Saturday, December 14, 2013

Newborn Rex

Although I am falling behind in documenting my boy's life, I think I am not so far behind that I can't start from the beginning. Having such a close friend as a photographer is nice because I have yet to post amateur photos. Here are some photos from when Rex was about a week old. The first week was newborn dreamland. He was sleeping a fair amount still and would just sleep on our chests. Breastfeeding was very hard for us at first, so much of my memories of his early days are dominated by that. He would take two hours to complete a feeding, and he struggled to latch and stay put. We learned fairly quickly that the poor child has a variety of food sensitivities, the main offenders being dairy and soy. My best friend Anna told me to write down everything, and I wish I would have taken this advice more seriously. I thought I would remember every moment in perfect clarity, but I have forgotten the specifics as time progresses. I did keep a small journal of things I noticed when he was two weeks old. We discovered that Rex loved classical music. He did not cry very often (probably a combined total of 30 minutes a day), but when he did cry, Colin would put on classical music and dance with him. It would put him in a trance. Rex still loves music, and whenever he is upset, we can sing to him or put on music and it will usually calm him down. I recorded that Rex made the absolute cutest noises, which I described as puppy noises and Colin described as gremlin noises. I think those are actually similar noises. Rex loved kisses at two weeks, which he still does. I make sure he gets at least 100 kisses a day and stop counting after that. I remember I would stare at him while he was asleep and tell my mom how beautiful and perfect Rex was. She agreed. I spent a lot of time doing this because I had terrible postpartum insomnia. Rex had the strongest neck from the get go. He would hold his neck up without assistance from the day we brought him home. He was also very alert and would track toys and look at us. I felt protective of him and that I didn't want many people to come over. Our first non-family guests were Blake and Olivia. We loved showing Rex off to friends who were so excited and supportive the entire pregnancy. My mom was here for almost a month, but I really needed her the two weeks she was here after Rex was born. She did all the cooking and cleaning, many night shifts, and offered the appropriate amount of doting that all grandchildren and first time mothers deserve. Next child, I will take more pictures of the simplicity of the first two weeks. This first time, the learning curve was steep, and I didn't think to take pictures of me wearing the same p.j.'s for a week. We miss "little" Rex for the cuddle factor, but no one makes us crack up like three-month-old Rex. I just can't pick my favorite Rex. They are all too perfect.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Rex's Birth Story

