Saturday, April 7

A story about birth

Here's a little story about one not-so-little boy's terrestrial debut and how his mom fared.

I know, I know, it's called "false labor" or "pre-labor" or "Braxton-Hicks" and it's not technically labor-labor, but still. My contractions were so frequent and so annoying that I'm calling this the longest labor on the record books -- 2 months at least! Crazy contractions from the beginning of February were basically preventing me from moving in most functional ways. Add that to an increasingly-willful two-year-old and a husband working pretty much any time he wasn't sleeping, and I was at the end of my sanity string.

I was sure Baby Surprise (we didn't know the gender) would come early since I had hardly any pre-labor with Maren and she was a few days early. Whereas with Maren I was really in no hurry to have my life turned upside-down and greatly in denial about the onset of labor, this time I felt like Baby couldn't come soon enough and I spent most of March thinking surely tonight was the night.  But when I hit my due date of March 30 and I was dilated to a whopping ZERO, I gave up on ever giving birth and resigned myself to a state of permanent pregnancy.

Spoiler alert: the pregnancy DID eventually end! But before we cut to the chase, I want to display the awesome henna tattoos my sister did on my belly. The first one wore off too fast, so she did another last Saturday. She loves doing it and they look really cool!

Henna skills

After washing off the henna -- it came out really light

The second one. Nice paisleys!

Okay, now for the story. I tried to keep it short but, well, brevity is not my strong point.

Wednesday night around 10:00 the show started, though I was skeptical since I had been expecting the show to start almost every night for a month. I didn't want to make my mom drive 45 minutes in the middle of the night only to send her home. So I waited, and for the first time the contractions got worse instead of better. Finally I was convinced that this was the real deal!

We called my mom at about 12:15 in the a.m. and she arrived shortly after 1:00. By this time Mark had the car packed and I was vocalizing and swaying through the contractions. For a while I would lean on the washing machine and sway my hips. Later I would kneel at the bed and bite down on a rag during the contractions. During each contraction, I focused on relaxing my face and repeating in my mind, "Every contraction ends. Every contraction ends." Mark had called the hospital to request the room big enough for the new inflatable tub. No luck; it was occupied. At this point I thought, there is no way I can do this without meds if I have no tub. My resolve to go epidural-free weakened a little.

I knelt in the back seat of the car for the 10 minute drive to the hospital. Fortunately we hit all green lights because every bump and turn and stop and gear shift was agony. I felt like were in the parking garage forever. Some random hospital employees helped carry our stuff and I had to make several rather loud stops for contractions. Good thing it was the middle of the night so I avoided an audience.

At around 1:30 I was dilated to a 6. (Hurray!) They moved me from triage to an L&D room -- it wasn't big enough for the inflatable tub, but I was relieved to find that it did have a tub in the bathroom. It wasn't any bigger than a standard bathtub, but I was just glad to have it. They filled it up, stuck some waterproof wireless monitors on my belly (these are awesome!), and I got in.

Ahhhhhh...pain free! Contractions no longer hurt at all! I asked for a book and a glass of juice and just hung out for a few hours.


Yeah right!

Things were definitely painful, but the water took the edge off. I can't explain it. Because of the shape of the tub, the only comfortable position was kneeling with my ankles crossed and leaning over the edge. Mark sat on one side for a while and gently rubbed my back during contractions. Later he got a stool and sat in front of me. Contractions were getting a lot stronger and I was trying to keep my vocalizing low.  I kept reminding myself that every contraction ends and tried to keep my face relaxed.

This was totally different than it had been with Maren. During that labor, I felt like the pain was taking me over and I felt fear that it would never end. I felt like I didn't know what was going on, that it was taking too long, and wondered whether it was normal. I needed so much more attention -- Mark at my head, nurses rubbing my back, etc. Granted it was a LOT longer, but this time I didn't really need anyone besides Mark sitting there. The midwife just hung out outside the bathroom and the nurse popped her head in every once in a while. Despite the pain, I felt very calm. Having been through it once and survived, I knew it would end and that I wouldn't feel this pain anymore. I tried to focus on two specific memories of Maren's birth: the indescribable relief of having her finally out, and the calm, pain-free ride home from the birth center with her in the car seat, the ordeal over with. It WOULD end.

I started feeling the urge to push surprisingly soon. The midwife said I was at an 8 -- a little early for pushing, but I couldn't help it. I developed a new routine where during each contraction I would lean my arms out of the tub and stick my fingers under the tongues of Mark's sneakers and pull as hard as I could while I moaned and grunted. Mark told me later he considered what would happen if I went suddenly crazy and threw him off the stool (didn't happen). I tried to keep the grunting in control (so I wouldn't have a sore throat like last time), but I couldn't help it. Through a few contractions, I did try to distract myself by making the weirdest grunting noises I could, or making up little rhythms. Just a little diversion in my head.

