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Eva’s Birth – Part 3

Read Part 1 here
Read Part 2 here

It was approximately 6 p.m. I’d been laboring about five hours, but it didn’t feel like it. Time didn’t exist. I was aware that it had gotten dark outside, but it didn’t matter. I labored on my knees on the bed. I labored on the yoga ball. I labored while slow dancing across the delivery room in Mike’s arms, moving to the sound of my own groans, gushing blood-tinged amniotic fluid all over the floor. I thought I should care about the mess I was making but I didn’t. I wanted to push. I felt like a wild animal. With each contraction I took a deep cleansing breath and groaned, growled, screeched, sometimes I laughed maniacally, uncontrollably. The contractions tickled some foreign part of my brain. I thought it was hilarious. I was in a trance, this was labor-land.

“Release your shoulders, breathe, relax into the contraction.”

“I can’t relax!”

“Yes you can. Breath. Release your shoulders.”

I noticed that when I listened to Mike and Brenda and released my shoulders, flowed with the contraction instead of against it, it was manageable, tolerable, and over fast. Only when I fought against it did it become unbearable. In between I could hear Brenda’s voice, “How do you feel right now?”

“Good, I feel good.”

“You’re always going to come back here. Remember that. You’ll always come back to this place where you feel good and you can rest, okay?”

“I’m having another contraction…”

“Deep breath, relax your shoulders, breathe…”

Bethany was back. The nurse from the night before. I was glad. Catherine was great, but Bethany was a soul sister. She stayed beside us, comforting, helping. I heard her voice, “You’re breathing so well, Trish. You’re doing great.” And Mike, telling me how strong I was, how proud he was of me. “Each contraction brings us closer to our baby girl. You’re almost there. You’re so strong.” And Brenda, constantly reassuring and reminding me, soothing me.

Brenda asked if she could call my parents, let them know how I was doing. I nodded. She brushed my hair, Mike rubbed my back, I labored on. I heard her telling someone (my parents, over the phone) that my contractions were right on top of each other, but it didn’t make sense. There was so much space between them. I could rest, sleep a little. She told me later that there was maybe a minute between, maybe less. But in the moment those forty to sixty seconds felt like room to breathe, to recuperate. I labored on.

Soon I was feeling the contractions in my vagina, not in my belly. I guess they’d slowly been moving down for hours, but I hadn’t really noticed. I wanted to push. Was begging to push. Brenda took me by the shoulders, snapped her fingers in front of my face and told me to get out of the trance, come back to Earth, she needed me to come back. She said later that she was concerned that the Cytotec was making me feel like I was further along than I was and she wanted to buy me some time. She heated up the shower and told Mike to get in with me. I’d packed him swim trunks in case we labored in the shower, but he didn’t bother with them. I loved that.

Mike and I climbed in together, naked, and I thought I shouldn’t get my hair wet, I’d just had it cut and blown out the day before, but then I didn’t care. Like so many other things, it slipped away. I wrapped my arms around his neck and let my head fall back into the stream of hot water, let it pour over my face and my hair, run down my back. The contractions were bringing me to my knees now, literally. I was a tiger in her den, yowling, shrieking, growling.

We stayed like that until I was so pruney I couldn’t stand it. Mike helped me out of the shower, helped my dry off, put my bra back on, I collapsed to the floor in a contraction, he helped me through it, got himself dressed while I made my way back to the labor-bed.

“I want to push!” I was belching like crazy, I felt completely out of control. Each contraction felt like something else taking over my body. I was an exhausted passenger. I could hear Brenda telling Bethany that she thought I was in transition, that we ought to have the midwife come in and check me. But the midwife, Pat, was busy delivering another baby so we’d have to wait. I labored on.

Finally, I don’t know how much later, Pat came in. She had to wait to check me, I wouldn’t let her touch me while I was contracting. “This is so much harder than I thought it would be,” I groaned between contractions.

Brenda answered, “No, it isn’t. You’re doing amazing work. Keep breathing.”

I was on my back, writhing against a contraction when Pat declared I was at 10 centimeters. The relief that flooded me must have been palpable. I’d been thinking, as she checked me, that if I wasn’t fully dilated I was DONE. I was over this. Completely. I needed a hamburger, rare, and a good night’s sleep. But I’d been given the green light, I was almost at the finish line. I was so happy I wanted to cry. Instead I started telling anyone who would listen that I was STARVING and I couldn’t WAIT TO EAT. I was suddenly so hungry I thought I’d die.

Brenda talked to me about how I was going to push, we were going to be slow and careful. The room had come alive with women rushing around, getting things ready. I asked what the carts with all the instruments were for and Bethany assured me they were getting ready for anything, taking precautions, I had nothing to worry about. I pushed on all fours, it felt incredible, I was finally participating in this crazy thing that my body was doing, but the baby didn’t move down. I wanted to move to a squat, so Bethany set up the squat bar and I pushed like that, pushing the baby down, down, down. In between contractions I’d try to sit back on the edge of the bed, but it was like sitting on a softball – her head was right there. Bethany called Pat back in to see my progress, the baby would be here any minute. I wanted to cry when Pat said, “No, she’s not ready yet. I’m leaving.”

Bethany stopped her: “Watch her labia when she pushes. She’s ready, don’t go anywhere.”

Pat told me to get on my back and fold my knees up to my sides, hold my ankles. I wanted to stay off my back so I felt defeated. Put my head in my hands and tried to collect myself. Mike and Brenda whispered reassuring things to me, encouraged me, reminded me we were almost done. I lay back and grabbed my ankles, pushed, pushed, pushed.

“I can see her head! Reach down, Trish, feel her head!”

Oh hell no, I thought. And then, I did it. I reached down and felt the top of my daughter’s head as it came from my body, soft and warm. I kept pushing.

“Push! Push! What you’re feeling is the ring of fire – you’re stretching to make room for the baby, you’re almost there!”

This was the part I’d been afraid of, the only part that scared me. But I didn’t feel anything except relief to be pushing and an incredible craving for a rare hamburger, still. God I was so hungry. Make that a bacon cheeseburger.

