September 14, 2012 § 1 Comment
When Melanie was born, Robert and I faced decisions we never before had considered. Will we puree our own food or buy prepackaged? Will we stick with breastfeeding or switch to the bottle? Will one of us stay at home or will we search for daycare? And, yes, what sort of diapers will we use?
We started with disposable because that is what the hospital used. We found them easy, convenient, and extremely quick. When Melanie was filling her diaper every 45 minutes, nearly just as quickly as I was filling her tummy, the disposables were a no-brainer. And those early breast-milk poops? Disposables. No-brainer. As her bodily rhythms started to clarify and regulate, our confidence increased. A friend of mine sent me some of her cloth diapers just to give a little try, zero pressure, and one day I bit the bullet. I actually felt nervous and scared and all of that. I don’t know what was scary, but I genuinely felt anxiety. (I found out that those anxious feelings are perfectly normal when embarking on the cloth diapering journey.) By the end of the day, my baby was still healthy and whole, sans diaper rash, plus adorable Hello Kitty butt. So, the next day, I tried it again. And before I knew it, I was noticing that those three diapers simply weren’t enough. Robert and I crunched the numbers and dove in.
Here is what I’ve learned about cloth diapering: practice makes perfect. The first time I tried to put a cloth diaper on Melanie, she peed all over it before I had closed it. So there goes that one. Just like disposables, when the baby pees on a clean diaper, you don’t just close it back up. I felt frustrated and discouraged because this happened a couple more times. But when I finally managed to get a cloth diaper on her (and she didn’t pee on it beforehand), I was overwhelmed by my sense of accomplishment. I had consulted my friend. I had conducted tons of research. I had purchased a tub of cloth-diaper safe diaper rash protectant. And there was my little girl: clad in a Hello Kitty diaper actually looking comfortable. Was I imagining it, or did she really look like she enjoyed the comfy feel of the soft diaper on her rear-end?
I have been wanting to write this blog for a while, but I wanted to be sure that my confidence was justified and that we had actually achieved a real rhythm before sharing my personal approach to cloth diapering with the world. So, now that I’m ready: here’s what I’ve learned.
1. Just like cooking, you need to have a mise en place.
Having a clear, organized set-up makes cloth diapering quick and easy. Granted, my set-up is not normally spread out on a blanket like this, but you get the point. (This is actually no different from disposable diapering–look at any nursery and you will see a designated diapering location complete with supplies near at hand.)
2. Have a place for the wet diapers to go.
I found that by using a small-ish container for my wets (rather than, say, my Decor diaper pail) helps me keep the laundry going to avoid any unnecessary yuckiness. I also keep a baking soda tablet in the bottom of my basket, under the liner. I also do not keep dirty diapers in the basket. As soon as she poops in a cloth diaper, it is laundered along with any wets that may be ready for washing.
3. Use the right kind of rash preventative.
Most “over-the-counter” diaper rash creams are off-limits for cloth diapers. If you check the ingredients and see any type of fish oil (for instance, Desitin uses cod liver oil), steer clear. Fish oils leach into the cloth diapers and make them smell fishy. Nasty. I have heard some cloth diapering mamas claim that they have never had to use any rash preventative, that cloth diapering miraculously prevents rashes on its own merits. Look. Diaper rash, like all rashes, is from an exposure to moisture and bacteria. You keep your baby in a wet diaper long enough, a rash will appear. Now what “long enough” means to your baby’s skin is really up to your baby’s skin. I prefer to prevent rash rather than have to try to cure it, so I have never diapered Melanie sans cream or balm.
Angel Baby Bottom Balm may seem expensive at $9.95 for an ounce and $12.95 for two ounces. But I have found that I do not use as much balm as I do the creams, so I don’t go through the tub of balm as quickly. I also buy in bulk on Amazon.
4. Explore different diapering options.
When we were first cloth diapering, we did a combination of pre-fold diapering with pocket diapers. We simply did not use the liner insert with the pocket diaper when we were using the pre-folds. Now that she is older, we have moved on to using the liners only. The advantage of using the pre-fold with the pockets is that the pre-folds are surprisingly absorbent. This is particularly useful in the early days when there are several diaper changes in a day. Just change the pre-fold, and your little one can enjoy the adorable pocket diaper over a few diaper changes.
5. If you go the pre-fold route, be sure that you know how to fold the diaper.
There are options in this arena, too. First of all, you can go really old school and use “flat fold” diapers. With the flat fold, you do have to learn how to fold the diaper several times over to create a thick enough barrier. Apparently there are women out there who can do this in a flash with enough practice. I chose to go with the “pre-folds” (Gerber, pack of 10) because they were less intimidating. These are pre-sewn so that the folding has been done for you with the layers focused in the center panel.
The fold that was the best for us is called an “Angel Fold.” The Angel Fold makes gussets at the legs, which trap moisture so nicely. Before laying baby on top of the diaper, fold the edges in at an angle as shown. Place baby on top of diaper, bring center section up, and then open the outer corners to meet the back edges.
Secure with Snappi and off you go!
Note: if my instructions were lame and difficult to follow, see this extraordinarily helpful on-line guide to folding pre-fold diapers. This is where I learned my fold: Angel Fold. This woman also has some other folds listed here: Folding Pre-Folds. Practice different folds until you find the one that 1. you like best and 2. meets your baby’s unique potty needs.
6. Choose your diaper cover.
We love pocket diapers, but there are many many cloth diapers out there to choose from. Ours are Sunbaby Pocket diapers, size 2. We chose Sunbaby after an incredible tip from a cloth diapering friend of mine, as well as her generosity in letting us try out a few of hers before we made the financial commitment to a huge stash. (Thanks Vikki!) In fact, she has written a useful blog about cloth diapering, which is a must-read for anyone interested in going this route.
7. Do what makes financial sense for your family.
Sunbaby pocket diapers can be purchased in bulk directly from the site or individually from sellers on Facebook. We went with new diapers (plus the three that we ended up buying from my friend after she let us try them out). We went with the set of 24 diapers and 24 inserts for $108. That comes to $4.50 for each diaper/insert pair. When there are other cloth diapers out there (I’m looking at you bumgenius) that cost upwards of $18 per single diaper, why would anyone go with a different company?? I know that $4.50 seems like a lot for a single diaper and liner pair, but we are saving tons of money on diapers every month. For the first two months before we cloth diapered Melanie, we were buying diapers every two weeks and spending between $150 and $200 on diapers a month. Why not just go ahead and spend the $108 upfront and then have the diapers all the time?
Of course, when it comes to cloth diapering, laundering becomes a major concern. I have paid close attention to our water bill over the past four months of cloth diapering, and this is what I’m seeing.
