had her first pediatric appointment.  Hans and I had been up ALL NIGHT LONG trying to get her to nurse.  I was to the point of tears.  I wanted her to nurse so badly, and she was hungry, but she just wouldn't latch.  The pediatrician came in and asked if she'd eaten yet.  I said no, but it was almost time for a feeding.  He told me to go ahead and nurse her, and he'd be back in a few minutes.  I tried to explain my difficulty feeding her, but he just said to take my time and let him know when I was ready.  Thirty minutes later, I was still trying to get her to eat.  I did finally get her to latch, and she ate just long enough to be slightly contented, but it was a horrible experience.  Upon leaving the pediatrician we were told that if she didn't start gaining weight, she'd have to be readmitted to the hospital.  I immediately called the local lactation center (to see my 5th lactation consultant since Anna's birth).

When I got home, I said, "F*** it!"  I couldn't go through the pain of breastfeeding anymore.  I needed a break.  So, I pulled out the pump, and I decided to bottle feed until we saw the consultant the next day.  This was probably the best decision I could have made.  It took a lot of stress off of me, and Anna was much calmer after she ate.  The following morning, before heading to the lactation center (a place I like to call Heaven on Earth), I decided to try breast feeding again.  I pumped first, fed Anna a good bit of food to keep her calm, and then positioned her near my breast.  It was almost instant success.  Victory!!!!

The lactation consultant really just said I was doing everything right.  She gave me a few good tips, and even told me that until we really get the hang of it, I should pump for a few minutes before nursing to stimulate the milk.  We finally had a rhythm.  Sure, I had to take my pump with me if I went anywhere, and I had to be near an outlet if I wanted to feed Anna, but we had a routine, and Anna was eating.  She gained 2 ounces in 24 hours.  VICTORY!!!

After 48 hours of this, Anna really started to get the hang of things.  All of a sudden, I didn't really need to pump any more (other than to build up milk stores).  But there are other challenges.  It's still extremely difficult for me to breastfeed in public.  I've done this successfully one time, and I'm pretty sure that was shear luck.  I've heard this is normal, and it can sometimes take months to get used to, but goodness!  It would be so much easier if our culture was different and I didn't feel so exposed when breastfeeding.  Even with a cover I feel awkward.  Plus, there are still days when Anna just seems to struggle with latching.  It's not as bad as before, but it's horribly frustrating.  Oh, and I'm learning to not compare myself to others.  I don't feel my milk "let down."  I want to, I try to, but I got nothin'.  This is very frustrating when other mothers talk about the sensation and how it really helped them to learn how to feed.  ARGH!

All in all, I really just want other people, particularly other mothers to know, that it's not easy.  Honestly, it's been one of the most emotionally taxing things I've ever done.  I love it, and I won't stop any time soon, but I really wish it was easier.  Who knows, maybe it will be some day.  :)

Friday, June 6, 2014

A C-Section: It's Not That Bad

When I first found out I was pregnant, I started to think about how I wanted the birth to go.  OK, well I had actually decided how I wanted my birth to go when I was 5, but that's beside the point.  I knew I wanted pain meds, and I didn't want to be induced, and I'd really prefer to not have a c-section.  As we went through pregnancy, that changed a little.  I decided I wanted to try without medication.  I definitely did not want to be induced, and I still didn't want a c-section. 

So, when we learned Anna was breech and there was a high likely-hood that I'd need a c-section, I did everything I could think of to get her to flip.  After a few weeks, however, I had to start looking at the reality of a c-section, and I had to wrap my head around it.  I was lucky. 

When I walked into the doctor's office last Friday, she told me we were going to do a c-section that day.  Then, she immediately started to say, "Don't feel guilty.  This is not anything you could control."  I was able to cut her off and tell her that I didn't feel guilty.  I knew I'd done everything I could to prevent a c-section, and this was just the way things would be.  That made everything that followed a lot easier.

My c-sec was a bit different from many in that it was an emergency.  I was one step away from needing general anesthesia and I was lucky to just have an epidural.  That said, there are a few things that happen when your c-sec isn't planned.  First, things move VERY fast.  I went from one nurse setting up monitors to six nurses prepping me and Hans for surgery.  Then there were more nurses and some doctors.  It was a whirlwind.  Not only that, but there's a certain order to things that changes when it's an emergency.  The most noticeable change was that, in a non-emergency, they insert a catheter AFTER you receive numbing medications.  Mine was inserted before.  (Yes, they insert a catheter if you were unaware, and yes it hurts a lot). 

The actual surgery is just weird.  You can't take a deep breath because there's a giant, gaping whole in your stomach.  The meds make you feel weird, and you're essentially paralyzed from the waist down.  When you come into recovery, you feel weak and sick.  Your blood pressure probably dropped at some point, and you may have vomited or possibly just dry heaved.  Fun, right?  After that, you have every pain medication you could ever want available to you.

 I opted for Touradol (sp?) for inflammation and morphine for pain.  I'm not big on meds, but I'm glad I took these.  Sure I felt drunk from the morphine, but I truly feel the pain that first night would have been unbearable otherwise.  After that, though, things weren't too bad.

