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Monday, December 15, 2014

One month in: What to expect when you're expecting...

You know that book What to Expect When You're Expecting? It's like 700 pages long. The first and only page should read "we really cannot tell you what to expect, because it's likely nothing will go as you planned." Seriously.

No matter how many books we read, blogs we followed or moms we talked to, truly nothing prepared us for the reality of having a baby. We're one month (and a couple days) into this adventure, which on its own is hard to believe, and we are just starting to feel a tiny bit settled into life with baby. It is a wonderful, rewarding, scary, uncertain and sometimes terrible adventure that we wouldn't trade for anything in the world.
Attempting to take newborn photos. Believe it or not, this was the best shot of the three of us.
Please don' take this post as complaining, because we know we're lucky to have Ella. But we think not enough people are honest about how hard all of this is. And if we're anything, we're honest. And oversharers.

Here are a few things we thought we knew, but really didn't know at all.

1. We thought we wouldn't want any help. We felt strongly that we ought to bond as a little family unit. Well, two or three overnights with a newborn who isn't eating enough changed our minds pretty quickly on that one! We are now in "accept all help, any help" mode. And a big thank you to all of you who have held our baby while we cried. I mean slept. No, I mean cried.

2. We thought she'd sleep more. And therefore we'd sleep more. This particular baby just doesn't sleep that much. At first it was because she wasn't eating enough, but we fixed that. Now it's because she has a cold. But even in between, she's really awake a lot, especially in the middle of the night. Who would have thought??

3. We're in this together. Well, of course we are, but in reality, we hardly see each other. We split up the night into two shifts, with each of us on "baby duty" for 4 or 5 hours each night. That means one of us is in the living room with the baby (who is awake, of course) while the other sleeps in the bedroom, then we switch. Then Meg goes to work and Kate stays home with the baby. Then Meg comes home and tends the baby while Kate takes a nap. You see where this is going. We miss each other. We are so grateful that we started this journey with a strong relationship. I honestly don't know how people in rocky relationships survive the first month.

This pretty much sums up our relationship for the first month of Ella's life.
4. We'll instantly adore our baby. Don't get me wrong, we LOVE Ella. And some of the time we even LIKE her. But there are moments when we are not her biggest fan. When she's screaming at 2am, for instance, or when she poops on her clothes..blanket..your clothes..her feet..the rug.. I think we were both under the impression that some kind of magic baby spell was going to come over us that would make us not mind never sleeping, never leaving the house, and never taking a shower. Ok, we take the occasional shower, with one hand reaching around the curtain and bouncing Ella in her chair between lathers. Nobody feel either of our legs anytime soon because shaving is out of the question. As a good friend of ours (and fellow newborn mom) asked "Was there a moment, maybe 10 days in, when the joy wore off and you wondered...what did we get ourselves into?" In short, yes.

Don't let all this get you thinking we're not overjoyed to have our lovely little Ella. We are. We feel very lucky that our pregnancy journey was relatively uneventful and that she is healthy and mostly/sometimes happy. We're so grateful for all the love and support our friends and families have shown us and how welcoming they are of Ella. We are overflowing with adorable baby booties and handmade headbands and tiny dresses. We love it. We have a lot going for us. But that doesn't mean it isn't hard. People seem ashamed to admit that so here we are, breaking the ice.

PS: We promise we'll have funny gifs next time, when hopefully we'll be better rested!

Monday, December 1, 2014

We Have a Baby, or, Is That a Nipple in My Hair?

Sorry for the radio silence, but as we may have mentioned, WE HAVE A BABY! We can hardly believe it, even though we are completely consume with keeping her alive every single minute of every single day. Anyway, we thought we'd give you an overview of our first two weeks as parents. Don't let it deter you from having your own little stinker, because even after a really hard 14 days, we still love her more than anything.

We used to be cool (ok, maybe not).  We used to host dinner parties and go see plays.  We used to be able to hold a conversation. Today it's a victory if we can put a noun and a verb together.  As I sit here at 2am holding 8lbs of a tiny human who can barely lift her head, I find myself assessing how much poop she has had today.  What did it look like?  And, come to think of it, why does it look like she shotgunned deli mustard and sesame seeds?  When did I sleep last?  Or my favorite of Meg's deep thoughts: What are the ethics of holding a baby while you pee?

