Photo from Mount Royal, Frisco, Colorado.

"That is happiness; to be disolved into something complete and great. When it comes to one, it comes as naturally as sleep." - Willa Cather

Saturday 30 July 2011

Week 1 with a new baby

Finally, I think, all of the big changes in the last 7 days are starting to catch up with me. After a lacklustre tempo bike ride, I took my first nap since Mattias was born and woke up not knowing if I he still existed or whether it was day or night or even where I lived.

If you had asked me just 3 days ago, I would have said I had never had so much energy; I had gone from having a huge baby growing inside of me to suddenly having my little, light body again. And that pregnancy brain fog was gone. And the swelling was gone. But, the truth is,I'm only now starting to appreciate the huge change my body has gone through (not to mention my psyche), now providing life and love for a being that is outside of my body.

The only way I feel like I can discuss or understand these changes is to talk about them one at a time.

1. Breastfeeding: less than 24 hours after Mattias was born, a large amount of milk arrived in my mammary glands. I think my boobs doubled in size in 24 hours. And Mattias was on them. But despite being "on them", he couldn't quite get to the right place on his own. He would peck and warble like a bird, as always, but without my hand there to fit his mouth on, I have to wonder if he'd ever find the target. (I have learned to sleep with a flashlight to help him find the way in the middle of the night.)

2. Growing Baby:

We had the standard Danish home visit from the infant nurse and she was quite pleased. She was amazed how quickly my milk had came and that he had actually gained weight in his first five days.

Here he is: examined and then weighed the old fashioned way, with a metal hand weight and a piece of cloth. Up from 2980 grams (6 lbs 9 oz) to 3200 grams (7 lbs 1 oz)!! The Lorax had lost weight in the beginning and was finally up to his birth weight after a week. I have trouble explaining the discrepancy. But I had been amazed that Mattias seemed to eat constantly.

3. Sleeping: I sleep between Mattias and The Lorax. SR sleeps in the guest bed. This has prevented either of the boys from crying at night and helped us both sleep relatively well. I do constantly have the fear of - "what IF I roll over on top of him", but I haven't even gotten close to this yet. Fortunately. And he and I sleep without a blanket, just to be extra safe.

4. Weight: I am, as of today, down 15 lbs. 3 more to prepregnancy weight. I am completely amazed the weight has come off this quickly, considering I gained two extra pounds this time. It took me 3 months to get down to pre-pregnancy weight with The Lorax and with only 16 lbs weight gain. If things continue in the same way, I'll be below within the next few days. I am well aware that previous eating disorders can easily come back post-partum. I see super thin women and I get scared. I don't want it to happen. Sounds easy enough to avoid, but if you've experienced being super light, you know how invigorating and addicting it is. Well, I'm not quite super light yet, as you can see, but feeling good.

Post partum day 5

Post partum day 7

(as SR kindly pointed out: "You still don't have a 6 pack." Will I ever??? I wondered silently.)

5. Running. Well, it feels awesome! And, as I've stated before, I feel as if I'm flying. But in reality, I can't keep up with women I normally could pass. And I definitely don't think I couldn't keep up with her:

(Did anyone else see Vivian Cheruiyot's 14:20 5000 yesterday?? Wow!)

I have gone on two runs that were between 2 and 3 hours and I felt really good in the beginning, but I get tired and dehydrated and hungry near the end. But when all or half of my run I'm pushing this, I guess it's not too surprising. I am planning to run a social marathon next weekend with friends just outside of Næstved, though I am doubtful I can run the whole thing. As long as I don't run too fast, though, nothing hurts (and I can hold my urine). I can't wait to start training for real soon. I figure I have one shot in my life at getting fast and that is in this coming year. Hooray for the doping effect of pregnancy.

5. Swimming: when is it I can start again? My bleeding stopped after just 3 days, except for a little bit at night when I breast feed. Anyway, I'm going swimming tomorrow with our tri club in the ocean (bear in mind the ocean is the cleanest swimming water available - in terms of development of post-operative infection anyway, chlorinated pools being the most likely to cause infection.).

