Archive for August, 2010

we can always come back…
August 21, 2010

Today’s juicy blog post was written by Bob Walker. Take it away, honey…

“We can always come back.”  That’s what she said.  “If we don’t like it, we can always come back.”

Those were Stephanie’s words.  When we were discussing the possible move from Chicago to Los Angeles these very words dropped from her mouth and landed and made a clear and loud ringing in my ear.  It was as if a bell of reckoning had just been struck, sentencing me to Los Angeles for life.  I was terrified.

“We’re actually going to do this.  We are going to move to Los Angeles.  California.  The one place I said I would never live in my life,” was the thought that immediately filled my head like a helium balloon.

That choice was made in 2001.  In the winter of 2001, December 27th, we packed an ABF semi trailer with all of our meager belongings, loaded the rest of what we had into my red 1995 Honda Civic, and the two of us trudged across the Midwest and West, landing in Los Angeles, CA on January 3rd, 2002.

A similarly eerie event is about to happen.

On Friday August 27th, 2010, we are going to wrap up packing an ABF semi trailer with our meager belongings, load the rest of what we have into our green 1995 Volvo 850 Wagon, and the four of us are going to trudge across the West and Midwest to Chicago where we will land around September 3rd, 2010.

I am terrified.

Just two weeks ago I swore up and down to my mother-in-law that I would NEVER live in Chicago ever again.  EVER!

The winters are awful.  February sub zero temperatures, the frigid wind whipping my chapped face, snow swirling about me as I shuffle my way to the car door that’s frozen shut; ice frozen to all windows on the car, clinging like barnacles to a ship.  Snow drifts as high as houses.  I hate it.  I hate it all.

So what the hell happened?

Reality – a major dose of reality – ringing in my ears.  The bell of reckoning has been struck again.

When we moved to Los Angeles we had months to plan for the move.  Steph was accepted to USC in the summer.  We didn’t have to move for at least 5 or 6 months.

How about this time?  Less than two weeks.

What could be driving us back to Chicago?

Work

When we moved to the island, I had been working from home for the previous year.  It seemed like the streak would be easy to continue.  I’ve gotten small things here and there to tide us over for a while.  Then I got a big one.  But I had to travel – To San Francisco – 4 months, back and forth each week.  It felt like I was in a game of ping pong.  Not the sloppy ping pong you and your sibling played as kids.  More like the ping pong you see world champions play – slapping that ball back and forth at lightning speed.

It was rough on Steph and me at first, and then we grew accustomed to it for the most part.  As the baby’s due date came closer, it got harder for both of us again.  Luckily, I rolled off of the project early when Malcolm was born and someone took over my role.

I enjoyed two weeks of vacation before heading back to work.  Immediately there were talks of other projects on the horizon.  Another Northern California project had been whispered.  It would only be two months.  “Maybe I could do a week or two in CA and the rest at home,” I rationalized to myself.  But I know the deal.  That doesn’t happen that way.  That short of a project, they want you on the whole time.  It’s never that easy.

There have been so many projects showing up in Chicago over the last year.  Not so many in LA or San Fran.  These days, companies are not so inclined to pay for travel.  My last project was an exception.  A lot of companies want to be able to peer over your shoulder.  There’s a comfort to that.  It’s what they know.  This working remote stuff really only works usually when the client is in Silicon Valley, or the client knows and trusts you.  New clients usually don’t even trust the software you’re implementing, let alone the consultant doing the work.  Change is scary.

When Nate called me at 2:23pm on Wednesday afternoon and mentioned a 5 month engagement in Chicago.  I knew what I had to do.  I had to take it – against my wants and wishes to stay on the island; this peaceful, wonderful island.  Poof, it’s all over.  Time to wake up.  A 14 minute phone call brings us back to reality.

I got off the phone and without saying a word, I could see in Stephanie’s beautiful green eyes that she knew.  She looks at me and says,

“What?  What is it?”

“We have to move to Chicago,” I said somberly.  I felt like Jack from Lost saying, “We have to go back, Kate.  We have to go back to the island.”

The difference is we are leaving an island instead of going to one.

Steph and I talked through it all afternoon and night.  We knew it in our hearts that we had to do it throughout the whole series of conversations.  It didn’t change the fact that we were completely in shock. And navigating a world of mixed emotions.

Thursday morning I called Nate to confirm things.  6 minutes later it was done.  The wheels were set in motion.  No turning back.  We are officially “coming about.”  The ship is now on a different course.  Back to the port from which we originally set sail.

Family

The thought of Stephanie possibly having to go through winter on the island alone has concerned me ever since Malcolm was born. Living here on the island means that it is almost inevitable that I would be sent off on another project. Which would mean that Stephanie would be at home taking care of Malcolm, Pablo and the house all by herself. In the winter. In the dark and rainy days of winter on the island. The thought of this has concerned me on a daily basis. Not to mention the fact that I would be torn up being away from my wife and newborn baby.

Stephanie has been missing family so much since Malcolm’s birth.  Missing our house in LA.  Missing our friends.  The idea of family not seeing Malcolm grow up has been tearing at her.  Over the last three weeks Stephanie has mentioned moving back to Chicago several times. Those mentions had fallen on my very deaf ears.  She may as well had been talking to a killer whale, trying to convince it to fly instead of swim.

I heard the words, and it hurt me to see her pining for the familiar, but I just wasn’t willing to consider it.

