Tuesday, November 11, 2014

I judge the judgers

Well, things got easier and I thought I'd blog more and then I didn't.  Because even though things got easier in some ways with Max, I wound up trying to do more stuff, and also I got really tired.  And I just couldn't figure out what I should even write about.

So here's the quick and dirty update and then I'll go into what I really wanted to write about.  Max was an elephant for Halloween.  He was very excited when we put him in his costume and he looked adorable.  Halloween has been a sad holiday for me for awhile because I really consider it a children's holiday and I love the idea of doing it with my children.  I used to tease my cat that if Jeeves and I couldn't have children, I was going to dress him up as an octopus and push him around in a stroller on Halloween.  Abbott never looked particularly thrilled with that idea.  Halloween this year was a lot of fun.

We sprung an enormous leak in our ceiling in Max's room.  We're on day four of the repairs.  Turns out it was a shower a few floors above us but the a-holes who live up there didn't think to call the super and tell him they were having issues with the shower EVEN AFTER THE SUPER CALLED THEM AND TOLD THEM ABOUT OUR LEAK.  I'm sorry, was I shouting that last part?  I hate them.  So right now there's a huge hole in the ceiling, an industrial dehumidifier running, and Max has been sleeping in our room again.

I went back to work!  It's part-time, but it still required figuring out childcare.  We hired an amazing nanny, E.  We love her and more importantly Max loves her.  Makes being at work a little easier, although I really do hate pumping.  But I have yet to meet anyone who's like, "I love to pump!  It's so fun!  It's not uncomfortable or awkward or boring at all!"  I also find that being at work has generally made me a happier person.  I feel like I got a part of my identity back, and it's actually fun to use a different part of my brain.  And I enjoy being home more on my off days - I find I'm more focused and patient.  AND!  Guys!!!  It gives me an opportunity to listen to the podcast Serial on my commute!  Have you been listening to it?  Well, you should.

My epic battle with DMV has finally concluded and Jeeves and I are now the proud owners of my dad's old car.  It's nice to have the car, and even nicer to be done with DMV.

What I really wanted to talk a little about today was sleep training Max, or more specifically, how everyone has a very strong opinion about every single parenting decision you will ever make and apparently there is only one right way to do anything ever.

For his first 3.5 months of life, Max was a pretty great night sleeper.  Terrible napper.  But at night, he would usually fall asleep after we (usually Jeeves) rocked him, then he might wake up around 11pm to eat, or I might give him a dream feed (where you wake your baby up to eat but they aren't really awake and they go right back to sleep after eating).  After the dream feed, he'd go back to sleep and wake up one more time - between 3am and 5am, eat, go back to sleep till 7 or 8.  Around 2.5 to 3 months, he stopped waking up at 11am and we stopped doing the dream feed, so he was only waking up one time.  It was awesome.

Then, around 3.5 months, things changed.  He stopped going to sleep easily, it was taking 30 minutes to get him down.  He started waking up two times a night to eat.  Then three times.  I can't necessarily say that he really wanted to eat, only that he would wake up, cry, and because it was the easiest way to get him (and therefore me) back to sleep, I'd nurse him.  And sometimes he'd wake up, crying, but it would only have been an hour since he had eaten, so I knew he wasn't hungry.  On those occasions, Jeeves or I would try to rock him back to sleep.  I became sleep deprived and ragged.

I started looking into "sleep training."  I had read Weissbluth's book, Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, and I agreed with his central premise - that sleep is really, really important and kids need to get enough of it.  But I felt super squeamish about rapid extinction (where you put the munchkin down awake, close the door, and let them cry it out until they fall asleep and you don't check on them or anything).  Thanks to a friend, I landed on a book with a somewhat gentler approach, but it did still include letting the kid cry while they figure out how to comfort themselves and fall asleep.  The method suggested waiting till 1) the baby is 5 months and/or 15 lbs; and 2) recommended not doing any sleep training in the weeks surrounding a return to work (also, the book said not to do it when the kid is teething, or sick or when you're traveling, etc.).  So even after I found this method, we waited another couple of weeks before we implemented it.

I'm not going into what method we used because it's not really the point of the post.  Here's what I will say - the method we chose worked really, really well for us when we finally decided (after checking with our doctor) that it was time for us to sleep train Max.  I would be happy to discuss our experience with anyone who's interested.  And maybe at some point I'll actually go through what we did step by step.

No, the point is that I cannot get over how goddamn judgey everyone is about a family's choices in child rearing.  I made the mistake of using the Google when Jeeves and I were hemming and hawing about sleep training and trying to decide what method to use and when to use it.  The method we used, which is really quite moderate in my opinion, comes from a book.  The comments section of the book on Amazon is peppered with snotty comments about how sleep training your kid means you're a lazy parent who doesn't really want to take care of your kid.  An attachment parenting site said you shouldn't do anything to prevent your child from waking up and needing to be held at night unless you are dangerously sleep deprived.  Pro sleep training sites talked about how people who are opposed to cry it out should stop whining about how tired they are.  In other words, everyone was completely convinced that their method was the only right  method, and everyone who did something different was a Terrible Parent.

I talked about it with Kate and she sighed loudly - "I never judge other parents' choices.  Except those people.  Those people who are judging everyone else.  I judge them."  I have a friend who let her kid cry it out every night for 35 nights until he was able to fall asleep on his own.  I have a friend who has to lie down in bed next to her 4 year old every night until she falls asleep because she tried letting her cry it out one night and it wasn't for her.  I have a friend who has a family bed - toddler, baby, husband, dogs - everyone in the pool.  I'm not into doing any of those things.  All of their kids are fine and healthy.  All of those moms are good moms who love their kids.  I wish we could all just chill out a little bit and be a little more supportive of each other's choices.  This is hard!  I doubt myself all the time!  When I make a decision about how to parent Max, it's after careful deliberation and research and soul searching.  Maybe not everyone does the same amount of research, but I am pretty sure that the majority of moms just want to do right by their kid and put some thought into what they're doing.

In conclusion, here's a picture of Max in his Halloween costume.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Thank you thank you thank you

The Whopper is supposed to be napping right now.  I finally managed to get him to sleep (no small task, I tell you), popped him in his swing, went to wash some dishes, came back 10 minutes later and he's awake and chatting away to himself.  Sigh.  I'm ignoring him in the hopes that he will fall back asleep, but that seems unlikely.  We had hoped our kid would enjoy sleeping as much as Jeeves and I do.  But apparently not.

Anyway, Max's sleep habits are not the point of this post.

The day Dad died I called my old college friend who also happens to be the attorney for Dad's estate.  I'm the executor of the estate, and after a couple of weeks in which I had to plan Dad's memorial service, I started the probate process.  Executing an estate is a lot of work, and my dad's estate isn't even that complicated.  It's definitely giving me food for thought on how Jeeves and I should structure our will.  But anyway.  A part of the estate is my dad's house, my childhood home.

The house is in suburban New Jersey.  It's an old house, over 100 years old and it has a lot of character.  My parents lived there for over 40 years.  To put it mildly, the house needs a lot of work.  A lot of work.  The kitchen is pretty good, and sure, the house is livable, but in this market to meet the desires of most buyers, well, it would be a tough sell.  The bedrooms are small, the closets are small.  The doors are old.  It's carpeted and the carpets were installed in the 1980s.  There's lots of terrible wallpaper.  No central air.  A scary unfinished basement, which is where the laundry hookup is.  A very nice, large yard which needs some serious TLC.  Only one full bath.  A tiny half bath on the ground floor.  A difficult to navigate driveway.  And it's on a busy corner (when my parents bought it, it was a sleepy, quiet corner, but now it's super busy).  And worst of all - an underground oil tank.  The house doesn't use oil heat anymore, but the oil tank was never removed.

We had the house appraised as part of the probate process and frankly, I was surprised it came in as high as it did.  My sister, on the other hand, thought the appraisal was too low and had grand ideas about what we could get.  We argued over the oil tank.  I emphasized that no buyer would take the house with the tank in - we would have to remove it (which can be very, very expensive if there's contamination).  My sister generally agreed with me.  But then there's good old brother in law (BIL).

