Friday, February 02, 2007

In Which Becca Turns Seven

Becca had, for months, been planning for it to snow on the night before her birthday, so her friends could come sledding. It was going to be SO MUCH FUN, she said.

You'd better think of a backup plan, sweetie, I said.

And so, the zoo it was! Oh what a glorious day it was for it too! (OK, ok, so it would have been better 10 degrees warmer...) We met our friends at the kid zone and after a bit of running around to burn off some kid-meeting-up energy, we found some tables and had some sugar (cake and brownies) and Becca opened her presents:

(Thanks Danelle, Becca's used at least one page of every book already.)

Then it was off to view some animals. Tempt some sharks. You know.

We came across a bunch of animal enrichment activities towards the end of the day. A tarantula! Pet rat! Barn owl! All out walking with their keepers.

And then there was the beluga whale. I've never seen him do 'tricks' before, but apparently he can, they just don't make much of a show of it. So we caught his zookeeper interaction just after the zoo closed (but before they started kicking us out):

I think we were the very last visitors to leave the zoo. As far as Becca was concerned, this was simply proof that she'd just had the best zoo birthday ever.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

The Synthesis of Becca - part 1

Becca's birth story hasn't been written. I do think it will remain that way forever, now. I don't remember most of it. Oh sure, I've got bits and pieces - it's an important event! - but I didn't get it all congealed into any sort of meaningful form, and it is far too late now.

So I'll share the bits and pieces. It isn't a story, but the memories are still important.

I have come to the conclusion now, years later, that Becca was meant to be far more than she was an "accident." I'd attended the University of Wisconsin at Madison the year before, and for some reason things were simply not falling into place for housing for the next year. It was still all up in the air when I stowed my things at an aunt's house, flew home, and (you guessed it) was pregnant within the week.

In the fall I hauled my pregnant behind to the University of Hawaii, astounding people by showing up in classes like Calculus III, Calc-based Physics II, and Organic Chemistry (erm, pregnant lady, WTF are you doing here?). I filled papers with shapes and numbers and dialed microscopes, and I had this odd feeling that everyone thought my life was pretty much over after this.

They were kind of right. "It will be Different," the already-mothers all say. Different. Capital D, Different. A NEW kind of Different.

I was horribly morning-sick during the first and part of the second trimester. I ate and ate and barfed and barfed. My husband (then boyfriend) came into the room and it was all I could do not to vomit from the smell of his cologne - when I got him to stop wearing cologne it was the deodorant, when he got unscented deodorant it was the soap. I yelled at my sister not to use so much shampoo because it was stinking up the place.

I gained 4lbs in the first trimester, because I puked so much.

I felt movement at 14 weeks. Too early?! I don't know, I was pretty thin and laying on my belly at the time, and I swear I felt it. I'd forgone the first trimester ultrasound that was a given in the practice I went to (I was sure of my dates even if they weren't, and I wasn't going to do one for THEIR sake, damnit), so we compromised and had one at 15 weeks instead of 20, to get better dating but still be able to see whether things were developing right. The man who performed the ultrasound is a neonatologist, a very skilled surgeon who ENJOYED doing these ultrasounds and did them for FUN. It was probably the best scan I've ever even heard about. Chatty, immediate explanations, "look, here's what I'm measuring, isn't that neat? Oh, I love doing ultrasounds on healthy women and babies. See those toes? That there is the cord, see how it..." I hope he's still doing it.

I showed up halfway through the second trimester with a weight gain of 30 some-odd lbs and was asked if I wanted a referral to a nutritionist. "No," I said, just-out-of-teenagerhood-me having quite enough trouble with the perceptions of others already and unwilling to place myself under scrutiny any more. Blood pressure was fine, GTT was fine, and the docs at the huge HMO I was going to didn't seem inclined to care much if I got horribly fat so long as I did it without causing organ damage.

At 30-something weeks we found out that the insurance plan I was on, through my mom, would cover me but not my baby. Um, not cool? There is a "mother" and a "baby" section on the hospital bills, and that "baby" section can be a couple thousand dollars strong. So we transferred care to my Dad's PPO, and I started seeing a doctor across the mountains from us.

I liked this better. Two doctors in the practice and one of them would be at the delivery. I hand-carried my records from the HMO to my new doctors, and they accepted them without question.

I never heard another word about my weight. That's puzzling, now...I gained 75lbs or thereabouts with this pregnancy. But I must have looked healthy enough despite all that.

Before I got pregnant:

One month before Becca was born:

Part 2 - Birth! And Recovery...

First-timers never seem quite sure about going into labor, and I was no exception. I called Fran back from school around lunchtime on a Friday, because I was getting a trickle of fluid and some contractions, but the contractions stopped coming and the fluid stopped trickling, and in the evening we went on over to the hospital just to check on whether it was amniotic fluid or the mysterious "something else" of pregnant-woman legend...they said it wasn't amniotic fluid, but since the trickle had stopped quite a while back, that didn't surprise me. Probably a high leak that resealed.

