Feathered Aspen


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A Labor Story

On Sunday, Lily, Joshua, and I drove down to Chatfield Reservoir and went swimming.  Or rather, we sat in the sand and the sun and stuck our toes in the water.  Lily seemed to enjoy herself, but the water was chilly, and there was less swimming than there was people watching (one of Lily’s favorite things).

I was, of course, quite pregnant at 40 weeks and two days.  I refused to buy a swimsuit just for my pregnant belly, and as a result, I was a bit of a show-stopper in my bikini with my enormous tattoos and watermelon-sized belly.

We headed home, and while Lily napped, Joshua went on ten mile run in the blistering heat, and I made matching outfits for Lu, Lily, and myself.  I was feeling pretty proud of my clothes making skills, especially without patterns, and when Lily woke up, she put on her new little dress right away.

At one point when I was sewing or when I stood up to shower after sewing, I noted a crampy feeling in my lower abdomen.  And, like with most noted feelings in the past three weeks, I thought to myself, “this could be it.”

After two or three contractions within five to six minutes of each other and a continued feeling of crampiness, and I told Joshua that I thought I might be in early labor.

I drew a bath for Lily and me, dumped in a packet of lavender salts I had purposely bought for early labor, and we got in.

(As a testament to my frugality, this is the sign that I knew this was the real deal.  I would never have used a $3 packet of special bath salts if I hadn’t suspected something was brewing.)

Lily and I soaped up and played in the lukewarm bathwater, and I shaved my legs.  Sure, I might be pooping myself in front of room full of people within 24 hours, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to be well-groomed.

Weston came over just as we were getting into the bath, and he and Joshua watched soccer and got a picnic ready for City Park Jazz.  Joshua timed my contractions, and both of them looked at me skeptically when I said I still wanted to go.

After my 36 hour labor last time, I thought a relaxing picnic in the park, listening to jazz and talking to my friends sounded like a great way to pass the first few hours of labor.

So we went.  Nana, my mom, my friend Zena, Stacy, Gaylynn, and Margot joined Joshua, Lily, Weston, and me on blankets for babaganoush, greek salad, honeydew, and a little bit of red wine (I had a small glass, because somewhere I had read that that was the first thing you should do when you go into early labor.  It sounded like a perfect way to relax to me.)

The contractions continued, speeding up and gaining intensity when I would walk or stand and then slowing down when I sat.  I sat with my legs crossed and my back straight, rocking from side to side like we do in prenatal yoga.  I kept smiling and telling myself to relax.

At one point, Nana, Grandma, Lily, Joshua, and I walked up to the stage and listened to Gumbo le Funque.  Lily danced and clapped, and I watched my beautiful daughter.

Back at the blanket, we chatted and ate some more, and around 8:30, we drove back home.

Once we were home, Lily and I spent some time together.  The contractions were a bit more intense now, and Lily sat with me, alternately squatting and sitting in butterfly position, rocking back and forth.  Lily was so sweet, copying me and looking very serious.  Joshua cleaned and packed bags, getting ready for the hospital.

At about 10:30, we all laid down together to try and sleep.  I would doze off and then wake up for a contraction, concentrating on breathing out through my mouth.  At 1:30, the contractions were too uncomfortable to go through laying down, and I thought it would be a good time for Lily to leave so that I could focus on the contractions without scaring her.

We called Nana, and she came and got her within 45 minutes.  In the meantime, I set up the living room with candles, tealights, and music.  My playlist was mostly comprised of Sun Kil Moon, Alexi Murdoch and a series of yoga ragas.

I tried laboring for a while on my knees with pillows propping me up and my forehead on the couch, but as soon as a contraction would hit, I wanted to stand up and move my hips, breathing deeply.

In the incense burner, I had jasmine, clary sage, and lavender, and I found the smell of jasmine and the fan blowing on me very calming. At 3:30 I was feeling pretty tired, so I tried laying on my side to labor through the contractions.  That allowed me to rest more effectively for the next couple of hours.

At 5:30, I could no longer labor lying down, so I got up and told Joshua that I wanted to call the midwife.  While I was handling the contractions significantly better than I had handled my contractions with Lily just before going into the hospital, I wanted to go in now, because the contractions were intense enough that the prospect of going through them in the car was very unappealing.

When I called, the midwife encouraged me to eat something, shower, and then come in.  Joshua gave me some yogurt and berries, and I did eat, but when I considered the shower, I just couldn’t get in.  My legs were starting to tremble, and I was feeling a little less in control of each contraction.

Thankfully, the car ride was only 12 minutes long, and I had only two contractions, bent over the back seat.

In triage, the nurse wanted to put me on the monitors, but when she saw me bend over, sway, and breathe loudly through my next contraction, she decided to check me first instead.

7 cm.  I cannot tell you the relief I felt when she told me this.  What I did say was, “Halle-fuckin’-lujah,” and then I held both of her hands and thanked her and told her I loved her.

When I checked in with Lily, I was 4 cm and screaming.  Getting to 7 cm took forever, and I stalled there.  Now, I was ready for transition, and the nurse moved me up to labor and delivery.

Once I’d arrived in my room, the labor and delivery nurse strapped the monitor to my belly, and I had to labor through the next 20 minutes of contractions standing relatively still, hunched over the bed.  This was probably the worst part of the whole labor.  I felt extremely hot, the contractions were very, very uncomfortable,  and I had little relief.

Finally, the 20 minutes were up.  I needed to use the bathroom, but when I sat down, another contraction hit, and I practically crawled into the already drawn tub.

Initially, I wasn’t interested in getting in the water, but as soon as I stepped in, I felt my entire body collapse.  The water seemed to take some of the pressure off, and at this point, the contractions were sending thoughts through my head like I don’t know how much longer I can do this.  

Joshua sat with me for a couple of very intense contractions, and then he had to go to the bathroom.  I was feeling pretty desperate, but I had read that it is important that husbands aren’t holding anything in while your trying to push something out, so I let him go.  When the next contractions hit, I held onto the bathrail with all my might.

I had vocalized very little the entire labor, but at this point, something else took over and before I really understood what was happening, I was screaming and pushing.  When Joshua got back, he heard me yelling for the first time, and I confessed after the contraction passed that I thought I was pushing.

Joshua ran out to tell the nurses, because your not allowed to push or deliver in the tub, and then he carried me to the bed.  Another contraction hit while I was still squatting on the floor, and that’s when the midwife and the nurses somewhat frantically transferred me onto the bed.

In child’s pose, screaming, and pushing, I still wasn’t quite sure what was going on.  I vaguely remember the midwife calmly telling the nurse that we were about to have a baby and the nurse seeming very flustered that her patient was crouching on the bed.  “Shouldn’t we move her onto her back?” The nurse said, and I  found myself thinking, “make me.”

I asked the midwife what was happening, and that’s when I realized that this was as bad as the pain was going to get, because she said, “you’re going to have a baby in two or three contractions.”  “What should I do?” I asked, and she said, “you’re losing energy through your mouth (aka you’re screaming).  Curl in and push through the sting.”

So that’s what that was.  The so called “ring of fire” had already arrived, and in some ways, all the things that had scared me the most didn’t hurt as much as I had feared.  I pushed without screaming and then they told me her head was  out and then I pushed again.  They rolled me onto my back and handed her to me.

Lu was crying and it felt a little chaotic as nurses wiped her off and cleaned up the refuse of labor (this is probably why labor scares so many people; it’s very messy).  The midwife asked me to push again and the placenta came out.  As I lay with Lu, she checked me for tears, and then she said, “you’re intact.”

After an episiotomy and third degree tear last time, I was shocked and I nearly started crying as I thanked her.  She laughed and told me that she hadn’t done anything.

And then they all left.  Apparently, there were 6 deliveries before 10 AM that morning, and the ward was a very busy place.  Joshua and I just kind of looked at each other in amazement at how quickly it had all happened.  We were checked into the hospital at 7:11 AM.  Lu was born at 8:40 AM.

