A month and a bit.

Powerball is now just over a month old.  Five weeks yesterday, to be exact.  I’m not entirely sure what else to say about that.  To write a one month developmental update seems like a disservice to him (newborns don’t actually do very much) and to write a comparison of his first month versus Bingo’s feels like a disservice to her (her first month was much, much harder).  So, what to say of the last month?

Sea and I have both been at home with Powerball, while Bingo continues to go to preschool/childcare every day.  Those eightish hours a day, five days a week, feel like luxury.  I remember when Bingo was born, having one newborn at home seemed so stressful.  Not so now.  Instead, Powerball naps and nurses as we wonder at just how easy it is to have a child who can’t yet move independently or tell you in certain terms exactly what you’re doing wrong.  Our house has stayed moderately clean, we haven’t succumbed to scurvy, I’ve showered almost enough.  This feels like success. (That said, I’m still wearing the same clothes as I was yesterday, having fallen asleep in them at 10pm last night.)

Napping and nursing are pretty much the only things Powerball does, and he does a great deal of both.  This isn’t a complaint, at all.  Because in spending all of his time napping and nursing, he leaves very little room for crying– one of Bingo’s favourite activities of infancy.  Aside from the fact that it’s constant, the nursing is going well.  I was shocked to discover that nursing didn’t have to be horribly painful, that my nipples didn’t have to bleed, that a baby doesn’t always lose 15% of their body weight.  Who knew?

On the theme of things that hurt less, healing from a vaginal birth with second degree tearing has been a thousand times easier than healing from a c-section following 36ish hours of labour.  I’ve been able to move pretty easily from the start and would probably have been hiking across the city within a week if not for a stern lecture from my midwife that included the threat that not listening would result in me peeing every time I laughed by 50.  So I waited for the all clear, which came at my three week postpartum visit.  Since then, I’ve taken Powerball on a series of adventures that have included several restaurant trips, a conference, a birthday party, and a protest.  I’ve now been back on my bike (sans baby) for just over a week, just for short rides between home and Bingo’s preschool.  I can’t even tell you how happy I am about this.

Probably connected to all of the above points, while postpartum hormones are still no joke, the crash that I was expecting hasn’t happened.  The floods of tears have been minimal and I mostly feel like a more tired, more rumpled version of myself.

Which is a good thing, because– as of this Monday– I’m officially back at work. I have lots and thoughts and feelings about living in a country where I’m entitled to a year of leave and making the choice to take a month of vacation instead: thoughts and feelings that deserve their own post.  Logistically, I’m hopeful: I’m mostly working from home.  I’ll be nursing when I can and pumping when I can’t.  Sea is on leave until March.  I care about my job.  Still, tomorrow I’ll be away from home/Powerball for the full day and my heart feels a little sore.

There are other challenges, too.  Bingo got the stomach flu when Powerball was five days old and showering a vomit covered toddler, while dealing (badly) with a frantic partner, while nursing a hangry baby is an experience that will be seared into my memory until end days. I’m still learning how to deal with a baby with a penis and frequently get caught in a stream of pee. Our washing machine broke, leaving us perpetually buried in a mountain of dirty clothes.  The time change was a disaster of epic proportions.  I have to remind Bingo not to squeeze her brother’s neck at least once a day.

Still, there’s more good than bad.  Bingo loves Powerball more than I can describe.  She sings to him, strokes him, and whispers to him with a gentleness that I didn’t think could fit into her wild body.  Powerball doesn’t seem to have yet noticed that he’s the neglected second child.  Sometimes I get to sleep for two, or even three hours in a row.  Our friends and family have shown up in full force, with meals that lasted for weeks.  And today, at five weeks and one day, Powerball really began to smile proper, awake smiles.

It’s been a good month.

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Powerball, a birth story.

Right, I owe you a birth story!

First, the facts:

Powerball was born at 9:36am on Monday, October 3rd in an unmedicated VBAC.  He weighed 6 pounds 11 oz and was 20.5 inches.  He has dark hair and long toes.  He’s perfect.

As I said, the facts.  As for the story:

Late in the week before Powerball was born, some time on Thursday night I think, I started having occasional cramps.  They were irregular, and low in my pelvis.  It felt like Powerball was trying to bust his way out, but wasn’t quite sure what to do.  I also wasn’t quite sure what to do, so took the sensible approach of ignoring what was going on.

