Don’t call us, we’ll call you

February 23, 2010

Send us back to the hospital, please

Filed under: Family, Personal — Tags: , , — llcall @ 4:35 am

Despite all the votes we received about where Addison should sleep, we still hadn’t quite figured it out by the time we were bringing Addison home on Thursday (the 18th).  Luckily, the doctor solved that problem.  Behold, her new abode:

Her little sci-fi suitcase home; it’s so 2010.

Addison developed a fairly severe case of jaundice her second day in the hospital.  So they whisked her off to the nursery to start phototherapy, which helps break up excess bilirubin in her body.  It was sad to see the little whites of her eyes turn yellow :(.  They still released us from the hospital, but required that we keep her in this little phototherapy suitcase 24 hours a day and take her back for blood tests every morning.

The treatment sounded do-able so we were happy to leave the hospital . . . for about 6 hours.  Then problems started to develop and even this hospital-averse mommy was wishing we could just go back there.  She had had a slight problem maintaining her body temperature in the hospital (which surprised us because of her solid birth weight), but when we got her home and stripped her down to her diaper for the light therapy, her temperature was dropping rapidly.  The doctor’s office was calling us every 30 minutes talking us through things to try to keep her warm, eventually adding the “bili blanket” to the treatment because it might help her temperature (typically the blanket is for less severe cases and you either have one or the other).  We thought, blanket, that sounds good.  Until we saw it . . .

Um, yeah, not so much a blanket as a sort of fiber-optic paddle, which did nothing for her temperature maintenance.  We spent the next several hours putting her in the light box for 20 minutes, then taking her out and wrapping her in a microwaved blanket to warm her up (per the doctor’s instructions . . . I don’t think I would have ever thought to start microwaving blankets).

So she wasn’t really eating, urinating, or staying warm, and I was thinking, “I want my mommy.”  About 8:30 that night, the doctor told us to bring her in to urgent care because she hadn’t urinated in 12 hours.  But she’s a sneaky little girl.  She peed on the way there so that we would just look like paranoid first-time parents :).  After a huge drop in her temperature about 11:00pm, we called the hospital and finally hit on a set-up that kept her warm: an electric blanket on full blast draped over the suitcase.

Thankfully, on Friday she started to make some progress with eating and peeing — after we reverted to using ice cubes to rouse her (Neal really liked that part; I think he’s going to enjoy tormenting our little lady).  It was still a rough day as it became clear that I had developed bladder and possibly uterine infections.  After monitoring Addison’s temperature all day Thursday, we had to monitor mine on Friday to make sure it did not hit 101, which would signal a serious uterine problem and require a trip to the E. R.  Thank goodness, my temp capped at 100 because I don’t even know what we would have done if we had to truck me to the emergency room.

Today, we got the good news that Addison’s bilirubin levels had dropped enough to take her off the lights.  And after my angel mother stayed up with her during the night so I could sleep for five or six hours, we are both on the mend.

And now what everyone really cares about, some cute pics:

Addison after the nuclear fall-out

Neal likes to take super close-ups:

Two of my faves:

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February 18, 2010

Introducing . . .

Filed under: Family, Personal, Pregnancy — llcall @ 12:13 am

Addison Sage Call

Cur moriatur homo cui Salvia crescit in horto?

Why should a man die whilst sage grows in his garden?

A few pictures of what’s growing in our garden

16 February 2010, 1:52 a.m.

7 lbs. 13 oz.

20 inches

Already showing some attitude!

February 15, 2010

Baby watch 2010

Filed under: Personal, Pregnancy — Tags: , , , , , — llcall @ 8:45 pm

Our baby, courtesy of Lindsay Heinzen

Here’s the scoop so far:

On Friday the 12th about 5:00pm, we were walking around Shopko trying to get some last-minute, take-to-the-hospital things when I started feeling contractions every 4 or 5 minutes.  They weren’t that painful, but after my enlightenment the day before I knew what was going on.  Neal wanted to head home immediately, but I felt determined to get the last few things on my list . . . you know, like ball-point needles.  You just can’t go into labor without those (more on that later).  By the time we were finishing up at Target, the contractions were about every 2 minutes, but still not really painful.

So we came home and timed then for a little while (I love how easy contractionmaster.com makes it).  But once I was sitting down, they were only every 15-18 minutes, so timing them was really boring and we stopped after about 3.  I went to bed earlier than usual just in case things really started picking up in the middle of the night.