Where do I start on BIL?  I think I've mentioned before that I am not a big fan of his, and my mom and dad weren't either.  I'll just sum it up by saying that the day after my dad died my sister texted me saying that BIL was concerned about my dad's stock portfolio and thought we should liquidate it right away.  Yeah.  The day after my dad died.  Anyway, BIL's position on the oil tank was that we should not tell any prospective buyer about it.  Let's ignore the fact that as executor, I would have to certify that I don't know of anything on the property that would negatively impacts the condition.  And I in fact do know that there's a condition on the property that presents a problem.  Buyers usually hire inspectors and inspectors in NJ know to look for oil tanks.  Ugh, whatever.  Lying about the oil tank was never going to happen.  I ignored him.

I should add that BIL's current employment is buying properties, fixing them up, and renting them out.  He's been doing it for a couple of years now and seems to like it.  Rather than going into all the nitty gritty details, I'll just say that we got some "as is" offers on the property, my sister spent more time at the house cleaning out Dad's stuff and seemed to realize that in this market we weren't going to get what she thought we should for the house, and BIL spent a lot of time there with her and he has perpetual dollar signs in his eyes when talking about the house.  Eventually, BIL talked my sister into the idea of buying out my share of the house, fixing it up, and selling it for a profit.

So a couple of weeks ago they made me an offer.  It's definitely a discounted offer.  But on the other hand, they're willing to take it with the oil tank still in which relieves the estate of huge liability.  And I feel that any buyer would probably want a decent amount of credits on the house.  So while they're getting a discount from me, I feel it's a fair price.  My estate attorney required me to talk to an attorney who represents me as a beneficiary.  And I talked with my bestie Wendy, guru on all things financial and property and Sissy related.  After mulling it over, I decided to sell them my share.  I hate dealing with the estate, and I especially hate dealing with this house.  I just want to be done with it.  Seriously, the dealing with settling an estate where you and your sibling are the sole beneficiaries?  It's a lot like being in business with your sibling.  And while I love Sissy very much, I have no desire to be in business with her.

Jeeves and I went out to the house last weekend to get Dad's car jump started and take it to my in-laws who could keep an eye on it until we transfer title.  Sissy and BIL and my nephews were all there working on cleaning out the house.  BIL told me about his plans for the house (ripping out carpet and painting over wallpaper, widening the driveway, adding a second bathroom) and I just felt sad.  His plans for the yard include cutting down a beautiful flowering tree that my mom and dad loved, planting bamboo, and ripping out Dad's beloved burning bush so he can widen the driveway.

On the drive back to my in-laws', Jeeves groused about it.  My father was forever suspicious and skeptical of BIL.  And now Jeeves feels he needs to take over that role.  We talked about how Dad would have hated the idea of BIL benefiting from his death, he would have hated BIL's plans for the yard.  And Jeeves pointed out that BIL probably intends to try to lie to any prospective buyer about the oil tank.  I felt badly, like I was letting Dad down.  But at the same time, I really want to extricate myself from this house and I want to settle the estate as quickly as possible because it really is like being in business with Sissy and I don't enjoy that sensation.

But what I really thought on that drive?  Thank goodness for Jeeves and Max.  Thank goodness I have my own little family and I'm not all alone.  Yes, I would have had Sissy.  But the idea of just having Sissy and BIL as my only family?  That thought makes me very sad.  I asked Jeeves, "What if Dad had died and I was single and didn't have Max?"  He acknowledged that that would have been a very sad situation for me.  I'm not a religious person at all, but I just kept muttering "thank you thank you thank you" to the universe that I have my own family now and so many things to look forward to.  

Max keeps me so busy, and when I'm not busy with him, I'm busy with Jeeves and the estate, so I have very little time in my own thoughts anymore.  The other day Max and I were out for a walk and there was nothing there but my thoughts.  And I have to admit - I'm a little depressed.  Not about being a new mom, which has gotten progressively better and easier.  Not about going back to work part-time in a few weeks.  No.  I'm depressed that my parents are gone.  When I look to the future with my little family of three, I feel hopeful and happy.  But I miss Dad so much these days.  And losing Dad has brought up all the old issues of missing my mom.  I wish they were here to see me now.  I wish I could tell them about everything that's been going on and seek their advice.  Honestly, that feeling of missing them will never go away.  I'll just get used to their absence.  

So that's it for the downer news.  Max turned 3 months over the weekend and he's become a very smiley and giggly baby - he's still the Angry Whopper from time to time, but much less often.  Here's a pic of the happy guy.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Angry Whopper

Max is 11 weeks old now.  Which is pretty crazy, because it feels like we're still on a steep learning curve, but also that it's hard to remember what things were like without him.  So what can I tell you?  Well, things are getting better.  I've got a lot to say, but I'm struggling with how to start.  So I think I'll start small and just try and blog more often to cover it all.

So for today: a confession.

Max is a totally normal baby, at least as far as I can tell.  But the first 2 months were so very hard.  My confession is that I didn't love every minute of being a new mom.  I feel weird confessing this.  I think it's probably a pretty normal sentiment.  But because it was so hard to get pregnant and because of my previous miscarriages, I'd like to say that I was always grateful and happy every minute.  Don't get me wrong, I am so grateful and happy.  But the first 6 weeks?  I cried.  A lot.  And I felt like I lost my identity.  I remember crying to Jeeves one day that I felt I had become simply an udder.  I spent prolonged periods stuck indoors with an angry infant.  Aside from the sleep deprivation, and the breast feeding problems, I think I was just caught off guard about what a baby is like the first 6 weeks.  And that in and of itself was a shock because I have 5 nephews!  I was intimately involved with the kids when they were tiny.  Maybe I forgot, or maybe it's different when it's your own kid and you don't get to hand the baby off when he starts crying.

So yeah, Max cried.  A lot.  Usually for no reason.  Things that I thought babies were supposed to love - walks in a stroller, car rides, baths - he hated all of those things with a passion.  In fact, he seemed to hate most things, except for my boobs.  You know how Burger King has the angry whopper?  It's basically a whopper with jalapenos on it, I think.  Jeeves and I were walking Max one day, and we passed a Burger King.  "Max is the angry whopper," I said.  The nickname stuck.  Even now, when he mostly only cries from hunger or tiredness, we call him The Whopper.  

The Whopper, first month, crying for no discernible reason.

Max would only catnap.  I had heard that newborns spend most of the day sleeping, but Max barely seemed to sleep.  And when he did sleep, he would only do it on me or on Jeeves - he would wake up the second we put him down.  He had a set of lungs on him from day one and he seemed to have only one volume - loud, loud, louder.  The first week he was home with us, someone in our building gave away a swing - we snatched it up, and thank goodness we did.  It's still Max's favorite place to nap. We were finally able to put him down and have him nap somewhere other than on us.  I know that there are worse things than having an adorable baby sleep on you... but when you yourself cannot fall asleep (or eat, or go to the bathroom) because you are worried about dropping and hurting said baby, well.... you really want to put the baby down after awhile.

At his one month wellness check (a horrible day all around - it was Jeeves's first day back at work, so I was on my own and terrified), Max screamed for the entire visit (and for the whole walk to the doctor and most of the walk home).  I could barely hear the doctor.  But she said something important.  When I asked her if I should be concerned about colic, she said to me, "Newborns, especially from 4 to 6 weeks, are the most miserable people on the planet.  Nothing makes them happy.  It will get better after that and it'll be a lot better when I see you at the 2 month appointment.  In the mean time, do what you need to do to help him stop crying, and if you're at your wit's end, it is completely okay to put him down in a safe place, close the door, and let him cry it out for a bit."  And she was right.  I'd say around 7 weeks, things started to improve and by 2 months, the crying/screaming was significantly diminished.

And that's the thing - Max's behavior wasn't colic.  It was completely normal newborn fussiness.  I guess no one ever told me that - that your baby can spend a large chunk of the day miserable, but he doesn't have colic.  He's just fussy.  Fussy because he has an immature nervous system and he doesn't know how to process anything.  Fussy because he's really confused as to why he's still not snug as a bug in the womb, and pretty damn upset about it.  Fussy because you spent a good chunk of the day with new people and now he's completely overstimulated.  

