Saturday, November 19, 2016

Look Who Had a Baby 2: Electric Boogaloo

Dear Sam, please forgive me for talking about Ben so many times in the story of your birth. I promise not to spend your entire lives comparing you to one another, but this is one time I can't help it.
I'm grateful that 2014 Me took the time to write the story of Ben's birth. The fact of the matter is that, while bringing another human into this world should be one of the most unforgettable things that ever happens to you, your brain has a way of erasing the details. And not just because - trumpets please! -  you now have a small, greedy, squishy person keeping you up all hours.  It's also a clear evolutionary tactic designed to trick women into having more babies. Surely, if women really, really remembered what labor was like (not to mention months seven through nine of pregnancy), they would never agree to repeat such nonsense.

This is certainly 100% true of myself. Re-reading Ben's labor story I realized that somewhere in the past two years, I forgot nearly all of it, except the part at the end where someone hands me a baby.  And the part after than where someone brought me some apple juice.

The S.S. Party Barge. Passengers: 1
The story of Sammy's birth is much shorter. Not just because it's been over two months since it happened and I've forgotten most of it, but because my pregnancy and labor with Sammy were so much shorter and less complicated in every way.

With Ben, I had been trying unsuccessfully to get pregnant for about a year and half. I'd been to a smarmy and obnoxious fertility doctor, who I stuck with because of his reputation for success (not because of his weirdly perfect teeth and fake hair). I was tired of being disappointed over and over, and I was one month away from signing up for the next level of fertility treatments (which would have been drugs, drugs, drugs). And then one morning, after boxes and boxes of negative tests, I got that one beautiful positive. I knew I was pregnant as early as you CAN know that you're pregnant, which is about a 3-4 days in.

On the other hand, it was a little different with Sammy.  Sometime in January of this year, Tim and I were sitting at the table eating dinner and Tim said, "You're being weird lately... I think you're pregnant."  No, no, you silly man! That can't be so! But it was.  I was already nine weeks pregnant. NINE.  Two months! Sammy was the size of a grape and I had no idea. I was just eating tacos and living my life like normal and here was this whole other person.

It's amazing how much faster a pregnancy goes when you're not even aware of it.

With Ben, I was hyper-aware of every moment because it was the very first time and every moment was *so new* and *so interesting.* With Sammy, I largely forgot I was pregnant. That is, until I was the size of a cruise ship and Sammy's feet were wedged in my ribcage and Ben wanted to be picked up but I couldn't physically pick him up because I couldn't physically bend over.

"I don't know why we're holding this balloon, but I'm
on board with it" - Ben
With Ben, I was adamant that I didn't want to know the baby's sex. I wanted SO badly to have that moment in the delivery room where Tim would tell me if it was a boy or a girl.

With Sam, I wanted to know. And (again, sorry Sam) I wanted to know because I wanted a girl so, so badly.  This is hard for someone who minored in Gender Studies to admit because I should be above it and I KNOW that gender is a construct and it doesn't matter anyway, but my desire for a girl baby was so visceral, so deep down in my guts, that when I saw Sammy was going to be a boy, I cried.

Approx. T-28 hours until
baby time.
You're not *supposed* to be disappointed when you find out, but I knew that if I found out the baby was a boy, I would be, and I was. I wanted to have a chance deal with that disappointment and let it turn into excitement BEFORE the day the baby came.  I didn't want to have a moment in the delivery room where Tim said, "It's a boy!" and my reaction was "but that's not what I wanted." With Sammy, I'm glad I found out. I had my moment of sadness for that little girl I'll never have, and when he was born I couldn't have been more in love with this perfect baby boy.

One thing that didn't change was my level of ambivalence about actually being in labor.  The funny thing about labor is, you know it's going to hurt and you know that baby is coming out somehow, so there's no use dwelling on it.

I was proud of myself for planning my maternity leave in advance, to give myself a little time in El Paso without work, without waking up early, with cable TV.  With Ben, I worked until Friday and he was due on Sunday.  With Sam, I thought, "that was ridiculous. This time I'm going to take off a full week before the baby comes." I made a hair appointment. I was going to get my nails done. I'd compiled a stack of books to read and snacks to eat while I lay around being pregnant and doing nothing else.

(Side note: in Mexico, you get off a full six weeks before your due date. America, I'm looking at you.)

It did NOT happen the way I planned.

On August 29th, I took an Uber to get my hair cut at 2:15.  When I got there, I decided, as I was walking in the door, that instead of getting a trim, I would cut off fully 8 inches of hair.  These sorts of decisions are not remotely unusual for me, but I still think I should have figured out at the time that my body was like, "girl, get ready, you're having a baby today and you're too lazy for a high maintenance hair style."

After my haircut, I walked back to the AirBnB.

