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Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Weighted Winter

I have been cold my entire life. I have shivered under blankets while my parents kept the heat at an economical temperature. I bring sweaters to restaurants. I wear long sleeves and pants long after everyone else has moved to shorts. It is just the way my life has been. Winter is long and cold.
The only time I have ever had relief from the cold in winter has been during pregnancy. The hormones and the built-in heater meant I was warm. While the increased heat was nice, the pleasantries of pregnancy hormones meant I wasn't really enjoying it.

This winter has been entirely different. Due to circumstance of birth and age, I spent the winter officially overweight. The most striking aspect of this experience, aside from having no pants that fit, is that I am not cold. I am not cold. It is so weird.

My usual winter bed has flannel sheets, a heavy cotton blanket, an acrylic blanket, a fleece blanket, and the quilt. I wear heavy flannel pajamas and fleece socks. And still I shiver.

This year the fleece blanket was never taken out of the closet. The heavy flannel pajamas were never worn. The regular sheets returned before March. I threw the blankets off of me nearly every night, much more likely to be overheated than cold.

I didn't not wear multiple layers under my heavy coat. I wore one layer under an open, button down overshirt. My flannel-lined jeans were only missed that one week the temperatures hovered in the single digits.

It has been eye-opening, this experience of winter warmth. It isn't half bad, being functional through the winter months instead of trying to quiet your chattering teeth. However all good things must come to an end. I am ready for this experiment to conclude as the summer begins. Warmth in winter is good. Extra warmth through the summer? Maybe not so much.

I have been patiently waiting for the pregnancy weight to come off by itself, as it always has in the past, but now at seven months postpartum, I am still a good seven pounds up from my pre-pregnancy weight. It has always been gone by now. And my pre-pregnancy weight was a good five pounds higher than it ought to have been, which in itself was a good five pounds heavier than the glorious ideal of my previous postpartum weight experiences. I don't think it's likely I'll ever see that weight again. I'll give it until June--nine months on, nine months off, dontcha know, and then I suppose the real effort will begin.

In the meantime, I probably need to buy bigger shorts because none of mine currently fit. Hopefully by fall, I won't need even more new pants to replace the two pairs I have thoroughly worn out this winter. I hate buying pants. But I'll have fond memories of this winter that I was neither pregnant nor freezing and marvel.  

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Scenes from the Hospital III

It was our last day in the hospital. I had technically already been discharged and we were waiting on the hospital pediatrician to sign Ella's discharge papers. We were living on hospital time. As we waited, expecting a doctor to show up any moment, a lactation consultant stuck her head in the room and asked if we needed any assistance. I started to send her away because, really, what could be said that I didn't already know. Then I thought about the blisters that were already starting to form and reconsidered. I told her this was my fifth baby so I already know what to do, but if she had time and nobody else needed help and we were still here when she returned, I wouldn't mind a glance and an opinion. She agreed and left to check on other patients.

My nursing history is such that my babies generally latch well, I get horrible blisters for no discernible reason, the blisters heal within a week or two, and we go on to nurse uneventfully and relatively pain free until weaning. I figured this time would not be any different. I didn't want to take her time for what I considered a hopeless but temporary situation and prevent her from helping another patient with bigger issues.

In spite of my past nursing experiences, my experiences with lactation consultants have not been great. With Grace, at the baby friendly hospital, the nurse recommended the shove technique where she shoved baby's face into my breast, held it there, and wouldn't let her move. Latched? Not latched? Whatever. That head wasn't moving. With Olivia, the LC told me that I was, in fact, not in pain because the latch was right. My mind and pain receptors must have been deluded. With Sam, Lactation never bothered to check on us. With Marian and the midwife, she confirmed the latch looked good and that was the end of that. My hopes were not high for this latest consult.

After awhile the lactation nurse returned and we were still waiting on the discharge papers. Hospital time. I told her we could give it a go and see what she had to recommend.

She told me that mothers with nursing experience tend to use the cradle hold and tend not to get a deep enough latch because of it. I nodded and latched Ella on. She said her latch looked great even though I was using the cradle hold. I nodded again. I know. She looked and thought and thought and looked.

Finally she had an idea. She prefaced with a warning that she did not know if it would work, but that if I changed the angle of attack, it might be less painful. She recommend I use a cross cradle hold, make sure baby was as parallel to the floor as possible, and use my free arm to help support her weight along with a generous use of pillows. Her idea was that the 20-30 degree angle off parallel that I held baby might be causing a touch of friction, even though the latch looked fine. She grabbed a bunch of pillows and encouraged me to hold her as straight as possible.

