Thursday, May 29, 2014

Zim's Birth Story

Since I've just returned home from the hospital with my second child, it seems like a good time to tell the story of my first child's birth. Now that two years have passed and I have another birth to compare it to I probably have a little better perspective of the whole process.

My pregnancy with Zim was pretty easy. Other than out of this world heartburn that made it nearly impossible for me to enjoy all my favorite foods (chocolate, tomatoes, chocolate, acidic fruits, chocolate) I didn't have much to complain about, but I still was pretty whiny about being pregnant and, by the end, wanted it to be over yesterday. Seriously, if you're on the fence about having kids, don't. It's a lot of work and only worth it if you're excited about being a parent, in which case, all the crappy stuff is totally made up for by the awesomeness of kids, but there's a lot of crappy stuff.

When I arrived at my 40-week appointment, I was greeted with surprising news. They were moving my due date back 2 weeks. I'd measured about that small all along and since their practice was to induce at 40 weeks, they wanted to make sure I was really 40 weeks. Since I'd already had my last day at work, this meant 2 weeks of sitting at home waiting for a baby who still wasn't ready to come.

Me, 40 weeks pregnant and ready to be done

At my real 40 week appointment I had to do all manner of testing to make sure there wasn't an excuse to rip this baby out of me immediately. Apparently doctors in my practice were very eager to have babies early or on time. Since I'd had such a quiet pregnancy I hadn't really asked many questions along the way, but this was very different from what we'd learned was standard practice at my childbirth class offered by the hospital we were delivering at, where they said "Babies come when they're ready." I knew all of my mom's kids were at least 1 week late, so I was surprised to learn that my OB thought passing an arbitrary date on the calendar was reason enough to induce labor. But since my child proved to be following in my footsteps everything came back normal and since it was a Friday, they decided to wait until the following week to schedule my induction.

I went in for my check up Tuesday morning, still not dilated, still not having much in the way of contractions (they registered on the monitors, but I barely felt them), so I had one of the most painful procedures ever done, and the doctor dilated me manually to the width of a finger tip in the hopes that that would get my labor started before I showed up at the hospital that evening for my induction.

It didn't.

My husband, my mother, and I arrived at the hospital that evening to check in for my induction. After taking my vitals and getting all the paperwork out of the way, I got to have a lovely cardboard tampon of cervidil inserted into my vagina and lay in bed all night to see if it softened my cervix any.

It didn't.

Then throughout the next day I got to get increasingly higher doses of pitocin introduced to my IV to see if that would start regular contractions that started dilation.

It didn't.

It did however start super painful contractions that made me lose control of my bladder and required some heavy duty pain killers to knock me out until the medication started to leave my system.

At this point I should mention my mom and husband had stayed with me the whole time despite there being only one semi-comfortable piece of furniture in the room that my mom refused to take a turn on, so by this time she was getting pretty loopy from sleep deprivation. Luckily my best friend offered to stop by after work to give my mom an excuse to go back to our house and catch a nap before the action started.

My friend also brought cards and so we played Phase 10 and watched the Cubs lose while my cervix continued refusing to dilate. Unfortunately our card playing got cut short when my best friend started having blood sugar issues and had to raid the vending machines to keep from passing out. So basically, I was bored out of my skull, my husband was exhausted, and my best friend was unexpectedly getting ill. Are we having fun yet?

Also I forgot to mention that the nurse who was on my shift that night was the only labor and delivery nurse I've ever met who didn't exude an aura of calm and caring competence. She was super flighty and kept saying things out loud that I'm sure they teach you in nursing school are the things you shouldn't be telling your patients. She seemed more nervous about this whole thing than I was.

Then the doctor was going to break my water to see if that would start labor, only we didn't get to see what effect that would have had because a few things went wrong all at once. Some blood came out with the waters, making them think my placenta had ruptured. It hadn't and it turned out to only be a little blood. But then the baby went into distress severe enough that a lot of people started moving very quickly and before I knew it I had been whisked into an operating room and was being prepped for surgery. This was truly terrifying, despite the anesthesiologist's best efforts to keep me calm as they prepped me for surgery (the nurse, of course, was no help here). I remember trying not to hyperventilate as they put the mask over my face.

And then I woke up in a dim room in excruciating pain. I didn't have my glasses, so it wasn't worth opening my eyes since I can literally see about 2 inches in front of my face without them. It hurt to breath. It hurt to do just about anything, and then the crazy nurse told me I had a son and he was perfectly healthy and the only problem had been the cord wrapped around his neck. I wanted to cry or say something, but it hurt too much to move, so as tears started rolling down my cheeks the nurse freaked out and ran to get my husband, who also can't deal with girls crying, so somehow I managed to croak out that they were happy tears and that I hurt and he got what was going on enough to know that I really just needed him to hold my hand.

