Friday, October 27, 2006

On Sucking

There are two things in life that it's a good thing that they suck: vacuum cleaners and babies. Thanks to Dad and Marvis, we have a sucking vacuum cleaner. But unfortunately, our baby doesn't suck.

Well, to clarify, he does suck, it's just that he doesn't do it properly, and he has trouble coordinating sucking with swallowing and breathing. This could be why he stopped breathing two weeks ago. So yesterday, we had an appointment with a speech-language pathologist to assess his sucking abilities.

This problem with sucking is why he has had trouble breastfeeding. He doesn't latch on properly, and then he basically chomps on my nipple instead of using his tongue to stretch the nipple/areola in his mouth and get the milk out. He wants to place his tongue over the nipple instead of underneath, where it belongs.

So I have been unable to provide him with the food he needs to grow. I do pump breastmilk for him, but that supplies maybe a quarter of his needs if I'm lucky on a good day. Thank goodness for formula.

We are working on his sucking and the SLP gave us some exercises to do with him to improve his sucking, such as holding his chin as he sucks. The hardest part is getting him to latch on properly, and then to maintain that latch. Theoretically speaking, once he figures out how to suck properly, the large amount of food he gets from it will be its own reward and he will learn in a single trial to keep doing it that way. In the meantime, we have to keep vigilant and take him off when he starts chewing again, and then reattach.

For some time I felt like I sucked as a mother. I couldn't breastfeed my own child, even though I wanted to, and a variety of other things made me feel guilty too. Talking to Rhonda really helped, as did learning more about just what the problem is. It's not me, it's really him. But it's just a developmental issue that we should be able to resolve.

I felt really guilty because I wanted my baby to have the best. And they say breastfeeding is best. "Babies are born to breastfeed." Et cetera. Even my mom, for all her shortcomings, breastfed me. So what was wrong with me that I couldn't do this simple thing for my son?

I also got into the old pattern of what I call "apocalyptic thinking," that is, thinking that any mistake will lead to imminent doom and destruction. For example, if we fed him with a bottle once, he would forget what a breast was for and then I'd never be able to breastfeed him. (In reality, he still remembers what a breast is for and tries to feed, still incorrectly.) Or he wouldn't get the right nutrition from formula and he'd grow up with problems. (In reality, his daddy was formula fed and turned out just fine.) And I even went so far as to think if there was a nuclear war or something, he would die because we wouldn't be able to get formula, whereas if I could breastfeed him, he would have a better chance of survival! (That was the ultimate in apocalyptic thinking, and made me realize how ridiculous I was being.)

It took me a while to work through the feelings of inadequacy but I realized that I need to set my goal as a mother at the same level as my goal as a professional. I'll never be the best mother in the world, but what I need to shoot for is being the best second-rate mother in the world. I'm going to give him the best that I can give him, and that will be more than enough. I know that I will screw up with him in my own special way, but I just need to be accepting of myself and my imperfections. He will have his issues with me and I need to be able to accept myself enough to be open to the fact that I make mistakes, and secure enough to know that I am still a good parent despite the inevitable mistakes.


Over the past week or so, two more of Vinny's aunts have come to see him.

Last week Aunt Rhonda (Jeff's sister) came for a few days. Vinny took to her right away. She should be called "comfy Aunt Rhonda," because she would hold him in such a comfortable way that he would fall asleep.

She also helped me a lot, with some advice and pointers from her experience as a mom. She had some of the same troubles that I've been having, in particular, with nursing. So, I think that means I can blame it on Jeff's genes instead of my own inadequacies. :)

Then on Monday, glamorous Aunt Laura (my sister) came for a visit. She left this morning. Vinny took well to her too, although she's not quite as comfy as Aunt Rhonda, but no matter. In addition to helping us with Vinny, we also sent Laura up on the roof to glue back down some shingles that had been damaged by the neighbor kid's errant arrow. (It is a tradition to make Laura go on the roof when she visits. Last time she was here, she cleaned our gutters.)

