Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Involuntary subjection to second-hand smoke

There are some things that I find frustrating about living in an apartment.

I think it has the most to do with the lack of control we have over our circumstances. We can't control our neighbor, who insists on smoking under our windows and talks loudly on her cell phone under the same windows during nap time. It took multiple appeals to get her to confine her smoking to one side of the building after explaining that we don't want our infant exposed to second-hand smoke. We didn't even mention the fact that I have asthma and my husband has a severe sensitivity to cigarette smoke! But of course she's not going to smoke inside her own apartment because her husband wouldn't like that. Better to pollute everyone else's air than face the fact that she has a disgusting habit that is compromising her health and the health of everyone around her and actually quit, right?

I'm sorry...but I'm not. There are few "bad habits" that I find so revolting as smoking. Why? Because most bad or unhealthy habits harm only yourself. You, and maybe your family, are the only ones to deal with the negative consequences of your habit. But smoking subjects everyone around you to significant health damage. And we don't always have the choice to just walk away from you. If we live above your unit, and you insist on smoking under our windows, we cannot get away from you! And I do not appreciate you rolling your eyes and arguing with me when I explain that second-hand smoke has severe health risks for infants including asthma, respiratory disease, and SIDS, among others.

Personally, I think it should only be legal to smoke if you have a house that is, say, 100 ft from the next house, where you have your own air space and will not be foisting it on others who have no choice but to share your air. It's the most basic respect you should have for your neighbors!

Ok, I guess that's really the only thing I find frustrating about being in an apartment. Well, that and the near-incompetence of our maintenance guys. But most other things, like the lack of space, I can deal with. I'm expecting that we should be in a house within the year, though. I'm sure that will come with its own issues, but at least if my neighbor is loitering under my windows, I can call the cops.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Of Rubber Duckies and Wireless Keyboards

Zeke's current favorite toy is our spare wireless keyboard. He will spend quite some time happily pecking away (well...more like banging away) at it, occasionally looking up to grin at us.

Like many babies I've heard of, it seems our child couldn't care less about many of the special baby toys, and instead prefers to play with technology and other regular household items. Along with his favorite keyboard, he also likes the wireless mouse and mousepad. Other current favorites include a rinsed out yogurt carton, a spatula, a mesh strainer, and the blue tarp underneath Daddy's easel. He's also a big fan of empty plastic bottles. When I'm working in the kitchen, I'll put him down on the floor with an empty juice bottle to play with and we're good to go for 15 minutes.

I'm glad I followed the advice of more experienced mamas and didn't spend much money on the isles of baby toys at Babies R Us. The normal stuff of life is all we need! Just hand the kid a spatula.

Curiously, he does seem to have a thing for rubber duckies, though.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The moment I fell in love

Labor and birth are such rich experiences, packed with a huge variety of thoughts and feelings. I find myself still processing it 6 months later. This is my attempt to save and savor it all, to tuck away in my heart all of its perfection and flaws, knowing I will never forget.

When I got pregnant, I started researching as much as I could about natural childbirth. I was there for both of my younger siblings' births, and my mother used to be a childbirth educator. I always had an interest in babies, birth, and breastfeeding. So I was already fairly well informed, and had a pretty good idea of what I wanted. I knew I wanted the best chance at a vaginal delivery, in a peaceful place, with care providers who respected me, and no drugs. I believed in the power of my own body; there was just never any doubt that I was designed to birth this baby. I also believed in birth as a feminine, or at least maternal rite of passage, so I wanted to be fully present and fully engaged in the process, which drugs would hinder. From there I became fully informed of the risks that various medical interventions carry. I was not afraid of interventions should they become necessary, but what I didn't want was having them forced on me to serve someone else's timeline or agenda.

So I found an awesome practice of midwives, at the only free-standing birth center in Colorado- Mountain Midwifery! I loved my prenatal care. I always had plenty of time to ask questions and I looked forward to hearing that little heartbeat every time.

The week before I went into labor, my mom came out from Michigan to help out. She helped me out with a lot of cleaning and cooking, since by then I was huge and uncomfortable and not much good for anything other than taking naps! I did everything I could to naturally encourage my body toward labor- walking, evening primrose oil, extra time in the bedroom, raspberry leaf tea. The day before I went into labor, on a whim I tried something my mother suggested, which she said was kind of a "modern old wives' tale" that she and some friends were unofficially "testing". You eat as many peanut butter cups as you can stomach!

