Friday, December 31, 2010

The Race is On!

For several months now, my friends have been placing bets about which would happen first: Kermit being born, or my PhD dissertation being finished. Time is obviously ticking down to Kermit's arrival (one week from now at the very latest!) so the question is: what is the state of the dissertation?

I am pleased to announce that I finished a full draft of the dissertation, except for some formatting tweaks and other minor changes of that sort, sometime in November. I eagerly sent it off to my three committee members for review. And then I waited. And waited. And waited. Total radio silence. Not even a short email acknowledging that anyone had received it.

So then I sent off a friendly reminder: "Did you see the 200 page document that I sent to you a few weeks back? Any idea when you might get around to reading it?" And then I waited. And waited. And waited. More silence. (Seriously, folks... nothing? Really?!?) I consulted with AdvisorB, who said that yes, he had seen both emails, and no, he hadn't looked at the dissertation yet, and yes, I should feel free to harass the other committee members to my heart's content. He even suggested that I threaten them a bit, though finding something good to threaten them with is tough, since I have exactly zero leverage in this situation.

AdvisorB's exact suggestion was that I send an email informing the other members that I would be in their offices on January 10 with the final form to sign, and if they had any reason that they couldn't sign it then, they needed to let me know now. I had to point out to him what a completely empty threat that was, because with a scheduled c-section on January 7, there was no way I was going to be in anybody's office on January 10. He then encouraged me to "play the baby card" and mention that fact to the other committee members, but I refuse to do that. (One committee member doesn't even know that I'm pregnant, and I seriously could not live with myself if I felt like I had only gotten my dissertation approved by my committee because they felt hijacked by my pregnancy.)

Meanwhile, AdvisorB promised that he himself was ready to sign it whenever, since he had already seen enough in previous versions and talks that he knew that he wouldn't have any problems with it. And I could feel free to mention to my other committee members that he had already approved it. One down, two to go!

So, I went with a milder, less-specific version of AdvisorB's suggestion. I emailed each of my other two committee members and told them that if they had significant changes in mind, they needed to let me know soon. Otherwise, I would be contacting them in mid-January and expecting signatures. If that would be a problem, they needed to speak up soon. It's kind of silly, because if they want to, they can completely ignore me and have zero consequences for doing so. But I sent the email anyway; I'd been waiting for more than a month at this point, and at the very least, I wanted to provoke some sort of response.

Committee member #3 wrote back very quickly, saying that he loved my dissertation, thought that it was an excellent piece of work, and was prepared to sign off on it whenever I wanted. Woo hoo! Two down, one to go!

Anyone who has been reading this blog should be realizing at this point who the one remaining committee member is. Yes, that's right, everybody's favorite: AdvisorA. I still haven't heard squat from her. And she's the only one who I can't harass in person, because she's 3000 miles away, and I'm not exactly hopping on an airplane anytime soon to go knock on her door. So, I'm still waiting. And waiting. And waiting. And getting even more pissed at AdvisorA, if that's even possible, for her complete neglect of the past two years.

Looks like Kermit is going to win the race....

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


I had my 38 week appointment today, with the main goal of discovering whether Kermit had flipped to be head down during the past week. When we discovered last week that he was transverse breech, Dr. M had given me a home exercise to try, which he said was "occasionally" successful in turning babies into the proper position. The birth instructor that I had with LL had also given me some exercises. And in the comments on my last post, eulogos pointed me to this site with yet more exercises to try to get a late-term transverse baby to cooperate.

The exercises from these three sources were all different, but they amount to the same thing: get your butt higher than your head, then hang out like that for a while. Gravity will pull your uterus towards your throat, stretching the ligaments in order to widen the bottom of the uterus to make room for baby's head, and at the same time, gravity will also pull the baby up away from your pelvic bone, hopefully dislodging him enough so that when you stand upright again, he'll settle into a head down position.

Sounds great, right? A few minor problems. First, when your uterus is bulging with some 10 pounds or more of baby + placenta + amniotic fluid, it is supremely uncomfortable to hang out upside down. Those 10 pounds are more or less free-floating in your abdomen, so flipping over so that gravity pulls them towards your lungs and other organs makes you feel really ill. It's hard to breathe, too. And the blood rushing to your head doesn't help, especially if you're like me and you've been battling dizzy spells and light-headedness all pregnancy anyway. Also, once you're nine months pregnant, you're not exactly at your most nimble. Once you're done being upside down, it is nontrivial to get back up again.

