The Yardwork and Family Adventures of June

Yardwork hasn’t quite come to a standstill, but it’s taken a different course since Steven was furloughed and income is limited. My flowers are blooming, which has been amazingly fulfilling. I never thought I’d be so excited about flowers.

The challenge I’ve been facing is fungus on my columbine. I removed most of the affected leaves and got Neem oil to treat it weekly, but it’s questionable whether I began treating it soon enough.

Fuchsia

 

Lavender

 

Aster

 

Echinacea

 

Lily

 

Cherries (possibly Montmorency)

 

 

Fungus on columbine leaves

I’ve also been dealing with ants. I’ve been using diatomaceous earth, which they’re taking back to their nest, so I’m hoping it’s a matter of time before enough of them die that they’ll stop invading my porch for hummingbird nectar. I’m not sure where the nest is.

 

Ants and diatomaceous earth

My neighbor also had fun removing the mulberry for me. I’m almost certain it was a male, which means no fruit and the potential to grow fifteen feet tall. It was in a very poor location; driveways and street sides, especially against a lamp post and beside other trees, is just not advisable. So, the neighbor used the crane on his truck to yank it out.

    

My mom and I also had a good time canning and freezing fifteen pounds of strawberries. We ended up with 25 cans of jam, five freezer jams, and a few bags frozen for pie filling. 

 

Steven’s sister also visited for the weekend with her boyfriend, which included a nerf gun for R, a movie night, jousting in the living room (R slaughtered his daddy), Father’s Day dinner at my parents’ house, and a trip to the river. R didn’t like the cold river, but I’m hoping to coax him in passed his knees with a few more trips.

 

jousting

 

R with Steven on Fathers Day

      

I also got crafty yesterday, and the result was colorful rocks in my butterfly puddler. I just used acrylic paint which I had on hand, and some adhesive stencils I’d gotten for another project last year. Hopefully the colors will increase the attractiveness of the garden and the puddler to butterflies and bees.

the top left blue one is my favorite

 

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Bring In the (Good) Critters

As I shared not long ago, we bought a house and I began gardening. Very quickly, my reading in conjunction with this new venture has given me a new desire: to create a safe haven for certain wildlife in my own backyard.

Did you know that bee populations have been radically declining? While neonicotinoids (the root in there is nicotine, for pronunciation help) are likely part of the problem, and avoiding using them or buying plants treated with them can be an important step, it’s not the whole picture. Scientists aren’t precisely sure what the whole picture is yet, but it’s likely a combination of factors, one being overuse of pesticides on the plants bees collect pollen from. Bees are vital to our food supply, and need our protection.

Bird populations are also declining nationwide; faster in some places than others. Much of this is habitat destruction, so obviously sharing our habitat with them could be of vital significance in stopping this trend, along with greater conservation of natural resources.

 Although we don’t get many this far north, monarch butterflies are included in this sad trend. In 2003 they took up 27.5 acres in the hibernation area in Mexico. In 2013, it was just over 1.5. They bounced back some last year, but not totally. Again, herbicides in agriculture are of some of the blame.

Bat populations are on the decline too. Part of this is a disease, likely caused by a fungus.  The disease will likely sort itself out once the population decreases to resistant bats and they breed, but perhaps only after extinction of some species. But part is also habitat destruction. We may not all like bats (I personally have no problem with them), but they are hugely important to pest control. Insofar as we can help with the habitat problem, we should.

So what can the average homeowner do to help all of these, even if in small ways? After all, enough people doing something small can add up to a big difference.

For bees, we can switch to safer pest control. If we want to get more involved, supporting petitions and legislation again overuse of harmful pesticides and looking for/utilizing safer, viable alternatives in agriculture is an option too. Further, when considering flowers for your garden, consider flowers that are particularly attractive to bees. If you’re providing safe pollen sources, you’re doing your part.

Further, if you have a bee hive too close to your house, or encounter a swarming hive, call a beekeeper rather than an exterminator. But if you have land, no one allergic in your home, and they’re not too near the house or frequented areas, just leave them be and give them space. Your garden will thank you.

Finally, for bees, make or buy a bee condo and mount it in a sheltered location. Female mason bees will use them to lay their eggs. Mason bee males don’t sting and females rarely do, so they’re pretty safe to invite into the yard. They’re blue, which is pretty cool. There’s no beekeeping responsibilities with this option, unlike keeping a hive. If you have the space and inclination for keeping a hive, go for it.

On to butterflies! These are also pollinators, so your garden will thank you for them too. Like bees, flowers that attract butterflies are a great option. There’s a lot of crossover between the two.

Providing food and water sources, which can be very decorative, helps too.

