Monday, March 31, 2014

More yuck: hand-expression of colostrum and addressing the lady parts

Today is the first day of my maternity leave.  And when I say "maternity leave," I mean indefinite unemployment.  That's a big topic that I neither feel like discussing today, nor feel qualified to discuss since it's only lasted a few hours.  All it means is that I am-- on this occasion-- not blogging during the workday.  Congratulate me!

The trick, of course, is that, while I get to nap as long as I want (so, so long), I'm also on a different kind of time-clock.  My due date is less than two weeks off, and Heather's done all the nesting-type tasks, so I don't have much to keep me occupied in the meanwhile (other than the napping).  More to the point, I can't go to the bathroom without Heather checking to see if I've lost any more of my mucus plug, and I go to the bathroom a lot.  If I murmur when the baby stretches my abdomen, Heather wants to know if labor has started.  The baby stretches my abdomen a lot.

We've been keeping busy since January with birthing class, followed by a postpartum workshop and a breastfeeding class, but all of that is done.  We've got all the stuff.  We've reviewed the exceedingly specific color photos of appropriate baby poop colors & textures.  (One option?  "Seedy.")  It's like there's a huge* pause and we're just sitting around till it's filled with a baby.

So to entertain ourselves, we've been trying to prepare in different ways.  One interesting thing about working with a midwife is that you don't have vaginal exams during your appointments.  Midwife Amy will not meet my lady parts until they're expelling a baby.  Personally, I'm not much bothered by those exams, mainly because I feel like she's going to see the V so very thoroughly when the time comes that there's no point trying to preserve my modesty in the meanwhile.  However, I understand this is appealing to other women.  The other reason she doesn't check, I'm told, is that it just makes expecting moms crazy to hear that they either are barely dilated, or even that they're quite dilated.  It's discouraging if things don't appear to be moving along, and thinking that they're far progressed but then stalling out is a problem, too. 

Checking My Cervix at Home
I understand the logic, but I can't quite put it into practice.  And given how many specula we own, the temptation to check at home has been strong.  Sunday, at 38 weeks and 1 day pregnant, I decided I was ready for Heather to take a look-see.  I was stupid. 

The thing is, I used the speculum on Heather so many times that I feel kind of a warped comfort with it, but I forget that she didn't use it that many times on me, so my comfort level when it comes to being on the receiving end of those metallic duck-bills isn't quite so high.  I'm pretty sure the V is more sensitive now, or maybe that's my excuse for low pain-tolerance, but, oh lord, it hurt sooo much.  Anxious as I am to know what's going on with my cervix, I rejected the exam about 15 seconds in.  Heather inevitably pointed out that I could expect some more emphatic vaginal discomfort in the near future, but I felt there was no reason to encourage it in advance. 

Hand-Expressing Colostrum at Home
Sunday evening, Heather suggested we have another go at squeezing liquid from my boobs.  We'd done it once successfully, then another time unsuccessfully, only the second time I'd started panicking that it could stimulate early labor.  Now, to the contrary, we were ready to see if it could get something moving (other than those tiny feet in my ribs).

Accordingly, Heather started squeezing my nipples-- oh, yeah, if you're squeamish, skip this-- and I freaked out because it hurt like crazy.  Whatever phenomenon is altering my nipples from pink & delicate to horrifyingly spaceship-like is both toughening them and making them super-sore.  Clearly biology designed them solely for a baby, because they have nothing to offer to anyone else.

We kept trying for a bit, but Heather eventually said something to the effect that, if she couldn't get anything out, a baby certainly couldn't, and "formula-feeding wouldn't be the worst thing."  As someone who has taken 5 hours of breastfeeding classes, plus read all the facts about improved immunity and lower risks of reproductive cancers, etc., it was hard to find that reassuring.  I mean, as much controversy as the whole homebirth thing produces, breastfeeding issues are only matched with sleep-training for Mommy Wars hot topics.  As soon as people found out about the pregnancy, they were ready to launch into horror stories of attempted breastfeeding (screaming, starving babies or milk that didn't come in) or casual dismissals of everyone else's struggles ("She just latched right on!"). 

I was very unhappy with Heather for the implication that I wasn't up to the task, reiterating to her that she needs to focus on encouragement and not so much on grim possibilities.  She responded that the elaborate bottle system we'd just ordered would probably be great with formula ("So it isn't like we wasted $100"), and I guess that was supposed to count as encouragement, but I wasn't having it. 

"Listen, there's a video about hand-expression loaded on my computer right now.  Pull it up and we'll try again." 

There was some continued, somewhat-heated conversation, but out came the laptop and out came the video.  It took seven-and-a-half minutes of a lady demonstrating the "press, compress, rest" method on a variety of boobs-- some of them even more alarming than mine-- to calm ourselves enough to give this another go, and I was proud that we were ready to put my mammary glands into action with only a few nasty threats.  (Dude, seriously.  That shit can hurt.)

Turns out, Heather and I are totally capable of this hand-expression business.  I don't know where Evie will land in the mix, but here's hoping for a 140-degree flared latch from our brilliant child.

*A pregnant pause, if you will

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