Let me pause right here to explain that, if you're trying to induce labor, one of the most common tricks is to take a long walk. A long walk is nature's way of telling that baby to GTFO. Somehow this slipped my mind.

I walked over a mile in 100 degree heat and zero humidity, and by the time I got home, I felt like hot garbage.  I drank approximately 2 liters of water and took a nap while I waited for Tim to bring Ben over the border. At this point, I still had no idea what was coming. If you had asked me at that point if I was having a baby that day, I'd have said no.

We ate dinner like normal. We gave Ben a bath, we read him some stories, we put him to bed at 7.  We sat and watched TV until about 9:30 and then I went to bed. If you had asked again, I'd still have said no.

Thirty minutes later, I got the notion that maybe I should be timing my contractions, which were becoming increasingly annoying.

At 11:30, I took a shower, hoping to make my contractions mellow out enough that I could go to sleep.  When I got in the shower, my contractions were 7 minutes apart.  By the time I got out, they were THREE minutes apart.

You're supposed to go to the hospital when they're 5 minutes apart, though the nurses had told me to come earlier if I could.

Shortly after midnight I woke Tim up and told him that I needed to go to the hospital IMMEDIATELY because I didn't want to have the baby in the car.  He grabbed Ben and our hospital bags and we drove to the hospital, which was, thankfully, three minutes from the house. You have no idea how long a three minute drive can be until you're in labor.

(This is how fast Sammy came: Ben was there for the whole thing, because it took less time to have Sammy than it took for our wonderful friend Emily, the saint, to come and get Ben. He actually met his brother before leaving to spend the night at our friends' home.)

At the emergency room, the man at the check-in station asked me if I was there to be induced. Between my extremely-close-together contractions I managed to tell him that no, there was no need to be induced because I was actively going to have a baby in front of him if someone didn't take me to the maternity ward immediately, thank you.  I am not familiar with this middle-of-night induction you speak of, sir.

Everything from this point on is a blur.  I was wheeled to the maternity ward, where there is a sort of "holding area" for people who aren't pushing out babies at the moment, and then there are rooms where you go to actually deliver, if you're lucky. (Apparently, that same day, another woman had her baby in a chair in a downstairs waiting room because she'd waited too long to come in.)

I remember screaming, and someone telling me to please stop screaming, and me wanting to tell her that I would scream if I wanted to and literally no one was going to stop me.

I asked for an epidural and someone asked "do you feel like pushing?" and I lied and said "I don't know" because if I had said "YES, OBVIOUSLY" then I would not have gotten those sweet, sweet drugs.  (Also please note that I am terrible at lying, so the extremely non-committal "I don't know" was the best I could manage.) I have no idea how I held still long enough to get the epidural, but I did. That is the power of experience, my friends.

By 2:15 am, there was Sammy.  The doctor only made it in time, he said, because all of the lights had been green.

With Ben, I got my epidural and didn't have the baby until nearly ten hours later.  With Sam, I got the epidural and had the baby within approximately 20 minutes.  The drugs hadn't even fully kicked in yet.  I remember telling the doctor, "I can feel that," while I got my stitches after Sam had already been born and was laying on my chest. However, thanks to the wave of post-baby happiness hormones, I remember thinking it was sort of funny.

In case you're unfamiliar - after a baby is born, a whole flurry of activity takes place. If you're lucky and things go as planned and you're in a "baby friendly" hospital, they put the baby on your chest and it feels, suddenly, like your heart is the very still and focused center of a hurricane.  All around you, people are checking your vitals, cleaning things up, putting the bed back together, putting your body back together, bringing things in, and taking things out. But it all happens in a blur at the corner of your vision. There are sounds, but you can't hear them. There is this tiny, helpless, perfect little person who you can't stop looking at, touching, kissing, and wondering over.

At some point, the hurricane of people just disappears. Tim sat next to me, somehow more exhausted than I was, and we just sat and looked at Sammy for an hour, maybe two hours, I have no idea, before the nurses finally came to take his measurements and help me to the recovery room. And then we slept, and that was it.

I had a normal day. I had a baby in the middle of the night, and the day after, I went home.  My reward for this very little bit of effort is this fat, sweet, easy, happy baby.  I've never gotten such a good deal in my life.

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Hello Again, Old Friend

I started this blog in 2005 as a way to keep my friends and family filled in on my adventures studying abroad in Lille, France.  I kept up with it through ten more years of adventures, all over Europe, in Panama, Uruguay, Peru, India, Mexico and more. Through heartbreak and happiness, and through at least a hundred book reviews.

In late 2014, I had a baby and just a few months later we moved to Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, our first post as a Foreign Service family. At the time I thought, "our next great adventure! I WILL BLOG SO MUCH."  But I'm stating the obvious when I say that it didn't really happen that way. And for two years, I haven't so much as thought about this blog, let alone posted anything.