 

My perennial garden includes this super simple butterfly puddler. Butterflies have to drink from shallow water, mud, or damp sand, all of which become more scarce in summer. Adding one of these, kept wet, in warm weather can attract butterflies for a drink. A butterfly feeder hung from a tree is another possibility.

Birds may eat our berries, but they also eat bugs and are vital to the food chain, so welcoming them by leaving nests in trees, adding a bird bath to the yard, and hanging a feeder and bird houses from a tree is free pest control.

Ditto to bats. Mosquito reduction like no other. And guess what? There’s such thing as bat houses. They have to be hung 15-25 feet high (no more, no less) and placed in the sunshine. It can take a few seasons to get some roosting critters in there.

A lot of these include projects that can be done with kiddos, along with fun learning experiences. Don’t pass up the opportunity!

New House and Stuff

I haven’t had a lot to write about for a while. until suddenly I did.

We bought a house.

It’s beautiful. It needs work, but its beautiful because its ours. It was a foreclosure, and although it wasn’t a horror story as far as foreclosures go, the previous tenants weren’t exactly nice to it either. We have to fix and paint walls, replace carpeting, replace all of the outlets (we had a little adventure with one in little man’s room causing all of the outlets and lights in his room and ours to stop working on and off until my dad fixed it), and lots of other little things all over the place. They weren’t very clean and they cut holes in walls. Literally. There’s a hole in the wall from them mounting their TV and hiding the cord inside the wall.

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But it’s all things that can be fixed over time, and I have my own bedroom again. I don’t have to sneak through R’s room to get into the bathroom anymore. I have a kitchen that more than one person can comfortably be in at the same time.

I have flowers.

Of course, that’s not all that’s been going on. Our little guy turned one a little while back.

2014-05-11 21.42.502014-05-11 21.46.12And he’s, you know, the cutest thing ever. He has a few words now. “Hot” is his most recent, and it’s absolutely adorable because he kinda whispers it to get the “h” sound. I think it mostly just means food — maybe specifically cooked food — to him, but we’ll get the meaning down eventually. He also says “Mom,” “Yeah,” “No,” ” ‘gain” (again), and is working on a few others but hasn’t gotten them down yet. He jumps when we say jump, he’ll kick his little legs if we say kick when he’s laying down, he runs all over the place and is up and down the stairs like nobody’s business, he chases the cats with maniacal enjoyment, and he gives kisses.

Steven completed his locomotive engineer training. Unfortunately, the railroad over-hired and things slowed down a bit, so there’s not enough positions for all of the employees and some are getting furloughed. Due to some really annoying circumstances, Steven was furloughed (temporarily laid off) a couple of days ago even though he has enough seniority to hold a position. I think he’s going to try to get that reversed tomorrow, but even if he can’t, he’s pretty sure the furlough isn’t going to last very long, and we’re okay for a while. If it goes too long, he’ll just have to find something that will pay the bills until they take him off of furlough. The particularly unfortunate part is that it’ll be a lot harder to find something that pays well enough to cover the bills while he’s on furlough now that it would have been if we hadn’t just bought a house. Oh well. I may have to get an evening job too or something, if it comes to it. But hopefully not. Prayers appreciated.

Why I’m So Over Criticism of Disney Princesses and Acclaim for Frozen

I’ve been seeing a lot of articles about the problems with the older Disney Princesses since Frozen came out. One notable quote that someone pointed out to me via Facebook said,

Snow White was “slipped a roofie,” Jasmine “fell for a cheat,” Cinderella “got really lucky for having tiny feet,” Belle has “Stockholm syndrome” and Ariel “had special talents and gave them up like that.”

Really? Really?

I totally learned from these princesses that it’s okay to be stupid enough to get drugged, fall for immoral men or men who have kidnapped me, give up talents, and that I needed to wear great shoes. Definitely the message I got. I and the rest of this generation of women have been totally screwed over by these Disney Princesses. Woe is us.

Have you caught my sarcasm yet?

What’s particularly sad is that many of these comments totally miss the point of the movies and fail to notice the abundant good in these and other Disney movies, not to mention it completely bypasses the problems in Frozen.

I mean, really, how much have you heard about Elsa’s parents’ utter failure to help their daughter cope with her powers, or the fact that Elsa nearly killed her younger sister twice, and the second time was pretty deliberate? But oh, Frozen is so progressive!

Okay, so what about Snow White? Admittedly, I think she’s one of the less impressive Disney princesses. Personal opinion. But a young woman being hunted by her evil, narcissistic, magical stepmother isn’t exactly at an advantage. And she experienced the consequences of accepting something from a stranger, which, if anything, is a good thing for kids to learn.

