Monday, July 19, 2010

Maternity leave

Adam (far right)with little friends Ryan, Leah, and Greta at a surprise get-together for Aaron's birthday June 16 (not pictured: Broder, Aliza, and Ben). We had a beer tasting in the backyard, with 12 adults and 7 kids in attendance. It was so much fun we might try to make it an annual event.

Ben at five or six weeks old, wearing a onesie that Adam wore at three months. Ben is now two months old and weighs 14 pounds. Adam is almost three years old and weighs 28 pounds. Soon Ben will be Adam's big little brother.

A typical weekday:

1:30 a.m. - 2 a.m - Feed Ben in a hazy stupor.

4 a.m. - 4:30 a.m. - Another feeding.

5 a.m. - The alarm goes off. Why does Aaron set it so early? He NEVER gets up the first time it goes off. I have to nudge him, tell him "The alarm is going off. It's going to wake up Adam and Ben." and then listen to it go off at least two more times before he finally quits hitting snooze and gets up for the day.

6:30 a.m. - Ben starts stirring in his bassinet. Yep, he's hungry AGAIN.

7 a.m. - Aaron and Adam kiss us goodbye. (Aaron brings Adam to daycare at least three times a week.) Ben is wide awake now, and all I want is a nap. We watch the Today show.
I eat breakfast, check my email, and take a shower to wake up. Ben chills out in his bouncy chair while I shower.

9 a.m. - I feed Ben while watching Ellen - the highlight of my morning.

10 a.m. - 11 a.m. (or around there) - I sneak in a nap if I'm lucky.

What happens around lunch time varies from day to day. Some days, I'm a totally unproductive lump and spend the afternoon on the couch watching Mad Men re-runs or Snooki and "The Situation" act like idiots on The Jersey Shore. On those days, it's all I can do to put in a load of laundry and figure out what's for dinner. I pick up Adam from daycare at 4 and Aaron gets home around 6 so I have plenty of time to be lazy. Other days, I try to visit people or go somewhere just to force myself to get out of the house (Target, Byerly's, the mall, etc.) Sometimes I keep Adam home for these visits and sometimes it's just Ben and I. It's so much more work to keep Adam home, but it's also a lot more fun, esp if we're hanging out with other kids.
Our visits over the past two months have included my mom's work; my SIL April's house in St. Francis (she's a daycare provider so we were able to see her in action with all 10 kids and OMG I honestly don't know how she does it without losing her mind!!); my friend Katie's house while she was recovering from ACL surgery; my friend Megan's house in Anoka; Aaron's work; my friend Beth's mom's house (Beth lives in Kentucky and was in town briefly); my parents' house in Forest Lake; and my friend Amy's house before she returned to work (our maternity leave overlapped for a few weeks). We also made it downtown Minneapolis twice, once to visit the office and again for a co-worker's baby shower (thanks, Katie D., for being such a good buddy & helping me out that afternoon!); Jay, Pete & cousin Max's house twice (we always feel so welcome); my SIL Tricia's salon in Wayzata (note to self: when a 3-year-old is left alone with markers while you're getting your hair done, and he suddenly becomes very quiet, he probably isn't coloring on the paper you provided him, he's probably coloring on the floor, the couch, the table, and his legs. Good thing the markers were washable!!); the Lake Elmo Park Reserve man-made swimming pond with my mom and again with my SIL Amy and nieces Kayla and Morgan (I love how clean it is there - no seaweed, no fish, no cigarette butts or bottle caps buried in the sand); and to the Maple Creek beach in Maple Grove with friends Megan and Sadie. I haven't been to the beach this much in YEARS. On a balmy summer weekday, the beach is definitely a hangout for SAH moms and their young kids. There's no shortage of 30-something women wearing skirted one-piece post-baby-body swimsuits (so long, bikinis!) with toddlers in wide-brimmed sun hats, that's for sure. The SAH mom world is still a foreign world to me. I have nothing but respect for those who choose that path—it's a lot of work (and a lot of rewards) but I know it's not the path for me (as much as I love my kids). Maybe it would be different if we were in a bigger house and a more kid-friendly neighborhood. Maybe not.
During my maternity leave we have had visitors, too - both during the day and in the evening. Daytime visitors include my mom (she has come a few times after work to hold Ben so I can take a nap); my sister Mary, niece Eva and nephew/godson Lou (they brought us some awesome Greek pizza); my friend Kirsten (we had ham sammies together and hung out in the backyard talking about her upcoming wedding); my college friend Leah who made Ben an adorable hat; my friend Amy who brought lunch over not once but twice, first Chinese food and then Mickey D's; and friends Julie & JT who brought us a delicious pie (we watched The Bachelorette together - my guilty addiction. JT and Aaron were even sucked into the show this season, even though Aaron thinks most of it is scripted/fake.)
During the first week we were home, our friends Karla, Tony, Greta and Aliza brought us a pasta dinner; my mom, dad, Aunt Karen, and grandma brought over my favorite chowmein hotdish; and my friend Jodi made us a yummy pan of lasagna. When you have a new baby, meals are SO appreciated. Heck, who am I kidding? Even without a newborn, I appreciate it when someone else cooks for us!
I was hoping we'd get out to Green Bay this summer but it didn't work out. Our first road trip with the whole fam occurred two weekends ago when we went to our friend Julie's cabin near Alexandria for a reunion with Aaron's high school group. There were 20 adults and 21 kids there (most people tented it, I used the newborn card and scored a room in the air-conditioned cabin). Thankfully, both Ben and Adam slept nearly the whole time we were in the car. On Saturday night there was a bonfire and I wound up going back to the cabin with Adam. One of our friends was holding Ben, so I left him with her. He slept in her arms for FOUR HOURS. I woke up and saw that he wasn't in his pack and play next to me and felt a physical ache for him. It sounds silly but I genuinely missed him. It's going to be more difficult returning to work than I thought (I was ready to go back after having Adam). You form such a strong bond with your baby when you spend just about every waking moment with him/her for nearly three months that I think it's only natural to have some mixed emotions about returning to work. I'm trying not to think about it too much. I still have a few weeks left of maternity leave and I'm going to make the most of them!!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

