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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…

Fragile Little Flower

balcony garden

This picture was taken once upon a time* when I had a dreamy job working from home. Whenever the weather was nice enough, which it almost always is, I would sit out there to work. Eight hours in front of a computer isn’t so bad when your cubicle mates are humming birds. I miss sitting out there.

For the last two months I’ve been working long hours in an office. It’s only temporary and it’s a beautiful office, but it kills me how little time there is left in a day when you work away from home. I mean, I never used to have to put on makeup or plan my outfits or shower, even. I feel like I lose hours every day just primping. It’s kind of fun, actually. I’ve never felt so feminine. But that’s not the point. The point is, from waking until almost bedtime I’m either preparing for work, working, or doing household chores. Most days I don’t get a minute to myself until after nine-thirty at night. How does that happen? Where do the days go?

While we’re on the topic, how on GOD’S GREEN EARTH do parents with fulltime jobs make it through a week? Seriously. Because I can barely manage it and I only have dogs. I don’t know how I would manage my life and my marriage if I had another human being to look after. I don’t think I would ever sleep, ever again. I’ve already given up exercising. I haven’t moved my body, except to stand up and sit down, in two months. And for the record, I’m not getting enough sleep. It’s horrible. I should go to bed right now, but then I wouldn’t get to sit here and complain about how hard my child-free first world life is.

I know there are people reading this blog who have careers and happy marriages and children and always look great and put together and I cannot wrap my head around how they do it. I feel like it would be impossible. Am I just incredibly weak? That must be it. I’m a fragile little flower. No wonder I love sitting out on the balcony in the sun all afternoon. It explains everything.

How do you do it? You super-people with your careers and your babies and your perfect hair? I want to know.

Help Me

happy wiener

That is one seriously happy wiener.

Last night I was clearing the kitchen table so I could put together some favors for an office event. I’m picking up screw drivers and receipts and mail and recently-removed lampshade hats and I’m thinking to myself, “My goodness. We’re just living all over this place.”

What a funny thought. And so perfectly true. We’re living all over the place. Our lives are simple — work, school, chores, dog walks, dinner, work, school, chores, dog walks, dinner, work, school, chores, dog walks, dinner — but we love it that way. There are things we could whine and bitch about, for sure, but we have a good life. We’re in love. We’ve got these two stupid dogs and these two mean cats and a python that thinks we’re just barely too big to eat. We’ve got a huge, wonderful extended family. Mike is in school and I love my job and everything is kind of perfect. We’re living and enjoying our life instead of sloshing through it just to survive. And sometimes that means there are wads of dog hair under the kitchen table and piles of mail on top of it, but my point is: Mess on the kitchen table and all, I wouldn’t change a thing about our life.

Or would I? I’ve been thinking a lot about babies. (Like that’s new.) At first I thought it was just because I was ovulating, but that was weeks ago and I’m still baby crazy. (More than usual.) But then I think about our life now, and how different it would be if there was a baby. And I think about how much work a baby is and I know that I would end up doing most of the work because Mike doesn’t have boobs and how could I balance it with my job? And what if I suck at it? What if I hate it? What if I resent the baby or Mike resents the baby because everything was perfect and then we had a baby and ruined everything? I hear that’s what happens to people. They have a new baby and for the first three months they stare at that screaming thing and wonder what on Earth they did to their life.

I don’t want to feel that way about a baby. I want us to be stupidly, madly, happily in love with our baby. But what if we’re not? THEN WHAT?

This is what keeps me awake at night.

Kind of a big deal, The End

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

Did you know that for the first week of Baby’s life you have to feed it every hour?  You might have a baby who’ll sleep longer stretches and maybe you’ll only have to feed it every two or three hours, but you must feed it at the very least every three hours.

From your boobs.  (Or from a bottle, but still.)

Did you know that babies start learning the minute they make their appearance and that they require stimulation and attention and you have to play with them and focus on them and teach them stuff and they rely on you for everything?  EVERYTHING.

The more I read about the first year of baby’s life, the more nervous I got.  I had this idea that bringing a new baby home would be like a Johnson & Johnson commercial.  I envisioned myself in a filmy white nightgown, sunlight filtering through breezy open windows, Michael across the room at his easel, the dogs curled calmly on either side of me as I suckle the babe at my breast.  But according to this book a more likely scenario is a house that hasn’t been cleaned since before the baby showed up, unwashed hair and stained pajama’s, weeks and weeks and weeks without sleep, the dogs hysterically chewing bald spots into their coats because their lives have been ruined by the screaming alien we brought home from the hospital.  And also?  Every three hours?  From my boobs?

