Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Dealing with both the expected and unexpected surges of love

I was only in the hospital for a day. Everyone expressed either shock or amazement that I was out that quickly, but the labor was so easy that I didn't feel too awful afterwards, and the healing that I needed to do I could just as easily do at home without having nurses and other hospital staff coming in at 2 or 3 in the morning to check my vitals or whatever. And Josie got a clean bill of health, so when they told us on Friday that we could go home, my response was, "right on. Let's blow this bitch."

The transition with the baby at home has been very smooth. Josie is seriously the easiest baby I have ever encountered -- certainly much easier than Zeke was. She's still sleeping a ton, and when she's awake, she just hangs out and looks around.

She never cries unless she's hungry or pissed off, like when I'm changing her diaper. And even then, as soon as she's fed, she immediately calms down. As soon as she's dressed and diapered, I pick her up and put her on my shoulder, and she snuggles into me and mellows out.

The hardest transition has been for Zeke. He wavers between being very excited about the baby and having a hard time dealing with the attention she's getting. The good news is, except for the first day home, when he threw toys at her, he hasn't been aggressive toward her at all. He just gets pissed off at Jason or me (me in particular, since I hold Josie the most) and either refuses to talk to us or is a tad more defiant and emotionally sensitive than usual.

But he's dealing. Both my parents are here, so he's getting lots of attention from his Mimi and Papa, and Jason and I are making an effort to spend time with him every day playing or reading books or going to the park. And since Josie is so easy, we can stick her in her bassinet or in the bouncy seat and she chills out, and we can have time with Zeke.

I also try to include him in taking care of her. I'll give him little jobs like getting Josie's pacifier and "helping" to give it to her, or helping to give her a bath (his job was to take the washcloth and wipe off her feet and then rinse them off).

But even though I know that what he's going through is normal -- hell, anyone with a younger brother or sister went through it, and most of us made it just fine -- my heart feels like it's bursting when I look at him. He's such a sweet boy, and such a joy in our lives, so affectionate and enthusiastic about everything. And when I see him struggling to figure out his place in this new world order that has sprung up in our household, it makes me cry.

Of course I'm crazy in love with my new daughter. That, I expected. But what has blown me away by the last few days is how this whole process has made me even crazier in love with my son. I want to just gather him in my arms and provide him with every reassurance, to ease the difficulty of the transition, but I know he just needs to work it out. Other than just be there for him, and continue to include him in everything and let him know I love him, there isn't much I can do.

But I can certainly ease the pain by buying him a new firetruck bed. Love and nurturing go a long way, but so does bribery.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Meet The Joey, or, Look What We Made! v. 2.0

Josephine Ruby Lee, 9.24.09, 1:30 p.m., 7 lbs. 7 oz., 19.5 inches

Everyone in the know, i.e., my OB and my friend Michele, who is also an OB, told me that labor the second time around would be nothing like the first. That the monstrous labor I went through with Zeke -- 25 hours of labor to get to 10 centimeters dilated, followed by 4 brutal hours of pushing out a 8 lb. 9 oz. baby with a 14 inch head -- would no way repeat itself.

And I had reason to believe them. We caught the gestational diabetes this time around and I stuck to my diet and took my medication religiously, with the result being that I basically gained no weight the last 12 weeks of the pregnancy and kept the baby's size in check, plus I was being induced a week early. I also was 3 1/2 cm. dilated before I even checked into the hospital this morning -- it took me 15 hours of hard labor, plus pitocin, to get to that point with Zeke.

So any optimism I might have had was not misplaced.

But still. When you have nothing but the experience at one end of the spectrum to compare it to, it's incredibly difficult to imagine an easy, quick, painless delivery of a reasonably-sized baby, no matter how much I was assured that this time around, I would have one of those ridiculously awesome experiences involving super-fast dilation followed by pushing the baby out in 20 minutes.

But they were right. It's still kind of surreal to me how incredible today was, how peaceful and simple and joyous having a baby can be.

We checked into the hospital at 5 in the morning. I was in my Taj Mahal of a room by 5:20.

Taking some time to catch up on blogs and read the news before getting started.
Yes, in my enormous private room I had a bathroom with a jacuzzi tub nicer than the bathrooms in most hotels I've stayed in.

It took awhile to get through the paperwork, filling in questionnaires with medical histories, signing releases, going over security procedures, etc. The nurses, who were unbelievably wonderful, started my pitocin drip at about 8:20 in the morning.

Unbeknownst to me, I had already been having contractions. I just thought the baby was kicking me really hard, but apparently a number of those jabs to the ribs were actually contractions. And they didn't really hurt much at all. So for a long time, I was feeling great, with only minor instances of contractions that, if I had to label them on a pain scale of 1 to 10, were no more than a 1.5. I knew that it would get worse -- as Doris, my main RN said, "no pain, no gain" -- but so far, so good.
Chilling out, dealing with regular but not particularly painful contractions, waiting for the fireworks to begin in earnest. Mom keeps me company and sews for the baby.
At around 11 or so, my doctor came in to check my cervix and break my water. I was still only about 3 1/2 to 4 cm dilated, but she assured me that things would start moving along after my water was broken.

And boy, was she right. Within about 1/2 an hour, the contractions went from, "hey, no big deal" to "SWEET BABY JESUS, THIS HURTS LIKE A MOTHERFUCKER!" And they were coming in rapid succession, fast and furious. My mom and Jason took turns holding my hand, and Doris and Lupe, the student nurse assisting her, helped me breathe through the contractions. I told Doris, "um, yeah, I'd like that epidural now," and she said, "no problem," and within 15 minutes the anesthesiologist was in the room hooking me up with pain meds. And 20 minutes later, I was free of pain, though still feeling the pressure of the contractions, which were continuing unabated.

The doctors and nurses told me to be sure to tell them if the pressure -- the feeling of needing to push -- started to increase, because that meant that the baby was coming soon. And I started to feel that pressure (but not pain) at around noon, so Doris checked my cervix but couldn't feel it. So an OB resident was called in, and she said, "I don't feel cervix. I feel baby hair. I think you're ready to go."

So my OB was called (her office is about 3 blocks from the hospital), and the nurses prepped me while we waited for the doctor to show up. And all this time, I was feeling fine, and kept saying, "really?? are you sure I'm ready? I'm already at 10 centimeters??"

It just didn't seem possible that it could happen that quickly, and without me being in excruciating pain.

But sure enough, Dr. Ann, my OB, arrived, and they finished prepping me and got my feet in the stirrups. I was told to push. I pushed hard.

It took 9 minutes of pushing, and a total of 5 big pushes altogether, to get the baby out. And it didn't hurt, and nobody was yelling, and it all felt very calm and easy. Dr. Ann had to give me a small episiotomy, but she warned me in advance and was very gentle and quick (unlike my OB with Zeke, who just seemed to hack at me indiscriminately while I was in agony), and then I just needed one more small push and Josephine Ruby Lee came into our lives.* And because I wasn't completely exhausted and strung out and in pain, and was gently breathing as the baby came out, I got to watch my daughter slowly emerge from my body. It was magical.

Seconds after being born, Josie was placed on my chest.

Jason is totally in love with his little girl.

The J-Team: Dr. Ann, Jason, me, Josie, Doris and Lupe

Josie squawked a little after being born and getting cleaned up, so I offered her a bottle. She scarfed down the whole thing, had a nice burp, and promptly fell asleep for 2 1/2 hours.

Jason got a nap in. Apparently, watching me give birth is exhausting.

After her snooze, Josie got a bath from the nurses, discovering the joys of having your head gently scrubbed and washed. She sighed deeply while getting a scalp massage, and was as mellow as could be. After her bath, I fed her and she passed out again.

At around 6, we were moved from the labor and delivery room to a regular mom/baby room. Just in time for Kathleen to pick Zeke up from school and bring him to meet his little sister. I think he likes her.
He kept pointing at her and saying, "baby! BABY!"

Our family unit.

Jason and my mom went home with Zeke. I indulged in some Pad Thai -- fuck you, gestational diabetes! Josie and I hung out for awhile, but now she's in the nursery so that I can have one night of decent sleep before the craziness begins. This song kind of sums it up. Cheesy, perhaps, but it touches me right now.

It's a new dawn
It's a new day
It's a new life
For me
And I'm feeling good.