For the next two hours, we looked at Lu and talked about a middle name. We had been planning on Everdeen (the last name of Katniss in the Hunger Games), but I still wasn’t sure.  Empire and June were candidates, but ultimately, Lupine won out.  Lupine has so much significance for us:  a Colorado flower, a flower middle name like Lily, and most importantly, the role it plays in my favorite children’s book, Miss Rumphius.

Pediatricians came in to examine Lu, and eventually, she was weighed and measured.  7 lbs 3 oz and 19 3/4 inches.

As we looked at Lu, Joshua pulled up pictures of Lily from the blog.  We decided that they look pretty different.  Lu’s nose for one and the shape of her face.  She also has more hair.

Lu nursed for a bit in the first hour, but not for long, and we were trying again when Stacy, K, Margot, and Gaylynn came to visit.

I ate an amazing meal from Hi Rise that the Ps brought, and then we waited to be transferred to the Mom and Baby unit.

In the meantime, I was up on my feet within an hour, going to the bathroom.  In general, I was amazed by how good I felt.  The cramping in my uterus was pretty painful, but otherwise, I could walk and move easily on my own.

When we finally did leave and go to the Mom and Baby unit, I walked there, and when we arrived, I decided to take a shower.  I was pretty much in awe of how much better I felt compared to my first labor.

Once I was out of the shower, we tried nursing again without much luck and my mom came.  She declared that Lu looks like a Kuhne, and thinking of a beautiful photo of my grandma Marlene, I decided I was more than ok with that.

Soon after, Nana and Lily arrived, and Lily got to give Lu a kiss and hold her for the first time.  Lily seemed happy to meet baby sister, but she wears her heart on her sleeve, and it was obvious that she felt a little off-kilter.  We gave lots and hugs and kisses all around, trying to send the message that all is love.

Eventually, my mom, Nana, and Lily left, and then Weston came.  He held Lu for a bit, and then we had the room to ourselves for a couple of hours before Sarah came with a little dinner for Joshua.

That night, I nursed Lu every two to three hours, but in the first 24 hours, she wasn’t particularly interested.

The next morning, the nurses changed shifts, and I was so happy to see a familiar face. The postpartum nurse that we had had with Lily had a lasting impression on me, and I was lucky enough to have her again.  She’s funny and warm and a little crass, and she even remembered us from two years ago.

After spitting up quite a bit of amniotic fluid, Lu finally seemed interested in nursing, and right away, her latch was great.  Nursing felt a little pinchy and uncomfortable, but now four days in, there is none of the excruciating bleeding or soreness I felt with Lily.

Thankfully, Lu passed all of her tests, including jaundice, and we were ready to be discharged by 2 PM.  We drove home and were greeted by Nana and Lily, who was excited to see her sister but feeling very sensitive.  After nursing Lu, I took Lily for a little walk to the park to spend some time together.  Lily seemed to relax a little, and I was so thankful that my body was allowing me to reassure my first little girl.

So that’s the story of labor and the first 36 hours or so of life with Lu.  I feel like there’s a lot that I missed, but I wanted to get it all down here so I won’t forget.

Recap on Labor and Delivery:

– Contractions started around 4:30 PM on June 29.

– Contractions intensified around 1:30 AM on June 30 (I’m guessing I was at about 4 cm somewhere between 10:30 and 1:30).

– Called the midwife at 6:00 AM.

– Checked into the hospital at 7:11 AM.  7 cm.

– Delivered at 8:40 AM.

I did a bit of preparation in hopes of an unmedicated labor (I say unmedicated purposely, because I don’t like the terminology “natural” – as if some labors aren’t natural – psh.)  So here are the things that really, really helped:

– I read Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth.  It was really interesting, and I actually almost didn’t even read it, but for some reason, I picked it up about a week before Lu was born and read the whole thing.  There were a number of helpful tips that I used:

– – – Stop thinking about labor and delivery as improbable or incredibly painful.  For some reason, people are always talking about the improbability of passing a baby through a small opening, religious texts are cursing women with pain during childbirth, etc.  In reality, your ligaments loosen, your body pushes out the baby, and there is enough room.  Gaskin recommends the mantra, “open,” and I thought that to myself constantly.  I also tried to describe the contractions as intense or productive, rather than painful.  I’m a words girl, so this kind of stuff matters to me.