On Wednesday, we went on a little road trip to the Smokies and saw all the changing colors. It was really beautiful, although riding in a car and being sleep-deprived resulted in me examining the inside of my eyelids more than I would have liked. But it was really good to get out of the house. A little day trip like that was just what I needed. It really lifted my spirits.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

New Things in Life

There are other new things in our lives besides Vinny.

  • Microwave. Our microwave, which we'd had for more than 8 years, started emitting arcs of electricity instead of microwaves. So we bought a new one. We got the 2006 equivalent of our old one, which was pretty fancy at the time. This one is pretty cool and has special buttons for cooking all kinds of different things. I ordered it online, but when it arrived it had a huge dent in it. So I sent it back and they sent us a new one, this time without a dent in it.
  • Clothes washer. The day we got home from the hospital, our washer decided it was the right time to break down. The repairman declared it "totalled" so we bought a new one. Our new washer is the same brand and matching model to the dryer. It's a really nice washer, and quite an improvement over the old one. One nice feature is that it has an optional extra rinse cycle, which they recommend using for baby clothes. The only "problem" is that the washer is white and the dryer is bisque. But I don't really care about the color. I'm just glad to have clean clothing.
  • Dining room decor. The previous owners of our house had... interesting... tastes in decor, to put it diplomatically. They had painted the dining room with the "faux bistro" look -- painted fake bricks on the walls, one wallcovered completely with these bricks, and other walls attempting to look like the bricks were sticking out of plaster... yes, very ugly. Anyhow, we figured it was so garish that a million layers of paint wouldn't cover it up, so we'd bought some wallpaper to cover it up. But, the wallpaper hanging went awry, so instead we decided to paint the room and use the border from that wallpaper. Unfortunately, the color we picked out of that border to paint the wall was too ugly so we instead ordered a new border and new paint. We went with a sunflower border and off-white paint above the border and shamrock green at the bottom. We finished painting the dining room before leaving for the hospital but hadn't gotten a chance to put up the border. Dad and Marvis put it up after we got back from the hospital. The dining room looks great now!
  • Vacuum cleaner. In Illinois, we had a central vacuum system. We had hoped to install one here, but it looks a little too complicated for us to do ourselves. So we had meant to buy a vacuum cleaner but just hadn't gotten there yet. Dad and Marvis decided that they didn't want their newest grandchild living in filth and squalor, so they bought us a vacuum cleaner. I haven't yet used it myself, but it seems to work pretty well. (They also bought their grandson a very nice new dresser.)
  • Decorations. As a surprise for me, Jeff, Dad, and Marvis conspired to decorate the house when we brought Vinny home from the hospital. They put up streamers, balloons, tropical fish streamers, and posters of Elvis in the living room. The baloons have deflated a bit but the rest of the decorations are still up.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

A Bit of a Scare

We had a bit of a scare on Thursday. We went to see Pat, the lactation nurse at the hospital, for help on nursing Vinny. As it turns out, he just likes to chew instead of actually suck, which explains why I am so sore. Anyhow, while we were there and Pat was trying to get him to suck correctly, Vinny stopped breathing and turned gray. Pat noticed; for some reason I totally missed it, and she whisked him out of the room and into the nursery for some oxygen. Thank goodness he started breathing again, but we still had to go to the children's hospital. I got to ride in the ambulance with him. It was interesting to ride in an ambulance but I have to say it was not an experience I was all that interested in having. Jeff and Rachel drove to the hospital in our car.

We stayed at the hospital until they let us go at around noon today. During that time, we stayed in a hospital room with our poor baby and he was all hooked up to a bunch of machines. They had to make sure that he didn't have an infection (such as Strep B), so they gave him a catheter to get some urine (pure torture for both Vinny and his parents!), took a blood sample, and even took a spinal tap. Thank goodness for us that we weren't there when they did the spinal tap, but I am so sorry that he had to endure that pain all by himself. They put an IV in his head, where the best vein was, to administer some antibiotics. But he hated that IV and tried to pull it out, so they had to move it to his left hand. He looked a little bit like a member of the Borg or something with that IV in his head.