6. Biking: this is where I shine right now. I can do tempo 35 km bike rides at a pace very close to where I was prepregnancy. Nothing hurts. It just feels great. And I've noticed I have developed this sort of fearless tactic. I no longer have a need to break going downhill and actually pedal to go as fast as possible - maybe because I just experienced the worst pain conceivable and I just can't imagine flying from a bike being worse :). Yeah, I wear a helmet.

7. Urinating. Don't ask, don't tell :). Okay, I've already mentioned it above, so, when I run or jump, I tend to wet my pants. I had the same problem last pregnancy and it went away. I'm sure it will go away again - though if you ask "experts" they will say running will make incontinence problems worse later. Well, I don't buy it.

8. Exercising in general - can you do that? I get this question all of the time in real life. One young woman was a perfect example of this: "My doctor told me not to exercise for 8 weeks afterwards". My response "well, I started exercising the day after and I feel fine. Waiting so long would just prolong recovery. I don't know why you would do that. I have the utmost respect for women who take time off from exercising so they can be with their baby, but if it's out of health concerns for their own body, it makes NO sense whatsoever to me to wait, as long as nothing hurts."

9. Developing a relationship with my youngest son. This is such a strange time in motherhood. On one had, I have this extreme attachment to this helpless, beautiful, cooing creature. And he depends on me for everything. And yet, he is a blank slate. I do not know him. We share no past and no memories together. I don't know why I expected my feelings for him to be the same as mine for The Lorax. (maybe because all parents talk about loving their children equally). But developing a relationship like that will take years!

10. My husband. SR is enjoying his time off, in most ways. He is, as he puts it, "getting into shape" and he has also lost quite a bit of weight. He is excited about the year of racing to come. But he is still torn up by the fact that he has a new baby, reminding him of his first kids, and is unable to share all of this with them and see them during all of his time off.

Right now he is outside playing soccer with The Lorax. He could not be a better dad. I could post a picture of him in the bathtub with the two boys, but it would just embarrass him. You all know how cute my husband is, anyway.

11. The Lorax. He is wonderful. And has been always stepping up to help with the baby, despite having a much more traumatic week than me.

I guess the Neko Case line sums up my life the best: "but morning finds you, still warm and breathing".

Not just Mattias, but all of them. I am thankful when I wake up in the morning that this is all real.

Sunday 24 July 2011

Finnbjørn enters our world

Introducing Mattias Prachthauser Høeg

Born at 39 weeks +0
6lb 9oz (2980 grams)
19 inches (48 cm)

He already seems like a calm, pleasant, strong fellow.

His mother, however, could not be described with the same adjectives during his birth...

As I described in my previous blog post, my water broke at 2am and I called my midwife. She told me to try to go back to sleep and meet her at the hospital at 9 am, or earlier if the contractions got going. Otherwise I would have the option of being induced. So I figured there was no hurry. But I called SR, telling him to drive the hour from Copenhagen and get his backup to take over his call. He was home by four and I was having irregular contractions and just couldn't sleep. I checked my email, posted on Facebook and Blogger, ate breakfast and had some good coffee. I would go from having regular contractions to nothing at all and nothing stronger than what I had been experiencing the entire week before. Everyone said "you will know when the real labor comes". I woke up SR and we talked about the day to come and said maybe we should go over to the hospital now so things weren't too rushed. But I could tell he was sick of getting there and having them repeat "you are only 1cm" (we had been there twice since my contractions has started last Saturday). He repeated "there is no way you are dilated if you haven't been having more pain." A few minutes later, I had the feeling I needed to have a bowel movement, but something struck me as odd when there was a little blood in the toilet"

"We are going to the hospital now." I said to SR. He obliged, suggesting maybe we drive. I drank a little more coffee and had a half of a roll and said, "my contractions feel better when I walk". So we walked.

