Monday, July 23, 2012

Pics or It Didn't Happen

After almost 2 weeks of prodromal labor, Tuesday July 17 I started having some contractions that seemed more business-like. Time for the last belly shot.

two days shy of 40 weeks
And a last minute trip to the library to stock up on reading material. It takes a lot of novels to nurse a newborn. My mom arrived just before dinner time and after the kids were in bed I made her go walk the mall with me while Brad manned the homefront. I contemplated calling and telling him I'd had the baby in babyGap and had thus won us free clothing for life but I thought that might be a little far-fetched. A girl can dream though, right?

When we got home I debated about whether I should take a Tylenol PM and drink some wine so I could rest up before the show got on the road, but Brad and my mom were nerrrrrrrvous about how last time had gone down (insta-active labor+no midwife=my mother catching Dominic while I stood at the bathroom sink) so I agreed to call the midwife. She said she'd start driving my way and rest on the couch so I would have no pressure to produce a baby but Brad and my mom could breathe a little more easily.

I went to lay down for a little but was having trouble sitting still during the contractions when my water broke at about 11 pm. I tried to get Brad to get me a Chux pad but he spent the time while my water dribbled out wandering around muttering things about who invented Chux pads, who is Chuck, where are they, are they inside something, etc etc while I called out to him that he was "too late, you're too late, I'm sloshing water all over your floor!!" After we got things mopped up I changed into my labor gear. And grabbed a popsicle. We were in business.

I thought. I labored a bit poolside while waiting for the water to cool down and eventually my constant yawning got me sent back to bed. After trying to sleep a bit and feeling like I could not relax my way through the contractions I went to see if the tub was ready. And gloriously, it was!

I labored in there but I was still able to talk and laugh in between my contractions, so I figured that I still had awhile, even though the contractions themselves were getting more and more intense.

I had a few contractions that seemed to come right on top of each other, and I once again experienced a splitting of my part of me was in the throes of labor while the other part was observing in a rather detached but interested manner. The observer watched the laborer and thought, "She is wimping out. Ten minutes ago she was still chatting in between contractions and now she thinks she's in transition, but it's clearly too early for that."

Guess The Observer was wrong, because during the next contraction I announced "I cannot do this any.more! I can't! I can't!" At which point I saw Brad grin at my mother and say, "Better go wake up Gianna, it's baby time!" Apparently I've become predictable.

couldn't have done it without the turtle. And Brad.
After that I experienced a strange popping sensation that I am still not sure what it was...maybe the baby's head moving wayyyy down? Not sure. At any rate, in that moment I felt a lot of pressure and felt that I absolutely, one hundred percent, would die if I did not get to the bathroom and push out the baby. So I did.

As I marched myself to the bathroom and parked on the potty, I heard my entourage trailing behind me and my mother saying, "She's getting on that toilet again!" (Right before Dominic's precipitous arrival I kept sitting on the toilet...a sure sign I was getting pushy) In nothing short of a miracle, everyone managed to get into our teeny tiny bathroom with me. My midwife knelt next to the toilet, gently saying, "I see you are feeling pushy....." Despite having not checked me a single time, she had her gloves on and was ready to catch....she truly knows her craft.

"Tell me I'm almost done!" I demanded. She replied that yes, in fact, the baby's head was right there, did I want to reach down and feel?

"NO! I just want her OUT!" I said while simultaneously reaching down and feeling the unmistakeable sensation of the soft, wet top of a baby's head. Our midwife started to voice concern that it was chilly in the bathroom but Brad was already plugging in the space heater.

As I stood up and grabbed on to the bathroom sink and pushed I was being rather noisy...let's call it a tribal yell. Later I asked Gianna if she was glad she got to see the baby come out or if it was too scary and she said, "Umm a little bit scary but mostly proud."

I think I pushed for less than ten minutes, but really I didn't push as much as I just submitted to what my body was already doing. In that moment, the rational part of me was thinking I should try to slow things down otherwise I would surely tear but the rest of me could only think "GET.BABY.OUT. Then we can snuggle up in bed and SLEEP." As the baby came sliding out, my mom reached in and unwrapped the cord from around the baby's neck and I heard the baby squawking so I reached down and our midwife handed her to me up between my legs.

I was so thrilled to be finished with labor and to be holding our new baby...there is nothing in the world that compares to that moment you first get your arms around a warm, wet, wriggly baby. I kept saying "She's here, she's fine, she's fine" as our midwife piled towels on top of the baby to keep her warm. Meanwhile Brad was trying to dig under the towels, saying, "How do you KNOW?? I need to see...boy or girl???" When he finally got to the bottom of the pile and peeked between the baby's legs he said, "Oh my gosh...a girl!!! What???"

