Monday, December 31, 2012

The word of 2012 was "soon": My year in review.

I've had some big years in the past. Usually they're "big" in a bad way, marked by tragedy of some sort. This one was different, though... A mixed bag of supreme excitement and mind-blowing anxiety, and I didn't post about it nearly enough.

We moved back into our house while continuing to repair it from 2011's flood damage.

I started a new position at the factory job, as a supervisor over the temporary workers. It was interesting, with a ton of comedic moments as well as an insanely crazy amount of stress. I still have mixed emotions about that job, even though I don't regret that I got to spend way too much time with some awesome people, since it was basically my second home. Of course some people were shits, but that's the game.

I got to have an awesome trip with my best friends to Gulf Shores, Alabama. Then one of those friends moved to Hawaii. I miss her face. (And her awesome husband and beautiful daughter's faces, too!)

The Hubby left for boot camp, where after thirteen long weeks he became a Marine. On the flip side, I got to fly to California, a place I've never been, and I got a Marine for a husband. I could not possibly be more proud. As of this year I have two brothers in the Navy and a husband in the Marine Corps, along with a lot more extended family serving (or having previously served) in different branches of the military.

Amidst all of this, I was pregnant. With a baby girl. I had horrible morning sickness well past the first trimester, and after only briefly fading it came back with a vengeance at the end. This time it brought its buddy Heartburn, and he was a major asshole. With The Hubby being away at boot camp, MCT, and training in North Carolina he missed most of the pregnancy. We were together in August for his 10 days after boot camp, then I didn't see him again until Thanksgiving, two weeks after our beautiful daughter was born.

I just got to see him again over Christmas... He got PCS orders (these tell us what base he will be stationed out of), and they moved him straight into the barracks at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina after he finished his training. We have been waiting for those to tell us where we would be moving to so we can all be together again. So this past week I was in Jacksonville, NC with The Hubby househunting and trying to get things set up over there. We wanted to live off base, and success! We found and signed a lease on an apartment! He will actually be moving in there on January 1st, and as soon as the office that organizes the moving stuff approves it he'll be coming to move me, Baby Girl, the kitties, and all of our stuff in with him. I can't wait! I'll miss our friends and family here, but I'm more excited to be back with my husband and raise our little girl together.

It's been an insane year. Having a baby always ups the stakes, but our biggest ruler this year has still been the Marine Corps. With Baby Girl, I knew I had a November deadline and that I'd end up with a baby. With the military, nothing is official until it's in writing at the last minute, and even then it might change later. Most of the year has been spent waiting on information. I've been patient enough, but I was also dealing with quite a bit myself being pregnant and then caring for a newborn. So I really didn't allow myself to stress about the military stuff very often, and instead focused on the things that I did have control over--going to work every day, taking care of the kitties, having a healthy pregnancy and having a healthy, happy baby at the end of it all. I will definitely say it hasn't been easy, but we definitely have gotten through. And although I am still facing the question mark of when my family will finally be together again, I know that it is coming, and soon.

I can't wait to see what 2013 brings us.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Lazy days.

It's hard to believe this is my life now... Granted, I can laze about watching movies or shows on Netflix like it's my job, but up until now it's only been on days off from an actual paying job. Or school, or whatever combination of the two I had going at the time. Since I started working, I've only ever been out of the workforce temporarily and had something else lined up every time. The only real gap was between my job at the shelter and the first time working at the factory, but that was because there was a massive amount of hiring and they were starting everyone in groups. And that was only a few days, really.

Now I have nowhere to be but with baby girl. I have nothing to do but make sure she is taken care of, healthy, and as happy as can be possible when you're surrounded by things you've never seen or heard or felt before, the giants you rely on speak a language you can't understand, your limbs flail about so uncontrollably that you're not even sure for a while that they even belong to you, and you can't help but shit your pants all the time. (Can you blame her?)    

Still, taking care of a newborn is no picnic, especially when you're doing it on your own. I really don't have time for much else, so I'm glad this is all I've got going on at the moment. Now I just set small goals to accomplish: Today I'll do laundry. Today I'll get all the trash out. Today I'll tidy up the living room. Today I'll check the mail (no mailbox at the house requires a trip to the post office). Even showering is a goal I have to set, and unfortunately for my poor snuggly child and any unsuspecting visitors it's not a daily one. I'm not totally on my own though, my parents and the in-laws are more than willing to take her off my hands so I can run errands and get some rest.