Reality

What is reality?  I’m not going to into a philosophical discussion here.  It’s not the point.  The point I’m making is that my reality was very rigid.  Chicago was not an option.  Going back was not an option.  Going back to the place I was so afraid to leave 9 years ago because I was comfortable was not an option?  Interesting how things can change.

But just as a woman’s cervix effaces during birth, my reality had effaced in a matter of hours.  Minutes really.

A new reality was born.  A reality of living in Chicago.  One where Malcolm gets to grow up surrounded by family.  Where Stephanie and I have the familial support to help Malcolm grow and learn.  Where I can work on a consistent basis and develop myself as an integral part of my company.

The reality is – my life is not just about what I want.  It’s about us as a family and what is best for all of us.  What we need.  A life in Chicago is that reality.

Coming About

I’m not sure I can find the words to describe the adventure we’ve been on for the last 9 years.  I cannot thank the people that have supported us throughout this period of our lives enough – the friends we’ve gained and the experiences we’ve had.

I work for an amazing company.  Most companies would have never put up with my jaunting all over the country like I have for the past two years.

Our families have been there to catch us when we’ve fallen and cheered us on during our great runs.

The friends we have provide wisdom, compassion and understanding without limits.

The people of the San Juan Islands have taken us under their wings, invited us into their families and lives so openly and freely, it’s unbelievable.  I still don’t believe this place exists.

Our friends here who have taken care of Pablo, brought us meals after Malcolm was born and provided us with baby essentials.

The owners of this house that risked themselves and sent an email the day we left our LA home last year.  And have been so generous and gracious.

The women who helped bring our baby into this world.

Thank you.

Thank all of you.

You’ve given us more than we can ever repay.  We are humbled by your kindness and your humanity.

We didn’t expect this. To be leaving so soon. But life, as the owner of the house said to us, is full of surprises.

Here’s a quote that continues to be our mantra for our lives:

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.  So throw off the bowlines.  Sail away from the safe harbor.  Catch the trade winds in our sails.  Explore. Dream. Discover” – Mark Twain

We are coming home – with the wind in our sails.

I challenge you to take this on in your own life.  Go do that thing you’ve been waiting for or scared to do.

You can always come back.

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Birth Story- PART 3 (the dramatic conclusion)
August 14, 2010

Malcolm is sleeping on Bob’s chest right now… hoping this gives me enough time to post the conclusion of the birth story.

And here we go… we are in Birth Room 6 at Island Hospital in Anacortes and I am shouting my “labor safe word” in my head…

Gorilla!

When Melinda returns she tells me that she’s concerned about how depleted I am.

“I know it seems we’re going down your birth plan and crossing everything off, line by line,” she says.

I know! I was thinking the same thing. This is not how I planned this. Why is it so hard? Why is everything going wrong?

“But,” she continues. “We need you to rest so that you can have energy for pushing.”

I’m totally paraphrasing here. How can I be trusted to remember Melinda’s EXACT wording in that moment? I can’t. But that’s what I was left with. Whatever she said was very close to that. Had that same meaning. Which was… exactly what I had been thinking.

I’m relieved. Why?

Because… she won’t think less of me for having the epidural. Why do I care about what my midwife thinks in this moment? I’m not really sure, exactly. Except that she has been the person committed to me having the birth I wanted all this time. Letting her down would be like letting myself down. Looking at Melinda in a way is like looking in the mirror…

Then I remember what Laurie promised:

“You cannot disappoint us.”

And I know exactly what this moment is. It’s my choice. I’m allowed to say “Gorilla” because this is my birth. My story. And the only way to disappoint myself is to allow myself to be disappointed by my own choice. I will not do that.

I am proud of myself for being so strong thus far. Nothing can change that.

I then think that there’s no way I could know how it would be or how I would feel until I was here. In this moment. Having the labor I’m having. And how I feel in this moment is ready to surrender. And I’m okay with that. I realize that not surrendering would be only about me proving how tough I am.

I have nothing to prove.

So I tell Melinda that I feel like this is the exact scenario that we talked about in relation to getting an epidural. Long labor and things not progressing…

“Let’s do it,” I tell her. “I want the epidural.”

There. I said it.

Utter relief washes over me.

Still, we have to wait thirty minutes for Ken the anesthesiologist to arrive and thirty more once he places the epidural before it kicks in.

The contractions between the time I decided to get the epidural and the time that it actually kicked in are by far the worst. And that could very well have been mental. I had made the choice to not feel them anymore. But I still have an hour left of feeling them.

At first Laurie continues to coach me to relax into the pain. But mentally I can’t do it anymore. I’d already surrendered.

She must have seen this because she gives me permission to fight against them at this point. This final hour of feeling the contractions, I  swear more than the entire labor.

These contractions began not with my deep breath and exhale, but with the word F#$%@!

The Epidural

I’d heard about the giant needle so I was intent on NOT seeing it with my own eyes. I just focus like I had been on my contractions. I lean into Bob… press my forehead into his. Really hard. I keep telling him to push harder. So he does. Until his eyes roll back into his head and his knees buckle.

“I feel dizzy!” he exclaims as he falls back.

People (I don’t remember who) rush to him.

“Oh, Bob! Sit down!”

And they help him to a chair. This is welcome comic relief.

“I’m the one getting the epidural and YOU faint?!” I tease. “You are SO not living this down. This is totally going in the blog!”

So there it is. Apparently watching the needle go in is worse than feeling it go in.

