Monday, December 28, 2009

AirTran, the Child-Free Airline

Yesterday, on our flight from Atlanta to Pittsburgh, Flight 985 on AirTran, a woman and her two-year-old son were removed from the plane when the child would not sit still in his seat. We were on the tarmac, ready for take-off, when the pilot announced that there was "an issue in the cabin" and that we'd be returning to the gate. At the gate, a customer service person came on and informed the woman that she'd have to get off the plane--even though, by that time, she'd calmed her son and he was falling asleep. Some passengers (including me) called out in her defense, but AirTran would not be swayed.

Andrew and I had talked to this mom and her son when we'd boarded--they were sitting directly in front of us. The little boy was very blond and cute; he talked to us over the seat back. When the plane began to move, he fell asleep in his mother's lap. But then a flight attendant (male, completely cold, frowning) approached and asked how old he was. The mother said he was just over two. "Then he has to sit in his own seat with his seat belt fastened," the man said.

When the woman shifted her son to his own seat, he began screaming and dissolved into full meltdown toddler mode. He would not sit still and allow himself to be buckled in--he just wanted his mother to hold him. It was heart-breaking to listen to, especially as the flight attendant grew increasingly insistent, the mother began crying herself in frustration and humiliation, and not one crew member attempted to help her or diffuse the situation.

Eventually, he calmed down, but it was too late for AirTran. The mother, in tears, led her little boy off the plane. Who knows when they managed to get to Pittsburgh--lots of flights were fully booked. And I can't imagine that a several-hours-long wait at the airport for the next flight will help the child have a calm next flight.

It was horrifying, from start to finish. No compassion. AirTran's new ad campaign features a slew of reasons to take an easy-breezy flight: bachelor party, old friend, long weekend, away game, etc. But how can any parent feel easy-breezy about AirTran when a crying child can leave you stranded in a strange airport, miles and miles from home?

A passenger spotted Lucia sleeping in her sling as we were getting off the plane in Pittsburgh. "You didn't get thrown off!" he said. But it could easily, so easily, be us next time.

Friday, December 18, 2009

This Morning



Cozy morning.

Lil’ Bruiser



Yesterday when Lucia woke up, I gasped—it looked like she’d been in a bar fight. For a day or two now her eye had been a bit watery, with some mucus-y matter in the corner, and yesterday the entire underside of her eye was a pinkish purple, like someone had punched her. Punched my baby! I took her to the pediatrician in the afternoon, and he deemed it an infection. We’re now taking Our First Antibiotic. Do they have a Hallmark card for that?

She looks almost entirely back to normal today, so I didn’t have a chance to take a picture of Lucia with her Don’t Mess With Me look. Ah well. I’m just glad we got it taken care of now, since we leave for the East Coast tomorrow.

We are looking at the flight as an adventure…and, really, we’re so excited for the trip that even if Fusskins makes an appearance, I think we’ll be able to take it in stride. Tonight I have to select her traveling outfit…and her backup traveling outfits…and my backup traveling outfit. Milk and other bodily fluids are as much a part of our wardrobes now as cute shoes once were.

I like the picture at the top of this post—she seems to be saying to her grandparents, “Ready for me?” And in the picture below, she's practicing the look she'll give the flight attendants to reassure them of an easy flight. A plane ride--yay!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

An Empty Warning


Last night, I did something I haven’t done in months: I put on cute tights, knee-high boots, a skirt, and a non-milk-stained sweater and went to a party, leaving a little Fusskins with Andrew for a couple of hours while I celebrated the grand opening of my prenatal yoga teacher’s new studio. And I talked—talked!—to a variety of other moms, and even made plans to get together with a few of them in the new year. In other words, I was a regular human being again, at least for a little while.

I was happy to hear from every other girl I talked to that they, too, spent days—weeks—crying once they brought their babies home. Lately, I’ve been thinking about the impressions and preconceptions about motherhood that I had before giving birth. I’d heard that having a baby was hard—no one ever, ever said to me it was a piece of cake. But for some unknown reason, in the back of my mind, I thought it’d be different for me—that I’d be different, or do something differently, or have a different kind of baby who’d be born with a symbiotic, mind-reading sort of understanding with her mama. Just as Mom and Dad didn’t believe California was awful until we were stuck on I-80 this summer in 100+ degree heat in a non-air-conditioned car that was filling with smoke from a wildfire by the side of the road, I didn’t believe having a baby could be all that hard until—BAM—Lucia was here, crying and screaming and otherwise exploiting her cuteness to drive me over the edge. Then I realized: why yes, having a baby is hard, just like everyone always said.

It’s the kind of warning, though, that’s difficult to deliver with any kind of credibility, especially when the person saying it’s hard has an adorable, gurgling baby or smiling toddler or thriving grown child and seems to have it all together, to have survived unscathed. It’s easy to see why I never quite bought it. And if I myself deliver such a warning one day, while holding an increasingly cute, cooing, bright-eyed Lucia, I wouldn’t be surprised if whoever is listening (Molly) smiles while thinking to herself, Hard for Margo, maybe—but it’ll surely be different for me.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Christmas Project


This year, Andrew and I have decided to do something different for Christmas—we’re giving our friends and Andrew’s co-workers homemade Christmas presents. Because undertaking a logistically complex and incredibly time-consuming baking project is exactly what one should do when one has an infant! Nonetheless, this weekend we braved the relentless cold and rain (I thought we lived in California!) and set out to make our preparations.

First stop: one of Roseville’s countless big box stores, an employee-owned grocery store chain with dirt-cheap prices and a fabulous bulk food section. The prices are akin to Pechin’s, for those of you from southwestern PA. The new Pechin’s, not the old (no dirt floors here, though there were buckets out to catch leaks from the ceiling). It’s a mammoth store, always chaotic, but we put Lucia in the sling and she slept peacefully the entire time. What I love about the sling, besides having two free hands, is that no one can actually see the baby. They can see that I have a baby, but they can’t see her precious little face or her pure, clean, flu-free hands. This is good, because it means I haven’t yet had to use my Mama Bear voice to say, PLEASE DON’T TOUCH THE BABY. I’ve been practicing this phrase; it’s delivered in a firm, clear voice, a pitch or two louder than it has to be, with just a hint of an unidentifiable accent to make it intimidating. I’m kind of waiting for an opportunity to use it, hopefully in Andrew’s presence for maximum amusement.

A note on this store. It was chaotic, yes, and at one point I made a comment to Andrew about being overwhelmed by the crush of humanity. When I said this, we were pushing an enormous shopping cart down an almost empty aisle as wide as my apartment in Brooklyn. We have gotten wimpy, wimpy, wimpy when it comes to crowds. We’ve been Rosevillified.

Anyway, our next stop was Target. Again, the sling made shopping so easy. And then—it was time to actually start baking. For a while, Lucia sat quietly in her little infant seat, dozing or watching the goings-on. When she started fussing, Andrew put her in the Baby Bjorn, and she went right to sleep. It’s like not even having a baby!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Magic Words


I’m knocking on wood as I type this, but…Lucia has stopped screaming before breast-feeding. She is now eagerly latching on and nursing peacefully. By Friday of last week, Andrew and I were both exhausted and frustrated, and we were eagerly anticipating our appointment with our pediatrician. He didn’t have any solutions—I was hoping he’d say immediately it was reflux and give us some medicine in a dropper—and suggested a week of formula to gauge her reaction to that. I wasn’t about to do that, however (we’ve come so far with breast-feeding, and I feel strongly it’s the right thing for us), and I continued to explain what was happening. I told him I’d started trying to feed her every hour and a half to stave off any hunger-related hysteria. “Don’t do that,” he said immediately. “Just watch her. Let her eat only when she wants to.” He told me to stop waking her up to eat. It seemed like such obvious advice…

…and yet the magic words worked. Friday, I started watching the baby, not the clock, and only fed her when she gave clear signals of being hungry. Knock on wood—we have been great all weekend. Was it really so ridiculously simple? Was I really just letting my Italian mama side get out of control—“Eat something! Eat!”—and force-feeding my baby? Feed her when she’s hungry—it’s so obvious, and something I knew but somehow forgot in my frantic determination to feed the baby. I was trying to impose my will on her instead of letting her communicate to me what she needs. Indeed, perhaps she was communicating via her screams: I’M NOT HUNGRY. LEAVE ME ALONE, FOOD-PUSHING MOMMY. I WAS SLEEPING.

