Friday, January 27, 2012

Puff Family 2011 Review

Earlier this month my friend Jessica posted a review of her year using a 20 question guide.  It was really cool to read her review, so I decided to steal it and do my own!   I think she may have gotten this from a devotional or something - I'm not exactly sure, but feel free to steal the questions for yourself.  I found this to be a really nice way to sit back and reflect on the year for myself, and found myself feeling really grateful for the year we've had.

Without further ado, here is my 2011 review!

1.       What was the single best thing that happened this year? 

We grew our family of 3 to a family of 4 in November of this year.  Miles was born November 12, making Norah a big sister for the first time.  I can’t say how much I have enjoyed getting to know my new little guy and getting to see Norah grow into her big girl, big sister role in our family.

2.       What was the single most challenging thing that happened this year? 

Daniel’s job was probably the most challenging aspect of our lives as a family this year.  For the first time he has a job that requires him to travel for a week at a time.  It has been hard for him to be away from home and it has been really hard for me to care for a toddler 24/7 by myself for a week straight.  That’s just too much sometimes. 

He also has felt very overwhelmed by the job’s expectations, and the sheer amount of work he is expected to do in the limited amount of time given to him.  It just isn’t his favorite line of work, and he has not enjoyed this job.  This definitely carries over at home, and it has been a challenge for all of us.

3.       What was an unexpected joy this past year? 

In May of this year my sister got engaged to the man of her dreams.  I have never seen her so happy and sure of someone, and I’m so excited and happy for her.  She is getting married in February, and I am confident that sharing in her wedding and getting to witness and hear about the beginning year of her marriage will be one of my joys for 2012.

4.       What was an unexpected obstacle?

Developing pre-eclampsia during my pregnancy was definitely unexpected and definitely an obstacle.  Because of this, we were unable to use the birthing center we had chosen and didn’t have the birth we really would have like to have had.

Another unexpected obstacle this year was that people I know have been fighting cancer.  Michelle’s close friend Teresa battled breast cancer this year.  She’s only 48.  It has been a scary time, but she is cancer free and healthy now.  My uncle has also been fighting cancer this year.  Unfortunately, he is not cancer free yet.  I’m still hoping hard for his recovery.  I’ve recently started sending him my pumped breast milk because I have read that it can help with side effects of cancer treatment, rebuilding the immune system, and fighting the cancer.   I’m so hopeful that it makes a difference for him.  And it’s so apropos – his wife (my aunt) was a La Leche League leader for 10 years, and they are the ones who gave me money for my breast pump when I was pregnant with Norah.

5.       Pick 3 words to describe 2011 

Exciting, loud (I have a toddler), and freeing

6.       Pick 3 words your spouse would use to describe your 2011 

Changing, sleepy, busy

7.       Pick 3 words your spouse would use to describe their 2011

 Stressful, teaching, joyful

8.       What were the best books you read this year? 

This could be a whole blog post in itself (and my goal is to make it one ), but the books I enjoyed most this year were:

The Ender Quartet (Ender’s Game, Speaker for the Dead, Xenocide, and Children of the Mind) by Orson Scott Card

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks

Love Wins by Rob Bell

Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Room by Emma Donoghue

Bag of Bones by Stephen King

The Long Walk by Stephen King (writing as Richard Bachmann)

Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larson

I participated in a reading challenge this year with a goal of reading 17,000 pages.  I didn’t quite make it, but I did read an impressive 13,500.  For 2012, my goal is to read 10,000 pages.

9.       With whom were your most valuable relationships?

The more I thought about this question, the luckier I have felt.  I have had so many valuable relationships this year.  A lot of relationships have been in a state of change, and that has made for an interesting year as well.  Some cool people who made my year better include (in no particular order):

*Michelle – I love having a sister, and this year has been a great year for us both.  Michelle gets my humor and never lets on that she thinks I am weird.   And she agreed to take my placenta home for me.  People don’t just do that, KWIM? 

*Erica:  This year I started meeting regularly with Erica on Tuesday afternoons for sewing and chatting.   This has worked out so well for us.  Our kids play together so sweetly, and we’ve both gotten motivated to finish / work on sewing projects we probably wouldn’t have otherwise.  We’ve also had great conversations about books, parenting, spirituality, family life, and other good stuff. 

*Sarah – a lot has changed for Sarah this year and I was really afraid of how that would change our relationship.  I was afraid I would get left behind, or something, or that when she started dating whoever she met might not like having me around.  Well, I didn’t get left behind, and so far Nicole (her new squeeze) and I seem to have hit it off.  I really like her, anyway, and she hasn’t let on to me that she feels differently.  Sarah is still my go-to girlfriend who gets the ‘my children are horrible and I want to smash my head into a wall’ phone calls, as well as the ‘if I don’t get to a drag show I will die, so get your butt over here’ calls.  It has been another good year of having her for my ‘person’, Grey’s Anatomy style. 

*The Tuesday Night Crew –   What can I even say?  It has been a year of transformation for so many of these people whom I love so dearly.  I’m so happy and excited for Curt that he is so happy with Mike – I’ve never seen him actually happy in a relationship before.  I’ve gotten to know Mallory and Meghan better this year as well.  And I have had so many good talks with Cy, and seen so much of his awesome photography. 