In Bob’s defense, he had been up all night with me and was probably dehydrated… and when I kept telling him to push harder, he locked his knees. Which brought on the fainting spell.

I must reiterate here that Bob was an absolute champ and EVERYTHING I could have hoped for in a partner. And more! Definitely more. He was perfect in every moment. Well, except for choosing bacon. And the whole speech about all the women in the world in labor at the same time as me. But… he was perfect even when I snapped at him about those things.

Oh… and one more… at some point in the hospital he mentions how he is hungry for Taco Bell. I think my head actually turned 360 degrees at that moment. DON’T YOU DARE EVEN THINK ABOUT EATING TACO BELL! His response? He laughed. And promised he would not eat Taco Bell. And he didn’t. Perfect.

The Amazing Feeling of NO PAIN

“You’re having a contraction now,” says Traci, our amazing nurse. “Can you feel it?”

“I’m having a contraction? Now?”

“Yes. Can you feel it?”

“No. I don’t feel anything.”

It’s amazing. My body is doing the work it needs to do to have this baby, and I don’t have to feel the pain of it?

This realization that I can’t feel my contractions sends me into chatty Cathy mode. I suddenly perk up and can actually talk.

I just keep saying, “I can’t believe I can’t feel my contractions!” And talking about how my legs felt like gelatin. I can see my legs. I know they are my legs, but I can’t feel them. I poke at them and feel nothing. So bizarre.

“You need to rest now,” Melinda tells me.

And so I do. The anesthesiologist had me on my back because it more evenly distributes the medicine. Since I’m not feeling pain anymore, being on my back is fine with me.

And because I’m not feeling pain, Mom takes a moment to make some phone calls and Bob runs out to refuel. Everyone wants me to rest. So I close my eyes and manage to doze off into a painless sleep.

The Wrong Position

I’m not sure how long I’m out. All I know is I’m suddenly being awoken by a bunch of nurses frantically telling me,

“You have to get on your side now!”

“What?” I drowsily respond?

Why are all these people in here? Where am I? What’s going on?

“Your baby’s heart rate has dropped.”

What? Shit! What? Oh God. Oh God.

“We need you to get on your side.”

Get on my side? I can’t feel anything waist down. How do I get on my side? Things are happening around me that have nothing to do with me. I’m a fly on the wall. This is a scene from ER. I’m not here. This isn’t me.

They roll me over to my left side and I’m suddenly face to face with an oxygen mask.

“Take deep breaths.”

I breathe.

“Deeper!”

I breathe deeper. But it’s not easy. My breaths are shallow and frightened.

I’m thinking: C-Section. The baby is in danger and they’re going to have to get him out ASAP. I’m about to be wheeled into an operating room.

I’m thinking: This isn’t supposed to be like this.

Then Laurie is there. A vision of serenity in the midst of hysteria.

“What’s going on?” I ask through tears that are now pooling around the mask.

“What’s happening,” she starts calmly.

I so appreciate her calm presence. Such a contrast to the frantic energy all around me. It’s clear everyone is worried. Which scares the shit out of me.

“Malcolm’s heart rate dropped for a brief moment,” she tells me. “We’re trying to see if it will go back up on your left side. It’s already working.”

“It’s back up?” I ask. Now full-on crying.

She doesn’t say “Cesarian.” Maybe I’m not about to be wheeled into the OR for emergency surgery.

“Yes.”

Thank God. Thank God. Then:

“Is this because I got an epidural?” I ask. Feeling so guilty. Feeling like I’ve endangered my little boy’s life by choosing to feel no pain.

“Possibly. We’re not sure yet.”

“Where’s Bob?” I ask…. suddenly realizing he’s not here.

“He’s on his way back.”

I look over and see Mom. She’s terrified. Crying.

“It’s okay,” I say. Laurie’s calm has convinced me. It will all be okay.

Bob rushes into the room. He comes right up to me. Holds my hand. Laurie explains to him what happened and he tells me that everything will be okay. I’m amazed at how calm and present he is. It’s not that he’s not concerned. He is. But he’s not getting dramatic about it. He’s just being present and level-headed. This is exactly what I need.

Malcolm’s heart rate is back up and steady. And it was only down for less than a minute.

I’m told later that Laurie was the one who caught it. (Thank God for Laurie!) She was the only one with me and happened to look at the monitor just at the right moment. She saw the dip in his heart rate. And went out to tell the nurses.

The consensus seems to be that Malcolm either tugged on his umbilical cord or he was on top of it while I was on my back. So it is agreed that I will remain on my left side.

I’m thinking: I KNEW there was a reason I didn’t want to be on my back!

A fetal monitor is administered. Placed on Malcolm’s head so that they can accurately monitor him.

The Pain Window

Things slow down after the scare. Labor-wise.

This becomes a concern. Melinda has already broken my water. (Forgot to mention that.) Not even sure when it happened. But I’m pretty sure it was soon after the epidural took effect.

I’m not sure how long it has been since the epidural was administered, but I’m feeling pain in the lower left side of my uterus. I tell Traci. She tells Ken.

Traci has the thought that perhaps emptying my bladder would help with the pain. So we try that first.

“I’m going to put a towel between your legs. Try to pee on it.”

Try to pee? I can’t even tell that I need to pee. I can’t feel anything down there. Try to pee?! I think if I simply tell my brain to pee that perhaps that would work. It does not.

So a catheter it is. Of course I don’t feel any of this.

