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Mia Lobel Posts

meds

I am not a fan of medication. I will rarely take anything for a cold or headache. I will occasionally take something for allergies, and maybe an alleve for cramps or post yoga soreness, but generally, I prefer to let my body naturally take care of whatever ails it. This does not work for major abdominal surgery.

All the doctors and all the friends who’ve been through this have told me to stay on top of the pain – keep taking the recommended dosage until I’m completely healed – about six weeks. In the hospital, when I was still hooked up to the IV, nurses would come in every so often and give me my “medicine” – some combination of morphine (just on the first day I think) and Toradol. After two days, they switched me to pills – one super-strength motrin and 1-2 Percoset every 3-4 hours. I could choose how many I wanted, so I generally opted for the lower dose.

I only broke from this pattern once. Once you’re off the IV, the nurses won’t automatically bring you meds at the allotted time. You have to keep track of the time yourself and call for it when you’re ready, especially after a shift change. Before I realized this, I waited about an hour and a half too long to take something. I only made that mistake once.

I left the hospital with a prescription for super strength motrin (once every 6 hours) and vicodin (1-2 pills every 3-4 hours as needed). For the first two days, I took the pills religiously. Then I started to wonder if the vicodin was effecting my (or the baby’s) moods. I was feeling especially okay considering the lack of sleep and general overwhelmingness of the situation, and Zeke was blissfully mellow. At our first visit, I asked the pediatrician if she thought the drugs could effect the baby, and while she didn’t think so, she suggested I could ween off the vicodin and just keep taking the motrin. So I did.

The first day off the vicodin was the worst I’ve had. It wasn’t the pain (though that was there too) so much as the emotional nuttiness of the day. I could not stop crying, and I felt all the craziness of our new situation that I seemed completely unaware of the previous two days. Zeke also seemed changed. He was fussier than he’d been before and I felt completely unable to console him, and unable to handle the situation in any logical way. (I would have blamed sleep deprivation, but Zeke had actually slept really well the night before… though I suppose that doesn’t make up for the previous nights of all-night feeding sessions.)

I’m not going to completely blame the meds for this crazy day. I know there are ridiculous hormonal changes going on in my body right now, and our situation IS overwhelming – that is real – for me and Dave – and Dave isn’t taking any opiates (that I’m aware of 🙂 I took one vicodin the night before and morning of the bris (the night before since it’s painful to get up and down to breastfeed at night and in my sleepiness I tend to forget to be careful with my poor destroyed abdomen, and the morning of because I though I could use it).

I haven’t taken one since. And I feel okay. The pain is still there, but it’s fading. And I still feel emotional, but not out of hand. Zeke has his good and bad moments, but he seems just fine overall. And I rather like the idea of having a few extra vicodin on hand for future moments when I feel like I really need it.

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the bris

I was convinced we were having a girl, so while Dave and I decided early on that we would do a bris if it was a boy, I didn’t really think we’d have to worry about it. Circumcision is actually a bit controversial around here, and there are some who see it as borderline abuse. A lot of the reading in our birth class was decidedly anti-circumcision, saying that while it used to be done regularly for better health and hygiene, it’s now seen as completely unnecessary an therefore should be reserved for ritual purposes only, if that.

So why would we, two generally non-practicing Jews, decide to do this to our little boy?

Other than a handful of cultural similarities, a certain Jewish “look” and the choice to celebrate or not celebrate a handful of prominent holidays, there are few things that really define you as a Jew and even fewer ways to assert that Jewishness. You can choose go to temple, you can choose to celebrate the Jewish holidays, you can add Jewish elements to your wedding or
other big life events, you can have a bar or bat mitzvah (I did, Dave didn’t – our parents’ choice mostly). The one thing you don’t really choose – you just do – is get circumcised. Dave and I both question every choice we have to make (in life, and especially with this baby) so it’s a little strange that we didn’t question this thing that is so traditional and potentially painful for the baby, but it’s just what Jews do. And even if we never go to temple, and only vaguely celebrate a handful of Jewish holidays (and celebrate Christmakkah with the Woulfins every year), we are still undeniable Jewish – and that is something we have passed on to our little boy.

Most people who have their boys circumcised these days do it in the hospital or pediatrician’s office, and this was another choice we had to make. Did we want to do this quick and clinical in the sterile setting of a hospital? Or did we want to go traditional and hire a mohel? We actually did a bunch of research about this. In the hospital, they strap the baby to a board, numb him up with anesthetic, and make the cut. There is no ceremony or recognition of the event – it’s just snip and done. With a bris, we could be at home – comfortable and warm and quiet. We could have our friends and family there. It costs a lot – more than I would have thought. (But then again, would you want to hire a bargain mohel? Don’t think so.) The mohel uses anesthetic as well (though he doesn’t wear gloves), and he supposedly does it faster than regular doctors. The baby is held by a family member on a pillow – surrounded with people who love him. There is a lovely set of prayers read in his honor – about being a good person, emphasizing community and education. And his name is formally “announced” to the Jewish community. Oh – and the baby gets wine! Deservedly so I think.

