Thursday, August 31, 2006

Dreaming of Sleep

I've said over and over what an easy newborn Genevieve is compared to Julia: how she nurses well and efficiently, every two to three hours rather than every one to one-and-a-half, rarely cries, uses my nipples (largely) for sustenance rather than constant soothing, and actually sleeps at night. And this all continues to be true. But this week the lesson is hitting home that even so, there is only so long a human being can go getting at most 90 minutes of sleep at a time each night (and a total of, on a good night, maybe five hours of sleep) before she starts to feel (not to mention look) as if she's been run over by a truck. Yes, people, I've hit the wall. Here we are in week three of newborn life and I. AM. VERY. TIRED. Not as tired as I was when Julia was two weeks old, but very tired. The kind of tired where you think, futilely, that if only you could hand off this newborn for just one night--magically pause the merry-go-round of parenting responsibilities and just, you know, not be needed for one measly night--and thus get just one full night of sleep, well, you'd feel like a million bucks afterward. You really believe that eight hours of uninterrupted sleep--something you used to, in your pre-parenthood life, take so luxuriously for granted--would now have the power to send you blazing through the next three weeks on a blast of superhero energy and good will. But alas, you're not going to get it, so why even think about it any further?

And then there's the C-section. Another lesson learned this week: just because you start to feel good, without any constant reminders of all the things you shouldn't yet do physically, doesn't mean you should stop taking ibuprofen completely and start doing things like carrying the laundry hamper downstairs. Because guaranteed, the next day you will be reminded that you had major abdominal surgery a mere two weeks ago, silly, are you nuts?, and your incision will hurt and swell up again. And you will be even more tired and spent than before. Yeah, that medicine? That directive about GRADUALLY increasing your activity? They exist for a reason.

Amidst all this, I did manage to get both babies--big and small--out the door to playgroup for a full two hours this morning. And there I learned another lesson. One of the other moms in this group had her baby eight days before Genevieve was born, and as we all talked about easy second babies after difficult firstborns, short, smooth labors after protracted and traumatic first ones, and getting along on next to no sleep, this other mom let slip that her three-week-old now nurses ONLY ONCE DURING THE NIGHT. You heard me. Once. Three weeks old, and already sleeping as much--and nursing as little--as Julia did at seven or eight months. And here I am with my new baby, who wakes up to nurse every two hours around the clock, for a total of five times between 10 or 11 p.m. and 6 or 7 a.m.

And this was the lesson learned--that there will always be babies who are easier (and harder) than yours. And to obsess on the fortunes of others--to envy their lack of dark undereye circles and their relatively high energy level--is to drive yourself batty. Because up until the moment
when this fellow mama spoke the word "once," I thought I was so, so lucky with my easy, easy baby. And then, suddenly, I didn't feel so lucky, but instead felt even more exhausted than I actually was. The whole way home I worked on restructuring my personal world-view back into one of gratitude and blessing. Because I really do feel lucky. I AM lucky. I'm just not getting the ridiculous amount of sleep this new mom is getting with her atypical three-week-old.

That's okay. It will happen. In the meantime, surely you'll understand why this time around, I am embracing caffeine. Nothing like a strong iced latte to get you through the afternoon. Genevieve doesn't seem to mind one little bit.

Hectic Morning

The other day, we packed up ourselves and both girls and drove the half hour to the Twin Cities suburb where we had to bring our hail-smashed car for inspection and repair. It's going to take a full month for us to get our car back! Seeing as how we bought this vehicle to better accomodate all the gear that goes along with two babies rather than just one, let's just say the timing of all this could have been better. Sigh. At least no one was hurt in that terrible storm.

In other news, this morning Christopher took Julia out of the house first thing, because we were completely out of (caffeinated) coffee---a fatal oversight during these days of extreme sleep deprivation!---and he decided to take her to the coffee shop for breakfast and pick up espresso while there. Julia and I (and Genevieve) have our first playgroup meeting since Genevieve's birth later today, so I actually had to bathe, dress, etc. this morning. As I was running around trying to simultaneously groom myself, eat something, drink something, nurse (twice), change diapers (twice), find the diaper bag, answer the phone, and dress the baby, all with Genevieve crying for the entire 90 minutes we were home alone, I couldn't help but think: How in the WORLD am I going to do all this when I've got both babies at home with me, and Christopher is back to work?

Good thing I've got coffee.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Where's the Dessert Cart?


It's official: Genevieve Rose is a TOTAL baby piglet. Please understand, in my book, when you're a baby, that is an entirely good thing, a major compliment, even. Babies SHOULD be total piglets.

Christopher took her for her weight check today at the pediatrician, and she weighed EIGHT POUNDS. Now, they do have the strange habit over there of weighing the baby in her diaper instead of stripping her naked, and upon her arrival home I discovered that her diaper was extremely full, so let's subtract a few ounces and say she is probably more like 7 lbs., 13 ounces. Still, that means she's gained an entire pound in 9 days. For context, keep in mind that I guessed she'd be about 7 lbs., 6 oz--a more typical rate of newborn weight gain. What an overachiever! It seems that all the food I'm consuming is bypassing my own body and going straight into hers.

Of course, when she got home from the doctor, Genevieve had to nurse, to re-fuel herself after such a trying endeavor and, naturally, to keep up appearances. She was in fine form, gulping and gasping her little head off as if auditioning for a very important role involving the ability to consume vast amounts of liquid lunch. Then she threw herself backward off the nipple and passed out cold. Well done, baby Genevieve!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Two-Week Status

Genevieve is two weeks old today! She celebrated early, by going four hours between feedings last evening. It was from 6-10 p.m., so I didn't get any extra sleep, but wow. I was impressed--but not naive enough to think it was anything more than a fluke. In truth, Genevieve has begun showing signs of intense nipple-adoration, wanting to suck just to fall asleep, etc., so I daresay that, unlike her big sister, this baby might actually take a pacifier in a week or two when we can introduce one. I hate the idea of paci-weaning later on, but when Julia was an infant we would have paid an awful lot of money for her to accept a pacifier rather than refusing all forms of self-soothing other than my beloved breast. I felt like a boat with a barnacle attached to it 24 hours a day.

