Many thoughts about the world, meditation, parenting, Judaism, pregnancy, teaching, cancer survivorship, moving from West Coast to East and more.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Little Fish Big River

As if I had time...

someone sent me the link to the Little Fish Big River site in honor of the new year. It's a place you go to internationally log in and share acts of kindness you've done or received. I think the idea is that those same acts can inspire other people to do the same thing, then cross-references so you can see where that kindness is being repeated throughout the world.

It took me a couple of days on-and-off while giving kindness to my little one, but I finally managed to create a page on there. It might be fun. I'd love to see some of you on there too.

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Postpartum Care

I'm currently reading Natural Health After Birth. It's a great book, discussing feelings and experiences that I thought were only mine. But now, I must say, the book also makes me feel sad and resentful.

During the pregnancy I had to search high and low for information, especially Jewish information, about Jewish or otherwise spiritual customs around pregnancy. It was hard to find and most of the people I know her could not be good resources.

Now I'm experiencing the same as I learn about what is available in other cultures and times for women postpartum.

In this country, at this time, it's all about getting back on your feet and back to work quickly. It's about receiving gifts to welcome the baby and it's about seeing if you can get family or friends to stay with you for a little while and hold the baby while you do other chores. (Or sometimes they do the chores while you hold the baby.) All of that is really good, and it's what I've been able to gratefully receive.

But there are rituals and standards that others have done that I knew NOTHING about. There's a lot about numerous countries keeping women really warm to help them heal. Had I known this right away, I might not be having some of the slight medical problems I'm having now. They could have been avoided.

There's postpartum massage. Do I really want to have to pay $90 to get one? Why don't we live in a culture in which it's just part of what postpartum women receive?

What about the herbs this book tells me about? Again, I have a few problems I need help with, but even if I knew how to leave the apartment with ND long enough to get what I needed, where would I go?

And rest... I keep pushing myself to do more. It's in my personality, but I wish there was a community of women who were authoritatively telling me to stop and that my body needs rest even if I can't feel it. I'm not trying to be a Superwoman, but I keep telling myself I need to do more and I wish someone would disagree.

There was a certain point, around Sukkot, during the pregnancy when I just utterly burned out of reading about pregnancy and birth, but I have to say that I wish I'd read this book before the birth. I would have set up some more things for myself. I'd like to think that by not having that I might be able to somehow be motivated to help others get more significant postpartum care. I just am not as comfortable with nurturing adults as I am with kids.

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Murderball

U. and I watched Murderball on Saturday night. Don't be startled or offended by the title. It's a documentary about quadraplegic rugby.

We both loved the movie. Clearly the makers were aware of the risk of making a sentimental movie about people who have had spinal injuries, but the people featured are all too hard-core to want sentimentality or sympathy (unless it leads to sex). There was a lot of time spent on the individuals themselves, how they live their day to day lives, and their highly satisfying in-your-face attitudes.

If you are uncomfortable with swearing or frank discussions about sex etc., don't watch this. But otherwise, we were really impressed. It's a shame more people haven't watched it.

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When Will I Work Again?

I made a major decision last week. Making this decision has been the one really difficult thing around the birth of my daughter. It's the stress of deciding when I must go back to work and all the implications, ramifications, consequences etc. surrounding it.

While I was trying to decide, it felt very complicated. I basically could decide to stick with what I'd originally told my employer... just a six-week leave because that's how much disability could pay for... (that would be half of my paycheck without getting anything from work)

or

I could take 3 months off and just know I wouldn't get paid except for half pay (disability) for the first 6 weeks.

Among reasons to take off only 6 weeks included that we do need to make whatever money we can and, besides, shouldn't it be enough that I'm working part-time instead of full?

Among reasons to take off a full 3 months include the words of all my wonderfully ideological friends who remind me of the sheer injustice of our not having greater maternity leaves in this country as compared to other countries and cultures.

I finally called the woman who taught our childbirth class to give me some guidance. I chose her because we'd discussed it before, but also she seemed like a woman of experience rather than ideology and I wanted to hear what she thought. As we discussed how well I've been doing since ND's birth, as well as all the other factors, she finally said she thought it would be okay for me to go back at six weeks. She confirmed I was not being a bad mom by doing so. I asked why it's hard for some women to do it and we talked, for one about sleep deprivation which (THANK G-D!) has not been a major issue for us. Others maybe have trouble adjusting to being moms or have trouble with hormones. The first of those has fit me easily so far, and I'm used to raging hormones so it hasn't been too difficult. I do get annoyed that I have to wake up about every 3-4 hours for about 1 1/2 hours at night, but I've adjusted. At least it's predictable.

The only really hard part about going back to work soon is the thought of leaving my daughter with someone else. It's sometimes even hard to leave her in U.'s arms when I leave the room to go to the bathroom or get things done.

So I called the place where we've signed her up for daycare. My hope was to revisit the place and be reassured. But first I couldn't find there number easily online. Then I couldn't even get anyone on the phone. I finally realized they are probably off for winter break.

Made me furious though. I will try again after New Year's and let them know how I felt about that. Their reaction might help me either feel worse or better about the situation. But then I can ACT on it if necessary. So much better than worrying.

Once I feel okay with someone else watching ND, I think this may really all be okay. Although I don't like being swamped by work, I do feel sort of bored during the day already and think I might as well start transitioning back. My hours before I went on leave included teaching my own class for the full afternoon (about 12:30-3:30), but also doing an hour of support in the morning in two other classrooms. As I transition back, my supervisor agreed that I may be able to cut back that extra hour of support. I think that will help a lot.

Now, last thought on this... as I tried all those weeks to decide what to do, I felt TREMENDOUS guilt at the thought of leaving my daughter with someone else.

But then on Friday, as I made as simple of a Shabbat dinner as I could, I felt guilty again for not somehow working harder, like women with more kids who push themselves harder.

What is UP with this GUILT thing? Is it possible to rid myself of it permanently? It seems to be completely unproductive.

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Friday, December 29, 2006

Getting Weaned Here

Wow! U. and I made Shabbat dinner without ANY HELP!

I have lots I want to write. No time now.

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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

We Have Pictures

Last night my dad sent me a weblink with many many new pictures. I'm not sure why, but I think I'd rather send the link out to you by email request instead of just posting. Safety consideration, although I'm not sure how this will be any more anonymous than anything else.

In any case, if you know me personally, email me and I'll send the link.

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Say "Ah!"

My doula taught me that to get ND to make a really big mouth for nursing, it helps to say, "aaah," showing the baby how to open the mouth. Now ND not only makes the big mouth, but makes the sound as well in her nasaly baby voice.

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Our Daughter Is SO OLD!

I couldn't fit this on the page so easily, so I'm going to try posting it as a link here:




Note added on January 21, 2007: I should point out that this is not exactly the way we count her age, but it's close enough. If you ever want to just see what's happening now in approximate age-ness, continue to visit this entry.

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Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Our First Day Home Alone

Today was ND's and my first day home alone together. No help from anyone. I'm utterly amazed at how much happened in the day.

Here, in no particular order...

1. I gave her her first baby massage. I used a video I got from the library to teach me how. She liked it but was pretty wiggly. I'd much prefer to learn this from a teacher directly than from a video. There's a doctor who teaches it that I've been trying to reach but is rarely available.

2. I finished reading my own baby books that my mom brought from home.

3. Filled in a page or two of ND's baby book.

4. Finished reading a chapter from a book on postpartum wellness for moms.

(2-4 were all done while nursing.)

5. Researched more about thrush and adjusted my own treatment plan a little.

6. Went for a walk to the library. This was one of the most taxing events of the day. She was EXHAUSTED by the time we tried to go, but I guess she was also hungry. If I held her, she slept soundly. But as soon as she felt me try to belt her into the stroller, she awoke and SCREAMED. I finally decided that passersby could say what they would, but I hoped that getting her outside would help her fall asleep. I was right and she slept all the way to the library. But once I started looking at the video shelves she awoke and started crying and didn't stop until we were home again and nursing (about 20 minutes of heartbreaking tears). After all that she slept for a very long nap which I hope doesn't mean she wakes up too much tonight.

7. I finally got myself a good lunch around 4:00 PM! (I had started one earlier by finishing off some leftovers with the intention of eating something more substantial soon after. With the whole "walk to library" thing it wasn't so easy.

8. I managed to get to the basement to do a load of laundry with ND asleep in a sling around my body. I also forgot to actually push the start button on the dryer load until U. came home and was supposed to bring up the dry stuff only to find it still wet. I guess I was irritated because there were some other people in the laundry room -- pretty young, I might add -- who didn't offer to help me even though they weren't doing anything and I only had one arm to work with as I held on to ND with the other.

9. And last, but not least, a pipe burst in our bathroom ceiling sending steam into the bathroom so intense that the ceiling began to rain boiling hot water. The super had to shut off heat for the whole building and tomorrow I get to work with plumbers.

I guess I'm doing pretty darn well as a new mom!

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Monday, December 25, 2006

Precocious

That's the word people have used several times to describe my little ND, although I can't honestly remember why the first times those people said it. Today it was because my little tiny 19 day old baby actually turned herself over today from her front to her back! It took awhile, but I captured it all on video.

This girl is just so strong! Strong grip, strong legs (which keep growing), and of course strong lungs.

Fortunately she performed this amazing feat about an hour before my parents had to leave from their first visit out to see her. It was very hard to say goodbye. It doesn't help that all four of us, not counting ND, are fighting colds now. It meant I was the only one allowed to touch her for the last few days and that we've all been worried about her.

But as I say, she's STRONG and I guess so are the antibodies in the mother's milk I've been feeding her.

Oh, and I owe a bit of a retraction. In Day By Day I wrote about how painful the breastfeeding has been. I was duly warned by my caregivers that it would be normal to have some pain in the first two weeks in addition to the fact that ND had started off latching in correctly and had really damaged me. Yesterday I couldn't take it anymore and called my doula/lactation consultant to say that I was excessively sore to the touch and that about 15-20 minutes after a feeding, I would feel shooting pains from the entire breast into my corresponding shoulder blade. Right away she said it sounded like thrush. I called the midwife who confirmed and prescribed me meds. Already there is a WORLD of difference. I was really getting to the point that I didn't think I could continue the feedings and was sometimes tempted to try to put ND to sleep instead of feed her because it hurt so badly. But now, after just over 24 hours on the meds, I feel so much better.

I'm a little surprised this wasn't caught earlier. I was sick before the birth and had gone on antibiotics which are likely to cause just such a complication. But I'm mostly just grateful it's solved. I was starting to get really mixed messages from both friends, fellow bloggers, and caregivers about what I should or should not have been feeling.

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Saturday, December 23, 2006

Personality

Well, ND is now 2 and a half weeks old. I find myself wondering what kind of person she will be.

But then I remind myself that she's a person right now. I'm able to think that way about elementary age kids all the time. I hear people hypothesize about what job the kid will have as an adult, and I want to just focus on who they are in the present instead. But I haven't had much experience with KNOWING newborns before.

It's so hard to apply adjectives to ND right now other than "precious" "gorgeous" etc. and my dad says "why apply any words at all?"

I think the main things I've learned about ND are through her cries. I've held other babies before, and the moment they start to fuss, I hand them to their moms. But with ND I usually know what I need to do. And if I'm wrong, I know what other options to try.

I know she loves being naked on the changing table, as long as she's clean.

I know that sucking calms her more than anything else.

I know that she is also calmed by seeing my face. Last night when she didn't want to fall back to sleep after a 3 AM feeding I got really close to her and hovered while she lay on our bed and was able to hush and calm her back to sleep before sleeping with her in my arms.

Because I also know she LOVES to be held and I hate denying that to her.

When she's really upset, she screams gutterally, almost the way I did while in the last moments of labor, but much more continuously, and usually that happens when she has a tummy ache.

She sometimes seems offended if you give her a pacifier when she really wants a breast.

When I burp her, I hold her sitting on my lap, prop her chin in my hand and pat her back. She wraps her little arms around the arm that's holding her until she's done, then throws herself backwards again to feed some more.

She has a mild cry too that almost sounds more like communication than anguish. It comes out like a motor starting and stopping, in little bits and pieces.

When she's nursing she'll sometimes become distressed for any number of reasons and, adorably, will breathe in really fast spurts before calming down and sucking really hard.

She also will sometimes just let out a high pitched scream while nursing, or even in her sleep, seemingly for no reason. She sounds like those fireworks you can set off in your own driveway that are all-noise and no fire.

Here's a picture of her when she's really upset. I feel a little guilty exploiting a picture of her in anguish, but I want everything she can do recorded somehow. U. saw this picture and said she looks like Barak Obama.



But she's also lovely when she's sleeping, with her little overbite and her little cheeks getting fatter and fatter daily with all that milk she's gulping.

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Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Weeks After

I'm not sure exactly what I expected the first weeks after my baby was born would be like. Honestly, I think I imagined walking into walls with sleep deprivation and being turbulently emotional along with that. It hasn't been like that.

My nights have definitely changed. I get far less sleep than I did during those last weeks of pregnancy, but it's not a problem. Nothing matters right now except my taking care of ND. There is nothing else I need to be "on" for during the day. And her wake-up-in-the-night times are actual fairly regular and predictable. I heard on the radio today that our ideal of 8 hour sleep cycles are a little artificial. In the past, people would get up in the middle of the night for an hour or so to study, meditate or whatever rather often. That's kind of ND and I do now. And some days I'm exhausted, but then if I need to, I can nap and make up for enough sleep eventually.

She does eat more often and for longer than I expected, but I don't mind except when I'm having trouble getting my own physical needs met, like trying to eat.

The apartment is pretty messy, but I'm not without time to tidy, if I set it as a priority. Unfortunately, we had to ask our housekeeper to stop coming, so we'll need to either start cleaning again or find someone new soon before things get too dirty.

Of course it really helps that my parents are visiting. It may get harder next week as that will be the first time I'm alone with ND for extended periods of time.

And I do get emotional, particularly when thinking about her and about having to leave her with others. Sometimes I leave her with my parents or with U. so I can go out and walk, and it's really hard to be away from her. Yesterday my dad and I went for a walk while ND slept on my mom's chest. My mom called to say the baby was crying, so we walked fast to get home. I was so eager to get back to her that and so distracted that, as I was crossing the street by our building, I tripped on an uneven curb and fell right onto my hands into the street. That of course really made me cry. It's easy to feel vulnerable.

However, and I hesitate to say this, I ALMOST miss work. I almost miss having the importance of completing things besides caring for her. I guess that's a good sign for later. It's also a reason for spending time with this blog. (She's sleeping in a sling right now that I'm wearing, so her little body is right above my typing fingers.)

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Tiny Fingers

Those are Channukah candles in the background.


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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Flashback

The following entry is written solely as a flashback hyperlink to my birth story.


One Friday afternoon I called U. and asked him when he'd be home. It was a cheerful and brief conversation and then I set about to prepare Shabbat dinner.

I took a casserole out of the freezer and slid my hand underneath it to carry it to the counter. I didn't realize that the casserole had expanded upon freezing and split the corningware in two. Now, as I slid my hand under, I gashed into it horribly.

U. then received the following phone call from me.

A: Hi, it's me again.
U: Hi.
A: Do you think you could come home a little earlier?
U: Why?
A: Well, it's not a big deal, but I cut myself.
U: How badly?
A: Um, there's a lot of blood.
U: Can you get a band-aid?
A: I can't get to the first aid kit without bleeding on things...

I was ok, but we didn't know that yet. I guess I just didn't want to be a nuisance.

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Saturday, December 16, 2006

Birth Story: Part II - It Happens

(In case you're keeping track, the following entry was written in many stages.)

ND is sitting with her Savta (grandmother) right now, so I have a few minutes to write. Hmmmm... where shall I start? I believe I shall tell my story in abridged form as the handwritten and very personal description of it in my personal journal took up many many pages.

As a reminder, ND was born on Wednesday, Dec. 6. The Monday before that at about 7 PM I first began to feel light contractions. It was the first time I felt a sensation of something starting and stopping instead of just feeling a constant crampy feeling. However, since I'd had one false alarm after another, I didn't know what to think. In fact, by 12:30 on Tuesday I still didn't know. That was the time for my pre-scheduled ultrasound to see if my baby was still safe in the womb past my due date. (That's when my picture was taken in my "Cast of Characters" entry.) When I saw my midwife afterwards, she said I could give birth that night, or I could in a week. As we talked I paused now and then and asked her to wait as another contraction came and went. But the litmus test for a strong contraction is apparently being unable to speak through it. At that point, I still didn't know what that meant, so these were not terribly serious.

On my way home I even ran an errand and found myself getting really angry at the person who was helping me, a good sign it was time to seclude myself at home.

Once home, I called U. and asked him to start working towards coming home. I let him know there was nothing really to worry about, but that it would probably be nice to have him here. This reminded both of us of the following flashback.

By the time he got home around 5 I was in bed and sort of panting between contractions which were increasing. I still felt pretty calm. Excited maybe. I'm not sure in retrospect. We called J., my doula (a birth coach), who also sounded calm. She said she'd come by just to check me out and see where things were progressing.

When she arrived a little after 6 I had started moaning with the contractions. She sat with me a moment and instantly I started to cry. When she asked why I said it was because I finally had someone to help me do it. It was just such a relief to have a coach there with me who could talk me through the process and who had experience. I really don't know how people do this without doulas.

As I said, her plan had been just to check me out and then head home for awhile. But I must have been further along than she expected because she changed her mind and said she'd run out for dinner and to tuck her kids in, then would be back.

I'm able to keep track of the timing of this part of the story because, oddly enough, while she was gone, I watched The Simpsons. I'm not sure why. I didn't really enjoy it, but I wanted a distraction and I guess I was still trying to stay in the everyday world a little. But I watched it from my hands and knees and muted the TV during contractions and commericals. U. sat by me, waiting to do anything I asked.

After that, the events of the night begin to blur and I won't trouble you with all of them. The basic summary is that when J., returned, we had folded the futon out and I laid down there to "get some rest before things got serious." I assumed that the labor would mostly consist of me moving around between all the different laboring postures we'd learned until my contractions were 1 minute long and 5 minutes apart. At that point we would drive out and meet my midwife at the hospital.

That's not what happened.

As I said, we laid down to rest before the labor advanced that much, but the contractions quickly grew quite intense and I found that moving just a little brought them on. Instead of a steady pattern that could be timed consistently, I would have one horribly intense contraction followed immediately by an aftershock, and then about a 7-10 minute wait for the next one. So I laid there on my left side for several hours, working through those. J. laid down behind me and rested until she heard me moaning with a new contraction and then would talk me through it. "Your body is doing exactly what it's supposed to," was one of the things that really helped me. Also, she constantly had to remind me to moan LOW, to help push the baby lower into my body. High pitched noises would have caused me to tense up more.

Some of the highlights of the night then included throwing up, which J., told me counts for 10 contractions, and moving to the bedroom where I had a soft mattress on top of our other one. Going to the bathroom was agony because moving to and from the room brought on more contractions. I fell asleep between most of the contractions in bed and commented at one point that that meant that each time a contraction came, it was a startling awakening to suddenly remember what was happening.

At one point I saw a clear and strangely colored vision of a tree. Gray-brown. Intricate leaves like snowflakes.

Somewhere along the way, U., called Emarcy to come, and she arrived around 1, clearly nervous and shaking both after the 3 hour middle -of-the-night drive and by the strangeness of seeing me like this. I found that looking her in the eyes while U. gently held one of my feet and while J. continued to coach me were so important.

At last J., called L., the midwife, to see if they could figure out what to do next. Everybody on my team wanted to go to the hospital. U., especially, was clearly anxious to start this part. He had several times practiced the drive to and from and felt that that was his most important and most clearly defined role for the day. However, I did not understand that I might be further along now because I was surprised that I was still in bed. And as I said, every time I moved, a contraction came, so I was loathe to do that. Finally J., said, "You know, if we go to the hospital, you can can use that nice bath in the birthing room."

"I bet it's really warm," Emarcy said.

There was this silence then, one that U. and Emarcy said was the most dramatic of the night before I finally said, "I think I'd like to use that bath."

Then came the agony of getting to the hospital. I had to: 1. Change my clothes. 2. Somehow get through my hallway, into the elevator, down to the basement, and up the short flight of stairs to the car. 3. Somehow survive sitting in a car for 20 minutes as U. drove.

I managed by leaning my entire body weight on either Emarcy or J as they scrambled to gather their things and help me get mine. U. had long ago taken my hospital bag out to the car, so the only things I needed were my shoes and my coat, but even that seemed like a major feat.

Also difficult was the elevator ride down because I had a contraction at the bottom. That's all fine and good, except that I get claustrophobic and was past the point where I could explain that easily. "Don't like elevator. Open," I think were how I communicated that piece to my helpers.

The car ride was hard because reclining was absolutely impossible for me. I thrashed around and cried out in panic the minute I tried it. So I rode to the hospital on my knees in the back seat facing out the back window and watching J.'s headlights. It was around 3 AM so there was no traffic and U. drove with tunnel vision, extra carefully following all the traffic rules and watching for obstacles. Needless to say, the curves and bumps in the road were very upsetting.

When we pulled up to the emergency room, U., was out in a flash and before I knew it, there was a wheelchair waiting for me. In my wheelchair post, I worried about that, but it turned out to be most welcome.

J., and Emarcy raced me through the halls while I moaned loudly, fully aware that anyone could hear me, and choosing not to mind. We found the birthing room and right away my midwife checked me and discovered I was already 9 cm dilated! J. later said that at that moment she saw the blood rush back to my face. I couldn't believe we were almost there.

Still, we had said I was getting in the tub, so I was going to do that. All my clothes came off and I headed over there when another contraction hit. I leaned on the side of this high tub (like a hot tub), but I ended up never moving past that point. I couldn't figure out where I would sit, and L., said that since she thought she saw some meconium in the fluids that were now dripping out of me, she didn't want me to give birth in the tub.

So for a long time I just leaned against the side and entered a strange new state of being. Somehow I was unclear of when it was OK to push, but the word "push" had somehow entered into conversation in the room, so I began to try to do it. It was probably during this period that I felt my most animal-like, staring around the room and shifting through different states of consciousness as everyone else quietly waited with me. I don't know what was said or done to or around me for the most part. I do remember a nurse grilling U. with my weight and height etc. (which he didn't know) and my firmly commanding, "OUTSIDE!" I also remember getting blood drawn and, for the first time in my life, not caring in the least or even minding seeing the needle in my arm.

Eventually L, and J., decided I should be moved to the bed because the birth wasn't progressing. They tried to convince me, but I was hesitant. I guess that as I've pursued this natural birthing path I assumed that using a bed would be inappropriate. After all, that's the UN-natural way they always show it in movies and on TV. But they were right. First I pushed while lying on my side, J., and Emarcy moving my legs for me with the contractions. Then later I was on my back. It was so strange after not being allowed or able to lie on my back for the past 6 months of pregnancy to do it now. But it was the most effective position right now. Besides, the bed was not parallel to the floor, but slanted way up. I held onto the bars on the sides of the bed and pushed as hard as I could.

Originally with the pushing, I treated the contractions as I had before, relaxing my body and using my voice to let out the pain. But J., instructed me to swallow my moans and to use the energy for pushing instead. So now I would swallow, then push as hard as I could until I couldn't stand it anymore. At that point I would end in a scream, and it was remembering the sound of that later on that helped me remember how hard it was. My body itself forgot so quickly.

Around 5:30 or 5:40 I discovered there was a clock on the wall opposite me. For weeks I had been asking how long it would be before my baby would arrive. Now I said aloud, "I want my baby here by 6:00 AM." My midwife smiled and said, "OK." That's when I knew I could do it.

Oddly enough, I began to lose sense of what I was doing. At one point they told me I could touch the baby's head, but I couldn't tell what was "head" and what was "me" and I really just wanted my arms back on the bars of the bed. It seems odd to me that while anticipating that moment for so many months, I just wanted to move past it.

Then after several more "just a few more pushes" J., suddenly sternly said, "Look down now!"

...and there was my little girl.

Again, it was a blur, but I heard myself say, "Oh my G-d oh my G-d oh my G-d" and touching her enough to get blood on my hands and really wanting it to be there. It meant that I got to touch my baby right away before she was cleaned up.

U. said he was amazed at how quickly I changed from this strange other kind of being back to myself instantly, laughing and joking and so totally happy.

And there was my baby.

Sadly, she had lots of fluid in her lungs and so a pediatrician and some nurses had to take her to the side and do some scary looking things with her, but my midwife seemed okay with everything, so I just relaxed and looked on.

There was my baby.

