Thursday, February 27, 2014

Working Through Birth Trauma

So I'm a bit of a planner, okay?

And so I'm about ten steps ahead of myself, and worrying about how I will have to choose a medical provider to manage my pregnancy and delivery. You know, when I'm actually pregnant. And I'm not even TTC'ing yet.

But I'm worried about feeling rushed into a decision. And I'm feeling way more anxious about my choice this time around. I was pretty chill about it last time. Interviewed a couple people, got a couple recommendations (one from a friend, one from a midwife who doesn't deliver babies herself anymore), and picked. And it was all mostly fine, until the big day. And then it sucked. Horribly.

And everyone was fine. And I got my gorgeous girl. And I couldn't be happier with our lives together. So it feels awfully whiny to complain.

But if I could, I wish that I could have a more empowering experience the next time around. Whatever that would look like. I have no idea.

So today I called and made an appointment with a woman who teaches group classes for expectant and new parents, and also does one on one counseling. We are meeting in two weeks. She's not actually licensed as, you know, a social worker or therapist or anything. But has a huge reputation. So I'm going to give it a shot. But it's pricey, so I want to go in with established goals and relevant history to share. Hopefully one appointment will be sufficient for now. I may schedule another later on after, you know, I'm actually pregnant and facing an imminent delivery.

I really liked having a solo provider last time. I liked knowing exactly who would be with me on the big day, and having time to build a relationship with her. I can't imagine using a large practice, and getting  random person that I've only met once.

So I'd like to replicate that again, if possible. Of course, the potential downside is that she could have another client go into labor, and another midwife might end up with me. This is what happened with my doula. Of course, her back up was fabulous.

So here's a list of things that went wrong. Some of them are no one's fault. But these are the thing that left me with some baggage to work through.

1. My complaints of serious fatigue were brushed off during pregnancy -- I never got that mythical burst of energy in my second trimester because my anemia wasn't diagnosed for such a long time.

2. Time pressure to have the baby before my sister moved to Florida left me seriously stressed out over this giant event I couldn't control.

3. Taking Ambien (recommended by my midwife) to make me sleep after being admitted to the hospital for Cervadil (to ripen the uterus) for 24 hours but before the Pitocin was started.

I took the Ambien and woke up two hours later in active (back labor)... hallucinating. Alone in the dark in a hospital. My labor coach ninety minutes away -- she'd been kicked out because I was in Antepartum, not Labor and Delivery.

What was weird about this one was that the nurses kept questioning the order for the Ambien. They seemed very reluctant to give it to me. Kept saying, "Gosh, usually we give Stadol. Are you sure you want to take this?"

At the time, I just shrugged and said, "Well, I've never taken it before but the midwife thinks it's a good idea."

Hmm. A good reminder that nurses usually know best. But I'm not sure I would've done anything differently. What did I know about Ambien?

My memories of the next few hours are so strange. Blurry and not set in time properly.

4. Epidural not working properly. I had searing pain in my right sacrum for hours. I'm not so traumatized by this now. But it certainly sucked in the moment. I definitely hope this doesn't happen again.

5. Pushing. For four hours.

It felt so violent and scary. Like the frightening force of heaving while vomiting. Over and over and over again. Helpless to slow it down. Pressing on my epidural button over and over again, praying for relief, and getting none. Begging for a C-section, and being laughed at.

Feeling so spent and so frightened. (And after ten weeks of Kegeling every single night, and 41+ weeks of daily workouts, cheated -- weren't all these things supposed to help?)

6. Post partum hemorrhage. Losing 40% of my blood volume. Feeling so terribly dizzy and awful, and being afraid to admit it, for fear that they would take my baby away. Being too weak to make it to the bathroom by myself, even with a nurse practically carrying me. Needing weeks before I could successfully walk a city block without having to stop and rest. Not being able to take care of myself for several weeks.

7. And this. Feeling like my midwife was judging me. And finding me inadequate.

Number seven is the easiest thing to solve, in some ways. I need to find a midwife who is more of a cheerleader. I had two fabulous midwives visit me after Calliope was born, one in the hospital and one at home. They were both amazing. They spent plenty of time with me and seemed unhurried. That meant the world to me.

I haven't been able to find one, but I've located the other. I will meet with her, and tell her that I loved her kind attention, and would be happy to work with her.

Except for the fact that I'm terrified of having another vaginal delivery. And facing number five, the violent pushing. Even though I know it's unlikely that I will have to push for hours again. But my former midwife mentioned that she had a very hard time pushing her second out. And said about herself, "I was such a baby." Ouch. Such judgment.

So I worry about that. And then wonder if a planned C-section wouldn't be just the thing?

Except that I'm scared of going under the knife, too!

Anyway, I feel much more upbeat about all these issues now than I did when Calliope was tiny. I don't actually feel much in the way of trauma anymore. But I'd like to see what I can to make sure that these issues don't rear their ugly heads with round two, if I should be so lucky as to have a round two.

So I'm looking forward to doing a preemptive strike against birth trauma, round 2. I'm curious to see how it goes. Although it may be that I'm too anxious about actually getting pregnant to work ahead this far. I'll give it a few days and decide.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Two and a Half

Two and a half is the best age ever.

Calliope's blossoming language skills have transformed our lives. I never imagined how captivating it would be to hear her little thoughts. Yet she still has such an adorable way of speaking. I wonder if I will be nostalgic when she loses that babyish lisp and tiny squeaky voice.

Perhaps because it's just a great age, or perhaps because I've been consciously focusing on my parenting, our relationship has never been more harmonious since the toddler years began. I've been home with her all week because it's Winter Break at work and I've so enjoyed this time.

Life is perfect.

Which is why I'm going to go and ruin things.

