Those of you who have raised a child to the tender age of about 30 to 40-something may have been told by a pediatrician to put your baby on her stomach to sleep. This was to avoid any possibility of the baby choking on spit-up.

Recent studies however, have shifted that line of thought to putting babies on their backs to sleep. Studies have shown this will reduce the incidence of crib death by 50%, and all doctors will mention this to new parents.  Ours did.  Pretty sternly, as I recall.

With Helen, I tried. I honestly did. But I learned very quickly that with a preemie, Helen slept best perched on either my chest or her daddy's, and shifting her to her back in her bassinet just meant she startled herself awake in about 10 minutes at most. So after about 2 weeks of getting very little sleep, I put her on her tummy.

She slept for 2 hours straight. I knew I had hit upon something.

At her 2-month appointment for shots, I threatened Brian within an inch of his life if he told the pediatrician about the tummy sleeper I was raising. I think she must have known, given how round the back of her head still appeared to be, but I just kept smiling and nodding and saying, "Sure, she's on her back to sleep at night."  I felt like an awful parent, especially with all of the data out there proving I was doing something wrong, but knowing how important a few hours of sleep in a row would be for BOTH of us, I thought I was doing the right thing.

Fortunately, it turned out just fine.  And now Helen ALWAYS sleeps on her tummy. I have a strong memory of her in the crib with those little chubby legs tucked up underneath her, head turned to the side, mouth slightly open, sound asleep. I have gone to pick her up at daycare during naptime - she's always under her blanket on her mat, sleeping on her tummy. I have gone in to wake her up in the mornings for school - she's lying in her bed on her tummy. She curls up on her daddy sometimes at night while we watch TV - resting with her cheek on his chest puts her right to sleep.

After 3 weeks with Alice, I've discovered that I've given birth to another tummy sleeper. She slept so well on her back at the hospital that I tried for a while to put her on her side or her back to sleep. At first, it was fine, but gradually it has stopped working. She sleeps on me just fine (cradled in my arms or resting on my chest), but now startles awake very quickly if I put her on her back. I've tried propping her on her side with blankets around her, and I've tried swaddling, but it doesn't last long. Finally, I tried putting her on her tummy, and sure enough, she slept for hours like that.

At her 2-week appointment with the pediatrician, the doctor was checking her out, and put Alice on her tummy on the examining table to see if she could lift her head. Instead, Alice turned her head to the side, found her thumb, jammed it in her mouth and sucked it. Eyes closed, legs curled up behind her, sucking away - the doctor was in awe. "Now THAT'S a picture," she exclaimed.

I smiled, weakly. "That's amazing," I said. "She never finds her thumb at home."


Another Birth Story

It's important to emphasize in the tale of Alice's birth that I was a very whiny pregnant woman in that last month.  I had never been that pregnant before, and as I approached month #8, all signs that I looked for were beginning to point to another early delivery.  Little did I know how wrong I was, and if I had only known, I could have been more resigned to being that big and pregnant.  There was a moment when August 6 looked like miles away, and then again, as we raced toward that morning, there was so much to do and so little time to get it done.  

But then I realized that we had Helen so unexpectedly early, and it all worked out just fine.  To know how prepared we were this time was much more comforting.

I had been getting up in the middle of the night for weeks.  That Wednesday, our induction day, was no exception, and it started off much like the morning that I had Helen.  I had some strong contractions, and my stomach felt the effects of all that cramping.  Was I starting labor?  Would I need the pitocin?

Brian & I dropped off Helen at daycare, and she was excited to know that her Amazing Babysitter would be coming by to pick her up when the baby was born.  I gave her a big hug and got back in the car to head to the hospital.  We had a duffel bag packed to the brim with technology - laptop, camera, iPod, and cellphones.  Very little in the bag had to do with an overnight stay away from home. 

We got to the hospital and went through paperwork.  I had preregistered on the phone, but a lot of the consent forms needed my signature.   A nurse came by to take me to the delivery room, and I got changed into a hospital gown.  By 8:45, they had checked me (still at 3cm) and broke my water.  I had my pitocin IV inserted, and they told me I could have the epidural anytime.  I wanted to wait a bit, to see how long it would take for labor to progress first.  I didn't want to risk that epidural wearing off at the most important moment!