We moved the party to our bedroom where I was able to sit on my all-important birth sheets and wait for the placenta.

Other than the truly awful after-pains, the first couple of hours passed blissfully as the baby nursed and Giaana and Dominic marveled over their new sister while I enjoyed my desired post-partum meal (sesame bagel with cream cheese and a glass of apple juice). I am still amazed (and very thankful) that I did not tear at all despite the quick exit.

Finally it was time to cut the cord (my mother did the honors after Gianna backed out...Dominic jumped at the chance but the thought of a two year old wielding sharp scissors near my new baby was a little concerning) and get length and weight measurements. I am very, very glad she arrived a day "early" as she was 9 pounds 4 ounces and 22.25 inches long...just a quarter inch shy of Gianna's mammoth 22.5 inches.

another big bebe
I am once again filled with joy as I look back on such a peaceful, safe, lovely birth. It is truly a grace and I am so thankful to God for the blessing of being able to welcome our babies at home. We took our time with her name, wanting to be sure. We settled on Pia Catherine, Pia being the feminine form of Pio, after Padre Pio. "Pia" means "loving" and is one of the three attributes given to the Blessed Virgin at the end of the Salve Regina (Hail, Holy Queen.) Catherine after St. Catherine of Siena.

ready to turn in
Gianna keeps exclaiming, "Mom!! It's a girl! It's the best surprise!" and Dominic has become quite proprietary, informing me, "Stop! You walk with yo new baby!" if I so much as try to go the bathroom without her. I realize that we are totally honeymooning right now; my mother stayed for the first few days, running the house in her very capable hands while I rested and nursed non-stop. Brad's family came bearing gifts and lots and lots of food over the weekend and friends have stopped by with more food and well-wishes. Brad is off from work for a glorious two weeks.

big brother

 Eventually, real life will hit and the kids will get cranky and slightly jealous and the baby will develop some sort of strange rash that will compel me to cut out strange dietary elements with the fervor of Captain Ahab and the house will get semi-trashed and Dominic will all but completely forget to use the potty but for now, I am just basking in the new baby glow (and gobs and gobs of prolactin) and feeling incredibly, incredibly blessed. Thank you to all who prayed for us and sent their congratulations!
snug with Grandma
O clemens, O pia, O dulcis, Virgo Maria!
Ora pro nobis sancta Dei Genitrix,
Ut digni efficiamur promissionibus Christi.

(Oh clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary!
Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God,
That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ)

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Job

Recently Gianna asked me if I had a job "like Daddy." I told her, "Yes, I have a job, my job is taking care of you guys and keeping the house from going to shambles and cooking dinner most of the time. Um, though no one pays me."

She regarded me with narrowed eyes for a moment...contemplating. And she said, "But......"

And I thought, here we go. She's going to call me out. She's thinking, "I know you haven't showered in days and that those pants look suspiciously like the ones you wore yesterday and the day before that, and you spend your days constructing the Melissa and Doug Underwater Giant Floor Puzzle with Easy Clean Surface overandover again for a demanding toddler punctuated by sitting in the backyard reading a book while your children frolic in the kiddie pool. This is not a real job. Daddy showers. Gets dressed. Drives away in a car not filled to the brim with car seats and discarded baby dolls and sippy cups and oozing with unknown sticky substances. He watches the stock market and has adult conversations that are not about whether or not it is possible to remove raisins from a cinnamon raisin bagel. Daddy gets paid."

Except that's not what she said. She said, "But....your job is longer than Daddy's job." I had to smile just a little. She might be five, but she is already thinking about men, and women, and what they are made to do.

I heard an interview on NPR recently with the author of an article entitled, "Why Women Still Can't Have it All." I didn't hear the whole thing because I was in and out of the car, but after reading the article I wanted to tell this poor woman that nobody has it all. Whatever that even means.

I sure am glad that I have the ability to choose to enter the workplace or to stay home, I'm glad about that aspect of the "feminist revolution" but I guess I am too young to feel like I am somehow doing a disservice to my sex by having babies and being the one to care for them. The woman spoke of her colleagues killing themselves on long hours and agonizing over spending quality time with the children because they "had to be an example to other, younger, women that is is possible to mix career and family the same way as a man does."

What they ran up against was this teensy little problem of biology. Whether you see it as straight up evolution, God's commandment, or a messy mix of both, it's hard to escape the fact that women come wired up to make and take care of babies. We can do a lot to even the playing field....we can make artificial baby milk so anyone can feed the baby, we have high powered breast pumps and machines that simulate a mother's heartbeat. We have daycares with video monitors. And we have the pointless battle of who has it harder....the stay at home mom or the work outside the home mom?

