Sunday, February 27, 2011


Like so many, I have grappled with the dark shadows of anxiety and depression. Mine has been a conscious struggle for nearly ten years now, but if I look back into my childhood, I can see it there, too. The over-thinking, the desperate grabs for approval, the belittling self-talk... It has been a part of me for as long as I can remember.

Transitions have always been my weak spot. One of my most difficult times, and the first time that I really began to have any awareness of my own tendencies towards anxiety, was when I graduated from high school and entered first year university. Everything was going well. I was a good student, and had made one or two friends. I lived comfortably at home with my parents and siblings, had a good relationship with my boyfriend, held down a part-time job... On the surface, everything was functional and fine, and yet I experienced rib-cage-crushing chest pain every time the bus I was riding pulled up to the university campus.

Change. That was all it was.

I struggled significantly again when I got married, and again when my son was born. Always appearing to be fine, to have it together, and yet, I was frozen with worry, exhausting myself with circular thoughts, and berating myself for any and all failure to adhere to my own set of rules of how things should be. Desperately trying to organize my life back under control.

During my last round of counseling, I was taken aback when I realized that I was comfortable making myself miserable. It is not that I enjoy being worried, self-critical and defensive, but these things are so familiar to me. They are patterns that have become so much a part of who I am that when we talked about leaving them behind, I got quite emotional. Feelings of fear and grief swelled up inside of me. Change these things? How could I? It would be like letting a part of myself die! And who would I be without them?

Who, indeed. When therapists ask me to describe myself, I usually tell them whatever my mother or sister or grade school teacher has told me about myself. Somehow, borrowing other people's words feels more accurate than anything I could come up with myself. But I don't report everything I have been told, rather, I will sort through my memories for those descriptions that I feel are most accurate. Loud? Yes, that seems right. Difficult to get along with? I can buy that. Over-dramatic? Sure. But say someone describes me as reliable? I will immediately remind myself of all the times in which I have been unreliable, and 'reliable' doesn't make the cut.

I recently started seeing a therapist again, to help me through the transition from 'working mom of one' to 'at-home mom of two'. This therapist is truly a woman after my own heart; always giving me new things to read. The book, 'What Happy People Know' by Dan Baker, has been my favourite suggestion so far, but I have also learned much from 'The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem' and a chapter of 'Change your Brain, Change your Life'. The writers of these books have given me new insight into my own messy head.

Calling up every negative thing anyone has ever said about me, along with evidence to support their statements, comes ridiculously easy to me. It is a very established thought pattern, and my brain is very good at it after a near lifetime of practice. Remembering positive descriptors is harder, and any that I do recall, are so easy to discount. I am beginning to understand that it all comes down to my self-concept; the way I write my own story. It works like this: If I believe I am 'bad', then descriptions in line with that belief seem correct. Descriptions to the contrary are incorrect, clearly the result of someone else's generosity, or not knowing me well enough. Evidence supporting the 'truth' is remembered. Any evidence contradicting it is dismissed as being a rare exception.

In actual fact, I may be reliable far more often than I am unreliable. I may be even-tempered far more often than I am overly dramatic. But what I believe about myself has not been based on facts, or numbers, or really anything rational. It has only been based on an old, bad story of me.

I am feeling more open to change, these days. It would not be so awful to drop 'neurotic' from my own self-concept. I am ready to give up my old habits, and pave some new roads. And I am trying to let go of the old stories of 'bad' me, even though I don't know who I will be without them.

Today is where my book begins. The rest is still unwritten.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Brother Bear

In the early Berenstein Bear books, there were only 3 in the Bear family: Papa Bear, Mama Bear, and Small Bear. In "The New Baby", Small Bear makes his transition to Brother Bear. I love that his name changes, because it shows the significance of that birth in his life. His whole identity is affected.

Nik is definitely feeling the changes since Alexa has arrived. One of his new favourite games, pictured above, is to climb into her crib, sit in the baby bathtub with her new tummy time quilt, and play with the mobile. I'm not making a big deal out of it. He deserves to be able to say goodbye to Small Bear in his own way.

I have been lucky, actually, that his sleeping and bathroom habits have remained virtually unchanged since baby has been on the scene. I was prepared for a certain amount of regression, but so far, things have been good, and we are nearly at the 2 week mark. I was also wondering if he would be jealous of all the nursing, since he really only recently was completely weaned. It seems to be not a problem, though he does covet the lap time. "You put her on the couch, and I will sit in your lap," he says. Usually I will. After a quick cuddle, he is back to his own thing. Just checking, I guess.

