Tuesday, June 29, 2010

...And Babies Don't Keep

"Quiet down cobwebs, dust go to sleep. I'm rocking my baby and babies don't keep."
-Author Unknown

My baby is growing up. And it absolutely terrifies/devastates/breaks my heart that I don't have every single second documented. That the picture with her sitting next to the stuffed owl that I was going to take daily turned into weekly turned into monthly turned into "woops I forgot the first month so five weeks old will have to do." The 'Line a Day' journal is missing 40 days worth of lines. This blog I planned to update at least once a week? Yeah, you can tell how that panned out.

I haven't failed. I just didn't know.

I didn't know how entirely consumed I'd be with her. That each time she smiles and coos at me that I can't take my eyes off of her long enough to grab the camera or video camera. (Thank goodness for cell phone cameras!) That if setting her down and propping her up next to a stuffed owl makes her cry that I would rather just hold her and snuggle her to my chest instead. That writing anything is nearly impossible with the maybe one free hand I have at any given moment. Even now, I type this one-handed while my other holds the weight of my sleeping babe sprawled across my chest.

Our swing sits, empty and neglected, against the far wall. Her crib is filled with clean laundry I have yet to fold and put away. We have all these gadgets and gizmos to set her in and on, and yet I would so much rather just hold her. I have a hard time convincing myself to put her down when being in my arms is what she wants most, too. And please don't bother telling me I'm spoiling her; she gets plenty of back and belly time. And besides- it isn't much longer that she'll fit this perfectly in my arms. Or be this content to be there.

So our house is pretty messy. I tend to be able to get the dishes done daily and thats about it. Rob, the amazing man/dad/husband he is, has voluntarily taken over laundry. (Out of fear of not having clean clothes? Perhaps...) I can barely count the number of dust balls I can see from my current position on one hand, and I can't tell you the last time I mopped the bathroom floors. The dining room table is random stuff central, and the fish can hardly be seen in his tank.I have not even made a home cooked meal since Reagan came home. We're going on seven weeks here, folks. We had a lot of freezer meals from friends and family, invitations to dinner at friends' houses, and we've, ahem, eaten out a bit. Okay, a lot. Fine; probably a few times a week. But look at it on the bright side; at least Reagan's getting a head start on restaurant manners! :) My best piece of advice to new parents? Get a comfortable couch. You're going to be sitting and doing a whole lot of the best kind of nothing. :)

So while I hate the fact that I'm not going to have every second of her life pictured and recorded for years to come, I find comfort in the fact that I'm experiencing it. That I'm living in the moment and that each smile isn't rushed with having to find the camera. That I'm not missing a conversation between Reagan and a hanging, striped elephant while I fiddle around with the video camera. It's taken me awhile to get to this point, but it is so much nicer not worrying about recording every moment in time. I figure I'll just pray for a good memory and continue to enjoy this amazing little miracle in the here and now.

**This isn't to say I'm not going to take pictures and videos. I'm just trying to not make it my main focus.

**Pictures don't do her justice, anyways.

**Note- I have postponed posting this post (holy batman that's a lot of 'posts') until I uploaded pictures off of our camera and cell phones from the last FIVE WEEKS so I could decorate it with pictures of our sweet baby's face, so you can sit and stare at her for hours too. :)**

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A Tale of Two Boobs

(Do you mind if I just say boob? Saying breast makes me feel like I'm someone I'm not and we all know what they are anyways. Boob, boob, boob. Is it demeaning? I don't think so. I hope you don't either...)

Disclaimer: I don't know if this even needs to be said, but this really is a post about boobs. Mine in particular. And their newest function. So if me saying boob or reading that breast milk really comes out of them makes you squeamish, I'd advice you not continue. :)

I can truly say I never thought I would write an entire blog post on my boobs. I knew they would become a much more integral part of my life once we had children; that they would sustain said children for over a year. I didn't know our first child would be head over heals in love with them, requesting them vehemently as often as every few minutes whether she needed to eat or not. I didn't know I could love and hate them so much; loving the bond they allow between my child and me, hating the leak stains they leave on the bed sheets, my shirts, the couches. So as much apart of my life that my boobs are now, it seems only fitting they get their 15 minutes of fame on our family blog. So without further adieu, A Tale of Two Boobs.