– – – Obey the “Spincter Rule.”  It sounds silly, but this is why I let Joshua go use the bathroom when the contractions were the worst.  Ina May tells this story of an explicably long labor and chalks it up to the husband “holding it in” for too long.  That may sound a little far fetched, but the other piece is a body rule that feels pretty sensical.  Ina May says that it is impossible for your cervix to open if your jaw and face are not relaxed.  She even goes so far as to say that you should blow your lips (horse lips) while pushing to prevent tearing, and by god, that’s what I did.  Given the extent of my tearing from last time and the likelihood of me tearing this time, I was willing to do about anything.  So I did horse lips, and guess what?  I didn’t tear.  So pretty much her word is gospel.

– – – Let your monkey do it.  This one makes me squirm a little bit, because the more primal parts of living make me a little uncomfortable, but again.  I was willing to try anything.  Basically, this meant that if squatting feels natural and good, do it.  If getting down on all fours and pushing feels natural, do it.  Have no filter; don’t let your brain get in the way.  Nuff said.

– – – Move.  Do not try and take those contractions sitting still.  Just thinking about trying to do that makes me shudder.

– The other thing that I did was take prenatal yoga.  Again, I was skeptical, but I decided to go in with an open mind, and I ended up really loving it.  Two things in particular that helped in labor where:

– – – Positions.  There’s a lot of squatting and moving your hips in prenatal yoga, and it helped a lot to practice the movements that I used to get through contractions.

– – – “Keep ups.”  This is where you hold a pose for a long time (5 mn) and experience muscle fatigue but use your breath and movement to persevere.  This is where I learned to concentrate on breathing out loudly and adjust my movement to provide my muscles with relief.

– One of the most helpful things I did was watch labor videos.  Brittaney (thanks!) sent me a prenatal yoga DVD and recommended the videos, so the week before Lu was born, Joshua and I watched them together.  It was helpful to see how the women worked through their contractions, and in labor, I copied their moves.  It put all those pieces – breathing, moving, relaxing, and letting your monkey out – together.

– Finally, there were a bunch of other little things that I did that may or may not have helped:

– – – I drank copious amounts of raspberry leaf tea.

– – – I bought and used clary sage, jasmine, and lavender essential oils.

– – – I ran all the way up to the day before labor.

– – – I tried to sit crosslegged or in butterfly with my pelvis tilted as much as possible.

In the end, labor and delivery were easier than I had hoped.  The transition stage from 7 cm to 10 cm were definitely the most intense and yes, I would say painful, but the actually delivery wasn’t as painful as I had anticipated.  It was a pretty amazing experience, and given how much better my body has faired and how much easier these first few days have been, it was very, very worth it for me.

Finally, I want to end this post with the wellspring of gifts and love that are all around us.  I’m so thankful for:

– a relatively short and easy labor

– a healthy and beautiful little girl

– knowing how to nurse

– my first little girl who is sensitive but still brave enough to love

– being able to lie down to rest, nurse and cuddle with Lu

– an incredibly helpful and compassionate husband who is also a fantastic father

– friends and family for their companionship

– friends and family for their overwhelming generosity, including:

– – – cleaning our house, doing laundry, dishes, cooking, you name it

– – – giving us delicious food, including cheesecake, champagne, enchiladas, Hi Rise bagels, paninis, pasta salad, salad, yum, yum, yum

– – – giving Lily little gifts to make her feel special and loved and spending time with her

A while ago, during prenatal yoga, the teacher said, “babies are born with a sandwich in their hands,” and it’s true.  They are.  Lu arrived with more to spare, and these first few days has been the work of ambassadors, spreading her love and receiving love.  At night, I whisper into Lily’s ear, “all is love,” and when she falls asleep, I gaze into my newborn Lu’s face and feel it all well up within me.  I am so, so very lucky to have these two little girls by my side.

