Raising Well-Adjusted Parents

I cannot take credit for the brilliant and wise title of this blog post, the credit goes to my amazing friend Amy who bought this onesie for Mr. P.

No matter how many parenting books read or how many classes we took before the baby was born, the best lessons we can learn are from Mr. P himself. Day in and day out he teaches us to be the best possible parents we can be. We are in a constant state of amazement. And exhaustion. These two go hand-in-hand in the coolest way. Like today, meeting my sister, his aunt, for a park picnic. The picnic itself was short-lived and fun as Mr. P mashed chickpeas and green peas into his mouth and into our picnic blanket.

Then we ventured onto the sidewalk to push his big boy walking toy that my bro, his uncle, got him. It was so wild setting him free in the open expanse of the park as opposed to inside our tile floored condo. He was a wild man set loose in the fresh air. Then we went to play in a friends pool and picnic again with some of the mommies and daddies that we love. It was then that Mr. P decided to stand independently for the very first time right while all of our friends watched.

Bob and I stared in amazement because this is the very first time it had happened. We couldn’t even take a picture or video because our phone memories were full of pictures. Lucky us, our friends took some pictures and just sent them to us.

We are learning as we go and feeling like this little guy is teaching us the lessons we need to learn just as we need to know them. So thank you Mr. P for raising us to be well-adjusted parents. And thank you, Aim, for giving us the words for our new parenting philosophy.

Good things, darlings.

Melissa.

Day 24 of my commitment to write and post a blog in 30 minutes.

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Never Say Never: Wisdom From A Stroller Walk With My iPhone

Well hello my darling readers! Here I am reporting live from a stroller walk with Mr. P.

Selfie from our stroller walk this afternoon. Normally Mr. P loves a good selfie, but here he's distracted by Mommy, which, of course, I love.

I’ve told you in many of my posts that writing really help me process. You know what else really helps me process possibly even more? Walking. As I walk, I am holding up my iPhone into the air and dictating this to you. So far on this walk I have accomplished a lot: I made plans with a dear friend, I sent a couple texts that I have been meaning to send and I started this blog post.

When I was pregnant, I used to see moms walking their baby strollers while looking at their phone. I remember saying to Bob I will never do that. Now that I’m a mom I would like to tell my pregnant self a thing or two. Like, um, hey Meliss, never say never. You never know from looking at somebody what their intentions are or what their needs are or what their situation is at that moment. As I dictate this to my iPhone, Mr. P is happy as an 11-month-old-clam kicking his little feet and watching the world go by from the cozy shaded comfort of his stroller. If I do say so myself, I am pretty sure he’s enjoying the sound of my voice talking to you.

I used to look at those moms and think that they were totally “checking out” while in the care of their sweet little darling. Now, I realize, as a mom 11 months into motherhood, I’m not “checking out” by being on my phone right now. Actually, it’s quite the opposite. I am “checking in.” I check in with myself and the things I need to and want to do for “me” so I can be a good mama to Mr. P: like honoring my commitment to blog but being creative about it at this very moment. This “check in” is me gathering my thoughts, me making plans with a dear friend, me reaching out to family. And right now, as I dictate-write this, this is me having an aha moment courtesy of my ability to dictate into my iPhone while pushing my stroller WHILE I am getting my baby and I some much-needed fresh air and sunshine. And much appreciated exercise.

Here’s to me and my aha moment, my friends. Here’s to all the things I said I’d NEVER EVER do way back when when I was pregnant but now that I’m a mom on the front lines of motherhood all I can say to new mamas is these three little words: never say never.

Good things, darlings.

Melissa

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This post is day 19 of my 7 day commitment to fully write and post an entry from start to finish within thirty minutes, two sessions of 15 minutes each right in a row using my beloved Flylady timer.

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Birth Story Part 3: Finding The Gold In Our Story

So yes, here is the end of the story. The end that really is just the very, very beginning of life as we know and love it.

