A Birth Story

I’ve been absent for a bit, as some who occasionally browse this blog may have noticed. Considering the prodigious number of posts I’ve done on the impending arrival of my new little man, you might be able to guess the reason for my absence.

Finally, finally, finally, after 42 weeks even of pregnancy, our man arrived February 22nd at 12:56 pm. He was 9 lbs 13 oz and 22 3/4 inches long. A big boy for sure! However, he was  (and is) completely and utterly perfect.

The big question now might be if I got my VBAC or not. Wow, well, where to begin with that story. The short answer might be disappointing – no, I did not get my VBAC. However, I’m not sad about it, as I might have thought I would be a few months ago (or even a few weeks ago).

This is how it all went down.

As I entered my February break from work still pregnant and went to my last prenatal appointment that Tuesday, I was pretty much at my breaking point emotionally. I felt like I was never going to go into labor naturally. I just wanted my baby in my arms. My OB gave me the option of scheduling a c-section for Friday and if I went into labor before then, then I could proceed with attempting my VBAC as planned. If I didn’t schedule a c-section for Friday then I’d have to schedule one for the following Monday.

After a lot of thought, I went ahead and scheduled a section for Friday. I was having tremendous amounts of anxiety and just felt that if I didn’t go into labor on my own by Friday it likely wasn’t going to happen before Monday.

Well, lo-and-behold, I went into labor on my own (a big achievement, in my mind, since I felt I might not be capable of going into labor by myself) Thursday night. I went in to the hospital at my scheduled time for my c-section, but explained that I had started labor and was hoping that we could see how things were going to progress and possible even let me go home. My OB was on board so long as I had another biophysical profile done to check on the status of the baby.

Well, while the baby seemed to be doing pretty well, he was still measuring very large and his amniotic fluid was super low. My OB was very firm in that she wanted me to have a c-section, almost to the point where I felt a bit betrayed by her 180 degree turn on the VBAC front. That said, I was starting to feel like a c-section might be the best course of action…under certain stipulations.

I wanted, if there was nothing immediately wrong with the baby, to have him given to me right away. No whisking the baby off to be vigorously dried off, poked and prodded, and wrapped up tight so there was a thick swaddling blanket between the two of us as my husband dangled him overhead. I wanted the baby passed to me, I wanted to take him in my arms, just as I would if he had been born naturally, and have him lain across my chest, skin to skin. My OB agreed.

Everything happened very quickly after that. I signed consent forms, had an IV put in, talked to anesthesiology, got prepped for surgery, met a variety of nurses and doctors, and in what felt like a matter of seconds (though it was really probably just a bit over an hour) was taken into the OR.

I felt okay until I came into the OR. It didn’t feel regret or anything, but the sudden gravity of what was about to happen hit me in full force. A mix of “Holy crap I’m about to have a baby” and “Holy crap they’re about to slice me wide open.” I shook. I shook hard. I asked repeatedly, as they gave me a spinal, laid me down on the operating table, felt my legs and abdomen go numb, where my husband was, when I’d get to see him, when he’d be with me. I needed his strength and comfort. I tried really hard not to cry.

But eventually the hubs arrived, took my hands, and tried to not show his own nerves. I felt so relieved with him beside me, especially at first, but as we started to wait for the baby’s arrival, my anxiousness started rise once again.

For one, I still had a cold. I had been getting these nasty colds on and off throughout my pregnancy (you may recall my brutal sinus infection at the very beginning), and this one wasn’t too bad, but it led to a really stuffy nose and a cough. Have you ever needed to cough while having a spinal? Really, really uncomfortable and weird. Between that and the stuffy nose I felt like I was having an asthma attack, but because my oxygen was fine, there really wasn’t anything they could do.

Eventually, however, it didn’t matter, because my doctor began to deliver our little boy. I didn’t get to see him right away, because, of course, that blue curtain was in the way, but a few moments later, the curtain was quickly lowered and my little one was thrust into my arms, bloody, squirming, and shrieking his head off. Perfect.

He lay atop my chest and started to relax, nestling into my arms, falling asleep. I cried as I kissed his surprisingly hairy little head and told him repeatedly, almost idiotically, how beautiful he was. I’ve never experienced natural birth, and now that I’ve had a second cesarean, I likely never will, but I know there is supposed to be high after you give birth. Maybe what I felt wasn’t the same, like I said, I’ll never know, but I was about as high as Mt. Freaking Everest in that moment, and trust me, it wasn’t the pain killers.