Jasmine may have fallen for a cheat, but that totally overlooks the reasons that he thought he had to cheat to get her and the reasons he was a thief. He was poor; poor enough that he’d starve if he didn’t steal food. The law required her to marry a prince, so he pretended to be just that. If anything, she was progressive for not wanting to be bound by such a law and eventually defied it by marrying him after she knew the truth. He was not a bad man who was trying to marry her just to take advantage of her position like Jafar was, after all.

And Cinderella is being criticized for having tiny feet? It’s a fairy tale, people! We all know that realistically there would be many other women with the same size foot. It’s not like we were ever given her shoe size either. The point, though, is that this prince was willing to search for her because he loved her. Once again a Disney movie shows tradition and law being defied, as she was merely a servant and he was willing to love her anyways, which is far from misogynistic, and she rose above her position and escaped abuse because she was daring enough to go to a ball that she shouldn’t have gone to as just a servant. Would you make the same criticism of the movie Ever After? That’s a Cinderalla story too, after all; it’s just made into less of a fairy tale and into a more realistic story.

Unless you just want to criticize love stories, but that would make for really disappointing chick flick and ice cream nights.

The Little Mermaid was one of my favorite movies when I was little, and I’m not particularly messed up because of it. Ariel has a desire, a dream, and she ultimately makes it happen. Her relationship with her father is unfortunately at least somewhat dysfunctional, which likely contributes to her wanting to enjoy sunshine and walking, but she ends up getting her dream. Her mistake was using a witch to reach that dream, and she has to deal with the consequences of that choice. So girls are taught, what? that there are consequences for bad choices, and that dreams can be achieved. And that there’s really good music under the sea.

I think the criticism of Belle is the one that bothers me the most. Technically, she does meet the definition of Stockholm Syndrome, since she fell in love with her captor. However, the definition of Stockholm Syndrome doesn’t speak to the circumstances.

I saw a great quote about the circumstances between Belle and the Beast when I was looking up the source of the above quote which criticizes the princesses. This outstanding quote includes a poignant sentence:

The love story between Belle and the Beast is about them finding solace in each other after society rejects them both.

It’s so true. What always impressed me about Belle was her love of books. I mean, I’d be pretty happy too, to be allowed access to Beast’s library.

beauty-and-the-beast-library

The townspeople ostracize her for this wonderful love of books, but the movie puts it in a good light. The townspeople also hate the Beast for his appearance, refusing to see beneath the fur and fangs to the heart underneath. He understandably deals with anger and depression over his curse. Belle, being less prone to stereotyping and more able to accept people as they are, slowly draws out the good man inside and falls in love with that. That is admirable.

If anyone in this movie should be criticized, it is Gaston. In fact, that is exactly what the movie does. Belle sees right through his treatment of her as an object rather than a person and stands up for herself as a woman who can think for herself. Once again, she is admirable.

All of these criticisms ignore some wonderful things about these and other Disney movies, and put Frozen on a pedestal it doesn’t belong on. Frozen is the first movie about the love of sisters? What happened to Lilo and Stitch, with Lilo’s older sister and their love for each other? Frozen is the first movie with a female character who takes care of herself? What about Mulan, who saves the man she loves, protects her father, and saves her whole empire? Mulan also didn’t try to kill her younger sister like Elsa did or try to marry a man she barely knew like Anna did. And she had a talking miniature dragon. That just makes her awesome.

Add in the other Disney movies — The Lion King, for instance — and the sum total of the messages get even better.

Don’t get me wrong, Frozen was cute. It just wasn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and it drives me nuts that everyone is jumping on the “Disney Princesses before Elsa and Anna all suck and are dysfunctional” bandwagon, as if Elsa and Anna weren’t dysfunctional or like the messages in Frozen were unique and new.

The Disney Princesses, or what they go through, often teach good lessons, as do the other older Disney movies. Love of family. Don’t accept apples (or candy) from strangers with questionable intentions. True friends are there for you through everything. Forgiveness. Books are amazing. See people for who they are, not what they look like. Responsibility. Accepting the past. Pursuing dreams. Rising above social mores.

Those are the lessons I got from the older Disney movies.

Plus, the music is awesome.

Birth Story

*No graphic images

Here was my plan for giving birth: I have an excellent midwife, Charlotte, with over 20 years of experience and over 2500 attended births to her name. I was planning on giving birth in her clinic, where she has a couple of rooms set up nicely for birthing, with their own big beds, couches, and private bathrooms, and the main one even has a Jacuzzi tub for water births. My husband was going to be there; I knew he’d be an encouragement and a physical rock. My sister-in-law Brandi was going to be my doula. She’s even worked with my midwife and used her for her own children’s births. And my mom was going to be there, with a camera. I didn’t know how much I wanted her involved beyond taking pictures; my family has always been fairly private, so I wasn’t sure how comfortable I’d be with what level of involvement with her. I wanted no drugs. Completely natural. No hospital unless medically necessary for me or the baby. I expected, pretty much, a typical birth. It’s my first baby, so I expected labor to be on the longer end, but since he was head down and in a great position, I expected it to take no longer than a day at most once contractions started.

