19 Jun 2011, 4:13pm
animals & children life
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Breast is Beast

Warning: Boob talk. Photos are mostly of Ender, because I thought (most) readers would rather see baby pictures than pictures of my boobs.

Unfortunately, I’ve never wanted large breasts. I was an A cup before I got pregnant, and a C cup at the end of pregnancy when I started shopping for nursing bras, and naturally I’ve only gotten bigger. Matt kind of likes it, but they hurt so badly that he doesn’t get to do anything with them anyway.

I know several people that have been unable to breastfeed for various reasons. So I told myself I wouldn’t let it get me down if I couldn’t nurse, but honestly, in spite of that, I expected nursing to be easy. I mean, women have been doing it as long as there have been people, right? And females have been doing it for as long as there have been mammals. So how could it be THAT hard?

And it hasn’t been, relatively speaking. I mean, it took both Ender and I a couple days to get the hang of it.

Apparently I can’t just stick him next to a nipple and expect him to go to town. A few days after giving birth, my arms were so sore from trying to hold him in place that I couldn’t tell which arm I’d got my tetanus shot (gotta get the Tdap to keep Ender safe from whooping cough).

Initially, the most difficult part of nursing Ender was keeping him awake long enough to eat anything. He’s getting a bit more lively now, but starting off, Ender was a sleepy baby.

While we were in the hospital it was 50/50 whether we would have to wake him up to eat, and when he did, he’d fall asleep as soon as his lips touched my boob. One of the lactation consultants finally told me to try “irritating” him when he stopped eating, and that let him get better meals.

These days, he’s nursing like a pro and I’ve more or less figured out the positioning issues. I’ve been very lucky that nursing has not been difficult for me, but as it turns out, “not hard” is not the same thing as “easy.”

The first, worst problem has more or less resolved itself now, or maybe I’m just used to it and better at controlling it. Milk. EVERYWHERE. The first few days back from the hospital, I didn’t bother to wear a shirt, because I had to change every fifteen minutes.

Nothing could contain the milk.

It wasn’t just leaking, I was, at times, literally spraying milk in haphazard directions. Disposable nursing pads are pretty much useless and the reusable cloth ones are only marginally better. I really can’t fully express how much milk there was, how everywhere it was, and how inhuman that made me feel. Fortunately, as I said, this seems to be somewhat under control now, though I still end up changing clothes far more frequently than I would have pre-milk.

Sleeping is a challenge because the bras are too restricting, and even the nursing camis are tighter than I’m used to, making me feel like I can’t breathe. Those were still my best option until I managed to get a sleeping bra.

Whatever I wear to sleep in, I have to tuck a towel inside to keep from leaking all over the sheets, leaving me with a warm, puffy chest that combined with my unusually sized boobs, still convinces me that I’ve managed to fall asleep holding Ender every time I wake up.  This morning I heard him fussing and actually starting cooing to my boobs before I realized he was in his bassinet.

Clothing in general is a problem. Maternity clothes are pretty easy to come by. There is the standby Motherhood store which can be found in most malls. I’d always heard that maternity clothes were horribly overpriced, but I found that so long as I avoided the “designer” label (A Pea in the Pod) the prices there were pretty reasonable. Target, Kohls, Macys and Pennys also all have maternity sections with more limited selection but decent prices.

Nursing clothes are an entirely different matter.

Pennys has a few nursing bras, but otherwise zilch in terms of nursing clothing. Motherhood has 2 foot wide section dedicated to nursing bras and camis. All other stores: nothing.

Mind you, most of these stores have nursing clothes… but only online, so if you want to try something on, you’re out of luck. Not that I have a whole lot of time to go shopping with a new baby. Even then, the selection online is pretty limited, and for some reason, MUCH more expensive than maternity clothes.

