Friday, June 29, 2007

Night visitor

Will whispers to his baby brother

Two days out from my due date and we are watching our plans to get Will to sleep through the night unassisted unravel again. He suffers from what pediatrician and sleep researcher Marc Weissbluth in his book “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child,” calls “Jack-in-the-Box Syndrome” (more on that later) – and after a lot of hard work we’d brought him to a place where he wakes up an average of once a night, comes in and wakes up his daddy (mommy is off-limits at nighttime now since we are trying to ensure that when the new baby arrives he doesn’t take mommy away from Will suddenly) and then quietly goes back into his room, where Rob lays him down and he goes back to sleep.
But tonight I wake up and find Will sleeping soundly right between Rob and me. I’m in disbelief that Rob would surrender to Will’s crying at this point and bring him back into our bed after months away. And with the baby’s birth so imminent. So I sneak off to the bathroom (because anytime you are 40 weeks pregnant that is the first order of business upon awakening, even if a crisis is looming) and listen as Rob carries Will back to his room. Rob comes back to me, looks at me in disbelief, and asks if I let Will sleep with us. Then we realize Will just tucked himself in quietly between us so deftly that neither of us woke up.

The situation worries us. I’m imagining the baby who will soon be nursing (and likely in our bed for some of those late-night sessions for the first few months) and how dangerous it could be for Will to crawl in on all of us as we sleep.
So we talk about it in the morning: How when baby is very little he will only drink mommy’s milk, just like Will did, and sometimes he will need it in the middle of the night, just like Will did. And with his body so fragile and his head so soft, we have to be very careful with him. Will agrees that in the future he will always be sure to wake up mommy or daddy rather than climbing straight into our bed – but I wonder if he will forget at night.

The truth is, though, that before I got around to the disbelief and worrying, when I saw Will and his daddy sleeping there right beside me, my first thought was of how wonderfully peaceful we were in that lapse of a moment – all sleeping together. I can appreciate families who choose to co-sleep when they can make it work for them. For us it slowly turned into a road leading to exhaustion, but obviously I miss the sweetness of it still.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Birth control

At the park, Sunday an acquaintance asks me if I’m going to go the C-section route, be induced or just wait for labor to begin (epidural implied in choice C). When I tell him I’m hoping to do a natural birth he looks a bit skeptical – we’re in Columbus, Georgia, after all, and that hadn’t even made his list of probable options.
The truth is I like to be in control, and although most of the time I am distinctly aware that I’m failing in this endeavor, I feel like my best chance of controlling my labor actually lies in a natural delivery. Sure, it means losing the control of the scheduling conveniences of induced labor or the pain management intended in an epidural, but I like the idea of feeling my own body do the work of giving birth, of trying to use just my mind and body, unassisted, to control the pain and the pressure -- and of having the best chance of pushing out an alert little one who’s a tad more likely to start nursing successfully right on arrival.

With Will, despite some excellent Bradley Method natural childbirth classes, I didn’t feel in control for much of my lightning-fast labor (Go to for more on the Bradley Method philosophy. For those of you near Columbus, classes are offered through Doctor’s Hospital. Go to I was on all fours on the hospital bed, stuck there until my midwife arrived, and quite certain that my butt was about to explode. Relaxation techniques seemed way beyond the point. I think I did plenty of yelling and not much of the deep breathing I’d been learning about.
So now, I’m getting competitive with myself, viewing this next birth as a sort of challenge: Can I restrain the fearful, frozen part of me that believed in an impending explosion and find just a bit more serenity somewhere within me this time? Can I take a few more deep breaths and remember that my body is working, not simply causing me extreme pain. (There are model Bradley moms who say they experienced no pain, just hard work, in labor. That now seems laughable; but could I come maybe just a smidgen closer to their more centered almost spiritual experience of giving birth?)

This time I am calmed by the idea that even if I can’t find the deep breaths, and it seems like this baby is about to bust out of me like a truck racing downhill with no brakes, at least I will know from my firsthand experience that our bodies generally don’t explode, even if they’re stretched to the near-breaking point.
I am also calmed by trying to find other ways to control my birth experience. I know that a baby-delivered “sunny side up,” or posterior, is more likely to make the back labor and the extreme pelvic pressure feel all the more excruciating, so each day I’m spending some time down on all fours, swaying my hips around as I read a book or watch some TV, doing pelvic rocks, climbing stairs at the playground and park (we live in a one-story house) and crawling around as I help Will clean up his toys. I sit backwards in my chair as I type this so that my legs slope down from me and my back is arched, not reclining. All of these tactics for getting your baby in anterior position – or “optimum fetal position” are endorsed in a wonderful book called “The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth” by Henci Goer as well as on Web sites like Sometimes I feel a little nutty crawling around in my house, and sometimes I feel like a sort of earth woman, hunkered down, preparing my body for the biggest feat of its life.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

False labor

I am seven days out from my due date, belly big as beach ball, belly button stretched into near-non-existence, and I’ve decided this must be the night. I feel a contraction beginning, more than the simple hardening of the Braxton-Hicks variety that has been visiting me for a couple months. I even sense that I’m dilated. And I think back to the night nearly three years ago when Will, my first child, arrived smack-bam like a firecracker, with the contractions coming upon each other like accelerating waves until four and a half hours after the first one, Will was born.
This one could be quicker.
I was hoping to hold off until my mother arrives, her flight from Colorado is scheduled for six days from now, but now I am suddenly feeling the excitement of an imminent new baby. He seems to be working to arrive now, and after months of feeling sort of removed from him – largely because I’ve been so focused on the tangible, talking, antics-filled Will in front of me – I suddenly feel so connected, so full of joy for this new life that, despite how surreal it has seemed inside my belly, finally feels tangible to me now.
And then Will walks into our bedroom, a slow-paced half-awake toddler zombie, and says to Rob, “Daddy, I need to go pee-pee,” and as if those words somehow contained a deep wisdom, I start to cry. Cry with nostalgia at this boy who may be my only son for just one more night and for the miracle that is about to happen to us.
And then of course, it doesn’t. Just a twinge of false labor, which, I will find out soon enough, is especially common in second (or third or fourth) pregnancies. But I think it may have come to me as a reminder that I need to settle down, forget about work and housecleaning, and prepare to bring a baby into the world.