Sunday, April 24, 2011

Birth Day


Birthdays or actual birth days are amazing.  They are a sign that God is great and blessings abound.  Ask any mother and she will tell you in great detail about the day her child or children were born.  It doesn’t matter how much time has passed, she will never forget one of the greatest days of her life.  For me, I love swapping birthing stories.  They are always dramatic or filled with horror and delight.  The unknown and the known, the fear and the triumph.  Never would I have imagined that Mackenzie’s Birth Day would be bittersweet. 

I want to remember April 26th as one of the happiest days of my life.  Always.  A year later I’m still having trouble.  On Tuesday Mackenzie turns one, and I’m becoming more and more emotional.  It’s not the memory I want to have on her birthday, so I’m going to have it now.  A hope that as time passes, so will this one smudge on an otherwise phenomenal day.

Mackenzie Grace did not gracefully or quietly come into this world.  From conception she was a thorn in my side.   I had reservations before her conception, would I be well enough?  Would the morning or should I say all day sickness keep me in bed and away from Caitlin?  I was sicker than a dog, in bed, on Zophran, and miserable.  I should have known that this was not going to be easy. 

My labor began on Sunday, progressed into Monday morning and I arrived in my birthing room bed at 2am.  Back Labor was getting the best of me and I was begging for my epidural.  I got it and even got a booster an hour later, but alas, said epidural was not enough.  This was a complete opposite of my first labor experience.  I guess it was my penance for the easiest first time labor in the history of birthing babies.  Whatever it was I was in pain and not happy.

As the sun rose, my contractions increased the pain stronger, and by 7am push came to shove.  I was pushing and screaming and begging for someone to just “get this damn baby out”.  It was a birth that any Scientologist would have frowned upon, but I’m Catholic so whatever.

At 7:24 a.m., tiny, little, Mackenzie Grace entered the world.  With a cry that sounded like a kitten, the nurses weighed her twice to make sure she was indeed 4lbs 13oz.  Swaddled she resembled a football.

It was picture perfect.  So perfect she was immediately posted to Facebook.  I gave her a bottle to make sure her blood sugar was stable.  The grandparents and aunts and uncles held her.  I was tired, yes, but finally blissful.

It didn’t last.  Things were different this time.  I was having issues.  I couldn’t pee, my bleeding was off.  Abnormal clotting or something.  My uterus wasn’t contracting.  By 9:30 the nurses were pushing and kneading my flabby belly like bread dough.  I was continuing to bleed at such a rate that my bed linens were being weighed.  Ironically they weighed them on the baby scale.  Three bags of pitocin later, I was flat on my back, my bed lines in buckets, and panic on faces.
By 11am, after 2 failed catheter attempts, I asked my nurse to please call my doctor.  It had been up for discussion, but now, my pain had returned.  It felt like labor pain.  The baby was out right?  When the nurse returned and said that my OB would like to examine me in the operating room, I lost it.  My mom and I both, completely lost it.  My nurse tried to reassure me that it was just a precaution, but when the anesthesiologist returned to have me sign papers for local, I knew it was anything but.  “Please sign these.  Please select a next of kin.  We will be putting you out”.  Say what?  Are you kidding?  I just had a baby…. The BABY!

It was at this point that I realized that I hadn’t held by baby for hours.  I had been flat on my back.  I tearfully asked my mom, please bring me the baby.  She was laid next to me and I put my hand on her.  Whispering I told her that I’d be back soon; don’t give daddy trouble; and that I loved her.  Honestly in my mind I was also telling her that fraternity boys are heartbreakers; Daddy’s just overprotective; and her sister Caitlin was going to be the best friend she would ever have.  Was this something that I needed to do?  It was a moment of uncertainty for me.  I’m overdramatic in everyday life, but on this day, even more so. 

My husband kept it together nicely.  He was strong and stoic.  Naturally he is overly optimistic, so he was channeling the power of positive thinking.  It’s only been recently that he has admitted that this day scared the living *S* out of him.  The only time it seemed that it might not be the life he dreamed.  It’s something we don’t talk about much.  It’s like we both know what could have been.

