Less dark, still a little twisty

If you’re not keeping up on our CaringBridge account, we recently had an appointment with a surgical oncologist that was very positive. Given the uptick in the mood in the Willhelm household, I wanted to check in with a slightly less dire/macabre/ennui filled post.

It’s still very hard right now.

As I write this, Ronan is playing with our friend, Sarah, while Andy chills on the couch. I find that this space from the day-to-day caregiving of Ronan is such a relief AND I feel incredibly guilty about that.

Up to this point I hadn’t experienced a ton of mommy guilt. I was with him almost every waking minute of his day. He was surrounded by a lot of good, loving caregivers, and we still got time together in the evening for just the two of us. I was clearly fitting all the societal standards as a “good mom” balancing time with my son and time away from my son, a precarious balance that seems to be undefinable except when we see a mom not managing it. And then the internet has a lot to say.

But now, he’s cared for by a veritable battalion of people. Everyone adores him. No one signs up if they’re not into kids. He is proving to be happy, adaptable…interesting, even to some.

But I worry as this is the big initial push for Andy and his care, am I doing harm somehow to him?

Of course, my higher self who can get on the balcony says, “Absolutely not.” Even now his laughter comes easily with everyone who he is with, the ultimate sign to me that he is fine.

But now that the pressure of Andy’s immediate care is letting up, I have mental space again to start to stress about stuff. And first up gets to be my son.

I know I’m not a bad mom. By all other measures, I’m a fucking great mom. But if you know anyone who is a mom, or are a mom yourself, you know the weird standards that are put on us by, largely, white older Christian Republicans for whom family is defined by how it appeared in the 1950s, aka the height of oppression in the post-war age. We’re fighting back against this, but since the internet is full of trolls and people who don’t have to hide their judgment or civility, we still hear regularly about how we’re not doing motherhood right.

For the most part, I can remain immune to this pressure, but my defenses are down and instead of brushing off the bullshit, I find my inner voice that is concerned about single parenthood internalizes this judgment. If I can’t have Andy, can I still handle raising a boy in this time? I don’t know, says the voice, you certainly abdicate your motherhood to a lot of people.

Smarter, more compassionate parts of me look at it as expanding the motherhood circle, really embracing the whole “it takes a village” especially when mom is occupied with, like, keeping Papa alive. And my village is full of wildly capable, extremely loving people. So Ronan’s in good hands. Probably more qualified than me in some cases.

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I’m also wildly overwhelmed with projects. I have several full time jobs I want to apply to, I have a lot of writing I need to do for one of the consulting firms I’m in the dugout for, and I’m still trying to manage a household and a business. It’s just a lot and it feels like a lot of things on my to-do list truly can’t be put off. But when I sit down to work I just want to write about Andy, or about my experience, or just read Facebook.

Again, smarter, more compassionate parts of me are able to see that I’m battling depression, fatigue, overwhelm, and the desire to do self-care first and work second is normal. But I also have a part born out of the trauma of a country that judges a person’s worth on their work contribution and thinks that I’m just not bootstrapping enough. Why can’t I do more?

Because you can’t and that’s fine.

Ugh.

Fine.

I’m back to working out fairly regularly. Listening to my body and doing what it wants as a way to release some of the pent up anxiety. So I’m getting stronger again and it’s helping me sleep better AND I’m not punishing my body in the process in order to meet fitness goals. I’m just moving for the joy of moving…and the better sleep that comes from it.

That’s me. Less dark than before, still a little twisty. Feeling cautious about the future and trying to stay positive, but not Pollyanna about all of this.

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Traveling…again

I never really talked about our first foray into travel with Ronan. We took him to Florida when he was 4 1/2 months old when Andy had a convention in Orlando. We spent about a week there and then spent a long weekend with my family in South Florida. We did a ton of prep and when I started writing a recap of our experience it was ballooning in a 3-part series, which is just too much info about traveling with a baby.

So this time, I wanted to do a little comparison of how it was then and now.

Packing

Holy lord, it’s a mess no matter what. I started making a list way in advance of what we would need. Basically it was just notes of all the stuff we used during the day. The first time around I had to account for pumping and breast milk storage since he was still all milk all the time. I also had to find a swing for him since he was napping in a swing every day. This time I had to take into account that he walks and needed a convertible car seat and food and entertainment. So both instances had some basics like clothing, diapers, sleep stuff, pacifiers, and all my stuff. The first time was more about keeping him comfortable, this time was more about entertainment.

The Flight

The first time I flew with Andy. We had to carry my breast pump and food and baby stuff. I was so anxious about sleep since he still was being fed twice at night, so since we had 2 suitcases I split his sleep stuff (PJs, sleep sack, bottles) into both suitcases so if one got lost the other would have stuff for him. This time I flew alone and we had one giant suitcase with everything.

Both times we got him his own seat since he chills out in a 5-point harness. This is so worth it. Not having to hold a baby or a toddler the whole 6 hour flight is fucking worth $400 (helped that my parents picked up the tab on this one and the first flight we covered with travel miles).

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For the first flight we packed entertainment for both of us adults, my pump, a change of clothes for Ronan and each of us, lots of snacks for us, and enough breast milk for a whole day on the road.

For the second flight I brought entertainment for me and him, a change of clothes for him and a shirt for me, lots of food, and all the diaper bag stuff. I crowdsourced (aka asked Facebook) the best toddler entertainment options. I ended up buying him a Quiet Book and brought along a book with a finger puppet, washi tape, and so. Many. Snacks. I now know that the most interesting things to him were the cups from the beverage cart and being able to take things out of the seat pocket. He also flirted with the people around us a lot and those who were into it played and those who weren’t didn’t. No one seemed overtly upset about my super cute baby being super cute.

We had a couple of tough moments with him where we experienced turbulence and he had to be put back in his carseat after I let him out. He wasn’t a fan, but I gave him a paci and his Peep and distracted him with a finger puppet and we were back to being ok. He also chilled if I turned the overhead light on and off, I just made sure it wasn’t pointing in his eyes.

He napped on both flights and that’s when I got a break. I brought a book, but now I know that that was not a great choice. The iPad with downloaded episodes of House of Cards and a diverse Podcast playlist on my phone with one headphone in was the best entertainment for me. I didn’t have the ability to relax enough into a book, but these were both options for entertainment when I was tending to Ronan (Podcasts) or not (House of Cards).

On the flight back, I put him down for bed and did our whole bed time routine including bottle, stories, and songs. I had to give him a paci to calm down, but he chilled and slept for the 2 1/2 hours until we landed.

