Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Tales of a Failed VBAC

I've had this post idea for awhile, and actually started a draft months ago. I kind of wish I had gotten around to it back then, because now, over a year out from delivery, the details aren't as clear and it seems less important than ever. Still, I'm going to plow ahead.

Failed VBAC child, also known as Royce Gray.

When my first child was born, he entered this world via an emergency cesarean, after his heart rate suddenly and dramatically dropped during my labor. For some reason, I hadn't given much thought to a c/s while I was pregnant, and I didn't have time to give it much thought once it became my reality. Less than ten minutes passed between watching Modern Family with my husband and mother in the delivery room and being strapped down on the operating table, hearing my baby's first cry.

When I got pregnant a second time, 11 months later, I had a choice to make. Having already given birth via c-section, some mothers opt to schedule a c-section for subsequent births. Other moms decide to try for a vaginal birth after cesarean, or VBAC.

My first delivery, I went in with literally no plan. I had no clue what to expect, and truly, my only goal was a healthy baby. I thankfully got my healthy baby, so I considered my emergency c-section after 29 hours of labor a complete success.

Taking selfies > joining your wife in the OR.

The second time, I went in with what every emergency c-section mom knows is bs - a plan. Of course, it was far from a typed out birth plan. It didn't contain any sort of specifics. There was no mention of a birthing tub, playlist, or special lighting. However, I did have a desired outcome in my head in addition to a healthy baby. I wanted a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean). I didn't get that outcome, but I did get a healthy baby boy. Of course, I'm beyond grateful for this. I'm also sad I didn't succeed at my VBAC. Actually, I don't even think "sad" is the right word. Mildly disappointed, like if I showed up at Starbucks and they couldn't make my drink, so I had to order something else. I struggled even typing that, because I feel horribly guilty for feeling anything but grateful. I've gone back and forth on writing this post, because so many women struggle to get pregnant, struggle to stay pregnant, deliver their babies pre-term, etc. I'm over here being greedy and complaining when I've been so lucky to have two healthy, easy to come by pregnancies and two healthy children. I really hope this doesn't sound like I don't appreciate that. Truly, I marvel at that and feel thankful for it every single day.

As documented here, I put about as much consideration into the type of delivery I wanted for #2 as I would imagine death row inmates give to their last meal. Of course, I knew that ultimately the baby would decide how this delivery was going to go, but since we were not currently in communication, I pretended I had a say. While the thought of labor and delivery is terrifying during a first pregnancy due to the unknown nature and literally every mom ever telling you how awful it is (guilty of doing this myself), it's also scary during a second + pregnancy for a totally different reason. Like I'm sure every mother with no family around does, I obsessed over where Dalton would go when we went to the hospital. When "choosing" LOLOL my type of delivery, he wasn't the only factor, but he was definitely high up in my priorities.

A scheduled c/s had the distinct benefit of being, well, scheduled. We could arrange care for him months ahead of time, get him all settled, and head off to have baby #2 with minimal worries about him.

However, it also had the distinct disadvantage of being surgery. It would simplify things ahead of time, but then I would be away from him in the hospital longer, and unable to do almost anything to care for or play with him while I recovered. Not only does a 19 month old not understand why he can't jump on Mommy or have Mommy pick him up, he also still required being lifted into the crib, onto the changing table, into the car, etc, etc. I was concerned about that, and also about Eric having to essentially do all care for a young toddler, a newborn, and a hormonal woman recovering from abdominal surgery.

My more selfish reasons were that I really wanted to experience the act of pushing my baby out and meeting him or her immediately. I didn't want another cold, detached operating room birth that required me to wait hours to hold my baby. I've seen pictures of women doing skin to skin in the operating room, but that wasn't an option in my hospital and honestly with all the meds I was on for the surgery, I'm doubt I would have been physically able to hold a baby then anyway. Surgery isn't fun, and while I'm told the recovery from a vaginal birth can be tough too, I've also been told it can be pretty easy, so I wanted to roll the dice on that rather than a c/section recovery which I knew would be difficult and painful.

I was also in a "now or never" situation. My doctor told me if I had a second c-section, a VBAC was off the table for me (she phrased it much more kindly than that, but that's what it boiled down to). The mystery of "when will the baby arrive?" is frustrating for sure, but it's also an exciting part of having a baby! I didn't want to schedule my baby's birth and just roll in like, hi, here to have a baby! Although now, if we are ever lucky enough to have a third, is exactly what I plan to do (again "plan" LOLOL) and it sounds perfect.