I had my two-week post-C-section check-up today, and my doctor is pleased with how I am recovering. Outrageous appetite and all, I've lost all but seven pounds of the pregnancy weight, and my abdomen has shrunk down to a close approximation of its pre-pregnancy size once again--all hail the wonders of the nursing mom's metabolism! The pain is slight now, I can drive again, and though I still can't lift anything heavier than the baby, I've been given the okay to gradually resume exercise. By six weeks postpartum, I should be down to no activity restrictions at all. So I guess it's time to say farewell to the total slothdom I have enjoyed since giving birth. Truly, it's quite nice to not be allowed to do anything physical. Housework? Sorry, can't. Laundry? Can't. Scrub off that yucky bathtub ring? Can't, can't, can't. On the other hand, it will feel good to be able to go outside and start being active again, if only in small doses. At the end of my pregnancy I couldn't walk for exercise anymore (too painful for my burning hip ligaments), and of course for most, if not all, of it I wasn't allowed to run or bike. Right now the idea of doing anything even remotely that strenuous makes me a little lightheaded (I do still have an incision, after all, and this ridiculously generous milk production is not exactly physically comfortable), but I figure a nice little walk in the fresh air will feel nice.

All in all, it's been a good two weeks as a family of four.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Got (Lots of) Milk?

I'm not fully sure why, but I am producing a ton of milk with this baby. Egad! There's enough here to feed TWO babies, I'm sure of it. What's going on? The nurses on the maternity ward told me that it's not uncommon to make more milk, and to have it come in sooner (which also happened), with a second baby as compared to the first--something about the pump already primed, so to speak. But even so, it's a bit of a shock. Not a bad one, necessarily---what nursing mom wouldn't prefer an overabundance of milk versus not enough? The dreaded first-time-mom worries of, Is the baby getting enough milk?, all-consuming as they are when you're not yet used to the absence of ounce-markers on a bottle to reassure yourself that all is fine--well, I'm happy to go without them this time around.

But it still feels odd to already have a couple of recycled lid-less Cool Whip containers full of little upright bags of breast-milk in the freezer, fruits of the Medela double electric breast pump that I had to break out only days after Genevieve's birth. I envisioned not having to use the dreaded breast pump for weeks, maybe months--maybe not at all!--but baby Genevieve just doesn't eat enough to prevent me from maintaining full-to-bursting status at certain times of day. Ask her if she eats enough, though, and if she could, she'd tell you YES with a satisfied, milky yawn. She attacks the nipple at each feeding like a drunken frat boy downing a shot; she shakes her head back and forth like a puppy with a chew toy (ouch!). Milk streams over her cheeks and down her chin, she chugs like mad, and invariably she chokes herself and pops off the nipple to gasp (poor baby!). In ten minutes she's in a total milk coma, and I'm debating whether I need to go pump the extra milk to prevent plugged ducts or mastitis (I hardly dare speak its name!) or if I can skip it and hope she's ready for another trip through the (one-item) buffet fairly soon.

And then there's my wardrobe. Let's just say that I have a few camisoles and nursing tank tops that I wore day in and day out after Julia's birth that are just a wee bit TIGHT on me right now. Full to bursting, indeed!

Thank God nursing's going well this time, though. So far, no sign of any of the physical complications that made things so difficult and painful when Julia was a wee nursling. Once again, I'm praying it continues in this direction. As for Genevieve, her cheeks are chubbier already. She goes in for a second post-hospital weight check on Wednesday, and we'll see just how milky she really is.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Bye-Bye, Grocery Fairy

The days since Genevieve's birth have flown by. She is 12 days old now, and today, my mom (her Nonna), who has been staying with us since the day Genevieve was born, went home. We're on our own, people! We're sad, but unlike two years ago when my mom left us after Julia's birth, I didn't even cry, and it doesn't feel like we won't know how to get along by ourselves. This time, only Nonna cried (sorry, Mom!), and Julia talked the whole rest of the day about it: "Nonna sad! What Nonna cry about? Nonna cried yittle bit! Nonna sad! What Nonna sad about?" This time, our new baby is totally manageable (so far), and we're getting tons more sleep. (Not much, but a lot more than we were back then.) This time, our work is doubled since we have two little ones to care for, but the terrain of parenthood isn't brand-new and mystifying. The main challenge we have now is sheer stamina: how to keep up with a two-year-old while also juggling the immediacy of a newborn's needs (especially when I'm still recovering from my C-section)?

However, my mom left us enveloped in love and care. She arrived with a gigantic grocery-store box of food and recipes, cooked us every meal for a week and a half, plus yummy treats like muffins and dessert, and stocked our freezer with a bunch of dinner entrees for later. She even left our pantry stuffed with non-perishable groceries that appeared out of nowhere, as if from the Grocery Fairy. She did all our laundry and made lemonade, brownies, and lemon bars to fortify us for all the new-baby visitors. This time, she didn't have to walk the floors at 2 a.m. with a screaming newborn, but she did log many hours with baby Genna Rose asleep on her shoulder so I could bathe and eat and give Julia attention. She kept reminding me to drink more liquids, to keep up with all the milk I'm making. She read to and made Play-Doh creations with Julia, and supervised a brilliant marker drawing that read, "To Mama and Genevieve, Love, Julia", to decorate my hospital room.

Thanks from all of us, Nonna! Come back soon!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Big Sister Update

Julia's doing incredibly well as a new big sister. True, she's been putting up a bit of a fight at bedtime, sometimes even screaming furiously at the top of her lungs when we leave her room, and she's trotted out a silly little "baby language" that consists of long monologues of indecipherable, but dramatically inflected, nonsense syllables, but all in all she's adjusting with very little trauma (or drama). The sweet way she approaches Genevieve seems almost too good to be true. (And it may change in several weeks when her daddy returns to work and she suddenly gets a lot less immediate individual attention during the day when I have to tend to Genevieve's needs first much of the time.) So far, she gives baby Genevieve gentle kisses--preferably on the cheek or the head--and "cuddles" multiple times a day, pronouncing, "She smiled!" after each one. She hands us newborn diapers and brings the burp cloth as needed. When Genevieve cries, Julia says, "She wants her milk! She wants to nurse!" and then watches carefully without a hint of jealousy or confusion about why SHE isn't the one in Mama's arms just then. Most of all, all day long she asks, "What baby Genevieve doing?", as if checking in on her sister's well-being. Usually the answer is just, "sleeping" or "nursing" or "making peepy noises at us from her bassinet," but Julia seems extremely interested all the same.

