Monday, June 20, 2011

First Fathers' Day

 I have no idea what it feels like for Blake to be a father.
I do know what it feels like to be a mother though.
I also know what it feels like to be a mother and a wife, watching her husband and best friend be a father to her child.
And it feels amazing.

Happy First Father's Day, Bubba.
I love you!

Thursday, June 16, 2011


My expectations for other people are admittedly very high. 
I've been told often that they are too high. 
I've been told that I need to not be so hard on people. 
Told to relax my standards.   

The people who have told me these thing maybe misunderstand my brand of high expectations.

They do not think that I hold other people to the same standards to which I hold myself. 
They confuse my high expectations with the inability to forgive or give second chances or the knowledge that everyone makes mistakes. 
They think that just because I have high expectations I am judgmental or cannot see beyond expectations to the imperfect human underneath.
They think that I cannot love someone who does not meet each and every expectation I have for that person.

I get where these misunderstandings come from. 
But I make no apologies for my high expectations and I will not compromise on them. 
If I do, that will mean compromising on the goals and standards I have set for myself and spent years, if not decades, striving to meet. 
I know that I'm not perfect and that I fail regularly. 
But, that doesn't mean I lower the bar for myself. 
I'm not going to do it for other people either.

All that being said, before I begin developing my expectations for Blake as a father or Audrey as a child, daughter and person, I think I do need to work on explaining (at least to myself) how persistent high expectations can coexist with unconditional love, patience, and forgiveness. 
I know that they can because that is what God is. 
I know that it will be hard to accomplish perfectly because that is what God is.

Here's to doing things that are hard.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Dog Days of Summer

When we decided back in September that we would make a puppy - Toby - a part of our family, we already knew that we would also soon been welcoming another little one in the form of our first human child.  Many people told us bluntly: "You guys are crazy." 

Now, don't get me wrong.  There have been times, many times, when we have agreed with those many people.  We are crazy and we feel crazy at times. Case in point - he peed all over our bed last night, spurring a mandatory sheet/comforter change at 11pm.  But, otherwise, the dog-right-before-baby approach fits perfectly with our go-big-or-go-home approach and, let's recall, we've done something like this before... in 2008, I took my last law school finals, we each graduated from professional school, we bought a house and moved in, got married, and went on a honeymoon.  All in one month.  No sweat.

When we aren't feeling crazy, we know that having Toby helped prepare us for Audrey.  Having him in our lives for the few months before Audrey arrived allowed and/or forced us to focus on something other than ourselves, to compromise our own schedules and needs for his, and to begin to develop the patience that we surely will need as parents.  Just as we now cannot imagine our lives without Audrey, we also can't imagine our lives without Toby.  He was the perfect addition to our family and even on his worst days, I wouldn't give him back.  Having a puppy and having a baby are actually pretty similar in many ways... Let's compare:  A puppy is a lot of work.  A baby is a lot of work.  Your life can revolve around feeding the dog, walking the dog, correcting the dog, letting the dog out to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night when it has diarrhea.   Your life must revolve around feeding the baby, changing the baby, rocking the baby to sleep, soothing the baby when it cries, letting the baby out to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night when it has diarrhea.  Just kidding on the last one.  But, minus the diapers, cute onesies, and pacifiers - barking, crates, and leashes, there are a lot of similarities and lessons to be learned from having a puppy.  This approach is not for everyone, but it's worked for us, which makes it easier for me to defend myself when called crazy.

It also helps that Toby is good with Audrey.  He has a sixth sense about her and is so curious and (usually) gentle with her.  He enjoys walking with me and the stroller and curls up on my lap while I'm nursing her.  He also licks her toes and face (and other exposed parts of her body and mine) and seems to be mellowing out just a bit.  I think they will be friends and I love that she will have something I never did - her own dog to grow up loving and learning from.  Our family is hopefully not complete just yet, but a dog definitely helps our house to feel like a home.

Love my Tobers!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Life in color.

