Time flies

Our little daughter is already three weeks old. In some ways, it feels like it’s been an eternity. But at the same time, it’s hard to believe she’s this old already.

So far, we’ve hit quite a few milestones, the least of which is her weird ability to get cuter by the day, even when it seems impossible for the child to get any more adorable. We finally managed to get her staying awake a little more in the day and sleeping a little more at night. She’s made eye contact with us and smiled while doing so, although most literature dismisses babies’ early smiles as gas. (We’re pretty sure we know the difference, however, as Maddi is the queen of bodily functions and has a completely different smile for gas. We know this because she farts like a trucker after a burrito-eating contest.) She’s held her head up from a lying-down position and reached (if a bit spastically) for her mobile. She’s tracking things like mad with her eyes. Her oeuvre as a vocalist has expanded from an all-crying repertoire to include some very cute cooing noises. She’s even stayed home alone with a grandparent a few times while Chris and I escaped enjoyed some “alone-time.”

Of course there are a few tradeoffs to having such an active and alert wee one. One of those is that she sleeps but a precious few hours a day. And those hours are spent multitasking (read: eating and pooping) which means that while she may be getting some well-needed rest, Mommy and Daddy are not.

Another is that she knows all too well when she is not being held or fed, and if she is being held, she knows whether or not whoever is holding her is still capable of accomplishing day-to-day tasks such as eating or washing bottles. If the holder is able to pull off something as outrageous as taking her vitamins or checking his email, the holdee will commence her piteous wailing until the holder either feeds her or manages to amuse her sufficiently.

Naturally, the holdee is never sufficiently amused if the holder happens to be Mommy, as there are obviously two large bottles of delicious, comforting milk conveniently situated mere inches from where she is being held.

Even when the holder is someone else, Maddi will be reminded of her bottles if that person is female or has any significant pectoral muscles at all.

Thus, even when there has been extra help about (a.k.a. the grandmothers), I have consistently posted late, held my bladder well past the point of comfort, and sometimes failed to eat my three squares a day. And Maddi has gained quite a bit of weight.

We’re not sure how much because going to the health unit to weigh her would require weaning her for an hour, but let it suffice to say that some of the clothing she swam in three weeks ago is now straining at the seams around her sausagey little body, fitting her about as well as my prepregnancy skinny jeans now fit over my newly renovated hips.

That, and some of her diapers alone weigh more than she did when she made her grand entrance.

So, needless to say, we are very much looking forward to what we hope, hope, HOPE will be Maddi’s next amazing and adorable milestones: Sleeping more than an hour at a time, especially during the night, and being OK with Mommy and Daddy doing things other than feeding her.

And here it is — our picky little princess’ three-week picture.

Return of Pele

As you may recall, during her gestational months we referred to Maddi by the nickname Pele owing to her tendency to cause eruptions when the wrong sacrifices were offered.

The nickname has been replaced for the most part by Maddykins and Lambchop (because she baas like a little lamb when she’s passing gas), but it is no less fitting than it was before. While we are getting more sleep and enjoying a bit more spare time than we did in that first difficult week, there are a few new things to contend with. The rumblings that used to occur deep within my stomach before the vomit eruptions of early pregnancy are now occuring within the belly of our little girl. Unfortunately, while we always knew from whence Pele’s wrath would shower when I was pregnant, it is now an entirely unpredictable matter.

If the rumble is followed by a gurgle, we know that the blast zone is to the south. However, the most devastation occurs when the blast zone is to the north. The lack of ground cover means that whatever spews forth from the belly of Mount Maddi will bathe a greater area in liquid destruction. And there is no warning gurgle. One minute, you will be looking at Maddi’s sweet little face — the next, your favorite shirt is bathed in white lava.

Our volcano goddess is not discriminating in regards to what is ruined and what is spared. Cute sleepers, velvet overalls, plain white onesies, pajamas, or my only nursing top … nothing is sacred when Pele unleashes her torrent of destruction. Sacrifices are futile — she doesn’t care whether it’s formula or breastmilk. It all comes out one way or another.

But at least she’s sleeping for three or four hours at a stretch once in awhile.

And for your viewing pleasure, Maddi at 2 weeks old:

Sleepless in Peachland

Last night was my eighth sleepless one in as many days.* Not entirely sleepless, mind you, since Chris and I started sleeping in shifts. But definitely not the type of uninterrupted sleep enjoyed by those who do not play cafeteria to ravenous infants.

