Five years ago, when I renewed my domain name for awesome deal of one-hundred-dollars-for-the-next-five-years I thought, “sure, that’ll be great. I am sure that in five years I’ll still need my domain name even if my website changes before then…” By “changes” I was hoping that meant being picked up by an artists’ management firm and having my website design overhauled to coordinate with the style and layout of the other artists on the roster.
I love Thursdays. Maybe because as a kid my favorite TV shows were on Thursday evenings. Or perhaps it’s because, for years, it was chorus rehearsal night and I always looked forward to that. Now that I have a “real” nine-to-five job I love Thursdays even more because it means that I am already more than half-way through the work week and the next day is Friday. Fridays at work always seem to fly by and in general, everyone seems to be in good spirits. But Mondays? No thank you.
Except, my Libby was born on a Monday. That was the best Monday of my life. It’s been 17 Mondays since she was born. And three of them have had me dragging myself out of bed, away from her warm little body and sweet baby sighs and into slacks that are still a little too snug around the waist and shoes that feel a little too high. She stirs from her slumber between 4 and 5 a.m. and I quickly change her diaper and snuggle her back into my side of the bed (well, it’s really our side nowadays) and nurse her back to sleep. She’s like a magnet, though, and tries her best to pull me back to dreamland with her, but I resist and finally pry myself out of the bed and into the reality of being a working mother who has to be in the office by 7 a.m.
So, Monday still isn’t my favorite day of the week. Now, it’s the day that abruptly ends those two lovely days I have in a row with my baby girl when I can nurse her whenever she wants and my trusty Medela pump and its parts stay sanitized and tucked away. It’s the day I put on my professional attire and try to focus on data reports and not let my mind wander to wonder what cute little thing she might be doing. My efforts to push ahead and be so busy that the day flies by without too much time lost to missing her are completely futile once I feel my milk letdown. My body instantly reminds me that I am most definitely missing my little one. And then my heart aches.
The only thing that makes Monday tolerable is that it was the day she was born. But otherwise? I hate Mondays.
The last time that I had heard this sound was when my own womb sounds were broadcast into the room by the fetal monitor on her birth day. It had been a sound that I had grown to know intimately over the ten weeks preceding her birth since, once I had started insulin injections to manage my gestational diabetes, I had to go to the hospital each Thursday to monitor her in a non-stress test.
I remember the nurses always asking me if I wanted them to turn down the monitor with its constant whir of the heart that was beating within me but that was not my own. My answer was always the same. "No thank you...I love to listen to her heart beating..." They always offered me the remote control to the little TV in the monitoring room and I always declined, instead asking them to turn out the lights so I could lay there and concentrate on the woosh-woosh-woosh of my Little Being. Every Thursday for ten weeks this was my ritual. Sometimes I'd watch the lines dance on the monitor screen and wonder what she was up to in there. But usually, I'd close my eyes and just listen.
Tonight, I made the connection that while I was doing that on the outside, once a week for an hour or so, my little one was doing that 24/7 for nine-plus months. And tonight, when I hit that button on her sound machine, it flipped the switch in her memory of her time there, not so long ago that it had been forgotten. It was amazing to see it flash across her face in the glimmer of her sleepy eyes as they became heavier with the comfort of being swaddled and rocked to sleep. It was shown just before the sweetest smile that breaks across her lips as she falls to sleep. I love to see that little "I'm off to la-la-land" smile. Sixteen weeks in the world isn't very long when compared to the 39 weeks and three days she spent in utero. So tonight, she sleeps to the comforting sounds of the womb. The ocean can wait until tomorrow.
Here's what makes me a sorta-crunchy mama:
1) Exclusively breastfeeding for the first 6 months and then introducing solids around 6 months using "baby-led weaning." Will plan to breastfeed at least until 12 months and probably beyond.
2) Bed-sharing for now and will transition to co-sleeping soon (she'll stay in our room, but not in our bed)
3) We're using cloth diapers and wipes and wash them at home. I use the clothesline to sun them about once a week.
4) We practice babywearing.
5) Following the principles of Attachment Parenting.
6) Refused certain vaccines at Libby's birth.
7) Attempted a natural birth using the Bradley Birth Method and used a doula.
8) Libby's clothing and nursery is 99% recycled items bought via consignment, Craigslist and eBay.