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A quick note about the airline I few. I flew Alaska and I have never been so well taken care of on any flight ever. I sat in the second to last row so we’d be near the bathroom and the galley. The flight to Florida was chill and the flight attendants regularly checked on me. The flight to Seattle was equally chill, but the flight attendants kept dropping me little “mommy gifts.” By the end of the flight I had a free entertainment unit (they normally rent them for $10/flight), 2 glasses of wine, a fruit and cheese plate, 2 full cans (!!!!) of ginger ale, and chocolate. They were so sweet and made me feel very special and gave me tons of compliments about how chill Ronan and I were on our flights. I think the combo of baby+alone mom+lots of smiles= lots of special customer service. Fly Alaska. They know what’s up.

Security

Security was the biggest concern for me on the trip. With a car seat, the stroller, my diaper bag, the liquids, my purse, shoes, jackets…a baby, I was nervous about all the stuff and tracking I would have to do to get through security. Fortunately, the agent at the bag drop granted Andy a gate pass, so he was able to come through security with us. This was so helpful since when it was all unloaded on the belt we had 7 bins/things we had to track, which is just on the outer limits of what my brain can manage. Even with Andy we almost left Ronan’s blanket behind. It was also helpful to have Andy so I could use the bathroom and get water without having to track my squirrelly baby. Also Andy got some final snuggles with him before we got on the plane.

On the way back we had to go through Ft Lauderdale security, which makes a particular effort to be the most un-customer friendly it possibly can be. They initially didn’t grant a gate pass to my mom, but when a supervisor came out of the back and saw me with all my stuff and the baby, she relented. This was so helpful since they had just changed security measures and we now had to take any electronic larger than a phone out of our bags and we had to spread all the liquids out in a bin so they could be seen individually. So I had one more thing to track on my way through. There was only one line open and the TSA agent was telling everyone individually what had changed. Fun.

Mom held Ronan for a bit and was able to help me collect things on the other side. Then she treated us to dinner and got to hang out with us for the 90 or so minutes we had before boarding.

So, moral of this story, it doesn’t hurt to ask for a gate pass, but don’t expect people in Ft Lauderdale to be helpful.

The Trip Itself

The first trip was still part of the early daze. Lots of tracking milk intake and planning naps and walking around. The weather on the first trip was gorgeous. Mid to high 70s, low humidity. It was November so the Disney Christmas decor was out and it was gorgeous. We ordered diapers to arrive at the hotel and we ate lots of sandwiches and snacks until we got to my family, who cooked for us a lot.

The second trip was much more mellow. Sleep was sort of all over the place. Ronan slept through the night thanks to hurricane shutters that provided a super dark room and my travel Bluetooth speaker that played white noise from the spare iPhone. Ronan got his own room, which was good because my biological clock didn’t let me fall asleep before 1a EST (10p PST) every night. I was slightly more rested than the last time when I was waking up multiple times at night. We were fed every meal of every day by my family, so no need to figure out food for either of us.

We did an overnight in Orlando to visit my dear friend Julie. She and her husband met us  from Tallahassee. It was so hot and humid. Ronan was just miserable until we were in A/C. He was stuck in his stroller since he’s still not reliable to follow me or stay nearby, so as we walked around, he got to a point where he just wanted to get out. I think when we do this again we’ll just stay close to the hotel and go to the pool or stay in the room. He was happy to run around the room and Julie, her husband, and I were happy to snack and watch the Food Network. Lesson learned.

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So overall, while this trip had the potential for more stress (traveling alone with a toddler), it was ultimately easier from a logistics and keeping the kiddo chill the whole time. We will continue to get a seat for him since that helps both of us. Next time I’ll likely pack a lot less on the flight itself and remember that I have a surprisingly chill and adaptable baby, so I don’t need to stress as much about meltdowns and stuff falling apart. Also, I will definitely be flying Alaska again and if I don’t get offered free wine by the flight attendants, I will definitely purchase a glass to keep my nerves a little chilled out.

My breastfeeding journey start to finish

When I got pregnant I knew immediately that I wanted to breastfeed my little nugget. There is so much stuff in the world about how good breastfeeding is for babies that I was like “I’ll be damned if my son uses me not breastfeeding him as an excuse for his behavior when he’s in therapy.”

Andy and I attended a class all about breastfeeding and knew that pretty immediately we would want me to pump milk so he could be part of the feeding process. We’d watched a lot of dads be shut out of the really beautiful ritual of feeding their baby because mom refused to pump or just didn’t think to share the experience with dad. I also knew that if I was the sole person responsible for keeping our baby fed I would go crazy pretty quick.

But life is fickle and we were thrown a tiny curveball when our tiny curveball was born 5 weeks early. This meant while he was born with the ability to suck and swallow (some premies lack these reflexes because they are so early), he would tire himself out easily doing so. So we quickly shifted from trying to nurse to exclusively pumping.

Some vocabulary: “Breastfeeding” refers to a baby getting any breast milk, even if it’s not yours. “Nursing” is the process of a baby getting milk directly from a breast. So when people asked me if I was breastfeeding, I would say yes. This is a “thing” for moms and the medical community. Women want to fight with other women about how they aren’t really breastfeeding if they aren’t directly nursing and some medical professionals are behind on this change in the vernacular.

The women who want to fight about the right to solely claim breastfeeding are the ones who believe moms who pump are taking the easy way out by not attempting nursing.

In fact, I got several snide comments like “Did you even try?” “Why would you not give it to him directly from the tap?” (Do not get me started on all the misogyny that gets laced into this.) “Aren’t you afraid you won’t bond with him?”

And the thing is, we did try. I tried maybe a dozen times to nurse him, each time feeling euphoric when it worked (thanks oxytocin) and sort of frustrated when we couldn’t. After a few weeks of going to lactation consultants, one of whom told me I was overfeeding Ronan–hint: you cannot overfeed a newborn–we decided that this was dumb and we should just stick with pumping and bottles. Our pediatrician was behind us and so we became an EPing family.

This made things so much easier. I started by pumping 8 times a day, roughly every 2 hours with a longer stretch at night. This was when Ronan was still only sleeping in small chunks (a whole ‘nother post for another day), so I would pump twice on my overnight shift, usually during or after feeding him (it quickly became after when I learned the logistics of pumping and feeding a wiggly newborn just wasn’t going to work out).

I got a lot of praise for pumping. Other women were in awe at my ability to do it. I would correct them at first and then just stopped trying because, the thing is, I didn’t know any other way. I didn’t feel like I was doing anything heroic or special. I wanted to give my son breast milk, I didn’t want to try nursing anymore, so pumping was the default.

And my boobs were primed to give breast milk. Holy shit.

By a month into this whole thing I was producing a massive surplus. So much so that we had to move a chunk of my stash from our freezer to my mother in law’s freezer. My body wanted to make breast milk, so I went along with it.

