Friday, November 28, 2008


There were two things I was sure of going into this pregnancy: we were going to use cloth diapers and I was going to nurse my son for at least six months. The cloth diapers have gone off without a hitch, but the nursing has been one hell of a fight.

From the moment Fry was born, things seemed to be against us. Because of his low sugar level, he was given artificial milk within an hour of his birth, and even though I got to nurse him first, things went right downhill from there. I had very little encouragement from the nurses and midwives in the hospital, who told me not to hold out hope when my milk didn't come in on the third day after his birth, or when it did come in the next day but they told me to keep giving him "compliments" of artificial milk, or when they told me to stop altogether when they were afraid I had an infection that could be passed on to him. When I started pumping and dumping, I actually had one night nurse try to console me with, "Don't worry, it will dry up soon," as she obviously thought I was pumping because I didn't want to nurse at all. Then when Fry wouldn't nurse because of the taste of the antibiotic in my milk, they told me he'd probably never take the breast again since I had to stay on the antibiotic for ten days.

I was really lucky to have a midwife here in Tiny Town that was very encouraging and many friends with a lot of nursing experience (and even a couple that are studying to become nursing consultants!) who gave me loads of helpful advice and cheered me on. But this week, I lost the fight. After the nth day of a vicious cycle of nursing for an hour, taking a bottle for an hour, and screaming for an hour (rinse, lather, repeat), I had a long talk with the midwife and Stéph and I finally threw in the towel.

Giving up on breastfeeding was probably the hardest decision I've ever made. I cried as I said the words, but at the same time I felt like a terrible weight had been lifted. I had stressed myself out so much that I was probably projecting that on Fry as well. I know we made the right decision for us, but it still took a couple of days for the feelings of guilt and sadness to pass. And even though it's been a few days, things didn't magically become perfect; Fry is still colicky and our nights are pretty hit and miss right now.

In this holiday season, and this Thanksgiving weekend, we have so much to be thankful for, Stéph and I. I may have had a difficult week after his birth, but our son is in perfect health and is the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. We have a roof over our head and food on our table. When put in perspective, breastfeeding seems like such a small thing.

(Thank you all for your lovely comments! I will respond to the questions you've left in my next post. I'd like to wish all my American readers a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend!)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

one year (part three)

It's been a while since I had a one year anniversary that didn't involve something sad, but I nearly missed this one because it passed while I was still in the clinic. I'm very happy to report that November 9th marked one year since I smoked my last cigarette. Woohoo!!

Also, I posted a little something special over on my craft blog that you might like. Hope you're all having a good weekend! It's snowing here!

Friday, November 21, 2008

what happened next

You know, I was completely on fire to tell you the whole story of what happened the week following Fry's birth in complete and gory detail and why we ended up staying nine days in the clinic, but now that I've had some time away from it I can safely say that the fire has dulled down to a dull burn. Plus, I'm really tired and stuff. So here's the Vivi's Digest abridged version*:

Two nights after Fry was born, the day that I was getting up and moving on my own without having to call for help, and coincidentally the day of the US Presidential election, I woke up twice with a massive headache. I didn't think much about it and instead just sat up and watched Fry sleep (which any mother will tell you is better than any other form of media ever invented) (and also I'll have to tell you another time about Elections funnies in the clinic). Over the next two days, the headaches got increasingly worse, and the staff at the clinic were hard pressed to explain them, as they were accompanied by a fever spike. It was originally thought that it was a reaction to the spinal block but that was eventually dismissed. Things really went downhill one afternoon when the headache changed to a throbbing on the right side of my head whenever I went from a sitting to standing position, which was sometimes so strong I nearly fainted.

On Friday, the day after my milk came in, I was told to stop breastfeeding because they were afraid that I had an infection that could be passed to the baby. My milk was late coming in and we were still having to compliment with artificial milk so this was very discouraging for me. On top of everything else, I had to start pumping and dumping. I was put on an antibiotic, and for some reason they didn't have in their records that I'm allergic to penicillin, so we can thank our lucky stars that I didn't have a reaction after I took the first dose (when I was about to take the second dose, I actually read the package and called a nurse right away). Then I started a battery of tests, some of which I can't even explain, but included several blood tests, a urine test, a Doppler test the check the veins in my legs and an ultrasound. I was diagnosed with having had a hemorrhage somewhere around my uterus, which was not so dangerous as to warrant a transfer to the hospital but was likely the cause of most of the problems. Stéph and my MIL decided that I needed to eat more so they started bringing me snacks (I had stashed some cookies in my suitcase which until that time I hadn't touched and they brought me a ton of clementines). Friday night, the pain was so intense that I was put back on an IV and given two rounds of analgesics and an anti-inflammatory.

