Thursday, January 23, 2014

Confessions of a Mommy

When Micah was first born and brought home, I was overjoyed.  Overjoyed and just about as overwhelmed as a person could be.  I was exhausted, scared, and in over my head… but all anyone ever asked about what the overjoyed part. 
“Is it everything you thought it would be?”  Everything and more.  Much more. 
“Have you ever been happier?”  No, I haven’t.  I’ve also never been able to fall asleep standing up before.
“Is he just perfect?”  Yes, yes he is.  When he’s not screaming his head off, pooping through his diaper, spitting up all over me and refusing to eat…. Perfect.
I felt like because I’d waited so long, prayed for this child, longed for him, I wasn’t allowed to ever say, “This is really hard.” 
That zipped-lippedness resulted in me, sitting on the nursery floor in the middle of the night, crying my eyes out all alone and feeling like just about the worst mommy in history.
                I have always appreciated hearing moms really tell it like it is.  There’s something very vulnerable and beautiful about the honesty of motherhood.  So, in that spirit, here are a few of my confessions about what I’m experiencing in this new phase of life as a mommy to two.

1)      My house is a mess, and I’m a mess right along with it.   Asher was born at the beginning of December, right smack dab in the middle of the busiest season of life for us.  Jay was extraordinarily busy, not only organizing a huge fundraising season, but also trying to keep up with all of the stuff that I normally take care of at the office and church.  I was on bed rest as I struggled to heal from my c-section so I could do little more than take care of the baby and keep us all fed.  We were lucky if we could keep the dishes done and our underwear clean!  Several weeks of this, and we got ourselves in a hole that was difficult to get out of!  Add to that the fact that we had 3 Christmas trees and various other holiday decorations to take down and put away, plus all the Christmess that comes with gifts and wrapping paper, packing and unpacking to visit family, and all that jazz, and this house is a mess!  And though I care (probably way too much), I just don’t have the time or energy to do much about it.  I’m lucky if I manage to leave the house with make-up on and no milk stains on my shirt.

I am slowly digging my way out (with help from my husband, who has been awesome through it all) but it is slow coming.  I dream of a day when I will be able to clean my bathtub, not have the recycling overflowing, shave both legs on the same day.  Ah, the little things.  In the meantime, please don’t come visit me without some advanced notice.  A lot of notice.

2)      When it comes to the baby, I’m terrible at multi-tasking.  I had little man at the office with me today for ten hours.  I got roughly 45 minutes worth of work done.  It takes me a week to do what I used to be able to do in a day.  And obviously, I get very little done at home (see above).  I’ve yet to figure out how to do the little things like shower and get ready for the day when I have this needy little creature demanding my attention.  And I’ve seriously eaten the last 65 meals with one hand, while holding Asher with the other (usually as he nurses), and I’ve brushed an embarrassing amount of crumbs off my precious newborn’s head.  My focus is most definitely monopolized, and thus… number 3

3)      I feel guilty pretty much all the time.  I simply can’t give what I’m used to giving.  There’s only so much of me to go around right now.  Micah, my sweet and crazy 8 year old, seems to know the exact right words to punch me in the gut.  Now, I know enough to know that he manipulates the situation most the time in order to get his way, but it still leaves me feeling riddled with guilt that he can’t always be my center of attention.  I also feel guilty that I’m not as available to people as I used to be.  It’s like I’m strapped to a 9 pound ball and chain (albeit a cute little wiggly one). 
And don’t think the cute, innocent baby can’t make you feel guilty too.  If I feel like he’s had too long of a day at the office, or that my attention has been too split that day, or his diaper was too wet, or he had to just cry for a few minutes so that I could take a shower… guilt, guilt, guilt.

4)      Leaving the house terrifies me.  The first few weeks of Asher’s life, he and I were home alone most days.  We got into a good routine.  Sleeping, changing, nursing.  We were good.  Then, when he was just three weeks old, we decided to go to Kentucky for our family Christmas party.  We weren’t ready.  Not at all.  We drove 600 miles, stayed two days, and turned around and came back.  I was like Punxsutawney Phil on Groundhog’s Day.  I came out, saw my shadow, and headed back in for six more weeks of winter.  Even going to church or to the office for the first time caused me some pretty great anxiety.  I wasn’t like this when Micah was a baby.  I would pack him and go, no problem.  Sometimes we’d head out to the mall just to stroll around (and so I could show him off!), but it’s been different for Asher.  For one big reason.

5)      Breastfeeding is hard.  Since we’ve had Micah since birth, we’ve experienced most of the baby stuff already, with the exception of breastfeeding.  This art, which I assumed would be the most natural thing ever, has not gone the way I anticipated.  I thought I’d push out my beautiful baby, he’d be put on my chest, find his way to my breast, and we’d be beautifully connected and live happily ever after.

Yeah, so that’s not how it went.  First of all, after an emergency c-section, and an over-crowded, understaffed hospital that was working through a snow storm, I didn’t even get to hold my sweet boy until he was almost two hours old.  I spent the first day of his life very sick, and in fact, threw up five times during my first meeting with the lactation consultant – she was great about it and kept right on going like nothing happened.  Due to our initial set-back, a weak suck, and latching issues, Asher lost about 13% of his birth weight in the first couple of days.  After trying several things, the doc convinced us to start supplementing with formula when Ash was three weeks old, which has done nothing great for my milk supply and made Asher a little lazy and easily frustrated.

