Wednesday, September 9, 2015

A Baby Vampire (is hard to get on film)

I do not own this picture. Or this baby. Or photoshop skills. Or a rad baby sweater like that. I would like to give credit where credit is due but I could not find the photographer's credit, but thank you, whoever you are.
Anyway, that was what I was going for. But I only had wax lips and a cell phone camera.

Here's my best shot

I thought this one looked most realistic, even though it's blurry. Though maybe it's gritty, ultra-realistic shaky-cam?
Baby trying to fit her whole hand in her vampire mouth. Watch out for your fangs, baby!

Baby was willing. I was working hard. But wax fangs require top teeth.

Or maybe baby just wanted to eat the wax fangs.

Come on, baby! Bite them!

Greta, no! Greta pretended to be a helpful production assistant, but she was actually in it for the fangs! The second Jelly popped them out of her mouth this time, Greta took them.
 Then I thought about doing a vampire dog shoot.
Taken from "" Also, I didn't notice the dog in the coffin until just now. What is this?!
But instead, I just washed off the fangs and tried them on Jelly again.
Here we go. I'll lay her down. This'll be a lot better!
Aw, crap!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Nursery on a Sunny Day

Nobody ever asked to see pictures of our nursery. Lucky for you, I posted some anyway.

My sister made that mobile. It plays "You are my sunshine"

She also put on the wall decals.

Brandon's family painted the walls and the ceiling. The wall color is the same as the wall color of George Washington's "New Room".

I put this together. I love this light so much. We used to have this awesome multi-colored LED in it but it was stuck on rave mode and constantly switched colors and we didn't want to turn our baby into a raging psychopath so we changed it.

The most comfortable chair in the house. I used to take naps in it while I was pregnant.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Earth Cake!

It was my sister's birthday today, and she requested a cake like this one. Except she wanted it to be a complete sphere. And she requested chocolate cake so we had to fudge a little (pun only partially intended) on the actual layers of the earth.
I followed the same procedure the original creator did, but doubled it. I started by making a dense and moist yellow cake that I dyed red and baked in a small glass bowl. When it was done, I popped it out, waited for the bowl to cool and did the other half of the batter. Each set of 2 cakes took one batch of cake batter. After the red hemispheres were cool, I got a slightly larger glass bowl, put in yellow cake batter dyed yellow (go big or go home) and put half in the bowl. I pressed one red hemisphere into the yellow cake batter until it came up around the sides, then baked it (for a loooong time--I ended up covering the bowls with foil after the first fifteen minutes so the tops wouldn't burn). The raw cake was in a thin layer, but heavily insulated by the cooked cake, so it took a long time to bake--more than 45 minutes for each new layer. After I had two red hemisphere cakes coated in yellow cake baked and cooled, I made chocolate cake batter and followed the same procedure. This third layer needed even longer to cook (and to be honest, I never did figure out a great way to make sure that the most insulated part at the very bottom of the cake was completely cooked. (that's my way of saying that when we finally journeyed to the center of the earth, we found it a little runny).
So I had two hemispheres of red coated in yellow coated in brown. (I felt like I took more pictures of my preparation than this but apparently not.) I was really nervous about sticking the two hemispheres together because I was sure they would collapse. To avoid that, I employed a structural support system (i.e. straws and cardboard). I flipped one hemisphere over so it was in it's southern hemisphere orientation. When it didn't immediately disintegrate, I stuck one straw in the middle and a straw in every quadrant of the cake, then trimmed them so they were even with the height of the cake. Then I cut a circular cardboard cake board into a smaller circular cardboard cake board, stuck that on top of the southern hemisphere and topped it with the other cake. By that point, I was secure enough in the cake's structural stability that I didn't do anything to stabilize the northern hemisphere. I just slapped it on there!
Then I made the ocean. I like working with frosting and not fondant because it just tastes better (Kate wanted frosting anyway) so mine doesn't look as polished as the original creator's.
I added continents. Because the woman who designed the original cake is Australian, I made the cake from an Australian globe perspective in homage. This would have been a better idea if I had the spatial acuity to figure out where the other continents go if Australia is on top. By the time I finished, I realized I was going to have to put the North Pole right on the equator on the other side of the globe.
In doing this cake, I realized that the earth is a big place.This is the cake rotated about one-third from the picture above. My spatial issues worked latitudinally as well as longitudinally, so if you rotated this globe another third, you would find a vast unexplored ocean with no land masses at all.
Kate's King of the World!!

I was really pleased with how it turned out. Next time, I'm just doing Pangaea.

Happy Birthday, Kate! We love you! (and we will continue putting your Kate candles on everything until they're totally burned to nothing). That is a burrito casserole in that picture. It was wicked good. Recipe is here.

It is possible that I am so tired I am about to die. So, goodnight. I hope I didn't leave the Kate candles burning somewhere.

