Irish twins… almost

Lola and Max are 13 months apart, so they’re not officially Irish twins if you go by the definition of babies born in the same calendar year or 12 months apart. But I think the experience of mothering them will be similar.

Having Lola put in my arms was pure joy. Well, also fear. But mostly happiness, gratitude, and a kind of dreamy I-can’t-believe-it contentment. Having Max is happiness with a big dollop of guilt. Having a newborn stuck to your breast is a real turn-off for toddlers, it seems. Lola has perfected an aggrieved, “Who the hell is that guy?” look that makes me feel like a very bad mother indeed.

I feel guilty about not giving her the avalanche of attention that I would like to give her, and I also miss her, terribly. For the past three months I haven’t been able to go to the park with her every afternoon as I used to… this week I started going again, with young Max in a kangaroo pouch or his pram, so I can chase her around and enjoy her again. It’s time to reclaim my little girl… I just hope that doesn’t mean I end up feeling guilty about neglecting Max.

Max’s birth story

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I was thinking about second child syndrome this morning and how I want to give Max all the love and attention we gave Lola, and I realised I hadn’t written about his birth.

Like Lola, Max was induced. But because we so worried about his size, I felt very different about the induction this time around. Instead of begging for just a little more time to let the baby come on her own, I was begging to get him out. With Lola I was so afraid of the birth – would my vagina split open all the way?? how much would it hurt? why can’t we just lay eggs just like chickens?? This time I was just worried about Max.

So at 38 weeks we left Lola with her grandparents, bundled into a taxi and headed for the clinic. I felt so excited at the thought of meeting him soon, and pretty relaxed. We called my parents on skype as we threaded our way through early Lima traffic. When we arrived Dr E said he wanted to see how we went without the prostaglandin gel – using just the drip. It was a long day, and nothing much happened. Very tiny insignificant contractions, and then mid-afternoon Dr E said we should leave him in there a bit longer. I felt completely exhausted and devastated. A full day in the clinic, and no Max.

At 39 weeks and 5 days, we checked in again. And boy, was it fast! We arrived about 7am, Dr E put the gel on my cervix at 7.30am or so, we checked into our room and I put on the breezy hospital robe to await contractions. They were small and sneaky at first, barely noticeable. They built up gradually when they put the drip in my arm, until they were coming about every two or three minutes, which seemed like a lot to me, even though they were still very bearable in terms of the pain.

Dr E came in at about that point and he broke my waters – yikes. Those manageable contractions suddenly started hitting me with the force of a small truck. Every two or three minutes. “Hold my hand!” I squealed at Rufus, who had hung back while Dr E examined me. “I think I want that epidural now!”

This felt like the textbook induction scenario I have read about many times – the contractions coming fast and super-strong. I was so grateful by the time they got the epidural in. It’s a miraculous thing.

When I had Lola, I had a nice leisurely four hours or so between the epidural and the actual birth. This time it was about 2. The epidural was starting to fade when I told the nurses I felt like I had to go to the toilet, and the next thing I know Dr E zoomed in wearing his scrubs and said I could start pushing right away if I felt like it. “What, now?” I said. It seemed way, way too fast.

I was wheeled into the same room that Lola was delivered in, and we had another comical discussion about pushing. With Lola I kind of put all the effort into puffing up my cheeks instead of pushing her out… this time I got all confused with the breathing and huffed and puffed instead of holding my breath to help with the push. I could feel it this time, his little head coming down, ready to come out into the world. And it hurt. But it was a good pain… there was something about feeling that little head inside me, knowing exactly where he was in that moment. I pushed, and pushed, and he was there. Not upside down like Lola; but being cradled up and offered to me. He cried straight away, and then he was snuggled up on my chest, where he has wanted to be ever since. He’s a very cuddly baby. We had more time with him than we did with Lola – I fainted away and needed to be stitched up internally with her. With Max, I was in better shape. He stayed there, like a little prawn, while everyone rattled around us, and Rufus took photos, and sent them out to my parents, and his parents, and, yes, though I didn’t know it at the time.. to Facebook. My second child, little Max. Life is beautiful.

Mastitis and falling in love with Max

I have never felt more ill than the two times I’ve had mastitis. For the past 36 hours I have been a feeble, sweat-drenched ball of misery and my left breast REALLY hurts.Treatment is no fun at all… keep feeding with your huge engorged excruciatingly painful breast! The more, the better! This whole childbirth raising kids malarky is masochistic. So I kept feeding, drank loads of water, took panadol, plonked a hot water bottle on the boob and a cold washer with vinegar on my head and hoped it would get better rather than worse. Def didn’t want to take antibiotics if I could help it, but also did not want to develop a breast abscess. Good god.. an abscess on your breast. They should really mention that the statistical chance of this is extremely low – like 0.2 per cent of women – every time they do those pithy web rundowns on mastitis.

Now the fever has broken and I am thinking that at least it gave me lots of time to gaze at Max, who is filling out nicely. He’s a calm little fellow, but he’s started to give me involuntary little smiles when I stroke his cheek or hand and it gives me a glimpse of a certain cheekiness that he might have.