This afternoon as I was nursing Genevieve, Julia came over, peered closely at her with a big smile on her face, then gently touched various baby body parts and crooned in a high, squeaky voice, "TINY little ears! TINY little head! TINY little hands! TINY little elbow!"

SWEET little girl!

Stormy Weather

Over here in our town, we've had an eventful morning. Big, scary storms blew through before lunch, and my mom and I stood huddling in our storage closet under the stairs with Genevieve sleeping in our arms while the tornado siren went off and an extremely ominous-looking wall cloud barrelled right over our townhouse pelting everything in sight with softball-sized hail. It sounded as if the windows and roof were breaking apart, but it was only the hail pounding the house. Let me tell you, it was more than a little bit terrifying, and it went on for quite awhile, blanketing the grass outside with white and leaving a river of water rushing through our backyard. Genevieve snoozed happily through the whole thing, phantom crooked smiles flashing across her dreaming face every few seconds.

Where were Christopher and Julia? Off in town, running errands and having adventures, begun before the storm threat materialized. By the time the sirens went off, they were packed into an interior hallway at the public library with the librarians and other library patrons, the kids all clutching one toy each from the children's corner, per the librarian's suggestion, to ward off worries and fears.

Everyone's fine, but our new car is completely cracked and dented. Christopher is currently trying to get through to our insurance company and the rental car agency, and is waiting the arrival of my aunt, who was in town from Wisconsin to visit my grandma and meet our new baby, and whose entire back window was shattered out of her car by the hail. He's helping her duct-tape plastic sheeting to the window frame so she can get home to get the car repaired.

Seeing how it may be awhile before we can get a rental car, given that everyone in town is probably waiting for one, it occurred to me that I am suddenly VERY GLAD that Genevieve was born last week instead of patiently waiting for our scheduled C-section tomorrow morning. We'd be wondering how we'd get to the hospital right about now!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Hunger Chronicles

This is how you know you're a newly postpartum nursing mom.

You go to your new baby's one-week doctor visit at noon, which is a five-minute drive away, and by the time you get there, despite having had breakfast and a snack beforehand, the (slow) walk from the parking lot and all the way through the building to the far office leaves you so ravenous and lightheaded that the pediatric nurse, who is there to worry about the baby and not you, sits you down and worriedly asks how you've been doing since the birth and what your hemoglobin was upon discharge. She tells you if you continue to be this shaky and pale you need to get in to see your OB before next week. You tell her you're just hungry. After the visit your husband has to bring the car around for you, and then you make him hit the Wendy's drive-through because you can't wait five more minutes to get home and make lunch. You end up inhaling a gigantic grilled chicken sandwich in the car, honey mustard sauce running down your arm--and you are someone who can't even remember the last time she ate at a fast-food restaurant. You get home, finish your sandwich, slurp down a Frosty, nurse the baby, and in the middle of the night you wake up with your stomach growling, dreaming of omelettes and veggie hot-dogs and corn on the cob and Dairy Queen.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Name Game

It's been a week since Genevieve was born! Wow. What really amazes me is the fact that originally, she wasn't even scheduled to be born for another 3 days! Just goes to show what folly it is to think we have any control over when babies decide to enter the world! They're on their own schedule, aren't they?

Anyway, over at Snarky Squab, much discussion has been occurring about baby nicknames. Already, a lot of people have asked us if we plan to call new baby Genevieve by her full name or use a shorter nickname. We love the full name--and as an added bonus, it's related a little bit to Genevieve's maternal great-grandma's name, Geneva. But there are a lot of nicknames for Genevieve, too--ones that would be a lot easier to learn to write come kindergarten time than the full-length version. Here are some nicknames we've encountered:

Gen
Genna
Genny
Evie
Eva
Vivi (pronounced Viv-ee, not Vee-vee)

We're not big fans of Genny--too common (i.e. Jenny), but Genevieve and Julia's Nonna has already been overheard calling her newest grandbaby "Genna Rose." I'm curious: which do you like? Did we miss any?

***
On another note, I suspect there must be some sort of patron saint of postpartum bodies that I should be getting down on my knees and thanking. That prominent post-childbirth belly I was complaining about? The one I swore was already gone by this time when I had Julia? I'm an impatient person at heart. Lo and behold, my friend Donna was right. I woke up this morning and the belly is pretty much gone. The body is an amazing thing! All that extra pregnancy heft and volume, no longer needed--now magically morphing into milk. It's like observing a mysterious machine at work 24 hours a day without being able to see its inner mechanisms. Nurse on, baby Genna Rose, nurse on!

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Pain Meds + Sleep Deficit = Philosophical Ramblings

Oh, there is so much to say.

If you feel I've already said enough, in the six short days since Genevieve was born, about birth the second time around, stop reading now. Because truly: life is just amazing, and in our house, since baby Genevieve entered our life on August 15th, we've been sitting around marveling at how different things can be with the passage of time.

And please, don't get me wrong: Julia is, as my mom recently said after witnessing our fresh-scrubbed chubby toddler place her palms on my cheeks and lean forward to tenderly give me a kiss on the lips, "the sweetest thing on two feet." She's the light of our lives. Julia's been largely enthusiastic and cheery now that Mama is home from the hospital--save for some increased bedtime neediness and a bit more whining than usual--and she does things like run into the room shouting, "Where's dat baby Genevieve? Give her a kiss!" and, "I yuv dat baby sister!" But now we have two lights of our lives, and this second one, so far, is nothing like the first. I know: go ahead and act knowing and smug right now if you must, because Genevieve is less than a week old, and anything could happen. She could still refuse to nap, come down with colic, develop an abiding addiction to hanging out on my nipple for hours on end. But for now? Let me tell you all about it.