Friday, April 17, 2015

A Fowl Crime

These are my chickens:
It is very hard to get a picture of  them all at once. That is my shoe and I was wearing it at the time so this is actually a sideways shot. I should be a wildlife photographer for National Geographic.
The Suspects

All of my chickens are about 13 months old. All of them are different breeds.
The Barred Rock. The biggest and baddest of the chickens, she is in charge, gets the prime bunking spot on the lower roosting bar, and is the first out the door every morning. She's fearless, except for snow, and proudly crows every day after she lays her brown egg. (This is supposed to be a suspect character-sketch so I don't want to get too into this right now but chickens are "prey" animals so their eyes are on the sides of their head, as opposed to "predator" animals, who have eyes facing forward for better depth perception in scooping up "prey" animals. And no, I don't know why I keep using quotes like that. So when a chicken or other "prey" animal (I can't help it!) wants to look directly at you, it has to turn its head sideways.)

The Easter Egger. The smallest of all the chickens and the most skittish around people. Despite her diminutive size, she's the first to the feeder every time, no matter who she has to push, squawk at or bite to do so. She lays green eggs.

The Gold-Laced Wyandotte. Beautiful and deadly, with a blunted comb to withstand even her cold demeanor, she's not a fan of people, but will steal anything handfed to one of her sister chickens. She shares the top roost with the Easter Egger.

The Buckeye. The most devious of the chickens and basically impossible to get one decent shot of, though she's a big fan of photo-bombing her sister chickens. She's a maverick, sleeping on the floor of the hutch even when there's plenty of space on the roosting bars
The Crime

Winter was harsh this year. Because of the cold, the chickens were shut up together for many days in their house. Things went....bad.

One of the chickens went berserk and chewed the back plumage off the others.

Looking back at the photos, and with the information you've been given about the suspects, can you solve the crime?

This is not relevant but it's gonna be the album cover for my rock duo with Brandon.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Part IV: Delivery

A couple years ago, when Beyonce had Blue Ivy, I read that JayZ got her a "push present" to thank her for having his baby and all. I thought it was kind of weird and kind of sexist. "Ooh, you made me a baby--here's a present." Anyway, when it was all over and I was sweaty, weeping, covered in unspeakable slime, incredibly sore and exhausted, I didn't know much, but I knew that I was getting myself a freakin push present.

After the swab turned blue, things happened very fast for a while. I was hustled back to a room and swapped all my clothes for a hospital gown. I would never see my clothes again. (Seriously, they threw them away or something--it was a sad, sad turn of events).

I hopped into bed. Just kidding, remember how I was in such bad shape? It was more of a sad beached-whale roll.

They hooked up the monitors. Baby was still doing her merry dance--meaning she was unwilling to hold still and I kept having to have the monitor adjusted. Over and over. My IV was installed without violating the cruel and unusual punishment clause.

My birth plan came out again. Oh, sad, sad birth plan. Brandon's gonna cut the cord. I'm gonna keep the placenta and plant it at the base of a santa rose plum tree in the Spring. I'm gonna do kangaroo care for at least an hour after birth and begin breastfeeding. I'm gonna help deliver my own baby. I'm not gonna have my baby under a heater. I'm not going to formula feed my baby. I'm gonna watch my own delivery with a mirror....I did get the mirror!

It was about 8pm or so when I was finally all snug in my bed. They had talked about maybe having to induce me if I didn't progress, but by the time they checked my cervix, I was already a 5! I was shocked to learn that I was actually having contractions because I really wasn't feeling them. But apparently, they were there, and regular. Take that, basically everything that was said to me last episode during all my false labors!

I waited around, but the contractions never really got that bad. Some were stronger than others. But none were really unpleasant. I was just so happy to be there actually having the baby.

I was really scared of missing my window to get the epidural. Really really scared. Every time we'd been to the L&D we'd heard at least a couple of people who had waited too long to get the epidural (though they were planning on it). The screams were horrible! It is so terrifying to listen to someone clearly in the most pain they've ever been in and to think to yourself, this is gonna be me in a few days!

The nurses said that you had to be able to hold still for 15 minutes to get the epidural so the cut off point was when you couldn't hold still for that long. So as soon as the contractions got strongish, I asked for the anesthesiologist.

I got two! One was a resident and one was an attending. They did not get along. Brandon had to leave the room because it was a sterile procedure. I sat on the edge of my bed and they lifted the bed way up so my back was level with the eyes of the anesthesiologist standing on the other side of the bed. The resident was nice. The attending was not. She kept telling me to shift left and I was trying but I was still a beached whale and was apparently not quick enough for her. She kept saying "No! Go left!" So one of us was messed up on that, too.
The nurse put a rolling stool under my feet and I had to curl myself around a pillow. I had a blue surgical cap on. The nurse had a cap and a mask. I don't know what the anesthesiologists had on because I wasn't supposed to look back there on pain of paralysis. It was a scary and uncomfortable set up. And that was before the anesthesiologists started arguing.

First they injected lidocane. It burned a little going in and was unpleasant but I was just thinking don't move don't move don't move don't move don't move the whole time. They made several injections up and down the spinal column. The anesthesiologists argued over whether the resident was actually shooting the stuff right in the center and I had to tell them whether or not it was center or right or left. I learned that the back is not a precision sensory instrument.

