Category Archives: hospital

identity matters

I am so eager to start responding to your questions, and I think I may have a few moments while the Baby Genius takes a morning nap. I would like to start with these questions from Carrie Storm:

Wife and I are due Christmas Day. I’m carrying (I’m younger at 37) and having a hard time feeling real butch lately…joked in a Birth Circle recently that I just want my ‘manhood’ back. I want to lift weights, fix plumbing, chop firewood, sweep my love up off her tiny little feet.

Instead I’m on modified bed rest, I waddle, I leak, I smell weird, my boobs are out-of-control, and I may not even make it to an Ani DiFranco concert on 11/15 that we’ve has tickets for forever because I can’t stay awake later than 8:00 in the the freakin’ evening. Yeah, I’m real tough…

Our baby will be so loved, but thus far I’ve found pregnancy to be overly-public and weird (though piercings, combat boots, and scowling seem to keep people from (shudder) touching my belly).

Is there still room for the things you loved, and for who you were, before BG was born? Do you even care about the things you loved, and who you were, before BG was born? Am I ever going to be me again? Would your hospital have let you wear your own clothes if you wanted to? Even if you decided to deliver in a Super Man T-shirt and Docs?

For me, as many of you have read here, pregnancy was an identity I embraced very easily. My wife has always thought of me as a sort of mother goddess figure, and when I was pregnant, I really did embody that to a large degree. In fact, it was one of the first times I really felt comfortable in my physical skin. It was amazing.

Still, I missed certain aspects of my pre-pregnancy self. Despite the fact that I’m decidedly more femme, I have always been the one to fix things, lift heavy objects, and generally do the more stereotypically “butch” things around the house. I’m the one with the power tools, the one who carries things for J, the one who performs car maintenance. Suddenly, my wife was pumping the gas, carrying the groceries, and offering to help me up. When I was in my third trimester, even a simple thing like using a screwdriver could send me into some serious exhaustion or contractions, so I had to give the tools over to my wife, and we had to get my step-dad to help us put things like the crib together. I’m not used to feeling as helpless as that, and it was hard. When I would try to engage in any of these activities, my wife would scold me and make me promise not to do it again. Imagine her horror when I had to be the one to climb up on a chair and change the heater vent on the ceiling the day before I went into labor because she couldn’t reach it. I loved this, but I think she held her breath the whole time I was up there with the screwdriver.

On a side note, when I was in early labor, I found it so amusing to come back from walking the halls to find this tool cart just outside of my hospital room. My wife kindly grabbed the camera and photographed it for me.

IMG_2706

Since having the baby, I have been able to reclaim much of this side of myself, and it delights my wife and I to no end. Sadly, much of my physical strength has waned, and I’m really having to build that back up again. Having a giant baby boy to carry around does help.

So far, I think J and I both are trying to navigate the waters of mother identity as we work to reconcile these new identities with those we embraced before. At times that is really hard, and at times it’s fun. We’re both striving for hip mama identities and find ourselves clinging to things like our old motorcycle boots and decidedly nonsoccer-mom hairstyles to do so. But there is also the side of me now who finds M.oby wraps to be decidedly hip in their own way. I guess what I’m saying is it’s a sort of balancing act combining the old selves with the new, but it’s really great to be reinventing ourselves with our son’s help.

And we certainly do still care about many of the things we loved before our Baby Genius arrived; we just have to work around BG a lot more. For example, we are big wine enthusiasts, so we’ve taken him wine tasting. I can’t drink as much wine as I used to, but I can sample the latest releases at our favorite wineries with him attached to me in a wrap. There are certainly plenty of things that are harder to do now, but we still love the things we have always loved and can’t wait to involve him in some of these activities like camping, hiking, gardening, and travelling.

So yes, I do think you’ll find a way to be you again; you’ll just be a new and improved model. It takes some time to get used to having your body back; hell, I’m still getting used to it, but it feels good. I’ve even got new tattoo designs running through my head. You’ll have the added benefit of having this extra person to dress as you like, providing further outlets for expression.

Finally, on the issue of hospital attire, I was allowed to wear what I wanted after my initial intake exam, and I did wear my own clothes through part of labor, but I found rather quickly that I needed semi-frequent clothing changes due to leaking fluid, so I was back to hospital gowns. But delivering in Docs–I wish I would have thought of that. I think they would have struck just the right combination of practicality and rebellion that I was feeling during that experience. I say ask your healthcare provider if you can wear what you want; it’s certainly worth a shot!