Here I am, in late 2016, and I have had another baby and we are gearing up for our next, next adventure when we move to Lisbon, Portugal in 2017.

To further state the obvious, in the time since I lost track of this blog, our family has changed a lot and I have changed a lot as a person. For a while there, I thought that maybe I'd changed so much that it didn't really feel right to keep up this blog, that instead, maybe I should close the door on this particular platform.  But somehow that changed with baby #2, and I've found myself thinking of things I'd like to write about.

This past weekend, we returned to Shreveport for our ten-year college anniversary and I realized that even with *social media* it's so hard to keep up with people (I know what you ate for lunch and when your cat's birthday is, but I don't know what you do for a living or if you're really happy).  This year, both of Tim's grandmother's died, within weeks of each other and even though they had both been ill for a long time, it was shocking. Both of these women had been regular readers of this blog, and were endlessly supportive of my writing, even when I wasn't writing about things you normally tell your grandmother (or your husband's grandmother, for that matter).  Tim's Grandma Bonnie must have sensed that I was a little uncomfortable with the possibility that she might not approve of something I wrote or the way I wrote it, and she told me "I love reading your blog. Don't ever worry about what I think. Just be yourself."  If I hadn't written in a while, she'd ask when I was going to post again.

I wish now that I'd kept it up the past two years.  I know she and Tim's Nana Judy would have loved more than anything to read about our family and our lives, especially when they were sick, and we were so far away. So even though I've got less free time now than ever before (#workingmomoftwo) I'm going to give it the old college try. Talk to you again soon, old friend.

Friday, January 09, 2015

El Nuevo Año

As you may recall from my New Year's post last January, 2013 was not really a banner year for me. Our car died, we got kicked out of our beloved apartment, I gained a lot of weight, I was miserable with my weird, creepy fertility doctor whose mere presence in my life I totally resented. I also forgot to mention that in 2013 I got Mono. MONO. On top of having enormous, swollen lymph nodes and being dead-tired all the time, everyone teased me about making out with high schoolers and getting "the kissing disease." (In their defense, I would have teased me too.) Basically, I was thrilled when 2013 was over and I was determined that 2014 would be better (even though all the bad things that happened in 2013 were totally out of my control).

On January 11th of last year, I wrote a post listing my hypothetical new year's resolutions for 2014 (hypothetical because I don't believe in new years resolutions):

Travel more
Read more books
Be happy with my job
Lose weight
Have a baby
Blog more

What I did not know at the time is that I would get pregnant that very week. I'm a believer in jumping right in.

Here's how the other resolutions stacked up in the following year:

Travel more
I didn't really travel much 2014, per se. In fact, I really only took two trips in 2014: one to Colorado to show off my pregnant belly and one to Texas for the last five weeks of the year. But since Tim and I made all of our preparations to move to Mexico in 2014, I'm going to consider this one accomplished.

Read more books

My reading goal for 2014 was 50 books. I actually read only 33. But I'm going to go ahead and say that I get a pass on this one, as I was exhausted from creating another human.

Be happy with my job

I can honestly say that I met this goal. Although I've had other jobs I enjoy, this is only maybe the second one I've ever had where I never contemplated calling in sick just because I really didn't feel like going (the first one was when I worked at a movie theater - there really is no better job on earth than that, which is saying a lot since that job requires you to clean bathrooms). There were days I didn't feel like putting on pants and shoes, but never days when I really didn't want to be there. I actually really enjoy the company of my coworkers and really, really enjoy my work.

Lose weight

That went right out the window. See below.

Have a baby

Success! How sweet it is!

Blog more

This one was rather a spectacular failure. In addition to posting very little about my life, I also completely stopped writing book reviews. Fair warning for 2015: Ciudad Juarez is not really a place full of exciting cultural sights and experiences, so there might not be a lot to report on that front. However, I'm really going to make an effort to write about other things.

Without further ado, here are the things I'd like to do in 2015:

Visit my family more often: This is probably the closest we'll be to our families for a long time. There are no excuses.
Read more books: Duh
Lose weight: Also duh. I gained 35 lbs when I was pregnant and lost 21 of it pretty much right away. It would be lovely to at least get back to my (still overweight - ugh) pre-pregnancy weight.
Blog more: See, getting started already!
Ask people more questions about themselves: I'm terrible at this. In the Foreign Service community, there is a LOT (a loooooooottttt) of small talk. "Where are you from? Is this your first post? Do you have kids? What did you think of your time in Denmark? Which compound do you live in?" etc. etc. etc. I have a tendency to get stuck in a "me-loop" where I just let others ask all the questions while I go on and on about me. It's a really, truly, terrible habit. So that's my goal - be interested in other people. Oh, and remember their names.