I woke up to the contractions every 2 or 3 hours, but still got decent sleep.  Or at least, I thought I got decent sleep.  But my body sure did not want to function on Saturday.  The contractions stayed consistent, now about every 20-30 minutes, but not painful, so I thought I would be feeling fine.  But man alive, I felt WIPED OUT.  My hands were all shaky and for most of the day I just felt like I could not get out of bed.  Luckily, I’m used to that feeling, so I did what I do best . . . I stayed in bed.

Sunday was the same story with contractions about every 15-20 minutes, but still not painful.  And thankfully, I was feeling well enough to get up and start my labor project . . . for which ball-point needles were a necessity.  The labor project was one of the ideas that really resonated with me from Birthing from Within.  Instead of endlessly focusing on whether labor was progressing, timing contractions, etc. have a specific project to work on until the contractions get too intense to focus on anything else.  Stay tuned for photos of my very glamorous labor project . . .

About 3:30 this morning, I woke up to some big changes in the contractions and their pattern.  The threshold to pain was most definitely crossed, and they were between 7 and 10 minutes apart.  It made for fitful sleeping, but I still managed to get some sleep here and there before I gave up trying at about 10:30am.  Now they’ve been between 6 and 8 minutes apart for about 2 hours.  Their intensity is slowly increasing and I can’t focus on anything else when they hit.  All good signs, we think.

Even though we haven’t felt the need to have our doula Melissa come over quite yet, it has been great to talk with her on the phone and get her little bits of advice and encouragement.  That along with all the comments on my last post describing others’ experiences with contractions and labor have been so helpful.  Thank you!!!

And so we wait . . .

February 12, 2010

Rants, then funnies

Yesterday, my estimated due date (nope, no baby yet), was actually a little bit frustrating.  I knew when I had to forgo my birthing center/home birth dreams and opt into the hospital system there would be frustrations along the way.  I would have to pick my battles.  So I didn’t make a big fuss yesterday, but internally I was seething just a tad (can you seethe by degrees?).

I’m going to bullet point a few of the highlights, for my own therapeutic purposes, and then move on.  Until Tuesday when I have to play their silly games all over again.

  • There is a new midwife at my clinic and since she is on call this weekend, they had me meet her for the first time.  Don’t get me wrong, she seems perfectly nice and competent, but when you are telling me things that I think are a little bit ridiculous (now I’m past-due, you know, by like 12 hours, and it’s time to get all crrrraaaazzzzy and worried and talk about induction; every baby must be born by 41 weeks [even though most un-induced first pregnancies naturally go about 7-8 days after the due date, her words, not mine] — there’s research to support this, I just wouldn’t understand it; it’s time to go to the hospital and have a non-stress test every 2-3 days even though we just saw the baby kicking up a storm and just finished fetal monitoring), we’re not building a great rapport.
  • But you know what was grating on me most . . . she kept talking about how she’s not particularly a fan of pitocin-induction because, you know, our bodies produce pitocin naturally and that’s better.  I agree with her philosophy, but no, our bodies do not produce pitocin naturally.  Pitocin is a name-brand synthetic version of the naturally-occurring oxytocin.  It’s probably a petty thing, but in the context of everything else, it really REALLY annoyed me — like a symbol of all that I despise about the medicalization of birthing.
  • So I went to do their silly non-stress test (NST) because my cool-headed Neal said let’s not burn any bridges just yet.  I’m sure there are cases where this test is warranted.  I’m sure too that there are mothers for whom it is reassuring; more power to them.  But when you’ve taken about 200 extra tests for things that actually looked problematic and atypical, it is really frustrating to be told you must take more tests for no discernible problems whatsoever.
  • To cap off the day, the nurse conducting the NST informed me that it would be great if I could do A LOT of walking this weekend to get this baby out before the next test because they are really booked up on Monday.  Yeah, I’ll see what I can do to help out.  Wouldn’t want to stress you with all the unnecessary testing you have scheduled.

***

So here’s the funny part of the story.  For weeks and weeks, they’ve been asking if I’ve had any contractions at my check-ups.  And I always say no, not since December and the appendectomy (for the record, the labor and delivery nurses told me I was having contractions then; all I could tell them was something like, “It hurts . . . all over . . . everywhere.  Ow.”).

