Okay. I promised when writing this year’s Mother’s Day post, which was the first post to grace this blog in a year’s time, that I’d catch you guys up on the last year of my life. Warning: this is going to be long. I’ve listed out the headings below, with links to the start of each, so you can skip the parts you don’t care about!
In May 2012, I had only recently announced that I was pregnant. I was in the very beginning of my 2nd trimester when I lost all interest in blogging. I had moderate morning sickness for which I needed prescription medication in order to continue working full-time, and that lasted until about 17 or 18 weeks. I took a work trip to Miami at the very end of April 2012 which was exhausting (but not nearly as much so as it would have been 3-4 weeks before that), nauseating (but again, not as nearly as bad as it had been), and sartorially frustrating as my regular clothes were too small but maternity clothes did not fit well yet. By the end of May, the morning sickness had largely abated. I never did really enjoy eating meat for my entire pregnancy, and fresh fruit was always delicious. In addition, I had cravings for “kid food” – grilled cheese sandwiches, french fries, pop-tarts, macaroni and cheese, junky sugary cereals, etc.
In mid-June, we had the “big” ultrasound, during which they check all the organs and growth to make sure everything is there and on schedule and looks like it’s functioning well, as well as identifying the gender if you want to know. We did want to know. We had a boy’s name all picked out but couldn’t decide on a girl’s. People kept asking if I had a feeling as to the gender, and I absolutely did not – I was convinced both ways at different times. Both of our families were certain it would be a girl. I, of course, really just wanted a healthy baby of either gender, but in my most secret heart of hearts, I wanted a girl. Dave never specified a preference to me, but I assumed he wanted a boy because most men do – I think most people secretly wish for their own gender when it comes to children because they know how to relate to them better, or they imagine that will be the case, anyway. When the ultrasound technician told us it was a girl, I was speechless and happy and silent happy tears leaked out of the corners of my eyes. I reached for Dave’s hand and held it for the rest of the appointment. In the car when we were leaving, I asked Dave (oh-so-nonchalantly) how he felt about the girl news. His response? “I am so relieved!” Turns out he wanted a girl, too. Win!
My pregnancy was relatively typical. Late June or early July, I started having hip pain, and then pubic bone pain, and it just got progressively worse. No configuration of pillows at night alleviated it; climbing in and out of the car was painful, walking was painful. In August, I started seeing a chiropractor for my hips and pelvis, and she kept me going for the next several months. She had a history of working with prenatal patients and had a couple of tables that broke apart to accommodate the pregnant belly. I was not necessarily pain-free, but the adjustments really, really helped. Despite this, I kept up with my walking group every week. I continued to walk 3 miles once a week until about 7 months, and then dropped to 2 miles, and then 1 mile as I got bigger and the hip/pelvic pain continued. But I walked right up until the last week before my due date, so I’m pretty proud of that! I also did prenatal yoga once a week from about May to August or September. Once I started feeling worse after yoga instead of better, I stopped going. Overall, I did not enjoy being pregnant, but I thankfully had a mostly healthy and completely safe pregnancy, and that was an awesome thing.
This baby DID NOT want to arrive. My due date was 16 October. She was born on 30 October. That’s right, two whole weeks late. In some ways, it was nice. My last day of work was scheduled to be 12 October, and I mostly stuck to that. I worked from home some in those extra two weeks, but definitely not full-time. Since I hadn’t had time to finish preparing our house for M.’s arrival, the extra time to get things ready was kind of nice…for the first week, anyway. The second week, we were seriously wondering if she’d decided to come out after she earned her high school diploma. We learned about non-stress tests and I found out that having your cervix checked for dilation is really quite unpleasant, and we went to the doctor’s office A LOT. They even did a 3rd ultrasound at one point to see how big she was measuring. After the first week, they told us we had another week before they’d induce. They made an appointment for 29 October for an induction, and told us they hoped she’d come on her own before then. We tried pretty much every old wives’ tale we could think of to induce labor (we tried spicy food several times), plus a few new ones (Cappellino’s, your lemon cupcakes did not work for us, but I still really enjoyed eating them!).