I think moms who don’t have supportive partners in the whole pumping thing have it the worst. Part of what made it easier on me was Andy’s willingness to wash bottles and pump parts and troubleshoot how to make it easier. We bought extra pumping supplies, more bottles, and concocted an elaborate system to separate AM from PM milk so we could do ANYTHING to help Ronan sleep in longer than the 1 hour stretches he was doing at the time. If I had had to pump, prepare bottles, and wash everything myself for those first 2 1/2 months before Ronan learned how awesome sleep is, I would have stopped much sooner if my boobs would have allowed it.

When Andy went back to work in September, he prepared all the bottles for the day and washed all the pump parts when he got home. He had this ritual where he would put on an episode of a show on his phone, prop it up on the kitchen window sill, and go to town for the 30 or so minutes it took to get through everything.

I went from 8 pumps a day to 7 pretty quickly once we learned I could produce a ton of milk. I dropped to 6 when Ronan started sleeping in longer chunks, like 5 hours at a time, when he was about 3 months old. I dropped to 5 when he would only wake once in the night for a dream feed and dropped to 4 when he started sleeping through the night at 5 1/2 months. I wasn’t pumping 4 times at night, but as he got older I was making so much milk that the need to keep up with pumping to preserve my supply wasn’t as pressing.

It got harder when I was on a weird pumping schedule that didn’t quite coincide with his naps and he was less cool about hanging out in his crib for 30 or so minutes while I pumped in the morning. I dropped to 3 pumps when he was about 9 months old, which meant I had to carry pump stuff with me everywhere (I did anyway for emergency purposes, literally in case we had an earthquake and I needed to pump) and plan to pump in the middle of the day. I got really good at pumping in my car. I also had a recurring nightmare that I was in a car accident and couldn’t move or talk and no one would figure out that I was a lactating mom and pump my breasts. Overly full breasts are so uncomfortable. Like a full bladder but times two and on your chest.

I dropped to 2 pumps a day right around his first birthday, then down to one a few weeks later.

Dropping pumpings was hard for me. My body was so ready to make milk that I always ended up leaking and with clogged milk ducts, which feels like having marbles in your breasts. I was always afraid of mastitis, an infection in your breasts from clogged ducts that produces flu like symptoms and can escalate to to needing to have milk ducts removed if they become too infected.

Then I started to taper down to be done with pumping all together. I wanted Ronan to get enough breast milk to make it to one year from his due date and so, knowing I had an ample freezer stash, I tapered for the month of July thinking August 4th, a year from his due date, I could turn off my pump forever.

Ha. Haha. Hahaha.

Fucking overproducing, high achieving boobs.

I basically had to stretch out my single pump by 12 hours every day. So at 24 hours since my “last” pump, I pumped again. And then 36 hours later, then 48, then 58 (didn’t quite make it that day), then 72. And I couldn’t make it past the 72 hour mark. I would start to leak so I would just pump and get an ounce in my 5 minutes of relief pumping. Stupid ounce making such a ruckus.

I eventually got the advice from a fellow mom to bind my breasts. So I wore tight-fitting sports bras for 3 days with my breast pads tucked in to collect any leaks. And, voila! It worked. So now, here I am, officially off the pump a week later, no leaking, no clogged ducts. Done done done!

Here are some things I learned in the process:

Some medical professionals, including lactations consultants, spread outdated information about pumping.

I can’t tell you how many moms I talked off a Facebook cliff about their milk supply drying up because they pumped or that they’ll never be able to produce enough to keep up with their baby. The trend I’ve observed through really scientific Facebook research is women have the same experience pumping that they would have had nursing. Meaning, if you were an overproducer, underproducer, or just-enougher while pumping, that is likely what would have happened while nursing.

Some will also say that if you give your baby breast milk that you pumped months ago, that it won’t be as beneficial for your baby. Not really. There are some micronutrients that might be in slightly different levels, but largely your baby is going to be fine.

Also that you are doing your baby a disservice because you don’t latch and therefore your body doesn’t make milk super specially formulated for your baby. Yeah, that’s false. Your body figures out what kind of milk to make by getting info about your baby when you kiss, hold, touch, or get slobbered on by them. Pumping moms’ milk changes just like nursing moms. One week we had a stash of milk in the fridge that included white, yellow, blue, green, and purple milk. Obviously Ronan and/or I was going through something.

One mom even reported to me that their lactation nurse said her uterus wouldn’t contract when she was pumping, only when she was nursing. Mmm, k.

Get all the supplies you could need.

Mom groups are ripe with women offloading their pumping supplies, often for free. I got 6 full sets of pump parts from a mom selling them for $15. I also got a total of 6 pumps for free from people, most of them never or barely used. I would give most of these away to other mamas who needed new pumps but their insurance didn’t cover the cost. Fortunately we saved 2 and I used one when my hospital grade pump, Bertha, had to get returned. The second one was used for spare parts, which was mighty helpful with the battery pack died on the first one.

If you’re a mama who has a pump that doesn’t work for you, check with your insurance to see if you can get a new one. I heard a lot of bullshit from moms saying they didn’t respond well to the pump when, in fact, their pumps were broken, or didn’t properly mimic the way their babies would nurse. I had 3 mom friends who all had pumps that legit didn’t work and they thought that it was because they just weren’t suited for pumping.

If your insurance won’t replace one, ask around in a mom group. Chances are there’s someone like me who hoards pumps and would just love to give you a spare. Also, Groupon is ripe with deals for breast pumps. Fer realz.

There are all sorts of things about pumping that freaks people out. 

Probably because anything that has to do with women’s bodies is inherently laden with misogyny, but women who pump get the same kind of ire that women who nurse in public do. It makes people deeply uncomfortable. I was pumping one day at home and had a guest, who, despite saying it was fine that I was pumping in front of her, was clearly so uncomfortable that she didn’t mention when the front of my shirt was suddenly soaked in milk because I was overflowing the containers I was hooked up to. I couldn’t feel it because my shirt was pulled away from my skin over the pump parts. Look, it’s not a spaghetti sauce stain. See something, say something. In terrorism and in breastfeeding.

Also we hear about how you need to “pump and dump.” Not so. Unless you are black out drunk, you filter alcohol out of your breast milk a little more efficiently than you do out of your blood, so if you’re ok to drive, you’re ok to pump. Some women who would prefer not to use milk after pumping either dilute it with other milk or use it for milk baths.

Some people say the rudest fucking things.

I got compared to a cow more times than I care to count. Which, you know, is an animal that women are always favorably compared to.

I was asked if I had even tried to nurse. Whether I had or hadn’t was no one’s goddamn business, but it was particularly offensive to ask me, the one who is such an overachiever that even her boobs can’t chill out, if she had attempted nursing. Uh yeah, I live in one of the most liberal hippy cities in the country, of course I did.

I was told I would have a hard time bonding with my baby. I mean, he came out of me, so I think we’ve got that covered.