Here’s how it ended up going.

I was due on February 25th, according to a 7 week ultrasound, which is more accurate than a gestational due date. I’d been 2.5 cm and 50% effaced at my last check.

At 12:18am on Monday, February 24th, I started having contractions. I hadn’t even gone to sleep yet. The last time I’d eaten was my pulled pork dinner late in the evening.

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The contractions started right off at 5-6 minutes apart and noticeably more painful than Braxton Hicks or even the false labor I’d had the previous Monday. After forty minutes or so of that, I woke Steven up to let him know that I was pretty sure I was in labor, and then called Charlotte. She was at another birth and had a woman whose water had broken a few hours before waiting for her at the clinic, so she told me to labor at home for now and have Brandi come so that Brandi could keep Charlotte updated and help Charlotte decide when I should go to the clinic. The hope was that the birth she was at would be done before I needed to go.

So then I called Brandi and my mom, and both headed to my apartment. Mom arrived first, since she lives 20 minutes or so closer, and by then contractions were painful enough to make my throw up and getting closer together. By the time Brandi arrived, they were anywhere from 2-4 minutes apart. I thought we’d have to go to Charlotte’s pretty quickly with how close contractions already were, but not actually knowing how things usually go since it was my first time, things were actually going quite as quickly as I thought. Brandi kept in contact with Charlotte every hour or two so they could update each other.

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I had a lot of back labor. It wasn’t completely not in my stomach, but my hips and lower back were where I felt the worst of it. Brandi helped me figure out the best way to breathe through contractions–in through the nose out through the mouth, making low noises if I needed to make noise, which I often did. High pitched noises work against the contractions; low noises don’t. That’s why high pitched screaming is not a good idea during labor.

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The  most common way I got through the contractions at home was to lean on one person and have another press on my hips. Occasionally we’d do pretty much the same thing, but on my exercise ball instead. We tried a few different positions for contractions, but anything that had me bent over or on my side hurt more and often made me throw up. I couldn’t keep any food or liquids down, not even a popsicle or water.

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Brandi put my hair into a French braid — which she’s amazingly fast at — so that I didn’t have to worry about hair in my face or a tight ponytail. I was wearing sweats and one of my husband’s shirts, and when I wanted extra warmth I’d put on a bathrobe. I liked having the comforts of my own home, but I was also anxious to get to the midwife’s. I wanted to be where I was going to have the baby.

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We slept a bit, when we could. For me, that meant very short naps between contractions. The other three took turns with who would help me get up and get through the contractions, and who slept. Mom and Brandi let Steven sleep the most, because they wanted him to be awake when I got nearer to the end and needed his strength and support the most.

Occasionally, I would have contractions back to back. Those sucked, because I didn’t get a breather in between. I’d just be feeling the relief of a contraction being done, and suddenly another would start building. I think the worst was five in a row. Usually they were 2-4 minutes apart, though. By the time the morning was done, my teams’ arms were getting tired. Mom’s were so tired, she couldn’t even effectively press my hips for me during contractions anymore.DSCF3677

After twelve hours, almost exactly, Charlotte was finally on her way back to the clinic and we were loading up the car and heading there as well. I was really not looking forward to the 30 minute car ride with contractions being so close together, but I was excited to be going to the clinic finally. The car ride was difficult, but do-able. I just held Steven’s free hand and breathed through each contraction.

The other mom whose water had broken the day before was still in the main birthing room, so I went into the other one. Charlotte checked me shortly after I got there. I was only at 3cm, but I was almost completely effaced, and they guessed that once I got to 4cm, the rest of the labor would go fairly quickly. Just getting to where all I had to do was dilate was what had taken so long so far. Brandi had actually told me earlier that she’s noticed that one of two things usually happens with first moms: either they take forever to get to about 4cm and then the rest will go fairly quickly, or they stall for awhile at 7cm and then the rest goes smoothly once they get passed that. Apparently I was going to be in the first category.

My water broke on its own as I was getting checked, too, which was also a good sign for the rest of labor progressing fairly quickly from there. Everyone was optimistic.

At this point, my mom gave Steven a stuffed velociraptor. He’d been saying that’s what our baby would be all pregnancy, especially before we learned the gender and people were asking us often what we thought we were having. We thought that he should still get his velociraptor.

