Monday, November 26, 2007

One Month

Today you turn one whole month old. Only one month... or already - in this case both terms apply fully. It is amazing how I lost all sense of time ever since you arrived, and how you immediately made us feel like you have always been there, always been a part of us - not just for a mere 4 weeks. You are the missing puzzle piece, you are what finally made us a real family.

I have never experienced such a surge of love before: not just my own love for you, or your Daddy's, but everybody else's as well. You have a way of making people fall in love with you immediately, you have made yourself the center of our family life as soon as they all looked into your tiny wrinkly face for the first time. You have taught me what "unconditional love" really means, and after looking into your Daddy's face after your delivery, and the tears in his eyes, I know that he has learned that too - you made us experience love at first sight in its truest and purest form.

But you have taught us so much more too... patience being on top of that list. I didn't expect to react to your crying with so much patience - I think I have mentioned on occasion how I am the most impatient person I know. Yet, when you cry the only negative feeling that might come up at all is frustration, if I cannot figure out what is bothering you, and how I can help you, never impatience. It hurts me when you are crying and I don't know what the problem is, and I will not stop until I have figured out what ails you - or at least have found out how to make you feel better... and your Daddy is the same way. You know, your Daddy usually isn't too patient of a man either - but since you are here he is like a whole new person: he incessantly carries you around, he tirelessly tries to put you to sleep when you decide to turn night into day again, and he never once rolls his eyes or gets snappy when I expect him to, because he would with every other person on this planet.

You truly are the twinkle in the eyes of your Daddy - I have a feeling that very soon all you will need to do is bat an eyelash at him and you will get a pony, a pink life-size princess castle, and an army of real sparkly fairies along with all the stars in the sky, and if it's the last thing he is doing. I just love watching him and you together, the gleam in his eyes when he looks at you, the pride with which he is beaming, the endless love and patience with which he is caring for you. I couldn't have chosen a better father for my child than your Daddy.

He is calling you the highlight of his day when he comes home from work - and it truly is the highlight of my day when he comes home and picks you up and I get to watch the two of you together.

The only thing about your whole arrival that is a little upsetting is the sad fact that your other set of grandparents, your Mexican ones, are so far away and have no way of getting to know you anytime soon, or to enjoy this incredible atmosphere of love that is surrounding you wherever we take you, and contribute to it. All you got so far was a phone call with your Abuelita... I truly hope that we will find a way soon to get your grandparents here, or for us to take you to México maybe next year to get to know your other side of the family soon.

What else has changed in our lives ever since your much-awaited arrival? I admit, I do miss being pregnant with you, that is to say: I don't miss the discomforts of pregnancy, but I do miss the intimacy between you and I, how I had your every move and kick all to myself, how I didn't have to share you with anybody. BUT - I don't miss it enough to rather have you inside of me than out, in fact I never want to be without you in my life anymore. Sure, the nights could be better, but I am positive that we will soon have a rhythm worked out that will work for all of us. I have noticed some changes already ever since you are born, and we do have somewhat of a pattern now: we bathe you around 9PM, then you sleep on your Daddy's chest on the couch for about two hours, around midnight you start to cry for no apparent reason, which you vigorously keep up until around 1:30 or 2 AM, when we all finally fall asleep. You wake me for a feeding again around 4:30 AM, and then again around 7 AM, when your Daddy is should be getting up to go to work. It is amazing how quickly one can adapt to this little amount of sleep, I think it is safe to say that I haven't slept for more than 3 hours at a time ever since your birth - something I didn't think was compatible with my life at all, considering the long and deep sleeper (and grump-off in lack thereof) I am.

It is also amazing to see what my breasts are able to do! How they, in a matter of a few weeks, went from mere rather useless attachments on my chest to these huge engorged feeding machines that start to ache when you cry with hunger, and can shoot out a stream of milk in a high arch like pistols. I am afraid I have shot you in the eye once already when you let go of an all-too-full breast, and have sprayed your face more than once. Hot showers have an especially drastic effect on this milk-shooting episodes, which actually make me giggle a lot at the hilarity of it. Right now, I feel like I could feed a whole playgroup of children, I have to change shirt and bra sometimes several times a day, and I am leaving milk-stains on my sheet and on the couch and pretty much wherever I lay for longer periods of time, despite my washable rather absorbent bra-inlays. Good thing, you are growing and striving well - at your last pediatrician-checkup you already weighed 4.11 kilos and have grown one whole centimeter!