When I was checked again and still at an 8, there was a bit of discouragement that sneaked in and started to nibble at the fringes of my mind. I remembered how I had been stuck at an 8 for several hours with Maren and how that just about did me in. But I forced myself to not think like that because I couldn't afford to get discouraged. And there was no need. Before long I was at a 9, and then pop! My water broke.

I told the midwife that my water had broken (though I contemplated not telling her), and she told me to get out of the tub. (Hospital policy is that you can labor in the tub but you can't deliver in it.) I had decided that I didn't want to get out of the tub, so I told her that I couldn't move -- which was mostly true. I started pushing, and they tried to get me out. I knew they weren't going to drag me out, so I just kept saying no. Finally the midwife said, "We'll have to drain the water then." In my head I answered, "Dang it!" but knew I had really no recourse at that point and it wasn't worth fighting.

There were two handicap bars mounted horizontally on the wall of the tub, and I pulled myself up into a squatting position and hung on those bars while I pushed, and pushed, and pushed. Man, pushing is HARD WORK! It's a different kind of pain from contractions -- a more productive pain -- but it is absolutely exhausting. Somewhere in my primal self there was some superhuman strength, and I held myself up on those bars for 15 minutes and pushed. I tried to hold my breath and concentrate my energy on pushing, but a few times I couldn't help but let out these crazy primitive roars. It was not the best position to be supporting myself in, and a few times I thought I would collapse, but I really had no choice but to stay there. I kept focusing on the immediate relief of getting the baby out. Jill, the midwife, leaned into the tub to support my perineum and keep an eye on things. I felt a bit of relief and asked if the baby was out. Jill answered that the head was out, and I yelled, "get the rest of it out!" And then -- whoop -- baby was out and they were handing it to me. It was just like I remembered, slimy and slippery, covered in blood and vernix. This might sound gross and certainly weird, but this is my absolute favorite part. I love how slimy they are.

I sat and held the baby. The nurse said, "Do you want to know the gender?" And I thought, Give me a second, woman! Labor is so exhausting that you just want a minute to let the relief sink in. I said no, I wanted to check for myself, and I rested for a few more minutes. Then I checked and we had -- a boy! I was shocked. I though for sure I'd be looking at another girl, and I spent the next 36 hours voicing this surprise at random intervals.

Anyway, little Andrew showed up at 4:08 a.m. and weighed in at 8 lbs 15 oz! If we had weighed him before he pooped, he might have topped 9 lbs. No wonder pushing was so hard! But I was only in labor for 6 hours, and just over two of those hours at the hospital. THIS is the way to do it. I didn't need much support, I felt calm and in control, and overall I felt like a champion. I was so pleased with how it all happened, and unlike last time, I thought, I could do this again. (Although...third trimester nearly did me in. I'm not really keen on doing THAT part again.)

Within hours my arms and legs were so sore that I could barely lift my liter mug of full of water. I must have had some crazy adrenaline woman strength to suspend myself from those bars for so long. Every muscle group from my neck to my ankles (aside from the non-existent abdominals) absolutely ached. I needed help just to lift myself out of bed. It was annoying to be unable to move, but very satisfying to think that I pulled that off.

So if I had to sum up labor in a series of pictures, it would look like this:

It was a good experience. Thank you, Maren, for breaking me in! This second labor much better.

Here's some hospital commentary for anyone interested. If not, just skip to the pictures.  The main reason I opted for a hospital is cost. Because we Mark works at University Hospital, our insurance covered almost everything. There are a handful of birth centers in Salt Lake, but only one of them takes insurance, and I wasn't thrilled about the lone midwife who ran that place. UH is also the only "Baby Friendly" hospital in Utah, and they have a birth care practice run by midwives (one of whom I met volunteering at the birth center in Texas). I was impressed with their philosophy and satisfied that they would support the experience I was looking for.

Overall, it was fine. I didn't need much support at all, and despite feeling a little annoyed at hospital policies, everything was fine. I will say that it was VERY annoying the next day to have a billion people poking their heads in my room every thirty minutes. The nurse needs to feel your belly. The aide needs to take your vitals. The pediatric team needs to evaluate the baby. The vital records lady wants to know if you've filled out the birth certificate yet. Food service is dropping off breakfast. Oh, time to feel your abdomen again! I understand that all these people have very specialized jobs, but it made it tough to get any rest. I did love the reclining bed though. That was really nice for someone who could barely move.

Anyway, here are some pictures of the little man.


Maren's introduction today couldn't have gone better. She giggled with delight about Baby Andrew and asked to "hold it." Then she tried to share every toy she could find with him. It was lovely.