What the first 2 weeks feel like
No one talks about the first 2 weeks of having a newborn.  I don't know whether parents that have come before us see it as a rite of passage that we must encounter on our own or they've blocked it out of their memory like a horrible nightmare.  The first two weeks of having a baby are hard, y'all. I'm sure the next two weeks will be too...and the next and the next...but damn, those first two will get to you.

I'm going to say some things that may not be everyone's cup of tea, but I'm running on a 5 hour old cup of coffee and a power bar, so deal with it.

One of the hardest things I've ever encountered.  When the baby is first born she lives off her reserves
Ella's reaction to being fed formula
and then looks to you (ie: your boob) for colostrum.  This is what our body creates before the milk comes in.  I'm going to keep this portion brief- after many days of tag teaming holding our banshee-like screaming daughter for hour at a time I pumped and learned my body wasn't producing enough milk and she was starving.  We quickly grabbed the can of formula and a bottle and she inhaled it, giving us more than 1.5 hours of sleep for the first time since she was born.  I know it is told that we, as breastfeeding women, should push through this time as our milk *will* come in, but you know what?  I didn't.  And my daughter was happier.  My wife was happier.  And I didn't have a nervous breakdown.  

This topic is twofold.  When the postpartum nurse said that I am chock full of hormones and would cry (a lot) for no reason, she wasn't kidding.  I cried full on "the dog dies in this movie" tears because I put my underwear on backwards.  But I also cried at the sound of my own daughter's cries.  I don't know how it is scientifically put, but there is a place in every birth mom's mind that is wrecked by the sound of their child crying.  

And then that leads me to Ella's crying.  As Meg likes to remind me, babies cry.  It's their way of communicating.  I think the first hell week we had has traumatized me.  Every time she cries my whole body cringes and I have a mini emotional meltdown inside. I fear she will never STOP crying. Knock on far, she has always stopped crying.  Her crying is rational.  Me and my raging hormones are not.

You will get none. Until the grandparents swoop in and hold your screaming baby so you can sleep (in the same bed, even!) for one sweet, sweet hour. 

You will forget to brush your teeth, take out your contacts, eat, bathe and leave your house.  It will get easier day to day, particularly if you have an amazing partner to relieve you and/or kindly tell you that your breath smells like one of the characters from "The Walking Dead."  

Trying to get anything done on
Mommy Brain
They say to sleep when the baby sleeps. Well, that's great if you have a housekeeper and personal chef. If you don't, the minute the baby is asleep you will want to take care of all the things around the house that make it look like a tornado hit a diaper factory. You will wash a dish and then start some laundry and then remember you were washing a dish.  What's that smell?  Oh right you started cooking something... and now the house is on fire.

Baby Jeggings
In between the cries and the poop and leaky breasts, tiny baby clothes will make things ok.  Tiny socks, onesies with giraffes on them, knit hats.  And the outfits.  You will change the outfits three times a day due to formula overflow or diaper blowouts, but you will also change them because this is now your primary source of entertainment.  You will then take 8,000 pictures, post them on Facebook and break the internet- or at least overwhelm your friends to the point they may start blocking you.  Sorry team, but to those that stuck with us thus far thanks for playing.

At the end of the day- still not sure what hour that is as we don't know when the day ends or begins anymore- she's the best thing to happen to us.  And even at 2am, covered in formula, not sure when you had your last shower and crying at the Swiffer comercial with the cute old couple because hormones you look down at that face and think, "I'll keep her."

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Week 39: Introducing Baby Girl Curtis

BGC fans, we would like to introduce you to
Ella Katharine Curtis!  Born 11/12/14 at 5:26pm weighing 7lbs 6oz and measuring 20.5 inches.

But let's back up a bit (quite a bit- we've had a delay in posting this... because we had a baby).

