Wednesday, 24 April 2019

Life with a Newborn

I can see clearly now, the rain is gone. Or, we just survived the first month of having a little clingon in our lives - a little almost 10lb turkey who has completely, entirely & irrevocably changed our lives; completely for the better, but sometimes a little harder to admit than others. The last 5.5 weeks have been blissful, learning his little quirks and squeaks, somewhat deciphering what certain squeaks mean over others, melting over his baby snores and laughing hysterically over how loud he is when he eats and the faces he makes when he fights waking up. To put it bluntly, we’re obsessed with him. But that doesn’t mean it’s been a breezy month and a bit; I feel like I made it by the skin of my teeth - but we did it. 

Compiled is a list of what we have learned in the last 5.5 weeks: what will happen when you experience life with a newborn. Now that I’m a seasoned expert and everything (wink wink nudge nudge *SARCASM*). 

1.The cliche is true - you will forget to brush your teeth and remember in the afternoon sometime, and that coffee you made with great intentions will be chugged hours later - cold. Who cares, caffeine is caffeine girl. 
1a. When a support person accidentally dumps that 4 hours old coffee and you want to cry because wasted coffee is only secondarily tragic to wasted breast milk. 
2. Your husband/partner will start using phrases like “babe he’s starting to root” and you’re like, you’re correct but when the hell did you learn what that means. 
3. Take. It. Easy. Now - I was SHOCKED how little stamina I had the first few weeks after baby. I assumed that once the big belly was gone, I’d have my stamina back. You won’t, you just went through something maaajor - reward your body with kindness and gentleness. It’ll come back.
4. You still look pregnant. I told myself I’d leave the hospital looking exactly as I did going in, so that way anything less was a success. I left looking about 6 months pregnant, albeit with one helluva squishy belly. My belly admittedly did shrink fast (those uterus cramps are REAL), but dont worry, there's still lots of squish there. 
5. Baby blues are real. Thankfully for me they only lasted a few days, but for others they last longer and don’t be afraid to admit to it; it’s human, it’s normal and you shouldn’t suffer in silence. There's nothing to be ashamed about or feel guilty for. 
6. Breastfeeding is HARD. Your nipples are really sore, and you’re both still learning how to master this “natural” act.. natural doesn’t mean seamless. Relax, take your time with each other and get comfy. & take advantage of all the professional lactation advice you can receive within your community. Personally, breastfeeding hasn’t been something I enjoy - but that’s a whole other post I’m working on. 

7. Thirst & hunger is real. Breastfeeding burns a ton of calories and it feels like painful cardio. Have healthy, nutrient dense snacks on hand to chow down quickly. & Chug water. Have a tall glass in every spot you breastfeed, and invest in (glass or steel) straws. Extra points for a husband who holds it up to your mouth when one hand is holding a boob and the other is holding a baby head. 
8. Take the help - it honestly takes a village and between both sets of parents and siblings, I don’t think I would’ve made it through the first week - especially when Jake’s back spasmed two days after we got home and he could barely move. Laundry was done, dishes, dinners taken care of, floors vacuumed and bathrooms done. It felt extremely weird and wrong to have people do “my” chores, but it made life so much easier. 
9. Don’t turn inward, but don’t feel afraid to turn away visitors if/when you feel overwhelmed. Like I said, Baby blues are real and everything can feel daunting and hard. I’m someone who instinctively turns inward when anxiety hits me, but was surprised how refreshing *SHORT* visits could be. Have a gatekeeper who enforces the visit time limit. 
10. Cuddle cuddle cuddle - they’re only this little once, and even the hard moments are ones you can’t get back. Can’t get him to sleep in his crib for his nap? Hold him and inhale all that baby smell. They’ll figure it out sooner than you think. 
12. Every cough, squeak, grunt, snort or funny coloured foot will panic you. It’s normal.

