I think pacifiers are disgusting. I realize that the pacifier debate has a lot more to do with the fact that they bother adults rather than causing problems in infants. But I still think they’re gross, and wanted to put off introducing our daughter to one as long as possible.
Then the screaming started. Two days of nonstop inconsolable crying. Two days of no sleep for myself. I held her, I rocked her, I read The Happiest Baby on the Block like it was my new bible. The only thing that vaguely calmed her was nursing and sucking on my pinkie finger, neither of which are things I can do while I sleep. So caved and introduced her to a pacifier. I worried about it affecting her latch and causing nipple confusion. But more importantly both RD and I were concerned about the lack of sleep wearing down my mental health, so I popped the infernal device in her mouth. And she was magically quiet. And I felt completely inferior to a little nub of plastic.
Now that I’ve slept, I have made my peace with the stupid thing. I feel a little better that sometimes when I offer it to her she reaches up, grabs it, and pulls it out of her mouth and looks at me like I’m a moron. As if to say “no, I want the real thing.” It’s the most deliberate use of her hands I’ve seen so far. So she hasn’t completely abandoned me for the pacifier. She’s still trying to figure out how to get her own fingers into her mouth, but I think in another week she might get there.
We also introduced her to her first bottle of expressed milk. I wanted to put it off another week, per recommendations from lactation consultants, but in the interest of my sleep sanity RD needed to be able take some of the night feedings. I was terrified that she’d decide she preferred the bottle to me and that would be the end of breastfeeding. And I still am. If breastfeeding is awkward, pumping is downright ridiculous looking and getting a bottle ready / cleaning it afterwards is so much more effort than just popping her on a boob.
Like most new parents, I’m learning that there are some things you just have to let go in favor of something more important. Like sleeping for more than an hour. A baby who nurses well isn’t as important as having a mother who can think straight. And thankfully neither the pacifier the bottle hasn’t affected her latch as far as I can tell. She’s still my little lamprey.
Yesterday was really hard. Our little puke machine is now two weeks old, and for whatever reason decided to spend 48 hours being inconsolably fussy and not sleeping at all. Was it gas? Was it something I ate? Is she getting too much or too little to eat? Maybe a UTI? Who knows. I was on the verge of taking her to the doctor, fully expecting to be told “yeah that’s how babies are,” when she finally settled down and slept.
Even with help – I had no less than three people come by at various points yesterday – dealing with a screaming newborn when you yourself haven’t slept at all is hard. RD was away on business and gone from 6am to midnight, by far the longest stretch I’ve had to manage without him. Not that he had it much better, going on a business trip on no sleep isn’t much fun either. I spent most of the day curled up on the couch, desperately wishing I could sleep while Bitmap’s great-grandmother took care of her. By the time my mother-in-law came over to keep me company in the evening I was pretty well cracked.
But today is a new day, and thanks to getting four whole consecutive hours of sleep I’m back to merely “exhausted” instead of “delirious.” Which may not be a ringing endorsement of my mood, but it’s enough to keep me going. Today was more like the fable of motherhood: great-grandma came over and helped with the cleaning while I did some work and caught up on email. Then we loaded my happy baby girl into the carrier and walked to the coffee shop where I listened to Granny complain about politics and the Catholic church, with a dash of neighborhood gossip for good measure.
Most days aren’t like today, but most of them aren’t like yesterday either. At two weeks old we don’t really have a “normal” yet. I celebrate the small victories, like going a whole day without being puked on, and every now and then find an opportunity to squeeze a part of my old life into my new one (like tending to my plants, most of which are dying from neglect). Every day I get a little better at it, and every day my daughter has something new to challenge me with.
If I could use only one word to describe becoming a parent, it would be “disarming.” I am someone who, until this week, possessed no maternal instinct and quite frankly does not find babies to be cute. And yet one look at my wrinkly little blob of a daughter drains me of all my jaded, snarky comebacks.
Our little Bitmap (a nickname which I only barely convinced RevolvingDork not to use as her middle name) is settling into her first week. RD and I are overwhelmed, but thrilled.