On Friday morning, as I dried off after my shower, most of my mucous plug came out. I was interested in a “bodies are fascinating” kind of way, but also had to get Bingo to daycare and didn’t have much time to over-analyze.  Besides, a quick Google search told me that labour could still be hours, days, or weeks away– nothing I didn’t already know.  So, again, I ignored what was going on. My only nod to the possibility of Powerball’s birth was switching my work calendar to October.

Over the weekend I had more cramps and lost more of my mucous plug.  The cramps were still irregular, and mostly background noise.  I took Bingo to the park, went to an event downtown, and spent time with friends.  Sea and I finally packed a hospital bag, but ignored the rest of our to do list.  There was still time, we figured.

I went to bed on Sunday night fully prepared to get up for work on Monday morning.

Instead I woke up at 2am.

It was mostly the cat’s fault.  Sea’s cat (and, by default, mine) is an unfriendly animal, demonstrating his disdain for us by staying in whatever room we’re not in.  The exception to this is in the middle of the night, when he is suddenly desperate for attention and spends hours walking across us and trying to eat our hair.  It was his aggressive purring that first woke me up.  Then, a cramp.

The cat continued to purr.  Another cramp.

Sea rolled over and tried to push him off the bed.  Another cramp.

The cat batted at the back of my head, maybe noticing I wasn’t really asleep.  Another cramp.

Sea got up and kicked the cat out of the room.  Another cramp.

Sea went back to sleep, but I lay awake wondering if maybe– just maybe– I shouldn’t ignore what was happening.  Another cramp contraction.

I opened the contraction timer app that I had downloaded onto my phone the week before.  I had felt ridiculous downloading it, certain that there wouldn’t be anything to time, but now I was using it to monitor contractions that were already between 7-10 minutes apart.  It was 3am.

I left Sea to sleep and went downstairs, still convinced that if I just walked around for awhile and drank some water the contractions would stop.  Instead, they got closer together and stronger as I spent the next two hours silently walking my dark kitchen, holding the counter through contractions.  By 5am I realized it was time to wake up Sea.

Sea was surprisingly coherent for somebody who had been woken up at 2am by a cat and at 5am by a contracting partner.  She asked if she should shower.  Yes, I said, probably.  She asked if she should call our two “on call” friends: one of them being Bingo’s babysitter, the other being The Doctor who we had asked to be there for the birth.  Yes, I said, probably.  She asked if I should page our midwife.  Yes, I said, probably.

So Sea showered, and I called the pager system used to wrangle our midwives.  Between contractions (now less than five minutes apart), I gave my name and phone number and the person on the other end of the line promised that somebody would call me back within fifteen minutes.

Fifteen minutes passed.  Sea got out of the shower.  Another fifteen minutes passed.  Nobody called.  Sea suggested we call again and I agreed, but told her that she would have to do it: I was going to throw up.

While I threw up in the toilet, Sea paged again.  Nobody called.  I showered, finding relief until the hot water ran out. Sea paged again.  Nobody called.  I dressed, our friends arrived, and still nobody called.  It was after 7am, it had been an hour and a half since we started trying to page a midwife, and my contractions were now between 3-4 minutes apart.  Just as we decided that we were going to the hospital anyways, a deeply apologetic person called on behalf of the midwives clinic.  Apparently the paging system wasn’t working, none of the midwives were answering, but somebody would meet us at the hospital.  “Who?” Sea asked.  They weren’t sure.  But somebody.

The Doctor drove us to the hospital, a four minute ride that lasted two contractions and approximately four million hours.  As we pulled up to the hospital, I announced that I had to be let out of the car immediately so that I could throw up, which I did in the hospital’s neatly pruned flowerbed.

After that glamorous arrival, we made our way up to the “family birthing centre” (standard labour and delivery unit) on the seventh floor.  There was nobody at the reception desk, but a nurse on her way by told us to go directly down the hallway to triage.  Unfortunately, triage seemed to be in the middle of a staff meeting.  We stood in the hallway waiting and, between contractions, I eavesdropped on a litany of nurses’ complaints.  The first was that a nurse, Norma, was always late– sauntering in for a 7:30 shift when it had already begun.  The second was something to do with the process of wiping beds.  The third was a demand by a particularly bossy nurse that nobody bother her that evening, because she would be at the Adele concert and not answering her phone. The fourth, and probably most pressing, was that all of the beds were full and nobody else could go into labour.

