Thursday, October 31, 2013

What does it mean to be a good mother?

Shit’s about to get real, y’all.  

This post may even be kind of depressing.  I don’t know.

I think and worry a lot about what kind of mother I am/will be.  I read an article a few months ago about parenting and it basically said that wondering these things puts you on the track to being a good parent.  

Then I start thinking about my mother and my childhood.

Hamburglar McCloud started smiling reciprocally recently.  Mr. Adventure is better at eliciting these smiles than I am (perhaps it’s the beard?) but when I got home from work yesterday, the wee babe gave me this amazing toothless grin that made me feel like the most special person in the world.  It was a way better feeling than the dogs running to the window when they see me pull in to the driveway, then to the door to dance around me and lick my hands when I walk in the door.  I love that fucking baby. 

So I wonder: did our stupid baby face smiles melt my mother’s heart?  At what point did she decide that it was okay to start hitting her kids?  I can’t imagine a time that I will want to pull a 4 year old version of my baby around a camp site by his hair, or hit a 14 year old Hamburglar over the head with a boom box or throw an 8 year old McCloud’s birthday cake at him and tell him I wish I had aborted him when I had the chance.  Was she always this way?  Or did something change that made her think it was okay?  When did it become okay in her mind to hit her kids with vacuum cleaner extensions or to put a lock on the outside of the door to lock them in their rooms and bolt the windows shut?  Did she really think it was okay to try to run her 16 year old son over with her car, a move that landed him in foster care, which was probably the best thing that ever happened to him?

There is a reason my oldest brother moved in with his girlfriend and her family at 16, my other old brother moved in with my dad the moment he graduated high school, I barely lived at home from the ages of 14-16 (16 is when she finally kicked me out without turning me in as a runaway and I got my first apartment) and 16 is when one of my younger brothers wound up in foster care.  My youngest brother still lives at home, even though he’s 25.  Maybe by the time the 5th kid rolled around she had relaxed some.  I don’t’ really know. 

She was recently (I think within the past five years?) diagnosed with bipolar disorder and has been receiving treatment.  My father thinks this means I need to establish a relationship with her.  Although her diagnosis put my childhood into perspective and answered a lot of unanswered questions I had, I’m not interested.  I talk to her sometimes.  She keeps asking me when I want her to come out and help me with the baby.  I keep telling her I don’t.  I don’t trust her around my child.  I know firsthand what kind of mother she was.  She text me a few weeks ago and said something like, “Spoil the baby for the first two years.”  And I really wanted to respond, “And after that I should hit them?”  But I didn’t say anything.  Most of the messages she sends me go unanswered because I don’t know how to respond without being a jerk. 

Emily Yoffe, the author of the Dear Prudence column, wrote an article for Slate Magazine called The Debt in which she questions what adult children of abusive parents owe their abusers.  She talks about the effects of abuse and how it mirrors post-traumatic stress disorder, which I can see.
I’m 30 years old and I’m still afraid of my mother.

So, what does this mean for me being a mother?  I have a prime role model for how I don’t want to raise my child, and I have friends who are amazing mothers and who have amazing families.  I stumbled across this blog on the Stir and the author puts my question perfectly: “How am I going to be a good mom to my daughter if I don't know what it's like to be the daughter of a good mom?”  Although I have a son, the sentiment is the same.

All I can really do is the best that I can, but the thing is, I am 100% positive that my mother did the best she could, but her best wasn't good enough.  What if my best isn't good enough either?

I have the same fear the author of the above blog notes: “Thoughts of my daughter one day wanting to disappear, wanting to escape, wake me up at night.”

I used to fantasize, as a little girl, about being kidnapped by a family that just really wanted a daughter.  I spent the first part of my life feeling so unloved and so unwanted, it took me a long time to learn how to love myself because I thought myself to be so unlovable.  So I created a new family of friends in my teens and twenties and now I have Mr. Adventure and baby Hamburglar McCloud and I vowed the moment I became pregnant that I would never make my son feel the way my mother made me feel.  It would break my heart if I did something to make him feel the way about me that I feel about my own mother.

So, these are the things I think about when I think about my mother. 

But, you know, I love that fucking baby.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Breastfeeding is hard, guys

I spent so much time researching pregnancy and delivery and comparing the size of Hamburglar to different foods, I never really thought about breastfeeding.  I just assumed it would be super easy and super natural.  But it wasn't.  It was hard, guys.  Now, 5 weeks in, it's finally getting a little easier.  There are fewer tears on both our parts when trying to latch and I am getting him latched on the first try more than 80% of the time now.