I suspect it's all hard. Grown up time is a lot of work any way you slice it. I suspect that no woman is 100% happy with the state of things 100% of the time. I suspect that most stay at home moms have at one time or another looked longingly after her husband's vehicle...wishing to escape the sometimes mind-numbing boredom and isolation of running a household with small children. I suspect that most career moms have at one time or another looked longingly at their baby as they make a daycare drop off. I suspect that most men who have children miss their families intensely even as they work to provide for them. Nobody has it all.

So what is the answer? I don't really know, other than to say that we don't have to feel so oppressed by our biological realities. Yes, puking your way through a pregnancy is not a good time, and no man has ever had to put up with that. But no man has ever felt the incredible flips and tumbles and hiccups of a baby nestled sweetly in their womb. Yes, labor and birth can hurt a lot, and men have been spared this "curse." But no man has ever had the opportunity to know, in the deepest sense, they couldn't go any farther, and then discover in the next moment that they can reach down and pull a soft, wet, wrinkly baby to their chest in the most mysterious, miraculous event on earth. Yes, it can be tiring to be the sole provider of sustenance for a newborn, and a man has never felt that responsibility in the way a woman does, but there's never been a man who has had the opportunity to look down at a velvety baby nursing peacefully in his arms in an incredible dance of hormones and love.

We sometimes get to do these things, we women, along with almost anything else we desire. Lest anyone think that I believe in women's work as being more important than anything a man might do, I assure you this is not the case. That is the problem with trying to make men exactly like women, or women exactly like men. As the author of the article cautiously admitted in her interview, men and women are different, however, she insists if our society can make certain changes, we can all "have it all" and leave biology and centuries of socialization in the dust. I agree with the author that it would be an improvement for parenthood to be seen with the same sort of gravitas as a high-powered career, but if you continue to disdain those who choose to have babies young and not try to combine family and're perpetuating the same myth that you are trying to eradicate.

What I have come to see is that I might not "have it all" but as a woman I have an opportunity to do some unique and unrepeatable things that exist solely for the sanctification and growth of me and my family. And I get to call these things, some of momentous import and some the most mundane of mundane, a job. I'll take it.

Thursday, July 12, 2012


Do I already have a post entitled 'crazy?' Probably. Not going to check, though. Pretend this is the first one. Anyways.

So, it's summer, and Gianna has been home all day. We opted against summer school so we could go on vacay, hit up the pool and the zoo a lot, and just generally chill before kid 3. Which is fine, it's totally fine, it's fine. It was adjustment.

As we were adjusting, certain phrases became common-place, such as:

Why are you guys being so crazy?
It's crazy in here!
You are crazy!
You are making me crazy!

And other variations including the c-word. I didn't really notice how prolifically crazy I had become until I over-heard Gianna tell Dominic nastily, in a moment of frustration, "You are driving me crazy!"

It sounded so ugly. Moments later, I was wrestling Dominic for something he was not supposed to have and he looked at me and said, "You crazy!!" followed by, "NO! I not crazy!!" 

Aight. That settled it... family meeting time. I sat the little tykes down and apologized for calling them crazy. I told them from now on, no one in our family would call each other crazy, that we would use better words to talk about how we were feeling. They listened and nodded but I had little hope that anything was getting absorbed. It was too easy to expect our little heart to heart to work after weeks of poor modeling from me. 

The language we use to talk to our children is so important. Words can build a home of peace and understanding and safety or they can make a place where people feel constantly reprimanded and belittled. I want a peaceful home where my children can grow to be people who listen, who can communicate effectively and respectively even when they are angry or frustrated or tired. I just have to become that sort of person as well, and that's the hard part. The idea that Dominic, at 2 and a half, felt the need to insist that he wasn't crazy, revealed to me that I had labeled him as such far too many times. It made my heart hurt.

The next day following our little chat, things were getting..well...a little the kitchen. Gianna was trying to tell me a story about a used Popsicle stick she found and dinner was burning and Brad was supposed to be home any minute and someone had dumped a laundry basket of clean clothes on the dirty floor and Dominic was alternately saying "Look-a me Mom!" as he chucked objects into the fan and tormenting Gianna by trying to steal her gnawed-on Popsicle stick.

I was sorely, sorely tempted to shout my stand-by, "!!!!!!!" when in the moment of my weakness I felt a small hand on my leg. I looked down and Dominic was giving me a most earnest look. He patted my leg reassuringly and said, "You not crazy Mama. You not crazy."

I can report that being told by a pretty wild toddler that "you not crazy" is not exactly an affirmation of sanity, but it will make you laugh, and sometimes laughter is more critical to survival in motherhood than sanity. Things might get crazy, but at least it's pretty funny...eventually..
what good-lookin family

Monday, July 9, 2012

Sometimes, I Impress Myself

I had two major projects that I wanted to complete before this new kid arrives and I had little faith I would truly complete them. That's because I have this little problem with follow-through.