From here out, the players in the show sort of gently drifted off. Soon the pediatrician was done and I was holding her in my arms. I remember thinking how precious her little tush was in my hand and knowing that soon it would always be covered in a diaper, so I should enjoy it now.

J. taught me to breastfeed. Then she disappeared, giving Emarcy a ride to our apartment to nap.

U. finally went with my baby to the nursery where they had to do some required things to her, and my midwife and a nurse stitched up a few tears.

Then they left and it was just me, U., and our baby.

And then U., left to take a nap and it was just she and I.

We spent the day with me holding her, gazing at her, trying to nurse her, and sleeping with her in my arms.

That was all only two weeks ago.

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Simchat Bat Or Not

It was a lovely Shabbos today except that ND was very sad for a number of hours. We're not sure why yet... I have a couple of theories... but suffice it to say she screamed for quite some time and had to be nursed more often than not throughout the day.

Now, I was hoping that next Saturday night we could have a Simchat Bat, or a celebration for a daughter. Since boys have a bris or circumcision ceremony, it seemed right. I was going to have over women only to introduce to my little girl. That would keep it smaller, more intimate etc., but I still had 25 names on my guest list.

However, after all those tears, it no longer seems like such a good idea. I've been procrastinating on actually inviting my guests, and I think I see why now. Truth be told, we've been relieved to have no obligation for doing a shindig since we didn't have a boy, so I think we should appreciate the flexibility our situation provides.

Maybe when she's a month old we can try again.

I'm not sure yet if I'm disappointed or relieved. I think mostly I'm just sort of worn out by the difficult afternoon we had.

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Birth Story: Part I - Cast of Characters

I'm learning recently that the best way to complete things is to do them bit by bit. Ideally I would sit down right now and write out everything about my (or ND's) birth story, but I have some other more pressing things to do and just want to get a quick blog-fix before I do them. I'm taking a cue here also from Arwen/Elizabeth who has been telling her birth story one piece at a time.

So in this chapter let me just introduce you to the characters in the story:

Here I am, in my last photo of pregnancy. I was already in early labor when this was taken, although we weren't certain. I'm at the Childbirth Center to have an ultrasound and to check in with my midwife.



Speaking of my midwife, L., here she is with ND.



And here is J., my doula, who talked me through all of my contractions. This picture was taken the day after ND was born when J. came back to the hospital to help me with breastfeeding.



Of course, U. was there all along as well. No surprises there.



And extra special, Emarcy drove in from 3 hours away as soon as we asked her to come. She was an incredible addition to the team.




And finally, but surprising, was A. She has not been happy about the arrival of ND, but during my actual labor she came in to visit twice, despite my moans. Emarcy reports that A. was anxious most of the evening, but still, she actual let me pet her as though she knew that would calm me. I love this picture, taken weeks ago, that gives more validity than ever to the song "Cat in the Cradle."

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Day By Day

My goodness this little girl eats a lot! And already she's growing. We have been very fortunate that breastfeeding is going well. It's much more painful than I suspected, but my milk production is fantastic, as is her latch.

And as for pain... one of the things that has been remarkable about this whole experience is the subject and experience of purposeful pain. I feel very fortunate to have had the natural birth that I hope to write about in greater detail at another time. One reason is that I think it is a very powerful, and in fact very feminine, quality to work through pain. During my labor I knew I couldn't fight, hide or conquer pain. Instead it was like swimming through it with the constant need to tell myself that I was doing it well and that G-d would help me through it. (Although, I did have a period during the labor during which I was pretty ticked off that this is the way G-d organized it.)

The technique worked beautifully, and now I need it to a lesser extent with the feedings. We have a joke here that in movies, there are always birds chirping away happily during breastfeeding. So here in our house we have the "Ow" Bird that comes and says "ow ow ow ow ow ow ow ow" each time ND (my little one) latches on.

I have alternatives... I could feed her with formula instead or feed her less frequently than she really needs or whatever, but that's the last thing on my mind. I want what's right, not what's easier, and her doctor is praising us all the way. (This morning he weighed her and found she's already just 4 ounces shy of her original birth weight. In other words, she's consuming beautifully. On another note, I know there are many who are much less successful with breastfeeding and I am not in the least saying that they are wrong to choose alternatives ultimately. But since I CAN do this, I want to do it even when it's hard.)