*Teresa – This year I was so lucky to have gotten to know my sister’s friend Teresa better.  I have gotten to know her by doing senior portraits for her sons and by working with her to help Michelle plan her wedding.  Teresa has been just wonderful.  She is always so gracious and so eager to help.  She never seems to judge and she always laughs with us rather than at us.  Erica and I have both been fortunate to have her parenting and marriage guidance this year.  She is just enough older than us that she remembers exactly where we’ve been, but that she isn’t there anymore and can offer perspective and advice from what worked for her.  I have really enjoyed getting to know her this year. 

*Beth & Crew – This year I was also fortunate enough to get to spend time with the Ritzmans as they have been growing their business, BabyEtte.  Not only did they give me a job I could do entirely at home during naps and such, but I have learned so much from them about parenting, living holistically, and about good food.  Beth is so gracious and always accepting of me, even when I can’t shut up even though my brain is going, “for the love of god, stop talking, you sound like an idiot!!”  Spending time with the girls has also helped me to understand better what I want for my children in regards to education, discipline, and home life.  And of course I have enjoyed getting to know Mike as well.

Of course, this wouldn’t be complete without me saying that, first and foremost, my most valuable relationships have been with my loves – Dan and Norah and the little dude.  We’ve done a lot of growing this year, for sure.

10.   What was your biggest personal change from January to December of this past year? 

I stopped working at a regular job in February of this year, and I feel like, for the first time since Norah was born, that I’m really happy with what I’m doing with my days.  Yes, there are difficult days.  It certainly isn’t perfect.  But I really like being a stay at home parent and being able to focus on my house, my family, and my other relationships.   

Working while trying to keep up with everything was difficult for me, particularly because I worked from home and didn’t employ child care.  My job took up my time, but then I was also expected to keep up with all the housework, laundry, cooking, cleaning, etc. while also taking care of Norah.  Dan just couldn’t seem to grasp that my job was still actually a job, even if I did it at home, and that it still took up large chunks of time, even if that time was working at our house.  With me no longer working, I feel like that has really balanced things out better and I am much, much happier now. 

It feels really good to be in a place where I don’t wish I was doing something else because I’m very happy with what I am doing.

11.   In what way(s) did you grow emotionally? 

This year I learned to start walking away from some of the conversations that stress me out.  There are certain people in my life who consistently add to my stress level and I’ve decided to avoid conversations that bother me and end these conversations abruptly if they can’t be avoided.  I think I’ve hurt some feelings over this, but my stress level is so much better for it.  I have mixed feelings about this because I hate to hurt anyone’s feelings, but I also feel that if I ask not to talk about something and the other person pushes it, then they’ve got coming whatever I decide to do with that. 

Adding to that, I’ve been very conscious of the fact that I am not responsible for other people’s emotions, psychological states, or reactions to my life.  I’m done being guilt-tripped by this crap and I’ve decided not to be manipulated by it.

12.   In what way(s) did you grow spiritually?

In 2011, I was able to really address some of my feelings about the religious holidays celebrated in our culture.  I have really struggled with these over the past several years since leaving the church, and I never know quite how to respond or whether I should celebrate.  This year I feel like I learned a lot about being able to value and celebrate the Jesus story for what is beautiful in it without having to participate in the religion surrounding it, and that feels really good.  I’ve also pondered the importance of celebrating the holidays that are significant in our culture, regardless of my personal feelings about the religious aspects of them. 

13.   In what way(s) did you grow physically? 

Uh, I grew a baby.  And I’m larger now than before I got pregnant, for sure.  I’m hoping 2012 sees some of that baby weight disappear.

14.   In what way(s) did you grow in your relationships with others?

This is a weird question for me.  I met with people and talked to them and listened to them.  I’m not sure how else I would go about growing in relationships with other people.

15.   What was the most enjoyable part of your work (both professionally and at home)?

This year I really got to know Norah as her own little person and come to genuinely enjoy her company.  I love that I can have conversations with her now and that we can mutually enjoy each other.  Spending time with her and watching her grow have been so enjoyable this year.

I don’t have a “job”, per se that is a full time job or anything, but I have been doing a lot of sewing this year, much of it for BabyEtte, but some custom orders as well.  I just enjoy sewing, so this has been a great fit and an enjoyable way to earn a little income.

16.   What was the most challenging part of your work (both professionally and at home) 

I have a toddler.  Whom I am home with 24/7.

Do I have to say anything else?  Learning to have more patience, to adjust my expectations, and to just walk away when I can’t deal have been a challenge for me this year.

Sewing challenges have included the limitations of my sewing machine, as well as learning what kind of limitations to set on custom orders so that I have time to complete them without taking away from my family. 

17.   What was your single biggest time waster in your life this past year?

The interwebz – facebook and forums and email and the like.

18.   What was the best way you used your time this past year?

Raising my daughter has been an awesome use of time, as well as gestating the wee one and, oh, you know, giving birth.  Not bad as far as time management goes. 

I have also worked this year on setting up a more organized cleaning schedule for the house, and I feel like that has helped me to manage my time better as well.  The house is nowhere near spotless, and at any given time something is a mess, but I feel like things are better under control and that housekeeping causes me less stress this way.

19.   What was the biggest thing you learned this past year?

To slow down and take things as they come.  Life is slower when you have small children.  It just is.  It takes a day and a half to do a load of laundry, or it takes 3 hours to get everyone through the grocery store, or I may sit down to sew and have to tend to a catastrophe 5 minutes later.  Things don’t get done quickly – or at all, sometimes.  I have had to do a lot of learning this year about being present in what really matters and accepting that I have limitations on how productive I can be in this stage of my life.

