Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Lessons from Sleep Training

When I had a brand new tiny human placed in my arms at the hospital, I vowed NEVER to sleep train via the Cry It Out (CIO) method. What cruel mother would do that to her perfect little bundle of love and neediness?

I stood by that statement until 2 weeks ago, when Zoe turned 5 months and we had been dealing with the 4 month sleep regression for 6 weeks with no signs of changing. I would rock and nurse Zoe to sleep at bedtime, and then do the dance of put her in her bassinet, she wakes up and cries, so I rock her some more. We would do this about 5 times before she would stay asleep in the bassinet. Then she would wake up screaming every 1-2 hours all through the night. Early in the night, I would repeat the rock and nurse to sleep routine, but in the wee hours of the morning, in my delirium, I would give up and just put her in bed with me. This didn't fix anything because she'd still wake up every 1-2 hours, I'd nurse her next to me, but she would have a hard time falling back asleep, so I'd hold her really tightly to keep her from flailing herself awake. I would wake up the next morning more exhausted than before, feeling like I'd wrestled a baby alligator all night long. And Zoe would wake up cranky for the day too. Fun.

Naptimes were equally fun. Because Zoe had never self-soothed, she didn't know how to nap and she was growing and learning so much that nursing to sleep didn't happen during the day because she wanted to look at EVERYTHING around her. "Oh, look, a stuffed animal over there!" "Oh look, your bra strap is interesting?" "Oh look, the sunbeam on the wall is so cool." Seriously? I would usually give up and strap her in my Ergo, cover her head so she couldn't see anything and do chores or something to rock her to sleep. So yah, my days were super relaxing. Lots of moms recommended just taking a nap with Zoe, but that didn't work because I couldn't actually get her to sleep on the bed with me- she was too distracted.

One morning after wrestling my baby alligator all night long, I turned to Taylor and confessed the secret resentment that was beginning to grow towards my perfect little baby. That little fleck of resentment was my red flag that something wasn't working and that maybe I did need to consider letting Zoe learn to self-soothe.

I began thinking about Zoe as a toddler and how this waking all night thing would NOT fly as she got older, especially once she learns how to climb out of her crib and once we have other babies to tend to.

So, I called and texted some of my most trusted mama friends- you know, the ones who mother the way you want to mother. They gave me their pep talks, their instructions and trouble shooting details, and as soon as I shared them with Taylor, he was on board 100%- what a man!

We started last night. It was so rough.

The only other times I've heard my baby scream and shriek like that is when she's in her carseat and is sleepy and there's nowhere for mommy to exit to help her. Terrible.

So we laid in bed next to her bassinet (she couldn't see us), listening to her scream, comforting her every couple of minutes. She would stop and pause, start again, make little protesting sounds, then resume shrieking. I'd pick her up to comfort her, tell her that I love her and want to teach her how to sleep and sooth herself, that I didn't leave and I'm right here. It was hard. So glad to have my man supporting me and Zoe in this new, difficult thing.

As I lay there wrestling with dualing thoughts, "this is good for her, I'm being a good mama teaching her how to sleep" vs "she is so mad, I hope she doesn't think I've left her," I started seeing the parallels with God's training in my life.

God often times allows me to go through really really awful, painful seasons for my own good. Of course, I don't know they're for my own good when they're happening. In the moment, I think bad things are just happening to me. I get mad and throw fits at God, demanding He show me where He is, that He fix this, that I really really can't take it anymore. But just like I am with Zoe, God is right there IN my struggle, not fixing it because the training is good for me, and He knows I really can take it. He trains me because He loves me, just like I am doing with Zoe.

He isn't selfish, just wanting more time to himself to watch TV or have a break (which is what I wrongly assumed most mothers wanted when they "subjected" their babies to CIO sleep training). He is tenderly, lovingly watching me and training me, doing what is best for me. Just like I am doing for Zoe.

For the time being no discipline brings joy, but seems grievous and painful; but afterwards it yields a peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it [a harvest of fruit which consists in righteousness—in conformity to God’s will in purpose, thought, and action, resulting in right living and right standing with God].- Hebrews 12:5-11

The moment she gave in and fell asleep after 30 minutes of intermittant (and comforted) crying, I was relieved and hopeful that it wouldn't be this bad next time. And you know what? The next time, she cried less and surrendered to sleep more quickly.

