funny kind of place

I find myself in this odd place. Every morning Trav and Gwen leave for work and school. I sleep, setting my alarm for 8 a.m. so I don't get too too far off my schedule (night owl that I naturally am). I am more well rested then I have been in ages. My maternity leave is more then half over, and I am going to start setting that alarm earlier and earlier, getting myself back on schedule, while hopefully keeping this non-sleep deprived feeling that I hadn't experienced for a while before now.

I've kept track of days of the week by necessity, a dentist appt last week, a trip to bring some baby items to a friend due next month, and before that, visits with the family. If it weren't for those things, my days would blend together so blurrily that I would have absolutely no way to tell them apart. I have more appointments in the near future to keep me on track: a hair appointment, another trip to the dentist, a massage appointment, and a (long awaited) tattoo appointment. In between, I read, watch TV, take care of little errands and tasks that have been put aside for way too long.

Its the last week in January, and I already feel February's arrival and the end of my leaving coming. I want to go back to the routine of work, yet I wish I didn't have to ever. The only reason to want to return (other then seeing some lovely friend's faces again), is that this in between place feels so surreal. Its hard to believe that I was pregnant, and now I'm not; except my body is not back to what it was before either. I'm more relaxed then I can remember being, but its impermanence sits just on the edge of my consciousness. This non-routine is something I could get so used to, but I just can't allow myself to.

If I didn't have to go back, I wouldn't. I'd fill months with all of the little house things that there never seems to be time for, I'd read all the books that sit in stacks waiting to be read, I'd do daily yoga at home (something I'm not really capable of at the moment), and I'd cross off all of my to dos. I've made a good start of it, but always there is more to do.

A young coworker of mine called with a work question, and asked if I was bored yet. All I could do was laugh. It would take me years to get bored.


feeling full hearted

A girlfriend from high school days came over on Friday. She brought her fiance and daughter, and we hung out for a few hours, which was really nice. The past two weeks have gone by really quickly, and I'm enjoying my time at home, but it was really nice to have someone pop by and break up my solo days! Plus, she's getting married next year, and she made my day by asking me to be in the wedding!! 

Saturday dawned early, with Gwen coming into bed with us at 5:50, and not going back to sleep. Yawn. I let Trav sleep a bit, then we headed to the grocery store. After a shower and a lazy afternoon I did something truly exciting... got dressed in my normal, pre-pregnancy clothes!! A real bra, non-maternity pants!

The big occasion was a dinner with the family, and the head of the surrogacy organization. It was a great dinner, a lovely (unexpected) last visit with the family, and just a fun night. Gwen hit it off with the surrogacy head's son, and they hung out all night. I got to have my first drink since before I started meds for the transfer (a glass of a nice red, and then a glass of a really great champagne), and I was able to give the family another 35 oz (155 oz total!).

On our way home I talked to my brother's fiancee, and I'm going to be in their wedding too (this summer)! What a weekend for feeling the love.  :-)  I feel like I'm in my 20s again, with all these weddings (my cousin is getting married later this year as well).

Sunday was a rainy, cold day with ice warnings in the morning. A very good day to stay in. So stay in we did! First Trav let me sleep in (until 11, I haven't done that since I was a teenager). Then Gwen and I never bothered to get out of our PJs. Trav and Gwen put away the Christmas decorations, Gwen and I did some playing with dolls and her bat cave, and when the afternoon rolled around, we relaxed with a movie.

There was also some puppy snuggling, which made me very happy. Gwen snuggles with Daisy a lot, but I think this was one of the first times Daisy has snuggled on Gwen! Love those two.

Trav and Gwen are back to work and school today. I'm back to my relaxing days of recovery (today's big task: put away some laundry, and maybe vacuum). The family is off to the airport, and back home. What a full-hearted weekend!


nursing vs. exclusively pumping

In talking with the parents before baby boy's birth, the mom expressed to me her wish for him to have breastmilk. Being a lactivist myself, I was happy to hear that, and more then happy to offer to pump for them. Not only would that provide the baby with great colostrum and milk, but it would help my body recover. Having nursed and pumped for a long time with Gwen, I thought I knew exactly what to expect, but I can definitely say that exclusively pumping is a different ball game!

