December 31, 2010

Adios, 2010

It's the last day of a year that surprised me in many ways. I wasn't really expecting such an evolution in my own character, nor was I expecting that positive pregnancy test on March 2, 2010. So I guess it goes without saying that when we rang in 2010, I sure as hell wasn't expecting us to have a second baby by the time the year closed out.

Life is odd.

Back in February, I picked the word complete as my focal point for the year. It was a good choice, even though I didn't finish up my thesis like I intended, and I am still working on seeing myself as a whole person. But something else happened instead.

I had a baby. My second child, a perfect baby boy. My Simon. And yesterday afternoon Roy came home from work early, and we were all in Charlie's room. I was nursing Simon in the glider while Roy and Charlie wrestled and played on the ground, and The Beatles' Revolver album was playing. Just minutes before, I turned on "Be Mine", the song that played on repeat for hours while I was in labor with Simon, and I picked up the little guy and we did the ol' hold and sway. Roy held Charlie and they swayed next to us and my eyes prickled with tears. It was just another dark afternoon in late December but it was also perfect. It was epic in its everydayness. I've been thinking of my defining moments in 2010, and that was one of them. Just being with my family, the family that my husband and I built together. It's not often that I feel complete, but in that moment, I did.

That is what life is like, or mine at least. It's these little, seemingly insignificant moments that I often come back to. Sure, it's the big stuff, too - I will never forget hearing Simon cry for the first time - but it's Charlie's belly laughs, Roy's arms around me in bed at night, the little sounds Simon makes when he's nursing, waking up in the middle of the night to find one of the cats snuggled in bed with us; these are the things that I treasure the most. I wish that I could stop time, bottle the smell of Simon's head, record every single adorable thing Charlie says, but I can't. I can only be there, body, mind, and spirit, and take my mental picture. I want it all to last so badly. But the second the camera in my mind goes "click," it's gone. The moment is gone, and all that's left is a memory.

You've heard all this before. All this sappy stuff about enjoying every moment, never taking anything for granted because you never know what tomorrow will bring, blah blah blah. It's hard not to resort to sentimental cliches when it comes to those I love so dearly because, to put another cliched spin on it, words often fail me. I'm not original or special, really; I'm just a girl who spent years waiting for exactly what it is I have now, and I could not be more grateful. Things are not perfect, not even close. As a matter of fact, there is so much that I would change if I had the chance. But at the same time, so little.

There's more to say, there are always more words, but this time, I'm going to just shut it and wish everyone a happy and safe New Year. Thanks, as always, for continuing to visit me in this space.

Welcome, 2011!

December 30, 2010

Remember these five things

We are awake because Simon is fighting sleep tonight. Roy just slipped me his notebook with a list of five things written out on one of the pages.

(I often ask Roy to list five reasons why he loves me. I'm such an attention whore and love hearing what he comes up with.)

Here's the list:

1) You are a great mother of two.
2) You are great at multi-tasking. (Damn right!)
3) You are good at spelling. You'd probably win at Scrabble.
4) You are way more patient than you give yourself credit for.
5) You're cute when you're sleepy.

I'm not sure how Roy wrote out this list while rocking Simon, but that's one of the reasons why I love him.

And I love this list, too.

December 28, 2010

General Updates

I haven't had much time to sit down and pound out a real blog post. I've had intentions of doing so, but what can I say. It's the holidays, there's been sickness, there are two kids who need me all the time, etc. But anyway, I thought it was time for an update of sorts.

Simon: Simon is six weeks old today, weighing in at 12 lbs 14 oz and 22.5 inches long. He's up over four pounds from his birth weight and is proving himself to be a quick gainer like Charlie was. He's a big boy, in the 90th percentile for weight, 75th for height, and 85th for head circumference. Simon has been socially smiling since last week but has been smiling unintentionally (that's my guess, anyway) since birth. He is also starting to track objects with his eyes, and he randomly makes little cooing noises. He's been lifting his head like crazy (another thing he's been doing since birth) and in general is just a really wonderful baby. Unlike Charlie, he doesn't have a witching hour where he cries constantly during certain times of the day. Instead, he screams quite a bit in the car (not always, but more often than not). I jokingly asked Roy last night if a screaming baby could cause PTSD, so frazzled was I after a 20-minute car ride in which he screamed the whole time. Despite the screaming fits, he really is a pretty mellow kiddo, and I'm fairly certain he will grow out of the screaming in the car.

As far as sleeping goes, he's okay at it. He sleeps either swaddled in his car seat (which is odd, considering how much he screams in it while the car) or in bed with us, usually unswaddled. We've tried other things, but this is what works for now, and I'm fine with it. He gets at least one good nap in a day, but like Charlie, he takes a lot of little cat naps here and there. If I'm lucky, I can get him and Charlie to nap at the same time each day, but my own napping abilities have gone down the toilet since he was born. He does pretty well at night, waking up either two or three times. Obviously two is better, but I can handle three, too.

Simon is a champ at nursing. This is something I feel exceedingly grateful for. Formula feeding was not an option this time around. For one, I simply didn't want to do it, and for another, it's so much cheaper to breastfeed. Even though our nursing relationship was interrupted when he was a week old, he went right back to the breast a week later - no latch, supply, or nipple confusion issues at all. I was (am) so freaking happy about that. It simplifies things so much to just be able to whip out my boob and put him on it. No need to make bottles, carry around formula and other feeding supplies in my already stuffed diaper bag, or anything like that. I love it. My plan is to breastfeed for at least a year, and at that point, I'll evaluate and see how we both feel about continuing on into Simon's second year.

Handling a newborn the second time around is so much easier. I'm so much more relaxed and have been able to just sit and enjoy my baby instead of worrying all the time. Every single day is a challenge, for the simple fact that there are two little people to attend to, but I'm doing it and I feel good about how things are going.

Charlie: Charlie is still his adorable and lovable old self. Gaining a little brother hasn't changed that. He's got a great vocabulary and just recently started speaking in understandable two-word sentences. (He was probably doing the two-word sentences before, but let's face it, I don't speak toddler.) He's almost 30 pounds now and is busting out of the diapers that he's been wearing for over a year. (He and his brother are both big boys and will likely stay that way.) At his 18-month well check, the doctor said he looks great but mentioned that one of his feet turns in a bit when he walks. It's nothing I'm really concerned about, but the doctor will check it again when Charlie turns two.

Today I caught Charlie trying to climb out of his crib, so it looks like new sleeping arrangements will be coming in the near future. And speaking of other new things, Charlie has begun acting out a bit in response to Simon now being the baby and probably also because he's approaching the age of two. Lots of tantrums and even some hitting and biting. I still don't really know what my discipline style is, and I haven't developed a consistent way of dealing with tantrums. (Do I ignore him? Tell him to stop? Hold him because it's obvious that he's feeling really upset? Put him in time out?) I'm not a spanker, that's for sure. I have lost it a couple of times and yelled at him, but that doesn't ever feel right to me. I have resorted to saying "No" a lot and explaining that hitting and biting are not okay. Perhaps I should start cracking the "how to deal with your challenging toddler" books.

Despite this maddening (but normal) toddler behavior, Charlie is just so much fun these days. Everything he does (except for the aforementioned maddening toddler behavior) is just so damn cute. He adores his little brother, and I can't wait to watch their relationship grow.

Christmas: Christmas was .... exhausting. We had three Christmases over the course of one day, which is kind of ridiculous. It was a good day but not the shiny sparkly magicfest I loved as a child. But it hasn't been that in years. I think I expected this year to be different because of the kid factor, but no.

We weren't really going to do gifts under the tree this year. Instead we were going to fix up our back patio as a play area for the boys and make Charlie a play kitchen. Both of those things had not happened and Christmas was rapidly approaching. So on Christmas Eve, I jumped out of bed and went shopping. I was bound and determined for us (especially Charlie) to have things to open on Christmas morning. In the end, I'm glad I did that, because it was really fun to sit around and open presents. Charlie didn't really get the concept, and Simon decided to projectile vomit while we were opening presents, but it was still a good time. (The play kitchen has been delayed until Charlie's second birthday, and the play area outside is in progress.)

In the end, if you add up gifts from us plus grandmas plus other family members and friends, the boys got a lot of loot, and now we are trying to figure out what to do with it all. I know for sure we are going to start doing a rotation thing, where we switch out toys to keep things interesting, as well as donating some. My general rule for acquiring new things is when something new comes in, something old goes out. It's easy for me and Roy to do that for our own stuff, not so easy when it comes to the boys. Damn, I hate that Christmas is such a commercial holiday.

Goal for next year: more handmade gifts, less gifts bought from big corporations like Target. I love Target but almost everything there is made in frickin' China. Better yet, I'd like to figure out an alternative to the traditional Christmas gifts. We just don't have the space for all this stuff!

My mom's visit: My mom flew in on the 19th and flew out today, and it was a good visit save for the stomach virus she caught while here. She had full disclosure that the boys were sick before coming, but I still don't think either of us really expected her to get sick. Well, it happened, and I feel terrible about it. We kept her quarantined in the living room for a couple of days, and everything worked out fine, but still, ugh. Speaking of that stomach virus, I still haven't caught it! And I hope to continue to avoid it.

Anyway, my mom spoiled us while she was here, treating us to dinners and groceries. She bought Roy a new battery for his laptop and a new coat, paid for an expensive pair of shoes and haircut/lowlights for me, and treated the boys to the ultimate Christmas gift: a playhouse for their play area outside. Awesome. It was so nice having her here; I loved seeing her interact with the boys. It sucks that she is so far away and that the kiddos get such limited time with her. Perhaps someday we will all be closer together.

Me: Well, I'm doing pretty good. I mean, I'm tired, but overall I'm in good spirits. I lost all the pregnancy weight very quickly and put on my pre-pregnancy jeans once my incision felt healed enough. I'm still not cleared for exercise or anything, and I'm not supposed to be lifting Charlie, but I have no idea how I can possibly avoid picking up my own kid.

The skin on my stomach is still pretty loose, and I have a few more stretch marks, but nothing major. I guess in general, my whole body could use some toning up, but I have made it a goal of mine to stop criticizing my physical appearance so much. After all, this body has grown two perfect little boys and is the sole provider of nourishment for one of those little boys right now. This body handled two labors and two major surgeries and is still kickin'. This body deserves my respect, so I'm going to try my best to stop talking shit about it.

Now that I'm not pregnant, I find myself wondering what the next step is. I didn't realize how much of a holding pattern I was in until I was home after Simon was born and found myself wondering, "What's next for me?" There have been so many changes over such a short period of time, and in many ways I'm ready to just sit back and enjoy and not make any big decisions. But let's face it, there are big decisions to be made. I still have goals and dreams and things that I want to do. While my family is my world, I am still an individual, and I still have this desire to make all my dreams come true. I've got a post brewing about all this, naturally.

In the meantime, though, both boys are sleeping (at the same time OMG), and therefore it's time for me to go take a shower.

Happy Holidays!

December 24, 2010

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

Happy Holidays, from my family to yours.

It's a wonderful (and terribly complicated, often bittersweet, always confusing, downright strange, but yes, still completely wonderful) life that I've got. Merry Christmas, everyone. I hope Santa brings you a little something special tomorrow.

December 16, 2010

One Month/Getting Through It

It so happens that Mr. Simon is one month old today.

It also so happens that at right around 5:30 this morning, Roy jumped out of bed and sprinted to the bathroom. Seconds later, I heard the unmistakeable sound of vomit hitting the bathtub. And then Charlie woke up and decided that despite the fact that it was still dark out, he wanted to stay up. He wanted extra special attention. So did Simon. And Roy needed extra special attention. Super Leslie to the rescue, I guess.

Today wasn't supposed to start out that way. But once it started, it never stopped. Because once Roy threw up, I finally pieced together a couple of things.

1) Charlie threw up three times on Sunday morning and then was completely fine after that. On Tuesday, his poop turned light yellow (not to mention completely disgusting) and has stayed that way ever since. When I called the doctor's office about it yesterday, they said he likely had a bug working its way through his system.

2) Simon began spitting up quite a bit on Tuesday. He also started sleeping in longer stretches and was halfheartedly nursing between sleeps. When I told my midwife about it, she said that he could be gearing up for a growth spurt.

If you add those two things together with Roy's enthusiastic vomiting episode, then you get three sick boys, one of whom is only a month old.

And we all know what that means.

I'm next.

And I hate vomiting. I can't think of a damn person who actually likes throwing up, but vomiting is a special phobia of mine that I've carried around with me since I was a tiny tot. The entire day I've been absolutely dreading what I know is pretty much inevitable. I've even made my food choices based on how they'll probably taste coming up. Except nothing tastes good coming back up.

I am so fucked.

This stomach bug business is the latest in a whole laundry list of challenges that I've faced in the past month:

a long, unmedicated labor that ended in a C-section
a bladder laceration during my C-section
a four-day spinal headache
the invasive blood patch procedure to get rid of said headache
being catheterized for six days
the UTI from hell
being forced to stop nursing for a week (because of the antibiotics for the UTI)
handling a toddler and a newborn on my own

I'm not going to lie. It's been rough. But through it all, even as I sit here in crippling fear of the stomach bug that's sure to make me its bitch, I've been in remarkably good spirits. (Okay, there was that one time when I was sitting on the toilet bawling from the pain from the UTI from hell and swearing to Roy that I would never have another baby.) The truth is I've heard so much shitty stuff about what other people are going through, and I can't help but feel lucky. Christmas (my favorite holiday) is just around the corner, my mom's flying in on Sunday for a nine-day visit, I'm going to meet my sweet baby nephew around January 4, and I have this wonderful house full of boys and cats. (And fish. Roy is kind of obsessed with fish. Our fish are super breeders. They're threatening to take over the world.)

Watching other people go through hell has afforded me the opportunity to really embrace each moment in my own life. (Or at least try to. Sometimes I fail miserably.) I've spent so much time smelling Simon's head, looking into those penetrating eyes, and just drinking him in as he is right now. He's going to change so much in the coming months - hell, he's already officially not a newborn anymore, which kind of breaks my heart. There's a chance that I might never get to do this whole tiny baby stage again, so I'll be damned if I'm going to miss out on any of it.

So that's how I'm getting through it. I'm getting through it with the knowledge that the bad moments pass, and because of that, it's pointless to wish them away. I'm getting through it because there really is nothing like holding my sweet-smelling baby or my hilarious toddler or snuggling up to my cute husband.

I'm getting through it because this is my life. I had to change my shirt countless times today because of all of Simon's spit up. I spent quite a bit of time spraying disgusting poo off Charlie's diapers. I'm spending the night on the couch so that Roy can sleep in comfort, even though my back is fucking killing me and I know the cats will be crawling all over me all night. Somewhere in all that inconvenience and that cat hair and those disgusting bodily fluids, there's a kind of beauty. Subtle, strong. And real.

(Contrary to what I said above, I demand a fast forward button to get me through this stomach bug nonsense.)

PS - Happy one month birthday, Simon, you lovely little Scorpio. (Wish I wasn't so lazy about uploading photos to my computer - otherwise, I'd share some recent pictures.)

December 9, 2010

18 Months Old

Charlie turned 18 months old yesterday. Here I am, wondering again why someone doesn't invent a contraption that slows down time.

This past month I've watched my kiddo face a big change - the arrival of his little brother Simon. I wasn't 100% sure what to expect, but I figured Charlie would handle the transition with ease. So far he has proved me right. There have been no real issues so far. Instead there have been some really wonderful moments, where I've had the pleasure of seeing Charlie stroke Simon's ultra-soft hair, give him kisses, and say "Saz?" upon seeing him. It does so much to ease that guilt that I feel at having to divide my time and attention between two kids. I know that I have given each of them the gift of a lifetime: a brother and (hopefully) a built-in best friend.

Charlie continues to amaze me with everything he's picked up, especially all his words. I love that he meows when he comes across the picture of the kitty in his little first words book and that he goes "YOR!" for a lion roar. I love watching him run around the house with his floppy hair and a big smile on his face. I love that he asks me to read his favorite book at least ten times an hour. It just makes me so happy to see him be happy, to watch him grow and thrive.

Roy's aunt posted this on my Facebook wall a couple of days after Simon was born:

I had the privilege of spending time with Charlie yesterday. He is completely amazing and so smart! What a terrific personality he has, he's so happy and self-assured. It's easy to tell when a child has had wonderful parenting. Simon is a lucky little guy too! Can't wait to meet him!

I loved reading that. I love knowing that Charlie is making other people happy - just by being his completely wonderful self. (And frankly, I don't feel that my parenting skills have much to do with it.)

It's hard to believe that Charlie's next big milestone is his second birthday. I'll always hope to stop time (or at least slow it down), but since that is pretty much impossible, instead I will enjoy every moment with my Chuckles. It's not always easy being the mother of a toddler, but every bear hug and slobbery kiss, every smile and belly laugh make it all entirely worth it.

December 7, 2010

Three Weeks Old

It's been a week and a half since I last blogged. I've been caught up in the mysterious surreality that only parents of newborns can truly understand, where it's common to put your baby on the dryer in his car seat in a desperate attempt to get him to sleep, where you resort to singing Britney Spears pop songs in lieu of lullabies. I am tired but happy. I keep telling myself that sleep is for pansies. I'm not sure if I buy that.

I've been listening to Sarah McLachlan's version of Silent Night quite a bit lately, marveling a bit over the serenity I finally feel as a mother. It took me so long to get here, and much of the time, it was like walking through flames, burning away the unnecessary excess in order to really get at that maternal bliss. Except that it's not really bliss; that's just not the right word, because bliss is only part of it. I'm not even sure if I could ever put a word on it. It's complicated. Motherhood is complicated.

Simon is also a complicated little soul; from the beginning, he has had these very alert wakeful times where he has unflinchingly stared me straight in the eyes. I feel a little like he's peering into the deepest parts of me, and it feels good to be vulnerable this way, to not feel afraid. He's only three weeks old, but when I look into his eyes, he feels so much older than that. Yet he needs me in a way that only the frighteningly young need their mothers.

So it's been three weeks since this little man got stuck all posterior-like in my birth canal, and I still haven't written his birth story. I've been working on it here and there but mostly I've had him stuck on my boob, or Charlie in my lap, or I've been asleep (because I am a pansy, apparently). Every once in awhile, I venture out of the house, sometimes by myself, sometimes with everyone else in tow, and the world feels strange and bright. I know things will never be the same again, but that's the thing with kids - they change everything forever, and there's not much to be done about it.

Happy three weeks, Simon. What a perfect little boy you are.

November 26, 2010

Gratitude, One Day Late (Because It Never Goes Out of Style)

"I guess I could be pretty pissed off about what happened to me... but it's hard to stay mad, when there's so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I'm seeing it all at once, and it's too much, my heart fills up like a balloon that's about to burst... And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain and I can't feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life."

-American Beauty-

I meant to have a gratitude post all written and posted for Thanksgiving. What can I say, except two certain little someones are keeping me quite busy? And my recovery has been more complicated than I ever anticipated it would be. But hey, that gives me a good excuse to take lots of naps.

At the top of my gratitude list:

1) this guy, because he's my best friend and understands me like no other ever has or ever will

2) and this guy, too, because he's my first born and has taught me humility and grace

3) not to mention this one, because he's my second born and has taught me patience and healing

I am a little awestruck at how lucky I am.

But wait! The list goes on...

I'm grateful for my birth team: midwives Joyce and Lynn, my doula Mandi, and my good friend and birth photographer Becki (who also took the above photo of Simon), all of whom were present through my labor at the birth center. Their patience and support really blew me away.

I'm grateful for the staff at the hospital for taking care of us, especially those who didn't feel the need to lecture me for attempting an out-of-hospital VBAC.

I'm grateful for my mom, who has always been my rock, who is my other best friend, who listened to me wail on the phone the other day as I dealt with the horrible pain of the worst urinary tract infection I've ever had.

I'm grateful for the antibiotics that are kicking my UTI's ass, even though I can't breastfeed while taking them.

I'm grateful for people who perform acts of kindness for those they don't know very well, like the woman who gave us a couple of days worth of her own breastmilk for Simon once she found out I had to stop breastfeeding for a week. Not only that, she brought us some seriously yummy cupcakes as well.

I'm grateful for my mother-in-law, who brought us Thanksgiving dinner last night, watched Charlie the other day so I could go see the doctor, and brought us everything we needed while we were laid up in the hospital.

I'm grateful for Mandy and Paul, who took care of Charlie while we were in the hospital and went out to buy us bottles once I found out I had to start pumping.

I'm grateful for my friend Emily, who brought me pain meds, toilet paper, and pads the other day, not to mention some awesome pot roast.

I'm grateful for my brother-in-law Jake, who brought supplies to us while we were in the hospital and pizza to us after we got home.

I'm grateful for Roy's aunt Ruth, who is coming to stay with us for awhile once Roy goes back to work next week.

I'm grateful for all my family and friends and everyone who has shown us such support and love.

I will never be able to say thank you enough.

November 22, 2010

The Story of My Second Pregnancy

It’s true that I didn’t write much about my pregnancy this time around, save for the last few weeks. I did so much of that while Charlie was gestating, and frankly it’s a little tougher to blog that often once the inside baby moves to the outside. This pregnancy was no less of an incredible journey, though. I sit here at almost one week postpartum and offer to you the story of the last nine months.

Some background:

2010 rolls in. After a simply wonderful holiday season, which includes an affirming trip to Texas to see my family, we settle into the new year. I expect things to be better than they were in the summer and fall. Roy and I are both still recovering from the trauma surrounding Charlie’s birth, but I feel that we’ve got it mostly under control. I am wrong, very wrong, about this. In time, I will realize this. But at this time, I pick my word for the year: complete. There are many reasons why I pick it, but the most important one is because I am not deficient and it really is time that I believe that.

The magic of the holiday season wears off, and once again every day feels like a struggle to survive. I love Charlie and don’t know what I would do without him, but I don’t feel like a very good mom most of the time. There are many days when I call Roy crying, and several times he has to come home from work early. I feel absolutely 100% lost.

In February, I hit rock bottom. I still feel so destroyed by the way Charlie’s birth played out. I don’t understand why I can’t follow everyone’s (well-meaning but horribly invalidating) advice to “just be grateful for a healthy baby.” It feels so much more complicated than that. I know I am a lesser mother for not enjoying my son as much as I know I should. It is so difficult because he is the best thing that ever happened to us, and yet I am haunted by his birth. I think about it every day. I begin to wonder if I have postpartum depression.

February 13 & 14, 2010. Roy, Charlie, and I hit the road for a Valentine’s Day trip to San Diego. It is exactly what we need at this point. We have a wonderful time, and I feel light and painless and happy. I love my family and I am a wonderful mom and I know everything is going to be okay. It is during this trip that, quite unexpectedly, our second child is conceived, and we bring home with us the most precious souvenir we could have ever wished for.

Okay, so if we’re being technical, there’s pretty much no way that our baby was actually conceived during that trip since it takes a few days for conception to occur. But let’s suspend our disbelief for a second and just say “awwww” when I tell you that there are actually four of us in this picture:

We return home after that amazing weekend out of our element, and soon things are back to normal. I’m back to crying every day. The feelings of sadness and loss are overwhelming. After a particularly awful day, I decide to see my doctor. It is February 18. My appointment is March 2. I have no idea how I will make it until then.

But I do make it. In the meantime, I start sneezing. I get really congested. Kleenex is my best friend. I visit the bathroom much more regularly than I used to. And then on the morning of March 1, I am lying in bed and I realize that my last period was January 28. I am a little late. I don’t think about this much because of how stress-ridden February was.

I see my doctor’s nurse practitioner on March 2. She is not wanting to give me anti-depressants just yet, which turns out to be exactly the right thing to do, so she gives me a referral to a local therapist. I have an appointment for the next day.

I decide to take a pregnancy test that evening, just in case my new therapist wants to prescribe anti-depressants. I am both shocked and not-shocked to see the test turn up positive. We are happy. We are cautious. We begin to try to wrap our minds around being the parents of two small children.

I am 4 weeks and 5 days pregnant. There is a new person growing inside me. It blows my mind. Roy and I decide that this is our secret for awhile. We need time to process.