In November 2011, before Melanie was born, our city increased our bill from $42.10 to $46. There was a newsletter that accompanied this change–it might have been to accommodate increase in pay for trash pick-up? I can’t remember. Anyway, that explains the spike in our water bill. From November 2011 (before Melanie was born, remember) until last month’s bill, our expense has consistently been $46. We started cloth diapering part-time in April, full-time in May. We have seen no change in the amount of money we are spending in water. Laundering is another obstacle to tackle in cloth diapering, so I will handle that in a different post so that I can spend the necessary time and attention on it.
8. Cloth diapering is a communal experience.
While disposable diapering is often treated like a private practice, cloth diapering requires opening and expanding horizons to include other cloth diaperers. The other cloth diapering parents out there come with advice, experience, and even gently-used hand-me-downs! I don’t know where I would be without my friend Vikki and all of her resources. Probably down several hundred dollars at least. So, type in “cloth diapering tips” in Google, follow the links that other people point to, watch videos on YouTube of people reviewing different types of cloth diapers, leave inquiring comments on people’s blogs and message boards. If I have discovered one crucial point about cloth diapering mamas, it is that they are eager to inform the uninitiated. Of course, you will trip over some of the militant crazies on your research journey, but try not to let the extremists scare you away. Their passion and zeal can be explained by their utter joy at finding what works for their family.
9. Parent according to your own personal style.
Everyone has something to say and add and opine over when it comes to parenting. I tell all new parents, given the utter expertise that I have earned in…seven…months. (*cough*) Anyway, what I tell new parents is that you have to allow yourself to do the best you can do. That does not mean perfection. It means always be ready to forgive yourself and your partner (if you are fortunate enough to have one), and remember that babies come with a fairly steep learning curve. You aren’t expected to know everything all at once. You can’t know everything all at once!
That said, when you are interested in exploring other options for your family, remember that there are all kinds of happy mediums. If you choose to cloth diaper, for instance, there is no rule that you have to cloth diaper for every situation for the rest of your life. We cloth diaper about 75% of the time, and I consider that full-time. When we are at home, Melanie is in a cloth diaper. Except at night, when she is in a disposable. Our diaper bags are stocked with disposable diapers because they take up less space. If there is a diaper change when we are out and about, we put Melanie in a disposable and bag up the cloth diaper in a deodorized trash bag. When we travel to other people’s homes, particularly if there is an overnight stay during our visit, we use disposables. My philosophy is that I refuse to impose upon someone else my personal choices. That means that I prefer not to use extra water and laundry supplies (detergents, etc.) when I have the ability to put Mel in a disposable instead. While we awaited our massive package of diapers from Sunbaby, I had three cloth diapers–so I alternated those throughout the day. If I didn’t feel like doing a load for the next day, then she was in disposables that day.
Bottom line: do what works for you.
10. Practice, practice, practice.
Whatever you do, approach diapering with patience. There are so many options, so many ways that you can interpret your child’s needs and preferences, that you have to allow yourself the time and space to learn. I was anxious and frustrated for the first couple of times that I put a cloth diaper on Melanie. But I promised myself that I would try it for a week. If I still hated it after a week, then I would send the diapers back to my friend. After the first week, I decided to give it a try for the rest of the month. If after the month I hated it, then I would return the diapers. I never hated it. The first couple of days were hard; I won’t lie. But they were hard in the way that all new parenting challenges are hard–the actual act of diapering wasn’t really that difficult. I just had to give myself the chance to learn.
Hopefully the next post I write will be about laundering cloth diapers. And hopefully that post won’t be too long in coming.
August 7, 2012 § 4 Comments
I am quite a bit behind on this update, but it is not without reason. We have had a very busy few months with our Baby Hab. Robert is rocking our little one in preparation for bed. I have been out of the house for most of the past 48 hours, working doggedly in the library against Mother Nature’s better efforts to convince me to do otherwise. Today, for instance, the deluge began the moment Robert and I walked out the door, toting Melanie in her car seat. Robert dropped me off at the library, despite my every nerve twitching to just stay home, curl up with my cuddly baby in a blanket, and watch the Olympics. Once I trudged to the front door of the library, I found myself temporarily locked out–the power had just gone out. A magnanimous librarian opened the door for this drowned rat, and I soon found myself a table illuminated by an emergency light. I worked there for over an hour until the power came on and I could go to the graduate study room. The rain eventually stopped, the oppressive heat relented, and I emerged six hours later with a very nearly complete and revised dissertation. I hope to get the fully revised dissertation to my committee in the next week or so.
I am working on borrowed time, however; in fact, I have been attempting to write and rewrite this entry for three months. There is quite a lot of ground to cover, but I will unfortunately have to satisfy you with a swift rundown of our experiences, development, and accomplishments.
–Melanie mimics facial expressions, makes eye contact, and smiles really big. There is obvious improvement every single day.
–She is baptized on April 21st at the same church her aunt and uncle (and godparents) were married. Of course…I got tearful.
–We try out using cloth diapers for the first time, thanks to our friend V.Dub and her generosity in letting us use some of her diapers, which we ultimately purchased because we loved them so much. (More on cloth diapering and our decision to do that later.)
–She meets another playmate for the very first time; this playmate is literally 7 days younger than Melanie, which is really special. They were born in the same hospital, too!
–She has her 2-month doctor’s appointment, which most new mommies recognize as the dreaded vaccination appointment. Robert went with us, and he held Melanie while I averted my eyes. I felt like I was going to cry with her when she cried. But she really did great and didn’t catch wise to what was going on until the last two shots. We’re very proud of her.
–Melanie finds her hands and notices her fingers for the first time. She turned them over and over in front of her face and flexed her fingers. As the days progressed, she started to “share” her fingers with us by extending her arms toward our faces, too.
–Melanie makes eye contact and smiles from across the room; she starts to try to laugh when she smiles.
–She begins to babble and blow raspberries. She loves babbling to her hands the very most and gets so much delight from when Robert or I blow raspberries back to her.
–Melanie laughs for the very first time while Robert holds her; he was talking about his day at work, and Mel just let out a great big laugh.
–Melanie’s aunt graduates from Pharmacy school as a Doctor of Pharmacy. Melanie attends graduation and sleeps peacefully the entire time–we were so proud of both my sister and Melanie that day!
–Robert’s mom babysits for us so that Robert and I could go out on a date. We saw The Avengers and went out to dinner.
–Melanie goes on her second trip to her grandma and grandpa who live out of town. Our car ride was incredibly eventful, complete with a blow-out poopy diaper (disposable, not cloth), and needing to pull over so she could nurse in a parking lot. It took us 4 hours for what used to be a 2-hour trip.
–She meets my oldest childhood friend; we grew up together as next-door neighbors and have known each other since I was 5 and she was 4. My parents, Robert, and I take Melanie on a walk in a local park.