On my way to the OR I had 2 requests.  Tell Caitlin that Mommy loved her, and please call Krysten to pray. 

I have to tell you that my friend Krysten is the type of friend most people say they are.  You know the ones that say “Don’t worry I’ll be there” or “I’d drop everything for you”.  She does and has.  She pulled me from a darkness that I didn’t know I was in after Caitlin was born.  She allowed me to be me, no matter how unhappy or disappointed.  She is faithful and when she prays God listens.  She also did something so selfless on that day.  She was just 4 weeks post partum herself.  After a c-section no less, she left her almost 1month old and her almost 4 year old, and came to the comfort of my mother.  She drove the 45 minutes to the hospital to sit with my mother in the waiting room while I was in the operating room.  I’m sure in her mind this was just par for the course.  To me it was a priceless gift.  I’ve never properly thanked her.  I wasn’t sure how.  I’m hoping these kind words will do.  When I think back on it I’m speechless.

I’m told I went into the OR at 12.  When I got to my room it was 3:15.  John was there with Mac, and as I entered the room, my mom and Krysten were too.  All I could say to Krysten was, “I’m glad you’re here”.  Her response, “I’m so glad you’re here”. 

Weak, tired and emotionally disoriented I was finally back with my baby.  The real story, the birth day story should begin here. 

The tears shed between me and my dearest friend Jaci.  She was shocked at my mother’s inaudible voicemail, rearranged her schedule and was at my bedside before 5pm.  With magazines and peppermint patties, we both knew the severity of the day.  Our tears and embrace signified no more alcohol laden late nights.  No more carefree days in the sun.  We were parents and it was serious, and we had so much to lose, and how quickly we had come to losing it.

The look on the faces of family members, who said they were coming to see Mackenzie.  Later my mom told me that they told her they had to see me for themselves. 

The day still haunts me.  The what ifs?  The could have beens?  I’m sure there are far worse birth day stories.  So many that mine pales in comparison.  For me, it’s something I will never forget.  Until that day, labor and delivery always ended the same.  Blissful images of mother and child.  Tearful dads, happy grandparents, flowers, and friends.  For a brief moment, I thought it might not be a happy ending.  And yes, if I’m being over dramatic in the truest sense, I learned a lot about blessings that day.    

My official diagnosis was a post partum hemorrhage.  An emergency DNC took care of it, and in the end I lost 2 pints of blood and a couple of hours.  It’s something I read about in the complications section of “What to Expect”, but I never expected it. 

This story has a happy ending.  My Mackenzie is beautiful.  And while I had a hesitation about a second child, I loved her instantly.  Any doubts left that early morning while holding her the first time.  Her birth day left me grateful, blessed, and alive.  It sounds funny, but pregnancy and delivery are a major event.  Physically and emotionally.  I think with technology, phones that do everything just short of changing a diaper, we forget that childbirth is tricky.  Nothing is guaranteed. 

April 26th will be celebrated as one of the happiest days, along with June 26th, and April 30th.  Days that signify change and love, blessings and challenges, family and life.  April 26th will also be a reminder of how quickly things can change, how lucky we are to be blessed. 

Mackenzie Grace has given me a great gift.  A second chance at motherhood.  Another reminder of unconditional love.  On her birthday we will shower her with gifts and love.  A very small return on all that she has given me and it’s just the first year.  I can’t wait for what’s to come.

Happy Blogging,
Megan

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Gratitude

I just wanted to take the time and THANK all of my readers who were so supportive of my last blog.  I was surprised by the response and also by the confessions.  Thank you for being so honest and sharing your own experience.  I think the time has finally come for all us Mommies to be honest with ourselves and each other.  I'm hoping that one day being honest is the norm and being perfect is no longer mandatory.

Some questions that were asked after the last post.