20.   Create a phrase or statement that describes 2011 for you.

2011 was a year of change and growth for our family.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Goals for 2012

It's that time again - time for my yearly goals!  Not quite the same as resolutions, but things I want to work on/think about/do this year, and that I want down in writing so I can come back to them later.  In no particular order, here they are:

Professional Goals
This year my goal is to update my resume.  I think there’s a fair chance I may want to re-enter the workforce at some point, so this is probably a good idea.  I haven’t updated my resume since I started working at the Y, so my jobs there aren’t included at present.  It would probably be a good idea to get them on paper before I forget the details.

Another goal I have is to look into a small business opportunity that has come available, and to make a decision about it one way or the other.  Details to follow.

And finally, this year I want to do some serious thinking about what my professional goals are for the future – do I want to go back into the workforce and work for someone?  Do I want to work on building up some clients for freelance work?  Do I want to keep sewing?  Do I want to start that small business?  What will help me contribute to my family financially without taking me away from my family?

Schooling for Norah
One of my goals for 2012 is to work with Norah this year on letters and numbers.  I bought a preschool age letter workbook which I plan to begin working with her on after Michelle’s wedding.  She is already asking me, “Mommy, what letter does (fill in the word) start with?”, and starting to identify some letter sounds, so I think we should go for it. 
Another of my goals for 2012 is to figure out about preschool for Norah for the coming year.  She turns 3 on the 16th of this month, and believe it or not, 3 is now considered preschool age.  Srsly.  I don’t know if she will go to preschool this year or if we will wait another year, or if we will homeschool and I’ll need to make decisions about when to begin curriculum, but I think it is important that I start thinking about and figuring those things out this year.

2012 Reading Challenge
My personal reading challenge for 2012 is to read 10,000 pages.  As with the past 2 years, I plan to track what books I read this year.  I also have a few specific books I want to make sure I get to:

·         11/22/63 by Stephen King

·         Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (I’ve had this on loan from Jason since shortly after Norah was born.  Erm, sorry, Jason)

·         One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

·         Keep the Aspidistra Flying by George Orwell

·         The Awakening by Kate Chopin

·         Harry Potter – I want to read the first book of this series and see if I like it.  If I do, I’ll probably read the rest of them

·         The new Dark Tower Book – rumor has it there’s a new one coming out this year.  I’m sooooo excited about this.  I heart the Dark Tower books.

My Blog
My blog got reeeeeally neglected in 2011.  I blogged, like, not at all.  It’s hard to write when you have a toddler that doesn’t nap and you’re pregnant and exhausted most of the year.  But writing is so good for my soul, so I want to get into the habit again.  My goal is to blog once a month this year, even if it’s something little, like pics of things I sewed or a cute story about the kids.

My first housekeeping goal for the year is to get back to/stick with the cleaning schedule I started in 2011.  It isn’t much, but if I commit to cleaning a room each day, the house really does look much nicer and requires much less from me in deep cleaning.  I started back with it this week, and I want to stick with it for the year.

My second housekeeping goal for the year is to declutter, declutter, declutter!  I decluttered a lot last year, but there is still a lot around the house.  Specifically, I want to clean out all of my kitchen drawers, declutter the pantry, and go through the rest of Daniel’s stuff that was in his office before that room got turned into a bedroom.  At the end of the year I also want to get rid of any clothes that don’t fit me anymore – if I don’t lose weight in the next year I’m guessing I never will (or by the time I will, those clothes will be out of style anyways).  Any other decluttering is a bonus.

Picture Perfect
I would like to try to do a better job of keeping up with photos.  I have a hard time making sure I get them printed and up in frames, and as a result, in my house it appears that time stopped when Norah was about 2 months old.  This summer and fall I would like to set aside some time specifically to work on scrapbooks/photo albums/picture frames/photo storage, etc. (scrapbooking party, anyone?)

Those all sound pretty do-able to me, so hopefully I'll be able to report back at the end of the year that I actually did them.  We'll see.  But for now, I have them down somewhere, which helps me stay more accountable to them. 

All for now!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Some Thoughts About My Birth

It’s been 6 weeks now since Miles was born, and I’m really starting to work through some of my feelings about his birth.  I’ve decided to write them here, partly because it’s good for people to know there are such things as bad birth feelings and that it’s ok to feel them, and partly because the people who love me can’t love on me well if they don’t know what’s going on in me.

So here we are.

In case you didn’t know, my labor with Miles was induced at 40w4d due to pre-eclampsia.  We had planned to birth at the Auburn Birthing Center with zero interventions, and knew that if I felt like getting in and staying in the tub, I could have a water birth.  And if I didn’t feel like it, I could stay out of the tub and labor and birth however and wherever in the center I wanted.  We arranged for a close friend to be with us and provide support for Norah, giving Norah the option to be with me when the baby was born.  We planned for my sister and Daniel to provide labor support for me as they had during my previous labor, and knew that we could count on my midwife for support as well throughout the labor. We bought champagne to take in with us and packed our birth bags to align with what the birthing center provided.  We planned to go home hours after the birth, our whole little family intact and together.