Every day, a new lesson. But who knows. I could post this, and she could start screaming again. For now, however, we’ve reached a feeding peace.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Letter to Lucia: 8 Weeks


Little Lucy,

You’re eight weeks old today—two months! And wow, have you been giving your mama a run for her money. Last week was probably the most difficult I’ve had since you were born. I really felt like I couldn’t keep it together, and all the difficulty we’ve been having with feeding you made me feel distraught. This week has been better. You’re still screaming before feedings, but I’m handling it with more grace, and I’ve found some tricks for calming you down and getting you to eat peacefully. We have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow, which may or may not be helpful. I suspect he may just tell us this is a phase we need to get through. I’m not about to stop breastfeeding, so you and I are going to have to work it out together.

In the past few weeks you’ve started smiling, which is adorable. Sometimes you give us tentative little smiles, but sometimes your whole face lights up, eyes crinkling, as though you’re laughing at a private baby joke. You’ve been cooing, too, and sometimes we’re absolutely convinced you’re trying to say “Hi!”

Two nights ago, you rolled over—from tummy to back. You’ve been trying to do this for a couple of weeks. You have all the movements right, but you don’t yet have that extra oomph that would get you from one side to the other. Finally, you did it. It may have been a fluke—you haven’t done it again—but it was a step in the right direction.

Next week, we’re going to take you on a plane for the first time—and, for the first time, back home to the East Coast. I’m nervous about the flight, since feeding you tends to be such a production, but I am counting down the seconds to the trip anyway. It’s going to be so much fun to introduce you to new family members—Grandpa Bob! Aunt Katherine! Nana! Uncle Ian! Myriad Orlandos and Connellsville friends!—and spend our first Christmas with you. Of course you won’t know what’s happening. (Daddy and I didn’t even get you any gifts—will you hold it against us someday?) But you’ll make this holiday unforgettable for us.

Right now you’re sleeping in your sling, right against my chest. I can feel you breathing, and can see each little movement of your fingers. Sometimes when you’re screaming and your daddy and I are trying desperately to make you happy I forget how little you really are—and you are little. Tiny little hands, tiny feet, eensy-weensy little toes. Before bedtime, when we do skin-to-skin nursing and you fall asleep in bed beside me, curled up tight under the warm covers, you are your smallest, baby-est self, fully unaware of the way we gaze at you, whispering to each other that we have the best baby in the world.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Feeding Troubles


I had two goals for Sunday: 1. Go to Target; 2. Get through the whole day without crying. I’m proud to say it was Mission Accomplished. It’s now 7pm on Monday, and today has been tear-free as well. I’m on a roll.

I’ve always considered myself a pretty capable person—even adventurous, or at least willing to take (calculated) risks when it came to going new places and trying new things. I’ve never been one to give up on things, or to assume I couldn’t do something just because I’d never done it before.

And yet I’m now humbled to say that motherhood has thrown me for a loop, to put it mildly. How is it possible that Lucia, a tiny being smaller than most housepets, has pushed me to—and past—my limits time and again over the past few days? We had a rough week last week. It was a culmination of factors, namely extreme fussiness and a hesitation—nay, a violent aversion—to breast-feeding. Each time I put her into feeding position, she began screaming shrilly, a kind of scream I’ve never heard from her before. She didn’t starve—she sometimes decided to feed; and if it went on too long I pumped and gave her a bottle—but it was incredibly, incredibly stressful for me. I felt like she absolutely hated me, and felt like a complete failure at feeding my child. She would scream, I would get increasingly frantic, and it always ended with both of us sobbing. This went on all week. By the time Andrew came home from work each day the house had become a place where tranquility was a distant dream. And the fussiness would continue.

I actually cried so hard this week that at one point a contact fell out. Now that’s some crying.

We’re still working out the cause of this strange screaming; she’s not sick, no fever or etc., so who knows. Doing skin-to-skin feedings seems to have done some good this weekend, and today she fed well, even falling asleep on my chest several times after a good nursing. I spoke to a lactation consultant today who reassured me that these things will pass; and we have a doctor’s appointment on Friday. If there is a cause to find, we will find it.

In any case, it was quite a week. The breast-feeding troubles unmoored me enough so that any tiny thing could set off a new crying jag; it was more like a week-long crying jag with small intervals of red-eyed calm. Now that a fresh week has begun, I am trying, really trying, to stay centered and in the moment, to approach each feeding as a beacon of calm reassurance, to focus on what I’m doing at any given time instead of worrying about what’s to come (the end of our Christmas vacation, when we’ll leave our families; Andrew’s upcoming overnight business trip in January). I am filled with admiration and awe these days—for single mothers, military wives with husbands abroad, friends who have survived their children’s infanthoods (sometimes with more than one child at a time), anyone who’s raised their babies and lived to tell about it.

This is hard. This is really, really hard. I love this baby to pieces; but I am simply blown away by the fact that she may be the greatest challenge of my life.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Tired

I’m tired.

It’s strange to feel more tired now than I have been, since Lucia’s sleeping has been getting so much better. But I’m tired. With all our visitors gone now and Andrew back to work, I find that my days alone with Lucia pass quickly—but leave me exhausted. Most days we do just fine. But here and there we have A Day, like we did on Monday, when I’ve apparently eaten something horrendous that leaves Lucia in inconsolable discomfort. Even an hour or two of her painful crying wipes me out and has me counting the minutes until I hear Andrew’s car in the driveway.

And now that I’m trying to pick up a little work again, I find my stress level has skyrocketed—I don’t know how I’m going to find time in the day to do what I need to do. Part of my problem is that if Lucia so much as glances at me from her bassinet or bouncy chair, I’m overwhelmed with guilt for not holding her. I didn’t expect to feel this way, and I can’t get over it—she looks at me so innocently and plaintively, as though she just can’t understand why Mommy’s not where baby is. I’m not sure how to strike the right balance yet, or if it’s even going to be possible, or what’s going to happen if it’s not. And then I get even more overwhelmed in this cycle of thinking. I’m completely torn between wanting to start working again (I generally like the writing and editing I do and have worked hard to build it up) and wanting to not work at all so I can simply tend to Lucia every second. I know it’s going to be a process of trial and error; but it would be nice if I didn’t feel so guilt-stricken while I figure it all out.

In the meantime…I’m tired. I don’t think I’ve yet developed the mental capacity to deal with all these mothering conundrums.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

The Extra-Hour Challenge

Lucia’s sleep has improved dramatically over the past week or so—she can generally go for about four hours now before waking up for a feeding. Now and then she’ll even surprise us with a five- or even six-hour stretch. Our strategy is to give her a bottle (of breastmilk) as her last feeding before bedtime—she seems to eat more this way, and it’s that first stretch of sleep that has improved so drastically. She’ll then wake up once more, around 6:00am or so, before we get up for the day.

Unfortunately, Lucia’s idea of a good time to get up for the day and our idea of a good time is about two hours off. When Lucia wakes up at 6:00 to eat, she’s usually wide awake, ready to play. She is not ready to go back in her bassinet. We, however, are determined to get at least another hour of sleep—and so the extra-hour challenge begins. Andrew usually takes the lead on singing, dancing, and playing, sometimes lying with her on the floor for half an hour or so while she kicks and coos. When, after being rocked and sung to, she seems amenable to sleep, we pull out all the stops—her white-fleece swaddler goes back on, and we employ a pacifier, the white-noise machine, and the vibrating function on the bassinet. Though she tends to be wide-eyed when we put her down, the combination of these sleep-inducing tools usually does the trick, and she’ll go back to sleep until around 8:00am or so. Today she was extra-sleepy and slept until 9:00am.

It would probably be less painful for all of us to just get up at 6:00am and get the day started…but we will continue to fight for that extra hour, for now. I choose, at this point, not to think about what our trip East is going to do to our developing schedule.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Imagining Christmas

I’m excited for Christmas this year. Of course, I look forward to it every year—the chance to travel home to see our families, pulling out the Christmas ornaments I’ve collected from all over the world—but this year it will be particularly fun since Lucia is now part of the family. We’ll be going to Jacksonville for Christmas Day and Connellsville for post-Christmas, and everyone is immensely excited to see the little one.

Right now, of course, Lucia’s too little to understand Christmas, and she’ll likely spend the holiday as she spends other days—eating, sleeping, crying, playing on her back, and gazing around at various things. But I can’t help imagining the years ahead, when she’ll be fully cognizant of what’s happening, when she’ll be as excited as any other kid counting down to Christmas morning.

On the one hand, I dread some of the complications that will come along with this awareness. I’ve been reading reports of this year’s hottest toy—the Zhu Zhu Pet—and how it’s nearly impossible to obtain. Who knows what the elusive toy will be when Lucia’s old enough to want it—but I can see me and Andrew all too clearly scrambling to find it for her, calling every store within a hundred miles, rushing out in the hopes of getting the last one on the shelves. And, of course, there will be all the toys she wants but that we won’t want to get for her, i.e. anything video game-based or related to social networking. Will we stand on principle, or give in? I still remember a “commercial” toy I coveted when I was very little—Dolly Pops. I did not receive it for Christmas. I don’t remember what Dolly Pops were, and I remember very well all the other fabulous things Mom and Dad did get me over the years—in other words, I haven’t been scarred. But it’s worrisome that I still remember this one withheld toy. What will Lucia remember when she’s thirty-three—what one insignificant but memorable thing will she be denied (wisely, but denied nonetheless)?