Does my 2nd baby sleep?  Well yes and no.  Much better than my first.  She was sleeping through the night almost 8 hours, until I returned to work.  Figures right?  She still wakes between 2 and 4 but will go back to sleep with a bottle.  I get much better sleep, but I'm still co sleeping with her.  So it is what it is.  I'm not shy, because it's the only way I get sleep.  If I don't sleep, I'm not happy, and if I'm not happy... Well you get the picture.

How did breastfeeding go the second time around?  Well good and bad.  Good, because I started pumping the first night.  I was up to 2oz by day 2 and had filled a shoe box by the end of the first week.  Mackenzie didn't latch, but then again I didn't try too hard.  I had decided way before she was born that I would pump exclusively and give her a bottle.  I didn't want another failure at latching to foil my efforts.  The bad?  Well because of a post pardum hemorrhage, where I in fact lost almost 2 pints of blood, I had to take a massive amount of iron.  If you have ever taken iron supplements you know what they do to the body.  Well it was having an effect on my milk.  I know, every article, lactation specialist, and many other breastfeeding moms swore to me that my meds were not being passed in my milk.  However my milk had an orange tint, Mac's poops were now black, and she screamed with gas for at least 4 hours a night.  Both my pediatrician and my OB said it was possible that I was sharing my iron supplements with her. 

Here was my conclusion on the situation.  If the "books" tell you not to eat spicy or dairy if your baby is having gas or is fussy, then why wouldn't my iron pills be a problem too?  I mean I wasn't supposed to drink alcohol or caffeine either.  Also, after one memorable pumping session of being hooked up and having my baby scream at me, I then found my toddler Swiffering the floor with an entire bottle of Swiffer.  I guess it was her way of telling me the floor was dirty.  It was also my clue that I wasn't paying enough attention to her either.  Two weeks in, I put the pump away. 

Formula is not an F word.  It worked for Mackenzie and she started sleeping better and didn't scream during the "witching hour".  Plus she cut teeth at 3 months, so there you go.  She has gotten almost expressly formula and has almost 11 teeth.  I can't say it's the formula, but maybe I can.

I'm not anti breast milk or breastfeeding, I'm glad it nourishes most of the babies that are born.  I just wish someone had told be it's not the end all be all to being a mother. 

Thanks again to everyone who takes the time to read this blog and give me the indulgence of having readers.  I enjoy your comments as much as I enjoy writing.  This has been a great gift to myself, and I hope that you'll continue on your end and keep posting comments.  Much love to my other "Absolute Mommies".

Happy Blogging,
Megan

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Big Girls Don’t Cry


This could have been my theme song, Fergie’s version, that first year with Caitlin.  I sang it daily, to myself, when things got bad.  It was both a reminder to suck it up, and an apology to my daughter, that it really had nothing to do with her.  They say that hindsight is 20/20.  No kidding.  It has taken some 4 years to come to terms with the fact that I was both too stubborn and too scared to admit, that I had postpartum depression.  So I’m going to do it now.  On this blog, that thankfully is a place of comfort.

What spurred this confession?  It will surprise you.  It was an episode of The Real Housewives of Orange County.  A new wife named Peggy Tanous.  She is being honest and admitting first and foremost that she has been dealing with postpartum depression for three and a half years.  In what is usually a very light hearted and fun, albeit guilty pleasure of a show, I found myself grounded and relieved.  Tanous was very honest and real when she said that it doesn’t matter what you have or what you look like.  It can happen to anyone.  She’s right.  It happened to me.  I just couldn’t bring myself to admit it.  I haven’t had the courage. 

My love for Caitlin was instant and fierce.  I was worried those last few days before I went into labor.  Her birth changed everything.   I wanted to do everything for her.  I wanted nothing less than perfection for her.  I wanted to be the best mother this world had ever seen.    I had read the books.  I had the nursery decorated.  There were clouds on the ceiling for cripes sake.  I would have never imagined my world would turn upside down.