The attending would yell at me if I didn't tell her fast enough or loud enough, even though my face was muffled in a pillow. She yelled at the resident that he wasn't centered enough, who would snarl back that he was fine. Because the attending was stressing so much, I was freaking out and maintained a running dialogue of where I felt sensations.
Me: I think it might be slightly to the right...
Attending: WHERE?!
Me: "Um...very, very slightly to the right--but really really close to the center."
Attending: "WHERE?"
Me: "Um...still a tiny bit rightish."
Me: "Right, I guess."
Resident: Okay. I moved it.
Attending: IS IT CENTERED?
Resident: It's centered.
Attending: It looks slightly to the right.
Attending: IS IT CENTERED?
Me: Me? Oh, yeah...I think it's centered now.
Me: Uh.......
Me inside my head: I'm paralyzed, I'm paralyzed, I'm paralyzed, I'm paralyzed, I'm paralyzed, I'm paralyzed.

Once the thing was in, it was a little bit better, but they still fought over everything. Because of this fighting, I thought for sure I was gonna leave the room in a body bag. At one point, while they were fighting over the placement of the sticker thing that holds the epidural needle in, I thought about turning around and yelling at them that there was only supposed to be one baby in the room and she wasn't here yet. But I was afraid the attending would choke me to death if I didn't shut up and squeeze my pillow.

At last, they finished. I had had to hold still for like 45 minutes. It wasn't that hard because the terror kept any contraction pain at bay. I resettled myself in bed. The epidural was uncomfortable--mainly because of the big sticker that pulled at my skin when I laid down. I ended up having a wicked-looking bruise. Well, actually, it looked like the outline of racist Indians' mascot Chief Wahoo. But other than that, no lingering effects.

The attending left and I asked the resident how soon I would know if I had nerve damage from the epidural. He reassured me and then tested my pain response with this little plastic pokey thing. The goal is "pressure, not pain." Later the attending came back. She asked me if the resident had done the poker thing. I said he had. She said, "The pain dampening works from the outside in. If I were to poke your vagina with that tool, you'd still feel the sharp pain." She was a nice lady.

I'd probably do the epidural again, though maybe later on in the process, and I'd definitely ask who the anesthesiologist was, first.

Then came the waiting. I slowed waaay down. They started me on pitocin. They took me off of pitocin because Jelly's heart rate was decelerating. They started me up again. They stopped me. They gave me some extra fluids. They stopped me. They checked me. I was progressing so slowly. So so so slowly.

They came in and broke my water. I know, my water was broken already--but it was like a little bulging side sac and the baby was holding the rest of the sac shut (or something like that--I'd been very hungry and watching Brandon eat a box of triscuits while he walked around the room for like 10 hours straight). So they used a little crochet-hook-looking thing to break it. There was the big gush. It was so gross. Later, when one of my nurses was reassuring me that I did still want to have a baby, she sat on the bed and got it on her bottom! They kept having to change my sheets over and over. Baby would make more amniotic fluid (they said she was peeing) and it would gush out every once in a while. I'm only telling you this because nobody warned me to bring a poncho to the hospital.

So there I am, wet, gross, tired, and not progressing. And then I get chills. They started small and then they started to grow until my whole body was spasming uncontrollably. I was freaking out. The nurses said it was normal and I knew this could be transition, but it was so scary. I had Brandon fetch my mouth guard because my teeth were chattering so much I was afraid I was going to grind my teeth up.

Turns out I had a fever. The docs guessed that I had a uterine infection because my water had been broken for so long. That meant goodbye placenta. Goodbye kangaroo care. And goodbye (temporarily) Jelly, because she'd have to go to the NICU to be evaluated. This was a bummer.

Despite this emotional setback, I was physically so broken down by this point that when they suggested I would get a C-section if I didn't progress in the next hour, I was actually kind of relieved. In the mean time, they wanted to get my fever down. When I first had the chills so badly, I curled up in my bed and had Brandon put extra blankets on me. I was afraid I couldn't go on. I was ready to go home and try again another day. Or just raise Jelly inside my belly.

I was crying and so scared and shaking so hard. The lights were off in the room and I just felt so alone. Brandon asked what he could do, and even though he'd had extensive practice with massage and coaching, the only thing that helped was very gently rubbing me on one shoulder while I was huddled up. Somehow, this was so soothing. But what really calmed me down was when I started talking to the baby. I told her that I was sorry, but I was sick, and I needed her to be strong and come out soon. I talked and talked. I explained the altered birth plan and how excited we were to see her and how I would try to be strong for her. Eventually I stopped talking out loud and just talked to her in my mind. Really feeling our new family dynamic for the first time, I felt like I could do it.

But there were two more really hard parts. The first was just after this, when they told me they needed to get my fever down so I could have the baby. They gave me antibiotics, and they gave the baby, through me, extra fluids. I had to start drinking lots of ice water. They took my blankets away. Then they told me I had to put ice packs under my arms to help cool off. I thought I had died and gone to hell.

I didn't think I could do it, but I did it because I had to. That became the theme for the rest of the evening.

There was a shift change and my OB came in! She was on call and was going to deliver my baby. At this point, she was more committed to my birth plan than I was. The resident had been somewhat conservative in her measurement of my cervix. I was like 9 and 9/10ths or something, with a tiny sliver of cervix left. My doctor said it was okay to start pushing.

