Monthly Archives: July 2010

The Incredible Shrinking Uterus

My OBGYN is a little different from what you’d imagine most mommies-to-be would want in a doctor. I like him because he’s to the point, thorough, and pretty chill. I can’t stand doctors who end up scaring their patients by outlining every possible (even if unlikely) health scenario. But he doesn’t make small talk, he’s not particularly warm or fuzzy, and he doesn’t really do drama. And he’s definitely not funny.

Except during this last visit.

I went in to see him for my new mommy check up. Basically, this happens around six weeks after birth and is a chance for the doc to make sure everything had returned to normal, or at least as normal as possible. (Remember, giving birth is like having a grenade go off in your underwear.)

So, similar to a routine visit, the doc did a physical exam to see how things were coming along. The stitched area appeared fully healed and nothing was abnormally smooshy on the inside, so he moved on to checking my uterus.

Now, the uterus is basically a giant muscle that holds the baby in place during pregnancy. The contractions leading up to child birth are basically the uterus flexing, pushing the baby out. At any rate, during pregnancy, the doctor is always checking to see where the top of your uterus–the fundus–is to make sure the baby’s growing at the right rate. It starts out below your belly button and by the time you’re into month nine, it seems like it’s snuggled in between your rib cages.

It's How Big?

Post birth, the doctor checks to make sure it’s gone back to its original size. Now, original size is small. Really small. I didn’t realize how small it was until my doctor held up his thumb and his forefinger to show me.

But the part that I was really get stuck on was my doctor. He just seemed so amazed at the fact that the uterus basically shriveled up like a raisin in less than six weeks. I think he even referred to the process as “cool.” And he kept holding up his fingers to show me just how little it was. Throughout my whole pregnancy I hadn’t seem him this excited about anything. It was hard to believe after all the pregnant women he’s dealt with over the course of his career that he’d still be amused by a shrinking uterus. (Men are kind of all the same, aren’t they?)

With my uterus snapped back into shape, I scored an A on my post birth exam. So, my doc gave me the green light on the gym and sex (in that order, as if one leads to the other) and sent me packing with a birth control prescription and reassurance that post-baby sex will get better. What a way to end on a high note.

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Filed under birthing, mommy care, moms, natural childbirth, post-partum, post-pregnancy, pregnancy

Look at the Baby, Look at the Baby

My husband and I never get sick of the movie Old School. We’ve seen it a gazillion times and still get a kick out of all the awesome one-liners. One Vince Vaughn zinger that my husband and I particularly find hilarious has taken on a totally new meaning for us post Baby Aleksi’s arrival.

Watching, Judging

The quote to which I’m referring comes from the wedding scene, where Beanie (Vince Vaughn) tries to talk Frank (Will Farrell) out of getting married.

Frank: “This is the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”

Beanie: “Why don’t you give that six months. You don’t think that’s gonna change. I got a wife, kids. Do I sound like a happy guy to you Frankie? There’s my wife. Now, see that: always smiling, hi honey, judging, watching. Look at the baby, look at the baby!”

(Better yet, listen to the actual movie quote here.)

For me, there’s something insanely hilarious about that last line: “Look at the baby, look at the baby!” Pre baby, my husband and I would whisper that line to each other every time we were around a baby that everyone else was oohing and ahhing over. We always giggled at our little inside joke; “baby” was barely in our vocabulary.

Not only am I now living that quote, but I’m totally one of “those” parents.

Nearly every morning, I spend probably a good 15 minutes just lying in bed, staring at the baby, memorizing every little curve of his face. I’m not really thinking about anything; I’m just looking, looking, looking, as if something in his round, little face could have changed overnight.

And it’s just not me and it’s just not the mornings.

I’ve caught my husband doing the same. He puts his face right up to the baby’s and just stays there until he’s got his fix. Sometimes he even calls me over so I can stare with him. (Ok, I admit it; I do that, too.)

Same thing when I’m having dinner with my parents. The baby moves or makes a peep (or even just sits there), and conversation at the table stalls out and we all just stare at him. I’m half surprised that our mouths don’t drop open and drool starts falling out.

What is it about babies that makes grown people do this?

Babies are definitely cute, but it’s something more and it’s definitely deep and it’s definitely profound. It’s like there’s something in us that recognizes that this is a new, fresh life, one so full of possibility, that forces us into a temporary state of awe.

Or maybe it’s that something in us recognizes that this little person is one of us, that he (or she) belongs to us, with us. So, we get a little glimpse of how big our responsibility is to this wee one. Maybe it’s our sense of how big the job is and how small we are that gives us reason to pause. We need a moment to see how much it’ll be worth it.