30 oz of colostrum and transitional milk
Now obviously the biggest difference was the absence of a newborn in the house! Most people choosing to pump are doing so still with a baby around, which would obviously change the experience. So please read the rest of this with that big caveat in mind!

So lets start with the differences: for me, pumping meant only waking up once a night vs. 4 or 5 times a night with nursing. But that pump meant getting out of my warm bed, walking downstairs, turning on the light, putting together pump parts, and sitting there in the cold for 20 minutes. I infinitely prefer rolling over, grabbing a baby, and popping her on the breast! Even if it is multiple times a night. I was also able to cut out that pump once my milk was in, and I knew they were heading home soon.

My milk took a little longer to come in, but that might have been because of not having a newborn to remind me of eating time. Without that constant reminder, my pumping was inconsistent for the first few days, which definitely slowed things down. Once my milk did come in though, it became a lot easier to remember when to pump (my body lets me know!).

Babies are much better at getting milk out of the breast, so I did run into a clogged duct (on each side!) pretty quickly; but I learned fast to help the milk from the back work its way down to ensure that didn't happen again.

One unexpected bonus to pumping was getting to actually watch my colostrum change into milk. The CLEC in me was very interested in seeing in person the changes in color and amount from sparse, yellow colostrum to abundant, white "mature milk."

60 oz of milk in the family's fridge!

Though seeing the amount was a double edged sword. Intellectually I knew that the baby's stomach was very small at the beginning (still is!), and that they need very little milk to fill it in the first days. However, having last pumped for a 2-year old, and having been used to getting at least 5 oz, it was hard not to worry about the 1-2 oz I was getting at first.

Speaking of which, not having to be as strict about pumping helped when we wanted to go out somewhere, but one of the biggest differences between nursing and pumping was having to time feeding/pumping sessions: I was fine with nursing in public, but obviously I'm not breaking out the pump in the middle of a public space (for a million reasons!). So I do have to be aware of when my next pump will need to be to avoid massive discomfort!

This, again, would have been less the case if I had been providing 100% of the baby's nutritional needs, but it was assumed from the beginning that I would provide as much milk as possible, and they would supplement the rest with formula*. Since they were staying close enough to visit, but far enough that I wasn't up to the trip for the first few days and couldn't do it daily while recovering, I would stockpile milk for a few days, then deliver, then stockpile, then deliver. 

I was used to both nursing and pumping, thanks to Gwen, but not pumping from the start. This time it was relatively pressure-less (absolutely no pressure from the parents, a little from myself!), since they knew there would be some supplementing. However I can see that for myself with my own child, pumping from the beginning out have absolutely been a stressful thing for me. While nursing can also be stressful at first, its easy enough to pop them on the boob when in doubt. They control the flow and can comfort nurse if that's what they need (which helps with production). Comfort nursing doesn't really work on a bottle, and it certainly doesn't help up your supply.

That said, emotionally it was a wonderful way to feel connected with the baby and family. I felt like I was still supporting them in a very real and tangible way. Obviously it doesn't evoke the same feelings that nursing my own child brought up, but it still made me happy to do. And that is one of the biggest similarities!

Differences aside, I'm so glad that I could do this for the family. It was one more rewarding aspect to this whole incredible experience.

* In the end, in addition to what I pumped and fed him during the first day when we were together at the birth center, I gave them just over 120 oz 155 oz; or enough for about half the time he was here in the states.

I am continuing to pump, while I slowly wean myself down (I do not want to deal with clogged ducts or mastitis!!). I'm freezing that milk (60 oz so far) and plan to donate to a local mama in need.


balance between rest and play

I'm trying to strike the proper balance between resting and doing. During the week its easier, but I'm finding that the doing always seems to come in bigger spurts (like the evening hours with dinner and Gwen's bedtime) and I have to remind myself that its only been 10 days and I still need to take it easy. The best way to recover completely is to allow myself to rest fully.

