quickly, because she's impatient today...
hazel signs! i can hardly believe it, already. we noticed some pronounced mimicking about two weeks ago, so we started signing a few signs to her (bird, dog, milk, fan, light... all the important things :), but hadn't really yet gotten into the habit of doing it consistently.
on tuesday night, when i was in and out of sleep due to a 102 fever, i saw her watch the dog jump off the couch, then stick tongue in and out, then look at me for understanding. i responded, then she did it again and looked at the dog. wow... but i'm borderline delirious, did that really happen? despite my state, she was absolutely clear.
so two days later, after just having arrived in ND for christmas, as she was lying in my lap i noticed her eyes had locked onto something. she stuck her arm up and swiveled her wrist around, and sure enough, i looked up to see we were right below the fan. since then, she's repeatedly signed for dog, fan, and now light, too. (of course, milk is the one i really want her to learn so i know when she's hungry, but in order for her to learn that, i actually have to remember to show her the sign as we're nursing... i keep forgetting.) anyway, i'm sort of in disbelief that she's already old enough to be signing, and half-crawling, and clapping... time is flying by.
she's so cute, she claps (in this funny splayed-finger tapping sort of way) to inspire interaction. she claps, we can't help but clap back, and on it goes, and she gets the biggest grin when we "get" her clapping or signing. i'm sure she's thinking "finally! you people finally understand what i've been trying to tell you..."
due to a canceled flight, we killed 8 hrs at minneapolis airport on thursday (gotta love that playscape across from gate C12! the tram and moving sidewalks are also very popular). while eating a snack with eva and allowing sleepless papa to rest a bit, i noticed... hazel has a tooth! the lower left tooth was just *barely* poking through, and already now two days later it's much more pronounced. and, she already bit me (in her sleep, so it surprised both of us).
today it is -13 degrees F (-39 with wind chill... and that's not the low, that's just the mid-afternoon temp). eva spent the morning making a gingerbread house, and had a grand old time, and got the hang of piping the icing herself. christmas prep continues, as everyone works on projects in assorted groups whenever the recipient is out of view (though, not much of that has really happened yet... difficult when no one can leave the house.) larry contemplated driving to bismarck to get the supplies santa will need to make eva's gift (i think santa needs some help sometimes, right? the elves must get exhausted) but was deterred by the crazy wind chill. i mean, not that he's any stranger to this.. the first time he ever visited me here (my first year of college) it was -60 and we finally left the house to walk 5 blocks to my friend's house... only our eyes were showing, but i was still pretty sure we were going to die before we made it back home. luckily, we made it, and lived on to produce two pretty entertaining and cute kids. good thing.
i'm bummed out that i haven't posted in so long, it makes me feel like time slips away unaccounted for or something. but guess what? it seems that having two kids (combined with it being the holiday/travel time of year) means i haven't had as much time as i'd like. shocking, i know...
mostly it makes me a bit sad because there has been so much cuteness and so many fun things happening that i want to share all of it, but the snippets and sentences i think of while nursing a baby to sleep stay in my head, because i can't type enough with one hand.
at the moment, eva is snuggled on the couch to my right watching sesame street. last night she vomited all over me at a restaurant, and larry and i handled it like seasoned pros. i don't even think anyone else knew what had happened, even counting the fact that both eva and i had to basically strip in the parking lot. i think we get parenting bonus points (merit badge, maybe?) for that one. hazel is sleeping on the couch to my left, zonked out probably because she hasn't been sleeping much, particulary at night, resulting in a tired mama who refuses to just give up and go to bed at 7 like i should, because i have too much to do.
we're enjoying the holiday season (despite any side-effects of the list making and checking and such). eva has become obsessed with christmas songs, and in about two weeks, she's learned so many songs. (did anyone know there's a humorous second verse to jingle bells, by the way? fun. oh, and not the batmobile one. it's about a guy being passed over by a sleigh-driver after falling in the snow.) rudolph is her favorite and she sings it beginning to end over and over. frosty and jingle bells and "we wish you a merry christmas" and silent night are all runners-up. we've been doing our advent calendar (which became a hit in the craft blog world and is showing up all over the place (google "recycle advent calendar" and i'm the top three hits, crazy!). eva enjoys finding a new tiny ornament to hang on our (rosemary) christmas "tree". she's been sewing felt ornaments for her friends. sweetest of all is that larry has been reciting (from memory :) "twas the night before christmas" to her to fall asleep to many nights.
i'll have to catch up with news from maker faire, our month in ND, hazel's new tricks at 6 months, news of eva's growh from her endocrinologist appointment, etc. but all that must wait. i can smell that hazel to my left needs a diaper, and i was waiting until she woke up. she has now pushed herself up to semi-sitting and is happily watching TV along with her sister. oops.
in case i never catch up on all that, though, what i really want to record about this time is the sweetness, the goofy playfulness that inserts itself into our days together, the inquisitive learning and leaps of thought from eva that astound us, and the overall joy. this is a great time. tired and busy, but so happy. i would freeze time right here for a while if i could.
four months. four months! hard to believe, yet here we are. until very recently, despite all evidence to the contrary, i liked to claim that she looked "the same" as when she was born. time was standing still. she's a newborn.
well guess what?
it's not and she's not. and i guess that's okay, too. she's so big for her age that she looks like a 6 month old, and is wearing some 9 month clothing. so, all that makes it pretty difficult to pretend she's a newborn.
size: she had her well check on tuesday, and she's doing fine. she's 16 lbs 3 oz (95th %ile), 24 3/4 inches (75th %ile) and -- can you believe i remembered all these numbers? -- has a 16" head circumference (50th %ile). she's a grower. i think they say a baby should ideally double their birth weight by four months, but she did it by 2 1/2 months. she's so chunky that she has rolls and creases everywhere -- ankles, backs of knees, dents at her shoulder blades. she has pudgy tops-of-feet, fingers, back-of-head, even her pinky toe has padding. wow!
and she's proving to be physically adept, too. i didn't really get it when a friend used to talk about her daughter having stood on her legs at birth -- how is that possible? what does that mean? well, hazel has always supported her weight on her legs, and was lifting her head off my shoulder in the first week. a few weeks ago, she started rolling from her back onto her stomach, and after holding her head up and looking around for a good while, would get tired and find herself unable to roll back over. within a week, she learned to get from her stomach to her back, but in that intervening time, eva was more than willing to assist her by "rolling"/shoving her over onto her back, much to hazel's perpetual astonishment. (this was no easy task... eva only has 10 pounds on hazel, you know.) for the past two weeks, she's been rolling and rolling, inadvertently using it as a form of locomotion. i'll set her down, go spend a few minutes making breakfast and coffee, and come back to find she's well off the edge of the quilt five feet away looking a bit bewildered. better yet is when she gets herself wedged against the couch leg or something -- and even though she can't crawl or really pick up toys, i've had to start watching what stuff eva leaves on the floor near her. pipe cleaners, not so safe, i'd say. oh, and she's working pretty hard on sitting up -- with the boppy around her, she sat the other day for a good 5 minutes. since then, it's been a bit more floppy, which is fine by me. i'm not used to all this! being even a little on the early side with all this physical stuff is especially confusing to me, given that eva was on the later side of such things. for all i know, hazel will decide to start crawling before christmas.
the love list:
i love her expressive eyebrows. everyone comments on this, so it must be really noticeable. the eyes may be the windows to the soul, but watch her eyebrows and you can see what she's thinking, how she's feeling...
i love that her mouth is the exact shape of the yellow hat worn by curious george's friend. it's true.
i love how she can be so agitated one second, then as though a snap of hypnotist's fingers, eyes close, arms go limp, head droops to the side, toes uncurl, and she's in utter peace.
i love that low grunty sound in her throat, the one she uses when she wants to remind you "i'm still here".
i love how for months now, she'll start cooing, louder if i look away: ohhh, youuu, ahh (a few months back, eva said sleepily in the middle of the night: "i think hazel's trying to spell something.") with all those letter sounds, perhaps she is.
i love how she often wakes with a look of searching confusion, then sees me and breaks out a giant gummy grin, laughing "heh heh heh!"
i love how she delights in having an older sister (despite the occasional pinches to the arm this week) -- she'll stop crying or start laughing when eva entertains her.
i love the two random exra-long hairs on the top of her head (one wavy and one straight) that have been there since birth. i check for them almost daily an will be sad one day when they are no longer there.
i love how she flaps her right arm when she's happy, and that now that she has discovered use of her legs, how she can entertain herself by kicking, kicking, kicking.
i love it when she sighs with contentedness upon latching on.
i love hearing her chuckling in her sleep or while nursing, because i know she's happy.
i love rubbing her furry hair.
and most of all, i love that she's mine, that we're the ones who get to have her in our family because she's perfect for us.
