I've been reading a lot of other people's blogs lately, since I have a fancy smartphone and I've needed something to keep me awake during middle of the night feedings.
That sentence just made me feel guilty, like if I really was a good mom, I would be lovingly staring into my daughter's eyes during every nursing session.
But that's silly. Not only is that expectation unreasonable for a very tired person, most moms would have noticed that newborn's eyes are generally not open during night-time nursing sessions, and aren't open much at all otherwise.
So back to reading other blogs.
I hate the word "blog." It feels lazy, like "blag," which I don't think is even a word, but sounds like "lag," so therefore must be referring to something slow.
I love the idea of a blog, though. I love how genuine (most) blogs are, and that instead of being published and commissioned by a corporation that I can't help but feel has an "agenda," they are written by people, who for some reason, have chosen to share intimate details of their lives with the mass of strangers on the internet.
I think I decided to write tonight because a dear friend from California is planning to call me soon, and I must be subconsciously compiling ideas to share with her when we chat. You can thank her in the comments.
But even though I love/hate blogs, I've been reading a lot of them, and even though I really wish mine could make money, I know I do not actually want to invest the time and mental effort into cultivating one enough to make it profitable. Wait. The mental effort would be really good for me, but the time I do not have. Wait again. Most of my mental effort is used up creatively and effectively disciplining my 16-month old, who has started to hit most likely because he finds his mommy's frowning, disciplining face interesting (He's a great kid, though, so don't think I'm saying he's a terror or anything).
I used to blag before it was officially added to the dictionary (Diaryland, anyone?). I have unfortunately lost all those entries, which has left me with an inflated memory of my writing abilities in the early 2000s. I think I wrote exceptionally well; it's possible I was just vaguely witty to people who knew and already liked me.
Being liked > body image > saggy armpits: I delivered my second child a little over a month ago, and still have about 10 pounds of the fat reserves that a pregnant body saves in preparation for milk production. I'm not at my heaviest, but I'm certainly heavier than I used to be, and heavier than I want to be. I looked in the mirror today, and noticed my armpits looked wrinkly. I had no idea I could be self conscious about my armpits (well, except for the times they were hairy and stinky), so it's a good thing I read this blog today.
Baby Girl. She is beautiful and feminine and delicate, and has a little rosebud mouth, as stereotypical as that sounds. She also poops louder than her brother ever did, and scrunches up her little body when she goes. It makes us laugh. She came almost 3 weeks earlier than her due date, but at 8 lbs 1 oz, I really think she came right on time.
We had made some lists of all the things we needed to get done before she arrived. They were long, and probably only half completed, when Husband and I went in for a 36-week growth-check ultrasound. As the tech measured, took screenshots, and labeled all of her little parts, she commented that the baby was already pretty big.
"How big?" we worried.
"Probably 8 or 9 pounds."
Our eyes widened, and stayed that way, all the way to Target and Babies R Us as we finally bought her mattress and sheets. It began to feel real: we were really having a second child, and she was threatening to come soon.
A week later, a few more items checked off the list, and I finished our taxes. They were more complicated than normal, since we had two states to file in, so I had been fighting to finish the project for almost a month (it's impossible to concentrate on numbers on your computer screen when you are 8 months pregnant and tired). Husband and I mused that it would be convenient for Baby Girl to arrive this weekend, since it was a 3-day weekend, and he would only have to take four vacation days to stay home with us all week. (I need to respect my subconscious mind - I thought the same thing the night Big Brother arrived, too). We went to bed.
At 4am, I woke up, urgently needing to pee (that was a normal part of the 3rd trimester: Braxton Hicks contractions and nighttime bathroom trips). The practice contractions had become more uncomfortable lately, so I wasn't yet alerted. I stumbled back into bed and started to fall back asleep, when another "practice" contraction brought me back to fully awake. It seemed to be more uncomfortable than normal, but I desperately wanted to sleep, so I tried to ignore them and fall back asleep. A few minutes later, another aggressive contraction, and I decided that if I couldn't sleep through the contractions, then I just might be in labor.
I decided to try to walk them off. Real contractions intensify with exertion, and practice ones go away, so I began to do circular laps around our house (the inside of our house, of course; it was February and in the 30s!). I started timing them on my phone. They were regular, but just in case I wasn't keeping track right, I downloaded a (lame) contraction counter app. I continued to walk and count, and by 5am, I realized that even if I wasn't truly about to pop out a baby, I might as well make use of my time being awake.
Women-in-possible-labor love company, so I woke Husband up by saying, "Hey, I might be in labor, so I think we should pack the suitcases." (I know, I know, why hadn't we done that already? I promise, it was on the list for the weekend...) He kind of mumbled and paused, which he later explained as thinking in his befuddled mind, "Well, wouldn't it be better to wait until morning?"
We packed and called the grandparents, who came over to take care of the big brother, who would be sleeping for at least another 4 hours. We continued to pack, which became increasingly difficult as I had to stop and breathe through the contractions. My father-in-law chuckled at me, as I finished saying "I'm pretty sure I'm in labor" as a contraction made me hold onto the piano for support.
