the mystery of sleep

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Sleep. It’s simple right? I never knew about sleep training before I was pregnant. After hearing advice from all my friends, the blogs, coworkers, etc., I bought the swaddles, read the books and was well-equipped with a bassinet and sound machine.
While in the hospital the nurses gave me instructions to make sure that J didn’t sleep more than 2/3 hours at a time because it was important that he was breastfeeding around the clock. Who knew that babies weren’t supposed to sleep through the night?

Between the breastfeeding every hour/two hours and waking him when he slept too long, trying to set up the sound machine, wrap a swaddle nice and tight (but not too tight) – my head was spinning!

People were always asking about and giving advice on our sleep. “How’s he sleeping?” “Sleep when the baby sleeps!”

My son never took to a swaddle. Not even in the hospital. He was wriggling his arms out and seemed soothed with his hands up next to his face. At home I tried a modified swaddle where his legs were wrapped but his hands and arms were free. Voila! No more squirming and crying. But even after that, the swaddle didn’t last long in our house.

At 7 weeks I returned to work. We were just hitting our stride with breastfeeding and now I had to adapt to a whole new routine. I began to notice that J started to wake more during the night. He would nurse every few hours just as he had when he was a newborn. The only way I could be a good employee and a good mom was to start co-sleeping. I would let him nurse through the night on demand. Since he was next to me there was no getting up and getting him, no swaddle to unswaddle and reswaddle. It was actually kind of perfect. We had our nights where he was more fussy than usual but up until he was 9.5 months old, we were side-by-side all night.

I never intended to co-sleep/co-bed, it just was just our way of survival once I returned to work. I could sleep, he would sleep.
He was always easy to put down for the night, we never had to let him cry. We would start the night putting him in his crib but a few hours after going to bed myself, I would hear him cry and we would be together until I got up for work in the morning and he would go back in the crib.
I will never forget the first night he sleep straight through to morning, I got up a few times just to check on him. These days he still ends up in our bed most nights but now it’s when he wakes up too early and I want to catch a few more Z’s.

You have to do what works for you and this plan certainly doesn’t work for everyone. For me, I’ve never had a particularly cuddly baby, he’s extremely active, he’s a little busy-body, and he may be our only baby, so I will hold him close for as long as I can.

what the books don’t tell you about: breastfeeding

In my last post, I mentioned all the research I had done while pregnant. One of the things that was most important to me was breastfeeding.

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Experts agree that breastfeeding is best for babies and is something that should be encouraged and supported. Fortunately I live in one of best medical communities in the world. There are many resources right at your fingertips – breastfeeding classes and seminars, lactation centers and consultants. My OB’s office had a lactation consultant (LC) on site and I was told during my prenatal visits that there would be a LC at the hospital to help me.

We had attended a class. I had read the books. I had talked to my doctor. I had purchased the $350 pump, nursing covers, freezer bags and other breastfeeding accessories. I was committed.

What I wasn’t prepared for was how.incredibly.challenging. it would actually be.

I remember reading about “happy” hormones, and bonding and how natural it was. And it was all of these things. It was. But it was also time-consuming. Time-consuming in the “how do people actually have company and go to the bathroom and eat dinner” while breastfeeding kind of way. At least at first it was. I was nursing almost every hour on the hour, around the clock. I would get stressed when people would want to come and visit. I could hardly feed myself or brush my hair.

And then there was the pain. I can say it was worse than childbirth. Only because it didn’t end after a day or so. It was tender skin, I would shudder when the water would run over me in the shower. It was lumps and clogged ducts that would wake me up in the night. The engorgement would make me nauseous and anxious if I stayed out of the house for more than 3 hours.

Going back to work 7 weeks postpartum proved to hold it’s own set of challenges. I had to introduce the pump shortly before going back to work. I did so to get used to using it and it’s parts but also to relieve some of the engorgement as J was learning to sleep for longer than two hours at a time. I would Google how many ounces he should be consuming and stress if I wasn’t seeing that much in the pumped bottles. I would lug my pump bag, laptop, lunch bag and purse daily to and from the office. I feel blessed to work for such a wonderful company that not only provided a private, quiet room for me to pump in twice a day, but I live so close to my office that I was able to nurse J during my lunch hour.

Still, J was slow to gain weight. I blamed my supply. I could clearly see that I wasn’t pumping nearly as much as I would like to and as much as Google would tell me he should be consuming and since I couldn’t measure the amounts he was taking as he nursed, I kept doubting myself. I even was a bit depressed for a while feeling like I wasn’t an adequate mother or employee, taking time out of my work day to pump and not being able to produce what I felt like I should be, thus failing at everything.

Our pediatrician suggested we add a bottle of formula into the mix just to beef J up a bit, get his weight up while I worked on establishing a supply. I was devastated. I literally cried from his office, the whole ride home and through the night that night. When I finally accepted defeat and opened the sample of formula from my doctor’s office (I’d taken the free samples, in case of an emergency), even the label on the box said “experts agree breastfeeding is best”. I just about lost it all over again.

