The Oxytocin Effect

If you google “Oxytocin,” you will learn that it is a hormone that has many functions.  Primarily, it is the hormone responsible for contractions during labour, as well as for milk let-down while nursing.  It also plays a major role in human bonding – between newborns and mothers, between men and women, and even between friends.  It is quite an amazing and versatile hormone, and all of these hormonal effects has me thinking about what can happen when the different hormone effects cross paths and boundaries.

After giving birth 9 days ago, I immediately felt strong feelings of kinship and admiration towards the doctor who delivered El.  I found that in the days immediately post-partum, I was sad to think that I wouldn’t be going to see her anymore for my weekly appointments.  This seemed like a strange response for me to have, given that most of our appointments were a quick 5-10 min and were really just about the “business” of my pregnancy.  I did choose this doctor out of all the obstetricians in the city because she has a good reputation of being liked by her patients, she is one of the few people who does all her own deliveries 24 hours a day, and I also really enjoy learning from her and working with her as a resident.  Despite these reasons, my feelings towards her after my delivery felt out of proportion to what they should have been.  You could almost say that the feelings I had were bordering on those of maternal admiration, and I was mourning the loss of this type of care and concern in my life.

Interestingly, I don’t remember having such strong feelings of maternal admiration towards her before going into labour.  They only started after my delivery.  The timing of these feelings got me thinking about how the hormonal changes in my body may have affected my emotional attachment towards my doctor while she delivered El.  I also thought about how my feelings and admiration towards my old friend Kay developed after she delivered A all those years ago.  Finally, there is the most important consideration in all of this: the lack of close maternal bond and relationship with my own mother throughout my life.  All of these factors got me thinking about how the high levels of oxytocin in my body while I was in labour may have affected the “relationship building” pathways in my mind; perhaps my subconscious mind was trying to lay down or replace the maternal bonding-like relationship that I never really had growing up.  It makes me wonder if I would have had this response if I developed a normal mother-daughter relationship with my own mother as a child.

I have been trying hard to reflect on how I’ve been feeling in the last week and a half.  Specifically, I have tried to separate out logical from illogical feelings and evaluate what would be considered “appropriate” or “inappropriate” in terms of “normal human behaviour.  I have also been reflecting on what parts of my subconscious still need work and attention.  It is a little disappointing to think that after all my years of therapy trying to overcome the issues surrounding my childhood (and my relationship with my mother specifically), deep down there is still something missing.  Perhaps the fact that I am able to identify this change in feeling and attribute it to “something” suggests that I have made some progress in my therapy, but I’m not really sure.  Regardless, I will continue to reflect on my feelings and figure out a way to navigate through this mess and make it meaningful – both for my emotional recovery, as well as my future working relationship with my doctor (who will continue to be a teacher and mentor for me in my training).

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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!

The Real Struggle

I woke up this morning feeling like today would be a struggle.  I have these days every so often, and it is always the same thoughts and issues that plague me.  I feel lost and lonely – like I haven’t navigated my way through life very well at all.

I am days-to-weeks away from having a third baby.  For this whole pregnancy, and even the months leading up to it, I have questioned whether this is a reasonable step to take in my life.  I obviously can’t go back and change things now, but it doesn’t make me feel any less stressed about how everything is going to fit together in the coming years.

I know I should be looking forward to my maternity leave, and I *kind of* am.  But I am nervous about what I’m going to do with all that time at home!  I know I’ll be taking care of my baby and for the first weeks I will be so exhausted that I won’t know night from day (can you tell I’m looking forward to this?), but sometimes I find that my home is not the peaceful, relaxing place where I imagine spending my down time.  There is so much to be done around my house: teach my nanny how to cook, deal with the clutter that has accumulated over the time that I’ve been neglecting housework (and letting my nanny do a sub-parr job of keeping up), figure out how to discipline my children, decide if I need to hire a new nanny (since the one I have seems to have difficulty with all the above things that I have to remediate)… That just part of the home list.

Then there is my anxiety about work.  Failing my exam has certainly not made me feel any better about my position and my performance at work.  I know that I likely didn’t prioritize studying as much as I would have it I actually had to pass the exam.  However, I feel like it reflects poorly on my ability to balance my work like and my home life, and in the coming weeks that struggle is only going to get worse.  Add in the fact that I am going to be taking 5 months off work and will be that much behind – I feel like I am going to have a target on my back, setting me out as “the weak one.” Any why am I the weak one?  Because I have kids and a family, and I can’t make my work my top priority all the time – especially when something in my work world doesn’t really matter (like a test that I don’t need to pass).

