Friday, May 25, 2018

The First Year


Long, rambling post ahead. Most definitely TMI with some graphic descriptions. May cause some cringing. You've been warned.


I wasn't going to write this post but my sis-in-law thought I should or I'll forget it all and will regret it forever. She was right. And I thought might share it too, because perhaps someone out there may appreciate a chuckle or two.

For the longest time, hubby and I weren't ready for kids. We'd been moving around a lot. Since the start of our relationship, if it wasn't him spending a summer or a semester in Beijing then it was me on the JET Program. Then it was us moving to the US east coast for his grad school. Then across the ocean to Yokohama for his dissertation research. Then to Taipei for my language refresher course. Then back to the US west coast for his job. Then back to the middle of the country. Then to Tokyo. Then back again. Over the sixteen years we've been together, we pretty much moved every 1-2 years, give or take.

Last year of college.

During all that time, we've had a professor who swore up and down that our impoverished grad-student life was the best time to have kids (she was out of her freakin' mind), a colleague who advised that having kids would qualify us for more grant/fellowship money (there's got to be a better way), and of course my mom spent a decade nagging and threatening me about having kids in every single conversation, over the phone or in person (just stop, please =.=).

First ryokan stay in Kyoto.

And then one day, we both agreed it was time. It wasn't easy, which boggles one's mind that this planet has 7.6 billion people. It took us three years, many trips to the doctor's office, and many tests performed on the both of us, mostly me (urgh). Just when we were just about to give up, it happened. That's how life rolls, I guess.

I was blessed with the smoothest, most normal pregnancy. I kept waking up everyday mentally prepared and expected to be sick as a dog, but I never got any morning sickness at all. Instead, I had the best skin and hair I've ever had in my entire life. The only things that bothered me were iron deficiency (common) and the Braxton Hicks starting at month five (also normal). Because of the Braxton Hicks, I couldn't stand for longer than fifteen minutes and as a result couldn't exercise much.

When the time came, again I was blessed with the smoothest, speediest delivery. And by speedy I mean the whole thing took less than five hours from start to finish.

Whaaa? O.O

Yes, it was the craziest thing that happened to us. When it was all over, the team of delivery staff jokingly asked if that was my tenth kid. Then they proceeded to scold us for not coming to the hospital sooner.
- "Any later and she would have given birth in the car, on the side of the road, in the middle of the night, and amid a freak snowstorm in May," they said.

Sounds like some comedy, right? Only it felt as if a bus ran me over. How the hell did that happened?!

The very first sign labor started as a mild lower back pain that I completely ignored. Come on, I was thirty eight weeks along and lower back pain was to be expected. Plus, the Braxton Hicks had gotten strong by then so I didn't even blink at a little back pain. It was 12:30am and I was sitting in bed writing with hubby all curled up next to me and snoring ^.^

About an hour and a half later, the back pain had gotten stronger and steady, coming at about every 10mins or so. Still, I didn't think much other than that I was tired, so I got up to use the toilet before going to bed. Seeing blood cued me to call A., my doula.
- "Congratulations, you're officially in labor," she said.
- "Ohhh...," I thought, "this is labor pain?"
- "Go back to bed and get some rest and we'll head on over to the hospital first thing in the morning," she said, "be prepared for the long haul."

We were. In all the books and all the childbirth classes, they all said first time mothers should expect at least 12hrs labor and to spend two days at the hospital. So we packed accordingly: pillows, blankets, extra clothing, toiletries, snacks, drinks, etc, all in 5 tote bags.

Back to bed I went, but of course I couldn't sleep. The pain was getting intense and more frequent. My water broke soon after that, but it wasn't a big gush and was more like an occasional trickle. We were taught that was okay and no need to panic, so I went back out to the living room and rocked back and forth on my exercise ball. To take my mind off of the pain, I looked at pictures and watched videos of my little niece S., just to have something to look forward to. The whole time, I was texting A. and describing to her my progress and she was coaching me on what to do, how to breathe, etc.

