From the category archives:

Documentation

Happy Birthday, Baby!

by Esther on Sat, May 14th, 2011

in Baby,Challenges,Documentation,Sleep,Year 1

One year ago tonight I went to a burlesque show with great hope of finding some loving, sexy energy that would slide my baby out from his comfortable nest within.  My water broke during intermission.

One year ago tomorrow, I became a mother.  I’m sad to report that I haven’t been to a single burlesque show (or show in general) since.  I am happy to report the following:

Axelrod has been with us for a year.  He is amazing.  He is sweet and hilarious.  He, like the other people I am attracted to and love, is already somewhat complicated and layered.  He somehow manages to embody the adjectives slow, easy, feeling, introspective and observant while also being silly, stubborn, persistent, curious, and happy.

Today, while I sat and typed a gratuitous email on my iPhone, Niko cruised around our coffee table with a crumpled dollar in his hand.  Trying to get my attention, proud of his acquisition, he waved to me.  I smiled and continued to type while watching him from my periphery.   He reached the end of the coffee table, grinning, and took three steps towards me.  These are his first multiple steps!  He did them without any encouragement.  It is so like him to wait until we don’t expect him to do something, then get right into it.  He laughed, we laughed.  We all knew we were having a moment.

To prepare for those three steps, his sleep has been difficult lately. When I say “difficult,” I mean to the tune of hourly + wakings a night.  Every 2 hours, I seem to be able to handle.  Every hour?  Not so easily.  It is a testament to how awesome this kid is when I tell you that we continue to survive and continue to laugh with him for the majority of our day.  We trust that his second year will bring more rest to the whole family.

This year, I have learned so much.  I don’t know how to put it all into words.  I am practicing patience.  I am navigating the wilds of marriage with new added richness and responsibility.  I am learning, through my child, how to be more authentic and true to myself.  I am learning how to forget about an afternoon of stress and, instead, just go to the playground!  I am learning to let go, while holding together so much.

I never knew my heart could be so full.  I never knew that the simplest children’s books could make me cry so much.  I never knew how much one very small person could change my life.  I never knew that hard work could be so gratifying, or that something so gratifying could be so difficult.  I never really understood how much being a parent could change me; I realize that no one could ever know.

Obviously, I am so glad that we decided to walk down this road.  I love my little family, utterly, and can not imagine my life without this husband or baby.  I am so thankful to have both of those spirits in my life.  I feel totally fortunate.  Even in my darkest, most resentful moments (believe me, I’ve had many), I feel grateful.

Thanks so much to all of you for following us along on this journey.  And!

 

Happy Birthday, Axelrod!

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Hi!

by Esther on Thu, May 5th, 2011

in Baby,Documentation

We’ve just come from the most lovely weekend in Northern California.  We three headed down to San Francisco to attend the wedding of a a dear friend.  On Tuesday, we drove up north to see one of my best old friends from high school and her lovely little family.

There was lots of wine, dressing up, and laughing so hard that my jaw hurt.  Our little guy had a sitter for 3 nights in a row and made sure to let us know as we left on the third night that it was NOT OK (we made it up to him later, I swear).  We got to see friends that we have been missing for ages.  We got to relax a bit and remember who we are, away from the lists and chugging every-day responsibilities.

I was able to meditate on what I need to work on creatively in order to feel as if I’m being the best possible expression of myself.  This last difficult (and still sleepless) winter has been hard on my body and mind.  I have honestly been feeling stagnated and stressed.  Prior to our short trip away, I had already been wondering about how to challenge myself to rise again to the occasion of celebrating life.

And then a little something happened…. Or, well, many MANY little somethings happened… but one thing in particular happened that made me think of this blog, what it means to me, and what might be done with it.

After a Monday night of drinking a fabulous amount of wine with some old friends, I returned to my friend Myrtle’s fancy hotel room (girlfriend works in the industry) with Axelrod at about 1am (he had been sleeping at our friends’ house prior!).  Between 1am and 7, kiddo nursed 4 times.  I’m sure that this was punishment for the three nights of sitters, but it’s always something with him, anyway.  Anyhow this is all just to illustrate to you how very EXHAUSTED and somewhat hung over I was.

Seriously, people.  I was straight up grumpy.  We met Milton at a cafe and grunted our way through some pancakes, coffee and oatmeal.  In the middle of our meal, a lady with a gorgeous baby stopped over to our table and asked if I had a blog.  I do, I told her, and thought to myself In fact, I have 3 blogs that I have completely ignored for the last 8 months.  She knew this blog in particular, which is the blog that is about my most wonderful and prized life happening, and she said that she had followed our story.  Well that just blew me right out of grumpytown and made me feel awesome.  It also convinced me that I should come back here and hash out some thoughts about my most wonderful and prized life happening from time to time.

So!  Hi!  Parenthood has this remarkable ability to make the sweetest time pass so quickly.  It’s as if I can hardly get a grip on how temporary everything is.  Every little thing my son does is just one moment in time until he does something else.  Every day he changes under my close observation.  Every day is magic, of course, even when it’s difficult.  Which, to be honest, it often is.

Our guy talks like a chatterbox these days.  He says Mama, Go, NO, Dog, and Cat.  He yells at balls.  He sometimes takes a step, but hasn’t walked yet.  He is still not a good sleeper at all, but I do feel as if we are making VERY SLOW progress.  He is persistent, hilarious, fat as all give out, sweet, cuddly, and just loves to kiss and hug every other kid he can get his hands around.  He’s a hilarious dancer and seems to be composing complicated symphonies with his hands at all times (see above photo).  We love him, completely.

He will be one year old in 1.5 weeks.  Holy moley.

 

 

 

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I had certainly heard of 4 month old sleep regressions, and then I suddenly found myself in the midst of one, confused.  As if the 4 month regression wasn’t supposed to apply to me.

For nights on end, my little bubbly crane has been waking me at least every hour, screaming to nurse.  It was so startling.  And then, after days, I found myself exhausted and questioning things like co-sleeping, nursing, and parenting in general.  I was worried that I was making the wrong sleeping decisions for our family, and asking Milton every day what we could change so that we could all get some sleep.

Most startling was the scream he would wake with.  As if I wasn’t right there, next to him.  I worried that he was getting demanding with the boobs, thinking about all of those “cry it out” instructions and all of those people who ever told me that co-sleeping wouldn’t work.  I didn’t know quite what to do because, hey! we live in a studio.  Crying it out would be crying it out for the whole family, and I can’t have that right when I’m about to go back to work.  Plus I can’t bear to hear it from my awesome baby.  If he’s crying, he needs me.  And we needed sleep- not exhausted tears!

The worst was last Saturday night.  I was getting ready to go out for my very first dancing night on the town since, goodness, last New Years Eve, and our little crane was nuts with screaming.  I’ve never heard anything like it.  We had been out all day and he was certainly sleepy, but he had gotten some naps in and shouldn’t have been feeling as if he were being murdered.  Eventually, he fell asleep in Milton’s arms… Milton shoo’d me out the door… and I went DANCING.  I felt horribly guilty, but it certainly renewed my confidence and efforts through the all night long nursing.

As sleep regressions are supposed to be coupled with big developmental surges, I watched our crane for scooting, which he’s doing a little bit of, but that sort of brain activity didn’t seem to count towards screaming.  Little guy is too sweet for that.

Finally, yesterday at bath time, he pulled a my finger to his mouth.  He loves tasting the water on my fingers.  Water is a crazy curiousity to him, right now!  He likes it, but hasn’t figured out that it can be fun.  It’s scary, interesting… and it tastes good.  He chomped down on my finger and OMG!  TOOTH!!  His lower left-hand front tooth is poking out!

I cried my eyes out and gave him his first breast milk popsicle.  I’m going to cherish every last one of the gummy bites on the right side of his mouth.

I was extra patient through last night’s nursing.  Poor guy.  Teeth hurt!  I was really hoping we had more time without them.

In other news, he is rolling over! He started about 2 weeks ago. Above is a photo I managed to snap right after his first time getting to his belly on his own. I asked him how he felt! He said I FEEL TOUGH.

Since he’s such a big boy now, I put him in the main seat of his stroller for the first time. It was hard for me to do because I love to have him face me in his infant seat so that I can watch his every funny expression… but I thought we’d try it out. I’m happy to report that he was also skeptical about not seeing his mom all the time…

Also of note… our guy now weighs 20 pounds. I know! Right?

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Our 8 Week Appointment!

by Esther on Mon, Jul 19th, 2010

in Baby,Documentation,Month 3

We took our Lucky Crane to his 8 week appointment with Dr. Cullen last Friday.  Technically, it was an 8 week and 6 day appointment since mom kept forgetting to schedule it in.  We are pleased to report that he is very healthy and practically perfect in every way.

He will start his vaccination shots at his next appointment.  He’s on a limited schedule because mom thinks it’s best, and really- he’s not going to daycare doesn’t need too much junk in him at once.  For now, I’m just fattening him up with my ridiculous amounts of breast milk to keep him chugging along.  And I’m not kidding about fat!  At 9 weeks old, he is a WHOPPING 25 inches long and 16 pounds, 1 ounce wide.  He’s not even on the charts for his weight, is at the top of the charts for his height… and has an average sized head (thank goodness, says mom).

Here he is, not caring a bit for modesty, sharing all his baby blubber with the world, wearing his polka dot bikini:

Ready to roller skate down Venice Beach

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Will You Look at This Guy?

by Esther on Mon, Jul 19th, 2010

in Baby,Documentation,Month 3,Parenthood

So satisfied with himself for sort of holding up his own head while sitting in his Bumbo seat.  So ridiculous I crack up every time I see this photo!!  I mean, really!  It’s verging on too much hilariousness.  Babies are surely the greatest invention of the whole round human race.  So delicious that it’s amazing we don’t eat them up for real.

Chuffed Chubs

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So.  I want to lose 10 pounds of baby weight by the end of the summer.

I kept in pretty good shape through my pregnancy!  I did yoga very regularly and walked everywhere.  My eating habits are pretty darn good, too.   But, still, I gained 35 pounds.  2o of that came off right away, and then 5 more were sweat into the bed in the first week or two after his birth.  That was great!  I had never undergone such a physical change so quickly.  There were days when I looked into the mirror and said things like, “I can’t believe I EVER thought I needed to lose a single pound before pregnancy!”  After all those weeks of growing bigger and BIGGER, I felt so tiny in those first weeks after labor and delivery.

That said, my skinny feelings are over.  Like, really over.  Nothing fits.  I have a closet full of pretty dresses that won’t zip over my anything.  I have a shelf full of size 28 jeans that can barely fit around my ample thighs.  It’s not horrible.  It’s not earth-shattering.  It’s certainly not a deep and meaty thing to talk about… but it I do feel a little disheartened.

I am stoked to be a mom, but I want to be a hot mom!  I want to be a mom with something that resembles my old body.  I realize that I’ll have a little bit of extra that requires me to wear my Spanks a little more often, but I at least want my dresses to zip.

SO!  With all of this in mind, I have eaten my last almond croissant for a while and I am getting down to business with proper eating.  I’m sure that I’ll feel like eating the floor often enough, and I’m also sure that I’ll let myself eat the floor since I am breast-feeding a boy who is above the 95th percentile for size… but the floor had better be made of whole grains, veggies, and lean proteins.  No more fish and chips from Ivar’s, no more sneaking cookies, and no more rationalizing french toast for breakfast.

I am also glad to have the green light to work out to my heart’s content again.  Mind you, my heart’s content isn’t all that much… it’s usually just enough.

To help my workouts, I have made a promise to myself to be more outdoorsy. We live in the Pacific Northwest, and this is absolutely stunning country.  When I moved here, it was my intention to get more in touch with my love of nature.  I had lost touch with the land after all of those years living in New York City!  It can’t be helped!  So I figured I’d get back in touch with mother nature in the Olympics and the Cascades, no problem.  Yet, I’ve been here for two and a half years now and have only been on ONE single hike.  It’s just hard to get moving in the great outdoors when you’re a total downtown dweller with no car.

I vocalized all of this to a friend recently, and she let me know that she too needs to be more outdoorsy!  AND!  She actually has a car.

We made a date to head out to our first hike today with another girlfriend in tow!  It wasn’t a huge hike, but it was still a pretty impressive feat for our first time out.  We hiked the trail to Rattlesnake Ledge, which is 4 miles, roundtrip, and about a 1200 foot elevation gain.

Axelrod rode in his Ergo carrier, which is so perfect for longer walks.  He fared pretty well!  I had to stop in the middle of the climb to nurse him.  Once we got to the summit point, I changed him like a big brave hippie with all of these totally stunning views around us.  Then, he lay there on the rock with us, wide eyed.  He really loves being outside in the sunshine!  He gets so alert and I wonder just what he can see out there.  He always cries when I pick him up to move to our next destination.  I love that he can sit still and enjoy himself so much, and don’t take a moment of that peace for granted.

On the way down the mountain, he got a little difficult and I figured out how to nurse him in his Ergo while hiking down the mountain.  I felt very proud of myself, like the La Leche League should give me a special advanced nursing badge or something.  And now?  I guess I’m fully a PNW mom.

I did learn a few things for our next hike.  Like!?  Maybe I should have had pants and booties on the baby to keep his little legs and feet away from all of those mosquitos.  And maybe I should have brought a banana with me, because I sure wanted one.  Maybe I should have brought a little pad for him to lay on (though laying on the Ergo seemed to make him happy enough).  But we did a pretty good job, and boy am I ever tired tonight.

And, all that diet talk aside… and I totally ordered a beer when we went out for lunch after our hike.  Gosh, was it ever deeeelicious.

Burping on the trail

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We three got all gussied up last weekend for a lovely wedding! It was my first real night to play dress-up since our boy was born, and I really tried to represent for all new and exhausted moms out there.

I bought a new dress, dictated outfits for Milton and Axelrod (they only rolled their eyes at me a little), and hopped up the street to the salon I work in to (finally) get my legs waxed earlier in the week. The day of the wedding, I even had my makeup done at VAIN! Thank goodness it’s only a few blocks away and my girl Belinda can work fast on under eye circles.

The bride walked down the asile to Spiritualized’s Ladies and Gentlemen We are Floating in Space and I about crumpled in a thousand romantic tears.  I even missed the perfect shot of her walking down the aisle because I was just so overwhelmed taking in the beauty of it all.  Admittedly, it doesn’t take much to set me off these days.  All anybody ever needs to make me cry is a mix of love, family, and gorgeous music … add some pretty dresses on a sublime Pacific North-West day and a couple making a life-long commitment to each other and I am done for!

We took some photos of each other holding the baby in all our sunny day finery!

My Handsome Gentlemen

Getting used to his monkey suit

Sadly, the little vintage romper that our little boy is sporting barely fit his baby flub!  I had to leave his zipper partly undone.  I’m so glad he got to wear it out once!  He’s growing out of his adorable duds way too quickly.  Between the both of us being so chubby, I don’t know how I’ll ever keep up with finding outfits that work.

I have to admit!  I made one big fat mothering mistake with our outfit planning.  I couldn’t find a dress that I liked that was good for nursing.  Milton and I figured that we could just bring a few bottles to the wedding with us.  I don’t mean to sound cold when telling you that I choose fashion over nursing, but the boy doesn’t really have a problem taking bottles from his dad in the middle of the day or in the evening when I go to the gym!  But, apparently! nothing but a boob will do for his 6-8pm bedtime witching hours.  Now we know!  I spent a good portion of the wedding reception in the bathroom with my pretty dress around my waist and my baby at my breast.

That lesson learned, I think that I’ll be going out in our neighborhood once a week this summer so that Milton can show him just how great it is to be dadded down with a bottle!

Once I momed him down, we put him straight into the Ergo on Milton and had ourselves some cake and dancing times.  We were home by 10 for a final bedtime, enjoyed by all, high on love and romance.

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This Guy

Please don’t crucify me for admitting this to the public at large, but I was a little worried all through my pregnancy that I wouldn’t bond with our baby.  It’s not that I didn’t want to be a mother… getting pregnant and extending our family was something I worked pretty hard at doing for a while.  From making sure I was healthy in every possible way to making sure I was somewhat financially sound before walking down the road to parenthood- I planned everything.

The thing is, I planned everything on a suspicion.  I suspected that becoming a mother might be a good step for me as a woman.  I suspected that having a child would be a great experience for Milton and me.  But like so many other times in my life, my faith was constantly questioning.  Would I be good enough for this guy?  Would I love him enough?  Clean our house enough?  Engage with him enough?  I even wrote to Milton in the middle of my pregnancy with worries that I would leave him with the baby, trotting back east to resume my selfish city girl high life because I just couldn’t take the parental heat.

I was worried that I would be one of those women who just didn’t connect with their babies.  Maybe I worried because having a baby was never a really concrete part of my life plan.  Maybe I worried because I have a hard time keeping up with my own business, much less the business of someone else.  Maybe I worried because I was so free and easy with abusing my body and burning the party candles at both ends for so many years that I wondered if I could really, REALLY be a responsible parent.  For whatever reason, I really worried about taking the heat and giving this guy the responsibility he deserved.

Being a responsible parent, to me, means being a loving parent.  Babies beg for love.  The children, teenagers, and adults they grow into beg for love.  Parental love is the first love any of us can beg to get.  If you care for a child, you are responsible for fulfilling all of that child’s needs, especially the need for love.  I wondered if I could possibly have enough love in me to put up with the spit, the diapers, the plastic baby gear, the aching back, the sleepless nights, or the belly that would lay beside me like a sad puppy after pregnancy.  I figured, if I can adapt to these MAJOR life changes, maybe I could hack my way through the other many years of parenthood.

Today, I am happy to report that I woke up on the second morning of our child’s life, after going through the shock of childbirth and the barely remembered haze of his first 24 hours, and saw my baby’s face in the first morning’s light.  He looked like such a sweet little buddha laying there, stirring in his swaddle and newborn cap!  I felt a surge of LOVE that I couldn’t believe, referred to him as Mr. Snugglepants, and kissed him all over his beautiful face.

Since then, I’ve only gotten worse with the doting.  This guy and I are bonded, for sure.

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I’m afraid I haven’t been keeping up with my baby blogging since our guy was born!  I admit to having been busy.  It seems that the usual time it takes to get anything done must be multiplied by 10 when you are caring for an infant.  Whereas my afternoons at home prior to baby-time would see me cleaning the house, playing dress up, going to a yoga class, blogging, drinking wine, etc… my afternoons now are a great success if I can see the house clean, get the dishes done, do the laundry, bathe, bathe our son, find clothes that fit me (impossible), find clothes that fit our son, and go for a walk.  All this happens only with 50% of the effort coming from my husband, who is a champion.  Honestly, I don’t understand how single moms do this job!

I have a lot of posts in my head about lots of baby related things.  Maybe, at some point, I’ll get some of the posts out.  For now, I’m leaving the bulk of family blogging up to my husband.  He is keeping a blog under our son’s domain, where he writes a little bit about our baby’s firsts, every day.  We decided to keep this blog password protected because there’s no telling what our small fry is going to think about internet privacy issues in the future.  Milton and I are obviously pretty open people…. you wouldn’t have to look very hard to uncover our real names- and once you had those you would find a couple of professional blogs, hobby blogs, even private journal blogs that were started long, long ago.  You would find open Facebook profiles and profiles to every other social networking site that ever got popular.  But, there comes a time when you have to ask yourself how your son will feel when his first girlfriend googles his name and finds old entries about his baby acne online.  As we don’t know just how self-conscious he’ll feel, we’ve decided to keep his personal logistics a little bit separate.

Of course, I can talk about baby generals right here!  And I will, between nursing, sleeping, and trying to hold our stuff together.

Currently, our little man is wrapped snug in his Moby Wrap across my tummy.  He seems happiest when he’s being worn.  He’ll sleep for a good long strapped to our chests and bellies while while we take him for walks or eat out at a restaurant.  Today is the first day I figured out the Moby well enough to sit in front of the computer with it.  Baby wearing is a plus for both of us.  Milton loves dading him down; I love moming him down.  Sometimes we argue a little about who gets to have the baby wearing fun.  It’s a beautiful thing to have a warm little snugglepants snuzzler so close to your heart.

Axelrod also loves the following, in no particular order:

  • Bouncing on the ball (best reserved for the witching hour and other intense times)
  • Bathing with his father (this wins my award for cutest)
  • Smelling the basil (this startles his senses to silence when he’s in the middle of a cry)
  • Playing peek-a-boo (makes him smile, BIGTIME!)
  • Having his cheeks stroked (more safe baby smiles)
  • Having his neck kissed (ahh, sugar!)
  • Hanging upside down (see below photo)

Of course his #1 favorite thing, ever, is breast feeding.  I must say, it’s also my #1 favorite thing.  No matter how much it exhausts me (especially when he hit his 3 week growth spurt, geez!), I am thankful for all that special face time with my boy.  It’s a pretty wonderful thing to be such a provider for someone you love in such an epic way.

I’ll report more very soon!  Axelrod is 11lbs, 9ozs (!!!!!!), and has been social smiling since week two (GENIUS).  I am honestly trying not to miss any of this miraculous process.  I don’t want to forget a thing, which means that I might remember a good 50% if I try real hard.

This guy's perspective.

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The Birth Story

by Esther on Sun, May 30th, 2010

in Documentation,Labor,Parenthood

As we’ve already reported, our son Axelrod was born on May 15th, 2010, at 7:43 in the evening.

He was born in our bedroom, where we first unknowingly conceived him, knowingly dreamed of him, and with hope laid a great many plans for him.  He was born into the hands of our very capable and trusted midwife, Lynn, and from there went straight to his mother’s arms.

From start to finish, the hours that followed my water breaking are both foggy and precious.  There are moments that are burned into my memory forever, and moments that my husband reminds me of when we retell the story to each other while trying to get a grasp on just how our universe changed that day.  There are moments when I’m sure that the both of us seemed incredibly lucid… that we already have forgotten.  Memory, when it comes to an event that is the most painful, most endearing, most pivotal event of your entire life, is funny, stretchy and malleable times all the stars in the sky, added to the value of each fish in the sea, to the exponential frequency of infinity.

That in mind, I doubt I’ll do our birth story justice.  I’ll never be able to quite capture something that becomes more fully realized to me with every second of our son’s life.  I could write this story in 10 or 20 years and it would have a different, equally precious, description of every moment I recall.  I could write for hours today and feel the story is still incomplete.  Life that brings babies is like that, I guess.

When I last reported to our pregnancy blog, my water had broken in a gush of glory at the local cabaret club.  I had slept soundly for the night after a shower.  I woke up that morning with no symptoms of labor and spoke with our midwife, who encouraged me to start drinking delicious castor oil cocktails at noon.

I had really hoped that my son’s birth story wouldn’t be kicked off with castor oil.  I decided that we should walk to one of our favorite breakfast spots, about a mile away, to try and encourage my inevitable labor.  I put on the dress that my best friend Myrtle had bought me to labor in the day before: a kelly-green jersey sun dress that was stretchy, cheap, and comfortable.  I layered on a hat and a sweater and headed out with my husband and my best friend at about 9:30 in the morning, which is an hour I’ve hardly seen the outdoors of during these last few years of working a noon to nine schedule.  The morning air felt pretty ripe with expectation; it was a beautiful day.

While carb loading on buckwheat pancakes with delicious fruit toppings at the cafe, we played it normal.  Honestly, I can’t remember in the least what we talked about.  Every part of the conversation was overshadowed by the knowledge that I was going into labor that very day.  I started to really zone out into my own birthing bubble.  I felt completely connected to my husband.  My best friend was with us, and she’s our partner in all things criminal and lovely, but my husband!  My husband was my whole world starting at breakfast and continuing on for the rest of the day.  As far as I was concerned, there was a bubble around us that the universe had hermitically sealed and it was impermeable.  We were going to have our baby, finally.  The news washed over me again and again.

On our walk home, we stopped at Whole Foods to stock up on foods for the folks who would be in the house for our delivery.  I barely knew what to order!  I thank goodness every day that Myrtle was with us, acting in a way like my sensible, outside the bubble, extension.  She choose some foods for us to order while I stood mutely in front of the prepared foods counter, overwhelmed by the whole outside-the-bubble world.  We picked up those foods and some extra supplies and headed home.

We were home by 11:30, I suppose.  Myrtle and I put the foods into glass bowels that were wrapped for later before she headed off to have a lovely day, knowing that she would come back later to me going through the motions of what was supposed to be a long and exhausting labor.   I called Lynn to get a pep talk about castor oil.  What would it do?  How long would it take?  Would it be terrible?  How did it work?  I hated the thought of having to induce anything, but was also so done with being pregnant.  I was 3 centimeters dilated, 41 weeks along, well rested, and mentally prepared.  I just wished it could have all been triggered on its own without having to drink something that had less than desirable side-effects.  Lynn explained to me how the castor oil worked, and also reminded me that, while we had 72 hours to deliver before having to transfer to a hospital (for risk of infection), the midwives at Rainy City Midwifery liked to have their ladies in labor within 24 hours of water breaking.  I braced myself and pulled out my (former) favorite flavor of coconut milk ice cream from the freezer.

Using a hand blender, I combined my (former) favorite ice cream, 2 ounces of castor oil, and Perrier for a delicious milk shake.  At exactly noon, I downed it.

Castor oil milkshakes are actually not delicious

Shortly after finishing this, Milton and I went up to the loft to get one last nap in before labor started.  I had been instructed to drink another milk shake at 2pm if labor hadn’t started, but was absolutely certain that I would wake up to my first contraction before then.  I was wrong.

At 2:30, I woke with a jolt and checked my cell phone.  It was late.  I was supposed to have drunk another milk shake by now!  I shook Milton awake and worried to him that I had messed everything up when I didn’t wake up on time.  He assured me of my craziness, and we went downstairs to make a second milk shake with my second (former) favorite flavor of ice cream.  I drank that and I waited.  I tried to pass the time doing whatever I could.  I watched the banana bread defrost on the table.  I went to the bathroom.  Mostly I just wondered why the hell I wasn’t in labor yet.  I worried.

3:10 rolled around with still no signs of even a Braxton Hicks contraction.  I googled “immunity to castor oil” and came up with a good dozen stories that convinced me that castor oil had done absolutely nothing for my system.  For a famously fast metabolism, I was sure getting nowhere fast.  I yelled down to Milton, “I’M IMMUNE TO CASTOR OIL.”  We wondered what would happen next.

At 3:13, I had my first contraction and pulled out my iPhone to use the Contraction Master application.  I was fairly convinced that showtime was still so far in my future that using the app was just a funny game, but I was also certain that the game was ON, which was exciting enough.  For an hour, Milton and I made out, slow danced, and laughed with each other.  We were totally going to have a baby!  And we are totally in love!  Win!

All through this hour, I was having contractions every 1.5-2.5 minutes for about 45 seconds.  They were definitely progressing, but were completely manageable.  We texted our midwife and doula to let them know that the contractions were regular, but that we were totally in control and not in a 4-1-1 situation yet.  Our doula was off supervising a birth for another couple in our birthing class.  That woman was had been at 10 centimeters and pushing since lunch, so we told the doula, “No problem!  We’ve got plenty of time!” and carried on with our labor.  Our midwife decided to come over and check me out to see how things were progressing.  She figured that she would pop in and then leave us to laboring alone for a few more hours.  I bounced on a ball and read my favorite columns in the latest issue of The Stranger for a little while.

Bouncing

After this photo was taken, I hit another level of intensity.  We were still at 2.5ish minutes for 45 seconds and chugging along at a very manageable pace, and right after a contraction, Milton followed me up the stairs to supervise a trip to the bathroom.  I stopped on the landing of our stairs to support myself through another surge, and again at the top of the stairs.  Milton joyously declared it a 2 contraction trip to the upstairs.  I asked for the bag of rice that we had warmed in the oven for my castor oil pains and found that that bag was just what I needed to get me through the next several contractions.  I hung out upstairs in the rocking chair, not realizing that I wouldn’t come downstairs again … for a whole week.

At this point, I still didn’t think my contractions were a big deal.  I was doing a lot of deep Ujjayi breathing through them, and found that I could maintain my breath throughout.  This had been my plan for labor all along.  I had hoped that I could maintain my Ujjayi practice through all of labor and delivery.  I had read a bit of hypnobirthing literature, and though I’m not fond of visualization (frankly, the rainbow visualization technique outlined in the hypnobreathing book made me feel as if I were gagging on a tie-dye moo-moo), I felt as if the 2 breath practices that hypnobirthing waxed poetic about were the same practices I used in my asana practice or to lower my blood pressure during times of stress.  I practice that breath control all the time, on the mat and otherwise, and figured I had everything covered.

At 4:56, Lynn arrived for my check up!  She watched me move through some contractions before checking me out on the bed.  I have to stress here that we all still thought we were in this game for the long haul.  Lynn was going to check me out and leave us to our laboring for a while.  I had my rice bag and my husband in my bubble and we were going to rock this birth out slowly and with grace.  Our doula was going to finish with a birth down the street and arrive with a birthing tub so we could deliver our son into the water. Myrtle was going to enjoy her afternoon while I was in early labor and arrive in a few hours when things got intense.  We had all the time in the world at that point.  We were bound and prepared for a glorious all nighter!

Or so we thought. Lynn checked me out and declared me “a good 4 centimeters” along.  She looked at my husband and said, “I’m not going anywhere.”  She told me that she was surprised I was as far along as I was from the look of my contractions and I pat myself on the back a little.  I figured there was no way I would lose my Ujjayi breath if I could get to “a good 4 centimeters” without a hitch.

We contacted our doula and let her know that I was in active labor.  The woman she was with was STILL pushing (uh oh!) and she sent for her back up to join us.  Right around the time this call happened, I started to feel a little more intense and decided to get into our bath tub.  It was 5:15.  The water felt amazing!  I couldn’t wait for my birth tub to be ready!  Milton stayed with me and held my hand.  With every surge, he commanded my eye contact and helped me breathe through.  At this point I realized for the millionth time what an amazing birth coach he was going to be.  He was absolutely right there with me for the ride.  Up to this point, he had project managed the whole labor, making sure that he executed contact with our midwife, doula, family, and friends.  He refused to let anything distract me or stress me out.  Now, in active labor, he committed himself to being totally with me and letting everything he had set up so perfectly ride itself out.  Our connection, which has been solid since we first met, honestly sparkled.

While I was in the tub, Marion arrived.  She’s Lynn’s assistant, a student midwife whom we’ve met before during a clinic appointment.  She’s swept my cervix before.  I know this woman!  I was, however, lost in little our bubble at the moment, and I decided that she’s a new face.  I introduced myself to her and she laughed.   Around this point, we stopped timing the contractions.  It no longer mattered how far apart they were.  I was in active labor and time had stopped.  Time had stopped for my husband.  It became just a blur of rushes and coping.  It was all meditation and strength from where ever I could find it.  Marion checked the baby’s heart rate before, during, and after contractions to make sure he was maintaining.  He was doing great, like we all hoped he would.  My blood pressure, on the other hand, was not the best.  I’d been trying my best to keep it down for some weeks, and now that the contractions were coming so fast and hard, it was being a bit pesky.  The midwives give me some sort of homeopathic powder to put under my tongue that seemed to do the trick.  I remember feeling a superhero relief when Lynn gave me the blood pressure nod of approval.

Lynn watched me go through a contraction and declared that it seemed different than the ones before.  She was right.  She also noticed at some point that it seemed like I was having one weak contraction and then one strong one.  This is reflected in my Contraction Master records as something that had been occurring since labor began.  Of course, I didn’t exactly notice until Lynn did.  I just thought it fun to note.

Not very many rushes later, I had to ask myself if I was being dramatic.  It hadn’t been so very long and, rather suddenly, I felt pushy.  How was that even possible?  It was a half hour or so since my 4 centimeter check up.  I felt so not ready to feel pushy.  I thought that, obviously, I must be pushing along this process psychologically in much the same fashion I pushed along the pre-labor process and thought I was about to go into labor every day for about 3 weeks running.  I had another contraction and looked into my husband’s eyes.  When it was over I said, “I think I feel pushy?”  For some reason, I remember that I didn’t want him to tell Lynn that I was feeling this way.  I guess that’s because I figured there was really no way I could be so far along.   Everything I do is dramatic!  It’s natural for me to exaggerate everything, isn’t it?  He told Lynn anyway and I remember feeling foolish.  If I felt pushy already, what would it be like when I was even further along?  I expected that I was really just at 5 centimeters.  Lynn reached into the tub to check things out.  I was at 7 centimeters.  I was in transition!  It was 6:20 and it had been only 3 hours from my first real contraction.

At this point, our doula’s back up lady, Mali, arrived and introduced herself.  Actually, I don’t remember her introducing herself at all, but am sure that’s what happened.  I do remember hearing Lynn call down to her that there isn’t time to set up the tub.  I stared at my feet in the bathroom and cursed inwardly.  I was momentarily pissed that we were not going to have our dreamy water birth and I say as much to Milton in between contractions.  Between 2 big rushes, I thought this was all going a little too fast and for my tastes.  With the next one, I forgot to think anymore about control over the birth I wanted.  At 7 centimeters, I became completely immersed in the birth that we were having.  I let it roll over me and let myself get lost inside it.

Lynn asked me if I wanted to have the baby in the bathtub.  No, I did not.  It’s small, cramped by the toilet, and we had a pretty big team assembled at this point.  Eventually, I specifically got out of the tub to use the toilet.  Experiencing some pretty frank castor oil side effects, I was too modest to ever be on a toilet with anyone around, so I endured a few contractions in the bathroom alone.  Contractions were difficult enough with the support of a husband!  Alone, they were horrible.  Alone, I hated them.  Alone, they were an unproductive enemy.  I was just totally lost in them without a coach.  They hurt a thousand times more, and I felt so alone.  Still, when Marion peeked her head into the bathroom to check on me, I yelled at her to get out.  Modesty triumphed over loneliness and pain for a good 5 minutes.

It was 6:30 when I moved to the bed to labor on my side for a bit.  I don’t remember much about this at all.  I don’t remember the contractions.  I don’t remember the people.  I don’t remember what people are saying to me.  I don’t know if I said anything to anyone.  Some time around then, Myrtle arrived.  I felt like an animal and I didn’t want her up stairs to see me like this.  Of course, she was downstairs in the kitchen, taking in my every primal scream.  For some reason, downstairs felt like a different world from upstairs.  To me, the visual was different from the audio.

At 6:48, Lynn checked me again and jolted into reality when she tells me I am 10 centimeters dilated, 100% effaced, and ready to push.  I asked her to repeat herself.  For a moment, I was really, truly, completely in shock that I was complete.  We pushed through a few rushes on the bed while Marion holds my top leg up and Milton coached me.  They felt painful, unlike anything I ever expected.  My known and trusted Ujjayi breathing was long gone.  I breathed however my husband told me to breathe.  Pushing felt unproductive and Lynn told me that I had to get the baby over the bone.  I remember all of this from our birth class.  A stuffed skeletal pelvis and a doll head flash through my mind.  Lynn shows me where in my perineum to concentrate my pushing and I dedicate all my energy and all the months of highly competitive (with myself) Kegel exercises I’ve been practicing to this area.  Lynn asks if I would like to move to the birth stool.  I am totally game.  Lying on my side feels fine, but not productive, and I want to have this baby.

Immediately, on the stool, pushing felt so different.  The baby was moving.  He was coming, and I might have said as much.  In between contractions, I felt almost as if I was entranced or sleeping on my husband’s shoulder.  Every song that the stereo played was one that I absolutely loved, which was convenient since I made the mix myself for this very occasion.  My husband was on my left hand side and Mali was on my right.  I had just met this Mali, but I already needed her desperately.  I reached for her hand with my right hand every time a contraction began.  She became indispensable to my getting through this experience.  Between contractions, I am at the same time entranced and lucid.  During contractions, I remember overhearing Mali say that I was “a monster” (in a good way).  Pushing was the worst torture I’ve ever felt.  I hated it.  I hated it so fucking much that I  said as much, which I am later ashamed for.  I remember saying, “It fucking hurts!”  Later, I can’t believe I complained at all.  Of course it hurts.  It’s labor!  I honestly wish I had been able to channel the pain a little better and not complain.  I told my husband at some point during the final pushing that we are never doing this again.  Everyone else in the room laughed, apparently it’s a common sentiment.  Seeing my baby’s face now, I would relive the whole experience for the same outcome.  I would endure it ten fold!  In retrospect, it didn’t hurt even a little bit.  Thank god for our malleable memory and our personal bubbles.

I can’t tell you enough how amazing the rhythm of these contractions were.  Here I was, in the most horrible pain I could’ve ever imagined, and then – I am fine.  Between, I was able to rest.  At the height of a contraction, I was uncertain of my ability to sustain and survive.  In between,  I was gazing into my husband’s eyes and thinking about how much I love him, thinking about how the two of us are having a baby who will shape and define the rest of our lives together.  I almost forgot that I am in labor in the space between these rushes.  I was almost able to forget that another contraction was coming.  When the next rush came, it would start slowly and I would think it won’t be as bad as the last.  I would grab for Mali’s hand and tell everyone, “Here it comes!”  Every time it came, it was worse than the one before.  I now knew what they meant when they talked about the ring of fire.  I now knew what it meant to have the baby come down and then slip back up after you’ve pushed so hard to get him down there.  When all of this happened, I also knew that it was almost over.  I could feel the contour his little face low inside of me.  I knew that, soon enough, I would have him in my arms.  Lynn had me reach down between my legs  to feel his head.  It was soft and wrinkled, like the skin of a newborn kitten.  Feeling him was really surprising to me and, according to Milton, I gasped in surprise, as if I didn’t expect him to be there.

In between all the rushes I called down to Myrtle to check on her.  I felt badly that I’d left her down there all alone to den-mother my kitchen!  I wanted to make sure she was comfortable.  Between one of the contractions, Milton knocked over my water.  Marion goes downstairs to get me some more because I can’t let go of Mali’s hand.  I told Marion that I like my water with lemon, but not with rind.  I hate rind!  Lynn apparently remarked to Milton that I was remarkably lucid.  When downstairs, Marion tells Myrtle that his head is an inch out.  I began another contraction, pushed, and felt madly productive.  I heard Lynn yell, “Marion, get up here, I need you!”

Next thing I knew, his head was out.  His body was easy after that.  It slipped out as if it had no bone.  I was in a daze when Lynn’s voice called through our bubble and said, “Reach down!  Reach down!”  Suddenly, there was this gurgling blue and white creature in my arms!  I was elated!  In complete awe!  He was gurgling and like a little old man, I’ll never forget the sound.  When he found his breath and cleared his lungs, he screamed and screamed like a little devil.  Both Milton and I found this hilarious!   He was pissed, and telling us all about what just happened to him!   Milton cut the cord at some point, and I’m told that the cord was really very healthy and difficult to cut.  This makes me very proud!

We did it.

I called down to Myrtle and told her that she’s gotta get up in the loft to check out our guy.

Greeting the 4th partner in crime

I find it hard to believe, looking at these photos, that it’s still light outside.  For some reason, I picture his birth as having taken place after the sun was set.  But, actually, as Lynn remarked at the time, he was a sunset baby.  This is fitting, because a variation of his name (his real name) means sunlight in Japanese.

At some point, I delivered the placenta.  Apparently I complained that this also hurt, but I remember that it was absolutely easy in comparison to my son’s impressive head.

After a while, I handed our son over to his father so that I could move off the stool and on to the bed, which has been protected with a drop cloth between sets of sheets for quick changing after the event.  I told Milton to take his shirt off so that Axelrod could have skin to skin contact.

Skin on skin with his father

This is another blurry point of our story.  It’s almost a point of the story that I don’t want to share, because I don’t want to pull back from the awesome that is the birth of my son to get into medical issues and aftermath.  But, it’s part of the tale.  And, on reflection, labor and delivery involve every kind of emotion and event.  Labor and delivery includes everything wonderful, awesome, dramatic, and sometimes grotesque.  So. I stood up off of the birth stool and move my butt up to the bed… and proceeded to hemorrhage down the side of the bed and on to the floor.  It splashed impressively on to feet and ankles with a sound.  I looked down and thought, “They’ll fix that right up.”  Milton looked down and thought the same thing.  Myrtle confessed later that she was worried.  My doula confessed later that she started to rush from the birth she was attending in another part of the city (that woman, after pushing all day, delivered 4 minutes after I did) because they were talking about having me transferred to a hospital.  Lynn gave me a shot of something and put something else under my tongue.  The bleeding stopped, thank goodness, and I recall being very diligently monitored by Lynn and Marion for some time after while I shook and trembled my way through the shock that my body was experiencing towards the light of recovery.

I was really curious to see my placenta and asked for it.  Marion offered to bring it to us to give us a little Placenta 101.  This was really exciting to me.  I think I might have asked Myrtle if it was ok with her that Marion bring it around.  Of course Myrtle is game for anything at this point, I mean… she had just watched me hemorrhage all over my bedroom floor without so much as flinching.

Marion gave us a pretty stunning class on the different parts of the placenta, showing us the amniotic sac, the tree of life, and the cord.  I have to say that I am really very impressed with my body.  I just can’t believe I grew that thing!  Or that it sustained my son for 41 weeks!  Around then, our doula, Cheryl, showed up and made a placenta impression on a piece of paper.

Placenta print!

(I’m sorry if our placenta is too much information for anyone out there, but I personally find it all very fascinating!)

Next, I had to use the bathroom to prove that I could use my bladder — which was a Very Important Event — and I was then also allowed to take a shower.  I was absolutely relieved to be allowed to shower all of the day’s waste off of me.  I figured if I was allowed a 10 minute shower all by myself, I would be transformed into a picture of bright and shining health.  A quick glance to the mirror told me otherwise, though.  My ruddy skin was 3 shades of the wrong color and I knew that it was right to confine me to bed for a week after the birth.

When Cheryl, got there, I was so stoked that I got to have my two doula’s with me at once.  Two doulas, two midwives, a husband, and a best friend (who was totally promoted to sister after seeing the whole after birth business), AND a brand new awesome son.  How lucky can one lady get?

My two doulas!

Soon, our son was weighed, measured, and checked for the proper reflexes.  Everyone in the room took bets on how much he weighed.  I thought silently to myself that he might weigh 9 pounds and 2 ounces.  I only figured this because it’s what my brother weighed when he was born.  I didn’t say anything out loud, though, but I swear to you, readers, I had it right in my head.  He was 22.25 inches long, which delights me.  I have a thing for long legs and am glad that they run in our little family.

9lbs, 2ozs

Eventually, after giving us lots of important instructions, our doulas and midwives left.  Myrtle stayed for a while, shot some amazing photos of Axelrod, and cleaned my house like a champ.  She was leaving the very next morning for a flight home.  She took this photo before we all cried and she left for her hotel room:

Post-fetal position

We spent our first night together marveling.  The first long nap that Axelrod was supposed to take never really happened.  Alexrod just wanted to nurse all night, which I was really fine with.  We worked through the hours together, figuring out how he worked on the outside of my body.  Figuring out that we were family, and that we were both in it for the long haul.  Milton and I will never be the same sort of family we were before this little guy’s birth.  We are now part of a better, bigger family.  We are now parents, and sport a very worthy and excellent son.  We wouldn’t have it any other way, either!  I can honestly say without a hint of irony that this is the best thing we have ever done with each other, for each other, and for our family.  Parenthood is pretty awesome stuff, already.  It is every emotion.  It is every worry.  It is every sort of elation.  It is every sort of love.  We welcome it, completely.

The End.

Or, more accurately:  The Beginning.

One week old

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