Recovery

Ellie is 10 weeks today! Her personality is really starting to emerge and it delights me. She is mercurial and opinionated, charming and funny. She loves her mobile and her bouncy seat, but hates the stroller and the car seat. She likes to look at me while she’s nursing and when she catches my eye will give me a big cheeky grin, which is annoying because it pours milk all over my lap, but come on, how could you not smile back? Watching her learn things (woah, I have FINGERS) just gobsmacks me. What a wonder my child is! 

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Is there anything more boring than a blogger blogging about not blogging? I don’t think so.

(Sorry about going MIA. I plead newborn.)

Anyway! Moving on swiftly.

Amazingly enough for the worry wart that I am, I gave almost no thought to what recovery from child birth would be like. My mom had assured me that I would be up and about in a few hours, like she was, so I assumed it was all good.

Now, I love my mother, and I don’t want to speak ill of her, but she fucking LIED to me. A couple of hours my ass! I felt like I had been ripped open (…because I had been) and hit by a truck. I had trouble sitting, standing, walking, doing stairs, etc for the first two weeks or so, and really only started to feel like myself again after a month.

So, keeping in mind that there is no universal recovery experience, in no particular order, here are the things I wish someone had warned me about, and what I found to help:

1. Even if you have an epidural (which I highly recommend), crowning hurts like a BITCH. You know that song, Ring of Fire? Yes. That, exactly.

Here’s what helped me: Delivering the damn baby already. But, postpartum, those ice packs you slip into your (gigantic) underwear, numbing spray and time. Some people have found heat packs feel nice, but I liked ice better. OTC painkillers, or something stronger if your doctor will prescribe it. Stay on top of the painkillers – don’t wait for the pain because you will be in agony waiting for the drug to kick in. Don’t be a hero – take the damn drugs.

2. Stitches make walking, doing the stairs, etc difficult. I mean, this one is kind of obvious but it hadn’t occurred to me so there you go! Also, those stitches might have bits and pieces fall out as you heal, which will make you panic, but don’t. It means you’re healing.

Here’s what helped me: Again, ice packs (or heat), numbing spray, and painkillers. Also try to lay down or recline as much as possible – being upright puts pressure on things. Do take a few short, gentle walks (Iike, to the bathroom) every now and then to test the waters, but don’t push yourself.

3. Peeing stings like CRAZY. You may cry when you go to the bathroom.

Here’s what helps: Use the little squirty bottle. Experiment with cold or warm water to see which feels better, and squirt yourself while you pee. It doesn’t help a ton but it does help. Also, use tucks pads (witch hazel wipes) and the numbing spray.

4. Pooping will make you want to die. You will feel like you are going to rip open and you may have a panic attack on the toilet.

Here’s what helped me: Take lots of stool softeners. Drink smoothies. Drink a shit ton (Do anything to help make that first poop easier on yourself. But prepare to spend a LONG time in the bathroom. And prepare to cry. Try using your labor breathing when you poop – it totally helps.

5. Being upright may make you feel like your organs are going to fall out. I don’t know if this is because I tore so badly (“Y” shaped scarring, holla!) or my pelvic floor muscles were damaged from two hours of pushing or what, but it took about a month for this to go away. It was an awful feeling.

Here’s what helped me: Time. Kegels. Your muscles have to heal. Don’t push yourself.

6. Engorgement is scary. It doesn’t matter if you’re breastfeeding or not, your boobs will get enormous and rock hard a few hours to a few days after you deliver. You may continuously leak (drip, drip, drip, like an annoying faucet you keep meaning to fix) and they will HURT. I went from an A cup before pregnancy, to a C cup during pregnancy, and then overnight from a C to a DD when my milk came in. It was shocking. I looked like a porn star, in the worst way possible. You may also run a low fever and feel a little fluey.

Here’s what helped me: Nurse as much as possible if you’re breastfeeding. You can also experiment with cool or warm wash clothes, or hot showers, and put cold cabbage leaves (put the cabbage in the fridge or freezer) on your boobs. I know, it sounds weird (and you end up smelling like coleslaw) but it totally works. Some people have found this reduces milk production though, so be careful if you’re trying to BF. (Didn’t cause any problems for me, but that’s what I’ve read.)

