Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Comstock Chronicles: Bath Time

It was bath day. It had to be bath day. Someone had to get clean. The children smelled like a combination of chlorine and sunscreen dusted with a fine layer of dirt from the backyard. Several days worth of deodorant have accumulated in my armpits, and my front is sticky with milk drips. Then, there’s the baby, Benny. He’s got milk and sweat in his neck rolls, as well as a paste of baby powder beneath his diaper. 

Benny is chosen. 

While the children are at school, I scrub down the kitchen sink and fill it a few inches with warm water. I gather the sponge, baby soap, hoodie towel, clean diaper, and lotion, and wonder why I don't keep these things under the kitchen sink to make this procedure faster. However, because I can’t think of how to make room under the sink for these supplies, this idea falls by the wayside.

Benny does not appreciate being chosen for a bath. I acknowledge that I shall appreciate it more than he. However he poops in his bath, doting the water with bright yellow floating blobs. And shortly after I dry and lotion him, he spits up down his chin and neck and onto the collar of his clean polo shirt. 

Tomorrow, I shall bathe myself, although the fact of the matter is I would rather organize a bookshelf or sort through my unused clothes than cleanse myself. In the meantime I will smell Benny's hair frequently and enjoy the soapy clean scent.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Postpartum Blues Pep Talk

Let's calm down for a second and get a few things clear. Your life isn't ruined. Things will get better.

Let's also get another thing clear. There are no prizes for doing this alone. Your great-great-grandmother may have given birth under an olive tree by herself on the five-mile-walk to the hospital, and after cutting the umbilical chord with her sewing scissors, she may have returned home and fixed your great-great-grandfather's dinner, but she didn't win any prizes for it. And in fact, your great-great grandmother's children—i.e. your great-grandma or grandpa—probably grew up with some issues because of it.

Next, let's rid your vocabulary and your thoughts of the word "should." Throw it out! All the "should's" need to go. No more:
- You should breast feed. That's the best.
- You should have professional pictures taken. They grow up so fast.
- You should be a put-together hostess for all visitors that come to see the baby.
- You should be back on your feet within a few days.
- You should know what your baby wants if he or she cries.
- You should be so excited about your baby.
- You should let family hold your baby if they ask.

Finally, let's practice asking yourself a very simple question: what do I need? This is what people mean when they say secure your own oxygen mask before securing your child's. It means see to your own needs first. You are no good to anyone dead. This isn't being selfish. It's taking care of what you've got. So . . . what do you need?

Start with the basics: healing, eating, sleeping, and relationships.

If you had a vaginal delivery, your body has undergone a huge ordeal. It needs attention. The same is true of a C-section but I don't have the list of doctor's instructions for that because all my babies were vaginal. Review the ones they sent home with you. For vaginal:

1) Go to the bathroom when you need to. Yes, even if that means putting the crying baby down.
2) Change your pads every time you go to the bathroom.
3) Use the witch hazel and Dermoplast.
4) Take the pain meds the doctor recommends for afterbirth cramping.
5) Take stool softeners or drink prune juice to avoid additional complications. Foods high in fiber are a good idea too.
6) Use the water spray until you no longer need to wear pads. This will help avoid a yeast infection.
7) Walk slowly.
8) Sit and lay down frequently.
9) Nap often but when you lie down, don't think, "Yes, I can finally take a nap," but rather, "How nice that I get a second to put my head down." This way, if the baby wakes you up five minutes, you won't feel robbed.
10) If possible, stay in bed for a week. Yes, that means NOT cleaning, cooking, or chasing toddlers. Reading, watching TV, or crocheting are acceptable activities. This means hiring a cleaning lady for a month, filling your freezer with quick and easy meals, and bringing in a baby sitter. It doesn't matter how you do it so long as you do. GET HELP.
11) Record and give thanks for small steps in the healing progress. For example: wore a smaller pad, didn't need to take pain meds, tingling feeling in bottom wasn't so bad, carpel tunnel didn't prevent me from opening my water bottle, stitches have officially disintegrated, took an hour nap, etc.

If you're breast feeding, don't beat yourself up at the slow progress. Just like any sport, some people take to it naturally. Some don't. Take care of yourself in the process.

1) Take warm showers to relieve pressure.
2) Drink, drink, and then refill all your water bottles.
3) Take advantage of available products to ease your nursing such as Soothies (cool gel pads for sore nipples), lanolin (soothes, heals, & protects sore nipples), nipple shield (gives a layer of protection between nipple and baby), pump, haakaa (suction cup that catches extra milk), nursing pads (keeps leaks from getting onto clothes).
4) Go to a nursing support group or talk weekly or, even better, daily to a lactation consultant, La Leche League lady or experienced friend about how it's going.
5) Create a peaceful happy place to nurse: somewhere where you won't be staring at dust bunnies or the laundry hamper. Put on music that makes you happy. Give yourself a reward for getting the baby latched on: a piece of chocolate or a favorite show to watch.
6) Record and give thanks for small steps in the process. For example: latch was not as excruciating as usual, bleeding stopped, lanolin is available, pumps were invented, the baby is swallowing, nursed without a nursing shield, mastitis is better, formula is available, Soothies relieve the sting, nursing pads to catch the excess, a washing machine to clean all the milky clothes, soiled diapers proof of progress, etc.

