Category Archives: family
the second most important thing in my life
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. i had been awake for 21 hours–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” soreness in my sitz bones. my neck and back were more achy 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.
9:21 pm. 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.
i’m spending a few days recounting the story of my firstborn’s birth. if you need to catch up, start with the preface, then part 1 and part 2. there is some crazy stuff there.
fair warning: this segment is the longest by far and probably the least entertaining for those who are not into labor stories. but some of us are.
lee arrived just before our birthing suite was ready, and i changed into my own gown before waddling down the hall (and around the corner and up the elevator and through more doors…why are hospitals built like labyrinths?!) to the labor and delivery wing.
our doula, macy, arrived as we were meeting our nurse and i was getting set up on the monitor. my midwife was busy attending two other laboring moms farther along than me, but she stopped by to say she would be checking back periodically.
after the requisite period of monitoring the baby, i was freed from the cords and dug into my bag for the arsenal of supplies i thought might help get me through the day: hair ties, lip balm, sour candies, a stay-cool squeegee neck towel, juices and light snacks, and of course my own pillow. (i ended up not wanting most of it. the candy got in the way of my breathing, i preferred cold washcloths to the neck towel, and all i wanted to consume was water, water, water.)
lee connected his phone to our portable speaker to set a chill mood with some mellow tunes, and i headed into the bathroom to shave. (because, obviously, smooth legs are a priority on such a momentous day.) i remember being genuinely glad that the pedicure i got for the baby showers still looked good. being distracted by ragged toes when i should be concentrating on the Big Event would just not do.
she periodically snapped some photos, as i’d asked her to, but i honestly didn’t notice one discreet shot. i paced the room hanging on to lee (the severe wobbling in my legs during contractions was such a shock to both of us), tried sitting on the birthing ball (which i loved during pregnancy and hated during labor), and relished the perfect counter-pressure applied to my hips by macy.
my dad arrived sometime mid-afternoon, and even though the contractions were coming back-to-back by that point, i wanted to at least see him and tell him i was doing fine.
lee and i had decided that our families could come in and say hello and good luck if they got there early enough, but that when things got more intense it would just be the essential players: the two of us and our doula, and my midwife and her nurse.
my sweet sister, who had experienced childbirth for the first time exactly ten months earlier, had offered to play the role of doula during my labor, but i was worried that our personal relationship might get in the way of her effectively coaching me (by making either of us concerned about displeasing the other).
in the end, both my dad and sister were present until nearly time to push. kel was a huge help to me with her whispered advice and gentle encouragement. my dad sat quietly in the corner sipping coffee, and as weird as it seems to me even now, it felt totally natural. the birthing suite was large and had a seating area and table in the corner, and i ended up spending much of the time in the bathroom taking advantage of the tub, anyway. i certainly felt more comfortable with my dad there, rather than sitting in a waiting room alone and wondering if everything was going well.
sometime in the late afternoon bryan called kel’s phone, and when he realized she was with me, he asked to talk to me. through my concentration on deliberate breathing, i heard her say something to the effect of, “she’s kinda busy.” but after the wave passed i took the phone, anyway. i can’t tell you one word that we said to each other, but i do remember that i was glad to hear my brother’s voice and know he was thinking of us.
my cervix was not dilating very quickly, and i stayed at a 5 for a long time. i was anxious to try sitting in the bathtub, knowing that being submerged in warm water would take the edge off the discomfort, but we waited until i had progressed far enough that there was less concern of it stalling my labor. when i finally did slide into the warm tub, i really did find it soothing and had an easier time enduring the contractions.
but a still pool cools fast, and since i was continually leaking amniotic fluid (and such), it was soon time to drain and rinse the tub, anyway. i moved back into the main room for the obligatory period of monitoring while someone prepared a fresh tub.
when i headed back to the bathtub, the nurse attached the waterproof monitor to my belly and i moved back into my warm little pool of “ahh, thank you” to labor the baby down some more. but this time, the surges were so strong that i could not tolerate lying back and relaxing through them. i much preferred to kneel and lean over the side of the tub.
