Monday, March 29, 2010

Vaccination Rumination

Two posts. That's all I've managed this month.

Before this baby came and completely altered my universe, if you'd told me about someone who had a baby and was home on maternity leave and couldn't find ten minutes to sit down and blog about it, I'd have taken pity on her. Poor girl, I'd have said. So disorganized and overwhelmed. It can't be that hard.

I don't know what I expected, exactly, but the reality of new parenthood in my experience so far is that it is both better and harder than I ever could have imagined. When you're pregnant and friends, family and strangers tell you your life will change (and you feel condescended to), there is no way that you can know how right they are, and how wide-ranging their accuracy will be. Because this motherhood thing? Consumes you. When you're not running to get organized to feed your baby and worrying that you're scarring him for life by taking too long while he screams, you're reading up on the great vaccine debate and wondering what to do about your baby's upcoming shots.

Which leads me to today's topic, ladies and, well, ladies (do any men read this other than my husband?). Because you know how I love something to hang-wring over. And the topic of vaccinations is absolutely ripe for it.

Intellectually, I understand that I should probably just go in with the baby on Friday and let the doctor and nurses do what they normally do. I've talked to friends whose opinions I value and read the mainstream literature on it, and all are reassuring. But are concerns over someone you love deeply ever intellectual? The fear out there is palpable and not so easily ignored. I'm afraid of making a bad decision for my son that could affect him for the rest of his life. It feels like an awesome responsibility to get this right – so yes, I will be obsessing about it until the appointment comes and goes.

I've skimmed through Dr. Sears' book and looked at his alternative schedule. And our pediatrician is willing to follow that schedule for us, though he clearly doesn't have a whole lot of respect for or faith in it. He says there's no evidence that it has any benefit – and, in fact, since no studies have been conducted on it, we don't know if it could even be harmful somehow to spread them out. But he'll do it for us if we would feel more comfortable.

I don't want to be a fanatic and I don't want to inadvertently cause harm to my baby because my anxiety makes me choose something contrary to the mainstream. But the voices against that mainstream are loud ones. And the alternative schedule seems unlikely to actually cause harm, though I recognize it may not prevent it, either.

So, fellow moms – both veteran and new – and soon-to-be moms: What is your point of view on this issue? What did you do (or will you do) for your kids? Please, play nice in the comment box. This is a controversial issue but I'm not looking for a debate for its own sake – I'm looking for genuine input.

Got to go for now – my little universe alterer is calling.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

More Sweet Than Bitter

My baby turned one month old this week. A month old. Baby. In my arms. Who is mine.

I don't know if I'll ever get over the wonder of it all. Don't know if I'll ever stop tearing up when I think about the journey from there to here. When I look at him and touch his soft little head and feel his warm breath on my neck when I pick him up. He smiled this week – a real, true smile, not one of those teasing, reflex ones – and I broke down in tears. I am an emotional dishrag when it comes to this little man.

It's already going by so fast. And I know it's only the beginning – it will continue to rush by, slowing down at times –when he has a tantrum at Target or tells me he's too old for his mom or slams his bedroom door shut and blares awful music – but the months and years flying before us faster than we can keep up with photos and memory books. With this kind of crazy love comes the sweet sadness that comes with putting away his newborn outfits, saying goodbye to each stage as it passes.

It's more sweet than bitter. The only thing I can do is close my eyes and take mental pictures. Feel these moments deeply, marinate in them. Hold them near.

Monday, March 01, 2010

The Hatching

I am trying not to beat myself up too much about taking so long to post this. I'm in awe, frankly, of my blogger friends who have somehow managed to keep up with blogging while taking care of a newborn. How you've done this, I do not know. I keep thinking I must be doing something wrong, because I can hardly find a few moments to pee throughout the day, much less assemble a thought pattern coherent enough to share with anyone who isn't legally bound to me or required to still love me no matter how insane I sound or frightening I look.

At any rate: Coherent or not, here's how the baby's arrival went down.