This is where the nurses saved the day. All through this experience, they were there with pep talks, cold drinks and encouragement. When my OB left and everybody was getting ready for me to push, my nurses were just about to change shifts, too. One of my nurses was named Lauren. Brandon was in the bathroom and she was the only other person in the room. I started crying and told her I didn't think I could do it. It had been so hard. I was tired. I was sick. I couldn't push. My OB had said we'd push for 2 hours and then if I wasn't making any progress, I'd have a C-section. Even if I did progress, it could take two and a half to three hours to push the baby out.

I already felt like I had run a marathon. Now I had to sprint for three hours. I told Lauren how scared I was and how inadequate I felt. I told her how I just wanted a stupid C-section now, even though I really had wanted a vaginal delivery. She gave me the best pep-talk of my life. She sat on the bed and put her arms around me and told me I could do it. She said all I needed to do was focus. She was truly an angel. I am not much of a physical affection person; this is especially true with someone I don't know very well. But this moment was one of the most meaningful moments in my life. I will be forever grateful to her.

My OB came in and explained pushing. I was supposed to push like I was pooping, but the biggest poop ever. I would push for a ten-count during each contraction, and then rest. My incredibly versatile hospital bed was equipped with many ways to assist in this task.

"Ready?" She asked.
I was not. But I helped position my legs on the bar that had been assembled over the bed. My feet pushed against the bar, I curled my body around the baby and pulled my thighs toward me and I pushed the way everybody my whole life had told me not to push while I was pooping. It was weird to break my ingrained aversion to pushing this way. I could definitely feel the pressure when I pushed, but it took me a while to feel the contractions. The nurses would tell me one was coming, and then I'd take a deep breath and we'd all do the count of ten together. I wasn't supposed to breathe when I did this, so I counted in my head. They had wheeled a big mirror in front of me so I could see what I was doing, and it really helped me see where I needed to push.

I would push as hard as I could and then gasp in sobbing breaths of air. They had me on oxygen for baby and they'd take off the mask while I pushed and then place it back on my face when I rested. Sometimes I'd do two or three ten-counts per contraction. I eventually got to the point that I could feel the contractions--but I was still really unsure, so every single time I would say, "I'm going to push now?" and then my doc or a nurse would say, "okay" and then I'd go. Every. single. time. for an hour and forty minutes.

It was crazy. I kept thinking about what Lauren had said and made a conscious effort to focus. It was the only way to not just go insane and run screaming out of there with the baby half in and half out of me. I focused on each ten-second session like it was the only one I had to do. When I lost focus, I'd sit a contraction out.

I freaked out twice. The first time, the oxygen mask got to me. Brandon put it on me and it suddenly felt like I was suffocating, like he was grinding it into my face. I yelled and hurt his feelings. The second time happened after I switched pushing positions. They had pulled up handles for me to pull on when it was time to push. It really really helped, but I partially pulled out my own IV with my thigh! My forearm filled up with fluid and I couldn't bend my arm anymore. I gasp-yelled about it and kept gasp-yelling until they gave me a new IV in my upper arm on the other side. I was still pushing as it went in.

I pushed and pushed. For the first long while, nothing happened. I would watch in the mirror as I pushed and you couldn't even tell I was doing anything. I was working so hard and nothing was happening. I found myself repeating Lauren's mantra. Focus. Focus. You can do this.

I just kept pushing and pushing. I couldn't think about the end result. I just had to focus on the next ten seconds.

When her scalp finally started to show, it was fantastic. I was suddenly motivated to keep going and going. It was so exciting to see her progress further and further. Eventually, my OB asked if I wanted to touch baby's scalp. This was what almost derailed me. I started crying. My sweet baby was real, and she was almost here! I had to really, really pull myself back to focus.

The pressure was intense and it just kept growing and growing. At one point my doc had to step away and get ready to pull Jelly out. I didn't know if I could keep pushing. Nobody was at the station. Resisting against pushing was so hard. As much as I wanted a break, I really couldn't stop. The pressure was horrible when I pushed but I knew I was just one serious pain bout away from being done. But it was so hard. Her head just wasn't coming out.

The nurses switched. Lauren had stayed beyond the shift change until the new nurses were scrubbed in. I was sad she didn't get to see Jelly be born. I yelled my thanks as she left. I barely noticed the new nurses, except that one of them was way far off the count when I would start pushing. I had been breathing out slowly to sustain myself during the pushing. I would start my mental count, and when I would get to six (I was counting slowly, I swear!) the nurse would start counting "One...two...." It was horrible. I had no energy left or I would have smacked her. I also didn't have the energy to scream at my OB to just take the baby out. Her head was just stuck there for so long.

The nurses kept saying, "just a few more," and I kept pushing and pushing. Please. Please. Come out!! 

At some point, more people came in the room. I noticed them around the edges of the room. My legs got moved and I think about five or six people were holding each leg as I pushed.  It felt like they stretched on forever. One more huge huge push and I felt her squish out!

I missed it! I had had my eyes closed while I pushed, so I didn't see it in the mirror!

