Tuesday, January 27, 2009

One Month

Sam's one month old today. We celebrated by decking him out in an actual outfit for the second time in his life. Normal it's fuzzy sleepers around here, day or night. And not just for Sam! (I'm only partly kidding. I'd totally wear a snuggie.) Then we went to the doctor for his one-month check-up. Sam weighs 10 pounds 12 ounces and is 23 inches long. 75th percentile for weight, 90th for height. His tiny head was in the 15th percentile. I guess he doesn't take after his gigantic-headed father. ("It's like an orange on a toothpick!" Name that movie.) I compared notes when I got home, and found that Charlotte was almost the exact same size at her one-month: 10 pounds 10 ounces, 23 inches.

My doctor weighed in on the colic/fussiness issue, and pretty much confirmed everything I had read. She also added some interesting information about the maturation of the digestive system that helped me think about all the work poor Sam seems to have to do just to pass gas. But the conclusion is still the same: only time will really cure this issue.

So, let the countdown to 12 weeks begin! (Of course, many of you have been kind enough to suggest that the light at the end of the tunnel might arrive sooner, but I'd rather be pleasantly surprised, so I'll aim for 12 weeks).

Also, I just wanted to say thanks to everyone who has taken the time to email me or leave comments with helpful suggestions, things that worked for you, etc. I read and appreciate each and every one, and just knowing how many people have been through this is helpful, too.

More pictures if you click the flickr link to the right, too.

Monday, January 26, 2009

So, it's not me, it's Sam. After several days of an exhilirating diet of plain rice, potatoes, canned peaches, and broiled chicken, Sam's gassiness was, if anything, worse than before. I reread the chapter in Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child about fussiness/colic, and have come to the conclusion that that's our issue here--not diet or allergies, not sickness or anything else, just fussiness.

The good news was that I could go back to eating like a human being. The bad news was that there's really not much you can do for colic. The three things the author of this book says helps are swaddling, sucking, and swinging. Sam doesn't seem to be a huge swinging fan, but swaddling helps a bit, and he's certainly devoted to sucking. So, for now, that's what we're doing. I'm also giving gas drops a try, and have ordered something called Colic Calm Gripe Water (which Jeff said sounds like Brother Tompkins' Patented Snake Oil Cure All or something equally 19th century). We'll see.

We don't know what causes colic. There are some interesting theories, including one about the temporary imbalance of serotonin and melatonin levels in babies, an imbalance that coincidentally resolves itself right around the time (3-4 months) colic usually ends. One in five babies experiences colic or unexplained fussiness. Somehow I don't take comfort in those numbers, other than knowing there's a brigade of parents out there who've lived through this experience as well. I suppose that is, in a sense, comforting.

So for now we're making do. We're taking shifts in the evenings, which are particularly taxing. I seem to be up with Sam every night/morning from 3-6 a.m., so Jeff compensates by taking him after that so I can sleep a bit more. I'm so lucky to have a flexible schedule and a husband who stays home. This would be infinitely harder without those things.

It's not ideal, but it's doable, and it's temporary. Sam's already four weeks old; that means (if the books are correct) that we should have another three or four weeks of intensifying fussiness followed by improvement, possibly as early as ten weeks of age. By April he should be over the worst of it. I just have to make it through spring break, I guess.

More (with pictures) tomorrow!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

I'm starting to realize that Charlotte really wasn't a bad baby. I've been reading up on baby sleep habits (two books: Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child and Good Night Sleep Tight) and have come to the conclusion that all of Charlotte's "bad baby" behavior during the first year/18 months comes down to the fact that Jeff and I had no idea how much sleep a baby really needs, and did little to help foster good sleeping habits early on. The Charlotte who cried inconsolably when she was four, five, six months old was an overly tired, sleep-deprived baby, not an intrisically fussy baby.

All this is to say that I'm worried that Sam is, in fact, that fussy baby. This might be premature, and it could be that my restricted diet will clear up any and all fussy behavior in just a few days (please!), but some of his crying just seems to be crying...not crying from pain, or hunger, or poopy pants. It's crying that I can only console by constant nursing (not really nursing, just hangin' out on the boob, since he's not actually hungry) and allowing him to sleep on me. Sometimes Jeff, but usually me. It's exhausting.

I called my friend Carrie, who is a lactation consultant, to ask her advice regarding Sam's other issue, the gassiness. She said I would have seen some improvement this long after eliminating dairy, which indicates dairy is probably not the culprit. "But don't start eating it again quite yet," she cautioned. How did she know I had a forkful of butter halfway to my mouth?