I also got a lot of side eye from women checking out my bottles who couldn’t tell if I was giving my kid formula or what. Even if I was, who fucking cares? Seriously, liberal ladies, we have got to stop shaming moms for choosing formula, whether it’s instead of breast milk or in addition to.

There’s a lot more to this, but I’ll stop here for now because I want to enjoy my chocolate chai. My breastfeeding journey has been incredible. I truly enjoyed almost every moment of it, which is not something I think a lot of women can say. Not many moms know exclusive pumping is an option. My hope is that we eventually give information about it not as an aside to nursing, but as a whole, separate option for women who want the benefits of breast milk but can’t easily nurse. We have a lot of hurdles for moms to clear in the early days of motherhood, easily and safely feeding our kids shouldn’t be one of them.

 

Final total of breast milk produced: 339,033 ml or 94 1/2 gallons.

Birth Story Part 3: The labor and delivery…Part 1

Want to read Part 1 and Part 2?

When last we left our intrepid heroine, she was hooked up to Pepe via her keychain ready to get an induction started.

For women with high blood pressure and preeclampsia, Magnesium Sulfate is administered to reduce the risk of stroke during labor and delivery. Most women experience fever-like symptoms: feeling flushed, body aches, weakness, etc. This is because the medication replaces the calcium in your body with magnesium (not all of it obviously). Calcium not only makes up your bones, but is one of the main chemicals used in brain activity and muscle movement. You’re at a heightened risk of falling while on magnesium because of this.

The nurse that evening started the magnesium sulfate. She put an icepack on the injection site to reduce the burning as it entered my blood stream. I was really nervous about this. Labor and delivery is hard enough when you have all your faculties. When you have essentially a flu at the same time, it sounded unbearable and made sense why many women who had to have magnesium sulfate quickly got epidurals.

I had to have magnesium on board for a full 24 hours before they would start Pitocin, the drug that would mimic labor and kickstart my uterus into contracting.

I also received misoprostol, which is a cervical ripening agent. Yup. Cervial. Ripening. That’s how it’s described.

The night was uneventful. I keep the ice pack on my arm all night to reduce the burning feeling. I woke up in the morning to my twice daily blood draw. I was feeling good, fine even. For me to use the bathroom, a nurse had to be called to essentially act as a spotter in case I fell. I stood up and felt no more or less steady on my feet than I had the day before. I certainly couldn’t stand for longer than 15-20 minutes, but they wanted me in bed as much as possible anyway.

That afternoon the new doctor on call, Dr Salemy, decided to put in a Cook Catheter. This is a figure-eight shaped balloon that gets inserted into my cervix and presses on either side in hopes of mimicking the pressure of the baby’s head and encouraging opening.

Holy shit this part suuuuuuucked. I was crampy and uncomfortable the whole time. The insertion was the worst part. I hadn’t experienced pain and pressure like that before, which makes sense because why would anyone be trying to open my cervix?

This stayed in for 12 hours. The hope is that it opens enough that it falls out on its own before that point, but my cervix was feeling stubborn (appropriately so because we were 5 weeks early) and didn’t open as far as we were hoping. At the check around 7:15p, I was 4cm dilated thanks to the catheter. That evening they wheeled me up to the delivery room and started the Pitocin.

The new doctor that evening, Dr Flum, suggested that we break my water the next morning to try and get things moving along even further. I was interested in this possibility since it seemed like it would bring us to the end of this faster. The main risk to this is that if I’m still in labor 18 hours after breaking my water, I get a C-section. We wanted to avoid a C-section because recovering from major surgery while caring for a newborn is, I imagine, fucking hard. I didn’t really want to find out.

With that in mind, we went to sleep.

Andy posted this on Facebook the next day:

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Around 2am the catheter was removed. The nurse I had that evening was new and obviously having some issues finding my son’s heartbeat. Once I got the Pitocin, I had to be hooked up to a fetal monitor at all times. They monitored contractions to determine how much to elevate the dosage. My uterus was stubborn (again, appropriately so) and the contractions were small. I felt like I had minor period cramps, but was able to sleep through most of it. My poor nurse, though, kept waking me up trying to move the fetal monitors. She had me shift position multiple times at night, which meant my already interrupted hospital sleep was even more interrupted.

The next morning the new doctor was the one who had given me false hope of going home and, keeping on trend with changing the plan against all other doctors’ better judgments, decided not to break my water. Andy and I talked to my doula, Kim, about it. Kim knew this doctor and said she was known for a more conservative approach, but to trust her. I was feeling a little stressed about the changing plan coupled with the very interrupted sleep.

I had had a dozen different nurses at this point and asked my daytime L&D nurse to please make sure I had a more experienced nurse on that evening. If I was going to have another night before my son arrived, I wanted it to have as much sleep as possible.

That night my cervix was checked again and nothing had changed. I was still solidly 4cm dilated. The doctor decided to pause the Pitocin, give my uterus a chance to rest, and then restart it early in the morning.

This is where I caused another medical power struggle. The summer time is a very busy time for baby delivery and the charge nurse saw my paused Pitocin as me taking up a bed that could be used for a mom actually in labor. The doctor wanted me to have a full 8 hours off of the Pitocin, so it was turned off when I went to bed around 10p and was supposed to be resumed at 6a. Looks like there was a tiny power struggle because at 4:30a, the Pitocin was turned back on.

I was woken again at 6a for my morning blood draw. At this point the crook of my elbow was covered in little bruises from the blood draws. I don’t know how women who are on hospital bedrest for months deal with it.

Dr Flum, the doctor who wanted to break my water, arrived around 8a and said basically she wasn’t leaving until I had a baby and they were definitely going to break my water that day. I liked the way she put it, “This should be harder for you by now.”

The Pitocin pause obvious helped since when she checked again I was 6cm dilated.

Up next, a broken bag of waters, my idiocy, my son’s arrival, and how I got the most expensive pain medication in the hospital.

Check out Part 4!

Birth Story Part 2: Hospital to actual labor

Want to read Part 1?

Andy and I went on a baby moon from June 13-17. We used our annual anniversary trip to Whistler to also use it as an opportunity to have a final vacation as a couple pre-baby.

It was a wild departure from our usual active vacation, which typically includes lots and lots of hiking. Instead we would sleep, swim, eat, and watch TV. I would nap at least once a day and take a bath in the deep soaker tub in our condo. Someone had given me the advice to take epsom salt baths to handle the intense swelling I was dealing with as a result of the high blood pressure. We bought huge bags of the salts and I would dump easily a pound or two into the water and almost float with the buoyancy.

My belly would make getting in and out of the tub a little treacherous. I felt constantly off balance and had to move slowly. The blood pressure medicine I was on also gave me very low energy. We’d take a leisurely walk around the Village or on an easier trail, but it was usually 20 minutes at most. The last visit to Whistler had included a full 8 hour hike with a picnic in the middle, so the contrast was stark.