I was pregnant with Rex for 41 weeks and 3 days. Those last ten days were the longest of my life. I had to isolate myself inside because I remember thinking I would go insane if one more person told me what I should do to get him out. I tried everything: pineapple, walks, black licorice, black cohosh, various herbal remedies, primrose oil, red raspberry leaf tea, everything. Rex, and now I realize I, needed those last ten days together, just the two of us. On September 2nd around 10 a.m. I started having very sporadic contractions. I remember feeling so excited, but I didn't get my hopes up. I was scheduled to go into the birth center on September 3rd to drink a castor oil elixir that my midwives swore would put me in labor but also promised was not very pleasant, so I was hoping to avoid that. I tried to rest and sleep throughout the day, but the contractions were coming every 1--2 hours, so actual sleep was out of the equation. My mom had been here in Charleston for a whole week. She had a ticket for four days after Rex's due date. We assumed he would at least be on his way by then. That day we watched a couple of documentaries, and my contractions totally stopped for a few hours while we waited for Colin to get home from work. I remember around 4 o'clock the contractions started coming once every twenty minutes or so. I bounced on an exercise ball through them. I could feel them, but they were not painful at this point. For the two weeks leading up to Rex's delivery, I was dilated to a 3 and 80% effaced. When Colin got home from work we decided to get Five Guys grilled cheeses and fries for dinner, a choice I would terribly regret in about 8 hours. The contractions kept coming consistently now, so I thought that maybe it was the real thing. Around 10 p.m. Colin and I went into our room so that I could labor in there alone. My mom "went to sleep" in the living room. I sent Colin right to sleep or to at least get a nap in because I knew we were in for a long night. We had done hypnobirthing classes to get ready for labor. I found a combination of these techniques with yoga breathing helpful to help me labor in our room. Mostly everything I have ever learned doing yoga and a firm belief I was doing the best thing I could do for Rex delivering him naturally helped me through the contractions. I could not lie down and contract. I sat on the edge of the bed and just breathed through them with my eyes closed. The contractions I felt while laboring at home felt very much like my period cramps always have. I also found a hot shower hitting my back helped immensely. Although I never experienced back labor, I found back pressure and attention soothing. I would make the water as hot as it could go and just sway through the contractions that were, now around midnight, coming every 7 minutes or so. I could only stand to be in the muggy shower for 25 minutes or so and then I would get out for 20 minutes and repeat this cycle a couple of times. I loved laboring on the toilet. Being in a seated position while shaking my leg was how I spent much of the hardest parts of labor. Around 1:30 a.m. after sitting on the toilet and not being able to labor alone anymore, I woke Colin up and had him call the midwife. It took about 20 minutes for her to call back, and I remember them not being a very pleasant 20 minutes because I didn't know what she was going to say. I had a bit of fear that she was going to tell me I couldn't come in yet, but Colin told her my contractions were 5 minutes apart, so she told us to come in. The birth center was in North Charleston, which is a 20 minute drive from our house in downtown Charleston. When we got onto the freeway, Colin was helping me with some breathing. I looked over at the speedometer because I felt like we were going slow, and it read 40 MPH. This was one of the two or three times I snapped at him during labor, but I yelled at him to double his speed that instant. He was so calm from the breathing that he had slowed down the car. Colin has a unique ability to stay calm physically. I remember getting terribly nauseous in the car. I wanted Colin to dump all of our snacks that we packed to take to the birth center on the floor so that I could throw up in the bag. I never ended up throwing up in the car; although, I was close. I don't remember the car ride other than this, but Colin says I was being very controlled and calm. I was still able to keep my contractions inside at this point, which means I wasn't being vocal. We pulled up to the birth center, and our midwife pulled up a few minutes later. I had one more contraction and then Colin helped me inside.

Leslie was the midwife who met us. I remember she looked tired. She had another birth that day already. We arrived at 2:30 a.m. She checked me, and I was dilated to a 6, which meant we could get in the tub. Once she filled it up, we immediately got in. The warmth from the tub and jets felt comforting. During labor, change was key to getting through it. The tub was a nice change from sitting and laboring. Shortly after getting into the tub I promptly threw up the cheese sandwich and fries I had eaten earlier that evening into the garbage can. Leslie then hooked me up to the IV to give me antibiotics because I was group B strep positive. At the same time, she gave me peppermint oil to smell to relieve my nausea. I remember being so annoyed at the nausea because I was not prepared for that and because I never get nauseous. Leslie told us 90% of laboring moms throw up. The time in the tub is so clear and simultaneously a blur. I sat in front of Colin who sat on a step.

      We had prepped various items to calm me like a birth playlist, entitled BERTH, and an essential oil diffuser, but when it came down to it, I didn't want anything but Colin's help. Leslie and I would be having a conversation during a break, and at this point when a contraction would hit, I would have to stop talking and just moan my way through it. The intuitive sounds I made during labor were amazing. The ability of the human voice to calm is shocking to me now with hindsight. I was not embarrassed or reserved (not that I ever am) to let out long moans through each contraction. My voice got me through contractions. I knew things were getting serious at this point because for me to abruptly stop a conversation and ignore someone just doesn't happen. I remember being impressed with Leslie's ability to read my needs. When I started contracting she would stop talking mid-sentence and go around the corner and sit in her rocking chair. When I was done contracting she would come back and talk. This interaction probably lasted the first hour. After that, things got serious, and I didn't want to talk anymore to anyone. The midwives had told us to bring lots of liquids and snacks, and we brought many, but I did not want to eat or drink in labor. Both the midwife and Colin had to constantly remind me to sip gatorade. It was difficult for me. I didn't want to do anything but labor. I felt like even a sip of gatorade would break my concentration. The tub felt really hot and steamy to me, so I took a break about once an hour to use to restroom and do some contracting on the toilet, which, like at home, I found productive. I was too tall for the tub, so I did not feel like I had sufficient back support while sitting in there. I could lean back on Colin, but the step he sat on hit right at my low back and really annoyed me. I was surprised how physically involved I needed Colin to be during labor. I did not have back labor, and I had great breaks in between contractions, but during a contraction I needed his touch. He was amazingly intuitive about when I needed him and when I didn't. I only had to tell him sternly to not touch me once. True to his character, Colin was strong and patient during labor. I really feel like we did this together, and it was a beautiful experience for us. We both thought we would love having a water birth. Colin loved laboring in the tub, but I did not. The timeline is shaky almost three months later, but after about 5 hours I had had it with the tub. It was too hot and steamy, and I requested to get out.

