Friday, June 30, 2006

It's a long way down the holiday road

We're going up to Vermont this weekend to stay at a lodge on a lake (on a bump on a log in a hole in the bottom of the sea) with KB's stepfather Alan and his wife Kathleen. There will also be assorted other family members there - KB's sister and her husband are flying out from Hawaii, and Alan's kids and Kathleen's kids and THEIR kids are coming too. I think there'll be 24 people in all. So I'm looking forward to a crazy family weekend of lake shore goodness.

But there will no posts, no posts! I say, for several days. We're actually coming back on the 4th, so I don't know if we'll be seeing any fireworks or not, which makes me kind of sad. I like the big boom boom and sparkly flashyness.

I've had a couple of memorable 4ths, in terms of fireworks and celebrating. The year I did summer theater at UW we sat up on the roof of the theater building and watched the fireworks at War Memorial Stadium, which is like, a block away. We were so close to the fireworks that we were getting little bits of paper and ash raining down on us. We were so close that the only comments anyone could make were "Wow!" and "WOW!" We were so close that I was concerned that perhaps we were TOO close. But it was really cool.

Another time I was visiting Zach in SF and we sat up (illegally, I believe) on the roof of his apartment building to watch the fireworks out in the bay. When they were over (and they, also, were damn fine fireworks) was the best part. There were hundreds of other people also sitting on roofs watching, and somewhere behind us, just as the last lights from the finale were fading, someone with a fabulous tenor voice started to sing the National Anthem. By the time he got to "by the dawn's early light" everyone else on all the rooftops was singing along with him. When we all yelled "and the hooooome of theeeeee braaaaaaaaave," everyone erupted into cheers. It was the single best time I've ever sung the National Anthem, because it was totally spontaneous and filled with feeling. It made me think of how great our country could be.

So everybody have a happy, safe 4th of July weekend and try to think of a way to wrest our fabulous country out of the hands of the Frowny Kid and his evildoing cohorts. The USA deserves better.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

I asked the doctor to take a picture so I could look at you from inside as well

Here's the hair. Or rather, the absence of hair.

And the glasses. Do you like the glasses? Those are new, too.

I can't wait for the next time I get carded (assuming, of course, that it ever happens again.) They'll take one look at my driver's license (shoulder-length hair, no glasses) and be like, "What, you think I'm stupid?"

Thanks for reading.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Drink my juice young love chug-a-lug me

Well, I'm finished with nursing. Nolan is now completely weaned. (Be forewarned: Much talk of boobs and body fluids ahead.)

Partly I'm sad and misty-eyed at being through with nursing. It was always my special time with Nolan, something only I could do for him, and it made me feel like the very essence of Mom-ness; this is what mothers do, they nurse their babies. Sometimes when it was the last nursing at night and I was rocking him in the rocking chair and singing to him while we nursed, he would wrap one hand around my thumb and close his eyes, getting sleepier and sleepier. I loved that. I'll miss that.

And it means that he's not a baby anymore; the tiny little bundle that we brought home from the hospital is gone, and he's been replaced by a walking (almost), talking (sort of), curiousity-satisfation machine. In some ways, it's hard for me to believe that he'll never be that little guy again, and I've mourned for every stage of baby-hood that he's passed through and grown out of. I'll miss my little nursing baby.

But he was increasingly not very snuggly while we were nursing, particularly in the last few months as he's been learning to crawl and then walk. He got antsy. He didn't want to lie there and nurse, he wanted to flip over and try to sit up (while keeping my nipple in his mouth, of course), he wanted to fiddle with my glasses and my mouth and my shirt and see how hard he could smack me with his free hand before I grabbed it and told him to stop. And that, I won't miss.

Plus, it will be very VERY nice to have my entire body back to myself again. I'm hoping my breasts will shrink down a bit to their pre-pregnancy size (which, let's face it, wasn't very small to begin with, but it would be nice to wear my regular bras again). I'd like to (dare I say it?) try sleeping on my stomach once again. That used to be my favorite sleep position. My stretch marks have faded to an acceptably pale silvery-pink color, and I'm back down (even slightly below, woo-hoo!) to my previous weight. So the nursing was really the only thing left.

I started weaning him about two weeks before his birthday. All the books say you should wait until the child is a year old before you try to give him whole milk, but I figured two weeks one way or the other couldn't hurt. We were down to four nursing sessions per day at that point: first thing in the morning (6 am), mid-morning (10:30 or 11), mid-afternoon (3:30 or 4) and last thing at night (7pm). So at the mid-morning session, instead of nursing, I gave him a bottle of whole milk. I was prepared for rejection of the milk; they say some babies have to be gradually introduced to it via a mixture of breast milk and cow's milk in increasing ratios. But Nolan took the bottle and sucked the entire thing down as nonchalantly as if he were Dean Martin and I'd given him a martini. No problem whatsoever.

(The ease with which he took to the bottle made me a little sad; in some ways I was hoping it would be a little harder to replace me than that.)

So then it was just a matter of giving each nursing-replacement a while to "take" before moving on to the next one. I did the two middle-of-the-day ones one after the other, taking a week for each, and then held to that pattern for an extra week. Then I had to decide which would be the next session to go: the crack-of-dawn sunrise special or the sleepy, snuggly bedtime for bonzo. Mostly for convenience's sake, I decided to hold on to the morning one and lose the night time one. That was hard. But we still rocked and sang and cuddled, it was just with a bottle of milk instead. I gave that two weeks as well, to give my breasts a chance to catch up to the reduced demand.

So all the last two weeks I've only been nursing him once a day, in the morning, which is always nice and sweet because we're both sleepy and we lay in bed together for fifteen minutes or so while he nurses. It's been a wonderful way to wake up. But I decided yesterday was the last day, so this morning, KB got up and gave Nolan a bottle of milk instead of bringing him in to me to nurse.

I was pretty sad; a really lovely part of my life is over now. And it was so hard at the beginning! We had so many problems getting started nursing that I was sure he'd be damaged for life. I was stubborn about not wanting to give him formula and we eventually persevered, but it wasn't a smooth start.

