childbirth, Dan

An Ode to the Other Half, Part Two: Birth Partner

In this series, I’m giving my partner, Dan, his due as a fantastic partner at all stages of our journey to parenthood. Today, I’m going to talk a little about how he prepared for and participated in the birth of our child. I can honestly say that Elliot’s birth would not have been the largely positive experience that it was without Dan’s help.

I’ve already told the story of Elliot’s birth and how I used my Hypnobabies techniques to keep calm and mostly comfortable during labor, especially before getting an epidural. I’ve also talked about how my first epidural started failing on one side because it was improperly placed and I had to have it redone while experiencing the height of pitocin contractions. But that’s the middle. Let’s start at the beginning.

First of all, though he was dubious about its effectiveness, Dan was always willing to participate in the Hypnobabies training. He took to the scripts and the cues right away, and I felt confident that he would be able to help, which made the anticipation of labor less scary. We checked into the hospital at 4pm the day of my induction and he stayed with me for the entirety of my hospital stay, which was almost 36 hours of labor, a c-section, and four additional days, sleeping on couches and staying up all night to soothe the baby so I could rest and recuperate as much as possible.

When we first got into the perinatal room, he helped figure out the TV options while I chatted with the nurse, and later on, he made sure that I could comfortably eat while mostly stuck in bed because of the monitors. Other than the time he spent sleeping the first night (I was pretty oblivious to my increasing contractions while on Cytotec, so I let him sleep as much as he could), he was engaged in the process and made sure to touch base with the nurses to know what was going on. He also was in charge of bringing my cold snacks to the nurses’ station to get them refrigerated, and then fetching gelatin and broth for me later on. I ate a lot of gelatin after we moved to labor and delivery.

But Dan truly started to shine when my contractions became more intense on pitocin. I had a private conversation with him that I was thinking I should get an epidural before I mentioned it to anyone else, and he supported me, while also encouraging me to wait until I talked to the doctor and the doula again, so that I didn’t regret getting it too early. When I did finally decide it was time for the epidural, he was right there with me, helping me relax through the contractions while I had to sit up for the anesthesiologist.

And when that epidural failed and I didn’t think I could keep going on, he was right there with me. I’m so glad our doula was able to snap the picture above of him comforting me through what would turn out to be the worst part of my labor experience. When I had to sit up for the second epidural placement, he was right there with me, helping me with relaxation cues to help me through the contractions while staying still for the epidural. I honestly don’t know if I would have been able to do it without him.

Eventually, we decided that it was time to move to the c-section, and I was so glad they allowed him in with me. I had to go in first, to get prepped, and then they showed him in. I was having really bad shakes from the spinal and it was making me anxious, which made me shake even worse. As soon as Dan came in and sat next to me, he started using Hypnobabies cues and some tricks the doula showed him to help me relax. Even though he claims it didn’t look like it made a difference, I felt much more relaxed and felt like I was shaking less.

Once Elliot came out (greeting the world with a fountain of urine!), Dan was the one to cut the cord and held him the rest of the time the doctors were finishing up. And once I was back in recovery, doing skin-to-skin time, Dan and my nurse made sure to watch us so that I didn’t have to worry about feeling drowsy from the effects of the anesthetic (and over 36 hours of labor and surgery with very little sleep!).

Throughout our hospital stay and the weeks after, he was the one who made my recovery possible. When I had trouble picking up Elliot because of my incision, he reminded me that most people who have abdominal surgery are told not to lift anything, rather than “nothing heavier than the baby,” so that as long as I had him to help, he would do the lifting. Every night when Elliot woke up to nurse, Dan was right there to pick him up out of the bassinet and hand him to me. Sometimes, Dan is better at soothing him to sleep than I am!

His quiet resilience and willingness to help with everything that was possible for him to do made it possible for me to rest and recover from my surgery, while his emotional support has helped me through some of the mentally toughest moments I’ve had. I feel lucky to have such good support and know Elliot feels lucky to have such a good dad.

[photo by Jenny Corbett]

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breastfeeding, Recipes

Recipe: Peanut Butter Lactation Cookies

So I’m seven weeks postpartum today and I thought I’d share a little recipe I’ve developed over the past weeks. See, when I first had Elliot, it took four days for my milk to come in (it came in the first day we were back at home from the hospital). While we were in the hospital, El was losing weight and we had to supplement with formula. So I was a little worried about milk supply.

Plus lactation treats just seem like one of those things pregnant ladies and new mothers are supposed to research, right? Well, I no longer worry about supply, but I’ve found that a healthy-ish, hearty cookie is the perfect snack to bring upstairs with me when we go to bed so that I have something shelf-stable, tasty, filling, and easy to eat with one hand when the inevitable hunger strikes in the middle of the night while I’m feeding him.

