Saturday, December 23, 2006

A better day

Today has been better. I was able to sleep because Ryan is home. This makes me wonder if I am truly depressed in the clinical sense or is it just hard to be alone with an infant? When I am not alone, I feel fine... not great .. but not depressed. I don't think anyone is meant to be alone with a baby as the combination of sleep deprivation, hormones and screaming equals despair. Our friend Bridget pointed out that we are the only ( I think ) developed country that does not offer paid maternity or paternity leave. And we say we value family. Ha.

I keep trying to get a good picture of Jack. He mellowed out on the changing table and luckily, he is not too squirmy yet so I snapped one I like. We still have him in the bear suit because we figured out part of the reason for his fussiness seems to be that he is cold. He should have said something.. how could we know?

Friday, December 22, 2006

Dark days

I haven't written anything in a while because I keep waiting for a cute mom-baby moment to write about. But that hasn't really happened. Jack will be 5 weeks old tomorrow and he spends all of his energy growing. It's important but it's not cute. He cries a lot and sleeps in 1-3 hour increments. This is what babies do. When people said having a baby is hard I had no idea what that meant. This is by far the hardest thing I have ever done and I have at least one moment a day when I think I cannot do it.

I am reluctant to admit that the baby blues has blossomed into full depression. At least we are more honest about that phenomenon now. How sad that our awareness was raised only after Andrea Yates killed all of her kids. I hate to say it but I understand how isolation can make you feel incompetent and totally crazy. I have a great community and enough sense to seek help so I (hopefully) will never cross the line to the world of true insanity.

Even though I am in 2 support groups, no one talks about the sadness around losing your life and identity to raise a child. It feels like failure so I understand why no one wants to admit it. Also in fairness I think my problem is hormonal. Some women's hormones don't have this effect on them.

Anyway, I wanted to take a cute picture of Jack in the bear outfit his mom but this was all I could get.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

All about my mom

My mom left last week. I am so eternally grateful for her visit. She loves jack and she is very mellow about parenting. Her presence made me hopeful because she lived through having 3 kids and thinks she is a better person for it. I don't know what I would have done without her. Jack and I wish she would come back.

What is normal?

One of my yoga teachers once said that a normal person is just someone you don't know very well.

I thought about this yesterday when I went for the first time to a parent support group called First Weeks. The room was packed with mostly women and their babies who were younger than 12 weeks. People asked all kinds of questions but most of them were essentially 'is this normal?' And the answer was always yes. One woman has a baby who never sleeps between 9 am and midnight - another woman has a baby who sleeps all the time. Both fine. One woman has a baby who poops all the time, another one just poops once every day or two. One woman has a baby who eats constantly, another has a picky eater. All good.

Going to the support group is very relaxing. I constantly think is this or that ok? Does he focus on my face enough? Does he eat too much or too little? Blah blah. I am trying to accept that its all ok. Chances are Jack will be fine. Then, he'll grow up and go to therapy like everyone else.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Being and Nothingness

I take care of a little being and my days are filled with nothingness. I don't really have any existential angst as the title of my post may imply. The experience of caring for a newborn is filled with contradiction. It's terribly boring and tedious but very meaningful. I am filled with love and dread and I am frequently nauseated as a result of the combination.

I went to a support group yesterday where I learned this isn't supposed to be a joyful part of life. It's just hard. Why does everyone think that having a baby is so exciting then? Are they excited for you to have the experience of a 10 year old? Or do they forget what it's like to have an infant? I am not sure but people were very excited for me to be pregnant.

Jack cried last night for three straight hours. It seems the hours between 5pm and 11pm are annoying to him -- a nuisance he'd rather not deal with. I had attempted to change his formula to an organic brand a few days earlier and that did not agree with him. I am going to try again but this time I'll do it gradually. See what I mean? Food is important but very boring.

My friend Stacy sent us a lovely gift package including this matching fleece hat and blanket. She makes these herself! We love them.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Jack can hear!

Among the many unpleasant things that happened during our hospital stay, Jack failed his hearing test -- twice. So we had to go to children's hospital yesterday to meet with an audiologist to run some further tests. While in the hospital (the first time), I didn't know why Jack was hypoglycemic. No one would say that it wasn't some terrible metabolic problem -- they just said they didn't know. So when I heard he failed his hearing test, I thought, oh well. I can learn sign language and now the army will never want him.

