Friday, October 26, 2012

7 Quick Takes

Hosted by Jen at Conversion Diary

Zuzu-girl is now two weeks old and as I type, she is sleeping in her crib! Sob! Her little body looks so small in there - but she does seem cozy at least. Today at the doctor's office, we discovered she has gained 1 lb 1 oz since her birth (yeah chunky girl!) and has very sensitive skin (just like her Dad). It's incredible to see the changes in her in just this short amount of time: the clothes she's already outgrown! Is this really how fast it goes? How shall my heart bear it? 

I have been so blessed to get so much good advice from many Catholic moms that I respect! These early days of parenting are indeed filled with many questions about sleeping, eating, what's best for baby. But I find when I get enough sleep, and keep myself rooted in prayer, I am much less susceptible to self-doubt and worry. I try to remember that and return to it when my interior peace feels threatened. 

Please don't think that I had a baby and forgot about my dog! Blackacre is doing GREAT, seems back to his old self, and is eating and running and playing just like his old self. He is not super impressed with the baby, but is getting used to her and beginning to feel protective - he'll come and lay in whatever room I am nursing her in, facing the doorway, ever-alert. What a great dog! Thank you all for your prayers; I am so grateful they were answered. 

My grandfather passed away this week. I haven't posted about it all over social networks, but it happened. We can't attend the funeral because it's too far away to travel with the babe right now, while she's so young (8 hours in a car w/ a newborn is just not a good idea - especially one who despises her car seat). I feel bad for my Father and very sad that my Papa never got to meet Zuzu. A lot has been lost with his passing. Please pray for the repose of his soul. 

As much as I adore being a mom, and am enjoying this new part of my vocation, I definitely do miss the alone time with Mr. O. Before baby, we were alone basically all the time. I could go into work with him if I wanted, we do socialize with other couples but not a whole lot...we just don't do activities without one another, really. And we like it that way. Now there is always another person with us, and although I know this is a very short phase, it's hard for me. I miss the amount of time we had to talk and laugh and just be together. I think this is why I resist the idea of co-sleeping so much; it feels so incredible to crawl into bed at night and just get to snuggle without anyone else there (well, Zuzu is in the bassinet right next to us, but y'know!) - it helps to remind me that I am a wife still, my new title has not replaced but augmented the old. 

I never realized how many things make noise until I had a baby and she went to sleep and then EVERYTHING BECAME SO LOUD. Which is weird, because I talk in my regular voice and open cabinets while the baby sleeps, use the microwave and let the washing machine beep. But you never notice how hard your neighbor slams their car door or yells for their dog until now...or how close you are to the main road (hey loud motorcycles, you guys suck). 

Political season is almost over. If President Obama is reelected, I'm pretty nervous about the next four years. I'm sure the other side says that same. But my husband works for the Church - we have a real economic stake in religious liberty being protected. Laws that impact insurance and the church's ability to function as an employer impact my life directly, not hypothetically. So if the incumbent wins, I'll be crying and praying - just like I was when he won four years ago. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

6 is the Magic Number

This blog post is brought to you by the number six!

Because the favorite number for all health professionals and advice experts is SIX.

"By six weeks, you can start sleep training" 

"At your six week post-partum check-up, you usually get the go-ahead for sex" 

"You really shouldn't take baby out into the world until they're at least six weeks old" 

"You can't drive until six weeks post-partum" 

"Babies really don't have any sort of a schedule until they're six weeks old" 

Apparently, someone turns a switch at six weeks and everything changes for the new family! They're ready to sleep train, make more babies, and drive off a cliff, maybe all at once! 

I have been trying to find info about babies before six weeks. Say, babies that are two weeks old. (cue dramatic nostalgic music: two weeks? my baby is two weeks old!?! how did this happen???) But pretty much everything  I find is some variation of grin-and-bear-it; a tacit acknowledgment that in the beginning, new parents get no sleep and everyone is fairly unhappy.

Is this true?

If so, then how do women have more babies - joyfully? If pregnancy bites, and labor is horrible, and then the first six weeks are an exhausting gauntlet, who the hell in their right mind wouldn't just adopt one year olds? Or just avoid child-bearing and rearing at all?

Zuzu hates to sleep in her bassinet at night. She apparently goes through growth spurts every 2 days, when she decides she wants to eat every hour or just nurse for two hours straight. I'm not miserable, but it's not the best experience of my life. What I keep trying to find is something - an article, book, website - that is positive about this time, that tells me that what I am doing is good, that this is an important time, and doesn't try to necessarily fix it.

Even if Zuzu believes I can fix anything...