Somewhere in my third trimester, I was all set and ready as I would ever be to attempt a VBAC. The mystery of when the baby would arrive, and whether it would be a boy or a girl was terrifying and exciting. I developed about 576 contingency plans for Dalton care for every possible labor scenario I could dream up. I put my hospital bag in the car. I talked to my friends about labor techniques. I searched "VBAC" on Pinterest, but it turned out to really only be popular with the natural birth crowd. I couldn't find anyone who was like, well, I don't want surgery, but I also want to feel the absolute minimum amount of contractions humanly possible and scroll through Instagram until it's time to push (my ideal labor).

When the time came, everything went perfectly. My water broke at exactly 39 weeks, Dalton went to daycare, my friend drove me to the hospital and Eric left work to meet me. I arrived with painful contractions about 2 minutes apart, 3cm dilated. My water broke at 7:30am, and I was relaxing in epidural bliss by 9:30. If I had choreographed things, that's pretty much how I would have designed it.

I went from 3cm to 8cm pretty quickly, within just a few hours, so it seemed like everything was on track for a VBAC, minus a momentary dip in baby's heart rate that sent us to the OR but then back to the delivery room. But, then I stalled at 8cm due to Royce's positioning, and agreed to a second c-section. I wish I had taken notes or something on the specifics when my doctor explained it, but both in the delivery room and then confirmed mid-surgery, she said he wasn't coming out vaginally because of my bone structure/his placement. Probably because I'm so dainty and lady like, I assume.

So, after a long labor followed by a c-section, I ended up with another....long-ish labor, followed by a c-section.

No more contractions for me, ever, thank you.

Honestly, it wasn't so bad. While I didn't get the experience I wanted of pushing and then having the baby laid immediately on my chest, I got to hold Royce much earlier than I did Dalton.

Honestly, I didn't even know we did skin to skin until I saw the picture months later.

We never had the so called "Golden Hour" (uninterrupted mother/baby skin to skin time the first hour after birth), so, my kids are probably screwed. Dalton was held by his father, who was fully clothed, he definitely is on a path to destruction. Royce was cleaned and weighed by nurses while I was stitched up and we didn't get to do skin to skin until like...probably at least half an hour after he was born. Also destined to be a drain on society. I have no bond with either of them as a result.

Royce, being tortured by his clothed father.

I've seen a lot of people express concerns about c-sections delaying your milk coming in and having a negative impact on breastfeeding. Luckily, that wasn't the case for me. My milk didn't come in for about 4.5 days with Dalton, which was on the longer end of the spectrum, but he was gaining weight on the colostrum so it was fine. With Royce, it came in within about 36 hours - no issues there!

Obviously recovering from surgery can be painful, and it was, but it really wasn't as bad as I expected. It was a little tougher with Dalton because it was expedited to get him out immediately and done somewhat roughly. With Royce, we were all confused about why it took "so long" to get him out (aka a normal amount of time). My sister swore by day 12 after her planned c/s, she was feeling good. Coming home from the hospital on day 3 in a world of pain and barely able to move, I thought, no way. But, sure enough, by day 12, I honestly didn't feel at all like I had had surgery! Of course, I wasn't about to go out for a run or lift Dalton out of the crib, but I was able to get out of bed, walk around, cough, etc, etc without wincing. I would even go so far as to say my second recovery was "easy", due to the gentler surgery and my older, wiser self actually taking it super, super easy this time (as opposed to the first when I kept insisting I didn't need help with things).

My other concern, not being able to do anything with my then 19 month old (play, lift, diaper, etc), was valid. But I'm not sure I would have been able to do those things even with doctor approval. Royce was breastfeeding pretty much nonstop around the clock until well after I felt recovered. Part of me was sad about it, but, as I stated in my last post, I loved and cherished the cluster feeding stage. I also think it was really good for my little mama's boy. He got tons of one on one bonding with Eric. I don't feel he's any less devoted to me for it, just that he's even closer with his father and more comfortable with other people. A win all around.

Other dumb, minor inconveniences: not being able to eat after delivery, wearing the stupid inflatable calf sleeves the night after delivery (so so minor but I was up all night both times and I was tired! I can't sleep with those things!), ugly scar having a limit to how many children I can have. Doctors usually don't recommend more than four c-sections (as opposed to vaginal deliveries which are more often unlimited), and while I want ALL THE BABIES, money already limited that, so. I get a pang of envy whenever anyone mentions pushing during their delivery, and probably always will, but I keep it in perspective.

