I called this my “secret pregnant blog.” I’m slowly rebuilding it, but not as it was, too complicated — just the reverse-order stories of three of my pregnancies.
There were three separate weekly blogs to be rebuilt
- the story of my fourth pregnancy, a bit of a surprise discovered in late November 2006 and ending with the birth of Monroe on July 9, 2007, surprisingly and thrillingly, without any intervention but for a last-minute epidural. Monroe was 7 pounds, 6.7 ounces (they rounded up), 20.25 inches long and was born at 11:40 p.m.;
- the story of my escapades with fertility and pregnancy starting in August 2004 (one week off the “official” gestational week), ending in the birth of Truman on April 28 2005 via c-section after 30-some hours of unmedicated labor. Truman was 7 pounds, 7 ounces, 19.5 inches long and was born at 6:24 p.m.;
- and the story of my second pregnancy, which sadly ended in the eighth week due to miscarriage.
Not secret; these things are no longer needed; I have kept the nomenclature.
2007.08.06. running my blues away
“When I get home,” said Jonathan, whose unexpected orders for annual training had come in just over a week ago, “why don’t you have your running clothes on and be ready to go.”
Why don’t I? A brilliant idea, but there were lots of reasons why not. I was exhausted. I had trouble finding time to eat, as Monroe was fussing whenever I’d put him down, going from odd guttural grunt to full-on maximum-volume I’m dying! wails in no seconds flat. My head hurt. I wasn’t drinking enough water, I hadn’t the energy. And with Jonathan getting home after 6 each night, would the boys ever get back to a normal schedule if I ran instead of making their dinner?
I had plenty of reasons why not, and after my agonizing negotiation around lunchtime (I wanted to go to the coffeeshop for its dark liquid exhaustion salve, Everett insisted on Starbucks — too expensive! coffee no good!) I almost gave up in tears. But I just did it, managing to clean the cookie sheets and have them ready for their pizza doughs, feed Monroe to his breastmilk limit and put him down, donned my bike shorts, running shorts, jog bra and tee. Just as I was pulling my t-shirt over my head, the sound of gravel crunching in the driveway as Jonathan’s ride pulled up. I could do it!
Jonathan came in, energetic and giddy. He held up his uniform, wondering what was wrong with it? Umm… let’s recall I am not in the Army. “Were you promoted?” He was, to “Specialist,” what always seemed to me one of the oddest-sounding titles in the Armed Forces. “You’re ready to run?”
Yes. I took a few swigs of green ‘superfood’ juice, and a couple more of that delicious coffee, turned on the oven, patted the pizza dough into its pizza-y shape, and headed out, feeling buoyant and full of potential. Why not just go? I thought to myself, reaching back to nearly a year prior, to find my road running tools. Light on my feet, breathe calm and deep, relax my hips and my shoulders. Go go go gogo! I told myself, and I went, managing to hit the 0.9 mile point in just under 9 minutes, taking the downhill as fast as I could, deciding to go through the tony neighborhood to the most privileged local elementary school, a route I knew was at least 3.5 miles roundtrip. I reached the school and looked at my watch — I was still on the 9:30 mile pace (far slower than my usual ‘good’ pace but my goal for the Hood-to-Coast this year) and tired as could be, achey and creaky, mentally shot, but yet: soproud of myself!
I kept on running, stretching my legs, pushing myself back to the nearby college campus where I’d slow down, get a drink of water, turn toward home. The last mile was tortured, with several quick stops for a 10-second walk — but I finished strong.
When I got home, Monroe was wailing, the pizza dough was still waiting for its topping as Jonathan did dishes and laundry, the boys were watching Simpsons, I was beyond smelly, but it was all ok. I finished the pizzas and fed Monroe and accepted the TV and, somehow, knew that I had turned the corner.
2007.08.04. of love and headaches
I have piles of pregnancy and childbirth books everywhere, in every corner of the house, a few on my bedside table, another one on my dresser, three in the bathroom (one near the tub, two within reach of the toilet, where I spend a lot of time these days), three near the couch, one near the upstairs ‘guest’ bed where I escape from everyone else to nurse once in a while. I read while nursing, pooping, bathing, calming Monroe down (he’s a bit of a fusser), during commercials when I watch TV in the evening. I hop from a chapter of an old copy of What to Expect When You’re Expecting to the library’s Everything Guide to Postpartum Health to this adorable little British book, New Mother’s Guide to Pregnancy and Baby (my only whole-hearted recommendation thus far). As I read, my mind buzzes with reviews and just how much better my book will be.
And yet. I am so. So. SOOO. exhausted. I wake up in the morning with a head heavy from wishing I’d slept (but I did sleep, right? right?), though I’ve been in bed for nine or ten hours; and guilty from not having gotten up at six, or seven, when I first woke to change Monroe’s diaper and let the chickens out. I stay hungover and heavy-headed until 2 or 3, when I have an hour of brightness, then fall back into the throes of exhaustion.
I know all the books and nurses and doctors and other mamas say, “sleep when the baby sleeps!” or at least, “sneak in a nap when you can!” but my head buzzes with guilt, ideas, dirty-diapered toddlers and children in need of another reading of Happy Birthday Thomas. While I breastfeed, I read; while Monroe naps, I do errands or make meals, not great perfect healthy homemade meals that I long to make but cobbled-together hurried meals, quesadillas with raisins, frozen meatballs with leftover gravy (for me) and ketchup (for Everett), milk, and cheese sticks, and more milk. I fear the boys are living on dairy products and crackers and the occasional desperately-administered swig of mango-antioxidants juice from Trader Joe’s.
I desire to do so many things, I do a few of them, and then sit down again, to nurse, to ‘rest’, and read a little because at least it feels like something. I walk to the coffee shop, to the grocery store, I go sometimes on long errands with the family and all of the time all I can think is when can I take this sling off? and, if only I could just sit down comfortably. I can now sit without immediate pain, but only for a bit, and not for long squarely on my bottom. Bus trips have me variously sitting, shifting my weight so I’m artfully draped over the edge of the seat, shifting back to the other hip, then giving in and standing up. I’m only truly comfortable when lying on my stomach, though reclining on my side is now almost as good.
I bounce between thinking how lucky I am that I’m not in total pain, that my children are all relatively healthy and gorgeous and seem to adore their little baby brother, to feelings of inadequacy and unfairness and anger at the boys for their constant whiny-wrestly-loudness. I’m lucky! I’m great! I’m cursed! I’m a terrible mother! and oh yes, MY HEAD ACHES! seem to be the components of my (as the rather narrow-minded author of Take the Fight Out of Our Food says) ‘tape loop’. What an awful cycle.
Jonathan doesn’t help much, though he regularly tells me how great I look. Unfortunately his tape loop is even worse (he has no purpose, he tells me, and I tell him, “I can’t give you a purpose, sweetie, you’re going to have to find it yourself”) and he just doesn’t seem to understand how maternal hormones work. As I stood over the stove yesterday morning, sobbing because I’d burnt the first batch of strawberry-blueberry pancakes (half without fruit, naturally, because Everett won’t eat fruity pancakes), and because it was nearly 11 a.m., and because Monroe wouldn’t lie down in his cradle for two minutes without crying at the top of his lungs, so he had to be slung, giving me only one hand and making me (yes) burn the pancakes, and because I wasn’t feeding the children well or early enough, and I really wanted coffee Jonathan’s only contribution was, “you’re doing this to yourself! You could just give them fig bars!” which of course made me cry more. (Later he did the laundry and told me that I was a good mom, that he loved me, contributions which didn’t help at all though of course he means well somewhere in the bottom of his entirely aimless maleness.) Though he is a good loving husband and very often a wonderful dad, his post-partum helful skills are entirely lacking. He’s working on it, but I think my bouts of exhaustion will be long gone (I hope) by the time he becomes truly and utterly right.
People are wonderful and offer me lovely things, though what I really need is a brain that’s as on fire and full of energy as during my second trimester. I really want to do it myself, and only wish I could have the energy to love the children as much as I imagine myself loving them. And to write.
2007.07…. if i have time…
Things I’ll write about if I have time and energy…
–the post-partum lack of bladder control
–my first run at 18 days (my buttocks shook so hard the first two blocks, I thought my coccyx might explode, and my breasts were WAY too bouncy, but I made it 1 mile without injuring myself)
–my subsequent runs, which were much easier thanks to the employment of double layers of support garments, and around two miles each!
–baby noises I can’t even recreate
–how little I enjoy riding in cars
–my sweet things craving
–how cheated I feel that Jonathan is spending Monroe’s fifth and sixth weeks in the Army, the second week during which he will not come home at night
–how I have decided (in a fantasy kind of way) that I will move to Sweden, or London, for my next baby; six weeks is NOT long enough for maternity leave. Six months now seems like the grandest luxury going (yet, I will admit to having worked 20 or 30 minutes nearly every day…)
2007.07.24. sunlight around the corner
After a few rainy, cloudy, dreary, muggy days, today dawned bright, warm, full of sunlight. And as the day dawned, I’d gone 24 hours without the Percocet, and I could walk, upright, with only the smallest trace of pain.
For a girl who’s been stumbling around the house doubled over because straightening up hurt too much, today was brilliant, and I could only think that my coccyx was not, indeed, broken, only harmed quite monstrously — and healing fast.
It turned out that not only did I have the very painful tailbone, but thanks (I think) to the narcotic pain reliever I was forced to swallow, the most disgusting and messy hemorrhoids.
Now I am only going to describe this because I Googled in vain for what was probably not hours, but seemed like it, for some hint of what hemorrhoids are supposed to look like. I finally found one site where there were illustrations of common hemorrhoids, and mine didn’t look anything like those. No. Mine looked like a series of gigantic blisters, extending down the side of the crack in my bottom. And not only were they painful, hot and bubbly with grossness. Worse still? After a day or so, they started to leak a yellow-red liquid. I don’t know what to call it, really, but it is highly yucky, and stinks, and looks a little like diluted blood. (After a great deal more searching, I did find one — and only one — mention of postpartum hemorrhoids that look like blisters.)
Though sitting squarely on my bottom is still not advisable, I’m now able to sit obliquely to eat dinner or change a diaper without wincing in pain, I can climb stairs fairly easily, and I’m actually getting a little sleep at night.
I haven’t gone for a run yet, but I walked to the grocery store with both Truman and Monroe this evening, and carried the groceries home, and thought almost nothing of it. And that, my friends, is way more than a ray of sunlight into my life. It’s a veritable summer.
2007.07.22. a little bit
I can only hope and pray that last night was truly my lowest point. Because today, this very morning, I twice let my four-hour mark pass before gobbling up the next dosage of painkillers.
After the last dose, a long shower, and I felt how swollen the area is. Could it just be aggravation, not breakage? At least I have hope.
As I told Krista, who isn’t exactly having a pain-free birth recovery, either, one thing all pregnant women should know: please don’t spend all of your time and energy with anticipation (or fear, or eager planning) of and for birth. Spend just a little bit on those next few months, during which you will most certainly be tried and tested.
Birth meditations are lovely, and I will always write them for people close to me. But equal energy should be given to looking after the mental and physical health of women in the weeks and months after giving birth. A healing meditation.
A little warm baby snoozes and grunts sweetly next to me as I lie on my stomach on the couch, typing and surfing and concocting a banana coffee cake (or zucchini?), and I gather myself to accept and send healing energy around the globe. Having a baby is a time to treasure, every moment pierced with a special poignancy, the last first time little Monroe will discover a book, sleep cuddled up next to Truman, go to church, blink away soft summer raindrops. But it’s not an easy time.
I squeeze away tears, I breathe deeply, I go off to bake and clean and remember to hold these moments dear.
2007.07.21. low, low, low
I want this to be a happy post full of the wonderment of a new baby. He is, after all, entirely sweet, and getting less frog-like every day (my babies always look like frogs when they’re teeny, little Yoda alien frogs). It turns out he loves books, at least, the Black on White board book that I could never get Truman to care about when he was a baby. And how smart is he? After a wild pee in his first day on the planet, he hasn’t peed while I change his diaper once, making my commitment to never buy one of those silly ‘peepeeteepees’ a worthwhile one. When I kiss him on the forehead in his sleep, he wrinkles his nose and raises his eyebrows.
But instead I’m sunk in a deep funk, filled with a burning tailbone and angry red eyes. I spent most of the evening in desperate tears as my pain only seemed to get worse and the spaces between pills, shorter. I’m now longingly checking my watch at two hours, 40 minutes, gritting my teeth to make it to the magic fourth hour, rushing to take the pills at the moment it seems close enough.
I’m afraid, afraid that I’ll never heal, or not quickly, afraid of the tales of pain lasting a year, or more, on coccyx.org, afraid of never being able to run, of hobbling and wincing for weeks, months, of never having energy to enjoy my rambunctious children, of hurting every time I turn in bed to nurse. I’m afraid that the pain is getting worse, that it will keep getting worse, that I’ll have to soon convert to one pill, that I’ll lose my strength, my mobility, my love for life.
My knitting projects are all halted; I only read a chapter of Harry Potter; I looked with tears at the blackberry vines in my garden, the scraps of beautiful fabric on my desk. When I bend to change a diaper, it’s hard to straighten up; I know I won’t be able to bathe easily until the tide turns in this pain. I’m frightened that I don’t know when the tide will turn, that there seems to be no solid cure for pain like this.
As I chopped herbs for dinner, tonight, I bawled, achy and scared and desperate, and Everett asked me why are you so sad, mama? and I felt horribly for putting them all through this and kept crying.
Maybe tomorrow will be better. But as I look forward to the summer, one I’d meant to fill with berry picking and bike rides and daily runs with both joggers and sewing and knitting galore, I can only see myself standing while everyone else sits, I can feel the exhaustion already and it closes in upon me like a hot iron fist.
This is not what I expected, this is not what I planned. Please God let me heal, I pray, and another angry tear rolls onto my nose.
2007.07.20. diagnosing my bottom
It was Tuesday. We walked, and we walked, and we walked. The boys had soccer near 12th & Division, and we took Monroe in his new sling, because… how can I not take him everywhere, to see everyone? Only two weeks ago, I’d been heavily pregnant, and now, here I was, still on the heavy side, but with this baby. AND, did I mention the new sling?
I’d taken this sling pattern, made a good dozen mistakes, but, with gorgeous fabric, finally turned out a beautiful new native-style sling in just under, umm, four or five hours on Sunday afternoon. I wanted to wear Monroe in it, everywhere.
So the boys, Jonathan and I hopped on the bus ’round 3:30, the #17 — we’d have to walk five or six blocks once we alighted. Good for me, right? I was looking so forward to returning to my training, I’d picked up a Nike+ Sport Kit on Saturday while I waited for Everett to finish ballet, and asked my sister if I could borrow her iPod until the Hood-to-Coast was over.
Soccer was fun, Monroe was duly gushed over, and afterward we let the boys play at Abernethy playground. Everett was learning to do tricks on the monkey bars, and was thoroughly excited; Truman was playing his heart out and tiring fast.
It was nearly 6 when Jonathan put Truman in the backpack and we headed back. Everyone still felt perky (and hungry!) so we decided to go to Pokpok, nearly a mile away but just a quick bus trip on the #4.
But the #4 never came. We ended up walking the entire way, with Truman and Monroe both asleep in their respective carriers, arriving at Pokpok a moment before the extremely late bus whizzed by. We cheered, and ate Vietnamese fish sauce wings and prawns with pork belly and spare ribs. It was thoroughly amazing, and we looked out at the crowds awaiting our table with superiority. We had been going to Pokpok long before the restaurant was named the best in the city by the Oregonian; and we had three little boys, two of whom were eagerly devouring the delicious food, and a table.
When we were done, we decided to walk to our bus transfer, another half mile or so. I was starting to wear out, and said so — and the #75 came, and we were home in the blink of an eye.
That night, I had trouble sleeping. I was starting to hurt, and wondered if I hadn’t re-injured my tailbone. All that walking… or maybe it was the hard benches at Pokpok. Throughout Wednesday, it began to hurt worse, and worse. By Wednesday night, I was tossing and turning, gingerly, and developed quite a bruise on my left hip.
The post partum nurse from Legacy called, and I mentioned the pain — she thought it might be an old injury. Evidently the nerve endings get all curled up in the days and weeks leading up to, during, and right after birth. She asked if I’d taken anything for pain — I’d kind of forgotten about the ibuprofen — and urged me to. I walked to the kitchen right then and there, and took 400mg. Then I thought to myself, didn’t Dr. Williams say I had some bad perineal bruising? That must be it. Perineal bruising. Yes. I googled ‘perineum bruising recovery’ and sent Jonathan to Limbo for yarrow flowers, calendula flowers, comfrey root, rosemary, witch hazel, and myrrh. I wanted to slap whoever wrote perkily on eHow, “Perineal pain is perhaps the worst discomfort a woman feels after delivering a child. Postpartum healing can be speedy and natural with some simple herbal remedies and a nice warm bath.”
Lovely! I brewed, I typed a post on urbanMamas and watched the comments come in, taking mental notes… Arnica tabs… sitz baths… donut pillows… recoveries from a week or two, to four months (ouch!). I did the math — it seemed that, the longer one pushed, the longer the recovery. The four monther had pushed for a whopping five hours, so I estimated I’d be feeling better in a few weeks with my tiny 40 minute push.
The next day, the pain was worse. I spent time in the middle of the night crying, trying to do it quietly so as not to wake everyone. I longed to take Truman (who tends to climb into bed every night around 3 or 4, wanting to cuddle — rather ungracefully) and carry him back to bed, but it was too much, too heavy, walking upstairs wasn’t easy. I wished Monroe wouldn’t wake and eat so much — where was the comfortable lying-in-bed nursing I remembered? I started to scoot my ibuprofen dosages closer together, from six hours to five-and-a-half, five, four-and-a-half…
Thursday night, I barely slept at all, rushing to the kitchen when I woke around 3 for my ibuprofen, lying awake for long periods of time wondering when the four hours would be up. At times, I’d walk around for a bit, but I couldn’t figure which was more painful — lying down, or walking. All I knew was that walking upstairs was excruciating, and I could not sit normally.
I was crying a little as I waited for my appointment, wondering just how was I going to do this? 45 minutes on the bus, then the walk to her office from the bus stop, and what would I do on the table? Poor Monroe. I tried to sit down when I first got on the #75, but had to get up and stand after just a stop or two. There was no comfortable way to sit.
Dr. Kehoe had been called away to labor & delivery, and I waited a long time, not getting undressed because that would mean sitting on the table. And that would mean sitting. Uh-uh. When she finally came in she was perky. I told her I thought my perineal bruising was bad, so she figured she should check me out, and I undressed hurriedly and winced as I tried to find a position of not-terrible-pain, finally hanging my bottom completely off the edge of the examination table. She recommended heat, sitz baths (hot ones), three times a day, and said the walking is good for me (and she wanted me to keep it up, I had to keep my circulation moving). She checked everything, the vaginal area, the perineum, none of it hurt in the slightest.
“You look great. You shouldn’t be in this much pain,” she said. “I think you might have broken your coccyx.”
No. Oh no. “How long would it take so I could feel… somewhat normal again?”
“Well, it’s a bone. One or two months.”
She gave me a prescription for Percocet, and asked to see me back in a month, though she’d typically see ‘normal’ birth patients back in six months.
I rode home, standing, on the bus, I could barely keep my eyes open. I was rubbing Monroe’s head and silently telling him, “sorry.” Sorry I won’t be very present for you, sweetie, sorry I’m so caught up in this pain and can’t find the energy to squat on the ground to take just the right photo of you, sorry I want to pull you away from my breast early because it’s uncomfortable to stand and nurse you. Sorry I have to dope myself up — and you, a little — to make it through.
Once I hobbled off the bus, I sent Jonathan for my drugs. Dr. Kehoe had suggested 1/2 of a pill to start with, and gradually I felt a release of the pain, and, surprisingly, more energy than I’d had in two days. I made dinner; pork chops with cherries and sage, mashed potatoes with yogurt, corn, collard greens from the freezer (thinking, there’s always a chance that maybe I can fix this with diet!). I knelt uncomfortably at our family table, hoping, hoping, hoping.
The phrase most-uttered through yesterday’s late evening was, “I can’t believe it!” followed closely by “she’s really doing it!” said with appropriate incredulity.
That the “she” in question was me, and that the “it” involved was pushing a baby out the way God intended, well, I’m sure you’ll understand when I can’t even begin to pick the right superlative to describe the experience.
Monroe Gilbert Hanson was born at 11:40 p.m. on July 9, much though I expected him to be born sometime in the wee hours of the morning after. He was, incredibly, 7 pounds, 6.7 ounces (rounding up to his brothers’ shared weight), 20 1/4 inches, with a head circumference of 13 1/2 inches (I’ve never known it before). He looks just like Everett, and not a bit like Truman, and as soon as I held his little vernix-covered body I knew he was just the same size as my others.
Much to everyone’s continued amazement. As I’ve said before and I’ll say again; as I said right at that moment, I can’t believe it.