We didn’t make it to the birthing center.  Instead, I was admitted to DeKalb hospital and labor was induced using cytotec.  I was strapped to a fetal monitor the entire time I was there until the baby was born, which limited my ability to move how and where I wanted.    Norah didn’t make it to the hospital in time for the birth, and neither did our friend Carissa.  My sister made it, but only marginally – she arrived as Miles’ head was delivered.  Even my midwife didn’t make it there much before the birth, and labor support was left entirely up to Dan until shortly before Miles was born.  I wasn’t able to leave the hospital early at all because my blood pressure wouldn’t stabilize.  And so, Norah ended up at my parents’ house, away from me, for 2 days.  The last night Daniel went home to be with her, and I was left alone at the hospital.  The nurses came and went every few hours, and eventually put a lot of pressure on me about nursing because Miles wasn’t interested for about 24 hours.  I was brought formula samples and told he would need his blood sugar taken if he didn’t eat soon enough, although I wasn’t anywhere near worried about it yet and reacted almost violently to the formula ‘gift’ package.  The food we brought went bad out in the car because we couldn’t figure out how to keep it refrigerated at the hospital and we never got to bring the champagne in to celebrate.

We did not have the birth we had hoped for.

Before I go any further, I want to say that I realize I probably had a better birth than most women in America.  I never had to worry about an IV, and I never had to deal with pitocin contractions, which I hear are terrible.  I was able to make decisions about my care such as how I would like to proceed with the induction, and I never felt that I was ‘managed’ or that my care was dependent on what was ‘policy’ or what was convenient for my care provider.  I was never patient # whatever, churning through the birth machine.  No one ever gave me a hard time about wanting to have a natural birth, and no one ever even mentioned pain relief, let alone pushed it.  I didn’t have to have a C-section, or even any stitches.  I had a very good care provider, and DeKalb is the hospital to be at if you need or want to be at a hospital and still have a low intervention birth.  I have a lot that I am thankful for.

And yet, I have a lot that I’m still processing and that I’m really sad about.

When Norah was born, I came home and told all my friends my birth story.  I shouted it from the rooftops.  This is what I had done – this is the awesome birth I had achieved.  I had chosen a good care provider and a supportive place to birth and I had gone in there and done it on my own terms.  I was so empowered by Norah’s birth.  I didn’t know exactly what labor was going to be like, but I knew I could do it.  I knew I would get through it, and I did – and what’s more, I did it how I needed to, how I wanted to, with the support of the people I wanted there.

I have very close friends who have not heard Miles’ birth story.  I don’t know what to say to them.  I feel very awkward saying, “uh, so, I had a baby,” because I don’t know what to follow that up with.  “So, I had a baby, but it didn’t go how I wanted to and I feel like crap about it,” is really just not much of an opener.  So I just have not said anything at all. 

The story of Norah’s birth is mine.  It is her birthday story, but it is my Birth Day story.  The story of Miles’ birth feels more like something that happened to me - and a kind of shitty thing that happened to me, at that.  Like that time when I had an ectopic pregnancy but I couldn’t get anybody to believe anything was wrong, and then I ended up in the ER having a laproscopy at 10 pm to make sure no important part of me exploded.  That was a shitty thing that happened to me.  That’s kind of the feeling I have when I think about how the birth happened.

Which is not to be confused with how I feel about Miles.  He is a fabulous thing to have happened to me.  Perfect and healthy and handsome, even if all his fuzzy hair is falling out, which does make me quite sad.

On Norah’s birthday, I like to think back and remember her birth, and I like to tell her the story of her birth.  It’s something I hope to do each year; to sit with her and tell her the story of how she came to be in our family – of how we had waited and hoped for her, and then anxiously anticipated her birth – and how the birth happened and she finally made it into my arms.

On Miles’ birthday, I want to be able to think back on his birth and to feel good about it.  I want to tell him the story of his birth without ugly feelings coloring it.  I want him to have a story of his own that he can hear each year and know how much it meant for us to wait and hope for him, and to anticipate his birth, and to know how he finally made it here and how overjoyed we were to finally see him. 

I feel like I really need to work through all of this, or else he will not be able to have that.  Or rather, he will have that story, but there will be some ugly vague feeling behind it that he doesn’t understand, but somehow senses.  Kids pick up on that stuff, I’m absolutely convinced, even when (especially when) we try to hide it.

And so here we are.


I don’t really know where to go from here.  I’m 3 pages in and I realize I haven’t actually said anything, which kind of makes me wonder how in the world I ever made a living writing. *shrug*  I suppose maybe I should talk about how I felt about the induction and about not getting to use the birth center (and risking out for future births), and maybe about the things at the hospital that upset me.  I don’t know.  It’ll probably all get really jumbled, but I suppose that’s ok.

First off, I guess I should say that I’m surprised at how little it actually bothers me that I didn’t get to use the birthing center.  It would have been a very nice place to birth, and it would have allowed me to have a water birth, but it really isn’t the end of the world not to have been there.  I’ve realized that the physical location of the birth isn’t all that important to me in the grand scheme of things, and since I didn’t find the tub to be quite as magical as it supposedly can be for Norah’s birth, I really didn’t even miss it this time around.  When I think of what bothers me about the birth, it’s never that I wasn’t at the birth center or some specific location.  It’s the things that happened at the hospital with this specific birth.  Norah was born at the same hospital but under very different circumstances, and I have very different feelings about her birth.  Yes, they happened at the same place, but the things that happened during the birth were very different.  So yea, it sucks that we didn’t get to go to the birthing center, but I think I’m pretty much over that.