One of my biggest fears of having a baby was knowing that people would see my boobs. I'm a very modest girl and prefer to keep them nice and covered up where they belong. But knowing the basics of how child rearing tends to work, I knew eventually people would see them. And see them they did.

The second Reagan was born I ripped open my gown. I wanted her directly on my chest and I couldn't have cared less at the time if someone saw anything. My mom laughed at me for my sudden lack of modesty. I had a goal, though, and modesty played no part in it. Reagan had latched within the first 5 minutes of life. It didn't last long, but I felt success! Breast feeding was something I was extremely passionate about, but I had my concerns. I have known many people that struggled with it, and I wanted to give my daughter and me the best chance at succeeding as possible. I desperately longed for the bond of breast feeding, to be able to sustain our child from my own body, to experience such a natural thing.

Our first actual feeding a couple hours after she was born must have been extremely annoying for Reagan as I tried to put everything I had read into practice. No one showed me what to do, so Reagan and I just went off of what little experience I had and winged it. She fussed, squirmed and complained greatly in newborn fashion, but I pushed forward. I was determined! She wasn't latching well but fortunately I had what they told me was a 'great supply' and I could literally leak colostrum into her furiously rooting mouth. I was not discouraged.

We were up most of the first full night in the hospital. She had decided she really was hungry and was desperate to eat, but still couldn't quite latch. She would seemingly get a good latch here and there, only to loose it after a few sucks. After numerous attempts and fails, I finally manned up and asked for help.

Let me tell you- having someone, albiet a nurse, handle my exposed boobs is just as awkward as I imagined it would be.

Between about four different nurses from the remainder of our hospital stay, I got a lot of advice. Sandwich your nipple, make sure she gets enough boob in her mouth, make sure her chin is down, make sure her head and neck are aligned with her spine. Reagan and I managed. She still struggled with latching but between the hours she would spend nursing and me just leaking into her mouth, she ate.

Our Pediatrician (who is amazing and comes to our house! But more on that in a later post...) is also a lactation consultant and really worked with us to find out what our issue was. Turns out our sweet little girl sucks in her bottom lip. She does it so often that while she is nursing, most of the time she will suck her lip in with my nipple which leaves little to hold the nipple in her mouth, thus she would loose the latch. We began literally opening her bottom lip with our fingers when she would go to latch and it has worked wonders!

Reagan got down to 7 lbs, 2 oz which was as low as our pediatrician wanted to see her get, especially since she was jaundiced. So we nursed and nursed and nursed. Reagan was seemingly satisfied between feedings, was peeing and pooping us out of our savings account, and wasn't overly groggy or tired. All the signs that she was getting enough. She was gaining weight slowly, but she was gaining.

I really do enjoy breastfeeding. Even when she wasn't latching well, I didn't get too stressed. When we had learned that her jaundice had gotten worse towards the tail end of our struggles with nursing, however, I did stress out. I had just read that breast milk is the best way to remove jaundice and that if her bilirubin got to a certain level she could get BRAIN DAMAGE or DIE. And here we are told that our 3 day old baby's, who is struggling with nursing, bilicubin levels are even more elevated! And she wasn't gaining weight as fast as she should be. Three strikes against us! My stressing out did nothing but lessen my milk supply, which stressed me out further, yada, yada, yada, insert catch 22 here, my milk supply retreated. Our pediatrician told me breast feeding was 99% head game, and I needed to just trust that my body would do it's job. So I did. And then it did.

It hasn't been a walk in the park but it certainly hasn't been a walk through hell either. The most stressful part about breast feeding, to which I'm sure most mom's will agree, is not knowing how much she's getting. How do I know if it's enough? Well, I just have to trust that my body us doing it's job. And Reagan is a pretty good indicator, too. She is 100% jaundice free, has been gaining about half an ounce a day, and is up over 8 pounds! She (usually) is a happy camper between feedings and still pees and poops like a champion. Through our nursing session, I listen to make sure I hear swallowing, and watch to make sure her jaw is moving as she sucks.

It isn't the sit back, relax and nurse like I expected it would be. But you know what? I am sustaining a human being with milk that I make on my own. What's YOUR super power?

