Friday, July 30, 2010

Stuff I Learned from Being a Mama #2

For the first in this series, go here.  Also, TMI ahead.

So here's part 2.  Stuff I learned during labor, delivery and postpartum.

Make sure you have a birth plan and make sure your caregiver has seen it before hand.  I didn't really need one since "home birth" sort of implies everything I would have put in a birth plan, but if you are going to a hospital, know what you want and make sure everyone there with you knows, too.  This includes informing the staff if you plan to breastfeed.

"We think the baby is too big" is not a good reason to induce.  Weight estimates taken by ultrasound are notoriously inaccurate.  A friend was told she had a baby too big for her pelvis - over 10 lbs in all probability - so she scheduled an induction.  Wound up with a c-section and a 6lb 6oz baby.  Nature knows best.  My midwife said "I have never seen a baby NOT come out".  Unless there is a medical PROBLEM, there does not need to be an induction.  It is harder on the mom (contractions just take off into the stratosphere instead of gradually build to a peak) and harder on baby, which can lead to more interventions and complications, etc. etc...

Your estimated due date is just that - an ESTIMATE.  Not an expiration date.

Less than 10 minutes before
Lucy's birth - still smiling!
You just don't know what you are going to want, what you are going to do, or how you are going to act during labor.  Be flexible.  That being said, you have the choice to allow it to be a horrible experience by being scared and tense.  Or you can choose to allow it to be peaceful and gentle.  Your mind is a powerful, POWERFUL thing.  Believing that something is going to be pleasant, easy and uncomplicated goes a long way to creating that experience.  I imagined the sensations of labor as pressure and opening, not pain.  I imagined my cervix opening, actually saying "open" and "peace" during pressure waves.  I grabbed onto the mantra "The wave always breaks" and said it over and over through deep breaths.  And it did always break.  It always passed.  It was intense.  It was challenging.  And it was fine!  Another mantra I remember repeating over and over was "You CAN do it, you ARE doing it..."  I did a Hypnobabies class and actually had no pain during labor.  Yes, that it correct.  No pain during labor.  Now it wasn't 100% comfortable, but I had no sensations that I would have called PAIN.  And how did I achieve this improbable feat?  I trained my mind to believe that labor was not going to be painful.  And my mind believed me, so my body believed me. 
The house was so quiet, calm and dark.
Perfect
Ask for what you need.

Eat.  Drink.  You need your strength. 

A waterbirth is AMAZING.  I would have stayed in that tub for the full 50 hours if I didn't need to stretch my legs occasionally.

Sing.  It relaxes the jaw, which in turns helps to open the cervix.  Ina May taught me that.  Also, singing made me feel less like a moaning cow and more like the awesome, powerful birth goddess I was.

Pushing Lucy out
Everything - EVERYTHING - can wait till you have met your baby and held your baby and nursed your baby (if you so choose).  Fight for it if you have to.  It is the sweetest, most amazing moment you will ever have.  Don't let anyone take it away to poke and prod and weigh and measure.  It.Can.Wait.

Sewing up the tears hurt more than pushing the baby out.  I'm just sayin'.

One thing that surprised me was how...disconnected I felt after that first heady moment holding Lucy.  For a LOOONG time after Lucy was born I kept expecting her REAL parents to knock on the door and tell me they were there to pick up the baby that I had been watching for them. Not that I didn't love her and take care of her and feel the instinct to protect her...but it was just so WEIRD to have a baby.  There was this total disconnect between the baby BUMP and the actual BABY.  A friend of mine said after she pushed out her baby (no drugs, so she felt everything) they put it in her arms and she actually said "Whose baby is this?"
 
Your girlie parts will hurt.  Get some rubber gloves and fill them with ice, wrap 'em in a washcloth and stick 'em right up there.  Oh, you might also want to get a supply of cheap washcloths.
 
It might take a week (or more) for you to take a shit.  And it will be more painful than giving birth. And I hear you can't get an epidural for a bowel movement.  Not one person ever told me this beforehand, but EVERYONE I have mentioned it to afterwards has said they had the same experience. All I could think of was "WHY THE HELL DID NO ONE EVER MENTION THIS??".

Maxi pads sprayed with witch hazel and put in the freezer feel SO GOOD on tender areas that have recently squeezed out a something the size of a large butternut squash.
40 week "belly"

Postpartum bleeding is nature's way of getting back at you for not having a period for nine months.  It lasts a long time and sucks.

Pregnancy hormones are nothing compared to the postpartum hormone crash.  I forgot things and cried a lot, was utterly elated and completely defeated, transported and feeling stuck - all within an hour of each other.  It passes, so just take a deep breath.  Talk to someone if you are feeling more than just a little blue.

It took a while to get over the "My God WHAT HAVE I DONE" feeling that settled over me when my midwives and parents all left.  I don't think this happens to everyone, but it don't be surprised if it does.  The enormity of my new job just swallowed me whole.  It still does sometimes, but now it is more joyful and anticipatory as opposed to a feeling of being lost at sea.

My deflated baby belly was not nearly as depressing as everyone said it would be.  Every time I looked in the mirror I just made a point of saying "You look pretty darn good, considering" and it really helped.  However, that doesn't work anymore almost a year later:-).

Breastfeeding will seriously melt away the pregnancy pounds. Melted away like butter. Awesome.

First attempt at breastfeeding...
neither of us took to it right away
Breastfeeding might be hard. Don't give up!! Ask for help! See a lactation consultant! Go to LLL meetings! Talk to a friend! There are so many resources out there for breastfeeding mamas - USE THEM! It is so worth it. http://www.kellymom.com/ is a wonderful resource for all things breastfeeding. Lucy and I had just about every newborn breastfeeding issue imaginable (thrush, cracked nipples, mastitis, tight bite reflex, oversupply, etc). Every single day I would say "I will just do it for one more day. If it still hurts tomorrow, I'll quit." I am so glad I stuck it out. It is such a joy. Of course now my daughter is a boobaholic who will be impossible to wean, but that's another story.

It took me MONTHS to realize that most of the shocking pain I had for when Lucy latched on the first several weeks was not, in fact, an incorrect latch (well, mostly, we had some latch issues at first). It was the milk letting down. OUCH OUCH OUCH! I would feel it when she latched (new mama boobs are really sensitive to a baby suckling, as they should be), but also randomly throughout the day as my supply tried to regulate. I only realized this in retrospect when the sensation mellowed out to the gentle pins and needles feeling it is now. Milk letting down can really freaking hurt at first.

Lansinoh is okay, but chilled gel nursing pads feel really really nice.

Don't get a Belly Bandit.  Worthless piece of uncomfortable (expensive) crap.  A belly wrap is not a bad idea in theory, but this one was so uncomfortable.  Plus if recently giving birth isn't an excuse to let it all hang out, I don't know what is.

Don't get an ItzBeen.  All it will do is make you obsess over how little sleep you've gotten and how demanding your baby is.  I remember looking at that thing and crying "But it's only been 45 minutes since she went to sleep!"  It made a challenging situation into what felt like a crisis.  If you must use something like this, don't use it for timing sleep.  Seriously, trust me on this one.  Newborns are not ones for keeping to a schedule, especially when it comes to sleep.  Now, if you happen to have a miracle baby who is a great sleeper from day one, knock yourself out.  It might be helpful when baby is older and you are trying to get them on a schedule.

I don't like parenting books.  They have done very little besides make me feel like a bad mom who does everything wrong.  That being said, The Happiest Baby on the Block would have been a lifesaver if we had discovered it when Lucy was a newborn. GREAT ideas and tips for calming a new baby (0-3 or 4 months).

Get a swaddler. The Miracle Blanket literally calmed Lucy down the minute she saw it.  Well, most of the time.

Everyone says "sleep when the baby sleeps".  This is good advice, in theory.  In practice it doesn't hold up as well.  not that you should take every opportunity available to sleep - God knows you'll need it - but when the baby is sleeping, you get to be JUST YOU for however long the little angel is sleeping.  And this becomes increasingly important as the gravity and enormity of your newly-acquired job starts to sink in.  So my advice is do something - anything - that makes you feel normal.  Wash the dishes.  Sit on the porch alone.  Go get a pedicure.  Have a friend meet you for coffee without the baby.  Anything that makes you feel like a normal person will do.  I remember putting clean sheets on the bed (while crying, incidentally)just to do something mundane and normal.

Get someone to come help you for a few hours every day for the first 2 weeks or so.  This would be a good time to take a nap.  I thought we would want to be alone, just me, Kevin and Lucy, for a while.  I was wrong.  I wanted to be with my new family, but I also wanted someone to make me dinner and get me ice and fill my water bottle and take the baby away for a while so I could sleep.  Kevin was too tired to do all this himself, so I was only too glad to have my mom and dad there to help.  Believe me, you will have plenty of time with the baby and your spouse.

It goes so fast.  I know it is hard to enjoy something when you have not slept, but enjoy your tiny little miracle.  They get so big so fast!

It is okay to cry for no reason.  I spent a number of days wandering around the house crying.  It was cathartic.  A little pathestic, yes, but cathartic.

Don't try too hard to enforce a schedule.  It will make you crazy.  You can try to follow a loose routine - wake, eat, activity (like staring at a mirror and changing a diaper - newborns are PARTY ANIMALS!) and sleep, but don't expect things to be the same every day for a while.  Go with that proverbial flow.

Sleeping when the baby sleeps...for once...
That being said, I had every intention of being a feed-on-demand mama.  Of course, having never done this before, I totally misread hunger cues.  Just because baby is crying, doesn't mean they are hungry.  I am going to venture out on a limb here and say Lucy was not hungry every 45 minutes.  But I fed her nearly every time she cried.  Oh, my aching (cracked, bleeding) nipples.  If I had been a little more savvy about hunger cues (rooting, turning face towards me, opening mouth when you tickle their cheek), I may have saved myself some pain and frustration.  So while it is important, especially when breastfeeding, to feed a baby frequently, every 2 hours is probably a perfectly reasonable place to start.  If they are fussy before then, it is probably not hunger.

A good thing to remember as your baby get a little older (from about 3 to 6 months) is that infants only have 90 minutes to 2 hours of happy-awake time.  They need their sleep!  That might mean 3 or 4 four naps in a day, depending on when they wake up in the morning.  90 minutes of awake time, down for a nap.  Don't push it - if he yawns or rubs his eyes, get him down for a nap - by hook or by crook, in my opinion!  I would accidentally let Lucy get really overtired and it started a vicious cycle of overtired baby not being able to sleep because she was so overtired.  It is a really hard pattern to break.  They say "sleep begets sleep" which is totally counterintuitive, but I have found it to be true.  If Lucy takes good naps, she will sleep better at night.  If her naps are crap, I know I am in for a long night.
Ask for help. Accept help. Seriously. You do not have to do it all.

The first six weeks are hard.  They just are.  They are magical, exciting, awe-inspiring and beautiful.  But they are really hard.  It will get better.

And then all of a sudden you'll wonder where a whole year went.  I hear that someday I'll turn around and wonder when she could have possibly graduated college, since she was just a baby yesterday...

Thursday, July 29, 2010

We Add Up - World Breastfeeding Week

Facebook has all kinds of ads that plaster themselves on the sidebars of my profile page.  They usually relate to something I am interested in - yoga, camping, mom stuff.  Occasionally I get the odd "get your degree in accounting FAST" or "Congress on Facebook", but usually they are tailored remarkably well to my tastes and interests.

So of course I completely ignore them.  For the most part.  I have been known to glance at them, but only on two occasions have I ever actually clicked an ad.  One of those times was about 10 minutes ago.

I am a t-shirt junkie.  I teach YogaKids and so am always looking for appropriate, comfortable clothing in which to teach.  It is hard to find any exercise-type clothes that allow the range of movement I need while not giving the kids an anatomy lesson.  My go-to outfit is now a pair of loose-fitting yoga capris and a t-shirt layered over a long tank top.  This ensures that my copious bosom will not peek out of the top of the t-shirt I wear, and that my racing stripes (read:stretch marks) won't pop out of the bottom.  Thus the search for the perfect t-shirt.

Anyway, tonight I saw a red t-shirt reading BREASTFEED above the words "Next week is World Breastfeeding Week - be counted!".  First off, I had NO IDEA there even WAS a World Breastfeeding Week .  Go breastfeeding!  I will be proudly popping the boob in Lucy's mouth all week in celebration.


So looking at this ad, I thought "Hey, I'm a breastfeeding mama!  I'll blindly succomb to this tailored advertising!"  So I clicked.


It was an ad for the We Add Up campaign to fight climate change.  

Secondly, I had never heard of the We Add Up campaign. You choose a cause that is meaningful to you (Buy Local, Recycle, Compost, Plant Trees, Organic, etc). The shirt has a simple representative logo on the back along with the words to describe it, like BREASTFEED. Below that are the words "No one can do everything. Everyone can do something". I LOVE that sentiment, by the way. It is easy to get overwhelmed by the do's and don'ts of saving the world, but everyone can do something, however small. The front of the shirt has the words "We Add Up" and a number on it. Your number is unique (so they say, I'll never REALLY know I guess)
Here is what the site says about it:

We Add Up counts you in for your commitment to help solve the climate crisis. Each tee is custom hand printed with a unique number. YOUR number is your position in our global count of people adding up to make change.

Tees are 100% certified organic cotton and sweatshop-free.

Money from the sale is donated to that specific cause.  You can choose to have carbon neutral shipping They'll use sustainable gift wrap (a cotton, logo-printed bag) if it is going to someone else.  Pretty cool.

ANYWAY, I never thought of the environmental impact of breastfeeding.  I totally support breastfeeding as the best for babies.  I totally support breastfeeding as best for mamas.  I totally support breastfeeding as way the f*ck cheaper than formula feeding.  It never once crossed my mind that breastfeeding was also the most environmentally sound way to nourish your baby.  Again, from the site:

If you're trying to decide between the breast or the bottle, also consider the environment. Lots of waste is created from the production of bottles and cans for formula, during the production of the formula itself, plus the carbon cost of transportation to get the formula from the factory to you. Whether this is a new commitment for you or something you've been passionate about for a while, by wearing this tee you are committing to help build our sustainable future.

How is it possible I never thought of this? Am I really that thick? I use cloth diapers for Lucy. I am a vegetarian for environmental reasons. We recycle every possible thing. We don't even use paper towels in our house for crying out loud! If ever there was a time that the word "Duh" was appropriate, this would be it.

So next week is WORLD BREASTFEEDING WEEK! Breastfeeding mamas unite! And We Add Up is really cool. Plus they have a t-shirt for stopping climate change by showering together. Another thing I never thought of...for saving the world, I mean.

New Babysitter

Our wonderful babysitter JP is leaving to back to school.  We are very sad.  I have been putting off finding a new sitter as long as possible.  I hate looking for sitters.  Eveyone around here is a college student and I don't want to have to look for new sitter over the summer.  We have 2 people coming over today to meet Lucy, but I sort of dread the thought of it.  I feel like we can't possibly find someone as loving, fun and responsible as JP.

**sigh**  Where's Mary Poppins when you need her?

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Tiny Diner

I got one of these last week on my mom's recommendation.  She saw a young mom with her baby using one in a restaurant and thought I might be interested.  This was after witnessing Lucy's whirlwind of terror at a Chinese buffet restaurant over the fourth of July weekend.  To me, this looked like one of those things that looks cool and useful, but turns out to be a waste of money.  Initally I filed it under "another product the baby industry wants to sell me that is actually totally worthless."  I had been burned by these products before.  The Itzbeen being the most notorious example.

I was totally wrong!  This thing is GREAT!  I bought it after Lucy's case of Coxsackie Virus made me rethink my liberal policies about what goes in her mouth.

 Here's the skinny:

It is made of what the manufacturer called "100% waterproof material".  So I don't actually know specifically what it is made of.  It feels like rubber, but there is no latex, PVC or phthalates.  It is very sturdy feeling without being too stiff to roll up compactly. 

Notice the eggs in the scoop instead of her lap
The actual surface area is just about perfect for my daughter's radius of destruction.  There is a little pocket scoop that hangs over the edge of the table and catches the inevitable dropped food before it ends up on little laps or the floor (not that it will prevent your tiny diner from tossing food on the floor when they feel like it).  It rolls up into the scoop, nice and tightly, for a compact addition to the diaper bag.  You can also roll up a bib in it so you don't forget, as well as contain any mess on the trip home. 

The suction cups stick really well to the table.  And there are A LOT of them.  Lucy did manage to pull one of them up (only one), but quickly lost interest in that game when they all didn't come flying off the table for her amusement.

It is advertised as top-rack dishwasher safe, but I haven't tried that yet.  Today was the maiden voyage.  If I end up with a melted pile of green, rubbery goo, I'll update this post accordingly.

The thing I would change would be to add some sort of rim around the edge.  Not that it would keep her from her usual food-tossing, but it would keep the mess a little better contained when she resorts to food smearing to let us know she's finished.  Even after all that work we do on baby sign language.

 Looking a little more closely at this adorable picture of Lucy, I realize that she is SOOO TIRED!  She slept late and her nap schedule got all out of whack, plus we were waiting FOREVER for our food at IHOP.  Over an hour for eggs and pancakes.  She went all giddy with relief when there was food on her plate.  She got that manic, "I am so hungry and happy there is food here that I can't control myself" look I recognize in myself when I am both hungry and tired.  She was literally laying her face on the table and shoveling the eggs into her mouth, while hugging anything that didn't fit in her hand.  It was cute...but a little alarming.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Little Miss Sobersides

My dad called Lucy Little Miss Sobersides.  She is so SERIOUS!  This is surprising since Kevin and I are literally comedians.  I mean, LITERALLY, they pay us to make people laugh.  And we can't get our 10-month-old to laugh.  Oh the irony.

Once in a blue moon, I'll stumble on something that gives her the giggles. I keep at it until she is in hysterics! Oh the joy of a laughing baby! I stop, wait till Kevin is around then say "Hey, Kevin, LOOK!" and I'll do whatever silly trick or noise that was cracking her up mere hours - nay moments - before...and she might smile. Maybe. But she has to really be feeling generous. It is as if she is saying "Yeah, Mama, that was funny yesterday. Show me your new material."

But..but...I don't HAVE any new material Lucy! I thought belly-zerbert-lift-in-the-air-wiggle-tummy-back-flip-juggle-fire-stilt-walking WAS my new material! I am apparently just not that funny. I just hope she doesn't tell my boss.

Now, if you look closely at a lot of Lucy's serious pictures, you will see a glint of the silly in her eyes. I choose to believe that she is paying a long-running practical joke on us. One of these days, she will break out laughing for no reason at all. She'll tell us how she had such a hard time keeping a straight face that one time when I ran around the house with a dead chicken on my head singing The Star Spangled Banner in Japanese.
 
...But occasionally, Lucy's true nature is revealed and the silly breaks through no matter how hard she tries...

Friday, July 23, 2010

Fishing and Wishing!

Chances are you have heard about my wool cover obessions.  One of my Facebook friends reviewed a wool soaker for GrandmaGift11 on the Fishing and Wishing blog. 

I am obsessed.  I want more woolies.  Thus, I am blogging about this for an extra entry:-)  I have covered this topic before - cloth dipes vs. disposable and mu new found love of wool!

Here are my own attempts at knitting a wool soaker...you have to scroll past the afghan post.  Here is my post on cloth diapers.

Stuff I Learned from Being a Mama #1

My friend is having her first baby in September.  I had my first baby last September.  She recently asked me if I had any words of wisdom for her.  My immediate reaction was "WISDOM?  What wisdom?  I am making this up as I go!"  Of course, upon further reflection, I realize that IS a sort of wisdom.  It is a trial-by-fire-in-the-trenches-let's-see-if-THIS-works kind of fearless (sometimes) experimentation that has yielded some good results.  It has, admittedly, steered me wildly wrong a few times.  But the path of parenthood seems to me to be an old-dirt-road-looking sort of thing.  Lots of people have passed before me and the path is very well worn, but everyone takes a slightly different course and leaves a slightly different mark in their wake.  Also it's bumpy.

So here it is.  Everything that I have learned in the last 19 months since I conceived my daughter.  Okay, not EVERYTHING, but some little tidbits that I wish someone had told me beforehand.  I am also realizing how long-winded I can be, so this wil be first in a series.   Some of this might qualify as TMI.  You have been warned!

PRENATAL ADVICE FOR MAMAS-TO-BE

You just can't worry about everything.  Everyone has another thing that could be harmful, that will be dangerous, that should be avoided.  And the list is twenty miles long.  You simply can't worry about everything.  I am not saying ignore the list altogether (or the advice of your caregiver), but if you accidentally eat some non-pastuerized cheese or forget to nuke your deli meat till it steams, chances are everything will be fine. 

Eat.  Eat.  Eat.  But eat WELL.  Don't be obsessive about the weight you gain.  Your body needs to gain weight to support the pregnancy.  As long as you are not packing on Haagen Daz or donut pounds, you are doing okay!  Lean protein, veggies, fruits, grains, eat the good stuff.  And then don't worry about it!

Don't look at the scale when they weigh you.  It is just better that way.

That being said, there is only one time in your life that eating a pint of Ben and Jerry's in one sitting is cute (and pregnancy is IT), so if your health permits it, don't be a food nazi either.  

Make lots of food beforehand and freeze it in single-serve portions.  Or buy a bunch of microwave dinners (though the "real" food will be nicer - it will be like your mom is there cooking for you:-).  Fill the freezer.  Don't skimp.  You will bless your forward thinking when Baby is 2 weeks old and there is not a scrap of fresh food in the fridge.  And you will bless your forward thinking when Baby is 6 weeks old and there is not a scrap of fresh food in the fridge.  Seriously.  Freeze everything.

