Thursday, January 29, 2015

The way of No Way

Your children make you do things you never thought you’d do.

It can be climbing into your house through the bathroom window after a three-year-old had locked herself in. It can be hosting a pajama party, getting a dog, or any of the “No Ways” you had told yourself before you had children.

In Israel’s case, it’s co-sleeping. I’ve always been against it; never done it, never intended to. It’s just that I have this preferred way of sleeping which involves curling up on my stomach and pulling the blanket tightly all around me and over my head, and it just doesn't work if there’s a baby in bed with me. With the girls, I would of course get up during the night to nurse, but I’d do that sitting up in bed and then put them back in their crib.

On the second night after Israel was born, I realized it just isn't going to work this way with him. Needless to say, I was very much in need of rest, and after I had nursed him and he was dozing peacefully on my chest, I slowly got up and gently put him in his bassinet, which was standing next to my hospital bed. 

Instantly, he began to howl.

I repeated this process multiple times throughout the night, as the nurses strictly warned me against sleeping with the baby in my bed. Thankfully it wasn't a Shabbat night, so I could browse through some websites on my iPhone to keep me from dozing off.

Close to three o’clock in the morning, I nearly let the baby drop from my arms because I fell asleep sitting up. I began to pray. “Dear G-d,” I said, “please let me put this baby down, even for one hour, so I can be refreshed enough to keep taking care of him.” G-d listened to my prayers. At 5 AM, I was finally able to put the exhausted baby in his bassinet, staggered to my bed and immediately fell into deep sleep.

At six, I was woken by the resident nurse who came to take my blood pressure. I cried.

Thankfully, the baby kept sleeping through the morning, so I was able to catch up on some rest. Later that day, I spoke to a lactation consultant who soothed my concerns, told me it’s normal for newborns to nurse continually throughout their second night, and that it will help my milk “come in”. My milk did come in, and big time, but it didn't help me get Israel to sleep in his crib when we came home. It seemed that during the day, he didn't care where we put him – but during the night, he only wanted to be in my arms. To top it all off, sitting up in bed for so many hours gave me back pains.

On our first night back home, when I once more continued my heroic efforts of nursing while sitting up and trying to put him in his crib time after time, my husband said sleepily, “give him here.” I did. He put the baby on his chest and dozed off, and so did I. As far as baby was concerned, Dad was just as good as Mom; he simply wanted to be sleeping with someone. Of course, two hours later he woke and started looking for milk.

“Why don’t you try to nurse him lying down?” asked my husband.

At my wits’ end, I decided to try it. That night, I came to the conclusion that, though sleeping and nursing didn’t give me the deep, thoroughly refreshing sleep I craved, it’s still better than not sleeping at all.

When I thought about it, I realized how natural it is for a newborn to desire this closeness to his parents. I sleep better next to my husband; my two daughters will often climb into bed together and sleep that way, squeezed tightly side by side. This baby had spent nine months in the womb, where he got used to hearing my heartbeat and voice. There is nothing more natural for him than to seek the warmth and comfort of his mother. So my first two babies were “convenient” enough to let me sleep the way I’m used to; this time, I’m in a position to adjust my attitude.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

It was a snowy weekend

I wanted to write a bit about the more practical aspects surrounding Israel’s birth. Circumstances worked out in such a way that in the last months of my pregnancy we spent very little time at home. There were certain things that needed to be fixed in order to make our house habitable, and though it was all supposed to be arranged in good time, stuff like that has a tendency to take longer than was initially planned.

We ended up staying with my mom right up until the day I went into labor, which wasn’t easy. In the last few days, I was overwhelmed by a powerful nesting instinct that made me tell my husband I want to go home right now so that I can begin fixing things up - though it would have been totally pointless, as the work wasn’t done yet and everything was still in too much of a disarray for me to attempt anything. Looking back, I should have known it was a sign I’m about to go into labor. I really felt deprived because I couldn’t scrub floors, arrange closets and stock the freezer at the very end of my pregnancy!

