Preface: This is a really long, detailed post. There's a lot to tell, and I didn't want to forget any of it. I also do a lot of reflecting toward the end.
I've been putting off writing this post - and for more than my usual procrastinatory reasons (yeah, I'm pretty sure I made that word up). Jesse's birth was literally the most traumatic experience of my life, both physically and psychologically, and I'm still healing. I'm also still trying to sort through and fully analyze what I went through, how I feel about it, and trying to come to terms with it all.
At the same time, I came away from it with the most beautiful little miracle.
That phrase still feels so foreign to me...but loving this baby has been as easy as breathing. Learning to live this new life with a baby – now that's another story altogether.
Back to the story at hand: Jesse's birth. I guess I'll just start at the beginning...not the real beginning; the beginning of the end, I suppose. The end of my pregnancy, that is.
Friday, January 18:
We were six days “past due” (which I still argue with, based on my previous calculations of conception, and considering how my body performed over the next two days). I was scheduled to go in for a non-stress test at the hospital that morning. Thankfully Luke had the day off, due to it being a holiday weekend. At that point, I wasn't worried about the test, since I had been feeling relatively good (other than extremely pregnant). I even packed my swim gear, thinking that we could hit up the pool at the rec center on the way back from the hospital. I hadn't had any signs of labor at this point - no contractions, no leaking, nothing to indicate I would be having a baby soon – just lots of bouncing around from the little guy inside.
We made our way over to maternal fetal medicine, and they took us back to a room. They hooked me up to a machine (it was very ghetto - the nurse seemed not to know what she was doing, and the monitors kept coming off) where they asked me a million questions, and then we spent the next thirty minutes or so listening to the baby's heartbeat. It was phenomenal, by the way. There was a very healthy boy in there.
Then we headed into another room for an ultrasound. The nurse helping us explained that we would be checking fluid levels and baby's cord, to make sure he was doing okay in there. She was older, and very opinionated. She seemed very sure that because I was past my due date, I would be induced that day. I explained to her that my doctor had agreed to let me wait until 2 weeks past due to be induced as long as I came in for these tests over the next week. The nurse expressed disapprovingly that she thought that was a very bad idea, and that I should just be induced. She didn't seem all that impressed with my natural birth plan. I didn't really care what she thought, and I just wanted her to be quiet and do her job.
As she started looking around via ultrasound, the nurse told us it looked like the amniotic fluid levels were low. She took some measurements, forwarded them to my doctor, Heather Harrison's office, then told us we were looking at pretty low fluid levels and that Heather was probably going to want to start induction. Looking back, I understand what she was trying to say, and that she was only doing her job; however, her attitude up to that point had really bothered me. I felt like once she had diagnosed the AFL, she became vindicated, adopting an “I told you so” attitude.
Luke and I sat in the room for a few minutes while waiting to hear back from Heather. I was starting to get upset, and Luke talked me through the likely scenario of being admitted to the hospital. I really didn't feel like I was in the right place to start the process, and I was frustrated that things were not going the way I had wanted and anticipated. I told Luke I wanted to do this on my terms, and I needed to get into a better mental state before we started. When the nurse returned and told us that Heather had said to go upstairs to the Labor & Delivery ward, Luke hinted that we might make a quick stop home along the way. The nurse was a champ about that, thankfully. She said that she was telling us to go immediately to L & D, per our doctor's orders, but that hypothetically, we would not be in any danger by postponing our check-in by an hour.
At the time, I felt like the nurse had pushed her agenda of induction to interfere with my plan. I even made Luke look up info on low amniotic fluid levels and the danger we were supposedly in once we got checked into the hospital. We've both done some more research since, and have realized that: 1 - it actually is quite common for the fluid levels to be low at that stage of pregnancy, 2 - it's possible the fluid had been low for some time, and 3 - I wasn't having any of the other symptoms of issues associated with low AFL. So, yes, there was technically a potential threat to my baby. At the same time, if it was really that big of an issue, my question is, why did we not do any mid-to-late-pregnancy ultrasounds to monitor the fluid levels? I came to the conclusion that it's more based on how the baby is acting...so we probably weren't in as much danger as everyone scared us into believing. At the same time, I am glad that we didn't have to learn the hard way by having something happen to Jesse due to low AFL. Ultimately, it all worked out in the end, with a healthy mom and a healthy baby, for which I am grateful (this is a recurring theme to many of the events that took place during the 43 hours of my labor). How I feel about the rest of it, well, I will get into that later.
