Saturday, October 20, 2012

Adventures in Babysitting

Oh wait. This isn’t babysitting, this is real life. MY real life. And this baby is MY baby that I’m completely responsible for.
Holy cow.
This is an approximate summation of the mindset I had during the first 10 weeks of parenthood. Total deer-in-headlights-can-I-do-this-what-have-we-gotten-into mode. At times, the task seemed daunting. But luckily those times were few and far between. For the most part, it was just getting to know our new baby girl, learning her needs and wants, and accepting that taking time to adjust was just part of the game. I wish I was able to have written more during the first weeks, even if just for my own purposes, but it just wasn’t in the cards with our newborn. I kept thinking things would slow down, but before I knew it, it was time to go back to work and now the days are flying by even more quickly.
The first few weeks were easier than I thought they would be in some ways, but more difficult in others. Ellyson was a typical newborn as far as sleep went, and we actually got more sleep than I thought we would. Feeding, however, has been another issue. She developed a milk protein intolerance around 3 weeks and after a lot of trial and error started her on soy formula, which was ok for awhile until around 9 weeks when she developed an intolerance to that too. We’ve finally gotten her on the concentrate form of Nutramigen because the powder mix was too thin, and she seems to be doing really well with it. Other than the feeding issues and related unhappiness that came with them, she was a happy, content baby most of the time and allowed us to truly enjoy some days with this teeny tiny precious new life. It took some teaching on her part – she was NOT going to ride in her carseat happily if she was the least bit hungry –she would NOT swing or sit in her bouncer if she didn’t want to – she would NOT allow us to lay her down for a nap if she thought it was snuggle time...(I can’t imagine where she got this strong will from…) but we’ve heeded our lessons and are all working together harmoniously now. Until she changes her mind, of course.

Despite the feeding issues, our baby girl has thrived. At her first doctor’s appointment at 6 days old, she had already surpassed her birth weight at weighed 6lbs, 10oz. We didn’t even have to come back for a two-week check up! She was still on the small side though – she was in the 25thpercentile in height and weight. In the throes of trying to figure out the issue with her formula, we did take her in at 4 weeks where they did an ultrasound to make sure she didn’t have pyloric stenosis which could have explained her feeding issues, but thankfully, we were just dealing with the protein intolerance.
At her two-month appointment, which was really when she was 10 weeks, she continued to show us how perfect she is. She weighed 10lbs 6oz (45thpercentile), was 23 in long (65th percentile) and her head was 14 in (50th percentile.) We were so thrilled and thankful. She even did great with her shots, calming down and smiling at Nana on the way home. No fever or welts on her legs or anything. Again, so thankful. The doctor congratulated us on making it through the difficult times that test even the most seasoned parent and encouraged us to start enjoying the next few months when it gets “fun.” Believe me, doc, we’re going to do just that.
Her little personality is starting to develop and she is getting increasingly curious with her developing abilities. She has gotten so much more satisfied with her feedings and is starting to sleep on a more regular schedule which is improving everyone’s lives. And this is all in spite of the crazy schedule I keep with work and dragging her back and forth from Glasgow to Bowling Green. She’s a trooper, that’s for sure.

I personally have handled this transition better than I expected, too. It has been a huge adjustment and I do get easily overwhelmed, but then we would have a good day or something would reinforce that things were going ok, so we just trucked along. I kept waiting for post-partum to take me under (way to employ positive-thinking, huh?) but with the exception of having a good cry every evening when Michael got home for the first couple of weeks and only a few breakdowns thereafter, I was shockingly fine. While I did enjoy any adult interaction I had, and would take opportunity to get out for a few hours when mom would watch her periodically, I didn’t go crazy being at home 90% of the time like I thought I would either. Once we got sorted out on the best way for Michael to help and thanks to a lot of relief from my mom when I needed it, the notoriously tough newborn weeks were made much more bearable. Hallelujah for that! The “mommy guilt syndrome” got me down a few times – constantly worrying if I was doing the right things for her, comparing her to other babies her age, wondering if I was ever going to be able to cook a meal or take a long shower again. I was constantly beating myself up for not taking more pictures, not blogging every little move she made, not dressing her up from head-to-toe every day; basically not doing what I thought everyone else was doing or what everyone expected me to do.
And then this little gem of an article appeared:

