Goodness it’s hard to find time to write–even surrounded by so much help, when the baby is sleeping I need to eat, shower, sleep, maybe run or jump in the lake. Just now at 10:40pm, I brought the half-asleep baby into our bedroom, turned on a dim light, and put him down. As he did his sleep-kicks and turned his head from side to side winding back down, I laid here with my hand on his belly, shushing him back to sleep. I noticed how this is my only free time and yet I am always too tired and yet- if not now, when? Then realized my iPad is downstairs and the door is creaky enough to wake the baby. And then I thought- I’m going to write this post on my iPhone. Screw it.

So here I am, hopefully not giving myself carpal tunnel as I tap this out on the tiny keyboard. Gold star for effort!

I wanted to write about my body. After weeks of belly shots, I gave birth to my ten pound baby and came home from the hospital still looking quite pregnant. Maybe seven months pregnant. Once the baby is out, what IS all that belly stuff that remains?? I don’t know, but it felt jiggly and jello-y and so not my body. pregnant or not pregnant. A pot of jello that you really just want to ignore and never touch in purpose. (We toyed with the idea of doing reverse belly shots but I wasn’t quite as thrilled about divulging my pot.)

Mercifully, the belly started melting away pretty quickly. Along with losing the pounds, I started losing hair: after months of luscious and thick locks, my body was going back to status quo. My skin turned dry. All those extra nutrients that supported the baby draining away! Too bad we can’t hang on to that forever.

The healing of what I like to call my “undercarriage” was fine–nothing much to report, which is newsworthy in and of itself since, as I mentioned, I pushed out a 10 pound baby. I was tempted to look with a mirror but never did, but both midwives have confirmed that the tears have healed nicely.

I started walking and doing a little yoga. Then, last week, I strapped on my new running shoes and started running again after a year’s hiatus:

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I’d been jealously watching runners for months! The danger for me is overdoing it, which I did two days ago by running 3 miles at close to my regular pace, breezing through the summer morning and then only stopping to take off my shoes before plunging into the lake. I’ve been extra tired since then. Little by little, my fitness will return.

My little pot of jello has plateaued at around 5-6 pounds above my pre-pregnancy weight, and because I have a decent diastisis I am doing “How to Lose your Mummy Tummy” exercises to bring my abs back together. And babe is giving me plenty of upper body exercise as I lift, carry, and rock his 15+ pound body day in and day out.

But enough about me! This guy is growing and developing fast and doing cool new stuff all the time. He is now somewhat mobile while on his back in that he can launch the bottom half of his body to one side over and over until he has turned himself up to 120 degrees. So, for example, if I fall asleep beside him parallel, I can wake up later and find his head in the same place but his feet pointing to the upper corner of the bed. As a result, I’ve doubled down on pillows stuffed between the bed and walk and also installed a side rail.

He also kicks me now to wake me up. No crying or grumbling, he just turns his body perpendicular to mine and kicks kicks kicks. OK, OK I get it!!

He also is hugely enamored of ceiling fans–cooing and smiling at them like long lost old friends. Someone told me that new babies can still see angels and I think they must be hanging out up there, telling him jokes.

While nursing, I love watching him working his hands. They are gesticulating like he’s giving a lecture in an auditorium. Or flagging down a waitress. Or pumping his fist at a soccer game. One night recently, he went 6 hours between feedings, and when he woke up and I was about to give him the boob, his little limbs we’re fluttering with total excitement–and my heart blew up for this adorable tiny human.

He’s starting to hold his head up with confidence and minimal bobbles. And I’m just starting to notice that he sometimes wants Mommy–not necessarily milk, and not necessarily just to be held, but to be held by me. That feels so good.

Still working on the bottle–we have graduated from instant fury to interesting toy (and I’m the one giving it to him, which breaks all the rules) but we have yet to get more than half an ounce into his little bod. Still, I’m confident that if his life depended on it, he could figure it out.

I’ve almost finished up this post, sitting in an un-ergonomic cross-legged hunched-over position in this dim light beside the baby spread eagle in the center of the bed with his angelic sleeping face. And I realize I’m hungry again (there is no hunger like breastfeeding), and so I’m going to have to open the creaky door after all.

Good night!

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OMG I am having the hardest time getting time to write! It’s been more than two weeks and the topics are piling up. When I get a little free time I usually want to nap or take a shower. Or get outside. See how I hit the trifecta this morning? Baby sleeping, I’ve already showered, I’m well rested, and it’s pouring rain!

Ever since my last post I’ve been meaning to write about our placenta-burying ceremony–so San Francisco, right? This came about thanks to multiple factors. I had written in my birth plan that I wanted to take my placenta home from the hospital. Maybe to have encapsulated (i.e. dried and put into capsules to take as pills) and maybe to consume in smoothies, but I didn’t have a precise plan and hadn’t researched it at all. As a result, when we got home from the hospital I kind of forgot about it in the fridge (not the freezer, oops) until Day 5, which seemed a bit late for any kind of consumption. My doula, A, agreed, and she suggested that we bury it.

Since M had given birth the same day as me just five hours later, A suggested that we have a joint placenta-burying ceremony in her Secret Garden, a beautiful garden space in the Mission to which she has access. We both loved the idea as a way to thank the placentas, return their nutrients to the earth, and to commemorate the end of the first 40 days–the sacred beginning. So, on a hot and sunny SF day 40 days after the day our babies were born, we met up at the Secret Garden with our placentas in tupperware buckets (mine, which caused the hemorrhage, was as big as a cherry pie–no exaggeration). A was at a birth, so she sent her dear husband and kids with a well-researched kiwi plant and detailed instructions. M and her husband P brought a pitcher of icy lemonade. The kiwi was to be buried next to a trellis where it will climb and climb into the future!

We said a few words and dumped our placentas together into a hole in the earth, covered them up with dirt, and put the plant on top. A lovely way to give our children “roots”  in San Francisco forever and a way to mark the intertwined beginnings of babies E and E. Grateful for our connection to these two families! (After polling a couple of key blog readers who happen to be in the room with me, I decided not to include a photo of my placenta, even though I am grateful to it for nourishing baby E in the womb and think it looks awesome! Proud of my pie-sized placenta!)