How did this happen? We last left you at around 5 o’clock, the sun bright outside my window and my cervix still at 3 cm. I was hemming and hawing; would anything happen? Jonathan was sure I’d come home. Dr. Williams had promised to to check me around 5:30. When I’d first gotten up to walk around, probably at 4 or 4:30, I’d done a little yoga, the usual, downward dog and warrior sequence, a little cat-cow. What would stimulate contractions? Maybe some horse. I did it, breathing deep and holding it for 30, 45, 55 seconds.
So I horsed, again, watching myself in the little mirror, the sun sparkling around the room. All was quiet. I sat down again on the little couch, knitting and trying not to fall asleep, occasionally sending a text message, feeling the rare contraction. When I’d gotten off the monitors, the contractions had slowed. Now they seemed to be picking up a bit, 8 minutes, 6 minutes, 4 minutes. Dr. Williams was later than she said she’d be; it was very quiet. I turned on NPR, hoping I’d hear the bit on the low car diet, hoping they would have used a clip from my speech.
I was relatively sure I’d be sent back home.
A few minutes after six, in came Dr. Williams, friendly and matter-of-fact as always. She checked me.
“You’re at four! We’re having this baby,” she said. And took a breath.
In that breath, I knew I had my work cut out for me — she was all ready to get me prepped for surgery. “I understand you want to try a vaginal birth, and it’s just not a level of risk I’m comfortable with,” she said with finality. She went on, how she’d only attended one other successful vaginal birth after two ceseareans — and this woman was on her seventh child, with several non-surgical births in her history, how the risk of a scar rupturing, to her, was too high.
“I’ve looked through Dr. Kehoe’s notes, and I can’t find anywhere that she consented,” she said.
I looked at her, and set my mouth. “I just want to try,” I said. “Dr. Kehoe and I talked about it at length, and she said she’d support me in trying. She told me that the chances were less than 30% — “
“I think she was being generous,” said Dr. Williams.
“– and, even if it’s 20%, that’s one in five! Those odds seem like, it’s worth trying, to me. Part of it is emotional. I don’t want to just hop up onto a table, without even trying.” Here in the talk I always get tears in my eyes, thinking of Amey, who really struggles with that. “I don’t want to recover from a c-section. I have two kids at home.” Practical. Dr. Williams will go for practical, I think.
Suddenly I saw that she had turned the corner. She started bringing up the stats from my chart; this baby was early-ish, the others had been 7-7 (“if the baby was probably going to be eight pounds, I wouldn’t try,” I said); Dr. Kehoe had sewed me up last time; I’d obviously been thoroughly counselled by Dr. Kehoe “because I know that about her.” I had won.
“Well, here’s what we’re going to do. You’ve done a very good job today; you’ve convinced me. But I’m going to keep you on a tight leash. As soon as anything isn’t going exactly down the path to labor, we’re going to go in for surgery. Gather your troops. We’re going to have a baby tonight. And I’ll need two hours to get ready anyway, and you’ll have to progress one centimeter an hour (I swallowed, knowing that this was far from my control), without Pitocin. I’m going to have you sign the consent forms, I’m going to have the anethesiologist come in and consult with you, we’re going to be ready to do a c-section at a moment’s notice.”
We talked some more, about how I was willing to get an epidural anyway — the few minutes between deciding to have the c-section and getting the spinal, with Truman, were some of the most excruciating of my life, the urge to push, the terrible pain, the baby that wouldn’t come out any other way — about the risks of surgery (“baby could die, you could die,” she said, “if I say it I figure it won’t happen,” immediately I imagined me, dead, with the boys left motherless, Jonathan left drifting), about what it would feel like if the scar started to rupture — she said this next two hours was the most risky, that it would feel very, very wrong — and soon she was off, with encouraging words; “you’re very calm, and obviously in touch,” and an exhortation to “gather my troops!” and “don’t stay pregnant!” She’d return at 8 to check me on my labor progress.
One centimeter an hour; I’d have to be at 6 centimeters by 8 p.m. Could I do it? I didn’t know. I started calling, Jonathan, then Abby and my dad to arrange care for the boys, Larissa, my sister Hannah. I sat on my bed in the quiet and worked the last row of ‘mulberry’ yarn in my blanket between contractions.
I could feel them starting to work a bit more, but they weren’t breath-taking-away yet. I tried to focus on the meditations, thinking of my cervix opening, thinking of the contractions’ power, my power, trying to imagine myself succeeding. And I knitted.
I’d been banned from all food and drink, in case of emergency surgery, and fitted with an IV (“I hate to start these in the hand!” said the nurse, though I barely cared after the first painful poke. She’d done a much better job than the IV with Truman and it was comfortable, relatively) for fluids and antibiotics. I longed to have just one drink of ice water, a gulp of something solid. I started remembering the emergency sweet treat I’d made a few nights ago — instant cheesecake pudding, with raspberry sauce — whose leftovers were in the fridge at home. What I wouldn’t give for a big spoon and that bowl of cheesecake pudding, right now. But though I thought darkly of the stories of food and drink snuck to laboring women, the very real possibility of a ruptured scar hung over my head too heavily, and I tried to focus on other things.
Larissa was there soon, bearing gifts (the ‘melted crayons’ shawl I’d loved as I watched her finish it), and Hannah wasn’t much behind her. We sat, talking and describing the ways of labor to Hannah as we knitted (Larissa still had ends to weave in), and soon I was at the end of my mulberry row, with only a few inches of yarn left. I held it up as evidence that today was the day, the baby was just waiting for me to finish his blanket.
All through this evening I couldn’t help but refer to the baby as “he,” even though everyone but me agreed that, not only did they hope it was a girl, but they were “feeling” girl. Dr. Williams’ evidence was the blanket, colors for a girl, she said (the nurses and doctors were smitten with it, though one thought that I was knitting, not a big round blanket, but a cocoon of some sort). I kept knitting, though the contractions were getting bigger, impossible to talk through. I guess I was, really, in labor. I told Larissa how I thought that, this time, I was so proud of myself for just waiting, for not having tried to encourage labor (but for the shortlived experiment with strong feminine herbs) by running up and down stairs, or having sex. I’d always resorted to this with the others, and look how it had ended up — pitocin, pain, c-section.
Erica arrived soon, too, and the room was full of happy supportive women. A little after 8, Dr. Williams returned for a check. “Ummm… four-and-a-half, almost 5,” she said, and I bit my lip, sure this would not be enough for her. Then I could see in her face, it was, she wasn’t going to give up on me, I was moving, and entirely on my own. “You’re progressing,” she said, “I’ll check you again at 9:30. “Besides, my errant husband still hasn’t arrived,” I said. I called his grandma and uncle’s house, where he’d gone to borrow the car and drive over. His grandma seemed vastly confused, why was I calling? After several moments of odd responses to my questions, she confirmed, he had picked the car up. I sighed. Jonathan still didn’t really believe we were having the baby tonight.
Dr. Williams had told me she intended to put a monitor on the baby’s head, so we could know exactly what was going on with baby, and take off the monitor around my belly — “so we don’t have to run in here any time you sit up,” as they’d done a half-hour before. Baby’s health was, after all, one of the conditions to my continued TOLAC (as she explained to Jonathan later, I’d had now two Trials Of Labor After Cesaerean, but only a chance at one VBAC). She broke my waters (“Owww!”) then stuck in the monitor, which seemed too easy, too fast, too simple. As the nurse, Liz, was changing the now-soaking pads and towels beneath me, she must have disconnected the monitor somehow. Dr. Williams had to do it, again (this time, with less discomfort). Immediately the nurse and Dr. Williams stood at attention. “Have you ever seen this before?” said Liz. “Whoa… no,” said Dr. Williams. “Freaky.” They stood there, mouths agape, staring at the monitor.
“That IS baby, right?” said Dr. Williams. Evidently the baby’s heart rate had spiked through the top of the charts — as high as 203 bpm — as soon as he was attached to the monitor. I could feel him wildly kicking and turning in my belly, Larissa could see my belly virtually erupting with activity. Liz put the monitor back on my belly for a minute, verifying the same numbers.
The sight of doctor and nurse, staring dumbfounded at the monitor while my baby went bonkers inside, was not exactly re-assuring. “If baby doesn’t calm down, we’ll have to get him out NOW,” said Dr. Williams. I had faith that it was just a blip — after all, they just had stuck a probe in his head! — but it wasn’t exactly a wonderful moment. Fortunately, after four or five minutes, his heart rate was back to the calm 130s. Another reprieve.
I was getting close to the end of my blanket, binding off, I’d made it 2/3, 3/4 of the way around. I had to put it down frequently, to continue a conversation, for a blood pressure check, for a sudden gush of fluid. I had been getting IV pumped in for hours, after all, without having left the bed — it seemed too difficult, what with the IV stand, the monitor on my belly, and now baby’s head monitor. My cervix felt very loose and all at once I was peeing, I thought, all over the bed. I felt I should stop, go use the restroom, but there was no stopping. I had no bladder control! I felt badly, but not extraordinarily so. I couldn’t do anything but just let it happen, so I called for a change, feeling a bit like a kid who’s just had an accident.
I picked up the blanket again, and soon I had reached the end of the row. In the diminishing light, Larissa and Erica and Hannah spread it out on the floor. It was huge, bigger than I thought, it was perfect and gorgeous. I was so happy to have it done. “I can block this for you, you know,” said Larissa, and in my haze I wondered if she meant right now, before the baby’s born, but knew that probably wasn’t it. Exactly.
“Alright, I’ve bound off, I can have the baby now!” I said, proud of myself for my accomplishment, and relieved I didn’t have anything more to do between contractions. They were steadily getting bigger, a little more painful, I was now having to breath through them. I wondered if I shouldn’t change position, but it seemed too hard.
It was an upbeat atmosphere, and though I kept checking the clock imagining what could possibly be keeping Jonathan, I was having fun, laughing and talking with the women in between contractions, giving my sister “labor school,” still having hope, often idly wondering where is that anesthesiologist? The contractions were increasing in pain and I would like to at least be prepared. I was suddenly worried about my mental readiness for the task at hand. I hadn’t even visualized labor, this time, I think I had never really thought I’d be allowed to make it this far — despite my best hopes, my stubborn desires, I’d let myself become partially resigned to the fate of surgery. I knew that, above all, I was not prepared to do labor like I’d done with Truman, hours and hours of pain and pushing, without anesthesia. This time, I would accept it if I needed it, and I was starting to wonder if that time wasn’t approaching.
At about 9:30, Jonathan finally arrived, followed closely by Dr. Williams and Liz, full of jokes as usual. “We brought your errant husband!” Dr. Williams said, laughing. They had met him at the nurse’s station, asking if he was, indeed, the errant husband I was searching for. He was. “Oh good, the other one just left,” quipped Liz, providing plenty of fuel for Jonathan’s comedic machine.
Jonathan was clearly on edge, immediately getting on the phone, worrying that my mom wasn’t ok with the chickens. Evidently Mom and Dad were taking the boys home with them for the night, which was partially good (I wouldn’t have to worry about them being happy at Grandma & Grandpa’s house), and partially a little sad (it would be some time before they’d meet their new brother or sister). Not to mention Jonathan’s worry. Were the chickens actually ok? Was the house secure? And he’d forgotten the cell phone’s charge cord. He had to go home and come right back.
We all had to keep telling him, “no!” The baby was coming, now, tonight, soon, and if he left he’d surely miss it. I think he was kind of hoping for that. He was thoroughly freaked. He kept saying, “I’m not ready to have three kids. I wasn’t ready for two!”
Dr. Williams checked me, laughing to Liz. “Didn’t I tell you?” she said. I was five-and-a-half, maybe six. “She’s six. We’ll say six,” said Dr. Williams, and told me that, despite my inability to make the centimeter-per-hour goal, I was progressing just too much for her to have the heart to stop me now. She was still on the team. “Don’t stay pregnant!” she said peppily, and was off.
Evidently, my body was now taking the reins. It was not staying pregnant, it was not putting up with Jonathan’s repeated insistence that he just had to go home and come right back, variously halted by my yelling at him, something along the lines of “this baby is coming any time!” or Larissa again reminding him that I could be rushed into an emergency section at any point.
I was trying to find a comfortable-yet-effective way to sit, and having trouble. The contractions were coming faster now, and I was having to turn away from everyone and breathe through them, blowing out my mouth and clutching my pillow. Jonathan and Larissa’s joking had reminded me something I’d utterly forgotten from Truman’s birth — when he said he’d walked in on everyone chanting, he wasn’t exaggerating (though he was exaggerating about the cow’s blood and the pentagram, thank goodness). I had been “EEEEEeeeee!”-ing through the harder contractions, and in order to remind me to come down the scale in pitch — evidently a lower pitch makes it more manageable — Larissa and Destiny and my mom were chanting “ooo, ooo, oooo” in low tones to modulate me. “Ooooooohhhh…” I tried in the next one. “ooohhh…ooooooo….” bringing it down lower “oooooooohhhhaaaooo.”
The contractions were now moving up the pain scale, 7s or 8s, and the best way to describe them is incredibly sharp and long-lasting gas pain, in a flexible cylinder that presses in so tightly on your abdomen, bladder, liver, creating a hard roundess that feels like it might explode. The only thing that was getting me through was remembering that they were only a minute long, and that the anesthesiologist must be coming soon. I asked the nurse, who came in a few minutes later, to find that anestheisologist immediately. “I’m not mentally prepared to endure labor without medication!” I said, quietly, desperately. “Maybe that’s a good thing!” said someone hopefully. I wasn’t ready. I couldn’t do this! The anesthesiologist had been paged, she would come as soon as she could. “She had better have someone aspirating,” I said a little grumpily. About that time I remember apologizing to Hannah, that I hadn’t expected her to have to see this much pain. “It’s ok!” she said somewhat brightly. I didn’t really think it was ok, but I couldn’t worry too much about it now.
In what seemed like moments, I was starting to feel a bit of a push urge at the end of the contractions. It must have been 10:20 or 10:30, I wasn’t able to watch the clock, I was trying to find a space that allowed me to curl around my contractions and yet not bury my face in the pillow. I occasionally heard people saying things like, “good breathing!” and Erica and Jonathan were taking turns rubbing my back a little. “Just tell me if you want me to stop,” said Erica, and for a while it was helping. At some point I wanted it lower, and asked her to go lower, then realizing that it just increased the pain and pressure. By the next contraction I couldn’t take it anymore and simply barked, “NO MORE!” I didn’t have the facility to talk in anything but one- or two-word orders, waves of the hand, I remember throwing my hand wildly in the direction of the bathroom door when Hannah was trying to find me a tissue to blow my nose. Between contractions I talked somewhat calmly, but I wasn’t having much time, I was hot and kept trying to take things off but didn’t want to go totally naked, besides, it was too much work to negotiate the gown with wires and cables and tubes. Still, we kept having to remind Jonathan that he couldn’t go anywhere.
When I felt the poopy/push urge, I first had to remind myself not to fight it but to accept it, to move into it, relax, and then I started to panic, what if I didn’t get to have an epidural? I thought I couldn’t go through Truman’s labor again. Things were happening too fast, they were getting out of control. At this point I wildly indicated to Larissa, anyone that I needed the nurse, gesturing incoherently at the call button that was on a table, far too far away for me to reach it in my curled-up position. She couldn’t find it and dashed out into the hall, almost dragging in a reluctant woman who was not my nurse, and not happy about being drug. “I’m starting to have a push urge!” I said, and she told me where the call button was (but went to get my nurse). Thanks Ms. Helpful. “She knows where it is!” Larissa yelled at her as a parting shot. “She just can’t tell us!”
I didn’t have time to think about it. Liz came in and checked me between my next contraction, though it scared me (what if I have a contraction in the middle of a check?!?), at least they were giving me my full minute between. “Eight centimeters!” she said. I knew it. I also knew that there would be no two hours from now until 10. I was going to be pushing in 20 or 30 minutes. I was panicking.
A minute or two later, Liz told me Dr. Williams had been called, and the anesthesiologist was finishing up an epidural and would be 10 or 15 minutes. “What if it’s too late!” I wailed, thinking of stories I’ve heard of women getting to complete and then being refused an epidural (later, I’d realize that this must be ancient practice — I don’t think the so-called “window” really exists anymore, except maybe for people who might only push a few minutes). Larissa understood this and explained to Liz. “She’s coming, I promise,” said Liz. I had no faith, I was now having to focus on relaxing my pelvis, allowing myself to curl around the poop urge instead of tighten up and fight it, oooooh-ing and wishing I could scream, trying to breath but feeling frantic instead. Each contraction was doing huge things, getting closer and closer to the push urge. I knew I only had minutes, a few contractions, until I would have to start pushing.
Dr. Williams and the anesthesiologist arrived virtually at the same time. I’ve never been so relieved as when she started explaining what she was going to do, talking fast in an Eastern European accent, I was nodding and saying yes, do it, I’ve done it before, I know, before I dove into the next contraction. She had the paper I’d filled out (there was a back portion I was supposed to sign in her presence), she didn’t even try to get me to sign it, I was thankful. She went quickly to work, between contractions, and in three or so she’d inserted the needle. “When will it start working!” I wailed to no one in particular. I could feel sharp pains in my upper hips, I could still feel the contractions. “One more contraction,” said Dr. Williams. “But it wants me to push!” I said, being flipped onto my back with much pain. Dr. Williams was checking me. “She’s complete,” she said. “And plus one.”
Though the epidural was only just beginning to work, and I was so exhausted I didn’t know if I could make it through hours of pushing, I was instantly amazed and thrilled. “Plus one!?!” I said. “I’ve never been plus one!” I remember Erica, smiling and hopeful, leaving at this point, telling me good luck! Don’t stay pregnant, I thought to myself.
But still I didn’t believe, didn’t believe it could happen. Through the next 40 minutes I’d go on not believing, every moment thinking that she was going to say, “too bad, it’s not working enough,” and send me off to surgery. I think Jonathan felt the same way, disbelieving. No one really believed. At some point, even in the midst of pushing perhaps, I thought of the Everywoman’s Health business office, who had sent me a bill to pre-pay for Dr. Kehoe’s services during a c-section. I’d paid half on June 15, thinking smugly to myself that, thanks to their miscalculation of the due date and my own tendency to be early, I’d probably have already had the baby by July 15, and they’d just have to bill me. It seemed that the cost for a c-section was twice the cost for a non-surgical birth, and I hoped that I would prove them wrong — AND not have already paid for their lack of faith in me. Hah! I thought to myself. You’ll never get your other $310.
Jonathan and Larissa were holding my legs up, I was on my back, Dr. Williams was telling me the time-honored advice: “Curl around your baby. Push down toward my hand.” She told me to hold my thighs, and already I had to push, the pain was mostly turned to pressure. I could do this. I remembered everything I knew about pushing in an instant. I let my jaw go slack, my neck, my eyes, my lips, I tried to put every single thing I had into the push, just where I was supposed to and nowhere else, imagining the way my upper belly was pressing down on the baby’s feet, how I was just pushing the head through my birth cavity. Nothing more. I pushed with everything, everything, forgetting at first until exhorted to hold my breath, but remembering not to make any noise while pushing.
As I pushed and she counted, Dr. Williams was calmly, rhythmically, vigorously working the bottom of my vaginal opening, in a half-circle, back and forth, back and forth. I was so happy I had the epidural, otherwise I’d surely be screaming in pain with such force, instead it felt rubbery, flexible, like the right thing. Later both Jonathan and Larissa would comment to me on how they thought this made all the difference, that she very literally opened the way for the baby’s head. Between each 10-count they told me to release and take a new breath, and it always seemed like too much time wasted, I didn’t want to breathe out and in, but did to pacify them, never taking a deep one, always trying to hold on a bit longer than 10 if I could, or do a fourth 10-count if I felt the urge.
“Good pushing, good pushing!” said everyone at every push. Liz was doing the “pushpushpushpushpushpushpushPUSH!” each time, which I don’t think really helped, but certainly added to the rah-rah atmosphere. I kept hearing, “you’re really doing it!” and “I can’t believe it!” Despite all my belief to the contrary, it seemed that the baby’s head really was getting closer, and I was so determined and amazed that I wanted to push the instant the urge came each time; I tried to push in the occasional doubled-up contractions I seem to have, littler ones moments after the big ones. I didn’t care how tired I got, I was not going backwards.
I don’t know if I said it out loud or not, but I remember thinking after the second or third contraction, when there had been some marked movement, “I always thought I was a good pusher!” I’d been told “good push!” a hundred times before, with Everett, with Truman, and I’d thought it was true, but never had any evidence. I’m such a strong, athletic person, I’m so coachable. Much of my disappointment was that I wondered if my pushing was not, in fact, that great. It had, after all, never worked before.
But it was working, it was. At some point I was told to reach down and touch the head, and I did, and it was there. There was brown hair (I knew it was a boy), Jonathan kept talking eagerly to him, “come on little guy!” And it was going so fast.
About 20 minutes in, Dr. Williams grabbed someone and barked that they get the transition nurse. We all must have thought simultaneously, “is something wrong? Is it not progressing fast enough?” because a few of us asked at once what, indeed, was a transition nurse? It’s the baby’s nurse, said someone, and I didn’t believe that the baby was really going to need it that soon. It’s only been 20 minutes.