My mom came up on the 28th and she helped with walking and feeding the dogs while we were at the hospital, plus she got both of us through my labor. She was awesome. I don’t know how we would have done it without her. We went to the hospital on the morning of the 29th. They checked me in, checked on the baby, and then started the induction process. I had not started any kind of natural labor – no contractions, no dilation, nothing. They kickstarted the contractions around 9:30 that morning, and tried another dose around 3 in the afternoon, and by 9 at night I was definitely having significant contractions, but was still barely dilated at all and my water had not broken. The doctor told us to try to get some sleep and we’d try again in the morning. I did not really sleep. My contractions were getting more painful and more regular, so I’d drift off when my uterus rested and woke immediately when the contractions came again because they hurt rather a lot. Around 3 am, I noticed my legs felt wet, so I called the nurse to say I thought my water had broken. Sure enough, it had…but I still hadn’t dilated much. We waited until 6 am or so to call my mom. By 8 am, I was so tired (and hungry; I hardly ate anything the day before and now they wouldn’t let me eat in case they had to do a c-section), the pain was too much for me. I called for drugs – first through my IV port (that one was bizarre – like getting a strong margarita buzz in seconds that disappeared entirely after 20 minutes or so) and then an epidural before they started pitocin because I still wasn’t dilating much. After the epidural was in, I couldn’t leave the bed, which sucked. They kept prodding me and rolling me from one side to the other to try to get an optimal position for the baby, and I still felt some of the contractions and they kept having to call the anesthiologist to come back…but it did the trick. Things finally progressed. Once they let me push, it went pretty fast. Really f*cking painfully, but fast. The nurse seemed really surprised by how fast, considering how tired I was and that it was my first baby, but I was simply not going to be in that much pain any longer than I had to.
And then at 4:28 pm on the second day, there was a baby. She was 8 lbs 2 oz and 21 inches long. I nursed her and got to eat pizza and finally got to sleep, and everything was different.
On Babies and Parenting
I was so lucky in that I have some amazing friends who became parents just a few years before me, so they knew. They knew what the most recent recommendations were and all the things to do and when to freak out and when not to freak out. I suppose I’m also lucky that in general, I tend toward the “don’t freak out” end of the spectrum, because otherwise you could really make yourself crazy. The first 2 weeks are honestly a blur. M. lost too much weight after birth – just barely too much, but enough to make the pediatricians want to monitor her closely, and she started gaining again very quickly. Still, that meant there were a lot of doctor’s appointments, and I had to buy and learn to use a pump sooner than I had planned because she wouldn’t stay awake to nurse, so I had to try to nurse and try to keep her awake to nurse and then go pump and give her a bottle and then try to nurse some more, and wake her up every 2 hours all night long to nurse and pump. I was a zombie. A zombie who watched a lot of Netflix. Fair warning, parents-to-be: zombiehood is just a fact of the early weeks of pregnancy. Our baby has turned out to mostly be a really good sleeper with a really good temperament, and there were still the Zombie Days. Ours were shorter than many, but we still had them. Everyone does. You will too. And it will be like a dream that you don’t quite remember when you come out the other side.
Somewhere in the middle of the Zombie Days, Dave had a scary medical emergency (no worries; he’s fine and was even fine by the night of the incident, but it was very scary in the moment and he had to be taken to a hospital in an ambulance). I seriously almost lost my shit that day. In fact, I did lose it in the car as I was driving to the hospital with my newborn in the back of the car, trying to find parking at an unfamiliar hospital and then trying to find my husband once I was there. I cried all the way there, trying to choke back the sobs because HELLO, I was driving AND there was a newborn baby in the car! I cried in front of the reception people, who were so kind and wonderful and made the paperwork part as quick and painless as they possibly could. And I cried because I had a nine-day-old baby in the friggin’ emergency room, of all places, which is where All The Germs live and she didn’t have a good immune system yet but I had no choice but to have her there. I didn’t want to seem needy, so when my mother-in-law asked if we needed her to come, I said no. She called back 15 minutes later and asked if she could come because she wanted to and she was worried about her baby and her grandbaby, and I said yes and almost cried with relief. She only stayed one night, but she took care of the baby all night, giving her pumped milk in the middle of the night for feedings and I actually slept, and it was exactly what I needed. I do not recommend your significant other having a medical emergency in the early days of parenthood, but I totally do recommend taking your parents or in-laws up on any offers to come and tend to the baby overnight so you can sleep!
Things got a bit easier after that. I had to go back to work after 6 weeks because we couldn’t afford for me to be off any longer, and Dave began his life as a stay-at-home parent. By 8 weeks, she slept pretty well through the night. By 4 months, she had sleeping all night down pat. By 6 months, I felt 100% comfortable in my role as a parent. We have gradually moved from the “oh god we have to take care of this thing, geez I hope we don’t break it, what if we’re terrible parents, oh god why is she SCREAMING WHAT DOES SHE WANT WE ARE TOTALLY TERRIBLE PARENTS” stage to the reasonably confident and reasonably competent stage where we’re learning about her as a little person and loving her and giggling with her and generally having a good time. Sure, there are still times when we have NO IDEA why she’s screaming, but we’ve learned that just happens sometimes and to take it in stride. We do still worry about her development and well-being, of course, but we’ve gotten confident with the idea that if there really is something terribly wrong, we’ll recognize it.
Plus she’s pretty damned adorable, and it’s hard not to just turn into a pile of mush around that much smiling, giggling cuteness.
On the Rest of Life
Well, first there’s work. I was less than satisfied with my office’s maternity leave policy (which I knew in advance was not paid – you got your vacation and then unpaid leave; it was more my dissatisfaction with their inflexibility surrounding my sick leave, which I was told I was not permitted to use for maternity leave, even the days when I was in the hospital). I did try to put up a fight on that one, at least for future moms in my company even if I couldn’t take advantage of it. My bosses had a discussion about it and decided to stick to their guns, and while I still disagree with their decision, at least they heard me out and talked about it. And I’m never likely to have to take maternity leave again, so I guess I’ve made my peace with it and let it go. Otherwise, I’ve taken on a couple of new big projects at work and so I’m busier than I’ve ever been on that front. I’m hoping that next year may bring a decent pay raise to reflect that fact, but that likely depends upon the welfare of the company this year since we’re a tiny business. I’ve already been on two work trips this year, which were hard both because of leaving M. and because of the logistics of pumping and nursing and saving milk and traveling. Let’s just say that most airports are NOT especially pumping friendly and that was a huge pain, as was pausing meetings and conference activities in order to go pump.
Dave has mostly just been a dad. He’s done some freelance and at-home work, but his life is largely consumed by caring for the baby and the house and cooking for us and taking care of the dogs, etc. He does a LOT of work every day, every week, and I am so so so thankful for how amazing he is about it all. It makes it so much easier for me to work and focus on work so that I can keep a good job with a salary and health benefits for all of us. It does mean that money is tighter than ever, but we just don’t eat out and try not to waste money, and so far, we’re keeping our heads above water. He was doing some of his own writing – he’s had a few short pieces published in the last year – but he’s recently lost interest/focus on that. He may go back to it soon – we’ve just had a lot of disruptions lately that may have set him off track. Regardless, he’s got the baby-house-dog-caring routine down pat and is now also working on figuring out what he wants to be when he grows up.
My postpartum health was a little spotty, but not necessarily unusual. My pelvic pain changed a bit after I had M. but it did continue, and I also began to have pain in my lower back and SI joints. I additionally had fun not-awesomely-healing times in the torn spots of my ladyparts from the delivery. At the recommendation of a friend who is a chiropractor, I started seeing a physical therapist who specializes in postpartum treatment. (For the record, my friend the chiro feels strongly that every woman who has a baby should have at least 6 weeks of PT postpartum because your body gets SO JACKED UP when you have a baby, pretty much everyone is totally screwed up for YEARS afterward.) My therapist is awesome, and the PT has definitely helped. I also think that just time passing has helped, but the PT has been a huge part of it. Now if I could just find time to exercise and lose some of this baby weight…
We’ve also been busy boosting the economy and the housing market. 🙂 In August, as my car continued to decline, we decided to take the jump to buying the car we had been planning on getting before the baby arrived. We wanted to get a car big enough for us, the baby in a carseat, both dogs and whatever stuff we need to take for a weekend visit or vacation or whatever. We got a wonderful deal on a brand-new Mazda 5, cheaper than used ones at CarMax, so we took it. We love it. And thennnnnnn…with the support of our in-laws, we started house-hunting at the end of November. That process is definitely a whole other post, but the short version is that we closed on a new house at the end of April. And then I left for a work conference, leaving Dave to take care of the baby and the dogs and the move all by himself. OK, so with his mom too. We love love love our new little house, and two months later we are still so happy here. There is a bit more work that comes with a yard, but lucky for me, Dave takes care of it all, which still amazes me and makes me so very grateful. Now we’re trying to whip the new house into shape and also get the Bedford house on the market (that’s yet another tale), so we’re still staying busy house-wise!
Anyway – believe it or not, that’s the short version of the last year. We are happy and busy and still figuring everything out, but it’s been a good year.