Monthly Archives: June 2012

blargh, I’m tired

In the grand scheme of things, all is going well and I’m content and happy as can be. But in mundane terms, yikes it’s been a rough week. I have a thoughtful post saved as a draft, but I’m having trouble finding the time to complete complex thoughts. Hence, a venting vomit on the page post seems sufficient for today before too much time passes without my writing here. I’m finding writing here again tremendously helpful, getting my thoughts on a page helps my mind feel clearer.

Jonah is three weeks today! It seems already like he’s always been here. Samuel’s doing well with him, but definitely craving more time alone with me. I’ve been working hard to find moments to spend playing with him, but it’s really hard. Jonah’s still breastfeeding every 1,5-3 hours (really more like every 2-2.5) and still has his nights and days messed up. I’m not complaining about that, it’s to be expected. But it makes each day feel like I’m in a hamster wheel, where I struggle to just meet needs moment by moment and worry about whether I’m giving everyone enough attention, and whether I’m being too impatient with or negligent of Samuel.

Speaking of, Samuel’s trying so hard to behave and keep everyone happy, but I can tell he’s struggling a little bit. He keeps telling me elaborate stories about things that clearly didn’t happen just to get my attention. Such as, last night as I was feeding Jonah, he yelled out, “Oh no! Tom peed under my bed.” Didn’t happen. This morning he told me a complicated story about how he fell in the pool yesterday after the maintenance man filled it up too high and his grandma saved him. Also didn’t happen.

So I’m tired, and it seems like as soon as I finish nursing Jonah, it’s all I can do to finish tasks like keeping up with email, dealing with house and household stuff, before it’s time to feed him again. We’re moving in a week, and I cannot wait to be settled. We’re so cramped in this apartment, and I’m tripping over toys and boxes and shoes all the time.

Meanwhile, Josh is out of the country. My mother-in-law is here, and it’s helpful but adds to my sense of disorder. Yesterday was a total mess because I got about 2 hours of sleep and then it turned out that Josh’s luggage is lost and none of our credit cards or his debit card is working abroad, all for a different reason. So he was without money, clothing, or toiletries. Definitely relearned our lesson about packing carryons and to never travel without cash, but honestly with a newborn and our having closed on the house on Friday, this was hardly his most carefully and conscientiously planned trip. So my bank, acknowledging their mistake, agreed to wire him money out of our account and they’d pay the Western Union charge. Phew. I’m still waiting to hear if it worked and he has the money.

It’s kind of funny. A few days ago I asked him if he was looking forward to 5 nights of unlimited sleep and free time. But what’s really happened is he’s spent the last 2 days in the same clothing and without access to money while in a foreign country. Fun fun. Fortunately he’s been at a conference where most of the food is provided.

And that’s where we are today.

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What’s in a name?

Wednesday was nuts. We got up and out of the house by 10am, to make the 1.5 hour trek to our synagogue for Jonah’s brit milah/naming at 1pm. We needed the full 3 hours and I am so glad we’re moving closer. But anyway, we made it and even accomplished our first public breast feeding sessions, at a Panera’s, at the synagogue and at a pizza restaurant. I would rather not have taken Jonah out publicly yet, to avoid germs. Yet I was less excited to breast feed him in the car, especially on a 90-degree day.

The bris was a success. thankfully. I was feeling awkward about it because we don’t really know anyone and no family members were around. So it was just Samuel, Josh, Jonah, and I making the trip to attend and complete the event. Also, honestly, the mitzvah makes me so freaking nervous I was happy to just get it over with. Fortunately, as the mohel pointed out, the mitzvah is in doing it, not watching it so Samuel and I hid in the lounge outside the ladies’ rest room.

We named him Yonah Nissim in Hebrew. Yonah is dove; Nissim is miracles. I have long loved the name Jonah–it happens that the first rabbi with whom I was close shares the name, but I didn’t really choose it for him. It’s just nice to have a positive association and I do hope Jonah is equally committed to Jewish learning and community. Nissim is a name I first heard applied to people in Israel. One of my favorite kids from the gan (kindergarten) where I taught in Jerusalem came from a family of Nissims. They were Sephardic so named children after living relatives, and he was not only the 20th Nissim in the line, but he was the 20th generation of their family to live in Jerusalem. I didn’t really name my son after a child I last saw when he was 5 years old, but I definitely think about that family and their history when I think about his name.