It's amazing to me that he lived the first six months of his life drinking only breast milk - it's hard to believe that there are enough nutrients and fat and protein in that watery fluid to sustain a growing baby, but there are. Then, as we got toward the end of the first year, I started to get really tired of pumping breast milk to have a supply in the freezer (to mix with his cereal and give in bottles when someone else was taking care of him.) Nursing your baby is a miracle and a privilege, no question, but man, pumping breast milk sucks big donkey dick. You really feel for cows when you're sitting there, plastic suction cones stuck to your boobs, electric motor humming away, trying to think about your baby so your milk will let down and you can get the damn things off.

I'm proud of what my body is capable of. (I've decided to try to think about my stretch marks not as something to hide, but as a tattoo that says, "Fuck yeah I had a baby. And it was HARD.") And I'm proud we made it through the entire first year without switching to formula. I think Nolan was more ready to give it up than I was, as evidenced by his easy transition, and there's really no good that can come out of holding your kid back to satisfy your own needs. So I did it.

And now I can have more than one drink at a time! One of these nights.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Mase, Mase, how you like your buddy?

So I cut my hair.


Like, really short.

Even shorter than it was before. Way shorter. It's pretty much lesbian length now. (Butch lesbian, not lipstick lesbian.)

I like it. I was worried for a mintue that it was going to turn out like middle-aged-lady-one-inch-all-over-bubble-head kind of hair, but I narrowly escaped that heinous fate. It's a little longer on top than it is in the back and sides. I figured if I was going to have short hair, I might as well go the whole way.

I found a stylist that I like at this local place downtown. I've gone to her the last few months since we came back from my mom's last fall, when I initially got it cut from its previous below-shoulder-length. She's totally unpretentious and she usually knows what I'm talking about as far as my hair goes. (Like if I say, "Please don't make me look like a middle-aged lady," she knows what I mean.)

The weird thing is, I think I lost some curl in my hair after Nolan was born*. It's still curly, of course, but it doesn't seem to be as curly as it used to be. I took a picture of myself in LA from a few years ago with me to the stylist the first time, showed it to her, and said, "Give me that." I figured, I used to have my hair like this, it shouldn't be too hard to have it that way again.

But it didn't work. My hair is somehow floppier than it was before. It wouldn't stand up straight on top of my head (not straight straight, obviously, but you wouldn't stick up.) It was constantly flopping over into my face and driving me batty. The whole point of having short hair was so that I wouldn't have to fuss with it as much, and instead I was spending even more time fussing - putting product in, clipping, blow drying, spraying it furiously in hopes it would stay. I've been wearing headbands constantly the last two weeks or so.

So I whacked it all off.

Hopefully I won't regret it. But hey, it's only hair. Hair grows back.

Thanks for reading.

*This apparently is not unheard of. There's lots of anecdotal evidence out there of moms whose hair went wacko after their babies were born. Just one more way your hormones fuck you over. Yay. I also got some lovely wiry chin-hairs I didn't used to have that I now have to pluck as soon as I realize they've grown in. If I don't pluck them right away I end up fondling them absent-mindedly like a sage stroking his beard, which is so inconspicuous. Yeek.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Get a Philadelphia chicken to teach you to swing

It's official.

KB has decided against doing a fellowship next year. After all of his interviews, there was only one place he really considered going to, and after thinking about it for a while, he decided he didn't really feel passionate enough about the whole thing to make it worth another year of lots of work, little money, and little time spent with Nolan or me. KB is going to start looking (has already started, in fact) for a job somewhere in the Philadelphia/Southern New Jersey area.

So we have one more year in Boston to finish out his residency, and then we'll be moving. Probably in late June or early July 2007. While I'm sad about the prospect of leaving this area now that I finally feel we've started to settle in, I'm also excited about the idea that we're finally going to get where we're going. It will be nice to feel like we can start putting down roots.

I'm glad I traveled around a bit and lived in a variety of places while I was "young," but I feel like I'm ready to be done with all that. I want to stay in one place for a while. Not that we'll never travel, of course, but I'm looking forward to having a home, a permanent place that we'll always come back to. Everywhere we've lived in the last four years or so has been temporary, and we knew it was temporary at the time, which always lends a bit of uncertainty to the mix. I'm glad that we won't have another one-year stint in a place followed by yet another move.

I'm also glad that KB arrived at this decision on his own. Not that there wasn't any input from me, there was plenty of input from me, but I wanted to be sure that I didn't pressure him one way or the other. He seems pretty happy with the decision - I think his biggest regret is having to tell the people he works with who wrote letters of recommendation for him that he won't be doing a fellowship. I think it was a necessary part of his decision-making process to go through all that - the applications, the interviews, the letters of recommendation, etc. - to feel that he really investigated the options before making a decision.

But now it's been made! Yee-ha!

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Just skankin' to the beat

All right, I totally ripped this off from Ebony, but I had to include this:

Your Life is Like

Say Anything...

I also have to confess that I manipulated my answers to the questions to get this result because this is one of my favorite movies of all time. If it wasn't for Ione Skye, it would be the perfect film. (Why doesn't Lili Taylor ever get to be the lead romantic chick? Why does she always get relegated to the "kooky friend" role? Is it because she's "interesting" looking? Meryl Streep is interesting looking, god dammit, and she gets to be the romantic lead. I hate that.)


Thanks for reading.

P.S. Just for the record, I too am a Boston Creme Donut. What are the odds?

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Take oasis, Marat's bathing

All Nolan wants to do these days is walk (or more accurately, lurch) around the house with me bent over holding each of his hands in mine, shuffling along behind him while trying not to step on his feet. My back is killing me. If I try to park him for a moment at a suitably stable object of the correct height for him to hold onto, he just stands there, one hand holding himself steady and the other held beseechingly out towards me, making little "eh-eh-eh" sounds as if to say, "Let's go, woman! Time's a-wastin'!"

He has a lot to figure out before he'll be walking on his own, so this could continue into the forseeable future. He seems to have no idea that he might need to look down occasionally to see if there are any obstacles blocking his path - he just keeps his head up and focuses on where he wants to go. Good advice for life, perhaps, but not so much for learning to walk. (As Ferris Bueller so helpfully reminded us, "Life moves pretty fast sometimes. If you don't stop and take a look around once in a while, you could miss it."*) So he's constantly getting tripped up by Legos and stuffed animals and magazines that he's previously pulled from the rack and flung about the room. I'm not sure if I should be letting him stumble in order to teach him how to get back up again, or clearing the path for him so he can get the hang of walking and THEN let him worry about the obstacles. See how many decisions you have to make as a parent?