No-neck is not the most flattering newborn angle.

Blurry kiss picture

So there you have it. Welcome to the world, little Andrew! You have smitten everyone you've met, including your big sister (who you resemble quite a bit).

Friday, March 9

The thing about single guys

Since I moved out of my parents’ house some 9 years ago, I have always lived somewhere with a shared wall or ceiling/floor. Some of these living arrangements have been better than others, of course. Most have been all right.

Except when I’ve shared the wall with (a) single guy(s).

Not that it’s the guys’ fault, so much as the places with crappy walls have happened to be places where single guys also live. (Maybe there’s a correlation there.) And, of course, the shared wall has to be in the master bedroom.

But here’s the thing about sharing a paper-thin wall with a single guy.

I think it’s safe to say that single guys live a very different lifestyle than does a married couple with a small child.

In South Texas, we shared the wall with Edgar, a border patrol agent. He was a nice, clean-cut, polite guy who kept to himself. But border patrol agents work wacky hours, and I can only imagine that cranking up the music helps them unwind after a busy day’s (or night’s) work. The only redeeming factor to Edgar’s music habits was that we had similar taste. He liked Coldplay; I like Coldplay. And judging by how often we heard Coldplay coming through the wall, Edgar liked Coldplay a lot. So do I, but not so much at 10:30 p.m. when I would rather be sleeping.

For the first several months we just thought that Edgar liked his music really, really loud. But that’s the problem with sharing a wall with a single guy—he’s single. And single, sane people don’t talk much when they’re alone, which makes it hard to gauge just how thin your wall is. So when Edgar started watching a lot of sports (I think?), and yelling at his TV, and I could hear every single word, I realized it wasn’t his music; it was our wall.

Then I overheard some of his phone conversations.

And then I died.

Because I am not a quiet person. And this is our master bedroom and bathroom, I remind you. Where I happened to spend a lot of time talking with my husband. Probably quite loudly. Suffice it to say my I tried to drop my pitch after that, and I was conscious that every thing I said might possibly be overheard.

Like the time I went into labor at midnight and did a lot of loud moaning—I felt very self-conscious. Hopefully Edgar was working that night.

We moved back to San Antonio and shared a wall again—this time with another couple. I can safely say that this duplex was built to much higher standards, since we never, EVER heard that couple through the wall. And believe me, I would’ve known, because there were many times when I did hear the wife blow her top and scream at her husband in a fit of uncontrolled hysteria while they were outside on their back porch. I doubt she reserved these explosions only for their backyard tête-à-têtes, so I was glad for a nice, thick, well-insulated wall.

Alas, a nice, thick, well-insulated wall was not to be for our current residence.

And, naturally, we share our duplex with single guys of a worldly nature, who definitely do not have the same lifestyle as a married couple with a small child and the schedule of a medical resident.

And of course the shared wall (one of them) is, again, in the master bedroom.

Still, it’s hard to gauge just how bad the wall is. Because, remember, people who don’t share a room don’t talk that much, and for a while, when you hear and feel the bass thumping through the wall (our new neighbor, unfortunately, does not share my music taste), you think it’s probably just loud music that vibrates past the threshold of your home.

Then you hear two of the roommates talking to each other, and you realize your naïveté.

Then one afternoon you hear a female having an emotional breakdown in the bathroom (oh yes, we share that wall too).

Then you are awakened in the night by suspicious-sounding bed-bouncing type noises, and you are extremely glad you have your bed on the opposite wall.

Then you are awakened by what must have been a dance party of some kind, with lots of jumping and female laughter. At midnight.

It didn’t take long for earplugs to become standard for me at night. And of course I wonder what our neighbor can hear from us. Me laughing, definitely. Maren crying, certainly. Maren squealing in the bathtub, absolutely. Me yelling “Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaark!” in the shower when the shaving gel runs out, bet your life on it. But what else? What is a safe pitch at which to converse? It’s an obnoxious question to have in the back of your mind every time you open your mouth in the “privacy” of your own bedroom.

We haven’t said anything about it to the guys next door. It’s hard to know just how unreasonable their volume choices are when you live somewhere that was built decades ago and is so shoddily put together (don't get me started) that I can only assume it was skipped over by a bribed building inspector. AND because I figure that in a few weeks when I’m bunking with a newborn that will be payback enough for a while.

I’m just looking forward to the day when I don't share a wall with any neighbors, let alone a crappy wall shared with single guys.

Sunday, January 8

Post-2011 update

Anyone still out there? Anyone?

I have some blogging issues that prevent me from writing very often (things like privacy and self-consciousness and belaboring everything I write, etc. etc.), but after reading so many of my favorite people's Christmas cards, letters, emails, blog posts, etc., I figured maybe I should do some sort of update in an effort to be better at staying in touch (something I'm horrible at). I will EVEN include some pictures.