We delivered in a hospital downtown under the care of a large midwifery practice. We hired a doula, a support person who helps both the mother and father stay calm during what is likely to be an intense experience. Bitmap’s entry into the world wasn’t all what we expected, but we knew that we’d get a curve ball no matter what we planned for. This is her birth story.
24 hours after my water broke I still wasn’t in labor. We went to the hospital, and decided the best option would be to induce. Induction was pretty much last on the list of things I wanted, I think I feared it even more than a c-section, but with absolutely no labor signs it seemed like the best option. I was admitted and given an IV of pitocin.
The plan was to labor without pain medication, and only get an epidural if I really felt I needed it. Early labor was tough, but my husband was amazing. The doula suggested different positions for managing the pain. I was free to get out of bed, so we moved all around the room with each contraction. The peak of them sucked, but I could rest between them. Pitocin often makes contractions much more painful than unmedicated labor, and because my water had been broken for so long I was on a pretty aggressive schedule. By 4 hours in the pitocin was cranked up to 14mu/min, and I could no longer rest at all between contractions. I started feeling delirious from pain and exhaustion, but wasn’t anywhere near fully dilated so I got an epidural. The anesthesiologist was great and within minutes of him placing the line I was feeling lucid again. I could still feel every contraction (and had to breathe through some of the bigger ones), but I no longer felt like I was going insane.
As the contractions got more intense, the baby wasn’t handling them well and I was put on oxygen. It actually helped that I had to breathe through the contractions, because inhaling the oxygen deeply kept the baby’s heart rate rock solid.
For one reason or another, my temperature started spiking and because my fluid had been ruptured for so long they had to assume it could be due to infection. I was started on antibiotics and given a fever reducer. An infection in the mother during labor is likely to affect the baby as well, so the baby would need to be given a course of antibiotics immediately after delivery. This was a pretty huge bummer, because it meant that the baby would have to go to the NICU for observation rather than come up to room with us.
As that information sunk in, I started to lose it. I was having the exact experience I dreaded – strapped to a bed covered in tubes getting every medical intervention on the planet. I started feeling like we were circling towards inevitable c-section, and really started fearing for the health of our baby. It seemed like every time the nurse came in, something new was going wrong. High temperature, high blood pressure, baby wasn’t handling contractions well again. There was a shift change and the new midwife wasn’t very communicative, which left me feeling frustrated and scared. Thankfully our nurse was AMAZING and was on top of everything, and did a really good job of explaining the things the midwife didn’t bother to. She and our doula managed to get me to a point of feeling at least OK, if not great.
After that low, things started turning around. My temperature dropped, and we found a position where the baby tolerated the contractions just fine. They even managed to get me into a sit-squat position where gravity could bring the baby down, which I thought was pretty impressive given the epidural. I got to 10 cm, and they said I could start pushing whenever I felt the urge, but I had this really intense back pain and I wanted to rest a bit before the Big Push, which I figured might take a while.
Unfortunately the back pain just got worse and worse, no matter what. It was strong enough that I had to use a lot of natural labor techniques during contractions, and my husband’s poor arms were shaking with exhaustion from doing so much counter pressure. I was mashing the button to increase the epidural (which was of course on a timer). After about an hour which was not at all restful, they suggested I just try pushing.
The second I started pushing, the back pain was GONE. It wasn’t muscle fatigue, it was the baby pressing on down on her way out the door. Pushing felt GREAT, which is to say it was still really hard work, but oh my god not having that back pain was AMAZING. They told me the baby was almost out, and I didn’t believe them. I started grinning like a madman and said all sorts of stupid things like “I’m having a baby!” over and over. In four contractions she was born. She was 6 pounds, 14 oz and 21.25 inches long.
I got to spend a little time with her before she was whisked away to the NICU. Once I was cleaned up we went to visit her – compared to the rest of the NICU babies she was gigantic. She was covered in monitor leads and had an IV in her right arm, but her vital signs were good and she was sleeping peacefully.
