Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Screamin' Demon

My little scootie toot has taken ALL DAY to not take a nap.

When I was pregnant with Lucy, I did not read a single parenting book.  I thought "what if my baby doesn't do that?"  It would just make me feel like a bad mom.  And even worse mom if I couldn't get her to do all the things that the "experts" say should be happening.  I didn't see the point in filling my head with idea of how things were supposed to go before I had even met her. 

In the last month I have bought every single book out there on sleep.  Well, okay, not every single one, but a fairly large sampling.  I have Healthy Sleep Habits Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth (HSHHC), which tells me that if I don't get Lucy to sleep well 3 months ago, she will grow up to be an insomniac wth low brain performance.  He also peppers his book with boxed reminders like NEVER WAKE A SLEEPING BABY, but then in the body of the text says things like "you may have to occasionally wake a baby to protect the sleep schedule" and listing naps of "limited duration" in his sleep schedule.  The only way I know to limit the duration of a nap is to wake her up. Then to emphasize the point he just negated, he puts NEVER WAKE A SLEEPING BABY in another box labled IMPORTANT POINT.  So which is it?  He also makes overly-wordy non-points like this: "After 4months, naps of less than one hour cannot count as "real" naps.  Sometimes a nap of 45 minutes may be all your child needs, but naps less than thirty minutes don't help."  Why not just say "after 4 months, naps less than 30 minutes cannot be counted as "real" naps.  Use less ink, make more sense.  We're sleep deprived, here, Dr. Weissbluth, we don't have the mental capacity to unravel your circuitous ramblings.  He also spends more than half of the rather thick book talking about clinical research and sleep studies.  While interesting, this is also not information easily digested by those of us who have not had a good night's sleep since sometime in early September.  I am not saying he doesn't have some good points or good advice (especially the importance of a regular schedule), but they are buried so deep in jargon that I have to wear waders to get at any of them.  I won't even mention his section headers that make even less sense than some of his IMPORTANT POINTS.  I admit, if I were getting a solid 8 or 9 uninterrupted hours of sleep every night, I might be able to get a better grasp on what he is saying.  But then I wouldn't need his book, would I?  I have read a total of 176 pages of his book and have yet to come across practical advice beyond "protect the sleep schedule".  Even the sections entitled "Action Plan for Exhausted Parents" only have cryptic lists and references to other sections of the book. 

I also have The No-Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley (TNCSS).  This book appealed to me for its gentle approach to getting your child to sleep better at night.  Her ideas seemed to make sense, but her book was mentioned by name in HSHHC (well, sort of, I assume there would be legal issues involved if it were ACTUALLY mentioned by name) as full of nonsense and "ridiculous" notions.  She gives what seems to be really well-tested advice from an in-the-trenches breastfeeding, co-sleeping mom about getting your baby to sleep through the night without allowing her to cry it out (CIO), but all of it requires days and days (possibly months) of gradual changes.  She says sleeping through the night requires either crying or time and she will choose time every time.  Or something like that.  And then at the end of the book she gives advice for using an attended CIO method if nothing else works, after spending the whole book saying that you shouldn't let your baby cry.  Her book is great in many ways.  The thing I like most is her acknowledgment that all babies are dfferent and will respond differently to varying methods.  Hers is not a "one size fits all" solution.  She provides a menu of methods and you choose the one you think will best fit your life and child.  If I had the patience for all her sleep logs and sleep plan evaluation logs, I would probably be better at implementing a decent strategy from her book.  As it is, however, I do not find myself able to make the effort.  Laziness?  Perhaps.  Maybe I just don't think sleeping should require paperwork.  Then again, maybe it does, because we're currently not doing either.  I like the idea of TNCSS, but I lack the perserverence to follow through.