I got to hold my little man while the stitched me back up and got cleaned up. After a bit a nurse took him for just a moment to weight and measure him, then he was promptly returned to my arms and we were wheeled into recovery. Once in recovery I started to nurse him (a struggle at first, but now, nearly eight weeks later, we’re going strong) and bonding really began.

As I finish writing this (it’s taken me a few weeks, coming back and forth), I’m getting ready to start my last week of maternity leave. It’s been an amazing journey so far. I remember changing and learning a lot when E. was born (who, by the way, is an all star big sister), and the same is happening this time. I have learned so much about myself as a person and a mother. I am slowly coming to realize what is important, what my strengths are, and, most certainly, my weaknesses. Above all, I’ve come to see even more strongly, just how precious my little family is and how very lucky we are. I wouldn’t change it for anything and I’d happily do it all over again.

Julia and Henrietta

Today is Julia Child’s 100th birthday. I’ll be completely honest, I don’t know too much about her personally, at least not enough to recount it off the top of my head (and I’m too lazy to do a lot of Wikipedia research), but I’ve always liked her. I don’t know if it was her unique, enthusiastic voice, the crazy delicious food she cooked along with her guests, or the weird sense of familiarity I get every time I see her face, but I just like her.

I think a lot of it stems from my grandma. I mean, I don’t think she and Julia Child had an awful lot in common (other than both being uncommonly tall women – did you know Julia was 6′ 2″? – who played basketball in school). I mean, no offense to my grandmother, but she wasn’t exactly known as the best cook. I mean, passable (and I loved her Russian tea cakes), but certainly not a gourmet. But, as I mentioned in my Facebook status earlier today, some of my earliest television memories are of Julia Child as I sat on the brown shag carpet in my grandma’s living room, leaning up against my grandma’s shins as she moved between engagement and quiet dozing in the early afternoon. I think that’s why, whenever I think of or see Julia Child, this wonderful, warm and familiar feeling passes over me, and since my grandma passed, a little pang in my chest.

I spent a lot of time with my grandma growing up (my grandpa, too). They lived just up the road from us for a lot of my childhood and frequently babysat me. Grandma had a really strong personality, and as I got older, I could feel pretty disenchanted by her, her opinions, and her criticism. But that doesn’t discount what she contributed to me as a person and how much I loved her (a lot). And years after our little spats, a lot of it seems kind of funny (“Why didn’t you use condoms?” was a frequently asked question when I turned up pregnant with E. at 19. I had a pretty great answer that I won’t share here – save the hubs the embarrassment – that she accepted, if a bit sheepishly). In reality, she afforded me something she didn’t really give anyone else: Listening. I knew that if she had a problem, if I could calmly and rationally explain my feelings and reasoning to her, I wouldn’t hear about it again. There were few other adults in my family that I felt I could deal with in that manner.

But any negatives aside, she was a very positive force in my life. She was a smart woman. A reader. Attentive. She cared immensely about school and education and pushed me very hard to do well and was thrilled to acknowledge my hard work and achievements. It’s something her own family pushed, something she and my grandfather ingrained on their children (my dad and aunt). Being smart and well-educated is important, and I had darn well better know it and do it.

Even when she losing a very hard fought battle with cancer she wanted to know how college was going for me. During my last visit with her before she passed, I showed her my Practicum portfolio. I had brought it with me not realizing quite how bad off Grandma would be when we showed up. She could barely speak, spent most of her day in an armchair in the living room, and barely ate. She sat and watched E. play and the TV. For whatever reason, my portfolio was out in the living room and she spotted it out of the corner of her eye. With barely a whisper she asked to see my portfolio.

Now, the thing you need to know about Practicum portfolios is that they’re huge. Months of work, your own and students, along with a full unit’s worth of lesson plans, products, and explanations are compiled into one massive binder. It’s intense and not really something fun to browse unless you’re really into that kind of stuff.

She looked at every freaking page. She listened to my explanations, nodding her head, smiling, patting my hand here and there. I felt so happy that I could show this to her, to show her how hard I’ve been working, and it felt good to know, though by the time we were done she didn’t even have the energy to say it, that she was proud of me. I am immensely relieved and happy that this is part of my last visit with my grandmother, because it pretty much sums up our relationship. She and I both take education seriously. I love school, she loved that I love school – it is a huge part of who I am largely because of the emphasis she put on it.