We walked all weekend. Around the beach park, watching people playing volleyball...we made the 2-mile circuit twice. Around the parking lot by Fran's mom's place. Around the neighborhood by my parents' place. Up curbs, down curbs. Up stairs, down stairs.

Nothing happened.

I went to sleep defeated on Sunday night and sent Fran to school on Monday morning. Only to call him back, again around noon. This time at least, I told him to stay at school until he got out at 4. I labored lightly all day, nothing difficult or painful but oh so exciting. My mom did a manicure and pedicure. It felt nice but she painted my nails and that is very unlike me, so in the birth and postpartum photos it doesn't seem like ME holding my baby. Small thing, eh? But my bond with her was so tenuous, right at the beginning, that it seems sad to me.

I was so very hungry by dinner. My mom had made spaghetti and I ate a ton of it, despite the warning that it was sure to all come back up. By the time we were sitting around after dinner, contractions were coming almost every minute, but were still pretty painless. I definitely knew they were there. It wasn't feeling particularly urgent, but the birth center/hospital was over the mountain, so off we headed.

Things became painful when we got there.

This is where my memory really leaves off. It was a fog really. It was more pain than I had imagined and a lot of that was poor coping. We had been to childbirth ed classes, but it was one of those "you don't get a medal for going natural" classes, and all of the techniques we'd learned were about coaching, talking, touching...interacting. I discovered I was a very introspective birther and wanted not a thing to do with people telling me what to do, with looking at things, with being touched. And yet, this was all we'd learned. Our "teacher" had actually told us that it was a bad idea to close your eyes during a contraction!

So childbirth was a FIGHT for me. A tooth-and-nails, knock-em-down, FIGHT. My body versus my brain. My husband, because of that childbirth ed training, largely fell on the "brain" side of the fight and kept trying to coach. I was so stuck in myself that I couldn't tell him not to. I'm not sure I muttered a whole two intelligible words until well after I'd given birth. My body battled my brain with everything it had; muscles, hormones, everything. I was convinced I needed to battle back.

It was torture.

The nurse at some point asked whether my water broke. "Friday," I said, thinking of my trickle and not entirely thinking straight at the moment. "That's not what we want to hear," she said. "OK," I said, "it didn't break yet then." "Much better," she said, charting the news happily. Later, during pushing, my water would gush during a contraction but not EXPLODE the way it did with my second, so I do think that it leaked a bit on Friday and had reopened that leak during labor. But whatever, it is probably better she charted that it was unbroken.

Probably around 10pm the nurse asked for the second time whether I wanted an epidural, and informed me that the anesthesiologist was going home for the night and it would take an hour if we decided later. I was beyond speaking by this point and my mom answered for me, "no, she doesn't want one, send him home." "You sure?" the nurse said. I nodded. The anesthesiologist left.

At some point I did throw up that spaghetti. My mom was ready with a large bucket.

At some point I got in the bathtub, and that was nice. But it was small and to submerge my belly any kind of meaningfully I needed to lean backwards, and that was uncomfortable, so I stayed in there for probably only a little more than half an hour (wild guess there).

I don't remember a lot from the last couple hours. I remember at one point I stared at the instructions for operating the hospital bed and that got me through one contraction without losing my connection to reality.

Towards the end, I fell asleep between each contraction, I was so tired. I think that this was what finally allowed my body to complete the process, because I was too tired to fight it anymore.

When I started pushing, my mom had to battle the nurses to "let" me push in a crouch. The squat bar they'd advertised in their literature was nowhere to be found, and it was obvious that if it existed at all, it was in some dusty far-off closet.

Pushing wasn't the relief I'd heard it was, but it wasn't horrid either. I don't remember the nurse checking to see that I was fully dilated, but this might have been because I blocked it out. The only reason I remember pushing in a squat is because I can remember holding tight to the back of the bed (fully tilted upwards), looking straight at the wall, knees half-akimbo and embedded in the top half of the bed.

But I was already quite tired, and after only a few contractions I needed to lie down again. The nurses "helped" me into that unlovely c-shaped pushing position, and were shocked to see that there was quite a bit of descent. They ran off to call my doctor, insisting that I take it easy on the pushing. As more and more of the head became visible, and there was still no doctor, they tried to get me to breathe through contractions.

I was unable to tell them off, FAR beyond the ability to express myself verbally, but luckily my mom was there.

"Surely you can catch a baby? I'd get ready for that possibility, ladies!" *nurses stand about as far from me as they can get while still in the same room, looking for all the world like deer stuck in headlights* *mom gives nurses a disgusted look, and says "GO AHEAD and PUSH." I'm pretty sure she'd have caught that baby herself if they kept standing there.