But it couldn’t have been more 5 minutes more before I could feel that the head was so close to the edge that it would be silly to go back now. I was. I was really doing it. I can’t believe I’m really doing it.
People were almost jumping up and down, it was so close. In a few minutes more, I could feel that the head was emerging, that it was in the “ring of fire” state (though I, fortunately, felt no fire, just elastic pressure), and everyone was saying the head was round. Somehow I knew there would be no conehead, this baby hadn’t stayed in the cavity for two hours like his brothers. A few more pushes, each one with more purpose, more force, more belief than the one before, and Dr. Williams was wiggling his head, his head was there, I could see his face, and then his shoulders and like a SPLOOSH! he was out, I kept pushing him the whole way.
It was, of course, a boy. He was handed to me, grey and wrinkled and grumpy with vernix, he was crying little sad bursts, I was telling him “it’s ok little guy!” Jonathan was telling everyone his name and I was saying over and over, “I can’t believe it, I can’t believe it, I can’t believe it.” I kept saying that I didn’t know what to do, that I’d never done this before, never had a baby right there and felt so good, so mobile, so able to do anything. “Right now I’m usually shaking on a gurney downstairs next to some guy who’s just had his kidney stone removed,” I said, shocking Liz and requiring me to tell the whole story of the uber-busy night of Truman’s birth, where there were so many c-sections — seven or more — that I had to be taken to recover to the general surgical recovery downstairs. I remembered later that the man next to me was old and frail enough, and the operation (not a kidney stone, I don’t know what it was) severe enough that someone from the hospital was explaining over and over again to a clearly fraught woman (sister? wife? daughter?) that he might be ok after the surgery, but he might not, he might never be the same, he might not even be able to talk, they didn’t know yet. I remembered, too, thinking that I was lucky to be recovering from a c-section for a healthy, beautiful baby, and not in this position, and my heart was going to burst from the sadness of it all. The woman who monitored the recoverees kept apologizing to me for having me down there, and it seemed like a small price to pay for a family whose health was all secure.
While this conversation was going on, Dr. Williams was quickly delivering the placenta (I asked if she needed me to push; she said she didn’t, but I gave a couple of little bursts just in case) and I distantly remember Jonathan being shown the placenta, and being amazed and intrigued despite himself. “You only have a little first-degree tear,” said Dr. Williams, “and I’ll stitch you up now.” I was proud and happy. One stitch. Hurray for me! I also had a bruise on my perineum. This was new territory… I wondered how that would feel?
But Monroe. Monroe was now on me, and I asked incredulously, “should I try to nurse him?” He was crying still, I was saying, “it’s ok little guy!” and wondering if he was, indeed, as cute as Everett and Truman. I’m such a skeptic, I always doubt the cuteness of my children until it’s been guaranteed. He looked nothing like Truman, nothing at all, and soon we’d decide that he looked identical to Everett as a baby. Everett’s little brother. It was right.
I was given the go-ahead to nurse, Larissa and Hannah were leaving, and Liz brought me a new gown, the you’re-a-mom-now gown that actually has nursing openings. For a moment I hesitated, then realized that there was nothing to hide after an hour of half-a-dozen people looking at my vagina in awe, and shed my labor gown and waited for the new one.
It’s now 10:45 p.m. on the night after Monroe was born — he’s nearly a day old now — and I’m thoroughly exhausted, I’ve slept but only in bursts of a few hours apiece. Monroe has slept nearly all of the time, in jags as long as six hours. He’s developed the cuteness that I was doubting last night (I’m still holding out for that one-year-old threshold when they change from baldish baby to handsome toddler, though) and he loves to snuggle next to me, squeaking his funny baby sounds. I’m so exhausted but I have to keep typing so I’ll always remember how I felt after the birth.
It was such a feeling of utter freedom and elation. I kept saying how I didn’t know what to do, I’ve never done this before, and it was wonderful. I felt like I could get up and run across the room (though of course I could barely move), I felt like I could stay up for days, I felt like the world had just opened up to me. I had a baby, I had pushed him out the way babies are supposed to come out, and he was sitting right here with me and that was SO right, so perfect.
Jonathan and I were talking and he was crying, little bursty quiet baby cries, he couldn’t seem to get the nipple in his mouth though the baby nurse and I kept trying, and his crying didn’t bother me at all. Eventually I got him to latch on a bit by squeezing my breast (for some reason doubting that he was getting anything — I’ve not had any leaking this pregnancy, not the tiniest bit of colostrum), but I had to keep readjusting and squeezing for him to keep on it. For the first hour or more of his life, he cried almost nonstop, but it didn’t make me sad. “He’s a fussy one!” I said happily, imagining a colicky baby, a screamer. And figuring, I’ll just deal with it.
All I can do now is to sit back in amazement. Monroe was nearly identical in size to his brothers, and as both Drs. Kehoe and Williams now agree, probably closer to 38 weeks than 37 — surely not good odds for my success. I attribute the outcome to simply having learned to wait, to not try to hurry labor, to let things take their course, to going without Pitocin, to accepting that I might, at any time, be sent home.
What’s more, my scar doesn’t hurt a bit.
The one thing I’ve noticed today, as I’ve learned to adjust to this very different kind of recovery (and been frightened as all hell of my very-swollen vagina), is that it is indeed true what the say — the after-birth pangs get worse with each baby. A few hours today have seen me literally writhing on my bed as I nurse Monroe, or now, as I wait for him to get back from his weighing and endure the contracting-back-to-size uterus. It’s a terribly sharp gas pain feeling, and it’s extraordinarily uncomfortable, the way I imagine the worst period pain to feel. As I said to a nurse who told tales of women with five or six babies, “nature manages to balance things out” — your labors are so much easier, the aftermath is harder. It’s tough not knowing that these contractions will end in one minute. But, they’ll never get worse, and that makes it all right.
I can’t wait to go home with my baby and bask in the relative ease of this recovery. I can’t believe my good fortune, I can’t wait to tell everyone that it’s always worth trying.
2007.07.09. five-ish . so. so. tired
I got here, got strapped in, and immediately started having frequent contractions, every four minutes or more often, and rather uncomfortable, so it was hard to talk during them. Naturally, baby was moving fine the whole time. DURING the contractions, you stinker.
After 30 or 45 minutes of this, Susan came in to check me. She’s a pretty rigorous checker, especially as compared to Dr. Kehoe (though it didn’t hurt much). As promised: lots of wet stuff going on. But her verdict was: still 3 cm.
Really? All I wanted to do at that point was go to sleep. Not for giving up purposes, but just because I was so, so tired. And, for that matter, hungry — I realized I hadn’t had anything to eat all day except half of Tati’s leftover scone (part of the festivities in Pioneer Square, and from Three Lions Bakery: yum). But instead of offering a nap, Susan asked if I wanted to get up and walk around, procuring slippers (also known as uncomfortable baby blue socks) and a bathrobe for the purpose.
I walked around my room for a minute, then sat down for some knitting. I was just too tired. Fortunately a couple of gigantic contractions came along to keep me from discouragement.
And as I knitted away on my pinwheel, all I could think was, this is going to take me so so long to finish!, and I’m so hungry.
I sure hope I get on the docket for a spare dinner. All that delicious, nutritious food that’s stocking my fridge and freezer at home, and I’m stuck in the hospital, longing for rather tasteless chicken and polenta.
2007.07.09. nearly 3 p.m. . feeling stupid
It took me so long to get through to someone who would tell me whether or not I should come in to the office, or the labor & delivery ward (they’re in the same complex), that by the time I did, the contractions seemed to have slowed. I sat on ‘hold’ with the doctor’s office for at least 20 minutes, perched on a low concrete wall in the shade of palms, in front of House of Louie — where Everett and I have waited to switch buses so many times. I stuck my cute shoes out in front of me, hoping I’d get something going, depressed that the contractions had slowed to 12, 16, 8 minutes. I hopped on the bus feeling stupid, and still, though I’m having some they’re not big nor long nor This Is It.
Not to mention, I can’t get online. I am sitting in a hospital hallway feeling exhausted and silly. Should I just hop a bus and go home? But the space between my legs feels enormous.
Dr. Williams is on call today, and she must be at the beach or something. She seems Hard To Reach (it’s a day for capitals). I just want to sit here, waiting until I have the Contraction That Counts. Or go home and sleep until Dr. Kehoe’s on duty (Wednesday, I think, I suppose I could get up for a bit between now and then).
Well, perhaps they’ll send me home again. And then I’ll sleep. My feet hurt from my cute-as-all-getout shoes, and I just feel stupid.
After eight minutes of just sitting here, finally I got a Contraction That Counts. Now, now, I can go to the second floor.
I hope I can get wifi there.
2007.07.09. noonish . close and yes…
I’m working at Souk with Olivia, and oddly I’ve suddenly lost connection from the internet. It’s a good thing, as it gives me a few minutes to just type this. Not so long after I sat down (and had a glass of water, for good measure), I started in on the every-four-minutes contractions. (well, four-to-six.) They’re the biggish ones (not painful yet but definitely THERE), and after losing my mucous plug and my crazy nesting spree, I think this is it.
Amazingly, I’m so close to the hospital that it will take only 15 or so minutes to get there via walking to the bus… faster than it would have been, had I been in the position to drive from home. Boy this will make for a good car-free story when the time comes!
Thankfully, I took some photos in windows on the way over here. I think I’ll be really well self-photographed, this pregnancy.
2007.07.09. close but no…
It is 9:44 a.m. and I am on the #17 bus on the way downtown for a “speech” (i.e. a two-minute rah-rah) I’m giving at the low car diet kickoff.
And, I just lost my mucous plug. At home, que fortunado!
The past 24 hours have been pretty, well, wet and wild. There has been more than the usual extras when I’m using the facilities, and wiping has been a more involved process than usual. But today, I knew I couldn’t be far away. Last night was full of contractions, so much so that I could hardly sleep. I know I was having them all night long, perhaps not every four-to-six minutes, but…
This morning, I alighted the toilet, and was surprised that I didn’t have a gush of something immediately. I was loose, so loose that yesterday for a minute at the bins with Larissa, her mom, and the boys, I thought I might just have a part of my anatomy — or a wash of fluid — falling right out of me.
If I could guess, I’d say I’m currently dilated to almost-four.
When in labor with Truman, I spent a night at the hospital at four, and was given pitocin around noon the next day to speed me up. Heck, this time, maybe I’ll do the four-to-five thing while out and about. The TV cameras should be at the ceremony in Pioneer Square. It would make for a great human interest piece on the 5 p.m. news if I were to suddenly start screaming in pain while waiting for the head of Trimet to finish his talk.
But I’ll want to remember this, so I’ll write about last night. Jonathan was in a mood — he’d started taking antibiotics given him by one of his many pharmaceutically-supplied co-workers (seems like there’s always someone doling over-the-counter medicines from a large purse), as we’d agreed that he had an infection, what with the sleeping and the fever. Our intention is to call a few dentists this morning, and indicate that it’s an emergency — his wisdom teeth are beyond urgent at this point. What timing.
Anyway, he doesn’t react well either to (a) pain or (b) antiobiotics. So he was alternating between sweet and helpful and really, really annyoing. The sweet and helpful parts were coming fewer and fewer between. He had no patience with my so-called “freaking out” (which I called “the natural response to my impending labor”). We were not getting along.
In an attempt to make peace, he kept taking Everett out on bike rides, you know, to “leave me alone and let me calm down.” But for me? There was no calm to be had. I was frantic, exhausted, focused, introspective, mostly insane.
I’d have to sit down a lot, because the contractions were getting more pronounced, more frequent (not four painful contractions an hour, but I knew when one started, when it stopped, I often had to wait a bit) and my feet hurt from hours in the kitchen.
I’d take breaks, with Truman cuddled up against me, with my laptop, or my knitting, and buzz while I contracted and drank mango black iced tea. My brain wouldn’t stop, flitting from planning to worrying to preparing for labor.
Truman was sleeping and sleeping in the early evening; he fell asleep in the stroller while grocery shopping around 5 (I bought frozen waffles, and cans of tomatoes, and ice cream, and pounds and pounds of pasta, and huge quantities of fresh veggies — now almost all cooked up and in the freezer — and my favorite potato chips, and everything I know the kids will need for the two-to-five days I’ll be unavailable). I was feeling anxious, and close, very close. Almost here. It’s crazy how I still don’t imagine the sight of the baby.
In the stillness, I try to find space to connect with the coming days of labor; I can feel the contractions matter more. But there is no stillness in my brain, and instead of focusing on contractions, meditations, the image (never distinct) of my baby, I focus on all the food I should make. White bean stew? Some sort of soup, with all those carrots and celery I bought, but what kind will we eat? Should I wait until the zucchinis ripen a bit more? I’ve got a half-dozen or more in the junior high stage. And baking, I should make pancake mix and scones and banana bread and…
In the end, I cook, chopping up so much garlic, imagining how wonderful these greens will be mixed into pasta and quiches and mozzarella tomato sandwiches, expectant of the time we will all eat pizza with roasted vegetables, planning for a luxurious meal with stuffed mushrooms and grilled meats with feta cheese. I cook, and I cook, and I cook.
2007.07.07. no longer lucky
Really, I wasn’t hoping to have the baby today for its auspiciousness, it was more just an idle thought. Still, as I watched a friend’s sister give birth on Twitter (in the most superficial of ways), I was a little jealous. Because of her very, very auspicious birthday (PLUS the year of the golden pig!)? Not as much as her very speedy birth — five hours from “water broke!” to sophia is here!.
I started composing this post around 11:43 p.m., after which it was quite obvious there would be no 07.07.07 baby for me. And now, it’s entirely certain, though I still have 07.08.07, 07.09.07, and 07.11.07 under consideration (for some reason, the 10th just sounds…. boring).
I’m not much for numerology, although symmetry tickles my fancy. I still hold out the hope that maybe the baby will be born on Everett’s birthday, giving our little family only three birthdays to remember! So much simpler (and then, I suppose, I’ll have to have another baby on my OWN birthday, so we’re all matchy-matchy).
Today, while not having a baby or going into obvious active labor, it was still quite clear that my body is moving and shaking. Or else I’ve become every husband’s perfect wife (and my own husband’s gobsmacker). I, the woman who does not clean, continued on my wild rampage, finishing what hadn’t been done in the kitchen, putting marinara and pinto beans in freezer bags (two cups each), planning a dozen other dishes for tomorrow’s cooking, gardening, cleaning the front porch, vacuuming every available surface in the living room and preparing several bags of things to go to Goodwill. When Jonathan gets home from work, he might just faint dead away. I’d better get a soft landing ready.
Of course, given how much this is wearing me out, I missed yoga (waking up ’round 9:30) and could barely drag myself home from ballet (where they learned new moves, Everett thinks! and acted like birds! he now wants to go to ballet forever, so I guess I’d better just add that to my budget… $1000 a year… sigh. There goes the tax credit, as if dental bills weren’t already munching it up hungrily.) My sister called as I sat at the bus stop only 3 stops away from Fred Meyer, alerting me to an amazing closeout on butter (99 cents a pound!), and much though I longed to stock my freezer, too, I just couldn’t do it.
All afternoon long I scurried around after the boys, the chickens, my own clutzy self, picking up and vacuuming and wiping after everything we all did (darned pullets got in the kitchen after the cat’s food TWICE, pooping on my so-clean floors). I maintained the clean and added to it in admirable fashion, I was the very picture of a motivated homemaker. Problem is: not only am I exhausted, it’s just not me. I really hope this doesn’t last, because it’s kind of scaring me. Nesting. It HAS to be nesting.
And. My sister Jenny, for whose fertility I was worried when I heard she’d been trying to get pregnant for nearly a year: evidently, that exhaustion she was feeling? Those heart palpitations? Ummm, she’s pregnant. I’ll have to send her a note reminding her how short of breath I was in my first trimester.
I’ve got to write my book. I’ve already composed the dedication: To Jenny, and Eden, and Hannah, who needed to know.Presciently, I came up with this last week. I just think it’s really cool that, even for a moment, four siblings were with child(ren) at once.
When will that moment, for me, end? All those out there who miss their own pregnancy should know: I’m now enjoying all these moments, just for you.
2007.07.06. much later . urges
If you had seen me tonight, you would have been worried.
I had decided while en route to home that it was the right thing to do to make pasta for dinner. Jonathan wasn’t feeling well at all, we had pasta, and I could use up that gigantic zucchini I’d been meaning to pick, and all that yummy basil (the sweet basil and purple basil were doing especially well).
There was just a little bit of cleaning up to do first. Jonathan had finally gotten to washing the dishes (the kitchen is entirely his job, except for cooking and the occasional pitch-in by me — and I can very literally count the times I’ve mopped the kitchen floor on my fingers, in the five-some years we’ve owned the house) and the dishwasher was standing at attention, clean and ready.
But I’d need a little space to cook, right? And I noticed he’d started sweeping and not finished. And that’s when it began.
I swept, and while I was sweeping, I found some recycling that needed to be put away, and while I was breaking it down I saw some things that needed to be re-organized. I swept three times, just to be sure I got it all. And instead of mopping, I chose scrubbing the floor with a handy rag — that way I’ll know it’s really clean, and I could wash the walls, too, which I noticed were really dirty.
The neighbors, the ones we like with the woman who’s five or six months pregnant, whose back deck is visible from my kitchen window and our back porch, were having a party. There were people milling about the deck, walking in and out of the dining room, just a few feet away from me. As I wandered indoors and out, picking all the ripe produce just for good measure, weeding, watering, cleaning out Gilda’s tub, filling chicken food and water, sweeping and cleaning garbage and toys off the deck, out of the yard, finding recycling everywhere, filling up the compost heap, and oh yes, this is compost too!, I must have been quite a spectacle.
As I took Truman upstairs for his bath I realized how very, very dirty were the walls in the stairwell, and washed them, too, for good measure. It seemed that I should cook more than just one meal’s worth of pasta, if I had that huge zucchini after all, and all these carrots that must be used immediately, and those onions.
I whizzed around wondering occasionally, are the partygoers seeing this? Don’t they know how significant this behavior is? and, alternatively, how can all those people just be sitting around talking when there is so, so much to do on a Friday night? and cooking a gigantic pot of very-vegetable-rich tomato sauce, and an even more gigantic pot of Mexican-flavored beans, my legs kept reminding me how tired I was (must. press. on) and I often had to stop and sit on the stool or just wait a bit to let the moment pass. Contractions? I wasn’t paying attention, and restarted my timer on the watch to 0:00. Oh, I should watch my handmade watch band…
It’s 1:47 a.m., now, and the cans of tomatoes are in the recycling; the pasta sauce (augmented with cream and fresh basil and absolutely amazing) is cooling in the refrigerator in preparation for freezing and the wonderful beans are reaching the perfect state of mushiness on the stove. Everett’s ballet clothes are all prepared near the door for the morning; I’ve decided I should go to prenatal yoga, as it may be the last and only time I have to go this pregnancy. But for the dirty dishes, which are neatly rinsed and stacked, the kitchen is spotless, organized, pretty damned perfect.
And I’m trying to convince myself to go to bed and not do a little more knitting… just 20 more minutes until I’ve finished my baby pants… just four or five more rows on the pinwheel…
2007.07.06. time to think
I woke up in the same funk I was in when I went to bed. The world was laughing at me, I thought, even more so when I went to Truman’s vaccination appointment.
You see, I’d gotten a postcard in the mail, which said that Truman was due for immunizations. I’d called, surprised, and gotten a very quick appointment — I thought to myself, well, it must be urgent!
So I walked into the little exam room, and I sat Truman down, and in walked the nurse. She opened the chart. “Well, it looks like Truman’s up to date until he’s four!” she said cheerfully. Four? Evidently, there was a mass mailing. And they weren’t — even very often — true. Usually, she checked the chart before the appointments came in, but…
All was not lost, I could start Hepatitis A. I know you’re supposed to not want extra shots for your baby, but I decided to go ahead with it… after all, I’d come all this way. And it would be the sort of thing you might need, were you to (say) visit your sister in Panama.
Strangely, the nurse’s husband turned out to be Panamanian, too, and she met him on a medical missions trip. Somehow, that made me want a shot.
So by the time I left for my appointment 45 minutes later, I was literally in tears. Jonathan was sick (it’s his damned wisdom teeth, I’m going to rip them out myself I think — really I’m going to make him an appointment Monday, when my mom’s favorite dentist is back from vacation), and not even close to giving me the support I needed. I might have to have another surgery! I was distraught. I was alone. It was all so unfair.
Everywhere I went, I had to wait, at the point-of-transfer between bus lines (though, knowing a wait was coming, I enjoyed a nice cup of Ethiopia Yirgacheffe and a manchego-and-mushroom biscuit, unusual and brilliant), in the waiting room, in the exam room. I must have been there quite some time as I blazed around the pinwheel blanket, one round, two rounds, very nearly three rounds, before she finally came in.
While I waited in the exam room, I thought. Lynn Siprelle (who’s in Larissa’s book and, also, has chickens) says that, while she’s knitting, she broods, but spinning clears her mind. I brooded, first wishing I would have a few contractions and get something going (I had one, sort of), then thinking through all my options. I had come to the conclusion through last night’s blog-trospection that the process of birth was very important to me, held great weight for me emotionally. I didn’t mind so much if I ended up with a c-section (although I didn’t want one); it was the contractions, the straps, the nurses, the changing, the trying, that meant so much to me. I wanted to feel the birth.
