31 March 2009

Things I've Learned - C-Sections

I was a breech baby, born by scheduled caesarean section. My dad, for years, kept forgetting my birthday because he thought they’d chosen the second of the two dates available for surgery. Back then in the dark ages of 1970, my mom was oblivious to the whole procedure, knocked out under a general anaesthetic. Modern anaesthesiology now allows mom to be awake and aware of the birth of her baby, a fact I am particularly grateful for, since I had an unexpected c-section myself.

After almost 30 hours of labour with my son, he hadn’t descended at all, and I had dilated a grand total of four centimetres.

Four stinking centimetres. Not even half way there, after water breaking at home, labouring for hours, two trips to the hospital, being sent home both times to labour in the comfort of my own home...

(Aside – who the hell uses the words labour and comfort in the same sentence?)

Then finally being admitted when contractions were less than two minutes apart and I couldn’t see straight in the midst of them. Gas. Epidural. Constant internal monitoring due to a low baseline fetal heartbeat, and ever increasing levels of oxytocin being administered.

All that for four measly centimetres. The Boy was staying put.

My GP and the resident on duty suggested that the baby might be too big for my pelvic bones to allow his passage. They told us we could continue trying for another four hours if we wished, but that they were going to bring in the on-call obstetrician to consult. While they were out of the room, my husband and I had a rare quiet moment alone and talked things over.

I was exhausted. The baby, although not in distress, kept doing worrying things with his heart rate. I was worried that if this went on too much longer, that I wouldn’t have energy left to push when the time came, or that the baby might become distressed and then we’d end up with much drama, and an emergency c-section.

We decided it was better to choose a c-section and deliver the baby safely than to risk complications for either one of us. If they suggested it, we wouldn’t fight it.

Twenty minutes later I was being rolled into the operating room.

We're all about the hats in this family

Last week, in fact a week ago today, my cousin had a baby girl. Like me, she had an unplanned c-section. Visiting her in the hospital with that beautiful tiny little baby, surrounded by friends and family, memories started to wash over me: things I didn’t realize I’d forgotten in the ten months since The Boy was born.

The Take-away:

Here is some of what I wrote in an email to my cousin and her husband that night:*
  1. You will feel like crying. This is normal, good and necessary. Let the tears flow. It's your body's way of dealing with its wild change in hormonal activity in the last 24 hours, and also of acknowledging the physical trauma of your surgery, not to mention the overwhelming emotions of becoming a parent. Think of the tears like a refreshing summer rain that scrubs the air clean and leaves everything revived. Let them wash away your insecurities and fears. Know that the tears will pass and you will feel better for having let them flow.
  2. Your abdomen will feel puffed full of air. This is because it is - for reasons unknown to me, this is a common result of a c-section. The only way to get rid of this air/discomfort is the indelicate reality of much flatulence. So embrace your inner frat boy and let them rip. (Re: frat boy: I don't suggest lighting your farts. Open flame + newborn = poor judgement call, and only so much can be forgiven because of hormones.)
  3. The hospital will likely give you stool softeners. TAKE THEM. The painkillers you're on can bung you up. You do not want this. Getting constipated (also common post childbirth whether c-section or vaginal delivery) is a whole deal you want to avoid at all costs, and it contributes to more discomfort in regard to item 2. Also, when you're able to, walk around. This helps get/keep things moving.
  4. Dried apricots. Send someone out to get you some, and eat them by the handful. They will help you with item 3. Also they're a healthy source of energy and iron. And they're yummy. Much better than what passes for food from a hospital kitchen.
  5. Sleep when you can. Feel no guilt whatsoever in asking people to leave when you need to rest. This is one of the hardest things to do, but girl, you need your sleep. You may feel an irrational compulsion to check on your baby every five minutes or so, to make sure she's breathing or just to gaze at her beautiful little face. This is normal. But let it go and sleep if you can.
  6. The first time you look at your incision, it will seem big and ugly and kind of scary. Within a few weeks, as the stitches dissolve and the steri-strips fall off, and as your abdomen starts to shrink, the incision will get smaller, and less angry looking. What started out for me as the Joker's ghoulish grin carved into the top of my pubic area is now a small scar only three inches long that is gradually fading to match my skin tone (ie pasty fish-belly white).
  7. Shower as soon as they tell you that you can. This will make you feel more like yourself. And make sure you shower every day, even if nothing else gets done. Including housework and thank you notes. (Anyone who gets their panties in a knot about not getting a prompt thank you note from a new mom can go piss in the wind. Seriously.) It is shocking how hard it is to manage something as simple as a daily shower.
  8. You will sweat a disconcerting amount. This continues for the first week or so, then eases off. I remember waking up in the middle of the night literally in a puddle of sweat. This is how your body gets rid of that extra water you've been carrying around. And being on the IV for the c-section fills you up with even more fluid than your body would produce naturally.
  9. Speaking of which, you may be really swollen for the first several days. Drink lots of water. And even though you may not be able to tell at first when it’s time to pee, go as often as possible. Know that one morning you will wake up, be able to see your ankle bones again, and feel like you’re Audrey freaking Hepburn.