But yesterday, the audiologist said he passed his hearing tests like a "champ." We are so happy he can hear... even though he never wasn't able to hear.. funny how that works.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Jack is two weeks old

Ryan made a little movie of Jack in his new Christmas outfit that his grandma bought him (you'll need Quicktime to view it):

Jack movie

Expectations are the enemy of happiness

This is the industrial strength breast pump I did not expect to be using 8 times a day. My mom is here and I was complaining about the various ways my body failed me in the last couple of weeks -- the breastfeeding, the 10 years of pushing. She is a practical person and said, "well you should get used to it. how do you think I felt when I got cancer?" This is a good point that snapped my out of my self-pity mode. Our bodies do fail us on occasion. It's just how things are. I probably should have started having children 15 years ago .. that may have been physically easier but emotionally.. well, i can't even imagine it.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

daily life

cookie "bouquet" sent by tina (thanks tina!)

ryan and jack

my daily life seems so hard now. i think its mainly because i experienced a huge drop in hormone levels and as a result, i literally sweat with fear that something is wrong with jack. some moments are better than others.

i learned he was losing weight yesterday so the breastfeeding thing is officially over although i still pump. i'll see how long that lasts. i have make sure he eats a certain amount and its just not possible to do that while breastfeeding.

my mom is here now so i can sleep some during the day and don't have to worry about household chores. this is such a godsend. i wish i'd known how much help i'd need and why. when my mom leaves, i'll be alone during the day. but i will make it. on the occasions that i do get out, i think about how all the people i see driving and living their daily lives were once small like jack, and here they are now -- adults. this comforts me.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

I tried

One of my favorite CD's ever is Liz Phair's Exile in Guyville. It's filled with melancholy and sadness about a woman not measuring up to all the standards set for her.

From Canary:
I learn my name
I write with a number two pencil
I work up to my potential
I earn my meat
I come when called
I jump when you circle the cherry
I sing like a good canary
I come when called
I come, that's all

When they discovered Jack had hypoglycemia, they took him away and immediately began giving him formula. He had to eat a certain amount every 3 hours whether he wanted to or not. I tried to breast feed but he would always fall asleep. The staff at Group Health told me I could not sacrifice his nutritional needs for my desire to breastfeed. They gave me an industrial pump which I used religiously -- 8 times a day. When we were released, I felt like I needed to continue to supplement because I was so afraid of the condition returning. I know exactly how much milk I produce and I know it is way less that than formula he was eating. I continued with the pump and breast fed in addition to the bottle. It became apparent I could not do the bottle and breast feed. Breast feeding is harder for a kid and they won't do it if they don't have to (at first anyway). So yesterday, I just breast fed him knowing there was no way he was getting enough to eat. It worked ok during the day, but starting at 11 Jack just screamed. He screamed and screamed and would not take the breast. This went on for several hours.

Today, breastfeeding is proven to be the best way to feed an infant. There is a great deal of pressure to do it. If you don't, it's because you didn't try hard enough. What would you do if you had a baby screaming in your arms and you know they were hungry? Should I have just let him scream all night? If I didn't have the fear of the low blood sugar problem in the back of my mind, I may have. The lactation consultant I talked to several times yesterday said I wasn't starving him. But she wasn't around at 1am when he was still crying.

Ryan suggested we give him formula and I knew that would end my attempts at breastfeeding. My milk supply has never increased much and I would have to sacrifice Jack's comfort in the short term (maybe another week?) to get the supply to increase. I gave him the formula and he immediately stopped crying and went to sleep.

I got through natural childbirth and my body has always been really strong. Yet, I couldn't get it to produce what it needed to feed my child. I know I will be judged and questioned by the same seattle hippies who thought natural childbirth was a good idea ( a group I counted myself in just 9 days ago). I am so sad about it because I know all the benefits for him in the long term. All I can say is that I gave it everything I had but I failed.

Jack on his actual due date

We took this on Friday 11/24. Jack is basically the same size his was at birth but this was his estimated birth date.