I started thinking about the potentialities, and suddenly wondered what the exact likelihood was that I would, indeed, need a c-section once more. Was it one in 10? One in 100? I considered, rolled the numbers over in my mind and realized that a one in 10 chance was plenty good enough. After all, I could be that one. If the chance was at least that good, I decided, how could I not try?
So when Dr. Kehoe came in, I told her about my only changes (shooting pains in my inner thighs, sometimes, when I walked) and asked. “Well,” she said, reviewing my history yet again, two times pushing for two hours, two babies 7 pounds 7 ounces, one of those at 37 (and a little) weeks… “it’s definitely less than 50%.” She started telling stories, about how it used to be that you had no choice, that the doctor told you whether or not you had to make a “trial of labor,” and that most women, did. “Well, it’s less than 30%. But it’s not zero.”
Less that 30% sounded fine to me. She went on, reviewing the risks … there was the possibility of the uterine rupture (she’d only experienced one in all the times she’d attended births, and it was a doozy — she discovered during the c-section that the scar had opened cleanly, with almost no bleeding, and the baby was found clutching a piece of mom’s bladder. Everyone was fine), and if you labor to complete and have a c-section, then you’ve got all the risks of labor, plus the risks of surgery.
I told her about Amey, who’d said something along the lines of, “it felt very surreal to just hop up on the delivery table.” To me, that wasn’t at all what I wanted. I had tears in my eyes. I wanted the experience of birth, I said, it was important to me. “Is that a good enough reason?” She said no without really saying no.
“To me, the only thing that matters is the outcome,” she said, which is of course the only thing that should matter to me. “But I’m willing to let you make the decision; you’re informed, you have a good background, you’re motivated enough, and I’ll support you in whatever decision you make.”
There was more (if the baby is bigger than the other two, we don’t even try, for instance), and she checked me. I was three centimeters! Which seemed like amazing progress, to me, having been two or two-to-three for four weeks now. Like, worth putting off the decision at least one more week.
And she left me with a parting piece of advice, which was, “if it’s not me who’s there, they’ll try to talk you into a c-section,” and all I could think was, go ahead and try, nameless on-call doctor, just go ahead and try.
As I took the bus home and thought about what Dr. Kehoe had said, I felt more peaceful about waiting, about uncertainty, about that less-than-30% chance. But I also had to wonder: shouldn’t I, too, just be concerned about the outcome? Was I placing too much importance on how I feel about everything?
Maybe I am. But for the next day or two, I think, I’m just going to accept my crazy hormonal self, and if anything happens, I try.
Incidentally, if I have the baby tomorrow, and he’s the same weight as Truman and Everett, that would be 7 pounds, 7 ounces, on 7.7.7. Which would be very, very symmetrical (though Shetha prefers 7 pounds, 0 ounces, 07.07.07, just for the record).
2007.07.05. giving up
I can’t try to go into labor any more.
After three or four days of heavy doses of not-recommended herbs, I’ve thrown up my hands in disgust. No longer will I struggle to send myself into labor; no longer will I plan every night what might happen if I go into labor sometime around dawn.
I am giving up.
I barely even remember that the goal here is a baby, though I have his or her little knitted pants almost finished and stacks and stacks of newborn diapers at the ready. I have a just-started crib quilt, an all-finished crib mattress. I hurtle topsy-turvy toward new motherhood without proper introspection, in a world entirely lacking peace or even a tiny empty space in my brain.
I keep hoping for a stretch of time for preparation, for sewing and cleaning and maybe an hour of prenatal yoga, and instead am stuck with floors in need of vacuuming and children in need of healthier diets, with overscheduled weekends and frighteningly late nights working.
All day yesterday I tried to work on the project-that-must-be-completed-before-July-5th, instead uploading photos slowly and adding projects to Ravelry and being a bad mother to the children. At some point I slowly, slowly walked to Trader Joe’s, pushing the double jogger with very deflated tires and thinking I might explode into large, ugly shards of pregnant grumpiness at any moment. Later we went to a party at the house of a customer of Jonathan’s (I do want to write all about it, it was a strange but fun night full of contradictions from the woman who I pegged as a nut when she launched into a detailed description of her speech at a Kucinich rally, only to decide I loved her when she told a birth story from 1959, when the nurses kept reprimanding her for wiggling out of her straps on one of those awful birthing cots; to the host and hostess themselves, who kept bees in a wild very Portland-y backyard and yet… had not one but two projection screens in excess of 90 inches) and when we came home, I sat in front of my laptop for hours and hours and hours, until the sun started to rise and people from the east coast started IM-ing.
I finished my project, inexpertly but completely, I awoke before 9:30, I muddled through my day, I did not go into labor, I never even really thought I might, imminently. I worked, I put spinach into quesadillas and got the boys to eat it, I cleaned chicken poop, I knit, I finally, finally, painted my toenails.
And now I sit, toenails drying, not having painful contractions, wishing achingly that I did not have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow at which, almost certainly, I will make a date for a surgery.
The baby kicks and turns, I wish I could have months more to prepare, I wish it were already born, I wish my fate were different. I feel trapped in a mental limbo, uncertain what I should even hope for anymore, yet ready, ready, ready. I miss already being pregnant, being hopeful, having a chance to labor and breathe and push, I feel a contraction — not a huge one — and wish for true, great, pain, so overwhelming that for once I know what is happening to me.
Instead, I put down my laptop, I go to sleep, as baby stretches and turns in his round, warm space, far, far away from me.
2007.07.02. of blue cohosh and pregnant bipolar disorder
I am slipping and sliding through the telling of my story, not because there is nothing to tell, but because every keystroke is another realization that I don’t get what I want! I feel like a petulant little girl, I am a petulant little girl, always wanting what she doesn’t have, only, not quite wanting it.
I want to go into labor, really I do. But am I ready for a baby? Ummm, no. I still have the pay stuff to do (and I put it off so long that I’m now the only one who can do it, without holding up the entire company), and when I ran around today buying just the necessities (15 roles of my most-desired portrait film, a couple of new lightweight stretchy cottony things from American Apparel — most deliciously, the “sheer sleeveless v-neck” in eggplant, and yes, I DO look like a very attractive eggplant in the shirt), I realized afterward that I’d vastly overspent my budget.
Realizing that Jonathan was working the next night was a relief instead of a moment of panic. These past few weeks, I’ve wanted him to stay close, sure at any moment I could need to rush to the hospital and angry if he was gone for more than a few minutes at night, sure that in that hour I’d go from the occasional painful contraction to dozens.
All my signs are not signs, all my indications are that I’ll be pregnant until I hop up onto a surgical table. No bloody show. No fluid leaking. No mucous plug. No nothing.
Even the poopiness I had all day yesterday has melted away, perhaps an indication of poor dietary choices instead of impending labor.
Oddly, today I feel full of energy, though not very efficient. In the early afternoon I go on errands, and instead of waiting for the bus I walk seven blocks, even in my sparkly thongs that aren’t exactly made for walking. After my unwise splurge on lightweight cotton clothing (reminding myself that I can nurse in both garments), I walk another six blocks back to the #75, cheerfully answering someone who asks, “do you have a minute for the environment?” with a “no, I’m walking and bussing for the environment though!”
At home, I alternate between manic energy and exhaustion, feelings of well-being and very. not. well. being. At some point I start getting shooting pains in my leg, more crampy than heart-stroke-y, that I know are simply related to my prodigious maternal weight and not anything more exciting.
Before dinner, I errand again, to Limbo for bag after bag of herbs and teas. Blue Cohosh. Pennyroyal. Passionflower for a sedative (I’ll go into labor right after sedating all the men in the house). “Root 66” tea for the boys (it’s good for urinary health!), “Triple Berry” to mix with my witch’s brew. I also buy plants, peppers, cilantro (I keep accidentally killing my cilantro starts to replace my gigantic flowering plant), purple zucchini. I buy corn and raspberries and grapes and a nectarine. I am shocked when the bill comes to only $18.
At home, I plant madly but carefully, making my mix just right, watering the roots, gently piling the dirt so that I don’t crush any tender leaves. I weed and pick vegetables for dinner, zucchini, peas, basil, chocolate mint for tea.
And then it’s brewing time. I heap in teaspoons of blue cohosh and pennyroyal, I mix up iced tea for the boys and for me, a little sugar just for good measure. And I start drinking, timidly, steadily.
While I do have a few contractions, I mostly have discomfort, and after a few hours of sort-of-good TV and late night snacks I fall asleep, certain there will be no labor tonight but in a funk of mild, all-over discomfort and anger at the slow, slow course of this baby-bearing.
In the middle of the night I awake to find Jonathan sleepless and roaming, telling tales of raccoons trying to get the chickens, but he scared them away. An hour later he wakes me again. Genevieve has been slaughtered, the daddy raccoon must have returned and found a way to tear apart the cage she shared with Gilda (bigger but far less fiesty). He buries her, what he can find of her, with a makeshift cross near the sandbox.
I go back to sleep and dream awful dreams of old jobs and inexpert subterfuge. I am disappointing everyone. I worry about the baby — have I felt it move lately? — and soon it’s melting away my worry with a couple of sharp jabs to the rib.
I am sad, disappointed, hot, and my c-section scar is aching with the pain of anticipation, that it will be, despite all my best hopes, joined by a third cut before long.
2007.06.30. things i’m going to do
I woke up this morning with the uncomfortable realization that I was only a few days away from my calendar’s 37 weeks. This weekend, my mom had asked all her daughters out for a women’s “retreat” at her home about 20 miles from the coast. It’s a wild place, full of hummingbirds, purple foxglove, and the occasional meth palace (a.k.a. falling-apart trailer with a couple of car shells outside). My mother has, naturally, made it her own and the hillside behind the house is now terraced with strawberries, lavendar, peas, corn, and every showy and colorful flower she can find.
Hannah, who has just entered her third trimester, couldn’t stop talking about how eager she was to meet her baby, while I had to shake my head at her newbie-ness and wish that I’d go into labor immediately, have the baby without surgical intervention, and then somehow magically fall asleep for a few weeks. I am eager to meet my baby, but really, I’m so not ready for those newborn days. I guess I know how hard they can really be… and now I’m so free! So untrammeled!
Instead of regaling her with horror stories of rock-hard, milk-leaking breasts and through-and-through exhaustion, though, I kept checking my list. “Have you found a pediatrician yet?” I asked. “You should really sign up for Birthing from Within classes immediately. And if you’ll want the baby in daycare, you need to get on waiting lists now.” I had so much to tell her! Most of all, I realized she was clueless when it came to the entire process of birth (note to self: make chapter in book all about mental preparation for birth, and another about what it feels, and looks like). “You’ll have to come to my birth… unless it’s a c-section.”
The real truth, the ugly truth, is that my chances of having this baby without a c-section are now tiny. If I don’t go into labor in the next 48 hours, I’m pretty much without hope, and I’ve decided that I will schedule a c-section sometime between the 11th and 16th if I’m still out and about, walking around in the world, by Friday at 1:20 p.m., my next appointment. I want so badly just to have a chance, a good ol’ college try at having this baby without having to lie on an operating table, numb from the neck down, eager to see the baby but dreading hours of shaking on the recovery table; days of burning pain in my abdomen; weeks of bone-chilling weakness.
I just want to try! I beg God late at night, when I can’t sleep in the little twin bed in Mom’s guest room. Can’t you please give me a chance? SOON?
I decide that it’s time I took matters into my own hands. I look forward to making a list of the herbs (“emmenagogues”) that stimulate uterine contractions: pennyroyal, angelica, savin, rue, tansy, asafetida, blue cohosh, Vitamin C, celery seed, birthwort. Blue cohosh, cotton seed, and angelica are known to have “oxytocic properties.” I plan to go to Limbo around noontime Monday, buy them all and make a strong, strong, bitter tea. But before then I’ll accomplish the list of other things known to stimulate contractions, most notably, sex. Also, running up and down stairs.
I just need another two boxes of portrait film first (in case this is someone who’s visiting me at the hospital while I’m in labor, Kodak Portra VC 400 please, and maybe some Portra NC 160, too). Yes, I really have gone through 12 roles in four weeks. Monday morning it is.
2007.06.29. signs and signals
I woke up this morning entirely not in labor, and distracted entirely. Jonathan was grumpy (later I’d realize it was a full moon), I was a little peevish that, despite my hopes, I wouldn’t be standing in line to purchase an iPhone today. I spent the morning negotiating disputes between everyone, helping Everett clean his room, trying not to be entirely angry at the world.
I arrived at the doctor’s office a little late, having purposely chosen the bus route that would avoid many encounters with the curious (“have you dropped?” “It’s a boy, right?”). I’ve started answering the inevitable question (“when is the baby coming?”) with either “I don’t know!” or “SOON.”
Luckily, no one ever cares if I’m late, it is a doctor’s office after all. The woman who was put on the monitor last week — who I’d waited for — was also waiting near me, with her son Jaden, who likes to spread all the stickers out on the floor before selecting his prize each week (and one for a friend, or a sibling, or maybe the unborn child, who knows). We got the usual head-turning smiles for our big, round bellies (well, mine seems way rounder than hers, maybe I’m a bit further along).
I bloodpressured (126 over 72, or something, normal as usual), weighed (one. more. pound.), peed, hopped up on the table. Today I was knitting baby pants, and almost done, too, just sewing up the wee baby crotch.
Dr. Kehoe checked me again.
But suddenly I started seeing signs and signals everywhere. As she asked me, “so, what are we going to do?” I realized she was writing on the very last line in her prenatal appointment sheet. “I’m just going to have to have the baby,” I said. Then I went to make an appointment for next Friday, and what do you know? There were no openings. A sign.
Although an opening was made for me, I promised to give birth beforehand. It’s all that a girl can do.
2007.06.27. disappointment, realization, hope, fear, tears
Though Krista’s birth went well (hurray!), Destiny’s was less than easy. Thankfully, her labor was far less painful than that with her first baby (51 hours of excruciating back labor that went nowhere for a very long time), but still ended in the same place: no progression after 7 cm of dilation, no matter how much pitocin was pumped in her veins.
So despite having temporarily moved to Portland for the birth to find the most VBAC-friendly doctor possible; despite having a thoroughly healthy body, an active pregnancy, all the knowledge from her doula training (not to mention an actual doula attending her), and, what’s more, my birth meditation wafting over the air through Portland’s hills and trees to her… still, the labor ended in a c-section.
As my dad drove us home from the hospital last night after seeing the (very sweet, very much looking like my brother — and, thus, me) healthy babies, he marvelled over how all his grandchildren (five so far!) have been born via c-section, despite the two mothers’ obvious good health and fervent desires to avoid said operations.
I think both Destiny and I are in the mental place now that we don’t actively mourn our lost births. But still, it is a disappointment, and I wonder if I will again be disappointed with grandchild #6. Surely I don’t have much time left.
I woke up this morning determined to give birth immediately, if not sooner. By my very rough calculation, I only have a few days’ shot at giving birth to a baby small enough to avoid a c-section. So all day I worked furiously to finish the spreadsheets that mustbe done before I take my two-month’s-vacation; I weeded the blackberry shoots that popped up into my beds, I hoped.
Late in the evening I went on a walk to collect St. John’s wort for an infused oil in my neighborhood. For some reason, though it grew wild in my backyard a few summers ago when I first typed in that recipe, it hasn’t since; I’ve resorted to harvesting the plump buds from parking strips and obviously neglected edges-of-yards. As I returned, my bag loaded with enough for a cup of oil (and having scoped out future harvesting spots), I noticed a weed in my yard that looked to me like chamomile, and thought about harvesting that, too, for late-summer tea.
As I flipped through my excellent book on herbs and their medicinal uses, I saw the plant. Not chamomile, but feverfew, noted for its help in relieving migraines and other aches. But the warnings had me snapping to attention: “pregnant women should avoid it, as it can act as a uterine stimulant.”
Well then. If I’m still achy-pregnant-y at this time tomorrow, maybe I’ll head out and start nibbling some of my feverfew’s bitter leaves… that or, ahem, a little time alone with my husband. Friday could be a good day for birth.
Despite my eagerness to take my chances with a five-pounder, I’m afraid. As I put the boys to bed tonight (a long and arduous process) all I could think of was how much harder it will be with a tiny baby. Just watching the new mothers I know with their tired eyes and their always-awkard-at-first attempts at nursing the tiny ones, well, it reminds you that it’s just not easy.
As I told my boss, who’s easing back into work with a 10-week-old, there’s a reason why you can’t change your mind at this stage. She said she coped by not thinking about it, keeping herself busy, busy, busy.
No wonder she got so much done in that day before she went in for her (very New York-y) scheduled c-section. At the time, I was humbled and amazed. Now, I’m just scared.
Still, I go to the bookshelf and reach for one I bought when Truman was kicking me from the inside, a thorough and lovely children’s book about a baby born near a fire in New Zealand, told through the eyes of his older brother. Everett was only interested in the picture of the just-born baby the last time I read it to him.
This time, as I wipe away plentiful tears, as I watch the baby’s older sisters help hold mama’s legs, as he asks questions like, “mama, why is she pooping the baby?” and “mom, is having the baby at home called a home birth?”, I long for what can’t be, and have to again come to terms with my 21st-century body, the one which would have died twice already in childbirth were it not for the advances of medicine.
At once, I’m thankful and mournful, for what is, for what can’t be, for what never seems quite fair. And I cry and look at my beautiful children, I kiss them goodnight, I push back on a tiny foot lodged in my ribs, and I wait for the welcome unknown.
2007.06.26. a meditation for birth for destiny and krista
Yesterday evening, I walked around my garden picking herbs to bring to Destiny. Some of them were from my garden — flowering chervil, cilantro, stunningly aromatic (and beautiful) tangerine sage, rosemary, lavendar — some were growing wild, lemon balm, dark purple clover. I set them all in a little silver pitcher and breathed in their complex, tangy aroma, and thought of birth.
Today two women close to me, with whom I’ve shared this pregnancy, are in labor … my sister-in-law, Destiny, who I visited last night and brought the aromatics; and Krista, who lives in British Columbia and is thus too far away for the herbs to safely travel. So for both of them, laboring under different roofs but under the same warm, sunny sky, I write this special birth meditation (here is my original birth meditation, written a little more than two years ago, when it rained). Throughout today I will read it and remember, and honor, them and all the other women in labor today.
Today you give birth. Today, the sun shines warmly on the earth for you; today the breeze shifts through the windows for you. Today the robins stand guard over their nests, the squirrels run swiftly, the bees ride home heavy with pollen, for you.
As I take a breath, deep into my belly, swelled with life, taut, heavy and real, baby, another being, I am filled with the air of the earth, busy, purposeful, growing. Its heat, its cool, its smell … bright, tangy, sour, sweet, peppery … it gives me calm. Everything is in me, everything is me, I take power and restfulness from the trees whose leaves rustle for me, the clouds whose white whisps wander over the light, deep, dark blue sky for me, from the scent of the lavendar, devotion, I whisper it to myself like a prayer, a song, a truth that is deep to my spine. Devotion, lavendar, full of ancient peace.
As I exhale, I expel my worries, my questions, my belief in the what if?. The uncertainties blow through the sparkly tiny white flowers of chervil (for serenity) and cilantro, they shatter into spicy nothingness, letting go of them brings me to my center, it is empty now, clear of breath, clear of care.
In its place I breath in the sweet complexity of citrus and sage, I see the brightness of crimson, color of blood that pulses through my veins, making them stronger than before, feeding life into the babies who I have given life, sage for wisdom. I am wise, filled with the knowledge of my body, the quiet constant presence of dozens, hundreds, thousands, millions, billions of women who have gone before me, on this very earth from which I breathe in strength, who have breathed and labored and wailed and keened and loved and suffered in childbirth and in life. Their wisdom fills me as the brilliant scent of tangerine sage rushes in through my nose, over my palate, deep into my lungs. Now my whole being is full, full of the wisdom of mothers, full of sweetness, full of comfort.
And as I breath out, again, it roots my body into the earth. I am centered, I am the center, I know where the deepness is. From the rosemary I have remembrance, I have everything in me, a million fears conquered, a million hopes thrilled. I have remembrance of the first time I desire to be a mother, of when I was a child, how I knew that one day, I would be this woman, this mother, that I would be ready in this moment. And I am. I know everything, I know all, my body is as strong as the mountain’s foundation, as powerful as the mighty October waves.
As I breath in, the waves surround me with their salty coldness, wash over me in the power of each contraction. I can feel the wetness in my hair, it comes from the earth, it gives me power. The contraction gives my body strength, it rises deep from my back, my cervix, swelling through my uterus, surrounding its roundness with a more fundamental shape, building in power that almost blinds me with its might. I say silently to myself the word intensity, and think, force, muscle.
Everything in me is muscle, creating a drive that will quietly, intensely, calmly and authoritatively push this life out into the world. I feel the slipperiness, the sticky odors, the heat of my breath and the cool of the air, all of this, blood, sweat, fluid, all working together toward life, toward our goal. Motherhood, I say to myself, and it is the most commanding and malleable word I know, it powers me with its scent of sage, rosemary, lavendar, lemon balm, blood, sweat, sun, wind, tears and love.