Now that I think about it, these seem to me like challenges that are not Christmas-specific. There will always be something desired but unavailable, something coveted but inappropriate. I can’t imagine ever denying this little one anything she wants, but I know very well I will. (And should.)

Imagining future Christmases with Lucia also brings to mind how fun it will be to play Santa—and to see her happy little face on Christmas morning, rifling through her stocking and opening the presents we’ve chosen for her. But more than this—to decorate a tree with her, bring out decorations she’ll look forward to from year to year, bake gingerbread and Christmas cutouts, and make snowmen and snow angels throughout the season. (Obviously it goes without saying that my Christmas imaginings take place exclusively in the Northeast.) I can imagine her coming in from the cold, red-cheeked, ready for a warm cup of hot cocoa; I can imagine her excitedly climbing into a car or boarding a plane to visit her grandparents. I look forward to all of this—but it also kind of overwhelms me to realize that it’s me and Andrew who are responsible for making her happy. Again, this is an everyday challenge, not just a Christmas one. But my own holidays were always so memorable; and I want hers to be as well.

It all kind of rushed in at me when I saw this smile. This will be the reward for all the snowy hallways mopped up from snow-caked boots, for all the miles traveled to secure a Zhu Zhu Pet equivalent, for all the frantic airport navigating. This is the face that will make it all worthwhile:


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thanksgiving


We celebrated our first Thanksgiving with Lucia this year with Beth and Nate in Napa. Beth made an elaborate and delicious Thanksgiving feast, with all the traditional trimmings—including corn casserole, which is a Clark tradition but new to me and Andrew. Because it is NorCal, Andrew and I sat in bumper-to-bumper traffic for three hours trying to make our way to their house. But also because it is NorCal, the day was so sunny and beautiful that we were able to eat outside in the Clarks’ backyard, where they’d set up a lovely dining table. Lucia handled the long trip and the small crowd at dinner splendidly, with only a little fussing. Lucia will surely not remember her first Thanksgiving, but we will, and we were very glad to get to spend it with the Clarks.

It’s impossible not to feel immensely thankful this year—for Andrew, for our beautiful little baby, for the chance to spend these days at home with her, for the quiet evenings spent with just the three of us. We still wish we were living somewhere else, to make visits with our families easier. But it’s funny to realize that now that Lucia’s here, our life would look pretty much just like this—quiet days, quiet evenings, lots of books and movies and TV and walks—whether we were in Roseville or New York or anywhere else. Last year, we spent Thanksgiving in Japan, having a Zen vegan dinner at a remote lodge in Nikko with rain pouring down outside. That was nice, of course—but this version of November is nice too. It’s our new normal, and I treasure every day of it.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Visit from Aunt Molly


This weekend, it was wonderful to anticipate the week ahead and know we’d have a visitor: Aunt Molly. She arrived late Sunday night, and we’ve spent the past couple of days indulging in true baby-time: holding the baby, feeding the baby, changing the baby, calming the baby. Reading on the couch. Taking walks. Taking lots of pictures. Molly is holding Lucia right now as I type this post. She is suitably smitten with her little niece.

A few updates: Lucia has started to smile. She’ll give little grins now and then when she’s in the right mood, usually when she’s sitting in her blue bouncy chair with one of us hovering over her. It’s incredibly cute. She also set a new record last night—she slept for five straight hours. She’s been doing really well for a few nights now, with stretches of three and a half to four hours, but this was a new level. She's been such a little angel this week that I think she's convinced Molly that having a baby is pretty easy. I'm tempted to eat a grapefruit to show her otherwise.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Refusing To Do My Bidding

Why won’t Lucia just do what I want her to do? That’s what I thought this afternoon when Lucia refused the fabulous nap plans I had for us. Two nights ago, I convinced Andrew it was finally cold enough to put on our microplush bed sheets—the softest sheets I’ve ever felt. Mom and Dad bought them for us last winter, and they’ve been unopened in our closet ever since. Andrew had been dreading the day when I wanted to put them on, believing he’d roast, but he acquiesced.

Anyway, today was damp and windy and cold, and I thought napping together in the cozy sheets would be a perfect way for Lucia and me to spend an hour or two this afternoon. Unfortunately, when I settled Lucia onto the bed and cozied her up with a microplush sheet, then cozied myself up beside her, she began screaming unhappily. She seemed to prefer the cold, regular sheet of her bassinet to the luxurious toastiness of the microplush. I would have suspected that Andrew had been turning her against the microplush, but he admitted this morning that he like the sheets. Perhaps Lucia needs to just give them a chance as well.

Here's a little montage of pictures post-nap:







Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Key Changes

Lucia seems to love listening to us sing. However, in the past few days I’ve realized that she does not like key changes. A few days ago, I was walking around the house with her in my arms, singing various songs to her as she gazed up at me raptly. Emboldened by such a captive—and receptive!—audience, I began singing “Memory” from Cats, gaining gusto with the big key change (there may be more than one; I need to brush up on my repertoire). Lucia instantly began crying. Not long after this, I was singing “Climb Every Mountain,” and, again, didn’t hold back with the key change. Again, Lucia began crying. So many things to learn about this little baby.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Day Ahead

Today is my first day—my first whole day—alone with Lucia. Andrew left for a business trip this morning at 5am and won’t be back until around 10pm tonight. So it’s just me and the baby, all day. I was alone with her on Friday for most of the day—but Andrew came home for lunch and was home for good at 5:30pm, so this is an entirely new experience.

I wouldn’t be so stressed about it had yesterday not been so horrendous. For some reason—likely a perfect storm of tomatoes and grapefruit in my diet on Sunday—Lucia cried the entire day. Not just whimpers or plaintive wails; this was full-throated, best-birth-control-ever crying, the kind that seems to be best delivered directly into mama’s ear. If I put her down, she cried. If I picked her up, she cried. If we moved and danced, she cried. If we gently rocked, she cried. By the time Andrew came home at 3:30pm so I could go to a doctor’s appointment, I wasn’t sure how much more I could take.

The appointment itself was upsetting in a way I hadn’t expected. It was the first time I’d seen my midwife since before the baby was born (she wasn’t the one who was with me for the delivery), and we talked about the birth and what had happened. I hadn’t really talked about it for a while, and doing so in an examination room, while wearing a hospital gown, kind of brought it all back. Then she examined me and said I’m healing fine, then hugged me and said it was great to have been a part of our pregnancy—and maybe she’d see me again in a couple of years. It was so strange to know I won’t be seeing her anymore, and stranger still to know I won’t have any more appointments. I’m healing, nearly healed, and have been released into the world as a mother, ready to get on with things. I felt, as irrational as this seems, abandoned and alone.

When I got back from my appointment, Andrew had to go back to work, and Lucia picked up where she left off, still inconsolable. This time, both mama and baby cried and cried together. By the time Andrew got home I’d crossed over into some kind of mother-zombie state. She finally, finally went to sleep around 8pm, and we had a decent night.

This morning, when I peeked into the bassinet, met her wide-awake eyes, and whispered, “Good morning, little one,” I felt a kind of overwhelming anxiety that I can compare—and bear with me here—only to when I stepped off the plane in Iceland during my first experience traveling alone. I remember walking down the jetway at Keflavik airport, gazing out the windows and seeing nothing but snow and black lava rock for miles, and wondering just why on earth I’d decided to spend a week alone in what felt like a city at the edge of the world. Three things crossed my mind: Why did I think this was a good idea? Am I really going to be able to do this? And finally, since I came all this way…I’d better get out there, explore, and make the most of it. (I had an amazing trip.)

That sense of taking a deep breath and plunging into an unfamiliar, vaguely scary, fully uncharted experience is how I felt this morning as the baby and I began our day together. Here I am, the day ahead, without the option of hopping back on the plane and heading back to more solid ground. We might cry, we might sleep, but we’ll get through it; and, hopefully, I’ll get better at all this one day at a time.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

First Outing & Swine Flu Fears

On Saturday, at the encouragement of Beth and Nate, Lucia, Andrew, and I had our first official outing. Let me clarify: we have left the house before, on walks around our neighborhood. And I have been in two public places since she was born, Safeway and Trader Joe’s, when my parents were here. And we’ve had two appointments with the pediatrician. Otherwise, however, I’ve left the public-place errands to Andrew while Lucia and I have stayed snug and swine-flu-safe at home.

