So, I haven't written in a while, but I'm having a slow day at work, so here it goes...
Fatherhood is trip!!! It undoubtedly shifts your perspective on life, the future, love, puke and poop. It often feels like everything is different and nothing is different at the same time. Sure trips outside the house seem like a big ordeal now, with all of the crap you have to take with you and think about. I mean when it was just Erin and I, if we forgot something, it was no big deal. No water, we'll go thirsty! No money, we'll rely upon the kindness of strangers!
Now, a forgotten necessity could cause a chain reaction that might result in worldwide chaos. Ok. Maybe it's not so severe. In fact, it almost forces you to be a better problem solver; although your once astute critical thinking skills have been blunted by your newly acquired "baby brain". Just a small case in point:
Let's say we're out on a hike. There's a rumble in the baby sling. A 15-second fart unmatched by any bean-eating trail crew person comes out from this small bowling ball sized creature strapped to your belly. No problem, I'm a seasoned poopy pants changer (I've got 3+ months under my belt). I can do this in the woods, right here on the trail, no prob! And of course, being the well-prepared parents we are, we start pulling all of the necessary equipment to perform this operation. Changing pad, check. New diaper, check. Wipes...Wipes...Where are the god-forsaken wipes! The ensuing finger-pointing and fisticuffs don't last too long since we both realize that it isn't going to change the hard fact that the screaming child really doesn't want to sit in her own doody any longer. And who can blame her, really. What to do?
Option 1: Re-bundle her back up, poop and all and run like hell home. This would have been a good option, except the child has managed to invoke the physical laws of surface tension and pressure and forced the doo-doo right up her back. She's soaked, dirty, and pissed. Must do something now!
Option 2: Throw her in the lake! This really isn't an option, we've come to like her a little too much in the last couple of months. But...(a little piece of parental honesty here) the thought does cross your mind for half of an instant.
Option 3: My shirt. Yes, of course. Again, like I said before critical thinking has been blunted a little by the parental process. But it seems reasonable enough. Take off all of my layers, remove my t-shirt, and use as a wipe. No problem.
I'm standing half naked in the woods, it's 30 degrees. The baby's getting bundled, there's a quiet, stillness around that you can only find during the cold of winter. It's beautiful out. Amara breaks the silence, with her amazing smile and what was unmistakably a chuckle. Like, "That was fun! I just wanted to make sure I could get you to give me the shirt off your back." Well, I guess you're right little girl. You do have me wrapped around your finger.
Amara had a great first Thanksgiving at Pop pop and Bama Anderson's house. She got to show off her new hand skills (like grabbing, batting, and hand sucking) as well as her head control. She also had her first real giggle when Bama had a coughing fit. It was the funniest and cutest thing, she had us all hysterical. But she isn't laughing anymore as she battles her first cold (thanks Bama, Auntie Kimmy, Kaylee, and Uncle Joe). We are all sick with the sniffles and she struggles to sleep well at night but otherwise is proving to be a trooper. We will share more when we are all in better health.
Yes Kaylee, babies do eat boobies. Well in a sense I guess, I suppose it is just a vessel. That being said it is the most perfect vessel, designed by your greater being of choice to transport the most perfect food, milk that is, to babies. Who in turn are designed to efficiently obtain that milk and utilize it for maximum nutritional benefit. Breastfeeding is a basic human function, it is as natural and essential as all the other bodily processes. In most places outside the "developed" world it is the only form of sustenance for babies. So why do I feel the need to write about breastfeeding. Well, because I am thinking about it, and the only reason I am thinking about it is because of some sort of misplaced puritanical values that linger in this country.
Now mind you, one can see more flesh in a music video, on a billboard or newstand, or just walking down the street than I show whilst breastfeeding. But some how my breasts are indecent. I suppose we have become so desensitized to sexualized images of women (and men to some extent as well) that we barely notice, or simply except them as normal. On the other hand a mother nursing her child is for many people shocking and for others even offensive.
