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All posts for the month March, 2014

Sleepwalking – Why I Always Wear Pajamas to Bed

Published March 31, 2014 by Jen Rosado from MyAlternateUniv

Years before I met my husband, I lived in a cute little apartment in the center of a small town, right above the beauty salon. I lived alone, and every night I pulled two kitchen chairs in front of the door and piled pots and pans on them. No, I didn’t do this because I was afraid someone might break in; I was worried that I might get out.

What I did next was to tape a sign above the doorknob and place several other signs on the floor at regular intervals back to my bedroom door. On the signs, in bold, black Magic Marker, was written, “STOP! GO BACK TO BED! YOU ARE ASLEEP!” The purpose of these signs (and the booby-trap of pots and pans) was to keep me from sleepwalking out my apartment door, only to wake up when the door slammed behind me, locking me out.

If that had happened, it wouldn’t have been be the first time, and living alone meant there was no one on the other side of the door to let me back in. Hence, my paranoia.

You see, my friends – that is why I always wear pajamas to bed. No sleeping in my underwear or a slinky nightie for me, hell no! It’s flannel pajamas, or shorts and a t-shirt at the very least. I have to be proactive and practical about my sleep issues in order to limit both the danger and the humiliation.

The truth is I never thought the fact that I was a sleepwalker was particularly odd until I went to college. I have five siblings, and all of us were sleepwalkers and/or sleep-talkers as kids. Three of us (that I know of) have continued this behavior into adulthood, which I guess is unusual. We often share our funnier stories of sleepwalking at parties and family gatherings, because…well…they’re kind of weird stories, and after a few drinks they can be downright hilarious.

The sleepwalking story I share is one from college. I was dreaming that I was trapped in some kind of a large box. I couldn’t find my way out, so I thought of my friend, Bob, who was really smart. I knew he could figure out how to rescue me from the box. When I awoke from the dream, I was banging on my dorm room wall, exclaiming, “I’m trapped in this box! I need some help! I need Bob! Go get Bob!” And if that wasn’t mortifying enough – there were a few drunk guys in the hallway banging back and laughing. (I’ll admit the story is probably not as funny on paper. Try having a few drinks, and then act it out very dramatically, putting special emphasis on Bob, who is very smart and who is the only one who can save you from the box.)

But I digress.

I don’t always sleepwalk. My sleepwalking gets worse when I’m sleep deprived or under a lot of stress.

That’s right: “sleep deprived” and “under stress”. For a new mom, the “sleep deprived” part is pretty obvious and expected. Some of us, however, are taken off-guard by the intensity of the “stress” part – the stress that comes from bonding with a little human being that is totally reliant upon you for his very survival.

The author, Elizabeth Stone, said it best: “Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”

Yup. That’s it, right there.

As you know, I had anxiety before I had my boy. For me to feel so attached to and so protective of this completely vulnerable and precious baby – to feel like my heart no longer resided in my chest but with my boy…that just scared the shit out of me. It was like giving a Red Bull to someone who was already hyped up on caffeine.

I worried about him all the time. Is he eating enough? Is that what his poop is supposed to look like? Why is he making that face? Why isn’t that rash going away? What IS that rash anyway? Is he crying because he’s in pain or because he’s bored? Is he meeting all his milestones? Why does he seem different than the other babies?

All this worry carried into my subconscious, too. Almost every night, I would dream that the baby had rolled from my arms and was buried in the bed sheets. I would wake up to find myself frantically digging through the blankets looking for him. (Logically, losing my baby in the sheets would not have happened because I never brought him into bed with me…for this very reason!)

I also almost injured my poor, snoring husband several times as I dove across him to catch our imaginary baby as he fell off the side of the bed. Sometimes my sleepwalking brought me into the hallway where I dreamed that our boy was just about to fall down the stairs. Always my dream was of me searching for him or rescuing him from impending doom. Even in sleep, my mind just could not rest.