When the Clarks came to visit this weekend, however, it was a beautiful, sunny day, and we all went to lunch at a local burger place we like. We’d been there together before, and, besides having great food, it’s a good place for kids—and there’s a large outdoor area where we could sit far apart from the swine-flu masses. We got an outdoor table in a corner, and Lucia did splendidly for almost the entire meal, napping and then sitting peacefully in her stroller. Only at the end of the meal did she begin crying—it was feeding time—and I had my first experience trying to a) nurse her in public (not an easy feat; I have some practicing to do) and b) nurse her in the car. We all returned home happy and, I believe, swine-flu free.

I’m ordinarily not so fearful of the flu—but I’ve never had a baby before, a baby who is too young to get a seasonal flu or H1N1 vaccine. Andrew and I have both gotten the seasonal flu vaccine, but I have no idea what would happen if either Andrew or I got sick with swine flu. Would we have to stay in a hotel? Quarantine ourselves apart from the baby? Since I am the food source, I think it’s more important for me to stay swine-flu-free, which is why Andrew has been doing the grocery shopping and other errands. This will, hopefully, change tomorrow, when—fingers crossed—we’ll both get the H1N1 vaccine. Andrew has a business trip Tuesday so it’s more imperative that he gets it, and we think his doctor got it all lined up (the vaccine is scarce around here, and the usual clinics are completely out). While I miss going out in public, I’m perfectly willing to just stay home for now, spending my days washing my hands and slathering on the hand sanitizer.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Letter to Lucia: One Month


Little Lucia,

You’re four weeks old today. It’s hard to believe we’ve had you for such a short amount of time—it feels like you’ve been with us forever. I’m still amazed that it was you in my belly for all those months, that it was your precious little feet I felt kicking me in the side. In the first ultrasound picture we had of you, you were waving—a gesture you still make quite regularly. It’s hard to fully grasp that the nine months I spent pregnant this year were all leading up to you.

You’ve changed a lot in just one month. You’ve gained a pound and a half—maybe more by now—and your cheeks, legs, and arms are all getting a little chubbier, a little sturdier. I can see the difference in your feet and hands. You don’t look quite so new and fragile anymore. You had a personality from the moment you were born, but it’s becoming stronger now. You set your lips firmly together when you don’t like something; your whole face crumples heart-breakingly when you’re upset. When you’re relaxed and happy, looking up at our faces, you have an adorable way of pursing your lips and making them into a startled “O,” as though you’re making the call of a ghost or an owl. You prefer to sleep in our arms, or in the well of the Boppy on our laps, than anywhere else, though we’ve set up a variety of “sleep stations” throughout the house so you’re never far from us while you’re napping.

We love you all the time. But you frustrate us sometimes, too, when you wake up at ungodly hours and stare up at us with bright, wide-open little bird eyes, sleep the furthest thing from your mind. You have your fussy times, when your cry suggests that nothing in the world has ever been more horrible than whatever you’re currently going through, and that no people have ever been more useless in making things better than your daddy and I.

I get teary when I wonder if you’re homesick for the womb. It seems like you are, sometimes. You love the white noise of the “wind” sound on my alarm clock; you love the sound of the washer and the drier and the endless shushing we do to calm you down. You love to be jiggled and rocked and swayed. You like being swaddled (though you always manage to get an arm free, like a little Houdini). These things comfort you. It must be so shocking, sometimes, to be out here in the world, away from the dark, safe home you were so used to. And it breaks my heart to know you can never go back there. I hope we can make you feel as happy and safe here with us as you felt then.

I don’t want this infant time to go by too fast. But at the same time, I’m relieved that the first couple of weeks have passed, those weeks when we were still reeling from the birth and the fear that went along with it. It’s nice to be past all that and on to the regular day-to-day of feeding, changing, soothing, getting to know you, now that we’re one month in.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Baby-Time Days


It’s been wonderful having Andrew home on paternity leave for the past week, and he’ll be home most of this week too. We are truly on baby time here, and, when Lucia has not descended into fits of screaming—which, fortunately, are rare—we are able to quite enjoy these odd days. On the one hand, we have nothing to do; but on the other, our hands have never been fuller. It’s a strange balance. We’ve been reading a lot; on Friday we watched a movie in the middle of the day; Andrew is watching a lot of college football; Saturday night we watched the votes come in for the House vote on the healthcare bill. We nap and eat and go to bed at 9pm.

Then there are the moments when Lucia is inconsolable and we’re both hovering over her frantically, trying to determine the source of her unhappiness. Andrew’s legs are sore from doing so much bouncing and swaying. By the end of the day I generally have milk and/or spit-up on most articles of my clothing. On one recent night, I had to change pj’s twice.

So baby time goes both ways. I am really trying to just be in it, to just enjoy or note every moment. Lucia will be a month old this week—already it’s going so fast.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Snippets of Life with Lucia: Last Night/Today


Midnight: A semi-fussy Lucia refuses the pacifier by dramatically gagging herself.

2:00am: A steely-eyed Lucia refuses the pacifier by pressing her lips stubbornly together and giving us a resolute glare.

3:30am: Andrew and I hum “Edelweiss” to a fussy baby, followed by hummed selections of Andrew Lloyd Weber.

4:00am: I try to lull Lucia to sleep with a hypnotic mantra: “Mommy’s tired. Daddy’s tired. Baby must be tired. Mommy’s tired. Daddy’s tired. Baby must be tired. Mommy’s tired. Daddy’s tired. Baby must be tired.” Some readers of this blog will understand what I mean when I say I use the “Garden Surprise” voice for this chant.

4:45am: Andrew and Lucia lay down on the bedroom floor for some ungodly-hour Tummy Time.

7:00am-8:00am: Lucia and I both fall into a desperate, restless sleep with her on my chest.

9:00am-9:30am: Crying and feeding.

9:30am-11:30am: An overtired Lucia continues to cry hysterically, inconsolable. She finally takes the pacifier and falls into a suspicious, slit-eyed sleep on my lap.

11:30am-Present, 7:45pm: Alternate bouts of screaming, brief napping, feeding, and more screaming.

It has been a long, a very long, day. Our precious baby is still precious…but today we’ve been calling her Lucia-fer, Luc-evil, and Devi-infant. The fact that we found these nicknames hilarious suggests the state of our sleep deprivation.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Fall

Lucia seems to have brought lovely fall weather with her, and the past couple of weeks have been beautiful. Here are a few pictures from the amazing trees we have in our backyard. We get more fall foliage here than you’d expect.





Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Anniversary

Two years ago today, Andrew and I got married at the Summit Inn in Farmington, PA. It seems like we’ve been married for so much longer than two years! We celebrated quietly today by taking Lucia on her first walk in the stroller, to Dairy Queen for Blizzards. She screamed for most of the trip, working herself up into a true froth, little arms waving angrily.

It’s 6:40pm here right now, but it may as well be midnight. Andrew and I are exhausted, and it’s pitch-black outside—it feels much, much later than it is. We just took a nap and easily could have stayed in bed for the rest of the night. Lucia has been sleeping well today—during the day she can stay asleep for several hours at a time—and yet I have no doubt that tonight will be another night of being up every two hours. Ah, newborns. Good thing she’s pretty cute:



Monday, November 02, 2009

On Our Own

7 lbs. 8 oz.!

Our baby has grown! We had a doctor’s appointment this morning and were shocked to learn Lucia has gained a pound and a half in the last two weeks. Such good news—it’s great to know that breastfeeding is giving her what she needs. It’s so hard to know sometimes if I’m giving her enough. Looks like she’s doing just fine.

The other good news is that the scary swelling on Lucia’s head is finally gone. About a week and a half ago, Andrew and I noticed a puffiness around the area where the vacuum suction had been—it hadn’t been there in the hospital. We made a late-night phone call to the advice nurse, who consulted with the doctor on call, and our pediatrician contacted us in the morning—the consensus was that it was a hematoma, and nothing to be alarmed about. A word like “hematoma” is pretty terrifying, though, and it was hard to be reassured. I swore off Google searches during my pregnancy, but Andrew bravely Googled it, and even the Google results said it was nothing serious. We were extremely relieved when it finally disappeared a few days ago, and the doctor today said all is well. So, end of story. Thank goodness. I know there will always be things to worry about, but I’m ready to put all the birth-related worries behind us for good.