Here's the scary part. My OB said, "I'm just gonna cut the cord real quickly because she's a little stunned." As she said this, she cut the cord and handed a red-purple blob that I assumed was the baby off to the NICU team that had suddenly materialized in the room now that I didn't have to be focused on pushing. I was sobbing with relief that all the pressure was over.

But the baby didn't cry. I was waiting and waiting for that and she wasn't crying. I heard someone say, "she's not breathing." There was a crowd around her at the warming table. I couldn't see her. Someone else said, "I can't get the heart beat" and that was terrifying, but my OB told me it was because the heart rate machine was malfunctioning. The NICU folks muttered among themselves. The warming table blared an alarm. I kept sobbing out, "is she okay?" The room was very quiet. Then, "time of birth 7:54pm."

I started crying harder. She was alive.

We waved to her as they wheeled her off in the incubator.
We got to visit her that night. The next day, I was sleeping and Brandon went to see her. I got a call from the NICU. It was Brandon. He said, "I'm holding our baby." I got there as quickly as I could. She was beautiful. She was mine. She was here.

I haven't stopped marveling at my beautiful baby. It has not been an easy transition for me. I had debilitating anxiety in the beginning that still pops up in the evenings. I thought my body might be permanently destroyed, but once I shed the retained water, things started to get better. Becoming a stay-at-home Mom, at least for the time being, has been really hard. Breastfeeding did not go at all as planned. But at least once a day, I hold my miracle in my arms and marvel at the gift God has given me. My sweet girl. My lovely baby. My wonderful Amelia Margaret.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Part III: Labor & Labor

They say if you want to make God laugh, tell Him about your plans. Apparently, if you want to make Him smite you, tell him about your birth plan.

As you might have been able to tell, I'm was a bit of a Nervous Nelly as a pregnant person. As a pregnant person about to have a baby, I was basically insane. I'd been experiencing lots of back pain throughout my whole pregnancy. This would freak me out a lot at the beginning but eventually became obnoxious background noise. One more thing to list in my sobbing complaints to Brandon when he dared to ask me what was for dinner.

In my first hospital visit--when they were checking out my uneven leg swelling--the nurse said she was recording some contractions. I was a little excited by this because I had enjoyed my pregnancy experience to the fullest and was ready to move to the next step, thank you. Unfortunately, I was still only 34 weeks along and hospitals don't encourage that kind of thing.

Anyway, I couldn't feel these alleged contractions. I believe they were the beginning of the mysterious braxton-hicks contractions that I'd have now and then in the weeks to follow. Eventually, they'd feel like a tightening across my whole belly, or I'd just wake up on one of my many many bathroom trips and my tummy would feel even firmer than usual.

After the braxton-hicks became perceptible, I started having a weird sensation a couple of times a day. I'd just be sitting there and then feel a flushing head rush shoot up my chest into my brain. I'd get a little light-headed and feel kind of breathless, and then it would go away. It happened a bunch of times. My doctor thought it was vagus nerve pressure from my swollen legs and suggested compression stockings.

Sometimes I am a good patient. This was not one of those times. In my defense, to get measured, you had to drive way the heck out to I-Can't-Even-Remember-Where-it-Was and get your giant body measured by a lady in the back room of a giant supermarket. Then you felt bad about how giant you were and had to go to McDonalds to feel better. And then in the drive-through line, the ornery nurse you called about whether your water might have broken gives you a lecture about how when your water breaks, "it gushes," and sighs impatiently when you describe what must have been an oddly area-specific night sweat episode. Don't worry--she too gets smitten by God in this story. With Wrongness.

Anyway, so measuring for my compression stockings was a bad experience and I never went to pick them up. And that was okay because at 36 weeks I went into labor. For a while.

Remember my birth plan? Well, the very first step was to NOT have a false labor episode. And it kind of worked out. Instead of having a false labor episode, I ended up having two.

Now, I had talked to people, watched videos, read articles, talked to my doctor about what constituted true labor, and had distilled it to this: period-like cramps that increase in intensity and arrive 2-3 minutes apart for at least an hour. I was prepared. I had a little app on my phone that could count contractions. I was gonna map them out and present them proudly to the intake nurses and have a baby a handful of hours later.

One Saturday, it happened. I was only at 36 weeks, but my baby was big, I was waddling and my back pain had resurged to the front of my consciousness with a vengeance. I was having cramps while we were walking through the mall. Yeah, we go to the mall. A lot. A maintenance worker asked if something was wrong. I was being slightly over-dramatic, leaning over and breathing slowly through the pain of a really bad spate of back pain. Once the pain subsided, I smiled and assured her I was fine.

Eventually I realized that these back pains were coming on regularly, and with increasing intensity. Like 5 minutes apart or so. I was afraid this was false labor. Leaning on Brandon and close to weeping (well, I was anyway), I toddled out of the mall, as always, with small steps so I didn't break my pelvis more.