It’s not that I want a baby any less than I did that first day my switch flipped.  It’s just that now I’m absolutely terrified.  For the first time in our marriage, we are genuinely happy with our life.  We are happy and working towards goals we believe in and building a life we’re excited about.  That’s a big deal.  It’s why we thought now might be a good time to add to our family.  I read up to what to expect in Baby’s second month before I shut the book, stuffed it behind a row of trashy novels and told Mike that maybe now would be a good time to savor our life a little bit.  Maybe now is the time to be enjoying these happy, blissful, quiet moments alone together, I said.  He stared at me for a moment and then he demanded I tell him what I’d done with his wife.  But he agreed.  So we are treasuring nights spent curled on the couch in front of the TV with nothing between us but air.  We will delight in late Saturday mornings and whispering over pillows well past bedtime.  We will relish sleeping for ten hours at a stretch, candlelit dinners alone just because, and dogs who have full coats of fur.  It’s not that we aren’t eager to start a family, because we are.  We just want a little more time to appreciate the adventure we’re on before we jump into the next one.

Fin.

Kind of a big deal, Part 5

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

In the summer of 2008, with my clock ticking like crazy and both of us trying really hard to avoid each other in an apartment twelve footsteps from the front door to the back wall, we had a fight unlike any fight in the history of all fights.

Mike and I are not violent people.  He accuses me of being a yeller, but I point out that in fact I grew up with three older siblings and the only way to ever be heard was to talk loudly.  I am a passionate speaker, I argue, not a yeller.  So while I may speak passionately on occasion, Mike and I had always lived a life of quiet harmony.  Until the morning of The Fight.

We were living in a tiny, crummy, roaches-in-the-walls Hells Kitchen tenement.  It was July.  If you’ve never been to New York in July, imagine a swamp of impenetrable stinking, moist, greasy tar. That is New York City in July.  It was seven o’clock in the morning.  I was awake because I hadn’t been to sleep and Mike was awake because I’d woken him up, hysterical.  I was screaming and sobbing and accusing while he held up his hands, don’t shoot.  It was all very dramatic and very frightening and for months afterward I wondered what our neighbors must think.  I said I was angry about one thing but it turned out I was angry about something else entirely.  When I left that morning he thought I was leaving for good.  He told me that, later, when we were curled on the sofa with tea.  It made me cry.  No, I said, his face in my hands and my tears on his cheeks.  Till death do us part.

A few weeks later we were sitting on a therapists couch and I don’t remember how we got to it but she looked at us in shock as she realized we’d never really talked about having children.  It turns out it’s a very big deal to not talk about something.  It turns out the Fight of all Fights could have been avoided entirely if only we’d talked about the one thing we were afraid to talk about. There is a lesson to be learned here: TALK.  COMMUNICATE.  LISTEN.  TALK SOME MORE.  Take it from me.  I almost learned the heartbreaking way.

We still argue when we talk about babies.  Mike argues that babies are clusters of cells that start out very much like tumors and later become small aliens with ideas and theories and philosophies all their own while I argue that babies are lovely little pink giggling things who’s cheeks I want to eat and who’s pants might need changing but oh my goodness did you see that dimple?  We still argue but thanks to a nice stint in marriage counseling we now argue about whether or not babies are made of biological material or angel dust and the arguing is something that happens over dinner and wine and handholding.  And do you know what we did on a date the other weekend?

WE BOUGHT A BOOK ABOUT BABIES.

Then we started reading it.

To be continued….  (For the last time all ready…)

Kind of a big deal, Part 4

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

My husband’s feelings about children vary greatly from mine.  In case I haven’t made that clear enough, I will write here, verbatim, our first conversation about kids:

“I’ve always wanted four of children.  Two boys and two girls.”
“I’ve never wanted children.”
“I’m sorry?”
“I’d love to have a big house and a bunch of slobbery dogs and maybe some grandkids.”
“You can’t have grandkids without having kids.”
“I guess I’ll just have dogs then.”
“Don’t be ridiculous.  When we have kids you’ll tell me it’s the best thing that ever happened to you and I’ll say I told you so.”
“Blah blah blah blah blah.”

The “blah blah blah” part was where I stopped listening.  I didn’t want to hear about Mike’s feelings on kids because that would mean acknowledging that I was falling in love with a man who didn’t want children and if he didn’t want children I couldn’t marry him because I couldn’t marry someone who didn’t want a family.  And also it was our first date and I’d just said, “when we have a kids” and how inappropriate was that?

The longer Michael and I dated, the more his skepticism about having children terrified me.  I had so many emotions tied up in the topic that I didn’t know how to talk about it without crying and he didn’t know how to talk about it without getting defensive so it was easier to completely ignore it.  The funny thing is, if we’d just put it all out there like we did with our finances, we would have discovered that we actually wanted the exact same thing.  But we didn’t do that.  We bared our bank statements, but we didn’t talk about kids.  When we got married we’d paid off all our credit card debt and we had started to save and we could even afford to buy a fancy TV but we couldn’t talk about kids.  Six months later we continued not talking about children while we sold all of our belongings and moved three thousand miles east to a city neither of us had ever visited.

Fast forward to the summer of 2008.  We were terribly, terribly homesick.  We felt alone and isolated even in the other’s company.  My biological clock had started screaming and now we were actively avoiding one another while living in an apartment so small the bathroom door wouldn’t shut if you were sitting on the pot.  We were six months shy of our two-year anniversary and we’d gone from crazy-in-love newlyweds to people who couldn’t make eye contact over dinner.