We came home from Canada and Andy had a weekend of work ahead of him, which I spent doing low key activities like prenatal yoga and lots and lots of couch time with my feet raised.

That Tuesday, June 21st we had our now usual non-stress test followed by an appointment with my OB (it was an OB week, the week before vacation was a midwife week). A non-stress test is where they put sensors on my belly to monitor the baby’s heart rate and movement and track my heart rate and blood pressure. The last few I had passed with no problems. This one the technician thought was a little high, even though the readings were roughly the same as they had been in the weeks before.

She brought it to my OB, Dr Story, who told me that I was going to be sent to Swedish hospital again for observation and there was a very good chance that I was going to deliver. This was a full 3 weeks earlier than our even earlier due date. I started to cry. Like I said before, I couldn’t recognize why at the time and thought it was purely fear. Now I know it was a sense of failure for our son. Dr. Story told us to go home and pack a bag and then head to the hospital.

At home we quickly put our hospital bag together. Fortunately we had been talking about the contents for weeks (ok, I had been talking) and it was relatively easy to actually put together following our vacation.

We arrived at Swedish and I walked to the triage area where I was admitted and given the battery of tests including being hooked up to a fetal monitor again. Shortly thereafter we were given a room in the antepartum wing. It was a big, gorgeous room with a huge window that looked out over downtown and the water. The unfortunate thing was how much damn heat would come in, so after the first day, we would close the blinds as the sun would come in and try to keep the room cool.

The first day was all about getting a baseline of information. They were appropriately concerned that I would develop preeclampsia. Dr Story told me later that for most women with gestational hypertension (as I had), preeclampsia can develop and become critical in a matter of hours, which is why close monitoring was so important. I had to pee into a bowl so they could monitor my liquid output. For real. Fluid retention was a big concern.

Nothing materialized that day. Except my blood pressure being high, it was all normal.

Wednesday my best friend arrived from LA. Our baby shower was going to be that weekend, so he and my family from Florida were coming to celebrate. We had one scheduled for Saturday morning and Sunday evening. I kept my hosts updated on the progress and my friends quickly decided to cancel the Saturday event. We weren’t sure if I was going to be in or out of the hospital, but they seemed to think canceling was the right thing to do.

I was hopeful I was going to be out and could attend the one on Sunday evening with mine and Andy’s families and my best friend, who was going to be my son’s godfather. Wednesday also proved uneventful. We just spent the day watching West Wing, meeting nurses, getting lots of consultation from doctors. A team of doctors came in at one point and said “If we were on call tomorrow, we would induce you.” The evening doctors would come in and say, “We want to wait to induce you.” Basically every 8 hours when I would have a new doctor, the plan would shift.

At one point on Thursday I had a doctor tell me that there was a good possibility I could go home if I could keep my blood pressure stable. This woman would turn out to be the naysayer of all the other doctors. Doctors would come in and make a plan and she would be on the next shift and change it back. I got my hopes up about going home and being on bed rest at home. It turns out there’s a joke with the nurses at Swedish, “No one comes to a hospital to get sleep, they come to get well.” We were not getting any sleep and I wanted my big, cozy bed with the bedroom AC on at home. I was barely moving during the day because nurses and some doctors were scared of me being out of bed for laps around the hospital floor. But I knew if I stayed in the hospital room I would go fucking insane. The lack of activity made sleeping at night even harder.

On Friday my doctor, Dr Story, was finally on rotation at the hospital. He came to my room and I told him about how the doctor the day before had said I might be able to go home. He delivered the news that I was not going home until I had a baby. This is when he gave me the info about how preeclampsia could develop very quickly and at this point they knew it would come for me, they were just waiting until it got bad enough to start an induction. I told him I needed some stability with the planning. I told on the other doctor and how she had altered the plan already a couple times and could he please tell everyone to stick to something so I could prepare appropriately?

He agreed that the back and forth was likely the most stressful thing for me and had a lengthy chat with the other doctor. We heard from the nurses later that they actually had a bit of a public argument over my care and Dr Story laid down the law about keeping it consistent for me.

Saturday morning, after arriving late the night before, my mom, brother, and sister-in-law came to visit. We had a blast chatting and checking in. My sister-in-law was coming to the end of her first trimester so they kept activities low key and would visit twice that day.

Sunday morning the doctor on call, Dr Flum, saw my numbers were becoming elevated. My BP wasn’t getting any better, despite a high dose of Labetalol, and there was now elevated protein in my urine.

We would start the induction that evening.

All throughout this, Andy and I were routinely calling Kim, our doula, to give her updates. She came to the hospital almost every day to check in and we practiced birthing positions with things like all the fetal monitors and the potential for an epidural in mind. I was not interested in being in pain for long and was constantly reviewing my pain management options with the doctors and nurses.

That Sunday evening my sister-in-law, Malorie, Andy’s sister, moved our baby shower to the hospital. We had dinner and cake and opened gifts. Andy and I watched Game of Thrones with my brother, his wife, and my mom afterwards.

My nurse let me take a shower and then we got set up. I had an IV in my wrist with 4 ports that I lovingly called my keychain. My IV stand, Pepe, was filled with Magnesium Sulfate and Saline. We were ready to go.

Up next I’ll give the play by play of my almost 3 day induction and how we finally met our baby.

Check out Part 3 and Part 4!

Birth Story Part 1: How we got from decision to hospital

We’re coming up on the first birthday of the nugget, so I wanted to capture for posterity and curiosity what my birth experience was like.

First, let’s start with how we got here.

Andy and I knew we eventually wanted to have kids, but wanted the timing to be as ideal as possible. We got married while I was in graduate school and decided to start trying once I was out of school. I had an Implanon birth control implant in my arm and had it removed in January of 2015, just after graduation. We were going to give my body a chance to recalibrate to making babies and agreed to start trying that September.

After removing an implant it can take a few months for the body to re-regulate, but in April and May I had two periods like clockwork. Then I had irregular periods for a few months. Some very close together, others very far apart. It made it difficult to time when I would be ovulating, so we kept using other forms of birth control. Then in early November we “pulled the goalie” just to see what would happen. A few weeks after our first real attempt, I went to the doctor to talk about the possibility of having Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. I had a lot of the symptoms and thought this might be why I was having irregular periods.

I met with my amazing doctor who said that I did, in fact, have PCOS. We agreed to let me try to get pregnant naturally for a few more months before trying on medication to make ovulation predictable. I got some blood tests done to check in about what variety of PCOS I had, meaning what hormonal levels was I dealing with. The results came back on the same day I was having some breast tenderness and on a whim I decided to take a pregnancy test. Turns out I was two weeks along and had been pregnant at the appointment with my doctor. The results were flagged and showed nothing about PCOS but everything about me being pregnant.