Soothing Max was successful, but it was also a full time endeavor.  Jeeves and I became pretty big Happiest Baby on the Block devotees.  The 5 S's (swaddle, side, shushing, swinging, sucking) were in heavy rotation in this house and never failed.  In fact, I still have to use the swaddle and the white noise (shushing) to help Max fall asleep for naps.

I kept asking my friends who went through this right before me (and therefore had a clearer memory of how rough the first few months are) if it would really get better.  They kept assuring me that at 3 months there would be a vast improvement.  I didn't entirely believe them - what if I just have an angry/fussy kid who never changes?  What if Max is just miserable forever?  But it has gotten exponentially better and we're not at 3 months yet.  Some mornings Max is grumpy because he has gas, but most mornings he greets me with a big smile.  He's starting to giggle when I sing goofy songs to him.  He still cries on walks, and in the car, and in the bath.  But he has a wider range of cries now, and sometimes a day passes and he hasn't had a true Angry Whopper cry.

So there you have it.  The first couple of months were rough.  It's getting better.  I don't freak out anymore when Max cries, partially because I'm used to it and partially because his cries don't usually reach that fever pitch anymore and partially because he's usually crying for a reason now.  Now if I could just get him to really enjoy our walks, I'd be made in the shade.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Tales of a Breast Feeder

I've missed you!  I wrote this post, like two weeks ago, but am only just now getting around to proofing and posting.  Please know I'm still following my usual bloggers and pulling for all of you in your cycles and your pregnancies and your lives.  And I'm going to try and get some commenting in today too to prove it!  Here's the post.

Hello!  I am so excited to be writing.  Max is napping for the moment and I found myself, for the first time in a long time, with no chores to do.  Usually I will elect to nap, or at least "rest" when that happens, but this morning Jeeves took care of Max for two beautiful hours while I napped and so I feel great and don't need to sleep right now.

So, I thought I'd share my breast feeding story in the event that it might be useful to someone else.  Max just turned 2 months and I'm still breast feeding him, which I consider a really huge accomplishment on both our parts because it was a bit of a challenge for us.

At the hospital, we had a lot of help from nurses and lactation consultants. From day one, Max has been a great little latcher.  I would say my initial problems were that a) breast feeding every 2 hours (and in the early days, it can even be every 1.5 hours) was exhausting; and b) my boobs hurt between engorgement and nipple pain.  Look, that's the first thing I would say - your nipples are probably going to hurt.  It's not horrible, and it's temporary, but I feel like people who tell you that breast feeding should never hurt at all are kind of lying to you, or at least speaking about a minority of people.  I feel like we should be honest - in the beginning, your nipples might hurt.  Sometimes that can mean there's a problem like thrush or bad latch.  But it can also be normal and will improve over time.  My nipples are still sensitive and it doesn't feel great when Max yanks on one or kicks one (yes, this happens), but mostly they feel fine now.

Initially I thought things were going well, other than exhaustion and general soreness.  I did note that Max was a very slow nurser - he would sometimes take up to 40 minutes to nurse on one breast, and even then he would keep going, but I broke him off because I felt like my boob might fall off.  We went to the pediatrician for a weight check when he was about 2 weeks old and his weight gain was normal, so I felt confident that breastfeeding was going well.  Our pediatrician said that for the time being, it was normal that Max was nursing for 40 minutes.

Then at the 1 month wellness check, we learned that Max had only gained 4 oz in 2 weeks - he was a month old and had only just gotten back to birth weight!  Not good.  Our pediatrician was unconcerned, but I knew that even La Leche League considers such slow weight gain to indicate a breast feeding problem.  So, I reached out to a lactation consultant.  Oh, and for the record, at this point I was feeding Max on demand, around 10 or 11 times a day.  

The LC, Sarah, was a lifesaver, and was definitely more concerned about our breast feeding issues than our pediatrician was.  She came to the apartment and weighed Max, then watched him nurse, then weighed him again to see how much he was taking in.  She agreed that his latch was great, but ultimately found that Max was a "disorganized sucker" and that my supply was low.  Basically he was easily distracted and he wasn't sucking in a way that was giving him enough milk.  And another part of the problem was that because he was not gaining appropriately, he was a bit weak and therefore unable to efficiently get milk from me.  So she set up a treatment plan - I was to limit Max to 10 minutes per breast and vigorously compress my breast while he ate to help him get more milk.  Then I would pump after every feeding for 8 minutes.  This was rough.  At that point, I was not used to letting Max fuss or cry at all.  So it was tough to feed him and then put him down and sometimes let him cry for a few minutes while I pumped.  Lastly, we supplemented Max with 4 oz every day - if I could pump enough breast milk, that's what we would use, and if I couldn't we would have to use a small amount of formula.

I got really bent out of shape about the formula supplement.  I felt like it made me a failure.  But I would pump after a feeding, and frequently I got just a few drops of breast milk.  Sarah, the LC, reminded me that the point of pumping was not to build up a bunch of extra breast milk, but to signal to my body that my breast was completely empty and needed to be refilled (since an empty breast refills faster than a partially full breast).  I knew Max needed more sustenance than what I was providing, but the whole thing felt so disheartening.  For several days I would pump and so little came out.  I couldn't remember the last time I had worked so hard at something and still felt like I was failing.  A lot of people, Kate chief among them, reminded me that I was doing a great thing for my kid, that formula is not poison and is perfectly good for babies, and that he was still getting breast milk from me. 

 I took Max for a follow up weight check a few days after we implemented the new plan and Max had gained 6 ounces!  Success!  So we've kept at it.  Two weeks ago I took Max for his 2 month wellness check and he gained over 2 lbs in one month.  This is a huge improvement - Max has gained over an ounce a day.

Since the implementation of the plan, I don't strictly limit Max's nursing to 10 minutes per breast.  But I do now know when he's actually done eating and is just "hanging out" on the boob (sometimes I let him just hang out for comfort purposes, but more often than not, he pops off when he's done within 15 minutes).  Most of the time it only take 20 to 25 minutes total to nurse Max, sometimes less.  Mentally, this has made breast feeding a lot easier on me.  I've been tracking breast feeding on an app from the start - in the beginning I was spending up to 6 hours a day nursing Max.  Now it's down to 3 hours per day, sometimes more like 2.5 hours.  Max has gotten better at getting milk.  And with all the pumping, my production is way up.  I'm still supplementing him with 2 oz of breast milk and 2 oz of formula, but I think we'll start tapering down on that.  

So that's my tale.  Breast feeding is hard.  But honestly, it's really getting easier, and it completely feels worth all the hard work.  I had set a small goal for myself from the beginning - get to 3 months and then reassess whether I should keep breastfeeding.  Max is 10 weeks old now, so in a couple more weeks I'll have reached my goal.  But because it's gotten so much easier, I'm pretty sure I'll stick with it and set another goal - get to 6 months.

I have to say I completely understand now why so many women switch to formula.  There are so many issues that spring up with breastfeeding, and I will never again judge anyone for any of the decisions they make on how they feed their baby.  But for me, I'm really proud I stuck with it and I'm grateful that our issues were "fixable."  A lot of people can't stick with it and don't have the resources that I've had to make it work.  And if you're planning to breast feed your baby and you have troubles - please know it can get better.  But whatever choice you make, you're doing what's right for you and your family and that's what matters most.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The birth story

First off, thanks for your kind messages about Max's arrival and my dad's passing.  It means a lot to me.  And to Tiffany, who is a reader who never commented before - thank you.  Honestly, sometimes it feels like when you write a blog post, you're just writing it for the handful of friends you know read it and comment.  It really touches me that there are people who read this blog and care what happens to me  and my family even if they've never met me before.  I've been a lousy blog commenter.  Please know I've been reading all of your posts, usually at 4am when I'm bleary-eyed and feeding Max.

I have so much to say about Max's first month, about c-section recovery, and breastfeeding, and pumping, and lack of sleep, and hormones, and Dad's death, and executing his estate, and my sister and her family.  But Max makes it nearly impossible to write about any of it.  He's a baby after all, and babies = super needy.  To wit, this post has taken two weeks to write.  But hopefully I'll figure out this parenting thing and Max will figure out this being alive thing and we'll be able to share that stuff with you.  In the mean time, here's the birth story.