I was a little nervous about telling them, once again, on my “due date” (I’m putting this in quotes from now on, so you can hear it in a sarcastic tone) that I had not had any contractions.  They always seem so down about it.  Before the inevitable question, I was lying on the table waiting to have my belly measured.  As the midwife turned around to measure me, she said, “Oh, you’re having a contraction right now.”  My head shot up to look at my belly.

“I am????”

“Yeah.  See how everything is tight and your belly is kind of cone-shaped.”

“Oh.  Huh.”

So I’ve been noticing that whole tightening-cone thing for weeks, but I always just chalked it up to baby girl’s mischievous movements.  Even when they were a little bit painful, I assumed she just scrunched a vital organ or something.  I remember asking one of the midwives back in the 25-week range what a Braxton Hicks contraction is versus a “real” contraction.  She said that with Braxton Hicks I should feel a tightening higher up on the abdomen, but a real contraction would be lower down and feel like someone was plunging a knife into either my front or my lower back.

All this time when those moments came, I would ask myself, do I feel like I’ve just been stabbed?

Please tell me I’m not the only one who had no idea they were having contractions for like a month.  Anyone, anyone?  What do contractions feel like to you?

February 11, 2010

“It turns out, it’s kind of a big deal”: Neal’s thoughts on childbirth

A few weeks ago Neal approached me about doing a guest post on my blog — giving his perspective on this great childbirth adventure.  Well, I have pretty rigorous standards for guest posts, but I eventually agreed  :).  So yesterday while I napped on his bed, he wrote the following.  It’s longer than I expected, maybe mushier at certain points than I expected, but I’m going to post it anyway because only a man would liken childbirth to having a limb amputated and being “selected by an alien race to be their personal representative to humanity,” all in the same paragraph.

Lindsay’s due date is one day away, and we agreed that it would be nice if I set down my thoughts for posterity. When the little belly monster gets here, I suppose I may feel that holding her is more satisfying than writing about her.

I guess to start with I’d say I have a lot of anxiety about the birth. Sure, it’s a beautiful thing, but it’s also one of the most traumatic things a woman’s body can go through, or ever will go through, in this life. Lindsay and I have watched a lot of childbirth videos in the past few months, and it really hits home just how significant this event is, not just emotionally or spiritually, but physically. That time I had to get an IV for blood poisoning? Or when I got Lyme disease? Or when I got road rash all over my legs, back, and arms? None of these can compare with childbirth; none of these give me the tools to fully comprehend its intensity. It is interesting that it seems such a common occurrence in society (despite the fact that the birth rate is dropping and many women are electing to wait quite a while to have kids), and we say “so and so is having a baby,” with about the same feeling as “so and so just got a new car,” or “so and so went to Hawaii on vacation.” It’s kind of cool, but it doesn’t seem like that big a deal, at least from the outside. But going into labor and giving birth can be just as traumatic as having a limb chopped off, and at the same time the happy result is bigger than any other good thing that will happen to a person. We’d never say nonchalantly of a friend or loved one: “Oh, yeah, I guess I forgot to tell you that Becky had her arm chopped off on Tuesday.” If we were being fair to the experience, I think we should talk about having a baby with the same excitement as if someone we know personally just got elected President of the United States, or suddenly cured cancer, or got selected by an alien race to be their personal representative to humanity (all very cool things, I think). Of course, I don’t really do any of this – I’m just as nonchalant about other people’s births as the next person. But it strikes me as interesting how little I thought about it until it actually happened to us. It turns out, it’s kind of a big deal. (Edit: as I go back and read this, I see the possibility that it is more of a male thing to take the birth experiences of others for granted).

Which brings me back to my anxiety. While I would never want to change places with Lindsay (I just don’t think a man’s pelvis is meant to stretch like that; seriously, I’d crack in half), I feel like there are some particular trials for me in the experience. During the birth process, Lindsay will focus mostly on herself (which is fine, that’s the way it should be.) But I have to focus on her. Hers is a more inward experience, mine more vicarious. And for someone like me who is very introverted, the idea of spending 5, 10, or even 50 hours being someone else’s cheer captain, therapist, best friend, and medical advisor is really daunting. Add to that that I may need to give her a blessing in an emergency, and I’m pretty nervous about the whole thing. What are the possible complications of childbirth? Just about everything. And while I believe in the power of faith and prayer, we wouldn’t give birth in hospitals if we thought that just faith and prayer were enough. I know that for some women birth goes smoothly, and that’s great. But if you only plan for the best, and it doesn’t happen, I’d call that a big mistake.

