In My Absence

It’s been weeks since I’ve been here… and three weeks have passed since I’ve been back at work.

It’s been months since I’ve been at work… and it’s taken 3 weeks to get back to some kind of normal. 

I’m happy to be back at work, but I miss my baby. I also miss my “free time” and I miss everything else that is important to me. 

The last three weeks have been a whirlind of breastfeeding in the night, pumping milk between surgeries and baby deliveries, leaking breasts, making bottles, sleeping, cuddling with baby El, and maybe some sleep somewhere in there.

I still have mixed emotions about my decision to return to work early. I love my job and it feels great to be back, but I miss my baby – even more than I imagined I would. 

In my absence she seems to be doing well. So far I have been able to continue breastfeeding. Although, I can sense her getting impatient at the breast when the milk doesn’t come as quickly as the bottle. My milk supply is having a hard time keeping up and I’ve had to start some supplements. Hopefully it will pick up in the next little while. 

She is excited to see me when I finally get to her after a long day of work. Even at 5.5 months, she had begun to give little hugs and bury her face into my shoulder. Then she opens her mouth wide and dives into my face – her idea of a kiss. It doesn’t take more than 5 minuets before she is suddenly pushing to lean back and rooting for her comfort. She still loves her special mommy and El time, and for that I’m so thankful. 

I AM The Milk

“Why are you so worried about your milk? He asked, after I broke into tears.

It was 7am and I couldn’t help but let the pooling tears run down my cheeks.  I had been awake most of the night feeding El, who just never seemed to be satisfied.  The day before had seemed a pointless day to wear a shirt and bra, because my breasts were out all day, on demand to her.  She was finally asleep, my breasts were empty and deflated, like they had been all night, yet the mere thought of feeding her left me leaking more than just tears.

Maybe I have been obsessed lately.  I know El has a small tongue tie, and I know what that could mean for our breastfeeding relationship.  I have mentioned it to everyone from the postpartum nurse in the hospital, to the pediatrician who looked after her there, to the home care nurses drawing her bilirubin, to my own family doctor.  Everyone just keeps telling me not to worry about it because she’s feeding and growing well.  But her latch is shallow.  I know it could be a lot better, and I fear that while she gets enough milk now, she might not get enough in the future.  I love breastfeeding my babies, and she is the last one.  I want to breastfeed her for a long time.

So, why shouldn’t I obsess?  This beautiful baby was part of me – she came from my own body and flesh.  Now that she is born, she is still part of me; everything that provides for her, nourishes her, and keeps her happy and alive is from me.  She knows my voice and she knows it means comfort, fulfillment, closeness, and love.  I am the only person in her world who can give her all of that by simply holding her in my arms and offering her my body.

It is not just milk.  That milk is me.  I AM the milk.
My beautiful baby drinks me in and for those minutes – those hours – we are one again.
I am not ready for that to end, so I can’t help but worry about my milk.

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!

Remembering E’s Birthday

IMG_6961This week my not-so-little E celebrated his 4th birthday.  This little boy is now a bundle of rambunctious, over-the-top, hard to control, 100% boy.  Most times I feel like I was never quite equipped to be this little man’s mommy.  To celebrate his birthday, he requested a Paw Patrol party, complete with a Paw Patrol cake.  Mommy did her best to deliver.

From the very beginning, little E has kept me challenged – including his entrance into the world.  I love this boy dearly and with all my heart (remind me of this when I want to smack him across the head for never listening), yet sometimes I forget how much he has effected change in my life.  When little E came into this world, he was whisked away after about 12 hours to be taken to the NICU.  After he was there for 4 days, I wrote him a letter.  I thought, in “honour” of E’s birthday this week, I would share that letter with all of you here.

