Friday, March 31, 2006

Hodge Podge for $200, Alex

Seen on a church sign in my neighborhood this morning: "Be Ye Prepared! Daylight Savings Time Draweth Nigh!"

It amused me, for some reason. The sign, not the DST. Although I'm looking forward to it for the simple reason that the Bear is up with the sun every morning, and if I can push that from 5:45 to 6:45, so much the better.

Seen on the license plate of a very large SUV driven by a very small woman: LMAO. Yeah, lady. I am, too.

My house is my own again! Rabid housecleaning to ensue.

The Mouse has developed into an excellent sleeper. I blame it on Moxie and the flax seed oil. What delightful stuff! She naps most of the day, has her alert time in the evenings, nurses to sleep between 10-11 and wakes up 2-3 times a night, eats, burps, goes back to the bassinet or stays with us, if I fall asleep while she's eating. Her fussy time is usually between 6-8 in the morning - sucko. That's when Husband leaves for work and the Bear wakes up, too, so we're a real chipper bunch around here in the a.m. Oh well.

The doctor recommended an intercranial ultrasound for Mouse, just to make sure that the swelling from the hematoma was external only, and that there was no internal swelling on her brain. Scariest half-hour of my life, but she's fine. The big squishy bump is gone, and in its place is a slight rise, a grassy knoll, if you will, that will probably always be there. It's dried and calcified blood, I was told when I asked. I wish I hadn't asked... We'll just grow her hair out to cover it - nobody will ever notice!

At 4 weeks she was up to 11 pounds, 1 ounce. That's a hefty gain over the 8 pounds, 3 ounces she weighed when we brought her home! She also grew from 20 to 21 1/2 inches (although depending on how they stretch, that part is subjective) and her head increased from 14 to 15 inches. We are making only heavy cream at this dairy, people! She is gigantic. I asked, and the kindly doctor reminded me that breastfed babies are typically chunkier at this point, due to efficient nutrition, but less chunky later on. Her collarbone is healing nicely. There's a slight bump on the bone, which I fully expect will grow out as she gets older. Yay!

The Bear is completely enamored, and she's such a great big sister. She will bring you anything you want - diapers, wipes, burp cloths, blankies, etc. and wants to hug and kiss the baby every time she cries. She tells me what to do for her - if she fusses, she'll say "Mouse up. Hug. Mommy milk!" They are super cute together, although Mouse is still a little unconvinced that she needs all this affection from her big sister. Hopefully she'll come to appreciate it later!

Mouse and I have developed a wonderful nursing relationship. She took to it very quickly and easily, unlike her sister, and we spend lots of quality time this way. It's a beautiful thing - I'm so glad this is something I can do for her.

I was back in my old jeans at 2 weeks. The weight just melted off this time, although the scale says I still have 10 pounds to go to get back to my pre-Mouse weight, which was 5 pounds less than my pre-Bear weight (wedding weight). At this point, I'm not so much concerned with numbers as I am with getting back into the few clothes I own, since I can't afford new ones at the moment. Still, when total strangers tell you that you don't look like you just had a baby (I was getting those comments by 5 days post), it counterbalances the hormones nicely. It brings you up just long enough to make the inevitable resounding mood crash that much steeper. Yay hormones. I totally callled out my SIL at the dinner table the other night because she compared my meatloaf to her mother's, and mine fell apart in the wash. (Ok, it just fell apart. I use lean meat - it doesn't hold its shape like the fattier stuff. You'd think, since I was doing her fat ass a favor with the lean beef, she'd let it slide.) I hate when Husband compares my cooking to his mother's, and from her, it was just too much. I lost it over the table. Behold, I am so dignified and grown-up.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Why me?

Why is it that people who are ostensibly there to *help* you out are way more work than anything else? I haven't had an empty house for more than a day since Mouse came home from the hospital. This time around, it's my FIL and SIL, in from out of state to *help* and see the new baby, and play with Bear. Yeah, they're fine and all, but I have several issues with this situation.

Issue the First: Wherein I have to do extra work.