Well folks.... there we were just waiting...
So Monday morning (Nov 10) started out with our usual weekly visit to our midwife.  Meg and I drove separately since she had to go to work after and I was planning to work from home for the week.  We went into the exam room and the nurse's aide did the normal tests she does (weight, blood pressure) when I looked and saw my BP was elevated.  I mean *elevated* above the immaculate numbers I've had my whole life including pregnancy. They immediately had me give a urine sample to test for protein and, unfortunately, they found trace amounts.  They then took blood to have fast-tracked to test for other levels (mainly seeing how my liver was handling things). All signs were pointing to pre-eclampsia.

We were going into this 39 week appointment with the hopes of a membrane sweep to kick things into gear.  My midwife attempted, but said my cervix wasn't dilated AT ALL (damn!). The midwife told me to go ahead to our scheduled ultrasound and that we would then go up to Labor and Delivery for an NST (Non-stress Test).  The test involves attaching one belt to the mother’s abdomen to measure fetal heart rate and another belt to measure contractions. Movement, heart rate and “reactivity” of heart rate to movement is measured for 20-30 minutes.

What BGC's thinking with
this waiting game.

BGC looked great on the ultrasound and the tech guessed at the time that she weighed about 8 lbs. We went up for the NST and my blood pressure remained elevated.  The blood test results came back with some additional elevated levels which made the midwife on call encourage us to go ahead and induce.  Midwives don't like to use intervention, so we knew if they were suggesting it, we should do it. From there we checked in to a Labor & Delivery room. It was very surreal.

View of Boston and the Charles
from our labor room
Meg doing grad school
work by bathroom light
They started me on Cytotec (dose every 4 hours) to help ripen the cervix and start contractions.  I was also hooked up to many monitors watching my blood pressure, the baby's heart rate and the contractions.  After just one course of the meds they were seeing some reaction, which was a positive sign. We did some laps around the labor and delivery wing while I still could and both sat on our
laptops in between.  These gifs don't find themselves, people.  The nurses prepared us that the induction process can take between 2-3 days and that doesn't include labor!

The "Before" Pic

We ended up doing 5 cycles of the Cytotec at 4 hours a cycle going overnight.  We transitioned through nurse/mid-wife shift change-overs and became well-versed in all the menu options of room service (we recommend the grilled chicken sandwich- add bacon).  With each staff change came a new opinion on "the plan."  By 11am on Tuesday the new midwife on-call said she would have stopped Cytotec after the 3rd cycle!  Great, so we just wasted the last 12 hours...

We then decided to change over to Pitocin which is a synthetic oxytocin (hormone to move along labor).  It is administered to increase contractions which then helps you to dilate so you can move into active labor and give birth.  I was given "Pit", as they call it, for several hours, several more sweeps- I had cryotherapy on some questionable cancerous cells in my cervix when I was 20 and it created scar tissue that was now inhibiting dilation so the midwife had to "break them up" by had- with no change.  We then decided to insert a Foley Balloon.  It is a rubber balloon on a tube inserted into the cervix then filled with water to weigh down on the cervix to increase dilation.  I asked them to make my balloon a doggy.

This process of waiting on the balloon to do its work combined with Pit-caused contractions every 2.5 minutes went on for 8 hours unmedicated until I could barely form full sentences and most of those words included expletives.  I was given sweet, sweet relief with some pain meds and I had advanced to 3cm dilated.  Exhuasted and hanging onto sanity by a fingertip, I got an epidural put in at 11pm. on Tuesday.  It was magical.  Why hold off on pain meds?  It can slow down or even reverse the dilation process and, even though we still had things to try on the room service menu, we were done living in a hospital and wanted to meet BGC.  Overnight we were only able to get small patches of sleep as BGC's heartrate would go down when I would have a contraction.  The nurses would continuously move me and have to reposition the contraction/baby heart rate monitor belts to stabilize her- but on a positive note we also developed a friend crush with our nurse Jody.  We later found out that the umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck, which was causing the decelerations. But everybody is ok, guys.

How I wanted to mess with Meg if my water broke 
I will say this.   Dr. John Bonica is my personal hero.  He's not a doc at Mt. Auburn. This dream angel invented the epidural.  By mid-day Wednesday we found out that I had dilated to a 4/5- finally!  And my water broke on its own.  We upped the Pit and by 4pm I was 10cm dilated and I was feeling contractions which was odd as... you know... blessed, blessed hoohaa drugs.  The midwife finally came in and said... "Um, I'm touching her head.  It's time to push!"