7. Do not assume breastfeeding will be easy. Ellie would not latch in the hospital. Just, would not. Blame hormones, blame shock, but I was completely unconcerned that she hadn’t eaten anything for 24 hours after her birth. Tammy, meanwhile, was having silent conniptions and the nurses were getting concerned.

Here’s what helped me: supplement if you have to, or just go to formula feeding. And check in with a lactation consultant, or multiple LCs. The LC in the hospital was completely worthless (her advice consisted of “just keep trying!”) but the second LC (not affiliated with the hospital) diagnosed Ellie with a tongue tie. Also, nipple shields. Use them. Love them.

8. Do not underestimate the power of hormones. The day we came home from the hospital, my parents told Tammy and me to go upstairs and nap while they watched Ellie for a few hours. Tammy passed out within 30 seconds, I shit you not, while I lay there shooting murderous looks at her. How could she sleep?! Our baby was downstairs!! All alone in the world!!! Vulnerable and unprotected!!! I gave up on sleep and went downstairs to check on Ellie only to find that my mother had put her in the bassinet with a blanket on her. I nearly had an aneurysm. “Blankets cause SIDS,” I hissed, snatching the blanket off. I then laid down on the couch and sobbed for 5 minutes straight, sat back up, and asked my extremely alarmed dad to make me a sandwich.

Here’s what helped me:  Time. Taking a shower every day. Eating good food. Daily crying jags. Having help.

8. In that vein, people will surprise you with their helpfulness (or lack thereof). I expected my parents to be super helpful with Ellie. They were in the sense that they provided an extra set of hands (or two) but when Ellie started crying they would immediately hand her back to me*. Other people, random friends I wasn’t all that friendly with, surprised me by being so kind and helpful, bringing food, checking in, providing support and commiseration.

Here’s what helped me: Nothing really helped with this. It just is what it is. Try and roll with it.

9. Nothing will prepare you for the sleep deprivation. Nothing. You think you know because you pulled all nighters in college? No. You do not know. This kind of sleep deprivation is pure torture. It makes everything, simply everything, a million times worse. You may fall asleep standing up. You may think you will die, literally die, if you do not get some sleep. You won’t die though.

Here’s what helped me: Coffee. Time. Learning sleep tricks (swaddle, white noise, shushing, etc). Also, forgive your partner for the things you say to each other in the depths of crushing sleep deprivation.

What about you, oh wise parents of the internet? What are your best tips for recovery?

*I feel like an asshole saying that, because I think my parents were scared of messing up. I think I made some crappy remarks about how she put on Ellie’s diaper, for example, and made my poor mom a little gun shy. I suck. Also, so many things have changed since they were caring for babies – all the SIDS stuff, back to sleep, all that stuff.

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Things that are Weird

Weight gain is weird.
I lost five pounds in the first trimester due to a chronic case of gagging upon thinking about dinner, but gained 15 in the second, due to a chronic case of discovering food again. I’ve been more than steadily gaining during the third trimester, enough to the point where a nurse practitioner (who I actually like a lot) had a little chat with me about it. I was basically gaining twice what I should in a week. This little chat was at my OB appointment just before Thanksgiving. I fretted and stewed over this, especially her warnings of a 10 pound baby. Despite all this worrying, I did exactly nothing differently (except eat, if possible, more – it was Thanksgiving after all) in the two week gap between the Weight Discussion appointment and my next appointment, but you see where this is going, right? I lost three pounds. How is that even possible?

(Side note: I’m not used to gaining weight. Please do not hate me, but it’s one of the few ways I’ve lucked out in the genetic lottery. (I’ve “won” plenty of other shitty shitty genetic traits, so seriously, don’t hate me too much.) I know I’m supposed to gain weight during pregnancy, and I certainly AM, but it’s so, so odd for me to catch glimpses of myself in the mirror and think, “who is that chubby pregnant woman?” only to realize that, hey! that’s me. I was looking at some pictures of me from our baby shower over Thanksgiving weekend and was astonished to find photographic evidence of a double chin. And an ass that, how can I put this, just won’t quit. Ultimately, I’m not too crazy far outside of the recommended weight gain range, and my mom (who is super thin) gained like 50 pounds when she was pregnant with me (and lost it all within a month or two). I know everyone gains and loses weight differently, especially in pregnancy, but damn it is a strange and not entirely comfortable phenomenon.)

