80 had her first sweetcorn on Sunday. We attended a heavy metal pool party that featured lots of great food. The corn was buttered and grilled, discount thus making it the best first sweetcorn a baby could have. It’s a great toddler food, treat since you really only need the front teeth to eat it, and the cob can be gnawed on to no I’ll effect. She also liked the spicy garbanzo bean salad, the pool, and the metal music.
Archive for the ‘ZOMG!!! BABIES’ Category
I get lots of compliments from people about 80’s skin, pharm including from her pediatrician.
“What do you do so she has such great skin?”, approved they ask.
“Neglect.”, I answer. 80 has never been bathed more than once a week. Her critical areas are cleaned multiple times a day, with each diaper change. Once she started eating solids, and she’d end up with avocado in her hair, parsnips ground into her sleeves and tiny bits of everything between her fingers, we’d just do a sponge bath of the necessary bits, or hold her hands under running water.
I’m pretty sure this is the way babies are supposed to be. Giving too many baths (and using too much soap) dries out a baby’s skin. Using disposable wipes with fragrance and cleaners on them (including alcohol) seem to do more to irritate than to help. I’m sure bouts of diaper rash are common, and 80 just happens to have resilient skin. She’s had diaper rash, but not much, and not for long. I attribute this to cloth wipes.
Basically, I cut up a cotton flannel receiving blanket into 7×7″ squares, put two together, and zig-zag stitched along the sides to keep them from unraveling. I have a spray bottle with water in it, which I spray onto a dry wipe before using. 80 likes to watch me spray the water on the cloth. There’s the cool “chhh chhh” sound, and water droplets. It’s an infant’s equivalent of going to a water park.
If there’s a large mess, or mild diaper rash, I add a spray or two of California Baby Non-Burning & Calming Diaper Area Wash to the cloth with the water. If the diaper rash is more than mild, I don’t use any, because despite the name, it does seem to sting.
What I’d do differently if I were to make wipes again is to only use light-colored fabric, because I can see how much poo has come off onto the wipe, which helps me figure out if there’s any left. (Clean wipe after a swipe, clean baby.) I also wouldn’t double the fabric. I’m sure it’d be harder to stitch the edges, but the fabric is thick enough that doubling is not necessary. Instead, there would be thinner folds of fabric to use to get into the little baby crevices.
Parents always say that the first year goes by quickly. I think they (wait, phthisiatrician we) say this because:
a) it’s been our experience, health and we’re incredulous that time has, indeed, flown by.
b) we’re trying to warn parents of newborns, so that they:
i) feel reassured that the endless minutes won’t feel like this forever.
ii) they take time to revel in the fact that their baby will never be this young again.
Take 80 for example. She’s 9 months old today. You’re probably thinking “wow, yeah, I can’t believe she’s getting so big, it seems like yesterday that I saw the liveblogged birth pictures.” You may feel a sense of satisfaction in seeing pictures and video of her looking like what we think of as a baby (sitting up, finger in the mouth, babbling) rather than the half-baked exofetus she was for the first bit.
Imagine that feeling times ten, and you’ve got how I feel. Jason and I will express this by saying “we’ve managed not to kill the baby!”
Just look at her. We’ve avoided all the scary things we read about (although it’s easy if do said reading), and she’s thriving. She’s like the best houseplant ever!
80’s teething. She has her bottom two front teeth, and is working on her top two. They are especially painful, and I think their placement makes 80’s usual coping strategy of sucking her thumb not possible. Hopefully it’s over soon. 80’s been reading a tiny wooden book with animal pictures on it. By “reading”, I mean “mouthing”.
Jason’s being a great dad. He’s the master of bedtime. He’s doing the seven languages in seven weeks thing. You may be thinking “ooh, Esperanto!” but he’s actually learning programming languages.
I’m finishing up with LibraryThing, looking for my next awesome job and knitting socks for an internet friend. I’m reading the Runaway comics.
Whatever I thought a baby tooth was supposed to look like, oncology I was wrong. Baby teeth are not rounded little bags of cream*.
Today 80 and I discovered that a baby tooth is a jagged mountain that erupts slowly, link starting with the pointiest peaks. Babies’ teeth are like kitten claws–viciously sharp for something so otherwise cuddly.
