25 February 2010
Figuring it all out...
In January I gave birth to my third daughter...one I got to keep this time...and the entire experience was uncharacteristically smooth. She's a beautiful and healthy girl, very alert and well-oriented for her age, very vocal. We're thrilled, if somewhat at a loss as to what to do in an utterly normal situation. We're getting there, though.
I had an incredible surgical team, complete with my Guardian Angel nurse and a trio of anesthesiologists and anesthetists who had several plans and backup plans. It was the only spinal anesthesia I'd ever gotten that didn't cause problems later. Other than making the surgery a little more complicated than it might otherwise be, my traitorous body pretty much behaved itself.
There were some issues with movement-- when you have a stiff neck, your natural reaction is to compensate with your abdominal muscles, which my c-section rendered temporarily useless. I laid there like an upended turtle before working that out. There are issues with breastfeeding, when you can't look down far enough to see that everything is going as it should. These were things I hadn't really thought of, but were easy enough to work around.
There were some other things that were more difficult. I wanted to breastfeed and we didn't know exactly how that would go down with the radiation damage I have. I was visited by a hail of lactation consultants...about seven in all, some more understanding than others. I had the infant shoved in there until she bit out of frustration and had threads of my blood in her spit-up; I was hooked to a wheeled apparatus that made me feel very much like a barnyard animal; I was alternately coddled and scolded about my whole insufficient-milk situation and for the most part made to feel that I wasn't trying hard enough.
Finally we met with one who seemed to get it, and after trying a couple of things we arrived at a conclusion I'd reached a month before...to do what I could, and supplement with formula. I've found that as a rule lactation consultants don't like to discuss formula. They want to get in there and wrangle for your very soul, which is frustrating to me because I wanted to breastfeed to begin with. Everyone was a lot easier on me after it became apparent that the baby was gaining weight very appropriately and that I wasn't starving her with this lack-of-birthright thing, over which I had no control at all.
When I was pregnant with the twins, I did a lot of research on moms with disabilities and how they compensated for their physical shortcomings. There's a physical aspect to child-rearing that can't be avoided, and I knew my problems would be bigger than not being able to go on a rollercoaster or ice-skate with my daughter. There's an organization or two out there, but in general the information isn't too easily accessible. Guess some of that's going to fall to me, to share as I figure things out.
Know those big plastic baby-carriers that are pretty much standard issue these days? Yes, well, when you have broken spinal issues and a muscle spasm problem, you can't carry them. Not only are they too heavy even without a baby inside, they're also too far away from your body's core and swing heavily like a pendulum at the end of your arm. So I can't just go tooling around with one of those on my own; someone has to carry it for me. Dependency rears its ugly head once again.
Slings and carriers work better, but it's difficult to find ones that will work well with your particular musculoskeletal situation. You can't just try out every one on the market to see what works best. It's also difficult to easily transfer a child from a carrier or sling to a stroller or carseat, especially in winter when everything needs to be covered. There's a lot of unwrapping and unraveling involved. When my daughter is able to hold up her head on her own for longer stretches, I think slings will be good support and take some strain off my arms. Until then, though, it feels cumbersome and vulnerable. For now, I also want more of a protective shell around my baby if I were to slip on the ice or anything.
I love the collapsible stroller I use to wheel the baby around with me. It's a bit big at the moment, but with a sleep positioner and head-cradling pillow, that took care of that. She can go anywhere I go, there's plenty of space for necessities, and this particular model is super-lightweight and easy to handle. My mom bought the next-heavier-duty version, and that will be good for outdoor use. These also fold with minimal fuss...squeeze the handle and down it goes.
So we're working on it. I'm learning how to incorporate a baby into my whole physically-compromised scenario. It's not impossible, just takes some work. I'm so thankful to have my daughter that even the big problems are a pleasure to handle.