motherhood is conditioning.
my intuition is being trained by my need to for sharp senses as i acclimate to being on the job round-the-clock. it’s cool to know that graham’s skills and reflexes are under intense training right now, too.
my entire body is being strengthened by the marathon of picking up and carrying and putting down and bending over and bathing and dressing 17.5 pounds of active human. it’s fun to see my baby’s body gain strength as well.
my character is being toned by the continual surrender to the adventure, the role, the responsibilities, and the story. it’s amazing to watch my son’s characteristics also develop with each learning-packed day.
graham’s growth has not slowed in the last month – he stretched more than an inch and gained another pound. we also (gratefully) had a night-time sleeping breakthrough this month. i think we (and he) finally figured out that particular puzzle.
while his reflexes and fine-motor skills are advanced for his age, he is still in no hurry to be mobile. the day after he turned five months he rolled over once. he performed the trick once more the next day…and then only a handful of times over the course of the month. the day before he turned six months, he finally decided it could take a permanent place in his physical repertoire, rolling back-to-front and front-to-back and pivoting all around. his doc said that he wouldn’t be surprised if it took him another month or more to sit up unassisted, because of the challenge of balancing his considerable length.
but one thing never changes: this kid is cute! i love how he smiles and laughs so easily:)
it’s absolutely cliché, but i can’t believe it’s been half a year. (!!!) how is that even possible? should i continue with the “how time flies” parental lament?
my sister frequently reminds me that i need to write another “Love Of Laughter” installment, and i agree. this particular story sent me into breathless, crying laughter after it happened, and then again every time i recounted it to someone. so here ya go.
sometime in the early third trimester of my pregnancy with graham, we had almost completed the nursery and everything was looking good in there…but smelling a little too “new.” (probably only to my sensitive nose. we chose non-toxic, zero-VOC everything.) i wanted to give the room plenty of opportunity to air out before bringing our little one into it, so we left the door open and the fan on 24/7.
the only problem with this arrangement was that our dogs had been the previous inhabitants of that room, and they were particularly curious about all the changes. while we have now successfully drawn an invisible barrier that they recognize, at the time they kept wandering in and rooting around in stuff. our temporary solution was to place graham’s inherited rocking horse in the doorway. it perfectly blocked the opening at doggie-height, while being low enough that the humans in the house could easily step over it to pass in and out of the room.
a pretty clever solution…that is, until you throw a clumsy forgetful pregnant lady into the mix.
one saturday i was headed into the nursery with an armful of books (what else?), and the pregnancy hormones must’ve fogged up my memory. (so nice to have that excuse, sometimes!) i obviously couldn’t see the obstacle between my burgeoning belly and the load i was carrying, and i didn’t remember it was there, so i hit the wooden horse with the full force of a pre-mommy in nesting mode.
my reflexes are usually pretty sharp, but those pesky hormones worked their special magic (again, a valid excuse, right?) and i went down in the most ungraceful slow-motion spill.
when i say slo-mo, i mean that it seemed to take forever before i was finally motionless on the ground. there were several moments of me alternately catching and losing my balance, and i could hear my grunts and gasps narrate the entire thing.
“oh! ugh! gah! oomph! engh! ouch!”
i went on like that for at least five seconds. the fall lasted long enough that i had time to hear my own gruff exclamations echo back and think to myself, you sound just like the grape lady.
seeing as you can’t hear my cacophony of guttural growling as i tell this story, and may not know of the grape lady, you may not be laughing just yet. but i am. sitting in front of my computer and laughing.
enter my loving husband. having heard the racket of bangs, bumps, and groans, he came to investigate. observing his pregnant wife lying in a tangled mess on the floor, the first words out of his mouth were, “did you fall, like, fourteen times in here? what an idiot. you sounded like the grape lady!”
and even though i was bruised and sore, and a bit annoyed that he was not more concerned about me, i couldn’t stop laughing. the fact that he was thinking the exact thing i was, and that he said it so frankly, was so hysterical that soon my sides were sore, as well, from laughing.
long after he helped me up (finally!) and we went about our day, i found myself stifling giggles as i remembered how hilarious i sounded. it was just like this (about 15 seconds in):
over the last year or two i’ve surprised myself with an enjoyment of running, even continuing to run up through the final days of pregnancy. after giving birth, waiting six weeks to return to vigorous physical activity was hard. then, when i got the green light, finding time to fit it in was harder. i needed a goal to make sure i didn’t let myself neglect the movement that makes me feel alive and energized.
so last sunday i repeated a feat that was a proud first for me last year, and ran 13.1 miles without stopping. it wasn’t the fairy-tale trip around the lake that i experienced the first time, but i finished!
it seems to be my m.o. to impair my race efforts with poor preparation. last year i set myself up by training too little, working on my feet the entire day before, sleeping only a few hours, and carrying an energy-zapping fetus inside me. since that race went so well (really), i suppose my confidence was a bit inflated, and i shrugged off my lack of conditioning this year. not that i felt invincible, but my body had recently impressed me with its stamina, and i trusted it to get me across the finish line again.
so, having run a total of eight times since giving birth (only one of which was longer than half the distance of the race), and carrying a sleep deficit that had been accruing over five months, i signed up to run the Strides of March Half Marathon a second time. the race was scheduled on my mom‘s birthday again this year (saint patti’s day), and so i set out to honor her with my commitment to finish strong.
getting out the door at 6:30 am was a bit more challenging with a wee one in tow, and we arrived at the race site with only 25 minutes to race time. which is not really much leeway when you have to feed a baby and go to the bathroom before you hit the starting line. poor graham was so sleepy and bewildered that he took longer to nurse than usual, but he needed to tank up to last a couple of hours without me, and i needed to downsize to comfortably wear my sports bra. (ha!)
the line for the bathroom is always crazy-long before a race, but it’s a must. so we all stood in the queue and lee pinned the number on my shirt while my dad secured the beacon to my shoe and i hopped around squealing about how cold it was. i was wearing a jacket and leggings, but decided against the hat and gloves, assuming i would warm up once i started running, as usual. (the previous day had been shorts weather, after all.)
i finally made it to the front of the port-a-potty line with about twenty seconds to the gun. i took care of business as quickly as possible, burst out the door and ran straight across the starting line. i waved to my three boys as i joined the last stragglers at the back of the crowd of racers. (so much for warming up/stretching.)
it only took two miles of facing the icy forty-degree wind to realize that leaving the hat and gloves was a baaaaad idea. my sleeves weren’t long enough to cover my hands, and my fingers were already painfully numb. i noticed a woman in front of me take her gloves off and clip them to her hip, and lusted after them for a full mile before working up the courage (desperation) to catch up to her and ask if she would like me to carry her gloves for her. thankfully, she generously allowed me to borrow them for the remainder of the race. i’m not sure how i would’ve fared without them.
the first six and a half miles were great. my nose was frozen and my hands were still a little cold, but i felt energetic. dad and lee had driven to the turnaround to cheer me on, and i flashed a smile and thumbs-up as i passed by. i rounded the halfway point at the exact time of my split last year, and headed into the second half thinking i could kick it up a notch and possibly beat my previous finish time.
around mile 9, i lost all hope of setting a personal best. i was getting tired, and putting one foot in front of the other took more effort with each step. for the first time in my running career, it felt like my legs would fail me before my lungs. it didn’t help that everyone in this race was so fast. last year i passed at least a handful of people; this year it seemed everyone was passing me! (even though i was running around a 9:30 pace!)
by the time i hit mile 11, i reallyreally wanted to quit. my muscles were thoroughly fatigued and moving forward had become like dragging lead through molasses. i was forcing my legs onward by sheer will, praying they would not collapse under me. i tried to motivate myself with thoughts of my mother’s strength and visions of my family waiting for me at the finish line.
i had planned to sprint the last quarter-mile downhill to the end, but even as i saw the flags drawing closer and my cheering section jumping up and down, i wasn’t sure i could make it. i tried to turn on the afterburners, but the result was just me throwing myself toward the finish in the most awkward and laborious “run” that you’ve ever seen.
as soon as i cleared the finishing area, i allowed my legs to buckle and sprawled my weary body flat on the grass. through the stars spinning around my head i could see my family’s feet surround me and heard my sister squeal, “you did it!” yes, i did. and by some miracle i clocked in at 2:06–only two minutes over my previous time!
my one word for 2013 is grace, and i’ve certainly had to extend it toward myself over and over in the past few months. as the balance of my life continually shifts to accommodate the blessings and challenges that come my way, i know i’ll need an extra measure of grace to navigate the adjustments with aplomb. i hope i can continue to push toward my goals even when i want to quit, while having the grace to accept a less-than-perfect finish.
motherhood is perplexing.
continual unseen development inside his little body and mind means that baby behavior is both unpredictable and inexplicable at times. just when we think we have our baby all figured out, something new comes along to confound us.
never-ending decisions with countless options leave us more confused with each choice we have to make on products, practices, and plans. i have a feeling the bewildering and conflicted information overload never stops as a parent.
unrestrained sheer joy displayed by my son at just the sight or sound of his favorite people/toy/song is inspiring even as it is baffling. i can’t help but wonder how life was ever complete without him.
sometime during the fifth month our baby gained solid neck control, an adorable laugh, better hand coordination, a pound and a half, and another quarter inch in length. he is thisclose to rolling over on his own, but i’m not in any hurry for him to be more mobile. if he wants to just chill awhile longer, that’s fine with me.
i’m so grateful that i get to spend my days with him, and feel fairly fluent in his language of distinct cries, coos, grunts, and whimpers. at least in the daytime. our laid-back baby is an angel while the sun is shining, but has become mysteriously cranky after dark. when he suddenly wakes just an hour after bedtime for some obscure reason and is not easily soothed, lee and i are left scratching our heads. at this stage the fussiness could be any number of invisible issues. (teething? growth spurt?) here’s hoping this particular perplexing aspect of parenting passes quickly.
another puzzling question is how parents manage to keep enough hard drive space to accommodate all the pictures that demand to be taken. because he just never stops being so darn cute all the time!
graham also got to spend some good time with family this month. how lucky he is so to get lots of love and cuddles and play from his uncles and aunts and cousins and grandparents (and a few friends).
i predict many milestones in feeding/mobility/sleeping in the next month! not that i’ll ever be able to solve the puzzle that is motherhood.
this is the final segment of our first child‘s birth story. get the all the crazy details here: preface, part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4.
i could hardly believe he was actually here! we enjoyed our first moments as a family, and everything in the world was rainbows and unicorns…mostly. lee was trying to “un-see” the “volcano” of dark bloody fluid that came pouring out after the baby. (“it was like that scene from The Shining.”) and i was suffering the necessary forceful mashing on my belly to encourage the uterus to contract and shrink.
giving birth really is the most miraculous, amazing, thrilling…horror show. nothing can truly prepare you for the clash of carnal and divine. i pray get to do it again.
we spent some intimate time in relative quiet and rest and nursing and cuddling and photos and smiles that threatened to break our faces, then passed him to the nurses to weigh and measure and such.
our family had been waiting patiently for about an hour since they heard graham’s triumphant exit wail, so we invited everyone in to meet the newest member.
it was nearly midnight when we finally moved into our room for the night. the adrenaline was long gone and the sleepies were hitting me hard. but i was suddenly famished and found myself digging into the bag of snacks i had assumed i would want during labor. i ate and changed into clean pajamas and brushed my teeth, all while stealing long looks at our little miracle.
kel marveled at how quickly i crossed the room from my bag to the bathroom and back again, but as i bustled about i just assumed the tenderness hadn’t registered yet. i was a little stiff from a day’s worth of strenuous physical activity followed by a couple of hours of sitting still, so i decided to stretch my legs a bit before crashing. as i folded myself in half to touch my toes and leaned into a lunge on the bed, my sister gaped at me like i had no business doing that. she later told me, “it was like the stork delivered the baby!”
my recovery was honestly no big deal. i attribute this to the fact that i didn’t tear at all. which i attribute to my midwife’s skilled assistance and expert coaching on controlled pushing. plus graham taking his time, turtle-ing in and out forever. he gave me a slow stretch and himself a nice long conehead that i’m sure contributed to my fortune. with no injury to heal, it was just a matter of recuperating from the strain on my muscles and the “i’ve been riding a horse for days” pain in my sitz bones. my neck and back were more sore than anything else, and i felt pretty normal after a few days, save for the sleep deprivation.
after everyone left, i was overcome by exhaustion and fell into a coma that was instantaneous and deep. lee was essentially left alone with the baby, and barely slept all night knowing that i would most likely not wake for anything. thankfully, a nurse came back throughout the night to help us take care of graham’s needs, and the next morning i felt refreshed. (after a shower to rinse of the gallons of sweat i produced flushing out all the extra pregnancy fluid.)
the day was a nonstop parade of doctors and nurses and lactation consultants and hearing testers and administrative staff…until they finally let us go home.
we praise God for our adorable blessing and for his wonderful delivery experience. thank you for joining in my joy and excitement with this story. it’s fun to share life-changing memories. i hear it only gets better from here…–
this week i’ve been telling the story of the natural birth of my first child. if you’ve missed the last few days, start with the bizarre preface, then part 1 – the last to know, part 2 – maybe i should’ve tipped him more, and part 3 – a family affair.
following kelleigh’s advice had definitely made a difference, i could feel it.
kel and dad left to get some dinner and meet up with jared and caris, and my midwife, leanna, came back to check if i was ripe and ready to push. after spending hours dilated to about 6 cm, i was finally at a 10! i zeroed in my focus on the real work of getting this baby out.