He also overcompensates in other ways. When he wants to change direction, he stops and takes these comically wide, lunging sideways steps, like he's trying to step over a brook with barbells tied to his shoes. He also seems to have the depth perception of a drunk - he'll reach out to steady himself on something and end up missing and falling down, swinging wildly like a good ol' boy after last call who thinks you've just insulted his woman.

When my mom came up for his birthday party, she bought him one of those walkers that encourage toddlers to cruise along, but the problem with that substitute for my hands is that he can only go in a (somewhat) straight line with it, and the opportunities for cruising in a straight line in our little house are rather limited. We took it with us to one of KB's moonlighting jobs the other night, where we figured the long hallways would afford him great chances to test out the walker. He ended up repeatedly swerving to the side and clunking into the walls, which makes me look forward so optimistically to his learner's permit days.

Thanks for reading.

*I just got a (high school) graduation announcement from a younger cousin of mine, and that was their class quote, as printed on their announcements. Fabulous. I don't think my high school would have let us get away with something quite so...seditious.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

And I bought you that ring 'cause I never was cool

Zach, one of my best and oldest friends in the world, was here for two days at the beginning of the month on his way to his ten-year college reunion at Yale.* He flew in to Boston on Wednesday morning and then took the train down to New Haven on Friday afternoon, so we had a good solid two days together.

We call him "Uncle Zach" to Nolan, same as we call Jen "Cool Aunt Jen" (her request) and Erica "Auntie Erica." I figure you can never have too much family for your kid, right?

So we didn't do much, which is our standard M.O. for visiting each other. I swear to God, one time when I visited Zach in San Francisco, a fabulous city with numerous wonderful things to see, we spent an entire day watching taped episodes of the Simpsons with the commercials edited out. We'd finish an episode and start to say, "Maybe we oughtta get mov-" and then the credits would roll on another one and our gazes would get sucked back to the TV. I think we sat there for like, 13 hours or something truly sad like that.

The Thursday he was here it was actually nice and hot and sunny, so we greased the kid up with SPF 45 and walked downtown to just sort of wander around. We went to the library, I bought some flip-flops at Payless, and then we went to lunch at this new Hot Pot restaurant that's in the mall. It's one of those places where they boil the broth at your table and you dunk in meats and vegetables to cook them. It was pretty darn good, I have to say, but they lost major points in my book for not having a changing table in the bathroom. Nolan's standard M.O. is to wait until we're out on the town or in a restaurant to have a Monster Poop, and he did not disappoint on this occasion. So I had to lay him down on the floor in the handicapped stall, and even though I put him on a changing pad, he still wriggled and moved all over the place, so who knows what disgusting tidbits he picked up. There should be a restaurant reviewer (and maybe there already is and I'm just unaware) who reviews places from a family-friendly standpoint; like, do they have highchairs? Are they clean? Changing tables in the bathroom? Kid's items on the menus? And crap like that.

And other than that, we didn't do a whole lot. We hung out in Nolan's room and played; we read books and sat around. We talked about being kids and having kids and baby sign language and poopy diapers and ER visits and college reunions and feeling old and lots of other crap. It was pretty nice.

Thanks for reading.

*Which also means it's my ten-year anniversary of graduating from college. *sigh* My mom asked me if the University of Wyoming was doing a ten-year reunion, and I just laughed.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

I don't care what they say about us anyway

Last Thursday, Nolan, KB and I went to the graduation of our friend Amit. KB has known Amit since KB was in med school and Amit was a high school student working on the same research project as part of an advanced science curriculum he was taking.

KB and I are sincerely hoping that Nolan turns out as well as Amit and his younger brother Nitish have - they are both incredibly bright young men who are well-mannered (but not in a repressed way, in a natural way) and love their parents. I spent most of the luncheon picking their mother's brain (when I wasn't picking up food Nolan had thrown) to find out what they did to raise two such fabulous young men.

So the graduation was at Harvard, naturally, and of course Amit was getting both a bachelor's degree and a master's degree SIMULTANEOUSLY after his four years at Harvard. And what were these degrees in, you ask? Only physics, chemistry and mathematics. Did I mention he was bright?

The ceremony was held under a tent because it was raining, and I guess at Harvard they divide the students up by their residence houses as opposed to their areas of study, so this ceremony was for residents of Cabot House and the degrees ran the gamut from Zoology to Astrophysics. One of the other people graduating was Rivers "If You Want To Destroy My Sweater" Cuomo, who apparently went back to school to get an English degree from Harvard. (When I saw his name in the program and told KB who he was, KB said, "Wise move.")

It was probably about a hundred graduates, and I was glad it was a small group because I didn't know how long Nolan would last sitting with us in plastic folding chairs, listening to people applaud. He couldn't really get down and crawl or practice walking since it was packed and the ground was soggy anyway, and we had a limited number of books and toys crammed into the diaper bag.

The other thing was, each graduate apparently filled out a little card before the ceremony that described where they hoped to be in ten years and who they wanted to thank. So EVERY SINGLE PERSON who received a diploma had the announcer read their card. It was kind of nice at first, and I wondered why none of my graduations had thought to include that kind of thing, but I quickly figured it out: because it takes for-fucking-ever! Some people tried to be funny, and some were incredibly ambitious ("After I resolve the genocide in Darfur and discover a vaccine for AIDS, I'll devote my time to eliminating hunger"). But mostly they were just repetitive. Rivers Cuomo thanked his bandmates for supporting his decision to return to school and someone in the back of the tent yelled out "Weeeeezer!" Nolan was unimpressed.

When they got to Amit (whose last name begins with "L") right in the middle of the group, I thought, "Well, at least Nolan made it that far. Now if he pitches a fit we can do that parent-with-screaming-child-running-to-the-back-of-the-church/theatre/tent maneuver you've seen so many times." We kept giving him different items and passing him back and forth from KB to me, and would you believe he made it through the whole ceremony? There was one quiet moment between graduates when Nolan proclaimed, "Buh-haaaaaaaaaa-mmmmmmmm-na-na-na-na-na-na-na!" to everyone and there was a general chuckle when the announcer said, "There you have it." in response. But that was it.