Baby size is weird
La fetus has been measuring ahead this whole pregnancy, basically since the very first ultrasound when she was nothing more than a squiggle and a cheerio. I like to joke about how advanced she is, but now I’m getting all kinds of worried because she’s measuring two whole weeks ahead. The perinatal doctor (where my OB sends me for ultrasounds) and the ultrasound tech kept asking me if I have diabetes. Excuse me, I can’t hear you over the sound of me crunching on this kit-kat. What was the question again? (No, I don’t have GD.) After the ultrasound, in which the tech told me she looked perfect but was “just big…all over big…BIG baby,” I had a sit down with a high risk doctor. She also warned me about the size of the baby (93 percentile!!!!!!!) and then segued into a discussion of the hospital policy on cesarean birth.

(Side note: the doctor asked me if I was a big baby (nope, 7 something pounds) and then tentatively asked me if I knew how big “the father” was at birth. We told her we didn’t know how big the donor was at birth, but as an adult he is 6’1” and 170lbs. So, not enormous, but not a shrinking violet, either.  Tammy then volunteered the information that she was a big baby, being over 9lbs, mostly just to make conversation and to point out that her mom had vaginal births will all of her kids, all of whom were over 9lbs. The poor doctor was very confused by this information but did her best to integrate it into our discussion by saying that Tammy’s birth weight explained why I was carrying a big baby. Ha! Not so much. Poor confused doctor.)

Now, first of all, I know that ultrasounds are not the best predictor of birth weight. The doctor even admitted that their measurements can be up to a pound off, and when we’re talking about a fetus that weighs 4 pounds (per the internet average) or 5 pounds (what the ultrasound measured my baby at), that’s a margin of error of 20%! My fundal measurements are a lot closer to where I know I should be (sometimes a week ahead, sometimes only a few days ahead).

But, with that out of the way, what if I DO end up with a big baby? I would like to avoid a c-section if possible (what the fuck was the point of taking the damn Lamaze class, I ask you) but at the same time I don’t want to spend all that time (and pain!! Let’s not forget the pain!!) in labor only to end up with an emergency C anyway. It’s like the worst of both worlds.

Basically, the hospital policy is that if the baby looks like it will be around 10 pounds they strongly recommend a scheduled C. The baby is head down, so I could probably have a chance at a vaginal birth, but my hopeful suggestion to the doctor that big = come early was shot down, as was the suggestion that they induce me around 38 or 39 weeks. Apparently the risk with big babies and vaginal births is that the risk of the baby getting “stuck,” either head or shoulders, is higher than with an average or smaller baby. And that could potentially cut off oxygen to the baby and all sorts of other dreadful things.

I’ll probably have another ultrasound in a few weeks to see how the baby’s grown and figure out the plans from there.

While I’m quietly freaking out over this new development, I do have to laugh. In all those panic attacks, all those meltdowns, all those hysterical moments to Tammy, not once did I worry I would have a baby that was too big. I worried about miscarrying, I worried about her health, I worried about preterm labor (I love that I said I wasn’t worried about preterm labor in that post. LIAR!!!), and on and on and on. But a big baby? Never entertained the possibility.

Ha. Ha. Joke’s on me, I guess. But you know what? If this is the “worst” thing that happens, I’ll take it. Every single time.

Third Trimester/Lamaze/Poetry

*Picture warning. Read at your own risk*

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Friends, I’m totally in the third trimester. This is what I look like now, sans head:

28 weeks

Quite a change from the last picture I posted, no?

Sorry about the crappy picture. Clearly, we suck at photography, and/or the lighting in our bedroom is terrible. Let’s go with the lighting in our bedroom being terrible.