I begin therapy and avoid anti-depressants. I hold on tight to my sanity as the first trimester threatens to swallow me whole. I feel physically awful, and that doesn’t help with how emotionally unstable I’ve been feeling. I already know that I want to attempt a VBAC with a midwife outside of a hospital. We decide on a local birth center that I have already toured and whose staff I am familiar with. In no way do I feel prepared to even think about actually having a VBAC, but I know that there is no way I can go back to my OB’s office - or any OB at all. Not at this point.

So we give ourselves over to a whole new way of approaching birth. It feels good, but early on I tell the student midwife, Lynn, that I am afraid. She responds, “There’s no room for fear here.” I don’t really understand what she means. I don’t know how I can not be afraid after what happened the first time. I wonder if women really do approach birth completely without fear.

Our first ultrasound is on April 1. I am 9 weeks pregnant. It is confirmed that there is indeed a tiny little person nestled into my uterus. I tear up when I see the little flickering of the baby’s heartbeat. I am so happy.

I have a follow-up appointment with my general physician for my depression. We discuss my pregnancy and she asks who my OB is. I tell her I don’t have an OB and that I am using a midwife. She says, "Well, we really need to get you set up with an OB. Did you deliver naturally the first time?" I tell her I had a c-section and that I am going for a VBAC this time around. She gasps a little and says, "That's dangerous! You know that, right?"

I respond very calmly, "I know that people think it's dangerous." She is shocked into silence. I am so proud of myself for saying that and so angry at her for being such a fearmonger. I find it completely irresponsible that a medical doctor’s knee-jerk response is to say that VBAC is dangerous. And yet all my research has prepared me to be unsurprised about this.

Even though I know that VBAC is a safe alternative to repeat c-section, I leave the doctor's office feeling incredibly discouraged. So discouraged, in fact, that I am almost ready to cave and go see my OB for the rest of my pregnancy so we can schedule a repeat c-section. But then I realize that my doctor has no idea what is really best for me. Her fearmongering comes from a place entirely different than being supportive of me.

I don’t realize it at the time, but this exchange between me and my doctor is the beginning of something huge. I dare to stand up for myself. I dare to do this because I know what is right for me and my baby. I do not care how many people in white lab coats I have to stare down. I will not put myself or my baby in harm’s way just because it is more convenient for them. I will not be cut open again unless it’s necessary for my or my baby’s health and well-being. I will not let them make me feel broken.

When I have my next appointment at the birth center, I tell the student midwives Lynn and Angela about this exchange between my doctor and me. I tell them how afraid I am about not being brave enough to go through with having a VBAC. Lynn looks at me and then says, "It's not like you'll have the VBAC and then be empowered. Your pregnancy is a journey that will empower you to have the VBAC. You just need the right people on your side, people who will believe in you. Of course, everyone else can believe in you, but it doesn't matter if you don't believe in yourself."

I visit another local birth center because I am curious about how things are done there. It is not a good experience for me, as the birth center does not allow VBACs outside of the hospital and uses really awful fear tactics to discourage me against attempting one. They don’t even have their statistics right. I leave and never look back. Again, I feel very discouraged, but more angry than anything. But I get over it. I feel extremely grateful for the birth center and the midwife I’ve chosen.

I hang onto Lynn’s ideas about empowerment throughout my pregnancy, and as it progresses, as I slowly find my way out of the darkness, I begin to understand what she means. By the time I have fully entered the light of my new self and my new life, I am completely confident in my birth choices. My voice is strong. I am strong. I am a person I have never been before, and in many ways I am the person I’ve always wanted to be. It has taken a journey to hell and back, but it is a journey I would not change.

My tummy grows rounder. I dream of having another little boy. I eat well and rest often and read birth books and online articles. I share my findings with others. I am using my voice because so many women don’t have that option. In the most natural of ways, I become a passionate advocate for empowered childbirth. I have always wanted to do something to make a difference in the world. Maybe this is my way.

Charlie turns one year old. On his birthday, I feel the baby kicking for the first time. As I reflect on both Charlie’s growth from babyhood to toddlerhood and the new life inside me, love overwhelms me. I am the mother of two perfect little souls. I am the wife of the best man I have ever known. In the space of a year, I have touched the very bottom of darkness and then slowly climbed back towards the light. I am so lucky. I am myself.

Later in June we discover that indeed another little boy is on the way, and we are thrilled. We sit down at a table in the Nordstrom Cafe afterwards and discuss names. We narrow it down to two. Later we are driving around and Roy says, out of the blue, “Hey, little Burt Reynolds!” We crack up. It becomes our baby’s first nickname.

The summer hits us hard. We have two very sick family members. Being on one income leads us into extreme financial difficulties. Our landlord is selling our house and we don’t know where we will end up living. Our insurance company begins giving us the runaround for coverage for our out-of-hospital birth. We hang tight in the face of these challenges. We have made it through a year of darkness, and we know we’ll be fine as long as we’re together.

Our brush with near-bankruptcy causes us to reevaluate what we have and what we need. We begin going through our house and getting rid of things that we aren’t using. We begin thinking of things as tiny ways to weigh us down and keep us from living the life we want. We have realized that the best way to lead a remarkable life is to strip away all the extraneous to find the raw and the real lying underneath. Everything begins to come together in a way it never has before. Even when it makes absolutely no sense, life makes sense.

In July we begin our Bradley classes, a 12-week intensive course in childbirth preparation. I pay close attention to what I eat while exercising every day. I practice the recommended relaxation techniques and am able to beat the insomnia that has crippled me for the last three months. With each class, I learn more and more. I feel stronger and more powerful than I’ve ever felt. The most important thing I learn is that we as patients have the right to refuse any procedure. I realize that the medical community only has as much power as we give them.

I begin to understand more about fear and how it can make or break a birth experience. I now understand why Lynn told me at the very beginning of my pregnancy that there’s no room for fear in childbirth. I realize that the fear will probably always be there but it doesn’t have to run the show. I realize just how much it *is* running the show for so many people, and not just in regards to birth. We decide that our life will be different, that we will always listen to our instincts, and that we will approach life unafraid.

I also begin to understand a thing or two about empowerment. Lynn was right. By the time I am very far along in my pregnancy, I am in a completely different spot than I was when this journey began. I am still me, with my moments of crippling doubt and insecurity, but I am also a version of myself that I have never known. I let go easily of negative influences in my life, and I surround myself with the positive. I am happy. I am empowered. I love my baby, and I am ready to birth him with courage and strength. There is no room for fear here.

