Motherhood is Tough…As If You Didn’t Know

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In Matthew’s first few weeks I felt like things were perfect.  We went to church when he was 8 days old, showered, clean, and decently rested.  I had time during his  naps to declutter the house.  He didn’t cry without explanation, there was always a dirty diaper or a feeding needed or a desire for cuddles.  H’ even slept great, sometimes sleeping seven hour nights five days in a row.  Once he even did two nights of ten hours.  But the exhaustion of new motherhood crept in and is a giant monster now.  And sometimes now Matthew gets overtired and angry or cries just to cry.  And in comparison to the sweet/easy/sleepy baby times, rough times are SO rough.  I don’t know how other moms and dads handle more difficult babies (though I’m sure we’ll find out with future babies of our own, let alone other seasons in Matthew’s baby-hood like teething).

This post by Jillian Lauren resonated so well with my recent thoughts, even though she is years ahead in experience and self thoughts.  http://www.jillianlauren.com/2013/02/enjoying-a-suck-ass-day

At church recently they said we will all be given a chance to shine this week. I realize that every opportunity with my son, who won’t even remember these moments, is a chance to shine. And often, especially late at night I don’t shine at all-I dim myself, I dim the room, I dim the love I have for my own son. Which is NOT at all what I long to do. With every fiber of my being, I want to shine even if I am not happy with it. I can shine with God’s help.

So I have been trying to self-talk  myself and wake up thinking: It’s Not About Me. | God can shine through me. | This is only a short season and this one night just one of thousands in my whole life.  Problem is, when I am exhausted and it’s the middle of the night my words of affirmation don’t come to  me when I hear him cry over the baby monitor.  Groans come first, every single time.

Is that terrible?  I love my son, ridiculously.  But I grumble and moan and take minutes to get out of bed to go rescue him.  I grumble as I pick him up, I grumble as I check/change his diaper, I grumble as I settle him in for a feeding.

But then as I get him and me all tucked into the chair, a blanket, the Boppy perfectly wrapped around me and balanced for him, burp cloth nearby, nipple shield or bottle lined up, at some indefinable point my mood changes.  This is okay, I can do this, I will be tired tomorrow-yes.  I will probably be tired a week from now, a month from now. But this is my SON who grew inside me.  I sustained him for over nine months inside of me where I couldn’t see him or hear him or hold him in my arms.  And now I can.  I can hear him breathe, I can listen to him sing-song in happiness as he is fed, I can hold his hand as he stretches it out to grab something, someone.  I can love him with all my senses and not just my mind and body as I did when he was in utero.  Goodness, how God must love us then in turn too.

I can love Matthew now, at 1 am and 4 am, and at 6 am when he cries again tonight.  I can love him now as I nurse and as I pump and as I bottle feed.  I can love him now and tomorrow and everyday till forever.  And maybe, if I keep praying and seeking my Heavenly Father and asking him to teach me how to mother and maybe if I keep self talking the groaning and grumbling and selfishness will keep melting away in God’s love for me and my love in turn for Matthew.

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“…Spirit-led parenting doesn’t work like that. And the reason for this is yet another radical idea: the first year should be less about training our babies and more about God developing us as parents and human beings. If we let Him, God can use that first intense year of baby’s life to TRAIN US how to live a life that is fully surrendered to Him. To cultivate in us a trust that follows His lead, seeks Him first, and understands His grace.” -Spirit-Led Parenting by Tietz & Oyer

Things We’d Like to Do in Our House

 

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I have a terrible habit.  I NEVER decorate.  This made sense in college and grad school when I lived in dorms or concrete walled structures or someone else’s home and couldn’t/didn’t put up nails.  And I have never grown out of that habit.  Before I was married, I told myself I would save my decoration ideas/skills for marriage-silly idea.  But now I’ve been married a while, long enough to have a two month old baby and I still haven’t decorated.  I always tell myself well…I’ll decorate our next house where we’ll stay longer or I’ll decorate once every room is decluttered, clean, and painted.  Silly me.

The funniest part…I have bought decorations over the years for my “future” home.  Not many, because I am actually really picky about decorations/artwork.  I want to love it for at least ten years or I won’t buy it.  But I have a good amount of things saved up and ideas for how to place/put/hang them and yet I haven’t.

