Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Zachary's Birth

I love birth stories - especially super-positive ones - and I, after 3 very different births, have a great birth story that I don't want to forget.  So, as a precursory warning, I will say that this is a birth story and some parts are ooey-gooey, but I do spare some of the gross details, on the off-chance that my brother, uncles, or man-friends or god-forbid, my kids in future years, stumble upon this.

As my family and friends know, my previous babies liked to play a somewhat cruel game, and come a little later than the prescribed 40 weeks.  Due dates are not my friend in the medical world.  I don't know why I even bothered to listen this time, knowing that babies tend to follow the same gestational pattern as their forebears. But Christmas Eve as a due date was just too cool not to tell people. However, Christmas Eve came and went and the only signs of labour for 2 weeks were some light contractions each evening, which got my hopes up, only I awoke to nothing every morning.  I was literally praying for pain - labour pain, that is - my back and hips were already done with carrying around the extra weight.

At 7 days past my due date, I was offered a medical induction by the midwives, which I refused, because though I was tired of pregnancy, I wanted to have faith in my body's ability to do this.

The midwives were fantastic about this.  They did recommend scheduling a post-date ultrasound though, which we did at 10 days past my due date, getting 100% for how the baby and fluid and placenta were looking.   For the first time in all my 10 lb baby-bearing years, the doctor, looking at my past record of 2 other post-date 10 lb babies, did not tell me my baby was alarmingly big and recommend an induction or c-section ASAP.  So on we would go...

For three more days.

On January 6, Joseph went to work in the morning, and I went about my day with Patrick and Carter.  At 1 p.m. I felt cramping. At 2, I put the boys down for their nap and went for a nap myself, actually sleeping until about 3, when the cramps got really strong and turned into contractions.  I popped Pride and Predjudice (the 5-hour BBC version with young Colin Firth) into the DVD player and folded some laundry, while writing down the timing of the contractions.  Since the first contractions were 10 minutes apart, I thought I had lots of time to enjoy this lengthy film. But it turns out I didn't. I called Joseph and let him know where I was at, so he'd be on alert to come home.

In the space of an hour the contractions went to from 10 minutes apart to every 4 minutes.  Pride and Predjudice turned to Bob the Builder when the boys woke up, and I called my midwife. I was having to stop talking and concentrate on getting through each contraction by now.

I decided to wait for Joseph to come home rather than have the midwife come right away, so I called him.  Then I put a pie in the oven for dinner.  The phone call was peppered with more contractions that I had to pause and breathe through.  Joseph, about an hour away (with traffic, because rush hour was beginning), offered to talk to me for a bit till he got home.  During that phone call, the contractions got to two minutes apart.  I don't even remember what Joseph and I talked about - his day, and the state of the traffic probably.  I decided  to get off the phone though, and call a midwife meet us at the hospital.

The boys were happily watching episodes of Bob, and the pie was nearly done.  Joseph walked in the door as I dialed the midwife's number, getting her voicemail. I left a message and waited five minutes. The contractions had gotten stronger and were now pretty close. I timed 1 minute apart and called the midwife again. Voice Mail. Panicked message asking her to get back to me right away.

It turns out the midwife on call (I was the patient of a team of four) was driving out of the city for another birth, and she'd been on the phone with the secondary midwife to come see me.  The second midwife, Jane, was busy booking me a room in labour and delivery when she heard my two-minute apart message.  

Jane called me, much to my relief, and said she'd meet us at the hospital ASAP. We called our neighbor who had been on alert to come watch the boys till my mom got there from a half-hour away.  

For some reason (maybe the intense contractions) I had not communicated to Joseph that we needed to leave right away or how close the contractions were.  So once the neighbor got here, he was moseying around, cutting pie for the boys and giving her some direction.  I had my coat and shoes on for three contractions, and I struggled to watch the 6 o'clock newscast while I waited. Finally, as my pain increased and my patience ran out, I said,
"Dispense with the niceties! We have to go now."
Joseph then said, "I'm going to grab another shirt." 
To which I said, "No, we need to go now."

So we got into the van, leaving behind a distressed Carter, who still carries on like the world is ending when I leave.