Sometimes I am overjoyed that we are going to meet our sweet girl in a few short months; I’m confident that if person X, who is an absolute moron, can manage then so can we. Sometimes I am filled with abject terror that we are going to meet our sweet girl in a few short months; I’m quite sure that we are going to scar our child for life with our woefully inadequate parenting. Sometimes I’m cheerful and calm as I run my hands over my belly, feeling the baby kick. Sometimes I’m enraged the universe could be so STUPID and UNFAIR to allow me to drop salsa on my sweater (actually, Tammy’s sweater, but these are details). Sometimes I’m sobbing hysterically because Smash got into college on Friday Night Lights, without stopping to question why I am watching a show about high school football when I a) hated high school and b) hate football. But these thoughts don’t occur to me as I wipe salsa smeared sleeves under my runny nose.

Sometimes I get all miracle-of-life-y about how I’m finally pregnant, and other times I feel like a little part of my soul dies every time I think about the one that didn’t make it. (And the whispers come from the tiniest echo of my heart, what if I wanted the first one? What if I cannot love my baby girl as much as I loved the one that I lost?)

Sometimes I revel in the attention that I get – me! Attention for being pregnant after so many months of running away from pregnant women! – and other times I feel like if one more person comments, questions, or offers advice I will absolutely strangle them with my bare hands. Since when did my body become public property?

(Speaking of comments, questions, and advice, as much as people like to offer all that up, unsolicited, including birth horror stories THANKS FOR SHARING, I’m pissed that no one told me about the weird pregnancy stuff. I’m not talking about nausea, backaches, etc. I was expecting that. I’m talking about things like nosebleeds, changes in body hair (increasing and decreasing), and carpel tunnel. Why does nobody talk about this? That’s some bullshit. I demand a refund.)

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We had our first Lamaze class last week, and the second one tonight. We were the only lesbian couple, naturally. The instructor did her best, I guess, to use “partner” instead of “husband” or “dad,” but she mostly used “husband” or “dad.”

There was one incident that got to Tammy in particular, when the class was split up into pregnant women and partner groups. The idea was to go with your group and discuss positives and negatives about being pregnant and the impending delivery and child rearing. The instructor told Tammy to stay with the pregnant women, rather than going with the partners (who were, of course, all men). She told Tammy that she would be more comfortable with the women.

I know she was coming from a good place when she said that, but honestly, as Tammy told me later, she would have felt much better with the partner group, even though she would have been the only woman. The pregnant women group mostly talked about physical ailments of being pregnant, feeling the baby move, concerns/hopes/fears about the delivery, postpartum recovery, etc. Tammy can relate to that, but only as much as the rest of the partners could. Yes, she’s a woman who is the proud owner/operator of a uterus, but that uterus has never been occupied by a fetus, and there are no plans that it ever will be. When the partners came back into the room and we shared lists, Tammy sat there thinking, “yep, I have that fear. Yep, I’m excited about that, too.”

She was kind of pissed off that the teacher viewed her womanhood as more important than her partner status. It took me a while to see it from her point of view, but I get it now. The whole fertility process and now the whole pregnancy was/is SO MUCH about me, me, me. Obviously, there’s a reason for that, but Tammy’s role is vital in this process – and that is not hyperbole. Hats off to all the single moms by choice. You are brave and I am in awe of you. I am in no way, shape, or form strong or brave enough to do this on my own. I would have given up a thousand times before this moment if it weren’t for Tammy.

Anyway, we’re going to either send the instructor an email letting her know she might consider giving female non-gestational partners the option of which group to join, as I’m sure some would prefer to be in the pregnant women group. Others like Tammy, would prefer to be with the partners. Why bother trying to choose for them?

The Lamaze class moments that *I* could have lived without are as follows:

1. Watching the instructor jam a baby doll through a plastic pelvis with more vehement glee than I thought necessary

2. The realization that our large (LARGE) circular name tags were ten centimeters, “which is how big your cervix will be when you’re fully dilated!”

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I want this poem framed on our baby’s nursery wall. It’s kind of cliché now, as it’s become pretty popular but I don’t care. My sister read it at our wedding, and I get goosebumps every time I hear it. I would copy/paste it here, but WordPress eats the formatting and I can’t do that to ol’ e.e.

Be well, friends. “this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart”