Thursday, August 30, 2012

This is Your Life Now.

Hey! I had a baby two weeks ago today.  At this time on August 16th, I was getting contractions that were only mildly uncomfortable!  

Oh, labor: how I don't miss you at all.

The amazing Ailie is adjusting well to the world.  She sleeps a whole lot during the day; and a bunch at night too. We're doing a few good 2 - 3 hour stretches, with an hour or so of delicious alert time through the evenings.  She is wetting and stinking up diapers like a true champion, and breastfeeding is going great this time around.  I busted out the nipple shields for one day only; and then the girls just adapted.  My heartfelt thanks, girls.  

I hear often that girl babes are a bit easier than boys, and up to this point, I would have to concur.  We are now at the two-week mark and I'm on edge waiting for a complete personality change.  So far, so good.  She's a doll, and we adore her.

Her bro is... adjusting.  He seems to like her alright, but he's very grabby and sometimes smothers her and JC, when did his head get SO BIG?  He asks a million times per day to "see baby", which always involves manhandling baby.  I play a lot of defense.  It's frustrating.  It's difficult to be patient when you're perpetually sleepy.  But we're trying.  I know this is a huge adjustment for him; and so far today has been much better than the days prior.  

I'm recovering too.  In fact, this recovery is much easier than the last.  I've kept my postpartum tears at bay, only really feeling the urge to cry a few times since Ailie came into our world.  (And this was mostly because I watched A League of Their Own, which is a movie I decided I now fucking hate as it made me horribly cranky and distraught.  What were you thinking, Dottie?  The game made you come alive!  And then The Scene with Betty Spaghetti, you guys.  And then suddenly, we blink and everyone is 80 and all the husbands and Jimmy Dugan are dead.  I just had a beautiful baby girl, and now I have to lament that her life will fly by in an instant?  Thanks a lot, Penny Marshall.  And the final kicker: Madonna starts singing that maudlin tune that gets stuck in your head for 18 years.  The end.)

(Sorry.  That movie really messed me up last weekend.)

Where was I?  Physically, I'm feeling great.  I can't wait to get out there and start exercising again.  I've lost 26 pounds thus far.  My belly is rapidly shrinking.  I have no idea when I shall stop wearing maternity tanks; or when my rings will fit again, but still.  Oh!  And I drank some pumpkin ale beers.  They were as glorious as I remembered.    

So things are going well.  I've been alone with the kiddos the last three days, and I've managed to hold down the fort and get H out of the house a bit.  I can't complain, though it's been fairly exhausting making sure H doesn't accidentally kill his sister.  I told J as much yesterday, to which he replied: "This is your life now."

Indeed.  And I wouldn't change a thing.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Ailie Eden

I started this post on the morning of the 16th:


Just: ugh.

I had my 39 week prenatal on Tuesday.  As I suspected: nothing doing.  Cervix completely closed, no dilation.  I mentioned to my doctor that I still sometimes suspect that Newbie's head is creeping up on my right side.  

When my doc examined me, she couldn't even FEEL the head, it was so high.  This was new.  She ordered an ultrasound on the spot to see if baby was in position.  I texted J that we were obviously having a headless child.  

Luckily, Newbs head is down, though where the hell is it in there?  I know I have a long torso; but damn, child - how high could you possibly be?  

Still feeling fine, the ultrasound tech of doom said, "Whoa!  I have the baby at NINE POUNDS AND THIRTEEN OUNCES."  

Two weeks ago, she clocked Newbie at 7-13.  

One would assume baby's head is so high because it is so ENORMOUS there is nowhere else for it to be.  

I left the room.  I was put in the hall so I could reconvene with the doc.  I promptly commenced crying.  

How am I supposed to deliver you, Newbs?

So my doctor and I discussed my options.  My due date was 8/19, and with no signs of labor AT ALL, plus the baby's position, she didn't believe an induction would be successful.  Factor in the projected size of our beloved, and terms like "shoulder dystocia" were tossed about.  I cried some more.

My doc assured me that sonograms were notoriously wrong when attempting to predict the baby's size, but she still thought Newbie was at least 8 1/2 pounds by now.  She assured me my baby was safe and sound, and that if I wanted to wait for labor to begin, I could.  But she didn't want me to wait too long.  I could schedule a c-section for Thursday (8/16) or Monday (8/20).  I'm still a bit flummoxed that a c-section is so easy to schedule.  Welp, this kid might be pretty large.  Slice me open!  

I struggled.  My first baby was 7 lbs, 13 ounces.  He was 10 days early, but still.  What was going on with this new kid?  What was the right thing to do?