We left the office, and on our way out of the hospital we ran into my cousin Andrew, who was working there. He was the first person who we told, “we’re having a baby today!” (or so we thought…). We headed home, and I was trying desperately to stay calm. We ate a quick lunch, and then finished packing our birth bag (yes, I was a week past due, and hadn't finished packing!). Then I took a few minutes to just sit and relax, clearing my head, and listening to my hypnobabies tracks.
I took a deep breath, and we got in the car. For a few minutes, it felt like time itself had slowed. I was hyper-aware of everything - my breathing, the chilled air against my skin, the sun warming my face, the smell of leather in our car and my baby kicking up a storm in my belly. I started feeling good. I hadn't planned for this, I hadn't expected it, but I accepted that I was going to be having my baby and I felt ready to get started.
I looked around as we drove, appreciating the beautiful day. The sun was bright, and the sky was a clear January blue. Snow covered the ground, piled high in places. I continued to tell myself that I was ready to do this. I’m not sure I was completely convinced. It seemed we arrived at the hospital too soon.
We made our way up to L & D, where we got checked in at about 2:30 PM. We also talked to Heather on the phone, who half-teasingly scolded us for being late. She said she would be monitoring me from her office, and would have the nurses keep in contact with her as things progressed. We were taken to our room, and greeted by our nurse, Emily. She helped me get situated, and we talked about what Heather wanted us to do. Obviously, my body wasn't ready to have a baby, with no signs of labor, so we had to start it artificially.
We started with Cytotec, a drug inserted vaginally to help start dilation. Due to our supposed AFL problems, they had tagged me as a high-risk birth and I had to be hooked up to monitors the whole time, which meant I couldn't be mobile. That frustrated me from the get-go, since I had been practicing different laboring positions...none of which involved being strapped to a bed. Emily also placed the hep-lock in my vein, in case they needed to give me anything via IV.
The Cytotec was to be administered every 3 hours, depending on dilation. Emily explained that it started working for most women by the second dose, but that sometimes a third dose was needed. Almost immediately, I started cramping from the Cytotec, which was good because it was supposed to do that. But, unfortunately, I didn't dilate.
Luke left for a little bit to go get a couple things from the house and to pick up some dinner for himself. I told him to bring one of my DVDs (season one of How I Met Your Mother, which he couldn't find...because I don't own it, even though I thought I did. So he went to the store to try find it). He returned with some fast food, which I made him eat outside of my room (fast food smells for the lose!), and we attempted to watch a couple episodes of HIMYM.
Emily administered the second dose of Cytotec at 6:00 PM, and then introduced us to her replacement, Stephanie. Stephanie administered my 9:00 PM dose (the third one), and then came in around midnight to check my dilation. I still hadn't dilated at all, despite the lovely cramps I had been suffering through all evening. She called Heather, who suggested a fourth dose of Cytotec – not commonly administered, but I think Heather was trying to accommodate my natural birth plan. She told the nurse that if that didn't work, we'd start Pitocin.
Saturday, January 19:
Unfortunately, the fourth dose also did nothing. So at about 3:30 AM I was introduced to our next nurse, another Stephanie, and I was given my first IV with Pitocin. Heather wanted it ramped up as quickly as possible to see if it would jump-start my dilation, so I was quickly moved to the highest dose of Pit. Nothing happened except for almost constant contractions (on top of all the cramping).
By this time, it was mid-morning (8-ish, I think), and we got to meet nurse number 4 - Chelsie. I was constantly being monitored and was frequently checked for dilation. Neither Luke nor I had slept for more than a couple hours total. Going to the bathroom was an ordeal (unhooking the monitors, dragging around my IV and all the cords), made all the more inconvenient by the fluids being pumped into me and the baby treating my bladder like a pair of bongos, causing me to have to go frequently! I'd been trying desperately to stay positive and in a relaxed state, listening to my hypnosis tracks almost constantly. However, I was starting to feel a little dejected, and I was frustrated that my body wasn't cooperating.