We drove, waited at home for a while, called the doc's office and were directed to the hospital. I was crying in pain by now. My contractions were measuring 2-3 minutes apart and had been for over an hour. It was unpleasant. We took advantage of free valet parking, and I collapsed into a wheelchair. Brandon wheeled me through to the Women's hospital and I was admitted after several more hours of continued contractions--I had progressed to a 4. Also, getting your cervix checked HURTS!! I'm pretty sure I got admitted because after the 3rd check, I was sobbing with pain from the check. My contractions held steady after I got admitted. A nurse put in an IV. Or she tried to. She actually blew up my vein. They called off a lethal injection in Oklahoma when an inmate's vein blew. My nurse just tried again. It was a special experience. She also assured me that I would be having a baby that day. I gave her a copy of my birth plan. Bad idea. My contractions immediately slowed.

After a couple of hours trying to force myself to have contractions through sheer will (not super possible, by the way), I was crying in my bed. A nurse thought I was going through transition because "people don't cry like that unless something is happening." They checked my cervix. Dead stopped at 4cm. Apparently, some people do cry like that for no reason.

They gave me morphine and told me to sleep. The next morning, the doctor gave me a pep talk and then we went home. My live-in sister had made brownies. Brandon complained that his hospital fold-out bed was too small. I cried for about half a day. Then I fell asleep.

The day after that, I had a doctor's appointment. It was a substitute doctor because my OB was out of town. She checked my cervix (eventually I got to the point where it hardly even excrutiated at all!) and said there was no way that anyone ever could have measured it at more than a one or a two. I cried. I complained about my pain. She said something along the lines of "Life is Pain, Highness. Anyone who says otherwise is selling something." It was not well received.

Then it was Thanksgiving! Brandon's parents came and we had a great time. Until Black Friday, when the contractions came back. This time I waited many hours. I measured them on and off but they were right back in that 2-3 minutes apart time. They were intense. I was on my knees rocking back and forth with my head pressed onto the bed. Or the couch. I would move around from time to time. Brandon's family picked up my couch while I continued to progress. I hoped.

Eventually, reluctantly, I called. They sent me to the hospital. This time I was at 37 weeks! A week earlier, they didn't want the baby to be born prematurely, so they wouldn't "help me along" to have the baby. Once again, I was curled up and crying as Brandon wheeled me in a wheel chair up to the women's hospital and I was brought into the triage room. Incidentally, I had the same bed this time as when I had the uneven leg swelling. It's all coming full circle!

Everybody saw it. They saw my contractions. They saw the bigness of the baby. They saw my readiness to have her. They saw my cervix. And it was a two. And it stayed a two. For hours of painful labor. I didn't get any pain meds this time. Also, they didn't "help me along." I just writhed there. Brandon was developing this thing where the second we would go into the hospital, he would become starving and incredibly sleepy. So he hunted up some food and then fell asleep. I just sat there. The nurses were really really nice. Baby hated having that stupid heart monitor on, so she'd move around constantly. The nurses would readjust. Then baby would move. Then the nurses would readjust. Then the baby would move. And so on. Forever and ever. And then my contractions died out and we went home.

This time I wasn't as sad, because I expected the brownies that my sister was making. She did not disappoint.

At some point, I decided I would never have the baby. I'd just get bigger and bigger until I died and then my bloated body would explode and then baby would be there. And she would be a super villain. And it would be The Avengers' problem because I was dead. I went to the doctor. She checked my cervix and announced there was no way anyone could have ever measured me at a two because I was definitely a four or a five. By this point, I had lost my faith in obstetrics as a science.

But my doc also stripped my membranes because baby was now measuring at like 9lbs. There was even talk of a C-section because she might not be able to squeeze out. That was definitely not in the birth plan.

Having your membranes stripped is like having your cervix checked but somehow even more intense. Basically, the doc puts their fingers in between your uterine wall and the sac of waters that is holding the baby and swirls things around a bit in the hopes of triggering hormones that put you into labor. It sort of worked, in that I had like 5 contractions that day. But then they died out.

This doctor visit was also notable because my sister came to support me. And then I had a urine sample disaster. I couldn't tell if I was filling the cup, so I lifted it out to see, but I accidentally tilted it and a bunch spilled in my pants. This was a bummer. I refilled the cup and gingerly placed it on the sink, where it promptly slid off onto the floor, showering my pants with more pee and spilling all but a tiny film, which the technician said was all she needed anyway. That was after I had pulled back on my wetted pants and lowered myself to the floor to wipe up the spilled urine, and then had to call her to the bathroom and explain how I had wetted my own pants at second hand. This conversation went down with my sister in earshot and she almost wet her pants the old-fashioned way from laughing so hard.

Anyway, pregnancy is difficult. After that appointment, nothing happened for a week. I'd have the odd contraction or two. Or a bunch for like a half hour and then nothing. By this point, my true labor definition had changed to "contractions so bad they take your breath away, each one progressively and significantly worse than the last."

My next doctor appointment, I had a successful urine test and got my membranes stripped again. By this point, it was like second nature to have people reaching up and messing around in my cervix area (that was vulgar, I'm sorry). My OB, the eternal optimist, said, my sac of waters was bulging and she thought my water was going to break. Yeah. I'll see you again next week, I grouchily responded in my head.