I tried to find a takeaway for this post, but there really isn't one, other than type of delivery matters, but not much, which I already knew and have already said. I really just wanted to share my experience, since I didn't find much in the way of personal experiences/blog posts when I first began thinking about things. I feel the post was kind of rambling, and it's been a good year + coming with all my random thoughts. So that's that - my experience as a vaginal birth failure!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Weaning: the good, the bad, and the deflated

This is a post where I wax poetic about breastfeeding, so, fair warning if that's not your thing. I don't feel like peppering it with "brelfies" (breastfeeding selfies, duh, it's a real internet term), and I wasn't sure what to use for visuals. And then, perfect timing, I got back the pictures from a "Mommy & Me" photo session I just did! So those unrelated pictures will be breaking up the giant wall of text. 

Sometimes I swear that my boys meet in secret and Dalton teaches Royce all he knows. In some ways, their personalities are so different, but in other ways, they are two peas in a pod. Apparently, quitting breastfeeding is the latter.

Babies have to have breast milk or formula for a year, that's doctor's orders, non negotiable. For that reason, my primary breastfeeding goal was one year. Of course, I'm thrilled to have made it that far. I had high hopes of continuing past that though, to 18 months, or even the holy grail (and World Health Organization recommendation) of two years. I realize to some, that makes me a weirdo or a crunchy attachment parent or what have you. While I'm still fairly new to parenting, luckily I've been doing it long enough by now that I stopped wasting time time and energy on what anyone else thinks.

However, like his brother, Royce had different ideas. Both kids followed a similar pattern. By around ten months, they had no interest in nursing if anything else was going on. They only wanted to nurse while sleepy, in a darkened room, preferably with white noise. By around 11 months, both were down to just when they woke up, although Royce would still occasionally be interested at bedtime. They had discovered the joy of solid food, and of the sippy cup, which they could take with them on all their adventures, vs. being stuck in one place breastfeeding. Clearly, the former was preferable for my curious little explorers. Royce is 13 months old today, and today may just mark his first day as a weaned kid. BRB sobbing.

My stupid face ruined this picture - Royce looks SO cute!
Lately, Royce has not only not wanted to nurse, he's acted downright offended when I offer - even first thing in the morning, which was the one time I thought I could count on. Instead of happily latching on like old times, he throws his entire body to the side and yelps like I'm stabbing him. Every time he does it, I hear Regina George in my head going "Stop trying to make nursing happen,".

I was in deep denial. Grand Canyon sized denial. Still am, actually. Royce realized this, and decided he had to up the ante, since his dumb mom couldn't get this idea through her head. I had finally tried to at least accept, just a little bit, that the end may be nigh. I defrosted some breast milk for him. I'd been previously only sending it to daycare, under the false assumption that I could convince him to take it straight from the source at home. I gave it to him in a sippy cup, and then went into another room to grab something. I was gone maybe 30 seconds. I came back, and the sippy was gone. Normally, it could easily have just blended in with the toys, papers, and various debris all over the house. But I had actually done the unthinkable, and cleaned during naptime. And I could clearly see that the sippy cup was gone. I finally found it - in the trash can. This little stinker had put the sippy cup directly in the trash can. Pretty clear message, and pretty bad ass of him.

Side note - I obviously took it back out and washed it off. Later, Dalton took it out of the fridge, thinking it was his, and said "Hey! This is baby milk!". I have no idea how he knew that phrase, and that it was "baby milk". We've never called it that! Then he announced "I like it!" and I told him he could drink it. So, not a total loss.

The thing is, I really love breastfeeding. I've been extremely lucky to have not only been able to do it, but to have had a relatively easy time with it. Even in the super early, up all night, cluster feeding, could barely get the baby off the boob long enough to brush my teeth days, I loved it. I've heard moms describe that period as stifling, and I completely get that, but that wasn't my experience. Especially with Royce, because I wasn't fraught with the anxiety of being a new mother like I was with Dalton. I loved curling up with a snuggly, warm little nursing newborn all day long. I loved having to wear nursing tanks to give Royce constant access. I loved always having exactly what he needed, and relished this brief period of time in my child's life when I had the solution to every single one of his problems. I don't know what that says about me, it sounds really selfish when I type it all out, but I can't help it, I still miss those days.