So I’d like to take this opportunity to give props to Mother Nature for the brain chemical/hormone cocktail she invented for the purpose of mother/baby bonding. Seriously, that is some powerful stuff. You are handed this rashy, stinky, screaming baby that keeps you up all day and night and pushes you to the very brink of insanity. But you stick around, tending to his every need for survival, protecting him from real dangers and rescuing him from imaginary ones. Why? Because you are totally and completely madly in love with him.

Let me tell you – awake or asleep, consciously or unconsciously – I loved this baby something fierce.  And as that bond grew stronger, so did the intensity of my anxiety.  My subconscious mind had to come up with more interesting and creative ways to channel that anxiety – like, for example, “sleep-spiders”…but that’s a topic for another post.

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Colic – Holy Crap, This is One Crazy-Ass Baby!

Published March 25, 2014 by Jen Rosado from MyAlternateUniv

If I were to pick a movie soundtrack that would define my baby years, I think I’d pick the “When Harry Met Sally” soundtrack, with jazz standards and big band favorites performed by Harry Connick, Jr. Now I’m not saying that I was a particularly “hip” or sophisticated baby, but the mood of the music…the smooth sound of brushes on the drums, the sweet, sometimes understated melodies played on the piano, the occasional blaring of the horn section just to be sure you’re paying attention…that fits my personality as a baby.  I was a calm observer of the world and a self-soother, with a furrow in my brow and my thumb in my mouth.

My husband’s baby soundtrack (according to him) would be “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure”.  He was an easy-going, playful, and happy-go-lucky baby and (given the frantic nature of this music) apparently had A LOT of energy.

That brings us to our boy.  My husband and I had imagined that our baby would be a balanced mixture of both our personalities, and since we had been “easy babies” there was no need to worry that fate would deliver karmic payback for anything we had put our parents through.  But here’s the thing – your baby may have half the chromosomes of mom and half the chromosomes of dad, but he is 100% his own temperament and personality.

We weren’t expecting that.

If I were to pick a soundtrack for our baby’s first few months of life, I would choose the theme to “2001: A Space Odyssey”. You know the one – It begins with the trumpets quietly playing the first note, gradually building in volume through the next two notes, then the orchestra joining in with two more spine-chillingly loud notes, followed by the reverberating tones of the drums.

Baaaa….Baaaa…Baaaa…BA! BA! (Boom, boom, boom, boom)

Ah yes, that was our baby boy.

His doctors had a medical term for his behavior – “colic”, which I assumed meant “really cranky and irritable for reasons we can’t determine”.  Colic is actually distress caused by gastrointestinal pain.  My little guy very likely had some stomach issues that were causing him discomfort, and we were giving him medicine for acid reflux and gas. But the more I read about colic the more I felt like that wasn’t the whole picture of our baby. He often didn’t appear to be in pain, he just seemed…discontented.

Our boy required nearly constant attention. He needed to be held, but not just held – he needed to be walked and danced and bounced.  Feedings were a nightmare, because every time you took the bottle from his mouth to burp him he screamed and screamed and refused to burp.  And he rarely slept. The longest stretch we could get him to sleep in his bassinet was 3-4 hours at night.  He did take naps during the day, but only if he was being held.  If you tried to move him ever-so-gently into his bassinet, then carefully slide your hands out from under his sleeping body, and then…DAMN IT!  His eyes would pop wide open, and that would be it.

So I held him.  A lot.  I carried him everywhere and became quite adept at doing things one-handed. My husband made mix CDs of songs that a baby might like, and my boy and I danced up and down the hallway for hours.  As he slept in my arms on the couch, propped on a pillow, I napped as well.  (Otherwise, I would never have slept.)

Time started to lose its meaning.  One day seemed very much like the one before, and they all blurred together, with no breaks to signify when one day finished and a new day began.  It felt like a long, endless, dark tunnel.  No light at the end.