Suddenly every 10 steps, I had a contraction that brought me to my knees. I started to make loud noises in pain, thinking I was glad it was a Saturday and my colleagues weren't on their way to work. We normally live a 5 minute walk away from the obstetrics department, but after 10 minutes, we were only half way there and while SR insisted he go back and get the car, I crawled into a mysteriously open back door to the hospital's linen department. I screamed like I have never screamed. THIS was pain no human should endure, I thought. And it would only subside for about 15 seconds at a time. I screamed and screamed like a chimpanzee that had been shot in the belly. A lady came out from washing hospital linens asking if she should get a nurse. "YES!" I said. Then another lady came up to me "What is wrong??" "I'm having a baby" I managed to utter (speaking in a foreign tongue had never been such a challenge). My midwife (who had apparently suspected I might come early) and a nurse ran to me with a wheelchair and must have lifted me into it, but I can't remember a thing. I also don't remember when SR got there, but suddenly we were in a birthing room and they tore off my shoes and shorts and said they could see his head. Despite it being way too late for any pain control, I screamed that they had better find something otherwise I couldn't do it. (But of course no woman really has a choice at this point). I had never felt so desperate and helpless - and later I would have one heck of a sore throat from all of the screaming.

My midwife, who is exceptionally good, thought quickly and got out an oxygen mask and acupuncture needles. Now I, who normally am a big believer in acupuncture, thought to myself "get your fucking piece of shit eastern medicine away from me. I want the real stuff." But I kept this to myself as she placed four needles in my back and put the oxygen mask on me - and suddenly, for some reason, the pain wasn't as bad and I thought I could do it. I pushed during the next contraction with a will power that seemed to come from a force inside me I never knew I had, and his head and then his body were out. Wow. And the worst pain, which I had, up to this point, never been capable of imagining, was over.

Unlike The Lorax's birth, where he came out and I was just filled with calm, happiness and love, I could hardly gather my thoughts as I pulled this new little baby up into my arms.

I had no energy. I felt so confused and in disbelief that I was holding my own son.

My emotions felt so inappropriate. Rather than saying how beautiful he was and crying, I simply said if I ever did it again, I wanted to get there in time to get an epidural. SR and the midwife had to laugh a little at this. Not the brave, admirable attitude they were expecting.

But then I started to gather myself again. And I remarked he was so pink and healthy-looking compared to the Lorax, who had been more of a gray-blue color when he came out. And, as SR held him, he noticed that Mattias could actually almost completely hold his head up. "None of the other kids could do that!" he mused. I had to admit, he was much more interactive, too, in comparison to how The Lorax had been. I'm only saying this because I figure it was because there was no epidural, no drugs and it went so quickly. Even if the epidural would have been better for me, having nothing really seems to be better for the baby (not that I'm suggesting an epidural is dangerous in any way for a baby).

We were in the hospital just over 10 minutes before he was born and then just over 4 hours later, we were home. Unreal how quickly everything went. I can't believe how fooled I was, but my contractions really never got worse than my false labor contractions until I was completely dilated and pushing! I will never know when the actual dilation of the cervix happened, I guess. But if you are pregnant a second time and your water breaks - DON'T underestimate how quickly it can go even without regular contractions!

Back at home, I tried to nap, but couldn't sleep thinking about our little new son and how I just wanted to hold him and look at him. And I was so excited for The Lorax to come and meet him. We had SR's family over for dinner and The Lorax responded to "his baby" with excitement and love. And I became such a proud mom. Suddenly nothing is more important to me than the relationship these two boys have.

I slept last night with Mattias on one side and The Lorax on the other. And we slept over 9 hours. It was wonderful. Mattias didn't cry once, but simply started making little warbling bird noises and moving his mouth towards my chest when he wanted to breast feed (I had forgotten this would be about every two hours).

I had tried out the BOB dualie baby jogger last night and it was so smooth and I was amazed I could actually run on the day I'd given birth. Today I ran for 40 minutes with the boys and did half an hour on the elliptical and a pulse class. Other than the jumping up onto the step bench (which I had to abstain from), I felt better than on Friday when I'd worked out last. And especially running went well. It didn't hurt. I wasn't short of breath. I felt I was sprinting effortlessly, though in reality I'm sure I wasn't going that fast. I never would have been able to do this postpartum day #1 last pregnancy (in fact, we were still in the hospital).

