Sunday, January 29, 2012

Husband: Labor Up

As Mary Jane mentioned in her last awesome post, we took an eight-hour “Prepared Childbirth” class last weekend. Thanks to our heavily accented instructor, Ho-Yu, we both feel a lot more confident heading into the big day which is now less than two months away. I was able to pick up on about 75% of what Ho-Yu taught us, which is pretty good considering Chinese-infused English is not my first language.

The class was geared pretty evenly toward moms and dads, which was great because I went in there thinking it would be mostly female sex ed. part 2 (I missed part one anyway). That was not the case. We all learned what would happen to the woman’s body, and Ho-Yu taught all the men some stress relief techniques to alleviate the rigors your wife will go through (breathing, massage, positioning, etc.). It was a relatively young group attending, and even though she repeatedly used words like “perineum,” “uterus” and “rectum,” none of the men giggled. Everyone was pretty mature, except for this one guy who kept joking, “Man, this labor thing is gonna be a breeze!” I fully expected Ho-Yu to deliver a swift crane kick to his genitals after the fourth or fifth time, but she instead displayed her Miyagi-like calm and just shot him a dirty look. He quieted down immediately.

What I took away from the class was that as the husband and “labor coach,” I am extremely useful in comforting my wife physically and emotionally. Once labor begins, I’m basically a glorified piece of furniture for half of the labor and a very amateur massage therapist for the other half. MJ can lean on me in a variety of different positions to relieve her back pain, or I can massage her to relieve some of the stress. I’m like something out of Brookstone that gets you pregnant.

MJ couldn't afford the $6,000 price tag on this bad boy, so she had to settle for me.

Most of the class went off without a hitch. We learned about contractions and what they do, drugs and what they do, and husbands and what they shouldn’t do. I’ve obviously never been through labor, nor have I ever had the desire to ask my mother to describe it to me, so hearing about the different stages and what to expect during each one was very helpful for both of us. All of that was extremely helpful, and it alleviated a lot of our (now seen as irrational) fears regarding labor and childbirth.

And then, there was the video. You know how some couples bring a video camera into the delivery room to capture that magical moment when their son or daughter is born? While we certainly won’t be starting off our baby scrapbook that way, I can understand why a new mother and father would want to get the first seconds of their new baby’s life on camera. But I can’t for the life of me figure out why a woman, in her most vulnerable state, would allow THREE CAMERAS to follow her around during the entire labor process, capture the birth of her first child from EVERY ANGLE and then package that footage and distribute it across the entire country so that 25 years later, expectant parents can watch said woman deliver and immediately say, “I don’t want to do this anymore.”

Now streaming on ESPN3: Your womanhood.

There are just some things you can’t unsee. Not that the “miracle of childbirth” isn’t as beautiful as people say it is, but, well…it’s not. At least not when it’s some random woman you’ve never met, who is naked and screaming and looks like she’s about to die. This lady was also kind enough to go back later and record a cheery play-by-play of the entire event, which provided a descriptive soundtrack to the 10-minute long labor montage. I thank the good Lord that the footage was a VHS on a 20-inch TV and not on a Blu-Ray HD flat-screen TV with mega ultra Dolby Surround Sound 3.0.

Before I’m pegged as the “insensitive husband” who doesn’t see the beauty in bringing a new life into the world, I want it to be known that there was a collective groan from the ENTIRE class during that portion, my wife included. I’d also like it to be known that Ho-Yu conveniently left during that segment, probably waiting 10 more seconds after she heard us all say "OHHHHHH" as her cue to return and resume the lesson. And she is a DELIVERY NURSE.

Now on the flipside of that, I have to give the 1985 video woman props for not only pushing out that baby, but for doing it under such circumstances. The first thing that popped into my head when writing this was to use the phrase, “she manned up,” but after seeing the video, that phrase doesn’t seem to apply anymore. There is no way that any man – not even Die-Hard era Bruce Willis – could deliver a full-term infant. From now on, I think we should all adopt the phrase “labor up” wherever “man up” formerly applied.