And now I'm going to bed. I'm a little tired.
*Regarding her name, "Josephine" came from "The Joey" -- it just kind of grew on us. It's a pretty, sweet name, a little old-fashioned without being overly precious, and it's not like "Madison" or "Ashley" or one of those names where it seems like you can't swing a dead cat without hitting 6 of them in your average daycare facility. If it had been a boy, I don't know what we would have done, because while we loved "Josephine," we didn't really like "Joseph" for a boy -- too many shitty Josephs in history (Stalin, Mengele, Kennedy, McCarthy -- you get the idea). "Ruby Lee" is a nod to my maternal grandparents,
Ruth and Leo, both of whom died in the last year.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

"Tell me about the day before I was born..."

I've written before about the tradition that my mother and I have every year on my birthday, when she calls me to wish me "happy birthday" and tells me about the day I was born.

So if I have a similar tradition with The Joey, I probably won't tell her about checking into the hospital at 5 in the morning to be administered a dose of pitocin. I'll tell her about today. About having weird anxiety dreams about going to the hospital and having the nurses all be incompetent, half naked and incapable of answering my most basic questions. About spending the morning in a frenzy of cleaning and packing and laundry. Of going to Target to stock up on diapers and other stuff, only to have one of the fuel lines in my car split and gush gas all over the road, so that Jason and I broke down on the way to the mechanic.

My mechanic is an angel, and he drove over to pick me up so I wouldn't have to sit in the rain in a car filled with petroleum fumes the day before giving birth. He also called in a favor to get the tow truck guy to pick us up quickly and charge us a bare minimum for the tow. And he gave me a loaner so I'd be able to go get Zeke and still malke it to the airport on time to pick up my mom.

And we had a nice dinner of beef stew, and played with Zeke and looked at the enormous pile of baby clothes that my mom brought.

I hadn't been nervous all day. But as it got later and later, and I was going through piles of pink onesies and washcloths and little newborn caps, I started to get this tight feeling in my chest. Anxiety.

Knowing that The Joey is coming tomorrow, I've been very aware of everything that's been happening and everything I'm feeling. It's actually very strange to have known in advance when she was going to come, because every day has felt more and more imbued with importance and significance. And today is the last day in my life that I will ever be pregnant.

The last belly shot of my life

Which is fine with me. Jason and I have talked about it and are happy with having two kids. Maybe if I had started having children earlier, I would have maybe had another, being able to space them out more. But I'm going to be 40 on my next birthday, and if I wait the amount of time to have another I'd want to wait, I'd be having my next kid at 43 or 44, and I just don't want to do that. I'm too tired.

But it's still strange to know that I'm done reproducing. It's such a basic, elemental part of being human, and now I'm done with it.

And in addition to feeling like this massive existential milestone is passing, I'm so aware of this huge change in my life and in my relationship with Zeke in particular. He's not going to be my only baby and I'm not going to be all his anymore, and it's made me emotional and weepy.

It won't be just us anymore

Since I go into the hospital so early, when I put Zeke to bed tonight, it was the last time I'll see him before giving birth. For some reason, it made my cry and cry. Everything is making me weep. What if I'm no good at parenting two kids? What if Zeke freaks out and resents us for giving him a sibling? What if I can't handle any of it?

I'm so excited to meet my daughter. But I'm also terrified.

Though I guess when I tell The Joey about the day before she was born, I'll leave that part out. Because I imagine by then, the feeling will have passed.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Do we need to sue for copyright infringement?

I think this guy may be trying to co-opt Kathleen's "dog fucking" motif.  In any event, this is my new favorite thing ever, particularly the look on the female co-anchor's face afterwards.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


Tomorrow is my last day at work before I go on maternity leave.  And seriously, thank God, because I'm so fucking tired I can barely function.  I need some time to rest and finish getting organized.  I don't feel too awful, but it's very difficult to sleep comfortably, and when I'm awake, The Joey either has the hiccups (so my belly has this rhythmic pulse to it), or she's kicking the crap out of me.  I constantly have little lumps of foot or knee or butt poking out of the sides of my torso.  

And then one week from today (assuming I don't go into labor before then), I will have a new baby.

It's a very exciting but also very strange feeling.

