I am no longer impressed by fad diets that claim to shave off that extra weight in a matter of weeks. “I lost 40lbs in 4 months!” “I lost 5 lbs a week and I feel fabulous!” HA! I lost 30 lbs in 2 weeks. And all I had to do was gain 40 lbs over 10 months growing a human being and then spend those first 2 weeks after evicting him feeding that human using exclusively the food my own body created. Hang on, you might be thinking. Doesn’t that mean you still have 10 lbs to lose before you get back to your starting weight? Well, yes. And actually 15-20 lbs before I get to my target weight. But you’re totally missing the point here. Which is 30 lbs in 2 weeks.
I’ve been putting off writing this for a few reasons. First, I had a baby. That was and is exhausting. I’ve spent the majority of my time feeding and sleeping. And I’m not exaggerating. They say you should sleep when the baby sleeps and I’ve managed to do that pretty reliably. I also eat when he eats, which is why my nursing bras may or may not have melted chocolate in them. Second, my friends are having babies soon. Having their first babies, like me. This isn’t getting published until the last one comes because parts of my experience are unpleasant and this is not the time to give new mom imaginations more fodder. I am not trying to scare anyone.
Third, I am not trying to scare anyone, not even me. I’ve been recording this experience honestly, which I’m sure has come across as whiney and negative more than once. But I said from the beginning that if I decide to do this again, I want to walk into the decision with eyes wide open and not clouded by baby fever. I had to get rested and find a day where my hormones were more or less on an even keel. That’s not to say that they are, but right now I don’t feel like crying and I’m not asleep so it’s as good a time as any.
SPOILER ALERT. The following post is going to have TMI. There will be lots of gross details and I won’t be holding back or using cute euphemisms. You have been warned.
This is the story of how Platypus came to be Buddy Boy.
Mar 5th I lost my mucus plug. It was just as gross as it sounds.
Mar 9th, I woke up with cramps just before 7am. I fed the cats and then drank some water and went back to bed, trying to lay more on my side like they suggest. This is the standard procedure for Braxton-Higgs, by the way. They go away if you move around, drink water, etc. Real contractions get worse.
At 8:30, I bolted to the bathroom and got there just in time for my water to break. Which was really, REALLY annoying. First of all, I told myself that the dramatic “MY WATER JUST BROKE” moment you see on TV or the in movies is just a Hollywood thing. It only happens in about 15% of pregnancies. And most of the time, it doesn’t happen at all until labor is well under way. Yet there I was, trapped on my toilet by what was unmistakably my water breaking. Did you know that once the water breaks, it just keeps coming? Like, non-stop? Like, I’m trapped on the toilet away from my phone and handy pregger guide book because every time I get up I send another gush of gross all over myself? Yeah, I didn’t know that. I had to use my pj pants as a towel to get back to my phone and grab my book (to make sure I definitely needed to go to the hospital now). If you’re wondering, water breaking is one of the signs that you need to head to the hospital.
So I texted Buddy (“Water broke, come home now”). He showed up with donuts because he was headed back to work post-weigh-in and he’s the type of wonderful leader who brings donuts to work after weigh-ins. Except this time, when he brought his wife donuts instead. Sorry guys. I had called Labor and Delivery to let them know I was coming. I was still stuck on the toilet, where I had returned after retrieving my phone because I still thought that the water would have to stop eventually, right? Buddy comes in the bedroom and I’m all, “Bring me a towel, one we don’t want.” Long story short, about 15 min later, we had our bags (baby and me bags had been packed for weeks, Buddy just had to shove a couple things into a duffle) in the car and were on our way.
This entire time, I hadn’t had any more cramps. Buddy took the slow way to the hospital, since he would have been tempted to go about 95 mph on the interstate. We got to the hospital at about 10:00. They had to check me out to make sure it was amniotic fluid I was leaking. “My water broke.” “Are you sure?” “I’m wearing a towel.” But they still had to check. The nurse had a swab ready, but it was really obvious what was going on once I got my pants down. “Yup, membrane definitely broken. Can you wait in the waiting room for a few minutes while we get a room ready for you?” “Do you have any chairs you don’t particularly care for?”