macy stayed with me while lee stole away to eat the pizza “i” had ordered from the hospital menu. throughout the entire day, she was fantastic at maintaining a low-key mood and talking me through all my questions about what was happening and what to expect. because everything was definitely “happening” with or without my agreement. it’s a weird sensation to be inside a body that is doing it’s own thing, muscles contracting and shaking without you telling them to. it’s not like an involuntary sneeze or cough or charlie horse…it’s more like your arm doing fist pumps all by itself.
frankly, the best way i can describe it is pretty gross, but accurate. have you ever been sick and vomited so much that your stomach is still retching but nothing is coming out? for me, each wave felt like my uterus was dry-heaving in the other direction. without any deliberate intention from me, my body was doing just what it was designed to do and squeezing the baby down bit by bit. all i could do was breathe (grunt) through it.
this became my predictable pattern => each wave of pressure was accompanied by a full-body shudder, followed by a quick wave of nausea and a fire deep in my pelvis. (evidently that is not necessarily typical.) and every time a cycle would subside, i was overwhelmed by thirst. it became routine for someone to hand me a cup of water after each wave, even up to the very last push. i was just so thirsty! i heard myself say more than a few times, “i just didn’t think that this is what it would feel like!” i’d prepared myself for acute pains in my belly muscles, not waves of shaking and queasiness and burning.
when i got out of the tub the second time, i paced the floor with lee a little, but then settled into a “comfy” spot sitting on the edge of the bed and leaning over the back of a chair. after i had maintained that pose for some time, kel finally worked up the nerve to tell me she thought i’d make more headway if i stood up and moved around. and of course she was right.
i got up reluctantly and went to the bathroom (because every contraction made me feel like i needed to go, anyway, even though the sensation was coming from my cervix, not my colon.) when i came back out, it was clear that things had kicked up a notch. the pressure was ferocious, but i felt a surge of energy and adrenaline that had me bouncing on my toes and shaking out my limbs as if i was warming up for the big game. which i was.
part 4 of graham’s birth story will be up tomorrow. it gets real.
this week i’m sharing the story of my first experience giving birth. if you haven’t already, you’ll probably want to read the preface and part 1 of this story.
the first half of my ninety-minute drive to the hospital was fairly uneventful. i called my client to tell her i wouldn’t be coming to work that day and ate a breakfast of granola bars, fruit snacks, and crackers from my food stash in the car. the activity in my gut didn’t seem very consistent, so i tried to calculate if i had enough time to go all the way home, get lee and the bags, then come back to the hospital (which would almost double my drive time).
about halfway there, i realized i needed to call lee and tell him to leave work. by the time i hit the metro, my pants were soaked through and i was timing contractions on my phone while fighting downtown rush hour traffic. with waves coming every 4-6 minutes, i was becoming increasingly impatient with the stop-and-go progress and other drivers’ rude oblivion to the fact that i was in labor!
the surges were more uncomfortable than painful, really, and just felt like fierce menstrual cramps. but i was very anxious to be out of that car, and debating when it might be okay to just use the shoulder to get to my exit a mile away. i tried to be patient as we inched forward and finally reached the off-ramp.
i pulled up to the hospital entrance, one hand digging at the quarters in my cupholder for something to tip the valet. i slowly extracted myself from the car, bracing for an oncoming contraction. the attendant was kind enough to wait until i had composed myself to approach me for the key. i was suddenly horrified at the state in which i had left the driver’s seat.
unable to think of anything to say except, “i’m sorry, the seat’s a little damp,” i dabbed futilely at the puddle with a napkin before throwing him an apologetic glance and dashing through the revolving door. (a friend brought my car home from the hospital, but i’m told it was definitely parked by someone who was trying desperately not to touch the seat.)
for some reason, they keep the ob triage buried deep within the maze of halls at the hospital, but getting rapid help with directions was no problem for the pregnant lady with the wet pants. the triage nurse checked me and confirmed that i was dilated to a four and fully effaced – membranes broken, obviously – and so she began the whole process of getting me into a birthing suite.
as i waited, i called lee a few times to tell him things that needed to be added to the hospital bag that had only been half-packed. the poor guy kept begging me to stop adding to the list of To-Dos and To-Brings and just let him get to the hospital already. i guess the nesting instinct dies hard, huh?