–We celebrated my very first Mother’s Day. Melanie gave me a beautiful Willow Tree figurine, and Robert gave me several awesome macro filters and lens attachments. I might have gotten a little bit tearful when I read the cards from them.
–Melanie tries to roll over from her back to front and gets about 3/4 of the way there. Her bottom arm is always extended and therefore acts as a kickstand preventing her from making the full flip to her tummy.
–Melanie meets my dissertation director for the first time at a lunch meeting we have with her. Melanie was very well behaved and was happy to let my professor hold her while I ate.
–Melanie finds her feet with her hands–now she loves grabbing on to them. She’ll be sucking those toes soon enough!
–Melanie goes to the lake with me, Robert, and his parents for the first time. We will not have any outdoor or water play for a while, but she enjoyed sitting on the screened-in porch with us and rocking.
–She starts to “stand” with assistance on our laps, and she looks so very proud of herself when she does it
–Robert and I celebrated our third wedding anniversary
–Robert’s mom babysits again for us so that Robert and I could enjoy a nice anniversary dinner out.
–Melanie goes to the lake for a second time and meets even more of Robert’s family; again, no outdoor or water activities for her yet.
–I try to get Melanie to start napping independently in her bedroom. She’s not so keen on it. Neither am I.
–Robert is away for the weekend, leaving me alone with Melanie for more than a single day for the first time. I take her to a local park for walks and photo shoots.
–We celebrate Robert’s birthday by going to his office to have lunch with him. Melanie is extremely well behaved and lets the waitresses hold onto her while Robert and I ate at this teeny little cafe. Only in the country, folks. Only in the country.
–We go to my parents’ house, and Melanie actually sleeps for the entire two-hour drive, which is encouraging. She did so well that we were able to arrive with very little incident at all.
–Melanie rolls over for the first time. First, she rolls from tummy to back and cries because she bumps her little noggin on the (carpeted) floor. It was a little bit of a surprise to her; she just happened to push with one of her arms, and there she went! Twenty minutes later, she flipped over from her back to her tummy. This was a less traumatic roll.
–She notices the animals and smiles at them. Just before she turns 4 months old, she actually pets Beatrice for several minutes while Bea-Bea attempts to nap on my lap. Beatrice was very well-behaved and patient with Melanie’s not-so-gentle petting.
–We celebrate Father’s Day on June 17th by going to the park for a Daddy-Daughter photo shoot with Mommy! Both of my subjects were adorable, particularly Melanie who looked perfect in her little “1st Father’s Day” onesie. The onesie was a surprise for Daddy–I dressed her that morning and presented her to him while he opened his gifts. After the photo shoot, we went to brunch at one of our favorite new local restaurants. Then we came home and just relaxed and napped for the rest of the afternoon. I think he was pretty happy with his whole day. 🙂
–Melanie and Annie have become pretty good friends–now when Annie licks on Melly, she just laughs and laughs. Mommy tries to shove the dog away, but it doesn’t bother Melanie one bit.
–Melanie has her 4-month appointment and booster shot visit. She fell asleep during our doctor’s appointment, and had to be woken up for the shots. It was a cruel thing to wake up for. 😦 My heart broke a little bit while we held her down on the table, but being able to comfort her afterward was comforting to me, too.
–The pediatrician gives us the green light to introduce Melanie to solids, starting with rice cereal. She has her very first rice cereal on June 25th. She doesn’t like it very much, but she did a good job while I presented the spoon to her. Apparently in the beginning, it isn’t as important that they get calories from the little bit of rice cereal they manage to swallow. Instead, the goal is to teach them how to take food off a spoon and to get used to new textures in their mouth.
–For the first week of July, we went on a road trip to visit V and her husband. It was a long drive, so we broke up the travel days into two legs, stopping halfway on the fourth of July. We went to a local park to take in their celebration. It was over 100 degrees, so we only stayed a little over an hour and a half. Melanie started to cry, even though we were doing our best to keep her comfortable. It was just too oppressive. After walking around the park a little bit and enjoying the music while we there, we took our cue from the baby and left before the fireworks started. We went to a local restaurant instead, and then we went back to our hotel to watch the Macy’s fireworks display on television. The heat made us all three pass out before our normal bedtime, but we needed it. Melanie surprised us by sleeping comfortably in her travel cradle through the whole night.
–We were with V and her husband for three and a half days, and it was a much needed visit. Melanie loved meeting her Aunt V for the first time, and we had a great time watching V’s husband and brothers play basketball in their local league. It was Melanie’s first sporting event and she did awesome! She actually watched the action of the game, moving her head back and forth to watch the ball.
–Melanie became even more adept at rolling over from her tummy to her back, this time controlling her neck so that she didn’t bump her noggin on the landing.
–When we got back home after our trip, we introduced Melanie to her very first veggie–zucchini puree, made by Mommy in the Baby Bullet! She likes it so much better than the rice cereal. We feed her a little bit of the solids twice a day–zucchini at lunch and rice cereal before bed. She still nurses (or has formula, depending if we are out in public or not) for her primary nutrition, but she is starting to really get a handle on this spoon-feeding thing!
–Melanie is also improving on her independent napping schedule (so am I). We are much more consistent, and I think that has been helping. She has been able to consistently take long naps (90 minutes or longer) in her crib after lunch for a couple of days now.
–On the day she turned five months old, Melanie and I were sitting on the floor together. Next thing I knew, she went from sitting like a froggy (with her hands on the floor between her legs) to just sitting up! She did start to lean over and landed back on me after several moments, but we are so proud that she’s reached this milestone. It really feels like she has met a bunch of milestones in rapid succession lately!
As Melanie reached her fifth month on July 17th, I came to realize that we had really started to find our rhythm as a family. I know there will be more challenges along the way, but these past couple of weeks in particular have been some of the best I have ever experienced. Melanie is a joy, a gift, and a blessing. I can only hope that one day she will feel the same about herself.
May 1, 2012 § 12 Comments
Robert holds our ten-week old miracle in both arms, one of his hands wrapped around both of hers. She gazes deep into his eyes, occasionally thrusting her tongue out in an attempt to mimic his mouth while he talks to me. She loves these moments with her daddy, and secretly so do I. It is one thing to see one’s boyfriend as a fiancé. Then, it is another thing to see him as a husband, waiting in anticipation for his bride to make it down the aisle. But to see that man as a father is just as miraculous as the little life we created together eleven months ago.
Before we get to Melanie’s incredible development, here is a quick list of my experiences in Month Two:
1. Lost an additional four pounds. As of March 29th, I was down a total of 33 pounds just a little over two months after my baby was born. That’s six pounds over the total weight I gained. Funny enough, though, I am not sure I feel proud of this accomplishment because I am still scared that one day my milk will just dry up. It’s an irrational fear, but it’s a fear nonetheless. I am insecure about the new shape my body has taken. The shape my body was before my belly swelled seems to have migrated back toward my rear so that now I have extra padding on my ass in addition to a deflated belly. I can wear my prepregnancy clothing, but I don’t feel happy with the way I look in it.