Thanks to an amazing husband, doula, and the hospital nursing staff, I was able to have a really positive experience despite despite nothing going to plan. It was really hard, emotionally moreso than physically, but I feel like every decision we made was the right one. I wouldn’t change a single thing about it, and I’d definitely be willing to do it again. In a few years.
Sharing the news of our pregnancy with friends has been bittersweet. While everyone is excited about our newest addition, not everyone is quite so happy about the other big change coming with it: we’re leaving New York City for Philadelphia in order to be closer to family. We’re ditching our Jersey City condo and plunking down a chunk of change on a four-bedroom rowhouse in Manayunk.
New York is an amazing city, and after three years I’ve only see an tiny, tiny fraction of it. There are amazing things happening all the time, incredible people, an infinite number of places to eat, and a 24 hour subway system that means never having to worry about a designated driver. My local fabric store is so immense people make pilgrimages to the city just to visit it. And most of all I have an incredible network of fantastic friends here; the kind of friends who come to your baptism, even though they’re atheists, or help you lug an anvil-bolted-to-a-log across town. For science. But despite everything I love about this area, I realized it’s not where I want to be forever.
Our decision to move was based on a lot of things. We want more space; our current place has so little storage I keep my bike in the bathroom. The cost of living is substantially higher in New York, and the fast-pace of living is starting to wear me down. But ultimately it’s family that’s bringing us south. My husband’s huge closely knit family is in Philadelphia, and even before we got married I knew it was just a matter of time before their gravitational pull sucked us in. Getting pregnant was just the thing that put us over the edge.
Raising kids in New York City can be incredibly rewarding, but it also comes with some unique challenges. The subway system, with its mazes of stairs, is downright hostile to anyone with stroller. A mini baby-boom over the last 5 years has made getting into preschool both competitive and expensive. And just like anywhere else in the country, if you don’t have friends with kids nearby it can be isolating and lonely.
For those with family (or friends with kids) in the area, getting a precious few hours of kid-free time is as simple as dropping them off at Grandma’s – with a bottle of wine as a bribe, of course. For those without, it means shelling out for a sitter – assuming you can find one who is both trustworthy and available. At 6 months postpartum, a friend of mine confessed she hadn’t been out at all because she still wasn’t ready to leave the baby with a stranger.
Only a few of our friends live in our neighborhood, and none of our friends with kids live nearby. I didn’t want to have to choose between wrestling a stroller up four flights of subway stairs and being a shut-in. We found a place in Philly that’s in a neighborhood a lot like the one we’re in now: very walkable, lots of public transit, good restaurants. It has enough room to have as many kids as we want. Best of all: it’s only a few miles from both my in-laws and great-in-laws.
Plus, New York won’t be rid of us entirely. We’re both lucky that we’re able to do our jobs from most anywhere, but we’ll still need to pop into the city periodically for meetings.
I don’t have any delusions of my life staying the same as it is now once the baby arrives, but I’m hoping that with a little help from the family we can sneak off to see the occasional movie or grown-up restaurant. There may not be quite as many amazing things happening in Philadelphia as there are in New York, but by moving closer to our support network there’s a much bigger chance of us being able to get out and do them.
I actually started knitting baby items well before I got pregnant myself. Baby items are some of the most satisfying things to knit: they’re quick, they’re great for using up the odds and ends in your yarn stash, and the fit can be pretty haphazard.
When my friend Bre’s baby was born I knit a tiny pair of baby booties, which immediately triggered a flood of suspicion from the family. The pattern can be purchased here.
Next up was a tunic/dress thing for our own spawn. I had half a ball of Chroma yarn left, which tends to look a little like clown vomit when used by itself, so I striped it with some grey.
The most recent is a Milo shirt, which I knit in pink even though we’re not planning on finding out the gender before the baby is born. Fun fact: pink used to be considered a color for boys as it was “light red.”
It didn’t come out nearly as well as I’d hoped, mostly because the varigated yarn competes too much with the cable details, so I didn’t bother to photograph it.
I keep track of my knitting on Ravelry, you can follow me there if you’re a knitter too.