After much thought and discussions with J, my mom, my sister-in-law, and Koos, I decided that I would wait until my due date to go into labor, but schedule the c-section for the following week in the meantime.  I scheduled my 40-week prenatal for Monday, 8/20, and the c-section for 8/21.  I reasoned that even if I didn't go into labor, my body would start working its magic by Monday's appointment, and I hoped an induction would then be possible.  (Even though in some respects, induction makes me more nervous than surgery.)

As I was working all of this out on Thursday morning, I noticed some changes had happened overnight.  I felt a telltale heaviness in my belly that hadn't been there the day before.  I told J about it that AM.  We were both pleased that I was making some progress.

The morning wore on, and as I was getting ready to hop in the pool with H and my brother Ry (who got into town the previous Saturday), another labor sign miraculously appeared, of the - forgive me, squeamish readers - mucus variety.

I was ridiculously excited!  I called Koos, who gently reminded me that it could still be a few days to weeks. Undeterred, I was sure that the two signs together meant baby was on the way.


Around noon, I started timing the contractions.  Just for fun, as they weren't yet painful.  At first they were 20 minutes apart, then 10.  They started to get uncomfortable.  I put H down for his afternoon nap, and then escaped to the bathroom to shower and get dolled up.  I knew it was time, and I wanted to ensure I looked good.  That could help, right?

I took one last belly pic.  I texted J that things were getting very "labor-y" over here, but I didn't even call him.  My first labor and delivery lasted 40 hours (seriously, you guys), so I figured I had plenty of time.  Ry and I retreated to the playroom and watched the end of Cinderella Man.  I kept timing contractions, and they were less than 10 minutes apart now.  Still, not quite painful.  I called J, as he hadn't responded to my text.  As it turns out, he hadn't seen it.  He told me he was on his way home.  I told him to be sure to pick up pizzas; I was going to want to eat before we left.

And then, at 3 PM, it turned.  It had happened like that with Hendrik.  With H, I had been having contractions since 10 PM on Saturday night, and at 3 PM on Sunday it got REAL.

I called J.  I needed him to get home quickly, to help me.  By this time, H was awake, and Ry was distracting him in the playroom.  I was laboring in our bedroom, crouching and moving and trying to find a comfortable position to tolerate the painful spasms.  By 4, I called J again.  "Get home," I said through gritted teeth.  "We're leaving as soon as you walk in the door."  The contractions were 5 minutes apart.

An excited J walked in the door soon after.  H and Ry came downstairs, and he swept up our toddler to tell him "Mommy is having a baby today!"  H was unimpressed.  I was moaning in a ball on the couch.

We made it to the hospital around 5, and after the roughest cervical check I have ever encountered, a nurse determined I was ONE centimeter dilated.  ONE.  So they thought I was a fraud, as they do.  Did I mention my doctor was out of town?  Yes, she had a one-day conference, and she had told me she was leaving town on Thursday night.  The doctor on-call told me to walk.  For an hour or two.  And then they would check me again.

You guys? I couldn't IMAGINE being sent home.  I couldn't imagine that I could be in so much pain for a measly one centimeter.  I labored at home with H (after being sent home initially, most decidedly not in active labor, but contracting calmly) until 4 centimeters, and the pain was not this great.

So J tried to get me to walk, as I tried not to murder him.  I begged him to tell them that this baby was huge, it was going to rip through my abdomen and thus I needed a c-section.  He tried to talk me down, but after about an hour I was wild with pain.  He went to get the nurse to check my cervix.

Four centimeters.  Finally, they began to take me seriously, and ordered my epidural.

The anesthesiologist, the aptly-named Dr. Fox (who was a breath of fresh air for both his drug-giving abilities and his resemblance to Dermot Mulroney) arrived soon after, as everyone tried to get the epidural ball rolling.  In the midst of this, my screams of pain and the fast and furious contractions probably enticed them to do another check.

Seven centimeters.  In about two hours.

Oh, friends: the epidural at seven.  It just wasn't my friend.  It took an hour for it to begin to work on the pain.  I tried to breathe, and failed spectacularly.  They had to administer so much that my legs were completely numb, which made me panicky.  Eventually I calmed, and I surmise I enjoyed just under two hours of a working epidural.  I floated in and out of consciousness at first.  Then, J and I had a nice chat and confirmed the spelling of our girl's name.  I spoke to Koos and Gina (I think) and my mom on the phone.  J kept everyone up to date via texts and calls.  (He was almost killed once when he texted during a contraction.)

Before 11, my back started to ache a bit.  I couldn't feel it completely, but I thought I should let them know. I hadn't felt anything like this since the epidural kicked in.  They thought the baby might be "sunny-side up", and so they decided to turn me on my right side to get the baby to move.

I'm not sure what finally killed the epidural for me, but I'm guessing it was that turn.  In a matter of minutes, my back radiated with pain, that soon worked it's way to my abdomen.  I was yelling again.  Dr. Fox came back and tried to help.  Soon, the back labor subsided but the abdomen pain remained.  I was ready to push, and the on-call doc assured me the pushing would help that pain.  It did.

I looked at the clock as we began.  I had pushed for three hours with Hendrik, the most grueling workout of my life.  I tried to mentally prepare for two hours of pushing, still hoping it would go much quicker.

The pushing began, and I did well!  I couldn't feel anything in that region (a huge solid, epidural).  The pain was completely concentrated in my abdomen, and the only relief was the strongest pushes I could muster.

This time, I felt like I could actually feel the baby moving through me, making progress.  After a few minutes, the doc got ready to "catch", as they do.  Seeing her in her garb assured me Newbs was almost here.  I was doing it!  I felt incredible.

J was by my side, and really watching the process this time.  "You're doing so great," he kept telling me.  "I can see the baby every time you push!"

And right before those final attempts, he asked, "Last chance: boy or girl?"

"Girl," I told him.

And then she was here.

The most beautiful, GIGANTIC baby you have ever seen.  They put her on my belly, and I prodded her to cry.  She did, and it was once again the most glorious sound you could ever imagine.

J and I cried too, and just repeated, "A girl!  A girl?  I can't believe she is a girl!"

I never knew how much I wanted her until she arrived.  A whooping bundle of perfection at NINE POUNDS, THIRTEEN OUNCES (see: exactly what the sonogram predicted), and 22 inches long!

How did I deliver her?  I have no idea.  My body did its magic, despite my lack of faith.

And she is here and she is ours and she is absolute perfection.  It's amazing how your heart expands.  It's incredible how these babies are worth every minute of that suffering we go through to bring them here.

J and I had named this little girl during our 2006 trip to Colorado, when we learned my great-grandmother's name was Aili (EYE-li).  I told my grandmother how much I loved it.

Just weeks ago, during what was to be the last conversation I would ever have with my Far-Mor, I asked her if she had any idea what the baby was.

"It's hard to say," she told me seriously.  'But, if it is a girl, I would love for her to have my mother's name."

Consider it done, Far-Mor.

Welcome, Ailie.

Monday, August 13, 2012

How Am I Still Pregnant?

You guys?

I'm still pregnant.  REAL, real pregnant.

I didn't make it to 39 weeks with Snooze.  He arrived 10 days before his due date, so naturally I believed Baby #2 would be early; perhaps even earlier than my beloved first born.

And then?  Nothing.

There is pretty much zero happening in the old cervix.  At week 36, Newbie was nearly transverse breech, and I wonder if that has something to do with his/her reticence to come out.  We ended up with an ultrasound the following week, and thankfully baby had turned head down.  At week 38, the head that is growing to NOW EPIC PROPORTIONS was still high.  I have another appointment tomorrow.  Fingers crossed for some dilation, y'all!

People keep asking me how I am doing, and in truth, I feel better than I have in a long time.  To be sure: it's still difficult to maneuver myself out of bed for 87 pee breaks per night, and I'm much puffier than I was with my spring pregnancy.  My wedding rings haven't fit since late May; but last go-round, I had a few rings I could wear.  This time?  Not so much.  It is Texas in August, and because our energy bill is roughly the size of the national deficit, I'm not as uncomfortable as you might think.

I'm happy to have made it through my summer semester without my water breaking during the final, and I am indulging in lots of sweets.  I registered for the Dallas Half-Marathon (December 9th), so as soon as have this baby I'll have to nearly immediately get back on the fitness band wagon.  THE WEIGHT, you guys.  SHE IS VERY, VERY HIGH.  To which I say: meh.  Pass me the Milano cookies.  

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Strangeness.

Just finished watching my grandmother's memorial service online.  It was streamed live from their mega-church in Colorado Springs.

It was... weird.

I don't have the time (or frankly, the mental energy) to expound on some of the issues that go on with the HomeValleyian clan.  Suffice it to say: there are issues.  We've all got 'em.  You know how it goes.

But I must mention that my grandfather, whom I love dearly, was the first to speak.  He presented a slide show of my grandmother's life.

As it began, I dutifully jotted down his explanations, made notes about which pictures I wanted to be sure to ask him for.  I had never seen many of them, and in several my grandmother looks absolutely stunning.  Why had I never known these?  Who was this woman?

As the slide show wore on, meandering into 1980s and 90s territory, I found myself willing him to include a photo of me.  A photo of any grandchild.  A photo of my grandmother with a grandchild.  There are nine of us.

A photo with family (other than distant relatives she rarely visited in Sweden and Finland), though I was grateful there was one photo of Far-Mor with her only brother, Kurt.

And then, the show was over.  My grandfather had included exactly three photos of my grandmother with two of her sons (all taken in the late 50s, early 60s).  He had included zero photos of her youngest son.  Nor any photos Far-Mor with any grandchild.  Nor any of her with their only great-grandchild.

It made me very sad, is all.

It sort of underscores the issues.  It made me question my place in her life.  And I imagine my sisters and cousins and aunts and uncles and stepmother and father - all sitting in the front rows, having flown to Colorado from the east coast this week - were wondering much the same.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

This Is You Drill Bit.

On Tuesday the kind folks at J's place of business threw us a baby shower.  I had known for about a week, but kept the secret from J.  Hendrik and I excitedly got ready for our rare trip into Dallas, and J's assistant met us at the door and led us to a conference room where J was leading his staff meeting.  We told Hendrik to knock on the door, but that's not his style.  He busted through the door, catching his father completely off-guard, exclaiming, "Hi Daddy!" as he jumped into J's arms to give him a hug.

Looking across the table, H spotted a familiar face.  "That Mr. Clint," he said, matter-of-factly, before running around the table to greet him with a fist bump.  J and I looked at each other stunned: he had met Clint exactly twice.  The first time was a brief lunch ages ago, and the second time was about two months ago, when J was in a car accident on his way home from work, and Clint drove him home and stayed for dinner.  How does this child remember names better than we do?

J went around the table making introductions, as I began to sweat trying to remember who I'd previously met.  A few minutes later several people had to leave; when Hendrik noticed, he innocently asked, "Where's other Mark?"  Yes, the second of two Marks had left the conference room.  I could not have told you that, but apparently my two year-old's knack for detail is unprecedented.  He misses nothing at this stage in life.  It's incredible.

A snapshot of his morning routine: He wakes in the morning, climbs out of his queen-sized bed, and undresses down to his diaper (he is careful not to take his diaper off, as he knows all that poop would create quite the mess).  Then, he picks out his shirt and shorts, grabs a diaper, and gingerly places the wipes (opened) next to the other things.  Now that everything is prepared to his liking, he heads to the doorway, which is blocked by a baby gate.  "Mommy!  Want Mommy to come change you diaper! Come on, Mommy!  Come upstairs!"

This is how I am roused each morning, as I need more sleep than he does these days.  It is so difficult to move, it usually takes me about 10 minutes to get out of bed.  "Coming, Snooze!" I yell up groggily.  "Mommy just needs a minute to wake up."

Eventually, I lift my swollen limbs and belly out of our cozy bed, throw on some shorts and head up to his room.  He greets me with a warm "Hi Mommy!" as I take down the gate, and then proceeds to tell me some of his plans for the day. Usually something like: "You want milk and a vitamin.  Only one vitamin a day! Want to go downstairs and eat a waffle."  Then I'll brief him with the day's agenda (you know: library story time, grocery shopping, My Gym camp), change his diaper, and stand back as he insists on dressing himself in the clothes he's selected.

Sometimes I can't believe what I am seeing.

He's a boy.  At two and a quarter, he's a little man who knows what he likes (Gotye, Adele, waffles, granola bars, and any activity that involves his buddies).  I'm astounded at just how smart he is; what he retains.  He is a SPONGE, and can recall details that both J and I have long forgotten.  He's always busy busy busy, planning trips (typically to California) and selecting activities ("Want to go build with Mommy!").  He identifies lots of emotions ("Mommy yelled!  Mommy's frustrated!") and is quick with a silly face or some nonsense chanting and giggling to lighten the mood.  He loves to make us laugh.

Yesterday morning, as I took the gate down, he noticed the nail J had put in the door frame to keep the gate in place.  "Need to hammer this!" he said, before running to the playroom and returning with his drill and hammer.  And then he worked on the nail, first with the hammer, then with the drill (which he explained, "This is you drill.  This is you drill bit.").  Where did he come from?

We just adore him; and still sneak upstairs before we go to bed many nights just to catch a glimpse of him sleeping peacefully.  He's so exquisite, sometimes we just giggle and recount the things he's said.  "Can you believe him?" we ask each other, as we have since the day he was born.  He will be 35 someday and will leave our home with his wife and babies and we'll turn to each other and repeat, "I still can't believe we made him."

And soon (well, not too soon since there are no signs of ANYTHING going on in the old cervix), we'll have another one.  A little boy or little girl, who will make our family even more complete.  Only this time around, he or she will have a Hendrik.  Who tells me often "I can't WAIT for baby to come!" and really, really has his heart set on taking baby to the airplane museum almost immediately after delivery.

We can't wait to meet you, Newbie.  To see who you are and marvel at your face and repeat daily, "Can you believe we made this?"