Saturday, March 28, 2009

emerging from the trenches

matthew propped up a few eames cards for leon since he was looking a bit bored with his crib. i'm so happy that leon can see things now, although that means we now have to work much harder to keep him amused.

so, it's been 5 weeks now since leon was born. a lot has happened, and yet a lot hasn't happened. the first 2 weeks were great. leon rarely cried or fussed. even though i was having a hard time breast-feeding (ouch), he was gaining weight like a pro. i had lost a lot of the baby weight immediately and was feeling confident that my body would bounce back in no time once my stitches healed.

our troubles began during week 3. the day after leon and i went to a post partum support group, he was inconsolable. all day long he fussed, grunting and whining. i couldn't leave his side and went nearly mad trying to figure out how to make him happier. the next day was better, but feedings became more difficult. he would eat for shorter periods (3-5 minutes), stop, and then commence screaming at my breast. i tried not to take it personally. it got so bad that i would try to force him on, and he would scream and push me away, which obviously isn't a good tactic on my part. at one point during the night i made matthew take him away from me because i was about to lose it.

ever since then, we have good feedings, and then we have really awful ones. often he will stop eating if he has a poopy diaper. after this happens, he starts screaming until we change it. he also will stop feeding and begin writhing violently while crying at least 4 times in a 24 hour period. i suspect that he's constipated, but i don't know how to make it better, so i rub his belly, burp him, and hope for the best.

oh yes. my life revolves around leon's digestive system.

a huge part of the problem is that leon and i are having a really hard time getting to know each other. i'm terrible at reading him, and well, he's just a baby, so i can't expect him to do much in return. when he turns bright red, i know he's about to start his high-pitched wail, so i scoop him up immediately and try to soothe him with a little bouncing. this doesn't always work. i check his diaper, offer him something to eat, and then bounce him some more. sometimes there's a diaper leakage issue, so i check for that, too.

leon feeds an average of 14 times a day, which equals 12-16 diaper changes. i thought things would get better after 4 weeks, but no such luck. after a feeding, it takes him about 20 minutes to settle. 30 minutes later, he's waking up again and preparing to feed. a diaper change and feeding later, the cycle begins again.

the pregnancy was easy. yes i was tired and nauseated, my joints ached, and i was intensely uncomfortable. but i was able to get work done through sheer determination.

the labor and delivery wasn't easy, but it was manageable. i have a high tolerance for pain, and knowing it would end within a day or so helped me get through it.

the past 5 weeks haven't been easy. i won't lie and say that all this hard work is worth is because i have an adorable baby. i don't know what anything's worth right now because i'm in the thick of things...and it's been very very hard on me. it would be great if matthew were home more to relieve me of a crying leon. my mother has been a huge help, especially when i was sick for a week with a low fever, chills, body aches, etc. unfortunately, she has been sick with a persistent, nasty cold for the past week, which means i've had to take care of her, leon, and the household chores. i know i can't get much of my own work done right now, but it would be nice to read an article once in awhile, just to remind myself of who i was and who i could become.

and yet, things are slowly getting better. leon sleeps more often in the bed with us, which helps with nighttime feedings. i'm also very careful not to force him during feedings. if he stops, that means something's the matter. so i burp him, check his diaper, and try to keep him in a calm state. i've begun jogging, which makes me feel ten times better during the rest of the day. i know i still have a long way to go before i feel like my body is back to normal, but just being able to go outside makes a huge difference.

i know i'll be in a much better place mentally and physically in a month or two, but that sense of perspective doesn't help me tremendously right now. it's difficult to go from grad student writing a dissertation to full-time parent. i would say that of everything that's going on right now, breast feeding is by far the most difficult thing i've ever done. i often think of quitting, but then i see how well he's growing and gaining weight, and that makes it hard for me to stop.

it will get better. it will get better. until then, every day is a challenge, every nap a small victory....

