MEternity Leave? Really?

Over a week ago, on June 1, I sat down to start writing a blog post.  I wrote one sentence of that post and I have not been back to WordPress since then.  It’s not because I haven’t wanted to blog, and it’s not because I have nothing to blog about… it’s because I’ve quite literally had no time to myself – at all.

This phenomenon of having no time to myself, despite being home from my 80-100hr+ work week, reminded me of the MEternity fiasco from a few months back.  For anyone to think that a maternity leave is a “sabbatical” or “vacation” or anything that resembles an opportunity for “me time” has got something seriously wrong.  If I’m going to be completely honest, I would say that I haven’t really been enjoying my maternity leave that much.  Before I divulge all the reasons I’m not enjoying it, I’ll state the few things that I do enjoy about maternity leave (just so I don’t seem to be complaining all the time):

  1. I love baby El and I love to spend time watching her grow and change.  I want her to stay small forever, but I know she won’t.  I’m cherishing the time I get to spend with her now.
  2. I get to see my other kids more often than I did when I was working.

Yes, I think that’s about it.  Here are all the things I dislike about my maternity leave:

  1. I am always tired – I am lucky to get 6 hours of broken sleep a night, and the sleep I do get is far from quality as I am paranoid about my baby and her ridiculously low risk of SIDS (this is where I say that, contrary to all advice on how to reduce SIDS, I can’t abide by t all.  Baby El refuses to sleep unless she is right next to me, with easy access to her precious boobie – All. The. Time.)
  2. I almost always have a little human being attached to my body.  This is either in the form of breastfeeding or babywearing.  Baby El usually needs to be nursed to sleep.  And, she doesn’t really like to stay asleep unless someone is carrying her.
  3. I am always yelling at the boys: Either they aren’t listening to the Nanny, so I get mad at them for that.  Or, they aren’t listening to me, so I get mad at them for that.  Or they are too loud and running around every part of the house and waking up the delicate baby that I just FINALLY GOT TO SLEEP.  I feel like all the time I spend with my kids involves yelling.
  4. I miss adult human interaction.  You can only text message people so much before you get bored.  Plus, everyone is working while I am home, so there is no one to go out with during the day.
  5. I have fleeting thoughts of finishing that book I started weeks ago, or working on the cross stitch birth announcements (for E first, before I can start El’s), or blogging, or even getting some exercise.  However, those thoughts are vanquished by one of the three kids that are demanding my attention at any given time of the day.  If I’m lucky, I can get outside for a walk with the baby in a carrier (she won’t even stay settled in a stroller)… but not before getting the 10th degree from A, who wants to know where I’m going, when I’ll be back, why he can’t come, am I sure he can’t come, and what kind of punishment I will get if I’m not home when I say I’ll be home.
  6. I miss my job… dearly.  If it wasn’t for my baby, I would go back tomorrow.
  7. I’m sure there is something I’m missing.

So there you have it… My maternity leave is far from relaxing, enjoyable, or a life changing revolution.

And, I’ve gotta go… baby El is awake!

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The Birth of Baby El

I shouldn’t be surprised that El came into the world with a relative fury – she is my third baby, after all… and my first girl.

She came early on a Tuesday morning, but her decision on when to arrive seemed to be a few days in the making.  For the entire weekend preceding her birthday, I experienced contractions that would start and stop every few hours.  Sometimes they would get worse, but they would always just stop.  When Sunday night came, I was anxious about whether or not to work the next day – or even for the rest of the week, given that my maternity leave was scheduled to start the following Monday.  After weighing the options, I opted to listen to my body and I sent an email to the necessary people advising that I would not be in the next day.

I spent Monday feeling guilty about my decision to stay home from work.  I moved my prenatal appointment to the morning with the hopes that talking with my Doctor would make me feel a little better about my decision.  She didn’t seem phased by my decision to take  the day, or even the rest of the week, off work.  I was, for goodness sake, 38+ weeks pregnant.

She checked my cervix and told me it was 3cm and 50% effaced.  “Do you want me to strip your membranes? ” She asked.  I gave her permission (I preemptively took  two extra strength tylenol before my appointment, in anticipation of this possibility).  It was more painful than I remembered and I made more noise than I expected myself to make.  Then, I left her office with hopeful anticipation that labour wouldn’t be too far away.