2 Comments

Filed under hospital, identity

Our Birth Story–Act III: Afterward

C’s first act upon coming into the world was to poop all over me. Honestly, I didn’t notice until one of the nurses pointed it out, and, good new mom that I am, I didn’t care at all. In the moments following C’s birth, there was a lot of commotion. Between the pediatric nurses toweling him off, the midwife clamping the cord, my mom taking photos, J cutting the cord, and me staring and crying at this slippery little baby, it was truly a whirlwind. As things started to calm down, though, we were able to take in a bit more.

 

Me and C

Me and C

Shortly after the birth, I delivered the placenta, and the midwife exclaimed, “What a big placenta!” She had already remarked on the size of the cord. It too was big. As she was dealing with all of these things, she made another comment: “Look at this, ladies. A true, blue knot.

“What does that mean?” J asked.

“It means you have a lucky baby,” was her reply. I don’t think this really registered with us, and it wasn’t until we mentioned it to a nurse later that we learned just how lucky our baby was, that such a knot in a smaller cord would likely have led to our baby’s demise. His size, the size of his cord, saved his life. Had the cord been smaller, it would have been able to tighten, and I can’t even think about what would have happened.

 We continued to hold and admire C as the midwife stitched me up.  I had a second-degree tear, which I’m certain would have been worse had I not had such great help from the midwife and nurse during the pushing phase. It was this point where I had been concerned that I could run into complications with my fibroids, for they can cause the uterus to have trouble clamping down, and as a result, I was at a greater risk for hemorrhaging; however, this was not a problem. In fact, the fibroids posed not a single problem during my birth at all, and for this I was so relieved.

 The hour following C’s birth not only revealed what a lucky baby he was, but also some potential items for concern. His blood sugar was initially rather low, so the pediatric nurse helped me breastfeed him in hopes of raising his sugars. When they were even lower after feeding him, they had to whisk him away to the infant intensive care for a small amount of formula. J accompanied him, and I lay in bed, my mom by my side, as I tried to make sense of what had just happened. My baby was going to be okay, but he wasn’t in my arms where he should have been. I felt confused, disoriented, a bit like I was suddenly missing an appendage that I didn’t know I had.

 C’s absence did allow the nurses to get me rested up a bit and ready for post-partum. I was given some pain killers and some food. Our birth instructor came in to congratulate me, and J returned because they needed to continue to monitor the baby in intensive care. Soon there was a shift change, and my new nurse came to help me clean up, help me to the bathroom, and pee for the first time (having had a catheter for the epidural, they insist that you pee within the first couple of hours or you get another catheter—no thanks!). I was a good patient and peed the first time around. And then it was time to transfer rooms. It had been nearly three hours, but I had no concept of time, and I really wanted to be with my baby.

 I was wheeled down the hall in a giant wheelchair (what the nurses called, “The Hummer”). We were stopped at the nurses’ station to push the “we had a baby” button, at which time a lullaby was played over the hospital intercom. I cried. We stopped by our new room for a moment before the nurses said we could come to see our son in intensive care—and bring him back to our room. Walking into that room and seeing our son again, I was so in love. He was so beautiful. We sat with him while his sugars were tested once more, and soon we got to break him out of there and head back to our room with our son so that we could bond and feed and be together alone as a family.

 Once we were in our room, it seemed that every time we were about to have some time alone, another nurse or doctor or someone would come into the room and interrupt us. J was becoming increasingly frustrated. She had hardly gotten to hold our baby, and we just needed some time together. Finally, we had it, and finally, we got to lie on the bed as a family.

Our family

Our family

She would later need to leave to go get a full night’s sleep at my mom’s hotel room, but those moments we shared that night were so precious. My mom would return around midnight to sit with me for an hour or so, and I needed that. But more than that, I needed sleep.

 When the night nurse came on that night, I was in for a great surprise. She was a lesbian in her fifties with two kids. She told me almost immediately, “I’m a lesbian. I’ve worked here for over two years, and I’ve never gotten to have a lesbian patient. When I heard you were in labor and delivery with Dawn last night, I wanted to switch with her!” She was so sweet—a little gruff, very motherly. She helped me get C to latch on for a good feeding, and then she asked if I’d like her to take him for a couple of hours while I slept. I agreed, so she took him, then came back, tucked me in, turned off the lights, and told me I had to sleep, that I wasn’t allowed to get up and do things. I obeyed, and in what seemed like moments, she was back with C for another feeding.