Saturday, November 25, 2006


It seems I cannot talk about my labor without injecting how I felt about it. I will try to separate the two as I write. Here is the timeline: at 11:30 pm Thursday night I was laying in bed and felt a strange sensation.. like a snap. I went to the bathroom and I suspected that my water had broken. I wasn't sure. I laid down again and started to feel mild cramps. These went on all night. At 7 am, I called the midwives who advised me to go into group health so they could check if my water had broken. I went to group health, they checked me and put me on a fetal monitor. They determined my water had broken and my contractions were happening about once every 5 minutes. They asked me if I wanted to check in. I didn't. I said I'd return once the contractions were closer together.

I went home, packed my things and cleaned the house. By 11:30 the contractions were about every 3 minutes and I couldn't talk very easily through them. So ryan and I went back to the hospital and we were admitted.

The contractions moved along until about 3pm when they basically stopped. By that time, my doula, tami, had arrived. We waited around until about 7 but still nothing was happening. Tami and Ryan went home. Leslie the midwife decided that at 10pm they would give me cervidil which she hoped would make things pick up. It worked.

At 11, ryan and tami returned. I was having continuous contractions with no breaks so Leslie removed the cervidil. Tami and Ryan sat with me as I moved around in all different positions trying to endure the pain. A few hours later, we went to the tub where I stayed for several hours. Around 3:30am, I started to feel a lot of pressure. I got out of the tub, went to the bed, and started to push. I pushed for a long time and I wasn't really progressing. At 5 Leslie decided to give me Pitocin to help the force of my contractions. That also worked although I didn't really feel the increase. I pushed and pushed and pushed and finally, another hour later, jack emerged and they put him on my chest. He cried and cried and so did I.

I was prepared for the pain of labor. Between the birth classes and many years of yoga, I knew if I just stayed focused and did not resist the pain, I would get through it without drugs. I also chose an amazing midwifery group, a great doula, ryan, and then had the luck to get a phenomenal nurse. I knew I would need them and they supported me every moment of the process.

I was not prepared for pushing. The most difficult part of it was that I did it for so long and I didn't progress. I never felt fear. I just felt despair. During the pushing I asked for surgery, an episiotomy and forceps. During the pushing, I decided natural childbirth was not the right way to go. However, at that point, it's too late to give any drugs.

When it was over, I didn't feel joy. I felt nothing but relief that it was over. Only a few hours later, Jack was diagnosed with hypoglycemia and words like "brain damage" and "intensive care" were thrown around so I can't separate the feelings I have for the labor with the fear I felt once they told me he was sick. The only cause they could come up with for the hypoglycemia was the stressful labor. (Probably as a result) I wish I'd scheduled a C-section. I don't see any value in the way I went through the labor. I wouldn't advocate for it and I resent people who are so militant about it. I wish I felt differently.. and maybe later I will.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

First Pictures

Jack raising his "eyebrows"

Ryan and Jack just after birth

I plan to write in more detail about the labor but that will happen later. For now, here are a few pics of our little one. We are calling our son Jack even though his legal name is joaquin. Although now we are kind of on the fence about what to call him because we really like the name joaquin. He might just have two names. Why not?

Friday, November 17, 2006

In labor

Well, I was right about one thing -- I am going to deliver early. My water broke last night around 11:30.. then I had what felt like cramps all night -- but not at any regular interval. I called the midwife this morning around 6:30 because the books say when your water breaks you should call. I had put it off because the contractions weren't that bad and I didn't want to get stuck in the hospital. I went in around 8 telling the nurse and midwife that I had a chemistry test at 10 I was hoping to make. They stuck me on the monitor for a while to see what was happening. As I sat there for around 30 minutes the contractions started to come more regularly and by then end were around every 4 minutes. They said I could stay if I wanted to but I wasn't ready for that. So now, the contractions are around every 3-4 minutes.. seem to be getting stronger. I had to come home to pack and clean the house. We will go to the hospital when the laundry is done. Also, no chem test. The midwife said it was crazy to think I could take a test having contractions every 4 minutes while amniotic fluid is almost gushing out of my body. It's like a flood. It's weird.

thats all for now..

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Stations of the Pelvis

On Monday, I learned that the baby is at the -1 station of the pelvis. From a baby website:

The concept of "station" denotes the degree of engagement of the fetal head as it navigates the maternal pelvis. Station is the relationship of the presenting part to an imaginary line drawn between the ischial spines of the pelvis. The ischial spines are two bony prominences that demarcate the middle of the pelvis.

At the 0 station, the baby is even with the sitting bones, and once its at +4 it is just about to crown.