Or maybe it’s just that we see ourselves in these round faces and curious eyes. And in seeing our reflections, we feel so much less alone or insignificant in the world. We know this little person is glad to see to see us, will look up to us, will love us and so the longer we look, the better we feel about ourselves.

Then again, maybe it’s none of these things that drive us to linger a little longer on a pair of lovely lashes or bright eyes, a button nose or a pouty mouth. And maybe it really doesn’t matter. Just look at the baby.

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Filed under baby blues, daily life, emotions, hormones, infants, moms, newbie parents, newborns, post-partum, post-pregnancy

Growing Pains

I’d always thought of growing pains as something that kids experience as their bodies and brains stretch, but I’m starting to think they’re more something that parents go through as they watch the whole process.

This occurred to me the other day when I got a message from a friend who is a mommy-to-be. Turns out that her baby boy is likely to arrive a couple weeks early, so he’s probably going to be a little tinier than she and her husband were expecting and she wanted to take me up on my offer to give her some of the newborn outfits that baby already has outgrown.

A Box Full of Memories

Of course I was thrilled to help, even if it was as simple as throwing a bunch of onesies into a box and mailing them to her. But as I was putting the box together, I found myself getting a little verklempt.

Blame it on the baby blues (damn those hormones once again!), but it was somehow really sad to be packing away these little, itty bitty outfits. I found myself taking extra care in folding them, lingering a little longer on the ones that I thought looked really cute on baby. I ran my fingers one last time over the embroidered designs and pulled some of the snaps together for old times’ sake. I may have even put a couple up to my face and taken a deep breath, as if I was never going to smell baby smell again.

It was almost heartbreaking to think that even though he’s still a wee one, he’s never going to be that small again. In the matter of a few weeks, he’d grown so much. He suddenly had a past.

And then it hit me that I have a lifetime of more moments like this. My baby isn’t always going to be a baby. He’s going to be big, and then bigger, and then really big and then suddenly he’s going to be a man and then an old man. And it feels like it’s going to go by so fast that it might be easy to miss something.

When I was growing up, I don’t remember seeing parents–or at least moms–hysterical all the time over their kids. Of course, I’m sure I saw a parent or two shed a couple of quiet tears on the first day of kindergarten or at high school graduation. But with how I felt folding those oh-so-soft onesies and footie pajamas, I think I might find a reason to get misty every day (or at least every other day).

Every day he’s going to learn something new, develop more personality, become a little more independent, and leave a deeper imprint on the world around him. And for as wonderful as that growth is to watch, I know part of me will be wishing there was a big pause button I could push so I could hold on just a minute longer to the really special moments that I know we’ll have.

No wonder my grandmother always carried a Kleenex in her sleeve. There are tear-worthy moments to be had every day.

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A First in Flight

So, I’ve finally returned from a 10-day whirlwind tour of the East Coast, where I’ve ping ponged my way from Northern New York to North Carolina to Washington, D.C., to Jersey and back with a six-week-old. Traveling with infants… definitely not for the impatient or disorganized (of which I am both).

He's got a ticket to ride

Out of the four different legs of the trip, I was most worried about the flight to North Carolina. I was stressing that baby would totally be that kind of baby that airline passengers don’t feel bad about hating. Think a hot, sweaty, totally over-booked plane meets wailing, screaming, and other forms of inconsolable crying.

But if the truth be told, it wasn’t so bad; the five hour drive from Fayette-nam (Fayetteville, N.C., home to Fort Bragg, for those of you non-military wives reading this) with just baby and me was much, much worse. All things considered, baby’s first flight was fantastic.

Of course a few things helped.

Number one: my mom. Yup, she went with me as my sherpa. She schlepped pretty much everything besides the baby–my carry-on (a.k.a. diaper bag), her purse, cooler pack full of breast milk, dirty diapers, stroller base, etc. I so needed her extra set of hands.

It would seem like with two of us, we’d have everything under control. But all it took was the top to snap off of one of my mini canisters of breast milk and it felt like the wheels were starting to fall off. Of course, then I was reminded of my utter incompetence when I saw a girl probably 10 years younger than I, toting her infant son onto the same flight with what seemed like half the amount of stuff and no mom.

But I digress… my number two savior was the Charlotte USO.

Now, for the non-military readers out there, the USO (United Service Organizations) is a group whose mission is “to provide morale, welfare, and recreation-type services to uniformed military personnel.” That encompasses a lot of things, but one of the cooler things they do for military–and that includes active duty military, national guard, reserves, retired military people, and military families–is operate a number of airport lounges, where people can hang out and rest up before their flights or during a layover.