All of this brings me to my main thought about this whole birth and pregnancy experience: gratitude for Lindsay. Given the significance of the experience, I feel like she’s given it the attention it deserves. It’s like, you wouldn’t expect to do well on the bar exam if you didn’t spend time studying in law school, right? Well, Lindsay has put in the study, the kind of study that to me really takes seriously how important this event will be.

I make fun of Lindsay for how many birth books she has read (and for a lot of other things) but in this instance I wouldn’t have it any other way. I can’t express how proud I am of her for treating her birth as something that she can influence for good, based on her preparation. I’m proud of her for making sure that I play a role in that learning. It makes me feel that we are truly partners in this process, and that our joint education and decisions about the experience have, and will continue to bring us closer together. I feel like we’re in it together when I go to all of her medical appointments, boring as they sometimes are. After the fact, I always feel that I’ve just done something to show how much I care about her, something I always need more of. I know that she feels vulnerable at these appointments, and it allows me to fill a protective role in a way that I hardly ever get the chance. And this isn’t just about positive attitude; you can’t throw a stone without hitting a study that shows that knowing what the crap is going on in birth, and owning the experience, will seriously increase the positive outcomes. There are no guarantees that what we hope will happen will happen; but even if things don’t turn out exactly how we want, I truly believe that we can make the best decisions under the circumstances. When you’re about to embark on the most powerful experience you will probably ever have, why wouldn’t you treat it as seriously as a single dumb course in school, for which you might spend twenty or fifty or one hundred hours studying in a semester?

Of course, I say all of this as someone who was forced into it. Had Lindsay not been so dedicated to having the best possible birth that she could have, she probably would have let me do what is natural; in other words, she would have let me mostly ignore learning about the experience, she would have allowed me to hide my anxiety under being too busy to deal with it. I do that in plenty of other situations, and it would have been easy for me to do in this one, even though that anxiety would have probably snowballed in my psyche, making it harder and harder for me to even think about the birth without wild feelings of inadequacy and uncertainty and loss of control.

I still feel those things; but because of Lindsay’s determination, we’ve done preparation that makes me feel like we’ll be up to the challenge. Before we do our nightly routine of “childbirth prep,” I usually feel like I have too much to do, or that I just want to be left to myself. Sometimes I think that in the middle. But by the end of most of our nights, we’ve found some additional things that really seem like they work. Like, we now know that Lindsay responds to touch, and massage, right on the small of her back, probably more than any other coping technique we’ve tried so far. It’s taken us weeks of talking and practice to discover this, but I think we’ll be glad we did. I’m glad that we could be frank enough about my concerns that we chose to hire a doula, just to make sure we had another head in there with us that we could trust to help us express our desires to doctors that have itchy trigger-fingers with interventions. Plus, I’m crap at giving massages, and the price of the doula is worth it just for that. I’m glad that Lindsay respected my anxieties enough to know that having a helper, and not leaving all the burden on my shoulders, would allow me to be there for her even more, rather than curling up in the fetal position and moaning (which I’m prone to do in stressful situations). Under pressure, I start to retreat, and we’re doing everything we can to avoid that. Our number one goal is the best birth possible, and I’d give a lot for that.

I’m glad that we are using nurse-midwives. They always ask our permission to do something, like when they perform an exam on Lindsay, or when they suggest a medication. They never try to scare us into doing something that isn’t necessary, which makes me feel that they are really on our side. And it helps that they are all trained nurses – so they pretty much know everything the doctor does, but without the extra piece of paper.

I’m so glad that Lindsay and I have practiced coping and comfort measures for the birth. We’ve had her hold ice cubes for as long as she can while focusing on breathing and relaxing, we’ve practiced different positions, and we do a relaxation routine every night. How many of them will work in the moment of birth? Who knows. But they sure as heck are more likely to work now that we know what we are doing with them. We’ve found certain things that seem to focus her better than others, that seem to allow her to deal with pain. I’m really proud of Lindsay for wanting to do a birth her way, based on sound medical research, to increase the chances of a healthy baby and healthy mom. And as much as anything, I’m glad that in these practice sessions we’ve found things that I can do that will legitimately help her.