Like I was about to do anything else at the moment!

This, btw, is why in all my photos (and I have very graphic photos of this birth) there is NO perineal support even though it is obvious I needed it. I was also, however, spared an episiotomy in a situation where I'm sure all but the most episiotomy-hating doctor would have performed one.

At some point the pictures stopped, because there was no mirror and the only way I could see anything was if Fran turned the swivelling screen of the camera.

My doctor came running in, her hair dishevelled, snowflake sweater pulled over a matching flannel pajama set, chewing gum, just in time to pull on gloves as Becca's head bulged past my perineum.

Her cord was wrapped around her neck a couple of times and tight, if I remember correctly. It is REALLY foggy. I think the doctor cut the cord before she was fully delivered because of it...certainly the cord was cut once already before my husband was presented with the scissors, and I think that this was the reason.

When she was plopped on my chest, I couldn't say anything but "oh, oh, oh." Words still failed me but in a very different way. Becca was born at 2ish in the morning. She stared at me with one eye open and the other sealed shut against the light. She'd switch eyes every now and then but couldn't seem to handle having them both open at once. She nursed pretty quickly after she was born.

Her shoulders were what tore me. Pretty badly, too. 3rd, almost 4th degree. The repair took a long time but my doctor was gentle and careful, and she did a good job of it. It was painful recovering but it healed well and I have no complaints about that.

At some point a broken thermometer was used and read some outrageous high temp. The nurses took Becca over to the side to check things out and redid the temp several times...with the same thermometer. Finally my mom got fed up and just TOLD them to go get a new one. They did, and she was fine. Great.

We slept that morning pretty uneasily. We were still awake when the sun rose outside the window. We slept on and off, people came in to see us. I was exhausted. I don't really remember anything, except that after we woke up that first day a kind nurse took pity on my discomfort and gave me a cast-off set of hospital scrubs to wear. I felt like she'd given me my dignity back, and when Fran's family came to visit I felt like a PERSON. It was so much better than feeling like a PATIENT.

A lovely, vibrant, curly-red-headed nurse with an unidentifiable accent (at least in my memory) was happy to hear that even if we'd had a boy, she wouldn't have had to try and talk us gently out of a circumcision.

My mom took the "breastfeeding" bag (from Similac!) and dumped all the formula propaganda into the trash. With flair. With as many nurses in the room as possible. While expounding on the evils of formula companies.

And after a second night at the hospital we packed up and left.

Recovery was heinous. And not just from my tearing. My body had fought hard, and all my muscles were sore. Very sore. My arms in particular...I couldn't lift them above my head without supreme effort for a week.

My bottom hurt like NOTHING ELSE, which isn't terribly surprising given the tearing. My mom prepped sitz baths for me and I tried to lie exposed to air on a chux pad every now and then. But I was supremely uncomfortable.

When my 6 week check came around I still didn't really feel well, but I suppose my recovery was passable.

I had PPD after my daughter was born, something I didn't recognize until well after I was out of it. She was not the easiest child in the world - colicky, difficult to comfort, supremely high-strung - and that didn't help any.

Fran and I married when she was 6 months old - she was still high-strung but no longer horribly colicky. I pulled out of my PPD a couple of months after that and became the "me" that most of you, who read my blog, now know.

The whole period - pregnancy, birth, and postpartum - was a growing and changing experience for me. I went into it a newly-adult-being, not yet matured, and came out essentially as you know me today.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Toddler Coddling

It was pointed out to me *ahem* that EldestDaughter is creating a "princess" by fawning over toddlerness. And yeah, I kinda saw it. But if there were any doubts left in my mind, the following incident cleared them entirely...

Here comes EldestDaughter carrying a whimpering Toddlerness up to me. "Mama," she says with a sigh, "Nomi bumped the sharp part of the door..." she pauses and shakes her head "...her poor magnificent little toes..."

"Mama," whimpers toddlerness, "Nomi needs a coffee."

Confession - this morning she was whining so hard for my cup that I poured about a tablespoon of it into a mug of milk. She stood on a stool in the kitchen, sipping and staring out the window, completely and utterly HAPPY.

I fear she will demand coffee every morning for the rest of her life now. And no, I'm not kidding. *I* demand coffee every morning...

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Losing the Garbage War

Taking out the garbage - the process of putting it into the larger cans outside - has never been a specifically-assigned task in this household. Which would spell dooooooom for some households, but for ours, non-assigned tasks seem to get done pretty smoothly. The dishes are another such task, and we fall in and out of routines with our dishwashing, but generally Fran and I are doing half the work. That is, on any given day, we'll each do about half the work, not that one of us takes on the kitchen entirely each day. It is interesting how these things work themselves out as years of marriage start to extend behind you.

