December 20, 2012

Pregnancy and my body: gains and losses

two weeks postpartum

Over the course of my 39 weeks of pregnancy I gained 33 lbs. The weight distributed all over my body but of course concentrated most in my stomach. The total was more than I had hoped to gain because I didn't start off especially small. But I followed my body's cues with regard to eating and tried my best to eat healthily.

three weeks postpartum

At a visit to my dermatologist to discuss postpartum skincare, 2.5 weeks after birth, I had lost 27.5 of the pounds I had gained. I feel pretty pleased by this though I don't know what is normal or abnormal. I also began pregnancy in the thick of cake season* during which I was about 10 lbs heavier than my preferred weight. So if I am keeping track, I have about five pregnant lbs and ten cake season lbs left to shed. Breastfeeding has helped me so far. I have read that the final lbs linger on breastfeeding moms because the body keeps them as a makeshift insurance policy (i.e. in the event that I no longer had access to food, the additional weight would allow me to still produce for my child). Realistically, my inability to go to the gym for another 5-6 weeks will inhibit my level of fitness, regardless of what the scale says.

Back in September, I packed away my favorite fall and winter clothes, anticipating that I would not be able to fit into them for another year or so. I've dug through them this week to see what already fits while still being nursing-friendly. No matter what, I am still wearing my maternity pants because they are so darn comfy and the stretchy band at the top feels supportive over my tender abdomen.

Speaking of my abdomen and recovery, while in the hospital I was given a belly binder to help provide counter pressure over my incision. That did really help for the first week after birth. When I shed the bulk of the retained water my medical binder became too large and too stretched out to bind so I turned to the commercial binders a friend had sent me as generous hand-me-downs in anticipation of my birth. I ultimately purchased a Squeem which gives me much more intense support.

I am not sleeping in the binder anymore but I try to wear it for at least a few hours every day. When I sneeze, belly laugh, or cough my incision aches so the binder is useful for extra support. If I catch the pain-inducing action in time, I press my hands up against my abdomen which helps offer much needed counter pressure.

The other major body change is my bust. I am still trying to find supportive nursing bras though I bought a molded cup one from Target as a quick fix. I hate the added bulk of molded cups so I eventually took a chance on this La Leche League bra. It is a little big in the cups when I'm not full but it allows room for my breast pads. When I am feeling mobile post holiday madness, I am going to revisit Judy at A Mother's Boutique for a fitting and breastfeeding-friendly supplies. I intended to get there before birth but birth came early.

I have driven twice since surgery. Once to parallel park my mom's car on my street. And once for about 20 minutes on the way home from my mom's family's holiday party. I found that on the lengthier drive, my incision pain felt most intense while using the gas or break pedal over bumps or potholes. With this knowledge I will avoid certain streets in dire need of paving. I have gone to Target with baby (thanks to the help of my mom and sister) and a restaurant (Mad Mex where one of my mothers-in-law was having a bday party). But I didn't drive in either case.

Despite my soreness, I am pretty amazed by the body's resilience. Gestating, laboring, and undergoing major surgery have certainly changed some aspects of my physical self permanently. But a lot of things feel normal. My heartburn is gone. My need to pee a zillion times a night went with it. My back and pelvic girdle pain have subsided. I don't have sciatica anymore. My feet are almost back to normal (though not quite). And my waist is visible again. I do still have relatively clear skin which will change once my cycle returns. But considering the immense changes I experienced, my body almost feels like mine.

*cake season marks the time of year between February and April when Chris and I celebrate our birthdays and eat a lot of cake. 

December 11, 2012

One week postpartum... birth and recovery

Above depicts almost one week but 6 days to be exact. My body is ... recovering. I am still sore. Particularly at the cite of incision (because in my birth story there was an incision).

Suffice it to say that birth didn't go according to plan. This fact becomes easier for me to confront with each passing day but that doesn't mean it is easy. At least not yet. I don't plan to post my full birth story here but the synopsis is that I went into labor at home. Began timing contractions around 2:30 am on Sunday morning (Nov. 25th). Woke up Chris at 3 when I realized that things were likely happening. I labored at home until around 10am that morning when I called the midwife on duty and my parents. My favorite memories of labor are from that period of being at home. I was having back labor and things felt really intense so Chris drew me a bath and poured warm water on me. Standing during contractions helped. Moving through contractions helped. Both of these options were no longer available once I went to the hospital, unfortunately.

