Wednesday, July 15, 2009


We are away, visiting relatives for Kai's first birthday week. The trip did not get off to an auspicious start. See Exhibit A:

In case it needs a caption, this is a picture of our car being towed from where it broke down as soon as we pulled onto the highway.

Seven hours and God bless our mechanic later, we were finally on our way. At 1 a.m., only halfway across the state but utterly exhausted, we stopped for the night, but then the kids were so hyper- energized by the novelty of the hotel room – Iris leaping the chasm between the double beds again and again, Kai crawling desperately after Jasper, trying to re-attach his leash to his collar – that it was 3 a.m. before anyone got any sleep.

Seven hours and 34 minutes later, Kai turned one. With great ceremony, we turned his carseat around to the forward-facing position, then drove on to my cousin's house for a sweet family party.

I so wanted to get a picture of Kai in his Hawaiian shirt in front of her hibiscus plant, but he was having none of it. A perpetual motion machine like his sister.

And like his sister, too, he will have his birth story broadcast on Blogspot.

So this is how my Bastille Day baby stormed the world.

July 13: I’m one week past my due date, and my sister-in-law has arrived for a four-day visit. The pressure is on to produce a baby. At dinner, I feel distinctly crampy, but I’ve been feeling that way off and on for weeks now, so I don’t get my hopes up.

July 14, 7 a.m.: I get up to go to the bathroom and do my usual full-body inventory: did I deliver a baby in the night? Am I delivering one now? No on both counts: still hugely pregnant. Ah well. I have my now-standing Monday morning appointment with Dr. A at 10:45. I’ll find out then if signs of impending labor have progressed any further and, most likely, her thoughts on the dreaded induction should this pregnancy go on much longer. In the meantime, back to bed to rest until Iris wakes up.

8:00: Hmm. I could be mistaken, but the crampiness I’m feeling seems to be organizing itself into distinct episodes. I tell J I might be having actual labor contractions, then get up to shower and finish packing my bag.

8:17: As I’m bustling about, I keep my eye on the digital bedside clock. By this inexpert method of timing, my contractions seem to be coming at 5-7 minute intervals, but they’re so mild, I feel no sense of urgency. I do, however, decide to call my doctor’s office when it opens and ask if Dr. A can squeeze me in earlier. Just to check on my progress.

8:35: I call my mom and tell her, “I think something might be going on.” I explain my plan to try to move up my doctor’s appointment and ask if she can come stay with Iris.

8:45: J is up, dressed, and anxious for my mother to get here. He has begun timing my contractions using the stopwatch function on his iPhone (what else?) and they’re now 3 1/2 minutes apart. He’s moving into crisis mode, but for me the contractions are still pretty mild and totally manageable, so I’m relaxed and cheerful. I toast the last two of our blueberry scones for breakfast.

9:00: I phone the doctor’s office but get the answering service. “Is this an emergency?” the operator asks. Is it? “I don’t know,” I admit. “I think I’m in labor.” The operator says the doctor on call, Dr. V, will phone me back.

9:05: I’m sitting on the yoga ball in the front hall when my mother arrives. Each contraction is now noticeably more intense than the last, and I’m beginning to have to concentrate on breathing through them.

9:10: My contractions are 2 1/2 minutes apart, like clockwork. J can actually look at the time on his phone, say, “You should be getting another one now,” and as if he ordered it, I’ll feel a new contraction coming on.

9:15: Why doesn’t Dr. V call back? I’m starting to think I won’t be able to walk to the doctor’s office, 3 blocks away, for my 10:45 appointment. In hindsight, this will be the understatement of the year.

9:20: J makes an executive decision. “We’re all going to the hospital!“ he announces. “Everyone in the car!”

9:30: The drive is excruciating. Every turn and bump along the way makes my insides twist and shout, and not in a happy way. On a brick-paved alley that he takes as a shortcut, J simply stops the car to let a contraction subside before going on.

9:33: Stopped at a red light, J tries to call the doctor’s office again to tell Dr. A that I am in active labor and we are headed to the hospital. He gets a busy signal.

9:40: We pull up in front of the hospital, but I can’t climb out of the car until another contraction finishes wringing out my insides. When I do get out, Iris breaks down in tears. I so want to lean back in and comfort her, but I don’t want to (a) have her see me in any more pain, or (b) have the baby on the sidewalk, so I say goodbye, turn and walk in with J, my heart breaking a little as I leaving my sobbing daughter in my mother’s capable hands.

In the elevator to the labor and delivery floor, someone asks, “Are you in labor?” Eyes closed, I manage a single nod.

9:45: At the check-in desk, J has to do most of the talking. A pregnant woman watches me from the waiting room chairs, seeing, I imagine, a glimpse of her future. Later, a nurse remarks to me, “You came in in a bit of a whirlwind,” but it doesn’t feel like that to me at the time. Though I am breathing deeply and intently now to get through every contraction, I am still a model of composure compared to what I will shortly become.