Mr. P was born at 5:39 am on Thursday September 20th. Sixteen days after the due date, exactly on time. Bob and I remember the doctors proclaiming “Well, here’s your 3 month old!” He was 8 pounds, 15 ounces and 22 inches long. The OB said he was holding onto the umbilical cord with both hands. This, now, gives me so much peace, visualizing his just entering the world newborn self holding onto his mommy womb home for one last hurrah.

Before I had even ever held him, here's Mr. P getting checked out as Daddy watched.

I watched from the operating room table as the doctors examined our little angel and then got him ready to hand to me. Bob, in all of his nervous, giddy, new daddy excitement snapped a million pictures and ran over to me to show me our baby on the camera. I turned away quickly and said no, I don’t want to see my baby on camera for the first time. They handed me my angel and my heart skipped a beat, it lept up into my chest as if it, too, were leaping at the opportunity to greet this sweet boy.

I held him for what felt like 2 or 3 seconds and then they took him back. It seems that he could not catch his breath, he was panting a little in quick short breaths. They did not want to alarm us, so they told Bob they were going to take the baby to the nursery for a bath. We later learned this is code for “we don’t want to freak out these parents but we need to do some tests.” Before they took him out of the OR, with Bob by his side of course, they took our first family photo.

Here I will summarize, as the next 50 hours are a blip in our new parenting journey. Mr. P had small tear in his lung that led to a pocket of air outside of his lung.

He had to be admitted to the NICU. He was there from Thursday morning until Saturday morning. They did a procedure almost right away, with Bob there by his side while I was still in the Operating Room and then the Recovery Room. They inserted a needle into his chest to suck out the air. Mission accomplished. But once admitted to the NICU, baby boy needed to be closely monitored so he wasn’t released until late Saturday morning. This may sound cold the way I have written this. It’s my best effort to be short and sweet and focused. To tell you the key points of what happened. If I were to go into how I actually felt, I could be here for another 24 hours writing.

I could tell you I felt like a failure and ashamed and embarrassed and so fried and bleary. Our birth had been so polar opposite of everything we had spent months planning, studying, researching, lining up with as many supporting details and characters as possible from the doula to the yoga to acupuncture to the visualizing and even the most hand-picked cheeses and crackers and almonds and chocolates and my best handwriting for the sweetest note for our nurses basket and still, here I was with sutures on my abdomen AND a baby with oxygen tubes up his nose and a little cast on his arm that was trying so hard to keep in the IV in that his 1-day-old determined self kept trying to rip off AND that same baby would not latch on no matter how many lactation specialists demonstrated, poked, prodded, squeezed and propped up pillows. I felt like a grade A failure who was trying to put on a smile for the new mommy pictures that were being taken. That’s how I felt.

And the hardest part of having Mr. P in the NICU :

-We did not get to have the golden hour, the famed time when mommy and baby lie together skin to skin and get to know each other. During this time, very often, the baby naturally roots for the mother’s breast, establishing the very beginning of the breastfeeding relationship. I know this by no means happens for everyone, and it certainly did not happen for us since Mr. P was whisked away so quickly. For a very long time both Bob and I mourned the loss of this magic time as a family.

-Having Mr. P in the NICU was really a setback in terms of breastfeeding. This is a whole other post that one day I will write. But basically, we ended up having to give Mr. P formula for a few days as he needed to meet certain requirements to be released from the NICU and waiting for mommy’s milk to come in and trying to get this little guy to latch on was not happening in a time frame that allowed his timely release. So we compromised our stringent beliefs that we really, really didn’t want to have to give formula to our little guy EVER and here we were giving it to him in his first few days on earth. Same goes with the pacifier. The NICU nurses gave him the ol’ paci. And you know what, in the end, I am glad they did. The little guy needed some comfort. And once again, who was I to stand in the way of that? (NOTE: Since those days, I have learned SO much about breastfeeding. If anyone is reading this and is ever faced with a similar situation, please know that La Leche League is amazing. It’s possible I could have found donor breastmilk to have fed him instead of formula. ANOTHER NOTE: My commitment to breastfeeding was very, very personal and if anyone is reading this and fed your baby formula, I love you and admire you and your choices too. I’d hate for any of this to come off as high and mighty. I was just trying to do the best with what I had. We all are, right?)

