On Weaning. And not.

I nursed Nell until she was 21 months old. I was three months pregnant, tired and nauseous, and very aware of the fact that I needed a break — time without nursing to prepare myself to start it all over again.

I cried about it, of course. Cried because of the hormones, no doubt. Cried because it’s hard to break that bond. Cried from the guilt of taking it away from Nell on behalf of the new baby.

It was just as hard as I thought it would be and also easier than I thought it would be. Because a week or so later, with the benefit of hindsight on my side, Nell was fine. She had moved on from nursing quickly — replacing it with cuddles and snuggles. While there were some bumps at bedtime for a bit, the truth was that she didn’t seem to miss nursing the way I thought she would. She was fine, and I thought — perhaps I nursed her too long.

It was an incredible relief. And it was also sad.

* * *

I went into my breastfeeding journey with Guy with a plan.  I would pump for about 15 months, and nurse until 18 months. Long enough, but not too long.  Still with that seed of doubt in my mind that I nursed Nell too long — that I made it harder, not easier, to stop.

Guy is almost 17 months now, however, and I’m not making much progress on either count. I still pump dutifully everyday at lunch. My pump bag is like my armor, I have carried it with me so long.

In the evenings, I nurse him. And overnight, as well. I am tired, and I am ready to stop.

But then what?

I have been pregnant, nursing, or both since 2010. It’s been a part of who I am for a very long time. But that isn’t what is holding me back.

It just seems arbitrary — ending at 18 months, ending at 21 months. There isn’t a reason for it, aside from wanting to stop bringing that pump bag to work with me everyday, or wanting to know my little boy can go to sleep and stay asleep all night without needing me. Maybe those are reasons enough, but the truth is

that even though I knew Nell was ready

(after the fact)

it hurt me to be the one to end our special relationship.

When I am honest with myself, it isn’t that I don’t want to stop. I do — despite all the mixed emotions that surround this whole process.  I know I am ready.

But this time, I don’t want to be the one to make the decision.

And so far, it seems, neither does he.

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Maternity Transitions

I’ve been back at work part-time for four weeks now — a couple days in the office, a few days from home.  Working when I need to work and snuggling with Guy when I have time to snuggle. It’s been a unique transition, admittedly, but it was something I felt like I needed.  I am very lucky to work somewhere that offers a generous maternity leave policy so that this was even an option — to be home for three months and spend a month transitioning back on my terms.  Maybe people think I am crazy.  Maybe people think I should have taken the leave for as long as I could have it and come back at the end.  But the truth is that maternity leave is a complicated thing, and coming back from it is Really Hard.  No matter what the circumstances.

But my circumstances are such that I like my job.  I like my coworkers.  I like being part of this organization.  I like my day-to-day routine with my husband.  I like having breakfast next to him on the way to work and hearing about his day on the long drive home.  I like picking up my daughter at daycare and hearing about her day.  Sometimes she is in a silly mood and answers ‘No’ to all of my questions; sometimes she tells me she fed dragons all day; and sometimes she tells me about the friends she played with, the food she had for lunch, and who got in trouble for doing something bad.

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And you know what?

I miss all of that when I am on leave.

But being ready to go back to work — wanting to spend time with my colleagues, get back those hours with my husband, and see my daughter’s face light up when we get to her school — isn’t the same as wanting to send my baby to daycare.

No, not at all, not even a little.

He is just old enough, now, that he breaks into a big gummy grin when he sees me, and his little eyes are full of love when he sees a familiar face.  He follows me with his gaze when I move around the room in front of him, and when I cross out of view, he lets out a cry so that I come back to him.

The hardest part about daycare, for me, is wondering what he thinks about it — wondering if he is upset when he looks for me or needs me but someone else is there to pat his bottom and shush him, and wondering if he understands that I am coming back.

I am always coming back for you, I tell him.  Will he remember that next week when he is at daycare with Nell?

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So you see how complicated it is?  This readiness to return to life — the 3/4 of my life that I love and I sacrifice during this very brief time — coupled with knowledge that leaving my baby boy will literally rip my heart apart.  No matter how prepared I am for it, and no matter that I’ve done it before, it will slay me next week.