Oddly enough, I’m really bothered about having risked out of the birthing center for future births.  I don’t even know if I will have another baby (Puff scoffs at this: “Of course we’re having another baby!”  Me: “Uh… we are?”), so this makes even less sense.  I don’t know why that bothers me more than not having been there in the first place, but it does.  There’s something about it that just makes me feel left out, I guess, like I’m no longer part of the club.  It’s really stupid, but it’s there.  If we do have another baby I will have to choose between a hospital birth and a home birth.  While both of those are perfectly valid choices, neither one is my first choice.  A birthing center is the absolutely ideal choice for our family, but is no longer an option for us.  That makes me sad.

Aside from that, though, I’m not too bothered by missing the birthing center.  Like I said, when I think of the things that bother and upset me, they are not related to the location of the birth.  They’re other things I feel I missed because we decided to induce labor and because of how quickly everything happened.

For instance, it upsets me a lot that I didn’t get to go into labor spontaneously and I didn’t get to labor at home with my family at all.  I was relying on medication to cause me to go into labor, and that felt really wrong to me.  Lying in that hospital bed all night just waiting for something to kick me into labor was awful.  Just lying there, doing nothing, waiting……  feeling like I should have been able to handle this somehow, that my stupid body should have figured out how to go into labor on its own.  I couldn’t help but feel like an idiot for not doing more to encourage labor earlier.  I’d been having contractions off and on for weeks, and every time they kicked in, I’d just go to bed and wait for something to happen.  I didn’t feel ready for the baby to come, so I did nothing at all and figured I’d labor when my body was ready.  Wrong-O.

Now, clearly I do not have psychic powers, so it was really silly for me to have been upset with myself about this.  Not to mention pointless and unhelpful.  Besides, if Stephanie is right and the reason why I developed pre-eclampsia is because of Miles’ super long umbilical cord that he somehow managed to get wrapped up around his neck four times (ninja baby, practicing his moves!), it’s reasonable to believe my body would have done something insane at some point anyways.  Maybe I’d have gone pre-eclamptic a few weeks earlier, or maybe something scary would have happened during labor.  But probably something.

So anyway, I didn’t get to go into labor on my own and that’s upsetting to me.  I didn’t get to labor at home, either, which is also upsetting.  I guess I envisioned this whole labor process as something that started out fairly tame at home.  I envisioned my family caring for me at home for awhile – D taking good care of me and Norah being there, too.  I figured we’d call Carissa fairly early to come and help us with Norah, and that we could all be at home together for awhile.  I really wanted that time at home and I didn’t get to have any of it, and that makes me sad.  There was no part of my labor that was secret and private, and my family’s own little bit of the story.  Every last second of it was public domain.  That makes me feel kind of violated, in a way.

Another thing that has been really bothering me about the birth was that I was strapped to a fetal monitor for pretty much my whole labor.  Once I arrived at the hospital and got the first dose of the blood pressure meds, I was on the monitor from there on.  We needed to be able to see if Miles was ok with my blood pressure going down, so I couldn’t leave the monitor.  Every time I got up to use the bathroom a little alarm sounded at the nurse’s station and someone came in to check on me.  The little alarm went off every time it lost the baby’s heartbeat, which happened quite a lot.  When I moved, it went off.  When the baby moved, it went off.  When I sat there perfectly still it randomly went off for no apparent reason at all.  All night long this stupid monitor kept going off and people came in to re-adjust it at all hours.  This was very annoying. 

However, the worst part of it was that once I went into labor, I still had to keep it on.  It was hard to move around without it losing the baby’s heartbeat, and I couldn’t really walk around or go very far from the bed.  I got up twice to go into the bathroom and sit on the toilet, and honestly, that’s where I wanted to be.  I just wanted to be left alone in the bathroom.  That’s where I felt the most comfortable and like I was handling the contractions the best, but I couldn’t stay there.  I kept having to come back out and get hooked back up to that stupid monitor.  It restricted what I was able to do and I feel like it made my labor more painful and difficult to handle because I couldn’t move around like I wanted to.

In retrospect, I think that if my labor had been longer I would eventually have been able to be off the monitor for periods of time.  Once Stephanie arrived and checked the situation out, I think she would have let me go for at least a little while here and there without it.  But the labor happened super fast and that chance just never arose.  So while I’m still seriously annoyed at that monitor, I realize that it was just dumb chance that labor was so quick and I never got off of it at all.  But still, I hated that thing.  I don’t understand at all how or why people routinely hang out with monitors strapped to them for their entire labors if they don’t have to.

The third thing that I was upset about regarding the birth was that the people I wanted to be with me were not with me.  Norah was not with me.  Carissa didn’t make it to the birth.  My sister made it to the very, very end of the birth, and my midwife only just made it there in time to catch the baby.  This is another thing that I think would have been different if it hadn’t been such a quick labor.  I asked Stephanie whether this happened so fast because of the induction and she said that it didn’t.  She said that cytotec leaves the system in 2 hours – by the time I went into labor it had been almost 3 hours since my last dose.  She said she thought that Miles and my body knew he needed to get out of there quickly and so that’s what he did.  I suppose it is better that I was there at the hospital when that super fast labor went down than still sitting in my bedroom at home.  While I think everything still would have been ok, I can’t imagine D staying calm while I delivered a baby at the house.

The last thing that I really disliked about the birth experience was that my family was split up for a few days – and not just any few days, but a few days of serious emotion and transition.  I especially don’t like how this was for Norah.  Here she is, living her happy little toddler life, and suddenly at the midwife’s office mommy gets all upset.  Then the next day mommy stayed upset and Norah got carted off to Grandma’s house for reasons she really didn’t understand, only to finally get to see mommy again at the hospital, still upset (not openly, but kids know) and hooked up to weird things.  Then the next time she saw me, Miles was here, but she couldn’t be with me and him for very long before being carted away from mommy again for a couple days. 

