Wednesday, February 14, 2018

when your life is surreal

I am pretty lucky to be one of those people who can survive on very little sleep.  When people were all "But justonemore, those sleepless nights!" I kind of tuned them out.

Don't get me wrong.  It's a SLOG, especially if you're breastfeeding.  Nutmeg is still eating every 2-3 hours, though she'll give me an occasional 3 hour stretch of sleep at night.  But aside from a few one off nights of discomfort, she doesn't appear to be the colicky disaster her sister was  - and I say this out of love and utter sympathy for my first daughter, who Just. Couldn't. Cope.

Nutmeg is particularly cuddly, also a change for me.  In the million years of infertility after Niblet was born, I never imagined holding a snuggly baby who would enjoy burrowing into me the way Nutmeg does.  Niblet had to be swaddled within an inch of her life (we called it the "angry swaddle" in our house), and in constant motion.  Nutmeg thoroughly enjoys being worn, or rocked in a swing, but is really just a ball of chill.  With big soulful eyes and multiple chins.

Her resemblance to her dad and sister is pretty striking.  Sometimes I will look down at her and notice her nose - the one feature she carries that is very clearly not of either of our gene pools - and wonder if she will dwell on it when she's older (it's lovely for the record).  But most of the time I just can't believe we made it here.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Settling in to a new life

Sometimes it doesn't feel real.  Sometimes I get really stupid thoughts in my head, like, did we really get here?  Was my IVF cheating the universe?  How did we get so lucky?

There are two children in my house, and they are sisters, nine years apart.  They look strikingly similar, if I were inclined to breach my kids' anonymity and show side by side baby pictures of the two of them you would catch your breath.... though the moments where Nutmeg looks like her donor do occasionally hit me.  Not in a punch in the gut way, not at all, more in a scientific observation sort of "ahhh, look at her mouth.... and there's that expression that doesn't look quite familiar to my or Viking's gene pool" sort of way.  I know that babies tend to evolve (Niblet started taking on some of my features when she got older), but I also feel comfortable that few will ever even question her genetic origins.  There, I admitted it.  Third-party reproduction can be a minefield of emotions and inadvertent intrusions, and I absolutely breathed a sigh of relief when she came out looking so much like her father - and in turn, her sister.  I've already started talking to her in quiet moments about her origin story, as practice really.  I want it to be matter of fact.  I want her to always have known, as opposed to having a memory of the big day where her mother revealed something outrageous. Honestly,  the bigger issue I still need to work through in my own mind is when and how we reveal this origin story to Niblet. Since Niblet is the designated "reader" to her sister, we may approach it through a book....

But she's two weeks old, I don't have to have all of the answers right now.

A C-Section recovery is a bitch.  I have dodged a PPD bullet, I think, but I have definitely experienced moments of anxiety that I know for sure are related to my not being able to exercise.  I mean, I'm walking ok.  But the incision still feels like an incision, and I am constantly panicked that I am going to lapse into a dance move (as I tend to do without thinking) and somehow re-open it.  But I've been off the opioid painkillers for almost a week, so that's something I suppose.

I can't even begin to describe how amazing Niblet has been these past two weeks.  She's just into it.  She confided in me that she was sort of baffled and disappointed in her friends, who never really talk about this momentous thing with her.  She is the ultimate mother's helper, grabbing all kinds of things when we need them, she's all in on this adventure.  Thank God.

It also helps that the universe granted us a relatively easy baby.  We are treading carefully around this around Niblet, because man, she was HARD and we don't want to give her a complex about it... but the colic, oh my god, it was three months of hell, for all of us.  Nutmeg is pretty fucking easy-going in comparison.  Her nighttime cries can be muffled with white noise machines blasting in both girls' bedrooms, and she's something of a night owl to begin with (she was in utero as well).  We're nursing fairly easily, which also means she eats every 2-3 hours, which means I get roughly 2-3 hours of sleep - total - a day.  Unfortunately, I'm not good at napping during the day.  (Case in point, I am sitting here typing this when I should be asleep). So I get 2-3 hours of cumulative sleep at night, in between her feeds. 

I'm piling on the moisturizer and eye cream, because I started out old as fuck, and have no intention of looking like this baby's grandmother anytime soon.


Friday, January 26, 2018

Labor Day - Part III

She never would have made it past my cervix.

The rush of the scrubs being put on my head. The assurances by the medical team that I wasn't actually a failure myself for not being able to push this baby out ("Maybe she's more than 8 pounds?").  Watching Viking pull scrubs on and being wheeled around the corner of the hospital on a gurney.  Asking "so what the hell I am supposed to do now that I need to KEEP Pushing?"  These are the hazy dreamlike visions I have of these moments.

And then I am in the operating theater.  And the sucky anesthesiologist on whom I have to fight a keen distrust is back, and I am suddenly panicked that she won't numb me properly and I will be sliced open and feel every gruesome second of it.  "I still feel you," I keep saying, and she keeps responding "You won't feel a thing, I promise."

