Life, Uncategorized

Biting babies and emergency rooms

My boobie-biter is back to his original (and then some) naughtiness!

The last week has been one for the books. It started out with what we thought was a really horrible bout of teething; we could actually see the little tips of the canines poking through and of courseee I had prepared for some sleepless nights and clingy days, but what came next was the kind of thing that makes you want to sink into a bubble bath with Netflix and a cigarette for the foreseeable future. First there was the night waking, which made any possibility of A sleeping in his own bed actually impossible and seem like a distant fantasy that I could expect sometime between the ages of 3 and 23. But then there was a fever, which I also knew could happen with teething, but this thing was relentless. Fevers scare me, and fevers that don’t go away – and keep rising, like up to 102, 103.1 – no matter what we do scare me even more.  So it was off to the ER for us, which brings a whole new set of fears when you live in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia has many great things to offer expats and locals alike. Unfortunately, organization, professionalism, and up-to-date technology in hospitals are not typically among them. Each doctor we saw had a different course of action to take, a different suggestion, and by the time we were back in the ER two days later with an even higher fever, the doctor who looked at him for an entire 12 seconds decided he was dehydrated because he was crying but there were no tears and that he needed a full blood work up. 7 nurses and 4 pokes later, they couldn’t find a vein and I was holding my kid like some rabid mama bear and wouldn’t let anyone anywhere near him.

Mamas, when something like this happens – and this can happen anywhere, in any country – and you feel uncomfortable, or you want them to stop and take a moment to breathe, speak up! It doesn’t matter if they’re nurses, doctors, the president (or especially if it’s the president these days…); ask questions until you’re comfortable, and ask them what other options you have. One doctor (on the third trip to the ER when Adam hadn’t peed in over 13 hours) saw how upset I was and, instead of calming me down and reassuring me of the situation, flippantly suggested that we admit Adam to the hospital and give him IV fluids until he peed. If I hadn’t calmed down (OK, OK, hubby forced me to calm down, but still…) and asked what other options we had – which included just waiting it out because it actually wasn’t an urgent case yet – I would’ve been subjecting poor Adam to even more than he’d already been through completely unnecessarily.

Too often our intuition gets squished down because it ‘doesn’t make sense’ or because there’s no ‘real’ evidence of what we’re feeling. But that doesn’t mean what you’re feeling has no place in the discussion. You know your baby best, and if something feels off, it probably is. Social decorum and not offending someone who has an MD after their name should take a backseat when it comes to taking care of your baby.

Anyway, we’re on the other end of it now, thank God, and if you’re wondering what it was that made little A so sick – German Measles! I didn’t even know it was a thing that kids could get, and was super upset to know that he would have been vaccinated for it at 9 months, which he turned yesterday!

Also, did you ever notice baby’s personality changed after being sick? I swear the kid has developed some new not-so-desirable traits, some more grouchiness, aaand some extra rude nursing habits (aforementioned boobie biting being just one of them), all of which I’m hoping mellow out in the near future so this mama isn’t so mentally drained by the end of the day. Is there any hope? Also, any tips to get the biting to stop, please and thank you!

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baby-proofing, Life, teething, Uncategorized

No sharp edges or pretty things

When A was born, I was so scared to hold him. Newborns are really floppy, and I was always scared that I would bend him the wrong way and he would just snap in half and, well… they were never good thoughts. I loved how tiny and cute he was, but also kind of wished he’d grow up a bit. Then when he did, I couldn’t wait for him to be able to roll over. Then sit up on his own. Then crawl. And now, we’re in the he-can-walk-holding-things-but-not-quite-by-himself stage. And now I can’t wait to have a house NOT decorated by brightly-colored alphabet mats and floors slick with drool.

You know that really classy, chic coffee table you found while vacationing in Morocco that you just HAD to have, no matter how much of a small fortune it cost to ship home? The one with all the abstract and cool sharp edges that jut out this way and that? Ya, that’s gotta go. Along with any low-hanging shelves, decor within 2 feet of the ground, those Bath and Body plug-ins that make your house smell less like dust and milk, all of it. Gone. Stuffed away into the closet (which also, by the way, needs to be dealt with because baby can reach all those dresses that you never wear anymore because they don’t have quick boob-access, which is pretty much what determines your outfits these days). Bye, bye.

Not to make it sound so negative, because I’m sure there is a lot to look forward to once baby starts crawling, then walking, then I can never sit down again because he doesn’t even sit still now and he can’t really move that much so what will it be like once he can move BY HIMSELF. Where was I? Right, baby-proofing. So ya, that’s where we are. Packing up anything cool and hip and trading it in for soft, squishy, and drool-proof.

What about you, mamas? Was it hard to transition your house to be baby-friendly or did you find it totally easy?