We arrived at the hospital on Sunday (1/31) night, just after 7 p.m. As I walked through the hospital to the L&D floor, it felt like graduation night. I couldn't help but recall the countless times I'd walked those same halls on my way to a monitoring appointment, or to meet with my doctor and hope that she'd still sound optimistic about our odds of becoming parents. And now we were walking in as a pair for the last time. Next time we walked out, we'd have a baby in tow. Our baby. Even as I waddled, literally heavy with child, I still couldn't wrap my head around it.

After we got checked in and settled in our room, and the nurse came in to do some set up, the doctor on call came in and placed the cervidil. This was relatively uneventful, so after a snack we tried to settle down and get some rest. Well. My husband got some rest. When your cervix is full of cervidil and your mind is full of anticipation, relief and sheer terror, it's a bit of a challenge to get that shuteye. Plus the nurse came in a couple of times to check on me, reminding me why the hospital is officially the worst place on earth, hands down, to try and get any sleep.

At about 8 a.m. on Monday, a new nurse came in to start my IV, followed by my doctor, who checked my cervix and declared it thinner but not dilated, and said the baby was still quite high up. They started the pitocin, and despite a voice inside me telling me I would probably still end up with a c-section, I remained hopeful that this would work.

The only thing about the hours that followed – in which I experienced 100% genuine contractions, 2 minutes apart (let me summarize those with one word: ouch) – that indicated any kind of progress at all was that my water broke around 3:30 p.m. For those who are pregnant or will be, it may occur to you late in pregnancy to worry about not knowing for sure when your water breaks. Do not be concerned about this. Unless you routinely pee your pants without warning, you will know.

I felt genuinely nervous now: I knew that the breaking of the water meant that there was no turning back. Not that this was ever really a possibility, but I definitely could not now decide to wait a few more days and go home and hide in my bed. This baby would be coming out in the next day, one way or another. At just before 6 p.m., my doctor came back and checked me: cervix was 1/2 inch dilated. A half inch, after a day of the kind of contractions that are the worst part of some women's delivery. The induction attempt began to seem like an exercise in painful futility.

We decided to turn the pitocin off, wait for my contractions to subside and try the misoprostol, with the goal of softening the cervix further so the pitocin could better do its job. At that point they could have offered to put a small hand grenade in there and I would have obliged if I thought it might work. After a few hours, my doctor still hadn't come in to give me the drug, and I drifted off to sleep. At 2:45 a.m. on Tuesday, I sensed someone standing over me – turned out to be my doctor – and jumped awake in a panic (note to doctors everywhere: Do not do this). She apologized for the delay and told me that all hell had broken loose on the L&D floor; she'd spent hours in surgery trying to remove some poor woman's stubborn placenta. As soon as the operating rooms freed up (in case I needed one myself), she'd be back to insert the misoprostol; she returned around 7:15 a.m. to give it to me, then turned me over to her colleague as her shift was over.

Just before noon, the doctor came back to check me, and only one thing had changed in the hours since: the fluid I continued to leak started showing meconium, which had became progressively more concentrated as the morning wore on. It was the first sign at any point in the pregnancy – even through the bleeding, bed rest, nonstress tests and ultrasounds – that my baby was less than happy with what was going on. Since the baby continued to look good on monitoring, it did not bother the nurses or the doctor. But it bothered me. So when the exam showed not one encouraging sign of progress, it became clear that I needed to call it a day on the whole labor thing, despite my c-section fears. My baby had had enough. For his sake, and for mine too – better, I decided, to go into surgery with a clear head and some energy than try another day of exhausting pitocin only to end up there at 2 a.m. under more panicked circumstances – I told her I was ready to make the c-section call.

This was not an easy decision. I've made my fears of surgery pretty well known, and many things about this one terrified me. I half-seriously considered what might happen if I ran out of there, drove myself home and crawled into my own bed where I felt safe. But I knew what had to be done. It wasn't just about me; I couldn't let this little guy down after he'd stuck with me for so long, after he'd done his part. Time to put on the big-girl panties.