Even as I look at the new little girl clothes and pink blankets and stuff that I've been accumulating in anticipation of The Joey's arrival, it still feels like this surreal event that "out there" in the ether somewhere.  Reality won't really set in until she actually arrives.

With Zeke, it hit me the first night after he was born.  I was asleep in my hospital bed, and he was asleep in his little bassinet next to my bed.  He woke up and started to cry, and as the noise roused me from my slumber, I thought, "what the hell is that??"  And then it dawned on me:  "oh, yeah, I have a kid.  Huh."  

When we took him home from the hospital a few days later, we walked in the house, put the baby in the Pack n' Play, and then looked at each other and though, "what on earth are we supposed to do now?"

It took almost a month for that feeling to wear off.

Soon we settled into a routine and became used to having a baby to take care of, and took great pleasure in getting to know him.  And now Zeke is such an indisputably wonderful part of my life -- such a part of me, of us, of our family -- I can't even imagine not having him around.  

But even knowing what it's like to have one child, the concept of having two is still very odd to me.  Maybe other women can wrap their heads around it more easily, but I'm very weirded out by the fact that in a week, I will meet this tiny little person who will become my complete and utter responsibility, and who will move into my house and become a permanent part of my existence.

That's just trippy.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Excuse me, sweet thing, may I offer you a sippy cup of Courvoisier?

It's been apparent for awhile that Zeke is quite the social butterfly.  He smiles and says hi to everyone on the street ("Hi, Man!  Hi, Lady!").  He knows the names of all the teachers and kids at his school, even the ones that aren't in his class.  He plays nicely with other children.  He's affectionate and sweet with the adults in his life, giving hugs and kisses freely.  

But I guess I didn't really dawn on me until last night how much he favors women and girls.  

Last night a group of my sorority sisters from UVa. (all of whom live in Denver - yet another reason I love living in this city) came over for a little get-together.  They were kind enough to come to me to accommodate my physical discomfort and my interest in not having to deal with child care and just being home so that I could just put Zeke to bed when it was time.

We had a lovely time catching up and it even turned into an impromptu baby-shower, as everyone turned up with baby presents, much to my surprise.

But the most remarkable thing about the night was what an outrageous little ladies' man Zeke is.  

He had been a little crusty before everyone arrived, largely because I wouldn't let him go to the park or take a bath (two of his favorite activities) when we were about to have guests.  But the minute the ladies arrived, it was like someone had flipped a switch, and he went into heavy flirt mode.

He showed off his Eric Carle animal flash cards, demonstrating his knowledge of the various animals and the sounds they make.  

He grinned and mugged, showing off his teeth and his dimples.  

The dimples are ridiculous

He named his various body parts and proudly displayed his belly and belly-button. He rolled around on the couch where everyone was sitting, cuddled up to Jen and Stacy, and give everyone a kiss goodnight.

He would give Leon Phelps a run for his money.  All he needs is a leisure suit and some toddler-sized gold chains.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Dear DirecTV

How much of a sucker do you think I am??

If you think you can lure me to buy a season package of NFL Sunday Ticket by dangling a free day of it in front of my nose today...

you're totally right.

You fucking evil genius bastards, you.



Friday, September 11, 2009

Not today

This week has been rough for me, physically, and in ways that have made me think that labor is imminent. Not the tell-tale signs like water breaking or regularly spaced contractions -- the only sure things, really -- but other signs that mimicked the way I felt in the week leading up to Zeke's birth.

Then yesterday I found out that a number of my coworkers are essentially placing bets on my delivery date, with more than a few of them picking this weekend. One of them in particular, who claims to have a penchant for accurately picking the delivery dates of her friends and relatives, is convinced I will have the baby on Monday, September 14th.

Yesterday afternoon she was leaving the office and made a point of saying good-bye to me.

"I'm not going to see you," she said.

"Why, are you going on vacation?" I asked.

"No, but I'm not going to be here tomorrow."

"Well, then I'll see you Monday," I responded.

"I don't think so. If I see you at all, it will only be for half a day, but at around 11 or so you're going to be heading into the hospital to have your baby."

She was so matter-of-fact and certain about it.

"OK, you need to stop it, because you're seriously freaking me out," I scolded her.

But then I woke up this morning feeling very off. Sharp pains way down in my abdomen. Feelings of stretching and mild cramping. A couple of other signs that I won't go into because they're gross.