So we’re going to start decorating even if we move someday, even if the walls aren’t all painted yet, even if I might decide I don’t like a room/decoration/set up in less than ten years.  This may be a slow movement towards a dream house.  Because:

  1. We’re on a tight budget to get debt free ASAP.
  2. We have a newborn who takes up a lot of time.
  3. The house isn’t decluttered and every room isn’t clean yet.
  4. The walls aren’t all painted.

But we can do what we can; slowly, surely, frugally.  So here’s our current list.  I will add more ideas as they come and share photos and feedback as we complete them.

  • Finish painting all the rooms and doors and trim Behr’s Hushed White
  • Paint one to two accent walls downstairs
  • Curtains on sliding glass door
  • Curtain in baby’s room
  • Curtains in living room
  • Cushy kitchen mat
  • Pegboard for hanging items in kitchen, ala Julia Child style
  • New windshield wipers and windshield
  • New vacuum-current one is great and even vacuums up chewed up pine cones (thank you dogs) but won’t last forever
  • Improve lighting over fireplace
  • Frame my diplomas and make a diploma wall
  • Frame and create a photo wall of Robert’s photography
  • Choose, print, and frame Black and White photos for Downstairs bathroom
  • Find artwork for Master Bedroom
  • Choose, print, and frame family photos for Matthew’s nursery so he can stare at faces of people he loves often even if he can’t see them often

Slowly Going Natural

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I took several environmental health and sciences classes between college and grad school, each one slowly encouraging me to seek natural options.  They gave ways of living that allow seven generations from now to live contentedly too and not leave them with a ravaged earth.  So slowly bit by bit I have been trying to switch every day or common use items in my life and now my family’s lives to be more natural, which often is cheaper too which I totally support.

I’m going to list and link to some things we’ve already switched over directly and love.  Then others we’re working on, things we’ve tried and haven’t liked, and last things we’d like to switch over.  If you have any other ideas for us or links for things we’d like to switch send them our way!

Switches We’ve Already Made

Switches in Process

  • Eating more whole foods and less processed.  We’re doing this by:
  1. Buying free range, locally raised, naturally organic (but not certified) beef and pork
  2. Make more and more items homemade-for us we do this largely through seasoning mixes, baked goods, soups, etc.
  3. Eat more local and/or organic food
  4. Eat more vegetarian meals
  • Personally, I am attempting homemade deodorant currently.  http://www.passionatehomemaking.com/2008/03/update-homemade-deoderant.html  I went deodorant free for a few days just to clear anything out of my skin and get a baseline.  Now I have three little containers one each with coconut oil, baking soda, and corn starch. So far I like it-no rash, itchiness, or smell. I even asked Robert if he had noticed anything different as I went completely without and now that I have my three containers and he said no, so that’s great so far.

Switches We Made and Didn’t Like

  • Dishwasher detergent.  Since our laundry detergent worked so well, we thought this similar recipe for dishwashers would be fabulous  http://pinterest.com/pin/131589620331909042/ . So we made a giant batch-nope!  After two or three washes all of our glassware had a distinct film and weren’t their normal sparkly and clear selves.  So now we use that giant batch to clean toilets/sinks/whatever can handle a hard scrub.