After it was over and everyone was filing out of the tent, an older woman tapped me on the arm and said, "Young lady, young lady." to which I did the looking-around-behind-me-to-see-who-she's-talking-to that I used to do when people called me "Ma'am." She said, "I just wanted to tell you what a wonderful little boy you have. He was so well-behaved and pleasant; you must be doing such a good job with him." I felt at once absurdly pleased and rather dismissive. He's only one year old; I'm pretty sure that any good behavior on his part is just a natural function of his personality, not anything we've been doing with him. He behaved well because he felt like it; we just got lucky.

Then we all filed into an adjacent hall for the lunch Harvard was putting on for graduates and their families and guests. That was the biggest disappointment of the day - it was a buffet-style lunch, which in and of itself is not so bad, but there was nowhere provided for people to sit and eat. The ground outside was soggy and it was still drizzling, and the cleanup crew had already started folding up all the chairs under the tent. Plus the food was the kind you needed to cut up with a fork and knife, so I'm not sure how they expected people to manage. If I was a parent of a Harvard graduate who had just spent god knows how much money on their education and then flown across the country to see them graduate, I think I'd be a wee bit disappointed not to have a place to park my ass while I ate my cold chicken and pasta salad.*

I was glad we could be there to support Amit and his family, and it was nice to do an all-day outing with Nolan (he had his one-year doctor's appointment that morning) and realize that the world won't end if he doesn't get his meals or naps at exactly the right time. Nice for me, I mean. I'm still trying to be a little more adventurous about taking him out and about and not panicking when we have to be a little flexible.

But the drive back home sucked eggs.

Thanks for reading.

*Plus, and this would really gall me if it was my kid, the program for the commencement had the wrong date! It said "2005 Graduating Class!" So much for a nice keepsake.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Everyone around the world, come on

We had Nolan's 1st birthday party on Saturday the 10th. I totally jinxed it the weekend before when it was pouring rain by saying "Thank God the party's next weekend and not this weekend," because it of course rained on Saturday.

But it was all right. We did a major cleanup job on the basement (that's our real motivation for having people over every now and then - it forces us to clean up so people don't know we live like slobs) and we had plenty of room for everybody. It was a veritable baby-a-thon. Every single person who came to the party either was a baby or child or had one (or two). There were no childless people to be found. KB even remarked on it - "We've got friends with children, and friends without children, and only the people with children are here."

In some cases, that's the reason we're friends - we met through our children. In other cases, we knew the people before we or they became parents, and we've managed to remain friends. But whatever the case, our social life seems to have definitely shifted gears a wee bit. Sometimes you don't even get to talk to the people you want to talk to - my friend Greg brought his two daughters, Emma, 4, and Margaret, 1 1/2, but apparently Margaret yakked in the car on the way to our house, so they basically just stopped by to say hello and then left again, which was too bad, as I haven't talked to Greg in months and was looking forward to catching up with him. (Emma did have a chance to chase Jake around a bit, though. In fact, Jake was a pretty big hit with the under-five crowd. There were repeated cries of "Keey-kaaat!" and then you'd see a furry black streak rush through the room, trying to escape the toddlers. Lola sensibly retreated to our bedroom and hid under the bed the entire time.)

The best part of the entire party was when we sang Happy Birthday to Nolan. He was totally and completely aware that we were all there singing for him. He got this excellent majestic look on his face like he was forgotten royalty and we were all serfs there to bow and scrape to him; he grinned a big grin and just looked around at his kingdom and took it all in. It was pretty sweet.

Then, of course, came the eating of the cake. Although I have heard from various sources that it is a "tradition" to smush your child's face into his or her birthday cake, I generally frown upon dessert-related violence, so we decided to just serve the cake to Nolan and see what happened:

As you can see, he did all the necessary smushing himself.

Yup, it's official. Now we've got a toddler. Good lord. Thank you, and good night!

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

You say potato

Long before Nolan was born, when I was first pregnant with him but before we knew he was Nolan or even a he, I had a dream. I was just at the end of the first trimester and we were starting to feel pretty safe that the pregnancy was going to continue (if there's going to be a miscarriage, it's usually in the first trimester.) So I think my subconscious was finally acknowledging that we were really going to have a baby and be parents; sort of letting myself start to think about the baby as a reality rather than a possibility.

So, the dream. I dreamed that I'd had the baby, and it wasn't a he or a she. It was a Spud. Spud was the baby's name and also what the baby was. Not a boy, not a girl, but a Spud. It didn't seem to be out of the ordinary in any way, it was just another kind of baby. It wasn't a potato or anything, either, it looked like a regular baby, but I knew that it was a Spud. (Let me just say here that I have a long history of rather fucked-up dreams; not fucked-up in a scary way, but more like in a "What the hell are you trying to tell me, subconscious?" kind of way. Other people dream of going to work naked or flying or what have you; I dream of playing soccer with Cyndi Lauper and then riding my bike up a hill and into some telephone wires. Yeah, thanks, subconscious. Let me just look that one up in my dream interpretation book. The only person I know who has more fucked-up dreams than me is Dru.)

Of course I told KB about the dream and we took to calling the baby Spud. It hasn't really continued since Nolan was born and became Nolan, but all during my pregnancy we referred to him as Spud, even once we knew it was a boy. Erica's mother Pat made us a gorgeous baby blanket patchwork quilt that has an embroidered potato dancing in the middle of it under the word "Spud." It's so nice I'm afraid to use it for fear that it will be ruined.

Anyway. Spud's due date according to our OB/GYN was June 5th, 2005, which also happened to be KB's and my first wedding anniversary (we starting "trying" right away after we got married.) I worked all the way up until the end of the school year - graduation at my college was May 14th and all the department heads had to stay for another week after that, so I worked until May 20th. At home the night before the graduation ceremony I fell down the bottom half (maybe six or seven stairs) of the stairway leading up to our second floor. Thankfully, KB was home and I didn't really hurt myself or Spud too badly; just a skinned knee and some bruising on my legs and ass (which you would think would have been well padded). That was the first time I remember thinking, "Okay, I'm ready for this baby to be OUT of me. I can't even friggin' walk anymore!" KB wrapped up a month of working nights on May 27th, and I was so grateful Spud didn't come during that month.