That said... everything people have told us has been true. We don't get enough sleep. She eats, sleeps and poops exclusively and constantly. I often don't have time to feed myself.

But as I'd hoped, those complaints are virtually meaningless. We are living in a different world now, and we signed up for every part of it. So though I'm tired and planning to nap in just a moment (as long as ND lets me) I still know that all of this is meaningful and deep down I love it. That doesn't mean I'm smiling all the time. I cry a lot lately either out of pure joy, or out of despair that she is already becoming bigger and that time is relentless, and sometimes out of frustration. But I also knew to expect those tears. It's part of what we signed up for and I haven't a regret in the world.

I probably won't always feel this way, but right now it is as though the life I had before last Wednesday was not real enough at all.

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Saturday, December 09, 2006

YES! YES! YES!


In response to your queries of where I've been...

My daughter was born at 5:58 AM on Wednesday, December 6th. I have details details and more details that I wish I could share. Right now all you really need to know is that:

1. I'm very tired and should go to bed now rather than blog too much in order to prepare for middle of the night feedings.
2. Labor went extraordinarily well. My midwife and doula have said again and again that things went exceptionally well. I can't help but take pride in this and may, in a future post, talk about what it means.
3. I'm completely and utterly in love.

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Monday, December 04, 2006

Unfinished Business

Now that it's a weekday and I'm no longer sick, I'm feeling much more productive (although if I was working, this would be considered a very lazy day).

I wanted to post pictures a long time ago after my Fabulous Camping Trip. A few weeks ago emarcy sent me two CDs, one with photos from all of our trips visiting each other since college, including the trip she made to see me during my second to last round of chemo back in 2003. The second CD even had video footage!

So here I'd like to show you a photo of me looking up at a bunch of rocks which I should not have hiked up and back while pregnant, but which I did. Typical me, I have to admit. This was my future baby's first camping trip.



And here is later that same day, before I'd completely exhausted myself. We went canoeing and my friend enjoyed taking pictures of carniverous plants called "pitcher plants."



Finally, during our last morning, we insisted one last short hike together despite the fact that we were completely soaked through with rain. (I'm wearing several layers here and all of them are wet, regardless of the rain gear.)

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Sunday, December 03, 2006

Historic Fort Lee and How I'm Spending My Time

Long Sunday. U. and I had an outing to a historical site in Fort Lee. Not terribly exciting, but it was fun to get out a little. We got a nice view of the GW bridge and Manhattan, and had some fun with one or two of the exhibits in the museum.

I feel like I have things I'd like to get done now that I have so much time on my hands, but I am just having a terrible time feeling motivated. Kind of the opposite of nesting. My biggest accomplishment was sorting all of the maternity clothes I've borrowed so that they will be easier to return when it's time. It took me hours because I couldn't sustain working on it long enough at a time.

Today is one of the first days when I haven't constantly been thinking, "Maybe this is it!" It's probably good I'm easing up on that.

But I really must complain about one thing for a minute... I keep running into this person who keeps advising me to induce. It really ticks me off. It's not her business. If it was, I could tell plenty of reasons not to, but there's no reason the conversation needs to take place at all.

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Saturday, December 02, 2006

Thank You, Immune System

Feeling much much better today and very grateful for it. Still have a deep chest cough, especially when I've been either very active, or lying down on my side. But I feel much stronger.

I went for two walks today, both ending with me walking all the way up to my fifth floor apartment. I'm wondering why it was so much easier to walk so much further and more intensely than a few weeks ago. My best guess is that it really makes a difference that I'm off work now.

Also, now that I'm feeling healthy again, I'm really eager to get labor going. We (U. and I) are both having a hard time just waiting for the moment to come when things change forever. No need to philosophize on that now. I've been doing it for weeks already!

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Friday, December 01, 2006

New Blog Features

If you're a regular to my blog you'll notice something is different. I just switched to the new "beta" version of my blog on blogspot. I'd tell you what this means if I knew.

The main reason I've switched is that I've been envious for so long of everyone who has the labels at the bottoms of the posts to help you find posts with similar subjects. In other words, if you want to find every post I've done about "blogging" you'll click on that below.

Only problem at this point is that I have a few hundred posts to go back and label!

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