But I do still feel the pain window. So Ken administers another dose of medicine.

Cross Another Thing Off The Birth Plan

Pitocin. So my birth plan explicitly says that I do not want Pitocin. Why? Because I felt like any intervention would begin to pave the way for a Cesarian.

After another check of my cervix, Melinda gives us two options.

Option #1. C-Section
Ah, there it is. I knew it. I knew it. She says that given the lack of progress we could opt for a Cesarian right now.

OR

Option #2. Pitocin
We could try Pitocin and see if it speeds things along. Melinda’s only concern with Pitocin is the slight chance that the cause of the drop in heart rate was the stronger contractions. Pitocin would amplify my contractions, she explains. And if Malcolm can’t handle them, we would know right away. Her plan is to try just a little Pitocin to see how he does with it and go from there.

Everyone steps out of the room to give Bob and I time to discuss our options. We both are agreed right away. PITOCIN.

So I am given a very small dose of Pitocin. So small it’s as though they only waved it under my nose.

Return of the Pain Window

The pain in my lower left side of my uterus is back. It was gone for about an hour. Now it’s back.

Bigger than before.

And it’s radiating to my lower back.

HOLY EFFING PAIN!

Ken tells me that he doesn’t want to keep dosing me. And that perhaps the only way to numb the pain is to re-administer the epidural. I so do not want to go through this, but what is the point in feeling pain when you’ve chosen the epidural?!

I begin to scream the pain is so bad. So intense.

Make it go away!
Make it stop!
I can’t do this!
It’s so bad.
Hurts so much!
Oh God. Oh God!
Help me!

They call for Melinda.

I’m desperate to end the pain.

I’m lying on my left side. ON the pain. So I try, using my arms, to lift myself up off of it. Bob and Mom are by my side. They’re yelling,

“No! The baby! You can’t move!”

And I’m thinking,

“The hell I can’t!”

I manage to prop myself up using my left arm. I’m still technically on my left side, but I’m not lying ON the pain anymore. I’m on my left forearm. Wanting to scream bloody murder.

Melinda enters.

This relieves me for a moment. She checks me. And then says something I don’t expect AT ALL in that moment. She says,

“Okay, let’s sit up and have this baby.”

(I will never forget this moment.)

What? What? Now?

This is all I am thinking: Already?!

Ha. Already. That’s hilarious to me now. But that’s what I was thinking. Already. It seemed like only moments before she was in there telling us things were too slow. And here I was ready to have my baby?

By the way, the reason things progressed sooooo quickly (it is later determined) is not because of the Pitocin (not enough was administered) but because Traci emptied my bladder. Apparently my full bladder was in Malcolm’s way. Emptying it gave him the room he needed to continue down the birth canal. And continue he did. At lightening speed.

“You’re going to have to push,” Melinda tells me.

“I CAN’T! IT HURTS TOO MUCH!”

She assures me that the pain in my uterus (the pain window) will go away after only a few pushes. Just then Ken walks in with everything he needs to re-administer the epidural.

He enters. Looks up. Sees Melinda and the light shining between my legs. And realizes that he won’t be re-administering any epidural in Birth Room 6 tonight. It’s clearly go time.

“Get ready,” someone says. And the oxygen mask is placed back on my face.

This is how this looks:

Laurie is holding my right leg up in the air. (Because I’m still on my left side & have no feeling in my legs)

Bob is standing at my head. Holding my hand. He’s next to the fetal monitor.

My mom is at my lower back pushing me so that I stay on my left side and don’t roll onto my back.

Melinda, Laurie & Traci coach me on how to push.

Bob is right next to the monitor so he is the one to tell me when my contraction is starting.

GO!

And I do.

Thank God Melinda was right. The pain window is gone after a few pushes.

Okay. I CAN do this.

Deep breath in. Tuck the chin down. Hold the breath. And push. As long as I can.

I hear my mom say,

“She’s got GREAT lungs!”

I’m determined. This I can do.

This is the final sprint. The finish line is in sight. I’m almost there. I think of cross-country and track and how my final kick was always the strongest part of my race. I can handle the pain in the end. I’m made for this. Completely.

I breathe and I push and I’m totally encouraged on by my team of people surrounding me.

Bob, Mom, Laurie, Melinda, Traci…

“You can do it!”
“Good job!”
“That’s so good! Another one!”

And pretty soon…

“We can see his hair!”
“Do you want to touch his head? Reach down!”

And I do. Apparently I make a grossed-out face.

It’s not long before I hear my team saying:

“We can SEE his head!”

And everyone is more animated now.

Totally excited.

Bob is wide-eyed! I’m pushing with everything I have.

I’m thinking: I’ve totally got this! I’m going to get him out so fast!

I’m also thinking: I have to get him out fast before the epidural wears off!

And: This is my way to end the pain. PUSH. HIM. OUT!

During one contraction I manage FIVE pushes.

Bob is so excited by the progress we’re making. He exclaims,

“Oh my god, Stephie, you’ve never been sexier than you are right now!!”

All the women laugh. Including me. Mid-push. I take the oxygen mask off my face to say,

“Don’t make me laugh while I’m pushing.”

And Bob says,

“I wasn’t trying to make you laugh. I’m totally serious!”

(This becomes one of those moments we re-tell over and over afterwards. Another one I’ll never forget.)

After each push, Malcolm slides back a little. Out a little… and back a little. Out a little more… still back a little. I need a big push to get him out and not have him slide back. I’m determined to get him out.

