Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Finally, recaps and resolutions

I’ve been thinking about this post for a while now. It actually started when I was pregnant—I thought I should write down what worked and what didn’t, so that when I am hopefully pregnant again someday (many moons from now), I’d remember. Since I was pregnant most of 2007, it worked out as a convenient review of the year. So, without further adieu:

First trimester (February-April 2007)
-I didn’t have wicked morning sickness, but my lower GI tract totally revolted against me. That, plus the more typical signs (peeing all the time, sore boobs, utter exhaustion) were the first real clues I was pregnant. Looking back, I think the first trimester was harder for me than any other time, expect for maybe that last week before delivery. I had insomnia (there was one night in Aruba I didn’t sleep at all) alternating with exhaustion to the point that I would come home from work and be asleep before Tim even walked in the door. I did have nausea, but only minor vomiting. There was a good month or so when I couldn’t eat hardly anything between the nausea and the GI stuff. No fun.

-It was also hard from a paranoia perspective. We had that episode when we thought we might be miscarrying. It was reassuring to get the ultrasound at six weeks, but it meant we had seven weeks (to the end of the first trimester) when we were still at risk. Since I couldn’t feel fetal movement yet, and my appointments were only once a month, there was a lot of concern whether everything was going ok.

-That also affected when we told people we were pregnant. We told immediate family right away, but just before we were going to tell everyone else was when we were worried about miscarrying. So we had to keep it a secret for another seven weeks. That sucked. If we had a similar scenario again, we might just tell people anyway. We were worried about the stress of having to tell people about the miscarriage—we didn’t want to have to relive the pain over and over—but keeping it in was horrible.

Second trimester (April-July 2007)
-The second trimester was awesome. I started to show in May or so, and I had already bought a few sets of maternity clothes, so it was great to “show off” a little. The nasty GI stuff went away. The only thing I still couldn’t eat was tomato-based stuff –spaghetti, chili, etc. That sucked, since most of my favorite foods are tomato-sauce-based. And it lasted through most of the pregnancy. No real cravings though, other than a preference for raspberry iced tea. I think Tim had more cravings than I did. He was always suggesting Dairy Queen or something similar, and I really didn’t have too much of a taste for it. But I humored him on occasion.

-I loved starting to feel the baby move. And we got the anatomy ultrasounds during this time. Between those two things, and starting to show, it really helped me bond with Sophie (or Bucky, as we called her at the time). And it was a great bonding time for Tim and I too. I loved knowing she was there, and she was ok.

-As far as maternity clothes go, I really learned a lot. I got a few shirts and some shorts from Kohl’s first. I did ok there—I think it was buy one, get one free—but I got such better deals later. Mom found some cute stuff, barely worn, at Goodwill. I found amazing deals online, and that’s the route I would do again. Between Old Navy maternity online, where I got some great jeans, and JC Penney maternity online, where I got amazing deals (shelf bra tank tops for $3, a dressy blouse and black skirt for $10 total, a black dress for $9), I think online was the way to go. I should’ve bought the jeans sooner—I didn’t buy the maternity ones until I was seven months pregnant. I had two pairs of regular pants that fit until then (maybe a sign that I should buy clothes that fit a little better), and I had some shorts, but the jeans really came in handy. And I’m still using the tank tops with bras—they are perfect for sleeping now that I’m nursing. I would’ve bought a boatload of those.

-I was still able to exercise fairly well in the second trimester. I would’ve tried harder to walk every day. I thought I’d feel good for a long time, but as I grew out, things started getting tougher. My balance was all off. But it was so nice to just get out every now and again.

Third trimester (July-October 2007)
-Umm, maybe buying a house, moving, and fixing up an old house when I was in my third trimester was not such a good idea. I definitely overdid it on occasion. I remember lifting a few boxes that were way too heavy for me and pulling out my back. I also shouldn’t have been painting (especially when I was standing on beds, dressers, etc to do it) or doing other activities as much as I did. I really exhausted myself.

-On the other hand, while I did overdo it in many ways, moving when I was that pregnant meant we got a lot of help from our families. That made a huge difference. So maybe it wasn’t such a bad time to move.

-I chalk it up to extreme nesting, though. Definitely don’t want to buy another house next time I am pregnant. I love our new house, but the stress of not selling the old one is taking its toll.

-By late September, I felt huge. The last month was unreal. It didn’t help that I had the external cephalic version because she was breech, or that I had regular Braxton-Hicks contractions every five minutes for the last six weeks. By late September, I was ready. I also learned that I should’ve argued my due date more. They pushed it back after our six week ultrasound. I knew the original date was right, but I didn’t think five days was a big deal. IT WAS A BIG DEAL! That made all the difference once I was overdue. I think she would’ve induced me if we hadn’t changed the date. That would have made delivery a lot easier, I think, because Sophie might not have made it to nine pounds.

