birth, donor sperm, family, fertility, gratitude, homebirth, IUI, IVF, parenthood, pregnancy, single mom by choice, SMC, trying to conceive

once around the sun

I’m increasingly nostalgic as E’s birthday approaches. Today, May 4, was my due date. I watched it come and go and then spent another two weeks living in the surreal state of waiting and getting huger.

At this time of year, the sun travels more directly overhead. It rises in the morning, centered above the neighboring rooftop and shining straight onto my bed, where I lay like a whale last year. It sets in the evening, slanting through the kitchen window to the living room, where I sat on the couch and ordered omelets from my dad. Every day we waited, every day no sign. It was a happy time, yet, like so many things, not what I expected.

Now the sun rises, centered above the neighboring rooftop, and there’s a little person laying next to me going, “Gaba gaba gaba.” The sun sets, and he’s standing below me, raising his hands to be picked up, an expression on his face that says, “PICK ME UP” as emphatically as possible without words.

Tonight he correctly did two signs in context: he requested to nurse when he was feeling a bit distressed (I actually had him on my lap while I was peeing in an effort to avoid a big protest–he missed his afternoon nap today) and then during dinner he requested more blueberries. And when I suggest he find his blue car, he finds his blue car. When he wants to communicate in the affirmative, he says, “Yah.” When it’s negative, as demonstrated tonight when I offered tofu, bok choy, quinoa, and strawberries, he shakes his head vigorously. More blueberries.

One whole trip around the sun.

I decided to go see Dr. Tran. I know this seems out of the blue, but it’s not. I’ve been shy about telling you. There’s something about having a baby that made me immediately thing about #2, pretty much on a daily basis. Will this be the first and last time I experience all of these milestones? Will everyone think I’m completely off-my-rocker bananas for considering this much less going ahead with it? What if I never gave those frozen embryos, full siblings to E, a shot?

Let me first say that I’m 1000% sure that I want to try. And I hope that where there’s a will there’s a way. But there are a few hurdles to overcome here, namely the financials. And getting pregnant again. Which, let me remind you, dear readers, was not so easy the first time around.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves–I decided to go talk to Dr. Tran because when E was born I “gave myself a year” before thinking seriously about it. But what I most needed to find out was–with frozen embryos, is there any rush?

I met up with Dr. T. last Thursday in the shiny, sparkling brand-new Marc Benioff-funded facilities of UCSF that just opened in Mission Bay. I hadn’t seen Dr. T. in almost two years. It was like old times. As always, he looked handsome in scrubs.

I remember distinctly his last comment to me at my last appointment at 9 or 10 weeks pregnant: “You have embryos, you’ll be back.” It’s been ringing in my head ever since.

Upon greeting me in his office, he said, “Well, I didn’t think you’d be back THIS soon!” And I explained, bashfully, that this was purely informational, I wasn’t in any hurry. Just needed the information from him rather than trusting the internet or anecdotes from friends.

Essentially, he said that there’s no rush on the frozen embies. My relative chances will be the same next year, or the following year, or the year after that. Which felt like a relief… I realized that the decision was starting to weigh on me, as I paid a hefty annual storage fee for the embies plus five vials of sperm. And now I feel like I can give myself another year or more and just enjoy and really not worry about it either way.

I got choked up when I thanked him… He’s the closest thing to a babydaddy that I have–in so many words, I said thanks so much for knocking me up and helping bring this beautiful boy. It’s been a thrill and a joy! (Now take me out for dinner already!)

Beyond the FET (frozen embryo transfer) of my two remaining, PGS-tested embies (one good, one not-so-good quality), an IUI or IVF attempt would have low success rates at my fast-accelerating decline in fertility. So, I think I’m letting that go.

Dr. T asked why I would want another baby. Which is an intriguing question, and was the first time around as well. He asked if it’s just been so wonderful in all respects that I can’t wait to do it again? I think it’s not exactly that; even if it kind of is that. It’s sort of about going through it again and it’s about a sibling for E and becoming more of a clan than a pair. But, in a way, it’s not really those things… Like the first time, it’s just an intangible desire. I think everyone who chooses to become a parent knows what I’m talking about.

He kept encouraging me to enjoy my “sure thing” which is a totally Reproductive Endocrinologist way of saying that I already have a baby–a 100% guaranteed baby on the right side of all the odds. I’m still pinching myself that he arrived one year ago plus 15 days.

I just re-watched the birth video the other night with, as always, complete awe. My vagina blows up into the size and shape of a standard balloon as E’s head makes it’s way down the canal, and then they start yelling, “K, reach down and get your baby!” and someone is yelling, “Baby! Baby! Baby! Baby!” and there is chaos and the camera view flips around and then he’s there on my chest and I’m exclaiming, “Oh my god oh my god oh my god [hyperventilating]…”

In two weeks, we’ll celebrate his birthday in the park with the community who supports us every day and I will only moderately stress about the number of cupcakes and the placement of the balloons–my boy is turning ONE! It’s too awesome in the breathtaking sense. He is the one I love the most on the planet.

Even though I love you guys A LOT.

xoxo

11 point 5 months

I

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birth, gratitude, parenthood, pregnancy, single mom by choice, SMC

backup

I decided that I can’t wait another day–the birth video has to get backed up tonight. The hour-plus video currently exists only on my iPhone and several people have reminded me that all I have to do is lose or damage the phone and that will be that. But the file is too big to send or upload and I’ve been too terrified to sync my phone.

Which is why my iPhone is propped up on a Buddha statue propped up on a stack of books, playing my birth video across from my iPad, which is recording it. At least if I have one backup I can feel a bit more confident about trying to sync it to iTunes.

And of course I have the volume up high so we catch all the audio, and sounds like the birth is happening in my apartment. Which is where it was originally supposed to happen. In fact, the recording session is set up right where the birth tub was located as we waited for the big day.

Meanwhile, the baby sleeps peacefully behind the bedroom door.

My midwife, Maria, had a crepe gathering at her house this morning, a regular event that I attended multiple times while pregnant. She and her wife regularly open their home to their community–pregnant moms, moms of babies and older kids, and their friends and families–everyone is welcome. One time, I had four friends visiting from out of town, and she said, “Bring them all!” Four of my new mom friends were there today, all of us with 4-5 month old babies in Ergos. AND there was a photographer, which is how we captured this adorableness of baby E and his BFFs:

e and pals

OMG it just got to the part of the video where I’m calling out the password to my iPad for the second time to the medical student who was holding it up like a mirror, “Little k big C…”

It was so cool to be back at Maria’s with baby E, after anticipating his arrival for so long, after wondering what sort of birth I would have. I hear her voice in the chorus around my bed, “K, you’re doing so amazing!”

She is so amazing. We all adore her. There are moms of older kids who show up to her house too, reminding us that this is a long-term midwife relationship. When she got married last summer, there were 55 flower children, each of which she delivered at home. When I hired her, I knew there was a community component but I had no idea how much it would add to my life–before, during, and after the birth, and forever.

Maria’s own midwife, who delivered her baby son who is now 23 years old, is nearing the end of her life and Maria is on call to go see her when that moment comes. A lifelong relationship as the circle of life keeps spinning.

E was just born on the video and I have tears pouring down my face. That little gurgly cry! That boy I now know so well.

I was scrolling through birth photos on my sister’s camera today and was jolted when I glanced up at him and saw just how much he’s changed in four months. Honestly, it’s hard to see the changes when you’re with someone 24/7, but he’s gone from a floppy little underwater creature to a baby who holds his head up high and looks all around, grips my shoulder, kicks his legs like a little Russian ballet dancer, grips toys and brings them to his mouth for sampling, and gives me a huge smile first thing every morning. He’s over 18 pounds and is already getting his first tooth, bottom right. He’s also getting those delicious thunder thighs.

Backup video complete!

There is a fine balance between living the moments and capturing them. Let’s do both!

lots of love xo

anxiety, breakup, dating, family, gratitude, parenthood, pregnancy, single mom by choice, SMC

time

Baby E is 12 weeks old today. Does it feel like 12 weeks? Yes. And no. What can I compare it to? So many quiet moments and slow days but when looking back it seems like the time passes quickly.

My mom and I just watched the birth video (which she recorded on my iPhone) for the first time. First of all, she recorded it beautifully, keeping the frame perfectly centered on my vagina for almost an hour. Plus the video includes about 20 minutes of post-birth bonding time. It’s feature film-length with pretty nonstop action–the pushes are obviously productive, the chatter in the room like a chorus of female positive assurances, and there I am yodeling like a jungle woman. I had tears running down my face each time we got closer to seeing the sweet little face we’ve come to know so well.

We heard a gurgly newborn version of E’s current cry and watched him move his body in heavy slow-mo as if it were full of beans instead of bones. The intensity of his dark eyes was already there, and his big hands pawing at my chest. We laughed out loud as I, not once but twice, called out the complicated password to my iPad between pushes so the med student Kacy could continue to hold it up for me as a mirror.

Incidentally, if anyone knows of a way to get the video from my iPhone to the cloud or a computer, please let me know. I’m so terrified of losing it although I’m not sure baby E will ever in his life want to stare at my vagina for that long.

I came upstairs after watching to find him sleeping angelically in his sleep sack, a more rounded and rosier version of his newborn self. These days, his built-in superman curl (cowlick) is still going strong. He’s holding his head up pretty steadily and just today started really focusing on grabbing a toy dangling above his head. His hands, once spastic, got slow and steady, and, after a decent amount of crying in frustration, finally grabbed that damn owl’s tail. He loves his mom. He takes mini-breaks from nursing to look up at me adoringly with a big smile.

Whenever I’m here at my parents’ place in northern Michigan, I feel like it’s kind of a time-out from real life and therefore a good time to be reflective. It also feels like all my previous reflective visits are piled one on top of the other so that I’m experiencing those memories often throughout my days here. I remember bringing various boyfriends over the years. When I go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, I remember taking a break in there from a middle-of-the-night argument with a boyfriend who had started having second thoughts about ever wanting kids. Then I remember how I signed a lease on an apartment to try to coax a boyfriend of four years into living with me (didn’t work), and how I made plans to quit my job and travel the world with the Alaskan (didn’t happen). I remember feeling like I could not could not could not get my life to move forward.

And then I decided to have a baby on my own. In retrospect, all these guys were poor matches and necessary steps on the way to Dr. Tran and baby E.

And, as my sister B says, it’s so clear that I found my path. What poetic justice that by being overly dependent, I learned to be totally independent.

This 5 weeks in Michigan is almost up, and the time has passed at a comfortable pace. When I’ve come for a two-week vacation, I could never wrangle it to go slowly enough. But five weeks is substantial enough to relax and stop watching the clock or calendar. E got to absorb a big dose of this family he has joined, thanks to the miracle of nature and UCSF, including his cousins and aunts and uncles and Mimi and Chacha and a whole lotta love.