Surprise, surprise! Early the next morning I was woken by a couple of contractions, but I fell back asleep and they went away. Later, we got up and went to church, although I just felt "off". No contractions at that point, but I felt tired and very unsocial, like I wanted to be somewhere quiet by myself. After lunch, I laid down and took a nap, and was again woken by some mildly painful contractions. This time they were coming regularly, about 7-10 minutes apart. I played World of Warcraft with Will to pass the time. When they were about 5 minutes apart and I had passed some show, I called the midwife to give her a heads up. She told us to start the drive to the birth center when they were 3-4 minutes apart. That time came during a viewing of Superman, and I had to really start breathing through the contractions. So we packed up the car and started the hour long drive up to Denver, which was an uncomfortable, but not unbearable ride.

It was about 7:30pm when we arrived. At the birth center, the midwife checked and found me to be at 3cm. I had hoped I was farther along but, the drive could have slowed down the progress. I moved around, sat on the toilet, sat on a birthing ball, and tried different positions on the bed until I was dilated enough to get into the birth pool. I was already having some back labor. Great...the one thing I was really hoping I wouldn't have to deal with. Once I was in the pool, I found it to be much too cool for my liking. In fact, I was shivering nearly the whole time and it was just too cool for me to relax. The midwife and her assistant tried adding pots full of warm water to heat it up, but it just never did get totally comfortable for me. I was so disappointed, since it was the one coping method I had really looked forward to, especially with bath labor.

Eventually though, I did start feeling the urge to push. I didn't really recognize it at first. It just felt like I had to do a #2. I spent some time pushing gently, until some time later the midwife wanted to check me. I was fully dilated, but there was a lip of cervix that just did not want to move out of the way. She also found that Zeke was still in the occiput posterior position, facing up towards my belly, which was causing all the back labor. She kept having me push while she tried to move the little bit of cervix out of the way, but it kept slipping back. After some time of this and pushing on my hands and knees, in the pool, on the toilet, and on a birth stool, we found that because of his position, Zeke was also stuck on my pubic bone. This after spending a lot of time on my sides trying to get him to turn. No dice. So there I was on my back, pushing hard, trying to use gravity to get him to slide under the pubic bone.The midwife also broke my water, trying to get his head to engage better, and found meconium in the fluid. We kept going though, since his heart rate was so good and he was moving around a lot.

After 2.5 hours of this, I was completely exhausted and discouraged. No matter how hard I pushed it seemed we made little progress. I started falling apart, saying I can't do this, I want to go to the hospital, I want and epidural. They tried to encourage me by explaining that I was so far along, there really wasn't anything more they could do at the hospital. But...I was just so exhausted. I had no energy, I was dehydrated despite trying to keep drinking water, and with constant back labor, I had no relief from pain even between contractions, which were coming so hard by this point that I couldn't NOT push. I broke down sobbing and crying "have mercy!" I just wanted it all over with. I found out later that my husband was terrified.

So...the midwife and her assistant consulted with each other, and came back and said that because Zeke was stuck and making poor progress, they agreed it would be a good decision to transfer to the hospital. They started an IV with fluids and sugars to boost my energy, and loaded me into the car (the hospital was literally 2 blocks away). It was the most uncomfortable ride of my life- I couldn't sit on my bottom so I rode on my knees. My conscious thought focused to a pinpoint, and I only remember very specific things from around that time. I remember riding backwards in a wheel chair, watching Will's feet move as he pushed me and the patter of the carpet underneath. I remember laying in the bed on my side, waiting for the anesthesiologist as each contraction washed over me and the nurse strapped monitors around my belly.

Then the doctor on call walked in. He checked to see where I was, and then said to me very seriously, "You don't have time for an epidural. His head is right there; you've got to push this baby out!" It turns out Zeke had shifted and moved further down with all the jostling on the trip over. I felt more refreshed after getting some fluids in, and mumbled "oookay..." Like I had a choice at that point!