The day passed uneventfully, with nary a contraction to bring up my hopes.  I went about the usual business of taking the kids to their activities, and given the beautiful weather, we even walked the short distance to get where we were going.  I took the boys for frozen yogurt after taekwondo, and if I could go back now knowing that would be the last thing we would do together without the baby in our lives, I would have been kinder and more patient with them.  We went home, prepared for bed and I tucked them in as usual.

I was getting ready for bed around 10:00 and the same contractions that had plagued my weekend showed up again.  They were mild and not even painful.  I shrugged them off as more of the same, non-productive, braxton hicks.  Thirty minutes later I went to the washroom and noticed a significant amount of “show,” and for a second I though that maybe these contractions were different.  Regardless, I made an effort to go to sleep.

Sleep didn’t work for me that night.  By midnight the contractions were still coming regularly and they were starting to get painful.  I suggested to my husband that, “maybe it’s time.”  He groaned in his sleep and rolled over.  By 1:00, things didn’t seem to be improving, so I made the decision that we needed to go into the hospital.  I called my nanny and woke up my husband, who begrudgingly had to go and pick her up.  By the time she arrived at our house and we drove across the city to the hospital where I was checked in, it was 2:30.  Somehow, Baby El got the memo that we were at the hospital because contractions started getting a whole lot worse!

The nurse I had was kind enough.  She didn’t immediately recognize me, and I was okay with that… until she presented a rather inappropriate plan to observe the progress of my labour before admitting me: “You’re only 4cm, so maybe we’ll get you to walk around for an hour and then we’ll re-assess. Do you want anything for pain?”
I turned down the morphine and said I would wait for my epidural.  She tried not to raise her eyebrows at me, but she didn’t do a good job.  When she disappeared behind the curtain, I expressed my frustration to my husband:
She obviously doesn’t recognize me… This is a stupid plan. She didn’t even look at my prenatal sheets.  I would never send a para 3 woman who is obviously contracting and uncomfortable away to walk, especially when her last labour was only 5 hours.”

The nurse came back after a few more contractions had come and gone.  The contraction pattern on my NST was impressive, to say the least.  Thankfully, one of the other nurses must have told her who I was, and maybe also discussed a better plan with her.  The new plan was to admit me right away and get me an epidural… Oh, and she also mentioned that she “realized how she knew me…”

I walked down the hallway to my labour room, stopping twice for contractions.  I placed out my arm eagerly in anticipation of my IV start… step one to my epidural acquisition.  The nurse missed.   She couldn’t find another good vein, so she decided to wait for the anesthetist.  He couldn’t find a good vein either and it felt like an eternity before he finally decided to retry the hand where the original attempt failed.  My contractions were close now, and more intense than I could tolerate.  I asked for the gas – I needed something and I didn’t even have an IV yet – I began to fear the possibility that I would be delivering this baby without any pain medications on board.  Breathing was barely working. I may have swore.  That moment reaffirmed for me that women who gracefully deliver their babies without pain medication are my silent heroes.

The IV was finally in and we wasted no time in positioning for my epidural.  I was starting to feel pressure and the sounds I made with the contractions were the audible evidence of that.  Whatever was going on behind me didn’t matter, but I had seen so many of them done before that I could picture the steps as he was doing them.  I knew when he was threading the catheter into my back, and despite the pain of a contraction, I was relieved to know that the medication would come soon.

It took a few contractions to feel the effects of the epidural, but once it was effective enough, my nurse checked my cervix again.  9cm.  It was 4:15 and it was time to call my doctor.  I didn’t know who would arrive first: my doctor, my baby, or my mom – who was driving frantically from 3 hours away.  Baby El held out- I could feel the pressure of the contractions and waited for my water to break with each one.  My wonderful doctor arrived after 15 min, and my mom was 15 minutes away.  I asked her if we could wait to push until my mom arrived – and as wonderful as she is, she obliged.