And my maternity leave is about 60% complete, which is a clock and calendar that I would slow way down if I could. But how? Did anyone see this video if the little girl sobbing because she doesn’t want her baby brother to grow up? Sadie doesn’t want her baby brother to grow up

The paradox, of course, is that we want him to grow up and go off and live a meaningful life, but that also means eventually losing these baby cheeks and moving out of my bed. Wah!

I just finished reading Daring Greatly, by Brené Brown, in which she talks about how joyful moments can open up a feeling of vulnerability. The answer is to use this as a trigger to remember to practice gratitude, which keeps us in the moment. I love this!

And I’m pretty sure it’s the only reasonable way to slow the whole darn thing down.

xo

gratitude, parenthood, pregnancy, running, single mom by choice, SMC, writing

9 weeks

Goodness it’s hard to find time to write–even surrounded by so much help, when the baby is sleeping I need to eat, shower, sleep, maybe run or jump in the lake. Just now at 10:40pm, I brought the half-asleep baby into our bedroom, turned on a dim light, and put him down. As he did his sleep-kicks and turned his head from side to side winding back down, I laid here with my hand on his belly, shushing him back to sleep. I noticed how this is my only free time and yet I am always too tired and yet- if not now, when? Then realized my iPad is downstairs and the door is creaky enough to wake the baby. And then I thought- I’m going to write this post on my iPhone. Screw it.

So here I am, hopefully not giving myself carpal tunnel as I tap this out on the tiny keyboard. Gold star for effort!

I wanted to write about my body. After weeks of belly shots, I gave birth to my ten pound baby and came home from the hospital still looking quite pregnant. Maybe seven months pregnant. Once the baby is out, what IS all that belly stuff that remains?? I don’t know, but it felt jiggly and jello-y and so not my body. pregnant or not pregnant. A pot of jello that you really just want to ignore and never touch in purpose. (We toyed with the idea of doing reverse belly shots but I wasn’t quite as thrilled about divulging my pot.)

Mercifully, the belly started melting away pretty quickly. Along with losing the pounds, I started losing hair: after months of luscious and thick locks, my body was going back to status quo. My skin turned dry. All those extra nutrients that supported the baby draining away! Too bad we can’t hang on to that forever.

The healing of what I like to call my “undercarriage” was fine–nothing much to report, which is newsworthy in and of itself since, as I mentioned, I pushed out a 10 pound baby. I was tempted to look with a mirror but never did, but both midwives have confirmed that the tears have healed nicely.

I started walking and doing a little yoga. Then, last week, I strapped on my new running shoes and started running again after a year’s hiatus:

20140724-225602-82562182.jpg

I’d been jealously watching runners for months! The danger for me is overdoing it, which I did two days ago by running 3 miles at close to my regular pace, breezing through the summer morning and then only stopping to take off my shoes before plunging into the lake. I’ve been extra tired since then. Little by little, my fitness will return.

My little pot of jello has plateaued at around 5-6 pounds above my pre-pregnancy weight, and because I have a decent diastisis I am doing “How to Lose your Mummy Tummy” exercises to bring my abs back together. And babe is giving me plenty of upper body exercise as I lift, carry, and rock his 15+ pound body day in and day out.

But enough about me! This guy is growing and developing fast and doing cool new stuff all the time. He is now somewhat mobile while on his back in that he can launch the bottom half of his body to one side over and over until he has turned himself up to 120 degrees. So, for example, if I fall asleep beside him parallel, I can wake up later and find his head in the same place but his feet pointing to the upper corner of the bed. As a result, I’ve doubled down on pillows stuffed between the bed and walk and also installed a side rail.

He also kicks me now to wake me up. No crying or grumbling, he just turns his body perpendicular to mine and kicks kicks kicks. OK, OK I get it!!

He also is hugely enamored of ceiling fans–cooing and smiling at them like long lost old friends. Someone told me that new babies can still see angels and I think they must be hanging out up there, telling him jokes.

While nursing, I love watching him working his hands. They are gesticulating like he’s giving a lecture in an auditorium. Or flagging down a waitress. Or pumping his fist at a soccer game. One night recently, he went 6 hours between feedings, and when he woke up and I was about to give him the boob, his little limbs we’re fluttering with total excitement–and my heart blew up for this adorable tiny human.

He’s starting to hold his head up with confidence and minimal bobbles. And I’m just starting to notice that he sometimes wants Mommy–not necessarily milk, and not necessarily just to be held, but to be held by me. That feels so good.

Still working on the bottle–we have graduated from instant fury to interesting toy (and I’m the one giving it to him, which breaks all the rules) but we have yet to get more than half an ounce into his little bod. Still, I’m confident that if his life depended on it, he could figure it out.

I’ve almost finished up this post, sitting in an un-ergonomic cross-legged hunched-over position in this dim light beside the baby spread eagle in the center of the bed with his angelic sleeping face. And I realize I’m hungry again (there is no hunger like breastfeeding), and so I’m going to have to open the creaky door after all.

Good night!

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acupuncture, family, gratitude, parenthood, pregnancy, single mom by choice, SMC

birth story

Baby E is fed and sleeping so this is my moment to write his birth story! He’s in his newly-set-up rocker, with a gorgeous hand-knit blanket that just arrived from my sister D, and if he wakes I’m going to try gently rocking him with my toe while I keep writing, as I read that Louis Erdrich does–she says it’s pretty easy to have a newborn as a writer. We shall see…

Eight days have now passed since the birth and I want to get this down asap–we’ll think of it as the stream-of-consciousness Blog Edition, and I will refine and perfect it later for Baby E’s consumption later in life.

