Saturday, April 29, 2006

Snuggles and Smiles

Natalie is two weeks old today (already!).

I can't imagine what we did before her.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006


Up until today, Natalie has been a pretty tidy baby. In fact, we were shocked that for her first 9 days we only changed her clothing because it was a new day. That record got blown today. She peed through two diapers, one badly enough that Jen had to change her clothes as well as Natalie's. Then, after nursing this evening, she regurgitated the complete contents of her stomach all over herself, me, the couch, and the floor. (she's fine--we think maybe she had a weird air bubble or something that just pushed everything out, as she was rather unfazed by the whole thing, and has certainly made up for the loss since then)

I think it's safe to say that, not only do we look like mommies, we smell like them too.


Natalie weighed in at 9 lbs. 3 oz. and measured 22 in. at her appointment today. Yikes. Guess those cheeks really ARE growing.

Monday, April 24, 2006


Why is it that machines like carbon monoxide detectors only start beeping to tell you they need new batteries in the middle of the night? And how exactly do they determine that this is the first really fussy night you've had with your 9 day old baby and that she's finally calmed down?

Saturday, April 22, 2006

The Most Amazing Thing

Um, this is long. Reeeeally, really long. And I could have said so much more! Just remember, you asked for it... :)

Walking home from the diner reinforced the notion that something must be going on. The crampy feelings still didn’t match my mental image of contractions, but they were noticeable enough sensations that I didn’t want to walk too fast. When we called in, the midwife wanted us to come to the birth center so she could check to see if it was truly amniotic fluid. With a little laughing and grumbling about the fact that we intended to have a home birth but still had to get in the car and go to the birth center, we grabbed the carseat and went.

About halfway there, I realized I was very quiet and had pulled within myself to a degree. I observed to Cait that if these were contractions I really did look like all the women on the Hypnobirthing videos: really, really quiet and boring! While it turned out over the course of labor that they Hypnobirthing claim of painless labor was absurd (at least in my case) – and we’d never expected it to be true, by the way, just hoped to get some really good relaxation tecniques to cope with labor – the classes and meditations had helped me achieve an astonishing degree of calmness that never left me.

The swab test and an examination under the microscope showed that I was indeed leaking amniotic fluid, so we left with more tips on inducing labor, plus the suggestion to get in a nap where we could. The midwife still didn’t seem to think anything was tremendously imminent, but we planned to check in by phone every few hours. On the way home, we grabbed some “lunch”: milkshakes, the only thing either of us could handle at that point.

We tried napping when we got home, but at that point the contractions, which I finally admitted must be contractions (I had expected a sharper, more definite feeling, instead of waves), were strong and frequent enough to keep me from sleeping. It was around 3 pm that we started timing them, and they were already 4 minutes apart and lasting 45 seconds to a minute each. I remember distinctly thinking, “These are much more manageable than I expected.” We eventually gave up on napping and headed downstairs for a change of scenery. I was hit by a bit of nesting frenzy (leave it to me to nest at the ABSOLUTE last minute) but soon discovered that the contractions were picking up in intensity and my ability to tidy up or even to make suggestions to Cait on what needed to be done was pretty lacking!

Cait called Erin, the midwife, to check in and report on the contractions. Even though they were getting more frequent they were still tolerable, so she suggested we continue to focus on staying hydrated, eat something if possible, and get in the shower if the pain started getting worse. Cait heated up some soup for me and I forced down a couple of bites, but I started feeling like if I ate much more I would throw up. And I did NOT want to throw up if I could avoid it.

The contractions were starting to be more uncomfortable, and I was really feeling them in my back. I worried that the baby must be posterior and I was doomed to agonizing back labor, but there wasn’t anything I could do about it. Breathing and leaning on the birth ball were working pretty well in coping with the contraction pain, but the positions that felt best for contractions put a lot of stress on my back. Cait was staying with me, rubbing my back, and being supportive and encouraging, which also helped a lot. After a while of moving around with the birth ball, I decided to try the shower. The hot water felt pretty good, but my back was still really tight. I ended up leaning on the wall in the shower for a while, just letting the water run down my back.