Then I started shivering and my whole world became pain. I knew from the childbirth class that shivering after delivery was normal, but I didn't think I'd be doing it with a fresh wound in my belly. I discovered just how many muscles in my body are connected to my abs - all of them apparently.

Eventually I got into an actual room and because of the circus the floor had been that night, I got one of the super fancy rooms that you're supposed to pay extra for if you book it in advance, but they gave it to me because of the trauma I'd gone through. Unfortunately the reason I got a cool room was also the reason I didn't get proper pain medication right away and so they were still waiting on someone to get a morphine pump for me because they'd run out on their floor (I was the 4th unplanned C-section of the night).

They asked if I wanted to see my baby, and as much as I did, I couldn't even imagine sitting up, let alone seeing my son for the first time and dealing with the crying that was sure to bring on. Luckily, the teacher of my childbirth class had stopped by and when she saw how crazy things were, stayed with my family until they got everything sorted out. She made sure my husband and best friend (and eventually my mother, when she got back) got to see the baby in the nursery. She made sure they gave me the good room when they ran out of regular rooms. She made sure they got my morphine pump up and running and that I had a breast pump available in case they couldn't get my pain under control before I needed to start releasing some breast milk.

The first picture I saw of my son, screaming in the nursery, while I was in too much pain to move

My son's first meal was formula, but by the next morning my pain was under control enough that I could sit up enough to breast feed, with a lot of assistance from the wonderful nurses on the floor (Seriously, the one I had the night I delivered my son was the only dud in the batch. Everyone else was fantastic!). And I actually saw him for a few minutes in the middle of the night when I woke up all panicky and couldn't get back to sleep because I just had to see him, even if I could barely sit up enough to hold him. Thank goodness my husband took a picture of that moment. It's one of my all-time favorites.

a few hours later, pain starting to get under control, I meet my son face-to-face

The next day or two of my hospital stay is kind of a blur. I was in a lot of pain, but the nurses pushed me very hard to get up and go to the bathroom on my own, take a shower, and start walking around. They even made me do a couple laps around the ward pushing my son's bassinet. Mostly I remember staring at them in disbelief every time they gave me another seemingly impossible task to do.

Eventually, though, things settled into a rhythm and while I was still in a lot of pain, I was starting to get the hang of this mothering thing. I definitely recognized my son's cries whenever they brought him back from testing in the nursery. He seemed to be a natural at breastfeeding, which was a huge weight off my mind. He was just so tiny and perfect. I couldn't believe my husband and I had made him and that he was ours to take home.

And then it was time to take him home and like every first-time-parent, I freaked out a little, okay a lot, about everything. I rode in the backseat because I just couldn't believe that his tiny little head would be okay in that huge carseat. I was very worried that something would come up as soon as we got home that would throw us for a loop and we wouldn't know how to deal. Yet now, here he is, almost two, and we seem to have gotten along just fine.

on the way home from the hospital, even with rolled up blankets, we couldn't position his head right to keep it from flopping, so I rode in the back seat to keep his head from falling off, I guess

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Why I'm Glad My Mother-In-Law Is a Feminist

My mother-in-law and I don't see eye to eye on a lot of topics, but today I am so thankful she's a proud feminist and let her son know that. It makes me feel a lot better about how my husband and I will raise our son.

He will grow up knowing that a woman's body is her own and not a tool for men to use to prove their own worth.

When a young man thinks that killing women is the proper response to dating rejection, and he leaves a video that feels like a collection of bad pop culture cliches, you can't help but notice that while some of this may be mental health related, at least some of this is cultural. You can't help but notice how a confused young man who looks to the wrong places for dating advice can so easily come away with the idea that female affection is his right as a man. That if women reject him, it's because they're bitches, not because he's socially awkward or just hasn't met the right girl yet.

My husband's story started out a lot like Elliot Rodger's, with the lack of experience with girls and thinking that being a virgin in your early 20's is the most embarrassing thing in the world.

One big difference between him and Roger: he never blamed women for his problems or plotted revenge against an entire gender, like he was owed something from us.

The lesson that my husband and I hope to teach all of our children: When it comes to love and affection, you get to choose who you give that gift to or not, whether or not they think they deserve it. When it comes to other people loving you, that is a gift that they choose to give you or not, whether or not you think you're worthy of it.

Like most women I know, I've dated men who practice the more socially acceptable forms of misogyny - variations on the idea that if a man shows interest, but doesn't force you, you somehow owe him affection or countless other actions that devalue women. Thanks to my husband's feminist mother, he won my eternal respect by treating me with some from the beginning of our relationship, and, even before we had kids, was adamant about teaching his son to treat women the way his mom taught him to treat them.

I've struggled with the term feminist for a long time. Honestly, I'm still dealing with it. But increasingly, events like the one that happened in Isla Vista, make me see the importance of having strong female role models in a kid's life, ones who aren't afraid to call themselves feminists. I've seen first hand the positive impact it can have.