Pictures to come 🙂


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Welcome to a New World

With Stacy’s blessing, a post about Margot’s birth:

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Three weeks ago, Joshua received a text from Stacy that said she was being induced.  We called right away, and although the induction had been called off, both Stacy and K were shaken.  After measuring Stacy’s fundal height at a routine prenatal visit and finding it on the small side, the midwife scheduled her for an ultrasound.  It was at this ultrasound that the technician confirmed that Margot was small for her gestational age, and in a swift series of events, they were discharged from their birthing center, transferred to Tufts Medical Center, and thrown into whirl wind of medical uncertainty.

That weekend, I’m talking to Stacy on the phone, and I’m desperately wishing that I were there.  Our two closest friends are about to become parents – arguably one of the most intense transitions in their adult lives – and now, there is this scary uncertainty thrown into the mix.  Stacy is reading about the NICU, inductions, and cesareans, and K’s feverishly working through the rigors of Harvard Law School.

So on Tuesday, when Stacy goes to Tufts Medical Center and gets the induction date – November 1 – I book a ticket to Boston for October 31 through November 4.

A week later on Thursday morning, Joshua and Lily drop me off at the airport.  I’m so happy to be going to Boston, and being there for Stacy and K as they embark on this transition feels good and right.  That being said, I dreaded leaving Lily.  And Joshua, but let’s face it:  he’s fully cognizant, knows I love him and that I’m coming back.  But Lily?  The longest we had ever been apart was 18 hours, so imagining five days and four nights apart felt like an eternity.

The flight to Boston took four hours, and shortly after I landed, I found Stacy and her mom, Sandy, waiting for me.  We took public transit back to Cambridge, chatting and giddy the whole time.  I’ve missed Stacy so much!  Back at their apartment, we snacked and napped, and later that evening, we walked to campus to meet K.

After a tour of the law library and a student building, we walked back through the dark.  On the way, we stopped at Whole Foods for the ingredients to Eggplant Parmesean, a third trimester favorite (eggplant is supposed to help kick start labor).  Back at the apartment, I salted eggplant, breaded and fried it, and then doused layers in mozzarella and pasta sauce.  Honestly, that dish is everyone’s favorite, third trimester or not.  I mean, what’s not to like?

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In between napping, eating, and chatting, I’m stock piling hugs.  At least a dozen.

That night, I sleep with Mimi in the living room, waking up to pump in the early morning hours.  If there were any question whether Lily is still actually getting anything from her nursing sessions, this was my answer:  I pumped about ten ounces a day.

We had most of Friday to ourselves.  Stacy and I went on a short walk, and I tried to take some artsy photos of her pregnant belly.  I’m afraid Stacy didn’t really like any of them 😉

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K came home earlier in the afternoon, antsy to start the induction process.  In the evening, K called Tufts, and they told us all systems were a go.  Throwing all of our stuff together, we set off, stopping at Whole Foods to stock up on the way.

After a short walk, the subway, and another walk through the heart of Boston and Chinatown, we arrived at Tufts Labor and Delivery Unit with smiles on our faces.  We were ready to have a baby!

The nurses looked at us, humored.  Four of you?  For an induction?  We kept smiling.

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And thus began the wait.  That night, we waited for no less than four deliveries before Stacy began her first part of the induction process, a cervical ripener called Cervadil.  Sandy and I went back to the apartment around 11 PM, and the next morning, we called, eager for news.  No news, they said, take your time.

Around noon, we made our way back into Boston (along with Red Sox fans), and when we got to Stacy’s room, she was having mild contractions from the Cervadil, and she had dialated to two centimeters.  Around 2 PM, the nurses started the Pitocin drip, increasing it by 1 mL every half hour and then 2 mL every half hour as the evening wore on.

It was slow going, and the contractions never seemed to intensify.  In the evening, Sandy and I went out for vegetarian sushi and miso, and when we returned, we continued the wait.

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That night, Margot’s heart rate decelerated, and the nurses rushed in to put Stacy on oxygen and take her off the Pitocin drip.  In twelve hours, Stacy was still only dilated to two centimeters, so they decided to try another cervical ripener.  This time, they used a foley catheter to manually dilate the cervix.