We’re on our own now. My parents left yesterday, bringing an end to our first wave of visitors; now, for the first time, we’re by ourselves with Lucia. It’s time to start establishing our own routines and getting used to having only two people around to hold her. Andrew’s home all this week, which is great; we’ll ease into my being here with her alone. Our routine so far appear to be a minimum of napping, unlike her luxurious, hours-long sleeping spells with Mom and Dad. Hopefully tomorrow she’ll be back to her quiet infant ways.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Hiding


For most of my twenties, I believed I didn’t want children. I spent most of high school and college writing angst-ridden poems addressing themes like suffocation, identity loss, and entrapment, and believing that the worst possible fate was to wind up married and mothering in suburbia. The idea of having a family and living outside a city seemed, for some reason, incompatible with absolutely everything else life should, and could possibly, be.

I am now married and mothering in suburbia, and it’s actually pretty fantastic. Of course, we’d prefer to live elsewhere; but we’ve had adventures—many years in New York, our lucky time in Barcelona—and will surely have more. It’s not surprising to have had a seismic shift on the idea of marriage and motherhood in ten-plus years, but it’s funny to look back on that doubtful girl; I wish she could have had an idea of the kind of happiness that was possible in everything she feared.

Eleven years ago, when I was twenty-two years old, I wrote the poem below. I quite like the poem, but the sentiment is, obviously, part of my ancient history. I found it today on my computer—it somehow made it here, after being written four or five computers ago—so I thought I’d share it. Enjoy.



Hiding

I am crumpled in the closet:
ears and lungs pulsing,
knees digging red into my chin,
tarsals warped and crunching.

I want to sleep here, or die here,
but I am not a sardine.
I am a grown woman,
and the table calls to be set.

Children flock to me like squawking birds;
cries of “Mommy we’re hungry, sleepy, scared!”
make me want to tip this nest,
to watch it scatter, twig by twig.

I am hungry too:
for the slow sedation of sound
as I burrow deeper beneath a bed
or the throttling isolation of a paper bag disguise.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Lucia’s Birth Story

Lucia Orlando Littell made her grand entrance at 6:38pm on Thursday, October 15, at Kaiser Roseville, two days before her due date. She was 6 pounds exactly and 19 inches long. Andrew and I had “planned” on a natural birth; and I use the quotation marks deliberately now, having learned a dramatic lesson about the impossibility of planning how a birth can go. I’m still shaken up about Lucia’s birth story, and am trying to focus on the fact that she is beautiful and healthy and here.

I started getting period-like cramping around 4:00am the morning of Wednesday, October 14. I tried to sleep but was too excited; something told me this was it. The cramping continued through the morning but was mild enough that Andrew and I decided he should go to work. Late morning, the cramping turned decidedly to contractions, which I timed throughout the afternoon. By the time Andrew got home around 5:30pm, we knew we’d be having a baby soon. We got our things together and made a soup for dinner. Around 9pm, the contractions started intensifying; I sat on the birth ball, straddled a chair while Andrew rubbed my back, did squats and lunges, and soon the contractions were about 5 minutes apart. Then 3. Then 2. We decided we’d better head to the hospital.

In triage, I was hooked up to a stationary fetal monitor. Occasionally, we’d notice that the baby’s heart rate slowed down during a contraction. When the midwife checked me, I was only at 3cm, but we were admitted because of the heart rate. It was about 12:30am Thursday morning. At this point, our “plan” for a natural birth started going haywire. I had to be hooked up constantly to a stationary fetal monitor and blood pressure cuff; had a pulse-taking device constantly on my index finger; and had an IV catheter inserted in my hand. I did my best to stay out of bed, getting through the contractions on the birth ball. The baby’s heart rate continued to occasionally decelerate. A nurse hooked me up to an IV for hydration, and I was given an oxygen mask. From here on, the timeline is blurry, but I’ll do my best to be accurate.

I labored this way from around 1am until around 6am. When the midwife checked me, I’d progressed only to 4cm, and she told me my contractions weren’t nearly hard or long enough. I agreed to have my water broken. The contractions intensified after this, and the only way I could get through them was standing up doing forward fold over the birth ball while Andrew rubbed the bones in my lower back. Midwife Holly checked me a few hours later, and I’d progressed to 6cm. We were encouraged. The contractions got stronger, and eventually I relied on low moaning to get through them. For several hours I hung onto the birth ball for dear life. My legs were so exhausted they began shaking uncontrollably.

When Holly checked me again hours later, I was devastated to learn I hadn’t progressed at all, and for the first time she suggested that we needed to get things moving; the dreaded word “pitocin” entered the room. I agreed to a dose of fentenyl before they started the pitocin, but it did absolutely nothing to take the edge off the pain, even when they increased the dosage. By then, after about 16 or so hours of laboring without drugs, I was losing my ability to deal with the contractions. It was worse now that I was in bed with the fentenyl drip. I knew deep down that pitocin-augmented contractions were going to be beyond my ability to cope, and I asked for an epidural. For months I’d been certain this was exactly what I didn’t want—but I was so grateful for the relief.

Not long after getting the epidural, I was fully dilated and effaced (they didn’t even have to give me more than 20 seconds’ worth of pitocin—my body was finally relaxed enough to progress on its own). However, the baby’s heart rate continued to decelerate more dramatically, and Holly hooked up a fetal scalp monitor to get more accurate readings. Things were not looking good, but Holly instructed me to start pushing. The baby’s heart rate began decelerating even more during the pushes. Soon, Holly gently told me that the birth had moved to a delivery for which an ob gyn would be required.

Things started happening quickly after that. The room filled with people. I was introduced to Dr. Uyeno, who told me that we needed to get the baby out quickly; he said she was already very far down in my pelvis, so we’d use a vacuum, and, if that didn’t work, I’d have to have a C-section. People surrounded the bed. Someone pulled down on a ceiling tile and revealed an operating-room lighting system. Andrew heard the doctor ask Holly grimly how good she was at acting quickly on her feet. A team of three people stood ready to grab and examine (save?) the baby. I was terrified and upset but tried my best to calm down; I was shaking uncontrollably. At the next contraction everyone screamed at me to push, push, push, and I could hear Dr. Uyeno directing the nurses to turn up the suction. Nothing. Another contraction, more pushes and suction—nothing. Again, and nothing. My own heart rate dropped; the baby’s kept dropping lower and lower. A nurse watching the monitors called out both of our heart rates every few seconds. Finally—I pushed her out, without suction, and, I think, seconds away from a C-section.

The baby was whisked away for an exam, but I could hear her making little grunting sounds from across the room. Eventually she was brought over to me and I got to hold her for the first time. Her Apgar scores were good—7 and 9. I don’t think I’d registered at that point how scary our situation had really been; I was just so grateful she was okay. I didn’t even realize at first that Dr. Uyeno was stitching up a large episiotomy.

The next few days are a blur. On Friday, a pediatrician grew concerned at a soft spot on Lucia’s head; a skull fracture was suspected and x-rays were ordered, but they came back fine. On Saturday, another pediatrician found nothing wrong with her head; apparently whatever had been there had healed. But she put off our discharge until Sunday just in case. On Sunday, she admitted they “may have overreacted” and sent us on our way. (Meanwhile, Andrew and I had spent forty-eight hours in a hell of worry and distress.) Finally, finally, we got home on Sunday afternoon.

So. Not the birth story I’d planned, and so far beyond anything I could have imagined. It was easily the most terrifying, wrenching experience of my life, and it took me emotionally to places I didn’t even know existed. It’s still hard to think about the birth without being overwhelmed by the fear all over again, and it will probably take me some time to digest it all and move past it. She still has bruises and cuts on her head from the vacuum and monitor--it just breaks my heart.

In the meantime, though, we are completely in love with Lucia, and I am just overcome by the idea that this tiny being is the little one who was in my belly all these months. She is a perfect, perfect baby, and we love every second with her. She is, of course, the cutest, most fabulous baby on earth.

Lucia, minutes after her birth

Monday, October 26, 2009

Baby Time


I’ve entered Baby Time. She’s been home for only a week, but already I feel transported into a world where I might not check email until noon, where time is measured in feedings and changings. She tends to sleep a lot during the day, and she’s been giving us two- to three-hour stretches of sleep at night—until around 4am, when she is suddenly wide awake, resisting our rocking and shushing and white-noise-machining and staring up at us with bright, wide-open eyes. She may or may not fall asleep again around 6am. We are hoping this will change.

I’m tired; but I like Baby Time. It requires a new kind of focus and calm. Everything is suddenly subordinate to making sure this little being is fed, dry, happy. It’s rare that things are this clear, separated so firmly into what matters right now and what can be put off until later.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Sleeping Baby

Our sleeping baby.



I've been posting lots of pictures on Facebook. Feel free to friend me if you're on Facebook and haven't yet.

In It

A couple of months ago, when Andrew and I began doing perineal massage to prepare me for what we thought would be a natural birth, we thought we’d taken our marriage to a new level. You don’t just break out the vegetable oil and uncomfortable downward pressure with anyone; it seemed like a step toward a new kind of marital intimacy.