Baby still held on and by 4:50 the party was ready to start.  My epidural was fantastic – maybe too fantastic – because I couldn’t feel a single thing, not even the urge to push.  But with great coaching and some determination, baby El came into the world at 5:15 Tuesday morning. With her tiny little peanut body, her head full of black hair, and her tight double nuchal cord (which we would have never guessed from her heart rate strip, but explained my need to push for 20 minutes), she was placed on my flattened belly for me to see.

There is no way to put into words that moment when you see your new baby for the first time.  She was beautiful and I loved her immediately.  Her cord was cut and I slid her up onto my chest, where she stayed for the first hour of her life.  We took many pictures while my placenta delivered, and I received the final piece of wonderful news: no tearing at all.  I could finally sit up in my bed and I cradled my beautiful baby El up against my breast.  She was eager to suckle and I helped her latch.  It was so surreal to be nursing my baby only 10 minutes after she was born.  After only 4 hours of strong, active labour.  Just barely longer than a day after I decided to listen to my body tell me that it was time to take care of myself and my baby.

Tomorrow Baby El will be a week old and my mind is mixed with one paradoxical feeling: it has only been a week of having her in our lives… but how has it only been a week?

 

Best Mother’s Day Gift

Happy Mother’s Day to all the wonderful Mothers out there!  I feel privileged to blog amongst all you amazing women!

My Mother’s Day this year will be one of the most memorable of my life.  Baby El was born quickly and without fuss early in the morning May 3. I don’t usually post pictures of my kids online, but today I will make my one and only exception. 

Happy Mother’s Day from both baby El and I!

Baby Junk

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Aden and Anais Muslin Swaddle Blankets – My Splurge

I had a moment of weakness yesterday while at the bookstore with my littlest boy.  He was playing with the train set in the kids/baby section of the store while I browsed at the baby items.  I saw these beautiful (Beautiful!) muslin swaddling blankets that I wanted very badly.  They were expensive.  But they were also the perfect baby girl swaddling blankets.  I do have plenty of worn-in, mostly boyish flannel swaddling blankets sitting in my basement.  I knew I didn’t need to buy the blankets, but I just wanted something frivolous, luxurious, and girly for my baby girl.  So I bought them.

My husband would be outraged if he knew how much I spent on baby blankets.  The thought of lying about having bought them or even how much I paid for them also made me feel bad.  So even though I took them out of the box and unfolded them and held them up to my cheek, and imagined the joy I would experience while using them with my baby, I eventually folded them back as best as I could, stuffed them back into the box and put them into the trunk of my car.  I plan to return them today.

I know why I had this moment of weakness.  I often feel that I work so very hard in my life that it would be nice to have it pay off a little now instead of all later.  We live paycheck to paycheck paying for the necessities like food, mortgage, car payments, childcare, energy bills, and the biggest monthly expense: loan interest.  My husband is very strict about how much I am “allowed” to spend on this new baby and if it was up to him she would be wearing all our boy’s hand-me-downs.  So I just thought that if I could have these beautiful, trendy, bright, and much desired blankets, they could be the thing that I splurged on for my baby.

This has all taken place on the heels of the small baby shower that my mom and sister held for me this past weekend.  I knew it would be small and limited to family.  It was being held in the city where I grew up and where my family lives, but where I haven’t lived for 10 years – so I no longer have any friends there.  I never had a baby shower before and so I went to one of our local baby store chains and set up a registry.  Aside from the expensive car seat that I want, mostly for its safety profile, everything else was the “usual” stuff that I liked and wanted for this baby: Bottles that I know are most compatible with breastfeeding, pacifiers that are used in NICUs across the country and that I used with both my other boys, breast milk freezer bags, muslin swaddling blankets, a baby carrier, bouncy chair, girly items… despite my efforts at selecting the stuff that I really wanted or needed for this baby, only one person actually made use of this registry.

Instead, people either bought clothes (which were much appreciated) or Baby Junk.  It might sound ungrateful, but “baby junk” is the term I have coined for the stuff that looks cute, seems useful to the non-mother, is cheap (in quality and in price), unnecessary, and will likely never be used.