All this to say, it’s been hard, but we have kept going.  I decide to give up about three times every day, but inevitably, there will be one magical moment that makes me want to keep going another day.  I’m praying for about 4 ½ more months of daily magical moments.

6)      Sometimes I feel really old.  I was doing all this newborn stuff with Micah when I was 25/26.  I’m nearly 35 now.  And you know what?  I’m tired!  I feel that almost-decade every day.  My back hurts.  My feet hurt.  And I need a nap!

7)      And I kind of miss the normal me.  My recovery from the C-section was hard.  I had to be on bed rest and home health, and take it way easier than I wanted to.  My energy level took a while to return, and may still not be all the way back… but that’s probably because I’m so old.  And while I’ve always been a crybaby, my hormones are still a little wacky.  And I’d really like to get rid of this post-partum hypertension. 
As for the six inch vertical scar on my stomach?  I’ll keep that.  It reminds me of one of the best days of my life… though it’s ruined bikini season for me forever ;)

8)      I miss being pregnant.  Is that weird?  I love that I finally have my sweet baby here, but in some ways, I miss having him all to myself.  I miss feeling him kick and move inside me.  And, I know it’s crazy, but I miss that big pregnant belly (better than the doughy mess I’ve been left with!).  Dressing it and resting my hand on it… well, that’s the most fun I’ve ever had being fat!

 I think this will be my one experience with pregnancy, and the fact that it’s already over makes me a little sad.

9)      I miss my husband.  Don’t get me wrong, Jay and I are a good team, and we love being parents, but we’d finally gotten to a stage with Micah where we could go on dates alone or watch a movie together while he’s off doing his own thing.  Micah is pretty independent and self-sufficient so if Jay and I wanted to occasionally lounge in bed on a Saturday morning, we could do it.  And now we are starting back at square one, falling in bed next to each other at night, totally exhausted and smelling like spit-up.  I love being a mommy so much, but sometimes, I just want to be his girlfriend. 
I will say though that there is little that is more attractive than my big guy playing legos with Micah or swaying back and forth trying to put Asher to sleep.  If I have to be gross and tired, there’s no one I’d rather do it with.

10)   I wish the time away.  I find myself saying, “well, when is Asher is old enough to fill-in-the-blank, I’ll be able to fill-in-the-other-blank.”  I am always looking for the next milestone, but just today, it hit me that Asher’s wrinkly newborn skin is filling out, and already, his cry is different.  My newborn is a baby.  So I’m trying to just stop, breathe, and enjoy the moment, because I’m learning, watching my 8 year old who, just yesterday, was my little baby boy, it all goes by too fast.

Ah, confession really is good for the soul.

And these guys are totally worth it all.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Asher's Arrival - all the gory details

I can’t believe it has already been 6 weeks since my new little man came into the world.  Of course, he interrupted my world a little longer ago.  I felt him kick me many weeks ago.  I started planning for him months ago.  I started dreaming of him years ago.
 I am already getting a little fuzzy on the details of those wonderfully exhausting days, so I figured I should write it down before my sleep-deprived brain forgets it altogether.


I breezed through my long – awaited pregnancy with relative ease, save for a kidney stone or two, up until the last month when my blood pressure skyrocketed and my body swelled up like a blimp.  After two trips to the hospital for monitoring, I made it to my last doctor’s appointment at 39 weeks 6 days.  I was feeling good as I waddled my blimpy self into the office and sat on the exam table, but after the nurse took my very high blood pressure, my doctor (who I LOVE if I haven’t already said so) came in and said, “Well, let me check you so I know where we’re starting from once I send you to the hospital in a few minutes.” 

You think I would have been more prepared since I was one day from 40 weeks, but even still, I had a small breakdown in the office.  I didn’t want to be induced.  I wanted Button to come when he was ready, but with my blood pressure issues and the fact that he was estimated to be nearly nine pounds already, it seemed that we needed to get the show on the road to get him here safely.  At the end of my appointment, my doctor instructed me to go directly to the hospital and have Jay go get my bags later – do not go home, do not go to lunch, do not pass go, do not collect two hundred dollars.
Being the obedient girl I am, I went directly home.  To be fair, I live a whopping two minutes from the hospital, and only gave myself 15 minutes to get the rest of my stuff together before heading to labor and delivery.  

This was early Wednesday afternoon.  The plan was to start a medicine that would “ripen” me for delivery, then start Pitocin some time Thursday morning, so we didn’t expect to see any real action until Thursday night at least.

Oh, a little side story that is just so me – a couple of hours after I arrived at the hospital, the nurse requested a urine sample to check again for preeclampsia.  Actually, they requested the sample as soon as I got there, but since I was coming directly (kind of) from the doctor’s office where I had just given one such sample, I was not properly equipped to provide it just yet, so it took an hour or so and one of those giant hospital mugs of ice water to prepare.