I tried to create those peaceful scenes of motherhood, even the “scapbooking on the porch” scene I mentioned in my last post. But those scenes were desperately out of reach when your baby was not content to sit quietly in a swing, when he cried and howled and demanded your full attention at all times.

Exhaustion set in, and with the exhaustion came disappointment, bitterness, even anger, that my motherhood experience was so unlike the image I had created in my mind, the image of motherly bliss that I knew my alter ego was enjoying.

So I went in search of answers.  My search brought me once again to the “Parenting” section of Barnes and Noble, where I found, The Fussy Baby Book by Dr. William Sears, which helped me properly label my boy, not with “colic” but as a “high need baby”.  It was  comforting to read quotes from parents who had been in my position and had survived to tell the tale.

At the same time my husband found an amazing video by Dr. Harvey Karp called The Happiest Baby on the Block.  Dr. Karp is the Obi One Kenobi of baby soothing.  Seriously, he’s like a “baby whisperer”.  His techniques (along with a swaddling blanket aptly named “The Miracle Blanket”) helped us tremendously in understanding and controlling our boy’s superhuman powers over sleep and temperament. It became clear to us that our boy simply did not experience the world the same way that we had as babies. We just had to make him feel safe and comfortable until he reached the point that he could start to soothe himself.

How did my husband and I survive those long, long months with our sanity still intact?  Humor.  It felt so good at the end of a rough day to look at each other, shake our heads and say, “Holy crap, this is one crazy-ass baby.”  We shared rueful but heartfelt laughs about the absurdity of what our lives had become.

When I asked my husband to think back to those days and pick what he thought our baby’s soundtrack should be, with a little smile and with no hesitation he looked up the video on You Tube for, “What Does the Fox Say?” by Ylvis.  I laughed – clearly he had either mentally blocked out the experience of our son’s infancy, or he was not taking the question seriously.  Of course his song choice doesn’t make any sense, but, then again, logic and reason had been pretty hard to come by all those sleepless months in this crazy alternate universe.  Best to just acknowledge that fact and laugh.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Optimism – Hoping for the Best, Even During a Zombie Apocalypse

Published March 17, 2014 by Jen Rosado from MyAlternateUniv

As I finished writing my last post about leaving the hospital, it struck me how incredibly positive I was despite all that had happened since arriving at the hospital a few weeks before.  I had given birth to my son by c-section, woke up in an alternate universe, was incredibly exhausted from my attempts to breast-feed, and had learned that my boy may have mutant superpowers in regards to sleeping and temperament.  Yet somehow, somehow I still clung to the hope that my image of motherhood was attainable – that tomorrow I would be sitting in the warm summer sun on the back porch holding my peacefully sleeping baby, sipping iced coffee, and chatting in a “hey-look-at-me-I’m-totally-relaxed-even-though-I’m-a-mom” way with some friends.  Oh, and we would be scrapbooking, too.

Could it be that I am actually an optimist?

This comes as a bit of a shock to me, because I have always considered myself a pessimist.  Living all my life with anxiety naturally puts me in the frame of mind to assume the worst possible outcomes to situations.  But imagining the worst outcomes gives me the ability to prepare for them.  “Expect the worst, but hope for the best,” I always say.  If I were a pessimist, I would just expect the worst and not bother to imagine the best outcome or try to change things for the better.

Not convinced that I sound optimistic?  Here’s a theoretical example of how a person with an anxiety disorder could be viewed as an optimist.  Back in December of 2012, the date of the Mayan Prophesy (12-21-2012) was fast approaching, of which one possible outcome could have been a zombie apocalypse.  A pessimist would assume that they would be “zombified” or eaten pretty early on and would do nothing to prepare.  A person with an anxiety disorder might (hypothetically) begin stocking up on water and canned food, gather tools and farming equipment that could be used as weapons, and buy several books about survival and “living off the land”.  This (hypothetical) person with anxiety assumed that they would not only survive the zombie invasion, but live long enough to go through all their food rations and begin hunting, fishing, and gardening for survival.  In my opinion, that is amazingly optimistic.