2. Mel comes with me to Mass for the first time. I took Melanie to Mass on Palm Sunday, March 25th. She slept on my shoulder the entire time. I am not sure she even knew what happened by the time we got back in the car. She has been to Mass with me and Robert every week since; sometimes her aunt and uncle come, too. Some Sundays are better than others (there was a particularly terrible Sunday when she pooped all over Robert right at the beginning of Mass).
3. Confidence fluctuations. Throughout the second month, I experienced a jagged climb in my confidence levels. Some days were better than others, but overall my confidence had improved between weeks five and eight. I think the one activity I grew most confident in was bathing her. Losing the umbilical stem was extremely helpful with that, too, because I could finally give her a bath in her infant tub.
Melanie is beginning to stir from her evening nap, so I’m officially on borrowed time. Here is a brief list of Melanie’s accomplishments and developmental milestones throughout this month…plus pictures!
–Melanie plays and smiles on activity mat; Annie the Nanny stands guard (3.18.12)
–Makes eye contact and smiles on purpose; pediatrician tells us her social skills are advanced because these behaviors develop on average in the seventh or eighth weeks (3.23.12)
–Develops the “tired” cry
–Tries to push up on arms when she’s on her belly, particularly when we are holding her
–Visits Daddy’s office (4.6.12)
–Has her very first Easter (4.8.12)
–Begins to mimic facial expressions and derives great delight from a successful mime (especially sticking out her tongue)
–Practices laughing in her sleep
It is so difficult to believe that Melanie is nearly three months old by the time I’m writing her post about Month Two. Time is flying by, but we are soaking up every moment of every day.
As we start to see her personality develop, I just hope she will grow up to be as kind-hearted as she looks. Her smiles genuinely warm my heart and ease my insecurities.
April 4, 2012 § 4 Comments
My six-week-old infant woke me at 4 a.m. to nurse after an already restless night. Two restless nights in a row, to be precise. I am exhausted; my body feels used up. But I nurse her anyway. By 5 a.m., she is fed and changed, but she is also awake and alert. I put her in her Fisher Price swing, a gift we inherited from a couple whose daughters have outgrown it, and whisper a prayer under my breath. She won’t fall asleep in spite of the click-clacking motor of the swing and the side-to-side motion designed to imitate Mommy’s swaying.
Now is the perfect time to share with you her development from Month One. I have been wanting to write this entry for a long time, at least since March 16th. But with no time to devote to sitting in front of the laptop (much to my dismay and to the detriment of my dissertation’s progress), I have resorted to jotting down notes in my phone so that I wouldn’t forget important milestones. They say this baby thing gets easier with time. After six weeks, I’m beginning to think “they” are wrong. Or that maybe I’ve done something wrong. But I’m still holding out hope.
During the first four weeks of Melanie’s life, I underwent my own developmental shifts. I plan to write more detailed posts about my issues later, but in short my changes from February 16 to March 16 were:
1. Sudden and total weight loss. Don’t be jealous of me, friends. This contributed to the second item on my list. Throughout my pregnancy, I gained a total of 27 pounds. My weight gain was deliberate because I am an obese woman, and everything I had read recommended that obese women not gain more than 30 pounds. This recommendation is in order to prevent gestational diabetes (although I later found out that if you are going to get gestational diabetes, you’ll get it regardless of your weight gain and diet) and in order to assure that the baby develops well. So, I gained 27 pounds, and I was proud of that number. Two weeks later, I went to my postpartum check-up and discovered I had lost 29 pounds. I did nothing extreme. I ate like I had always eaten, and there has been no time for exercise. I literally did nothing to lose the weight. And here’s why you should be neither impressed nor jealous by my unintended weight loss.
2. Poor milk production. I have been breastfeeding Melanie, which likely contributes a great deal to my weight loss. But because I was no longer eating like I was pregnant (again, not intentionally…I literally had lost my appetite and struggled to consume the same quantities I had only two weeks previous), I was not taking in the amount of calories I needed, yet I was burning more calories than ever before. My body could not keep up with the demands of my precious baby because I was not fueling it with calories in order to produce milk. So my milk failed to come in…until Day 16. I spent those first 15 days sobbing, feeling like an utter failure, like a terrible and inadequate mother. What kind of mother can’t even go into labor or feed her baby? I’ll address these issues later, but suffice to say, those first two weeks were particularly difficult for me. But not everything was bad news for the brand-new Mama Hab.
3. The distinction between cries. Speaking to my friends who had newborns and infants, they all swore up and down that babies’ cries are distinguishable from one another. Good news for a little one who is as of yet nonverbal! As with most things in my early days of parenthood, my insecurities did not allow me to believe my friends’ claims. But sure enough, within a few days, I had mastered Melaniese. “A-wah, a-wah, wah wah wah” was hunger. “Ehhhh-uh-ehhhh” was a wet diaper. “Aaaaaahhh” was boredom or general dissatisfaction with the state of her limited world. Now that we are going into her second month, Melanie has even developed a tired cry which sounds similar to the hungry cry except that it tapers off into a whine rather than crescendoing into ear-piercing shrieks.
As far as my development was concerned, Month One was filled with tears and insecurities. Month Two has been an improvement so far, but there are still those tearful and insecure moments.
Melanie, of course, grew by leaps in bounds in that too-short month.
Melanie’s weight fluctuated wildly. She was born at 8 pounds 15 ounces, all of it in her long long legs. By the time we were discharged 48 hours later (Saturday), she was down to 8 pounds 5 ounces (normal). By the time we went in for her five-day check on Monday (where they check weight and jaundice levels), Melanie was down to 7 pounds 10 ounces. She had lost more than a pound. This was not normal, and she was technically classified as “failure to thrive.” We returned to the hospital on Tuesday for another weight check. She had gained 4 ounces after receiving both breast milk and formula supplement with each feeding. I felt like I was failing, too, even though a gain was good news. Two days later, when she was a full week old, she was only at 8 pounds. Most babies have at least returned to their birth weight within seven days.
Robert was still on paternity leave, and I was still struggling with a lack of sufficient milk. I was pumping and feeding around the clock. My breasts felt normal–I had no engorgement. I felt like the worst, most incapable mother in the world. My baby continued to hover around the 8 pound mark. Robert returned to work 14 days after Melanie was born, and I returned to the hospital for an updated weight check. She had only gained an ounce in a week, according to the machine. Newborns are supposed to gain an ounce to two ounces a day when they are very young. I called my mom, sobbing uncontrollably, and she fervently encouraged me to stop going to the lactation specialist at the hospital and take Melanie to her pediatrician instead. I called the pediatrician and made an appointment to be seen the next morning.