My FIL does not feel comfortable with tiny babies. They scare him. He has held Mouse for approximately three minutes the whole time he has been here, and she was sleeping during that. He did the same thing when the Bear was born, I remember. So, no baby help from him there. Fortunately, the Bear is big enough to play with, and he will try to do that occasionally, but she doesn't know him that well (they don't come that often) and so sometimes she doesn't want to go to him - she only wants Mom. Argh.

Issue the Second: Wherein teenagers are inherently lazy.

My SIL is fifteen. She is in high school. She is a teenager. She is amazingly and comprehensively lazy. She will sit on the couch and send text messages on her cell phone, oblivious to the world around her, while I try to simultaneously answer the telephone, nurse Mouse, and tie the Bear's shoes. This is not the behavior of someone who has come to *help* and I don't have time for it. It irritates me almost to the point of irrationality.

She wants to have her picture taken with Mouse. While Mouse is sleeping, of course. She will not do the fussing. She will not change a diaper. She will hold her while she sleeps, but only if the timing is convenient for her. This morning, for example, when Mouse vomited all over me and I had go change my outfit, she was laying on the floor, watching Gilmore Girls. I had to finally ask the Bear in a rather pointed voice if *she* would hold the baby while Mom went to change her vomit-soaked clothing. That got her to roll over and ask if I needed something. Geesh.

Issue the Third: Wherein I am diagnosed with OCD.

I have a hard time asking people for help. I really do. I cleaned my entire house before the in-laws got here because I need them to think that I have no difficulty taking charge of two small children and an enormous house. I need to give people the impression that I have things under control at all times. I told my own mother not to bother coming down to help with the kids when I went into the hospital to have my kidney surgery - I could handle it on my own. This is silly. I recognize that.

If I can't ask my own family for help, how much harder do you think it is to ask my in-laws for help? This morning, the Bear woke up at 6, as did Mouse. Unwilling to disturb the teenager passed out on my sofabed in the middle of my living room, I kept both girls in bed with me until 7:30 before I dressed and readied all three of us and went downstairs. She was still passed out on the sofa, even while we were all making large amounts of noise everywhere.

Sidebar: is that rude? I was always taught that when you are a guest, you get up when your host does, especially if you are prohibiting her from sitting on the couch, nursing and watching Matt and Katie while drinking her morning coffee. And when you are a host, you should get up as early as your guests do, if they are early risers. That's just polite. Or so I was taught? Am I being nitpicky?

So, I had to feed everyone breakfast, clean up the kitchen, mix up a batch of muffins, deal with temper tantrums (Bear), answer the phone 2984357 times, feed the Mouse, amuse both kids, etc. etc. All while they were sitting at the kitchen table, reading magazines.

I want my life back. I want my house back. If you are not here to rub my feet, fix me dinner, or take my children away for two hours so I can nap uninterrupted, then get the hell out!* How hard is that to understand? Husband doesn't get it - he gets to go away to work all day. Lucky bastard.


I am about to give voice to some very unpopular stereotypes. I am a biased person. If that offends you, don't read this.

My in-laws are fat. All of them. Not just pudgy in an ordinary way. I'm talking, candidates for gastric bypass, morbidly obese, my couch cushions are weeping in utter defeat fat.

And that grosses me out.

They eat in such a way as to perpetuate this cycle and make it even worse. They've handed these habits to their kids (Husband got the lanky genes and a high metabolism, for which I am eternally grateful). They don't take care of themselves, numerous health problems notwithstanding. They will not be around for my kids' graduations and weddings, I can guarantee you.

And that pisses me off.

They are too lazy to take better care of themselves so that they will live past 60 (D.V.) and be around to be parents to their teenager and grandparents to our two kids. And, in my oh-so-biased opinion, it makes them too lazy to be of any freaking help to me while they are here. Nobody over 300 pounds can chase a toddler in an appropriate fashion. The laws of physics prohibit it. Seriously.


Ok, now that I've earned myself a seat in the seventeenth circle of hell** (the one where skinny people who look down on the overweight go and are doomed to spend eternity bingeing and purging), and bitched enough to get me through the day, let's move on.