I’m especially proud of Lindsay for putting the well-being of the baby first in all of our practice and research efforts. There is no question that many of the things that doctors do are intended for the benefit of the doctor, not the baby or mother. And there’s no question that some of the pain and heartache that goes along with births in general could have been averted with preparation. I’m really glad that we know what some of those things are, so that we can begin taking responsibility for our little girl, and protect her even at this stage. Having said this, I’m not anti-doctor; I’m the one who required that we give birth in a hospital, just in case, and with a great doctor on-call, just in case [Editorial note: if the on-call doc becomes necessary, my daughter and I will have the distinction of being delivered by the same doctor, 30 years apart. That’s a little bit cool].  I’m the one who is always saying “But the doctor said X, so we better do it.” But I’m grateful to Lindsay for helping me to man-up and take on the responsibility, even at this stage, of protecting and caring for our little girl. I know that being a father will require me to grow up, and while that can be hard for me, I know that it’s good for me.

I’m excited, and a little terrified. But mostly excited. With some terror thrown in. But still, mostly excited. I can’t wait to hold our baby girl in my arms. It’s been a long road. I pray to God that I’ll be up to the challenge. I love Lindsay, for everything she does for our baby and our family, and for welcoming me into her world of effort with understanding and open arms.

February 9, 2010

On blogging

Filed under: Personal, Pregnancy — Tags: , , , , , — llcall @ 9:17 pm

I never thought that I would be a blogger.  I was a little slow coming to the internet in general.  Not that it existed in my most formative years, but still I resisted its place in my life for quite some time.  I remember the first time I heard the word blog was in early 2005.  I remember because I wrote about this discovery in an email to this really cool, starving artist-type guy I had recently met named Neal, and I confessed that I didn’t “get it.”  Why did people want to write meaningful, personal things and put them on the worldwide-web-internet-blogosphere for everyone to see?

It still surprises me how integral to my life blogs, both mine and others’, have become.  But it seems now like part of some grander scheme than I ever could have foreseen when I sort of stumbled upon creating this blog.  From a purely logistical standpoint, blogs have become one of my key channels to the outside world since I can’t get out much and Neal’s work schedule necessitates him having the phone most days (we just have the one).  But more importantly, blogging has become this critical part of my internal processing mechanism.  I have these million thoughts everyday because mind work is all I have energy for much of the time, and most of them should never see the light of day.  Is this blog-worthy? has become a useful question to help me sift through and determine those things better left unexplored.

But even more transcendent than those advantages is the relational aspect of it all.  Over the course of the last few months, as I’ve written  about so many personal things, I have been amazed by the comments I’ve received.  They have been affirming, inspired, loving, kind, everything that all our relationships ought to be all the time — but too often fall short.  I think about the fact that some people who read my blog and send timely thoughts are people that I haven’t seen for years, some that I may never cross paths with again.  And yet, they’ve strengthened and succored me through the bad and rejoiced with me over the good.

I’ve thought often about the first very personal post I ever wrote about my miscarriage and how long I wavered about whether to actually put it out there.  But then how swiftly I knew that I had made the right decision; that feeling heard and understood by other women would prove an integral part of my healing process.

All that is to say that it’s a humbling thing to realize just how many paths God will use to send help when we need it most.  And this path, this blogging thing, has surely been a godsend for me.

February 7, 2010

Facing my childbirth fears

Last night was the roughest night I’ve had in about three weeks.  Pain + intense itching + hunger + heartburn + nausea = very long night and definitely no church this morning.  But it is a good reminder of how difficult most of this pregnancy has been.  There is that old wives’ tale about how when the baby comes you forget all about how hard and painful it all was . . . well, I don’t have my baby yet, but I think I was beginning to have that experience already.  In so many ways weeks 36-39 have been the easiest of the whole pregnancy and I started to think, was it really as hard as I thought it was? Maybe it wasn’t that bad. At which point, Neal wants to have me committed because, um, yes, it was that bad.

The upside of this sick, can’t-get-out-of-bed day is that I will finally finish this post on my childbirth fears for those who were left hanging.

So as I was saying . . .

Birthing from Within is the last childbirth book I’m reading (I promise, Neal :)) and overall, it has been the most helpful — even if just for page 7 alone.  It outlines a short list of questions to help you confront and deal with your fears and worries.  This straightforward, logical approach has felt like the final piece in all my preparation.  Paraphrasing from the book, I’ve asked myself:

  • What do I worry about or fear?
  • What would I do if this worry/fear occurred?
  • What would it mean about me as a mother if it happened?
  • What can I do to prepare for or prevent it?