That night, I slept on the lobby couch, while Sandy and K eeked out a space in Stacy’s room.  Joshua sent me pictures of Lily, and I fell asleep looking at her little face, missing her so much.

The next morning, we continued the wait.  Around noon they removed the catheter, and found that Stacy was dilated to three centimeters.  In less than an hour, they started another Pitocin drip, working their way up from zero once again.

By this point, I think the wait was starting to wear on Stacy.  It was Sunday evening, and I was selfishly wondering if I would get to meet Margot before I left.  I tried to remind myself that I was here for Stacy and K, but darn it if I didn’t want a first glimpse of Margot!

Late Sunday night, Margot’s heart rate began decelerating after the height of what were still pretty mild contractions.  This concerned the nurses and the OB on duty because it meant that Margot wasn’t tolerating the contractions well, and the placenta wasn’t delivering enough oxygenated blood.  They took Stacy off the Pitocin.

If this was a story, and I guess it is, this would have been the emotional climax.  After 48 hours of the induction process, it looked as though Margot was not tolerating the whole process of labor well.  It was starting to look like a cesarean was inevitable, but before they resorted to surgery, they wanted to break Stacy’s water in a last-ditch effort.

As the nurses talked over the possibilities with Stacy and K, they discussed different cesarean scenarios.  Since Stacy had been laboring as naturally as possible, she didn’t have an epidural, and that would prevent them from moving to the operating room with expediency.  The other options meant that Stacy would not be awake for the delivery.

In order to head off the possibility of being intubated or undergoing general anesthesia, Stacy decided to get the epidural catheter without running medication through it.

It was about this time that the nurses started really talking about Margot being taken to the NICU immediately after delivery, and although Stacy new that this was a probability, the fear and loss of not being able to hold her baby right away was emotionally difficult, to say the least.  I’m not sure that Stacy and K would claim discipleship of all of attachment parenting’s principles, but the core tenants:  natural, vaginal delivery to chest, skin to skin, breastfeeding, and rooming in strike a chord with them, and thinking about having to be separated with Margot was almost too much to process.

In my empathy, I felt myself thinking about those first few weeks of parenthood, and although I had a long labor that did not go as planned and Lily was on a billi bed for four days, it was a relatively gentle introduction to parenthood.  She was healthy and happy, and we both had great paternity leave.  Even so, those were the hardest and scariest two weeks.

At about 2 AM, the doctors inserted the epidural catheter and broke Stacy’s water.  We all filed back into the room, expecting a sudden change, but when Stacy started dozing off, we all found a spot on the floor and caught some sleep ourselves.

Just before 6 AM, I heard Stacy get up to use the bathroom, and for the first time, I heard her audibly acknowledge a painful contraction.  I got up.

The contractions came on every four minutes and lasted about a minute each for the next hour.  Stacy labored on her birthing ball with K rubbing her back and Sandy and me sitting in front.  The nurse suggested that Stacy breathe in and out – pff pff pff – as though she were walking down the stairs, and so Stacy breathed through the contractions and then rested in between.

After about an hour of laboring, Stacy very calmly pronounced that she was going to get an epidural.  We were all a little taken aback, because Stacy had been so adamant about laboring without painkillers, and both Margot and Stacy seemed to be tolerating these contractions so well.  In turn, we each suggested an alternative:  let’s see how much you’ve dilated, we can try another position, etc.

But after 48 hours of cervical ripeners, Pitocin drips, and watching Margot’s heartbeat, Stacy was mentally and physically sapped, and the fear that Margot’s heart rate would eventually begin to decelerate again made the point seem moot.

At the time, I’m not sure any of us knew what to say.  When the nurse did come in, Stacy told her that she would like the epidural, and the nurse was gentle, kind, and non-judgmental.  Stacy voiced the concern that we were all mad at her, and we reassured her that we were not.

In short order, the anesthetist came in, gave Stacy’s epidural a bolus, and the OB came to check Stacy’s cervix.  She was fully dilated.

