I really love ducklings. Really..love..ducklings. My heart beats faster and then melts when I'm around them. I realized this last year when I met a little herd of them camped out incongruously at Lincoln Square Mall as part of their annual Easter display. So this year I was all ready to see my little beloveds again. They were here for a week, but it was a hard week of baby ajustments for the kids and they stubbornly refused to go every day no matter how I pleaded. You'd think they'd be into such things, but maybe they'd had their fill of babies and didn't want too see whole flocks of them. By Saturday I was a wreck from said adjustments and it was the ducklings' last day at the mall and I didn't know if it was going to happen but at the last minute Georgia (the main naysayer) went to hang with grandma Amy so I grabbed the camera and crying baby (and happy Maya and Billy) and off we went. Here's a picture. They remind me of little human babies and are made even more wonderful by the fact I don't have to take care of any of them!:
- scared at how vulnerable Teresa is- the soft spot on her head, her floppy neck, her thin, sensitive skin- especially around her BIG in-your-face sisters
- worn down by the the emotional drama of Maya's anger, frustration, and sadness at her lack of access to mommy and mommy time
- refreshed by sunny days and a hot shower
- emboldened by the thought that parenting is a spiritual battlefield where all my preparation and experiences growing up learning through the Baha'i Writings are put to the test to see how far I've gotten and how far I have to go in my development as a person
- encouraged by giving Teresa a bath and seeing how, though she is still so small, she doesn't look as extremely tiny as the last time she had a bath. I can see that she's grown!
- amazed at Georgia's resourcefulness- she decided a few days ago that she was going to fold ALL the family's laundry and then proceeded to do so, in her way, with lots of enthusiasm. Then she decided to refold all the clothes in her dresser! And when Maya came and frustrated her efforts by throwing all her clothes on the floor, she didn't get all freaked out or in a fight. She came to me and I asked her what we should do about it. Her solution was suprising. She said, " I should put on my ballet clothes and my ballet movie and dance along with it." Effectively, she wanted to keep doing positive things instead of insisting on immediate restitution of the injustice. Wow! I think she feels sorry for Maya because she remembers what it's like to be in her position.
Look what I found!
So Georgia in these pictures is the same age that Maya is right now. wow.
First of all, here are a few pictures from last night:
OK, so here are some trip pictures:
Georgia from her room is yelling to Maya who is in the living room (all while Teresa sleeps, amazingly):
Georgia: Come here!
Georgia: I'm going to cut you in half!
Maya: OK! (and she runs back to Georgia)
We took Teresa on her first road trip this weekend, all the way to Nana's house. She did really well and slept almost the whole way there and back. Hooray! And she gave Layli her first real awake social smile. What fun! She's looking around at people more and making interested facial expressions with her eyes very wide open. She seemed to like all the new things and people to look at, except the bright lights of the Ikea store. (We had our first Ikea experience. It was SO great and also strange to be the demographic that's being marketed to.) Pictures to come soon!
Now I know why some people talk about labor pain as being bearable. What I didn't realize until shortly before I went to do this a third time was that it's not usually as bad as it was with Georgia and Maya. They both had unusual 'presentations', which means what part of them comes out first (Georgia- hand and head together, causing contractions to have no discernable breaks between them, Maya- head facing up instead of down, which causes the dreaded back labor). It was also more bearable this time because I had worked through so many of my fears and issues about labor and really tried to stay happy as long as I could. And, amazingly, I was actually able to stay happy about being in labor up until transition, which lasted all of ten minutes as far as I could tell. But oh those ten minutes! Alright, I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's start at the beginning...
I woke up Saturday morning (the 19th of February) to Maya asking for a bamboom (bottle with something yummy in it) very close to my face. I lumbered and pulled with both hands on the dresser to get myself into a sitting position to prepare for actually standing up and I felt my water break, just a little gush, but I was sure that that was what it was. I went over to Billy who was at the computer and said,
'Do you have a minute? Can I interrupt you?'