When she woke up the next morning her cheery, loving, precious self, I couldn't wait to bring her into my bed for some morning cuddles and ten thousand kisses on her sweet chubby cheeks. I felt so proud of her.

I think and hope that God must be watching us from the metophorical bedside, cheering for us when we struggle with new and difficult things, and that He is so excited to celebrate with us in the morning.



Thursday, August 1, 2013

So I'm a mom now... (a.k.a. my Zoe's birth story)

Sorry for the radio silence for the last 6 months! We moved into a bigger place, had a zillion baby showers, I had our first baby, and we've been adjusting to parenthood since! So yah, no big deal.

I've hesitated sharing my birth story because a blog is quite a public place to share such a personal, intimate part of my life experience. But I'm such a sucker for birth stories, reading so many online, I thought I should go ahead and contribute to the beautiful world of birth stores.

I hope you enjoy reading mine. God is so good.

My due date was March 4, but my midwife, Natalie, encouraged me not to take that date seriously and have plenty of projects and distractions to busy myself with. I took this suggestion to heart.

me, working, just a couple days before
me organizing the baby stuff = "playing"
getting some last minute maternity photos done

 Saturday, March 2nd, Taylor and I woke up early to go to a farmer's market with his sister and her family (Kim and Bill). At the farmer's market, I had a couple "cramps" that felt new. I assumed they were Braxton Hicks, since I still hadn't gotten any of those yet. I whispered to Taylor that I was having them, but they were probably nothing. We didn't want to tell anyone just in case I had false labor for some long period of time.

So we went home and took naps. Taylor woke up before me to go pick up our new clothes washer (YAY! Thanks, Granny!) and get it installed. I woke up feeling fine, no cramps. When he got back, we went to dinner at The Counter with his cousin Steven, who'd helped us pick up the washer and install it. I had a few more intense "cramps" at dinner and decided to start tracking them on my iPhone app- they were between 10 and 7 mins apart. They were getting stronger, longer, and closer together, just as our Bradley Method instructor, Karen, told us they would if they were real contractions. I remember ordering a veggie burger just in case I did go into labor that night knowing that a heavy burger would be a BAD choice, ha!

When we got home, I was ready to putter around the apartment. I folded some clean baby laundry and worked a little bit in the baby's room (which was in complete disarray because we thought we had so much time). I kept timing the contractions which were easy enough to breath through- they were 5-7 minutes apart. My mom called and we visited on the phone for a bit and there were two difficult contractions while I was on the phone with her. But I still wasn't convinced they were real contractions, so I didn't say anything about it to my mom (sorry Mom!).

I texted my midwife around 8pm telling her the history of the timing of the contractions and she said to take a warm bath, eat a good dinner, and try to sleep to get energy for the labor. The bath did not slow the contractions. In fact, I had a few in the tub and had Taylor come in and time them for me. Taylor and I had a special moment while I was soaking in the tub- he sweetly told me how he wanted to be connected throughout all this and that he was there to love and support me. Enough sweet talk, another contraction was coming.

timing contractions & reviewing Bradley
Method info on contractions

I got out of the tub and tried lying down to rest, but lying down made the contractions so much WORSE! The only thing that was helpful was sitting on my birthing ball and making circles with my hips. Sometimes standing up and swaying in a circle felt better too. I was having to use all my breathing and concentration to get through each contraction. Probably around 9pm, I saw some bloody show and the midwife texted Taylor telling him that this was indeed a sign of labor and our baby was on the way! Contractions were 2-3 minutes apart at this point.

hip circles on the ball

I kept working through the contractions on my ball, breathing deeply, until they started hitting harder! Taylor knew it was time to go to the birth center when I could no longer relax through them and I sounded much different. Pretty sure I dropped the F-bomb during one of my contractions. Natalie texted him the go-ahead to come on.

Somewhere around here, I realized we still hadn't installed the carseat- so Taylor packed our bags in the car and installed the carseat. We got in the car and began the fast drive along I-10 to the Katy Birth Center. Oh man, that drive was rough! It was all I could do to breath through the pain. We arrived at the birth center at 12:30am. Natalie checked me and was shocked and delighted to find me dialated to 8cm already! We thought this birth was going to be a fast one! She filled up the birthing pool for me (which is where I planned to deliver) where I labored and then began to push.

birth ball = pain reduction!

