By now, I have probably lost every one who "followed" my meager posts to begin with. Ah, well, having a new baby will do that to a person, I suppose. And then, because life wasn't crazy enough, I took on some small contracts and wrote a whole lot of grant proposals in hopes I get some arts funding in the spring. All those are done now, except for the ones that come back in the mail because clearly I haven't mailed an 8X10 envelope for a while and they require more stamps than they used to.
All in all, there is much to write. Where to begin? How about birth?
For those of you who don't know, Aksel (Norse for Man of Peace) was born on June 4 after 5 hours of labour, which itself was induced by the midwives when they finally consented to break my water after checking me and finding I was 4 cm dilated, fully effaced and not in labour. My midwife said she envisioned breaking my water, going home, washing her car, and waiting for labour to begin. Big problem, though, when meconium appeared in the water (now there's a treat - endless pooey amniotic fluid gushing out). So, the midwife drove me immediately to the hospital and Kirk cycled furiously home from work to get the car and meet us there. Contractions started immediately (I KNEW my water just needed breaking because he was trying and trying to be born). I made a very dramatic arrival - Wendy drove me straight to the front entrance, got a wheelchair and a volunteer to wheel me up while she parked her car, so there I was, the big fat pregnant woman in a wheelchair (realizing, as I exited her car, that I stained her car seat with poo-filled amniotic fluid.)
I was jovial and unbelieving that this was really it (everyone assured me it was not going to go backwards). Kirk and his laptop joined us shortly (I'm not joking when I say he brings it everywhere). The room at the hospital was lovely and bright, and we all had a lovely time, and then I fell down the rabbit hole into labour land. I even remember explicitly saying "I'm drifting off to labour land now." Holy Moses, things went quickly from there.
With Anja, I needed to be in the bath the entire labour, but with Aksel, you couldn't have dragged me in there. I was so very, very hot, so spent a good deal of time sitting on an exercise ball with my head in Kirk's lap. Apparently, at one point, I threw my glasses across the room and Kirk says I swore like a sailor, but I would never do that. After throwing up an Ice Cap, I moved to the bed and shortly thereafter said "Baby wants to come." Wendy said "really?" in disbelief, "Let me check." At which point she said I was six centimeters and at which point I said in a very matter-of-fact, don't-fuck-with-me tone "Then I Want The Epidural." "Well," she says "Let's just see what happens with you're next contraction," to which I replied "I Want The Epidural" and promptly went from 6-10 centimeters in one contraction and again reiterated my desire for the epidural, but was told by all and sundry that it was too late, that they wouldn't even have time to get the line in. I remember the rattling of the nitrous cart a short time later, and began sucking it back like it was air. "I feel like I'm going to pass out," I said, to which Kirk answered, "Well don't suck back so much." Afterward, I said I was not sure how effective it was, to which again Kirk answered, "Well, it gave you something to do and muffled your screams." I was very convinced that the lack of epidural was just a forced-hand into a natural birth.
In any case, at this point I was petrified because Anja took three hours to push out and I kept asking Wendy "how long? how long?" - but Aksel began, with his 36 cm head, barreling his way out and with 20 minutes of, I must say, very mighty pushing, all 8 lbs, 15 ounces of him was born (I kept expecting warm compresses and remember thinking "where are my warm compresses?" but apparently Wendy and Grace (the student midwife) "helped" things along a little because they didn't like the way his head was looking...) They did say "reach down reach down" to feel his head, and after Anja, I swore I would, but really, I don't think I physically could have. And I saw him and said "there you are," and he cried once and then...he stopped breathing right and became flaccid.
There are many moments when I grow very weary of Kirk's profession, but this was not one of these moments. I was so, so glad he was there and able to watch as they tried to get Aksel's right lung inflating, and also very glad for his calm demeanour because he understood things were not one hundred percent, but also not terrible either, and that the neonatologist knew him and was staying around on the floor until Aksel was born because she took over care from the respiratory therapist and other midwife shortly thereafter. I was also grateful Kirk could go with Aksel as they took him to the special care nursery and took x-rays, etc, etc. It is a very alien, surreal feeling not to be able to even touch or hold your baby when he is born and have him whisked away, and to still be in that after-birth shock (you know, all of you mamas, the trembling, the chills, the weakness, the gushing blood loss) and thinking "where is my baby?" This was definitely not in the birth plan. In fact, I didn't see him until 2 hours later when I was all stitched up and able to get out of bed.
After Kirk rushing around to CHEO with x-rays and consults with whosits and whatsits, it was determined Aksel had meconium aspiration, which is like a chemical burn to his lungs, and was thus breathing way too fast, so was started on antibiotics on the possibility there would be infection, which meant a 3 day automatic hospital stay. It is very surreal to have a baby not come home with you - and there was no real place for me to stay at this particular hospital except to grab the occasional nap in the early labour lounge. It is very weird to see your baby in an isolette and still weirder to have him hooked up to all sorts of gizmos. It is weird to try to begin breastfeeding when there is no place for you to sleep and they have to give formula. It is weird to have your ankles swell even more after birth so that you truly now have elephant legs and your feet don't even fit in your flip-flops any more.
It's both a very vivid time and a very hazy time in memory right now. Lots of tears and uncertainty and just wanting him to come home. Then, finally getting him discharged, having been told he was no longer breathing fast, then getting him home and realizing he was still breathing very, very fast (in the 100's when it should have maxed at 60 respirations per minute.) At ten pm on the day we brought him home, I woke Kirk up and said "This is not right" and Kirk hummed and hawed and looked up studies, and got out his stethoscope and thermometer and counted his breathing and counted his breathing and counted his breathing until I said "If you are looking up studies and doing all this, shouldn't we just take him in?" So, we made a call to a friend at 1 am who came to be with Anja, then off the Emerg we went. What's even weirder than a sick baby is a pediatric resident taking his own baby into the emergency.
Long, long story short, Aksel went to the NICU, we were treated very, very well, my ankles swelled more, I cried lots and lots, was exhausted from having given birth, trudging through hospitals post birth, staying up in the emergency all night. I broke down swollen, puffy, pale, post-birthy chubby in front of Kirk's colleagues multiple times, felt nurses knew my baby better than I did, watched nurses shave Aksel's little head to get a line in (and not getting the line after all), losing IV's after IV's (puncture marks all over his little hands and feet, shrieking, shrieking), get catheterized, more antibiotics, trying to arrange care for Anja and the dog, Kirk having to arrange his own shifts covered while his child was in hospital, Aksel came home for good at 8 days old. Here he is at 4 days, on his first foray home, and then at 4 months old:
I am a writer, a college instructor, the mother of one, an aspiring potter, a former yoga teacher, a sugar addict, a worry-wart, a struggler with the meaning of things great and small, and the wife of a first-going on-second year paediatrics resident in an Eastern Canadian city.