I think I may be getting a plugged milk duct. I'm not sure. I have a fairly sore spot in my right breast. It's a bit tender to the touch, and it shoots a mildly sharp pain at odd times. It doesn't feel like there's a hard lump in there, but it's kind of hard to tell because I think boobs are inherently lumpy. At any rate, it's not very comfortable, but it's not ridiculously painful, either. Not quite sure what this is, and not quite sure what to do about it. Any thoughts? (I happen to know that those of you who comment regularly are all breastfeeders, so any thoughts are appreciated!)

Wow. I so wanted to post an update on the last month, but it's been tough to find time (see above for confirmation of that). I'll try soon, I promise!

*I am trying to be understanding. I never had a second set of grandparents, and I know my kids are lucky to have all four of them around. I try to give equal time and standing to both sets, but it's very hard. I keep reminding myself that they deserve time with their family, too. But. Still. Lift a damn finger!

**Yes, I am an English teacher. Yes, I amuse myself by inventing extra circles of hell for various crimes and coming up with fitting punishments for them. Yes, I have read the Inferno *way* too many times. Sorry I'm such a geek.

Monday, March 13, 2006

The birth story

This is what I've been able to remember about Mouse's birth.

I went in for my 38 week checkup after work on Tuesday. I had been feeling crummy and I just knew we were going to induce. I was right - I had a raging kidney infection, was spilling large amounts of blood and protein and white blood cells, and the baby's heart rate was all over the place... very out of character for her. My kidney was doing what it had threatened to do the entire pregnancy and just quit working altogether. The OB and the midwife both agreed that it was best to induce so that I could hurry up the kidney surgery - the baby was cooked enough to be done. My appointment was at three, and at that point they asked if I could show up in L&D by 4:30.

Holy crap! So not ready - no bag packed, had to notify my sub, no time to clean off my desk, still needed to go sign the tax returns... Somehow I was able to get all of that done, even after spending half an hour with the office ladies at work. My mom was in town already and was able to watch the Bear, and we made it to the hospital by five. I checked in, settled, got my IV started (massive doses of antibiotics for the kidney infection), had some dinner (Taco Bell, if you really must know). The midwife and I chatted about the plan for this induction (just like the first one, but with a dose of Cervidil first). The plan: first, a dose of Cervidil. Wait 12 hours, check progress. If progress is made, insert Cytotec. (Wow, is that a controversial thing in some circles. It works quickly and effectively for me, so I can't really complain.) Once a regular pattern of contractions is started, break the water to set things off. So, with all that in mind, my midwife inserted the Cervidil and hooked me up to a monitor, and I tuned in to the figure skating on the Olympics.

My night was spent not sleeping at all. It was a very narrow bed, and I was supremely uncomfortable in it. The baby's heartbeat was whooshing in the background, and the nurse came in every few hours to run more antibiotics and check us out. It's impossible to get comfy with the fetal monitors strapped on your belly, and I was just plain anxious to get going. I knew that the midwife would be back first thing in the morning to check on us, and I was just killing time until then, tossing and turning, getting up to go to the bathroom, listening to the baby's heartbeat and watching the contractions on the monitor. They were pretty regular, every three minutes or so, but they just didn't hurt.

In the morning (about 7) the midwife came back to check me. My cervix was "total mush," which is what we were hoping for, but still very high. She had to really reach to be able to check it, and dear god did it hurt. The internals are always the worst part. At that point we decided to go ahead with the Cytotec. give it four hours or so to get the contractions going, and then break my water to start labor.

Those four hours from 7-11 on Wednesday morning were spent alternating time on the fetal monitors and time walking the halls. I spent about 20 minutes on and 45 minutes off each time. The contractions were very obliging. They immediately started coming very regularly and fairly intensely. When I was unhooked, I walked every hallway in that whole place at least five times. I climbed the stairs to the basement more times than I could count. I told my midwife what I was doing, and she jokingly asked if I had been taking them two at a time. So, next time I went walking, up the stairs two at a time was the way to go. It certainly increased the intensity of my contractions! They were strong enough that I had to stop climbing every time one hit, but they still didn't hurt. I was ready for the pain by that time - I just wanted to get the baby out and meet her.