The funny thing about all of this is that all this pressure I was feeling to live up to this ideal “exclusively breastfeeding” relationship, it was me. The pediatrician was telling me it was okay. My husband was telling me it was okay. Even the lactation consultant had a plan of action and told me not to worry. Yet I cried and stressed and beat myself up over it.

This is the stuff they don’t tell you about in the books.

I suppose if they did maybe it would prevent mothers from attempting breastfeeding. And I have to say, despite the initial struggle, breastfeeding – like motherhood – is so challenging but so rewarding as well. With the help of supplementing, domperidone, power-pumping and herbal supplements, I was able to get in a good 11 months. My 16 month old just last week caught his first cold, and whether or not it’s true, I give myself a pat on the back for all the effort I put in to continue breastfeeding.

** I just want to add – as is with many (most?) of the subjects I will touch upon in my blog, this is about my life as a mom. Because I believe that something was right for us does not mean that I think it is, will be or should be the same for others. The only thing I believe overall is “listen to your baby, listen to your instincts” and if you are still unsure, that’s what the blogs are for – real moms with real stories and maybe we’ll have something in common. Pregnancy and parenting is not one size fits all, different mamas, different babies, different needs. Love, support and less judgement for all, R.

motherly instincts

It feels like as soon as I knew I was pregnant, I started reading, researching, studying everything pregnancy and baby-related. And believe me, there are books, websites, classes and groups dedicated to just about everything you could imagine when it comes to having and caring for a baby.

Having a baby is a big deal. Bringing a new life into the world is major. I wanted the best of the best for my baby, who doesn’t? But here’s where it gets tricky. There are OBs vs. Midwives, Birth Centers vs. Hospitals, Formula vs. Breastfeeding, Babywearing, Cry It Out Sleep Training, The 5 S’s, Baby-Led Weaning, Home Births, Water Births, CSections, VBACS – aaaaahh! (Don’t worry if you have no idea what some of these things are – I didn’t!)

To put it lightly, it can get quite overwhelming.

I read everything out there. I scoured online forums. I joined a few birth clubs. But when push came to vacuum extraction, I really didn’t know what I was in for until I met the little individual that had been rolling around my internal midsection for 40 weeks.

If there’s one thing I could go back and change about our challenges in the beginning, it would be this: I wish I had trusted my motherly instincts more than I did. Even when “expert” advice was telling me otherwise. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very glad that I gathered as much information as I did, and from so many different perspectives. I just should have believed in myself more than I did at first. I will thank my son for teaching me that.

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the birth story

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what’s that about best laid plans? yeah. that.

as I mentioned in my previous post, my pregnancy was smooth sailing until I hit week 37, was hospitalized and eventually released on very strict bedrest. all the things they tell you to do to naturally induce labor? I couldn’t do one of them, doctor’s (written) orders. Except eat pineapple. I did that and still nothing, which only meant what I already knew. I would be induced if I made it to my due date.

So on December 16, 2011, I checked into the hospital at 6pm for my induction. After everything I read and researched, I still didn’t fully understand what to expect. Because I had known for a while that I would be induced, I wasn’t even nervous anymore, more anxious. I just wanted to get going with it all.

As soon as I was checked into our room, my OB came in to check if I had made any further progress since I had seen her a few days ago (I hadn’t, not really). After that, she inserted the Cervidil. Cervidil is a “ripening agent” that looks like a little patch with a string attached that is placed on your cervix. The idea is that it stimulates the cervix to dilate and sometimes even induces labor by just doing that.

I didn’t feel anything different. They mentioned that I might start to feel crampy but at 40 weeks pregnant it was nothing out of the ordinary. It was also mentioned that it could take a couple doses to work and to be prepared to wait for quite a while.

Trying my hardest to just relax and try to get some rest. I told hubs to go home and feed the cats. We live about a mile down the street, it wasn’t a big deal and I was just lying there watching TV, waiting for things to happen.

Around 5am I was trying to get comfortable on the stiff hospital bed and I heard and felt a “pop”. From the stories I had read online, I knew immediately that it was my water breaking. This was exciting! It meant something was actually happening!

I got up in an attempt to walk to the restroom, the non-stop flow confirmed in my mind that it was my water. I paged the nurse who ran a test strip along the floor and yes indeed, amniotic fluid! She then told me that it doesn’t really mean anything (what!) and all they do is record the time it occurs.

I called my husband to come back.

As I sat in the window waiting to see his car pull up, my body was overtaken by what I imagine a seizure/electrocution would feel like. My lower back felt like it was being hit by lightening and when it happened, I would lose all control, I couldn’t see, couldn’t speak, ringing in my ears. Eventually my OB came into the room and told me what I was experiencing was ‘back labor’.  It was unlike anything I had read about. There was no ‘cramping’ no ‘wrapping around tightening’.