Friday, June 3rd, was the last time I saw my OB. She said all was well, cervix was zipped up tight, and Spud was definitely head-down in my uterus. Her guess was that he was around eight or nine pounds. She knew we wanted to have an entirely natural, un-induced vaginal birth, and she reassured me that it was still possible with that big a baby, although it was "not a slam dunk." I made another appointment for Friday the 10th, at which point we were scheduled to talk about inducing labor. I really, really, didn't want to do that. I sent telepathic vibes to Spud to come before then. (In my heart of hearts I thought he would be born ON the 10th, actually. My older brother, who is the first grandchild in my dad's family, was born on his dad's (our grandfather's) birthday, and I was secretly convinced that my son, the first grandchild, would be born on his grandfather's (my dad's) birthday, which is June 10th. I liked the symmetry of it.)

On Sunday, June 5th, my official due date, I woke up around 8 am (not to give you the impression that I slept much - at the end there I was getting up 3 or 4 times a night to pee*) and went to the bathroom, only to find a little bloody spot in my underwear. I remember my exact thought process, which was this: "Oh. Well. Okay, then." I told KB and together we decided that Something Was Definitely Happening.

*I love how people tell you, when you complain about getting up a zillion times a night to pee while pregnant, that that is Mother Nature's way of preparing you for the lack of sleep a baby brings. That's got to be one of the stupidest things I've ever heard - that's like saying you should prepare for a 40 day fast by not eating very much.

I called my mom down in New Jersey. She concurred about the Something. Since I hadn't had any contractions or anything, we didn't exactly know what the Something was, but it was definitely (probably, maybe) Something. We decided I'd just keep her posted.

That entire day, I had a grand total of two contractions. One at 2pm and one around 7:30 that evening. I wasn't even sure they were contractions. They were more like a heavy, uncomfortable, squeezy feeling. I sat on my exercise ball and chatted on IM and had panicky thoughts like, "This is my last day as myself! Pretty soon, I'm somebody else's mom! And then my life is OVER!"

Sunday night and all day Monday, absolutely nothing happened. KB went to work as usual on Monday (he was working in - wait for it - OB ultrasound!). I sat around at home, peed a lot, and took pictures of my giant, bloated feet. I began to think I was terribly, terribly wrong about the Something. Maybe it was Nothing At All. Maybe I had just placed my entire extended family on high alert for no particular reason whatsoever.

I think my mom called 17 times from work during that Monday. Each time I had to tell her that it seemed like nothing was happening, that maybe I was one of those panicky, misguided, late-stage pregnant women who always think they're going into labor when really they've just eaten too much penne arrabiata. She, however, was convinced that I was in early labor. She was going to leave work that night and drive up to Boston, a five hour drive in the best-case scenario, more like eight in the worst case. She was only able to take one week (five workdays, that is) off from work since she'd only just started there, and I was worried that if she drove up for what turned out to be a false alarm, she'd waste all her days off and not get to be here for the birth.

I shouldn't have worried. Mom got in around 1:30 am Monday night/Tuesday morning. I think I had about one contraction per hour after that. When I woke up Tuesday morning (the 7th), I knew it was happening. It was ON. The heavy, uncomfortable squeezy feeling was back with reinforcements, as if to say, "Oh, I'm sorry - you weren't sure you were having contractions? Here you go, how about THIS?!" We started writing them down (I still have the sheet of notepaper with all the contractions listed on it) at 8:20 am on Tuesday. KB went in to work again, since we figured he was working where he'd need to be if things progressed, and my mom could drive me in.

Each contraction was about 30 seconds long, and they were about 20 minutes apart or so. I bounced around on my exercise ball, which is supposed to help open up your pelvis and keep things moving along nicely. I took a shower since I didn't know when I'd have a chance again. I called the hospital at 10 am and told them that my contractions were regular, strong, and each about 30 seconds. They basically said, "That's nice. Call us back when they're 5 minutes apart for at least an hour, or when your water breaks."

So then it was like...doopty-doo. What do you wanna do? I don't know, what do you wanna do? So, like all red-blooded American consumers, we went shopping. My mom said she thought it would take my mind off of the contractions, and we needed to pick up a couple things anyway, so...yeah. I was in labor at K-Mart. We went to this big shopping center near here that has a K-Mart, a Best Buy, a Borders, et cetera. You know those places. We walked around K-Mart with me stopping every 10 minutes or so (they're getting closer together now!) to lean against the cart and wince. It was highly surreal and yet strangely reassuring to be in labor while purchasing Drano and lip gloss. It was like my brain was going, I'm shopping, it's just a normal outing, pay no mind to the intermittent discomfort that signals the biggest change of your life. I also picked up some sugar-free candies to throw in my hospital bag. Very exciting stuff.

By the end of the K-Mart sojurn, my contractions were about seven minutes apart. My mom's next idea was to get some lunch. She told me the story (which she'd told me before but I let it slide because hey, she was about to become a grandmother for the first time) of when she was in labor with me. She invited my grandmother and her cousin over for reuben sandwiches right after her water broke, because she knew after giving birth to my older brother that the hospital won't let you eat after you get there. So, let's see, we've started my baby's birthday with some blue light specials, what's the next typical white trash Americana thing we could introduce him to? How about...lunch at Chili's? Oh yeah!

There's a Chili's in another behemoth shopping center right near the first one, so off we went. As we were seated, around noon-thirty, I started to feel distinctly nervous. We were three miles from home and a half-hour drive from the hospital where I was supposed to give birth. The contractions were getting longer and stronger - still not painful or anything, but distinctly uncomfortable and definitely closer together. My sheet says 12:40, 12:48, 12:57, 1:01, 1:06, 1:11. I really didn't want my water to break in a friggin' Chili's. Mom said we could get the food to go if I wanted, but I figured I could stick it out for a little while. We ordered southwestern egg rolls and asian lettuce cups - two whitebread American takes on ethnic cuisines. (Actually, they tasted pretty good.) I mostly just remember feeling anxious to be home. I wanted to be somewhere safe and familiar, and a leatherette booth at a chain restaurant with Foreigner blaring on the sound system was not cutting it.