When I think about going out with Amara I worry about her getting hungry...where will we be, will there be a place to feed her? I feel uncomfortable, even embarrassed, which is ridiculous because I am pretty well practiced in looking and acting different than the general public. So I search for some dark corner or I run to hide in the car, this making me feel ashamed that I am not stronger, showing conviction in my right to breastfeed my baby whenever she is hungry.
I have thought a lot about what social pressures are making me feel this way and have discovered that it doesn't matter much. I simply have to choose not to allow others hang ups to bother me. Mothers have the right to participate in any activity they wish, even an act as simple as remaining at the table in a restaurant allows us to remain connected and keeps us from feeling alienated. People should rejoice when they see children being cared for instead of staring or giving dissaproving looks.
So I am making a promise to myself to fight the urge to hide and to proudly feed Amara wherever (within reason) and whenever she needs. It may take me a while to ignore others perceptions of me and to feel comfortable, but hopefully I and other nursing moms will create a more friendly atmosphere for future moms.
...Our blog that is. You can now find out all the excitement that is the Johnderson household here at blogger. We will keep updating with photos of the little lady and posting what we are all up to. Keep checking in here as we won't be emailing out an annoucement everytime we blog.
Yesterday we had a little taste of winter in October and wanted to post a few pictures of Amara in her first snowstorm. Overall we had about 5 or 6 inches at our house. The lake looked beautiful, especially since many of the trees still have their colorful leaves.
Dr. Chi has confirmed what EVERYONE has been saying. Weighing in at 12 lbs 12 oz and 24 1/2 inches long Amara is quite a large girl and getting bigger everyday. Her head control and tracking are awesome for a two month old and she is smiling a lot. She has also been having much less reflux lately and in turn our evenings are a lot less fussy and much more fun. Overall life with a baby just keeps getting easier and harder everyday. Once we figure something out it changes or some new curve ball is thrown our way.
The past few weeks have been busy. A visit from Grandma Marie was very exciting, she obviously loved meeting Amara and we had a little break with another pair of hands around. Amara (and Grandma) went apple picking for the first time and we all enjoyed some yummy homemade crisp. We also went to a potluck dinner with the couples we had our childbirth education class with. We had a great time meeting all the little ones outside of their mommies tummies. Then it was off to New Hampshire to SCA headquarters so Mike could meet with the folks in development, partnership, finance, etc. so he can figure out what the heck he is doing with this program here at DWG. We had a great visit with some old friends and enjoyed the hospitality of Mike's boss Doug and his family. Hanging out with a 3 and 7 year old for a few days is not only fun but also a great opportunity to take notes for the future. We broke up the trip by heading back through CT and unfortunately Libby our family dog was really sick and we had to put her down. It was really hard to be with her as she passed but she had a good life and my parents buried her in their front yard so she will always be with us.
We apologize that it has taken us this long to post new pictures and write an update but the past month has been a bit of a whirlwind for our little family.
So here it goes… At nine days old Amara had a rough day, she was nursing constantly from about 1 pm until 8:30 when we went to the hospital. She had been a noisy baby since day one, making all sorts of monkey noises and crazy little grunts. However, her breathing was really hard and fast and she was making all sorts of new noises that we had not heard before. She was also comfort nursing but having trouble regulating her breathing and sucking.
Mike and I were concerned when we first noticed but she seemed to be getting plenty of oxygen and was not struggling so we waited a little while and then called the pediatrician. He asked all sorts of questions and decided he thought Amara was okay and we scheduled an appointment for the next day. We called our midwife Jessica and she agreed that without any other symptoms Amara was probably fine and to just keep a close eye on her. But then Jessica remembered that I was Group Beta Strep (GBS) positive. This strain of strep lives in the nether regions of much of the population and during birth can (less than 1% of the time) be passed on to your baby. Common treatment is IV antibiotics for the mom during labor and delivery which is passed to the baby via the placenta, reducing the chance of infection. We choose not to take antibiotics and since GBS infection can be very dangerous for a newborn Jessica said we should call the doctor back and remind him I was GBS positive. Dr. Chi said that Amara was most likely fine but newborns are so fragile that just in case we should go to the hospital and be sure she did not have an infection.