 We spent two nights in the hospital. I saw so many nurses change shift. Some of them remembered me from labor and delivery a couple of days before. What surprised me was how impressed they were with me. J had told me during labor that we were the talk of the nurses’ station, that people were inspired by me, so to have these nurses talking with me about this was lovely. I already felt really good about myself and my labor, but this was nice to be validated in this way.

 Everyone working in maternity, from labor and delivery to post-partum, was amazing. They were so kind and supportive, so inclusive of J, and appropriately impressed with C’s size and cuteness. There was one exception on the last night: she was a nurse in her early sixties, and she was the night nurse. She came in after J had left for the night, and I knew immediately I didn’t like her. She hovered and watched as I cared for my son. At one point, I asked if she could help me latch him on, as we were still struggling with this. She did help, but he immediately fell asleep at the breast, so she left. Later, I had gotten him to eat, and he had eaten for over half an hour. I was so excited, and when she came back, I reported that he had been on one breast for half an hour. “Oh no!” she replied. “You mustn’t let him do that! That’s too long.” I switched sides, rolled my eyes behind her back, and continued nursing. She was to come back later to take my vitals, and when she did, my son and I were basking in a few moments of wakefulness. He was staring at me, and it was the most precious, perfect moment. I hadn’t yet seen him awake much, hadn’t had this many moments to soak him in, to stare into his eyes and see him stare back. I didn’t want it to end. The nurse had other plans. Upon entering the room, she said, “Well, I need to show you how to swaddle him.”

 “That’s okay,” I replied. “I think I’d rather do more of this.”

“You’ll have plenty of time for that later,” she remarked. And she took him and proceeded to give me an unwanted swaddling lesson as tears rolled down my face. C began to cry. He began to scream. He hadn’t wanted our little love fest to end either. I took him back from the nurse, and as I started to cuddle him, she said, “Don’t feed him to calm him down. You’ll just turn into a human pacifier.” I promptly and defiantly offered him my breast. He was too upset though, so I continued trying to soothe him, and she stood over me, a mere foot from me, waiting for me to calm him. After a minute or two, she said, “Maybe I should take him and calm him down.”

“No, I would rather do that myself,” I replied tersely. Later, when she asked if she could take him so that I could get some rest, I declined. I slept with C on my chest off and on throughout the night. We nursed off and on; we stared at each other, and I promised to keep him away from the mean nurse we both disliked so much.

 During this time, C also had pediatric nurses checking on him. His bilirubin levels had been a little high, and they were going up. There were threats of keeping him in the hospital another day, but instead we were released with instructions to have his pediatrician test him within a day or two. He also had an early heart murmur, which is common amonst newborns, and which resolved itself by his third day. It was hard to hear there were so many potential things wrong with our son, yet at the same time, we both knew he was strong, that he was going to be fine–and he is. 

Knowing we were being released was so exciting and so terrifying. With the exception of the last night nurse, I had felt so cared for, so nurtured as a new mom, and it had been wonderful to have the support of nurses and lactation consultants and doctors. What I hadn’t had, however, was time alone with my wife and son. We needed time to be a family, a chance to connect and feel whole. J and I had been separated at night, and during the day, her presence was often accompanied by my mom. We hadn’t had a chance to be alone as a family much at all, and we were eager for this.

Our discharge wouldn’t be complete until our midwife stopped by to check me out. She popped in that last morning and instead of examining me just talked about the birth. She told me how beautiful and strong I had been, how inspiring the birth had been, how beautiful our son was. I got to thank her for helping me make a difficult decision, for being there for us. It meant so much. She held C; she hugged me and J, and finally, she signed our papers for us to go home. 

J, Midwife, and C

J, Midwife, and C

Getting out of the hospital seemed to take forever. The nurses sent J to get the car and bring it to the front of the hospital as they wheeled me down to the first floor. It was so emotional passing labor and delivery, passing the patio where I had labored so much, passing the halls where I had stopped and hung on during contractions. I cried until we got to the elevator, and I soaked in all of the sweet comments people made about the new mom going home with her baby. Soon, I was settling into the backseat of our car with our baby in his car seat, and my wife and I were headed toward home. It was so nerve-wracking riding in the car with C, but we made it the half-hour home; we walked into our apartment where my mom was waiting, and we soaked it all in. We were home with our baby. He was finally here and so very real and so very ours.