And there happened to be one in Charlotte, where my mom, baby, and I had a three-plus hour layover.

This was my first time using a USO lounge. In fact, my mom and I had first headed to the US Airways club lounge, armed with her American Express platinum card and a hope that they had reciprocity with card members. (They don’t.) Rejected and wondering where we were going to find a suitable place to hang out (I was probably going to need to nurse given how fast baby sucked down a bottle of pumped milk on the first flight), I suggested we try out the USO.

It took us awhile to find it, but once we did, it was so worth it. The people

The Charlotte USO = Godsend

were so friendly, warm, and welcoming; they showed us every corner of the place from the video message center to the DVD viewing room to the kitchen area (complete with bottled drinks, fresh hot dogs, and other snacks) to the nursery (equipped with gliders, a pack ‘n’ play, and a bunch of toys and books for kids) to the bathrooms with the infant changing station. Our host even thought to tell me that I just needed to let her know if I needed diapers, wipes, or formula. (How awesome is that?)

It was so nice to be able to use the USO to regroup. I was even able to nurse comfortably (I’m still not totally down with whipping out the boob anywhere, anytime) while my mom put her feet up in an overstuffed leather recliner while watching the news and reading the paper.

Now, I realize that a lot of people reading this probably don’t have access to great services like the USO, so here are a few lessons learned:

  • Book a hotel. If you have a very early morning flight, seriously consider getting a room at the airport hotel for the night before. It probably is worth the money because you won’t have to get up so darn early, so your kid is likely to be less cranky, and you won’t have any last minute snafus like a late start, a pit stop for gas, heavy traffic, or flat tire.
  • Good things come in small packages. If you are bringing expressed milk on the plane, consider using smaller quantity canisters. If your bottles are under three ounces, you’ve got a green light to go. If they are bigger, it’s still no big deal–the TSA people will ask you to open the bottles so they can wave this paper strip thing over it and conduct a vapor test–but it will cost you more time getting through security.
  • Bag it. Bring a plastic garbage bag with you. When traveling with itty bitty babies, you will likely have them in their car seat with the clip-in base. (I have the Baby Trend Snap and Go, but there are other brands out there.) This stroller system makes it so easy to get to your gate, particularly if you’ve got luck like mine and you have to change terminals during your layover. But you’ll have to check it at the gate. I put the whole car seat part of the system in a plastic bag before giving it to the runway dude who threw it into the belly of the plan. It may sound strange, but think about how dirty it’s got to be–from the workers’ gloves, to the carts on which the baggage is transported, to the under carriage of the plane. Ewww. Plastic will protect the seat fabric.
  • Double bag it. I went for the bag-within-a-bag as my carry-on and I think it worked out really well. A friend had given me this great oversized, water repellent bag as a baby gift, so I packed that thing full of all my baby and travel essentials. And the bigger the better. I was able to fit my diaper bag, the cooler pack, my giant wallet, and a few other miscellaneous items in the thing and it was easy and compact to carry. Here’s a pic:

A carry-all carry-on

So, thanks to smart packing, planning, and a personal pack mule, baby’s first flight was pretty painless. However, although I’ve lived to tell about it, I’ll say that I wouldn’t exactly say that I’m ready to be a frequent flier family. In fact, I’m trying not to think about the trip to Hawaii that we’ve got planned with baby. (How long is the flight, again?)

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The Itsy Bitsy, Teeny Weeny Bikini Challenge

It’s no secret that new mommies come with new curves. But somehow it never is anything but shocking when it happens to you. One morning a few days after giving birth you wake up and you look like you could be a B-list porn star.

It’s totally weird–and a bit painful–at first. My body had totally outgrown my expectations; one day I found myself standing in front of the nursing bra selection at Target hardly believing that I could actually be searching for a D cup. (Incidentally, a 34D might be the hardest size to find on a rack. I’m not sure if its because its a popular size or a freak size, but I’ve been in four Targets and found only two bras in that flavor.) I couldn’t believe I’d reached that far into the alphabet.

But then things sort of feel like they’re under control. There’s no pain and no tightness or fullness. I was once again comfortable in my own skin–so comfortable in fact that I sort of assumed I had shrunk a half a cup size or so.

All I needed to remind me that I was dead wrong was to try on a bathing suit.

But I was feeling good enough, or rather the weather was just hot enough–it was nearing 90 degrees over the holiday weekend–that I thought maybe I’d expose my pale flab-flesh to the sun in the name of cooling off.

Well, if I thought my nursing boobs were big, trying on bikini tops confirmed they were giant. Now, I hate to look a gift horse in the mouth, but in this case the more that I had wasn’t exactly better. I tried on one top after another–I had five bathing suits on hand and then I tried one of my sister’s–only to get more and more disappointed.