Don’t get me wrong. Maddi is adorable, sweet and a complete joy. As far as babies go, she’s a great one. She just has this habit of guzzling 4 or more ounces every 90 minutes (“normal” newborns supposedly take more like 2 ounces every few hours), confusing daytime with nighttime (her big feeding frenzy is between midnight and 5 a.m.) and refusing to sleep unless she is being held.

We have used abused her bouncy seat to transition her from sleeping in our arms to sleeping in her Pack ‘N’ Play bassinet, which we will then use to transition her from sleeping in our room to sleeping in her nursery. In fact, today — a mere eight days from her birth — we were forced to replace the batteries in that blessed, lifesaving wonder that is Maddi’s bouncy seat.

Despite having fewer hours of sleep in a week than I had each day of my first trimester (back in that halcyon era of staying awake for six or fewer hours at a time), and having completely neglected many aspects of personal grooming, I am still in a weird euphoric state that must be the opposite of postpartum depression. (Is there such a thing as postpartum mania?)

In addition to surviving on about five hours of broken sleep per 24-hour period, I have also managed to do a few loads of laundry (if you know me, you know this is not my usual M.O.) and pump several bottles in my downtime. I would even be posting a little more, if only I could get on the computer with more than one arm available (tonight’s post is courtesy of Nana, who kindly offered to stay over and help out with Maddi, and the last one was thanks to the bouncy seat).

Sometimes, when I have the opportunity to sleep — provided that she doesn’t wake up when I put her down — I hold Maddi and gaze at her sweet little face instead. And in the rare moments when I’m showering or drying my hair, there’s a weird phenomenon in which the shower or the blow drier sounds as if it’s got a background track of Maddi’s hunger cry (of course, when I turn off whatever appliance I’m using, it turns out to be nothing). It’s a good thing for me that babies can’t get restraining orders, because I think this qualifies as obsession. Can’t eat, can’t sleep … you get the picture.

It’s supposed to get better after the first few weeks, so we shall see. In the meantime, there are shifts to be slept in and pumping to be done (facilitating those much-needed naps).

Until such time as Maddi can go more than 30 consecutive minutes without eating, if I forget to do my Friday post — or if I take four days to write it as I did this week — it’s just because I’m trying to catch a wink. (And probably not getting it.)

Coming soon: Pictures of Maddi at one week.

*Yes, I realize she is now 10 days old rather than eight. It took me three days to catch 30 spare minutes to write this. Did I mention she is a good eater?

Drugs, not hugs!

Welcome to the world, Maddux Elise Phillips!

Doubtless, given my failure to post an update after my last entry, you are left wondering whether the big event finally arrived. The answer, of course, is yes.

I did make it to that highly anticipated pedicure — and not a moment too soon!

That other highly anticipated event — the grand debut of the wee one — was getting ready to happen, to my great and unending denial. My contractions had been four minutes apart since Tuesday night and by the time I made it to the salon on Thursday morning, they’d been clocked at two minutes apart. But since they weren’t any more painful than period cramps, I decided there was no way possible that I was in transition labor. (I was right, but I was in early labor).

I left the salon with toenails painted a lovely shade of ‘Suzi Sells Sushi by the Seashore’ (that’s OPI-ese for peachy pink) and drove home through my two-minutes-apart contractions. On arriving home, I was informed that the pedicure package should have included a paraffin dip, so I scheduled that for 2:15 and begged the contractions not to get any harder. Lucky for me, my uterus obeyed me until I returned home with warm, soft feet and joined Chris in the office.

At some point while timing my contractions, I realized that they were still two minutes apart and were now at least as painful as period cramps. I also realized that we live 40 minutes from the hospital and that Chris would not appreciate my giving birth a) on the office futon or b) in the Nissan. (I probably wouldn’t have appreciated those options either, as Chris is not licensed to practice medicine or administer anesthesia.)

Since Dr. Goncalves was the on-call physician that day at the hospital, his receptionist told me to go to Labour and Delivery and have Dr. G check me out. When we got to the hospital about 3:45, we discovered that another highly anticipated event had occurred without our knowing. While I waited in the examination room, Chris headed downstairs to check me into the hospital and was told I needed a new hospital card that had my MSP number on it. Yes, my health-care coverage application has apparently been approved, and, like the pedicure, I got it just in time.

Unfortunately, while everything else was falling into place in a timely manner, my cervix was not so cooperative. Despite my having had regular contractions for nearly two solid days, and close regular contractions for about 16 hours, I was still a mere 2 cm dilated at 5 p.m.