Time is also blurring by, because every day seems to bring on something new. Either you meet a new friend or relative, or you show us a little more of the personality you are going to be. You went from sleeping for pretty much most of the day to showing us your pretty gray eyes now regularly, and sometimes for 2 hours at a time. You are smiling a lot - experts call it "reflex smiles", because they are not conscious, and not directed at anybody, and happen a lot while you are sleeping, but over the past few days it seems as if they are getting a little more purposeful... not quite, but a little nonetheless. You do it when I change your diaper and blow a raspberry on your tummy - ever so slightly. You do it when we kiss your naked feet, or when we hold a rattle in front of you. It's melting our hearts, it reduces us to helpless puddles on the floor. We can't wait to see more of it.

About two weeks ago you have also started to focus on faces, and follow them around, if they move in front of you. Your Grandpa has been excited to have been the first one to get you to do that. Now you are staring at whoever is looking at you, and are also following your rattle around with your eyes. It's so cute, it makes me want to eat you up whole.

A little less cute is the amount of puke that is coming out of your mouth, and the resulting amount of laundry I have to do. The washer is running almost 24/7 (or so it seems to me), and I have long since given up on ironing your clothes, lest I would never finish, and you'd run out of clothes in a matter of days - even though we have more size 56 stuff for you than you could possibly wear before you grow out of it.

You are incredibly vocal, too. Whenever you are awake, you are making some kind of cute noise, and I am not talking about the crying - which you actually do surprisingly little of. You babble and mumble and make noises that I can only classify as a prototype of squealing. Sometimes you sigh contentedly when you drink, and when you do that it is usually accompanied by a soft popping sound: my heart exploding inside my chest. I cannot imagine you actually talking, but I can imagine that it will be a flood of words coming at us, judging from your current vocal activity. And heck, even your crying and screaming is cute.

Hopefully you enjoyed your first month with us as much as we did with you, even though you had to leave the comfort and warmth of my belly in such a dramatic and unpleasant way. Sometimes when you sleep restlessly, I wonder if you are working on getting over your own birth just as much as I am still working on it. Did you hear me scream like so, and if so - how did it make you feel? Did you feel my stress and my anger with our midwife, and my desperation over not having experienced your entry into this world as I have always dreamed of? Were you aware at how much pain you were causing me? I guess it's a good thing that we do not remember our own births.

We love you to no end,
Mama & Papa

Thursday, November 15, 2007

a Baby Girl is born...

I think I am finally ready to write about the birth experience here. I am sad to say, it wasn't anything like I hoped it would be - not at all, as a matter of fact. I am still mulling over it a lot, and wondering how I would be feeling now, had things been different.

That's not to say the experience as bad all over - seeing my Baby Girl for the first time, realizing her gender, and spending those first minutes with her on my chest, that's something so great, so powerful, so emotional, that I will never be able to properly describe it to anyone, and it put the bad birth experience in perspective: it doesn't matter. What matters is our baby girl, and that she's healthy, and beautiful, and finally here with us.

In an ideal world, you see, I would have arrived at the hospital in labor, then gave birth naturally, without any medication, relaxing in the birthing tub maybe, being as relaxed and composed as I was all throughout my pregnancy. I wasn't prepared to wanting pain killers, I wasn't prepared to wimp out, to not being able to deal with the pain. I wasn't prepared to being made feel ashamed of how I reacted and dealt with the pain. And I wasn't prepared to give birth laying down, pushing against gravity - something I always made sure to talk against to whoever wanted (or didn't want to) listen.

So what really happened, was this:

During the day of my last appointment in the hospital and my last acupuncture session, I have been having slight contractions on and off all throughout the day, as I have written in my last post here before the birth announcement. I wasn't worrying too much about them - after spending a day with my parents I went to pick up Geo from work with the car, and drove us home. Geo left again with our bro-in-law to take care of some business. I got comfortable with a book in bed. Or not so comfortable - the contractions finally picked up a notch and I started to time them. Around midnight they came regularly every 10 minutes, and with quite some vigor. Around 1am I finally called Geo and advised him to better come home soon. Around 2 he was finally here - and I was already pacing up and down the apartment, breathing through my contractions, which now came around every 5 minutes. Geo called his Mom in LA to let her know things were happening now. Overall, Geo looked extremely beat - he's been spending the past 2 weeks preparing for an exhibition and working on some other projects, he hadn't been sleeping a full night ever since. He suggested we lay down for a bit, for him to catch an ounce full of sleep, and I agreed, thinking I would need to be saving up on some strength anyway.