When I think of my grandma, I feel a mix of happy and sad, as I think most people do when someone they love a great deal has died. I am happy to have had her in my life, to have known her, to have heard her stories, and gained some small part of her into my psyche as well as my DNA. But I am often, especially of late, struck with an overwhelming sadness that she is not still here. I feel a bit robbed, because we all expected her to basically go on forever, she was just that kind of person.

She missed my college graduation, E. starting preschool (and just being so damn smart, my 40 lbs. weight-loss (she was a bit of a health nut), and the purchase of our first house. And she’s missing this pregnancy, the making of her second great-grandkid. I think this time she would have worried less about the use of condoms :-)

When I hear about Julia Child, when I read about her, the celebration of her life, I cannot help but think of my grandma. I know I said before that I could not think of what exactly the two have in common, but perhaps they have more in common than I had originally thought. There is something about the women of that generation that led to great personal strength and a wonderful about of intelligence and ingenuity. Julia pioneered the concept of the television chef, making delicious delicacies accessible to every housewife in America. My grandmother had her own pioneering to do, encouraging herself and her second generation American children to be better, even the best, among their waspy peers. At her job (an elementary school gym teacher), she pioneered the jump rope program (which I participated in as a young kid at the same elementary school), encouraging boys who thought it was a silly, all-girl activity, by showing them films of the provocative and controversial boxer, Muhammed Ali jumping rope as a part of his training.

In her own small way, she made her own changes to the world around her.

I mentioned a while ago that E.’s fourth birthday is coming up soon (this Sunday). While we have two family “parties” planned (they’re not really parties so much as little gatherings for each side of the family) for this weekend to celebrate both E. and Easter, we aren’t doing E.’s BIG friend party for another few weeks. And it is that party that’s making me a bit crazy and lots excited.

The first thing to mention is that I did go with a theme (yes, I’m going to be one of those annoying parents): ladybugs. E. discovered them this winter as a few retreated in our house to escape the cold weather and has been in love since (we’ve got ladybug flip-flops, a bathing suit, pillow pet, among other things). So, while I’ve planned a variety of different ladybug/spring/garden themed decorations, foods, and games for the kiddos who will be at our house (all of which I plan to share here), the first order of business was to make the invitations.

Here’s what I made:


In case it’s not obvious (and it may not be, since I’m not as skilled at paper crafts as some), the front side is a ladybug and the back gives the party information. One of my favorite parts of the invitations is the font used (which, of course, you can’t fully appreciate in the poor quality photos). I found the font via Pinterest and it’s called “Doodlebug.” Very appropriate, right?

We’re really looking forward to finally handing these out next Monday (we had a slight delay because preschool had been cancelled for several days before our April vacation due to some pretty serious flooding). Hopefully I’ll be able to pop back in with more party plans as the week goes on!

My mom does this thing on my birthday every year. She’ll look at me with that weird, nostalgic mom look and wistfully say, “At this time, twenty-*insert appropriate number here* years ago, I was…” and some part of my miraculous arrival would be revealed. I know I roll my eyes every time I hear it (in fact, I rolled them a bit as I write this), but in reality, I kind of like it (okay, love it). I don’t remember the day I was born, so it’s nice to know that someone remembers.

And now I find myself doing the same to E.

Today is her birthday, and every time I glance at the clock I try to guess where I was at that moment. It’s hard to remember, because time moved so quickly that bright Tuesday in early April. What I remember, however, with absolute clarity, is the moment I heard her and the moment I saw her and the moment she was placed in my arms and I held her to my chest. It was time slowed down, every emotion flooding through my body, out my fingertips, making my heart pump the blood through my body with a sudden new purpose.

I was a mother, but, more importantly, this was my daughter. If I didn’t have a reason for life, I most certainly had one now.

And the last four years have been the purest I’ve ever experienced, with the greatest joy and the greatest love (and sometimes the greatest fear and frustration). E. has transformed from a beautiful baby, the model infant – perfect nurser, sleeper, completely content – to a full blown child with ideas and loves and a vivid brilliance and ridiculous vivaciousness. I try to not think so much about how she has changed and how quickly it has all happened, because it can bring me to my knees with joy and wrench my heart with the horrible speed in which it has all happened.

I expect the next four years will go in much the same style the previous four have. I will blink and too much time has passed. There will be the cliche struggles and joys. And ever before me will be a girl who I will simultaneously see as the growing, wonderful person she is, but also as the bawling, raw, pink baby quickly thrust over the curtain as she was delivered nearly exactly four years ago today.

Happy Birthday E. You are loved.