Which is when Sea and I decided to let them know that– bed or not– we were there to have a baby.  The Adele-loving nurse, unimpressed by our interruption, told us in no uncertain terms that we couldn’t have a baby until we had checked in at reception.  So we went back down the hallway.  A receptionist had materialized, but told us that we couldn’t check in until our midwife– or at least a midwife– had arrived but that there might be one already in triage.  So we went back down the hallway.  It occurred to me then that one of the (many) themes of Powerball’s birth was shaping up to be administrative failure.

Thankfully, a midwife had just arrived.  She was from the same clinic as our midwives, though we had never met her before.  Apparently, the paging system had attempted to call any and every midwife, and she was the one who had answered first.  Our own secondary midwife– Skim Milk– was also on her way.  By the time I had changed into a hospital gown, Skim Milk was there and ready to check my progress.  As the person in the next triage bed yelled, “ALLAH, ALLAH, ALLAH”, Skim Milk announced that I was already 5cm and fully effaced.  She also told me that Powerball was still high in my pelvis, really high, and that a c-section might be necessary.

“Okay.” I said.  And, in that moment, I realized that it really was okay– that months of processing and worrying had made one of my birth intentions true.  I wasn’t sad, disappointed, or angry in that moment.  I trusted that Powerball was going to use whichever exit he had to and that, no matter what, we were going to be fine.

We went down another hallway, one I had last walked almost three years ago when Bingo was born, to a delivery room– the very last one available, we were told.  It was smaller and darker than the one where Bingo had been born, and had also been totally raided of supplies: everything from gauze to the computer mouse was missing.  From the next room, we could hear somebody’s labour music playing– Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” on repeat.  As I tried not to think of the Titanic, Skim Milk and the student midwife (who had just arrived) strapped wireless monitors around my contracting belly, explained that constant monitoring was a requirement of VBACs, and attempted to hook up an IV.

The IV was necessary because, two weeks earlier, my Strep B test had come back positive.  The midwives were unconcerned, 25% of Strep B tests are positive, but explained that I would need four hours of prophalctic antibiotics during labour to make sure that Powerball was protected.  The IV was also necessary if I wanted to have an epidural, which I was becoming increasingly sure that I did.  Hooking up the IV was also an exercise in frustration.  I have terrible, awful veins that make even the most routine of blood draws challenging.  Add into the mix some dehydration (remember all the puking) and the fact that I was leaping up at every contraction because sitting felt unbearable, and finding a vein took seven tries over twenty minutes.  To make matters even worse, as soon as the IV was hooked up, the bag of fluid exploded all over me.  (Sea would later joke that this was my water breaking…)

With a new IV bag finally hooked up, I waited for the requisite half bag of fluid that I had to receive before I could have an epidural.  Screw natural birth, I thought to myself.  Natural birth is for people more natural than me.  I would rather have a nap.  During each contraction I would hold on to the bathroom door, bracing myself against the handle and swearing under my breath.  Between contractions I would watch the painfully slow drip of the IV, just waiting for that half bag to be done.

(WARNING: here’s where things get graphic.)

We never made it to that awaited half bag and epidural.  Instead, there was a flurry of activity as Powerball’s heartrate suddenly dropped and then became undetectable.  “GET HELP.” Skim Milk instructed the student midwife.  In the same tone, she told me to lie down on my left side on the hospital bed.  She adjusted the monitors around my belly then– giving up– used her doppler to find Powerball’s heart again.  There it was, steady in the now very busy room.  I was reassured, but Skim Milk seemed less so.  She found an oxygen mask, ordering The Doctor to hook it up after the student midwife froze.  There were suddenly two nurses and an OB in the room, and talk of fluid boluses and a prepped operating room floated around my head. The contractions, which had hurt badly when I was standing, were excruciating now that I was lying on my side.  “This isn’t a good position for me.” I complained between contractions.  “Well,” Skim Milk responded, “It’s the best position for the baby so you’ll have to stay there.”

The OB checked my dilation before breaking my water to attach a scalp monitor to Powerball– I was now fully dilated, but Powerball was “sunny side up” with his nose pointed to my pelvis.  As my water broke, meconium gushed everywhere.  More people appeared in the room– nurses, two pediatricians, medical students.  I only caught glimpses of them, mostly keeping my eyes tightly closed against the chaos.  Then the bed was transformed around me, my legs lifted into stirrups: it was time to push.