If I wasn’t falling out the top, I was hanging out the bottom. Bandeau tops looked like a strip of electrical tape across my chest. Triangle tops screamed bad boob job. V-necklines were a little too plunging. There was no way I was going out in public wearing any of that; it would be horrifying to children and small animals.

I needed a solution or I was going to miss out on one of the best boating weekends of the summer.

I had a sports bra in hand as my last best option–the big, thick tan lines that I’d undoubtedly end up were not exactly appealing but neither was the possibility of being ticketed for indecent exposure–when I had an idea. Maybe one of my nursing tank tops might be able to do double duty. After all, it was hot pink and matched a set of bathing suit bottoms that I seemed to still be able to wear. So, it was settled. Nursing tank meet bathing suit and voila! I had a tankini.

Most people would probably tell me to just enjoy my new-found–and hard to miss–curves. I mean, from padded push-ups to surgical enhancement, lots of women shell out beaucoup bucks to end up with this kind of rack. But it’s hard to feel like me when I feel like I’ve got twins on a trampoline on my chest.  I guess the whole swimsuit session was a reminder that even though I’m feeling pretty back to normal, my body’s still got a mind of its own.

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Not So Hot on the Hormones

I have written before about hormones–the ones that make you sappy, weepy, and hysterical. But it turns out the hormonal changes that happen after you have a baby can have as many physical side-effects as emotional.

Up until a few weeks ago, the only hormonal changes I was experiencing was resulting in tears and more tears. But an e-mail from a mommy-friend warned me that there could be more to come. She wrote:

“SWEATING… do you have that? Hot flashes from the hormones leaving your body? I was in shock and had no idea what was going on in the hospital until they explained that one to me. Nothing worse than getting up after only an hour of sleep in the middle of the night AND being drenched!”

So, I never got the night sweats right after giving birth, but mysteriously about a few weeks after giving birth I started to smell differently. And by differently, I mean not good. My normal smell was altered and no amount of deodorant seemed to tame it.

At first I thought it was just something my hyper sensitive nose could detect. However, my mom confirmed that others indeed could smell the new, pungent me. I had gone for a walk with baby and then picked her up. It was warm out, but not outrageously hot. We got into the car and I said, “I stink.” She replied, “You do.”

Wow. How’s that for honesty?

Sadly I thought, “Hey, that’s better than night sweats.” (Those came later.) But the other really weird thing was a skin rash.

After another walk with baby (maybe it was the same one where my mom confirmed that I, indeed, did stink–I can’t remember), I got in the car. I took a quick look in the mirror–my neck had been a little itchy–only to find a wild-looking red rash, very much akin to a heat rash.

Now, I’ve had heat rash before. It was a sunny day when I took my walk, but the sun at the River (we’re near Canada for god’s sake) in June had nothing on the sun in the Dominican Republic in March the last time I got heat rash.

I popped a Benadryl and just wrote it off as a one-time thing; I really hadn’t been exposed to a lot of sun of late.

Then it happened again. And again.

So, this is weird. I’m a person who tans, damn it.

A few days ago, I mentioned this skin irritation to a dermatologist friend. She immediately fingered, as I suspected, the sun as the culprit. Other than popping a Benadryl here and there or lubing up with anti-itch cream, her prescription was to get out in the sun. Weird that a dermatologist would prescribe that.

But the worst were the mosquitoes.

It was one of those perfect River nights, complete with to-die-for sunset and my family decided we should enjoy a glass of wine on our limestone terrace. Sounds absolutely perfect, right?

Under Attack

So, I nestled into one of the super comfy faux-wicker chairs. Baby was asleep so I was ready to savor a glass of some delicious chardonnay. I took one sip, only to be interrupted by a buzzing mosquito.

Okay, that’s annoying.

But what do you say when you’re swarmed?

I’m so not joking. Within three minutes of sitting down, mosquitoes were everywhere. Buzzing around my face, pricking me through my leggings, biting me on the bottoms of my feet.

“It’s because you’re lactating,” my mom said.

Okay, I’ll accept that. Breast milk is after all super sweet and sticky. But I was still under attack.

My step-dad busted out the bug spray and I sprayed myself down with some kind of DEET without hardly a second thought about bug spray on baby. (It’s so worth the view, I assure you.)

These damn bugs were immune. They were swarming around me.

I was totally squirming, covering baby so he didn’t get hit, and trying to fend off attacks.

But, it was too much and they overcame me. I gave up and sat myself and baby on the couch in the living room, happy to just yell through the screen door while my parents offered them up for sacrifice.

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