Wednesday, September 30, 2009

I've always been a planner. Call it control freak, call it neurotic, call it whatever you want, but I've always been one to meticulously plot things out, to plan my attack, to cover my bases.

That said, I assumed I would be one of "those" moms - the neurotic yuppie, the overinformed, web-surfing, information-hoarding, statistic-quoting obsessive, eager for their child to meet every developmental milestone, rather like Rick Moranis's character in "Parenthood" (ah, an oldie but a goodie). How could I not be this mom? I am, after all, the woman who has obsessively researched the ingredients of every single skincare product she uses on her herself, who can list all the toxins present in an average tube of lip gloss without batting an eye. Surely I would extend this behavior into parenthood, no?

Instead, I seem to have surprised myself. The obsessively over-achieving yuppie mom has yet to rear her ugly head - in her place is just a tired, anxious new mother keeping it together as best she can.

Carter's early days in the hospital were trying - his white blood cell count was high, so he was treated preemptively with several rounds of antibiotics until his test results came back normal and rendered it all unnecessary. Witnessing a parade of strange nurses wandering in and out and poking my tiny infant son with needles at all hours left me a haggard mess. Every time I heard him scream, I had to restrain myself from grabbing the nearest blunt object and beating the nurse senseless - back off my baby, bitch! I didn't sleep for three days, and replaced rest with worry until we got the green light that he was perfectly healthy.

This difficult beginning seemed to give me new perspective - since bringing Carter home from the hospital, my sole focus has been feeding him and helping him pack on the pounds. I have not researched anything on the web. I have not looked into what developmental milestone he should achieve this week. I have hardly cracked the innumerable baby books strewn about the living room. All that matters is that I have a healthy baby, and this single focus trumps all.

Yesterday I took Carter to the New Mother Support Group at the Pump Station in Hollywood. I'd gone once before when I was still pregnant, and was eager to go back with my little boy. At my initial visit, several women had broken down in tears describing their problems and frustrations as the others rallied around them with words of support and encouragement. This selfless display of woman power made one thing abundantly clear - no matter how much they prepare, everyone's terrified and no one really knows what they're doing. I found this realization very comforting at the time, and it has been tremendously helpful to remember since Carter was born. Every parent wants to do right by their child, and every new mother simply does the best she can. As a result, whenever I feel like dissolving into a self-flagellating bucket of insecurities because, say, Carter didn't get enough tummy time today, I remind myself that I am doing the best I possibly can.

And you know, that's pretty damn good.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Photo Shoot

While my mom was in town, we did a little photo shoot with our crappy camera. I was trying to get a good shot for our birth announcement, and we decided on the picture below.

Mama's Boy

Carter's First Movie

Today Carter and I walked to the Grove for the Mommy & Me movie. I had heard that these shows existed two years ago when I had a couple of friends with infants who went regularly, and always looked forward to the day when I would be able to go with my little person. It was a screening of "Fame," which I probably wouldn't have seen if it hadn't afforded me the opportunity to get out of the apartment and venture into public with the baby. There were scads of moms, dads and babies - the lights were kept up throughout the show to facilitate diaper changes and easy soothing of cranky babies - everywhere I looked there was a mom bouncing her baby or pacing while whispering sweet nothings. I had found my people!

It went really well - Carter was in the Ergo carrier the whole time, sleeping soundly. I fed him at the beginning of the movie (how wonderful to be able to whip out a boob and stick it in his mouth without bothering to be covert) and he conked out until the credits rolled. Next week's movie is "Whip It," the Drew Barrymore directorial debut. Can't wait!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Carter's Favorite Things

I must take this opportunity to praise a few of the items that make motherhood a bit easier.

First the My Little Lamb Cradle/Swing. We have only used it as a cradle so far because Carter is so little, but 9 times out of 10 we can put him in it and have anywhere from 10 minute to two hours of sleeping, happy baby time. Even if he's wide awake, he likes to lay there and look up at the rotating lambs.

Second, the Fisher-Price Rainforest Melodies & Lights Deluxe Gym, or as my mother calls it, "Disneyland." Not only is the thing cute as hell, with a bright rainbow of colors that match his nursery, but Carter likes to hang out on it and look around while I have a free moment to, say, use the bathroom without guilt.

Perhaps best of all is the Ergo Carrier. I strap him in, he passes out immediately, and we are good to go. Bless it.