One Month

Dear Reagan-

As we (all too) quickly approach your one month birthday, I can't help but think about how fast time has flown. Truly it was just yesterday that we met you for the first time, excited beyond tears to finally see you, touch you, hold you. Yet the calendar swears you're nearing that four week mark, and I can't call it's bluff.

It's bitter sweet, you growing up. Your breath has changed. From birth it was an amazing scent best described as sweet nail polish remover. People laughed at me when I described it as such, but it was true! I know it sounds crazy but I could sit and breathe it in for hours at a time- your breath just smelled that good; sweet, warm and alive. It has since moved on to a sour milky scent, still comforting to a needy mom, but it's just not quite the same.

Your cry has grown up, too. While you still do my ever loved (and laughed at, sorry, dear...) "uh-wah! uh-wah!" cry, you have mostly moved on from your squeaky bird cry. It was such a sweet, sincere, tired sounding cry. It sounded as though you put forth little effort, or almost as if you were hoarse. You have, however, perfected your anger cry. It hasn't been coined "Reagan Rage" for nothing.

Fortunately, for my poor breaking heart, you haven't lost you spastic, 'aerobic' movements. If you're awake and not nursing, you are constantly, without ceasing, moving. Your limbs have yet to look attached to your body. Your legs flail out between kicking, bicycling and Lord only knows what else. Your hands are constantly moving back and forth to your mouth, and if startled to any extent, they shoot outward as if you are triumphant in your winning of some award. Your face rotates between umpteen different expressions; the root of many of our laughter outbreaks.

Watching you wake up is my most coveted time these days. You do not wake up crying. You wake very slowly, starting with quiet grunting, squinting your eyes without opening them, and then begins the stretching. You stretch your arms straight out in all directions. You stretch the full length of your body, quite often arching your back off the mattress. Though you're swaddled from your armpits down (Lord help the man who inhibits movement of your arms and hands) you usually manage to stretch out of your blanket. Blinking a few times, you open your eyes and are bright eyed and alert. The last week or so, I've been able to squeeze a few smiles out of you at this time. You're quiet and content until you realize that feeling, and OH-MY-GOODNESS-WOMAN-FEED-ME-ALREADY!

It must be pretty confusing because I laugh at you almost through our whole nursing session. You are so predictable and funny. Realizing you're hungry is always such a sudden event and you do not take to the situation lightly. You are instantly furious, writhing and screaming lest I get you to my breast immediately. You can be mid-shriek as I lay you on my lap to pull up my shirt, and you know enough to know whats coming to quiet down. But I only have about .34 seconds before you start wailing again. As I bring you to my breast you inhale and exhale 3 to 4 times very quickly, from impatience or excitement I'm not quite sure. You rooting for my breast cracks me up; you are so ferocious about it. Apparently, nursing is an extremely serious task. Once latched, you almost always make a few little guttural noises as you exhale that almost sound like snickering. It is definitely a noise of success. When you first latch, you always suck so fast, as if you haven't eaten in days, all while scrunching your forehead and squinting your eyes. This is most definitely one of my favorite faces you make. While nursing you rotate between holding my hand, breast, or trying to poke your eye out.

But my favorite part about nursing, hands down, is if you break the latch before you intend to. I call you my little Velociraptor; you are all business. You usually let out one quick cry of frustration, scrunch up your little forehead (which wrinkles up for effect quite nicely) and begin wildly thrashing for my breast, upon which you thrust your head forward like a chicken on steroids pecking at the ground. It really is quite the site. If I wasn't so modest I'd take a video to have forever, but you'd probably think that I am crazy by the time you'd be old enough to find it funny anyways.

It's hard to believe we ever struggled with nursing in the beginning, what with you sucking in your bottom lip. You and I, kid, we're pros now. You're even finally gaining what you're supposed to (at least half an ounce a day) and you're chunking up to where those tiny little newborn outfits are actually starting to look a tad small on you. You were back up to your birth weight right around the 3-week mark, and at 3 weeks 3 days, you weighed 8lbs 1oz. I'm proud of you and glad you're healthy and growing like you're supposed to be, but I've gotta tell you; it breaks my heart.

