The First 60

Monday, June 30, 2014

Sweet little Violet is at the two month mark. I can't believe how quickly the time has gone, and I am loving mommyhood as much as I imagined I would. It's definitely not been all sunshine and bubbles and rainbows, but I've been dying to be a mother for as long as I can remember and it is absolutely the most fulfilling thing I've ever been able to do.

So, what have we been doing with the last two months? My mom is still here in China with me, helping out around the house, spending time with my poor neglected dog, and cooking up a storm for us since I really hate trying to figure out food when I'm feeling a little bit busy or overwhelmed. Not only has she been an incredible help while Rob has been back in America for a conference, but the time we are getting to spend together is so special and I'm incredibly grateful that she has the opportunity to get to know her granddaughter so well while she's still so little. We spend most days binge watching movies or TV shows while snuggling the littlest McClure, sometimes we don't watch anything at all, and just go to "the Violet show". We bounce her, rock her, get all up in her face with kisses, and our favorite thing, push her nose upward and watch her crinkle her little forehead in protest. It's so cute we can't even stand it.

I would say the two major roadblocks so far have been a weirdly difficult time bonding (which I'll share more about in its own post because I don't think anyone talks enough about how hard this can be sometimes), and TWO bouts with clogged ducts. There were about 20 clogged ducts that popped up all of a sudden that I had to work out over the course of three hours one late night with at least 50 hot compresses. I've never manhandled myself quite so aggressively in my life, it was thoroughly unpleasant.

We've had a few really lovely encounters with Chinese grandmothers and the toddlers they're taking care of, and also been given plenty of nasty glances by locals who think we ought to stay inside, at home in bed for it the requisite 100 days. Not a chance, mama's got to get out and see the world and the sunshine is good for Violet. 

And my favorite way to pass the time so far, other then creepy-smelling my daughter's neck? I was able to buy, secondhand, so many cute girl clothes from a friend over here and we spend the day dressing her up to match whatever I'm wearing. Anne is on to something with her mini me posts. It's dang cute.

Violet's Birth Story: The Next Few Days

Friday, June 13, 2014

Part 1 and Part 2- in case you want more of the saga.

We made it back to our room and, somehow, Rob convinced the nursing staff  to unwrap her from her absurdly thick bundle of blankets to get a little daddy-daughter skin to skin snuggle time. And none of the hospital staff liked it. Won’t she be too cold? No, aside from my hormonal wife, I’m the most warm thing in the room. Don’t you want to lay her down to look at her? No, I’d rather try to bond and get comfortable with my kid by touching and looking at her.

Meanwhile, I was still relegated to numb slug status, not allowed to move or lift my head for 6 hours. I was just being pumped full of  IV fluids, medication, and some sort of  pain management drug (hallelujah!). But, about an hour had passed and I was being poked and prodded by nurses, some squishing my abdomen to shrink my uterus back down, some literally mashing my boobs and yanking on my nipples to see if colostrum had started. Nope- again- no labor or hormonal cues to start the flow. I need my kid to latch and nurse for that. But, as a slug on my back and an IV in the crook of my elbow, I couldn’t try to nurse. Nor could I hold my little girl. And by the 5 hour post-delivery mark, I started sobbing because yet another nurse was poking at me and I started crying because I hadn’t yet touched my own baby. Nurses got to. Rob got to. And he even started getting good at swaddling her and diapering her after getting meconium pooped-on.

But, over 5 hours after she was out in the world, and without the shared experience of labor and delivery, my daughter was still a perfect stranger. No chance to bond. No getting to snuggle and smell each other and get acquainted to try to set ourselves up for successful breastfeeding. I needed to have nutrients in my own system to have energy to produce. Except I hadn’t done much eating for four days because my kidney stone made me feel so sick and I wasn’t allowed to ingest anything for 12 hours post-delivery, and then, only glorified broth. After I passed gas on my no-food empty-bowels (makes sense), I would be allowed to eat watery congee. Protein? Vegetables? Fruit juice for an energy burst? Nope, not yet.

Anyway, I hadn’t touched my kid. And I finally lost it. Yet another nurse waltzed in, unannounced, and pulled on my nipple for, seemingly, the fun of it. No asking permission, no warning. Just an abrupt flip of my comforter, and BAM! And I couldn’t stop myself, I just let my brave face go and sobbed. Through snot and whimpering, I babbled into a tragic circle about how, let’s drive the point home, 5 effing hours had passed and I hadn’t been allowed to hold my own child. Panicked and shocked nurse’s response? Bring her massive swaddle bundled face and touch it to my cheek. Thank Baby Jesus, our amazing friend Annie realized what was happening and started barking orders to unroll my burrito of a child and PUT HER ON THE BED IN HER MOTHER’S ARM. NOW.