My contractions were so frequent and intense that Heather had Chelsie turn the Pit down a little bit. That was almost a nice break ;) A couple more hours passed and the Pitocin was turned back up. We met our next nurse, Debbie, who was older and much more opinionated than the other nurses had been. She wanted to get the baby out as quickly as possible, and didn't seem to understand my desire to do things naturally.
At 11 AM, Heather came in to see us. She was concerned with my lack of progress, but understanding my desires for a natural birth, she suggested we try using a cervical balloon (which she and I had discussed previously). The idea behind this procedure is to put pressure on the cervix and simulate baby's head coming down, which is supposed to get dilation going. The only problem is, the cervix usually needs to be open far enough to insert the catheter with the balloon attached. Mine wasn't. I was told the procedure isn't painless, but generally is really quick to insert, and then it starts working. Of course I had to be the exception to this.
More than 45 painful minutes (and a lot of blood and tears) later, Heather had finally inserted the catheter. I was now dilated to a 2, mostly because she'd had to shred my cervix to insert the catheter. Apparently I was still shut so tight that the catheter wouldn't go in. She'd had to try several times to get it in, and make it stay. The procedure exhausted me, and hurt a metric shit-ton (exact measure). Unfortunately (or not?), I didn't get much rest after that, because the weight of the balloon had ramped up my contractions and given me a stomachache and headache. Oh, and apparently they didn't have the normal cervical balloon equipment, so the nurse had to jimmy-rig a weight to hang from the end of the catheter for me – a 10-pound IV fluid bag that hung off the side of the bed and applied constant, heavy, painful pressure to my cervix. I’ve heard of being hung by your hair as torture – I would put this in a similarly painful and even more personally violating category.
The afternoon passed in a slow daze. I felt really sick, and hoped that meant that things were progressing.
At about 2 PM, the balloon fell out (meaning I had dilated to 4 cm). We got even more excited about an hour later when my water broke. Things seemed to be moving forward, thankfully, since I'd been in hard labor for 24 hours now.
Sadly, that was the last bit of good news we had for a while. At my next cervical check, I was dilated to not-quite-a-4-anymore. Right. Moving backwards. Not what I wanted to hear. I think that by this point I was just completely exhausted, and my body was starting to resist my attempts to relax and progress. Over the next few hours my cervix closed back up to a 3, and stayed there. I was trying so hard to stay positive, but I hurt, I was tired, I was hungry, and I was incredibly frustrated by the entire process.
At around 6 PM, we met our 6th nurse, Laura. Both Luke and I really liked her. She seemed very kind, soft spoken, and nurturing. She definitely gave me a lot of moral support, talking to me about what I was going through (I think she said she had 3 kids of her own), and trying to keep me positive.
As the evening progressed and it became clear that I was not getting any nearer to having a baby, Luke talked with Laura, in a very roundabout way, about our options. They discussed Laura's positive experiences birthing her kids naturally, but with the added help of an epidural. I semi-listened while trying desperately to relax. Somehow, the harder I tried, the less relaxed I felt.
By about 9 PM, I was in tears from the pain and the emotional and physical exhaustion. After being told over and over in the past 30 hours that "as soon as [such and such] happens, you'll be having your baby," and "your baby will be here before you know it," I was feeling pretty hopeless. Luke very gently suggested that I might need a little help to get me through the rest of this birth. I know he was really having a hard time watching me suffer, but at the same time, he wanted to respect my decision to give birth the way I wanted to. I'm sure it was a really difficult place for him to be (at the time, though, I wasn't exactly focused on his misery...mine was blaring right in front of me, after all).
We discussed what my body was doing (stalling), and why (lack of relaxation, most likely). We talked about our options. To this point, our baby's vitals had looked amazing, so Heather was letting me do things my way (more or less, minus an early induction, monitors hanging all over me, a sleepless night, a shredded cervix, and a torture ritual that James Bond would probably not have survived). However, if this changed, we both knew she would hurry the birth process however she had to in order to get him out (i.e. a C-section, which threat hung like a fog over my head as every moment passed, and which in my mind, was one of the worst possible outcomes to this whole situation). It was clear that my body and my baby were refusing to comply with the medical interventions we had used to get the birth process going. In order for me to continue on the path to my "natural" birth, I needed to somehow get my body to relax enough to let the Pitocin dilate me. I had known for a couple hours that my hypnosis techniques were not cutting it anymore. I was also very angry, which was definitely not contributing to any relaxation. I was angry at my body for not complying with the doctor's orders. I was angry with the results of the non-stress test, which had led to this whole ordeal. I was angry that I wasn't having the birth I wanted and had spent so much time envisioning and preparing for. I was angry that I couldn't relax. Most of all, I was scared that I was going to need a C-section to get my baby out, or that something else would go wrong.