But for really granola, tree hugging folks I would probably be considered more conventional than not...we buy organic when we can, but we don't eat organic foods exclusively. We're not vegan or even vegetarian although we do try to eat as healthfully as possible, avoiding processed foods and choosing whole grains like quinoa. That doesn't mean we don't enjoy pizza delivery from time to time or breakfast at our local greasy spoon complete with bacon. We recycle. We bring our own, reusable bags with us when we shop. We try to stick to eco-friendly cleaning supplies and personal products. But we also leave our electronics plugged in 24/7 and use modern conveniences like a dishwasher and microwave oven.
So we're "in between" and I think that's okay. The only weird thing is that I am too hippy-dippy for most conventional-types and too-conventional for the more hippy-dippy folks. I know that I am not alone, but sometimes I feel that it has to be "all or nothing" to feel like I fit in somewhere. Especially when it comes to parenting choices.
In general, it seems that if you choose something that is in opposition of another's parenting choice, then it can become a bone of contention. For example, if I cloth diaper, then I must think parents who use disposables are wrong. If I chose to breastfeed than I am judging the mom who chooses to use formula. If we want to bed-share then we must think parents who put their baby in a crib are neglecting them. None of this could be further from the truth! I know there may be some folks who feel this way, but not me. The beauty of parenthood is that there is no one right way to do it. Only the way that is best for me and my family. And if that's different than what other parents chose for them and their family, then so be it. I just wish more people could be okay with that. But I guess as long as there are people who are insecure in their own choices, there will be those who pass judgement on others. As long as people have to feel right there will be squabbles over things like this. Nothing is black and white though. Especially not parenting.
And this time next year? I think we might be dusting off the old BBT and CBEFM. At least I hope so.
Today I am celebrating my first Mother's Day. Well, officially. I actually started celebrating it in 2004 when we adopted Regina on Mother's Day. She was my furbaby from the start and definitely helped me get in touch with my maternal instincts (which until then had only be slightly activated by my becoming an auntie). I would get Mother's Day cards from the dog (which J would pick up and sign for her)...it's was cute and fun. The of course, I'd do the same each Father's Day with cards from the dog and the cat. Our furbabies are our babies.
But now, we have Libby and we're parents of another human being. I do think caring for our pets has helped prepare us for her in many ways. But in so many more ways, we're just beginning to learn what it means to be a daddy and a mommy. And most days I feel I am not that great at it. At least not yet. Maybe I have too many expectations of myself, but I want to be a good mama to Libby. To know what she needs and then be able to meet those needs. I love her more and more each day and her little twinkling eyes and big gummy grin melt my heart again and again. And I can rock her and just burst into tears watching her little face go off to dream land. She is so precious and I am so grateful that she's chosen me to be her mother. And I promise that I will do my best to live up to that.
So today, I celebrate becoming a mother. It feels odd to say that. I am just learning, really. And I am so lucky to have my own mom here with us. It's wonderful to see her with Libby and also to have her support and encouragement as I come into my own as a mother. Last night she took me and Libby to dinner and today J cooked up a wonderful brunch. And there were cards...from Libby (signed by J, of course) and from J and from my mom. Regina and Luigi and Bella? Well, they no longer give Mother's Day cards, I guess. But they show their appreciation too with licks and purrs.
To every mother, grandmother, auntie and godmother...and especially new mamas....happy Mother's Day to you!
To my brother and sister-in-law who received all sorts of flack from me for letting their daughter sleep with them until she was about 3 years old. Now, with my own, I see the importance of bed-sharing to foster the nursing relationship, especially as a working mother. I also recognize the benefits for baby...co-sleeping and/or bed-sharing (if done safely) is the natural thing for a mother and baby to do. And for what it's worth, I see my niece, now 8, sleeps just fine on her own, in her own bed, in her own room.
To every parent on a plane or in a store who's had a screaming kid that I gave the side-eye too. I now realize that you know how annoying it is to everyone else that your kid is screaming. But even more, I now know that it's pure torture for you to see your baby in pain (physical and/or emotional) and that his/her crying stirs a biological response that is overwhelming and the last thing you needed was a complete stranger passing judgement on you.
Finally, to my former self...who thought she would never want to be a mother...."how ordinary, how expected!" I am sorry that I almost denied you this wonderful gift...for the promise of a career or not being tied down or whatever it was that I feared might happen if you were to have children. I am glad you waited, until the time was really right for you...when you truly yearned to become a mother. And now that I am, no amount of fame or money or glamour could ever replace how I feel as a mother. It's the most amazing thing in the world. It's truly transformative. And I am so lucky be able to experience its awesomeness.