I pushed with each contraction, red faced and yelling.  In between contractions, the OB reached inside of me and tried to manually turn Powerball who was stuck against my pelvic bone.  This, friends, is undoubtedly the worst pain I’ve ever experienced– a stranger’s arm inside my contracting, exhausted body, trying to twist a baby unwilling to turn.  “Stop, stop, stop,” I begged/yelled, but there was no stopping.  Instead the OB told me that Powerball was going to need help to come out– maybe an episiotomy, maybe a vacuum, maybe forceps, maybe a c-section.

I told her to do what she had to do, and kept pushing.  The OB, who was brilliantly bossy, yelled at me to stop yelling and ignored me when I told her I couldn’t do this.  Skim Milk and Sea stood by my shoulders, reassuring me and telling me that I was doing a good job.  The rest of the people in the room all just became background noise.  And then, in the two longest/hardest contractions ever, Powerball was out– lifted, squirming and filthy, onto my belly.

He was only there for a moment before being handed off to the pediatricians and gaggle of medical students to be cleared of meconium, cleaned, and checked for any issues.  As I delivered the placenta and had a second degree tear stitched up (they had never gotten to the episiotomy), Sea went to go and check on Powerball.  She cut his cord, and shouted over from the corner of the room that he had hair.  (Bingo was pretty bald, and we were expecting a repeat…)  Then Powerball was delivered back to my chest, and a second of my birth intentions was realized: I held my baby.

The room was suddenly very, very still.  The doctors, nurses, and students had all disappeared.  The Doctor had gone to buy us breakfast.  It was only the midwives, Sea, Powerball, and me.  Skim Milk and the midwife who had been the first to appear that morning, quietly filled out paperwork, checked Powerball, and marvelled over my placenta (which had, unbenownst to any of us, stopped functioning on one side at some point late in pregnancy).  Sea and I stared at Powerball, tiny and bruised from birth, here.

We were released from the hospital a couple of hours later. Twelve hours after I had been woken up by Sea’s cat, we were home, a new family of four.

  

Baby feet, for making it all the way through.

Two week wait.

There’s something I forgot to mention in my post about birth intentions.  It’s less of an intention and more of a decision, anyways: I won’t be induced.

As you know by now, my induction with Bingo at 41 weeks and some days was less than ideal.  It limited my options, restricted my movement, included a series of interventions and complications, involved almost two full days of ouch, and still resulted in a c-section.

I hope that Powerball comes out of my vagina, if only because I’d rather not be recovering from surgery parenting both a toddler and a newborn.  My efforts to make that happen include crossing my fingers and toes, eating all of the pineapple from the fruit tray at a staff meeting, and even making another acupuncture appointment (it turns out I still have some insurance money to spare…)  But if s/he doesn’t take the hint and vacate my uterus soon, my efforts will not include Cervidil or an IV of Pitocin.

Instead, if Powerball doesn’t want to be born, we’ll skip the middle step and jump right to a planned c-section.  So planned, in fact, that we scheduled it at our last visit with the OB: October 13th, at 4:00pm.

Sea isn’t keen on the date.  It’s an older cousin’s birthday, for one.  And it will mean that some of Powerball’s birthdays fall on Friday the 13th.  But it’s the time that fit best into the OB’s schedule.  That’s how it goes, I’m realizing: some birthdays are about the end of a 40 week count, a hormonal shift, luck, fate, a full moon, whatever, and other birthdays are about what fit most neatly into a stranger’s calendar.

It occurred to me this morning, as I switched my own calendar from September to October (just in case I don’t make it back into the office next week), that Powerball’s scheduled due date means I am– without a doubt– in my last two weeks of this pregnancy.  Very likely my last two weeks of pregnancy ever.

It’s a strange kind of two week wait, with plenty in common with the one from 38 weeks ago.  There’s anticipation, anxiety, a desire to know exactly how things will play out.  There’s the over-analyzing of ever twinge and cramp, and the compulsive toilet paper checking.  There’s also an urgency that’s all its own.  I clean my desk, procrastinate on packing the hospital bag, try to make sure the cat food bowl is full, make plans that I may or may not keep, click “interested” but not “attending” on every Facebook event, count the days until my favourite midwife (Diet Coke) is back on call, insist that friends and family keep their phones on, and wait.  Just wait.