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About a week after that, I flew to Michigan. Flying with a baby is a rite of passage for any new parent–especially a single mom who is likely doing it on her own. I spent that week planning and plotting and accumulating everything we would need in a flurry of Ziploc bags. Miraculously, my sister in Chicago brought a bunch of key items that she had from her babies (breast pump, my brest friend, diaper changing pad, etc.) so I didn’t have to ship anything. I got everything to fit in one big suitcase (44 pounds), the Snap N Go stroller in my other hand, a carry-on backpack on my back and the baby in an Ergo on my front. I set the alarm for 3:15am for our 6:30am flight. I was admittedly nervous. I just kept picturing myself covered in sweat and milk and clutching a screaming baby.

E woke me at 2:45am to eat, so that was my official earliest wakeup time ever. I got myself ready, got him ready, got us and everything into the car and headed down the highway. E just took my word for it that it was time to start the day and was perfectly happy except for when his hat fell over his eyes, easily fixed from the driver’s seat by reaching back. We parked by the airport, felt like badasses as we rolled backpack and stroller to the airtrain and checked into the terminal and went through security. It was all super smooth–didn’t have to take off my shoes or the baby carrier. And when we got to the gate, the agent had the same name as my mom, so I chatted gaily with her as I attempted to be her BFF and get a good seat. She complied by giving us an ENTIRE ROW at the very back of the plane. Relief!!! I laid him down on a blanket beside me, and he happily kicked his legs and napped and had diaper changes right there. Only a couple of times did he get revved up into crying mode and I was able to walk up and down the aisle and rock him to sleep pretty effectively. Plus you forget that the white noise of the plane drowns out a lot.

The people who helped me most on the planes happened to be men (probably because by chance it was men, on both flights, who were sitting nearest to us). On the first leg, a guy across the aisle said to let him know if I needed any help, that he liked babies and that his baby was now the morose teenager sitting beside him engrossed in a video game. He smiled and said he preferred them smaller. I took him up on it when I couldn’t wait any longer to use the bathroom and handed E over. The second I shut the bathroom door, I heard E wailing and peed as fast as possible.

On the second flight, E was already wailing and hungry when we got on board (my moment to be covered in sweat and milk and clutching a screaming baby). For this flight, they gave us the more-leg-room seats by a window, with two guys in the inside seats. I’m sure they were full of dread when they saw us arrive. I tried everything possible to balance E in a way that I could get my hands free to put on my seatbelt but no dice. I asked the guy next to me to buckle it for me and he obliged! E settled right down once eating, and by the end that guy said, “Does he always fly this well?” Success!!!!

And now we’ve been up north for a week! I would have thought it would be easier to get time to write with all the help but we’ve had pretty nonstop activity. My sister D and her girls were here when we arrived. Then two dear friends and their families came through on different days. Then J decided to fly in from NYC (with literally one day notice) and is here now! Amazing how many friends have come through when we’re in such a remote place. Baby E draws many fans from all over!

We’ve also taken E on his first restaurant outing (he was an angel) and also to a Joshua Bell concert at Interlochen (he stayed outside with Chacha and J until I was summoned 45 minutes in and sent my dad in my place). These outings push me outside my comfort zone. Taking such a little baby into these loud and bouncy and completely new situations full of strangers can be stressful. But it’s good for us–with some balance. Now we’re enjoying a little down time, thanks to the rainy day.

J just said, “Are you writing?” from where he’s working on his laptop around the corner. He knows I’ve been trying to get to this for days!

It’s wonderful to be surrounded by people who love E and are delighted by his every teeny step of development (not to mention all the help!!). He is smiling a lot now and my mom got him to laugh! He’s eating less in the night. He loves to look up at the trees and feel the beach air. Once in a while, he’ll suddenly look at you with big, intense eyes and start telling you something critically important through pursed little lips, “Brlll.”

He’s almost always easily placated, so when he’s not, I get rattled. We came home early from a dinner party with our dear downstairs neighbors after everyone tried their magic with him and he was just over the edge. I really can’t stand listening to him cry! It’s awful! We came home and he calmed down right away. A side-lying nursing sesh and he was out. Aw, baby. Wish we could get a memo on what you need when you cry. Next up: getting him to take a bottle. We’ve made some progress on that but he’s so far pretty (understandably) offended by the idea of a bottle vs. the boob.

He’s a beautiful boy and growing fast–probably around 15 pounds now and I need to graduate the sweater he wore yesterday which looked more like a midriff top with 3/4 length sleeves.

J caught this photo of the little love the other day. Lots of love to you!

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Good evening, friends! It’s 9:30pm, the baby is sleeping, and it’s quiet with the exception of a constant audio backdrop of foghorns humming on the bay. I’m eating cherries and drinking water and feeling glad for a few moments to write. It’s tough to identify and harness these moments for writing–shouldn’t I be emptying the dishwasher, putting away laundry, finishing those thank you cards I’ve been meaning to do for weeks?? But tonight the priority is writing. I prefer to write a post all in one sitting and it’s hard to come by a free hour without other pressing obligations when the baby is sleeping (which could also include showering, pooping, napping, laundering baby clothes, disposing of diapers, doing baby-related paperwork, etc. etc. etc).

E is almost six weeks old! And weighs 13 lbs 13 oz (with diaper and onesie on)! He’s growing really fast. I noticed tonight while nursing him in the glider that his feet are propped on the opposite arm of the chair. It makes me feel good, like we’re both doing our job of making him grow. On the other hand, there’s this wistful nostalgia for every little stage that passes because you know it will never come back. I said to someone today that “he won’t be tiny again” (even though he was never tiny). Still–I notice each little milestone tick by–the initial weeks–meconium poops, the umbilical cord stump, the unfocused and cross-eyed look, the dry skin, the baby acne, the involuntary everything. The sense that he was truly fresh out of the oven. Bobble head and smaller cry. Learning from scratch. Staying home in the love soup with meals home cooked by mom.

Now he’s put on a few pounds and elongated too. His face doesn’t have such a puffy newborn look anymore. He’s really focused–makes eye contact with people, fixates on something out the window or a toy or a book. Smiles! Kicks his legs while breathing rapidly, in kind of a delighted pre-laugh. Can have a conversation exchange where the words are “uh” and “ooh” but the timing is perfectly logical. He’s getting a belly (I feel so proud of this!) and I’m still working on those cheeks. When I have him in a carrier, he holds on to me with his little hands.

Someday, though, when I have a tank of a toddler, I will look back on 6 weeks as tiny baby days. We’ve advanced into a kind-of routine that involves at least one outing per day. We’ve been super social with other new mamas and their babies–at mom meetups in the park, at friends’ houses, at my midwife’s office. Here is E (in green) with some of his gal pals today:

evan and the ladies

These meetups are so important. Not only are we sharing our experiences and lessons learned and supporting each other and keeping ourselves from becoming isolated, it’s just really critical to keep practicing getting out of the house. It’s a big deal. Timing sleep and feedings in order to get out the door, bringing the right stuff, choosing the right carrier, gauging the right temperature… It’s so trial and error and every single time there’s something I forget–and that’s when it helps so much to be with other new moms who can lend you a diaper or a plastic bag or a hand! One friend offered to repark my car when I realized, after getting the baby from the car seat to the carrier (asleep!), that I had parked in front of a driveway and I just couldn’t go through all the steps again. And once, when I was super frazzled with a crying baby, other moms neatly packed my messy pile of stuff back into my diaper bag. These are the friends who can bail you out when you’re still learning. Soon, I will graduate to socializing outside my house with people who didn’t recently give birth.

I’ve pretty consistently overbundled E. We learned in birth class that the baby needs one more layer than you do, but we all agree that our babies run hotter than that. I’m always stripping him down. Then when I went to meet moms in the Mission, where it’s warmer, I was all prepared to sit in the sun but then we were in the shade and I wished I’d had a gauzy blanket, which of course was the last thing I took out of my backpack before leaving the house. Today I actually ran out of diapers which is a totally amateur move. Other times I’ll remember all of the above and not need any of it!

Today, after parents’ circle, I walked with new friend E to get burritos and then nursed the baby in the car in an attempt to buy time to run an errand. Yet–we got halfway to Rainbow and he just went ballistic. I’m watching his screaming red little face in his car seat via two mirrors and trying to console him while getting us asap to a parking lot where I could nurse him again (maybe he wanted the other boob?), and by the time I got him out of his car seat he was sweaty and doing that post-cry inhale/shudder which made me feel awful. Who knows what triggered that… I guess sometimes this will just happen (maybe hungry, tired or overstimulated? Uncomfortable?). And it SUCKS to be driving at the time. On the other hand, there is no lasting damage–he always just pops back into a fine mood when he gets what he needed. If I cried that hard, I would likely do permanent damage to my vocal cords and be blotchy and sore for days. I need to remember that babies are designed to pull out this handy (and somewhat traumatizing) survival tool although it’s hard not to let it make you feel like you’re doing a crappy job.

Breastfeeding is the best. Such peaceful moments where we totally nail it on meeting each others’ needs. I keep taking videos of him nursing and vocalizing in the pauses with high-pitched baby sighs. So pure. When he’s finished, he does the most amazing baby stretch where he raises both arms over his head (only they don’t actually go past the top of his head) and sticks out his chin to stretch his neck, furrowing his little brow and curling up his legs. I look forward to this every time.

I love this guy so much. I’m happy to wake up to feed and change him, to entertain him with random narration and songs and books, and yes–totally feel rattled when he turns the screaming cry up to 11. I just read an article about how hard the transition to parenthood can be on so many levels–it can be so jarring, so despairing. In my case though, I had so much time to anticipate this boy’s arrival–I had to fight so hard for so long to get him here. I was beyond ready for the whole nine yards. And then I was blessed with a good eater and sleeper.

So, my mental state is pretty darn good for a new single mom. I expected this to be harder so I’m just grateful for every day that isn’t dreadfully hard. And for the seriously precious, fleeting moments.

Good grief, it got late. I better get my weary mama ass to bed. Lots of love and more soon!

xo

 

 

YES–it’s 7:17pm, the baby is sleeping, there’s a chicken stock simmering on the stove and quinoa to put with leftovers for dinner. I’m having a beer, there are ocean sounds emanating from the Sleepy Sheep in the bedroom, the evening sunlight is streaming in. A peaceful moment to write.

As soon as I finished that paragraph, I half expected to hear a cry. You never know! The pediatrician said today that babies really don’t settle on any kind of regular or predictable schedule until around three months. So you really never know if a given nap will be 5 minutes or…4.5 hours.

Only once was it 4.5 hours. We’d had a busy day full of catnaps and transitions and that night E slept from 7:30pm-midnight. This is noticeable to a breastfeeding mom because of how full and uncomfortable her boobs get once the baby goes longer than the usual window–I was literally sitting on the edge of the couch watching him in his rocker. “Is my baby waking up?” I said, over and over, as he stretched and murmured and even opened his eyes countless times–and then went back to sleep. I tried to distract myself with The Daily Show, trying to nap. I was giddy when he finally woke up and ate.

Uh oh–he just woke up real time. Oh and the Amazon Fresh guy just showed up with my groceries (best service ever, so far only available in Seattle and Cali. They bring the groceries to my KITCHEN) and the quinoa is done. Gotta put stuff away, eat, and get the baby to chill out (he is now peacefully munching on his swaddle in his rocker).

OK–while the food heats up in the microwave I will recount the pediatrician’s report: this kid is bigger and heavier than 99.9% of his age group. At 4 weeks, he is 12lbs 6oz and 24 inches long. Our most important job together is to make sure he grows, and we’re doing it well! I confirmed with the pediatrician that there is no direct correlation from baby length/weight to adult height and he said that’s true, but–look at those hands. He’s going to be first pick on the teams.

E is complaining from the rocker–I have to pick him up.

Changed his diaper, managed to get a burp. This is definitely the most challenging time of day to write. I’m gulping down my dinner and he’s back to complaining and chewing on his swaddle. Hold on–

I fed him (which is all he ever wants which I guess makes sense when you’re increasing your body weight by around 20% in 4 weeks), and my dinner got cold and the sun went down. But now he’s drunk and happy.

I too often doubt that he could be hungry even when he just ate… But it’s always the right answer. Unless he’s overtired or needs a diaper change.

He’s talking and wiggling. He just started to smile in an authentic way that isn’t followed seconds later by a cry or a poop. It makes me get goosebumps of joy. I love how he yawns with a big inhale and then exhales through his nose only. And somehow scoots to my face level in the bed so that when I wake up his little baby face is inches from mine.

I love co-sleeping. I don’t know what mammal would give birth and then tell the baby, “here, you sleep on this rock over here while I go sleep in a warm nest over there.” The baby wants to be with its mama–at least mine has flatly rejected the bassinet, starting at the hospital. Sleeping together, mom and baby’s heartbeat and breathing align, they benefit from each other’s warmth, and the baby eats more. Mom and baby stay attuned to each other and can react if there’s a problem. I keep covers and pillows away from him and he’s now in a wearable sleeping bag. I might use a co-sleeper if there were a full-grown man in my bed, but there isn’t, so this feels like a luxury of singlehood–a wide-open bed for me and the babe.

I’m pleasantly surprised to not be a sleepless wreck by this point. The baby sleeps! And I’m honestly enjoying it all, even the figuring out all the gear, puzzling over what he needs, getting a system down, planning a day. Or just sitting on the couch watching him watch the leaves in the tree. It’s awesome and incredible.

On a note of gratitude, I think one huge key of my success right now is allllll the friends who have come by to visit and drop off food and also my new mom friends who gather in parks and cafes. This ensures that we don’t get isolated, which I can tell would be really easy to do in the eat/sleep/diaper change lifestyle. E and I need to have lots of people around, that’s how we roll. I thank all those friends for their generosity and for helping sustain us with food and love.

OK, this little pumpkin is just too cute not to pick up. Oh–and the groceries need to get put away–eek!

One final note: happy belated Father’s Day to my dear Dad and all the single moms pulling double duty xoxoxo

My mom just left for the airport after 5 weeks of baby waiting, organizing, cooking, organizing more, cleaning, baby welcoming, changing, and holding. And my dad was here for the first 3 weeks too, doing household fixes, running errands, chauffeuring, problem-solving. I’m so grateful for their help. And we will be going to Michigan for a big part of the summer in July/August–but first I wanted to experience just being me and E for a month, so that we know we can do it. So we’re forced to figure it out and not be dependent on the (awesome) help of family.

E is in a Mimi swaddle and napping deeply as only she (so far) can get him to do after patiently rocking with him for 20+ minutes. The washing machine and dryer are both running, everything else is folded and put away, all is quiet, and I have a stocked fridge and an inventory list of freezer meals. I know we can do this. It just feels a bit like going over a cliff after so so so much wonderful help and delightful company.

I find myself over and over thinking back to the words of midwife SS at UCSF in the deep and dark hours of labor, “You can totally do this. You already ARE doing this.” My new mantra for single motherhood. We already are doing this! And we’ll keep doing it, and that will be our new life, and all will be well.

I’m also not alone. At all. My sister is coming straight back here after the airport. L is right downstairs. My homebirth friends, my SMC friends, my old longtime friends have made themselves available for support, especially this weekend. I have meals coming today and tomorrow! Checks arriving in the mail! Love and checking-in emails flowing in!

E is doing awesome. I measured him this morning and he’s just about 24 inches, which is 2 feet. And he’s not even 3 weeks old. I bought him orange Zutano booties yesterday and the 6 months size fits him perfectly. He’s a great communicator–his five-alarm cry goes from 0 to 100 and tells me he’s hungry, and thank goodness I always have a solution for that. His tired I-can’t-settle-down cry says, Please rock me in the rocker like Mimi so I can go down for a deep nap. And his little vampire ah-ah-ah-ah cry is just a complaint–I’m bored with this situation and would like a change of scenery, please. His eye contact is intense and I could be in a love eyelock with him for hours. Some days his eyes lean blue, some days brown. He’s got a little case of baby acne which seems to change hour to hour and, according to my book, is perfectly timed at 3-4 weeks. He can sleep with me in the bed, waking to feed every 3 hours, for up to 12 hours.

Still lots to figure out and yet we figured a lot out!! When we took him to the pediatrician on Day 3, it was comical–and I recognize that it is likely a free-for-all no matter who you are. It’s the first time you’re leaving the house. We checked all the carefully-folded 0-3 month clothes and nothing fit. We realized there were no long sleeve jackets/sweatshirts. He ended up in too-big pajamas with the feet hanging below his feet and a too-big hooded sweatshirt (which now fits him) and a too-small hat. I got out the Baby Bjorn about 15 minutes before we had to be there (thankfully it’s only a block away!) and it was all straps and I heroically got him into it and to the appointment on time.

We’ve since pulled out and laundered the clothes that fit and we’re back to having plenty. I got out the Moby wrap and watched 2 videos on how to tie it, but the first two times his head was totally not supported or covered and I walked around holding it up. Yesterday (after getting a walkthrough from C) I mastered it–even the ladies at Day One commented how secure he looked. But a second time later in the day it was too loose and he was riding low. These things take practice!

The strollers are another major area of figuring out. After a walkthrough from another C who generously gave me her BOB, I took the carseat down to pop it in and it just didn’t fit securely–we took it over the Stroller Spa (3 blocks away) and she recommended I remove a bar, which I did, and it still wasn’t secure, so now the Stroller Spa is working on it and also cleaning it so we’ll have a gleaming and safety-checked stroller on Monday. The Snap N Go (thanks to J) also seems not totally secure (although more so) so that one is next.

We figured out that the Naty brand of diapers frankly do not work on this boy, after he wet his clothes 4 times in one day. Back to Pampers. Probably will try a service when we get back from Michigan, but disposables are pretty darn convenient.

I’m still figuring out how to co-sleep and get the temperature right. I have the covers up to my waist and wake up cold while he is warm. So I’m experimenting with different garments to wear to bed and are also easy to nurse in–a tall order! Trying to keep the baby from overheating in his swaddle and me from being too cold w/o covers on half my body while varying the heat and how much my bedroom door is open…we’ll figure it out through trial and error but if anyone has ideas, let me know!

I hear E waking up. We’ll take it easy these first few days. We are totally going to nail this!

Thanks again, Mimi and Chacha!!! And all my helpers and lovebugs. xo

E swaddle

Baby E is fed and sleeping so this is my moment to write his birth story! He’s in his newly-set-up rocker, with a gorgeous hand-knit blanket that just arrived from my sister D, and if he wakes I’m going to try gently rocking him with my toe while I keep writing, as I read that Louis Erdrich does–she says it’s pretty easy to have a newborn as a writer. We shall see…

Eight days have now passed since the birth and I want to get this down asap–we’ll think of it as the stream-of-consciousness Blog Edition, and I will refine and perfect it later for Baby E’s consumption later in life.

So, let’s begin where I left off–last Saturday, when we were preparing to check in to UCSF. All homey methods of labor induction (acupuncture, walking, spicy food, castor oil) seemed to have no effect–I had no signs of labor at all. The delay in our check-in time to the hospital from 8am to noon to 8pm helped me make the transition mentally to preparing for this new scenario in the hospital. I felt oddly calm, and focused on the benefits of being in the hospital–sometimes all that monitoring and state-of-the-art medicine can come in handy.

I had spoken with my midwife the night before and she walked me through what to expect with induced labor. I would go through a first step of medication (Misoprostyl or Cervidyl) to soften and prepare my cervix. This would take 12-24 hours. Once ready, they would start the Pitocin.

So, we were glad to start in the evening because we could knock out those first 12 hours while sleeping. Still, we packed books and Scrabble and all of our electronics thinking we’d get off to a slow start.

We were admitted at 8pm. It was much calmer on a Saturday night than during a weekday when I had been there for non-stress tests. We were shown to our room which had a partial view of the city at dusk.

I filled out a bunch of paperwork, including papers for the baby on which I was the signatory “parent” (gasp!), and decided to start with Cervidyl, which they described as like a tampon they would stick in and then wait. OK. They checked me at this point and I was less than 1 centimeter dilated, just the width of a fingertip. I called Em, my midwife, and she said to get some rest–we had a lot of work to do the next day.

(E’s eyes just opened but he looks pretty happy. Trying the Louise Erdrich toe-rocking method. Easy.)

I felt some cramping as I went to sleep, and proceeded to get up probably once an hour to use the bathroom. My mom slept soundly on the pull-out chair/cot. The clock on the wall proceeded onward. Everything was quiet.

At 5am, (uh oh–red-faced crying baby…one diaper change later and he is now on the boob. This is a little awkward but doable, Louise.) I was uncomfortable enough that I could no longer stay in bed, although I was hesitant to say what was happening since I’d been maybe feeling contraction-ish twinges for like two weeks and nothing ever turned out to be anything. Soon, though, the nurse came back in and said, “It looks like you’re having some contractions.”

In fact, she determined that I was going into labor without Pitocin. Huge victory at this point–of course, my fear was that Pitocin-induced contractions would be way too strong and start the inevitable spiral of hospital interventions…  and I seemingly had kicked off labor without it.

I texted my doula and she said she was on her way. We were moved into Labor Room 5, a huge corner room facing the entire skyline, East Bay, and the trees of Mt. Sutro. One of the last things I did before things really got going was to take this picture of the sunrise and text it to my sister D in Chicago:

labor room 5

 

We set up the birth shrine, covered the TV with a sheet. My doula arrived at 6:45am with soup to put in the refrigerator, a sitz bath tea, and a necklace for me that she got 15 years ago in Benin. She told me to set my intention on the necklace (“healthy mom and baby”). I feel like I was in ‘serious’ labor pretty quickly, although throughout the day was confused about the definitions of “early” and “active” labor (and active labor turned out to be much later)–very soon I stationed myself on a birth ball and was vocalizing through contractions.

My dad and sister showed up for a bit, which was nice. By the time they left, I was entering the naked phase which lasted the whole rest of the birth process–the only thing I wore was this halter top of rough fabric that held two circular monitors, one for the baby’s heartbeat and one for contractions. It was the nurses’ primary obsession to keep these circles in place, through many baths and position changes and moving around the room, which annoyed me, but also reassured me that we knew all was well with the baby. (Baby is now back in the rocker and I’m rocking it with my toe again. He’s moving his arms around–and his eyes are open. This writing may not last long as my mom is on a walk…)

Those early hours of labor are a blur…I think it was pretty doable, but felt like real work. I was being told all day that I was progressing steadily so I just progressed steadily. We did the birth ball, hands and knees, child’s pose, the bath. (Just did the 5 S’s of the Happiest Baby on the Block and now he’s swaddled and sleeping again. Man, I picked his fussier time of day to write but I’ll keep going.)

It’s hard to say how I “felt” through these hours–I was just “in it.” I was very present and my body felt strong. It felt intense from the beginning, although you never know how much more intense it’s going to get. They asked me if I wanted to be checked but said they didn’t feel it was necessary since my contractions were obviously progressing, and I said no thanks.

Coincidentally, my good friend M had gone into labor at the same time, and because she had also engaged the services of both my midwife AND doula, it was quickly determined that since I was already in the hospital and she’d be starting at home, she’d get the midwife and I’d keep the doula. Since I was already in labor when I heard this, I just accepted it and moved on–I was so happy to have my doula and my mom and the kind nurses. I knew M needed Em.

In other coincidences, my doula had a THIRD client go into labor and check into the room next to mine. Because this client was 22 years old, she was in and out in like 5 hours, so this was hardly a blip on my screen–my doula left for 30 mins for the birth and then she was back. Around 5pm, my doula’s backup came by, and when she came in the room, I noticed that I was able to have a whole cheerful conversation with her. Which I wouldn’t have been able to do in any of the previous hours. Which seemed not good.

I’d been throwing up multiple times and they had finally given me fluids and anti-nausea medication–I kept saying I felt so much better and chalked it up to that. But it wasn’t that.

It was clear things were slowing down as we approached 12 hours. My doula suggested we dance to move around and get things flowing again. I suggested the song “Happy,” knowing that this song should totally piss me off in labor–yet, there I was dancing through the whole song and not having any contractions. And it wasn’t pissing me off.

A doctor came in the room to say that my contractions were slowing down and we should talk about “augmentation.” Oh god, I thought, here we go. I had thought I was out of the woods and nope. I asked to call my midwife and had a whole phone call with her without contractions. She said I could go one of two ways–if I felt my body needed to rest, I could take a break, rest, see if my labor started back up on its own. I’d need strength for the pushing phase. On the other hand, I was already 12 hours in and in the hospital; if I felt strong enough, I could use a tool the hospital offered: Pitocin. They’d start me off super gradually and maybe I could just pick up where I left off and keep going. I wouldn’t lose any of the progress I’d made. They checked me and I told them I didn’t want to know how many centimeters. I now know that I was 4 cm and 70% effaced at 6:35pm. I had asked the doctor to consult with my doula and my doula would ‘translate.’ I didn’t want to feel the discouragement of the number after so many hours of hard work. Ultimately, the doctor wasn’t happy about not consulting directly with the patient, and my doula didn’t like having information that I didn’t have. (After that, I let them tell me the number.)

I told Em on the phone that while I did feel sleepy, my body felt strong. I wanted to keep going. They started the Pitocin. And, sure enough, within an hour, my contractions were back to what they were and the show was back on the road. (Baby E is gumming his swaddle and making complainy noises. He started crying and his Mimi picked him up and took him into the other room.)

Then we started the long night of gradual gradual progress–by 10:40pm I was 5 cm and 80% effaced. I asked to be catheterized because I’d been drinking all day and could never pee–they first said no, you’re just dehydrated. But I insisted and they got 1.5 LITERS of urine! And I had to be catheterized a few more times through the night.

To try to get things going faster, they turned up my Pitocin a bit and broke my bag of waters with what looked like a crochet hook. It made me a little sad that it didn’t break on its own but I quickly moved on–a small sacrifice.

I kept going and kept going, the contractions getting really intense. The best way to get a mini-break was to get in the warm bath, so I did that many times. My doula was so present, her big blue eyes right there when I looked up. She helped me dive under the waves, connect with my baby, told me over and over that I can do this. My mom was a total rock, even as my suffering intensified. (Right now she is dancing the cha-cha with Baby E.)

Nearly 4 hours after that, I was checked again at 2:20am: I was 7cm and 80% effaced. Such slow progress! Ugh ugh ugh! Starting to get really really frustrated! Starting to think I couldn’t do it. Starting to seriously doubt myself and the whole natural childbirth plan. I started to become desperate. I was so tired. My UCSF midwife, the one I saw for maybe two prenatal visits, happened to be working that night and she became another important rock in the room, total strength. I wanted to get back in the bath, my only respite. She mentioned on the way in that the bath won’t slow down “active labor.” Oh, so I’m finally in “active” labor at this point, I thought, as we approach the 24 hour mark.

Sure enough, the bath felt good but did not lessen the contractions. She sat on the bathroom floor beside me as I alternated between comatose sleeping and big, hard, anguished contractions. I started to say I didn’t think I could do this. She said, “You can totally do this. You ARE doing this.”

I got out of the tub and, in my memory, I crawled back into the room. I think in reality I walked in but ended up on my hands and knees somehow, and I felt so desperate. I was saying I can’t do this, that I was frantic, that I just wanted the epidural. My audience wasn’t really going to budge on that one–they looked at me blankly for a moment, then with compassion, then said again, “You can do this.” I was furious. But I kept somehow, somehow, kept going, one contraction at a time.

The midwife said, well we do have this drug called Fentanyl that can take the edge off, it lasts about an hour to an hour and half. And I said YES, bring me that, thinking OK good, maybe this is all I needed. They brought it in, hooked it up to my IV, and I felt lightheaded for a second, then the next contraction hit. It honestly didn’t take the edge off, at all. Still, lightheadedness was something… And I kept going. By 5:20am I had progressed to “almost 8.” (Yes, that’s right–between 2:20 and 5:20am I progressed from 7 to “almost 8.”)

At this point, I just felt beaten. Em says that this is when I surrendered. I told my mom and my doula to go ahead and get some sleep–there was nothing more they could do for me. They were utterly exhausted. I got in a side-lying position on the bed, the only position I could manage, and the Fentanyl allowed me to sleep for two minutes at a time between contractions. For this, I thank that drug, because although it didn’t make it less painful, I think my body could regenerate just enough. There were almost no thoughts. No more visualizations, no more mantras, no more words or ideas. I couldn’t think of myself or the baby. The only thought I remember having was to call the nurse and ask her to bring me the nitrous oxide setup and specifically not to wake my mom or my doula–it would be our secret! But somehow I didn’t hit that call button.

That last hour was the purest, most intense physical experience of my life. Just huge waves that completely obliterated me, punctuated by sleep. And, at around 6:30am, just as the second sunrise broke across the city, I had the blessed urge to push. “Mom! I have the urge to push!” She had the nurse on the line 4 seconds later, the nurse had the doctor in 4 seconds after that, I was checked, and I was 10 cm–complete!!! Oh, hallelujah! Let’s DO THIS!!!

Everything changed–I was giddy. My doula had gone to the cafeteria and I texted her: “Ready to push come back!” I also texted Em and she was able to come. Doctors and nurses and midwives were assembling in the room and I was getting a primer on how to push–my doula said, “It’s going to feel like you’re pushing a giant boulder out of your butt.” (It totally did.) Gather all the energy of the contraction at the beginning, and, when you’re ready, give it everything you’ve got.

I ended up on my back on the bed, holding my knees in the air, and the sun streamed in, and this incredible team of birth goddesses made a U around the end of the bed–my doula, my mom, a medical student named Kacy who held up my iPad like a mirror so I could watch, a new midwife, the OB who would catch the baby, awesome/amazing nurses, and Em walked in just in time! I actually said, “this part is going to be fun.”

The mood was like a party–after the dim and dark hours of labor through the night, it felt like a different room. Sunshine and the talents of modern medicine and midwifery and family and love all gathered close.

When my first big contraction came, I gave it all I had–and the team totally freaked out, telling me I was a champion pusher and they could see the head already! What?!?! Yes! It has dark hair! Incredible! Just keep doing what you’re doing!

So I did–I was yelling in that gutteral way you see in movies and just pushing like gangbusters, harnessing the freight train that was rushing through my body, like no other sensation in the world. And the baby moved down, and down, and down. They were all so encouraging and clearly having a blast. And, honestly, so was I.

This was the high point, the whole pushing phase, I was totally empowered and animal and in my body. The head started to crown–they were pouring mineral oil over the top and holding a warm compress to my perineum and cheering like a crowd in a stadium. I could see his head emerging on my iPad and it was so motivating!

At some point, Em said, “K, REACH DOWN AND PULL OUT YOUR BABY!” and I did, and his whole body slipped out of me and he was on my chest and I was hyperventilating and laughing and saying “oh my god” a million times and he cried right away and looked at me with his EYES and grabbed my finger with his HAND and everyone was crying and he was perfect. They were wiping him roughly with towels to get him to pink up and suctioning his mouth and nose and it was a short umbilical cord so I couldn’t get him very high up but I could kiss his head and say, “I’m your mama! You’re here!” and he cried and was adorable and HUGE. He was born at 8:51am on May 19, 2014.

(He is back in the rocker sleeping peaceful now, thanks Mimi. And I’m sitting here crying, reliving his birth.)

We stayed like that for a long time, I have no idea how long, and eventually I cut the cord myself (!) and they took him across the room to do a few things and my mom went with him. I overheard someone say “10 pounds, 2 ounces,” and was completely blown away–none of us EVER thought I had a 10lb baby. In fact, thank goodness none of us knew, especially me. He came out long and strong. All his checks went perfectly and they brought him back to me. My mom went to my dad and sister in the waiting room that it would just be a little longer and they could come in–fortunately they weren’t in the room for what came next.

The docs were acting a little nervous about my placenta. Because he was so big, his placenta was also big. Then they were reassured, “there it is,” and it was born 14 minutes after the baby. And, when it detached it caused a hemorrhage. My doula got in my face with her big blue eyes as the room filled with twice as many doctors and said, “So, there’s an issue with the placenta, it’s totally going to be fine, we have the best team working on this, and you and I are going to just stay right here and focus on the baby.” I stayed calm as they put all kinds of new meds in my IV to get my uterus to clamp down and stop the bleeding, which they did quickly, but not before I lost a lot of blood.

So that was scary but because they resolved it so quickly, and I was on Cloud 1,000,000, it felt more like an addendum to the whole experience. I’m just so grateful that it was quickly resolved and I made a quick recovery.

They cleaned up the room and brought my family in and there were tears and photos and we called my sister D and welcomed our new family member. We ordered food and marveled over this little (not so little) guy who was just impossibly cute for having been born just hours before.

They moved me to a smaller room and my family left and I spent hours just staring at him, the rest of the day slipped away and I barely even slept. He was and is perfect. A dream come true. I am grateful for every moment with this beautiful human as I complete one epic journey and begin an even bigger one.

Welcome, Baby E. (and, on cue, he just woke up.)

xo

 

I’ve been in the love cocoon, sorry for the delay!

My beautiful son E was born at UCSF on May 19, 2014 at 8:51am after a long but uncomplicated labor surrounded by a team of guardian angels and love, weighing 10lbs 2oz and measuring 21.5 inches–a big boy! He is long and strong with dark brown hair, big eyes, and a mellow demeanor as we learn about each other in these sweet early days. I’ve been getting very little sleep as we do cluster feeding through the nights but am still powered by the euphoria of birthing this amazing guy and welcoming him into my world!

I have so much to tell you about the birth. My doula took detailed notes on the play by play and once I have those, and the baby gives me a little free time, I’ll write it up. I can only say that it was E’s perfect birth and the experience will be teaching me the rest of my life.

Babes is wanting my full attention again. Much more soon and thanks for all the well wishes! xoxoxo, Mama K and Little E

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So when I got up this morning I had two voicemails from UCSF letting me know that they needed to postpone my arrival because all the laboring rooms were full and I should call back at noon.

That felt great–I requested an omelet and sausages from my dad, drank a Recharge, did an hour or so of pumping (just in case), and went back to bed for a couple of hours.

When I called at noon, they told me to come in at 8pm tonight. Whoa!

So now we have the whole day, which honestly feels like another gift. It felt jarring to go from trying trying trying to get labor started yesterday to packing for the hospital. Now I’m catching up with myself. And, given that today is my last day for a legal midwife-attended homebirth (in CA it cuts off at 42 weeks, which is tomorrow), it’s nice that I won’t have to wonder what might have happened if I had just waited. The birth tub still stands at the ready in case something crazy happens.

This timing means that maybe we can get a decent night of sleep during the first phase. My mom will stay on the pull-out couch, and my doula and midwife will join whenever I need them, probably tomorrow morning.

This moving starting line is quite the mental trip! When I think about the road that got me here it just seems so surreal that the culmination of the whole experience, my baby’s birth day, just keeps getting pushed out–he is now bordering on the cusp of Taurus and I never considered that his birthday could or would be as late as 5/18 or even 19! Or that my parents would be here 2.5 weeks before his arrival, or that my blog would receive its all-time highest number of hits, or that he would not already be a weeks-old baby upsetting the quiet of my apartment by now. He seems perfectly happy in there although sometimes it feels like he’s rapping on my belly saying, “Hey, help me out!”

Today, we will eat, walk, do yoga, meditate, consider any last items to pick up. Have a nice dinner and enjoy the breezy, cool fresh air.

And then it will be time to have a baby, right universe? :) (Meanwhile, OK to pause on lighting those candles!)

I forgot to tell you this yesterday: I’ve been pulling Goddess cards each night for both me and the baby. Two nights ago, I pulled the following cards, which are now added to the birth shrine:

For me: Aine–Leap of Faith. “Take a risk, and put your heart’s true desire into action!” Message from Aine: “Procrastinating about your dreams won’t make them go away. Neither will it make them happen. Indecision is the death of the soul’s burning passion to improve, grow, and learn. Don’t worry about making a wrong decision. Instead, worry about making no decision at all! Then take time to pray, meditate, investigate, research, go on nature walks…and make your decision. Once made, the universal energies will immediately support your decision, and doors will successively open as if by magic. The magic, you see, is that you’ve set your mind to accomplish something. And this intention is what sets you on your magical journey. Trust that the universe will support you in all ways. Trust that your intention is clear and right for you. And then take a leap of faith and jump fully and squarelyinto the midst of putting your dreams into action. Don’t hesitate or delay a moment longer!”

For the baby: Cordelia–Go Outside. “You have been indoors too long. Go outside and get some fresh air.” Message from Cordelia: “Being cooped up is not the natural way for inhabitants of this exciting planet to live. Believe me, there’s plenty to see and experience when you exit your four walls and roof. A daily venture outside will not only revive your spirit and soul, it will give you hope and faith in this planet’s very existence and future. You’ll see all of the goodness that’s in store within nature: the flowers ready to unfurl, the leaves that are sprouting, the birds that hop about, and even the wind that affectionately caresses you. Don’t let another day go by without stepping outdoors into this most entertaining and exciting of environments!”

All is as it should be. xo

Dear World,

Well, we’ve come to the end of the waiting-at-home road and I now have a hospital bag packed and will be checking in first thing in the morning at UCSF. At 41 weeks and 6 days, my midwife’s recommendation is to induce labor. Today was my last effort to trigger it with castor oil, the breast pump, and electro-stim acupuncture, and no dice. Labor does not feel imminent, so it’s time to turn to the wonders of medical technology for help before risks go up at 42 weeks.

Of course it’s disappointing after all the patient waiting we’ve done these past weeks to allow labor to happen naturally. And to kiss goodbye a home birth unless it gets rolling in the next few hours. But I always was careful to say “I’m planning a home birth” because I know how often circumstances require a transfer. We all go into this with the unknown of how it will turn out, and now I’m starting to see how my baby’s birth story will go. All I care about is a healthy baby and mom–my transfer is merely happening on the front end.

I’ve done my best and will give my best this weekend. I have snacks, books, Scrabble, important items from my birth shrine, probably one of the best midwives in the world who has faith in both UCSF and me, an amazing doula, my dear mom who says this is going to be fun, my sister and dad visiting, my neighbor who is a nurse in L&D and is working all day tomorrow, and all of you lighting your candles. I feel you out there! We’ll get to meet this little guy very soon.

If I find myself with free moment to write, I will. It seems like there’s potentially quite a bit of waiting.

He is moving super dramatically as I write this. I think he’s excited too.

Time to rest up. Love to all and thanks for your sweet messages both real and telepathic.

Love,
K

We started the day at UCSF for our first non-stress test to check on how the babe is doing. It was a little surreal to be in the Labor and Delivery unit of the hospital after all the expectation that I’ll be doing this at home–felt very busy like an episode of Grey’s Anatomy. Everyone was very nice. Every single nurse and doctor I saw was a woman. They put me in such a tiny room that my parents had to wait in a (tiny) waiting room and it was really hot and I thought for a moment I might be too claustrophobic to stay in there. They strapped on the big belts and I heard the baby’s heartbeat for 20 minutes, as well as big static when he was moving, which was often. They came back and said his heartbeat was ‘perfect.’ Measured the amniotic fluid and it was a 9 (they want higher than 6). The doctor said his head is “massively down.” So, everything checked out and we were sent home. It felt great to get a good report. I have another appointment on Wednesday.

In the afternoon, we took a nice urban hike in the warm sun with a cool wind. We got a picnic’s worth of food at Bi-Rite and headed up to Alamo Square to lay around and eat and people watch. It was so relaxing and lovely. I am so BIG. The cashier at Bi-Rite said it looks like I’m “about to explode.” It’s nearly impossible to put on my shoes and makes me out of breath. When it was time to go home, I almost pulled down my dad who was trying to help me get up off the ground!

I’m sleepy after getting a no-sleep nap this afternoon because the baby was kicking so much. My mom suggested a bath which is such a fantastic idea so that’s where I’m headed.

But, first, I at least wanted to say, in a sleepy and probably inarticulate way, how much I love and appreciate my mom. WOW has she (and my dad) taken the bull by the horns in this baby-prep-mode and embraced the whole process of this waiting period. I am so lucky that my parents are here! I basically didn’t even get a card together this Mother’s Day, but I know that more importantly we are spending this exciting time together. Thank you, Mom, for all the nourishing mama cooking, for running and organizing the kitchen, for scrubbing the floors like Cinderella, for being game for any length of walk, for watching episodes of Call the Midwife while I weep over the births. And soon: for being here for my baby’s birth and all the help I’ll need afterward. I am so grateful.

Meanwhile, I must also acknowledge the equally enormous contributions of my dad, who is responsible for installing many fixtures, ordering and assembling needed items, getting the washer and dryer up the stairs and functioning, all kinds of chauffeuring and parking, omelets, Waldorf salads, expertly filling and emptying the birth tub, and more. Thank you, Dad!

Finally, without trying to be comprehensive because I’m excited to take a bath and then probably go to sleep, I am sending love and gratitude to all the mamas in my life–the SMCs, the homebirthers, those pregnant and trying to get pregnant, the dog-mamas and cat-mamas, the aunties, and those who just plain love and nurture their loved ones in a way that makes the world go round. Actually, I think that is comprehensive. I wish for all of this wonderful nurturing energy to be acknowledged and appreciated today. Love to you all.

I’ll go out with my 41 week belly shot and I know enough not to jinx it by saying it’s the last one. (Check out my amazing shadow.) I’ll be over here meditating and sleeping and buttering this baby up. xo

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5/4/14

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