After talking all this out with Luke, I finally determined that I did need some help. I had done all that I could, for as long as I could, but it wasn't enough. I called for Laura, and told her that I was ready for an epidural. Then she left to call the anesthesiologist, and I cried some more, feeling like I had just given up my last hope of this birth happening the way I wanted it to.
The anesthesiologist came in just before 11 PM and talked me through the procedure while he got set up. I remember an uncomfortable sensation as he inserted the needle, but it wasn't as bad as I had expected it to be. Very soon after, I felt such an instant, incredible absence of pain that I praised the anesthesiologist. When he came back to check on me to make sure the drugs had kicked in, I told him that he was my new best friend. He laughed and said he heard that a lot.
From this point on, things felt different. Well first of all, they felt great! I was so happy to not be feeling the cramps and contractions and I could finally relax. As much as one can relax while hooked up to all sorts of machines and having nurses come in and check things like blood pressure and other very personal areas every 30 minutes. Luke and I were finally able to get a little sleep.
Unfortunately, through this process, I learned that I am one of the lucky ones whose body doesn't take to anesthesia very well, and I kept getting un-numb on the side I wasn't laying on. In addition to having my vitals tested and my dilation checked frequently throughout the night, I had to be turned every hour to keep the medication working. It was okay though, because I was feeling so much better. Also, every check of my cervix revealed progress (FINALLY!!!), and I ended up dilating about a centimeter an hour over the next 7 hours.
Sunday, January 20:
The night was not overly restful, but in comparison to the previous day/night/day, it was bliss! Best of all, it was starting to look like I would actually be having my baby. At 6 in the morning, I was fully dilated to 10 centimeters. We had to say goodbye to Laura, but we were introduced to Mandy, who became our new favorite nurse. Yes, this was our seventh nurse in L & D...we even had one of the previous nurses (one of the Stephanies, I think) stop by in the morning to say hi as she started her next shift!
Mandy was great! She was upbeat and friendly, and she was very excited to be with us for the culmination of our time in L & D. When she checked me and told me I was dilated to a 10, she said that we needed to wait another hour before pushing to "rest and descend" (basically to allow baby time to get into place). We waited until the hour passed.
I started pushing at 7:15, with Mandy there to help coach me. I wasn't feeling the pain of my contractions, thanks to the epidural. However, the pushing was really difficult. I didn't like the position I had to be in, and the baby kept pushing back. His foot was lodged in my ribcage for almost an hour, which made breathing extremely difficult. By the time Heather got to the hospital, at about 8:30, I was ready to be done. Ha!
Heather checked me and said that I hadn't made as much progress as she would have liked. The baby was turned sideways and was stuck on my pubic bone, so he wasn't responding to the pushing like he should have been. That was frustrating. For the next half hour, I pushed while Heather turned the baby and held him in place between contractions. Finally, he decided to stay where she put him, and we were able to move on.
I was holding my breath a lot during the pushing phases (it’s impossible to breathe in while pushing out), and the baby’s heart rate was rising a little in response. As a result, I had to be put on oxygen for a while, which was really annoying. It was just one more thing that made pushing more difficult. Then, because my contractions were so far apart, but were lasting so long, Heather had me start doing 5 sets of 8 second pushes instead of the normal 3 sets of 10. I don't feel like I've ever had so little breath and energy to do something than that hour of pushing!
Up until about 9:30, I had been listening to my "birthing day" hypnosis tracks. However, I started to get really irritated by the narration, so I made Luke turn it off. I switched to listening to the relaxation music tracks. My reason for this was sheer frustration at the lack of my "wonderful, natural birth" and all the coaching that "my body knew what it was doing." I was feeling very betrayed by my body and its inability to do this the "right" way, and I was trying not to be upset. Instead, I focused on listening to the relaxing music, communicating with Luke, and visualizing my focal points. I had a picture of Mt. Timpanogos framed and set next to me in the room that I kept studying to remind me that this was just another hike, and once I got to the summit, I would be feeling a lot different. I just had to get to the top of that freaking mountain!