I came home. I felt wet, but that can be as a result of the stripping process. I stuck a pantyliner in my underwear and moved on. I had to change the pantyliner a couple of times. But because of that snotty nurse from way earlier, I was waiting for a big gush. It never came. Dinner was 5 Guys burgers. That was all I ever wanted to eat. Brandon and my sister and I enjoyed a nice meal at the table, and I got up to put my plate in the dishwasher. And I made a noise. Well, not me exactly. It sounded like, "drip-squish." It was embarrassing. I am excited now to have shared it with you.

There was no big gush, but we'd all heard the drip-squish. I had to change my liner again, but that was it. I had some random contractions here and there. Finally someone screwed up their courage to suggest that we go to the hospital. I was against it. I didn't want snotty nurse to be right and me to look like an idiot. Again. I wasn't even contracting that much. I was certainly not having my breath taken away. I went in my bedroom and grabbed my dog and cried. I sobbed into her fur. I wanted to get this thing out of me so badly, but I COULD NOT TAKE another false start, no matter how many brownies were waiting for me on the other side.

Brandon argued long and logically, and finally I told him to call the doctor if he wanted me to go to the hospital so much. My dog was snuggled against me in bed and I held her while I listened. I grabbed the phone at one point to explain to the nurse exactly how it had been a "drip-squish" and not a "big gush." She still said, "you sound like you've won yourself a trip to the labor and delivery floor."

I was not well-pleased. I was doubtful that my water had broken, and I did not want to spend another long, hungry night in the hospital. Our revolving door hospital visits had made us regulars with the courtesy valets and the information desk people, and now they just smiled sadly at us as we came in the door. I refused Brandon's offer of a wheelchair this time, preferring to walk boldly toward certain defeat instead. Of course, my tiny steps made it difficult to walk boldly. I also had to stop for a potty break halfway along the five-minute walk to my destination. Up to the labor and delivery floor again. I snarled out my personal information and sat impatiently in the little waiting area. We were informed that unfortunately, the triage room was packed, so we had to wait. Fine by me. This baby was never coming out anyway.

After a surprisingly short wait, a nurse came back to take me to the triage room. It really was packed. She said, "Let's just have you test before you get all settled down here." She handed me a yellow-tipped cotton swab and pointed me in the direction of the bathroom. "You're looking for blue." I had to pee again anyway.

I swabbed. By the time I brought the swab up to look at it, it was already dark blue. I handed it out the door. I was shaking. "Let's admit you!" the nurse said.

I was going to have this baby.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Part II: Pregnancy........................................................................................................................

First off, in the interest of full disclosure, I want to share that I look like this right now:
I did my make-up like this because this is what my character looked like last week in D.C. when I was playing Skyrim while I pumped. I wanted my brother-in-law, who owned the x-box I played Skyrim on to think I was cool. I just bought a copy of Skyrim for PC. Skyrim! 
Jelly has been napping while I've been made up, so she hasn't seen me. But I am excited. I'm kind of hoping she's scared of me. Is that weird?

Anyway, back to the regularly-scheduled installment:

I had spent a lot of energy trying to get pregnant. I had not put a lot of thought into what being pregnant would really be like. To me, pregnant ladies always looked like they were glowing. They had a beautiful little life inside of them. They were still able to work and exercise. They grocery-shopped and cleaned and were all the more hardcore for having a cute little baby bump. They felt "a little tired" sometimes and liked to eat a lot. They were so excited about their new addition. They nested and made a darling little nursery and then they got a lot of attention and went to the hospital and got an epidural so it didn't hurt and then they had a perfect little baby and it was perfect.

I might not have been totally well-informed. So here are some things I learned about me when I am pregnant:

1. Sometimes when people say, "how are you?" and a pregnant person says, "Oh, a little tired, and a little nauseous," what the pregnant person really means is, "I have not left my couch except to eat and go to the bathroom for the past two months." Also, I apparently need about 21 hours of sleep a day when I'm in my first trimester.

2. You can be nauseous all the time and at the same time have your life's sole interest be eating huge amounts of fried foods.

3. As I've discussed in my previous post, your bosoms might act up (that's really what we call them in my house). At times I felt like I had three pregnant bellies hanging off my front.

4. Skin seems stretchy--but it doesn't love to be stretched all the way to a full pregnancy. There was a time--around 7 months, when I thought my stretch marks couldn't get any worse. Then my belly got bigger and I got more stretch marks, going the other direction. My belly now looks like a psychotic tiger got to it.

5. Being pregnant is different than being fat. First of all, if you're fat, even your closest friends might not come out and talk about it. If you're pregnant, total strangers feel totally comfortable explaining to you in detail exactly how giant your giant, giant, giant, GIANT belly is. Even if you swear on your mother's soul that you have been receiving regular prenatal care and there's definitely only one baby in there, they will speculate about the twins, triplets or octuplets that are hiding in the corners of your uterus.
Once, when I was working at a law firm during my third trimester, a woman came up to me in the bathroom and said, "I have to say, you just look so miserable."
All I could think of to say was, "Thank you. I really, really am."

But the worst thing--the very worst difference between being fat and being pregnant is that fat is flexible. An engorged uterus is not. You might want to tie your shoes. You might want to pull the little lever down in the foot well on the driver's side of your car that opens your gas tank. You might want to lean over and grab your blanket from the other end of the couch because you switched sides today, just for a change. BUT YOU CAN'T. At first it's kind of funny because your belly is super round but really, really firm. After a while it's just pathetic.
By the end, the only exercise I was doing on a regular basis was tossing and turning in bed. Oh, and getting up to go to the bathroom. Every second. And it was all hard work.