Consider your birth options.  Do some research.  Consider using a midwife for a home or birth center birth.  Studies show that home birth - for healthy, low-risk mother and babies - is as safe or safer than giving birth in a hospital.  The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) and the insurance industry want people to believe that home birth is at best risky and at worst recklessly engangering the life of mother and baby.  But this is simply not the case.  The midwifery model of care (as opposed to the medical model of maternity care) is based on allowing a woman's body to work naturally.   The link above explains it much better than I would, but midwives allow the process of birth to unfold naturally.  They are well-trained professionals who know, understand, and HAVE WITNESSED the process of birth from beginning to end without intervention and therefore are an excellent judge of when something doesn't look right or when something is perfectly normal.  My labor took 50 hours from onset of contractions to the birth of my daughter.  FIFTY hours.  Contractions were 5-8 minutes apart for more than 30 hours.  I was dilated past the "you shoud go to the hospital" stage for about 24 hours.  If I had been at a hospital, I firmly believe I would have had a c-section.  Lucy's head was tilted up slightly and was therefore not pressing and opening the cervix as effectively as if her chin had been tucked.  But my midwives knew that everything was fine.  The baby's heartbeat was fine.  I was tired, but not exhausted.  I was eating, I was drinking and labor was progressing, however slowly.  So we let it keep going.  And everything was fine.  She was perfect (Apgar score of 9 at 1 minute).  She was beautiful.  She was born in our family room, among our family, gently, beautifully, naturally.  I also firmly believe that our breastfeeding relationship would have been toast if we had been in a hosptial.  We had so much trouble at the outset that if either of us had been drugged, it would have been a lost cause.  I could go on about this for a long time, so maybe I'll save the rest of it for another post.  That you have a choice.  Know your options, and make an informed decision.  Some books to read:

The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth by Henci Goer.  Very informative look at hospital vs. birth center vs home birth.

Obstetric Myths vs. Researc Realities by Henci Goer.  Just what it says.

Ina May's Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin.  Beautiful natural birth stores along with...well...a guide to childbirth written by one of the country's best midwies.  Also includes a CRAZY picture of a baby coming out FACE FIRST!  Not for the faint of heart.

Journey Into Motherhood - Inspirationl Stories of Natural Birth Beautiful, inspiring stories of women giving birth on their own terms.

Baby Catcher: Chronicles of a Modern Midwife by Peggy Vincent.  This book clinched my desire to have a home birth.  Wonderful, moving, inspirational, heartbreaking, uplifting. 

Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskin.  More from Ina May Gaskin - wonderful.

Consider breastfeeding.  Do the research.  Best for mamas, best for babies.  Get prepared.  It is natural, but almost never instinctual or easy to begin with. Attend La Leche League meetings - they have them all over the country and the leaders are well informed and very very helpful.

The Nursing Mother's Companion by Kathleen Huggins is a great breastfeeding reference.  I still reference this book from time to time, and it was a lifesaver in the early months.

Ask questions of your caregiver.  Get REAL answers, not the "that's just how we do it" crap I got from my OBs before I switched.  If you don't like the answers, or if you liked what you initially heard and they start to change to something less palatable the closer you get to birth, switch caregivers.  IT IS NEVER TOO LATE TO SWITCH.  My friend switched at 37 weeks when her OB insisted on a scheduled c-section for her breech twins.  37 weeks.  She found an OB willing to let her try a natural vaginal delivery, and that is just what she got.  You are a consumer, not cattle.  You have rights.  Birth is a HUGE business.  HUGE.  A lot of hospitals are baby factories and you will just be another bed they want to empty out as fast as possible.  Doctors want to cover their asses (often with good reason in our overly-litigious society), but it usually comes at the expense of mamas and babies.  KNOW YOUR OPTIONS and YOUR RIGHTS.  Make a decision, make a birth plan.  Be willing to be flexible, but ask questions, ask why, be an active participant. 

No matter where you choose to give birth, consider taking a birthing class.  Even if you intend to show up at the hospital and immediately get an epidural, chances are you will be laboring at home for a number of hours before you are permitted to check in.  If you have no relaxation or breathing techniques at your disposal, these are likely to be very long, uncomfortable hours.  I took a Hypnobabies class and my labor - while inordinately long - was generally very comfortable.  I had no pain (only what I would call discomfort), I didn't feel the baby crown (no "Ring of Fire"), and even though I tore, I didn't feel it at all.  People swear by the Bradley Method, and there are many MANY other classes out there.  Just don't think taking the class the hospital offers will be good preparation.  From what I have heard, it is a "here's the epidural needle, who wants to sign up?" and admission procedures.  I am sure this is not the case for every hospital, but everything I have heard from moms who have taken these classes leads me to believe they are not worth the time.

Take some time with your spouse/partner before the baby comes to talk about who you are and how you see yourself as a parent.  It helps to be on the same page.

Spend some time with your spouse, just the two of you.

Unpackage, wash and put away everything you have for the baby.  Nothing is worse than having a poop blowout and a crying baby and all the clean sleepers are on hangers, stapled together with those stupid unbreakable plastic tie thingies.

I liked taking baby bump pictures every week.  Now I have a visual record of my changing body - and it is really cool!  I also had a fun pregnancy journal called The Belly Book.  It is a really cute and sweet keepsake of my pregnancy that I'll give to Lucy one day.

Get a fork lift to help you out of bed in the morning during your third trimester.  Heh.  If only.

Braxton-Hicks contractions can last for a long time.  I walked around with a rock-hard belly for an hour at a time on occasion.  Call your caregiver if they are coming on regularly or they hurt, but your uterus is warming up and conditioning itself for the marathon of birth.  Don't let it freak you out.

Chamomile Tea will calm BH contractions if they are bothersome.  My midwife said that the Amish have been known to keep an antsy baby inside for weeks just using chamomile tea.  I would make an extra-big, extra-strong cup of tea, mix in some honey, pour it over a liter of ice and sip it all day long.  Once again, always call your caregiver if you are concerned, but if she says you are okay and the BHs are irritating, chamomile is a lovely aid.  And it helps you sleep.

Ask for help and accept help when you need it.  Seriously.

More later on what I learned from labor and birth and the postpartum experience.  If any of you other first-time moms have anything you want to add, leave a comment!  I'd love to hear the things you've learned!

Part II

Part III

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A Long Time Coming

I have been working on this baby blanket since May...of 2009.


 I started working on it on a trip I had last year to San Antonio, Galveston and a few other towns in Texas in mid-May.  A friend's baby was due July 3rd, and I thought I could finish it before the baby arrived.  I had it all planned out.  If I did two squares a day, it would take me roughly 2 weeks to finish, giving me plenty of time to do any finishing work and send it off to the mama- and daddy-to-be before the little one arrived.  Done and done! 

Except that it didn't really work out that way.

I got to this square by the end of my 5 day trip to Texas (I should have been done with 10 squares if I kept to my schedule):
Yes.  That's "B"

When I got home, we closed on our house.  Then we spent 4 days painting and cleaning said house (which was in a state of dreadful neglect when we bought it) before we headed off to my sister's wedding in North Carolina.  Rebecca's wedding was on May 30th, meaning I should have been completely finished according to my (as it turns out, completely unreasonable) schedule.  I was on this letter:


So now it is June.  We have until July 1st to be out of our old house.  Which means we have until July 1st to complete any of the major upgrades we wanted to get done on the house before we moved in.  We spent the entire month of June finishing our basement, cleaning up the yard, re-doing the front walk, painting and generally making the house pleasant and liveable.  Which means that by the time litte KG made her North Carolina debut three weeks early, I was only on:

Oops.

After my self-imposed deadline passed, I took a much more laid-back attitude towards getting it done...meaning I stopped working altogether for at least 3 weeks while we cleaned our old house and moved into out new house and got settled in.  So by KG's actual due date, I had progressed to here:


After we were mostly settled in, I started working again.  Slowly.  I was getting pretty pregnant myself by this point.  I was tired.  I had a house I was trying to settle into, a nursery to decorate, diapers to make, and - oh yeah!  Work.  So I took my time, now that I had missed the big event.  I got hung up for days on a space holder square:


It was actually before the "G", but the "G" looked so quick and the spacer so...not quick that I skipped the spacer, and worked the "G" first.  Perhaps it was a premonition.  I ended up having to improvise a new pattern because I screwed it up so badly and dreaded the thought of pulling all the stitches out and starting over.  You can't really tell, but this little square is out of proportion with the rest of them.  **sigh** No one's perfect.

I doodled with this for the rest of the summer, working on it in front of the TV at night, before bed, after teaching at the arts camp where I was working.  Number one on my list of bad ideas, by the way, teaching drama and yoga in August to small children while vastly pregnant.

Kevin left for the Berkshires for 2 weeks in early August.  I was left at home with my mom, who came to keep me company and make sure I was taken care of should Baby Corbett make an early appearance.  I worked on the blanket sporadically, but mostly just sat like a beached whale, wishing it were time to have the baby. 

The night I went into labor with Lucy, I was stitching this square:


I was watching TV when the contractions started.  They were pretty mild and I could still work through them.  I wasn't entirely sure I was going into labor, because my body had been a Braxton-Hicks festival for weeks.  They just seemed different.  Anyway, when I put the blanket down, shockingly enough, I didn't pick it up again for about 2 months.

After I so blatently missed KG's actual birthdate, I though HEY!  Christmas gift!!  Yeah!  So when Christmas rolled around, I was still working:


Clearly I was just not meant to give this thing away as a gift. 

I remember working the "S" when we were recording the April Fool's Day radio show at the end of March:


The piano player said "You still working on that??"  Yup.  At this point I was pretty much only bringing it to shows to work backstage in my downtime.  The same piano player said a few weeks later "I know you don't have many shows because you are still working on "S".

I decided finally that I would give this blanket to KG for her first birthday.  Surely I could manage THAT.

By KG's birthday, I am here:

SOOOOOOOO CLOSE.  Yet so very very far.

Lucy is 10 months old now.  KG celebrated her first birthday on June 23rd (I THINK - it may be the 22nd.  Or the 24th.  Grr.  I am terrible at dates).  When we were recording the JULY FOURTH radio show at the end of June, I was on:


I told LW (the piano player who was mocking me in March) that I would SURELY FINISH before the radio shows were done.  This was on June 25th and 26th.  The whole cast of the Capitol Steps has been cheering me on...and making fun of me...for over a year now...DW said to me "You can't give that away now!  That's a family heirloom!"

Last night, I put the finishing touches on the last letter:

I frayed the edges of the blanket.  I ironed out the marks left by the embroidery ring (you can tell which ones I spent the most time on by how deeply entrenched the creases around the letter are).

So that's the story of the baby afghan.  Now I am faced with the conundrum - do I keep it, hang it in Lucy's room and pretend it was never meant for anyone else?  Or do I box it up with a copy of this post and send it on to our dear friend's and their now 13-month-old daughter?

Hmmm....