The hospital is only 6 minutes away, thankfully, but it seemed like it took forever to park and get up to labour and delivery.  When I got into an elevator full of people, I was at a point where I didn't really care about the breathing and coping sounds I was making, though I saw some rather uncomfortable glances. I don't blame them, but hello, it's a hospital, women in labour are somewhat common.

Jane met us in the hallway, and we were directed to a room.  We didnt bother with a hospital gown, and after finding I was fully dialated, it was a waiting game till I felt like pushing.  

I endured contractions while I had an IV inserted in case I hemmoraged.  Sounds scary, but it's a percaution that was taken because I'd had a hemmorage with Carter's birth two years ago, and if you have had one previously, the likelihood goes up for another. 

Soon, I was sitting up on the bed in a semi-squat with Joseph beside me putting pressure on my back during contractions.  I was starting to loose control of my ability to cope with the pain and kept thinking "I just want to get this done."

I asked if Jane would break my water, but she coaxed me to just keep letting the contractions happen and the baby move down.  We agreed after I pleaded with her, to give it 15 more minutes.  My thought was that if the water breaks, the baby will come faster (even though that may not have been the case) and I was getting desperate to end the pain.

Jane said to me, "Sometimes the pushing helps the water to break," and I realized the desperation I was feeling could be because I was actually needing to push, but I didn't think I was supposed to till the water had broken. 

5 minutes later, Jane was on the receiving end of a big gush, and I almost cried because I felt the baby move down, ready to come out.  

I laid down on my side and started concentrating my efforts on pushing with the contractions.  After a couple pushes, I started to loose focus on the goal - getting the baby out - and let the pain take over for a little while.  Half-heartedly pushing, and crying that I couldn't do it, I realized I was stuck.  I prayed a quick Hail Mary, and asked for help.

Jane also responded to my insistence that I couldn't do it with,
"But you are doing it, my dear," which, combined with Joseph's telling me I was doing great, and the pause I'd taken to pray, helped me to refocus and will myself forward. 

I pushed harder with the next couple contractions until finally Zachary's head came, and with one more push, his body followed.  The pain was unreal, but the feelings of love and curiosity and impatience I had, knowing I was about to meet the baby, really overpowered it. 

Once Zachary was out (at 8:05 p.m.) Jane put him on my chest and wiped him up, then wrapped him in a blanket.  I remember saying to Zachary, 
"Oh baby, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry." 
It seems ridiculous, I know.  Even Joseph questioned why, so I explained that I was thinking about how traumatic birth might be for Zachary.  I'm fairly certain being pushed out of your nice warm womb into light and cold and noise is a little jarring  for babies.

I'll spare you the details of the last part of labour. What I will tell you is that I was happy and relieved that it had happened so quickly, after all that time spent waiting for labour to begin in the first place.

Because I'd waited to let my body and the baby make things happen on their own, I felt triumphant and powerful - like I'd thwarted all the worries about post-date babies by letting things happen naturally and then working through the pain.

We were discharged from the hospital a couple hours after the birth, and home in time to watch the 11 o'clock news.  I had not hemmoraged this time, and Zachary and I both were otherwise perfect. I loved being able to go home right away, which is one of the many benefits of being in the care of midwives.

Joseph and I feel so blessed by this birth.  It was fast - I really only worked hard the last two hours - but hard at the same time.  I won't lie - I had a spinal with Patrick for a c-section and a late epidural with Carter (because I was wanting to push and not fully dialated, which could have been nasty) - and there are definite benefits to not feeling pain while birthing. 

But this time, having only my own coping techniques and the encouragement of Joseph and the midwives, I felt incredibly free.  I didn't need drugs.  I dealt with that pain.  I came up against a wall and literally pushed past it. 

It was beyond awesome.  







Saturday, January 25, 2014

Seven Quick Takes: Vol. 18

More takes from more interesting lives at Conversion Diary.

ONE:

Life with a newborn.  Exhaustion. Confusion. Toddler restlessness. 
Yet... we love little Zachary more and more each day.  

Sleeping like only a baby can.
TWO:

This link, from mothering.com. popped up on Facebook this week.  The author writes about how many women don't enjoy pregnancy and that (gasp!) they are normal.  It was refreshing to read that the reality of pregnancy is sometimes not the lovely over-sentimentalized experience we perceive we're supposed to have.