and i love that she knows to wake up right when i'm done typing. :)
hazel is cooing at me from her post next to me on the floor. she has a way of getting my attention, so i won't write the blog post i was planning just now. in fact, i have one half-written that is already a month old! hazel, my dear one, some day when you bemoan the fact that i wrote more about eva when she was a baby than i did about your babyhood... take solace in knowing that often enough, i put the computer down so i could just stare at your cute face, or so i could do as i'm doing right now, and watch you roll back and forth from stomach to back, holding your head up high, grinning at your own accomplishments.
photo: eva wrote this card for me. in her words, "it says 'i love you', because i love you mama, but i wrote two Us but one looks like a V but that's okay." she did it all on her own, without the usual asking how to spell the words or how to make the letters. (for the record, "love" just happens to be one of the words she can spell/read.) we were shopping for some clothes for hazel a month ago, and she said "let's get this shirt that says 'love' on it." that's how i know she can spell it. i think that came from the valentine's day project. :)
okay, now that hazel has "crawled" several feet away from me by inching forward on her belly, i'm going for real. she's too much, that one. oh, love, indeed.
when you have two girls in a family (or maybe two boys? though i know nothing about that...) you expect that eventually there will be sharing of clothing. this can be a good or bad thing (or so i hear), depending, but it worked out well for me. growing up with two sisters and a stylish mom, i thought of it as a convenient extension of my own wardrobe.
well, first thing this morning, we had dueling bed... "issues". eva had an accident, and before i had the opportunity to do anything about that, hazel promptly projectile vomited across a broad swath of the dry side of the bed. well, good morning, indeed! no stranger to such things, i tend to have a stack of spare blankets, towels, waterproof pads, and fresh pajamas next to the bed so i don't have to go running downstairs in the middle of the night. so, i replaced or covered bedding as needed and swapped out the jammies of the kidlings... however, i had nothing dry for hazel, not even a swaddling blanket, so i put one of eva's pj tops on her.
i expected this 18 mo sized shirt (that eva still wears!) to drown poor hazel, but in fact, it fit her pretty well. the sleeves had to be rolled up, but the rest was fine. in fact, she's still wearing it now. so, it seems they might be raiding each others' closets sooner than i would have thought!
i'm going to blame the clothing swap for today's brilliant mothering moment: as we were leaving eva's school after having dropped her off, i put hazel back into the car. i felt low bloodsugar due to my slightly late lunch (my nursing body is rigidly tied to the clock with respect to caloric intake, i swear!) and i was also a bit preoccupied, which is my excuse for the fact that ignored the quiet little voice in the back of my head that said "hmm, something is amiss."
i pulled into the driveway at home 12 minutes later and opened the rear door to find hazel wasn't in her carseat. what, what?! oh... she's in eva's seat. eva's *foreward facing* seat! hmm, that's why my brain was trying to tell me, hey, those shoulder straps look a bit high...
seriously. some days i think i need supervision... and no, just because your child is in an 18 month sized shirt that your preschooler can still wear does *not* mean she should be forward facing in the car. eek.
milk is dripping again as hazel and i coo at each other
then she begins to nurse.
behind a big chair in a little nook,
eva reads (recites) book after book to her twin babydolls.
larry works from the couch, deeply concentrating for now,
as we all swirl around him.
i slept in too long, the house is messy,
my head holds an endless list of things undone.
it isn't perfect, but this is us.
here we are.
it is real life,
and it is good.
today was eva's last day in the rainbow (2-3 yr old) class at her school. on tuesday, she will be a star! (3-5 yr olds). she's so excited, she's been asking me if today is the day for at least a month... she also says that once she is a star, she'll be "much, much taller." today she took a drawing to the teachers she'll be leaving.
then after dinner, i made a special dessert of strawberries and vanilla yogurt. while we enjoyed that as a family, i gave her a special (from the dollar aisle at target :) self-inking stamper that says "super star" with a picture of a star on it. she was so thrilled, i was really surprised -- i think probably the acknowledgment was more important to her than the little gift, but she bounded around the room for a good five minutes. "mama, i love you so so much!" "hazel, i wanted you with me, that's why i'm so glad you came out of mama's belly!" and other generally excited lovey utterances. i was also a little impressed with myself that i managed to put together this little mini-celebration for her, and it turned out to be just the thing.
i can't believe i'm already beginning to think about kindergarten -- it feels like forever from now, but it's really only two years! crazy.
also, she's starting gymnastics at the rec center across the street from us in september. right after the olympics is a good time to start, i guess, because she watched a bit of the gymnastics and thought it was cool. and i'm happy, because 1) it's not early in the morning, since we're so bad at mornings now that we are four, and 2) we can walk there! that never happens. we can't walk to anything, so that will be a welcomed reprieve from having to strap them both in the car and burn gas just to get somewhere.
all these stories this week... i don't know if i'm paying more attention (or am less sleepy, so i can actually remember?) or if more things are going on, but i feel like i have lots of stories. also, little opportunity to type them, so here they are with a minimum of fanfare and flourish.
on the way to the pool wednesday (our usual wednesday plan this summer), she sang to herself in her carseat, as she often does. she sang:
"love is like a dream for every day of your life"
that could almost seem profound in some enigmatic way, but before you think about too much, here's what she sang on the drive home:
"the season of the carrot, dripping through the trees"
hmm. sometimes she's like a random word generator. or, for all i know, that's my misinterpretation of some actual song she learned at school... but she said it was her own song.
you knew it was coming eventually: this weekend, eva was married to charlie. several times. she said to me, "he lives pretty far away. he's a really nice boy, though." (hmm, same explanation that your mother had for her own courtship, eh? :) she was married in a hooded bath towel (as veil/dress) and "fancy bride shoes". she explained to me that i needed to stop talking because now was the quiet part (hey, i guess she *was* listening when we explained this to her at the two weddings we attended this summer). oh, and by the way, she and charlie rode their bikes to the church. after was the "party part" aka reception, which featured ballet dancing and i was scolded for sitting when it was so clearly time for dancing, hazel's nourishment needs be damned.
hazel is teething. teething! i know that's not so very uncommon at almost three months, but i was hoping she'd wait a while longer. man, is she angry about it, too. today she screamed most of the day, except when she had a nipple in her mouth or when larry tossed her in the air (which made her giggle like crazy). this evening, she enjoyed staring at a photo of a baby for about 15 minutes, then talking to me in call and response -- and if i ever looked away, she'd get a huge grin and coo louder to regain my attention. cutie. (she's also now wearing 6 mo clothes... at this age, eva was just growing *in* to 0-3 mo size. as a result, i had to go buy a few 6 mo summer items, as eva didn't wear that size until winter.)
as a random note for posterity's sake, eva is now eating (knock wood!) pretty well. we no longer have to cajole and do a little dance for every single bite. she'll often sit down and eat, say, 8 or more bites all on her own, then will consent to a bit more with a little encouragement. i hope it sticks -- i had grown quite tired of the constant enticement needed for hte past, oh, several years. along with eating better, she's stopped being quite so crazy. at the time, i didn't know if she was just being three or if she was in fact a bit out of sorts after hazel's birth -- and upon reflection, it seems things have normalized. she never has had one bad thing to say about hazel, but i'm sure it was still difficult for her. (and too bad for grandma, who was here during the hardest part and got the brunt of dealing with eva's antics then!)
eva's started doing subtraction. we talked her through "if you have five and you take away one, how many do you have?", showing her on her fingers how to take away one at a time. she took to it, so larry asked her 4 minus 2, and she thought for a bit and got it (looking quite triumphant). then 6 (tricky, using both hands) minus 3, etc. my favorite part of this is that she took a concept or skill that we showed her and then applied it to new questions. that's how we all learn, of course, but it was fun to see it in so clear a way (for the record, she has no interest in addition. just subtraction. what's that about? :)
and now please permit me a moment here, i know this will sound like shameless bragging, but i just can't not include it, as otherwise it will be forgotten. she picked up "one fish two fish red fish blue fish" the other afternoon and started reciting. i jumped in to play along, and she said "no mama, i can read it myself, don't talk!" so larry and i laid there listening to her, turning pages and reciting. this is a book we read a lot when she was about 18 mo old, but it only recently came back into rotation. for the uninitiated, it's a dr. seuss book that is essentially a series of unrelated little poems, about 8-12 lines on each pair of pages. well, she "read", page after page, and she missed a few lines here and there, but the remainder was recited word for word. and on it went, my jaw literally dropping as she went on for 46 pages. (!) i think she would have recited the whole book (60-ish pages?) had she not been distracted by larry and i, who eventually were unable to contain ourselves. really, i don't include this to show off (well, on her behalf anyway, as it's her doing not mine) -- lots of kids can do this sort of thing, i was just really surprised to hear it go on and on like that.