Towards the end the fear does begin to creep in here and there. I worry about not going into labor soon enough, about all the horror stories circulating out in the world, about failing at my VBAC. There are so many unknowns at this point. It is driving me crazy not having the answers. I am anxious sometimes. Even after I reach my due date, I have contractions that are erratic, but nothing else seems to be happening. I often wonder if my body just doesn't work right. But I force myself to dismiss those thoughts. They do me absolutely no good.

Mostly I am just fine with waiting. I have more patience than I’ve ever given myself credit for. I don’t waste a bunch of time trying to make the baby come. I continue to live my life and I know that he will join the world when he’s ready. He’s healthy, I’m healthy, and we’re going to give him a healthy birth.

And that's exactly what happens. We have a healthy birth, the birth our baby needs to have. It doesn't look or feel at all like the way I imagined. I remind myself that nothing in life ever does. And then I hold my baby boy close and I know that birth is about so much more than squeezing a baby out of one's vagina. It's about giving life to a new and perfect person the best way a mother possibly can. I understand in so many ways now that as fractured as I am, I am also complete. I am myself. My birth experiences have made me whole.

November 18, 2010

Happy Birth Day, Simon

Simon Robert (AKA Burt Reynolds)
11/16/10, 4:24 AM
8 lbs 4 oz, 20 inches

This is the only photo I have for now. We've taken plenty, but it's been a crazy 72+ hours. I'll hopefully be able to update soon with some more pictures and a very detailed birth story. You guys know how I like the details.

A few words about the birth: I wish I could say that I did end up with a VBAC, but Simon had other plans. I did go into labor on my own, slept through my entire early labor (about six hours), and then labored for 21 more hours (I think) without meds. I had two pushing stages: the first was two hours and the second was six. It was determined pretty late in the game that Simon was posterior, and while we made every effort to get him into an anterior position, progress was so slow that I ended up being completely exhausted and unable to go on. We transferred to the hospital, where I had a repeat C-section. I was able to be awake for it, which made the experience so much better.

My recovery hasn't been the easiest in the world. My bladder got nicked during the surgery (due to scar tissue from my first C-section), and so I'm still catheterized. We're hoping to get that out tomorrow. It's been waaaaaaaaay too much fun trying to get up and walking again while dealing with a catheter. It isn't a big deal, really, just one of those pain in the ass things. I've also had a major headache for the last 48 hours, probably due to muscle tension/exhaustion/stress. It's pretty much the worst headache I've ever had. So if you combine the sexy catheter with general C-section recovery and the headache from hell, yeah, I could be feeling better.

On the up side, Simon is doing really great at nursing. And emotionally, both Roy and I are doing really well. Even though I ended up with another C-section, I really did give a VBAC my all, and there wasn't a whole lot more that I could've done to change the outcome. All I ever really wanted was an empowered birth, and that's exactly what I had. I have no regrets. I think I kicked ass, actually.

And Simon is an amazing baby. I had forgotten just how sweet and floppy newborns are. He's just wonderful. We're completely smitten.

Thank you so much for all your support and love and good thoughts. xoxo

November 14, 2010

Mommy's Little Secret

My mom has always made the best mashed potatoes. I have the recipe and no matter how hard I try, I cannot duplicate her mashed potatoes' level of tastiness. It's one of those secrets she's got.

I have my own little secret, but it's not a recipe. It's what I use to get potential stains out of clothing. I didn't discover this awesomeness until after Charlie was well out of the newborn stage, but I think if I had known about it then, I could've saved quite a few of his tiny outfits from horrible staining. But I'm grateful to know about it now, especially because he is one messy toddler. We're back to going through two to three outfits per day because he refuses to wear a bib during meals, likes to get dirty, and all that other fun kid stuff.

My big secret for keeping his clothes clean and re-wearable is Charlie's All-Purpose Cleaner. Forget all the chemicals in stuff like Resolve - this is a non-toxic solution that actually cleans a whole hell of a lot better. It not only works on laundry, but on pretty much everything else, including things like dentures. It's pretty amazing.

Here's what Charlie decided to do on Halloween: eat some frito pie and then wipe his hands all over his cute little Charlie Brown shirt.

Totally awesome. I didn't have to sit there and stress about it, because I have such a good cleaning solution at home. So he got to be his messy little self and once we got him home and undressed, I sprayed down his shirt with Charlie's All-Purpose Cleaner and started a load of laundry. And his shirt looks good as new, seriously.

I'd recommend this product to every mom out there. No nasty chemicals! Works great! And one jug of the stuff lasts quite awhile! (Yes, I do sound like some weird Martha Stewart wannabe.)

The downside? This stuff is difficult to find in stores, so it's best to order it online. But just think, by ordering online, you're helping support an awesome small business, while also letting toddlers everywhere continue to make giant messes. Yay.

(Order here.)

November 13, 2010

On Being 40 Weeks Pregnant (Again)

Here I am again. 40 weeks (plus one day) pregnant. It feels weird to have two possible due dates.

Thursday was a weird day. It started off with a Facebook message from an old high school friend cautioning me about avoiding induction. Yes, it contained a horror story. I know her intentions were good, but it bugged me. It bugged me a lot.

I should mention that the night before, I went out with some members from my moms group. They were, of course, all aghast at the fact that I'm still pregnant. Towards the end of the night I was grilled about when I would be induced. The conversation went something like this:

"So when are you going to be induced?"

"I'm not."

"What do you mean? What's your cut off date?"

"I don't have one."

"How can you not have one? What if the baby doesn't want to come out?"

"He'll come out."

"Well, my son didn't. I made it to 10 cm and was pushing and then they discovered that my pelvis was too small for him to fit through. There's no way I could have pushed him out."

"Uh huh." (said while fighting the urge to roll my eyes)

Here's the thing. I'm not a doctor. I've never pretended to be one. But I have heard this from so many women that after awhile it really does make me want to roll my eyes. How could so many women all of a sudden have inadequate pelvises? While the world has changed a lot, our bodies really haven't. And it's actually really rare for a woman to have a pelvis that is too small to give birth. It is ridiculous that so many women believe they cannot give birth vaginally.

Well, I don't believe it.