The lack of selection, and the higher prices, are probably both because there is less demand for nursing clothes. Nearly everyone I talked to said they either just kept wearing maternity tops (very stretchy so allowed access) or just looked for non-nursing stretchy tops that allowed them to pull one side up while leaving the other boob covered. I didn’t feel this was an option for me, because after going out and buying 5 nursing bras, I found that I couldn’t figure out how to NURSE in a nursing bra. So I needed something designed to give a little support, and allow a place for nursing pads. Which left me searching for nursing clothes, and stuck with crappy selection and pricing. I should be set for now, at least until it gets colder. Theoretically, by then I’ll have figured out how to handle nursing in normal clothes.

The most current issue is the actual process of nursing.

When my milk first came in, I thought I had oversupply, the nursing “problem” that every mother would probably love to have. My boobs hurt so bad that before the end of Ender’s first week Matt and I broke the rules about bottle feeding. To avoid nipple confusion, you aren’t supposed to introduce a bottle until four weeks or so, but we had Matt feed Ender right before bed while I pumped to reduce the pressure, allowing me to sleep.

Over the next few days though I felt like my supply was going down… whether because of the pumping, or just because Ender’s appetite was growing faster than I was producing milk.

Everything I read said the best way to up supply is to “feed on demand” rather than trying to get the baby to feed on a schedule, even a seemingly demanding schedule of every three hours. So… demand is what I’m trying.

Only, Ender doesn’t feed “every hour” as women online complain about their babies that feed “constantly.” Ender literally feeds constantly. I nurse him, put him down, he cries, wakes up and starts rooting again, wanting to eat. There are times of the day where I am doing nothing but nurse, for hours at a time.

Now if he were only sucking halfheartedly, I’d say it’s just comfort nursing, and try to get him to take a pacifier. But Ender seems to actually be eating each time he demands to nurse. I now have no concept of what sort of supply I have, because when he’s in a nursing mood, my boobs never seem to get much above empty, and when he’s napping, they’re full to the brim, painful, and I’m liable to end up shooting milk again. I’ll spare you a detailed description of Ender’s diaper contents, but I do think he’s getting enough. It’s still frustrating when I’m stuck feeding him in his apparently insatiable periods, and a little worrying that I’ve been unable to build up stored milk for when we go out.

I do realize I’m having a pretty easy time with nursing, it’s just not quite the magical mommy mystery that le leche promised me.

I enjoy nursing when it’s not the 5th marathon nursing session in a row, but it’s not uncomplicated.

I don’t so much resent waking up as I dread trying to get Ender back to sleep in the night, and when Matt has him with a bottle, I’m simultaneously relieved that I can stay in bed, and jealous that I’m not the one cuddling with Ender. I still find it very cool (and sort of weird) that I’m making food for my baby, but it depresses me that whenever I’m holding him while he’s awake, he’s fussing to be fed. In fact we have recently confirmed that Ender pretty much only goes to sleep at night for Matt… not because he’s doing anything different (we think) but because without fail, Ender smells the milk on me and starts demanding more, even if he’s just fed for a half hour. The fantabulous thing about this is it means we can probably get a good night’s sleep two out of seven days a week, on the nights Matt is free to help me.

I’ve been told by friends with kids that it gets easier, and I’ll admit that the various frustrations of nursing have not yet pushed me to consider formula, which seems like it would be even more of a hassle, not to mention unnecessary expense.

I have been pumping more, just an ounce or two after a couple feedings a day, because having that bottle as an option is kind of awesome.

Like most parts of new parenthood, nursing seems totally under my control on the days when I’ve had a good night’s sleep, and completely overwhelming on the zombie days. Every day it seems a little easier and a little more normal. Of course, the sleeping situation is only going downhill, so in terms of overwhelming vs. manageable, I seem to have reached a state of equilibrium. I guess that’s just a part of parenting too.

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  • 10 Jun 2011, 10:16pm
    animals & children life
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    Ten Days

    So now that I’m a parent (Wait, I’m what? Weird.), it’s obvious that everyone wants to see endless photos of my son (My what again?) even though each one looks pretty much the same as the next. You’re welcome world.

    We got home from the hospital Saturday afternoon. Matt’s mom came in for the weekend to help us out and took good care of us while we tried to figure out a routine. She was nice enough to take Ender’s first photo outside the house, as soon as we got home.