So off we were to the emergency room; Dr. Chi sent us an hour and fifteen minutes away from home to Morristown Hospital because they have a children’s hospital and he said that community hospitals are “dangerous.” Here the insanity started, when we arrived Amara was still noisy and her respiratory rate was around 80 (which is really high). The doctor said that with babies they can show illness is weird ways and then crash quickly, high respirations are one of the symptoms to watch for. She ordered a full sepsis workup, which included a blood draw, a catheterization for clean urine sample, a spinal tap, and chest x-ray for possible pneumonia. They put Amara on IV antibiotics right away and said we would have to be admitted for at least 48 hours until all the samples could be cultured. Needless to say we were pretty upset at this point, especially me, since I still had all the crazy pregnancy and birth hormones coursing through my veins.
We were in the hospital for the next four days (I will try to be brief) while our strong little girl endured every test the hospital had to offer. The doctors felt pretty strongly that Amara did not have an infection but wanted to keep her on antibiotics until the cultures came back just to make sure. So they began the battery of tests to rule out other possibilities. Because of family history they ordered a full heart workup with an EKG and ultrasound. Which was all negative, though they did find a tiny hole between her atria which they assured us is very common, almost always closes itself within a few months and even if it did not, rarely causes any problems in life. Next came a procedure were the doctors pushed small tubes through her nostrils to be sure there were no obstructions in her nares, there were not. Amara had also had a CT Scan of her head to be sure there was no hemorrhaging in the brain as well as a scan of the throat and another round of x-rays for the pulmonologist. The main suspicion among the doctors was that Amara had laryngomalacia, or literally “soft throat,” meaning that the cartilage in the airway is underdeveloped and soft instead of rigid. This causes the sides of the airway to collapse onto themselves causing struggle to move air and lots of noise. This condition could be confirmed with a procedure called a broncoscopy where a camera is placed down the throat to see the airway.
We were unsure we wanted Amara to have to go through such an invasive procedure, especially since it required general anesthesia and another hospital stay. However, after much deliberation we decided that we, mostly I, would have a really hard time staying calm and happy if she had breathing episodes and I was unsure what was causing them. So a few days after we left the hospital we were back again. The procedure went smoothly and the doctor found that Amara did have laryngomalacia as well as silent Gastro-Esophageal Reflux (GER) which was compounding her breathing by inflaming the epiglottis. GER is very common in babies because their digestive systems are immature, often allowing stomach acid to come back up, causing spitting up or in Amara’s case a babies equivalent to dry-heaving. This was good news since layngomalacia is benign, very rarely needs any treatment, and is self-limiting. In 99% of cases the cartilage hardens in a year or two, we just have a noisy baby until then.
We have chosen not to medicate for the GER for now since Amara’s case is mild, so we are trying alternative treatment which mostly means trying to keep her upright almost all the time. Feeding, playing, and sleeping all at a 30 to 45 degree angle so the stomach acid stays down. I have also been watching my diet for foods she may be sensitive or allergic to, some main culprits for many kids is dairy, soy, corn, wheat, and acidic foods. Like the laryngomalacia most babies grow out of GER as soon as their bodies grow and develop a little bit more. Needless to say the whole ordeal was very stressful, mostly on us, since Amara was strong and brave the whole time.
Mike and I are still dealing with the mixed feelings about the healthcare system and western medicine which I will let him vent about at a later time. Overall she has been well since the hospitalization; she gets quite fussy in the evenings and demands to be held almost all the time. So it can be a little overwhelming but we love her so much all the attention and time is worth it. It is very difficult to see her in pain when she is particularly gassy or refluxing a lot but for the most part she is very happy and healthy.