And so here I am, tip toeing my way back into that other part of my life — a couple days here, a few hours there — while my mom so graciously watches Guy and prepares me for the big jump in next week.  These days away — these practice days in office — have helped prepare me for the big emotional hurdles as much as can be prepared for, but they’ve also taken care of the details for me.

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On Tuesday, I won’t worry about how to pack everything and get my life together before daycare drop-off and work — I’ve been practicing for a month.  I won’t wonder how much milk to send with him to school for the first time — I have been figuring out his bottle needs for a month.  And I won’t be worrying about what it’s like to pump at work because — oh wait, this had nothing to do with this month.  I barely remember when I stopped pumping between kids…

The point is, this transition can’t make everything better.  It can’t make me not hurt or worry or be sad when we bring Guy to school next week, and I will still feel like I did something wrong the first time he comes home from school sick — which will also probably be next week.  But this transition did succeed in making so many other parts of my leave easier, erasing a lot of the uncertainty and haphazardness that consumed my return to work last time around.

So you see, there is no ideal way to return to work.  You can be ready and not ready all at the same time.  It can be right and it can be wrong.  This transition — this pause on the landing between fully here and fully there — wasn’t for my colleagues or for my baby or for my husband.  It was just something I felt like I needed to do.  Because going back to work after having a baby is really, really hard.

Even when you’re ready.

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Guy’s Birthday

Guy is currently away with the nurses for his nightly assessments, so it seemed like a good time to write his birth story.  My section was scheduled for 8:30am on Friday morning, so G and I left the house early and arrived to the hospital around 6.  The prep process went much smoother this time than with Nellie — our morning nurses were terrific, and they had IV lines in me in one try, and everything else was quick and efficient.

Knowing what to expect, I thought I might be calmer this time around; however, I think it worked in the opposite way, unfortunately, and I had more anxiety this time around than I did with Nell.  Part of it was knowing exactly what to dread in the whole procedure, and part of it was that bit of doubt still lingering in my mind.  Up until the very last moment, I wondered, did I make the right decision?

Just like last time, the spinal was the hardest part for me. With Nell, I immediately felt dizzy and got oxygen. This time around, nausea came first followed by a steep drop in my blood pressure.  I hit 70/60, at which point drugs were added to my IV, an oxygen mask was on, and the pace of prep increased substantially.  The anesthesiologist shouted out several times what was happening, but I have no idea what he said.  I stabilized quickly, however, and by the time G was in the room, I was fine.  It was only a few moments until we met our little Guy.

He was born at 9:03am weighing 7lb 4.9 oz and measuring 19 3/4″ long.  G cut the umbilical cord and stayed with Guy while the nurses cleaned him up and took his measurements.

The immediate recovery process pretty quickly, and the spinal wore off much faster this time around.  G brought Guy to me while I was waiting in the recovery area so that I could nurse, and it wasn’t too long before we were in our room and joined by Mom, Dad and K, who had already met Guy on his way to the nursery.

Later that afternoon, the family picked up Nell from daycare and brought her to the hospital to meet her baby brother for the first time.  It was a moment I’ll never forget, and I love the absolute joy on her face in this picture.

Guy was thoughtful enough to enter this world bearing presents for Nell, and she was thrilled to receive something from her little bro.  He brought her a little baby boy of her own to care for — a baby she promptly named “Baby Guy.”  She quickly set to work taking care of her new Baby Guy — changing his clothes, diapering him, and putting him to bed.  Shhh.

Nellie’s response has been as wonderful as we could have hoped — she is so genuinely excited to be here and to spend time with us and with Guy.  She now refers to him as “her baby” and insists on holding him, touching his head, and giving him kisses.

Holding her baby brother on her lap.  Every time G tried to pick Guy up, she put her hand on his chest and said, “No Daddy. My Baby.”

We’re going home tomorrow and looking forward to officially starting life as a family of four.  These past few days have been everything we expected from completely exhausting to full of special moments we’ll never forget.  It’s been different from our first experience in a lot of ways, however — this little guy is much calmer and quieter than Nell was, and he sleeps quite a bit more than she did.  That plus the fact that this isn’t our first rodeo, as they say, has made this a much easier time.  Whereas our last time in the hospital was basically about survival, this time we’ve been able to focus on adjusting as a family.  Our little hospital room has been bursting with family-ness.

Happy birthday baby Guy!