This only means the baby is headed (ha!) in the right direction. My midwife isn't making any predictions because based on medical evidence, there are none to be made. But I am going to make some predictions. I predict the baby will come early. I predict it will be a boy. This is all I have any feeling about. I feel more cramping now and less movement. Officially, I have two weeks to go.

Also, if you were raised catholic, does the phrase 'stations of the pelvis' remind you of anything? Maybe the 'stations of the cross'? A coincidence? I think not.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

The Journey - a pictorial


5 months

7 months

8 months

It is strange when your stomach just gets bigger and bigger. Sometimes, I find it very hard to believe there is a little person in there. However, here is proof from my 20 week ultrasound:

Saturday, October 21, 2006


Some people complain that health care providers do not care enough. They seem distant. I have learned there is a very good reason for this distance.

Today at work a little boy who looked 8 but was actually 12 came in. He had tetratology of fallot with a pulmonary stenosis. Lots of big words that basically mean very serious congenital heart condition. He seemed fine in triage but when I brought him and his mom to their room he started to get very nervous. The kid has spent so much of his life in a hospital. He knows the deal. Its going to suck. His panic gripped me in a way I rarely feel at work. I told him that his mom had total control over what was going to happen. He said ok but then through his little tears said, no pokes right? I replied that I couldn't guarantee it, then walked out of the room and cried. This is why you want hospital people to be distant. If you see one or some of the people taking care of you crying about you.. it would not be comforting.

Thankfully, this is my last weekend of work until I have the baby. I can only handle so much of the world's sadness while pregnant.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Are you excited?

Another common question. Not a bad one .. just not quite right. A common mistake for English speakers speaking Spanish is to ask "estas excitada?" which does not translate to are you excited. It translates to are you aroused. "Estas emocionada?" is the correct way to ask.. are you emotional? This seems like a better question. Yes, I feel emotional -- full of emotion -- many different ones.

Here is my pregnancy metaphor:

Imagine one day, you and your beloved go to an art auction. On a whim, you decide to bid on a piece of art, and you win. This is no regular auction however. All you know about the art you have purchased is that it is art. You don't get to see it before buying. It can be from any era -- modern, renaissance, early Egyptian -- and take almost any form -- an installation, a painting, photography, furniture. You have no idea. You get home from the auction and you freak out. What if the art is too big for your house? You need a new house. What if you don't like it? There are no refunds and no returns.

Time passes and the auction house calls to say your art is almost ready. You go to a gallery and sit with your partner in front of a large black curtain. They can't tell you exactly when they will lower the curtain so you can see what you have bought. You just have to wait. While you are waiting, they remind you that you (the female) will have to complete an obstacle course before you get to take the art home. You'll experience the worst pain of your life.. there is also a small chance that you won't complete the course in a satisfactory manner so you won't get to take the art home .. and ( they're sure they mentioned this earlier) there is an really small chance, you'll die on the course.

But you knew that when you bought the art.

Plus, you're a person of faith and you've taken a basic stats course, so you're pretty sure you'll make it. So there you are waiting. Are you excited? Well, sure, that would be one of many, many emotional states you feel as you sit in front of your black curtain. You'd also probably feel terrified, thrilled, honored, a zen-like acceptance at how little control you have in life, doubtful, confident, strong, weak.. everything .. all at once. Emocionada.

There is one thing you know because you have friends who participated in similar twilight zone art auctions. No matter what work of art you get, you'll love it. Even if its 5 big screen tvs playing matthew barney's latest cremaster series and you've never really thought he was that great, all of a sudden, now that its yours, its genius. Why didn't you appreciate his art before? What did you ever do without it? You can't remember. Because once you have this art, you will protect it with your life and you will never be the same.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Baby Shower

This weekend we had a baby shower. Since we didn't really have a traditional wedding, I have not ever done the registry thing or the open presents in front of lots of people thing. As I said at the shower, I was fairly reluctant to have one. I feel like its strange to have a party where people give you presents, and I am also sort of superstitious and reluctant to count my little chicken before it is hatched. However, I now understand why we have this tradition. Its so great to gather friends and family to celebrate a big shift in your life. In fact, I wish we would have showers for a wider array of occasions -- retirement, a new job or a lost job ... I suppose we have birthday parties.. but its not really the same.