I Am Mommy, Hear Me Roar

In the wee small hours of this morning, Carter and I were up for a feeding. We were sitting in his glider chair in the nursery, and he had just finished snacking on my left boob. Happy and full o' milk, he wriggled away, gave a big stretch and smiled like the happiest little boy in the world.

In my What to Expect the First Year book, they say that "most babies don't smile in the true social sense before four to six weeks of age" and that these early smiles are likely just gas. I scoff at this - my little boy smiles at me, dammit! He smiles when I run my hair over his face, he smiles when I play the kissing monster game with him, and he smiles when he's just finished a good meal. He smiles, and I melt.

Lately Carter has been sleeping at night like a pro - he's becoming more active and alert during the day and tuckering himself out enough to slumber most of the night without incident, waking a couple of times for a quick snack and then going right back to sleepyland. As a result, I feel less like a zombie and more like a well-rested (if such a word can really apply to five or six hours of sleep a night) human being.

Our outing yesterday went wonderfully - Max and Carter relaxed with the gentlemen in the den while the ladies baby-showered it up in the living room. We had brought a bottle of expressed breastmilk to give him if he got hungry, but he slept until almost the end of the party, when I quickly nursed him before we hit the road. Later that night, my husband fed him his first bottle while I pumped - it was one of the wide-neck bottles that are supposed to be a good substitute for the breast for young babies in order to prevent nipple confusion. We gave him three ounces, and he gobbled it down. I am continually amazed at the boy's appetite - his little stomach is only supposed to be able to hold around 2.5 ounces in a sitting, and yet there he was, sucking down three.

Watching him eat, I felt hugely liberated - someone was feeding him, and it wasn't me! Hallelujah - my boobs have a break! I pumped my milk instead and added it to my frozen stash - I must have well over 100 ounces of milk in there by now, and it can be frozen for up to three months. Soon I will start using some of the frozen stuff and rotating in fresher milk so that I will have a nice back-up supply when I go back to work in December.

This morning we took Carter to brunch at one of our favorite cafes. He slept the whole time and only got fussy as we were leaving. Excellent. Tomorrow I am thinking about going to our first Mommy & Me movie - they have them every Monday morning at the Grove, a few blocks' walk from our place. Slowly building on success!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Just Call Me Mommy

I finally have twenty seconds away from the baby with which I can blog. One thing is quite clear - while I was pregnant, I was blissfully ignorant of exactly how all-consuming motherhood is. I mean, I knew it all in theory - the sleepless nights, the total lack of time for oneself, the overwhelming love for your child. But motherhood has knocked me silly, harder than I knew possible. These days I am truly nothing more than an utterly exhausted ball of pure emotion wandering around in a zombie-like trance of baby love. Nothing is about me anymore - regular tooth-brushing and hair-combing are a thing of the past, conversations are cut short at the slightest whimper from my infant, and facing the outside world seems like a daunting task after being sequestered in my apartment for several weeks. If I have the chance to change out of my pajamas by noon, it's a good day. But my little boy is thriving, and that's all that matters.

Carter is a wonder - I spend every waking moment marveling over him. His strong legs! His long eyelashes! His little smile! In my hormonal postpartum insanity, I am prone to tearful outbursts during which I can do little more than babble about how much I love him, how lucky and humbled I am to be his mother, and how hard, yet wondrous, these first weeks have been.

The most difficult part by far has been breastfeeding. This took me by surprise, since in typical type-A fashion I had taken a five-hour breastfeeding class and read every book I could get my hands on on the subject in anticipation of feeding my baby. It should be the most natural thing in the world, right? Not so. It just so happens that my son has the world's most powerful suck, one which is somehow capable of reducing my nipples to gnarled masses in minutes. Although I've worked with him consistently to improve his latch, he bit down wrong in our early days of feeding and my left breast was left with a small but mighty abrasion that caused wincing pain with each of his meals. I tried Lansinoh lanolin cream and Motherlove nipple salve, both highly recommended by the Pump Station - my local breastfeeding mecca - but nothing did the trick. Little Piranha Jaws simply reopened the wound with each meal, leaving me increasingly frustrated and overwhelmed. My child is solely dependent on me for his nutrition, so anything that compromises my ability to feed him is terrifying.