The one time you can always make your kid happy!

I posted a "help! my kid is weaning!" sob story in the working mom breastfeeding Facebook group. Somebody responded with a link to Kellymom, aka my nursing Bible, which explains why many moms feel so sad about weaning. It had this quote: Weaning marks the end of a physical oneness with your child. Umm, WOW. Way to put a dagger straight through my heart, KellyMom. I'm not crying. There's just something in my eye. 

It's true though. For nine months, Royce and I literally shared one body. Then for the next six months, I was his one and only source of sustenance. I had to be close to him at all times in order to feed him, and even when I went back to work three months in, my body was still providing 100% of his nourishment. Even though it's been months since this was the case, and Royce has been relying heavily on solid foods and sippy cups, we at least still had that connection.

Logically, I know it's not the end of our closeness. I still think I have a pretty great relationship with Dalton, and he's been done for over a year and a half.

Firstborn love!
I also recognize that it's definitely easier to let the child be in charge of weaning vs. the mother - I mean, they are really running the show anyway, why should this be any different? If someone has to be upset, I'd rather it be me than him. But I'm still going to complain about it.

Considering I've been either pregnant or nursing since 2013, I thought I would be happier with the idea of finally having my body all to myself! But, the heart wants what the heart wants. I'm still partially in denial, thinking - well, maybe if I just keep offering? I did the same denial with Dalton though, and eventually I just had to accept that part of our relationship was over. I know I need to do it again, it's just harder this time since I don't have another little nursling on the way like I did last time!

That's my weaning sob story. I would love to hear experiences from other moms!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Day in The Life: Teacher mom of 2

Ok, I swear, I got not one, but TWO comment requests for a Day in the Life post. I was tempted to post a screen shot because I couldn't believe it, since my daily life is pretty much a cycle of sleep, work, play, eat, sleep. But ask and you shall receive. Read below for an extremely verbose peek into my fascinating hump day existence.

5:30: Alarm goes off. Unless I'm doing a morning workout, I start each day like this.

I always set my coffee maker up the night before, so I wake up to freshly brewed nectar of the Gods. Truly, I don't understand when other moms say they don't like coffee. HOW are you even alive? I'm really excited that cold brew season is coming up, really any day now. The only thing better than waking up to delicious hot coffee is waking up to delicious cold coffee, because that means I can get it into my blood stream immediately, vs. having to wait for it to cool down first.

I stayed up way too late last night reading a novel (Lilac Girls), so getting up was a struggle, much like it is every day.

5:30-6:45am: General adulting (cooking, cleaning, laundry, dishes, etc). I could do that stuff at night, in theory, but usually I'm pretty over it and just ready for some ice cream or wine (or both) in bed by the time the kids are down.

Today, I prepped dinner and put away dishes, toys, and generally tried to get things where they belong in our house. I started making Thai Chicken Enchiladas, which is a go to for me (although I always seem to forget about it).

My guilty (?) pleasure lately is watching The Office on Netflix while everyone else is asleep and I cook. Normal, right?

6:50: We divide and conquer attack to get the kids up and ready. My boys love their morning sleep, and that shouldn't be surprising, since they are the best kids ever #notbiased.

Royce is usually sitting quietly in his crib just waiting when I go in, and he gets all excited and stands up and bounces when he sees me. Swoon. 

Not that I can ever get a good picture of it. 
My favorite part of the day - we sit in the dark and nurse.

Eric gets Dalton up. He wakes up like I imagine teenagers do - reluctantly and with great difficulty (definitely his mother's son here).

Once everyone is up, changed, and dressed, we begin the mad rush to get out the door. 

One of us will try to "reason" with Dalton to brush his teeth, allow us to put his hair goop in, and go potty. Today he picked out his Easter shirt, which I searched high and low for the week before Easter but it never turned up. May 31 is just as good, right?

"Reason with me. LOL".

The other will pack up some frozen breast milk for Royce (I still have some so we send it), get a clean wet bag for cloth diapers at daycare, and load the bags into the car. Eric aims to be on the road with the kids by 7:10, so for those math deficient like me, that only gives us twenty minutes from kid wake-up to driving off! 