So I am one happy woman. And SR has some paternity leave so we can enjoy this time together. It's almost enough to make up for the fact that Andy Schleck didn't win The Tour de France.

Saturday 23 July 2011

Guess this is it...

Can anyone seriously sleep after their water breaks?? Mine (of course) just broke at 2am. Not only is it exciting, but it is uncomfortable! SR could not have said it better: "well, he just went from the shape of a beach ball to a turkey." Our little turkey. I just can't wait to see him!!

I just posted the big news on Facebook and couldn't believe how quickly responses started coming. Facebook is fun sometimes.

Right now I am having kind of irregular but very strong contractions between sips of coffee and bites of my breakfast (toast, if you're interested).

We're supposed to meet the midwife at 9am unless things progress really quickly. I guess time will tell.

UPDATE - The last three contractions were just four-five minutes apart. It's getting close and I am SO EXCITED!!!

The last week has been pretty rough with contractions for about 12 hours a day every day that were regular and painful in the back, but then they would just peter out or disappear. But yesterday, the infamous "mucous plug/bloody show" landed in my undewear and I figured things were getting closer. (it was right after I had returned home from 45 minutes spinnning, 45 minutes elliptical, 1½ hours circle training (high intensity training for the whole body) and a 20 minute run (this was after having been up half of the night with contractions). When exercising and my pulse rose over 140, I had a painful, long contraction every time. I figured if all this didn't start the labor, nothing in my power could.

Maybe it worked. Or maybe it was just time. It is exactly 39 weeks today, one day earlier than the birth of The Lorax.

Hope your day is less painful than mine!

Tuesday 19 July 2011

False Alarm Finnbjørn

I suppose I shouldn't leave you all hanging anymore. I am, after all, really glad I have this blog. And really grateful there are women out there willing to share their weird labor stories.

Though, as SR pointed out yesterday, "the people who write their stories in the comments are those with extreme stories. No one ever writes about normal things happening." Or do they? I'm not so sure. While I don't for a moment think that the women who comment on this blog represent at random sample, I am continually amazed by peoples' honesty and willingness to share - whatever their story.

So, clearly I have no baby to brag about yet. Otherwise there would have been a big, gleaming picture of Finnbjørn.

What happened on Saturday and Sunday was a relatively extreme experience for me, a woman who has led fairly a mundane life, and who thrives on predictability. Suddenly experiencing regular contractions at rest, I was sure I was in labor. And I wasn't mentally prepared. I cried multiple times in a panicked state. And SR dared to mutter the words "I'm scared", which were words far too meaningful for me to even formulate. We couldn't sleep and when we went to the hospital, right next door, we took the Baby Bjørn along, sure we would come home with a baby. We can only look back on it and laugh a little at how wrong we were.

Sunday afternoon, my contractions stopped. SR and I were alone at that time and took a nap, went on a run and a bike ride. I was dead tired, though. And my uterus was extremely sore. The other weird thing was that Finnbjørn kicked and squirmed like I have never felt before, without any rest for the nearly 24 hours I had contractions. I was concerned about him. It was almost as if he was in distress. But he calmed down afterwards, too.

Monday morning, I felt better. I went on a 30k bike ride, swam 70 pool lengths and then ran for an hour. All things considered, exercising went fairly normally. Then I ate lunch and the contractions started again. Every 4-12 minutes and some very strong. Some so strong I had to do serious deep breathing and started sweating. They lasted until around 7pm and then went away again, while eating dinner with my parents, who are currently visiting. I woke up a few times at night with contractions, but today there really haven't been any.

Today, I ran, went to Pulse/step/core class and uncharacteristically for me, used the elliptical. Raising my pulse simply makes me feel a heck of lot better.

But, what are these contractions?