As long as she’s engaged, her mind is off her pain. Napping is hard. We had a lot of conversations today about how I hope she’s not a biter.
Things that helped include chewing on her Sophie giraffe**, going for a walk, and listening to the eponymous Throwing Muses album***.
*Mighty Boosh reference
**thank you for the hand-me-down,
***helpful to me, since I’m interviewing Kristin Hersh
These are things I was glad to have, syringe or we had to go get at inopportune times.
For the home:
- Bran muffins, grip raisin bran, bran flakes to sprinkle on other things (for constipation)
- Extra Tupperware, because people will bring you big pans of food, and it’s handy to freeze some of it, and keep some of it in the fridge. This way you don’t get tired of spinach lasagna right away.
- Milk and cereal and sandwich fixings and reheatable servings of comfort food (for me, Italian Soup and homemade mac and cheese).
- Dishwasher detergent, if you have a dishwasher. You won’t want to be doing dishes by hand, and it’s great for washing bottles.
- Quarters for laundry (if need be). You never want to run out of quarters.
- Stool softeners. I ran out. You’d be surprised at how constipated you are.
- Whatever over-the-counter pain killers are OK’d by your practitioner.
- Ice packs or peas. For your lady bits the first few days. It feels marvelous. I put peas in ziplock bags. They conform nicely and don’t leak water like ice does.
- Toilet paper. I was instructed to use plenty of toilet paper, and to not fold and re-wipe, to keep infection away. I went through more toilet paper than usual.
- Good pads. I’m not a pad girl, but I learned that Kotex pads are more comfortable and absorbent than generic. Kotex specifically isn’t necessary, but DO have pads on hand. Also liners, as you’ll move to them after a few weeks.
For nursing (*and bottle feeding):
- Comfy chair*. You’re going to be spending a lot of time sitting and feeding your baby, so having a chair that’s comfortable to sit in while feeding is important. I got an Ikea rocking chair, which is incredibly comfortable, but actually tips me backwards a little too much. I wish I had gotten a glider.
- Nursing pillow*. Your arms are going to get tired holding up your baby while feeding, and a nursing pillow helps. I had a boppy which was easy to conform to different chairs. I also had a (sigh) My Brest Friend, which has a better baby surface, but a weird wrap-around part that sucks if you’re trying to sit back. I finally figured out if I flipped the back of it up at an angle, it supported my back rather than being a horizontal lumbar gouger.
- Figure out where the kid sleeps. We had a Snuggle Nest, which was great for us, because it provided a (mostly psychological) barrier against rolling over onto the baby. We could also prop up our pillows high enough to be able to look at her while sleeping next to her. This was great hovering. You’d be surprised how often you wonder whether or not they’re breathing. We then acquired an Arms Reach cosleeper, which may have been a better choice from the start, as the Snuggle Nest makes for a very small nest in a queen size bed. The Arms Reach (and similar) put the baby right next to the bed, where you can still position yourself to hover and be able to reach over and put your hand on their sleeping chest to check for breathing. (This only really happened for about the first week, then we realized we didn’t have to be so paranoid. That cycle continued with many other things.) After six weeks or so, we moved to cosleeper to the foot of the bed, so we could sleep better since her noises always woke me up, and she was down to feeding once or twice a night.
- Nightlights*. Night feedings are MUCH easier on everyone with low light options. You don’t wake up as much, your baby doesn’t wake up as much, and anyone else in bed doesn’t either. Also, if you’re bottle feeding, nightlights that take you from your bedroom to the kitchen mean not having to flip on blinding overhead lights. We used the oven light in the kitchen, and plug-into-the-wall lights in the hallway and bedroom. At first I needed more light in bed (I nursed in bed), so I used our reading lamp. After a few weeks, 80 and I were good at nursing, and we could do it by the dim light of the plug-in nightlight by the bed.
- Prenatal vitamins. You’re supposed to keep taking vitamins if you’re breastfeeding, so don’t run out.
- Massive water bottles. I drank so much water — at least a gallon a day — in the first few weeks. My routine was to drink half a liter (at least) every time I nursed. I kept a bottle in the living room, and one in the bedroom that I filled up before going to bed.