But, I really wanted the baby to turn! So, I spent the last several days hanging out upside down like a bat. And apparently my efforts were successful, because as of today, Kermit is head-down. Woo hoo! I don't think that I actually felt the moment when he settled that way, but by last night, I was fairly certain that he had turned, so it was nice to confirm it this morning. Everything else at the appointment was also good -- blood pressure is low, urine is clear, I lost 2 pounds (!), heart rate is good, fluid levels still appear to be normal. And we got a really clear view of Kermit on the ultrasound, including a close-up of his hands, which appeared to be holding onto my uterus for dear life. He didn't look like he wanted to vacate anytime soon.

So... vertex baby: check! Next step: spontaneous labor. If all else fails, Kermit's eviction is in 10 short days. Everyone may now begin thinking happy labor thoughts for me!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Odds Are Definitely Against Us

We had a bit of a scare on Tuesday. The ultrasound on Monday was uneventful, but apparently that was only because the tech isn't allowed to tell us anything. We had a regular 37-week appointment on Tuesday morning, and that was when Dr. M went over the actual results, which weren't that great. The ultrasound had been ordered just to assess Kermit's approximate size (weight and head circumference) so that we would know how likely we would be to succeed at a VBAC. But since they were looking around anyway, they took a bunch of other measurements, too.

The alarming one was something that I would never have even thought to be concerned about: amniotic fluid levels. According to Monday's ultrasound, there was shockingly little fluid. A horrifyingly dangerous low amount. Really bad. Dr. M explained the situation very calmly, then said that he wanted to verify the measurement himself before we did anything else. So, he did his own ultrasound, and ... my levels were completely normal. Above average, actually. He checked and re-checked just to be sure. And the change was so dramatic, with less than 24 hours between ultrasounds, that Dr. M says it is impossible for the condition to have corrected itself, it had to have been an erroneous reading to begin with. Still, to be on the safe side, he ordered me to dramatically cut back on my activity level for the rest of the pregnancy. Not bed rest, but he wants me sitting with my feet up, conserving energy and drinking as much water as I can stand, the majority of the time.

Dr. M also had me come back for an NST Tuesday afternoon, to verify that Kermit was still doing well. And he passed with flying colors, which would be nearly impossible if the measurements from Monday were at all accurate. So we all got to take a big sigh of relief. (Though we're still going to keep an eye on it, just to be sure.) (It also gave me the confidence to ignore the "rest with your feet up" thing, and I spent today frantically cleaning the house, because damn there's a lot of stuff that I want to finish before Kermit arrives, and apparently I am running out of time.)

Once Dr. M became convinced that the technician in Monday's ultrasound had to have made a mistake, he looked around and verified everything else as well. Which brings us to bad news number two. I've spent the last eight months convinced that, to succeed with a VBAC, I "only" needed to worry about going into labor spontaneously, progressing normally, and keeping Kermit from getting too big. Those were the ducks that needed to be in order. Know what I didn't consider? He's breech. And not a simple foot-first breech, where we'd still be able to try a vaginal delivery. Nope, my kiddo is transverse breech -- he's completely sideways. Impossible to deliver a baby that way.

There is a procedure that some doctors do, where they push on your stomach to sort of massage the baby into the desired head-down position, but it's a bit risky (and also has a fairly low success rate). Dr. M said that he would be hesitant to try it in someone who has had a previous c-section, and he absolutely would not do it in someone who has had a low amniotic fluid scare. Put those things together, and it becomes way too risky for him to try to turn the baby manually.

LL was breech for much of my pregnancy with him, and we started to worry about it around 32 weeks. But he had turned head down by 34 weeks, so we were fine. You really want the baby to be in position by 35 or 36 weeks, because after that, they start getting cramped enough that they don't have room to flip around anymore, and by 37 weeks, they're usually "stuck" in whatever orientation they're in. And here I am, past 37 weeks, with a transverse baby. It's still possible that he'll find a way to turn on his own, but the odds are dropping each day, so we are likely looking at a repeat c-section regardless of whether everything else goes my way or not.

Dr. M told me that if I do go into labor, every single conversation I have with a medical person other than him needs to start with the first words out of my mouth being, "This is a VBAC attempt, and as of Tuesday, the baby was transverse breech." He kept repeating that I was not allowed to say anything else until I was sure that they understood both of those things, because that particular combination would change everything else that happened from the moment I call the hospital to say that I might be in labor. No messing around. Which is kind of scary.