I got out of the shower just about the time that Erin arrived, and was very glad to see her. She suggested putting the birth ball on the bed so I could lie down between contractions, and she also began massaging the backs of my legs with each contraction, reminding me not to let my leg muscles get tense. Her hands were AMAZING, and the gentle touch really helped me get through the next stretch of labor. With Cait rubbing my back and Erin working on my legs, I was able to cope for another hour or so (my sense of time had gone completely out the window, so that’s a guesstimate). Somewhere in here our birth assistant, Lori, arrived. She was there to work as a doula and as a medical assistant to the midwife, and quickly established her role as Chief Hydrator, bringing water to each of us and making sure we drank. She also worked on getting Cait to eat periodically, but I was adamant that I didn’t want food, so she didn’t harass me about it.

We had a birth pool that I was very anxious to use. I had read a lot about the value of water in labor pain management, and the more the contractions and my back hurt, the more I fantasized about immersing myself in the deep, warm, Nirvana of the pool. Erin and Lori did not want me to get in the pool too soon for fear that the water would be too relaxing and stall out my labor. Finally, however, Erin agreed that it seemed clear that I was in active labor and Cait could start getting the pool ready.

Now, we did NOT get a fancy official birthing pool. Those run at least $250-300 and they are pretty unwieldy because they are hard-sided and pretty big. But I’d done a lot of poking around online and found that a kiddie pool could be used just as well. We’d ordered one and set it up in advance. We’d tested how long it took to fill to a certain depth. But the one thing we had not tested was how long it took to get to the right temperature. This was a big mistake.

Cait went downstairs to get the pool filled and hot. She was gone for a very long time, and the contractions were getting worse. At some point she came up and reported that the pool was a dismal 80 degrees. Lori headed down to help her, and they started boiling water on the stove to boost the temperature (Lori and Erin later commented that they’d never taken the “boil water” stereotype so literally at any birth before). They had pots of water boiling on every burner of the stove plus some boiling in the microwave, but the temperature in the pool was barely rising. The three of them took turns working at getting the pool hot enough while one person stayed with me. I was getting pretty frustrated – all I wanted was that pool, but I couldn’t have it. Eventually I got in the shower again and ran through the remaining hot water in the tank. When I got out they finally said the pool was probably hot enough. I headed down and got into the pool.

To my great relief, the warm water really did help. The best part of it was the buoyancy taking the weight off my back so I could truly, truly relax between contractions. The warmth was soothing too, making the contractions themselves slightly more tolerable. However, by this point even in the water the contractions themselves were very intense, and I would roll to my side with each wave of pain and just concentrate on making it through to the next break. In between the contractions, though, I could just lay my head back on the edge of the pool and relax. Cait sat by the pool rubbing my shoulders and encouraging me. I think I was even able to doze some of the time between contractions.

I stayed in the pool for an hour or two (again I don’t really know time) and the longer I stayed in, the less helpful the water and the warmth were, though Lori kept bringing boiling water to keep the temperature up. At some point while in the water, I started to wonder if I could really do this. I had no idea how much longer it was going to go on or how much worse it was going to get, and the idea of some kind of pain relief started to sound awfully tempting. I tried to remind myself that we wanted natural childbirth because it was best for the baby, that the hospital we could go to was far away, and that if I was miserable in the water, I would probably be suicidal in the car. But I did spend a lot of that time thinking about the hospital. I never said anything of what I was thinking to the birth team, and they were later surprised to learn that I’d been thinking about transferring. Up until this point I had stayed pretty quiet, just breathing deeply during contractions, but in the pool I started to get a little louder—moaning and groaning and occasionally muttering “Oh God,” or “Jesus Christ.” (No swearing, though, which impressed Cait and the rest of the birth team)

Eventually I had to go to the bathroom, and the contractions felt pretty miserable even in the water. I got out and went to the bathroom. I’d heard from several friends and various birth stories I’d read that many people like laboring on the toilet. NOT ME! It was even more painful and uncomfortable, so when I could, I got up and walked back into the hall. We spent the next stretch of labor in the tiny little hallway. Erin sat at my feet rubbing my legs. Cait held me or stood by me rubbing my back and shoulders. Lori checked the baby’s heartrate periodically, and continued making us drink water. At this point when the contractions hit, I basically wanted to crawl out of my skin, but all I could realistically do was writhe and grab onto the doorjambs, walls, or Cait as the mood struck me. Now the moaning was punctuated by the very occasional curse word.