There is a lot to be said about our decision to move to New York.  It changed my life and it changed my marriage.  I thought we were moving for one reason but it turned out to be something else entirely.  Mike had completely different yet equally important motives for moving.  The last three years have been the hardest of my life.  They have also been the best.  Moving to this city made Michael and I soul mates.  We are family now in a way that we wouldn’t have been if we’d stayed put.

To be continued…

Kind of a big deal, Part 3

Click here for part 1
Click here for part 2

Mike has absolutely no idea what it’s like to walk into a super market at eight years old, praying that all the other shoppers think the baby doll clutched in his arms is his real baby.  I do.  Growing up all of my favorite toys were baby dolls and my favorite childhood play-pretend was Single Mother.

While little boys make forts with their blankets, I turned my bedroom into a multi-room apartment.  Hanging sheets for walls, I made bedroom, kitchen, living room.  Each of my dolls was given a name and an age and after getting everyone dressed and ready for their day, I would kiss them goodbye, warn them to behave, “lock them in” and be off to work.  From there I’d walk the exhausting distance to my mother’s kitchen, take all of the canned goods out of the cupboard, pile them onto the kitchen table, “scan” them, bag them up, and put them all back in the pantry.  I killed two birds with one stone by playing “grocery store clerk” and “tired mom buying groceries on her way home from a ten-hour shift” at the same time.  At the “end of my day” I’d go home to my seven children and inevitably someone would have gotten into trouble, someone else would need grounding and I would lay in bed and wonder how I would ever be able to take care of all these damn kids.

Lord only knows where I came up with this stuff.  When I wasn’t playing Single Mother I was wrapping white towels around my head and practicing my walk down the aisle.  In a real life twist of irony, there was no aisle to walk down on my wedding day.  Instead we said our vows on the exact spot in my parents living room where I practiced my vows to imaginary Prince Charmings as a child.

If I said that Mike and I had never talked about children, I wasn’t being entirely truthful.  While the subject of money and finances has never been a sore spot for us, the subject of children has caused a lot of tears, a lot of slammed doors and one particularly painful evening in a beautiful hotel room overlooking the ocean on Maui, which I spent sobbing on the floor of a bathroom.  It’s not that we never talked about children, it’s just that when we talked about it we fought about it and so we made a mutually-subconscious agreement to completely ignore it.

To be continued…

Kind of a big deal

Depending on whether or not you’ve read my About page, what I’m going to say may come as a surprise.

I am completely baby-crazy.  I can’t remember when it started.  I do remember a specific evening in April of 2008 when my brother asked me whether or not my hormones had kicked in and my response was to scrunch up my face, stick out my tongue and say, “Blegh.  No way.”
“Really?  Because all my chick friends are going crazy over babies right now.”
“I am so not ready.  The idea of having kids right now makes me want to throw up in my mouth a little.”

That month I received what was to be the first of many emails announcing someone’s pregnancy.  I was horrified.  I wrung my hands nervously and wondered, what ever would she do?  The poor girl was going to have to give up her entire life!  What I didn’t realize at the time was that I was projecting.  My friend wasn’t going to have to give up her entire life, I was.  Except I wasn’t because I wasn’t the pregnant one.  But you know what I mean.

After the fifth email from my fifth expecting friend I started feeling wistful.  I wanted it to be me.  Except if I got pregnant I wouldn’t be able to send out an announcement saying, “we’re over the moon” or “we’re so excited to be starting a family together” or “we feel like we’ve been blessed with a miracle”.  My announcement would read: “Whoops! Looks like we slipped up somewhere because surprise!  We’re pregnant!  We’re totally freaked out and we don’t know what we’re going to do, we’re pretty sure this means we’ll be broke and miserable for the rest of our lives, but we’re gonna give it a go.  Pray for us, keep your fingers crossed, and try not to gossip about us.”

A few months later I realized I had eleven pregnant friends and family members and that must have been when it happened.  A hormone switch flipped.  I don’t know how to explain it any other way.  Maybe it was herd syndrome.  Like when you’re trying to get out of the subway at rush hour and you walk to the turnstile with the longest line instead of walking to the turnstile no one’s using.  I do that all the time.  Three turnstiles crammed with people, one person, one at a time, click, click, click.  At the end of the platform a fourth turnstile, empty, sad, alone, invisible to the herd.  I always stay in the long line because it feels like too much effort to walk over to the empty one, but maybe that’s a different issue I need to be dealing with.  Either way, it happened over night.  One day I was perfectly happy living alone with Mike and four animals and the next morning I woke up and I wanted a baby so badly I thought I was going to die.

Thanks to my Moon Cycle Chart I have learned that these feelings are greatly exacerbated between the fourteenth and thirty-fourth days of my cycle.  Between days one and ten I’m baby-crazy but not to the point where I believe my ovaries are berating me for the eggs I’m wasting.  On the eleventh day I begin rationalizing why this month might be a good time to start trying and by day fourteen I’m kind of like a cat in heat which sounds funny in a literary sense but is actually really awkward.  I recently made Mike promise that he would not agree to start trying for a baby unless we were making the decision between the first through tenth day of my cycle because  it’s a decision I’d like to make with my brain instead of my hormones.

To be continued…