On Friday, March 2, I took Melanie to see her pediatrician. I was exhausted–Melanie had nursed relentlessly the night before and was still begging for more food. I forgot to bring a bottle with me (still learning, at that point, how to pack my diaper bag), so I ended up nursing her in the exam room while I waited to be seen. A pediatric nurse weighed Mel, and we were delighted to see that she weighed 8 pounds 8 ounces. This was still not the ideal weight, and she was still classified as “failure to thrive,” so the pediatrician gave her a good physical exam. Our pediatrician is the kindest, most encouraging, supportive doctor I have ever met. I must have looked harried, haggard, and worn. He made eye contact with me every time he said, “You are doing great.” I asked him how she could have gained seven ounces in a single day, and he assured me that there was probably a problem with the machine at the hospital. Although he still had to classify Melanie as “failure to thrive,” he promised that it was just a medical classification and that he believed Melanie was surviving well. He encouraged me to focus on the upward trend of her weight gain and not on the specific numbers themselves. In two weeks, she had gone from 7 pounds 10 ounces to 8 pounds 8 ounces. That was a victory in his book.
The next day, my milk finally came in. I awoke that morning feeling like I had just gone through puberty again–my breasts were tender (not painful, though) and there were a couple of small wet spots on my shirt. Robert and I celebrated–I nursed the hungriest baby in the world and Robert went out to get us a delicious breakfast. I pumped an incredible 4 ounces, an impressive improvement from the ounce and a half I would normally manage to produce. That same day, my mom (who is also a pediatric nurse) came to stay for an extended time (seven days). She cleaned our house top to bottom, and it needed it. I cried three of the four days she cleaned the house, just out of sheer exhaustion and embarrassment. But my mom was incredibly sweet about it and encouraged me to focus on my daughter, while she took care of her own daughter. Every moment I felt like giving up on breastfeeding, she was there to support me and tell me to keep trying. “The more you nurse, the more your milk will come in. You’re telling your body that it needs to produce milk through the physical stimulation that Melanie provides.” She was right. And I was so grateful for her encouragement.
Mom and I took Melanie to the pediatrician for her next weight check the following Friday, March 9th. This day was such a victory. Melanie weighed 9 pounds 4 ounces! Mom and I did the happy dance with Melanie right there in the doctor’s office. She wasn’t quite in the range that a baby with her birthweight would be in at 22 days, but she had certainly improved greatly. It was better than we could have hoped for. I called Robert while he was at work, and we shared one of the most heartfelt laughs we had shared since she was born. Mom went back home the next day, and I sobbed again. Robert suggested we go to my parents’ house the next weekend, which is exactly what we did. Mom mobilized the family (most of whom had not yet met the baby), and we were able to have a little party on St. Patrick’s Day…but that was the beginning of Month Two, so more on that later. The day Melanie turned one month old, her umbilical stump fell off–this was a milestone I was relieved to meet. No more yucky sponge baths on the kitchen counter. Now my baby could actually sit in her infant tub (which has a little sling for newborns who aren’t yet holding up their heads) and enjoy a bath with more water. For the first time in her short life, Melanie was able to have a bath without shrieking and tears.
Although the majority of Month One was focused on Melanie’s weight, here are some of the great little milestones she reached:
1. Lifts and turns her head side-to-side (week two)
2. Makes eye contact and spends more time alert (week three)
3. Reaches for nearby objects like toys, glasses, and hair (week three)
4. Begins cooing to toys (weeks three/four)
5. Umbilical stump falls off (week four, 3.16.12)
As I have composed this blog post, I have been aware that I have done so on borrowed time. I have put the post down three times and picked it up four times. At 10 a.m., more than 24 hours after beginning it, I have finally finished this post…right on time for Melanie to complain of a wet diaper.
In spite of the sheer and utter exhaustion, the strain raising a baby puts on my body, my psyche, and my marriage…in spite of it all, I couldn’t be any happier than I am right now. And who could blame me?
March 15, 2012 § 12 Comments
She’s nearly a month old now, which means it’s time to write the story of her birth. (Just for the record, I have a new running list on my phone titled “Blog Ideas”–it’s amazing what interesting topics pop into a nursing mom’s head during the 3 a.m. feeding.) Today is a rare moment for a weekday. Robert is home for Spring Break; Melanie is sleeping on his chest while he reads movie reviews on The AV Club. I have a few minutes before our growing girl will start to demand more food. What a treat, then, for you all that I have decided to shake the dust off the ol’ blog to share with you our darling’s birth story.
It all began on Thursday, February 16th…
I slept restlessly the night before, knowing that I would be induced in the morning unless I went into labor on my own. I knew I needed to sleep on my last night as a childless woman…but the fear of my water breaking all over the recliner kept me from achieving restorative sleep. Melanie kicked and squirmed inside my abdomen all night long. I willed her to drop into my pelvic bowl.
My alarm went off at 4:30 a.m. so that I could get moving. I had showered the night before, so all I needed to do was throw on some clean “hospital appropriate” clothing (read: yoga pants and a comfy top). Robert woke up and hopped in the shower while I triple-checked our bags to be sure we had everything we’d need. After taking care of all four animals, Robert loaded our bags and his super-pregnant wife into the car. We ate at Waffle House where we met a waitress whose daughter was delivered in August by my same obstetrician. Her daughter had a heart defect, so she was delivered by Cesarean-section; I was reassured by this encounter.
By 6 a.m., we were heading to the hospital. Almost immediately after arriving, I was instructed to undress, put on a hospital gown, and pee in a cup. I obeyed cheerfully…and then the nurse brought out the IV, and my brave resolve began to crumble. Once the needle was placed in my left wrist, Robert worked hard to distract and entertain me.
He practiced taking pictures with our brand spanking new Canon Rebel, and I played the willing (albeit captive) model. My labor and delivery room was humongous! It rivaled some of the nicer hotels I’ve stayed in; however, this room had a specific intended use, and recovery was not part of that intention. We were in this room for only a few hours.
By 8:30 a.m., my obstetrician, who had already come by to check my progress (none), ordered an ultrasound to help her determine the size of the baby. After she left, the nurse smiled at me and said, “She wants to make a plan for delivery. If the baby is too big, then she’ll want to go into surgery.” I must have lost all of my color. “How big is ‘too big’?” Robert asked her. The nurse didn’t want to guess and be wrong, but she knew we were worried. “Typically, Dr. C doesn’t like to take chances with babies that measure around 9 pounds.” As they wheeled me down to radiology, Robert and I chanted mantras like, “Don’t be 9 pounds, Mel” and “think long and small, Mel.” I tried not to cry at the thought of surgery.