13. Nipppple. Paaaaaads. I’ve been very fortunate that my milk supply has been very good, it’s a great problem to have in the grand scheme of things as I know some women really struggle with supply. However, with a healthy supply comes with serious engorgement and pain, as well as major leakage. Nipple pads were and are my saviours. I have extras stashed everywhere.
14. Do what works for YOU. Myles slept on me for part of the night for the first month. We would manage to get him down in his bassinette for the first portion, but then that would be it. I felt like such a failure - until I realized ALL new moms do this to some extent. I’d say it’s 50% comfort for the baby, 50% mama’s only hope for sleep. He won't be sleeping on me when he's 3, so I'll just embrace it now and know it will eventually not be the normal. 
15. Are you like me and having a set schedule/day plan is important to you? Well SAY GOODBYE TO THAT because baby don’t give a fuuuuu. True story: I had to be somewhere for an appointment at 9:30, and had to leave the house at 8:45. I had my morning planned out and it involved feeding Myles at 8:15 so I could burp him, change him and go. He decided however he wanted to eat at 7:30. No big deal right? Well it fucked my whole type A personality right up; I HATE schedule deviations. However, we still left the house on time, I was just less “presentable” than I would’ve liked, and it didn’t matter. It was a quick lesson that you’re only in control so much and you have to be able to take the divots with grace, and flexibility. Or you will be a snap show. 
16. You still send your husband photos that include your breasts, but slightly different now because there’s a baby attached to it and it’s usually in response to “whatcha up to?” While he’s at work. 
17. You WILL say out loud to each other “what the fuck were we thinking?!” At least once. A week. If you don’t, that’s great but pretty sure you’re lying. It’s okay to admit it - your baby can’t read this. I won’t tell. It doesn't mean you don't love this little human to death, it means that raising this little human is HARD, and didn't come with a manual and it can get frustrating sometimes. 
18. Sleep. When. Baby. Sleeps. It took me a week to actually do this; mainly because adrenaline was so high that I wasn’t actually tired. Well, when that wore off I felt like a train hit me. Now I try to grab at least an hour or two nap during the day when he goes down, because I still don’t know what our night will look like. Everything else can wait, you need sleep. 

19. Baby's tummies are not fully developed when they're born, and gassy bellies happen and it's horrible for everyone. Stock up on Gripe water, Ovol drops (we have 3 bottles), and learn the bicycle pump - become a master at it. 
20. Unless you want to be a human pacifier, teach your baby to love a soother - and don't feel mom guilt for giving it to your baby at 2 weeks instead of the 5 weeks like you were planning, like I did. It'll save those sore nips and your sanity.  
21. Take moments for you and your spouse; you can't pour from an empty cup is what I always say, and that extends to your relationship. You two need to depend on each other and exhaustion can easily cause squabbles. Take mini dates, go for walks, keep lines of communication open. 

So there you have it, the few things I've figured out in the short almost 6 weeks we've had our little Bubba earthside. And now that I've put it in writing, Baby Murphy's Law means it's all going to go to shit and I will be back at square one. But that's okay, because it's a learning process and it's an adventure and I couldn't have better adventure buddies on my side. This little family of mine is everything I could ever want - but I would gladly take another hour or two of sleep a night ;) 

Monday, 1 April 2019

Myles Nicholas Stuchberry, a Birth Story

PSA - this is a long read. I'm sleep deprived and want to remember every part- you've been warned. 

As I write this, my 2 week old son is sleeping peacefully in his nest, while I drink my smoothie with such gusto since I've been feeding every 2 hours for hours now and I want to finish it before he's ready to go again. This is one of the first days he’s put himself to sleep without my help, so I’m taking the time I have and making the most of it. I also might finish my coffee before it's cold and will probably brush my teeth after before 12. Wildness. Life has changed so drastically in the last few weeks and my "old life" seems like a distant memory, replaced by the hardest, most rewarding version of life I could never have expected. Motherhood has this amazing way of fundementally changing your identity, instantly. For the euphorically better. 

On March 13th, I went in for my 38 week appointment where I was told beforehand that if my cervix was cooperating, we could do a sweep. My doctor was also pregnant and going on mat leave on March 22nd, so while I really didn’t want to go overdue and have a new doctor finish my prenatal care, my blood pressure had been rising in recent weeks and she didn’t want me going overdue either. I had been having menstrual like cramps for a few days but completely sporadic and nothing too intense, just the kind of cramps I’d get if my period was imminent. I hoped this meant my cervix was doing something to open up and they weren’t just for shits and giggles. Well, good job cervix! When Dr. Stevenson checked me out, she went “Oh wow, your cervix is only about a finger’s width thick, and really soft. You’re about 2.5cm dilated.” Hell. Yes. So she did the membrane sweep, and on my way I went – hoping this meant baby would be joining us either that day or by the weekend. I also hadn’t gained any weight since my last weigh in, so pretty sure I floated out of that clinic.