A little later, I was finally allowed to raise the bed into a more seated position and snuggle more with our girl. With an IV in the crook of my right elbw, I was still a little stunted in how much I could do with our girl. She had a quick latch, but wasn’t doing too much nursing- arriving 3 ½ weeks early doesn’t set tiny people up for rockstar sucking skills. And I couldn’t hold her in my right arm well, so we were a little handicapped while we were waiting for the 7-ish IV fluid bags to be over with. But, the evening came and went and we got word that my mom (whose original flight was booked for May 13) was en route, since my sister is a travel-booking goddess and found a way to get her on a plane that arrived the afternoon of Violet’s second day. Which, more than anything, meant that Rob, who was so unbelievably strong for both of us and was working on sleep deprivation of his very own coutesy of the miniscule loveseat he’d been sleeping on for days on end, was going to get to recharge at home. We just had to make it through Violet’s first night and a few daytime hours.

This is when shit hits the fan.

I was running on nothing but three hours of scattered sleep since I was vigilantly monitoring my need for the next IV fluid and doing my best to try to change diapers/ get in Rob’s way while he actually changed diapers and awkward nursing with one arm and a kid with a lazy, sleepy latch. At 4:45 am, my mommy-sense and adrenaline kicked in and I opened my eyes and peered into Violet’s hospital bassinet in the early morning light. Just in time to watch my kid’s face TURN PURPLE. I screamed at Rob, who was so out of sorts and confused and asleep, to pick her up and try to pat her back if she was choking. I couldn’t reach Violet to pick her up myself, I couldn’t reach the call button. Thank goodness he just ran out of the room with her and woke the poor night nurse at the desk out of a dead sleep, and the three of them sprinted to NICU. Leaving me tethered to the IV, sobbing, and freaked out. All alone. Rob called me from outside the NICU, where the nurse and the Pediatrician on call whisked our girl inside and no information or explaination, since her English wasn’t strong. But, bless her, she was fast, efficient, and handled shit like a warrior. (We found out a few days later that she cried for hours afterwards, poor girl.)

They all finally came back to our room, and I was able to spend a little time (who are we kidding- it was hours on end) snuggling Violet and sobbing and snotting into her swaddle blanket. Google Translate finally revealed that, shocker of all shockers, her blood sugar was super low. They fed her a small bottle of formula, her first real meal and she perked back up and squawked her brains out and was deemed well enough to return to our room. We gave her a few small bottles over the day, but were conscious about not feeding her too much in hopes she would be up for nursing a little more heartily and getting my colostrums moving.

The day settled down and we moved into a nice rhythm of cat naps, watching Rob tend to his daughter and the look of shock on his face while she let loose another meconium poop while she had her tiny butt out in the open in the midst of a diaper change. An acquaintence of mine, a LaLeche League leader, planned to come by after she was done with work to talk breastfeeding strategy and how to get my flow going. Early evening rolled around and she arrived. As did some random pediatrician, who stated that the hospital should take Violet to stay in the nursery to be more closely monitored. Not because she had an emergeny that morning. But, because she was born before 37 weeks! She’d been in my care for 36 hours, without the hospital’s harrumphing or any indication that this policy might be something we’d have to come up against. I calmly asked why it was all of a sudden a problem that she stay with us in the room. I declined to let them take her, as they kept saying that it’s policy that they recommend she go to be monitored. And I cried (again, of course) but held fast, politely declining through sobs and building frustration that everything is fine until it’s a big bleeping deal and not fine. Back and forth, yo-yo’ing information, highs and lows, over and over again. Something’s good until it gets turned on its head. My friend, militant advocate for breastfeeding and German hippy-natural-momma, finally lost her shit on my behalf and yelled that the kid would not be leaving the recovery room, and a pediatrician was welcome to come check on her more often if the department insisted, but she would not be yanked away from the opportunity to bond more with her mother. So, I sat there in a puddle of my own snot as the pediatrician obliged, left a waiver to sign, and left.