I haven’t mentioned “the realist” yet in this scenario.  The realist would know a zombie apocalypse was not coming because the whole idea is ridiculous and would not waste time and money preparing for it.  I know a lot of realists.  They are super-nice people, but sometimes they aren’t much fun at parties what with all their “It is what it is” and “Bigfoot doesn’t exist” talk.

So I’m not a pessimist or a realist, but the term “optimist” just doesn’t fit me.  I am NOT an “Always look on the bright side of life” sort of person.  At all.  Really.  I would say that I’m practical, and I use all my knowledge and abilities to prepare for situations that may or may not arise (no matter how unlikely those situations may indeed be).  I guess that makes me a pragmatist.

One final thought from this semi-optimistic pragmatist with an anxiety disorder: Always remember the story of the ant and the grasshopper.  The ant spent the whole summer gathering food and preparing for the winter.  When winter arrived, he survived.  The grasshopper spent the whole summer happily singing and hopping around without a care in the world and didn’t prepare for winter.  When the winter arrived, he was eaten by zombies.

Home – “Bringing Home Baby – Extreme Adrenaline Edition”

Published March 16, 2014 by Jen Rosado from MyAlternateUniv

I would be remiss if in all my “baby-themed” posts I didn’t mention the TLC reality show, “Bringing Home Baby” at least once.  Toward the end of my pregnancy, I watched this show every afternoon, sometimes several if they were having a marathon.  For anyone who hasn’t seen it:  In the beginning of the show you are introduced to a couple, usually pregnant with their first child.  A camera crew follows the couple through the labor, the ride home with their new baby, and the first few days adjusting to home life.  To a pregnant lady, it’s good stuff.

I mention this show because if camera crews had been there for our exit from the hospital, it would have been unlike any episode of “Bringing Home Baby” I ever saw.

As I wrote in previous posts, my son had complications at birth that required care in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).  He had aspirated fluid during labor and required oxygen through a tube in his nose and medications to clear out his lungs.  We were told he would not be allowed to leave the hospital until the oxygen tube was removed.

That was before they discovered our baby’s mutant powers:  a superhuman ability to resist sleep and an extremely volatile temperament.  (OK, so they weren’t X-Men worthy powers, but they were impressive nonetheless.)

The morning we arrived to find the oxygen had been removed, we were so excited.  We were all going home!  Since our boy was no longer attached to the oxygen equipment, the nurse said we could spend some time with him in the “pumping” room, away from the noise of the NICU.  I was so happy to hold him without the fear of pulling any important tubes and wires.  It was the closest we had gotten to “skin-to-skin” since his birth 10 days before.

My husband was snapping pictures when the NICU doctor stepped in.  After introducing himself and making brief small talk, he asked a rather odd question, “Did you take any drugs while you were pregnant, legal or otherwise?’

I think I might have laughed.  Now that I had been living in my new alternate universe for over a week, I was getting a little more accustomed to the unpredictable nature of this place.  My alter ego in Universe A would have never been asked that question.

“No.  No drugs or alcohol.  And I only took the over the counter medicine my doc said was safe for pregnancy.  Why?”

The doctor apologized and explained that even though the oxygen had been removed, our baby would have to remain in the NICU for observation because of his extreme temperament.  My boy hardly slept, and when he did sleep he would wake up screaming and crying so loud he would wake the other babies.  The nurses were spending a great deal of time holding and rocking him when I wasn’t there to soothe him.