by this time my contractions had begun to feel more like an intense pressure deep in my pelvis. i was so surprised that i didn’t feel any pain in my abdomen. i was waiting for sharp pangs to radiate from my back around to my stomach, like i’d heard they would, but all i had was a powerful sensation of something pressing hard on my tailbone. (in short, it felt like a baby trying to get out of my body.
already, my legs were trembling involuntarily with each wave, and the nurse reassured me it was a good sign that the hormones were flooding in and i was progressing quickly. i was left alone to wait, and for the first time i had nothing to distract me from the full realization that this is happening.*
but even as that reality set in, and up until the point that i delivered my son, i didn’t have an, “eek, the baby is coming!” thrill like i expected to. each moment was simply what i was doing at that time. throughout labor i never felt apprehension or a desire to quit, as i thought i might. what i felt was focus. pure focus on the goal.
look for part 3 of graham’s birth story tomorrow.
*as evidence of the degree of my disbelief up to that point, allow me to submit this shocker: i hadn’t even called my sister! when lee called her just to say, “i’m on my way to the hospital, see you there!” she had no idea what he was talking about. after all, she had just seen me the previous night when i stopped by on my way out of town. the last thing she said to me was, “just think, in two weeks you won’t be pregnant anymore!” i remember thinking, yeah, that sounds about right.
i’m sharing the story of my son’s birth this week. if you missed yesterday’s preface to this story, you might want to read it for the background on my bizarre start to labor.
the day before graham arrived, ten days before his due date, i decided to drive to my hometown to work one final day with an author there who was thisclose to finishing her book. my hunch was that baby boy was going to hang out in there a few days longer than calculated, anyway, and i wanted to finish up this editing job.
i spent the evening visiting my amazing titu and enjoying a late-nite chat with my dad. i finally went to bed around midnight, not even sorry that i would be probably be tired at work the next day.
i woke at 3:00 am with a full bladder, cursing myself for forgetting to set my pee alarm. my bladder was bulging, again, but this was the first time that i could not urinate no matter how i positioned or pressed. i was freaking out, running through worst-case scenarios in my head as i did acrobatics around the bedroom, trying desperately to make the baby move.
after practicing every prenatal yoga inversion i could remember and pleading out loud with graham to please move, i was finally successful. relieved (in more ways than one), i went back to bed about 4:00 am hoping to at least doze in an upright position for a few hours.
but every time i shifted a bit, i felt a little gush down there. my thoughts immediately associated this with my crazy condition and the previous scary incident. great, i broke my bladder. now i’m peeing myself.
and then i realized that every time i felt a little leak, i also felt kinda crampy. hmmmm, were the gushes and cramps coinciding with my movements or coming periodically? i gave up on sleep and got up to evaluate.
after about half an hour of occasional cramping and padding my underwear with tissues to determine if it smelled like urine (pregnancy is so glamorous), i texted our doula an “is this anything?” message, not wanting to alert too many people if i was just gassy and incontinent. i didn’t know.
when a response didn’t come quickly, i decided to called my midwife. she recommended that i at least come to the hospital and get checked out. she knew. when she said to bring my bags just in case, i didn’t tell her i was actually an hour and a half away.
i delayed calling lee until around 5:30, when i knew his alarm would be going off, anyway. still not sure i was experiencing the real thing, i told him to go on in to work and just be on standby. he knew. when he seemed shocked that i hadn’t yet woken my dad, i didn’t tell him i was thinking about going to work for an hour or two before heading back.
uncertainty played around in my mind as i gathered my things. everyone says you’ll know a real contraction when you feel one, right? if my water had broken, wouldn’t contractions be more intense? this has to be a symptom of my weird bladder issue. but the gushiness and crampiness continued, so i put on a huge pad (that i’m sure had been in the bathroom drawer for at least a decade) and prepared to head back to okc.
my early-bird dad was already awake when i went downstairs. (little did i know, he had been up for awhile wondering about all the movement he heard upstairs.) i told him about my change in plans, assuring him it was probably a false alarm. he knew. when he told me to let him know what they said at the hospital, i didn’t tell him that i was thinking about just heading home and waiting it out there.
even as i pulled onto the highway,* i still wasn’t convinced i was in labor. that would soon change.
check back tomorrow for part 2 of graham’s birth story. it gets better.
*i’m still surprised that my dad let me leave and didn’t insist on driving me himself. way to play it cool, dad.