At 9:30 a.m., the radiology technician announced that our little girl wasn’t so little. “I’d estimate somewhere around 9 pounds 10 ounces, with a margin of error of a pound and a half.” My heart dropped. I stopped focusing on reality in some ways. “Do you think you could verify that she’s still a girl?” I asked him. (What was I so concerned about her sex for? I was facing surgery! Ah, the warped concerns of the newly stunned.) The technician, obviously used to this, humored me and reassured us that we were in fact having a girl, despite it being fairly difficult to see all of her features–she was so much larger than the last time I’d seen her on an ultrasound!
By 11 a.m., my obstetrician returned and told me solemnly that we had some options. “You haven’t dilated. Your cervix hasn’t begun to efface. The baby’s head is low, but she has not descended into the pelvic bowl.” It took everything in me not to begin to cry–why wasn’t my body going into labor? “Here’s what we can do,” my obstetrician interrupted my critical reflection. “We can induce labor, let you labor for several hours, and then possibly still have to deliver via C-section because she is so large. We can send you home and wait a few more days, but not past Monday, to see if you go into labor on your own. Or, and this is the safest option, we can have this baby in a couple of hours via C-section.”
I must have looked completely wall-eyed. Dr. C spoke gently to me and said, “Cesarean is not my first or favored option. I would not recommend it if I believed we could avoid it. But I am concerned about the size of the baby, her health, and your health.” Robert and I had already discussed the possibility of the C-section while we awaited the results of the ultrasound, so it took us little effort to agree to the surgery. My obstetrician moved extremely quickly out of the room, and she called her partner at the practice to schedule the surgery.
By 12:30 p.m., I was meeting the anesthesiologist. By some incredible stroke of cosmic luck, it turned out that he was the same anesthesiologist who worked with my orthopedist on my back surgery in 2008. He remembered me, my case, and (most importantly) my back. I showed him my scar, and he reassured me that the scar tissue from that surgery would not have any effect on the efficacy of the spinal that he would administer pre-surgery. I felt even more confident–my medical team could not have been any better.
As we waited for the go-ahead call, Melanie began to protest the medically-imposed pre-op fast. We listened to her strong heartbeat on the monitor, every once in a while laughing when we heard a loud static-like sound on the machine. The first time we heard it, Robert looked alarmed. I laughed and said, “Mel doesn’t like the monitors. That sound is her kicking it.” The longer we were on our fast, the more Melanie squirmed and kicked. “She’s hungry,” I explained to the nurse who took my stats and looked skeptically at the monitor.
At 1:00 p.m., Robert was instructed to put on his OR garb (a rather dashing blue gown, mask, and hairnet), and I was escorted on foot into the OR. My heart pounded, I gasped and nearly started to cry (it was seeing the bassinet in the OR that really did me in), and I began to shake. Big time. My labor and delivery nurse held onto my elbows, keeping me in a hunched-over position, once I was seated on the table. “Do you want to know or be distracted?” she asked me. “I want to know,” I replied, feeling vaguely out-of-body. So, she narrated the spinal procedure. “He’s rubbing your back with iodine. He’s applying the numbing agent. Now he’s preparing the first stick. Lots and lots of pressure.” I stared into her eyes the entire time–I don’t think I blinked. There were only a few moments where the spinal was particularly uncomfortable. “It feels like an elephant is sitting on my hips,” I groaned. The anesthesiologist and nurse laughed good-naturedly. “That’s good,” they said in unison. A few times, I was instructed to hunch over my belly even more–my obstetrician even pressed on my shoulders to help me get into position better. And then, all of a sudden, the nurse gripped my elbows; I focused on her face again. “Amanda, when I tell you to, we’re going to have you move very very quickly into a lying down position. This will cause the medicine to spread faster.” I whimpered at the idea. “I haven’t moved quickly in a long time…” I muttered. They laughed again. “Don’t worry about that,” my nurse said with a smile. “We’re going to help you.”
Before I knew it, the anesthesiologist called “Okay, now!” and I had three people pushing and pulling me into a supine position. By the time my head hit the table, I had no feeling from the chest down. They asked me how I felt–I replied, “Exposed….” More kind-hearted laughter. But I wasn’t trying to be funny, not really. I was naked from the breasts down, my legs felt like they were splayed open (I would find out later that they weren’t), and my arms were strapped out wide in a T-shape. A curtain went up. I was vaguely aware of being cold and desperately missing my husband. In an instant, I heard his voice. “Daddy’s here!” one of the nurses chirped. I’m sure we said hello to each other, but I don’t remember. What I do remember is the anesthesiologist instructing Robert to take a picture of the clock and to get his camera ready. “Do you want to watch?” he asked my husband. I thought he’d say no. Robert said, “Can I? Yeah!” And then he stood up so he could see over the curtain. The anesthesiologist narrated the procedure, describing to Robert what he was seeing. I stared at the blue screen. “Okay, Dad, get your camera ready. She’ll be out in ninety seconds!”
I thought I was hallucinating. Surely they hadn’t even cut me open yet? But then, the anesthesiologist was narrating, “they’re breaking the waters…that’s the uterus…lots of pressure, Amanda…and there she is!” (I sneezed when they pulled her out.)
And then I heard it.
I sobbed. I laughed and sobbed. I thanked Robert and laughed and sobbed. “Is she okay?” She was more than okay. She was perfect.
At 1:20 p.m., we welcomed our beautiful girl into this great big world.
The rest of the story is a whirlwind. I was taken to a recovery area, given a slug of morphine and some antibiotics, but more than anything I desperately missed my husband and baby. I felt so alone without them, so isolated. (I later learned that Robert felt the same way while we were separated.) Before I knew it, Robert was allowed to come back and join me. And shortly after that, they brought Melanie back. “She was really fussy,” the nursery nurse explained. “I think she’s hungry. Would you like to try to breastfeed her?” If I could have moved, I would have done a happy dance. “I knew she was hungry!” I announced to anyone who would listen. “Yes, let’s see if she’ll hook on!”
My little girl was so hungry. She ate for half an hour, making the sweetest gulping sounds and massaging my breast with her teeny little hands. I couldn’t stop thanking Robert for this miracle. After she ate, they took her back to the nursery with Robert for her first bath. And I was wheeled to my real room in the Mother and Baby ward. Our room was a bit smaller than the labor and delivery room, but it suited us perfectly.
Every day I spend with her is the best day, even the days that follow pretty rough nights. Even the rough days themselves. Seeing her, holding her, kissing on her…it makes everything worth it.
We were discharged a day early because I was healing so well. We got back to our home on Saturday, February 18th and were greeted by my immediate family, Robert’s immediate family, and my sweet cousin who I adore. We felt so much love and happiness from everyone. Melanie is a lucky girl.
And we are two lucky parents.
February 22, 2012 § 25 Comments
Just a very quick post to let you all know that our sweet Melanie Lynn has arrived safely! I will write a more in-depth description of my experience, but for now, here’s the good bits:
Melanie Lynn was born on Thursday, Feb. 16th at 1:20 p.m.