Here we are newly reunited in our room. Lil guy had just gotten released from the NICU. This is one of those pics that at the time I would NEVER have posted on Facebook but right now it’s my very favorite picture to show how I really felt. Totally spent, exhausted in every sense of the word with a layer of joy and relief at holding my new son. After 42 weeks and 2 days of pregnancy plus 2 days in the NICU at long last we were together for good. I look puffy and tired and spent and fried with bloodshot eyes because that is how I felt.

Skin to skin with my favorite angel inside my favorite pjs. Best thing I packed in  my hospital bag, by far. It was like going home slipping into those pjs. And I brought the lil guy ‘home’ with me.

In those first seconds, minutes, days of parenthood, Bob went from being Bob to being not just Daddy but Super-Daddy. I can’t think of a better parenting partner I’d rather have.

I remember lying in the hospital bed and being utterly struck by the sweetness of this moment, Daddy and son.

Here we are just about to leave the hospital. Mr. P in his famed ‘going home’ outfit that I’d obsessed about for weeks and months and that my parents treated for in a darling shop in Redondo Beach.

I’ve come to the end of this story and this post. We went home as a family. And while we missed the golden hour and the golden day and even the golden two days, since then we have had a golden life so bright sometimes I am blinded. The light of the smile of this darling boy I swear could electrify the whole world, or at least our whole world. Bob and I had some good cries since then in those first few weeks and I sure did in the weeks even after that navigating the new waters of motherhood and breastfeeding and days that last 24 whole hours. But when those hours are dark and tired and confusing and overwhelming and scary and just plain frustrating and annoying and poop-covered and achey and even when they’re silly and shrieky and laughy and high-pitched silly voicey and ‘honey look! look!’ and honey get the camera! and oh  my goodness, can you believe this is our son… We remember the journey that got us here and to quote dear wonderful Maya Angelou, “I wouldn’t take nothin’ for my journey now.” It’s our journey, our story, our golden life. Our third parenting lesson had been taught, and here we were just a few days as parents.

Aaaaaaaah. Great exhale, darling readers. I thank you for reading this, for being here. I thank you for your patience and your love. It’s good to get this story out of my heart and into the written words. I quote myself, in one of the lines from one of my Said The Butterfly paintings: “Put it into words, let it fly with the birds.” Now that this is in words I feel lighter than I have in a long time. Now time to quickly proofread this, publish and go to bed. It’s going to be time for our golden hour soon, first thing in the morning when Mr. P wakes up. His smile and eyes beaming like the golden sun is within.

Good things, darlings.

Melissa

PS – I also have to make a special shout of to the loving wonderful nurses in the NICU. They were fabulous. And also to the other families who were in the NICU much, much longer than us. Another whole part of my shame about this story was even sharing the NICU part because in my mind ‘he wasn’t even there that long compared to so many other families.’ But this is our story and we lived it and I am so relieved to tell it. 

PPS – This took forever to write, much longer than 30 minutes. Tomorrow will be short and sweet. We are taking the baby to his first Red Sox game at Dodgers Stadium. Tomorrow’s post will be a pic of Mr. P in his Red Sox gear and me eating my Dodger Dog. You just wait.

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This post is day 16 of my 7 day commitment to fully write and post an entry from start to finish within thirty minutes, two sessions of 15 minutes each right in a row using my beloved Flylady timer.

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Learn more about Good Things Darling.

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Visit the Etsy shop.