Childbirth, Life

And then there were three – my birth story

Delivering a baby is messy, however the little peanut comes out of your body. It’s hard, it’s painful, for first-time moms it’s scarier than anything we’ve ever experienced, (yes, even more than graduating college) and yet, to the doctors and nurses, it’s a standard procedure; there’s a checklist, protocol, things you should say and a timeframe things should follow. All things considered, though, the ladies laying on that hospital bed are human, and deserve to be shown kindness and comfort during labor and delivery, something I can’t say I saw until the last of 3 doctors arrived during my labor.  While I’d planned to have everything done a certain way, I had very little say in the matter once push came to shove (no pun intended). There is one thing, however, I dis have control over and really dropped the ball on; I didn’t get a doula for my delivery, and I regret it every single day. 

Maybe that’s why I’m now pursuing to become one myself, because one of the reasons why I didn’t have one was because there were only two available, and one was off having her own baby, while the other was on vacation and could only guarantee to be back in time for the delivery if I was sure I wanted her to be there. And I wasn’t. The cost was higher than I had anticipated, I was understandably overly emotional and thought my husband should be the one in the delivery room with me (I was under the impression I could only have one or the other, not both), and I just couldn’t commit because I wasn’t sure I wanted or needed one. I mean, I had written my birth plan, which, at its essence revolved around me getting an epidural, so what would I need a doula to support me with then? 

My birth story isn’t one that will make you sob (unless you went through the same thing, too, and thought nobody else had experienced it), but it is one that will hopefully teach you a couple of important lessons: that your experiences are your own, and that it is so important to understand that as much as you prepare yourself for everything when it comes to having a baby, you will never be prepared for what’s to come, and that’s OK. 

First let me preface this whole story by saying that I read everything. I had a birth plan, a hospital checklist, I knew what to bring and what I wouldn’t need, I read the gory birth stories, and the beautiful ones. When I learned that I would have to be induced (which I would not agree to again unless it was a medical emergency; our bodies know what they’re doing, mamas!), I knew what that meant, and I figured that while we were waiting for the induction to do it’s thing – and even when the epidural was in and we were then waiting for the baby to make his appearance – my husband and I would just chill. So, I packed like I was going on a staycation. Seriously, people, I had face creams and spritzes in case I felt flushed, hair ties and headbands that wouldn’t mess up my hair so I could take flawless pics once the little one was earthside, books, movies downloaded, my iPod, I think I even threw in a pack of cards because, hey, why not? If you’re wondering if I got around to using any of those things: I did not. At all. Ever. I could barely unpack my bag once we arrived home from the hospital out of sheer humiliation and seething anger that nothing had gone how I thought it would.

I also want to say that I think the strength of women is incredible. Like I said before, our bodies know what to do, and the transformative experience of childbirth is just such an incredible journey to be able to take and I am blessed and truly grateful that I was able to carry my son for 9 months and then deliver him. This story I’m about to share doesn’t serve to diminish that in any way.

There have been plenty of times in my life when I’ve felt alone; when I left for college, and when I moved to Saudi, just to name a few. But the only time that the full autonomy and separateness of my body, mind, and spirit from any other living being on this planet really hit me was when I was in the throes of labor. I was forced to have an unmedicated, vaginal delivery. (I don’t say natural here because I don’t want to diminish what c-section mamas go through, because they, too, are rockstars!) When I say forced, I mean that I didn’t want either of those things.

Now, I believe that some women have fantastic experiences with unmedicated vaginal deliveries, and I think their stories are beautiful and empowering and a true testament to the aforementioned strength of a woman. But I also believe in a woman’s right to make her own choices and me? I wanted drugs. And it wasn’t until I was in the height of pain that I was told I wouldn’t be able to have an epidural. I was in tears from the contractions, out of my mind with what I thought was the worst pain (it got worse…), and holding out because I wanted to show my husband how tough I could be. Even in this moment that he would never be able to experience because his body wasn’t created in the same awesome way as mine, I wanted him to be proud. The doctor’s words weren’t registering with me. I couldn’t have an epidural? Something about my platelets. The pitocin hadn’t even been administered yet, so I knew that the pain I was feeling was about to get 30 times worse. It just didn’t make sense. What did she want to give me then? They had gas, an injection they would be able to give me every 6 hours, my husband could massage me. But I didn’t understand how I would deal with the pain. So, in a moment of clarity, I did what any sane, rational-thinking woman with my expectations going into labor would do: I told her I would just have a c-section. I think she actually laughed a little. I couldn’t have a c-section because I didn’t need one. Yes, yes I did because I couldn’t deliver this baby with nothing. Again with the gas, the injection, the massage. And then it hit me: I wasn’t going to have an epidural, and I wasn’t going to have a c-section. Adam was on his way and I had to deal with it all by myself.

This is the point where, to put it bluntly, I lost my shit, and where a doula really would have been able to step up to the plate and do her thing. I was in hysterics; screaming and crying and yelling at the doctor and telling my husband to call my other doctor (who was on vacation in Italy and worked for an entirely different hospital). I was in so much pain and so determined to put myself into a medical emergency just so they would have to give me the c-section that I started saying no to everything. No, they couldn’t monitor me or the baby; no, I did not authorize them to start the pitocin; you are absolutely not going to strip my membranes or break my water. After two hours of refusing everything my husband finally snapped and said, “fine, let’s go home.” I looked at him, shocked that his usually calm demeanor was so harsh, and realized the ridiculousness of what I was doing.