I think, until recently, the easiest time I had feeding McCloud was in the hospital, right after he was born.  The hospital I delivered at has lactation consultants on staff and I met with two different ones and enlisted the nurses for help trying to get a good position and good latch.  One of the nurses was kind of creepy and kept talking about how soft my areolas were.  It was really awkward.

That first night, I tried so hard to get him latched on and I was so tired...  I had a bad a latch and I knew it, but I didn't care because dude was finally eating.  I paid for it for the next week with a sore, cracked nipple.  I think the first couple days were probably the hardest.  My second night home, I was trying to get him to latch and it wasn't working and I was so tired...  He was crying and I was crying and I had to lay him down and walk away so I could get my shit together and try again.  I've had feeding sessions where it has taken me 30 minutes to an hour to get him latched, with him crying the whole time and both of us just getting more frustrated.

Our first visit to the pediatrician (we went with the one who has the impressive moustache.  I couldn't take a doctor with a soul patch seriously) was 72 hours after Hamburglar was born.  Since he's my first and we left the hospital after 24 hours, they wanted us to come in and do a weight check and all that fun stuff.  He was down to 8 pounds at the first visit and the Doc asked if my milk had come in yet, which it hadn't.  He said if my milk wasn't in by that night or, at the latest, the following morning, I should supplement with formula.  Now, I'm really susceptible to peer pressure and easily influenced by others, so maybe it was him saying this, but my milk was in by that night.  I read somewhere that women who supplement in the first two weeks are more likely to give up breastfeeding all together.

Now, I'm not one of those assholes that thinks people who exclusively breastfeed are better than people who exclusively formula feed, I'm just stubborn and don't want to buy food for McCloud when my body makes it for free.  Plus, all that money I'm saving not buying formula can go to fund the breast lift I am planning to buy myself for my 35th birthday.

I feel like I went off on a tangent somewhere...

Anyway, my milk came in and, slowly, we have been getting more successful with breastfeeding.  I've started pumping, too, so we can give dude a bottle or two a week to get him used to them for when I go back to work.  I was worried that he may prefer the bottle over the boob or refuse the bottle all together, but he doesn't give a shit.  Little man is HUNGRY.  He tries to latch on to the dogs faces when they get to close to him.  It is hilarious.  And gross.  (Don't worry.  I stop him before he actually puts his mouth on the dog).

We went back to the pediatrician again after a week because Dr. Moustache wanted to make sure Hamburglar was gaining weight okay.  He was ten days old and had gained 6 ounces since our visit the week before.  Dr. M. told me not to worry about waking him up to feed him any more (even though I wasn't doing that at night.) and yeah.  Dude has been getting heavier and giant-er since.

And I found this video of a latch trick that works really well.  I just found it last week, but I wish someone had suggested it in the beginning.  I've had other poor latches since that first one and I think this could have helped.

Anyway, dude is waking up and he is very unhappy about this.  I just wanted to say that breastfeeding is hard.  And maybe warn people who hadn't thought about it.  But I read that it gets way easier between 6 and 8 weeks.  So, to anyone struggling with breastfeeding, hang in there.  It does get easier.  I'm at week 5 now and those first nights that we struggled so hard are becoming a distant memory.

That is all.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A Birth Story Part 2: Delivery!

So, I'm a big fat lying liar.  I did not post this later the same week that I did part 1, but I'm doing it now... like 3 weeks later or something,

I forgot to mention in part 1 that I also ate an entire pineapple, except for one slice, but it didn't work.  According to one article I read, you would have to eat 7-8 pineapples to get any kind of induction effect, and I don't know anyone whose mouth could handle that kind of acid intake.

And now the exciting conclusion of my pregnancy!

Monday night, nothing continued to happen, so I went to bed.  I woke up Tuesday, took the dogs for a morning walk (we were lazy and just did the 1.5 mile loop).  I came back to the house and rubbed more cary sage oil on my induction points, mostly the ankle ones.

After a couple hours, I started feeling a little uncomfortable, but I didn't really think anything of it.  I wasn't in pain or anything, I was just kind of antsy.  Mr. Adventure went out to run errands and wash the car.  It was lunch time and I wasn't very hungry and it was about 12:50p on Tuesday that I thought I might be in labor, but I wasn't sure.

I kind of figured being in labor was like having an orgasm... if you have to ask, it's not happening.