The upshot is that the best way for me determine what (if anything) in my diet is causing Sam gas pain is by taking out all potential allergens. That leaves me with a severely reduced diet. Essentially you make a list of anything you'd like to eat, and then only eat things not on that list. Fun!

The good news is that I should know relatively quickly whether diet is the culprit here--a week or so. Then I can begin adding items back in one by one, week by week.

Until then, I am trying to remember to take this one day at a time, or even one hour at a time. If I don't sleep well one night, I remind myself that Jeff can watch both kids for a few hours in the morning so I can nap. If Sam wants to nurse for four hours straight (I'm not kidding), I just try to think of it as a good opportunity to get some reading done. And I try to appreciate the little successes, like the fact that right now Sam is actually napping semi-quietly in his cradle.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Baby won't sleep STOP Baby won't stop crying STOP God laughing at my hubris STOP Please send reinforcements FULL STOP

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Three Weeks

Our little dude is three weeks old today. He spent most of the day flailing around and farting, which is how he "celebrates" every day, really. Huzzah, Sam! At three weeks, he's getting more and more alert. Today he was awake for a couple of hour-long stretches. His facial bruising (from his rather speedy delivery) is almost entirely gone, although he still has the tiniest remnent of bloodshot eyes. Now his skin tone is more evident: a nice clear tanned-ish complexion like his father's (and utterly unlike pale-as-milk Charlotte and me). His totally awesome hair (seriously, this kid has sweet hair) looks dark brown in some lights, reddish-brown in others. Time will tell.

This week I went off dairy. Sam's grunting and thrashing got worse, especially at night, and occasionally devolved into shrieking in pain. Along with a bit of congestion, this seemed to spell a dairy allergy. I'm not terrible happy to be off dairy (I LOVE MILK PRODUCTS) but I am certainly eager to help Sam get over his gas. So far it seems to have made no difference, but I know you have to wait a couple of weeks for all the dairy to clear your system.

The other big challenge this week was a plugged duct that rapidly turned into full-blown mastitis. I went from "huh, my boob is a little sore" to "KILL ME NOW" fever and chills in no time. I had mastitis once with Charlotte, when she was quite a bit older, and it also snuck up on me then. I think I'm over it now (the fever's gone at least) but I guess I need to be more diligent with my chest-related monitoring.

Apologies to my more sensitive and/or male readers for that last paragraph.
One of my readers (Miz Jean!) asked how I managed to get Charlotte to behave so well at bedtime. After I picked myself up off the floor from the dead faint I experience when I realized someone was coming to ME for sleep advice (HA HA HA!), I pondered. In truth, we did a number of things the experts advise you NOT to do. For one, we switched Charlotte to a big-girl bed from her crib just a couple of months before Sam was born, and immediately after a big move, two large changes that should have affected her sleep negatively. However, in Miss C's case, the big-girl bed was a catalyst for all kinds of good things. Once she was in her bed, she no longer required us holding her/rocking her to sleep. She climbed up, was tucked in, and eventually fell asleep while we sang. I honestly don't know how we got so lucky as to get her to fall asleep on her own. It was a combination of bribery ("Big girls who fall asleep on their own get to go to SCHOOL!") and persuasion (we used the book "How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight" to set an example). And it just worked. She's woken up once or twice, and occasionally spends a bit too long singing to herself in her room after we've left, but for the most part it's been smooth sailing. My gut says the timing was just right.

School started this past week, although I don't have meetings until this coming week. I will have another post on that topic soon.

Aaaaand, pretend there's a nice tidy conclusion here! Good night!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Some bullet points, because I lack the coherence to write a real entry:

  • -It's a New Year's Miracle! Those of you who have followed Charlotte from the beginning know we've always struggled with her sleeping issues. I'm sure I've written about it more in depth elsewhere, but I'm too lazy to look it up right now. In short, girlfriend has never been too great about going to sleep or staying asleep. She fought naps from the beginning (something I now realize is likely related to her not getting enough sleep and our not sticking to a schedule) and now doesn't take naps at all. Until this fall, she had to be held, rocked, sung, and pacified (with our fingers as the pacifier) to sleep. Well, friends, those days are over. Not only does Charlotte fall asleep without being physically restrained, but as of this week, she goes to sleep on her own. Let me repeat: she falls asleep ON HER OWN. As in, we tuck her in, sing a couple of songs, say goodnight, and leave the room. And then she goes to sleep! I know that for many of you this is a given...your kids have always gone to sleep well, or at least learned to eventually. Charlotte is 2 1/2 and until this week required active adult intervention to fall asleep. I can't tell you how amazing it is for bedtime to take ten minutes as opposed to thirty, forty-five, an hour. Hallelujah.
  • -We're settling into a sort of rhythm here. Sam is a good kid, other than the ongoing gas issues. He seems to have fallen into a schedule of sorts, one I'm sure will change and adapt as he gets older. But right now I'm actually carving out something close to a full night of sleep almost every night/day, and I feel pretty great as a result. Sure, it's two hours here, three hours there, but it's better than only two hours total.
  • -I'm very happy with how my body has bounced back after this pregnancy. Much, much faster than last time. I was weighed at the doctor this week, and am down to the weight I was when Charlotte was over a year old already. I'm not back in my pre-baby clothes, but am into the second-wave transition clothes that it took me six months to fit into last time. That's nice. As a result, I'll begin posting over at TigBlob soon. I plan on revisiting the Couch-to-5k program, hopefully finishing in time to run the Klompen Classic in Pella at the beginning of May. I also want to introduce some kind of cardio/strength-training video into my routine...any suggestions?
  • -I've decided to give up dairy for a few weeks. Again, my hubris was mocked after I wrote the last entry. That very night Sam began crying out in what had to be pain during some of his grunting gas bouts. That did it; the next day I quit dairy. Let me tell you, I'm not terribly happy about it. Do you know how much I like dairy? And do you know how much stuff contains dairy products? Pretty much everything. I picked up some soy milk so I could continue to drink my morning tea (milk and sugar in my tea is not optional), but I had to scramble for other eating options since I seem to rely on milk products for almost every meal. On that note, I'll be posting some of my go-to non-dairy options over on TigEats soon.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Yesterday, Sam turned two weeks old. As if to celebrate, he seemed to really "wake up" for the first time, spending more than five minutes here and there with his eyes open. Last night, he was awake and alert for more than an hour, content with just looking around, bright-eyed and expressive. Of course, this was when he normally would have been sleeping, and I was eager to go to sleep myself. But I'm learning that there really is no "normal" when you're talking about a newborn and sleep.

Sam is still squawking and grunting a lot, and following it up with epic flatulence. I'm not eager to cut out dairy until I get evidence that he's in pain. Right now, it's just a lot of noise. He actually seems to sleep through it most of the time. The problem is that I don't. We've hit upon a solution, though. For the first part of the night, Jeff takes Sam and rests with him on the couch. This guarantees me at least three hours of sleep in a row, as Sam somehow sleeps more soundly in Jeff's arms than in his cradle, and Jeff sleeps more soundly anywhere than I do. Then Jeff brings in Sam for the post-midnight feed and diaper change, after which we all try to settle in for a couple more hours of sleep. Sometimes this doesn't work too well, especially when Sam is extra noisy. But it's a good compromise--I'm getting some rest, and Sam's sleeping in his cradle at least part of the night. We'll probably stick with this plan until he's about six weeks old, at which age he should be sleeping in his cradle/crib almost all of the time, not in someone's arms (one of the mistakes we made with Charlotte that made it difficult to get her to sleep on her own).

Charlotte is adjusting, too. The past few nights we've tried to get her to bed a bit earlier to counter the late-afternoon emotional breakdowns she's been having. It seems to be helping a bit. She's still more clingy and needy than she was before, but that's to be expected with a new baby. I mean, it's pretty obvious what's wrong when she comes up to me on the brink of tears as I'm nursing Sam (again) and says "I need to cuddle!" I know to her it seems like I'm cuddling Sam all the time...I mean, he is nursing non-stop, so in a sense it is that way. But I try to hand him off to Jeff whenever possible, or set him in his swing, so I can have some hands-on time with Charlotte. It's helping, a bit.

Today is my due date. I am so grateful that I have a two-week-old instead of a 40-week belly. My friend Kristen (who, you might remember, was present at Sam's birth) came over today and we spent some time reminiscing about the delivery. It seems already like it took place so long ago.
So, here's the old boy, and one of my two kids. Two kids! Jeff and I are getting a kick out of talking about our "children." It's weird.
My, what big eyes you have! They look pretty blue here, but there's a little ring of hazel/goldish color around the pupil that makes me think he'll end up with Jeff's eyes.

Sam was tired of wearing pajamas all the time, so we dressed him in tiny man clothes today. Apparently in every shade of blue that exists. And my daughter in pink...I promise I'm not trying specifically to reinforce gendered stereotypes! Sam looks a little thuggish here, flashing his baby gang signs.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Very Funny, God

Two of the constants I mentioned in my post yesterday, two of the things that were keeping me sane, went flying out the window last night. The first: Sam sleeping. Instead of sleeping, he's decided to embark on a nightly melodic recital of pterodactyl grunts and bellows, heralding the soupy-waterfall sound of him filling his diaper or ripping farts like a trucker. The baby is gassy, and not terribly happy about it. I can sleep through some baby sounds, but constant intermittent (every ten minutes) upper-decible grunting is not one of them.

The second: Around 3:30 a.m. this morning, when I finally seemed to have gotten Sam settled and slightly more quiet, Charlotte woke up. Screaming. Wailing. Inconsolable. I went in, hugged her, sang her a song, and then told her to close her eyes and go to sleep. "I will," she promised. Twenty minutes later she was up again, screaming. This time Jeff went in. "NOOOO!" she wailed. "I don't want you!" Then followed hysterical hyperventalating and further protestation. Eventually I took over again, climbing into her bed with her until she settled down. I again wrangled a promise from her to fall asleep, and this time it took. By then it was nearly 6 a.m. and Sam was waking up for another feeding.

The only sleep I got was two hours this morning when Jeff mercifully took both kids downstairs.

Any advice about dealing with a gassy baby is much appreciated. And makeup recommendations to cover undereye circles would also be welcome.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Sam at eleven days old is an old soul who has settled in remarkably well here at home. He's eating like a champ, pooping every hour (I call him the percolator), and sleeping like a newborn (which is to say, most of the day and some of the night). He lost his umbilical cord stump (Charlotte called it the "bilicord") today, and appears to have an outie of sorts. He's back up to his birthweight, and probably a couple ounces more now. His bruising is all but gone save for around his eyes, giving him a winning "prizefighter" appearance. As a result, his complexion has toned down from "grape ape" to "south of france tan." His mysteriously dark brown hair is lovely and fuzzy and spiky, especially after a bath (which he hates). His fingers are long and tapered and beautiful. His eyes are dark blue-gray, and I think will turn hazel like Jeff's. His nose is decidedly like his sister's. His cheeks are starting to round out more, and his dimpled chin is even more distinctive with the added ounces. He is adorable in that squashy newborn way.

The rest of us aren't quite as adorable these days. I'm happy to be making a quick physical recovery from this pregnancy, but I'm afraid I've once again been hit with the baby blues. Every day around twilight I start to stare into the middle distance. This eventually devolves into weepy statements such as "I'm failing my daughter," and "I'm going to be a horrible mother of two," etc. This mood usually subsides after an hour or two, but I dread it every day (as, I'm sure, does Jeff). I'm not helped by sleep loss. While I'm doing a much better job sleeping in the same room as Sam than I did with Charlotte, there's no changing the fact that, like most newborns, Sam's up every couple of hours to eat. Feedings plus diaper changes can take up to an hour, so that cuts back on my sleep time. All normal, I know, but requiring adjustment. At least I can read while I nurse. I've gotten through four novels since Sam was born just by reading during feedings.

Jeff is adjusting, too. Yesterday he semi-jokingly asked if there's such a thing as post-partum depression for fathers. He might be sleeping better than me, but he's picking up all my slack around the house and with Charlotte, and that's taking its toll. Plus, I think we'd both gotten used to our wonderful, easy life with one easy-going child.

Speaking of Charlotte...well, a few times in the past eleven days I've wondered if someone swapped our delightful, self-sufficient, cheerful child for this defiant, moody brat who has come to live with us. She loves Sam (mostly), but obviously senses a dynamic shift she doesn't approve of. As a result, she's talking back, screaming, whining, throwing things, refusing to eat, refusing to use the potty...and sometimes melting into tears. She often insists on being swaddled in a blanket and picked up like a baby. I try to give her extra time and attention, but my attention is divided, obviously. One thing that hasn't been affected, fortunately, is Charlotte's sleep. She's still sleeping through the night, often up to twelve hours. Last night she slept from 7 p.m. to 8 a.m.