So I try to make my inhales between pushes as short as possible.

At one point I actually say,

“I’m going to poop him out!”

I KNOW. Gross. But that’s what I was thinking. So I said it. And now I’m telling you. Because I just can’t help myself. And because I think it’s kind of funny. And it’s true. That is how it feels, okay? Come on, ladies. Back me up on this one.

It feels like I’ve been pushing for only ten minutes before Melinda starts saying that I’ve almost got his head out.

Bob continues to call out contractions and also check out the progress down there.

The next never-to-be-forgotten moment happens when Bob exclaims wide-eyed:

“OH MY GOD, STEPHIE! HIS HEAD IS COMING OUT OF YOUR VAGINA!”

I push and I push and I push and I push.

Then I rest. And wait for the next contraction. Gathering myself.

Then I push and I push and I push and I push

And finally…

FINALLY

he crowns.

Ring of Fire

The widest part of his head is there in my vagina IN BETWEEN CONTRACTIONS. So I have to wait. With it there. For like a minute.

If it isn’t clear already… this is by far the most painful part.

But the thing is, it’s moments away from being over. So the pain presents itself very differently. It’s mind-blowingly painful. But totally manageable. If that makes sense. Also… the epidural is still working. So, women who didn’t have an epidural might have (probably, most certainly have) a different experience of this moment.

Anyway… here I am with my baby’s head ready to burst forth into the world.

At this point I can tell when I’m having contractions. At the start of the next one I inhale. Then.

PUSH.

HIM.

OUT!

I hear a chorus of exclamations! Then I hear Melinda:

“Stop pushing.”

She has to suction him as he had expelled his bowels inside of me and his airways need to be aspirated. Something she could tell when she broke my water earlier. She had prepared me for this moment. So there’s no noise. Until she suctions. Then crying.

OH MY GOD.

But still pain.

I push again and he comes out completely.

He’s on my chest before I know it.

Everyone is emotional.

I can’t believe it.

We did it.

And I think I actually say it out loud:

“We did it!”

Time of birth: 1:40 AM on July 29, 2010

The After-Birth

I could stop right here. Because that was the moment. The moment that we brought Malcolm James Walker into the world.

But…

There’s more.

And it’s this part that people don’t usually talk about. And because of that, I didn’t expect it. Which is what made it harder. Which is why I choose to continue the story…

What I don’t expect? The pain.

The awful pain that continues after my son is on my chest. I’m so overwhelmed by the sensations in my body that it’s hard to be present to my little boy. I’m trying. But it’s honestly hard. I need to end the pain first.

“It hurts so much!” I yell.

Time to deliver the placenta.

It hurts much more than I thought it would. Way more. Maybe this is another mental thing… because I had expected the pain to be over once I pushed my baby out. But it’s not.

At some point in there, once the umbilical cord stops pulsing, Bob cuts the cord. There’s talk about how the cord is a very healthy size.

Melinda holds up the placenta to show us what it looks like. Everyone else seems more interested than me.

And I’m noticing the feeling return to my legs.

I’m not sure how long it takes, but the pain subsides enough for me to take in my baby boy.

The first thing I notice is his nose.

“I know that nose,” I tell him.

It’s the same nose that I saw on his ultrasound many months ago.

I notice his fingernails.

“Look at his little nails!”

I notice his feet. They’re so big for such a little guy!

He tries to nurse almost right away. His little legs pushing himself up my chest. Trying to locate my nipple. And I manage to nurse him before he’s even had his first sponge bath. Before he’s even weighed. It’s not perfect. But it works. And I’m relieved because prior to Malcolm’s birth I had been having dreams about this moment… or rather how this moment never happened. In my dreams it would be days after Malcolm’s birth before I realize that I didn’t get to nurse him in the hospital.

So he nurses for just a few moments. Or more. Really, my concept of time at this moment is so far off.

Skin to Skin

Part of my birth plan requests an hour of time for Malcolm, Bob and I to just be skin to skin with the baby immediately following the birth. I had a totally different picture in my head about how that would go.

I thought we’d be all cuddly and relaxed. But again. I didn’t expect the pain. Or the need for stitches. (Only a couple of stitches… due to a “Stage 1 perineal tear.”) Or the multitude of sensations happening in my body. Or the utter exhaustion. So it’s not all cuddly and glorious. It’s awkward and strange.

I nurse him (YES! Success!) and keep him on my chest with Bob by my side for some time (no idea how long.) Just smelling him. Connecting. And then I give him to Bob. Because I’m still not totally present. I need a break. Bob can give him more attention than I can right now. So Bob takes off his t-shirt and puts Malcolm on his chest for some skin to skin, Father/son time.

We just keep saying. He’s perfect. He’s so perfect!

Once he’s cleaned, weighed and measured (none of us can believe he weighed 8lbs, 2 oz!), it’s Grammy Pammie’s (my mom) turn to hold him.

Traci asks Grammy Pammie,

“Do you want me to put a diaper on him first?”

Grammy Pammie says, “No. That’s okay.”

She just doesn’t want to wait a second longer to hold him.

“At least let me put down a blanket,” she says.

And she does. She puts a blanket over Grammy Pammie’s lap.

Do you see where this is leading?

Yes. Malcolm’s first bowel movement outside of the womb was on his grandma. On her white shirt. Black tar meconium poop on Grammy Pammie’s white shirt. Another never-to-be-forgotten moment of hilarity. Traci gives Grammy Pammie a scrub top and she now has that as a souvenir.