I first got out of bed around 10:00 that night.  It was painful, and I was shaky, but it felt good to move.  By the following morning, I was able to get out of bed with just some assistance from Hans, and I was able to shower on my own (Hans was nearby in case I felt woozy).  From that point on, my goal was to keep moving.  If I stayed in bed, I'd stiffen and I'd swell.  If I walked a couple of laps around the nurses station just a few times a day, I'd feel much better.  So that's what I did.  That first day I walked twice.  On Sunday I walked a few more times and I walked down to the front of the hospital to get a little sunlight.  By Monday, I was up and packing my bags to leave the hospital.

Now I'm a week out.  I have to be careful not to overdo things, as I still wear out faster than usual.  And I can still feel some incision pain from time to time (like when a dog jumps on me).  And I'm still not allowed to lift heavy items (a rule I'm struggling to keep).  But I'm also still walking.  And I'm already back to driving.  And I'm off all pain meds.

A c-section was not what I had planned.  It was not the most fun thing I could do.  However, I've experienced much worse.  Oh, and if you're pregnant and lamenting a possible c-section, here are some fun things I got to avoid by having a c-sec:

- Pooping on the table
-Vaginal Tearing
-Broken tailbone (yes, that can happen during labor)
-Separated pelvis (that can happen)
- Pooping on the table (it bears repeating)

So, don't worry about a c-section.  It could be so much worse.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Happy Birthday, Anna!

Let me jump to the point of this post before I tell the story.


Ok, now on to the point of this post. 

Friday morning I woke up early for an early morning doctor's appointment.  The first thing I thought was, "I don't feel well."  My stomach felt upset, but I figured it would pass.  I was nine months pregnant, and not feeling well kind of went with the territory.  By the time I got out of the shower, however, I was starting to get a little concerned.  I wasn't getting better.  I was feeling worse.  I ate some cereal for breakfast, but that seemed to make things significantly worse, and I started to get concerned.  Was this the beginning of labor?  Was it something else?  I didn't think I was supposed to feel so sick at the start of labor, but I wasn't sure.  Either way I was grateful for the early morning doctor's appointment.

When we got to the doctor's office, we first had to go to ultrasound to check amniotic fluid levels.  I did note that her heart rate was a bit elevated at 163 bpm (she had been sitting at 130-140 bpm), but I figured that had a bit to do with how I was feeling, and I didn't think much of it.

After the ultrasound, we were sent to see our doctor.  Our doctor greeted us by saying, "OK.  So let me tell you about the little procedure we're going to do today."  Now then, if you'll remember, we had the version scheduled for the 6th, so Hans and I both said, "Oh!  Today?  I thought we were going to try to flip her next week."  Our doctor informed us that there was little to no amniotic fluid left.  We we couldn't try to flip.  We were going in for a c-section.  OK, we were prepared for this possibility, so that was OK.  I did also mention to the doctor how I was feeling.  She asked if I thought it was labor pains, but I really wasn't sure (and looking back, I don't think it was), and she did an exam just to see.  Nothing pointed to me being in labor, so we went on down to labor & delivery to prep for a noon c-section.  This was at 9:15 a.m.

In L&D, the nurse hooked me up to a fetal heart rate monitor.  The monitor was making some odd sounds (like popcorn popping), so she got new paddles.  Still no change in the sounds.  She asked a more senior nurse for help.  The senior nurse couldn't get the sound to go away (something was wrong with the connection), but she was worried that it was reporting an incorrect fetal heart rate, so she asked the doctor to come in and listen with the stethoscope.  I should also note that I was feeling significantly worse by this point.  I could felt feverish, and I just wanted everyone to go away so I could curl up in a ball and sleep a bit before surgery.

The doctor came in to listen, and I heard the nurse say that the numbers she was getting couldn't be right.  The doctor listened and said, "No.  That seems right."  Then she leaned to me and told me they were going to give me an IV to see if some hydration would help the heart rate.  Otherwise they'd be moving up the surgery.  I thought this was odd, because nothing indicated I was dehydrated.  My urine was clear, and I'd been drinking a steady flow of water all week.

About 2 minutes after the doctor left, another nurse came in and said, "We're doing the surgery now.  Anesthesia has been called.  Did you get the IV in yet?" Apparently, the baby's heartrate was now fluctuating between 180 bpm and 200 bpm.   She was in distress.  In addition, my fever was starting to go up along with my blood pressure.  Neither was at concerning levels, but along with everything else, it was best to do the surgery right away.  The NICU was called.

Hans frantically started calling family to let them know what was happening.  He didn't even have a chance to get the camera from the car (thank God for cell phones with cameras!).  I was wheeled into the OR at 9:58.  At 10:12, Anna Eleanor made her entrance into the world.

 I don't know about you, but I think she's the most beautiful baby in the world.  Of course,  I'm a bit biased.

Hans and I are thrilled, although we're also very, very tired.  I have a few future blog posts planned where I'll talk a bit more about c-section recovery, breast feeding, and new parenthood in general.  In the mean time, Anna is sleeping, so I'm going to go take a nap!  ;)