I latched Ella on, guiding her head with my opposite hand. And...nothing happened. Nothing. No pain. No agony. No curled toes. No feeling of expanding blisters. No nothing. Baby just ate. Nobody was more shocked than I was. The sky opened and music was heard--or maybe that was the Cuddle Time announcement? Maybe pain and blisters were not inevitable with a new, newborn. I copiously thanked this lactation consultant who took pity on my poor grand multipara, AMA soul.

By the next morning, the blisters had receded and I didn't have any more latching pain as long as I remembered to keep her parallel. A totally unexpected result.

Eventually we adjusted and I could return to my lazy, cradle-hold-at-an-angle ways. Now I just have to worry about the pain associated with Ella wanting to nurse and also wanting to have enough space to look around. I don't think an LC can fix this one.

Thus ends the trio of funny hospital moments I meant to tell you about six months ago.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Scenes From the Hospital II

The circumstance of a hospital birth an hour away from home means that all the old babies have trouble getting up to the hospital to visit the new baby. The day after Ella was born was much the same. The logistics of getting them into town meant the children did not arrive to visit until 1:45 in the afternoon. This was a fine schedule for us. Everyone had already eaten lunch and we had most the afternoon to visit.

After they had been there about 15 minutes, all of a sudden an announcement was made over the PA system. I had been in my room for 20 hours and this was the first PA announcement of my visit. A woman with a thick Southern accent explained for us that it was Cuddle Time.
It's Cuddle Time. Cuddle Time gives mom, dad, and baby time to be together and rest without interruption. Cuddle Time is from 2 until 4. We ask that all visitors make their way to the waiting room until 4pm. Once again, it's Cuddle Time.  
Do what? I had never heard of Cuddle Time until this very moment. I had never once been told there was a limit on visiting hours. Dave and I looked at each other and blinked. I had a minor panic attack until I indignantly announced to no one in particular the children were not going anywhere. "Shush, children. You aren't supposed to be here." I figured as long as they were quiet and didn't bother anyone else, it didn't matter if they were in my room. And they were quiet enough. No one complained, anyway.

It was time for them to leave and I needed my next dose of pain medication.* We told the children they needed to be extremely quiet in the hallway on their way out because, after all, it was still Cuddle Time. Dave walked them out to the car, and I hit the call button to get my Motrin. A few minutes after the kids left, my nurse comes into my room.

Now this nurse earlier in the day had fancied herself a parenting expert and decided I was in need of her wisdom so she passed on several bon mots such as I need to interrupt nursing and burp the baby several times a feeding and don't let the baby stay latched too long lest she think I am a pacifier. I wasn't really looking for parenting advice so our rapport was established.

As she typed up my medication on her computer, I asked if she had seen the parade leaving. She said she hadn't.

"You didn't see all the children?"

"Oh you mean all the kids who just left? I guess I did notice them out of the corner of my eye. I was working on something at my desk. Were they your nieces and nephews?"

"No. Those were my children."

"You're what?!? All of them? How many children do you have?"

"The baby makes five."

"Five kids?!"

"...yes."

"How old are they?"

"12, 9.5, 7, 4, and baby."

"And that man staying with you is your husband?"

"...yes."

"Does he have five kids too?"

"...yes."

"..."

So at this juncture, I am not sure if the nurse thinks we have five kids together or five kids each. I am sure she fancied herself very clever in ascertaining that all the children have the same father. At least the unsolicited parenting advice ceased. Maybe next time she'll read her patient charts.

 
*Did I tell you the hospital policy required that I request every single dose of pain medicine? I can't remember if I mentioned that or not. Even though all I was taking was an alternating Tylenol/Motrin combo, nothing came automatically. Because I am going to get addicted to ibuprofen over three days after giving birth? I am still annoyed.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Scenes from the Hospital I

Since it took several eons to get the birth story post up, these are old stories from the hospital stay that I mean to write back in October. You see how that worked out. But they amused me at the time and I still want to share.

***

The morning after Ella was born, a med tech rolls in bright and early with a hearing screening machine. This girl looks to be 20 years old. Her mouth is full of orthodontia and I can barely understand her.

I question why she is here because the guidelines suggest waiting until 24 hours after birth. Sam failed his initial newborn hearing screening because he was tested too soon and had to do it again so I know about these things. She laughs and says it doesn't matter, they do it this early all the time. And so this question seems to open the window for small talk.

She asks me if this is my first. How I adore this question. No, my fifth.

YOUR FIFTH?!?! HOW OLD ARE YOU?

40.

40? No way. 40! Really? You don't look forty. 40?! You are old enough to be my mother.

<blink>

40? I can't believe it! You really don't look forty. You really are old enough to be my mother!

<blink, blink>

Wow! 40. Huh. 40. You look so young. I'll bet you're the cool mom!

...

Friends, I assure you. I am not the cool mom. And Ella passed her screening.