I've heard putting her to sleep in her carseat, a co-sleeper, our bed, a bouncy swing, and her crib; in her bassinet with upright supports in case she has reflux or colic. I've heard to let her cry it out. I've heard to wait 5 minutes, or 20 or 0. I've heard to put a blanket in with her that smells like me (currently trying that one - my pillow case). I've heard swaddling and white noise and stomach sleeping, back sleeping, side sleeping.

But I have a feeling that this is the way this is supposed to be. Just like the first trimester of pregnancy is mommy bootcamp, the first several weeks are mommy intensive training. Here all those lessons that were begun so long ago we can begin to put into practice: suffering for our little one, putting our needs second, dying to self. Here we prove that we love our children not because they can be of any use to us, but because they are meant to be loved. It is at this stage that God demands, from the very beginning, we love as he loves - knowing that if infants were easier, we would perhaps not be able to be knocked from our selfish moorings, our small comforts, our precious schedules.

Zuzu loves the after-bath snuggles. 

Maybe it's this stage that tells us why a mother is the model for all Christians - because Mary didn't only bring God into the world, but she cared for him as well, cared for him while he was still an infant and incapable (in human form) of loving back.

And even if all that does change at six weeks (which someone, I highly doubt), it is still the training that we need to put up with every stage that comes afterwards. It is this time that makes us realize that we have accepted a calling that demands we are second, that our needs are second, but that our unconditional love is always the first offering to our children, and our best.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

My Newborn Has No Schedule

We are very blessed in that we have a huge community that is providing wonderful support to us as we figure out this parenting-thing! That means people bringing meals, helping around the house, good substitutes for my husband at work...and everyone wants to know before they stop by, when is a good time? This is a great question! It is considerate and appropriate! I love people who are both of those things!

But unfortunately, I have no answer.

I don't think that a 12-day old baby is supposed to have a schedule. It was my general impression that babies this young are still figuring out the world; they're still getting the hang of basic bodily functions, input and output, and aren't really ready to be part of the timed world. So any time I say could end up being a "bad" time - she could be nursing (which I've found makes some people uber-uncomfortable!), she could be sleeping (which then makes everyone sad because they wanted to hold her), or I could be in my pajamas (which means baby and I will be hiding in my room at the sound of the door bell).

This is my adorable child. ADORABLE. 

I have already received some advice on helping her get "on schedule." The greatest areas of scheduling for a newborn (since they're not popping out to do yogalates or anything) are sleeping and eating. And the top bit of sleep advice has been that I should swaddle her to help her sleep. And herein I reveal my horrific mothering: I hate swaddling. I do not know how Zuzu feels about it, having tried it a grand total of twice, but I hate it. Can I tell you why? Because it makes my child look like an amputee. It does. It frightens me! I think, oh my gosh, this is what she would look like with no arms!! Besides, her little hands and fingers are so sweet and kissable, why would I put them away? She doesn't have trouble sleeping - she just doesn't want to sleep in her bassinet...or anywhere besides on my chest, or right next to me. Which would be fine, except when she sleeps on me, I can't sleep, because I have nightmares about suffocating her (and she is a SQUIRMY and NOISY sleeper). And when I can't sleep, I turn into a basket case (for real - the other night I got like two seconds of sleep and cried the whole next day about basically nothing).

Look at that sassy hand - how could I restrict it?? It should be free - freeeeee! 

So as I am trying to get the hang of parenting, I am open to advice. If anyone wants to tell me the wonders of swaddling or how to co-sleep without blind terror taking over, I'm all ears. Because y'know, my newborn is just so unscheduled.

Friday, October 19, 2012

7 Quick Takes: Baby Edition!

Several people have made comments that ZuZu looks like Tom, but I'm taking credit for her personality. What are her favorite things to do? Sleep and eat and take baths! Just like her Mama. She actually combines several of these loves - like how she sleeps through her baths and can somehow sleep-eat. She's very talented. 

I hate all those test things they have to do when babies are just born. The PKU in particular is unfortunate, because they have to prick her foot to get some of her blood. She was relatively relaxed; I wanted to cry. I think this is how most of parenthood goes.

Well, good to know I have great mother-bear instincts. We went to Target yesterday and I didn't even want people LOOKING at my child. Why, you ask? Fear of germs? No - just some sort of weird possessiveness that grips my chest whenever I feel people outside of "The Bubble" are getting too close  to her. Our pediatrician recommends we keep her home and not take her to Mass or around large crowds for the first 6-8 weeks. At first, I thought that was nuts. Now I realize it's for the protection of all the well-wishers that I would brutally dismember for getting too close, not for ZuZu herself. 