-That was the other thing—my weight never plateaued. I knew a lot of it was swelling. My socks (which weren’t tight before I was pregnant) were leaving half-inch deep marks in my ankles. My fingers and face had totally puffed up. I know it was mostly water, since there’s no way I could’ve lost thirty pounds in two weeks post delivery if it wasn’t fluids. But I also knew Sophie was still growing. I would’ve been more adamant about how big she was if I would’ve known it would help. I’ll know to go with my gut next time.

Labor and delivery (October 24-25th)
-Actually pre-labor, I’m glad I called on the 23rd about no fetal movement. It turns out everything was fine, but something just didn’t seem right. As much as part of me hates to impinge on other people when things are “probably” fine, I’m glad I called and went in for monitoring. Knowing Sophie was ok made a huge difference. And if things hadn’t been ok, I would’ve been at the hospital, where they could take care of us.

-Now I know Braxton-Hicks can go on forever. Even after my water broke, I never had strong contractions. Heck, even after 8 hours of pitocin, I was barely having big contractions.

-I’ll also know to listen to the nurses about everything EXCEPT how long labor is going to take (and how big they think the baby is). Since I was already very dilated and effaced before my water broke, they kept telling me that things would go fast. Not so much. Even when I started pushing, they said things would move fast. Thirteen hours of labor and three hours of pushing proves that’s not true.

-I’ll be more vocal about the epidural next time. I still had some feeling in my legs after they did it. I thought that was just a walking epidural—and it might have been. However, that light epidural meant I felt EVERYTHING during delivery. And many women have told me they felt nothing with their epidural. I’ll remember to make sure I am totally numb before the anesthesiologist leaves next time.

-Even though delivery was the most painful three hours of my life (especially the last 45 minutes. Good Lord!), Sophie was totally worth it. That doesn’t mean I’m ready to go out and do this again super soon. But the pain fades, and I have Sophie for good now.

Recovery:
-Episiotomies hurt. Bad. I’m sure tears are worse, but that bad boy was rough. I still occasionally have some soreness ten weeks later. The tucks pads, anesthetic spray, and sitz bath were all lifesavers. But it hurts no matter what.

-I’m glad that I called a nurse when I needed help. From breastfeeding help to concerns about passing big blood clots, the nurses were a huge help. I absolutely loved my floor and everyone working on it. They were super nice, always ready to educate me, and very attentive. I would deliver at my hospital again in a heartbeat.

-I’m glad I sent Sophie to the nursery both nights. I felt bad about it at the time, but I was totally exhausted, and Tim wasn’t there to help me. I just needed some rest. I don’t know if she screamed the whole night, or how they settled her down, but I know they brought her to me when she was hungry and took care of her the rest of the night.

-I would’ve bought the breast pump before I delivered. I was so engorged three days after delivery that I cried. Sophie was having trouble latching on because I was so big, my breasts hurt, and we were both frustrated. The $30 hand pump was ok for a day, but if I had bought my awesome Medela by then, life would have been so much easier. At least I’ll have my pump for next time. Oh, and I’m so glad I didn’t pay retail for my pump. I got the Medela pump in style advanced for $230. The regular one is $250 at Target and Babies R Us, and my model sells for $350 at Target! I got it brand new from a medical supply company. Definitely the way to go.

-I’m glad I sucked it up and asked my mom for help breastfeeding. It was one of those times I had to overcome my modesty. Come on now, I don’t ever wear tight clothes, and I feel naked in a bathing suit. Letting my mom help me breastfeed meant I had to suck it up on two levels: asking for help, and getting past the extreme modesty. It was the right decision—my mom made all the difference. When I was so engorged, her help is one of the main reasons I didn’t give up breastfeeding.

-Actually, I’m glad we asked for help across the board. Thank goodness for our families. My mom even came up overnight and took the baby shift. And we had all sorts of help with food and errands and other things. Having so many people around to support us was a godsend.

-I need to remember next time that just because I’m home from the hospital doesn’t mean I’m back to my pre-baby self. I think I overdid it a little bit when I was first home. I pushed myself to clean and get organized (thank God other people were cooking). And I paid for it. I should’ve accepted the fact that it’s ok for me to be tired and worn down. My body needed to recover, and I pushed it too far.

-Also, that whole sleep when the baby sleeps? Total crap. When she was really little, she slept a lot, but only in small increments. By the time I fed her, got her to sleep, got myself fed and pottied, and went to lay down, she was already starting to wake up. And once she was older and I could get a nice hour or two free, I had so many other things that I wanted to do that I didn’t nap with her. But by then, she was sleeping overnight, and I didn’t need the sleep as desperately.