So I developed this recipe. It’s very, very loosely based on this recipe (kind of like culinary jazz). I added peanut butter because it’s higher in protein (and delicious), and a used brown rice flour instead of wheat flour because brown rice is one of those supposedly-milk-increasing foods. Oh, and I use nutritional yeast instead of brewer’s yeast because I accidentally bought the wrong thing, but supposedly brewer’s yeast is better for milk supply, because it has chromium, I guess? I take a multivitamin with chromium in it, so I’m not too fussed about the difference.

Peanut Butter Lactation Cookies

Ingredients:

1 stick of butter, melted and cooled

1/2 cup peanut butter

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup sucanat (unrefined cane sugar)

1 egg

2 Tbsp nutritional (or brewer’s) yeast

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup rolled oats

3/4 cup brown rice flour

1/4 cup ground flax seed

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

Mix together the melted butter, peanut butter, salt, and sucanat in a bowl. Add the egg and beat well. Add in the vanilla, yeast, oats, flour, flax seed, baking powder, and baking soda, and mix until combined. Fold in the chocolate chips. Roll into walnut-sized balls (I use a heaped tablespoon of dough) and store in the fridge or freezer until needed.

To cook from frozen: Preheat oven to 350 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Put frozen dough balls on the cookie sheet 2″ apart. Bake for ten minutes, then flatten to about 1/2″ thick with a spatula and bake five minutes more. Cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet before removing to a cooling rack, cooling completely, and packing in an airtight container.

baby, Fourth trimester, Postpartum Diaries

Postpartum Diaries: Six Weeks

Officially, six weeks marks the end of the “postpartum recovery period,” according to my doctor and short-term disability (actually I get a little longer because I had a c-section). And, honestly, I can kind of see why. It’s been a good two weeks and Elliot is continuing to develop and hit new milestones. But really, I prefer the idea of “the fourth trimester” that extends up to 12-14 weeks postpartum. And since I’m taking 16 weeks of maternity leave, I have plenty more time to spend recovering and getting to know El before returning to work.

How I’m Feeling:

Actually, pretty good. This past Tuesday, I woke up and for the first time since the birth, I felt no pain in my body. Of course, that’s not a constant thing, but I’m starting to have longer and longer stretches of feeling good. When I got over my first trimester nausea while pregnant, I described it as feeling like I had bad days while mostly feeling good as opposed to good days while mostly feeling bad. I think I’m getting to that point.

Last weekend, I went for a walk for the first time since the birth. I discovered that I can put El in the ring sling and walk for a mile or two with no problem. It was particularly helpful because I found a therapist within walking distance who had an appointment available. You see, with my history of anxiety and depression, I knew I was at risk of postpartum depression. And when El’s pediatrician suggested I discuss it with my own doctors after scoring my EPDS assessment, I decided to make an appointment.

The therapist was lovely and had no problem with me bringing El to the appointment and wearing him while we chatted. Plus, I got to see my acupuncturist because they work out of the same center! And since the therapist started out as a yoga teacher (she went back to school to get a degree because her yoga students kept seeking her out for help she wasn’t qualified to give and she wanted to be able to help), she also had some suggestions for yoga classes I could try.

But being active again has helped my mindset more than anything. Being able to get out of the house and not worry about being in pain later is wonderful. Now that I’ve officially been cleared by my doctor (I had my six-week postpartum checkup a couple days ago) for returning to normal activity, maybe I’ll try to get back into my yoga routine, albeit gently. I’m definitely not going to be going back to barre class anytime soon, but at least I can see that going back to barre is in my future, which was honestly a bit tough the last few weeks, as sore as I was.

How Elliot’s Doing:

He’s growing and developing and having a great time. He’s definitely starting to spend more time awake for reasons other than needing to be fed or changed. We can actually play together, kind of. I bought some toys, including a set of Montessori-designed mobiles to help engage him during his awake time, and I also brought down a mirror from our bathroom. Plus, he has a great library of picture books from our friends and family (especially Dan’s mother). The favorites right now are the Black and White series by Tana Hoban, which have silhouettes of objects, either black on white or white on black, to be more visible to a baby’s sight while he’s still primarily seeing contrasts. But as he develops, we have lots of other books to share with him.

I’ve also started reading to him from books. I’ve read a couple Beatrix Potter stories to him, as well as some of my favorite fairy tales from the storybooks I bought for Kindle. While they don’t have as many pictures and he doesn’t necessarily understand the words, he seems to enjoy listening to me read them. He definitely has started responding to our voices. During the day when Dan is at work, I can calm him down by holding him and singing to him more easily than just rocking him.

But probably the most exciting new development is that El has definitely started smiling. He smiles in response to us smiling at him and when he sees certain things. He gave a huge smile at a black-and-white cow toy that a family member gave us for him, so we’ve decided that’s his favorite toy. And he definitely smiles for his mumma and daddy. No matter how frazzled or tired or sore I might be, his smiles warm my heart. Dan says that he feels like he can’t even remember what it was like to not have him around most of the time, and I kind of agree.