On the one hand, I have the strongest sense of deja vu. Two summers ago feels like yesterday; I sit here in the evenings and nurse and watch TV and eat ice cream and stay up late to nurse again, and even the photos are the same. The same orange-tinged jaundice-y newborn with the chubby nose lying asleep in the same white bassinet with the same pastel sheets. The same round head and long skinny fingers and toes. The same miniscule fuzzy sleepers and tiny narrow onesies.

But then, on the other hand, EVERYTHING is different--and I don't just mean because we are experienced parents now who have a clue what we're doing and can roll with the punches of postpartum life. Here are some other differences:

Genevieve arrived after one night of labor-related sleep deprivation; Julia after three consecutive nights of no sleep. Genevieve arrived via major surgery--painful and scary, yes, but controlled and planned; Julia arrived in a storm of injury and physical trauma that carried repercussions that lasted for more than a year.

By the time Julia was two weeks old, she'd been to the ER three times, once when my recovery was so early that I couldn't even walk or sit down unassisted (and still hadn't slept). Julia couldn't get the hang of sucking hard enough to be a productive nurser for several weeks; we had to pump milk for her after each nursing and feed it to her with an eyedropper, a process that took an hour and then had to be begun again a half hour later, around the clock. Julia cried all night long--literally--for every night of her first month of life, except when nursing. We never slept. Visitors and houseguests came and I could hardly keep my eyes open or my body upright; my aches and fatigue and breastfeeding infections made me feel sick during every waking moment. I felt physically depleted and non-functional and after an hour of entertaining well-wishers I could barely speak. To some degree, I thought all this was normal. I see now how abnormal it really was.

This is parenthood with Genevieve so far. The only part of my body that hurts is my C-section incision. I feel moderately tired, not sick with exhaustion. There are all sorts of activities I am restricted from doing right now, including the most basic of things such as lifting a laundry basket or driving--and yet, I feel surprisingly normal in comparison to two years ago. Genevieve nurses just fine. She eats for ten or fifteen minutes at a time, then she's done. She goes to sleep afterward, and stays asleep for two to three hours. This give me enough time to actually do anything else besides wait to nurse again. At night, she sleeps between feedings. Thus, we do too. I keep looking around and wondering, Is this as hard as it gets? Surely not! Is this what having a new baby is really like? It can't be true. I mean, it's not as if any of this is a total breeze all the time--there is pain, and tiredness, and hormonal tornadoes, and all the weird physical after-effects of childbirth in general--and come on, who actually enjoys waking up numerous times each night to nurse when what you really want to do is sleep? But honestly? It feels so, so easy to me right now, because my memories of summer 2004 are still so fresh in my mind.

Believe me: I'm very wary of jinxing myself. But it seems unlikely that a baby as easy as Genevieve is so far would suddenly turn into the challenging infant Julia was--after all, Julia was hard straight out of the gate. And even if Genevieve's easy demeanor does change, we have had six days that seem like a cakewalk when compared with the first six days of parenting Julia, and for that alone I am grateful. Poor Jujee! I don't mean to make it sound as if we hold her infant temperament against her. In a lot of ways she's all the more precious for just how much she challenged our very best (and worst) versions of ourselves.

So I sit here and read Catherine Newman's goodbye column (a total tearjerker, by the way) about memory and the fleeting-ness of parenting babies, and it feels like Julia was just born--and it feels like light-years away from that, too. And all of it--the hard parts of back then, the easy surprises right now--feels like a lesson I didn't know I wanted or needed to learn. But, you know, that's always how life lessons happen, isn't it?--incidentally, as you're muddling through, so that later on you look back and can suddenly see all the things that made you the parent you are now?

Whew. New parenthood makes one philosophical. Or maybe it's the Darvocet. I'm still on narcotics, you know. (Maybe THAT explains baby Genevieve's complacent demeanor???)

Time for sleep. (Or nursing.) Coming soon: vote for your favorite nickname for Genevieve! (No guarantees we actually pay any attention to your suggestions.)

Saturday, August 19, 2006

First Night at Home

Well, we survived our first night home from the hospital with little trauma. Genevieve did decide to stray from her model newborn behavior displayed on the maternity ward, and refused to sleep after her 1 a.m. nursing, instead keeping us up for a few hours. However, compared to Julia's first night home when she was brand new, this was a piece of cake.

I'm really tired---there is no way for me to lie down that doesn't REALLY hurt my incision, so it's hard to sleep even when the baby is sleeping---and I'm still indignant over the surprising size of my post-birth mid-section (I'm revising my post below to say that I look more like I'm still seven months pregnant, which, you know, I just didn't expect. When Julia was born my belly disappeared like magic within days. Guess I was a little optimistic to assume the same would happen now.)---but overall, life is great. Julia slept through the night last night (despite a bedtime meltdown that revealed just how sad she really is sometimes these days, not able to really understand how and why her world has changed so much so fast!), Genevieve is lovely and gorgeous, and we're all happy and healthy. What a blessing.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Plus One Slight Down-Side

Unfortunately, when you leave the hospital after your second birth, you still look, say, six months pregnant. Unlike with the first, when you still look, maybe, three or four. Hmmm. Bummer.

Darvocet and Diet Coke = A Wonderful, Wonderful Thing

I'm back, and I've got a new baby with me.