Anyway, here are some of the highlights of 2011 for us, in mostly chronological order.

Mark started off the year finishing interviewing at pediatric residency programs around the country. He loved Primary Children's in Utah, and in March we were elated to find that we matched there.
(Yay! We're going back to Utah!)

Dani spent the first half of 2011 taking a weekly cycling class through the San Antonio Wheelmen, which finally made me feel legitimate enough to call myself a "cyclist." I mean, once you learn about the butt cream, you are IN.

(Can you find me? I'm the one on the far left, wearing a blue borrowed jacket on an unusually chilly Texas morning.)

Maren entered that awkward phase where you are trying to grow your bangs out...but you have no bangs because you happen to be completely bald from the crown forward. We not-so-affectionately dubbed this the Ben Franklin look.

Maren, January 2011, and Ben, 1750's?

Thus 2011 quickly became Maren's "Year of the Permanent Pigtails."

A decent pigtail shot, April 2011, and a reminder of Maren's love for this dog sign we passed each day on the way to the mailbox. Never could she pass it without stopping to give a kiss.

Mark graduated from medical school in May. Kind of a big deal.

(Traditional graduation "Ascension" jump)

In May Dani packed the house with the obsessive meticulousness I have acquired over 4 moves in 5 years of marriage. Miraculously, everything barely fit in our moving truck, and we said adios to Texas, the land of interminable summer.

After 4 years, I finally got a picture in front of the Alamo.

A final outing to Guadalupe State Park, wherein Maren tries to acquire giardia in order to test her father's newly earned physician skills.

Goodbye, San Antonio home!

Goodbye, wallpaper that makes one question the judgment and sanity of both the designer of this product and whoever chose it for this bathroom!

Of course, we also said goodbye to many great friends, who we miss a lot.

Dani found us a decent rental on the east side of Salt Lake City. It is a good size and close to the hospital, but it has the most atrocious carpet of any place I've lived in yet. Including in the dining area. (Who carpets the dining area?! Seriously?) Fortunately we have an awesome landlord who let us replace the carpeted dining area and vinyl kitchen with some free (FREE!!) laminate I scored off the KSL free classifieds. Total cost for ancillary materials was like $60, and the landlord reimbursed us. Major improvement.

BEFORE: Carpet & vinyl (note that this picture does not do the stains [I only pointed out two] nor the carpet justice)

AFTER:New laminate floor where a 2-year-old can eat spaghetti without her mother hovering over every twirl of the fork

Dani dyed her hair for the first time ever. Sure it was a box and the temporary kind that washes out (I wasn't really committed), but it was unprecedented.

Mark, on a rare day off, helped my parents dig a new window well with a mini-excavator, also known as a trackhoe. He was like a little boy with a new video game running that machine. He only hit the brick once (oops) and his amazing coordination served him and my parents well. This experience only reinforced Maren's obsession with backhoes and all other construction equipment.

Dani, a month or so after getting pregnant, broke her leg in a rather unpleasant paragliding fiasco. I healed up nicely though and both legs are doing their best to support my ever-expanding girth. Baby #2 will make his or her gender known upon arrival sometime around April Fool's Day 2012.

The only belly shot I could find (I'm the one on the left).

Maren loves to be outside, no matter how cold it is. She is a champ and a bit of a daredevil on this tricycle/scooter, and sometimes when's she's cruising downhill I can barely keep up with her (see "expanding girth" above).
We all wish it would snow a little more this hazy winter.

Maren went from being a baby in January to a full-blown toddler by December, when she turned 2. Though she only grew one clothing size, she stopped nursing, learned to walk, dropped a nap, finally grew some hair on top (but not still not much), and expanded her vocabulary from animal noises to full (if grammatically and syntactically incorrect) sentences. Like, "Look, backhoe blue one outside over there!" and then, "Look, two backhoes yellow!" Or, "Mom uh-oh owie foot this -- kisses need it?"

December 2011

2012 has started out great.

Mark continues to spend all his time either at the hospital or sleeping. He honestly loves the program at Primary Children's even if he doesn't love all the stress or the busy schedule. He informed me yesterday that after a month in the newborn nursery he is now very confident in performing circumcisions.

Dani works around the clock incubating human life. As if that isn't enough, I also keep everyone fed, clothed, bathed, etc., and I'm foraying into couponing, food storage, massive home-organization overhaul, and starting a bunch of projects that I hope to finish sometime in the next two years.

Finally, Maren spends her days eating, sleeping, reading books, dancing to the piano's demo music, jumping everywhere, and just overall being a delight to be around.

So there you have it, some randomness from 2011 and a strong start to 2012.