Since you're already writing lists of blessings, start one about the baby's progress as well. Jot down anything that's a blessing: umbilical chord fell off, baby smiled, first diaper blow-out, slept four hours in a row, he went cross-eyed, his little curling toes, sharp nails, cute outfits, etc.

Now about relationships. I don't think I need to convince you that relationships with other women are important, especially relationships with other moms. However, it's possible that in the bustle of feedings and mid-night wakings, you may have let relationships fall by the wayside. It's time to continue those. TALK TO SOMEONE. At least once a day. And your husband or children don't count. You wouldn't go a day without drinking water. Don't go a day without talking to someone. It will help you feel like a human again and not just a zombie cow.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, let the old you go. Chances are you had lots of ideas about what sort of mother you would be. Let that die. You had no idea. You were naive and starry-eyed and idealistic. The goals you had for yourself and the expectations you had for others were part of an old childish version of yourself.

Say this with me now, "I was silly. I get it now. On to finding out what sort of mother I shall be in the real world."

By the way, if you find yourself hiding in a closet, not eating, or neglecting your child, do call your OBGYN and tell them you think you may have postpartum depression. Sometimes we need some extra help.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

How Benny Came

We reached a record breaking temperature of 114 degrees in Whittier the day before I was induced. Grandma and Grandpa Stevens' air conditioning stopped working, and Rose came down with a stomach flu that had her throwing up for the next twenty-four hours. Under the care of my mom, Rose shared her sickness with Jacob, Jessica, Jane, and Terri while Phil and I were in the hospital.

After much deliberation and prayer, Phil and I scheduled to induce a week before my due date. Seeing as Rose's birth was a whopping hour and forty minutes start to finish, I didn't want to be stuck at home with children when I went into labor with baby #3. Plus, this baby was sitting heavy, pressing on nerves, and causing frequent contractions that hindered all activity.

It was time. We drew up plans on what to do for every scenario, but we certainly didn't want to use those plans.

The doctors were of the same mind, so after confirming that PIH had a bed for me Saturday morning, we walked— er waddled into the hospital at 7 am. I'd been dilated to two and then three cm in the last several weeks and now was 60% effaced. The nurses all believed things would go easy for me.

On our way out the door
Regardless, I believed that this labor and delivery would be the hard one, the one where things didn't work out. Certainly, God wouldn't allow me to have three smooth labor and deliveries. Certainly, this one had to be hard, where something went wrong. I suppose I don't know God as well and I think. I keep bracing myself for calamity. But things went as smoothly as possible.

After a check in and answering a few dozen questions—no, I'm not allergic to latex, no, I don't smoke, yes, I understand the risks of an epidural—the nurses started me on the first dose of an antibiotic that needed four hours to get into my blood stream.  Phil and I rested, watched Fixer Upper, and read quietly while we waited. Both the older nurses, Lynette and Karen, were impressed to see Phil and I were reading real books. A little D.E. Stevenson and Lois L'amour passed the time nicely.

They administered the first dose of Pitocin at 11:30 am and allowed me to have an epidural shortly after. The anesthesiologist, Dr. Cola, was chatty, relaxed, and clear about everything he was doing. Some electric-feeling discomfort down my legs prevented him from inserting the epidural as deep as he usually does, but the drug still put my legs to sleep. I "labored" then until about 4pm waiting to feel the urge to push. The contractions weren't so terrible that I couldn't talk through them, but I did count to twenty each time to mark the end of each one.

The contractions were coming one on top of the other when the nurse came in to turn down my Pitocin intake. She checked me at that point and said the baby was just hanging out ready to come. She said she could feel the hair. Ew.

As if ordering a pizza, the nurse called in Dr. Williams who after arriving suited up in a full body garb while we chatted calmly. It was all so different from when Rose came, when nurses where rushing in and putting an oxygen mask on me and somewhat frantically pulling equipment out of the closets. No, this time everything was done as if we were just having tea together. Phil and I and Dr. Williams chatted in between pushes. And in ten minutes Benny was out. Born at 3:24 pm weighing 7 lbs 7 oz.

A filmy-white slippery little boy. I can still hardly believe he was ever inside of me. He cried for a short spell and then calmly looked around as he lay on my chest.

We settled on Jonathan Benjamin Stevens because we both liked Benjamin. Previously the children had favored Benny because that's the name of the youngest boy in The Box Car Children. But to prevent our boy from having the initials B.S., we agreed that Jonathan was a sound first name.

The hospital allows a great length of time to bond with the baby after birth. In fact the baby wasn't measured or weighed for several hours after delivery. A bath didn't come until 6 hours later. This has changed since Rose was born. I guess the hospitals have discovered that keeping baby with mama is best.

Phil and I enjoyed some privacy and peace in the AC of the hospital for the next two nights. About twenty people came and went getting Benny's birth certificate, performing a hearing test, circumcision, taking vitals, temperatures, meal orders, bringing water, meals, medication, drawing blood, ripping off the IV tape, helping me to the restroom, etc.

I have always been impressed with the hospital meals. Just for dinner they gave me a tray with a main course, soup, dinner roll, coffee, cheese cake, canned fruit, and juice. Phil took advantage of his one free meal a day until Monday, when the staff informed us that they'd officially discontinued that perk as of an email that morning.

After double checking Benny's jaundice levels and getting wads of paperwork about this, that, and the other, we were wheeled out of the hospital around noon Monday morning with our new little package in hand. The two volunteer ladies who wheeled me to the curbside were all a twitter over the new baby, and soon Rose and Lee would be too.