Trav has been doing so much more during the weeks, taking over a lot of things that I normally did, while still doing his own things. I'm so grateful for all he's doing. And during the day, when I'm on my own, its much easier to tell myself to slow down. I've been doing a lot of magazine reading (finally getting rid of the built up stack that I never had time for), Scrubs watching, and Daisy snuggling. Also, catching up on email and phone calls.

This past weekend we ventured out to the movies, leaving Gwen with Ro and Pat so we could finally see the third Hobbit (loved it!); then hanging out until dinner. It was a good activity with a lot of sitting!

Sunday we headed into the city to visit with the family (Gwen and the baby was the sweetest!), then Gwen had a birthday party to attend. It was an ice skating party... her first time on the ice! She did great, loved it, and though she took some tumbles, she kept at it the whole time. I was really proud! (And a little jealous, no ice skating for me.)

Despite not getting on the ice, it was a lot of standing, and by the end of the day I was tired. It was a good reminder that I still need to take it easy.

Other things I'm doing to help my recovery: vitamins, extra iron to help with the headaches (happened to me last time... all the blood loss!), extra fiber to help with the iron! Green smoothies to get lots of good stuff in my body, snacks rich in vitamins and fiber, good dinners. Kegels! Trying to remind myself to drink more water.

Wednesday I head to visit with the family one last time before they leave on Thursday. Drop off some milk, pick up the pack'n'play they'd been borrowing, squeeze baby boy one more time. I'm so happy for them that they get to head home, but I'll miss them. After that, I'll come home and snuggle with my pup.

You know. I could get used to this.


resting and recovering

A week ago I was still pregnant, with only a few hours left to go (unbeknownst to me!), which is pretty hard to believe. It feels longer and shorter and surreal. I visited with the family yesterday to bring them pumped milk and have lunch together. I ended up spending almost 4 hours, and it was wonderful. We had a very leisurely lunch, caught up on things in our lives, and answered each others questions about anything we had left to ask. I found out what they were really thinking when they got my frantic labor text while eating breakfast, they learned how much I really enjoyed this pregnancy.(1)

Other then that trip out yesterday, I've just been resting and recovering. Lots of reading, watching Scrubs, and so much pumping. I've been enjoying little things that I missed... sushi, sleeping on my back, being able to see anything below my waist! Its been cold and snowy here, so I'm not sorry to just stay in and rest. My big plan for next week includes some walks around the block if it warms up a little. Maybe I'll pack away the Christmas decorations. There will definitely be more reading, and relaxing.

I think at the end I was about 145 (so up 26 lbs), and I'm already down about 19 lbs! As I remember from last time though, everything is still moved around and the belly is bigger, and it will be a while until I'm back to normal. I won't go back to yoga class until after I'm cleared at my 6week pp visit, but maybe in 2 or 3 more weeks I'll start doing some really gentle yoga here at home.

In the meantime, I'll use this time to get ready for other events coming our way: like Gwen's birthday in just over a month!

This year had an exciting start, and there is so much more to look forward too.

(1) The answer: so much. With Gwen I had so much morning sickness, I got the flu, I pulled a muscle between my ribs. I wasn't very active going into the pregnancy and I felt it. Plus, I tried to enjoy it, but I had the mindset that I would of course be doing it again, so when we figured out that we didn't want another child, there was some disappointment.

This time around was so different. I went in with the mindset that this was the last pregnancy, and did my best to enjoy and embrace every moment. I was active going in, and active throughout, and I felt infinitely better until the very end. I will always be grateful for this pregnancy.


the journey is over; but a lifetime bond is formed

Ironically I was planning to pop in here on Friday to talk about the pregnancy wall I had hit. I felt different, I was just done, and I was really worried that I wouldn't make it to the parents arrival on the 7th. Well, now I'm coming to tell you I was right, and relate the birth story instead! (Skip towards the end if you'd rather just read about what's happened since, and Gwen's reaction.  TL/DR version: 3.5 intense hours, big healthy kid!)