Yesterday baby girl decided that sleep and was for pussies and eating an ounce to two ounces every half hour or so was the fun thing to do. Probably another growth spurt, which is awesome but leads to one tired mama. Thankfully, my insomnia issue has all but vanished since she was born, out of necessity. I'm sure that my body figured out that functioning wasn't going to be possible if I didn't adjust, because she doesn't always give me much time to catch z's. I fall asleep a lot faster and sleep a lot deeper than I ever have before, and am able to tune out anything but baby. The cats knocked a couple of pans off of the counter one night and I didn't know about it until I saw them in the floor that morning. Didn't hear a thing. But if the baby so much as makes a peep I'm wide awake.

But I digress. Sleepless baby who is constantly eating. She tends to get clingy during these phases, and if I set her down when she falls asleep she instantly wakes up and loudly protests. Sometimes, though, it's successful and she stays down for a little while. Maybe only 10 minutes, maybe 2 hours. I'm not afraid to let her fuss a little while I do the necessary things if I know she's okay. But today she's just really wanted to stay with mama. And I've been okay with that. Most of today has been spent on the couch holding her, talking to her, and playing with her. I've set her down long enough to use the bathroom, grab something to eat, make and wash her bottles, but even as I'm typing this she's been right next to me. There are plenty of things I could have gotten done today... There's laundry that came out of the dryer 3 days ago that I could have folded and put up. And she was asleep on my chest/in my arms for a solid 3 hours where I could have done whatever, maybe. (She might have woke up as soon as I laid her down. It's always a crapshoot, really.) But instead I chose to just hang out on the couch, and just held her the whole time. I guess sometimes mama just wants to be clingly and snuggle, too. And watch her baby grow way too fast.

Friday, December 7, 2012

On a failed endeavor.

I wanted to breastfeed my baby girl. I didn't make plans for how long, was waiting until I got into things to decide when I wanted to also give her bottles (of pumped breastmilk, I had bought a pump), and did not get myself into the militant anti-formula mindset that some do. However, I very strongly wanted to breastfeed, to give her the best start, to do something so perfectly natural.

I was happy to be able to do so almost immediately after she was born, before they took her to the nursery to clean her up, weigh and measure her, and so on. She latched on without issue, and I was thrilled. Of course, she was as exhausted as I was, so she kept falling asleep. Couldn't blame the kid, she'd had a hard day, too.

Later, though, we kept having the same problem. She'd fall asleep almost immediately after latching on, even if she had been awake and alert right before. Then she started to refuse the boob. She wouldn't just politely decline, though, she'd scream bloody murder, back arched and everything. I thought at first maybe she was just frustrated at not getting anything (it takes a few days for milk to come in), but then I saw that I was leaking colostrum (the pre-milk good stuff that is produced until the milk comes in) whenever she would initially start to nurse. So all the pieces were there... I was making the stuff she needed, and she was able to latch. But for some reason she just wasn't having it.
Sometimes if I could get her to just latch on even if she was going ballistic, she'd calm down and nurse for a little while (and inevitably fall asleep, which was another battle), but for the most part that wasn't the case. It was just a heartbreaking scream-fest, and my baby wasn't eating. One nurse literally scared the shit out of my poor screaming child by grabbing her head and holding it in place while rubbing her throat to encourage swallowing. Baby girl's eyes popped wide open, she stopped screaming as she froze up, latched on, and then loudly shit in her diaper as soon as the nurse walked off. I think we both hated that nurse. But even that didn't work. As with any other time a nurse tried to help us out (and none of the others traumatized us like that, they really were trying to help), she simply latched on and then either fall asleep or came off screaming as soon as they walked off.

But basically, she wasn't eating much of anything. I'd whip out the boob, she might or might not latch for a minute, she'd start screaming and arching her back and otherwise have a meltdown, I'd console her, she'd fall asleep, I'd wake her up and try again, and the cycle would repeat. There were a few times we were somewhat successful, and I'll admit I straight up lied to the nurses and told them she was nursing for longer than she actually was in those instances so they wouldn't insist on bottle-feeding her. But that night I caved. That evil nurse briefly became my savior when she asked me if I wanted her to take her to the nursery for the night so I could get some rest. I was in full-on breakdown mode, sobbing right along with baby girl as I tried to console her, and I knew I had in that moment reached my limit. I told her to take her, and when she asked if I wanted them to give her a bottle or bring her back in when she was ready to eat again I said they could give her the bottle. I was such a wreck, I could hardly move, I was exhausted and still hooked up to machines because of my blood pressure, was still on medication that made me drowsy, my hormones were going haywire, and the child I loved more than anything in the world rejected what I could offer. I balled my eyes out when they took her out of my room, feeling exhausted, feeling like a failure, feeling guilty and weak and completely powerless. But the logical, realistic, practical side of my brain kept saying "It's more important that she eats than that she eats the way you want her to." And my mom was there with me through it all, too, saying "You're not a failure, you're not a bad mom. You're doing what you have to, and this doesn't mean you can't keep trying."