As if the health scare were not stressful enough the next weekend we returned home from a visit in CT only to find we had been robbed. Although pretty mad at first we quickly decided it was just stuff and that means less to cart around with us the next time we move. Mike is still broken up about his guitar though since it was hand made for him in Costa Rica and is one of a kind. We also lost about 500 or more CD’s so we are a little strapped for music right now.
We did round out the crazy month with some joy, my sister Kimmy married her baby daddy Joe on September 27th and we all had a great time at her beautiful wedding. Amara was the belle of the ball, getting to meet all the family and friends. She was wonderful through the whole thing, slept during the ceremony, and danced the night away with her parents. Watching my little sister get married was an amazing thing, our families are all complete now and we are both growing in our roles as partners and mothers. Wow, life changes so fast.
In other news:
Mike is currently pulling mold out of his Kombucha, an ancient Chinese fermented tea that grows a mushroom of yeasts and bacteria, it is supposedly very good for you, chock full of probiotics, amino acids, and micro nutrients. Although I enjoy a bottle from the health food store now and again I am staying far away from the jar of mysterious brown liquid and floating gelatinous what-nots that now lives on my already cramped kitchen counter.
Mike has also decided to be a mushroom hunter and we have spent many afternoons walking out in our woods looking for Black Chanterelles and Chicken of the Woods, among other fungi. He has been very good about using field guides, the internet, and expert advice to keep us all safe. However, I do still make him eat everything first so Amara is not completely orphaned.
Anyway enough with all the talk, here is what everyone really wants…
Wow! What an adventure. One week old and I have felt more joy and frustration (thanks to a touch of the baby blues) than I have ever felt in my life. As my beautiful Amara and I work to figure one another out I am in constant awe of her presence; such an amazing little being. It is probably good I did not have any expectations of what motherhood would be like, who could imagine the demands and rewards of caring for your baby.
So far Mike and I have not felt too sleep deprived, she is very good about sleeping at night. I wake up to feed her two or three times but she does not stay awake thank goodness. We are also sure to get our naps in during the day with her. She is nursing very well; we struggled at first to get the right latch and I think I am just starting to produce enough milk for her voracious appetite. We would like to send out another big thank you to all who gave us diapers, they are working out great and despite all the laundry, have been a dream to use.
Mike has been the best Daddy this week, he is the most wonderful partner. He has been the main poopy diaper changer and we have just started using our slings and carriers (which is why I can write this) so mommy can get a little time to do things like shower and brush her teeth. I sort of expected that I would be surprised by him as a dad, but in fact he is exactly the same sweet and loving man. Thank you to everyone for your kind words during the last week, Amara can not wait to meet all of you. Her are a few more pictures of her first week of life.
Welcome World to Amara Day Johnderson! Finally this baby decided to grace the outside world with her presence. I’ll get the stats out of the way and then give the story:
Born: August 24th at 3:10 pm Weight: 8 lbs. 14 oz. Length: 21 inches Beautiful with a full head of hair
Now the story. So, our original due date was August 5th, but after examination by Jessica, our midwife, we all decided to move it up to August 12th. The 5th didn’t seem right to us and Jessica said the baby felt small (not so small anymore!). This was definitely a good idea in hindsight, because if the baby is more than two weeks late, then the back-up doctor is required to induce the birth in the hospital.
The 5th came and went, the 12th came and went, and when we were a week overdue Erin was required to get an ultrasound in order to check her fluids and the baby. Everything was great, no problems; however the doctor who saw us was definitely a little anxious about getting Erin and the baby on the induction or c-section schedule. And he was terribly concerned about being surprised with having to deliver at the last minute for fear it might, in his words, “cut into his weekend.” I understand the sentiment Doc, but this is a baby we’re talking about, and baby’s come when they are good and ready.