"The Bubble." So for the first week of ZuZu's life, the only people she's interacted with regularly have been her me, her Daddy, her Grand (my mom), and her Auntie Jen. These people now constitute "The Bubble," (TB) the zone that we live in daily with ZuZu. Here in TB, we talk about poop a lot. Sometimes we get peed on. We confess to one another that we have no clue what we're doing, and we make up dumb songs a lot. We frequently yell at each other to come here and look at ZuZu's newest cute face (and bring the camera). I'm usually crying to someone else in TB about something dumb, like how I'm afraid she'll be kidnapped. I love The Bubble. 

I am sorry to report that all the crazy advice I got while pregnant didn't end when I had the baby. I thought it would! You experienced parents out there warned me, but I didn't believe you. But it's true. I'm already getting lectures about how I shouldn't let my one week old "manipulate" me by crying. I didn't bother explaining that she has no concept of self or others that would form the prerequisite to having an intent to manipulate. I just nod and hope they leave soon before I attack them with bear-like ferocity. 

My big sister comes tonight to visit ZuZu! I am very excited. I have been an aunt since I was 8 thanks to the big age difference between my sisters and I, but I haven't yet been able to return the favor. Now I have and I'm super excited. Plus, we're going to watch Christmas movies (don't judge, it's our thing). 

My darling Jen wrote the most beautiful post about ZuZu. I was fighting not crying as I read it, and I'm so happy that my sweet girl has such great role models in her life. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

10 Lessons in 5 Days

It's hard to believe, but already Zuzu has been physically separate from me for five whole days! (every day at the time of her birth, we eat chocolate cake...this is not a sustainable habit) It has been a whirlwind five days, the longest and shortest of my life, and so to summarize, here are the top ten things I have learned in these five days:

1. Birth changes you. I knew it would, but I didn't really know it yet - and I didn't know how. But I do now. I know that birth has made me respect and love my body more than ever before; it has given me a confidence and comfort in my shape and scars. I have been surprised to find that I do not mind the stretch marks or jiggly skin, the wider hips or the pouchy belly. I know I will never look the same, but I am proud. My body is a wonder, and I hope I won't ever again let anyone convince me that it isn't.

2. There is such thing as love at first sight. I had read birth stories - I know that parents say the love you feel for your child is just instantaneous and amazing. But it did sound really cheesy...and I wasn't sure if I was that kind of woman. But I am. What I didn't realize was that the love I feel for Zuzu, that I am sure all parents feel for their children, is just different than any other kind of love; it is a sudden and total concern for their well-being at every moment. Indeed, the love of a parent for a child is a model of love for all relationships, because true love is when we will the Best Good for the Beloved. In this age of objectification and selfishness, it takes work to love someone like this - until I had Zuzu it did anyway. Now it is second nature; my daughter has taught me how to love as God loves.

3. Every baby, and family, and birth, and everything, is unique. There are guidelines for everything - feeding, sleeping, birthing, recovery, bonding - but then there is the reality that each individual family experiences. The best part about being in a cocoon with my Susannah, Mr. O, my mom, and Jen has been that we can just figure things out - do things our way, figure out what works for us. I am embracing the freedom of creating my family and it's wonderful.

4. Having a baby is the foreshadowing of the Beatific Vision. The concept of the Beatific Vision has always puzzled me - that Heaven will be the eternal beholding of the face of God. It sounds beautiful, but for me as a finite being, it is also confusing - why would I want to look at anything for all of eternity? What good is there in just beholding something? Now I know. I could look at my child for hours - hours! I have to tell myself to go to sleep at night when she is asleep, when I would rather just look at her and marvel at her existence. When one is truly in love, the vision of the Beloved is consuming.

5. Children are an unmerited grace. I realize now that although Tom and I were allowed to participate in her creation, that Susannah is entirely from God, and entirely a gift, and entirely a blessing. There is a reason why Scripture only speaks of children as a blessing! Because they are, and what is more, they are one we could never hope to deserve. As I hold her, I know that there is nothing I could ever do to merit the honor of being her mother.

This is Mr. O's favorite thing about being a dad to a newborn - unlimited cuddle time!

6. My vocation is marriage and motherhood. I think everyone has those moments - those, am I really doing what God is asking me to do? moments. And although I have the incredible grace of being deliriously happy in my marriage, I have still had my moments where I wondered - did I insist on my will, or was this God's will? Now that she's here, I know. This is my calling - this is my road to sanctification - and it's so incredibly good!

7. Different does not mean worse. I had a good deal of curiosity, as y'all know, about the changes to my marriage. Although obviously there will be more changes as she grows and as our family grows, I know now - different is not worse. My husband and I's relationship has changed forever, but it is not worse. I still love him desperately, I still enjoy cuddling him and watching bad TV, I am still concerned about his well-being and happiness. Now we just have this amazing child that bonds us even we get to share in our own mini-beatific vision. Now we are even more like those disciples on the Road to Emmaus, because we share this experience of parenthood, and so now can turn to one another and say "does not your heart burn within you?"