Saturday I was given a blood transfusion. That was also the day we started noticing a pattern with the headaches - they would arrive at the end of the morning, the end of the afternoon and the very early hours of the morning. Then I realized that they would practically disappear after I ate. The more I ate, the less intense the headaches were. But no matter how often I told this to the nurses or doctors, they said it was a coincidence. I finally got the IV out of my arm on Sunday but still heard no sign about being released. At this point, Fry had had his exit exam but I was still being observed because they couldn't explain the fever spikes.

Everything came to a head on Monday evening. I had been told all day that I could possibly be released Tuesday morning, and out of nowhere a very young midwife came in and gave me paperwork for a CAT scan I would have to do on Wednesday (since Tuesday was a public holiday) and I would be lucky if I were released before Thursday. Well y'all, I am not at all proud to say this, but I basically lost it. I called Stéph crying so hard that I'm sure he thought something was wrong with Fry. I felt so trapped in that room, with so much conflicting information in a culture that does not expect its doctors and nursing staff to explain to their patients what is happening, and I was on the edge of a very serious breakdown. Stéph took the initiative to call the doctor on duty and they finally agreed that if I could get through the night with no fever and without needing medication for a headache, then I could be released the next day. And while the night was not totally headache-free, I did get through the night and was finally released the next day. We still had to go back to Troyes the next day to have the CAT scan of my head, but even after passing one night in my own bed I felt like a new person and it was absolutely no surprise that there were no problems with the scan.

Now, over a week later, the headaches are gone and we are desperately trying to get breastfeeding back on track. I actually had the go-ahead to start breastfeeding again before we left, but the taste of the antibiotic in the milk was too strong for Fry and he wouldn't take it. I finally finished the antibiotics on Sunday and Fry and I visited the midwife here in Tiny Town, who is also a breastfeeding consultant, Tuesday. Right now I'm not producing near enough for his needs and we still have to use artificial milk after nursing but I have the support of some really great breastfeeding friends and I'm using every trick in the book so we'll see what happens.

* Which ended up being hella long anyway, sorry about that!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

French Fry's birthday

On November 2, I woke up at 7:20 am with a pretty strong contraction. I almost didn't dare to hope that things were starting when only nine minutes later I had another one. After a trip to the bathroom where I discovered that things were definitely happening down below (is that delicate enough for you?), I had irregular contractions for the next hour so we called the clinic. They recommended I take two Spasfon (a light over the counter medication that stops contractions if they are not related to real labor) and wait another hour. After tracking my irregular contractions for another hour, Stéph and I decided it was time, so we grabbed my suitcases and made our way to Troyes.

After about an hour on the monitor, the verdict still wasn't in. The contractions were still very irregular but the midwives couldn't agree on when real labor would start - one thought it wouldn't be that day unless I had a Cesarean, another was sure labor would start some time that day, but Tiny Town is far enough away that they couldn't decide whether or not to keep me. In the end, the OB/GYN on call made the decision for them. He felt that FF was too big and still way to high for this stage of the pregnancy and he recommended a Cesarean. Stéph and I agreed to it and everything happened very quickly after that.

What follows is a cautionary tale for those that think that Cesarean births are the easy way out and pain free. I'm here to tell you that this was not my first major surgery and I like to think that my tolerance for pain is not that low, but that day I experienced the worst pain I have ever felt in my life. If you're squeamish or don't like scary birth stories please be assured that FF made it through perfectly fine and skip to the end!

I should have known that things wouldn't be going my way when they insisted on inserting the catheter before I'd even been wheeled down to the operating room. Why they do this before the lower half of the body is knocked out cold, I will never understand. But when I say things went fast, I wasn't kidding - by the time Stéph had checked me in (with no waiting, since it was a Sunday!) and grabbed my suitcases, I was being wheeled into an elevator destined to the operating hall. I managed a quick wave and a "Bye!" before I disappeared.