and lastly, it bears mention that our family has been joined by twins -- olive and henry (eva named them as i read out names from the baby book upon request; it was still sitting around from when i was pregnant). they are 6" baby dolls who were adopted from target yesterday. she and ella (were were shopping with friends) each found a pink and aqua baby, and marched around the store with their twins, shushing and snuggling them with care. i don't know if wendy managed to leave without a set of twins joining her family, but my efforts failed (as i suspected early on they would). i had the audacity of suggesting she choose one baby, pink or aqua -- she all but glared at me, appalled at my solomon-like suggestion of dividing the twins! so, after a lengthy price-check interlude, they came home with us. she took them to bed with her, and took great care with them, even in her sleep. she woke up in the night due to a pretty significant nosebleed (i spent the bulk of her time at school today upstairs with a bottle of hydrogen peroxide, while teething hazel screamed around me), and as she returned to sleep, she kept adjusting the babies' positions. finally she settled (after yelling at me for moving the sheet and causing it to go over her baby's head), and i peered over her back as she slept on her side to find the sweetest scene: she had the babies lined up next to her in the perfect position for side-lying nursing, and she pulled the nearer baby in closer to her chest and said "there you go, henry." then "it's okay, olive." i guess i have my baby and she has hers. i'm trying to limit the consumerism and volume of toys/things that enter our home, but that might be the best $2.99 (x2) i've spent in a while.
and there you have it. that's our week, in a (admittedly large) nutshell.
be careful what you teach your children, that's all i have to say. the last several days, but particularly yesterday and today, have been nonstop rhyming. a few days ago, larry mentioned the concept to her (probably not for the first time, but the first time she found it this interesting). then i brought home a basil plant and told her what it was and what it was used for. as she helped me pull off leaves for our pasta dinner, she thought for a minute then exclaimed "hey! hazel and basil rhyme!"
all day yesterday: "hazel the basil. hazel the basil. hazel basil clazel nasal. [granted, clazel isn't a real word, but that doesn't stop her.] hazel the basil, i love you hazely basily." i think she's hit on all the obvious hazel-rhymes. there's also appraisal, but i think after that i might be stumped. then there's eva and diva. (hey julie: boniva! jinx.) possibly i should have named my child jane after all.
so instead of singing nonstop or reciting nursery rhymes all day or making up stories or regaling us with tales about charlie (it changes, but she basically talks all day every day -- wonder where she got that trait???), now it's rhyming. a lot of rhyming.
i made a note to remember the ones from dinner just now:
flute and boot
gram and ma'am
charlie and barley (i think that one was partly accidental... does she even know what "barley" is?)
bunny and funny
time and rhyme
and now as i type this:
"no, mama, i want you to tie this tight. [pause, then mostly to herself:] tight and bite rhyme."
holding a toy rolling pin by both handles like the spool of kite string: "mama, look, i'm flying a kite! kite and flight rhyme. flight is like when you go on an airplane."
and then, just to fill the air space, we get a lot of "mama-bomma-jomma" "papa-cloppa" type stuff, too. you'd hate to have dead air just because you ran out of rhymes, you know.
julie said her teacher-self was impressed... but like most of eva's phases, it's clever and cute and fun to a point, and then you end up wondering if it will ever end. and then later once it does, you wish she'd do it more.
other updates: eva's been enjoying the olympics along with us (learning about countries and finding them together on her earth ball, spotting flags, counting swimming lanes, figuring out that water polo is like basket ball but in the swimming pool), but tires of it eventually and wants to know when the "fancy dressed-up people and fireworks part" (opening ceremonies) will be on again. hazel is doing just great, and loves to smile at eva, and will give me a big giggle and smile if she's in the mood for it. and for the first time in a long time, i don't feel like i have a list of 75 things that need to be done. of course, i have at least 75 things i *should* be doing (who needs clean laundry anyway?), but i'm just going with the flow, enjoying my days rather than trying to "get through" them, which is always nice. maybe that's because i'm getting into the swing of the mom-of-two thing a bit, or maybe it's because i started a new crochet project (a dress for pip, 18 mo size so i'm sure to get it done in time) and am rereading jane eyre (about 2 pages at a time each night, which is all i manage before my eyes close). or maybe it's just the fact that i took up drinking caffeine again while in yosemite. in any case, things are coming around. they always do...
oh, hazel. when it's quiet like this and i have time to think (and by "time" i mean more than 9 consecutive seconds, when i'm not trying to think over the sounds of someone needing my care or attention) i well up inside thinking of how you're already not a newborn. how can that be? and i don't know if i'm sad or happy or what, but damn is it emotional. my baby... and you're so big already. (grunt, grunt, i hear you over there, a few feet away from me... i better type faster...)
larry's out drinking with the guys -- due to a scheduling accident, the second night in a row, actually -- and i have to say i've done quite well with putting both girls to bed on my own. last night i even cooked (!) dinner and fed eva while he was gone as well. go, mama.
hazel (as of a week or two ago, at her 2 month appointment) was 12 lbs 4 oz, and of some length... maybe 21 and some fraction inches? (i never have remembered anything other than an initial length for eva or hazel... lengths don't stick in my head.) anyway, not that i'm all percentile-crazed, but i found it amusing to note that that (unremembered) length puts her at 25th %ile, but she's 80th %ile for weight. ahh... we were thinking she was looking pretty chunky. maybe i'm supposed to think that's unbecoming a young lady, but no way. i think it's awesome in the literal sense of that word... i grew her. in my body. and now that she's out, she's approaching double her birth weight at 2 months, and all from my body. we're a team. she eats and sleeps, i feed her. it's doing well for her. :)
oh, another peep! type faster, mama...
last thing i wanted to share was that she is super strong, which is not something i'm used to in a young infant (er... my eldest was in physical therapy most of her first year to build up her strength, you may remember.) hazel, in contrast, is well practiced in Feats of Strength. i find it amazing and startling. you can hold her little hands and she'll stand there -- larry calls it waterskiing, due to the way she shifts her weight around and balances -- locked legs, supporting her spine and head. she can even do it with one hand. how can that be?
okay, full on cry now. the kind from the back of the throat, the "i mean it" kind. off i go.
hazel... you're really something.
ps> she's now wearing the same pajamas that i bought for eva when she was almost 4 months old. my goodness.
people ask, "how's it going?" "how are you doing?" sometimes it's just words, just part of the dance of social greetings, but sometimes -- particularly if asked by a mom, someone who's been there -- it's asked with some depth behind the eyes, with meaning in the voice. and those times, when it's a real question, i don't really know how to answer. it depends on when i'm asked, what time of day.
so two months out, all i can really answer is this: i feel like a crazy person. i seriously do, i feel like i'm not quite right in the head. i think that's what you call "normal" when you've recently had a baby, but really, it's nuts.
on sunday, for example, i went from optimistic when i woke up, to on the verge of tears within the hour, to cheery and connected at brunch with friends, to exhausted and teary and feeling like i could barely walk from the parking lot at the grocery store, to excited and happy by the time i left, to downtrodden again before bedtime. i think people routinely have variations in their emotions throughout the day, but i'm talking some wild and disorienting swings here. i can't keep up.
the annoying thing is that my brain tricks me into changing my entire world view wth every shift. in a down swing: i don't know how i'm ever going to do this, i feel bad for neglecting the differing needs of both my children while trying to meet the needs of the other, i'm cranky, i'm mean to my husband, i hate that my house is always a mess, and i feel guilty for just trying to get through each day rather than savoring and enjoying each precious moment of hazel's early babyhood. then in an up swing: things are great, i have two sweet adorable girls, i love my supportive husband, we're having an easy time with the transition, and hey, let's make some plans to meet up later this week.
i think being a temporary crazy person is just part of becoming a mom, or becoming a mom for the second or third time. i *know* i'm being crazy, i hear it in my voice. lately larry has been telling me i need to use more care in how i speak to him (sometimes he says it nicely like that, sometimes not), and he's right. i'm cranky, i snap at him for no reason (well, no reason that has to do with him, anyway). sometimes hazel is screaming and not being contented, causing stress hormones to surge through my body (thanks, evolution.), sometimes eva has been whining in my ear for an hour, and sometimes i'm just plain tired. and you know, sometimes i'm honestly just not trying very hard to rein it in because i'm caught in the negative-outlook version of my own reality. and as much as i'm sure it sucks to live with a crazy person, i'd like to point out that it also sucks *being* a crazy person. i prefer my other self, too (the one that's at least somewhat less crazy and snappy).
it's disorienting. emotionally i'm all over the map. physicaly, my body is completely unfamiliar to me. mentally i can hardly keep hold of a train of thought long enough to act on it. and i feel like i've aged about five years so far in 2008. that said, i'm not even terribly concerned. i don't think i'm verging on PPD or even that i've got much of a case of the baby blues (i find that term annoying)... i think this is just how it goes. by necessity you sort of muddle through those first few months, then later you look back and wonder why it's all such a blur. well, because you weren't totally sane at the time, and even if you were, your brain would protect you from remembering it clearly.
so, how's it going?
when asked by someone who actually wants to know, someone who's been there, i can just answer: pretty much the way you'd expect. mostly crazy, and incredible, and making it through. is there any other way?
