Sunday, August 11, 2013

Good Morning, Sunshine!

   Philip slept very poorly for the first 6.5 months. He only wanted to sleep either in my arms or eventually, in his swing. If he were in his swing, he would rarely sleep more than 3 hours at a time even. With our doctor warning us that he should be sleeping in his crib so that he can stretch out and move about as he needs, we naturally were anxious and desperate to get him to sleep in his crib. 
   Philip decided that he loved his lovely play in. That's about it. At first, after many different tactics, I could get him to sleep in the crib for 2 hour chunks at a time. I figured in time he would sleep longer and longer. Nope. He actually got worse to the point that I would spend hours upon hours trying to have him fall asleep in my arms, do the transfer, and he would instantly wake and begin crying relentlessly. Uugh....
   When he reached 6.5 months, and I had tried every no-cry solution known to womankind in various forms and various combinations, I realized in my bleary eyed and minded state, that our family was in a sleep-deprived crisis and I needed to kick it up a notch for the sake of my entire family. My son was depriving himself of much needed rest and we were chronically sleep-deprived and suffering as a whole. 
   I am absolutely against abandoning your child in the middle of the night to let him scream and cry himself to sleep, so when I say that I researched every no-cry sleep solution known to womankind, I meant it. I went through several books, numerous forums and internet searches, testimonials, etc. I tried it all. Disheartening at best, as I simply wanted to spare my child from any negative associations with sleep. But desperate times called for desperate measures.
   Now that I knew my son and knew what made him tick, for the most part, I began developing a bit of a tougher sleep training method comprised of various parts of the techniques I had read worked for other moms. And you know what? I got him to sleep in his crib the first night. By night two and three, he was sleeping peacefully up to 7-8 hours at a time! Within several weeks, he would sleep completely through the night from 8pm to 6 am. Unbelievable. I could not and still find it difficult to believe this is my child!

   Here's what I did, in case you are curious:
   By 6.5 months, I knew two things that allowed me to do what I did successfully and psychologically healthfully: #1: the issues Philip had with sleeping were behavioral and habitual; he never had collic(thank you God) or reflux issues, and #2: he was old enough and beyond psychologically developed enough to understand who we were and that when we leave his presence, we would be coming back - especially if he were to need us.
   We started out with quiet time/music time a little before bed, got him into jammies, and read him a book (having bath time helps, too). I then nursed him and when he was finished, I didn't wait for him to fall into a deep sleep before laying him in the crib with a breathable blanket pulled up to his chest. He fussed. Aaaand fussed. What I have found out  in my research is that with this fussing and crying, it is only protesting. They are kind of saying: "hey I don't know how to fall asleep like this....I'm pretty sure I need you to help me fall asleep via nursing/pacifier/rocking/etc." The object is to teach them how to fall asleep like this; to be able to soothe themselves into sweet slumber.
   So I would allow Philip to fuss for 5 minutes with me out of the room, then I would go back in, pick him up and shoosh and sway him until he quieted down again (not necessarily until he was asleep again) and put him back into his crib after a minute or two of that. He would begin to fuss, but I'd leave the room. We continued this interval pick up/put down of a few 5 minute intervals, then 7's, then 13's....and I'd go in a bit sooner if he really got himself worked up into a serious cry. This went on just under two hours the first night, but then he slept for 4 hours at a time right away. I couldn't believe it.
   The second night...same ritual, but it only took 30 minutes. Third night, 20 minutes. By the fourth night, 10 minutes. Fifth or sixth night, no fussing at all - he just grabbed his blanky, turned to his side and closed his eyes to sleep! Was this  my child?? Why yes! I realized the importance of what I had taught him: that it is good to sleep on his own and that if he truly needs Mommy, I would return to him at whatever hour of the day/night. 
   Now, he loves to sleep in his crib. He can roll around and switch positions throughout the night to suit his comfort, stretch out and play with one of two stuffed animals I have in there for him if he needs some down time before falling asleep. And best part, he is so much more well-rested and so are we! This is what a growing little mind needs: sleeeeep and lots of it. Now, he only waked once, maybe twice a night if he is teething real bad or if his tummy hurts (starting solids is a new challenge to the digestive system). Amazing!
   I felt so guilty those first few nights, but now I see what a great benefit this is for him and our whole family and that teaching him to sleep on his own is truly the best gift I have given him yet. Steven and I finally have hours of free time together after he goes to sleep, so we can strengthen and preserve our marital relationship, not to mention me-time(wow, nearly forgot what that was!), cleaning time, and projects-time...after having nearly none of that for 6.5 months! Aaah, liberation :). 
   I have no regrets. I would not have tried what I did sooner than 6 months. I am satisfied that I educated myself thoroughly and tried every no-cry solution before resorting to a "fuss"-it-out with check-ins from mommy when I knew he was cognitively ready to understand what was going on and create positive associations with sleep.