When I got home I certainly didn’t feel pain, but I was for sure feeling action down there; it was tight and had lots of pressure, but no “contractions”. My mom and I walked around my street, I bounced on my exercise ball, ate pineapples, played with my nipples – everything the doctor had told me to try to get action going. My mom stayed with me until the late afternoon and when it was pretty obvious nothing was happening, she went home and I waited for Jake to come home from work. We had dinner, watched a movie on the couch (I napped), finished packing our respective hospital bags and went to bed.

Jake had been really funny those last few weeks – this was when reality really set in for him. It went from, “my wife’s is pregnant! We’re having a baby.” To, “My wife is PREGNANT and we’re having a BABY. They will just let us LEAVE THE HOSPITAL, with a BABY”. When I phoned him to tell him how my appointment went, his voice raised a few octaves when it crashed into him that this baby could be coming in a couple days, not weeks. That night he kept asking “How will you know when you’re dilated more?” I don’t know, I assume it’ll start to hurt? “Well, is there any way you can check yourself to see if you’re more dilated?” No. No that will not be happening. Decent question, but I wasn’t going to attempt that myself. Unfortunately for both of us, we just had to wait & see what happened.

Thus started the 3 day “let’s get this show on the road” phase of latent labor. 3 days of nothingness, essentially.

 The next morning I lost my mucus plug and assumed that would be it, but nope. Maternity told me unless contractions started or my water broke, to stay home and moving. So mom & I went to the mall, went to a used book store to pick up baby books, painted my toes (she did not me, I tried once a few weeks back and gave up after two toes). As frusturated I was, I knew that because of my high BP, Jake & I were due at the hospital that Saturday for a stress test, where they could check for dilation again. On Saturday we went for our appointment which turned out to be about 3x as long as it should’ve been because Bubs wouldn’t stay still long enough for them to get a baseline heart rate for him. What it did show them however, was that my BP was consistently just too high. They did bloodwork which also showed elevated liver enzymes, and she went to confer with her coworker to see if induction was necessary. She came back about 10 minutes later and said “How does tomorrow sound?” We thought she was joking, but obviously went well, okay! So after telling us to go for a date night, shower and soak it up, we’d see her tomorrow. She checked for dilation again and said “A hip check would put you into labor at this point, you’re so effaced. Let’s do one more sweep”. The first one I had didn’t hurt much at all; this one meant business. We left, went to Brown’s for an early dinner, attempted to do a mall walk but I was too uncomfortable so we just went home. I showered, Jake went to his hockey game (after much convincing from me that nothing was going to happen in 1.5 hours and just to make sure his phone was close by). I did 3 face masks, and toasted myself to possibly the last night I had to myself, with our peanut on the inside. Jake came home from hockey, he watched a movie while I napped, and we went to bed. 

Around 10pm I started having cramps that felt much more intense than anything before. After having about 3-4 I told Jake I thought I might be having something going on, so I took out my phone and started tracking them. They almost instantly got very painful, and were about 5-6 minutes apart. I didn’t want to go to the hospital just to be sent home, so I went into the living room to bounce on the ball, curled my hair to distract myself, tidied the house – anything to get my mind off these intense pains long enough. Around 1:30 I couldn’t handle it any longer and decided we needed to go, and called my mom who met us there. Unfortunately after tracking me on the monitor and checking, I was only 3-4 cm dilated and after a shot of morphine mixed with gravol, was sent home and told to come back no later than 10. The car ride home was agony, I felt like I was in a tiny box and could feel every single bump. Since we have a tenant, Jake just told me to get all my yelling out in the car so we didn’t scare the shit out of him when we got home.

I managed to get a little bit of sleep after that – the morphine didn’t take the pain away but it took the edge off of most of them so I was able to get about 20 minute periods. I was determined we would have a nice morning with coffee in bed, and make our way there around 9:30 to get started. Around 7:30 I went to the bathroom where I had had my bloody show and was once again reminded that baby makes the plans here, not me. So, once again we bundled up and got to the hospital, this time where we stayed in triage for a while because it was so busy – thankfully or else I probably would’ve been sent home again. I labored in the triage room until noon where I was finally admitted at 5-6 cm after telling the doctor that I didn’t want to go home anymore, she said that generally tells them it’s time for admitting. So we got settled in our maternity suite (Vernon has private rooms and they’re glorious), where I attempted to get comfortable any way I could – not easy. 