Once a year when I was a kid, my family stayed up late and watched The Wizard of Oz together on television.  One of the things that I always noticed and pondered was that in Kansas, before the twister carries the house away to Oz, Dorothy, Toto and Aunty Em inhabit a black and white wasteland. 
When she arrives in Oz though, things suddenly erupt into color for Dorothy.  Technicolor actually.  The sky is blue, the yellow brick road is yellow, the poppy field is red,  the Emerald City is emerald, and the rainbow is, well, rainbow. 

Just as Dorothy's life before Oz was lived in shades of dull and dusty gray, when I imagine my parents as children, I imagine them in black and white.  Perhaps it was because the only photos of them as children were in black and white.  Or because all of the TV shows I associated with their childhood - Leave it to Beaver, for example - were in black and white.  Whatever the reason, still to this day, when I imagine my parents' life before I arrived in it, I only see them and their world in black and white.

Of course I know that they lived in color, just as I always have, and that neither my birth nor the advent of technicolor TV actually changed the spectrum or vibrancy of their lives.  But, now that Audrey has arrived, I would say that I did use to live in relative black and white and shades of dull gray.  Her birth has changed the way I look at people and the world around me.  Changed what I see and how I react to it.  The grass is greener, the sun shines brighter.  I am definitely not in Kansas anymore.


Thursday, June 2, 2011

The (Mostly) Unexaggerated Birth Story

Many birth stories fit into one of two categories - ultra-earthy-natural-feel-good OR bordering on horror.  Mine is neither.  It's just my story.

From the beginning of this pregnancy, I had very firmly in my mind the image of my perfect birth - I would spontaneously go into labor (either 2 weeks early or a few days late so I could attend Maggie's wedding), that I would not be hooked up to any monitors or IVs, that I would move around during labor in whatever ways my body told me to, that Blake would be able to calm me and encourage me easily, that I would wear my own clothing the entire time and not be catheterized, that I would let myself slip into an internal space that would help me to get through the pain without medication, and that our baby would be born safe and sound and without any interventions whatsoever.  All in 6 hours or less. 

I of course also knew from the beginning that my dream birth experience may not play out.  While I kept reality in the back of my mind, my prenatal yoga class reinforced my desire to have the most natural birth possible.  Our childbirth class gave me confidence and tools to make it a reality.  I took steps (thousands, around the neighborhood) to increase the chances that it would. 

Alas, on Monday, May 9th, reality began to set in.  I was a day overdue, no more dilated or effaced than the week before, and my doctor suggested that, should the baby not come on her own by the following weekend, induction would be the healthiest option as the risks of meconium in the fluid, placental failure, etc. increased.  I've trusted my doctors all along, and Blake and I decided that there was no reason to stop now.   I went to work all week, actually hoping and praying that maybe my water would break as I rode the elevator to my office on the 25th floor.  It didn't.  So, we dropped Toby off at MiMoo and Poppy's with 4 days worth of food and checked into the Women's Hospital the evening of Sunday, May 15th certain we would have our baby girl in our arms before dinnertime on Monday.

That evening, they inserted essentially a tampon of a drug called Cervidil into my lady parts to help soften the cervix.  I was hooked up to a fetal monitor but could unplug every now and then to move around.  I was still wearing my own pjs and underwear.  MiMoo and Poppy brought pizza and Blake and I killed them in two games of euchre. Spirits were high and I was just so excited.

Monday morning revealed that the Cervidil had not done much - I was 2 centimeters dilated and maybe a little more thinned out... but not enough to start the Pitocin yet.  I showered, put on a little makeup and changed my pjs - I was ready for things to start already!  I was given some other drug (Blake remembers what it was called) that came in a pill and we walked the halls periodically.  Pitocin was finally started around 1pm and contractions began not much longer after that.  They got pretty intense pretty fast and were generally about 2 minutes apart.  I sat on an exercise ball, tried to read The BFG, played cards with Blake, stood and rocked with my arms around Blake's neck, knelt on the bed, and played with the bed's configurations.   They started giving me doses of penicillin every 4 hours to cut the risk of a Strep B infection in the baby - the burning sensation in my vein was almost the worst part. 