One month ago ...

... I became the proud mama of Ben Robert Sorenson. He arrived on June 6, one day before we were going to have him evicted (I was going to be induced) and weighed 9 lb. 7 oz., 21 3/4 inches long. My doctor predicted an 8-pounder when I went in on June 4 for my 41-week appointment but I think everyone was shocked (no one more than me) when the nurse put Ben on the scale and announced that he was over 9 pounds! Now I know why I was so uncomfortable during my pregnancy. That's a whole lot of baby!! Ben has a full head of dark hair, chubby cheeks, and adorably full, kissable lips. He looks a lot like Adam did when he was born. We might be biased, but we think he's pretty cute.

My labor and delivery story (better late than never, right?):

My water broke at 12:15 a.m. June 6 — the loud "POP!" actually woke me up — and I announced to Aaron that it was "go time." I was THRILLED to be in labor & relieved to know that I was finally about to meet Button after enduring a pregnancy that seemed to last an eternity. I called the hospital, told the labor & delivery nurse that my water broke, I was already dilated to a four, this was my second child, and I was past my due date, and she announced, "Come in within the hour."
Woo hoo! After two failed attempts at stripping my membranes, two days of false labor contractions, weeks of wondering when/where/how I'd go into labor, this was it!
We woke up Adam, called my parents, loaded up the car and were on our way. Ever since my doctor had set an induction date - at my request - I had felt torn/guilty about it. It wasn't as if the baby was in distress or my health was in jeopardy, I was just incredibly uncomfortable and needed to know when my misery would end. Whenever I thought about the induction, though, I felt selfish forcing the baby out before he/she was ready to come on his/her own. When my water broke on its own, I was relieved that I wasn't going to be messing with Mother Nature.

