Sunday, August 26, 2012

Amaliya at 4 weeks

What a month it has been!  My baby girl clocks 4 weeks today, and she's starting to look so big to me.  Her first couple weeks were spent sleeping, eating, and sleeping some more.  Her limbs flailed, her eyes wandered, and though she was adorable, she hardly seemed like a real human being; she was a fragile little creature whose life had been handed to me to guard and nurture.  Loving her, caring for her, came naturally to me, but I was still overwhelmed at times.  The sleep deprivation took a major toll during those first two weeks.  I felt guilty for not enjoying her more, for thinking at least once a day that I can't wait for her to grow up and become a little more independent.

1 Week
Be careful what you wish for!  Babies change so much, so fast, that it doesn't make sense to despair.  Just when you think you can't go on another day with the current situation, it will change, and leave you scrambling for answers.  Amaliya really woke up during her third week of life.  She's alert and looking around all day, she screams to let us know that she doesn't like how we're holding her, she's starting to talk to herself and make sounds that are unrelated to feedings, changings and sleepiness.  (And gas.  Oh, the gas). Speaking of sleep, she excels at it, and we get a 4-6 hour stretch followed by a 2-3 hour stretch every night.  For this, I am eternally grateful.

2 Weeks, first bath
 As her personality develops, and I see her becoming more and more her own person every day, it's easier for me to appreciate the little moments with her.  We have a great time in the mornings when her daddy goes to work, I toss her up on my shoulder and we dance around for an hour or so, then she'll roll around on the floor while I stretch and do my ab work.  She spends her afternoons nursing and napping on my chest, or spending quality time in dad's arms while I make dinner.  Her eyes get heavy at 8pm every night; I swaddle her, feed her, rock her to sleep in her bedroom, and put her down in her crib for the night.  It's a demanding, but blissful, routine.  I'm doing my best to stay in the moment and enjoy every snuggle.  They really do grow up fast.

3 Weeks

Amaliya likes:  dancing around the house to my running playlist, sucking on her fists (and anything else that comes close to her mouth), being talked to, laying on the floor and staring at the blinds, warm baths, nursing, being swaddled, falling asleep on mom.

She dislikes: dirty diapers, people ignoring her, napping, tummy time, the Moby wrap.

Not impressed
How's mom doing?:  I'm really good!  My pain pretty much went away the first week and was never very bad (I only needed to pop a couple Tylenol on the first day, otherwise never needed a pain killer), and my stitches are dissolving slowly but surely.

As far as exercise goes, I jumped back in as soon as I could.  I was walking miles at a time the first week (slowly), went for my first run at 12 days postpartum, was back to Body Pump at 3 weeks, and rejoined the Lopers club to begin half-marathon training today!  Still - and this is just me being ridiculous, I know - I'm frustrated. The two mile run I took today was HARD, my body feels soft, I'm up 12lbs from my starting weight, and I'm in a big fat hurry to get back to the fitness level I achieved  before getting pregnant.  Wah.  BUT, as my husband keeps telling me, "You just had a baby!  The fact that you're doing anything is an achievement!"  Point taken.  I'll stop complaining now.

And dad?  He's in love.  I tell you, it's not easy to balance a marriage and a baby.  You really do go into survival mode for a while, your entire life revolves around taking care of a little person and sneaking in sleep whenever possible.  I was worried going into this about how I would balance my love and attention between my daughter and my husband, but it hasn't been so difficult.  We may not have much alone time, long walks together are temporarily on hold, the bed exists strictly to facilitate sleeping... and yet it's okay.  He wakes up with me at 3am just to fill my water bottle while I'm breastfeeding.  He keeps the bathrooms scrubbed so I don't have to touch the cleaning chemicals.  He takes care of the fussy baby after a long day of work so I can fit a run in.  These days we show our love more through little, considerate acts, and through a mutual adoration of the life we brought into being.  This man.  This MAN.  I don't know where I'd be without him.

4 weeks and surging forward, growing every day.

Slow down a little bit, would you?

Maybe not  :)

Friday, August 17, 2012

Reflections on childbirth

Throughout my pregnancy, I received a variety of reactions when I told people I was seeing a midwife and wanted an unmedicated out-of-hospital birth.  Responses ranges from "You're crazy!" and "Yeah right, good luck with that (with a eye roll)" to "that's brave" and "I had an unmedicated birth, it was wonderful."  I had no idea what to expect going into this experience, only faith that my body would do what it was supposed to do, and trust in the people around me to support me as needed.  As it turned out, Amaliya's birth was everything I wanted it to be - peaceful, intense, transformative, empowering.

Here are some thoughts on the experience and a few anecdotes that I'd like to remember, in bullet points because that's the best I can do in this haze of sleep deprivation:

- Funny story #1: I had psyched myself up for a very long labor and was mentally prepared for a hospital transfer if necessary.  Therefore, I packed a TON of stuff in my "hospital" bags:  lots of hygiene supplies and clothing for both of us and the baby, enough food for a weekend camping trip, the laptop, portable speakers, a case of CDs, my iPod with a specially crafted birth playlist, a body pillow, etc.  Then, as it turned out, my labor was so quick that we only spent 6 hours total at the birth center.  I only made use of an outfit for me, a onesie for Amaliya, a single granola bar, and two CDs.  However, we were in such a hurry to get there at midnight that we ended up bringing all that stuff but forgetting the carseat!  Kunle had to run home at 5am to grab it.