8. Beauty is not able to be bought or sold. Nothing is more beautiful than my child and my ability to care for her. I carried her, birthed her, and now feed her with my body. Her every sigh and smile is my delight. No one can bottle that and sell it, no one can change it with the changing trends, no one can even mar it with unkind words. Beauty is not at all what I thought it was - it is deeper.

9. It really does take a village. I have no idea what these five days would have been like without the absolute cadre of help we have received! From my incredible neighbors who came over and cleaned our house after we left for the birth center, to my mom who has cooked and cleaned every day since baby arrived (all while making sure I was drinking and caring for myself), to my amazing friend Jen (who cut her fun roadtrip short when Zuzu made it clear she wasn't waiting for anyone) who has helped me bathe, patiently kept me company though nursing hormones make me a little weird, and even tolerated my weird obsession with chocolate cake, I wouldn't have been able to do any of this without our community that supports our new little family. We have received an outpouring of love, well-wishes, gifts, and prayers that have sustained us and magnified our joy.

10. Life is beautiful. Babies are a witness to the beauty of life itself - just being alive is incredible. Nothing proves it more than the smile of a child. Who wouldn't agree?

Susannah having a chatty morning

Monday, October 15, 2012

Susannah's Birth Story

The Week Of
I woke up the week of Zuzu's birth, on Monday morning, and just felt different. I told Tom that before Monday, I would have told anyone that I could be pregnant forever - I felt great! But woke up on Monday and felt ready. I also had my first real contractions on Monday and continued to have them throughout the week, inconsistently.

We had our 39 week appointment that Thursday, where Sam (the midwife) double-checked to make sure  the babe was head down via ultrasound. Everything looked good and we joked with the receptionist Braidy that we'd probably see her at the same time for the next three weeks.

That same night was Faith and Wine, a fun monthly event at our parish that I help put together along with a great group of ladies. I was running registration, as usual, and really enjoyed seeing and chatting with a bunch of people I hadn't seen in a while. I was in good spirits, didn't even mind repeating over and over again my due date and how I felt. After a great event, Mr. O and I watched the debate (ermagherd that was awful) and then hit the sack. 

The Beginning
Early Friday morning, I felt a big contraction and shifted positions to get more comfortable. Then, water - water everywhere! I sat up and told Tom to turn on the light, just saying "water there's water!"Just like the movies, my water broke in one huge gush - quite the dramatic start to labor. I had all this adrenaline as I stared at my soaked  sheets (mentally saying, these need to be bleached...) and thought, this can't be it - she can't be EARLY. But I reminded myself that water breaking, although a sure-fire sign of imminent labor, does not mean that I'm going to be having a baby anytime today even - I knew Sam would be comfortable with labor taking even 24 hours after my water broke, and that my body might be slow to labor since it was my first time. 

I called Sam who said to keep her posted and call back when contractions were 5 minutes apart - or, and this was highly emphasized - when I felt I needed to come in. In our conversation she really focused on how I felt; "do you think you need to come in, or are you okay at home?" she asked. I was so worried about being the first timer who was so sure she was in labor and ended up coming in too early, when I was only a few centimeters dialated. So I told I felt good at home and she was cool with that.

I took a shower and tried to process the reality that this is happening! I even told Tom not to cancel his plans for the day - I was sure it would take so long! I planned my day, decided I would spend it doing all my last minute chores - cooking, baking, cleaning. Our washer and dryers were scheduled to be delivered between noon and four, the workers were coming to finish putting on our new roof...maybe we'd head to the birth center that night, I thought. I downloaded a contraction timing app and wanted to get going with my day...except after an hour, my contractions were about a minute long and two minutes apart! Tom pointed this out and I was in total denial. "No way," I said. "The app must be broken." Tom was obviously nervous and pointed out that as long as I was pushing the 'start' and 'end' button at the right time, then no, it was not broken. Whoops! We called Sam, who assured me that if I felt ready, I could come in,  ran Blackacre to the neighbors, and off we went. 

Active Labor at the Birth Center
The rest of the day seems like a blur, but I can remember some parts distinctly. The ride to the BC was painful; sitting really hurt me. I offered up that pain for all of my friends who struggle with the cross of infertility. I had meant to make a list of those to offer up my labor for, but that was one of the many things that did not happen before October 12! I had wanted to pack an image of the Blessed Mother to take with us, bake cookies for my midwife and birth assistant, compile a list of people to text with the news...but none of that happened! I even had to pack my bag right before we went.

When we got there, Braidy said to go on back but the tub wasn't ready yet. At that point, I was already beyond wanting to talk to people; I just nodded and made my way back to the Ocean Room which I had requested. Thankfully, no one else was in labor at that time and they don't have office hours on Friday, so I was the only gal in the whole place!

I tried to sit on the birthing ball, but that hurt like the dickens! I tried to lay down, but that was worse. I paced around the room with my eyes closed, not talking. I asked Tom to see if I could get in the tub yet - he came back and said yes, Sam didn't want to check me especially since my water had already broken. I shucked my clothes off and was in there pronto! Braidy put on hypnobirthing music and labor progressed for the next three hours fairly uneventfully. I laid on my back in the tub and rode out each contraction by letting my hips free-float in the water (the tubs are humongous), because feeling any gravity on them made me think they were going to break in half. I labored in total silence for that big stretch of time; I hadn't even talked to Tom much. He was behind me doing light touch massage and I did tell him that when I raised my pointer finger, I was having a contraction, so that he would stop touching me during that. He also put a cool cloth on my forehead and neck, until I decided it infuriated me!

For almost the entire labor, it was just Tom and I in the room. My mom was on her way, Jen was on her way from North Carolina, my sister Kim was on vacation in North Carolina, my other sister was working, my father was at a funeral in Georgia...where was the huge group of family I had always planned on having at my birth!?! But I didn't really have the mental space to be upset about who was or wasn't there; I was unable to vocalize anything or even think about what was happening. I wanted to talk to Tom, but I couldn't - if I did, it felt like I would come out of a trance and the pain would overwhelm me. I had to stay in my head - it was the only place that I could be in control.

At one point, it got really bad. With a couple of contractions, I yelled out and felt a bit hysterical. Trying to stay in control, I told myself "You have to do this now because you're here - you don't have any other options. But I promise you this, if you make it through, we'll never do this again - next time we'll have a planned c-section or get an epidural or whatever! But we'll never do this again." But I was starting to worry - how far along was I? How much longer would it last? I wasn't sure that I could make it if I was only at 5 or 6cm. I came out of my trance and asked Tom to get Sam. When she came in, I told her I wanted to be checked and she readily complied. I almost started sobbing with joy when she announced, at almost noon, that I was 9 centimeters! My mom was still an hour away but I didn't care - I knew at that moment that I could make it, the end was in sight. 

The Big Push
Very shortly after that, I felt my body was ready to push, but I was not. I was not mentally ready to push - once or twice my body took over and made me push, and it felt like it broke me, I cried out in pain and nearly lost control. So I stayed in my reclined position in the tub with my hand on my forehead, my index finger pressed on my right temple. I had two lengthy conversations - one with my daughter, and one with myself (both completely silent and totally crazy feeling). To my daughter I said: "I get it - you're ready to come down the birth canal. But I can't help you yet. I will breathe and not resist the contractions, but you need to work your way down on your own. When you're close, I'll help you - but I can't help you just yet, okay?" I took a shorter contraction as her assent. To myself I said, "You can't focus on what's happening down there because if you do, you'll fall apart. Stay right here in your head and focus on this finger [the aforementioned index finger] - if you do that, you will be okay. You have to live in your head right now because the rest of your body is a really awful place to be." 

So I did. Finally, Abby - the birth assistant - strongly suggested it would really help if I could get in a position where gravity was working with me. I really didn't want to move, but I knew I should. I knelt and leaned my arms and head against the edge of the tub. My mom walked in the door at 1 pm and I had just gotten into that position. Pushing was very hard for me; it was here that I became vocal. My cries reminded me of what women in labor sound like in movies - in the 1800s! After each contraction, my body would shake and shake. I kept my head down against the side of the tub; I had no idea who was in the room, but I heard my birth playlist "Calm" fill the room and was grateful although also annoyed - why did I think music would really help at all!? I kept talking to the baby, in my head, as I worked through pushing. C'mon sweet girl, we can do this. When I reached a finger inside, I could feel her and knew she was so close - I wanted to rush, but knew it was bad for me. So I tried to take my time, even though I wanted it to be over - I wanted it to be over so badly. I was not proud or eager; I was not excited to meet my daughter or be a mom. I needed the pain to be done. I suddenly felt so tired. 