I'm certain that I am not myself during pregnancy to an extreme.  I've witnessed a marked change all 3 times upon becoming pregnant and post-partum. During pregnancy, I feel permanently anxious and like life is a spinning merry-go-round that I can't get off.  Joseph has said that it's like being married to two different people... and the better one is not pregnant.

I noticed it again in the recent days since giving birth to Zachary.  A familiar calm has set in, despite the fact that I'm getting a ton less sleep and I'm nursing 60% of the day, and my husband went back to work 3 days after the birth, and my other two boys are having some behavior issues in response to the big change.  Life is drastically different, but somehow I'm emotionally stable again and feel I'm handling life better than during pregnancy.  

THREE:
This guy!

I mentioned that Joseph went back to work 3 days after Zachary was born. 
That was the really unfortunate thing about having Zachary 13 days overdue. Joseph had given employees a start date after giving everyone nearly two weeks off, and it just wasn't going to be good if he wasn't there to give direction.  
But despite his having to work - which really goes hand in hand with us having basic things, like food and shelter - Joseph has been a phenomenal Dad, really stepping up to give me little breaks from the big boys, and taking Zachary whenever he isn't nursing (which is rare).

FOUR:

Poor guys. I yelled at them... that's why they look like that.
This just happened.  Followed by one of my less-than-graceful moments.  

I tried to find out why it was necessary to take nearly all of the baby's neatly folded clothes and do this.  Of course no actual reason was given and we all just ended up feeling awful.

Currently the boys are in separate time-out spots while I figure out if it is worth making them re-fold all of the clothes and put them back, which would require me teaching them how and sitting there for half the day till it gets done.  I think I have my answer.

I'm at my wits end with this behaviour.  I have nothing left in my arsenal of parenting weapons.

I threatened to sell them just now.  They seemed a little scared by that, but clearly that's not something I can actually follow up on.

So where I'm at is giving them more stuff to do while I'm tied down nursing, and waiting till the excitement and weirdness of a new baby - which has a lot to do with the sudden appearance of devil-children, I think - dies down.  

Wasn't I just saying in number 2 I felt so much calmer after giving birth?  
Well if something like that had happened a month ago I'd have screamed till I had no vocal chords and cried for an hour.

FIVE:

I want to talk about my post-partum body:

I look 5 months pregnant.  I'm not one of those people whose tummy is like an elastic band.  I'm not a skinny woman either.  And I am okay with this at 19 days after giving birth.

However, when I went to the store yesterday, with my little 3 week old, I nonetheless got asked how far along I was! By two different people!

Either I ran into the dumbest, most impolite people on the planet, or I just look really terrible.  

I'm not going to let total strangers make me feel terrible about myself, especially since it hasn't even been a month since the birth.  However, this time I want to actually reclaim some level of flat(ter) tummy and general fitness. 

I hate working out and I love fat, salt and sugar.

But it's time.  I'm not making a fitness plan right now, but I am acknowledging my need for one.  That's a good step right now.

I'm being brave and posting a belly shot.


SIX:
I'm reading again!
I was a big reader all summer and fall, then I finished Harry Potter, read The Cuckoo's Calling (which I really liked), then I didn't read any book till just after Christmas when Jim Gaffigan's Dad Is Fat came to the library for me after months of waiting.  Taking a couple-month break without having a few books on the go has never happened to me - hence my big intro to this take. I thought I'd fallen out with reading, which was really disconcerting.  So now I'm reading a G.K. Chesterton's What's Wrong With The World.  I've had it (and at least 3 other Chesterton works) kicking around the bookshelves for a couple years and have only ever read excerpts and miscellaneous chapters. 
How can I be a true Chesterton fan if I haven't at least read more than 2 of his books (The Man Who Was Thursday and The Everlasting Man) cover to cover? It isn't right. So without further ado, let the intellectual stimulation begin! 
Yay!

SEVEN:

I'll leave you with a sweet moment:

They love Zachary so much.

I have to keep reminding myself that my babies won't stay babies for very long. I look at these little guys in their three very different (sometimes infuriating) stages and think about the moments we won't get back.  