Here's our niece S. who's about a year older than our little one.

Around 2:30am, hubby woke up and came out of the bedroom.
- "Are you okay?" he asked.
I nodded.
- "The baby decided he wants to come out and meet us today," I told him.
- "WHAT?!?"
I giggled at his reaction.
- "Go back to bed," I said, "you'll need all the rest you can get."
- "Erhhh, I don't think I can sleep now," he replied. He threw on jeans and a sweater. He gathered the 5 tote bags and placed them by our front door.

Good thing hubby didn't go back to bed. Because just half an hour after that, the contractions had become so strong I could no longer hold my own balance on the exercise ball. Each time it came around, I held on to hubby instead, all the while clenching my teeth and squeezing my eyes shut, which was totally the wrong thing to do as I was supposed to let go, relax, and "breath into it." By then, I'd forgotten everything I was taught. I had stopped texting A. too, because all I could do in the 3mins in between was pant and catch my breath.

By 3:30am, I was toilet-bound, leaking all sorts of things and screaming. Yes, turned out I was a screamer.
- "Why is it like this?" I cried to hubby as I braced my arms around his waist, holding on for the next contraction. "It's not supposed to be like this!"

I had no idea what was happening to me, other than that I was in so much pain. Every 3mins, it felt as if a hand had stabbed through my abdomen, grabbed a handful of my innards, and wrung as hard as humanly could. The pain was so intense I started to get lightheaded. Poor hubby. I could tell he was panic stricken but did his best to remain calm and collected. He took over texting A. while feeding me pouch after pouch of juice so I wouldn't pass out on the toilet.
- "We're taking you to the hospital as soon as you can get up," he told me.

But I couldn't get up for another hour until the leakage finally stopped. By then, I was a mess, frazzled and frantic about the baby not having any amniotic fluid left to "swim" in (oh, the things you worry about when you're in labor, ha ^.^). That, and it'd only been three hours. My god, how much worse will the pain get? My god, do women really endure another 12+ hours of this? Each contraction brought me to my knees and I was incredulous, because surely I wouldn't last one more hour, much less twelve. If it'll only get worse from there, surely I wasn't going to make it. I thought I was going to die. 

By 4:30am, things went like this:
---Contraction--- (me crumbling to the floor screaming)
- "Coat's on, go go go!"
---Contraction--- (paused behind the front door as to not wake the neighbors with my screaming)
- "To the elevator, go go go!"
---Contraction--- (hid inside elevator as to not wake the neighbors with my screaming)
- "To the car, go go go!"
---Contraction--- (couldn't make it to the car in time and hid outside the apartment building door instead)
- "Watch your step, please!" Pleaded hubby as he helped me along with his free shoulder. It was snowing.

Like that hubby raced us to the hospital, a 20mins drive away, with me screaming the whole time there on the front seat. Mozart Symphony No. 29 in A, K. 201 was playing softly on the car stereo. Uncannily comical, no?

We checked into the emergency room at 5am. Hubby then left me in a wheelchair with the emergency room attendant so he could go park the car. Meanwhile, the attendant made a phone call to the maternity ward on the third floor.
- "We've got a lady in active labor," he told someone over the phone.
- "I am?!" I wondered out loud while panting, "this is active labor?!"
- "Yes," he answered me with a smile.

As soon as the emergency room attendant wheeled me into the delivery room, they stripped my clothes off and tossed me onto the bed. By then, I was writhing in pain and they had to pin me down for a nurse to jam an IV line into my wrist. It hurt like hell, though I sure don't remember that pain now. Then a midwife performed a cervix exam.
- "She's nine and a half centimeters dilated!" she announced.
- "WHAT?!?" I blurted.

Just then, hubby and A. walked in. He threw the 5 tote bags onto the sofa on the far side of the room and walked over to one of the nurses to give her my birth plan. The nurse took one look at it and gave it back to him.
- "We're way past this, honey," she said.