Today you give birth. Today, you are strong; today, I send you serenity, wisdom, devotion, joy. Today you are a mother.
2007.06.25. other people giving birth!
My sister-in-law, Destiny, is in labor as of mid-afternoon today! She may have two new babies by tomorrow morning. Instead of making what I’d decided to make for my own baby — little knitted pants to go over the onesie — I’ll be knitting a few for desinty’s babies.
Will Krista be next? She’s at 40 weeks and one day, today.
2007.06.24. chicken little
Larissa (affectionately … right?) keeps calling me “Chicken Little.” And these days, I very much feel like the greatest of exaggerators. One minute I’m sure that labor is coming, that I’ll be spending the rest of my days-as-mother-of-two in the hospital… the next minute, nothing could be further from my mind.
Take today, in which I have surely had a few big contractions, but nothing even really worth marking. I’ve zero-ed out my watch more times this weekend than I’ve thought, maybe the time is now.
Still, the body, it is obviously getting close to being ready, what with my wild tears to get things done at all costs — last night, at 8 p.m., I suddenly became filled with the urgent desire to dig up the weeds that have grown in my front flower beds since I tried to plant lavendar, echinacea, calendula, and fennel, none of which appears to have germinated at all — now a new euphorbia plant, sage, lavendar, and a spare watermelon seedling (just for good measure) grow there. And I still made it to Limbo before 9, for cilantro, another Genovese basil plant (love how spicy its leaves are), more lavendar, more lettuce to replace that-which-the-chickens-decimated — and my disgustingly fluctuating digestive system.
In decidedly good news, (a) I don’t have heartburn any more, at all, and it seems my dairy intolerance is vanished altogether and (b) I can drink all the wine I like without problem.
In fact, maybe it’s the wine, tonight, that’s keeping my uterus calm. Julie keeps reminding me that “any midwife will tell you a shot of whiskey calms contractions!” and it appears the same goes for two glasses (yes! two! I will go to hell) of rioja rose (new from Trader Joe’s and highly recommended for those fans of not-sweet inexpensive-but-not-cheap pink wine).
Nonethless, I have done many and amazing things this weekend, discovered and fallen in love with foundation block paper piecing (thanks to the proud new mama of a little girl named Lydia, whose mailorder was just right for me this time around), almost made a quilt, almost cleaned my craft room / office, started a to-do list, planted and weeded and watered and finished a sweater for me. If it’s cold in the delivery room, I’ll be cozy.
Hmmm. What will the baby wear home from the hospital? I never really thought too much about that…
2007.06.22. so, so sad
I hope it’s just the hormones.
Yesterday I awoke and, as usual, picked up the Oregonian to read my oh-so-anticipated Thursday ‘In Portland’ section. The lead article was on the raid at Fresh Del Monte — 160-some illegal immigrants were picked up and placed into custody in a maddeningly senseless crackdown on the poorest, hardest working in our society — told from the perspective of the teachers and students at the schools that most of the workers’ children attend.
In moments, I was crying angrily, huge tears falling down my cheeks, not just the little emotional moments of pregnancy but serious, real sadness. It shocked me, but I couldn’t stop, the tears just kept coming.
Later that night, and today, I felt it again, this out-of-control sadness that sweeps over me. I’ve nearly broken into tears several times.
Today it happened at Dr. Kehoe’s office, where I weighed in after a long (but productive) time in the waiting room at 171 (ouch), and measured at 2-3 centimeters, again.
Dr. Kehoe was relieved, but worried about my report of frequent (“less regular but more intense,” I said) contractions. She wanted to put me on the monitor, but another pregnant mama was just strapping in, so I had time to run for a drink and a sugary slice of Beaverton Bakery cake.
I couldn’t stop feeling so, so sad, I didn’t even have a subject this time, I was just blue.
I got on the monitor after a long wait, many rows of my sweater completed, and the sadness just went on. Despite my feeling of intensity and the vast, complicated kicks of baby, I went for 20 minutes or more without much movement on my half of the chart. Finally, just as Dr. Kehoe came in to let me off, a big contraction said, “it’s not all in your head sweetheart.”
I left, took the bus home, and knitted and knitted and knitted, choosing a route I knew would have fewer riders (hence fewer “so, how long do you have?”s — I say, “I don’t know!” but want to say, “what do you think I am, a fortune teller, you bonehead?”). “Are you having a boy?” says a friendly woman on the 75. She seems rather sure. Evidently: I’ve dropped.
Everyone seems to notice my much-lower belly, they say I’ve changed, I look different. I can’t zip or button or slide on my belly panels, anymore. Whatever is to come, I have a much narrower wardrobe for the remainder of my pregnant days.
As the bus pulled away from Emanuel, I realized we were turning down Monroe Street. Maybe I am having a boy.
2007.06.20. about contractions
I remember Dr. Kehoe telling me sometime before Truman’s birth that contractions are always at least two minutes apart, and never last longer than a minute, that you get that one minute’s rest, guaranteed. And in all the books and in all the videos and birthing classes, you’re told that contractions last one minute. One minute long. At least a minute’s rest, even in the hardest, worst, most painful parts of labor.
It’s so universal and regular that sometimes I wonder, is this where the minute was first devised? After all, the month is about the length of a woman’s cycle; an hour, the average time someone must push before a baby’s born. Maybe a minute was born in the same way a baby was, the regular contractions of a laboring woman.
Contractions, as it turns out, sometimes last longer than a minute, and sometimes don’t give you that promised one-minute break between. My memory lives in proof of that, and I felt cheated enough that I watched the monitor carefully to ascertain that it wasn’t just my feeling of pain and quickness, but actual factual truth. Yes. There were contractions that lasted 90, 95 seconds, followed by a second one 15 or 20 or 30 seconds away.
But still, as I continue to contract (as usual these past few days, late at night, when I get truly sleepy and start giving up on finishing all the work that I’ve promised myself I’d do, they come), I continue to be amazed at the regularity of a true contraction. I hit the ‘split’ button on my watch every time I feel a big one starting, and as I feel it taking over my body, my uterus rising hard and pressureful into my ribs, pressing down on my thighs, my pelvis, radiating into my lower back and sides, I look down at the timer and 18, 19 seconds have passed, I know that there will be 22 more before I can start to talk again, and then another 17, 18, 20 until the pressure has passed altogether and I can put my hand on my belly, push down, feel softness and peace.
I look at my watch and worry, they’ve been too close, they’ve lasted a bit too long, 1:07, 1:11, the children are asleep and so is Jonathan, my c-section scar is burning as it has been this past week or more (a slow, steady heat, not a fiery unbearable pain but nonetheless occasionally worrying, I know too well the stats: I have a 10% chance of rupturing my c-section scar. Usually that seems small, remote even, but tonight, it seems huge, one in ten.
And there is another one, 12 seconds is pressure, 32 is pain, by 44 I know the end is near, at 54 I can breathe deeply. At 2:06 I look back, feeling the relaxation in my spine, letting my shoulders droop.
I should take a bath, a shower, should lie down, should breathe yoga breaths and let it fall away, but I am tired of bathing, I have too much I want to do, I’m not ready. So I endure the contractions and think, tomorrow, maybe, tomorrow if it’s like this I’ll go, or Friday and hope that I can hold out another five, six, eight days.
I have, after all, come this far.
I click my watch, another one, 5:32 between. Wait, baby, mama’s not ready for you yet.
I’m glad I didn’t have the camera nearby when I looked in the mirror this morning.
As I wrote on twitter, I looked (and felt) like I had a rollicking hangover. My eyes were glassy, my face bright red, my hair a rat’s nest. My head felt like I imagine the head of a person who drank two bottles of champagne and struggles with an addiction to cold medicine, might feel. It wasn’t just the hangover of the drunk, it was the hangover of the drunk and drugged. Ohhh, whoooaaahh, as Truman says.
I was able to shake it off, a bit, and get my vim back. The mid-day was pleasant, Truman and Everett had their first soccer class of the summer and jumped into it ecstatically. I took the bus to meet them, dropping off my latest rolls of film and wandering into the fabric store across the street. Oh, that’s going to really put a dent in my bank account over time. I walked out with the most gorgeous selection of fabric, including a yard of amazingly beautiful oilcloth (the woman called it “kale fabric,” making me immediately think of this Kale) in purples and greens, so gender-neutral, and a purple gingko leaf fabric that makes me swoon, plus a brown understated floral. If I ever get a nesting urge that involves the sewing machine, boy will this baby be the most stylish ever. Good for a Monroe or a Ruth.
I walked the half-mile or so to soccer feeling pretty good, enjoying the mild heat and the beautiful gardens in the neighborhood, the one in which I grew up. When I arrived, so many of my mama friends were there, and they said I looked great. Haha. But a lovely sentiment. Everett was playing his heart out, he was happy, I was knitting.
Jonathan took Truman home in the bike trailer in tired meltdown, and Everett and I walked back to the photo lab to pick up my goodies, alternately having a lovely and an explosive trip. Once home, it was almost time for our parenting coach to appear, and we quickly did our family dinner.
As she gave us her verdict (we’re doing great!) and told us we looked relaxed, I knitted and drank tea and started in on the contractions. They were coming pretty often, certainly more than four an hour, but they weren’t huge or painful. After she left, we all ran in the backyard, composting my ‘potager’ bed, watering plants, catching chickens, admiring the beauty of the ‘infrared’ sunflower that’s already blooming higher than my head. It was peaceful and happy.
I almost fell asleep with the boys when I put them to bed, but they weren’t ‘taking’ sleep and suddenly I was frantic with stress. I let Jonathan deal with them (when Green Eggs and Ham didn’t work, he used a DVD, which worked perfectly) and soon began hard, forceful contractions, through which I couldn’t talk. When I had two in two minutes (timing them, as they do in the hospital, from start-to-start), I got the phone book (somehow, I can never find the number to labor & delivery. ever.) and decided to start a shower to calm me down.
It must have worked, because around 2:30, I slept, and it was a sleep full of strange dreams and the feeling (not the reality) of feverishness. I awoke with a pounding head and, soon, more contractions, fast, powerful, frightening.
I have so much to do.
2007.06.17. happy, happy father’s day
Our Father’s Day was much better than our Mother’s Day.
This year, I did not make Jonathan a t-shirt featuring a photo of him and the boys. (Ahh, 2004, where have you gone?) I did notorganize the children for a daddy-centric craftstravaganza. We did not give him breakfast in bed.
However, I took us all out for bagels and coffee (me) and hard cider (Jonathan) for breakfast, and included a can of crab meat in my grocery shopping trip later that day. We grilled out (carne asada, onions, red peppers), I made a garden-fresh salad (plus cherry tomatoes — mine need a couple more weeks — and crab meat) with a spicy-mayonnaisey dressing. Larissa came over with Sebastian for a while in the afternoon, and we shopped for crib pads and oilcloth (for Sebastian, and the baby), knitted, and watched the boys in their ever-more-exuberant wrestling-playing-crying-happy cycle.
I realized, much into the day, that although I’d spent most of the weekend in a mad whirlwind of toy cleaning, blog organizing, and general focus on the order of my household (I swept the living room!), the contractions had come almost not at all. Oddly, as I’d almost run out of my labor-stopping drugs on Friday afternoon (and realized it about 5:30, late enough that it was a long shot to catch Dr. Kehoe without the pager), I’d decided to just not take them and call in for a refill if there was an emergency, I’d not taken them at all the whole weekend. And… not needed them.
A relief? An annoyance? A piss-me-off-because-I’ve-had-so-much-minor-pain- and-it’s-sure-to-continue-for-weeks? Yeah, something like that. While I’m looking forward to having more days of working, sewing, knitting, readying the garden, perhaps finally strong-arming Jonathan into finishing the chicken coop before winter sets in (we have so many ideas, so many raw materials for its foundation, so little actual progress, grr), I hate to give in to the reality that maybe this whole thing was a false alarm. The idea of me going into mid-July without a baby, though it would make my career easier and my household more peaceful, is somehow making me feel like Chicken Little.
For now, as I put a box of ugly, broken, dirty toys on the front porch; as I admire my living room that’s actually become orderly; as I prepare mentally for the things that must be done this week and stay up late sending emails I put off; no contractions works.
2007.06.15. of certainty and its opposite, birth
I had an idea that I’d progressed at least a centimeter in the week since my last appointment (I’m not Catholic, but every time I head to the doctor I get this mental image of me slipping into a little confession box, and having Dr. Kehoe open the screen, and having me say, “It has been 75 minutes since my last contraction. And since last Sunday, I have done 128 contractions, and gained one pound”). There had been a few times in which I’d been sitting on the floor, or in my chair in my office, and had a contraction so big that it took my breath away, that I could feel it radiate from cervix to back to my ribs, powerful and true. Surely, a half-dozen of those, mixed with the littler stuff, would change a girl’s cervical dilation.
But no. Well, not one centimeter changed, anyway. In Dr. Kehoe’s office, there were many bellies this day. There was red-head-in-an-Army-shirt, with her young cute obviously Army reservist husband, so huge that I wondered if she was having twins. She was not at all glowing, more like bursting. I thought about something I’d read in one of my pregnancy books (I’ve been reading the “competition” readying to write my book proposal), that a boy steals a mother’s beauty while she’s pregnant. For this woman, it was true, though I had an idea she’d get it back quickly.
She was chatting with the wonderful receptionist, and said she was due to be induced tomorrow, the day before father’s day. Her husband wasn’t getting a gift, she laughed, and shuffled uncomfortably to her chair.
Another woman walked in, with a belly not quite as big as mine (but close), slender and tall and well-dressed. Despite the two of us (evidently) not-so-cute fatties sitting in the waiting room, a woman rushed out from behind the desk, maybe someone who worked in the billing office, one I didn’t really know.
“I just had to come out and tell you that you have a really cute belly!” she squealed, effusing. “And I see a lot of bellies!” I wanted to jump up and ask, hey, isn’t my belly cute? How about this poor uncomfortable woman across from me? “I mean, NOT ALL BELLIES ARE CUTE. You know.”
I don’t swear in the blog much, but, fuck. Why don’t you just come pour saltwater on our swollen feet or something, lady, instead of insulting us by omission?!?
After this I was happy to be called in for my exam. I did the thing, weight (170, gained a pound), pee in the cup, blood pressure (122 over 62, nice and normal despite the Nefedipine), get undressed, sit my large, not-cute behind on the exam table with my knitting (a robot for Nehalem, very cute). Dr. Kehoe came in to do the exam: “unchanged, two-to-three centimeters,” she said, satisfied.
Oddly, I felt no pain this time being examined. Things are loosening up, I suppose.
“Well, I didn’t do a thorough exam,” she said, “as I don’t want to stir the pot.” I supposed more than two is a little progress from two, meaning my contractions were doing something (not that I truly want to have the baby so soon, mind you, but I want to feel legitimized, that my discomfort and discomfiture aren’t all imagined). “I want you to have a vaginal delivery,” said Dr. K, “but I also want you to be able to take the baby home. We’re just limping along. Let’s try and get you to 35 weeks, and then, I don’t care what happens.”
“You’re taking it easy around the house, right?” she asked. “Well, I’m not going out for runs,” I said. “I’m trying to take it easy.”
She seemed satisfied, and gave me the usual exhortations — fluid leaking, dripping, bleeding, dizziness, more than four painful contractions an hour, come in — and I set up an appointment for a week hence.
According to her pregnancy calendar, 35 weeks is June 26 — according to mine, it’s the 20th, but I’m happy accepting her interpretation of 35 weeks and waiting until then. My phone call to Unum Provident, which handles disability claims (a.k.a. the maternity leave people — why must they call it a disability? — I swear motherhood does not disable me. Could they call it “life alteration” leave or something?), had brought me face-to-face with the truth that, were I to go on maternity leave before the end of June, I’d be running out of benefits a few days before Hood-to-Coast, far less than ideal and requiring me to take every last day of vacation I had in me.
No, her calendar is the better one.
I stopped on the way home for lunch and a little shopping trip, the yarn to finish my sweater, the fabric to cover a new mattress for the baby’s crib. And then I got on the bus and began my trip through mass transit hell.
Not only was the driver one of those who tends to jerk through her stops and starts (and it was rush hour), causing my belly to swing painfully each time, but every person who sat near me seemed determined to ask me the following litany of questions:
- 1. When are you due? (fraught with so many uncertainties and inaccuracies);
- 2. So, what are you having? (If I answer “I don’t know,” it’s sure to lead to question #3, damn it);
- 3. Oh, you wanted a surprise? (NOOOOOOoooooo! Now we’re launched into a conversation I really just had with the frickin’ last person)
Sometimes, they’d also ask question #4, what are you knitting. “A robot” was a very confusing answer.
Worst of all was one woman, who had some genetic bone disorder that made her look (evidently) far younger than she was. She told the tale of her ultrasound with baby #1, when the ultrasound technician made some scatalogical reference to the obvious size of her husband’s penis. Really? I just didn’t want to know.
I was so happy to get off the bus.
I had so many stories in me, so much I wanted to explain to the world via my trusty notepad software, but instead I was exhausted, mostly contraction-less, and sat on the couch knitting my robot and watching TV, and wondering if I even understood my body.
I certainly don’t understand the people who live in this world of ours.
2007.06.13. not for now
I was so sure I would be told to come in, and the labor & delivery nurse told me to drink “as much water as I could without making myself sick,” take a shower, and lie down … if they didn’t slow down in an hour, then come.
I was so tired. I don’t know if they slowed down, but they must have, because finally, I slept, and awoke with no frequent pressure.
When almost awake, I had a dream. I was reporting to the hospital about the time the shifts change in the morning, and my mom and dad were there. Mom had been called in to cover a shift (she was a nurse in the early 70s, before I was born and effectively ended her career) and was taking over my care, you know, once she clocked in.
Suddenly, the chickens were there, Gilda and Genevieve by the way they were running from us, but Bella and Mathilda from their plumage. They were pooping everywhere, running among people’s feet in the hospital hallway. I was chasing them, trying to pick up Gilda first (that’s the trick, she’s slower and fatter, and then you put her where Genevieve can see her and she’ll jump up on the side of the tub and it’s easy to push her in from there). We finally got them, they were still pooping, Jonathan was angry at me for having them there (it was my idea?), but we finally got them in a little dog kennel in my parents’ trailer and shut the door.
“They’ll sleep while I’m here,” I thought, and woke up very, very thirsty.
2007.06.12. (or .13) no longer working
The Nifedipine is no longer working. I’ve been having big ones every five to 10 minutes, and I took an early dose at 2 a.m.
Jonathan really doesn’t want to go to the hospital (“won’t we be sent home?” “no, sweetie. If I’m more dilated than I was before, they’re just going to keep me. For a day. For a week. They won’t let me go home.”) and I don’t want to go to the hospital.
Nonetheless, I’ve already passed my instructions. I’m organizing knitting. I’ll report back if I don’t go.
2007.06.11. checking the list a dozen times
- One 55mm lens with a whopping 2.0 f-stop, perfect for taking photos at close range and in low light
- 10 rolls color portrait film; two rolls black-and-white film
- One additional chicken waterer, which allows me to leave chickens alone without guilt for a period of 24 hours
- Size 4 and 10 double-pointed needles; size 10 circular needle
- A small pile of cash
- Chicken wire to enclose my corn boxes, keeping them safe from marauding poultry
- A new, hand-sewn watch band for my trusty Ironman, whose broken plastic band seemed irreparable and which caused a serious tension error in my poor sewing machine, but whose bright colors now make me smile every time I look at my wrist
This are the items checked off my list, and my mind is now considerably more at ease. Every pregnancy has its own peculiar shopping list, new needs, recalled anxiety. I have packed seasonings and tea to supplement the hospital’s insufficient cuisine; scissors to snip yarn, loose threads, uncomfortable hospital bracelets (kidding!); knitting patterns.
I will never be ready. But at least, I will be more at ease.
2007.06.11. wee hours, uh-oh
It is 2:15 a.m. and I have been working since 8 or 9 p.m. — and I’m still going. In fact, I have this barely-avoidable urge to finish my sweater sleeve and… maybe start on the next one…
That is not a good sign.
2007.06.10. how many? how painful? how long?
At some point on Friday I was IM-ing with Brad, one of my many beloved bosses, about my current state-of-being-pregnant. “I’m used to this,” I said. “What, two months of contractions?” he asked.
But two months isn’t, really, likely.
In the morning, the contractions were occasionally bad, but never extraordinarily frequent. My instructions (four painful contractions an hour = go to hospital immediately, do not pass go) never seemed quite violated, it always seemed to be two or three painful ones in an hour, never more.
My boss (another, bigger boss) was pinging me madly from the minute I got online in the morning, with tasks that were interesting and engaging, yet nonetheless occupied my every moment. The thing that I had to do (the one I’ve decided is the very most important to finish before I have the baby) was left entirely undone. Thus I didn’t have a chance to focus on how long, how frequent, how painful they were.