Save for the first few nights home from the hospital and those AWFUL days and nights of having to be on/under the bili-lights, you have been an All Star in the sleep department. We go to bed around 11:30 and you sleep for four to five hours, nurse, and go right back to sleep for, get this, another four hours! This means I get 8 (not consecutive, but still!) hours of sleep a night. I have yet to really feel the 'new parent exhaustion'. But I'm not complaining! Okay, so I probably don't quite get eight hours because half the time you're asleep I spend just looking at you. It truly can't be helped, though. You are too darn adorable! You almost always have the cutest  little frown face on while sleeping, and the part that melts my cold, cold heart is your hold your tiny little hands right up by your face. Even in your ultrasound pictures, you did this. It is too sweet for words.

This first month has been a whirlwind of falling in love with you. From meeting you for the first time to already seeing big changes as you grow, I'm not sure how much more I can handle. But I'll be the first to tell you I can't wait to see what next month brings.
I love you more than I knew I ever could.

Love, Your Mommy

Your Favorite Things:

  1. Boobs. Seriously, though. You could eat and eat and eat. There hasn't been a problem yet a boob couldn't fix.
  2. The changing table. You LOVE being on the changing table. This is where you smiled the first smile that I count. (You were two and a half weeks. :)
  3. Your hands. You are always holding your hands, sucking on your hands, or just keeping them right next to your face.
  4. The ceiling fan. We lay you on the coffee table and you'll just gaze up at the fan (whether its moving or not) for quite a while.
  5. Being held. You really aren't that big of a fan of being put down, except every once in awhile, you love to just stretch out on your back. (Like on the coffee table to stare at the fan or on your changing table.)
  6. You have started to really enjoy hanging toys. On your play-mat or in your bouncer, you will sit and stare them down. A few times it looks like you're attempting to reach for them, but I'm still pretty sure its accidental. Soon, though!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

A Family is Born

Our labor and delivery went absolutely nothing like what we had planned or pictured. It was so much more and so much less than I could have ever imagined and though in the end we veered from our plan, I wouldn't have changed a thing. Our daughter came into this world naked and screaming, healthy and loved, and that was perfect for us.

DISCLAIMER: This is a birth story. If you don't want to, you know, hear a story about birth, I advise you to not continue reading. That being said, it isn't super gory. Beautiful as it may be, due to the nature of, well, birth, I probably will use words like 'cervix' and 'dilate' and maybe even a 'fluid' thrown in here or there. Consider yourself warned. :)

Wednesday the 12th of May was a quite non eventful day. My mom was in town, helping with the house, keeping my extremely 40-week-pregnant mind occupied so as to not let me go any more stir crazy and to hopefully be around for when my labor began. We moseyed around Spokane, bought some groceries, some flowers and planned pedicures for the following day.  After dinner we all took the beasts for a pretty good walk, came home and lounged on the couches for a bit before retiring for the night around 10PM. I tried to ignore the fact that our due date was a mere day away and I wasn't having many contractions, I hadn't dilated much if any in the last four or five weeks (at 35 weeks I was dilated to a 1-2 and 50% effaced) and generally wasn't showing any signs of impending labor. Except for, you know, the giant 40 week old baby that was living inside of me. Like every night, I fell asleep picturing what our daughter would look like.

I woke up shortly before midnight to console my screaming bladder. This was typical; for the last few months I was literally getting up 3-5 times a night to use the bathroom. Just as I stepped from the hallway onto the bathroom floor, I felt a weird popping sensation, and fluid started steaming from 'down there.' The excitement was INSTANT. I knew exactly what was going on, and I knew that labor was imminent. I called for Rob in the same shaky voice when I had called him into the bathroom 9 months prior to show him the pregnancy stick. This time, though, he SHOT out of bed, made sure he glanced at the clock (11:58PM) and came to see what had happened. He immediately got on the phone with our doctor's office who told us to come on in. I ran downstairs to wake my mom, threw a few last minute items into our hospital bags and loaded into the car. We were heading to the hospital. To give birth. To meet our daughter. To start our family.

I was in a stellar mood. Though my water had broken, I wasn't really experiencing any contractions and was filled with pure joy and excitement. We were sent straight back to OB triage, and after having verified my water truly had broken (a much more difficult task than it should have been since my body will never act normally medically) I was gowned and admitted into our labor and delivery room. I was checked and was dilated to a 2-3 and 50% effaced. Rob posted a message on Facebook letting people know it was 'game time.' It was surreal. We were sitting, comfortably and content, in the room in which our baby would be born.

