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Tuesday, June 16th, 2009
I debated about whether or not I should blog about this, because I know that some people I know in real life read my blog. But I guess I’ve blogged about every other aspect of my pregnancy/motherhood, and what I’m about to say really isn’t anything to be ashamed of, so, here goes.
I’ve been feeling really crappy lately. I’m not sure when it started. I was feeling okay for awhile, or maybe I was just too busy and worried about Caroline to notice. I also kind of assumed that it was just a situational thing, because I had to make such a big adjustment in moving from school to staying at home, and all the other changes having a baby brings to your life. And, you know, it’s pretty isolating to stay at home with a baby when all of your friends are either far away or in an intense dental program… and none of them are even thinking about having babies of their own.
It wasn’t just that, though… ever since we brought Caroline home from the NICU, I’ve been having nightmares. Horrible dreams that she’s dead in the bed with me. I wake up several times a night from the same dream, digging frantically in the blankets for her because I’m convinced that she’s in there. And I think about the NICU and the midnight transfer in the ambulance all the time. I still cry about it every day. It was a traumatic experience, for sure, but still feeling like this just doesn’t seem normal to me. I was hoping that all this would go away with time, but it just… hasn’t.
So, I was going to my OB today anyway because I was having an issue with my IUD. I brought up my concerns with the nurse practitioner and she left the room for a long time. When she came back, she told me that the OB on call wanted me to go to a psychiatrist across the street, and that they could see me immediately. I went over there, feeling kind of like I had done something wrong and lost my recess.
I talked to the psychiatrist for a long time, over an hour. When she was done asking me questions (questions that included things like “can you tell me today’s date” and “what do apples and oranges have in common”… ummm… I’m not that far gone, lady), she put her clipboard down and said:
“I think you have moderate to severe postpartum depression. You went through a very traumatic experience, what with having your new baby in the hospital in uncertain condition, right in the middle of a mess of postpartum hormones and physical pain. You’ve had to continue struggling with her health and weight gain, and to give up breastfeeding for a much more mechanical, demanding way of feeding her. You’re continuing to torture yourself with all this pumping in order to try to live up to this unattainable ideal that our society has of the perfect mother, who gives her baby breastmilk, no matter what. You had to suddenly leave your program and all its activity and human interaction to stay at home with your baby, with no friends who understand what your new life is like. On top of it all, your pregnancy was unexpected, you say you were an anxious person to begin with, and depression runs in your family. How could you not be depressed?”
Well. I have to say, she heard me. It felt like a huge weight was lifted, that somebody understood me. I’ve sort of brought it up with Tyler and my mom, but Tyler just said “she’s healthy now, why is it still bothering you?” and my mom just gave me a look that I couldn’t quite read. So, it was such a relief just to have someone tell me that it was okay to feel sad. In general, I try not to think about any of that, because I don’t have time for self-pity and it doesn’t do anything for me anyway. But clearly ignoring it isn’t helping, so I have to try something else.
She suggested that I start two medications, check in with her over the phone while we’re in ND, start counseling once we get back, and quit pumping. I told her I was fine with all of that except the pumping, and that I just can’t quite do that yet, I’d feel too guilty. She went over to her desk, handed me a picture of a really pretty girl about my age, and said “this is my baby. I had to quit breastfeeding her after one month. And you know what? She’s fine. She’s great. How you feed your baby is just one tiny part of being a good mother. You’ve done everything you can for four months… do what’s best for you, but also know that maybe it’s time to give it up in order to focus on all the other very important pieces of the puzzle.”
So, that might be happening in the near future, I haven’t decided yet. All in all, I’m so glad that I said something to the nurse at the OB. Maybe the medication will help me feel more like myself. All I can do is try it, right? So… wish me luck!
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Friday, May 1st, 2009
You knew this was coming from me eventually!
I expected having a baby to totally trash my body. I mean, it sounds horrible, right? Growing a 7ish-pound person in there and then pushing it out your vag, or having it pulled out through a cut in your belly? (Some days I still can’t believe I actually did that and lived to tell about it. It’s all very Alien.) I’ve never been good about weight gain. I tend to get very upset, so this was one of the things I was really worried about.
But I came through it pretty much unscathed, in the long run. I obsessed over my weight gain the entire pregnancy, but from the day I found out I was pregnant to the day I delivered, I gained an unexciting 28 pounds. (Keep in mind, though, that I delivered at exactly 8 months pregnant.) I somehow didn’t get any stretch marks, even though I have some from puberty so I know I’m predisposed to them. I’m still kind of chubby-looking, but most of the weight has come off without doing anything more than breastfeeding, eating reasonably, and halfheartedly jogging from time to time. (I’m about 5 pounds up from my pre-pregnancy weight, although I’ve lost a lot of muscle tone so that number sounds a lot better than it looks.)
A lot of the weight comes off directly after giving birth, and then it kind of stalls. I swear, at least 10 pounds of my weight must have been water, because about a week after giving birth I looked at my ankles in the shower and they were THERE again. I almost fell over in shock. They looked like sticks to me. I hadn’t seen them in so long.