Max's birth story.  Friday morning I had my membranes stripped which I talked about in my last post.  I went home that day and I didn't feel great, had a lot of cramps throughout the day.  But it eventually subsided. Jeeves came home and I'm noticed that I was maybe having some contractions.  Jeeves got excited/stressed and thought maybe I should start timing my contractions. But I thought that they were too sporadic and I had low expectations that they would last.

Still, they were definitely contractions.  Jeeves and I went out to dinner and on the walk I decided I needed to start timing them.  I had downloaded an app called Full Term, which I used to time my contractions.  At this point my contractions were completely manageable. They were approximately seven minutes apart.  But near the end of dinner they started to get more spread out and more sporadic.  I was disappointed - I thought that maybe this wasn't it.  We went home. At home they started to pick up again.  The pain was also becoming more intense.   But I could still talk through them.  At this point it was getting pretty late at night and now the contractions were running about five minutes apart.   I was worried I wouldn't be able to sleep through them, so Jeeves recommended that I take a bath.

While setting up for the bath, the contractions started to pick up in time.  Now they were every four minutes. When I sat down on the toilet my mucus plug came out.  When I got up from the toilet about a minute later I started drizzling fluid, but I wasn't sure if I had peed myself or if it was my water breaking.  I didn't want to risk it so the bath went by the wayside.  The contractions continued to speed up - they were now about every three minutes but I was not yet at the infamous 311.  311 means that you have contractions that are three minutes apart, that last one minute for at least one hour.  Contractions have to be intense enough that you cannot talk through them.  It was now getting harder for me to talk through the contractions. However, I had not had them for at least an hour.  But as I was sitting on the bed I continued to leak fluid and I realized it was definitely my water which had broken.

My OB asks that you call if your water breaks.  So Jeeves called because at this point it was getting really hard for me to talk if I was having a contraction and I was having them every 2 1/2 to 3 minutes.  Dr. D, who stripped my membranes, was on call and she told me to come in and get admitted since my water had broken.  I asked to stay home long enough to shower, and she said that was fine.  The contraction pain was excruciating at this point, so it took my quite awhile to get showered and dressed and finish throwing a few things into my bag.

The pain.  Oh, the pain.  I think I have a pretty high pain threshold, I really do.  But this was beyond.  It radiated and intensified, and when it was over, there was still some residual pain.  And only a minute or so before another contraction would start.  Timing them became essential, as I really needed to know when I was half way through one.

We managed to get a car via Uber, and headed off to the hospital.  At this point it was well after midnight and that means that the Brooklyn Bridge was closed for repairs.  There was also a ton of traffic in Manhattan thanks to it being the weekend.  Our driver seemed not to have a clue about which way to go and he kept chattering at me, even though he knew I was in labor.  Eventually we reached the hospital, and made it upstairs to Labor & Delivery, with several stops along the way because I really couldn't walk or move at all when contracting.

The staff and nurses at the hospital were incredibly kind.  They quickly got me into a room, changed into a gown, and onto my side where the nurse rubbed my back through the contractions.  I just lay there and moaned in pain.  First question I was asked: Would I like an epidural.  YES, I wailed.  I think that maybe I could have withstood the pain for longer if I had more of a break between contractions.  But with only about a minute of downtime between them, there was just no way I could ride it out.  I know some people are able to do visualizations and see the pain as productive.  None of that worked for me.

Before the anesthesiologist arrived, Dr. D checked my dilation.... I was only dilated one centimeter, and that was the one centimeter she had dilated me that morning in order to sweep the membranes.  I nearly burst into tears.  How could I be in so much pain and only dilated one centimeter?  I was effaced 80%, which was a big improvement over the 0% of the morning, but still.  I had told Jeeves ages ago that I did not want an epidural until  I was at least 4cm dilated ( I should note that I had also planned to labor at home for a lot longer than I did, and I assumed I would have many hours of having contractions that were at least 5 or more minutes apart) because I wanted to reduce the likelihood of a c-section.  Besides, a lot of hospital won't give you an epidural if you're less than 4cm dilated.... But since my water was broken and they could see the frequency of my contractions, Dr. D said I could have the epidural.

Jeeves asked if I was sure that I wanted one.  My wonderful nurse interjected: She wants the epidural!  She's getting the epidural!  I explained to Jeeves that I just couldn't take the pain - I was exhausted and I didn't see how I would have the strength to finish this if I continued without the drugs.

I'll skip the part about the douchey anesthesiologist and just get to the point - the epidural was fucking magic.  Sitting still was the hardest part because I was having contractions while he put it in, but Jeeves and the nurse helped me focus and stay still.  The epidural did not hurt at all going in - probably because the contractions were so excruciating that I did not notice it.  Unfortunately, my epidural was a little bit one sided, but the anesthesiologist topped me off and rolled me onto my side and that did the trick.  Mercifully, I could finally sleep, and I did for a few hours starting around 3am.

As for all my fears about not progressing after getting an epidural so early - completely unfounded.  I progressed like a textbook case.  At least 1cm every hour and effacement continued.  My nurse left at 8am and I got a new nurse, also very nice (not as nice as my night nurse though).  And at 10am, I was fulled effaced and fully dilated.  It was time to push!

Yeah, not how you figured the story would go, right?  Man, I really thought that once I got to the pushing stage, I wouldn't have to worry about a c-section.

I pushed for awhile, but eventually I needed the epidural turned down so I could feel a bit more.  They halved my epidural and I could now feel the pressure and the desire to push.  So, I pushed.  And pushed.  And pushed.  For over an hour.  Dr. D started to get worried about two things: 1) my temp was slightly elevated and she was worried about infection since my water had broken; and 2) when pushing, Max's heart rate would decelerate quite a bit.  So she decided I needed a break - they sat me up straight and hoped gravity would drop Max down a little lower.  At this point, his head was at the +1 station in my pelvic bone.  Unless he got past my pelvic bone, there was nothing Dr. D could do to help him out - I just had to keep pushing and hope he would come down.

I sat up for about 20 minutes, but when they returned, there was no change - Max was still at +1.  Additionally, Dr. D explained that my contractions were similar to someone who had been given pitocin, even though I had not had any - they came in fast clusters and then there would be nothing for several minutes.  This made pushing difficult.  But back to pushing.  I pushed for another hour, but Max's decelerations continued with every pushing cycle and it was taking him longer and longer to recover.  Dr. D explained her concerns - that his cord might be wrapped around his neck or leg and he wasn't tolerating this well.  She was concerned about him.  I burst into tears, and pleaded that they not let anything happen to my baby.  They calmed me down and reassured me he would be okay.  I pushed a couple more cycles, but still Max did not budge.  Dr. D felt it was time to call it.  Jeeves and I finally agreed to the c-section.

As soon as I agreed, I realized how concerned everyone was about the baby.  They immediately started running me down the hall, other medical personnel came streaking out of other rooms, they yanked a hair cap on my head and got me into the OR.  Jeeves wasn't allowed in until they had me thoroughly numb.  This turned out to be an issue - since they had turned the epidural down I could feel a lot, and they needed to really numb me, which was taking longer than they expected.  At one point, one of the three (!) anesthesiologists in the room told me that if they couldn't get me numb soon, they would have to put me under general because the baby needed to come out.  That terrified me.  But Dr. R came over and reassured me that the baby was on the monitor and doing okay.  Eventually, I was numb, Jeeves came in, and they started.

Within minutes, we could hear Max howling.  He had (has) some serious pipes on him.  Jeeves and I both broke down sobbing when we heard him - all we've been through, and we finally had our baby, and he was okay.  They brought him over to us to see, but whisked him away quickly - standard procedure for a c-section delivery is that the baby is looked over by NICU pediatricians in the OR.  So, they gave Max the once over, wrapped him up and handed him to Jeeves.  Max was still howling, but the moment we started talking to him, he stopped crying.  

Turned out his cord was just fine - not wrapped around anything, so we really don't know why he was experiencing those decelerations other than to say that M'Lord Baby is persnickety and apparently did not enjoy labor.

Jeeves and Max stayed with me while I got put back together Humpty Dumpty style.  That took about 30 minutes, and then they moved us to the recovery room, and I finally got to hold my son.  It was a little hard - one of my arms was pretty numb, but we got to do skin to skin and Max nursed in his very first hour like a champ.