Today I wondered if Charlotte perhaps needs some evidence that there is life outside our house, life involving other children her own age. I'm looking into some early preschool options. Nothing huge, just a couple mornings a week. But I hope social activity with other whining brats, oops, I mean adorable toddlers will help her return to some semblence of old Charlotte.

I typed most of this post one-handed while nursing. I'm nothing if not adaptable.

Also, I have to give a shout-out to Uncles Mark and Scott (a.k.a Awesome) who are celebrating birthdays today. There's a special something coming in the mail for both of you. I promise it's not the umbilical cord stump. OR IS IT!?

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Sam's Birth Story

Part Two

(part one is here)

The nurse left the room to give us some time to discuss. I turned to Jeff. “Uh, we’re having a baby,” I said. He looked a little bewildered. “Really? It’s happening?” he replied. After we had a couple minutes to process, we decided the thing to do was have Dr. McKeon break my water. I was loathe to take any drugs I didn’t really need, and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to sleep even with the morphine, I was so hyped up. We told our nurse our decision, and she went to call Dr. McKeon.

Between 5:30 and 6 a.m. we called our parents to let them know what was going on, and then called Kristen, my friend who would also be attending the birth. “It’s time!” I chirped on the phone. Suddenly, I was in a fantastic mood. I was going to have a baby! I was really in labor! I wasn’t an idiot!

Things seemed to go quickly at that point. Kristen arrived around 6:30 a.m. We all walked the halls together, talking about what had happened before her arrival. As we walked by the baby nursery, we spotted our friend Stephanie inside with one of her twin sons, Michael, who was born the week before. We visited with her a little bit while we waited for my doctor to arrive. We didn’t have to wait long.Dr. McKeon arrived at 6:45 a.m., and wasted no time breaking my water. Insert crochet hook (probably not the technical medical term), twist, and gush. Suddenly I remembered how disgusting I felt after my water broke with Charlotte. It’s like being plagued by constant ongoing incontinence. Dr. McKeon announced that the amniotic fluid was clear. I was happy to hear that, of course, but was more focused on how disgusting I felt.

As I lay in bed for the next half-hour, hooked up to the monitors, I could feel a distinct difference between pre-water-breaking contractions and the ones I was now experiencing. These were more intense, longer-lasting, and painful. I began to use some of my handy focusing techniques to get through the pain. With each building contraction, I pictured myself climbing up a sand dune. When the contraction was at its peak, so was I, getting a glimpse of Lake Michigan on the horizon. Then I could work my way back down. It was surprisingly effective, and something I employed when in labor with Charlotte.

After this round with the monitors was over, I got out of bed to move around a bit. Now that my water was broken, I needed some manner of protection. Instead of adult diapers, women in labor get these gorgeous mesh panties into which they insert gigantic maxi pads. Seriously, these pads put the “max” in maxi. We’re talking the size of paperback novels. I joked with Jeff and Kristen about how I hoped I’d get lots of mesh panties to bring home with me.

I thought about walking around a bit more, but the intensity of the contractions made me want to stay close to my room. Instead, we rolled out the birthing ball. The birthing ball was my best friend when I was in labor with Charlotte. I spent a good part of my active labor on that thing, and I think it helped the labor progress. I eagerly climbed aboard, managing somehow not to roll off gracelessly onto the floor.

Jeff popped in a CD. For the next fifteen minutes, I bounced and swayed and sang along…to Neil Diamond. I found myself thinking how happy I was that Neil would be a part of my memories of my baby’s birthday.

The next couple of hours found me cycling through the same routine: on the bed for some painful monitoring (the contractions felt much stronger when I was lying in bed), then back off the bed for more quality time with the birthing ball or time spent pacing the room, leaning on the bed and commanding Jeff to squeeze my hips (something I later learned is a genuine labor-relief technique). As the time passed, my contractions got more intense. Kristen wrote in her journal of my labor: “9:11 a.m.: Jana has a bad contraction. Her face gets red, and for the first time she has a look in her eyes that suggests she's absorbed by the pain and not really aware of what's going on around her.” I remember feeling very warm at the height of each contraction, so I’m not surprised my face was turning red. I definitely zoned out, and I’m sure I was making some interesting groans and moans. But at that point I didn't care.

At 9:45 a.m., the delivery nurse, Stephanie, came in to check my progress again. When she announces I’m still only 7-8 centimeters, I wanted to cry. I had been in the “sailor language” (a.k.a. cursing) portion of my labor for some time now, and I only had one lousy centimeter to show for it? “Is it too late to get in the tub?” I asked pitifully. Might as well relax if it’s going to take all day, I thought. Stephanie thought the tub sounded like a good idea.

So, once again, I was back in the Jacuzzi tub. This time felt very different from six hours ago. My contractions were horrible. I kept wanting to escape the pain, to go somewhere where it isn’t. I compensated by making noise and waving my arms around like a pentecostal. When I'd been in the tub about ten minutes, Jeff went to run an errand (I can’t remember why, but I did give him my permission). Alone with my pain in the bathtub, I lost track of time. I also fell asleep between contractions at a couple points—I hadn’t slept since the night before, and that was an abbreviated night’s sleep anyway. I managed not to fall face-first into the water, thankfully.

Jeff came back between 10:20 and 10:30 a.m. and helped me out of the tub. As I used the toilet I felt an incredible urge to…well, to poop. My research had told me this might be the pushing urge, so I was excited, at least until the next contraction hit and I went to my special place to deal with the pain. I was checked again, and told I’m 8-9, but again “really stretchy.” I hadn't yet inquired how I should feel about being stretchy, but the nurses seemed to think that was a good thing. The nurse told Jeff that the baby was right there.

Kristen came back from getting coffee at 10:45 a.m., and found the room bustling with doctors and nurses. She’d been gone just a half-hour but so much had happened. Jeff filled her in as I suddenly bellowed from the bed “I NEED TO PUSH!” The urge was so intense, something I never felt while in labor with Charlotte. I had the feeling that if I didn't push RIGHT THEN my body was going to split apart. Something about my tone got the message across and suddenly it was delivery time.

In the next five minutes, the bed was pulled apart, the stirrups pulled up, and the table full of delivery accoutrements wheeled over. The baby nurses readied the bassinet and heater thing. “With the next contraction, go ahead and push,” Dr. McKeon instructed. Up to then I had been moaning and crying, feeling completely overwhelmed by the intense pressure and pain. But the go ahead to push was all I needed.

As soon as I started pushing, I could feel things happening in a way I didn’t with Charlotte (I pushed her for three hours). I didn't wait for contractions, but just pushed and pushed, barely giving myself time for a breath between pushes. One of the nurses started off counting, but quit when she realized I was on my own schedule. And that schedule was: fast! Three pushes and my doctor told me to reach down and touch my baby’s head. I did, briefly, but then gave another push or two and saw his head emerge.

“Look at all that hair!” I exclaimed. It was thick and dark and looked curly. I paused at Dr. McKeon’s command, but was relieved to push again. Two more and he was out.

Suddenly, there was a squalling purple infant covered in white goo on my chest. Jeff was talking to me; his tone sounded excited and giddy, but I didn't hear his words. I was completely captivated by this tiny person who just minutes ago wasn’t there. “Sam!” I said. “I’m so glad you’re here!” At the sound of my voice, Sam stopped crying and nuzzled into my arms a bit.

It was 10:58 a.m. on December 27, and my son had just been born.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Sam is one week old today. In honor of the occasion, I'm posting his birth story. It's pretty long, so I'll probably split it into at least two parts. Be forewarned: I will use such terms as "cervix" and "placenta" in these entries, so if you're squeamish about such things (Scott!), you might want to just ask me for the abbreviated version someday.

Sam's Birth Story

Part 1

After being sent home from the hospital early in the morning of December 26, I was extremely frustrated (as I wrote about here). I vowed I wouldn’t let that happen again. I had already had a baby, for crying out loud. I couldn’t believe I was one of those people who went to the hospital mistakenly thinking she was in labor. Not again.

So you can imagine my feelings when the contractions started up again at 11:30 p.m. December 26. “Not again,” I groaned. I dutifully had Jeff begin noting the time of each. They started off three minutes apart almost immediately. And I could tell from my breathing with each one that they were different from yesterday’s. Stronger. More intense. More real. But I wasn’t about to be fooled.

For the next two and a half hours, I paced the floors of our bedroom, reading my book as I walked the twelve or so feet back and forth. Every time I’d feel a contraction, I’d call out “time” and Jeff would jot it down. Every time I had a contraction I was convinced it would be the last one. I tried laying down on my side. On the other side. Squatting. Hands and knees. More walking. Nothing seemed to stop the flow of contractions, which remained steady at three minutes apart. But nothing really seemed to make them more intense, either.