Crowning seemed to take such a long time. Forever really! My mom was right there and although it was not the group of women I had envisioned, a chorus of female voices talked to me after each contraction. "You're doing so well - it's almost over - you'll be holding your baby soon - keep going mama - you're so strong." The birthing assistants, Abby and Alexis, along with Braidy the receptionist and Sam and my mom,  were all there and softly encouraging me. I heard them murmur to each other between contractions "she's doing so well - she's so close - thank goodness you made it." I wanted to yell that I could HEAR THEM TALKING ABOUT ME, but I didn't even care. I just wanted it to be over. I was begging God, begging him to help me, to make it be over soon. At one point, I yelled "HOLY - " but didn't finish it. It was going to say "Holy God" but my midwife assumed I'd be finishing that with an expletive and chuckled. "You almost cursed!" she laughed, knowing that wasn't a habit of mine. 

Finally, her head came out and I wanted to cry. Wasn't it over? Wasn't it? No. I immediately turned around to face the back of the tub so that Abby and Sam could catch her. Some women are talented enough to reach down and pull up their own babies, but I knew I was not going to be able to do that. Still, the wait between that contraction and the next two, that pushed her body out, seemed to take such a long time. But then she was here. It was only an hour and fifteen of pushing, but to me, it had felt like ages. As Sam pulled her out of the water and brought  her to me, all I could only say over and over again was "is she all right? is she all right?" I felt so tired and worn, I felt sure she was in worse shape than I! Tom was kissing my forehead and saying how proud he was of me. I was not proud; I was tired and so, so happy it was over. 

They gave me a towel to wrap around her and keep her warm. Tom and I stared at her, in wonder, and then we sang to her - the Salve Regina. The first song she heard.

I'm sure the rest will come out in more detail, but we had quite the wait for the afterbirth (three hours, actually), and I had to have an IV because I was dehydrated. I passed out later because I overheated, giving my mom and Tom the scare of their lives. I am fine; so is baby. 

But as I held her in the tub and stared at her face, I thought "I can't remember what other names we considered..." and so we settled on our favorite, Susannah. Susannah Marshall, born at 2:12pm on 10/12. She weighed 7 pounds, 4 ounces, and was 20 inches long. She appears to have blonde hair. Start to finish, my labor was just over 7 hours long.

I am overwhelmed with gratitude for my short labor, my healthy baby, and my beautiful life. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

So What's a Birthing Center Birth?

I have really been digging a lot of the "hospital bag posts" to help me pack my bag, and I definitely love the talks that get real about what happens after delivery - and what to do in the weeks before birth! But there is a lot of advice I have to discard because I am going to be in a birthing center, not a hospital. I have found a lot of my friends are very surprised and don't know the difference between a hospital birth and a birthing center birth. So in case you were curious, here are some things that differ...

1. There are a lot fewer interventions, checks, and general "requirements." Most midwives will not check to see how dilated you are until you are over 40 weeks and some won't ever, unless you ask. The reasons for this are usually because they don't want to introduce bacteria into your vagina and because they don't want to put you on some sort of "timetable" or make you feel pressured; the baby will come when the baby is ready. Midwives do not even talk about induction, unless there is a real medical need. That means no automatic induction is you are "over" your due date. My midwife won't talk about induction until you're over 42 wks, unless you bring it up. Also, there is nothing you have to do when you birth there - no IV, no fetal monitoring, no vaccines, no eye ointment after birth, no...nothing. There are options for most of these things (my BC does not offer the Hep B vaccine for instance but does offer the eye ointment), but they are always asked and never presumed.
Oh - there are no restrictions on eating and drinking during labor. But most women don't feel like eating in active labor anyway, from what I hear...

And you might give birth in water, if you want to - or at least you can labor in it. The weightlessness often helps women to labor, because they feel less pressure. 

2. You don't stay overnight. In BCs, most moms and babies head home about 6 hours after birth. Because BCs do not administer major medications with the attendant possible side effects, there isn't really any reason to keep mom and baby longer. In my BC, I can stay for up to 24 hours - but it would be unusual that it was necessary. After a natural birth, women are of course tired, so usually they stay long enough to nap, eat, and freshen up. Then, it's time to go home!

3. You have to bring your own stuff! Unlike a hospital, a birthing center does not care for people long term. So there's not a cafeteria, usually there aren't vending machines, they don't give out those famous mesh panties, or provide diapers or a paci for the baby. Pretty much everything you need, you have to bring. They have a fridge and freezer available, so you can bring tons of food and snacks to store there for your after-birth meal; or ask friends to bring you food! And there's no nursery either - the assumption is that when baby falls asleep, you'll nap too, and probably in bed together.