No more than an hour later, I began contracting. I was extremely pleased my body began on my own, as I desperately wanted to avoid being induced. It only took a few contractions until they were strong, consistent and ALL in my back. Though I hadn't pictured myself having back labor, we still went through the motions. I relaxed my body, going entirely limp, allowing my body to do it's work. I breathed slowly and rhythmically, groaning as I exhaled, not from the pain but for distraction. It felt good to make noise. Rob would rub my back, putting pressure on as I requested, while my mom kept a cool washcloth on my face. All the while I pictured my uterus moving our baby down and out. It wouldn't be long until I could see her, hold her, breathe her in. We just had to get through each contraction, and one by one, they brought us closer to our sweet little girl.

I wont lie- the contractions were painful. But they weren't unbearable. They were not nearly as bad as people make labor out to be. The worst part is that they were in my back; it made it more difficult to picture my uterus working to deliver my baby. It also limited the varying positions I could labor in, as very few were comfortable. It was literally like having the kidney stones again, though this time I had a couple minute break every minute or two. The best part is there was zero pain between contractions. I was chipper and alert between them, and though for the most part I wasn't hooked up to a contraction monitor, you could tell instantly when one started because I would go limp and groan with my exhaled breaths.

My labor appeared to be progressing efficiently and pretty normal. I was contracting every 2-3 minutes, with the contractions  lasting about one and a half to two minutes each. For the majority of the labor I was laying in the Bradley Methods "side relaxation position" where you are on your side, almost belly, with your knee pulled up and resting on a pillow. This was by far the most comfortable position I could find, though we tried many. Our amazing day nurse, Maggie, was so supportive and helpful. She had us trying all different kinds of positions, she would practically take the bed apart to provide support for various positions, and she had all kinds of helpful advice. Not only was she an absolutely sweet heart, she was amazing at her job. I took a few showers, and one bath. (I was allowed only one bath with the tub plugged because since my water had broken, that could allow for infection which all of us wanted to avoid.) We had packed two (count them, TWO!) different things for me to wear while in the shower/tub so I could maintain my modesty, which didn't ever leave our bag. It is true what they say- modesty was out the window during labor and delivery. I count myself a VERY modest person, and I really, truly couldn't have cared less about who saw what.

I was checked at about 3:00PM, 13 hours into labor. I was only a 3-4. It was pretty disheartening; 13 hours of labor and only one centimeter to show for it. Dr. Zwiesler gave us until 6PM to show progress, or we were going to have to put me on a penicillin drip (an antibiotic since my water had been broken for so many hours) and pitocin to help with dilation. I was demoralized, but determined. For the next few hours we went gung-ho with walking, using the birth ball and hands-and-knee type positions that are known to help move baby down, thus further dilating the cervix. It was extremely painful and I was losing steam. I was on 24 hours of no caloric intake, I had been puking from the pain and thus losing liquids, and it had been nearly two full days since I had had some decent sleep. Between contractions, my mom swore I was going to faint because my eyes kept rolling back into my head.

About half an hour or so before they came to check me again, my contractions became AWFUL. They were literally one on top of another. I would have three to five minute long contractions with mere seconds between them. We thought for sure I was in transition, so we were very hopeful I had made some great progress and wouldn't have to be hooked up to an IV. But when she checked me, no such luck. I was still only measuring a 3-4. No progress meant the IV. It meant antibiotics and induction. It meant more time and more pain. I broke down.

Maggie, our wonder nurse, brought up pain management. I knew the pitocin was going to strengthen my contractions and, though I was relaxing pretty well on my own through each contraction, my morale and energy reserve were shot. She said if we could get my pain managed, my body would be able to better do it's work and move our baby down and out. 19 hours of the hardest work I've ever done, and I felt it was all in vain. We discussed our options between narcotics or an epidural. Narcotics, we were told, would be administered through the IV and into my blood stream, thus straight into the baby. The epidural wouldn't affect the baby nearly as much. Rob and I asked for some time alone to talk about it, and I totally lost it. I'm not so sure I've ever sobbed so hard or so long. I had failed. I knew I was going to take the epidural. I had to. Here we were practically starting from the beginning, and I was already 19 hours into the hardest work of my life.