That just isn’t what I wanted for her.   I know there are people who were concerned about whether she would be upset by being there during the birth, but honestly I think being taken away from her momma for a few days when people were clearly upset was probably worse.  I had really hoped for a smoother transition for her – not that she necessarily had to see the birth, but that we would all be in the same place, and all going home together at the same time and staying home together as a family for awhile.  The continuity I had wanted just didn’t happen.  I also didn’t like being away from her during that time.  And when Daniel went home a day earlier than me so that he could care for Norah, I was honestly lonely at the hospital.  I’m not one to normally feel lonely almost ever, but I really did that day.  The baby slept most of the day and there was no one to really talk to and nothing to do but watch TV (which I just really don’t do or enjoy much), and there I was, all by myself, feeling unhappy about the birth and kind of phased by everything that had happened. 

So there, that’s out.  Those are the things that really bug me when I think about this whole birth experience.  I’m sure there are more feelings down underneath, and that they’ll keep coming up and I’ll keep feeling new things, but those 4 things in particular are concrete things that really bothered me about the birth.


I have spent a lot of time feeling really angry at my body for doing this pre-eclampsia thing.  I have felt angry at my body, and I have felt really ashamed of my body.  Actually, I think it’s fair to say I have felt more ashamed than I have anything else.  I am supposed to be able to do this birth thing without interventions, aren’t I?  And I failed at that.  Every time someone asks me about the birth and I start with, “well, I ended up having to be induced….” I feel a little bit smaller.  I feel tiny, actually.  I feel like, in the back of their mind they must be thinking, ‘oh, right, had to be induced’, while mentally rolling their eyes but outwardly smiling and nodding.  This is stupid of me, but I can’t help it. 

My best friend had to be induced with both of her births and I never once mentally rolled my eyes at her – she needed to be induced to be safe with both of them, both for different, freak reasons.  I know that sometimes that happens.  It is harder to swallow when you are the *sometimes*, I guess.  In a way, I blame some of how I feel on our culture of maternity care.  So many people “have to” be induced that really don’t have to, but whose doctors throw scare tactics at them and frighten them into compliance.  Believe it or not, your pelvis will not explode if your baby is over 8 pounds and your uterus will not disintegrate at 40 weeks, 1 day.  But I digress.  When so many inductions seem to happen for no reason at all, it makes it hard to accept that it really does occasionally have to happen for reasons outside our control. 

In a lot of ways I feel afraid that people look at me and think I’m stupid for letting the induction happen, or think I am pathetic for quite simply and blindly trusting my care provider – which I totally did, by the way.  I trusted her 100%, totally and completely, to know at what point it wasn’t safe for me to stay pregnant anymore.  Which is another point altogether, for another paragraph.  I feel judged by every person I tell my birth story to, regardless of whether they actually appear to be judging me or not.  This is not great for my self-esteem, or that little shame thing I have going on.  Even if I think the person believes me that I needed the induction, I assume they are judging me for somehow causing myself to need it, as though I had anything to do with those mad ninja baby moves that got that cord all wrapped up.  I am psychotic, I know. 

Here’s the most awesome part of that:  Since when do I give a crap what anyone else thinks of me?  Seriously.  I can stand up in front of a crowd and make a total ass of myself without a second thought, I can wear a hoop in my nose to a formal event, and I can blog about the church in a heavily Christian culture.  That’s exactly what makes me a good public speaker – that I don’t care whether, at the end of the speech, anybody really likes me or not. It makes it really easy to speak, which, ironically, means I usually end up with a decent % of people, well, at least not disliking me too much.  I know who my friends are and I do my best to be considerate to people/love people well, but after that if you don’t like me then, well, *shrug*, I guess you don’t like me.  No loss. But oh dear lord, start talking about birth and all the sudden I feel like I have to impress the masses.  What’s up with that?

And the cord – Oh, the cord!  Can we talk about that?  In case I hadn’t spelled that out, Miles’ cord was wrapped around his neck 4 times and nobody knew it until his dear little head came out.  Now I have always been under the impression that a cord around a neck is really no big deal, but apparently that does not apply when it is wrapped multiple times like that.  Stephanie has had to explain this to me multiple times because my brain refuses to grasp it, but apparently when you get a cord wrapped up multiple times like that, it is easy for it to get compressed, especially when baby is moving down and when baby is getting out.  Compressed cord = not enough oxygen getting to baby.  This is bad.  And so, it could potentially signal one’s brain to start pumping more oxygen to baby.  More blood pumping = higher blood pressure.  And the next thing you know, BAM!  There’s the pre-eclampsia.  Or so it has been explained to me (maybe in calmer terms).  I am also told that this accounts for the super fast, under 2 hour labor – my body getting baby out super quick so he would be ok.  I don’t understand why I can’t totally get this, as I’m generally fairly bright, but every time I get about to where it all makes sense this fuzzy fog settles over it and I shrug and try to assure myself that Stephanie knows what she’s talking about.

Stephanie says she is almost certain this is why I developed pre-eclampsia, which I guess makes sense.  I didn’t have it with my first pregnancy and I guess it is unusual to get it in subsequent pregnancies if you haven’t had it in the first.  I’m also told it’s not terribly common to develop it late like I did, after 40 weeks.  When I took Miles to see my family doctor (who attended both my and my sister’s births *warm fuzzies*)  for his 2 week check, he was very surprised to hear that this had happened to me, and reiterated basically everything Stephanie said.  I don’t know why, but somehow this made it feel better for me, that someone else said the same thing, that it wasn’t my fault.