- I am so, so glad that I stayed active during pregnancy.  Especially with weight lifting.  When I was maneuvering into so many different positions to labor, and especially when I was standing and doing a series of squats through each contraction to cope with the pain, I really felt like all the training paid off.  It hurt, but I felt strong, and when I was pushing I found that I had great muscle control and could direct the energy exactly where I needed it to go.

- I pushed so hard that I broke blood vessels in my face.  For a couple days after I had tiny red spots all over my face, including my eyelids.  It looked like a terrible case of acne and was pretty ghastly, in my opinion.

- The thing I was most afraid of was tearing, but it turns out that it wasn't so bad - I didn't feel it at all.  Pushing really felt good, compared to the contractions, because I was consciously channeling my energy towards a productive activity.  Mentally I had a weak moment, knowing that if I pushed as hard as I needed to, that it could potentially hurt and I could tear, but I got past it.  I mean, what was the alternative?  Stay pregnant forever?  So I dismissed my fear and gave it everything I had.  And it turned out fine.

- Funny Story #2: Amaliya was crowning, literally with her head halfway out, and I remember at one point opening my eyes and seeing the midwives playing with her hair.  Seriously, they were stretching out the curls and talking about braiding it.  Um, hello?  Kinda busy here, can we braid her hair once she's out??

- I anticipated being very internally-focused during labor, and that was exactly what happened.  My eyes were closed practically the whole time, and I was fully tuned into my breathing and the movement of my body.  I was also scarily perceptive of the energy in the room.  I spent the entire labor touching my husband in some way, which was incredibly relaxing to me.  When he had to leave for a second, one of the midwives stepped in for me to lean on - it was the perfect balance.  Whenever any of them left the room for any reason, I was aware of it, even with my eyes closed.  It was a different level of awareness that I've never experienced before, brought on by the pain and the incredibly raw, visceral experience that is giving birth.  Bottom line: with all of them there, seamlessly transitioning between roles and giving me the quiet space I needed to focus and labor, I felt completely peaceful, fearless, and supported throughout the experience.  Any one person missing from the equation would have changed the entire experience for me. 

- I was an advocate for out-of-hospital births long before this experience, based both on my personal values and the research and statistics in support of unmedicated births.  However,  not having birthed a child myself, I had my share of doubts.  There's a difference between knowing, theoretically, that women's bodies are made for this activity, and actually being able to shut down your mind and surrender to the process.  I was scared that I wouldn't be able to handle the pain, or that something would go wrong and I would still require medical intervention to deliver my baby.  Now that I have been through the experience, I feel even more strongly about my position.  It's not for everyone, but for women who have an uncomplicated pregnancy and can take the time to prepare body and mind for the experience, unmedicated childbirth can be a wonderful and powerful experience.  We should stop doubting our strengths and capabilities and telling ourselves what we cannot do.  We CAN endure so much more than we think we can.

So, there you have it, my random reflections on the experience.  Now I'm going to attempt to nap for a few minutes before the baby wakes up.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Birth Story

Amaliya Shalewa Ojo
born July 29, 2012 at 3:13am
7lbs 8oz, 20 inches

The  Birth of Amaliya

(full of biological details, you are warned)

Friday was my due date, and I’m now extremely grateful that I spent a peaceful day of quality time with my husband.  We walked a few miles to the post office and down to the Olive Market, enjoying the beautiful weather, went out to lunch at our favorite Mexican place, and spent the evening watching the opening ceremonies of the Olympics (which I’ve waited anxiously for for the last 4 years!  Thank you for waiting Amaliya!)

I started losing some mucous on Friday evening, but didn’t think too much of it – I know you can lose your mucous plug days or weeks before labor starts.  Still, it was exciting to see something happening!  When I woke up on Saturday morning, I had a feeling that it would be the day.  There were no specific signs that I can describe, only that I felt different.  Tired after 8 hours of sleep, headachy, and more pelvic pressure than normal.  I spent the morning cleaning up the house, finishing a few final organization projects, and grocery shopping (SO glad we did this – coming home afterwards to a stocked fridge was amazing).  Throughout the day I started feeling more and more pain and pressure in my pelvic region.  I wasn’t certain it was labor, because the pain wasn’t coming in any sort of pattern that I could time.  It was a constant pressure and felt a lot like menstrual cramps, but sharper.

I was watching a movie at 4pm, on my knees bent over the couch to relieve some of the pressure, when my water broke.  Almost immediately I started having contractions that I could time, and they were coming fast – every 4 minutes, lasting about 30-45 seconds.  We went down to the birth center to get checked, where the confirmed that I was almost completely effaced but only 1 cm dilated.  I was instructed to go home and try to speed up labor through a warm bath, nipple stimulation, etc.  The midwife told me to labor until bedtime, take two Benadryl, try to sleep as much as possible, and call in the morning when I had made some progress.