Meanwhile, the doctor came to my bedside.
- "Do you want an epidural?" she asked.
- "Do we even have time for that?" I replied.
- "No."

The next contraction was so strong I held on to the bed's side bars and screamed.
- "The baby's coming," announced the midwife, her hand on my tummy, "now."
- "Oh my god," A. exclaimed, "we barely made it in time!"
She and hubby came to my bedside next.
- "You're okay, sweetie, I'm right here," he said and took a hold of my right hand.
- "You can do this, girl, you're amazing!" cheered A. as she took a hold my left hand.

- "Do you feel the urge to push?" the doctor asked me.
She was already in position, seated at the foot of the bed in between my legs. Her hair was covered and her gears were on, face mask, gloves, apron.
- "Yes," I answered, then screamed again with another contraction.
- "With the next contraction, push your scream downwards," she instructed.

A. back away from the bed to take photos just before the next contraction hit (yes, I have photos and videos, and no, neither hubby nor myself could bear to look at them, even now). I gripped the bed's side bars with my left hand, and hubby was still holding on to my right hand. I did as instructed, clenched my teeth and pushed my scream downwards with all my strength.
- "The baby's crowning!" the doctor yelled, "one more, push!"

And out the little one went. I heard his shrill cry, and hubby was bawling by my side.
- "Time of birth, five twenty two A.M.," noted a nurse as she jotted things down onto her writing board.
As the midwife placed the baby onto my chest, she noticed tiny little red spots all over my body.
- "They're petechiae," said the doctor, "we'll just keep an eye on her."
Apparently, I pushed so hard I burst tiny blood vessels all over my body.

For the next night and day of our hospital stay, every nurse who came in to check on us greeted me with,
- "So you're the lady who just came in and popped out a baby!"
- "Next time, leave to the hospital the moment you feel anything, okay?" was their parting wisdom as they discharged us. 

So here he is, the tiny little punkin' who picked the darnest time to be born.

We were blessed with the easiest newborn ever who rarely cried. I have a million photos of my little one sleeping, because that was all he did. He just slept and nursed and slept and nursed.

We discovered we had a baby dinosaur on our hands. Our little one made SO. MUCH. NOISE. in his sleep. We checked with hubby's younger sister whose little S. had turned one by then. She confirmed babies were noisy sleepers.
- "Oh yeah, they grunt, they whimper, they growl," she said. After a while though, we grew concerned and wondered if our little one was in pain or otherwise bothered. So we asked our pediatrician.
- "He's learning how to poop," she laughed, "and instead of pushing down there he pushed up here."
That explained everything.

After two months of holing myself up indoor, I finally felt human enough to take strolls and walks with the little one strapped to my chest. It was around this time that we learned we had to help him pass gas, otherwise it'll hurt his little tummy. I couldn't get over how much my mom enjoyed doing bicycle kicks for him. She cheered and laughed at his every toot, it was hilarious.

And then it was the dreaded two-months' round of vaccines. Given how little he had cried thus far, we were traumatized to hear him shriek at the top of his lungs while getting the shots. But after that, he just slept it all off like a champ.

This month was nothing short of magical. The little one started to become really responsive. He smiled a lot, and he laughed out loud at the most random things. The first time I heard him laugh, I tripped all over myself trying to catch it on video. Guess what did it--crickets. Not the actual insects but the spoken word. Hubby was just telling me how nice it was to hear the crickets at night, and lo-and-behold the little one burst out laughing. So hubby said it again, and he laughed, and laughed, and laughed. Oh, and he laughed at "chipmunks" too, the spoken word ^.^

The next few months were nothing short of a nightmare. I knew the baby honeymoon wouldn't last forever, but I didn't expect things to just blow up.  

First, the little one became super fussy and was so extremely distracted each nursing session went from being 15-20mins to 1-1.5hrs. He popped right off at the slightest sound or movement, and it took me another 10-15mins to coax him back on. I couldn't go anywhere or do anything, because he was still nursing every 2-3hrs, and so my home became my prison. Using a cover didn't help. Changing nursing position worked for a few days. Nursing him in a quiet and dark room worked for maybe a week. There were times I wanted to quit, so I expressed some breast milk and put it in a bottle. He wouldn't take a bottle. He never even bothered with a pacifier either, actually.