Yes, this past week has been an eventful one since my last post. My labor started on Monday afternoon, August 14, and though it took a long, long time, by 1:00 a.m. it was clear it was the real thing and it was time to get to the hospital and begin the C-section process. Baby Genevieve Rose joined our family on Tuesday August 15th at 3:27 a.m., 1-1/2 weeks before our previously scheduled C-section date and 3 weeks before our official due date. She weighed 7 lbs. 1 oz. and is healthy and well. We are home from the hospital now (as of Friday at noon), and are recuperating and hibernating, for the most part. I'm far too tired and sore to think straight, but here are a few observations to leave you with for now:

A C-section, while somewhat terrifying and unpleasant, isn't as scary as one might think, and as painful as the recovery is (more narcotics, please!), it is NOTHING compared to my recovery from Julia's vaginal birth, when I felt like my body was in multiple separate pieces for many, many weeks. I mean: I can actually walk. I can sit down. I don't have to fit 4 baths a day into my nursing schedule. My body feels intact. I don't feel like I'm going to faint every five minutes.

An interesting note: Genevieve was born with a deep purple bruise across her forehead, where she apparently was wedged in tight against my pelvic bone, most likely in the same occiputposterior position that caused Julia's delivery to be so difficult and protracted. And, after 8 hours of contractions with this baby, I wasn't even dilated yet--another reminder of my 4-day labor with our first. All this is to say, the doctors here think I would have had a repeat of my first labor/delivery experience, had we not already decided a C-section was the way to go. Whew.

I love love love Darvocet. Darvocet plus a Diet Coke caffeine fix is even better. Heaven, even.

Guess what? At nice, small-town hospitals, they don't KICK YOU OUT of the maternity ward one night after giving birth. They let you stay the entire legally mandated time, and they ASK YOU what time of day you'd like to leave. Even though you give birth at 3:30 in the morning and your hospital stay is 3 days from time of birth, they don't take that literally and tell you that you have to leave on day 2 because they don't want to have to discharge you in the middle of the night on day 3. In fact, they let you stay as long into day 3 as you want, even giving you MEALS and HELP GETTING TO YOUR CAR when you actually go. They give your older baby a plastic hospital bracelet that says "Big Sister Julia" on it. They let you pick out a handmade knitted baby hat for the new baby to go home in.

While I am too experienced to count my chickens prematurely, I will say this: nursing is much, much easier the second time around. Your milk comes in sooner, and there's more of it from the get-go. You know what you're doing. You don't know for sure how it will continue to go, but you aren't too worried about it. If complications arise, you'll recognize them immediately and mobilize help.

Though it is far too early to be smug and nonchalant about the baby's demeanor---we all know the early days are generally not typical---so far, Genevieve's first 2 nights of life have been completely different from Julia's. Julia screamed all night long from her first night on this planet. Genevieve nurses, then goes back to sleep, then nurses again 2 hours later, then goes back to sleep. Repeat. Repeat. Pray to God this continues.

More in days to come!

Monday, August 14, 2006

Thank Goodness for Small Blessings

Hallelujah. Someone up above must have known I needed some good news. Oh, don't get me wrong, nothing tragic is going on here, I'm just the usual: 9-1/2 months pregnant, shockingly tired, BORED TO DEATH OF EVERY MOMENT OF EVERY DAY (no TV; have read every book in the tiny town library--or so it seems; all my best friends an hour away; no energy to play with my daughter, who, by the way, has in turn become whiny and cranky to a previously unheard of degree; bored bored bored of having no energy to play with my whiny cranky daughter, etc. etc. etc.).

But look what I found today! Catherine Newman started a blog to save all her fans from continued hopeless, sad-sack mourning!

Saturday, August 12, 2006

I Can Feel My Biceps Shrinking Already; or, Pass the Chocolate-Chip Cookies

In case anyone was wondering, the day my doctor told me there is no need to stop exercising for fear of inducing labor, I promptly stopped exercising. One of those questions I probably shouldn't have bothered to ask since I'd already made up my mind about it anyway, you know? It feels a little strange, since as mentioned before, I worked out up until (and including) the very day I went into labor with Julia, but...well, all those old-fashioned stories about women going into labor after an afternoon of scrubbing floors can't have come out of thin air, can they have? I'm not exactly eager to go through the whole Am I in labor? Is this really it? Where's my bag? Who can watch Julia? Damnit, why, WHY did I insist on doing that last set of forward lunges with alternating bicep curls? thing if, instead, I can set my alarm clock for the morning of the 25th and calmly drive to the hospital where my very own OB will be waiting to do my nice, orderly, planned C-section.

So, you may be wondering, if I'm not working out anymore, how exactly am I spending my free time? Mainly, I am concentrating on remaining physically inert for as much of the day as I can, and also, on eating as much as possible. I think I'm doing a pretty heroic job so far.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Bye-Bye, Baby

This morning Christopher put it perfectly when he said, "It's kind of sad how close Julia is to her last day as an only child. And she doesn't even know it." We both looked at her as she cheerily toddled over to her bookshelf and busied herself "reading." She's so blissfully unaware of how her world is about to change. It made me think about my vow at the beginning of the season to make this summer a special one, the last summer Jujee and I would spend as a duo. I don't know just how special it's turned out--my pregnancy has been harder than I expected it would be, taxing my energy and abilities formidably--but on balance, I think we've had a good summer together, for which I'm very grateful. We've made friends, splashed in water, played in sand, slurped ice cream cones, walked many a stroller mile, checked out doggies and fish and waterfalls, held scads of tea parties with multiple cuddly stuffed animals, sung songs, chalked bright heiroglyphics on our driveway, and made great fun even out of mundane household chores like floor sweeping and grocery runs.

Julia has had two years in the limelight mantle of my one and only, and she won't even be able to remember it. Her whole life, she will only have memories of being one of two sisters; all our playdates and games and cuddles and special outings together alone will exist in my memory alone.

It's all so fleeting! I can hardly stand the heartbreak of it. How do you say goodbye to your first baby's solo babyhood? How do you look back on the weeks you thought you'd never survive, and reconcile that experience with the blink-of-an-eye exit of this family of just three? As Julia and I were driving home from an errand the other morning, a Justin Roberts lullaby played on the car stereo and just about said it all--about children and love and fleeting moments too:

"Last night the moon was full
And last night it all stood still...

Last night the moon hung low
And last night it overflowed
And knelt down to kiss your head
And "lovely" was all it said...

Last night the dawn did break
And last night we laid awake
To watch the sky turn blue
It was lovely and so were you."