    Ender got a cute hat from the hospital. No idea who makes them, but I find it interesting that the fluffy knit hat, like the slightly more disposable hats they keep on the baby during the hospital stay, and the blankets used for swaddling,  incorporates both blue and pink so theoretically no one will complain that their baby’s gender is being bended by pink blankets. Not that anyone would do that (people would totally do that).

    We picked out a green onesie for Ender to wear home from the hospital, the first real “outfit” he wore. This lead to the realization that onesies are not nearly as convenient as I had assumed pre-baby: you have to get it over their HEAD?!

    My aunt Marion sent me a Moby wrap for a baby shower gift. I’d registered for this sort of skeptically. I though they looked cool, but had some doubts about how easy they’d be to use. Watching Matt go step by step through the video tutorial didn’t exactly convince me, but now that we’ve played with it some, I’m sold. We also have an Ergo carrier, but we’re still waiting for the infant insert to arrive. I’m sure they’ll both have their uses. The Moby is GREAT for around the house. I suspect the Ergo will be the winner for outside, and will probably last a little longer in terms of baby age.

    Being a new parent seems to move in waves from complete bliss to desperate how do we manage this mode. I’m actually pretty surprised at how speedy my recovery has been. I still have some pain, which I only notice about every six hours as the motrin starts to wear off, but my energy level is WAY higher than it was during the last couple weeks of pregnancy and certainly higher than I expected considering how I felt after giving birth.

    The biggest post labor issue I’ve had was the edema (swelling). For one thing, I didn’t have any idea that this even happened… I thought swelling was a late pregnancy issue, not a postpartum issue. For another thing, even though the appearance wasn’t all that different from my swelling during pregnancy, this swelling just felt SO much worse. I found a poster on a baby forum who described it as walking on water balloons, which came close to what I felt, but my reaction was almost more existential.

    I wanted to describe the feeling as numb even though I had no loss of sensation.

    What I really felt was that my feet and hands didn’t belong to me. I could control them, I could receive sensory signals, but my hands were not a part of me. I was about ready to call up Oliver Sacks, because it was something right out of one of his books. The three or so days of this I experienced are probably the closest I came to losing it. Forget being kept up by Ender, between leaking milk EVERYWHERE and not owning my body parts, I couldn’t sleep at all.

    Fortunately the swelling went down a couple days ago and the detached limbs feeling went with it.

    Now sleep is a problem, but not as much as I expected. Ender sleeps very well at night (probably too well, babies with jaundice apparently tend to be kind of lethargic) but we wake him every three hours to eat.

    Interestingly, this is revealing how very different my and Matt’s sleep needs are. In the past, we’ve noticed that Matt does far better with sleep deprivation than I do.

    He can usually function just fine on 5 hours a night for several days at a time, or less for a day, then he’ll need a weekend’s good full (8 hours) sleep to recover.

    On the other hand, I get stupid with lack of of sleep if I don’t get 8 OR MORE hours most nights. Or at least that was true before pregnancy.

    I seem to need a little less now, which may have something to do with hormones, or may just be practice since sleeping during pregnancy was pretty terrible towards the end.

    Either way, I still tend to need a good 6+ hours or I’m pretty much useless for the rest of  the day, and I need a longer night’s sleep right away to get my brain back.

    With that history, I expected Matt to do better with newborn sleep issues than I do, but as it turns out, broken sleep is a much bigger problem for Matt than for me. This is most likely because even before I got pregnant, I had disrupted sleep 99% of the time. I already sleep like a baby- that is, not in very long stretches. I haven’t “slept through the night” since I was a baby. So having to wake up every few hours isn’t nearly as much of a change for me as it is for Matt. We’ll see if this continues on when Matt goes back to work and won’t be up to help as much, or for that matter if Ender continues to allow me to sleep in 3 hour chunks.

    I’m a bit worried about how I’ll do in general once Matt goes back to work. He’s been doing so amazing as a dad.

    The first day after giving birth I literally needed a nurse to help me walk to the bathroom. I managed to take a shower, but only technically- I spent the whole time under the water leaning on the handicapped bars. I couldn’t stand upright for more than a few seconds at a time.