I had an appointment for 3 p.m. — “keep if you feel you should” — and I felt I should. Jonathan had agreed to work that night, so I managed to get my pregnant sister, Hannah, to pick up Truman while Everett and I went to the doctor — just in case. I took all my knitting.
When we arrived (a little late of course), Dr. Kehoe was busy delivering a baby, so we went to get snacks, Ceasar salad (me), yogurt parfait (Everett), tea.
Once we were seen, I weighed in at 169. Those who follow my pregnancies closely will know that I’ve never weighed in higher than 170, so if I’m at 169, I either have to diet or have the baby. These are my choices! (I say this, partly, joking, although it seems that the impending labor diets for me, refusing to be hungry much in the last week or two.)
Dr. Kehoe must have been feeling the love of her just-born baby (to a Saudi Arabian couple; the mama was eager to send film of the birth back to her mom to say, “see, in America, birth doesn’t have to hurt!”, the dad was eager to get the birth certificate immediately). The compassion was overflowing. She wanted to know if anything hurt, and I mentioned a point in my belly that almost felt bruised, when the baby kicked a certain spot, when Dr. Kehoe felt it. I felt a little silly. “No, you need to tell me everything,” she said.
She checked me after hemming and hawing: still two centimeters. “Keep doing what you’re doing,” she said, and told me to take my Nifedipine four times a day — it wasn’t giving me either worrisome side effect, low blood pressure or light-headedness.
Much later, Jonathan and I started remembering back when I was two centimeters dilated with Truman. It was about the weekend I went to the beach… April 16… and I was in full labor 10 days later. I looked it up on the blog to be sure.
So if you’re a betting blog reader, you may want to select a day between June 15 and June 20.
All weekend I kept saying, to Jonathan, to Erica, to myself, “I think I might need to go to the hospital soon!” Saturday, after a miserably wet parade (when you see my photos of Truman clapping and waving, if you could have seen Everett dancing, you would know why I took two boys downtown by myself to watch marching bands and floats in the rain), I packed everything in my hospital bag, I added knitting projects and that little eensy handknitted hat I made for Truman. I kept having contractions, I’d watch the clock, they’d been painful and big and I’d have one every 12 minutes, 6:44, 6:56, 7:08 and then… none for 45 minutes or so.
Both nights I stayed up until 1 or 2 or later, having a wave of exhaustion, then buzzing with the need to finish my knitting project. By Sunday night, I’d finished one arm and the body of a sweater I’d started Friday. A sweater for me. (Why? I don’t know. But it will be lovely.)
All through this, it was hard to measure — how painful? How real? How frequent? Certainly I was having contractions, often and sometimes breathtaking. I wasn’t in constant pain, or even baddish occasional pain. Nothing that was making me lightheaded or weepy. I kept thinking, if I have two more this hour, I’ll go to the hospital… and then I’d have one, or none, or I’d forget to pay attention to when the hour was over.
And then baby would get rollicking hiccups, or start in with the flutterkicks, and it would all float away into it-doesn’t-matterland.
I don’t know what will happen. But for now, for today, for 11:04 p.m., I’m not yet in labor. And that’s a good thing.
2007.06.07. probably not negative
I was chatting with Niki today, and she knows me too well. “I don’t want to worry you,” she typed. (I’m just going to take my liberties with her words, even though I have the transcript right here.) “But my cousin took the fibronectin test, and they said no baby for 7 days. She delivered 2 days later.”
I wasn’t worried, but I have this feeling… that the baby is not going to wait for the end of its predicted period. Niki felt the same, that I would have the baby before the weekend was over.
Of course now as I sit here, contracting probably more than I should if I do (indeed) wish to follow my doctor’s orders to the letter, I feel more confident that the baby won’t come. The baby had better not come, tomorrow, because I have so much work to do.
Still, as the boys shrieked in laughter in the bath tonight (far later than scheduled, but still, we were sticking to the rough timeline so that felt good — PLUS — we had dinner together tonight, around a table, without TV, and I had to keep reminding Everett but he actually stayed at the table until he’d finished eating) I was packing my bag for the hospital. Just in case.
It’s far different that my previous bags. This time, it’s all about the cuisine. I packed kosher salt, and ground chipotle pepper; an assortment of good tea; my own mug; a delicious bar of soap from the Residence Inn where I could barely sleep a few weeks back; many, many cotton t-shirts in case I have a c-section and have to spend five days at the hospital (last time, one of my shirts was bloodied in labor and my favorite t-shirt stank of lactating body by the third day); rubber bands for my hair; q-tips. I think if I actually go to the hospital I’ll throw in a cube of real butter (the hospital food comes with that awful margarine stuff) and remind Jonathan to bring me real juice when he comes.
I’ve also been contemplating buying a French press, although that might be a little weird (mostly because I’d have to bring my coffee grinder, too; we all know coffee is much better freshly ground. Especially my Stumptown Ethiopia Misty Valley Idido… yumm….).
As I type that, I am having a painful enough contraction that I had to stop several times. Three more before 1 a.m. …
My husband isn’t even home yet, he went into work at the bar tonight (I relented, worrying about money), what would I do? I have no one slated, yet, to watch the kids. I’d have to try and rouse someone — my sister? Larissa? the neighbor, who’s pregnant and sweet? — to watch the boys while we headed to the hospital. Or maybe I’d just go myself.
I hydrate — mint tea — and think about this crazy thing that is the eighth month of pregnancy. So many people, at this stage, are looking to six or seven more weeks, even eight, and here I am diagnosing everything (every time I’m not hungry, it means I’m in labor — that sharp pain in my pelvis, felt a thousand times — a pain in my back — a rush of energy, all signs, all meaningless in the end).
My body does not fit in itself any more, my digestive system is in meltdown, when I walked to get coffee this morning I felt the familiar mega-pressure of a belly too big to fit on top of its flooring any more. I remembered it well, the feeling that certainly the baby might simply drop its head through at any moment (now, in the third, third trimester, tempered mightily by the reality of birth).
My lungs ache, my mind sparkles. I long to cuddle with the boys, while it’s still just them, but I have so many things to do, and anyway, I don’t really fit on the bed next to them. Maybe I’ll knit a few more rows…
2007.06.06. later. quiet
All is quiet now, in the house. Our first day of ‘schedule’ did not go all that well. Jonathan spent the day in a feverish cycle of sleep/TV/pizza/sleep, while I spent much of the day in a hospital bed. But now I am home, I have gotten the boys to bed (and sleep, by 9 or so), Jonathan is sleeping on the couch. We are spending our scheduled time together, with the TV off, although I don’t know how much we’re depositing in our emotional bank account given that only one of us is conscious. And not snoring. (teehee, says the pregnant woman who often wakes her husband up with her own snores and really can’t talk.)
After I put the boys down — it was so easy tonight — I took a long shower/bath and finally had time to reflect. Today was very much a come-to-Jesus (or whoever is the patron saint of labor) for me. Two things stand out as bringing into stark realization what is to come sometime in the next four or five weeks.
First was in Dr. Kehoe’s office. I was far later than I’d said I would be, and the entire staff was having a meeting in the waiting area when I arrived. Everyone except Dr. Kehoe and the nurse I’ve known the longest looked a bit miffed at me for interrupting their special time. So I had a long time to wait, and knitted and fretted. Oddly I was fretting all day — not about labor, or the baby, or how frantic people I work with will be if I do have baby early — but money. I was soon strapped into the monitoring chair, where I worried that my contractions weren’t big enough to have warranted coming, that I couldn’t seem to sense my body enough to know what was contraction and what was baby moving, that I was wasting everyone’s time, that I wasn’t drinking enough water.
Eventually, I did start showing off my contractions on the monitor, I did distinguish between the baby moving and my belly contracting, and Dr. Kehoe decided to examine me. Fine, I thought, and in went the speculum for a labor-predictor culture (I had to look it up: fetal fibronectin). OWWWWWW! I think I said it out loud. It hurt. And soon enough, in she went to check me for dilation. Oh lordy. I forgot how agonizing that is. This was my first realization.
Remember ladies: labor hurts! Even pre-term pre-labor hurts. Think about that when you’re off in second trimester bliss. Just a little, you know, so you don’t get too settled in to your well-being and forget to prepare yourself for the pain.
I was soft (50-60% effaced), which didn’t surprise me much. And two centimeters dilated.
Huh? Somehow it seemed too soon. 32 weeks and 6 days, that’s what they have for me. Too early to be 2 cm (although, were my body to insist upon labor, everyone would be utterly ok with it and happily let me try to VBA2Cs — as Dr. Kehoe said, “you wouldn’t be able to take your baby home with you. But sometimes that’s ok!”)
Second was after Dr. Kehoe surprised me by sending me to Labor & Delivery. I stopped on the way to get a sandwich, worried that they’d not let me eat. I was very hungry. Or so I thought. Once I sat down with my chicken-and-guacamole (it sounded way better than it tasted), I was only able to eat a few bites. Uh-oh. I scurried off in the general direction of L&D;, though I couldn’t remember exactly where that was, checking myself out in passing reflections. My unflattering long-sleeved t-shirt was spattered with snot, Truman’s peanut-butter smear, long-ago paint. My hair was umkempt. My face was — let’s say — generously proportioned.
I arrived, and the room was so beautiful, calm, peaceful. I was happy to be here by myself, and they had new gowns that were actually a little attractive. My room — #3 — had a view of the Fremont Bridge, a Portland icon. I got strapped in and ready. Soon I had finished my paperwork, explained my pregnancy and labor history and my wishes, and proferred my arm for a shot of Terbutaline.
While it made me buzz a bit, even more it just made me realize how tired I was, and I re-arranged my pillows and fell asleep to the sounds of a very young child babbling outside my room (big brother-to-be, I thought) and a tour of labor and delivery. In my haze I wondered if they would come in my room, to view a woman actually using it. After all (I thought mysteriously) I wasn’t really, seriously, in labor.
It won’t surprise you that they did not, indeed, come in. I slept the fitful hospital sleep, where you know at any moment you’ll have to leap into consciousness to have your arm squeezed or your monitors jiggered.
The contractions stopped, mostly, and my pre-term labor culture came back negative. After a long, long time, and a hospital meal (a good salad, chicken, a round of polenta, green beans, bad coffee, immemorable apple pie, too-sweet grape juice) and several phone calls in which Everett talked at length about where I was, when I would be back, and how silly he was, Dr. Kehoe came in and released me, giving me a prescription for Nifedipine and exhorting me to come back in if I had so much as four painful contractions in an hour.
For me, four is not very many.
But as I was getting dressed and packing my too-full knitting bag, I heard the very obvious sounds of a woman experiencing a highly painful contraction, “OH…. OOOOHHH….. eeehhhhOOHHHHH….” What scared me more than anything was her control over her noises, her obvious ability to handle this pain, and yet, at the same time, her desperation.
I was forced to come face-to-face with the memory of the pain.
So as I laid, precariously balancing on one hip, in the bath tonight, in the quiet of my house, I spent some time with the baby, thinking about how much I have to do. Not the bag packing and the lens acquiring and the chicken babysitting. The mental stuff.
In the next few hours, or days, or weeks — however long it is before I go into labor — I must spend time with myself, with my breathing and my quietness and my meditation on what birth is to me. I’ve forgotten that birth hurts, and I’d do well to remember just how it is a woman deals with that pain.
Also! I saw the whole family kyrie, at the bus stop, on the way to the hospital. It was wonderful to run into them for the first time “IRL” — and only a matter of hours before they’ll be off to their new home, where I will be far less likely to run into them. I would say, “I’ll miss them,” but that seems silly as I’ll still be seeing just as much of them as before. Have a great move, family.
2007.06.06. i deserve two seats on the bus!
I’m not ready.
Last night, for the first time, I was able to actually conceive of this baby as a human who would one day be outside of my womb. (Not that that means I’m ready, no, no.) After two… three?… days of awful, terrible argument all stemming from one really bad discipline incident with Everett (the infraction itself was tiny, the fallout, highly destructive), Jonathan and I met with Tracey Johnson, a lovely woman with a wide mouth who told us that all we needed was a schedule.
We paid her $300, and she wrote it out for us. We’d get up at 7:15 each morning, put the kids to bed at 8:30 each night. Breakfast at 8, snacks, scheduled alone time with Everett and Daddy, dinner at 6 without TV. So sensible. So simple. We had to get ready for the chaos the baby would create, after all.
The baby. I will be having a baby, after all.
I had a lot of work to do. Jonathan and I took advantage of the babysitter and went out to eat, at the closest favoritist place, the Gladstone Pub. Spicy spicy chili and chicken nachos and nutty hummus. We talked about the baby, that we would fix up the cradle used by Everett, Nehalem, Truman. “Don’t we have a name?” asked Jonathan. “I want to call the baby a name.” “Monroe,” I said, “Ruth.”
“OK, Monroe,” said Jonathan. “I like Monroe.” It’s a president — AND a street in Portland, fitting neatly with both children.
We came home, I put the kids to bed, and stayed up as long as I could trying to finish my paysheet.
I woke up early, tired but focused on the work that must be done. Jonathan was feverish, so I got the kids up a little past our goal (but still, close), got them breakfast, no TV. I worked on the couch and started to feel them, the contractions, coming on hard and strong.
I’m used to having early contractions, and heck, this isn’t that early. My “33 weeks!” alarm went off at midnight. The baby must be a strong 4 or 5 pounds by now. My contractions continued, I could feel them strong. They were working contractions. I was in such a hurry, I couldn’t measure them, but I never got the feeling of one ending. They hurt.
And then, the pooping. I’d done the usual potty routine in the morning, everything seemed normal. This wasn’t so much, this was impending-labor poop. I checked all the suspects — I hydrated, I peed. But still, the contractions continued. I called.
“When can you get here?” said the nurse. “An hour.”
An hour later, I’d finished my spreadsheet (sort of), I’d sent the requisite emails of warning to colleagues. I checked the chickens (hungry), the garden (fine, huge gorgeous wet zucchini blossom had sprouted since I last checked, two strawberries were almost ready to harvest, the peas had started to blossom). I packed my laptop, my must-be-uploaded photo CDs, my hat for Everett, the start of three possible projects. I got on the bus.
I felt I deserved two seats.
I’m still on the bus (it’s re-routed around the children’s Rose Festival parade on Broadway, so it will be a long time before I’m successfully in the contraction room at my doctor’s office, the one where I heard the poom-poom-poom-poom of a baby’s heart during my last business). I’m not ready.
I don’t have a replacement for my broken fisheye lens, I haven’t gone film shopping so I only have one or two rolls. I haven’t finished the pinwheel blanket I was sure I’d have ready long before the baby was born. Packing for the hospital? I haven’t even decided whether or not I’ll have a doula. I haven’t paid any of my pre-labor bills (first installment due June 15). I haven’t done a pregnancy photo shoot (I had this idea of doing one with my sis-in-law and sister), I haven’t planned a last-minute twins shower for Destiny.
We haven’t even made it through one day of our schedule.
I haven’t sewn one thing for baby.
I haven’t done my toenails. I haven’t finished the re-launch design schematic.
I’m probably not in labor so early — right? — I didn’t even bring Jonathan and the boys with me. They can come later if something’s truly happening. Another contraction.
But in the meantime, all I can think is about what I haven’t done. My cell phone battery beeps “low” and I feel very, very unready.
2007.05.29. contractions and the end of babyhood
I awoke at 5 a.m. today with whimpering from Truman, and shushed and cuddled him, wondering if I should get him a bottle of water. He was coughing, and I thought in my constantly-dehydrated state, maybe he’s just thirsty.
But when he awoke again at 6 and wouldn’t be consoled, kicking me hard in the belly as he does when he awakes in the night and needs comfort, I chose milk.
At 6:45, I regretted it. Jonathan and I had both gone to the living room to try to find sleep on the couch and I’d returned, and Truman was awake again and coughing. It was a loud cough, a choking cough, and suddenly he was throwing up. As I cleaned myself and threw pillowcases in the laundry pile, I wondered if it was the heat, bad milk, reflux? 10 minutes later I stopped wondering as I watched milk chunks spew all over my clean shirt and the cheap-o fleece blanket I’d wisely laid Truman back on.
I took him up to the bath, and he shivered and whimpered as I rinsed us off and then held him in the tub, clinging to me as if I would heal him just from my touch. I laid there worrying occasionally that the tub would bring on more tailbone pain, feeling the baby kick and press against his barriers quietly as the sun brightened through the window. And I thought, this is Truman’s last time as a baby, and decided to forego my 7:30 a.m. call. I held him, splashing warm water over his back and reminding him that he really shouldn’t drink water out of the backyard as he’d been doing the night before. He threw up a few more times, mostly water and spit, and I didn’t worry about the yuck and just let him be.
Soon, Truman will be baby no longer.
Later, as evening came with its familiar pattern of contractions and wild activity from the little, little baby, as they became a little more painful, a little more strong, than the night before, I looked occasionally at Truman sleeping again on the couch, his face so grown-up, his posture so not, I urged the little one to stay inside for weeks and even more weeks so I could enjoy my baby before it was all, all over.
I will, I will, I will fill it all in! There’s just this lovely garden-in-progress that demands my attention when I’m not writing-for-pay. It’s almost the official end of spring and the garden’s needs will dissipate… won’t they?
Because I know you all will worry about me, I feel much better tonight. Not healed totally, but on the road to recovery and off Vicodin! More later…
2007.05.20. don’t want any, having it anyway
I have been reviewing the past 48 hours over and over in my head, wondering how I can write about them without sounding like a big ol’ whiner. And, I can’t.
Let’s just say this. After both my previous pregnancies and subsequent c-sections, I couldn’t wait to stop taking the prescription medications I was given, and even weaned myself off acetominophen much faster than recommended. Simply the idea of pumping my babies so full of narcotics and other painkillers made me shiver. Even when I’m not pregnant or breastfeeding, I’ll search high and low for a natural remedy before turning to a pharmaceutical one. It may be my crunchy hometown, it may just be stubbornness. But there you are, I hate taking medicine.
I am now on a vicodin-acetominophen regimen.
That should explain to you how frantic with pain I have been. Friday night was an endless blur of raving, tossing, aching pain. If I found a position that was minorly relieving to my tailbone, it only made my hip ache. I longed to find a way to lie on my stomach, but my attempts ended in even more pain — when I knelt in cat/cow position, my tailbone spread further open, exacerbating the injury.
After a largely sleepless, often sobbing night, I called the doctor, who offered me either a sleeping aid or Vicodin. I wanted to say no, but instead took the narcotic.
It helped, a little, helped me sleep a bit more on Saturday night, helped me nap. But still there was no way to get true relief, I could not sit, I could not lie, standing for so long with my exhaustion level was driving me to distraction. In public, I settle for wincing and “ouch!”-ing as I ride the bus, walk ever-so-painfully from bus stop to destination, up and down stairs, in and out of the restaurants where Everett and I devour quesadillas (him) and veggie-loaded burritos (me), I eat while standing. On Saturday I am in such pain I am nauseous.
In private, in the bedroom, on the couch, I cry. Everett wonders why. I feel badly for acting this way, I am making Jonathan miserable as there’s nothing he can do, but still, I don’t know what else to do.
In the end, I ‘heal’ such that my days of pain are punctuated by an hour or two of relief here and there. I do not garden. I do not knit, much, I do not sew.
I curse the airplane, I curse the chairs and beds and couches of our society, I curse each and every pair of my shoes, none of which is comfortable enough to hold me for hours upon end. I thank the heavens that I am not normally overweight, I can’t wait to have the baby. I vow that tonight’s bedtime Vicodin will be my last; I wonder if I will even be able to sleep with it.
What about “Monroe”?
2007.05.18. once again
Once again, I am flying. I have a computer snuggled up against my prodigious belly …
… and, I must put my computer away, as the large man in front of me has no idea about the tenuous state of my existence right now. No, instead of worrying about my ability to fit my laptop between my belly and the seat in front of me, he reclines his seat to the full downright and unlocked position. Requiring me to either type at an acute angle (which is so hard it’s not worth it), or put away my laptop. I put away my laptop.
And agonize. Truly the discomfort rises to a level that exceeds mere “discomfort.” I silently thank my seatmates again and again for switching (I’d been given a window seat, a specter of hell I could only imagine) so I could stand for part of the flight; I curse the flight time for being so long. Six hours in the air, longer because a passenger missed the flight, but his cat didn’t, so we had to return to the gate to drop the cat off.
As I well know, there is no later flight to Portland from D.C., so Mr. and his cat will be spending the evening in (or rather, near) our nation’s capitol.
Six, plus, long, long hours, in which every minute I can feel my tailbone becoming more and more bruised, banged, bashed, belly-whipped. I dream of lying on my stomach, of being suspended in a tall vat of warm, lavendar-scented water. I dream of jumping off the plane. I say to myself, over and over, I will not fly again, I will not fly again. Not until September.
I watch movies, I order two meals (a Mexi-flavored chicken salad, an ultra-healthy snack pack), I get up to use the bathroom.
You have not known pain until you have learned that it is more painful to pee than to hold it (my tailbone spreads when I try to sit on or near the bowl, bringing every piece of my body into a yowling electrical OUCH), yet you know that you cannot hold it, because that will only bring contractions.
I dream of having the baby. Now-ish. No, that would be too awful, because then I’d be lied up in bed with the tailbone pain. Ick.