This paradigm has helped me to identify and dissect my emotions and psychologically prepare for what will happen if my fears come to pass.  I have felt empowered by this process, knowing that I’ve pursued whatever preventative measures I can.

I think I’ve had three primary fears (related to labor/delivery itself, not pregnancy — that post would be a novel and probably too traumatic for me to ever write it all out!):

  1. Having a c-section
  2. Perineal tearing
  3. Lacking the necessary stamina

About two or three months ago, a cesarean seemed like THE worst case scenario to me . . . something so different from what I wanted that it would be devastating.  But I’ve got to say that having abdominal surgery at 7 months pretty much took the mystery out of it for me.  I had started reading The Essential C-Section Guide just prior to the appendectomy and when I came back to finish it after the surgery, the medical procedures and physiologic healing processes were just about identical to what I was experiencing.  Of course, the physical process itself is a small part of why many women don’t want c-sections — the emotional component is huge.  I feel extremely blessed to have an aunt and a very close friend who both had unplanned c-sections and were willing to talk with me about the emotional trial it was for them.  When you combine all that, I think I have come to a good place where if a cesarean became necessary, I could deal with that, knowing that I would have some wise and sensitive women to help me through it.

Perineal tearing is actually tops on Neal’s list.  He doesn’t mind medical interventions, so the idea of me having an epidural or cesarean doesn’t bother him.  But when he heard what 3rd and 4th degree tears were, he pretty much wanted to curl up and die.  Obviously, some degree of tearing is very common in first-time moms, so it’s not a fear that carries so much emotional baggage for me.  But asking myself these questions and doing all I can to prevent it has given me greater peace of mind.  So that means Kegels and perineal massage now (with the help of a little bird named Neal that doesn’t want any physical part of these preparations, but constantly checks up on me — we’ve finally found something that Neal has genuine anxiety about!) and using warm compresses during labor.

This last one is the biggie for me because it is so tied to my overall health, which if you haven’t heard, leaves something to be desired.  Even though I really believe that my body can do this, I would be lying if there wasn’t part of me (a very emotionally-charged part) that thinks my body can’t do much of anything right — and why would this be an exception.  In many ways, I don’t really fit the “natural childbirth” profile . . . I don’t run marathons; I’m not a health-food guru; I don’t even get a high from exercise.  Have I mentioned I like to lay still and not move as much as possible?!  Pretty much everyone I personally know that has had an unmedicated labor or attempted one fits into one or more of those lifestyles and I have asked myself again and again, am I really tough enough for this?

At our last childbirth class, our doula Melissa said something that really helped to improve my perspective on this issue.  She told me that some of her clients who are very athletic struggle a lot during labor because they are unprepared for how emotional the process is, not just physical.  You can’t just force your way through it with pure physical exertion because there will be times when a gentler or more nuanced approach is necessary — and if you are always used to being the master of your own body, you may be in for a rude awakening when you can’t make your body do just what you want it to.  It really opened my eyes to a possible upside to my health history: I have had to learn to listen to and respect what my body is telling me, limitations and all.  Sometimes I have pushed myself, but my body always pushes back, reminding me that I am no master of it.  I hope that this will end up being a strength that I bring to the table, even though my body lacks some of the physical strength that others bring.

Of course, that hasn’t exempted me from trying to increase my physical strength and endurance as well.  This was a firm requirement Neal set out for me before I was even pregnant, from the first moment I even mentioned the kind of birth I wanted.  So first I took a ballet class last spring (I danced for all of childhood and adolescence, but my health and injuries brought that to an abrupt halt about 13 years ago).  If you don’t know, ballet is not for wimps.  It is a rigorous, full-body work-out if you’re doing it right.  When I did get pregnant and the horrid first trimester hit, ballet wasn’t a possibility anymore.  We were going to try swimming instead, but my skin condition made that an impossibility as well.

