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This Just In: Babies are Awesome!

Monday, September 11th, 2006

That is a sleep sack, not a dress.First couple days home have been good. Hank is sleeping well, letting us know when he’s crapped his pants and he’s going after that teat like a High School freshman.

His head isn’t all wobbly like some inferior babies and he has actually rolled over from his back to his stomach twice now. He’s so advanced, our doctor says he is in the infinitieth percentile, which means that he is clearly the best baby that ever lived and there will be no babies better than him in the future. We modestly agree.

I don’t really want to go into the entire birth story here, but it was long, a lot of work, and ended in a C-section (which as you may know was not planned). If you have a real curiosity about our war stories, shoot me an e-mail and I’ll fill you in.

Regarding Hypnobirthing: I am really glad we approached our labor that way. In the end, there’s not a whole lot of breathing and relaxation techniques that will get you through a C-section, but for all of the early and mid labor, it was really helpful. PJ was able to relax and control a good amount of the discomfort of her contractions by using the relaxation techniques we learned. I can’t count the number of times I said “Deep breath in…Lonnnng breath out” but it was definitely helpful. I really wish that we had the same success that Matt and Jackie had, but I think our situation just would not allow it.

Things I’ll remember:

The elevators at U of M Hospital all chime with a note that sounds exactly like the first note of “No Surprises” by Radiohead, so every time the elevator doors opened, that song would roll through my head as a mantra. “No alarms and no surprises, please.”
Our birthing room was huge. Like roller skating rink huge. Apparently it used to be room 13 and 14, but nobody wanted to stay in room 13, so they knocked the wall down and made it into one huge room. It had a terrific tub that really helped with the relaxation early on, and the majority of the nurses were really great.

After a considerable number of hours, PJ and I decided that her body could not go any further with just breathing and relaxing and she needed an epidural. Shortly after they put it in, her eyes opened and she said “Oooh, warm and tingly.” This was the closest I came to crying throughout the whole experience. To see her shift from hours of forced concentration and obvious discomfort to smiling and tingling was such a relief to me I coulda cried.

There were many occasions when PJ and I were the only ones in the room during the pushing stage. Nurses would come and go, an occasional doctor would come in and see how we were doing, but for much of it it was just she and I. That was very different than I imagined it.

There were two young doctors that I started referring to as “The Popular Girls” because they seemed really sure of themselves and would kind of look at each other like “What-EVERRR” when we didn’t want to have PJ’s water broken with the crochet hook. They were pretty adamant on it, saying that the labor was not progressing as quicky as they would like and by rupturing the membrane it might speed things along. We said that as long as there was no medically necessary reason for it, we were fine with her water breaking naturally. They were all like “Pfffft. What-EVERRR” so we struck a deal with them: They would come back in an hour and if we weren’t dialated to 8 centimeters, they could break her water. They seemed to indicate that that was not going to happen, since we had been progressing so slowly but they were all like “OK, fine. We’ll come back at 3 o’clock and do it then. Sure enough when they came back we were at 8cm and she had to shut her mouth. Boo-Ya Obstetrician-In-Training. Don’t mess with the Johnsons! 10 minutes later the water broke (“The weirdest feeling ever” according to a close source of mine) and we were able to progress from there.

After we had accepted that we needed to do the C-Section, they loaded PJ up with dope and and brought me some scrubs. When they set them down I said “These are O.R. scrubs” and PJ in her drugged stupor said “Oh, Are they?” God Dammit I love this woman.

When they brought Hank out of his fleshy prison, he said “Ma Ma” clear as a bell. All of the doctors and anaethesiologists laughed. Another funny thing: When he was still in utero, he would get the hiccups every night at 10 pm. He was borned at 9:45, and at 10:00 he got the hiccups.

When we were waiting in recovery, he was fussing. I stood behind him and said “Henry, this is your father speaking” which I would always say when he was being a jerk in utero, and when I said it, he stopped crying and turned his head to look back at me. Attention expectant parents: Your embryo knows when you are watching Scarface and can hear what you are saying you when you are having sex.

I am totally totally in love Blanketwith the standard hospital receiving blanket. You know the kind with the red and blue Italian racing stripes, made out of flannel that has been washed so many times it looks like it is pink and pale blue with the softest fraying edges imaginable. They are such a marvel of sleek graphic design and a perfect functionality that we stole as many as we could get our hands on. I may be waxing on about this because they hand you your newborn child wrapped up in one after being awake for way too many hours, but I really do love the way these look.

After the “procedure” we ended up in a room on the 7th floor that was set up for two patients. Luckily the first night we were in there by ourselves but the second day they moved somebody in. The good news was that they were really nice people with a good (quiet) baby and they didn’t seem to have any friends or family nearby to come and noisily visit them. The funny thing was that the U.S. Open tennis semifinals were on, and PJ and I are big fans. We had the Haas/Davydenko match on our TV quietly and as the woman who was our roommate was slowly shuffling by on her way to the bathroom, hunched over in her hospital gown with her hand on her back and leaning heavily on her i.v. pole. She looked up at the tv out of one eye and croaked “Oh look honey, Haas is losing to Davdyenko” to her husband. PJ and I looked at each other and our mouths dropped open. Apparently they were huge tennis fans and said that watching the Blake/Federer match was the only way they got through labor.