Max’s arrival has brought a lot of conflicting emotions for me. I am so happy he’s here, and he’s healthy. And I am starting to fall in love with him, but it’s complicated by seeing Lola struggling with sadness over not getting as much of my attention. I feel so guilty. Time and attention are so important for babies… Lola has new words every day at the moment – she’s trying to really talk. And she knows the stories we read her are somehow contained in the words… she points to them. Max eats and sleeps and dirties a mind-boggling number of nappies a day.

A friend advised me to be patient… these first few months with a newborn are intense, but after that I should be able to find a rhythm that allows me to give Lola and Max the attention they need.

Mysterious Max

Not only am I a drama queen these days, my unborn foetus is showing signs of dramatic flair.

There we were, all set for induction thanks to the ageing placenta and low amniotic fluid, and… nothing! Well, close to nothing. The mildest contractions.

For me the emotional effort in getting to the clinic is huge – this time a cocktail of excitement, the prospect of a huge amount of relief to know Max is healthy and happy (as opposed to withering away inside me without my knowledge thanks to aforementioned placenta), and a certain amount of fear (I am a wimp, why can’t we humans just lay eggs and sit on them?).

We took a photo of me and the bump outside the clinic, grinning like idiots. Another of me looking extremely happy just after they put the pitocin drip in to start up contractions… friends called. One promised camambert and an illicit sip of champagne on the other side.

And then, nothing. After a couple of hours I had very soft contractions. At lunchtime my doctor came by and said we could do two things – press ahead and ramp up the dose to force labour that day, or ease off and give him more time. Natural birth advocates, turn away. I felt like screaming at him “Get this baby out now! Get him out!”

Like a balloon losing all its air, I felt my excitement fizz away. Utterly deflated and suddenly exhausted, we agreed to let Max have some more time in there with my sad old placenta. A corner of my mind hoped he’d suddenly kick into action on his own. But no. We spent ages on a monitor… left clinic at 4.30pm and I couldn’t help thinking that with Lola by that time we were only two hours away from seeing her hanging there upside in th real world with us.

I’m happy Max is doing well in there, and more time is good, I’m sure. Also I’m happy Dr E is really trying to facilitate a relatively normal birth instead of a c-section in this very c-section happy part of the world. It’ll be easier to look after them both afterwards without c-section recovery time. And vaginal birth will be good for Maxi’s lungs apparently. So I am practising my “ooohhhmmmms” and focusing on the fact that they would never have left him in there if he was in any danger.

At home that night, a crown fell off my molar, and Lola decided to wake up at 3am, demand a feed, and then throw up all over her new sleeping bag and pjs. After a wrestling session I got her back into another bag and pjs and listened to her insistent chat about ladybirds (she is not attached to ANY soft toy or lovey but seems to now be considering for the role a gaudy ladybird doll which makes all kinds of crinkly wake-up sounds). It took an hour, but she fell back asleep. I didn’t mind really… she’s my baby and I don’t have too much more time to give her my undivided attention. Really, I can’t believe my luck. Thanks to my tweeps who gave me so much encouragement yesterday when we thought we were ready for kick-off!

Drama queen

drama_queen1All this living in Latin America has turned me into a drama queen. At least that’s my excuse, and I am sticking to it. Also, the hormones. The hormones are out of control this time around as a pregnant lady. I weep at Masterchef eliminations. Letters from friends. Lola kissing my belly when I say, “Kiss for Maxi?”. Yesterday I cried because I was tired and the thought of having to spend half an hour coaxing her to eat her dinner was all too much. I think I am actually crying more than my one-year-old at the moment.

I am not coping at all well with having a rapidly ageing placenta (grade 3). I feel like it’s a time bomb inside me. Real world and twitter and blog friends have shared their stories of similar experiences with me, which helps more than I can say. But then this insidious worry creeps back. He doesn’t kick for a while, and I can’t help wondering if the placenta has become so bad at its job that he’s wasted away inside me. It just lurks there, this thought, at the back of my mind. Some of you reading this blog have dealt with far, far worse, and to you I apologise… I know I should be coping better, maybe not indulging this fear.

We have an ultrasound tomorrow, and I am really hoping the doctor will pick a day very soon to get him out. It feels like Russian roulette to me, leaving him in there when my body is not giving him what he needs. If something went wrong, how would I know? At least out in the world we could see if something was happening and help him. Feed him. Make sure he has enough air. Bloody placenta.

Dr Google has been even less help than usual… there’s actually not so much out there about what a grade three placenta really means. Just a lot of other worried women crowd-sourcing an answer to the same questions I have.

Dr E is pretty efficient and hands-on, so I take some comfort in that. He was quite ready to induce Lola the moment she hit 40 weeks, so I guess I should take comfort in his judgment that Maxi is doing well enough to stay in there that little bit longer. Unlike with IVF, we don’t know down to the minute, hour and day when Maxi was conceived. Dr E is as stunned as I am that he even was conceived. The estimate, based on my last period.. which was actually almost my first period after Lola’s birth and therefore a fairly useless indicator if you get what I mean, is that I will be at 38 weeks on Weds. I don’t want to pull him out, undercooked. But then I don’t want to leave him and run any risks at all with his tiny little life.