Things We Are Interested in Trying to Switch

  • I am fascinated and terrified with the No Poo Concept.  Here’s a news article detailing it, though lots of how to websites exist if you google… http://www.nbcnews.com/id/30337386/ns/health-skin_and_beauty/t/ditching-shampoo-dirty-little-beauty-secret/#.US_AHzDFLw8 . I love the natural origins, the fact that people didn’t use shampoo for thousands of years, the low cost, and the potential for beautiful hair.  But the trial period terrifies me so far, though granted I am currently a stay at home mom and maybe no one would see me for a while anyways besides Robert and baby.
  • Probably next year we hope to have a small organic container garden.  We grew a few potatoes last year, darn you cutworms!  This year I was hoping to grow potatoes, bush beans, strawberries, and a few others but when we sat down with our budget and our goal of trying to pay off all our debt and decided against it.  The cost up front would be over $100 and with a newborn I probably won’t have the time to really invest the way you should in a garden.  But next year should be our year and we’ll be debt free by fall hopefully so I can spend the winter dreaming and budgeting for this goal.
  • Someday…I’d love to make all my own bread and cheese and yogurt.  I tried yogurt once before I had as many nice kitchen utensils like a picnic cooler or crock pot and the only jar I had was a clean store bought spaghetti sauce jar.  Yogurt texture was good, but tasted like spaghetti sauce.
  • Switching most household cleaners over to baking soda, vinegar, lemons, and elbow grease.  We have a ton of cleaners, see our photo above there?  Robert bought cleaning supplies from Costco for years so we have about 4 of every kind of bottle. But as I keep using them up bit by bit, I want to start moving to completely all natural, safe for anyone products like baking soda, vinegar, and lemons.  And the easiest way to do that and to stop using removes-built-up-grime full of chemical products…is to clean more often and scrub hard.

What have you switched over in your house? What do you long to switch?  What hasn’t worked for you?

Our Birth Story-Delivery and Hospital Stay

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Because our darling Matthew flipped breech right before 37 weeks we made the tough decision to go for a scheduled c-section at 7:30 am at Overlake Hospital.  We had to be there two hours early for prep and paperwork.  Though we were supposed to be better rested because the surgery was scheduled we were far too excited the night before and didn’t sleep a wink but talked and prayed all night long.

Since we didn’t sleep a wink, we got out of bed really early and made it to the hospital so fast that we had to wait in the waiting room before being called back.  The only thing was Dr. Phil playing, SO NOT what I can handle well at 5:30 am!  Finally, we were called back and started prep.  The nurses were very kind and informative but I was really nervous at this point.  I think it was mostly because the prep was mostly questions and paperwork and gave me a lot of time to psych myself out.  Once the anesthesiologist and my OB came in things started moving faster and I had less time to work myself into a worry.

They had to stick me three times to get the IV to work and then even afterwards I was a positional case and had to hold my hand at a certain angle to get it to work.  They warmed me with a warm air blanket (awesome) because the OR is cold, checked baby’s heartrate, saw that I had no contractions, shaved me, and gave me anti-nausea medication (to help with the epidural/morphine mixture I got).  Robert got dressed in his scrubs and it was funny because the staff couldn’t tell if he was my husband or one of them!  Time started moving faster and just after 7;30 am I was wheeled into the operating room.

Now, I am not a private person as you may be able to tell from these posts.  But it was a bit awkward to be sat up in the OR and have my gown immediately removed as the anesthesiologist started cleaning my back for the epidural.  Iodine was running down my butt crack as I was completely naked in a room full of people I had just met.  TLC’s Baby Story tv show always shows c-section moms fully clothed (which now makes sense since it’s a tv show)  so I did not expect the full nudity.  Of course all the staff is completely professional and treat you as if you’re fully dressed. Spinal is inserted and the only part that hurt was the very first needle, the rest was fine.  Numbness took about ten minutes to settle in and seemed to move down bit by bit but I was numb from chest down before any cutting started.  My arms are pulled out at each side to make sure I don’t try and reach down mid-surgery, so I felt a bit like a Jesus statue.  Really quickly I started shivering and shaking from the anesthesia.  This doesn’t happen to everyone but I shook for a few hours total.  Anytime during surgery that I felt nauseous or light headed I was just supposed to let the anesthesiologist know and he would adjust some of the levels of medicines so I felt better within seconds.

Besides seeing my son arrive this was my favorite part…I was able to watch the whole surgery.  I was a biology major in college and a tropical medicine/parasitology major in grad school so I am not bothered by blood/guts/gross things, even my own.  I had asked my OB in advance if I could watch them cut and then pull Matthew out.  She said that the hospital wouldn’t let the traditional curtain down between my chest and belly but that the OR had giant new lights that were reflective and I could watch the whole surgery in reflection…which I did!  So cool to see them cut layer by layer, separate the muscles, and then finally pull Matthew out before the doctors heads blocked the reflection but Matthew was in clear sight for me!!!