Dear Moms, Jesus Wants You To Chill Out

by Stephen Altrogge on October 12, 2012

FACT: If your children can’t read by age four there is a 95% chance they will end up homeless and on drugs.
FACT: If your children eat any processed food there is an 85% chance they will contract a rare, most likely incurable disease, by age 12.
FACT: If you’re not up at dawn reading the Bible to your children, you are most likely a pagan caught in the clutches of witchcraft.
FACT: If your children watch more than 10 minutes of television a day there is 75% chance they will end up in a violent street gang by age 17.
Obviously, the “facts” listed above are not true (at least, I don’t think they are). But, I’ve noticed that the Internet has made it much easier for people, and moms in particular, to compare themselves to each other. Now, just to be clear, this is not a post against “mom blogs”, or whatever they’re called. If you write a mom blog, that’s cool with me. This is a post to encourage the moms who tend to freak out and feel like complete failures when they read the mom blogs and mom Facebook posts.
Moms, Jesus wants you to chill out about being a mom. You don’t have to make homemade bread to be a faithful mom. You don’t have to sew you children’s clothing to be a faithful mom. You don’t have to coupon, buy all organic produce, keep a journal, scrapbook, plant a garden, or make your own babyfood to be a faithful mom. There’s nothing wrong with these things, but they’re also not in your biblical job description.
Your job description is as follows:
  • Love God. This simply means finding some time during the day to meet with the Lord. It doesn’t have to be before all the kids are awake. It doesn’t have to be in the pre-dawn stillness. Your job is to love God. How you make that happen can look a million different ways.
  • Love your husband (unless you’re a single mom, of course). Your second job is to love and serve your husband. Husbands are to do the same for their wives, but that’s for a different post. If your husband really likes homemade bread, maybe you could make it for him. But don’t make homemade bread simply because you see other moms posting pictures of their homemade bread on Facebook.
  • Love your kids. Your calling as mom is to love your kids and teach them to follow the Lord. They don’t need to know Latin by age six. If they do, more power to you. But that’s a bonus, not part of the job description. Your job is simply to love your kids with all your exhausted heart, and to teach them to love Jesus. That’s a high calling. Don’t go throwing in other, extraneous things to make your life more difficult. If you want to teach your kids to sew, great. But don’t be crushed by guilt if your kids aren’t making stylish blazers by the age of 10.
Moms, Jesus want you to rest in him. He wants you to chill out. His yoke is easy and his burden is light. Don’t compare yourself to other moms. Don’t try to be something God hasn’t called you to be. If the mom blogs are making you feel guilty, stop reading them. Be faithful to what he has truly called you to do, and know that he is pleased with you. When your kids are resting, don’t feel guilty about watching an episode of “Lost”, or whatever your favorite show may happen to be.
Love God, love your husband, love your kids. Keep it simple and chill out.

+photo by pedrosimoes7
Even though I had heard these things before and Michael and mom were constantly telling me similar things, for some reason, this short article spoke volumes to me. I almost immediately let my anxiety go and resolved to just be the mom I need to be to my baby and leave the rest alone. My goal every night is to lie down knowing I did the best for me and my baby and be satisfied with that. Especially after going back to work, I can honestly say I’m doing a pretty good job of doing just that. I might just be a reformed control-freak people-pleaser after all!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

D-Day: The Birth of Ellyson Rose

It was clear from my last few posts when I was pregnant that I was ready to not be pregnant anymore during those final days, as any expectant mother is at that point. As a markedly impatient person, I was done pretending to practice patience. Fear and anxiety were taking me under and I was ready to get over the hurdle into motherhood.

I went to the doctor on Tuesday, August 14th at 10:15 and I took my cavalry of support (Michael AND mom) with me. I was not feeling well and was continuing to get even more impatient than I had been (the Olympics were over and TV watching was no longer fun) but after the previous week’s appointment, I was trying to be as open-minded as possible for whatever Dr. South said was going to happen. After an exam that revealed that I had not made much progress and some chit-chat about how I had been feeling, she left the room and we all sat making conjecture as to whether or not I would be sent home to continue miserably waiting or if today was the day. When she returned, she expressed some concern over my much higher than usual blood pressure, severely increased water retention, and headaches I was having and decided to send me home to get ready to come back to the hospital that afternoon where we would begin the slow process and see how things went.

    *As an aside, the key word here is slow. Evidently, that is the only word Michael and I heard because we had a totally different idea of how the events would unfold that afternoon. I will explain…

We quietly drove home, got some lunch, packed everything in the car (with all our stuff and the dogs, it literally looked like we were leaving home for at least a month) and headed back to Glasgow for the duration. We were both surprisingly calm (Michael was most likely in shock and I still wasn’t feeling well) and we kept reminding each other that it would “still be awhile” and that we were “in for a lot of waiting around” once we got to the hospital. We were texting and messaging our friends and family the same news. You could say we were only mildly anticipatory since everything was going to be slow.

