Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Oxytocin Rules - about bedrest

July 6, 2012 - Looking back a year. "Don't come out baby, no no no, that's a no no," my daughters would chant to my belly.  It would become a regular ritual when I went home on bedrest.  For now I was in the hospital and they were trying their best to be good.  They couldn't climb on me, they couldn't crawl on the floor, there were just no good coloring spots around if the floor was off limits.  So they tried to get comfy on the hospital couches, but their behinds slipped around on the vinyl, and so it got them all squirmy.  All in all, they didn't have much patience for hanging out with me, so visits with my children were short.

I missed my girls so much. I went from a fantastic vacation away to a less than fantastic hosptial stay, and we hadn't had enough time together. I had just gotten bad news, too. Yesterday my doctors said I could go home today. Today they told me no. The contractions were coming regularily, each day we saw some, and they wanted to keep a better eye on me through the weekend.

"Over the weekend things will present themselves" the doctor said as he ordered a drug to stop contractions.

I knew what that meant.You might have this baby this weekend.  It was his nice way of telling me.  I was stuck.  And a year ago today, I was a day shy of 22 weeks, still two weeks out from a gestational age of viability.

Even though visits with my girls were brief, a steady stream of other friends had been dropping by all week. So between the doctors, the nurses, my attempt to make something like a normal working life in a hospital bed, and the pleasant visits with coworkers and friends, bed rest wasn't so bad.

Friends brought me food baskets and books. My former chair, an avid reader, brought books that I couldn't quite believe he'd ever read, but that were just perfect for me. One was The Beach Street Knitting Society and Yarn Club.  Not quite the book you'd expect an emeritus professor to pick, but it was proof that he knew me well.  My gardening friend, Ruth, brought a large stack of floral magazines, full of off-season flowers and fruits so that I wouldn't be tempted to order anything or garden.

Christina came regularly. She's the sort of person that draws out everyone around her. You get caught up in her laughter, and her exuberant openness opens you up. She's a fantastic friend to have when you're on bed rest. When she dropped by, within minutes laughter would be ringing down the hallway.

It was through conversations with her that we discovered the oxytocin rules.  She would stop by and we would start gabbing. I was dreaming of a viable baby so of course the conversations turned to talk of babies,  family, birth experiences and nursing.  Or she'd drop by and we'd watch a movie with popcorn and fancy sodas.  But then, before she left, whether it was the belly-laughter or the talk of babies, my belly would start balling up. Every fifteen. Then every ten. Then every five minutes. "You're having them again, aren't you?" she'd say. "I can tell by the look on your face  - and you're looking at the clock again."

So we made up the oxytocin rules.
No discussions about:
1. Sex or romance
2. Babies
3. Having babies / being pregnant
4. Nursing babies
5. Spicy food

Any discussion of the aforementioned forbidden five would involuntarily boost the levels of oxytocin in my system, and I'd start contracting again. Within an hour. It was uncanny but it never failed. I should have realized then that my body was hormonally way too ready to have this child.  I told Steve he wasn't allowed to kiss me or think I looked even slightly attractive. Even a romantic sparkle in his eyes, and this baby would fly out.

Oh, a note: I never really tested out the spicy food rule. Just in case you wondered. There is no spicy food in the hospital. It's all bland. So I wasn't having any difficulty not eating spicy food, and for some reason it just didn't come up in conversation. Still, I added it to the list, just to be safe.  I didn't add "fits of laughter" to the list, because I didn't want to go four months without laughing, but I did try to keep the belly laughs to a minimum. No sense reminding those muscles how to tighten, after all.

So Christina visited and we watched not-chick-flicks. Anything that was the opposite of a feel-good romance. Like Buffy the Vampire Slayer which, for the record, I hated through the first season and a half. I would never have invested in it normally, but I was on bed rest, Christina needed to watch it "for research," ("So you're really helping me out by watching this with me") and while I found the gory parts boring, eventually they toned all that down and it got funny with witty lines and banter.

Best yet: teenage romance doesn't count as romance, and (other than the baby-eating-monsters episode, which I mostly skipped over) there were no babies.  As babies were everywhere I looked -- even flipping through the channels at the hospital wasn't safe, because they have no less than three channels dedicated to round-the-clock information about having, nursing, and caring for babies -- it was nice to be able to escape to Sunnydale High from time to time.

Lesson Learned: If your friend is on bedrest from preterm labor, drop by with movies and books like Ender's Game or Lord of the Rings. Something with no babies and no romance.  And bring games -- just in case the conversation accidentally turns to oxytocin-inducing topics. Best to have an escape plan.  "Yes, I agree, babies are sweet and cuddly and I love them too. Now, shall we play some Dungeons and Dragons?"


Today, July 6, 2013, I'm trying to stay on top of things.  11 days until Jonathan's first birthday. I need to buy a present, and I'm not quite sure to get. I'm  surfing for cute t-shirts. They are all a little more pricey than I'm willing to spend for a onesie, but it's fun to look.

"How long will he be defined by being a preemie?" Steve said as he watched me surf preemie t-shirt sayings.

"Not much longer probably," I said, "Just until he outgrows the preemie issues maybe?  I mean, he'll hear it enough growing up that we're going to have to drop all the 'do you know how small you were?' language because it'll get old for him."

But, honestly, I'm not quite sure what else to get.  A huge part of me is still so very proud that he made it that I want to still (while he's still too young to hate me for it) shout his survival story from the rooftops.  Don't give me nasty looks because he's so small still (true story, I've gotten nasty looks), celebrate with me that he's here!

What do you get a baby who has about half a dozen ages? Age: 1 year. Adjusted age: 8 months. Size: 3 to 6 months. Motor skills: 4 months. Social skills: about 9 months. We have difficulties with having him in his high chair. He's too short for his arms to clear the table part of the chair, so he can't pick up food and put it into his mouth, even though developmentally that's what he wants to do.  His hands are so small that even though he wants to hold his own bottle, he can't wrap his fingers around it well enough yet. So, what toys are best? It's hard to know.

Steve says "just get a shirt that says 'Mom loves me,' I mean, that's what most one year olds get."  Maybe he's right.  But still I surf. And you know what? It's kind of nice to find a website with cute sayings that say to a mom like me, "We get it!  We know this is a crazy way to have a kid!"

Top cute onesie sayings (from

  • Do I look fat in this yet?
  • Fun sized
  • Don't let my size fool you
  • No really... I'm one!
  • I earned these rolls
  • Once tiny, always strong [with footprints that say "1 lb 5 oz" and "23 weeks"]

Okay, I'll take a poll. You can help me with this.  If I can afford one t-shirt, which saying is best?

As for the birthday cake -- that's an easier predicament.  He can't have eggs or milk until he's one year actual (so 16 months old), but Steve's family is vegan. Steve is vegan. So vegan cake and icing and ice cream are easily done.  Except that I also need to avoid soy and nuts.  SO -- I'm also looking for good vegan and nut/soy free cake and icing recipes.  If you have one, you'll save me the hassle of pouring over cookbooks, so feel free to post a comment below.

A year ago I couldn't get hugs or kisses.  Now I smother my son & daughters with them.

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