Robert watched the surgery too and I was very proud of him, we weren’t sure how he’d do watching his wife be cut open.  He did great and snapped some amazing initial photos of Matthew entering the world  like this one.

We had planned to donate the cord blood and cord to the Puget Sound Blood Center and the blood was donated but my doctor made a snap decision to take care of some extra bleeding I was experiencing after Matthew was extracted instead of preserving the cord for donation.  I appreciate this but am glad some blood made it to the Center at least and hope it can help someone.  And she took care of me really quickly and I had no further issues in surgery.

Matthew was out very quickly and they held him up for me to see for a few seconds before handing him to the pediatric nurse for check up.  His Apgar scores were 8 and 9, great scores!  He weighed 7 lbs, 5 oz much smaller than we had been told but a completely healthy weight and was 19 inches.  About 15 minutes later the nurse said he was grunting and she was slightly concerned that he had some extra fluid in his lungs that needed to come out.  This is normal in breech babies, since they usually haven’t undergone contractions which work to squeeze fluid out of babies lungs just as much as working to push babies out of their mothers.  So Matthew was sent to a sort of NICU where he was cleaned up and just put under watch by nurses and placed on his tummy to move that fluid out.  As Robert and I had planned, just in case of something like this, he went with Matthew while I was being stitched and stapled up.

Everyone was very reassuring and everything turned out fine, but that time was hard for me. Especially when I was wheeled back to my recovery room without my baby or my husband.  Despite having to undergo a c-section unlike my ideal natural childbirth, I had so hoped and prayed for being handed my baby as soon as the staples were in for kangaroo skin to skin care and immediate breastfeeding.  I didn’t get to hold my baby until over two hours later which made my heart ache.  My recovery nurse was very kind and Robert did his best to come back and forth and update me on Matthew’s status (always stable, but still grunting for those two hours) but there I was cold, shaking still from the meds and now itching all over from the morphine, exhausted, and without my baby.

The frustrating thing was that even at the two hour mark the NICU nurses weren’t sure whether to keep him or bring him to me for mom-baby time because the grunting continued but his breathing had always been stable.  They called the on-call pediatricians and just after two hours were given permission to bring him to me!  A few hours later the grunting had completely disappeared without us even noticing.  And my baby was safely and happily in my arms!

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I did have a somewhat heavier post-birth bleeding than the nurses liked to see.  It wasn’t terribly concerning but left me feeling quite cold and the nurses doing a lot of checks till bleeding slowed.  Within a few hours all of my stats looked great.

With the few weeks we had between hearing we may need a c-section and the actual delivery date I had read as much as I could about c-section recovery.  I had determined a few things that would lead to the best recovery possible…

  • Get up and move as soon as possible, as safely as possible
  • Keep moving
  • Get the catheter out as soon as possible to avoid infection
  • Have the IV removed as soon as possible to avoid swelling from all the saline solution

Luckily, with Robert and my nurses’ help I was able to accomplish all four.  Six hours after surgery my nurse asked if I would like to get up and move around and I surprised her by saying yes!  The numbness had wore off gradually within a few hours after surgery and I was actually feeling the need to twitch and move my muscles again.  With her help I was able to get up and walk around the room even before Matthew’s first guests (my family) arrived!  The next two days after that with her help or Robert’s I got up and walked the room or the halls as much as possible.  I could never go far but every movement felt better and made me feel on the road to recovery.

I had been nervous about the catheter insertion from what I had read in advance of surgery.  It turned out to be fine since it was inserted after I was numb.  And as some other mothers had noted, not having to get up to use the restroom for 24 hours is fantastic after being pregnant for 9 months and using the restroom up to 10 times a night!  But I knew that I didn’t want a catheter in forever, so I had it removed as early the next morning as possible.  I think it was five am when I asked the nurse to take it out and Robert slept through it.  It did not hurt to have it removed.  And it was nice to now be able to get up and keep moving, even if it was just to the bathroom.

I knew that most women experienced some swelling post-birth regardless of c-section or vaginal.  So the idea of having a saline (salt water solution) added via IV for an extended period was not pleasing to me so as soon as I could prove that I was drinking and excreting water well on my own I asked for the IV to be removed.  That came out the same time as the catheter for me and I think it helped me not experience any noticeable swelling post-birth.