I did keep trying, but had the same results. So after leaving the hospital I started using the pump, wanting her to still be able to get the benefits of breastmilk even if she wasn't getting it directly from the source. But again, things kept getting in the way of allowing me to pump as often as I would need to in order to keep up my supply to keep up with her needs, and she was getting formula a few times a day. In order for exclusive pumping to truly be successful, you need to pump either before or after every feeding, or at least every 2-3 hours. But I ran into issues, because pumping takes forever, feeding her and getting her settled takes forever, and that first week we were constantly on the go, and my pump stopped working the very damn night my milk came in. It was replaced the next day, but that was still a VERY uncomfortable few hours. I was trying so hard to do it all on my own even though I was staying with my mom and she was always there to help, but I wore myself out and what got pushed aside most often (aside from my health lol) was pumping. The most I pumped was six times in one day, and I only did that a couple of days.

Then I came back home after a week at Mom's, because The Hubby was coming home for Thanksgiving. That's when pumping really started taking a hit, because I kept pushing it aside in favor of spending time with him and helping him with baby girl. He only had a few days home, but after he left I decided to stay home, just me and baby girl, instead of going back to my mom's. There's no place like home, and all. But without someone to help me out, pumping dropped down to 2-3 times a day, and then down to 1-2, and now I'm on my second day of not pumping at all. She hit a growth spurt and started "snacking." She'd only eat a little bit at a time, and she was eating a lot more often. Plus she's been awake more, and when she's awake I'm holding her and interacting with her. Can't hold her and pump, and if she's left to chill by herself for very long while she's awake she starts fussing. So the only time I could pump is when she's sleeping. But she's been taking longer to get to sleep, and half the time she wakes back up as soon as I lay her down. The past few times I tried to pump I wasn't getting anywhere near as much as I had been, so I knew my supply was way down. It's hard to increase it once it's been allowed to drop, and the past few days she's been so clingy and fussy I haven't been able to pump any. I actually got her to nurse a couple of times yesterday (I've kept trying every once in a while--for the most part unsuccessfully), but I know she wasn't getting much and when I tried again it was back to "not gonna happen, Mom." So basically we're just using up what's left of the breastmilk I have stored in the fridge, then switching to exclusively using formula.               

I was putting quite a bit of pressure on myself, wanting everything just this once to work out easily. But it hasn't. It's frustrating that I couldn't even make it 4 weeks before giving up on not just breastfeeding but pumping as well. It has been difficult enough for me to deal with all this that I've been crying while typing most of this out. Re-living it is hard, going through it was devastating. But to me, it's more important that baby girl has a sane-ish, somewhat-rested mama. There were too many times where I knew I had enough time to either pump or get something to eat myself or wash bottles or do laundry, etc., but not more than one of those things before she woke up. I question what I could have differently to in order for things to have worked out, but ultimately I did what I did and that can't be changed. She is still growing, is perfectly healthy, and is just her own little perfect self. Why did I ever think that a child of mine would cooperate? I must say that it totally sucks that feeding her just got a lot more expensive, however. Le sigh.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

A birth story. (Or skip to the bottom for the payoff.)

So, yeah. That blood pressure thing? Was in fact pre-eclampsia, and since the day of that next doctor appointment was the 39-week mark of my pregnancy, when he came in he said that I needed to have the baby ASAP. The only cure for pre-e is having the baby, so BAM! That's what I did. And if I do say so myself, I did it like a boss.

The appointment was scheduled for 9 a.m., I was admitted to the hospital and in a room by 9:45 (my doctor's office is right across from the hospital), and by about 10:30 they had started the pitocin. Lucky me, I was already in early labor--I had been having contractions all that morning, but I was extremely confused by them. See, they tell you that you need to go to the hospital when your contractions are 5 minutes apart and a minute long. Mine were never 5 minutes apart or a minute long, and I was joking about it with my mom while waiting for the doctor before the appointment. My back was hurting a little with each one and I felt crampy, and after a while I finally said "Should I be timing these?" I started trying to time them, but although they were extremely close together they weren't really consistent and I gave up on that.

Once I got hooked up to the machines and all (BTW, birth plan totally went out the window when pre-eclampsia showed up and put me and Baby G at risk! I'm glad I wasn't dead set on any specific plan of action, I was realistic and had very little guilt that things didn't go as I had hoped they would.), the awesome nurses confirmed that I was in fact in early labor, and that I was "blessed" with super-fun cluster contractions. Instead of a single contraction every few minutes, I'd have a series of them back-to-back, then a short break, then repeat. Lucky me. When the pitocin started working its magic, this little complication led to me agreeing to pain meds, which I had really wanted to try and go without. But the fact that I wasn't ever really getting a break from the contractions wore me down. They skipped Demerol and started me on Stadol to try and take the edge off and help me rest between contractions (HA! There WAS no "between contractions"! There was only "try to breathe normally for a second before the next one peaks."). It didn't even begin to touch it, it's like they had done nothing pain-wise. But it did make me drowsy, so that's about when I started selectively ignoring everyone in the room. My eyes didn't want to stay open, so they kept thinking I was sleeping. Nope. I heard everything that was going on around me, but was totally focused on my body (in a fuzzy kind of way) and the massive amount of shit that I was talking in my head but too lazy to say out loud. I mean, it's not like I could really do anything, I was too doped up to move very well, not to mention that it's difficult to move anyway when you're 39 weeks pregnant. So I did what I do, and mentally eviscerated everyone around me with sarcasm.

