Why does everyone want to hear the story of my labor?

Is it like a car wreck? We all slow down to find out what happened? I admit, I also enjoy hearing labor stories, but I’m not sure why.

I should preface this by saying that I was not committed to any particular type of birth, other than I wanted to have the baby in the hospital. Props to TopHat for her Unassisted Childbirth. I wish I were that hardcore, but homebirth is just not for me. I did not know whether I would need an epidural. I kind of hoped not, because my mother did not need one for either of us, had my brother at home accidentally, and I was brought up with a strong idea that natural labor was no big deal. Until I discovered feminism and my friends started having kids, I kind of thought epidurals were for pussies. In a non-literal sense. Since that time, I have become enlightened to non-judgement of other people’s choices. All I knew was that the easier labor was, the less tired I would be going home with baby, and since sleep is very important to me, I was open to “whatever,” except that I didn’t want IV drugs because I didn’t want my baby to be born drowsy and unable to nurse in the first hour.

I’d been having contractions for weeks, been 3cm dilated, and the baby was oriented head-down and looooow for just as long. It was “any day now” for an infuriatingly long period of time. I had also been in fetal monitoring because my fluid levels were fluctuating.

The morning of the 13th I had gone to our home inspection, because our family is into doing ALL THE THINGS like having babies and buying homes at the same time, and had a list of other stuff to take care of, which I managed to squeeze in before my monitoring appointment at 4:00, the last of the day. I ran late for it, but they still took me. I didn’t have a chance to eat on the way because I had been so busy and I was starving. I was getting shaky from lack of carbs and planned to stop at Del on the way home. Nick had an after-work meeting so I was on my own for dinner anyway.

Then they decided I needed to be induced. My phone had died because of my contraction-tracking app being a battery drain, so I had to call Nick from the hospital phone to let him know to cancel his meeting and bring snacks, although it turned out that I was not allowed to eat anyway (except for the unlimited supply of jell-o cups and popsicles provided by the hospital).

They started my IV around 6:15, right after Nick arrived, moved my car from 2-hour parking, and got the hospital bag out of the trunk. We sat around for a few hours while I waited to feel contractions. They were happening, I just had no idea unless I looked at the screen. As during the past several weeks, I saw my stomach change shape and had to poke it to decide whether it was a contraction. The nurse was shocked that I couldn’t feel anything, because they were apparently intense. After the 4 hours of antibiotic, the doctor finally broke my water. Nothing happened. She broke it again. Nothing happened. She said the contractions would start to get more intense, and encouraged me to speak up as soon as I thought I’d want an epidural, in case the anesthesiologist was unavailable- after all, he could be called into a multi-hour surgery at any time or get busy with other epidurals, and it could get too late to get one. She says there’s no point in being brave about it.

Since I hadn’t felt anything so far, I wanted to wait and see how it was going to go. I mean, my mom said her period was worse than labor sometimes, so maybe I was going to sail right through.

A few minutes later, the baby moved her head and let out some water, and the contractions get ALL THE WAY WORSE. After two, I ask for an epidural. Glory, he is available! I have another two contractions before he gets the drugs in and I kind of feel another as they take effect. I can feel my toes but not the contractions. My knees are heavy but I can move them with difficulty. The doctor warns me that the epidural may slow down labor, or it may relax my body and speed it up. Nick and I goof around some more. I’m nervous but feeling great. I have no sense of time. It becomes the 14th and I get disappointed that Mike doesn’t win this one. I really wanted to honor his request and have her share his birthday. The nurse putters around and is incredulous that I can’t feel the apparently strong contractions. I once again have to ask if they are happening.

When the doctor comes back in, she tells me it’s go-time. There are spotlights on my vagina and a trash bag under my butt. I didn’t know those details before and they are awkward! I never have the urge to push, and I really can’t tell what I’m doing but I try to follow instructions and be consistent. We tell the doctor the baby’s name so that she can give her a pep talk. Nick gets in trouble for pushing my leg back and my back forward. A few times. The baby almost comes out but since I can’t tell what I’m doing it doesn’t quite happen. And then at 45 minutes, I give a really really long push and Astrid is born a little after 2am. She’s the most beautiful thing we’ve ever seen.

As she lays on my chest I get a stitch or two (I still don’t know to this day). I ask the nurse if I should nurse the baby and she says it can wait. I miss the opportunity parenting regret number one. I should have stood my ground and done what I knew I was supposed to. Oh well, water under the bridge.

Nick and the doctor tell the entire waiting room full of our family that I’m being rushed into an emergency C-section. Just kidding, I’m fine and her name is Astrid. They give a sitcom-like “ASTRID?!” and after an hour has passed they’re allowed in two at a time.