We stayed in the hospital for two full days, plus one last free hospital lunch and Matthew had a lot of great visitors during our stay which we appreciated since hospital life can get a little boring.  Robert was an amazing dad from the first minute and did all the diapers for the first two days since I wasn’t as mobile as usual.  He was also a fantastic partner from surgery all the way through grabbing me ice water at any hour of the night and holding Matthew as they both slept.  I couldn’t have done as well as I did without him!  I am really blessed by him and now by our son.

We love being a family of three!

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Our Birth Story-Our Labor (Very Long, But Not What You May Think)

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Note:  To share the end before the beginning, Matthew Elliott Martin was born via scheduled c-section, without labor on December 29th.  It wasn’t the birth plan of our dreams but in the end baby and Mom were healthy and Dad was happy and that is the REAL GOAL of childbirth.  I never had real contractions and didn’t labor for hours on end or get to use the relaxation methods Robert and I had been practicing.  This doesn’t mean we didn’t have our share of labor and work trying to get Matthew out safely, it just wasn’t the physically painful version most women experience.  Below is what I am going to call Our Labor Story.

At our 36 week visit, I had my usual  list of questions that had come up since our last visit with the OB.  My first question related directly to what the doctor discovered when she did my first cervix check…”That’s not a head,” she said.

“Yeah, I was going to ask you if this lump under my ribs was his head.  Maybe he’s flipped?”

Yep, Matthew had definitely flipped and he’d done it late in the game.  We officially discovered it with our OB’s help at 36 weeks and 5 days.  We were given two options at that visit: to schedule a c-section or to try and do an external cephalic version to see if we could get our sweet breech baby to flip back to an engaged head down position.  Our OB explained the pros and cons of both options and said that the version success rate was about 30% and that we’d need an ultrasound first to determine safety for baby and me.  If we wanted to try for a version appointment, then we needed to schedule it for the 37th week.  If we wanted to go for a c-section, they recommended the 39th week of pregnancy.

The major concerns with a version appointment is there is no guarantee it will work or even if it does, the baby could flip back.  And then as well as the chance it may not work, the procedure alone could lead to distress for mother or baby and potentially require an emergency c-section.  This study shows a meta-analysis of versions with a 58% efficacy and the potential for complications being 6.1% and emergency c-section rate of 0.35%.  We believe the 30% efficacy we’d been quoted was our OB’s, her practice, and the hospitals rate so it probably was the best guesstimate for our situation.

We asked for 24 hours to pray and research and consider since we’d really been hoping for a natural childbirth.  They agreed.  We knew that a version was a painful procedure (s0me doctors/women are even administering/getting epidurals before versions now .

We went home and immediately began talking to wise people in our life who had experienced c-sections, or breech babies, or versions, etc.  We researched everything we could on versions from PubMed (my go to place for peer reviewed scientific journal articles and abstracts).  We found that every person we talked to and every study showed varying range of results for versions from 20%-80% at best based on a list of contraindications.  Feeling that a 1/3 chance of the version working was still a strong chance for a healthy vaginal birth we scheduled the ultrasound to see if Matthew and I were good candidates.

We did investigate one other option, vaginal breech birth.  Turns out there were no doctors to be found who still perform breech birth in Washington state and everything we read indicated that midwives could lose their licenses if assisting a breech delivery.  Up through the 1970s vaginal natural breech births took place with doctor’s help but now the liability is considered too high and insurance companies hinder medical professionals from helping.  Our two options for vaginal breech birth were to either go to OHSU in Oregon, which sounded tiring and expensive since you don’t know when labor will occur and our insurance wouldn’t be accepted OR to have an at home unassisted birth (which I am not prepared to do as a first time mother, if ever).  So vaginal breech birth was out.