“I see her forehead! Keep pushing!”

“There are her eyes! I see a nose! Keep pushing! There’s her mouth! Her head is out!”

I fell back, exhausted, trying to catch my breath. The cord was wrapped loosely around her neck, Pat unwound it and then yelled at me, “PUSH!” As I pushed she pulled and suddenly she was out. In that second I was slammed back into reality, could practically hear the brakes squealing as my dream-like state came to a crashing close.

“Look! Look! Look!”

“I can’t see anything without my glasses!”

Someone handed me my glasses and there she was, wet and squalling, slimy and pink.

It felt like forever (Mike said later it was less than a minute), but they finally put our daughter on my chest. It was the most surreal moment of my life. There she was, hot, sticky, covered in blood and vernix, and then she pooped on my belly and we were both covered in so much goo it was remarkable. She cried and cried while I tried to catch my breath, comfort her. I rubbed her back, tried to get a good look at her face. I could hear Bethany directing Pat, “Don’t clamp the cord until it stops pulsing! She said no cord traction, no Pitocin…” Bless her.

Pat showed us the cord, which had stopped pulsing. It was tied in three knots. Three knots. “Your baby is a miracle. We only see this in still births.” I held the tiny squirming child closer to my chest. My miracle.  Pat clamped the cord and Mike cut it.

They told me to push again and I birthed the placenta. It felt good. Everyone admired it but I didn’t see it. I didn’t care about anything but the child on my chest. I had a one degree tear which Pat stitched up in no time while Mike and I marveled at the creature who had already found my nipple and was having her first meal outside my body. A nurse washed me and brought me a tuna fish sandwich, which Mike fed me in bites. It was no bacon cheeseburger, but it was delicious.

No one bothered us again for about two hours. Brenda kissed us goodbye. Michelle snuck in to take photos but only stayed a moment. The labor room was dim and quiet, warm and lovely. It was just the three of us, a new family, our eyes wet with happy tears, our hearts brimming with love.

 

 

 

Eva’s Birth – Part 2

Read Part 1 here

My contractions kicked in again, almost immediately after the enema, within an hour of the first dose of Cytotec. Pat, the midwife, had given us two hours before I needed to get back on the baby monitor, so we were going to make the most of it. Up, up, up, up, up five flights of stairs. Down, down, down, down, down. Again. Again. Again. I was contracting every second or third flight and I needed to stop, hang off the stair railing in a squat, breathe, Mike putting counter-pressure on my lower back where the contractions reached around and took hold. We took a detour outside for some fresh air, but it was too warm for me. I found a dead bird and declared it a good sign, borrowed Brenda’s iPhone so I could take photographs of the sweet little thing, ants crawling all over it, making it their afternoon meal. Back inside and up, up, up, contraction, squat, breathe, up, up. Down, contraction, squat, breathe, down, down, down, contraction, squat, breathe. After every contraction either Brenda or Mike offered me water, working to keep me hydrated to avoid an IV later on. I must have swallowed fifteen liters of water that day.

“This is great!” I grinned. “I love this! I could do this all day. I want the contractions to get stronger! Let’s get this party started!” I patted my belly and encouraged Niblet to move down, get out, eviction notice has been posted! Up, up, contract, squat, breathe, up, up, contract, squat, breathe, up, down, down, and so it went. The three of us laughing and joking and visiting, contraction, squat, breathe. I couldn’t talk through the contractions anymore but they were good and strong and I loved them. “I really could do this all day! This is awesome! I want them to get stronger! Come on Niblet! Get a move on!”

“I’m going to remind you later that you said that,” Brenda said, grinning back at me.

Two hours passed like nothing and it was time to get back on the baby monitor. I was ready to stop climbing stairs and try something different – the yoga ball sounded awesome. The day nurse, Catherine, got me all hooked up while I sat on the yoga ball, opening my hips, contracting, breathing. She needed me to stay on the monitor for at least twenty minutes so she could get a solid read on the baby. I couldn’t do it. I needed to poop. RIGHT NOW. I made Mike come with me into the bathroom because my contractions were strong enough that I needed his support through them. This was the moment when all modesty and vanity flew out the window. Before this, I’d been trying to maintain some modicum of decency, keeping my lady-parts covered, the bathroom door closed while I pottied, that sort of thing. Suddenly I didn’t care, not one little bit.

Mike kneeled on the floor in front of me while I contracted and pooped for the next half hour. My arms wrapped around his shoulders, I breathed deeply into his neck through each contraction, shitting my guts out, gushing amniotic fluid.

“I’m just going to reach behind you to flush the toilet –”

“Nooooooo! I’m having a contraction!”

“Ok, I know, breathe, deep breaths, I’m not going anywhere, you’re doing great, I’m just going to reach right here and flush –”

“NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!”

“Ok love. Deep breaths. You’re so strong. Now I’m just going to give it one little flush –”

“NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!! I’M CONTRACTING!!!!!!!!”

Poor Mike. I couldn’t verbalize it, but I didn’t want toilet water splashing back up on my behind.  He just wanted a courtesy flush. I won.

This is where my memory starts to get fuzzy and the whole experience takes on a dream-like quality. My memories are fragmented, but Brenda and Mike have helped me fill in the blanks.

The nurse, Catherine, was hovering. She was concerned because she wasn’t getting a read on the baby and worried that I was trying to push on the toilet. I wasn’t, I was just pooping. A lot. Mike asked if I thought I was done in the bathroom and I wasn’t sure, but I was willing to get back on the monitor just to make her leave us alone for awhile. At some point I’d ditched my skirt, annoyed at the lengths of fabric tangling between my legs. I remember pulling off my shirt because I was sweating. Mike spread one of the big square hospital pads, the ones they put on the bed to protect it from fluids, over the yoga ball so I could sit on it bare-bottom. Brenda raised the bed so I could labor on the ball, leaning forward on the bed with the baby monitor around my belly.