'uh..my water just broke.'
'Do you have a minute?! That's great! Alright, let's go! I'll call Zivar.'
And so he did and she came over to pick up Georgia and Maya. They were a little freaked out because they had both just woken up when I announced that the baby was coming today, my water had just broken, and Zivar was on her way. But they had packed their bags with glee a week before so as soon as they were dressed and eating breakfast, they were excited and ready to go. So off they went and Billy called the hospital. We had to go in right away instead of laboring at home because of the water breaking first. The water breaking was problematic because I had tested positive for Group Beta Strep, which is a normal bacteria to have but has just been found to cause really bad infections in a small percentage of newborns (like meningitis, pneumonia, etc). So I had to be in the hospital to get intravenous antibiotics every four hours during labor after Teresa's protective bubble had burst. So off we went. So far, no contractions AT ALL. (Except one big one in the middle of the night before. But just one.)
We got set up in a room and the baby and contractions monitored- she was fine, and no contractions. Liz came and delivered lots of good smelling things to help cause a traffic jam where sensory inputs hit the brain so the pain ones couldn't get through- roses and fresh eucalyptis, sweet grass (smells like summer and attracts good spirits) and lavendar hand lotion. I had also brought a basket of fruit that all smelled good- pears, peaches and plums. Ray, the midwife on call, came to check on me. I was dilated to 1-2 centimeters, which was the same as a week ago at my check up. So he told us that it was all up to us to get labor started. We were to walk the halls and shower. Then the nurse came in to start my IV. Now, I hate getting IVs because noone ever gets it on the first try and they have to dig around for a vein, which is pretty much as excruciating as it sounds. The nurse tried and couldn't get a vein, but mercifully, she didn't keep trying. She called in Ray, and he found one right away. Yeah! I didn't watch the proceedings, I just looked at my roses and pretended that they were all that existed in the world. It helped a lot, and it was all over before too long. Ray tried to get the doctor on call to let us go home between antibiotic treatments so I could get labor started there, but they don't allow that sort of nonsense in this hospital, so 'we weren't going home without a baby' Ray said, quoting the doctor. I didn't know before that the midwives had to answer to a doctor. Anyways, Billy and I got busy walking around the halls, dancing around our room to the 'Shall We Dance' soundtrack, eating the fruit from my basket, saying hi to my mom and sister in the waiting room and then we were off to the shower. Still no contractions AT ALL and it's 5 pm now. That means we've spent the entire day puttering around the hospital and not one contraction to show for it. This is a long story. To keep reading it, click below.
I got in the shower, holding my hand with the IV lock (just the part that goes into my hand, no long tubes and bags of liquids on a rack) out of the water. Billy sat right outside the shower trying to entertain us both by singing songs. But neither of us could think of the words to any songs. We had brought lots of music with us but we hadn't listened to it in a while so we were stuck humming and messing up words to songs we know we know. The only songs Billy could remember were kid songs and I couldn't handle that. We were finally distracted by eating seven layer burritos (Billy) and getting another dose of antibiotics (me) administered around the shower curtain by a nurse who brought the whole rig with her and pumped them into me as fast as she could. About halfway through the shower experience, I started to have contractions, strong but not that painful. Happy day! When my feet got sore I finally got out and found that I had been in there for an hour and a half!
So now it's 7 pm. Husayn and Suzanne (and Amia) came in to visit us then and we found out that they and Liza and Nate and Liz had all been waiting in the waiting room all through my shower watching 'Queer Eye for the Straight Guy'. We also found out that Suzanne had given birth in that very room with the same midwife. They went off to Cake Night and Ray came in for a huddle. He said that I could keep trying to get labor started tonight or they could 'tuck me in' for the night with a sleeping pill and try again in the morning, and if labor still didn't start up, they would induce labor with pitocin. He also said that if it was anyone else, that they already would have started on pitocin, but because it was me... I don't know if he was joking and trying to make me feel special or serious since my last two labors had started this way on their own. I scoffed at the idea of a sleeping pill. I had just gotten contractions started! I wasn't going to stop now!