So we laid down, turned off the lights... and dozed off almost immediately. I breathed through a contraction... and another one five minutes later, this one a particularly strong one - and felt a gush of liquid at its painful peak. So five minutes after laying down to catch "a few hours worth of sleep" - about ten minutes to 3 AM - I announced that my water had just broke, and that we had better get up and get moving now.

So up we were again... Geo telling me to call the ambulance, but I was still very calm, quietly checking my hospital bag again, wondering if my water really broke, or if I just peed myself... and waited another good ten minutes or so to actually call.

The ambulance arrived 15 minutes later - making me feel really weird by firstly putting me into a wheel chair to get me downstairs, and then transferring me onto that rolling bed that then goes into the ambulance car, all the while treating me like a raw egg that might just break.

We arrived in the hospital around 4 AM, and I was put into the delivery room immediately. My cervix was dilated about 3 cm, and I was put on a delivery bed, strapped onto a heart monitor for the baby, and was pretty much left to myself for a while. The pain was extensive. I was asked by (a very nice) midwife if I wanted to shower, or if there was anything else I wanted, like music, and I denied all of it. Thoughts of the birthing tub were gone at this moment, I was too busy with my pain, and trying to remember the breathing techniques I had learned in birth prep class, and which had made so much sense to me at that time. It was amazing how none of it was applicable to me, now that I was actually in the situation to need those techniques.

I tensed up tremendously, which just served to make the pain even worse - my tense breathing had the opposite effect that it should have had. In fact, I didn't think I could be in any more pain than I already was. Geo has been quietly supportive beside me, holding my hand when I needed to push against it, and trying to help me through the breathing. At some point soon, around 6 AM maybe, my first resolution was broken, and I asked the midwife for a PDA. I didn't think I could breathe through any more contractions before the "real deal" began. I felt bad for asking, it wasn't how I imagined things to be, I didn't want to be one of those women, and now I was.

In the time between my request and the anesthesiologist finally arriving, the change of shift has happened, and the nice midwife was replaced by a nightmare of a woman, who I now blame for the bad birth experience I had entirely. Without a "hello" or any kind of introduction of herself, she came into my room, and the first thing she said to me was "you are not breathing right, you need to relax, and you need to be more quiet - we really don't need the whole hospital wing to hear you."

Needless to say - that's the last thing you need to hear while in labor. Now I wasn't only in pain, but now she succeeded in making me feel ashamed of myself, thinking that I somehow acted improperly, that I wasn't supposed to feel the way I did, and that I was a wimp. The result was me tensing up even more, because now I tried to me more silent, which only served to increase my pain, which wouldn't have been necessary without the midwife's nasty comment.

The anesthesiologist finally arrived, and I was prepared for the PDA. I was given a local anesthetic into my spine, and then felt the doctor trying to get the catheter between two vertebrae. A sharp pain was the result, after which she withdrew, saying pain shouldn't be a part of the procedure, gave me another local anesthetic in a different location - again to no avail, since the new spot she has chosen wouldn't allow for the penetration of the needle with the catheter at all. So I got a third local anesthetic, after the anesthesiologist wanted to give up already, about to write me off as one of those cases where a PDA simply wasn't possible. I had to plead with her for that third attempt - and that's when it finally did work. The nastiness of the feeling of getting a needle stuck into your spine and bone marrow I cannot properly describe, but the pain relief was immense.

It was about 7 AM when the PDA kicked in, and I managed to actually sleep for the next 3 or 4 hours. Geo, in the meantime, asked the midwife if he could get lay down in the extra bedroom they had set up for just that purpose. The midwife told him off, saying that this room was reserved for women who had just given birth, and that's why he couldn't lay down there - only I was the ONLY woman giving birth at that time, so nobody was needing that room. It was a doctor that finally allowed Geo to go lay down, and we both could get some rest.

My cervix opened all the way while I was sleeping, which was good - I didn't feel a thing, thanks to the PDA. I woke up again around 10:30 AM or so, to the midwife checking the heart rate of my baby. She saw me awake and remarked that "my husband really wasn't taking care of me at all" - which put me into a position where I felt I had to defend him: there really was no point to him sitting there and watching me sleep, especially not while he himself was so sleep-deprived already, to which she just rolled her eyes, and said something how men make it too damn easy for themselves. I got pissed off, but was too busy with my pain to really say something back to her. Eventually I asked her to please wake him up for me, for I felt I needed him again. Her response? "That is not my responsibility - your husband has to know for himself if he wants to be rather here or there."

I almost started to cry - I felt that I was completely at that bitch's mercy, and I really wanted Geo back right then and there. The PDA had worn off, I was in pain, I wanted my husband, and she wasn't about to give him back to me. It was really fortunate that he awoke by himself about 10 minutes later, and came back to me.

