The first six weeks: Breastfeeding, Google, and Inferiority Complexes

Second-guessing oneself, I’ve learned in the last six weeks, is probably the most consistent side effect of new parenthood. It’s a good day for me if I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve questioned whether I’m doing things right or if a particular crying jag is going to irreparably damage Arthur’s young psyche. (Today’s upset over a gassy tummy, for the record, falls into that category.) I don’t know if an inferiority complex will show up on any exam, but I’m fairly certain I’m developing one.

My Google search history will reflect that. Google’s predictive text completion has already adapted to the 99.9% probability that if I’m using the search engine, it has to do with common baby concerns. “My baby hasn’t had a dirty diaper in a day and a half.” (Apparently normal for breastfed babies.) “My baby’s legs are bowed.” (Also normal. In other news, why hasn’t someone written a book of all the weird crap about newborns that nobody ever talks about?)

Breastfeeding has been my biggest source of anxiety from the beginning – in fact, since pregnancy. My mother was never able to breastfeed, and I don’t know that my grandma ever tried. The unfortunate psychological side effect of that is that my mom’s attempts to be supportive have all been laced with, “I hope you can breastfeed, since I had so much trouble with it.” Thanks, Mom. Super encouraging.

Arthur’s weight gain has been an uncertain development, which added to the concern on my end. He was 8 lb 9 oz at birth, and I don’t know what his weight was right before leaving the hospital a day and a half later. The next day was his first check; the doctor’s (old) baby scale was broken, so they took his weight by weighing me* and then having me hold him. He was “about” 8 pounds. According to the baby scale, fixed at his visit two weeks later, he still only weighed 8 pounds even. Our doctor** wasn’t concerned – he said we would discuss it at his one-month check if Arthur still hadn’t gained weight.

Our one-month appointment was last week. The baby scale weighed him at 8 lb 10 oz, still well below the 50th percentile according to the WHO’s baby growth chart, but a healthy gain of about 5 ounces a week.

But… The next day I had an appointment with a lactation consultant. I wanted reassurance from a professional that I wasn’t imagining all of the other signs that Arthur was getting enough to eat. There is no worse feeling in the world than the thought that I was unintentionally starving my son out of a misguided belief that I was doing everything right. The LC was quick to reassure me, especially after she weighed him on her digital scale. He came in at 9 lb 6 oz. She weighed him again, with the same result. She checked her scale against a hand weight; it was calibrated correctly. (She also told me we were doing everything right. Great appointment.)

Now we’re on to the next adventure: pumping.

*I gained 17-20 pounds during pregnancy – I lost 20 pounds between my last OB appointment (Monday) and Arthur’s first appointment (Friday).

**Our doctor is a family doctor (DO), not a pediatrician. Our family has gone to his practice since his father treated my great-grandparents, making Arthur the fifth generation to be a patient there. I like the continuity…and the ability to schedule tandem appointments for both of us. 🙂

 

From 0 to Baby – Arthur’s Birth Story

Monday, June 17 – yet another appointment

As I wrote on Father’s Day, by the time I hit 39 weeks I had become a regular fixture in my OB’s office. Rather than stick to our weekly appointment schedule or even a twice-weekly one, she wanted me to come in every other day for monitoring and checking. “Go ahead and make the next appointment,” she’d say, before repeating that she expected me to go “any time”.

Despite her refrain, though, things just weren’t happening. I was still only dilated to 3 cm after two weeks of appointments, and the only consistency in my contractions was that they never really went away. It felt like a particularly cruel form of torture to continue going into these visits only to be sent back home to wait it out.

June 17 started my second week of maternity leave, another source of frustration. Nine weeks seems (to our deprived sensibilities) like a vast length of time…until you spend the first week of it still swollen in pregnancy, willing your child to come out and feeling otherwise unable to do just about anything.

I talked to Brian before we saw the doctor and we decided to ask about induction. As much as I wanted to deliver naturally, by that moment I just wanted to deliver, period. I was sure, given that the baby was large and she was so sure I was ready to pop, that she would agree to that. However, she was adamant that because I hadn’t “technically” reached my due date that she wouldn’t do anything to speed up the process. I broke down sobbing in the exam room; her only comfort to me was that we could go back to twice-weekly appointments, since her efforts to “reassure” me with constant exams was not having the desired effect. I left the office tired and dejected, with an appointment for Thursday.

That afternoon I had a discussion with one of my friends in which I suggested that maybe Arthur would just decide not to arrive, that his uterine home was comfortable enough to grow to adulthood inside of me instead of with the rest of the world. I went to bed that night resolved not to get my hopes up any more – and to hound my OB for induction the second we made it to that point.

Tuesday, June 18 – 3:00 am

I didn’t hear a *pop* like some mothers do. I was asleep one moment, then it seemed I woke at the exact moment that a gush of amniotic fluid went out over my side of the bed. Thank goodness for that shower liner…

I tapped Brian on the shoulder: “Honey, I don’t mean to alarm you, but my water just broke.”