Sitting on the birth ball somehow made it feel worse through my back but that was just as well. By the time I got to the hospital I was 8cm dilated. I couldn't believe it! I was still walking around and talking through contractions so I anticipated being told I was 3 or 4 cm. For this reason, I truly believe I could have made it to 10 without interventions. But my blood pressure was elevated and my heart condition caused enough concern that I was not given much choice but to receive an epidural. Had I known this decision was made for me by my care providers (who never informed me) I would have waited a little longer, hoping to get to 10. Hindsight. I wish I hadn't made such a big deal during my prenatal care about my relatively common heart condition for this reason.* Hindsight.

The story from here isn't a new or surprising one. The epidural stalled me out. Over the course of the afternoon and evening, they broke my water and I was given pitocin. Both of these things made back labor worse. And when it was time to push nothing could counteract the fact that I was completely numb in the area where I needed to feel. So my pushing was ineffective. I pushed for four hours and was told that I had failed to move her down far enough. She was also possibly sunny side up? At this point my memories become blurry. Anyway, the OB checked me and determined that Emilia and I were not candidates for suction or forceps.

So the further condensed version of all of this is that I wound up with a surgical birth. Although I wrote here many times about how I intended to be open-minded and flexible nothing could emotionally prepare me for that moment... and all the moments that it rendered impossible.

I spent my entire pregnancy envisioning that she'd come out of me and be placed immediately on my chest. I thought about whether Chris (squeamish as he is) would be able to cut the cord or if my mom would have to do it. I brainstormed what to wear so that I could as easily and swiftly as possible begin skin to skin, breastfeed, and bond with my baby girl.

It is hard not to have those memories that I anticipated with such excitement and (to be honest) certainty. It is hard to have instead the memory of a sheet in front of my face as my body was strapped down, shivering, and nauseous from all the medications being pumped into my veins. My least favorite memory of birth was hearing her cry but being unable to see her. The nagging almost primal desire to want to hold her was unlike anything I've ever felt. But my limbs were numb so holding her was not going to be an option. No one brought her over to me or lowered the curtain. No one gave us the chance to do skin to skin with our faces. Chris did get to hold her and for that I am grateful. I didn't really meet her until I was post op.  And there were no medically emergent reasons for any of these decisions except that they were hospital protocol. I wasn't aware of this protocol. My birth plan's section on surgical birth requested simple things be done to humanize the operation. Lowering the curtain, skin to skin, and other small requests I wrote in it were approved by the midwives. Had these requests been a part of my birth I am sure the hard feelings I'm having in hindsight would be less... hard.

Don't get me wrong. I am so glad we are both healthy. I am so glad to have medical care that can ensure our health and survival even if my particular birth experience felt dehumanizing and traumatic at points. Even as it hurts to get up and down, even as it hurts to twist or maneuver my body, even as I look at my body which has the aftermath of both vaginal and surgical birth to recover from, even after my milk was delayed by a day while my body took its time in recognizing that she was born, I am so so so grateful. I am grateful for this baby and this new life. I am also grateful that she was born at 12:10 am on November 26th because November 25th was by far the most terrifying day of my life. And I am lucky that its anniversary will not fall on a day I intend to celebrate fully and richly for the rest of my life.

*Even one of the anesthesiologists mentioned after the fact that the reason why my condition, called PFO isn't studied is not because it is so anomalous or unique. It's because it is utterly mundane and common. So inevitably plenty of pregnant people have had vaginal, unmedicated births with a PFO. I say this because I fear people will read "heart condition" and think my desire for an unmedicated birth is unreasonable or selfish.  

December 9, 2012

(Belated) Week 39: She's here!

I didn't quite make it to week 39. The baby decided to come early. I half expected this since I was the only pregnant woman I knew who wanted to be a few days late (for work reasons). But now that she's here, I couldn't be happier! And to be honest, it is for the best. Although I feel terrible that the semester's end was atypical for my students and I will have my lion's share of grading to plow through, remotely while sleep deprived and nursing, my physical discomforts in late pregnancy grew with every day.

Here is Emilia Irene:

I can already tell she's strong, alert, determined, and incredibly sweet. Chris and I couldn't be more proud or in love.