It was a nice thought, but things moved a lot quicker than we had anticipated.   We got home and there was no thought about how to speed up labor – it was moving along at its own pace just fine.  The worst part at the beginning was the nausea.  As soon as we got home I threw up my lunch, and couldn’t keep anything down for the rest of the evening, including water.  I honestly don’t remember what we did for the rest of the day, the pain was intense and I was in my own world, dealing with each wave as it hit and trying to distract myself with the Olympics on TV.  Kunle was giving me my space, watching me and rubbing my back on occasion but otherwise letting me work through it on my own, which is what I preferred.  

At 9pm I tried my best to take the midwife’s advice, popped two Benadryl (which I promptly threw up), and tried to go to bed.  I realize I was kidding myself – that my labor was progressing fast and there was no way I could sleep.  But at the time, I kept thinking “this is only the beginning, it’s going to get so much worse, I should try and act normal while I can.”  I was only able to lie in bed for maybe 15 minutes… the contractions were coming so often and strong, I was literally writhing and arching my back with each one.  I got up, told Kunle to try and get some sleep, and went to the living room to distract myself with the TV.

I timed a few more contractions and realized that they were coming about 2 minutes apart, and lasting for a minute each – intense, to say the least.  I was walking laps around the living room in between, but when a contraction would hit I would have to stop and bend over a piece of furniture so I could sway my hips.  All my focus was on breathing and moaning through each one – vocalizing really helped, trying to channel all that energy into sound.

Around 10pm I called one of the midwives because I was throwing up so much, I was concerned with becoming dehydrated.  She encouraged me to keep trying to replenish my electrolytes and listed to me work through a couple contractions on the phone.  According to her, I was definitely not going to make it until morning, so she wanted me to hang on until 1am before coming to the birth center.  Kunle woke up right as we hung up, which was perfect timing since I was getting to that point where I was having trouble coping with the pain by myself.  I would hug him during contractions and pace the house in between.  At slightly past 11 I got in the shower, which was soothing to my muscles but I think also intensified the contractions.  I managed to keep the rest of my body relaxed, but it got to the point that I was bracing myself against the wall and practically shouting through each surge.  I could only keep this up for 20 minutes or so before deciding that I couldn’t hang in there until 1am – we needed to get to the birth center.  We grabbed our stuff and headed out at midnight.  

I had two contractions just trying to make it down to the car and three in the 6 minutes it took us to get to the birth center.  Looking back, it’s so obvious that I was heavily into active labor, but at the time I was so afraid that we’d come too early – I was steeling myself to be told that I had only dilated 3 or 4 centimeters.  When the midwife checked me and declared that I was nearly at 7, I felt a surge of energy.  I knew I was going through the worst of the pain, and I was able to handle it, so I felt really confident in my body and my ability to continue on with labor.

They had me labor in different positions – laying on my side in bed, squatting with Kunle’s support while he sat on the bed, sitting on a birth stool, on all fours on the bed, and standing.  The birth stool was by far the most uncomfortable, and towards the end I really preferred a standing position.  I started having this crazy urge to push with each contraction – and “urge” really doesn’t do the sensation justice.  I was overcome, my back arched and it felt like my body was literally trying to expel my baby.  They checked me again and I was at 9 centimeters, with only a lip of cervix that was refusing to dilate.  The midwives had me lie down during the next contraction, and push while they manually tried to move the lip out of the way.  This is the only part during the whole process where I lost my grip and was overcome by the pain.  I remember shouting, and feeling generally more animal than human in that moment.  Finally, FINALLY, I was completely dilated and ready to push.  

The entire time I pushed, I was lying on my back angled towards my left side, my knees drawn up to my chin, a midwife supporting each foot, my right hand braced on the wall and my left gripping my husband’s belt.  Though it was intense, this was the best part of the entire experience.  I felt like I was taking control and doing something productive.  The atmosphere was amazing – everyone was perfectly supportive and encouraging, they brought me water and tea between pushes and kept telling me what a great job I was doing.  One of the midwives held a mirror for me so I could watch her come a little bit closer with every push.  The best part, though, was listening to my husband’s reaction to the whole process, hearing the excitement in his voice telling me that he could see more and more of her head with every push.  

And then suddenly, after only 45ish minutes of pushing… she was out.  I felt a burning sensation, incredible pressure, and then release.  They put my warm, slimy baby on my belly, and I wrapped my arms around her immediately.  She was blue and took a few minutes to pink up; they ended up giving her a couple puffs of oxygen using a mask, but after that she was fine.  I couldn’t stop staring at her, it was shocking how immediately and intensely I loved her.

The placenta delivered easily, within 15 minutes I estimate.  I needed a few stitches due to a second degree tear (she came out with a fist up by her face, naughty girl), but at that point I could care less what they were doing to my body – my daughter was here.

All in all it was a beautiful experience and I hope to reflect on it more in a future post, but no guarantees – it’s taken me 6 days just to get this typed up!  If nature was a better designer, women would grow extra arms during pregnancy.  Or kangaroo pouches.  Anyway.  Thanks for reading friends!