Let’s step back for a moment.  My boy had been so comfortable and happy in his safe, cozy, quiet womb that he had gone ten days past his due date.  During labor, he refused to come out, apparently holding on for dear life to one of my internal organs (a kidney, maybe?).  When he was finally forced into this world, instead of being held lovingly by his mom, he was rushed to the NICU and put on oxygen and IV drips, surrounded by bright lights, beeping equipment, crying babies, chatting nurses and doctors…not to mention the fact that he was being poked for blood work every few hours.

My baby wasn’t withdrawing from drugs.  My baby was PISSED OFF.  And rightly so!  My heart ached for him and his obvious distress, and I longed to take my little guy home to our calm, quiet house where I could hold him, and hug him, and love him – make him feel safe and comfortable again.

But my boy remained in the NICU being observed and monitored for six more days.  To rule out food allergies, they tried different kinds of formulas.  They also ran more tests to be sure that his lungs were indeed clear, and that there wasn’t a medical reason for his fussiness.  An observation chart was filled in, recording when my boy slept and what his temperament was upon waking.

To make him more comfortable, the nurses kept the lights low, and the curtains were drawn in his area.  Someone brought in a small radio to play classical music and a newborn-sized baby swing to rock him when he was upset.  They wrapped him up tight like a burrito in his receiving blankets and surrounded him with a beanbag snake-looking thing when he was in his bassinet to give him the sensation of being held.  It eased my anxiety to see how much care and loving attention they were giving my son.

Things improved a little when they switched him to the most hypoallergenic formula, and I guess at that point they figured they had done all they could.  It was clear he was not withdrawing from drugs.  We was a very fussy, “high maintenance” baby, who maybe had colic.  They wished us luck and said we could take him home.

My husband brought in the car seat, and I carefully un-swaddled our baby burrito so he could be positioned and buckled in correctly.  The moment I placed him in his seat, he started screaming.  Try as we might, we couldn’t get him to calm down, and I wondered how we would ever get him out of the hospital and into the parking garage.  Seeing an empty supply cart, the nurse had an idea:  Place the car seat on the cart and wheel the baby through the hallways – perhaps the movement would soothe him until we could get him to the car.

We discussed the best route to the garage, the path of least resistance.  This was starting to feel more like a jailbreak than a “Bringing Home Baby” episode.

With our screaming baby in the car seat on top, we positioned ourselves around the cart and started to move.  We started slowly.  Our wide-eyed boy, soothed by the movement, quieted down.  But as the halls became noisier he started howling again, so we decided to move a little faster.  Once again, the pace calmed him.  Anytime we were forced to slow down, though, our boy wailed in protest.

We were starting to attract attention from curious on-lookers.

“Let’s just get to the parking garage,” I muttered.

By now we were moving at a pretty good clip, somewhere between a brisk walk and a light jog, which our boy seemed to like.  My husband was positioned in front and acted as our lookout at each intersection so that we didn’t take out some poor, unsuspecting elderly person who had the misfortune to amble out in front of us.  The nurse pushed the cart from the back.  I stayed beside my baby, steadying the seat and holding his little hand, reassuring him with little “shushes”.

Now people were REALLY staring.  We didn’t care, though, because we had caught site of the parking garage.  Almost there!

And then – maybe it was the excitement, or the movement of the cart, or all the crying and howling – our baby spit up all over himself.  We stopped the cart just a few feet from the door, and my husband ran to get the car.  I was bawling my eyes out right along with my baby, and the nurse did the best she could to calm me down as she helped me clean him.

When the car seat was finally snapped into its base in the car, the baby stopped crying.  I stopped crying too.  The nurse, looking exhausted and a little disheveled, gave me a reassuring hug goodbye.

As we drove away from the hospital where we had been for 18 days, I felt free.  We were going home with our boy, and everything would be great.  He would adjust to our peaceful home and abandon his volatile, mutant superpowers for a happier, more content temperament, and I would bask in the bliss of motherhood.

