Back to School: Moderate Takes

1.) I started back to work last Monday, and hoo boy, did I jump into the deep end. I knew my boss was traveling at the beginning of the week and that our other department member was on her honeymoon, so I felt like I had to get back. I also skipped my regular telework day, as it was my boss's first day in the office. A lot of people were on vacation, so it was a nice, quiet week to get back into the swing of things, but I really hate that Charlie got thrown into the deep end as well.

2.) We ended up working out a nanny share with a family down the street from us. I had been worried about timing with getting to work if I had to drop Charlie off somewhere but I literally cannot leave my neighborhood without passing their house. How convenient is that? The hiring process caused a lot of agita, but much more so for the other family. Their little guy was born in February and the mom was due to go back to work the first week of June. However, the seemingly fantastic nanny we hired showed up on the first day and quit within a couple of hours with a pretty shady excuse. This poor couple was left with no child care on the mom's first day back -- total nightmare situation. It was kind of a blur for me; this all went down on the day we brought Charlie home from the hospital. They scheduled a bunch of interviews over the next week or so, and Mark would go to their house for the interviews. Any contenders were asked to walk up to our house to meet Charlie and me. We finally found our nanny in mid-June, but she wasn't able to start until mid-July. Again, it was no big thing for us, but thank GOD the other woman's employer was super flexible about things. Our nanny was totally worth the wait. She is from the area where Mark and I grew up, is a little older than I am, has two kids, and worked in the same daycare center for 12 years. Most importantly, she is fantastic with Charlie and he seems to be really happy so far, which is a huuuge relief.

3.) Our first day went really well. Charlie hung out in the bathroom with us while Mark and I got ready, and then we had a nice chunk of his super smiley morning time to hang out and play. He had had a crap night of sleep, of course, so he was ready for his morning nap before the nanny arrived and was sleeping when I left. Not having to say goodbye made the transition a little easier, and I didn't cry at all. (I think I got all of my allotted tears out over the weekend. Holy hannah, poor baby didn't need a bath, I spent so much time weeping onto his sleeping head.) I will admit to welling up as I got in the car, but that was because I found a box and card with "Mom" written on it. Mark had printed and framed a bunch of the best Charlie pictures for my office. Is that not the sweetest thing you've ever heard? Love him. Charlie got a great report from the nanny and he looked so happy when I peeked in on the webcam. 

4.) On the down side, I am totally struggling with work guilt. I wasn't quite ready to leave the baby; I would have loved having one more month at home, but it is what it is. I am so glad he is in such wonderful hands, but it kills me to miss so much of his day. Overnight, I went from spending every one of his waking moments with him to getting maaaaybe two hours a day. I have about an hour with him in the morning, and if traffic is on my side, an hour at night. It doesn't help that the transition is wiping him out and he's desperate for bed around 6:45. It's killing me, too, that he doesn't seem happy to see me when I get home. In fairness, Mark is usually pushing him past his preferred dinner time so that I can feed him when I get home, and also, he's just barely three months old, so yeah: BABY. But still, I spend all day itching to get home to that face, and it kills me that he just kind of watches his dad and ignores me, despite my being all up in his business, kissing him all over. I also barely survived Tuesday's fret fest. It was the first day at the other family's house, and Charlie seemed unsettled when I left him. He gave me this look like, "Mama, you're leaving me again??" The nanny is great about sending pictures, but Charlie looked worried in Tuesday's shots. We skyped once Mark got home and the little guy seemed like his usual self, but ugh. Mostly it's killing me that, right now, I know everything about him, and I feel like I'm on the verge of losing this, like someone else is going to need to tell me what my baby needs or is trying to communicate. 