Dave and I had had enough of the hospital, and we loved the Jewish rituals that we incorporated into our wedding, so it made sense to us to incorporated some tradition into this event as well. We opted for the bris. And while I was completely dreading it in the days leading up to it, it really wasn’t so bad. Z didn’t cry any more than he does when we change his diaper, and he pooped on the mohel which I thought was pretty funny. The Rabbi emphasized that Ezekiel in Hebrew means strength (which seemed especially appropriate at this ceremony), and she talked about the friends and family surrounding him who would love and take care of him for the rest of his life. And then it was over – so fast – and I had him back in my arms and he (and I) slept for most of the rest of the day.

Am I glad we did it? Yes. Would I want to go through it again? Certainly not. But luckily, this is one of those things that you do one time only – and it defines you in some way for the rest of your life.

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the surprising power of motherhood (or hormones?)

Yes – of course this whole thing is tiring. And I know I’m supposed to sleep when Z is sleeping. Lindy suggested I try to nap at least once a day apart from Zeke – so I can get some amount of deep sleep – pretty impossible when he’s right beside me. So yesterday I tried. Dave had Z on the couch and I went to the bedroom, about 30 feet away – to nap.

Within five minutes, I felt a physical pain of separation so strong that I started crying hysterically and had to come back and hold him for the next half hour. My logical mind was telling me how ridiculous I was being and that this was my body telling me I was going through some combination of sleep deprivation and hormone withdrawal, but all the same, I couldn’t bear to be apart from him.

It reminded me of The Golden Compass (the book, not the movie) and Pullman’s description of
what it feels like when someone is separated from their daemon. That’s what it was like. Little Zeke, my daemon, my soul. And it occurred to me that I felt this way about a person I have only known for 5 DAYS!!

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First Days at Home

We left the hospital on Saturday afternoon around 7pm. We could have stayed one more night, but the pediatrician said Zeke didn’t need to be there, the surgeon said I didn’t need to be there, and so the only thing keeping us there was my fear of going home with this little person. I didn’t think that fear would get any better by spending one more night under the surveillance of Alta Bates nurses, so we left.

The ride home was a little traumatic. We didn’t have warm enough clothes for Z, we had a hard time getting him properly in the car seat, and by the time we figured it all out, he was tired, hungry, and just generally miserable. He and I both cried the whole way home and we were quite a mess by the time we arrived. (It’s only 15 minutes away, but it felt a LOT longer.)

Sarah and Jeff helped us get settled and then we set about making our new home with baby.

Since that first night, I have to say it’s been really, really nice to be home. Of course it’s difficult to adjust to a whole new schedule – all based on keeping this tiny munchkin happy, but despite the lack of sleep and relative chaos of life with baby, I’m so grateful to have him in our lives that it really doesn’t seem to matter. I hope I keep feeling this way for at least a while longer before the drugs wear off 🙂

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A Few More Pics from the Hospital

Aunt Sarah and Uncle Jeff stop by for a visit. They’ve been a HUGE help to us and little Z loves them already. He is clearly a good judge of character.

Big, big wonder in a tiny little package.

Napping in the sun. (We had an amazing view of SF and both the Bay and Golden Gate Bridges. The trade off is that it was about 100 degrees in our room – especially in the late afternoon sun.)

God, we love this boy so much already, and it’s only been 2 days!!

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Z’s Birth

Little Zeke was breech in the womb, and despite all our efforts to turn him, he insisted on staying head up (asserting his personality early), so we knew in advance that he would be born by cesarean section. However, we were allowed to wait to go into labor naturally, and finally, six days after his due date, it happened.

The following account includes all the gory details of labor and delivery. If you just want the happy outcome, skip to the next post.

I woke up at 4am Wednesday morning feeling crampy – like regular menstrual cramps – but just figured it was yet another sign that labor could be “any time now.” I slept on and off until the phone rang at 9:30am, and right after that, I lost my mucus plug. Yet another sign of imminent labor, but one that could mean labor within 24 hours, or 2-3 days. I called our midwife, Lindy, who said we should just come in for our scheduled appointment at 2pm that afternoon, and I called Dave to tell him what happened, but that he should stay at work. I spent the rest of the day sitting on the couch – talking on the phone, playing word games on Facebook, feeling about the same as I did that morning.

At 2pm Lindy checked me, saying my cervix was thinning, but since I’d had no contractions, I should just go home and wait. (Sigh.) I expected it to be another few days, but we got home at 3pm, and by 4pm, the cramps became timeable contractions – first about 10 minutes apart, then closer and closer until 7pm when they were about 5 minutes apart and Dave insisted on calling Lindy again.

Side note: I was in complete denial at this point. First, the contractions weren’t what I expected. I thought it would feel like a braxton hicks contraction – a tightening of my whole belly – only
painful. This felt like really intense menstrual cramps, very deep and low. And I felt perfectly fine in-between each one. Second, I really did not want to go to the hospital. I didn’t feel ready for surgery. And I had only started laboring a few hours ago… I figured it would be days of contractions before we’d be ready to go.