 

Arriving home

Arriving home

Throughout my pregnancy, I had all kinds of imaginings about our birth experience. I had wanted a water birth at the birth center, and when insurance matters prevented this, I had to mourn the loss of that imagined birth experience. When my fibroids presented themselves as a potential issue, I started mourning the loss of control over the birth and started trying to accept the possibility of cesarean birth. As time progressed, I just tried to imagine the healthiest, most natural, most positive birth I could—a birth in a hospital attended by a midwife and the two women who matter most to be in the world. This is precisely the birth I had. Yes, I ended up asking for an epidural; I ended up with the dreaded Pitocin. But I’m glad I did. I’m so happy that I was able to labor naturally for as long as I did—for thirty long hours. It means the world to me that I was able to feel this process, to experience so much of it so fully. But I’m proud of myself for making a decision I wouldn’t have entertained even a month ago—proud that armed with some knowledge and the powerful desire to bring my son healthily into the world—I was able to make the difficult decisions I did and still be proud of myself. For me, this was the perfect birth experience—back labor and long hours and all—and I wouldn’t change a thing. It was, without a doubt, the single hardest and best experience of my life. How could it not be? It produced this:

IMG_2801

20 Comments

Filed under birth, hospital

getting acquainted

Time seems to be zipping by so quickly. I sat down to write this on Thursday, and somehow now it’s Saturday. How did that happen?

Last week, we had our big hospital tour. It was actually something I was looking forward to, and I’m so glad we did it. We unfortunately discovered that during evening traffic, it takes us 45 minutes to get there. We’ll have to plan accordingly, but I think we’ll be okay.

At the tour there must have been at least fifteen pregnant women and their male partners. Once again, we were among the oldest in the crowd, so not only were we the token lesbian couple, but we were also one of two token “old” couples (old meaning over 25).

The woman leading the tour was Connie, a childbirth educator and doula, and she was lovely. She had us all introduce ourselves and announce our due dates, and then we went on our way. We had a chance to see a few of the labor/delivery rooms, one of which was tiny and one of which had no bathroom but had fabulous lighting. None of the rooms have showers, but there are showers available for laboring women, and I’m fine with that. What the rooms do have are these amazing birth beds that move into all kinds of positions that your average hospital bed couldn’t dream of. They also have those great attachable squat bars, and they have no stirrups. That’s right folks: not a stirrup in sight. Instead, there are these paddles that one can use for leverage should one’s care provider want the final pushes to be in a slightly more traditional baby-catching position (we did hear, though, that this is not always necessary). They also seem to have birth balls, although our birth class instructor has suggested bringing our own, and I believe we will.

Based on Connie’s discussion, the staff there encourage women to walk around, change positions, take showers, and more in hopes that they’ll deliver naturally.  They allow for intermittent fetal monitoring (unless one has an epidural), seem to avoid unnecessary interventions, have the lowest cesarean delivery rate in the county, and they seem to be very supportive of the sort of natural birth we’re hoping for.

The worst part of the tour was a little walk past the operating room. I shivered upon seeing it, and I hope I never have to see it again. Connie kept pointing out the CD player on the wall, as though this somehow made it a more friendly environment (along with a horrible floral border near the ceiling), but that room represented so many of my biggest fears heading into this birth. At least now I know which room I should not include in my positive birth visualizations.

Overall, though, we were really pleased with what we saw, and I think that even though it’s a hospital, it’s ultimately a pretty birth-positive place. We even learned of some special secret lesbian rights we get there! Yes, after the birth, my wife can stay over, even if I have a roommate. This is only the case for female companions/relatives/friends. (If a woman’s husband wants to stay, her roommate’s husband must also stay in order for them both to be granted staying permission). One man, his wife, and her sister complained about this very loudly to the nurses and to Connie during the tour, and the man was incredulous that some persons “significant other, or whatever they’re called” could stay if she was a woman. He said this while eyeing us sideways. I smirked and whispered to J, “So THESE are those special lesbian rights we’re always hearing about!” Oh yes, for once, we’re special. I had to refrain from sticking my tongue out at bitter bigot man.

We did walk out even more convinced that we wanted a doula, but after talking with Connie, we discovered that our budget would never  have room for the $1000 average that area doulas charge. I was about to give up on a doula at all when I stumbled upon a doula-in-training via a certain online classified listing. We’re going to meet with her in a couple of weeks, and nothing is certain, but we may have a free doula, and that gives me a little hope.

It seems that in just about six and a half weeks, our due date is going to arrive, and within two month’s time, our son is going to be here in our arms. I think the reality of it may finally be starting to settle in–although in all honesty, there is part of me still sitting in that bathroom at 6am on New Year’s Eve staring in disbelief at a positive HPT.

11 Comments

Filed under birth, hospital, the P word