Finally I sought advice from a local lactation consultant, who told me that he simply needed to outgrow his evil power-suck, and suggested that I pump the left side for two days and nurse only on the right in order to let the wound heal. I did, and was triumphant when it worked and I was capable of breastfeeding on the left side without pain. However, after a couple of days Carter once again bit down wrong during a blurry-eyed 3am feeding, leaving me to repeat the pump-and-heal exercise.

All of this has proven immensely frustrating - I had always looked forward to breastfeeding, insisting that I would be the crazy hippie lady who would breastfeed her child til age 3. Now I find myself despairing over the soreness and pain and just hoping to make it to six months. The fact is, if I weren't so horribly sleep-deprived, the breastfeeding issue would be manageable, and if the breastfeeding was going perfectly the sleep-deprivation would be manageable - together, it's a recipe for tears.

My mother stayed for only a few days after his birth, and during one of our routine phone conversations a week later I started weeping uncontrollably, asking "Why aren't you here??" She came back down this week and stayed for five days - she just left yesterday, and I cried again to see her go. Having Grandma here made everything better - I am green with envy at any woman whose mother lives nearby.

I am keenly aware that writing about all the crying makes me sounds like a case of full-on postpartum depression, but that's not it. I simply had no idea that these hormones would be coursing through me in the weeks after giving birth, and although I manage just fine for 23 hours of the day, the 24th can be overwhelming, sending me into fits of tears. Ah, new motherhood.

Our daily routine is a simple one - Carter usually has nightly feedings at midnight, 3am, 6am and 9am. On a good night he eats like a champ, allows me to change him without squawking, and goes right back to sleep. On a tough night, he eats, yells a bit, and then just wants to stare at me for two hours, and no amount of shhhh-ing, bouncing, or singing will get him back down. During daylight hours, we sing, bounce, have tummy time, and, above all else, nurse nurse nurse.

All the nursing is paying off - at his three-day-old pediatrician appointment, Carter was 5lbs 8.9 oz, down from his 6lbs 1oz birth weight. Five days later, he was 6lbs 2oz, and a week after that he was a whopping 6lbs 15.4 oz! That's right - our boy gained almost 14 ounces in seven days! We were thrilled, and Carter seemed to share the celebratory mood when he sent a projectile poop and pee fountain all over Daddy's shirt and iPhone in the middle of the pediatrician's office. Our next appointment is next Friday, and I'm hoping he's over eight pounds.

Tomorrow I am having my first outing away from Carter, to go to a friend's baby shower. Actually, I was away for a half-hour last weekend when I made a run to Motherhood Maternity to buy nursing bras, but he slept the whole time I was gone. This will be the first extended time away, and Daddy will be giving him his first bottle. My husband is actually driving me to the shower with the baby and dropping me off so that he can hang out nearby in case Carter has a meltdown or refuses the bottle. Truthfully, it's more for my peace of mind than Carter's, as the shower is a 45-minute drive away and I can't stand the thought of being away from him for more than a couple of hours.

We are slowly feeling more confident taking him places, and I am beginning to feel like a member of society again instead of the recluse that I have been for the past several weeks. Last weekend we went to Santa Monica and walked up and down Montana for several hours - I managed to feed and diaper him several times without incident, although I was doing it all in the back of our car on a secluded street, so it wasn't that impressive. Today was another story - I took Carter to the Grove (a ten-minute walk away) to meet a friend, and we had a restaurant meal, a public breastfeeding under his feeding shield, and a diaper change in the Nordstrom's bathroom. A smashing success! It must have tired him out, because he's been sleeping almost all day since we returned home, waking only to chow down on my right boob.

More later - I should take the opportunity to get something to call dinner while I have a sleeping baby.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Carter & Friends

Just chillin' with my pals.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Carter's Birth Story

***The summary below was written by a tremendously sleep-deprived new mother, so please excuse any rambling or typographical errors.***

After twelve days of staring adoringly at our little boy, I have finally torn myself away to tell the story of his birth.

On the night of Saturday, August 29th I started having what I thought were contractions. It essentially felt like lower back pain, but I noticed that came in little waves every 12-15 minutes apart. I was so excited, thinking that at long last, this was it! I called my mother and told her to make sure she had a spot reserved on the morning flight out of Sonoma County (there are only two flights a day from Santa Rosa into LAX).