When we got to the recovery room, Jeeves checked my cell phone and saw the texts from my sister telling me about Dad's bad fall, that he was in a coma and not expected to make it.  I cried for the third time that day.  I told Jeeves - it's like a plot point from a Lifetime television movie.  If I read it in a book, I'd find it maudlin and unbelievable.  I later learned from Dad's death certificate that he fell 10 minutes before I started pushing.

As we sat (well, I laid) in recovery, I got worried about whether I'd ever feel my legs again.  But by the time I was sent up to my room on Mother/Baby, I could move them.  I also had bad shakes in recovery, but this is apparently very normal for an epidural/c-section.  It wore off.

After a couple of hours in the recovery room, we got moved to our own room.  Luckily we got a private room.  I'm so grateful for that - between recovering from surgery, having a newborn (who was much more awake, alert, and crying than I had been told newborns are the first couple of days), learning to breastfeed, grieving Dad - I don't think sharing a room would have gone well.

Sometimes I still feel guilty or badly about the c-section - like I failed at the birth or I should have pushed for longer.  But honestly, I have to say that having a c-section was no where near as bad as I thought it would be.  I feel like it's important people know that - a c-section can be okay and the recovery from it can relatively easy.  Was I up and walking around 4 hours after Max was born like some women are after vaginal delivery?  No.  But I was up and moving around the next morning.  

I have so much more to say about our stay in the hospital, and Max in general.  Hopefully it won't be so long before I can write again.

Here's a picture we call Max's selfie.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Hello, Goodbye

Well, you've probably guessed by now that Manuji is here, and no longer Manuji.

Please say hello to Maxwell Robb, born at 12:25pm on Saturday, June 21st via emergency c-section.  He weighed 8lbs 2.5 oz, and was 21 inches long.

The birth story is a long one and I have so much to say about it.  But he is here!  Max is here!  And he's healthy and beautiful and safe and funny and all we ever hoped for.  And for the record - yep, the stripping of membranes did work and started my labor on Friday night.  But again, I'd like to do the birth story justice.  Hopefully one of these days Max will give me a few minutes to write it out.

Max's middle name is "Robb" which is also my father's middle name.  Not only my father's middle name, but his mother's maiden name before that and also the name the everyone who knows my father calls him.

I can't remember if I mentioned this in my last post, but last week (which now seems like an eternity), Dad decided to enter hospice care.  Last Thursday, Jeeves and I went out to visit Dad and were pleasantly surprised to see him in decent spirits, and not at death's door as my sister had described.  Before I saw him, I had a whole maudlin speech prepared in which I was going to tell my dad how much he meant to me (which he already knew), how much these last 5 years have meant to me, and that I would take care of my sister when he was gone.  But since he was doing so well, I held off.  But we did tell Dad Max's full name and he cried about the inclusion of Robb.

I didn't talk to my dad on Friday - he didn't answer his cell phone which is not surprising because in his failing health he was constantly leaving it around and forgetting how it worked.

On Saturday, when I came out of surgery, there were many texts from my sister.  Dad had fallen badly in the shower at the assisted living facility and hit his head.  He had a seizure and was sent to the ER.  There he was diagnosed with a brain bleed.  He was admitted to the oncology ward in a coma.  My sister didn't think he'd last very long.  As a hospice patient, he was just on IV fluids.  So, as I held my son for the first time, I cried that my dad was dying and hadn't even known I was in labor.

On Tuesday morning, as I prepared to be released from the hospital, my sister told me that the hospital had called - Dad had died.  We never got to see him, never got to tell him, even if he wasn't conscious, about Max.  

This has been the best and the worst of weeks.  I'm not sure how I've made it through.  But Max's sweet face has helped.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Fun with membrane stripping

40 weeks and 3 days pregnant.  OB appointment this morning.  The ultrasound tech assured me that Manuji's head is quite low (it sure fucking feels like it too).  My amniotic fluid continues to be perfect, and good ol' Manooj appears to be super happy and comfortable in there.  Growth estimate is 8lbs 3 oz.  

Today we had Dr. D, whom we both like very much.  We discussed picking an induction date for between weeks 41 and 42.  I should step back a little.  First off, my practice/hospital will only schedule inductions (other than ones where the mother's health is at risk) Sunday through Thursday.  The induction starts in the evening with cervical ripening, followed by a Foley balloon, and if necessary (and it usually is), Pitocin.  

The second element is that I watched my sister get induced at 41 weeks with my first nephew and it ended in a c-section, and the whole thing seemed awful and I'd like to avoid it.  

When we started this journey, I felt pretty strongly that if everything was okay with the baby, I'd like to go to 42 weeks before induction (not too many doctors, mine included, will let you go past 42 weeks, and based on the studies, especially for women my age, I understand why).  

Then this week, and deserving of its own post, something happened.  It's been a really rough week.  On Tuesday, Dad went to his oncologist and they decided it was time to stop treatment and start hospice care.  I had wanted Dad to have a blood transfusion in the hopes that it might help his anemia and give him some relief from the fatigue.  But his doctor felt it would not do any good.  Later, when I talked to his hospice case manager, she told me she thought the doctor was right - that at this point, the cancer would just eat up all those red blood cells and it might actually help the cancer grow even faster.

So, Dad started hospice care.  I'm going to save all the stuff that happened with that for another post, but the day after that, Dad had a really bad day and I started to wonder if he'd make it to meet the baby.  After seeing him yesterday, I feel like he will make it and will be cognizant when he meets his grandson.  But I don't feel very comfortable letting it go until week 42.  And Dr. D said that at my age, they prefer a woman go closer to week 41 than week 42.

Jeeves and I discussed induction dates, and I definitely want to wait until after I hit 41 weeks - I want to give this kid a little more time to come on his own and avoid what I suspect is going to be a miserable experience that may very well result in me having a c-section.  We had to pick two dates - first choice and second choice.  We'll find out if we got our first choice on Monday.

In the mean time, Dr. D offered to strip my membranes.  In case you don't know what "stripping the membranes" is, it means that the doctor inserts a gloved finger into your cervix and gently separates the bag of waters from the cervix.  This should release prostaglandins, which can kickstart labor.  All of the studies I have read indicate that stripping the membranes is safe and can help labor start naturally.  The only real downside is that it is uncomfortable and can hurt and may not work.  

Warning - I'm going to describe the stripping, so if you find such talk gross skip the stuff between the stars.


I was hooked up to the fetal monitor, and Dr. D started the exam.  She had a hard time reaching my cervix (I have a posterior cervix) but was ultimately able to get to it.  In order to do it, she needed to push the baby down, but she was finally able to get her finger into my cervix and do the sweep.  It was very uncomfortable and it was hard for me not to clench up.  Lots of pressure.  Not a lot of fun.  In retrospect, I should have had Jeeves stand next to me so I could squeeze his hand.  I think that would have helped.  When she finished, I sat up and I had pretty strong menstrual-type cramps.  They subsided.  


Dr. D stepped out to start the process of scheduling the induction date in case I don't go into labor before that.  I was still hooked up to the fetal monitor.  And as I sat there, I started to feel not right.  I started sweating profusely, my heart seemed slow, and I felt very woozy.  The room looked funny.  "I don't feel so good," I told Jeeves.  He asked if he should get the nurse and I said yes.  Dr. D came back in a moment later, put the table back and had me roll onto my side.  Apparently I was having a vagal nerve reaction - my vagus nerve had been stimulated, probably because of the discomfort from the membrane stripping.  As soon as I was lying down and on my side, I felt much better.  I drank some juice and stayed like that for a bit, and was able to get up and go a little while later.  The fetal monitor indicated that I had a couple of contractions - one I did not feel at all (it happened while I was worried that I was dying during the vagal reaction) and the other I felt a little.

Jeeves made me take a cab home, which was the right thing to do, but it made me sad because I had so wanted to stop at the pastry shop next to the subway.  Oh well.  Once home, I basically slept for two hours - the appointment and near-fainting had wiped me out.