I started going to the BYU gym to use an elliptical because the no-impact motion is better for my joints than most work-out equipment, but soon my shifting center of gravity and light-headedness ruled that out as well.  I’ve been left with the stationary bike.  Not my first choice since bikes scare the pants off me (that’s a story for another day), but I tried to ride for 20-30 minutes, 3 times a week at the BYU gym.  After I had healed sufficiently from the appendectomy but still wasn’t able to leave the house, Neal bought a bike for $30 at D. I. (a local thrift store) and I’ve tried to make the investment worthwhile.  One and a half hours of exercise per week sounds pretty paltry when you compare it to about 160 hours of lying in bed, but I’ve gotta say that I feel pretty darn heroic when I manage it.  Kinda like her:

Do you think a headband like that would be motivating during labor?

So I may be naive, but I feel ready to do this thing.  Every account I read of childbirth has so many distinct elements, and I want to figure out what the end of our story is.  I want to know if after car accidents and neck surgery and appendicitis and fibromyalgia, childbirth really is the most intense pain I’ve ever experienced.  Most of all, I want this little girl in my arms, safe and sound.

February 4, 2010

Sacred space

Filed under: Personal, Pregnancy — Tags: , , — llcall @ 4:18 am

We just finished packing the hospital bag.  Everything was pretty ho-hum, gathering toothbrushes and floss and such, until we got to the going-home outfit for baby.  I picked out a little pair of pants, a onesie, a jacket, a hat, socks — with about an 80% matching rate, which is really high for me and my underdeveloped fashion sense.

As I was putting them in the bag, the floodgates just opened.  I can’t believe she’s going to stop being inside and start being outside in three weeks or less.  Soon I get to hold her and dress her and saw down her nails with an emery board (I am only very confident about doing the first one well).  Thirty-nine weeks tomorrow . . . what a miracle.

February 2, 2010

My birth plan

Long post ALERT! (A new public service to my readers)

Those who saw Neal’s video interview at my baby shower know this little secret: I have read about a gajillion books, internet articles, and research studies about pregnancy and childbirth.

I’m not sure I would call it a new hobby; it has felt more like a compulsion, a prerequisite to understanding what on earth was going on with my body and mind.  Not that it ultimately told me all that much about my particular health concerns (in the end, the midwives, doctors, and specialists have all agreed that I do not have a “known condition” but rather a unique auto-immune response to pregnancy), but I think it created a touchstone for me to make some sense of difficult and confusing things.

When I first started talking to Neal about my birth plan, he was a bit incredulous — sort of asking, “Now what in the last few months (or your whole health history) makes you think things are going to go the way you want them to?”  Perhaps I am unreasonably optimistic, but I absolutely believe that I’m going to have a great labor and delivery.  Seriously.

I’ve hesitated a bit to write about this topic publicly because there’s a lot of strong opinions on all different sides, a lot of judgment passed, and a lot of hurt feelings for friends I know who didn’t get what they were hoping for.  But inasmuch as I’m chronicling my life and my thoughts on this blog, and this decision-making process has been predominant for me over the last year, I decided to write it down.

So I guess the most basic thing is that I’m planning an unmedicated labor and delivery.  There are so many reasons why this felt like the way to go for me (my body’s sometimes-unpredictable response to medications and emotional baggage from doctors/hospitals/mainstream medical community, chief among them), but fundamentally, I believe that my body knows how to do this.  As crazy as it sounds when you first think “I have to get something how big out of there?!,” I have felt such a confirmation that this is God’s design and that unnecessary intervention will hinder rather than assist what He has carefully constructed.  I feel peace knowing that even my somewhat-broken body was created to do this.

Because I don’t want a highly medicalized birth, my first choice was to give birth at home or at a birthing center.  Since our many twists and turns made that an unrealistic option, I had to turn my attention to simulating that environment as much as possible in the hospital.  Enter New Beginnings Nurse-Midwife Clinic.  The midwives are still pretty much in the medical mainstream and more ready to prescribe medication than I would prefer, but they also look at the pregnancy in a very holistic way and attend a lot of unmedicated births.  If they think getting me on my hands and knees to push would be helpful, they’re all for it – something that an epidural generally inhibits and few OBGYNs would consider.

This plan of mine also suggests a certain kind of hospital, which is one of the reasons I was ecstatic to get to the point in pregnancy where I could go to Orem Community Hospital (before 34 weeks, it would not have been safe because the NICU level was not adequate).  I have heard only rave reviews about Orem Community in terms of great labor and delivery nurses, more individualized attention, fewer institutional policies to speed up the laboring process, and all-in-one rooms for labor, delivery, recovery, and rooming-in with the baby.  I’m still pretty sure that I’m going to have some issues with the hospital, since I plan to decline some routine interventions “against medical advice” (like continuous electronic fetal monitoring and an IV), but it seems like the best option in light of our situation.