And one more thing, while I am indulging this drama queen thing… he has refused to show me his face once, in any of our ultrasounds. Lola gave me a big-cheeked full frontal face shot around 32 weeks, which I had propped by my bedside for the rest of the pregnancy. Maxi just gives me butt cheeks. Somehow I think I would feel better if I had seen the outline of his little face.

Maximus is a mini

It took a while to dawn on me that there might be a problem.

The doctor who does our more detailed 4d scans is a jolly fellow and he looked a little frowny as he measured Max’s head at our 36 week scan last week. 

“Is he growing well?” I asked.

“He’s small,” he said, pointing to the weight range graph at the side of the screen. “This is your baby, here,” he said, pointing to the very bottom of the weight range. He’s almost below the bottom acceptable weight for his age. You need to relax. Stop working, and relax.”

“What do you mean relax?” I asked.

“Stay in bed, don’t even go get groceries,” he said. “And eat a lot of good food.”

They can be a little old-fashioned here, doctors. But this scared me.

He asked his assistant for my OB’s number, but apparently Dr E was away for a few days last week. So he said just take it all down a notch and check in with Dr E this week at my scheduled appointment.

I am a little worried. Apparently Maxi is 2.2kg when he should be 2.6kg… so he’s measuring more like 34 weeks than 36. Of course I’ve read that ultrasounds are notoriously unreliable for estimating weight. And this time around we don’t really know the precise conception date because even though I know the date of my last period, it had only just started up again post-Lola, so my cycle was all over the place. So maybe Maxi is actually 34 weeks and we just think he’s 36. I don’t know. 

I stupidly consulted Dr Google and read that one of the things that can contribute to a bay failing to thrive in the third trimester is a neural tube defect. Immediately stopped reading Google. But too late. 

I keep thinking, it will probably be ok. On the balance of probabilities, it should be ok. 

And in the meantime I am eating a LOT. And resting as much as possible. Although I had to take a little walk today or I would have gone mad. There is only so much punishment by left butt cheek can take, lying about like a beached whale. Two sleeps till we go see Dr E and take another look at what’s going in there. I hope I’ll be able to catch a glimpse of his face… he had his face turned towards my spine last time, which is what he should be doing about now, but I so want a glimpse 

Nekked

Lola appears to have naturist leanings.

Yesterday after morning playtime in her cot (ie, she “reads her books” and bangs lego about while mummy drinks that first blessed jasmine tea of the day) I went in to find her naked, except for her nappy. Thank God she hasn’t figured out how to wriggle out of that yet. My mum loves to tell a story (gross alert) about finding me in my crib completely covered in my own poo, and not only that.. I had finger painted it all over the cot and wall. The horror.

There is not a lot of logic to Lola’s streaker tendencies… she LOVES the street. Yet she fights all attempts to put a coat or shoes on her to actually go out into the street. Yesterday I had a long and heartfelt lecture on this very subject from her that went something like this: “Nah nah nah nah nah nah nah nah. Nah…. Naaaaaah. Nah nah.” The last nah nah sounded a lot like “So there”.

Still no sign of the word Mama, or mum, or mummy… just dada, chicken, fish, mariquita (ladybird), caca (a big favourite), poo (you can see this looms large in our lives), and so on. The important stuff.

Away from the cot, I am being sucked into a big ongoing news event here and find myself staking out police stations and courts with my huge belly… it’s actually not a bad technique as people who would normally be a bit stroppy with the journalist hordes are actually quite sweet when they spot the intrepid waddling hack that is me right now.

And this morning we are going to my baby shower. Another one. I am actively embarrassed to be having one, so soon after the last one, but a lovely friend wanted to do it for me, and who am I to say no. I tried to say “no presents please.. maybe just some nappies if they really want to buy something”. But don’t think that message was received. I really meant it though… we have all of Lola’s stuff at the ready, and I know a factory which sells its Pima baby onesies etc for next to nothing if you get them on a good day. So Maxi is going to sleep in pink pajamas, and hit the streets in Lola’s more unisex offerings with perhaps the odd boyish onesie.

Boy’s clothes don’t seem to be nearly as much fun as girl’s clothes, from what I can see. Lola has three tutus, pants with little rows of frills along her butt, a huge collection of bonnets and little hats and beanies, sparkly pants with sequins and the girliest of dresses. Boys just seem to get shirts with an aribitrary tractor or hammer logo. Where’s the joy in that? I am curious to see how people react to a baby boy on the street. When they see Lola it aways triggers big gushy comments and swoops in to stroker her cheek. Do people gush as much with boys? Maybe I will have to gush even more to compensate. This post is turning into stream-of-consciousness, and for that I apologise. The stream of my consciousness is a meandering and strange thing to behold lately. Only 28 days to go till my due date. Still not registering.