 At this point I was dilated to an 8 and was in the depths of transition. I didn't really know how I wanted to labor, but I knew it was not in the tub. Leslie suggested laboring on the ball, and I also knew I didn't want that. I was really good at knowing what I didn't want in labor. The nurse, Ashton, showed up around 8 a.m. She and Leslie had me lie on my side to further the contractions, which was uncomfortable and painful. Unlike in the tub when I could sway and use my voice to soothe, on the bed I had no control. I did not want to get back in the tub, though. I couldn't stay in that position for long, so they checked me, and I was at a 9. I spent a few contractions with Leslie manually helping me get to a 10.

After being in the bed for about an hour I moved to the toilet when I was finally at a 10. I don't remember much of transition. This might be because it directly preceded the hardest part of my labor. I remember thinking it was taking a really long time to progress. I did not feel elated at labor milestones like making it to transition and being "almost done," as I thought I would. Once I was at a 10, I labored more on the toilet. I did this alone. I would sit and shake my leg, and it was the only thing that could get me through the contractions. I remember trying to be strong and polite when people came to talk to me, but I was in my own world at this point. I could only give short, one word answers to questions. Leslie told me I could start pushing whenever I felt the urge. I did not feel the urge when she said this. She told me that was fine and to just push whenever I felt it. She would come back every so often and ask if I felt the urge, which I didn't, and I started to wonder if I was feeling the urge and didn't know it. I now know that you know it. At some point on the toilet I decided I did feel this urge and would push with contractions. I think I thought that any pushing on my part was productive pushing, which it was not. This toilet pushing commenced the most difficult part of labor for me: pushing.
At this point, when I started pushing, it was around 10 a.m. on September 3rd. There was a shift change with the midwives, and our hypnobirthing coach and midwife Judy took over for Leslie. While Leslie was great and all business for my contractions, Judy has a very calm and gentle demeanor, which got me through what would be the hardest two hours of my life. Since I liked laboring on the toilet, Judy suggested I spend some time pushing on the birthing stool, which I loved--loved being a relative term here. The stool was a metal frame in a U-shape that I sat on the back of with Colin behind me. I could grab onto the sides of the stool and pull down during a contraction, which made me feel like I was helping to get this little guy out. After about a half hour on the stool, Judy had me move to the bed because she said first time moms tend to tear if the are on the stool too long because gravity is so efficient with the stool (and she was right. I ended up having a second degree tear that was absolutely worth it). They did try to urge me to try the tub again because I had used up all of my energy by this point. I did not want to get back into the tub. They had me lie on my back in the bed. This is when the urge to push with my contractions really came on strong. Colin held up one of my legs and the nurse, Ashton, held the other while Judy would verbally coach me and try to help the little guy come out with the help of some olive oil. Pushing is a blur because my body won't let me remember how hard it was. In our birth classes I remember a girl saying labor is like casino time, and I find that an apt description. Colin and I felt like I pushed for 5 hours, but when it was all done, I had pushed for two. We spent a very difficult hour, hour and a half pushing on the bed. I really broke down at this point. I know labor is painful, but way more than the pain I remember the fatigue. I was so exhausted at this point that I felt like I could not go on. I have never been so tired and not been able to stop what was happening to me. I was out of control. I was very emotional this hour and would cry and beg to be done, for someone to help end what was happening and just get him here by any means necessary. Judy would just tell me I had to keep working, that I was the only one that could get him here and that I was so close! I got substantial breaks in between my pushing contractions, and I would just cry during them because I knew another contraction was coming, and I wanted them to stop or come all at once so that I could be done with labor. Next time, I will just rest during these because crying and carrying on only made me more exhausted. Judy would sporadically bring me spoonfuls of raw honey and sips of gatorade. After about an hour of pushing I was finally crowning. Judy told me to reach down and touch Rex's head, and when I did I just started crying because only a small part of his head was coming. I cried to them, "he's barely out." I was very discouraged by the process of two steps forward, one step back. During each contraction I would have two very productive pushes. Sometimes if I could muster the energy I would give a third for good measure, which Colin told me way after Rex was home that these third pushes did nothing. I wanted to tip my head back and just grunt during contractions, but Judy wouldn't let me. I had to tuck my chin to my chest and push my grunts down. At one point I told Judy she had to tell me how much longer I had to push. I felt like I could do it if I had a timeline. She kind of chuckled because that is such a ridiculous question. This was the only point during my labor that I felt like I really just could not keep going. Somehow I mustered the energy after an hour on the bed to move back to the birthing stool. They were reluctant to let me get back on it because of the pressure, but they did let me.  
I felt like I would never be done pushing, ever, but I had to bunker down and just do this. I was still too far past fatigued and was still emotional, but I don't remember complaining, crying, or bargaining as much once I got on the stool for the second time. Judy put the mirror in a position so that I could see my progress through my pushes, which really helped me. It was nice seeing the work I was doing was paying off at this point, and I could really see him coming more and more with every contraction. I felt more in control being able to see what was going on. Everyone was encouraging. About 25 minutes after pushing on the stool, Leigh, another midwife in the practice came in to get Judy and Ashton's lunch order (16 hours is a long time. Those women need breaks too). Leigh's form of encouragement totally spoke to me the times I met with her during pregnancy, and when she came in she took the mirror to watch a couple of my pushes. She exclaimed in a beautiful voice, "Lauren, that is beeeautiful pushing!" I absolutely responded to this because the next thing that was said, Colin told me later, was Ashton, the nurse, saying, "uh, miss Judy you need to get your gloves on!" And with that, I pushed Rex out with a strong push at 12:25 p.m. on September 3, 2013. I never felt a ring of fire, and the actual pushing him out was not painful. It was actually quite a rush. I couldn't believe I was finished just like that with labor and that I finally had my baby. I was sobbing (out of pure joy), "My Baby! My Baby!" Judy caught him and handed him right to me. I was so overwhelmed with love at that moment. I loved Rex, I loved Colin, I loved the patient and kind midwives who helped me get to that point.