5.) There is also a good side! Sort of. Shame is my biggest (only?) cleaning motivator, so having someone in my house 2-3 days a week means that I'm getting in the habit of picking up and organizing stuff daily. It is astounding just how many things I now plan and prepare for on a regular basis, just because the scramble that results from not doing so is vastly worse. I get home from work and we scramble through the bedtime bottle and getting Charlie to bed. I make dinner (from the planned weekly menu, because there is no more grocery shopping on the way home), and then we have about an hour to hang out before we do the closing up shop chores. Mark does the dishes while I putter around cleaning up -- getting rid of clutter, folding couch blankets, putting away toys, gathering baby laundry that needs to go upstairs, washing bottles, boiling bottle water, making bottles and packing Charlie's bag if the next day is a travel day, packing my lunch, laying out my clothes for the next day, and folding any laundry that's in the dryer. It's so...grown up. I always thought my mom was just a do-er; nope, it's just necessary crap and thus a massive PITA if you don't do it. Being an adult is so not all it's cracked up to be. But at least the nanny won't see my inner slob? 

The Story of Charlie

It is seriously blowing my mind that we have been parents for two whole months. It both seems like yesterday and forever ago that Charlie came to us. Yes, yes, I am a walking cliche, I am well aware. I kept thinking today about what I was doing exactly two months ago, and I wanted to write it all down before my little diary notes have lost all meaning with my sieve of a memory. So here it is, in all of its overly wordy glory: Charlie's birth story.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014
I was scheduled for an induction at 40w5d, which is earlyish for induction, but I had a dear friend lose a full term baby due to placental insufficiency and the thought haunted me. My doctor was not overly comfortable going past the 41 week mark anyway, and the baby was looking robust, so we were in agreement that an induction at this point was a reasonable approach. I was to check in on the night of the 28th, and would hopefully have the baby out within 24-30 hours. I spent the day working from home, as the insane back and rib pain was too much to endure for even one more commute. I studiously ignored the fact that I was checking into the hospital that night until Mark came home and was all, "Seriously? You still haven't packed your bag?" Apparently making lists and pulling out a wee coming home outfit and a hand-knitted hat with matching booties wasn't considered "packing" in his mind. We ate Thai takeout, I threw together my list items, and we were off. 

8:30 pm: Who am I kidding? I was definitely late for my scheduled check-in; it was more like 8:39. Mark dropped me off at reception and went to park the car. The information desk people checked me in and directed me upstairs to labor and delivery. (Yikes.) I waited in a reception area upstairs until Mark joined me, then a nurse brought us back to my room. She instructed me to change into a gown, but then made no move to leave the room. I stood there awkwardly, not sure if I was supposed to just change there with her in the room. She had to point out the fact that there was a bathroom in the room. (She was not my favorite nurse of my stay, as we'll see in a moment.) Once I was gussied up in my hospital finery, she got me into bed, strapped to multiple monitors, and an IV started.

9:30 pm: The induction plan called for a course of Cervadil overnight to hopefully soften and prepare the cervix. Prior to inserting the Cervadil, the nurse wanted to ensure that the baby was still head down, so she brought in the ultrasound machine. She couldn't find the baby's head (wha?), so she called in a resident, who pointed out that the head was still there, but was just very low, so we could go ahead with the Cervadil. 

10:00 pm: The nurse began attempting to insert the Cervadil while I nearly jumped off the bed, it was so painful. It felt like the little tea bag-like suppository was made of razor blades. Nurse Scissorhands just couldn't figure out why I was in so much pain, as it no one else had everrrrrr protested in the slightest previously. (I was cutting a bitch mentally in that moment. Did she seriously just attempt to shame me?) Eventually she gave up and said something passive aggressive about hoping it works since it wasn't in as far as it was supposed to be. A ray of sunshine, that woman. 

11:45 pm: I was half dozing to a rerun of the Colbert Report when the whoosh-whooshing of the baby's monitor slowed waaaay down. I had just shifted positions and thought the monitor had slipped enough to pick up my heart instead of the baby's. I was fiddling with the belt when nurses flooded into the room. One slipped an oxygen mask onto my face and took my blood pressure while another started IV fluids and a third called my doctor. The baby's heart rate had apparently dropped out in response to a long contraction (confusing, as it only felt like light period cramping at that point), but it came right back up after shaving a few years off of my life. Apparently the Cervadil was working after all, so suck it, Nurse Scissorhands.