My first year of motherhood was marred by the feeling of failure and despair.   I felt incompetent and inept.  I was tired and fat.  I hated my body and its inability to provide the basic necessities needed.  I was scared and debilitated by the fear that admitting to anyone that I wasn’t happy made me a horrible mother.  Motherhood was not the best thing that had ever happened to me, and I felt like a really horrible person.  I was so confused and angry.  How did I get here?  Why was this, this natural occurrence, so damn hard? 

Three weeks into new motherhood with Caitlin, reality set in and I realized that this was my new job.  With that realization was the conclusion that I frankly sucked at it.  I’m a super type "A" personality.  I was goal oriented, confident, a real go getter. How could I not be a perfect and fantastic mother?  It was supposed to be natural right?  It’s what nature intended.  That’s why I was a woman and not a man?  Well it wasn’t happening.  I was upset and hormonal, and truly felt it was my entire fault.

I think it started with breastfeeding. 
I’m going to put this disclaimer in that if you CAN and DO breastfeed, then that’s a wonderful thing and I’m happy for you.  I however am not a fan, and do not believe it’s the only way.  It has taken me years to say this and really believe it. 
When I was pregnant everyone, and I mean ladies in the grocery store, were grilling me about and preaching to me the benefits of the boob.  I would always answer the same “If I can”, to which they would answer, “Of course you can its easy and natural”.  So I went into it full speed ahead thinking that it would be as easy and as natural as breathing.  I was sorely disappointed.  Caitlin never latched, and it wasn’t without practice and commitment.  I tried and tried and eventually fed her using an SNS system and supplementing with formula which absolutely crushed me and John. 
It was in all honesty, my first epic failure as a mother.  Why couldn’t I do this?  Why couldn’t I provide for my baby?  Why did my boobs fail me?  Two long weeks in and a full 24 hours of crying and zero sleep, we made what I refer to as our forfeit bottle, and started using formula. 
It didn’t end there.  On the advice of friends, and as a concession to the failure of actually breastfeeding, I started pumping.  This was most likely the worst thing I could have done since it not only reminded me every 4 hours that I couldn’t actually breast feed, but it made me feel like a cow.  The pump became my mortal enemy.  I was convinced it was pumping every ounce of self worth I had.  I hated it and hated to pump.  My pumping sessions were awful, and for the time and energy spent at the pump, my measly 4, yes 4, ounces did nothing to make me feel any better.

I’m sure it didn’t help that my darling daughter never slept.  I say this and most people don’t really believe me, but she never slept.  She still doesn’t.  She is 4 sleeps roughly 10 hours a night with no naps.  Her first year was a vicious cycle of sleeping and not.  A typical day went like this: up 3am; sleep 7am; up 11am; sleep 3pm; up 6pm; sleep 11pm; up 3am; and so on.  I was a zombie and a hot mess.  It killed me that no matter what we tried it didn’t work.  I bought sleep book after sleep book and even tried to Ferberize.  She still would not sleep.  Again, I was convinced that it was something I did.  It was something that my feeble mind couldn’t figure out.  Again, an epic fail.

It didn’t help that my new job of being a stay at home mom was a total and complete disaster.  I was home all day, so why were there dishes in the sink?  Why was there never dinner on the table?  Why was I never showered and dressed?  This too was in my mind, and epic failure.  Even more so I felt I was not only was I failing at motherhood, but now I was failing as a wife.  At what point was my husband going to ask for the person formerly known as Megan to come back?  This was my job, and it was the first one that no matter how hard I tried I just couldn’t seem to get it right.  My hard work and determination were not paying off.  It was just making me sink further.

As the weeks passed and the sleep depleted and the breast milk disappeared, I retreated.  I stopped calling my other mom friends.  It became harder and harder to talk to them.  Their babies were sleeping through the night.  Their boobs were working.  They just loved late night feedings and cuddling with their lovely newborns.  I was convinced that Caitlin was the devil sent to destroy.  Why were they successful and happy?  I was like them.  We were friends, we liked the same things, so why was I the one who wanted to run away from home and they just wanted to be at home? 

