I wish someone told me: The First 4 Months

February 26, 2014 § Leave a comment

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Henry will officially be 4 months old this weekend! This means that we are graduating from what some call “the fourth trimester“. Having made it out alive and still relatively sane, I have compiled my top things that I’d most like to share with new moms:

  • Literally as soon as he’s born, get as much sleep as you can. Even though my labour lasted 35 hours, once Henry popped out, I devoured a bagel, downed a bottle of water, then stayed up to take photos and call my family. I was hopped up on adrenaline and didn’t want to sleep! If you’re in a baby-friendly hospital, the baby will be sleeping in the room with you and guess what? Effective immediately, you’re not sleeping.
  • Once you’re home, give in to the sleeplessness. There’s nothing you can do to make your baby sleep through the night at this point (he needs to eat!) so just enjoy this time. It won’t last forever.
  • Every parent will swear they instantly fell madly in love with their new baby. I contest this. Of course we have always loved Henry, but I think it would be more appropriate to describe these initial feelings towards your tiny newborn as curiosity and fascination.
  • If you’re a busy body, aim to do just one errand a day. Then be proud you actually did it. After all, you’re recovering from labour, getting used to sleep deprivation, and adjusting to a totally different lifestyle.
  • That first growth spurt at 5 or 6 weeks is just brutal. Mainly because it’s the first one and your formerly passive, cuddly, sleepy baby just wants to eat and cry, all day long, for days on end. Just let him eat as much as he wants and get a good book or TV show to watch while you’re waiting for it to end. It will end!
  • Babies are very loud sleepers. They toss and turn and grunt and snort. Then when they finally fall asleep, you’re going to constantly check to see if they’re still breathing.
  • Baby outfits consisting of pants, shirts, hoodies, jackets, shoes and socks are very cute, but a huge pain in the ass. Onesies all day, everyday! Preferably ones with zippers instead of snaps.
  • After you hear or smell the poop happen, wait 5-10 minutes before changing the diaper. You (or the changing table, or the bookcase next to the changing table, or your Mom) will get pooped on. There’s a surprising amount of firepower.
  • Buy nipple shields to use his second week of life. This is a little graphic for non-moms, but learning to breastfeed is like learning to play guitar: you have to build up calluses and then as long as the latch is correct, it won’t hurt anymore. Nipple shields will allow you to nurse through the healing process.
  • Nursing pads are a must!
  • If you don’t have big boobs, you don’t really need a nursing bra. I have spent the last 4 months in tank tops (BOOB Design is especially handy!) and button downs. I occasionally wear soft bras I can easily pull to the side as well.
  • You are going to be HUNGRY! Get lots of healthy snacks and snack all day long. Stock your nursing area with granola bars, nuts, or any one-handed foods for midnight feedings. Also, lots of water.
  • A breast pump = freedom. (Or as much freedom as you’ll get at this point.)
  • Don’t be surprised if your grey hairs multiply like bunnies.
  • Finally, it will get so much easier once they complete their third month of life. Hang in there!

[Disclaimer: thanks to my friend Leah, who is a midwife in Toronto, for reminding me to be careful with the use of nipple shields. Only use them when you really have to so the baby doesn’t become reliant on them and the milk production isn’t affected.]

Welcome, Henry!

November 10, 2013 § 3 Comments

Internet, meet Henry Nichols Storch.

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Henry was born 7 lbs 9.2 oz, Saturday November 2 at 3:11 am after a loooong labour.

On Halloween at 12:45 pm, I got a membrane sweep from my doctor. This is a more natural way of giving labour a kick start and works in half the attempted cases. By about 2:30 pm, I was having contractions and getting excited. Nick came home from work early and we started to prepare ourselves. By 10:00, Aimee (our doula) came over to assess the situation. The three of us ended up getting some sleep until about 5:00 am Friday when I decided the contractions were getting too regular and strong to stay home.

We arrived at Manhattan’s Beth Israel Hospital in a car service just as my doctor was walking up to the entrance. It was perfect timing, even though I was grimacing through another contraction while trying to say hi. I ended up in a triage room for a few hours because they were cleaning the delivery rooms and the fetal heart monitor kept falling off and losing Henry’s heartbeat so they had to start over each time. Those first hours, I actually could not lie down and wanted to keep moving, including walking the halls and stopping to do rocking squats against my IV pole when contractions would come up.

By the time I got to the delivery room, time pretty much meant nothing anymore and I had no interest in leaving the room. I’m proud to say that I stuck to my birth plan and did not use an epidural or any sort of pain killer, and so I was alternating between incredibly painful contractions and almost total clarity in between them. I managed to get through the pain with keep breathing, lots of sounding, back massage from Aimee and Nick, using a birth ball, and using the shower. I did opt for a few interventions though, including having my water broken and adding Pitocin (to speed up and intensify contractions) at the end because I had kind of stalled out by the time I was almost fully dilated.

Finally, after 35 hours of labour, of only eating ice chips and coconut water, and of asking Aimee just once to remind me why I was doing this without drugs, Henry finally happened. I cannot even describe the physical feeling, but I can say the bazillion contractions I had were much worse than the actual birth.

Henry was born with a full head of hair and very healthy. I was able to lie with him on me immediately while I was fixed up. I’ve been reading about the rush you get after an unmedicated birth and have been so curious about how I would experience it. After a long and painful labour, I should have been passing out with relief, but I was wired afterwards and even joking around with the nurses and doctors. Nick and I arranged for a private recovery room so that he could stay over with us. He fell asleep as I stayed up and took photos of Henry, called my parents and sister, and sat in disbelief at what I had just accomplished.

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I have to say that first of all, my doctors and Beth Israel hospital were absolutely amazing. You hear about the majority of mothers-to-be just hoping that their doctor will be available the day they go into labour, but there’s no guarantee. I had both of my doctors I had been seeing for the past 9 months, plus a slew of incredible nurses and one super-tough midwife who came in at the end, took charge, and got Henry out. No one ever asked me if I wanted an epidural and they would first suggest natural ways of increasing contractions like nipple stimulation before suggesting something more intense. The nurses while I was in recovery were so helpful and involved. They helped me breast feed, brought us food and snacks all day, helped try to fix the crazy heat in our room, and more. Beth Israel was the first hospital in Manhattan to become “baby friendly” which means they heartily support breast feeding, delayed cord clamping, immediate skin to skin, and the baby sleeping in your room with you.

Secondly, I knew that hiring a doula would be worthwhile, but I’m not sure if I knew just how important Aimee’s role would be. I could not have managed a 35 hour unmedicated labour without her help. She anticipated everything Nick and I needed before we knew we needed it. She handled each obstacle with calm and unbiased opinions as they came up and was with us the entire time, minus a few short breaks to get her and Nick food. This quote sums up Aimee’s efforts perfectly:

 “If a doula were a drug, it would be unethical not to use it.” — Dr. John Kennell

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Thirdly, Henry is now a week old and surviving this first week would have been much much harder without my Mom’s help. She has been here since Monday, cooking, coming to pediatrician appointments, cuddling Henry so I can sleep, and teaching us other newborn skills. I am so happy that I still have another week with her.

Lastly, Nick has been so amazing throughout the entire pregnancy, birth, and our first week of being parents. From running around to get birth certificates to try and get Henry’s passport ready for Christmas to changing diapers at all hours of the day, he is already a great dad.

[Find out more about hiring Aimee McCabe-Karr as a doula, prenatal yoga teacher, and other pregnancy and birth services here.]

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