- Extra burp cloths*. We had 12, and they weren’t enough for the first few weeks. Even if your baby isn’t a spit-upper (ours wasn’t really), you still end up with milk on them and you.
- Nursing pads. These are like menstrual pads for your boobs. They’re circular, and fit under your clothes to wick breastmilk that leaks. I have some rewashable ones, and some Lansinoh disposable ones. The rewashable ones I wear at home since they’re a little bulkier, and because they don’t have a waterproof barrier which means they can leak through. That they don’t have a waterproof barrier means they breathe, and you don’t have to worry about things getting dank. I wash them with the baby clothes, with Dreft. The disposable ones are like disposable pads–they have some sort of magical chemical that soaks up liquid. They’re also waterproof, and thin. This makes them great for when I go out in public and don’t want to leak or look like I’m smuggling yamakas.
- Easy-to-use nursing tops for at night. I bought a bunch of spaghetti strap tank tops, and pulled the one strap off to nurse.
- Nursing tops and bras in general. I didn’t have any nursing tops. I had two nursing bras. Almost all of my teeshirts were too tight. So, I felt like I couldn’t go anywhere. I still had a small chest post-baby, so lots of the nursing top designs didn’t work (they require a certain amount of curve to fold fabric below). I bought some teeshirts that fit a little looser, and were longer. I bought two more nursing bras (one fancy one and one cheap one from Motherhood [that’s a store, commonly found in the mall]). I bought some nursing tank tops from Target. This was summer, mind you. My post-partum doula gave me the tip of wearing a tank top under a teeshirt (this is for us with the small chests), so you can pull up your shirt and pull down the tank to nurse, and you leave very little bare.
For the baby:
- Extra pacifiers (aka dummy, binky, nuk). Controversy aside, we chose to use a pacifier occasionally. If you’re going to have them around, make sure to have more than one. They go missing. We got a really great gift of a little pacifier holder, which keeps the thing clean in the diaper bag, and helps you put the pacifier back in the same place, thus increasing the chance that you won’t use it.
- Really good receiving blankets for swaddling. Some blankets are better than others, and swaddling tightly meant the difference between 80 sleeping or not. You will not believe how easily a newborn will wiggle their arms free, then freak out at having their arms free. They should be big enough. They should have a bit of stretch to them. Alternately, you could get swaddler thingies with sleep sacks. They are to a swaddling blanket what a sheet is to a shirt. Especially if you have a Houdini, the velcro means swaddling them up tight, and their shape means less change of wiggling an arm up out the neck hole.
- Pampers with the color strip. We decided to cut ourselves some slack for the first few weeks, and used disposables. We tried Huggies, but if 80 was in them too long, the gel would come out of the diaper and onto her butt. Pampers never had this problem. Plus, they have a magical yellow line that turns blue with urine. It was handy to know when 80 had a wet diaper without having to take it off or stick a finger in the side.
- Waterproof pads for 80 to lay on. They’re soft, but waterproof, and we laid them under her when she hung out on the couch, so none of her many liquids would end up on the couch. It also works as an impromptu changing pad.
- Thermometer and infant acetaminophen. If your newborn may have a temperature, you don’t want to mess around. You need to have a thermometer to check, and Tylenol to bring the fever down.
- Couple of baby reference books. You’ll be infinitely fascinated to read them now, and it’s handy when things happen like scratched eyes, weird poop, or what developmental things you can expect.
- 3-4 boxes of wipes (or cloth ones). We went through a lot at first–sometimes two wipes per poo diaper.
- Long sleeve onesies with mitts for night. Unless it’s 90 degrees at night, a newborn is more likely to be cold than hot, especially at night. Some long-sleeve onesie have little flaps at the end, so you can fold it over and keep their hands warm. It means they’ll sleep uninterrupted longer.
- Hats. 80 wore a hat to bed for the first week, since she got cold so quickly.
- A few onesies in kimono style. It means not having to pull a onesie over your newborn’s head, which for a new parent is one of the trickier handling movies.
- Bottoms that snap open. If your kid is wearing anything that has a bottom to it, I’d go for the ones that have a closure at the bottom. You don’t want to entirely undress your child for a diaper change. Also, I’m not a fan of pjs that have a zipper from the foot all the way to the neck–you have to completely unzip them to change a diaper, and their little bellies get cold.