I love you, Sweet Pea!

All-Time Parenting Low

Today, exhausted from being awake last night from midnight to six a.m. experiencing ominous achy pre-labor cramps and holding a light-up clock for timing what could either have been Braxton-Hicks contractions or the real thing (update: not the real thing. yet.), and then having been awakened by Julia after only an hour's afternoon nap for both of us, prompting me to burst into tears, I actually INTERRUPTED HER IMAGINATIVE PLAY to utter the words, "Honey, do you want to go downstairs and watch your Sesame Street DVD?"

(To fully understand the low to which I had indeed sunk, you have to understand that we generally don't allow Julia to watch TV; she owns this one and only educational DVD, and she watches it maybe a couple of times a month for a half hour at a time at most.)

I could actually feel myself cringing as the words escaped my mouth. It was so sad the way she froze in the middle of her "swimming in the big blue ocean" pretend play, considered my question, said, "Yeah!" and ran toward the stairs with what could only have been confused joy. Then she stood by the TV watching raptly while I laid on the couch and fell asleep during each song. Yes, I halted my baby's active, creative game to plant her sedentarily in front of a SCREEN--something, I can tell you, she really, really does not need, since all of her most beloved activities just happen to be of the extremely sedentary variety (coloring, reading books, having tea party, playing Play-Dough, chalk drawing) and I've become physically unable to do anything active with her during the day in recent weeks so she's getting next to no exercise most of the time.

Oy vey. I'm torn between wanting this pregnancy to end as soon as possible, because this week I suddenly became absolutely worthless for anything other than lying down, and hoping the baby holds out long enough for us to have childcare in place for Julia during our hospital stay.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Karma

I'm convinced that the idea of karma has at least some merit. Julia was always the baby who needed absolutely constant attention every single second of every day--no playing alone on a mat with toys for her, thank you very much! Did you look away from her for a second, to, say, feed yourself? How dare you! She will now cry. Walk out of the room to answer the phone? Cry. Do anything at all other than give her every ounce of your energy and being at every moment? Cry.

But now, you know, she's two years old, and for months, this is how we do my morning routine. I take a bath, with the door open, and she helps a little bit (throws my sponge in, lays the bathmat down), watches a little bit (LOVES to watch me shave), and then mostly goes and stands at my bed, leafing through a few Pottery Barn Kids catalogs I keep by my bedside, "reading manga-zines" while I finish, get out, dry off, get dressed, brush my hair, maybe even put on a little make-up if I'm feeling especially fastidious. Sometimes she'll come toddling in and out a few times to check on my progress, but generally she's content to peruse catalogs quietly nearby while I go about my entire a.m. routine, even on days I move slowly (meaning, every day right now). It makes me chuckle to remember the early infant days when I had to put her in her bouncey seat, drag it into our tiny bathroom, and then take the fastest bath possible---this is on the rare days I even GOT to bathe---before resuming the crazy-baby-schedule.

I had this coming.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Babies Everywhere!

Just got word that a second friend ALSO had her baby last night! In a perfect, albeit very extreme, example of that cardinal rule of second labors (that they typically go fast), though she lives a stone's throw from the medical center, the baby came so quickly that my friend didn't even have time to CHANGE INTO A GOWN, people. Apparently she just barely made it onto a gurney before the new baby entered the world, only 15 minutes after they pulled into the hospital parking lot. Uh....yikes?

Still Here

Well, in half a week I'll be officially at term (37 weeks), so that's a relief. Today I had my 36-week OB visit and my dr. did one last little quick ultrasound. The baby has grown into her early, large-for-gestational-age measurements, and now measures at exactly the number of weeks'/days' gestation that she actually is, which is also a relief because it means there is a little less worry of the due date having been inaccurate and thus an early labor being even more likely than I am already convinced it will be. A rough estimate of size puts her at about 6-1/4 lbs., nice and average for this point. If I make it another 2-1/2 weeks, she could very well be born at about the size Julia was (about 7-1/2 lbs.)--though these measurements can be off up to 1/2 lb. in either direction.

I asked my dr. if continuing to exercise as strenuously as I have been makes it more likely that I'll go into labor sooner, and should I therefore stop, and she said no--that there's actually no good evidence linking activity level to the beginning of labor--but you know, this is one of those cases where my intuition tells me different. I haven't stopped working out yet, but I can't help but notice that exercising gives me more Braxton-Hicks contractions, which are signs that the body is getting some action going down there. Not to mention the fact that the day I went into labor with Julia, more than 1-1/2 weeks prior to my due date, I had just finished riding my stationary bike, doing some prenatal yoga, AND lifting weights. Not that 1-1/2 weeks "early" is truly early--it's perfectly normal--but it begs the question.

In other news, we just got news today that an old college friend, whose due date was 2 days after my C-section date, had her 2nd baby yesterday, 3 weeks early. (Congratulations, guys, and welcome, baby Larisa!) She had been e-mailing me for weeks saying that she was convinced the baby would come early, while her OB was on vacation--and sure enough, she was right.

There really is something to this notion of intuition, I'm sure of it. So--heads up. I predict this baby will come before the 25th. I'm guessing the 20th--at the latest. Anyone else care to hazard a guess?

Sunday, August 06, 2006

An Ominous Development

For the second time in recent days, today Julia did not nap at all, instead preferring to cry and fuss and call for over an hour until I accepted the obvious fact that there would be no nap for either of us today, and let her get up. However disturbing as that was, it was nothing compared to what she did at bedtime: instead of her usual bedtime rebellion baby-rants of, "Mama coming, Daddy coming!", she learned to say, for the first time (in perfect woe-is-me pitch), "I don't WANT to go to s'eep, I don't WANT to go to s'eep!"

This can't be good.

Wasn't I Just Writing Something About Endings?