Even with weight loss, though, your body ends up being shaped totally differently. Your hips spread, at least if you deliver vaginally (I can’t speak for the C-section mommas). Weight seems to be distributed differently. Your old jeans don’t have a prayer of fitting. I’ve also still got that sweet linea nigra running down my belly, along with an attractive little kangaroo pouch due to stretching of skin and muscle. Probably nothing that about a thousand situps couldn’t fix, if I ever had the motivation or energy to do them (I do not), although my belly button will probably always look slightly weird.
Overall, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I imagined it to be. Which is good, because I am very vain and selfish like that. I’m hoping that by summertime I should be able to fit into my old clothes, because I really don’t want to have to buy a new wardrobe! (Well, okay, I do, but not because I’m too large for my old stuff.)
Still– it doesn’t help when “friends” say things like “Oh look! You have a butt now! You never used to have a butt.” (Insert Death Stare here. I’m getting a lot of use out of that thing lately.)
I’d post a “belly” picture, but Caroline is sleeping in the room that has the full-length mirror, and I don’t want to wake the beast. I can tell you, though, that it looks absolutely nothing like this… (Quit sucking it in, you bitch.)
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Thursday, March 26th, 2009
Well, yesterday I got my IUD! I was a little freaked out about getting it put in, because back when I was in undergrad I tried to get the Paragard and it hurt when they measured my uterus before insertion (my uterus was too small, so I didn’t end up getting it at the time). But my Mirena insertion yesterday went just fine– a little crampy and uncomfortable, but overall not bad at all. I guess once your cervix has been stretched open to the point that a small person can get through it, sticking a little plastic thing through is a piece of cake.
It is such a relief not to have to worry about another unplanned pregnancy for another 5 years. For the first time in my life I feel like I’ve found the perfect birth control option: it’s long-term, minimally hormonal, safe for breastfeeding, low-maintenance, 99.9% effective (this is crucial… haha), and will make my periods lighter and less painful (like 40% of women stop getting their period at all after a few months!)… I’m starting to sound like a commercial here, but I seriously am in love with this little piece of plastic.
In fact, here’s how my insertion appointment went:
My OB (looking at Caroline sleeping in her carseat): She’s so good! Are you sure you don’t want another one like her??
Me: HAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!! (deep breath) HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! No, seriously, hand that thing over.
Okay, maybe it didn’t go exactly like that…
But honestly I’m not sure I will ever want another child, so the long-term-ness of the IUD really does appeal to me. I love Caroline more than I ever thought I would or could. But the NICU experience was really traumatic, and at my post-partum appointment my OB told me that even with hormone therapy, I’d have a 30% chance of delivering early again. And I’m sure I’d be more likely to have to stop working early once the contractions started up again. But mostly I just feel like my “mommy” urge has been satisfied with Caroline. I guess I would feel badly about not giving her a sibling, but overall I don’t really know if I see another baby in our future. I know that for some moms, the love they feel for their first child makes them want another one that much more… but for me, it has made me feel reluctant to take away any attention from her by having another baby.
I know that Tyler wants at least one more (he’s always said he wanted three; I always used to want two), so we might have some disagreement over this in the future.
But for now it doesn’t really matter because regardless of what happens, we’d want to wait several years. And I realize that I might change my mind down the road when she gets older… and of course I might not have a choice in the matter, just like this time! However. These are my thoughts at the moment.
And it sure does feel good not to have to worry about repeating this whole experience. I wouldn’t trade my Caroline for the world, but I won’t be playing Russian roulette with my birth control again any time soon.
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Thursday, March 5th, 2009
And Caroline is one month old today! It seems like such a long time ago that I had never met her.
It’s weird to me that today is March 5. How many millions of times did I say that date in response to “when are you due??” over the past nine months? I know that only 5% of babies actually come on their due dates, but still– today is the day I was “supposed” to meet her. Even though her NICU stay was definitely the most traumatic and upsetting experience of my life, I still feel lucky that I got to spend this extra, bonus time with her. I’ll always feel jealous of those women who make it to their due dates and who get to take their babies home with them, but I’m sure that missing out on that miserable last month of pregnancy isn’t entirely a bad thing either. And I know I certainly will never take her good health for granted!
Caroline decided to celebrate her due date by sleeping a wonderful, consecutive 5 1/2 hours last night. I suspect this had more to do with her new reflux medication (which actually works) than her desire to party it up, but regardless, it was amazing. I feel refreshed today even though I woke up probably every hour, on the hour to make sure she was still breathing. I wondered why she was nursing about every hour yesterday– she was saving it up to let us get some sleep at night! What a good little baby…
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Saturday, February 14th, 2009
But before I get into that, a quick Caroline update– she’s doing great! She just needs to clear the last hurdle, which is getting rid of her oxygen requirement. A chest x-ray showed that the fluid in her lungs is clearing, so it’s just a matter of time now. We’re hoping just a couple more days…
Here’s our little girl, wide awake and gripping her binky that she stole from the first hospital:
So… I didn’t wake up on the morning of February 4th thinking I was going into labor. But, I was standing in the kitchen talking to Tyler before he left for school, and I felt a gush of… something. Yeah, gross. I started to panic, assuming that it was my water. I called the doctor and they asked me to come in right away because I hadn’t had the Group B strep test yet. Tyler and I went to L&D;, but for some reason we didn’t bring our bags. I guess we had just had too many false alarms at that point, and we didn’t really think we’d be staying.