Little did we know.

There were a lot of things I could never have imagined about labor, and one of those is the variety of compromising and, in any other circumstance, embarrassing positions Andrew would see me in. Perineal massage pales in comparison to seeing me leak bloody water all over the floor and any other available surface after I had my water broken. It pales in comparison to escorting me and my IV pole into the bathroom—and helping me situate myself and my hospital gown on the toilet. It pales in comparison to sitting with me while I was on the toilet, kneeling in front of me and squeezing my hips through a contraction. It definitely pales in comparison to taking a rare bathroom break himself and having to urinate around the measuring cup device with which the nurses were collecting my own urine. And it goes without saying that once a husband sees a catheter being inserted into his wife, and watches as bag after bag of urine is removed, well—if we weren’t married before, we are married now.

It didn’t stop with labor. Andrew witnessed me walking gingerly from the hospital bed to the bathroom wearing hospital-issued, industrial-sized underwear lined several times over with industrial-sized maxipads. He saw me sit in the hospital bed for three straight days with nothing covering my painfully engorged breasts, not even pretending that modesty was important as nurses and doctors and the birth certificate guy came in and out. And he saw those engorged breasts, so enormous that the tops of them nearly reached my chin. (They’re better now.)

Somehow none of it mattered, though. Andrew never flinched, and, just as importantly, I knew he wouldn’t, that he’d be right there no matter what. I can’t imagine having gone through this with anyone else (and hopefully that’s what every wife thinks about her husband after such an experience; but I know how lucky I am). Several years ago, just before I left New York for Barcelona to move in with Andrew, I had one very brief moment of what on earth am I doing? We were eating sushi at the time, and Andrew just shrugged. My furniture had been sold; my job had been quit; my apartment lease had been broken. “Well, you’re in it now,” he said. We go back to that phrase all the time—being in it. But I don’t think either of us knew what it meant until last week.

Daddy's Sleep-Deprived Brain

Two nights ago, during one of Lucia’s many nighttime diaper changes, Andrew changed her diaper, changed her sleeper, and picked her up from the changing table—only to suddenly see urine streaming to the ground. We were both stunned. When Andrew went to change her yet again, he realized he’d forgotten to put a diaper on her. She was naked inside her little sleeper.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Crying

I’d heard about the baby blues. But wow, have I gone for an emotional roller-coaster ride in the past week. Yesterday was the first day I got through without crying uncontrollably. It’s now 2:45pm, and I haven’t cried yet today, which may make this day #2 without tears. Prior to these days, I cried pretty much every time I looked at the baby. I cried when we left the hospital, and when we got home. I cried when I realized my smallest maternity jeans are almost too big. I cried when I realized I’m now within three pounds of my pre-pregnancy weight and I look almost as skinny as I used to. I cried because I wished I could put Lucia back into my belly and just start all over again. I cried because I miss being pregnant. I cried while eating cereal and reading the New York Times at the breakfast table because I looked up and spotted the stroller and thought about all the care we took in picking it out and realized it’s for her.

Yesterday I felt very together. Today, together, but a bit edgy about it, as though anything at all might set me off. I’m trying my best to keep my wits about me. I shower every day, get dressed, put makeup and lipstick on. Only today do I really have an appetite, but I’m trying my best to eat at least some soup and yogurt and milk during the day. Trying to keep it together. Not always easy.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Interventions

I’m still working on putting down Lucia’s birth story. It’s difficult; I can’t seem to think about it without crying. But I want to record and share some of the details in the meantime, in bits and pieces, before they start getting foggier than they already are.

Andrew and I created a basic “birth plan” that we gave to Kaiser (our HMO) several weeks ago. The plan detailed things like what pain management strategies we wanted to use, whether Andrew wanted to cut the cord, etc. The gist of our “birth plan” was this: Natural birth, no interventions.

From the moment we arrived at the hospital, however, the interventions began. In triage, Lucia’s heart rate occasionally decelerated, and so from that point things changed. Here is a list, in roughly chronological order, of the interventions I underwent to bring Lucia into the world. Anything that attached to my body was cumulative—they didn’t remove one wire to make room for another. I was in labor for approximately 24 hours, 18 of them without any drugs.

• Fetal monitoring, hooked up to a stationary monitor
• Blood pressure cuff on my right arm that intermittently inflated
• Blood pressure thing on my left index finger
• IV catheter in my left hand, first with nothing, then to hydrate me
• The midwife broke my water to move things along
• Oxygen mask
• Dose of fentenyl (sp? A pain relief narcotic that did nothing whatsoever for me)
• Epidural
• Pitocin (just 20 seconds’ worth)
• Catheter
• Fetal scalp monitor
• Episiotomy
• Vacuum-assisted delivery
• Another catheter

Even today, a week after the birth, I’m still finding small bruises and bits of leftover glue on my body from where the needles and wires were attached.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Lucia

Lucia Orlando Littell, born October 15, 6:38pm, 6 oz. exactly, 19 inches long. A beautiful, beautiful baby girl. There are no words.

My birth story is not at all what I had imagined it would be, and I am still working through it, processing, healing. All I can say is that the phrase "birth plan" may be the most ridiculous phrase in the English language. Details soon.









Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Rainy-Day Chaos

Californians in this area do not know what to do when it rains. It’s understandable—it hardly ever rains, and, in my experience, when it does rain, it rains hard. Yesterday was a particularly apocalyptic day, with high winds and downpours that lasted for most of the morning and afternoon. The environment, too, can’t handle such odd weather. Branches cracked from trees; leaves filled the streets; power lines went down; streets flooded. I ventured out only briefly, to drive Andrew to work after my doctor’s appointment, and hydroplaned slightly as a made a very slow right turn.

Though I was snug inside yesterday afternoon, the chaos of the day took over here as well. My cervical exam yesterday was particularly aggressive—the midwife had a hard time reaching the cervix because little Whittemora’s head was in the way—and several hours after I got home, I began having some pretty heavy bleeding. Bleeding is just one of those things you don’t expect or want to see for, oh, nine-plus months, and so I began to worry. Around this same time, I walked through our breakfast nook and realized it had flooded—water was dripping in through the window frame and had pooled along the wall and in the corner. I grabbed towels and sopped everything up, then called Andrew, who called the landlord.

While all this was in motion, I called our hospital’s labor & delivery department to tell them what was happening and see if I needed to come in. As I answered their many questions, I looked out the window and saw an electric-company truck drive straight into our backyard. Our backyard is not grass—it’s just dirt—and yesterday it was a huge expanse of mud. The truck’s tracks gouged the yard. Not much later, with rain pouring down, another truck pulled into our driveway—to pull the first truck out. It had gotten mired in the mud and could not back out. Our landlord was there supervising; when I was done on the phone (no need to go to the hospital), I beckoned him in to see the leak. He was stressed out about the yard and the trucks and there was nothing he could really do since it was still pouring, so I just laid out more towels.

Eventually it was time to pick up Andrew. I skipped yoga (the doctor’s advice had been to take it easy for a few hours), and we looked forward to a cozy evening at home; we planned to make a nice pot of soup. Not long after we got home, however, we lost our power. Part of our block was pitch-dark. We found some candles, had a snack, napped together on the couch, then went out for a late Mexican dinner. When we got home at 10pm, the lights were back on.

The whole day just seemed strange—it’s hard to describe how weather like this upends the normal order of things around here. There was a Halloween-y, spooky atmosphere on the streets, and I just felt like something was about to happen. Indeed, in the middle of the night last night I began feeling some…something. And I’m still feeling them now. I won’t yet call them contractions. But I would not be surprised at all if the little one has sensed the atmospheric disturbances and has decided it is the ideal time to see the world. The rain is falling harder now, and the rooms of our house just darkened as the clouds rolled in full-force. It is a portentous morning.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Blustery Birth Day?

It’s raining in Roseville, and has been for hours; the wind gusted through the night. It’s so strange for a day to be this gloomy that I can’t help but feel it portends an imminent birth. I saw the midwife today, who told me I’m now 2cm dilated, 80% effaced, with a -2 engagement. So things are progressing. It’s such a dreary, moody October day—the kind I love; a perfect day for momentous changes. We’ll see what the little one has in mind.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Labor Watch 2009

With my due date coming up on Saturday, Andrew and I are officially on Labor Watch. There have been enough signs—I’ll spare everyone the details; those who have been pregnant can guess what they are—to suggest that labor is imminent. But the cruel irony is that none of those signs mean anything at all. Such things can occur weeks or days before labor. I could finish this blog post and go into labor. Or I could still be pregnant a week from today. No one knows.