Well, I think they are simply Braxton Hicks contractions of rest. I mean, it's not labor unless the cervix is opening at the same time, and I'm not really experiencing anything painful enough to open a cervix. (1cm open, by the way, just seems to be a very stable configuration for the nearly-ready cervix and shouldn't be interpreted as a sign of active labor). And why would a woman NOT get Braxton Hicks at rest? I mean, even when we are resting our bodies are working. And when we are digesting food, stressed, tired, dehydrated, you name it, our bodies are working a little harder and that may just be enough to start the Braxton Hicks of rest. Why some women don't experience them and why I didn't experience them during my last pregnancy, I am not sure.

As soon as I came to terms with the fact that it wasn't labor, I felt a lot better. I mean, I have been dealing with Braxton Hicks during exercise for months now, so I should be able to deal with them at rest, RIGHT?

But there is an element of pain. And the more I think about it, the more I notice it.

So I have developed some guidelines for contraction pain at rest:

- don't count minutes between contractions or do anything else that brings attention to their presence
- exercise as much as possible because exercise is the best medication for raising the pain threshold
- taking tylenol is a GOOD idea (because it least it takes away my headache and seems to lessen the contractions)
- remember, the longer they go on, the more your body will get used to them and the less they will hurt
- continue life as normal (this one is essential)

Now the big question: will I get so good at ignoring the contractions that I miss the real thing? I doubt it :).

In lieu of a running song of the day I have a running T-Shirt of the day (inspired by the very humorous Bike Snob NYC):

And once you're done laughing, a good organization to support today, to help the situation in East Africa: or

Sunday 17 July 2011

Trip to the hospital #1

Excuse me for the foggy brain. The last 24 hours have been odd. Or maybe just not something I expected.

Actually I woke up yesterday feeling fairly normal, despite not having slept well, for uncertain reasons. I went to spinning, yoga and then on a run with SR. I had contractions on the run, as usual, but this time, over the course of the afternoon, they just didn't go away. They weren't really regular, though, or painful, but they seemed to also come on at rest, which was completely new. When they occurred more regularly: 10-12 minutes apart, SR called his mom saying what was going on. She decided to drive to Næstved from Copenhagen, thinking someone may need to watch The Lorax overnight. In the meantime, I fell asleep with The Lorax at 11pm, only to wake up one our later with more painful contractions every 7-8 minutes. I woke SR up and we sat out on the couch, timing the contractions, which suddenly came every 3 minutes on the button. I was not in any pain to speak of, but my midwife had said I shouldn't wait until I had contractions every 4 minutes, because things could happen really fast in second birth and she might not have time to get there. So I called. The 1:30 am call no midwife is extremely excited about, I imagine. She asked me "kan du godt snakke imens?" "can you talk through them [the contractions]?", I said, oh, yes, so she said I should call when they got more painful. This was okay, but I didn't really think I could sleep at this point. I sat there on the sofa with SR, his mom and The Lorax (The Lorax was now beside himself with fear of what was going on and cried if I stopped touching him). 10 minutes later, the midwife called back and told me she was scared I would surprise her and deliver quickly and that we should meet her at the hospital in a half an hour. After we made this decision, my contractions got stronger, but further apart.

We met at the hospital at 1:50. She was super nice and chipper. She did an exam and said I was only 1cm dilated and that we should go back home and try to sleep and call if/when things progressed and I couldn't stand the pain. We walked home, feeling uncertain of what was going on, and then I fell asleep for 4 hours without contractions. And now, I basically feel fine, other than the fact that I am tired. Oh, and every time I move, I get a contraction, but not a rest.

This is proof that, at least for me, a birth can be very different the second time. With The Lorax, there was simply no doubt. Now I'm sitting here wondering: will it be today or a week from now? When in doubt, go for a run. A tired run in the rain. Exactly what the midwife told me not to do: just don't go run a marathon, now, SLG. But can you blame me for feeling I want to get this over with?

Monday 11 July 2011

Swedish Tissue

Everything sounds better, or perhaps just a little naughty, with the adjective Swedish. Even tissue. I don't really know why a sign for the company Swedish Tissue outside of Jönköping made me laugh. But let's just say that when I went to their website, I wasn't surprised that their products are made of exclusively "virgin pulp".