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

getting dressed is such a chore

onesie by stephanie
jelly baby changing pad

newborn sized diapers are getting too tight...

flora and henri lap-tee

makie hadagi

you'd think any son of mine would love getting dressed in the morning. poor leon, his patience is sorely tested as i try out various outfits on him. just wait until he's older. we'll both be late for appointments due to last-minute wardrobe changes.

one month old

tummy-time with a little help from matthew.
hospital weight and length: 6 lbs, 4 oz, 19.5 inches
yesterday at the pediatrician: 9 lbs, 4 oz, 23.4 inches

eating every 1 hour
warm hands and feet
taking a tour of the house
lifting head and attempting to roll over
eating every 2 hours

laying on back
dirty diapers
diaper changes
waiting for food

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

planning our great escape

today leon saw the world for the first time. i held him over my shoulder and he was utterly silent (a welcome respite), his eyes darting and focusing on his surroundings. when i held him in front of our large bay window, i could finally tell that he was able to see something.

the number of times i've left the house since he was born.
pediatrician--4 times
postpartum support group--once
school--once for a lecture
grocery store--2 times
walk around the block--2 times
coffee shop--once

my mother is keeping me under house arrest for one month. last thursday when i had a low fever, body chills, migraine, and engorgement for two days, i could tell she felt vindicated. i haven't left the house since thursday, except to water the plants on the deck once. i know i'm so lucky to have someone cooking, cleaning, and helping with leon, but it can be very frustrating when you're told that asian bodies are different and therefore i can't leave the house and can only eat and drink hot things for the first three weeks. i could go on and on, but instead leon and i are planning our escape.

the weather is steadily improving and spring break is next week. i haven't worn my new mayle mirabelle dress yet, so i think it's time to make reservations at craigie on main to finally have my birthday dinner, two months late.

and next week my mother and i have massages in arlington, so maybe leon will finally get to go outside. his stroller (micralite toro) arrived last week, but since i didn't buy a carrycot, i'm not sure he'll be able to use it for a few more months. we bought it on ebay for half off, and it arrived new in box with the warranty card and everything. if we hadn't bought it for so cheap, we would have ordere the maclaren techno xt. i'm so over $600+ strollers!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

different is different

39 weeks, final belly shot

41 weeks

rings still don't fit

post-delivery, everything about my body is different. my fingers are still so swollen that i can't even get my rings past the second knuckle. matthew's wedding band, however, fits. i've heard that sometimes your ring and shoe size never goes back. i hope the swelling goes down soon, i haven't worn my rings in over two months. i might give my mom back her diamond (top ring) and have my original wedding set re-sized if they still don't fit come summertime.

i lost about 10 lbs immediately following leon's birth, which means i have about 8 lbs and 3 inches off my waist to go. even though i can fit into my clothing (more or less), my belly is soft. right now the extra skin and fat is welcome because i can rest leon on it while nursing. all those boppy pillows stress me out more than they help with positioning. plus, he's into snacking, so my arms aren't killing me--yet. i am counting down the days until i can jog again, but even with my mom's cooking, breastfeeding seems to be burning the calories. and oh yes, proper posture is essential. my back is killing me. having never needed to wear a bra before, i feel like i've embarked on a strange new relationship with my body. that and the need to feed leon at least every 3 hours or else i have to pump just to get some relief. hopefully my milk supply and leon's feeding schedule will eventually reach a happy medium.

i sleep 2-3 hours at a time, but after the first two nights, i don't mind so much. it's amazing how quickly i've adapted to nighttime nursing. leon doesn't cry too often, although yesterday he whined all day long because he was tired and cranky from the previous day's activities (pediatrician and postpartum support group). i've learned my lesson. leon is staying home and napping until he's a little bit older. yesterday was super hard. i thought i could start working on my dissertation again this week, but dealing with a cranky inconsolable newborn set me straight. he's usually very alert and accommodating, but yesterday he discovered the power of crying and fussing. i don't think i left his side for more than 20 minutes.

we're still fond of him, even at his crankiest.