(Yes. I really am forty. Yes, dear, I am old enough to be your mother. You can stop now.)

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Angst in the Homeschooling Season

I am starting this post in the most cliched month of February, but it probably won't be published until March. Who knows? Everyone knows that February is the month that homeschoolers shake their collective fists at the universe and yell, "WHY?" But this isn't really about the February blues. Or maybe it is? We spent most of February sick. We lost most of the month, especially since I was horizontal with two separate illnesses for nearly two weeks. Now we begin again.

So how's the homeschooling these days? Angsty. I feel pulled in about five different directions. And I have five children! Coincidence?

The major source of my angst is the inability for the group of my children to complete the work I intend for them to complete. I see my primary jobs in regards to school as follows: I decide the curriculum, I set out a daily checklist of tasks, I work directly with the subliterate child to complete his work, I do readalouds, I offer assistance as necessary to the older ones, I check to make sure the independent work is complete and correct.

What actually happens is that I decide the curriculum except there is always some piece I never get around to implementing. I intend to start slow and add pieces through a series of weeks. I actually start slow, add a thing, and then get bogged down without adding the rest. I feel like they have gaps in what they should be doing, but I rarely get the headspace to figure out how to get the other parts in. Music Theory, Art, Latin, and French all fall in this hole.

I spend two or three hours making the weekly checklists on the weekend. Usually. Except when I have to pay bills or am not home or some other obligation gets in the way. Carving out weekly planning time is hard. When I make the checklists, they are lost, disregarded, and used occasionally and also ignored. Multiple times a day the checklists have to be relocated. When I don't make them, no one knows what to do, even if the math column would be just the next five lessons. Without the piece of paper giving the directions, my verbal instructions fall on deaf ears. With the piece of paper giving directions, I have to make them read it.

I do work with Sam almost every day. We need to work on his cheerful response to my direction, cough cough, but I feel really good about where he and I are in his school work and where we are going. I think he has an appropriate amount of work and makes good progress. Because it is my job to directly do his work with him, it actually gets done. This leads to the backwards scenario where the child with the most time and leeway to lag behind is actually the one right where he belongs. Sam is a win for me.

The readalouds are going okay. Because of outside commitments, we generally only get three days a week, sometimes only two. The main problem here is that I have more that I want to cover than we actually have time for. My materials lend themselves to a four day schedule instead of a three day schedule. Aside from that little issue, the readalouds themselves usually go fine, even though they hates the botany/tree identification.

My assistance with the older girls is fraught. They don't want assistance. They already know how to do it all even when all the answers are wrong. I call them downstairs over and over again. I nag. I nag. I nag. Is this done? Is this done? Is this done? What are you doing? You said you were starting math an hour ago. Come back. What are you doing? Answer me. COME. BACK. DOWN. STAIRS. I make corrections to their work. They cry. I try to show a better way. They don't want to hear it. The moment my attention is diverted from them, they disappear. My attention gets diverted a thousand times a day. I set a start time in the morning. Getting them to start is nigh impossible. They are never dressed. They forgot to eat breakfast. "I know, but..." Sighs. Crying. Grumbling.

In spite of assigning them a reasonable amount of work in any given week, they usually only do about half of it. We have a 'Come to Jesus' meeting. I get a day or two of improvement then it's right back to the old habits. If I give them something they don't want to do, they just don't. Refuse. Sullen staring into the middle distance. That can will be kicked down the road until it is obsolete. What should have been a year's worth of history reading has been stretched into its fourth semester with no guarantees it will even be finished this year either. The semester long science book is going to last the whole year.

In the middle of all this, I have a baby who, while usually a very good and happy baby, is still a young baby with demands that must be met by me. Then there is Marian. Marian is a vivacious child who Does. Not. Ever. Stop. Talking. I tell her to stop talking a thousand times a day. She interrupts every lesson with every child. She extroverts all over me all day long. When she isn't talking, she is touching me, draped on me, using me as a security blanket. It isn't unusual for me to have Ella in my arms, Marian across my shoulders, and Sam next to me in the chair while I holler up the stairs desperately trying to get a big girl to respond. Marian really is delightful, but managing her energy has been a struggle for me from the beginning.

It is obvious the big girls need a lot more handholding and structure than I have been able to give them recently. Perhaps my expectations for independent work are unreasonable? Or if not unreasonable, not working for my particular children. I suppose the answer is to insist they stay downstairs to work. I am not thrilled with this answer. We don't have a lot of room to spread out. This is the public space downstairs:


The younger ones are legitimately distracting. The depth of the above picture is only 11 feet from the camera to the table. (Yes, I measured because the picture makes the room look big.) I can't send M upstairs by herself because of destruction and also Dave is usually working up there. I cannot trust them to work out of my sight because they have proven they generally don't. Enforcing a required work area will be loud and ugly and probably involve mutiny. Other solutions include putting Sam's work on hold until I can establish acceptable work habits in the girls. I could also put the hammer down on activities. I don't really like any of these solutions. How 'bout they just do their work without me sitting on their heads.