Oh my word, pushing was so incredibly painful! I was not prepared for THAT sensation! I felt very zen and calm through the first phase of labor- it was like a painful yoga class where you have to breath into the pain. But pushing was so different. The pain changed to a sensation I can only describe as my whole body feeling like it was going to split in half. I really thought my body would take over and would push on its own, but I really struggled with knowing which muscles to use and what to do with this new pain. The pain got so intense that I began resisting it instead of just going with it. I started getting scared. I started wimpering, I can't do it, I can't push. Taylor and Natalie kept encouraging me to lean into it and push WITH the pain.

Taylor and Natalie coaching me to push with the pressure


I tried pushing in the pool, then I tried on the toilet, then I tried on a birthing stool, then I tried side-lying on the bed and NOTHING felt better. I told Taylor with a straight face (which he thought hilarious) that "This is hard. Nothing feels good."

After a few contractions on the bed, the baby's heart rate began dropping with each push. Natalie had to push the baby back up inside me at one point to see if she would reposition. It was probably close to 5 am at this point and I was spent! I had absolutely no energy to push anymore. Natalie was praying for me, hooking me up to oxygen, and an IV, trying to get me to perk up so I could keep pushing. Taylor was exhausted and I could tell a little scared. I rested for a while, just breathing through contractions instead of pushing through them and nothing was helping. I felt so powerless and so tired. I didn't feel like I had it in me to get the baby out. 

Finally, Natalie turned to Taylor and told him that we needed to get ready to go to the hospital because the baby's heart rate kept getting lower and that maybe an epidural or seomthing to help me with the pain would help me push her out. It was so surreal hearing Natalie say that. My dream water birth was gone. I felt like a failure but at the same time, was just ready to get our baby out however she needed to come out and I was so tired of being in pain.

Taylor drove me and Natalie to the nearest hospital Memorial Herman Katy and I kept having contractions as I was walking in- so painful. 

early morning at the Memorial Herman Katy hospital

They wheeled me into a delivery room and a plethora of nurses began asking me tons of legal and medical questions, having me sign my life away in case of any problems. They gave me something to slow the contractions, but it did not really work. 

Natalie on the upper left, Dr. Bertles on the lower left,
and two of several nurses coaching me.
The doctor on call came in and was preparing to do a C-section. Natalie was my greatest advocate and really pleaded with her to give me a few more opportunities to push with all the fetal monitors. I pushed a few times (completely exhausted), and baby girl didn't budge. The doctor said I could have one more try and then we were heading into surgery. I pushed with everything I could and I suspect God gave me favor because baby started descending again! I had 4 nurses and my midwife and Taylor surrounding me on the hospital bed, holding back my knees, and yelling and encouraging me with each contraction. The last few pushes, baby's head would crown, and then go back a little.
Taylor said he went to the corner of the room and got on his knees and just opened his hands, telling God we wanted to receive whatever He wanted to give us.

For the last contraction, the doctor told me to push and not stop even if the contraction ended. I pushed as hard as I could, the doctor simultaneously cut an episiotomy (ouch!), and our baby's head an body came out in two pushes! I could not believe how big she looked!!! She was HUGE! I couldn't believe she came out of me! They handed her to me and I was in love. Taylor cried while I cooed over our little girl and the doctor stitched me up. It was amazing!!! I was so glad my midwife was there with me the whole time and so glad I got through the whole birth without major medication or C-section. It was the hardest most painful thing I've ever done. And if course I would do it again for her.

the picture we texted family and friends

Taylor and I just stare at her and marvel at how wonderful she is. What a gift God gave us! 

Her name means life. We picked it because we sensed God would use her to bring new life to us and our families. It's also significant to us because God gave us this life, after a miscarriage last year. And after her complicated birth, God gave us this beautiful life that we are so crazy in love with. She is such new life and favor. Such a beautiful gift.

Even though I didn't have the exact birth I was hoping for, the wonderful doctor and nurses and the hospital stay were all marked with God's favor. And I was so blessed to have my midwife with me the entire time.

It was truly beautiful. 

our little family