Okay, what did I miss? Any other advice for a new mom with a c-section? Feel free to leave a comment, or you can reach me at alexishinde at gmail dot com. I look forward to hearing from you!

*Edited for clarity, typos, to take out names, and to make self seem more clever.

19 March 2009

Things I Love - Bugaloo Shoes

Top 6 reasons why you should buy these shoes right now:

6. They're made in North America. To steal from this website: They're made for children, not by children. This dovetails nicely with what I've been reading recently as well as my own long-established prejudice/preference for buying from small business, more-or-less local, and hand made.

5. Free shipping (including international) with an order of 3 pairs.

4. Five percent of your purchase goes to Justice International Mission.

3. Cheaper by a significant margin than Robeez (which are now owned by a huge multinational and manufactured in the, to quote the nebulous term on their corporate website, Far East).

2. Excellent customer service, quick turnaround, and Heidi Wells answers her own emails.

And the number one reason to buy these shoes without delay:

1. The most important reason to buy any shoe, any time, for anyone: they are almost unbearably cute!!

I stumbled across the website almost by accident when looking for baby shoes on craigslist, and was impressed with the beautiful designs for both boys and girls, and the ease of placing an order. I chose the Sneakers (which I loved so much I ordered them in two sizes), and the Clives. When I got the shoes three days later (three days including shipping internationally), I was even more impressed. They're really well made, they fit well without being too tight or falling off, and they're even cuter in person than on the website. Whenever we're out and about The Boy never fails to get compliments on his shoes.

The Boy checks out his new footwear

Even better, Bugaloo is currently running a spring sale. Many of the shoes are only $14.

Note: I have no financial interest in Bugaloo Shoes, nor have I been offered free product or samples to write this review. Just like other reviews under Things I Love, I have found them myself or through the recommendations of friends, and used them in the real world.

14 March 2009

Things I've Read - Sleep Is for the Weak

In the last few weeks, I’ve been reading a series of books that have made me angry. So it was a pleasure to tuck into this lovely little book one afternoon as The Boy was napping.

When I first started this blog, I had no illusions that I was unique in my struggles and questions and daily triumphs as a new mom. I’ve lived long enough to know that if I’m thinking something, a whole bunch of other people are thinking it too. Advertisers count on this, it’s called demographics. What I did not know, however, was just how many women have taken to their keyboards and written exquisitely and unapologetically about their lives.

The thing about being a mom, especially a new, first-time mom, is it’s easy to feel alone. Despite caring friends and family, when it’s 3:30 in the morning and your beloved is sleeping and you’re trying to feed the baby and dammit breastfeeding hurts, you’re on your own. The Groundhog Day-like sameness to your days has you striving to be a better mom and person, without even the fun of a car chase. (Seriously, the chase scene in that movie is one of my favourites. Ever.) And conversations with your still-childless friends can leave you feeling pretty isolated. Not because of anything they’ve done or not done, just because they can’t possibly understand why it's such a personal triumph to get to the coffee shop, on time, with baby, both of you recently bathed and in clean clothes. No matter how supportive your partner, and even if you’re lucky enough to have friends with kids the same age, there are so many moments when you feel alone; when the enormity of the decisions you have to make every minute weighs on you almost unbearably.