About an hour later, I was given the epidural. I didn't really see the big deal- so many people complain about how painful it is and I didn't even feel it. Mind you pain has taken on a new meaning after 20 hours of back labor with no medication. Within about a half hour, I was no longer feeling my contractions. I attempted sleep, but felt too numb to drift off. I couldn't stand the feeling, so the anesthesiologist came back in and turned the epidural way down. That helped a bit, but I still wasn't a fan of not being able to feel my legs.

A little before midnight, right around the 24 hours of labor mark, I felt the very distinct feeling of needing to push. I was actually convinced I needed to poop, but when checked and told I was complete, 10 centimeters dilated and 100% effaced, we knew it was FINALLY time to meet little Reagan. After a few practice pushes, we decided to have me labor down. This was the most painful thing of the entire labor. It is hard to describe the need to push without using the needing to poop comparison, so I apologize. But laboring down is literally like having to use the bathroom extremely badly, but not being allowed to. With each contraction that was pushing our baby out, my body desperately wanted to push but I would refrain from doing so. What this does is allows my uterus to work at getting our baby out, without me expending energy.

While I still had my epidural, it had been turned WAY down and I was so uncomfortable during each contraction, that I was shaking like mad. I also had gone a little mad. I kept saying, over and over and over, "I am so hungry but I don't want food. Please don't make me eat food. I'm so hungry but I don't want to eat." I then obsessed with the manufacturers sticker on the ceiling light, complaining that I couldn't read what it said. And was that a phone number written on it? Does it say MKL? I then began complaining that through each contraction, as I moaned, I sounded like a whale. And I was SO afraid of pooping on the table, I kept asking if I pooped. "Are you sure? It stinks. I don't want to poop. Please don't judge me if I poop." (After the fact I was assured it never actually stank and I truly hadn't pooped. Thank goodness.) Like I said, I'd gone crazy.

During this whole time, though I was pretty unaware, Reagan's poor little heart rate shot down and then straight back up with nearly every contraction. While they were glad it would come right back, they didn't like how low her heart rate was dropping and were concerned with the stress it could be causing her. After consulting with a few different nurses, they all decided she seemed to be handling it, so we kept on keeping on.

Finally, shortly before 1:30AM, it was time to push. The relief was instant. I LOVED pushing! Rob and my mom each held one of my legs and we did three 10 second pushes through each contraction. The amount of pressure I felt was amazing, but it wasn't painful. It felt very good to actually be able to DO something. Dr. Zwiesler (sorry in advance...) massaged my perineum with mineral oil the ENTIRE time I was pushing to help prevent tearing since I wanted to avoid an episiotomy if at all possible. He really was a rock star. Reagan's heart rate began acting up again, and though I was unaware of it at the time, Dr. Zwiesler had ordered in the anesthesiologist and another doctor because we were pretty darn close to having an emergency c-section.

On my last contraction, after my three pushes, Dr. Zwiesler asked me to push one more time and I felt amazing relief as Reagan was born into this world, looking straight up. In no more than a second, she was screaming. As the doctor prepared her umbilical cord to be cut, I kept asking, "is she a girl? is she a girl?" Rob cut the cord, and then per my very adamant request, she was handed straight to me and I snuggled her right on my bare chest. It was pure and utter bliss.

Reagan was pretty purple since her oxygen had been being cut off with each contraction, thus the reason her heart rate had been fluctuating. They assumed her cord had been wrapped around her leg or something, and with each contraction, it was being squished and the oxygen supply cut off. They set an oxygen mask just next to her face while still on my chest, and in no more than a minute or two she had pinked right up. It took a bit for me to give her up to the baby nurse so they could check her vitals and get her weight. I laid in the delivery bed getting stitched up, (thanks to Reagan's idea of coming out face up instead of down, I got a nice 2nd degree tear and she came out so banged up and bruised she looked like she had been in a bar fight) and watched my husband watching his baby. My mom commented on how patient I was being while they were taking care of her, and I told her I was enjoying watching Rob with her too much to mind that I wasn't holding her. We finally had our family.

Reagan Lee Billiau was born at 2:02 AM on her due date, Friday May 14th 2010. She weighed in at 7 pounds, 15 ounces and 21 inches long. She was here and she was healthy. She was beautiful and she was perfect. And she was ours.