Just before 10 AM, almost 3 hours into this pushing marathon, Heather checked me again. One thing I love about her is that she just gives it to you straight. At that moment though, I was less than thrilled when she told me I was not progressing and we were running out of time and options. The baby was just not responding to my pushing. Heather told me I could either keep pushing for another half hour (which she didn't recommend, due to how tired I was), she could use a vacuum to help the baby come out, or we could move right into a C-section. Of course, we told her to go ahead with the vacuum.
As she was setting things up, Heather explained that the vacuum usually helped with this kind of situation (getting the baby under my pubic bone), with a few caveats. If the suction broke more than 3 times off of baby's head, or if even with the vacuum, a half hour passed, she would stop trying, and we would move into C-section. With the dreaded "C-bomb" being dropped so many times, I was getting apprehensive and worried that my body and baby would continue to make things difficult. My fears only heightened when after my first push with the vacuum attached, the suction broke. We made it through a few more pushes with the vacuum before the suction broke a second time. Thankfully, at this point, our little boy was just about out.
Heather brought up two issues at this point. She could see his head, but she was worried because his cord was wrapped around his neck several times. She said she wanted to cut it, even though he was still in the birth canal. We told her to go ahead. She also expressed concern that she didn't think he would fit as he came out, and she felt an episiotomy was necessary. Again, I told her to do whatever she needed to do. She cut the umbilical cord (and stuff sprayed everywhere - thankfully up to this point, I hadn't been able to see much of the gore. But when it got all over my husband, I definitely noticed that...). Then she quickly cut me, and we waited for my next contraction.
When the contraction came, I pushed with everything I had. I wanted my baby out, and I wanted to be done with the rest. Thankfully, with me pushing, Heather pulling, and Luke and Mandy coaching, it finally happened, and Jesse was born! It was 10:15, exactly 3 hours after I had started pushing, and just over 43 hours since I had started Cytotec. I felt so relieved and thrilled that we had made it through to the other side. However, because Heather had cut his cord while he was still inside, and his oxygen supply had been cut off for about 2 minutes, Jesse didn't respond when he first came out. It was an agonizingly long, terror-filled minute of me clutching Luke while Heather and the nurses worked on him to get him to start breathing. All I could think about was that after everything I had just gone through to get my baby here, he'd better be okay. Heather remained calm and reminded us that his heartbeat had been very strong right up until he was born, so he should be okay. I have to say, though – waiting for my brand new baby to breathe was one of the worst feelings I have ever experienced in my life.
Finally, we heard him cry. It was the most beautiful little sound I had ever heard. Mandy brought him over to us. He was so perfect! His head was pretty beat up from being pushed and pulled out of his home, and he wasn't exactly happy, but he sure was precious. The three of us sat there on that bed and cried together, holding each other, and loving being together as a family for the first time.
Jesse was weighed and measured, (8 pounds even, and 21 inches long), and despite all the trauma of the past three days, he was healthy as a horse. Luke maintains that my dedication to a natural birth and sacrifice throughout the process diverted the trauma from Jesse to me. Had we made different decisions, he may have borne more of the brunt of the trauma, but I chose to take it upon myself instead.
After Jesse was weighed and bathed, Mandy helped me to start nursing him. Heather stitched me up and cleaned things up down there. I barely noticed. Everything was a blur, as I was simply focused on cuddling my beautiful baby boy.
Despite all the inconveniences, the changing of plans, and the pain and suffering, my baby was here, and he was healthy. Luke and I thanked Heather over and over again. She had, as much as her profession allowed, let me do things the way I wanted.
I am still really frustrated by a lot of what went on over the course of those three days. I know everyone was just trying to do their jobs, and keep me and my baby healthy. However, I feel like what I wanted my birth experience to be could have happened, had I done things differently. I respect and appreciate my doctor very much for allowing me to labor my way (even if it would have been faster and easier to intervene several times). I suppose I had to learn a couple lessons the hard way – first, that I was strong enough to handle the pain of labor, and second – that I needed to recognize my limits (30+ hours of hard, un-medicated labor, with no significant progress), and ask for help.