So, let’s begin where I left off–last Saturday, when we were preparing to check in to UCSF. All homey methods of labor induction (acupuncture, walking, spicy food, castor oil) seemed to have no effect–I had no signs of labor at all. The delay in our check-in time to the hospital from 8am to noon to 8pm helped me make the transition mentally to preparing for this new scenario in the hospital. I felt oddly calm, and focused on the benefits of being in the hospital–sometimes all that monitoring and state-of-the-art medicine can come in handy.

I had spoken with my midwife the night before and she walked me through what to expect with induced labor. I would go through a first step of medication (Misoprostyl or Cervidyl) to soften and prepare my cervix. This would take 12-24 hours. Once ready, they would start the Pitocin.

So, we were glad to start in the evening because we could knock out those first 12 hours while sleeping. Still, we packed books and Scrabble and all of our electronics thinking we’d get off to a slow start.

We were admitted at 8pm. It was much calmer on a Saturday night than during a weekday when I had been there for non-stress tests. We were shown to our room which had a partial view of the city at dusk.

I filled out a bunch of paperwork, including papers for the baby on which I was the signatory “parent” (gasp!), and decided to start with Cervidyl, which they described as like a tampon they would stick in and then wait. OK. They checked me at this point and I was less than 1 centimeter dilated, just the width of a fingertip. I called Em, my midwife, and she said to get some rest–we had a lot of work to do the next day.

(E’s eyes just opened but he looks pretty happy. Trying the Louise Erdrich toe-rocking method. Easy.)

I felt some cramping as I went to sleep, and proceeded to get up probably once an hour to use the bathroom. My mom slept soundly on the pull-out chair/cot. The clock on the wall proceeded onward. Everything was quiet.

At 5am, (uh oh–red-faced crying baby…one diaper change later and he is now on the boob. This is a little awkward but doable, Louise.) I was uncomfortable enough that I could no longer stay in bed, although I was hesitant to say what was happening since I’d been maybe feeling contraction-ish twinges for like two weeks and nothing ever turned out to be anything. Soon, though, the nurse came back in and said, “It looks like you’re having some contractions.”

In fact, she determined that I was going into labor without Pitocin. Huge victory at this point–of course, my fear was that Pitocin-induced contractions would be way too strong and start the inevitable spiral of hospital interventions…  and I seemingly had kicked off labor without it.

I texted my doula and she said she was on her way. We were moved into Labor Room 5, a huge corner room facing the entire skyline, East Bay, and the trees of Mt. Sutro. One of the last things I did before things really got going was to take this picture of the sunrise and text it to my sister D in Chicago:

labor room 5

 

We set up the birth shrine, covered the TV with a sheet. My doula arrived at 6:45am with soup to put in the refrigerator, a sitz bath tea, and a necklace for me that she got 15 years ago in Benin. She told me to set my intention on the necklace (“healthy mom and baby”). I feel like I was in ‘serious’ labor pretty quickly, although throughout the day was confused about the definitions of “early” and “active” labor (and active labor turned out to be much later)–very soon I stationed myself on a birth ball and was vocalizing through contractions.

My dad and sister showed up for a bit, which was nice. By the time they left, I was entering the naked phase which lasted the whole rest of the birth process–the only thing I wore was this halter top of rough fabric that held two circular monitors, one for the baby’s heartbeat and one for contractions. It was the nurses’ primary obsession to keep these circles in place, through many baths and position changes and moving around the room, which annoyed me, but also reassured me that we knew all was well with the baby. (Baby is now back in the rocker and I’m rocking it with my toe again. He’s moving his arms around–and his eyes are open. This writing may not last long as my mom is on a walk…)

Those early hours of labor are a blur…I think it was pretty doable, but felt like real work. I was being told all day that I was progressing steadily so I just progressed steadily. We did the birth ball, hands and knees, child’s pose, the bath. (Just did the 5 S’s of the Happiest Baby on the Block and now he’s swaddled and sleeping again. Man, I picked his fussier time of day to write but I’ll keep going.)

It’s hard to say how I “felt” through these hours–I was just “in it.” I was very present and my body felt strong. It felt intense from the beginning, although you never know how much more intense it’s going to get. They asked me if I wanted to be checked but said they didn’t feel it was necessary since my contractions were obviously progressing, and I said no thanks.

Coincidentally, my good friend M had gone into labor at the same time, and because she had also engaged the services of both my midwife AND doula, it was quickly determined that since I was already in the hospital and she’d be starting at home, she’d get the midwife and I’d keep the doula. Since I was already in labor when I heard this, I just accepted it and moved on–I was so happy to have my doula and my mom and the kind nurses. I knew M needed Em.

In other coincidences, my doula had a THIRD client go into labor and check into the room next to mine. Because this client was 22 years old, she was in and out in like 5 hours, so this was hardly a blip on my screen–my doula left for 30 mins for the birth and then she was back. Around 5pm, my doula’s backup came by, and when she came in the room, I noticed that I was able to have a whole cheerful conversation with her. Which I wouldn’t have been able to do in any of the previous hours. Which seemed not good.

I’d been throwing up multiple times and they had finally given me fluids and anti-nausea medication–I kept saying I felt so much better and chalked it up to that. But it wasn’t that.

It was clear things were slowing down as we approached 12 hours. My doula suggested we dance to move around and get things flowing again. I suggested the song “Happy,” knowing that this song should totally piss me off in labor–yet, there I was dancing through the whole song and not having any contractions. And it wasn’t pissing me off.