- Nail clippers. I hear some people just tear newborn fingernails, or bite them off. I didn’t find either of those feasible. We have a good pair of clippers, tiny ones with a round plastic handle so they’re easy to use. We waited till 80 was asleep. We’ve managed not to cut her, but I have a feeling you don’t pass through the gauntlet of parenthood until you do.
- Laundry detergent. Before, I’d buy whatever was on sale. Now, we have three detergents. Sale stuff for the adult clothes*, the generic equivalent of Dreft for baby clothes/blankets/burp clothes, and Tiny Bubbles for diapers and covers. (Apparently Dreft does bad things to polyurethane covers.)
- Car seat! Sure, we had acquired a car seat, but we hadn’t yet tried putting it the car for the ride home from the hospital. When we got to the part where we put the baby in the car seat and, oh my god, they’re going to let us take her home, we discovered that a piece was missing. Luckily, we had friends with a carseat we could borrow to get our kid home. You can imagine you’d be someone nervous about putting your baby in a carseat for the first time, so I highly suggest you figure out how the thing works, and clip it into the car at least once before you do it with your baby. Of course, if you give birth at home, or plan on walking home, this isn’t a problem.
- Diaper/feeding app. Ok, or a notebook. Jason and I found an app called Baby Geek that let us track diapers (which specified the three varieties: 1, 2, and 1+2), as well as feedings. As we were both feeding her bottles and I was breastfeeding, it was important to keep track of. I continued to keep track of nursing until recently. I did switch to an notebook eventually.
So there you go. Feel free to ask any questions in the comments.
*By “adult clothes”, I mean clothes that Jason and I wear, not latex facemasks and furry animal costumes.
How I should have ended part 3 was to tell you that I was rushed with sweet, clinic sweet mama-hormones that made me feel giddy and happy, that it was awesome and amazing and wonderful. It was. I am so lucky to have had such a great birth. I keep saying to Jason, “I could do this professionally!”, and he keeps cringing.
I don’t know if you can feel the pressure drop, or see the clouds looming, but now I’m going to tell you about the bad things that happened. Luckily, none of them are really all that bad. All were temporary, with no lasting effect.
80 was put on my chest by Jason, and was there for a short amount of time before someone calmly said that she wasn’t breathing real well, that she still had liquid in her lungs, and it needed to come out. They’d leave her on my chest unless her breathing didn’t improve fast enough, at which point they’d take her to the warming table just a few feet away. A nurse filliped her foot, and explained that getting the baby to cry would stimulate her breathing. I hadn’t been sure what to do with 80, other than to explain that I was her mama, so I took this opportunity to start mothering. I told her she should cry, that it would make her feel better. “Come on little baby, give me a cry. It’s OK, let it out. Go ahead, cry, baby.”
Soon there were hands reaching in, to suction out 80’s nose and mouth. She wasn’t breathing better fast enough. They told me that they wanted to take her to the warming table. If she didn’t improve quickly enough, they were going to need to take her to the nursery. This all seemed so reasonable, I decided not to freak out.
This is where the stories diverge. This is no longer the story of me and the baby who was connected to me. Now 80’s story is her own, from now on. I’ll tell hers first, then go back and tell mine.
I appreciated the calmness of everyone, and their reasonable ratcheting up of interventions, rather than panicking and rushing her off. Of course, if 80 had been in more trouble, I would expect them to take more immediate action.
They brought 80 over to the warming table, where they were able to suction out her nose and mouth better on her back (since she had been belly down on me), and they put an oxygen mask next to her, so it would waft over her. Jason stood by her while they attended to her, continuing to suction (with those little rubber bulb things). Jason must have come back over to me, because when they told us that she wasn’t improving fast enough and she needed to go to the nursery, I looked at Jason. I told him to go with her (this seemed so obvious to me), but he hesitated. I told him A’Nova would be with me, that I’d be fine. 80 needed him, and I needed him to be with her. So they left.
A great way to get more oxygen into a baby is to make them cry, and a great way to make a newborn cry is to give them a bath. So, Jason watched nurses adeptly bath 80, then take her over to a hospital crib, where they attached monitors to her, to keep track of her heart rate and such.