So he went home to study his Spanish homework, and Billy and I kept walking back and forth on our hallway circuit. I knew inside myself at this point that labor had really started and that everything would happen pretty fast. This early part of labor can last a LONG time, like a day or two, but I knew mine would be much shorter. Sure enough, the contractions got longer and harder and more frequent. We didn't have a watch between us or in the hallway so we measured them by hallway lengths. At first they were one hallway apart, then three quarters, then half, and then I got tired of walking and went back for more baby monitoring, antibiotics, and to call the doula in. I was excited and kept telling myself how happy I was to be having contractions. This made the pain of them seem incidental. Desire cancels fear of pain really well, I found. I started using all of the 'labor saving devices' that I had brought. Smelling fruit and roses between contractions to refresh myself and get my head back to pleasantness, sitting on a 'birth ball', joking and talking with Billy. And I started to really need help to get through the contractions. Jessica, the doula, came at about this point and we all settled in together for the real work of labor. It was really nice to have real breaks between contractions where we could just talk and enjoy the thought that Teresa was about to be born. Then I got tired of sitting there and wanted to try something different so I asked to get into the jacuzzi. The nurse checked me and I was at 3 cm, so she let me go ahead. As soon as I got in, though, I knew it wasn't going to work. It felt hard and constricting. I couldn't move around as much or in the way that felt right lying in a bathtub-shaped piece of hard plastic. I suffered through two hard contractions there and then gave it up. I was shivering SO HARD when I got out. No fun to have contractions while cold and shivering, and they were starting to come on faster so that I had two more just getting out of the jacuzzi and getting back to my room. I was releived to get back to my good smelling comforts and birth ball. So that's where I stayed. No water birth for Teresa. I put on my special CD for labor and we all sang along, including Jessica, who has a beautiful voice. That helped with the pain. Billy was silly and talkative. That helped. I was silly and talkative. That helped too. I looked at the baby warmer in the corner and got excited imagining my baby squirming around on it.
I talked about the whole 'walking through the doorway of fire without getting burned' imagery and all the things that I was going to want to hear during contractions. And they did a great job when it was contraction time, holding my hand, rubbing my lower back, talking me through it- telling me that I was safe and doing a great job and not going to get 'burned' and that my baby would be here soon. And I moved around sitting on my birth ball in whatever way felt right and moaned when it got really intense. Then Ray came back and joked and talked with me. I joked right back every second that I was not gone with the pain of a contraction. I don't remember what we talked about, but it was more how we were talking than what anyways. Things got more and more intense and I threw up, which I alwys do in labor. No biggie. Ray said, 'if you feel like pushing, go ahead. I'm going to go get a few things together'. And he went off to get all that technical stuff he needed for the birth, all of those just-in-case tools all spread out on green cloth on a tray that I've never really gotten a good look at because I'm always in the haze of giving birth when it's around.