Once we got to the hospital around 3:00, we were immediately escorted to a room, which was also surprising since last we knew, Dr. South was not going to call ahead before our arrival because Labor and Delivery wasn’t taking elective inductions due to a system upgrade. So we anticipated going through the channels of checking in, hanging out in triage, and then Dr. South would admit me from there. Not so – she actually had called in advance and the nurses were ready and waiting for me. Since we were so surprised at this turn of events, one of the nurses finally looked at me and said, “Sweetie, you know you’re here to have a baby, right?” After laughing and getting our stories straight with what we had been told (slow, remember?) versus Dr. South’s call of telling the nurses we were headed to the hospital with high blood pressure and major swelling, we were suddenly off and running. Within the hour, I had an IV, pints of blood drawn, monitors hooked up, and 5 million forms signed. At one point during all the hustle and bustle, I was convinced I was going to toss my cookies because the anxiety had kicked in full force, I was surrounded by dozens of nurses and residents, lab people were draining me of blood, and I was sweating like a hog since I wasn’t prepared for any of this. I asked for the miracle Zofran, and things finally calmed down a bit. After regaining clearer thinking, I asked one of the nurses what was in my IV and when we might start the Pitocin to induce labor (again, thinking it would be much later since we were going slow, right?) The sweet nurse just laughed and told me I was already at a dosage of 4 of Pitocin and that it was going to be increased every 30 minutes until we got to 20.

Cue the panic.

Um, WHAT?!

The nurse left the room and Michael and I sat wild-eyed staring at each other at the shock of what she just said. Mom thought it was hilarious that we were both so surprised at this fact as we discussed our confusion. She evidently had heard differently at my appointment earlier that morning and was not at all surprised that I was already on the labor-inducing medication and that we were well on our way, trucking along to baby-town. What happened to“slow?!”

As we negotiated how our definitions of “slow” differed from everyone else’s, I started to get more and more panicked. I started recalling my dear friend Amy’s horrific experience with Pitocin PRIOR to receiving her epidural during her first baby’s delivery. And here I was, hooked up to a relentless drip of this medicine, being increased religiously, and no offer of an epidural yet.

Now, for the record, I was in very little pain at this point– I just feared what was coming. I had started to feel my contractions more, but they were by no means unbearable. I also knew that it wouldn’t be long before the anesthesiologist left and would have to be called back if I didn’t get the epidural before they left the building.

So, in my panic-stricken state of mind, every time the nurse came in I would ask her when I could get my epidural (even though I was not in pain and was only dilated to 2cm when I came in…) I feared my illogical requests would be ignored. But, thank goodness, the nurses checked me again and I had fully effaced and was dilated 3+cm and Dr. South said it was enough progress to go ahead and get the epidural before the anesthesiologist left for the day. Glory!

So at 5:30, they herded everyone out of the room and got me prepped for the happy juice doctor. I was worried about the whole procedure of an epidural, but it was honestly nothing. Other than my fear of falling off the bed that they had raised at least 40 feet off the ground, it was fine. My sweet nurses walked me through everything that was being done, and I hardly felt anything. It was an odd sensation, sure, and at first it only took on one side which was a little alarming, but it eventually evened out.

Soon after that, around 6:45, Dr. South came in to examine me (I was 4 cm) and break my water – also something I feared, but it too, was fine, especially since the epidural had started to kick in. We’re still going slow, right? Ha.

The nurses changed shifts around 7, and while I loved the nurses I had when I was admitted (one was a family friend), I was blessed with the most wonderful nurse for the night. She was so kind and didn’t patronize me or make me feel stupid for being anxious, asking a million questions, etc.
While we waited and the nurse tended to my developing labor, my family came and hung out, watched the helicopter land and take-off, and laughed with me because I was getting loopier by the minute. I lost the ability to control my fingers enough to text, so I mainly just sat and chatted and laughed – still in complete shock that everything was happening so quickly. (For the record, I could clearly never do recreational drugs because the undulating, out-of-control feeling the epidural gave me is not something I enjoyed, but was thankfully too loopy to care at the time.)

Around 9, the nurse checked me again and I was dilated to 7-8cm and she could feel the baby’s head. Again, TOTAL shock. This was my first baby, right? And those labors typically last around 18 hours, right? And epidurals have a reputation for slowing things down, right? My body apparently did not get that memo and the relaxed state that the epidural put me in evidently allowed my body to really kick in and do it’s thing.

It was at this point that I realized there was really no turning back. (As if that had been an option up until this point.) I started to really process everything that was going on – how quickly everything thus far had taken place, how I was smack-dab in the middle of a process I had no idea how I would handle, how things differed from all the months of expectation and speculation, and how really quite wonderful everything to this point had been. I was still a little concerned about getting to the finish line – I could feel more with the epidural than I expected. I have heard people say they couldn’t feel anything and were completely numb, etc., and while I couldn’t feel pain per se, I definitely had sensation and could feel pressure and so forth so I wasn’t sure how that was going to translate when it came time to push. Surprisingly though, I accepted it for what it was and would deal with that when it came time. (Again, as if I really had a choice in the matter. It’s not like I could have gotten up and run away with my legs of lead and fingers that couldn’t even operate a telephone.)