Then it was the dreaded growth spurt, when he nursed constantly every 1.5-2hrs for a few days and sent my milk supply into overdrive. The engorgement was so painful it woke me up several times in the middle of the night. The milk overproduction led to forceful letdown that choked and gagged him, and that caused even more fussiness. It also caused him to overeat and spit up constantly, which then required constant burping, which often led to projectile vomiting. Because he ate so much, he pooed a lot, which meant frequent blow-outs. 

Finally, his sleeping habit was completely erratic. He went from a newborn who slept all the time to a baby who's completely unpredictable when it comes to sleep. We'd never know when or how long he'll sleep, and so our days revolved around his naps and his meals. We were pretty much slaves to his whims.

All that put together and I became an absolute mess. The books and the classes taught us that the baby blues peaked at around 6 weeks but for me, it started with that 4th month. I was so frustrated and frazzled I became afraid of being alone with my little one. Fortunately, hubby worked out a situation with his boss that allowed him to work from home three out of five days a week. Even then, the days hubby went in to his office meant a day with little to no sleep or rest, and little to nothing to eat for me. In between struggling to nurse the little one and cleaning up after him, hubby would come home to me crying from exhaustion. And then there were days when I simply broke down and sobbed just as hubby was getting ready to leave to work. When he ended up staying home because he couldn't leave me alone with the baby in that state, I spent that day in exhaustion and guilt.

I've always been an independent person. Being a writer means I'm in my head, all by myself, all the time. So my fear of being alone shocked me most of all, which only compounded the stress and anxiety because losing my independence meant I'd lost myself. At one point, our pediatrician sent me to a counselor because she was worried. Even then, I often missed my phone sessions with the counselor because, well, home alone with baby.

After the little one turned six months old, we introduced solids starting with meat and veggie broth, then cereal, though he was still nursing full time. His favorite thing to do was to gnaw on a wedge of apple, because it was sweet. However, his sleep habit continued to be erratic. Because he never settled into a schedule, it got worse and worse until he hit a sleep regression full stop. He woke up multiple times during the night and took crappy naps during the day. At one point, he only slept for 2hrs intervals for several days and turned hubby and me into barely functional zombies. I went crying to the pediatrician again and she sent us to a child sleep specialist. 

The very first thing the child sleep specialist suggested was sleep training, which was a special kind of hell. The first night, he wailed and shrieked for two hours, and hubby and I held each other and cried along with him. The second night, forty five minutes. Hmm, interesting. We were skeptical but we kept at it. The third night, twelve minutes. The fourth night, five minutes. And the fifth night, no crying. He just rolled over and went to sleep, and hubby and I busted out ice cream and started re-watching House, MD. Holy crap, this sleeping training thing actually works!!!

Sleep training gave me and hubby a new life. Serious! We hadn't slept so well since the little one was born! On Valentine's Day, we event went out on a date, because we just had to put him to bed and mum-in-law could hang out and keep an eye on him. And he was eating really well by this point and had started to wean himself off, nursing only for "snacks" after waking up in the morning, after naps, and once in the middle of the night.

Valentine's Day dinner

Just when we thought we got the hang of this baby thing, our confidence took a serious hit: the little one caught RSV from visiting family who was sick. The poor thing suffered horrific coughs that kept him from sleeping, the sore throat kept him from eating, and the stuffy nose kept him from nursing for even snacks. For a week, he could only drink water and eat a few bites of pear sauce and thus lost so much weight he was visibly thinner and haggard-looking. My dad cried when he saw him again after two weeks. 

The little one bounced back to his plump and happy self just as hubby and I took the final step in settling down with our little family: we bought a house. We'd been searching high and low since last September and after some 7-8 months, we finally found a place we could call home. Besides, our one-bedroom apartment is getting seriously cramped now that the little one is mobile. No place (or shelf, or drawer, or cabinet) is safe anymore.

