Archive for January, 2011

Six Months Later
January 15, 2011

Every night for the past five months, I’ve showered, brushed my teeth and tucked myself in next to a cherub.  She’s usually been asleep for a couple hours at this point, snuggled in her swing or in her father’s arms, cheeks rosy from warm torpor, little mouth still sucking away at a breast that’s no longer there.  We call her Teagopottomus because of her hippo legs, but almost six months ago, we didn’t call her much all.  Mostly Hey You as in Hey You, get out of there and Hey You, it’s time to be born.

40 week belly

Eleven days before Teagan came

 

It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost six months since she was born—it feels like forever and yet no time at all.  Of course, after a child is born, it’s impossible to conceive of life without her.  How did I survive each day without one of her gummy grins?  Or her dark blue eyes?  Or without cleaning lint out of those deep crevices made by her fat rolls?

But, at the same time, it’s gone by way too fast.  She’s my last baby!  Why does she insist on learning to roll and sit up and wanting to do anything other than snuggle in my arms?

Ms. Claus

Who needs Mom?

I am extraordinarily lucky.  In lots of ways, her birth and early life was scary and dramatic and worthy of lots of dark, anxious feelings that I don’t have.  I am lucky, because for me, the roughness of her birth and the pain of her NICU stay, are eclipsed by the pinkish, giggling reality I get to cradle every day.  I am lucky because I have a protective, tender husband; a deeply giving mother-in-law and father-in-law; a father and his (now ex) girlfriend who’ve made themselves incredibly available; a mother and step-father who are falling in love over and over again with my children; and a long-distance aunt and a long-distance grandma who supplies us with help via text and Facebook when she can’t visit.  I have too many best friends to count, one of whom had a baby three weeks before Teagan, and still managed to find time to bake us entire meals, organize a meal registry so other people could make us meals, and watch Noah when we had our hands full with a newborn.  I have a best friend who hasn’t yet had children of her own and who’s adopted mine with abandon.  Leave her alone with a kid and you’ll come back five minutes later to a full-fledged photo shoot (I love it!).

And obviously, there’s Noah, who dares you not to smile or laugh, Noah of the spontaneous hugs and kisses and thick tousled hair.  Yes, I am lucky.

Noah Playing Play Doh

Noah not eating Play-Doh...for the moment

Not all women are so blessed.  Some are single mothers.  Some have family and friends, but miles away.  Some have to go to work or are sick or injured from birth.  Some women with an emergency c-section and subsequent NICU stay end up with post-partum depression.  Honestly, it’s a crapshoot who gets off the surgery table with hope for the future, who comes out the NICU with the warm fuzzies.

So lucky.

So recognizing that luck, I wanted to reflect back a little, now that it’s been six months and I’ve earned a little perspective.

First, the terrible horrible no good very bad parts of a CBAC:

The pain

The pain

The pain.

There were a couple reasons that the pain was so miserable, so beyond anything I’d experienced.  I think one was the long labor, and that my body had reached the second stage of labor before Teagan went into distress.  I think another (and probably most important reason) is that I didn’t rest after surgery.  With Noah, I laid in bed and made everyone bring me food, water, the hungry baby, etc.  With Teagan, starting four hours after her birth, I heaved my wounded, puffy body like a post-partum Shelob up to the NICU and then back down again.  After I moved onto the same floor, I trekked the quarter mile from my room to her little cubby.   I passed huge clots, some grapfruit sized, which the doctors didn’t seem concerned about.  Even on Naproxen and Loretab, tears would leak out of my eyes whenever I stood up or laid down or moved too suddenly.  It took six weeks for the pain to go away.  In fact, even though my cycle still hasn’t returned, I have painful cramping every two or three weeks or so.  And to add insult to injury, my paunchy mommy tummy is extra gross from the second c-section scar.  I have discovered girdles, let’s say.

Initially we struggled some with breast-feeding, but there was no lasting legacy of that.  I’d breastfed before, plus, if things hadn’t gotten better, I would have found professional help.  Breast-feeding is one of the most important things I do as a mother and I refused to be frightened away.

The good parts of Teagan’s birth:

Because I finally dilated to complete, so many of my doubts were laid to rest.  I can labor.  I can birth; if Teagan hadn’t had both fists up by her head, she would have been born vaginally.  No more scarlet “4 cm” on my chest.  No more “Failure to progress” tattooed on me.  Not to lay too much blame at the feet of a drooling infant, but, essentially, the c-section was because of Teagan’s realities.  Not mine.  Her distress was so apparent, so distinctive, that after the forceps attempt failed, I would have cut her out of my belly myself.  Having a c-section for a compellingly necessary reason?  A lot different than a c-section from a (basically) failed induction.

Bonding wasn’t a process—it was instant and as dreamy as falling in love.  We weren’t picnicking on a beach or gazing at stars, but we might as well have been.  Again, I’m very lucky.

Rocking Chair

Babymoon bliss

Would I do anything differently?

Absolutely not.  I felt comfortable with the amniotomy, since I would have had one that Monday (two days away) anyhow.  I loved my doulas, and I had three of them!  Swaying in my skirt, with Jill rubbing my back and Elizabeth holding my hands, was perfect.  Alyssa talking me through the wrenching Pitocin contractions was perfect.   My dark room with Josh kissing me was perfect.  And when I’d been stuck at five centimeters for several hours, writhing under the Pitocin, the epidural was perfect.  I briefly felt some shame about it—part of me wished I could have toughed it out to earn some stripes—but if I hadn’t had the epidural, I would have gone under general if Teagan had gone into distress.  I’m also fairly certain that the epidural helped me relax.  Three hours after I got it, I was complete and ready to push.  I don’t regret trying the forceps—if Dr. P had been able to pull her out, it would have been quicker than a c-section and I still would have had a vaginal birth.

The only thing I would change—and this is going to sound silly—I would have drank more water. Dr. P and Dr. E felt that my amniotic fluid was low because I was a week and a half past my due date.  I’m not sure, but I do know that I wasn’t hydrating well enough in the hottest parts of summer.  In fact, I wasn’t hydrating very much at all.  I hate water and I hate drinking it.  It’s only after working at an office full of holistic practitioners that I’ve grudgingly admitted to myself that I need to drink more.  (I’m getting better.)  Maybe if I had been better hydrated, I would have had more fluid and Teagan wouldn’t have gotten stuck in a compound position.

I learned a lot from Teagan’s birth.  One thing is that a beauty and love can take a hundred different forms and that a woman with a labor full of interventions and obstetrics can feel just as much pleasure looking back as anyone else.  In that same vein, I can completely respect and encourage an (informed) decision to have an elective repeat c-section in a way that I couldn’t before I had Teagan.  Physically, an emergency CBAC after a trial of labor is downright terrible.  From what I understand, it’s easier to recover from a scheduled repeat than it is from a CBAC following a long labor.  Of course, a VBAC is the easiest to recover from of the three, and most women who attempt a VBAC get one.

Above all, I am overwhelmed by the magnitude and subjectivity and raw spirit of birth.

It’s impossible to idealize or stereotype or classify once you’ve truly been present.  I will always think it’s wrong to tell a woman that a healthy baby is all the matters.  But I’m blessed that when I bury my nose in Teagan’s head and kiss her little eyelids, her being, her chubby little existence, more than drowns out the panic and separation that happened in July.

I am lucky.

Beautiful Teagan

Are you in love yet?