we spent last week at yosemite for a ewing family reunion. this was a reunion of dick's cousins and their families... since dick was the only surviving child in his family, larry and his brothers (and now the girls) are the only descendants of their grandfather ewing. and now that dick is gone, the link that that portion of the family is broken in a way. i never really thought of it this way until the trip, but this is a quarter of the heritage of my daughters. i know my side fairly well, my mother and my father's families, and we spend a lot of time around larry's mother's family... so i very much appreciated the opportunity to connect with the ewings.
one interesting point is that this branch of my daughter's family goes back the farthest in north america. all of my ancestors came across from europe much more recently -- during my great-grandparents generation early in the 1900s. rita's family similar, i believe. the ewing side goes back to at least 1761... backwards from texas to missouri to kentucky to virginia and so on. that's a bit of a shift in perspective, which really made me rethink my place in american history.
i really enjoyed meeting the extended family. there were about 19 or so ewing first cousins, and they were fairly spread out across the country. i'm not even sure dick had met all of them, and i know larry hadn't, so it could easily have felt like a room full of strangers (about 50 people were in attendance). but what struck me was that it quickly felt more like family -- and it was a really interesting, diverse group of people, the kind of people you want to get to know. by the end of the week, second cousins were playing a game of spoons so raucously in the kitchen it was even louder than the accumulated noise of the many conversations taking place in the rest of the hall as everyone chatted away.
as for the traveling itself, we had a great time exploring yosemite. it felt great to get out and hike (somewhere where it's not 105 degrees), and i always love being in the mountains -- i think that's my reaction to growing up in the flattest part of the entire country. sarah and eva continue in their sibling-like relationship, adoring each other and wanting to spend lots of time together, but eventually antagonizing each other a bit and needing space (i think that's also just part of being three years old). hazel did great on her first plane trip, and other than the fact that she cried in the car up and down the mountain roads, it was a breeze having her along. of course, having gram on the trip for hazel-holding or eva-entertaining certainly helped (a ton! um, can you just fly everywhere we go?) eva is now requesting that we go on "big long hikes" here in austin, with larry carrying her in the kelty pack. hmm, as soon as the temp dials down a bit, we can give that a go.
a great trip, and i'm really glad we went. many thanks to rita for making that happen...
i'm packing for our trip to yosemite, and while larry's out taking care of a last-minute errand for the trip, hazel is talking to herself in the bouncy chair and eva's on the couch watching TV. she's watching "martha stewart crafts", because as i've said before, it has bizarre calming effect on her. trance-like. it's odd. anyway, she generally doesn't watch much TV, but what she does watch is commercial free (sesame street, which does have commercials, but i fast forward through them since they're just at the beginning and end). i know the effect of marketing on children is powerful,and i'd like to stave that off as long as possible ("but i *need* a bratz doll! now with extra-hoochie outfits for a limited time, mamaaaaa!")
well, this is what i get for trying to pack (did i mention we're getting up at 3:30 a.m.?) i was in the kitchen packing airplane snacks, and casually thought that i should go fast-forward through the DIY network commercials i was half-hearing from the other room. oh well, a few commercials won't hurt, i reason. and then i hear:
"mama where are you?"
i'm in here, sweetheart. what do you need?
"mama, we should get one of those things that sprays away stains really easily!"
oh really? (realizing the commercial i was half-hearing was the voice of that oxy clean thumbs-up guy, advertising "oxy clean spray away".)
"uh huh! we should get one. they had a show about it, and it sprays away stains."
wow. see how they suck this stuff up, even when it's not a product that's terribly interesting to kids? in eva's mind, the guy telling her about spray away is exactly the same as martha showing her how to make a charming frame by gluing seashells to the edge. have i ranted yet about how i think marketing directly to children should be illegal? seriously. in fact it *is* illegal in many countries, but in america, instead we've decided to make it an art form. and we're so used to allowing the government to prioritize corporate needs over the needs of our children that we think this is normal. completely immoral practice...
this, by the way, is in part why i'm opposed to licensed characters. even if it's sesame street, even if it's clifford. that's *still* marketing to children. a kid choosing a backpack because it has dora on it over a similar backpack -- they're still using marketing to children to make the sale. which is at best obnoxious. it also reduces imagination, in my opinion, when kids want all their clothing, toys, DVDs, books, etc to be emblazoned with disney's latest movie. lame.
okay, back to packing. :)
she's three! she turned three, and it snuck up on me. she looks so old there, compared to when she was two. but i feel like she's the same person as when she was two... we did all that traveling, life got speedy, i was pregnant, had a baby... who knows how it went by, but it seems like she was *just* two and so how can she be a different person? also, she could talk then, and do so much of what she does now, so though she changed a lot, it snuck up on me. just look at those photos! she was such a baby at 2, though i thought she was big. i'm sure i said that last year too, and i'll say it next year.
i love that it's the same pose though, sneaking into her cake (the same hummingbird cake -- here's her earth ball cake from this year.) she's taller, clearly -- can reach the table a bit easier -- and the other big difference? oh, i spy a baby sister in the background this time around. :)
last night i was holding hazel and she was wearing a sleeper that (somewhat cheesily) says all over it "if they could just stay little" in tiny print. it's subtle, so you don't read it every time you see it -- but i read it and then remembered having read it when eva wore them three years ago, and how it made me sad then. oh, time. it keeps moving.
speaking of that, i have a lot to say that never gets put here. i try to catch up with one-liners but then ramble on, so here's yet another attempt at one-liners:
hazel's been half-sick half her life -- congested the past several weeks, then got eva's cough. oh, preschool! eva was never sick as a baby, now is always half sick, and poor hazel gets it all passed down to her. we might take her in tomorrow to make sure she's okay before we fly to california on saturday (for the ewing reunion). hazel is chunky and starting to coo a bit and smiles -- sweetly at eva, which made me so happy.
eva has an imaginary friend named charlie that she tells us about daily. often this takes the form of trying to process her own experiences, or sometimes just entertainment, or sometimes cute little fibs (we've hit that stage, as i mentioned before). there's also amy, but she's not as prominent as charlie is -- oh, and we often hear about charlie's cousins. the little snippits about charlie are so cute because they are so telling about what she's thinking about her life. i never remember to write them down, but i should.
we went to jackie's wedding in dallas last weekend. both girls did well on the 4 hr drive each way, and eva *loved* the reception, dancing the night away. she danced in larry's arms, fell asleep, he sat down eventually, and she woke up and insisted on more dancing. i danced with her until she fell asleep... this repeated several times, and she made it all the way past midnight.
working backward... before that lora and julie and lilly were here for two weeks. that was so much fun, and i'm still sort of getting over the fact that they're gone. we did a ton of stuff, more than you'd think considering we had a toddler and two babies with us at all times. eva keeps talking about how much she misses lilly and her aunts.
eva's been in school for 10 weeks now, and seems to love it. when i drop her off, she simply turns, asks to give hazel and i each a kiss and a hug, then says says bye. when i pick her up, nowadays she's generally playing with other kids, seemingly integrated into the community there, making friends. and that newfound outgoing nature is either a result of school or just the age she's hit, because it extends beyond school -- today at the pool she was talking to various random kids, and just as often, their moms. (to the point i end up trying to distract her, lest the moms tire of talking to a random toddler.)
though today i was amused to hear one of these moms saying (as i chatted nearby), "oh really? your friend charlie has a floatie like this?" charlie. little do they know...
oh, eva. she's just been full of quotable quotes today. we had this conversation on the way home from swimming at deep eddy (lilly's first time swimming! too bad she slept through most of it :).
as hazel cried in her car seat a bit:
-- "it's okay, i love you hazel." (to me:) "mama, i think hazel hates her car seat."
-- well, i don't think she hates it, i think she'd just rather have someone hold her and snuggle her. you know, when you were little, you cried in your car seat, too, because you wanted me to hold you.
-- "and you took care of me?"
-- yeah, i did take care of you. i took care of you when you when you were a baby, and i take care of you now, and i'll take care of you until all the way until you are a big grown-up woman. and then i'll *still* take care of you, the way my mama still takes care of me. like how she came down to take care of all of us when hazel was born.
-- "hmm, but actually grandma is pretty old."
-- oh really? (trying not to laugh)
-- "uh huh, and gram is old, and grammie is old, ..." (trails off)
-- who else is old?
-- "i don't know."
-- hmm, then who is young?
-- "um... well, i *used* to be young."
-- well, if you're not young anymore, then are you old?