So yeah. My headspace was all off Thursday because of those things. But I talked to Roy. I talked to my friend Emily. I talked to my doula and my midwife and my mom. All sane people who support me and don't doubt that I can do this, dammit, and that I don't need drugs to get things going. Having those conversations confirmed my suspicion that yes, I need to drop off the face of the planet for awhile. Or at least just stop going on Facebook. So that's what I decided to do, take a little break from social networking, avoid the negativity, and see how I feel.

I've been off Facebook since Thursday night and am doing a lot better. Obviously I've made the decision to keep blogging, but that's because I enjoy it. (And people can stalk me on here if they so wish. Hi, everyone!)

I don't really mind when people ask about the baby coming. It's human nature to be excited and to want the scoop, and frankly I love that people are happy for us and care about what's happening. I just was getting depressed by the sheer amount of misinformation out there and the lack of faith that people have in a woman's ability to give birth. I get that there are exceptions; I understand that things go wrong; I know that birth is inherently risky - BUT so is everything in life. I'm so tired of the fear and the paranoia. It was really wearing on me and causing me to doubt my body's ability to birth this kid. I hate that, especially because I know that I can do it.

So yes, I'm still pregnant. This may be our last weekend as a family of three, or maybe it won't be. I really have no idea, and I think that's perfectly okay. Now if only the rest of the world felt the same....

November 12, 2010

Welcome to My House

A couple of months ago I wrote about our uncluttering adventure. I think I probably made it seem like we live a spotless existence in a very clean house, but actually it's just the opposite. Our house is pretty messy. The only thing that is its saving grace is the fact that we don't have a ton of stuff, but because it is so small (880 square feet), it still feels to me like we have too much.

One of the things on my to do list is to deep clean the house before Burt Reynolds comes. You know, I'm just going to come out and say it. What a joke. It makes no sense to clean when you have a toddler tornado ripping the house to shreds right behind you. It's not just Charlie, though; it's Roy and me, too. We're too tired to clean sometimes. We'll keep our house above a hazardous level, but that's pretty much it. Poor Burt Reynolds!

I thought I'd share some pictures of our house in its current state. Maybe it'll make some of you out there feel better.

Living room/dining room:

(I hate our couch upholstery.)

(The only thing that keeps this room from being a complete disaster is that there isn't much in it. What you can't tell from this photo is that there is peanut butter cereal from Trader Joe's all over the floor, which has been there since this morning when Charlie decided to dump it all over the floor. Someday I would like to get a real dining room table and chairs and put it in this part of the room. We do have a little fold-up table and chairs that we sometimes use. Yes, I realize that we are living like college kids instead of mature adults. But it works - and gives Charlie more space to play.)


(The counters aren't normally this packed with stuff. Since I am planning on going into labor sometime before the end of 2010, I have a whole stockpile of food to eat in the early stages that's sitting out, waiting to be packed. I also have all of Charlie's snacks out. Okay, and there are some dirty dishes, too.)

(The kitchen floor. You'll notice Charlie's shoes, a whole bunch of cat food, some avocado, and some cheese decorating the floor. Yes, all of this will probably still be there in the morning. Yes, I do realize that I could be cleaning it up instead of writing this blog entry.)


(For now, we're keeping our hamper, which is normally in our room, in the hallway. See how there are dirty clothes on the floor mere inches from the hamper? That's just how we roll around here. It's just easier.)

Our bedroom:

(I never wrote about this, but back in the spring, Roy and I moved Charlie into our much bigger bedroom and we moved into his smaller bedroom. Since then, our bedroom has been the biggest clusterfuck of all time. We just don't have enough room. It looks particularly bad right now, you'll notice. Perhaps it would help if we made the bed.)

(This is the small area at the foot of the bed. Burt Reynolds might sleep here in the pack and play, but we aren't too sure about that. Maybe we'll skip the pack and play and just put him in that cardboard Philips box or our empty laundry basket. This is where I pause as you all dial the number for CPS.)

(Our closet. Do you see Woogas?)

There are a few rooms that aren't shown: Charlie's room (he's already in bed, so I couldn't photograph his room), the laundry room (boring), the bathroom (boring), and the office (boring). I say those rooms are boring because they are mostly in good shape.

There it is, the house where I sit and think up all my genius posts for this blog. It's covered in cat hair, toddler snacks, and lots of little odds and ends that don't always get put up right away, but it's home. And as much as the mess frustrates me at times, it's a sign that our little home is lived in and loved, which is exactly what homes are supposed to be.

And it isn't always this bad. When we do pick up and clean, which we do try to do every day, it doesn't take very much time for our house to look pretty well put together. It also doesn't take very much time for it all to go straight to hell again.

Thanks for coming over! Next time maybe I'll even offer you a seat.

November 11, 2010

41 Weeks (or 39 Weeks 6 Days)

Whether I really am 41 weeks pregnant at this point is very debatable, as my first ultrasound at 9 weeks gave me a due date of November 12. According to that, I'm due tomorrow! A woman's body is full of secrets, apparently.

I thought I'd dedicate this post to talking about what we're doing differently this time around. Obviously, we're having a birth center birth instead of a hospital birth, using a midwife instead of an OB, hiring a doula, and going unmedicated, but there's a whole host of other things that we're doing differently.

1) We're going to be old-fashioned and not update the world as soon as I go into labor, nor will we be updating throughout the course of things. We really only plan on telling select family members (our moms) once things get going, as well as our babysitter and our birth team. We may tell a few more people once he's born, but those who do know will be asked to keep the news offline until we have a chance to update the world ourselves. That puts no added pressure on us to deliver the news until we feel ready. And also, I kind of hate it when someone else ruins the surprise. A friend of mine had her baby and didn't reveal the name throughout her pregnancy. Then some moron friend of hers came onto her Facebook wall and was like, "I know the name! It's ______________" after the baby was born, before the parents even stood a chance at getting online. I found myself hugely frustrated on my friend's behalf because it was her (and her husband's) news to tell, not someone else's. I really wanted to hear it from them, not some stranger. Lame.