A doctor came in the room to say that my contractions were slowing down and we should talk about “augmentation.” Oh god, I thought, here we go. I had thought I was out of the woods and nope. I asked to call my midwife and had a whole phone call with her without contractions. She said I could go one of two ways–if I felt my body needed to rest, I could take a break, rest, see if my labor started back up on its own. I’d need strength for the pushing phase. On the other hand, I was already 12 hours in and in the hospital; if I felt strong enough, I could use a tool the hospital offered: Pitocin. They’d start me off super gradually and maybe I could just pick up where I left off and keep going. I wouldn’t lose any of the progress I’d made. They checked me and I told them I didn’t want to know how many centimeters. I now know that I was 4 cm and 70% effaced at 6:35pm. I had asked the doctor to consult with my doula and my doula would ‘translate.’ I didn’t want to feel the discouragement of the number after so many hours of hard work. Ultimately, the doctor wasn’t happy about not consulting directly with the patient, and my doula didn’t like having information that I didn’t have. (After that, I let them tell me the number.)

I told Em on the phone that while I did feel sleepy, my body felt strong. I wanted to keep going. They started the Pitocin. And, sure enough, within an hour, my contractions were back to what they were and the show was back on the road. (Baby E is gumming his swaddle and making complainy noises. He started crying and his Mimi picked him up and took him into the other room.)

Then we started the long night of gradual gradual progress–by 10:40pm I was 5 cm and 80% effaced. I asked to be catheterized because I’d been drinking all day and could never pee–they first said no, you’re just dehydrated. But I insisted and they got 1.5 LITERS of urine! And I had to be catheterized a few more times through the night.

To try to get things going faster, they turned up my Pitocin a bit and broke my bag of waters with what looked like a crochet hook. It made me a little sad that it didn’t break on its own but I quickly moved on–a small sacrifice.

I kept going and kept going, the contractions getting really intense. The best way to get a mini-break was to get in the warm bath, so I did that many times. My doula was so present, her big blue eyes right there when I looked up. She helped me dive under the waves, connect with my baby, told me over and over that I can do this. My mom was a total rock, even as my suffering intensified. (Right now she is dancing the cha-cha with Baby E.)

Nearly 4 hours after that, I was checked again at 2:20am: I was 7cm and 80% effaced. Such slow progress! Ugh ugh ugh! Starting to get really really frustrated! Starting to think I couldn’t do it. Starting to seriously doubt myself and the whole natural childbirth plan. I started to become desperate. I was so tired. My UCSF midwife, the one I saw for maybe two prenatal visits, happened to be working that night and she became another important rock in the room, total strength. I wanted to get back in the bath, my only respite. She mentioned on the way in that the bath won’t slow down “active labor.” Oh, so I’m finally in “active” labor at this point, I thought, as we approach the 24 hour mark.

Sure enough, the bath felt good but did not lessen the contractions. She sat on the bathroom floor beside me as I alternated between comatose sleeping and big, hard, anguished contractions. I started to say I didn’t think I could do this. She said, “You can totally do this. You ARE doing this.”

I got out of the tub and, in my memory, I crawled back into the room. I think in reality I walked in but ended up on my hands and knees somehow, and I felt so desperate. I was saying I can’t do this, that I was frantic, that I just wanted the epidural. My audience wasn’t really going to budge on that one–they looked at me blankly for a moment, then with compassion, then said again, “You can do this.” I was furious. But I kept somehow, somehow, kept going, one contraction at a time.

The midwife said, well we do have this drug called Fentanyl that can take the edge off, it lasts about an hour to an hour and half. And I said YES, bring me that, thinking OK good, maybe this is all I needed. They brought it in, hooked it up to my IV, and I felt lightheaded for a second, then the next contraction hit. It honestly didn’t take the edge off, at all. Still, lightheadedness was something… And I kept going. By 5:20am I had progressed to “almost 8.” (Yes, that’s right–between 2:20 and 5:20am I progressed from 7 to “almost 8.”)

At this point, I just felt beaten. Em says that this is when I surrendered. I told my mom and my doula to go ahead and get some sleep–there was nothing more they could do for me. They were utterly exhausted. I got in a side-lying position on the bed, the only position I could manage, and the Fentanyl allowed me to sleep for two minutes at a time between contractions. For this, I thank that drug, because although it didn’t make it less painful, I think my body could regenerate just enough. There were almost no thoughts. No more visualizations, no more mantras, no more words or ideas. I couldn’t think of myself or the baby. The only thought I remember having was to call the nurse and ask her to bring me the nitrous oxide setup and specifically not to wake my mom or my doula–it would be our secret! But somehow I didn’t hit that call button.

That last hour was the purest, most intense physical experience of my life. Just huge waves that completely obliterated me, punctuated by sleep. And, at around 6:30am, just as the second sunrise broke across the city, I had the blessed urge to push. “Mom! I have the urge to push!” She had the nurse on the line 4 seconds later, the nurse had the doctor in 4 seconds after that, I was checked, and I was 10 cm–complete!!! Oh, hallelujah! Let’s DO THIS!!!

Everything changed–I was giddy. My doula had gone to the cafeteria and I texted her: “Ready to push come back!” I also texted Em and she was able to come. Doctors and nurses and midwives were assembling in the room and I was getting a primer on how to push–my doula said, “It’s going to feel like you’re pushing a giant boulder out of your butt.” (It totally did.) Gather all the energy of the contraction at the beginning, and, when you’re ready, give it everything you’ve got.

I ended up on my back on the bed, holding my knees in the air, and the sun streamed in, and this incredible team of birth goddesses made a U around the end of the bed–my doula, my mom, a medical student named Kacy who held up my iPad like a mirror so I could watch, a new midwife, the OB who would catch the baby, awesome/amazing nurses, and Em walked in just in time! I actually said, “this part is going to be fun.”