At 1:00p, I decided to call Mr. Adventure and see how long he was going to be.  He guessed it would be about an hour and a half before he was done and back home, and I let him know that I thought I might be in labor, but he could go ahead and finish whatever he was doing.  I kept hearing stories about 40+ hour labors, and I figured that shit was kind of just getting started and that we would have plenty of time to do things like bake cookies and shave my legs or whatever people do in the first stage of labor.  But, he thought it would be best if he came home sooner rather than later.  (For the curious: the car has still not been washed).

I decided to take a shower, because I read somewhere that if it is practice labor, then moving around and showering will make it go away.

Showering did not dull the pains I was starting to feel.  If anything, it made them more intense.

Mr. Adventure came home shortly after I got out of the shower, and I was having pretty regular, painful contractions about every four to five minutes.  I think it took me about 45 minutes to get dressed because of the pain.

At 2p, I told Mr. Adventure that we should probably go to the hospital.  It was at this point that we (meaning he) finally installed the car seat.  I had been saying I would do it for a month, but why do something that you can put off to the last minute?

At this point, my contractions were coming really close together... I think about four minutes apart and nothing was decreasing their intensity.  The poor dogs were all up in my face trying to be helpful and lovey, but I didn't want to be touched by anything or anyone.

A short while later Mr. Adventure called labor and delivery to let them know we were on our way.  (The midwife told me that if I could only make one call, to call L&D to warn them we were coming so they could be prepared and make sure they had the proper space for us.)

The car ride to the hospital seemed to last a lifetime and the road seemed extra bumpy.  Mr. Adventure was trying to ask me questions but all I could do was blurt out one word answers and choppy hand gestures.  (He later told me I was rude during labor, which I still find funny.)

After 3 million years, we finally arrived to the hospital downtown.  We never did a tour of the labor and delivery wing (due to extreme levels of procrastination) so we didn't really know where to go.  Mr. Adventure had to call and ask them and they were really bad at describing their location.

They have valet parking at the hospital, so we pulled up to the curb where Valet Guy was shooting the breeze with someone picking up their car.  After what felt like an eternity, he finally directed his attention to me and I told him I was in labor.  I swear he was talking in slow motion.  But, he directed me to a wheel chair and took the car keys and gave Mr. Adventure the receipt/ticket thing for the car and I was wheeled in to the labor triage/assessment area.

One thing I found surprising is that I had to fill out paperwork.  I pre-registered, so you would think that maybe I would have to sign something, but I had to fill out several things and, I was so far in labor, I have no idea what any of those things are or what they said and I don't know what I signed.  Maybe I signed a document giving wee little Hamburglar away?

Anyway, after what seemed like another million years, we were taken into the back where I was weighed and my blood pressure was checked and they hooked me up to one of the electronic fetal monitor things that goes around the belly.  They asked if I wanted a port for an IV in case I needed it and I told them no.  Then I think they called my midwife to double check that that was okay.  They had me change into a gown and the nurse doing the assessment checked to see how dilated I was.  If I remember correctly, I was at a 6.

We were hanging out and the nurse was doing something and I was having contractions and lying there and I had to lie on my back and I really didn't want to but I had to for the fetal monitor then we heard this *pop* sound and there was a gush of water from my lady parts.  All 3 of us heard my water break as amplified by the electronic fetal monitoring thing.

It was at this point that I was actually admitted to the hospital and was moved to a labor room.  I walked over there because it wasn't very far and they gave me these fancy disposable cotton underwear to wear.  I don't think I was wearing shoes.  Mr. Adventure was keeping me hydrated and keeping track of my possessions.

When we got to the labor room, we met the nurse we would be working with and she told me I had to lie on the bed for more fetal monitoring but after that I could get up and hang out on the birth ball and do whatever I wanted.  I asked if I could lie on my left side because my contractions were slightly less painful that way.  So, I was lying on my left side with my eyes closed and another nurse who was undergoing orientation/training came in and she introduced herself.  I was lying there with my eyes closed and told her I would have no idea what she looked like because I couldn't open my eyes.  She said, "All you need to know is that I'm really cute."  So I opened my eyes to look at her.  And she totally was!  She even had a cute name like Ashley or Allison or something.