So I was back to pushing in a variety of positions, mostly squatting. I pushed HARD to try to get this kid to move. Still, progress was slow. After some time of this, Zeke, who had been an incredible trooper the whole time, started tiring and his heart rate was dropping. We agreed to a scalp electrode to more closely monitor him. I ended up pushing on my back again, with my rear in the air to try to get him to slide under the pubic bone. His heart rate continued to drop. A sense of urgency washed over me, as if I hadn't been pushing on this kid for hours already. By this time, the head midwife of the birth center, Tracy, had come and relieved Sarah, who had been with me since I came in. The doctor strongly recommended using vacuum assistance to help speed progress since Zeke was in distress and we needed him out quickly. We all agreed it was necessary at that point, but having the suction cup attached to his head was more painful than anything up to that point.

Then I was back to pushing, with every fiber of my being. I used every last muscle I had in my body. I don't even recall a distinct feeling of the "ring of fire" I had been told about; everything in my awareness blended into one amorphous feeling of extreme pain. I remember the doctor counting and encouraging me to push harder, that I was almost there. I remember the intensely focused faces of Tracy and the assistant, who was a student nurse-midwife and an amazing encouragement. I remember my endlessly supportive husband holding my leg and my hand.

Over and over, I silently repeated to myself with each contraction, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."

Right about the time I thought surely I have nothing left to give, the pain suddenly disappeared. I was momentarily disoriented and confused, relieved that the pain was gone and yet somehow I couldn't remember what was supposed to come next.

Then I heard him cry. And I wanted to see him, I wanted to feel him. I wanted to make sure he was really a he! Suddenly I remembered why I had just gone through all of that.

The doctor laid him on my belly, his little limbs flailing and quickly getting pink, his mouth wide open with a loud, healthy cry for his mama. I at first didn't know what to do, and awkwardly stroked him, saying, "Mommy's here, it's ok sweet boy!"

He had a light covering of brown hair on his head, and when he stopped crying he opened his eyes and looked right at me, in such an intense way that I've never seen from a baby before. It was like he was trying to memorize every aspect of my face. There was eternity in those dark blue eyes.

It was at that moment that I fell headlong into love with my precious son, the boy I had given every bit of my strength to birth. His name, Ezekiel, even means "God strengthens." I could not stop saying, "My precious, sweet baby, I love you so much, you are so perfect!" over, and over, and over. "Mama loves you so much!"

The effort of the birth had not left me untouched. It turned out that once Zeke had finished crowning, he shot out so fast the doctor almost didn't catch him! No wait for the shoulders. In the process, I received a nice 2nd degree tear. So while the doc stitched me up, the nurses weighed, measured, and bundled tiny Zekie in the corner of the room. In hindsight, I wish I had asked them not to dress him, so I could take my hospital gown off and hold him skin-to-skin. But I was so delirious at that point, all of those details faded away. I don't even remember nursing Zeke in the delivery room, but Will swears that I did, less than an hour after delivery. I do remember that he could not figure out how to latch on well that first day, probably because of the difficult delivery.

Ezekiel Joseph was 7lb 13oz, 20.5in, born at 7:35am on his due date, 11/30/09, after 17 hours of labor, including 4.5 hours of pushing.

I commented to Tracy that I was "never doing this again." She laughed and said that I wouldn't remember it so intensely and I would change my mind. I raised an eyebrow at her and told her to check back with me in 2 years and we'd see how I felt then!

Once all the excitement calmed down, I realized I was ravenously hungry and couldn't wait to get wheeled to my room so I could order breakfast. French toast and chocolate cake never tasted so good!

Later that day my whole body started hurting all over. My skin felt like I had a severe sunburn over every inch of my body, but I found it rather satisfying. I hadn't gotten the peaceful, gentle water birth I had wanted. But I had some proof of just how hard I had worked and what I had overcome to birth my son.

Sweet little boy...Mama loves you! 6 months later, I still can hardly believe you're mine.

Saturday, June 5, 2010


Zeke was conceived after I had a very early miscarriage. I was charting and knew almost right away. I tested a couple of days before I would have started my cycle, and came flying out of the bathroom to tackle Will with a squeal. We were both overjoyed, but fearful of losing this one too. With the first one, we hadn't been actively trying, just stopped "not trying" and figured God would do His thing when the time was right. When we lost that baby, we both realized how much we truly wanted a child to love. We waited a few weeks to allow my body to return to normal, then began actively trying, much to my mother's consternation.