2) We are not allowing visitors at the birth center. We had people in the waiting room (and sometimes in the L&D room) while I was in labor with Charlie, and while I so appreciated the support, it was a stressor, especially because our moms had to see me in such a state of terror and vulnerability. That was not something I ever wanted or anticipated. From that experience, I learned that people will show up unless you tell them specifically not to. So this time around, we're telling everyone to stay home and wish us good thoughts from a distance. Once the baby is born, we won't be at the birth center very long afterwards anyway, maybe six hours or so. We'd rather spend that time bonding with Burt Reynolds and hopefully taking care of basic needs (like eating and sleeping) than trying to play pass the baby.

3) We plan to really limit visitors for the first little while after Burt Reynolds is born. (This, of course, all depends on how we're feeling.) In my ideal world, we will have several days to ourselves, just the four of us, where we can just all hang out and get to know each other. Then after that initial bonding time, I'm thinking we'll allow one visitor (or set of visitors) a day for awhile after that. I don't know, I really have no idea how this is going to work out or how we're going to be feeling at this point, but this time around I feel so hugely protective of our bonding time. I also really want this breastfeeding thing to work, and the less people around to make me feel uncomfortable while I'm doing it, the better. (Another lesson I learned at the hospital with Charlie!)

4) People who do come over to see us should be prepared to earn their baby time. With Charlie, I felt like I just had to pass him around to others, and I also felt I had to entertain our visitors. This time, we will request that people bring food, help around the house, help with Charlie so I can get the hang of nursing Burt Reynolds, etc. We're really going to need whatever people can give. Roy's aunt is even going to come stay with us for awhile once Roy goes back to work full-time.

So that's my list. I suppose I sound like a control freak and maybe even a little bitchy, but that's not really my intention. Nothing really felt right after Charlie was born so this is my attempt at a different outcome. I don't think any of our guests were actually expecting us to wait on them, but it was just difficult to voice what we needed. My views on a lot of things have changed in the past year and a half, and this time I have no problem with letting people know exactly what I need, whether it's to be left alone, to come over, to help with the house, whatever. It really is less about pleasing others and more about making it through what will probably be a really rough transition for us. I think the first time around we just had no idea what to do or what we felt or anything. It was just such a huge change, combined with such a deep level of trauma, so we were just going with it.

I won't lie, though, I am hoping for a blissful postpartum period where we just all kind of sit around and drink in the perfection of our new family. The reality, though, is that no matter how well the birth goes, the newborn period is quite a challenge, and if you add a toddler to the mix, it should be very interesting.

So here's to being 41 weeks according to my last period, or 39 weeks 6 days according to my first ultrasound! We have no idea when this baby is coming, and that's actually fun. Yes, there are times when I am completely over being pregnant. But I am in a very good place, both physically and emotionally, and I know this time of waiting is so short in the grand scheme of things. I'm enjoying my time with Charlie and Roy, my warm baths while drinking an O'Doul's at night, my books and music, my relative freedom, my sleep at night, and my naps during the day. Burt Reynolds is going to turn our comfy little world upside down. I'm enjoying the (relative) silence before the chaos really begins.

And can I just say how freaking glad I am that I went with a midwife for this pregnancy? If I was with an OB right now (generally speaking), he or she would be breathing down my neck about the fact that I haven't popped out this baby yet. This is exactly why we have shelled out a good amount of money: to give birth when my body is damn good and ready. Too bad our insurance company doesn't see eye-to-eye with us on this issue. Oh well, that's another subject for a quite depressing post.

(Edit: I am seriously considering going underground for the rest of this pregnancy. If I do this, I think I'll schedule my posts here and leave the rest of the online world alone. People haven't been too bad with the "baby? baby? baby?" stuff, but to be quite honest, I got a Facebook message this morning that made me go "WTF?!" Perhaps I've made a mistake in being kinda sorta vocal about my plans for an out-of-hospital birth without the typical interventions.)

November 10, 2010

Untitled Freewrite

(an unedited meditation on an anniversary of an end and a beginning, which will probably make sense to no one other than me)

On this day that made me a veteran
(one day too soon)
all those years ago,
this day that spawned a monster,
left me walking in the rain,
searching for my twin,
searching for the end
to the beginning of the end,
with only song lyrics and poetry
and blindness to guide me,
it's been 13 years
and for so long
the emptiness enclosed me,
enfolded me,
and I couldn't breathe
too deeply
for fear that I might find you there,
child of mine,
clinging tightly to my insides
and whispering,
"Mama, mama,
you are safe."

November 9, 2010

Pumpkin Patchin'

Roy managed to get the Friday before Halloween off, and we finally went out to the pumpkin patch. We'd been planning the trip for the beginning of October, but it kept being put off for one reason or another. So glad we finally made it, and on a weekday to boot. It wasn't crowded at all, thankfully. This grouchy pregnant woman hates crowds, even when she's not pregnant.

Nice haircut, Chuckles.

The trip to the pumpkin patch was the leash's maiden voyage. We put it on him in the parking lot because he did not want to be held or hold hands. He had no issue with wearing it but insisted on holding the leash himself. So much for it being an effective tool for toddler wrangling. We were going to take it off of him once we got into the pumpkin patch, since it wasn't very crowded, but he ended up wearing it pretty much the entire time.

People can hate on the leash all they want, but he looked damn cute in that little monkey backpack.

We basically took a few photos at the photo opp sites and then went straight to the petting zoo, where we were greeted very enthusiastically by a herd of goats. Seriously, our cups full of feed were gone in about five seconds, and I was afraid for a split second that Charlie was going to get trampled. The pics below were taken after the dust had settled.

The picture below is my favorite from the day. I love how engrossed he is while looking at all the animals. And oh, that slobber under his bottom lip. Love it.

I love this llama, too.

And these pumpkins.

We hit up the corn maze after the petting zoo. What a clusterfuck. I was so grouchy at this point from being on my feet that we cut our time in the maze pretty short. I traded in the rest of our tickets for a couple of packages of orange and black Mardi Gras beads for Charlie. It was time to hit the dang road.

Before we left, Charlie picked out a little pumpkin for himself, as well as a decorative gourd as a reminder to us all that it's fall, fuckfaces. (Seriously, click on that link, it's hilarious.)

And that was our morning at the pumpkin patch. Totally not something I'd recommend for a woman at 39 weeks pregnant, but we still had fun. And both that little pumpkin and that awesome gourd are still sitting on the kitchen counter, looking so festive I can hardly stand it.