I need to write. I find my mind is tattered and unfocused, or obsessively focused upon unimportant matters. And though I rarely have time to shower, or to plan, or to knit, or to do anything that I consider *mine* these days, I need to commit to something for me.

And writing is for me.

I have been sneaking in small amounts of fiction writing, often at midnight or so, pencil in hand and headlamp on as C slumbers next to me. But when I say small, I mean *small* — paragraphs, sometimes just a sentence or two, before the thought of the night wakings and eventual morning waking bring my hand to the headlamp’s on/off switch.

I am going back to school. I’m not sure what it will look like, but I am going back. I hope that the actual teaching excites me more than the decision itself does.

But a vow — at least one entry a week. I can do that. Really, I can.

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Dammit. C is out of town. And I am at home with kids. The schoolyear has already begun. The craziness has returned to me, a little.

What craziness? The intellectual stimulation craziness. I know I am uber-lucky to be able to stay home with my little darlings, and things are MUCH better now that E can communicate (rather effectively, and rather constantly, and sometimes darlingly [is that a word? it should be], and sometimes maddeningly), but I find myself breathing in this deep sigh once I FINALLY get them both to bed. Which, by the way, is often at least a two-hour process.

And then, instead of getting myself ready for bed, I …..

  • clean and do random housechores
  • do exercises for my sad two-kid belly (today my nephew said I must be pregnant again, since my belly was so big. My sister and our friend and I just sat there in stunned silence. And I had thought I was looking a lot better, too ….)
  • take a shower. MY kind of shower, the type that comes when you can’t find time to take a shower for three or four days, the kind that lasts for 45 minutes, even though you generally try to be water-conscious in a desert state
  • readreadread
  • spend TOO much time providing teaching materials for your colleagues who are currently working (found the best poem for metrical feet ever. Coleridge was brilliant)
  • watch _Call the Midwife_ or _Legend of Korra_ or _How I Met Your Mother_ or _Orange is the New Black_ on Netflix
  • spend inordinate amounts of time online, just cruising the most random things

That last one is the worst time-suck ever.

All of this because I seem to need both time to myself (really to myself) and some kind of brain-fodder that my kids cannot provide. Even the days I see other adults, I find I still need this something else.

When C is home, it’s easier to feel guilty and only stay up until midnight. But he’s on a business trip tonight. And so I checked my email and responded. And then I organized L’s photos and posted them to Facebook, and then found myself looking at the photos, over and over and over because my kids are so damn cute, and checking every time someone liked my album, and then I read a whole bunch of renegademothering blog entries and laughed, and then I looked up brown recluse spider identification because I have something in my laundry room that is creepy right now (not a brown recluse, methinks), and I should switch the diapers in the laundry room but am a little creeped out by the spider, even if it’s not a brown recluse, and then I thought I really needed to write.

And I do want to write more. I think I need it. I think there’s something in me that I need to get out, whether or not it’s beneficial to the rest of the world. Thoughts.

But I think I need sleep most right now. Perhaps I just had to write to get to that. 🙂

On that note, here’s the cutest teething three-month-old, ever:

Image

I love that spindle of drool, just hanging out there.

 

 

Ugggh. I love writing, but it takes me such work to get to the place where I can write again. And it’s been more than five months since I’ve been able to sit down and think in this way, in the way that I need ….

Obviously, I got the job. I love the job. Four sections of 10th grade American Lit, one of 10th grade Honors American Lit, and one of 12th grade AP Lit. My school is awesome. I love my colleagues. I adore my students. I find such joy teaching my students through this amazing literature …. Wow.

Before school started, amidst the craziness of finding E daycare and prepping an AP course without any experience in the matter, I had every intention of delving into the weird way with which I explained that sudden change in the course of life, of pondering the way that I adjusted the narrative of that decision depending on how I felt about it at the time. Narratives are highly malleable. It fascinated me at the time.

But since then, my life has been a whirlwind. C has been working non-stop, leaving me as a well-funded single mom. And all props in the world to single parents — what a rush. I wake, get ready, wake E up, take her to daycare, work at least ten hours, pick E up, feed her, play with her, put her to bed, then grade and plan for about two hours a night. If I get lucky, I see C for an hour or so. If I get really, really lucky, he joins us for dinner.

I resigned from MDPL’s board. I couldn’t hack it. I take teaching seriously, I take E seriously, and I take C seriously whenever I get to see him. There was nothing left.

And then … I discovered that I was pregnant again.Unplanned. One lapse of judgment.

It’s taken me a long time to come to peace with this new baby inside me, but as I become huge and more excited about this new life, I feel a bit of mourning for what could have been. I do love my job, and yet I know that I won’t be able to take care of two little ones and do any sort of good job at teaching. So, unless C decides he wants a new type of job, I am turning myself to my progeny and their well-being again.

Which narrative to paint?

I report back to school in 72 hours …. Writing not to occur, perhaps, until a new baby joins us in late May?