But nesting is a wonderful, wonderful thing, and I actually followed through. And took some pictures. SO, what follows is my re-hab of a dresser from Goodwill, and then a final picture of the face-lift I gave the changing table we got when Gianna was a baby.

I removed the old hardware, then sanded. Then I painted it twice. It was so hot outside that the paint practically dried the moment it contacted the wood. I made numerous trips to stand in the kiddie pool to cool off. Then I added some new hardware, scavenged from the Anthropologie clearance bin. And behold, Dominic's new dresser.

  A small, small part of me hoped all the work and the heat would get some labor action, but alas. I remain pregnant.

just over 38 weeks. Probably not a 7 pounder

But, I do have a very cute, "new" changing table....I lack "before" pics, but the changing table was about the same shade of the dresser. It also had a door that I removed, and I changed the hardware as well (also from Anthropologie.)

So, we're pretty much ready to rock. Birth supplies are organized and centralized, co-sleeper is snuggled up next to our bed and already full of books, house has been blessed, diapers are washed, I've had my Blessingway, and Saturday I crossed off my last two major items: Confession and a pedicure. Bring on the bebe! 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

A Plague on Both Your Houses, etc

Or, surviving a power outage. Plus stomach plague.

Convince children to go to friend's house, not large community pool, and run through sprinkler in 100 degree weather and encourage them to consume lots of popsicles and salty snacks.

Rush children inside juuuuust in time to escape large, violent storm. Power goes out.

Veg at friend's house until storm dies down, then return home, assuming (stupidly) that you have power at your own house. You do not have power. Nor do you have internet or a any sort of phone. In a moment of weakness, contemplate getting a cell phone once and for all. 

Serve cold burritos for dinner, because things are not severe enough to start lighting fires in the back yard.

Note that of course, husband is working late. But this is ok. Kids will go to bed soon, lights will come on soon, you can sit and read in peace. Easy game.

As darkness begins to fall, you note that the lights are in fact not coming back on. Make multiple trips to basement searching for flashlights and candles, and find none. Definitely getting dark. Definitely need another plan.

Here's where you acknowledge you inner resourcefulness. MacGyver ain't got nothing on you. You score some Play-Doh from your children's selection (orange) and in the fading light attempt to discern whether there are any flammability warning labels on the tub of Play-Doh. Finding none, proceed with plan. Scour every.last.saved birthday candle from the junk drawer (you knew this tradition of saving candles, one that your husband mocks mercilessly, would pay off one day) and then stick them into balls of Play-Doh, light them, and place the whole contraption on some dishes. Perfect.

Except birthday candles don't burn very long. But this is ok, because husband will return soon and can be sent out to procure real candles and flashlights. And then, from the room where the babes are peacefully sleeping, you hear a most unfortunate sound. The sound of a retching cough, followed by...yes. Vomit. As the minutes tick by and the birthday candles wane it becomes clear that electricity and husband are not to be counted on any longer. It is time to move to Plan C.

You know that somewhere in the recesses of your daughter's room is a small, hot pink, clip-on reading light. Therein lies your salvation. You leave a now-sleeping, not-currently puking toddler on the couch and begin fumbling around on your daughter's bookshelf. Instead of the light, your hand passes over a commemorative World Youth Day candle from 2005, complete with a nice little headshot of the Pope. Yes! You suddenly remember that you are flush in holy candles of all shapes and sizes and immediately set about procuring and lighting the candles. Soon the place is lit up like a grotto and you can begin cleaning up puke and making piles of laundry to be washed as soon as the power returns.

Congratulate self on being the sort of person people would want around in a semi-emergency. You are a survivor.

 Eventually, Brad returned home, he'd stopped off to help some friends of ours move in to their new house and didn't realize I was at home with no power and a puking kid. Around 3 am Dominic and I made a little pilgrimage up to the Children's ER in West Chester for some much-needed Zofran and air conditioning. By Sunday, Gianna and I had succumbed to the plague and after some doctor-consulting, I drugged her with the Zofran as well. Brad was the last hit, but by Monday evening our little clan was happily on the mend and our electricity was happily humming away.

There's nothing like the electricity going out to show how vulnerable your whole existence is. Every time I experience a power outage I realize just how poorly I would fare in a zombie apocalypse, major natural disaster, or the Second Coming. I am completely dependent on the power grid. When the lights are on it's easy to pretend how self-sufficient we are, it's easier to feel the need for God and each other less and less. It's good to be reminded occasionally of our smallness. Oh yes, and Happy Fourth!