After 3 sets of a couple of pushes Ella popped out, almost too fast for the midwife to catch her!

How Meg felt about the "birth" of
the placenta
My "push gift" from Meg

Meg watched the baby come out AND cut the cord! For those of you who know us in real life, you know that's a big deal!

Grandpa Jeff

5 minutes after our healthy nugget was born a nurse asked us if a very curious and anxious man in the waiting room outside of Labor and Delivery was ours.  We said yes and Meg's dad was able to sneak in to meet "his baby"- who was born on his 60th birthday. We will always win "Best Present EVER" award from him for life.

Long story short (too late) I would recommend an acid enima before I would recommend being induced, but sometimes you don't have a choice, and we got this little nugget in the end and I'll get to hold this over her head when she's a teen. #motherhood

Stay tuned for our next post- Holy Crap, Someone Gave Us a Baby.
Good thing we practiced!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Labor & Birth in Gifs

When they told us we were being admitted to be induced...

Meg driving home to get our stuff
When they ask you what brought you into the Labor and Birthing Center today
Our hospital has everything.
When they tell you the induction meds
could take days to push you into labor
Contractions without drugs
When I NEED drugs.
When the anesthesiologist walks in and asks, "Who wants drugs?"
Then the drugs kick in
How you feel after several days of labor
After the baby is born
After After The Baby is Born

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Week 38: The Other 2 Week Wait

When you have contractions that you know aren't the
real thing, but you still get excited

Going into week 38 is rough y'all.  This goes beyond the usually pregnancy related aches and the pains. I am at the city limits of Crazytown. I think most who know me would say I'm a rational person.  I tend to not show my stress and I also tend to not freak out about much. Well, throw that shit out the window because pregnancy will laugh at your rational mind and give it the hormonal finger.  

Perfect "The Shining" gif: ACHIEVED
Week 38 is where you enter "The Shining" stage of your pregnancy- "All pregnancy and no baby yet make Kate go something, something." You can't do a lot because you get too tired/swollen/achy. You have mentally checked out of everything that isn't a pregnancy symptom. And EVERYTHING is a symptom.  Much like the 2 Week Wait after insemination (am I pregnant?), this 2 Week Wait at least has a light at the end of the tunnel... so to speak.

And you cry.  Kates don't cry.  But I've cried plenty.  You want it to be over, you're afraid something is wrong, you feel like if you eat anymore cayenne pepper you're going to light on fire from the inside.  You get contractions and they are strong and they increase. And then they stop right as you allow yourself to get your hopes up.  You wake up a lot in the night since you have limited sleeping positions and think, "Have I felt the baby move?"  Then you start poking, tapping and all but drum circling to get the little kid to move.  Then she moves... or did she?  Was that all in your head?  And then you wake up your sleeping wife with your iPhone doppler app at 2am.  You see where I'm going with this.  I've been told this is normal.  If you see Meg please give her a hug or a strong adult beverage as she continues to support me through this part.
Trying to get the baby to shift down

I've been doing squats and walking to help the baby drop (it like it's hot- sorry couldn't resist).

I am also trying acupuncture to induce labor.  They insert the needles into specific acupressure points to help induce. Even if it doesn't work, it's so relaxing..worth every penny.

And I'm now the last out of the posse of pregnant women at my company to give birth. This kid feels like she has bought the timeshare in Boca and is not going anywhere.

And our weekly update from our midwife appointment and the ultrasound:
BGC passed another BPP test and is constantly practice breathing.  Good sign!  The tech was also able to get some front photos of her face.  Get past the creepy and check out those chubby cheeks.

Our lovely midwife also did a check and I am 70% effaced (ripening of the uterus for labor), 1cm dilated (you need to be 4cm to be in active labor) and she is at station -2 (+3 happens when the baby crowns).  All good things, but unless a miracle happens she's not coming in the next hour.  We'll keep our eyes peeled for any movement over the next week, but otherwise we will be doing the membrane sweep (google it) on Monday to help kick this motha' into action.  And, at the last resort, they will induce at 41 weeks.  Now if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna go try to lure this baby out with promises of Nutella and non-stop Idina Menzel jams.