So we left Chili's around one-thirty. Mom saw an Office Depot on the other side of the shopping center and wanted to go in to look for some Red Vines. (I had been complaining about the dearth of Red Vines in local stores, and my mom, being my mom, wanted to give me something that I'd been jonesing for.) She remembered that they sometimes sell those big round plastic jugs of Red Vines at office supply stores, so she went in to check it out. I opted to stay in the car. There's one entry on the contractions sheet in my shaky handwriting: 1:36. She came back out and informed me they only had Twizzlers. No joy. (And don't even try to tell me Twizzlers are an acceptable substitute for Red Vines - that is just blasphemy.)

Then, homeward! Yay! Three more contractions - 1:44, 1:50, 1:55. We pulled into the driveway. I hefted my gigantic belly out of the car and waddled up the three stairs to the front door while Mom got the K-Mart bags from the car. As I put my key into the lock, I felt this huge, internal Splorch!-ing sensation and a gush of fluid filled my maxi-pad (thank god I remembered to put one on). I yelled, "My water just broke!" over my shoulder as I ran for the bathroom. When I sat down on the toilet, another huge gush of fluid came out. (I figure I lost any squeamish readers about 12 paragraphs ago, but if the gushing fluid is not for you, you may just want to stop right here.) I got up to flush and grab a clean maxi-pad and I glanced down into the toilet. There was a big blob of bloody mucus floating there - my cervical plug had come out! Gross! And yet, sort of cool and fascinating, the way a scab is fascinating when you pick it off.

I called the hospital and told them my water had broken and answered all their questions (time? amount? color? smell?) and they told us to come on in. Yay! It's happening! Then I called KB and told him we were on our way in. He said he'd meet us at the main entrance to the hospital. Then, let's see...I'm in labor, my water's broken, I've packed my bag, what else do I need? CDs, of course. My poor computer had died in March and I had been trying to figure out a way to make a mix CD to bring into the labor room with me, to help "set the mood" and take my mind off things. Being the procrastinator that I am, I hadn't made the CD yet, so I went down to the basement to pick out a few entire CDs to bring instead. As I'm standing there, staring at our hundreds of CDs and trying to pick the perfect song or songs to be hearing while my new baby son is coming into the world, I realize, "This is stupid. Your water has broken. You're going to have a baby. Go get in the friggin' car, you idiot."

We put a towel down on the passenger seat of my mom's car and put my hospital suitcase in the back. On the drive to the hosptial I called the coordinator for the research study we were enrolled in to tell her I was in labor. There were a few minutes of bad, backed-up traffic when I thought "Oh please no I don't want to have a baby in my mom's PT Cruiser" but it cleared up and then there was just the normal craptastic Boston traffic. I guided my mom through downtown Boston and to the hospital while having contractions and writing them down on our trusty sheet of paper (2:25, 2:31, 2:35, 2:42, 2:46, 2:51, 2:56, 3:01, Jesus Christ, are we there yet?).

We pulled into the turnaround at the front of the hospital and there was KB, in his white doctor coat and scrubs, waiting for me with a wheelchair. I've never been so happy to see him - I knew he would take care of me and not let anything bad happen. (Not that there's really much he could have done had things gone badly, but I just felt calmer the moment I saw him.)

He wheeled me through the lobby and up the elevators to the 14th floor where the maternity ward is. We'd taken the tour during our childbirth preparation class and all, but what I wasn't prepared for was how normally everyone else in the maternity ward and hospital at large was acting. I was at Defcon One, goddammit! I felt like yelling, "I'm having a baby! Everyone! Attention please! Imminent baby! Right here!" And everyone else is like, Ho hum. It's our job. Yes, yes, baby, birth, blah blah blah. No one wanted to share in my specialness, god damn them.

They have a kind of triage room where they check you out to make sure you actually ARE in labor before they admit you, and we were set up in there. The nurses hooked me up to two monitors, one for my contractions and the other for the baby's heartrate. They do an internal exam (That was fun. And by fun I mean awful.) to see how dilated you are and take a sample of the fluid to make sure it's amniotic fluid and not something mundane like pee. The way they do that is to put some of it on a slide, let it dry, and then see if it forms crystals in the shape of ferns. This is called, oddly enough, "ferning." When they took the sample KB asked if they were going to look for "planting," and the nurse said, "You mean ferning?" which made me crack up.

After the exam they said I was 3 cm dilated and 75% effaced, which didn't sound like much to me but I guess is enough to confirm that you're in labor, because they let us stay. This was about 3:30 in the afternoon. My mom, who had returned from parking the car in the garage by this point, said, "Oh, three centimeters honey, that's great!" but she pronounced centimeters as SONT-ih-meters, which made me do a double take. I was like, "Since when do you say it SONT-ih-meters? Have I ever heard you say that word before? I can't remember!" There's a picture she took of KB and I right around this time, and I look really quite happy and excited, which I guess I was. I was so happy that I was safely at the hospital with KB and my mom, and that things were finally happening. I wasn't really in pain yet, just uncomfortable, and I was excited that we were going to see the baby soon.

They gave us ID bracelets and took us into our labor and delivery room. We didn't get a Jacuzzi room, which bummed me out. They try to save the two Jacuzzi rooms for women who are going to try to go drug-free, but I guess they were both taken when we got there. But our room had a shower, which turned out to be my saving grace in the end. The anesthesiologist came by and I signed some legal schmegal form about not suing the shit out of him if he screwed up my epidural, but since I didn't plan on having an epidural anyway, I wasn't concerned about it. I kind of felt about him like I imagine junkies feel about their pushers - simultaneously repulsed and needy as all hell. I wanted him out of the room so he would quit tempting me with something I didn't really want. Or did I?

I'd heard all these horror stories of women who are in labor for 36 hours and crap like that, so I'd packed lots things to do in my little suitcase. I had massage lotion, playing cards, a "focus" picture, the candies to keep my mouth moist, all kinds of stuff. We didn't use any of it. I did one walking lap around the maternity floor holding on to KB and my mom, and then I just wanted to be back in the room, hunkered down. The Pain was beginning, and I was kind of starting to lose it. Each contraction was lasting longer and hurting more, and there was less of a break between them - sometimes only 30 seconds or a minute. They had an exercise ball for me to use, and I tried out various positions to see which hurt the least. I got really tired really fast, and I just wanted to lie down, so I did. The contraction I had while lying on my side was the most painful one yet, so I stood back up.

