Saturday, June 29, 2013

month 1


taking baths
watching the baby in the mirror
watching the ceiling fan
being cuddled and swaddled
going for walks


being taken out of the bath
being awake for too long
going for car rides
going to the grocery store

indifferent to:

(but I still touch her hand to their fur and 
tell her how soft they are and remind her that 
she will love them someday)
her pacifier
(I'm hoping she has more interest in it soon.  
After a lot of work, she'll use it for a 
little while, then spit it out.)

We still can't get enough of this little love bug.  She's our favorite.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Imperfect Mama

I want to be perfect.

know I can't be perfect.  I know it.  But it doesn't change the fact that I still want to be perfect.  And when I'm not immediately perfect at something, I usually want to give up pretty quickly.  It's why I don't take criticism well, either.  When a boss tells me how to do something better, I only hear that I'm not good enough, rather than understanding that my boss just wants to help me improve.  When Sam points out areas in our marriage that are struggling, I get frustrated that I haven't perfected the whole wife role yet, instead of being inspired to try harder.  And we all know what happens when I don't have the time to put forth perfect effort in school - how many times have I dropped out of college now?

I've been in my newest role for just over three weeks now.  I'm a mother.  This is my favorite role so far - I love this little human, and taking care of her has been such an incredible blessing.  Yet I also understand that this role is just another area that I can choose to beat myself up over.  I can be disappointed in myself for those rough days when she just won't stop crying, and I can judge myself for not getting her on a feeding schedule.  Being a mother just means I have one more area to work harder at, one more place where I keep missing the mark.

But I don't want to do that.

I don't want to judge myself so harshly.  Of course I want to be the best mother I can be to Ellery, but what I need to keep reminding myself is that my best won't equal perfection.  It's something I seem to forget every day, and I'm constantly practicing grace and forgiveness on myself for when I'm not an all-star mother.  I remind myself that I'm new at this, that things will get better with time, and that someday I won't cry every time my baby cries.  Someday I may even be able to put her to sleep and go to sleep myself, without getting up to check if she's breathing three times before laying down.  I'll get better at this the longer I do it, but I will never be a perfect mom.

Two of my closest friends just became first-time moms, too.  One friend had her baby the day after Ellery was born, and the other had her baby three weeks after I had mine.  One friend lives in northern California, the other in southern California.  I wish that I lived near both of them (yes, I realize that's impossible) so that we could do this together - go out for coffee dates when we just need a break, and talk about diaper rashes.  I didn't realize how emotionally exhausting this whole mothering thing was, and how great it is to be surrounded by people who can help you through it, who understand exactly what you're going through.

On one of my first days with Ellery on my own, I broke down.  She'd been crying, but she wasn't hungry or wet, so I tried putting her in her swing.  She immediately stopped crying, and just stared at me while she swayed.  I decided to straighten up the room a bit, since she seemed fine, but soon found myself weeping.  I called my mom and Sam, asking them if I was a bad mother because I put my daughter down to get other things done.  They both assured me that Ellery was fine, that she was happy, and reminded me that if I carried my baby all day long I would never get anything else done.  But it took quite a lot of convincing on their part.  That's when I realized that I needed to give myself a break.  I think one of the reasons I've avoided the baby blues is because I made the choice early on to give up on perfection.  The more I strove to be the perfect mom, the more sad and empty I felt because I knew that I wasn't.  I realize now that the mistakes I make now won't completely ruin Ellery for life.  If I don't give her enough tummy time today, her development won't be stunted forever.

So here is my public proclamation that I am not a perfect mother.  There.  Now when you see me in public with a screaming baby, you won't be shocked that I haven't yet figured out why my baby is crying.  And in a couple years when I have a whining two year-old who won't share her toys, you won't be surprised that I still haven't perfected mothering.  And if you know a brand new mother, or any mother for that reason, be gentle with her, and avoid judgment.  She probably judges herself enough already.  And if you are a mother reading this, especially a new one, you're doing great!  You are a hero and you're not alone - this mothering thing is harder than it looks.

My precious girl when she was about one week old.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Ellery's Birth Story, Part II

I woke up Wednesday morning with just enough time to brush my teeth before nurses and doctors started filtering into my room to prepare me for surgery.  I met my anesthesiologist, who explained a little of what I would experience.  As he was talking with me, my doctor came in and, upon seeing the anesthesiologist, said, "We've got the 'A Team' today!"  It was comforting to hear, especially because I had started to get pretty nervous about the surgery itself, knowing how much could go wrong.  I even tearfully told Sam that if anything happened to me, to please tell my daughter how much I love her.  (Yes, I'm a bit dramatic when I've been in the hospital too long and I'm about to have my baby cut out of me.  Actually, I'm pretty dramatic regardless of the circumstances, so this just magnified my intensity.)