We finally arrived at the hospital before 7am, and were admitted to the maternity triage, where they act like there isn't something incredibly intense happening in your body as they monitor your baby and stomach like they have all night. I stripped down and gowned up between contractions, and we were finally sent up to our labor and delivery room.
I'm getting bored with the little details. They are weighing me down, and holding me back, when I really want to talk about the pain.
Pain. We are not conditioned for pain in our pill-popping, tidy lives. The average person doesn't experience much pain, and when we do, there are plenty of medications to help us avoid it. Have a headache? Take an Advil. Have cramps? Here's a Midol. Don't get me wrong; I think this is a good thing. There is no way I could have gone to school or worked or been a happy mommy without something to get rid of the minor pains that distract from day-to-day life. But my very pain-free life left me unprepared for what pain my body could tolerate.
When my son was born, he was breech, and even though my doctor didn't insist on a c-section, we had to be prepared for an emergency one, which meant I had an epidural and a delivery in an OR. Contractions were painful, but brief. Once the epidural was in, I bounced back to my excited, happy self, and pushed when they said it was time.
I asked for no drugs for Baby Girl's delivery. My main goal was to minimize the recovery time, which meant I was striving for no tearing.
Labor was intense. At first the contractions prevented me from speaking. Then they forced me to sway and moan as I managed the pain, forcing it to be purposeful, and knowing each one was getting me closer to being finished. The Husband supported me, and not just emotionally. I clung to him as my contractions almost doubled me over in pain. I began to labor in a warm tub, which was wonderful. The warmth relaxed my muscles, and the water supported my tired body, so I was able to actually rest well between contractions in preparation for the next one. I kept my eyes closed as much as possible, and mentally filed away the pain of labor with each contraction.
Hours passed, and I became eager. Not anxious, but actively anticipating and desiring the peace and painlessness that would accompany the arrival of my daughter. Laboring in the tub was almost too relaxing, and I wanted my body to work harder and faster at bringing Baby Girl out. My midwife (who was peaceful, supportive, and amazing the whole time) suggested that she could break my water at 1pm if it hadn't already. I was getting very tired; I wanted to reserve enough energy for the pushing.
Finally, 1pm arrived, and I rested on my side as my midwife used a long plastic hook to break the sac between contractions. The change was like jumping off a cliff, or switching on a light - immediate and drastic. My contractions began to mean something specific, and my moans turned to yells. I felt the immediate need to push, and I asked permission first (I'm a product of generations of births managed by "experts" instead of mothers). Through the next few contractions, I pushed, because I couldn't do anything else. I rested between, picturing the position Baby Girl was in compared to what I felt. I rested and feared that the pain was too much, that it wasn't normal, that I couldn't handle it, that I would break in two, until my body took over, contracted, and commanded me to PUSH.
The Husband held my arm to let me know he was right with me, and would have held my hand if it had been free (I was laying on my side, gripping the railing of the hospital bed). I felt myself screaming, and wanted desperately for the pain to stop. I felt fear and desire and pain, and wanted it to be finished. Each contraction brought pain and progression and bearing down, and the midwife calmly updating me on where our Baby Girl was, and how close I was to birthing her. With one final contraction, I screamed and pushed, and she slipped from me. The absence of pain felt like pleasure, and I panted in relief and peace. I rested into the bed, and let the multitude of people (I'm assuming nurses, pediatricians, and other various medical staff) in the room take over the care of my baby. They placed her on my chest, and I lifted her so I could move my gown and settle her squeals with nursing. Somewhere in there I must have looked at Husband and said something, but I don't remember what. He cut the cord, brushed my hair from my face, and said he loved me.
Baby Girl came out with reddish-blonde hair, and a squished little face. She was tired and wanted to be comforted, and I felt I understood what she had been through.
*TMI warning to follow...
It was so freeing to focus on the one thing I had to do in those 8 hours. No distractions; just my body turning its focus inward and realizing its full potential. Without any pain medications or augmentation, I got acquainted with myself in a new way. Also, because I was able to fully feel every moment, I was able to control the labor and the pushing, and didn't tear. There was such a huge difference in how I felt with my first. Then, I was very sore for weeks, and waddled uncomfortably the first few days. This time, I not only enjoyed not being burdened by a pregnancy, I was mobile and could take care of myself better.
A few people have asked me if I would go med-free again. First of all, I do not officially recommend skipping the pain meds, even though my experience was a good one. I do not recommend it because I don't want to have anything to do with someone choosing to experience so much pain! I hope to not offend anyone, but I don't think most people can handle the level of pain, because I'm not sure that I handled it! (My midwife and nurse said I did great, and said I managed the pain well, but dear me, it was awful.) In no way do I look down on women who choose the pain medication to carry them through labor and delivery, especially when their labors are exceptionally long. By 8 hours, I was spent and ready to rest. I liked being able to move around and labor in a tub, but if I hadn't been in pain, I wouldn't have had to find a way to manage the pain.
Women, we were created for this. (Or, We have evolved to be able to do this...doesn't have the same ring to it.) It was so incredible to be able to join the billions of women throughout the ages who have become mothers and poured themselves out through childbirth and motherhood. It's a privilege I try not to take lightly.