I remember I was laughing and crying at the same time as I read the test. Andy smiled when I showed him both the tests I had taken, but he was reserved and wanted to get an official result from my doctor before we got our hopes up. We drove to the GroupHealth building and I took, to my surprise, a pee test not dissimilar to the ones I had done at home. 10 minutes later we were in the car driving home and I checked my email. I found waiting for me my test results and confirmation that I was pregnant.

I remember calling my mom who also laughed and cried at the same time at the news. My brother said congratulations and how happy he was for me. My dad commented that I guess we didn’t need to get the turkey baster. No idea what that was about.

My symptoms started immediately. I had intense food aversions. I had nausea when I was in a car and sometimes during the day. I mostly wanted burgers and sandwiches and I wanted someone else to cook them for me. All during my pregnancy I would have aversions to water, vegetables, fruit, dairy, meat, cheese, and fish. This is where Andy and I would start joking about how the concept of “Intelligent Design” was bullshit. What intelligent designer makes reproduction include an aversion to water? Mostly cooking was what would cause the biggest reaction. Andy perfected his scrambled eggs and I got clever with water consumption using flavored fizzy water and adding citrus to my water bottle.

More than anything I was tired all during my first trimester. I would want to be horizontal most of the day. I would wake up and move to the couch, sometimes nap, but mostly just lay. My brain was foggy so I would have to be very judicious about working and fortunately only had to cancel one client meeting as a result of pregnancy symptoms.

Then, in the second trimester I went to a routine prenatal appointment and my blood pressure was high. I assumed it was stress because of work and a huge fight I had had with my dad. I was hospitalized for a day and had a few experiences that made me extra grateful that I had choses midwives over an OB. My biggest fear was receiving some sort of inappropriate treatment because of my fat body (though I am decidedly Lane Bryant fat and not the kind of fat that causes staring on the street, so I definitely experience I bit of privilege there).

While at the hospital I had a doctor tell me to eat more vegetables even though I said I was having aversions to them. She also told me it was important to exercise, which I was still doing regularly despite my growing pregnant belly and exhaustion. I was also working a job that had me on my feet about half the time, so I was getting more activity during my regular workday than the average American. It highlighted for me how this doctor made a lot of assumptions about my health based on my appearance rather than actually asking questions about my health and lifestyle. At one point when she asked how much weight I had gained and I said 30 lbs, she told me I should have only gained 20 at most. As if I could have changed it at that point. This subtle fat shaming in medical treatment is something I don’t experience with my regular doctor and hadn’t since moving to Seattle, so I was surprised by how this interaction went down. The whole thing left a bad taste in my mouth and made me desperate to continue my care with the midwives because of their natural assumption that I was doing my best to keep me and my baby healthy during the pregnancy.

I was released and had to start taking a regular dose of a blood pressure medicine call Labetalol. I also brought an OB onto the team, who turned out to be one of the most caring and compassionate men I have every met. He seemed to understand the fear I had for my baby and me and was aware of the drastic shift my pregnancy had taken seemingly overnight. The original due date was August 4th, Barack Obama’s birthday. Because of my new gestational hypertension, I would undoubtedly be induced around week 37/38 in mid July. Longitudinal research had shown that mothers and babies who were experiencing high-risk pregnancies would fare better if labor was induced early. I was emotional about it. Because getting pregnant had been relatively easy, I assumed my good reproductive genes would give me an easy pregnancy like my mom had had and the hospital visit was a blip in an otherwise normal pregnancy. At the time I didn’t recognize it as feeling failure, but in retrospect that is definitely what I was. I felt like I had failed our baby since I couldn’t carry him to term.

We hired on a doula at that point, too, realizing we would want some help navigating the  decisions we would have to make with the new course of action we were taking. We brought on Kim James, who I have talked about before.

What I didn’t know is that this would ultimately be the beginning of a really challenging journey with my health that would give me some incredible perspective on the kind of body I had and how lucky I had been up to that point. Next post I’ll talk about the hospital stay up to the start of my labor. It was a doozy and something I still think about regularly both from the perspective of a patient and an organizational development consultant.

Check out Part 2 and Part 3 and Part 4!

Nighttime Shuffle

Ronan goes down for bed.

Goes to the kitchen to clean up until he falls asleep.

After he’s asleep, showers.

Rewards herself by sitting down for 5 minutes of internet surfing before promising to work on laundry.

20 minutes later thinks, “Well, at least I could pump while I’m on my computer.”

Pumps for 20 minutes, still surfing internet.

Thinks a few times, “Maybe I should do some of the work I need to do like writing contracts, blog posts, or proposals for clients.”

Goes back to Facebook.

Pumping ends, brings pumping stuff to kitchen.

“Ok, now I’ll work on laundry.”

“But first I need to see how my post is doing on Facebook.”

Opens computer.

Continues to surf the internet. Mostly refreshing Facebook.

30 minutes later, “I should fold the laundry.”

Immediately goes back to computer.

20 minutes later, “Phew! It’s bedtime. I’ll get the laundry tomorrow.”

Brushes teeth.

Gets in bed.

“I should go to bed earlier tomorrow.”

“I should have folded the laundry.”

“I should have done something production on my computer.”

Reads for 2 minutes.

Passes the fuck out.

 

Our adventures with Croup

The Willhelms have had it rough for the last month. Right around the time I got fired,  Andy had his first Crohn’s flare in 8 years plus a ridiculously aggressive cold. I was down mentally and he was down physically. We tag-teamed on the whole parenting thing and it became even more clear just what an amazing baby we have. He was smiley and happy, relatively clear with his needs, totally willing to bounce in his Jumperoo while Mommy and Papa tended to our own hurts.

Then on Wednesday morning the little nugget woke up crying. Normally, he greets the day with a few coos and will spend the first 20-30 minutes of the day talking to himself in his crib while I pump, so a crying babe was really unusual.

The day before before he hadn’t eaten nearly as much as he normally does, so I thought he was hungry. I went into his room and poor guy was completely stuffed up and his little cry was hoarse. I brought him into bed with me hoping the elevation on my arm would help him sleep. He fell back asleep for a hot second, but then when Andy was getting ready for the day, the movement woke him up and he started crying his hoarse cry all over again. I called the consulting nurse line for his pediatrician and she listened to him over the phone and said that it sounded like croup. Sure enough, the characteristic barking cough started about an hour after that.