Pregnancy, Birth, and the Things in Between

One of the things most clearly emblazoned in my mind from the final days before Nell’s birth — when everything (including the baby) suddenly was flipped upside down and thrown into chaos — was the first thing my OB said to me when we confirmed I had a breech baby and would likely be having a c-section.  With tears no doubt threatening to spill over at that point, I remember hearing her say to me,

“You can still have a regular delivery next time. This definitely doesn’t rule that out for next time.”

And I remember thinking, who cares?  Who is thinking about next time?

She mentioned it again at my six-week postpartum appointment, and again I thought, who cares?  It’s done.

Nellie made the decision for me last time, but this time it was up to me, and even now — more than 39 weeks in — I don’t know if I’ve made the right decision, but I made what I think is the best decision for me.  In less than twelve hours, I am having a repeat c-section that I scheduled with my OB early on in this pregnancy. The truth is that in a perfect world, I would have gone into labor by now and avoided having another c-section, but that isn’t the case and I am at peace with what’s coming up.

It’s hard for people to understand the seeming hypocrisy — if you want to avoid a c-section, why schedule one?  The truth is that I would love a successful VBAC (vaginal birth after c-section), and I know that a successful VBAC is the best possible outcome for mama and baby.  I also know that a failed TOLAC (trial of labor after c-section) — one that leads to an emergency c-section — is the worst outcome for mama and baby.  And somewhere in between is the elective repeat c-section.

I’m admittedly a good candidate for a VBAC — my size, the baby’s likely size, and the reason for my first c-section all being positive factors; however, for even the best candidates, the chance of a successful TOLAC begins to drop after your due date.  Without many options to induce or help labor progress after a c-section (my OB’s office is particularly conservative in this manner), the chances of an unplanned repeat c-section spike after your due date.  And THAT was something I knew I would not be okay with.

So I made a compromise with myself and took the middle ground.  I would attempt a VBAC to my due date, and if we met the date, I would have an elective c-section.

And here we almost are.  The last week or so has been the hardest mentally — the excitement of the prospect of labor and the hope that I would go into labor have threatened to overshadow the decision I made, letting doubt trickle in about what is right or wrong or best or worst.  I expected these emotions, though that hasn’t necessarily made them easier, but I know — in part because of why I made this choice, and in part because of how I felt after Nellie’s birth — that come tomorrow afternoon, when I have a baby boy in my arms, the feelings and the doubt I am experiencing today will be cast aside for all of the other emotions that will take priority.

And that will be it.  It will be done.

~

Although the old wives brigade would be mightily proud of all that I did to coax this little boy out ahead of schedule, tomorrow morning is his big day.  I’m at 39w and change, and G and I are trying not to think too much about what it was like in the hospital with Nell — no sleep, loud baby crying, and absolute misery come to mind briefly — and thinking instead about how awesome it will be to welcome this little guy into our family and introduce him to his big sister.

Truth me told, I am having a harder time wrapping my head around the idea of a boy in the family than I am a new baby.  Babies, got it.  Girl stuff, got it.  What the hell do I do with a boy?

I guess this is the time to put in my final guesses on size.  With Nellie, I guessed 6lb 7oz, 19.5″.  She was actually 6lb 12.5oz and a ridiculously short 17″ long.  I think baby guy will be bigger, and I am guessing 7lb 5oz and 20″ long.

For consistency’s sake (I know, that hasn’t exactly been my schtick this pregnancy), here is a final pregnancy post with all the deets to compare back to my last thoughts with Nell

Total weight gain: Definitely more than with Nell.  Probably 45lb when all is said and done, though some of that is water weight. Unlike last time, when I didn’t have any swelling at all, I’ve had some puff this time around, especially in the last week.

Sleep:  I’ve slept pretty well this pregnancy — at least between our bedtime hours of 10pm and 430am.  I’m too tired in general for my body to even think about throwing me some “pregnancy insomnia,” and I’ve had no crazy pregnancy nightmares like last time.  I STILL remember some of those dreams, even two years later.

Best moment: For this, I would probably shoot ALL the way back to our elective ultrasound at the very beginning of second tri.  It was awesome to be able to bring Mom and share the experience with her, and it was also the surprise of our lives when we realized we weren’t having a little girl as we had expected.  I still smile when I think of my shock!