Things went quickly once we arrived. The spinal block was done without incident but it made me extremely nauseous nearly right away. The actual operation happened so fast that one moment I turned my head and suddenly there was a nurse cleaning a baby on a table to my left! So French Fry made his way quietly into the world at 1:18 pm. As soon as I saw his face, I said (in English!) "Oh my god, it's Daddy!" and I burst into tears. When he was all clean and swaddled, I got to hold him for a few minutes before he went upstairs to Papa and the maternity ward while they finished my surgery. (Which is when the subject of the election popped up, it being two days before, and the anesthesiologist tried to argue with me that Sarah Palin was the first woman to run for Vice President, but that's another story.)

Unfortunately, I had a pretty bad afternoon after that. The nausea kept me feeling pretty bad for the following hour, but seeing Stéph's face when we made it back up to the maternity ward made up for it! He had some interesting news to share - the OB/GYN had said after the surgery that we had made the right decision to do the Cesarean that day, but it was my husband who eventually explained why - FF wasn't one week early, he was two weeks late!! If the fact that he had already passed meconium in the womb wasn't enough of a hint, the quality of his skin really drove the point home. Other than that, FF had gorgeous pink skin with no blemishes, a full head of hair the same color as Stéph's and was perfectly healthy, except that his blood sugar was a little low. I nursed him the first time about ten minutes after being transferred to my room so that he could be given a bottle right away to help him. The maternity's policy of always breastfeeding before offering a compliment (for those that wish to breastfeed, obviously) assured me a lot.

Not long after, the pain started. It seems that after the operation I was given a medication that forces the uterus to start contracting much stronger than it would do on its own. The problem is that my spinal block started wearing off and the medication hadn't run its course yet, so the next hour I basically screamed in pain while Stéph and three midwives stood over me trying to figure out what to do. Unfortunately, there was nothing to do but wait for the medicine to run its course. I remember the midwives discretely chatting at the window about the idiots practically running over each other for parking spaces four floors below while I nearly wrenched Stéph's hand off and Stéph cracking jokes (my favorite: Stéph: "You got the second baby out, didn't you?" Midwives: *moment of panic* Me: "I'm going to effing kill you for making me laugh you bastard!" Well, now I think it's funny). Plus they gave me a second catheter before they realized the pain was coming from the contractions, and I received a third one the next morning because I hadn't been able to do anything on my own for the twelve hours following the surgery. But FF! He was a perfect angel!

The next day I was able to get up a little on my own with great difficulty, and things seemed to be getting back on track, until things started going wrong again on Election Night.

Next time: Vivi endures a battery of every sort of exam you can imagine, more holes poked in her extremities than a dartboard, and finally escapes from the clinic after nine long days.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

DING! Fry's done

Just a quick note to say thank you all so much for your lovely comments welcoming French Fry into the world! Not only was Fry "done," but he was rather crispy around the edges and was further along than we expected. He is obviously the most beautiful thing this world has ever seen, even if he does draw a larger portion of his looks from Mommy. He is in perfect health and already letting us sleep through most of the night with only one wake up call. During our stay in the clinic we were often complimented on how sage (literally "wise;" used in French to described children that are well behaved) Fry was and he has been since we came home on Tuesday.

Unfortunately, Fry's birth was not especially easy on my body and I'm still suffering a little bit, but am getting better. Nothing permanent or alarming, thank goodness, but the nine days in the clinic that started out so well ended up being a terrible nightmare for me. Please bear with me, because I do want to write out the whole story, but right now I'm not able to sit at the computer for too long and of course I'm trying to catch up on everything at home as well as take care of our sweet boy. But I will do it, and soon! Luckily, Stéph was able to take some of his paternity leave this week, so he is here with me and has been an enormous help - especially making sure I get enough rest, as I do not make the best patient and would otherwise stay on my feet all day long!

A bientôt, more to come soon!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A teeny update

Hey everyone! :)

Thanks to everyone who left a note of well-wishing for Vivi and family! I had a chance to talk to her Monday at lunchtime (evening for her), and everyone's still doing well. French Fry was in great voice, and Big Sis had a bit more info to share. The exact time of FF's birth: 1:18 p.m. And if all goes well, they should be home on Saturday.

That's all I'll say for now. If I hear anything else from the happy family that needs an update, I'll be sure to let you know.


Sunday, November 02, 2008



French Fry was born today about 1 p.m. CET! A very happy brother-in-law called me today around 12:30 p.m. here in the east when he came home from the clinic to start making phone calls. He was 3 kilos, 550 grams (about 7 pounds, 13 ounces for us U.S. types!).

More info to come ... all is well! :)