Father Knows Best: It’ll Get Better

Its been a couple of months since it all started, so hopefully I can remember enough details to make this somewhat interesting. I wanted to start this installment of father knows best with an ode to the women who have to carry the load for the majority of the lead up and after effects of a birth.

Our experience was an interesting one. My wife spent nine plus months being doubted and told she wouldn't be capable. The way everything was presented made me think med students desperately need classes to teach human interaction. The intent seemed more to scare/intimidate my wife into doing things the way they wanted them done. The issue was my wife's blood pressure. The first scenario presented by perianatology was a stillbirth, then it was a risk of a baby that's too small, then somehow one that would be too big. This is not how to deal with people. Fortunately, we had done enough research, and had an OB who's thinking was in-line with ours, that my wife was able to stand firm and convince them that a wait-and-see approach was acceptable. Even still, she was told repeatedly that a natural birth was essentially out of the question. We even had an induction scheduled for the due date, which we grudgingly agreed to as a compromise. The baby had other ideas, as my wife went into labor two weeks prior to the estimated due date, at the zoo, looking at giraffes.

I came away from the birth impressed and fascinated by the process and what a woman is capable of doing. I could see instinct take over when my wife would have a contraction. It was amazing the way she was able to listen to exactly what her body was telling her she needed to do. Whether that was go silent and concentrate early on, or changing positions and doing different things to cope with the later, more difficult contractions. Eventually, she did ask for an epidural, but things were going so well, and she was not at all desperate or convincing in her request, that we (myself, her sister, her friend, the OB, and the doulas) were able to convince her to keep working towards the birth she wanted from the beginning. She took a small dose of narcotic roughly half way through, but that was it. In the end, she did it. She gave birth to a beautiful baby girl naturally and almost entirely as we had planned and hoped. It was quite incredible. We even left the hospital within a day, and could have left earlier but the hospital required at least 24 hours after the birth to be able to talk to a lactaction consultant.

That was probably the last thing that will ever go as planned, if early indications are correct. The first night home was very, very difficult. The trinket wanted to eat. Constantly. When she wasn't at the breast, she was screaming until she was red in the face. I don't think we were truly prepared for that. There weren't many good nights following that for the first few weeks. To top it off, she had lost a good deal of her birth weight and was bordering on the percentage of weight loss that doctors get nervous about. I had no choice but to make a quick trip to Madison to the hospital to get breast pump parts, then to a woman who ran a breast milk bank for donor milk. All of which was around Camp Randall Stadium. On a Saturday evening. The day of the Badgers first home game of the year. I think I gained a small step towards understanding just what it means to be a parent that day.

Eventually, we finally figured out the answer to the trinket's problems. She has reflux, and eating started a nasty cycle of burping, refluxing, eating to soothe the reflux, then eating too much because of it and getting more reflux. She was prescribed some medicine to help, as well as a couple trips to a chiropractor, and things are much, much better now. Aside from that, she's remarkably healthy and has a very strong neck. The treatment for the reflux is helping and she's sleeping more now than she did two weeks ago. I still struggle a bit with feeling useful as I can't do much to calm her, although we have introduced a bottle so I can occasionally feed her. I'm trying to be patient, but I have good days and bad days when I get frustrated and saddened by my inability to help her. But, I believe those bad days are starting to get some distance between them.

I think this has been a long winded way of saying that, so far as I can tell, there's always reason to be optimistic that things will get better, and, hopefully, things will always keep getting better no matter how old she gets. I look forward to helping her through her journey in life and her helping me and my wife through our own journeys.

Its gonna be a hell of a ride and I desperately hope she likes Back to the Future.

23 thoughts on “Father Knows Best: It’ll Get Better”

  1. I have good days and bad days when I get frustrated and saddened by my inability to help her.

    This was something I didn't understand until I had kids. I wonder how many times when I thought my parents were mad at me that they were just frustrated or upset that they couldn't help me work through my problems better.