So I had hoped I would be able to say I had given birth in Sweden. A Swedish birth sounds almost as good as a Swedish massage or even Swedish tissue. But then again, there might have been some linguistic problems and we may have felt compelled by the spur of the moment to give our son a Swedish name, like Hjalmar. Plus we didn't have a baby car seat for the 6 hour drive home to Denmark (though there was that baby seat on the bike, attached to the back of our car. Those who have been reading this blog since 2008 might actually believe we would do this given the bike trailer incidentwith The Lorax. - I can't actually link to the real post since I can see I erased it!).

Instead, we simply had 6 days of vacation in Sweden with 13 other members of SR's family. We all stayed in one beautiful cottage in Rimforsa
Vis stort korton a lake, just north of Vimmerby, the home of Astrid Lindgren.

Piccola Pinecone had written to me a few days before we left, saying that a trip to Sweden sounded much more exotic than her trip to Toronto. Though I have never been to Toronto and I have been to Sweden, I have to say she was right. This area of Sweden is unlike anything I have experienced. It is hilly farmcountry with areas of deciduous forest and many lakes. There are boulders everywhere reminiscent of a scene from The Neverending Story. And about 80% of the houses and farms are red with white trim. For being a farming community, there is a surprising amount of wealth (even the smallest of farm houses would ope their car port to reveal a shimmering new Volvo). And if I were a farm animal, I would want to graze here. Like the terrible blogger I am, I didn't take any pictures. But I have since found amazing pictures of the area by photographer. Johan Klovsljö.

I was able to get in my morning running fix by waking up earlier than everyone else and traversing the gravel road between Rimforsa and Bersebo, which will be one of my best memories of the trip. I estimate I got in just under 50 miles of running in the six days. 37 weeks along and no pain to speak of - what is it that went right this time? It was also a really active trip with nearly everyone wanting to bike, hike, swim, play soccer, etc. My stomach issues were also quite a bit better, which made me realize at least part of my problem must have been related to my normal diet being relatively high in fiber.

My very best memory of the trip must have been taking The Lorax off of his little blue raft in the primordially cold lake we stayed at and watching him swim in his wings and vest. He was so happy and excited to swim with me in the big lake, and every little gap between his teeth showed as he threw his head back in shear joy. He had overall a wonderful trip, getting to play constantly with his four little cousins, two older, two younger. (as an aside, as much as I enjoy swimming in frigid water, I regretted not be able to wear SR's wetsuit anymore due to the fact that I had actually torn a couple of small holes in it under the belly- I feel so terrible!!).

SR and I also probably had our best moments out swimming and in the sauna, though moments alone together were too rare. It was a bit of a stressful trip for SR, having the natural role of leader of the big group. It is an odd and at times anxiety-inducing experience for everyone being in such a big group, constnatly feeling watched; even for me who didn't really try to organize anything. I just tend to be a person who likes to do peaceful things alone. One of my oddest traits is that I am uncomfortable eating in front of (or as other people might say, "with") other people. This however resulted in me losing almost 1kg and putting my 37 weeks pregnancy weight gain back between 7 and 8 kgs (though maybe the weight loss was simply due to me cutting out the soy sauce ?? :)) The 16 lbs I gained with The Lorax may thus be the exact same weight gain for pregnancy number 2.

I cried on the way home yesterday, thinking about the precious moments I had with both The Lorax and SR. These occasions are rare. I will never have another vacation like this with The Lorax - and it may be one of the first places he remembers the rest of his life.

Above is proof that The Lorax still really does use a Nuk. Yep, he is almost 3½.

Gotta admit he looks better without one. He is REALLY holding on to that poor chick.

I remind myself daily not to count down the days to the birth, but to focus on enjoying my free time with The Lorax and SR. Besides, my maternal instinct says that this birth is not going to be early like the first. I'm just hoping it's not over 2 weeks late; I don't want to have to deal with the decision of being induced or not.