Thursday, May 29, 2014
12:30 am: The cramping was becoming more uncomfortable. I thought to myself that, if it were an impending period, I would have gotten out of bed to find some Advil at that point. But then it would lessen significantly. And then pick back up. And then lessen. Huh.

4:00 am: A nurse comes in to start a penicillin drip (thanks, Group B Strep!). It buuuurned so badly going into my hand and the pain in my joints was insane. Within minutes, I was shaking uncontrollably. This completely freaked me out (I work in health law products liability; I was imagining Stevens-Johnson syndrome or some other nightmarish drug reaction, of course). Mark was even more freaked and ran out to find a nurse. The nurse assured me that penicillin is supposed to hurt, but she slowed the drip way down and soon the aching and shaking slowed as well. 

6:30 am: Nurse disconnects my IVs so that I can use the bathroom. I shuffle over and pee faster than I ever have in my life, so freaked out was I by the crazy pressure downstairs. I was not about to have my baby fall into the toilet, so I hustled back to my little bed. 

7:30 am: My OB stops in to check on me before office hours. Contractions were feeling like pretty serious period cramps at that point, but I was managing well enough. My doctor was really pleased by the results of the Cervadil, so he said to leave it in until 10, then pull it and start Pitocin. He said he would be back to check in at lunch.

8:00 am: My new nurse (hooray for shift change!) comes in to check on me and said my doctor gave the ok for a light breakfast tray. I ordered a strawberry yogurt and an English muffin, but by the time the food arrived, I was in no mood for eating, as things were picking UP. I had one bite of a dry English muffin before setting the tray aside.

8:45 am: I was worried about asking for drugs too soon, so I started moving around in an attempt to get some relief. Standing felt better than lying down, at least until the pressure became too much. I moved to sitting on the side of the bed.

9:30 am: Things turned very, very quickly from strong but manageable period cramps to HOLY SHIT OW. I gave in and asked for the epidural at that point. They removed the Cervadil and started pushing IV fluids in preparation for the epidural, which was to be administered by an anesthesiologist very shortly. Spoiler alert: The anesthesiologist was NOT in shortly. Unfortunately, there was an emergency on the floor, so it was all hands on deck for a while there. A nurse would occasionally pop in and say that the anesthesiologist was coming soon. In the meantime, I moaned through contractions that were coming without a break. Poor Mark's arms were ready to fall off from two hours of massaging my butt and hips.

11:30 am: The anesthesiologist arrived and promptly threw a hissy fit over my (doctor sanctioned and uneaten) breakfast tray. For the love, woman, I had one bite of a shitty English muffin three hours ago; I think we're good, just as long as you insert the goddamn drugs. It was a little painful going in, and the sensation of the tube snaking along my spine was super unpleasant, but OMG. 15 minutes later, I'd have done anything she asked. ANYTHING. Epidurals are magical; I was high on the sense of relief for daaaaaays.

12:45 pm: My OB returned to break my water. He was thrilled by my progress on the Cervadil; I was fully effaced and 4 cm dilated. He estimated an early morning delivery. Unfortunately there was meconium in the amniotic fluid, but my doctor was unconcerned. He said it was pretty common and that they would be sure to have NICU staff present at delivery to suction him and ensure all was well. (Stuff like this makes me so glad I chose him. I am a pro worrier and he is very much not an alarmist, but the key is that he tells me WHY he's not alarmed, like I am an intelligent person, not a silly little patient to be patronized.) Of course, the baby's heart rate bottomed out again after some tough contractions, but it came right back up with oxygen and halting the Pitocin. 

2:00 pm: I started to feel some uncomfortable cramping again, so they gave me an epidural booster. The pain was much better within 15 minutes, and we spent the afternoon dozing and watching a "Law & Order: SVU" marathon. Hospitals are truly spectacularly awful places to try to sleep.