I also have The Secrets of the Baby Whisperer by Tracy Hogg (TSTBW).  I haven't made it through the whole thing yet, but I am finding her advice to be generally sound and practical.  I am thoroughly annoyed at her breastfeeding and bottle feeding advice.  I am 100% in the "breast is best" category, but I am not a militant ant-formula mom.  I think if you can, you should, and one shouldn't be made to feel guilty about the need to use formula.  Thank goodness there is an adequate substitute for breast milk, or millions of babies all over the world would die.  All that being said, I think that she underplays the importance of breastfeeding in the interest of not offending her formula-feeding clients.  She calls breastfeeding a "feeding fashion":

Today, breastfeeding is all the rage.  It doesn't mean formula is "bad".  In the postwar decades, in fact, the majority believed that formula was best for babies and only a third of all mums nursed their babies.  Currently, around 60% of mums breastfeed - although fewer than half of them are still nursing six months later.  Who knows?  As this book is being written, scientists are experiementing with the notion of genetically altering cows to produce human breast milk.  If that happens peraps in the future everyone will tout cow's milk.
In fact, a 1999 article in the Journal of Nutrition suggests "that it may ultimately be possible to design formulas better able to meet the needs of individual infants than the milk available from the mother's breast".
Ummmm...yeah.  Because everyone LOVES genetically altered food, and what better thing to give your fragile newborn than experiemental cow-human milk hybrid.  It's not like scientists have ever gotten anything wrong before, is it?  And if they are going go through the trouble to genetically alter cows to produce human milk, why not just use human milk to begin with?  I am all for better and better formulas for those who cannot (or choose not to) breastfeed for one reason or another, but ALL formula is based on breastmilk because it is the single best possible food for a baby.  End of story.  Millions of years of evolution have produced the current makeup of breastmilk, and try as they might, forumla makers have yet to get it 100% correct.  She also implements a routine from day one, and is "never an advocate of on-demand feeding" (emphasis is the author's).  I am not against a routine, but the idea of NOT feeding your baby when she is hungry seems as cruel an unresponsive as leaving a baby to CIO.  Also, not feeding on cue can lead to issues in keeping up wth your supply.  Now I do understand that as a clueless new mom, I often tried to feed my baby when she wasn't hungry, but, being the almost purely instinctual being that she was as a newborn, Lucy simply didn't eat if she wasn't hungry.  Hogg also says that colic is caused by overfed babies.  You cannot overfeed a breastfed baby.  Every lactation consultant I ave ever spoken too has said those exact words to me.  Babies are smarter than adults are.  They won't over eat and they won't starve themselves.  She also says not to let your baby simply suckle at the breast if she is not feeding and to give a pacifier instead.  Um...a pacifier was designed to mimic...suckling at the breast...

So that bugs me about TSTBW.  But her general advice about routines and sleep are practical and followable (unless, like me, you choose to feed on-cue).  She offers great tips for figuring out wat your baby actually needs and has some very helpful charts on baby body language that I could have used when Lucy was just a little nugget.  I haven't read the section on sleep yet (this was a general parenting book as opposed to a sleep-specific book), but I am hoping it provides me some ideas that don't require CIO.  Or 4 months of gradual changes.

Also, Tracy, don't call me "ducky". 

And finally, I have Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems by Richard Ferber.  I haven't touched that one yet.  I don't want to "ferberize" my little sweet potato.  However, I read an interview with Dr. Ferber on how he felt about being to inextricably associated with the CIO (either the extinction or graduated extinction method of sleep training).  He said his book was largely misunderstood (or not even read cover to cover) and that his book offers many other useful guidelines and strategies for, well, solving your child's sleep problems.  He said that anyone who said they "used the Ferber method" hasn't read his book.  I wouldn't know.  I haven't read his book.

So at the end of the day (and all night long) a, I still find myself in the darkened nursery with a baby on my boob thinking "here we go again".  It is harder and harder to detach the little sucubus when she has fallen asleep.  Even if my boob literally falls out of her mouth, she will root around until she finds it before relaxing again.  I play this game over and over, as many times a night as it takes.  Sometimes that means twice - which I will take any night of the week.  Sometimes it means five or six or more.  I spend those hours in the rocking chair thinking about how to implement a new strategy.  I rarely make any concrete plans, and if I do, they are immediately forgotten as my head hits the pillow.  I think I have to come to terms with the fact that I have a laissez-faire approach to parenting, and that ther eis nothing wrong with that.  Lucy is not going to head off to college with my boob in her mouth and she won't need to nurse to fall asleep when she's 10 years old.  Or even three years old.  So I am going to try to enjoy nursing my precious baby to sleep for now and deal with the conseqences later.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Snow Musings

I admit to enjoying being snowed in. I also admit to being addicted to watching the updates Facebook. It is fun to see everyone hunkered down and keeping warm - completely isolated, but together nonetheless.