Once the pitocin was started and whatever shred of dignity I had left had exited the building, it took another 16 hours for the baby to come out and, in all honesty, pushing him out was the least painful and the most relieving part of the whole ordeal. The injections they gave me only served to make me so high that I would pass out in between contractions – which were less than 2 minutes apart the. whole. fricken. time. – and the gas they gave me did absolutely nothing but annoy me that it was even a suggested.

I was euphoric once Adam came, of course, but I was traumatized, too. The first two times I tried to fall asleep that night I was jolted awake in panic, because that’s all I knew the last 16 hours – dozing off only to be awakened by excruciating pain. In those moments, I had become pain. No prayer or saying or comforting look from my husband could remove what I was feeling during those nearly minute-long contractions, and the way the doctors made me feel about the whole thing – that it was completely normal and that I was somehow supposed to just suck it up and deal with it – only added to the isolation, and later, to the anger. I felt that way for a long time. It didn’t help to hear people telling me that I would forget about it (I didn’t), or that I should be grateful that I didn’t have a c-section (I am and I’m not). I didn’t begin to come to terms with what had happened until I had joined an online breastfeeding support group called The Cleavage Club (if you’re breastfeeding or wanting to in the future, go join now!!! They’re on Facebook, based in Southern California, but have ladies from all over the US and the world) and was told by ICBLC and Doula extraordinaire Cass that it was OK to feel what I was feeling because that birth experience was mine, and I didn’t have to adjust it for anyone. Nobody else could have known what I felt, even if they were right next to me for the entire 16-hour experience (God bless my husband!), and it was OK to hate what happened. It doesn’t make me a bad person, or ungrateful, it just makes me a human that went through something quite traumatic and who has actual feelings about it.

Everything about my labor and delivery taught me that nothing is what it seems when it comes to childbirth and being a mom, and everything since Adam was born has only served to confirm that notion. Breastfeeding was incredibly hard – I will post more about this in the future – and I stuck with it only because my mom encouraged me not to quit on my hardest day, and because I had the support of groups like La Leche League and The Cleavage Club (on Facebook) to work things out with me. The first few weeks felt like 50 years. Adjusting to the overwhelming responsibility of taking care of a tiny human every second was beyond difficult, and it’s still a learning process every single day. Being a mom isn’t easy or cheap – it comes with a hefty price tag financially and emotionally. But I can’t think of anything else that I would rather be doing with my time, energy, or love.

Please leave a comment below to let me know what your birth experience was like, or if you would like any information about delivering a baby in Saudi.

Life

The baby is OK. Usually.

Some days I mess up. A is OK by the end of the day, thank God, but I’ve had many of those too-close-for-comfort, wow-what-was-I-thinking moments. The last time was when he decided to flop around like a fish until he was within an inch of falling off the bed. He had just gained the amazing and exhausting (for me, never for him) ability to be able to move around pretty well and I left him on the bed for nap time, thinking that the fortress of pillows on the sides of the bed would somehow deter him from falling down. And they did, kind of. Until they didn’t. In usual psycho-first-time-mommy-style, I ran back to the room as soon as I heard him make a sound and found him flopping around like an oblivious, chubby fish on the nightstand on hubby’s side of the bed. He had traversed the entire bed including one wall of pillows, and somehow managed not to topple over onto the floor. Moments like these make me wonder why the hospital let him come home with me without some kind of test (like, seriously, did you know they just give you the baby once you’re discharged? No strings attached, he’s just yours to keep and take care of, and they don’t even ask you if you know what you’re doing!) and they also make me grateful that we’ve made it this far.

It hasn’t been a perfect 7 months, and I’ve had plenty of self-doubt along the way (read: every. single. day.), but I take comfort in the fact that he will literally not remember any of the stupid things I do. What he will remember, though, or rather what he will carry with him throughout the rest of his life is a sense of confidence, love, independence and the bond that we have and that we’re building every day. So that’s why instead of focusing on the dumb things I do (seriously, Krystle, leaving a crawling, rolling, MOVING baby on the bed by himself?!), I focus on the silly moments we have, singing songs and playing tickle monster, the fun we have at bath time, the way he looks up at me for assurance when he tumbles over as he learns to stand, the way we snuggle close as he nurses or sleeps; these are the moments that leave lasting impressions on the core of who he is and who he will be, the times that matter in the long run.

All too often we put pressure on ourselves to be perfect, to get it right the first time. Instagram, Snapchat, mommy blogs, and any other social media we’re exposed to on a daily basis don’t help the anxiety; the way they all portray curated images that make it seem like perfection is so easy to attain, when in reality, those moms are struggling and learning as they go, just like us.

So take it easy, mama. Slow down, enjoy the moments that matter, and don’t be too hard on yourself for the ones that don’t.