Croup is a viral infection of the upper respiratory system and specifically hits the area around the pharynx, often swelling the vocal chords, which is why babies’ cough sounds like barking. This also usually comes with a fever or runny nose and the only thing you can really do is wait it out. To help relax the airways, the traditional treatment is to go into a steamy bathroom and just hold your babe while they breathe the air. Some doctors will suggest going outside in cold weather since the temperature reduces the swelling. If it gets really bad, you can get steroids to help reduce inflammation, but typically you just wait it out like a cold. We were told to look out for “oxygen starvation.” This is when a baby has a very hard time breathing and starts to have very low levels of oxygen in their blood. Signs that he was experiencing oxygen starvation would have been flaring of the nostrils, sucking in around the ribs, and his lips or nail beds turning blue. Fortunately, we haven’t seen any of those signs, just lots of snot and coughing.

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(We got rid of his swing just last week, so this was our makeshift snuggle nook to keep him elevated and comfortable.)

Andy decided to stay home on Wednesday, which was great since it was just like the early days again. The nugget would eat very little, 2-3 ounces of breast milk at a time, and then sleep for 20-30 minutes. He got one, 60 minute nap in, but otherwise would wake up enough to eat a bit and then cry and then fall back asleep. Andy and I each were in the bathroom with the shower running on hot, trying to help his breathing.

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It never got scary enough that we had to take him to the hospital. We just had a very unhappy baby on our hands. He went down fine at bed time with the help of some Tylenol and managed to stay asleep for the most part. No middle of the night wakings for us. **Fingers crossed**

Thursday morning we had an appointment with Ronan’s pediatrician just to double check that he was doing ok. He didn’t have a fever and after a thorough listen to his lungs and a check in his ears, she said to just keep doing what we’re doing. Apparently the little guy’s weakened immune system can mean that another bug comes on the heels of the croup, so she said to keep an eye out for new symptoms that could indicate something else creeping in.

Andy went to work that day for a bit and came home early to help me. Ronan was doing a little better, but it was so helpful to have another set of hands to pass him off to. Like the early days, I couldn’t really get anything done, including making food or using the bathroom. Since we had both of us home for the first 10 weeks, we never had much of the experience of not showering, etc. We would just pass him back and forth while each of us tended to our various bodily functions. We were also zombies because of the lack of sleep, but at least I could pee without a lot of problems.

Friday was a little tougher. Andy was at work all day and Ronan seemed to take a little dip down. Still no fever, but recovery from croup, we were told, isn’t really linear but instead has some valleys along the way. Oof. I kept Ronan home from Grandparent daycare and we met a good friend to go for a walk, hoping the cold air would help him breathe easier. Unfortunately, it started to rain just as we arrived, so we holed up in Starbucks until Nugget was done with all the stimulus and drove home. It got us out of the house for a hot minute, which was nice.

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He was like this for all of 20 minutes in the morning for a little photo shoot. The rest of the day the smiles were few and far between.

Today, Saturday, I’m writing this on my computer in the parking lot of a local state park. Ronan slept a solid 12 hours last night (normally he does about 10 1/2), but was having a very hard time going down for a nap, despite falling asleep on me for a few minutes at a time. So I loaded us up into the car and used the 20 minute drive to knock him out. Now we’re partying in the car, him in the back sleeping, me in the front, journaling, typing, working on proposals…ok, really scrolling through Facebook a lot. I have ambitions to go grocery shopping, but you can be damn sure I’m not waking this sleeping baby a minute before he wants to.

7 months!

 

This little nugget turned 7 months old yesterday!

Some things worth noting.

Loves:

Jumping. All the time. We went over to a friend’s house a few weeks ago and she had a Jumperoo for her son. I put Ronan in there to see what would happen, and he just jumped and jumped for a solid 40 minutes. And he wasn’t laughing or smiling the whole time. It was serious business, y’all. As I type this, he’s happily jumping in the Jumperoo we got secondhand from another mama. It’s a great way to burn off some energy and keep him occupied for a long time.

Breast milk. To the exclusion of solid foods. We’re trying the solid foods game and we are losing. So far he’s tried applesauce, avocado, butternut squash, egg, oatmeal, zucchini, and baby rice crackers. Now I’m taking a different approach from my first attempts with the spoon and putting purees on my finger to shove into his face. He gets about 4 bites this way and then I stop trying. Since he’s still eating breast milk just fine, we’re not pushing solid foods, but just give him something to try every day.

Activity cube. Specifically he likes holding on to the bead maze on top and is just starting to figure out how to move the beads.

Dr Brown’s pacifiers. I mean he’s been into these for months now, but still worth mentioning because they are lifesavers.

Akeekah pacifier leashes. The kid basically has a pacifier tethered to him all day. This way when he spits them out then don’t go too far.

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Creeper picture from baby monitor

Not loves:

Rolling over. He did it a few times at 3 months and basically hasn’t done it since. I’ll put him on his belly and he’ll just cry until someone else rolls him over. Fun.

Sitting up. “I’d rather be standing.”- My son to me every time I try to get him to sit.

Car seat. I mean he doesn’t hate it, but he’s far less enthused about it than he used to be. Still naps in it about once a day, but he’d rather be jumping. All the jumping.

Shit I absolutely love:

Boogie wipes. Kid had a runny nose and these kept me from rubbing his nose raw.

Tula carrier. When Ronan was first born we tried to wear him a few times and he was NOT. HAVING. IT. Now we’re warming up to it and he will happily hang out for a couple of hours against me. This carrier was recommended by friends who baby wear a lot, and they were absolutely right. It’s comfortable and supportive and relatively easy to put on by myself.

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PEPS group at Halloween (above) and Jan 28th (below)

He’s so damn cute.

Failing Baby Calculus?

I met with my doula today for a book return and quick check in.

Kim came into our lives quickly and fortuitously after we learned that my pregnancy had gone from low to high risk. I was going to be induced early due to gestational hypertension and we knew we would want someone to help us navigate the new world of medical interventions and all the new decisions we would have to make.

We hired her mid-June, went on a babymoon, and returned to an immediate hospitalization and subsequent delivery. It was almost divine in the timing. Initially we weren’t going to hire a doula, but with all the new problems we were encountering, having someone act as a sounding board and medical advocate became vitally important to us.

Kim asks incredible questions and has a whole demeanor that allows for immediate, open conversation. 5 minutes into our conversation I dove deeply into the world of my new paradigm as a parent and explained to her the difficulty of managing the new level of fatigue.

Fatigue isn’t just coming from the obvious source of a lack of sleep. What we don’t really talk about is the fact that our brain is rewiring as parents. Kim constantly reminded me of this in the early days with Ronan and it’s a piece of information I pass on to other new moms. In my work in organizational change management, brain rewiring, both on the personal and organizational level, is the centerpiece of what I am trying to do. In order to successfully rewire brains there needs to be a constant source of energy (glucose), a regular cycle of stress (the change we’re making), and rest.

In parenting, there are several barriers to quick rewiring. First, there is the obvious lack of sleep and downtime to facilitate rest. I type this as my son is napping, but if I weren’t I’d likely be doing dishes, laundry, responding to emails, or planning any of the 10,000 things that go into running a household and business. Even this is not rest. Rest involves a lack of stimulus like sleeping or meditating. Even watching TV or reading, activities commonly associated with relaxing, involve external stimulus that keeps our brains from truly resting.