His behaviour is another story. More whining, more boundary pushing, more rudeness in general. It is hard to know how much to ignore, and how much to respond to, and what response is appropriate. Does he need more understanding? More discipline? More attention? The most obvious increase is in bossy behaviour. I am guessing he is trying to control more to alleviate anxiety, but it is hard to remember that when he stomps into the room demanding another video, or computer time, or more chocolate milk in such-and-such specific cup. Unfortunately, my patience runs thinner and he gets crabbier as the day runs on.

Mornings are good. Alexa is happiest after a night's sleep, and will consent to being put down. I can get some housework done, which satisfies my need to accomplish. And Nik is calmer, easier.

The photo below was taken this morning. Happy, bright-eyed kids, snuggled in jammies in the morning light. This is what I want to remember from these first weeks.

The sweet beginnings of Brother Bear and Sister Bear.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Birth story

I delivered in the hospital. I was induced by synthetic Oxytocin drip. I had continuous fetal monitoring. I had IV tubes coming off of one arm, and blood pressure cuff with tubes coming off of the other arm. I was delivered by a resident I had only first met hours before. And yet...

I had a good birth.

Going overdue sucks. I think I have done sufficient job of expressing that in previous posts. Everyone is waiting for you to do something you have no control over. People make comments that they think are funny. They are not funny. And every night you go to bed. Still pregnant.

You can't stand up without needing to go pee. You can't sleep more than a few hours at a time. You make no real plans because you will be in the hospital any day. But any day does not come, and methods of induction begin to be discussed.

We really wanted a natural birth. Our birth experience with Nik was traumatic, and we had been induced then. We did the IV, the fetal monitoring, the long labour, the epidural, the episiotomy... We wanted a different experience this time around. Labour at home for a while, then go to the hospital. Labour in the hospital whirlpool, or on hands and knees on my yoga mat on the floor. Pushing in that semi-upright position. No stirrups for me, thank you very much.

Sunday morning, we talked about it. Would we take the induction if they called to offer it Monday? Or would we wait longer? After much discussion, we decided to take it when it was offered. If we saved induction only as a very last resort, we were starting down a path of beyond-our-control birth before labour had even started. But if we chose induction now, we could own it. It would really be what we had decided to do, after considering all the pros and cons, and we could make peace with that.

The hospital surprised us by calling to offer us a spot in LDRP if we went in for induction on Sunday night. My heart started pounding. I hadn't expected the call until at least the next morning. I told them we would have to think on it, and I would call back. I called my sister, and my husband came upstairs. With her on speaker, we talked about what to do. We decided to do it. We had already decided to accept the induction, and this was a way to be really intentional about it. Summoning up a spirit of no hesitation, I called the hospital back. My mom would come and stay with my son. We were on our way.

We spent a while in triage when we got to the hospital. When they checked me, I was already nearly 5 cm dialated, and I was told I was "very stretchy". The OB-GYN from my obstetrical group came in to talk to us about induction options. She did not rush us, and let us ask many questions. I had done quite a bit of reading on induction methods, and armed with that knowledge, the consultation with the OB, and the support of my husband and sister, we chose to begin the IV drip with membranes intact.

We went down to our suite in LDRP and met our night nurse. She talked to us about our preferences for support during labour, and worked with me to choose a site for the IV. She worked in an unhurried way, with our cds from home playing in the background, and the lights low. She explained what she was doing with all of the equipment. I may have been in a hospital bed, with tubes coming off of my arms and belly, but I was at ease. The nurse, my sister and I chatted through the wee hours of the morning, while my husband dozed. We were all just waiting for contractions to begin.

They did begin, in earnest around 5 a.m. I woke up my husband, and away we went. The contractions became very intense, very quickly, and there was no rhythm to them at all. They were of varying lengths, as were the 'breaks', which basically consisted of a "if-you-touch-me-I will-vomit" feeling for a few seconds. I started to flip around, stretching in crazy directions as the contractions got more painful. The nurse was awesome. She never told me not to move, even when the monitors started to fall off. She just worked around me, for a while down on her knees holding the fetal heart monitor onto my lower belly with her hand.

I couldn't talk, but my self-talk was going a mile a minute. With closed eyes, I used all my self-control to focus on why I wanted this baby, how much I loved Nik and all the sweet things he does, how okay it was to stretch in weird ways... I imagined things moving open and down. Any contraction I had with fear or angry thoughts in my head was far, far worse. All the contractions were awful, but I could cope if I could keep control of my noisy head. Up, up, up in a contraction, stretch my head to the left, and then whoosh back to the right... Ow, oh, no, it's good, it is doing what it needs to do, stretch, open, move down, that girl's a comin...

