Archives for category: pregnancy

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.

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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.

I wrote this note on 3/21:

“I must get this finished before she turns a year! I have eight days left!”

Whoops. She’s already one. I could tell you much more about that, but I really did want to finish the tale of pregnancy and birth. Ahem:

As the bump grew and strangers began to look at me differently, I began to try to get life into order for this huge change. I wonder if those new and different stares — softened eyes, a willingness to slow down, smiles you never would have received before, people holding the door open way more often, and a look that I now realize is special to parents as they remember that whole process — are also meant to spur you forward, to make you prepare.

I had no idea how much things would change.

But I knew they would change. And so the preparations began. The most obvious was at school, where walking up and down the stairs became a concerted effort, instead of the quick run and joy it had been prior. I made every effort to keep walking those stairs (58 of them up to the third floor) as much as possible, and probably due to the size of that school, and partially due to prenatal yoga, I remained in pretty decent shape overall. But my back would hurt and the constant hunger made things difficult. I didn’t have to pee all of the time, but way more often than before. I don’t know how I would have managed had I still been teaching normal, 90-minute classes. Yikes. It was hard enough as a normal person, but as a pregnant woman …. Props to those who do it.

But I began to plan for my replacement. I wrote a mini-book of instructions about all of the tasks that I did for the school, and never felt better about my role in that school than the day I finished it. Well, I felt useful, at least, though my role was as schizophrenic as they came, since I was doing all sorts of random things, from monitoring Accelerated Reader to running reports from standardized tests to meeting with teachers to running professional development to teaching two electives.

School has always been a draining experience, but it had also been energizing. As Gorb grew and began taking over my consciousness more and more, the energizing aspect of it lessened and lessened. I slacked a lot, going home soon after the bell rang to just sit and eat and sit and eat and sleep, every night. I was a complete slacker, to be honest. I kind of felt guilty, but kind of not.

The rumbles of the district were being heard throughout our school, as well. I was pretty sure that the coming year would bring some serious changes to our school, yet again, and, to be honest, I was so happy that I had a valid excuse to leave and not think about things for awhile. Chad and I made the decision for me to take the next year as maternity leave, since he would be starting at the big bad law firm and we could afford it. To be honest, I was relieved that I had an excuse as good as Gorb to stay out of the political squabbling and job hunts that I thought would come to my school. Ah, education.

Even more difficult was stepping back from MDPL, the nonprofit writing center that I had helped to create. It had been my dream since college, and then somehow a reality, with weekend workshops and summer camps and a board of really cool people. I spent every spare second I had working on it, to be honest, and knew I was pretty central to its functioning. But we all knew I would have to step back for awhile, and so we had a board retreat, complete with facilitator Leslie and lots of food. Leslie made me physically step back from most activities, in order to force the rest of the board to step up and to force me to not take things on. That was hard. It was a relief to see those cool board members step up, but it was so hard to let go of something so central to me and my identity and my passions. There were several times where I felt that tingling, burning sensation behind my eyes, the one that means tears are coming but I don’t want the tears to come.

It was hard.

There was a shower, planned by lovely Erin and held at Juanita’s house. Gorb got tons of gifts, tons of friends and family were there, and it was good to be surrounded by women who were happy that Gorb was coming and that I would be Gorb’s mother. The best part, beyond the wonderful casual atmosphere that Erin had made possible, was a dish of beads she found. Everyone chose a bead for me and Gorb, and then wrote what that bead could mean to us in a little booklet for me. The idea was to use the beads as a focus point during labor, like a rosary. I still get the booklet out and read it now and then. It was the best thing anyone could have done for me.

Chad and I — well, really Chad and his dad — painted the nursery a bright green. We felt so bold picking such a bold color, named something like Geranium Leaves or some other term — but my, it was bright. It felt like living in Kermit the Frog’s head, to be honest. But then we moved in Chad’s sister’s old set of furniture, refinished and painted by Chad’s dad a soft white. And we moved in the white crib. And we just knew Gorb would like it.

Things progressed normally for a pregnancy. I started the schoolyear and didn’t tell anyone except my coworker, Loralie; just in case of a miscarriage, I didn’t want to have to explain more than necessary. But we did start letting the word out. We went to visit my Grandma Lueck in Iliff one weekend, and when I didn’t have alcohol at dinner, Grandma just looked straight at me and asked if I was pregnant. That was such a great moment for me — telling my Grandmother that a fourth generation would be joining us was just cool.