    This left Matt to do the bulk of non-nursing baby care. When it was time to nurse, Matt brought Ender to me and helped prop up pillows so I could try to find the right position. I don’t think I changed a diaper until day 5 or so, not at all while we were at the hospital. Neither of us minded the arrangement (at least if Matt did he never said so), I was too exhausted to want to do anything more taxing than holding Ender, and Matt got to have lots of close time with new baby.

    That’s sort of the pattern we fell into though, reinforced by the discomfort of edema. When I called my midwife to ask about the swelling, they asked a few questions to make sure I wasn’t having blood pressure issues (we have a bp monitor so this was pretty easy to rule out) and told me it was normal, I’d just need to stay off my feet more, elevate them when possible, take epsom salt baths and drink lots of water. Since I wasn’t on my feet that much to begin with at that point, that meant I spent most of my time the first few days home sitting on the couch, holding Ender.

    This wasn’t completely useless, since for jaundice we needed to have as much of him in indirect sunlight as possible (as in ideally he should just be wearing a diaper), and the only way he’s content is if he’s either swaddled or being held.

    But as lovely as it is to hold my baby, this doesn’t exactly prepare me to care for him independently.

    Matt’s mom will be in town the first week he goes back to work, which will be a huge help, and I’ve been slowly working on doing the various baby activities on my own.

    My first step was to make sure I can nurse Ender without help. This is harder than it sounds, which I don’t understand at all, because honestly, what did women do in the 18th century, or pre-history, before they invented boppys? The first time I tried to nurse him just by holding him up to my nipple, but apparently it’s not that easy, at least not with a newborn.

    It’s not easy to juggle a baby, a boppy, make sure I have what I need/want within reach (like water), have nursing pads, soothies and Lansinoh ready for use, and have towels, blankets, or something absorbent to catch the GALLONS of milk leaking out of my body (ok probably only ounces, but I was seriously getting soaked with the stuff, especially the first few days my milk came in… it was horrifying).

    I’m sure this will become second nature as time goes on, but it took me a while, and a lot of careful maneuvering, the first attempt. I’m much better now, but it’s still awkward.

    I’ve not had any trouble dressing Ender, but Matt did all the swaddling at the hospital, and while he’s nowhere near as adept as the nurses, (they wrap up a baby like cartoon rodeo stars) he got pretty good by the end, so that Ender would only escape after several hours.

    It’s pretty funny, Ender loves being swaddled, it’s one of the things that calms him down almost immediately, but he writhes around trying to escape the whole time. He always manages in the end, even from the nurse wrapped straight jackets.

    Matt got pretty good at it, and was doing every part of the night routine but nursing, but every time I tried a swaddle, Ender took it apart within minutes.

    I’m sure I would have gotten the hang of it eventually, but we ended up picking up some velcro swaddlers, that are much easier than a 30 inch blanket.

    I was able to get Ender in the pre-made swaddle without too much trouble, and he can’t get out of that one, though he’ll occasionally manage to get a hand poking out the side.

    Swaddling was key to me being able to do anything at all during the day, but mastering the moby was probably even more important.

    It’s amazing how much difference having two hands free makes, not just in freedom of motion, but in emotional weight. The wrap keeps him very securely next to me, so I get all the upsides of holding him, but can still roam around and, you know, do stuff.

    I’m still trying to figure out how tight to tie the thing so Ender is secure without being too squished, but the wrap was probably the best thing I’ve learned for letting me feel like I might be able to manage with Matt at work.

    Of course I know I will manage… as with the nursing, women (and more recently the occasional man) have been managing for quite a while.

    I’m sort of easing into relieving Matt of baby care because I think it will make things less difficult when he’s not shouting distance away (I cover Ender’s ears) but I don’t want to take over too much because I don’t want to rob him of time with the baby before he goes back to work. Even if I don’t get used to it, I’m aware that I’ll learn the baby skills when I need to learn the baby skills… sort of like Matt did at the hospital.

    Mostly what I’m worried about is being lonely. I think I’ve got a bit of an edge here on many women who start to feel isolated after a couple weeks of maternity leave. Not leaving the social setting of a workplace, there won’t be as much culture clash for me, but it’s still easy to see how the all-consuming task of new parenthood could be overwhelming.