6. Sometimes, your baby has a GIANT head and it lodges it's head down in your pelvis for weeks and weeks and weeks and the pressure on your pelvis becomes so intense that you basically lose your ability to walk except for this tiny little shuffle. You become that slow person that people get stuck behind on escalators and walk briskly past. You envy the ancient old men in their walkers who lap you when you walk around the neighborhood. Sometimes, you get stuck on your daily quarter-mile walk because all the sudden you're in excruciating pelvis pain, and your husband has to run four houses down to get your car out of your garage and drive back and pick you up because you just can't make it.

Sometimes, there's nothing left to do but write a poem to your baby, in the style of ee cummings:

[i carry your head with me(]
i carry your head with me(i carry it in
my pelvis)i am never without it(your body 
is also there, my dear;and whatever torment
felt by me is your doing,my darling)                                  
                                                      i fear
i'll break(for you are wedged in, my sweet)i want
to push(but my cervix isn't fully dilated, my true)
and it's you are the weight of the moon crushing me
and legs back stomach breasts pelvis sing the sting that is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(you are entrenched in my crotch and it feels like you'll 
fall out but you somehow never do; the agony just grows
beyond what normal walk or face can hide)
and I pray for the symphysis holding it all together

i carry your head(i carry it in my pelvis)

It totally looks like I just copied and pasted that from a website belonging to another intensely creative and beautiful person, but that's just because I copied and pasted it from my e-mail. It was written November 20th, 2014 and sent to my family. By the intensely creative and beautiful me. They sent back their own poems in response. Which was a total bummer--what I wanted was sympathy in the form of chocolate.

7. But the biggest surprise for me was that, sometimes, you're not excited about having a baby.
Pregnancy technology is a double-edged sword. My first pregnancy ultrasound was at 6 weeks. I had another at 8 weeks. Then like a million more. I was technically a high-risk pregnancy because of my PCOS. I couldn't deal with not knowing EVERYTHING about the baby. I had my first-check scan and everything looked good. At 20 weeks, despite all evidence to the contrary, (including an online Chinese gender-prediction test), we found out I was having a girl. But we also found out we had a 10-fold increase in the risk that little Jelly had Down Syndrome.
It was a hard couple of weeks. I met with the genetic counselor and found out there was an awesome test called Verifi. It's a blood test, so you don't risk losing the baby in an amniocentesis. I got it immediately. The good news is that it has like a 99% accurate true negative test. The bad news is that it's only true positive about 50% of the time. Interesting fact: your placenta can have some trisomy cells even if your fetus doesn't.
I HAD to take the test. I couldn't stand not knowing. We knew we'd keep Jelly either way, but I had to have all the information I could so I could be prepared. (In fact, because I wanted to have my cake and eat it, too, I asked my genetic counselor if I could get an amniocentesis at 38 weeks so if it triggered labor, I wouldn't lose the baby, but I would still know for sure in advance.)
The test was negative.

We had a couple other scares. Jelly had a LOT of amniotic fluid which could also point to some health issues. Jelly was also BIG, which could mean complications. In fact, she was measuring at 9lbs weeks before I was due. I was looking at maybe having to have a C-section to make sure she was okay.

What sucks about pregnancy is you really can never know that everything's okay. I had waited so long to be pregnant that I was obsessed with the idea that it would be taken away from me. First, I was so scared I was going to miscarry. I spotted all through my first trimester. Then I was so scared that she'd be born with a genetic disorder that would dramatically change her life's trajectory and I didn't know if I could handle it. Then, all the sudden one day, I had major pregnancy swelling. One leg was bigger than the other--indicating that I might have deep vein thrombosis. A few weeks later, I had itchy feet, which is the primary symptom of obstetric cholestasis. Obstetric Cholestasis is a liver problem that can cause toxins to build up and cause problems for baby--it can even result in stillbirth. It was a terrifying emotional roller coaster. One by one we'd rule out a problem, only to have another one pop up.

I wanted to be excited to have a baby. I wanted to love my pregnancy. I wanted to be the beautiful, glowing, healthy, active goddess that I had dreamed I would be. But instead I was a bloated, paranoid, tear-stained mess. I was positive something would go wrong and I would never get to hold my precious baby. I couldn't get excited about little baby dresses and shoes and painting the nursery because I couldn't stop picturing packing it all up when my pregnancy ultimately ended in disaster. Even if it did work out, if I was such a mess pregnant, how could I take care of another person?

I don't want to come across as ungrateful. My pregnancy was unpleasant, but it lasted. And I wouldn't trade the end result for anything in the world. Even on the hard days, I hold my baby and can't believe how lucky I am to have her. She was worth every aching step, every tear, every scare, every pinched toe, every stretch mark, every blood test, and every sip of that disgusting diabetes-test juice. From the minute I saw her--even when she was just a tiny pulsing heartbeat on the ultrasound screen, I loved her. And I always will.

But I will never, EVER love pregnancy.