During that time my dad, Jake’s parents and my brother & sister in law popped in to say hello, to relieve Jake & my mom a bit, and just wait it out. At this point it had been about 14 hours. There was a lot of waiting. Around 5 I decided I couldn’t handle the pain anymore and wanted the epidural, I was done being a hero. I had tried every option before that, including laughing gas and was just exhausted and done. I wasn’t dilating the way I should have been & my water had yet to break, so they decided to break it themselves, see if that made a difference and if not, hook me up to oxytocin to try and get things moving along – if not I’d have to have a c-section. I went the entire pregnancy with no birth plan (because as I learned quickly, they can mean shit if things go sideways or baby is in distress), but I knew I did not want a section if at all possible. The nurse told me no more water or food until we knew, and then started going through the pre-op questions with me. 

This was when I finally broke down. Cried to my mom and Jake that I didn’t want to do this, that the oxytocin had to work. I didn’t want a section, I had dreamt of spending the first hours of his life snuggling him, having as much skin to skin as possible, breastfeeding right away – not spending it in a recovery room apart from him while everyone met him without me. Breaking my water took everything from a level 8-9 intensity to a 12 instantly, thank god the epidural man came in right afterwards. He had terrible bed side manner and was talking about the risk of paralysis while I had back contractions back to back to back, but at that point I was so drained, and did everything he asked me to. At that point the needle felt like it was a centimeter long – it’s certainly not but that was how relieving it was to finally have some serious relief. He gave me what’s called a “walking epidural”, so I didn’t need a catheter and could still use the washroom, hallelujah. 

Finally around 9:30 they came in and checked me and I was at a 9, and so so happy it meant I could deliver naturally still. The doctor and team came back around 11 where I told them I felt a lot of pressure and like I wanted to push, so we got to town. Jake, my mom were at either side of my bed, Jake VERY close to the top and staring at the wall when he wasn’t coaching me. God bless him, he was terrified in there but was an absolute champ. I never thought about how hard it would be on support people to see your loved one in so much pain. I couldn’t imagine not having those two in there with me. After 48 minutes of pushing, and one instance of yelling “OMG just fucking pull him out, I can’t do it anymore!!!”, Myles Nicholas Stuchberry was here. All 7 pounds, 10 ounces of him. With so much hair I couldn’t believe my eyes. But he was perfect. It’s so true when they say that the second that baby lays on your chest, the rest of the labor all but disappears. I remember it, but the intensity is so much more dwindled now. All I remember is kissing his head, kissing Jake, Jake crying while he met his son, and the absolute overwhelming love that filled that room in those moments. I didn’t even feel delivering the placenta, and while I did have a second degree tear, I barely felt the doctor stitching me up – I was too high off this feeling. And maybe some excess epidural.

 Once the doctor handed him to me, I was overwhelmed by the love I felt in that moment. I cried in pure bliss. This was him. This was the little person I had felt move and grow inside of me for the last 9.5 months. Who I had labored so long for. He was worth every second of the pain. He was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen. And he was finally here. In my arms. Mine forever.

For the next two hours, I was not aware of much besides my little baby boy. I know that I finished the delivery and that the room bustled around us as the nurses cleaned up, but I really don't remember any of that. We were riveted by him. He didn't cry - just opened his eyes with this sweet little scrunchy face I'll never forget. Not an hour after his birth, we were alone. The velvetty dark sky peared through the windows and I felt this peace settle around us. The three of us. Our little family. That moment shared together is too precious for words. But I don't think I've ever felt so much love in my life. I was sure my heart would burst. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so much love for Jake, that he gave me this gift of the most perfect little person I had dreamt about for longer than I knew.

My birth was everything I didn't know I wanted. I got to experience every side of labor. The side of "using relaxation and my birth breath" to get through 21 hours, the side of "nevermind, my body's trying to kill me. I would rather yell really loudly right now, thank you", and the side of "ah. I'm back! I'm ME!! Bless you epi. I'm ready to meet my baby, let’s get this sucker out.", and lastly the side of "is my butt ripping apart?! it feels like it's ripping apart. He's only THAT far out!? WHY are you saying good job that's NOTHING".. It wasn't what I expected. It wasn't part of the plan. Pretty sure I should stop making those actually. But it turns out, it was exactly what I wanted. What we wanted. {Lemme tell you, I think Jake might have actually been happier than I was when I decided to get the epidural.}

And of course, we had our happy ending - the little boy of my dreams. But then, I guess it's not the end at all. Now we just get to fall more and more obsessed with him by the minute, every squeal, every face, every everything he does is like a drug to us. Our perfect family, the beginning of our new chapter together. The three musketeers.