Well, as we came home from the hospital with our new baby, everything was just as I dreaded – things all over the place, tools lying around, the furniture haphazardly piled in the middle of the living room and covered with nylon sheets. Strangely, though, I didn’t seem to mind so much anymore (perhaps because I had such a sweet distraction in my arms!). Our bedroom was more or less in order, and so I retired there with the baby while my husband tidied up. Over the next few days, bit by bit, we put the house in order (a process that is still ongoing).

Another worry I had was that of having a January baby. We’ve been through that with Shira, and though the electricity bill was staggering, at least back then we lived in a place where electricity was reliable. This time, I wasn’t sure we’d have an adequate heat source at all. Everything worked out just fine, though.

The weekend after we came home was the coldest of the year. On Friday afternoon it began to snow, and the snow continued throughout the night. As we looked out of the window and saw everything covered in a white blanket, I was overcome with a profound sense of peace. We got a gas heater just in case electricity would cave in, and the warmth radiating from it was lovely. We had plenty of good food to heat up in the course of Shabbat. The girls were delighted with the snow, and when morning came I bundled them up and they got out to play and toss snowballs. It was, truly, a magical night and day. I like to close my eyes and re-live it, time and time again.

All of this was an important lesson for me. My husband kept saying, “it will all work out, trust me” – and I did, outwardly, but I should have paid deeper attention to the bigger voice saying “trust Me”. I spent literally months worrying myself silly over things which were, in the long run, inconsequential – and in the end, it all worked out beautifully. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

We did it, again!

I had waited for this a long, long time, but when rubber hit the road, I felt as though there's absolutely no way I can come through it alive. 

On the up side, I did it, as of course I had no choice but to. 

I recall that when I posted about my first birth experience, six long years ago, I was accused of glossing over things and understating the extent of pain, etc. Well, just to reinforce my reputation as a truthful person, I will honestly say that this time around, things were a lot more intense than the first two times - which makes sense, since the entire active labor was comprised in a much shorter time frame. 

I was admitted for monitoring at 2 PM, and the attending nurse was totally unimpressed with the duration and spacing of my contractions, and was about to declare I'm not really in labor, when my waters broke. When I mentioned that last time, the baby came out about half an hour after rupture of membranes, I was finally taken seriously. A few minutes after 4 PM, just before the lighting of the Shabbat candles, I already held our new baby in my arms. 

In between, and not that I want to dampen the spirit of anyone who's planning to do this without pain meds, I lived through hellish pain. As big a fan of natural birth as I am, if there had been a way to know in advance how painful it would be this time, I would have opted to have medical pain relief. As things were, however, there was nothing to do but go through with it (as the midwife, who was a real champ, reminded me).

The midwife who attended me was one big positive point throughout the whole experience. Things were quiet in the L&D, so she was able to be with me through it all. She helped me manage the birth so that not only I didn't tear at all, there was hardly even any soreness afterwards. As soon as our son was born, she placed him on my chest and I had some precious time admiring, snuggling and nursing him before anything else was done, even cord clamping. Only later the midwife proceeded to cut the cord and the baby was weighed, wrapped and handed to my husband, while I was getting cleaned up. 

Two hours later, I was already able to get up, put on my own clothes, and go on business as usual. It was amazing - after all the pain, I was feeling great, barely as though I had given birth at all! The nurses couldn't believe their eyes when they saw me up and about as though I hadn't just delivered a baby. The vengeance came later, when the baby started nursing and the afterpains kicked in. I've heard they get worse with each birth, but it really was beyond any expectation. Thankfully, they subsided about five days later. 

Time doesn't allow me to put into detail everything else that has been going on here, but I just wanted to say thank you for all the notes of friendship and support that had been sent our way. I couldn't reply to each one in person yet, as I've now taken time off pretty much everything in order to enjoy some complete peace and quiet with my husband, our daughters Shira and Tehilla and our new baby boy, Israel.