Next came our decision to hire a doula — a labor assistant that provides physical and emotional support.  Although my midwives are often there for a large part of the labor, rather than just delivery, there is a lot of convincing research (including randomized studies, the gold standard) demonstrating the positive effects of dedicated labor support above and beyond medical personnel.  As I got into the childbirth literature, I also began to feel that the pendulum has swung too far in terms of pressure on a husband to be the primary labor support.  Neal is as hands-on with my health as any husband could be, but as we’ve approached childbirth, I’ve realized how many emotions and fears he has connected to the process.  It seemed unrealistic to ask him to put his own feelings aside and just focus on me and my needs.  Enter our doula Melissa, who we felt instantly comfortable with and know will be a calming presence no matter what happens.  We also decided to have one of Melissa’s apprentices (she is a doula trainer) attend the birth because, let’s face it, why would you have only one person giving you a massage when you could have two for the same price?! (Remember, I’m a massage hooch :)).

So that’s our birth location and our team, but most people who attempt an unmedicated birth also have a “method.”  This was actually the trickiest part for us, partly because of timing (few childbirth classes are offered over the December holidays, which would have been the right time according to an early February due date) and the uncertainty about when baby girl would come.  Ultimately, it has worked out fine because after reading books on Lamaze, Bradley, hypnobirthing, Birthing from Within, Ina May’s methods (oh, thank heavens for the public library or this compulsion would have broken us!) et al., I realized that I like an eclectic approach.  I don’t think I’m a strictly method person; rather I feel more comfortable compiling a toolbox of ideas, practicing them all, and seeing what helps in the moment.  Luckily, our doula Melissa also offers private childbirth classes from a similar perspective, compiling what she’s found to be best practices over 14 years in the field.

Even though I’m not sure at all what will prove most helpful in the moment, these things feel like good preparation:

  • Progressive relaxation — every night Neal reads a script that walks me through measured breathing and focused relaxation.
  • Supported squats — since squatting can be an effective way to help the baby descend, I really wanted to get comfortable with the position . . . and it’s a good thing we’ve practiced because man, those first few tries were AWK-WARD with a fat cow like me.  Neal enjoys showing me how easy it is for him to do!
  • Hydrotherapy — warm water has helped me a lot with other pains and injuries, so I’ve assumed that it will play a key role in labor.  The only problem was that because of my skin condition, I haven’t been allowed to take baths throughout the pregnancy, so we’ve been working on ways to get comfortable in the bathtub now that I am packing 30 extra pounds.

So, wow, this is like a monster post . . . and I still had a few more things to write.  If you are not bored out of your mind by this topic, stay tuned for part two about facing my childbirth fears.

February 1, 2010

Cast your vote: Where should baby girl sleep?

Filed under: Family, Personal, Pregnancy — Tags: , , , , , — llcall @ 5:38 am

It’s crunch-time now . . . the due date is in 11 days.  It’s time to get serious — and figure out just where we’re going to put this little bundle when she comes.

A: Closet under the stairs

Neal first suggested this and I thought it was utterly ridiculous — what kind of parent puts their child’s crib in a dark , unfinished closet under the stairs?!  Imagine my surprise when my mom came to visit and also suggested this location!!  (Neal = sweet vindication)


B: Neal’s room

I countered with the obvious choice, Neal’s room.  He has this nice little spot right next to his bed — my two babies sleeping side by side.

[My bedroom is, of course, out of the question, considering what a light sleeper I am.  Seriously, two nights ago at about 12:30am I woke up completely startled and jumped out of bed because I heard a HUGE crash in the bathroom and thought Neal had injured himself.  Turns out he dropped his plastic tooth-flosser on the tile.]


C: Hallway

Neal wasn’t too keen on the idea of his bedroom where he might be awakened by her every movement.  He suggested the hall outside his bedroom as a compromise.


D: Dresser drawer

But after more thought, Neal hit upon the perfect spot — a spacious drawer in our baby’s new dresser.  He swears up and down that he knows healthy, well-adjusted adults whose parents kept them in drawers as babies.  I think he is getting confused with a certain episode of Seinfeld in which Kramer houses Japanese tourists in a giant chest of drawers.


Care to weigh in?

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