Friday, March 6, 2009

chunky express

leon left the hospital at 6lbs, 4oz. he was diagnosed with mild jaundice, and the pediatrician told me to supplement his feeding with pumped breastmilk or formula. she said it so casually, without even asking me if i had any concerns about introducing a bottle so early on. i was incensed. she told us to buy an electric pump (expensive!) but that it wouldn't be covered by our insurance since it wasn't 'medically necessary.' i used a hand pump, but leon wasn't interested in the bottle. the next day we returned to the pediatrician. he had gained 4oz. in one day. she was shocked when i told her that it was all from nursing. she then said, 'well, in that case, you don't need to pump.' and that was it. i felt so annoyed because agreeing to use a bottle was a big deal for me. i'm just happy that my boy is gaining weight. we've been having some latching issues, but it's getting better, and clearly he hasn't had any problems getting the nutrition he needs. he's still tiny, but i've no doubt he's going to be a roly-poly in no time.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Sunday, March 1, 2009

leon's birthing day

for leon, who has the hiccups but is still hoping for more food...

i think it started saturday night when i received an email from my adviser wondering whether i could turn in my dissertation outline and a second chapter by sunday. having not communicated with him about my writing for nearly a month, i had assumed he was going to let me float by for old time's sake. i immediately started panicking--i stayed up until 1am finishing the outline, and then went to bed. needless to say, the belly wasn't feeling well. i assumed it was nerves.

the next morning i awoke at 8am, went to the bathroom and found a bit of bloody show. i reread my adviser's email, which stated he needed to see two chapters in order to write my finishing grant letter of recommendation, and that i should just 'try.'

i immediately sat on my yoga ball and began tapping away furiously at the laptop. my sporadic braxton hicks contractions started to feel suspiciously consistent, but i decided against timing them. matthew woke up soon after and left for a shift at the coffeeshop. he would be gone until 3, and then a haircut appointment at 4.30. i asked him to leave the car because i was becoming nervous.

at 10am i emailed my doula to tell her about the mucous plug and the contractions, which were definitely developing a pattern. on a scale of 1 to 10 for menstrual cramps, they went from a 1 (that nagging, bland ache) to a 2 or 3 (general annoyance).

my phone rings at 11 am. it's my adviser. this man rarely gets up before noon, so now i know i'm in trouble. he asks how i'm doing. 'fine,' i say, somewhat evasively. 'what does that mean?' he asks. 'mmmm, well....i'm having contractions, it's the early stage of labor.' 'oh,' he replies, 'but did you get my email?' 'yes, i'll get you something by 3 or 4 this afternoon, i'm really really sorry.' 'i need to see two chapters, you know, in order to write this letter. the chapter you sent is long, it could easily be split into two chapters, maybe, but you should just try to get me a second chapter today.' 'ok, don't worry, i'll send you a second chapter. did you read my outline?' 'uh, no, i haven't checked my email yet...' 'oh, ok, because it's like 12 pages long. i'll send you the chapter on planning today.' 'good. all right, talk to you later.' 'bye.'

it's now 12pm, and i've begun keeping track of the contractions. they're 1 minute long and 10 minutes apart. in terms of the level of pain, they're now hovering around 4. not enough to take your breath away, but definitely enough that you want to curl up in a ball and watch 'pride and prejudice' with a mug of hot cocoa.

my mom is clattering about in the kitchen, and i stagger out for a piece of toast. as usual, she's cooking something delicious smelling. i tell her in my calmest voice that i had bloody show this morning and now light contractions, but not to get excited because this could take a day or two. she's excited, i'm stressed. i go back to my yoga ball and finish up a section of the new chapter.