 Since I was 10 days late, I had to go in to get my amniotic fluid levels checked. When my midwife was doing the ultrasound she told me that Rex would not be very big, probably around 7 pounds. Well, she was wrong. Rex weighed in at 8 lbs 14 oz and had a 15 inch head, which is probably why it took so long to push him out.

 We stayed at the birth center for four hours after Rex was born. It was the most exciting, blissful four hours of my life. I felt so much love for Rex, and I felt so proud of how all three of us worked together to get him here. Giving birth to Rex was the most important, powerful, sacred, and beautiful thing I have ever done. I left saying all day, "I did it." And I did. Birth was hard, and I had done it. I was in awe of the process and still am. Women's bodies are miraculous. Babies are miraculous. Being Rex's mother has given me fresh eyes through which to see the world. I am more compassionate and patient than before with others and with myself. I can't think of this new journey I am on as his mother without getting emotional. There is a new space and type of love inside of me that Rex pushed open, and it helps me not only love him more than imaginable but others as well. When I hold him and nurse him he gives me hope. When he stares me in the eye and smiles I feel as though he is giving me all I've ever wanted. Colin and I cannot stop asking each other, even almost three months later, if he is real because neither of us could have imagined this amount of love. September 3rd was the very hardest and very best day of my entire life. We love you, darling Rex.

Our amazing friend, Olivia, attended 12 long hours of our birth so that she could take these priceless photographs. I can't thank her enough.