  2. well spoken, cheaptoy.

    jane had no desire to be as brave as the cheapwife and said, "epidural, please." i had no strong feelings about it, but i imagine it's high on the list of stupid things a husband could say if i did have any objections. also, it sucked having Pete have to stay in the NICU for so long afterwards, but honestly, it did make for a smoother transition from not having a kid to having a kid. i can't imagine going through the birthing process and then being home the next day without a net.

    best of luck to both of us (and all you other suckas as well).

    1. Aside from the reflux, I think the natural birth really helped the trinket's overall health. She was really alert and looking around immediately after she was born and took right to breast feeding. Mostly, though, we both feared that, because of my wife's BP issues, an epidural would almost certainly have lead to a c-section.

      We were lucky that we did have somewhat of a net when we went home. Not that first night, but my wife's OB/trinket's pediatrician made a house visit and our doula's came out a couple days later. Both visits helped us feel immensely better about what we were doing.

  3. Linds and I aren't quite there yet, but up until recently, I had misgivings about both the responsibilities of fatherhood and my own potential abilities as a father. This feature is incredibly helpful in calming any nerves I might have about fatherhood. Serious thanks to everyone involved in this feature.

    1. I agree. I just hope that my lower-end writing skills allowed for me to express my opinion well in a way that helps like previous installments.

      1. I thought you did well. I enjoyed it.

        I'm five years past having a newborn. My wife had to go totally drug-free. Well, she didn't have to. She's just psycho like that. I really gave no input.

        I remember the feeling of absolute helplessness at the birth of our first. You really just don't know what to do or if things are "normal."

        I've come to realize that I am helpless a lot. Once you realize that, it helps.

        1. Thanks. I'm always a bit self-conscious about my writing because I'm an engineer, which is quite far form a literary field.

          I think what was initially most frustrating for me was that our pediatrician was on vacation the week after the birth, and her fill-in just kept saying that she's crying because she's a newborn but didn't offer any theories as to why she was screaming all. the. time. I desperately wanted our medical professionals to at least try something. When they finally did, things improved immensely.

  4. Oy, reflux. We lived with that for months with the Boy. He slept in a bassinet propped at an angle for a long time, and could have been used as a yogurt incubator.

    also, "we" can relate to the epidural situation, as the Boy was disinclined to wait long enough for drugs to be administered. Naturally enough, things were different with the Girl. Mrs S did a lot of walking around the maternity ward, trying to encourage the Girl to do her part.

    Shockingly, the Girl continues to make us wait, whereas the Boy is anxious to get out the door to be on time.

    1. The walking around the zoo helped get things moving that day, as did all the moving around she did at the hospital. We were told that it was a relatively quick labor for her first time. Now I'm wondering if the trinket will have similar "let's go, let's go, let's go" tendencies.

      I'll have to see about propping up a bassinet for that. As it stands, she pretty much has to sleep in her swing, which I'm scared about for later sleeping problems as noted by Buffalo a couple months ago in his column.

      1. It's funny you should mention giraffes in this context, because my last trip to the zoo was highlighted by a giraffe giving birth. And by giving birth, I mean walking around with an extra set of legs besides her normal four. The deed was finally completed several hours later. And yes, a baby giraffe's introduction to the world is a 6' drop to the ground.

        Nice writeup. I think a common theme to all these has been that no two situations are the same, and we're all going to have adapt (somehow) to what child-rearing throws at us. And keep Google open and ready.

      2. we bought and utilized cheese-wedge shaped (stiff) pillow (or maybe that was later for the crib?). I think the whole bassinet was angled up too, IIRC.

        1. I'll have to suggest that. It would be great if we could both sleep in the bed for a change. Our current arrangement has her starting in bed and me sleeping on the couch where the swing is.