at 2pm i call my doula. she had been having computer problems, so i wanted to check in with her. per my suspicions, she hadn't read the email yet. in fact, her new laptop was in the repair shop. i tell her about everything, and she says that it sounds great and that it's progressing normally. the main thing that interests her is the bloody show. i confirm that there's been more of that. this makes her happy.

during this time i do a little blogging during my mini-breaks, call matthew 2 or 3 times to be snippy about this or that thing that he needs to do around the house. he arrives at 3.30pm and doesn't seem too concerned about my state. a contraction hits and it seems much much worse this time. i suspect it's because i'm so exhausted from doing this alone; seeing matthew makes me emotional. the added emotion accelerates the pain. at 3.50pm i turn to him and say i can't work on this chapter any longer. as soon as it's sent, i begin focusing on the contractions with all my energy.

all of the laboring positions and rituals that we had practiced are thrown out the window. sitting on the yoga ball, walking, or resting on my hands and knees only makes things unbearable. i labor on my side in bed for an hour, and then we call erin, our doula. she suggests that i sit in a warm bath. no relief. instead, it intensifies.

i get back in bed, and i'm freezing. my mom places hot water bottles on my back and between my legs. they leave red blotches on my skin. my feet are like ice blocks, and all i can do is focus on the contractions, which are now 4-5 minutes apart. at this point i've hit 10 on my pain scale. matthew is trying to rub my back, but i'd rather just know that he's here. after all, that's why i hired a massage therapist doula to take care of that aspect of my labor.

the bath clearly has intensified the contractions. my mom has been feeding me throughout the day, huge bowls of soup, rice, fruit, tea, and other filling things. she tries to feed me congee (jjuk), but i can only take a tiny bite in between contractions. a little after 6pm it's like a light has been switched on. during a contraction matthew tries to comfort me, but all i can say is 'i want erin, i want erin...' he calls erin and she listens to me go through a contraction. she decides to come to our house and suggests that we call the hospital, which we haven't done yet.

matthew calls the hospital and passes the phone to me. a midwife i've never met listens to me as i pause for a contraction. she then tells us to head for the hospital. erin arrives 20 minutes later to find me still on my side, breathing and growling through each contraction. she tells me to bring my voice down and keep it soft. this helps immensely with the panic and registering of pain. she helps me use the toilet, where i feel a vague need to push. walking intensifies the contractions, making them stronger and closer together. it takes 30 minutes to make it to the car downstairs. every few steps i crouch down to breathe through a contraction. it's raining outside, and cold. i hoist myself into our car, recline the seat, and labor on my side during the 6 minute car ride. matthew is ever calm, ever reliable, but i feel alone now.

by the time we arrive at the hospital and matthew parks, i can barely keep my eyes open. erin runs to get a wheelchair, and matthew and i start walking toward the front door. the ride up the elevator and to the birthing center is ridiculously long and painful, every bump makes me want to die.

it's nearly 7.30pm when i'm placed on the triage bed. thankfully one of the midwives that we know is working tonight. they put on a heart monitor belt and check my cervix. even turning from my side to my back is a production at this point. i tell them that the amniotic sac still hasn't ruptured. they tell me it's fine and then leila announces that i'm fully dilated. up til this point i hadn't even thought about my cervix, dilation, or the progression of labor, so it was a shock to hear this. i also felt incredibly empowered, knowing that i had labored this baby all day, half of it by myself, and that he would be out sooner rather than later.

they wheel me to the labor and delivery room, and i tell them i think i want to push. they tell me to push if i really need to. i have no idea what i'm supposed to do. they suggest i try different positions. i slowly sit up and turn to face the raised head of the bed. kneeling while holding the top railing, i bear down with the contraction and push twice. after every contraction matthew gives me a sip of water. he's forgotten my vitamin water, but that isn't surprising since we'd only begun packing our bags two days earlier.