Aunt Rachel (my sister) had been staying with us for the week, and she was a big help while we were in the hospital. She regularly brought us stuff from home, and provided a lot of moral support. And yesterday, Granny and Granddad (Jeff's parents) came to see their grandson. Granny couldn't get enough of Vinny. I was really glad that she was there to snuggle with him and give him some lovin'. By that point I was so frazzled that it was hard to do much.

After all those tests, they figured out that he didn't have an infection, and they let us take him home. Aunt Rachel, Granny, and Granddad all left at about the same time in the afternoon. In the evening, just before the sunset, we took Vinny out on a little jaunt around the neighborhood. Everyone we saw was smitten by his adorable little face. That's to be expected, I suppose, when you have the cutest little baby in the world!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

The Future Has Arrived

Young Vincent decided to show up on Thursday, October 5, at 6:25 p.m., weighing 7 lbs 11 oz, and measuring 21-1/4" in length. I will now tell two versions of the story, in varying levels of detail. The first is an executive summary. The second is not for the squeamish.

The Short Version

On Thursday morning, I woke up to discover that my water broke. After consulting with my doctor's office, they said I needed to head to the hospital immediately. We called Dad and Marvis to let them know it was time, and we got to the hospital at about 9 a.m. I got my first ever wheelchair ride from the emergency room check-in to the labor and delivery ward. Dad and Marvis arrived at around noon. We had really nice nurses and it was kind of a comedy routine. There were six babies being born that day in the hospital, and the OB/GYN doctor was really getting worked hard. After a lot of pain and a lot of work, Vinny was born. The nurses delivered him because the doctor was busy with another birth, but we did see him afterwards.

The Longer Version

On Thursday morning, I woke up to discover that my water broke. Jeff called Dad and Marvis to alert them to the possibility that my water had broken. They were minutes away from leaving for work, with Dad leaving for a meeting in Indianapolis, so it was good timing. I drank a glass of milk and called the doctor, but it was still too early so they paged the on-call doctor for me. While I waited for that doctor to return my call, I drank a glass of milk and e-mailed my boss with some results from a supercomputer run that had run overnight, the news that my water had broken, and apologies for not being able to contribute more to the report that was due that day. I sent a message to my sisters alerting them to the water breaking too. I also called our secretary but it was too early so I left her a message that my water had broken.

Eventually I gave up on the on-call doctor so I called the now-open doctor's office, and they told me I'd better go to the hospital immediately. I asked them if it would be okay to take a shower first, and they said no, absolutely not, get to the hospital immediately. Jeff drove us to the emergency room. I was still wearing my nightgown, over which I had thrown a t-shirt, and I was wearing shoes and socks. My water was still leaking as I was standing there waiting to get checked in. I asked them if I could have a tissue to wipe up the water going down my leg. They gave me a tissue but as I leaned over to wipe my leg, even more water gushed out and I made a big puddle on the emergency room floor. I was so embarrassed. Eventually someone from the Labor and Delivery department came and gave me a wheelchair ride to the right floor. At that point I was feeling some cramps, kind of like uncomfortable period cramps, and losing this water (which felt kind of like peeing except that I had no control over it).

They had me change into a hospital gown, and put me in a hospital bed with lots of absorbent padding, and I signed a bunch of consent forms for various things that might happen. The nurses were really nice and they had good senses of humor, meaning that they laughed at my jokes. ;) Naah, they also were very nice and had good attitudes of their own.

The woman doing my IV hit the jackpot or the fountain of youth or something and I bled a lot. Luckily I did not once look over there as she was doing it because I can't stand the sight of blood. I hate needles enough as it is, which is why I refused to look in the first place, but Jeff tells me that it was pretty gory. My fear of needles is also what made me want to avoid getting an epidural, if possible.

