Sunday, December 28, 2014

On Sleep Deprivation as a New Mommy of Two

Big brother loved his baby brother from the moment they met.
What were my first few weeks as a Mommy of two like? Well, they involved permanently bloodshot eyes, wild hair, and an inability to make coherent sentences. I feel like people passing me on my rare trips out of the house probably thought I looked like a druggie. These trips were very rare considering the fact that lifting the stroller or wearing my then 6-7 something pounder actually made my belly ache. It didn't help that it is flu season and my pediatrician mother and Facebook feed bombarded me with seemingly endless stories of sick babies.  I would wince every time I heard a sniffle or a sneeze, ready to bolt back home. (Speaking of which, is my throat a little sore or am I imagining it??)  Most times I was too tired to feel the need to leave the house anyway.

On our way home from the hospital.
My little one seemed intent on only sleeping during the day and my two year old refused to nap, making their schedules perfectly opposite (coincidence?  I think not ;). And in the middle of that somewhere my body was trying to recover from pregnancy and giving birth, not to mention spending an immense amount of energy on breastfeeding.  My emotions were spinning from shifting hormones combined with feeling an enormous amount of pressure to learn how to fill my new role as Mommy to two.  I was trying my best to ignore the fact that our house was in shambles around me.  I mostly just felt like there wasn't enough of me to go around in general. 

Adjusting to life with two littles is not easy. Sleep deprivation with one baby was hard but a newborn combined with a possibly jealous toddler who seemed to decide to become as difficult as possible the day you came home from the hospital? It was rough. 

I will be transparent with everyone. The sleep deprivation was real. Real to the point that I sometimes worried it was dangerous. Falling asleep holding the baby was my greatest fear. One that fed endless nightmares. Perhaps hormone changes and new mother protectiveness fed the nightmares too, but extreme sleep deprivation was the major culprit in my opinion. Exhaustion seems to lengthen that space in time between sleeping and waking. A space in which my body is awake but my brain is still dreaming. A hypnopompic state is the official term.

A rare moment of sleep... I can't help but stare.
In this state, nightmares become real. And I hallucinated.  My recurring hallucination in the weeks after we brought my youngest home centered around my recurring nightmare in which I fell asleep holding him. I woke up terrified that he had suffocated in my arms or next to me in the bed.  I have a stuffed dog I sleep with and I would wake up cradling him, terrified and frantic. I was convinced he was the baby and I would attempt to arouse him (unsuccessfully of course).  One night, my husband awoke too and heard me freaking out. He told me the baby was fine and that what I was holding wasn't the baby.  My nightmare felt so real that I argued back, angrily since he never even checked to see. "How do you know?!" I insisted before my brain slowly shook off the fog of sleep and I found my crying infant (which is what had awakened me in the first place) safe in his bassinet.

I love walks with my boys!
Thankfully, this low point passed as Coen's sleep stretched out from one hour (yes, he only slept an hour at a time many nights!) to now sometimes as much as 3 and a half hour windows.  The holidays were also nice because having family here meant naps for me and help with the kids and daily tasks.  My body has healed a lot in the past month as well.  But, most importantly, my toddler seems to have adjusted back to his normal sweet self that sleeps and eats and isn't a holy terror all day.  

My precious angel.  
Don't get me wrong though! I'm so grateful for my beautiful healthy children and supportive family. I don't know how I'd have survived without my husband giving me naps and pep talks those early weeks. I've done a lot of cuddling and breathing in that precious newborn scent. I know that these days of tinyhood are all too few and I'm soaking them up much more intensely this time around.

We are finding our balance and a new normal now. And, today, after snuggling down with my 2 year old for his bedtime song and cuddling my almost 5 week old who passed out at my breast, I breathe in his sweet milky scent and can't help but think, "this is heaven."

There is no one I would rather be than these boys' Mommy. I'm blessed beyond words. Now, it's off to bed before my sleep window closes and the fun/chaos starts all over again!

Friday, December 19, 2014

My Second Birth Story

Let me start by saying, I'm pretty much as unlikely a candidate to choose a home birth as they come but after my delivery this time and fighting pushy nurses and doctors for hours while in labor, I can see why some mothers choose that route. I had the delivery I wanted but it took a lot of standing up for myself and my (reasonable and educated) desires.  If it weren't for my medical training, I might have given into some of the bullying and had a very different outcome.

So to my story... The Tuesday before Thanksgiving was my ideal day for our second little guy to arrive. My doctor was on call and my best friend was staying with us so she could to watch my 2 year old son.  In hopes of convincing the little guy to come that day, I had my membranes stripped Monday afternoon.  My husband was able to be there and took me walking afterward.  (I am convinced this is key for stripping to work.)  My Captain husband went Army on me and we walked a lot.  First all around the hospital (about 2 miles) then, after dinner, every inch of our neighborhood.  My back and pelvis ached by the end of it (not unusual at this point in my pregnancy).

39 weeks and after a lot of walking
My best friend and her husband came over that night and we stayed up until about midnight. I never went to bed because I began having contractions 2-3 minutes apart. I was excited that they were so close together since I'd heard that second babies come faster. Thankfully, I had no idea this statistic did not apply to me. 