Again, the incomparable Amanda Greavette

4. Less bureaucracy. At a BC, there is no "checking in." Most BCs are fairly small operations, so you probably are on a first name basis with everyone who works there - no need for ID, although I'm sure it's in your purse anyway! You walk in, they greet you, and tell you which room to go to (there aren't usually more than 3 or 4). You have already paid up front, so there's no need to bring your insurance card, and there's no paperwork to fill out until after the baby is born and you've rested, eaten, done whatever else you want. Also - you don't change nurses or doctors or anyone else; the midwife and her assistant are the ones who will help you through your labor and birth for the entire time - even if you have to transfer to the hospital.

5. Visit away. There are no restrictions on the number of visitors you may have, either in the room or at the center in general. If you want a huge party of people, go for it; if it's just you and the hubs, that's cool too. But since you're not there for very long, the visiting window is pretty small...!

This is what one of the rooms looks like at my birth center

6. You can feel neglected. At my first appointment with my midwife, I felt a bit ignored, honestly. She was fairly quiet, asked very few questions, asked if I had questions...but it was a short appointment and most of it was silence. To this day, my appointments are basically the same, except I don't feel ignored: I come in, go to the bathroom and do my "bathroom routine" - weigh myself and test my urine. Then I come out, report the results to the midwife, and she asks if I have any questions. If I do, we talk about them; if not, she then listens to the baby's heartbeat via doppler, takes my blood pressure, and measures my uterus. She'll alert me of anything upcoming (GBS test, glucose test, both declinable) and sometimes ask about preparations (make sure I get a car seat). Then it's over! Our appointments are usually 20 minutes or less. Now that we know each other more, we enjoy exchanging small talk and pleasantries and she's more than willing to shoot the bull.
At a birth, it can be as disconcerting as that first appointment. Midwives do not stay with you the entire time you are laboring at the BC. They come in and check on you, but they assume the birth is progressing normally - so they leave you with your support people to labor. For most of your birth, you are alone with whoever you brought (doula, husband, mom) until - you feel the need to push, you have a question, she has a question for you, or maybe she wants to check on the baby (doppler again). For many women, this feels like neglect; they are used to having labor managed and monitored very closely. It's just different in a BC; the philosophy of birth assumes that if you've had a normal healthy pregnancy, then labor will progress naturally on its own in most cases and that there's no reason to behave as if it won't unless and until there's an indication.

That's all I can think of for now. So if I'm up and blogging again the day after birth, it's not on hospital wifi!

PS As an update on Blackacre, we are still trying the meds and did a few more minor tests. His condition doesn't seem changed, worse or better, really. We're still crossing our fingers...thank you for all your sweet words. It really means a lot to hear I'm not crazy for being so upset about this!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

7 Quick Takes - Doggy Edition

My dog is sick. Not just like, aw he's sick! But like, "well my dog might die" kind of sick. We noticed because he got sick and then stopped eating - for three days. Now, my dog is not a food-indifferent dog; he's a "I live to eat" kind of dog. So we took him to the vet and he has liver dysfunction, which is the step before liver failure. It's really scary; all the tests to determine if it's something really awful (Hepatitis, cancer, liver torsion) cost $1000+. So we're just hoping the treatment we're trying this week helps...otherwise we'll be talking about when to put him down. And that - just kills me. 

Losing this guy (Blackacre) would be really rough

Last night we had a concert at our parish, and it was incredible. Mr. O wrote this incredible aria for an opera that he hasn't yet written, but it was the Ave Maria in Spanish. It was incredibly beautiful and brought down the house - and there I was, in the front row, crying about my dog and how I was so excited for him to meet the baby and now maybe he won't. 

38 weeks today and I still feel good. No signs of Baby Girl...and I'm glad about that. The hubs says she needs to wait until at least Monday, because he hasn't scheduled substitutes until next weekend! Thankfully, she seems to be cooperating. 

I'm trying to type about something other than my dog. Soooo... what's the point of baby legwarmers? Anybody know? Is it just to protect them when they're crawling? I couldn't figure it out - except they're cute! 

"Hospital" bag is packed, stroller and car seat are here, but my floors are still dirty. For whatever reason, this drives me insane - this makes me hysterical about being "not ready" for Baby. Since Wednesday, I have been fixated on my floors...but since Wednesday, we've been trying to figure out why Blackacre is dying, so I haven't had time to give them a good scrubbing. I think I'm getting to the irrational-nesting phase. 

Scored 3 cloth diapers for $10 today. I realize this is thoroughly uninteresting, but I'm trying not to type memories of my dog. 