Dear E,
Today you are 4 days old.  When I think about how your life should be when you are 4 days old, it is very different from what you are living.  You should be at home, warm and safe with the people who love you.  You should be in my arms and sleeping next to me; be nourished by me and comforted by me.  Instead you tied up in tubes and wires and you spend all day in the bright lights and noisy sounds of the NICU.  I know this is what you need right now but it makes me cry every time I think about how unnatural it is for you to be there.  I hope you know how many hours I spend sitting with you and holding your hand, caressing your beautiful, tiny face.  I only wish I could be with you all the time, to hold you and comfort you when you are in pain.  I try to hard to cherish the one night that I got to hold you and feel your skin next to mine, but it already feels like a distant memory that is slipping away from me – further with every second that passes.  My body misses feeling you inside of me and when I look at my shrinking belly, I see the place you used to live and I wish you could still be there – because it’s better than where you are.
I know there is nothing I could have done to keep you from the pain you are feeling, but I find a way to blame myself for not making someone really listen to my concern for you in the hours after you were born – maybe you would be home right now if I was more persistent, if I didn’t let other people try to convince me that what you were going through was a normal part of a newborn’s adjustment period.  I thought they were wrong, and I was right.  For all of that, I am very sorry.
Before you were born I worried that I would not have enough lough to share with a second child.  I was nervous about bringing you into this world with the thought that I wouldn’t be able to love you and cherish you in the same way I do your brother.  I have learned, however, that it is impossible for me to not love you.  In 4 days I have spent more time longing for you to be in my arms, crying for your pain, and wondering how my life was ever complete without you.  I know it was only 4 days ago that you were not here, but that is already another lifetime ago.  When I look at you, I recognize your face – as if I have known you forever.  When I touch you, I know you were always meant to be my child.   Until I can hold you and care for you like I mother should, I will do my best to be strong for you and I will be by your side, loving you from a short distance, and counting down the minutes until you are healthy and ready to come home and finally join our family.

With lots of love and tears,
Mommy

(March 25, 2012)

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.

15 Best Parts of 2015

This past year has been a tough one. Instead of focusing on the worst parts of my year, let me highlight the best parts!  If only I didn’t vow to not post pictures of my kids and I on the blog… This post would be slightly more exciting for you all!

In order from the beginning of the year:

1. Watching my two little monkeys grow into crazy little boys!

2. Registering A. For kindergarten. 

3.  Mountain retreat with my resident buddies. 

4.  E’s third birthday party. 

5. A Mother’s Day surprise after spending the morning sick in the emergency room. 

6.  Running my first half marathon. 

7. A’s fifth birthday party. 

8. Time with my family at my sister’s wedding. 

9. Disneyland and Florida with the kids!

10. Rappelling down a building for charity. 

11. A summer of gardening with the kids. 

12. Excelling at taekwondo. (I actually got my blue-stripe while I was pregnant). 

13. Reaching my goal of reading 12 (non-education  related) books this year. 

14. Finding out I was pregnant. 

15. Finding out I am having a girl. 

Family is The Only Rock

“It’s a good thing to have the props pulled out from under us occasionally.  It gives us some sense of what is rock under our feet, and what is sand.”

~Madeleine L’Engle

 

From The Old Blog, November 11, 2014:

 The only rocks I have live 500 Km away from me.  And while I only have a small umber of supportive rocks, at least if I had stayed where I was, I would still have the sand too.  Either way, The people whom I predicted would be my rocks – well, they have been my rocks.

Bedside Flowers

Bedside Flowers – A photo from last year’s post of some flowers a good friend left on a bedside table for me when I went to visit her.  I am still good friends with this wonderful woman.  While she is not technically my family, I would still consider her one of my “rocks.”

The theme of the past few days really seems to contradict what I wrote in this small segment from last year’s post.  The irony of this whole situation (and possibly the utility of this November exercise) is that the things people I thought were my rocks, really are not my rocks.  Those are the people who live 500Km away from me.  While there are some of those people who are still in my life, albeit in a smaller sense, I have come to realize that there are more important people, people who live so much closer to me, who are my real rocks.  The only real rocks, which will always be there for me, and which have supported me this past year, are my family: my husband and my two kids.  I love them.