I’ve known all along that it takes one hell of a tough person to give birth to a child, but actually seeing it gave me newfound respect for my mother, mother-in-law, grandmothers, and every other woman I’ve ever met. I will freely admit that it's not something I could ever do. For any guys reading this who think it's not that bad, try to make it through the video first.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Wife: A Few Thoughts

So I will begin this post with a few updates. First, last weekend, we attended Infant CPR and saw Susan in 3D. Infant CPR was very informative and helped us feel a lot more confident. We spent the first hour reviewing how to baby-proof your home. For my friends who don't know, the crib is a giant death trap. We have already learned that over the last few months. The only thing that should be in the crib with the baby is a crib sheet. Also, babies sleep on their backs now. This has led to a significant reduction in SIDS. There should be no blankets, stuffed animals or bumpers in the crib because all are capable of harming the baby, and we knew all this before our class. Well, it turns out that the house is also basically one big giant death trap. This is not so much a concern when she isn't crawling, but as soon as she becomes mobile, we will be baby-proofing the house. Of course this means electrical outlets but it also includes lamp cords, blind cords, sharp edges on the counter and tables, the stairs, and a whole list of items that seem safe now but all have the potential to harm our baby.

So after they scared us for an hour, we went over what to do if you find your child unconscious. We learned how to perform CPR and what to do if Susan starts choking, which is a bigger fear of mine. I definitely felt a lot more confident, and I would highly recommend the class to others. It just helped me feel a little more prepared.

Then we went to Prenatal Peek to see our little girl in 3D. It was amazing (as the pictures below reveal). She already has adorable little chubby cheeks. She did try to cover her face with her arm for most of the time, but we were still able to get a few good shots.

This one is sweet, but doesn't really look like her.  It is a little stretched out.

Button nose plus umbilical cord.

So sweet!

She just wouldn't let us get a full view of her face.  She is such a diva!

Our sweet girl.

My favorite!  You can really see her here.  And that is both her arm and foot.  She is definitely an acrobat!

Now, this past weekend we spent almost two full days at Prepared Childbirth Class. I am actually going to wait until next week to share my feelings on the class and what I thought. I will say the class was as much about teaching Chris how to be the best coach possible as it was about preparing me for labor and delivery. I am so glad we took it, and I'll tell you why next time.

But what I really want to write about is a topic that is actually very private and really is no one's business but the pregnant woman and her husband. What could this be? I am talking about the decision to breastfeed. I had never given it much thought before pregnancy, and neither had Chris. And I am only going to share our choice with the world wide web because I am hoping that by telling you our decision, you will be supportive of others who make a similar choice.

When Chris and I found out I was pregnant, we began to talk with each other about breastfeeding, pumping and bottles. For a lot of our generation,we were formula fed babies. This has drastically changed. Now, it is highly recommended by pediatricians and everyone that the mother exclusively breastfeed for a year. There are many benefits to breast milk that formula cannot duplicate. So we began our discussion, and I said right away that if we did, I wanted to mostly pump, if possible, because I wanted Chris to share in the joy and magic of feeding her. And from the very beginning, Chris always said that if I didn't want to breastfeed or for some reason couldn't, he would support me. And right away, some of you maybe thinking, "If she doesn't want to? What kind of mother doesn't want to breastfeed?" Or, "Doesn't she love her baby or doesn't she know the special bond it creates?" Well I will tell you why I chose not to and why we aren't going to.

When I was four, I was diagnosed by a psychiatrist with ADD, and I truly have never outgrown it. I was originally treated with Ritalin, and then later Concerta. When I discussed trying to get pregnant with my doctor, she informed me that I would need to get off the medication because of the huge risks it posed to the fetus. So of course, I got off it the moment the pee stick said positive, and I wish I could say that I discovered that I had outgrown my ADD, but I have not. Without the medicine, I lose focus and attention all the time. I get distracted and move from task to task without finishing anything. I struggle with impulse control. And this is more than just the absentmindedness that is caused by pregnancy hormones. Realizing this, we began to wonder if I could breastfeed and be on the medicine. I had a feeling that the answer was no, and I was right. If I wanted to breastfeed, I would have to stay off the medicine.