So many of the child care books I’ve read are emotionally disappointing, discussing developmental milestones and common questions in a detached and impersonal, generic way. This book, however, is a quick read that is the cure for what ails you; the literary equivalent of hot chocolate or chicken noodle soup. (Or, you know, a gin and tonic. Whatever.) Comforting.

In this book you’ll find, as Stacy Morrison says in the Foreword, “…a story from someone just like you, or not at all like you, that will shine a light on something true you didn’t even know you needed to know until you found it.” These are fragments of the lives of women who have written honestly and unflinchingly about their parenthood experience, recognizing the joys of the process, but not glossing over the bits that hurt, that terrify, and that ultimately unite us. I was so moved as I read through the pages. Compassion for Jennifer Satterwhite, struggling to stay clean as she raises her kids, recognition as I read Amy Corbett Storch’s description of her visceral love for her son: “I feel like someone scraped off the top layer of my skin and created an entirely new little person with it,” and tears of solidarity as I read Kelli Oliver George’s advice for a new mom.

Get your hands on this book, or visit the websites of its contributors. I'll be adding them to the blogroll in the next few days and weeks.

05 March 2009

Things I've Learned - Pacifiers

The British call them dummies.

And that is how I was inclined to think of them, back in my pre-parenting days. None of this new age North American re-branded touchy-feely “soother” or “pacifier”. Back then, I was inclined to be judgy and sanctimonious about all manner of things. This is easy when you are completely ignorant about that which you are judging.

All I knew was that I hated the look of a soother in a baby’s mouth, and I swore that I would never use one.

You know what's coming, right?

We had The Boy.

I steadfastly stuck to my anti-soother stance for two entire months. How? Simple: I became The Boy’s soother. He was on the boob a lot in those first weeks. And a pinky finger inserted in a screaming baby’s mouth works wonders…

You know, except that you can’t really do anything else. An alarming percentage of your finger disappears into that little mouth. One arm full of wriggly, fussy little person and the other hostage to his need to suck pretty much precludes anything more complicated than asking your partner to order take-out for dinner. And the suction power generated by a newborn is impressive. If you could harness and redirect that kind of energy, you could probably restore electricity to the people of Iraq in short order. Seriously, my fingers at times felt quite bruised.Link
And you can’t not soothe your child. Not only does the sound of his crying make you crazy, but as a new mom, you’re terrified of creating the slightest disturbance or inconvenience for anyone, anywhere, any time, for any reason. No one wants to be the mom that everyone’s looking daggers at.

Which is why I broke down a couple of days before The Boy and I went to Provence for a two week holiday. A ten hour flight across nine time zones with an infant put the fear in me. I was so worried about being the lady on the plane with the screaming baby that I caved and bought a couple of soothers. Not to actually use, you know. Just in case.

As it turned out, The Boy was a perfect angel on the plane. It was once we’d been in France for a couple of days that he lost his mind one morning and was inconsolable. Even the magic pinky wasn’t working, and he was making such a racket I feared my generous and easygoing hosts might ask us to leave. (That never would have happened, but new moms are not renowned for clear and logical thinking…) Out of desperation, I popped one of the soothers in his mouth.

The Boy at 3 months

Ah, the bliss of sweet silence. It was unbelievable, amazing. Just like that, he was happy, sucking away contentedly, and making me feel like a complete bonehead for having been so stubborn for so long. Sigh.

The Takeaway:

  1. There are hills to die on. This is not one of them. It's simple: happy baby = less stressed you. Everybody wins.
  2. Look for BPA-free soothers with silicone teats. Silicone's less likely to crack and crumble than rubber or plastic, and is odor/taste free. Plus it just looks cleaner somehow.
  3. If baby prefers to suck their thumb, even better. Their thumb can’t get lost and is less likely to be dropped on the floor right when you need it most.
  4. We used a soother for about six weeks. When The Boy was 3 1/2 months old, we started phasing it out, using it only at nap/bed time, and then eliminating it entirely. By that time he’d learned to self-soothe and didn’t need it anymore.
  5. I’m still a judgy person, and I still hate the look of a soother in a baby’s mouth. In a toddler’s mouth bothers me even more. But if The Boy still wanted it, we'd still be using one.
  6. As it turns out, even a dummy can teach you a few things.