Alas, it was not to be. Although the contractions continued throughout the night, occasionally waking me up with their intensity, by Sunday morning they had dissipated. We went for a long walk that day in hopes of stimulating labor, and I would have a contraction every half hour or so. On Sunday night the same thing began happening - contractions every 10-15 minutes apart, slightly stronger than before. Again I called my mother to be sure she had a spot reserved, and again I labored all night, waking periodically to cramping sensations. However, by morning there was nothing.

By this point, I was extremely frustrated with my spurts of false labor. I was really beginning to think that I would, in fact, be pregnant forever. My husband went to work but called to tell me that he was coming home early, saying that he felt like he should be there with me. Very sweet, but I despondently told him that he shouldn't bother, that NOTHING was happening. He came home anyway, and we spent the afternoon wandering around town, running errands, eating ice cream, etc.

That evening (Monday) around 8:30 or 9pm I started having contractions again. However, these seemed different than before. Much like the earlier contractions, the pain was still mostly in my lower back, but had also crept around to my stomach. I used to have really bad menstrual cramps, and it felt very similar.

By 10pm I called my mother and told her to make sure she had a spot reserved on the morning plane, and that I'd call her if I needed her to be on it.

We went to bed - my husband passed out immediately, but it was soon clear to me that sleeping was not in the cards. The contractions continued all night, about four to six minutes apart and lasting about 45 seconds. I didn't wake my husband, but would occasionally grab him and squeeze really hard for comfort. He sleeps like the dead, so it didn't affect him whatsoever.

At 3am, I called my mother and told her to get on the 6:30am flight. My husband awoke at 6am and I told him I'd been in labor all night and hadn't slept - he immediately felt terrible, and said that he hadn't realized that I was really in labor when we went to sleep last night. Frankly, neither had I - I fully expected it to be another spurt of false labor, and was surprised when it appeared to be the real thing.

I wandered around the apartment doing everything that I had learned in birthing class and all my birthing books that would help labor progress and the cervix dilate - bouncing on my birthing ball, doing squats, and remaining upright and ambulatory as much as possible. Whenever a contraction would come, my husband would rub my lower back until the pain dissipated.

After a half hour or so, my husband suggested that we go to the hospital. I didn't want to - I was paranoid of going too early and not being admitted because I wasn't dilated enough. Plus, while the contractions were certainly unpleasant, they were not incredibly painful or unmanageable - I assumed that if I were really in active labor it would hurt more, so I convinced myself that I wasn't really that far along and should therefore stay at home. It was kind of a "expect nothing, hope for everything" mentality.

Around 7am we went for a walk around the neighborhood. My contractions were coming every five minutes or so, and I would stop, lean over with my hands on my knees, and breathe through them. We walked over to Starbucks because I insisted that my husband get his beloved Americano - hey, at least one of us should be coherent. The barista looked over at me, sitting at a table quietly having contractions, and asked " your wife okay?" My husband responded "Yeah - she's just in labor." The barista was like "What the hell are you doing here??" Ha!

Back at home, I tried more positions to hasten labor, and found squatting and bouncing on the birth ball to be particularly helpful. My husband continued rubbing my back while I breathed deeply through each one. Still manageable, not too painful. I began applying clary sage, an essential oil that helps intensify labor - a few drops every half-hour on my ankles and belly. I took a shower and had a bizarre bout of intense shivering when I got out - even though I had just stepped out of a steaming shower into our 80-degree apartment, I couldn't seem to get warm enough. Afterward we sat and watched episodes of "24" on DVD for awhile, until I was hit with a contraction of a new intensity. Suddenly I no longer cared how Jack Bauer was going to save the world from terrorists, so I knew it was time to go to the hospital. This was at 10am - at this point I had been in labor for 13 hours.

On our way to the hospital, we called my mother - by this point she had been in LA for several hours, and we had told her to wait at my aunt's until we told her to come to the hospital. However, even at this point I told her to wait for our word before coming - I was still afraid that I would arrive at the hospital only 1cm dilated and be sent home.

As soon as we arrived, my contractions began intensifying. They were painful, but still felt like horribly strong menstrual cramps. I just kept thinking "I can do this. I can do anything for one minute." We walked into the L&D wing and saw a friend of a friend who worked at UCLA as a labor and delivery nurse. She later told us that she thought we wouldn't be admitted because I "looked too good." I take that as a compliment.

