Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Beyond Attachment

When I was pregnant for the first time, I threw myself into preparing for motherhood. I researched gentle parenting techniques. Kyle and I prepared to rearrange our lives to accommodate and nurture our baby twins in the most loving way possible. I couldn't wait to change their tiny cloth diapers. I couldn't wait to snuggle them close to me in the Moby wrap. I felt peaceful in the idea that attachment parenting would provide us with the right tools to gently nurture our little family.

When the boys were born seven weeks early and whisked off to the NICU, our plans for the early days with our babies changed dramatically. Instead of taking a quiet few weeks together at home to bond, the boys were kept in plastic isolettes amidst the constantly chiming monitors. When I was discharged three days after my Cesarean, I was told to go home and visit the boys during the day, rather than staying with them in their room as I desperately wanted. Weak and overwhelmed, I agreed. I was petrified for my tiny babies alone in their fancy plastic bins. How would this time impact our bond?

Somehow, as time went on, in the blur of postpartum depression and sleep deprivation, I began to think of those first few weeks as my first transgression against attachment parenting. Every AP article I read talked about the shoulds and should nots. I should always respond to my babies' cries. Did they do that at 3 AM in the NICU? I should not allow my baby to spend hours a day laying alone in a plastic bin. Nothing addressed things not going according to plan. In whatever big or small way, I felt I had failed.

Fast forward several months. I persevered with attachment parenting, trying my best to live up to what were beginning to feel, at times, like pretty exacting standards. As time wore on, that early NICU experience started to feel like the first of many stumbling departures from AP. At nine months, there was sleep training - a desperate and heartbreaking solution to my extreme sleep deprivation from getting up to nurse the boys every two hours at night. Skip ahead a few more months. At some point I yelled for the first time. At some point, I swore. At some point, I tried time outs. In my head, all I could hear was "failure!" "Failure!" "Failure!"

Here's the thing. I think attachment parenting offers some wonderful tools. I believe the world would be a better place if more people adopted its principals. However.

I AM AN IMPERFECT HUMAN BEING. I am not always entirely zen. I am emotional, sensitive, and quick to react to my environment. No matter how hard I try, I can never be true to myself AND fit my circular body into a square shaped box. But it goes further than that, too.

I'm concerned about the ominously missing coverage of "what if" situations in AP literature. No parent is perfect all of the time. I'm wary of any parenting advice that quickly and harshly judges those who chose other paths, and I can't help but feel horrified by every AP article I've ever read that warns of the brain damage! and antisocial behaviors! suffered by non AP children.

As a feminist, I'm left feeling icky about the implications of AP on women. AP is child centered, but I'm not sure that it's family balanced. In college, I spent my senior year completing a capstone project on women and self-help culture. My overwhelming conclusion was that our society's plethora of self-help books and television, largely aimed at women, lead to the message that we're somehow not good enough as we are. Forget that we're all supposed to look like super models. We're also not centered enough on the inside. At some point, AP advice has started to feel the same way to me.  I need to be more patient. I need to do a better job of empathizing with my child. I need to be gentle and maintain my child's dignity when disciplining. If I do not do these things, I bear the weight of harming their very sense of self.

I offer these thoughts not to condemn AP or those who practice it. In most ways, I continue to parent in a very AP fashion. What I want is to be honest with myself about how and why I choose to parent. I want to challenge and examine it. AP is becoming increasingly popular. I suspect I'm not the only one who at times feels confused by a parenting style that centers around the gentle treatment of children yet leaves me feeling like my own sense of self has taken a beating. In the end, I pick and choose. More than anything, I strive to parent mindfully, in a way that is gentle for our entire family. As a mother, I know that I am not now and never will be perfect. I'm learning that this little fact isn't a failure on my part. In all reality, it's one of the best parts of this journey.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

One bird. Six meals.

Soon, I'm going to post some thoughts on cost of living as it relates to motherhood and feminism. I realize that dropping a teaser like this at the beginning of a post is totally unfair. How will anyone enjoy their Thanksgiving while sitting in anxious anticipation of such juiciness? The short version goes like this: life is expensive. High cost of living limits parenting choices. Limited parenting choices equals less than ideal family situations. Bad for society. Saving money becomes tool of liberated women everywhere. Or something like that.

In the meantime, I'm taking frugality pretty seriously around here. I recently mentioned that I love cooking, and have been considering adding some food elements to my blog. There are lots of great cooking blogs, lots of great money saving blogs - and lots that cook while saving money and stomping on one foot and saving the earth. I'm not breaking out anything really novel here. BUT. I do cook while saving money, maximizing my time,  and entertaining three small people. Perhaps this will be in the very least entertaining.

So. Let's do this.

What we're cooking: Turkey. One bird. Six meals.
It's Thanksgiving week, which means turkey is on sale. Go buy a turkey. Unless you're a vegetarian. But otherwise. Really. Even if you're not hosting. Especially if you're not hosting. I bought a fresh ten pound turkey for eight dollars with a coupon and am using it as the base for six meals. 

Meal one: Turkey dinner. Roast your turkey. Eat. Enjoy.

Meal two: Salad with turkey. Make a salad. Top with cold leftover turkey. Throw on some craisins and goat cheese. Yum.

Meals three through five: Turkey pot pie. Here's where I actually give a recipe. One that I created myself, at that. Muster appropriate awe and proceed. 

Turkey Pot Pie
5 cups roasted turkey
3 carrots, roughly chopped
1 onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, roughly chopped
1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
3 T cooking sherry
Salt and pepper
1/2 stick butter
3 T flour
2 cups chicken stock (or beef/vegetable)
1/2 cup half and half (or milk)
2 cups frozen vegetables of your choice - I used a mix of rutabaga, broccoli, and peas
3 ready-made pie crusts (or puff pastry sheets)
1 egg 

How to cook three turkey pot pies with three little people running around and constantly requesting help using the potty:
I try do most of my dinner cooking during the day so I have plenty of time and don't get frazzled if the time elapsed between chopping carrots and actually sauteing them takes forty-five minutes. I prepared this particular meal during pre-lunch play time, lunch itself, and then finished it up once I had everyone down for the post-lunch nap. Here's how I broke it down:

1. First I browned my vegetables. Chop and saute onions. Do this on low heat so that they don't burn while you're wiping somebody's nose. Cooking with toddlers and babies around requires slowing things down. It's noon, dinner's not til 6:30, we've got plenty of time. While the onions cook, chop your carrots, celery, and mushrooms. When the onions start to brown, add the vegetables you just chopped. Season with about a teaspoon of thyme and salt and pepper to taste. Saute until things get glossy and the vegetables soften and brown. Set aside. Be proactive, and set your frozen pie crusts out now to thaw. If you're using fresh pie crusts, congratulations.

2. Get that turkey meat. No knives here. Use your hands. If you're following my little plan (which is doubtful, but let's indulge in the idea for a minute), you've already had this bird for dinner twice. There should be plenty of meat left if you're feeding only a few substantial meat eaters (our toddlers are more of the vegetarian variety) but you're also probably at the point where you need to work for the meat that remains. Push up your sleeves and get to it. I was able to recover at least five cups of turkey. Chop it up. Dump it in a big bowl.

3. Make your sauce. I did this step while my kids were napping. It's not difficult, but it takes a minute of patience and a few more minutes of undivided-ish attention. Melt half a stick of butter over medium heat in a heavy pot. Add three tablespoons of flour. Whisk until uniform. Stir for a couple of minutes to toast the flour. SLOWLY add your stock, whisking constantly. As the sauce thickens, add a bit more, then a bit more. If you add it all at once, your sauce will be watery and you'll blame me for making up bad recipes that disappoint your entire family.  Once it's thickened and you've added your stock, add your half and half using the same method. Let this simmer while you add a teaspoon of thyme, salt and pepper to taste, and your cooking sherry. Give it a good stir and let it simmer for a minute before turning off the heat.

4. Combine the sauteed vegetables with your chopped turkey. Add frozen vegetables if you wish. I added them for some extra nutrition and substance, but I have mixed feelings about frozen vegetables. On a more food snobbish day, I would have skipped them and increased my sauteed mix. Go with whatever moves you. Pour the sauce over all of it. Mix well.

5. Assemble your pies. Lay out three pie plates. You don't have to grease them. Spread your turkey mix evenly in the plates. Roll a pie crust over the top of each one. Tuck the edges down and cinch if you wish. Get a knife. Makes slits in your crust so the steam can escape.

6. Freeze two pies. Wrap them well first. They'll keep in the freezer for at least a month.

7. The other pie is for dinner tonight. An hour before you want to eat: Heat your oven to 350. Brush the top of your crust with a lightly beaten egg. Pop that pie into the oven. Start checking around 30 minutes. I cooked mine for 45 - you're watching for a nicely browned crust and bubbly edges.

8. WAIT! You're not done! That's only five meals. I promised six. Before you clean up: grab that turkey carcass. Plop it into a large pot of water. Add an onion, chopped roughly, a few broken carrots and stalks of celery, and two bay leaves. Salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer. Simmer for several hours, until the liquid is cloudy and reduced by 1/3 to 1/2. Strain the liquid - now you have stock. Use it to make a turkey stew, or separate and freeze in 4 cup quantities, which is the same size as those boxes you buy at the store.

9. Okay, now you can break out the bon bons and relax. In all practicality, you just prepared 3-4 meals in about an hour's time, using refrigerator staples and leftovers. Plus, if you're lucky like me, your two year old twins are only half an hour into a THREE AND A HALF HOUR afternoon nap. Hooray momma.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Honey and water

It has been so, so long since I've written about my kids. Truly written about them. I feel panicked when I realize this. All of these moments, all of this time that just keeps plowing forward...it baffles me and breaks my heart. I am so overwhelmed by the everything-ness of them. Watching them grow is like trying to cup water in my hands - no matter how tightly I press my fingers together, it somehow still slips through and falls away.

I am sometimes guilty of rushing bedtime for the boys. That last leg of the day before becoming an adult again, anxious to savor the indulgent few quiet hours where nobody is pulling on me or asking for juice, where Kyle and I hungrily soak up every luxurious moment of just being. I do love our evenings. But. Toddlers, teetering on the edge of sleep, slow down to the pace of honey rather than water. At bedtime I can't help but give them a hundred kisses, all over their still-round faces, their downy skin and deliciously fat cheeks, their soft jaws and little rubber noses.

The boys are not babies any more. They are tiny people as certain and forceful as the tides. They have gentle souls that pour out into everything they do and touch. They are the best of friends. I am endlessly amazed by the extent to which they are entirely individual in their beings. Rhys is independent, deeply sensitive, and has a remarkable assuredness. He becomes fully immersed in his play and his curiosity of the world, making his way through tasks at a pace he refuses to alter for any agenda other than his own. This is one of my favorite things about him. Getting him dressed or walking up a flight of stairs could easily take ten minutes. He is unapologetically true to himself. He has an incredible imagination and a deep, nurturing love for his toys and the stories he invents for them. Tonight, he is sleeping with a tiny rubber frog nestled into an egg carton. This is very typical. In the mornings, he crawls into bed with me and pushes his face against mine. "I wuv you mama. I wuv you the moon and stars."

Quin is funny, charming, and empathetic. He is boldly inquisitive and is the child who just last week, while in line at the fabric store, turned to me while pointing at the woman behind us to ask, "why she got purple hair?"  He loves music and dancing and piggy backs. His laugh is infectious and wild. He is a dutiful helper, and will often slip out the back door while telling me, "stay there. I be right back. I just getting a log for the fire." He'll then pull on Kyle's size 14 sandals and venture naked into the cold November air to pull a log half his size off  the wood pile. My efforts to stop this are entirely futile, so I've given up. I cannot keep clothes on him for more than twenty minutes at a time. His propensity for empathy and thoughtfulness are moving. Rhys was feeling sad at bedtime tonight. While I rubbed his back, Quin climbed out of bed but quickly returned, carrying a stuffed musical giraffe. He pulled the string. "I play music for Rhys," he explained, "and now he will not be sad."

Anwen's name means beautiful and pure; she is both of those things. She is an easy baby, full of joy and mischief. She loves her brothers and has every intention of keeping up with them. She has a head full of fuzzy wisps and big round eyes with heavy lashes and a beautifully bowed little mouth. Her birth and early infancy helped to bring me back from the trauma and sadness that surrounded the early days with the boys. She has renewed my faith in myself as a mother to a young infant by helping me to feel calm and confident, just as my pregnancy with her renewed my faith in my body's ability to nurture life. She is the answer to questions I hadn't yet acknowledged asking.

These first days since I've left my job have been bliss. The pace of our life has slowed to a crawl. I just feel happy. And peaceful. Incredibly, foolishly lucky. Every day. I feel like I'm looking at my children for the first time in months. I have nowhere to rush off to. No conference call. No email I need to get to. I'm just here. With them. I never expected motherhood to be a forceful lesson in mindfulness. It doesn't have to be. But what a tragedy to not allow it to be.

Monday, November 14, 2011


So I mentioned I left my job. Life had gotten so chaotic. I stopped being the mother I know I can be. We all have days when we're 'less than' mothers. Less than we know we could be. Less than we know we should be. Less than we'd hoped and dreamed of being. It's normal. But my 'less than' days were becoming my norm.  Something had to give.

We'd wanted me to stay home from the time the boys were born. But god. Life is expensive. So I went back to work. The first six months I was back at work were completely heartbreaking. I hated leaving them. At first I just worked a little. A small position. Eighteen hours. Mostly from home. I got used to it, and it was okay. Within a year, I somehow found myself back in my old position, except instead of doing the job in forty hours, I was trying to cram it into twenty five. It was stressful. I was struggling to maintain balance, but we made it work. Then Anwen was born. My game changer. I had a three month maternity leave. It was Spring and beautiful, and although I was adjusting to three under three, life was peaceful. Near the end of my three months, I started to panic. I didn't want to go back. Anwen wouldn't take a bottle, and I didn't want to leave her. When the day came for me to return, I brought her with me. I promised I'd work to get her to take a bottle. Week after week, she refused, and week after week I showed up at work with my baby wrapped cozily on my chest.  When Anwen was five months old, my boss asked me to bump my hours up to thirty per week. I was falling behind. I felt like a 'less than' mother at home and a 'less than' employee at work. Somewhere in between ear infections and twin two year old's who loved to murmur "I wuv you" in my ear, I had lost my passion for the work I was being paid to do. But I was scared to leave. I said yes to the thirty hours. It was the best mistake I've ever made.

For two months, I struggled to work thirty hours a week. My employers were so flexible with me. I was lucky. Although I worked mostly from home, I went in to the office about once a week. Each time, I'd show up with Anwen, who by now was crawling and making her presence known with loud exclamations of "AHHH!" throughout the day. I'd work at home at night when the kids were sleeping. During nap times. Our home life became total chaos. My time home with the kids was spent trying to frantically play catch up. Instead of playing with the boys, I was stripping beds and throwing in loads of laundry. Folding baskets full of clean clothes that had become wrinkled from sitting ignored for days, while the boys sat and watched tv. I was miserable and bitter. I resented everything.

Finally, it was clear Anwen couldn't come in to the office with me any more. She'd outstayed her welcome. I knew this day would come, but I had made no arrangements. She still wouldn't take a bottle. I had no desire to put her in any form of child care.

In the background, Kyle and I had been planning and restructuring our finances. For two and a half years, we chipped away at getting things in order. We sat down and looked at the numbers. It would be tight, but we thought we could make it work.

I gave my notice. Two and a half weeks.

Our house was a revolving door of sickness for those last eighteen days, culminating with my catching pneumonia just in time for my last week. I missed more than half the week, sick at home, feeling depressed and feverish. My last day came. I hobbled into the office, wearing a sick and cranky Anwen. It was completely anti-climatic, overshadowed by my seventh day of totally untreated pneumonia. (Which in itself could be another post entirely, but I'll spare you. Let's just say two doctors who told me "Just a cold!" three days apart were quite off the mark.)

That was Thursday.

Today it's Monday. My system is heavy with antibiotics for which I couldn't be more grateful. But more than that, the relief has set in. I've never felt more complete. I have over ten loads of laundry to fold. Several projects...several...waiting to be finished. All in good time. I took the kids to a nearby park with my mother. We had a picnic lunch. We played on the playground. It was the happiest I've felt since my last days of maternity leave. We came home and I tucked my sleepy boys into their beds. I picked up some toys.
I'm happy. I'm so, so happy.

I'm home.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

And about those changes...

I've had thoughts of starting a new blog. The idea of a clean slate, a fresh format, incorporating fancy new features...all are appealing to me. But this jumbled mess of my history from the last four years has me kind of attached. A lot has happened on this blog.

I read other blogs and am inspired by the focus. The clarity. The soundness and consistency of voice. My blog has none of these things. It is what I am from day to day. It is my evolution, and I'm not ready to let it go. I'm still evolving.

I'm going to meet myself half way, though. I won't abandon ship here, but I am going to try and spruce it up a bit. A little clarity of voice would be helpful. And features...I'm going to try some. There are things I want to weigh in on and examine, conversations I want to add my voice to. Parenting choices and style are a big one.  As a feminist, I'm offended by and concerned about much of the parenting advice and philosophy that is becoming predominant. So much of it seems to come with the underlying assertion that relying on one's inner voice and wisdom isn't enough...that we need to read philosophical books on children to understand the beings we have created. Regardless of one's personal parenting decisions, I think any philosophy that praises its followers and condemns others is cause for concern. I'm going to begin blogging somewhat regularly on my own evolution as a parent and how I'm sorting through the rhetoric to find what feels right for our family.

I'll be reintroducing the cast of characters that make up my family...somewhere in the craziness I stopped capturing the growth and craziness of our joint life together. I miss that.

I'm toying with the possibility of introducing some posts on cooking. I love to cook and love to read about cooking. If I can find a way to harmonize with some posts on what I'm whipping up, I will.

Also in consideration...some posts on thriftiness. I began couponing (don't gag yet) a couple of months ago to try and save some money so that my staying home with the kids would be more affordable. In no way do I ever want to become a couponing blog, (though there are some fantastic ones out there) but I do think there is space to highlight the fact that couponing and living a holistic lifestyle are not mutually exclusive.

I definitely plan to work in ongoing posts on mastering the art of domestic goddess-hood. Leaving my seven year career in non-profits, I am coming home with a lot of skills that I plan to maintain and keep entirely relevant in the homestead. I'm a kick-ass planner and an even more kick-ass time manager. Life with three little ones may be chaotic, but it doesn't mean I can't implement some crazy underlying organizational structure to help keep the peace. I know what I'm talking about...at least a little bit. In the past two years and ten months since I became a mother, I've spent seven months exclusively at home (maternity leaves), and the remainder as a working mom, working between eighteen and thirty hours a week, most of those hours from home. Balancing chaos has become an art form in our house.

So we'll see how this all unfolds, It will be a growing process as I figure out what works and what doesn't...at home and for my blog.

I hope you'll still follow along. (And comment, to let me know what is working and what is painfully boring!)

Monday, November 7, 2011

There's Gonna Be Some Changes Made.

I quit my job.

My last day is Thursday.

Life was too chaotic. I was unhappy.

Three beautiful babies, a kick-ass husband, and I was unhappy. Stretched far too thin for far too long.

My writing is rusty, and terribly neglected.

That had best change, because I think I'm going to have a lot to write about on this next leg of my journey, where I throw myself into the role of domestic goddess.

Except instead of wearing heels and an apron, I'll probably be in sweats and a nursing tank. With spaghetti sauce in my hair.

I can't wait.

Monday, June 27, 2011

It's a good thing I'm not famous with swarms of zealous paparazzi around me. (But also, it's a little bit too bad that I'm not, because I really think Jennifer Aniston and I would get along swimmingly and might look really cute having our picture taken together poolside in a very luxurious location sipping extremely sophisticated beverages.)

Because if I were famous, these events would have been widely publicized.

Scenario 1. Zumba.
I went to Zumba class.  By myself.  Apparently, I am no longer a 19 year old cheerleader who can shake my sugar 'til the sun goes down.  Apparently, in fact, I am 30, and eleven weeks postpartum, and I do not know how to Zumba.  I tried following the woman in front of me.  If you've ever been to an organized exercise class, you KNOW this woman.  The over-zealous, takes it all too serious, where does she buy spandex in that color? one.  She looked like she was strapped onto the back of a cracked out bumble-bee trying to whip it into submission while simultaneously gyrating her hips with reckless and wild abandon.

So I settle for quick glimpses of the instructor through the sea of hip-shaking, booty-wagging, breast-shimmying women, and end up following about six beats behind everyone else, turning right when they're turning left, shaking when they're shimmying, honking when they're tonking, and gyrating when they're...oh whoops...cooling down.  I was far too confused to work up any form of sweat, but at one point I accidentally started lactating and that was exciting.  Everyone else's shirt was damp in all those exercise-appropriate areas, but I seemed to be the only one with large wet nipple stains.

And although most days I'm seven to fourteen percent disappointed that I'm not crazy famous with swarms of paparazzi, this was one day where I thanked my lucky heavens that no cameras were in pursuit.  TMZ would have squashed my entire career in thirty four recorded seconds of rhythm-less, lactational gyrations.  Then I would have to stage a divorce from Kyle and go on the Millionaire Matchmaker in a last-ditch attempt to resurrect my celebrity and make a quirky yet alluringly sexy appearance as the Millionaire-ess and Patti and I would have it set up ahead of time that Kyle would be one of the potential suitors, and we'd re-marry in a very publicized and lavish affair with Rhys and Quin and Anwen in our wedding and suddenly I'd be America's darling once again.

But it seems like a lot of work to go through for one lousy Zumba class.


Scenario 2: Where I pump gas in my bathing suit.
Most people would have made some serious mental notations about no longer being a nineteen year old cheerleader after the Zumba incident.  Ironically, the last time I was in a bathing suit at a gas station, I WAS a nineteen year old cheerleader, trying to raise money for my team by parading around half naked like a prostitute washing cars at the local Citgo station.

So how, and why, was it that I, at eleven weeks postpartum, found myself in my bathing suit pumping gas?  On a very busy road in a very busy town, mind you?  With three children in my car?

Let's just say that this was far less intentional than my college days, and came about through the perfect storm of a gas light, a screaming newborn in the back seat, and a day at the beach that left us all exhausted and sandy.  And my pants conveniently tucked into our massive beach bag which was tucked under our massive stroller in the back of my Forester.  When I realized that accessing my pants would require me to get out of the car and dig through all our gear in my swim-ready state, I decided it would be easier and less embarrassing to just pump in my ruffle-butt tankini.

You're welcome, City of Portsmouth.  Your teen pregnancy rate just went down by 28 percent.


But in closing, let me make one thing clear.  I WILL learn how to Zumba.  I will gyrate my way to EXTREME SEXINESS, and then?  Once I've accomplished that?  I will head straight for the nearest gas station and pump gas in my string bikini while slowly shaking my long golden locks of hair like one of the poor role models in a beer commercial.  And then teenagers everywhere will think that pregnancy is a good idea because LOOK AT HER!  it most definitely does not ruin your body forever.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

A postpartum montage of sexiness.

You're out in public, a few weeks after having your third baby in less than three years.  Feeling slightly exhausted, slightly frumpy, and just a teensy, weensy bit hormonal.  But you notice several passers-by checking out your robustly perky breasts, and for just a moment you mentally shout out "HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO YEAH!  YOU'VE STILL GOT IT, YOU SEXY BITCH!"

A moment later, you feel a sticky warmth against your belly.  You look down, only to be overtaken by the horrendous realization that while your cleavage might be swell, those passers-by were more likely checking out the massive and rapidly growing milk stains running down the front of your shirt and pooling attractively in your postpartum pooch.


Grocery store.  You've brought along your 16 year old mother's helper, because for the love of god, you learned your lesson the last time you tried to navigate the grocery store as the solo adult responsible for ensuring that nobody was left in the cereal aisle and now you're fairly certain that the store management is considering banning you for life.  So now you've brought reinforcements, and the travelling shit-show circus you run with has made it into the produce aisle.  You have two overflowing carts and the kale keeps falling on the floor and suddenly you've got company in the form of a creepishly swanky thirty-something.  He circles, and then circles again, and just as you're about to let loose on him a small tirade to the likes of FOR GOODNESS SAKE HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO WAVE MY WEDDING BAND IN YOUR FACE YOU CREEPY PRICK...you're saved by the realization that the wagon he's circling belongs not to you, but to the sitter.  And then he's asking her out in an eerily "To Catch a Predator" sort of way, and you casually fluff your sensibly short mom-hair and shoot him a look that he TOTALLY will know means, "I FIT THIS ASS INTO SIZE FOUR JEANS THIS MORNING AFTER KNOCKING OUT A BABY SEVEN WEEKS AGO, YOU SICK PEDOPHILE."


So you decide that an upcoming wedding will be your chance to get your swagger back.  You order a flirty little number online and buy some killer heels.  You buy spanx.  Gulp.  Cringe.  Spanx.

You try it all on.  You smile.  Hoooooooo yeah.

You slink down the hall to the kitchen to show your husband.  You spin around and ask, totally casually, "do you think this outfit will be okay for the wedding?"

You await and envision his response.  "WOW."  "You're stunning."  "HEY SEXY MAMA!"  "HOOOOOOOOOOOOO YEAH!"

He cocks his head to the side.  "Yeah.  That should work."  He turns back around to the sink.  

He will spend the next six weeks wondering why the OB suddenly "called" to advise that things are not healing well from the birth and will probably take at least another month or two.


You develop a new mantra, to cover all your bases:

I will embrace my maternal womanhood!  Hoooooo yeah!

I will age gracefully and no matter how tempting, I will not bleach my hair, tuck my tummy, or resort to pink lip gloss!  Hooooooooo yeah!

I will have my ass inappropriately pinched by a stranger at least once more in my life, even if I have to pay somebody to do it!  Hooooooooo yeah!

I will not say "Hoooooooooooooooo yeah!" out loud even though I use it in my writing to emphasize points, because it makes me sound like I'm seventy!  Hooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo yeah!

Monday, May 2, 2011

So many moments.  Pivotal moments, ordinary moments, moments that linger forever, and those that go by all too fast.

My pregnancy with Anwen was a series of interwoven moments I may have hoped for but never expected to have...learning I was unexpectedly pregnant, allowing myself to trust in my body's ability to carry a pregnancy to term, approaching labor and attempting a VBAC...

...Overcoming obstacles (breech presentation, going past my due date, heart decelerations) and succeeding at a VBAC.

Succeeding at a VBAC.

I woke up a week after my due date with a nagging feeling.  I hadn't felt Anwen move much (at all?) over night.  I tried to get her to move.  I drank orange juice, pushed on my belly, changed positions again and again.  Nothing.  Flashbacks to Rhys and Quin's birth started running through my mind.  We called the midwife, and her instructions were simple: "get here now."

At the hospital, we were relieved.  They found the baby's heartbeat.  They checked my fluid levels.  Everything looked good.  Except.  The baby was having some heart decelerations after contractions.  The midwife was afraid she wouldn't tolerate labor.  They couldn't let me go home, at 41 weeks pregnant, knowing I was having contractions, with a baby whose heart rate was dipping.  They could fit us in for a c-section at 3:00pm.

I cried.

I called our doula.  Instead of attending the birth, would she be willing to instead provide postpartum support?  She would.

The doctor came in.  She confirmed what the midwife had told us: a c-section was likely.  


Would we like to try a trial of labor?  We'd be on a short leash - IV, constant monitoring, and a first class ticket to the OR at the first sign of distress - but she was willing to let us try a pitocin induction.

A window of opportunity.  

They started my pitocin around noon.  Early labor was lovely.  My pitocin dose was low (2 milliunits) and the contractions were bearable.  Kyle and I walked around the unit, we had tea, we listened to music.  (Live harp music, at that, from a musical therapist visiting the unit!)

At four the OB came in to check my progress.  A centimeter and a half.  We discussed having her break my water.  It would allow my body to kick in to help, and I was already on a time frame because of the induced VBAC.  I had nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Water broken.  Contractions coming in waves.  I felt suddenly disorganized and panicked.  Pain.  Relief.  Pain. Relief.  But instead of feeling like a rhythmic pattern, my contractions felt tangled up with each other, with my mind.  Kyle brought me a hot pack for my back.  Helped me get into a more comfortable position.  I regained composure, found a rhythm.

I lose track of time.

Pitocin up to six.  Want hot water.  Into the tub.  In a rhythm.  Waves of pain.  Relief.  Laughing.  Pain building.  Cresting.  Dissipating.  Hot water is amazing.  Again and again.  

The pauses between the waves get shorter and shorter.  Contractions build, peak, and dissipate...and build, peak, and dissipate.  Relief slips through my fingers before I can grasp it.  I feel panicked.  I had planned not to use any medical pain relief.  I also had planned not to use a medical induction.

"I want to talk about pain meds."  As I'd requested months earlier, Kyle and my doula try to talk me out of it. The doctor checks me.  I feel like I'm in transition, and yet I know, I KNOW, that I am nowhere near that point.  I tell Kyle and our doula, "if I'm seven centimeters I'll go on without meds".  I say seven.  I mean eight or nine.

The doctor checks me.  Almost three centimeters.  I am not discouraged.  I am relieved.  "Get me an epidural."  It's all I can say, again and again, until I'm laying in bed savoring sweet relief.  

Two hours later.  4 centimeters.  Okay.  It's okay.  I'm not in pain.

Two more hours pass.  It's time to push.  

At first I can't feel when to push.  The nurse has to cue me.  But then I can tell.  I'm not in pain.  But I can tell.  

I push for an hour.  The baby's heart rate starts getting low towards the end.  Into the sixties.  The midwife talks about the vacuum.  It doesn't scare me, just motivates.  We don't end up needing the vacuum.  Kyle is by my side, holding my hand.  We are doing this.  We are in the hospital, we've been induced, I have an epidural, but we are doing this!  The lights are dim.  We are surrounded by flameless candles and beautiful music.  The doctor is in the room next door, so we're back with the midwife.  Does Kyle want to help deliver the baby?

And then she's out.  Anwen.  She's tiny and warm and wet.  She has an amazing strong cry.  She's crawling up my belly and all I can see are her beautiful big eyes - blue and deep and so, so new.  She has matted dark hair and I'm already in love.

(Photos by Allison Connor, our wonderful doula)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Anwen Bay
6 lbs 15oz ~ 20.5 inches
Successful VBAC!!!

Details to come. 
After I change some diapers.  And get some sleep.  And nurse the baby.  And calm a tantrum.

She is bliss.

Friday, March 25, 2011

39 weeks.

I'm 39 weeks today. 

This is a weird feeling, considering my last pregnancy ended abruptly with the emergency delivery of Rhys and Quin at 33 weeks. 

As of my appointment with the midwife today, the baby is no longer breech...following a week that consisted of three visits with a chiropractor who specializes in the Webster technique, lots of DIY moxibustion, a heavy dose of Pulsitilla, hours of inversion, and a totally fast, painless, and successful version.  I'm so thankful that we're back on course for the VBAC, even if I am still reeling from the stress of the situation and dealing with it like an uninhibited ninety-year old woman with a knack for saying all the inappropriate things that cross her mind and no thoughts of apologies. 

Now we wait.

On the one hand, I love the waiting.  I have something awesome about to happen - I don't know when or how or what it will be like, but at this point birth is pretty much a guarantee.  Though I did see a TLC show once about a woman who had been pregnant for something like sixty years.  But that unfortunate woman aside, this kind of feels like when you have a box full of maple sugar candy in front of you and not even one has been nibbled yet, and you know you're about to go hide in a corner somewhere and just gorge yourself.  The delicious anticipation.  If you're not from a maple sugar candy area, I'm sorry.

And then on the other hand, there's the reality that the time between now and delivery may seem short to those who are not carrying an extra human being in their womb while chasing two toddlers around all day, but for those of us who happen to be in that boat, well, OH MY GOD HOW AM I GOING TO GET THROUGH NEXT WEEK BECAUSE THE DAYS ARE SOOOO LONG AND THERE IS STILL SNOW ON THE GROUND AND THE WEATHER ISN'T LOOKING LIKE WE'LL BREAK THE FORTY DEGREE MARK IN THE NEXT FIVE TO SEVEN DAYS.

And I want to see her.  I want to see her eyes, and whether or not she has hair, and if she looks like Rhys or Quin or Kyle or me or none of us...I want to experience this birth process that I've been fascinated with for as long as I can remember...

I'm so close and so far.  I try to settle in and remember that it's always more exciting to have the full box of maple sugar candy rather than just the empty wrappers with a few maple crumbs in the corner of the box, but then I remember that that's a terrible metaphor because in this case instead of empty wrappers I get an actual baby that I get to keep.

So there's that.

I thought writing might help me find a nice Zen place.  Instead I find that since I rarely write anymore, I'm rusty, which means my writing is 1. of poor quality and 2. hardly satisfying.

Instead of some nice Zen insight, I offer a crude summary:
  • Baby is, at this point, head down. 
  • VBAC plans are, at this point, a go. 
  • I am, at this point, excited and anxious as shit.

Friday, March 18, 2011

38 Weeks.

Baby is breech.

VBAC plans in jeopardy.

This is not the update I'd hoped to be posting.

Friday, January 21, 2011

30 weeks

I don't want another c-section.

Early in this pregnancy, we decided we'd go for the birth we'd hoped for with Rhys and Quin but weren't able to achieve; first because of the twin pregnancy and then later because of the unexpected placental abruption which led to their early emergency arrival at 33 weeks.  We decided that this time, we'd go for a VBAC in a freestanding (non-hospital affiliated) birthing center.

It felt so right.  I immediately began thinking about whether I'd want to bring patchouli candles to create my birthing ambiance, or whether lavender would win out.

Our ability to move forward with the VBAC as planned was contingent upon my placenta being in the right place during our OB consult and ultrasound after we hit the 20 week mark.  At 23 weeks we went in, nervous and excited to get the go-ahead for moving forward.

First we had the ultrasound.  Learned we are having a girl.  Learned that placenta-wise, all was as it should be.  Placenta far away from my Cesarean scar, far away from the cervix.

Next was the OB consult.  We went in, giddy about our girl, giddy about our green light.  The OB talked to us about the risks of VBAC.  She talked to us about  Rhys and Quin's birth.  She mentioned that although the placental abruption probably would not recur, if it did, being so far from a hospital, our baby could die.  I could die.

Suddenly, I was back at the hospital the night Rhys and Quin were born.  Laying on the bed and bleeding, waiting for the ultrasound, waiting for them to tell me my babies were dead.  I was on the operating table as they pulled my babies from my body and whisked them away.  I was in recovery, confused and cold and shaking, wondering if we'd all survive.

And then  I was back in the OB consult, sitting next to Kyle and nodding at the doctor's blurred words.  I knew I wasn't going to be bringing patchouli candles or lavender candles or anything else with a flame to this baby's birth.  In one startling second, the idea of a birthing center birth went from being exactly what I wanted to something I knew I'd never have.

The next day I transferred my care to a group of midwives who deliver at a local hospital with a decent VBAC rate, and began attempting to stem the flow of fear that suddenly gushed from every molecule of my being.

What if she's born too early?  What if I can't conquer my fears enough to let go in labor and VBAC successfully?  What if IT happens again?  What if IT happens again and I'm at home alone with the boys??????

I'm scared.

And I'm angry.

I'm angry at the doctor who was on call the night Rhys and Quin were born.  That doctor, who for whatever reason, knowing I lived 30+ minutes from the hospital, told me I probably had a kidney stone when I called an hour before my water broke complaining of terrible back pain and cramping.  Suggested I push fluids...at 33 weeks pregnant with twins, after a positive fetal fibronectin test, several hospital visits to stop my pre-term labor, and a steroid shot that morning to develop the babies' little lungs.  A kidney stone.  That same doctor who didn't call me back for over ten minutes when I called the emergency on-call service to say my water had broken and I was gushing blood all over my living room floor.  That same doctor, who responded to my report of blood by saying, "it's normal.  Put on a pad and come to the hospital" and then adding a cheerful, "congratulations, your babies are going to be born tonight!"  

I'm angry that my trauma over the babies' birth is still there.  That I'm scared shitless.  That I didn't need to go through some of the trauma.  That the doctor could have said, "why don't you come on in" when I called the first time, and should have said, "get here NOW" when I called the second.

But it is what it is.

I have ten more weeks to go.  Ten weeks to get to an okay place.

I've made progress since our consult.  We've hired a doula.  I talk a lot to our midwife.  I'm reading and re-reading Birthing From Within.  I'm working and trying and processing.

I've accepted that this is the next leg of my journey.

It will be what it will be.  In the end, I get to determine what it becomes.

Monday, January 10, 2011

28 weeks

This morning I decided to make a smoothie.  Although I seem to have no trouble gaining weight in this pregnancy, I feel like really "taking care of myself" has been a struggle.  So a smoothie.  Full of brewer's yeast, wheat germ, flax seed, fruit, yogurt, milk, all the good stuff.  It took me ninety minutes to make.  Not because I had to pick the fruit, milk the cows, or even grind the flax seed myself.  No.  It was because I am Mama and this morning, that meant diapers and bartering for peace and returning boy bits into diapers where they rightfully belong.  But finally, I hit "blend" and had a luscious smoothie ready for my enjoyment.  Sixty minutes later, after taking two sips and spending at least three quarters of an hour searching for (but never finding) Cookie Monster, I decided to really buckle down and just drink the damn thing.  Enter toddlers into kitchen.  "Noothie! Noothie!"  Thirty minutes later, after consuming a good 80% of my breakfast, they were both busy tantruming over my glum announcement that our smoothie was all gone.

This is why I have not posted in four months.

This is the one thing that scares me about having a third baby.

I don't know how to get it all done.

Mothering, working, cleaning the house, making sure our refrigerator has more than an old jar of artichoke tapenade sitting on the top shelf, making sure we don't run out of dog food or milk or toilet paper, making sure Rhys and Quin know how much we love them and have the security in their world to grow into the people they deserve to be, making sure I remember to eat so that this new baby is born strong and healthy and robust...

...these are the things that I love and that consume me and often claim victory over my life.

And although it is crazy and full and hectic every second of every day, life has been really good. 

We're lucky.

I am still blown away by how lucky we are.

I still can't believe I'm pregnant.  From sex. 

By surprise.  Unplanned.

An infertile girl's dream come true.

Speaking of girls, I'm gestating one, and feeling pretty thrilled about that.

I have other things I need to write about.

I need to write about how I weaned the babies and it broke my heart, about how we're planning a VBAC and I'm simultaneously thrilled and terrified, about how this pregnancy has been an exercise in feeling confident in myself as a mother while finding the strength to ignore advice and input that isn't helpful to me, and  about how I'm trying to squeeze every last drop of experience out of this pregnancy to savor the right now.

It all has to come later, and I confess that I have no idea when that will be.  Maybe this week, maybe next month.  It all depends on how things go with my morning smoothie.