as i was gearing up with a few “practice pushes,” the room phone rang. i don’t remember it at all, but lee picked it up and hung up immediately. we found out later that our friends lyndi & wes had called the hospital to check on where we were, and someone had transferred the call to our labor & delivery room! evidently, lee had inadvertently left the line open, and they got to hear a few moments of serious coaching before they figured out what had happened and hung up.
i proceeded to push in every conceivable position for three hours. squatting, sitting, lunging, lying back, hanging on the bar, on all fours…at one point i was trying to gain leverage and power by pulling on a sheet (or towel?) that was anchored only by our sweet, petite nurse on the other end! (who, by the way, was with us the whole day and stayed hours after her shift to be there until graham was born. chelsea, you were awesome!)
leanna was wonderful, as well, and guided me through each set of pushes and positions with soft but assertive instructions. and all the while, the perfectionist in me was seeking constructive feedback. “am I pushing the way you want me to?” i repeated several times, as everyone else laughed at me for even asking as i bounced from position to position and refused to rest through any contractions. i was focused!
after about forty minutes of pushing, the top of his head made an appearance, but he stayed there for another two plus hours. leanna told me later that she thought he was going to come out sunny-side-up by the stubborn way he was resisting my pushing. it turns out he just had his head cocked to one side. but leanna never even hinted that i might not be able to deliver him naturally. one of the many reasons we are thankful that she attended graham’s birth.
so i pushed, and pushed, and pushed. but i didn’t feel tired. i was actually more energized as time went on and i got more efficient at pushing thanks to pointers from my team. both lee and i were grateful to have our doula macy there to support me physically with water and cool rags and bracing so that he could just be with me as emotional, mental, and spiritual support.
leanna must’ve thought i needed some motivation after a couple of hours, because she suggested they bring out the mirror so i could see how much graham was moving forward with each set of pushes (two steps forward, one step back).
now, i already knew the mirror was available to me, but had decided that i didn’t want to look. i could touch his head, i knew he was there. i was trying to protect my mental resolve. i figured i’d be fine managing the discomfort if i could concentrate on the task, but if i saw the process it would look like it hurt, and so i would feel pain. in the end, i couldn’t keep my eyes open and push, anyway. all i saw for a brief moment in the darkened room was the unidentifiable mess of body parts that is childbirth.
i’m glad this was my first experience with labor. with nothing to compare it to, i never got worried that it was taking too long or i was having to try too hard. i was just doing what i had to do, moment by moment. time stood still. leanna commented more than once that he was really making me work for it, but i didn’t think much of it at the time. lee (rightly so) was more concerned about graham, being cramped in the birth canal, than me. he told me later, “you were an animal, i knew you’d be fine. i just wanted him out of there.”
chelsea cheerfully pointed out how my belly was deflating as the baby moved down. all five of us were staring at my abdomen when my son gave me one last swift kick to the gut. we all gasped in surprise, and i savored what i knew was the last time i’d feel the familiar jab of his heel in my ribs from the inside.
by this time lee’s family had arrived and we had a small crowd pacing impatiently in the hall and cheering graham on in his epic exodus. but inside the room, we were oblivious to anything but the crazy ride we were on. the shakes had become uncontrollable, and started affecting my arms as well as my legs. at one point, my right hand shot out and smacked lee hard on the chest. the bewilderment on his face reflected my shock as i apologized with a feeble, “um, I didn’t mean to do that.”
each set of pushes now felt like it should be the last. for at least three surges in a row, i could hear the excitement in the voices of those who could see him emerging, and the stretching i felt around his head had reached the “ring of fire” point. i turned to lee and whispered, “pray!” to which he answered emphatically, “i am.” everything just felt like this is it!
and then it was. i heard leanna say, “okay, mama, reach down and take your baby.” my hands eagerly sought my son as i blindly grasped at his slippery head and shoulders. i prayed that hands much steadier than mine were spotting me as he slid out of my womb and into my arms.
he cried out loud and clear right away – which brought a rush of emotion for me and collective whoop from the eavesdroppers outside the door. (i’m sure their celebrating was joined by a heavenly cheer, as well.)
someone guided him onto my stomach, and we lay there, finally skin-to-skin. bon iver played softly in the background as i gasped over and over, “oh, baby! oh, baby!”
kelleigh snuck back in to take graham’s first photos, and i held him close as several sets of skilled hands wiped him down, checked him out, and cleaned me up (no stitches needed!). when the umbilical cord finished pulsing, lee had the honor of separating mama and baby (without passing out!). i put up with a few more contractions until i delivered the placenta and we were left alone for a few minutes (at last!).
and then we were a family of three.
i’ll wrap up tomorrow with part 5 of graham’s birth story. the final installment offers all the gory glory that follows such a sacred yet corporeal event.