I had part of a hamburger, some tater tots and a drink during this period, too. Husband didn't want to share with me - he was convinced he'd have to see it all in reverse in a few hours. But I was a bit peckish, and my midwife reminded me that nobody ever ran a marathon on an empty stomach, so I won that argument and ate half his burger. My father had come up to the hospital to bring him a snack and hang out while I was on the monitors.

At 11 it was time to check my progress. We kicked Dad out and finished lunch. A quick (but brutal) check determined that I was at 3 cm, about 80% effaced, and my midwife went ahead and broke my water. I told her that it would immediately send me into active labor, just like it did last time, and I was right. Within three minutes I was back to the evenly spaced contractions, but now, the discomfort was there. They were coming about two minutes apart and were very strong. Yay! I don't think I've ever been so pleased to feel pain in my whole life. We agreed that I could hang out, walk, sit on the birthing ball, get in the tub, the rocker, whatever I felt like until I felt the urge to push.

I was a bit tired from my night of no sleep and my impromptu stairmaster routine, so I decided to hang out on the bed, sitting cross-legged in the middle. Husband sat by, chatting, making phone calls, holding my hand as needed. I needed to breathe through the contractions by this point, but I was doing well. I could control the pain with my breathing, and I focused on relaxing my face, my neck, and my shoulders - the places where I traditionally hold my tension. I was able to sit cross-legged and relax my entire body during contractions, breathing slowly in through the nose and out through the mouth. Husband sat there and complimented me, held my hand (I didn't squeeze - just let him hold it), and was generally very supportive in an unobtrusive way. He let me do what I needed during contractions, and in between we were chatting, watching TV, and just hanging out.

I could feel the contractions getting more and more intense fairly quickly. By 12:30 (ish) I was in enough discomfort that I wanted to get in the tub - I just knew that all that water would take the pressure off my back and belly and help me relax. So I hopped (waddled, whatever) into the giant jacuzzi tub in my birthing suite, and the midwife turned on the jets to point at my lower back. I was able to lean forward to have Husband put some pressure on my lower back during the contractions, which were coming about a minute apart (maybe 80 seconds) at this point, and lasting longer. The intensity was really increasing quickly, and I needed to hum when I exhaled during the contractions - it seemed to make me feel better, although I don't know why.

After only about half an hour in the tub, I started feeling lots of pressure during each contraction, although the pressure would lessen in between. I got back out of the tub, and decided I was feeling enough pressure that I wanted to discuss it with the midwife. She checked, and I was at 8 cm. I decided she was ridiculous, and that I was feeling the urge to push. We agreed that I was probably just being irrational because I was in transition, and I kept breathing and moaning through the contractions, which were coming almost nonstop now. At this point, I started to lose control of my breathing a little bit, because I felt like I was holding back, trying not to push. I started to pant, which of course ended up in my hyperventilating. And then my hand cramped up.

Now, this has happened to me once before, when I had my kidney surgery. I'm not sure what causes it - blood pressure or oxygen levels or what - but my hands will cramp up in what I call "the claw" and I can't move them at all. Before, it went away fairly quickly. This time, it moved up my arms to above the elbows. They were totally paralyzed - I couldn't move them at all, and I couldn't feel them except for the tightness and tingling in them. And so, I did what any sane woman in transition would do. I panicked.

About ten minutes after the midwife pronounced me at 8 cm, I was feeling huge amounts of pressure. She checked me again, and lo and behold, I was at 10 cm with just a tiny bit of a lip on one side. I dilated the last 2 cm in about 10 minutes - no wonder I was feeling a little out of control. With the next contraction, I tried an experimental push to see what would happen, and she reached in to try and stretch the lip out. And that's when I really lost it.