2014 is over, long live 2015!!

Friday, December 05, 2014

Don't tell anyone I said this, but...

Our engagement photos in the
National Arboretum, October 2010
Here's a funny thing about DC: I HATED living there for six. long. years.  Then, as soon as we found out we were leaving... it magically became a lovely and even enjoyable place to live. A place that I grew increasing nostalgic about over the past year.

That's the magic of perspective.

Now that we're gone, there are things that I already really, really miss. So, in the spirit of giving DC some credit where credit is due, these are the things I wish I could have taken with me:

1. Public transit.  
When I asked Tim what he would miss most about DC, this was also his number one answer. People bitch about the DC metro a LOT. It's not pretty. It's a great place to go if you want to watch people vomit or urinate publicly. It can be crowded and sweaty and frustrating and sometimes a little horrifying, and it often completely breaks down and destroys whatever you were trying to do. BUT - it's there. Thanks to the DC Metro, I'm 31 years old and still don't have a drivers' license. I loved being able to get on the metro and have access to anything in the city I could possibly have wanted. I really loved being able to people-watch and read my book while commuting to work. (Even when the people I was watching were urinating publicly.)
Me being 4 months pregnant in the National Arboretum, 2014
2. Trees
DC is a really, really beautiful city. There are trees EVERYWHERE. Trees, parks, fountains, pools, gardens... Meaning that there are joggers, dogs, and strollers everywhere too, which is a great sign of a happy city.

Me being 8 months pregnant in Eastern Market
3. Distinct Neighborhoods
Georgetown. Capitol Hill. NOMA. Penn Quarter. U Street/Adams Morgan. Chinatown. H Street/Atlas District. Navy Yard. Dupont Circle. DC is full of these great, unique little enclaves that are almost like cities of their own within the city itself. A lot of people get to know the neighborhood they live in and not much else, but I was extremely lucky to get to know a HUGE portion of the city. I worked on K Street and know every inch of downtown/Metro Center like the back of my hand. I went to school and worked in Georgetown. I lived in Chinatown and on Capitol Hill, mere blocks from H Street. I worked on Barracks Row. I spent hours just wandering around, looking for bookstores, good coffee, and Greek food. Drop me just about anywhere in DC and I could walk home without a map.

4. Never being bored
If you get bored in DC, you're a terrible person.  All the museums are free. There are events literally every day. You're minutes away from hiking and a short drive away from the beach, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Shenandoah, etc. etc. If you look even just a little bit, you can discover something awesome and new with basically zero effort.

Every day, folks.
5. Being Famous
We're on TV. I literally saw the street I lived on in a movie two days ago. I never get tired of seeing places I've been in real life on my television screen. Here's a list of things we drove past on the way to work: the Library of Congress, the Folger Shakespeare Library, the U.S. Capitol Building, the Supreme Court, the entire Smithsonian on the National Mall, the Washington Monument, the Federal Reserve, the White House, the Lincoln Memorial, the Kennedy Center, and the Watergate Hotel. EVERY DAY. Look at all those words that are capitalized! My favorite frozen yogurt place was a block away from Ford's Theater. Are you impressed? Because I was super impressed.

(Drawback: Most of our celebrities are people everyone hates. Whoops.)

Bonus: NPR
NPR is headquartered in DC, so morning NPR here is the A Team. Plus, I got to take classes at Georgetown from actual Georgetown personalities. I won't apologize for how nerdy this is.

There are lots of things I won't miss (why is the Mexican food there SO terrible? Mexican food has FIVE ingredients!!). But with a little distance between us, I will bow my head and admit that, if my family and friends lived closer to DC, I could have stayed there a lot longer and been perfectly happy. Ben was born there. Tim and I got engaged there. I've had two jobs I really loved there (and one I really hated). I made a lot of beloved friends there. It wasn't all bad.

Double Bonus: this is what the Discovery Channel building
 - just outside of DC -
looks like during Shark Week

Saturday, November 08, 2014

7 lbs 14 ozs, 21 inches long

**This is exactly the kind of blog post I would not have cared about/had the patience for before I had a baby myself. Consider yourself forewarned. Spoiler alert: it ends with a baby being born.

About half way into my pregnancy, when it became really obvious that I was pregnant and not just gaining weight for a part in a TV movie, people started to ask if I was nervous about labor.

At that point, my general feeling about it was that it was inevitable and not worth stressing over. I knew the baby had to come out somehow, eventually, whether I liked it or not. There but for the grace of God, go I, as they say.

And the thing is, for most of my pregnancy, I genuinely was not at all stressed or concerned about what labor would be like.