In any case, I highly recommend having a baby shower before you have a baby. It provides a wonderful reminder that you have a community supporting you as you begin a difficult but remarkable journey.

Monday, October 09, 2006

History of Childbirth

A couple of months ago I started to have time to think about the pregnancy. At the same time I also noticed two strange phenomena: the news is filled with stories of pedophiles, and everyone seems to have a story of a birth gone very, very badly. While I have been reading the New Yorker for years, I have never noticed a story on childbirth and its risks but this week, there just happens to be an article on the very topic.

The article is written by a physician -- Atul Gawande. He went to Harvard Medical School, did a surgical residency, and I believe he is now a professor at Harvard. Before medical school, he was a Rhodes scholar and studied philosophy at Oxford. I have always enjoyed his writing and so, I was compelled to read this one.

Everyone knows the history of childbirth is not pretty. Gawande weaves a story of a physician giving birth in New York today with the ways in which the profession of obstetrics has "evolved". As recently as 100 years ago, there were "dozens of maneuvers" -- from forceps to fracturing the baby's collar bones -- used to get a baby out. Around the 1930s, standards for training and cleanliness were set in hospitals but still a mother's chances of dying were 1 in 150. The baby's chances were 1 in 30.

He then credits the improvement of infant mortality rates to a physician named Virginia Apgar -- anyone who has had a child or works in medicine knows the Apgar score rates an infant's vital signs at birth. He seems to credit the improvement in maternal rates to caesarian surgery, and the "industrialization" of birth. Today in the US, a full term baby dies in every one of 500 births, a mother dies 1 in 10,000.

It is impossible to argue that conditions for women have not improved over the last 100 years. However, Gawande implies that Caesarian may one day replace a natural birth -- right now 1 in 3 women gives birth this way. He acknowleges that the only scale used to determine if the birth is successful is the Apgar for the baby. There is no similar scale for how the woman feels or recovers. If she lives, then all is well.

This is so troubling. Why is pregnancy treated like a medical disaster waiting to happen? Litigation? Fear? A desire to control women? I have no idea. The irony of it all is the more medical intervention you have during your labor, the more likely you are to have more intervention. Pitocin leads to surgery 50% of the time. And surgery is filled with complications and a long recovery .. I'd rather not deal with either.

Sunday, October 08, 2006


When are you due? What are you having? I answer these two questions between 10 and 50 times a day. I have a hard time feigning enthusiasm anymore -- 33 weeks, we decided not to find out. At the end of a shift at work, when I have answered these questions closer to 50 times than 10, I started saying 33 weeks, and I know its not a monkey. People laugh and say, no really. And I say, really, it's not.

Being pregnant is such a mixed bag of experiences. It's the closest experience I'll have to being famous. People smile at me; they want to talk to me; they do things for me. At work, patients are nice to me. From a feminist perspective, I feel like its all a little strange. Fundamentally, our society loves women who are vulnerable, weak and doing what they are supposed to. I think the roots of our comfort with pregnant women are the inspiration for the extremely freaky Margaret Atwood classic, The Handmaid's Tale. From a biological perspective, child bearing and rearing are very expensive for a woman. My immune system is weaker. If my blood vessels do not dilate appropriately during my pregnancy, the fetus will release a protein that strips the lining of my vessels to get the nutrients it needs. This can lead to preeclampsia which will kill me if the baby is not delivered immediately. (great new yorker article on the subject). The fetus does what it must to survive, and this is hard on a woman's body.

At the same, creating a human being is clearly an awesome and powerful event. From the time of fertilization to the formation of a full term baby, there are an estimated 1 trillion cell divisions. Given world population calculations, this process has basically worked as it's supposed to more than 6 billion times in the last 100 years... with an estimated 3% "error" rate. (My midwives say that 3% of babies and kids have "challenges" -- but that all depends on definitions and cultural norms ) And I control none of it consciously. None of it. I control the creation of this child as much as you control your digestion.

I called this blog the baby monkey because that is what I call our little fetus-baby. Isn't baby monkey cuter than fetus-baby? It also has roots in the its-not-a-monkey joke. We did call it fifi the fetus for a while but that wasn't very gender neutral. I plan to write about the end of the pregnancy, labor, then the first year... mainly so I can remember it but also so I can share the experience with my community.. hoping that will alleviate some of the anxiety and isolation that seems to be part of the American parent story.