The ward was full, by the way. Everyone decided to have their babies at the same time. We sat in the waiting room for a few minutes and then were led into a room right across from the front desk. I got changed into an open-backed robe and an industrial-sized sanitary pad. My towel, underwear, and yoga pants went into the trash. Yuck. Then we had a chat with the shift doctor. I hadn’t been having contractions.
See, there’s two ways it can go when your water breaks. Either that kick starts the whole show or it doesn’t. In my case, it did nothing. Our options were to either try to start labor naturally or medically. Once your water breaks, the big concern is infection which is significantly easier to contract without that protection. Even though I wasn’t in labor, I couldn’t leave. They set me up with an IV port (after 3 attempts, apparently I have excellent but crooked veins). We decided to wait and see if the labor would progress naturally and to encourage that we took a walk around the ward every few hours. 16 laps around the ward is 1 mile. By 8pm, we had walked 3.5 miles. No dice.
By this time we were excessively bored and ready to move the process along. We had also realized that Buddy had forgotten to pack a few things (toothbrush, glasses, charger). And that while we had gained one hospital pillow since getting our room, it was clear we weren’t getting any more. Buddy went to get food for himself and picked up some pillows from Target. On a second trip at one point, he got all the way to the house before he realized he’d left his keys at the hospital.
Anyway, the first step was to take a cheek dose of cytotec which they said might make me “crampy.” This was at about 9pm. This was also the first time they checked my cervix. I was 1 cm dilated. They monitored me for 2 hours, checking my temp and blood pressure regularly. 4 hours later, they gave me a second dose. That’s when the cramps kicked in. I thought, aw at last, these must be CONTRACTIONS. Well, kind of. They were monitoring my uterus for contractions. The cramps did not always match up. And they got bad. I’m not sure what time it was, but at some point they weren’t coming and going. They were just coming, no rest time. I was trying to breath through them but it ended up more breath-crying and my contractions were not getting stronger or closer together according to the machines. So they gave me a pain killer which knocked me out for about 2 hours. And I mean out. The next thing I remember was waking up to the peaks of my cramps. I’m not exaggerating when I say they were a level 11 on the pain scale. Buddy had been sleeping and I woke him up when I started crying out in my sleep. I couldn’t say yes fast enough when they asked if I wanted an epidural.
Let’s be clear about this. Nothing was going right. I didn’t want drugs. I wanted a natural birth. I didn’t want to worry about what the drugs might be doing to my baby. And I didn’t want an epidural at all because that would pin me to the bed. There’d be no walking around to ease discomfort and I’d be stuck delivering on my back, which is the most dangerous and painful position from which to deliver. I wasn’t an idiot, though. I didn’t know what labor would be like, so from the get-go I said I didn’t want an epidural but I wanted it as an option just in case.
Well, 7 am on Mar 10th hit JUST IN CASE pretty loud and clear. Epidural went in and the pain stopped. So did the feeling in my legs. They also set up my IV for fluids and the next level of induction: pitocin. I also got a catheter, which was nice because getting up to pee every hour was exhausting.
By the way, whenever the shift changed, the new doctor would excitedly say that we’d be having a baby during her 12-hr shift. 3 of them were wrong.
So passed another day. I was at 2-3 cm dilated. I had the epidural plugged into my back and an IV in my hand. They had a blood pressure cuff on my arm that would turn on every 15 min. There were little alarms that went off for different machines. Some of them would call a nurse, some of them wouldn’t so we had to call someone to shut the things off. I had to call someone every time I wanted to change positions. Mostly, we didn’t need anything so we didn’t bug the nurses very much. Buddy went to get food again.
The other reason I didn’t want an epidural was because sometimes it stalls labor. Which is why I spent the entire day at 2-3 cm dilated.