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A Few Sweet Pictures to Pull Me Through Day Four with Sickie

Lucy is still sick.  She's feeling better, but is still clingy and fussy and generally a little pill.  I am trying to be sympathetic, but I am running on fumes here since the last three nights have been back to a newborn waking schedule.  Remind me never to complain that she still wakes up once at night.  The first night, she wanted to nurse every time she woke, which was totally fine - forcing fluid into a sick kid is a good idea.  This every-two-hour nursing schedule continued all day for two days.  My body started to accomodate the increased nursing.  Then, NURSING STRIKE!!  She refused the breast during the day, and then she wouldn't even nurse when she woke up, she just wanted Mama to snuggle and pet her.  Needless to say, my boobs are not happy.  Fortunately, last night she decided to get back on the boob, so to speak, and at least there was something comforting I could offer when she woke up 456 times. 

Oh, and now my husband is sick with Coxsackie virus (heh) too.  Go mama and her immune system of steel.  Now I have to do pass out, but I am posting these cute pictures to remind myself that she can be fun and a joy to be with. 

This is Lucy's favorite face to make.  So.Freaking.Cute. 
She does this funny little puff and blow thing to go with it.

Lucy vs. Angel Hair Pasta.  She was flummoxed by it.  Good times.

She just looks so dumbfounded.  I can't even think of a good caption!

     
      Baby and Mama!

Baby and Nana!

Lucy "reading" the Sunday paper.  She likes to sit in the middle of
all the paper and spin around in circles on her bottom:-)

So serious!

You'll have to forgive me for thinking I have the prettiest little girl on the planet.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Coxsackie Virus

Heh.  Coxsackie.  Poor Lucy has a case of Coxsackie Virus.  Also known as Hand-Foot-and-Mouth Disease, Coxsackie Virus is a common childhood virus spread via body fluids and (yum) feces.  Basically, as our pediatrician said, babies get it (a lot) from putting everything in their mouth.  Some babies have no symptoms at all.  Lucy is not one of them.

She has had a fever on and off for the last three days.  She has been fussy for no apparent reason, not sleeping well, not eating well (but nursing like a MANIAC) and generally been listless and glassy-eyes.  Tylenol has not helped make her feel better.  Motrin has not helped her feel better.  And it comes and goes.  Yesterday she was running a fever of 102, but was happy and playful.  Last night she had a fever of 99 and was screaming and listless.  Poor little peanut.  The doc took one look in the back of her throat today and actually recoiled as she said "Oh!  That's coxsackie".  Apparently, there are a lot of versions of Coxsackie, one of which is Hand-Foot-and-Mouth Disease.  This not terribly creatively names ailment is characterized by painful blisters in the (you guessed it) mouth, throat and lips, spots on the face, hands and, not surprisingly, feet.  The mysteriously painful diaper rash that Lucy has been sporting for the last 3 days is also a symptom.

Alas, there is nothing to be done.  It is a virus.  All I can do is keep her hydrated and give her Tylenol and Motrin until she has no fever for at least 24 hours.  She is so uncomfortable.  So very very sad.  She spent all morning clinging to me, nursing and whimpering.  It was like hugging a child-sized hot water bottle.  I am still sweating. 

At least it has a funny name.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Capitol Steps - You Probably Had to Be There #4 "I Wish Fidel Castro Were Here" and Other Ill-Advised Ideas.

We travel a lot together.  Especially in the presidental election year.  This means nearly three months together, day after day, at airports before the crack of dawn, in rental cars across endless miles of Iowa or Kansas or (if you're lucky) the Pacific Northwest.  But usually Iowa. 

It starts to get to you.  The only time you have to yourself is when you are locked in yet another hotel room in yet another nameless town somewhere in (usually) middle America. 

We have enough people in the Capitol Steps to do four shows at the same time.  We usually mix and match cast members pretty much every show.  Tonight you play with these four people, that roadie and that piano player, tomorrow you play with those four people, this roadie and this piano player.  In theory, all the bits, the choreo, the lyrics, the staging is "standard".  When you are out travelling with the same cast for months on end, the "standard" for your cast shifts.  Sometimes subtly, sometimes dramatically.  Someone says "Why don't we try this?"  It works, we keep it.  The "standard" changes just enough to make your show a slightly different show from all the other casts by the end of the travel season.  This is fine, while you remain an isolated unit.  It only presents problems if there is a cast change.  One woman is swapped out for another for some reason while you are between trips.  One of the guys joins a different cast after coming home from California with "them" and before heading out to Buffalo with "us".  Then it is all, "well my  cast does it this way", and "We  do it that way."  Sometimes fights and cold shoulders and "I hate this f*cking cast"s ensue.  It is irritating (and immature) when this happens, but somewhat inevitable.  You put 7 creative people together for a long time doing the same show, mostly cut off from the standardizing influence of the whole, and eventually they become...well...creative.  The show evolves, almost with a mind of its own.  You start to think of ways to make the show better.  Funnier.  The thing is, the show is already pretty damn funny most of the time.  The reason we tend to get jaded on it is simply a metter of proximity and repetition.  And usually any hilarious idea one has in the thick of a busy travel season is one that will only be funny to the people onstage and backstage.  Here are a few of my favorite ill-conceived "this will be SO FREAKING FUNNY" ideas.

"I Wish Fidel Castro Were Here"

At some point in 2004 there was a video of Fidel Castro at some public event, tripping awkwardly and falling over in full view of all the spectators.  I don't remember what happened, where he was, what he tripped on or what the significance of the fall was.  All I remember is that we latched onto it and thought it was the funniest thing in the world.  We HAD to add it into the show somehow. 