They proceed.  And I feel tugging and pulling, but not actual pain.  And I hear my doctor say, "Oh wow, look, her head is completely tilted backwards, she was never going to make it through the cervix,"

And I suppose they pull her out and eventually hand her over to someone because I hear a cry. The most beautiful sound in the world.  Then I hear a stronger cry.  She's out.  She's actually out.

"Six pounds, ten ounces.  Wow, your girl has a ton of hair!"

She wasn't big at all.  She's in the same range as Niblet was.

And I am being sewn and stitched up and suddenly I am freezing.  Like ice cold, and shaking and this is the anesthesia actually working.  And YES, I want more warm blankets, my teeth are actually fucking chattering, and yes, please, I want to see her.  Viking carries her over next to my side and I don't have my glasses on so I can't see much, but I see her eyebrows. Or at least, her brow muscles, because she is blond. They are furrowed in a way that is entirely familiar to me. 

As with her sister, nine years ago, there is absolutely no question as to paternity with my daughter.

She looks exactly like her father. 

Labor Day - Part II

Somewhere in the time after that second epidural kicked in I started to remind myself that it would all be ok.  Pushing this baby out would be optimal, but if I needed a C section, we - like countless moms and babies before us - would be ok (Full disclosure, I'm not a fan of the Ina May Garten and the Business of Being Born school of thinking.  Are most births too medicalized?  Possibly.  Is this the issue I raise my sword at?  Nope).

Well a few hours later, much to my surprise, I am dilated to a 9.  You read that correctly, a 9.  This fucking process worked.  The hell of a foley bulb, useless stadol, multiple epidural attempts and pitocin cranked to the sky has induced my body into labor.  I can start to feel the contractions, and am instructed to increase my epidural as needed, by a nurse who is surprised that it is set to a level 6, when often it is set to a level 10.

Um, guys, bug mistake to give me that button.  Because OF COURSE I press the fucker, and then of course I start to feel queasy and dizzy again.  And oh, gee, guess what, I really react badly to this anesthesia, and my blood pressure is dropping.  And the doctor comes in and is all, "how many times did you press the button?" And I'm like "Three I think," but I am falling faint.  And they lower the epi and stabilize my blood pressure.  And Viking is angry.  "If you didn't want her to add drugs, why did you instruct her to press the button?  Is that the protocol?"  "Well, the drip won't allow more than a certain amount into her system." "Okay, but it allowed enough that her BP and the baby's started dropping."

Alrighty then.  I am now dilated to a 10.  it's all worked.  It's about 5:30 PM, so about 11 hours from when we first started.  The baby isn't optimally stationed, she's a tad bit high, but I am instructed to push.

And push I do.  For AN HOUR.  For those who have never experienced this, it IS in fact the feeling of pushing a bowel movement and you are supposed to push in the exact same way.  Now look, some of my pushes were weak ass pushes because I have a cold and it's hard to hold my breath, but some of them were EPIC.  And the doctor is actually yelling at me, "If you don't push harder you're going to wind up with a c section."  And I am now not only pushing but angry pushing during my contractions.  And we keep getting SO CLOSE and yet so far. 

After an hour of this the doctor looks grim.  Something is preventing the baby from coming out.  Maybe she's positioned badly?  There's a midwife there who is trying to have me move into different positions to jigger this baby out.  She has all kinds of tricks up her sleeve, but none of them are working.  After over 12 hours of hell - that was actually working - my labor is officially called a failure and I am now being prepped for a C Section.

I'm an overachiever.  I've never failed at anything.  Oh well.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Labor Day - Part 1

So, the morning of my induction I go downstairs to feed the cat at 5am and my Dad wakes up and says "How're you feeling?" And I respond "Too good."  Because I did not miraculously go into labor the night before, as I did with Niblet.  (I labored at home with Niblet for the first 11 hours, unmedicated, rolling on a yoga ball, moving around and breathing through the pain.  I arrived at the hospital dilated to a 4.  Sigh.).

We get to the hospital at 5:30 and the show gets on the road at 6am.  Now earlier in the week I was dilated to a 1, and my membranes were sweeped by Dr. W.  Surely this means that my cervix was going to be a little more primed for this, right?

You would be wrong.  I was dilated to a 1.  That's right.  A fucking 1.  Sigh.

In the midst of all this I meet the doctor on call who will be delivering, and a friendly Physicians Assistant who is reading my chart and wants to confirm with me the most miserable fertility history in history.

(e.g., "Were your miscarriages the result of your Asherman's?" "No, you have it backwards, my Asherman's came after a D&C for a partial molar pregnancy, and was treated and then I went on to have a million more miscarriages. And the MTHFR you just asked about resulted in the baby I lost with a giant omphalocele.  And how the fuck is this the time to be talking about all of this with me?")

So my induction plan then changed, and we would start with a foley bulb.  Go ahead, google that shit.  It's barbaric.  A catheter is rammed up my cervix (isn't this the story of my life?) and a balloon is inflated to manually dilate it.  Now, I've got a high pain tolerance, I've had in office hysteroscopies to treat Asherman's scar tissue without any anesthesia for fucks sake.  Well, this hurt.  Not unbearable crying pain (that comes later), but definitely unpleasant.  And I am basically chained to a bed with lots of IV lines and monitors at 6am.  Can I say how much inductions blow?