We also had some neighbors over for dinner. Just that week I had had my first ultrasound, and the pictures (such precious pictures!) were up on our fridge. I didn’t even notice them there until after our neighbors had left. Chad and I laughed and were grateful that those two were fairly private and respectful people, especially since Chad worked in the same building as one of them.

For posterity, the pictures:

Looking back, it is so weird to think that Elinor looked like that!

But anyway, more decisions loomed. Somewhere in my mind I had decided that I didn’t want to know the sex of the baby. It felt intrusive to me. From birth this little one would have so many assumptions made about it, so many expectations saddled on it, that I didn’t like the idea of heaping gender-based expectations on it prior to birth itself. A little bit of me was influenced by my CNM, who had told me stories about cases where the sex was incorrectly identified, leaving decorating parents and grandparents in a lurch.

But most importantly, I really didn’t want to receive a bunch of pink or blue stuff. In general I don’t like that method of gender identification (though I do look ravishing in pink), and that pragmatic side of me was thinking that it would be nice to re-use some of the baby stuff we did receive or buy, whether it was a girl or a boy. Chad and I went back and forth on it for awhile. He claimed that he didn’t care whether we found out or not, but I still don’t know if I believe(d) him. His mom definitely wanted to find out; she was all raring to go out and buy some cute clothes for the baby, and mentioned how difficult it was to find gender-neutral things, which is very true (and I hate that life is that way!). In the end, my ill-defined wish won out. When we painted the nursery, we finally settled on a vivid, Kermit-like green (I think it was called something like “Geranium Leaf”). It all worked.

But how to refer to a genderless embryo or fetus? A coworker of mine from Outward Bound was nicknamed “The Skink” by her parents in utero — and those early ultrasounds do look eerily reptilian. Chad and I threw some ideas back and forth, but one day we settled on Gorb.

Gorb?

Yes, Gorb. I am pretty sure it was a random set of phonemes that Chad made up on the spot, though I do wonder if it had to do with the sound my impressively loud pregnant belches made. We laughed about it at first, but the darn name stuck. Gorb became Gorbachev and Gorbarella at different times, and we both got a kick out of the way people thought we were crazy when they heard the name. But there was something right about it, something real and human about such a weird assortment of syllables. We loved Gorb already, and that name just let us focus our love somewhere specific.

Later on, my brother-in-law Dave heard the name. He’s kind of brilliant, and he didn’t laugh at us like others did. Instead, he said something akin to, “Of course. Girl or Boy — GorB.” Chad and I just looked at each other, eyebrows raised. Perhaps our subconscious minds had meant to do that. More likely not. Regardless — when those gender-neutral items would begin to arrive, they would be meant for Gorb and set away in Gorb’s brilliant green room.

As pregnancy became more real to me, I had to face some facts and plan a little. Per my usual researching self, I began looking for ways to educate myself. One of the easiest was Netflix. It recommended I watch _The Business of Being Born_, a documentary by Ricki Lake (!) after her two very different experiences giving birth. It was a good film, with honest and conflicting messages, and I was convinced right there and then that I at least wanted to attempt a natural birth. My mother did this, Joanna has done this, and nothing seemed wrong about making the attempt at having as few interventions as possible. Once you intervene with your body, side-effects tend to necessitate more interventions. Some people call this the Waterfall Effect — you do one thing, and suddenly more and more rushes forward, with no recourse for turning back. For someone who doesn’t even like to take Advil or Tylenol, that was terrifying to me. And the fact that an epidural is injected directly into your spine just creeped me out, though I know it’s very safe, etc.

This led me to the library, where I read and read and read. I could give you my reading list, if you’d like. It was amazing that pregnancy turned me toward non-fiction, which is not easy to do. I delved into midwives and doulas and birthing centers and all of that almost-hippy stuff that I adore. Part of me wondered if I might want to have a home birth, but more of me wanted to find a good midwife and give birth at a birthing center, close to a hospital, just in case.

All of that was worthless, of course, because the next step was dealing with insurance and doctors. I signed up for Kaiser’s class about pregnancy procedures, etc., since we had Kaiser as our HMO. I came home crying to Chad. Kaiser, like most HMOs, simplifies medicine as much as possible. No way was a birthing center going to happen. In addition, I had no choices for hospitals — it was only St. Jo’s. I could meet with a Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) for my pregnancy check-ups, but there was a 95% chance that she wouldn’t attend my birth, as I would just get whichever doctors were on call at St. Jo’s and, if it was her turn, the CNM on-call half the week. This was not what I wanted. I was shocked that I could get so little of what I wanted for what might be one of the most important experiences of my life. I was sad that something so intimate as creating and delivering a new life could be so institutionalized and sterilized, reduced to money and worst-case scenarios.