I also sort of miss the cut off from the world feeling one gets from being TRULY isolated. I can remember when I first moved to Chicago after college. I had a new apartment and no phone line. No computer, no internet access and cell phone, either (this was in those ancient precellphonic days of late last century). Now granted, I was in the middle of a city, with a Kinkos (er, sorry FEDEX OFFICE) down the street and a grocery store with one of those quaint "pay phones" outside. But when I closed my apartment door, I was alone. Completely, utterly and in all other ways, alone. I certainly felt more cut off then - fully able to open my front door, walk outside and run into dozens of people within minutes of hitting the street - than I do now when I can't even open my front door, let alone run into anyone on the street. I HATED that feeling back then. Now, when I forget my cell phone, I relish the feeling of being my own little unit, cut off, alone, just driving (or walking) around by myself and no one has any way in the world to reach me. Nice.

So I can look out my window now, and see the THREE FEET of snow piled high on the azaleas, power lines down, phones out, and yet know that my friend in DC has enough chocolate and wine to last til Thursday, that my friend in Iowa has her parents in town for the weekend, and that my sister's husband's college roommate took his wife out to dinner last night at IHOP. Not to mention all the world news I can stand.
So am I going to unplug this weekend? Probably not. Way too important to know who's having oatmeal for breakfast tomorrow morning, 

But I will take a walk through the snow...without my cell phone.

Relish the silence.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Chasing the Flower

Lucy's newest thing is viciously attacking this cute little flower on her jumperoo.  She will stop at nothing to get that thing in her mouth and then jump with glee when it s finally where she wants it.  It is very very cute:-) I looked at it today, because Lucy had this fluffy white stuff on her fingers. She had actually chewed through the stitching and was unstuffing the flower! Oops...I try not to compare her to an animal...but I have seen this behavior with my mother-in-law's dog Jazz...

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Lucy's Awesome Hypnobabies Home Birth

I only wish I had some video of this.

Lucinda Belle was born at 1:01 am on Tuesday September 8th at home!

Giving birth was really the most amazing experience. There has been no time in my life where I have felt so utterly present in the moment. My body knew exactly what to do, I just had to relax and breathe and let it happen. It was incredible.

I found out I was pregnant a few days after Christmas in 2008. Because of my pelvic infection in 2005, I had to have a very early ultrasound to make sure the pregnancy wasn’t tubal. I knew I wanted to use a midwife, but I didn’t feel like I had time to research and interview midwives before finding out if the pregnancy was viable, so I started off at an OB practice recommended by my doctor. I liked the people I met there and they seemed to be a mother-friendly/baby-friendly practice (allowing mother-directed pushing, natural childbirth, intermittent fetal monitoring during labor, encouraged breastfeeding, etc.). However, each time I visited their practice, they sounded more and more like they intended to manage the delivery process in such a way as to limit my ability to allow my body to do its own thing in its own time. So we started looking around for a midwife.

I initially intended to give birth at a birth center, since our insurance would only cover midwifery services if it was provided at an accredited birthing center. However, there are only 3 birth centers in the area, and all of them were at least 45 minutes away without traffic. I wanted a midwife, but I had no desire to have a baby on the side of I-95 or on the Wilson Bridge in rush hour traffic (though that would have made for a very exciting story). And to top it all off, the nearest center didn’t even take our insurance!

I was feeling a little disappointed, thinking we would have to stick with a hospital birth. It just didn’t feel right. Having a baby didn’t seem like it should be a medical event if it didn’t have to be. And my husband Kevin and I both hate hospitals. That was when my sister KB sent me a book called Baby Catcher: Chronicles of a Modern Midwife about a home birth midwife. I devoured the book in a matter of hours and was utterly enthralled with the idea of a home birth. It was something I had never even considered, but it seemed so completely right that Kevin and I decided to make it happen. We found Erin and Mairi on a natural childbirth forum and we never looked back. I felt like I was being cared for in a way I have never felt with any doctor – like I was a part of their family. It was a wonderful experience.