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Birth Story Part 2: Surrendering To The Journey

As promised, the story continues… This is longer than I imagined so I thank you in advance for bearing with me. I just needed to write this. As I told you before, writing really helps me process. Oh yes, I processed. 

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We arrived at Cedars Sinai and parked exactly where we were supposed to. We knew because we’d done the hospital tour months ago and Bob, with all of his practical and logistical and navigational skills was able to get us where we needed to be. My belly and I were along for the ride, led safely by his calm, steady guidance. We walked in and met our doula. Now it was just before 1am in the very beginning of my 36th birthday. We were a little late, we were supposed to be there by midnight. But what’s a few minutes at this stage of the 42 weeks pregnant game? (Anything, I hoped, to get that labor going but still it had not.) I was starting to accept that there was a large chance this baby and I could share a birthday. Which seemed like it would be cool when he was little little but as he got older I my guy told me it would be so nice for him to have his own birthday. But really, could I really be pregnant for another whole day?

The plan was to start the induction with hopes that some progress would be happening by the time the OB came to visit in the morning around 6am or so. I remember a doctor who looked remarkably like what a young doctor on TV would look like, scrubs with shiny brown cowboy boots and all. We joked about this with his sparkling white smile as he placed “cervadil” on my cervix – the least invasive/intense on the scale of ways to induce. (I forgot to tell you yesterday that in my 41st week I went to an acupuncturist three times, still no labor. We tried EVERYTHING.) Still, I was planning our birth to be as natural as possible, given the timing.

The details and measurements and timing are a bit of a blur. What I can tell you is that the cervadil worked, but not really. So when my OB came in the morning slight progress had been made, but not enough. So she tried again with another cervadil. She came back hours later hoping for more results and still, none.

I had gone into a form of isolation (with Bob, of course, and our doula) in the hospital room, by choice, and really had for the weeks previous. I was avoiding Facebook, avoiding text messages and phone calls, trying to stay strong and focused on my labor happening without the added outside stressors of HAS THAT BABY ARRIVED YET? And even the worried looks/calls/various means of contacts of well-meaning friends who really were just checking in but to me felt like an intrusion on me trying to start labor. But, on this day, I made a little exception. Every few hours I’d ask Bob to fish my cell phone out of the hiding place where he hid it (at my request) so I could peek at my Facebook birthday messages. It was a ray of sunshine on this otherwise dreary room with no windows.

Cervadil take 2 was a bit of a flop. Progress was made, but not enough. So the OB came back suggesting a foley bag: a balloon, she explained, that was designed to expand with time inside my cervix and in doing so start labor. I remember joking that it was my ‘birthday balloon.’ Hip hip hooray! Well, foley bag expanded and we made a slight bit of progress, but nothing to write home about. Bob and I did laps around the hospital. Each time we passed our room we’d do a funny dance or move for our doula. We were still really optimistic and doing our best to enjoy this crazy ride. By the time the OB came yet again it was time to start Pitocin. The P word. I had come to fear nothing more than a Pitocin-induced labor. Nothing except for a C-section.

Well, the Pitocin contractions begun and progress started. We made enough progress that we were moved to the delivery room, the one with the gigantic window looking out into the Los Angeles night skyline and the Hollywood Hills. We had hope that this show was on the road for real. I was still hoping for my version of a natural labor – which changed as the hours beyond 42 weeks progressed. This means I was still rejecting the constant offers for the epidural. I had practiced and practiced and was saying no like it was my job. But as the artificial induced contractions began so did a kind of pressure/pain I could never imagine. I am not writing this to be a horror story or a war story, but to share what I went through and how I felt about it. I sobbed and screamed each time one came.

I walked the halls with Bob, doing my best to remain composure in between contractions but as the Pitocin increased the contractions intensified to the point where, during a contraction that almost knocked me over, I asked Bob ‘how am I supposed to take care of the baby after all this?’ I was exhausted in every sense of the word. I looked at myself in the mirror in the bathroom that had become a sort of safe place for me to gather my thoughts and tried to use the toilet to help me labor. It felt like I was never going to have the baby. It felt like the pain was never going to stop.