I had an interview for a job today. I think it went well; I was energized afterward and enjoyed the committee interviewing me, strangely.

And now I can’t sleep. I couldn’t sleep last night; I spent two hours sorting through my college and grad school notes to prepare me for the interview in some way. And now I can’t sleep, wondering what my life will be like in 20 days — back at school, E in some kind of daycare? Or still here, in this house, with E?

Both scenarios elate and terrify me, to be honest.

I was all set to just let God make some decision for me, to be honest. Perhaps that was just wiggling out of decision-making. I thought getting a job at all would be a long-shot, so if I got one, I’d go back to work. If I didn’t, I’d stay with E. But I feel like finding a job is possible for me now, and that means that God made the decision? And I just accept it? Or what if God is telling me that I still have to decide, even if I get a job?

And for whom do I decide? What if what is best for me is not best for Chad or E? What if what is best for Chad is not best for me? What if what is best for E is not best for Chad? How do I determine what is best for my family when there are so many competing needs and desires?

Behind all of this, the thought of getting in front of a classroom again, of having students again, makes me very happy. But the thought of dropping E off somewhere every morning makes me very sad, too. AIEEEE.

Perhaps I won’t get a job. That would make everything easier, except for my ego. And who needs an ego, anyway?

I do have a long post about the shootings in my heart, too — it just hasn’t made it through my head to my hands yet.

It’s 12:09 and Amanda is writing.

She just watched the first episode of “Newsroom” after two beers and is well on her way through her third.

Why? She doesn’t even know.

But some post on Facebook made her start googling her ex-bosses at Outward Bound, and it’s a depressing scene. Something about youthful idealism? Optimism? Who knows.

Meanwhile, another ex-colleague she knows and loves from Outward Bound is raising 3K at fundraisers for non-profits that support schools for girls in Nepal and other developing countries. Cool. But why can’t Amanda’s own chosen (created) non-profit  in Denver do the same for Denver kids? Yes, most Denver kids have running water and some basic hygiene and even occasional internet access, but why not help those in your backyard before those on the other side of the world? Especially when Amanda has watched as three of her own students have died, ate it, at the hands of stupidity and lack of knowledge?

Amanda feels the same way about adopting kids from Russia, and China, as opposed to those born just down the street from you. But then again, Amanda was lucky enough to be able to conceive the coolest, smartest, most amazing baby herself. We are all lucky for that. Go, E!

Not that I begrudge the girls of Nepal, all of whom will capitalize on their educations and help change the world for the better.

Why is it so damn hard to change your own backyard, though?

Again — three beers for a still-lactating mum– this is all excusable.

love to you all.

a

It’s raining.

Anyone living anywhere near Colorado knows how precious that is right now. There have been fires all over the state, all over the region, for the last month, and no rain. 350 homes gone right outside of Colorado Springs, in a canyon I had planned to hike soon. Homes lost in Fort Collins, near a hike Chad and I did four years ago. Smoke and haze obscuring the mountains from our view, a non-sight that is utterly disturbing to any Coloradan, since the mountains are … right … there.

But it’s coming down, and it’s not just an afternoon shower, either. Streaks of water, barely any angle to their trajectory, just down, down, down, into the ground and along the gutters. I swear lightning almost struck my house just minutes ago, and the sound was terrifying and ohso welcome. Even better that E miraculously slept through it.

There were moments where I thought about dancing for the rain, and I definitely prayed for it. And it came, in its own darn time, but I am so thankful.

Life is kind of awash right now, as well. My high school psychology teacher was training to be a Jungian analyst, and I will never forget her lecturing us about dreams having to do with water. Emotion — water is emotion. I feel like I’ve been soldiering on, that Chad has been soldiering on, through the heat and through the desert, looking for something that we need, though neither of us knows just what that is. We’re both a little numb from the work and from the uncertainty of it all, I think. When will rain come?

Personally, I’m lost in the decision about whether or not to go back to work. I’ve been meaning to resign but I can’t bring myself to do it. I find myself cruising the job postings late at night. And my desperation to find little ways to contribute to the household budget — baby-sitting Blaise, contracting myself as a teacher for MDPL, writing little articles for medical websites …. All of it feels so inadequate.

Working, though, especially as a full-time teacher — that’s more than adequate. That’s almost martyrdom. And E! Where would she be all day? With whom, doing what? I want to be with her. But I want to contribute to the larger world, as well. But will I really be contributing anything at all if we’re all just tons more stressed out while I work? My mom says that if she could do it all over again, she would have found a way to stay home with us, whatever it took. Erg.

While it’s raining, while E is still sleeping, I’ll just sit in the emotions of it all, letting it wash over me, through me, before me.

So much has been happening lately, I can’t keep up with it. This is a rambling post. I’ll try to put some pictures in to break it up. Did I mention that Elinor is full-on walking? Yep. It’s awesome and exhausting.

Iza, my dear kitty, has diabetes. It’s totally treatable and we caught it early (when they start peeing like crazy, something’s bad. Thank goodness she’s so particular about her litter box), but it’s a significant expense. We changed her diet and are monitoring her ketones, but haven’t yet started insulin. It’s like we’re holding our breath to see if things will work themselves out, which sometimes happens, but is rare ….

Elinor and I took a trip to Siesta Key, Florida, with my mom’s family. My grandma turns 80 this year and it’s her and my grandpa’s 60th wedding anniversary this year, so they wanted one big family hurrah. I’m impressed, because we did get the entire family down there — except for Chad. This first year of work at the firm precluded any week-long vacations for him. So El and I walked into the Gulf of Mexico, and El loved it even more than I did. She’s a beach baby, loving the water and the waves. And she had such an amazing time with her cousins, both Peyton and Harper (babies everywhere!) but also Spencer’s awesome step-children, Tyler and Maddie. It was a good week, though I missed Chad like crazy and have vowed never to take another vacation without him. Pictures to come — we forgot our camera (!) and are relying on grandparents and aunts. They’ll supply soon.

And then Chad’s big bad firm did some computer upgrades, shutting down their whole system for Memorial Day weekend, which meant he COULD take a short vacation. To Kenyon it was, then, for my 10th-year reunion. I had debated going due to the timing and expense, but Monica and Rhoda and Marc were going to be there, and I so wanted to see them …. Brittany and Joe, Chad’s sister and basically brother-in-law, drove up from Oxford, Ohio, and joined us for a day and a half, and Jeff drove up from Pittsburgh with Sarah and little Emmett, and we spent a nice afternoon with Juan DePascuale, whom Chad worked with one summer at St. Olaf, and then we drove to cute, perfect Hudson, Ohio, to spend one night with Matt and Monte and their little ones, Finn and Willa, two good friends of Chad’s from his college days. It was a packed vacation, but a good one. Oh yeah — and Kenyon!

El and Em love the dog on Middle path ….

Monica and Rhoda look normal — parenthood makes for goofy posing. Ah, kids.

All of this to say that it’s been an expensive spring. We’re doing OK, but we have a fair amount of debt and it bothers Chad. He’s vowed to work at the firm five years or so just so that we can manage that debt down and have some more freedom, but that’s still a hefty goal. We constantly debate the weight of that goal’s importance, especially compared to Chad’s health and El’s time with Chad. And my time with Chad!

And my first day in Florida, my school district called to say that they were denying my request for one more year of unpaid maternity leave since they were closing my school and had reduced my position. It’s a little weird, and they sure could have told me much earlier, but that means that I either need to resign or find a job in the district by August. This was not in the plan — but that means more money?

MDPL is swinging along, too, with paid opportunities to run some contract work, and I miss teaching a whole bunch.

A friend from college offered me some contract work writing for online sources ….

Let’s take a break on those uncomfortable but imposing chairs in Nu Pi Kappa. And yes, there was a current Kenyon student napping while El ravaged the room.

My head is aswirl with options for our lives. I’ve begun babysitting Blaise, Erin’s awesome 2-year-old, once a week, and I’ve dedicated all of those earnings to paying for our two mega-vacations. But I could go back to work. I could contract with MDPL. I could write for some online sources. We could make some more money, meet those debt goals earlier, and maybe have some freedom sooner, together. But in the meantime, that means finding and paying for childcare for El, which is a whole ‘nother headache.

Who am I, and how important are these cash flows compared to being here for Elinor and making sure that Chad’s quality of life meets some basic standards?

Going back to Kenyon didn’t help clarify any of this. Education came up everywhere, and I do feel so committed to those causes and to that mission. The Amanda from Kenyon days is different from the Amanda now, too, and living with both of them was strange. I feel so much more ME now than I did then, but my life is strangely larger and more sprawling now, too, way less focused and way less constrained.

El was ready for long conversations in Peirce as she waited for high-quality local foodstuffs.

I don’t know what to do. My crunchy Mama podcast that I love (Mama Natural Show 43) just reported on study that found that stay-at-home moms (SAHMs) have significantly higher levels of depression than other moms, most likely due to isolation, aimlessness, and a lack of feeling any accomplishments. I don’t think isolation is a big issue for me (thank God for my family and some good friends), but I suffer from aimlessness like you wouldn’t believe (she’s sleeping?! What to do first? clean? yoga? eat? sleep? make stuff? MDPL? aieee!), and that lack of accomplishing anything (another load of laundry left, another load of dishes, and El’s crying yet again …. rinse, repeat) drives me mad.

But I love being with El.

All of this just to get some of the things in me head, outta there and somewhere else. I will figure it out. We will figure it out.

So, now the nitty gritty stuff, the stuff that even now recedes from my memory in some ways and sits constantly in others. As such, I am interspersing what I remember with our doula’s birth report. That birth report might be the single best thing Sherri ever could have done for us, because there was no way that I could have saved all of those thoughts while going through it all ….

At my last prenatal check-up before giving birth, they checked my blood for Group B Strep (GBS). It’s a common virus that some people just carry in them, and usually does no real harm. But during birth it can be passed to the baby through fluids, and babies cannot handle it yet. It can be bad. So common practice is to check moms soon before birth. If positive, hospitals will often put you on an IV of antibiotics during labor to ensure that the baby doesn’t get it.

I was GBS positive. This shouldn’t make much of a difference in theory, but for me it was a type of devastation. I had spent months reading books and thinking about labor, working with our doula and reading all I could, about labor. Knowing myself a little, all I could picture about labor was movement — me walking, me kneeling on a balance ball, me stretching, me in a jacuzzi tub …. I had already compromised so much of my ideal birth by just being with Kaiser’s HMO and giving birth in a hospital, and now I would have to be attached to an IV? Yes, it was only for thirty minutes every four hours …. But I was anxious. I came home crying to Chad that night. It bummed me out.

At least Gorb was head down and in proper position. That was a huge relief.

But things moved forward.

So, twelve days before Gorb was due, Saturday morning, Chad and I had sex. 🙂 It was becoming more and more difficult to do so, so we joked about it being the last time before the birth. Some people had been saying that I had dropped, that Gorb was soon to be on its way, but people had been saying that for a month, and Jo’s kids had both been late (Jo had Harper by then), so I figured we had some time.

But that night I noticed some weird leaking, only now and then when I moved. I called Jo to ask what it was — could it be amniotic fluid? I consulted all my books and smelled the liquid — it didn’t smell like anything, and the books said amniotic fluid should smell sweet. Perhaps it was just a ripening cervix? Jo had no idea (poor sister, my constant go-to for all things pregnancy) and told me to call my doula. I did, and she had no idea, either. I decided to wait until the morning.

Still leaking that snowy Monday morning, I confronted Chad just a few minutes before he was going to leave the house, dressed in his suit. “I think we have to go to the hospital. I don’t know if it’s amniotic fluid or not, but we should find out.” Chad laughed, we grabbed the packed bags of clothes and other necessaries, half thinking that we would be back, half thinking that this was it. We called Sherri, our doula, and drove to the hospital

March 28, 2011

7:33 am – Amanda calls and relates that she and Chad are leaving for the hospital. She has been spotting with small gushes of fluid since yesterday and is worried that her amniotic sac has broken. She is also experiencing some crampiness, but not having any consistent contractions. Amanda assures me that they will phone when they know more.

Again, I had planned on staying at home as long as possible, until I couldn’t talk through contractions, and then going to the hospital. But if I had been leaking amniotic fluid for nearly 24 hours, that could be bad — another potential infection zone. More antibiotics. DAMN, I kept thinking. This is not how I wanted it. This is not what I had envisioned. And even though so many crunchy granola momma websites and books will tell you it’s not a big deal, the thought of endangering your baby makes you err on the side of caution.

It was all so anti-climactic. You know those movies and shows with people driving desperately to the hospital, getting there just in time, contractions all over the place? So not my experience.

But we got there, and The Baby Place — what they call it at St. Joe’s — had little to no room for us. They put me in a check-up room, not one of the swank birthing rooms we had been impressed with.  Of course, it was amniotic fluid. I still had a decent amount left. Apparently Gorb’s head was right down there, and though the sac had broken, only little amounts would leak through when I moved and Gorb’s head broke the seal.

9:35 am – Amanda calls and says that the fluid was indeed amniotic fluid and she will be admitted to Labor and Delivery soon. Currently she and Chad are in the triage for Labor and Delivery, waiting for a room to open up.

10:00 am – I arrive at St. Joseph’s Hospital. Amanda and Chad are still waiting in triage. Both are in good spirits. Amanda is waiting for her first intravenous antibiotic dose per her diagnosis for strep B. She is feeling some tightening occasionally in her abdomen, but still nothing that seems like labor. Since it has been nearly 24 hours since she believes her water first broke, she is worried that the doctors will insist on artificial induction.

Thus began our quest to jump-start labor. There are all sorts of ways to do so, according to all sources. One of them is to — ahem — have sex. Check.

We discuss our options and decide to try some natural induction techniques while waiting. Amanda sniffs oregano oil

Our room smelled like pizza.

while I massage her feet and press on acupressure points above the ankle that are known to encourage labor. Chad does the same on Amanda’s hands. Chad then cheerfully suggests we should also try nipple stimulation, which is a great for labor induction. Amanda does try this for a short while before the nurse arrives with her IV bag of penicillin. Shortly thereafter, the nurse informs us that our room in Labor and Delivery is ready. We collect our things together for the short trip upstairs.

On the way to our swank room, the hallway was so silent on the way in, though we were surrounded by birthing rooms in every direction. I remember feeling in awe that so many moms were having so many babies in our near vicinity, and that we wouldn’t leave until we, too, had a baby ….

Nipple stimulation was like a magical key or something – an awkward, nervous-laughing type of key, for both me and Chad. I can’t remember the exact feeling of that first contraction, but they slowly began coming, once in awhile. Thank God for nipple stimulation.

11:40 am – Amanda’s cervix has been checked. She is 2 cm dilated, 70% effaced, and the baby is station -1. After talking to the obstetrician on shift, Dr. Pam Campbell, Amanda and Chad decide to help the labor along by applying prostaglandin to the cervix. The prostaglandin will hopefully help Amanda’s cervix to ripen and kick start her labor. This seems to be the least invasive option and still allows Amanda to see her plan through for a natural childbirth. She needs to stay in bed for two hours after the administration of the prostaglandin and decides that she is going to try to rest during this time.

Prostoglandin seemed like the least invasive intervention we could manage. The other option was pitocin, which was like the big, scary baddy in all the books I had read. Pitocin mimics oxytocin, a natural hormone that stimulates labor and all things birthing, but it does so without regard for your other bodily functions. Contractions tend to be too strong, which often leads to an epidural, which can lead to a c-section …. It’s called the waterfall effect in doula and midwife circles, and I just didn’t want to go there. Compromises.

Napping didn’t really happen. I kind of dozed and dozed, feeling occasional contractions, and, to be honest, frustrated that few things were happening the way I wanted them to. I tried to stay upbeat around Chad and Sherri, but I distinctly remember crying while they were gone getting lunch.

1:30 pm – After lunching on sandwiches Chad brought for everyone, Amanda is back on the fetal monitor. Baby is doing great, maintaining a steady 135-145 heart beats per minute. Amanda is now experiencing something that feels more like labor contractions. These contractions are lasting about 25-30 seconds and are around 6 minutes apart. She can still talk easily through them, but it is a good sign labor is moving forward. Chad determines now is the time for him to trade his work attire for more casual wear. He retreats into the bathroom and eventually emerges as the new and improved “Birthing Chad” (aka B.C.). This is yet another natural sign that things are moving forward. We take a walk around the second floor and lobby.

Chad is amazing. Have I ever mentioned that? I should.

2:30 pm – Contractions are remaining a consistent 5-6 minutes apart, 30-45 seconds long, and increasing in intensity. Amanda is back on the monitor. Vitals for the baby are still excellent. Amanda is still in an upbeat mood, joking often with Chad, but talking through the contractions is beginning to become challenging. She requests some Johnny Cash.

3:15 pm – Antibiotics are administered again.

3:50 pm – We decide to go for a walk again, this time visiting all floors of the hospital. We take the stairs and meander down some odd hallways, mistakenly walking by doors marked with “Danger: Radioactive Free Particles.” Amanda and Chad are still maintaining their great senses of humor, despite the fact that Amanda’s contractions are increasing in intensity and pace. Amanda has only about two or three minutes between each contraction. She is managing them by leaning into Chad and breathing easy, relaxed breaths. They are a great team—much like George and Gracie Burns. Chad is very supportive and encouraging.

The three of us walked around the entire hospital, talking and looking at some of the beautiful photography that St. Jo’s has on its walls. It was fun, in a way, just as Sherri said. Along the way, contractions began to get stronger and more frequent. I had to stop when they came, and would just lean into Chad’s chest and sway through it, the way they taught us in birthing classes.  I can’t describe the feeling; I can’t quite remember the feeling. I do remember the intense focus it would take for me to survive it, though. It was as if I had to surf my own body’s reorganization in massive wave of demolition, or construction.

When we finally got back to the swank room, the doctor was waiting for us.

4:45 pm – Dr. Campbell checks Amanda’s cervix. She is now at 3 cm and 80% effacement. Although labor is progressing, she asks that Amanda and Chad consider Pitocin as an option in the near future.

No way. I was so dead-set against it. I had either a stupid faith in my body’s ability to do this, or just a serious case of stubbornness. Nothing was going wrong; Gorb looked great on the monitor and things felt RIGHT. We let the doctor leave and I said stubborn things behind her back.

Chad was supportive. He was like a smart little boy in some ways. The room had a white board with a pre-printed chart for effacement and dilation marked on it, so the doctors, nurses, and your loved ones could monitor your progression. Chad labeled the whole thing “Mount Gorb” and drew a stick figure Amanda with a huge belly climbing the line. It was great.

Amanda is back on the fetal monitor. Baby still looks great with a heart rate of 140-155 beats per minute. Amanda is gushing amniotic fluid off and on. We decide to try more nipple stimulation as we have been doing off and on over the course of the afternoon. This seems to kick labor into gear. The contractions have increased and strengthened. Amanda is still handling them very well. She seems to retreat into her herself and has a deep, inner focus. She also declares to Chad that she intuitively knows this baby is a girl.

I just knew it. And things were happening so much faster; it was like there was nothing else beyond what was happening in my body.

5:00 pm – Amanda’s regular obstetrician, Dr. Rossi is now on duty. She states that labor seems to be moving along and, with respect to the birth plan, believes that Amanda should just continue as she has been. 

All that worry about midwives and doulas and I manage to get my OB? Amazing. And she ended up being completely supportive of my own beliefs about my body. Rock on, Dr. Rossi. I was so grateful for that support, albeit passive support.

And now yoga came to me. Contractions were for real now. I had spent so much time in yoga in cat/cow, on all fours, swaying. I had felt completely stupid when the instructors first told me to move my body in whatever way was most comfortable, but as pregnancy progressed, I felt less stupid — and it felt good. That ended up being my go-to position for most of labor. Cat – cow – cat – cow – sway – sway – sway …..

Amanda is now managing the contractions by going to the hands and knees position and swaying her hips. This seems to be the most comfortable position for her and works well. Chad is still assisting with nipple stimulation in between contractions as we have noticed that the contractions slow down when it is stopped. He is constantly by Amanda’s side, massaging her back during contractions and providing loving (and humorous) support and encouragement. Contractions have intensified and increased. They are now lasting anywhere from 1-2 minutes and are still spaced only 2-3 minutes apart, not allowing Amanda much of a reprieve. However, Amanda is a force to be reckoned with and powers through them with amazing resolve and stamina. Amanda does shed a few tears after a particularly tough contraction, but still manages to smile and remain somewhat jovial. As the contractions increase in pain, she is becoming much more vocal, which is a good sign that labor is striding along.

6:30 pm – Amanda and Chad are in the jacuzzi. Contractions are still very productive. Amanda still prefers the hands and knees position with Chad massaging her back. Chad has wisely tapered his jokes to a minimum, but remains a constant support to Amanda, offering words of love and encouragement.

I had been so excited about the jacuzzi, but when you are most comfortable on all fours, a jacuzzi is not so helpful. Ah, well. Nice try.

7:00 pm – Amanda and Chad are out of the tub. Amanda’s contractions are continuing to last a good strong minute at two minutes intervals. Amazingly, she is still in good, although weary, spirits. She is effectively using her voice to help her cope with the pain, inhaling deeply and exhaling the tension with strong, audible moans. She has wonderful focus and unbelievable energy reserves. Amanda does try moving to the bed, where she continues to stay on all fours, but attempts to rest on her side in between contractions. She doesn’t have too much success with this. She decides to stay on all fours while being monitored as well. The nurse is a bit disgruntled by this as the belts keep slipping.

Disgruntled? The nurses were awful about this. St. Jo’s is forward thinking in some birthing ways, but would it kill them to get some wireless fetal monitors? This was what I had been most worried about, and the only really difficult (in an emotional way) part of my whole birth experience. I was in the groove! Things were coming along, and Gorb was coming, and I was focused, and Chad was with me, and Sherri was with me, and then the nurse would barge in and demand that I leave my groove so she could check my baby. And it would take TWENTY minutes to do so — meaning I was stuck on the bed twenty minutes, trying to survive at least five to ten contractions without moving. I was so mad. Chad was mad.

9:00 pm – Amanda is on the monitor again. Contractions seemed to have temporarily spaced out a bit – 5-6 minutes apart. Amanda is still on all fours on the bed.

9:20 pm – Cervix has been checked and Amanda is at 6 cm! Dr. Rossi is okay with continuing labor as is. Amanda and Chad practice nipple stimulation once more to get labor moving again. The baby’s vitals are a healthy 125-135 beats per minute.

9:40 pm – Amanda throws up a good amount of water and juice. At Amanda’s request, Chad and I remove the fetal monitors.

Damn nurses.
10:00 pm – Amanda is walking figure eights around the room, dropping to all fours when a contraction hits which is again about every two minutes. These contractions are very intense and Amanda has added some growls to her moans.

So, this is the most vivid memory of all labor, beyond the actual birth. I would close my eyes, being in this labor zone, and I could see this wolf mother. She was tearing up a mountain, over talus and over scree, howling, and she was looking for her little pup. As I would move through a contraction, the wolf would run up that mountain, and at the top the black little pup waited. As the contraction slowed down, down the mountain the mother would go.

The vision was so vivid. A lot of it was just probably because my vocalizations were becoming those growls, and then they were howls. For someone so inhibited in even yoga class, I was becoming very, very loud.

11:15 pm – Antibiotics and fetal monitor administered again. Amanda really wants to get off the bed and back on the floor. We call the nurse and Chad explains that they believe five minutes on the monitor is sufficient. Resident Dr. Hall arrives and discusses with Chad how they need twenty minutes on the monitor for proper reassurance that the baby is doing fine. As the baby is moving down, it becomes increasingly difficult to apply the monitor in the proper position to pick up the heartbeat. We decide to humor the doctors and Amanda endures the contractions on the bed.

I remember some swearing and being angry with those damned nurses and their stupid monitors. We asked them to take them off and the nurse said, “We can’t ensure the safety of your baby without this.” It’s like the worst of fear-mongering. “You take this risk, and if your baby dies, it’s not our fault.”

I know, I know. My husband’s a lawyer, after all. But damn.

11:55 pm – Amanda is up and walking, moving to her favored position on the floor for the contractions. She is beginning to feel lots of pressure in her bottom and the urge to push. We call the nurse and ask that Amanda be checked.

Around 12:15 am – Dr. Hall checks Amanda and reports that she is 8½ cm dilated and 95% effaced. She says there is a bit of a lip of posterior cervix remaining. The nurse suggests that Amanda try a different position during contractions, reasoning that the baby’s head will be allowed to push more on that lip of cervix and stretch it out of the way. Amanda moves to the bed and uses the squat bar to stand and crouch during contractions. This is a very intense period for Amanda as she is going through transition. She almost seems to be rowing through the contractions as she circles her hips, shaking the squat bar with each turn. She moans and yells with the rush of each contraction. She is incredibly strong in both body and spirit.

Maybe I seemed that way, but that HURT. It was awful. It was so freaking hard. I thought I might die, but I wanted Gorb OUT of me. So I did it.

Amanda is feeling the urge to push again. The nurse asks her to lie back to check her cervix and reports that she sees the baby’s head! The delivery team is immediately assembled, lights are turned on, Amanda’s knees are drawn back, and the pushing begins. Again, Amanda displays her formidable strength and stamina.

Yeah, this was actually the worst part. Nobody tells you about pushing and how utterly difficult it is. Well, maybe it’s different for every momma. But it was painful and hard and I was so worn out by then. I just kept looking at Chad and Sherri and Dr. Rossi and nameless nurses and SCREAMING. Some of the nurses commented on the screaming with smiles, I remember. I think I was a spirited screamer, to say the least.

The baby’s head begins to crown and we see long, dark hair.

My favorite part of our entire birth story: Chad and I have always had difficulty with our cats, particularly gluttonous Iza. Iza wants food when she wants it, which is often around three in the morning. She will just moan and cry outside our door for what seems like hours. One night I had a dream that my baby ended up being a cat. When Chad saw Gorb’s hair, for one split second he said to himself, “Oh crap — it’s a cat.”

After about 25 minutes of pushing, the baby’s head emerges with one hand alongside the face. At 1:21pm the entire baby is out and Chad announces to Amanda they have a baby girl!

Chad told me that she had her left hand on her cheek. I pushed her out with that hand on her cheek …. That feeling of her leaving my body was incomparable — complete relief and yet this emptiness, as well.

And then I had to push the placenta out. Whew. Another slide and losing a large part of my body. The placenta was cool. I had toyed with the idea of preserving it for pills or eating, but thought maybe I had gone over the crunchy line into crazy. I regret that now. If I have another baby, I am keeping that placenta. It’s such an amazing organ, so specialized, and part me and part baby ….
Chad cuts the cord and baby Eleanor is placed on Amanda’s chest. She is a beautiful, big baby with a voracious appetite. After a short introduction, she latches onto Amanda’s breast and has her first breakfast. Amanda and Chad are understandably besotted with their new daughter.

She was beautiful. So aware, just looking around even then. I don’t think she cried at all — just looked at us with theses dark blue eyes. Black hair, blue eyes, red skin, and that hand …. And her smell! It was the best smell in the entire world, coming right from the top of her head. It was like heaven — and vanilla? Ponderosa pine sap? Everything I like best in the world?

After a good half hour of breastfeeding, Eleanor is weighed and measured.

She has always been a good nurser. I’m lucky in that.

It was so amazing to hold that little body and to imagine that, just minutes beforehand, she had been inside me. Watching her as Chad held her, in this rush of adrenaline and relief from having delivered that huge thing, I was content. It was eerie and wonderful.

She tips the scales at 8 pounds, 1 ounce and measures 19” long with a head circumference of 13¾”. Chad gets some special time with Eleanor while Amanda cleans up and prepares to move to their recovery room. Although somewhat sore, Amanda experienced minimal tearing that needed no stitches and is mobile and still awash with adrenaline and oxytocin.

But it was really really hard to pee. The nurses were great help then. I felt bad about cursing them behind their backs. Blood everywhere. Wowsers. Birth is messy.
Despite the slow start to labor and having to resort to artificial (although minimal) induction, I count this birth as a complete, unaffected success. Much credit goes to Amanda’s determination and resolve and Chad’s unfailing support and devotion. I believe that this same strength, love, and humor will continue to carry their family through the many years ahead.

Sherri’s sweet. But birth is a big deal, too.

