I’m in my final hour of child care before going back to work full time. How will I use it? Blogging, working on my book, and paying bills! We gotta pack it in.
This will be a quick blog. So many wonderful, luxurious long days of lounging with baby Chloe, so many house organization projects, so many middle of the night strategy sessions in my mind have led up to this moment.
I will admit that I kept my days productive. What began with a three-point plan (shower, make dinner, write for 5 minutes) turned into a four-point plan (adding in physical therapy for diastasis) and increasing the writing to 20 minutes with the help of my accountabilibuddy and childhood friend Wig. I am 80% done with a first draft of my book, written mostly in 20 minute sessions. I graduated physical therapy and started going to the gym, continuing exercises and getting on the treadmill up to 2.5 miles.
I made sure I spent some time every day gazing into my baby girl’s eyes. We did Mom & Baby Yoga. I let her nap in my arms while I watched Victoria.
The past month has been a flurry of activity for prepare for the arrival of our au pair, including shifting a lot of furniture around, giving away stuff we’re not using, better organizing the clothes, play areas, kitchen. I mean- there is not an area that went untouched. My parents were incredibly helpful. J was here for the final push this past weekend: meals out, pedicures, wine, closet purging, and shopping. Plus a trip to the zoo. Some people get married, and I have J. I’m not complaining!!!
We picked up our Colombian au pair S at O’Hare ten days ago- while we waited, Evan held a bouquet of flowers like a torch and a welcome sign. We made our way home, showed her to her room with balloons and goodies for her. She’s positive, loving, helpful, easygoing, and she’s definitely coachable. So much to learn for someone in the US for the first time!! She’s doing awesome- already making friends with other au pairs, exploring the city. I’m so excited that I get to use/improve my Spanish while she’s getting up and running learning English.
All this transition is not without sometimes a lot of anxiety for me. When my back acts up or my sleep gets erratic, I know that I’m running through so many “what ifs” in the background. It’s what moms do. It’s my job to keep everyone safe so I must anticipate every possible worst case scenario. Handing one’s baby over is so so so hard. Definitely exhausting at times. But all signs are pointing toward our family in a period of thriving once we’re solidly in our routine.
And I’m cool with the work itself. I know this job, I can do this job. There’s something sweet about being back in the swing of working life too. Not to mention kid-free hours (I never understood the benefit of this until I had my own kids!).
On the other side of the door, I hear a squeaky toy and baby girl babbling. Being in close proximity to the her all day is going to be tricky but I plan to nurse her at lunchtime, bottles in the morning/afternoon… and I’m grateful I don’t really have to leave.
Maternity leave, you have been a blessing beyond words. So very grateful for extended leaves with both my babes. I’m super duper grateful for this gift of time.
More on the baby soon- she’s changing, smiling, laughing, grabbing, rolling…
Oh little C, I’m writing so little about you, my second-born. How cliché of me to under-document your early days! But since you’re having happy nakey-time on the bed next to me, I’m going to put some details down.
First of all, you’re a mellow girl. Once we ironed out day and night, you’ve been pretty much placated by one of the following: nursing, sleeping, burping, diaper change, or change of scenery. If it’s not one of those, I go down the list again and usually I get a hit. You rarely flip out. The other night, you started drooling like crazy, fussing for none of those reasons and I think you may be teething early like your brother. I hear about babies who can’t be put down, babies who won’t sleep, and babies who have issues with nursing and I feel so very fortunate that you go with the flow.
At this moment, it’s 9:39am, the sun is streaming into the bedroom, and I’m wearing clothes from yesterday which I also slept in. You are wearing no clothes and no diaper because I can tell you love to be naked and haven’t gotten much of that, being a December baby. You’re sucking on your fist and doing ab crunches. Now you’re pushing your fist deeper into your mouth with your other hand. I just heard a little protest squeak that gives me a heads up that I may already be taking too long to shift gears to the next activity…
You’ve found your feet with your hands, the classic “happy baby” yoga pose although in its earliest stages, like you grabbed your ankle by chance or by mistake. I look at the delicious fat rolls of your thighs and ankles and I feel so proud of how we’re growing you!
More protest squeaks, hurry up, Mom! You get bored and want some stimulation. I’ll try turning on the ceiling fan (your brother adored those). I lay down with you to point out the ceiling fan and discover that you’ve peed and your toes are cold. I put a fresh diaper under you and keep writing. The fan is capturing your attention although will make you colder…
Bedtime is amazing. We do E’s bedtime routine (PJs, brush teeth, wash face, read 3 books, lights out) and you know once your sleep sack is on it’s time to wind down. Sometimes you nurse during 3 books, sometimes after lights out, but we all fall asleep together. I know that this won’t necessarily last but how freaking peaceful. What a gift to the single mom of two. We’re all sleeping or nursing from 8:30pm until 7am and we wake up together having cuddles.
Sometimes I sit up in the night to use the bathroom or check my phone and I watch as you and your brother naturally gravitate toward each other almost instantly. I know that I need to be either in the bed or watching you because you’re both cuddle magnets at night.
I can’t believe how much you actually move yourself already. You’re 12 weeks and I probably moved you six inches away from me six times last night. You micro-scoot your way back. Then you bonk me over and over with your head to get my attention. Or you let out protest snorts. There are many shots over the bough before any crying happens and it almost never does. I latch you on and we both go back to sleep.
You’re growing! Getting fatter. Charming people with those intense blue eyes that I never expected. You’re busy learning and demand new stimulation. You almost always smile back and your eyes smile too. You want to talk. Sometimes you coo, “I love you.” Sometimes you grunt, “I’m really sick of being in this car seat.” You hate having the hiccups, which you do right now.
Now you’re annoyed so I’ll wrap this up. You’re a delight of a human. xoxoxo
We’re home on a Sunday with no plans. This was just as well because it’s been snowing since this morning and apparently the temperature is dropping too, down to a low of 4 degrees. I had planned on going to the library this afternoon, but we couldn’t find the 9th of 9 books to be returned and E didn’t want to go and I’m still in my pajamas. Plus the weather. So.
We had a lazy morning. Rando YouTube videos in bed (E’s latest hot topics are eagles, volcanoes, and the blood moon), breakfast, built a tower, books on the couch, made banana bread together while the baby slept in the Ergo. Then we Facetimed with Mimi, E made his own quesadilla, and we had warm, slightly crunchy banana bread with glasses of milk.
Baby C goes from sleepy to hungry to increasingly focused wake time. She is very quick at replacing her crusty eye after I clean it. She’s usually ready to smile if I engage her.
We just decided not to go out (phew). We have to schlep in the car every day of the week so might as well have a break. I feel like E is kind of missing out on snowy play time because I just don’t want to be standing out in the freezing cold with the baby. That’s reasonable, right? We did go to the playground yesterday because the temp climbed up to 38 degrees…but the wind chill is the wild card. It was super freezing. We lasted a little over 20 minutes (and there was no snow yesterday). Plus the logistics were a crazy: park, take off my coat (brr), put on the Ergo, put the baby in the Ergo, put my coat back on, wrap a blanket around the baby, then (somehow) undo E’s carseat (why didn’t I do that first), move the baby’s carseat to the front seat so he could get out, lock the car, put my mittens back on. Then all of this in reverse to get back in…)
Just before I sat down to write, E asked to watch more videos. I told him sure but he has to do three things first: put the books on the living room floor back on the shelf, put away the letter blocks from the tower we built, and organize his stickers which are all over the dining room table. Nothing could divert him faster from either watching a video or cleaning up. He has 100% moved on from that conversation and immediately got engrossed in some books in the living room. Now he’s back, trying to climb onto my lap, which is pretty limited because I’m wearing the baby in the Ergo and swaying from side to side. He says his leg itches. He says he’s tired (why don’t you lay down?). He’s now precariously balancing on my knee.
He wants to spell his name here because if I’m working on a laptop then clearly all he wants in the world, even more than videos, is to work on my laptop. “I don’t want to do something else!”
“OK, mama: when you’re done writing, I’m going to write my name on your computer, and then we’ll clean the house.”
Yeah, OK kiddo. Now he’s climbing on my back. Baby sleeps peacefully. My middle back hurts. I’m sure we’ll be watching a movie today.
OK! Solo mom of two status does keep me from my blog as it turns out. Baby C is 6 weeks old and I have a new daily routine after a life coach-y call with my sister B: when I get home from dropping off E at school, I: 1) shower, 2) make dinner, 3) write for at least five minutes. Some days, it may take the whole day to get through this to-do list, and lots of things can and do happen between 1, 2, and 3, but this gives me just enough structure to feel like I’m getting the critical stuff done, taking care of myself, and getting a teensy bit of creative time. I feel like I had to get through all my bills and thank you cards and meal planning and etc. etc. to get here, and if writing isn’t to be last, I need to make it first. So, here I am. You should see the Mount Everest of clean laundry piled on the guest bed (4-5 loads) that needs folding.
Overall, we are doing very well! After my parents were with us for six incredibly appreciated weeks of help and support (making dinner, cleaning up, entertaining E, grocery shopping, organizing, etc. etc.), they took off for Arizona about three weeks ago. My true jumping-off point into solo parenting two. I dreaded it. I cried for a day. But then we just picked up and kept going and it’s really been fine. It’s basically like we continued with E’s routine only we have a little person who slows us down a lot.
Baby C is doing a good job: eating, sleeping, gaining weight, starting to hold up her head (which is a tall order since she is in the 99th percentile for head circumference), giving us explosive happy smiles on a more and more frequent basis. Sometimes I think I had the same baby again, her temperament is so much like E. E adores his baby sister, is so proud of her when I bring her into his school for pickups and dropoffs, likes to “play” with her and give her kisses. He’s also such a great helper- bringing me my water bottle, finding my phone, and answering the door- all things I (geniusly) trained him to do before C was born. I’m terrified of him feeling jealous or replaced, which would be altogether natural, but this goes into the category of not wanting one’s child to feel any pain in life (unrealistic)… I set the baby down last night on E’s side of the bed and he was indignantly like, “That’s my spot.” And I nervously was like “Oh, I just set her there until I can move over and put her on her side.” He’s rarely made comments in such a direct way. I know he’s managing some feelings about everything but, so far, he’s doing it courageously and with minimal disruption. Amazing. I am so lucky. I am so so so lucky.
I’ve done so much googling since the baby was born (despite this being my second go-round) that I felt it could be a good way to update you on what’s been happening around here. I just looked through my phone to see all the open browser windows from the last several weeks and here’s what I found:
britax infant car seat compatible stroller: OMG, figuring out the gear is still challenging even though I have 80% of it figured out from when E was a baby. My work colleagues generously gave me a new Britax infant car seat. I posted on a mom’s resale FB page that I needed a Snap N Go, which I thought was universal, but I got so many questions back about what it’s compatible with that I started googling what strollers are compatible with my specific model of car seat… and, blessedly, my SMC friend K saw my post and lent me her stroller which is also Britax and the car seat clicks in so simply and easily! Of course, just getting the stroller open and closed has required me standing next to my car for long, self-conscious minutes, looking all over the stroller for the magic button. But I’ve got it now.
costco magnatiles: This is from before xmas. E wanted a Maui hook (you’ll know what that is if you’ve seen Moana, which we’ve watched around 25 times), Magnatiles (shockingly expensive but awesome), and a porcelain bell Christmas ornament (we had one that he broke by accident). I ended up getting the Magnatiles at Target, the hook from amazon, and I never did find a bell. Maybe next year.
10 satisfying solutions that will unplug your baby’s nose: Baby C has been stuffed up since she was 2 weeks old. At first it was alarming as it sounded like she actually couldn’t breathe, since babies are nose-breathers. It’s unclear whether she’s just stuffy or actually reacting to a bug but I think it’s the former because she hasn’t had any other signs of being sick. The ped says that she just needs to grow so her airways get bigger. Poor thing. Meanwhile, I’ve discovered the magic of saline spray (she welcomes it now because she knows it feels better) and only use the Nosefrida when her nose is actually running. We also spend some time in the steamy bathroom.
treatment for infected stitches: I thought I might have an infection coming on somewhere in my undercarriage which turned into itchiness which is, very frustratingly, still unresolved. I was treated for a yeast infection (course of two pills), and it hasn’t gone away. I have yet another midwife appointment this afternoon but it’s definitely not a stitches infection because there’s no pain and a previous midwife appointment confirmed the healing is fine. Just aggravating itch. Baking soda baths seem to help. I will report back.
researchers propose “breastsleeping” as a new word and concept: I had to regain my confidence in cosleeping after all the doctors and nurses and our pediatrician stated and restated the dangers, so I read up on the recommendations and research. It’s different now with two kiddos but we’re now in a sweet groove. E has begun transitioning to his own bed, which is at the foot of my bed. I’m selling this as “one big bed” while encouraging him to sleep where he wants. When he does go in his bed, it gives me so much more real estate! But he’s more likely to feel scared and takes longer to fall asleep. When E is next to me, I stay between them and everything is set up safely. C and I have a fabulous “breastsleeping” relationship. We barely wake for feedings. In the morning, love waking up to her peaceful, tiny little face somewhere below my arm pit. We’re all getting plenty of sleep, minus when the baby isn’t on board for bedtime and we have to wait until she’s done squawking.
folded method moby newborn: The Moby wrap is so sweet for newborns. It’s also not that easy, at least for me. I was looking for videos on how to do the wrap. I can do it but it’s slightly different each time, sometimes the baby is melting down, down, down. It sure takes a long time to get it on when said baby is screaming her head off. I’m transitioning more to the Ergo, which I love.
Bedtime for Frances movie review: E has been getting a little more screen time while I get the baby thing figured out (but not too much!) and I try to look up shows and movies on Common Sense Media to see a review and whether it’s age-appropriate. I learned this lesson after showing him Lion King and totally forgetting how scary and dark that story is (he did fine since it was over his head). Sometimes I do the research to find the perfect show and it’s not available without a purchase, as I think was true for Bedtime for Frances, so we skip it.
Order changes- instacart: After a great experience in SF with Amazon Fresh, I’ve started up grocery delivery again! I paid the annual fee for Instacart which gets me deliveries from Costco, Pete’s Fresh Market, Whole Foods, CVS, etc. All the prices are jacked up on the Instacart site, plus tip, but, overall, what a miracle to get groceries within 1-2 hours of placing the order without having to step into frigid temperatures (not to mention with 1-2 kids)!
unique birth announcements: I started trying to find a birth announcement format I like and just hated them all so I decided it was too early and postponed this by several months. Hoping I’ll actually do it!
crusty goopy eye: Another joyous newborn health issue in addition to nonstop congestion is the goopy eye. Again, the eye drainage system is too small to handle all the tears so it builds up and crusts over on the eyes. Some days, I had to constantly wipe her eyes with a warm washcloth just to keep her eyes open. I also put breastmilk on both eyes regularly, which is the only remedy I’ve heard about (other than, again, waiting for the tear ducts to grow with the baby). This has improved in recent days!
How to get rid of lice: Yeah, E got lice. Ugh. I think we caught it early- did the treatment and the combing and we’re still combing this week. I didn’t get them, nor did the baby. I did a bunch of laundry. Fingers crossed we caught everything and it doesn’t turn into a bigger deal. I never said the word “lice” to E, just asked about itchiness, and he loves to get combed because he can watch a video. (He is currently super into “Sid the Science Kid.”
princess margaret, countess of snowdon: I watched the two available seasons of The Crown- so great. I still have the second season finale to watch. Fascinating. So well acted and filmed. I keep googling what really happened and it seems like the show doesn’t wildly divert from history. I’ll need another show soon and went back and watched the pilot of The West Wing- could easily fall into a WW binge although I’ve already watched the whole thing.
egift card for Grub Hub: A group of college friends put a bunch of money into Grub Hub for me and lots of (mostly SMC) friends have come by with food or placed an order for delivery- amazing. My friend K made a little extra every time she cooked for her family under she had around ten frozen tupperwares to add to my freezer. So very helpful. And, on the subject of helpers, my nieces have been coming over for individual “C time” as they learn about how to care for a baby (they are 6 and 9). They can hold her or entertain her while I take out the trash and fold laundry. Amazing. I know I’ll blink and they’ll be babysitting. I feel so lucky these kids get to grow up together.
All for now as C is squeaking. A few photos for you. Thanks for all the sweet notes, some of which I didn’t even respond to, gah! Morer soon, lots of love and happy 2018
The pregnancy was smooth and all was on track. Then, in the last few weeks before my due date, the baby seemed to be having trouble getting consistently into position. For quite a while, she was transverse, lying sideways across my belly. When my doula came by for a prenatal visit, she checked and said, oh good- now she’s head down. Phew! But then at my next midwife appointment, her head had moved way off to the left. The midwife was also able to feel that I had more than the normal amount of amniotic fluid. My belly felt juicy.
I was sent in for an ultrasound at 38 weeks to confirm the baby’s position. Her head was on my cervix, but way over to the left. Her shoulder was in my pelvic cavity. I had no idea that the cervix and the pelvic cavity could be in different places. The doctor actually asked me if I had more than one cervix, which I found to be a bewildering question- is that a thing? As far as I know, I only have one. They also confirmed that I had too much fluid. The midwives said they would consult with Maternal Fetal Medicine at UIC to see if I could get Level II Ultrasound.
I wasn’t worried- my doula said that she had never seen a baby not correct its position in labor if it was already somewhat head down. I knew that too much fluid was associated with some serious problems like diabetes and genetic abnormalities, but the testing I’d done had ruled out all of them. So, I went along, finishing up at work and making use of my remaining days to organize and prep for baby.
About ten days after my ultrasound and five days before my due date, one of the midwives (named Katy- they are almost all named Katy) called me, out of the blue at noon on a Saturday. MFM at UIC was saying that, given my risk factors, it wouldn’t be worth it to do an ultrasound at that point- they recommended induction. The midwives then contacted MFM at Northwestern, and they said the same thing. My risk factors were: too much fluid, advanced maternal age, a big baby (she measured almost 9 pounds at 38 weeks), and IVF.
None of these risk factors were considered risky by themselves, but, combined, the MFMs felt that the risk of waiting was putting the baby in jeopardy. The midwife recommended inducing not necessarily in the next hour but “today or tomorrow,” which was a shock, considering that my first baby was two weeks late and I was not mentally (or otherwise) prepared to go early. I got off the phone, cried, talked to my parents, called my doula. While I could have opted to delay induction, I knew that my anxiety would be overwhelming if I went against the recommendation of two MFM departments and my midwives. I knew that I could weather an induction (my first baby, Evan, was also successfully induced) and I knew that my baby would be safely delivered one way or another in the hospital. I called the midwife back to say OK, and she scheduled me for 8am the following morning.
This gave me mere hours to do the last of my mental and logistical prep. I’d already spent the morning de-cluttering my bedroom—it felt good to at least have a ready landing pad. I sent my dad to the store for labor snacks, read up on pain management, wrote a letter to my baby, cried, meditated. I went to my sister’s for dinner and had a glass of wine. I was on edge, more nervous than I expected. It’s a huge endeavor to have in your immediate future. In a way, the first time is scariest because it’s unknown, but the second time is also scary because it’s (at least somewhat) known.
I went to bed with Evan at 8pm, as usual, knowing that the next time I read him bedtime stories, our baby would be on the outside. I felt so nostalgic about our 3.5 years as a family of two coming to an end. Evan was nothing but excited to meet his baby sister.
Somehow, I slept. I woke up, as usual, two times to pee, and it took a little longer to go back to sleep but I did it. I got up at 6:30am and showered, shaving my legs for the first time in months (not even sure how or why that seemed important). Then I hurriedly packed, throwing baby clothes in a variety of sizes, battery-operated candles, toiletries, and snacks into bags, while trying to get through a breakfast of eggs, toast, bone broth. I said goodbye to Evan–he was brave and I was brave. My sister Diana picked me up and we drove to the hospital.
“I’m here to have a baby!” I said to the guy at the info desk. He directed us to the elevator to the 6th floor and said, “God bless.” From my labor room, I had a gorgeous view of the Chicago skyline, 8 miles east. A perfect mirror image of the east-facing view I had of the San Francisco skyline in 2014 for Evan’s birth.
I was put in a gown, set up with an IV (which took at least an hour by itself), and then we spent a lot of time talking through my induction plan. First, we decided to put a Cook’s catheter to ripen my cervix. This happened around 1pm. At four centimeters of dilation, it would fall out by itself. Great. Minimal discomfort. They started me on level 1 of Pitocin. They checked the baby’s position and her head was still to the left.
The midwife consulted with two OBs about whether we could safely turn the baby to get her head down (a version), and it was determined that this would be extremely unsafe. The abundance of fluid could cause more than usual pressure on the placenta and cause an abruption- so, this wasn’t an option.
The attending doctor, Dr. Morgan Madison, one of many super-talented women in this story, came in to chat with me- I happened to be on the phone with my amazing doula, Victoria, so I put the phone on speaker. Dr. Madison was young and beautiful, hair shaved on one side. A cool doctor and also confident and competent. She wanted to discuss how the baby’s position could result in a C-section. She told me I should stop, as of this precise moment, eating and drinking anything in case a C-section became necessary. Of course, I became instantly parched. The minute she left the room, my sister (trained as a doula) and Victoria both encouraged me to keep eating and drinking. Thank goodness- I can’t imagine how I would have gotten through 24 more hours without it.
My mom arrived, as did my doula Victoria (in a jacket that said “I’m the Doula!” and a shirt that said “I believe in your ability to birth your baby”) and my sister went home. My midwife Amy, whom I’d never met at checkups because she just does weekends on-call, was another super-talented woman who was thoughtful and quirky and has practiced midwifery all over the world. She had distracting dangly earrings, a messy bun, and used surprising metaphors like “this baby is monkeybars!” In the early afternoon, she checked the baby’s position. She was able to nudge the baby’s head manually into a fully down position. Yay! They put on a belly binder. It seemed like maybe we dodged a bullet.
For so many hours, we were waiting for my cervix to ripen and just killing a lot of time sitting around drinking coconut water and eating snacks. We did lots of reminiscing about our babies’ births. The afternoon turned into evening. The nurse came in every two seconds to adjust my monitors- one for the baby’s heartbeat and one for contractions. The contractions looked nice on the monitor but I couldn’t feel them at all. I tried to rest for what was to come.
Around 7pm, Amy came back and checked the baby’s position- she was still head down (vertex) but high. I was on my left side, trying to keep the baby in position (as if I could really control it). Two nurses came in around 9:30pm and struggled to find heart tones. I moved to my right side, and they found the heartbeat in a surprising place because she had changed position again. I could feel the baby changing position a lot.
Later on, Dr. Madison sent the message that we should discontinue the Pitocin because it is contraindicated for a transverse baby. Now the baby was sort of hanging like a rag doll with her back at the top and her limbs hanging down. Our conclusion was that the abundance of fluid was making it impossible for the baby to get her head reliably in position for a vaginal birth.
Close to midnight, we had a powwow: Dr. Madison, Amy, Victoria, the nurse Krystal, my mom, and me. The situation was not something any of them had seen before so it required a more creative brainstorming session, and, incredibly, they were willing to include us in that. They said, “We’re just going to talk this through right here.” I still can’t believe how much effort they put into giving me my best shot at a vaginal delivery.
The problem was too much fluid, which was not only keeping baby from getting into position but it would make contractions less productive (like pushing a rope). If we broke the amniotic bag, there would be a higher than normal risk of cord prolapse due to the additional pressure, meaning that with the rush of fluids come out, the cord would come down the birth canal before the head, potentially cutting off the baby’s oxygen. So, Victoria, my doula, voiced her brilliant idea of just doing a tiny pin prick with a pudenal block needle and guiding the baby’s head into position carefully with the hand. The team got really enthusiastic about this. They left the room for a while (I think it took them a long time to find the right needle) and came back with the full plan.
They would prep me for a C-section in case there was a cord prolapse so they could have the baby out before the 10-minute mark when oxygen supply would be depleted. They took out the Cook’s catheter and discovered that I was already seven centimeters dilated! For some reason it hadn’t fallen out! I had no idea that you could get to 7 cm dilation with no discernible contractions…
At 1am, they put me on a gurney (in case I needed to be rushed to the OR), shaved my incision line, wiped my body with chlorahexadrine. They put my head a little lower than my feet so that gravity would help keep the cord in. And then they started the procedure.
I remember feeling really focused and all my emotions were put aside as we carried out the plan. Amy did the pinprick. The fluid started dribbling out and Dr. Madison started pushing on the top of my belly (fundus) really hard to get the baby to descend. Amy guided the baby’s head with her hand. The fluid came out so gradually that she did another pinprick, and eventually used the more typical crochet hook. I was doing deep breathing as this position was so uncomfortable (plus I was already stiff from trying to hold myself in a left-lying position leading up to the procedure). As pockets of fluid were released, the baby descended. Dr. Madison had her full weight on my body and she was really strong. They kept apologizing to me. I kept thinking- we’re gearing up for a birth, I’m not expecting to be comfortable! After about an hour of this, the baby’s head was at -3 station and I was allowed to sit up which was a huge relief. It worked! They put the belly binder on tight.
The team was celebratory and now all I had to do was “pit this baby out!” (They apologized to me for this expression.) I was so grateful to Victoria for her contribution to our brainstorming sesh.
The nurse was soooo conservative with the pit. She kept saying that I had to show a clear pattern of contractions (rather than “artifacts” which were disorganized and choppy) before she would turn it up. I had spent the whole day at level 2. She turned it up to 3 around 2am, 4 at around 3:30am, and eventually I went to sleep. They also put a monitor on the baby’s head to track her heartbeat (rather than chasing it with the monitor on the outside) and they inserted another sensor to track contractions (which was supposed to sit next to the baby’s face but ultimately floated away and didn’t work). I had at least five cords to manage every time I went to the bathroom (which was a lot, since I’d been pounding coconut water all day).
While I was sleeping, the nurse finally turned the pit up to 5, 6, and 7- and by the time I woke up, I was having real contractions. I burst into tears knowing that the baby would be on her way soon- a big release. My sister Diana arrived again, and my doula Heather (who is also an experienced midwife) came to relieve Victoria. The midwife Annette, whom I had met at checkups and resembled Amy, came to relieve Amy. (Before leaving, Amy called this an “epic” birth, and she didn’t even get to see how it ended…)
From this point, labor progressed normally, although the baby was always described as “high.” At some point, I was determined to be 7.5 cm, which only added .5 cm to where I’d been many hours before. At first I couldn’t remember how to vocalize contractions but when they got stronger they vocalized themselves. As the contractions got stronger, I felt strong too, keeping my voice low, changing positions, staying focused. My labor team was awesome even though I don’t really know who was doing what as I retreated behind my closed eyes. It was comforting to know that I had Heather as well as my mom and sister, soothing me with voices, hands, sips of coconut water, and sometimes just an empathetic “I know…”
I started feeling back labor and wondered if she was “sunny side up” (posterior)- but I didn’t ask, and no one told me. Eventually, I couldn’t find a good resting position, pain was carrying through the spaces between contractions, and I felt really hesitant to change position or try something new. I tried the ball, a birthing stool, draping myself over the top of the raised bed, hands and knees, even runners lunge and side-lying (which was really intense but provided the best rest in between contractions). I started wanting to push but the cervix wasn’t totally effaced. In retrospect, I was having a premature urge to push due to a posterior baby.
Eventually, I was ready for full-on pushing and it did not feel anything like Evan’s birth. With him, I was harnessing the power of a train moving through my body and getting this huge forward motion, and I was feeling triumphant. This time, it was not smooth sailing. It felt like the transition didn’t quite happen and it was a mix of active labor contractions with some pushing at the end of each- it didn’t feel like I was in the flow. I was constantly wondering if I could do it and trying to be brave.
My team was cheering me on but they were also quiet sometimes. I pushed as hard as I could, waiting for their feedback, even having a passing thought about my poor (pre-existing) hemorrhoids. I wanted to get into easier positions but Heather kept me in the harder ones, which probably (thankfully) kept the whole pushing stage from going even longer. I wanted to get on my back, which is how I birthed Evan, but everyone felt that would slow things down, so at the end, after about two hours of pushing, I was in a partial side-lying position, gripping the railing so tightly that my arms were sore for days. I got her head partway out and my sister asked if I wanted to feel it and I said NO. I just wanted to get her out. A few more pushes and then that nothing-else-like-it sensation of her body coming out of mine, and she was here!
She looked just like Evan as a newborn to me, super healthy with an Apgar score of 9- she cried right away. I was very relieved but the pain didn’t stop; now they were massaging my belly to get my placenta to come out. I looked up and saw my mom and sister with tears in their eyes. I was trying to put her on the nipple and they were pushing on my belly and then I was cutting the cord (which took 5 cuts!) and then some negative-energy doctors came by to say that my placenta wasn’t coming out and they needed to reach in to try to detach it (and they mentioned that this was among the most painful things they do to anyone at the hospital). They put Fentanyl in my IV, felt around, determined it would not come out, and shipped me to the operating room to go under general anesthesia so they could get the placenta out. I handed the baby to my family and was rushed to the OR.
With the Fentanyl, I was confused and panicking- I had thought my doula was coming with me, I couldn’t recognize any of the doctors and nurses with their masks on… Eventually a nurse with an accent was putting a mask over my face and I told myself it was time to surrender.
While I was under (for about an hour), they removed my placenta successfully and I hemorrhaged even worse than I did with Evan (1600 ml vs. 1500 ml last time), and I was given a blood transfusion. When I woke up I was so disoriented- eventually I talked the nurse into bringing my mom, the baby, and my glasses into the recovery room.
Once they arrived, I felt huge relief and was completely fine again. If my mom is here, the baby is here, we’re all OK- I’m good. My baby girl started nursing and they wheeled us to our little postpartum room where we spent the next couple of days in the love nest together.
It was while I was in labor that her name solidified in my mind: Chloe. She is a “tender green shoot” and a fertility goddess, a sweet girl with an edge. After a birth of so many twists and turns, her first week of life has been absolutely smooth as she’s nailed all her metrics, mastered nursing, and squeaks and coos. I’ll be forever grateful to the incredible team who guided us through some raging storms to emerge on the other side where the clouds finally parted and life is nothing but sunshine.
Wow, it’s 7:39pm on a Wednesday and I’m WRITING AT MY DINING ROOM TABLE! This hasn’t happened in… years?
For months now, I’ve gone to bed with E around 8 or 8:30. I was always a night person but you adjust, like adjusting to a new time zone. When we are reading the second book of three, I let out a huge yawn, and by the time we turn off the light, we’re both out.
Before I got pregnant, I was getting up at 5:15 to spend up to two hours of me time: meditating, writing, reading, doing yoga. For a while, it worked really well. Then, once I got pregnant, I started sleeping the whole duration of E’s sleep, like 10-11 hours. And then, once I was more pregnant, I started waking up consistently in the middle of the night for a snack.
The snack sesh usually takes place around 3am but could really happen anytime between midnight and 4am or so. I’d get a snack (usually a yogurt or cereal or both) and settle in to read stuff on my phone. It felt almost rebellious because I would inevitably get immersed in the internet and an hour would go by. I realized that it was my only me time, so why fight it? I’d go right back to sleep and still get 9-10 hours total.
Still, I was kind of beating myself up about the aimlessness of it. I’d surf around on facebook, letting other people curate my reading list. I’d respond to personal emails that got buried in the 50-60 emails from a zillion random mailing lists that arrive each day. I’d read everything in my Twitter feed from the past 24 hours. My rationale was that I needed this me time and I didn’t want to do something “productive” that would “wake me up more.”
Then, my sister D asked me to edit a book she wrote. I really wanted to do it, and I realized that the snack sesh time slot was my only hope. I wanted to get it done in a week, which meant working every night for two hours. Could I do it?
It’s still weird to me that I achieved this, but I’d wake up every night somewhere between 12-4am, do a five-minute check of the internet, and then work for two hours. I finished it in a week. I was totally able to focus. Some times were easier than others to go back to sleep, but I wasn’t sleep-deprived, and I was feeling gratified that I accomplished something.
Once I was done, I thought- awesome. I’ve carved out this time, now I can do a personal project. I have so many in mid-stream. The first night, I celebrated by going back to reading stuff on the internet. Then I moved on to baby name research (because I have to evaluate every name in existence and then meet the baby before I can choose a name). I also want to make a list of projects for when my parents come, like painting the dresser/changing table, washing baby clothes, and ridding my place of clutter. But I was dragging my feet about blogging or picking up my book-writing which was abandoned months ago at the end of Chapter 3.
This morning, E was a little lethargic. He was a little warm. Then he told me his legs were tired and his bones hurt. Sigh… He was sick. So he spent the day watching Moana and Paw Patrol and I spent the day missing cues on conference calls and trying to get him to nap. I pretended it was bedtime at 6:30pm and he went to sleep. I laid beside him dreaming of all I would do with my evening. Watch a show? Continue name research? Pick up book writing? Eat an ice cream bar?
I never would have believed how impossible it is to get time for oneself as a parent. I remember people telling me you don’t even have a chance to shower or take a shit. And I, like many people before they have kids, thought it would be different for me. Because how hard is it to problem-solve that? But what you forget is that you’ll be simultaneously problem-solving dinner, monitoring your kid who is climbing on the furniture like a jungle gym, checking a text that came in from a work colleague, and planning A-Z for tomorrow. And, obviously, there’s more to juggle when you’re single, and less time and energy to juggle it when you’re pregnant.
But I/we HAVE to get that time. Editing my sister’s book felt like a tropical vacation. On the days when I manage to meditate for ten minutes, I give myself a literal pat on the back. I listen to audio books on my way to pick up E from school. I schedule a lap swim in the middle of the work day. I call a long-distance friend when I have five to seven minutes to talk.
And now I’ll add a newborn to the mix!
Cheers to an evening with me.
(Here are two photos that mysteriously showed up on my phone.)
We have a mosquito problem. Four mornings ago, E woke up with a bunch of bites- a collection of three son his upper arm, three on his back, two on his forehead, one on his chin. The saddest. He always reacts to them so they look like welts. The bugger barely went after me, even though I have maybe 40% extra blood in circulation at the moment. The next night, he kept waking and whimpering ever couple of hours and I just thought he felt itchy, until I heard the unmistakable high-pitched whine buzzing my ear. I turned on the light, sat until I saw it, and killed it. Done.
Then the next night, the same. So I figured it wasn’t just an errant one that got in (I’ve lived here for a year and never had a mosquito in our room), and closed the windows and doors. Feeling like, “Aaah, now we’ll get a good night’s sleep,” we went to sleep last night and I was woken by another one in my ear. I killed FOUR. I went back to sleep and was just woken by another one. While I was trying to hit one way up high on the wall with a paperback children’s book, another one whizzed past. What’s going ON??? Are they growing in my water glass? Is there a hole in my window?? UGH.
But, it was almost 6am so I thought I’ll just roll with this and take a nap later. I can’t leave E in here as mosquito bait all by himself so I’m sitting next to him on the bed, writing on my laptop, and waiting for it to buzz my ear again so I can kill both mf-ers.
So, it’s been a while since I’ve been in here. My pregnancy sleep is expansive and consumes any productive me time like I used to have for meditation and writing. I do pretty routinely wake up at 3am and sometimes can pee and go back to sleep but most times I also have to eat cereal or yogurt, and then end up reading on my phone for an hour or more. I’ve considered making that time productive, but I’m really trying to stay in a twilight state of sleep and not fully wake up. So I don’t meal plan, clean, do yoga, or write. I pretty much read the news (which is also not restful). I’m really not sure how to get this time back, or maybe I just don’t for now, since my body wants to be in bed at 8pm and up around 7am, with a snack break in between… but I can keep experimenting.
The light is dim and a mourning dove is hoo hoo hooing. Baby is shifting around in my belly, happy she doesn’t yet live in the outside world of mosquitoes. E is scratching his forehead in his sleep. Despite my 2am snack of Grape Nuts, I’m hungry again and sleepy due to the 5:30am mosquito alarm.
In general, we’re doing great. I’ve been working with E on becoming more independent in preparation for being a helpful and somewhat self-sufficient big brother. I started with the morning routine, or, as he calls it, “The Whole Morning ‘Tine.” He has three things to do when he wakes up in the morning: get dressed, go potty, and eat breakfast, all of which he can do without my help. Each task completed gets a sticker on a big red chart we made, and 10 stickers = lollipop.
The first week went 100% perfectly. He felt proud. It still takes a lot of prodding to make the three tasks happen but he did them each morning before school. (It would be SO much faster to do everything for him, like 15 minutes vs. an hour.)
The second week pretty much fell apart because a) we started sleeping later, b) I had earlier than usual meetings, and c) the mosquitoes. I started doing everything for him in order to get out the door, the stickers trailed off, and he was reverting back to crying when I dropped him off at school. (I did coach him before dropoff yesterday that he’d be a brave boy and no more crying and you’ll have a fun day. He got positive and said, “Mom, today I’m going to kiss your cheek, kiss your belly, and give you a high five!” And he did.)
So now we have to regroup on the Whole Morning ‘Tine and also eventually work on evening. Last night, E overheard the NPR announcers talking about the hurricane and wanted to learn more about it. So, hoping that I wasn’t helping him develop a phobia, we watched a bunch of storm videos before bed. At 8pm, I turned it off and started moving him toward the bathroom. Evening ‘Tine is potty, brush teeth, wash face, put on jammies, read 3 books. It’s actually more steps than the morning. And he started screaming no and collapsing on the bathroom rug and I just didn’t have any more energy to coach him through it. So I said, “that’s it! no books! We’re going straight to bed!” and that’s how he ended up plopped into bed in his clothes with unbrushed teeth, unwashed face, and not having used the potty since school (but he’s a camel so don’t worry too much about that). He cried in the dark for a few minutes (I hoped that he was making connections about behaviors having consequences), and went to sleep ridiculously fast. Of course, a universal truth: the evening ‘Tine needs to start earlier.
I’m pretty sure this is how parenting will go: two steps forward, one step back. It’s so clear to me that this is a two-way street and many failures are because of me- I’m tired, I’m inconsistent, I’m annoyed, I didn’t plan well. But really, it’s mostly him! Which makes sense as he learns to navigate new feelings of independent and proud vs. rebellious and resistant- frankly, all good qualities to nurture in a person.
I really haven’t read any parenting books, just get a sense of different methodologies from articles other moms post on Facebook mom groups. I don’t see myself doling out punishments, although I do see myself enforcing natural consequences of behavior (yes, there is a fine line)- e.g. you don’t cooperate with the Evening ‘Tine, you don’t get books before bedtime. I also don’t want to push food on him. I’ve found myself hounding him about taking X bites and dangling dessert as a reward- then I just read an article about putting the food in front of them and not pushing anything. “You don’t have to eat that.” It’s like the potty- if I push, he resists, end of story. But he goes when he has to. I feel sympathetic because while pregnant, there sometimes foods I don’t feel like eating; even ones I put on my plate. It’s an icky feeling that someone would force you or coerce you into eating what you don’t feel like putting in your mouth. I get that. (Plus he does really well most of the time. He will shovel homemade kale chips into his mouth. Even if I’m pretty sure he would live on crackers and cheese if given the option.)
I feel good- honestly, just hungry and tired. All appointments and tests so far say things are progressing normally. The baby moves a lot, with little bumps turning into longer swooshes as she gets bigger. I obsess over her name, just like I did with E, and I sense that, like with him, I’ll have to see her first. I sense she will not be a girly girl, or is that just my idea of her because I know she’ll have a big bro and wear his hand-me-downs?
She instantly stops moving when anyone puts a hand on my belly to feel her kick (also universal?). I feel big for 24 weeks and as soon as I’m done writing this post I’m going to go back to my 24 week belly shot from my last pregnancy to see how the belly compares. I swear the maternity shirts aren’t even covering the roundness all the way, and I still have almost 4 months to go…
And I feel super out of shape. I walked downtown with E on his glider bike, about 5 blocks one way, to meet my sister’s family for Thursday Night Out (a little weekly summer street fair with food). By the time we got home, my body felt so creaky and imbalanced and sore. I remember the many-mile hikes of last pregnancy… which hasn’t been happening. My plan is to re-join the gym, as soon as they re-open from doing renovations, with the intention of swimming a few times a week. I want to be sure I’m going into the birth strong, like I felt last time.
Now I’m starving and need to shower before my sleeper awakes. Have a wonderful weekend! We are heading to the zoo. xo
I woke up this morning to a cacophony of birds singing and squawking outside my window, thinking, “How does anyone sleep through this???” But also noting the cool breeze wafting through the open windows, the peaceful breathing of my sleeping boy beside me, and the delicate morning light. It felt too early to wake up, but I did anyway. I guess sometimes I need only eight hours (particularly if I sleep through the night with no middle-of-the-night snack and internet session).
I’m pretty sure that the baby woke me up, for the first time. I’m at the point where every muscle spasm or digestive click in the region of my belly feels like it could be the baby squirming, and I wonder but don’t feel quite sure. This morning, I felt more precise swift kicks and thought, “There you are!” as I woke to my peaceful 5am scene.
The need for sleep has kept me from my early-morning writing hour, but I’m dying to get back to it. I need to finish my book before we layer in a bombshell of a new routine on top of the existing one! It’s going to be wild. Or, who knows, maybe it’ll be easy and smooth and I’ll write while E is at school, rocking the Rock ‘N Play with my foot…
This week, I finally settled on where to give birth. This was such a long-term decision and at no point in the info-gathering process did I feel clarity. It was a murky process. You guys know that I planned a home birth with my first baby and worked with a home birth midwife whom I adore to pieces. I loved everything about her and my doula and their home birth community where I made so many friends. Even though I ended up being induced in the hospital at 42 weeks, I had a beautiful birth that I would like to replicate in almost all ways. (For the record, I’d like to put in an order for going into labor naturally, shaving some hours off of the pre-labor, and no post-partum hemorrhage, please.)
Once I got here to Illinois, I found a completely different birth scene. For one thing, home birth is much more restricted so there are few above-ground home birth practices. One, though, is in my exact village, and has a good reputation. But from the beginning, my gut was saying no. I can’t fully unpack why. I didn’t like that it was a “team” and you couldn’t know who would be at the actual birth. I couldn’t imagine building the kind of trust I had in my SF midwife, which felt crucial to an intimate home birth experience. The women I met with seemed very competent but inexperienced in that they were very young, which made me nervous. And their transfer hospital was thirteen miles away. And everything (as it was in SF) would be entirely out of pocket, not covered by insurance (a bigger consideration now that I’m trying to afford two kids). There were so many nice aspects to the practice and yet I was just not feeling it.
I visited a state-of-the-art hospital in a gorgeous new building with a friendly team of midwives who promote natural birth in the hospital setting, but they insisted on inducing me at 40 weeks, which was a dealbreaker for me.
I met with a local team of midwives who catch babies at a hospital but I was scared off by anecdotal stories of local moms who ran into long delays at their appointments and billing screw-ups. My free consultation started almost an hour late, and, I get it, someone was at a birth and they were running behind, but I didn’t want to risk taking a half day for every checkup.
I landed on a nonprofit family health center that includes a midwife practice and a birth center (the first in Illinois). The midwives are all former home birth midwives. The woman I met with in my free consultation was warm and gave me glimmers of my SF home birth community. The overall clinic seemed great and the two birthing rooms were painted unfortunately bright colors and had no windows… I couldn’t quite feel that it was the right place either. But I liked the fact that they transfer in an ambulance and the hospital was just 5 minutes away.
I started up prenatal care there, and, sure enough, my first appointment started almost an hour late. But once I was in, everyone was so kind and attentive and the midwife was fantastic. She spent so much time with me and we talked everything through at length. She took down a crazy amount of details about my medical history and requested all the medical records from my fertility process and E’s birth at UCSF. I felt like I had found my people.
However, the insurance coordinator could not get a straight answer from my insurance on whether a birth center birth would be covered in-network which could be a huge difference in price. She did explain that half of the midwives do births at the birth center and the other half at the hospital- I hadn’t realized this was an option, so I stayed right on the fence about which way to go.
I walked into my appointment last week thinking, “I don’t think I’ll be giving birth here.” And, sure enough, when I met with the same midwife again, she said she’d read through my birth records and was concerned about the postpartum hemorrhage. The records said that I’d lost 1.5 liters of blood (a visual estimate), which she felt was underestimated given that they had to give me the maximum meds to get the bleeding under control. Also, my blood pressure was dropping and my pulse rising, a sign that my body was struggling. She said she felt that I should be in the hospital where they could best handle this if it were to unfold the same way again. (Also, all is well with the baby.)
I felt relief. I realized that when I visualized a home or birth center birth, this was my underlying fear. The truth is, after all the fears I had about the hospital, I had a beautiful hospital birth. And I wanted to replicate it. It was a long road, but I finally landed on my decision.
This hospital has a low C-section rate and Alternative Birthing Rooms where they pretty much leave you alone to labor naturally. And it’s less than 2 miles from my house. We can do this.
I’ve been joined on the couch by a little rugrat who is watching Clifford on my phone while I wrap this up. As soon as we turn it off, he will want me to throw him a ball to hit with a tennis racquet. (It’s a padded ball so won’t do too much damage in the house.) He insists on being called Roger Federer, and I am Serena Williams.