They tested me for amniotic fluid and the tests all came up negative. They also did an ultrasound to check the fluid levels and they were fine (it also showed that the baby had flipped and was no longer breech!). I felt like an idiot, but I was relieved that it wasn’t my water (I was 35w6d that day). My OB said that I could go home, but since I was contracting quite a bit she wanted to do a quick exam. She checked me, looked surprised, and said “you’re 3cm and 90% effaced. You aren’t going anywhere.” Tyler and I were stunned. The irritable uterus strikes again… I was always afraid of going into labor and not knowing it!
They gave me some terbutaline to try and stop the contractions but warned me that if I was in labor, the terbutaline wouldn’t work. An hour later, the contractions hadn’t stopped and I was 3.5cm and 100% effaced. I was admitted and told that there was a 90% chance that I was in early labor.
Honestly, I wasn’t really feeling a thing at this point. Maybe I had just had contractions for so long that I didn’t notice them anymore. Maybe they just weren’t that bad. Whatever the reason, I stayed at that hospital all day, slowly dilating to 6cm by a little after midnight without even really being in much pain. I am still baffled by this. I have always thought I had a very low tolerance for pain– I’m a huge wimp. I assumed I’d come to the hospital in labor and be screaming for the epidural by 4cm, tops. But instead, I was just bored. I could sometimes tell when I was having a contraction, and sometimes it would be uncomfortable, but not always. Anyway, my OB checked me after midnight and said I was 6cm, -1 station, and would have the baby by morning. And at this point, she broke my water since it hadn’t broken yet and there was no turning back anyway.
This is when I really started to freak out. For some reason, it didn’t seem like a done deal until this. I wanted to have an epidural because that has always been my plan and I am reallllly not interested in finding out what transition is like or feeling myself tear, but after she said that, I actually wasn’t sure what to do. I’d somehow gotten to 6cm without noticing much (let’s all pause and contemplate what may have happened, had I not gone in for the water-breaking false alarm), so I just didn’t know if it was worth it to go through the stress of getting the epidural if I wasn’t even in pain. In the end I got tired of thinking about it and just wanted to get some sleep if I was really having a baby in the morning, so I went for it. Turns out it only worked on my right side, and I still didn’t really care about the pain until I was towards the end of pushing. Very bizarre. So, my conclusion: labor is boring and for some reason, not all that painful.
Before you all hate me, though, let’s discuss what happened when I started pushing. Labor might have been strangely easy, but pushing was absolute hell. I started pushing around 3am and by the time 6am rolled around and I was still pushing, I was in a significant amount of pain and was sobbing and saying that I just couldn’t do it. They’d been telling me for the last 2 hours that I just had to get the baby’s head past the pubic bone, that it was almost there… and finally I snapped and screamed at everyone that I just couldn’t do it because I was getting more tired with every push.
So my doctor decided that my pelvic bones were too close together to get the baby’s head through without help (looking back, it would have been best to decide this somewhere around 4 am rather than 6) and she busted out the vacuum extractor. Now, I have always been very against the vacuum extractor because it can hurt the baby. Let me tell you, though, once you’ve been pushing for 3 hours and you are literally so frustrated that you are crying because you haven’t made any progress for hours and you are terrified of being threatened with a c-section after all that, that little vacuum sounds pretty good. Anyway, I went for it. The episiotomy too, since my doctor informed me that it was necessary. (Was it necessary to extend it all the way into my rectum? Probably not. Did you really need to hear this choice piece of personal information? Probably not.)
Anyway, our little Caroline was born at 6:08 am after several vacuum-assisted pushes. They put her on my belly and I held onto her slippery little body and just felt kind of dazed. I remember saying “hi” over and over again, but it just didn’t seem real that there was suddenly a baby in the room… much less that she was mine. Tyler was crying (do not spread that around or he will kill me) and everyone in the room was beaming at me, despite the fact that minutes before, I had just yelled at them all. They took her over to the warmer and the nurses and pediatric specialist (who was present at the birth, since she was preterm) started doing all sorts of things to her while my OB delivered the placenta and stitched me up. (Side note: I felt so vindicated when they put her on the scale and it said 7 pounds… the entire time I was pushing I kept wondering what was wrong with me that I couldn’t deliver a 5-pound baby!) I remember just staring over at her in the warmer and asking over and over in a weak voice if she was okay. I was desperately afraid that her lungs wouldn’t be mature enough.
It turns out that they really weren’t. We had two things going for us– the fact that I went into labor naturally rather than being induced, and the fact that she was a girl (girls mature faster than boys in utero). Those two things, both of which should have meant she should be mature enough to breathe well on her own, were apparently not enough. They let me hold her for a little while right after delivery (probably the happiest moment of my life), but a little later a nurse came and took her to the NICU for observation because she seemed to be struggling to breathe. They told me it was just for a few hours, but… well, you know the rest!
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