Aaron, Adam and I arrived at St. John's Hospital in Maplewood at 12:45 a.m. where I continued to gush amniotic fluid. I am SO GLAD my water didn't break while I was at work! I soaked through a thick bath towel during the short car ride over and completely drenched through my capri pants while walking from the parking lot to the hospital. Every time I got up I leaked a puddle of warm water. No wonder the baby didn't want to leave that safe and cozy environment!
Because we arrived after midnight, we had to enter at the ER. A nurse was there waiting for me (with a wheelchair) and I was promptly wheeled up to Labor & Delivery where my parents met up with us. I had only had two intense contractions at that point so we were able to chat for a little while until I felt another contraction coming and then I told my dad he had better go. I didn't want Adam to see me in pain so my dad and Adam promptly left. I felt emotional when I hugged my little guy goodbye. That would be the last time he was my only child. Aaron walked them out to my dad's truck and said we'd see them soon, when Adam would be a big brother, and I think the moment Aaron hugged Adam he felt pretty emotional, too.
My mom stayed with us at the hospital to experience the miracle of birth from a different perspective than being the one with her feet in the stirrups. I was glad she was there in the room with us - she's one of my very best friends and has a very calming presence.

When I was first checked by my very nice nurse Kara, I was only dilated to a four. It was discouraging (I had been at a four for a few days) and I assumed it would be a long, slow labor. Aaron got out the iPod and we started listening to my soothing labor mixes. It was such a good background distraction.

After a negative epidural experience with Adam, involving uncontrollable shaking (Aaron said it was like I had Parkinson's disease) and a heavy feeling of pressure on my chest (my doula told me later that she thought the epidural had been administered too high in my spine) my goal was to skip the epidural if possible. I wasn't adamantly opposed to getting one, but if I could do it without, great. I was glad to be able to skip the epidural. I survived the painful contractions with the help of Aaron's supportive coaching, breathing through the pain (or "riding the waves"), gripping Aaron's hand, and a dose of Nubaine, which took the edge off - like having a few glasses of wine. After enduring round after round of painful contractions — at one point I could feel the baby scraping its way down the birth canal (complete with the ring of fire and everything) and HOLY SHIT did those last few contractions hurt!! — I asked the nurse to check me again and heard some of the most beautiful words in the English language: "You're complete. Let's call the doctor. You'll be meeting your baby soon."
The pushing phase of labor, with Adam, was completely exhausting. I pushed for nearly two hours. I was too numb to know which muscles to use, leaving him hung up on my pelvic bone for what seemed like forever (sorry about that, Adam!) In retrospect, I'm surprised I didn't need a c-section. By not having an epidural this time, I was able to feel every contraction and push the way I was supposed to push, from my bottom rather than my stomach. I only pushed for 25 minutes and with one small episiotomy to make room for the baby's head, Ben entered the world at 4:06 a.m.
My placenta, however, decided to hang out in my uterus for awhile. The doctor couldn't get it to detach. She worked on it for 25 minutes (yanking the umbilical cord this way and that) before asking me, "Did you have problems delivering your placenta during Adam's birth?" No, I told her, it was a non-issue.
"If I can't get your placenta out this way, I'll have to go in and manually extract it. It will only take 15 seconds, but it will be 15 seconds of excruciating pain. Do you want another dose of Nubaine?"
All I could think was "HELL NO, you're not going to stick your arm up me and wrench this thing out after what I just went through! I can't handle any more pain. I WILL GET THIS THING OUT OF ME ON MY OWN!"
I just delivered a nearly 10 pound BABY! I could expel a one-pound pancake-shaped organ!
My beautiful son was in a corner of the room crying on the scale and being oohed and ahhed over by the nurse and Aaron and my mom — after so much time waiting to meet him he was HERE! And I wanted to see him and hold him and ooh and ahh too! — why wasn't this the end of my birth story?
I felt another contraction coming and asked if I could try to push. I pushed with every ounce of determination and strength I could find and somehow dislodged the placenta myself.
Since my experience, I've heard through the grapevine that when a doctor has to forcibly remove your placenta, it feels like being ripped in two.