Stephanie made a very good point to me, and I am trying to hold onto it when I feel angry at or ashamed of my body for what it did.  She said that in all actuality, my body was doing a very good job because it did what it did in order to protect Miles.  It figured out there was a problem and set to fixing it as best as it could, and as a result he was never compromised, although he easily could have been.  This is a very good point – I’m so very thankful that Miles arrived safely, and I suppose she is right.  More oxygen to baby = good.  That’s the best I could have done for him and that’s what I did.  I am trying very hard to hold onto this when I feel badly about myself – that I took care of my baby without even knowing it, and if it cost me some good feelings about my birth, then I guess that’s just the first in a very long list of sacrifices I am willing to make to take care of my little guy.

So let’s go back to my care provider.  Fact:  I didn’t question one bit when Stephanie said we needed to go do an induction.  I didn’t google or dig up any birth books or search for any studies; I said, “ok” (and sniffled a lot) and went.  Somehow I have felt like I was supposed to have questioned this – I think this is another of those things that goes back to our culture of maternity care.  People have so many ridiculous things done to them during birth, it is ingrained in my brain to question everything.  Everything.  I occasionally feel like a sheep for not having done so, and moreso than that, I feel looked at like a sheep for not having done so.  This is another of those situations where I can’t believe I care what anyone thinks and yet I do care very much for reasons I don’t understand at all.

When I chose Stephanie as my care provider, I did so carefully, which is to say that I knew her C-section stats and how she handled what are considered routine interventions in most hospitals.  I had spoken with her at length about her birth and care philosophies and policies, and had spoken with other people who had used her for their care.  I did my homework, and she was the care provider I wanted.  And when I chose her for my care, I also made the conscious decision not to question her if she decided an intervention was necessary (as in, not suggested, but we-need-to-do-this-now-so-you-don’t-potentially-die necessary). 

I know a lot of stuff about birth.  I even know a decent amount about the freak things in birth that require intervention, and about the risks and side effects of a lot of those interventions.  This is mostly because, for whatever reason, there is some part of me that cannot survive unless I have a good book close by.  But look, my degree is in psychology, and my work experience is as a writer.  I am nowhere near qualified to make decisions about high risk situations.  I realize that I have a right to make those decisions for myself, but I don’t necessarily think it is always wise to do so.  Now Stephanie, on the other hand, is highly educated in her field, has attended I don’t even know how many births, and has a long, happy history of making good decisions regarding patient care without undue intervention.  I don’t feel I am educated or experienced enough to make good choices about high risk situations.  I know enough that I could spot scary things and get to Stephanie, but not enough to be able to decide what to do about them.  Stephanie does know this stuff, and she can be trusted not to just randomly intervene for the sake of policy or convenience.  Somebody has to be in charge of knowing what’s safe, and I choose to have that person be Stephanie, not me.  I realize that is not a choice everyone makes about their care provider (and not a choice that is necessarily wise to make), but it is the choice I made.  I don’t know why I feel compelled to justify it, but here I am, justifying away. 

This is not to say that Stephanie is some sort of birth goddess.  I mean, she is, in the sense that she is fabulous at what she does, but she does not know everything, control everything, or guarantee a wise decision or good outcome.  In short, she is human.  I accept that, but I still think that her version of human is going to do a much better job than mine at making good care choices in bad situations.

The fact that she is such a great care provider and that I did put a lot of effort into finding a good fit makes it hard to accept that this birth experience happened.  I did everything “right”, dammit!  This was supposed to go well!  When I think of crappy birth experiences, I generally think of intervention-happy OBs in intervention-happy hospitals.  It is hard to remember, sometimes this stuff just happens, no matter how good your midwife is.  She is not god.  Being a midwife does not magically keep bad things from happening to her patients.

All of that just to say, no, I didn’t question her when she said we needed to induce labor.  I didn’t feel I needed to.  She said it was no longer safe for me to go home and stay pregnant, and I suppose that should be good enough for me.  I’m working on it.


When I look at how I feel ashamed about things, I am realizing a lot has to do with how I feel like other people perceive me, and I don’t really understand that.  I suspect it is something I will need to mull over again and again.  But already, just seeing that here in writing is helping me to feel better.  If I can get past worrying what everyone else thinks about me, maybe I can be ok.


I realize this is forever long, but there is more to write.  I want to wrap this up by writing about the things I do feel really good about regarding this pregnancy and birth.  I think if I can do that, it will give me some good points to focus on when I think about the birth, and will help me to tell a better story for Miles one day.  So I’m going to do that and call this little writing project good.

My pregnancy with Miles was super easy, and I’m so thankful for that.  I didn’t have any trouble getting or staying pregnant, which I was so afraid of when we decided we wanted another child.  The thought of more miscarriages or another ectopic pregnancy really weighed on me  I’m so thankful that I just one day turned up happily pregnant and then stayed that way for the whole 9 months with very little drama or fuss about the whole thing.  Granted, I spent the first 20 weeks in a state of tiredness I would describe as near comatose, but that’s really about as bad as it got.