The midwife on call was Susan, and I couldn't have been happier - she was probably my favorite one. Finally, the moment of truth - I laid down to have my progress checked, and...she announced that I was 6cm dilated and 90% effaced! HALLELUJAH! I immediately burst into tears of relief, and had my husband call my mom to come to the hospital. Meanwhile, my hep lock was put in and my first dose of antibiotics for Group B Strep were administered (I was positive for Group B Strep, which is a bacteria is usually harmless in healthy adults, but it can cause a relatively rare but very serious infection in newborns. About 1 in 4 women carry the bacteria in their vaginal or rectal area at the time of birth, where it can be transmitted to the baby during labor. Having intravenous antibiotics - at least two doses for 15 minutes each, four hours apart - during labor dramatically decreases this risk).

At this point, I was just lying there in what can best be described as a trance-like state. During my pregnancy I read just about every birthing book available, including one on Hypnobirthing. While the book was interesting, I didn't really think I would put the information into practice when the time came - I didn't practice their visualization or relaxation techniques throughout my pregnancy as recommended, and I only listened to the accompanying relaxation CD a handful of times. However, as I lay there laboring, my mind seemed to click into a hypnotic state and I felt totally at peace. I had expected contractions to be unimaginably horrible, horrific pain, like someone knifing me in the back. Instead, my contractions felt mostly like menstrual cramps from hell. Whenever I felt one coming, I would signal Max to massage me, telling him harder, higher, lower, etc. Then I would take deep breaths through it until it was gone. All the while, my eyes were closed and I had a mantra running through my head - I can do this. I can do this. I can do anything for one minute.

When my mother arrived, I aroused myself just enough to put her in charge of the rice sock - I'd brought a bag of rice from home with an extra pair of socks. She would take it down the hall and microwave it, then hold it to my lower back between contractions, as that is where the majority of the pain was. I thought I might have back labor, so the midwife checked me but found that LOOL was in the correct face down position. Still, the bag of rice was a lifesaver, especially when coupled with my husband's backrubs.

After an hour and a half of this, I got up and walked up and down the hallway. When I got back to the room, my water broke. I bounced a little on my birth ball, then laid back down in bed in the Bradley birth "sleep position." At this point, I felt like I wanted to push. I told my midwife and she checked to see how far along I was. Only an 8, so no pushing yet - in fact, I would have to "breathe down" to be sure that I didn't push. This was torturous - not because it was particularly painful, but because it was horribly difficult to deny my body something that it wanted so much - to get the baby OUT.

The breathing down lasted for 45 minutes or so, during which time the nurses and midwife told me that they'd like to have me wear the fetal monitor continuously instead of intermittently. Later I was told that this was because the baby's heart rate was dropping with each contraction, then going back up again after the contraction was over - fortunately they didn't tell me this at the time, as it would have totally freaked me out. However, in my strange trance-like state it wasn't at all upsetting to wear the fetal monitor - they strapped that sucker on and I hardly noticed it was there. Finally, the midwife announced that I was dilated to a 9, and said "but I'm going to make you 10." She reached in and with the twist of a finger, I was fully dilated and could push.

The pushing lasted for about an hour - an hour of the most physically strenuous work I have ever experienced in my life. They say labor is a marathon, and it's true. I could hardly keep up with the breathing pattern - deep breath, push til the count of ten, then repeat twice with each contraction. The nurses put an oxygen mask on me (to try to increase my and the baby's oxygen during contractions), which also didn't bother me, as at this point I was out of my mind with exhaustion and the sheer determination to get the kid OUT OF ME.

Finally, with one massive push, he was out. Later they told me that the cord was wrapped around his neck three times - wrapped loosely, fortunately. I wasn't aware of this until much later, as I just lay there repeating "I did it. I did it!" in a euphoric daze. They unwrapped him and he started crying immediately. Max announced the sex (a boy! We were right!) and cut the cord. Then they laid him on my chest, and our little family was complete. Carter was born at 2:03pm, three and a half hours after we arrived at the hospital.

More or less, that is the story of Carter's birth. I couldn't have hoped for a better one.

Now for the exciting adventures that lie ahead...

Saturday, September 5, 2009

LOOL has arrived!!

At long last, Carter Maxim Draitser was born on September 1st, 2009 at 2:03pm, weighing six pounds, one ounce and measuring 20 inches.

Details to follow...