Anyway, when I was finally ready, I went into the restroom to commence the glamorous peeing in a cup, when I, not realizing it, got my blood pressure cuff caught on the pull-in-case-of-emergency cord.  As I was lifting the cup to set it in its holding place, a nurse burst into the room to make sure I was okay.  I responded by screaming and throwing the contents of the cup in her general direction.
Yep, the Spaldings have arrived!
looking marvelous
The first night in the hospital was pretty boring.  Contractions had started by the time they hooked me up to the monitors, but they were light and irregular.  I passed the time by watching one of the ten seasons of Friends that Jay had thought to stash in my bag.   I was put on clear liquids as soon as I got there (didn’t get to eat again until late Friday night) so I sipped on chicken broth and enjoyed a popsicle here and there.  The one thing I didn’t do was sleep.  Though every nurse who came in through the night told me I needed to sleep, I just couldn’t do it (Jay had no such problem, even on the most uncomfortable looking pull-out chair you’ve ever seen.  Most of the nurses would giggle at his snoring when they came in to check my vitals).  I did my best to doze off and on and had decided that I would get up about 5 a.m. and get a shower before all the excitement of the day started.  At 4:55 a.m., I woke up startled and discovered that it felt like my bed was wet.  I woke Jay up, thinking maybe I had waited too long between bathroom breaks.  Jay helped me up (I had an IV and was hooked up to monitors, so he was great to wake up and unhook and rehook me every time I needed him), and as I attempted to walk to the bathroom, it became increasingly clear that my water had broken (I had been a little worried that it might happen in my car or on my new carpet, but everyone told me not to worry, that it doesn’t gush out like it does in the movies.  They were wrong!). 

The nurse came in to confirm my water had broken and started me on the Pitocin to strengthen and regulate my contractions.  Because my water broke, I didn’t get to take a shower, nor did I get to employ any of the coping techniques I’d so dutifully learned in my birthing class because with every contraction, the water kept coming. No walking the halls, no birthing ball, no holding onto your partner and swaying back in forth.  As the day dragged on, I progressed very slowly, even as the contractions got stronger and close together.  At about 5:30 p.m., I had an epidural, which succeeded in numbing the right side of my body really well and the left side not at all.  The night was difficult (no sleep again), but finally, at about 7 a.m. on Friday morning, my doctor came in to check me.  I was sure she was going to say we were almost there, but instead, delivered the news that I was only 3 ½ centimeters.  Since it had been 27 hours since my water had broken, she decided that a C-section was our best course of action.
Go time! Get the baby out of that poor, puffy woman!

After another small breakdown on my part, the nurses quickly began prepping me for surgery.  I was feeling very sick and everything happening around me was a blur.  I remember the nurse putting warm socks on my feet and compression machines on my legs, I remember everyone talking about the blanket of snow that had fallen overnight, I remember that they couldn’t find shoe covers big enough to cover Jay’s shoes in the operating room, I remember my best friend, Wesley the anesthesiologist, coming in to give me more medicine so that I would be completely numb (it mostly worked).   In no time, they were wheeling me to the operating room.

Jay had to stay behind while they got all set up, strapped my arms and legs down, and hung the cover to hide whatever it was they were going to be doing to me.  I was pretty panicky as the doctors worked all around me, but when I turned my head to the left and saw Jay settling in beside me, I felt a bit of calm wash over me.  I don’t know how long it took to get the baby out.  It could have been 30 seconds or 30 minutes.  I kept my eyes closed and just tried to concentrate on breathing in and out and telling myself that I wasn’t really feeling anything – that it was my imagination.  I felt very hot – there was something blowing warm air at my face.  At some point I noticed I had an oxygen mask on.  

Suddenly, in all the chaos, there was a stillness, and I heard it.  He cried.  All the trying, all the failures, all the hoping, all the worrying, all the years, all the waiting… it was done.  He was here.  Born at 9:13 a.m. on December 6th , weighing 8 lbs, 9 oz.
finally here
pay no attention to the guts in this picture
big boy!

I only got to glance at him for a moment before the nurses whisked him and Jay away as I was put back together.  It was well over an hour before I would see them again.

As I was finally wheeled to the recovery room, I heard the voices of my Micah and my in-laws and knew they were waiting for me, and waiting to meet the new member of our family.
It seemed to take forever for Jay and Asher to come and meet me.  The snow had slowed down everything at the hospital so it was taking longer to discharge patients and the hospital was short-staffed.  I was very anxious to see Asher, to hold him, to nurse him.  Finally I heard my husband’s voice down the hall, and I sat up and prepared for the magical moment that I had been waiting for.  Suddenly, nothing else seemed to matter much – the pain from the surgery, the disappointment that nothing really went the way I’d hoped.  All that mattered was on its way to me.  Micah was already standing beside me as they entered the room and my eyes filled with tears.  I was so in love with our little family.  I couldn’t wait to have this new little man in my arms.  Jay carefully and lovingly handed me our baby, and I looked down on him with all the love in the world.  Then quickly handed him back to his dad and threw up everywhere.

Welcome to our world, Asher David!