I also enjoyed having some quiet, relaxing time at the end of my pregnancy.  When I started having contractions a few weeks before my due date, I figured the baby was coming early, but he actually ended up arriving a little late.  During that time at the end of my pregnancy, no one really expected much of anything from me and that was so freeing.  I stopped putting things on my calendar, stopped working, and just spent a lot of time resting and hanging out with Norah.  I really enjoyed having that time with her before Miles arrived, and it felt good to do very little except keep up the house and take care of my little girl.

As far as labor and birth go, I have a lot to be thankful for and to look back on fondly.  I’m so glad Daniel didn’t leave to go get breakfast when he was thinking about it.  He decided not to, and very shortly after that I went into labor and had a very fast labor.  If he had left then to get breakfast, he may have missed most of it!  I really needed and appreciated his support through labor and I don’t know what I would have done if he had not been there.  He wasn’t able to do much for me as far as relieving pain, but his support was so valuable, especially because the labor went really quickly and I was very overwhelmed by how intense things were getting right away.  I kept saying, “I can’t do this for 12 more hours” because I didn’t realize how fast things were moving and I couldn’t imagine handling that labor for very long, and he helped me to focus on just the next contraction and get through them all.  I am generally not good at counting on people to be there for me, so it feels good to have counted on him for that and for him to have come through for me so well.

I am also so excited about how lucid I was for the whole experience.  When Norah was born, I got so disoriented around the time of her birth and for a good hour after she was born.  I intellectually knew what was going on, what had happened, who was there, etc, but I felt like I was viewing everything from somewhere else.  Nothing seemed very real. It was just so overwhelming I guess my brain took a time out to recover.  This time, however, I was really there, really present, for the whole experience.  I am especially happy that I was so with it right when Miles was born, and I will never, ever forget those first minutes after his birth and how I immediately, instinctively reached for him and then held him and talked to him and just marveled at him, and how dense and heavy and real he felt to me – how he immediately felt like a perfect little person who had always belonged but only finally just arrived.  It feels so good to think about that and to have had that be such a good experience for me.  I can’t really even describe it, except to say it was like my whole body just signed with relief and felt like the world was finally right, somehow.

During the time Stephanie was with me during labor and birth, I was really thankful for her presence.  There were moments when I was having trouble focusing or getting through and she would tell me to just listen to her voice and I would find her and be able to focus again and get through the moment.  I remember really well how soothing I found that in the midst of the crazy, and I’m happy for that experience.

I also appreciated that the nurse who was with us was so helpful and offered us different things, like access to the birth ball and a mirror to see the birth.  I know that’s probably a rarity in hospitals around here and it was so nice not to have to think about asking for those things, but just to say yes or no when she offered them.  I wouldn’t have remembered to ask, I don’t think, and it would have been sad to look back and not to have had some of those options.  The mirror was especially nice because I had said no to the nurse who asked me about it when Norah was born and I kind of regretted that.  This time around I did get to use one, and was able to see Miles being born and that was really awesome.

I also love telling the story of when Kristin showed up to pick up my placenta.  First of all, I had paged the nurses’ station earlier in the day to ask if someone could pick up my placenta for me, and a nurse was in my room immediately.  Immediately.  Like, the fastest response time I’d gotten the whole stay.  It was kind of funny.  Then by the time Kristin arrived, that nurse was no longer there, so nobody knew to expect her.  This new nurse walked into my room, looked at me real funny, and said, “Uh, somebody’s here…. they said they want to pick up your placenta??”  So the nurse brought it in and gave it to me in this plastic box marked as a biohazard and then bagged it up in a hospital bag, “so no one will wonder why she’s walking around with a biohazard”.  This still strikes me as hilarious.  The next day one of the nurses came in and asked me all about it – what we were going to do with it, why, etc.  It was kind of cool.  When I was admitted at DeKalb, I didn’t know if I was going to be able to take the placenta or not, which I had planned on doing.  I was worried it was going to be a big hassle or they wouldn’t let me have it, but it was no problem at all.  Kristin encapsulated it for me and I think it really helped with that post-baby hormone crash.  I just never had it this time around, and that made for such a good post partum experience at home the first week.


Another thing I am so thankful for is the outpouring of support I experienced when I found out I likely had pre-eclampsia.  Erica talked to me for a long time that Thursday night before I ended up being induced, and her words were so helpful.  Carissa came to the hospital on Friday evening and just let me be sad.  I needed her presence so much right then and I was so glad she came.  My mom came on Friday during the day and cleaned up my house and helped me with Norah.  Friends and family kept checking in on me and made me feel loved.  So many people from our community sent me thoughts and prayers and messages and made me feel so valued. 

There’s a lot of good in this whole experience and I think that’s where I am going to try to focus from here on out.  There’s always good in the bad and bad in with the good, and I guess that’s just life.  No, this isn’t how I wanted it.  No, it wasn’t perfect.  I’m guessing no birth is perfect, but I was hoping for a little closer to perfect than what I got.

It has taken me 2 weeks to write this all up (so now Miles is almost 8 weeks old!), and I can see, from how my writing changes from beginning to end, that I am healing up.  That is good.  I am a firm believer that there is a place for the ugly stuff and that it is ok to hurt and be sad and wallow a bit sometimes.  But I think healing up is good too, and it has to start some time.  I’m glad to be feeling a little happier about things.

I’m not sure what else to say.  I know I’ll keep finding things to feel about this for awhile, and that I’m not totally done with it.  But I feel like I’m done enough to stop writing for now and to move along to something else for awhile.  If you’re out there and you’ve read this, thank you so much for taking the time to hear me.