Before I write all about how amazing being a mother is and how absolutely adorable our little Keats is, I have to take this opportunity to write about just that: this opportunity. Birch and I decided before we even got married that if we could at all afford it, I would be a stay-at-home mom. It's a sacrifice on a few different levels, mostly financially (especially in the Bay Area), but I can't imagine going to work and leaving Keats with a nanny or daycare. Not because I think I wouldn't be able find somebody good, but because I'd have to leave him. That being said, the combination of waking up during the night to feed him/change his diapers and being alone with him until around 5pm each day can be a bit much for me mentally, physically, and most decidedly emotionally. Hearing a baby cry for so long can be really draining and while most of the day I handle it pretty well, talking to him and bouncing him and going on walks together, at the end of the day I am ready to hand him to Birch and take a break. This is one of those precious breaks and it must be said that without my dear Birch, it wouldn't be possible. So thank you Love-of-My-Life for this opportunity filled with silence and free hands.
Now, our little man was born just over a month ago and no, I'm not sure how big he is at this point. At his two-week check-up he was 10 lbs. 11 oz, so he's gaining weight really well. Birch is estimating Keats' weight at around 13 lbs. He's outgrown half of his 0-3 month clothing already (some NEVER fit him). FYI: Newborn size is really "preemie" size for most brands and Gerber brand runs small. Keats barely fit in those when we were dressing him to leave the hospital! So, note to self, if buying Gerber, buy the next size up.
THE LABOR STORY:
Birch and I had a scare on the morning of April 4th. Keats hadn't moved all night long and still wasn't moving at 8:30 a.m. He was overdue a week and I was worried. I called the Labor and Delivery department and they tried to calm me down, but simultaneously told me to come in just to be cautious. I called my parents immediately. (Luckily, my parents and Birch's parents live in the area.) My dad answered the phone and I just started crying. I was so scared. So many thoughts were racing through my mind and poor Birch was trying his hardest to remain calm and get everything we needed together. With the promise that my parents would meet us at the hospital, Birch and I locked Olive in her crate, fed Harlequin (the rabbit), and walked to the car. I was amazed at how many thoughts I could have during such a scary moment that weren't related at all to what was going on. For example, we passed Peninsula Building Materials off of Lawrence Expressway and I thought to myself, "Oh, we should go there for pathway materials." When I talked to my mom about it later, she suggested that it could be a defense/survival mechanism, something that keeps us from going over the edge with fear. Speaking as someone well versed in survival mechanisms (I have panic and anxiety disorders), this explanation felt right on. Wonderfully enough, right before my parents got there and before I was even seen by the nurse, Keats gave me a little nudge. I burst into tears yet again, and Birch held me, rubbing my back. My mom came into the room to a smiling daughter. "That's exactly what I wanted to see!" She said through tears of her own, giving both Birch and I a huge hug. Once it was established that Keats was fine by the nurse, we all relaxed and waited.
As luck would have it, my actual OB was on call and because I was already late and we had scheduled an induction for the next week, she suggested that we induce now to avoid the worry and make everyone more comfortable. We were all relieved. However, it turned out to be a busy Easter Sunday of women in labor and seeing as I wasn't actually having contractions I was low on the priority list, so I waited for a delivering room (and the pytocin) in the observation room until just after dinner. I was moved and received a new nurse, Jeff, who was absolutely amazing! (Everyone I met in Labor and Delivery was great, there was only one traveling nurse in the Mother Baby Unit who we absolutely despised. More on that later.) Jeff was just kooky enough to keep me smiling nearly throughout the whole process (excepting that last hour and a half), but was still very able and knowledgeable. He was the exact nurse I needed for that crazy, crazy delivery.
Once I was given the pytocin, things went fast. Realizing that I wasn't peeing and that my water was breaking was the funniest moment of the day and night, for sure. Jeff upped the dosage of pytocin every thirty minutes until I was having good, long contractions every two minutes. However, it didn't stop there, obviously. It got to the point when there were no breaks between hard-hitting contractions and I was screaming. At the time, I was somewhat embarassed that I was really screaming, but looking back, it makes sense. You see, we ALL thought that I was about halfway there, 5 cm dilated and on my steady way, but the pain was insanity and I pleaded for the epidural (again, feeling defeated because I had hoped to not use the epidural for reasons I'll explain another time). I screamed through each contraction, my mom, sister Sharman, and dear Birch all reminding me to breathe while I tried my hardest to keep my eyes focused on Birch (the most amazing labor "coach" ever). And then, to put it bluntly, it felt like I was going to have a bowel movement. This being my ultimate fear when it came to labor (seriously, I had nightmares about it) I took a deep breath and just accepted that it was going to happen then and there and there was nothing I could do about and flung my legs open, at which point I heard this: "It's the head!" To which I replied, "You have got to be kidding me!" Birch took a quick peek (apparently he thought it looked like a squishy walnut), and came back to hold my hand, I think. See, this part is all rather fuzzy in my head (for some weird reason). You know what, I think Birch actually had to sit down after that and my mom grabbed my hand and took over the coaching. Yeah, that's how it happened. The anesthesiologist, who had been gearing up to interview me before the epidural, walked right back out the door as soon as he saw that head. The doctor and the rest of the nurses rushed into the room, putting only their sanitary gloves on (which Jeff was impressed with, noting speed was what was needed). It turned out that within an hour Keats had gone from -2 to crowning (basically, it's like hitting the pavement going some crazy speed).Three pushes later and he was out, apparently peeing up a storm, face bruised and absolutely beautiful. He was handed to me after being checked (which was fine because I was in total shock) and as soon as I saw his face and held him in my arms, everything was cool. The doctor was stitching me up and helping the placenta out (which was pretty painful, too), but everything was fine. Keats was healthy and I got to keep him and take him home. Something I kept repeating to myself and to Birch, who reassured me each time that yes, he was ours forever and he'd be coming home with us forever.
My sister Sharman took photos and then we were rolled into the Mother Baby Unit where we stayed that night and the next. Our time there was filled with interruption, an ignorant traveling nurse who made me cry more than once and solicited a face in Birch I'd never seen before (he was livid), and sleepiness; but we survived it. We left the hospital Tuesday afternoon, all three of us healthy and at least two of us very, very happy.
My mom helped us out that night and we realized that Keats, compared to all his (8) cousins, was extremely docile. He slept for long periods, took to breastfeeding immediately, and didn't need to be held constantly. Olive erred on the side of caution, and though she has become slightly more neurotic has never shown signs of jealousy, etc. She doesn't get as much exercise as she's used to, but she is behaving wonderfully and we are very proud of her. She has adopted little Keats into our pack and feels it necessary to protect him from those pesky delivery men and neighbors she's seen a million times.
In short, we are doing extremely well. It's true, having a child is hard but we knew that coming in and we've been extremely blessed to have one like Keats. As he gets older, he's become a bit fussier, etc., but we're adapting and dealing. The hardest part for Birch and I, I think, is making time for each other. Snuggle time is much rarer and I find myself having to decide between No-Baby Time and Husband Time. We try to fit both in each day, but it can be hard, especially when we're both of us so tired. We're happy, though, and end each day smiling at each other and looking down at our son. Birch is so proud and it's a joy to watch him as a father. I can't wait for the rest of our lives...