Jeff was by my side the whole time, and Dad and Marvis arrived after noon. The contractions were getting more and more painful. Jeff helped me concentrate on my breathing, and Dad and Marvis rubbed me and wiped me with wet washcloths. But it got so painful that I was pushing my nose into the side of the hospital bed really hard, and deeply considering biting the handles on the bed too. Finally I asked for an epidural. Actually, I believe what happened was somebody brought it up and I said, "Can I have one please god." So I got an epidural. It was creepy because I had to sit with my back slumped forward in a particular way, and I told Jeff that I don't want to know how big the needle that they stuck in between a particular place in my spine was but I think it had to be huge. After the epidural took effect, I was back to a much more mild level of pain and I could once again converse and ride through the contractions. The OB/GYN on duty that day, who was not my regular doctor but a member of his practice, came in and checked on me. The problem was that all day my cervix was effaced but not at all dilated. So I was having these contractions but pretty much for nothing. He checked my cervix and it was still not dilated. I was cheerful enough by that point to joke around again, so when he mentioned that I'd had an epidural I said, "Yeah, I did and it feels great. I don't know what the f*** I was thinking before!" He got such a kick out of that comment that when he went back to the office he told everybody there what I had said.

They kept raising my pitocin level and eventually I did start dilating. And I soon got to the point where I was fully dilated, and couldn't hardly stop myself from pushing. Well, I could, but it meant that I had to tense up during the contractions, which made them hurt a lot, even in the epidural state. I told the nurses that I really needed to push. They wanted me to wait because the doctor was in another delivery. Eventually after they saw that I was fully dilated they let me push.

Pushing was very painful, even halfway numbed by meds. I can't imagine how unbearable it would have been for me without the epidural. Jeff was on my right, and Marvis was on my left, and they helped me push by counting and holding me up for the pushes. Dad cheered me on from the side. It was the most difficult thing I've ever done, and at times it felt hopeless. As I pushed him out, it got more and more painful, probably because I was tearing. But once his head came out, it was pretty simple from there. I felt distinct relief when his chin came out. Then I pushed out the first shoulder and it was pretty much over. He cried immediately when he came out. The nurses wrapped him in a towel and put him on my belly for me to see.

The doctor wasn't there when the baby arrived, but after a while he came in, collected the cord blood, and sewed me up. I had a fairly superficial although very long tear that he fixed up.

I can't describe my feelings when I saw Vinny for the first time. I know that every family member there had tears in their eyes when he came out, but when I saw that beautiful baby for the first time it was amazing. He looked so sweet and he was so calm. His eyes were just so deep. He looked at me and I looked at him. Then he glanced over at Jeff, then back at me, then back at Jeff, then back at me. After that, the nurses took him away and fixed him up while the doctor stitched me up, but I got him back within the hour.

I'll tell you more about him, and maybe even post a picture or two in a later entry.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Official Due Date

Today is Vinny's official due date. I would have liked for him to be born by now; in particular, before October 1 (which is often the cutoff date for school enrollment), but I guess they say you can't hurry something good. But it's okay, I guess, because this allows me to work longer, thereby accumulating more vacation time that I can use during my family leave.

On Monday I had a bit of a fright. I went to work as usual. But over the course of the morning, I found that I was getting ravenously hungry. I tried to ignore it and just wait for lunchtime. When I got up to go to lunch, I discovered that I was really dizzy, shaky, and was breaking out in a sweat. I managed to make it to the cafeteria and I promised myself that if I didn't feel better after lunch, I would get some help. Eating my lunch seemed to make a big difference, but just in case, I went to the lab's health department and had my blood pressure taken. It was normal, thank goodness. The nurse said it sounded like I had experienced a drop in my blood sugar. I went home a little early just to be safe. Then on Tuesday I worked from home. Jeff bought me some snacks to take to work with me today, so I didn't have to worry about a repeat of the low blood sugar.

I still don't know why my blood sugar dropped like that. I have never had that experience before, and since about the 3rd or 4th month of pregnancy, I have not needed to have a morning snack in order to make it through the day. So I don't know what happened.