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.

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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.

 

having a baby tomorrow

Well, here we are. Tuesday afternoon. Assuming we don’t move from early to active labor tonight, we’ll be going in at 6am tomorrow to start the induction or “help things along.” This feels so strange, knowing the baby will come tomorrow, for better or for worse. I wish I could’ve gone into labor on my own. I wish I could have had just one last chance at a labor experience without augmentation but oh well. I really could have done without the low platelets and obnoxious rash this time around. But life and health are my ultimate goal for both of us. I really hope I accomplish at least that tomorrow. I feel like I should be doing something today, but I just feel like scratching my itches and wishing for tomorrow to come faster.

Edited to add: I just passed the mucous plug and Josh got all excited that I may actually go on my own. He asked when it happened with Samuel and I decided to check the blog to see. Argh. Like 2.5 weeks before Samuel was born. That’s not encouraging! Nor was seeing that I was 75% effaced, 3-4 cm dilated 14 days before he was born….Lesson learned: stay away from the archives.

false alarm=lost day

Yesterday Samuel was at a play date and I had plans to do so much. Then I stood up from the couch around 10am and…wetness. Water broken or peed on myself? I debated with myself for about an hour. The fluid was pretty much odorless, and clear. I continued to produce dampness, but nothing major. I’ve been thinking, since I heard about this hospital’s rule that you must be hooked up to things and not walking around, that if I went into labor on my own, that I’d wait until I really felt things were progressing before going.

But then I tested positive for Group B Strep. I’ve read up on all the risks, and know that statistically speaking, I should have plenty of time. But since I am risk averse, I want those antibiotics ASAP. So I decided, I’ll just go in and we’ll check this and I’ll probably be home shortly.

I got to the hospital. It wasn’t amniotic fluid. But while I was waiting, I began contracting every 3 minutes. The contractions were moderate–I’d say about halfway to peak. Then, whoosh, lots of bloody show. That never actually happened with Samuel, although it did with Natan. So, the doctor on call thought he’d better keep me there for awhile to observe. He estimated I was 2cm dilated, an hour later 3 cm dilated. We debated sending me home, but he wanted me to get the antibiotics at 4cm or water breaking, so he decided to hold onto me for awhile as the contractions picked up strength a little. I told Josh to stay at home–I didn’t have much confidence in anything happening and figured there was no point in calling in the troops and disrupting Samuel’s schedule. Then at about 7pm, the contractions went back to 8-9 minutes apart, and very mild. By about 10, nothing–not even contractions. He checked me again, still 3cm.

He sat down and said, “Well, I’m not sure. If I send you home, you’ll probably be back tonight or tomorrow.” I about leaped out of bed; I so wanted to get out of there. I very very much want my doctor to be there when I deliver. We have talked about how if the baby’s head is firmly applied, I can walk around and change positions as much as I want and I just trust her to listen to me more than any of the other docs with whom I’ve talked this pregnancy. Sue had a great suggestion a few posts ago–a doula. Unfortunately where we live it’s not really possible. He offered to break my water, but said he doesn’t like to do that before 39 weeks–I definitely liked that he wasn’t pushing me. I told him I wanted to wait and that was that. Meanwhile 11 hours had passed since I left my house, and nothing got done. As of now, I’m contract maybe a couple of times an hour. I had a BPP today and the baby looked great, and appears to be about 8 pounds 7 ounces.

Onward.

confidence, in self and others

When I think about who I was before, and who I am now, one word always come to mind: confidence. I was so sure of myself in all things. In many areas, it was well-founded. In comparison to the kids I went to school with before college, I was exceptionally hard working and motivated. School came easily to me, and I loved to be challenged. College, my first post-college job, all went as I expected. I loved grad school, and did well. I’ve said all this before. I lost a lot of that in the past few years, through grief and more general disappointments.

But I think that because of who I used to be, I am particularly sensitive to overconfidence in others. I am just amazed by anyone who is so sure of themselves that they can, without hesitation, judge others, especially for their decisions. I, of course, do it too, but not all that profoundly and usually only in conversation with Josh. I am not at all sure that I am that wise.