To say that I was shocked is an understatement.  Four centimeters to 10 in one hour of active laboring?!  Stacy had been handling the contractions so well – breathing, relaxing, and even joking in between – that none of us would have ever guessed that her labor was progressing so rapidly.

With the epidural beginning to work, Stacy was able to rest.  The OB that Stacy had hoped would deliver Margot finally arrived, and she told Stacy to let them know when she felt like she wanted to push even between contractions.

K, Sandy, and I sat around the bed and waited.  K meditated, Sandy held Stacy’s hand, and I might have pumped (lactation waits for no baby)?!  Shortly before 10 AM, the OB came back in and checked Stacy, asking if she felt ready to push.  Stacy nodded, and said she was.

While the epidural allowed Stacy to rest, it was pretty clear that she still had sensation.  When the contractions came on, she alerted us before the monitors, and we held her legs and she pushed – hard – three times in succession.

Before long, we could see the top of Margot’s head as Stacy pushed.  K ripped off his shirt (ready for skin to skin), and I kept on saying, “we’re going to meet Margot!”  Six or seven more people filed into the room, the bed did that crazy transformer thing  where it rips in half and then raises up a few feet, and with the next push, Margot was out.

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I say “Margot was out,” but what I really mean is first her head came out with a scream, then her little arm reached for the light, and then her perfect little body was out, covered in vernix and blood and wriggling and screaming.

Stacy gasped the new mother gasp as the OB placed Margot on her chest.  It’s the same gasp I made, and I’m sure it’s the same gasp Sandy made and Sandy’s mother before her.  It’s the one that says you’re out and you’re perfect, and I’m so glad to finally meet you.

Margot stared up into Stacy’s eyes, and when the OB took her and gave her to the NICU team, Stacy was crying and smiling and happy.  K went with the NICU team and watched as they checked her vitals, wiped her off, and swaddled her.

Her weight – 4 pounds 2 ounces – was good news, and her Apgar score of 9 out of 10 came as a relief to us all.  Before the NICU team left with K and Margot in tow, they gave K a chance to cradle little Margot in his arms.  It was pretty stunning to see our good friend be a father for the very first time.  I can tell he’s going to be good at it J

Back on the bed, Stacy pushed once more for the placenta, and the doctors stitched up Stacy’s minor tears.  For the next hour, the nurses weaned Stacy off the Pitocin drip and her epidural, and Stacy ate.  We brought in a breast pump to get the first drops of colostrum for Margot, and I ran them down to the NICU.

In less than two hours, Stacy stood up, walked to the bathroom, and pronounced herself ready to meet Margot.  Sandy wheeled her down in a wheelchair while I cleaned up the detritus of our lengthy stay in the labor and delivery room.

After moving all of our stuff to postpartum, I packed my things and made my way to the NICU to catch a few more minutes with Stacy, K, and Margot before I had to say goodbye.

In the NICU, Margot was doing well.  The 8 ccs of colostrum had boosted her glycogen levels high enough that the doctors were comfortable with Stacy trying to nurse.  The lactation consultant came in, and Stacy and Margot had their first go at nursing.  Stacy and I took turns marveling at Margot’s perfection, and just before I had to go, I got to hold Margot Ellison P.  She is perfect.

I said my tearful goodbyes and left, trailing my suitcase behind me.  I was crying because I was sad to go, but I was also crying because I had seen a baby born, and my best friends become a mom and a dad for the very first time.  And if that won’t make you cry, I’m not sure what will.

I ran to the subway station outside of Chinatown and met the subway as it pulled in.  At Central Station, I disembarked and ran back to the P’s apartment.  After more than 24 hours of being inside the labor and delivery room, the light hurt my eyes, and the cold air stung my cheeks.

I got to the apartment with 20 minutes to spare, so I took a fast shower, tossed my things in my suitcase, and locked the door on my way out.  On the way back to the station, I grabbed a salad at Whole Foods and called Joshua to celebrate Margot’s arrival and my homecoming.