-I was hard on myself for letting Sophie co-sleep with us for six weeks. Everything I had read, and everything I had been told as a medical student, was that co-sleeping is bad. And so when Sophie wouldn’t sleep anywhere but between Tim and I, I felt bad. I tried the crib first, which was a disaster, and then we tried the bassinet. She hated it. And we needed sleep. So I gave in. I was worried we’d be too nervous to sleep with her there, or that she’d never be able to leave the bed. Know what? She sleeps in the bassinet every night now, on her own, and we were able to get some sleep. We were extra careful with her around, but it was just fine. And actually, I miss her a little now that she doesn’t sleep with us.

-The first six weeks suck sleep-wise, exhaustion-wise, and general mental health-wise. But it gets so much better.

-At my six week appointment, I was glad everything looked ok. When I asked about when I would get my period, she said it varies with breastfeeding. I was hoping to be one of the lucky ones that doesn’t get a period the whole times she’s breastfeeding. Unfortunately, I got it the next day. I had just stopped bleeding from delivery, and then I had my period. Totally sucks. But, such is life.

-Not everyone is healed and ready for “you know” at six weeks. Enough said.

In general:
-I love hand-me-downs. Sophie has boxes of adorable clothes to grow into, people gave us a swing and pack-n-play, and we’ve got more stuff coming. She goes through things so quickly—knowing that we don’t have to buy her a new wardrobe every month is huge.

-I’m still not 100%, but I’m getting there. I may never be exactly the same—I’ve got stretch marks to beat the band, my stomach (and I’m sure later, my boobs) are not back to their original tone, and I’ve got something in my left hip that is stiff whenever I first stand up. But that’s ok. It’s not like I was wearing bikinis or doing Olympic sporting events before I had Sophie. I guess they are my battle scars.

-I’m not sure how much the childbirth classes helped. The express prepared childbirth class was the most helpful. Tim didn’t get as much out of the daddy boot camp class as was advertised. The breastfeeding class was ok, but there wasn’t a lot they could tell us that we either didn’t already know or could really appreciate without having a baby there to practice with. The car seat safety class was useless, but at least we got two cheap car seats. I don’t think I’d do them over again. I’d take a several week childbirth class, but that would be it.

-It’s really true—you already know how to be a parent. We were both so nervous with Sophie. Even things as simple as diaper changing (which I’ve done a lot of in the far flung past) and baths were nerve wracking. Once we saw it done the first time, we felt better, and it gets easier as time goes on. I think it was natural that we were so nervous in the beginning. But it’s all worked out so far.

-I can’t imagine life without her. Yes, I miss just being able to pick up and run out to Target, or take our sweet time grocery shopping. But Tim and I weren’t big partiers before we got pregnant. She really doesn’t cramp our style too much. And being able to chill with her at home every evening is so much more rewarding that having the ability to get up and go whenever we want.

So, I don’t have resolutions per se for 2008, but there are a few things I want to work on.

-The perennial weight goals. I can’t diet—during therapy several years ago I was told that doing Weight Watchers or detailed calorie counting again would re-trigger my eating disorder. So I want to make better choices and listen to my body more. I’ve still found myself eating for emotional reasons on occasion, but I haven’t had the full-on binges that I used to. But I’ve gotten a little lax, giving myself permission to eat goodies since I delivered. Everyone says you need 500 extra calories or so a day to breastfeed. I’ve been getting mine in cookies. Which explains why I haven’t lost any weight since the first 30 fell off two weeks post delivery. And I’ve got another 30-40 to go.

-Along with that, I want to exercise more. Nothing crazy—I just really like walking, and I want to get back to it. We were so busy with house stuff last summer that we didn’t walk as much as we had before. Now I think it’d be fun to take the baby out with us.

-I want to finish my PhD and go back to med school. Some of that I can control—I really need to work super hard at being efficient and organized. However, I can’t control the outcome of my experiments. So I am also going to try and be accepting of whatever happens.

-I am going to try and be more positive about lab. I think a lot of life is reaping what you sow. I’ve been so unhappy in lab for so long that I have a terribly negative attitude about it. I want to think more positively and start a new outlook on lab.

-I am going to try and keep things in perspective. Sophie has helped me re-focus on life. Work is work, but it isn’t my life. I still like science, but I’m not as passionate about that as I am about my family. I think I want to practice medicine. I don’t know what type specifically, but I think some medical specialty suits my personality so much more than research or even general medicine. It’s more of who I am. And I’m not even as picky about specialties as I once was. Of course, I haven’t had enough clinical exposure to really make a judgment yet, but I think there are several specialties that could work for me. And I no longer need to pick the most prestigious one. I want one that challenges me, that allows me to see patients, but also gives me time with my family. It’ll be more time consuming than derm or radiology, but not as terrible as something like surgery.

-I know I had more goals, but I’m a bit brain numb at the moment. So for now, that will have to do. It’s not like I don’t already have enough goals to work on.

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