But what any sci-fi movie or comic book fan can tell you is that mutant superpowers don’t just go away…

Breast-Feeding – Genes and Boobs

Published March 10, 2014 by Jen Rosado from MyAlternateUniv

A month before my son was born, I chatted with friends about when I would be returning to work.  Since I was an “older mom” and this might be my only child, I wanted to stay home as long as possible and enjoy it.  My husband and I had made the decision to live on one income, and, since we both made pretty much the same yearly salary, this literally would chop our household income in half.

No problem.  We had paid off both cars and all of our student loans and cancelled cable. It would be lean living for a while, paycheck to paycheck, but it would only be for a year or two.  And the only expense the baby would bring in the beginning would be about $40 a month in diapers, because…

I was going to breast-feed.

This was part of the plan, and I had no doubts that I would make it work.  As I talked to my friends, many of whom had been unable to breast-feed for various reasons, I shrugged and played it all nonchalant, “I’ll try.  If it doesn’t work, we’ll do formula.”

But secretly, I was thinking, “Hell, no.  I am totally going to make this work.  It’s the food nature intended for my baby.  It’s the best thing for him.  It gives him his immunity.  And it’s free!”

Where, oh where did I get such confidence, such certainty, that something I knew absolutely nothing about and never had done before would be a sure bet for me?  Two things:  my genes and my boobs.  My mom had breast-fed six children, so genetics was totally on my side.  And now late in my pregnancy, I was proudly sporting double D’s, thank you very much.  I was a walking milk factory!  How could I possibly fail?

Sometime during my pregnancy on one of my many visits to the Barnes and Noble “Parenting” section, I overheard a conversation between two women on the other side of the bookshelf.  Now I use the term “overheard” loosely, because one woman was talking at a much louder volume than was necessary in the quiet bookstore, clearly intending for the pregnant lady in the next aisle (me) to benefit from her wisdom.  She was extolling the virtues of breast-feeding to her friend.  She was insistent, even militant in her beliefs.  “Women just give up too quick.  Get a good lactation coach, and you’ll be all set.”

See?  That’s all.  Lactation coach.  Maybe those women who couldn’t breast-feed just hadn’t tried hard enough.

Oh man, I can feel the collective stink-eye of all my friends (and maybe some strangers) even as I type this.  But you totally know where this is going, so you can take some satisfaction in the fact that I will be getting my comeuppance.

While I was recovering from my c-section, my son was being cared for in the NICU where they, of course, were feeding him formula.  He needed fluids to help with some of the health problems he was having, so they obviously weren’t going to wait for me to feed him.  Two things about this bothered me:  I had read that once a baby is started on a bottle, it was extremely difficult to go back to the breast.   I also read that it could take several days for your milk to “come in” after a c-section.

Damn it!  I had to make this work!  I met with the hospital lactation coach, and we came up with a plan.  I would go to the NICU every three hours, give my son practice with the proper “latching on” technique, feed him his formula at the same time through a small syringe in the corner of his mouth, then go into a room adjacent to the NICU and pump – 15 minutes on one side, 15 minutes on the other.

When my boy latched on and found no milk, he was PISSED.  He also wasn’t fooled for a second by the syringe in the corner of the mouth and would immediately turn his head and suck on the syringe instead.  We tried this for several days, but each time just ended up feeding him a bottle of formula anyway.

Another problem arose when it appeared that my son was allergic to something, although they weren’t sure if it was the formula or the little bit of my milk he was getting.  They switched him from one formula to another until they settled on the most hypoallergenic formula available.  I was told to pump and freeze my milk until they figured out what the problem was.

On top of all that, pumping was not going well.  I couldn’t believe it – the double D’s were not producing enough milk!

Despite it all, I still worked at it.  Every three hours my husband and I made the 10 minute walk from the hospital guest suite to the NICU, spent 30 minutes feeding and holding our son, then 30 minutes pumping, then 10 minutes washing and drying the equipment, and then we made the trek back to the guest room where I would fall into a short, fitful sleep.  I…was…exhausted.