3:30 pm: The baby jumped and there was a huge, gross gush of fluid. It seems he was acting as a stopper in an attempt to preserve his beloved hot tub. (Cherish every moment.)

4:00 pm: My doctor returned to check on things again. I mentioned feeling a lot of pressure and he thought that was a great indicator of progress. He was expecting that I'd be around 6 cm, but I was at 9 -- progress indeed! The baby's head was still really high though, so he said he'd be back to see me in an hour.

5:00 pm: I was declared ready to push (OMG). 

5:30 pm: Began pushing. So weird, so much grossness. I would describe the contractions as intense pressure, so intense that it was nearly impossible not to push. I was expecting more pain, even with the epidural, but I was never overly uncomfortable. Or maybe I'm beginning to forget the discomfort? I don't know. Regardless, the kid never left my pelvis, so I wouldn't go by my account. 

8:00 pm: After pushing for 2.5 hours with zero progress, my doctor gently suggested that the baby was unlikely to emerge vaginally. I was really reluctant to have a c-section, but once my doctor described the baby's wee noggin as looking like a cantaloupe on a coffee cup (eww, but illustrative), I agreed. I hated the idea of his little head getting mushed with so little likelihood of progress, plus I was really worried about mushing his head further only to have him get stuck. I needed a little time to come around, but once I agreed to the c-section, things whipped into festive action. My doctor left to prep while a new (and awesome this time) anesthesiology team rolled in to prep me for surgery. Everyone was very cheerful and soothing, which was just what I needed. The epidural was already placed, so they just needed to up the drugs so that I would feel nothing and HOO BOY, mission accomplished. I was so numbed up that when they asked me to move my legs in preparation for moving to the OR, I could say nothing but, "Um, nope! I'm going to need some help here. Sorry!" I was also telling everyone and their brother that I didn't want Demerol (it makes everyone in my family vomit relentlessly, so not exactly ideal for post-abdominal surgery). The weird things that stick with you...

8:30 pm: They rolled me over to the OR and used a skateboard-like device to roll me on to the operating table. The curtain went up and I awkwardly realized that my whole lower half was exposed to the (rather jovial) surgical team. Despite the jolly team, I was still pretty nervous. Jeff, the nurse anesthetist, was great. I was asking for some kind of anxiolytic, but all he could offer was Versed, which was stronger than I wanted, so he helped me tough it out without the meds. Thanks to his care I actually remember my baby's birth. I was pretty desperate for Mark to show up, and it felt like forever before he was there next to me, but then there he was and we were off. There was a lot of tugging and a LOT of strange sensations. It seemed to go on forever, and then...

9:04 pm: He's here! I listened and listened, then heard the sweetest little squeaky cry that quickly turned into his now-familiar BELLOWING. (This child was literally born hangry.) It was the most surreal moment of my life; I'm still not sure I've fully processed things. 

(Poor Mark had no idea that they come out blue and then pink up as they oxygenate by breathing on their own, so when he looked over the curtain and saw a totally blue Charlie, then heard my doctor ask for someone to call the time, he thought for sure that the baby hadn't made it. My heart just breaks for him every time I think of this. Conveniently Charlie debuted his extraordinarily healthy lungs just then, reassuring his dad that there was much Lego building and baseball playing to come, thank GOD.)

Charlie was whisked over to the warmer with the NICU team as promised, though he remained in my line of sight. I shooed Mark over to be with Charlie while he aced his APGARs (9 and 9!) and within minutes, he was back and a nurse was shoving a burritoed Charlie into Mark's arms, much to Mark's terror. Sink or swim, buddy! 

The nurses took our first photo as a family of three right there:

Charlie and Mark were then whisked down to the recovery room while I was reassembled, which seemed to take forever. I definitely regret glancing over and seeing the suction tubes and collection containers. I also regret not asking for a touch of lipo while they were already in there. I was pretty distracted though, as I had begun shaking like crazy. Normally Demerol is used to control the shaking, but where I had refused it, they were limited to oxygen, which helped somewhat but not totally. 