They outfitted Sam with scrubs and told him he was allowed to watch everything and even take pictures, as long as he didn't pass out.  I quickly added that he was not, in fact, allowed to take pictures of my guts, as I am perfectly okay with never knowing what I look like inside out.  He could take pictures of our daughter and that was it.

I was wheeled into the operating room, where one of my midwives greeted me and said she'd be assisting my doctor with the surgery.  I was glad to have a familiar face in the room, and happy to know that one of my midwives would still be involved in Ellery's birth.  My nurse, Ellery's nurse, and the rest of the team were all so kind and gentle, and I felt like I was really in the best hands.  It was very surreal, knowing that I was finally just moments away from meeting this person whom I'd loved for the past nine months.

Once I was numb and there was a partition preventing me from seeing anything below my chest, Sam was allowed to come in.  I felt much better once he was at my shoulder.  He talked me through each step and let me focus on him so that I wouldn't be scared.  Soon the anesthesiologist told Sam that they were pulling the head out, so Sam leaned over the blue sheet and watched them wrench her little body from mine.

Then I heard the most incredible sound I've ever heard in my life - my daughter's first tiny cry.  I looked at Sam and started to weep, overwhelmed with love and relief that she was finally here and that she was okay.  They carefully held her up over the partition so that I could see her wriggly little body, and I kept crying, so thankful that she was alive and breathing.

When my doctor pulled her out, she said, "Wow, you're heavy!" and soon I heard the rest of the nurses commenting on what a big baby she was.  They took her to a warming station to be measured and weighed, and my doctor said, "I want to know how much that baby weighs!"  When I heard the words "Nine pounds, fourteen ounces," I made Sam repeat it to me, because that sounded huge.  Then I heard the nurse say, "Twenty two and a half inches!" and I asked Sam whose baby they were talking about.  Surely I couldn't have a baby that tall!  Then I heard a flurry of comments like, "Where were you hiding that baby?" and "How did she ever fit in your tiny body?" and "Thank goodness you had a c-section!"  And suddenly my aching back and the feelings I had had that the baby had literally no room inside my womb all made sense; I was carrying a huge kid.

Ellery's nurse quickly brought her over and placed her on my chest for some skin-to-skin time.  I couldn't stop staring at her perfect face and body, and Sam and I cried a little bit and laughed and told Ellery how excited we were to finally meet her.  Sam was enthralled with the baby, but also with the process of stitching me up.  He kept peeking over the blue sheet, and at one point the anesthesiologist told me that my uterus was sitting on my belly.  Bizarre!

I was wheeled back to my room and got to feed Ellery for the first time.  She latched immediately and I felt another wave of love and thankfulness wash over me.  I kept telling Sam how lucky we were to have a healthy baby, and I don't remember ever feeling so happy and relieved.  I had been worried about how well she'd eat, and was pleasantly surprised to have such an easy baby to breast feed.  The nurse told me that big babies were usually pretty good eaters, and all my nurses throughout the rest of my stay said that because my labor had been so frustrating, it must be nice for something to go right.  And it was!  She has been such a good eater and I couldn't be happier to have one less thing to worry about as I healed from my surgery.

After Sam, Ellery and I had some time alone as a family, my anesthesiologist came back in and told us about a new procedure he was learning to block the pain.  Pharmaceutical companies are creating a shortage of the drugs normally used to manage pain from c-sections in order to make more money, so he was learning alternative methods.  He said I was a perfect candidate, and that if I wanted, he would do the procedure for free since he was still learning.  I felt really confident in his abilities, so we agreed to have the procedure.  It was very short and easy and worked really well!  I have had pretty minimal pain as compared to the typical c-section patient, and according to my nurses, I was moving much better and quicker than most people.  So that was another thing we were really grateful for - a drug-free, pain-reducing procedure that was performed at no cost to us!

I was also incredibly blessed with the doctor I was referred to.  Dr. Keller apparently does the best job with c-sections at the hospital.  All the nurses who came to check on my incision immediately would say, "Oh, you had Dr. Keller!" based on how well my incision looked. The other doctors use staples, but Dr. Keller sewed me up from inside, so there wouldn't be a visible scar and I wouldn't have to return to have anything taken out.  The incision site is below my bikini line, so Dr. Keller and all my nurses were excitedly telling me that I'll be able to wear my bikinis again in no time without anyone knowing I'd ever had abdominal surgery.  (I didn't have the heart to tell any of them that I've never had a pretty stomach, that the only time I have ever looked good in a bikini was for maybe a week when I was twenty-two, and that I wasn't counting on childbirth and a c-section to suddenly give me a nice, flat, bikini-ready stomach.)

After talking with Dr. Keller after the procedure, she said that the size of the baby, along with her 14.5 inch head, was probably what was preventing my body from going into labor.  Her head was still really high, so it wasn't able to "tell" my body to go into labor, most likely because her head wouldn't fit into my pelvis.  If we'd tried natural labor, I probably would've pushed indefinitely, and it would've most likely resulted in an emergency c-section.  With the scheduled surgery, I was able to mentally prepare, as well as rest my body enough so that I was physically strong enough for the surgery.  It has also helped speed up the healing process for me.

Knowing what we know now makes it very clear that God's hand was over the entire pregnancy, labor and delivery, and that it really worked out for the best.  God even gave me a big baby who doesn't feel like a newborn!  I know it's silly, but I never like holding newborns because they feel too small and fragile, and I prefer to wait until babies are at least a month or so old before I hold them.  Ellery feels like a month-old baby when I hold her, so she's perfect for this mama.  Thank you, Lord!

Speaking of her size, Ellery is not a chubby baby!  All the nurses kept commenting on how perfectly proportional she is.  She's very long - almost two feet tall! - which accounts for a lot of her weight.  She does have some healthy meat on her bones, but she's not chunky.  She's a very strong little girl.  (Can you tell I'm a bit sensitive when people insinuate that she's too fat?)

Aside from her size, her hair was also a huge surprise to me.  I didn't think she'd have hair at all, and if she did I was sure it would be blonde.  Sam had white blonde hair as a boy, and I had blonde hair when I was little.  I couldn't believe it when I saw her little head full of dark hair!  We're anxious to see if she keeps it or if it eventually turns blonde.  Either way, she's perfect.

It's been even more of a blessing now to have my mom here to help us out.  I honestly don't know how we'd do it without her!  I'm not able to drive for another week, and moving around to take care of the baby is difficult.  My mom has Ellery sleeping near her, so when the baby wakes up at night, Mom changes her, brings her to me in bed, waits while I feed her, then takes her to be burped and changed again if necessary, then rocks her to sleep and puts her back to bed.  It's been an invaluable help to us, as it's difficult for me to get in and out of bed due to my incision.  Sam was able to go back to work this week so that when Mom has to go back home, Sam can take time off.  That way I'll have someone here to help me for an extended period of time.  She also helps calm me down when I worry too much about the baby, and she helped me and Sam bathe Ellery for the first time on our own.  Sam and I don't want her to leave!

I hope you've enjoyed reading about Ellery's birth.  We really do feel so blessed and that everything worked out the way it was meant to.  It meant letting go of our own plans and desires, but ultimately, isn't that what usually works best anyway?  God knew what this baby needed, and what this mama needed, and gave us the perfect scenario for this little girl to come into this world.  We are deliriously happy!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Ellery's Birth Story, Part I

I really debated whether or not I wanted to share Ellery's birth story on my blog.  Part of me wondered if I'd be sharing something too private and personal, and if there aren't some things that should be kept between me and my family.  But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I want to be a writer, which means I need to tell my stories, and great storytellers are open and honest.  Maybe I'm being too transparent, but I devoured birth stories in the days leading up to my due date, and my hope is that somehow my story can be an encouragement to someone else.  Plus, I think this story paints a picture of how God really does work everything out for good, and I like to share examples of that any chance I get.

So let's start with Monday morning.  We were two days past Ellery's due date, and I was scheduled to be induced at 7am.  The doctor let me go an extra two days in the hopes that I would go into labor naturally.  Ellery had been performing extremely well in the non-stress tests, so my doctor felt it was safe enough to let her try to come on her own for a couple extra days.  I really wanted to go into labor naturally.  My dream was to have a completely drug-free birth, and I felt that my midwives had really prepared me for that.  Of course, I hadn't counted on being one of the lucky few to acquire gestational diabetes, so that medical issue really threw a wrench into my plans.  I hadn't counted on being transferred to a doctor either, but I was grateful that I liked my new doctor and felt extremely comfortable with her.  I knew she had mine and Ellery's best interests at heart, and I felt safe in her care.  Though I disliked the idea of being induced, I knew it was safer for Ellery to come out sooner rather than later, and decided to let go of my expectations for the labor and delivery and simply pray for a healthy baby.