Now we wait to see if this worked.  Dr. D said if it works, I'll go into labor within 24 to 48 hours after the stripping.  I've had some contractions, but nothing worth timing, and cramps for a chunk of the day.  I don't want to get my hopes up.  I know how incredibly lucky I have been in my life - I have the most amazing husband and a good job, I was able to get pregnant through IUI, my pregnancy was relatively uncomplicated, and my dad managed to last 5 years in pretty good health with stage IV colon cancer.  So I don't want to complain.  But the last couple of weeks, it's sort of felt like we can't catch a break.  The timing of Dad's decline has been terrible, and I just want this little boy to come out and meet his gramps.  It would be nice to get a win.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Father's Day, still no sign of Manuji

I mean, no sign other than the little feet he likes to jab sharply into my side.  I was hoping he might surprise Jeeves and be the best Father's Day gift either, but no.  As Jeeves puts it, Manuji is enjoying his rent stabilized apartment... even if the quarters are getting a little tight.

I'm 39w6d today.  Due date is tomorrow.

We went for the weekly OB appointment on Friday.  Fluid is still perfect.  And cervix is still shut tight. We met our last new doctor and I asked her if I should be concerned that my cervix is doing jack shit right now.  She said no.  She said, first, that it's my first, and first babies typically come after the due date; and second, she thinks these cervical checks are kind of dumb.  As she put it, she's had plenty of patients who had nothing going on call 3 hours after she saw them because they are in active labor. And she's had patients who were dilated 3cm just hang out like that for weeks.  Still, if I am pregnant at my next appointment (this Friday), they'll want me to schedule my induction.  I must have made a stricken face because she immediately assured me that it doesn't mean I'll have to be induced, just that they want to put something on the calendar.  So, she wanted me to think about choosing a date between weeks 41 and 42.  Jeeves and I are mulling it over.  At least part of the date choice will be contingent upon which doctor is on call.   I just keep hoping this will start on its own.

After much nagging from Jeeves, and a bit from Dad when he's actually with it, last Thursday was my last day of work.  While sitting at my desk was a piece of cake, and it's super air-conditioned in the office, and it was also a good way to take my mind off of when Manuji is coming and what's going on with Dad, the commute was getting a little rough.  New Yorkers can kind of be jerks and I couldn't always guarantee that I'd get a seat, the subway platform is HOT right now, and the stairs were becoming more of a struggle as my pelvis is starting to ache more.  So, no more work.  I miss it, and I felt depressed about it on Thursday.  Does that sound stupid?  I feel like everyone I know was so excited to stop work.  Maybe because my job was part-time and low stress, it seemed sad to stop.  And the other nice thing about it is that most of my co-workers are older and have already gone through losing a parent, or dealing with a frail, elderly parent, so they've always been very supportive and I find hearing their stories helpful.  For instance, last week my co-worker, J, (early 60s, has 4 grown children) told me that her mother was very sick when she was pregnant with her third child, and died about 3 weeks after she was born.  I look at J and think "She's okay.  She made it," and it makes me feel a little better.

Last week my sister took care of the stuff that needed to be done in order to get Dad into assisted living.  She also took Dad to his oncology appointment and called me up on speaker phone.  I wondered at first if I should just let her handle it, but in the end, it was good I was on the phone call.  Dad was kind of out of it, my sister was completely focused on getting the stuff she needed from them in order to get Dad into the AL place.  So as for Dad's cancer care, it basically became a conversation between his nurse practitioner and me.  Dad's hemoglobin is still very low.  This was surprising since he received two units of blood two weeks before.  But, it was also a little bit of a relief for me because it explains his weakness, fatigue, and confusion.... Honestly I had been worried that he was in the early stages of liver failure from the metastasis.

Anyway, we held off on more chemo, and we decided to wait one week to see what happens with the hemoglobin.  If it stays low, then he'll do another transfusion.  I fully expect tomorrow that his hemoglobin will be quite low.

Okay, long post about moving Dad into assisted living and my neurosis, so feel free to skip if you're just here for baby updates.  

On Friday my sister and BIL moved Dad into the assisted living place.  Thursday and Friday were struggles for me.  My sister texts me about 8000 times a day regarding Dad.  And while Dad and I were still talking once a day, my sister made it sounds like Dad was calling her all the time, and that he was cheery and happy about his move.  It's completely stupid, but my feelings were kind of hurt.  When I would talk to Dad, our conversations were short, he sounded tired, down, and not like himself.  When I would ask him about the move, he'd tell me he was scared and anxious.  What I should have realized is that a) my dad is really sick right now and when he doesn't feel well, he talks a lot less and shares a lot less and basically is like a cat and wants to curl up and be left alone; and b) that my sister sees things how she wants to see them.  But I didn't.  I'm a giant pregnant woman and I'm emotional so I took it personally.

Sissy texted me a gajillion times on Friday regarding the move and made it sounds like Dad was doing GREAT and was SO HAPPY to be in his new place.  When he called me, he mostly wanted to know where his handicap hang tag is (my sister has it), and he sounded out of it and tired.  We got off the phone, and an hour later, I had a bunch of texts from my sister with the blow by blow of what Dad had eaten for dinner and how he had sat with some man named Sal.  I was jealous again.  How come Sissy is getting these nice, detailed reports, and I'm getting the grouch who wants his handicap hang tag?  I tried calling Dad and it was clear he had turned off his cell phone.  I felt like crying.  "She's projecting," Jeeves said.  "She's projecting how she feels about the place onto your dad."  But part of me was so sure that he was just mad at me for some reason.  Or now he had Sissy so he didn't need me for anything and our daily phone conversations were just a task for him.

Saturday Jeeves and I went out to see Dad and we planned to go by the house to get him more stuff he would need.  I should add that according to Sissy, this new place was going to make sure Dad ate his meals, they were going to make him wear one of those fall buttons, they wouldn't let him hide in his room.  I didn't care so much about the last thing, but I really wanted to make sure he was eating. 

So, we get to the place, get into Dad's room, and.... wow.  He was in his bathrobe and underwear, not wearing his teeth.  He wasn't a total disaster, but look, a couple of months ago it would have been totally beyond Dad's comprehension that he would allow his son-in-law to see him like that.  It was 11:30 in the morning.  "Did you have breakfast today?" I asked.  "No, didn't feel like it.  Just coffee."  We encouraged Dad to get dressed and slap his teeth in, and we got him downstairs for lunch.  He got a bit better after he ate.  But in general, he was worse than when I saw him the previous weekend - he looked exhausted, was easily tired from very short walks (with his walker), had difficulty moving about, etc.  And he was pretty easily confused.  I would ask him a question and he would either not answer me at all or would trail off and forget what we were talking about (kind of like when he was severely dehydrated back in March).

As for the place itself - it's nice, his room is decent, it's got a handicap-accessible bathroom, with a built-in seat in it, which is great for Dad.  There are no stairs, nothing for him to trip over.  The staff was, by and large, incredibly nice and friendly and helpful.  The downside?  Jeeves and I found it pretty depressing.  There were a few able-bodied elderly people there, but most of the people were in wheelchairs, unable to get anywhere by themselves, sitting in a common area after lunch waiting to be taken back to their rooms because they couldn't do it themselves.  A number of them seemed to be suffering from some dementia or Alzheimer's.  It was kind of a sad place, at least in the dining room.  My sister had kept telling me this place was like a "cruise on land" and it was frickin' Shangri-la, and she wished she could move in.  All I could think was "I'm going to make sure I have some sort of plan in place for myself when I'm old so I don't wind up here."  Honestly, it reminded me of a nursing home a lot more than I thought it would.

After lunch, Dad couldn't find his wallet.  Jeeves and I tore the room apart, but couldn't find it either, and so I reached out to my sister.  She thought he might have left it at his house.  But she didn't see what the big deal was - "What does he need his wallet for?"  In fact, I got the notion that she was glad he didn't have it - just one more way of keeping Dad in the place.  Oh, and when I asked her what the deal was with the fact that Dad hadn't had breakfast today (weren't they supposed to "make" him go eat - her words!) she was like, "No, he said he didn't want to eat, and they won't make him."  Uh, okay.  Look, it's fine.  But she was definitely selling me an inaccurate bill of goods last week.