She weighed 8 pounds 15 ounces.
She was 22″ long.
She was delivered by Caesarean, which was unexpected for all of us. (I did not labor. More on that later.)
We were able to go home on Saturday afternoon, and I have spent the past few days trying to work out what it means to be a post-operative patient and new mom all at the same time. I love this new hat I’ve been blessed to wear. Melanie makes all the sleepless nights worth it.
I’ll post pictures the next time I write, and I’ll give you guys more of a sense of what happened the day she was born. But for now, let’s celebrate that Melanie and I are healthy, thriving, and happy! 🙂
February 14, 2012 § 12 Comments
Me? Oh, I’m getting induced for labor. 🙂
At today’s prenatal appointment, everything was going along just fine…until they took my blood pressure and found that it was reading 140/86. My OB didn’t like that number, so after checking my progress, she sent me along my merry way to labor and delivery at the hospital across the street. She wanted me to have some lab work run, as well as a few more blood pressure readings taken. Fortunately, Robert had chosen to take the afternoon off today in order to be present for this appointment. (Since this was the week of my due date, we figured playing hookie was acceptable.) So the two of us drove over to the hospital (I got curbside valet service from my wonderful husband), and I spent the entire forty-second car ride wondering aloud if I had done something wrong that would have caused my blood pressure to spike. All of a sudden, I was not only afraid of having brought about an “early” labor, but now I was actually starting to think that it was a bad thing. (Not to worry friends: Robert helped clear the air on that misunderstanding pretty quickly.)
An hour and a half felt like it lasted an eternity as they drew blood, had me pee in a cup, and squeezed the crap out of my right arm. I was put into a hospital gown, made to lie on my left side, and told to just try to stay calm. I have to admit, three weeks of sleeping in our recliner rather than in our bed has really spoiled me–lying on my left side was almost excruciating. My hips and round ligaments really started to hurt after a while. Once I got an extra pillow to put between my knees, though, I found some relief.
By a little after 5, my lab work returned as normal, and my blood pressure was down to 119/64. Much more like the numbers I’m used to–actually, those are more like my pre-pregnancy numbers. Melanie’s heart rate was awesome. After an hour of lying against my left side, though, she grew annoyed by the device strapped to my belly and rolled away from it. The nurse assigned to my observation room had to chase her around my uterus in order to get a good heart rate reading on her before I was released. I couldn’t help but laugh because my already independent-ish daughter was not making this woman’s job easy. We could hear her move against the doppler device, and finally the nurse found her heart. One thing I have always known about my daughter is that she loves moving. She’s been a squirmy baby from the very very beginning. At my second ultrasound, at about 13 weeks, she was so wiggly that we almost couldn’t get a clear image of her to print off. From that point on, Melanie has let it be known quite clearly that she loves moving around. This girl is going to be so good for my health! 😉
With normal readings, we were sent home.
But just before that happened, my obstetrician made a surprise cameo–we really hadn’t expected to see her again. She asked if I wanted to be induced on Monday. Although I initially told her we’d defer to her, I laughed and admitted that Robert was really ready for Melanie to be born right now. She replied, “I can do Thursday. Would you like to be induced on Thursday?” All I had to do was make eye contact with Robert to see the right answer. “Thursday would be perfect.” I babbled about my parents being out-of-town and how a Thursday induction would allow them to come see Melanie early. So then it was decided: February 16th will be Melanie’s Birth Day…as long as she doesn’t decide to come tomorrow.
I appreciated this trip to the hospital because it was like a little practice run. Robert and I drew up a list of loose ends that we still had to take care of at home; as soon as we got home, we tightened those loose ends. I also know now to bring a pillow for between my knees. I have a specific pillow for that job. We’re going to walk into that hospital like we’re planning to move there…but I don’t care. It’s all about the creature comforts, right?
The reason for the induction? Melanie’s size. I want to try for a vaginal delivery (although I don’t have anything against a Caesarean). If we let Melanie continue to wait and grow, she will only get bigger, thus diminishing my chances for a vaginal delivery and almost ensuring the chances of a C-section. In a funny way, I do have some mixed feelings about being induced (shouldn’t I just let nature run its course? is this another instance of the over-medicalization of American births?)…but I also know that this is my best opportunity to deliver my baby in the way that I want to.
Melanie must know something is going on…I am sitting here watching my belly undulate in waves that would rival some of the South Pacific’s most incredible surfing conditions.
In a truly A.Hab-ian twist on something that once caused me intense anxiety, I finally have a plan for something that has been entirely out of my control for the past 40 weeks. One way or another, we are going to have a baby by this weekend. 🙂
February 14, 2012 § 5 Comments
Yesterday was my due date. This is what one of my pregnancy apps greeted me with yesterday morning:
And this is the greeting from this morning:
Melanie was due to arrive yesterday, but she did not make her appearance. I have another prenatal appointment this afternoon to determine whether or not I’ve made any progress. I’m mentally preparing myself for bad news that I haven’t progressed at all–I was actually disappointed last week when my progress was zero. So today, I’m trying to spare myself that disappointment.
As many women already know (especially those who have gone through this process), due dates are fairly arbitrary guesses. They are often determined by counting the average number of days in an average gestational period, beginning with the date of the last menstrual cycle. The tricky part of that little equation is at least trifold: 1. not every woman is “average,” 2. not every woman ovulates at the same point in her cycle, and 3. conception (unless performed medically, as in an IVF procedure) is often nearly impossible to determine. Apparently only around 5% of women actually deliver on their due dates. Another way to determine the due date, aside from the calculated guess, is to use ultrasound further along in the pregnancy to determine the size of the baby, size of the womb, and amount of amniotic fluid available. The trouble with this method, although more reliable than the educated guess, is that not every baby develops at the same rate, not every woman’s womb grows at the same rate, and not every woman produces the same amount of amniotic fluid. Basically, we get a ballpark figure that in its essence says: “This is not a birthday promise. It’s a general heads-up so that you know when you should start getting yourself ready for a hospital stay.”
I spent my day yesterday wishing for my water to break. After lunch, I realized I was sitting around wasting my time. So I went to the grocery store. This time, I encountered an elderly cashier (one of my favorite cashiers at this store, as it turns out). She asked me, as people are wont to do when they see a 40-week pregnant woman waddling toward them, “When are you due?” I decided this was a great opportunity to freak out another person. So, I grinned and said as cheerfully as I could, “Today!” Her eyes bulged, her mouth gaped, and she took a faltering step back. “Today???” I laughed and nodded. Then, I leaned a little closer to her (since she had stepped back–did she expect my breaking water could splash her over the counter?), and I said softly, “I’m trying to walk around so I can induce labor. Keep your fingers crossed!” She stammered out a “good luck,” handed me my receipt, and turned to the woman behind me in line to compare their harrowing stories of the time the 40-week pregnant woman stood in line at the grocery store.