Sam and me right before we left for the hospital, excited to meet our daughter!

My mom, Sam, and I headed to the hospital early on Monday.  My mom had come from California to help care for the baby during her first week at home.  (It turns out we needed her more than we realized!  More on that later...)  I was very excited and anxious, and started crying on the drive to the hospital because I was so happy to think that I'd be meeting my daughter very soon.  They started prepping me right away, and my doctor checked to make sure my cervix was ready to begin the Pitocin.  It was not.  She informed me that I'd be put on Cervidil, a drug that would soften and prepare my cervix, and that I'd be on it until 6pm, when they would finally begin the Pitocin.  It was pretty discouraging to learn that I'd have to stay in bed for the next eleven hours, especially because I had just had a full night of rest and could not begin to think of sleeping.  The nurses kept trying to get me to go to sleep that day, but how do you sleep all day when you've just woken up from sleeping all night?  Normally this drug is started in the evening so the patient can sleep while it works, but unfortunately my body wasn't cooperating.  So Sam bought a couple magazines from the Safeway across the street, we watched some TV, and I did some sudoku puzzles.  But it was boring.  I felt bad for Sam and my mom since they were stuck with nothing to do while I sat in that silly hospital bed.

I was finally started on Pitocin around 6:30 that evening, at which point I started feeling great!  They let me get out of bed, which was glorious after an entire day of sitting.  I stood and swayed through contractions, Sam walked the halls with me and pushed my IV unit alongside us, and I happily bounced on the labor ball while we watched The Bachelorette on the hospital TV.  The contractions started but they were only mildly painful, so I was feeling great.

About nine and a half hours later, I was not in such a good mood.  The contractions were more painful, and I was physically exhausted, having been awake almost 24 hours at this point.  My nurse checked to see if I had made any progress at all, and sadly, there was none.  After 21 hours of being on drugs to induce labor, my body was again refusing to cooperate.  That information broke my spirit.  I was exhausted, in pain, and was told that they'd be repeating the entire process for the next two days to keep trying to force me into labor.  If it didn't work by Thursday, they would perform a C-section.

Since I was still having intense contractions, they gave me some sleeping medicine so that I'd be able to sleep.  The medicine, along with a good frustrated cry, helped me sleep a bit.  Tuesday morning they started the process again, only this time I was kept on the first medication for twelve hours rather than ten.  Another boring day!  I felt very discouraged all day, and kept apologizing to my nurses for my grumpy attitude.  But I honestly felt like I was never going to have this baby.  Oddly enough, the more time went by, the further I felt from actually becoming a mom.  I told Sam and my mom that I had felt closer to having the baby the week before than I did at that moment.

It was great having my mom there because she and Sam were able to share the responsibility of keeping me company.  My mom went to our house to take care of our cats several times, and Sam had the chance to run home to take a shower and take care of a few things.  I know my mom had come to take care of the baby, but Sam and I were both incredibly grateful to have her there during that miserable hospital stay.

Around 9:30 Tuesday night, after being stuck in bed all day hooked up to monitors and an IV, my doctor came in to check on my progress.  Still zero.  Nothing had happened at all after now 33 hours of inducing medication.  They were about to start another round of Pitocin when my knight in shining armor (Sam) stepped in.  He asked my doctor if we could just discuss the possibility of a C-section.  I told him I didn't want to go through another two nights of Pitocin and another day of Cervitil if I was just going to have a C-section on Thursday anyway.  She said she'd like to keep trying for another couple days because she thought it would eventually work, but that it was our decision.  I told Sam I didn't think I had the physical or emotional strength to do it, especially because I was on a backward schedule that kept me awake and in pain at night and tried to force me to sleep during the day.

After discussing more about the risks of the surgery, we agreed that a C-section was the choice for us.  My doctor even said that she felt comfortable with it because of the gestational diabetes.  If I had had a low-risk, normal pregnancy, she'd want to wait, but that since we were already now three days past my due date, she felt it was wise to go ahead with the surgery.  She instructed the nurse to remove all the monitors from my belly, which had been hooked up the entire time up to this point, so that I could get a good night of rest.  I was so grateful!  She had me eat a big snack before midnight, and then Sam and I both got some much-needed sleep.

I'll stop there and pick up with the actual surgery.  Baby is sleeping now, so mama's gotta go sleep, too, while I have the chance!