   In other news, I spotted this really cool Katydid on the side of my work building. It was about 3 inches long:

   I love bugs! I had to laugh to myself because obviously, our amazing Creator designed the Katydid to camouflage amongst green plant life, but He did not allow this disguise to be fool-proof, as this particular little guy decided not to use it wisely: it was about 2 feet from being perfectly camouflaged with grape leaves/vines of the same chose to instead park itself  smack dab in the middle of this pure white side paneling. Oye...'s a fluffy bunny I spotted two days ago in our back yard:
   I definitely did a double-take with this one. A plump white rabbit with chocolate points, grazing in our yard with her wee little one (brown and speckled with larger-than-normal ears). 

Ah, Wisconsin wildlife!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

And Finally, the Birth Story...


Brace yourselves, this is a long and detailed story:

    It was Thursday January 3rd and I was a week overdue. It was also the day of another doctor appointment...however, this would be the appointment where we would seriously need to have the induction discussed and planned in case pregnancy went even longer (we had come to an agreement to go two weeks late before medical intervention, since I was a low-risk pregnancy).
   I was so depressed and filled with much anxiety as I have been a natural birth advocate for years before ever even becoming pregnant. I hadn't even shown any major signs of labor being near by this point.
   So I went to my doctor's appointment and it took every bit of strength in me to hold back the tears as she told me I was only 1.5 cm dilated and about 60% effaced. Granted, I knew that those numbers mean little (I have heard many stories of women jumping from 0 to 8 cm in a day), but when you are the one swimming in desperation with time running out and everything you believe in being threatened by the medical world, you can't help but be discouraged by such low numbers.
   My doctor basically began treating the situation as an inevitable induction and even wanted me to tell her what method I would use so she could put in the order that day for the meds - to which I refused to decide in my shock at her brazenness. She didn't seem to like that and began questioning why I wanted a natural birth so badly (will never go back to this doctor). I could sense her irritation and it left me feeling quite betrayed as she had me believing that she was a natural birth supporter throughout my pregnancy. Towards the end, the signs had surmounted to prove otherwise, such as: when she confessed that she would rather be medically induced than drink any amount of castor oil to induce labor naturally, and also wanted to induce me several days earlier than agreed upon because she was going on vacation that weekend. Hah....I told her no, I would rather give my child the extra few days to make his appearance and I would just utilize a different doctor. After all, I was going to be doing all the work, so what did it matter?
   I left the appointment feeling so discouraged. Every pregnant woman knows how each day after the due date can feel like an eternity of anxiety and hopefulness, while the span of the two week count down until induction (if you're lucky enough to be allowed that much time) is never long enough - a blink of an eye. So, I basically felt like my time was already up, even though I had another week before any medical intervention.
   I broke down in the car on the way home. Steven was driving and trying to console me, simultaneously. Poor fella. I texted my doula to update her and expressed my overwhelming concerns. Once she realized how emotional and worried I had become, she advised me to go buy clarey sage oil and rub it on my belly and bottoms of feet. She also referred me to an acupuncturist who is also a doula and experienced in pregnancy/induction acupuncture. Without questioning a single word, I booked my appointment with the acupuncturist for the following day and drove with Steven out to Menomonee Falls to buy some Clarey Sage oil.
   Upon arriving home, I nearly immediately bathed in the smelly oil. (gave myself a headache). I took a bath to relax (adding more oil to that), and the wonderful husband gave me a foot rub with still more oil. Then...bed.
   Before I fell asleep, I prayed and I prayed hard. I begged and I pleaded with God to please let this little boy come into the world as He intended; beautifully, naturally, healthfully. I wanted God to choose my son's birthday, not the hospital staff. Medical intervention is a blessing for those that truly need it, but I was blessed with such a healthy pregnancy, there were no signs that I was one of those women that would actually need any part of it. And so I fell asleep. But not for long!
   I had begun to wake up periodically to intense cramping, but went back to sleep not thinking too much of it. When I awoke at 6 am to feel the cramping intensify and prove to be regulated, I got reeeaaally happy! I tried not to get myself too psyched - since it was still possible that it may be false labor. I didn't tell my doula until that afternoon on the 4th that I was experiencing contractions about 15-25 minutes apart and not too uncomfortable yet.
   We kept up communication throughout the day as the contractions turned into 10-15 minutes apart with a lot of dull lower back aching. But then there seemed to be no progress beyond that...they didn't get any closer together but did get more intense. It wasn't until later in the day that she realized that my now intense back pain was because I was having "back labor," i.e. the baby was posterior. So with each contraction, baby was pressing against my spine. This gave way for aching even in between contractions, so I didn't get much of any breaks! She instructed me of some stretches to do that could shift the baby into better positioning to allow labor to move forward. She said that the reason why I wasn't progressing any further was because my uterus was too busy trying to get Philip to flip into correct position with each contraction.