Eventually it’s time for Grammy Pammie, Melinda and Laurie to go and get their rest. And to let Bob, Malcolm and I get ours.

It’s somewhere around 3AM.

Malcolm sleeps that night on my chest.

And I’m in heaven.

We did it.

And when I say “We” I so mean WE.

Had it not been for Melinda, I am positive I would have had a C-Section. Her calm and faith in the process is what allowed me to birth Malcolm vaginally… just as was my commitment. Luckily my body cooperated. I always suspected my wide hips were “made for birthing.”

Laurie so completely prepared us for what to expect in the birthing process. And she was there with us every step of the way.

My mom – as always- was my biggest cheerleader. Her presence is so wonderful. Reminding me of my strength and just being there in those moments where I needed my mommy.

Bob, as I said before, was my perfect partner. In every way. I cannot say enough to praise him. He’s amazing!

And Traci– our birth nurse. She was fantastic. We loved her. And we were so lucky that she was working a 12 hour shift that day… she started at 3PM and was off at 3AM. There was a point in the birth process where we worried that Malcolm wouldn’t arrive during her shift given how slowly things were moving. But he did. And we were so glad since she had been there for the entire hospital portion of labor. She was so willing to do all of the post-birth procedures in our room so that Malcolm didn’t have to leave our side for even a moment following his birth.

Though I was hoping for a quick and easy labor without any complications, I have not one single regret about how it all went down. I’m totally nostalgic about it now. I feel proud and strong. Like I can do anything.

I’m in awe of nature.

It’s all so completely surreal.

I look at Malcolm and try to fathom him looking the way he does… inside of me. He actually looked like this inside of me! I actually had a human being inside of me!!! It will never not be surreal.

I could go on an on… (oh, I already have)… but I’ll save more (such as the first week home, etc.) for future posts.

For now, I will wrap this up with a few photos from Malcolm’s first few days of life…

Just Born

Only a couple of hours old

Nap time with Daddy on his cot in Birth Room 6

Birth Story – PART 2
August 13, 2010

TO THE HOSPITAL/ ACTIVE LABOR

I’m dressed in my nightgown, robe and flip flops.

We emerge from our hotel room – me, Bob, Mom and Laurie – just as an elderly woman with a cane emerges from her room two doors down. We look at her, she looks at us and says, “Go ahead, I’m slow.” I have no energy to say this out loud, but I think, “You have no idea how slow we’re about to be.”

I’m walking like a prisoner with my ankles chained together. Shuffling down the hallway. Holding my belly. We get to the top of the stairs and I announce: “Contraction.”

I stop. I grab someone’s hand. Bob, Mom and Laurie close in around me. There are hands on my back. I’m breathing and fighting through this one. I just want to make it to the car. I’m aware that we have an audience to my contraction. I ride the wave and as it starts to smooth out, I look at the woman. Her eyes are WIDE. So wide.

She asks,

“Is she having her baby right now?!”

And my mom says,

“Any moment.”

Once we get to the car my mom mentions that that woman will be telling this story all day. And sure enough she was…. as Laurie found out when she went back to the hotel. The woman at the front desk said that the elderly woman was telling everyone about the lady who was having her baby “right there on the stairs.”

If only that were true.

BIRTH ROOM 6

We get to the hospital around 2PM. Melinda won’t be here until about 4PM. So a nurse examines me. And she says that I’m only 2 centimeters dilated and only 80% effaced. So according to her, I went BACKWARDS! More disappointment.

I’m swiftly hooked up to these monitors and told to lie down on MY back in the bed.

This is not a good position for me.

I do not want to lie down on my back.

I can’t control the contractions this way.

They tell me I have to wait until Melinda gets there before I can move or take those monitors off. And then it hits me…. the worst effing contraction yet. And I have no power over it from this lying on my back position.

“I’m gonna puke,”  I say once the contraction passes.

I have no energy to say anything so it’s not a surprise that no one hears me. I say it louder.

“I’m gonna puke. Seriously!”

Laurie is in my face in no time with a puke bag and there I go… vomiting up what little water and food (a bite of peach) into the barf bag. (Yes, labor is messy and gross….I know)

I hate throwing up. Really hate it. I always cry when I throw up. This was no exception. Tears just sit in my eyes as I wonder how the hell I’m going to get through this.

After the vomiting incident, they let me sit on the edge of the bed. Much better. But still. My state of mind has shifted from the MY BODY WAS MADE TO DO THIS positive frame of mind to I DON’T WANT TO FEEL THIS PAIN ANYMORE!

Instead of chanting, “Pain is not real,” I’m thinking, “I never want to do this again!”

“I cannot take this pain a second longer!”

and

“Just get this baby out of me!”

The IV drip

I pee in a cup. They test my pee and before long I’m on an IV fluid drip. I am totally depleted from being up the whole night.

After a while it is determined that the IV isn’t working the way they want. They test my pee again and switch me to a glucose drip. To get me calories. Apparently my body is feeding off of itself. I have nothing to give. And I am in active labor. And only 2 centimeters dilated? How is this going to work?!

Laurie convinces me that when Melinda arrives, we will find that I am further dilated and effaced. And when Melinda does arrive, I cry. From relief. I try to hold it back, but either Bob or Laurie (can’t remember which) reminds me that crying releases Oxytocin which helps with the labor. So I cry.