    Matt saved two weeks of his vacation time for the baby’s birth, and the first week was taken up at the hospital. This week, at home with him and watching him be with Ender, has been so special, and so valuable. As hard as it is right now not to be an Ender-hog (and sometimes I’m an Ender-hog even though I know I shouldn’t be) the best part of this week has been the calm (Yes, calm! Don’t ask me how.) warm exploration of our new family.

    We’ve got Matt giving Ender a bottle before bed now. We decided to ignore the expert advice on waiting so that he could have the feeding experience. I’m greedy for more though, more time together and more time watching the two of them.

    I know I can manage on my own, but I also know that I am going to miss Matt so much when he’s back at the office, and I’m pretty sure he’s going to miss being immersed in baby land, even if he’s simultaneously a little relieved.

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  • Olivander


    Olivander Call Neely, born at 12:15 am June 1st. We’re calling him Ender for short.

    Warning: many bodily fluids described ahead. If you aren’t interested in reading about the birth, skip the bulk of the text here for photos below.

    My water broke at 4:30 am on Tuesday. I had been feeling little trickles for about half an hour, but kept saying, no, it’s NOT my water, until finally I decided to get up and use the restroom and WHOOSH, just like in the movies. Ender wasn’t due until June 11, and with a half constructed changing table, giant boxes waiting to be broken down and removed, and all sorts of pre-baby chaos in the house, Matt and I were hoping for just a LITTLE more time, but just as everyone who took a look at my giant belly predicted, Ender came a little early.

    If you want to see a sleeping man leap straight to a standing position, “damnit, my water broke” are apparently magic words. Actually, a week later, Matt is still a little jumpy whenever I say the word “water” in the bedroom.

    Though we’d been warned in our childbirth class that when the water breaks it doesn’t just stop… I wasn’t fully prepared for the fact that it just. kept. coming. I called my midwife Colleen from the bathroom and left a message with her answering service, then texted my doula Kim, and our friend Willow who is thinking of becoming a midwife or doula and who we had invited to attend the birth. Irregular contractions started shortly after my water broke, but they were so mild I wasn’t sure that’s what they were. I called the midwife again a couple hours later when I didn’t hear anything (she was sort of busy in another labor).

    We put a towel down on the bed and Matt and I took a nap, figuring the easy part of labor would take a while, and we ought to get some rest while we could. Shockingly, we both managed to get a couple hours of sleep in.

    When I woke up contractions had stopped entirely. We heard back from Colleen’s office around 10 or 11 I think. I was told that normally they’d recommend I stay at home and labor there as long as possible to avoid ending up with Pitocin, but because I was group B Strep positive and had ruptured membranes (water broken)  they wanted to get me in to be checked and figure out what to do from there.

    On the car ride over to Colleen’s office, contractions had restarted, were consistently 5 minutes apart and irritating but still not especially painful. I had a couple more painful contractions walking to the office, and then once I was set up on the table to be checked, they stopped entirely again. I found this confusing, but I guess that’s all pretty normal. I was at 3 cm, so Colleen recommended Matt and I go to the nearby mall (air conditioning) and walk around for an hour or so, to try and get things going. I think this was around noon, but I’m not entirely sure. She asked us to call and check in at 4 (pm) and I assume at the point we would have needed to start talking induction.

    As soon as we started walking, contractions started again, and they became more painful, though still tolerable. I was a little worried about how bad they’d get though, because they seemed to be almost entirely in my back, and I’ve not heard warm fuzzy things about back labor.

    By about 2, contractions were getting to be less what I would call tolerable. We wanted to get a meal in me before starting what we figured would be a loooong day(s), so we drove to Liquid Planet for a smoothie and a pita. I didn’t manage to eat much. We left after fifteen minutes or so to go to the hospital, where I was pre-registered.