Our little daughter’s heart rate, which had been a very predictable 145 or so at nearly every prenatal visit from week 12 on, had been up in the 160s for much of the time since I’d been admitted, dipping lower during those stressful contractions. The nurses determined that I was in labor, but it was still early labor. However, because of the distance between our home in Peachland and the hospital in Penticton, combined with the fact that it was my first baby and we couldn’t predict how quickly labor might progress, Dr. Goncalves made the call to admit me sooner rather than later.

I walked around laboring blissfully for awhile, filled with a mixture of anticipation and disbelief. When Dr. G arrived at the hospital, I was certain I’d be at least 4 cm. Alas, while the contractions had gotten harder and remained two minutes apart, my stubborn cervix had not budged a millimeter in the past two hours.

With me getting tired and frustrated and the baby remaining stressed, Dr. Goncalves and I decided that it was time to speed things up. At 6:45, he broke my water, and immediately things began to progress. My contractions now felt like what I’d expected from labor, and I was finally able to use my breathing techniques in earnest. Pretty soon, it became impossible to walk or stand ‘ but when Dr. G checked me about 9 p.m., I was dilated only 3 cm. And our obstinate little girl was facing forward rather than to my spine, which meant that I was enjoying what is known as back labor and that it would only get worse unless we managed to get her to turn around.

At some point while I was bent over the top of the bed on hands and knees in a most undignified effort to corral our wee daughter into an appropriate position, the contractions went from pretty bad to unbearable. My plan had been to deliver with no medications but the epidural, but since I hadn’t reached 4 cm there was no hope of getting one any time soon. So I scrapped my original plan and huffed Entenox as if my life depended on it. Pretty soon, I was informed that I still wasn’t dilating, and since there was no way I could stand, let alone walk the halls, I straddled the world’s most uncomfortable chair — which I suspect was brought in directly from my first-grade music classroom — in order to let gravity work its magic. Apparently it worked because within minutes I was begging for an epidural (which, as you may recall, I was not able yet to have). A friend from prenatal class brought lavender oil and massaged my ankles, which made the contractions bearable, and when I was told that I did not actually need the C-section I was begging for, I agreed to be given more drugs. The way I anticipated the insertion of the IV and its soothing dose of Fentanyl has convinced me that it would be a very bad idea indeed for me to ever try heroin.

The details of labor after the administration of Fentanyl are a bit hazy (only partly owing to the narcotics). It is difficult to look at the clock or listen to the nurses when one is simultaneously hyperventilating and screaming one’s head off. At some point I hit 4 cm and left the labor room for my epidural. When they checked me again before actually inserting the catheter, I had dilated to 6-7 cm and was feeling the urge to push during contractions (don’t worry — I didn’t!). By 11 p.m., when the catheter was in and I had stopped screaming, I was at 7-8 cm.

I don’t know how it feels in normal labor, but let me just say that, when you are having rapid back labor, epidurals do NOT result in feelings of mere pressure rather than pain. They simply make the pain such that you can breathe through it without yelling maniacally and frightening people walking past the maternity wing. Unfortunately, Chris’ 11-year-old cousin Becca was within earshot and is now planning never to have children.

An hour after my epidural, I was fully dilated and ready to push our daughter out of her not-so-comfy home. An hour and fifteen minutes or so later (and after our wee one’s “stupid melon head” was roundly condemned), Maddux Elise entered the world sideways at 1:21 a.m. May 6. It seems she had rotated 45 degrees in the birth canal, which might explain why pushing was the least back-labor-heavy part of the night.

Maddi was born weighing 7 pounds, 14 ounces and measuring 20.5 inches. She’s been eating like a champ and has already nearly gained back the 7 ounces she lost the day after being born. Much thanks to Maddi’s Nana, who helped me through most of my contractions, and to Auntie Kathy who provided support, compresses and prayers, and especially to Chris, who — unlike the dad in the childbirth video we watched in prenatal class — did everything right! And of course, big ups to Dr. G, the wonderful nurses and, last but not least, the anesthetist.

Sadly, what they say about the best laid plans is true. I planned to have a drug-free delivery with the option of an epidural if I really needed one, and I pretty well drained the pharmacy. And while I was so excited to get my pedicure, my entire labor was spent with slipper socks covering my pretty nails.

Despite these little disappointments — and the horrid back labor — I am so happy to finally have my baby daughter in my arms. Chris and I have been home with Maddi for two days now and, while we fear we will never sleep again, we are enjoying our little girl immensely!

Pictures of the labor and delivery are available in Chris’ photo gallery.

And now — you knew it was coming — my final preggie pic at Week 39.7!

The end is at hand!

Just when I thought I was going to be pregnant forever and ever, I got two pieces of good news from Dr. Goncalves’ office.