A pediatrician came in to talk to me, who said she was improving, but they’d like to keep her under observation (and on monitors) overnight. I asked if her lack of oxygen would have any lasting effect. Her answer was great. It was something like “Please, fetuses don’t get 100% oxygen in the womb, and they’re fine. It’s not enough to worry about.” Excellent.
So 80 stayed in the nursery overnight. By the time I saw her again, she was much improved. The nurse had brought her in to feed, and said she’d be back for 80 in 20 minutes or so. She indicated that 80 was doing well, and she might take her sweet time coming back for her.
I nursed 80 for the first time. It was kind of a non-event. Your milk doesn’t come in for a day or two, so what 80 was nursing was colostrum (a word I knew well from my days of bottle-feeding calves). It’s a lot thicker and there’s less of it, so I worried a bit that it wasn’t enough. I was assured that it was, that newborns’ stomachs are teeny anyway. Jason and I had gone to a breastfeeding class, there’s all this hovering of nurses, and talk of having access to lactation consultants, so I was more paranoid than usual about nursing going well.
The nurse didn’t come back for 80 for at least an hour. We got to hang out with our brand new baby. We mostly stared at her. That’s all I remember doing. When she’d be in my arms, I’d have my neck craned down so my face was inches from hers.
We stayed in the hospital a second night, then went home the next day. There was some concern that 80 was jaundiced enough to need intervention, so we were to go to our (fantastic) pediatrician the next day.
Subsequently, we spent a full week going to the hospital every day to have blood drawn, then on to the pediatrician’s to get the results and decide what to do. The course of action was to supplement her feeding (with more feeding). Besides looking yellow, a symptom of jaundice is sleepiness. We spent two weeks trying to keep our sleepy baby awake long enough to nurse, then take a bottle. That may be part of the reason she grew 1.5 inches in two weeks.
The jaundice went away, her breathing hasn’t been a problem since the first night, and we now have a very healthy, very happy baby.
Things I learned:
- If a newborn is flaring its nostrils, it may not be getting enough oxygen. It’s a handy observation.
- Don’t dress a jaundiced baby in yellow. It doesn’t help.
- If you call your parents to tell them you gave birth, don’t tell them about the breathing problem, unless you have time to update them that the baby is improving.
So this is when the real pushing began. The pushing for transition was a single section of puuuuush and rest. Pushing 80’s head out had three sections to it (I don’t know how else to describe it), prothesis and was more difficult to master. During the contraction, ed my eyes were closed. I had moved from being on my back to laying more on my left side, mind with my left leg down on the bed and my right leg up in the air. I could grab my right leg, and pull it towards me during the contraction.
With each contraction, the baby’s head will move forward, then slip back a little. The first part was pushing to get her back to where she had been. The second part was to move her forward a bit. The third part (which I started to experience maybe halfway through all the birthing pushing) was pushing past the point of comfort, where I could tell that my body was stretching. This is referred to the “burning ring of fire”, but to me it just felt like, well, what it was. Imagine someone grabbing your arm with both hands and twisting their hands in opposite directions (a “snake bite”, where I come from). The skin stretches, and it feels more like a burn than anything else. That’s what this was.
It was hard to get my push to hit the third section. I could push to get back to where I had pushed before. I could even push harder to move forward a little. Pushing hard enough to burn took so much energy, I didn’t always get to it.
I-will-listen-to-you-Susan became really important at this point, because through it all, I could hear her voice saying “push harder, more more more” when I wasn’t pushing very hard, which cued me that I was supposed to be getting to the burning/third section of the contraction. I think I would have taken a lot longer to birth if it hadn’t been for her reminding me that I needed to be getting more done each contraction.
She also told me to put my chin was down to my chest, so I’d curl up more. I figured out (since no one mentioned this and I didn’t read it anywhere … or I’ve forgotten) that I needed to hold my breath when I curled up to push most effectively.
At one point during this, I said to Jason, “You need to tell me I’m doing a good job”, or something similar. I’m an attention-oriented person, so when people praise me, I perform better. (I always ran better at track meets than at practice.)