I also believe that childbirth in America is viewed in a very different light than many other countries, and that the mainstream system is designed to be efficient and convenient for the medical staff. I get that – I worked in the medical and dental fields for years. At the same time, I feel like it is a broken system, and is not focused where it should be – on what the mother wants and needs (within the bounds of reason). When everything is done to cover the doctor’s/hospital’s butts, the care is given much differently than it could be if the focus were elsewhere. It is a system that works for a lot of people, and I truly am glad it works for them. However, I do not believe it is something that worked for me.
This whole ordeal was started because of a test that is only done at the end of pregnancy. The research I’ve done in the past few months indicates that induction due to low fluid levels seems to be a trump card for the medical professionals to use in order to get babies out on their schedule. Don’t get me wrong – I respect my doctor, and her professional opinion. I also understand that the medical community is so heavily burdened by liability issues that everyone has to follow protocols to stay “safe.” However, just because it is the way these doctors do it, does not mean it’s the only way, or necessarily the best way.
If I had to do it over again, knowing what I know now…well, I probably would have elected to not be induced at this point. I would have liked to wait for my body to signal that it was ready – especially since there was no other sign of distress in my body or from my baby.
However, if I had to go through the whole induction process over again, I would have gotten the epidural much sooner! I truly believe that my inability to maintain a relaxed state was a huge factor in dragging out my labor.
Like I said before, I truly do respect Heather. She is a phenomenal doctor, and has such a great demeanor. She was always very willing to listen to our concerns throughout my pregnancy, answer our many questions, and discuss everything with us in detail. I’m really glad she was the doctor I chose for this experience. I don’t believe I would have had as much liberty to do some of the things I wanted had I been working with another doctor.
She’s also been a great doctor since Jesse was born. She’s a family practice doctor, so we have continued seeing her for all his appointments. I’ve been very pleased, and will be sad to leave her care next year. I highly recommend her to anyone looking to get away from the assembly line OBGYN’s that exist in abundance in Utah Valley.
As for my hypnosis training – I believe that it really did help me in the beginning of my labor, to distract me from the pain. It was also helpful throughout my pregnancy. I don’t feel like it completely took the pain away, but it helped me keep my mind from focusing on it as much. I also appreciated the perspective I gained from my training in looking at birth in a different light. I really enjoyed the program I went through, and will probably use it again in the future.
On the other hand, I don’t proclaim it to be some miraculous pain-relieving program, like I was told by several women who had used it in their births. It did work well as a tool for me, an aid in my pain relief and relaxation – to an extent. I began to feel very bitter toward the training I received as I neared the end of my expedition. I felt as though I hadn’t been fully prepared for what I encountered, and was ill-equipped to handle what I had to go through. I feel like the mentality behind the hypnobabies training was that everything will go right, and just avoid medical intervention (that’s a gross oversimplification, but a pretty good takeaway of the philosophies taught). That did nothing to help me at all, as I was thrust into a situation brimming with medical interventions.
My birth experience also undid a lot of the mental coaching that hypnobabies gave me. Many of the tracks are affirmations, which reiterate the body’s ability to give birth naturally, as well as the lessening of discomfort during labor. I had listened to these affirmations for months, reinforcing that my body knew what it was doing, and could handle giving birth, and that I needed to relax and allow my body to do its job. Well, being put into an artificial induction situation, my body didn’t actually know what it was doing, so it didn’t. I believe my body and my baby were not ready for me to give birth, which is why every induction procedure I went through failed to achieve the desired results. Had I been in an ideal natural birth setting, with my body prompting my baby to be born, I believe things would have gone much differently.
Despite understanding that logically, I still struggle to not blame my body. I feel like my body is to blame for not keeping my baby in a safer environment (the amniotic fluid level), as well as resisting the artificial induction hormones to jump-start my labor. I think some of this mistrust stems from my frustration with my body for my previous health problems. Nonetheless, it has been a huge hurdle to overcome in my healing process.