At some point, the contractions did start up again, though they refused to be regular. I’d get a few ones right in a row and then nothing, then a big one and a few little ones. I did learn around midnight or so that singing through my contractions worked much better than breathing. The worse the contraction, the more obnoxiously I’d sing.
It was a long night. I got moved around from one position to another to try to get baby in the right position. When the evening shift came in, I was 4-5 cm dilated. That’s about when they want you to get to the hospital. We had been there 36 hours already.
Passed the night getting shifted from one position to another. One of the night nurses, Felicia (guess why she’s the only one whose name I can remember), did some serious yoga moves on me to get Platypus in the right position. They kept asking me how I felt. Tired was a big one. And I felt like I had to poop, which meant he was in the right place at least. But contractions still weren’t getting regular and every time they checked me I simply wasn’t dilating fast enough (for me). I was pushing my epidural button every time my blood pressure cuff turned on (every 15 min). Buddy was sleeping fitfully on the pull-out chair. It turns out that the most important thing he forgot to bring was his glasses and the hospital air was hell on his contacts. And they kept acting like the real labor could start any moment so he couldn’t risk another trip home.
Moral-wise, things were getting rough. I’d get my hopes up and then I’d hear “5 cm still,” then several hours later “about 7 cm,” then much, much later “8 cm.” Oh, and the reason you have a fever is because you have an infection from us checking you, so here’s some Tylenol on top of everything else.
Then my nurse noticed that I was dehydrated, easy to ascertain with a catheter, by the way. So she turned up my saline. And then my hand swelled up like I was Mickey Mouse. At some point during the night, my IV had gotten obstructed or lost the vein somehow. Not only wasn’t I getting my fluids, I wasn’t getting my pitocin so my labor was stalling yet again. It took two more attempts to get a new IV port in my right hand.
I was exhausted by now. They checked me again and I was at 9.5 cm. I wanted to cry. I probably did cry. Why did it have to be so damn difficult? The doctor (#3 for this labor), hesitantly mentioned “options” if we wanted to throw in the towel. And screaming across my exhaustion was the scary word “c-section.” So I shook my head and said no, we’ll keep waiting. We’re almost there, after all.
Finally, at 7am, 48 hrs after my first cramps, I was fully dilated. The doctor asked me if I wanted to start pushing or rest up some first. To which I replied by laughing maniacally and assuring him that NOW would be just fine. The nurses and midwife came in, new personnel as we went through yet another shift change. I looked at the clock and said, “Just 3 more hours, yeah?” And they laughed because it shouldn’t take that long.
Now remember, thanks to the epidural, I couldn’t feel my contractions. Some time during the evening, I’d stopped feeling the pressure of an impending poop and thanks to the lapse in pitocin, I didn’t feel any more cramps. The nurse had to tell me when my contractions were by looking at the machine I was plugged into. I assumed that since we were now in active labor that I shouldn’t be pushing my epidural button. Also, part of me simply didn’t trust the nurse to cue my contractions. So no more pain killers.
I was inclined on the bed with my feet in stirrups. On cue, I’d grip behind my knees, hold my breath, and bear down like I was trying to poop. This was painful in ways I wasn’t expecting. First, it hurt my head. The pressure was intense and I was on the verge of a migraine as it was from being dehydrated. Second, folding over hurt my ribs which had been a bother for that last 2 trimesters. Eventually, I had to stop folding up and I had to control release my breath or risk popping the top of my head off. The yelling came later, despite frequent reminders that yelling apparently draws effort away from pushing.
Buddy stayed at my head as he had for most of the last few contraction-rich hours. I did not break his hand. In fact, I conscientiously didn’t squeeze his hand with contractions. It just didn’t make sense to direct my energy that way. While I pushed, he cheered me on and helped me move my tree-trunk legs on and off the stirrups.
The nurses were very encouraging, as well. Though some of their encouragement was somewhat misplaced. At the beginning, they asked if I wanted a mirror so I could see what was happening. Big, resounding NO to that. I did not have any interest in seeing what was going on down there. Not even to check my “progress.” I think it was about 2 hours into pushing when they helpfully told me they could see his head. Or well, they could see part of his head. About the size of a quarter. I almost quit right then. Yes, I’m sure that was amazing to them and I’m positive based on how excited they looked that they thought a quarter was a big deal. It did not feel like a big deal to me when my mind was picturing his head practically out by then. Surely, he was almost out, right?
The last hour was a lot of yelling and pant-crying between contractions. Epidural was mostly worn off by now so I knew when to push without waiting for the nurse. And as I started to unravel, the midwife came in to help me finish. She made the mistake of thinking that I would be motivated by feeling my son’s head. Yeah, no, that freaked me out more than anything. It was so visceral, so real, so NOT what I needed just then.
Meanwhile, the midwife found out I hadn’t been pushing my epidural button and assured me that of course I could do that, who told me to stop? It was coming up on three hours and they couldn’t stop me from yelling at him to GET OUT. He was stuck under my pubic bone, exactly the kind of problem that happens when you have to deliver on your back. Then I pushed and he was half-out, actively ripping me apart. Midwife said, “Ok, next contraction you’re gonna push…” and I just couldn’t wait for the next contraction because it hurt, it really effing hurt, to have him just there. I pushed prematurely and they weren’t ready. I don’t know exactly what happened, but the pain stopped, nurse on my left started doing compressions on my belly until she was chucked aside by the midwife who said she was doing it wrong.
I didn’t hear him cry and they didn’t hand him to me. They whisked him over to the sunlight table with lots of hurried murmuring. I had to yell twice before someone would answer me. “IS HE OKAY?” Then he hiccoughed and they said to talk to him and what’s his name. Buddy looked at me and I said “Buddy Boy*?” and he said of course, so he’s little Buddy Boy. The midwife then focused on me, getting the afterbirth out which I barely felt at all (big surprise) and then stitching up the 2nd degree tears. I don’t know how many sutures I got, but I felt every one of them thanks to my lapse in pain killers.
Buddy Boy was born at 9:58 am on March 11th, 49 1/2 hrs after my water broke and 3 hours after I started pushing. He weighed 8 lbs 15 oz and was 21 inches long. Funnily enough, when we were admitted the doctor mentioned that she had had a patient deliver 50 hrs after her water breaking. I’d looked down at my belly and said, “Don’t even think about it.” Turns out my boy is already versed in pushing the limits of following directions.
I did not get my Golden Hour with Buddy Boy. The reason he was stuck under my pubic bone was because he had one arm across his chest and the other straight up under his shoulder. So when I did my premature push, they had to twist him out of me using his crossed arm and ended up wrenching his shoulder. He had to go to the NICU for an hour or so for blood tests to make sure that it was just shock from the violence of his birth and not anything else that delayed his crying. I slept instead, quite deeply.
Eventually, I got to hold my son. It was surreal.
About 3 hours after the delivery, Buddy noticed that atop the emergency crash cart, presumably in the rush to get Buddy Boy taken care of, they had forgotten the umbilical cord and placenta in a bin. That’s after walking passed it a few times, so that gives you an idea of how zonked we were. A couple nurses came in a few minutes later and noticed it as well. “Oh, we should get that in formaldehyde, right?” At least they didn’t ask if I wanted to paint it (yes that’s a thing and no it’s not the worst thing I heard people do with placentas).
Then it was two days of hospital food and struggling to get him to latch (hooray for flat nipples). My legs felt like they were made of spongey lead and the first few hours after the birth, a nurse had to help my uterus shrink and get rid of the extra junk by pressing down HARD a few times. It hurt a lot. This whole experience completely jacked up my pain scale. Have I felt any pain today? Compared to what I just went through? Um, no. Doesn’t even register.