The first piece of good news is that he is willing to wait to induce until 11 days, rather than 10, after his due date (his is the 9th, ours is the 8th) so that my mom doesn’t have to go directly from the airport to the hospital. The other good news is that he doesn’t think I will last that long (sorry, Mom!). In fact, he said it is very likely I will go into labor tonight or tomorrow.

Between my regular, close-together contractions — which have resumed since last I posted — and my fingertip-dilated but almost completely effaced cervix, and given the fact that the baby dropped weeks ago and now is about as low as they come, it looks as if we will not have to wait very long at all to bring the wee one home. (Which is good, because her head is hurting my butt and as for her feet … well, let’s just say it’s very lucky that the liver regenerates!)

The car is packed with labor bag, baby bag, laptop and snacks, and I am staying off certain of Chris’ favorite furniture items in the event of flash flooding.

I am convinced that this is happening because yesterday, before the contractions began, I scheduled a pedicure for 9 a.m. tomorrow. It is a birthday present from Chris and I really can’t think of a thing I want more! With my luck, I will enter Labor & Delivery (oops — since we are in Canada, that should be Labour and Delivery!) sometime before my birthday treat with the same sad, haphazardly-painted nails I inflicted on myself two weeks ago in my final, rather futile attempt to reach my toes. It would have been nice to have had pretty feet. That, I suspect, is exactly what my wily uterus realized and — always one to rain on my parade in the past with ill-timed periods — quickly went into action to prevent me from having any happiness, comfort or feelings of attractiveness in these final days.

Little does that organ realize, I did manage to shave and pack makeup for the hospital! Ha!

Well, I will keep everyone updated on my condition (although it may be via the labor email Chris set up awhile back). With any luck, the baby will hold off until after I have exited the salon with soft feet and lovely nails.

Labor strike

Last night, Chris and I were fully prepared to pack up and go to the hospital if necessary. Today, it’s just the regular afternoon obstetrician’s appointment.

This is what comes of timing contractions.

I was having intermittent contractions last night as Chris and I were playing euchre with his mom and Aunt Kathy. They were just little bitty contractions, but someone suggested timing them. (Now if someone suggests that you jump off the Brooklyn Bridge, do you go ahead and do it? Of course not!)

They started off 12 minutes apart, then progressed to seven and later to five. Still, they were teensy-weensy, mildly crampy contractions, so I was certain they’d stop.

By the time we arrived home, they were coming four minutes apart, and some of them were fairly strong. I finished folding and putting away the baby’s clean clothes and added a few new baby items to the labor bag, and Chris put out the trash, changed the cat box and shaved … just in case I woke up at 3 a.m. with the baby halfway out. Still skeptical that it was the real thing, I lay down with a bottle of water and timed my contractions until 1:30 or so. They weren’t stopping, so I fell asleep, figuring I might not get any if I stayed up later.

But while the contractions increased my frequency of nighttime toilet visits — and decreased my already-impaired ability to sleep comfortably — they stopped, alas, sometime between 4 a.m. and quarter to 7.

Now I’ve gone from hoping that, in 36 hours, I could be leaving the hospital with our baby girl in tow to hoping that, in 5 hours, Dr. Goncalves will tell me I have dilated even just the littlest bit.

T minus 4 days.

And here, marking Week 39, are what I hope will be the very last belly pics:

Deliverance is nigh! (What have I gotten myself into?)

Today, I woke up, took the requisite 10 minutes to launch my manatee-shaped self off the side of the bed, and stumbled into the bathroom to put in my contacts. Before I could see straight, I received a jolt of an entirely different kind of clarity.

“T minus 7 days,” a voice in my head intoned ominously.

Today I am writing my weekly entry in the baby blog, as I do every Sunday. At this time next week, if my due date is anything to go by, I will not be posting an update on my pregnancy. I will be at the hospital, participating in the miracle of childbirth — a beautiful and blessed event which, from most accounts, tends to be a little less like “Touched by an Angel” and a little more like Linda Blair’s role in “The Exorcist.” (Chris, I apologize in advance for any cursing, vomiting or head-spinning that may occur. The baby made me do it.)

My labor bags have been packed for a few weeks, and zipped up at the foot of our bed — two copies of my birth plan lying neatly atop an unconscionable amount of gear — for a few days. The carseat has been strapped snugly in the back of the Nissan for a week and a half. The changing table was delivered, at long last, on Tuesday. And as of a few days ago, I have ceased to wear my beloved white capri pants in public lest my waters break in the grocery store.