Then I didn't have any more strategies left because the pain and pressure of contractions (coming right after each other now) got too intense for strategies. I'm thinking this was transition. I thought it would be as easy as the last times to know when it was time to push because my body just started pushing before I could think about it the last two times. So I wasn't ready for that uncertainty and I didn't know what position I wanted to be in and I couldn't talk any more or sit around considering the options so I started to feel frantic and out of control (classic transition stuff). I had to get off the birth ball because it felt like it was keeping the baby from coming down and out. I squatted on the floor but couldn't quite get the hang of it. Jessica suggested that I get up on the bed and kneel, holding onto the top half of the bed, which was raised up like the back of a chair. So I did that but couldn't get 'comfortable'. Well, maybe there's just no comfortable position for the very end of labor. Anyways, I ended up pushing my head into the back of the bed like a goat or something, with Billy holding my hand and Jessica on the other side (I don't remember what she was doing). I was really not enjoying this part, but I tried to force myself to relax during contractions and focus on the fact that it was almost over and it was almost time to push. Then all of a sudden it was time to push. I felt like I had more control over pushing this time, which was weird. I didn't know what to do with myself. I ended up just pushing when it seemed right. By this time I was actually lying on my tummy with my head still pushed into the bed and my legs folded under me in a big M shape. It was weird. The whole thing is very hard to describe and I don't even want to because I still remember that out of control pain feeling very vividly. (I get all cold and shivery every time I try to write this part.) This is where I squashed Billy's hand so hard and didn't feel sorry for him or give it back when he complained. Then Ray put his hands on my back and said, 'Mrs. Baker, I need you to roll over onto your back. There's some meconium in the amniotic fluid and I need to be able to suction the baby off right away.' (Meconium is the baby's first poop that's all black and tarry and it's not good if it comes out before the baby is born because they could swallow it or breathe it in. So I guess my water must have broken more at that point for him to know that.) So I did roll over and was releived to be given some direction and to be facing all the people again. He had told me he was going to call more people in to help suction the baby and sure enough, there was a room full of nurses all standing in a row, watching. But I didn't care, I barely had my eyes open anyways at that point. I just wanted it all to be over. I pushed through a couple contractions, but didn't feel like I was getting anywhere, when Ray asked me if I wanted to feel my baby's head. This time I really needed the encouragement (I was horrified by this suggestion the last two times) and I was so happy that the pushing was working that I got busy and her head was out with the next push. The nurse said, 'Blow out candles on a birthday cake' and I did that shallow puffing breathing while (I assume) they suctioned Teresa out. Then she said I could push again, and I did and pushed the rest of her out. That is the weirdest feeling, very hard to describe, and very squirmy. Anyways, that was it, and she was born! And I finally opened my eyes and they put her on my tummy and I said, 'I can't beleive she's really here! It still hurts so much! But I'm holding her and she's really here!' Or something like that. I was so glad to be done. That whole thing from getting on the bed to when she was born took about ten minutes. It was 3:05 am, I checked the clock right away, so I know, though I don't know why it mattered to me. It took me a while to get out of labor mode and really understand that she was born because it all happened so fast. She was covered in dark green goo and yellow waxy stuff (meconium and vernix) so they wiped her off and handed her back for me to nurse her and hold her and I was so happy to have my baby at last and to know that she was healthy and fine. What a wild ride.
Then they whisked her away to the nursery to clean her up (Billy went with her) and I was wheeled over to the room we would stay in for a couple days. It took a while for me to get enough time with her to really bond, with all the hospital rigamarole, but eventually we did, and I totally fell in love with my baby. Everything I see reminds me of Teresa now- ducks, cookies, random things like that and I say 'Awww, so cute!'. I miss her if she naps too long. And she's such an easy baby, she's really an angel. She's the harvest of all our work and a very precious gift indeed.
I've been using what I learned in this labor to get through all the hard things since- that it really helps reduce pain (of any kind) if I am happy and optimistic and keep myself from being overcome by fear and anxiety. It's a great start to the next phase of my life with all of it's challenges and opportunities as the mother of three wonderful little people. And I feel like I've experienced some of the power of these Words:
O God! Refresh and gladden my spirit. Purify my heart. Illumine my powers. I lay all my affairs in Thy hand. Thou art my Guide and my Refuge. I will no longer be sorrowful and grieved; I will be a happy and joyful being. O God! I will no longer be full of anxiety, nor will I let trouble harrass me. I will not dwell on the unpleasant things of life.