9:30 pm: I was reunited with Mark and Charlie in the recovery room, where Charlie was SCREAMING in fury. The poor thing was ravenous and I was in no position to nurse given the wicked shaking. I asked if anyone had a pacifier, which worked for a few minutes, but lawsy, the SCREAMING. Eventually a nurse offered a wee bottle of formula, which finally quieted the poor starving thing. The hangry has been his defining characteristic from minute one. Mark had called my mom to tell her I had surgery (after it was over -- I come by my anxiety honestly), so I talked to my shaky, teary mom briefly to convince her I was ok.

Friday, May 30, 2014
12:00 am: The recovery team loaded us up in preparation to head up to our room. I had Charlie wedged in beside me (I was still shaking like a leaf and terrified of dropping him) and an oxygen tank between my legs, while Mark schlepped all of my labor stuff. Finally, we arrived in Room 601. 

The Aftermath
I had a surprisingly rough start following surgery. I was on oxygen for the shakes through much of Friday, and I struggled with low blood pressure until Saturday. I would feel really dizzy and lightheaded upon sitting unassisted/getting out of bed. I was finally able to get up and walk to the bathroom early Saturday morning with help and after a couple bags of fluids. I worked really hard at hydrating (such a chore for me) and was doing much better by Saturday night into Sunday. I debated discharge on Sunday vs. Monday. I really wanted to sleep in my own bed, but decided to stay until Monday because of the rough start and because my own doctor would be back to discharge me if I waited until Monday. The on call doc and my amazing nurses agreed; apparently I had given them quite a scare with all of the BP issues. 

We were able to head home around noon on Monday, June 2nd, and we've been living on fast-forward ever since. It seems impossible that it has been two months already, but here we are! This whole experience was nothing like what I expected, but as it brought me a healthy, happy baby, I can be nothing but grateful, even for the grossness. Ok, maybe not all of the grossness...

(What did I tell you? WALKING CLICHE.)

(Lookit that fat baby!)

8 weeks ago today I also watched a "Law & Order: SVU" marathon...

I cannot believe how time is flying by. Charlie is 8 weeks old tonight! Back then, a month at the beach sounded like such a long time, but here we are with a nearly two month old baby and just a few days left of "vacation." (I mean, really, I have a newborn; you could stick me in a spa in Fiji and it still wouldn't really be a vacation.) On the one hand, I'm excited to get home to our own space and to have some time as just our little family of three, but on the other? Man, is this place heaven. We walk to the coffee shop most mornings and the beach is a two minute walk in the other direction. Evenings rocking in the salt air on the breezy porch are what I dream of in the winter. The abundance of fresh, cheap(er) seafood is such a treat. I love being in proximity to our families, and of course, having my mom's help with the baby has been invaluable. I know it's time to go, but I just wish our time here hadn't passed so very quickly. 

Living on fast-forward also means that my return-to-work date is rapidly approaching, despite my doing everything I can to ignore that fact. I'm lucky to have a job with an understanding boss in a family-friendly company. I am also lucky to be able to telework one day a week. However, I'm a professional with responsibilities that sometimes follow me home, plus I also commute nearly two hours each day. I am excited about the nanny we found and know that Charlie will be in great hands. I just worry that they won't be my hands, and that I'll regret all of my time away from him. I'm not someone who lives for her career, but I have invested a lot of time and effort to get to where I am, so I don't know that I would want to walk away, even if I could. Mostly, I know how much I suck at juggling multiple full-time jobs, so I'm worried about continuing to grow my position at work, maintaining things at home, AND adding a baby, even one as delightful as this one is, to the mix. Certainly this is not unique to me; it's your basic modern mothering conundrum. Knowing I'm in good company doesn't lessen the worry and guilt, though. I guess we'll see what happens! 

Until then? I'm going to snuggle my baby and enjoy the hell out of cocktail hour on the porch.

Gratuitous baby photo: