Friday, February 27, 2015

this baby brought to you by castor oil

Fair warning: I have already forgotten most of this. The times/sequence/people may be reversed/confused/generally inaccurate. Also, this is a rambling, sleep deprived version, but I think it's important to get something down before it transforms and resettles as something else in my mind. Feel free to skip ahead. Also? I'm pretty desensitized to what is gross for different people so just a little heads up this contains words like "vagina", "maxi pad" and "ring of fire". I mean, it's a birth story.


I was so impatient to have this baby and I was beginning to feel like he would never come. So, it took me a minute to realize what had happened when my water broke just as Olive and I were waking up on Thursday morning, 3 days before his due date.

I ran to the bathroom to get out the giant, overnight maxi pads (yesss!) and felt a flood of relief. I would eventually have this baby. I had to be in labor in the next 2-3 days, or else! So, after arranging childcare and resting and eating and all the things you do when you're about to be in labor, I was disappointed when no contractions came. That evening, my midwife visited to listen to the baby and we talked about what to do if I didn't go into labor on my own.

(Side note: Most hospital's policy about water breaking with no labor, or PROM, is to try and have the baby by 24 hours from the hour it breaks. More lenient/evolved places may alter that recommendation ever so slightly to say they'd like to see an impending baby by 24 hours - at least have mom be in active labor. Out of hospital midwives may allow a woman to go as long as 72 hours after water breaking to get into labor. This is based on research that shows a higher incidence of infection the longer the water is broken, nicely broken down and analyzed here. I feel torn and mostly in the middle between the early and late timelines. 72 hours seems too long for me, personally, to wait but I feel comfortable-ish with 48. Again, for me, personally. Every lady's gotta decide for herself. In my case, because nothing entered my vagina until the baby was almost born - the biggest risk factor for infection, I felt ok waiting, but with some at-home augmentation.)

The following morning around 10:00am (so 28 hours after water broke), with a plan in place to transfer to hospital care the following morning if nothing had started happening yet, I mixed up a cocktail of our local midwives favorite natural labor starting tools: castor oil and lemon verbena.

Within 2 hours, I was having regular contractions. I tried to talk Spartacus into going to work but he thought the baby was coming sooner than I did and wanted to stay home. I wanted to be alone, though, so I asked him to pick up some more maxi pads (our entire outside trash bin was full of maxi pads - perhaps that's how I lost so much weight just by being in labor) and tacos. I knew they'd be the last thing I'd eat and that I could get them down anywhere I happened to be walking around (I walk in labor) since they're hand-food.

After he left, I knew the castor oil had worked and that this was it because my contractions were coming fast and legit, even though they'd only just started. I walked around the house and breathed and things picked up quickly and I was relieved.

When S got back, I ate two tacos and kept walking and breathing. Just like last time, I REQUIRED a heating pad until tub time. I stood in the living room, looking out the window and thinking, "who has a baby in the daytime?" and leaning over the side of the couch when a contraction came because it was the perfect height.

I figured I'd give it a little time before I called anyone. I felt focused and fairly comfortable and didn't want to bother anyone too early. Then, just like that, a contraction came that made me think: time for help. And the next one made me wish someone were already there. I told S that maybe he should call Jen and he told me she was already on her way, which was the best thing I could have heard.

And from there, it just went. Jen arrived and it was enough at first for her to be there but then, again, a contraction came that made me think, "this is harder. interesting." and then the next one, "holy shit, I don't care if it's time, cut my clothes off me I'm getting in the bathtub RIGHT NOW." And then I needed her to sit 6 inches from my face and stare at me during every contractions. Hey, thanks for doing that Jen.

What amazes me about being unmedicated in labor is how much certain comfort measures can help - a contraction might feel absolutely unbearable without a hand on the back or a doula's face in your face or a heat pad or whatever and then with those small adjustments, the same contractions can gently recede back into the doable range.

Then I sat in the tub for 100 years. Or about 5 hours, really. It felt like 5 minutes. I moaned, I counted in my head (I'm a fan of 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4), I stared at Jen's brown brown eyes, I closed my eyes and rested, I felt things getting harder.

And then the next step up - a new intensity before my endorphins had caught up and I lost my footing. And things got kind of ugly.

When Olive was born, my labor flowed very smoothly and I had an extra day of early labor, which, I think, primed my body to sail along on oxytocin that made me progressively more and more high until I barely noticed what was happening. I remember not being able to close my mouth, not being able to open one of my eyes and not being able to get even one word out, so fuzzy and jumbled was the connection between my brain and my mouth. I had a brief transition that scared the shit out of me, mostly because I could. not. catch. a. breath and I asked if I could please go to the hospital and my team put me off for a bit and then I started to push and then everything was fine.

So I knew what transition felt like - it was very familiar - and when it came and decidedly did not pass, I lost my resolve and my confidence and I got really very serious about quitting this whole thing. I actually made my midwife call the hospital to see about going in and told everyone I was going to go. 2 inches from walking to the door and putting my shoes on. (Ha! As if I could put my own shoes on…) Transition, transition, transition. Contractions one after the other in which I could not breathe for anything and stupidly asking to be checked to find that I was still ONLY 6 cm. Transition, you are not my favorite.

I kept waiting for the urge to bear down, to know that this part was over, but it just wasn't coming and I panicked. Spartacus took videos of both my Jen/ns giving me a speech about staying home. Penny Simkin calls this the Take Charge Routine and that is a pretty accurate description. For a multip (who had a 6 hour active phase with the first labor) who is "6 cm." (but really 9 cm. because her cervix has simply not caught up to her contractions), there is no way we would have made it to the hospital. For those of you unfamiliar with home birth, my ladies were not being cruel, they were being realistic. I absolutely would have given birth in the car if we had left at that point and of course no one wanted that.

The only thing left to do was get my head in the game and at some point I realized that (after a fair amount of whining, let's be real). I looked at Jen and said, "Ok. I need to get my shit together." And she solemnly nodded her head and said, "Yes." and I did, mostly. Not in a stoic way, mind you, I think I might have yelled at someone when I reluctantly left the tub and tried to move to my bed and they brought me a COLD heat blanket because ithastobehotrightnowtightnowrightnow!!!!! I quivered and shook and felt scared but once I got onto the bed and the last of my cervix was gone (with everyone holding one of my legs up just so) it was time to push. And here's the thing about pushing babies out: I don't mind it. With both of them it felt so instinctual, I just waited and paid attention and then let it happen when it was supposed to.

On the bed I felt the urge to push but breathed through and he came down - far. I asked, "Can you see his head?" because it felt like he was almost out. My midwife said no, but we can see that he's coming and Spartacus just stood there with a look on his face. I can't describe the look.

I don't know how long I pushed. It felt like twice. It was probably more like 30 minutes? 20? At the end, the worst part was the pressure on my tailbone (see both kids' stork bite where they scooted past it with their foreheads - ouch for all of us) but the ring of fire, not so much. His head came out and then a looooong cord which just sort of fell off him like a necklace (the opposite of Olive's). I hadn't really pushed hard until then and when I felt another contraction would pass without his body coming all the way out, I said, "Let's get this over", and out he came.

The best part was that he nursed. I was so worried I'd have another baby with feeding issues, but he latched right on and it was like the ultimate reward for what I'd just done - he nursed a long time on one side, Spartacus took him for a little bit while I took care of the placenta and then on the other side as well.

My labor was 9 hours from start to finish. Baby boy was born at 8:59pm on February 13th both lighter and taller than his sister: 8 lbs 8 oz. and 22 inches. I have yet to pick a blog-name for him. We only just picked his actual name! But I'll let you know.

There were other things in there: two attempts at breaking a fore bag of water, a plant I was obsessed with looking at for a little while (which I may now have to get rid of - we'll see), our dear friend coming to collect a car for Olive's transportation (very welcome) and a gardener coming to get instructions for work (not at all welcome), but the things above are how I remember it.

I feel quite certain I won't give birth again, which feels ok now that I've done it twice. If pregnancy were easier I'd consider having another baby (some day) but for now, from my uterus, this is it. It strikes me how similar certain parts of both labors were and also that each had their distinct differences, just like my kids. I'm so grateful to be feeling very well 2 weeks out and that I didn't transfer to the hospital in the middle of my labor, but I also feel a renewed sense of support and understanding for women who do go to the hospital. We all go our own way and both ways seem good to me.

Blogger Tricks

Friday, February 20, 2015

he's here


When you have a new baby and you go to the doctor there is a standard questionnaire you fill out about your emotional state. I've issued these myself.
"How much are you crying?"
"How often are you considering suicide?"
"Can you fall asleep at night?"
That sort of thing.

I literally laughed out loud as I filled it out. I know it's a valuable tool for detecting postpartum mood disorders and I am not making light of those with serious problems but I was like - is there a questionnaire for me? The most miserable pregnant lady on earth? Are you sleeping? No! Are you OK? Resounding yes. Because, friends, it's all so much better than being pregnant.

As yet unnamed baby boy was born last Friday night and so we're all still adjusting to the new dynamics and also trying our best to love on each other through the sleep deprivation. 

This looks like: 
+ a huge shift in Olive's attachment to me onto her dad. We prepared her for what I would need to do (rest, nurse all the time) and she knows to ask Papa for help with things and to be gentle with me and the baby. A very sweet new routine they have at bedtime is her putting on one of his white undershirts (a "nightgown" like Clara from the nutcracker) and snuggling up next to him on their side of the bed to tell either bible stories or Greek myths. I love listening to them talk - especially her contributions: "Moses and his people were on the earth with the dinosaurs a long time ago", when Sean couldn't remember one of the commandments, "Um, I think 'Don't create any spaceships' is one..."

+ Olive being 100% amazing with her brother, kissing and hugging and never smothering or poking him, excitedly introducing him to our visitors and politely asking that they first wash their hands and warning everyone of the soft spot on his head which "goes STRAIGHT TO HIS BRAIN!!!".

+ Olive doing all those annoying things she doesnt do to her brother to us instead, resulting in...

+ me being a HUGE bitch to her even while I feel terribly about it. (Hashtag mom guilt.) Her sort of spazzy, manic behavior - so normal for her age especially at this transitional time - is driving me crazy and especially the constant flicking/tugging/jabbing/flailing. She actually said to me yesterday, gently and evenly but very clear: "Mama, can you talk a little nicer to me?" Trying my best to grow some extra patience.

This birth was tough (probably moreso for my attendants than for me) but I will certainly write about it, soon. I may need a little time to digest before it shows up here but you can look out for it in the next week or so.

Welcome boy with no name! You are delicious!!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

38 weeks

When people ask when I'm due, I can officially say, "any time!" instead of being pissed that I'm huge and, in fact, nowhere near my due date, fuckyouverymuch.

Shortly after the 35 week post, I stopped wearing socks, ever. Couldn't/can't reach my feet and had a permanent indent above my (c)ankles. Who needs it? My quoddy boots are really pulling through for me, like, every day. Very stylish.

Speaking of chilly ankles, I have reached the point where I'd miss a fever if I got one - I am hot ALL the time. We sleep with the bedroom heat vent closed and the window open: Olive in fleece footies snuggled up to me and Spartacus in a hoodie under a giant down comforter and me naked and sweating. 

And another thing: I'm glad I don't have an issue with needles. I was thinking (as I waited for a blood draw the other day) about all the progesterone and hcg checks in the beginning of this pregnancy, all the IV infusions, regular labs, vaccinations AND ETC that I've had. I haven't counted, but I'd guess the total number of pokes is upwards of 40. I'll look forward to having my body to myself (in more ways than one) after this guy pops out.

I felt a little silly last week when I had an NST (non-stress test) because I didn't feel any movement from this very active fellow for much of the day. Of course he was fine and followed up that one slow day with a real acrobatic type performance the following morning (that's a euphemism for punching my cervix a lot). He's been back to his normal, jumpy self since then which is at times uncomfortable but reassuring nonetheless.

We have narrowed it down to two names, and, as last time, they are literally the only two we can agree on. Unlike last time, these are both super high on the popularity list - especially for Washington - but you can't be picky in that regard when your son is about to be born and nameless.

Olive went to sibling class which is such a Seattle thing. Our local famous, ancient childbirth educator and OG doula, Penny Simkin teaches a one hour class once a month for all the excited/nervous/insane 2, 3 and 4 year olds who are about to welcome new siblings. It includes her famous labor re-enactments (afterward Olive asked me how that grandma could possibly be giving birth to a baby), a short film about a big sister, a real baby to observe and a real big sister to ask questions of. An old doula friend of mine who was assisting asked Olive at the end of class if she'd like to be The Big Sister in March's class and bring her baby brother to introduce to another group of kids. She felt very proud and important - and agreed.

I feel so lucky that it took this long but we had our first ever bout with croup! Jeez, what a scare. I am so much better with topical stuff. Blood doesn't freak me out at all, it's the stuff you can't see that terrifies me. We woke up in the morning to the sound of graveling gasping and I bolted up in bed (a serious feat for 37-weeks-pregnant-me) to see Olive panicked and pointing at her throat. I was naked and unable to get up quickly so I just grabbed her and held her like a baby on my lap while shouting at Spartacus (who, honestly, didn't need to be reminded about anything because he pretty much constantly had croup as a kid), "Open the window! No, get dressed and take her outside! Kgfjsvdfjbufyv!!!!!!" They went out on the porch and within a few minutes everything was fine. Just a little coughing/runny nose and an open bedroom window for a few nights, but I'd take stitches over my kid's throat closing any day of the week.

Olive's been a little…excitable as we get closer to the big day. She's nervous to leave me but doesn't seem to feel any more settled when we are together. She argues about things she used to be agreeable on and bedtime has been a nightmare. Getting outside every day makes a big difference but I have not exactly been in park mode. (What mode have I been in, you ask? Laying down mode. 4-hour-afternoon-nap mode. Thrusting-an-iPad-into-her-hands-and-making-dinners-that-take-less-than-15-minutes mode. Like that.) SO! We had a lovely time - and a much refreshed girl afterward - wandering through our favorite nursery on a big sale day and picking out some plants for the house (some hard-to-kill succulents and tons of seeds to start for the Spring) and papa's office (a lemon tree for the conference room). Olive's been misting her little starts every morning and they have just begun to come up. She is in joyous disbelief that she did that and has been very responsible in remembering to keep them warm/put the lids back on/etc.

You know what's funny about being an off duty, near-term doula? I sort of feel like I'm on call for myself. After nearly 10 years of going to bed early and making sure a bag was always packed for other people it feels both strange and familiar to do the same for myself. I occasionally check my phone - literally - to see if I've called.

We belly casted again. The shapes and proportions are wildly different. I have yet to find a place to keep these giant mementos but I'm glad I/we/they have them.

Weight gain: wait for it…I think close to 70 pounds? I think I'll actually top last time unless I give birth tonight. People I haven't seen in a couple months don't recognize me. I have grown out of all the XL maternity clothes. So, I mean, what is there to even say? Let's just have this baby and get back to normal already. I can't wait for the part where I eat for 2 (or 3) and lose weight. #thanksbreastfeeding

Spartacus thinks it will be the 7th, I think the 3rd (I'm banking on the full moon). Olive says 6 weeks - I don't think she's picked up the details of normal human gestation at her tender age, but she's trying, bless her heart. The tub is here. We're ready.

Have any bets?

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

she says (IV)

Olive likes to play a game I hate in which while I'm still cooking she asks how many bites she has to eat of whatever we're about to have. She wants me to keep track and argue over every bite which completely takes the joy out of eating for me. I was cooking dinner recently and she asked how many bites she would have to take and started throwing numbers out: 5? 6? 7?
"I don't know. more." I said and she kept counting. 
I interrupted her impatiently to say, "1000, you have to take 1000 bites" and she wailed, "That's tooooo many, mama! I will never be able to eat 1,000!" 
"Have you ever tried?" I asked.
She immediately calmed down and said, perfectly reasonably, "You're right mama, I never tried. Let's see about 1,000."

"Papa, if I went up your nose, I'd be really really sad."

"Mom, what's the number?"
"One - oh - one."
"You mean one ZERO one?"

Most hard "c" sounds are "t"s. 
Carry = "tarry". Cracker = "tracker". 

Anything that starts with "sp" gets switched to "ps".
Spicy = "psicy". Special = "pschecial"

"Angina" = vagina
"Ope-meal" = oatmeal
And, mine and everyone's favorite, she retains this inexplicable deep southern accent only when she says "iPad" so it comes out more like "eye-paaay-ed". 

I dare you not to crack up when you hear it. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

thoughts on birth (the second time around)

clockwise from left: 
a pretty pumped big sister, giiiiiiiant belly, riveted by a non-stress test, matching loungers

The home birth kit has been assembled and linens sanitized, the waterproof sheets are on both beds, the tub has been ordered, meals frozen, rapid birth (i.e. no-midwife-present-yet) instructions reviewed, house deep cleaned, birth videos with 3 year old watched, back up plan prepared. Now we wait. And the only thing left to think about is labor.

(Well, for me at least. Spartacus is currently obsessing over what he's going to feed everyone and going completely overboard on his list - he was in charge of the "flashlight with batteries" for the birth kit so he got both a headlamp and a giant floodlight from the boat supply store. I think we're covered in the illumination department and that's what papas are for, right?)

Sometimes, especially when I am tired, I think, "aw man, one of these days I'm going to have to give birth again. UGH." and feel very annoyed. Sometimes I really look forward to the purity of focus and experience that is contraction after contraction after contraction. 

But there is not much in the way of wondering (like the first time) because I know what it feels like. I know how to do it. I know how it ends.

One of my favorite things about labor is how it's not a collaborative effort. You do it by yourself. No one can share it with you or even give you a break. You have helpers, cheerleaders, doctors or midwives to keep you safe and they are very important but inside an invisible bubble you give birth alone. That is my kind of project.

I'm good at getting stuff done alone and I am ready to do this again. My two fears are that it will be too fast to catch up with (my first labor was not very long) and that the tub won't be ready in time (I don't know how anyone does it without the tub, it was my lifeboat). But I also know it's going to be however it is and whatever it is will be fine. At the end of the day I will be delivered from pregnancy (amen) and I don't really care how I get there or what I have to put up with along the way. So close!