Mr. Adventure was sitting kind of off to the side in the room while the two nurses got me all ready.  They had called my midwife after my water broke and she was on her way.  I had a really big contraction and I kind of started pushing without even realizing it.  The whole time I had been pretty quiet and was just doing what I felt like I needed to do, breathing through my contractions and whatnot.  And after I realized I had pushed, I said, "I think I started pushing, I hope that's okay" all apologetically.  The nurses were awesome and they told me to just do what I needed to do.

I found out later the nursing staff had been teasing the nurse Ashley or Allison or whatever about how she was going to have to catch a baby eventually and she was very nervous that it was going to be mine.

I heard my midwife come in, I heard her voice, I was still lying on my side and I wanted to roll over into a different position, but I couldn't move.  When I accidentally pushed, they cut my fancy disposable cotton underwear off of me.

The rest of the story of labor itself comes from what other people told me (meaning the nurses and Mr. Adventure) I was so out of it at this point and everything sounded like it was coming from really far away.

My midwife got there with just enough time to put on gloves before the baby started coming and I started pushing for real.

And I guess I was screaming.  I have a vague recollection of my midwife telling me to be quiet and breathe, because with that first real push I was just screaming and not breathing.  After that, Mr. Adventure said I was more grunting.  Including my unintentional push, I only pushed 4 times before he came out.  Poor Mr. Adventure had planned to be up near my head, holding my hand and giving me support, but it all happened so fast, he was on a bench off to my side, trying to stay out of the way of the nurses and he saw the head pop out of my vagina.

Hamburglar McCloud caught me with an elbow on the way out and I had, what is attractively referred to as, a skid mark but no tearing.  My midwife caught him and tossed him up on to my belly.  I'm not really sure how he got there, but he found my nipple and I started nursing him right away.  He ate forever.  We opted to do delayed cord clamping because of all the things I read, it seemed like the best thing for us.  My midwife asked Mr. Adventure if he wanted to cut the cord, he declined, then she asked me.  I said, "No, that's what we're paying you for," because I think I'm funny.

Mr. Adventure got a washcloth at some point shortly after delivery while the nurses were cleaning everything up and wiped my face.  He later told me I had meconium on my face and he was wiping it off.  I guess McCloud pooped a little on his way out.

Hamburglar McCloud was born at 3:46p on September 17th, just 25 minutes after my water broke.  His poor little face was all bruised up because delivery happened so fast.  He looked like a boxer.  He weighed 8 pounds, 8 ounces and I don't remember how long he was... I think it was 21.25 inches.

I labored most of the time on my left side and that's the position I was in when I delivered.  After I got home from the hospital, I was reading a book called Pregnancy, Childbirth and the Newborn (I'd borrowed it from a coworker but never read it because, you know, procrastination) and on page 276, where it talks about short, fast labor, it says:
"In a rapid labor... you may have the urge to push before the hospital staff is ready.  If this happens, lie on your side... Doing this will give your birth canal and perineum more time to stretch, will decrease the likelihood of tearing, and will help protect your baby's head from being pressed through the vagina too rapidly."

So, there you go.  I just went with what felt right and it was right and it worked for me.  I had a completely medication free birth.  I didn't even take ibuprofen or anything.  But the hospital stay... ugh.  I never want to sleep in a hospital again.  We were admitted on Tuesday at 2:30p, dude was born at 3:46p and we were out of there on Wednesday at 4p.  They made me wait for a wheelchair and it took forever.

They brought a little tray with juice and fruit and crackers and cheese post-delivery while we were waiting for a room on the maternity ward to be ready.  My brother had downloaded Season 3 of Walking Dead for us and Mr. Adventure put on an episode and fed me cheese and crackers while I fed our son.

And I'm not really sure where to put this, but other than the labor and delivery nurses we had, all the nursing staff were super rude to Mr. Adventure.  They didn't acknowledge him when they entered our room, didn't look at him if he asked a question... I mean, I know it's all about the new mother or whatever, but that doesn't mean you should be rude to the new father.  And also that chair thing that pulls out into a bed for the new dads that want to stay in the room with their partner and child... that chair pull out bed thing was terrible.  I was so excited to get home and get some sleep.  And I did.

And there you have it.  That is the story of the birth of my son.  I'm probably forgetting a lot of things, but maybe I will remember them later and post them or maybe they aren't important. What is important is that I have an amazing partner, two great dogs and a handsome, healthy son that eats like a horse and who will be a month old tomorrow.  And who is also sleeping.  Which means I should probably finish this up and get some sleep myself.  He's been sleeping in 5 to 7 hour stretches at night.  Keep your fingers crossed for me that tonight will be 7 hours...

That's all.