So it turns out that although people have been birthing human beings for several years now, no one has an exact idea of what makes these little creatures decide to take the big plunge towards oxygen, or exactly when they're likely to do it. Sure, there are signs pointing towards an eventual end to this pregnancy, but they're more like a weather report that says it could thunder tomorrow but maybe not for another fourteen days. Like, thanks, but that doesn't help me plan my laundry very well. Suffice it to say that the baby hasn't decided to show yet, and until then I'm just a fat lady wasting away my vacation time. On the bright side, Oona's here, and she has netflix!
The baby has missed its chance to be here before the first lettuce of the year, the first spinach and collard greens, and now, today, the first strawberries, which appeared and have been eaten (well, the first was technically claimed by an early bird of perhaps chipmunk). That's not to mention the chives and oregano and things, or, if you want to stretch the definition of harvest, the spring flowers that don't come inside: daffodils, irises, and all those things on bushes. Hurry up baby, or even daylilies and peas will pass you by!
Today is my due date, which means that I've been technically pregnant for 10 months, or rather 9.5 months since the thought of a baby was just a sexy twinkle in my eye. If you ask me, either way you measure it I've been pregnant for long enough. Three weeks ago the prevailing wisdom of the midwives was that I wouldn't go past my due date. But that was three weeks ago when I still believed anyone held any wisdom about when this thing was coming out. Turns out no one has any clue what causes labor and when. However, they're all pretty sure that the most depressing day of a pregnancy is the day AFTER your due date when you're still sitting around not being able to climb the stairs.
Tonight we went out for sushi: me, dan, and the champion good sport Oona who has already been here for a week and a half on baby watch. Upon entering the restaurant, the hostess asked us "how many?" and then she took a harsh look in my direction and proclaimed "You no fit in booth."
Here are some other inappropriate things to say to a perfect stranger:
"How are you feeling?"
"When is the baby due?"
"Where are you delivering?" (I really don't get this one... is this like on the red carpet when the reporters as the stars "Who are you wearing?" Are they routing for their preferred brand of hospital? Or are they just gearing up to make a rude follow-up comment about home birth?)
This baby better come soon, because I'm not planning to leave my house very much for the next week.
Although no one has accomplished it yet, I think I'm going to be the first woman to actually stay pregnant forever. I'm four days past my due date, and this little monster has zero intention of coming out. So far it has not been swayed by exercise, spicy food, homeopathy, or bribes of clothing, ice cream, and air. What a little lazy bones we have on our hands! I'm going to have to marry it off before I can get it out of my uterus!
Over the past week we have received some frantic calls to our home phone from friends and family, all with a similar theme. It goes something like this: "WHAT'S GOING ON WITH YOU GUYS! I KNOW YOU TOTALLY HAD A BABY AND DIDN'T TELL ME!!! CALLLLLL MEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!"
Apparently, humanity's biggest fear not death or fire, but being out of the loop.
Unfortunately for the local tabloids, we have nothing to report. The baby's just late. 8 days late to be exact, which while it's doing a number on our nerves, is well within the realm of normal for first time moms. So just to assuage everyone's fears of information drought, please know that our media plan for whenever the little tyke arrives includes posting an announcement on the blog and emailing everyone we know. And in the meantime, I think I'm going to change the answering machine message...
So, it's 3am and I am sitting at the kitchen table eating cereal and chocolate milk... because I'm STILL PREGNANT! Can you believe that? No, neither can I. Over the course of a short month we went from a pregnancy that looked like it would end dangerously early, to a post-due baby that simply refuses to budge. More than anything, I think this is a testament to the dangers of labeling things. In a medical classification system, you're either good or bad, with no room in between for natural variation. Officially, we're still good, but let it go another 6 days and we'll be bad... very bad.
We had our first ultrasound yesterday. We had declined ultrasounds all throughout the pregnancy because we felt like they weren't necessary and caused unneeded worry, especially the driving into Brookline part! Unfortunately, at 41 weeks an ultrasound becomes necessary, so in schlepped Dan, Oona and me for the big show. Although everyone at the ultrasound office was extremely nice, they seemed a bit dumbfounded that this was our first ultrasound... I think I disappointed them by showing up in sweatpants instead of some sort of African wrap skirt with bells on it. The scan proved fine however; the baby's good and healthy, if a bit raptor-like, and my fluid levels are fine too. In other words, nothing to worry about. Except of course, the ticking clock. 6 more days and then...
I seem to be rapid cycling between assurance and blind terror. If we don't get the baby out naturally within a week, we'll have to go in for a hospital induction, a hand-out hospital induction no less, since we don't have an OB, which is kind of like handing an IRS agent your taxes and saying "I hate math." On the other hand, we have a lot to throw at this problem in the next few days, including membrane sweeps and acupuncture and some rather intense herbs, and most women deliver before 42 weeks. On the other other hand, 6 days is not a lot of time and there's a scalpel at the end of this tunnel.
We've been praying a lot about this, and God seems to be giving us the assurance that everything's okay and the baby's coming soon. It's hard to share this kind of information with other people, since most folks trust doctors more than God. Indeed, it's when I have to share news with other folks that I get most panicked. The fear from my friends and neighbors is contagious, and while privately Dan and I can trust that everything's going to be okay, when I go outside people look at me like I have the dead baby plague and ask me why I haven't already been induced.
Anyway, the baby should be on its way soon, and we won't insult you with ultrasound pictures while waiting for the real thing.
Before we get any later, we'd better announce the birth of Harvey Douglas Archibald at 5:30 Saturday evening. Five hours of labor, 8lb 6oz, and hale and healthy. You might hear a little more about him later.
You will notice the addition of Harvey to the masthead, and he also has his own page with a couple pictures (and more to come), but I don't have much more to say about him now. He's not really very versatile: eats and sleeps, mostly. A little pooping, some spraying pee all over me as I change him; you know, regular baby stuff. Leah is writing the birth story, but it's slow going what with having to nurse all the time.
So instead, our story for this evening is the purported arrival of summer. Sure, I'm done with work for the year so I can focus my attention on taking care of my lovely wife and my son and heir, but on midsummer's day we would appreciate something a little better than 55° and rain. At least there's variety: sometimes it's pouring, while other times it's more of a heavy mist. I wouldn't complain ordinarily—as Alan says it's great for transplants, though not so much for mildew-susceptible cucurbits—but our baby needs sun to stave off the jaundice! In winter it'd be one thing, but we expect better from late June in New England!
Besides Harvey time I plan to use my vacation for gardening, so, a report: the strawberry crop isn't so good, what with the rotting and the not-so-sweetness that comes from too much rain and no sun. Lettuce likes it, though, and so do peas; I fully expect that peas will make up for strawberries' troubles with a terrific crop in a couple days. Cucumbers seem to be in suspended animation waiting for warmth, but beans are moving along nicely, as are tomatoes. Summer squash too, although I failed to implement my plan for preventing the dreaded squash borer, despite buying the supplies. Now it's too late, with the plants starting to flower. Oh well, I'll just have to wait and hope, like every other year. Not that it's possible to get too many zucchinis anyways... I'm not even sure I like eating them in any form.
We've also got blueberries and raspberries ripening up if we can keep the birds off them, peppers, collards and chard, flowers for cutting (sore plagued this year by cutworms or something), ornamental corn, and an experimental crop of edamame-type soybeans. Our biggest garden yet, certainly. I'm already thinking how to expand for next year. I'll put up some pictures, if I can manage to point the camera anywhere but at the baby.
Thanks to everyone who visited us or left their kind thoughts in the comments! Now that we're not overcome with hopes deferred (and work) maybe we'll post a little more often, and with the babe we might even have something to say. Think we can pick up a little bit of that "mommy blog" traffic?
As Dan mentioned in a more timely fashion than me, we up and birthed a kid on Saturday. And now that it's over, let me just confirm how awesome it is to no longer be pregnant. Not pregnant= awesome. Pregnant... not so much.
So on Saturday morning we were getting down to the wire of our home-birth window (Monday would have been hospital induction day). Our last natural induction option was Castor oil. Over the course of the week we had tried homeopathy, acupuncture, strong herbs, and enough painful nipple stimulation to fill a brown paper magazine. At the end of the week, I was feeling like maybe my body was too skeptical of alternative medicine to pull off a hippy home birth. Still, there was good old Castor oil, your grandma's induction tonic, and my midwife was saving it for last, due to the unpleasantness. On Saturday morning at 10am I drank 4oz straight, with a chaser of red raspberry tea (it's a uterine tonic). It tasted like you would imagine drinking a glass of canola oil would taste. I guess you could say I was desperate to go into labor.
We sat around and waited for the effects. Castor oil causes intestinal cramping, which can sometimes stimulate uterine contractions as well. Either way, we knew there was some bathrooming in the future, so we laid around and waited. To pass the time and to mix scientific variables in our induction experiment, Dan helped me with a little manual nipple stimulation. This turned out to be more enjoyable than my previous attempts with the breast pump, and we were just starting to get nice and distracted when my water broke.
How it felt was a uterine contraction accompanied with a snapping sensation, and then the tell-tail goopy stuff flowing down my leg. I ran to the bathroom very excited and called my midwife to describe what I saw. After asking some questions about the amount and consistency, our midwife Rebecca said, "That sounds like amniotic fluid to me. I'll check when I come back at 4." And then because she has a high opinion of us, she added, "You're not sterile anymore, so no sex."
With our hopes dashed for incredibly awkward pregnancy sex, we decided to go for a walk. My water broke at 11:30, and we headed out for a walk at noon, although after only a block I started to feel crampy and turned back. I barely made it back to the house and into the bathroom. Castor oil is a laxative normally prescribed in teaspoon dosages. 4oz is not a playing around amount. For the next hour I alternated between toilet and lying on the bathroom floor moaning. It felt like everything below my ribs was stuck in one constant hour-long contraction. Dan hung out in the next room, and when my verbal descriptions of the proceedings turned into non-stop sobbing, he suggested we call Rebecca again. "Is it supposed to be so intense?" I asked between gasps of air. "Castor oil is intense" she said, "But I'll come at 3 to check up on you." So I had won me an hour earlier of midwife ETA, a good sign we were on the right track.
For the next hour or two we were speeding down that right track without any breaks. I was on hands and knees on the floor of the bathroom regretting I had ever been born let alone chosen to bear a child. Once the castor oil effect wore off, I was having contractions what felt like every minute, yelling through the contractions and sobbing in between. Dan called Rebecca again because I couldn't talk anymore, and she said she would get there ASAP.
Rebecca arrived around 3pm and made haste to shuttle my butt into the birth tub, which Dan had already begun filling. By this time I had had enough of the bathroom floor, especially the first two paragraphs of the Economist's Iran feature that I had been trying to read since noon. Also, in the past hour I hadn't been able to move from my hands and knees, because each contraction forced me back into that position. Despite weeks of hardcore swim training, I was seriously considering the possibility that my shoulders were going to fall off. Fortunately, the warm water in tub instantly felt A LOT better. This was going to be doable! Birth tubs mean no pain, I thought! In retrospect, hahahahaha.
Once I was in the tub, Rebecca asked to check my cervix to see what was going on. She later told me she had expected me to be something like 4cm dilated, but when she put her hand in she actually chuckled and said, "you have almost no cervix left." Then she called the other midwife who was to attend the birth and said "She's almost fully love" which made it sound like we were playing some bizarre game of pelvic tennis.
From there on we headed into the meat and potatoes of the labor, which consisted mostly of screaming and holding on for dear life. I leaned against the side of the tub, biting the edge of the tub or a towel or my hand, as my uterus went nuts. Rebecca kept saying soothing things like "This is your body that's doing this," which didn't mean a lot to me, because of course my body is doing this, I'm just not too keen on the "this" aspect. In retrospect, a more helpful reference point would have been something like "Dysentery is worse" or "You won't be so fat in 20 minutes."
Rebecca also tried to get me to take the screaming down a notch, for my benefit if not that of the entire neighborhood. (Indeed, Dan took the dog for a walk at this point, and later he told me that he could hear the screaming over a block away.) Rebecca kept telling me to use the screaming by putting it down in my chest, like "Oooooh," and I would nod at her and say "OOOOH—-AAAA-A!A!A!A!A!A!A!A!A!A!A!" just like you would imagine someone sounding if they immediately went from having sex to being attached by a bear.
So that went on for longer than I'd like to recount, during which time the other midwife arrived and I kicked Dan and Judy out of the room. Soon enough Rebecca could tell by the change in my grunting that the baby was makings its final journey down the shoot, and she told me to push down with each contraction. This actually felt much easier than before, because the worst pain was out of my pelvis and I could feel progression with each push. After a couple of these, she reached into the water and told me she could feel the head. This made me feel better because it sounded like something you'd hear on the tv. (If hundreds of hours of 80s sitcoms taught me anything, it's that labor is always a clear progression from screaming, to the doctor saying they can see the head, to the baby coming out and the episode ending with some humorous yet endearing comment.)
The two midwives made me turn over so that I was sitting in the tub with my back to the wall, then another few pushes, then a pause in the pushing for some intervention between my legs which was the midwives removing the cord from around the baby's neck. It happens very frequently in normal birth that the cord gets wrapped around the baby's neck, which is fine for the journey downwards because the cord is very compressible. I didn't know what exactly was going on at the time, but I was far too tired to be concerned. My body stopped contracting for a few moments while they were working, and then I got the signal from them that it was time to push again, and although I didn't feel any contractions coming I made something up and finished pushing on my own. In retrospect, this may have been a mistake which lead to a perineum tear, but not all decisions can be winners.
Then came the big pay-off of home birth, when they handed me the baby right away. I was a bit out-of-it from a mixture of pain, relief, exhaustion, and panic, but I could tell right away that this was a good looking kid. Right from the start he was looking around with his big grey eyes, showing off his chubby cheeks, and generally stealing the show. The time was a few minutes after 5:30pm. All in all, the labor took about 5 hours from start to finish.
After all this excitement we had to do some annoying housekeeping with getting out of the tub, getting examined, delivering the placenta, getting more examined... none of which made me too pleased. I got a bit banged up in the birth process, but those details are perhaps a bit too graphic to share in a blog, even for me. Anyway, part of the beauty of labor is that nothing after it is quite as bad. And we finally had our cute little baby, out of my body and into the open air.
So that's the story of little Harvey Douglas Archibald. It's been a wild ride so far, so we expect big things from him soon.
Life is not what you'd call normal around here these days. There are not really patterns to our existence: no going to work, no regular mealtimes, no (emphatically no!) sleep schedule. The formlessness was not helped the past couple days by various medical exigencies, too tedious to relate, that affected everyone in the family but me. Everything is just up in the air.
Not that that's a terrible thing, now! It can be nice to lie around on the downstairs bed (still not put away after Oona's visit), with lunch and dinner there as part of the deal, or to stay up chatting until 1:00 in the morning, because who's going to get a real night's sleep anyways?! We needed that time to chat, since the regular evening part of the evening, say, 6:00 to 10:00, was taken up by Harvey crying and screaming inconsolably. Kicking, too. We all thought the world was ending, until I looked up "crying" in What To Expect: The First Year and discovered that it can get alot worse! That made us feel better. Then he stopped crying.
Midsummer contributes to the floating feeling. Still light at 8:30 or quarter to nine isn't conducive to regular bedtimes. The constant rain and clouds we've had this month, though, have made it hard to take any enjoyment out of the long evenings: when you need to have lights on in the house all day long, you don't notice as much. This evening, though, is about perfect in the weather department, and I expect to see many more perfect days to come. Look for us all in the hammock on the porch.
So, I have say how wonderful it is to be living in the future... Without this iPhone ( from which I an currently composing this blog post) I don't know how I would manage all the mental machinations it takes to adjust to new parenthood.
I've been confined to lying in a prone position for most of this week, due to the drama of various tears not healing. But with the iPhone I have all our lists and appointments here for easy bossing-around access. Also were tracking all of Harve's feeding and diapering instances via TrixieTracker, which is handily optimized for iPhone use. Without this little machine I would have no ideas what boob I should be on or when we last changed his diaper
So thank you future for realizing your promise to a new mom!
Today, life is awesome. The sun finally came out, the weather is warm with a cool breeze, and I am lying in the hammock with the baby sleeping in a basket next to me. It's been a hectic first week, but every day we feel more confident about life in a 4-person family. Having a little baby is every bit as wonderful and as terrible as everyone claims; euphoric with cuteness, but insanity inducing with sleep deprivation. Last night HD cried and fussed for hours, and I (having slept maybe 4 hours in the previous two days) was all in tears from not being able to comfort him. Dan stepped in, a knight in shining awakeness, and offered to take the baby downstairs so I could get some sleep. "Nooooo" I wailed, "I can't sleep if he's somewhere crying."
Dan looked me in the eye very sternly and said, "Be rational. This is how you raise a baby. One parent stays up while the other one sleeps."
Even my hormone-powered emotions couldn't argue with the fact that his plan sounded rational and involved the promise of sleep. I fell sound asleep about 30 seconds after they left the room, and slept soundly for the first time in a week.
In the morning, I awoke dumbfounded with gratitude for my husband. "Thank you so much" I said, "My brain was about to ooze out my ears."
"Yeah," he said, "I could tell that."
Even though I knew we were a good team before, having a baby is training me and Dan into elite-fighting-unit-level of teamwork. His caring for me and the baby over the past week, especially given my extended bed rest, approaches husband-of-the-century levels. I couldn't dream of a better man with whom to share this crazy roller-coaster of parenthood.
We took little Harvey Douglas to Church of Our Redeemer this morning for his big debut! As his proud mother, I was electric with anticipation all day saturday. I took out a brand new skirt for myself and I ironed my whole outfit as well as Harvey's onesie and hat. I woke up at 6am to make sure I had enough time to shower, put on makeup, bath the baby, and pack the diaper bag. I had everything: Diapers, wipes, blankets, change of clothes for him, hand sanitizer, camera... I left the house feeling like a type-A mom!
Everybody ooohed and aahed when we brought in the little guy, peacefully asleep in his car-seat. Harvey slept through the first half of the service, but come sermon time he was starting to look restless, so I took him into the church library to do a feeding and changing. When nursing was accomplished, I took out all the changing things from my bag: changing pad, wet bag, diapers, wipes. I put the changing pad on the couch and laid him on top of it.
What a wonderful marvel of organization, that we can change the baby's diaper anywhere given a carefully packed messenger bag! I pulled up his onesie, pulled off his poopy diaper and put it into the wet bag, pulled out a wipe, Wham! Projectile pooping! Wet orange poop shot straight out of his butt, straignt past the changing pad, onto the couch, and all over my skirt! I had brought a change of clothes for Harvey, but I didn't think of bringing one for me! Frantic, I started going mad with the wipes, trying to mop poop off my skirt and the couch and Harvey's legs which were completely covered. At this point Dan walked in to see how we were doing.
"My goodness Harvey!" he exclaimed, "Is this what you think of church?"
In all fairness, since the spraying shit incident happened during the sermon time, you could at least say that Harvey picked the appropriate part.
We got as cleaned up as we could manage and headed back into the sanctuary, where the priest called us up to the front of the church for a blessing. So there was my parenthood lesson of the day: if spend 20 minutes ironing your skirt, and if it's a day you're going to stand in front of the whole church, your kid will likely poop on you. Welcome to parenthood!
But more importantly, the blessing was very nice, and it included some nice thoughts that we could really use this week: May God really grant us wisdom and devotion in the ordering of our common life, so that we can be for each other a strength in need, a counselor in perplexity, a comfort in sorrow, and a companion in joy.
And the baby said, "Amen."
The coolest thing we got for a babywarming present was this awesome card from the neighbor kids. (And even better for coming with a pie. That's berry pie juice I got on the card, not arterial blood.)
Last night we went out on our first dinner date with baby, and it's a symbol of how far we've fallen on our hippy parenting ideals that we took him to Friendly's. (It wasn't my first choice for food, but we didn't want to drive farther than 5 minutes, and we didn't want to go somewhere where they'd mind if he cried.)
Anyway, the waitress comes up to ask if we want anything to drink, and all of a sudden my eyes light up and I'm like, "Can I have a DIET COKE???????!!!"
Okay, so it may be just the novelty factor of not being pregnant, but I ate a tuna-fish sandwich the other day and it was like the best orgasm of food that I had ever tasted. Other things that I am finding awesome about the sanctity of my own blood supply: Lying on my back... Lying on my STOMACH!!!!!.... having normal human reactions to food smells... regaining visual contact with my nether regions.
And in the next few days when I'm able to stand and walk again, I'm looking forward to experiencing more exciting beacons from the land of the living... oh to be able to run again! To get on a spin bike! To lift weights over my head and hold my breath!
Like many babies, Harvey has decided that the dinnertime hour is daily fussy time. And since he's looking ahead to a future of international travel, his dinnertime hour stretches roughly from 5:30pm to well after 10pm. Hey, you want to make sure all your bases are covered when it comes to unabated boredom crying.
It's been a learning curve dealing with the fussing. The first night I had an emotional break-down from not being able to comfort my baby. Then we learned that some daily crying is normal, and I got over being sad and went straight to irritated. Yes, crying to communicate is perfectly normal, but that doesn't mask the fact that the sound of a baby crying is WICKED ANNOYING.
Dan is doing much better with the fussing than I am. He gets annoyed much less readily than I do, so you won't find HIM holding a pillow over her head to stifle the sound. Yesterday evening during a crying spell Dan took Harvey out to the hammock where he rocked him, sang to him, and read to him from The Economist. When they came back inside the baby had calmed a bit and was wimpering more quietly. I asked Dan how it went and he said, "I think Harvey is very confused about the situation in Iraq."
Compounding the good Daddy points, Dan also took the baby at bedtime so I that could get some sleep. This was after an hour of both of us singing to him, to no sleep-inducing avail. Whenever Dan offers to do take the baby away and let me sleep, I feel like I won some sort of husband jackpot. I try to make it up to him by watching the baby most of the day, implying an exchange rate of about 8-to-1 for fussy-to-cuteness parenting time.
I had more to say about this issue, but the baby's waking up now and I've got to feed him before he wakes the rest of the house.