By trying to have another child. Starting later this spring.

I won't say that I am doing this for Calliope. I'm not trying to "give her a sibling." I have no idea if she will be happier with a sibling. I certainly hope so, but my own sibling relationships are complicated, so I can't promise that she will be better off.

I'm doing this for myself. Because when I think about only getting to have this experience once, I feel cheated. I want to be a part of this miracle again. I want to experience, again, the magic of a person unfolding before my eyes.

My big girl still likes to snuggle in my arms for her morning milk.
*I also like this pic because it shows her eyes aren't actually brown, as they look in most
photos. This photo doesn't accurately capture them, either... I guess they are hazel?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014


Firefighters Calliope and Eleanor at Staten Island Children's Museum

Calliope and I had different ideas about what she should wear today.
Clearly she won.

Did you know you can use an upside down (doll) Ergo carrier as a nursing cover? Me neither.
(I think Baby Jenna is going through a growth spurt because Calliope has to nurse her quite frequently of late.)

My workout buddy stretching her quads

Intrepid explorers won't be daunted by yet another snowstorm.
We made our two block walk and lived to tell the tale.

Broken Glasses

Calliope: "Uh oh."

Me: "Oh, your sunglasses broke."

C: "Abby, fix them."

M: "Sorry, love, I can't fix them. You have others."

C: "That's okay. Somelse fix them."

M: "Who?"

C: "Somelse."

M: <pause for thinking and wondering> "Oh, someone else?"

C: "Yes. He will fix them."

I hope "he" can fix some other things around the apartment while he's at it.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Have I Become an "AP" Parent?

I always sort of despised the "Attachment Parenting" movement because I felt like it was based on bad science. My sister, a part-time practitioner, said once "studies show that babies who are sleep trained are more likely to commit crimes as adults."

I couldn't help but fire back, "Oh yeah? Which studies? Can you show them to me?"

Moreover, I felt like "the movement" -- that is, the "experts" that preach it seemed to criticize us non-believers. 

I sleep trained my daughter. I did it. And I put her on a feeding schedule at eight weeks of age. And my daughter grew happier with each change I institutionalized. She started to sleep through the night immediately, and to be the happiest baby around. As long as I kept her on her schedule.

I don't insist that everyone adapt my methods. Though admittedly, I do suggest babies down to sleep much sooner than most parents do, simply because my daughter's infant evening fussiness immediately disappeared when I made these changes. Still, if your parenting style works for you, rock on.

But please don't insist that my methods are practically child abuse. That's disrespectful.

So as a result of all this meanness, I tend to write off all AP ideas.

But a reader of this blog suggested I check out this blog, and not realizing what it was, I did. 

And you know, a lot of the suggestions made sense. And so I started trying them out. 

The biggest thing I've learned, partly from this website, is that, duh, kids' feelings matter.

This sounds so obvious, but how often do you hear well intentioned parents' mocking their children's feelings? Saying things like, "I know, I'm SO mean!" Or, "yeah, you had SUCH a hard day, playing at daycare all day. You should try going to work all day!" Or even, my friend telling me that she laughed as her toddler melted down about some small toddler-sized problem.

The thing is, their problems feel very big to them. Just as big as our problems do to us. 

And so, what does this jeering teach our children? That their feelings aren't real, that their problems don't "count"? That they don't deserve empathy?

And most importantly, how would I feel if someone treated me that way? 

Like crap, is how I would feel.

And you can bet that it wouldn't make me more empathetic towards others.

So I've been working on this. I've stopped giving time outs. (Though I don't promise I'll never give one again.) I've started giving "time ins" instead. 

When Calliope, rather predictably, starts to spin out of control and misbehave when I first get home from work, I try to catch hold of her hands or her shoulders and say, "You seem like you are having a hard time. Do you need a hug?" 

Most of the time, she says yes, and melts into my arms. If she says no and keeps swatting, I restrain her in my arms anyway and just say, "I can't let you hit." 

So far that has worked. I'm sure I'll have to up my game but so far, it's remarkable how well it's working.

I'm trying to remember my motto of "she's not giving me a hard time, she's having a hard time."

It's helps me to think of her actions not as misbehavior but as dysregulation. She's two. She can't always get her impulses under control. When her emotions become to strong, she lashes out as a way to release the tension. Punishing her doesn't teach her how to regulate herself, just shows her the negative consequences for doing so. But at those times, she's not necessarily logical enough to think back to previous consequences and make better choices for reasons other than fear. Showing her that I can help her curtail her actions when her impulses are too strong for her shows her that I'm on her side and I won't let her hurt someone else. I can see that she doesn't really want to hit me, she is just overwhelmed by emotion. 

I guess she thought that Susie was in danger of misbehaving yesterday Calliope walked up to her and asked seriously, "Do you need a hug?"

Susie answered back, very seriously, "Yes, yes I do need a hug."

Friday, February 7, 2014


Calliope: "Mommy has a hole."

Me: "Mmm hmm."

Calliope: "Susie (the nanny) has a hole."

Me: "Yeah?" (I guess maybe she's in the bathroom with Susie sometimes?)

Calliope: "Jane (playschool teacher) has a hole." (Is she going to the bathroom with her playschool teacher???)

Me, cautiously: "Calliope, where's Jane's hole?"

Calliope: "In her ear!"

Ahh. The fascination with pierced ears continue. Small sigh of relief that these are the holes we are discussing.

Monday, February 3, 2014


A super short-but-sweet video where even my mom can understand what she's saying. And is it just me or is that grin pretty delicious?

And no, I didn't teach her to call me by my first name.

Hair Wash

I sent Calliope to wash her hands before lunch, and when she didn't return, I went to investigate.

I found her washing her hair at the sink. 

With hand soap, naturally.