She examines me and finds that I am indeed (finally) 3 centimeters dilated and 90 something effaced. Good news, indeed. I feel much better.

At this point I’m officially admitted to the hospital.

And I’m already thinking about the epidural.

Pain Management

Around 5PM I start talking about it.

“I’m thinking about an epidural,” I tell everyone. “I just don’t know how much more pain I can take. It’s been so long.”

Melinda suggests that the glucose drip could actually help energize me and I might not want the epidural after that. So I agree to wait to see what the drip does. And I decide to wait in the bath. My mom joins me. At first it feels great to be in the tub again. I fall asleep between contractions and wake up into torture. This is not good. So I get out. Make my way back to the room. And sit on the edge of the bed.

I feel defeated. Laurie asks if I want to try the birth ball again.

No. I just want to sit here on the edge of the bed.

Do I want music?

No.

Do I want to try the toilet again?

No.

I just want to sit on the edge of the bed. Actually… I just want this all to be over.

But I’m here and I’m having contractions and being coached. So there’s nothing to do but this.

I can do this. I breathe and manage to let the pain rush over me. There are times where I am so still. So calm. Eerily. I actually amaze myself with how calm and still I can be while so much craziness is happening on the inside. For example, during the insertion of the IV I remained completely still during a contraction.

Other times I swear. I start to say, “Mother F…” and I stop myself. Until Laurie says, “It’s okay, you can say it.” So I do.

Counter-pressure

Both Laurie and Mom are struggling to give me enough counter pressure in my back and I want Bob up by my face so I can stare into his eyes and squeeze the life out of his hands. They try the tennis ball. But that isn’t enough. They aren’t able to meet my demands of PUSH HARDER! I begin thinking perhaps we should have brought the rolling pin.

But Mom, always using her head, comes up with the perfect solution. By using her head. Literally. Here’s a picture.

Mom uses her head to apply counter-pressure during a contraction

I know, I know. Too much. But it’s one of the only pictures I have of the labor. Had I known anyone had taken that picture at the time I would have smacked them so hard. I actually think it was Bob who took the picture. Which means he must have been on a break. After two weeks it is hard to remember.

THE SAFE WORD

A few weeks before my due date, Laurie had suggested we come up with a code word for labor… this word would be used in the event that I wanted everyone to know that I was serious about not going on without pain management. That I had given everything and truly couldn’t take it anymore.

It would be my version of “uncle.”

Having a word for a moment like this is important because you will say all sorts of things in the middle of a contraction that you don’t necessarily mean. So the “code word” would let everyone know I was serious.

Bob’s response was, “Oh, like a safe word!” And we laughed. And started calling it a safe word. My Labor Safe word was Gorilla.

I think about Gorilla. But I don’t say it yet.

Melinda tells me that she’s going to step out for fifteen minutes and then we are going to have to talk about pain management.

I then say it in my head.

Gorilla. Gorilla. Gorilla.

TO BE CONTINUED… (I have to feed the baby)

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Birth Story – PART 1
August 13, 2010

Malcolm is now 15 days old. It’s truly hard to believe. Each time I think back on his birth it seems more and more surreal.

I wanted to post his birth story much sooner. But life with a newborn is never predictable. I lose hours just gazing at our little boy. I’m definitely a proud and awestruck mom.

At this present moment he is snug and sleeping on my chest in his Moby Wrap… allowing me hands-free mobility. Hopefully he’ll sleep long enough for me to get this posted.

I’m very excited to share the birth story. I hope you enjoy reading about how Malcolm came into this world. (While pregnant I couldn’t get enough of birth stories… so please share this with expectant moms.) Thanks!

THE MARINA INN

We begin where I left off in my second to last post: Laboring in the Marina Inn in Anacortes…

As soon as I finished writing my “Pause for Contraction/ Early Labor” post, I turn the lights off to get some rest. It doesn’t quite happen. The contractions have suddenly increased a level and I’m unable to sleep through them. Bob is right here with me. Holding my hand as I breathe through each one.

He mentions that it would have been nice if the baby had allowed us to get a good night’s rest before upping the ante. I’m actually excited to get this show in the road. Stronger contractions is a good thing. And I’m ready for them. I’m mentally prepared for the pain, we’re on the mainland and I have my team all in the same hotel. I can do this!

I think that I lasted about two hours before I ask Bob to call Laurie. It’s about 1 AM.

Laurie arrives and I tell her, “It really hurts.” I feel like I owe her an explanation for pulling her out of sleep. The pain is my reason. Throughout the night I try different positions.

THE BIRTH BALL
I sit on the birth ball (which is the same as a pilates ball) and face Bob who is sitting on the edge of the bed. When a contraction starts, I take a deep breath and look at Bob – into his eyes- while Laurie provides counter-pressure on my back. This is a good position. She coaches me to “melt” into the pain. And I do. This is so much harder to do than fighting against the pain, but it feels so much better in the end. Some times this “melting” is easier when I close my eyes. I let my shoulders relax and try to release every muscle in my body… welcoming the contraction. The pain.

I chant in my head,

“Pain is not real.”

and

“Your body was made to do this.”

And I get a rhythm going. Until… I have to go to the bathroom.

Every position change equals more pain and more contractions. I get up from the ball and have a contraction before I even get to the toilet. I lean against the bathroom sink and just breathe.

Sometimes I moan. I release my breath and sound comes out. I’m aware that if anyone in a neighboring room heard me they would certainly think I was in the midst of baby-making, not baby-having. But I don’t care. Whatever helps.