Just a month before Gorb was due, Chad and I spent a weekend in Colorado Springs for a babymoon. I don’t remember where we first heard the term, but the bigger I got and the realer Gorb became, the better the idea sounded. We would never be alone again, and we would be just us for only that month or so more …. Scary.

So a cheap weekend in the Springs sounded good. We had spent a night down there the year before for a wedding, and had been surprised by how much we enjoyed it. We really enjoyed the hotel, just a simple Hilton Garden Inn with a kickass breakfast and a pool. We don’t need much to make us happy, Chad and Amanda.

So we drove down. We wandered downtown Colorado Springs, past Colorado College, then to the museum of the American Numismatic Association. I had no idea Chad liked coins before we became married, but around the time that we conceived Gorb, he became a little obsessed. It’s not a bad obsession to have, I guess. I understand it not at all, but the ANA Museum was cool. The exhibits were nice and the coins are pretty interesting when you think about how old they are, and the elements which make them up, and the power and politics behind every one of them — not to mention the art, which is a weird thing in and of itself.

A guard bet that I was having a girl. Then he talked our ears off and we had to almost be rude to get away from him.

The next day we went to the Garden of the Gods. Neither of us had ever been there, amazingly enough. It was awesome. We walked all around it, marveling at the rock formations and loving their names. It was a nice but cold day, and it felt good to move. We bought a book for Gorb at the visitor’s center, the first we had bought for the baby.

The whole trip was nice. It was nice just to be with Chad, doing things for each other, being with each other without the rest of our responsibilities hovering around our heads. It was nice to walk with each other and talk about random things and to rest our hands on my enormous belly. It was nice to be together.

So, this post is not in order for Elinor’s journey, to be fair. But it started to matter later on, so later on it is.

I’ve never really tried yoga much, beyond doing sun salutation in parking lots on camping trips with Michelle Walker, or following a video with Emily while we both lived in the Baker neighborhood. I liked it, but I could never justify spending the money on it, nor could I get myself to class.

But when Gorb appeared inside me, I was determined to do right by that baby, and I was determined to try to have a natural birth, and I was determined to stay in shape to make that birth, and the healing afterward, as positive as possible.

I researched a little and found a studio just blocks from my school that offered prenatal yoga. And so I began to go. The studio really centered on family yoga of all sorts, and was very mother-focused, which was wonderful. The first few times, I was shocked that we spent a third to a half of the time just talking, pregnant women to each other, about various topics, and then we’d get into the yoga. Part of me was annoyed — how is all of this talking going to help me get in shape for LABOR?? — but soon enough I came to crave the pregnant companionship. Women of all different stages of pregnancy were there, and so their various perspectives were helpful to me, who at 18 weeks, when I began attending, still wasn’t even showing much. These huge women would waddle into the studio, carefully sit down, bitch about certain aspects of pregnancy, be happy about others, and then proceed to move their ungainly but beautiful bodies all over the place. As the weeks passed, certain people would reach 38 weeks or so and never come back, and sometimes the instructors would announce their births …. That was always exciting. They just disappeared, but you knew they had a baby with them now. Amazing.

It was awesome. It helped me clarify some of my own feelings about things. One day we had a discussion about how we could be bringing new life into the world at all. I was usually hesitant to share, but when the talk came round to me, I was surprised to find myself kind of incensed with some of that thinking at all. I’m still happy about what I contributed, though it kind of shocks me: “I think bringing a kid into this world is kind of like giving the middle finger to all the bad things around us. There are horrible things, but there are so many good things, too, and I want those good things to continue. I don’t want to shrink from the bad, but I don’t want to let the good pass us by, either.” I was really excited about that, to be honest. Pure, unbridled optimism. <sigh>

Another time was awful, though. A woman came in who was only ten or so weeks along. She was the last in the circle to share about the topic, which had something to do about preparations for the baby or something like that. But she shared that she had had a miscarriage before, sometime along the first trimester, and that she was utterly terrified this time around. She was sitting by me, and broke down crying, and I froze, because I could so clearly imagine her situation, having been terrified of miscarriage myself …. The instructor had to ask me to hug the woman. It just wasn’t something that I am naturally inclined to do; I’m not a very touchy person in general, which is probably why I hit boys I liked for so long. But I felt kind of ashamed that I couldn’t give that much to her then ….

But the yoga was always good. The instructors would repeat that being pregnant didn’t mean we couldn’t get stronger, and I tried to take that to heart. Moving my body in all those ways was so helpful. Breathing and focusing on the breathing was amazing, as well. Being instructed in Kegels was beyond helpful. And, as silly as I felt the first time, soon enough the vocalizations became useful and helpful as well. Breathing out things like “ma” and “moo” do not usually bring me confidence, but there in that room, surrounded by other big-bellied women and all of those about-to-be babies, it felt right. Curling up around Gorb in the dark on the floor afterward, listening to soft songs during shavasana, felt very right.