Then, about three weeks before my due date, I started to read and think about it a little more. This included taking an 8-hour long labor and delivery class at the hospital, which was extremely tedious, extremely helpful, and extremely discomfiting all at once.

At that point, I began to slowly admit to myself that yes, in fact, I was a little (a lot) terrified by the actual labor process, and maybe it would be better if I could just be knocked unconscious at home, transported to the hospital, have the baby removed by magic, and be woken up when the whole ordeal was over. Unfortunately, however, that is not a menu option on my OB's list of services.

I also spent most of my pregnancy in relative comfort, and was generally pretty pleased with myself for being so good at carrying a baby. I considered listing "pregnancy" as one of my skills on my resume, or at least on my LinkedIn profile.

But about the same time that I realized labor was not going to be fun, I also became increasingly cranky and uncomfortable with being pregnant.  Ben spent a lot of time bracing his feet on my ribs and forcefully pushing his head into my bladder, sometimes kicking so suddenly and forcefully that it knocked me off balance.

Even my shadow is pregnant.
Somewhere around October 1, I began trying to persuade the baby to come on out. Both by taking obscenely long walks and by having serious conversations with my stomach, extolling the virtues of the outside world.

October 3, the Friday before my due date, I tied up all my lose ends at work, set up my out of office message, and took another long walk. Saturday was uneventful. Sunday I was due.  Tim and I spent the day indulging my nesting instinct with a long, satisfying trip to the Container Store. We took a two-hour long walk. I baked three quiches and a pumpkin cheesecake. By the time I went to bed I was exhausted and had had absolutely zero signs of labor.

At about 3:00 in the morning, I got up to pee (for the 700th time) and realized I was having my bloody show, which is one of those labor-related things I wish there was a nicer term for, but which is really only the first of many disgusting things related to having a baby. Pretty much simultaneously, I started to have brief contractions, random but frequent, that were painful and distinctly different from the Braxton Hicks "practice" contractions I'd been having for months.

I got back in bed and told Tim what was going on. Despite his being deep asleep, he hugged me so tightly I couldn't breath and then immediately went into "THIS IS HAPPENING" mode until I told him it could still be days or even weeks (god forbid) before the baby came.

Monday was fairly awful. The contractions were strong enough and frequent enough to make things miserable, but not even close to being hospital-worthy. Like having someone randomly and sadistically tighten a vice grip on your lower back. We decided to go see a movie as a distraction, and ended up seeing The Box Trolls, which was frankly not a great last movie to see before having a baby for lots of reasons I won't go into here. By the end of the movie, my contractions had gotten bad enough that I had no desire to sit through the credits, which is, Tim said, how he knew things had gotten serious.

Monday night, I made a valiant attempt to sleep through my contractions, and Tim tried to time them for me but kept falling asleep. By 3:00 a.m., 24 hours after the first sign of labor, they were bad enough that I gave up sleeping, got up, closed the bedroom door, and went into the living room to be alone with my misery. I figured that if Tim was awake, he would not only want to help and have no real way of doing so, but he would be exhausted when the time came to go to the hospital. Better to let him sleep while I rolled around on the living room floor in agony by myself.

At about 6:00 a.m., my contractions had gotten so strong and close together that I decided to wake Tim up (by politely yelling at him from the other room). I called the on-call Doctor and told them my contractions were 3 minutes apart and strong enough that I had difficulty talking and was crying, at which point they said, "Yes, please come to the hospital!!" and I realized that I'd waited way too long and had a very miserable 45-minute drive during morning rush hour ahead of me.

I also fixed myself a bottle of water and completely forgot it on the kitchen counter. Words of wisdom: contractions make you very thirsty (at least that's how it was for me). Put water bottles in your car ahead of time so you don't suffer from both dry mouth AND contractions for 45 minutes in the car on the way to the hospital.

When we finally arrived at the hospital, about 7:45, the first person to see my face immediately grabbed a wheelchair. At that point, I was still in denial enough to think I could walk to the L&D floor, but I'm thankful for well-trained hospital staff who knew better. And thankful that because I'd already called ahead, the room was ready and waiting for me when I got there.

I changed into a gown and a nurse checked to see how far along I was. She looked at me like I was crazy, said I was only 1 cm dilated (exactly where I'd been for a week already), and left the room. To which my immediate response was, "you have to be effing kidding me" before gritting my teeth through another contraction.  After a few minutes, Dr. Johnson came in with the nurse and said, "what I'm seeing does not match what you just told me." She checked again, shot the nurse a very dirty look, and told me I was at 3 cm.

At that point, I met Rachel, the nurse who would stick with me through the whole delivery (for the record, she was very good. All instances of nurses behaving badly in this story are other nurses who stepped in while she was busy). She asked if I wanted drugs, and I said, "YES ALL THE DRUGS."  I commend those brave souls who are able to have babies without drugs, but I was already to the point where I had begged Tim to tell the doctor that I would like to be made unconscious and have a C-section immediately. Anything to make it stop.

