As you can imagine, the baby was the star of the show during Christmas. He lit up the room; he smiled random little smiles (that sometimes evolved into tears, gas, or sleep); instead of either wailing or sleeping he has also started making little cooing noises (a stepping stone towards speech according to the books). Every time he sneezes he let’s out a little sigh (i.e “AAACHHOOOO……aaah”).
It’s all ridiculous and tiny but each little thing is new and we haven’t seen any of it before. I mean you hear and read about babies learning to speak, sleep, etc. but none of it really clicks until you see your own tiny person trying it out for themselves. Thus, I catch myself speaking to my son in a sing-song voice (encourages language developement), admiring his poops (‘holy crap that’s an impressive amount!’), and generally making a big fuss over him, (a key factor in bonding).
Perhaps this is why we go above and beyond to take care of our children. It’s why I find myself bouncing him up and down on the medicine ball at 4am despite the pain in my head. Images plague me all the time regarding his well-being and safety. Josh was playing with him recently–which included holding the baby in the palm of his hand. The baby would balance for a few seconds before falling back into Josh’s arms. I wasn’t paying attention until suddenly I realized that my son was being palmed like a basketball before flying in the air for a few seconds at the impressive height of 6′6 before being caught. “DON’T DO THAT!” I roared like a mama bear before bursting into tears. Josh apologized repeatedly and said sagely, “I’m sure mothers have been protecting their babies for centuries from over-enthusiastic rough housing.”
Baby insists on doing most things against the book…like sleep on his tummy. This is a horrible no-no and we only allow it if it happens that he is face first on one of our chests. When he lies on his back, Baby’s hands fly up in the air occasionally as if he were falling. Josh researches this response and learns that it is a remnant of our primate days when baby monkeys use to fear falling out of the tree. Now we are trained to swaddle babies so their little arms stay firmly wrapped to their sides. Anyone over 50 will be baffled by this since for years babies lay on their stomachs to sleep–and sleep better they did too. But no one wants to be a SIDS statistic so on their backs the babies go.
Baby hates his swaddle and prefers to be loosely covered with a blanket instead. Another no-no since he could get smothered in the blanket. He could also get smothered in our bed–which is also discouraged. But sleep becomes a valuable, precious, necessary commodity so inside our bed the Baby goes. Sometimes he sleeps on his father’s chest–diagonally so he can rest his cheek on a pectoral muscle and let his legs flop over the ribs. Ideally he sleeps smack in the middle of his milk supply, little fists grasping at his mother in his sleep. This is usually when I realize I have an awful wedgie that I can’t tend to because it means waking the baby. A lot of my needs are pushed aside in order to care for this baby. There a lot of little things: not being able to reach the remote, not being able to turn the page in my book, not being able to press send on an email, the list goes on and on.
Women who love being pregnant and women who claim they immediately fell in deep, satisfying love with their firstborn probably don’t really remember what it was like. Having a tiny, crying, stranger enter your life and prevent you from doing almost everything is so shocking you can’t even negotiate the reality in your head until it happens. Thus, parents are part of a secret club…the kind of club that allows you to forgive a crying infant on a plane, or in the store, or in a restaurant.
Blogging with a newborn is impossible…it just is. I mean most things are impossible: going to the bathroom, eating, sleeping, getting in and out of the car. These are all things that were taken for granted before baby and now, lo and behold, I sound like all the other new parents out there in the world who grieve for the days when they could poop without staring into the face of their brand new child. But I have to blog, I just have to. Where else can I spill my creative genius about a process that still (after 5 weeks postpartum) feels so difficult?
Little, brief, moments is what we’ll have to settle for.