DSCF3706Unfortunately, they soon found that my blood pressure was up way higher than it should be. Charlotte told me I had to lay on my side. I literally begged her to let me stay upright because labor hurt so bad on my side, but she told me, “I’m really not trying to be mean, I literally have to have you lay on your side because your blood pressure is just too high. We have to try to get it down.”

Laboring on my side was really difficult. Brandi prayed with us multiple times through the labor, but the most was probably during that time. It was the first time I said, “I can’t do this,” during contractions. They kept reassuring me that I could do it, and pointing out that I was doing it. I kept thinking, “But I don’t want to keep doing it!” They kept encouraging me, though, so I kept going and getting through each contraction.

My blood pressure just wouldn’t go down. Charlotte considered trying IV fluids to see if it was just dehydration from throwing up so much that was causing it to stay high, but she finally decided not to because, if it wasn’t that, it could detrimental to wait that long to send me to the hospital. Very disappointed that she had to make the decision, she said that I needed to go to the hospital. She only has a 2-3% transfer rate, so I knew that she didn’t make that choice lightly.

Then it was just a matter of making a couple of decisions. Providence or Seattle U? Providence; it’s closer, and I’d had a good experience there when I’d been hospitalized for a few days a few years before, so I felt I’d receive good care. Car or ambulance? Ambulance might take me to the hospital in town instead, which I didn’t want, and I didn’t require an ambulance, so we’d go by car. Would Charlotte go with me initially and then leave since she still had to attend the birth that was going on in the other room, or would her assistant, Heather, go with me and not have to leave? I wanted the constant care and advocacy of someone who was supportive and knowledgeable about natural birth, so I chose to have Heather come, especially since she’s an experienced midwife, having worked as a midwife in another country, helping poor women receive good maternity care, for a few years. Who would take which vehicles? Mom and I would ride with Heather, and Steven and Brandi would take their vehicles. Mom would pick her car up after the birth.

DSCF3718And so we were off to the hospital. Charlotte called ahead to let them know we were coming, and got the midwife on duty as my provider insteas of an OB. After a little bit of confusion about where to go to get into the right part of the hospital, I was admitted and brought to my room, where I was put into a hospital gown, strapped into monitors for contractions and the baby’s heartbeat, and given an IV — all the while still leaking amniotic fluid occasionally, which was very annoying. My blood pressure was still very high. The midwife had me put on some blood pressure medication, and ordered blood tests to check for preeclampsia. The good news was that the car ride had effectively gotten me to 5cm and contactions were still pretty regular, so things looked good.

The hypertension medication was not effective enough, I’d started swelling badly, and the blood tests showed that I had developed preeclampsia, so an OB-GYN had to take over my care. I had not had preeclampsia earlier in pregnancy. I’d never had more than trace protein, and while we’d had a few higher readings (most not higher than 140/90, just high for me) for my blood pressure in the last couple of weeks, it seemed that part time bed rest and supplements were controlling it, and my blood tests had come back normal. It was very disappointing to have it now, and the only thing that will cure preeclampsia is to have the baby.DSCF3758

At the same time that I got an OB, I got a new nurse as well because of shift change. Her name was Electa, and she was amazing. All the staff were understanding of my desire for minimal intervention and that the hospital had not been in my plans, and not only was Electa friendly and good at her job, she did her best to help minimize interventions. She was also not at all pushy about me getting pain medications; she just did her best to help me keep going with the labor.

DSCF3735I wasn’t standing for contractions anymore, but I was able to be upright in bed. I held onto people’s hands and focused on something — preferably Steven — to get through contractions. Apparently the staff was impressed that I was handling my first labor so well, especially without pain medications, but I was just handling it the way Brandi had coached me to at the beginning.

DSCF3744I was put on magnesium to prevent seizures, which is what happens if preeclampsia progresses to eclampsia. Unfortunately, since magnesium interferes with the nervous system, it often slows labor as well. Late in the evening, they thought I was getting close to delivering. They thought I was at about 8cm, and I was feeling the contractions through my tailbone, almost like I had to go #2, which is often a sign that pushing isn’t too far off. Soon after, though, contractions slowed to 15 minutes and progress stopped. I was tired enough that I liked the break, but we needed progress or I’d be put on pitocin. They couldn’t allow labor to stall too long. We tried natural ways to induce contractions for a couple hours, with the doctor’s blessing.  Heather and Brandi were able to get contractions back to five minutes apart, but there was no further progress, so sometime around 1am-2am, we started me off on pitocin at a 2 (I’m not sure what measurement that was in).