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Most of the “stuff” I got from my baby shower

I have a cousin who runs a business making gift baskets and her, her mother (my aunt), and her sister-in-law all pitched in to make me a basket.  Rather than containing many of the thoughtfully chosen items on my baby registry, this basket was filled with cheap infant/toddler toys, baby layette kits (with poorly made bibs, hats, booties, gloves etc), various brands of pacifiers, tiny baby washcloths that are too small to wash anything, and other miscellaneous “stuff” that was found at a local discount department store.  I don’t doubt that it cost them a fair amount of money to assemble such a wide variety of un-needed baby items.  However, at someone else’s mention of my baby registry, my cousin said something along the lines of: “Oh yeah, I looked at it and it just had the usual things on it.”

Just the usual things?  You mean the things that I actually want/need for this baby… Those aren’t important…

This basket was only one example of numerous gifts I received at my shower that will likely not ever get used by me for my baby:piggy banks, trinkets, a minion nightlight that sings an annoying minion lullabye (I already want to crush it with a hammer since the boys found it).  While I did receive a few nice surprises and some good clothing, I get sad thinking about the things I actually wanted and that I likely will not get – instead of a good haul of Baby Junk.  I know it sounds whiney, ungrateful, and is really a first-world-problem, but it did get me down.  I know I wouldn’t care so much if I had the freedom to go out and get the stuff I want without the worry of justifying the expense to my husband.  It would also feel better to know that I work as hard as I do so that I can enjoy these little luxuries in life.

Anyhow, that is the end of my little rant.  I am sure I will feel better in a few days, and maybe next time I go to the book store, the blankets will be on sale.

I’ll end this rather greedy sounding post by saying that my mom and sister put on a lovely shower that I thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated.  I also realize that the stuff I refer to as “Baby Junk” would  be greatly used and desired by those less fortunate than me.  I do plan to donate any of the stuff that I don’t use to a local shelter.

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Bumping the Blogging

I am not one for bump selfies, or bumpies (if you will).  However, I feel as though I need an explanation for my blogging absence. 

This right here, my friends, is the reason blogging hasn’t been happening: 

 Welcome to bump version 3.0. It is approximately 2/3 complete (or 27w5d if you like to be that kind of exact).

Because of the bump, I have been moving like a waddling senior citizen – yes, as awkward as that sounds. I have been collapsing into a heap of bump and water retentative discomfort the moment I’ve walked through the door after a long 11 hour day at work. 

For a good comic routine, you could watch me put on my compression stockings and SI support belt while sporting my extra-large scrub pants OVER the bump, on the mornings I am preparing for a long day in the OR. 
I’m sad to admit that this bump had taken over my life and has really bumped everything else to the bottom of the priority list, including blogging. 

The bump hasn’t all been bad, though. Let’s remember that there is a little baby princess growing in that bump (oh, that explains it all!) and there is some greatness in that alone. Kicks are getting stronger, love is growing immensely, and excitement is brewing all around. 

So, if there is any power that my brain has over the bump, I will try to get back into this blogging game with more seriousness than I have. I miss all this stuff!

Family Drama

There is always something. 

My mom is throwing me a baby shower for Baby Girl. Despite this being my third baby, it is actually my first baby shower. As you can imagine, I’m pretty excited. 

My mom asked me who to invite, and I gave her a list that was primarily my husband’s family members and a few of my close friends.  On this list, of course, was my MIL… But also my FIL’s fiancé. 

I received this message from my MIL this morning:

“I understand you invited [FIL’s fiance] to shower. Please let me know whether or not she is coming as it will determine my attendance. Thanks”

Seriously, this is normal and acceptable behaviour for a 60 year old woman!?!

Let the fun begin 🙂

Late Termination

1.
I punched the 5 digit number into the phone and waited for someone to answer… “Hi, this is the gyne resident, you paged?”

“Yes.  The induction is here. Can you please come and write orders and get things started?”
I wasn’t aware of any induction, nor was I in the right frame of mind to initiate an induction.  Where I live, “late terminations” by induction of labour can be performed for lethal or life threatening fetal anomalies up to 24 weeks.