After that my memory is a bit blurry. I remember the midwife telling me not to push if the urge strikes me, for my baby's head wasn't all the way down in my pelvis yet. I also remember her telling me that I wasn't getting more pain killers through the PDA, so I could "do at least some of the work myself". After 2.5 hours of my cervix being dilated fully but still no baby on the way she got the doctor, who put me on an IV that was supposed to bring on some serious contractions to push her down finally.

From then on I felt better, because the doctor and the midwife stayed with me then. The doctor was a really nice woman, I felt a lot better in her presence. They checked on my baby's heart rate, and the strength of my contractions. They forbade me to push through the first ones, and several ones in the process, to try for my baby to work her way down into my pelvis without my help. It was the worst pain I have experienced in my life so far, having to breathe through these contractions. It was like trying to stop a tsunami simply by blowing at it like one would blow out a candle. I remember I screamed, I remember I yelled at those two women that I simply couldn't NOT push and to allow me to push already. I remember the doctor saying that my contractions weren't producing enough force to push the baby out. I remember the doctor suddenly laying on top of my belly with all her weight, shoving her elbow into what supposedly was my baby's butt, pushing downward with every contraction. I remember the midwife pulling me apart down below at the same time, trying to enthuse me by proclaiming "push! push! I can see so many black hairs!", and me fighting the incredible urge to yell back how I didn't give a damn about those hairs or their color, and how I just wanted that pain to be over already!!!

I never felt more manhandled and out of control in my entire life. It was nothing like I wanted this experience to be, I was so calm and relaxed and in control of things while I was pregnant - and this was the complete antithesis to my pregnancy. I felt like a failure, all those horrible comments of the midwife were ringing loudly in my head, I knew I had had a PDA when I planned on not having one, and now my contractions weren't strong enough and I needed to have the doctor help me push out my baby. I wanted a do-over, but could do nothing but go with the flow and hope for the best.

The head was finally born - I was later told that the head and the elbow came at the same time, and with the next contraction the rest of her finally came. As if by a miracle, I didn't rip or tear. Geo later told me that the midwife announced "it's a girl!", but I didn't hear a thing, I was just too busy not feeling pain anymore. I leaned forward to see her gender, but all I saw was a gorgeous baby between my legs, having her nose sucked out. Somebody had her arms in front of what I so desperately wanted to see, and it seemed like an eternity until I finally saw that she was a girl, even though it probably was only a few seconds. The feeling... that feeling... after so desperately hoping and wishing for a girl for nine months and then seeing this wish fulfilled... really fulfilled... this feeling I cannot describe to anybody. There simply are no words for it. My little girl, my precious daughter.

She was put onto my chest immediately. Geo was crying. Our baby girl was laying on me, calmly, eyes wide, looking around. The midwife finally left, and we were alone, a family for the first time. Those feelings... I do not need to describe to those who have children already - and to those who don't, I truly hope that you will experience them yourself someday.

I found it untrue what they always say: "once they put your child onto your chest, the pain is forgotten immediately". It is definitely not. The body and mind do a great job at pushing it away, and you are quickly busy with other things, but forgotten it is definitely not. Maybe, if my birth experience would have been better, more like I wanted and hoped it to be, if I wouldn't look back on it and feel almost ashamed, I would have been able to truly forget it, and look positively into a next pregnancy - but as it stands, I am happy with my beautiful baby daughter, an only-child.

At any rate, she was born with lots of black hair, a carbon-copy of her father. She has my gray eyes, though. She is wonderfully calm and relaxed, a true result of my calm and relaxed pregnancy.

We are sleep-deprived and exhausted, but in love like we never were before. It is as if she's been with us always... she is the biggest miracle, and the most beautiful child ever to have been born.

And that's not me saying that out of motherly pride and love - but truly objectively. ;)

Thursday, November 08, 2007

It's a Girl!

Our Baby Girl was born on October 26, 2007 at 12:25PM - on Austria's National Holiday, one day before her due date.

Life is beautiful with her, she is the most gorgeous baby in the world, and not having known her sex before her birth made for the most wonderful moment in my life so far.

She is... just a beautiful and great baby. She is wonderful, she is our everything. She is the best thing that ever happened to me.

I am in love as I never was before in my entire life.

I am also sleep-deprived and very busy... it'll be a while, but I will hopefully get to talk about her birth here soon. Thank you for reading - and all the best to you and yours. I am off, enjoying life with my gorgeous baby daughter.