I struggle with finding people to connect with in my life.  All of my good mommy-in-medicine friends are back in the place I left behind when I moved here for residency.  I have yet to find some good friends here.  I marginally succeeded in finding some out-of-work friends, but since work has gotten so much busier in the last year, those relationships haven’t been well maintained.  Not to mention, I can’t really talk about most of my difficult struggles with them… I mean, when someone tells you they had a bad day because their kid’s school bus was late so they missed their aerobics class, how do you respond when your bad day was doing a STAT c-section on a full-term baby who didn’t survive?  And there is the opposite situation with friends from work.  All my co-residents are wonderful people, but most of them don’t have kids and that makes it very difficult to commiserate with them.  Who can I talk to about my feelings of inadequacy as a mother, or about my decisions to prioritize my life differently because my kids and my family are an important (arguably the MOST important) part of my life.  Mostly, I feel like this position is a very lonely place to be and I don’t know how to make it better.

I’m sure that in a few days I will be feeling better than I am today.  For today, though, I have to push through the discomfort of the struggle.

 

The End is Near (or is it?)

  
 Apparently I have about a month left in this pregnancy.

 This morning I managed to squish my little water filled potato sacks (more commonly known as feet) into the biggest sandals I could find. They will not come off until the end of the day because if I unwedge them, I am guaranteed to never get them back on. 
I am trying to come up with a name for the maneuver that I’ve recently devised for getting into my vehicle without ripping my pelvis in two. Suggestions are always appreciated. 
I wait with wanting anticipation after each Braxton-hicks contraction for another to follow, preferably within 5 minutes. I am sadly disappointed when they rarely come. The most painful ones are my favourite, as they seem more promising. 
I daydream about the best places for my water to break. In my car or in my bed are my least dreamt of places – only because then I have to clean up after myself. I’m not sure where the best place would be. 
“You dropped what on the floor and you want me to pick it up?” That’s the funniest thing I’ve heard all day – funnier than the production titled “applying compression stockings,” which you all missed while you were still sleeping. 
I realize I make look like I’m “ready to pop.” I assure you that I do, infact, still have a month to go. Please don’t remind me of how impossibly big I look. 
No wonder the last month of pregnancy seems to go on forever!

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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Naked

“Mommy, why are your boobies SO BIG!?!”

We’re pretty open about nudity in our house. The boys have seen me naked their whole life and they don’t think twice about it.  Just recently we’ve been drawing the line on the boys coming in the women’s washroom with me when their dad is around, mostly so they learn that there is a reason we have “men’s” and “women’s.”

If I’m being honest, I’ve only started to be more self-conscious about being naked around the boys because of my growing belly and the amount of weight I’ve gained in pregnancy.

This morning, on my day off, I was showering the boys and I got that wonderful question.  I guess it was better than another comment on how HUGE my belly is….

“My boobies are getting ready to make milk for the baby.”

“Oh.” He said. And he walked away.

I thought I was in the clear…

“But Mommy, why is that middle part of your boobies so much more brown and red than the rest of them?”

“…Um… They just are.”

Oh, kids…

Pregnant at Work

“Oh wow, look at you! How many weeks are you now?””30 weeks already!? It sure is going by fast! How much longer are you planning to work?”

Indications: This 36 year old G3P2 woman was admitted to hospital with a history of a missed first trimester abortion. She was referred to our care after a community ultrasound performed on [date] at 17 weeks 5 days gestational age revealed a fetus measuring 11 weeks 6 days with no fetal heart rate activity. She was recommended to have a D&C by aspiration. The risks of the procedure, including infection, bleeding, and uterine perforation with injury to adjacent pelvic viscera were discussed with the patient, along with the benefits, and she gave informed consent.

“You’re having a girl!?! Oh, I didn’t know that! What do you have at home again? 2 Boys – oh, you must be so excited!”

“You must be getting tired now, with all these hours that you work. Are you done call now?”

Procedure: The patient was taken to the operating room and received a general anesthetic by Dr. X. She was placed in the dorsal lithotomy position and prepped and draped in the usual manner. Examination under anesthesia revealed a 13 week sized uterus and no palpable adnexal masses.
“Well, you look great! It is your third after all, everyone looks a little bigger the third time around.”

“I had a boy and two girls, and let me tell you, it was the time of my life! This time will go by so fast!”

A weighted speculum was placed into the vagina and the anterior lip of the cervix was grasped with a double toothed tenaculum. The uterus was sounded to a depth of 16cm. The cervix was dilated without difficulty to accommodate a size 14 suction curette. We then proceeded with the suction curettage. Tissue was obtained and sent to pathology. We then proceeded with a gentle blunt curettage and no tissue remained.

“Are you all ready at home yet? Oh, the boys must be excited to share a room, no?”

“They must be thrilled to be having a baby sister! Do they understand what’s going on? Maybe they’re still too young yet…”

The patient tolerated the procedure well and was returned to the recovery room in stable condition. Estimated blood loss was 100cc and there were no apparent complications. The patient is requested to follow up with her practitioner in 6 weeks time.



“I don’t think they’re too young, they know exactly what’s going on… for sure.”

“I should get going and eat some lunch, you never know what the afternoon will bring.”

And, so I walked briskly out the of the recovery room.

End of dictation.

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 🙂