If you look closely, Royce has Dalton's banana. Can't take your eyes off your food for a moment around here!
When it's just me, I spend about 4 minutes throwing on a dress and attempting to tame my hair. I ran out of time for makeup, but since I spend my day with pre-teens, I think my time is better spent on prepping a delicious dinner. Makeup or not, I always use eye de-poofing stuff and sunscreen on my face! Usually just target brand lotion with spf but I just found this sample of the good stuff and I hate that I love it.

Other morning essential: chub rub spray. Without it, I know true suffering.

Ignore that it says foot spray and just trust me on this one.

Awkward selfie
7:30am - The absolute last minute I can leave for work and make it on time!

7:55am - Work. Breakfast while I'm on hall duty. I fancy.

The kids love the hard boiled egg smell.

Other highlights include teaching, meetings, grading, etc. I thought I was going to have to make copies but the BEST MALE TEAMMATE EVER ZACH RATAJ made them for both of us!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

10:45am - Lunch. Yep. I'm looking forward to summer when I can eat at a normal grown up adult time. Still, now that I'm done pumping, I get to actually eat with my teammates and have fun and hang out with people. Have I mentioned I'm excited for summer?

BBQ chicken sandwich and veggies with Whole30 dip (leftover recipe from my Whole30 days)

12:30pm - Coffee #2. I teach five classes a day, so when I'm through about 2.5 of them, I break out my work cold brew. Have I mentioned I love coffee?

This coffee is extra special because my friend Lily brought it back for me from Colombia! 

Yummm straight from the source.
3:30: Daycare pickup - another one of my favorite moments of the day! I love the middle school schedule, I can get my boys so early! It's finally nice and sunny after weeks of gross rain, so I tell Dalton we can set up the water table when we get home. First question: "Royce play in water table too?".

Parenting pro tip - put the sunscreen on them while they are in the carseat and can't escape.

I even bought that fancy organic kind one time.
As soon as we get in the house, it's perfectly clean and I'm so grateful I got up early to pick up the toys this morning.

4:00: We just hang out, playing with the water table and getting soaked. Heaven. It's so good to finally be playing with my boys after missing them at work all day.

My world, right here.

They make me happy. 
4:45: Eric gets home from the gym and takes over outdoor supervision while I finish dinner, then we all play while it bakes.

Get in my belly.

Their clothes did not make it. The water table won.

6:00: Dinner!

Sorry Mother Earth, I had leftover paper plates and I'm lazy.
Usually we all eat together,  but this night is unusual because I was going to an evening workout class, which I never do. Every time I think about doing a DITL post, there's always something about the day where I'm like, oh, nope, can't do this day because X was out of the ordinary. But apparently that's every day, so I have no "ordinary". Anyway, I just had a few bites of enchilada to tide me over while everyone else ate. 

6:30: Gym time! I took a creepy selfie in the dark to prove I went, like a real blogger!


We just rejoined the YMCA. It's really important to us for the boys to learn to swim, however, swim classes for two kids are ridiculous. At this age, it seems like swim classes are mainly just to get them acclimated to being in the water, so it's lot cheaper to just sign up for a family Y membership and take them ourselves, plus then we can go more often and use the gym. Dalton will be starting actual swim classes next month and based on the description it seems like they do teach legit swim skills. And that was a huge tangent in my DITL post to explain why I was headed to a "late" night barre class. 

6:35-7:35: Barre. It hurt. So many lunges. So many planks. 

The kids go to bed between 6:30-7, so this class timing wasn't too awful for my working mom guilt. I realized how far we've come that one of us doing a solo bedtime was no big deal. Back in the day, during basketball season when I was on my own at least 5 nights a week, I really struggled with bedtime. Royce was exhausted by 6:30pm, but still needed to nurse to sleep in a silent, dark room, which didn't work out because my velcro toddler who wouldn't let me out of his sight was wiiiide awake and still bouncing off the walls at that time. Fun. Now Royce just gets slam dunked in his crib and Dalton is happy to hang out alone with Mickey, so it's a lot easier. 

8:00: I'm home, the kids are in bed, and I eat my full dinner.

8:15: I eat leftover pie from our Memorial Day BBQ and hang out with Eric. 

It's fun for him until I ask him deal with the dishes because I just can't tonight.

9:00: Shower, and get in bed. I should just turn out the lights and go read my book so that I fall asleep nice and early, but instead, I feel the need to read the entire internet. 

10:30: Finally, sleeeeeep.

And that's how I spent May 31 in my ever thrilling life!