THE TOILET

I get on the toilet. This is a good position. I have a contraction or two on the toilet and then get back up and go back to the birth ball. Contraction at the sink along the way.

Bob is there every step of the way. Letting me squeeze the life out of his hands or push against him. Laurie is providing the counter-pressure in my back and coaching me. Suggesting different things. Making sure I take – at the very least – sips of water.

Hours go by.

THE BATH

Laurie suggests I get in the tub again since that felt good to me before. Bob sits next to me holding my hand while Laurie uses the opportunity to get a nap. I get into a rhythm in the tub and being in the water does help. I eventually fall asleep between contractions. Bob does too. With his head on the edge of the tub. I decide I need to get out of the tub because I don’t want to fall asleep in there.

Bob helps me out and I make my way back to the bed where I lie on my left side with a pillow between my legs.

I’m very tired at this point. (This is such an incredible understatement.)

I sleep between contractions. Which have slowed down, by the way. Perhaps because of the bath?

Laurie returns and at some point I realize that it’s no longer dark outside. What the hell time is it?! How long have I been laboring?! We must be close, right?

The Next Day

It’s early morning. Day 2 of labor… as far as I’m concerned. I know that those early contractions yesterday were NOTHING compared to this. But still… I labored THROUGH the night without producing a baby.

Time to regroup. Refocus. I can do this.

The good thing about sleeping between contractions is that I get rest. The bad thing? Waking up in a contraction. That sucks. That allows for no mental preparation. Suddenly you’re awake and your uterus is playing the pain accordion.

According to Bob and Laurie, I actually slept THROUGH a couple of contractions. That’s crazy to me. Considering how much energy they take when I’m awake to them.

Mom calls around 7 AM. I think it’s 7. Somewhere around there. I tell her to come on down and that we’ve been up the whole night laboring. She relieves Laurie and Bob manages to get a little catnap. I’m so glad that she had a full night’s rest considering we’re all totally depleted already and we’re still not even at the hospital.

Almost there, right?

At some point Melinda (my midwife) arrives to examine me. I’m sure that I’ve got to be at least several centimeters dilated given how much work I’d done in the night. I’m positive that she’s going to tell me that it’s time to go to the hospital.

BUT…

…there was hardly any change. I was further effaced. But I had only dilated half a centimeter more from the day before.

WTF?! Seriously! Only 1/2 a centimeter more?! All that pain! All that effort… for only 1/2 a centimeter?!

This news is incredibly disheartening. Melinda tells me that I should continue to do what I was doing…. resting between contractions.

So I do. For as long as I can. But they ramp up again and sleep is no longer an option. Neither is eating. Which actually hadn’t been an option all night. I take a bite of a peach and end up feeling like I could vomit. So no more peach. Just sips of water. As much as I can. Which again, isn’t much.

My world is getting smaller and smaller. It is only this room and nothing more.

Bob makes a food run for the team. He is in desperate need of a chai and something hearty to eat. Unfortunately, he chooses bacon. Note to all future fathers out there: Do not eat bacon while your wife is in labor!

I’m laboring on the toilet when Bob returns. Why? Because I don’t want to get up. I don’t want to go through the pain of changing positions again and… well, laboring on the toilet is good. It’s working for me. I feel like I’m more in control of the contractions this way. Like I have power over them, somehow.

Bob returns from the breakfast run and gets face to face with me during one of my contractions. I immediately smell the bacon and push him away.

“YUCK! BACON! Get away!”

Thankfully Laurie prepared him for moments like this.

“Stephanie will not be afraid to tell us what she does and doesn’t like during labor.”

Laurie also said that I would most likely be offended by their breath and suggested we had plenty of mints on hand. Bob brushes his teeth, chews mints and still I can smell the bacon. I can’t even describe how offensively awful that smell was in this moment. I need him near me, but I cannot take this odor. So I tell him (there’s no asking mid-labor) to take off his sweatshirt. And he does. Much better.

(We laugh about this bacon moment now.)

Another moment like the bacon moment was during a contraction when Bob says to me,

“Think of all the women in the world in labor right now. Just like you.”

So I do. It doesn’t help. I know before I said I thought it would. But in the middle of this god awful contraction, it is no help to me. But I don’t have the energy to say this out loud, so Bob continues…

“There’s a woman in India, a woman in Malaysia, a woman in England, a woman in South Africa, a woman in–”

“Shut up,” I manage with what little extra energy I have. It comes out on an exhale like a whisper.  And he stops.

Later we talk about it and I apologize for snapping… but he totally got it in the moment. Now we laugh about it. It is funny.

Disappointing News

SO… I think that it’s about 9AM when Melinda checks me again and I am still only slightly more dilated. I’m at 2.5 centimeters and 87% effaced (or something like that.)

I’m completely demoralized by this news. Melinda has patients to see on Orcas Island and asks what I think about her going back to the island and returning on the 2:30 ferry. Seeing as I’m progressing at a snail’s pace, I figure that would be fine. So she leaves and we rent the hotel room for another night so I could continue to labor there.

And that’s exactly what I do. More labor. More pain. Which is what I want because that is supposed to equal more progress. Right?

I get into this whole BRING IT ON mentality. The contractions are strong and “productive” as Laurie says. They’re long. A minute and a half. And by the time my contractions are consistently three minutes apart, we finally head for the hospital.

TO BE CONTINUED…