I went to the ward where the patient waited for me.  She was likely not expecting the person about to initiate her induction to be just as pregnant as herself.  Her chart was clear – her due date only 2 days before mine.  Her unborn baby the same size as mine… moving and kicking and full of life, just the same as the one inside of me.  The only difference: my baby had a normal heart, and normal kidneys, and a normal bowel.  Hers did not.

I went into the room to find her laying still on the bed.  I hoped my scrubs were loose enough to disguise my swollen belly, even though I knew it wasn’t likely.  I explained to her the procedure – how I was going to giver her some medication that would make her cervix soft, and that I would put a small balloon inside her cervix to help it open up.  Essentially I would be inducing her labour, and then she would give birth to a pre-viable fetus that would not survive.  My baby in.  Her baby out.

I sat on the cold, metal stool between her trembling, spread out legs.  I placed the speculum and opened to find her swollen, closed cervix.  “You might feel some cramping now,” I said as I slid the catheter into the opening.  I began filling the balloon.  She winced.  Bright blood started to trickle from the end of the catheter.  I slid the speculum out and placed the medication in its place.  “We’re done.”
I felt my own baby kick me from the inside.

2.
It was 5pm and my night shift was just getting started with handover.  “The woman in room 6, she’s  an indiction for cardiac anomalies.”  I cringed.  It had been less than a week since the last induction.  I didn’t think I could handle another one so close.  “The patient and her partner are not coping well, just so you know.”
This time the baby was already gone – the family had chosen an intracardiac injection prior to induction.  This time her due date was the same as mine.

I decided not to meet the patient – unless there was a medical issue that needed attending, there was no need for me to go in.  I hoped that it would be a slow process and that I could get through the night without being called to see her or her stillborn baby over the next 14 hours.  It almost came to be.
But 30 minute before the end of my shift the nurse called me: “I’m really sorry, but her foley came out and Dr. X called and wants you to break her water.”  It would have been “inconsiderate” for me to leave that task for the person coming on after me.  So I went.

Again, I was too conscious of my own pregnant belly – of my own live, healthy baby who is perfect and who is still alive.  I pulled the scrub gown I was wearing backwards around and over my swollen-ness.  I introduced myself with trepidatious confidence and then sat at the end of her bed.  I proceeded to do what I do so often for women in labour with babies that they are going to bring home with them.  I felt her cervix and stretched it open.  With elegant ease I slid the hook up against my fingers until it reached the tough, premature membranes.  I felt sick at the thought of my hand being so close to a dead baby, the same size as mine.  I almost said that I wasn’t able to reach, even though I could.

I tore the membranes apart and watched as the clear, straw coloured fluid poured from her body.  Suddenly my fingers felt vast space and openness.  I felt my heart skip a beat as I was unable to tell if her cervix fell from my grip and I was feeling her vagina fill with fluid, or if her cervix was suddenly wide open and at any moment I would catch her baby with my fingers and deliver it right at that moment.  The water seemed to gush forever and my hand was paralyzed in place.  I feared that I would feel the delicate touch of her baby’s hands or feet or head and I wanted that moment to be over.  When I could no longer handle the thought of delivering a stillborn baby the same age as mine, I pulled my hand out and tried hard to stand without fainting.

It was the end of my shift.  I went home to sleep.  I woke up hours later and decided that I was done doing late terminations as long as I am still pregnant.

It Looks Like A Baby

The appointment was at 8. I showed up 10 minutes early with the hopes they’d get me done early and I could get back to the OR on time. Actually, the real reason I was early… My bladder was already full and I wanted to pee! 

“Did you drink your water?” The receptionist asked. 

“Yes, I sure did!”

She eyed my large coffee cup suspiciously, “you drank water?” She asked tersely. 

“Yes.  Water.”

I sat back in the waiting room and waited. 8:10 – my gosh, I have to pee! 8:15 -I can’t wait anymore, I should ask them is I can half pee while I wait.  8:20 – they call my name, finally. 

She starts the scan and, of course, my bladder is too full: “please use the washroom and pee until you are comfortable.”  What does that mean?  Is it ever comfortable to pee only half way?

She took the pictures, and by gosh, it looks like a baby!  Arms, legs, everything!  Even a little heart beating at 154!  

This is just too real now!