I was up and about pretty quickly though. Walking around the ward with our little rolling bassinet, trying to get back to normal as quickly as I could. Still had to wear an industrial-sized pad and witch hazel pads and use a squirt bottle to wash myself. Got a visit from Lactation a few times to help me try and figure out what should be the most natural thing in the world and simply isn’t. It wasn’t until Day 2 that I could trust myself to pick him up when he needed feeding. Buddy got very good at swaddling him since that was the only thing that would keep him asleep. I kept needing help with the latch because it hurt like the blazes and I felt like I needed 3 hands in order to get him on there. It didn’t help that when the nurse or midwife did help they would just kind of ram him on there. It worked, yes, but it meant that I still couldn’t do it myself. Lactation was much better because she always made me feel moderately confident that I could really do this. It didn’t last for long because babies always throw you curve balls.
We got him home, finally. I still struggled with the latching and he cried a lot. I thought he was just fussy cuz babies cry, you know? And then I felt sick the whole first night, nauseous and unable to eat. He started sleeping longer and his diapers dried up by the second day. At our 4-day check-up, he’d lost 13% of his birth weight and his bilirubin numbers were high (but not so high he had to be admitted). He had jaundice because he wasn’t eating enough to expel the poisons his liver couldn’t handle yet. The doc says, “I’m worried about Buddy Boy,” to which I agreed. We spent the rest of the day supplementing his feeds with an ounce of formula. He did start peeing again, but we were going on 2 days without a poop and the last one had still been tarry black. Each diaper that was poop-free made me feel worse. I did finally break down to cry in the evening. It was stupid, but feeding him was my only job and I somehow just couldn’t do it! I was failing and we hadn’t even really started yet!
And unfortunately, Buddy woke up from his nap while I was crying which made me feel worse because I didn’t want him to stress more just because my hormones were going nuts.
Long story short, the next day we went back to Pediatrics and he was back above 8 lbs and his bilirubin numbers had dropped significantly. We had a different doctor who was very positive and said we were on the right track, but to let them know if he didn’t poop in the next day or so.
That night, Buddy Boy got his first sponge bath at home. And holy sh*t, there was so much poop. So. Much. Poop. Never been so excited to see poop in my life.
It’s been 2 months now. All my friends are safely delivered of their little ones. Buddy Boy is growing rapidly, no more formula since that first day. I have been to Lactation a few times just to work on our positions and his latch. Buddy Boy had a class 3 tongue tie that we had clipped last week in the hopes that he’ll start eating more efficiently. I have had many bad days where I felt like a walking pacifier because he simply wouldn’t let go except for a diaper change. I dealt with a lot of pain from his latch, however that’s mostly subsided. I have been exhausted, but coping, with the occasional “I’m not coping, take him for a few minutes.” The best day was when I discovered that he would sleep in the swing long enough for me to shower and brush my teeth. I joined a local breastfeeding support group on Facebook and I go to a group at the hospital every week. It’s amazing how much we can talk about breastfeeding. Or I guess it’s amazing that there is such a variety of subjects to do with breastfeeding. So many varied experiences and yet so many similar issues.
We’ve had family visit a few times, mostly grandparents. I feel a bit guilty because they didn’t get to “help” as much as maybe they wanted to. The first week, I simply couldn’t let him go. Then later, he’d have a few seconds before he realized that this isn’t Boob or Back-Up Boob and therefore I shall sing the song of my people. My Mom especially wanted to help with him more, so I tried to pass him to her when I could the second time she came to visit. It gave me maybe 20-30 minutes to do something else, like make dinner or brush my teeth. Mostly, she helped by being there when Buddy was stuck working 6am-10pm that week. Having other people in the house, even if they were just sharing the couch while marathoning Fixer Uppers and Property Brothers.
You see, people say you should pass off the kid so you can rest. I find nothing restful about listening to him cry from the other room and I only put up with it when he’s with my husband (Buddy gives him a bottle every night now to help them bond/prep them for when I head back to work).
Anyway, before I get into loads of other topics that are important to me now because I’m a MOTHER (oh my gawd, that’s still weird), I’m going to wrap this up. Buddy is giving Buddy Boy a bottle and I have to pump or risk toting around gravity-defying watermelons (not as sexy as you may think).
Happy Mother’s Day to all.
*His name isn’t really Buddy Boy, just like my husband’s name isn’t really Buddy.