I feel pretty unhappy about this whole mess. I feel like I have failed in my duty to establish my authority and to walk them through their work. Grace wants to go to high school, which makes me panicky about these horrible work habits. I don't want to send her back to school with 'homeschool disaster' stamped on her forehead. I know she is capable of so much, but I am afraid my inability to overcome her resistance to instruction from me, her mother, has handicapped her.

I wonder if I just bit off more than I could chew. My homemaker skills are still woeful and the pregnancy set me back almost to zero. Maybe it was foolhardy to expect so much independence almost immediately because *I* needed her to be independent. We needed to work on basic obedience because of reasons, and I tried to skip ahead. I feel fairly confident that as the younger ones age, I will grow into their needs, but I have felt like I have been in crisis mode with G for so long. I feel the urgency. She definitely does not.

In more positive news, Grace has really become enthusiastic about her flute. She practices it every day. She works hard at it, wants to improve, and strives to be the best she can be. I am proud of her effort. She also is adept at Minecraft. Ha! And can also give long, in-depth talks about Harry Potter. It's not all bad, by any stretch. I know, intellectually, this is a season that will pass, especially as the baby gets older. I am just angsty and frustrated by the level of resistance I encounter on a daily basis and am afraid of the long term consequences of my distracted attention.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Ella's Birth Story or Average Length Labors are Lame

This birth started weeks beforehand when I had the long-expected conversation with my doctor about my labor history and when we wanted to schedule an induction. I should reiterate that I hate being induced. I hate picking birthdays. I am annoyed that if I lived close to a hospital, I would not be required to pick out my children's birthdays. But what do you do? After some schedule discussion, we arrived at Tuesday, September 12th as the agreeable date.

The first week in September I received a phone call from the hospital explaining their requirements for my confirmed appointment. I was to arrive at the hospital at 530 in the morning and also fast from 11pm the previous evening and refrain from even water after 4am. I politely acknowledged the information on the phone. I exploded in despair and indignation after I hung up. My last induction by advanced appointment did not require my appearance until 7 or 8 in the morning, and if you expect me to walk into labor starving, you're crazy. I've done that before and I am not doing it again. You can't make me.

My last appointment before the scheduled induction was on Friday morning, September 8th. I had an ultrasound and then the regular appointment. The strange thing about having all these ultrasounds is that it leaves little for the regular appointments. They take my weight and my blood pressure, do the cervix check that tells us almost nothing and do I have any questions. Not really. No belly measurements. No heartbeat check. It is all done by ultrasound. Boring.

At this last appointment for the final undignified cervix check, it was only 4cm. It had been 4cm the prior week too. I knew this was an ominous development for the induction. I have never previously been induced before 6cm and that particular measurement has never presented itself within a week of 4cm. My body was obviously still in a holding pattern.

The induction date was technically moveable except my doctor was leaving town for a week on the 15th of September. Asking to move the date would mean another week of Non-Stress Tests, which you have to sugar up baby to pass, another ultrasound, another appointment with a different doctor who would likely freak at an unknown patient walking around dilated at 4 or more cm, and another week of finding babysitters so I could spend four hours commuting back and forth to Nashville twice.

I inwardly sighed. I knew it was too early. Even though I'd be past 39 weeks, I knew my body wasn't quite ready to go. I thought I probably needed another week. But I was also tired. Tired of being pregnant. Tired of driving up to Nashville twice a week. Tired of paying for expensive tests. I chose not to open a new round of induction negotiations, but I knew it what it probably meant to go silently along. I did manage to get my last NST for Monday cancelled. Schedule nurse looked at me like I obviously hated my baby and dubiously cancelled the appointment.

On Monday night we had dinner at my MIL's house and we left three of the children there to spend the night in order to avoid an extremely early morning drop-off. I asked Grace if she wanted to come along to the hospital with us and she decided to go. My parents were coming to wait and she could stay with them when it all got real. I was wired late into the night getting everything together. I didn't get into bed until after 11 and am not sure when I fell asleep. The alarm was set for 4am.

The alarm sounded. Groan. Snooze. I barely budged. Grace was already up and dressed when I got out of bed. The nausea I had never quite shaken loose was still there. I got dressed. Dave made me a breakfast of toasted bagel with cream cheese and apricot jelly with a large cup of ice water. Fasting? As if. It was too early to eat anything much heavier. I took my last dose of the magic Prevacid. We got into the car around ten minutes after 5. We were officially running late. What else is new? We drove into Nashville in the dark in the pouring rain as the remnants of Hurricane Irma pushed through the area.