I’ve had almost ten months to reflect on what I went through. I’ve also had almost ten months to experience a completely foreign life called motherhood. It has been such a joy and a challenge. I have suffered so much, and struggled in so many different ways. Hopefully that means I’ve grown in so many different ways too…
Ironically enough, motherhood did not come easily to me. I spent so much time worrying about my birthing experience, and told Luke repeatedly that I wasn’t worried about actually having a baby. I thought I knew what I was going to do once I had him – after all, nurturing is as easy as breathing to me. It’s in my nature. I’ve been babysitting since I was eight. I helped my mom raise my brother and take care of the house. I was a nanny for four kids one summer, several years ago. Motherhood, I thought, I could handle…I couldn’t have been more wrong.
The first few months were difficult because Luke and I were maneuvering through the uncharted waters of parenthood, as well as because I was healing (very sloooowly). Not to mention, we weren’t sleeping. Oh, and my husband was in grad school. I’ve always known I need a decent amount of sleep to be a pleasant person. This past year definitely solidified that belief. Running on 3-4 hours of sleep for months without end did not allow me to be my best self. I’m grateful that I have a husband who loves me so much to forgive me, and a baby who will not remember those months. All of a sudden, I was running with my tank on empty, but the demands on my time and energy were more than they had ever been.
I also had to reconfigure many of my perceptions and beliefs in how I wanted to parent. There were so many preconceived notions that I just had to throw out the window, either because they didn’t work for us, or because something I had previously been against did work. I didn’t have time to delve too deeply into my changing philosophies. This helpless little baby needed me. I just had to do what I felt was right, and roll with it.
Despite the toll it took on me physically and emotionally, I did everything I could to give my baby what he needed. He wasn’t a great sleeper – so I carried him in a wrap during the day and slept on the floor of the nursery at night. We tried so many different things! This boy has a strong will – crying it out didn't work, everyone sleeping in the same room didn't work because Luke was waking up every 45 minutes with me and Jesse, and it was affecting his performance in school. We discovered “The Happiest Baby on the Block” and the 5 S’s. Naps in the swing helped, white noise helped, swaddling helped (we swaddled him until he was about 6 months old). A recorded track of Luke “shushing” helped. Despite everything, though, Jesse just had a tough time sleeping both during the day and at night for about the first 6 months.
We also struggled with nursing for months (and we still are, with different challenges these days) – but I endured the pain, discomfort and demands on my time, so that I could provide him with the best nourishment I could. Nowadays I just have to be creative in keeping him distracted enough to settle down and nurse, while not providing too much distraction that he won’t nurse.
There are so many ways my life is changed. I can’t do many of the things I used to take for granted – going out on a regular basis with my husband, going to bed when I wanted to (rather than sleeping when the baby sleeps!), putting my feet up to read a book or play video games, even watching movies at home (with a sound system right underneath the nursery…yeah, that’s not happening!). Luke has had to take over the gardening. I also have less time in the kitchen, which has sucked, because I miss baking! My life is run on Baby Standard Time – meaning I’m basically on call 24-7 to meet the needs of this little boy. I understand that some of it is my own choosing, in the ways I have decided to parent my child. But some of it is simply the nature of being a full-time parent. It has been the hardest year of my life.
Here's the deal though: I am completely in love with this little boy! Despite everything I've gone through in the past year and a half, I would not take any of it back, because it brought me him. This is where I was meant to be. He makes my life complete. He makes our family complete. I never knew how much my heart could grow until I fell I love with him. I feel as though I've become a different person. I feel more fulfilled with the work I do every day than I have ever been in my life. The privilege of spending each and every day with this little guy makes my heart sing.
I love the way he throws his head back to laugh at everything. I love the way his face scrunches up and how big his lower lip gets when he cries. I love that he comes to me to tell me when he's hurting, and that I am the one he wants to comfort him. I love how excited every fiber of his being gets when he sees the kitty. I love the way he rests his head on my shoulder when he's just about asleep. I love seeing his little hand creep under the door when I'm going to the bathroom. I love how he begs for food whenever Luke and I are eating. I love watching him trying to figure things out. I love it when he laughs at his burps. I love that he sings along when Luke sings to him. I love how messy he (and I, by default) gets! I love his fearlessness. I love watching the gears in his little mind turn as he makes a new connection. I love his open-mouthed kisses. I love his determination.
I love how much fun it has been to watch him grow up so far, but I hate how fast it is going!
So, yes, giving birth was the craziest thing I had ever experienced in my life, up to the point. But I am so glad that I did it, and I would do it all over again in a heartbeat, because my little boy made it totally worth it!