Catherine said she needed to put the hep-lock in now and I complained. I was worried it would drive me crazy, that I wouldn’t be able to think about anything but this thing sticking out of my arm. Mike stroked my hair and told me she had to do it, it was better than an IV, I wouldn’t even notice it after a while. Brenda coached me in my breathing, the contractions were coming harder and faster now. I wanted off the ball, I wasn’t comfortable at all anymore.

“I’m afraid I’m gonna shit myself!” I cried. “No, I’m gonna throw up, I think I’m gonna throw up…” Brenda and Mike were an excellent team, coaching me, comforting me, feeding me water, brushing my hair, rubbing my back. I remember moving from the ball to the bed, which had it’s back up so it was more like a big chair than a bed. I was on my knees with my arms draped over the head of the bed, Catherine trying to get the hep-lock in my arm while I cried, suddenly overwhelmed with happiness and love.

“Mike, I love you so much. I don’t know why I’m so emotional! I’m just so happy, so so happy right now. I can’t wait to meet our little girl. I’m so in love with you!” I was in active labor now, but I didn’t know it. I didn’t know anything but the love and happiness that engulfed me. And the contractions, intense and all-consuming.

I remember laboring on the bed like that for a little while, Brenda brushing my hair, Mike putting counter-pressure on my back. I started making noises, high-pitched groans. Brenda suggested lower, deeper tones and they felt better, so much better. With each new contraction I took a deep, cleansing breath and then groaned, deep in my throat, a low, rumbling ohhhhhhhhhh sound.

At some point Catherine came in and said we were moving from triage to the delivery room, just across the hall. Somewhere in my head I remembered that this meant I was really in labor, things were really happening, the hospital staff was finally taking this seriously. I remember worrying, barely, about all of our things spread all over the triage room, but knowing I had to let it go and trust Brenda and Mike to collect everything. Someone, I think it was Mike, helped me walk across the hall, past the nurses station, to the delivery room. The lights were low and in the back of my mind I remembered this was the exact delivery room I saw on the labor & delivery tour I had taken so long ago. I was glad – it was familiar. I asked Mike and Brenda to do an idiot-check in the triage room, to be sure they’d gotten everything. I got up on the bed to labor on my knees, my arms draped over the back of the bed. There was a blanket over me because I was sweating and freezing at the same time. I still thought I might vomit or shit myself and I was vaguely aware that with every contraction there was a rush of amniotic fluid pouring out of me.

This was right about the time my dad and one of my brothers wandered into the delivery room. I was ass-up on the bed, naked except for a nursing bra and a blanket.

“Hi! How are you!”

“Oh my god you guys….” I whined.

“We miss you! How is it going?” My brother sounded worried.

“PLEASE LEAVE. I DON’T WANT YOU TO SEE MY VAGINA.”

My father burst into tears. Brenda ushered them out, explaining that I was in active labor, that I was doing great, but that this was not a good time to visit. She promised to call them soon and let them know what was happening. I found out later that my brother texted my other brother, who was en route to the hospital, “DON’T GO TO THE HOSPITAL.” Good call, bro.

To be continued…

Eva’s Birth – Part 1

Disclaimer: This is a birth story. There will be talk of fluids and mucous plugs and poop and vaginas. You have been warned. 

Thursday, January 16, 2014, approx. 8:30 p.m. 38 weeks and 3 days pregnant. 

We finished an episode of “Justified” and I struggled to keep my eyes open despite how much I love the show. So tired. Always so tired. It was almost 10:30 p.m. I’ve got to stop staying up so late, I thought to myself. Gotta conserve my energy because this baby could come any day now (but she probably won’t come for at least three more weeks) and I need to have energy for her birth. Can’t be so tired. Tomorrow night we’ll go to bed early. I swear.

“Bed?” Mike asked.

“Bed. Will you fill the humidifier?”

“If you walk the dogs.”

“Ugh. Okay.” I got up, slipped some shoes on, led the dogs onto the landing to leash them up and promptly pissed myself. I was awfully confused because I had not pissed myself once in my entire pregnancy, and don’t pregnant ladies usually only pee themselves if they laugh or cough or sneeze? And I’d done none of those things. I stood on the landing, the wet spot on my favorite cozy pajama pants spreading, the dogs pulling at their leashes. Could it be my water breaking? It couldn’t be. Only 12% of women break their water before labor starts. But there were butterflies in my tummy. I left the dogs on the landing and went back inside. Sat on the potty to see if I just needed to pee when another gush of fluid came.

“Um, Mike? I either pissed myself or my water broke.”

“Does it smell like pee?”

I sniffed my pajama pants. “I can’t tell! I think it’s probably just pee. It has to be just pee.”

My water was not going to break. I was going to labor at home, peacefully, with no doctors or nurses bothering me, listening to my lovely labor & delivery playlist, while I shampooed the carpets and cleaned the baseboards. I was NOT going to spend my entire labor at L&D with a broken water sac.

“You should probably text Brenda.”*

Over the next half hour I texted back and forth with Brenda about whether or not I’d lost control of my bladder or broken my bag of water. I walked the dogs, fluid dripping between my legs. She suggested a maxi pad to catch the flow. Good call. The fourth or fifth time I gushed, there were two tiny drops of blood. Adrenaline rushed through me. This was not pee. Shit was about to get real.

“Oh. Yeah. This is definitely my water breaking. I guess I should pack my hospital bag?” I’d been meaning to pack it, but was sure I had plenty of time…

I called Brenda and she said she’d come right over. I wasn’t tired at all anymore, but wide awake, adrenaline coursing through my body. I’m having this baby tonight, I thought. And then, but I haven’t washed the dishes! Or shampooed the carpet! Or vacuumed! And the dogs need baths! And  I NEED A PEDICURE.

I texted my girlfriend Michelle, “Water broke. I need a pedicure! Come over and paint my toes before we go to the hospital!” That was at 11:30 p.m., but she wouldn’t get the text until after 2 a.m. the next morning. No pre-hospital pedicure for me.