We arrived at the hospital a little before 6, checked in, and took our seats in the waiting room. The windows were dark, but the waiting room was bright with overhead fluorescents. The TV blared with some bad movie that is only played in the dead of night. Grace was excited to see the pregnant woman waiting across the room was reading Harry Potter. We waited for about 45 minutes. I was so sleepy.



Finally the nurse called us. Her name was Sam, short for Samantha. This is funny because our Sam didn't exactly believe that girls named Sam existed and now he would get to meet one. As we walked back to our room, she asked me, "Are you ready to have a baby today?" "Not really," was my response. She didn't know what to think of this. She was rather taken aback.

We arrived in my room and my medical history taken. After the fact I discovered that Grace was recorded as a neonate death. Weird, huh? I confessed that I was not fasting and, shockingly enough, nobody cared. The horrible monitors strapped to my belly. The nurse inserted my IV and I learned my gut feeling that she hadn't been nursing very long turned out true when she put the needle into my arm and struggled to feed it into my vein. Ouch. Ouch. Then the more senior nurse came over to talk her through it. But she has to learn somehow. Why not me? My veins are easier than most. The resulting bruise took over two weeks to resolve.

I was handed my neverending cup of Sonic ice and waited for the doctor arrive. Since I was Strep B positive, the original plan was for me to be hooked up to the antibiotic IV for at least an hour before starting the induction. They prefer the antibiotics be present for at least two hours and preferably four before delivery. With my history, there was no guarantee we would hit the two hour mark if the antibiotics and the induction started at the same time. With my lateness and the waiting room delay and getting all the things hooked up and recorded, it was now approaching 8 o'clock. My doctor had office visits to attend. She decided to start the antibiotics and break my water together without a delay in between. She checked my cervix one last time. Still 4cm and 60% effaced. That's it?!? I knew this labor was not going to be the same. The deed was done at about ten minutes to 8, and I was now on the clock. After the bag of antibiotics finished, the IV was disconnected and a heplock was taped into place.

Whether by induction or spontaneously, all of my labors have begun with my water breaking. After that, the contractions begin within 20 or 30 minutes. That did not happen this time. 20 minutes passed. Nothing. 30 minutes passed. Nothing. I was restless and bored. My parents arrived at some point. Nothing was happening. Baby's heart monitor blipped away, but the contraction monitor was flat.

Finally, after about an hour, I felt the first twinge. Slowly over the course of the next hour I fell into a labor pattern of one contraction every five minutes or so. My dream of delivering in the ten o'clock hour withered on the vine. (All my previous kids were born in the 10 o'clock hour, am or pm.) Some contractions were strong; most were weak, but they steadfastly stayed at five minutes apart.

After the contractions fell into a pattern, we began playing the game I hate the most about birthing in a hospital: attempting to keep the baby on the monitor. I move to get comfortable, the monitor loses the baby. Baby rolls away, the monitor needs readjusting. Everything focuses on that blipping machine. People who are in the room to supposedly support me watch the machine instead. The nurses come to check on the machine not me. My pet peeve is when someone who is staring at the monitor announces to me I am having a contraction. "Jenny, you are having a contraction now." Yes, I am aware. You could ask me.

After an hour or so of this game, the nurses decided I would be a good candidate for a new fancy wireless monitor. They disconnected the belts and taped this gizmo to my belly that had a central piece with five contacts taped to different areas. I wish I took a picture of it, but I did not. The idea is that you can move freely and the different contacts will still pick up contractions and heartbeats without the mother having to placate the machine.

The first nurse attached the wireless monitor to me and turned it on. Nothing happened. She asked for assistance from a second nurse. Nothing happened. They called for help at the nurse's station. More nurses came in to tinker with the machine. They changed the battery. They reset it. They turned it off and on. At the height of the fiddling, there were five nurses gathered around the computer screen trying to get the receiver to work, while I had my contractions, unnoticed, beside them. Finally a miracle! The wireless monitor started communicating with the computer. Hurrah.

Directly after this hubbub, a med tech came in the room to set up the delivery supply table. She explained they set everything up early so no one has to wait if baby comes faster than expected. She was an older lady and chatty. Not chatty in a good way. After the monitor excitement, my mother felt need to explain to the med tech that my father likes watching the monitors because he is good with numbers. The med tech assumed he was an accountant. No, an engineer. Oh, an engineer! What kind of engineer? A structural engineer! She begins to explain the structural foundation problems in her house. Her son's house? Somebody's house. She kept talking. Daddy kept answering. I kept having contractions in the bed every five minutes while some stranger nattered on for free advice. This went on for much longer than I preferred. It was one of those moments where I noted the ridiculousness of being in active labor while a random hospital employee shoots the breeze with my parents about a totally irrelevant subject.