At this point, my brain kind of took a little vacation. As Carol Burnett famously said, "If you want to know what it feels like to have a baby, take your bottom lip and pull it over your head." There's a certain amount of pain you can handle rationally, and then your mind just kind of goes, "See-ya, wouldn't want to be ya!" You know that Simpsons episode where Homer goes to the Bigger Brothers to get a little brother to show Bart up for getting a Bigger Brother? And when the volunteer dude asks Homer his motivation for wanting a little brother, Homer's brain says, "Don't say revenge! Don't say revenge!" and when Homer says, "Revenge!" his brain says, "That's it!" and you hear some footsteps and a door slamming? That's kind of what happens.

(The actual physical feeling is a lot like stretching, but to an extreme that you wouldn't think your body would be able to survive. The whole point of all the contractions is to open up your cervix enough to give the baby enough room to get out, and the amount of stretching it has to do to accomplish that is alarming. Imagine your left nostril stretching out, through a series of muscular contractions spread out over, say, 12 hours, to become large enough to accomodate...oh, say...a good-sized Florida grapefruit. That's about right. You wouldn't think your nostril could get that big, would you? The other thing is, now that I've been through labor, I can pinpoint exactly where my cervix is in my body. If someone says to you, "Think about your right elbow," you can locate your right elbow and sort of feel it with your mind - you don't have to touch it with your other hand to know it's there. It's almost like you can tune into your elbow by thinking about it. Well, now I can do that with my cervix. What a great party trick, huh?)

I know a couple hours passed, because at the next internal exam I had, I was 6 cm dilated and 100% effaced, and that was at 6:05 pm. I'm reading that information off of the notepaper where my mom wrote it - I have absolutely no memory of that second internal exam.

What I do remember is wanting to go into the bathroom, get into the shower and have the warm water on my belly. I took my gown off (all social anxiety about being buck naked in front of strangers was of absolutely no consequence to me at that point - I could have been on stage at Carnegie Hall and it wouldn't have mattered) and brought the exercise ball into the shower with me to sit on. The nurses were afraid the ball would slip on the wet tile floor, so they put a sheet down on the floor of the shower. After about 30 seconds of shower time (Oh, warm, blissful water! Oh, soothing, soothing, spray!) they realized that the sheet was clogging up the drain and the shower was overflowing and they wanted me to get out. I can't even begin to tell you how angry this made me. I remember thinking, "This situation has never come up before in all your combined years of working as maternity nurses, you fucking hags? There isn't some standard procedure for taking the ball into the shower? What the fuck is wrong with you people?"

In the end, KB saved the day. He had packed his swimsuit in my hospital bag in case we got a Jacuzzi room, and he put it on and got into the shower with me. That way I could sit on the ball and hold onto him and I wouldn't slip. I had my arms around his waist and my face buried in his stomach, and he directed the warm shower spray handle thingee onto me. At this point I remember thinking, "If I could just have five minutes without a contraction, that would be great. I just need a little break to catch my breath and then I can get right back to it." Of course, that didn't happen. The contractions were now about 90 seconds long each and there was maybe 10 seconds in between them. It was horrible. I remember just saying, "It hurts it hurts it hurts it hurts it hurts it hurts" over and over and yelling a lot. Poor Kevin must have been freezing - I was getting all the hot water and I think we were in there for about and hour and a half.

At some point, I began bearing down at the height of each contraction. It just started happening on its own - my body knew to do it - it wasn't like I had the conscious thought, "Okay, I'm going to start pushing now, here I go." I guess I was grunting or something because someone out in the room said, "It sounds like she's pushing!" and the nurses came into the bathroom to check on me. I started saying, "He's coming! He's coming!" The nurses' shift was supposed to change at 7 and the old nurse was trying to introduce me to the new nurse while I was sitting on the ball in the shower with KB. I paid no attention.

They made me get out of the shower and back in bed so they could get a doctor to check on me. I guess I put my gown back on, because I've seen the pictures and I have a gown on in the pictures, but I don't remember doing it. When the doctor came in, I remember thinking how pretty she was. She had long straight black hair and pale skin, very fine-boned and pretty. I couldn't get over how beautiful my doctor was (she wasn't my regular OB). She checked me out and pronounced me fully dilated and ready to push.

There was a nurse on my right side, and KB and my mom were on the left. The nurse showed me how she wanted me to hold my legs back - with my hands behind my knees pulling back. The doctor told me to take a deep breath at the start of the next contraction, and then push while counting to ten, then release the breath. You do that three times during each contraction, and then you're supposed to "rest" in between contractions. Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha! Rest! I let my legs down while resting, and I guess when I pulled them back up for the next push, I had my hands in FRONT of my knees, by my shins, instead of behind my knees like the nurse had showed me. She tried to move my hands and I remember thinking, "What the fuck does it matter where my hands are? Just leave me alone!" I'm pretty sure I didn't actually say that out loud, though.

So I pushed for a while, probably about 20 minutes, and it became apparent that the doctor was concerned about the baby's heart rate. (They'd hooked me back up to the monitors when I got back in bed, I guess, I don't remember) His heart rate wasn't recovering between contractions - it just kept dropping and dropping with each one. All of a sudden there were like, 15 people in the room with me, where before there had just been five. They had all these nurses and pediatricians standing by in case something went wrong. That totally freaked me out.

The doctor said I needed to get the baby out in the next two contractions or she was getting the vacuum extractor. I remember thinking, "No way. Nope. No vacuum. Not gonna happen." and I just powered through it. The next contraction came and I pushed like hell. I remember feeling myself pushing into my face and knowing, realizing somehow that that was the wrong kind of push and just redirecting the push down through my body. I could feel the baby moving down there, which was really weird. I thought the baby was sort of passive and just got pushed out, but I could feel him turning sideways toward the end and kind of wriggling, and I was amazed there was enough room for him to do that. His head came out and then I pushed once more and he popped the rest of the way out all at once. That was at 8:03 pm. The doctor held him up to the waiting nurse and I saw him in profile, and he looked just like his ultrasound picture. It sounds weird, but that was somehow reassuring to me, like, "Yep - that's the right baby."