Chris and I then discussed everything. We weighed the benefits of breastfeeding with the cons of me being a stressed out brand new mom, and the decision was easy. Formula will not harm Susan, but me being off my medicine and trying to mother a newborn would be harmful to me and probably Susan too. So we decided to formula feed our baby.

The initial decision was easy, but I have wavered so much. Am I being selfish? If I did it for nine months, couldn't I do it for a another year? Or at least try? I had these doubts because of course I want to be the best mom I can. And also, because a lot of people have looked at me like I have five heads when I said we were formula feeding. First, it is no one's business. But second of all, why can't people be supportive? Being a new mom is hard enough. Now, no one in my family or Chris' family has acted like that, not that it was any of their business either, but everyone has been very supportive. And thankfully, my doctor was also very supportive. She, a new mom herself said, "You need to do whatever you can to feel like you because having a newborn will be stressful enough." Rather, the lack of support has come from other new first-time moms and other expectant moms, which is mind-boggling to me. We are all going through something really new and scary. A mom who chooses not to breastfeed is NOT a bad mother. There are a ton of reasons why a mom doesn't breastfeed. So I wrote this soapbox to tell my friends who haven't done this yet, I will support you. If you breastfeed or formula feed, I will support you. But I will not ask you what you are doing because it's none of my business. But if you want support or someone to talk to besides your husband, I'll support you.

In the end, its about making the right choice for your family. I know that our decision is the right one for me, for Chris and for Susan. And that is all that matters.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Husband: Some Assembly Required

I feel like I’ve already had my initiation into dad-hood. I’ve yet to change a diaper, complete a successful burping or suction any nostrils, but what I HAVE done is fulfill one of the most important “dad jobs” there is: assemble large objects out of many, MANY smaller objects following nothing more than a vague set of directions written by a man in Pakistan.

So far, I – along with the assistance, cheering and photography of my wife – have constructed a crib, changing table, dresser, two bookshelves, stroller and a bouncer. We even did our own project with her monogram, which MJ detailed in her last post. All of this was done with minimal swearing and grumbling, which, as my wife will tell you, is huge growth for me. 

I've refrained from Toolman far.
She and I have built this kind of stuff before…dressers, cabinets, TV stands, etc. Some are easy, everything fits like it’s supposed to, and you’re left with a wonderful sense of accomplishment and handiness when the job is done. Others test every inch of your patience, eventually cause you to “just make it fit” and then mock you endlessly from the corner of the living room after you discover that the “Left Panel A” you used was actually “Right Panel AA” and it’s on backwards. 

Step 6: Insert 'Support Arm C' into 'Side Panel D' and turn 'Easy Connect Locking Screw'
one quarter turn to the left, making sure not to overtighten. Roll over on the carpet, clap three times
and bark. Continue to tighten 'Easy Connect Locking Screw' another quarter inch while
also patting the top of your head and saying your ABCs backwards.
Repeat Step 6 for twelve remaining panels.

Luckily, Susan’s furniture went together smoothly, more so than any other “furniture in a box” I’ve ever purchased. For those of you soon-to-be parents, I HIGHLY recommend buying anything Carter’s brand. It’s a shame that they only make baby stuff. In my mind, building all of these things is preparing me for one thing, perhaps the biggest challenge to all fathers of little girls…the Barbie Dream House…to be delivered on Christmas morning…completely assembled…with a smile on my face. 
This contains 55 pieces. FIFTY-FIVE PIECES. Do we REALLY need the mini toilet?