When my doctor checked me a couple of hours later, I was only a whopping 2.5 centimeters.  She suggested breaking my water, which I agreed to, thinking that it would help get things moving.  There was meconium in the fluid, which could be bad for the baby.  Breaking my water did not help get things moving - they continued to up the pitocin dose every 30 minutes, but I stayed at 2.5 centimeters.  By early evening, I was in serious pain, like tears in my eyes pain, and really tired from all the contractions.  I was frustrated because as strong as they seemed to me, the contractions didn't seem to be having any effect on moving the baby down or helping to dilate my cervix.  Several people have told me since that contractions on pitocin can be more intense and more frequent.  I believe them.

Blake massaged my hands and back and I did deep breathing exercises and made whatever noise I could think of to take my mind off the pain.  Cards, reading, and TV were not an option.  I ate ice chips and various colored popsicles.  I focused on my goals of wearing my own clothes and not being catheterized.  It all did help some, but there was no time in between the contractions to get any rest and I started to worry that if I ever managed to get to 10 centimeters, I would have no energy left to push the baby out.  I asked for an IV pain medication, Nubain, hoping that it would give me an hour or two to relax.  It did but wore off quickly and I was in serious pain again soon. I was nauseous and threw up several times.  I had another dose of Nubain later in the evening, again hoping to get enough rest to have energy for pushing. It again wore off quickly and by around 1am I started to seriously consider something I had convinced myself previously I would not need... an epidural.  I sadly traded my nightgown for a hospital gown with easier access to my back.

The anesthesiologist was odd but efficient and the procedure was a lot more comfortable than the contractions.  I got over my fear of being cathed and told myself that it would be great to not have to get up and pee every 4 minutes.  I was finally able to rest.  Kind of.  The automated blood pressure cuff tightened around my right bicep and then made this let-down beeping noise every five minutes.  The nurse was upping the pitocin every half hour and taking my temperature.  The resident checked me sometime in the middle of the night - still 2.5 centimeters - and commented that the baby's heart rate was decelerating periodically.  I began to feel short of breath and was getting ready to push the call button when the nurse came in and gave me an oxygen mask.  Blake was still sleeping in the corner when the resident told me that she was calling my doctor to confirm her instinct - the baby was not tolerating the contractions anymore and probably couldn't take another 7.5 centimeters worth.   The resident woke Blake up and I cried.  They stopped the pitocin and got me ready for the operating room.  Blake called our family members to have them come to the hospital, put on a gown, and before I knew it, I was being wheeled down the hall.

I was awake, but the C-section is kind of a blur.  The room was much brighter than operating rooms on TV. And much colder.  I was moved from the bed to a table, draped, given more drugs through the epidural drip thing, and cut open.  I could feel tugging and pushing, but no pain.  I felt sick to my stomach, but then I could hear our baby crying, "it's a girl!" and the comments of the nurses about her long hair and eyelashes.  Blake called her Audrey and an eternity later brought her over for me to see.  In that moment, any feelings of failure I'd had disappeared.  My regrets at having been induced, asking for the Nubain, or giving in to the the epidural floated away.  My tears of frustration changed to tears of happiness. 

Blake shared the news with our family in the waiting room and snuggled with our daughter while I was cleaned up and moved back to the bed.  I was wheeled back to my room with our little girl in my arms, a new person. 

Maybe little girls do steal their mother's beauty...

Sure, my childbirth experience was the polar opposite of what I'd hoped for.  But, the outcome was exactly what we wanted - a healthy, beautiful, bright-eyed little girl.  And, it is true what they say, as soon as you see your child, all the pain and whatever else of the childbirth experience becomes a distant memory.  I'd do it all - 16 hours of active labor, catheter, itchy hospital gown - over again in a second, even if the outcome weren't as perfect as Audrey.