I was 37.5 weeks:

Thursday night I headed to bed with big plans for my Friday off... thing like packing my labor bag, pulling out and testing the pump, cleaning up around the house, etc. I felt uncomfortable and sore the whole night, but not really crampy. I only slept off and on. At 3am I woke up to use the bathroom, headed back to bed, lay there for about 10 minutes and ended up jumping out of bed at 3:20 because my water broke in a big way. I got to the bathroom and sat on the toilet and out came so much fluid. The contractions started then, about 5 minutes apart, not too bad (I could just breathe through them). I got cleaned up, grabbed one of my super sized postpartum pads to put on, and got myself dressed. I spent the next 20 minutes packing a bag to take while calling the Birth Center, who told me to come in, my mom (to come down with Gwen), and my neighbor who came to be here until my mom got here; and texting the parents. I woke Trav up then so he could grab stuff for his own bag, while I found pumping supplies, then we headed out.

It was a half hour to the Birth Center and we got there around 4:30 a.m. While in the car my contractions had picked up so they were about every 3 minutes, bordering on 2 minutes, lasting a minute and I had to shift around and breathe through them with more concentration. (Side note: laboring in a car sucks!) When we arrived they checked me and I was at 5cm. They checked my vitals, got me hooked up to an IV (needed antibiotics since I was GBS+), and listened to his heartbeat. All sounded good so they had Trav run the tub for me. I got in there and labored in there for about an hour (they unhooked me from the IV once I got a dose of the antibiotics). Contractions were hard, but the water helped a lot and I was able to breathe through them well until the very end. The midwife noticed I was starting bear down without realizing it so asked if I would mind getting out to be checked. I had gone from 5cm to just a little lip of cervix left in just over an hour!

So I got on the bed to get ready to start pushing. The contractions were harder to deal with outside of the water, and uh, I got pretty vocal. That lip also got stuck and he wasn't moving down, so the midwife ended up having to reach up there and push it out of the way (twice) which was really really hard. Once that was done he finally started descending. He still was moving down a bit slowly, but his heartbeat sounded great and he was moving, so they weren't concerned (afterwards from the angle of his conehead, they figured out that his head was coming down a bit angled, and they think his hand was by his face). I pushed for about an hour total, and at the end the pressure was so amazingly intense I had to talk myself into actually pushing. Trav, the midwife, and the nurse were all so wonderful and encouraging and I absolutely couldn't have done it without him. He was born at 6:50 (so 3.5 hours after labor started). 7lbs, 11oz; 21in long; 14in head!

The midwife said that if we weren't completely sure of my dates, that she would have thought he was a 40 weeker (happy the kid decided to show up early, how big would he have been in two more weeks?!). I don't know what his first apgar was, but his second was a 10. I managed to somehow get away with no real tearing, which is amazing to me.

The parents unfortunately couldn't get a flight out until Friday. He, Trav, and I stayed at the Birth Center for 12 hours while they monitored us. I pumped and gave him bottles, we both slept well, and he was basically a champ all day. It was exactly as I hoped it would be: I loved getting some newborn snuggles, I feel affection for him, but its what I would feel for the child of any close friend. And at the end of the day, when the women from the surrogacy agency came to take him for the night, I was 100% happy to hand him over to her and head home (where I slept better then I had in months!).

It was (9 months and) 12 hour with us, 24 hours with her, then the rest of his life with his parents!

Since the birth I have been sore, but I feel good. Both physically and emotionally. I'm taking it easy and letting my body recover, but I feel so very blessed by this experience. It has been truly amazing. Today was the follow visit with the Birth Center, and we got to spend a good 2+ hours with the family. It was wonderful to see them with him, and everyone was given an A+ clean bill of health.

Gwen has been the biggest champ since the birth. She asked about the baby, saw pictures of him, and is very interested in my pumping; but her biggest concern has been my recovery. We make sure to reassure her constantly that every ache and pain I'm experiencing is normal and okay. She is constantly giving me hugs and checking to see if there is anything I need. She helps me set up the pump and presses the power button for me. She grabs my slippers, or helps me out of my chair, or does a million other little things to be a big helper. It is amazing to see and I think is a huge help to her in processing that I am no longer pregnant, but that our family is still the same. Its definitely helped her attitude a ton and I think she loves having special big girl responsibilities.

And that is that. The physical part of the surrogacy is just about done (just the recovery), but what a special bond we've created! I'm so grateful for this whole experience.