I had a sudden burst of clarity in which I told myself that my plans to have as natural birth as possible did not involve Pitocin. The game had changed so much and I realized I needed to, and was ready to, adapt at some point. I went out and told Bob I was ready for the epidural. This was not the immediate relief I had planned as I was having major contractions while the anesthesiologist was inserting the epidural. Once the epidural kicked in, it did allow me to get a few minutes of sleep. I took my contacts out. It was well after midnight. We’d been in the hospital 24 hours. My birthday had come and gone. It was now 16 days past the due date.

At some point, the OB broke my water to see if that would help the progress. When she broke the water, she told me that there was meconium, which means that the baby took his first bowel movement still in the womb.

Now that the epidural was in effect, the Pitocin levels were raised and raised. I remember the nurse grabbing the doctor rather quickly. The OB told me that the baby’s heart rate was going down every time I would have one of the high level Pitocin contractions. It was about 2:30am.

This part gets a little blurry, and literally, I did not have my contacts in so I was not seeing clearly. She quickly and calmly advised a C-section, acknowledged that she knew that it not what I wanted. She said we could stop the Pitocin and see what happened. At this point, Bob and I both agreed we had given it our all and THE VERY SECOND the baby’s health was compromised we knew the C-section was the way to go.

I was crestfallen. I never imagined using that word to describe this experience. But I imagine our 42-week-wave of joy and bliss and energy and anticipation all leading up to the vision of what we’d hoped for and I see the crest of that wave FALLING HARD. I was heartbroken. I was also, to be honest, just a little relieved. At 42 weeks and 2 days, I knew that a C-section meant that the end of the journey was visible.

It had been a longer journey that I had ever imagined. As I write this, the part of the post that I had really dreaded writing, I am tearing up. The part that got me was the line “longer journey than I had ever imagined.”

You can only do so much being positive and covering all your bases and hiring a doula and writing a birth plan and visualizing and learning and reading and STICKING TO YOUR GUNS NO MATTER WHAT. At some point, the journey takes on a life of its own that you cannot control and you have to be able to be flexible to adapt to a whole new reality, in that moment. In a moment that is a split second. At some point, you must surrender. At some point, you must surrender.

Yes, I typed that twice for a reason. I surrendered then, and I surrender now. I let go of the shame and the guilt and the fallen hopes. I put the story in writing even if it’s not the story I’d hoped for. Even if there are parts of the story I am embarrassed to say I cannot remember. Even if I may have gotten a detail or a medical phrase or birth term incorrect. It’s ok, Meliss. It’s all ok. I accept that by surrendering I allowed this baby’s destiny to unfold in a way that, in that moment, it was designed to unfold. Who was I to stop it?

We learned yet another lesson on parenting all before we’d ever even physically held our precious baby bee.

They scheduled the C-section for early that morning. They had Bob “scrub in” and he had them take this photo.

No matter how long we’d been awake, Bob was ready for action. I remember being like ugh, why is Bob acting silly right now? Now, I am thankful he had the energy and wherewithal to take this picture. And the energy and the resolve to be the super-daddy he was soon to become…

TO BE CONTINUED

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Well, my dear readers, this feels like one heck of a post. More than I’d hoped to write. But I am so glad it’s down. I’ll tell you the rest tomorrow. For now, I thank you for being here and reading this. It took an hour to write and now another 15 to edit (just a little for typos and sequence of wait, what happened when and to hit publish.)

Good things, darlings.

Melissa

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This post is day 15 of my 7 day commitment to fully write and post an entry from start to finish within thirty minutes, two sessions of 15 minutes each right in a row using my beloved Flylady timer.

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Learn more about Good Things Darling.

Follow the journey on Facebook. 

Visit the Etsy shop.

View more of my paintings on my Flickr.