So... right now I'm 37w3d pregnant. My amniotic fluid levels might be periodically suspiciously low. My baby is stuck in a transverse breech position. He is measuring a bit big for his gestational age. That VBAC is fading more into fantasyland every day.

Monday, December 20, 2010


- I am officially full term. Labor is theoretically imminent at any time now, but I'll believe it when I see it.

- Given LL's giant head when he was born, we had an ultrasound today to attempt to estimate Kermit's head size (and the rest of him, while we're at it) so that we have a little bit of information on what we're in for if we get the opportunity to try a VBAC. We'll get the final results at a regular prenatal appointment tomorrow, but early signs seem to show that he's big, but not Guinness Book of World Records big. So I guess that's something.

- It's a little hard to believe that he's so big, considering everyone I meet seems to agree that I'm not really showing. I'm 37 weeks along, which is 8.5 months. I'm measuring between 38 and 39 weeks, which is almost 9 months. Kermit is definitely measuring close to 39 weeks. And yet consensus from friends is that I look 5-6 months pregnant, tops. At a holiday party this weekend, when I told people that I had 3 weeks to go, everyone (and I do mean everyone) assumed I misspoke and corrected me with, "You mean 3 months, not 3 weeks." Nope, I really do mean 3 weeks.

- Here at 37 weeks, I have gained 16 pounds. Apparently, it's all baby.

- We should really pack our hospital bag. I keep having fits of contractions, and after each one, S panics a little and says, "We need to pack our bag!!!" Then we get distracted with other things.

- On the plus side, our house is finally coming together. The guest room is almost clean enough for someone to sleep in it, and the rest of the house is almost ready to be presented to guests. Almost. We made a lot of progress this weekend. My mom arrives on Friday.

- I'm sick. I managed to not get sick at all while pregnant with LL, and other than a small cold during my first trimester, I thought that I would escape this time, too. Guess not. So far it is very mild (wicked sore throat, slight cough, mild congestion, occasional headache). S and LL had this same thing a few weeks ago, so I do have some idea of how it is likely to progress. The good part: it doesn't really get any worse. The bad part: it lasts forever. They're both still coughing, after several weeks. Can I tell you how much I dread going through labor with a sore throat and cough?

- LL's new favorite snack: hot herbal tea. S had been making himself a lot of tea, to soothe his own sore throat, and LL was very curious. So, we made him weak tea, diluted it with cold water to cool it off, sweetened it with a bit of honey, and served it in a very grown up ceramic mug. He's totally enchanted by it. Every morning he asks for "hot tea! hot tea!" and then questions us extensively once we give it to him, to make sure that it's actually "warm, not hot!"

- We set up Kermit's bassinet in our room yesterday. LL is very intrigued.

- Any suggestions on how to keep a curious and persistent toddler from climbing into a bassinet?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


Before LL was born, I remember hearing from lots of women that they felt guilty while pregnant with child #2 because they felt like they were ruining the life of child #1. I thought that was incredibly silly. Lots of children are able to survive the indignity of having a younger sibling. And as a younger sibling myself, I rolled my eyes at the thought that an older child was somehow entitled to even more time alone with his parents than he had already received, when the younger child was never going to get any years alone with Mom and Dad at all.

But now I'm biting my tongue, because yeah, I understand the feeling. LL's life will change dramatically when we bring Kermit home. Right now, our lives revolve around his schedule. Everything we do is tailored around making sure that he gets his nap on time, he eats at his accustomed times, and we're home for his bedtime. He thrives when we keep him on schedule, and melts down when the schedule gets too far off. (A little variation he can handle, for a few days, but after that he gets really cranky.) But schedules are impossible with newborns. I don't remember much from those early days, but I definitely remember the randomness of it all. And the afternoons of playing non-stop with LL, or making him the center of our morning routine as we all get ready for the day? Not going to be possible anymore.

So yes, I feel a bit guilty about how much LL is going to have to adapt, even while I also feel like he'll benefit a lot, in the long run, from having a sibling. I picture him crying for me and my being unable to respond because I'm dealing with a Kermit crisis and it breaks my heart. LL is so totally mommy-focused these days (from asking me to do everything for him, to being completely consumed with my welfare -- he helps me up from the couch, and brings me my slippers as soon as I get home from work -- it's very cute) that I really don't know how he is going to handle needing to share my attention.