Despite the tedious process involved in constructing all these things, the best part is that when you’re finished, you have something tangible to show that in less than two months, Susan will be here and we’ll be parents. None of this stuff we’re building is for us. It’s all Susan’s.  Over the past month, the nursery has gone from guest bedroom to empty bedroom to Susan’s bedroom. There are books on her bookshelf. Her clothes are hanging in the closet. The bed is made. It’s like the calm before the storm, and now all we need is a baby.  At least she comes fully assembled.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Wife: 12 weeks and Counting!

I am officially in the the third trimester!  28 weeks!  Unfortunately, hitting the third trimester is not quite like hitting the second trimester.  Hitting the second trimester is like coming up for air and apparently the third trimester is like being crushed by a boulder.  But I am okay with that because being 28 weeks means little Susan will likely make her debut in 12 weeks, give or take.  My doctor said they wouldn't let me go more than a week past my due date, which is April 3.  But I am really hoping that I am not still pregnant in April.  Apparently, I only have about two more weeks of feeling kind of good and then I am going to feel really, really uncomfortable.

Check yes to: backache, constipation, heartburn, and achy feet! Thankfully no stretch marks or varicose veins.  My belly button is still an "innie" but it is super stretched out!
 Well I am already starting to feel uncomfortable.  It takes me forever to get into a comfortable position.  This is not limited to getting into the car, when my maternity jeans slide down and I have to pull them back up.  Then when I sit in in really cushy furniture, its difficult to stand back up without some kind of momentum push.  I guess it will only get worse as she gets bigger.

At my appointment last month, Susan was measuring two weeks ahead.  At my appointment today, she was still measuring two weeks ahead.  According to the doctor, this means that we have an above average size baby.  Well we kind of figured we would, seeing as how we are tall and the babies in our family on both sides tend to come out around 8+ pounds.  I asked the doctor if that meant she would come early (fingers crossed) and the doctor smiled and said no.  Not that I want her to come super early.  But babies are considered full term at 37 weeks.  So she will be fully cooked on March 6.  So I am totally fine if she wants to make her debut then.  But I have a feeling she is good and comfortable and is planning on riding this gravy train as long as she can.

She has definitely become stronger.  I feel her moving all day long.  She is very active.  It's even weirder to watch my stomach move.  I still can't distinguish between a foot or a hand or elbow, but watching my belly flicker or in some cases, waves of motion, is weird!  It's kind of like when the alien first explodes out of that guy in Alien. 

Actually, I think I might be a little creeped out if I see her foot like this.  But maybe its less creepy when you see it on your own belly and not a stranger's from Google.
 While I am still feeling good, we are trying to work on the nursery and have it done by the end of January.  We have put together all the furniture and found the place for the glider.  Now we are just organizing and decorating.  Our theme, so to speak, is kind of a garden theme.  The colors are pink, green and chocolate brown.  We finished our first nursery project on Monday.  I knew I wanted to do her monogram above the crib, but I couldn't decide how.  I was torn between frames with a fabric background with the initial inside or just a fabric board with the initial hung by ribbon.  We decided to go for option two because we liked it better.  It took us a few hours, but it was worth it!  It looks amazing!  We used 1/2 inch thick plywood to give the letters more depth.  We decided not to paint the letters to make them stand out and to tie into her white bookshelf.

I am really so proud of our craftiness.  It turned out even better than I pictured in my head!

We are planning to add a second lamp to the left end of the bookcase.  The other lamp is next to the glider on the other side.

Susan Louise Cook!
 Now we just have two more nursery projects to complete, plus organizing all of her stuff.  I am hoping we can get the next one done over the weekend.  The next one is really neat and it involves some of our favorite books from when we were kids.  We will continue to add pictures of the nursery as it progresses! 

We are actually pretty busy in January with baby classes.  Next week, we are taking Infant CPR.  Our parents are also coming to take the class too.  That afternoon, we go to prenatal peek to see her in 3D.  I am really excited because from what I have heard, what we see will really almost resemble what she looks like at birth.  We also have our prepared childbirth classes coming up and our baby care class.  In February we are planning to tour the hospital.  I really hope that by staying busy, it will help time go by faster.  Otherwise, its going to feel like a really long 12 weeks!