So what's going on here? Just last week I waxed rhapsodic about writer Catherine Newman and her wonderful babycenter.com column, Bringing Up Ben and Birdy, crediting her with saving my sanity and my sense of humor during the first tenuous postpartum months (and thereafter). And now, today, I read on her site that after four years, Catherine's column is ending in two weeks. I feel like I jinxed myself! I'm devastated, people. Seriously--kid me about pregnancy hormones if you will, but honestly, this news made me cry a little bit on the outside, and a lot on the inside. I will miss Catherine's writing tremendously; I really can't quite put into words how much her columns--and her book, Waiting for Birdy, meant to me over the years (and I do realize how that makes me sound like a loony super-fan). Countless times, she described a feeling or experience that mirrored my own so exactly it was truly uncanny. Plus, she made me laugh my head off on many, many occasions--often through my tears, but sometimes just in a pure-hilarity sort of way.

There's something symbolic about this, though, it seems to me. I discovered "Bringing Up Ben" (as it was called then, before Birdy was born) when I started getting the weekly Babycenter e-mails during my first pregnancy. (I was immediately hooked, and I vividly recall laughing out loud in a deserted hallway at my former job after having just read her line about those guilt-inducing pregnacy-book chapters on eating for two: "A pound of cookie dough washed down with a quart of half-and-half; now THAT'S what I call a 'Best Bite!'") I read all her installments as fast as I could, followed her 2nd pregnancy and then Birdy's birth, and when I was a postpartum, barely-walking invalid in June 2004 I sat in the dark during the many desperate wee hours of non-sleep and re-read all the columns about those weepy, pain-filled days after childbirth, and felt a lot better. Then I continued to avidly read her column every week for the next two years, through Julia's infancy and my own 2nd pregnancy. Just the other day I re-read the part in Waiting for Birdy about Birdy's C-section delivery, to prepare myself and have a few laughs while I was at it. And now, isn't this timing a little bit incredible? Catherine is publishing her last Babycenter column at exactly the time my next baby is due--the very week I launch into the next installment in my own life as a parent.

I feel like I was escorted through the past three years by a very wise and funny experienced-mom friend, and now, when I've read all I need to, it's time to say goodbye, ready or not.

I'm not ready. Sniff, sniff!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

The Beginning of the End, the End of the Beginning

As this pregnancy winds down, I'm starting to think more and more about the fact that it will likely be my last. We're pretty sure two kids is enough for us, despite our oozing sentimentality about being parents, and we're also pretty sure two childbirths/rounds of nursing is probably all my beleaguered body can be asked to stand. (OK, so I don't know how round two is going to go--it may be easy as pie--but let's face it, both the childbirth and the nursing did a total number on my physical self the first time, leading me to assume that there's only so much one can reasonably expect from a body.) Not least, we can hardly afford to have two babies, let alone more, though if money were no object I'd probably be more inclined to conveniently "forget" the physical concerns, the sleep deprivation, the unrelenting neediness of small children, the endless diapers, the quick exit from one's life of anything even remotely resembling spontaneity, and eventually give in to the above-mentioned sentimentality.

But I digress. I was saying that I've been reflecting on the end of this pregnancy. This means I've been thinking a lot about all the "lasts" I'm experiencing, the things I will really, really miss when I've finished this journey and (probably) put childbearing behind me. (Yikes, just typing that makes me sad, so I'll probably be one of those crazy weepy women who throws caution, lack of money, and good sense to the wind and insists on another baby as soon as her "last" no longer wears onesies.)

I'll really, really miss the look of pregnancy. I said it when I had Julia too--I was truly sad to see my belly go. I love it! Just today at the local coffeeshop a mother I barely know told me I look "fabulous" for being due in 3 weeks, and I say that not to boast (OK, I boast a little), but because it reflects exactly how I feel. I adore being pregnant, I really do. I don't adore the heartburn or insomnia or mind-numbing exhaustion or Braxton-Hicks contractions or how your hip ligaments blaze with pain after a certain point. But I love love love my body when pregnant--it's adorable, and I don't mind saying so, because in our culture of ridiculous female beauty expectations, feeling that way should be everyone's gold standard!

I'll miss that culturally sanctioned air of taking it easy. You know---you don't have to walk fast, carry large packages, stand up for long, suffer the heat. Everyone knows you just can't, and they respectfully give you your due.

I'll miss the ability to ingest vast quantities of food--seriously, people, I don't even believe that whole "you only need 300 extra calories a day during pregnancy" line you always read in the health books, because there is no WAY I've eaten even close to that few calories each day during either of my pregnancies, and I've never gained an inappropriate amount of weight at ALL--without any consequences other than the ones mother nature intended. Oh--luckily, there's always nursing, when I eat even more food than I do while pregnant, and actually LOSE weight the whole time. OK, so admittedly I didn't lose the last 5 lbs. until after I weaned Julia, which meant it took me 18 months to return to my pre-pregnancy weight. But in the meantime I ate like a horse, and it STILL all turned into milk. Fabulous! Dairy Queen, anyone?

You know what I'll miss most of all? It sounds so silly, but nothing--NOTHING--can compare to that moment of seeing the positive result on the pregnancy test stick. I mean, both times it was pure, mind-blowing, can-it-be-true euphoria, comparable to absolutely no other moment in life. It KILLS me to imagine never experiencing that precise moment ever again. It's practically worth it to have another baby strictly for the minute that second pink line, or that blue plus sign, or whatever cryptic heiroglyphic it happens to be, pops up on the little plastic wand. I'm serious, people, I'm a little bit addicted.

No really, two babies are enough for us. I'm pretty sure.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk!

Things Julia has said to me in the past week:

"'Nicholas' sounds like 'nickel.'"
"'Sign language sounds like 'sandwich.'" (She has a book called "Child's First Book of Sign Language.")
"'Cooperative' sounds like 'copper.'" (I had just called her cooperative, and Christopher recently taught her that pennies are copper-colored.)
"Mama, where's a yield sign?" (While riding in the car. She had just learned about stop signs from a Sesame Street book and apparently had remembered yield signs as well.)
"He's concentrating."
"Mama sing song to Julia--'Pinky Bears' first, then 'Nonna's Apple Song.'"
"Mama yittle bit frustrated."
"Julia had ice cream at Bittersweet. Ice cream all gone, Julia cried yittle bit."
"Mama see nurse Evelyn. Mama see Dr. Suppes. First nurse Evelyn, then Dr. Suppes!"
"Mama not wear swimming sandals---OTHER ones. OTHER sandals! Julia wear sandals too! Both us wear sandals!"
"Julia play in submarine! [climbing onto her toddler bed, which she pretends is a submarine.] Not submarine, bed. Actually, it's a bed. Actually, it is."