I have to interrupt the story here to say that I felt very strongly about experiencing some amount of labor even though I knew I would be having surgery. First – I believe in the benefits of labor for both mom and baby – among other things, special hormones are released that are good for both and the contractions help prepare the baby’s lungs for its first breath. Second, I believe that labor – in all its forms, medicated and non – is a kind of rite of passage for women – and I wanted to experience that at least a little bit.

However, Lindy warned us that it would be challenging to recover from both a long labor, and surgery, and once she convinced me that this was actual labor, we headed to the hospital, arriving at 7:45pm. I was very, very scared and thought that we were managing quite well at home using the techniques we learned in our birthing class, but despite my misgivings, the timing turned out to be perfect.

We checked in and were sent to a labor and delivery room – the same place we would have gone if I was having a natural childbirth. Lindy checked me and I was about 1.5 centimeters. I was put on a fetal heart monitor (standard procedure) and told that we would wait there until 10pm – 8 hours since I had last eaten. (They want you to have an empty stomach for surgery.) So I had 2 more hours to labor naturally. The nurses asked me if I wanted anything for the pain and I turned it down. I wanted to feel everything. And it was hard. But I did it.

In those two hours, my water broke. And it was filled (I mean completely filled) with meconium. Apparently this is very common with a breech baby as the contractions squeeze the baby’s butt. Gross. (I’m very glad I was in the hospital for that part.) The contractions got really strong after that, and when Lindy checked me one more time before surgery, I was between 4 and 5 centimeters. I never expected to get that far, and I was proud of myself. And I have to admit that as the nurses were prepping me for surgery and the anesthesiologist told me it would be my last contraction, I was just a bit relieved.

I wish I could say I handled the surgery well, but I didn’t. I can’t remember ever being so scared. (It didn’t help that the surgeon came our room ahead of time and gave me the run down of everything that could go wrong – protocol I guess.) I was shaking uncontrollably, I absolutely hated the feeling of going numb from the ribs down, and once the spinal took effect, I felt like I couldn’t breathe and started hyperventilating. Dave had to be out of the room for all this, so Lindy was by my side, trying to calm me down.

It was better once Dave came in, and then it was only a few minutes before they asked if we were ready to meet our baby. I felt some tugging and then they lifted him over the curtain and Dave said “it’s a boy” and I felt so many things all at once I can’t really describe it here – shocked, amazed, happy, relieved, still scared…

Side note: Lindy suggested we bring a CD to play in the operating room. At the last minute, as we were walking out the door, I grabbed Dar Williams The Honesty Room. I noted three songs during surgery – first Alleluia – which helped remind me that this was a happy event despite my fear, The Baby Sitter is Here – which made me cry (in a good way) and The Great Unknown – which I commented to Dave was so appropriate for what was going on at that moment. Good stuff that Dar.

Once Zeke was out (we hadn’t chosen a name at that point – more on that later) they put him on my chest for a few minutes. I really didn’t know what to make of him and I remember wanting to touch him but feeling completely restricted by the blood pressure monitor that kept making my arm fall asleep. Then they took him away to be checked and cleaned. Dave stayed with him and Lindy stayed with me. I was so happy that he was finally here, but we still didn’t know if he had downs syndrome – a question that had been in the back of our minds since we turned down the amnio many months ago. Lindy said she would go check (which probably took about 30 seconds but felt like an eternity), and when she came back and said that he was perfect, I finally let myself feel the true joy of the moment.

It probably took another 20 minutes for the surgeon to finish sewing me up. Lindy had written her midwifery thesis about the role of the midwife in non-emergency cesarean births, and in these last moments in the operating room, I finally asked her why. Her first son was born via cesarean and she wanted to make the experience better for other women than it was for her. Despite my fear and disappointment in not being able to have a natural childbirth, she certainly made it the best experience it could have been.

I met up with Dave and baby in the recovery room where we had to wait until I could move my toes and bend my knees. I’m not entirely sure, but I think this took 3-4 hours, and while I was thrilled to be reunited with Dave and Z, it was not the most pleasant experience. I didn’t feel great after surgery. I hated the feeling of being numb and I had the shakes. I couldn’t relax and was desperately trying to wiggle my toes and couldn’t do it. (I kept thinking of Uma Thurman in Kill Bill… she’s a stronger woman than I.) I was also super itchy. I was strapped to so many monitors: three EKGs on my chest and side (I think that’s what they were), a blood pressure monitor that did a reading every 5 minutes, an IV, an occasional pulsox monitor on my finger, and these crazy leg things that would squeeze my calves every few minutes – apparently to help prevent blood clots. I felt like the bionic woman.

Finally – around 2am, we left recovery and went to our postpartum room where were spent the next 3 days healing, and getting to know our baby.

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Welcome Baby Z


He’s here!

Ezekiel Lobel Woulfin was born on Wednesday, May 14, 2008 at 10:28pm

He weighed 6 lbs, 15 ozs and measured 20 inches long.

We can’t believe how amazing he is.

Proud parents, Mia and Dave

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