Adding to my sadness is the fact that my maternity leave officially ends today. Tomorrow, I am back to work, eight hours a day, five days a week. As much as I love my job, I love Libby a million times more! And I cannot help but feel guilty that I'll be missing out on her life 40+ hours each week. If only I could get paid to love her! I am grateful to have had this time home with her. Just one week over her three month mark. I cannot imagine how the poor mommies who have to leave their babies at just six or eight weeks old do it. I'd be a wreck! Well, I am already and Libby is twice the age of most babies that are left behind when mom goes back to work. I am extremely lucky that I live close enough to my office that I can go home for lunch and nurse her. And when she's not with me she'll be with her daddy and/or grandmother.
Speaking of which, my Mom was supposed to arrive home today after 10 days of visiting family (she planned her trip to perfectly coincide with my Dad's visit here so he wouldn't need to stay in a hotel). We headed to the airport and were even about 10 minutes late and there's was no sight of her. I called her cell, twice. Texted. No replies. I started to panic a bit. I went to the ticket counter and asked the customer service rep to pull her name up on the computer system to verify that she had made her connection out of DFW. Not only had she not been on that flight, she never made her first flight of the day. Now I am really panicked. Heart racing, I dialed my Brother in California to see if he'd heard any news. Nothing. We drove home to get my Aunt's number (where my mom had been visiting) and the entire way my mind reeled with every worst-case scenario that could have prevented her from making her flight (I'll chalk this up to watching too many episodes of Law and Order and Cold Case Files while Dad was here). We get home and I called my Auntie. She could tell by the tone of my voice that I was worried. I hear my Mom giggle in the background and then start saying "oh no! oh no!" Turns out she was a day behind herself and completely missed her flights because she thought she was scheduled to leave tomorrow! Whew. I guess vacationing in paradise can do that to a person. Thankfully, she was able to rebook her flights for tomorrow. I can laugh about it now, but seriously, for about an hour today I was in a total panic and thought my mom might be dead in a ditch somewhere!
And so was my last day on maternity leave. I was tearful...sad to say goodbye to my Dad and emotional about all the "little" things I'll be missing out on with Libby as I head to the office each day. I never really thought I'd like to be a stay-at-home-mom, I love my job and enjoy the people at work. But I could see myself doing really well as a SAHM. It's just not possible though since I am the main income earner these days. Which leads to me another thought...why is that in the majority of Baby and Parenting magazines I keep reading these articles about how mothers should "re-asses" to see if they really need to return to work with advice like "rework your budget and see if it doesn't make better financial sense to quit your job than to return..." Um, what are we, in the 1950's? It's not like most mothers are working so they can just have some "fun money" or extra funds to buy a new dress. Most mothers I know, at least, work because they have to in order to pay the bills, the mortgage and put food on the table. Most of my female friends who work and have kids are the primary income earner for their family (married or not)...it really irks me to see these articles published every month in these parents' magazines. It's not in touch with reality at all. Well neither is wearing 4-inch heels, that cost more than my monthly grocery bill, to the playground for a playdate, but I digress.
8 lbs., 4 oz. and 19.75 inches long
Because I had gestational diabetes (GD), my doctor did not want me to go much longer than 39 weeks of pregnancy. So I was scheduled for an induction on Monday, January 25, 2010. We checked into Labor and Delivery at St. Francis Hospital at 5 a.m. and Libby was born at 7:04 p.m. So, without further ado...here's my recollection of her birth story.
Day before the induction. I spent a lot of time meditating and visualizing a safe and happy birth for me and for Libby. I did have some anxiety about what was to come the next day and let the tears come freely. I got a massage that evening and slept more soundly than I had in months!
3:30 a.m. - awoke...showered and had a light breakfast of scrambled eggs and toast.
5:00 a.m. - report to the hospital
6:00 a.m. - I changed into my birthing attire...a cotton sarong (bought a few yards of fabric, washed it and my mom finished the edges with the sewing machine) and a hook-front, cotton tank bra (similar to a sports bra...it's by Leading Lady® ). I was adamant not to wear the scratchy hospital gown. I hate wearing nightgowns and wasn't going to do it just because I was in the hospital! Once I was changed, the IV was inserted and the Pitocin started. I was at about 2 cm dilated.
12:00 p.m. - Contractions had increased in intensity and I was having tons of back labor. Baby was obviously still face up. I was checked and thinking that by now I surely must be closer to 5 cm. They said 3 cm and 80% effaced and I was pretty upset that this is all I had progressed. They increased the Pitocin and I started to cry and express my doubts about being able to continue without pain medication.