Perhaps sensing my agitation after all the extra people exited the room, the older nurse suggested that I get out of bed and sit on a birthing ball. The fancy wireless number stopped working (because they can only to get it to work for an hour before it dies?) and I was back on the belts. After a little bit of time, they disconnected the monitors and I was free for awhile. I sat on the ball, contracted every five minutes, and scrolled Facebook while chewing ice. Grace read. Dave and my parents shuffled out for food. An hour passed. They turned the monitors back on for 20-30 minutes. I contracted every five minutes or so. They shut off the monitors again. Another hour passed. I was annoyed at how long this was taking. It was lame. The temporary adrenaline of the morning wore away into the monotony of slow progression. The previous evening's lack of sleep had caught up to me and I was intensely sleepy.

At 1:30 it was decided I needed to be checked for a status update. Back into bed. Almost 6, 90% effaced. Sigh. All those contractions and I was still not as far along as I usually am before labor even starts. I was vocally discouraged. The nurse started talking to me about nipple stimulation. I just stared at her. She said I had to be be rechecked in an hour. I decided what I really needed was a nap. I announced my intentions, shifted onto my left side, and slowly relaxed into a horizontal position as the bed was flattened beneath me.

WHOA!!! I bellowed as I flailed like an overturned insect, clawing to be set aright. The newbie nurse Sam immediately sought to bring me succor. "Do you need an epidural?" she asked. "I need to sit up!" I snapped back. Horizontal was a bad, bad idea. The bed was moved all the way back up. Pillows were arranged to support my upright position and I settled in to rest.

Since I was still contracting every five minutes, I never went to sleep. I kept my eyes closed and relaxed as best as I could. It was the best nap you could imagine while not actually sleeping and still having contractions. Contraction. Five minutes of psuedo-sleep. Contraction. Five minutes of psuedo-sleep. It really wasn't half bad. An hour passed.

It was again time to see how the progression was coming. 7cm, still 90%. Argh. The nurses started talking to me about pitocin. No. No. No. Pitocin means constant monitoring and IVs and limited positions and defeat. I declined. I got another talk about nipple stimulation. Sigh. Surely something would shake loose soon. I updated some people on FB and a friend remarked that she couldn't believe I was still posting at 7cm. But really, nothing much was happening. One contraction every five minutes. That's it. 30 seconds of pain; 4:30 of nothing. I could hardly believe that 6.5 hours into the day, there was still no baby in sight. They said they'd check again in 30 minutes.

Over the course of those 30 minutes, all of a sudden my contractions were getting much stronger. Not necessarily closer together, but noticeably and significantly more painful. And then maybe closer. Then the bellwether sign that always announces my hour is at hand: I had to pee. It was decided that my parents would step in the hallway, the nurse would check dilation again, I would go to the potty, and then Grace would decide where she wanted to ride out the rest of the way. After everyone cleared out, the nurse announced I was between 8 and 9 and 100%. Finally. Finally. Finally. 

As I got out of bed to shuffle to the bathroom, I could feel the intensity of labor cascading down on me. I preemptively tell the nurse not to worry because I am not going to deliver on the toilet. She said she had never had that happen with a patient and wasn't going to worry about it until it did. See, I knew she was a newbie. I had multiple contractions walking across the room. I had several contractions on the toilet. I had contractions walking to the sink to wash my hands. I laughed that I was washing my hands. I am not a barbarian! I had contractions shuffling back towards the bed. I made it to the bed and just leaned on it, unable to climb up, waiting for the wave to crash. I caught my breath and looked up at Grace sitting on the couch. I told her that she could stay or she could leave, but the time to decide was now. She thought a moment and decided she would go.

I climbed back into the bed. It was about 10 minutes after 3. My parents came back in to confirm it was time for them to go. The nurse left. My parents left. Grace left. Dave announced he had to go to the bathroom and he also left. I was left entirely alone. I swallowed a bit of panic while facing transition all by myself. I hoped someone would decide to return before the baby came. It felt like an eternity. It was probably more like ten minutes. I draped myself over the left rail of the bed and onto the side table, contracted, and waited.

This position was how Dave found me when he returned from the bathroom. He was alarmed. "What's wrong?!" he exclaimed. "I'm having a contraction!" "Do I need to get the nurse?" "Not yet, but soon." Soon came fast. I started to feel pushy. Dave rushed out and got the nurse. She returned and declared me fully dilated. I already knew that. She said she would page my doctor.