A few hours of this and I was informed that my baby was in a bad position and they were going to try to turn him. I was given the epidural in an attempt to relax the tension in my body and move him into a position that was more favorable for a vaginal birth. I remember them saying that when they would move him, he would stubbornly turn back to where he was. This makes me laugh now.

The hours went on, different positions were tried out. Since the epidural I was no longer feeling the back-seizure out of control. I felt the tightening around my waist, the pressure, the urge to push and I wasn’t in pain.

Once it was finally time to push, the OB (my OB had left after trying to turn him, it was another OB’s shift – I had been told ahead of time) warned me that because our son was in a bad position (posterior) it was going to take some hard pushes to get him out. The first few didn’t do much, and I was told because of his size and his position, I would have a c-section if pushing him out with the vacuum assisting didn’t work. I couldn’t imagine going in for surgery after pushing and was determined to get him out.

The first try with the vacuum didn’t work. He had so much hair it slid right off his head. The next try the OB got out the scissors and hubs asked, in all seriousness, “are you going to give him a haircut?”. Um, no honey, that’s not what that is for. Again, with the epidural, I felt nothing of the episiotomy and my son was born within seconds.

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I remember being almost in shock – I couldn’t believe everything had just actually happened.

Towards the end of the labor, the OB had said that a team of pediatricians would be coming in to check on baby J. I had spiked a fever and they wanted to be there to check him out.

J was taken to the team of pediatricians and I told hubs to make sure that he went with the baby.

It seemed to take some time, but I was being stitched back up. A pediatrician came to tell me that J had an initial Apgar of 2 and needed some oxygen. He also had a spontaneous pneumothorax. I didn’t know what that meant, but they told me that he would be fine. Bless the OB that told me that because we were able to have a successful vaginal delivery, I’d helped my son by getting the extra fluid out of his lungs. I would think back to that later.

I was stitched and J was in the Level II nursery (no NICU in my hospital). I was wheeled in to see my baby. I also got to breastfeed him for the first time and he was a pro! The nurses marveled about my little man that was taken out of the oxygen tent to breastfeed and success, at the first attempt! As if I could be any more proud.

We were kept for 5 days. My blood pressure remained elevated and we were both IV’d for over 48 hours. J had jaundice, a collapsed lung (yeah, I learned the word pneumothorax) and a subdural hematoma from the vacuum that they wanted to keep an eye one. At one point J was about to be released but they were going to keep me for the blood pressure. Then I was going to be released and J would stay for jaundice. Finally we got the good word that we could both be discharged together.

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Besides the initial moment of ‘omg I have a baby and I get to bring him HOME’ – a few things that surprised me about being discharged from the hospital: they didn’t take footprints, they didn’t do newborn photos and they wouldn’t inspect the carseat (apparently, by law, they aren’t authorized to train new parents on how to safely strap a newborn into a car seat, at least at our hospital).  That was just the beginning, surprises became a regular thing, you know?

 

a little introduction

things were about to get real.

it was April 2011, and the unmistakeable “+” appeared on the test. the result we had tried, wished, prayed for and still it was so unbelievable. we had just decided that we would go for it a mere 5 weeks before. advice of our doctors and encouraging words from our close friends had warned, “don’t be discouraged if it takes a while”, and here we were. I felt so blessed, and so scared at the same time.

that was just beginning of that blessed/scared feeling!

I had a great 37 weeks of pregnancy. I felt fantastic. Maybe only a twinge of morning sickness once or twice. I was able to keep up with my active lifestyle. As Boston Bruins fans we were excited to attend and celebrate the Stanley Cup playoffs. We took trips to Saratoga to see the races. I drove to Montreal with my two best friends at 28 weeks to see our friends’ band at the Belle Centre. I planned to work up until the very end.

I noticed swelling around 30 weeks and my blood pressure was slightly elevated. I continued to feel perfectly fine. In fact, at 36 weeks I attended a Bruins game and afterwards went to a midnight movie on a Thursday night!

But the very next week, things changed. I had a head cold, nothing serious but my OB noticed that their was protein in my urine that week and my blood pressure was through the roof. The swelling was also to the point where you could press into it and it would leave an impression that lasted a few minutes – surreal!

I was sent directly to Labor & Delivery and upon arriving was told to call my husband, they would most likely be scheduling an emergency c-section that night. Talk about a change of plans.

It was the night before Thanksgiving and after monitoring overnight, I was released with instructions that I was to remain on very strict bedrest for as long as possible, until I delivered. I was unable to work, told not to leave the house unless for appointments, use the stairs as little as possible and to lie on my left side.

After 3 weeks of bi-weekly Non-Stress Tests and Biophysical Profile ultrasounds, I was induced at 40 weeks, 1 day.

I’ll post about my son’s delivery separately but that day, December 17, 2011 my life changed for better, forever – when this guy came to rock my world.

It’s been one wild ride ever since and I’m loving every minute of it!

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