When you reach…and pass…your due date, what’s the point if you don’t mess with people?
February 8, 2012 § 10 Comments
As my pregnancy goes on and on, I have become quite adept at scaring the crap out of people.
Scenario One: Waddling through the Grocery Store
On February 3, Robert and I found ourselves hungry and in need of food. He hadn’t slept more than three hours the night before, and I was having a sudden burst of energy, so I volunteered to dash down to the store to grab some foodstuffs. Bringing my goodies to the cash register, I caught the attention of four teenaged employees. Three girls and one boy stared at my burgeoning belly as it swelled through my shirt. “Do you know what you’re having?” one girl ventured shyly. I smiled and told her we were having a girl. “When are you due?” another girl asked. “In ten days,” I said cheerfully. The boy turned gray. “What if you go into labor right now??” he demanded. I laughed. The girls laughed. “Then you’ll have to deliver the baby!” snorted the cashier. His eyes bulged out of their sockets. “No, seriously. What happens if your water breaks right here??” I laughed and said, “Then we call my husband, I go sit on that bench over there, and one of you gets a mop.” He didn’t look convinced. He had the terrified look of a teenager who believes the movies: when a woman’s water breaks, the baby pops out. Ah, if only it were that easy! If he ever decides to reproduce, he’ll learn the truth that membranes breaking doesn’t always mean an immediate delivery. I walked out of the store with a big grin on my face, fully confident that my waters wouldn’t break. They didn’t.
Scenario Two: Relaxing with a Mani/Pedi
On February 5, my sister and I went out for a girl’s day, complete with a mani/pedi! It was heavenly, simply divine. I nearly fell asleep in the pedicurist’s chair while he massaged my feet and legs. All women within ten days of their due dates should get a pedicure, plain and simple. Of course, as soon as the employees discovered that my due date was, well, pressing, they started looking at me differently. All of a sudden, chairs were pulled out of the way for me and held in place as I sat down. They asked me over and over if I was okay and if I needed anything. As we were leaving my sister could only point out that, “when you’re eight days away from your due date, people just look at you like you’re a ticking time bomb!” Truer words have never been spoken.
You see, the beauty of being so close to your due date is that the fear and anxiety you instill in those around you comes with absolutely no effort at all. Others seem to be hard-wired, somewhere deep down in that common human DNA we all share, to cast a wary glance at a particularly pregnant woman. They watch her closely, as if ready to pounce into action the first moment she cringes or leans against a wall. On the one hand, I appreciate the humanness of those looks. They themselves may not even be conscious that they’re doing it, but I see them. On the other hand, sometimes the stares can feel, well, a bit invasive. I may be close to my due date, but I’m not past my due date. (Of course, there’s no way for the general observer to know that without asking.) There’s a small amount of forgiveness I must (and do, happily) extend to my attentive onlookers. They mean well. And if I really were to suddenly go into labor while running errands, at least I know that I’m not on my own island.
Even if I do feel like a human island.
February 1, 2012 § 6 Comments
Maybe the subtitle for this post should be something along the lines of “or: a tale of lightening.” I hesitated to commit to that subtitle because I don’t know for sure that I am experiencing lightening yet. (For those who aren’t familiar with the term, “lightening” refers to when the baby drops into the pelvic bowl in preparation for labor. Lightening can happen as early as four weeks before labor or as late as minutes after labor begins.) What I do know I’m feeling is pressure.
Yesterday morning after waking up, I felt this incredible “dropping” feeling in my lower abdomen. It burned and felt like a sharp stabbing pain all at the same time. I groaned as I settled into an upright position so that I could begin the slow wobble to the bathroom. Throughout the day, I noticed that walking helped alleviate the intensity of the pressure some, but the pressure itself did not disappear. Some women describe this feeling as a sort of “falling out”–they may describe an irrational fear that the baby will “fall out” because of how low the baby suddenly feels. As of yesterday, I practically expected to shake hands with my nearly-born daughter.
I had a prenatal appointment in the afternoon and described the pressure to my obstetrician. She grinned and said, “That’s great!” I must have looked skeptical because she elaborated, “It means that you’re getting close. Things are moving along.” I must admit, that is pretty great. This past weekend was all about preparations and nesting–even Robert got in on the act. I don’t know whether daddies experience a nesting instinct, but Robert announced last Thursday that he was going to wake up early Saturday to take my car to be washed and vacuumed, and then he would install the car seat bases into both of our cars. (By the way, I have to give a shout out to the LATCH system in vehicles–it took Robert and me all of five minutes to install those bases into our back seats, and I think three of those five minutes were spent reading the manual and double-checking that we were aiming in the right place. Installing a car seat is absolutely idiot-proof these days, which is a relief. Most vehicles after 2002 come equipped standard with LATCH in the back seat. If you’re not sure, you can check your vehicle’s user manual.) I’ve been driving around with the car seat in my car since Saturday for two reasons. The first is so that I can go ahead and get used to seeing it in my rearview mirror–the handle of my car seat is in my line of vision only a minimal amount, so it’s good that I have been practicing so that I can make the necessary adjustments. The second reason is because we plan to take my car to the hospital, and not having to remember the car seat itself will be a blessing. I also spent Monday finishing Melanie’s baby laundry. (Well “finishing”…I just realized I haven’t done her cradle sheets yet. So that’s on the docket for today.)
All of these preparations are thrown into stark relief when I compare them against my physical experiences. The pressure in my lower abdomen constantly reminds me that this little girl is coming, and she’ll be coming soon! No matter how anxious I was in the beginning that I might lose her, no matter how many horror stories I read or heard about women losing their babies in the second trimester, no matter the warnings and risks I’ve become aware of for signs of trouble…Melanie still kicks and squirms around as though this uterus isn’t closing in on her on all sides. Her heartbeat (that I get to hear every week now) is strong and stable. I feel more relaxed now because I know that my baby will come to us in a matter of days.
The pressure I’m enduring physically has spilled over into our household activities–we are cleaning more regularly; we are preparing the nursery with more gusto; we are making arrangements for plans B, C, D, and E; and we are staying in touch with each other more carefully than ever before. Robert limits his time out of the house without me asking him to. I limit the number of text messages I send him through the day so that I don’t send him into a panic that I’m in labor. This physical and emotional pressure from our upcoming major change has even made me more productive–I sent off the second draft of my last chapter to my director on Monday morning. Today I’m going to grade some papers from my online class so that I don’t have it hanging over my head any longer. As Robert is making himself more available to my pressing needs, I feel as though I’m clearing away the clutter in my day-to-day in order to make way for Melanie’s arrival.
Pressure, as my obstetrician so rightly pointed out, is a great thing.