I tried to keep this routine up when we went home two weeks later, but I often chose sleeping over pumping.  The lactation nurse who came to the house warned me that I had to keep the 3 hour pumping schedule in order to produce enough milk to switch back from the formula he was on (which, by the way, was the MOST EXPENSIVE on the market, at $27 per canister).  But when the nurse returned the following week, I tearfully told her that I just didn’t think I could keep it up.  Maybe she felt I was wasting her time, because her response was a curt, “Then just let your milk dry up.”

It was like a punch in the gut.

That night, my husband came home from work, took one look at his weary, miserable wife and said what was probably the best thing he could have said to me at that moment, “Honey, it’s time to let it go.”  The next day, he packed up the rented pumping equipment and returned it to Babies-R-Us.

And you know what?  I was fine.  My baby was fine.  Our budget was blown, but my mom came to our rescue many times (especially when my son was going through 2 ½ canisters of formula a week).

And now, with the utmost respect, I must say how much I admire my friends who breast-fed their babies (and my mom, who did it six times and made it look easy).  It takes a huge commitment, as well as a selfless sacrifice of time and energy.  And given how many of us have tried and been less than successful, it is truly a beautiful and special thing.

But what I respect even more about my friends is how they never made me feel bad at play-dates and get-togethers when I heated up my bottle of formula and they nursed.  We laughed and shared stories, and we fed our babies in whatever way worked best for each of us.

I wonder if my alter ego in Universe A, who undoubtedly was successful with her attempts at breastfeeding, would be so gracious.  Considering my attitude before my son’s birth and without the experiences to know any better, she might have ended up like the bookstore lady – talking a bit too loud to be sure everyone would benefit from her breast-feeding expertise.  Knowing my friends, though, they would probably just smile and nod…maybe roll their eyes just a little, and love her anyway.

Fate – Messing with Humanity Since the Dawn of Time

Published March 7, 2014 by Jen Rosado from MyAlternateUniv

“There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable.  There is another theory which states that this has already happened.”  -Douglas Adams

Maybe you read my last post about my C-section and you’re thinking that it was just one stressful event in my life, so why am I jumping to the conclusion that I was nudged into an alternate universe?  While it’s true that I could write it off as a bad experience, my continuation on this unpredictable path has led me to believe it was fate’s way of shaking me out of my comfortable assumption that everything in life can be controlled.  I was now hyper-aware and could sense that there had been a great disturbance in The Force.

It got me thinking about fate, the idea that some outside force could play with the outcomes of various events in our lives.  I like to think I maintain a semblance of control over the capriciousness of fate by studying, working hard, and planning for all possible outcomes.  (And just for good measure, I always knock on wood, which disguises anything you say that fate might take as a challenge, like “There’s no way this plan could possibly fail!” or “This ship is totally unsinkable!”)

But perhaps I had gotten a bit too comfortable and sheltered in my carefully planned life.  I was in danger of becoming self-satisfied…an attitude that threatened to narrow my perspective of the world and make me more judgmental of others.

That might be the fate that befell my alter ego, but there were still more lessons in store for me.

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Birth – Alternate Universe via C-Section

Published March 5, 2014 by Jen Rosado from MyAlternateUniv

As I stated in my first post, I’m pretty sure this universe where we are right now is actually a parallel universe to the one I once inhabited.  I don’t know much about Quantum Physics, String Theory, or Hugh Everett’s “Many-Worlds” Theory, but I’ve read enough to know that this is a totally plausible explanation for where I find myself today.  What’s more, the “old me”, my alter ego back in my original universe, is right now, I’m sure, enjoying all the benefits of my hard work and careful planning.

When did my reality shift to this new universe, you ask?  Well, my adventure begins with a birth.  Not MY birth…the birth of my son.