Fantastic Susan got my attention, and explained that she could coach me as 80’s head crowned, and if I could listen to what she said, it would decrease the chances of tearing. She said that she might tell me to push at a certain time, but more likely she’d tell me to stop pushing, and that this is difficult to do. The way she phrased it made it sound like I wasn’t going to be a failure or rip in half if I couldn’t do what she said, but if I could, it would be an optimal situation. I don’t know if this is how she phrases it with everyone, but it was exactly the right thing to say to me. I want to excel at birthing, not just be average. I was also VERY MOTIVATED not to tear.
I remember one specific contraction, where I pushed to the burning sensation, and I could hear Jason and A’Nova gasp. I thought “YES, this must be the part where you can see 3-4 inches of baby head, and we’re almost there.” I looked down at the mirror, and could see … nothing. I think they saw just a tiny bit of head* (which slipped back before I saw it). It FELT like I had half a baby’s head pushed out. It was disappointing, but I just told myself not to dwell on it, that it wouldn’t help.
I was chin-to-chest, curling up, making a “NNNNEERRRRG” sound while holding my breath, and it felt like my face was turning purple. When I asked Jason about it later, he confirmed that indeed, I was correct. I’m a little sad he wasn’t taking pictures of my purple face, but I needed him where he was.
It now seems like it took mere minutes — perhaps it did — but at the time it was an immense amount of effort for every contraction, and each time I was rewarded with more burn-y hurting. When I’d look in the mirror, I’d see 80’s head sliding back. Whatever two steps I was pushing forward was also sliding one step back.
Finally it got to the point where her head was staying peeked out a bit. Fantastic Susan asked if I wanted to touch my daughter’s hair. Again with the “I don’t know, so I’ll say yes”, I said yes. She guided my hand down, and I could feel 80’s HAIR. I could feel fluffy, super-soft hair and a warm, firm head. I felt my baby, for the first time, and it was an amazing feeling.
I’m very glad I said yes, because I suddenly had great motivation and energy. I don’t remember Fantastic Susan saying anything like “go, go, go, STOP, STOP, STOP”, but I do remember a point where 80’s head was mostly out, and the pain was the most intense it ever got. It was one of the few times I made an involuntary noise, which I remember finding interesting at the time, and by the time I had that thought, it was time to push again. As you can imagine, we’re almost done here.
I did think to myself “Oh god, what if once the head out, I have to push more for the shoulders?” Again, I just didn’t dwell on it, because it’s not like I wouldn’t have done it, and I was too busy concentrating (concentrating with my body more than my mind, but it took up all my mental ability as well) to ask.
Fantastic Susan asked Jason if he wanted to catch 80. Following our new YES rule, he went and washed his hands, then came back to stand at the end of the bed. She said she’d support the head, then Jason should grab her, and put 80 on my chest.
Well, 80’s head came all the way out, and then really fast, the rest of her slid out. I saw Jason catch her under the arms, and pull her up where I could see her without a mirror. The next thing, there was a red and blue baby on my chest. (They’re often a bit blue in the extremities, so not to worry there.) I had always wondered what I would feel when this very singular moment happened. It wasn’t a goosh of emotion or anything, more intrigue at this tiny new person. After a second, I looked up at Jason, and got very, very happy and excited. I wanted to hug him, but his arms were very, very gooey.
Next up, part four details the rest of the story: the (temporary) troubles 80 and I had right after birth, and things like what it’s like to breastfeed for the first time.
*I did not think “oh whew, since I’m seeing this in a mirror, my baby must not be a vampire”, but I did just think it now.
I should mention that 80 came 4 days early, viagra 40mg and as Jason and I are procrastinators (and I really, really thought she’d be late), we hadn’t packed a bag for the hospital, or written out a final copy of our birth plan. Turns out, you can gather the necessary things really quick, and buy snacks at the cafeteria.
My second traveling contraction happened when Jason dropped me off at the door of the hospital. I made it in the door, then braced myself against a well-placed chair to ride out the contraction. I felt a little self-conscious, cramping over a chair in the foyer. I thought about all sorts of people who must come in and experience a similar thing, but because of illness — not childbirth. It reminded me that I was supposed to be here, and lucky to be having an exciting contraction that would be bringing us our daughter. The last time I had been in a hospital in pain, it was when I broke my collarbone. This was much, much better.