But everything was moving very quickly. The contractions kept getting stronger, and it seemed like no time after getting started on the Stadol I was grumpily agreeing to the epidural. Apparently my grumpiness about that paired with my drowsiness made me uncooperative as well, because it took them forever to get the epidural started. Apparently I wouldn't sit up straight enough. Apparently that's important. But while this process was taking forever, I was being told not to move while having a contraction. Which was pretty much the whole time they were trying to get the epidural going. Cluster contractions, remember? So I'm damn proud of myself for powering through during that time, when all I wanted to do was throw an elbow back into the face of the anesthesiologist who was taking for-fucking-ever. They kept saying I was leaning over and needed to sit up straight. I'd try to sit up straight but the way I was positioned was making it difficult. They had moved a chair over for me to rest my feet on, but it wasn't in the right place directly in front of me, it was at an angle. Of course, I was busy pretending I was alone in the room and therefore did not choose to pass on this information. Instead, every time they said I needed to be sitting up straight I thought, "Make me, motherfuckers, because I couldn't if I tried." They told me to let them know if I was having a contraction, but I didn't see the point in passing on that information either because when I'd tell them they'd just say "Okay, just don't move!" With all the helpful people telling me "Oh, here comes a contraction! A big one! Oh, it's starting to back off now!" I was pretty sure they knew when contractions were happening anyway. I still don't understand why everyone felt the need to tell *me* when I was having a contraction, because I promise that even after the epidural I fucking well knew it. I think the epidural did for me what the Stadol was supposed to have done--it took the edge off. But I still felt every contraction from start to finish. Even after they gave me a second dose of the epidural when the first stopped working, I still felt it all, it just wasn't as bad and I was more able to cope. In all seriousness, this is why I didn't want pain medication in the first place. It never tends to work for me. My experience with medication in general is that it takes some pretty serious stuff to have any major effect on me, and I prefer not to mess with serious medications. But the fact that I wasn't really getting any break between contractions made me feel it was necessary.

I think I got the epidural somewhere between 2 and 3 in the afternoon (there was a clock on the wall, but holy shit was I high from the Stadol). Did I mention that's when my water broke? During my non-struggle to sit up straight? Because that's when that happened. No going back at that point, baby had to be born within 24 hours of that occurrence. But when I said things were moving fast I meant it. I got to the room around 9:45. There really was no time frame where I was relaxed and chill, able to handle a bunch of visitors or anything. It was straight to intense. Pitocin around 10:30. Stadol a while later (not sure anymore what time that happened), epidural/water breaking at 2 or 3 pm, started pushing around 4:30-4:45pm, and my lovely lady Alyson came into the world at 4:55 pm on November 9, after I had only been in the hospital for 7 hours. Not too bad for a first-time mom.

She was perfect.  

6 pounds, 18.5 inches long. She loves naps, can sleep through just about anything, and hates being naked. She has her daddy's nose, and her mama's ears. She also has an old man's mannerisms and receding hairline. She's going to have bad eyesight if she keeps staring at light fixtures and sticking her fingers in her eyes. She sounds like a chipmunk when she gets really mad, and she smiles as she poops in your hand. It's still a beautiful little gummy smile. Her favorite place is on your chest, and she doesn't cry for no reason. She's a very versatile kid so far, but will adamantly refuse to do anything she doesn't want to. (Like breastfeed, even though she has proven time and again that she is perfectly capable of doing so. But that's a whole 'nother blog post.) Based on the number of people that were in the waiting room "waiting" on her to make her appearance, she has to be one of the most loved babies in the world. I adore her, and she definitely stole her daddy's heart too when he came home for Thanksgiving. I'm already amazed at how fast she's growing, and can't wait to see her full personality start to emerge. She seems pretty cool so far. We're both doing fine, and every time things get a little hairy I just remind myself "Hey, we're both new at this. I'm new as a parent, she's new as a person, we're both just trying to figure things out. We'll get the hang of it." Maybe she'll get the hang of it anyway, I think the parenting thing is just one surprising thing after another for the rest of the kid's life. But in any case, I'm in love...