-- "no, mama, i'm just regular!" (pronounced "reg-lee-ar")
this afternoon, we were all sitting together in the living room, and eva was asking for chocolate milk (that was a slippery slope we've slid right down -- used to be she got an individual-sized box of organic chocolate milk at the grocery store as a cheap bribe to buy a bit more time at the end, but somehow they made it into the home. *sigh*.) she asked larry, and he said ask mama. i said to larry, oh sure, passing that one off to me, huh? then told eva, you have to discuss that with papa. she turns back to him (we're all within 5 feet of each other), and says "mama said yes. mama said i can have it." ooooh, boy. here we go into that realm of parenting! at least for now she can't quite outsmart us, but soon enough. (my first tip to her: try this tactic when larry and i aren't in the same room as each other.)
later today, she was having a bit of an issue, very upset over something in that way only an almost three year old can manage. she's a fan of telling larry or i to "go away!" in a stern angry voice. also, when she's been upset a while and now is looking to reconnect, she'll ask to be held. today, we had the inevitable collision of those worlds, a humorous juxtaposition that pretty much sums up our last few months. eva to larry: "(angrily) papa, go away! (softening, pleading) and hold me." oh eva. it's not easy being almost three, is it?
i have so much to say about my sweet baby, but never find the time to write it. (yeah, what have i been doing with my time anyway? and i have to say, that whole hospital thing really put a damper in lots of my plans, like sending out birth announcements in a timely fashion -- they're all ready to go, if i can just get them printed :) so here goes in a totally disjointed stream-of-consiousness fashion, keeping in mind that my consiousness is half asleep and distracted, and that apparently i don't know how to spell consiousness but am too lazy to run spell check:
i said before how hazel is a pretty content baby, and i will say she does actually cry some these days, but still, she's pretty great. the cool new trick she's developed (i hesitate to write this down lest the sleep gods smite me for it) is that she goes to sleep around 8 or 9 and pretty much sleeps until morning! what's that all about?! i mean, she wakes up to eat every two hours for most of that, sure, but she sleeps one or two longer (4 hr?) stretches and doesn't require tending in the night, like rocking or whatever to go back to sleep. cool! i doubt it will continue this way, but i sure am loving it for the moment. hurray for side-lying nursing and co-sleeping so i never even have to sit up or get out of bed (other than to change a diaper...)
she's a great nurser -- once we got the oversupply thing under control, we've been doing just fine. in fact, she nurses like crazy and has been growing a ton. she gained a full pound in just 6 days. at three weeks, she had gained over 2 pounds (the doctor's comment... we usually just want to make sure they're back at their birth weight at this point. :) she does like to nurse pretty much all the time, like every hour or more... basically one feeding blends right into the next. that's fine with me, though. she's doing what she's programmed to do, and it seems to be working out well for her. :)
she makes crazy noises, and has since she was first born. she grunts, she squeaks, sometimes sounds like a deranged horse. she's amazingly cute when she sneezes. she's really strong -- from just a few days old, she's launch herself right off your shoulder. she holds her head off your shoulder for a really long time. now she's practically holding her head up and will even support her weight on her legs. i know lots of babies do this, but i've never had one before that did (eva was little and had neck issues :). she smiles a ton, especially in her sleep, and she has really bright eyes that for the moment are a similar but different shade of blue/gray than those of her sister. and on that note, she looks a lot like her sister did, but they have distinct noses and chins.
today we had our first official solo outing, just me and the girls. we went to splash in the fountain with some friends followed by a trip to target, and everything went smoothly. hazel's 3 1/2 weeks old, and i recall that eva was 3 weeks old when we had our first solo outing (to a milk bank event in the park followed by lunch with sarah and baby liam, where i changed my first diaper in a public bathroom :). biggest slip: despite my efforts to keep her out of the sun (by draping a blanket over the sling and such), she did get a bit of color on one side of her face. why one side? well, it happened when she was nursing for 10 minutes in the shade of a baby tree. not a big deal, but i think i need to travel with an umbrella from now on (thanks wendy for the idea!) because the extra layer over the sling will just make both of us extra hot. today it was 104 degrees when we were out -- for 2 hours! oh, hot.... crazy texas.
okay, off to take my baby upstairs to join my big kid and all snuggle up in bed. it's funny, today went well (eva didn't freak out once! not all day!) and thus my whole perspective is changed and refreshed. i think i'm too susceptible to the most recent data point, i need to remember to take an average or something. well, at least on the bad days... on the good days i'll just continue to take it at face value. :) i was going to save this for another post but who knows if i'll get to that -- eva had a great day i think because we got out of the house, and because she actually ate and thus wasn't low blood sugar all day long. but i think part of it was that we were reconnecting a bit -- we did a lot of talking about things so that she knows i'm not upset with her, just frustrated in general, and how sometimes i don't like her behavior but i always love her, etc. later today out of nowhere she came up and told me "mama, i still love you even when you fight with me." hmm. i think she's getting it though, and i'm glad we can talk about it. (and this was better than last week when she told me "mama, i'm having trouble playing with you lately." yeah, i guess you are. sorry, baby, mama's trying her best.)
okay, off to bed for real. props to larry for holding a hungry baby while i finished that last paragraph. i'm slow, since i can't concentrate on two things at once and my brain shuts down at the smallest amount of background noise. someday i'll get my brain back... maybe.. :)
mom left monday, so tuesday was my Big First Day on my own with two kids. hazel hadn't slept well, and i woke up to find i still had the migraine that started the night before. then just before lunch, eva threw up and started having diarrhea. i actually thought, "oh great, can this day get any worse?"
never, never say that. because yes, it can get worse.
by nine that night, i was with my 18 day old baby, admitted to children's hospital. she had developed a fever high enough that we were instructed to take her to the ER, where she had fun new experiences like a spinal tap. we stayed there until this afternoon so that she could get IV antibiotics as a precaution while we waited for the results of the 48 hr cultures from her blood and urine tests.
larry, of course, was at home with our elder sick kid. i'm lucky to have such great friends, because within about 15 minutes of placing a call, i had company in the ER and throughout the evening, food, help the next day, someone to bring larry to the hospital since he had no car, etc. happily, by the next day, eva was well enough that she and larry could come visit us, and i even got a 20 minute nap. (hazel was not feeling at all well, and thus i had spent the whole first night holding and comforting her, and only slept maybe 2 hours broken into 20 minute chunks.) hazel's fever kept coming back, and i could tell she was unhappy since she was acting like an entirely different baby. at one point, a dose of tylenol kicked in and suddenly i saw her eyes looking at me and thought "oh, there you are." it was like she came back from somewhere else; i hadn't seen her eyes for a while, given she was either scrunched up screaming or eating or fitfully half-sleeping.
so today we're back home. well. if i thought i was starting to feel overwhelmed at the prospect of our doing this on our own as of tuesday... i'm trying to stay positive, but it's feeling pretty hard right now. we'll work it out, i'm sure, but it's not going to be pretty. as in, there will be a veneer of toys coating every surface of my living room for the foreseeable future, and we may or may not keep ourselves in clean cups and spit-up rags. i felt like i was going to hold it together despite the challenges early on tuesday, but now two short days and zero sleep later, it's feeling a bit more precarious. i've collected myself for the moment, but earlier eva was offering me her corn chips to make me feel better as i cried scrunched up sitting on the floor in the kitchen. (i'm writing all this not to sound overly whiny or desperate, but rather to be honest about the whole experience... and maybe someday hazel and eva can read this and maybe not feel like a total failure if they're not happy and perky the whole time as they welcome a new baby into their families.)
everything already feels like it happened a million years ago. was i really at the hospital just today? was mom really here holding my baby three days ago? did i really give birth less than three weeks ago? was i really ever pregnant?
off to feed a baby, then get some sleep. tomorrow is a new day!
what follows is the story of hazel's birth. birth stories tend to be long, but this one... it's long. i think i wanted to include every detail so that i would remember as much as possible. you can also see some more of the photos from the birth here.
On Thursday evening (May 22nd), we were starting a movie after Eva was in bed around 8:30, and I started to feel contractions. I'd had a couple of false starts, so although I felt sure this time, I kept it to myself until around 9:00, when I mentioned it to Larry and Mom. I watched the movie for a while, but by 11:00, I realized it would be in my best interest to sleep now if I could. The next day, May 23rd, was our 10th wedding anniversary, and it was clear to me it would also be the birthday of our second child.
I was able to sleep until 2:30 a.m., waking every 45 min or hour to pee and also because of contractions (hard to know what exactly was waking me up). I laid there, unable to get back to sleep, feeling excited but not at all panicked – this is interesting to me, because during the big false start I had the week before, I quickly became very anxious and full of doubt. Maybe I needed that chance to practice my reaction? I became more uncomfortable and headed downstairs at 3:30 to find Larry awake. I asked him if he had slept yet, and he lied and said “sort of” but we both knew he hadn't (he just didn't want me to worry). Contractions were every 5-7 minutes lasting 45-60 seconds for the whole hour I had been awake, so we decided to call Faith, our midwife. She had asked that we call with early signs, since my previous labor was only about five hours, so we thought this one could move quickly and she lives an hour away.