Women from my undergraduate institution can be the worst culprits when it comes to thinking themselves wiser than others. I went to an elite all-women’s college on the East Coast. The winter issue of our alumnae magazine included an article about fashion. I didn’t read it. I thought about reading it before commenting about it here, but then I figured I should just stay with my original inclination–disinterest. When I saw it, I thought, “Huh, I bet this will spark some self-righteous letters.” I don’t actually read the articles in the magazine all that often, but the editors have made some interesting choices recently. An earlier issue, last year at the most distant, was about how alumnae who haven’t reached high stations in corporate America or the government, or whatever it is we value as a class of educated women, feel about their particular accomplishments, or lack thereof. It’s an old joke that the we are a motivated bunch, but kind of striving and unimaginative when it comes to career choices. I think of myself as very different from that stereotype (as I’m sure most of us do.) So, while you need look no further than my closet and really limited accessory collection to know that I wouldn’t read an article with fashion advice, even if it was written by a woman from my college, I thought, “Cool, I’m glad they’re giving an alum in that field a look.”

Sure enough, this month, the editor’s column addressed several letters criticizing the choice. I admit to deeming the letters obnoxious and petty. One woman called the pictures “a waste of space” and continued, “Our magazine provides a forum for many of the world’s most educated, intelligent, experienced and articulate women to express themselves on a variety of topics. Fashion is not one of them.” Another woman asked whether the alum shouldn’t be devoting “her intelligence, and our time, to something more important,” and concluded, “Please don’t waste trees on this useless dreck.” Seriously. It’s an alumnae magazine. The young alum is creative and apparently very successful. I think it’s cool she’s making a success in a field she loves, but it’s not my thing, and that’s about the level of profundity I think the article should have inspired for someone who’s not interested in it. I’m sure plenty of people enjoyed the article.

Is this part of the culture wars, the war on women, the mommy wars, and the whole lot of petty things we do and say to one another on a regular basis as part of our personal discourse around them?

The story of my confidence makes me think so. Longtime readers of my blog will remember that I have a very conflicted relationship with one of my graduate school mentors. Last summer, we had a confrontation at a conference that hurt me. I tried to talk to her about my future plans, but stopped short of telling her my plans to quit academia. I had only come to that decision a few weeks before we saw each other, and I was very nervous about coming out with it. I started by trying to tell her about my writing plans. She mocked them–saying they were “fun”plans I should do once my real work was established. I tried to talk to her about our plans to move to the city–she snidely derided them as a plan for me to become “simply a mom who drives Samuel around to Hebrew school.” The mom and the Jewish comment upset me. Not because she’s at all anti-Semitic–she would have said the same thing had I said we were concerned about any faith or sports or anything that put family ahead of career. But because in that second I realized, “She doesn’t know me at all.”

I am Jewish before I am anything. Once I decided to become a parent, I accepted the obligation to make sure my son gets a good Jewish education, that he knows and grows up as part of a strong Jewish community. Not everyone feels that way, but it’s no secret about me. I came straight to grad school from Israel. I was still in the process of leaving orthodoxy when I entered grad school. I never pretended, or thought, or could have led anyone who knew me at all to believe I cared about being an academic historian more than being Jewish and having a Jewish family life.

A few weeks ago, I finally told this mentor my full future plans in an email. I hadn’t been evading it–this was an incredibly busy, difficult year and I just never had the time and brain power to do it.

She has not answered my email. She had previously responded passive aggressively when I told her I was pregnant again. I don’t know if it was because I waited until I was in the week 30s to tell her–again, that was stress. I just don’t send out, “Hey, I’m pregnant!” messages. It just comes out in the context of other things or when it becomes obvious.

Now she’s clearly ignoring me. So apparently I’m not the only one with a crisis of confidence in me. I don’t know yet how I feel about that. In my youth, I’d have been defiant. Screw her for thinking I can’t succeed at whatever I want. I feel a bit of that now. Definitely hurt, too. It’s not the first time we’ve clashed over our different plans for me–so that’s not new. But I was a little surprised by the email silence. And so it goes.