As we were leaving the hospital at like 10 at night, there were three wild chihuahuas roaming around by the ambulance entrance. I was not even on percoset at the time.

In conclusion: Babies are Awesome.

As I have time, I’ll try to put together a list of things that I found helpful, and things that I wish I had left at home, and now that Matt and I have two real live babies in the BabyRoadies Labs, we should be able to tell you which products rule and which ones suck with greater accuracy — Siskel & Ebert style (although we’ll have to fight over which one gets to be the gay one and which one gets to be the fat one).

- Zac

Make Lemonade

Sunday, June 25th, 2006

PJ and I started our Hypnobirthing classes and I have formed a couple of thoughts about it already (as I am wont to do).

If you’re not already aware of it (as most people aren’t) the concept is simple: Most couples approach the process of labor with fear and anxiety (and in a lot of ways rightly so: It is a major event). When you get scared (fear/anxiety) the physiology of your body causes everything to tense up (good ol’ “Fight Or Flight” reflex) and makes the opening of the uterus and cervix difficult and painful. If you can relax and control the fear and anxiety, the birth can be if not pain-free, at least not the huffing and puffing screaming scenario that most of us associate with the idea of childbirth. Matt briefly touched on it in a previous post.

First of all, I kinda think “Hypnobirthing” is a lousy name, because it automatically conjures up visions of corny magicians and some joker holding a pocket watch in front of your eyes until you cluck like a chicken. I wish they would have called it “Focused Birthing” or “Relaxed Birthing” or “The Mongan Method” (after the woman who popularized it). If you say the word “Hypnobirthing” at a party, you automatically feel stupid, and I think the new-age cheesyness of the name could turn people off before they give it a shot.

RelaxSecond, people who I know who are science-minded natural born cynics have done it and have had great success. Matt’s wife Jackie wrote about it a bit and in conversations with her PJ and I were very convinced (unless you were lying, Jackie. You best not be lying). We’ve seen a lot of videos of these couples giving birth and throughout the whole thing they are focused, calm, often smiling. There is obviously a lot of work when the baby is actually being born, but it isn’t screaming, sweating, “I Hate You!!! What Did You Do To Me!?!” kind of labor, it is relaxed and calm birthing with patient quiet coaching from their birth partner, often whispering in the woman’s ear. The babies are born (sometimes quickly, sometimes after 36 hours of labor) wide-eyed, not crying, calmly aware of their surroundings…not red-faced and screaming like what I used to imagine a newborn to be like.

Thirdly, I really believe it works after going through this simple exercise in class: Relax. Take slow, deep breaths. Close your eyes. Picture a kitchen. A nice kitchen. Somewheren you have been before and have fond memories of. Look at the countertops and the appliances. Feel the textures of the surfaces. Smell what’s cooking on the stove. Feel the heat from the burner and hear everything in the kitchen.

Look down on the cutting board and you will see a lemon.Lemon
A perfect lemon. Yellow. Waxy. A little stem on the end. Pick it up and feel all of the pores on the surface. Feel how it is cool to the touch and gives a little when you squeeze it. Bring it up to your nose and smell the tart citrus smell of the skin. Now pick up a knife and cut the lemon in half slowly.

 

Now bring the lemon up to your mouth and bite into it.
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Man oh man, my mouth salivated, my jaw burned and tingled, my lips puckered…and why? Was our Hypnobirthing instructor secretly filling the room with lemon Pledge? Did she silently squirt lemon juice into my closed mouth? IT WAS ALL IN MY BRAIN, MAN!!! The power of her suggestion and my own experience of what it is like to bite a lemon told my physical body how to react, and react it did.If I just told you “Hey bro, imagine biting into a lemon” you might go “Yeah, that would be sour” but to be relaxed and focused, and really involved in the experience made it that much more potent and real.To take this to its obvious conclusion, you can use the power of your mind and the control you have over your physiological system to monitor and modify your pain and anxiety impulses and shut them out to a large extent. I have a first-class bullshit detector, and I really feel as though there is validity and merit to this system.I hope our birth goes as smoothly as Oscar’s did.If not, I want my money back.

- Zac

I Put a Spell on You

Friday, May 19th, 2006

Jackie’s officially term as of this week, so we’re in full-on preparation mode.You're getting very sleepy... For us, that means lots of Hypnobirthing exercises. Call it Lamaze for the new millenium, Hypnobirthing sounds like a flaky New-Age-y kind of thing that involves patchouli and chakras. But what it really is is a form of natural childbirth that bucks cultural norms and can result in little or no discomfort during labor. Anyone who’s ever witnessed a birth in the developing world knows that painful births are largely a Western phenomenon, so this isn’t exactly groundbreaking.

I’ll be sure to deliver a full report as to the effectiveness of Hypnobirthing after the baby comes, but in the meantime, there are links to a ton of articles and a few video clips on this site. Additional info can be found on the official Hypnobirthing site.

- Matt