  5. It's always kind of crazy to hear other's stories of birth, and it always brings back all that happened with ours. "We" also went without the epidural, though for us, it was less of a choice. There was a chance that my wife had a genetic disorder that, among other things, could cause malformed nerves. Based on this, they (logically) refused to give it to her, which really sucked when we found out she needed to be on magnesium sufate to relax her muscles, which also necessitated she be given pitocin. Needless to say, I wouldn't recommend anyone get pre-eclampsia, as it really complicates things.

    It sounds like you both handled your complications like champs! Thanks for sharing, and it does indeed always get better. I'm amazed how every day grz manages to get cuter and more fun.

    1. That's why we were really, really happy that it didn't make it to the induction, although we were going to try some natural induction methods (tinctures and stuff, with the blessing of her OB). Pre-eclampsia was the concern when she presented with the high BP. My wife did a ton of research when we started trying to get her pregnant, so she was aware of things like that and was able to turn that knowledge into a compromised "wait-monitor-and-see" approach. What definitely didn't help was when one of the couples in our birthing class ended up suddenly pre-eclamptic (or maybe it was full on eclampsia, can't remember exactly right now) and had to have it delivered via c-section at like 26 weeks, or somewhere in that way early range (everything went well and the baby is now healthy and growing). That hit pretty close to home.

    2. CER was breech, my wife said that the "External Version" in which they try to flip the baby was the worst thing she's ever experienced. They give the mother muscle relaxants and rub her belly up with oil, and try to flip the baby around with muscles. EAR said it simultaneously felt like having a bowling ball being rolled over her stomach and having someone try to rip the baby out of her. (Others I've talked to who had it thought it was just fine.)

      So we had a scheduled C-Section. That went great. So then Doctor suggests scheduling a C-section for HPR in case he's not born by a certain time due to the 2 yrs 5 mos between deliveries. Afterwards he says that the rest should be by C-section as well. After AJR he says really for sure the future ones are to be C-sections. We were told to wait 2 years. We'll be at 23 months, jumped the gun there a bit, but should still be good. (Kindof like how if you're a few pills over the 24-hour limit on an OTC drug, you're in no real trouble.)

      Each C-section was a bit worse than the one before it. #1 seemed super. I got the first time with CER in the nursery while they stitched EAR up, and then after like 90 minutes, everything was cool, and I wheeled CER to EAR's room.

      #2 took some extra time for EAR's recovery, which was frustrating, because our plan is to double-check with each other that the name we settled on was good for the baby, and then have everyone come in and make introductions, and 2yr5mo CER was in the waiting room with grandparents, pretty bored and all. And I'm trying to balance "Where is my wife?" with grandparents, one child, and one baby. And then EAR was so doped up that she wanted some names that we both thought were no good for us. I just had to say, "No honey, you're high. We're just gonna go with our #1 name." (I could have probably pushed my top pick, Oscar, but EAR might have been pretty ticked after coming back to earth.)

      For #3, the baby wasn't quite ready for the transition, turned purple, needed extra oxygen. I was told that if she needed it for more than six hours, they'd have to keep her for the full day in the nursery. I and my MiL were going back and forth between mother and child. AJR was so dang close to being able to leave at 5 hours, but her oxygen dropped a bit to far at like 15 minutes. At the six hour mark, the nurse came back to test again, and AJR passed. But I thought, 6 hours had passed and she wasn't ready to leave. The nurse said "Close Enough." Thanks for freaking me out when you weren't around at 5h45!

      Also, after #3, the healing went much worse. At times she was afraid that a foreign item was left in her. But it was just irregular healing and everything eventually got better. I should remember more of it, but I don't.

  6. I continue to be afraid of parenthood. Kudos to those who have taken the jump. I can't wait to be a dad, but still . . .

    1. I suppose I can't speak for everyone, but I was scared of it every moment until the moment I found out my wife was pregnant, and after that, I was never scared about parenting again. I mean, I'm scared of the trouble my girls will get into, but you start to trust your own instincts pretty quickly, I find.

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