Labour was fast, and before I knew it, it was too much for me to take. I started thinking, "How in the world will I ever get through this?" I couldn't believe I was in transition; labour had only just started! But then my sounds started to change, and the nurse wanted to check me. She could see I was moving into second stage, though I was only barely aware of the growing need to push. She wanted me up on the bed for an exam, and all I could think was, "Screw you. I am barely coping down here where I am." but I took that 2 second break with all the tension still in my tailbone, and willed myself into that bed and onto my back. Oh, I hated everyone in that moment.

She checked me, and said to me very loudly and clearly, "Lisa, you are 100%. Don't push. I will get the doctor, and your baby will be born." Go to hell, I thought. My body, my birth, I will push if I want to. I grabbed Andrew's arm, and held on for dear life, blowing, blowing, blowing, and doing little cheating pushes to relieve the pressure. The nurse ran into the hall and I heard her call, "I need a doctor in here!" My OB was with someone else, so the resident came in. She had been by briefly in triage to introduce herself.

In a flurry, the bed was changed into a birthing chair, and I started really pushing. Because I had the epidural with Nik, this was a totally new experience. I couldn't believe the pressure, or how hard I was able to push. When they told me, "Good, like that, do it again!" I knew what I had done, and could replicate it. I burst a million blood vessels in my face and neck. The OB squeezed warm water over my perineum and massaged the skin. No one rushed me, even though my labour slowed right down. I had the longest breaks during pushing, and the pillows behind my back felt so good.

I waited for the urge to push before pushing, and that meant I even skipped a few of the milder contractions. No one said anything. No one shouted, "Push!" They let me wait, let me feel it out, and just encouraged me to go harder, go just one more time before resting again. Baby moved down so fast, maybe just 30 minutes. During crowning, the OB was amazing. "Come on, Lisa, I know it hurts, but you have to get through it. Gentle push, again, gentle push, don't give up, you're doing it, one more, one more, gentle push, come on, one more..."

And then, the feeling changed. It felt like someone was pulling a very slippery octopus out of me, as the head passed, and I felt that mess of arms and legs leave my body. Alexa was born, and the hardest part was done. It was only 6:42 a.m.

I realized I had done it. With awesome support from everyone around me, I had pushed that little person out into the world on my own steam, without narcotics. And it was exhausting and awful and over. I did it. In the hospital, with a doctor and nurse who were strangers to me, under an induction I thought was still a day away, I had a good birth. And that is my birth story.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

My girl

The hospital called on Sunday night, and offered us a spot in LDRP if we went in for induction right then. We decided to take it, and sweet Alexa was born at 6:42 Monday morning. The labour was fast and furious, but I am proud to say that I birthed her without narcotics. We are home now, and she is nursing and sleeping round the clock. Longer birth story to follow, but I wanted to announce her arrival and share some pics!

Time will tell how Nik will adjust to Alexa's arrival. So far, it is a little overwhelming, and he has been checking in a lot. He is off to preschool this afternoon, which I think will be a good distraction for him.
Thanks for stopping by to see my little sweetheart!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Baby watch 2011

Still no baby in my arms, but there is some news to share! Yesterday, I saw my OB. My exam results were nearly 4 cm dialated, and 80% effaced. Because I am past my due date now by at least a week, we discussed labour induction methods, and the relative risks and benefits of the different things we can do. We decided to try the membrane sweep in the office that afternoon, leaving me SO crampy last night, but still no baby. When I woke up, I lost my cervical plug, and it was nice to have another sign of progress.

This morning, we went down to the hospital for a fetal assessment. We found out that we are having a girl! We have named her Alexa Marie. It was super exciting to see our little sweetheart on screen. These are the photos from the 3D portion of the ultrasound.
My heart is so full right now, after seeing my little girl stretch, and snuggle in, and pull faces this morning. She is doing great, with lots of clear fluid left to hang out in, and the placenta is not showing any signs of age. If nothing more happens before Tuesday, we have another assessment scheduled for Tuesday morning at 10:00. There is a possibility that the hospital will call to offer induction sometime on Monday, but at this point, I don't think we will take it. My OB had said that if things looked good at the assessment, and baby was still moving a lot by Monday, we could just tell the hospital that we would like to give it just one more day.

Fingers are crossed that we will still have this birth without an IV drip. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers. Hopefully, my next post will be post-birth!
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