And not more than 15 minutes after, my mom arrived by cab. Can we just take a moment to acknowledge that my husband really step up to the plate in ways he never should have needed to and took care of me and our girl in our most vulnerable moments. He kicked ass advocating for us, kept me calm, encouraged me through many more tough choices than we should have needed to make. And, even considering as much as I hurt for days before Violet’s birth, I did my best to remain calm and on an even keel to make sure he didn’t feel overwhelmed by the seriously insane circumstances of our hospital stay. But, my mom’s arrival was absolute permission to break. To sob big, ugly, confused, overwhelmed tears. To shut down.

Low res, but this wa seconds after my mom arrived. I'm so happy I have this photo from my friend. 

Rob went home and got a well deserved night of good rest. And we all puttered through four more days of hospital stay with little incident. In fact, we had two mornings with adorable bathtimes. The sweet nurse who was traumatized by Violet’s blue-face sugar crash NICU visit was the one who gave her the baths. We had so many wonderful visitors, including colleagues from both the School of Music faculty and my office girls. We were gifted homemade soups as I was allowed to eat more. And, finally, check out day came! Before we were released, Violet was even treated to a little swimming session. With an audience. Which was hysterical for both the floaty around her tiny neck and little butt cheeks floating lazily in the tiny pool, as well as the massive audience of Chinese people plastered to the observation window.

This sweet nurse is my own personal angel

Eventually, we got the boot and happily went home. And, of course, it’s not been sunshine and rainbows, but we’re all so glad to have the seriously unnecessary hospital absurd chain of events behind us. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but the 6 days of kidney stone was totally worth it. Do I wish I had the benefit of Western pain management rather than the “hang tight, take nothing, and wait it out” Chinese mentality? For sure. But, 6 weeks in, mommyhood is pretty awesome. I’m so happy to have this darling girl in my life!

Violet's Birth Story: Delivery Day

Thursday, June 12, 2014

4 am on Wednesday, April 30 rolled around and I impatiently waited and stretched and arched my back to work out the 6 ½ day kidney stone pain with no success before the nursing staff came to prep me at 7:30. Did you know that kidney stones in pregnancy, while pretty darn common, should only last 48-60 hours. Mine lasted 156. That’s nice, I guess.

My best friend and her boys- Wahoo! Baby Time

Aaanyway, Rob wasn’t allowed to join me in the OR, but I had the head nurse, who was warm and kind and spoke English, with me, and our dear friend Annie, who was an incredible advocate for us during our long stay and many medical confusions and misinformation yo-yo’ing and the IV and fetal heart monitoring fiascos, was with Rob, anxiously waiting outside in the hall. I was wheeled in, got ANOTHER IV line in the inside crook of my right elbow, and then received my visit from the anesthesiologist. A quiet, nimble angel of a man who was calm, efficient and made the needle insertion last a grand total of 45 seconds and felt like two mini spinal massages and two placements of a dot marker with a ballpoint pen. I didn’t think he’d finished yet since it didn’t hurt at all, but then my legs felt warm and ta-da! It’s go time!

Unlike American OR visits for a C-section, I didn’t have a nice screen and open space on my chest for snuggling my little one once they arrived. I had a wad of hospital-grade comforter crammed over my abdomen and blocking my view of the man-handling down near my nether regions. It didn’t hurt, I wasn’t panicked, but I was distinctly aware of the jostling and yanking at the incision site. My whole body rocked side to side  as they suctioned goodness knows what and they had to pull my kid’s tiny butt out first, then man-handle some more to get her little head out from its snuggly position of being wedged between the uterine wall and placenta.

Then, finally, a big scream for such a little person and I knew I was a parent.

Boy or girl? Boy or girl? I asked at least four times before anyone else in the room stopped gawking at my mysterious little one long enough to realize I was asking a question. I thought, all the way through my pregnancy, that it was going to be a little boy. We didn’t want to find out, and I had a sense of “little boy energy”.

Nope. She’s a girl!

I asked to see her and they had her literally bundled up to her eyeballs, but they brought her up to my face and touched her soft little forehead to mine.  Beautiful round eyes, crinkly forehead all twisted up in concern over the no-labor-and-hormonal-cues-abrubt-removal she’d just endured. And blond freaking hair. Oh, geez- she’s going to look just like her dad and I’m going to seemingly have had nothing to do with her genetics.

I was wheeled out into an OR annex while they popped out into the hallway with her to show Rob. He’d guessed girl the whole time, and the nurse happily exclaimed that he was right! They wheeled me out and our entourage made its way back up to our room where I was plopped back onto my recovery bed and promptly ignored, unless it was to poke at me or arrange something with my IV line.