the kneeling position isn't my favorite, so i switch to my side. leila and mischa (the nurse) help raise my knees so i can hook my hands under them and pull my legs towards my chest during the push. i look at my surroundings during a pause and am completely disoriented even though we had done a hospital tour last month. i am convinced that the open door with light streaming from it is a door to the hallway and that everyone can hear me. instead of telling someone to close the door for privacy, it becomes a badge of honor for me. i'm so focused and deep in labor that i have no sense of shame. only one thing matters at this point.

after laboring on my side for a while (i lost track of time), they suggested i switch to my back. i was so exhausted from every push because i wasn't conserving my energy or holding back. i hook my hands behind my knees and matthew pushes the pillow to prop me up during the pushes. at this point i can feel something stuck down there, but then it keeps slipping back during my rests. my mom, matthew, erin, leila and mischa are all saying things, but i can only hear bits and pieces. they says things like, 'that was a really good push,' 'do that again,' 'oh you're doing so well...' i have no idea what i'm doing, but at this point my body has really taken over. i used to think it was silly that some people called contractions 'surges,' but that's what they are for me. leila tells me to use the contraction, wait for it to build up before pushing. so i let the waves of terrible godawful pain to push up against me until i can't stand it any longer. then i hold my breath and push deep.

leila tells me that every push is great, and that i need to push him under and around my pelvic bone. i have no idea what this means. repeatedly during the night i ask them how far down he is. they're evasive, telling me only that i'm doing a really good job of laboring him down. i ask them repeatedly to just pull him out if he's so close. erin tells me later that i said matthew should have the next one. i also remember saying at least once that i'm never doing this again, that this is the first and last child for me. my mom replies that i'll forget about the pain, to which i snap, 'no i won't, i'll never forget this.'

i don't what time it is, but leila tells me that since the amniotic sac is still intact, a pediatrician will be there for the birth to make sure the baby is ok. if he doesn't cry immediately, they'll have to take care of him. i tell her not to break the sac because i'm afraid it will intensify the pain. she says that it's in the birth canal at this point and won't do anything to increase the pain. a minute later there's a warm gush of fluid and a slight release in pressure. erin tells me that my pushes are more effective when i don't breathe out. so i bite my upper lip with each push, hoping to keep my breath inside to better harness the energy and strength provided by the pain of each contraction.

leila tells me again to push him under and around the pelvic bone, and i visualize a swooping chute. after a contraction, the next push feels different. it feels productive, as if i'm finally moving something along. leila tells me excitedly to stick with that push, do it again. pushing makes sense to me all of a sudden. i don't know what time it is, but they're getting all sorts of things prepared for his arrival. the pediatrician arrives with an entourage of three other people. they stand next to the warming unit, their arms crossed, chattering about c-sections and other distracting things.

our birth plan consists of two things: 1) do not offer pain medication/interventions, and 2) a quiet environment. erin comes close to my face and begins whispering instructions and encouragement. i tune out the obnoxious pediatrician. even matthew and my mom fade into the hazy background. i focus on her voice and on the pushing. i can smell matthew but i don't know where he is any more. everyone is disembodied. i want this baby out, i'm so sick of having him wedged somewhere up there. leila asks if i want to touch his head and i shake my head no. i'd rather not suffer the disappointment when his head slips back in after the contraction.

there's a flurry of excitement, i can hear it especially in matthew's voice, at a certain point in the evening. they tell me to do another push, so i begin working through 3 or 4 at a time instead of 2. the final push, however, is never quite as good, and they decide to give me oxygen in between contractions. i'm so exhausted at this point from pushing and writing a chapter and everything else that has been going on for the past semester. the pain is beyond reckoning at this point, but i know it's going to end soon.

leila tells me to follow her instructions during the next contraction. i push once, and there's a feeling of simultaneous relief and discomfort. the head is out. another push and the shoulders. one more and the legs. slippery, warm, and wet, a loud squall, and he's on my stomach. he's crying and has a fierce look in his eyes.

i ask what time it is.

it's 9.40pm, feb 22, 2009.