Maybe it's time to stop wasting time with them.
To take more pictures.
To worry less about the laundry and the dirty floor and more about the snowman in the back yard. 
To savour the story times and night feeds with the innocent little eyes looking up at me.

I think this weekend will be a good one if I can do some of these things.

Take care dear readers! Have a lovely week!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Undercover no more

Can I talk about nursing covers?

You know, those pretty-patterned apron things that breastfeeding women use to cover up "the girls" while they nourish their babies...

I have one, and all my breastfeeding friends have one.  Mine is uber-fancy with two pieces of boning through it so that I can see to get the child latched and so that the cover is not touching the child. Wooooo.  It is also a great pink and grey print, and it is for sale, because I do not need it anymore.

"What??!" Gasp the modesty proponents. "But how will you breastfeed in public places?! What will my husband think?? What about all the innocent children??"

These questions are what has stopped me for 4 years from abandoning the sweaty, pain-in-the-ass, brightly-coloured nursing tent that really just serves as a happy-looking way to oppress women.

"Now, that's a little extreme." Hmm... yes, perhaps. But think about this for a second:

The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding for two years.  Our North American health care systems are all up in women's faces about breastfeeding as soon as they have a baby. Then, we thrust these women back into their lives and tell them, "You can breastfeed, but you can't show anyone that you're doing it".

We hand her a cover or point to a bedroom (or one of those awful "nursing rooms" at the mall) and say, "Keep it secret. Keep it safe."

We tell the young Catholic mamas like my circle of friends, that it's about modesty. It's about guarding our brothers and son's eyes from sexual fantasy, not thinking that maybe the reason a nursing mom's breasts could be the object of sexual fantasy is because we've hidden the natural process of breastfeeding from these men and boys and made breasts into dirty objects of lust.

I breastfed at Mass yesterday.
I (gasp) did not cover.
The only people who noticed when Zachary paused for quite awhile to suck his fingers while searching for my exposed nipple, were our priest, who politely nodded and averted his eyes, and a young altar server.
The altar server came up to me after Mass and asked to see Zachary. She (oops, did I forget to mention it was a female altar server) then sweetly said to me, 
"He was so quiet all through Mass. You expect babies to just cry at any second, so I was a bit nervous for you.  I think its because you fed him right away when he was hungry."
I nodded and said that it probably helped.  Then she asked,
"Were you feeding him the entire time after that? Because I couldn't even tell."
"Yes," I replied, then she said,
"That's probably easier than those aprony things."

That's when the bells went off for me. It was easier. I've spent 4 years inconveniencing myself for people whose good opinion I am not even seeking. For people who don't even notice I'm feeding the babies till I bring out the big pink and grey flag that says "Hey, look at me, I'm feeding my baby!"

It also occurred to me that all it took for our priest was to look elsewhere.  He didn't say anything specifically about breastfeeding to me after Mass, but he did say that Zach looked like a big healthy boy, and added, "Good job, mom."

If our priest can look elsewhere, so can other men/women. All it takes is some rationality and will-power, whereas for a nursing mom, it takes

1. Remembering to bring the nursing cover.
2. Taking said cover out and putting it on.
3. Calming the baby under the cover (which is especially difficult with a handsy 6 month-old on a sweltering day).
4. Latching the baby
5. Making sure the cover doesn't slip aside, blow aside or get pulled aside (sometimes involving wrestling it from the baby, who then unlatches and fusses, beginning the process over again).
6. Sitting there trying to be discreet with her big huge pretty nursing flag.

Alternately, if covering is an issue - it takes leaving a conversation and isolating herself in another room. I've never been so lonely as the Thanksgiving dinner that I spent up in a bedroom alone nursing my first, while friends of ours talked and laughed below.  

It was in those moments that I first thought something was wrong if moms have to spend hours housebound, or socially isolated in the name of the natural God-given practice of nursing a baby.  I've even had people say to me while I'm wearing my cover, "Oh, you're feeding, so I'll leave you alone." So the pink and grey thing that was supposed to make everything better actually made it more awkward.

My midwife said to me one day that if women keep covering, it will just further perpetuate the feeling that breastfeeding is something that needs to be covered, something dirty and bad. To be kept locked up.  I think we all just need to take a look at ourselves and apply a little rational thought to the situation. I'm not intentionally flashing people, like I'm a starstruck fan at some concert  - I'm feeding my baby.

