The Labor of Love

I write this one week post-partum because I needed distance from the entire experience to gain perspective. They do not call it “labor” for nothing and the thing is, it does not end after the child is born, the “labor” of love continues throughout life once a child is born. From breastfeeding to sleepless nights caring for your child when he or she is suick; from hospital and doctor’s visits to sleepless nights wondering where your teenager is; from worrying about how you’ll pay for their education to sheer tears at their wedding, parents go through a lot but this blog is about the LABOR of love that mothers experience.

My labor of love has seen me through natural child births now- one two years and last week, my new baby girl’s birth. It was quite the trying experience and even though it was shorter, it certainly wasn’t any easier. I knew a little more what to expect this time and right down to the birthing room, I was comfortable with the hospital experience more this time than last. Still, it is scary and until your child is born, it is hard to know what will happen or what “turn” the labor and delivery would take. Fortunately, we got through this one okay as well. I had a lot of help and guidance and was surrounded by good people especially my husband.

But, alas, the pain does not end really after the baby is born – if you are having a second child, this is just the beginning. We had our two kids a bit close together so while our toddler who is almost two does not understand really what is going on, now we have introduced night-time feedings and wakings into our routine too. This combined with our toddler who has poor sleep habits makes for quite the hellish nights and leave us all looking and acting like zombies. For the first few days, I was ready to send our newborn back into the womb because it was a lot safer there for her and for me. Safer for her because our toddler is a bit rough with her new sister and safer for me because I would not have to face how tough it really is to care for a newborn and a toddler at the same time. But alas, my “labor” of love continues through the 1am nursing, the 430am crying of both children, comforting one through nursing and the other by letting her hold a lock of my hair. I know that dads “labor” too- they do things daily that show they love their child and make sacrifices but moms seem to carry the burden – from carrying the child for 9 months to labor and delivery; from nursing to staying up late nights comforting the child- nothing compares to moms.

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No rest for the weary

We recently had a hospital stay for two nights after the birth of our second child. We learned from our first stay two years ago how the entire operation worked so this time we were not just better prepared for the hospital “lingo” but also better able to handle ourselves at the hospital. Hospitals are no place for rest. It seemed that Murphy’s Law applies at a hospital stay more than anywhere else. Right when you fall asleep, someone decides to take your vitals, or right when your baby falls asleep, someone decides you need to undress him or her so they can check the vitals on the baby. What? Couldn’t you do that in another few hours?

Despite the signs we put up on our door even the hospital-provided ones, people still found ways to disturb sleeping, labored-weary mom and newborn baby. The first night, we knew what to do – “for the love of God, take the baby to the nursery already!” It was almost midnite. The nurse threatened us, “well, if you do not feed the baby, we will give her a bottle in the nursery.” My response after being a second time mom was…. “so what? feel free to give her as many bottles as you want. I am not worried about any type of confusion.” I was more experienced and wiser because of the last time. In the end, the truth is, bottle or nipple, the baby turns out just fine. And because of what happened last time, I knew better. Needless to say, we did not get much rest. I was in pain all night and when I was not in pain, I had stomach issues because there was no food available after I delivered. I did manage to get about 3-4 hours of sleep and I guess that is what I have to look forward to from here on out.

The next day was more of the same- they wheeled in the baby around 630am and took my vitals and checked me. We must have changed like 10 nurses and each one had their own thoughts and opinions on things and even though my birth plan stated not to ask me my pain level (1-10) every two minutes, no one paid attention. So they kept irritating me with questions like that all the time. It was quite annoying. Then, the signs went up – do not disturb, shhhh napping, but it made no difference. People would stroll in and out of our room like it was okay. The picture lady came by; the folks who run tests on the baby’s cord, and so on. It never ended. My doula came to visit when we were napping and the nurse always popped in and out. There was no end to the disturbances and napping was out of the question. That night though was the kicker. It was Oscar’s night and I was fading fast. I needed sleep and they were not taking the baby to the nursery. The nurse told us there were not enough people in the nursery and they were understaffed so they could only take her for 3 hours. I was going delirious from lack of sleep and at 1130pm I finally went to the nurses’ station and BEGGED them to please take the baby to the nursery because if I did not get sleep, I would lose my mind. It worked! They rolled her out at midnight and did not bother us until 650am when they returned her. I slept good and got 6 and a half hours… not much but let’s face it, every hour counts from here on out.

Hospitals are no place for the weary to rest. You would think it would be but it is not. In the end, you have to just hope for the best, put your foot down, and be persistent. I did not let them guilt trip me into thinking there would be nipple confusion or that I had to breast feed at night. I was not going there again and so I was wiser. In the end, it is how you handle the staff and your mindset that will determine whether you get any rest at the hospital or not. More importantly, communicate with the staff and do let them know your expectations. There is a lot of turn over so you may have to repeat yourself several times. Happy Hospital Stay!

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Medicine, Drugs, and the HMOs

Since I left the military active duty, I have felt the pinch like all Americans do of rising health care costs and paying for prescriptions. I also now incur dental expenses. In the military, the biggest perk was the free health care, free drugs, and while quality of care was relatively okay, at least it carried the right price tag- FREE!

Now, with a growing family, and paying $XXX bi-weekly to maintain said insurances – dental and health, it seems like a never-ending cycle- between copays, Rx copays, and often getting screwed by the dentist and doctors alike on hidden costs, it seems I am always paying for something. Heaven forbid your kid be a kid because if he or she falls, just pay your $50 urgent care copay and kiss 4-5 hours of your life good bye. While you control the quality of care under our insurance by choosing who you go to see, you can’t control much else. If the docs or dentists do not find a way to screw you, trust me, the drug companies will. Recently, for example, I learned that there is no longer a generic for Albuterol- the inhaler. Post 2008 the only generic for Albuterol was pulled because of CFCs – what?! We are the biggest polluting nation due to cars, emissions, and factories in the world, and we are concerned about CFCs released from a tiny albuterol inhaler? Are you kidding me? Another ploy to screw Americans and worse, kids. Think about it – if you are a single mom or dad making about $40,000 before taxes, and now your kid has asthma and you need inhalers all the time at $35/inhaler, that really adds up.