"Fuck," I thought.

Because as uncomfortable as I am, as difficult as it is to get any decent sleep, as hard as it is to chase Zeke around and get him up and dressed and off to school every morning, I really, really did not want to have a baby today. I don't want The Joey's birthday to be September 11.

The memories are still too raw and vivid.

I remember so distinctly everything about that day. I was driving to work in Atlanta, and waiting in the turn lane to go left onto Peachtree Road from Roxboro, when the second plane hit the tower, when it was obvious that this was a terrorist attack, not some weird accident as initially thought (or at least, as was being reported on the radio station I was listening to).

I got to the office and turned on the TV in our conference room. I stood there, sobbing, watching the towers burn and then crumble. Then the news and the rumors started flying. That all air traffic was being grounded. That there had been bomb threats on the State Department. That the Pentagon had been hit. That nobody knew where the President was because Air Force One was flying around avoiding attack.

At the time of the attacks, my mother, who was stationed in the U.S. Embassy in Papua New Guinea, was in the air on a flight from San Francisco to Sydney, travelling back from a visit home. I kept thinking, "what if American diplomats or diplomatic posts are being targeted?" And my dad was supposed to be in a meeting in the State Department in Washington, which as far as I knew, was under attack as well. I couldn't get through to anyone in my family. Then there was a bomb scare in my office building, so they sent everyone home. I spent the rest of the day in a daze, sitting on my couch watching the TV coverage, trying to get in touch with my brothers and my father and eventually my mother. And they were all fine, but until I knew for sure -- particularly about my mom and dad -- I was terrified.

That night I went over to Kathleen's. She and Rich were set to get married in 11 days. Mindy and Chris came over there as well, and we sat there eating pizza and talking and trying to make sense of the world. We were all shocked and horrified and saddened, but I think we all took some comfort in spending some time together.

So I didn't want to have any association between this day in history, and my daughter.

I had an appointment with my OB. Sitting there in the waiting room, there was a woman with a beautiful, tiny 2 1/2 week old baby girl. And I guess in addition to my physical discomfort, my hormones are raging, or maybe I was just nervous and more than a little tired, because I burst into tears at the sight of that baby. And then I was thinking about Zeke and how much I love him and how funny and sweet he is, and I started to cry again. And then I thought about what it would be like when I hold The Joey for the first time, and introduce her to her big brother, and I started to cry more.

But the good news is, I'm not in labor. I'm not having regular contractions, and while my cervix is certainly getting ready to open, it's not dilated to the point that I need to start heading into the hospital. After talking to my doctor, we decided to move the induction date up to September 24, so one way or another, I will be holding my new daughter 2 weeks from today. That's enough time to "respect her lung development" (as my OB put it), but also is an appropriate time to "kick her out" out respect to me and my physical needs (also as my OB put it -- have I mentioned I love her?).

So it might be Monday, as my coworker predicted. It might be next week. It might be on the 24th.

But it won't be today. Thank God.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

A post that is sure to disappoint people googling "doggie porn" or "bestiality"

As I've discussed a number of times here, I love my friend Kathleen. There are a million reasons, not the least of which is that she's big-hearted and an incredibly loyal friend and so funny, while having just about the foulest mouth of anyone I've ever met. Her use of the word "motherfucker" is sheer artistry. She is astoundingly creative in her profanity.

Particularly when it involves animals.

Years ago she was lamenting the state of her lawn, and how the grass was reaching epic lengths from not being mowed.

And rather than say, "my grass is getting way too long," she observed, "the grass is so long that I could fuck a goat on the front lawn and no one would notice."

At some point over the years, she and her husband developed a particularly awesome phrase to denote when something is someone else's problem to deal with. When you have a task, particularly an unpleasant one, and it's yours and yours alone to work out, it's your dog to fuck.

I don't remember how the expression evolved, but it requires no explanation anymore.
"The water heater needs to be fixed, but I just don't have time to deal with finding a repairman or setting up an appointment. That's his dog to fuck."

"I've explained to her 27 million times how to set up those files. I'm out of it now. She's fucking that dog as far as I'm concerned."
You get the idea.