Larry went to get some sleep, and I watched TV and tried to rest on the couch. Faith arrived at 5:00, but of course by then contractions had slowed down to every 10-15 minutes. She napped on couch and I went upstairs but didn't manage to sleep. Faith examined me at 6 a.m. and found I was 3 cm and actually went to 4 cm during the exam. I went back upstairs and still couldn't sleep through the contractions. Larry and I got up at about 7:30 and Faith left soon after to head to her office.
I had been planning to go on a walk to get things moving, but it was pointed out to me that rest was more important than rushing things along. I went upstairs and took advantage of the slowing down and was very surprised to find I slept until around 9:00. Throughout all of this until closer to the end, contractions were variable depending on what I was doing: if I rested, they slowed, but if I moved around, they picked up.
When I woke, I ate some breakfast and puttered around the house for a bit while Mom took care of Eva. I found myself wandering off to whatever room was vacant downstairs during each contraction, then rejoining the activity of the house. I was basically squatting or walking through all these contractions, in part to cope and in part to make them more productive. Sometime around 10:00 a.m., Larry and I decided to go for a walk to see if things would pick up. We walked a loop around the neighborhood for about 20 minutes, and I had contractions every 3 minutes. We came back to the house so I could pee and drink water (it was really hot out), then did a second loop during which contractions were closer to every 2 minutes. Faith had called while we were out, and when we talked to her she said to rest and see if the pattern changed. I laid on the couch for maybe an hour and sure enough contractions slowed back down to every 7-10 minutes.
At 12:15 while sitting on the couch (just having eaten a sandwich), my water broke – not much came out at first, so I jumped up and managed not to make a big mess. Contractions quickly moved to about 5 minutes apart and got much stronger than they had been to that point. After about half an hour, Larry and I moved upstairs.
When we reached the top of the stairs and saw the stack of birth stuff sitting there (towels, sheets, birth kit, the pool, etc), it triggered a realization that, oh yeah, we should inflate the birth pool. Larry began to work on that and I laid down on the bed. Contractions were strong enough that I felt the need to hop up out of bed with each one. Since I was leaking fluid, I would jump out of bed and walk the four steps to the bathroom where there was tile rather than carpet. I tried leaning over the counter or squatting next to the tub, but really I wanted Larry there. I felt better hanging from his neck or just leaning into him, so I had him rushing over from where he was pumping up the pool as each contraction started.
At about 1:00 p.m., I called Meredith (a friend who was to take photos for us) to let her know things were moving along. At that point, I felt like it could happen either in two hours or not until evening – I didn't feel sure enough to tell her to get on the road, but she was smart enough to do that and call our friend Sarah anyway. From this point, I no longer jumped off the bed for contractions; rather, I just insisted that Larry rush over without delay to put his hand on my back. These contractions were starting to get more intense. I was vocalizing for real, and things started to feel a bit dreamy. Not long after we called Meredith, we decided to call Faith (meaning, I rather quickly went from “hmm, it could be a while” to “we better get a midwife here right now”).
I didn't want to be lying down for contractions anymore, but it felt too hard to stand up and lie back down (which I needed to do so I could rest in between). I moved to the edge of the bed, thinking that squatting would be good to move things along even though that would make it more intense. After a few contractions in that position (2:15 p.m.), I asked Larry for the big bowl we brought up earlier when I felt nauseous. (Specifically, I think I asked just by saying “vomit”, but he knew what I meant.) I did throw up, and so might have known I was in transition, but like with my first labor, I persisted in thinking it could still go for many hours. Faith arrived just prior to this, at 2:00, and contractions were 2-3 minutes apart. Right before she got there, I was so anxious for her to arrive, I guess somehow thinking that when she arrived it would “fix” something, that I'd feel better. Well, guess what, I still had to do it, no one can really change that. She busied herself setting things up, and I noticed Meredith had arrived and she was helping Faith get set up.
They had me move over to the ball next to where I was on the bed so they could change the sheets for the birth. Lying draped over the ball, this is when I started to feel like I might not be able to keep it under control. I was really having to concentrate to keep my vocalizations low rather than tightening up and making more of a screaming sound. I started lowering the tone in waves, so as it started to go up I'd take it back down, sort of passively noticing my own sounds and focusing on that. I was told later that it was like singing (though not in the usual sense I'm sure). At some point while I was on the ball, Larry was gone for one of my contractions – I think that was when he was sprinting through the garage, throwing boxes and things out of the way to get to the hot water heater to turn it up, only to find it was already up all the way – and I suddenly felt very untethered without him. I think I may have said “help” or “Larry”, and maybe it was this or a subsequent contraction where I saw Faith standing next to me as she worked on the sheets or something, and I stuck my hand out to touch her leg because I couldn't even form the words to ask for help.
People kept telling me I was doing great, and of course I didn't believe a word of it. I think I got a bit wrapped up in wanting to be like the strong, confident, joyful laboring women in Ina May's book, seemingly smiling their way through labor. Rather, I felt like I was really on the edge of losing it, and that somehow that was a failing rather than just being the fact of how it is during transition. (And of course, I still wasn't letting myself think about whether I might be in transition or close or not – sort of as though if I lower my expectations and assume I still have hours to go, I can be pleasantly surprised rather than crushingly disappointed.) Given that early labor was peaceful and happy and I was handling things just fine up until this time (until transition) made me think that labor was actually just starting at that point, so I thought I'd never make it. I thought the same thing with my first birth, but not as fiercely. I know at some point I did ask Faith “where am I?” meaning how far along, and she said it would be soon, and I suppose I didn't really believe that anyway. It's weird the tricks your mind plays on you in labor. (It's worth noting that it says in Faith's birth notes that active labor was “precipitous” since it was only 2 hrs 34 minutes (with a latent labor of 10 hours)... so that's probably another reason for why I thought I had much longer to go – in some sense, it really was just starting.)
I moved back to the bed while they worked on filling the tub with water. I think there was some concern that they wouldn't get enough water into the tub in time (we bought the larger version of the tub, so that Larry could fit in there with me if I needed, but that means it took a lot of water). Our hot water heater wasn't keeping up, so Meredith and Sarah and maybe others were hauling kettles of boiling water up the stairs – even at the time, I thought that was funny: quick, she's having a baby, somebody boil some water! I really wanted to get into the tub rather than be on the bed, and there was a lot of talk about getting the water hot enough. I wanted to say that it was fine if it was cool since I felt so hot already, but I couldn't really form the words. I figured maybe they knew better and wanted it hot at first so that it wouldn't get too cold over time (again, assuming I had hours to go). While I was on the bed, I needed Larry right there touching my lower back – I didn't need the kind of pressure I hear of other women asking for, I just needed his hand there to somehow provide a balance to the sensation I was feeling inside, a connection to the world outside my body, I think.
Things were getting really difficult, I know Faith was there at one point telling me to just sink into the bed. In addition to concentrating on keeping my vocalizations low and not screaming, I was really doing all I could to just go with what my body was doing, to release, not to fight. I felt like despite working at this, maybe I was actually fighting it. I mentioned this to Faith later, and she said at this point when she was helping me, my whole body was loose and totally relaxed, so I guess I was doing better than I thought. I remember dozing off once or twice between contractions, and feeling slightly disoriented when I woke up when the next one started. Time felt unreal and the room seemed to be glowing, and it was so quiet despite my vague awareness that there were people surrounding me.
Finally, they said I could get into the tub (around 2:50 p.m.). After I found a comfortable position, it was immediately so much better. That said, things still got worse, but stayed right under that threshold of what I felt I could handle (I suppose that threshold moves up when you're not looking as labor progresses, though, so you don't necessarily cross it when you expect you might.) Periodically, I felt the rush of warmth when another kettle of hot water was poured in behind me. I rested my head on the vinyl of the pool edge between contractions, and as each one started, I'd lift my head up to look right into Larry's face. I knew as long as I could look into his eyes, I'd always be okay. The panic that I felt rising would melt away when I saw his face, exuding such love and calm. I knew from our experience with Eva's birth that he was all I would need to get through. Near the end, as one particularly strong contraction began, my head snapped up from its resting place, and even with the state I was in, I was aware that my eyes must have looked wild with panic. Then I saw his face, I brought it back under control, and made it through. I think I'll remember that particular moment for a long time.
Faith asked me if I wanted her to check me, and I don't know if I answered, but then she was downstairs doing something for a minute. I did want to be checked to know how far along I was, but I also was apprehensive, too, in case she'd tell me I was only at 6 cm or something. I had another contraction of two (I think, it's all pretty fuzzy really) and June, the second midwife, asked me if I felt like pushing. I said I didn't know, and she said it can be hard to tell. I had one more really strong contraction (I think that one that put the panic behind my eyes) after she asked me. Then on the next one, at the end of the contraction, my body just pushed. After the fact, as I sipped some water that appeared in front of my face, I reported “that one felt pushy”.