He’s also our third boy to have a name beginning with the letter Nun/N. I wanted the boys to all have something in common with their names. Natan means gift from God. Samuel’s middle name, Nadav, means the generous one. I didn’t know of any other names suggesting gifts or generosity, other than Matan, which is too close to Natan for my comfort. So shared letter it was. Nun does have some association with the Jewish concepts of falling and redemption, and this association feels poignant to me.

Awhile back, a discussion of where people were respectively in their grief circulated in blog posts. This is my life, and I am okay with it. I don’t really question it, and I don’t grieve very openly or cry very often over Natan. I think I’ve reached acceptance. Usually, when sadness or anger strikes, it has to do with the present and my fears about life now. I no longer really ask why me, because I’ve been given so much since Natan’s death 5 years ago. At this point I consider myself so lucky, I have no more reason to be mad.

new outcomes, better feelings

Today was a damn good day. Firstly, I woke up decently well rested. Since the PUPPS rash began showing itself in early May, I have hardly slept a night. So not sleeping has become a familiar misery. The rash is now a bit better, but not totally gone and according to the lactation consultant, it may get worse again for awhile because of breastfeeding. I will not let this itching make me stop; I’ll manage. Last night I slept for a good 5 hours in 2.5 hour chunks, though, so while I’m pretty exhausted now towards the evening, I’m pretty content too.

That in no way explains why it was a good day though–it was a good day because we overcame another big hurdle–the jaundice risk. Samuel had to be hospitalized in the NICU after one night home with us. My parents arrived that afternoon 4.5 years ago and were completely not helpful, because they ultimately still believe breastfeeding is ridiculous when there’s formula in the world. So I remember being driven crazy and encouraged to formula feed even as I was terrified and exhausted. So Saturday afternoon, when Jonah decided sleeping was better than eating, I felt like the floor was being yanked out from underneath me. I was trying not to tell my dad about my anxiety; Josh, Samuel and my mom were out. But then my dad said something about Jonah being a good sleeper, and I got a bit cranky. Then he told me I was eating cereal from birth and I could hear the accusation and judgment. Ugh. Stressful.

I went to our bedroom and had a total meltdown. That seemed to work–Jonah woke up and ate. Phew. But now I was nervous again. Would he get jaundiced? Was he losing too much weight? And why the hell won’t I stop itching? Yesterday was better; he ate a lot. But last night and this morning I began to suspect he was a bit yellow.

This morning we had a weigh in and the lactation consultant noted he was a little yellow. But he’s the same weight he was when he left the hospital, and down just 6% from birth (up to 10% by today would have been okay). The doctor recommended a bilirubin test, just to be careful given our history. It came back well below the upper limit. I felt so insanely relieved, I told Josh I wanted a celebration. I can do this.

Jonah’s first Shabbat

I wish I had time to respond to each and every comment on the last post. Really, you’ve all helped me so much. Even though my readership is small now, I’m so glad I came back to blogging.

Last night was a good night. A few rough, milk came in nursing moments of engorgement pissing off the baby, but we got through it without too much drama. We’ve been home since Friday afternoon. It was a pretty easy arrival–my parents had taken Samuel to the zoo so we had time to unpack and straighten, and Josh even made a really good pesto kale pasta dinner. We had some challah stocked up in the freezer, and I had the best meal I’d had in days.

Hospital food here is even grosser than Michigan. We’re vegetarian, and so I had these options for breakfast lunch, and dinner: peanut butter and jelly, defrosted veggie burger, grilled cheese, or eggs. When I asked my “nutrition consultant” whether the grits side was vegetarian or not, she clearly had no idea what I meant. “Vege-what?” “Do they have any meat products in them?” “Meat what?” Never mind. All my meals arrived–eggs, grilled cheese,–with milk, sour cream, and the label: “Vegan.” Good thing I’m not. All that said, I need to do another post about how for all my worries and whining, I actually really had a great experience with the hospital, and the nurses. Their compassion, concern, and expertise was really beyond what I’d expected.

Anyway, back to my yummy Shabbat dinner.

Even though it might seem nuts to make a dinner the afternoon a baby arrives home, Josh loves to cook and I’ve been dreaming about our first Shabbat home with the boys. It was just my parents and us. Jonah began stirring right as we began kiddush, and I felt a bit frantic. Then as soon as we finished motzi, Samuel announced, “I need to poop” and Jonah began screaming to eat. Finally I was a host, not a guest and a chaotic multi-child Shabbat.  So while it wasn’t ritually perfect, but it was exactly what I needed.