   After hours of stretching and holding awkward positions over our exercise ball, couch, or floor, it worked! I no longer felt searing, firey back pain through each one. Still, they were about 10 minutes apart at that point, around 1 - 2 am. So we did our best to go to sleep. Steven slept for a bit while I slept a few minutes at a time in between contractions (absolutely awful...I know). I was so exhausted from the full day and night of laboring that I even slept for about 1.5 - 2 hours through contractions! I do remember dreaming about feeling contractions, so I didn't escape them entirely, alas...
   When we awoke at about 8 am on Saturday the 5th, they had spread out to about 15 minutes apart again -aargh!  However, within 1 - 2 hours after waking, they sped up to 8 - 10 minutes apart and intensified quickly. The bad part was that I was having back labor again and the stretches weren't helping this time - stubborn little guy!
   When contractions got to be around 6 minutes apart, we had our doula come over to our house to see us through the rest of labor (around 2 pm that day). She guided me through meditation, relaxation and breathing techniques through each contraction as they were getting to the point I could no longer talk through them.
   She massaged my back and tried to help move the baby around by using acupressure during each contraction. It began to hurt so bad! Mostly the back pain, though. The contraction itself was painful but bearable. Steven even felt my spine being pushed and moved when I would contract! Yikes.
   Fast forward to about 7:30- 8 pm. After hours of watching Anthony Bourdain's: A Cook's Tour on Hulu, Steven making dinner for himself and the doula, and me suffering so much that all I could stomach were energy health bars and lots of water and coconut water (hooray electrolytes), labor had progressed to about 3 minutes apart and I could barely stand anymore (only if clutching onto Steven - strong guy, thank you Lord).
   We packed up the car and headed to the hospital!  Every bump in the road felt like death to me, but I remember reminding Steven to please drive safely and carefully....he did very well!
   We arrived at the hospital, I got into a wheel chair and wheeled all the way to Labor & Delivery (a long haul). Then.....they made me wait in the lobby for about 30 minutes. Let's just say that I didn't try to quiet myself during each contraction for the sake of others in the lobby....I figured it'd expedite the process ;).
   By the time I got to the room I was 6 cm and 100% effaced. I admit I felt a bit discouraged, as the pain was such that I felt I was ready to go! My doula assured me that it could change quite quickly from there. Boy was she right...
   I just did my best to focus on not only breathing in but breathing out (surprisingly difficult). My doula continued to coach me through each contraction to help me channel my breathing into a steady "oooo" sound, which worked marvelously!
   Steven played the pre-arranged "Loreena McKennit"-themed radio station on Pandora in the background.
   As I requested, the nurses prepared the whirlpool for me. They all appeared very nervous that I would have the baby in the tub, which is a big no-no in Wisconsin. I assured them this wouldn't happen, while my doula and I joked off to the side together that it wouldn't be a bad idea - it'd be quite perfect actually.
So I hopped into that....and by 'hopped' I mean slooowly shuffled my way down the hall to the whirlpool room and sloooowly and completely ungracefully climbed into the tub, which seemed all-too impossibly high for my laboring parts to heave into. Luckily, the husband and nurses were quite helpful.
   Surprisingly, it wasn't the most comfortable thing at the time, so I only spent 15 minutes in there; way too hot and terribly designed to sit it (probably done on purpose to avoid moms from getting too comfy and having water babies). I returned to my room (very slowly) and spent the rest of labor in there.
   At 8 cm, my water had not yet popped and so I gave my blessing to do so, thankfully relieving so much pressure and skyrocketing me to 10 cm. 
   Time to push.
   Boom. Baby. was that quick after being given the go-ahead to push. I remember thinking of how weakened, malnourished, dehydrated, and sleep-deprived I was at that point - I could feel myself fading and seconds from fainting. It was in that same moment that survival and protection mode kicked in: 'Momma bear' instinct had begun and I told myself that I had not come this far and suffered this much to let my body give up at the very end! I could not fail my child and compromise his safety. I had to keep going somehow. I mustered up all the strength I had left in me (I had no idea where it came from - truly from God above because I was long spent) and I pushed...he was out in 5 minutes. I didn't even know that was not normal until my doula informed me that usually it takes at least an hour of pushing...the staff had not even changed into the proper scrubs yet (oops, sorry). 
   My blood pressure was below 100 now, but in my dizzied daze I clutched onto this tiny new little person that was suddenly beholden to me: my little Philip Elwood Gottlieb.  All the pain literally disappeared. It was just me and him. He was so beautiful; so perfect; so miraculous.
   He held his head up right from the get-go and was crying a healthy, powerful cry - what a voice! What strength!
   I was so in love, and by that same token, so intimidated by him. I knew my life had changed instantly and I wanted nothing more than to pour my heart and soul into this little new soul and be everything he deserved me to be...but I was afraid I would not be good enough. 
   Now, as he is 7 months old, I still hold myself to that high standard, but I also have come to realize over this time that it is precisely that which makes me the mother that Philip needs; one who loves him with an endless, ever-growing love, whom is always at work to better herself and embody the role model he needs in this journey of life.

born - January 6th, 2013 (Epiphany Baby!!)
@ - 12:27 am 
weight - 8 lbs
height - 19.5 in
hair/eyes - dark brown/slate blueish grey
skin - olive

And here's a cute picture of teeny tiny Philip on his baptismal day (1/20/13), with us and his Godparents :