But apparently this little understanding is falling apart when it comes to the garbage.

I noticed about a month ago that it seemed like I was the ONLY one taking care of the garbage. Like if it was full, Fran would leave garbage on the counter or stick it in a bag next to the garbage...and then not take care of things when he was done with whatever-it-was.

This pissed me off. But I held that pissed-off in complete and utter silence, largely because the laundry (one of the things that are definitely "mine") was overflowing all over the bedroom, and I couldn't be starting the arguement right then. Fran had too much ammo. I decided to postpone the battle until I could stock up better.

A mere week later, we had it out, him standing in the kitchen and me in the bedroom, shouting across the living space. Not the best way to have a rational discussion, don't you think? "Niki, the trash FRUSTRATES me, I don't LIKE to do it!" "oh, and I ENJOY it?!" "well, it doesn't drive you NUTS, but it drives ME nuts!" "MAN, I don't like to do it either! Just because I don't get all huffy doesn't mean I LIKE it!" (insert man sulking here) (insert Niki at a loss for words here - stupidity can have that effect on me...)

And so in the intervening time, I had been stubbornly refusing to take out the trash. So, apparently, had Fran. Because after the trash can filled up, that ever-so-lovely bag appeared next to it. And another. And it drove me NUTS. I couldn't open the dishwasher without rearranging them. I couldn't use the step-can and had to wrestle with opening up the bag to throw stuff away. But I put up with it. Until this morning, when I woke up and there was liquid leaking from under one of the bags.

This was just too much.

I caved.

I took out the trash.

The battle, I fear, has been lost. I'm left wondering if Fran will ever take out the trash again.

So much for the eveil one, eh? Couldn't think of a better way to do this? Oh, yes, I thought of a million. Including leaving trash on his side of the bed...dumping the bag over his head...putting bags behind his car so he had to move them to go to work...

But I fear that this would cause a revival of other, more important battles. I'm not interested in starting a war I'll lose. Because when it comes down to it, Fran, as anal as he can be, is a man...and he can live in squallor far longer than I can. Plus he's still taking the filled trash cans on the long journey up to the main street for pickup every week, and I really don't want to get nailed with that one too.

I can't believe I've been out-stubborned. Me!! Out-stubborned!!

Monday, January 29, 2007

Like Mother, Like Daughter

Toddlerness does a pretty fair impression of her mama in the morning, wouldn't you say?

Weird Wood

Weird title, no?

Yesterday we had our first bonfire of the year. It wasn't a SPECTACULAR bonfire, largely because the dead crap we were burning was very, very wet and it took until 11am to get it going at all. I checked the websites and made sure that there was no burn ban before we lit it, but when I came in and turned on the computer after darkness had fallen, there had been one called shortly after I checked. I might have known! The smoke, instead of wafting gently up, up, and awwaaaaaaayyyy, settled in with the tree trunks and clearings, making a fog of its own in the clear, crisp, and entirely windless day.

Oh well.

The weird part of it is that we encountered, once again, what Fran has termed "piano wood" because the smell it makes when it burns is what he imagines the grand pianos he spent his childhood around would smell like burning. Why is this weird? Well, we have no idea where it comes from. It isn't a tree identifiable to us. Nothing that grows here, anyway. We know well the smell of burning cedar and maple, and the unpleasant (but mercifully brief) tang of the burning vines and half-sprouted leaves of various poking things we decide to eradicate each spring. And this isn't one of them.

We'd kind of assumed, before, that the huge stubs of massive trunks that are littered here and there about the area were just cedars. Cedars that would have dwarfed the ones currently standing around our house but just cedars - a known entity - for all that. They certainly look plenty cedar-ish, what is left of the decaying bark and crumbling innards. But know I wonder, with the repeated appearance of the mysterious piano-wood, what stood in this forest before we were here. Before, judging by the degree of rot in the trunks versus those cut more recently, we were even born.

It would be nice to know, I think. What was here before. Somehow I doubt anyone ever took a picture of this spot before 1980 or so (this house was built in '84), if even then. Some things I can imagine, but others? What was exterminated to make this spot more inhabitable?

I think the mystery of the piano wood will be solved at some point. One day we'll run across a chunk of the stuff that actually LOOKS like something. But I suspicion that it doesn't exist in living form anymore, at least not right here.

There is a hill, by our neighbor's house, that I realized a couple of months ago was not a hill at all. It is the fallen hulk of a humongous tree, its trunk housing a new generation of growth (judging by the size of the new trees, about 10-15 years old). I wonder if at some point it will crumble away, exposing the kids-clubhouse maze of new roots that had wrapped around its exterior...or if it is now a permanent hill, a tiny protection against the erosion that is surely happening as the winter rain pours down the larger hill each year.

Nature is cool.