The baby monitor and the contraction monitor were strapped to my belly, and I learned I wasn't really having any contractions that morning - just more of that fake labor.  In about 30 minutes, all of that changed.  Lots of strong pains hit, and a few doozies in a row prompted Brian to suggest that maybe I should ask for the epidural.  So by 9:45, I had my pain shot.  

A word to note:  my favorite man in the delivery room last time around was the nurse anesthetist named Fred.  I asked my doctor at the last appointment about him, and she smiled and said they all loved Fred, and were so sad that he had retired last month.  I literally had a panic attack.  Who would handle my epidural?  

On my induction date, I found out that Fred made all the difference in the world.  The nurse anesthetist who inserted it this time took a span of about 4 contractions to set up and make it happen.  In fact, I had a contraction in the middle of all that, where the delivery nurse talked me through "not moving" while the man worked on putting in the needle.  My memory is hazy on a lot of what happened the first time, but this time it seemed a lot more painful and a lot more difficult.  Plus, the whole "taking too long" part.  Too bad Fred didn't pull a Brett Favre and come out of retirement for me.  

Don't get me wrong - it was still totally worth it.  After a couple of contractions that eased up gradually to slight pressure, all the pain went away and I dozed a little.  Neither Brian nor I had slept well the night before, so it was good to get a chance to close my eyes.  

The nurse came back about an hour later, and checked me.  She said I was definitely progressing - in fact, I was at 7cm.   Hearing that, I was stunned.  Here I was on pitocin, with an epidural, napping, expecting everything to slow down considerably, and instead I had progressed from 3cm to 7cm.  Keep in mind I'd been at the same 3cm since 37 weeks.  So I was surprised.

The nurse said she'd come back in about 30 minutes and check me again.  Sure enough, I was at 9.5cm at that point.  She rounded up all the personnel to set up for our baby's arrival.  Fifteen minutes later, I started pushing.

This time around was a lot easier, since I sort of knew what I needed to do.  Even with the epidural, I could feel pressure that let me know where the baby was.  At the end, I could feel her coming through the birth canal.  It wasn't painful, but it was a strange sensation, and I know I didn't miss out on a thing by having that epidural.

The nurse asked me if I wanted her on my chest right away, or if I wanted her wiped down first.  She was spreading a towel on my chest as she asked, but the look on my face must have said it all, because she quickly whipped the towel off and said, "Okay, we'll bathe her."  When the baby came out, I heard the doctor ask Brian if he wanted to cut the cord, and he said, "Sure!"  Brian went over with the nurses to see her and take some pictures while the doctor finished up with me.  Total time from pitocin to delivery:  4 hours.

Everyone was very complimentary of my pushing skills.  It seems like one of those things that is perfectly useless to be good at.  And it turns out I was a little too good at it.  Because Alice didn't spend a lot of time in the birth canal, she came out with a tiny bit of fluid still in the lungs.  Normally that all gets squeezed out.  So it meant that first day was spent with a very close eye on her, because she would choke and spit it up.  

Other than that, she was absolutely perfect at 8 pounds, 2 ounces, 20.5 inches long.  Healthy, beautiful, and really ticked off at being pushed out of a nice, comfy womb.  About an hour later, she was totally over it and thrilled to have her mama holding her.  

We were just as thrilled.

To read Helen's birth story, click here.


Photo Session

I took some pictures last night and today. I don't think I can express just how much Helen loves to play with her sister.



Just think - she's only 3 years old.

This past weekend, at Helen's request, I made her a peanut butter & jelly sandwich for lunch.  I cut off the crusts (she doesn't like the "crunchy" part) and made 4 little triangles for her to enjoy.  She ate one of them, but then she told me she was done.  

Brian had bought a candy bar at the store earlier and she was promised part of it for after lunch.  Since she was "done" with her lunch, she asked me for the candy bar.  I told her no, she had to eat the rest of her sandwich, and then she could have the candy bar.  She put up a minimal protest but I held my ground.  She could be done with her sandwich now, and no candy bar, or she could finish it and enjoy the chocolatey goodness.

At that point Alice tuned up with her own request for lunch, so I went to sit on the sofa in the living room and nursed her.  Occasionally I would see Helen at the kitchen door and reminded her to finish her sandwich.  Helen would head back to her seat at the table and I had assumed she was eating the sandwich, slowly but surely.