3:30 p.m. - I was laboring with intense contractions. At this point they were 60-90 seconds long and coming every 1-2 minutes. I had my eyes closed and asked that the overhead lights be turned off. I was sure that I must be close to 5 cm by now! I was checked and told that I was 4 cm and still not very thinned. The contractions were becoming unbearable because my legs were spasming with each one. So as I was trying to relax and breath my legs were clamping closed and almost "seizing"...I was shaking uncontrollably.
4:15 p.m. - The next 45 minutes (between 3:30-4:15 p.m.) was rough. Despite doing my best to stay with my breathing and coping techniques, I couldn't get on top of the contractions because my legs were just taking over my body and not allowing me to relax. After much struggle, I finally begged for the epidural. It seemed like an eternity before I got it. I worked through another 15 minutes of hard contractions and then I finally got it. I have to say, it wasn't scary like I had imagined and it felt like a dream...my legs stopped quivering enough for me to sleep for an hour. I got to hug J while they inserted the needle and later he told me that he almost passed out from watching. I felt instant relief.
5:30 p.m. - After an incredibly deep sleep, I was finally 7 cm and fully dilated...my legs still continued to tremble with every contraction, but I felt no pain! My upper body started shaking though with each contraction so I still knew when they were coming!
My mom, husband and I just before pushing began.
My husband and doula watching the baby being born. They were both tearing up!
7:04 p.m. - Libby was born! They put her on my chest immediately and within minutes she was latched on and nursing. She knew exactly what to do. It was amazing.
From here the details get very blurry for me. I had a very tough 3rd stage and lost a lot of blood. They worked on me for 45 minutes. My placenta came out swiftly but with some was retained (doctor doesn't think so) or a piece of my uterine lining came out with it. Apparently there were buckets of fresh blood being removed as well as being mopped off the floor. I remember none of this (no one was panicked or saying things that sounded urgent). I do remember the look on our doula's face and that my mom and Joseph took Libby to the warmer and were tending to her. Now I know they were distracting themselves from seeing me bleeding. I am fuzzy on these details but there was my doctor and the nurse, both inside of me with tools scraping my lining and massaging my uterus. It was very intense and it made me projectile vomit (imagine the Heimlich from within)! My blood pressure dropped to 84/43. They administered some shot of medicine in my leg and I heard the Doctor say, "800 of Cytotec"...
Anyway, long story short...they got my uterus to finally tighten up. It took about 45 minutes - hour. After that I am not sure what happened. I did have Libby back on my breast. And then I slept, I think. I awoke and the epi was out, etc. I am not sure how long that was...it was around 9 p.m. or so. I did have one fainting spell in the bathroom but other than that, I was stable and pretty much "back to normal" by 11 p.m. I had a grilled cheese sandwich and french fries! After 12 weeks on a low carb, GD diet, they were especially delicious!
So in the end...I was incredibly grateful to be in hospital. I did have the vaginal birth I wanted and labored without pain meds fror 12 hours. Ultimately, the epidural was the right choice...it allowed Libby to be born quickly and also enabled me to get through that horrible stage three scenario. Had I not had the epi I would have been rushed to the OR and fully sedated. And had they not been able to stop the bleeding my doctor said the only option was to have my uterus removed! Very scary stuff.
But all in all...I have no real memory of that and I feel great. Libby is so wonderful...she's been a fantastic nurser since the first minutes of life and has basically taught me what to do. J has been so hands on with her from the very beginning and we're making a great team.
Our baby girl was born on Monday, January 25, 2010 at 7:04 p.m. I was induced at 5 a.m. that morning and after 12 hours of labor without pain medication finally asked for the epidural. Two hours later I was holding her in our arms.
Life has radically been altered since I've become a mother and I have to say that it's absolutely wonderful. Next week is the official end of my maternity leave (although for the past month I've been working from home part-time and in the office twice a week) and it made me think that it's time to pick back up with this blog. Although, I think the focus will inherently change to most things baby-related, since that is the focus of our lives right now. We're approaching our second anniversary of being Californians in Tulsa...and although I cannot say that I feel like a bonafide Okie, I am raising one now.
I am sure she'll have a different outlook on life...being raised here versus my being raised in San Francisco and J's upbringing in San Diego. I look forward to her not having to grow up too fast. It's refreshing to see here that kids can still be kids for a while and not little adults. But I am also determined that she be open-minded and accepting of all walks of life even if it's not the path she's chosen...a bit of a challenge in a conservative, "red" state, I'd say. Thankfully we're finding an inclusive community of free-thinkers via All Souls Church. Now that our little one is just past the three month mark, we're committed to getting out and connecting with other like-minded folks. We've been here nearly two years and it's time we start setting our roots. The seed has definitely been planted. And her name is Libby Jo.