    I should probably explain here, that I was trying to go for an unmediated birth. This is not for any philosophical reasons, it’s for phobia reasons: I hate needles. Pregnancy HAS actually reduced this fear considerably, along with years of annual flu shots and now, weekly to twice monthly allergy injections (2 in each arm), but the idea of a GIANT NEEDLE in my spine freaked me out, and I was way more afraid of that than the pain, so epidural was the course of last resort. I’d requested the holistic birthing suite. It’s a recently added labor room with a large jacuzzi bath for laboring and is generally set up for natural birth. That room was already occupied however, so we were put in a different room with a big baby pool instead. All the birthing rooms at St. Johns are private, so I didn’t really mind.

    Colleen was still in another birth (I think a different one, apparently May has been insane for births) so the nurse set me up on a fluid IV until she could get a script for the antibiotics (for the GBS). They wanted to get me two doses before the birth. I think I threw a wrench in the works here… I’d forgotten to mention an amoxacillin resistance. They always ask about allergies… but resistance just means it stops working, and so I never thought to mention it. It was lucky I was reading about GBS treatment a few days earlier and saw that the normal treatment is penicillin. So I think it took longer than expected to get me sorted with antibiotics, and as a result I was laying in bed for a couple hours with a fluid IV and increasingly bad back labor. The nurse who set me up was very sweet and, reading my needle phobia, got my blood draw done at the same time as the IV poke (not exactly sure how that works).

    At this point no one really knew how far along I was, because the plan had been to wait for Colleen to check me to avoid extra risk of infection from lots of checks, and Colleen was still caught up in labor. I hadn’t called Kim (doula) or Willow (trainee doula) yet, because the idea is to wait until active labor, and everyone figured I should wait to hear how far along I was. I knew I was in pain, but since I had no idea how BAD the pain would get, I wasn’t sure. When Colleen arrived, she took one look at me and said we should get me up and moving. She was a little surprised that I was still on an IV instead of just the heplock, and got the antibiotics truck rolling so I could be a little more mobil. Colleen suggested I move to the toilet in the meantime, which I found pretty gross, but the change in position did seem to help for a while. She also said yes, for the love of all that is holy or unholy, call the doulas (she may not have put it like that, I think my pain was starting to translate language in interesting ways). I was only at 4cm, which probably should have been discouraging, but Colleen made it sound like good progress.

    Both Doulas were on the way, but I think I was still on the toilet when I said, get me some drugs, PLEASE. I had been mildly freaked at having a heplock, though mostly distracted by contractions, but at this point I was wholly thankful to have it, as it made the nubain that much easier to get into my blood.

    Can I just say, nubain is awesome? I moved from the toilet to the rocker and the contractions still hurt, but I didn’t care that it hurt. I LOVED the nubain. The nurse said, “Oh yeah, you’re high,” and I said, “YES I am.” Anyway.

    Kim and Willow showed up at around the same time, with me still flying but the pain sharpening through the drugs. When I started to have a hard time again, Kim got me up from the rocker, and had me kneel, leaning on a birthing ball. This helped some, but not enough. What DID help was the pressure Kim applied to my lower back. I think she showed Matt and Willow how to do this as well, but I was starting to lose track of who was doing what at this point.

    For some reason they want you at 5 cm before you can use the birthing tub, but my pain levels were rising rapidly, and the second dose of nubain didn’t help for nearly as long as the first. I started to talk about an epidural, but Kim suggested I get checked to see if I was far enough along to use the tub. So we did that.

    I don’t think anyone expected me to be further along than 5 cm, but I was at 7. They started filling the tub, and I tried to figure out what I wanted to do. I had a pretty good idea about how the rest of the night was going to go.

    I think I was progressing faster than people thought I was. Colleen had predicted (out of my earshot) a baby sometime after breakfast. First time labors aren’t supposed to move all that fast, but the pain seemed to be escalating fast… I had a feeling if I got in the tub I’d lose my window for an epidural by the time I needed one. In the end I figured I’d give it a try, and if it didn’t help enough, I’d get the epidural.

    It did help, a lot, especially with water on my back and Matt stroking my hair. It ended up working out really well for me that the birthing suite was occupied: the baby pool used as a replacement was padded everywhere so I could move around without fighting hard surfaces. The walls were like vinyl couches.