On Friday September 4th, I was just past 39 weeks pregnant and DONE with it, but I figured I had at least a week to go, maybe more. That afternoon, I had a prenatal massage from my friend HM and she tweaked the acupressure points that are supposed to stimulate labor. That night, I had a few really strong pressure waves that woke me up, but they tapered off and I fell back asleep. The next morning I had some spotting which made me pretty hopeful that the massage had done its magic and that the baby would be on the way soon!

The next day, I went for a long walk in the morning, hoping to get things started back up again. I visited with Kevin and T who were playing tennis in Sligo Creek Park; I chatted on the phone with family, returning calls that I had meant to return for a number of days. It felt like I was tying up some loose ends before the baby arrived.

I started having the first “real” pressure waves around in the evening of Saturday September 5th. I was hopeful, but not really thinking this would be it. And of course, it wasn’t. I tried to go to sleep that night, but the pressure waves were about 6-7 minutes apart and consistently lasted 90 seconds or more, so it was very hard to sleep for 5 minutes at a stretch. I called Mairi around 2 am to check in and let her know what was happening and she advised me to try to get some sleep (of course), take a warm bath and check in again in the morning. We filled the birth pool and I sat in that for a while, and it spaced out the waves to where I thought I might be able to get some sleep…but I was pretty much up all night.

By Sunday morning they were strong and regular, so I called my midwife and my parents, thinking surely things would pick up now! My parents arrived around noon and one of our midwives, Erin, came around 4 pm. Erin checked me and I was 90% effaced but only 3 cm dilated. And things promptly slowed way down again. The pressure waves never really stopped coming less than 6-7 minutes apart after that, they just lessened in intensity, to the point that I could doze through many of them. I was using my Hypnobabies techniques and I was generally very comfortable, just getting tired at this point.

Erin stayed with me all night. When she checked me again around 10 pm and I was still only about 5 cm. We both decided the thing I needed was sleep. She sent Kevin out with a prescription for Ambien and I took one…and I have never had such weird, psychedelic dreams in my entire life! At first, I thought I was still awake and that there were cars driving all over our bed with weird plant-like growths all over them, ala Dr. Seuss. Then, each pressure wave I had while I was sleeping was associated with some random object. There was the car wave (it was a tan Dodge Ares circa 1989), the lamp wave (a tall, tassel-fringed old fashioned lamp) and the blue-fabric-falling-out-of-my-belly wave (these were actually really nice, and I strangely looked forward to them). They kept repeating themselves over and over and I remember thinking “Not the car wave again! Those are the hardest”! It was utterly surreal and the imagery lasted well into the next day.

At around 4 am I couldn’t sleep anymore and got into the tub, which, of course, slowed things down considerably. The waves were still very strong and long, just not coming at regular intervals. I sang my way through over an hour of contractions – for some reason singing felt better than moaning or doing any special breathing. I was having heavy pressure in my back so Erin checked me and said the baby’s body was in the right position, but her head was tilted up so it wasn’t pressing on my cervix effectively. I was still only 6 cm dilated after more than 36 hours. We walked the stairs and shook my hips for 30 minutes with no changes. Erin left around 3 pm and her birth assistant Susan took her place for a while. We paced the house and walked up and down the stairs for an hour. This sped things up while I was walking, but as soon as I sat down to rest, they slowed way down again.