Faith rematerialized (apparently laboring women lose their sense of object permanence?) and checked me to find that I was complete with just a tiny lip of cervix left in front of the baby's head. Ah, such wonderful news. I heard June say that she figured I probably had been complete for a while, but I'm glad I didn't know, so I wasn't tempted to try to push before my body was ready to do it on its own. During the next contraction or two, Faith slipped the lip of cervix back around the baby's head, and I heard her apologizing that it was uncomfortable, but really I didn't even notice it on top of what else was happening (I guess I was supposed to not push or just push a little while she did this? I can't remember.) Then it was time to push (this was just after 3:15). As each contraction began, I took a deep breath, blew it out, then held the next deep breath and used it to push. I was so happy to be pushing, to have something active to do, and I could sense the progress of the baby moving down. It's funny, I heard Faith say “wow, you're a great pusher” and comment how well I was doing – I brushed off the very same comments during other stages of labor, but for some reason I believed it during pushing.
After I pushed a few times, Faith rechecked to make sure that lip of cervix was out of the way, and found that the baby's head was right there within reach. She asked if I wanted to feel it – it was amazing, there was the head! I threw my head back on the edge of the pool and smiled and exclaimed, and everything else melted away. It felt so squishy, which I thought was because of membranes and such in front of the head, but Faith told me later that there weren't any, that it was actually just her scalp all bunched up at the top of her head. (Imagine the force it takes to push together enough of a baby's scalp to make it feel that squishy...) I could also feel the baby's pulse in the scalp. The whole thing left me feeling totally re-energized.
They were monitoring the baby this whole time, and somewhere in here (before or after I felt the head?), Faith told me that the baby was in a tight spot so that I needed to move the baby down with the next contraction. I (of course) responded by asking “but it's okay?” because I wanted to know if I should worry. I also asked later to confirm that we wouldn't cut the cord until it stopped pulsing. (This was a regret of mine from Eva's birth; they were accommodating at the hospital, but I never thought to ask, since we'd only even met the doctor the day before. So at some point late in labor, I realized I'd never specifically addressed this with Faith and felt compelled to double-check even though I know that pretty much any midwife is going to wait to cut the cord.) Apparently this is what I do, ask a lot of questions at the very, very end of labor (like right before or during pushing; I did this with both births). I can't remember what else I asked, but I think what I'm really doing is asking in different ways, “it's all okay, right?” so I feel freed up to continue doing what I'm doing. The irony is that no one would tell me if things weren't going okay, I'm sure, but I guess I'm assessing their tone of voice (also kind of pointless, as no one is going to sound all panicked when talking to a laboring woman of course).
Right around this time, someone yelled down so that mom would bring Eva up. I saw her face between pushes, and she was just beaming as she watched quietly, and that smile never left her face. Another push or so and the baby was crowning, then a big push and the head was out. Amazing. I couldn't believe it when they said the head was out – until I looked and saw it for myself – because I had expected it to be really difficult and hurt a lot more during that part (not having had a vertex baby before, I wasn't quite sure what to expect – and since it was one aspect of birth I had never experienced, it had me a bit worried). But there was the head, purple and full of vernix. We waited for the next contraction for what felt like a long time, but I didn't worry, I'm pretty good at staying calm when it's important to do so -- as is Faith and so was the doctor who attended my breech birth, so I never felt rushed or stressed either time. (In fact, as a sign of my lack of worry: June suggested that Larry could do a bit of nipple stimulation to hasten that next contraction, and I immediately brushed his hand away. I was thinking, I did more than enough of that at Eva's birth since we were under a time limit that time, so we're not doing that unless this becomes an actual emergency! For now, we wait.) And then, with one last push, at 3:31 p.m., there she was. I heard them say, reach down and grab your baby. I did, and there was a baby on my chest. It's hard to describe that moment, but I could feel the energy from the people around me as we all took it in.
(We later tried to remember how many times I pushed, and settled on four or five, and apparently it was 11 minutes – it was just over 15 minutes and around the same number of pushes with Eva, so in that respect my breech and vertex births were similar. I can't really answer if it felt different – in some sense, it was the same, but then each birth is so different and you remember things differently, so it's hard to say...)
Here was my baby. I just held her and stared. She was a bit purple, but not for long, and covered in lots of vernix. Her dark eyes scanned around, taking it all in as everyone watched her. I remember her hand resting against my shirt, and the weight of the towels draped over us to keep her warm. She was very alert and calm. I don't know how long it was before I thought to check if she was a boy or a girl. I announced “it's a girl”, then had everyone laughing because I insisted someone double-check. Under all those towels, I couldn't get a good view... so later I said again, “no seriously, did someone else check?” I'd hate to be wrong about something like that. Eva came around to stand near my head where she could get a closer view of the baby, and said in her sweet voice, “oh, Panowah...” That reminded me that we hadn't yet shared the name. I checked with Larry one last time that we were sure of the name – because sometimes a person changes their mind once they see the baby – then announced that her name was Hazel (I think it wasn't until a bit later that I shared her middle name). Eva reached into the tub to touch her baby, and I was startled at how large her hands suddenly looked by comparison. Eva was all smiles, offering soothing words to Hazel and asking everyone around if they saw her new baby sister.
We stayed in the tub for a while (I suppose so I could deliver the placenta) and Faith helped me lower Hazel a bit so that she was mostly immersed in the water to stay warm. It seemed a nice way to transition from her watery world to her new loud bright dry one. After a while, I was helped to the bed while Larry held her – there's nothing like seeing a dad with a tiny brand new baby – and then the four of us snuggled in together. Hazel nursed, and about an hour after she was born, we cut her cord and weighed and measured her. Phone calls were made, and one by one, the people who had attended the birth faded out of the room... and there we were, a family with our two sweet girls.
oh, where to start? has it really only been four days? somehow i feel like she's always been here with us, like the birth was part of a whole previous life. and i guess both those things are true in a way. so here she is, sweet lovely hazel, and i can't even believe how blessed i am to have these two children. life is so amazing...
we're all doing well. i feel fine, really -- i get tired easily and feel a bit achy from time to time, but i have a hard time believing i was pregnant and gave birth four days ago. i had very little bleeding with the birth or since, which i'm sure is a big part of why i feel good (that and the fact that i've been home the whole time! i think having to change locations can really take it out of a person, especially if you have to spend much time in a hospital where their secondary goal seems to be to ensure you never sleep for more than 45 minutes at a time).
eva seems to be adjusting quite well thus far. she seemed so excited and proud to get to see her baby sister's birth, and immediately started trying to soothe hazel by singing her songs and stroking her hair... so sweet. sure, eva's been a bit out of sorts this week, but i think that's as much due to general commotion and change in routine as it is to anything else. she asks to hold hazel a couple times a day, and earlier today as she held her, she sang this song to "her baby" (as hazel began to make a few noises and root around): "oh hazel, your breastmilk is coming pretty soon, i know you are hungry... but i have to snuggle you first and we also love you too..." then when larry began to bring hazel over to me (after eva agreed it was time), eva said to her, "i love you so much and i'm glad that i have you in my family." oh! this hormonal mama just about melted (and i was glad i had a pen handy to furiously scribble all that down).
and hazel... oh my sweet baby. she's doing so well for someone so new to this world. she's a very content, peaceful baby (for now, i know these things can change :). she basically nurses and sleeps, with charming periods of quiet alert newbornness in between. at this early point in her life, if she cries, that means she's about to burp (or poo), and as soon as that's done, she drops right back off to sleep or goes back to nursing. she's also been tricking her papa with lots of those triple diaper changes, where even when he waits until it really seems she's done, she'll fill the clean diaper within moments of it going on. it's kind of comical from my position across the room, possibly less so to him, say, in the middle of the night.
it's so nice, we're so much more laid back this time around. that's largely the second baby effect, but it's also due to not being influenced by the medical model of baby care this time. with eva, we wrote down the time, side, and duration of every nursing session, tracked her poos and pees, took her temperature every few hours, and swabbed her cord with alcolhol at every diaper change. with hazel, we haven't done one of those things, and it's so nice to save that mental energy for something else -- like just enjoying gazing at her. i hope this early trend of being more calm and present in the moment persists. that's my goal, anyway.
for the data junkies: at 48 hrs, hazel weighed 6 lbs 10 oz (meaning she had lost about 5% of her birth weight), and now at 4 days, she weighs 7 lbs 2 oz, above her birth weight already! i'm not surprised she's back over her birth weight quickly (eva did the same), but i am a bit surprised that she gained 8 oz in 48 hrs. (if you couldn't guess, my milk arrived on day 2 and she's been nursing like a champ since then...)
so here i sit, cabbage in my bra, spit-up from three separate incidents covering my shirt (the second of the day), needing a shower (and a nap, i'm sure), with laundry in stacks and toys everywhere... but deleriously happy. at some point, the fatigue will catch up with me and i'll crash and wonder what the hell i've gotten myself into, but for now, we're soaking it all up.
welcome sweet baby...
yesterday, may 23 2008 (our tenth anniversary) at 3:31 p.m., we welcomed hazel into our family. she was born at home in water, and the birth was witnessed by eva and my mom as well as larry, two friends, and two midwives. she's a bit bigger than her sister was, measuring in at 7 pounds even and 20 inches.
more details later, but the labor and birth went smoothly and we are so pleased to have had a beautiful home birth. such a peaceful way to welcome our new daughter into our family.
we're all doing well (if a bit tired), eva is thrilled as can be, often checking on hazel and comforting her with kisses and songs. we look forward to introducing her to more family and friends over the coming days and weeks.