When we rewire the human brain we need LOTS of rest. Children are the most concrete example of brain rewiring. Part of the reason why they sleep so much is because of all the new neural connections being built and reinforced through reviewing memories.

Though we new parents are doing some serious rewiring, the main source of fatigue comes from what I call Baby Calculus. This is the constant flow of tiny decisions parents have to make every day. There is well-documented evidence of decision fatigue, which is the feeling of exhaustion we get from making many small decisions during the day. Decisions in non-parental life can start first thing in the morning with what to wear. President Obama famously reduces his chance for decision fatigue by only wearing blue or gray suits. As the day goes on, we draw on more and more glucose stores in our brain as we decide how to respond to texts or emails, whether or not to go to the gym, what to have for lunch, to get water now or after the meeting, how to order our coffee today, etc.

For parents, not only do we make these decisions for ourselves, but we also make them for our tiny human. My most vivid example was just after Andy had gone back to work and I was trying to get Ronan down for a nap. We had just gotten a swing from a friend and we were heavily relying on it to soothe him during the day. But we discovered that sometimes if we left the swing on after he had fallen asleep, the movement would actually wake him up. So we had taken to turning it off after 10 minutes. But then in the last day, the lack of movement was causing him to wake up. So you can see the dilemma. Do I turn off the swing or leave it on? My baby needs a nap, but there’s a 50/50 chance that whatever I do will wake him up and could have to start the process of soothing him to sleep all over again.

This is just one of many, many decisions that get made in the course of caring for a newborn. Do I go on a walk while he’s awake or asleep? Should I put him down for a nap now or later? In 3 minutes? 5 minutes? Will this catnap affect his night sleep? Should I let him try and soothe himself back to sleep or go in and offer a bottle or paci? Was that a cry that needs immediate attention or his just making noise in his sleep like babies do?

Add to that all the decisions I have to make for myself during the day and no wonder new parents rely on food that’s easy to make and skip the gym.

Ronan is 3 1/2 months old now and just starting to show some regularity in his routine. This is akin to finding a way to automate email responses or meal planning. As his routine and needs become more regular and recognizable, the number of decisions I have to make in a day will start to decrease and hopefully give me some brain space back for eating a salad and returning to the consulting work I love so much.

Though it’s more likely that, because he’s a human, he’ll start to shift the minute I find some regularity. It’s ok, though, because my brain is rewiring, too, and starting to get better and figuring out what my tiny human needs.

Our Harry Potter meets his Sirius Black

This weekend my best friend, Mike, came to visit Seattle. Mike has been my super bestie in the whole wide world since college and, naturally, is Ronan’s godfather.

He and our good friend, Adam, came over on Sunday to hang out, eat pizza, and meet the nugget.

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Ronan was actually fussy on an off all day (like a baby), so he was actually happy to meet Mike, even though this picture might suggest otherwise.

Monday we met up to go to the aquarium. Mike got me a membership for my birthday and babies get in for free. We went with Andy and Adam. Ronan started out asleep, but woke up and Andy did a great job showing him all the cool sea life.

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Ro is really into light and movement right now as his eyes start to focus more, so the backlit tanks of water with all the moving fish were right up his alley.

How flipping cute is this?

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That night he was beat from his adventure, so he fell asleep on Mommy. I’m fighting a sore throat so I was all the happy for the reason to stay tethered to the couch.

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Day 3 of Grandparent Day Care

Andy is in tech right now. These next 2 weeks feel more like the parenting marathon I had envisioned during pregnancy. Me, alone with my baby for hours and hours and hours. Today, though, I learned that after 3 months of listening to a baby scream, you can tune it out much easier. He was having a rough morning and woke up from his morning nap unhappy. No bottle, clean diaper, attention, being held, being put down, being rocked, swung, bounced, anything worked. I needed to pump, my breasts were sore from a few clogged ducts (gotta take that lecithin), so I put him next to me, hooked myself up, and let him cry. I would pick him up, wiggle him, give him his paci, and then just stop for a bit. After I finished pumping I put him back in his swing and he promptly fell asleep. Fine, kid. Do yo’ thang.

We miss Andy during the day. I say “we” knowing that I can’t divine if Ronan actually feels this way, but I certainly do and suspect that he does, too. Having Papa at home is wonderful. We are a complete family unit and work together seamlessly. Ronan integrates well when Andy and I are together. When it’s just me, I feel clunky, like I’m trying to do a calculus equation that I sort of understand, but obviously didn’t study enough for.

I now understand why moms love to deify alcohol. By about noon my nerves start to fray a bit. This is alleviated when I have friends to see and places to drop him off. When it’s just me and him, I feel tense, on edge in a way that reminds me of my childhood growing up with an abusive parent. What will set him off? What will he need when he is set off to calm him down? It’s triggering in a way I hadn’t anticipated. Though my parent is no longer abusive, that part still exists and is constantly on alert for unsteady situations. Fortunately for my nugget, I work very hard to create stability and predictability, so he will have a good foundation to grow up on purely because of his mother’s childhood trauma. Trauma for the win.

I may have some postpartum anxiety. This could be a mood disorder, or just some anxiety that happens to fall after having a baby. I’m meeting with my therapist in a couple of weeks to sort it out. In any case, routinely getting triggered by your baby being a baby is not fun, so there is work to be done no matter what the pathological outcome.

Some highlights: That kid’s smile. Baby smiles are the best and help ease us into the day. A renewed love of coffee. I had a coffee aversion while pregnant. Now I make a small pot in the morning and drink it with vanilla and hazelnut syrup, frothed half and half, and cinnamon. It’s decaf so it’s not about the caffeine but rather the ritual. Watching Gilmore Girls, which is not only funny and fun to watch, but regularly reminds me that I can be a mom like Lorelai, even if it’s not happening right now. Funny how I can rationalize hard nights of sleep by saying to myself, “Someday I will have a fully grown, functioning child who will be able to sleep without assistance.” Even if it is years away, knowing there is an eventual end point makes it easier.

I remember in Devil Wears Prada (the book, not the movie) where the narrator describes The Runway Turnaround. This is where someone working under the dreaded boss, Miranda, talks about how awful their job is, but then ends the interaction by saying something like, “But it’s so incredible. A million girls would kill to have this job!” I feel like there is something like a Mommy Turnaround. I want to end by saying that though it is tough, motherhood is rewarding, and my baby is so worth it. And he is. And it’s hard. But also fun. But also hard. And he’s cute. But also exhausting. I had no idea. Nothing could have prepared me, but I’m figuring it out, albeit slower than parts of me are satisfied with.