And that’s when my inner pragmatist started up. Mom had all of us in hospitals, my sister Jo was glad she had Peyton in a hospital, and the majority of births in this country are in hospitals. Chad and I decided to go middle-of-the-road with our baby. We would do the normal thing covered by insurance, but we would find a doula. Greek for (literally) “slave,” a doula is a birth attendant. Not licensed to deliver babies like a midwife is, a doula instead caters to the mother AND father throughout the birthing process, offering support to both and acting as advisor and advocate. As fate would have it, some friends of ours had had a baby the previous May. They were overjoyed to hear we were pregnant — and immediately recommended their doula, who was studying to be a midwife and so offered very affordable (ridiculous, really) rates. We called her up.

Sherri, our doula, was amazing. Amazing! We had an initial meeting with her and loved her big smile and gentle manner right away. She was down-to-earth and practical, with two kids of her own and a bevy of others adopted from Ethiopia. She recommended all of the books that I had been checking out from the library. She clicked with both Chad and me, and that was something that really meant a lot to both of us.

All of this happened even before Kaiser wanted to see me for an actual exam. I’ve already written about the first doctor’s visit, but I can still remember it so vividly — I was so anxious for the heartbeat, and cried when I heard that steady thump through the doppler. I did end up alternating between a Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) and a regular OB, and though the visits tended to brief and simple, things seemed OK and I was comfortable with our decisions.

Lesson learned once again: too much research just breaks your heart. Good thing that I am OK at compromise — and pretty much used to looking for the silver lining. In this case, that would probably be Sherri, our lovely doula.

Ah, the birth story. It is time.

This is going to come in little, weird chunks, as I should have been writing all last year. Oh well. I regret that. I’ll throw it on the pile of regrets that lives behind my conscious mind, in the woodshed back there with something nasty from _Cold Comfort Farm_.

To start: the pregnancy. I had been terrified that it would be very difficult for us to have a baby, since I was 30 (aieee!) and since my own mother was a little nervous for me. Chad and I agonized about the decision as to when we should even start trying to have a baby. Well, I agonized and Chad looked at me askance and offered his opinions. We put off trying to have a baby for awhile longer than we had first anticipated, partially because of Chad’s job and partially because of mine. But then, just before our second anniversary, the time seemed right. We had gone on a big backpacking trip in the San Juans (my last desire before becoming a mom was to backpack with my husband again)– which became a Tour de Catorce and a timeshare in Pagosa — and we let the birth control lapse. In the meantime, life continued as usual. I ran a summer camp. I climbed Mount Evans with Mark. I attended a training for school. The only different thing was that I didn’t drink a thing, which wasn’t as difficult as I expected.

Within weeks I missed my period, and I knew something was different. I took a test. Yep. I took another test, since they seemed tricky. Yep. That night, I told Chad quietly, with a big smile. We both smiled, and things were calm — except I wasn’t. What if it was wrong? Per my doubting self, the next day I went to my mom’s house and took one last test.

Well, that said it all.

The normal pregnancy things began to occur. Smells were so different, so much more potent. As much as I had hated coffee before, the smell never bothered me so much. It actually reminded me of growing up and the mornings. But now it left me nauseated. I was tired and actually went to bed at a reasonable hour.

I was still worried about miscarriage, so Chad and I decided not to tell anyone  — beside our immediate families — until the first trimester was over. Our families were ecstatic, especially since my sister had announced her pregnancy just a few weeks before. Cousins! Just weeks apart! We were a little worried that Chad’s parents might spill the beans, since they were so excited and this was their first grandchild (my side was used to this by now, since it was the third), but they were good as gold.

In the meantime, I was amazed that a little being was growing inside of me, so very very tiny and so very, very full of potential. Just thinking back to that time makes me smell and feel the almost-constant nausea, but it was all overshadowed by the easily-missed reality of producing a new life. Wow. Wow. Wow. Women always talk about how life-changing it is, but it truly is something that is hard to share unless you’ve experienced it.

Still so cool to me: I was pregnant while I climbed Mount Evans with Mark, though I didn’t know it. My baby had been up a 14er already! We can debate the nuances of this fact as much as we want, but I still think it’s awesome.