When doing our research on versions, we did learn about chiropractic, acupuncture, and body poses we could use to see if the baby would flip naturally too.  We decided against chiropractors and acupuncturists, not because it doesn’t work well http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12183701  and http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23249535 (both work quite well) but because chiropractors wanted approximately 6 sessions to perform the Webster Technique and Moxibustion usually worked best before 35 weeks.  We simply didn’t have time for either.  We did use http://spinningbabies.com/ for body poses, like inverting my head and chest below my pelvis to open more space for Matthew to feel free to turn.  We also used rock music to scare him into flipping, frozen peas to encourage him to turn around, a flash light (to draw him downwards like an insect to the light).  We tried these multiple times each day.  We also went swimming and I did as many somersaults and handstands as I could handle-which in the end, was way more than I could handle.  After leaving the pool I realized I had thrown my equilibrium off and spent the next 45 minute car ride to lunch with friends motion sick and vomiting all over and sobbing.  And none of it worked even though he would wiggle some, he always jammed himself back under my ribs and gallbladder.  Funny thing was, he was only using half of my uterus at this point, I was distinctly pregnant on my right side but not my left as he was standing straight up inside me without even centering himself in my now giant uterus.  We’d recommend any of those methods for other people dealing with a breech baby, ours just flipped too late for some of them to work or even be attempted.

So we  had the ultrasound at 37 weeks and 3 days.  The perinatologist thought we were good candidates for version, the ultrasound technician thought we were not (and she gave me tips on a healthy c-section), and our personal OB thought we were mediocre candidates.

Here is the pros and cons list we came up with when considering a version AFTER having the ultrasound.

Pros

  • Decent amount of amniotic fluid, though not plentiful
  • The baby is very active and healthy

Cons

  • His feet were engaged in my pelvis bone-contraindication
  • Amniotic fluid wasn’t plentiful-contraindication
  • He looked like he was going to be a big baby, he measured at 7 lbs 9 oz (which is funny since he was only born at 7, 5)-contraindication
  • He was my first baby, so my uterus did not have a lot of flexibility and give-contraindication
  • His cord was wrapped around his neck once (nuchal cord happens in 1/3 of pregnancies and is usually fine, but makes version more nervewracking)-contraindication
  • I am an overweight mom-contraindication
  • My placenta was anterior, meaning the OB would have a hard time even reaching to try and turn the baby-contraindication

Though we had been pretty positive about the idea of version before the ultrasound as we wrote out our list of pros and cons we realized the cons were winning.  Every con was a contraindication that could either lead to the version not working (dropping even below the 30% efficacy we’d been hoping for) plus also increasing the risks for baby and me like emergency c-section or worse.  So we decided after a lot of prayer and conversation to NOT have a version but to go ahead and have a c-section.  We had real peace about this decision.

One of the last decisions was whether we schedule a c-section or try and go into natural labor first (giving Matthew more time to flip on his own though our OB said there was only a 3% chance of that happening) and then have an unscheduled c-section if he hadn’t flipped already.  From what we read and I can’t find a study here but more feedback from other breech parents is that a scheduled c-section is best for mother and baby.  We heard the infection rate was lower, the chance of emergency c-section was non-existent, the doctor and the parents were calmer and better rested and thus could have a better surgery.  All of that made sense, so we asked to schedule a c-section.

Our doctor said we couldn’t schedule a c-section till Matthew was at least 39 weeks old (more and more studies are indicating that babies born premie or even 37-39 weeks are less healthy than those born later http://www.marchofdimes.com/pregnancy/getready_atleast39weeks.html) because our hospital will not schedule any earlier than that point.  This was fine with us, of course baby’s health is most important.  We did ask for a Saturday, December 29th delivery date, though our OBs practice usually does not schedule weekend c-sections.

We asked for this date because we had full coverage insurance through 2012.  If we could have the surgery on the 29th and meet Matthew, we’d have the regular 48 hours that our hospital gives after c-section under full covered insurance.  If we delivered later, we’d be moving to a Health Savings Account with a high deductible.  Though Robert’s employer gives a contribution that covers most of the deductible, it is given in two parts (once mid-January, one mid-July).  Since birth is an expensive procedure we knew it would eat up the deductible before the employer had even given any portion of it.  We HAD saved up for baby expenses, including birth but since we’re working so hard to pay off debt in 2013 it would have been awesome to put more of that money into loans instead of hospital bills.

So luckily for us, when we asked for a December 29th delivery date which was literally Matthew’s 39th week of pregnancy they said yes!

To Be Continued in Our Birth Story