Turns out the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck - that's why his heart rate kept dropping. Apparently that's a pretty common complication, but they have to treat it as life-threateningly serious for the baby, because it is. He was fine, though - he scored 9 out of a possible 10 on his Apgar test. I remember a huge feeling of relief after he was out - I just thought "Oh thank god it's over I can finally rest." But of course I still had to deliver the placenta and get stitched up. It took a long time to sew me up, longer than I was pushing for, and I was so fucking irritated with the doctor. She wasn't used to sewing up a woman who hadn't had an epidural, and she kept having to give me Novocain to numb me up. I kept saying things like, "Aren't you done yet?" I just wanted to rest and be with my new family, and there was my pretty doctor, still sewing between my goddamn legs. KB said I should be patient, that this wasn't something you wanted to rush, and I guess he was right.

At some point while I was being stitched up they brought the baby over to me, all cleaned up and swaddled in a blanket with a knit cap on. He was wide awake and so alert and wrinkly! He looked like a wise little old man. Mom asked us if we had picked a name yet, and I looked at KB. We had narrowed it down to Nolan or Ellis, and KB told me to pick, so I picked Nolan. He just seemed more like a Nolan. Then I told KB to pick the middle name and he picked Baxter, and that was that.

When the doctor was finally done sewing me up, one of the nurses took me into the bathroom to show me my "wound care regimen." You get a little squeeze bottle that you fill up with warm water and a little antibacterial soap. After you pee, you spray that all over yourself and then PAT dry with toilet paper. No wiping or rubbing. Then you get one of these maxi-pad shaped ice packs and cover it with witch hazel pads (like Tucks, basically) and you spray your whole "area" with a topcial antibiotic spray. Then you put your ice pack/witch hazel pad construction into these lovely mesh granny panties (size extra-large) and put the whole thing on. So comfortable. Actually, the ice pack felt good, but the sensation of it melting and running down and puddling in the bed was not so nice.

After that all the medical staff left us alone, and we realized we were starving. I think this was around 10:30 or 11. We ordered a pizza and a caesar salad from a place the nurses recommended, and we ate it in the delivery room while we called half of the western world on our cell phones to tell them about Nolan. They moved us to a recovery room one floor down. We got a private room, thank goodness. KB got a cot to sleep on in the room, and Nolan was in his little plastic bucket on top of a rolling cart with all his supplies in it. KB walked my mom to the parking garage so she could drive home and get some sleep. While he was gone I noticed it was almost midnight, so I sang "Happy Birthday" to Nolan before it was too late.

Then I crawled into my hospital bed and tried to sleep. The nurses kept coming by to give me big 600mg horse pills of Motrin (what?!?! Friggin' Motrin!??! Doesn't drug-free childbirth at least rate some codeine?) and prod my belly to see if my uterus was shrinking down appropriately. I kept having to go to the bathroom to pass big blood clots. They put a plastic dish in your toilet to collect everything you pass in the first 24 hours to see if you're losing too much blood. If ever I needed proof that I was not cut out for the medical field, that's it right there - your job is collecting someone else's blood clots? Tempting, One of the nurses saw my chart and whistled and said, "NCB, all the way, baby!" I looked quizzically at KB and he said, "Natural Child Birth." and I was like, "Oh yeah!" and felt absurdly proud.

And that's how we had a son. Lots more happened in the two days we were in the hospital, but I think I've written enough. We came home from the hospital on June 10th, and nothing in our lives has been quite the same since, in both good ways and bad. I meant to get this up on Nolan's first birthday, but the more I wrote, the more I remembered, and it took me longer than I thought. Longest! Post! Ever!

I love you, Nolan. It was all worth it.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

And we'd like you to dance, take a ch-ch-ch-chance


Happy first birthday, Nolan!

One year ago today, Nolan was born. Holy Moly.* I'm trying to reach past the cliches and really think about what it's been like, this past year, but all I can come up with are things like, "It's all a blur," "I can't believe how fast the time went" and crap like that.

The thing that amazes me most is how much he's changed and grown in just a year. He started as this little pod, this little larvae, almost, just a pooping machine, and now he's crawling and standing and talking and he's got a personality - he has wants and needs and desires and he can express them (sort of). Just imagine if all human beings kept growing and developing at that first-year rate throughout our lives. We'd be telepathic and able to fly by the time we could vote.

I was talking to a fellow new-mom yesterday and realized the other thing that has really changed in the past year is how much I'VE grown and changed. I think back to last summer when Nolan was a brand new baby and how frightened I was of everything. I don't think we left the house with him much more than 4 or 5 times the entire summer. It just seemed too dangerous. I could drop him! Someone could sneeze on him! Or touch him! He could get overheated! He could get chilly! Aaaack! Better just stay home. Of course, staying home all day has its dangers, too, namely in regards to my sanity. I feel like I'm getting much better at living my regular life as much as possible and just including Nolan in it, rather than structuring everything around Nolan and his moods. I think there's a word for that...oh yes, balance! Moderation in all things, blah blah blah.

I've been reading a lot of parenting books lately. Checking them out from the library to read them first before I see if I want to buy them. So far I've read How To Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk, The 7 Worst Things Parents Do, and The Blessing of a Skinned Knee. They're all pretty much directed at parents with slightly older kids, but I figure it can't hurt to start doing some reading now. I'm kind of torn between the "Ahhhh, I'll figure it out as I go along" approach and the read-as-much-as-possible-to-avoid-any-mistakes approach. In reality, I know I can't avoid ALL mistakes and I know there will be some things that I'll be able to handle instinctually and some that I'll need to bring out the books for.

Now I see why people have more than one kid. You need the practice!

Pix from Nolan's party on Saturday will be posted with all possible haste.

Thanks for reading.

*I'm trying really, REALLY hard to swear less. Nolan's just starting to say words ("Dada" was the first. Yes, I spend 24 hours a day with you, clean up your poop, feed you, dress you, and work my butt off to entertain you, but your first word? Dada. Not that I'm bitter.) and I'm afraid he's going to pick up some incredibly foul language from me. Particularly in the car. So I'm harkening back to my days growing up with Mormons and them saying "Cheese is sliced!" (instead of Jesus Christ) and "Shut the front door!" (instead of shut the fuck up). So far, it's not going too well. Of course, "Mother pus bucket!" gets plenty of use. That one's almost as good as swearing.