I wrote this for my prenatal yoga partner (we exchange addresses so that our Birth Story can be read out loud to the class after the birth). It’s pretty cut and dry but I know there are folks who are curious:
My water broke at 3am, early Saturday morning, November 14. Contractions began about 15 minutes later. My husband rushed around packing a suitcase, (At one day shy of 39 weeks this was suppose to be our big Getting Things Done weekend). After an hour of packing, putting the un-installed car seat in the trunk, texting our doula, and feeding the cat, my husband came back to bed with me. Together we timed contractions and tried to rest until 9am. At first they were about every 6-7 minutes apart at 40 seconds long. Then they narrowed down to every 4-5 minutes for 60 seconds. (We used the handy website, contractionmaster.com, to time contractions; I highly recommend it). At 9:30am they were a steady 3 minutes apart. I got up and changed clothes, ate yogurt, made my husband eat eggs, and prepared to leave. I noticed when I got up and moved around the contractions become more varying in their spacing—6 minutes apart and then 2 and then 3. As soon as I got back into bed they fell right back into a 3 minute pattern.
We arrived at the Swedish First Hill hospital around 10:30am. In the parking garage the rest of my water broke and I panicked a little bit on my way to the elevator. One look at me in triage and they whisked me off to a birthing suite where we met our doula, Shanon. The nurse read my Birth Plan which requested as little medical intervention as possible with a strong preference for natural childbirth. While she was checking my cervix I dilated from 0 to 3 centimeters.
At 11:30am I started Active Labor. To cope with the pain, I tried a little of everything: on my hands and knees, leaning over the birth ball or a stack of pillows, and using the Frog Pose in between contractions for rest. I was also in the tub for a short time. But the majority of my contractions were spent just sitting in a cross legged pose on the bed rocking back and forth in circles. Hot pads and pressure were placed on my back throughout my labor thanks to my husband and my doula. Keeping the room quiet, dark, and with minimal interruptions helped me keep focused and coping.
Vocally, I used humming and singing during Early Labor. This turned into Bees Breath and then moaning. Towards the end of Active Labor I found myself huffing and puffing to get through the discomfort. I also spent almost the entire labor with my eyes closed.
Three hours into Active Labor and I started inquiring about what an epidural ‘might look like.’ The first time I asked about it the doula encouraged me to keep up the good work and that I should try to get through a few more contractions. The second time I asked, the nurse and doula calmly explained the reality: I would be hooked up, probably take a nap, and that the whole process would slow down. The idea of slowing down really motivated me to bite the bullet and keep going. At 5:00pm the doctor checked me at 8 centimeters. I cried with relief. I had made great progress! With no apparent problems I decided to continue on my own without medical intervention.
When checking me for dilation, the doctor had noticed that baby was turned slightly. The nurse advised me to lie on my side with my right leg crossed over my left to encourage the baby to turn. Up until then I had completely avoided lying down in order to really feel gravity do its work. Lying down was very, very uncomfortable but incredibly effective. Very shortly afterward I started feeling the urge to push. Baby had turned and was on his way.
Pushing was challenging for me. But all that yoga paid off: I ended up using the squat bar almost the entire time. The doula managed to get the bed upright until it was practically a chair so that in between contractions I could let go of the squat bar and lean back. I also tried hands and knees again but always ended back in the squat position. Breathing became very hard to control; I had no idea how to manage the pushing urge, but slowly realized I just needed to roll with it. At one point I hung onto the bar for dear life and overheard myself roaring like a Bear.
After an hour of pushing, the baby’s head was visible, and after another 30 minutes he started to crown. My doctor was amazing and did perineal massage the entire time. The nurse coached me along and really helped get my breathing on track so I could really maximize my pushing. At 8:23pm, Baby Schlag was born, screaming his head off with one of his arms wrapped around his neck. (This might have explained why it took a little extra time to push him out). My doctor had me hold him on my chest while she repaired a second degree tear—a wonderful distraction. Baby weighed 7 pounds, 0.8 ounces, dark hair, with a slightly crooked nose from all that time spent in the birth canal.
One of the best things about a natural childbirth was getting to eat shortly after his birth: best hot turkey sandwich I’ve ever had.