We swung by Dad's house, and I was irked to find how Sissy and BIL had left the house - dishes in the sink, lights left on, refrigerator full of food.  We packed up the things Dad needed that hadn't been brought already, I dealt with making some phone calls for him, and I turned the house upside down looking for that fucking wallet.  I became more and more panicked about it.  First - Dad keeps his social security card, his Medicare card, his photo ID, blah blah blah, in his wallet and getting that shit replaced would suck.  Second - I knew that if we didn't find the wallet, Dad would be convinced someone at the facility had stolen it and that would completely impact how he felt about the place. 

Back at the facility, we brought in Dad's stuff and started setting it up.  Dad was just waking up from his nap.  We started rechecking everything in the room for Dad's wallet, and I was just starting to give up hope, when I checked his pajama bottoms.... and found his wallet.  Why did my dad put his wallet in his pajama bottoms?  Who knows.  Probably he was feeling distrustful.  It doesn't matter, we found it, and Dad, Jeeves and I were all very happy.  Dad admitted that the missing wallet had made him start to feel unsafe in the place.  And what did Sissy have to say when I told her we found it and where it was?  She wanted me to take it away from him.  I'm not kidding.  Remember how I said back in December that my sister tends to infantalize my father and it bugs me?  Yeah.... 

At 5pm, we walked Dad down to dinner (at the end of the hall, Dad had to sit down while waiting for the elevator - that's how quickly he tires), and headed home.  I burst into tears in the car.  He's worse than he was a week ago, and it's hard to watch.  I'm glad he's in this facility because it's much, much safer for him to be sick in this place than sick at home.  But it still makes me incredibly sad.

I told my sister about the visit and she got upset, periodically cursing "Shit!" at things I told her.  She was also upset that he wasn't wearing the Life Alert pendant that she signed him up for (I refrained from telling her "I told you so" - those pendants are great, but only if the person will actually wear them and it's always been clear that Dad will not wear one).  I tried to reassure her - he's not doing well, but he's in the right place, she did the right thing getting him into this place.  

So, I guess the moral of the story is that I realized that my sister was indeed projecting her feelings about the place onto Dad (and she still is - yesterday there was a whole debacle about how she wanted me to press him to join the walking club).  She kept talking about how great this place was going to be for Dad, how it was going to totally turn things around for him, how he should have moved in there a year ago, and I realize now that Sissy doesn't understand that Dad's problems are stemming from a systemic disease, and that she thinks this place is going to magically turn my dad into a different person.

I'm hoping against hope that we can get the anemia under control so that Dad's last few months can be a little more comfortable.  I guess we'll see what happens tomorrow.

If you made it to the end of this post, you seriously deserve an ice cream cone.  Positive vibes, prayers, whatever your thing is - if you could send them to my dad, and also to me in the hopes that I have this baby soon, I would really appreciate it.

Monday, June 09, 2014

39 weeks, still pregnant

Well, it's been quite a week.  I'm 39 weeks pregnant tomorrow.  Yep, Manuji is still inside.

Update from last Friday's OB appointment.  This appointment was with the unflappable Dr. R, who we saw several times at the beginning of my pregnancy when my regular OB, Dr. C, was unavailable.  I really like Dr. R because she's chill and seems like low intervention.  Anyway, not much to report.  I had another growth scan and Manuji is allegedly measuring about 7lbs 8oz.  But I think these growth scans are really just guesses.  My fluid levels are good.  My cervix remains shut tight.  And that's about it.  I go back this Friday, where unfortunately I have to meet a new doctor.  I'm tired of new doctors.  Still having mostly painless Braxton Hicks contractions.  Every once in awhile I will have a painful one, but that's about it.

In my pregnancy group, more and more of the women have had their babies and the posts are about breastfeeding and what not now.  Three of the women who have given birth were due after me.  Only one was scheduled (due to severe pre-eclampsia).  The other two had their water break and then labor started.  I am starting to have this sinking feeling that I'm going to go well past my due date and ultimately have to be induced, which I really don't want, but what can you do?  I'm more and more uncomfortable and tired and it's starting to feel like this baby is never going to come.

Jeeves and I (well, mostly Jeeves) have made great strides in preparations - Baby's room is basically done (just waiting for some pictures and picture frames), we went to IKEA and finally got lamps and a rug for the room, stroller has been put together, car seat is in the car and we have an appointment to have it checked to see if we did it right.  My hospital bag is packed.  We bought snacks to take to the hospital.  We quiz each other on the steps for infant CPR.  So now we just wait.   

The biggest updates involve Dad.  Whenever my posts are mostly about Dad, I have less readers, but this blog is a good form of therapy for me, so it's fine if you want to check out now. 

I realize that I have complained a lot this year about how little my sister has done with regards to my dad's care.  But I feel like I need to give a little background on that.  When Dad was diagnosed 5 years ago, I lived at home with him so I could save money and pay off debt.  I was dating Jeeves, but we weren't engaged and he was living in Connecticut.  I had a demanding job, but the point is, I had the time and the will and I lived with Dad - all stuff that made it logical for me to be his primary caregiver.  Meanwhile, when Dad was diagnosed, my sister was four and half months pregnant with her third child and her second child had just been diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum.  For many years during Dad's treatment, he was doing very well and tolerated the chemo and needed minimal help from us.  I would go with him to doctor's appointments and keep track of his health history, but he didn't need help at home.

Meanwhile, my sister had a rough couple of years with her kids - coming to terms with the severity of my nephew's autism, dealing with her youngest, who definitely went through the terrible 2s and 3s.  My brother-in-law (whom Dad and I are not a big fan of) hired an au pair from China (my BIL is originally from China and this girl was actually someone that his family knew from back home) who was very young and had limited experience and spoke little English.  She wound up making my sister's life harder - it was like having a 13 year old girl in your house, except she was supposed to be working for you.  After a year, they terminated her contract and she went to work for someone else.  Then, two years ago, on Father's Day, Dad and I went to Sissy's house for a barbecue and we found my sister in a nearly catatonic state.  The next day she was involuntarily admitted to a hospital.  She got better, but after awhile she stopped going to therapy and stopped taking her medication (with my idiot BIL's full knowledge).  A year ago, she wound up back in the hospital, this time voluntarily.  They finally have her on a medication that helps and that she likes, and she's stuck with her therapy.  And they finally seem to have gotten her diagnosis right - Bipolar Disorder II.  She's doing much better now.  

I just give you this background so you can see that Sissy being much help to Dad was just not likely to happen.  In addition, Dad, although he loves and is close with my sister, did not particularly want her help.  He didn't see the point in her helping with his medical care since she knew very little about it.  And because Dad dislikes and distrusts BIL, he is reticent to confide certain things in Sissy.  This is not to say that I was not seriously pissed off when she was no help back in March (at a point in time when her kids are all in some sort of school, and she is healthy).  But part of the problem has been that she has not been able to help for the last few years and I have not asked her to help, nor has Dad.  But she's trying really hard now.  And Dad is accepting her help.

So, the quick update on Dad's situation.  Last week after learning about the fall he took where the paramedics were called, both Sissy and I started talking to Dad about assisted living and I sent Sissy a couple of places that are near his home.  On day one, he was resistant and said he wanted to hire his cleaning lady to run errands for him.  But I got him to agree to let Sissy take him to visit the assisted living places.  Day two, Dad and I started talking money, and he basically said he didn't want to spend any money on any of this stuff because he wants to make sure he's leaving it all to me and Sissy.  I convinced him that this would be the best gift he could give Sissy and me, and that he needed to stop being cheap about spending money on himself and he needed to think of this as spending money on me and Sissy (which he not cheap about at all).  Day four, Sissy and BIL took Dad to see the nicer of the assisted living places and Dad, miraculously, really liked it, although he became very distrustful when my stupid, stupid BIL was so vigorously selling it.

On day five, Saturday, Jeeves and I came out to see Dad.  We spent most of the day talking with him about assisted living and he basically admitted that he was ready to go in right now.  He's terrified of falling again, and is basically trapped in the house.  He's weak and fatigued.  He can't live alone anymore, he needs help.  And he's finally, mentally, gotten there.  Day six, Sissy talked to the people at the facility and they set up the nurse assessment, which was today.  Sissy attended.  It went well, and it looks like they could take him as soon as this Friday.  Sissy has to coordinate a bunch of stuff involving Dad's prescriptions and a tuberculosis test.  I know it's a bit stressful for her, but she's managing.