After a few minutes the nurse returned, concerned because my doctor was not returning her page. She tried to text and still had nothing. She was barely concealing her anxiety. She explained all this to me while pulling her phone out to make a direct phone call. In a moment that crystallized why I drove an hour into Nashville for the entire pregnancy even though it was an enormous pain in the rear, when the nurse began dialing the number, my doctor walked into the room. Never underestimate the value of a doctor who knows your birthing history. My doctor said as soon as she was notified I was between 8-9, she immediately started making her way to the hospital because she knew I'd be ready to go by the time she got here. (Her office is a longish walk away.)  The time was now somewhere between 320 and 330.

The bed was broken down while my doctor gowned up. She never took her eye off me while the old phrase don't push echoed about. In the middle of her process, she asked the nurse, who was standing aways back, if she had finished dressing. The nurse answered yes and didn't move. That was a hint, newbie nurse, to get a bit closer. I could feel both my waning ability to hold back and my doctor's nervous hurry. I knew. She knew. The nurse did not seem to know. As they finished getting ready, my daily iron pill alarm on my phone sounded. It was now 3:30. I reached over and shut it off.

Finally everything was set in order and they turned towards me and my contorted position. I was still, essentially, draped over the side of the bed sitting almost straight up.. The time for finding an optimal birthing position had passed. That moment came and left when I was by myself. I really couldn't move anymore. The nurse popped open the stirrups and instructed me to put my right foot in the right stirrup. I told her I wasn't going to do that. She tried again. Put your foot in the stirrup. No. All of my coping ability hinged on staying compact. I was not about to give it up in order to please the newbie nurse. She looked stumped at my stubborn refusal. My doctor was only mildly concerned my hips didn't have enough expansion room. She suggested that Dave and the nurse basically pick me up, shift me, and hold the entire weight of my legs. I said it sounded fine to me. The nurse looked...concerned. Dave grabbed one leg, the nurse grabbed the other, and they shifted my weight off my hips. I squared up a little, but was still heavily leaning left, and they stood there, each holding the dead weight of a leg in a bent, non-stirrupy position. I win. Ha!

Finally the moment arrived. I was given the all clear and didn't have to fight myself any longer. 1,2,3,4...   Crap. I forgot to tell the nurse not to count at me. Too late now. I am pushing. She is counting. I am ignoring. I give one long push. A second long push. Maybe a third? I don't remember now. I barely recognized that the baby was crowning. I just had to make the agony stop. Usually after the head is delivered, there is a slight abatement where I can catch my breath. Not this time. Her head emerged and I just kept pushing. I felt each shoulder bump out, one at a time. I don't ever recall being able to distinctly identify the shoulders, but there they were and she was fully delivered. It was 3:40pm. It's a girl: Eleanor Clare.

They immediately put her on my chest and I let her lay there, soaking up her familiar foreignness. After a few minutes, I latched her on to nurse and she took it like a champ. But then it seemed almost immediately, they moved her to examining table to wipe her up and weigh her while I delivered the placenta. It seemed unbelievably fast. They hooked up the pitocin IV right after birth so maybe it kicked in almost immediately. Surely the doctor didn't pull on the cord? I wasn't paying enough attention to know for sure. Anyway, the placenta seemed to come really fast. Out it came and they almost immediately dropped it into a bio-hazard box before I could even mention I'd like to take a look. I love to give it the long stare in order to accuse it of the misery it caused me. I did get a glimpse, but that's it. Oh well. (I have one in the freezer if I really want to look at one. Snert.) With the placenta out, time for the stitches. Even though I was pushing full bore for approximately five minutes, I only had a first degree tear and maybe three stitches. Not terrible. My doctor told me the cord had been loosely wrapped once around baby's neck, but she didn't anticipate any trouble. Time for the glorious icepack. My doctor congratulated me and said she was proud of me.

Baby weighed 7lbs 4oz and they laid her back on my chest. As they finished cleaning up and putting away, Dave went to get Grace out of the waiting room. This is the moment she got up early to see. It took a lot longer to arrive than anyone had anticipated. Grace is beaming and the four of us huddle together. We can't take our eyes off this baby.

The medical personnel leave the room. I notice that baby has a lot of mucus. She didn't exactly get properly squeezed on the way out. I latch her onto nurse. Her latch is great. She is nursing like gangbusters. I notice her nose seems clogged. Is her color weird? It's always so hard to tell. I am looking at her hard. Is she turning purple? Or is that just a lusty red? Hmmm. Something seems off. I look away and stare out the window at downtown for a few seconds. I look back down at her. Nope. This is not normal. This baby is definitely turning blue. It's been about 30 minutes since birth.