I tried to rest from that point on, but the contractions were becoming a little more bothersome and I was started to feel quite a bit of pressure. My sweet nurse kept offering me ice chips, so I finally decided to appease her and munch on those, but controlling a cup and spoon even proved too difficult in my loopy state, so I just gave up. Plus, they kept moving me from side to side about every 30 minutes to keep my labor progressing, so just about when I would get comfortable, I had to roll over.

At 11, the nurse checked me again and I was dilated to 9cm. NINE. I remember thinking, “this is really going to happen.” The nurse moved my bed into a completely upright position, kinda making it a ‘throne’ of sorts so the baby would move on down, put an oxygen mask on me because I’m fairly sure I was holding my breath at this point, and she went to call Dr. South. She explained everything they were going to do to the room, bed, etc and uncovered the table of special tools. I was nervous, but kept smiling/laughing because I couldn’t believe I hadn’t died yet. I guess I had really believed the stork was going to just drop my baby off on our doorstep because I just couldn’t believe I was doing something I previously thought impossible.

Dr. South arrived around 11:45 and everyone calmly chit-chatted for a bit as she got some things ready. They got me set up in pushing position and had me try a practice push. Well, evidently, my IBS has paid off for something because I scored pretty high on this little practice test and by the second“practice push,” the baby was crowning. They had me wait during this phase to prevent tearing, etc. which was pretty uncomfortable and the pause allowed me to realize what was happening and I still couldn’t believe it. They gave me the go-ahead to push again, and again, I was evidently doing an ok job because this even surprised the doctor and I had to wait again while she got garbed-up before she had a “lap full of baby.” I took another deep breath and two more pushes and she was here! There was a quiet moment right after one of the nurses told me that she was out and then I heard the most beautiful sound in the WORLD– my sweet baby girl screamed, just like I prayed she would! I knew then that she was here and breathing and my whole world had just changed forever! At 12:22am, our 6lb 8oz baby girl was part of our family. They laid her on my chest and I’ve never seen anything more beautiful in my life.
Michael, who had been relocated to a chair nearby, came over and we all relished in this sweet new life. Those moments were priceless and unforgettable. I couldn’t believe what had just happened. She was the most beautiful thing ever imagined. She was our gift from God. Just like I had been with everything else, I was totally overwhelmed and overjoyed and for a minute, the world stopped and I experienced a wholeness like never before.

Ellyson stayed with me for Kangaroo Care while they finished taking care of me, so mom, Michael and I just marveled at her. She was a hungry little thing and wanted to nurse immediately. The next couple of hours are somewhat of a blur – I developed a migraine pretty quickly after delivery, had no appetite which made me dizzy, and was so exhausted after being up for so long. Around 3am, Michael took Ellyson to the nursery with a nurse to get measured, cleaned up, and checked out by a doctor. (She was perfect, of course.) I struggled through a shower and we were finally off to a post-partum room around 4:00am. Sleep was just not an option with all the adrenaline – it was as if someone forgot to flip the switch on my body to tell it the hard part was over and that we could rest now. The next couple of days were spent with visitors and trying to get some rest before we took our sweet baby girl home on Friday, August 17.

To this day I can’t believe how fantastic the whole experience was– like any first time mom, I was terrified to my core about labor and delivery and I could not have been more pleasantly surprised. If I knew they could all be like that, I would have 20 babies. The horror stories of labor seem to be the ones that circulate and I promised my nurses that I would share my story of how great things can be. We know we were blessed with no complications and are so grateful for that. One thing that I even was shocked at myself was how laid back I managed to be through the whole deal and I think that made a big difference. We didn’t have a 5 page written birth plan, we hadn’t taken classes, and we had very few preconceived ideas of what was going to happen (we thought it would go slowly, remember?) – I just let everything happen and dealt with each event as it unfolded. As a control freak, this was totally uncharacteristic of me, but it was obviously the best approach. Toward the end of the pregnancy I had all but convinced myself I could never do it again –within minutes of delivery I had changed my mind. Ha! I have to credit my super-incredible-sent-from-heaven doctor who dealt with my quirks and worries and truthfully helped us from beginning to end. The nurses of the labor and delivery department at this small-town hospital could not have been more accommodating and helpful and certainly made everything easier and less frightening, especially for someone who was terrified of everything.

Like I said, we praise God for a smooth delivery and a healthy baby – we know so many who wish they could say the same. To say we are blessed is a gross understatement.

The End

My incessant need for closure has led me to post a final farewell to this blog. Blogging was a whole new concept for me when I logged on l...