I laugh at myself, for thinking on Wednesday as I biked around town, that I was fit and that I was going to go on regular bike rides to get in shape for the Hood-to-Coast.
I watch Music and Lyrics and am delighted; I watch The Painted Veil and simply think how much more agonizing it would be to ride one of those little rickshaws (the ones where four servants carry you on their shoulders) than the airplane, and am momentarily pacified. I lean my forehead against the seat in front of me, but it is too near, and I must shift and wiggle and wiggle and shift, wincing in pain.
I will not fly again. I will not fly again.
2007.05.17. bright prospects
It is a lovely day as I land at Dulles, and I am feeling bright despite my utter lack of sleep. I sit in a conference room for hour after hour, contributing to the conversation and engaging with the strategic chatter. At one point my boss jokingly asks if I’m really sure I want to take maternity leave — I don’t! — and I feel pleased that both (a) I am still enjoying my job after 15-some months (my point of no return in the past three post-b-school jobs) and (b) that despite a tiny amount of sleep, seven months’ worth of belly, and an aching bottom, that I’m bright-eyed and never in danger of nodding off.
I am, really, enjoying myself. I eat two servings of spinach salad with grilled chicken for lunch, and two bags of chips, and drink three bottles of water.
Later we go to dinner, and I skip the wine (I think my stomach is saying “no more wine”) and instead launch into hours of conversation and seafood. I feel wonderful, and achy. I consider the state of the video game console consumer and the pork industry. I opine on free-range eggs.
I get back to the hotel and realize that my thighs have rubbed one another painfully raw. I shower and open my email … and close it. I sink thankfully into bed, arranging my six or eight pillows until every bit of my body is supported. I fall into a delightful but fitful sleep, waking every 20 minutes or so and wondering if I should do some work.
But I am pregnant, and the baby wants sleep. I give it to him.
2007.05.16. flight terrors
I am flying tonight. I wake up at 6:20, at 7:35, 8:15, finally 9:12, turning when Truman cries out or Everett kicks himself into yet another more awkward position, my conscience heavy with the reality of the coming trip. I yawn into work, sending emails and creating posts, watching the clock tick. Everywhere around me the mess, my need for a shower, for inner peace, the imperfection of my existence, weighs on me.
The chickens don’t have enough food, we are almost out of soy ice cream bars, the basil and spearmint I bought last night still must be planted. I struggle through my day.
Finally it is 3 and I know how little will be accomplished. I take Everett to Starbucks for an icy creamy drink (he’s been to the dentist, things have not gone well, his lips are numb-numb yet he was unable to yield to the drill and will have to go back in four weeks), I take a shower that’s longer than it should be, I bike to the photo shop.
Biking is hard but liberating, I haven’t biked in weeks and it is so much faster than taking the bus, I wind up and down the hills and neighborhood streets I’ve wound up and down since childhood, past high school friends’ houses. I drop off my photos, I stop at Grand Central Bakery for a box of treats for travel, for the boys to wake up to in the morning.
On the way home, I bike all the way up the Gladstone hill without stopping.
Jonathan is already keyed up, more worried than me. I pack a few things and I’m off again, to the Sapphire Hotel to meet with friends who’ll be running the Hood-to-Coast with me. “How will this work?” asked Olivia. “I don’t know!” I say happily. I tell the story of the ultrasound over and over, of how I really don’t know whether it’s a boy or a girl. I meet new mamas and we talk about agonizing births, c-sections, but not in a fearful way. I wonder if biking will get me in shape, I wish I could run Leg #5 (the hard-hard-hard one I loved so much last year), I worry that I am so eager to get running that I will rush into this birth.
I eat hangar steak and sweet potatoes with pomegranate jus, I drink a little wine that I don’t really have the taste for, and an amazing chocolate torte. I cannot sit for long on the hard seats, I cannot stand comfortably. I must be home, and I bike carefully through the neighborhood streets, seeing everything in the late-evening light, the huge bush of roses in red and ribbon-yellow, the tri-colored tricycles on porches, garden boxes that are too wide, garden boxes that are oh-so-deep. I soon realize that my pelvis, my tailbone, my hips are creaking, cracking, aching in short sharp funny ways, bursts of not-intense pain that pass before I can worry again, this flight will not be easy.
When I arrive home, the buzz in the air is intense, Truman is asleep but quickly wakes as I try to get Jonathan to focus on my words, clean the pullet’s water twice each day, make sure they have food, water the herbs, check the chick’s water and food, please don’t mow my lavendar, please buy chicken feed tomorrow, as I walk through the house gathering remembered items, carrying Truman who hugs me so tightly. When I try to get my computer Everett screams and hits me, calling me a bitch and punching me in the belly, it doesn’t hurt but it makes me so sad, he hasn’t done this for weeks and I know why.
We are all terrified for me to fly away, even for so short a time.
I find everything I need, Everett apologizes and kisses me, the baby is kicking and I am contracting, not huge working contractions but with occasional sharpness of pain, there is a bug bite on the peak of my belly and I am achingly tired.
Jonathan calls every few minutes, telling me jokingly that I need to come home, silly reasons, interrupting me as I check in, as I near security. Everyone smiles at me, no one asks how far along I am. I email, I board the plane.
I am flying through Chicago and the flight is full. I must search for a place for my backpack and I try to sleep, I am so tired that I must sleep, but I do not, at least not for long. My body aches and the contractions wrack me, I am so far from labor and yet too close, I do not worry about having the baby but I worry about surviving hours more of flight with my sanity, I shift and move and the baby is shifting and moving, kicking, poking me down deep in that place in your pelvis that you never would have imagined feeling a baby’s hand, but you do, and it is mostly nice but he is doing it so much, he will not stop. And I cannot sleep, I must leap to my feet at one point with a leg cramp, I can feel my tailbone slouching toward total pain.
When we land, I am hot and so tired and uncomfortable, I lean forward for long minutes with my forehead resting on the seat in front of me as we taxi and taxi and taxi. I cannot wait to get off the plane, I fear utterly getting on the new plane.
In Chicago, I walk to Gate C26 and the early morning light makes everything gray-ly beautiful. I buy juice and awful, terrible coffee, and discover how wonderful it feels to walk on the moving sidewalk, so I walk around and around and around until I must board.
My head has a tired place behind the eyes that I fear I’ll never shake, but the flight is nearly empty and I have room to sit however I like, the sun is rising over the clouds and, though my tailbone still aches and I see no end to my exhaustion, finally, I am at peace. I read passages from Momfulness, I say prayers for myself and for Jonathan and the boys, May he be filled with lovingkindness, May he be well, May he be peaceful and at ease, May he be happy, I type and type and type, the baby kicks and moves and kicks, it is well.
Something has happened to me in the last several days, in the shift between 29 weeks and 30, and it is not good.
It is roundly impossible for me to get enough sleep.
I wonder why. I imagine many things, try them on for size. My body is storing up sleep for labor, I think, and then remember that I may not even go through labor this time, and feel cheated. But it must store up sleep for the first sleepless weeks, I remember, and feel panicked that the sleep doesn’t seem to store well, that I awaken every morning too late and still with a head full of stultifying tiredness.
The boys aren’t sleeping as well, I think, and wonder if it’s really that they aren’t sleeping well, or if I’m just noticing more. I try to get everyone to bed earlier, I try to get myself to bed earlier, and the nights just seem to get more chaotic, later. Despite my exhaustion this morning, my inability to find focus for hours after I should have been brightly working, I find myself begging Jonathan to get the boys to sleep as I toss in sheets that seem too hot, pillows that are too smelly.
I need to sleep each night, but at the same time fear sleep, as I know it will not give me what I need.
2007.05.14. sign, sign, everywhere a sign
“She’s moving all the time,” I say to my family, who exclaim at my use of the female pronoun. I see a photo of myself and mention my gorgeous hair, surely a sign of a girl baby. I try on “Ruth” and “Madrid” and think that I’ll need to have two girls to use such great names.
I look at the emails which come in, trying on and quickly discarding the ‘From’s of the spam. Peyton, Joseph, Covington. No, no, no. I am searching, searching, for the right moniker for the boy I know this is.
“You’re carrying low, aren’t you?” asks the barista. I don’t really know. “Yes, I think so!” I say. A boy.
“I can feel it’s a girl,” a friend says, and others agree. A girl.
I take the first five questions of an “old wives’ tales” quiz I accidentally find in a Google for something else. I come up 60% girl and throw up my hands in disgust (after all, I can’t stand the wording of the questions, like a dorky self-conscious nursery rhyme).
I get tired of explaining, about how the ultrasound technician told me the legs were closed but I thought I saw a penis, and later wondered if it was (indeed) an umbilical cord. About how I won’t be going to get a new ultrasound, because, I can’t think of a good reason why I should.
I am simultaneously comfortable with the uncertainty and longing to know. I call the baby “he” and Everett calls her “baby sister” and I visualize the moment of birth (it’s a c-section) and asking if it’s a boy or a girl, and Dr. Kehoe saying, “it’s a …!”
My visualization doesn’t come up with the ending. I guess that’s a sign.
2007.05.13. mother of mother’s days
It is not a perfect mother’s day.
It is not terrible either, but it should be noted that three days before mother’s day is both a wonderful and a terrible time for your husband to quit, utterly and completely, all forms of tobacco usage. So happy that he’ll live many years longer. So unhappy that he can’t focus for more than two minutes and he flies off the handle at the drop of the hat.
Yesterday was a low, a very low day. Jonathan was too tired and jittery to go with me to ballet, so Everett and I went alone together. We left early enough to go to coffee beforehand, and he discovered the games at The Grand Jete.
So when ballet was over and done with, he begged to be taken back (though I’d spent the whole class there and was kind of done). Still, I complied, playing an entire game of Life with him (streamlining some of the more minor rules to speed up the game).
I didn’t want him to get a treat here; we were low on cash and I didn’t want to spend a lot at a place with sub-par treats and little of any good health. But I could tell he was nearing total meltdown. So we stayed.
We actually enjoyed our game, though my patience with this place had already reached its end, and passed on through the finish line. I got us up to go, and Everett insisted on having something to eat. “I’m starving!” he said, quietly. The starving got louder as we approached the checkout and I looked frantically for something that was everything: healthy, cheap and one of Everett’s “choices.” Naturally, nothing fit. “How about one of these biscotti?” the barista said not-helpfully (umm, what about healthy do you not get, Slovakian lady?)
He wanted two of the $2.00 biscottis. That was not going to fit into the budget, so finally I put my foot down on the one, and we left as he nibbled it with his front teeth, whimpering a little because I wouldn’t get him candy bars, or two biscottis. We hopped on the 14, and I decided to risk Powell’s, where I could spend my last dollars — maybe — on a gardening book. That might be a nice mother’s day present for myself.
I browsed, checking out a few really great kids’ vegetable books. My fantasy: to spend Mother’s Day talking about tomatoes and carrots and artichokes. “Mom mom mommomomom! Just let me show you these really cool things! RIGHT NOW!” As it turns out “these really cool things” are tiny kitchen magnets in packages, $4.50 for three and $8 for six. I don’t think so.
“We can’t afford them, Everett. We’re not going to get them. Can you just let me look at my books for a minute, and then we’ll go home?” I walk back over to the gardening, general section and he shrieks, quietly, a warning shriek. I try to calm him.
“We can’t get anything today, but books. If you want a book, please look at these ones right here. I just want to look for a minute.
“But I DON’t WANT BOOKS!!!!!!” He starts hitting me, in the belly. “Give me those COOL THINGS NOW!!!!!”
I can not calm him down. It escalates into him screaming and hitting me, shrieking so loud everyone turns around in the store (I can feel them, though mostly I cannot see them), exclaiming. I pick him up and carry him, face hot, body shaking, he is screaming and crying, I wish I could too. I carry him as he hits me down the street to the bus stop. I am so angry.
We sit there on the bench, him screaming that he wants to get up and trace the map on the bus stop sign, me insisting he can’t. Finally, finally, I decide to just let him and suddenly he is quiet and fine. Perfect, still sad, but quietly tracing his finger over the roads where the #75 runs.
On the way home, I am still angry, at the world. The bus driver doesn’t stop at my stop, although I’m now standing. My feet hurt and I have to shuffle the two-and-a-half blocks back to our house. I want the world to leave me alone.
I take a bath, calm down, and try again on Sunday. But nothing goes my way. I get up the earliest, make my own breakfast. I bake coffee cake, slowly, I have to put away dishes before I can bake. Jonathan does not, as he’s promised, help me make my garden. We are out of money, we cannot buy the peony plant I wanted to start my mother’s garden (a few more weeks will be too late for peonies, and I know we won’t do it if we don’t right now, today).
My family arrives for mother’s day picnic, and the weather isn’t great. We work outside for a bit, then go inside for dinner. It isn’t terrible. It isn’t yesterday.
But I hoped for more.
2007.05.09. of heartburn and last pregnancies
I don’t think this will be my last pregnancy; in fact, I have this fantasy that I will have three boys and one girl, and then we will be done but for the fostering. And yet.
Three seems to be the magic number. Many, many families I know are having three-and-are-done. The reasons for wiping one’s hands at three seem as varied as the people I encounter, from we weren’t even sure we’d have more than two! to money to I want to have my life back to the simple knowledge that it is enough, for them.
I have no such knowledge. In fact, I wonder if it will ever “be enough.” I love having children, and though pregnancy is never perfect, I do love being pregnant. I love the looks I get, the smiles, the sisterhood, the material. I’ll admit it: I adore writing about my pregnancies.
So today, around noon, I ate some toast, and decided I’d have a little butter and a big schmear of cashew-macadamia butter on top. I ate it, and oddly felt the onset of heartburn. That little bit of butter? I thought, disenchanted, and popped a couple of knockoff Tums. I really like coconut Tums, it turns out.
A few hours later, I was off to the doctor’s office. My regular doctor was out all week so I was seeing Dr. Williams, a peppy dishwater blonde who was pleasant and didn’t say a peep about the fact that I’d gained six pounds for the second month in a row (added on to the nine pounds gained in the month before that — I’m now two pounds away from my mental maximum. Uh-oh). I thought maybe I liked her. I told her about my dairy problem.
“That’s common!” she said happily. “I have one woman who suddenly couldn’t eat chicken. In her next pregnancy, she could eat chicken, but not beef.” She told me I could eat all the soy products I wanted (though 80% of the population has a soy allergy — whoa). She said I was free to fly as much as I wanted until my 35th week. She didn’t mention my weight.
So I liked her. I told her I’d been having contractions, and she wasn’t fazed a bit. “Any other complaints or worries?” she wanted to know.
Well, the contractions were kind of intense, and it fazed me a little that they were so intense. “Is this your last pregnancy?” she asked knowingly.
I almost said “yes” because she asked it with such finality. The question rattled me. “Um…. I don’t know?” I said timidly.
“I’ve seen it before,” she said. “Lots of times when it’s your last pregnancy, your body makes it easier on you emotionally by making it really hard on you physically.” She went on, describing other patients with bad last pregnancies. Their decisions were easier.
As I walked out, I felt almost as if I’d been encouraged to make this my last, that three was enough, that I shouldn’t have anymore. I picked up Wondertime in the waiting room of the lab, where I’d gone to get my blood glucose tested (I picked orange drink this time. Ick.) There was an article written by a woman with seven kids.
THERE, I thought, and decided that this wasn’t my last pregnancy. At least, not yet.
2007.05.08. thank you. and to summarize…
I love all you guys who read my posts, who write wonderfully encouraging emails to me and comments on flickr photos, and who are patient with me even though I promise much and deliver … well, not-so-everything. I’ve been writing posts, in my brain, been drafting them on the main blog and never publishing, because they weren’t perfect yet. I have full-formed chapters for the bookscattered in the nooks and crannies of my brain, little bits “written” on the bus, while digging in the garden, in the bathtub soaking away my aches and pains and minor miseries. I might have time to write these tonight, tomorrow, or I might not. But to summarize:
–Jonathan got home on Friday, evidently the talk of his staying later was an elaborate (and uniquely successful) way of surprising me. Surprise! Now that we’ve been through the usual emotional roller coaster of homecoming (happiness, lots of food, a big fight over discipline, a very huge amount of sleep after said argument, truce, minorly-productive Sunday afternoon, family time, another less tearful argument, another truce, and then everything’s better than normal), Jonathan’s entirely focused on turning this house into an organized machine, and doing a fantastic job. I bow to his excellence.
–Something in me couldn’t stop at just three chickens. We have two new chicks, Gilda (a pretty flecked Buff Orpington) and Genevieve (a timid Gold-Barred Wyandotte that Truman has hurt twice already with his too-eager loving squeezes). They’re the mellowest of all possible chicks and will make sweet baby sisters to the big girls when I introduce them in three or four weeks.
–I relate my unabashed focus on the garden and the chickens to the presence of baby #3 in my belly. I have a new theory (honed after the visit with Patrice) that having three children curiously and vastly multiplies your ability to nurture, turning me into the uber-mama whose love knows no bounds. Excepting the neighbor’s cats of course, whose forays into my garden box and dastardly sniffing around the pullets has my eyes narrowed in a very unpleasant way.
–On the very first day of my third trimester, I was plagued with the most devastating heartburn (which at first I thought was surely an indication that I was dying, or headed straight to the delivery room). I tried everything natural and finally, the next day, called my doctor. The nurse advised me to take Tums, which I’d been avoiding. “You can take seven or eight a day!” she offered. After eight I finally made the connection between dairy and the heartburn. No dairy = no heartburn (a little butter or hard cheese seems to be ok, thank heavens). Third-trimester onset lactose-intolerance? Ick!
–I’ve been having pretty major Braxton-Hicks contractions these past few days. Today’s quite intense. Looks like this pregnancy won’t be much different from the other two re: early contractions & dilation beginning around week 32. *sigh*
–Work’s going well, so well in fact that I don’t have time to blog between it, the garden, and the chickens. Hopefully now that Jonathan’s home and we’re getting into a rhythm, that will change.
–I tried yogurt this morning as I hadn’t had heartburn for three or four days. Bad idea. Now plagued with the awful stuff. Back to dairy-free.
2007.05.02. the end of coping, the beginning of accepting
So many times throughout this day, I think to myself, I can’t do it anymore. I can’t do the mess, always increasing in direct correlation to my ability to concentrate on my work. (There may be some causality there.) I can’t do the little things, the filling the dishes for chickens and cat, the loading the dishwasher, the picking up those dirty clothes left everywhere. I can’t go to the store for milk, I can’t go to the bank to deposit this check.
I can’t focus on my most annoying project of each month, painstakingly checking through each writer’s posts to make sure he or she will be paid appropriately.
Making my feeling of general copelessness worse is my belly, surely having grown to such a size that it no longer fits between my ribs and my thighs. Sitting in anything other than the primmest yoga-est pose pushes my lungs into my throat, I can’t breathe, I can’t eat, I’m so hungry, I’m not, the pressure between my lungs and my hips is so great I can’t think well.
The weather outside is spectacular, see-sawing from sun to pouring rain to hail to thunder and back to sun. I run out with Everett and Truman to cover the most tender of the plants with an apron, a blanket. We run back in, I wish for something. A vacation, a moment alone, a personal shopper. I happily engage in an IM conversation that could-be-good-for-my-career, a business school friend calls to catch up. “We’re snotty,” I say when he asks how we are. “But good.” I hang up and do not feel good.
Finally I give up trying and get into the bathtub, I finally feel the weight slowly lifting off my belly, feel that I might breathe. I make a pile, Momfulness by Denise Roy, sent to me by the publisher via overnight mail; Mommies Who Drink by Brett Paesel because I want to finish it and review; my reading for the Healthy Children, Healthy Planet group. I open the slim ‘healthy’ manual and find my place. I realize that a piece I’d skipped over was by Denise Roy, from her earlier book, and I read it and re-read portions and find myself sobbing suddenly, “I am the mother of men,” a line I read before once or twice without sparking anything before. Now I dismiss my earlier prejudices of her new-agey spiritual psychobabble and adore her.
I finish with the week’s reading, finding nothing else half so connecting, and pick up Paesel’s trashy tome. I hate it, she talks of plastic vaginas and gossips about sex and smokes and she’s an actress with mostly unmarried friends. I don’t like her, she isn’t me at all, but I keep reading, she’s going so fast. She skips through her son’s third year and suddenly she’s in a fertility clinic, she’s pregnant, and she’s miscarrying. Instead of feeling what she’s feeling, I learn about her painkillers and neuroses. I hope that she’s able to have another baby but her emotional full-circle on each chapter is not connected, I can’t figure out if she’s too deep for me or if she still doesn’t know how she really felt about anything. There are moments of insight that I treasure but I have to slog through plastic vaginas and cock-talk to get to them. I don’t like that.
Truman is pouring water on my stomach, splashing the book, and even though I hate it I don’t want it to be ruined. I put it down and take off his clothes and we play in the tub, I remember to look him in his eyes. Denise taught me that. I am present.
I get out of the tub, and Everett and I trip through the evening, negotiating over the computer. I have so much to do it assaults me, I cannot start. I wander around longing for someone to bring me a large, hot meal full of vegetables and plant-based proteins. I do not want to ask for anything, I just want it to show up, I want it to be delivered by a kind, blind person who cannot see the mess in my home, the mostly-naked state of my children.