Brenda arrived, and Mike cleaned the kitchen (bless him) while I packed our hospital bag. I changed into the comfy skirt, top, and bra I’d planned to wear during labor. I looked in the mirror and felt truly beautiful for the first time since the Bell’s Palsy came on. Mike loaded our car with the laptop, a giant suitcase full of things we’d never touch during our hospital stay, and a yoga ball I’d borrowed from my parents. The car seat, installed just the day before, was ready with soft blankets to tuck around our girl on the ride home. We hopped in the car and I called and left messages to cancel my acupuncture appointment and pedicure (ugh!) for the next day. We checked into the hospital a few minutes after midnight, January 17, giddy with excitement.

“So… I think my water broke….”

“The theme of the evening. You and every other woman in here. It’s a full moon. Going to be a busy night. Are you having contractions?”

“Mild ones…”

The nurse who checked us in led us to triage room 3 – the same room Mike and I had spent 12 hours in just 10 days earlier, when I was diagnosed with Bell’s Palsy, which I suddenly couldn’t care less about. I was glad they put us in the same room. It was familiar. We’d be comfortable.

“Go ahead and undress, put this gown on –”

“I was told I could labor in my own clothes.”

“Oh. Well. As long as you don’t mind if we have to cut them off you in an emergency.”

“I don’t care.”

“Fine. Go ahead and give us a urine sample. Then sit bare-bottom on this pad so we can make sure you’re leaking amniotic fluid and not urine.”

I lost my mucous plug in the urine sample. Only I didn’t know what was happening.

“Ummmm…. whoa…. lots of mucous… whoa…. so…. much…. my word! What the…”

“Wahoo! That’s your mucous plug! Good sign!” cheered Brenda.

Once I was situated bare-bottomed on the pad on the bed in the triage room, we met the nurse who would be taking care of us until the morning shift change. Her name was Bethany and she was lovely. She went over our birth preferences and wrote them on the white board in the room. She hooked me up to the baby monitor and chatted with us about what my ideal birth would be like. My contractions were steady every 7-10 minutes, mild enough that I could talk and laugh through them. I leaked all over the pad on the bed so she let me get up and put my skirt back on, gave me some awesome mesh panties and a maxi pad the size of a canoe to soak up new leaks.

A little while later the doctor on call came in. I walked across the room and shook his hand, I think it put him off a little. He wanted to examine me to check my progress, but I said no. I wanted as few vaginal exams as possible. The prednisone for the Bell’s Palsy was screwing with my immune system and I didn’t want to risk infection. He confirmed I was gushing amniotic fluid and not just pissing myself. He confirmed that the baby was doing fabulously and that my contractions were regular, but that I still had a long way to go.

Brenda suggested we walk the halls to see if my labor would kick up a notch, so we did. We walked and we walked and we walked in circles all over the L&D floor, outside, around, back again. The night air was cool and lovely, the full moon shone bright. Mike or Brenda, I can’t remember who, challenged me to start walking the stairs, and I took that idea and ran with it. Over the next twelve hours we’d hike up and down five flights of stairs dozens of times. Up, up, up, up, up. Down, down, down, down, down. Again. Again. Again. Every 45 minutes we headed back to the triage room so Bethany could monitor Niblet’s heart rate and my contractions, but I refused to get into bed. I’d sit on the yoga ball, opening my hips, telling the baby to move down! Patting my belly and saying, “Listen kid. You started this. I was happy to let you stay put for a few more weeks, but you broke the water sac, so now you need to get out. Let’s get this party started.” The night turned to dawn, to early morning. We tried to nap but no one slept. We walked some more. My contractions grew further apart, not closer together. They got weaker, not stronger. Brenda and I walked to the cafe outside the hospital so Mike could get some sleep and she could get some coffee. We went for breakfast in the hospital cafeteria. The hospital staff changed shifts, the night doc introduced the day staff and I was delighted that there was a midwife on call who I knew and liked. She wanted to check my progress and again I declined.

We kept walking, left the hospital grounds and walked down Burbank Boulevard in the hot morning sun. I sent Mike home to get my running shoes so I could walk harder and faster, and because my flip flops were giving me blisters. I took a shower, tried twiddling my nips because nipple stimulation can kick up contractions. Michelle came by, brought coffees and gave me a pedicure while I kept my hands up my shirt, futzing with my now very sore nipples, praying my contractions would get stronger. Mike came back with my running shoes and with my toes painted and dry, I tied them on and we hit the stairs again. An hour had passed since my last contraction. I was starting to worry.

Around noon the midwife, Pat, came in to see us. Talked me into an exam. It had been more than twelve hours since my water broke and she needed to see what kind of progress I’d made. I was certain that I was dilating, so I was crushed to find out I hadn’t dilated at all. Not even one centimeter. I was 40% effaced, but that’s it. And my contractions had stopped all together.

“What are my options?”

“We aren’t going to make you do anything you don’t want to do. You can hang out as long as you’d like. Your baby is doing great, you’re welcome to keep walking the halls and going up and down stairs as long as you want to. But in all honesty, if labor was going to kick in on its own, it would have by now. So I don’t think it’s going to. I recommend a drug called Cytotec. It’s an oral medication that causes contractions. You might only need one dose, you might need four, we’ll have to see. But the nice thing is you won’t need an IV, you’ll be able to keep walking the halls, you can stay out of bed, it’s nothing like Pitocin. Your other option is, of course, Pitocin, but I don’t think you want that.”

“Can you give us a minute to talk together, in private?”

“Of course.”

Mike and Brenda started googling “Cytotec” on their phones. We learned it’s an ulcer medication which (fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your point of view) causes pregnant women to go into labor.

“Pat’s right,” Brenda told me. “You’ve done everything you can do to try to start labor naturally. The Cytotec is a great option.” Mike and I agreed. Pat came back in.

“I’ll take the Cytotec.”

“Excellent! How do you feel about an enema? An enema irritates the bowels which can also bring on contractions.”