The problem with having waited so long to come to the hospital is it takes time for them to get everything in order before you can get the sweet, sweet drugs.  From the time you walk in until you're actually able to have the epidural is at least 45 minutes. 45 of the longest minutes of your entire life.

During this time, the nurse asked 700 questions, hooked up the IV, the contraction monitor, the fetal heart rate monitor, and what seemed like 35 other cords that all had to be unhooked every time I had to pee, which for me was every single time I had a contraction, so once every few minutes.

After all the initial hooking up and after receiving an entire bag of IV fluids, a beautiful, miraculous angel came into the room wheeling a cart full of magical drugs. He made Tim put on a face mask and cover his hair, then sit in front of me and hold my hands while I hunched over and tried to sit perfectly still so he could stick a needle into my spine. The nurse repositioned Tim's grip and said, "Pregnant women are very strong, and I don't want you to get your fingers broken," which is a little terrifying, but absolutely believable.

I'm 100% certain that the anesthesiologist who does epidurals in a hospital gets a disproportionate amount of thank you cards, fruit baskets, and love letters. It's not at all fair, because the nurses do 99.999% of the work and deserve all of the credit, but it's impossible NOT to fall a little bit in love with someone who makes the pain of labor go away so quickly.

About 10 minutes after receiving the epidural, I looked at Tim and told him my outlook on life had greatly improved. So much in fact, that after receiving my catheter (TMI - but you can't walk with an epidural, and you really have no way of knowing if you need to pee or not anyway. After nine months of having to pee constantly, the catheter was my second favorite thing in the world right behind the epidural itself.), and having my water broken, I promptly fell asleep.

**This is where things get a little weird.  Let me say up front that I would still describe my hospital experience as five-star, top-notch, and generally fantastic, especially when put in perspective. Labor is UNBELIEVABLY PAINFUL and I didn't even have to feel the actual delivery, so I can't imagine what it must be like to go through that in a non-sterile, non-medicated environment.**

After I received my epidural, the nurses told Tim to go grab something to eat, so that he wouldn't pass out, then turned down the lights and essentially disappeared for four hours. They came in intermittently to refresh my IV fluids or reposition my monitors, and I was told to press the call button if I ever felt the urge to push, but at no point did anyone actually say, "this is the part where you just sleep until the baby gets here."

This is not so bad in and of itself, but Tim and I were both a little confused and no one really explained what was happening (or really, not happening). At no point did I ever feel the desire to push, but I did notice that I would feel particularly powerful contractions that were strong enough to push the baby so far down into my pelvis that his heart rate actually faded off of the monitor. The contraction would end and his heart beat would slide back into focus, coming through loud and clear once again.

I rang the call button and told the nurse about the deep contractions and she said, "that's great! Let the baby do all the work!" and then left without checking my progress at all.  This happened twice. I'm convinced that Ben would have been born much earlier if the nurse had actually checked my progress.

About an hour later, around 3:45, the Doctor herself came in to check on me.  "I thought we'd have a baby by now," she said. "I was sure you'd be the first one to deliver today."

I told her about the contractions and that I could tell the baby was very low, and she got visibly angry with the nurses, though she was clearly trying to hide it. She checked my progress and immediately said, "his head is right there."  The baby had also progressed so far down that he had pushed the catheter out with his head, and it was clear that it had been that way for some time. "You're going to have a baby before 5:00," she said.

Early on, Tim and I had the naive notion that he would help me without really getting involved, that he would keep his eyes on my eyes and hold my hand, and tell me how to breathe. That is not remotely how it happened.

As soon as everything was set up, about 4:00, the nurse had me try a "practice" push. She told Tim to hold on to my left leg while she held my right, and said "When I say, 'now,' Daddy is going to count to ten. When he does, you're going to hold on to your legs, put your chin to your chest and push as hard as you can. We'll do this three times with each contraction and then rest."

After the first practice push, something changed on Tim's face and he was totally focused. The nurse asked if I wanted a mirror to see my progress and I said no. I relied on Tim to tell me what to do. After the first practice push, I pushed through about four more contractions before the doctor came in to take over.

I pushed through one more contraction and the doctor asked me to reach down and touch Ben's head. Up until then, I had been very focused and intent on just getting the baby out. Frankly, with the epidural, I didn't feel like my pushing could possibly be accomplishing anything. I couldn't feel much of anything, so I was mostly just following orders and pretending, so that everyone would feel like they were accomplishing something (I'm accommodating like that).