After some time like this, Erin suggested that we go upstairs so that I could lie down, as I was looking tired. I agreed, though the thought of climbing the stairs was distressing. We slowly made our way up the stairs and into the bedroom. It’s harder for me to remember things from this point forward, because I really had sunk into myself. We hadn’t been up there that long when things started to get interesting. Seemingly out of nowhere, Erin and Lori, who had been very, very calm and relaxed, switched into high gear and started very quickly pulling on rubber gloves and getting out supplies, though they didn’t say a word. Cait and I didn’t say anything either, but we had the same thought: “Aha. We must be getting close.” This was the best thing that had happened to me in a long time. I had pretty continuously been stuck in a rut of thinking that this was horrible and I didn’t know if I could do it, but the fact that the birth of the baby finally seemed within reach energized me, and made me think, “OK. I can do this.”

I reached down, and indeed felt a hard spot between my legs. I started pushing, and within a few contractions, we were all startled by a huge gush, as what was left of the bag of waters exploded. While technically this was progress, I was actually somewhat disheartened by it, since I thought it was the head. Alas, it was not, and the pushing continued for quite some time after that. (It was another 45 minutes, though I had no way of knowing that). Erin and Lori were soon able to see the head (Cait was by my head, so could not), and began saying after most contractions, “Good. That was a little bit further,” to which my internal reaction was, “Dammit, I don’t want a little bit. I want the baby!” Then, all of a sudden, with a push that didn’t really feel that different from all the others, there was the baby, who came out all at once. It was so fast that I didn’t realize what had happened. Erin had to tell me to reach down and get the baby. I put my hands down and pulled a slippery, squirmy, wonderful little creature onto my belly. I was sort of in shock, but also ecstatic, and full of wonderment.

Her cord was short, not dangerously so, but frustratingly so for her, as she couldn’t get high enough on me to nurse. The short cord also prevented us from knowing that she was a she for several minutes, because she was agitated (read: screaming furiously and doing everything within her power to propel herself upwards toward the breast) and wrapped up in warm blankets, making it impossible for Cait to get in there and find out the vital information. We stared at her face for a while in amazement, not really caring what the answer was.

Finally Cait was able to peek under the blankets and get a glimpse, and said, “Unless I missed something, it’s a girl.” Since we had debated a couple of names, I asked, “Is she Natalie?” And Cait said, “I think so.” And we said hello to our beautiful, sweet daughter Natalie Claire.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Birth Story Part 1: Is it labor?

Things really can change quickly. Thursday afternoon we had our last regularly scheduled midwife appointment, and spent most of the time discussing ways we might get things started, since Harpo didn't seem to have a lot of interest in emerging. At that point, the baby's head was "dipping" (-2 station, or about halfway to engaged) but there were not really any other encouraging signs. She said we should add whopping doses of Evening Primrose Oil (six capsules by mouth!!) to our efforts of spicy food, long walks and impassioned entreaties to the occupant of the uterus to just COME OUT. She assured us that all babies come eventually and there was a very good chance that the baby would arrive before Cait's mom got in town. But when we left, no one was expecting we'd meet our child in less than 36 hours.

We headed home, listening to Briar's excellent CD, and went out to the community Seder. I ate LOTS of horseradish (I usually try to get away with the smallest ceremonial bit) and we really emphasized the message of liberation to Harpo! I waddled home after the seder and got uncomfortably into bed.

The third or fourth time I returned to bed that night after using the bathroom, I felt a trickle of liquid between my legs. "Hmm. That's interesting," I thought, but tried to get a bit more sleep. When I next got up, I inspected the leakage and decided it seemed like it had the potential to be amniotic fluid, so I went to find Cait and get her opinion. As she already mentioned, she was having a freakout on the couch, but her mood was much improved by my report. We called the midwives, telling the answering service, "I'm in labor," as the midwives instructed ("If you have any suspicion that you are in labor, even the faintest idea, say 'I'M IN LABOR,' so that the answering service calls us right away.") It was exciting and unbelievable to say the words.

Of course, our midwife wasn't quite sure she agreed with our assessment, but was supportive and excited on our behalf. She suggested we have breakfast and go for a walk before calling her back with an update. As we began to walk to a nearby diner for breakfast, I began to get some occasional menstrual cramp type sensations, but they were mild and infrequent - and I had no idea what contractions felt like anyway! I began to get suspicious that things might really be happening, though, when I had a really hard time ordering breakfast. I just wasn't that interested in food, and that's not like me! When breakfast came, it took a disciplined effort to make myself eat it, but I knew if I was starting labor, I'd want the calories for energy later. That may have been the best decision I made all day.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Very Hungry Naterpillar

Natalie is a hungry, hungry girl. She LOVES to nurse. She's been to the pediatrician twice (flying colors, thank you) and is already gaining back the few ounces she lost from birth to day 2. My milk is in, without a doubt. So from the perspective that matters most, breastfeeding is going well. Unfortunately, from my perspective, it's been utterly (pun intended) excruciating from the moment she first eagerly - oh, so eagerly - grabbed on after birth. Four days, two lactation consultants, a lot of stress and pain later, and we have a diagnosis and some solutions.