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Pitocin contractions suck. Let’s just put that out there right now. I had not wanted to be on pitocin for a reason. The contractions tend to be longer and harder, and are more likely to put the baby into distress and cause a c-section to be necessary. I understood the need for it in my situation; with preeclampsia and my water having already broken, delivery needed to happen as soon as possible, and letting labor slow or stop for too long increased chances of infection or of complications from the preeclampsia, some of which could be life-threatening to me or to my baby. But knowing all of that didn’t make the contractions caused by the pitocin any easier, especially when we got up to a 4 and started trying different positions to help things along. It was the first time I threw up again since we’d left my house, and the contractions in certain positions were even worse than when I’d laid on my side at Charlotte’s.

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I said “I can’t” during a contraction again. The staff — I think the doctor happened to be in the room at the time — immediately asked what I meant by that. I told them I was just reacting to the pain. That response was good enough that they didn’t offer pain medication, but I know they’d been ready to do so.

My birth team was tired. Mom, Brandi, Heather, and even the nurse had gotten teary at times through the labor, especially after I was on pitocin. Part of it was definitely fatigue, but they also all were impressed and moved by how hard I was working to get through it even with everything that had been going differently than I had originally planned for the labor and birth. I don’t know how many times Brandi called me a rockstar through my labor.

DSCF3749By early morning, I was coming up on two days without any real sleep, a day and a half without food and fluids mostly by IV, and about 30 hours of labor. I was exhausted. I couldn’t even keep my eyes open through contractions half the time, although I couldn’t really sleep either, since they were back to 5 or less minutes apart. Steven was encouraging me to keep going like I was, but I eventually hit a point where I knew that I probably wouldn’t be able to push if I had to do a few more hours like that. I’m actually not sure I could have even pushed at that point, in retrospect. My nurse realized that at about the same time, and pulled Heather out into the hall to express her concerns and ask her to be the one to remind her that I did have the option to try pain medications.

I don’t remember everything Heather said, but I asked for the epidural once she talked to me and she and Mom reassured me that it really was okay to change my plan at this point.

DSCF3787I got the epidural at about 8:30am, after 32 hours of labor. My mom stayed in the room with me while it was put it, and everyone else stepped out. The relief began within two contractions, but my legs soon felt ridiculously heavy as well. Later on, Charlotte told me that the later in labor an epidural is begun, the less likely it is to cause a c-section due to stalling progress, so holding off as long as I did was good. One side effect of epidurals can also be lowered blood pressure. Normally, that can be bad, even sometimes causing brain damage to babies, but in my case it caused the only normal blood pressure readings I had at the hospital.

I got a new nurse at the same time, Emily, who was also very wonderful and involved in helping things go as well as they could, and a new OB, Dr. Moi, who was very personable. Unfortunately, they found that I was actually only at 6-7cm instead of 8cm like Electa and the other OB had said the night before. They didn’t seem to think the progress had actually reversed, just that they’d measured wrong or something like that. It made me grateful that I hadn’t tried to get 4cm more instead of 2cm more without pain medication while on pitocin, though.

Emily helped me get into a position in bed that would help things progress as quickly as possible, and the pitocin was set all the way up to 16. The medication allowed me to sleep through contractions, as they were now at most just a feeling of pressure in my stomach. No more back labor. They also put pressure cuffs on my feet to help with the swelling, which was very uncomfortable. I slept, with Emily helping me turn to my back or other side about every hour to help things along. Heather and Brandi both left for a couple of hours, Heather to Charlotte’s clinic to catch a little rest and clean up a bit, and Brandi to shower and feed her 10-month-old. Steven and Mom slept while I did. I even slept through Mom being given a mattress pad to put on the floor so she didn’t have to try to sleep in the armchair, since Steven had the couch.

DSCF3794When Heather returned, she had Charlotte with her, which was a nice surprise. The other mom, whose labor had also been long, had delivered a few hours before. Charlotte was very glad she’d been able to make it when she did, so that she could be there for the actual birth.

At this point, I was starting to feel signs that it was getting near time to push. I was also on oxygen, since there wasn’t as much variation in the baby’s heart rate in response to stimulus as they liked to see, and the oxygen helped. The heart rate should stay within a certain range, but they like to see some variation within that range.

Emily started asking me every now and then if I wanted the doctor to come check me and have me try a push, since I was feeling pressure in my tailbone more and more. I held off because I didn’t want to do any pushing before it was definitely time, but I asked for the epidural to be dialed down just a little so that it wouldn’t interfere with the urge to push and so that I could fully control my legs again. I could tell they didn’t get that request often. When Emily called the anesthesiologist, I heard her say, “She wants her epidural down a little. Yes, down.”