I took the Silver Line to the airport, and by 5:30 PM, I was sitting at my gate, ready to return to Denver.  I slept most of the flight, and when Joshua picked me up, he squeezed me tightly and we let Lily sleep until we got home.  As I lifted her out of her car seat, she smiled into my face and buried her head into my shoulder, making the “milk” sign.  Back in our bed, we nursed and fell asleep.

***

So that’s what happened, but I’ve been unraveling my reaction to it all for a week now.  As I think about the events of last weekend, and what has transpired since then, I’m in awe of our friends.

On Wednesday, Margot was discharged from the NICU, and Stacy and K took her home to their little apartment in Cambridge.  K has resumed classes, and Stacy has assumed a schedule of pumping, bottle feeding, and cradling her little newborn.  Because Margot is so small, she’s very sleepy, and breastfeeding is quite the work out for her.  The NICU doctors and pediatrician have urged Stacy to prioritize pumping to bring in her supply, and Margot is getting high-calorie formula to help her put on weight.

I’m in awe because when I think about Lily’s first weeks, I realize how high-strung we were.  While Lily did have pretty nasty jaundice, we really didn’t have any additional challenges.  Even so, I lived in a state of fear and exhaustion for her first few weeks.  I really just had no idea what to expect, and when nursing was difficult, I was a purist about it all, which in the end, I think made it so much harder.

And while I don’t necessarily mean to provide the foil for contrast, I can’t help but see the positivity and the willingness to adjust and make room for all that was unplanned as an incredible strength of Stacy and K’s.  I don’t know why this should surprise me:  Stacy does most things with an unprecedented calm and assurance.

I guess what I trying to say is this:  having Lily was a learning experience.  I loved her with ferocity from the outset, but when I think of those weeks, I think of a learning curve that started from a plane of approximately nothing.  We did our best, but to a certain degree, those first weeks of parenting were like feeling our way through the dark.

In the same way, watching K, Stacy, and Margot has also been a learning experience.  In a strange way, supporting Stacy through her labor, epidural, and delivery gave me perspective and peace about my own labor, epidural, and delivery.  Seeing Stacy adjust to the needs of her newborn makes me realize that some of my anxiety in those first weeks of Lily’s life had way more to do with me and how I thought I should parent than Lily at all.  I admire Stacy and K’s conviction and flexibility, and seeing them bring those qualities to parenting Margot in her first week of life is an inspiration to me.

4

***

Four weeks ago, Stacy and K discovered that their baby was small for her gestational age.  Three weeks ago, I bought a plane ticket to Boston.

One week ago, Stacy went into the hospital, and two days later, she gave birth to a beautiful, healthy baby girl.  On Wednesday, they went home.  They are in love; they are happy.  We miss them.

Happy Birthday Margot Ellison P.  Happy Birthday Stacy and K.  Welcome to a new world.

Love,

Ellie


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Labor (From the Sideline)

3:30 Am Wednesday, April 4, 2012

“Something is happening.”

“erg…”

“I think something is happening.  I am feeling period like cramps.”

“Yeah, well… (deep yawn) lets just wait and see wait happens”

3:45 AM

“Something is definitely going on.  I just had multiple contractions that lasted a while.”

“Erg.. What…”

“Multiple Contractions”

“Do they hurt?”

“No stupid.  They feel great.”

“hmmm….”

5:00 AM

“Wake up, I am in labor.  The contractions keep coming.  Their starting to really hurt”

“Huh… (fully awake now)  Seriously?!  Should I call the midwife?”

Ellie has beaten me to the punch with her side of the story.  Here’s mine.

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Labor

Lily is 8 days old, and we’re all feeling pretty sleep deprived, but I’ve resolved to use the next hour or so to update everyone.

I’ll start at the beginning.  At 3:30 in the morning on Wednesday, April 4, I woke up to go pee.  Feeling period-like cramps in my lower abdomen, I wondered if this might be the start of something.  Back in bed, I felt my first contraction – not unlike a normal Braxton-Hicks.  The suspicion that I might be going into labor kept me up for another 30 minutes, and gradually, I began counting the contractions which were coming every 5 to 7 minutes and lasting between 45 seconds and a minute.

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