That got his attention. “What? W-what do I do?”

“A towel would be good for starters.”

I put in a message to the doctor on call; then, while we waited for her to call back we stripped the bed and called our parents. We got dressed, fed the cats and were out the door within half an hour. I was contracting, but nothing worse or more frequent than I had experienced thus far. We made it to UH – MacDonald by 4 am, and 20 minutes later we were settled into our labor & delivery room.

Angela was our admitting nurse, and she was fantastic. After my initial check showed I was still only dilated to 3 cm, Angela took a copy of our birth plan and went over each item. The first thing that 99% of people tell you about birth plans is to be prepared to throw them out the window, but I needn’t have worried – she immediately put the papers in my file and let the resident on duty know. Other than vital sign monitoring and occasional checks around shift changes, I was left to progress as I would.

Or, as it turned out, would not.

3:00 pm – Pitocin

By early afternoon I had only progressed 1 cm, from 3 to 4, and my contractions were still not much more than annoying. I walked, I waited, I even napped, but at 3 pm the OB on call told me that they would need to start me on a Pitocin drip to avoid being pushed into any more complicated corners as time went on. I had already used up half of my post-water-breaking time, and to let things go any longer would put us at risk for infection and C-section.

It’s not surprising, perhaps, but a little ironic that this – the item in my birth plan about which I was most adamant – was the point on which I would have to yield. Still, it was the least of all possible evils.

When they give you Pitocin, they start you on a 2 milliunit drip; then, the dosage increases by 2 up to 30 milliunits depending on how much help you need. It takes roughly 20 minutes for each dosage increase to take effect, then they monitor you for 30-60 minutes to check on your progress. Once I was hooked to the IV I wasn’t able to walk around freely anymore; instead, I was tethered to the fetal monitor so they could make sure the Pitocin wasn’t causing Arthur undue stress.

It didn’t take 20 minutes for the first dose to kick in. What were still only vaguely uncomfortable twinges up to that point suddenly took on an edge that had me closing my eyes and steeling myself through breathing. My primary visualization was of surfing – riding a wave to the crest and then sliding in to shore as the contraction eased. I was sure that 2 milliunits would do the trick, but when the doctor checked me I hadn’t progressed any further. Up to 4…

Then 6…

Then 8…

The Blurry Time – around 10:00 pm 

I’m hazy on the details between 8 and 12 milliunits. All I distinctly remember is Angela (back for the next night shift) telling me that the progress I had made (up to around 6 cm) wasn’t enough and that if she didn’t bump up the Pitocin drip soon that the doctors would be making some difficult decisions for me. I told her to do what she had to do.

The contractions melted into one another at this point. I would lean back, hoping to ease pressure only to make it twice as bad. Dr. Reider was there for the night shift, and he told me that Arthur was transverse – sunny side up – meaning that contractions would put much more pressure on my lower back than my front. Like mother, like son… He suggested that I sway between contractions (I was standing at this point) to try and get him to turn on his own, so for the next hour I did just that. I contracted…I swayed…I screamed.

(To the other mothers delivering that night, I’m sorry. I wasn’t really dying.)

Then, the magic words: “You’re complete, you can start pushing!”

11:40 pm – We’re so close to the wire; I was unaware of everything but the pushing. Every contraction I bore down for 3 or 4 10-second pushes. I stood in my own way for awhile, pushing hard and then pulling back at the last second out of fear that I would tear or just not be able to handle the pain. The minutes ticked down closer to Wednesday, and each time Dr. R told me that he could see the head, “one or two more pushes”, I tried just a little harder.

11:58 pm – I pushed three times. I took my legs down and breathed heavily. Dr. R suddenly bent back down and as he reached, I felt the urge to push again. One half-push later and in the next moment there was a beautiful, messy little baby lying on my chest.

Putting it all together 

Arthur was born at 11:58 pm June 18, 2013. He weighed 8 lb, 9 oz and measured 21 inches long. He has gorgeous blue eyes and came into the world already alert and curious.

Though my mom is convinced labor started the night before with some back pain, from water breaking to delivery I counted 21 hours. I was on Pitocin for eight hours, and pushed for just under one.

I delivered without pain medication. I had a single surface tear that the doctor was reluctant to even call first degree because of how slight it was.

The pediatric resident and nurses monitored Arthur in the L&D room for just over two hours, for “floppiness” and shallow breathing. He swallowed some of the copious amniotic fluid, and when the nurses suctioned him he responded quite well. We moved up to Postpartum at 3 am on June 19, 24 hours after our story began.

So much has happened since that most amazing day in our lives so far. While new parenthood makes regular updates somewhat difficult to accomplish, it’s full of even more wonderful (and frustrating) moments that I plan to share in this space.

Here goes the best journey of my life. 🙂