The next day Erin went back to the midwife’s house and Jessica assured her that everything was fine, and told Erin to just keep talking to the baby and try to coax the baby to come out. She said, “But don’t tell the baby that it needs to come out now; tell it ‘you’re doing a great job in their, but there’s this crazy thing about doctors out here where they really want babies outside of their mother’s belly within two weeks of your due date.’” So we waited and waited some more. We went back to the Doctor’s a couple of days later to get another ultrasound; everything was still great. Jessica checked Erin again and came to our house to visit us. She told us that if the baby hadn’t come by Sunday then we should try to herbal methods of inducing labor. Jessica is a very conservative midwife, in the sense that the more hands-off she can be, the better.
Erin’s mom (Patty), sister (Kim), and niece (Kaylee) came to visit late Friday. So Erin felt like she had the support to start the herbal treatments to start labor. After a good rest Friday evening, and a relaxing morning Saturday, Erin took homeopathic herbs and some Castor Oil, under Jessica’s careful instruction. And by 3:00 pm on Saturday, these remedies had persuaded her body into labor. She had light contractions for several hours as we walked around our Camp. And by 8:00 pm Erin started some harder contractions and Jessica had arrived at our house. Erin labored pretty hard through the evening; some minutes were certainly more intense than others. She spent some contractions inside the house, some outside under the stars and rising moon, in the fog, and with the evening music of crickets, frogs, and forest sounds. At some point in the evening two other midwives had made it to our house: Leslie, a senior apprentice who was just finishing the last stages of her midwife training; and Jess, a new apprentice who was so excited to be at the this birth since it would her first homebirth since other than her own.
After several hours of intense contractions, sometime early Sunday morning, Jessica did an internal cervical exam and said that Erin had been working really hard but that there was a little bulge on her cervix that wasn’t letting the baby drop down. Jessica tried to manually push Erin’s cervix over the baby’s head (which Erin said was the worst part of the whole birth), but that didn’t work. So, the midwives told us both to rest for a couple of hours, because the hard part was yet to come.
After the rest, Erin started again trying to push passed the cervical lip. She worked so hard, we tried every trick that the midwives had up their sleeves. Erin squatted, kneeled, lunged, walked, and lied down, in every position possible. After another internal exam, Jessica said she was making progress but she still hadn’t pushed passed the lip. Erin really took it all in stride. She is so amazing & I’m so proud of her; she’s such a strong woman.
Finally the midwives said that one of the last things to try, although it would be really hard, is walking up stairs while lunging and squatting (this should surely be an Olympic event, its hard to describe). This was really hard for Erin, especially because she was now getting the urge to push, but Jessica said she should do her best to breath through the urge to push, so that she didn’t inflame her cervix again. Erin took this advice to heart although it was extremely difficult for her. After the Stairmaster exercise the midwives had her try a few new positions while resting on the bed. And at some point Erin said, “I’m feeling a lot of pressure and I feel like the baby is moving down and getting really close.”
And sure enough, Erin’s intuition was correct. She was still breathing through her contractions when Leslie asked Erin to put her hand between her legs and feel the baby’s head. Erin has now said that pushing the baby out was the least difficult part of the whole labor because she had control and she knew that every push was truly bringing her that much closer to her baby. Erin slowly pushed the baby’s head; with every contraction it popped out and crept back in, making a little bit of progress each time. Kim (Erin’s sister) was helping talk Erin through every contraction, while I was helping deliver the baby.
At 3:08 pm the baby’s head popped out, let out a screech, and… At 3:10 pm I caught Amara Day as she slithered out; she was born beautiful with a full head of hair, 8lbs 14oz., 21 inches long; just perfect! There was a lot of crying and jostling and cleaning up and everything, but Erin and I were at peace just blissing-out with this new life.
The three midwives were such an amazing team. I felt like they were three wonderful spirits, almost in one body that floated through the room; each had their own style and strengths balancing each other and blending in perfect harmony. Thank you to each of them. And thanks to Erin’s family for helping take care of everything around the house, being with us, protecting our birth, and making us delicious chicken and dumplings for dinner after the birth.