I tell Dave to get the nurse. I unlatch her and she begins to mew. He returns with half of the staff in labor and delivery. I learned that when a baby turns blue, nurses use the word 'dusky' a lot. No one wants to say blue. A nurse takes her from me and the baby begins to scream. This pleases the nurse greatly. She continues to intentionally annoy her to continue the crying. She is pinking back up.They immediately decide she needs to be suctioned. After she is suctioned, everything seems normal. NICU is called as a precaution. They descend immediately. I keep saying immediately, but I am not sure how else to describe what happened. It was a well-oiled and fast moving machine. NICU comes in and declares there is nothing for them to do because everything needed is already done. They will recheck her in an hour as another precaution. Then they hand me back my baby.



During this series of events, Grace's eyes are as big as saucers. All of the preceeding is happening in the background while I turn my attention to Grace to tell her what's happening and to reassure her. It sounds very scary, and it was definitely unnerving, but it was also very apparent that the baby's nose was full of gunk and she had yet to learn that if she just opened her mouth, she could breathe normally. So I tell Grace it is normal for a baby to be full of mucus and that she was born so fast that it didn't get pushed out in the regular way. Grace seemed to be accepting of the explanation. But still, she was happy when we had our baby back. So was I.



Since we had to wait for NICU to give us the second all clear before we could head to our regular room, we had a gloriously relaxing time. My parents eventually wandered in. And happily, my MIL got all the kids up to the hospital very quickly. We were all reunited and talked and laughed and cooed over our new baby. We stayed in L&D for over two hours after birth. It's the first time I have not felt rushed at the hospital.

Soon NICU cleared us again and it was time to move upstairs. My newbie nurse Sam accompanied me into the bathroom for the glamour portion of childbirth. She was hilarious. She couldn't get over how fast everything happened. She couldn't believe I didn't have an epidural. She kept telling me I was amazing. She had never seen anything quite like it. I have mentioned her quite a bit through this retelling but she didn't annoy or upset me, if I gave that impression. It was just very obvious to me that she didn't have experience with my kind of labor. She has to learn somehow. She was effusive with praise and amazement. She wanted to do a good job and support me, even if she didn't quite know how.



And that is how we came to have five children after seven long, boring hours of labor and then one exciting hour. I'm sorry it took five months to tell you.




Thursday, February 1, 2018

Poverty Vows?

I should start this post with all the disclaimers.

First and mostly importantly, this is more an uninformed wondering than any opinion based on solidly researched facts. I don't have a dog in this fight.

What am I talking about, you ask? Catholic Schools. I should probably save this post for Catholic Schools Week, but I don't have the first clue when that might be nor do I care.

I live an hour away from the closest Catholic school and I am never going to travel two hours daily to bring my kids to school, even if it were free. It's just not worth it for us. But I do wonder why the schools cost what they do.

The other day, in a thread, someone made reference to an old controversy involving the Nashville Dominicans. I didn't care much about the old issue, but it did prompt me to think about something about the Sisters that bothers me. More disclaimers: I love the Sisters. They are great to visit and do great work and I am proud that my hometown is so closely associated with them. End disclaimer

I have always heard the major problem with the cost of Catholic schools is that the ideal of educating every Catholic child hangs on the assumption that the teachers have vowed poverty and don't really have to be paid. This sounds like a reasonable supposition. And yet. And yet...

So the closest Catholic school to me is a diocesan school--50 minutes in traffic free driving. Most of the teachers are lay people. There might be a few religious on the staff. (Or more than a few? I don't know.) I don't know how much the diocese or the attached parish contributes to the upkeep of the school but I can tell you the tuition is $6410 a year per child. I assume this doesn't include books or uniforms or various fees. I could send all my currently school-aged children (that's three of them) to this Catholic school for $16317 a year because of a multi-child discount. That's a crazy amount of money. Most families can't begin to swing that kind of outlay.

Now let's compare that to the elementary school run and staffed by the Nashville Dominicans. Again, I don't know how this school is supported aside from the tuition, which commands $13690 a year per child. Again I assume this doesn't include books or uniforms or various fees. I do know the properties on which the schools sit are old. They also offer a multi-child discount so I could send my children to the Dominican school for the bargain basement price of $37650 a year. This is utterly insane.

Why does it cost so much?

I do know that both schools offer financial assistance. They all say that if you want your child in the schools, they will work to make it happen. I have also heard through the grapevine that in order to qualify, you have to send every single disposable dollar to the school. Rice, beans, and Catholic school. I don't know if this is true or not, but it is the general impression I have gotten from people who have gone through the process.

Since we are on the topic of the grapevine, it is also the general impression that the Motherhouse demands a premium salary for sending teachers to a school. Once more I'll say I don't know the facts, but people say it is in the neighborhood of 60K per year per teacher. That's a might fine salary for one who has taken a vow of poverty.

So I don't know how the economics of Catholic schools can possibly work. The diocesan schools charge more than most families can afford while the lay teachers live in actual poverty. The Sisters, who have taken poverty vows, charge an eye-popping amount more for their services.  How is this sustainable?