I can’t really convey in words the meaning behind the meal for me–the five candles burning. Long ago in Israel I decided I would burn the typical two candles plus one candle per child like I saw some families doing. I’ll never have, don’t want, the 17 candles I once saw a rebbetzin light, our five are enough. And while I’ll never forget or not feel a pang at the candle for the one who’ll never sit at our table, 2 candles for 2 living children has been such a dream for so long. I still can’t quite believe I’ve finally made it.

the stuff that doesn’t change

Warning: I am so happy today, but this is not a happy post. Like everyone, I’m capable of having multiple ongoing conversations with myself, and I really want to get this one out before it fades. It’s a big part of these further records and I may lose my nerve or get distracted. This post is about the parallels between Natan’s and Jonah’s labor, so it may be really hard to read. Happy Jonah posts soon, I promise.

Thanks to all who commented on my last post. A dear friend said to me, upon hearing the story of my labor yesterday, that it must have been especially frightening for me given Natan’s delivery. That is so true. And that’s why I’m especially grateful that she also told me that her third delivery was somewhat similar. Several friends have told me that, here, personally, on Facebook, and I cannot tell you how much I needed to hear that.

Because, here’s the thing. Five and a half years later, my emotional response to yesterday, plus thoughts I try so hard to keep pushed to the side, tells me I’m not done blaming myself for his death. All rational thought aside, my deepest self believes I killed our first born son, and that I could easily do it again. I don’t believe I did it on purpose, but more rather that I was just too weak and narcissistic in the worse sense to have bothered stopping it.

The physical sensation of labor is hard to describe. Before yesterday, I had had two experiences. I have never understood why I couldn’t stop myself from delivering him. He didn’t “fall out” in the way sources describing incompetent cervix describe. It’s been clear to me since the moment I first mentioned “contractions” in the fall of 2006 that doctors were/are/have been divided as to whether I really had them, which came first. There came a point with Natan in those last hours where I felt like my body was pushing, shoving him out. The nurse on duty convinced me that perhaps I needed to have a bowel movement. The doctors had given me all the tocolytics my body would take–my blood pressure is normally 90/60, so rather low to start with. I can’t remember the numbers–I just remember feeling seriously weird and them telling Josh and me that my blood pressure was too low for me to be given anymore. They offered me pain medication, but I refused to take it. I was so committed to a perfect pregnancy. That promise ripped away, I wasn’t going to be forced to do anything “unnecessary.”

I regret that decision, by the way. My refusal of pain medication had no effect on Natan’s survival, but I often in my worst moments fear that pain took away my control of my self. I know that’s not true, but when I’m in my darkest moments, I can tell myself anything that will help me hate me.

So there I was, in hideously awful and scary pain, thinking I needed to have a bowel movement. Wham, suddenly my water broke, and although we didn’t know it then, it was all over within what felt like both minutes and a lifetime. Labor rocketed to an end. Natan was born and died.

Your muscles behave strangely in labor, and it feels very different without an epidural. I took an epidural with Samuel when the pain got to the uncontrollable level, because as I’ve said here before, I couldn’t stop thinking about Natan and I wanted to be there for Samuel’s birth. I felt so in control of my labor with Samuel. It slowed down at that point and I had a few hours to savor how well he was taking labor, and then was coached through pushing that I could feel–I negotiated with myself that I would not press the button to increase my epidural dose myself and they turned it down or off for pushing anyway.

I tried to make that same decision with Jonah, but either it being my third labor, or simply the way it was induced, I made it too late. I was left to have a very similar physical experience as I had with Natan, only in very different circumstances. I was the only one freaked out. I was the only terrified the baby was going to die. In both labors, I felt like I wasn’t choosing to push, but it was happening anyway. I did obviously have to consciously push Jonah out, he being full term, but Natan was so tiny. His feet shot into my vagina, his cord prolapsed under his bottom, while I was trying to get through the pain.