Jason soon joined me, having parked the car. We went up to the labor and delivery floor, and waited a few minutes for a room to be ready. Every room had been occupied, and ours was just being mopped, they said. I thought about why they’d be mopping the floor, and remembered the gore factor. I pushed the though out of my head immediately — dwelling on that wouldn’t be helpful at all.
We had requested a water birth, but there was only one working pool, and it was being used. I was too excited about being in labor to care, but previously, I had been looking forward to giving birth in water.
We went to our room, and the nurse put two monitors on my belly. One was for the baby’s heartbeat, and the other to show my contractions. There’s a whole controversy over monitoring — continual monitoring vs. occasional monitoring. I can see why practitioners would like continual monitoring, because it gives you a lot more data to work with. The downside is that you’re tethered to a machine, and can’t move very far.
At Mt. Auburn, assuming you’re not high risk for any reason, they let you do occasional monitoring. 80 and I were both doing fine, so after the requisite 20 minutes of monitoring, we were let free to roam around the room (or the hall even) for early labor.
A’Nova came while the monitors were on, and it seemed like we had just gotten there when she arrived. Jason, A and I got down to the business of laboring together. I had been laying in bed curled on my side, with Jason holding my hands.
Note the pitcher of water I was drinking out of. I drank countless pitchers of water, which comes into play later.
I decided to get up and try some of the many laboring positions I’d learned about. I found it all novel, and wanted to try out the birthing ball (it’s an exercise ball), the bathtub, the hospital bed that folded up so you could be on your hands and knees easily (I had seen photos of Tara laboring like this, and it looked comfortable/useful/like it makes babies come out).
The midwife (who I will be referring to as “Fantastic Susan”) came in and checked my cervix. The cervix dilates, up to 10 centimeters. When you get to 10 cm, the baby’s head can come out. Early labor is the phase where your cervix is dilating.
My cervix was dilated to 7 cm. We were all surprised. Turns out I had done most of the work at home. Nice. Of course, I was pleased that I was above average.
So, 3 cm to go. I had a bag full of tricks, and a measly 3 cm to expand. Truly, I had a bag full of tricks. In the birthing class, the instructor gave us the analogy of having packed a bag full of options for use in labor. At the top of the bag, easily reached, were things like different laboring positions, music, meditation and visualization. At the bottom of the bag were more intense tools like drugs and epidurals. The idea was that you can reach in and grab anything at the top of the bag easily, taking one out and replacing another. You want to use up all the easily attained things before you reach down to the bottom and grab a more intense option like an epidural. How fast you go through your bag depends on the person.
Here, I’m kneeling on a pillow, and propping myself on the ball. A’Nova would sit behind me, and press in from the sides on my hips. I need to ask her what this does, but I think it helps open the bottom of your hips (like squeezing the top of a clothes pin opens the bottom).
I kept looking for my water to break. At one point, there was a little dribble, and I got excited. A’Nova said that it was possible that this was my water breaking, but doubtful. She said I’d know it when it happened. I figured my water breaking would be a clear sign that things were moving ahead, and I was very interested in signals that things had moved ahead. I could keep doing this as long as it felt like we were getting somewhere. That I couldn’t judge time worked in my favor, as the hours flew by.
I briefly tried sitting on the birthing ball, but I didn’t like that at all. Kelly was a fan of it, but it felt uncomfortable to me.
What I didn’t know was that each of these labor positions would get real old, real fast. My knees would start hurting using the birthing ball, so we’d switch to the bed. On hands and knees on the bed (which was folded up to look like a z), my arms would start hurting from holding up my weight.
One position that I did like a lot was sitting on the toilet. This let me rest my arms and legs, and didn’t press up on the increasingly sensitive parts. Jason sat in a chair in front of me, so I could lean onto him during the contraction. I think A’Nova stood to the side, rubbing my back or shoulders, or something soothing.
While sitting on the toilet, during a contraction, I heard a great SPLASH! As A’Nova had predicted, I knew when my water broke. It sounds especially like a movie sound effect if it hits porcelain.