This month is special for all of us, especially for me, and not just because the little one officially celebrated toddler-hood (with an ear infection and croup, poor baby!) and is *this* close to walking. I mentioned that since February, he had started to wean himself off and only nursed for "snacks," but it wasn't until this month that the weaning was "finalized." Towards the end of April, he started to turn his nose up when offered the breast. Over the course of a week, he slowly cut back until one day, he stopped nursing altogether. I know, I should celebrate my newfound freedom (and also the newfound 12lbs/5.5kg gained over the course of a couple of months, thanks a lot, prolactin!). And plus, his weaning himself means I don't have to deal with the guilt of having to cut him off. We shouldn't feel guilty regardless, but let's be honest here, we do, because it's a thing we have called motherhood and we feel guilty no matter what. It's not all fun and games and coos and cuddles, no. So instead, I feel bittersweet that a year flew by this fast and that tiny baby has grown up right before our eyes.

Anyway, this concludes my long rambling post to document the year I'll never forget. If you made it this far, thanks for reading ^.^

Yours truly, D.


Julia said...

Taking a break from thesis-writing, oops ^^;

You haven't aged at all! And boy do I feel you when you say you've moved every one or two years since coming together, because it's the same for us. Japan, Europe, Japan, Europe - and I don't think that will change anytime soon. (No US as long as the orange guy is in charge, though.)

I can't imagine having kids while in grad school, and I don't think spending a lot of money to maybe possible get a bit of grant money sounds like a good idea... At least my parents aren't nagging us (yet), and neither are the in-laws. That must have been pretty tough on top of dealing with trouble conceiving. :( I'm so glad it worked out for you!

Your niece is so cute! And I totally lol'ed at your husband sleeping through two hours of you starting labor. Mine totally would as well. Also, it was actually snowing in May?!

Labor pain and possible complications (apparently, I was NOT an easy birth, and my mother loves to tell the horrible story) are what are keeping me from wanting to give birth to my own children (those and my own possible fertility issues and, frankly, extreme squeamishness), so thank you for being so honest about everything. I'm sorry you were in so much pain, though. :( Your description of the whole thing is pretty great, though, (Mozart??) and I'd love to read a novel of yours!

I've read many stories from women who went to the hospital early and were told to leave and come back later. Apparently, whatever you do, it's always wrong somehow. >.>

I've often thought about my sudden fear of being alone after 24 years of enjoying it, and while there wasn't a baby involved, I think hormone changes definitely were one of the culprits. But I also think that you weren't necessarily afraid of being alone because you had suddenly become a more dependent person, you were probably just really overworked. Wouldn't you have dreaded being left alone in the office with work for two people and no breaks just as much after a while, even without being responsible for a helpless little creature? I also think it's kind of a self-feeding thing, where you get so anxious about being afraid that you become even more afraid. It really sucks, doesn't it?

Anyhow, happy first birthday, little guy, and congratulations on the house! You sound like great parents.

Citrine said...

You havent changed much all these year but looked particularly with the glow! Baby Eno is look fab and fashionable in all pictures but I was hoping for another toothless grin...

D. said...

Hi Julia,

I'm so sorry a bunch of blog comments got stuck in moderation box and I had no idea they were there, so my reply is super late!

Thank you for reading through all that rambling, and thank you for the bday wish and the encouragement. Whatever it was, be it hormones or being overworked, I'm just so, so glad it passed. I just hated having to lean so heavily on hubby, especially when he was also exhausted. It's just as everyone says, kids are lots of work. These days I'm back to enjoying alone time, even with a demanding little one. Ha.


D. said...

Hey Mina,

Thanks again for alerting me to the missing comments.

Well, I have thousands of pics of toothless grin so I was trying to self-restrain and not spam my own blog with pics of my baby ^.^" Now I have thousands of pics of toothy grin LOL I'll try to post more on Insta.


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