“Um… I don’t want an enema, but I’ll try it. I’ll try anything.”

They brought the Cytotec with my meal tray. My mother came to visit and brought Mike and Brenda lunch. We filled her in on my progress, or lack thereof. I ate lunch and afterwards, enjoyed (HA) a lovely enema dessert. Then I sat on the potty and shit my brains out. And then we hit the stairs again.

*Brenda is a dear friend I’ve known for 17 years, who is also my doula.

To be continued…

Gremlin Face

I call this “gremlin face” aka the face she makes when she’s hungry and PISSED. It cracks me up when she screws up her face like this right before she CHOMPS down on my nip. My lord I love this kid.

Eva Milan

Eva Milan, named for her Dutch grandmother and her Austrian Great-Grandfather.  Born January 17, 2014 at 8:09 p.m. She was 6 pounds, 14 ounces, just over 18 inches long, but by her 3 day pediatrician appointment she was already 7 pounds, 2 ounces and 19.75 inches! Such a good little eater!

A post about her birth is coming, I promise, I cannot wait to write it out, it was incredible. The short version: Seven hours of labor, about 25 minutes of pushing, and BOOM. Our lives were altered, beautifully, forever.

We’ve spent the last eleven days in absolute bliss, snuggled in a cozy nest of love and happiness. Being this little girl’s mama is the best thing I’ve ever done in my life. Mike is the best Papa ever – I’m constantly knocked out by how sweet, gentle, and loving he is with her. He melts my heart constantly. There is not a single moment that goes by where I don’t feel humbled by the miracle of her in my arms. I feel like my cup runneth over, my blessings are sky-high. She is my heart, my soul, my love.

The minute my water broke and I realized she was coming, I forgot about the Bell’s Palsy - it didn’t matter anymore. And since her birth, I’ve fallen in love with my body and my self in a way I never could have imagined. She’s given me a new life – so her name, which means “giver of life” is more perfect than we could have known. I feel like a warrior, a goddess, a tiger with her cubs. I feel incredible. She is incredible. Oh my gosh I cannot stop gushing. But that is enough for now. More later. Promise, promise.

In the meantime, here are some photos:

Eva’s Birth Day

Newborn Bliss

Love you all.

Day 6

I really wish that I could tell you that I’m getting used to this new face of mine, that this situation is getting easier to live with, that I’m doing okay. But the truth is that it’s getting harder, not easier. I’m getting more discouraged, more frustrated, more depressed, not less. Every morning I wake up and I hope I’ll see some kind of improvement, and I don’t. It hasn’t been a week yet, everyone reminds me. It’s too soon, they say. But they aren’t the ones with the half-frozen face.

It really surprises me how much of my identity was wrapped up in my face. I thought I’d grown past that. But I don’t recognize myself anymore. I look in the mirror and there is a stranger looking back at me. A sad, lonely stranger. I am grieving for my lost smile, the ease with which I once sipped soup from a spoon or bit into an apple. I can’t wear my contacts anymore because my left eye doesn’t close all the way and dries out too quickly. I feel lost and terribly alone.

A week ago I felt great, everything was great, I was happy, I was so excited to meet my baby girl that I was actually hoping she’d be born before her due date. I couldn’t wait to experience labor, birth, then hold her in my arms. Now, when I have a particularly intense Braxton Hicks contraction, I weep and beg her not to come because I can’t bear the thought of bringing her into this world when my head is so fucked up and my heart aches so much.

Then I hate myself because really, I’m so terribly vain. And selfish. Things could be so much worse. I am so lucky. I am healthy. Everyone I love is healthy. I’m surrounded by people who love and support me. My little girl is developing beautifully. Nothing is wrong with her. I look weird, that is all. Get over it already.

I wish I was a better person. I wish I didn’t care so much. I wish I had enough self-confidence that I could hold my head up high and grin my lop-sided sneer of a grin and not give a fuck what anyone thought and not think anything bad about myself. But it just hurts. I don’t even know how my husband can stand to look at me. He didn’t sign up for this, I tell myself. And yet here he is, stuck with a disfigured wife.

He keeps telling me I’m beautiful but I just feel like he’s lying.

And I feel like I’m failing my baby. My feelings, my emotions, every sob and gasp filters through me and into her. I’ve destroyed her peaceful nest in my womb, poisoned her with all my self-hatred and fear. She hasn’t been born yet and I’m already letting her down.

I made a video. So you can see what I look like now. So I can look back later, perhaps with a little more self-love, and remember what this felt like, what I really looked like. Maybe I’ll think it wasn’t that bad. Maybe it will improve. Maybe it will be permanent. Maybe I’ll heal completely. Maybe I won’t. There’s no way to know. But somehow I have to figure out how to love myself like this, how to be okay like this, I have to get my head on straight and remember what’s important and count my blessings and get ready for this little girl to be born because she could be here tomorrow and she needs a mama who isn’t a complete fucking wreck. She deserves that at least.

My New Face

I woke up Tuesday morning and lounged in bed for a bit, relaxing. I’d slept well. I felt good. Except for my left eye, which felt a little weird, like it wouldn’t close all the way when I blinked, but whatever. Mike was grinding coffee in the kitchen, the whirr of the blades drew me from bed. My small cup of morning coffee always a treat, something to look forward to. I brushed my teeth, filled my mouth with water to rinse, and water sprayed from the left side of my mouth, down my swollen belly.

What. the. fuck.

I smiled at myself in the mirror, a strange grin, because only half my face smiled back at me.

I thought I was having a stroke. Mike tested me (thank heavens for EMT-trained husbands) and assured me that wasn’t what was happening. “But call the doctor,” he said, “let’s get you checked out.” While I was on the phone, he was googling, and bless his heart he didn’t tell me what he read. Later on he mentioned that I should NEVER google medical symptoms, but darling, I told him, I already knew that.

We checked into Labor & Delivery around 10:30 a.m. It’s where Kaiser sends any pregnant woman with any medical concerns. They had me undress, put me in bed, hooked me up to a million machines, wanted to keep an eye on the baby. She’s doing fine, they promised. She’s perfect.