I'd like to say that I did put them on and wore them with honor, but we've been through too much together for me as I've told you my story to spin my delivery into some sort of phony fairy tale ending. So here is the truth: I sat on the table in the stark OR and lost it. I told them I couldn't do it, that I changed my mind. I absolutely shivered with fear of the spinal, anticipating the sense of suffocation I'd been warned can happen when you can't feel yourself breathe. The anesthesiologist asked me, not kindly but not unkindly, if I wanted to go back out to L&D, spend the rest of the afternoon on pitocin and end up right back here in the wee hours of Wednesday morning. He had a point, I knew. I somehow managed to lean forward on the nurse and go completely limp. I didn't feel a thing as the numbing medicine and spinal went in, and as they moved me onto the table I waited with dread for it to take effect.

You know how I always worry about the thing that, it turns out, is not the thing that I should actually worry about?

I did it again.

The spinal, for me, turned out to be nothing. I felt a warm, tingly feeling move up my legs, and that was it. I could still wiggle my toes and it was nothing like being paralyzed, but the doctor's pinch test proved that it was working beautifully. Before I had a chance to process this, the surgery had begun. And I was okay at that point – my husband even says I was smiling when he came in – but I felt just inches away from panic, barely hanging on.

Here’s what I should have worried about: The smell of my skin burning filled the air as they made their way inside of me. A few minutes later, when the doctors practically crawled inside of me trying to pull the baby out of me – both of them standing on their tiptoes and tugging, making me feel I was being torn in half. Then, the strong shift in pressure as soon as the baby was out that sent all the blood rushing to my head. This was it: I panicked. I began to insist that I was going to pass out, and despite the doctors' reassurances that this was impossible, the sick feeling was too much for me, both physically and mentally. This is the moment I regret most, that I was unable to just take a deep breath, will away the dizziness and focus on the baby that was being tended to by the nurses; that, instead, the anesthesiologist had to give me an anti-anxiety drug that put a hazy ring around the memory of seeing my son for the first time.

I didn't even realize this had happened until I reached the recovery room and began to feel jittery and agitated as the medicine wore off and a nurse verified that I'd been given something to bring me back from the ledge. A few minutes later I got the full-on shakes, which apparently are common postpartum – something about the hormones leveling out -- regardless of how you deliver, but caught me off-guard and, combined with the nausea and jittery feeling left in the medicine's wake, made me wish someone would shoot me on the spot. It was not exactly the post-delivery glow I’d had in mind.

All of these things have added up to this: I do not remember whole chunks of my baby’s arrival. I am not even sure that I remember when I first saw him. In the recovery room, as I tried to stop shaking and to concentrate on not vomiting, I actually asked the nurse to take my newborn son for a few minutes as I feared I would drop him in my loopy state.

In the days that have passed since, I have tried to stem the tears of disappointment over this by concentrating on these thoughts: That my son doesn’t know any different. That my husband says he walked him over to me and I smiled and stroked his cheek and acted not terribly unlike what I would have sans anxiety or drugs. That I have pictures in which my son, just minutes old and fully alert, is looking right up at me from the crook of my arm; I look exhausted but totally in love. That I breastfed him in the recovery room and he latched right on as if we’d been nursing together our whole lives. And that in the hours and days following his birth I held him skin to skin and nursed him and did all the things I’d wanted to do to foster bonding. And that I had a delivery at all – I had a healthy baby that made me feel true bliss when I held him to me.

These are the important things, I know. And as I spend 24 sleep-deprived hours a day tending to this demanding, screeching little being, I am ever aware of how perfectly lucky I am to call him my son, despite the imperfect circumstances surrounding his arrival. I look at him and ask him if he’s real, tell him he’s a miracle. I am as effusive in my love for him as I am critical of myself and how I handled his delivery. I figure that no matter how many mistakes I make as a mother, the one thing I know how to do is show him love. Because I do love him, with a force that I never could have imagined.

This post has been long, and I appreciate your sticking with it. Appreciate your sticking with me while I found and hatched this good egg.