9:50: The triage examining room is tiny; there is nothing in there to help a laboring woman cope, least of all the nurse. She has a young intern or assistant or something take my vital signs, then announces that if my pulse were really that low, I’d be dead. The assistant tries again: same result. Not reassuring. As J fends off her preparations to give me an IV and begs repeatedly for someone to call my doctor, I fight nausea (which, thankfully, passes) and begin moaning through monster contractions.

10:00: A young woman doctor comes in, quickly assesses the situation, and hurries out again to page Dr. A.

10:05: Another family practice physician, Dr. L, arrives to examine me. I will later learn that he is Dr. A’s neighbor and good friend – “We’re brethren,” is how he puts it – and I am very, very lucky that of all the strange-to-me doctors at this great big hospital, he was assigned to me.

Although contractions are coming fast and furious now, no one is more surprised than I am to discover that I am fully dilated. Dr. L disappears briefly, then reappears. He has called Dr. A himself, and “when she heard you were fully dilated, she hung up on me,” he says. Relief: Dr. A is on her way.

10:10: I am moved to one of the hospital’s beautiful labor and delivery suites, where I am too overwhelmed by contractions to take advantage of the birthing ball, private shower, or any of its other spa-like amenities. My birth plan, in which I’d said I wanted to try gravity-assisted positions for the delivery, is a distant fantasy. As a tsunami of a contraction tears through me, it is all I can do to allow myself to be helped onto the bed in the center of the room, let alone stand or squat.

Dr. L has actually read my birth plan, though. “I hear you want to go completely natural,” he says. I nod, although I now remember this moment in my previous labor well, this moment when natural childbirth doesn’t seem like such a good idea after all. But Dr. L replies, “Good! That’s best for mother and baby.” Finally, even though Dr. A still isn’t here, I feel supported.

10:22: I am bellowing like a wild animal now, and then I feel it: the urge to push, except urge isn’t really the word at all. It is a physical imperative so powerful I can’t not obey it. I never felt this during Iris’ birth – I had to be coached through the pushing, I had no instinct for it at all – so I am completely bowled over by the ferocious power of this feeling. “I’m pushing!” I yell.

10:25: I’m pushing through the “urge,” but apparently it is not accomplishing much. I hear Dr. L remark, “I think she’s holding back to wait for Dr. A.” To me he says, “The contractions are bringing the baby down, but you can have this baby very quickly if you want.”

“I want to have the baby!” I cry, meaning, as much as anything, I want to get this over with! But I’m not sure what else to do: I thought I was pushing. “I need help,” I admit.

Dr. L locks eyes with me and tells me what to do. What did he say? I’ve already forgotten. But whatever it is, I do it, and this time I am able to watch in a mirror as a blue-black scalp become visible, then, with the next big push, crowns.

Then a nurse’s voice is in my right ear, giving me urgent instructions: stop the big pushes. Take a breath, give a little grunty push. Uhh. Like that. Take a breath, give a little grunty push. It hurts it hurts it hurts!

Finally I get the go-ahead to push hard again and I push through the pain and I feel the big hard roundness of the baby’s head deliver. With the next push come the shoulders; compared to the head, they are nothing.

10:34: One more push, and the baby’s whole wet body spills out. Stressed by the stormy labor, he has passed meconium (basically, fetal poop) in utero, so there is no ceremonious “Would the father like to cut the cord?” Instead, I watch over my belly as hands, presumably Dr. L’s, swiftly and expertly clamp and snip, and the baby is rushed to an examining area under a warm light on the other side of the room to be cleaned and suctioned.

This must be the moment when Dr. A gets here, because I hear Dr. L announce, “We just delivered!” and then she is there next to me, talking to me and reassuring me about the baby. He has begun to squawk and if I look over, I can see his little legs kicking the air. “Hear that?” Dr. A says. “He sounds good. He’s going to be fine.”

And he is.

Happy birthday, beautiful boy.

Friday, July 03, 2009

putting down roots

Our backyard plum tree is laden again with fruit. Every day, it's a race against the squirrels to pick the newly-ripe plums before those rat bastards help themselves.

I've been mashing them (plums, that is) with bananas for Kai, but he actually prefers to bite into them whole. Problem is, like Ramona the Pest with her apples, he likes to take just one bite of each. That's his hand sneaking into the picture above to help himself.

Speaking of trees, we have wanted a tree for our front yard for years, and this spring we finally planted a dogwood. Like so many other things in our lives (including, you could even say, our old house itself), we got it secondhand, from our neighbors, who are in the midst of a super-deluxe backyard landscaping project. They rejected this specimen because it has a couple of leafless branches, but we're okay with that. So now, between our preowned dogwood and the redbud I got for my birthday, we have almost doubled the tree population on our property, a very happy thing.