Now, I know what you’re thinking.  You think I’m going to write about how, after months of anticipation and many hours of intense, painful labor, my newborn boy was placed upon me (skin-to-skin, of course, for proper bonding), and we gazed in each other’s eyes, and the heavens opened with the sound of trumpets, and we heard a chorus of angels and the sighs of thousands of small, woodland creatures, and my husband and I locked tear-filled eyes, and that moment…that was when my universe changed forever.

You’re thinking of my alter ego’s blog.  Perfectly understandable.

Because, you see, that is EXACTLY how I pictured it would be.  I can’t really be blamed for this image because all you have to do is read a few pregnancy books and talk to a few people and this is the story you are told.  Time and time again I heard, “Oh, it hurts like hell!  But as soon as you see that baby, you feel no pain.  You just fall in love and nothing else matters in the world.”

My hormone-addled, anxiety-ridden brain just ate this stuff up.  But somehow the logic side of my brain got a message through the haze and told me to prepare.  I attended birth classes, read several books on childbirth, took copious notes on color-coded index cards (in three colors – one for each stage of labor), and made a list of preferences about labor and birth to review with my doctor.  #1 preference:  Water-birth (Laboring in a big bathtub; relaxing right?  I imagined my baby swimming around like the baby on the cover of Nirvana’s “Nevermind” album).  #2 preference:  Natural Childbirth (Like women through the ages, right back to cavewoman days).  #3 preference:  Epidural (Just in case, if I absolutely have to).  Things I wanted to avoid:  episiotomy (I’ll just let you Google this one) and c-section.

I read about c-sections and saw the movie about it in my childbirth class.  No one in my family had ever needed one, and since my pregnancy had been normal so far, there was no reason to believe I would need one either.  As I watched the c-section movie in class, I saw that they still put the newborn in the mom’s arms right after he was born.  I was thinking it looked like the easy way out – no pushing or sweating or crying.  They just hand you the baby.

OK, remember that the subtitle of my blog is “Life Lessons from a Cosmic Kick in the Pants”?

Cue Kick in the Pants. 

So my day of delivery arrives (ten days late), and here is a brief synopsis:  Water-birth – not possible. Natural labor – for a while until Pitocin is given.  Then, holy crap, all bets are off – just give me the damn epidural.  Complications.  Emergency c-section.

The complications had to do with my son, and the nurses worked on him for several minutes before holding him up for us to see, saying, “Here’s your baby boy!” and rushing him out the door to the NICU.

No trumpets or choirs of angels.  No sighs of small, woodland creatures.  My husband and I did look into each other’s eyes, but any tears were not tears of joy but tears of “What the hell just happened?”  Even if my son had not needed immediate care, holding him for “skin-to-skin bonding” would not have been possible like that movie had shown.  Both my arms were completely numb, and I was having difficulty breathing.

This was not beautiful.  This was traumatic.  And it definitely was not an easy way out.

Some of you might be thinking – it turned out fine.  You ended up with a wonderful little boy, so why does it matter how he was born?  It could have been worse, after all.  Indeed, it is shame that kept me from expressing my shock and sadness out loud.  After all, some women can’t have children, or have miscarried, or have lost a child.  I would not even suggest measuring my sadness with the same measuring stick used to measure their grief.

But this fact did not lessen the gnawing, hollow feeling I had for days after the birth.  I couldn’t quite identify it until a friend said something that finally brought it into focus.  “Hey!  It’s almost like you never gave birth!” she said.  I know she probably meant that all my “lady parts” were undamaged (and I had avoided the episiotomy after all).  But now my feeling had a name.

Failure.

Did I really not give birth?  Can I not claim a connection to my foremothers through the ages who sweated and cried and pushed their babies into the world?

Of course time has healed this wound, and I can honestly say that no, it does not matter how my son came into this world.  And yes, I did give birth to him, and it was not “easy”.  Maybe the scariest thing, the thing that set my universe on a different course, was that no amount of preparation could have prevented or changed these events.  They were completely out of my control.

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