But I also feel bad for Kermit. LL will have had a good two years alone with Mommy and Daddy. He got the instant responses when he needed something and full attention during play times. He had two parents putting him to bed almost every night, sharing bedtime stories and rocking him to sleep. Kermit is never going to get that much dedicated attention. Right from the very start, he's going to have to share us with LL, and wait his turn, and be patient sometimes. Which yes, is probably a healthier way to grow up, in the long run. But I'm a firm believer in spoiling babies a bit when they're very young and don't understand what's happening around them and are helpless to help themselves. And Kermit is just never going to get that kind of unconditional spoiling, even when he's very very little.

I'm sure all mothers expecting their second child have some of these feelings, but they're made worse right now by the fact that LL is just so darn mommy-focused. If I am at home, he wants me to do everything for him, and completely rejects S. Everything S tries to do for him is met with a plea of "Mama do it!" It's getting kind of ridiculous. I mean, the three of us are eating dinner, and LL wants more milk; S stands up to get it for him, and LL snatches the cup out of S's hands, saying, "No! Mama do it!" Then he sweetly hands the cup to me, saying "More milk, Mama?" And if I try to assure him that Daddy is an excellent milk-pourer, he cries. Not a manipulative cry... just a very sad, plaintive one. Breaks my heart.

Blame it on the pregnancy hormones, but I'm suddenly feeling very very guilty for the rough transition coming up for LL.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

One Month

It kind of snuck up on me a bit, but I'm suddenly feeling very pregnant. It's not like this feeling is unexpected -- I am 36 weeks along, one week away from officially full-term, less than a month away from meeting my little Kermit -- but still, it came up on me quite suddenly. I've been having plenty of aches and pains and awkwardness that goes along with the typical third trimester. But starting on Friday, everything kicked up a notch.

My Braxton-Hicks contractions are frequent and fairly intense. The pain in my hips has been joined by killer sciatica, making it difficult to stand, bend, or walk more than a few steps. I'm completely unable to move in bed. The moving in bed actually doesn't matter much, because I get intense pain in my legs whenever I'm horizontal for more than an hour, so I'm not really sleeping much in bed anyway. Kermit is suddenly taking up my entire abdomen; it definitely feels like he went through a huge growth spurt in the last week. And he is suddenly much stronger; when he stretches, I can see my belly move in response, in crazy ways. I'm constantly feeling off-balance. After 8 months of avoiding it, I suddenly have the typical pregnant woman crappy posture, where my back bows much more than it should, to compensate for the growing stomach. I waddle. And every single time I stand up, I get shooting pains through my cervix, which I can only hope is an indication that I'm starting to dilate?

In general, I feel awful. And yet, not ready to have this baby. I'll put up with it for a while longer, thank you very much, because my to-do list is still far too long to go into labor.

But, just in case Kermit decides to come a tad early, we're trying to get all of the essentials done as soon as possible. I've ordered all of the baby items that I didn't want to live without, and the last of them should arrive this week. We spent today frantically cleaning the house, because it seriously freaks me out to imagine tons of out-of-town family in our house in its current condition. And first thing tomorrow morning, we're packing our hospital bag, because I kind of feel like I'm playing a giant game of chicken by not getting that done. Also, the superstitious part of me hopes that the more prepared we are, the less likely Kermit is to arrive early, and I kind of want him to stay put until January.

LL, meanwhile, has started talking more about babies. He points to all the new stuff and explains that it is "baby's stuff." He gently rubs my tummy and whispers "baby...." (Lest we give him too much credit, he usually follows this up by pointing to his own tummy and saying the same thing, so his level of understanding is still very much up in the air.) And he has been insisting that we refer to him as a Big Boy, as he prepares to take on the role of Wise Older Brother.

One quick story. I was sitting in the glider in LL's room, rocking him in my lap. We were both fairly happy and comfy and sleepy. And suddenly Kermit, who has been getting remarkably strong and insistent in his movement lately, gave a swift kick to my stomach, which hit LL square in the back. LL turned around in my lap, perplexed, and stared at my stomach for a minute. Then he got a weird little look on his face, pointed to my belly, and whispered, "Mama! Jump! Jump!" So apparently the Kermit nickname was a good one.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Labor Anxiety

People have started asking me whether I'm nervous about labor and delivery, and I'll admit that I've been giving it a lot of thought lately. I'm actually not all that nervous about the actual labor and delivery part. I feel like I remember a fair amount about my labor with LL, and I don't feel like I'm being selective about what I remember. I remember some goods things (the anticipation; the growing excitement as things progressed; a sense of adrenalin-induced empowerment that I didn't really expect to feel once I started pushing; the incredible sound of his first cry) and of course, lots of things that were perhaps necessary but not what I would classify as "good" (frustration at the slow progression of early labor; annoyance that I couldn't walk around much; fear and disappointment when we found out that a c-section was necessary; and of course holy crap I remember a whole lot of pain). Overall, though, it wasn't a process that I dread going through a second time, though I am hoping for some fairly significant differences this time around.