I'm tired just listening to her!

Separation Anxiety

You may remember how I closed my part-time private practice in June? So I'm no longer working outside the home? Every now and then since then, Julia has asked, "Mama go to work?" when something has reminded her of those harried afternoons on which I raced out the door the second Christopher got home, and I've explained to her, "No, honey, Mama doesn't go to her office anymore, remember? I'm all done with work for awhile." She seems happy. (As for me, I'm REALLY happy. On my most exhausted, overly-pregnant days I can hardly imagine how I'd be coping if I was still working until 10 p.m. two nights a week.)

Yesterday afternoon, though, we were preparing to go to the children's play area at Menard's (yes, I'm serious--there is an actual play area inside the Menard's store here, full of playhouses and ride-in cars and Little Tikes slides and balls, and Julia LOVES it. I'm sure it's there for customers who are actually buying things at the store, but hey, it was about 150 degrees here for a month straight--okay, it seemed like it--and we've been desperate for things to do indoors). Because we were also due to pick up Christopher from work later on and I didn't know if we'd connect with him by phone before then, I casually strapped on my watch so I could keep an eye on the time during our outing. Suddenly, Julia started wailing, "Mama, no go to work! No Mama go to work!" For a few moments I had no idea what she was upset about, and I just kept saying, "Honey, Mama isn't going to work--we're going to play at Menard's!" Then I noticed it---she was pointing at my left wrist, eyes filled with tears. She remembers: the only time I wore a watch in the past two years was when I was getting dressed for work. Heart-wrenching! Talk about emotional validation for no longer being a working mom! (OK, mommy warriors: don't say a word. I'm not truly serious. I know kids whose moms work are just fine, including mine. I'm not passing judgment; I'm just passing on a cute anecdote--and I couldn't help but feel glad of my decision during such a funny, cute moment.)

Incidentally, that is one of the simple pleasures, to me, of no longer being in the "career world." I LOVE not having to wear a watch, being able to dress in twill short skirts and tank tops, foregoing make-up, wearing sandals and ponytails and carrying sporty canvas bags from Title Nine or J. Crew rather than an organizer and a "work bag." It is bliss. But that's another post.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The Best-Laid "Plans"

So last week we took our tour of the Birth Center at the new town hospital. It was called a "birth plan appointment," but this seemed a little...unnecessary...in my case, since I am supposed to be having a scheduled C-section. You know: the nurse was asking all sorts of questions about what "comfort measures" I wanted, etc., and I kept saying, "Well, I'm not actually going to be laboring, so...."

Anyway, a couple of things were a bit unnerving, so I was glad to see my own OB this morning and get some clarification. Or at least make sure everyone's on the same page here. Specifically: at the birth plan appointment, the LPN went over the guidelines as to when I should call the Birth Center, should I go into labor (i.e., before my C-section date)--the usual "when contractions are 3 to 5 minutes apart for an hour's duration and it's hard to speak during them." I asked her, "Since I'm supposed to have a C-section, shouldn't I just call as soon as it's obvious I'm in labor?" "Um, no, I think you'd probably want to still wait until contractions are 3 to 5 minutes apart," the nurse said. I looked at her dubiously but let it slide.

Then a little later on she said something about how, since I'm not a "repeat C-section," unless my OB provided a written order that I am to undergo a Cesarean, the staff might hesitate to do one were I to go into labor before my surgery date. "They probably wouldn't understand why you'd be having a C-section, and you might be encouraged to labor," this nurse explained. (I should explain here that it is a bit unusual for a woman to have a C-section after a first vaginal birth, unless the baby is breech or there is some other immediately obvious medical complication going on; however, I am indicated for one due to extreme physical trauma from my first delivery and the high risk of further, permanent bodily damage--something that would only be apparent were one to read my entire chart, including my records from my former hospital.)

Of course here is where, in my mind, I am thinking, You've seen my chart, right? Are you guys even talking to each other? It all reminded me just a little too much of the part in Waiting for Birdy when the clinic staff keep asking Catherine to sign a consent-for-vaginal-birth form at each of her OB appointments, even though she keeps saying, "You guys know I'm having a C-section, right? I mean, someone will be there waiting for me and everything?" Yeah. Exactly.

Thankfully, when I ran all this past my own doctor this morning, she rolled her eyes, asked who I had spoken to, and wrote in big bold letters at the top of my chart, "Pt. scheduled for primary C/S!" with an asterisk next to it. Then she assured me that all would be done according to plan, and also, to call the Birth Center as soon as it becomes clear to me that contractions are, indeed, labor and not Braxton-Hicks. "It makes no sense to wait until they're close together," she said. "Call when they're regular, even if they're 10 minutes apart. We're going to do a C-section." Thank you! Of course, this may all (please!) be a moot point if labor does not begin prior to my surgery date. But sheesh, could everyone just please get their stories straight?

In other news, I'll have those of you who recently ribbed me about my astronomical belly size know that my OB--yes, the same one who laughed her head off at my 21-week appointment because she thought my uterus size was "generous"--said she doesn't think I look unusually large at all, that to her I look--and measure--exactly 35 weeks pregnant, and that compared to how she looked at 24 WEEKS ALONG with her third baby (yikes!), I look downright small. She also said that next week at the ultrasound she'll give us a good guess as to the baby's size.

Think I have time to sneak in a few more Blizzards before then? You know, add a few ounces onto Little Miss Thing between now and next Tuesday? Though, I recall now, my OB also said that her last baby, the one who made her belly so humongous at only 24 weeks? Yeah, that baby was 9-1/2 lbs. at birth. Yowza!