After I rested for a bit, Ben was placed on my chest and took to nursing like a champ. (We struggled getting Adam to latch. Ben knew what to do right away.) A nurse helped modest me take a bath (weird), I put on my own nightgown (so maybe I am a little bit vain - but those hospital gowns are HIDEOUS!) and at 8 a.m. we had our first visitor, Aaron's mom. After that, we had a steady stream of visitors all day/night Sunday and a few on Monday afternoon for a total of 30 visitors, mostly immediate family and a few close friends. Adam was a proud big brother. He talked to Ben in a high-pitched voice and wanted to hold his baby brother right away. Surprisingly, he didn't seem jealous at all and still doesn't even a month later. (I'm sure that it helped that he received numerous "big brother" gifts from people, too.) The only time he seems annoyed is when I nurse Ben and can't play with him during feedings.
By Monday, Aaron and I were running on empty - three hours of sleep over a 36-hour period, and those three hours of sleep only because we sent Ben to the nursery. Our hospital strongly encourages "rooming in," or keeping your baby in the room with you at all times, but we were both exhausted and needed just a few hours to recharge. We knew we'd get uninterrupted sleep if we weren't constantly checking on Ben.
Even though we were exhausted and I was healing, all we wanted to do was get home, sleep in our bed, and begin our "new normal" as a family of four. We chose to be discharged a day early and actually went out to Chili's with my family after leaving the hospital. In retrospect, that was probably a little over-zealous, but I knew it would be awhile before I'd be having dinner at a restaurant again. Ben slept the whole time in his car seat.

Ben has been a great baby - and super cuddly! His favorite position is up on your shoulder, all scrunched up in a ball. I think that's how he was in utero. So far he lets anyone hold him - it doesn't matter if the person is anxious or nervous or awkward around babies. He's been held by family, friends, and members of our softball team. He smiles already, has rolled over from his stomach to his back a few times, and knows his A,B,Cs (ha ha!) He's extremely strong for being only a month old. I don't know what he weighs, but he wears three month outfits so I'm guessing he's 13 or 14 pounds. My only complaints are that his days and nights are mixed up, he struggles with gas/pooping, and he eats ALL THE TIME (every two hours). I feed him up to 12 times a day, and the constant feeding on demand gets old fast. I breastfed Adam for seven months and that's my goal this time, too, even though I hate the thought of pumping at work again.

After a rollercoaster pregnancy, I'm so, so, so relieved that Ben was born healthy. Throughout my pregnancy people asked me if I wanted a boy or girl, and I don't think they fully believed me when I said I didn't care as long as the baby was healthy. All of the stars have to be perfectly aligned in order to carry a healthy baby to term - so many things can happen to disturb the balance along the way - that when you deliver a healthy baby, you feel truly blessed. And that's how I feel. We have two beautiful, healthy sons. I don't want to play Russian roulette again. I can't imagine going through another mentally and physically grueling pregnancy like I did with Ben, not to mention the fact that my recovery was much, much harder than with Adam (my stomach wall separated from carrying such a large baby, I had painful hemmies, I broke out in a crazy hormone-induced super itchy rash a few days after delivery, etc.)
And yet I don't know that our family is complete. I'm open to the idea of adoption within the next few years. (I can picture us with a little girl from China.) Who knows. Maybe I'll change my mind once Ben is older and my memory starts getting fuzzy.

Right now Ben is snoozing in his swing and Adam is playing with his Legos and I feel closer than ever to Aaron (I love that he loves his family so much. He is an unbelievably helpful hands-on dad). Life is good. I am blessed beyond blessed.