    Everything still hurt more than I felt I could cope with. At this point everything goes from kind of blurry to almost blank in my memory. I think I went into transition almost as soon as I got into the tub. It was horrific. It’s as close as I’ve come to crying from pain in my adult life. Friends had told us that the screaming you see on TV is unrealistic, but let me tell you, I am a screamer. Also a curser, though I’d like to point out that  my swearing wasn’t directed at anyone, and I don’t believe I ever resorted to screaming, “you did this to me,” at Matt.

    I think the only reason I didn’t say, “that’s it, get me the epidural,” is that I sort of zonked out in the short peace between contractions and couldn’t focus long enough to say anything.

    I have no idea how long transition lasted. At some point I started feeling “pushy” and when I mentioned it Kim and the nurse said to go ahead and push. Colleen wasn’t around at that point, I think she was nap-recovering in another room from her back to back deliveries, so I started pushing halfheartedly, not really sure.

    I think at this point I managed to vocalize that I wanted an epidural if it wasn’t too late. I was pretty sure it was too late, so I wasn’t too crushed when they got me out of the tub to check me and announced I was fully dilated, and someone ran to get Colleen.

    Kim kept saying, “push through the pain,” and eventually I realized that pushing actually made the pain of the contraction LESS and I started pushing with a lot more enthusiasm. They asked me if wanted to get back in the tub, but I was pretty sure I didn’t have the energy/coordination/balance to get back in, much less back OUT again, and I did not want to deliver in the water, so we continued in bed. I don’t remember when Colleen got there, or when they added the birthing bar, and when I look at the nurse in the photos, I don’t even recognize her (there were a couple shift changes while I was in labor).

    The pushing actually hurt much less than transition. It was incredibly HARD, but such a relief to be in less pain that I was able to joke around a bit with everyone in between contractions. There was still considerable pain, I was still yelling and cursing, but it was more about the exertion than the agony. Colleen was awesome about explaining that the almost unbearable pressure/pain/stretching at the end of each contraction let me stretch more slowly. Kim managed to get me to relax between and prepare for the next. For the most part, I think pushing was within my coping range, but it was probably the most physically taxing thing I’ve ever had to do.

    At first pushing was fairly productive, according to Matt, Kim and Willow you could physically SEE the difference as Ender moved down. One of the few times I opened my eyes, I glanced down and was startled at how flat my belly was. Progress seemed to stall right at the end though, and everyone kept telling me I needed to push harder/more.   I didn’t exactly have more to put into it. Eventually Colleen said if we didn’t get him out soon she’d need to do an episiotomy or get the vacuum. She was actually numbing me up for the an episiotomy which got me a bit panicky (the needles, not the thought of cutting which I wasn’t thrilled about either) but I finally managed to get him out in the next push.

    Before, they kept talking about how he would “pop” out once he got over that edge, and that’s really what it felt like.

    I actually thought Colleen had bopped him on the head to somehow get him to jump out (it didn’t make any more sense in my head to be honest) and then there was this wiggly mass of baby on the bed. Matt was supposed to get to hold him first, but the umbilical cord wasn’t quite long enough for that, so they put him on my chest. He was sort of greyish blue, which really worried me while they were suctioning out his lungs. The first of many freakouts in parenting, I realize. I’m pretty sure it was only a matter of seconds before they cleared his lungs and he started screaming in earnest, but it felt like quite a lot longer. He pinked up pretty soon once they got him crying, though his feet and hands stayed purplish for a bit.

    I literally do not remember ever seeing that nurse. I was pretty content to just stare at Ender, though I think it took about a day for the real awe to set in.

    The name Olivander doesn’t have any special significance for our family, we found it in a baby name book, and both quite liked it. We figured it’s nice and unique without being so weird sounding that he’ll get teased or be embarrassed. I have no idea what the “right” way to pronounce it is, but we’re saying it like a mash-up of Oliver and Alexander.