This past weekend, we decided to have a last hurrah grown-up's night out before The Joey is born. We got a babysitter for the children and, when we discovered the Rockies were in town, decided to go to the baseball game.

There was some back and forth over whether one of our clients could get discounted tickets for us, but with all the craziness of finishing up our big project and everything else going on, I offered to just find tickets online.

Kathleen started to explain something about a way to get tickets at some website, but then stopped herself and said, "you know what? You're a smart girl. You can fuck that dog."

So I did.

The view from our mezzanine level seats.

A gorgeous Denver evening

And a last hurrah it definitely was. I'm getting to the point where I'm uncomfortable all the time. It hurts to roll over in bed, it hurts to stand up from a sitting position, the pressure on my lower abdomen is brutal, and my stomach and intestines are so squished up somewhere behind my boobs that I constantly have heartburn and nausea.

So another outing involving lots of walking around and climbing stadium stairs and the like is not looking like a possibility anymore. All that's left is to have this baby.

Definitely my dog to fuck as well.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Womb With A View 2.0

Jason and I went in for the 36 week ultrasound today. It's the last one before giving birth, the one that sort of lets you know how big the baby is and to do one last check to make sure all is well. For me, it was a way of ascertaining whether this insanely restricted diet I'm on -- I've basically been living on eggs, veggie sausage patties, veggie burgers, chicken, carrots and sugar snap peas, with the occasional bit of steak or salad thrown in for good measure -- has worked and kept The Joey's size in check.

Once or twice I've cheated. I had some of Rich's outrageously good peach cobbler, and have eaten a bite of canteloupe from time to time while fixing Zeke's lunch, but for the most part I've been really good.*

The good news -- and there was only good news -- is that The Joey is smack-dab in the 50th percentile for size, meaning she's exactly where she should be. She's about 6 1/2 pounds right now, so assuming she holds out on making her appearance until my induction date (September 29), she could still be a solid 8 pounds. But my efforts appear to have paid off and she doesn't have any indicia of being too big as a result of the gestational diabetes.

The ultrasound itself was, as ever, totally trippy. I never get over the miracle of being able to see inside my own body to look at the development of my unborn child.

Usually at this point in the pregnancy, when the baby is firmly head-down and dropping, which she is, it's very difficult to get a face shot because in order to position the ultrasound scanner thingy to see the face, you'd basically have to have it lodged in your vajayjay.

But I guess Joey has her head slightly turned to the side or something, because as the ultrasound tech was doing her thing and measuring various parts and looking at how much amniotic fluid I've got going on, all of a sudden an astoundingly clear shot of The Joey's face popped up. I was so stunned that I blurted out, "HI SWEETIE!!" Then I burst into tears.

She looks just like Zeke, but slightly more girly (or maybe I'm projecting). Pouty lips. Pretty little bone structure. Hands by her chin.

Above and below are the same shot. I've labelled parts of her face below, because I recognize that sometimes it takes a little bit of orientation to figure out what's going on in an ultrasound photo. Also, don't ask me why they have my name on the printout as "Amy Armstrong." I have no idea.

I also found out yesterday that I'm starting to dilate. I know that this can mean anything and nothing. I know so many women who were 1 or 2 centimeters dilated for weeks before going into labor. But I never dilated with Zeke in advance, so maybe it's a sign that she's coming a little early. Who knows. Again, maybe I'm projecting.

But it's all very exciting. Kathleen and I finished our massive project at work, the one that is going to help us rule the special education world in Colorado. It was a bitch to finish - I joked that The Joey is the second baby I'm giving birth to in September, but it's done and the client is happy. My dad came out this week to help out with Zeke-care, which was so incredible. He took care of pick-up and drop-off for daycare, took Zeke to the park, to the zoo, to the ice cream store, for walks. Zeke was in heaven hanging out with his Papa, and I was able to get my work done and know that things on the home front were taken care of. Jason had a chance to study for his big licensing exam (which he should be finishing up as I type this).

I love my parents. I can't say it enough.

So now I've got 3 weeks to go (at the most). I'm trying to get organized, take care of myself physically, and enjoy these last few weeks of Zeke as an only child. And then everything changes.

So scary, but so wonderful.

*And I've lost about 7 or 8 pounds, which doesn't suck for purposes of dealing with the baby weight, post-partem.