So there’s nothing to do now but sit around and obsess about things. Last night I began obsessing about our bassinet, which we borrowed from one of Andrew’s co-workers. I was really gung-ho about borrowing this particular item, since the baby will use it for just a couple of months. But now the item is vexing me. First, I wanted to buy a new mattress and sheets for it. This attempt was unsuccessful; no sizes fit. Then I decided to just buy new sheets. Also unsuccessful. Nothing fit; the ones I bought that sort of fit shrunk to half their size in the wash and no longer fit at all. Plus, I see everything—every ripple in the fabric, every not-quite-perfect surface—as a terrifying suffocation risk. The baby could conceivably sleep on the mattress cover provided with the bassinet—but what happens when it becomes wet? Etc. etc. Then I looked up the model online and found out it was recalled a couple of years ago. It was recalled for complications from a function we weren't planning to use the bassinet for, but still. All I could think about was how I would feel if something happened to our baby because I didn't want to spend $100 on something brand-new. It's not in any way worth going down that path, so we ended up buying a new one at Target last night.

The bassinet thing made me just a bit crazy yesterday, and I’m fairly certain I made Andrew just a bit crazy as well. But we came home and prepared dinner, and in the course of making a fairly involved chicken-and-dumplings recipe from a recent Cook’s Illustrated, we both calmed down. And then we enjoyed the chicken-and-dumplings and chose a name.

Yes, that’s right—we finally chose a name. The big reveal will wait until the birthday. In the meantime, Labor Watch continues.

Friday, October 09, 2009

The Perineum Song & Other Music

There are a lot of cases to be made for not throwing things out, for a very sage reason: you never know when you’ll need them. This was proven to me once again last night, as I worked to compile a suitable collection of music for labor. I have never been through labor, so I don’t know what I’m going to feel like listening to; but I can guess. And, unfortunately for us all, what I truly believe is going to work best to help relax me and keep me focused is new age-y music, including albums with titles like “Lifescapes” and “Music for Yoga and Other Joys.” This is what I’m used to breathing and relaxing to in yoga, and it’s what I imagine when I try to picture the labor room.

Anyway, last night I finished uploading a few CDs my yoga teacher had burned for me and had culled my own paltry collection of new age music, which consisted—I thought—of one CD: “Calming Sea.” Onto the iPod it went. But when I searched my (extremely paltry) CD collection a bit more closely, I came across a 2-CD set from which I’d never removed the shrink wrap. It was something I’d gotten free somewhere at some point, something I’d picked up thinking, “Hey, you never know.” It included a guided meditation by Deepak Chopra, as well as a CD of music called “Chakra Balancing: Body, Mind, and Soul.” The guided meditation was obviously out, but I unwrapped the box and fired up the music.

It was perfect for my purposes. But when I studied the liner notes, I realized it was REALLY perfect: the first “chakra” was intended for close focus on the perineum. Anyone who is or has been pregnant understands the vital role the perineum plays in pregnancy and birth. Around our house, at least, it’s a frequent topic of conversation. So to find a song (?) specifically intended to bring relaxation to that area—well, what can I say? The case for not throwing anything away has, I think, been made.

The unfortunate element of all this is that while I may be thankful for hour upon hour of new age meanderings while I’m laboring, the truth is that I may also not even be aware of it—while Andrew is going to have to grit his teeth and try his best not to hurl my birth ball at our new “boombox.” He, too, was intrigued by the perineum song, but was more than happy to turn the CD off once it was over. I have a feeling we’ll both be very glad to put the new age stuff aside once little Whittemora arrives. “Congratulations!” the midwife will say, placing the baby on my chest, and Andrew will hold up a hand and say, “Just a sec. Let me turn off this music.” I will not blame him.

Preparations for a Journey

There’s a suitcase in my room, half-packed, with a lengthy packing list on top of it. Yesterday I spent hours burning new playlists onto CDs and updating my iPod with songs of a certain mood. We’ve made countless purchases—a “boombox” (to fulfill battery-only hospital requirements), cute pajamas, a robe, slippers, a battery-operated fan, a birth ball—to assist us in this very specific endeavor. We’ve made cheat-sheets about labor and pain-management strategies. And last night it occurred to me that we’ve done more shopping, planning, and preparation than we did for our two-week trip to Japan—for an occasion that will be 24-48 hours, start to finish, at the most (knock wood).

It definitely feels like we’re embarking on some sort of lengthy, involved journey, not just preparing to take a five-minute drive to the hospital, and both the extent and the atmosphere of these preparations feel the same as those that always go into anticipating a major trip— with some significant differences, of course. We’ve been a lot of places—made a lot of travel plans—but preparing to go to the hospital to have this baby feels bigger somehow. Obviously. First, pain is involved; with the exception of some headaches after nights of drinking too much wine on a tapas crawl in Granada, or stomach issues arising from eating little but meat for seven straight days in Romania, pain is usually absent from our trips. Second, we’ll be bringing home a baby, not just a pile of souvenirs. It did take some juggling to get things like a camel-bone-framed mirror from Morocco and a set of sake cups from Kyoto home in one piece; but that’ll be nothing compared to the painstaking care we’ll take and the fear we’ll have as we load up our tiny, screaming, startled newborn into the carseat for the first time and figure out what to do with her once she’s home. We can’t just wrap her in foreign newspapers and packing tape to keep her safe. We’ll have to learn to swaddle.

Finally, there’s the fact that this is one trip that won’t actually ever end. We’ll come home from the hospital, back to our familiar house, but our world will be vastly different than it was before. We’ll unpack—put the CDs back on the shelf—throw some clothes in the washer—get some groceries—but, this time, there will be no “getting back to zero.” Our entire concept of zero will have changed. This time, our passports will stay home. But in a sense we’ll be traveling farther than ever.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Dreams

The weird, vivid dreams are back. I had tons of them early in my pregnancy, and now, here at the end, they’ve started up again. This time, besides being incredibly strange, they’re also extremely physical—even though they’re about sensations I couldn’t possibly understand yet.

In one dream, I gave birth to twins. I was surprised, but it was a happy dream, free from anxiety—despite the fact that the babies weren’t babies but rat-like creatures. As I breastfed one of the rats, it morphed into a baby.

In another, I gave birth yet again to twins. I held one of them in my hand adoringly, even though it wasn’t a baby but a small figurine of a baby wrapped in a tiny, tiny blanket; it was no bigger than my palm. Then I began breastfeeding a normal-sized baby.

The night before last, I dreamed that Andrew and I were gazing out at an ocean experiencing tsunami-like waves. At the crest of each wave were groups of killer whales. Some of the whales began washing up on shore, coming dangerously close to us. I was scared and panicked.

Last night, I dreamed that Andrew and I were at home—but it wasn’t our home; it was my grandmother’s old house in Vanderbilt, PA—and I felt the baby drop so dramatically that I could feel her head between my legs. My reaction to this was to punch my fist in the air victoriously. Then we went to a mall to walk around to see if I could progress my labor. We walked into a bridal department full of silky, beautiful gowns. Then we walked through a food court selling nothing but donuts. A guy who seemed to be a friend of ours approached us and offered me some coleslaw in a Tupperware container, since I couldn’t have donuts. We all laughed.

When I woke up from that dream this morning, I really felt like I was going to go into labor—that’s how real and vivid the feelings were. But no labor yet.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

The Nursery

This weekend Andrew and I put the finishing touches to the nursery. There are still a few things to get, like a mobile, but we’re pleased with how it turned out. It’s very cozy—a place, hopefully, of rest and peace. I’ve been spending a lot of time sitting in the glider, just imagining the baby and what it will be like when she finally arrives. It’s very peaceful to sit there with a book, with sunlight streaming in the windows, feeling the little one moving around in her little womb-house as she prepares for her arrival.

Our bird bedding is from Target; the curtains, bureau, bookshelf, and carpet are from Ikea; the blanket over the back of the glider is handmade by Mom; and all wall art is courtesy of Dad.





Monday, October 05, 2009

A Thought

Isn't it confounding that with all of today's amazing technology, no one can tell me exactly when our baby will be born? They can put a man on the moon and put a pig's heart in a human's body, and yet no one can say when I'll go into labor. It's kind of amazing. I suppose it isn't a matter of critical medical importance, but it just seems so...basic.

39 Weeks







It’s fall. All weekend we had crisp, cool temperatures and blue skies; at night it’s been down into the 40s. I hesitate to believe it—experience has proven that such lovely fall days could be clobbered without warning by a return to high-80s temperatures and a seemingly endless summer—but for now it is just beautiful. We may not have spectacular fall foliage where we live, but the cool temperatures still make it feel like October should feel.