However, the second I reached down and felt his head, I totally lost my mind. It took everything I had to not starting bawling uncontrollably. From that point on, I think I only pushed through one or two more contractions.... and then I saw his arm and shoulder, and the doctor began to suction out his nose and mouth, and he wailed, and she held him up and Tim said, "it's a boy!" He didn't shout it, but sort of just told me with this look of total awe and incredulity on his face.

At 4:59, the nurse put Ben on my chest for a few minutes before taking him to be cleaned and measured and he was just... perfect. Sticky and puffy and perfect.

I regained my composure while I got my stitches (later, I asked the Doctor how many stitches I had, and she said, "let's not worry about that." So think about that before you consider having a baby.)  I could hear Ben crying as he was poked and prodded and it was wonderful. At that point, one of the nurses exclaimed over the dimple in his chin, which I hadn't actually seen yet, and I started crying all over again, because I really, really, really wanted this baby to have Tim's dimple.

When he was all clean, dry, measured, weighed, and suctioned, they wrapped him up like a burrito and handed him back to me. He nursed a little bit, then fell asleep, and I couldn't take my eyes off of him. I still can't.

In the end, I really didn't have anything to be nervous about with labor. Yes, it was the single most painful thing I've ever experienced in my life (and the day after wasn't a lot of fun either), but I was lucky that my delivery was so easy and fast, and that Ben was born perfectly healthy and happy. I'm lucky to have such an amazing, supportive husband, who did literally everything right on the day our baby was born. It was the hardest thing I've ever done and it was so, so totally worth it.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Moving Fast is Easy. Standing Still is Hard.

There are feet down there somewhere.
Puffy ones.
So, we meet again.

You'll have to forgive me for not posting much in the past eight and a half months, because, to me, it feels like I found out I was pregnant literally yesterday. As in, I still wake up in the morning (and in the middle of night, to pee, ten times) and forget that I have a watermelon for a torso. Where did this come from??

It's gone by in a blur.

I have two weeks left until my due date, and this may be hard to believe, but there is enough other stuff going on that I've been too preoccupied to really stress about it very much.

At work, it's the end of the fiscal year. Which is the Super Bowl for people who work in government budget teams, only with more money at stake and more violent tackles. Last Friday I busted my hump to rescue about $7 million in tax payer dollars for important programs. (That sounds like a lot of money, but it's actually peanuts.) And there's still more work to be done.

Yesterday, Tim graduated from his training to become a consular officer. This week, he has to pass his Spanish test. After that, he's got a list of things to do, both baby-related and Mexico-related, that would give a normal person hives just looking at it.

Together, we've got the classes (birthing class, breastfeeding class, baby care class), and the preparation for Mexico (getting fancy passports and TSA numbers and scheduling our flights and the move), and making arrangements for our family to visit, etc., etc., etc.

With all of this stuff going on at once, there's no time to panic and freak out about any one thing. I have an odd, zen-like feeling of happiness, thanks in no small part to the following:

We got the nursery set up so Mugi could enjoy it.
1. Tim is going to be an incredible dad. 
Sometimes it blows my mind how supportive, patient, kind, and wonderful he's been this whole time. Not that I expected him to be awful or something, just that he has a superhuman ability to take care of me, for which he asks nothing in return, and which gives me faith that, no matter what, this baby will be fine.

2. Nothing is ever what you expect.  I knew this already, but it's been on my mind a lot. It's actually sort of nice to realize how silly it is to try to predict and control things. I had a hard time getting pregnant, and was worried that my body would totally betray me once I finally did. But (don't hate me) this has been the EASIEST pregnancy ever. Everything good and simple and healthy and straight down the middle. I wouldn't want to be pregnant forever or anything, but I have zero horror stories. Maybe it won't be like that two weeks from now. I can prepare myself, but can't control it and will only be thwarted if I try.

3. Nesting is awesome. I want to clean and organize everything. And even completing the smallest task (picking up the socks! cleaning the bathroom mirror! throwing away the expired yogurt!) gives me a completely pathological sense of accomplishment. This is all thanks to hormones and it's great. (Also, picking up socks - or anything else at ground level - is a real feat at this point.)

4. We have an amazing support net. Our friends, family, and coworkers are seriously incredible people. Again, I'm not worried about this baby at all. It hasn't even gotten here yet, and it's already so well loved and taken care of.

5. A pregnant belly is like cat crack. I'm not kidding.

(He's going to be a great influence on this baby.)

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Knocked Up.

I'm seventeen weeks pregnant and I realized I haven't said a word about it on here yet. 

For the first thirteen weeks, that was definitely intentional. First of all, it seemed too good to be true and I didn't want to jinx myself. Second, it was kind of nice to have a secret just between me and Tim. We wanted to wait to tell both because it's recommended and because we're selfish and realized it was the only time we'd get the baby all to ourselves.