Worst moment: Honestly, not being able to make it through a work lunch (before I told anyone I was pregnant), and puking during the lunch and almost passing out on the walk back from the lunch was pretty much the low point for me.  Having never been sick with Nell, this was misery I had not expected.

Movement: This little guy has slowed down a bit as he runs out of room, but he’s been head down and (mostly) pointing the same direction for so long now that his movements are mostly nice consistent reminders that he is hanging out down there.  Head and hands down, butt bulging out a bit on the right side of my belly button, and his legs kicking out on my left side.  Makes for a nice lopsided stomach.

Food cravings: Egg sandwiches, hot chocolate, and spicy food.  Same as with Nell, though honestly, I think these are just foods I like and this has nothing to do with pregnancy at all.  I will say that first tri, when the thought of hot chocolate and egg sandwiches made me sick, was a pretty dark phase of life… maybe I should count that as my worst ‘moment’.

Gender: Geez, I hope still a boy given how many times we saw pics of him this pregnancy, but I didn’t cut the tags off his clothes yet (more because I am lazy and want to make sure he fits in newborn), so I guess we’re covered if there was a massive ultrasound fail.  Three times.

Belly button in or out? So far out it could type this.

What I miss: My clothes, red wine, beer during football, and sleeping without heartburn.  And in the last couple of days, I guess I could also add ‘skinny ankles’ to the list.

What I am looking forward to: The moment when G brings baby guy to me after the c-section and the first time Nell finally meets her little brother.

Milestones: Short of my water breaking upon pressing publish, we’ve hit all of them.  Next time you hear from me, we’ll be a family of four.

A couple final shots of the nursery and Nellie hanging out on K’s air mattress, which is set up in baby guy’s room until she moves upstairs to stay with Nellie this weekend.  

And a final bump pic. In typical ‘second pregnancy fail,’ the picture is not exactly fancy or posed. It’s just a really big bump on my last day of work.

Three weeks to go!

Happy October, friends!

We’re having a baby this month!

I think it’s fair to say that this pregnancy–in life and on the blog–has slipped by in the background this time around.  But as we prepare for the little guy’s arrival in a few weeks, it seems fitting to pause and actually catch up on the pregnancy.  So I will do my best to blog about a few pregnancy things on my mind during these final weeks.  But before I launch into all that, I figured a quick update was in order.

How far along? almost 37 weeks — time for jalapenos every night, right?

Total weight gain/loss: This pregnancy has been different from my first in a lot of respects, and this is definitely one of them.  I have gained weight differently (and faster) than I did with Nell, and I blame a lot of it on the first tri nausea that could only be relieved with bagels and cream cheese (obviously).  I think I weigh what I did when I delivered Nell, which means I really need to just have this kid now or I will never fit back in jeans with zippers.

Sleep: Not bad considering a toddler drapes over me most nights and our alarm goes off at 445am.  Guess I’ve lowered the bar on this one since last time around.

Best moment: I can’t single out one, but my favorite plural moments are the times when Nellie lays her head down on my belly, kisses the baby, and sings to him.  When she wants to talk to the baby, she puts her face right up to my stomach and yells as loudly as she can.  So I am pretty sure he is hearing her…

Worst moment: There haven’t been any ‘worst moments’ thankfully, and even my days of feeling like crap are few and far between, so I really can’t complain.

Movement:  My stomach is like a tidal wave on a daily basis. This kid rolls and rolls and rolls. I don’t know how he still has that much room in there.

Food cravings:  Hi, I like hot chocolate.

Gender: I think we got enough confirmations of ‘boy’ to feel pretty safe with this one.

Belly Button in or out?  Ha. It’s been out since March.

What I miss:  I’m at that point of pregnancy where even maternity clothes are getting uncomfortable.  I miss my real jeans and not having to pull down t-shirts to cover the bottom of the bump.  I also missed getting to have summer beers on the beach with our friends, but that ship has pretty much sailed since it’s practically October (which I keep reminding G who refuses to believe summer is over).

What I am looking forward to: I cannot wait to introduce Nell to the little guy.  Being at the hospital and away from her is going to be very strange, so I’m also looking forward to our first nights at home as a family of four.  And if this little one is anything like Nell, I will be up to enjoy all of those nights.  In their entirety.

Milestones: We’ve got just the big one left!