I’m all about simplifying life with kids – not complicating it. So from now on, the cover is one complication I’m leaving behind.   

Friday, January 10, 2014

Seven Quick Takes: Vol. 17 (The Newborn Edition!)

More fantastic-ness over at Jen's!

ONE:

We went from this:

To this:

On January 6! 

Allow me to introduce Zachary Maurice Cyr!
Born January 6, 8:05 p.m. Weighing 10 lbs, 3 oz.  21.25 inches long. 

TWO:

I was ridiculously happy. 
This pregnancy was hard, capped off with going 2 weeks past my due date.  After some serious dark times, mentally and physically, having Zachary in my arms felt like a miracle.

THREE:
Here we are today.  I'm starting to feel a bit more normal, but still not putting on makeup, so forgive my blotches and bags.  This is the day after Zachary finally let me pause the feeding long enough to sleep 4 hours in a row.

FOUR:

Big brother Patrick never looked so old to me!


FIVE:

The boys love their brother.  They want to hug him all the time, which is both precious and dangerous.  They also keep giving him toys, and telling him to "come here!".  We have explained over and over that it'll be awhile till he plays with them.

SIX:

My mom. Mom came over this morning and I had a great nap/nurse with Zachary.  That totally deserves mention because I've gotten less sleep with this baby than either of the other two, and Joseph has run out of days he can take off during the week.  Sleep equals sanity. Thanks mom.

SEVEN:
One more little tidbit about Zachary. Joseph pointed out that he was born on the 12th day of Christmas, so though he wasn't born on our due date (Dec.  24) he is still a Christmas baby!

Enjoy your weekends! Until next time!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Seven Quick Takes: Vol. 16

More over at Jen's!

ONE:

I'm in the ultrasound clinic... That's right. This gigantic baby is still residing in my belly. 41 weeks and 3 days.

I naively thought, despite my other two sons' later arrivals that this one might be different, but alas... Here I am explaining to medical professionals that my body is a slow cooker in a microwave world.  

Today I fully expect to be told that this baby is in the 9-10 lb range and that his head circumference is large. Bah-ha-ha.  This will do a lot for my case of mounting post-date anxiety.

TWO:

On the bright side: Joseph provided me with delicious coffee.

And.... 1 hour and 23 minutes later, (because apparently rookie ultrasound techs need to learn on "post-date" women), I am told everything is looking good and that indeed I was close in my 10 lb prediction.  

THREE:

I finished the mattress and bedding for a beautiful cradle Joseph built for our boy:


We'd been using a secondhand bassinet for our newborns before, but I wanted something that would rock.  Joseph surprised me with this on Christmas Day. Now we just need this baby to come sleep here!

FOUR:

Among other things Joseph has been building around the house, he was asked to build a casket for his uncle who died recently after fighting cancer.

It is the fourth casket he has built, and the third for a family member.  His first was for my Dad.

Some people are really creeped out by caskets and really, the whole idea of death and the logistics of burial.  

I have witnessed a bit of a ministry in my husband though, and some therapeutic properties in the action of building these final resting places for the bodies of our loved ones.

In the act of planing and sanding and assembling, Joseph had done something tangible to grieve and help his family to grieve.  He builds caskets with compassion and love, and while building them, he can't help but to contemplate the deceased person themselves.

It's a powerful thing to witness.  It brings out a solemn reverence in Joseph that I rarely see.  

I know it's weird, but I've never been prouder of anything he's built.  It's more personal and filled with meaning I suppose.

The funeral for his uncle was today, and we had to miss it because of my ultrasound.  I am really sad about that.  I pray he rests well with the Father.

FIVE:

I've been so in my head about this baby that I've been searching out ways to distract myself.  The book "Dad Is Fat" by Jim Gaffigan came in my holds pile just in time.  Totally hilarious.  

I'm sure since I started as. 359th on the holds list most people have read it before me, but in case you haven't, pick it up.

SIX:

Uhhhh. I'm sorry, unless you want to hear more baby rambling and whining, I have nothing.  So I'll cut myself off while you still like me. 

Enjoy the weekend!