Our backstage tech was JS for this trip.  He is game for pretty much anything.  We decided that JS HAD to be Fidel somehow.  Somehow.  But HOW??  How do you work Fidel Castro into the show?  And not just Castro, but his FREAKING HILARIOUS fall??  AHA!  KC and MT put their brilliant minds together and come up with this:

The Bush and Cheney skit and song went as usual.  At the end of the song, Cheney's heart attack, which usually ends the bit, went as usual.  Suddenly, I hear my husband (who plays GW Bush) say "Oh no!  Dick Cheney had a heart attack!  I wish Fidel Castro were here!"  Then, dressed as Fidel Castro (one can find just about any combination of props and costumes in the bags the Capitol Steps drag around from place to place), cigar in hand, our roadie walks onstage, trips over Dick Cheney and falls face first on the stage. 

I can hear KC and MT laughing almost uncontrollably onstage.  JS is giggling madly as he lays face first onver MT.  We are all in tears backstage. 

The audience sits in a stunned and confused silence as MT and JS drag themselves offstage, making it look like they are being dragged off by an unseen body clean-up crew.

Ii guess it wasn't funny if you actually got enough sleep, weren't drunk on airplane fuel and bad hotel food and didn't eat, drink, sleep and breathe the Capitol Steps.  An error in judgment...that we make time and time again...

"The Fondler"

Arnold has been in the show many times over the last few years.  This particular time was when the Guvanator was accused of sexually harassing women on his staff.  The parody was to "The Wanderer" and it was, perhaps predicably, "The Fondler".  The format of the song (of which I cannot remember one single line) was an interview with Arnold and 2 female reporters.  At the end of the song, one of the reporters makes a derogatory comment about one of Arnold's movies.  It never really got a laugh, so of course, we thought we needed to "fix" it instead of just letting it go.  So we decided that Arnold would punch the reporter in the face after she insulted his movie.  The reporter (me, in this case) would drop like a sack of potatoes and remain there for the rest of the song, whereupon someone would drag me offstage.  Hilarious, right?  So the fateful moment rolls around, KC, in all his AHHHnuld glory throws a very realiztic stage punch at my chin.  I keel over, already in histerics.  The audience is dead silent.  They are shocked.  Appalled.  Perhaps this was another, er...poor choice.  For some reason, the audience didn't find it amusing that a huge, muscular man just walloped a considerably smaller woman in the face.  Huh.

"Don't Taze Me Bro!"

We currently have a song in the show called "State of Arizona" (a parody of "Hotel California") about the recent law passed in Arizona regarding immigration papers.  In the song, an apparent illegal immigrant is stopped by a border guard.  At the end of the song, the "illegal" tosses off his blanket to reveal that he is in fact a Navajo Indian. 

The last stanza of the song goes like this: tossing off his blanket to reveal full American Indian attire the "illegal" sings: "Welcome to my home land I was born here/Yes we've been here/5000 years./I'm Navajo, we own this land you're on here/We've fought illegals, too/since 1492". 

This usually results in the audience cheering and clapping (rough translation "WHOOHOO WHITE PEOPLE SUCK!".  Our audience is 90% old white people).  The end of this song borders on the preachy, which is slightly outside our job description. 

The change that has been proposed here is this:  The Indian sing the last lines in all his glory.  The audience cheers.  The border guard nods sagely.  The border guard produces a tazer, zaps the Indian and drags him off.  Scene.

Because we all think this is hilarious, it is pretty much a given that the audience will be horrified.  We haven't been delirious enough to try it yet.

Monday, July 12, 2010

I Scream, You Scream, Lucy screams ALL THE FREAKING TIME.

Lucy has taken to screaming.  She screams when she's happy.  She screams when she's sad.  She screams when she's angry.  She screams when she wants something.  She screams when she's tired.  Screaming all day and all night.  Screaming has become her go-to mode of communication.  Not just a little scream, either.  Her screams full throated, operatic, shred-your-ear-drums-and-shatter-glass-quality screams.  They are a terror to behold and the reason I have had a headache for three straight days.  Please witness a small sample here and let me know if you have any windows you want shattered: 

Friday, July 9, 2010

Baby Sea Monster

This picture cracks me up.  She looks like a little sea monster crawling from the abyss. 
Or a cute version of that creepy chick from The Ring.

The Art of Racing in the Rain

I am fairly sure that Oprah beat me to it, but this book is MARVELOUS.

The narrator of this book is a dog named Enzo.  Not like other dogs, he strives to be more like human beings, so he can be ready to be reincarnated as a man.  He saw a documentary on Discovery once that said dogs who are ready will be reborn as men.  And he is so ready.

Enzo is a perfect narrator.  If this book were narrated by a man, it wouldn't be nearly as funny or touching.  Part of the rich charm of this story is imagining the fully developed inner life that this extraordinary dog has developed from watching TV and learning from his master, Denny. 

The story itself is fairly devastating.  Centering on the slow death of Denny's wife, Eve, and the shocking aftermath that Eve's parents create, I often found myself weeping aloud at the thought of something like this happening to my family.  I won't say what happens - the slow, agonizing way the story unfolds is part of the utter beauty of it - but listening to Denny's side of the story is both funny and heart wrenching.  He tries to overcome his "dogness" to be ready for the next life, but is never above using the tools at his disposal to make his point clear.  These moments are among the book's most amusing.  It makes me look at dogs in an entirely different light.  Have you ever had a dog who looks at you like they truly understand everything you have said?  A dog who does something so eerily human that you wonder if they are being purposeful?  After reading this book, you will probably watch dogs much more closely for signs of a far more intelligent light behind their eyes that you previously imagined. 

Rest assured that the book, however sad and beartbreaking, has a very satisfying ending.  I listened to the audiobook, which was very well done, but I think I want to buy a hardcopy.  I so enjoyed the world the author (whose name escapes me) created that I want to visit again.