Truman falls asleep on the couch, mercifully not yet having cried for the last few ounces of milk. Jonathan calls, and I tell him my woes. He calls back a few minutes later. His friend is bringing milk. Thank you, heavens. Thank you husband.
As I sit on the couch trying to do my work, I feel an awful warm discomfort rising from my lungs to my throat, filling it with hot mass-less bile. Am I dying? I google. It’s heartburn. “Some women have heartburn every day while pregnant,” the site reads.
It is after midnight when the milk arrives. With it comes chocolate, lunchables, flowers. He is brilliant. Maybe I can make it through the next few days.
I eat papaya enzymes and brew water for chamomile tea, and I pick up Momfulness again. I am at the chapter on aloneness. Again, I read for a bit feeling detached, then suddenly, find my throat fill — not with heartburn — with sobbing agreement. I amDenise (she has three boys, a girl, a foster child), I get her, I commit to following her principles.
It is 1:30, I still have at least an hour of work to do and my heartburn persists. My wifi isn’t working from my bedroom. I long to knit. I take another sip of chamomile tea and accept, cope, go forward.
Maybe I’ll just read one more chapter of Momfulness.
2007.05.01. pretend it’s not true
Jonathan calls. He can’t talk long.
He might not be done with his work. He might need to stay longer. He doesn’t know, he doesn’t know how long. Perhaps one day. Perhaps the weekend. I immediately wonder if it might not be a week, a month.
He must come home on Friday. I think about calling my sister, asking for babysitting. I need to go to yoga. I need for him to make the hen’s house. I need for there to be a presence in my house, that is him and not anything or anyone other than him. Just him.
I don’t call Abby, because I can’t face reality. I take the boys down to watch TV. It won’t turn on. It is plugged in. All the other electric sorts of things are working. Except it. It simply won’t click on.
There is an old TV upstairs, not hooked up to cable, in the-room-that-will-one-day-be-a-master-bedroom-but-now-does-not-have-walls. Or a light. We watch PBS Kids, and later, American Idol. Everett dances to Bon Jovi songs as if that’s what he’s been taking classes for.
We go to sleep early, and I am still hoping it’s not true.
2007.04.29. sleep makes it better
I woke up late, with 10-some hours of sleep under my belly. And my tailbone barely hurt at all.
If only the sleep would clean the house. Hanging over my head since the previous night: Jonathan’s grandma and uncle were ‘dropping by’ to give Truman his birthday present (sure to be an oversized book illustrated with oddly-colored bunnies and cherubs that I would rarely, if ever, read to him) around 2:30.
We awake, and I slowly process the things I must do. Instead of doing them, I put together the tricycle sent by Truman’s Aunt Betsy. He and Everett are both thrilled. The sun pours in the window, it is a lovely day. I can’t find an important bolt, and decide it’s because the people at the factory left it out (that evening, I find it in the bottom of the box, left behind).
The boys are eager to go around the block without the bolt, and without Truman having any basic ability to push the tricycle on his own. I agree, who am I to say no to the birthday boy, even if he can’t really ask in words? It is a very big block, and there is no easy way to get Truman to move in a forward direction, especially given that the bending-over-pushing-the-trike-for-him position is highly uncomfortable given the current state of my belly.
At some point, I wonder if I’ll ever get home. I think I imagine myself as if in the middle of a very agonizing Louis L’Amour-style trek across the grand prairie, complete with wolves and some angry Sioux.
When we get home, I call the boys’ Aunt Erin, hoping she’ll be able to come and watch the boys while I go to take photos of a third baby — purchased months ago at the Cafe au Play auction. When I was, but didn’t know I was, pregnant.
She never calls back.
Instead, I spend a little time in the backyard with the boys and then set to cleaning up for uncle and grandma. As I start mentally reviewing everything of which they’ll disapprove I grab the paper bag of compost fixin’s. It gives way, coffee grounds and watermelon rinds and paper towels go everywhere. S&*(! please don’t be early, I think to myself, please don’t be here already, as I wipe the compost up into another bag, as I hurriedly straighten toys in the living room and start the dishwasher, whose engine is missing something (or perhaps it has a little something extra) and whines loudly. please don’t be early, I think. I look out the window. They’re early.
They walk in and I mentally take stock of everything that’s wrong. “What’s that noise?” asks uncle. “Where is everyone?” asks grandma. I go to get the boys, they don’t want to come in. I hope they can’t hear Everett protesting that it’s SO boring to come in, that I’ve made his day the AWFULLEST, over the whine of the dishwasher. Truman has snotty sand all over his face. It takes me several minutes to get them inside.
Truman is there and is receiving his present, the exact book I expected. I make a big deal of reading his card. “Is that a bandaid on your toe?” asks someone, Grandma I think. Everett takes pride in explaining that I cut my toe on the broken wing of the wind-up musical angel, the one Truman broke. The angel that grandma gave us for Christmas last year. Everett points out the evidence, the angel which Truman loves so much that I let him play with it even though it was breakable, the wing pieces, which I’d meant to remove.
Grandma and uncle have got to be going.
That went about as awfully as could have possibly been expected.
With no child care, I shower and pack my camera equipment. At least I’ll smell good. I get the boys together and surprisingly they are fine, I do not fall over on the bus ride, Everett meets a cute girl his age and loves her so much that he wails when we have to get off the bus. But soon he’s happy, he and Truman play wonderfully with Patrice’s son while I take a roll or two of baby pictures and chat with Patrice.
I get to hold the baby and he is wonderful. I think, I will have a baby soon, and try to forget it immediately. It’s too hard.
Patrice seems to be handling everything remarkably well. “Three children is great!” she says. “Everyone should have three! It’s so easy. I want to have another.” Her husband is refusing, but I can imagine myself, in her shoes, nursing a nine-week-old baby boy, brothers playing happily outside, eager for the next baby.
She has blueberry bushes, just planted. They’ll yield 20 pounds, each, that year. They’re gorgeous.
After a while, we must leave. Everett pitches a fit when we do and we do not stop at Dairy Queen, though I long to. Somehow we survive, we get home, I order pizza and tell Jonathan that we must set aside money for blueberry bushes.
2007.04.28. ballet day, birth day, crazy day
It isn’t that my life is hard. It isn’t that I feel that my circumstances are worse than the majority of pregnant women. There are those with husbands in Iraq or Afghanistan; there are those abandoned by the baby daddies in their lives; there are those whose resources are 1/10th of mine and whose maturity and emotional stability even less. I tell myself how much worse it could be.
Still, today, my lot seems hard.
It is Truman’s birthday, and also my husband’s. His gifts (some running gear to help him prepare for the Hood-to-Coast, and some money to celebrate) have been sent. I have set myself up for the most casual of all possible birthday parties; the backyard, cupcakes, a few close friends and family.
I manage to awake the boys early and Truman and I, as usual, spend some alone time before Everett will rouse. The day is beautiful and I am happy. I mentally plan my day: we’ll go early to ballet, stop on the way for new shoes (I just got paid!), come home, make cupcakes and yummy food, have a party.
I get Everett up and dressed easily, and by 10:30 we’re off. It’s amazing. The sun sparkles as we get off the bus at 34th, we tumble into the shoe store, we are a whirlwind, finally picking two pairs of sandals and two pairs of nicer shoes, Keen for Everett and Primigi (sandals) and See Kai Run (dress shoes) for Truman. We spend $150, and we head down the street to the photo place, to drop off, and while I’m waiting for the next bus I sneak into the fabric store across the street, I pick three lovely cuts of fabric while trying to keep Truman from destroying the store. We head to ballet. We’re even on time (barely, barely).
I am getting exhausted, from running around and carrying Truman, and we stop by the photo place (they don’t have the lens I long for), and then I stop in at the restaurant a few doors down, thinking I’ll eat, I’ll drink, I’ll have coffee, and we’ll go and pick up Everett. “That clock’s wrong, isn’t it?” I ask the waitress. It says 12:32, we need to pick him up at 12:45. “Um… no.”
I ask for water and coffee and promise to come back after getting Everett, and Truman sets in on the big jar of Dumdums. I guzzle the water and try to keep him from eating every single one. I pay, and we pick up Everett, and I wheedle to get him to come back. The menu looked good.
I order paninis, cheese for Everett and Truman and leek and asparagus for me. The boys won’t stop grabbing for the Dumdums, I can’t make them stop eating, they barely touch the grilled cheese, Truman keeps bounding out of his seat, it is a disaster. My sandwich is delicious but I have to pack up before I can decide if I’ve eaten enough, tie Truman in, and we head to pick up the photos and go home.
When we get home, it is 2:30. There is so much to do, and suddenly I can’t deal with it. I just want to take a nap, Truman and Everett are keyed up to the high heavens, everyone needs to rest but the house and yard are both a mess and I have cupcakes to bake. What else will we eat? I have no idea. I start to melt down. I can’t do this alone, I think, and wish I had time to cry.
Somehow, I limp through, by 4 p.m. I have barely started baking, and when Larissa appears I send her off for dips to go with the bread I had the foresight to buy, and something else. I don’t even know what.
Luckily, almost no one shows up, and no one else is on time. Destiny and Nehalem and Martin and Sebastian and Abby are all indulgent of my inequities, we eat bread and chips and dips, cheeses and sausages, the cupcakes come out of the oven and are delicious, I have candles. I take this as a sign that I haven’t utterly failed as a mom. I take awful photos with my big lens, too big for indoors, we sing happy birthday, and though I wish I had done better … I have not utterly failed.
Next year will be better, sweetheart. Next year, I promise not to be pregnant.
2007.04.26. anniversary party
Four years ago today I was married.
But today is not about celebration. Today I awake with pain.
It’s my coccyx again.
Two-ish years ago, at about this point in my pregnancy with Truman, I went to a church vestry ‘retreat’ in which we sat all day on church chairs and talked about vestry things. I came home unable to sit without pain, unable even to walk without pain, for a week. The coccydynia (as I learned it was called) lasted for the rest of the pregnancy, although it was never so bad.
It seems that the chairs at Old Wives’ Tales brought it back.
All day I work somewhat efficiently, and am utterly unable to focus for long periods of time, because I cannot sit without pain.
My husband has an amazing day — the barbecue he’s been planning for six weeks goes off gorgeously — and gets two coins from a Colonel and a General. This is a very big deal, although I don’t understand it fully. He calls me occasionally, ecstatic and tired with his success. He wishes me happy anniversary.
But my butt really, really hurts.
2007.04.25. healthy healthy, or unhealthy?
I have felt this week that I was scrambling with work, as if I was on a treadmill that was going just faster than I could run at my fast pace and I was in danger of falling off the back at any moment. Frantic, not “I don’t know how to do it” frantic but a more modulated “can I possibly do it all?” frantic. But nonetheless, frantic.
In times like these, the baby moving energetically is often a frustration rather than a relief. While I feel that it is most definitely a factor of the third pregnancy and not a case of this child is freakishly strong!, in any case, his somersaults and stretches and wiggles, they hurt. More than my memory of either Everett or Truman at this point in the pregnancy.
Though he is poking and prodding at me, though he barely bests Truman in his ability to entirely-without-meaning-to make me almost cry in pain, still I feel a sense of benevolence towards him. He (or she, of course, but ‘he’ is the English non-specific pronoun so I’ll just go on using it, even though the baby could I mean of course very much be a girl) and I coexist with general unanimity.
Not so with the rest of my brood, who today is bouncing between wonderful and very, very bad. We take the chickens out for a bit in the middle of the afternoon, and I plant a few seeds (Walla Walla onions, another patch of peas because those are doing so well, little carrots), and continually argue with Everett and Truman over their treatment of the poor chicks, which varies from sweet to incomprehensible. No, Everett, they do not want to be carried around in a large plastic pot. No, Truman, they do not wish to be picked up and placed on the end of the last 1″x6″x8′ board (that will one day be a box holding lavendar, or corn, depending). At one point I am required to run outside because Bella has somehow managed to squeeze between the boards of our ‘good neighbor’ fence to the north into the back patio of one of the apartments to the north. Luckily I am able to open a gate and retrieve her, after briefly assessing the fence for climbability. (I would have needed the stepladder, I think. It would have been quite awkward. The apartment’s resident, who I’ve never met — their fence only borders ours for about 10 feet — appeared not to be home.)
Eventually, I am able to finish some substantial portion of my work and Truman falls asleep and Everett is quietly watching PBS and I make a wonderful, delicious dish of pasta with cream and asparagus and leeks and yellow peppers and Abby arrives and I am off to my first meeting of the “healthy children, healthy planet” discussion group. I am a little bit late but figure that will be ok. It is not really ok. Everyone else was early. I try to catch up (I missed the first meeting while packing for New York), sitting in my wooden chair at the end of a cramped table and wishing the waitress would come and bring me hot tea and marionberry crisp with oats, the food I existed on during my bedrest with Truman.
The people in the group, who I expect to be very like me (I know some of them, through blogs and email and their knitting and lactivism), are not, and it takes me a while to get comfortable in the conversation. I am an outsider, not a homeschooler, I have different interests and media habits. I wonder if I will like these people, and I get my order and my tea is iced, I think for a very long time that it belongs to someone else.
I chat about healthy children and planets, I give my perspective on home schooling (I value it, but it was never for me, I will never homeschool my own children), I talk about how writing so much about my life in the blog has opened me to my emotions, made me vulnerable-in-a-good-way, has given me the power of expression with my children not-always-in-a-good-way. I listen respectfully to others even though at times I disagree with their approach to issues — not their conclusions, necessarily, but the way they went about arriving at them. I decide that I will like these people enough to complete the course, but I will not begin a new playgroup with them.
And I go home, I feel exhausted, I watch TV with Abby while she waits for her clothes to dry and the boys play computer games, we say goodbye. I am alone with the children and for the nth day in a row, they will not go to sleep. I have to shriek and throw things and cry and try to shut myself in the living room to ‘sleep’, knowing it would never work, and still they will not sleep.
It is very unhealthy.
Finally we get to sleep, cuddling despite our bedtime vituperations, and I wonder if I have any credibility calling anything about my children ‘healthy.’
2007.04.19. but ironically: a calm pregnancy
Today was filled with intensity, although I floated through it in a strange exhausted calm. In the five hours on the airplane, I slept fitfully, woken often by the buzz of infomercials on my personal TV screen (whose ‘off’ button I didn’t find ’til four hours into the five-some-hour flight). I awoke almost in New York, and then leapt from the quiet crunchiness of Portland to the haughty fashion-richness of New York. The city where every woman wears three-inch heels. And the lines to the bathroom are 20 minutes long.
I waited in such a line, and then groggily headed off into the city (getting on the wrong air train twice before finally realizing which would take me most efficiently to midtown). Soon I was on the subway, and it was really New York, where pregnant women have no special status. I was glad I’d boarded the E train so far from the city and could sit and knit.
I was staying at the Warwick, a grand, grand, grand old hotel very near my office and whose name I knew well but whose doors I’d never entered. I meant just to drop off my things and change my pants — it was a bit after 10 a.m. — but miraculously a room was already available.
Walking into the Warwick’s lobby was like walking into the set of a movie, circa 1940. Every woman’s eyebrows were tweezed, every cheek was blushed, every lip was strenuously lined. I, with my inability to apply makeup and my nonexistent beauty sleep, was a vibrant anomaly.
But still, I loved them, those Warwick people, who’d let me wash my face and iron my pants and change into my own three-inch heels, in a room with a stunning view of the taxis coming in for a landing at one of the many hotels on 55th avenue. So I walked into the office, cool, comfortable, and well-pressed.
It was a day filled with interest and intrigue and good food. The meeting was charged with strategic and bureaucratic concerns; I was playing both active insider and observer, and enjoyed both roles very much. I was with people I liked and admired, but whom I wished to influence, and it was fun. And there were bagels! And fruit! And sandwiches! I was the only pregnant person, and it was right.
And then, it was time for dinner, a dinner that would be both a celebration and a goodbye, and at which (of utmost importance) I would get to see my oldest, favoritest Blogging Baby buddy. At dinner, I was lucky to sit between her and the night’s honoree, one of my many bosses, who was leaving the company.
As we chatted, and ate, and chatted, and ate, Judith asked how the pregnancy was, and I said to her, “it’s good… it’s fine… you know, this pregnancy has been utterly without stress.” And I found that it was true, that despite all the clutter of life, and work, and people, and my separate-from-my-body (umm, sometimes) children, that this pregnancy had been worry-free. I hardly worried in my first trimester. My worries in my second have been extraordinarily brief, flashes in which I suffer very deep and utter concern that then passes as quickly as it came. And here. I am. 26 weeks, when a baby can survive with excellent chances outside the womb. And I haven’t even been counting the days.
Judith, who often remarks on her powers of near-psychic empathy, said that she felt my calmness. She was with me (virtually) through the pregnancy with Truman, and had certainly not felt such a calmness in that pregnancy. No. Oh no.
I sipped very slowly on my verdelho and ate and ate and ate (evidently this restaurant, Anthos, is new and “Greek-chic” and it’s absolutely wonderful). Halibut fritters and little fresh scallops with cranberry slices and mussels and delectable octopus and the best, fattiest, saltiest, most flavorful branzino I’ve ever eaten. And I was calm, I was at peace. For hours, we talked and ate and drank, in a balmy cloud of goodwill to my unborn child.
2007.04.18. stress, stress baby
During my pregnancy with Truman, I was ever-conscious of the connection between a mother’s stress and the tender emotional development of my child. I worked, with yoga and positive thinking and constant awareness, to address said connection, to ensure that Truman’s little brain would be ever-ready to face the world.
And then, I can’t put my finger upon exactly why or where or when, but that whole thing went out the window. Certainly, Truman seems to handle life’s stressors with unusual ease for a child his age. Certainly, I still believe there is a link (intellectually). But does my behavior show it?
The past week has been only one example of that. There’s a very good reason you haven’t seen hide nor hair of me on this blog for 10-ish days. Four good ones, actually: (1) Everett (2) Truman (3) Jonathan (4) Work, life, chicks, taxes, bills. Hail storms that make heat lamp bulbs explode (whaa?) Piles and piles and piles of bills and mortgage solicitations and the odd actual useful piece of financial data. Children that won’t eat anything but frozen waffles with butter and syrup. Cell phone companies with stupid policies who require me to get a Go! phone instead of the one I’d really love to make emergency calls from. Crazy students shooting up a whole campus, causing me to stop everything to write about it. the bees. Oh, the bees.
Tonight, I was preparing to leave for New York on a midnight flight (that should be a song…). Everett knew I was leaving, and as usual he started some chaos to see what I’d do, insisting on “pillow-fighting” (also known as walloping someone as hard as humanly possible with a hard cushion), causing Truman to scream loudly and try to hide behind me, as *I* tried to pack and do last-minute work before getting on a plane. The stuff I’d been putting off all week to write interesting pieces on bees, and lone gunmen. I lost it, not once but several times. I felt like an awful heel.
The thing was, that morning early on BBC, while recovering from my marathon tax session ’round 2:30 a.m., there had been a piece on how the stress of a mother affects the unborn child. Even worse, they’d done the research on chickens (treating them humanely, natch). It was so in my face.
I wanted to break down and cry. But Grandma and Grandpa soon were there, and Everett happily played tv games while Truman fell asleep scritch-scratching at my bare arm, while I downloaded traffic data. And he kissed me goodbye, over and over, sweetly. No one cried when I left. I got on the bus and took out my laptop and all was well.
Two hours later, after having furiously pounded out my important work and literally stolen every possible minute before boarding the plane, I sat down next to a first-time mom with a 14-month-old. He was frantic with tiredness, and I commisserated with her as we took off, the sweet round-faced hooligan arching his back with frustration and bonking his head against the plane’s wall. She was trying so hard. She was having such a difficult time.
So I turned off my light and closed my eyes and felt calm, sleepy, peaceful thoughts, to Theo, to my baby, to myself, and I drifted off into stress-less limbo in seat 1B.
2007.04.10. child of w.. OWWW!
There is a moment in my every pregnancy that, all in a day, the baby’s movements change unsubtly. Yesterday? I was almost worried about the movement, wondering if my long walk had done some minor damage. Today?
For the first time today, the baby’s kicks HURT. How does this happen, that baby can progress from cute little burbles and hiccups to full-scale internal attacks?
Most memorably, the neighborhood meeting was tonight, and as I sat patting my belly happily and knitting while listening to a tense conversation about the future of Powell (it’s lovely, and could very well alter the tenor of the entire neighborhood, but will cause some unwanted shade on three individuals’ houses), suddenly baby walloped me a good one.
“OHH!” I said, audibly. No one turned around… hard though the kick was I suppose the potential change in property values was too much more interesting than my knock-down drag-out with baby. He kept on kicking, and I started wondering: could this baby be stronger than either Everett or Truman? Say it isn’t so!
I’d be loving “Oliver” that morning, but as I left the meeting and noodled on it, walking through the elementary school halls, I started thinking “Ollie” and how terrifically geeky that name sounded. My boys are bruisers. Oliver won’t work.
Back to studying my spam…