Eventually Helen told me she was done.  I asked her if she had eaten all of her sandwich, and she said yes.  I asked her if I came in there, would I see any more sandwich on her plate?  She said no.  I got up, and walked into the kitchen.  On the counter next to the sink was her empty plate, and Helen was standing in front of the trash can with the biggest smile on her face.  

At that point, Dear Readers, I couldn't help but laugh.  I asked her if she threw her sandwich in the trash can, and she said no.  I made a move toward the trash can and she yelled, "Nooo!"  I finally moved her out of the way and opened the lid.  Sure enough, there were all 3 sandwich triangles, sitting in the trash can.

I told Brian what happened, and he started laughing, too.  I mean, our child flat out lied, but being a 3-year old, she couldn't even try to be sneaky about it.  Seeing her in front of that trash can was pretty funny.  So it must have really confused her when I took her into the living room, explained to her that she had not told me the truth, and put her in timeout.  And it must have been really hard for her to sit in timeout while both of us chuckled.

Something tells me it won't be so funny the next time.


Haunt me? No, thank you.

Maternity leave has been an eye-opening experience.  For example, did you know that daytime television sucks?  Yeah, I thought we had it rough with prime-time TV.  Trust me - it's like watching Shakespeare compared to the crap they shove out between 10 am and 5 pm.

Anyway, that should help explain why Brian came home late yesterday afternoon to put together an order for work, and discovered I was watching John Edwards on "Crossing Over."  This show, for those of you who aren't familiar with it, is sort of like a televised seance.  He has a studio audience, and he spends the hour "reading" ghosts who want to connect with audience members.  It could be family, or it could be friends, and he manages to come up with some spooky connections (i.e., nicknames, weird family secrets, occupations, how they died, etc.) to validate their identities.

I'm not a true believer, but sometimes this show is just enough to make me wonder.  (Plus, have I mentioned that there's really not much to watch on TV?)  Brian, however, scoffed out loud.  

(To understand the following conversation, please keep in mind that we joke about the payoff on our life insurance policies, like, A LOT.)

Brian:  You're watching THAT?

Jennie: What?  Really, sometimes it's interesting.

Brian:  You better not go to one of those shows if I die, because I will mess with him.  (imitating John Edwards) "I don't know if this means anything to you, but I'm seeing rat poison."

Jennie:  (laughing)  Yeah, you'd be all, "Why you'd spend all the insurance money so fast?"

Brian:  And you'd be sitting there in the audience, laughing.  It wouldn't look so good on TV.

The thought of Brian reaching out from beyond the grave, just to mess with the life insurance proceeds - well, if you don't know him very well, it sounds EXACTLY like something he'd do.


My Nursing Degree

So the first latch after the birth went smoothly.  The next half dozen, not so good.  I actually checked Alice for teeth.  I could have sworn she was nibbling on my nipples with her molars!  By the time the lactation consultant arrived at the hospital room to give me some guidance, the baby had already done some pretty significant damage.

I realize I don't talk about my nipples very often on this blog (okay - never) but it's such an important part of the experience of having a baby.  And I have to say that my increasing disappointment with the experience thus far was crushing.  Helen's first 6 weeks were a disaster.  Every time I fed her, I cringed from the pain.  Often it would take my breath away.  Pumping was no better.  I was so tense and worked up over trying to feed her through the agony, I cried at the slightest thing.  I finally weaned her when I went back to work, and it was the best decision I ever made.  I could actually relax and be happy with giving her a bottle.  

This time, I really wanted to nurse for two reasons:  formula is expensive, and breastmilk is best for the baby.  I know that every baby is different, and I wanted to see if this time might be better.  Last time, I was too proud to call the hospital for help.  This time, I was more than willing to make sure I had every resource to make it work.

Plus, it really blows Helen's mind, that the baby gets her milk from me.  So, an added bonus there.

I got home from the hospital on Friday around lunchtime, and spent the weekend trying not to cry every time Alice nursed.  I had a product called Soothies that I wore between feedings, and I cannot recommend these things highly enough.  They'll be in every single baby shower gift from now on.