Somewhere during that time Jeff decided to try to sleep a little, so it was just me, pacing the floor in my dark house. Finally, I knew I needed to do something. It was 2 a.m. when I woke Jeff up. My instincts told me we needed to go to the hospital again, but I had decided not to trust my instincts. “What should I do?” I asked a groggy Jeff. He, too, wanted to avoid another false run. Eventually we decided I needed to walk some more, but I needed more than a bedroom-sized track. It was still over 60 degrees outside, so we got dressed and headed out for a walk around the block.

I remember two things about that walk: first, my contractions stayed steady, but got more intense. I had to stop walking and crouch a little, hands on my knees, for most of them. The other thing I remember is the way the wind suddenly picked up. Huge gusts shook the trees around us. Christmas decorations clattered and clanged in the wind. It was so strong Jeff commented that it seemed like tornado weather. “There aren’t tornadoes in December,” I scoffed. We would find out an hour later that we were in a tornado watch at the time.

We made it home without being swept away to Oz, and decided we had to head to the hospital. As I threw a few things in my bag (not much to pack, since it was still packed from the night before), I felt foolish. But I knew how much more ridiculous I’d feel if we waited too long and ended up delivering the baby on the side of Iowa Street. In a tornado. So I told my parents we were off for our nightly errand to Lawrence Memorial, and we headed out.

We got to the emergency room entrance at 3:30 a.m., just as the rain started coming down. The same guy who checked us in the night before was there. I felt my face turning red. I hoped he wouldn’t recognize me, but then I realized that I was wearing the same clothes as the night before. Plus, a nine-months-pregnant woman is a little distinctive, I guess. He was kind enough not to mention anything about it, fortunately.

That deja-vu was repeated when we arrived up in the maternity wing. The nurse from the night before greeted us in the hallway. I covered my face in shame, but she brushed that off. “Better safe than sorry!” she said. At least we weren’t in the same room as before.

I changed into my gown and climbed into the bed for monitoring. I had been feeling the contractions all the way to the hospital and the monitor showed they were coming every three minutes. They also appeared more intense than last night. That was a relief. The nurse checked my cervix. “Hmmm…” she said. I could tell it wasn’t good news. “Same as last night. 5-6 cm.” She must have seen my expression, because she typed it in the machine as 6.

“I’d like you to try the tub,” our nurse suggested. “Are you feeling a lot of pain in your back?” I told her I was. “I think he might be posterior,” she said. “That might explain why your contractions are regular and painful, but aren’t having an effect on your cervix.” She suggested using the tub to relax, and also getting on hands-and-knees to encourage the baby to turn over. I was more than happy to comply, as using the Jacuzzi tub was one thing I really wanted to do while in labor. On her way out of the room, our nurse turned and said, “And try nipple stimulation, too.” Jeff looked at me with surprise. I had to explain what that was as I undressed for the tub.

I was in the tub for about twenty minutes, trying to relax, leaning forward as best I could in the confined space. The contractions continued to come, but I felt better able to handle the waves of pain as I floated in the warm water. I felt a little silly tweaking my nipples, especially with my husband seated on a stool just a couple feet away, but at that point I was willing to do just about anything to get this show on the road.

The nurse returned to monitor my contractions. She suggested we walk around a bit before she checked my progress again, so once again Jeff and I were strolling the halls at 4 a.m. After our brief constitutional, we returned to the room and she checked my progress. “Six…” she said. “Maybe six to seven. But really stretchy.” I think I might have started crying in frustration. I know I felt like it. “So, what do we do now?” I asked. “Well, I want to call Dr. McKeon,” the nurse said. “We’ll see what she suggests. I think you’ll probably have the same choice as last night.” Go home in defeat, or stick around longer just to be sent home later? Great.

I’m sure I wasn’t a very pleasant person to spend time with during the next ten minutes. I spent the time cursing my stupidity and my cervix. But when our nurse came back, everything changed.

“Dr. McKeon wants to keep you here,” she said. She went on to tell us about our two choices: first option was for me to have a little morphine to try to sleep a bit. A nap could accelerate my progress as I relaxed, and would give me a chance to get my strength up before delivery. The second choice was for my doctor to break my water. “She thinks once your water breaks, you’ll go really fast,” the nurse explained. It took me a minute to understand what she was saying, that we were staying in the hospital, and that we’d be having our baby today.

To be continued…