I have a jittery back-to-school kind of feeling; the kind of feeling I always get before taking a big trip, knowing something momentous is about to happen. There are less than two weeks now until my due date, and though I don’t really believe she’ll come this early, she very well could. It was on our minds all weekend. Friday night, we went out for Indian food after some shoe-shopping at DSW—a relaxing evening we won’t have too many more of, at least for a while. Saturday began a whirlwind two days of final preparations. Saturday, we did what felt like a pretty thorough tour of every big box store Roseville has to offer—Wal-Mart, Target, Old Navy, Barnes & Noble, Michael’s, Babies R Us. We bought diapers (our first diaper purchase!), a mattress cover for the crib, nursing and hospital garb for me, other sundry items. Sunday we hemmed and ironed all the curtains in our house, a fairly arduous process—and the baby probably won’t even appreciate it. She probably won’t even notice that the curtains in her room match the lining of the drawers in her bureau. But we will, and so we managed to get it all done.

Some preparations remain, so she should probably just keep cooking in there for a little while longer. Although it would absolutely be a perfect fall day to be born.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Is This Nesting?

When I first got pregnant, I was primarily intrigued by two things I would potentially experience: cravings and the nesting instinct. I never did get the cravings, so now I’m waiting for the nesting instinct to kick in—from what I’ve read, it could be a sign of imminent labor. I’m a nesty person in general, however, so I’m not sure I’ll notice any new instincts in this area. Apparently the urge to clean house is a big part of this—but I’m not sure it’s applicable for someone as cleaning-averse as I am. An urge to organize is probably more realistic.

Which is why I’m wondering if the nesting instinct—my version of it—has indeed kicked in: this afternoon I decided to prepare my tax materials for my tax guy. My taxes are always tricky, involving a random selection of 1099s and an even more random collection of receipts for tax write-offs. Some of the documentation can’t be gathered until after the end of the year, of course, but today I went through nine months of receipts, printed out payment histories for my subscriptions, cell phone, fax, and cable, and began a spreadsheet and an explanatory letter to my accountant. It doesn’t take days to do this, but it does require a certain amount of table space, focus, and organization, so I thought I’d better get the brunt of it done before the baby arrives. This may very well have been nesting.

Then again, there’s dust all over my desk, the baby’s mattress doesn’t even have sheets on it, and I was almost crushed today by an avalanche of office supplies when I tried to pull an envelope off my office-supply shelf. So perhaps the taxes were just an extreme form of my usual organization (I can cross it off my to-do list before it was even on the to-do list!). I’ll keep you posted.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Progress

We now have a stroller, a diaper bag, a monitor, and a carseat installed and adjusted for an infant. We are making concrete steps to getting ready.

Last night, Andrew bought a bag of honey-roasted peanuts and opened a bottle of wine. I cannot have honey or wine. I think he is ready to stop thinking about pregnancy-related food restrictions. Usually he’s so much more…sensitive than that. More thoughtful. I don’t know what happened. I tried to enjoy some dry-roasted almonds and water. Some honey-roasted peanuts are still in a bowl on the kitchen counter. I can’t stop looking at them.

On Tuesday, I tried to goad the midwife into letting me go off my glucose-restricted diet. “Could the baby really grow into a monster-sized baby in three weeks?” I prodded. “Or is it pretty safe to say she won’t be affected that much by the glucose anymore?” The midwife didn’t take the bait and said the baby could still gain a lot of weight. “So no Blizzards yet?” I prodded further. She said I could have a couple of bites of one, but no more. She suggested I myself try to gain a little more weight, but not by eating more carbs. Sigh.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

First Fall-Like Day

I don’t know why this strikes me as so strange—but it occurred to me when I hit 37 weeks that I have a real baby in my uterus. “Real” as in “more or less complete.” If the baby were born today, she’d be a viable, real baby with lungs developed enough to breathe on her own—and that viable, real baby is what I’m currently carrying around. This may not make much sense; and she's been a real baby for a while now. But it’s just strange to think that it’s an actual, full baby in there, one who could, at her whim, make a grand entrance tonight if she wanted to.

Let’s hope she doesn’t want to. We have almost exactly three weeks worth of preparations to do. However, today is a rare fall-like day—gloomy sky, cool temperature—and, if I were our baby, I would definitely want my arrival day to be one of true fall, not an 80-plus-degree fake-fall day. I would want to arrive on a day when a pumpkin might conceivably decorate our porch in the atmosphere in which pumpkins were meant to live. (Although pumpkins clearly love California—we saw endless patches of bright pumpkins as we drove to SF this weekend.) I would want to arrive on a day when I would have to be swaddled in a warm blanket for my trip home from the hospital, on a day when my new, tender eyes wouldn’t have to squint in the hot sun. I would want to be greeted in my new home by gourds and Indian corn. Seriously, if I were our baby, I’d get the show on the road right about…now.

Let’s hope the baby doesn’t get any ideas. I don’t know what I would do with a surprise early labor. I really don’t. I had an appointment with our midwife today, who informed me that I am 1.5cm dilated and 50% effaced; the baby is at -2 engagement. She’s definitely getting ready. So, too, are we.

Monday, September 28, 2009

“Last” Trip





This weekend Andrew and I went to San Francisco for our “last” weekend away before the baby comes. Now that my due date is less than three weeks away, we’ve decided we should probably keep our radius from the hospital to about, oh, five miles. So we wanted to have one “final” trip before we hunker down close to home.

I’m compelled to use quotation marks for words like “last” and “final” because I’m confident we will still take weekend trips once the baby arrives. Not right away, of course, but eventually, especially when she’s still small enough to be more or less easily portable. But this weekend did have the feeling of some kind of closure, ending, a final trip—without quotation marks—of the kind we know. It surely won’t be the last trip we take that’s just the two of us, but it was the last one where we won’t be arranging for caretaking before setting out—and worrying about the baby once we’re gone. In her pre-born state, she’s both with us and not with us, and as long as I can feel her moving (which she did, constantly, the entire weekend), we don’t have to worry at all.

We left Saturday morning and drove first to Japantown. A day of trekking around the city simply wasn’t realistic in my large state, so we just took it easy. We had a delicious lunch at a restaurant in the Japan Center then browsed in some shops, reminiscing about our amazing trip to Japan as we strolled (slowly). We were excited at a new discovery—a Daiso store has opened in the Japan Center. Daiso was one of the most popular 100-yen stores in Japan, though here it has the somewhat less melodious hook of “Everything $1.50!” The store was much smaller than the ones we’d gone to in Tokyo, but it still carried a stunning variety of cuteness. We came away with a selection of things including a small cat charm that, according to its tag, “is the good-luck charm for keeping evil spilits away and bringing up babies. It believed to offer protection for a safe birth and good luck for babies.” We can definitely use all of that.

Eventually we checked into our room at the Hotel Huntington on Nob Hill, our favorite San Francisco hotel, so I could get ready for my pregnancy massage at the Nob Hill Spa—a little pregnancy indulgence. We go to the spa to swim in the pool every time we stay at this hotel, but I’d never had any treatments there, and now I wonder why. The massage was fabulous; the masseuse found the tiny, quarter-sized spot on the middle-right-side of my back that tends to ache constantly and did her best to bring it back to normal. Afterwards, she said, “Your body still needs work.” What I think it really needs is to not be pregnant anymore.



We finished our day at the Nob Hill Café, where I allowed myself a larger portion of carbs than usual (delicious bread, baked eggplant and penne). Then we relaxed in our lovely room and just enjoyed being together in the city.

Sunday we went to church at Grace Cathedral, right across the street from the hotel. It’s a beautiful Episcopal church, and we’d been inside many times to admire the stained glass windows and the marble labyrinth in the floor (I once even took a yoga class on the labyrinth); we wanted to see what a service was like. The church was celebrating a collaboration it had been undergoing with some Tibetan monks, who processed in with their bright robes. Apparently K.D. Lang was also there, part of the collaboration as well. We’re also pretty sure the woman behind us was drinking a beer.

We returned to the Nob Hill Café for brunch afterwards—if we lived on Nob Hill we’d be there all the time—and then took a taxi to AT&T Park for a Giants game. They won against the Cubs; alas, we did not win one of the Vespas being given away for Fan Appreciation Day. We imagined that the next baseball game we go to might very well be in the company of our baby, who we will dress in some of her extensive Red Sox clothing selections.

And then we headed home. Almost. We were almost to the Bay Bridge when I got a call from my credit card company—a man had called them to report that we’d left the card on the clipboard at the parking garage payment booth when Andrew signed the slip. We returned to retrieve the card; disaster averted. Good karma for the booth attendant; we were impressed that he managed to track us down. And then we headed home. Slowly. Insane traffic leaving the city. But we made it eventually, and fortunately I did not go into labor while stuck in gridlock.

It was a lovely “final” weekend trip, the perfect way to begin our temporary weekend-traveling hiatus. It’s a real countdown now.