I told the hubby to sleep a little.  I laid down for maybe 2 minutes then paced and packed.  I woke him up at 1:30AM. We walked some more but the contractions were getting more intense so, for fear of waiting too long (my OB had strongly recommended I not stay at home as long as I did with my first delivery if I wanted an epidural), we headed to the hospital around 3AM, leaving my son asleep in his bed with my friends watching the monitor. (Best scenario ever! I had spent so much time worrying over having to drop him off somewhere in the middle of the night.)

On the drive is when it got a little weird. Walking kept my contractions at 2-3 minutes; sitting they slipped to 4-6. Still hospital worthy according to my OB but I worried about them spacing out more and stopping.  I was ready at this point and my mom was already on her way. We stopped and walked two more times in random parking lots just in case.  Besides, I like to walk when I'm in labor. Everything inside me is antsy and pushes me to keep moving.

At the hospital, they hooked me up to the monitors and confirmed that my contractions were strong and regular.  They insisted I lay in bed to be monitored for 2 hours before I could follow the "intermittent monitoring" order my OB had written on the chart.  (This was her promise that I would be allowed to walk so that I wouldn't wait so long to come to the hospital.)

Things went a little differently after those two hours than I had pictured.  Two different residents checked me 2 hours apart and both said I was 3cm dilated (one told us "3, almost 4" but must have reported 3 to the attending).  First, I was disappointed that I was only 3 or 4cm dilated because I had been 5cm with my first son at this level of pain and intensity of contractions (which is when I decided to go to the hospital with him too), but the biggest disappointment came from the medical team.  Based on "no change" in my cervix, it was decided somehow that I wasn't in labor (huh?!) and that they would send me home.  Now here's the kicker... a nurse told me that I would be sent home unless I agreed to have them start a Pitocin drip.

(I need to take a moment to say that Pitocin is a topic I will blog about one of these days because I feel very strongly about it.  Studies are there saying that Pitocin is very overused and associated with significant risk and that it should only be used when medically necessary. Yet the overuse continues and I've heard so many stories of less than ideal outcomes... But this is too big a topic to do justice to it here, so stay tuned for more on this later.)

I refused both the Pitocin and going home after listening to the attending physician monologue about how cervical checks are very subjective (he actually compared it to reaching into a wet sock) but never once checked me himself.  He also based his reasoning that I wasn't in active labor on the fact that I was talking to him (between contractions, hello!) and that I didn't "look in pain enough."  He never addressed our concerns about the obvious contractions on the monitor (that had been at less than 5 minutes apart for 5 hours at this point) or listened to my husband and mom say that I am in pain even if I don't fit his stereotype of pain reactions.  Nor did he give any credence to the fact that I had been in labor before and knew what it felt like (and he hadn't and couldn't! though I held back from saying this to him).

You can imagine how furious that man made me.

Perhaps I would have believed him that I wasn't in labor if this was my first child.  And perhaps I would've agreed to Pitocin if I was post-term or if I had much less knowledge on the subject but to me, his approach was all wrong.  If I wasn't in labor (which I knew I was), starting Pitocin = induction, something I didn't want unless absolutely necessary (because of the risks).  And if I was in labor, the monitor clearly showed strong, regular contractions and I didn't need a drug meant to induce contractions.  As long as the baby is happy, there is no time table, within reason and when membranes are intact, for the baby to be born once contractions start.

My doctor came and saved the day (thank goodness!) not too long afterward.  She checked me and declared that I was 4cm dilated and had been 2cm the evening before in her office and that although slow that was progress.  She stripped my membranes again and things really took off.  I was ready for an epidural (because of how much my pain increased) at 5cm not too long after that.

My nurse (a new one and a great one!) was surprised when I asked for the epidural.  Somehow, without ever being asked, it was decided that I didn't want an epidural.  In fact, she seemed concerned that I wanted to go home (what?! They were the ones trying to send me away! Hand-over between the night nurse and day nurse obviously failed).  She also thought I had not had regular prenatal care and was therefore missing lab work that was required in order to receive an epidural.  Thankfully, all of that was cleared up fairly quickly and after a quick refusal of the resident anesthesiologist, the attending gave me a perfect epidural.

Interestingly, the epidural revved up my contractions even more (the opposite of my last delivery).  Eventually, my doctor said I was completely dilated, and my nurse told me to let her know when it was "baby time."  I did and she called for my doctor and told me she'd be there in 5 minutes.  I remember saying "that is way too long! It's baby time!"  He was about to be born.  I convinced the nurse to check me just in case and after that, she somehow quickly procured my doctor.  I have video after my son was born and you can hear the nurse telling my OB "I didn't know she was THAT close." ;)

 And, long story short, after nearly 18 hours of labor (more than with my first son!), my healthy, squalling, beautiful 6lb 13oz son was born with just 2 pushes and no tears. The bed was never disassembled into stirrups (there wasn't time) so he was within my reach (and view) the whole time and came straight to my arms.  He nursed a few minutes later and I held him skin to skin until I couldn't handle not knowing his weight any longer.

The beginning was long but the ending was perfect.

 I could've done without the battling in between but otherwise, I wouldn't have had it any other way.