Monday, March 24, 2008

Who's Got P.P.D.? (Yeah, You Know Me)

I was prepared for many of the agonies of childbirth and childrearing. I knew that recovering from a cesarean would be no walk in the park (because I would probably be unable to walk) and that breastfeeding had the potential to be a chafing, bloody ordeal. I knew that sleepless nights would become part of the routine and the daily routine would become, well... no routine whatsoever. These agonies I knew to expect and prepare for, but the greatest agony of all took me by surprise.

My OB had mentioned postpartum depression at our first prenatal appointment. My prior knowledge of PPD consisted of a vague recollection that it was a factor in why Brooke Shields and Tom Cruise were no longer BFFs. A few mom friends had also eluded to the "baby blues." Baby blues my ass. PPD baby blew me out of the water.

I was sitting on my bed the first time I really felt it. I heard Benjamin cry, and I was unexpectedly seized by a tightness in my neck and chest, after which I found myself having trouble taking a breath or swallowing. Suddenly, I was racked with hysterical sobs and a bizarre fear of my baby. I was unable to articulate to my husband exactly what had happened, but it kept happening. That first week, I noticed it seemed to occur at around 2:00 in the afternoon, regardless of what I was doing or where I was. So in an effort to inject the situation with some humour, I told myself that I had a standing date with PPD. He (yes, I decided PPD had to be a man) kept our date for a few days, but then he started to show up unannounced at other times. Or, he would stand me up for a few days, I'd be left wondering when he'd call again, and then he'd booty call me several times in a row. I felt like I was back in high school waiting for some asshole to call me.

I know logically that PPD is due to hormonal shifts, personal history, and sleep deprivation. I'm also aware that Benjamin's rather rocky introduction into this world probably aggravated matters. His week in the NICU followed by an unexpected transfusion several weeks later left us worried sick and exhausted. Still, no amount of logic and reasoning changed the fact that I felt a compulsion to crawl out of my skin several times a day. What has helped is having a good support system - a loving husband, an attentive mother, informed doctors, and a bevy of concerned friends who refuse to act surprised when I call them in tears and tell them I fear I'm going to jump off of my balcony. And the great news is that it has been getting better. I feel like the Dow Jones - severely up on day, crashing down the next. Only unlike the Dow Jones, the general trend has been a good one.

Oh, God, this is turning into one of those weepy, maudlin blogs in which the writer regales her readers with boring stories about personal strife, huh? Time to segue into something else...

Check out how my month-old baby is already dancing! Here he is working out his best Bob Fosse moves. All he needs is some fishnet and a top hat. I'm happy to report that Benjamin is doing really well. The little booger has already put on 2 lbs in his first month, which surely must be one reason why he has enough energy to party every night from 9 pm to 4 am.

Also on a lighter note, can I just tell you that breastmilk is the most incredible stuff in the world?! It seems to magically fix everything it touches. Benjamin's got a stuffy nose? No problem! Just squirt some breastmilk up in there, and all is well! Baby acne? It's a snap! Splash some of that magic stuff onto his face, and the zits practically disappear! I even offered to squirt some onto my friend Jen's face when she complained her chin was breaking out, but she politely declined my offer. Well, let it be known that the offer still stands for you, Jen, and also for Deb, Yvonne, Lisa, Grace, Jeanne, Cynthia, Tara, Kyong, Nancy, Jess, Bernadette, Mom, Adele, Leslie, and any of the other wonderful women who have kept me sane this past month. Consider it my way of repaying each of you for keeping me off of my balcony with my feet firmly on the ground.

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Story of Benjamin

Now that Benjamin is a little over two weeks old, I have a bit of time in which to tell the tale of how he came into the world. Ok, not that tale, ya pervs... I'm talking about the tale of his birth.

The night before Benjamin's birth, Vince and I decided to sneak out for one final dinner date. I'm not sure why, but I just had a feeling that it might be our last one for a while. Unfortunately, the restaurant we chose for our last supper was George Petrelli's Steakhouse, a place we drove by frequently. It looked nice enough from the outside, but once inside, we realized it was an establishment more suited to the blue-haired set. As we were seated in a maroon pleather booth, I had my first contraction. I dismissed it as a stomach spasm brought on by our strange surroundings. By the time we left the restaurant an hour later, though, I'd had three more contractions. Flash forward to midnight, and we're in the car on our way to the hospital. Vince is trying his hardest to shift gears gently, and I'm trying not to curse at him through clenched teeth. By 1 am, the contractions are about 5 minutes apart, a nurse is trying to perform an internal exam on me in between each one, and I've now started cursing at her. Wow, how do women do this sans drugs?

To be honest, the next few hours were a blur - being prepped for surgery, having the cesarean performed, even hearing Benjamin's first cry. When they showed him to me right after he was born, all I could muster was "He looks like an angry tomato," a comment which has been preserved on video for all eternity by my husband. I wish I could tell you that seeing him pierced my bubble of surreal shock, but it didn't. What did bring me back to earth was when the nurses brought him to me in the recovery room, and he began to nurse from me. As I gazed down at this wrinkled little creature in my arms, he opened one eye and looked right back at me. In that moment, I felt my entire universe condense to a tiny space that contained just me and him, and I realized completely and utterly that I had a son.

Benjamin had a rough first week at the hospital due to hyperbilirubin aggravated by a blood cell disorder. I won't dwell on those details, but instead focus on a few other more interesting ones. Like the fact that he inherited my toes - long, finger-like suckers that could grab a watermelon. Here are a few other things that we determined he inherited from me:

His crinkly ears.
His vocal cords.
The dimples above the corners of his mouth.

And from his Dad, he got:

His wavy hair.
His lips.
His eyes.
His nose.

Yes, he definitely looks like Vince, which delights me to no end. What also delights me is catching Vince talking to him when he doesn't realize anyone is listening. I worry that he might be laying on the academic pressure kind of early, though. I mean, who refers to his two-week-old son as "Dr. Chan"?

Monday, March 3, 2008


It's my pleasure to introduce to you Benjamin Vincent Chan, born Saturday, February 23, 2008 at 3:14 a.m., more than two days before his mom's scheduled c-section and eight days before his official due date. He weighed a spritely 5 lbs 15 oz at birth and was 18.5 inches long. Right off the bat, we could tell that he'd inherited his mom's crazy long toes and healthy lungs and his Dad's full head of wavy hair.

I'll write more about his unexpected arrival into this world and very eventful first week of life in a later post. For now, I have to run to tend to the tiny dictator!