It was heartbreaking and maddening at the same time.  I had wanted to be a mom, I had hoped and prayed for it.  Now that I had it, I was drowning.  I was living, but not really.  The first 4 months of Caitlin’s life are a blur, and it makes me cry just thinking about it.  I was so angry and sad that I missed those joyous moments you read about.  You know the ones where you stare into each other’s eyes and your heart is about to burst.  When I looked in Caitlin’s eyes I would apologize to her for having such a crappy mom.  I actually whispered to her once “I’m so sorry, you deserve so much better”.   I’ve never told anyone that.  It’s hard, even now, for me to realize that I truly meant it.

So how did I get from there to here?  There were a few things.  That first Christmas John asked me what I wanted.  I’m sure he was thinking Coach Bag or diamonds.  I said that I wanted to put the pump away for good.  It was one of the best Christmas presents I ever got; only second to a Victorian doll house I got on my 5th Christmas. 

A real breakthrough came from an actual mommy confession.  I thank God every day for this mom and her truth and faith.  After a really horrible night, my friend Krysten called me.  We exchanged the usual pleasantries and she could tell by my voice I was having issues.  She simply said “It’s ok to hate it”.  With that I was transformed.  The revelation that  I could love my baby but hate motherhood.  It was like finding a pot of gold.  She saved me with that statement.  I had a new sense of motherhood after that conversation.  It was my gateway to a fresh start.

This is by no means a cautionary tale.  I can’t provide you with a list of warning signs.  The thing about PPD is that it manifests in different ways.  There isn’t one true blue warning sign, save for actually wanting to hurt your child.  I think that’s what is so confusing and frustrating.  Sadly, it’s also really taboo.  No one wants to talk about it until they are out of the woods.  I found I could only admit it to myself a year later.  In conversations with some of my closest friends they too admitted that they had wrestled with bringing up PPD.  They were afraid they would hurt my feelings, or offend me.  They were worried such an accusation would really send me over the ledge.  I agree, at that time, I would have really been offended.  Why?  I still don’t know.

Somehow I found my way.  A new way.  Without books and advice, but with my gut.  I began a new journey.  I could laugh at myself and enjoy a child that was challenging but beautiful.  Who really did bring me great joy, and give me new life.  Caitlin really changed me and I was grateful for that change.  Even better, I was finally in a place to appreciate it. 

Perfection became a dirty word.  It’s no longer something I strive to be.  Sure you can shoot for it, but I find it’s truly a letdown.  Happiness is much better and more realistic.  Now I strive for happiness.  Happiness is a blessing, it’s less stressful, and more rewarding.

I’m glad I was ready for the battle the second time around.  I was worried that I would fall back into a dark place after Mackenzie was born.  It turned out that experience won out this time.  I was more prepared and only freaked about a few things.  I didn’t breastfeed in case you’re wondering.  

If I would have gone back to the dark place, if the old feelings would have returned, I would have asked for help.  I would have been braver this time and admitted that I did in fact have PPD and it was OK.  When I think about Peggy Tanous I think about her bravery and her honesty.  I wish I could have been that brave.  I know I can be that brave now.

From the edges of motherhood I survived.  I love my girls with every thread of my body. I survived the horrors of early motherhood, and then got the chance to do it again. I love Caitlin and the survival story we share.  Like war vets, we have a few scars from that year, but we are here.  I love that Caitlin is a true example of unconditional love, and no matter how much I struggled that first year, we still have love. 

I love Mackenzie for the gift she gave me.   Mackenzie was my second chance to live the joys of motherhood. An opportunity to understand the joys and the blessings of motherhood. She was my chance to look into my newborns eyes and see true love.  The chance to have my heart burst and my smile shine.  To feel like the mother I was always supposed to be.  A good one.

I have my days.  As we know, motherhood is challenging, but it’s my life.  I would not, could not have it any other way.

Happy Blogging,
Megan