During my pregnancy with LL, I spent much of my third trimester consumed with thoughts of labor. I'm not sure the right word to use. Not fear. Not dread. Anxiety? Let's just say that I was really really worried about it, because everyone seems to rank it as the most painful thing in the world and you don't know how long it's going to last and I had no idea what the pain was going to be like so my mind started inventing all sorts of crazy scenarios. This time? I'm honestly not all that worried about the actual labor and delivery. I'm bizarrely looking forward to it, actually, since I'm so excited to possibly do it without pitocin this time. And maybe even successfully deliver a baby without a c-section! This time around, rather than something to bring about anxiety, it just feels like a challenge. I can handle a challenge.

Having said that, there is something that I am feeling completely anxious and panicky about: how LL will handle my time in the hospital. I'm getting very freaked out about this. I have never spent a night away from LL, much less 3 or 4. LL has been put to bed by other people (grandparents, babysitters) but I have always been there when he wakes up in the morning. Things that are currently keeping me up at night:

1. Making sure that LL is taken care without too much panic if/when I go into labor. The possibility of going into labor during the holidays is making this particularly stressful. My mom has agreed to fly into town when I'm just short of 38 weeks, so that she can stay at our house and care for LL if I do go into labor, which is fantastic, but now I'm obsessing about what happens if I go into labor before she arrives. It's ridiculous because LL had to be induced at almost 42 weeks, and I'm suddenly worried about going into natural labor at 37 weeks, but still... I can't get it out of my head. We have a few friends lined up to possibly come to our house and stay with LL for a few days, but it would be very stressful for LL and that makes it very stressful for me.

2. If I do end up with a c-section, I'll need to be in the hospital for four days. That seems like a very long time to be away from LL. More and more, the main reason that I'm hoping for a VBAC is just so that I can get home sooner.

3. Another problem with a repeat c-section: when LL was born, I wasn't able to pick LL up out of his bassinet for at least a week, possibly two. I wasn't able to change his diaper for the first week, either. Every time I wanted to hold him, to feed him, to comfort him, someone had to pick him up and gently hand him to me. That was annoying but manageable, because S stayed with me in the hospital and did all of the baby-lifting for those first several days. This time around, we think that it would be easier on LL if S spent nights at home, so that he's around for LL's morning routine. But I don't know how I manage to care for Kermit overnight, including all those night feedings and diaper changes, if S isn't with me. As far as I can tell, my only option will be to let the nurses bring Kermit to the nursery after S leaves, but that kills breast feeding. So I'm kind of at a loss. If I have a c-section, it seems like S will have to stay at the hospital, and I worry about how LL will handle us both not being there in the morning.

4. I can't decide whether LL should visit me in the hospital or not. Does that make things easier or harder? On the one hand, I'm sure that he'll want to see me (and I'll want to see him!). On the other hand, what happens when he realizes that he needs to leave with Grandma and I'm not coming with him? Will that just make it harder?

5. Last week, I had an evening filled with lots of suddenly strong contractions. They eventually died down, and I was fairly certain the whole time that they were Braxton-Hicks and not the real thing. Nevertheless, they were shockingly strong and frequent, and I had to carefully breathe through them. I wasn't yelling or anything, but I was grimacing from the pain. And WOW, it freaked LL out. He kept coming over to pat my leg and talk to me and give me kisses, but mostly he just stared at me with a frightened look on his face. I kept reassuring him that Mommy was fine, everything was okay, but he was really very concerned. So now I'm worried about how he'll handle it when I'm in real labor but haven't left for the hospital yet. I guess from this perspective, it would be best if I went into labor in the middle of the night while he was sleeping, so that he wouldn't have to see me in pain, but I hate that then I won't be able to say goodbye to him before we leave.

So, yes, I'm worried about labor, but not for any of the reasons that I was worried the first time. And when I write them down, even these things seem very minor. Women manage to have babies without completely scarring and traumatizing their toddlers all the time. Things just work out. But I'm agonizing about it nonetheless.