Thank God.

My OB came and checked me out. Said it’s probably Bells Palsy, but he wanted the house MD to see me too. He left. We waited. They brought us lunch – sandwiches and fruit salad. The house MD came in, made me run through a million stroke tests, just to rule everything out. Was perplexed by the pain in my neck and the numbness in my tongue. Left. We waited.

My OB came back and said he’d spoken to someone in neurology. It’s probably just Bells Palsy, he assured us, but they’ve ordered an MRI to rule out stroke, blood clots, brain tumors. He left. We waited. I cried. Mike held me.

“Everything has been perfect so far, so easy, why is this happening?”

“Because things can’t be perfect all the time. Life would get too boring.”

The nursing staff was lovely. Brought us snacks, water, cranberry juice. I tried to nap. Got up and walked around. Did some yoga stretches on the bed. Practiced my deep, slow, labor breathing.

At 4:25 they brought a wheel chair in, guided us through hallways and corridors, me in my hospital gown, a blanket around my shoulders, my bare feet on the cold metal foot pads. I thought, “I’m so glad I’ve kept my pedicures up.” And then, “If its a stroke, or a blood clot, they’ll probably have to do emergency surgery. And they’ll start with a c-section. And I might never get to hold my baby.” And then I practiced my slow, deep breathing some more.

The MRI wasn’t so bad. I can see how easy it would be to panic inside one of those machines. I kept my eyes closed the whole time, except my left eye which leaked in bright lights, white, clinical plastic. I took slow, deep breaths. A single tear slid down my right temple, pooled in my hair. I started counting my inhales and exhales in time with the unbelievable cacophony of the MRI. Inhale – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. Exhale – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 , 10, 11, 12. When thoughts crept in I reminded myself, Inhale – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. Exhale – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 , 10, 11, 12. Twenty-five minutes passed like five and we were done.

I waited for the nurse to collect me, Mike from the waiting room, and take us back to L&D. I cried quietly into my hands, so people wouldn’t see. A woman in scrubs congratulated us on our new baby, assuming that’s why we were being wheeled into L&D. A stupid assumption from a medical professional, especially when the mother is weeping silently, face buried in shaking hands.

I got back into bed. Mike rubbed my back and whispered sweet things in my ear. We waited. They brought us dinner. At 6:30 we got the results. All clear. It’s Bells Palsy for sure. No big deal. A strict regimen of Prednisone (completely safe to take while pregnant, they insisted) should show improvement in a week. I should have full use of my face again in about two weeks. It could have been so much worse.

They released us at 7:30. It was 8:45 before we left the hospital, long lines in the pharmacy. Sick people coughing all over us.

I’ve been “the pretty girl” most of my life. An awkward child with glasses and gap teeth, I bloomed in junior high and never looked back. I haven’t always felt pretty, or thought I was pretty enough, but it wasn’t until I was a grown, married woman that I began to learn that my pretty face isn’t the most important part of who I am. Still, I’m vain enough that this, this paralysis of the left side of my face, the lopsided smile and gecko-blinking eyes, hurts my ego in a very deep, hard way.

“I deserve this,” I told Mike.

“You do not deserve this.”

“I do. There’s a lesson to learn here.”

It’s okay if you think I sound shallow and silly. I feel shallow and silly. I am so, so, so unbelievably lucky, I know. For all the things it could have been, it’s likely only temporary. And most importantly of all, no matter what happened to me, the baby girl in my belly is 100% unaffected and totally, absolutely healthy. I couldn’t ask for more than that.

I consulted with four doctors, my midwife, my doula (who is more than my doula, she’s been my friend for seventeen years), and my family before I agreed to take the Prednisone. I haven’t even felt comfortable taking Tylenol since I’ve been pregnant, and Prednisone is a serious steroid. But everyone told me the risks of not taking the Prednisone far outweighed the risk of taking it, so I’m taking it. I started acupuncture yesterday, too, because Mike read that it yields the best results for Bells Palsy.

Talking is difficult. Eating is difficult. I drool a little. When I drink, whatever I’m drinking leaks out the side of my mouth. Using a straw is worse because I can’t wrap my lips around it properly.  The muscles in my jaw and the right side of my face ache from over-compensating. I’m terribly self-conscious. I’m working on my attitude. There’s a lesson to learn here, I know it. But I’m still trying to figure out what it is.

 

Not much longer…

33 weeks and 5 days..

We’re half-way through the eighth month of pregnancy and Niblet is approximately 18 inches long and about five pounds. If she were born now, she’d have an excellent chance of survival and likely wouldn’t have any lasting health problems. HOWEVER, the longer she stays in, the stronger her lungs, the more developed her brain, and the better off she will be. So, Niblet. STAY PUT. Trust me, life inside the womb is about a million times easier than life outside the womb, so no rush baby girl. No rush.

She’s as busy as ever. I don’t really feel “kicks” anymore, just elbows and knees sliding around, and little feet poking out under my sternum when she stretches her legs. Mike has always said that sleeping next to me is like sleeping next to a sack of elbows and when I’m out of town he says he only needs to put a pile of rocks and twigs in the bed and he wouldn’t miss me at all. So now that there are all these knees and elbows sticking out of my belly all the time, he teases that Niblet takes after me completely. I like to press my belly against his back when we’re falling asleep and let Niblet poke at him with all her pointy appendages. It always makes him laugh. I can’t believe I’m going to be putting those little appendages in my mouth soon. (What? You don’t want to eat baby elbows and knees for supper? YOU KNOW YOU DO.)

I’m still feeling great, though my energy is beginning to lag. My midwife put me on restricted work hours, so I’m down from 40-45 hours a week to 30 hours a week max. I thought I’d use all that extra time to finish the nursery and get ready for the holidays but Niblet has had other plans. She insists I spend all that extra time napping and who am I to argue with a developing fetus?