Violet August, April 30 at 8:38 am, 2700 grams, 48 cm

But, our baby girl was out in the big bad world! We were officially a family of three!

If you need to catch up- Part 1 and Part 3

Violet's Birth Story: Before Delivery

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

I think I'm finally ready to tell Violet's birth story. Her delivery itself was fairly anti-climatic. As expected, we had no real choice but to give birth to her via C-section since she never budged from breech position and the surgical team was efficient, calm, and capable. But, the rest of her story is really unusual.

It actually all started on April 24, a Thursday, when I did a lot of walking after my Bumps and Babes group, a weekly gathering of international moms at a coffee shop in downtown Suzhou. I got a little thirsty and probably dehydrated, but my muscles felt pretty good doing about 5 km of walking through the morning and afternoon. Thursday night however, I started feeling a sharp pain in my lower back on the left side. It went away on Friday, but came back with a vengeance on Friday night. By Saturday morning, I knew I needed to skip my second chiropractic visit in Shanghai and go to the hospital to see what was wrong.

Joint baby shower the Wednesday before I started feeling crappy 

The Kowloon VIP clinic (with English speaking nurses) only had hours on Saturday from 8 AM through noon. I also knew that there was no OB in the clinic on Saturdays, so I was hopeful the nurses would do their best to help me, and we arrived at 7:50 with no appointment and crossed our fingers they wouldn’t be too busy. They let me see the general practitioner first, who then recommended I go to get an ultrasound on both my kidneys and the baby. I was crossing my fingers that it was simply a urinary tract infection (*snort, like a UTI is sunshine and rainbows and not at all a very uncomfortable medical problem) and they would give me some sort of medicine and let me go home. Not the case at all. The ultrasound showed the baby was fine, but didn't show anything in my kidneys and then nurse decided to take me to the urologist to find out more. True to Chinese medicine, and their views of what can be done during pregnancy, the urologist recommended nothing be done, that a kidney stone, if it was that, should pass on its own in a few short days and is quite common during late pregnancy. We also didn't have any real idea of whether or not anything was happening as far as my cervix was concerned or if perhaps this was an early sign of labor. They recommended since no OB was at the VIP clinic that day, that I should admit myself to the hospital to see an OB in the L&D department. I agreed, but unfortunately the A Squad wasn't in during weekends, nor was my regular doctor. So, I got placed into a double occupancy room and was told that since my kid was still presenting breech and the head was likely lodged up next to the placenta, preventing her from turning (new news to me, thanks top-notch communication!) they wouldn't likely send me home. Because if (BIG IF) I went into labor at home and it required a 25 minute cab ride late at night to get in for emergency, and if the cord dropped out, we'd all be in a lot of trouble really quickly. And, as a foreigner, they didn't want to take any chances of putting me and my little nugget in harm's way.

So, there I was, being told by nervous weekend doctors that my mystery medical condition around my kidney would likely necessitate getting my baby out ASAP. Because Braxton Hicks contractions and a softening cervix (finally got an OB exam!) but no dilation means labor must be imminent. No. You may not remove my baby the same day I'm admitted for kidney pain (not contractions! kidney pain!) because you're all freaked about a white lady who is hurting on your watch. I know what I signed up for in having a baby and a pre-emptive C-section by the B Squad is not it.

Saturday night we held off the medical community in our double occupancy room and Rob slept on the hardest, most 1950's metal fold-out conversion chair known to man. I can't thank my lucky stars enough that during our trip to Beijing we connected with a really wonderful dog boarding facility that does pick-ups and many walks and snuggle time. So, my main concern of how to manage Miles’ care for a week was totally handled. He is my first baby, after all. By Sunday at lunchtime, a single room had opened up and you'd better believe we jumped at the chance to upgrade. Thank goodness we did, because we'd be there a loooong time.

Want to guess how many refills of that water tank we went through trying to flush out my kidney stone? 

My kidney stone kept me up most of Thursday night, almost all of Friday night, and, with the exception of a combined 2 1/4 hours of sleep, Saturday night was a bust. I spent the night on hands and knees, arching my back to try to relieve and stretch out some of the pressure, hopeful that the stone would flush itself out with the movement and the massive amounts of water I was drinking. Also, the kidney pain was enormous if I laid on my back or side, and I was so nauseated, I couldn't stand to eat anything. By Sunday afternoon, I was really weak, exhausted, and a weird mix of feeling defeated and resigned to the possibility of having our regular doctor deliver our tiny one by C-section first thing Monday, and hopeful that we could hold off longer.