Kevin was getting pretty worried about me at this point. It had been about 40 hours since the first pressure waves started; I had barely slept and seemed to be making little progress. Kevin wanted to go to the hospital, but I knew that I was too tired to deal with any chemical augmentation of labor and would probably end up with more interventions than I wanted. We decided once again that I would try to rest, so Kevin and I sent Susan home, I had a glass of wine, slept for 90 minutes (no psychedelic pressure waves this time) and I woke up around 6:30 in transition (Thank goodness!). The waves were finally coming regularly and strongly and not stopping or spacing out! They felt completely different from the warm-up, but the only transition “symptom” I felt was an increase in the feeling of energy flowing through me and uncontrollable shaking. The waves were very close together, and very intense but I was still able to stay relatively calm as long as I could move or sing through them.
Kevin called Mairi (our second midwife). I had been feeling pretty pushy for a while and remember sort of moaning “WHERE’S MAIRI??” My dad had been struggling for an hour to get the tub hot again and I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to birth in the water. When Mairi arrived around 7:30 pm on Monday night, she checked me and I was 9 cm dilated and fully effaced, so they had a little time to get the tub hot for me. I got in the water about 10:00 pm when my water finally broke. I started pushing around 11:30 pm. Time sort of suspended for a while there. I didn’t have to do anything or think about anything – just let my body do its work. I just relaxed, breathed and allowed the energy to move. It was nice and dark – the only light came from the candle and a red lamp, so the room was very comfortable and safe feeling. My dad had my sisters Karyn and Lynette on speaker phone so they were listening in – the next best thing to having them actually there at the birth, I guess.

I pushed for about 90 minutes. I don’t think I gently breathed the baby down the way we were taught in my Hypnobabies class, but I had very little control over how my body was working at this point. If I tried to control my voice or the way I pushed I felt like I was blocking the flow of energy that was literally steamrolling through my body. I was very, very loud, though and it felt SO GOOD to just let go of my mind and let my body work. The baby came down at first in a little ah-ah-ah-ah’s and then in loud, more sustained AHHHHHHs and grunts. At one point I really thought I sounded like a sick cow and that thought made me laugh out loud. It was amazing to feel the baby moving down! Everyone was so supportive. Erin kept telling me “You have plenty of room, you are opening beautifully”, which was so needed – for some reason my biggest fears was tearing badly.

Kevin was right beside me watching the baby come out and whispering encouragement to me the whole time. The head kept pushing down and then sliding back up after each wave – two steps forward, one step back! I think at one point I sort of growled “GET OUT!!” as I felt the head slide back up once again. When I finally pushed the head out around 1 am (what a strange and wonderful feeling that was!), we saw what had really slowed things down – Lucy had her hand up on her cheek! That had made things a lot more slow and difficult. The head slipped out beautifully without any tearing, but with the elbow coming out where it did, I ended up with two labial tears and a minor perineal tear. I guess the good part about that was I didn’t feel it at all. There was no “Ring of Fire” when she crowned at all – just a tingling and stretching feeling. I pushed the rest of her out in really quickly – even though my first instinct was just to stop after the head was born (that was a lot of work)! Lucy had her cord wrapped around her neck, but otherwise was perfect and beautiful.

I had my baby girl in my arms at 1:01 am on Tuesday September 8th. She opened her eyes immediately and looked around at everyone in the room for a full minute before she started to cry. It was so incredible! I thought I would recognize her – after all, she was so close to me for so long – but she really seemed like a little stranger in my arms. It wasn’t what I expected at all. I think I was more in awe of the fact that there was a BABY in there this whole time! The water in the tub was pretty high, so I got out of the tub to keep Lucy’s face out of the water. I birthed the placenta on the bed about 15 minutes later. Kevin cut the cord and we just stared at her for the longest time…before we realized that no one had even checked to see if she actually WAS a girl! She is so incredibly beautiful and we love her so much I can hardly stand it. We saved the placenta and are going to bury under a tree in the spring.

I am so happy we had her at home, exactly the way we wanted to. I would recommend a home birth to anyone – along with the Hypnobabies class. People have said that giving birth at home, without the opportunity for pain medication, was “hard core”, or some sort of feminist form of machoism, but frankly, I didn’t once wish I had an epidural. I never felt like I was doing anything that wasn’t completely natural and normal, and I never wished I was in the hospital. Birth is a natural and normal process and women’s bodies are designed to do it! I think women today are so bombarded with horror stories of childbirth that they are completely terrified of it and make it much more difficult than it has to be. Eliminating that fear goes a long way to eliminating pain. I also think that women don’t know that they have a choice – you don’t have to give birth in a hospital if you have a normal and healthy pregnancy. There is rarely a reason to manage the natural process. Taking the power away from the mother does not improve the outcome. The female body actually does know best almost all of the time. Childbirth does not have to be a medical event, and it has the potential to be the most empowering and beautiful thing you ever do.