The mood was like a party–after the dim and dark hours of labor through the night, it felt like a different room. Sunshine and the talents of modern medicine and midwifery and family and love all gathered close.

When my first big contraction came, I gave it all I had–and the team totally freaked out, telling me I was a champion pusher and they could see the head already! What?!?! Yes! It has dark hair! Incredible! Just keep doing what you’re doing!

So I did–I was yelling in that gutteral way you see in movies and just pushing like gangbusters, harnessing the freight train that was rushing through my body, like no other sensation in the world. And the baby moved down, and down, and down. They were all so encouraging and clearly having a blast. And, honestly, so was I.

This was the high point, the whole pushing phase, I was totally empowered and animal and in my body. The head started to crown–they were pouring mineral oil over the top and holding a warm compress to my perineum and cheering like a crowd in a stadium. I could see his head emerging on my iPad and it was so motivating!

At some point, Em said, “K, REACH DOWN AND PULL OUT YOUR BABY!” and I did, and his whole body slipped out of me and he was on my chest and I was hyperventilating and laughing and saying “oh my god” a million times and he cried right away and looked at me with his EYES and grabbed my finger with his HAND and everyone was crying and he was perfect. They were wiping him roughly with towels to get him to pink up and suctioning his mouth and nose and it was a short umbilical cord so I couldn’t get him very high up but I could kiss his head and say, “I’m your mama! You’re here!” and he cried and was adorable and HUGE. He was born at 8:51am on May 19, 2014.

(He is back in the rocker sleeping peaceful now, thanks Mimi. And I’m sitting here crying, reliving his birth.)

We stayed like that for a long time, I have no idea how long, and eventually I cut the cord myself (!) and they took him across the room to do a few things and my mom went with him. I overheard someone say “10 pounds, 2 ounces,” and was completely blown away–none of us EVER thought I had a 10lb baby. In fact, thank goodness none of us knew, especially me. He came out long and strong. All his checks went perfectly and they brought him back to me. My mom went to my dad and sister in the waiting room that it would just be a little longer and they could come in–fortunately they weren’t in the room for what came next.

The docs were acting a little nervous about my placenta. Because he was so big, his placenta was also big. Then they were reassured, “there it is,” and it was born 14 minutes after the baby. And, when it detached it caused a hemorrhage. My doula got in my face with her big blue eyes as the room filled with twice as many doctors and said, “So, there’s an issue with the placenta, it’s totally going to be fine, we have the best team working on this, and you and I are going to just stay right here and focus on the baby.” I stayed calm as they put all kinds of new meds in my IV to get my uterus to clamp down and stop the bleeding, which they did quickly, but not before I lost a lot of blood.

So that was scary but because they resolved it so quickly, and I was on Cloud 1,000,000, it felt more like an addendum to the whole experience. I’m just so grateful that it was quickly resolved and I made a quick recovery.

They cleaned up the room and brought my family in and there were tears and photos and we called my sister D and welcomed our new family member. We ordered food and marveled over this little (not so little) guy who was just impossibly cute for having been born just hours before.

They moved me to a smaller room and my family left and I spent hours just staring at him, the rest of the day slipped away and I barely even slept. He was and is perfect. A dream come true. I am grateful for every moment with this beautiful human as I complete one epic journey and begin an even bigger one.

Welcome, Baby E. (and, on cue, he just woke up.)

xo

 

family, gratitude, homebirth, meditation, Mother's Day, outdoors, pregnancy, single mom by choice, SMC

Happy Mother’s Day!

We started the day at UCSF for our first non-stress test to check on how the babe is doing. It was a little surreal to be in the Labor and Delivery unit of the hospital after all the expectation that I’ll be doing this at home–felt very busy like an episode of Grey’s Anatomy. Everyone was very nice. Every single nurse and doctor I saw was a woman. They put me in such a tiny room that my parents had to wait in a (tiny) waiting room and it was really hot and I thought for a moment I might be too claustrophobic to stay in there. They strapped on the big belts and I heard the baby’s heartbeat for 20 minutes, as well as big static when he was moving, which was often. They came back and said his heartbeat was ‘perfect.’ Measured the amniotic fluid and it was a 9 (they want higher than 6). The doctor said his head is “massively down.” So, everything checked out and we were sent home. It felt great to get a good report. I have another appointment on Wednesday.

In the afternoon, we took a nice urban hike in the warm sun with a cool wind. We got a picnic’s worth of food at Bi-Rite and headed up to Alamo Square to lay around and eat and people watch. It was so relaxing and lovely. I am so BIG. The cashier at Bi-Rite said it looks like I’m “about to explode.” It’s nearly impossible to put on my shoes and makes me out of breath. When it was time to go home, I almost pulled down my dad who was trying to help me get up off the ground!

I’m sleepy after getting a no-sleep nap this afternoon because the baby was kicking so much. My mom suggested a bath which is such a fantastic idea so that’s where I’m headed.

But, first, I at least wanted to say, in a sleepy and probably inarticulate way, how much I love and appreciate my mom. WOW has she (and my dad) taken the bull by the horns in this baby-prep-mode and embraced the whole process of this waiting period. I am so lucky that my parents are here! I basically didn’t even get a card together this Mother’s Day, but I know that more importantly we are spending this exciting time together. Thank you, Mom, for all the nourishing mama cooking, for running and organizing the kitchen, for scrubbing the floors like Cinderella, for being game for any length of walk, for watching episodes of Call the Midwife while I weep over the births. And soon: for being here for my baby’s birth and all the help I’ll need afterward. I am so grateful.