You can chalk up my radio silence for the last four weeks to more straightforward causes: (1) It's gone by really fast and (2) pregnancy brain.

So here's a short list of observations about my particular pregnancy so far.

1. It is both exactly how I expected it to be and nothing like I expected.
In pretty much every book, movie, or TV show where someone finds out they're pregnant, they find out because they're throwing up (I'm looking at you, Leslie Knope). That is not at all what it was like for me. In fact, I didn't throw up one. single. time. (Sorry, sorry, I know. It's not fair.) Instead, I had lots of other weird symptoms that made it obvious I was definitely pregnant: like not being able to eat anything but pickles, macaroni and cheese, and baby corn; having to pee literally every 20 minutes (if you know me, you know that is NOT normal); getting a migraine every time it rains (literally, every time); and the smell of our (perfectly clean) kitchen making me want to hide under the bed. Basically, until I become pregnant, and become curious enough to google "early pregnancy symptoms," we had no idea what we were really in for.

2. Pregnancy. Dreams.
I've always had pretty vivid dreams, but now my dreams are next-level, hardcore, turned up to 11. They're sagas with plots and reoccurring characters and epic battles. Last night I dreamed that my grandparent's ranch was Kings' Landing, but that instead of Lannisters, it was overrun by a family of evil corporate scientists doing sleep experiments on people, with Paris Hilton playing the role of evil-corporate-scientist King Joffrey. I had to defeat her by stealing her Cadillac, driving into Crawford, and getting a haircut (which is super-stressful because uh, I don't drive and also, the only hair stylist in Crawford was out to lunch). Shit like this goes on in my head all night, every night.

3. Everyone's a Doctor/Expert.
I was explicitly warned about this (thanks, Amber!) and knew it was coming, but it's still hard to deal with gracefully. I'm already the kind of person who likes to puzzle things out for myself and does not take advice easily. (In case you wondered, Tim is the same. Worse than me, actually.)  Something about being pregnant, though... man. It brings out the "resident expert" voice in people. Not just other moms, but people who have never been pregnant and sometimes who don't have children at all. Advice about everything from what to eat and drink (or not), how to sit, where to go (sorry if you don't like that I'm moving to Juarez, but your criticism isn't helping), etc. etc. I don't at all mind people's questions because people LOVE a pregnant person and can't resist asking about it. But when questions tip over into advice/medical speculation/thou shalts, I have a hard time containing my hormonal outbursts. Here's why:

4. Many people (books, apps, websites, doctors, etc.) treat pregnant women like they're idiots.
Just because I put the milk in cupboard and hid my keys from myself in a drawer in the bathroom doesn't mean I'm not still moderately intelligent. The first thing I noticed about sources like What to Expect When You're Expecting, speaking to my doctors, and advice given by other people is that it's girded by the basic principle that pregnant women are not very smart and need to be talked down to. I'm painfully aware that this is my first rodeo, and that there are a LOT of things I don't know about pregnancy, but I'm also an adult. Even the dumbest, most inexperienced woman out there deserves to be given the benefit of the doubt. The problem with a lot of the advice I've been given is not the advice itself; it's the tone that implies first that all women and their pregnancies are the same (they're not), and second that I'm not smart enough to do research, ask questions, or know what's right for me.

5. Ok, some advice really is priceless.
Despite all that ranting, some people are great at giving helpful advice and reassurance. Amber's most helpful piece of advice? Watch out for your toothbrush. These five little words definitely helped in my successful quest to NOT throw up. Jessica's advice? Her cloth diapering manifesto, which I obviously haven't been able to put to use yet, but which actually made me EXCITED about diapers (and which may well prove to be the salvation of our cross country road trip). When I was busy not throwing up, I had a few weeks where I worried (to the point of insanity) that this was a bad sign, and that it meant that something was really wrong. My mother and grandmother stepped in to reassure me that it's a genetic blessing, and that neither of them ever got particularly sick.

6. Pregnancy is awesome (so far).
Ok, I know there are lots of people who don't feel this way at all for various, completely legit reasons, so take this with a grain of salt. However, my experience has been that I love getting all round and squishy (also, new clothes!). I love all the daydreaming and speculation about what this baby will be like (perfect, obviously). I love arguing with Tim about names and talking about the different things we're both excited about sharing (books, baseball). I love that we both agree that we want to dress this baby up in fuzzy animal costumes as long as it doesn't know any better. I love looking at diapers and sheets and "jammies with Yodas and shit all over them," and picking out cribs and car seats (even though it's also super stressful) and how freaking cute everything is. When I went to the OB this week for my regular weigh-in/check up he ended the exam by saying "good job," like I'd just kicked a field goal and he would have patted me on the butt if that was appropriate. And I realized, even though I was pretty bad at getting pregnant, I'm good at being pregnant (so far).