DSCF3798Then I was feeling the pressure even between contractions, so Emily called in Dr. Moi, who checked and said I was ready. The timing went really well. They got me all ready, with my calves in the stirrups. I was happy that the stirrups weren’t set up like they are when you go in for your check up at the doctor, where they’re all the way at the foot of the bed and you put your heels in them, which isn’t good for pushing. These stirrups were up at about knee level and my calves rested in them. The bottom of the bed was removed to make room for the doctor, who told me that she’d want my hands on my thighs so that I could hold them and curl around my stomach for pushing. Brandi stood at one calf and Charlotte at the other so they could push my legs back for me while I pushed, and my mom stood behind my head to help me lift my head and shoulders. It’s actually not a bad position for pushing.

DSCF3800Steven was at my right side, to encourage me, Heather between Brandi and the doctor, and the nurse on my left side by the monitors. A few people from the NICU also showed up, since there had been meconium in the amniotic fluid and the magnesium would effect the baby too, so they needed to suction and check him when he was born. It was a full room, but I didn’t have much room to notice.

I started pushing at 3:50pm. I was definitely ready to when we started. Dr. Moi was a surprisingly good coach, able to give me instructions very clearly to help me maximize the effectiveness of each push, and the rest of the birth team gave wonderful encouragement. The standard is usually three pushes per contraction, but I went with what my body told me, and did four sometimes. Apparently I’m a good pusher. I was very much in a zone, very much inside my own body and everything I was feeling.

DSCF3802Riley was born at 4:48pm on February 25th; his due date. All of the medical interventions that I had gotten despite my original plans were necessary, but the only one I regret is that he was not able to stay on my body and that the cord could not finish pulsing before it was cut. I feel that the first moments of bonding were hurt by that, and when he was with me again, it took some time and skin-to-skin contact for it to really feel real that this was my baby. The cord was cut and he was brought over to the NICU team a few feet away.

I looked at Steven and said, “I did it,” a few times, elated that I’d finally birthed my baby boy naturally despite everything that had happened. Elated that it was over.

DSCF3822After a moment, I realized I hadn’t heard the baby yet, and looked over there, but I couldn’t see anything with people in the way. I said, “I just want to hear my baby,” and almost immediately he cried. Someone, I’m not sure who, said that sometimes they just need to hear their mom’s voice.

They wrapped him up and gave him to Steven to bring to me to hold for a moment, but he was very pale even though his vitals were fine, so they wanted to take him to the NICU to monitor for awhile. The NICU doctor told me that, if he improved well, he’d be back to me within a few hours, and that once I was recovered enough I could come in a wheel chair to see him. If he didn’t improve quickly, he’d be kept in the NICU until he was healthy enough. Steven and Mom went with him.

I had just a little extra bleeding — not nearly enough to be a hemorrhage — which they were able to take care of quickly with a couple of shots and kneading my stomach (ouch). I was also very grateful to have not torn badly, so healing up wouldn’t be too bad. I was soon settled in and covered up again.

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My dad showed up shortly after I was decent again. He came to see me first, and then Mom came up to get him and let me know Riley was doing well, so he went to meet his grandson. I had thought he’d cry — he did when he gave me away at my wedding — but he didn’t.

Brandi, Heather, and Charlotte soon left so I could be with my family, and so that they could go home and rest. Heather wasn’t gone long before she showed up again, though, because she just had a hard time leaving me. She hadn’t felt like the birth had quite had closure yet, and wanted to stay long enough to feel that it had. It was very sweet. She didn’t stay more than an hour or so, but she did help me choose and order my first food in two days: Greek yogurt. It was very nice to eat again. At some point someone also brought me Riley’s measurements. He was 5 pounds 13 ounces and 19 inches long. Although I hadn’t expected a large baby, I had expected him to be in the 6-7 pound range, so for him to be a few ounces shy of 6 pounds was surprising. He was so tiny.

DSCF3858Riley recovered quickly enough that he was brought back to me at about the same time I would have been ready to go to him in a wheelchair. It was so good to have him with me. It made the whole experience far more real than it had been with him gone, especially since I’d had so little time with him when he was first born and no skin-to-skin.

We were brought to the room we’d be in for the rest of the stay. I couldn’t walk to the bathroom without two people helping me; I didn’t even feel strong enough to hold him while they brought me in a wheelchair to the new room. I only felt secure holding him when I was in bed at first. He had a bassinet that stayed right beside my bed, and that first night, I soon got him out and unwrapped and slept skin-to-skin with him for a few hours.