I bitterly eat a turkey sandwich. They knew I was a vegetarian! Ugh!

But she’s still the most beautiful thing we’ve ever seen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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You are the best parent for your child: Ignoring Advice that doesn’t work for you

I have a 9-week old child. Someday I’ll get around to writing my fantastic labor story in which everyone is so interested. But while I have this quiet moment, I would like to share with you much more pertinent information that I have realized in the last 2 months.

Everyone has advice about how to deal with a newborn. But all newborns are different, and so is every parent. Do what works for you. The advice I heard the most was “sleep when the baby sleeps” and accept help from others as far as letting them cook or tidy up for you while you are dealing with the baby. I went into the postpartum period with this is mind, and it added so much pressure.

I could not sleep when the baby was sleeping. I layed awake every time, too anxious about when I would have to rouse myself and feed her, anxious about sleeping alone, (for my partner did not even try to nap), anxious about the state of our home.

I hated, HATED letting other people touch my stuff. I did not want them touching my dirty laundry, looking at my unmade bed, or bleaching my coffee-stained sink (also, FUMES! NEWBORN! STOP!).

Then I read some advice, and I am sharing it with you because it is not stated enough: basically, YOU DO YOU. If you can sleep when the baby sleeps, that is awesome! You should do that! If you are like me and stress out over other people seeing your laundry, have them hold the baby while you do your laundry, or do it while the baby sleeps. The first few weeks of parenting are about figuring out your new life, not letting other people tell you what to do.

When people ask how they can help, be honest. If you want a load of laundry thrown in, tell them. If you want them to bring a cheeseburger, say so. If you just need to not hold the baby for half an hour, ask them to hold the baby.

That being said,

I truly appreciated my in-laws hanging out at my house the first few days we were home. They would have been so much harder had Nick and I been alone, trying to figure out how and what to cook, how and when to react to baby’s crying, how and when to sleep, etc. But after the first few days, I needed them out like a damned spot. I am a very independent person and I could not abide another night of brisket, no matter how well my MIL makes it. (I am a vegetarian. My parents are Polish; my in-laws are Armenian. Nobody understands me.)

Our families and friends were very generous with food. Everyone we knew sent over snacks and meals so we didn’t have to cook. It was awesome. There was an endless supply of pastries I could pound in the middle of the night after breastfeeding (PS, I was hungrier than I’ve been in my entire life).

My advice to new parents is: take as much time off work as you can to figure out your new family. My partner took his full 6-week family bonding leave from work. It was awesome. Some of my friends were OK with their partners taking only 2 weeks and 4 weeks off. I honestly do not know how they stayed together; I could not have gotten through without Nick being there with me. And I didn’t even have any postpartum depression issues (phew, because I was fully expecting them)!

Basically, I am writing this to encourage new parents to pick the advice that works for them. Parenting advice is like free stuff at a convention; just because its plentiful doesn’t mean you have to take it.

My boss of all people gave me the most empowering advice: You are the best parent for your child.

So don’t worry about what your parents, friends, and acquaintances tell you to do or not do. Please, go ahead and get some (expert) opinions and do what works for YOU and YOUR family. You’ll have a much happier life as a result.

 

 

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Weird Things People Say to Observe Pregnancy

I thought it was rude to ask someone if they are pregnant. One of those things you’re just not supposed to do, like ask someone what they weigh. What if they aren’t pregnant? In my case, it’s fairly obvious. I’m all belly and it’s clear I didn’t just eat a big sandwich. But still!

In addition to the simple ask, people avoid the question with the word “pregnant,” but they say the darndest things. These are all direct quotes:

“Is that a baby pouch?”

“You’re looking pretty ripe”

“Are we expecting?” (I don’t know, are you? You and I are not a “we,” lady!)

“Oh my gosh, what’s this?”

“You’ve been busy.”

“You look like you’re preparing to be blessed.”

“I can tell your baby is going to be beautiful, because you are so beautiful!” I thought this gentleman was hitting on me, as I had never met him before and he was in the grocery store line behind me. Then he started talking about his kids and grandkids. I am a bad judge of age.

People (mostly women) you don’t know also start calling you Mommy and Mama. Incessantly. I am not their mother!

Older gentlemen love to tell you how rewarding having a family is.

It’s such an interesting social experiment.

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I am not part of your Us

I’ve heard a lot lately about some mysterious “us;” I’ve heard “we” must fight, it’s “our” job- who are these people? I do not identify with “them.” Stop claiming me! Just because I may be in your statistical group does not mean I agree with you. I am not part of your clan. I want no part of it. You do not own me!

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