Feeling shittier by the day. With bruises all over my arms from failed IV attempts.

The two factors to make the decision were: is the baby's estimated birth weight and lung function good? And what's the possibility of this stone passing and giving me some relief? Because three days of no sleep to speak of and a light meal once a day wasn't serving my body well, which meant kiddo wasn't getting the in-utero benefit either. But, I was miserable and, as someone with a really high pain tolerance, I was pissed about feeling defeated but resigned, and even a little bit at peace, to have the C-section first thing Monday. My constipated, nauseated, exhausted body needed a reprieve. Real bad.

We finally got some answers first thing Monday morning- a sweet young OB and my regular doctor finally slowed down and combed through my charts and ultrasounds and recalculated my possible conception date.

Oh, that's another quick story- I'd been on the NuvaRing for years and years (starting using it when it first came out and they were selling it for $5 a pop.) and with my tiny body, was using it on a 5 week cycle rather than 4 weeks since the hormone, even at it's low dose, was better suited to allowing me to stretch out my periods. TMI? Don't care. Anyway, we had one cycle after I stopped using it last summer where we didn't get pregnant and, instead of my last-10-years’ 35 day normal hormone-induced cycle, it stretched out to 42 days. So, what is my own personal norm? 35 on hormones? 42? 48? I don't know, and so my due date ranged from May 15-May 30... meaning I was hanging out in the hospital at what was anywhere from week 35.5 (which was too early for comfort for giving birth) to week 37 (and the baby would have been pretty much fine by anyone's standards). Okay, onward.

So, we all finally concluded that we were now at the beginning of 36 weeks, not into 37 weeks. But, the estimated birthweight would likely be okay per the ultrasound notes (estimated around 2650 grams the week before) and her lungs were noted to be developed enough. Not that I'd ever know that, my ultrasound notes were all in Chinese and not translated. Oh, well. We decided that scheduling the C-section didn't make sense right away and I should try to see how long I could hold out with the pain. 10 days (IN THE HOSPITAL- NO GOING HOME!) of waiting and letting the little one bake was the goal.

I quickly started to realize that we weren't going to make it 10 days. I was given 4 attempted IV lines to administer some sort of pain medication (why I had to wait until mid-afternoon on Monday to try some sort of pain management rather than pregnant-lady toughing it out, I don't know), one of which was inserted way wrong on the side of my wrist, which nicked a nerve and bloated my forearm with "the stronger, 'spicy' version of the IV drug." Super. My kidney hurt, but that effing IV ordeal was absolutely traumatizing. I don’t hate needles, but I sobbed into my friend’s shoulder for over 20 minutes while I tried to calm down and process what just happened to the nerves in my right hand. It literally felt like I had blades shooting out from my knuckles, Wolverine style, when the wrist nerves got hit with the needle. And it didn't even provide any relief. Neither did the two shots of something else administered in my rump, so that was a bust. Add on two more nights of sleeplessness and insane kidney pain (made a thousand times worse by being asked to lay very still on my very sore kidney for 30-40 minutes 6 or more times a day to do fetal heart monitoring on a breech and wiggling baby, usually at night when it was the most unbearable and when the bitchiest nurses were around. Or rather not around enough to pay any attention to the fact that the baby wiggled out of position and, surprise, surprise, the monitors weren't appropriately placed. It's 2 am, what else do you have going on? It sure would have been nice to not have 25 minute monitoring sessions/torture double in length because the night teams couldn't be troubled to stay and keep the monitors in proper position. Also super traumatizing.). By Tuesday afternoon, I was feeling pretty mentally, emotionally, and physically borken (it takes a LOT to wear me down) and Rob and I decided my body had enough and this baby wasn't being kept any healthier inside since I wasn't able to eat. We agreed to the 8 am slot on Wednesday, April 30 to meet our little one.

Final Bump photo. With 12 day old polish, spider veins, Chinese-y flannel hospital pajamas, and my 4th IV line. It was the "size of needle they use for kids." And was the only one that didn't hurt like a sonofableep.

I know this sounds like the world's most tragic birth story, and it was probably more absurd than what would have gone down than if we'd been in the States, but we just did our best to hang tough and keep positive attitudes until our kiddo arrived. I really am okay and SO happy to have my little peanut out in the big bad world with us to smooch on and snuggle. I've been craving kids for my entire adult life and she's a gift, but darnit if I didn't get a little more than I bargained for by giving birth in China.

Check out Part 2 and Part 3!
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