Can't resist. Here's how I got my dog: I was thinking about adopting a dog and I went to the local shelter "just to look." As I was walking around looking at the sweet puppies and the middle-aged dogs, none of them seemed just right. I didn't want a lab or a shepherd; none of the little yappy dogs or the growly ones. Most of them were too small. I wanted a big lovable lump of a dog. Finally I asked the lady, "do you have anything...bigger?" She hesitated and then said, "well we have this one dog in the back but...he's really big!" I just smiled and so she sighed and went into the back. She brought him out and he was WILD - she couldn't control him! He rushed out, dragging her along, and jumped up on me, then on my friend, then onto the desk, sending papers and pencils flying. He rushed around to all the other cages, trying to lick the other dogs through the bars, and then back to me. And I knew he was my dog. He was panting, happy, and huge - just what I wanted! 
I decided to wait a few days and think about it, but I knew I wanted him to be my dog. I got his history - he was owned by a family that was abusive. He was kept outside in all kinds of weather, so he got a collar ring and had been attacked by wild animals, and he was starved, so he was very skinny. At 2.5 years old, he hadn't had a great life. But he's never been anything but loving. I brought him home Valentine's Day weekend and he's been my pup ever since. I keep telling myself "he's just a dog" - but it's not helping much.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Dirty on the Diapers

So before I tell you all about my newbie foray into cloth diapers, let me first give a huge thank you to my family. Not only did my sister Kim throw me an incredible baby shower this past weekend, but my siblings and parents went in together on our travel system stroller and carseat. I literally cried when I found out; this was such a huge gift to us and a big weight off our shoulders! Thank you for your generosity and practical gifts!

I remind myself of this when I want to get all crazy about baby gear.

Onto the dirty business. So I want to cloth diaper because I'm cheap and the idea of diapers in landfills does freak me out a little bit. But where to start? I had no clue, and all the diaper websites were super confusing. So here are my best intro tips for newbies regarding cloth diapering...and if you have any wisdom, please share!

1. Confusing Terminology: I am still figuring it all out, to say NOTHING of all the crazy abbreviations that make it way harder for me. So here's my one special tip: y'know how there are cloth diapers that you have to pin on your child and then add a cover? Okay, there are at least two types of those (pre-folds and fitteds). Fitteds have fasteners already so you don't need pins. It took me a long time to figure this out (don't judge).

2. Special care: You can't just treat cloth diapers like regular laundry. When you buy new ones, you have to prep them - usually by washing them a few times without detergent, but just follow the directions that come with them. You also have to use special detergent, apparently, but there are several mainstream brands that are okay - just google it. Also, you can't use a lot of regular diaper rash creams with them because they'll hurt the absorbency of the diaper. And lastly, if they're starting to be less absorbent or hold a bad smell, you'll need to "strip" them - which I gathered is sort of like prepping them again? Again, google is your friend.

3. Newborns are special: So most diapers are sized by weight but some are OS (one size). But even one sized diapers only fit when babies are 8 pounds usually - so if you're planning on cloth diapering from day 1 and you tend to have babies under 8 pounds, this might leave you needing to buy some NB (newborn) diapers anyway. The advantages to NB diapers are apparently pretty sweet - the little legs fit tighter, so there's less leakage (especially of explosive poos). While buying special diapers for a short period of time might seem aggravating, some people have small babies that don't gain weight quickly so may get better life out of these. If it's your first babe and you're shooting in the dark, good luck. We're going to use the disposables that have been gifted to us at first, and we'll see if she's small enough for NB sizes or if she can go straight to our OS diapers.

4. There are 10 billion ways to do this. The brands are endless as are the places from which to purchase them. Some are cheaper ($8) and from China; others use organic bamboo cotton and are made in America but pricier ($30). So make choices depending on what's important to you and buy several different brands. If you don't like one brand, then either wait to see if it works for the next baby or sell it on a site like Diaper Swappers. Most families who CD (cloth diaper) have tons of different kinds of diapers and like different ones for different times of life (bedtime, newborns, toddlers, skinny babies, chunksters, etc.); don't think there's one perfect diaper company you need to find and stick with forever.

5. Internet knows all. I have no idea how anyone CD before the internet! Any questions you have, just google and you'll get ten million blogs and sites that have good information. The only problem can be that a lot of it is opinion (as in, what's the best diaper for NBs? everyone has a different idea) and that there's not a whole lot of places that have all the info in one place. I haven't found a cure for that yet. For what it's worth, I have found All About Cloth Diapers to be a very helpful site.

6. You can register for them! At two of the major baby registry sites, Target and Babies R' Us, you can register for cloth diapers from several reputable companies (BumGenius, Thirsties, gDiapers). That means that even if no one chooses to buy them for you, you get a discount at the end of your registry (10% off at Target, 15% off at BRU) and you can of course use those handy gift cards.

I doubt many of my readers will find this helpful since most of you know far more about this than I do, but in case you were curious, here it is. Standby for part II of this post, which will be in two months, after baby has come and I have some experience wrangling my poop-covered offspring.