Ready for this? My nipples are too big. (Want to increase blog traffic in one easy post? Write about lesbians with enormous n*pples.) Too big and too short. Quoth the LC, "Those nipples are perfect for a one month old. She's going to love them in a month. We just have to figure out how you're going to survive until then." So we've been working on tips and tricks for getting a bearable latch, and things really are getting a lot better. Earlier tonight we just for the first time ever had a feeding without any gasping or wincing on my part. And it was so wonderful to feed her and not be tense, anxious, or in pain. We're not to the point of smooth sailing yet, but I can feel it coming.

So this is to thank the friends (in and out of the computer) who have helped us cope with this, whether or not they know it:
-The lactation consultants we've seen have been lifesavers. Period.
-I'm also tremendously indebted to Moxie, whose great posts on breastfeeding got me to take a breastfeeding class before Natalie was born. I'd been wavering about how useful a class like that might be. I did learn more in the class than I'd expected, but more importantly, met the lactation consultant. It was much easier to call her this weekend having already met her. Moxie's posts also helped us determine that the amount of pain I was having was NOT ok, and that we should seek help sooner rather than later. (Can't link from this computer - will update later. In the meantime, google Ask Moxie for ALL kinds of great parenting info and a darn good blog, too.)
-All my friends who have recommended the My Breast Friend pillow. It's ugly, and it has the Stupidest. Name. Ever. but damn, is it a useful contraption. Even better when you get one second hand for $5
-Everyone who has been commenting and congratulating us on Natalie's birth. Reading or listening to your words of love and joy have been a nice counterpoint to the discomfort of our nursing sessions.
-The brilliant folks at, whose nifty no-cost hands-free pumping trick is making this whole post possible!
-Cait, who has fed me, and consoled me as I've cried, and consoled the baby when SHE'S cried, and washed the infinite supply of pump bits, and been extra hands when trying to get the infernal latch (really, I'd like to be an octopus about now) and just generally made this all possible.

I thank you, Natalie thanks you, and the Gargantuan Nipples from Hell (TM) thank you.

PS - Cait gets credit for the title, too.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Quick Pics

Natalie was a little grumpy upon arrival...
This is not my womb!

...but has decided that life in our arms is not so horrible.
A present from Gran

She weighed in at 8 lbs. 12 oz., and measured 20.5 inches.

We are utterly in love.

Harpo Goes Wireless

Natalie Claire emerged at 1:04 AM on April 15.
Words cannot begin to explain...

It's 5:37 AM. Mommies and baby are going to sleep.

Friday, April 14, 2006

No Nap

...but some good resting and listening to quiet birthing music. Contractions every 4 minutes, lasting about 1 minute since we started tracking them, which was about an hour ago. Jen's doing a great job of breathing and relaxing with them.

Yes, our taxes are done. We signed them and our accountant e-filed them yesterday. I guess that's what Harpo was waiting for. He/she may be more like his/her mommy than we thought.


Our midwife decided we should come to the birthing center to determine if it actually was amniotic fluid. The swab turned blue and there was ferning on the slide, so yup, Jen's water broke. We left with castor oil and instructions on how to use it, but Jen is having contractions (somewhat irregular, but contractions nonetheless) so we're hoping not to.

We're going to try to take a nap now.

Good Friday?

I woke up early this morning panicking. My spring break ends on Monday, and there's still no baby. Do I go back to work? Do I just stay home, but risk not having as much time with the baby once he/she's here? My mom is coming on Wednesday and will drive us both NUTS if there's no baby. The full moon has passed with nothing to show for it. I came downstairs and began doing what any sane person would do when stressed--shopping on ebay. Jen's computer's power cable is fried, so I thought I'd look for one.

Jen came down shortly thereafter to ask why on earth I was up. She tried to reassure me, and then said, "besides, my underwear is really wet." Soooo...we trooped upstairs to examine the discarded garments. Definitely wet. Quite possibly amniotic fluid, but seeing as we don't have any of those handy little test strips, one can't be sure. She's still leaking little bits. A little crampy, but otherwise not much happening. The midwife says to call her back in about 3 hours.