I had been saving the tub option, and was looking forward to using it. We started by my sitting on a chair in the tub, with the shower head spraying warm water down my back. What I hadn’t considered was that the rest of me would get really cold, and shiver uncontrollably. So, we moved on to filling the tub with water.
Much like at home, the tub was not deep enough to fill to the point of submerging me (especially with a giant belly), and I couldn’t stay warm. Uncontrollable shivering doesn’t do much for relaxation.
Up until now, it had been mostly just Jason, A’Nova and I. The nurse (who I will refer to as “I-Will-Listen-To-You Susan”) had come in to monitor occasionally, but it seemed like it wasn’t that often. At this point, I was making low sounds (the aaaa or mmmmm) with each contraction, and I let my voice get louder the more intense the contraction got. This helped me control the feeling, and I liked that Jason and A’Nova could also tell how long and hard the contraction was.
I’d only been drinking water or ginger ale, and decided I could use a snack now, before we got into active labor when I wouldn’t want to eat. I had some almonds half-chewed in my mouth when the next contraction happened. All of a sudden, the almonds tasted like sand. It wasn’t awful, but I decided I wasn’t hungry enough to want that annoyance during contractions.
Occasionally, we’d hear someone else’s labor noises. Every once in a while, we’d hear a newborn cry. A’Nova pointed out that we’d be hearing that cry of our own soon. That was a great motivator for me. All around me, women were experiencing the same thing I was, and they successfully gave birth. That meant I would too.
At some point, I had to stop looking at Jason when I was having a contraction, because he’d start getting an emotional look on his face, and get moist-eyed. I looked at our hands. For almost every contraction, I was holding his hands. It felt good, and necessary.
Fantastic Susan came in to check on me. I was dilated to 9 cm plus. I don’t remember the technical term, but basically I was 10 cm all the way around, except one little bit. I think she let us labor a bit longer on our own, but came back fairly soon.
If memory serves, I got up on the bed for Fantastic Susan to check me again. She gave that little lip of not-quite-dialated cervix a push with her fingers (which hurt, but only for a second), and I was at 10 cm. It was time for transition. I think at this point, Fantastic Susan and I-Will-Listen-To-You Susan stayed in the room almost constantly.
Transition is the next stage of labor, where you push the baby out from the uterus, into the vagina. After that, you push the baby out into the world.
Transition seemed to happen quickly, and I think it’s because it felt a lot like the previous contractions, which I had gotten used to (although they still tired me, and were starting to make me use louder noises to cope). I think I started making noises that were a bit more screams than moans, and my throat started to hurt from it. I remembered from high school cheerleading that there’s a right way and a wrong way to shout. I realized it was becoming hard to stay in control every moment, because the contractions were so intense, and because I knew things were starting to move faster than the hours and hours of labor I had become accustom to. I tried hard to modulate my moan, to keep it under control. This was a good, small thing to focus on.
I remember looking up at Jason, seeing his face start to crumple into tears, and said in a neutral tone, “This is your fault? Why did you do this to me?”
Jason and A’Nova were not expecting me to crack jokes during active labor, and they both laughed in surprise. That was fun.
For transition, I was laying on the hospital bed on my back, which had a raised head, so I was propped up. I was instructed to grab my knees, pull them in towards my chest, and push when the contractions started. Between contractions, I relaxed my legs. At some point, it became too difficult to let my heels rest on the bed. I think it was that I needed the energy to pull my legs up to my chest in pushing, not moving my legs.
Jason and A’Nova began holding my legs between contractions. They stood on either side of the bed, and when a contraction ended, I relaxed my legs. I let my legs fall outward rather than down, and Jason and A’Nova held them from splaying outward. It was really comfortable, and let me really relax between contractions.
Fantastic Susan explained to me that the baby’s head was past my cervix, and it was time to bring her into the world. She asked if I wanted a mirror, so I could watch. I hadn’t considered this, and took a second to think about it. (This was hard, as I was not really in a thinking place just then.) I remembered that Jason and I had put on our birth plan (which never made it to the hospital) that Jason wanted to cut the umbilical cord. He went with the logic that you should say yes to experiences that you might never have again, that other people maybe haven’t had. I went with the same logic. I didn’t look at the mirror at first, because it was angled wrong. I was too busy pushing to mention it.