Meanwhile, I must also acknowledge the equally enormous contributions of my dad, who is responsible for installing many fixtures, ordering and assembling needed items, getting the washer and dryer up the stairs and functioning, all kinds of chauffeuring and parking, omelets, Waldorf salads, expertly filling and emptying the birth tub, and more. Thank you, Dad!

Finally, without trying to be comprehensive because I’m excited to take a bath and then probably go to sleep, I am sending love and gratitude to all the mamas in my life–the SMCs, the homebirthers, those pregnant and trying to get pregnant, the dog-mamas and cat-mamas, the aunties, and those who just plain love and nurture their loved ones in a way that makes the world go round. Actually, I think that is comprehensive. I wish for all of this wonderful nurturing energy to be acknowledged and appreciated today. Love to you all.

I’ll go out with my 41 week belly shot and I know enough not to jinx it by saying it’s the last one. (Check out my amazing shadow.) I’ll be over here meditating and sleeping and buttering this baby up. xo

Image

Buddhism, family, gratitude, homebirth, Mother's Day, parenthood, pregnancy, single mom by choice, SMC

ready

Dear Baby Boy,

We’re ready for your arrival. We’re so excited to meet you! Here’s what being ready looks like on the outside:

20140510-222407.jpg Here are your new clothes, laundered and folded.

20140510-222703.jpg Here’s where you will spend many hours with Mommy, nursing.

20140510-222901.jpg Here’s a little birth shrine with items that will keep me feeling strong and reminded of you.

20140510-223046.jpg This is how Mimi organized the food that will nourish you through me.

20140510-223207.jpg

20140510-223216.jpg This is the new apartment-sized washer and dryer funded by generous benefactors, to keep all your baby clothes clean!

20140510-223348.jpg And the birth tub, which keeps us reminded every day that you’ll be here soon.

I’m ready in my heart, too, to move you through me and into this outside world. I will miss this lovely not-quite-one, not-quite-two symbiosis, but I also feel that you are strong and ready to make your grand entrance. It’s going to be more hospitable for you out here, baby. I’m working with my body through yoga, walking, and resting to offer you safe passage and I believe you also have some mysterious work of your own to do to make it possible. We’re ready! So let’s do it. Mothers Day would be fine, or whatever day this week works for you.

With love and great anticipation,
Mom

acupuncture, anxiety, gratitude, meditation, parenthood, pregnancy, single mom by choice, SMC

‘late’

Well, here we are 4 days past the due date and babes is still acting pretty comfortable in there.

First, I should say that all is well! I feel great. I’m sleeping and eating well, walking, swimming, doing yoga. These days are still precious gifts of mental/physical/material preparation. AND I’m still within the range of normal: first-time Caucasian moms on average go 8 days past their due date. As you know, I am both a first-time mom and Caucasian, and I always thought/knew we would go late. So I’m honestly not too surprised to be here.

On the day after my due date, I went over the protocol for the next two weeks with my midwife. It’s crazy how on 5/3 he would have been “early” and on 5/5 I was already “late” and walking through all the possible complications and interventions. Damn the arbitrary due date! Yet, I reminded myself that even though this baby will most likely be born on a normal and perfect timetable of his own creation, we did need to walk through what-ifs now that we know he won’t be early or precisely on time. (It should be noted that, as a rule, I am neither early nor precisely on time either.)

So–this week, nothing really changes. I keep resting, eating well, getting my heart rate up for an hour a day, drinking pregnancy tea, taking Mother’s Blend and black currant oil, relaxing. Not stressing. Doing kick counts and taking fetal love breaks.

Starting at 41 weeks (Sunday), I need to go in for non-stress tests at the hospital to make sure the baby is still thriving. They check the variability of the heartbeat and the level of amniotic fluid. This can lead to a thumbs up and come back in a few days, or, if the results are not optimal, a quick induction. If nothing happens by the end of next week, we’d try natural (castor oil) and then finally hospital (pitocin) methods of induction to ensure that I don’t go past 42 weeks. So that’s the roadmap.

It’s a relief to have the plan although tough to so quickly be thrust into the mindset of being ‘late.’ (Even though ‘normal.’) Again–being ‘early’ would have completely thrown me and made me feel unprepared, yet ‘late’ makes me feel a bit like an overripe piece of fruit. I have seen this so often from an outside perspective–the mom goes past her due date and is just done, over it, uncomfortable, and all-around cranky. I remember thinking (in that way that you know you don’t really understand because you haven’t experienced it), ‘Why is she so cranky? She knows the baby will come soon one way or another and all she has to do is relax and watch movies…’ In yoga, the teacher often asks whoever’s at 41 weeks if her phone is blowing up and she nods and rolls her eyes and the teacher gives her strategies for telling people to back off (like sending them to haveyouhadthatbabyyet.com).

I now have four days of insight into this genre of living with uncertainty and managing the expectations of the outside world. I have the huge bonus of not being uncomfortable which means my own reserves of patience are pretty full. And baby is doing all his kicks so I’m not overly worrying about his well-being. The anticipation is growing but the days feel peaceful and luxurious and lovely.

What stresses me out is my phone. Every time I look at it, there’s another text or email or voicemail. Now, you guys know me by now– I love hearing that people are thinking about me and sending good wishes. This is always welcome and I have many times been the one impatiently waiting for news on the other side, sending tentative “thinking of you” texts while trying to avoid any hint that I’m actually “checking in” (which I probably am). You really want to know that the mom and baby are OK and sometimes it gets unbearable to hear nothing. You start feeling like the ecstatic new mom may have forgotten to deploy the basic stats in a birth announcement and is now ensconced in a love cocoon that will prevent her from remembering her outside world and their burning need for information. And you want to know the name and see a photo and be assured that all is well. I know. I’ve been there, even in the past few weeks!