    Olivander means “protector of the olive tree”  which we thought was kind of cool. As a side note, Oliver means “olive tree” but it can also mean “elf army,” which is sort of awesome. We did NOT get the name Olivander from Harry Potter, though one of the characters is named Mr. Ollivander, and I’m sure people will assume that no matter what we say. Ah well.

    Ender is a character from a favorite sci-fi book, Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. We figure if he doesn’t like that nickname when get gets older, he can always go by Ollie or Van or even Oliver. Olivander is the name I used while he was in the womb, and Ender seems like a different creature than the imaginary baby I carried around for nine months. To us he looks like an Ender.

    Willow was our wedding photographer, and she took most of the photos during the birth, as well as keeping me stocked in ice chips (love ice chips) and probably helping out in lots of other ways that I was too busy to notice. She also took a flipbook worth of photos of Ender crowning, which I will not be sharing, and which make me wince. Lots. I have a second degree tear, which I’d hoped to avoid, but I realize in terms of tearing it could be much worse.

    Of course, every minute of the pain was worth it, but I wouldn’t say it was necessary. I wasn’t sure where my needle fear would balance with pain tolerance, and now I know: next time I’m getting the epidural.

    It’s interesting to me that some of the people who set out to have a natural birth say they’re doing it that way because they want to be “present” for the birth, to be aware of the whole experience. For myself, I think I would have been much more aware and present had I had less pain. I think I would have been mentally defeated pretty early on without the nubain and the support of both my husband and doula(s). Transition was impossible, and I kept repeating, “I don’t want to,” because I realized, “I can’t,” was pretty much unhelpful and, frankly, untrue as evidenced by human history. The only real upside I can about the pain is that it made the pushing phase seem tolerable by comparison, but even with that, I think I may have had more energy for it if I hadn’t been so spent by transition.

    I am glad it went the way it went. I am also glad it’s over.

    The next morning:

    Look at me, wearing clothes. That didn’t happen much while at the hospital, they aren’t kidding when they say modesty flies out the door.

    Holding him is incredible. I can’t believe how soft he is.

    With our insurance we get two days at the hospital from time of birth, and since Ender was kind enough to be born just after midnight, it was closer to three days, which made me feel much more secure about the whole healthy newborn thing, especially since my labor was fairly short- they only had time to give me one dose of antibiotics for the GBS.

    I kept asking people if his nose looked yellow, but they periodically tested his bilirubin levels (the way they measure jaundice) and they were fine… right up until the point that they jumped up to not fine. I think that was sometime late Thursday, and unfortunately they weren’t able to get a blood test on him until Friday, when we were supposed to be discharged.

    The levels were high enough that they told us he needed to stay another night… and under the UV lamps the whole time.

    That was tough news… one of the things we loved about the hospital was that we had the option of keeping him with us the whole time we were there, and the UV lamps meant our time with him was limited to half hour feedings every three hours.

    There were a few upsides to this though. The first one was that they wanted to supplement my milk with a little formula after each feeding to make sure he was getting enough (and flushing out his system). This gave Matt and opportunity to feed Ender, which he wouldn’t have had otherwise since everyone says don’t introduce a bottle until 4 weeks etc, etc.

    Probably the biggest upside of being separated from him is that, as much as it sucked, it gave us a chance to sleep in solid 3 hour blocks. The last two nights had been disrupted by every little sound he made, every big sound he made, as we struggled to figure out how to get him to sleep, and the frequent checks by nurses on both his and my health. The third day, where I was technically discharged from the hospital (we stayed on as “boarders” at no cost) there were no checkups, and no fussing, but we still had access to lactation consultants and knew our baby was being taken care of. So even though it was emotionally rough, we both felt much better for the extra rest and support the next day, and I think we went home from the hospital much more recovered than most people do. We had to continue to monitor Ender’s bilirubin levels, and today they finally went down on their own. He’s still a tiny bit fake-tan looking, but he’s beautiful anyway and with any luck his color will return completely to normal over the next day or so.

    Of course the final benefit was that being away from him made us appreciate being with him, and gave us an extra drop of patience for the next week of sleep deprivation. It’s anyone’s guess how long that will last, but for now, we’re all three feeling pretty good.

    I’ll try to post more photos later this week.

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