O God! Thou art more friend to me than I am to myself. I dedicate myself to Thee, O Lord. --Abdul-Baha
Hmm..typing with one hand while nursing with the football hold. I feel like a real multitasker. day 2: The good thing about a bad start is that there's nowhere to go but up. It went much better than yesterday. It's the end of the day and the only one crying is georgia (briefly and to Billy) about wanting to eat cereal. Here's what helped: prayer- both mine and other people's, getting mentally prepared and taking a shower in the morning before kids woke up, prayer, a great visit from Liza that helped the kids feel paid attention to, the promise of more Liza time tomorrow, knowing ahead of time that Teresa would not stay asleep after being put down for a nap for more than 10 minutes (suddenly this happened! she was such a good napper for me before yesterday), prayer, the relative success, compared to yesterday, of the food I made for lunch (apparently homemade foccacia beats shake-n-bake chicken in the 2-5 age group), and finally the sun, whose absense was felt keenly yesterday, and who warmed and cheered our afternoon today.
Two down, three more to go before the weekend breather.
O my goodness! Day 1 of my life as the mother of three without Billy there all day: Started out well and full of confidence and plans. Ended up with disarray, unmet needs on all sides and me a wimpering mess. Sigh. Today is another day and another try at it. And I'm calling in the troops too, to help until I'm recovered enough to have some strength against the difficulty of this job. My hormones are still on a roller coaster and that makes it hard to withstand large amounts of whining and sisterly fighting all day. Pray for me, please!
Pictures of good times, that helps. Here are the relative sizes of my lovely family members:
And Teresa in all her glory:
It's the middle of the second week since Teresa's birth and since Billy's been at home on parental leave. Next week he goes back to work and I need to figure out how I'm going to do this on my own during the day. So far my strategy has been to rest as much as possible so I can be recovered as much as possible by then. With more energy, I can think more creatively and have more patience for difficulties. In general, I think that staying connected- all the family members that is- is going to be important. Other than that, it's going to be a learning process. With trials and errors. Georgia is doing very well with all the changes- she's done this before after all. Maya gets pretty upset when she can't have mommy at certain times. Like bedtime or when she wakes up or when she needs a nap- all sleepy times that she's used to lots of cuddling in. Sometimes we can find a way for us all to be together- I'll nurse Teresa and Maya will lay on my leg and Georgia will hug me around the middle on my free side. It's pretty cute. Other times it doesn't go so smoothly and Georgia and/or Maya has to be hauled off by Billy for kicking or hitting or jumping around the bed. Those are the times that I'm worried about because I won't be able to haul them off and redirect them. This was the problem with being eight and a half months pregnant too. I couldn't bodily remove Maya from a situation because I really couldn't carry her. Then I feel like I can't be consistent or even effective at discipline, which freaks out the kids because they don't have boundaries that they can rely on. And then it just gets worse and worse. Argh! Does anyone have any stories about sharing Mommy when you were little that I can share with the girls so they know that other people go through this too?
I feel like I should give a Teresa update. But it seems like she is doing the same things every day, and I can't see her really getting bigger yet, or changing, except in tiny little ways that could just be my imagination. Like, she doesn't flail her arms quite as wildly getting in the way of her nursing every time. She also has better skill with latch-on, although she still has trouble sometimes. And she seems like she's a tiny little bit longer, and her skinny legs are just a little bit less skinny. She opens her eyes more, and her eyes are definitely turning blue. She's gotten a lot less yellow as her jaundice goes away; she enjoyed her first bath at home -- she even liked getting her hair washed, which I think is pretty much unheard of. She made a statement at her first Feast last night, doing a huge poop right in the middle of prayers that made Liz and Liza giggle behind their hands. She had been saving up that poop for a day and a half, and I had to change all her clothes. She was awake and alert, looking around at everyone and socializing after that, though.
Here are some pictures from her first week:
We made a cake for the Ayyam-i-Ha party whose theme was "Think Summer" and decided to decorate it to look like a garden with all our leftover gingerbread house decorations. After the landscaping was complete, we decided it needed little people to frolick in the garden. Maya got a little too enthusiastic pushing this little girl doll into the frosting, with the following result:
I decided to rescue her from the waist high grass and rearranged them a little.
Now here are a few pictures from Teresa's second week. Does she look different to you?
P.S. Update to the update: Today Teresa's umbilical cord stump fell off, so now she's got her very own belly button!