Up to this point, I had been doing fairly well - I was managing the pain during contractions by breathing and moaning, and in between I was still able to crack jokes with the nurses and chat with Husband. It was very intense, but I was handling it, and I was proud of how well I was doing. But when the time came to push, I panicked. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't remember how to push. I didn't want to go any further. And, I'll admit it - I was afraid of the pain I knew was coming. When I had the Bear, I didn't know what to expect, so I just plunged right in and pushed - for an hour and a half! But this time, I knew that it was going to be hard, and painful, and I just panicked. I lost it. For about five minutes I would start each contraction with a half-hearted push, then wimp out and stop. I asked for an epidural (hahaha!). I asked for a c-section. I whined. I cursed. I hyperventilated. I waved my claws at people. (Have you ever tried to pull back on your legs when you can't feel your hands or arms? Or move them at all?) I was an absolute mess. And I was ashamed of myself. In between contractions I was apologizing to everyone for being a wimp. I felt like in losing my control, I was somehow less of a "real" woman. That I was failing myself, and my daughter.

And then, suddenly, I took a deep breath and said, "I can do this." Then I took another breath. "I've done this before." Another breath. "I *have* to do this. There is no alternative at this point." Once I reminded myself that my body could handle the pain, that it had done so before and could do it again, that there was no going back from this place, I was fine. I took another deep breath and pushed. Really pushed. None of this half-ass, cop out pushing. I pushed right into the pain, knowing that I had to make it worse in order to make it through this. I pushed and felt the head crowning, like a bowling ball, or a brick. Two more pushes and her head was out.

At this point, my midwife had me stop pushing. Mouse had the cord wrapped around her neck pretty tightly, and she was working it over her head gently. Then another push - the shoulders came, with the cord looped over her left shoulder and pulling it back. Her shoulders were broad, and I remember they felt almost as big as her head, and the pain picked back up at that point. I remember the midwife telling me to push s*l*o*w*l*y, that this baby had some difficult shoulders and was wound up in her cord. I gave one last, long, gentle push and I felt the rest of her body slither out. There are no words to describe the incredible sensation of lightness and relief that comes in the instant after your child leaves your body - where once there was only pain, and heavy pressure, there was now that amazing but strange feeling of emptiness. It was such a relief - such a high.

They laid her on my chest, and I could see that she was breathing. Her chest was moving up and down, but she wasn't crying. I worried that she was sick, that something was wrong because she wasn't crying, but we rubbed her with the blankets and that got her going. They took her to wipe her off and weigh and measure her, and I suddenly had to push again. The placenta had torn and there was blood everywhere - pooling on the bed, running onto the floor. My legs and feet were in it, and it was hot and wet and sticky. The midwife said it needed to get out right away then, and one of the nurses massaged my abdomen (by which I mean she practically drove her elbow into my gut) while I pushed and the midwife gently pulled. I seem to remember that she had her whole hand up inside me to get it all out and make sure no pieces were left behind. Finally, it came sliding out, the same sensation as the baby emerging, but much less intense. Still, I got that same wave of relief and elation when I knew I was, for lack of a better word, empty. I felt hollow - somehow the absence of pain can be even more intense than the pain itself.

A cleaned and bundled Mouse was returned to me. The stats - 8 pounds, 9 ounces, 20 inches long, 14 inch head. Born at 2:06, just three hours after my water had broken. Because she was so big for being two weeks early, they checked her blood sugar, which was low. The nurse said I should let her nurse for as long as she wanted to in order to bring it back up. She latched right on and nursed for an hour - about half an hour on each side. That brought her blood sugar up to a stable level, and it stayed there. I, meanwhile, got a bag of Pitocin and four more Cytotec to encourage my uterus to contract and lessen the bleeding. When she finished eating and I had had another delightful massage of my uterus, I got up and gave Mouse to my husband so I could take a shower and move to my room.

Wow - that's a lot for a single entry. Next time - the first few weeks at home!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Must. Kill. Now.

Anyone out there have any creative ideas on what I can do with my MIL once I've killed her? Where/how to hide the body? Excuses I can make to my husband? Quick and easy ways to make bail?