It’s the questions (“Do you have a baby yet?” “Sooooo?” My favorite from J, “When is he coming!!! We are all waiting for him!!!!’). And any expectation of me calling back. I know these are also fueled by love and good wishes, but I then have to convey a disappointing lack of news and speculate about something I can’t predict, which turns out to be stressful for me. Which I know is no one’s wish.

So, here goes me asking for what I need. I humbly ask of my beloved community to please send frequent love and good wishes and ‘thinking of you’ texts and voicemails and blog comments which will be code for ‘I’m dying for news over here and love you and the baby so much my heart may burst!’ and I promise to get the birth announcement posted on the blog as soon as my new mom life makes it possible.

I’ll be over here focusing on being rested, fueled, and stress-free, and also getting things rolling with daily acupuncture and meditation and walking and generally getting my head in the game. And having chats with Baby Boy about how exciting life is on the outside. (“Here’s your new bed, and here are your new clothes, and here’s your Mimi and Chacha, and here are the beautiful woods, and over there is the Golden Gate Bridge.” etc.)

One thing we all know for sure: he’ll be here soon. And I can’t wait to introduce you!!!

xoxoxo

family, gratitude, homebirth, outdoors, pregnancy, single mom by choice, SMC

due date

May the Fourth be with you!

I’ve had this date in my mind since the end of August–it seemed so far away!

I woke up feeling agitated and like I needed to finish the entire to-do list once and for all, today–clean, declutter, finish thank yous, test fill the birth tub (I heard several birth stories the day before that all featured some kind of drama around the birth tub and difficulties getting it full in time for the big event). I felt like the panicky feeling was mostly hormonal but probably due-date-related. We decided to walk to Off the Grid in the Presidio for lunch and the fresh semi-foggy air felt so good, really reset my mood. We got fancy food truck food, peoplewatched, looked out at the sailboats on the bay.

My family is so amazing. I can’t even believe how much everyone has already done to help–this is a full-on project and everyone has jobs. My parents have so much energy. This weekend, the pantry got organized, the kitchen counter is finally visible again, the bathroom got scrubbed, a beautiful new light fixture got installed in my bedroom, a new towel rack got installed in the bathroom, a new smoke alarm is up in the hall, the birth tub has been test filled and is in the process of having the water pumped out, meals got prepared and cleaned up, and I got rides here and there. The only thing I did myself was to finish my thank you cards. Big relief.

This weekend, I’ve been able to nap, walk, do yoga, attend a homebirth collective birth stories potluck, attend an SMC monthly meeting. It’s so luxurious after holding together the massive to do lists more or less on my own to this point

We were all sitting around last night talking about the whole journey, and my mom reminded me what I said to her when I called to say I was pregnant. “WE DID IT!”

This is truly a village effort and I’m so grateful. Thank you.

I’m tired after participating in a prenatal yoga video shoot today–need to get to bed. But I did want to mark my due date and share today’s belly shot. I’m so glad to have made it to my due date. I know baby boy is ready anytime and we’re ready for him. And, meanwhile, I’m glad for each peaceful day, getting readier and readier.

And smelling the roses along the way.

40 weeks

 

acupuncture, family, gratitude, homebirth, parenthood, pregnancy, single mom by choice, SMC

on leave

I finished up work–sent out my ‘bye for now’ email to my team and set my out of office reply at 11:30pm on Friday night, my last work day before maternity leave. I finished everything on my to do list and cleaned out my inbox completely. I changed the settings on my phone so I won’t get notifications of new emails. It’s an amazing feeling to put work aside for more than two weeks, something I’ve maybe never done since I started working.

I’m decompressing now. I’m so exhausted, like all the years of working just caught up with me and now I don’t have to keep up appearances anymore and I can just be super-preggers and slow and tired. Today I walked 3 blocks to the bookstore and was staggering with round ligament pain on the way back. Hopefully one of my belly belts will help with this so I can keep walking but man those ligaments are struggling to hold up the weight. I kind of want a little cart to wheel in front of me.

It hasn’t completely sunk in yet that I’m done working, to be honest. It still feels impossible and surreal that they will send me paychecks as I adapt to my new job of motherhood. I think it will begin to feel real tomorrow morning, which is Monday. My brain is already letting the details of my projects go…

Crossing work off the to do list is huge and allows me to fully focus on taking care of myself and putting the finishing touches on preparations. And did I mention rest? My schedule this week: midwife, catch up with dear C, massage, therapist, acupuncture, haircut, pedicure. Parents arrive Wednesday to take up residence in the guest room!

Right now, babes is flicking at my pubic bone and sticking out his booty, awaiting his big day.

Last night, I had to get up twice to eat and then was ravenous again in the morning, which has contributed to my tired state. Which is why I think I should wrap this sleepy post and put my prego ass in bed with the giant magical pregnancy pillow (which I am calling Nagini. Did I mention I finished the Harry Potter series?i). I’m reading the Sears book about vaccines, which is 7 years old but interesting and accessible. I’ll get the updates online. I’m definitely vaccinating, just good to read a voice of reason and understand the details of it when there’s so much ignorance out there fueling the controversy.

So, anyway, I’m feeling fine and happy and sleepy. Enjoying these last sweet, peaceful days of my old life. (My apartment is so noticeably quiet.)

Today’s burgeoning belly @ 39 weeks!

39wks