Monday, October 10, 2011

iMom

In April I had a baby.  In May another less important, though still life altering, event took place; I got an iphone.  My mom generously gifted me my new bff for my birthday.  I’ll be honest, I was suspect. I am not exactly technologically savvy and I have long looked askance at those people whose phones seem to be physically attached to their person.  I was quite comfortable with my old-fashioned Nokia flip phone.  It was sturdy enough to withstand the daily abuse of a toddler and fairly clumsy 20-something.  Plus it tucked nicely into my cleavage without disrupting the line of my cotton tee yet my vast chi-chi’s did not smother the volume while on speaker phone therefore negating the need for a head-set. Simple pleasures, people.  However after much hemming and hawing, I broke down and joined the dark side. 

Now, I am not sure how I ever got along without my trusty sidekick.  I knew I would enjoy the convenience of plugging the address into the MapQuest app rather than frantically rifling through paper directions and almost always, still ending up lost.  And I would be lying if I said I had never whipped out my fancy friend and did a quick Google search to prove Brakes wrong on some useless bit of trivia.  But what I had not anticipated is how my iphone would actually increase my productivity, motivate and inspire me in several different ways, and allow me to be a better mother. (Too much?) Overall, thanks to my phone, I spend less time on the internet (I typically browse during nursing sessions and I go days without turning on my laptop), I am far more organized with my calendar, shopping lists, and meal plans, right at my finger tips, which saves time and allows for more tea-parties and tickle sessions.  Also, for the first time in my life, I can run.  I was always the girl at the back of the track offering “help” to the asthmatics during the mile runs in PE.  But, I decided to give running one more shot after Olive was born just until I got cleared to get back into the pool. I was cleared to swim 3 months ago but I seem to have caught the running bug.  With the help of my favorite apps to track pace, mileage, etc., and the podcasts or music I stream to keep me entertained, I am up to 5 miles three times a week. And lastly, I am finally doing a better job of documenting my sweet girls’ childhoods and it is so much easier to keep in touch with those that I love; I can capture a quick picture of something cute and text it to Movy (my mom) lickity split and Eloise loooooves the FaceTime feature (she thinks its magic).  I just figured out how to download the photos from my phone to my computer and I’ve had a ball looking through all the fun we had this summer.  (This activity inspired the gushing about my phone.  The wine I am currently  sipping may also be contributing to the waxing poetic about an appliance. Sorry.)  Aren’t my girls cute? Also, what else am I missing? What are your fave apps? My number ones are Hulu, iMapmyRun, Pandora, yelp, igaragesale, and of course, Pinterest. What are yours?

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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

An Olive Harvest (Eventually the food jokes will stop.) (Maybe.)

If your eyes have not succumbed to exhaustion or you have not “un-friended” me after my crazy, detailed pregnancy synopsis, feel free to read on and learn about Olive’s actual birth.  FYI, it probably takes longer to read this synopsis than it did to actually give birth. Consider yourself warned.

After leaving sweet Weezy back at the house with Auntie Diana, we got checked into the hospital and things were so nonchalant.  I was having contractions every 4 minutes and they lasted for a little less than a minute but they did not hurt a ton yet.  Mellissa checked me and I was a 6, so I had dilated another centimeter from the day before. They did all my intake paperwork, brought me a labor ball, gave me an IV for fluid, and sent me to walk the halls.  The hospital is located right next to the school I work at and I  laughed when I could see my students playing on the playground from the fourth floor window.  Brakes, who fancies himself something of a mathematician, calculated that if we walked up and down the hall 7 times, it was a mile.  So we would power walk a mile, then go back and get monitored for a half hour, then we would power walk another mile, then go back.  We did this four times and the contractions were not really picking up.  After 3 hours of walking and chatting and flirting (we joked that it felt like a date because this was the longest stretch of uninterrupted time we had enjoyed alone together in months) without a significant increase in my contractions, Mellissa recommended we go for the nudge.  As much as I was enjoying being wooed by my husband in my butt-less lingerie (ie: hospital gown), I decided I would not mind speeding this process up a bit so they added a little baggie of the pit to my IV.  Since before I was ever pregnant I was scared to death of Pitocin.  I had heard that Pitocin contractions caused the most unbelievable pain a woman can experience.  As I had already experienced unimaginable pain during Eloise’s labor without Pitocin, I was not exactly thrilled about  voluntarily signing up for worse pain at this stage in the game, but Mellissa was the boss and I had to trust what she said.  After a minor freak out where Brakes sweetly kissed me and calmed me down I faced the demon without fear (well, maybe a little fear). 

I got to say people, for me? Pitocin ain’t no thang.  Whatev. My bods stronger than the P-devil. Mmmhmm. Other than making me speak in a strange vernacular and do poor Chris Rock impersonations, Pitocin had little effect.  Even when they kept bumping it up (all the way to a level 6), my contractions only got slightly closer together (3 minutes) and just a bit more intense (I had to briefly pause the stand-up routine at the height of each contraction), but it really was not a big deal.  It was so not a big deal that I became extremely smug and self-satisfied.  We had been at the hospital for 4 hours already and I was still cracking jokes and I had barely broken a sweat.  Brakes began to fret.  He was like, “I don’t know Bug.  You don’t really seem like you’re in labor.  By know we had already had Eloise.  Maybe you just think you’re in labor.”  I got all pissy and righteous, “You don’t know my pain!  Maybe this is agonizing and I am just being brave!”  But then the nurse checked me again and I had only dilated 1/2 a centimeter more.  That sort of took the wind out of my sails and I waited to hear what the boss wanted to do next. 

The boss decided to break my water.  She thought once my bags had ruptured I would take off like a rocket the same way I had with Eloise.  She gave me two choices: she could break my water then give me the epidural, or I could get the epi, then she could break my water.  After asking her one more time if the epi was really medically necessary, I agreed to the epi then rupture because I knew it would hurt a lot worse once my water cushion was gone and I figured why not avoid that pain.  I may be brave (very) but I’m not stupid. 

About five minutes after we called the anesthesiologist, I had my first extremely painful contraction.  “Ah,” I thought to myself, as my breath left my body and panicked tears flooded my eyes, “this is the pain I remember.”  This is what Eloise’s whole labor had felt like.  Hot knifes stabbing me everywhere and there was no escape from the pain.  And they were coming faster.  Every minute on the minute.  Hello transition labor, my old frenemy.  So good to meet you again.  Please allow me to introduce you to my new BFF, Dr. Epidural.  He is going to annihilate your abusive ways!  A handful of contractions in, I had the sweet relief of the epi.  Just before I went mostly numb (I had a light epi, so I could still feel almost everything, it just took away most of the pain) I felt little Olive slide into position and that unmistakable urge to push came over me.  However I was sort of enjoying the novelty of not being able to feel my legs, and Brakes was looking a bit piqued.  The poor guy had not eaten since breakfast and it was past six already, so I sent him downstairs to chow down a quick dinner and kept my secret urge to push to myself.  After calling everyone I know and telling them how highly I recommend an epidural, I drifted into a light slumber with Linda Ronstadt's sweet voice singing me to sleep.  (What?!  Linda relaxes me.  Don’t judge.)  The smell of cooked onions  and green peppers jerked me awake rather unpleasantly .  Brakes had made the poor choice of Philly Cheesesteak for dinner with garlic fries.  Gag. And double gag. 

Two teeth brushes and mouth wash gargles later plus some gum for good measure, Mellissa dropped by.  She said she was going to break my water but she wanted to check me first.  I knew before she even said anything that I was ready to go.  She went to tell the nurses to start setting up the room and I suddenly remembered  what I had read about magic babies being born in the caul.  The caul is the membrane that holds the sack of water in around the baby.  Occasionally a women will give birth without the water breaking so the baby is born still ensconced in it’s bag of waters; the caul.  These babies are supposed to have magical properties and since I am: A. A bit of a hippy (have I mentioned I am a hippy?) and B. All about magic babies (as long as they are not like Harry Potter.  I do not care for Harry.) I began to campaign heavily for a magic caul baby.  Soon I had the nurse and Brakes on my side and we ganged up against Mellissa to try and let me have a magic caul baby.  She consented and we got to pushing.

I tooted.  My very first practice push, for probably the first time in the 10 years we’ve been together I tooted in front of Brakes (PS: Brakes assures me that this is not the case, but it is my story so I am telling it my way.  I don’t toot. It destroys the mystery. So there.)  and it reminded me of some ground rules we needed to review for this stage of labor.  I’ve heard nasty rumors that sometimes women defecate during labor.  I am appalled at the idea of this happening.  And after a minor misunderstanding during Eloise’s birth (I accidently mistook her head for something sticking out of my rectum) I am especially sensitive about the poop issue. I felt it was prudent to establish a protocol on the off chance that the unmentionable occurs.  The protocol was, we were all to ignore it.  No one was to refer to it, make comments about it, or even sniff questioningly as I pushed.  If I thought that there was even the slightest chance that I would poop in front of people (not including my 2  year old who casually inserts herself into my pooping sessions daily, “You got poop, Mama?  Oooh!  Nice poop!”), I would be rendered unable to push and that baby would be stuck inside me forever.   So it was vitally important that everyone follow the protocol.  And follow it they did!  Every time a noise emerged from the south end of the bed Mellissa would joke about the frog in her pocket which made me laugh and consequently the frog croaked again. She also covered up my rectum with a sheet therefore eliminating any chance of confusion as to what hole my daughter would emerge from as I gazed in the mirror. 

I was even further in Mellissa’s debt when on my second push, my water broke with a hose like stream directed squarely in Mellissa’s face.  Mellissa was completely unable to block the spray as her hands were firmly planted on the sheet hiding my anus from view.  Bless her heart. We all laughed while she wiped amniotic fluid from her eyes (I know.  I can’t get over it either.) And Mellissa hollered for me to stop laughing because I was going to laugh this baby right out. 

I looked up at Brakes, who smiled back at me and squeezed the thigh he was holding   reassuringly. I noticed the sexy crinkles around his eyes and I was suddenly overwhelmed by how much I love him and how grateful I was to be in this position; pushing out another amazing baby girl, not blind with pain and reduced to an animal state, laughing as I brought new life into the world with my best friend by my side.  I gave another mighty push and I heard Brakes whisper, “Not with you face, Bug,” when he saw my face turning red.  With Eloise, I did not push correctly and I broke every capillary in my face, neck, chest, and eyes.  I looked like a swollen monster for weeks.  This time we agreed that he would keep an eye on that for me and when he noticed me turning colors he would direct me to change course.  I took a deep breath and pushed again.  I watched as a beautiful blond circle emerged from my body.  Mellissa did some gentle manipulations then said, “Gas, bring your hands down and deliver your baby.”  I was surprised as this was not something we had talked about but I did; I tucked my hands under her slimy shoulders and I pulled her softly all the way out of me.  I slid her up my body and onto my chest where she quickly and fervently latched onto my breast.  It was truly the most beautiful moment of my life.  She was incredible.  So gloriously healthy looking and full of vitality!  She was bright red and she had soft blond wispy hair with the same kink in it that Weezy’s had when it was wet.  She already had rolls on her belly and she was almost 8 pounds (7 pounds, 15 ounces). She had a hearty cry and a sweet demeanor and she wholly and completely captured our hearts.  She also smelled like hot-buttered popcorn.  She still does.  I love her special scent.

I don’t know if it is because Olive is just that remarkable or if it is because her big sister is so amazing that her dad and I knew what we had to look forward to,  or maybe it was because her birth was so calm and contained, but everything about Olive’s birth, recovery, and infancy has been easier.  I was up and walking 2 hours after she was born.  She was a breastfeeding star and my milk had started to come in the following morning.  From the night we brought her home from the hospital she has slept from midnight to five am with only a handful of exceptions (not that I don’t feel royally screwed when she does have a bad night. I do.)  She is a sweet and happy baby with just enough spice to make her interesting.  She may not have been born in the caul but she is my magic baby all the same.  She is  my gift, she completed our family, and I know that she is destined for great things. 

Her pregnancy might have been something of a trial but it is more than balanced by the sweetness and joy that she brings to our life today.  It is my privilege to be her mother. 

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Olive Ripens (Very Long Pregnancy Synopsis)

So as to uphold my side of the bargain, I will be publishing some posts detailing Olive’s pregnancy and birth for posterity’s sake.  These posts will be pretty dense, as I wanted to chronicle in detail the events leading up to my sweet Olive’s arrival.  They are not as entertaining as Eloise’s semi-famous birth story, but I hope that someday O will read them lovingly and know how precious she is to me.  If you are not interested in the minutia of pregnancy and childbirth, or you don’t really want to indulge what Brakes calls my, “diabolical need to overshare”, drop back in another day for cute pictures of my girls, renovation tales, and probably a couple of poop references!   If you are nosy, have at it!  The following is more than you ever wanted to know about the inner-workings of my bodacious bod:

I was shocked when we got pregnant the first cycle we tried.  It took us much longer and we had a loss when we were trying to conceive Eloise.  In fact, with Olive, I semi-tricked Brakes into trying a month earlier than originally planned because I was SO sure we would not get pregnant right away.  The crazy in my head had convinced me we were obligated to go through some predetermined number of bust cycles, before we could be blessed with a baby (I obviously did not pay enough attention in health class).  I wanted to get the show on the road, so I whined and seduced Brakes (ooh-la-la, a potent combination) until he agreed to try in early August 2010.  Eight days later, (7 dpo) I had a positive hpt in my hand and a BETA (blood pregnancy test) of 10.  For those of you not in the know with the pregnancy lingo, a 10 means you are just a little bit pregnant.  In fact, my OBGYN did not even consider me pregnant with a level that low.  He went on and on about how we would not know if this was a viable pregnancy for another couple of weeks.

This picture was taken at Diana’s wedding, right after finding out I was pregnant:

Within a couple of weeks, even without repeat blood tests, I knew that this was a viable pregnancy.  How did I know? Vomit. A lot of it.  All the time.  The morning sickness I experienced with Eloise, which I had thought was so cute and novel, was like a paper cut compared to the general state of malaise I found myself in for the first 17.5 weeks of Olive’s existence.  Try chasing an 18 month-old (who BTW, was still breast-feeding at the time.  I used to be such a hippy.)  when you were living off of water and air.  Better yet, try changing an 18 month-old’s diaper.  I still gag just thinking about it.

About the time my morning sickness cleared up we had our big ultrasound.  I had opted out of all the earlier prenatal screening, believing that if anything really serious was going on, it would show up at the 20 week scan.  This was a decision I would come to regret.  Brakes, Eloise, and I were so tickled to see our happy and healthy baby wiggling on the screen.  We loved finding out Weezy had a baby sister on the way,  and we totally marveled at her obvious brains and beauty.  Then the radiology tech got suspiciously quiet and she started taking many, many measurements of Olive’s little belly.  Soon the radiologist joined us.  She gently explained that Olive’s belly was measuring way ahead of where it should be which could mean several things.  It may be that she is (like her Mama) an emotional eater and she guzzled amniotic fluid in nervous anticipation of her big photo shoot.  Or she could have some rare-genetic syndrome, a bowel obstruction/mutation, or a myriad of other problems.  A potentially sick baby, combined with my intimate knowledge of the world of special needs as an early childhood special education teacher (I work with kids with rare genetic syndromes every day), pregnancy hormones, and the stress of pulling together Thanksgiving dinner for my family plus 5 houseguests all amidst a major renovation on the house, proved to be too much.  I was pretty much a mess for the rest of November.  Oh and, almost as an afterthought, my doc called that night and informed me that they’d forgotten to mention I had partial placenta previa and I was on strict pelvic rest.  So much for sex being a stress reliever. 

Christmas-Family-Pic_thumb2You cannot begin to imagine my relief when, after 3 inconclusive follow up ultrasounds, Olive’s belly was finally measuring within the typical parameters.  We still do not know if she is just a drama queen and drank up before each appointment or if for some reason, her belly was growing faster than the rest of her, but by December 22, the day we were set to fly to Phoenix for Christmas, we were in the clear.  Olive was growing right on track and kick, kick, kicking away.  I enjoyed a calm 2 weeks of pregnancy where I was not vomiting or a crying mess.

The first week in January I was on my way to a student’s house when I felt a familiar tug tracing across my lower belly.  I loosened the seat belt.  8 minutes later it happened again.  And again about 7 minutes after that.  I soon realized that they were contractions.  They kept on coming almost daily for the next month.  I was not especially worried about Valentines-Belly-Shot_thumb1them because they always seemed to stop within a few hours and they were not very painful.  However I could feel myself slowing down physically.  I don’t know if it was because this was my second pregnancy, or if my job was so physically demanding (I was on the floor, bending at the waist, doing therapy with babies and toddlers all day long), but by 30 weeks I felt huge and so drained and sore by the end of each day.  My body was telling me I was doing too much but as we all know, listening is not my strong suit.  I went for a regular check-up, mentioned the contractions and so my midwife checked me.  I was dilated to a 2 and my cervix was funneling or thinning already.  She immediately pulled me out of work and put me on modified bed rest for the next 7 weeks.

Was it difficult to manage an active toddler when I was not supposed to be on my feet for more than 15 minutes every 3 hours?  Yes.  A freckle. But it actually was not as bad as I thought it was going to be. When I heard bed rest, my heart sank.  Obviously, I would do whatever it took to keep Olive safe inside me until she was fully cooked, but bed rest meant no big birthday party for Eloise, no mommy and me adventures before our two-some became a three-some, and most tragic of all: bed rest meant I had to miss my baby brother’s wedding in Arizona.  Patrick married the most amazing woman, Auntie Jessica, and it nearly broke my heart to miss out on the grand event. 

Not to say that there weren’t some positives to bed rest.  As soon as I got off my feet, my aching cervix went away. I actually felt pretty comfortable right up until the end.  And since I was sure  I would do nothing but sit home and stuff my face all day, I was extremely careful about what I ate and I ended up gaining a lot less weight than I did with Eloise.  Also, my sweet girl had to get used to Mommy not being 100% well in advance of her baby sister’s arrival, so that when Olive actually did arrive, Weezy was already used to being more independent, which has really eased the transition for her.  Finally, bed rest forced Brakes and I to get our act together organizationally and communicatively.  Since he had to take on so much added responsibility (which he did with focus and good humor. Love that man.) while I was laid up (or down as it were), it was actually a relief when I was done being pregnant and could be an equal partner again.  Surviving bed rest made the awful newborn stage we had been dreading seem like a non-event compared to what we had just been through. 

Jan-April-2011-105_thumb2I was finally taken off bed rest at 37 weeks and after feeling like a ticking time-bomb for the last 7 weeks, I was bound and determined to squeeze as much fun as I could into however long I had until Olive made her debut.  Weezy and I finally went on some adventures!  We zooed, shopped, and playdated galore!  It was really a good time.  I cleaned and organized (and by cleaned, I mean I paid my new favorite person, Marcia, to clean) but I definitely nested.  I finally tackled the basement which is now organized within an inch of its life.  I managed to identify the few areas in my house which were label free and I quickly rectified that situation.  I also got to put together a beautiful nursery for my new daughter fuPicking-Belly-Black-and-White_thumb2ll of vintage books and hand-sewn crafts.  Since I knew it was my last nursery, I poured a lot of love into it’s four walls.  And I waited.  After being on red-alert for labor since 30 weeks, I was shocked when I passed 38 weeks without any action.  When 39 weeks rolled around, I had to laugh!  Olive obviously had a sense of humor.  When 40 weeks came and went I was completely flummoxed.  Easter Sunday was her due date and Daddy spent the night rubbing my belly feeling her kicks and watching a little foot sized blob course across my stomach.  She was SO strong in there!  I still have an achy spot in my ribs where she liked to nestle. 

40 weeks, 1 day: I went to my midwife appointment.  Now as you know, I am kind of crunchy.  I had Eloise w/o meds and it nearly ruined my pachina.  And I was fully planning on doing it that way again but then I met Mellissa.  Mellissa is my midwife and she is also the boss of me.  She tucked me under her nurturing and slightly bossy wing during the whole placenta previa/scary ultrasound drama, and it was because of her vigilance and guidance I made it through the pregnancy as happy and unscathed as I did.  As a result, I made her the boss.  If she told me to jump off a bridge, I probably would. That is how much I trust her judgment.  In the appointments leading up to Olive’s birth, Mellissa re-read my file from Eloise’s birth, as part of her preparation for Olive’s delivery.  Once she saw what a traumatic experience that had been (fast labor with a lacerated cervix, a hemorrhage, and a hematoma) and how difficult the recovery was (I could not sit flat on my heinie for 10 months) she gently, but firmly kiboshed my med-free birth plan.  She really wanted me to get induced to avoid a whole crowning-in-the-car scenario (this was actually quite a possibility.  I was already dilated to a 5 by this point and I went from a 5 to a 10 in less than an hour with Eloise.)  And she wanted me to have an epidural because she did not trust me not to push before I was ready, which is exactly what happened with Eloise hence the cervical laceration.  I was pretty determined that Olive come on her own time, but Mellissa would not budge from her insistence on the epi.  We compromised; Mellissa stripped my membranes and gave me a bit more time to try to go into labor on my own, and I agreed to not fight her on the epidural if she deemed it medically necessary. 

I went home that afternoon and had a long talk with Brakes.  And my mom.  And my sister.  And my dad.  And my girlfriends.  And the lady at the soft serve counter.  They all agreed I was being silly about waiting to go into labor naturally.  They painted horror stories of us slinging Eloise out the car window onto her baby sitter’s lawn in our rush to get to the hospital after my water (finally) broke.  Or worse yet, they talked about what would happen if I just never went into labor at all.  I could be pregnant for another 2 whole weeks.  My sister sent me scary pictures of old placenta and I was finally convinced.  I decided that if I did not go into labor by tomorrow at noon, we would head to the hospital and get “nudged”.  Mellissa was kind enough not to call it an induction.  She said, I would just get nudged in the right direction with a quick hit of Pitocin.  It was almost like a little hair-of-the-dog to get you going the night after a big party. (Mellissa put it into words I could relate to.)

olive-week-1-032_thumb2By 5 am the following morning, I was timing contractions.  They were longer and more intense than any of the other ones before and I knew that Olive was on her way.  I had a feeling I would not need the nudge and I was grateful that Olive did not make me decide her birthday.  She was ready to come on her own.  I got up early and checked me email, called my family (It was my sister’s birthday too!) and, just enjoyed the minutes before my world drastically changed.  At 8 am I texted Brake’s sister and my BFF, Diana, to hop on the BART as she was going to watch Weezy olive-week-1-033_thumb2until my mom arrived from Phoenix the next day.  She was so excited and I am not sure how she managed it, but she was on our doorstep in 30 minutes having taken a bus, a train, and a cab ride to get there! We rushed around getting last minute stuff ready, taking pictures, and loving on Weezy.  I was so sad to leave her at home and she was such a good, brave girl.  I was excited to know that next time I saw her, she would be a big sister!Last-Belly-Shot_thumb2