Most of my symptoms have stayed the same: Lush hair, gorgeous skin on my face – but don’t hate me because my behind and the backs of my legs tell a different story. (Who the F gets acne all over the backs of their legs?? ME WHEN I’M PREGNANT, APPARENTLY.) I’ve developed a faint linea nigra and I kind of love it. I have heart burn sometimes, but it’s never awful and it never lasts long. I can’t hide my toots anymore. They just poomp out whenever they want. I have no control. Mike laughs, thank goodness.

Everything makes me cry now, it’s such a cliche. I mean, I don’t CRY cry, but pretty much everything makes me choke up. Happy things, sweet things, anything baby related, you get the idea. My bellybutton is turned completely inside out and my favorite thing to do is torture Mike by trying to stick it into his inny bellybutton. I call it “sweet sweet bellybutton lovemaking”. HE HATES IT. And he’s afraid to push me away because he doesn’t want to hurt Niblet, so I just torture him and torture him and torture him. Bwahahahaha!

The Braxton Hicks contractions I’ve been having since week six have started getting pretty intense. I never have more than a few a day or three in an hour, so midwife insists it’s just good practice and nothing to worry about. This probably sounds nuts, but I’m really looking forward to labor. I’m not super jazzed about the part where an eight pound human pushes out of my girl bits, but I’m really looking forward to the rest of it.

Pregnancy brain is in full force. I completely forgot to take a 33 week photo and I haven’t updated my handwritten pregnancy journal since week 30. Christmas is in less than a week and I haven’t done any Christmas shopping, or any Christmas baking. I haven’t finished my State Bar Law Study Semi-Annual Report and I haven’t made any progress on Niblet’s nursery since before Thanksgiving.

HOWEVER, I had lovely maternity photos taken and even got a Christmas photo out of them, and then I proceeded to send out over 30 Christmas cards, which felt like a HUGE accomplishment. Last Sunday I had a Super day and decorated for Christmas, washed six loads of laundry, then sanded Niblet’s dresser so Mike can paint it (using no-VOC paints with no-VOC colorants, OF COURSE.) But most of my time is spent napping. And keeping my feet up. And marveling at the water monkey and her adorable uterine acrobatics. And practicing my non-medical labor comfort techniques with Mike every night before bed. And attending Baby Care and Child Birth classes. And reading baby books.

Only four to eight weeks left of this journey and then our lives change forever. I can’t wait.

 

Officially 8 Months Pregnant

Whoo boy! It’s been nearly a month since I posted, I have no idea how that happened. Well, actually, I do. I’m knocked up and nesting and maniacal. No seriously, the nesting hormone is no joke. I’ve been obsessed with clearing out our second bedroom so it can become Niblet’s nursery. And it’s a good thing I’ve been so focused because it has literally taken me the entire month to clear out, clean up, organize, and purge. I’m finally at the point where I can start decorating, but now I have to take a break from my happy nesting and prepare my 18 month State Bar Law Study report.

Oh life. Why must you be so BUSY all the time?

In the last month Niblet has:

  • Grown to be nearly 18 inches long and weigh approximately 4 pounds
  • Learned to move her head from side to side
  • Gone from having see-through skin to opaque skin
  • Gotten strong enough to grasp your finger (not that I want you poking around at her)
  • Has developed all 5 senses
  • Is begun experiencing REM (dream-cycle) sleep
  • Continues to practice her breathing
  • Begun losing the lanugo that covers her body

My last midwife appointment was awesome. Our stats are great, I only gained three pounds in the last month (yay for walking every day!), and Niblet is in the head down, back to my belly position, getting ready to make her grand entrance into the world. (She could turn, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that she’ll stay put.) She’s super active. I’m feeling a lot of elbow-jabs and feet sliding back and forth under my boobs. I’m having Braxton-Hicks contractions daily, which my midwife says is an excellent indication that labor will kick in on its own and progress beautifully. We started a child birth prep class two weeks ago and it’s wonderful - I’m daydreaming about labor, I’m so looking forward to it.

People’s comments have been much kinder lately. A couple of weeks ago a man came up to me in the market to tell me his wife was in labor at that very minute. “What are you doing HERE?” I asked. “I’m going to make her a lasagna! When are you due?” When I told him I still had 2 1/2 months left he said, “Gosh, you look like you’re due any minute! WAIT THAT CAME OUT WRONG, YOU’RE GORGEOUS, YOU’RE REALLY BEAUTIFUL. YOU’RE ABSOLUTELY ADORABLE. YOU’RE NOTHING BUT BELLY. YOU’RE SO BEAUTIFUL!” It was pretty much the sweetest thing ever.

I’m falling more and more in love with my enormous pregnant body, even as I become more and more uncomfortable maneuvering it around. Getting shoes on and off is increasingly difficult. Getting up off the sofa and hauling myself out of bed illicit grunts and groans. If I sit on the floor I need help getting up again. I have to keep my feet up at work so they don’t swell like hobbit feet. I stand sideways in front of the kitchen sink when I do the dishes. I have to be careful on the treadmill so I don’t slam my belly into the machine. I can’t hug Mike as hard as I used to because, ouch, squishing the baby. I painted my own toenails for the last time the other week, dear lord that was exhausting and difficult. The only reason I’m still shaving my legs is because my shower has this wonderful ledge about chest-high that I can put my foot on (THANK YOU 14 years of yoga) and thus shave quite comfortably. (Maybe I should try it for pedicures?)

This ‘having to pee all the time’ thing is no joke. I frequently pee an average of once every twelve minutes. No exaggeration. And it’s not like, “oh, I kind of have to pee. I’m just gonna squeeze a little out.” This is, “IF I DON’T FIND A POTTY RIGHT NOW I’LL DIE.” It is entirely Niblet’s fault. Sometimes she positions herself right on my bladder and I want to cry. The other day I went on a nice long walk with the dogs because the weather was too beautiful to walk on the treadmill at the gym. So I peed, leashed up the dogs, peed again, and headed out the door. I wasn’t ten minutes into the walk before I had to go again, so badly I had to grit my teeth. But then Niblet moved off my bladder and I was fine, so I kept walking. And then she moved again and I thought I would die of needing to pee, until she moved again and I was fine. So I kept walking and she kept moving and at one point I was sure I was going to have to squat on the sidewalk like a dog and piss in the shrubs. With all of Canoga Avenue speeding by. I had two thoughts in that moment: 1) Pregnancy strips you of any dignity you once had; and 2) how hilarious/humiliating would it be to get ticketed for pissing on the sidewalk of a busy main street at 10 o’clock on a Saturday morning?