So this is great news.  Dad will be in a safe environment and he will eat more, and get physical therapy.  I really think this could make what time he has left a lot more pleasant for him.  And it will obviously be a load off for Sissy and me.

It's also been emotionally tough for me.  Never mind dealing with the realization that Dad's time is extremely limited, my terror over being an orphan, how he's not even gone yet and I miss him already.  I've come to realize that so much of my identity has been wrapped up in being Dad's caregiver, and I haven't been able to do that for a couple of months now.  Sissy is taking over that role, and it's really, really hard for me to let her.  On Saturday when I was out there, I noted the things that Sissy did not do over the last few days - she did not check Dad's prescriptions and get them refilled, she did not make sure he had enough Ensure, she did not realize that Dad is not eating dinner anymore because he's too fatigued to do anything other than microwave food for himself (everything she had bought him at the store required cooking), she did not change his sheets, or run and empty the dishwasher, or check to see that his bills are being paid.  I should note that these are all things my dad has done for himself when he is feeling well, but since he is sick right now, these things stop happening.  And at first I was annoyed that she had not done it.... and then I was weirdly pleased.  Don't judge me - no one judges me more harshly than myself on this.  But I was weirdly pleased because it meant I was still a necessary part of the equation.  I hadn't been totally replaced.

For the last five years, I have been the good daughter who takes care of Dad.  And now I'm the swollen, pregnant daughter who can't do anything for her dad other than call him.  I know that this is okay, I do.  I know it's okay for my sister to do this job for the short amount of time it takes to get him into assisted living.  But it's also really hard for me, even though all that should matter is that Dad is being taken care of.

Anyway, that's the story.  I'll wrap this up with what I've been saying to basically everyone lately.  How old are your parents?  Are they currently in decent health?  Start talking to them now.  Ask them what their long term plans are.  Do they live in a house with a lot of stairs or a house where the only full bathroom is up a flight of stairs?  I wish Dad and I had had that conversation earlier.  It honestly did not occur to me that he would get so frail so quickly.  I always assumed that at some point he would have to stop chemo and that he would have to do hospice care, but the actual logistics of this did not occur to me.  Or to him, I think.  So do yourself a favor and talk about it now.  Or buy your parents a copy of Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? 

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

38 weeks, more Dad stuff, and the saving grace of a good book

38 weeks today.  Manuji is still inside.  I get painless Braxton Hicks contractions every day from time to time and a couple of times I've had a painful one that stole my breath.  But that's about it.  

Things have been rough.  Dad had the blood transfusion last Wednesday and it went fine.  He said he actually felt a little better.  But he was still pretty fatigued on Thursday.  On Friday at 6:30am, I got a text from my sister (she was supposed to go visit Dad that day) and he had called and told her not to come because he had been up most of the night in terrible pain.  She said she was thinking she should still go - what did I think?  You should go, I told her.  I called Dad and he told me he had woken up in the middle of the night in horrible pain - he said the pain was worse than when he had his bowel obstruction (which, as far as I could tell, was the worst pain he had ever had up to that point).  But Dad has a prescription for oxycodone, so he took that and the pain was still there, but a lot less.  

I'm going to skip over a lot of stuff that happened that morning.  The short route is that Dad's nurse practitioner did not think it was a delayed reaction to the transfusion - she thought it might be the cancer nodes pressing on nerves.  She did not think Dad should come into the doctor because his doctor would probably have him admitted to the hospital for a bunch of tests and she didn't think that was a) necessary or b) a good idea.  She advised him to keep taking the oxycodone.  Dad and I wound up having an argument over the phone while I was sitting in my OB's waiting room.  I am not going to repeat it because it just upsets me.  But again, the short story is that I was asking him questions and what not and got yelled at for being a "nag" and in my opinion, Dad was being supremely rude to me, so I told him I would talk to him later and got off the phone.  Shockingly, my blood pressure was only 100/60 after this conversation!  Couldn't believe it.

Sissy went up to Dad's that day and spent time with him.  She felt he was okay not going to the hospital, and she ran some errands for him, got him food, took out the garbage, etc.  I was really glad she went.   Dad and I talked later and he apologized for being mean.

Most of the weekend he was on oxycodone and if you've ever had a conversation with someone on painkillers, well, it's not the most fun.  By Sunday he went off them and found that the pain was basically gone.  So that was a relief for both of us.  On the other hand, he talked to his brother on Sunday, and apparently came clean about what's been going on.  Dad and his brother (who lives in Canada and is not able to travel down here because he cares for his very ill wife) are extremely close.  So telling his brother that he thinks he's run out of options for treatment and that he's nearing the end was very depressing and difficult.  Dad and I both cried about the situation over the phone.

One of my hopes for Dad was that he would have some time between end of treatment and disease progression where he felt well and could do stuff that he wanted to do before dying.  I am scared of disease progression happening without any respite and him basically being in a drugged stupor from now until death.  I am scared of him refusing to stop chemo and just getting sicker and sicker from the drugs that are no longer helping him.

One of the benefits from the weekend, though, was that Sissy asked me if I thought she should go with Dad to his doctor's appointment next Tuesday.  YES, I said.  That is a good idea.  So she is taking Dad to the doctor next week.  She will also call me from the office and put me on speaker phone so I can hear what happens.  

Today, Sissy went to visit Dad and texted me, "Did you know that Dad fell outside the cleaners and hurt himself?  The paramedics were called."  Uhhh, no, I did not.  Apparently it happened a couple of days ago?  I'm not totally clear on when it happened.  The paramedics bandaged up his arm and he's okay, I guess, but jeez.  Sissy reported that he's still very fatigued and depressed.  We have both noted that he is easily confused (especially about dates and days of the week).  The depression is to be expected.  We're both trying to talk Dad into going into assisted living, like, immediately.  Who knows if he'll agree.  Seems unlikely, but maybe.  I basically thought I was having a panic attack over this whole situation.  The timing of it all could not be shittier.

Another sad part to this story is that in the few minutes a day where I start to feel happy about having a baby soon, I wind up feeling guilty for feeling anything other than sad and scared about Dad.  Jeeves told me that I can't let this overshadow my happiness about Manuji - that after everything we went through to get here, he deserves to be celebrated.  He's right, of course.  But it's still kind of hard to give myself that permission.

And how's Manuji?  Well, at the OB appointment last week, the ultrasound tech declared fluid levels perfect and noted that he was lower than the week before.  Dr. C was able to feel his head (during the most aggressive and unpleasant pelvic exam I've probably ever had), but noted that my cervix is still closed tight.  And that was about it.  Back in this Friday.

Late third trimester report - hand/finger pain, swelling, and weakness continues; some back pain, especially near the end of the day; pelvic pain; fatigue; lots of peeing; frequently hot.  Shortness of breath seems a little better (except when freaking out about Dad).  I've been taking a bath every night in Epsom salts with eucalyptus spearmint scent.  That's pretty much the best part of the day - when I sit in the bath and feel temporarily weightless.  Wish I had a pool!  

I guess a lot of this post is about control.  I've been feeling scared about the baby because I have no control on when he's coming or if he's going to come without help.  I'm scared of induction and a c-section like my sister had with her first.  I'm trying to let that go - whatever is going to happen is going to happen.  And Dad - that's all about control too.  For both of us - we have no control anymore over his cancer and how or when he's going to die, and he's desperately clinging to his independence which he just can't do anymore, and I'm dealing with the fact that I can't control his situation.  

I know I used to write about the books I was reading a lot.  I haven't been reading much since the move.  It's been hard for me to get caught up in a book.  Over the last 4 days or so, though, the one thing that's really helped take my mind off of what's been going on (besides ice cream and pastries) is a book.  My friend Tati lent me Night Film by Marissa Pessl.  I can't put it down.  It's not even YA!  Or SciFi/Fantasy!  I'm not done with it yet, I will give a fuller review when I'm done.  But what a sweet pleasure, to lose oneself during troubled times in a book.  I'm grateful for that.

There's been other good stuff - infant CPR, I got fitted for nursing bras, and Jeeves has had a serious case of the nesting (he even installed the car seat!).  But for now, I will leave you, and hope I have better news to report next time.