Ok, the bulb gets me to a 2.  My water is then broken (or at least, so we think, more on that later).  On to the pitocin we go.

I don't want to write a book about pitocin induced labor pains.  I'm sure someone has.  All I will say is HOLY MOTHER OF CHRIST.  Viking had never seen me in such a state.  The fuckhead even said, "you were quieter when you labored with Niblet."  NO SHIT.  Because pitocin is the devil.  That is all.

After surely looking like a possessed character in a 70s horror movie, all moaning and writhing and strapped to a fucking bed by IV lines, I beg for drugs.  It's too early for an epidural, so I first get a light narcotic to "take the edge off" - Stadol.  "You know how when you drink and you fall you don't feel pain?" the nurse says to me?  Bitch, my body is a fucking temple.  I haven't fallen while boozily lubricated on the street in like 15 years, what kind of mother do you think I am?

Let's just say that the stadol did NOTHING.  "Let me know when I need to advocate harder for you for the epidural,"Viking tries to helpfully offer.  Yeah Dude, you should get on that now.

It's now maybe 12 or 1 in the afternoon.  Viking is watching the monitor, all fascinated because he can see when I am contracting and isn't science cool?  "That was a long one," he says.  Yes asshole, I say to his face, that was indeed a long one.  And he laughs and calls himself Mr. Science to try to take the edge off that the Stadol couldn't, and I am officially crying and writhing in pain.  We are finally dilated to a four and the nurse runs fluids through me for an hour so I can get my precious precious spinal drug line.

Ok, so the epidural.  I've had one before, and as I've mentioned, I needed two tries.  Because apparently my back was "too muscular" to get a line in.  Dr. W thought this was total bullshit when I told her the story, "Maybe that guy was just a resident?  That shouldn't have happened."  Ahhh, not so fast.  Viking is bedside on a stool.  I am holding his hands and trying to breathe and count through contractions.  He gets a worried look on his face because this anesthesiologist ("she's new here," they tell me, "not new to anesthesiology of course, just new here") is taking a while.  She is poking and prodding, and asking if I can feel that SHARP JABBING PAIN and why, yes, yes I can.  When I should not be.  And whoa there's another pitocin contraction.  And this is just going on and on and on. And I stare into Viking's blue eyes, and wait, what the fuck, am I peeing on him, what was that GUSH?  Umm, no, apparently THAT is my water breaking, and oh look says the nurse, it appears as if there's meconium in there.  Sorry about those jeans Viking.

"Is this trouble related to the fact that my back is, ummm, sort of muscular?" I ask?  "Well, yes, I can't find a good space to insert the needle."

Twenty minutes after we began, the drip is in.  And I start feeling queasy.  Really queasy.  My blood pressure drops, and Nutmeg's blood pressure drops.  And the anesthesiologist sets the epidural level lower than usual, my BP (and Nutmegs) stabilizes, and I start to feel better.  (This will be a fun fact to remember in the next post, coming soon).

The edge has finally been taken off.  It's about 2:30 in the afternoon.  And I can nap.

Pre-labor ANXIETY

So, in the days leading up to my delivery, I was a fucking wreck.  A crying panicked mess.  Going through some mild braxton-hickish labor, but honestly, convinced that the scheduled induction set for Saturday January 20 would not only fail spectacularly, but in a way that the universe would give me the finger for thinking for even a moment that a blissfully easy pregnancy would lead to a living baby in my arms.  Or at a minimum, I could experience any of the clusterfucks of labor that are described on the birth boards.  I was set off by the tiniest things.  I was snapping at everyone and then bursting into tears, and then I would hide in my room like a 9 year old.

Viking wasn't having it.  Maybe he forgot my PPD after Niblet was born, maybe he forgot the level of PTSD I've experienced because the last 30 or so weeks were a cake walk for a recurrent loss mom like myself.  I don't know.  He's a solid loving guy, but he's not the most emotionally attuned dude on the planet.  Ultimately he wasn't helpful because he was basically all, like, "why are so you fucking crazy right now?"  I don't know asshole, perhaps because pushing a baby out on a round of pitocin sounds painful and scary as fuck?

The night before our induction I pulled myself the fuck together because my parents were coming to stay to watch the Nibble and the last thing anyone needed was their worry on this front.  They are a tad, well, smothering is the best word for it. In hindsight I wouldn't be surprised if some of Viking's ill-temper was related to their coming to stay. 

Friday came.  My parents came.  I pulled it together.  Niblet went to a school performance and I tried to temper all the crazy thoughts in my head and focus on the fact that I was in good medical hands.

All of this post is a cautionary tale to say that these demons haunt us to the end.  And that it's ok.  And hormones are the devil. And most importantly, stay off the interwebs before you're going to deliver a baby, the horror stories you'll google your way towards will make you wish the stork existed.

She's home

Nutmeg is home, safe and sound and beautiful. We are all in love.

I'm doing pretty well for feeling just a few days ago like I was run over by a truck and then having it back up over me again in reverse.  It's all good.

More posts to come.