Meanwhile, Canada can still sell Salbuterol inhalers and they are half the cost. I am not sure what these drug companies are thinking. I also hate that I have to pay a $20 copay to go see a doc just so I can get a script for something I could diagnose myself with. Why can’t I find more drugs on the open market like penicillin, or even inhalers? They are for personal limited use and trust me, abuse would be minimal if things were more readily available. The thing is – the kids that are gonna abuse drugs like cough syrup, they will continue to abuse anything- but why are we preventing 95% of the population from getting care and drugs they need just because of the few. I do not get it – wait, I do. It is all about profit, all about the bottom line and in America, it is not about the patient, the child or the sick old lady with cancer…. it truly is about the drug companies making their money, the doctor getting his or copay even though they do nothing, and the HMOs and PPOs getting their money too. In the end, who gets squeezed? The consumer- the American who is working hard, paying their premiums, and copays only to discover they really cannot afford the medicine their child needs or they need to get better. So they get sicker, or contract other diseases, and then who ends up paying when they have to rely on the State? You guessed it! The consumer – because the insurance companies will pass the cost on to them, and so will the Government through taxes. The drug companies and doctors don’t care about the patient but are more interested in getting paid as well.

I hope something can be done to overhaul our current system in America because there is no doubt it is broken. Unless you are serving in the nation’s military, you are probably an America who is getting squeezed by the doctors, the drug companies, and the insurance companies, so, it is time for change in our health care system and while I do not believe Government is the answer to all, I think the Government does need to clean up the mess… not by taking it over but rather, by regulating the industry better and perhaps passing laws to make meds more readily available which will open up generics. Perhaps passing laws to regulate the health and drug industry will help and we deifnitely more options in healthcare so companies can clean up their act if they want your business or your employer’s business.

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Loving Two Equally- is it possible?

I write this on my estimated due date of our second baby. It is amazing to think that any moment now, we will have a second child in our home and a helpless little infant at that. We have a 21-month old at home too and she is getting to the age where she has attitude and wants everything her way. Well, I suppose she will get a rude awakening any day now. It is not going to be easy and as I prepare myself mentally and physically for labor and delivery, I sometimes fail to appreciate the concept of spreading your love and affection and care giving for two children. Right now, it seems very daunting to me. I do not know how I will do it and I begin to wonder… can you truly love both children equally? Or, are you loving them both but in different ways. I know we will be comparing this new baby to how our first child was as a baby or as he or she goes through stages, we will probably think to ourselves, this is easier or harder than the first, but I also wonder, will I be able to balance my time, love, and affection, and attention for both?

It is hard enough right now to care for one and tend to her needs which seem plentiful – feeding, diapering, educational toys and books, disciplining, and play-time and outdoors time. Obviously, you also have to take out time to potty train, read, and break horrible habits like the bottle and pacifier. That takes its toll too. And with the arrival of an infant, while you do not need to spend time and energy reading, educating, disciplining, or worrying about playtime and outdoors time, you still have feeding (nursing for the first several months to year) and diapering. Then, there are tough times for all families when the child or parents are ill, doctor’s visits and of course, as the child grows, develops and starts becoming mobile, cuts, bruises and other bo-bo’s to deal with. In essence, you have to focus on both kids and where they should be at a particular age or developmental cycle in their lives and of course, no two kids are the same so what worked for one will not work for the other. Conversely, you could end up lucky and the first child could be super helpful and start helping with the younger one as they age together. In the end, I still worry whether I will be able to love them both equally or how will I treat them. I am looking forward to the adventure but a bit nervous too. Stay tuned as I report my findings back to you in a few months.

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How soon do you share the news?

Lately as a result of technology like email, blogs, and facebook, I am learning of friends’ pregnancies. While it is cool to learn of my close friends’ pregnancies around 12 weeks or so (since we share many things), it is odd to learn of others’ pregnancies through a posting on facebook only to find out that their due dates are 9or more months out. I guess I am being judgmental when I write this blog but after my first experience with pregnancy (which ended in a blighted ova or no pregnancy at all), I feel that sharing too much too soon with too many can be risky. I always wish the person who shares their pregnancy news well but I often wonder how early you should share the news with distant friends. It is one thing to share news with family and close relatives but through a technological medium like facebook, is it appropriate to share pregnancy news at 4 weeks, 8 weeks, or even 10 weeks? What if the person has had the misfortune of miscarriage once or twice before?

Needless to say, I am not judging but only making an observation and while I admire those who are confident and can share early, I know for me, it was news I did not share with distant friends or colleagues until 16 weeks. On my second time, I started showing by 3 months so it was becoming harder and harder to hide after 12 weeks. Another “Friend” on facebook also shared pics of her nursery bedding. They have already ordered it and they are more than 8 months out. With my first, I did not even shop until after 6-7 months because I was worried I would jinx something. I guess I am always nervous and a bit superstitious and it is refreshing to see others who are not. For me, I would not share or feel comfortable sharing til after 12 weeks even with family. Definitely, I would not share anything until after the first ultrasound at 8 weeks because once you see the heartbeat the chance for miscarriage is greatly reduced but it is refreshing to see others confident and uninhibited. I suppose they are just leaving it all to God which is fine too.

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