Any and all suggestions welcome.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Birthing Guilt

I will be the first to admit that I'm no stranger to the mommy guilt. As both a mother and a daughter, I've been on both ends of the spectrum. But never before have I felt any kind of guilt associated with birth.

In the week since the Mouse's birth, I've felt some very conflicting emotions. Her birth was fairly traumatic, for both of us. For her, the trauma was more physical. For me, it was more of an emotional trauma. I feel like that's the wrong word to use here. It was an emotional shock. Maybe that's better. We'll have to see. I'm still thinking about it and trying to process how I feel about it. More on that later.

Some basic details about her birth - it was hard and fast, and she was big (for being two weeks early). According to my midwife and the nurse, she came down *very* quickly and fairly forcefully. She had the cord wrapped around her neck and looped over her shoulder. As a result of the hard and fast labor and her quick descent, her face was very bruised at birth. She looked like a tiny Rocky. Her eyes were (still are, a bit) bloodshot. If you've ever had the stomach flu and puked so hard you burst a blood vessel in your eye, you know what she looked like. Basically, the whites of her eyes were mostly red. Her face was blue and purple and red. That part has almost entirely gone away now, and the swelling is entirely gone, I think. Her head, though, has a pretty big hematoma on the top/side. Looks like a big old goose egg. The doctor says it's just pooled blood and fluid from the squeezing and pressure, and that it will go down. Problem is, the blood that's just sitting there is keeping her levels elevated and preventing her jaundice from disappearing as quickly as we would like it to. The jaundice, in turn, is keeping her very lethargic most of the time. And then, at her first checkup, the doctor noticed a big lump on her collarbone - the same side that the cord was looped over when she came out. His theory (and ours) is that she fractured it a bit on the way out - her shoulders did get briefly stuck, I remember the midwife telling me. She categorized them as "difficult" shoulders. We did some tests - results will be in soon - just to be on the cautious side. These things heal on their own in infants, and there's nothing we could do about it, but it's good to know for future reference.

So, to recap -

*horrid bruising and bloody eyes
*lumpy hematoma on the head
*lingering jaundice
*broken collarbone?

All my fault? Is there something I could have done differently that could have prevented any of this? I feel indescribably awful that *my* body, the one that was supposed to protect her and keep her safe, did this to her. If I had had a c-section instead, would she have fared better? Could we have seen this coming? Could we have prevented it? Could we be doing anything right now to speed up her recovery?

Most importantly, why do I feel so guilty for having *done* this to her?

Wednesday, March 01, 2006


Well, the Mouse is a week old today. In that time, she has:

*had 7 separate heel sticks to test her bilirubin levels
*spent 4 days under high-intensity phototherapy lights
*eaten about every three hours, give or take, for an average of 30 minutes per feeding
*had 42 poopy diapers
*been poked and prodded and kissed an infinite number of times by the Bear (note to Bear: eye poking *bad*)
*had 3 baths (the most recent about an hour ago after an explosive diaper - now to change my sheets and apply stain remover to her jammies)
*choked (once) because I neglected to take the edge off the... well, fire hose before I nursed her. Milk is here with a vengeance. I could pressure wash my house with this supply, but only if I wanted it to be really sticky, I suppose. Hopefully it will regulate soon!

In the meantime, I have:

*cooked dinner (complete with main course, salad, and sides) while nursing the entire time (note to self: must dig out sling from pile of crap upstairs)
*gotten 5 consecutive hours of sleep on more than one occasion (I think)
*become anemic from all the blood loss at her delivery (there was a *lot* of blood lost) and consequently very lethargic. Iron = good!
*managed to feed both children and myself at the same time
*soiled 3 shirts and a set of sheets with leaking milk. Yesterday's shirt had a 4" wet spot on the front that I didn't notice until the Bear patted it and said, "Mommy milk." Oops.
*cried on no less than 10 separate occasions - a card from my midwife, a call from the pediatrician, random moments on the couch...

Still, we're all rubbing along tolerably well. Let's see if it lasts!