(if you like, click through on the above photo to see more photos on my flickr site.)
larry's on bedtime duty tonight, and i can hear eva upstairs singing the end of the ABCs, and a moment later, squealing. she's sort of hyped up this evening, which is either due to the chocolate milk (that she only gets while grocery shopping) or just a reaction to the general mood around here. something's definitely afoot, and i'm sure she can tell.
i'm a bit surprised (though for no logical reason) to still be pregnant the evening before my due date. a week ago i had some signs that i was pretty sure were the real deal, but turns out i was just a bit sick, not laboring. since then, after the anticlimactic dip wore off, i've again found it hard to believe that this baby will in fact come out of me at some point. that part doesn't quite seem real. and so i think, did i feel this way last time? no, of course not, i never had the chance to consider such things. eva came early and under such a flurry of activity and changing of plans, i never got in my head about the whole thing. this time, for better or worse, i've been given that opportunity.
at a certain point, a pregnant woman at term is supposed to feel done. i still don't know that i feel "done" (despite all logic! i'm plenty uncomfortable, what with the various indignities of pregnancy sneaking up on me these days), but i guess i'd have to say i'm feeling "ready". i've done most of what i wanted to do around the house (like find the newborn clothes and pull out diapers -- even for a procrastinator, it seems prudent to get around to such tasks prior to birth), i've put myself into the headspace for birth as fully as possible, i've even bought the necessary ingredients for the chocolate birth-day cake i hope to bake during early labor. i'm anxious to meet the baby and find out who it is in there, i'm anxious to stop waiting and move forward. that said, i feel like i could be happy being pregnant for much longer. i like it, and i probably won't get the chance again. but this anxious feeling will probably slowly migrate over into the realm of "impatient", which i think is what being "done" is all about. i'm ready any time now, though.
the photo at the top is a montage of eva's very first haircut a bit over a week ago. she was thrilled with it, and smiled the whole time. i knew she'd be comfortable since she has been going with me to see jennifer since she was a baby, but i didn't know she'd love it so much. despite it being a bit shorter than i had hoped for (oh well it'll grow), it's much more manageable now and looks nicer in general.
below is a photo of the birth flags eva and i did, to add to the string of them done by my friends at my blessingway. a more complete description is on flickr (if you click through on the photo), but the centerpiece of eva's is a drawing of panowah inside my uterus, complete with amniotic fluid and an umbilical cord. and hair. everyone has green hair. oh, also, she's riding a skateboard, apparently.
my mom arrives day after tomorrow. so, baby, come out any time now... there'll be one more person around who is very anxious to meet you.
my blessingway was on sunday. this is a tradition among my group of friends, a way of honoring the mother who is about to welcome a new baby. in contrast to a traditional baby shower, it's less about the baby and gifts (and balmex, oh that commercial is annoying, isn't it?) and more about the mother and her transition and also about the birth itself.
i've been thinking for a few days how i might describe it, and i don't know if i really can. it was empowering and i felt incredibly supported as i leap into the unknown of life with a second baby. it's really something to feel that connection not only to my circle of mama friends, but also with women in general... say, maybe, the 300,000 who will be having babies the same day i do. (having a baby is this crazy mix of life-changing and kind of mundane, at least on a broader scale. weird.)
last friday, my friends surprised me with a trip downtown to get henna on my belly, and as you can see above, they all got their hands done. i absolutely love my henna, i think it's really beautiful. i can imagine looking at in labor, letting it ground me and bring my focus back where it needs to be.
we also generally do some sort of offering to the mother, something assembled or crafted by each of us, offered up with some words of support for labor and beyond. i was given a prayer flag, with one panel from each person, along with three blank panels for larry, eva, and i to complete later. eva just drew hers, i'll get a photo up on flickr at some point -- it includes panowah in my uterus along with amniotic fluid. cute, right? it also includes her riding a skateboard (what?!) and the dog "swimming in water at gram's house". so, it's a mix of accurate and befuddling.
and if that wasn't enough, there was more -- a food tree to begin after the baby is born, candles to be lit by each person when i go into labor, an amazing and beautiful homemade cake. the best part, though, was having that time to spend with my friends (both on friday and sunday) before life gets a bit more crazy.
i was hearing some concerns that i might go into labor before the blessingway... and i kept thinking "what are you talking about? i'm nowhere near having this baby!" (you know, despite all... logic. and reality, and that sort of thing.) well, somehow now that the blessingway is over, and the fact that the next day i hit 38 weeks, suddenly i'm feeling like, yes, i could actually have a baby at some point here. at 38 weeks, i'm officially more pregnant than i've ever been before (and oddly, have gained to the pound the same amount of weight i gained with eva).
so now i feel like i can have a baby, but i still don't know that i will imminently. i'm perfectly happy being pregnant -- in fact, i think i'll need to get over that before the baby will be born. this is likely my last pregnancy, and despite the difficulties i had a few months ago, i like being pregnant. i'm sure i'll feel done at some point as time progresses, but for now, i'm content to wait. don't get me wrong, i'm excited to meet the baby, very much so. but i guess (at least for now) i'm willing to be patient. so unlike me! maybe this portends well for my ability to be more in the moment this time, to not try to rush through always to the next stage. that's my hope anyway, to really treasure these fleeting moments that are gone too soon.
all of that said, there's some crazy stuff going on in there right now, so who knows. maybe the baby will be here sooner than i think. i have a history of being too dismissive about such things. :)
eva has been on the wait list for starbright preschool for, well, about half her life, actually. i planned that hoping a spot would open up right around the time that a future second child would come around, and we were close -- we had a spot confirmed for august. well, we got a call yesterday that they had a last-minute opening starting... tomorrow. we thought about it for about an hour, then took the spot.
for now, she'll be going thursday and friday afternoons (2:30-6), and starting in august she'll move to a more normal schedule of monday and wednesday afternoons. starbright is a lovely (and coveted) waldorf-based preschool, and the kids spend much of their time outdoors playing in the huge wooded lot. eva has a good friend (ella) who goes there, too, and i think they're both fairly excited to be going to school together.
this couldn't have come at a better time -- now we'll have a little while to get her used to school before the baby comes, and i'll have a bit of a rest during the last weeks of pregnancy, and she won't feel like she's beeing shooed out the door and replaced by the baby (as is the concern had we started in, say, june). also, i've been making plans in recent weeks to expand her social opportunities a bit, hoping to augment what we currently do by finding some contexts that would be better suited to *her* needs (as opposed to my own needs of hanging out with my friends :) now that school is starting now rather than in august, i presume it can fill that role very nicely. i think she's going to love it, and i'm sure i won't mind having a few hours per week alone with the baby, either.
ordinarily, they invite parents to bring a new child for 6 weeks prior to their start date so they can acclimate to the school setting. well, we had only one day's notice -- today -- so today we went to school. i explained to eva that i would stay at school with her while she got to know her teachers and the other kids, and then once she was ready, she could tell me to go. i figured i'd stay for three or so days, depending. we arrived, she and ella ran off to play together, and basically eva didn't even check in with me for the next two hours. she played, had snack, went potty (with her teacher, not me), played some more -- and thought it was even a good sign that while she played with ella, she also played with other kids or just explored on her own. well, after we had been there about two hours, she came running over to me. i thought perhaps she was needing to reconnect with me a bit, or just wanted to chat, but she said with a cheery yet very sincere expression on her face, "okay mama, you can go now. i'm ready for you to go." well, okay then! i wasn't expecting that she would kick me out... on the first day.
so, i went out front to sit in the car until school was over. about 45 minutes later, one of her teachers saw me while taking out the trash and said she was doing great. but i guess i should have headed in a bit earlier than i did, because at 5:48 they called me saying she was sad. (i planned to head in a few minutes before that.) and, wow, she was really sad! she even continued to cry as i held her, saying she was "sooo hungry" (not used to eating on a schedule, i guess) and that she was "just very sad". the first issue is that she saw other kids leaving and i guess wasn't totally clear on the fact that i would be coming back, too, and how exactly that all worked, given it was the first day. and i think she really *was* hungry (we simply could not convince her to eat much lunch today, and she didn't eat much for snack at school)... and then halfway home, after all of five minutes in the car, she fell asleep.
until the pick-up time started at the end of the day combined with the tired and hungry, though, she did amazingly well for her first day. i was there the first two hours, as i said, but she couldn't even see me most of that time, let alone come hang out with me. my mom laughed, saying that sounds just like eva's mama and her grandma, too (we were both very ready for school). i think she's going to do just fine.