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Steven had to go back to work the day after he was born, but spend the evenings and nights with us, while my mom spent a lot of the day with me. I had to be on magnesium for 24 hours after the birth, and then monitored for a bit longer after that to make sure my blood pressure wasn’t dangerously high anymore, so I wasn’t discharged from the hospital until nearly two days after he was born. We spent a lot of time bonding.

My blood pressure went down, not back to normal, but no longer dangerous. And thank goodness, the swelling started going away quickly too. I hated being swollen. We went home the afternoon of the 27th.

If You Didn’t Know Already…

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I’m pregnant!

Above are one of the more recent photos of my belly, and another from the very beginning, around five weeks. I’m still carrying on the small end for how far along I am (29 weeks starting today), but there is most definitely a growing baby in there!

Pregnancy is amazing, but definitely has some cons.

The constant nausea and food aversions of the first trimester, the aches, the pain in my hips that even biweekly chiropractor visits no longer helps, the heart burn that began as soon as the baby could reach my ribs… Yeah, no pretending I’m in love with all that.

But that’s all outweighed by the mere fact that there is a little person growing in there. A person who started asserting his personality as soon as he could be felt. A little person whose heart was about to start beating in that five weeks picture. A little person who I knew was there when he was just a few quickly dividing cells borrowing into the lining of my womb, before I could even get a positive test.

When we did an ultrasound at 19 weeks, my husband was astounded by what we saw. There was a spine, a brain, a beating heart, fingers and toes. I particularly loved the toes. There was no denying that what was doing somersaults on the screen was human.

In fact, our son has been human from conception. That’s scientific fact. Living things reproduce after their own kind. The moment the sperm and the egg united, there was a new human. It’s DNA, it’s very being, were something new. All it had to do was grow and develop, just like an infant or adolescent grows and develops.

I wanted this little one. We planned him. But even if we hadn’t, it would not remove the reality that he is a human with a right to life. It is a beautiful life, one I’m happy to protect.

I can’t wait to meet this guy. To cuddle this little being that has taken to kicking my ribs in the last couple of weeks, and who so dislikes the fetal monitor at the midwife’s that he’ll kick it repeatedly if it stays on my stomach too long. The baby that has been growing in my belly since June, and who will be born at the end of February or beginning of March, is the same baby that I will be nursing and carrying this spring, that I will be chasing after as a toddler, that I will be teaching and guiding as a kid, that I will be watching accept his high school diploma as he comes into adulthood.

I can’t wait to see his life.

Kitty Fiasco

As I said in my last post, Sharkbait got spayed last Wednesday. Well, I had to take her into the emergency vet yesterday. 😦

So here’s what happened. When I got her home Wednesday night, she was yanking at her stitches, so I had to get a cone for her. I was worried because the incision seemed more open than it should, like perhaps a stitch had been pulled or it hadn’t gotten as many stitches as it should have, so I asked about the gap and was told that its normal for there to be a gap between the stitches. I actually got the impression that they only do one stitch at the top and at the bottom and leave the rest open. Because of this, I thought all was well. There was no sign of infection or anything else that would give me cause for serious alarm over the next few days.

Yesterday that changed. Steven and I were getting out of bed, and Sharkbait came to cuddle on my lap. She was only there a minute or two, but when I got up I realized she’d left a spot of blood larger than a quarter on my pajamas. It was pretty watered down because there were other fluids mixed in. I immediately checked her and saw that her incision was oozing a bit. It should not be doing that four days after surgery, especially since it hadn’t been doing that previously; she’d had no more than a smear over the previous few days.

I freaked out.

I called the vet. They were closed. I called the vet’s cell phone, which was given in the voice mail recording in case of emergency. He didn’t answered. I called again. No answer. But his voice mail recording included a number to an emergency veterinary hospital that’s open when other vets aren’t, so I called them and told them what was going on, and they said to bring her in.

It was thankfully a quick fix; she needed everything cleaned and then more stitches. Unfortunately that meant local anesthetics and a very scared kitty, plus then they gave her an antibiotic shot in case any bacteria had gotten into the 3/4 inch hole in her stomach.

Today I got to talk to the vet who performed her surgery and cleared some things up. He hadn’t left a 3/4 inch hole, she likely yanked out one or two stitches (he couldn’t remember off the top of his head how many he’d put in) before I got a look at her and got the cone on her. Apparently if I’d left a voice mail on his cell he would have gotten back to me quickly and saved me the cost of the emergency services, but I hadn’t known that at the time. The bleeding had been light enough that an hour wouldn’t have made a difference, and the money would have been nice to save. But alas, I didn’t know, so the money has been spent.

The good news is, Sharkbait is doing much better today. The improvement is obvious now that she had the right number of stitches in. And I know that if something else happens between now and getting the sutures out, she can be treated for free if I just leave a voice mail.