But despite all of this protection and care and continual checking that Alice had the right latch (she did), I had a scab across each nipple from significant cracking from those early feedings.  Once the engorgement hit on Sunday, it became even more difficult to get her to latch (imagine trying to nurse on a large boulder) and created more damage.  One side was significantly worse than the other.  And nursing on that scab 10-12 times a day didn't do much to heal it quickly.   In fact, it just made it worse.  So on Tuesday, I broke down and called the lactation consultant back.

Best thing I ever did. I sobbed on the phone with a complete stranger for about 20 minutes, and she had some great tips.  She suggested that I pump for about a day on the one side that was in worse shape, and then try again with Alice.  That first week of breastfeeding is crucial for establishing milk supply, and my pump wasn't strong enough to make that happen.  She said it's fine for maintaining supply only.  If I didn't get better in a day, I would have to rent a hospital-grade pump to help establish the milk supply.

So after a day of trying to find time to both nurse and pump, I cautiously entered the fray again.  To my great delight, it worked.  I spent the next two days nursing her from that breast first, in order to create more demand and get the supply going again.  I have to say, that last bit was my own instinct (not the lactation consultant's advice) and it worked like a charm.

A week later, we are rolling along at full speed.  Many times I have to wake her up to feed her, because she has a tendency to sleep about 4 hours.  Now that I'm over the engorgement period, it's much easier, but I still need to establish a good schedule with her.  Other times she will go for more cluster feedings, which can be frustrating if she wants to eat continually, and I need to cook dinner.  But if the only thing I'm dreading these days about breastfeeding is timing, then we are definitely doing well.


Parenthood 2.0

Meet Alice Suzanne, who weighs 8 lbs, 2 ounces, and measures 20.5 inches long.

The induction went very smoothly.  I'll roll out the birth story after I get home and get a chance to compose it, but for now I'll tell you she's an amazing sleeper and her big sister couldn't be happier to have her here, finally.


Play through the pain

Do they give you a medal for going to work on your due date? It feels like this is the modern equivalent of women who used to give birth in the fields - only now we're sitting behind desks in air-conditioned offices.  Okay, so not exactly the same thing.  But anyway.

Yes, I am STILL here, as apparently everyone I see has to emphasize. If every person who asked me, "You're STILL here?" or "You haven't had that baby YET?" had to give me a dollar, I could have paid for Helen's college tuition by now.  From the daycare to the bus to work and back home to the grocery store, I hear it a LOT.

Like I have anything to do with the process of making this happen. It's all up to the baby. But you wouldn't know it from the advice I keep getting. The old wives' tales are pouring out of the woodwork at this point.

"Try salsa." Oooh, the heartburn - it burns! No, thanks.

"Try sex." That gem came from a neighbor. Ha. Try, indeed! Yes, at this point I'm too sexy for this website.

"Try walking." This is by far the most popular advice. I'll just go ahead and mention that it is by no means comfortable to walk any distance at 40 weeks pregnant. Also, it was approximately 105 degrees with the heat index last week. YOU try walking around the block with an extra 30 pounds wrapped around your waist and report back to me. Be sure to indicate at what point in the first 100 feet you had to call 911.

Believe it or not, all 3 are urban legends. Apparently if you tried one of the three, or all three, or something other than these three, and then you went into labor, it was just a coincidence. The leading scientific theory is that the baby's adrenal gland releases a hormone that says, "I'm ready" and the contractions begin. So you can bet my lazy butt is on the sofa. And I will continue to enjoy the air-conditioned comfort while I wait out the last remaining hours of pregnancy.


Update from the Waiting Room

For those who are checking relentlessly - still no baby.  Induction is scheduled for August 6, so the light is shining brightly at the end of the tunnel.  After having some relentless contractions start up for a few hours on Thursday morning, I learned at my doctor appointment that I'm no further along than last week (still 3cm, 70%).  Now, even the fake labor pains have gone away, and I think this means baby is getting as much rest as she can before taking over our lives.

The good news is that if all goes according to schedule, I'll be home in time to see the Opening Ceremonies for the Olympics.  That's how I plan to spend some of my hard-earned maternity leave - watching people race for the medals while sports announcers tug at my heartstrings.  One article I read recently said that NBC is broadcasting 3600 hours of coverage, and depending on how things go with the baby, I should be awake for about 1-2% of that.  Go USA!