Think contracting thoughts for us. We'd really like this to happen without having to go to a hospital for pitocin. Not that our midwife even mentioned that yet--we're just good at jumping steps ahead and freaking ourselves out.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006


Originally uploaded by jrustdc.
We can't get the kid to come out, so we're having to find other ways to entertain ourselves. Had some fun with Flickr today....

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

What Part of "Due Date" Don't You Understand?

This post has two distinct audiences.

Audience the First: Harpo. Now listen, kid, you get a lot more leeway here, since I'm already completely in love with you. But I did want to check in and make sure you realized the significance of this day, seeing as you don't have a watch or a calendar or anything. Today is April 11, your due date (not to mention the due date of the baby before you, a coincidence we HOPED might add some psychic pull towards getting you out). You are welcome to come on out on your own timetable, but if you are so inclined, arriving today would be a great way to start a life of being prompt. Your mama did it. (Whereas your mommy was 6 days early. You blew that one, sad to say.) Anyway, there's about 11 hours left of today, by my watch. Think about it.

Audience the Second: A whole lot of stupid people. Including, astonishingly, many, many people who have HAD BABIES, some of them recently. I can't tell you how many people have asked me when my due date is with the apparent belief that this means the date the baby will come. Yesterday a friend called me and said, "So how are you feeling the day before The Big Day?" I said, "P, you know tomorrow is my due date, right? The baby's gonna come when the baby's gonna come." And she said, "But you're going in tomorrow, right?" So I repeated, very s-l-o-w-l-y, "It's my due date. The baby's not necessarily coming tomorrow. It could be any time in the next two weeks." And then vowed never to answer the phone again. Cut to this morning. The clerk at the store says, "So when are you due?" "Today, actually." "So when are you going to the hospital?!?" "When something starts happening." "But you're due today." "Yes."

Oh, and a word about "yet". Attention family and friends who have been asking, in some cases for the PAST TWO WEEKS, "Haven't you had that baby yet?" TODAY is my due date. Therefore, use of the word "yet" prior to today makes no fucking sense. Use of the word "yet" today or later may make sense but is probably just a wee bit inadvisable if you wish to retain full functioning of all of your body parts.

And now if you'll excuse me, I've got some walking to do.

Monday, April 10, 2006

A Jen by Any Other Name

...would be Harpo's mom! As of 3:00 this afternoon (and 4 court visits, a lot of tedium, legal notices three weeks running, and certified letters to all of my creditors), Cait and I are now both legally and officially Cait and Jen SameLastName!

NOW, Harpo, you can REALLY be born.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Eviction Notice

Dear Harpo,


We've been trying not to pressure you, but now we're putting our parental feet down. It's time. Your Mommy is on the fifth round of antibiotics for a recurring sinus infection that the doctor says won't go away until she can take antibiotics that require you to be on the outside. Your Mama has this week off and would very much like to add a freebie week to the time she has at home with you. Yes, yes, I know, starting with the guilt trips already. Really, it just comes down to we want to meet you, kid. When you've waited this long, sometimes it's hard to wait another day. We'll be happy to see you whenever you get here--we'd just like it to be now.

Thank you.

The Management


We did the spicy food thing last night. No small feat for spice-wimp Jen. We're already doing Evening Primrose Oil. Jen's had more "action" in the last week than in the entirety of the last year. Harpo does appear to be working his/her way down, and that's good. And we're trying to be patient. We just want life with baby to begin.

In other news, we have our first meeting with our social worker today. Wish us luck.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Left Out in the Cold

My last day of work was Thursday, so I started my leave, and my "final pre-baby To Do list" on Friday.

Things That Were on My To Do List
1. Send final details of sub plans to substitute
2. Finish writing Birth Plan
3. Set up time for dryer vent cleaning people to come
4. Print out mailing labels for birth annoucements
5. etc.

Things That Were NOT on My To Do List
1. Get harrassed by the *I*R*S*

Guess what actually happened on Friday? Yup. I got a nastygram from the Feds. Apparently, they need more proof that I was a first time homebuyer in 2003. As a friend of mine said earlier when I complained about this, "How can you prove that you didn't buy something?!" Anyway, I can thank Uncle Sam for keeping me busy until Harpo decides to show up.

(I did get a few things that really were on my list done, too.)

Signs Jen Really is Almost 39 Weeks Pregnant

In Costco today, instead of spending 8 minutes finding the multipack of Kleenex with the "right" colors, I just took the first one I could reach.