Dr. Goncalves informed me Wednesday that, rather than waiting until I am two full weeks overdue, he will not let me go past the 19th without inducing. Which means I have, at most, 18 days to savor these last moments of discomfort and immobility. The baby has run out of space and isn’t moving as much, and is getting so huge she may crack my ribs asunder and pop out my midsection, a la “Alien,” even before those 18 days have elapsed. Chris says he will be surprised if I make it to my due date, although he seems skeptical of my claims that she will come bursting forth from my abdomen absent a C-section.

In short, everything is ready for the birth. Maybe even me.

Not ready enough, mind you, to keep my legs shaved in preparation for the inevitable day when they will be poking out from an undignified hospital gown (hey, shaving’s hard work when you can’t see or reach past your belly). Not ready enough to actually put the labor bags in the car. And definitely not ready enough to take the Castor oil Chris gave me as a gag gift for my birthday.

In fact, as uncomfortable as I am and as impossible as it seems that the baby can remain in these cramped quarters for a second longer, I am hard-pressed to accept the possibility that next week, I won’t be writing about the joys of rib pain or edema or Braxton Hicks. It is difficult to grasp that, by next week, I could be writing about the joys of holding a newborn in my arms (although, in keeping with my whiny nature, I assuredly would also be touching on the joys of attaching a ravenous barracuda to your most sensitive parts, and, of course, the infamous squirt bottle).

Right now, it’s difficult to think that, no matter how long it feels like it’s been, I can’t be pregnant forever.

And as absolutely horrifying as the idea is of bringing an utterly helpless little being into the world and being solely responsible (according to Freud) for her every future psychological scar — not to mention the only slighty less-scary prospect of labor and delivery compounded with the realization that, as a first-time mom, I have no idea what to expect despite having read “What to Expect” about 10 times over — there is definitely a big part of me that can’t wait.

No more back pain. No more rib pain. No more feeling like the baby’s about to crack my pelvis and fall out. No more edema. No more ill-timed contractions. No more peeing five times a night. No more difficulty rolling over in my sleep. No more being kicked violently awake. No more using Chris as leverage to pull myself off the couch.

No more wondering what the baby’s doing or what facial expression she’s making. No more wistfulness that Chris isn’t experiencing the same thing I am (the cool baby movements, of course, not all the misery!). No more obsessive worrying over the state of the wee one’s placenta and umbilical cord.

I’m fully aware that I will never again get any sleep and that my days will be measured out in poopy diapers, colic episodes, and outfits ruined by spit-up. I realize that I will, in all likelihood, not be able to shower or eat or — heaven forbid — read a book that does not deal with pokey little puppies or little engines that could. This scares me.

But I’ve known since I was about 18 months old, and carefully tucking my assortment of “babies” into the pint-size crib my parents had given me, that my life would not be complete without the opportunity to have a few real tiny adorable humans to take care of. Despite my (very) prolonged state of disbelief that this is actually happening, and despite my extreme trepidation — perhaps even panic — at the prospect of such an important and immutable event, I am so excited at the opportunity to hold my very own child.

Whether she comes right on time next week, holds on until my mom comes out on the 19th, or makes her arrival tomorrow morning, I am sure that, sometime between early labor and the pushing stage, I will realize that this is real and I will, indeed, NOT be pregnant forever. Certainly not for another month, and maybe not even for another week. And, sometime after our daughter is born, I will realize that this is the one baby — the baby for whom I’ve waited so long — who I won’t eventually have to hand back to her mother. In order to take her home, I won’t need to hide her in my purse and make a break for the door, as I’ve half-jokingly contemplated doing with a few particularly sweet handbag-size newborns. Because when I leave, she’s supposed to come with me. When I place her in her crib, I will know that instead of some other couple taking her out the next morning, Chris and I will do the honors, because I’m no longer just renting.

The imminence of motherhood is both frightening and wonderful at once. With my due date in just one week, it will be impossible not to start each day with the words “T minus…”. And with just two-and-a-half weeks left at most, I feel torn between an urgent need to savor as much quality time as possible with Chris and the anticipation of being handed a sweet, scrunchy-faced bundle of little girl. How funny, after all these years of waiting and these months of wanting the baby “Out! Now!” that my last days as a human whale should be spent in this miasma of ambivalence and disbelief instead of in the determined, unequivocal state of readiness I had always expected.

But, regardless of my last-minute jitters, the countdown continues. Even if I’m pregnant a week from today, and (not outside the realm of possibility) two weeks from today, at some point it’s going to be “T minus one last little push” and, much like our little daughter, I will be forcibly ushered into a new world.

Coming soon: The week 39 belly pics.