We’ve only got two months left of this little adventure and it’s bittersweet. On the one hand, I am giddy when I think about holding her in my arms and eating her face every day. On the other hand, I’m really going to miss keeping her in the safety of my uterus. I mean, this is probably the easiest parenthood will EVER be. I always know where she is. I know she’s eating well and getting enough sleep. She’s not running around with unsavory people or experimenting with drugs or sex or doing any of the other terrifying things that children grow up to do. So, you know. I’m going to miss this.

I’m acutely aware of how quickly time is passing. Yesterday I was staring at a positive pregnancy test in utter disbelief and today there’s a very active water monkey doing acrobatics in my giant belly. Tomorrow I’ll be sending that water monkey off to college. So I am blissfully soaking up every swollen, uncomfortable moment. Treasuring every kick to the ribs, relishing every elbow-jab, and in general, feeling the happiest I’ve ever felt in my whole little life. I’m genuinely looking forward to the sleepless nights and bleeding nipples and diaper explosions and all the other awful-wonderful things that caring for a newborn entails because I know that that will also be over before I’ve had a chance to blink. And I don’t want to slog through it waiting for it to end. I want to live through and enjoy every poop and tear-filled moment. I tell you all this so you know that, even when I’m bitching and moaning, I’m so, so, so very grateful to be able to bitch and moan. What an unbelievably beautiful blessing.

Miss my weekly belly pics? I don’t disappoint! 

31 weeks

30 weeks

29 weeks

Welcome to the 3rd trimester (and pregnant lady whining)

28 Weeks

This week, Niblet is about 2 1/2 pounds and between 15 and 16 inches long, depending on which pregnancy website you’re reading. She’s getting so strong and her movements so frequent and varied. Sometimes she jabs, sometimes she squirms, I can feel her rolling over, turning, and sometimes it feels like she’s stretching her arms and legs out, pushing her butt and back out against my belly so that it gets very hard and makes my belly button pop out. She also does this thing where she bounces from left to right, like a rubber ball bouncing between two walls, or a kid overdosed on sugar in a bounce house. It always makes me laugh because it’s so weird and it really feels like she’s just playing around in there, having a grand old time.

I’ve let my nesting instincts out of their cage and have been working my tail off (with my sister and Mike’s help) to clear out the second bedroom (formerly Mike’s office/our TV room) so we can turn it into the nursery. By the end of last weekend I wanted to crawl into bed and cry myself to sleep, I felt so overwhelmed. It seems like the more work I do, the more I discover still has to be done. I’ve already taken three carloads of crap to Goodwill and there’s still more stuff to go through. (WE’RE I’M A HOARDER.) We moved the TV, the dog crate, and the snake’s tank into the living room, and Mike’s desk and computer into our bedroom. In one weekend our apartment went from spacious to teeny tiny. I can’t move in any room now without banging my knee on an awkwardly placed piece of furniture.

Whine, whine, whine, I know. Poor me, with two bedrooms and two bathrooms and all the comforts of modern living, blessed with a healthy pregnancy and a loving husband. Play that tiny violin a little louder, please.

But I’m not done yet.

Getting dressed every day is like waging a small battle with myself. I’ve gained 24 pounds so far and I waffle between loving my pregnant body and wanting to die a slow death because I feel like an obese hippo. Nearly all the office-appropriate maternity clothes I borrowed from girlfriends are too small in the thigh and rear, my underpants are too small, dresses that were cute two months ago look like tents now, and nothing is comfortable. There are tears nearly every morning and Michael, bless his heart, has to talk me off a ledge. A couple of days ago he insisted that I go out and buy a few more things to get me through the next three months because “crying in front of the closet every day isn’t productive”. I hated the idea of buying clothes this late in my pregnancy, but I did, and I’m so glad I did. It’s helped. I bought size large non-maternity leggings, tunic-length camis, and a few flowy, wonderfully cozy sweaters. All clothes that are soft and stretchy, oh-so-comfy, and will hopefully still look cute post-partum when I’m hiding my I-just-had-a-baby-so-I-still-look-pregnant belly.

As much as I love being pregnant (and I really, really, really love it), I do not feel beautiful or sexy or feminine. I just feel huge. I can’t stand looking at myself naked. Which is probably why people asking if I’m pregnant or just getting fat especially stings. I’m really struggling with this because I want to raise my daughter to love, respect, and appreciate her body – not to hate it and abuse it the way I’ve spent most of my life hating and abusing mine. I want to somehow shield her from society’s expectations of being “skinny” and all the bullshit that goes with it. And I know that it starts with me – that I’m her first example of how a woman should feel about and treat her body. So I’m really trying to love my 150 pound body and appreciate it for the miracle it’s creating, instead of getting angry and saying mean things to it every morning while I try to squeeze into too-small maternity pants. I’m also cutting out ice cream and making an effort to exercise for at least 30 minutes every day (per my midwife’s gentle urging).

All that said, I adore not having to suck in my stomach constantly (I was a chronic sucker-inner pre-pregnancy) and being able to eat a big meal and not worry that I look pregnant afterwards because I AM pregnant is freaking terrific. See? UPSIDES TO EVERYTHING.

Also, Hi. I’m pregnant. And the hardest part is feeling fat. So, I’m done complaining and I will go back to being blissfully happy and excited and stupid-crazy-in love with the acrobatic water monkey who keeps making my belly button pop out whenever she wants to stretch her legs. Because honestly? I’d take a fat ass for a healthy baby any day.