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Clothes are hard.

Clothes are hard.  They’re hard when you’re gender non-conforming.  They’re hard when you’re fat.  They’re hard when you’re eight months pregnant.  They’re hard when you’re required to be a little bit fancy.  They’re especially hard when you’re gender non-conforming, fat, eight months pregnant, and invited to a wedding where you have to be a little bit fancy.

But, thanks to a trip to the thrift store, some creative belt coverage, and a long tie to hide the gaps between buttons, I managed to dress myself with only a few small wardrobe crises.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to take my pants off and not put them back on for at least another month.

 

 

Birth intentions.

Recently, in a Facebook group that I’ll call Sheer Llamas for the sake of anonymity, a member asked what she should tell a friend who had just had an unexpected and traumatic c-section.

“I would tell her,” another member responded, “that all births are beautiful”.

This answer hit a nerve in me, and I responded vehemently.  No, no.  Not all births are beautiful.  All babies?  Maybe, arguably.  But not all births.

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As promised, a pregnancy update!

This time, a pregnancy update, lest Powerball one day find this blog and feel totally neglected.

I’m now thirty-four weeks pregnant.

Despite my round belly, this shocks me.  In my mind, I’m eight weeks pregnant, or maybe twelve.  Just wrapping my head around the idea of having a second child… not wondering whether the regular Braxton-Hicks contractions mean that Powerball is preparing for an early exit.  But here we are, thirty-four weeks since my last period began on January 1st, 2016 in an auspicious start to the new year.

Some thoughts on pregnancy, v 2.0:

  • Depending on which app you ask, Powerball is now the size of a butternut squash, a bag of sugar, or a basketball hoop. S/he is, apparently, peeing a pint a day.
  • The “fun/cute” facts shared by these apps often disturb me.  My fetus has its eyes open?  Has fingernails?  Is covered in slime?  Thanks, internet, for emphasizing how gross the miracle of life actually is.
  • I still haven’t announced this pregnancy on social media, which has been an unintentional experiment with hilarious outcomes.  People who haven’t seen me in awhile stare openly.  Some ask, others awkwardly skirt the topic.
  • I’m not sure how anybody could miss the fact that I’m pregnant.  There are few beer bellies out there bigger than mine.  I’ve gained weight– 15 pounds or so– and nothing fits.  I’m regularly shocked by my own reflection.
  • My body is good at gestating.  Though I have nothing to compare to except other people’s stories, my pregnancies seem to be uncommonly easy. I can eat most foods, I can bike to work, I can stand up without taking a proffered hand.  Thanks, body.
  • There are a couple of things I can’t do: eat ice cream after 7pm, see my belly button, breathe after walking up my office’s winding staircase.
  • While I’m complaining, let’s talk about summer.  This summer has been hot.  Unusually hot.  Steamy, sticky, feels-like-a-moist-bathroom hot.  Though I’m only a month more pregnant than I was at this point in 2013, it seems to have totally killed my ability to cope. I get dizzy and nauseous. I am sweaty and red-faced and ungraceful.
  • While I lie in bed wondering if I’ll ever be cool again, Powerball flips and turns, raking elbows and/or knees across my belly.  S/he is most active between 3am-5am, and I worry about how this will be manifest in sleep habits out of utero.
  • Speaking of flipping and turning, Powerball appears to also be a Cirque Du Soleil baby.  Breech, then maybe breech, then not breech, now breech again.
  • If Powerball stays head up, s/he’ll be delivered via c-section in late September.  Otherwise, we’re not sure what will happen.  The plans for Powerball’s exit are shaped by uncertainty and a series of what-ifs that deserve their own post.
  • However and whenever Powerball comes out, we’re woefully unprepared for their  arrival.  When one of the e-mail lists that I use to remind myself that I’m pregnant cheerfully announced, “50 days left!” I felt genuine panic.  The baby clothes are still in the boxes they’ve been in for the past 2.5 years, the crib is filled with unfolded blankets, suggestions of a packed hospital bag are laughable.
  • Today marks six weeks until October 5th.
  • I am excited, then impatient, then distracted, then overwhelmed.  Then a small limb kicks and I’m excited again.