The all-day sickness set in just before 6 weeks in and lasted until around 13-14 weeks. I have a phobia of throwing up and will do just about anything to avoid it. So I spent all my time feeling nauseous but only actually vomited a few times. I comforted myself with the thought that feeling very ill meant that there were high levels of pregnancy hormones and I was less likely to miscarry again.

We weren't able to hear his heartbeat until 12 weeks, because at 8 weeks he had been nestled so deeply in my pelvis that the doppler couldn't pick it up. I breathed a huge sigh of relief, knowing that the risk of miscarriage dropped dramatically after having heard a strong heart beat. It was also the first time it felt really real to me, that there was truly a tiny person growing inside me, his heart cheerfully beating away, happy just to be alive. I was able to open my heart and begin bonding with this tiny invader who was cheerily rearranging and redecorating my body.

I remember the first time I was able to eat a full meal without feeling sick at around 14 weeks. Will had taken me out and I desperately wanted to eat steak and a baked potato. As I took bite after delicious bite, tears rolled down my face at the joy of being able to enjoy the taste and swallow without gagging. Will laughed at my dramatic pregnant lady reaction, and with a mouthful of potato, I told him he would cry too if he hadn't been able to enjoy food for 8 weeks.

At 21 weeks I had my one and only ultrasound and found out we were having a boy! The little boy parts were obvious and my husband spotted them even before the doctor did. I would have been happy either way, but I felt even more bonded knowing that it was a boy. Within a couple of weeks, we settled on his name. I love the energy that my little boy brings to my life!

From then until I gave birth, I craved lemonade. It was the only true craving I had, except perhaps for steak. I literally drank gallons of it. And I didn't want that crappy powder stuff you mix. So I would make my own lemonade every 2 days and always had a huge pitcher of it in the fridge. I won't be surprised if lemonade turns out to be Zeke's favorite drink.

Throughout pregnancy, I did all kinds of reading and research about natural childbirth, breastfeeding, attachment parenting...I read books by Ina May Gaskin, Dr. Sears, Penny Simpkin, Sheila Kitzinger, Henci Goer and others. That started me down the semi-hippie-ish path I'm on now. And I think getting passionate about all that has genuinely helped me, but I had this sort of rosy idea that if I just did everything right, it would all go well and be pretty easy. Well, as all parents know, "easy" isn't normally a part of the parenting dictionary!

Stay tuned for my birth story!

Fuzzy little head

This morning at 7am, after once again too-little sleep, I was woken up by Zeke climbing on me and nuzzling his fuzzy little head on my face. While I would have loved to sleep for another hour or two, if I have to be woken up, this would be in my top 5 favorite ways to be woken up.

That fuzzy little head. Mothers often talk about the smell of babies' heads, and while that is wonderful, it's not the most wonderful thing to me. What I have always loved about Zekie's head is the feeling of his velvety, barely-there hair on my lips and cheeks.

When I am away from him, I can't wait to see him again and nuzzle and kiss the top of his head. When I pick him up, I kiss the fuzziest part of his head on the way to placing him on my hip. When he naps on my chest, I rub my lips against his velvety soft hairline. I just can't get enough of that fuzzy little head!

So many thoughts...

Here I am, eager to write, and I don't know where to start because I've already been a mom for 6 months and in that time, I've had so many thoughts banging around in my head and no real outlet for them. My friend Sona over at "While She Sleeps" talked about all the things moms do while baby sleeps, and it's true. Except that for a long time, Zekie would only sleep on top of me, and even still takes most of his naps laying on my chest, so I spend nap time stuck under baby on the couch, with nothing to do but think, read, and write. So, that's a lot of thoughts!

Where to start. Maybe I'll start at the beginning, and from there just write according to what the day brings to mind.

Hello, World!

I know, yet another mommy blog. I'm not sure if there will be anything awesomely interesting or unique about this one, like many of my favorite blogs. But I love that this is a way for me to think about and remember these precious days with my son. The time is flying by and I don't want to wake up one day and realize that I remember so little of this rich time. I'm not writing so much for an audience as I am for myself and my son. If you come to read, though, welcome! I hope you find something that makes you smile or think, something to expand and inform your own experience as a mother, or to pass on to a special mother in your life!