I thought yesterday, though, that something very similar was going to happen to Jonah. He was head first, he was term, I didn’t have complete thoughts about what would happen, but all I could think while the nurse was trying to get me to wait for the doctor was, “What is wrong with me? Why can’t I stop this? Do I WANT to shoot this baby out of me when it’s not safe, when it could hurt or kill him?” I felt an urge to push, but I didn’t want to, but it felt like it was happening anyway and like I OUGHT to be able to stop it if only my brain would command a little harder. It would not.

I am so angry with myself, even as my rational mind realizes I should not be. But I think that in addition to bringing me Jonah, yesterday brought me to the brink of an utter breakdown–one that might ultimately be good for me.

I certainly don’t think other women who deliver in taxi cabs or accidentally at home or while waiting for a doctor or midwife to get there to catch their babies simply think, “Oh, screw waiting, why not just do it right now?” So why would I think that of myself? Why would I think I simply didn’t stop it, when I could have? Am I that evil? That self possessed. That in no way matches the actual physical and emotional work I’ve put into getting my children here live.

On some level there was a desire to push. I didn’t want to, but pushing happened. I fought it as hard as I could, and a doctor arrived yesterday in time to release me from that battle. Jonah may very well have been okay even had he not because really most of the focus was on guiding him out in a way that would tear me and injure us less. Note I can say I fought as hard as I could. Thing is, I believe two contradictory things about myself, because I can’t seem to reconcile the physical urge, the willpower I expended to resist it, and the fact that it happened anyway. I think I tried not to push, and I think I ignored the fact that it was a bad idea and willfully did it anyway simply because I put my desire to be rid of the pain above the life or quality of life of my children. When I’m in control and fully sane, I know that’s not true. But in my lowest moments, I really think I wanted to not hurt more than I wanted to save my son.

That’s nuts. I need to work on that.

and….we’re done

Jonah Melvin’s here. He’s 8 lb., 9 oz, 20 inches long. Delivery was
fast, but good lord, overwhelming! I was on pitocin from about 8:30am.
Doctor H. came in to see me at 12:30, found me still barely 4cm,
broke my water, and went off to do a hysterectomy. About 30 minutes
later I called the nurse and said, “My contractions feel weird, it
just feels like the baby’s just crashing against my bottom.” She came in,
did an exam, and said, “You’re 6 cm.” Before she even walked out the
door, I had the most incredible urge to push, really incredible. I
called her back in and said, “I don’t know what’s going on but I feel
like I can’t keep myself from pushing. I think I’m going to need an
epidural or I’m not going to be able to control myself.”

She went off to do the order, and I was like, “OH MY GOD, I
need to push.” I was really, really freaking out. She came back in,
felt me again, and was like, “Woah–The baby’s coming right now!” Another
doctor had to run in. I’m seriously amazed at how fast
he got there. Jonah was born at 1:33pm. I suppose shortly I shall be
grateful for a fast labor, and I wish I could say I was brave, but in
the middle of it I was really freaking terrified it felt so out of
control and I was completely convinced my body was going to strangle
him. I feel so incredibly lucky he was safely positioned for such a speed race.

Phew. But it’s done, and we’re all doing fine. He’s really bruised up from the speed of it all, but they
say he’s okay.

the fear

I’m up, itching. My alarm will go off in 2.5 hours, but I’ve already eaten my cereal for breakfast. Maybe I’ll sleep again before 4. Maybe if I keep focusing on the tediousness and discomfort of the itching, I won’t have to admit that I’m incredibly anxious. Lots of people have asked me if I’m “ready” for this baby to arrive. I don’t know how to answer that because he’s coming, no matter what. I’m not yet entirely confident the bassinet or new onesies will be used by a living child.

I cannot, will not shake the anxiety that plagues most of us who’ve lost a baby at any stage–that despite the odds being very, very much in my favor, something could still go terribly wrong. Until the baby emerges and cries, I will be afraid of complications. Even if he makes it through labor, I will be watching for signs of early or late onset group b strep. Samuel had to be hospitalized for jaundice–I’ll be watching fearfully for that. Samuel somehow got conjunctivitis at about 10 days old–I’ll be watching for that too. I’ve been trying to prepare Samuel for big brotherhood, for sharing his parents, his stuff, his space, and his self with his little brother. I cringe a little inside each time we mention it though. What will I say to him if this baby doesn’t arrive safely? What will happen to all of his “when I’m a big brother” dreams?

I wish I could say a safe a labor will bring the end to my worries, but really, once it’s done they’ll be just beginning. Deep breaths. Chances are, everything will be fine.